A Travellerspoint blog

Spectacular SANDY Sveti Stefan

sunny 32 °C
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A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.

Foodie moment

Today we went back to Bastian III again (you have to stick with a good thing) for dinner this time. We ordered the traditional roast lamb rack with vegetables and mash, squid stuffed with cheese and ham, and our favourite salad, shopska! The lamb was the best lamb roast I (Mark) have ever tasted! We must have been given the best bit because we were last in the restaurant to eat, so it had been slow cooking all night. Amazing! The squid was also delicious, the stuffing particularly a highlight!

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Cultural moment

Tanning is an art, well to some people anyway. Most people are quite happy with the mostly even tan you get by laying on the sand, but a few people, especially in Sveti Stefan beach just out of Kotor, have worked out quite an interesting routine of standing poses. In almost contortionist style, they direct their most pale parts of their bodies so that they face the sun while standing, holding for 15 minutes and then changing poses. It was like watching some kind of strange mime / statuette street performance. Entertaining nevertheless.

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After taking a few bus rides around Europe, we began to notice a particularly strange job, that of the bus ticket seller. Usually a younger girl (late teens / early twenties) rides up front of the bus, counts people that board at each stop and then asks you to pay for a ticket after you have taken your seat. I can see why this job exists, it saves time by taking the job out of the drivers hands, keeping the bus on schedule, but why anyone would choose this job, especially the young girls is beyond me. The pay must be awesome because sitting on a bus going around in circles all day sounds like boreds-ville to me!

Wow moment

We took a bus (with regular ticket collector girl) to Sveti Stefan. An island just a 100 meters off the beach (an actual sand beach!). The island is very small, and is squished with many old multi level stone buildings that used to be a small village, "used to be" being the part you need to pay attention to. Now it is a resort, the whole island is one resort, the residents bought out and the hotel moved in. You can't get to the island unless you are staying at the resort, but you can admire it from the beautiful sandy beaches! Being able to lay on actual sand again was a treat, even though the temperature was in the mid 30's and the shade didn't exist. This just made the water even more inviting, and once you walked past the sharp pebbles on the edge ( why does Europe never make it easy!), you could swim around in the crystal clear water. I (Mark) even swam to a buoy I saw in the distance just to see if I could, luckily I could! Such a relaxing day - just what we needed!

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What we learnt today

Smoking, still the way to be cool in Europe, exists and is allowed everywhere. Restaurants? Yep no worries. Bars? Sure why not. Buses? Of course. Bus drivers? You better believe it! Old bus drivers especially, light up like smoke stacks, chain smoking their lungs away, and preventing most of the smoke from filling the bus by driving with not the window, but the bus door open! If you have ever noticed a bus door, they're not small things and doing 100kph with the door open makes for an interestingly windy experience.

Posted by travellinglise 10:25 Archived in Montenegro Tagged sveti_stefan Comments (0)

Counting our Savings in Kotor

sunny 27 °C
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"Not every lake dreams to be an ocean. Blessed are the ones who are happy with whom they are." - Mehmet Murat Ildan

Foodie moment

Stephan, the guy that worked in our hotel, recommended we head out to Bastion III, and we were very happy we followed his advice!. Bastion III is another branch of the restaurant that our accommodation was situated near (Bastion I). It was just outside the old town walls which means that it was cheaper but also dead quiet, we were the only people in for a late lunch! Regardless, we had the Beef Goulash and a Boiled Beef with Vegetables, with my new favourite... Shopska Salad (tomatoes, cucumber, onions and grated feta cheese on top)..... Yummy, cheap comfort food!

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Cultural moment

The biggest cultural difference we have found since entering Montenegro is that it now actually feels like we are in Eastern Europe. To be honest it is mostly because the prices are more what we expected than in Croatia. But it is also because the people seem like they are just making a living, but not trying to get every possible cent out of all tourists that pass through!

Wow moment

Kotor is set on a spectacular bay, it's huge! Its a long and windy drive around the outside, but the amazing view around each corner make up for it! The towering cliffs that surround it make it unlike any other place in the world!

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The old town of Kotor is amazing to look at. Pressed up against the base of a huge cliff, the rest of it is enclosed by its original walls. Then snaking up the cliff are another set of walls leading up to the fortress that sits on top of the cliff. The inside of the old town has the trademark cobblestones and windy streets, which twist and turn you until you are not quite sure where you are... until you burst out on a bright square... hmm but which one?! Needless to say a map of Kotor is at the same time, essential and useless!!

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What we learnt today

The beach in Kotor was touted as a sand beach,and we eagerly headed out to it... Unfortunately I would in fact classify it as a 'gravel' beach not sand! Comfier then stones but really not sand!!! It is possible to lie on it, but you do have strange spots on your back afterwards that kind of look like you have some sort of pox!

