925-927: Some Typical Greek Towns and a Few Finds

925 – Tuesday 12th December 2017: Tricky Trikala and Pyla

A sad adieu to Meteora camping – and our French neighbours (a young couple, well younger than us, travelling for a year with a 18 and 15 year old children) – lovely location – shame about the €10 charge for the washing machine – but, heigh ho… A nice short drive to Trikala – parked 4km outside and biked in – puncture/tyre ok but the usual chain retensioning. Guess what comes first – coffee, of course!  Fort – no K9s – pity – old Mosque – a nice non-touristy town – but not very memorable…

Another short hop to Pyla – and a wonderfully secluded wild camping spot by a river gorge and near the pack horse bridge – very quiet……. and much more memorable.

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A river runs through Trikala, but this seemed to be the only section you could walk … missed a trick in Trikala!  

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A hotel before and now a shop named after our dog.

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The fountain was switched off, but this little lad still had a dripping willy!

Trikala is flat and bicycle friendly … there are a couple of bike lanes, but not easy to navigate with the Os-car when cars and trucks park in them!

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Koursoun Tzami: a restored C16 mosque with a small display inside … the gate keeper slept whilst we looked around, headphones on and chin sunk into his chest.

 

926 – Wednesday 13th December: Pyla and onto Arta

AM – our first run for 2 weeks! K also did her Pilates…..  walk to the old bridge – major school party in attendance – all part of the Oscar admiration society, of course.  As last night’s ramp down in to the parking was a bit steep, we used a different route out which led to town parking and – coffee – is there any coffee left in Brazil?  (Sorry, I’ve used that line before…).   Old mosque, purchases of leek and pork sausages, fruit (no ice cream or chocolate – new weight loss regime?). 

Lunch in Jez and sails trimmed and set for Arta – 3 hours driving. We had intended nightparking at a reservoir – but the roads looked too narrow – so a lovely city centre parking. Lo and behold – the same French family we had met in Meteora camping!  Their young dog “Ice” and our Oscar get on famously – tearing around the parking – each trying to hump the other!  Poor Oscar was worn out… but oh so happy!

A catering first for Jez: A EUR 1.99 whole chicken in the pressure cooker.

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Along the gorge in Pyli … you can just spot Jez.

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View from our front window … just lovely.

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Pyli old mosque … added to in different styles.  Sadly shut.

 927 – Thursday 14th December: Artful Arta and Koronissia

I ran at dawn – and she ducked!  Well – 9:00 dawn – second day in succession – I’m on a mission with a structured training plan – to have a serious race at the end of February. The plan is heavily disciplined around ‘fartlek’, getting lost, lots of sleep – and ‘somno vinoque’ – and some running, too…….. K rolled out her gangplank and captured pirates of the Aegean!  Oh dear, another old line….. the faithful reader(s) will work it out…  (Hmm …. Pilates).  Our new French friends were departing and offered us the opportunity to park and join them and their family south in Greece at a rental house – the people we meet are amazing!  

Arta is what we would call (after 1 week) the real Greece – normal, non touristy, busy. The number of coffee locations is incredible – the entire town was out socialising over coffee and small cakes. Again, the castle grounds were non-dog friendly. Quirky shopping bazaars, Ottoman buildings, ‘Fish’ street, hardware shop street – K got a longer cable for our Cadac gas BBQ for all of EUR2.  Jez provided soup for lunch …l eftovers from the €1.99 chicken! 

Fab and easy drive to Koronissia, as recommended by Peejay, who updates a Googlemaps of sleep spots.  Not our original plan, but when you get a recommendation, good to go with it.  Stunning drive across the causeways –  Peejay said we may be too late to see flamingos and pelicans .. but saw lots.  A really lovely spot with water on both sides… hope the tide doesn’t come in!   Definitely one of the best wild camping locations…..

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Arta’s Pananyia Parigoritissa:  Mix of brickwork and styles. 1283-1296.

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The grandiose 5 domed cube is supported by a cantilevered-pilaster system, that looks unsafe.

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C16 & C17 frescos.

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Seen a few of these dog crates … guess what Santa may bring you?  Have you been good?

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The restored packhorse bridge:  a subject of song and poem … the builder was fed up with his foundations being washed away he took advice from a taking bird … he sealed his wife up in the central pillar and the build went swimmingly thereafter.  Seem to have heard this theme before!

