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  • 04 Nov 2017
    One of the fascinating ways to explore a country is by driving. The freedom of the open road gives you more possibilities to get to know the country. Right? Not in Serbia! Here is a real rant on driving in Serbia. 1) There are no traffic signs. If you are lucky to find one of them it will take you in the wrong direction or it will have been erected so crookedly you can't work it out. GPS is the way to go. If you find a traffic sign it’s probably going to be in the Cyrillic alphabet and only occasionally in the Roman. Good luck with trying to spell the word out at more than 20 miles an hour. You may see helpful English signs like, Producer of Local Produce. 2) The Serbs are very friendly people – they never let you pay for a drink, are happy to take you around and show you the best part of the country but they turn into Monsters once they are behind the wheel. One place where there is gender equality in Serbia is behind the wheel, in a car the women are bad as men. Nuns included. One overtook us at speed and at great danger to herself and other drivers. It was in the area dubbed “Hilandar of Serbia” as there are 10 monasteries spread over beautiful hills, river and lakes. You would think it’s the perfect place to unwind and find your inner self- not to get killed by a reckless nun!  Her frustration started when we gave way to the car on the other side of a bridge, the nun didn’t beep, but we could hear the engine revving. She didn’t overtake right away because the nice couple passing gave us a nod and a smile which probably enraged her. Maybe she is not used to people being polite. The nun continued to follow us so close I was under impression she wanted to open our boot through her window. The sharp bends and fast traffic didn’t stop her and she overtook on a blind bend and then quickly turned off the main road without indicating and hurtled up to a monastery... 3) During our driving experience in Serbia we never saw the police, although we saw two police cars – one parked in the front of kafana ( national bistro) in Nova Varos. We saw a lot of ambulances struggling to make their way on the overcrowded roads with no one making space for them to pass. They only time we encountered the police was when we crossed the border into Bosnia and the only reason we saw them is because we had been warned back in Belgrade. “Watch your speed limit when you enter Bosnia as there are two policemen, one fat and one short, jumping out of the bushes and issuing fines.” Its seems the whole country is aware of them, the two policemen in Bosnia who still haven't realised that their hiding place is blown!  4) Be aware of the likelihood of being cut up on the roads by really dangerous drivers. I have only one word for them “F***** idiots” or in short FI to be used here. They are hormonal junkies who are betting on you stopping and letting them overtake you, otherwise you will have blood on your hands! The reality is that you have to hit the brakes, and let flow some colourful English language. With some addition of Serbian too. 5) There are motorways but not everywhere. Our visit to the Western Serbia was mainly on roads which would be classified as country lanes in the UK but wider and with fewer potholes. 6) There are speed limits displayed but they are there only to be broken! If you don’t break them you face a barrage of the noisiest car horns, squashed driver faces, swearing, shouting. Be ready. I've never been a fan of Top Gear but after my driving trip in Serbia I feel like I took a part in it! 7) Cars with automatic transmission are still a rarity in Serbia. Driving one on this trip was a life saver! I don’t know if I would have been able to drivea manual car and encounter all the traffic issues we had. Automatic cars are a bit more expensive but they are good value for money on Serbia roads. 8) We saw lorries where they were not supposed to be – on narrow mountains lanes. We saw a testosterone-fueled father with wife and two kids strapped in the back seats, overtaking on a blind bend. We saw tractors holding up traffic for miles. We saw new roads, just built recently, so narrow the local people have to leap out of the way every time a car passes. We drove on a winding road where there was no pulling over spaces, and when we eventually stopped at the first “kafana” the waiter kindly explained that the money for a wider road and resting places finished up in someone's pocket! 9) If you are still thinking of hiring a car and driving around Serbia you will have to be 110% in driving mode and take breaks every hour if you can find somewhere. You need a good passenger to help you navigate not just on the roads but drivers too!  Learn a few swear words in Serbian. They are very useful - and unexpected by those who inspire them. Considering such bad driving and manners we didn't see any accidents. We saw near accidents and we were part of one when on a flat wide empty road. Only quick thinking saved us. 10) While getting lost we would stop to ask for directions. The window would go down, and very helpful males (yes, all our directions were given by males, do not know why, probably they are the ones wondering roads like us) would explain us in great details how to get where we wanted. The information was so very detailed and long that sometimes we wanted just to drive off. When we did eventually we had to ventilate the car from the fumes of alcohol we were given along with the information. Despite all this, Serbia is a beautiful country to visit with unspoiled nature, lovely people, great food and a fascinating history!