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Posted by travellinglise 10:28 Archived in Montenegro Comments (0)

A day in Kings Landing (Or for the non-nerds - Dubrovnik)

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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"Come with me and take this city!" - Stannis Baratheon

Foodie moment

As promised we headed back to our favourite place in Hvar for lunch before we caught the Catamaran off the island. This time we revisted an old favourite Pasticada Njok (Gnocchi with marinated beef) and Dalmation stuffed bread and Stuffed peppers. Not as amazing as the night before but still great, and the waitress was so happy to see us come back it was worth it for that!

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Mark's carnivore dreams were answered again with a meat plate ordered at the river front restaurant near our apartment

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The search for a cheap lunch led us to try a Croatian (well South Eastern European) speciality, Cevapi. It is minced pork and beef rolled into sausage shapes, and then served in a flatbread with salad and ajvar sauce (Capsicum and garlic relish). Not healthy exactly but tasty and cheap!!

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Cultural moment

Until now our bus travel experiences have been fairly painless, today was an exception. Our bus was over an hour late with nobody able (or wanting to) explain where it was, or when it was arriving. When it got there the driver had an impossibly slow process of putting the bags on while charging even more money for the bags than on previous journeys ( in Croatia the bus drivers charge you for each bag you put under the bus separate of ticket price. When people ask why they have to pay they always act like its not their decision but the money goes straight into their pockets!). Then when we finally got on the bus, everyone had ignored the seat numbers so instead of my seat near the front that i had asked for I was stuck down the back! The border checks on the buses are also ridiculous, as the Croatian police will get on at the border and take everyone's passports off to check (this takes at least 30 mins) and then the passports are handed back out to everyone on the bus (find yours in the pile, grab a couple of spares if you want!), then the bus drives for about 5 minutes and then the whole thing happens again, this time it is the Montenegrin border guards! The whole process adds at least an hour to the journey, and to add to the comfort factor the driver doesn't want to waste petrol so he turns off the engine and therefore the air conditioning!!

Wow moment

Stari Grad Dubrovnic really is as breathtaking as they say! The best view is from its walls, you can walk around the entire perimeter looking down on it from every angle. The cluster of red roofed houses clustered together on the edge of the bright blue ocean is an amazing contrast. On ground level the lane ways weave up and down the hills, and there are big open squares filled with restaurants. A really great thing is that the town is full of fountains where you can refill your water bottles... finally something for free in Croatia! There is still evidence of the seige on Dubrovnic in 1991, particularly as many of the UNESCO sites were particularly targeted by the Yugoslav people's army, but much of it has been restored. The hardest thing to deal with in Dubrovnik is the heat when walking around the walls (can take up to 2 hours and there is no shade or top up locations for our water bottle) and the HUGE amounts of crowds. It is a prime spot for cruise ships and when they come in the place fills to the brim. On a side point though, while we were there I spotted my old place of employment - The Disney Cruise lines - ahhh the memories!!

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For those fans of Game of Thrones they may know that Dubrovnik is Kings Landing in the show, it is fun hunting around for the places that filming has taken place in the city. One of the main places for filming is Fort of Saint Laurence which is just outside the Stari Grad walls. This is where scenes such as Joffery's name day tournament was filmed etc..

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Anyone who is really interested can go to this blog: http://ageekabroad.net/kings-landing-dubrovnik-game-of-thrones-filming-location/ and try to match them to our pictures, its kind of cool!

What we learnt today

Whilst in Dubrovnic we hired an audio tour which covered the old town, walking around the walls and information about the war of independence. Some parts that stood out are:

When the old town was first being built and fortified there was a rule that all people entering the city must bring a stone with them to contribute to the construction. This also had the added bonus of creating a sense of ownership within the residents.

The Croatians were the inventors of the idea of quarantine. The word comes from the Latin word Quaranta, which means 40. This is related to the fact that Dubrovnic had a practice of enforcing 40 day isolation of ships and people prior to entering the city. This was to contain the black death, and the practice was called quarantine.

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Dubrovnic at its peak was a town full of aristocrats with an interest in the finer things in life (perhaps similar to Game of Thrones!). Due to the strong trade opportunities it was a wealthy town, and the residents enjoyed this, but of course when something is so good other people want to be a part of it and Dubrovnik has faced many attacks on its independence through history.

Dubrovnik's old town was almost completely flattened during the War for Independence when Croatia attempted to break away from the struggling Yugoslavia. The siege on the town by the Serbian and Montenegrin troops lasted for seven months. The fact that Dubrovnic is separated by land from the rest of Croatia (there is a small piece of Bosnia which cuts through Croatia to the ocean) meant support was limited, and it was quite amazing that the small number of troops were able to hold Dubrovnic throughout the seige and come out successful.

Posted by travellinglise 08:36 Archived in Croatia Tagged dubrovnic game_of_thrones Comments (0)

Birthday Boating in the Pakleni Islands

sunny 30 °C
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"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest" – By Larry Lorenzoni

Foodie moment

For my birthday voyage we put together a delicious picnic, complete with meat burrek (spiced mince), homemade cheeses (Goat and Sheep's milk - one hard, one soft), fresh strawberries, tomatoes and peaches and a bottle of red wine! It was so delicious, especially looking over the turquoise waters.

