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"The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture"

#BalkanBants - Mostar

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Bosnia was the only country in which we visited two cities, travelling via the beautiful city of Mostar on our way from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Arriving in mid morning after travelling through the stunningly beautiful Bosnian countryside, Johan and I spent just a few hours in Herzegovina's largest city, where we made our way down towards the icon of the city - the Stari Most, or Old Bridge.

Stari Most

Stari Most

As we travelled south from the bus station in the 40˚C heat with backpacks in tow, we first reached the beautiful Kujundžiluk, or Old Bazaar, where, between the tourists, we first gained our view of the Old Bridge, that had famously been rebuilt just ten years previously after destruction during the Bosnian War in 1993.

Old Bazaar

Old Bazaar

Carrying on a little bit further and we crossed over the bridge itself with picture postcard views of the valley of the local area. We then hit the other side of the bridge and walked down to the riverbank below the bridge for a rest with beautiful views and a photo session.

View over the city from the bridge

View over the city from the bridge

Cooling off we then walked back towards the bus station via the Crooked Bridge and rest of the Old Bazaar, and then carried on our Balkan Tour towards Dubrovnik.

The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture

The whole of the Bosnian coast in one picture

Being held up at the first border over a pack of leaflets, the thought of travelling back into Bosnia and then Croatia again as we crossed through Neum didn't exactly fill me with pleasure but luckily after stopping off for a photo of the whole of the Bosnian coastline we made it through relatively quickly and found ourselves in the tourist hotspot of Dubrovnik.

Mostar was incredibly beautiful and despite being small is definitely worth the trip, especially as it is doable as a day trip from both Dubrovnik and Split.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged history border war balkanbants Comments (0)

"Hvala - from everyone"

#BalkanBants - Sarajevo

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After our mosque hunting drive through the Bosnian countryside, we headed to bed before our full day of sightseeing in the historic capital of Sarajevo began the next day.

Starting off with the practicalities by buying our onward travel tickets, the following morning we headed down Sniper Alley towards the Historical Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina, where we began our day viewing images of the Bosnian War, and the aftermath and in particular Srebrenica, of which the twentieth anniversary had occurred just a few days before. With the historical mode firmly on, we headed past the parliament building with one of the many Blood Roses outside, symbolising the blood shed caused by the shelling during the siege of the city in the mid-90s.

Latin Bridge

Latin Bridge

Before long we had already reached another historical site, the Latin Bridge, a beautiful bridge over the river, and on which the northern end is the site of the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - the trigger point for the start of WWI.

Plaque marking the shooting in 1914

Plaque marking the shooting in 1914


The gun that triggered WWI

The gun that triggered WWI

After taking a look inside the small museum dedicated to the Austro-Hungarian rule of Bosnia, including the actual gun used in the assassination, we headed back out and over to the City Hall, where the Archduke and his wife were photographed just moments before their untimely death, before making our way to the old city.

The Baščaršija

The Baščaršija

The old city has a very distinct Ottoman feel, with the Turkish markets and food, cosy shops and towering minarets. And yet, just down the street is the westernised High Street with a completely different feel, with the cathedrals on side streets. We then headed for a view of the city and valley by walking up to the Yellow Bastion for a cool down drink.

One of the many Muslim graveyards in the city

One of the many Muslim graveyards in the city

Looking down over the city with its different cultures all intertwined, as well as the surrounding mountains that were used to shell down over the city and the hundreds of Muslim graves on every remaining green patches not already built on gave a fascinatingly beautiful yet deeply upsetting image of the city that will live with me forever.

One of the many Blood Roses in the city

One of the many Blood Roses in the city

The fact that just twenty years ago, and therefore in my own lifetime, this city was under siege by former residents in a truly intolerant circumstance is truly upsetting. However being able to view how this city has recovered and now, which to me at least seemed to have resolved itself to live side by side in harmony gives me hope for a better future for the world as a whole.

Visual image of how the siege occurred

Visual image of how the siege occurred

Heading back down the hill we made our way to join the Siege Tour that I had booked for us. This would give us an even more informed image of how the city was during the Bosnian War, being able to visit the Siege Tunnel used in the war to provide relief to the residents without the fear of being shot as they crossed the runway to the rest of the free Bosnian territory.

Reconstructed Minefield

Reconstructed Minefield


Inside the Siege Tunnel

Inside the Siege Tunnel

After viewing this area, we then headed up to the mountains to see just how easy it was for the residents to be shot by snipers from the mountains in Snipers Alley, before making our way to walk on the, now abandoned, bobsleigh track from the 1984 Olympics.

