Monday, June 30, 2014

Belgrade- not the capitol city of a generation ago

We last were in Belgrade in 1985.  At that time, it was the capitol of Yugoslavia, and it was a dull, grey city with some interesting sights, but mostly we saw people walking around with a frown on their face.  It is amazing what a new generation can bring to a city!  Now, Belgrade is awesome!  There are people walking everywhere, talking,smiling, laughing.  As they sit in cafe's you hear their joy everywhere, all with music, mostly live, with great food and good beer and wine.  And people were so friendly!  We were lucky enough to get invited to a birthday party!  We met up with Nemanje from Budva Montenegro; he was going to his friend Dan's party, so we tagged along.  It was amazing meeting all these young Belgradians!  It was such a pleasure getting to know them!  And they actually went to sunset/dinner with us on our last night!

The sights are pretty much the same, but clean and repaired.  The old fort, Kalemegdan, is a really great place to spend the day, and come back to watch the sunset;  there is now a river cruise so you can experience the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers;  Skadarska street, the old Bohemian quarter, is now a full-fledged tourist haven of restaurants and music; the churches are all beautiful and really well lit (sadly we did not walk around to photograph them); and the pedestrian streets are now filled with shopping and restaurants and art/artists.  Plus, they created this lake on the side of the river that is 10 KM around, filled with swimming, restaurants, boating, biking, walking.  We didn't get to attend any theater, but they are everywhere.

Belgrade should be on everyone's list of cities to visit.

 Serbia is Eastern Orthodox- here is Rich and Nemanje in front of St. Sava's cathedral.  It is still unfinished on the inside, but still very beautiful.
 Our favorite sandwich shop, or as they say, "sandvici".  Notice the writing- Serbia uses both they Cyrillic and Latin alphabet.  Good thing I took a semester of Russian in college, bad thing is it was 1973:-).  But we managed.
 The city scape from the river- really nice lighting!
 Kalemegdan, the fort at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.
 An up-close photo of the statue.
 The fort from the Save river- taken during a river cruise.
 Sunset on the Sava
 Military museum in the moat of the fort
 Me making sure the canon is disarmed
 Me at the gates of the fort
Rich risking his life one more time....
The Serbians we be-friended

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sarajevo: a tale of two cities

We were really excited about going to Sarajevo!  Everyone said we would love it, that the people are really nice, and that it's a beautiful city.  They were right! Probably some of the nicest people you can meet- they would come up to help you, and NOT expect something in return!.  The city is beautiful- nestled in a valley, it is clean and well-maintained.  The old town is really cute.  Great food! Pastries to die for.  Delicious Turkish coffee, so we were turbo-charged every day:-).  There are catholic and orthodox churches and mosques all over, reflecting the religious make-up of the area.  All this, and so very affordable!

But then there was the war.  We had talked with people in other countries about it, so it was not surprise.  But time has a way of making you forget, and forget the siege of Sarajevo, we did.  But the city does not let you forget.  Everything is geared towards teaching you about the war and the siege;  even the city walking tour, museums, and most tourist sights.

Thousands died.  Children were targeted.  Family, friends, and neighbors turned on one another.  We have never seen so many cemeteries before, and they were all huge.  I am actually not sure if I would recommend seeing this city.  But in the end, I am glad I did.  

It did make me realize one thing: I do not miss the constant political crap from the Republicans and Democrats at home- their constant sniping, their lack of support for the American people, their intractable train of thought that is geared only for the party and not the country.  And the way so many Americans just ally themselves with their party, no matter what.  One thing I learned here- it was the politicians who fanned all the flames that led to the violent break-up.  If their political voice had been for peace, understanding, and support, the break-up of Yugoslavia would have been quite different.  It is a lesson every nation should learn- even the US.  Sadly, I do not see the lesson being learned.  It is something all people should demand of our leaders...but we aren't.

 Rich in the main square with the pigeons!
 Dogs are everywhere!  Most cities have stray cats.  Sarajevo has stray dogs- and there are lots of them!  Funny though- they don't bark and they are not aggressive.  Late one night we saw people come out and feed them!
 Another St. George sighting in te Cathedral!
The city has memorials at many of the locations that shells struck and killed people.  The scars are filled with a red resin called Sarajevo Roses (

 The city has a museum for the Srebernica genocide (, which brought tears to my eyes after about 15 minutes.  

 The Tunnel of Hope (, was an 850 meter tunnel under the airport that the people used to smuggle food and weapons and medicine into the city.  It was blockaded and shelled, with snipers in many of the larger buildings, shooting at people as they made their way across the city (  Here is Rich in the tunnel (only 25 meters is open for the museum.  It is less than 6 feet, so everyone had to lean over.  There were tracks in it for trolleys, but the guide said most things were carried on backs.