    1131 Posted by bossgate
  • 06 Nov 2017
      If you are looking for the perfect city break do not look further from Zagreb, thе саріtаl of the Rерublіс оf Crоаtіа thаt оffеrѕ a mеdіеvаl сhаrасtеr through іtѕ wооdеn alcoves, fairytale-like hоuѕеѕ and соbblеd streets. This is аlѕо thе home оf many ancient buіldіngѕ, fascinating museums, and оthеr interesting аttrасtіоnѕ that entice уоu tо vіѕіt this bеаutіful Eurореаn сіtу. Here is a list of “must- see” sights when уоu vіѕіt the сіtу of Zаgrеb. Art Pavilion Thіѕ was еѕtаblіѕhеd in the уеаr 1896. Thіѕ lаndmаrk is nоt only for contemporary аrt display but аlѕо for іtѕ enchanting glass-domed interior and remarkable hіѕtоrу. Vіѕіtіng this рlасе іѕ only allowed during Mоndауѕ. "Stаrо Sеlо" Ethnological Muѕеum This is a vіllаgе whеrе уоu саn fіnd ethnological muѕеumѕ. Thеу аrе preserved thаtсhеd houses thаt wеrе built durіng thе 19th сеnturу. Yоu саn find hеrе artifacts аnd tools thаt wеrе uѕеd for making саndlеѕ аnd blacksmithing. Cаthеdrаl of thе Aѕѕumрtіоn оf thе Blessed Vіrgіn Mаrу Stор bу fоr some mеdіtаtіоn аѕ уоu еnjоу fаѕсіnаtіng the view оf thе саthеdrаl. Herman Bоllе dеѕіgnеd іt іn thе уеаr 1892. This саthеdrаl underwent multірlе fires аnd mаѕѕіvе еаrthԛuаkе but wаѕ reconstructed untіl іt ѕtіll ѕtаndѕ аѕ the best lаndmаrk tо vіѕіt in Zаgrеb. The jаw-drорріng beauty ѕurvіvеd one еаrthԛuаkе аnd mаnу rесоnѕtruсtіоnѕ thаt trаnѕfоrmеd іt іntо a nео-gоthіс mоnumеnt. Thе іnѕіdе of it іѕ juѕt аѕ astonishing аѕ thе оutѕіdе. Prоbаblу thе most ісоnіс раrt of this Cаthеdrаl іѕ thе twin towers- that саn bе ѕееn frоm far аwау. You should Go tо Tkаlčіćеvа Strееt Tkаlčіćеvа ѕhоuld bе your first роrt оf саll. It’s where Zagrebians gо tо enjoy thеmѕеlvеѕ. By dау Tkalčićeva is a сhаrmіng ѕtrееt оf low-rise раіntеd hоuѕеѕ wіth balconies and awnings thаt you can appreciate оn a romantic аmblе. And when thе sun gоеѕ dоwn уоu’ll hаvе your рісk of Zаgrеb’ѕ best саfеѕ, rеѕtаurаntѕ, аnd nightspots. If уоu wаnt to pick uр ѕоmеthіng tо gо or hаvе аn еlеgаnt meal with a lоvеd оnе, уоu’ll fіnd whаt уоu’rе lооkіng fоr Tkаlса. Zаgrеb City - Mіmаrа Museum Yоu can see here some mоdеlѕ аnd іntеrасtіvе exhibits оf the progress оf the city frоm the early tіmеѕ untіl the рrеѕеnt аgе. Thіѕ Lower Town muѕеum іѕ nаmеd аftеr thе 20th-сеnturу аrt collector Antе Tоріć Mіmаrа, who can bеѕt be dеѕсrіbеd as a соlоrful character. The permanent еxhіbіtѕ at thе museum wеrе dоnаtеd bу Miramar whо was lіnkеd with аrt theft during thе Second Wоrld Wаr аnd also fоrgеrу аftеr that. Sоmе сrіtісѕ сlаіm that there аrе some fakes іn thе muѕеum’ѕ соllесtіоn, but іt іѕ ѕtіll a good wау tо ѕреnd a соuрlе of hоurѕ. Wоrkѕ by Cаnаlеttо, Rubens, Holbein, Vеlаzԛuеz, Gоуа, Mоnеt, Rеnоіr, and Dеgаѕ аrе аll оn display hеrе. Arсhаеоlоgісаl Muѕеum Zаgrеb’ѕ lосаtіоn at the hіѕtоrісаl mееtіng роіnt bеtwееn wеѕt аnd east hаѕ brоught a hоѕt of сіvіlіzаtіоnѕ to its dооr. So you can guеѕѕ that a vіѕіt tо the city’s аrсhаеоlоgісаl muѕеum іѕ аn іntrіguіng trір through all kinds оf eras аnd cultures. Onе оf thе bеѕt ріесеѕ hеrе is thе Vučеdоl Dove, a rіtuаl vеѕѕеl that dates back to at lеаѕt 2500 BC. Thеrе’ѕ also Lіbеr Lіntеuѕ, аn Etruѕсаn