On the Bobsleigh Track

On the Bobsleigh Track

As we got back in the bus to take us down to the city, it was noticeable just how hilly parts of the city are. It was now rush hour and trying to meander the small hilly city roads with passing traffic was particularly difficult. Although things were made easier by help from a local - to whom the Australian on the bus exclaimed "Hvala - from everyone!"

As we arrived back in the city from a very informative and enjoyable tour, we made our way to the city to grab a bite to eat - luckily taking this just as the thunderstorm occurred, meaning we didn't end up caught in it, and then headed back towards our hotel via the Olympic arenas and a crazy Bosnian throwing herself on traffic and subsequently being arrested by the local cops.

Despite only having a day in the city, Sarajevo was crammed full of exciting things for us to see and I would highly recommend it as a place to visit, along with Bosnia as a whole.

Onwards to Mostar!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged culture history war olympic macabre balkanbants Comments (0)

When in Rome...

Rome & The Vatican City

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Having welcomed in the new year just 12 hours before, I made my way to Luton Airport for the first holiday of the year. Wasting no time and being joined for once, by other people, I was headed for the Italian capital, Rome.

After flying over the snowy Alps, we eventually arrived in a chilly Rome, where we boarded our prebooked bus to the city. After stopping off for a Pizza, we eventually arrived at our apartment for the next 3 days, where we dropped our stuff and walked just 5 minutes down the road to the Colosseum.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Despite it now being cold and dark on a January evening, there were still many people outside, and we of course took many group shots behind the illuminated building. Having left our selfie stick at home it was actually handy that there were Bangladeshis selling them. After walking around the building, it was already quite late, and so I made my way back to the apartment to get some sleep for the next day, which would prove to be our busiest of the trip.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

The first full day was the day we had tickets to explore the Vatican. However these were for the afternoon, and so we first got up and walked around the other attractions of the city on the way there. Walking past the President's palace, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Just as the Colosseum had been the night before, this was covered in Scaffolding, which unfortunately meant the fountain wasn't very easy to see, and neither was there any water. However there was a temporary bridge over the fountain that gave us all views of the sculptures from close up.

Pantheon

Pantheon

After this we continued walking, and as Jenna exclaimed "Oh wow..." we had reached the Pantheon - the oldest Roman building still in use. However she then finished her statement with "...they sell crêpes", having missed the famous attraction by being overwhelmed by the shop next door. Nevertheless, we took a look inside before walking on the Piazza Navona, and eventually making it to the Ponte Umberto I bridge, where views over the river Tiber of the Vatican can be seen.

The Vatican Skyline

The Vatican Skyline

After touring around central Rome, we then headed to the Vatican itself where impressive views of St. Peter's Square awaited us. By now it was already lunch time and so we made a swift move round the corner to the Vatican Museums, where we walked past the 2 hour or so queue and went straight in thanks to our Pre Booked tickets. The museum was mostly just artefacts and paintings, however there were some nice views of the Vatican Gardens and the highlight of the museum, the Sistine Chapel.

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The museums were absolutely full of tourists, and unfortunately the layout of the museum means that everyone is pushing through to see the Sistine Chapel - meaning that even if you wanted to look at the artefacts on the way there you couldn't. However to see the Creation of Adam painting by Michaelangelo is a real must when in Rome, and so it was worth it - even if it is surprisingly small.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

After reuniting as a group we then headed back to St. Peter's Square, where we attempted to enter the Basilica itself. The queue was around 80 minutes long, but moved pretty quickly and again was worth waiting for to gain entry inside. Whilst the other guys joined mass, I went back outside to witness the changing of the Swiss Guard. After this we headed back towards our apartment for the rest of the evening, where like true Brits, we annoyed our neighbour who came down at the first point possible to shout in Italian about her frustration of our noisiness. Meanwhile we hid in the bedroom...

Colosseum

Colosseum

On the final full day of the trip we made our way back down the the Colosseum, where again we had walked past all the stupid tourists who hadn't pre booked tickets, feeling superior. We then latched on the the end of a tour to get some information about the building, before making our way around the huge complex and getting views of the Roman ruins on the other side of the square. After this, we headed off down the main street through the oldest area of the city, before popping back off at our apartment.