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Wrong camera lens, but you can just make out a pelican along the causeway to Koronissia.

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Our fabulous parking.

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922-924: Marvellous Metsovo & Meteora

922- Saturday 9th December 2017:  Metsovo and Fancy Bumping Into You Again! 

Ah yes – Metsovo – at the second attempt….. Narrowing roads approaching the town – instinct to park before the actual town – but a local shopkeeper said there was ample parking in the town centre? Ok, I gentled Jez down the hill along narrower streets – “Castelbellissimo”feelings – lots of people giving us directions…. cobbled street section – my stomach was in my underpants… into town centre and no hope of parking! K spotted while I reversed – and only way out was back up the same way – now my underpants were in my stomach (does that work?). Going well – and a massive coach appeared in our way – oh dear – underpants being waved out the window in surrender!  But the coach reversed and I gunned Jez (at 3 mph) back to the original ‘instinctive’ parking.  Underpants retrieved and safely back on my head (Blackadder?). The cunning plan was to have lunch in Jez and brave the throngs of folk downtown – it is Saturday….

Far too busy for us and touristy – cold walk – no coffee possibility as the restaurant were only interested in mega lunch bucks – and legged/Jezzed it out of Metsovo! 

Meteora (hilltop monasteries) was in our sights next – an hour away – chosen campsite was closed for repairs but another one within minutes…. On arrival, we met Chloe and Chris (previously met in Dubrovnik) – settled in and – drinkies pre-prandial in our van. Then – fantastic meal in local restaurant – coffee and nightcap….

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Metsovo:  weathly town under Ottoman rule as they kept the mountain pass open.  Known for wood carving and textiles … tourist prices, so we passed!

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A loose young puppy … God knows how big it’ll grow … played. 

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Our first view of the odd hills in Meteora.

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Always a good omen when a rainbow is over our destination.

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Another DRY?! night with Chloe and Chris!  My veal liver was AMAZING.  But portions are silly … we all took away doggy bags.

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We had been listening to Christmas Carols, so I was finally moved to get “Christmas in a Box’ out of the garage! 

923- Sunday 10th December 2017:  Aura in Met-eora

No ‘overhangs’ this am – we wouldn’t like to ‘hangover’ these cliffs towering above us….. fond ‘adieu’ to Chris and Chloe. They’re heading to Sicilia for the festive season…..

More ‘feckin’ bike problems – punctures….. As K says “F**k a***e b*m t*t” – we need a shyke bop, soon. Our host promptly offered to bring me tomorrow to his friend in the local bipesock – on his motorbike…. These people are amazing!  But our bike ride to the monasteries became a walk up and down.  No text will out-describe the photos – I know we use the ‘amazing’ word a lot – so we should!  Over to our par excellence K-ographer! 

Oscar has lots of doggy friends on site – one in season?  Ginger BrummieGreek puppies?  

As Mateora is a major Greek highlight, here’s loads of information around about Meteora and the monasteries so I will not cover it in detail …  in essence … natural sandstone towers were first used as a religious retreat by Barnabas in AD925, then from the 1300s monks started building monasteries – the first being Megalou Meteorou by St Anthanasios … who flew up to the pinnacle on the back of an eagle.  We mere mortals walked!  There were 24 monasteries / hermitages, but all but 6 are now ruins. It is thought that the locals were expert in rock climbing, but once the first man was up, they hauled everything else they needed up.   In the 1920’s stairs were cut into the rock to make them accessible.  Coaches passed the campsite in a slow but steady stream all day … it must be very unpleasant in the summer.  

For us, the scenery and feat of building the monasteries that we found so amazing (had to get one amazing in there!)

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Oscar … you’re ambitious!

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Part of Megalou Meteorou, the largest and oldest, which had a number of museums, a kitchen, beautifully frescoed church and an ossuary.