mummy frоm thе 3rd сеnturу BC, which wаѕ wrарреd wіth bandages thаt contain thе lоngеѕt Etruscan tеxt in thе wоrld. Mоѕt of thе text hasn’t еvеn bееn trаnѕlаtеd аѕ so lіttlе іѕ knоwn аbоut thе language. Museum of Broken Relationship Fascinating to peek into people's intimate chapters with their lovers, partners, husbands/wives, mistresses etc. The exibits are collected accros the globe, explained and used to record their feeling once the relationship ended. Be prepered for some sad stories. Its very intimate. And affordable! A must see. .  
    915 Posted by bossgate
  • 04 Nov 2017
    The threshold was high and in line with tradition, I crossed it by lifting my left foot while Tim, my guide, lifted his right. We felt the uneven bare floor under our feet as we entered the dark room. The sun was gleaming strongly outside, striking through the roof holes, like a ray of death showing us blurred lines of scattered furniture. There was not much to see. The house looked empty except for a cooker, some kind of wardrobe with a mixture of well-used pans and occasional garments. From the corner, just behind the cooker we heard a trembling “NJIHAO” and our first instinct was to run back out of the house we had entered uninvited. We were in quest of old Chinese life which was disappearing fast and were hoping to get “that” photo here in the destitute fishing village near the popular tourist town of China. We didn’t expect to see any people. “Njihao” replied Tim apologetically. And then we saw her, the old lady with a stick, in a blue Mao Tze Tung uniform, sitting on a handmade tripod chair, the same as my grandfather used to make back in Bosnia. She was 86, almost blind and disabled. She has a daughter in Beijing and granddaughter in Shanghai who is married and expecting a child which she is hopping to be a boy. “Enough of girls in our family!” she declared and bounced the stick on the earth floor. From her left pocket she pulled worn photos of happy women with huge smiles. “They come here once every two years. It’s expensive and they have to work hard. My daughter is working in the factory in Beijing but my granddaughter is in charge of a big hotel”. And she cracked a very proud toothless smile followed by strong cough. I turned my head towards the door hiding my tears. Do I offer to clean the house? That's what I automatically do on visits to my grandparents. But then we were in the middle of China and this place could be hardly called a house. Do we call her daughter and granddaughter and tell them off for leaving this 86-year-old on her own? But then I am sure they are aware of that and the amount of money they are making cannot mask their guilt. “What does she eat?” “Villagers bring food for her.” “Can we do anything for her?” Tim shrugged hopelessly, so accustomed to China and her 21st Century where rapid progress deserts its past. Suddenly I pulled all the money I had in my wallet and thrust it at the abandoned old lady without thinking where she was going to spend it or on what. I just wanted to feel that I had done something. She kissed my hand which made me cry even more, and ran out without even saying goodbye to her.  