 But, the city has awesome sunsets....
 Beautifully lit bridges and buildings....
 a comfortable main square.....
and awesome pastries!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mostar: Day Trippin!

Who knew that Herzegovina had so much more to offer than Mostar and its awesome bridge!  We took a day trip and saw several towns! 

Blagaj- One of the largest underground sources of pure water!  There is a small cave we boated to, and a Dervish school attached to the mountain.  Very cool!  The water was delicious, but freezing!
 Here is a photo as we approached the cave.  The reflection is amazing.
 Here is a photo as we were leaving the cave
Dervish school 

 Pocitelj- a 14th century fort on the river Neretva River.  It sits on a hill and has a commanding view of the valley and river.  (

 Rich and Dino, our guide, at the foot of the fort.
 View of the valley from the tower

A long view of the tower and part of the ancient, crumbling complex.

 Me inside the ruins

Mogorjelo- a Roman rancho!  ( It is from the 4th century.

Kravice falls!!!  (  We brought our bathing suits as everyone said the water was warm.  It is warm if you have no nerves!  We waded in as far as our knees- within seconds, they went numb!  Freezing does not describe it.  These people are a hardy breed!  But beautiful beyond anything I expected!!!!

 Long view as we approached

Medjurgorje (  In 1981, 6 teenagers claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to them repeatedly to spread the word of gods love.  Since, it has become a pilgrimmage site for Catholics, although not officially sanctioned by the Vatican.

I became aware of this because one of my Peregrino/Pilgrim friends, Felipe Silveyra, introduced me to the books written by his father, Jesus Maria Silveyra, one of the foremost authors in Argentina.  Mr. Silveyra's focus is his Catholic faith.  His book on Medjurgorje is one of the few translated into english.  The name of the book: Confessions of a Pilgrim to Medjurgorje the book is available in english on Amazon.  
 Me at the Church of St. James
 Selfie inside the church
The shrine to the Virgin Mary

Mostar- home of the most photographed item on the planet- the Mostar bridge!

Mostar- a place I have wanted to visit for most of my life!  I have seen pictures and read about the bridge most of my adult life, and finally got here!  The bridge was financed in the 1560's by Suleyman the Magnificent (this are was under Ottoman rule for centuries).  After 427 years, the bridge was destroyed during the war of the Yugoslav break up.  In 2004, it was rebuilt using the same stone from the original quarry, and built with the same ancient building techniques.  It truly is magnificent!  And the old town is as cute as can be.  Interestingly, the streets are all rounded stones set in concrete- and large enough to twist your ankles.  

 View of the bridge from the river.  Notice the beautifully colored buildings framed by the bridge.

Look VERY closely!  There are people who jump from the bridge after collecting money.  I caught one of the jumpers. 

 Rich at sunset with the bridge in the background
 Long view of the river and bridge- all along the river are restaurants!
 The old town main street.  The roofs of the buildings are all stone- it looks like a dragons back from above.
 On the hill above the city is a giant cross.  It marks the spot where Croat tanks parked and shelled the city, eventually hitting and destroying the bridge.
Me showing the size of the cross- it really is huge!

 All over town are evidence of the war- from bullet riddled homes to burned shells of buildings.
 The bridge- so completely beautiful!
A toast to the bridge!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dubrovnik: part dva

I know, I know- to much Dubrovnik!  But I have to take back what I said about taking this city off your list because of the crowds.  They are REALLY annoying, but you can escape them for a bit, and they all leave at night!  This city really is amazing- no wonder it is the jewel of the Adriatic!

 Rich and I with the red tiled cityscape below us
 Me with Dubrovnik in the background.  Such great vistas of this city with a few minutes walk outside the city walls.
 A view of one of the narrow city streets!
 A portal in the all has a look-out of the Adriatic and a fort on an island (connected, though) just off the town.
 A side view of part of the wall- the entire wall is walkable!!!!
 As you know, we always climb everything.  But sometimes we are not sure-footed.  Here, Rich almost falls off the wall into the Adriatic.  Luckily, I was there to catch him!!  LOL! 
 The roof-scape of the town!!!!
In 1985, Rich and I were actually here in Dubrovnik- at that time it was part of Yugoslavia.  From this same vantage point all those years ago, we took a picture- with the island of Locrum in the background and the red-roofed city below us.  The world was different then, and we were much younger, but coming back, we had a true sense of familiarity!