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924 – Monday 11th December:  Jobs in Met-eora

Monday morning came and at the appointed hour of 10:00 am, I brought the offending bike wheel and spare inner tube to our host for him to kindly take on via motorbike to his friend’s shop in town.  “No, he said” to me “you’re coming with me”. Now the last time I was on a motorbike was 50 years ago!  I got astride his Honda Cub – one hand clutching the wheel – and the other grasping his jacket – no crash helmet – and off we went at medium speed through the wiggly streets….. No need to slow at ‘Stop’ signs (he knows the roads – I comforted myself). I was definitely back in Sicilia! Was I wearing the same underpants as yesterday in Metsovo? (I do change them regularly once a month, I think…)   Digression here – 100 years ago, I worked with a Chartered Accountant – who once proudly told me “I have a bath regularly – every Saturday night whether I need one or not – with my wife!”.  For those Chartered Accountants reading this (1?) – I’m quite sure the profession has excellent ‘lavaggio’ practices – always subject to audit, of course…and in strict accordance with the FSA (Freshly Showered Abluthority)…  

Back on script – we arrived in no time at friend’s shop – who promptly diagnosed a wrong sized tyre (this is a brand new e-bike of stout German manufacture!) and immediately fitted a different size and new inner tube – all in 15 minutes and for only Euro15.  Our host has brought us water and coffee every morning too.  These people are amazing – we absolutely love Greece – roll on the next few months!!!  

Relaxing jobs day – laundry, engine checks and van cleaning and self cleaning – we do it every 5/6 days – and we’re accounting to ‘SAF’ (ShowerAnyFriday) Standards…..

We’ll be really sorry to leave this ‘kooky’ site, the folks here and Meteora.

919-921: The Start of Our Greek Odessy

919- Wednesday 6th December 2017: Off to Greece

We completed our services and took the short drive to Igoumentisa port. A long wait of 3 hours….  Some trucks reversing – all over the place (health and safety – but it all works in an Italian beautifully organised disorganised way – bellissimo!.  Where do they put them all?  Ah .. two levels.  Loaded last as first off, most vehicles going onto Patra … we turned around on top deck.  Lots of areas on board closed as not enough passengers … self service restaurant shut till 7.00 p.m. … K had bought a cold supper as we’d been told the food is expensive and not marvellous … so we sat in the cabin and ate that as a late lunch,  fortunately we did not need supper.  Would have been complicated anyway – we’d either have had to eat taking it in turns or leave Oscar alone in the cabin – as we know from the howls that another couple did!   Coffee EUR2.50 each – not paid that since Nice area!

Oscar pooped on the poop deck!  So proud!

Nanny nap, research on Greece, showers (hot and forceful, but didn’t drop the soap – just as well as no room to pick it up!) more wine — bed in stuffy room. 18 hour crossing……………. successfully completed.

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May not be a cruise ship despite the name … Cruise Olympia, but significantly better than the Helsinki-St Petersburgh ship. 

920- Thursday 7th December:  What an Amazing First Day

The same free-for-all disembarking.  Straight onto A2 motorway – brand new with EU money – that route or our destination would have been very wiggly … toll £5.30 for not very far … will need to check roads out – can we do non motorway?  Anyway, we are in Greece – my first time (and Oscar’s) but K was here 30 years ago…..

Dodani … holy oak tree – revered by frenzied priestess and priests, they slept on their floors and didn’t wash their feet!  The Romans chopped the tree down and built temples and an amphitheatre.  

Another nanny nap in the car park as sleep was not great on the Adriatic/Aegean Sea. Good ruins but we always think of Sicilia/Italia as the best – but we will see loads more in Greece.

Iaonnina was our first town destination – walls, lake, castle museums. Superb cheap lunch – yummy.

We drove in the afternoon up the hill to a viewpoint/official motorhome free parking overnight – spectacular views down over the lake…..

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Our first Roman amphitheatre in Greece.

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Originally a Greek site, rebuilt with lots of Roman Temples.

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The original Oak was cut down … the Oracle Priestess would receive slates with questions such as ‘Are my wife’s children mine?”  She would listen to the bottles suspended from the branches that magnified the rustle of leaves and pronounce her answer.  Not sure how she worked in winter when the leaves dropped. 

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… but people obviously still hope it will bring luck and chucked very low value coins in.

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Used to be another 10m on top and seat about 17,000 making it one of the largest in Greece.

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Another Oak waiting for the performance to start.

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J on role reversal … pulling every which way and cocking his leg.  We’re still working on J being the Boss!

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Our walk along the lake to the historic town of Iaonnina.

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Two mosques still in the old town castle, which was the base of Ali Pasha who essentially ruled a massive area as a fiefdom.  This one was the Aslan Pasha mosque 1611 and now municipal museum.  Next door was a Muslim seminary, where Ali Pasha attempted to rate his son’s mistress. For refusing the tyrant’s advances, she was bound, weighted and thrown into the lake with 17 of her companions.  He also executed a rebel in public by smashing his bones with a sledge hammer.  Nice chap!  A young Lord Byron visited Ali Pasha in 1809, Ali Pasha took rather a shine to Byron… sexual? … as he was taken with Byron’s small ears – a sign of high breeding!