    874 Posted by bossgate
  • 04 Nov 2017
    St Albans is a medieval yet modern up-market town at the same time with many restaurants and chic shops but a charming history too. “You’ll get there in a jiffy, there are only 93 steps.” said the enthusiastic volunteer helpfully. Considering my age, my cracked knees and rather impaired lung function we got to the top not quite in the jiffy, but she was right about the second bit – there were 93 steps and I counted them all. They were narrow, spiral, with little margin to spare for the wider parts of my body. I had to turn sideways to get round the bends but by the time we got to the top I had forgotten all about my knees, lungs etc - the view was soul-rejuvenating! And with the weather being so nice we could see far into the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside. The Tower Clock  is the only remaining medieval town belfry in England. It was built between 1403 and 1412 as a symbol of parish resistance against the excessive power of the abbot of St Albans, defiantly set on high ground facing the gigantic cathedral tower - looking the Abbey in the eye. The design of the tower was based on the Clock House at Westminster Palace which stood until 1697, and its walls up to 1.22m (4 feet) thick to withstand the ringing of the bell and I am guessing that is the reason why the steps are so narrow. The tower consists of four floors with the ground floor being a shop until the 20th century, its large window was how the bell was brought inside the building, while the first and second floors were designed as living quarters for the shopkeeper and clock-keeper. The fourth floor is where the original bell is located and that is the most interesting part of the  Clock Tower. The bell is named after the Archangel Gabriel, was cast at Aldgate in London, weighs 1 ton, and rings in F. Gabriel last rang out in 1901 for Queen Victoria's funeral. The original clock was discarded at some point, replaced by a more accurate pendulum mechanism whose heavy iron weights hang down into the chamber below - which must have been rather inconvenient for its occupants. Today’s clock was built by smiths from Clerkenwell in 1866and incorporates four-legged gravity escapement, which was an invention just brought onto the market by Lord Grimthorpe, the same guy who designed Big Ben’s mechanism. The tower clock had different uses throughout the history of St Albans. Its bell rang out for the first battle of St Albans during the Wars of the Roses in 1455. It was used as government semaphore during the Napoleonic Wars. The structure was damaged by 1850 and in 1865 was restored by famous architect Sir Gorge Gilbert Scott who used local flint which can be still seen today. The Tower Clock is owned by the Council and run by volunteers called by 'Clockateers'. It's open from Easter to the end of September between 10.30 and 17.00, entrance is £1 and kids go free. There is so much history, engineering and architecture mixed in such a compact place. The Tower Clock is a must-see sight when in St Albans.  
    824 Posted by bossgate
36 views May 16, 2020
Meet the Romans in Serbia (or not)

Romans in Serbia readyclcikandgo

Frugality is the mother of all virtues.

Justinian I

In a country where tradition, history and legend are so entangled with the past, present and probably future, you don’t have to dig deep to find a day trip out of the city. A few searches on the internet and we found an absorbing read by a wanna-be travel writer who listed the 10 best things to see in Sirmium, or Sremska Mitrovica. With a population of less than 80000 souls you would think that 10 is overstretching things, but they were described so tantalisingly that you wanted to eat them, not just see them! Serbia has the largest number of Roman emperors born outside of Italy – 17 altogether, among them Constantine I and Justinian I but the determining factor, and listed as number one of the ten, was that Sirmium was the birthplace of not just one, two or three but ten Roman Emperors! How many cities in the world can brag of having given birth to ten Roman Emperors? The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus even called Sirmium “the glorious mother of cities.” That was enough to get our travel glands overworking and send us off to the western part of Serbia on an unusually sunny November day. Meet the Romans in Serbia (or not) The drive through the countryside was a perfect reflection of past centuries, despite the ravages and torments of the last one.  A bank, a coffee shop, churches, usually the Orthodox on the right and the Catholic on the left side of the road, duly followed by a grocer's, then a detached ruined house, followed by a new three-storey house made of the cheapest possible building materials imported from brotherly China. Then a huge space filled with freshly ploughed soil made it look like the enormous painting would melt into a different composition, only, unfortunately, it was to be just the same undeviating landscape…. a bank, a coffee shop…occasionally broken by a school or police station. There were no big-name companies. Or factories. It was Sunday and without people mingling on the streets the whole picture looked even more grim. Driving steadily through the countryside, I often wondered where the people worked. How did they make a living? “They deal with it.” One of so many phrases you hear from the locals very often. It means working at two or three low-paid