The final area for us to visit was the northern part of the city, where the Spanish steps are located, getting an ice cream on the way. The area around the Spanish steps was evidently the shopping district of the city, and the steps themselves were full of tourists, and again prime location for selfie stick selling by militant Bangladeshis.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Taking a walk around the steps themselves, and finding like most other places, much of the sites were covered in Scaffolding, Saman decided this would be the perfect place for her to bust out a tune. This then developed into a sales pitch with her singing "Umbrella" by Rihanna, just as the clouds opened and the Bangladeshis replaced selfie sticks with Umbrellas for sale. Walking back down the bottom of the steps, Saman burst into song again, despite no one else being willing to join her, as I read a sign stating that shouting and singing on the steps was in fact illegal. After this, we headed to the final spot on our itinerary, the Piazza del Popolo, where there was lots of street entertainment. After sitting for a coffee and grabbing some quick food, we then made our way back to the apartment where we finished off our leftover booze, and again annoyed our neighbour - hiding again in the cupboard in the bedroom.

Gifts for the neighbour

Gifts for the neighbour

The trip was very nice, and even though Rome was cold and covered in scaffolding, it is still a very interesting city with a lot of history, and it was nice to actually visit somewhere with others. Unlike most other places I had visited, being there felt much different to how I had expected - not better, not worse just different, and this has somewhat changed my perception of the city in a way I cannot explain how nor why. Despite the trip being a bit of a shock to the system by including a lot of faffing, and therefore being a lot busier than it would have been, had I done it alone, I'm glad we went.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged history city friends roman vatican drunk christianity Comments (0)

Petra

Holy Land - Petra

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After taking an early night, I was collected at my hotel at 6:30am (no problem, as sunrise was already 2 hours earlier) to take me to the Jordanian border, for I was on a day trip to Petra.

Arriving at the border to enter my 45th country, it soon became clear I was the only member of our group for the day below the age of 35, and one of the few without grey hair. But this was no problem, as it made it easier for them to talk with me. I got many questions about why I was travelling alone, where I was from, where I had been before, from the mostly Americans who had toured all around Israel in the last fortnight, and made friends with the other two Brits, Tim and Wendy from Bath, who it turned out would subsequently be on my flight home two days later.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum

Crossing the border into Jordan was no problem, and we met our guide, Ali, on the other side where we were given a quick view of Aqaba, the Jordanian port on the other side of the border. Going to a vantage point, we could see the Gulf of Aqaba, where Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all crowd over this small area of water. We then drove up the country, passing Wadi Rum, before getting into the mountains on our way to Petra.

Entering Petra

Entering Petra

Arriving at Petra was again very commercialised, with salesmen trying to send all types of tacky gifts, scarfs and bangles. Ignoring them we carried on our walk down into Petra, with the rocks getting more and more steep and the track getting more and more windy.

Through the rocks

Through the rocks


The Treasury

The Treasury

And then it hits you - the Treasury. Carved out of the sheer rock face and opposite the Siq (the pathway into the whole area), it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Ignoring all the commercialisation and the hundreds of tourists around who are all wanting that same shot as you it is still and impressive site that goes beyond the photos, and it was amazing to think until the 1980s this was still inhabited. Whilst we didn't get to spend that long in Petra, for me it was not much of a problem, as I'd seen most of what I had wanted. And after taking lunch we headed back down to the border with Israel.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Jordan Tagged history rock holyland Comments (0)

Yad Vashem

Holy Land - Jerusalem

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My final day in the capital consisted of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which when I visited was absolutely full of tourists, including groups of Israeli soldiers, all with their huge guns. The museum has recently been improved and expanded, with it now being built through a hill. Entering on one side you walk through a Toblerone shaped building with rooms located on each side beginning with the Nazi rise to power in Germany in the early 1930s, and ending with the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Whilst I had seen a lot of things about the Holocaust, the museum was particularly interesting as it dealt with the before and after, rather than only covering the Death Camps. However, saying that most captivating thing that will stay with me was a huge model of the process of extermination at Auschwitz - with models of people waiting out in the snow, to enter the cellar, get changed, be gassed and then have their bodies removed and buried.

Hall of Names

Hall of Names

The final room is the Hall of Names, a circular room with a huge bookshelf on its outer edge. On each of the shelves were thousands of books, containing over 2.2 million names of Holocaust victims, which are being added to all the time. Leaving at the other end of the hill, you then have a view of the hills that make up the area, before going above the building and visiting the Eternal Flame, where every world leader visits on a state visit to the country.

Eternal Flame

Eternal Flame

Heading back to my hostel for the last time, my journey in Jerusalem was over, but the rest of Israel was waiting.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged history war torture holyland remembrance Comments (0)

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