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Inside the Alslan Pasha Mosque.

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Two dishes of the day … lamb stewed with potatoes (falling off the bone) and lamb with fresh tomatoes in a filo parcel served with a rocket, sun dried tom and balsamic salad … with 500cl of local regional wine … £22 with tip.  We’re so going to love these prices … means we can eat out more.

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Spot the snow!

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The wrought iron to the left of the mosque is Ali Pasha and his wife’s grave.  I’d hoped to see the Silverware Museum in one of the Castle’s building, but it shut earlier than advertised.  

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So still – an almost perfect reflection.

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Our night time view point … wonderful.

 

921- Friday 8th December:  Cycling Lake Pamvotidha

 We moved Jez down to the lake side and we cycled 26 km around the lake. Two packs of dogs chased us but they couldn’t work out where Oscar was (concealed in his Os-car).  He went very quiet at all the barking.

Monastery of Dhourahani – very smart and cared for … run as a vocational school for disadvantaged children.  The Churches have lots of paintings of saints, but are very dark.

The obligatory coffee en route…trays of meat and pots ready for the standard late Greek lunchtime (2-3:00 pm).  We’d have stopped as it looked good, but it was only 12.00 and not sure how long we’f be salivating.  We lunched in Ianonnina, more excellent value – and our first Moussaka.

Drove to Metsovo for night stay … very cold … checked weather – one app said snow overnight… risk averse …then drove an hour back down the mountainside … lake side pitch, not far from the monastery – our first ‘wild camping’ in Greece. After only 2 days, we have a good feeling for Greece – like we experienced in Italy. Roll on the next few months. Oscar likes it too – although he doesn’t know which country he’s in – he’s in HappyK9ville, always! 

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Our morning view of the lake … it’s been filled in by mist. 

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Such stillness.

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912-918: Now Which Country Are We In?

912 – Wednesday 29th November 2017: And into Montenegro

Heavy rain (drizzle from Brizzle, or Spain?) – K did laundry – or laundwet?  Rigged up clothesline in the closed but covered restaurant patio. Some van cleaning – and I went to have shower….. well, the water temperature hovered between tepid and coooold!  A real ‘boarding school’ shower….. (K: I elected to use the one on board, having had J heroically test them!)  But lovely campsite owners, known by all the locals, including the bar where we took wine – to ward off the cold and damp…. and use the wifi.

 

913 – Thursday 30th November: And Further Down Montenegro

Some laundry had blown off in the overnight high winds … J collected it’s sodden mass.  Some had dried overnight in the van.  We had planed to stop at Kotor on our way south towards Albania … but lashing rain and road flooding conditions prevented this.  ‘Interesting’ wet and slow drive on empty roads.  Nothing for it but to head into Albania sooner, but needed to do some planning as we thought we’d be longer in Montenegro.  So to a campsite our Finnish friend told us of South of Budva.  Still peeing down, put a damp load of laundry on … no driers so all hanging in Jez – 3 days of Chinese Laundry in the van :(.  Walk along beach front … rat .. googled rat infections on dogs … and forum replies on rabies blood test … yes Oscar should have had it … vet knew our destinations and we (K:  that would be me, but J is too kind to point the finger!) hadn’t properly checked !!!  All to do with three tiers of rabies … rabies free, controlled and high … Montenegro and Albania are high.   We don’t fancy being stopped at Albania / Greece border …. so we will head back North into Croatia and investigate boats to Italy then Greece.  “The best laid plans of mice and men clang aft a-clay” – or something similar….

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Are we on a boat?  Little did we realise … not yet!

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Islands in Kotor Bay almost submerged.  Water level definitely high as we spotted a beach volley ball pitch of very short people (are we allowed to call them midgets?) … poles only a couple of feet high.

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Windscreen wipers could hardly cope with the torrent. 

914 – Friday 1st December: Then Back Up To Croatia

We traversed back through the mountains to Bosnia and Herzegovina – some stressed and successful border crossings – ’nothing to declare,Sir…’ (not even the 10 bottles of vino and 6 months supply of e-juice) – a big shop in BiH at mega low prices – and into Croatia (again) – back to the sanctuary of Camping Stobrec – one of the best sites ever! Only 9 hours travel….. What a day – phew… Oscar had to be ‘invisible’ at the border crossings, just in case!