jobs, paid cash in hand and, if they are lucky to be registered for at least one job, it’s usually at the lowest contribution level, killing in the bud any idea of a comfortable retirement. While we in the West are worried about the rising age of retirement, here they are ferociously fighting for any kind of pension. It is no surprise that Serbia is losing 51,000 citizens per year according to the OCED. Not to a high death-rate or low birth-rate but to pure emigration to any country in the world which would pay more than a pittance. Leaving numbers and reality behind us, we arrived in the early afternoon welcomed by empty parking spaces. The first stop was a regional museum which was number 5 on the travel writer's list. We didn’t plan to follow the list but the museum was right in front of us in a nice, white 18th century building so we decided to start from there.  Our excitement was short lived as the building was closed on Sunday. Luckily the Sirimium Palate Imperiale was just across a small roundabout located in a grey warehouse building which we dismissed upon arrival as another one of the architectural monstrosities raised in the name of the transition period from communism to capitalism. It was closed too, even though we had checked that it was open on Sundays! After cursing in a few different languages to the utter dismay of the local tramp, the only human on the empty street except us, we discovered big French windows which gave us a glimpse of what we were missing. The Roman ruins at Volubilus in Morocco or Leptis Magna in Libya simply dwarfed the ones in front of us. These ones were small. Simply tiny for 10 Roman Emperors. And whatever you might think - size does matter! If 10 Emperors had been born in and around any city in the world, that city would have been on the UNESCO list a long time ago! Mangulica Sremska Mitrovica Tara Goldsmith readyclcikandgoSlightly disappointed, we turned our backs and come across a monument to the sheep pig, something this area is very famous for. The Mangalica pig is international, well, Eastern European, a cross breed between Hungarian and Serbian stock with the small addition of wild boar who contributes the wool, although my knowledge of pig breeding is limited and I may be misinformed. But the meat is tasty as there is not much fat. Next to the pig statue there was a small creature which we couldn’t identify as a pig until someone recognised it as a dog. It was a type of dog called a Pulin. Yes, I heard Putin too. The Pulin is a traditional sheepdog from this area and it's immortalised next to the sheep pig. I know. I was confused too. We crossed number 3 from the list. Quickly, we moved on to the main pedestrian zone in quest of a sundial, wondering how to find it. By looking up at the buildings or down at the ground? There was no point asking anyone as no one was passing by. We crossed the whole main street to the other side of the modern town where we were surprised by another set of Roman ruins. Again, not on a huge scale but in good condition. A kid, hidden on a bench and immersed in a loud game on a new device, and annoyed at being asked for directions threw his right hand out towards the end of the road, with his eyes glued to imaginary friends on his tablet. Then sensing our confusion, he started shouting, still not looking at us: “There. Just there!” We quickly moved forward, leaving the distressed young human with his obsession. St Irinej Bridge over Sava Sremska mitrovica readyclickandgo Slowly, we come across the longest footbridge in Europe. Apparently. Later, at home we checked this claim and pages came up with the same  story. However, this one was also the prettiest one. The official name is St Irinej Bridge and its length of 262.2m connects two different parts of Serbia, Srem and Macva, over the River Sava. The views are amazing and we spent a considerable time walking up and down taking photos of different parts of Serbia, which actually looked exactly the same, flat. It’s worth noting that we didn’t need passports to cross from Srem to Macva. Not yet anyway. On the way back we haunted a young, tipsy woman, asking her about the sundial. She shrugged her wide shoulders, pulled her face while trying to retrieve any information from her intoxicated brain. Looking very far over our heads she remembered vaguely a clock somewhere in the city but that was in the museum now. What about the street art? Does she know where we can find it? It was on our list. Her face grimaced this time. It was the sign to give up. Slightly disappointed, we drowned our sorrows at an empty coffee-shop nestling in someone's garden. The waitress, a pretty young thing, didn’t know anything about Roman ruins, while an older lady sitting in the corner, cursed her bitterly for not knowing anything about her city. It turned out that it was not her city, that she had emigrated from Kosovo, in the south of Serbia which declared independence in 2008. We sit quietly worried in case we sparked another war. Impenitent, the old lady continued: “There are ruins, every time they build a house, the ruins burst up like popcorn.” Not sure she was convincing enough she added the urban legend how someone from the city found not one but two cups full of gold coins while building his house. Tired, we didn’t ask what had happened with the gold coins as somehow, we knew they were in the museum which was closed today. As it was Sunday. And tourism doesn’t work on Sunday.