A Travellerspoint blog

September 2007

Laid Back Korcula

sunny 28 °C

About 120 kilometres northwest of Dubrovnik is a quaint little island that hasn't changed much over the centuries. Not many tourists bother to stop in Korcula as they rush from the hotspot of Dubrovnik to Split. But we had plenty of time to smell the roses and wander the narrow lanes of this pretty place...

large_140_4092.JPG

All life on small islands is centred around the sea and Korcula is no exception. There is great excitement once or twice a week when the big Jadrolinija ferry arrives from Split...

large_140_4097.JPG

But most of the time the little boats bob lazily in the harbour and there is hardly a soul to be seen...

large_140_4090.JPG

The canons in the castle have lain idle for years...

140_4095.JPG

And Korcula's old city within the castle walls waits patiently for a busier time...

large_140_4099.JPG

We loved the peace and quiet of this pretty place and are pleased that the Dubrovnik's hordes have no time to stop here and stare...

140_4088.JPG

Posted by Hawkson 15:43 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik

semi-overcast 25 °C

There are several good reasons why Dubrovnik is nicknamed "Pearl of the Adriatic".
Firstly, the peninsula on which the old city stands is pearl shaped as it juts out into the Adriatic. Secondly, it is a beautiful compact city...

large_140_4077.JPG

Most of the city's buildings were erected in the 15th and 16th centuries when Dubrovnik was a major trading center with ships from all over the known world bringing goods to the Dalmatian coast. However, many of the public building were badly damaged by an earthquake in 1667. The damage was repaired but Dubrovnik never fully recovered its maritime pre-eminence. Cruise ships and tourist boats fill the harbours today...

large_140_4075.JPG

140_4074.JPG

The beloved red-tiled roofs of old Dubrovnik are picture perfect...

140_4072.JPG

However, during the Balkan war in 1991 the Serbs and Montenegrins attacked the city from the surrounding cliff tops and destroyed virtually all of the ancient roofs. Only a few original tiles survived...

large_140_4068.JPG

Serbian General Sturgar was sentenced to 7 years prison for orchestrating the destruction of this historic city.

For good reason Dubrovnik is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the entire Mediterranean region. The tightly woven narrow streets are a pedestrian's delight...

large_140_4062.JPG

And there are picturesque scenes around every corner.

Posted by Hawkson 16:41 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Podgorica's Hidden Attractions

sunny 28 °C

We only had part of a single day in the capital of Montenegro so wanted to make the most of our time. We arrived later than anticipated as our driver from Albania thought it only right and proper that we should stop in no-man's land between the two countries for lunch. No matter, we could surely find lots to do and things to see in an afternoon and evening in Podgorica!
Apparently not!
Not unless we wanted to go to the famous casino which recently starred in the latest Bond movie.
Casinos are not our thing so we enquired about tourist sites and discovered that everything worthwhile visiting was outside the city and only accessible by tour buses or guides. We had neither so spent a few hours wandering the streets, eating dinner and getting ready for our next country - Croatia. Lesson learned - one day is never enough.

Posted by Hawkson 15:45 Archived in Montenegro Comments (0)

Tidying up Tirana

sunny 28 °C

When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1987 communist satellite countries like Albania were left to fend for themselves. Without Moscow's support and subsidised industry Albania began slipping back into the third world and many people fled the country. The communist government's biggest fear was that it would be invaded and the military built thousands of concrete bunkers throughout the countryside...
large_Bunker.JPG
Albania is a country of concrete. Concrete is everywhere. Virtually all buildings are austere concrete blocks. However, since the fall of communism, the democratic government has been aggressively tarting up the cities - nowhere more than in the capital, Tirana. It's amazing what a lick of paint can do...

large_80f44440-5691-11ea-b78c-813991e5d186.JPG

8062d9b0-5691-11ea-858e-e51560cb32b0.JPG

You can put lipstick on a pig - but it's still a pig, and no amount of paint can pretty up the backstreets of Tirana...

7d0cf7f0-5691-11ea-9cc0-3fcf80c1f6db.JPG

However, it's the thought that counts and Tirana is certainly making an effort to modernise. A new cable car system took us high into the mountain above Tirana from where the distant city looks green and clean...

large_Tirana.JPG

On the streets there are signs of new growth. However, another thing that sprouts on Tirana's streets are the illegal wire taps that are plugged into street lights so that residents can avoid paying for electricity. The owner of this shop built his balcony around the street light and became irate when he thought we were photographing all the illegal wires he was streaming from the lamp post...

large_8047feb0-5691-11ea-9cc0-3fcf80c1f6db.JPG

Ninety percent of all vehicles on Albania's roads are old Mercedes - many of them stolen in European countries. The roads in Albania are generally very bad and, it is claimed, only Mercedes have suspensions capable of withstanding the rough ride. It is also a fact that with so many stolen Mercs in the scrap yards it is always possible to get cheap replacement parts...

Mercedes.JPG

It is said that the Albanian mafia make the Sicilian's look like tiddlywink players - and that may be true.

Posted by Hawkson 15:34 Archived in Albania Comments (0)

Kosovo - Still at War?

sunny 28 °C

Prishtina - from a war correspondents point of view...

large_140_4028.JPG

Kosovo is a small landlocked country that has been squeezed by its bigger neighbours for many years, so whenever the neighbours got into a fight it found itself getting trampled.The last time that Kosovo found itself underfoot was in 2001 at the end of the Third Balkan War when the Serbs and the Croats were at each others' throats and used Prishtina for target practice. It is only 6 years since hostilities ended and Scars of war and bombed out buildings are everywhere in the capital...

large_140_4031.JPG

Most of the vehicles on the streets belong to UN peacekeepers and many of the locals still rely on horses and donkeys...

large_140_4030.JPG

Yet, despite the third world appearances, the shops are well stocked with expensive western goods and it is a popular place for Albanians to pick up an outfit or two for the family wedding. Big white weddings, (with big white dresses), are all the rage in Albania and even the kids get dolled up in fancy togs...

large_140_4034.JPG

Prishtina isn't a particularly pretty place and one day was enough for us. The Serbs and Albanians, the Christians and Muslims, are still tussling over this small country in the Goljac mountains and if they ever agree to live peacefully together it might be worth a second look...

Posted by Hawkson 09:35 Archived in Kosovo Comments (0)