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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!
    541 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. .  
    451 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.  
    374 Posted by bossgate
  • 04 Nov 2017
    Two soluble co-codamols taken against medical advice on an empty stomach didn’t help to stop the constant and horrendous noise of happy water streaming under our idyllic apartment somewhere in Portugal. Exhausted with spending the previous day reading a map which made the Mappa Mundi look like the latest cartography achievement of the 21st century, and with listening to a posh voice on the GPS that we constantly debated whether was Joanna Lumley's or not and which navigated us into deepest Portuguese countryside. We made endless failed attempts to talk to natives who didn’t speak any English, French, German, Serbian or Russian, religiously showing them our useless map only to be directed the wrong way. We spent six hours driving up and down green hills stopping occasionally to take amazing photos of spring in its infancy, continuing east of a bridge which wasn’t on the map, then south of the field with lots of cows, north of a lake but we didn’t go west knowing full well we would end up back in Porto. The narrow roads were without any traffic signs except Romantico Ruto which we lost hours ago. We were on Horribilis Ruto and we didn’t need any signs for it! The villages we passed were not on the map and the ones engraved on the map were not on our route. The GPS was stubbornly showing we were on road 225. Then we decided to take a different approach – forget about “getting to know the country” and get to the main road. Any main road which luckily was the one we wanted. The relief of not spending a night in the car was replaced by utter bewilderment at spending two nights without internet at the creatively converted water mill in the middle of nowhere. Without speaking and secretly holding each other responsible for such a blunder we went straight to bed.  Luckily, I had a book on standby which was hidden deep in the luggage between the dirty washing and a rudimentary first aid kit. I read all about the author and fell asleep. My usual 1am, 3am, 5am waking ups followed by quick glances at the news, checking of emails or number of likes on the last FB entry were replaced by frustration and loud cursing of the cottage's lack of internet. The hissing noise of my overheated computer sounded like lullaby compared to the constant water rumbling under my bed. “Where is all this water rushing to at 5 am?” “Stop! Go to sleep. You are addicted!” “No I am not. I just want a peace and quiet” “But this is peace and quiet!” Yeah, right.
    329 Posted by bossgate
58 views Apr 15, 2018
The Silence of the Crab

silence of the crab readyclickandgo travel

the silence of the crab readyclickandgo travel Sitting at the long table in the busy restaurant on the outskirts of the capital city of Shandong Province, Qingdao, irritated by constantly hitting the gas bottle every time I tried to stretch my legs, and desperate to see Stella on the list of beers, but disappointed at finding only Qingdao, annoyingly listed as can, two sizes of draft and two different sizes of bottled beer, I opted for a bottled water much to the horror of my hosts.
The lunch party which consisted of a very polite guide and five members of the different bodies at the local council, were disappointed. After all it was a business lunch paid by someone else which meant free rein on the food and drinks. The finest bottle of snake wine was placed in the middle of the table with the usual question - have you tried it before. Of course, I have. And of course, I hated it. It leaves you with an oily, sweet taste in the mouth which doesn’t make you drunk, just sick. But then Qingdao beer is the same, sweet and no matter the quantity you take the only thing it's good for is your kidney stones which you may pass with the amount of pointless liquid drunk. It's pointless because it doesn’t make you drunk!  I politely smiled at my 6 boys, my 6 hosts for lunch, and stuck to the water. The Chinese cannot handle their drink except for hard core military serviceman coyly dressed in suit and tie, and they are easily recognisable as the soul of the party, going around calling on everybody to drink the large glasses of snake wine in one go. To refuse is a grave offence, even if you are Chinese. The first person to pass out is usually some naive underage girl employed as a secretary but brought in as a body for one of the big bosses who, after free food and immense hectolitres of alcohol, would like some personal company too. I wondered what they were thinking of me, the foreigner, a woman, without make up but with worn out trousers, who they have to entertain for next few hours, even though they don’t speak any English or me any Chinese. There is only a certain amount of staring and nodding you can do at these business lunches without coming across as a weirdo. The food was Mongolian hot pot. I had been hoping for a nice plate of rice and some soy sauce mixed with garlic on top, but that would have caused grave offence. Imagine going to a Michelin starred restaurant and asking for a fried egg on toast.  The number of people around us, mainly families, put me at ease and I started to concentrate on the conversation which I didn’t understand but with my over 40 visits to the country, I had learned how to look engaged. We swapped business cards. We bowed to each other, holding the cards with both hands, showing respect, reading them, scanning the letters on the cards, pretending that we understood what was printed on each side of the card, then put them on the table. Not in the pocket. You have to show respect. The families around us stopped for a moment, thinking they were witnessing some kind of star presence in their local restaurant, but my peroxide hair, done meticulously at home before the trip, would make them think that. You are in the world of people with dark hair. Of course, anyone with a little bit of bleach would be a star to them.