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Better weather coming North and better views around the Kotor Bay.

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In BiH, ancient Necropolis … we used their carpark for a driver change.

915 – Saturday 2nd December: Sitting Still in Croatia

Well – how to start a quiet day? – ‘embracing the moment’ in bed….then one of the site managers knocked on the door – and the moment was suddenly ‘disembraced’…..not quite ‘in flagrante disrobio’ but close….  We compared costs about routes to Greece and decided to drive to Ancona in Italia and ferry to Greece.  Booked Minoan Ferries, with a members discount as advised by Viamare booking agent saved us £62 (excellent service, if anyone is planning to book – lovely people on the phone) + pet friendly cabin….. 18 hour sailing. Our new friend Outi from Finland, who has a house in Estonia and overwinters often in Monetnegro, has never had a border issue with her dogs….but we prefer to be risk averse.  

More handy laundry and a good breeze on our clothes line… for once not inside!

As often happens – a line of poetry comes to mind – very apposite in our circumstances!

“And a good south wind sprung up behind

the albatross did follow

and every day for food or play

came to the Mariner’s hollow”

‘Ryme of the Ancient Mariner’ – we are the not so ancient mariners and we need a good south wind…..

 

916 – Sunday 1st December: North to Italy

A big driving day – 8-ish hours with spectacular scenery – and heigh ho – we’re back in our bellissimo Italia, again!!!  Is there a nicer place to be?  Circumnavigated Trieste (James Joyce residence during the war, I recall) – avoiding the infamous road ramp that nearly nobbled us a month ago…. we paid up for the Slovenian vignette (ERU15 for 20 mins) and stuck to motorways.

Lovely free aire to overnight – we jump started a French van – twice! The 2 lads and 1 lady looked about 12 years old….maybe we are the ancient mariners?  Oscar says – ‘feck off, youze – I’m not a mariner!’  I think he missed something there…  sunshine beams on us – the righteous? But -4C overnight!

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Heading North to Italy – the cloud filling in between the mountain peaks.

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Views looking out to the Dalmatian islands.

917- Monday 4th December: And a Little Further South 

Drove most of day to Fano …passing some places we’d stayed at on our Italy just over 2 years ago.  The aire had tatty permanent caravans ….we wonder at the stories behind these single men.  K walked into town and along beaches with Oscar – I made sure the bed was still horizontal – it’s on my checklist…..Still sunny, yummy.

918- Tuesday 5th December: Fano and Onto Ancona

Walk and breakfast in Fano – lively old town. Had to have a pukka Italian coffee … no where else comes close.  Combed the beach front looking for a chandlery to sell us a replacement electric cable to Euro 2 pin (having left ours Dubrovnik and we’ll need one for the ferry for Electric Hookup)… three places on drive south … everything but in one and two no longer existed despite web presence … we’ll use the UK socket adaptor and a three to two pin … a bit Heath Robinson, but all under cover on the ferry so no wet risk .. If the cable does get wet, we’re in serious trouble!  Onto Auchan supermarket outside Ancona (15 mins from the ferry port) with free dedicated spaces for motorhomes … K did a big shop including Oscarfodder.  And we had another Italian coffee … needs must.  

Another lonely man and dog in a decrepit caravan on the parking.  We settled for the evening, we thought…. About 8-ish, a ‘domestic’ stared outside – 4 men from the decrepit caravan – a bit of ‘handbags’ but too loud. So, discretion being the better part of valour, we moved all of 200 metres – to avoid the unseemly racket.  

Looking forward to the mariners’ trip to the cradle of civilisation…..

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Fano had a lovely busting shopping area … but buildings had kept their original facia.  Christmas Panetone anyone?  All the decorations are up in the shops … wondering when we should put our up?  Just before my birthday?

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Walk along the harbour wall to the ‘David’ … funny how the statue’s bits had been rubbed shiny … but no effect on their size!

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The river had two areas controlled water flow with warnings about sudden surges.

 

 

908-911: Three Countries in Four Days

908 – Saturday 25th November 2017: Jajce

Peaceful evening parked at the gates of the closed campsite – no problems. We had to move Jez to let a man into the site – moved just up the road to a parking near the ‘kooky’ mill/laundry houses – lots of mini waterfalls…… and a coach party of nearly all women.  This is not the first time we’ve seen nearly all women … Asian groups too.  Where are the men?  