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My birthday dinner was at a tripadvisor recommended restaurant, which was up one of the winding stairways that lead away from the main square. Konoba Menego prided itself on true authentic Croatian cooking, and NO PIZZA! The food was fantastic and the Croatian red wine from the Pakleni islands was delicious. We ate Dalmation Njok (Home made gnocchi with prawns in a creamy sauce) and Fillet Dalmatia (Beef fillets stuffed with cheese then wrapped in prosciutto, served with prawns and herb butter with a side of grilled vegetables). Finally some great Croatian cooking, and with a lovely waitress we were very happy! We've promised we'll be back tomorrow for lunch before we leave!!

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Cultural moment

Today we got to see how the other half live. Hvar is full of expensive speed boats, yachts and sail boats, which are either being rented for a holiday or owned by the people on them. As we cruised around the bay in our (small) boat, dropped our anchor with the other (big) boats in a picturesque bay and sun-baked on the deck listening to (other peoples) music, we got a taste for how nice it must be to have the money for a boat... oh well, we'll just have to live with faking it for a day for the time being.

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Wow moment

As a special birthday treat we decided to hire a 10 horsepower 'speed' boat, so we could head out to the Pakleni islands at our own pace. It was so much fun zooming through the water, pulling in to bays and beaches we came along on the way. We stopped in the popular Palmizana island to have lunch. Touted as the sand beach of Croatia, we were disappointed to find only a tiny strip of sand taken up almost entirely by sun lounges. Either way it was a beautiful spot and after lunch, rather than lie or sit on concrete or rocks as others were doing we headed back to our boat... drove it out into the bay and dropped our anchor to float and sunbake out on the water. Apart from one close call with a champagne cork from another boat, it was incredibly relaxing! We then headed around to another island, with a beach called Zdrilca. This was our favourite beach by far! Although it was a rock beach it had huge bean bags on the beach to lay on (free of charge!!!), a carpet leading into the water so you don't hurt your feet when entering and the beers were affordable. The restaurant Tri Grede looked great too but we weren't hungry. I wish we had found this little gem earlier rather than blowing our money at Carpe Diem!!

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What we learnt today

Boats are fun!!! We highly recommend it! Oh, and we also learnt that the pull out anchors on little boats like ours are fairly useless at catching on the bottom, so floating on the spot is pretty much impossible!!

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Posted by travellinglise 04:23 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar pakleni_islands Comments (1)

Islands in the sun

sunny 30 °C
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Carpe Diem - Seize the day! - Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Foodie moment

With a limited amount of money to spend (see below for reason), and feeling very hungry we chose pasta and beef thai salad at Carpe Diem Club for lunch. Food was good.... but waaaaay overpriced!!

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Cultural moment

Before coming to Croatia we had thought it would be be a bit of a backpackers meca... still Eastern Europe enough to be cheap, but touristy enough to have those small luxuries of menus in English and easy to understand sight seeing. This may have previously been the case but now, due to the prices i'm guessing, it attracts a much more wealthy crowd. The tourists are people who are on a cruise, or have rented (or own) a sail boat or younger people who are generally on a short vacation (and therefore have a lot of money to spend in a short time). This was especially the case in Hvar, which likes to tout itself as the new French riviera! If you look for cheap options such as fast food and supermarkets, you can find them... but if you are counting the pennies like us, we found out you have to be very careful in Hvar - people around you may be knocking back jugs of cocktails and bottles of wine at beachside bars but on our budget, that equals a full meal for the both of us!

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Wow moment

Today we jumped on one of the water taxis and headed over to the popular Carpe Diem beach club. Once again the beach was rocks and concrete so we decided to splash out on two recliner sun beds (they were incredibly comfortable but $30 for the rental! Eeek!) Then we continued our extravagance by having a cocktail (hey, its my birthday week after all). The location was beautiful, the water cold but refreshing and the sun lovely to lie in. There was a DJ playing music and it was a really nice day. Until we hit our money problems (see 'foodie moment' and 'what we learnt' for more)

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What we learnt today

There is no access to ATMs or paying by credit card on the islands around Hvar! This is crazy to us... particularly becasue of the prices of food and drink on the island, people must have been carrying around stacks of cash to pay off their tabs at the end of the day!! We, unfortunately, got caught out by this... having to count all our pennies to buy lunch and not even be able to afford a bottle of water (there also isn't fresh water on Carpe Diem Beach - Mark topped our water bottle up in the bathroom and managed to fill it with salt water - Oops). We are sure we are not the only ones stuck without money on the islands, its not made obvious anywhere... at least we asked before running up a big bill... I wonder what happens to those that can't pay at the end of the day!

Posted by travellinglise 08:56 Archived in Croatia Tagged hvar carpe_diem_club Comments (0)

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