silence of the crab readyclickandgo travel
While we were doing all the businessy things hordes of waiters brought bundles of delicious, live food and laid it all on our long table covered in a plastic sheet. The excitement began. Or the game. Without any rules. You just throw food in the boiling water whose bubbles are bursting on the table and wait until vegetables, fruits and meats change colour, structure or until it disintegrates. In the meantime, you drink. And you nod a lot. You don’t talk about business. The main eating etiquette around hot pot is patience. Sometimes there is not enough butane gas hissing from the bottle under the table to the bucket filled with the water on the table. Or the water in the bucket is too cold and takes a long time to come to the boil. Sometimes there is too much water and when its boiled its starts overflowing on the table. Or the bucket is too small to accommodate the food needs of 4 people, and then order has to established like a queue for a bus. You would take first place in the queue as a foreigner and as a guest. Felling hungry I loaded hot water with everything laid on the table, ignoring the needs of the guide, local council guy in charge of the tourism in his area and his assistant whose only job was to make sure the bosses glass was never empty. He didn’t speak or drink. He would occasionally get up, with more grace than the Queen, and with his right hand pick up the bottle, fill the bosses glass and then triumphantly sit down. He just won the battle of a very long and prolonged war for the best service, determination and loyalty. He wanted a tap on the shoulder, some recognition but what he got was only a request for matches from his boss.  The Chinese love their cigarettes and a ban on smoking similar to the one brought out across Europe would bring the government down. Not freedom of speech, the one party system or any lack of democracy. My bacon, mushroom and bok choy were stubbornly circling in the water refusing to be boiled. I turned them upside down hoping for some quicker results only to be sneered at by a waiter who mentioned something about patience and salvation.  Nothing about hunger. As guest of honour, I was sitting at the middle of the table enjoying a wide view and witnessing the progress of the cooking. The left side of the table was happily tucking into beef while the right was in the process of dropping a live crab into the boiling water. The creature, tied up like a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, dressed in a similar colour, was still moving his whiskers hoping for escape. Not able to watch the execution I turned to my guide to ask about our next stop, at Mt Taishan. While he was explaining the time difference between taking a cable car to the top and walking, a huge commotion broke out on the right side of our table. The guide jumped quickly up, pulling me with him while the rest of the group was already standing on the chairs. The whole restaurant was staring at us in bewilderment. Then I saw him, a little creature, not orange anymore but red, running across the restaurant, trying to save his life. He had escaped from the cauldron, jumped from the table, frightening all my hosts, and now was heading to freedom. I smiled and quietly cheered him on, under my breath, “Go, go, go”. Where to I didn’t know. The quest for freedom didn’t last long. The finishing line was somewhere between the end of the restaurant and entrance to the kitchen when one of the slimmest chefs I have ever seen who looked like he had never eaten anything in his life, come out with a big metal tray. Coolly,as if he had been in the same situation before, he lifted the tray high and dropped it heavily onto the crab. The small creature made another two side steps and then stopped. The restaurant started to applaud and the skinny chief bowed with pride hiding the murder weapon behind his back.  The waiter became a professional cleaner, picked up the crab carefully, making sure he was dead and took him back to the kitchen.  Order resumed. I requested a big bottle of Qingdao Beer.