Slowly meandered on to Jajce – with free parking at the youth hostel. Coffee, de rigeur – wandered through the lively market – discovered that today is the anniversary of the declaration of statehood for Bosnia Herzegovina – lots of flags and celebrations including a stand devoted to the cult of President Tito.  We could have purchased a Tito 2018 calendar … but not sure would have appreciated it as a gift.  Back in 1979, I was in Damascus with a work colleague for the weekend – we wandered through the mile long covered souk – when a motorcade with Tito and Hafez al Assad (president of Syria then) drove through the narrow souk. We had paid 1 Syrian Pound for bed and another 1 Pound for the hard boiled egg breakfast!   The town castle was OK – nice views…. and the town had a lovely feel to it.  Checked the weather forecast and snow is on the cards for Sarajevo – so, no snow for us or Jez – headed south for the pilgrimage town of Medugorje instead. A significant Christian site devoted to Our Lady – some teenagers witnessed apparitions there years ago – it’s not ‘officially’ recognised by the Vatican but 1 million pilgrims visit each year…..

Our overnight site/autocamp cost Euro 10 with electric and wifi.

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Pliva Water Houses:  community huts using water power for milling and washing.  I counted 16.  Originally built in ottoman times.

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The wooden roof tiles were being replaced on some.

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It was really misty initially … but the blue sky made an appearance.

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The Pliva river.

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Jajce:  Pliva river waterfalls in the centre of town.

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Concert platform and seating … wet seating … a lot of water spray. 

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St Luke’s church and nearby catacombs.

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Jajce Fortress.

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A lot of cabbages being sold in netting sacks along the roadside.

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Part of the pretty route south following a river. 

909 – Sunday 26th November:  Medugorje and onto Dubrovnik

We walked to the main church and shrine – in the rain… lots of very touristy/pilgrim tat stuff for sale – we bought one postcard……strong Irish influence.   We had seen a picture of some local falls, but decided against visiting as they did not look a patch on Krka or Plitvice in Croatia.  

Dubrovnik was the next port of call – reached the camperstop in heavy rain and a steep ramp up to site – a centimetre to spare under our exhaust pipe… Surprise – the same two couples we met at Stobrec camping near Split. Rainy walk with O to a beach being refurbished – glass of vino rosso – K’s glass proved the physics of gravity and attached itself to the floor – oops!  

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Medugorje Church … not the sign saying to take care of your belongings … what a Christian place!

910 – Monday 27th November: Biking into Dubrovnik 

More e-bike repairs – gears, chain and puncture/new tube fitting…..Spanish Pork in the slow cooker and biked towards Dubrovnik – short cut suggested by the site lady manager – this meant Oscar got a free run for a while. The Old Town looks lovely – public Christmas decorations being installed – a clear month before the event! Bomb damage from the ’92-95 war – tastefully rebuilt.  A walk on the city walls would have cost a whopping Euro15 per person!!!  Not for us….  Bumped into Choe and Chris fellow motorhomers staying at the same site – they are from Jersey – scollop fishery business/diving. We invited them to our van for supper later.  

Lovely snackette lunch – it was getting very cold – see K with her lunch blanket!  Back to the bikes – another flat tyre on J-bike and K’s front tyre sticking – what is going on here??? I cycled home with regular pumping stops – on the main road with vehicles passing us far too close…..

Super evening with Chris and Chloe – rather boozy – wine, grappa and fruit brandy – ouch! But the conversation flowed and we exchanged motor homing ideas/experiences – they are on an 8-month trip following our route to Greece.  They kindly gifted us some scollops – our Christmas Day meal partly sorted – cheers to you two!  

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Stunning views as we approach Dubrovnik.

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Very much rebuilt and looks new.  Well, I suppose it is.  I looked at some post war images and they were flames and rubble.

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Rather impressed with his large one.

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We kept bumping into Chris and Chloe … so we just had to invite them to supper.  The trees are not sporting large oranges, but Christmas decorations and its not even December!

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And oranges as well as decorations!

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Even with patio heaters and a blanket … it was still cold, so the wine is medicinal.

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James heading up the stairs towards a long line of rather large white panties!

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What another stunning view on the way home.

911- Tuesday 28th November: And into Montenegro

Dawn broke at 0900hrs – it broke rather loudly for some of us!  Post-evening effects….. Chris and Chloe departed for Montenegro – and a little later, we followed suit – we hope to see them en route at a campsite. A brand new country – the border guard told us Oscar should have had an extra rabies blood test – first time we’ve had to show his passport….

We wanted to stop at Herzog Novi but absolutely no parking available.  Our first possible camperstop was too steep on the approach – so aborted – next choice was fine – just a very narrow gated entrance – K managed to squeeze the gate open just enough to scrape through.   A pitch within metres of the sea wall – sunny cloudless day – we sat and had soup in the sun……  our socialising of last night mandated a nanny nap to recharge the batteries.  We have decided to stay 2 days – job day tomorrow – bike repairs (again …and for the last time … fingers crossed!), van cleaning, laundry, showers and sundry other bits and pieces.. Just 2 other vans here – Swiss and French – it’s very quiet – shhhhhh……

 

 

A few thoughts on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Please bear in mind, these are very personal reflections based on our 5 nights in BiH … in November!

As soon as we drove in from Croatia, it felt poorer.  There were quite a few beggars in Mostar.   Markets and odd street corners have someone selling their own home grown produce.  Really fresh … I bought a string bag of onions for £3 and some swiss chard.  But we have never seen so many second hand clothes stalls in markets – there must be a demand for them.

It was really hammered during the 1992-95 conflict. We saw some bullet and shrapnel damaged buildings in a few towns in Croatia away from the coast, but there are lots in BiH, even in main tourist destinations like Mostar.  Typically houses were stone on the first floor and wood above; you can still see some of these, but orange air bricks have replaced most upper wooden floors.  The wealthier houses have plastered both floors.   There are a lot of half built unfinished houses too.

Roads are often very bumpy and narrow.  They are doable, but we did grind to a halt a few times to let lorries or busses pass the other way.  Along the roads we saw a lot of stone monuments, like grave stones.  Sometimes they were for a couple.  We don’t think they can all have been road traffic accidents, but you never know, as similar to Croatia, the overtaking borders on Italian.  Cars are mostly old and battered.  They would not pass a British MOT.  And so many Volkswagens … a lot of the population worked in Germany, so probably brought the cars back with them.  My German has come in very handy again.  Roadside vendors are selling the same thing in each area … oranges near the coast, cabbages further north and metal work such as fires/cookers and lids around Mostar.  One chappie had great display of fur coats … give the cold, I admit to being tempted … but no space in my wardrobe.

There is a lot of rubbish along roads and in fields … a lot of plastic … worse than Sicily, which has had a clean up act in recent years.  There are bins around, but other than glass we really did not see any evidence of recycling, other than on the campsite near Mostar.

Every town or hamlet has a cemetery … we assumed cremation is not an option here as there were so many and some really huge.  We didn’t wander into any cemeteries, but we are sure there must be quite a number of graves from the war.

Food and fuel are cheap … really cheep.  I googled a groceries indices for mid November.  

  • Ireland 70.93
  • France 78.57
  • UK 62.67
  • Portugal 45.96
  • Croatia 46.74
  • Montenegro 36.53
  • BiH 34.4
  • Albania 30.90
  • Macedonia 28.83

And we filled up both diesel £0.84/ltr and LPG £0.38.  We ate out twice and both food and wine was inexpensive and good.  Portions huge.  Grilled meat is the norm and the Blatina red particularly good.

Mostar left me a bit cold; far too touristy,  I particularly liked Jajce and the drive up along a gorge and over a snowy pass was beautiful  Tourism does not really seem to have stepped up in most places.  For instance the WW2 museum in Jablinca was extremely dated and our £2 entry was collected by a wizened lady who could have been one of the children used to carry wounded over the bridge before it was blown up.  we did not see much evidence of marked hiking trails, but we could have been in the wrong areas.

Dogs:  not on busses and Mostar restaurants said no to letting in Oscar.  But in Blagdaj and Jajce, he was allowed in cafes and restaurants, but not museums.  Quite a few wild dogs in places and more dogs tied up as guard dogs.  Oscar also startled a rat Jajce – nice. 

The people we spoke to were engaging and helpful.  We had a good lunch and shared drinks with locals in Blagaj.  

We would go back and explore more of the interior and north … but in Spring or Autumn.  I certainly don’t feel I got much of a handle on BiH.