A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: irenevt

Cavtat.

Lovely town on the Adriatic Sea.

sunny

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Detail from Cavtat Cemetery.

Cavtat.

A Day Trip to Cavtat.

During our stay in Dubrovnik we also decided to do a day trip to Cavtat. Cavtat is a beautiful resort area close to Dubrovnik. To get to Cavtat from Dubrovnik we took the number 10 bus from Gruz Bus Station. It cost 20 kunas; buy your ticket from the driver, no need to stamp it on the bus. Cavtat has two lovely churches, several beaches and other lovely places to swim, lots of restaurants, an information centre and a scenic cemetery with a view.

The journey to Cavtat from Dubrovnik is very pretty with great views over Dubrovnik Old Town and wonderful views over the coastline. Cavtat is a pretty and relaxing place to pass a few hours.

Beaches.

The sea in Cavtat is clean and clear to swim in. There are many places to swim. You can swim from a concrete slab beach where you can hire a lounger and umbrella or just off the rocky edge. The water is beautiful. Getting in involves clambering over stones and avoiding sea urchins. Sea urchins are not too hard to avoid as the water is so clear you can easily spot them.

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Beaches.

Cavtat: Cemetery. Cemetery And Mausoleum Of The Racic Family.

I followed signs for the mausoleum of the Racic family and ended up in a beautiful hilltop cemetery with spectacular views. The Racic family seem to have been a family of ship builders. That is as much as I could find out about them. A visit here for the views alone is well worth it.

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Cavtat Cemetery.

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Cavtat Cemetery.

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Cavtat Cemetery.

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Cavtat Cemetery.

Battazar Baldo Bogisic (1834 -1908).

As we wandered around Cavtat we encountered a statue of Baltazar Baldo Bogišic (1834 - 1908) and later in the scenic hilltop cemetery we found his grave. Baltazar Baldo Bogišic was a scientist and a member of many intellectual societies.He was born in Cavtat on December 7th 1834.

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Battazar Baldo Bogisic .

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Battazar Baldo Bogisic .

Churches.

In Cavtat we visited a couple of lovely churches. Some are located on the waterfront, others in the centre of Cavtat. Croatia is a Catholic country and has many lovely places of worship. We love to look inside religious buildings when we get the chance.

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Churches.

Enjoy The Scenery.

Cavtat is a really beautiful village with spectacular coastal scenery. It is a pleasant place to visit and very easy to reach by bus from Dubrovnik. There are plenty of places to go for a swim in clear, blue waters here, too.

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Enjoy The Scenery.

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Enjoy The Scenery.

Posted by irenevt 07:18 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Dubrovnik.

City on the Adriatic Sea

sunny

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A Steep Dubrovnik Street.

Dubrovnik.

I have frequently seen the famous picture over Dubrovnik old town and old port and thought it looked stunning, so it has long been on my list of places to visit. However, as I started to research it, I read about it being unbearably hot, wall to wall people and over-priced. As it got nearer time to visit, I almost did not want to go. I thought how disappointed I would be when it did not live up to my expectations. In the end Dubrovnik was fine. It was a beautiful old city. There were places to go to escape the crowds and the crowds were not as bad as either Hong Kong or Rome where we went last Christmas. It was hot but there were fountains where you could sprinkle cold water on your face and fill your water bottle. You were also never far from places where you could leap in the sea for a refreshing swim. During our visit to the old town we paid to walk the walls, but other than getting there and back spent nothing else. It really does not deserve the bad press it gets.

Dubrovnik is one of these places which, although I had researched it and had a map with all the sights marked on it, as soon as I got there I just wanted to wander aimlessly. Why? Well, because it is all lovely. When you have the strength to cope with crowds and sun visit the flat centre, as you tire of that seek out a quiet shady side street. Had enough of old buildings? Leap in the sea and cool off and relax for a while. It has it all.

We only had an evening and two full days in Dubrovnik. While there are many things that are easy to do, it was so hot we had to get out of the sun for a while during daylight hours to cool down and avoid sunstroke. We spent our time exploring Gruz where we lived, the old town, Cavtat and Babin Kuk.

Villa Amfora: Service could be better.

This accomodation is in Gruz. Exit the main bus station, cross the road. Facing away from the sea, go right and walk for about 10 minutes. The rooms are above the Villa Amfora Restaurant. When we arrived there was no-one manning the reception desk. We approached 3 people before we could check in. Eventually we were shown to our room which was clean and comfortable. The bed was comfortable, there was a fridge, two bottles of water were provided on the first day. There was no safe and no tea/coffee making facilities. I asked for a map of the local area, but they did not have one. We liked the Gruz area for restaurants. It was easy to get into the old town by taking bus number 1A or 1B from across the road near the sea. Buy your ticket from the Tisak booth and remember to stamp it on the bus. The Villa Amfora is close to bakeries and supermarkets. Our room was quiet at night and we slept well. The main negative about this place is that it is really a restaurant and the accommodation is very much secondary. There is no-one to ask for information. When I asked staff about buses to the old town, they claimed they did not know. I found out all the information I needed from the waitress in a much friendlier restaurant further up the street. We met the owner of the Villa Amfora on the last day of our stay when we checked out. I told him there should be someone manning the reception desk or at least a bell for summoning someone. It would have made a difference to us if the staff had been a bit more friendly and welcoming. We were put off right away from the disinterest shown when we checked in. I don't need people to be friendly or gushing, but to have to approach 3 members of staff before one bothers to check us in is unacceptable. Our other complaint is that our room was not cleaned on our second day despite the fact we were out all day. We returned in the evening to find clean towels left on the ironing board outside the door, but no attempt had been made to do anything in the room. This also put me off the place in a big way. As Gruz is an excellent location and the room was comfortable and quiet, this place could be really good with a bit more effort from the staff. We had intended to eat in the restaurant here too, as it is supposed to be good but again as we were not impressed with the staff did not do so. Address: Obala Stjepana Radica 26, Dubrovnik, 21000, Croatia.

Our hotel was in Gruz. We were quite happy with this area for a number of reasons. 1/ It was close to the bus station and we arrived by bus from Mostar. 2/ It was close to the port and if we had had longer, we could have easily sailed off to an island. 3/ It was easy to get to the old town by bus 1A or 1B. 4/ There were several good restaurants here. 5/ Gruz has a lovely little church and a pretty harbour. 6/ Gruz has several supermarkets and bakeries.

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Staying in Gruz.

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Staying in Gruz.

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Staying in Gruz.

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Staying in Gruz.

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Staying in Gruz.

Walk the City Walls.

It's hot and tiring and costs 90 kunas, but it is well worth doing because the views over the town and port are fantastic. I went up near the Pile Gate and exited at the same place. I could have exited earlier at 2 places. The whole walk took me 1 hour 15 minutes at a leisurely pace.

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City Walls.

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View from the city walls.

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View from the city walls.

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View from the city walls.

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View from the city walls.

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View from the city walls.

Big Onofrije's Fountain.

When you enter Dubrovnik at the Pile Gate you will see Big Onofrio's Fountain. Near Ploce Gate you will find Small Onofrio's Fountain. Their original purpose was for travellers to wash at before going into the city proper to prevent plague and disease. All these years later they are still useful for cooling down and refilling your water bottle. A true Godsend.

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Big Onofrije's Fountain.

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Big Onofrije's Fountain.

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Big Onofrije's Fountain.

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Big Onofrije's Fountain.

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Small Onofrije's Fountain.

Stradun.

Stradun is the main street of the old town. This street runs from the Pile to the Ploce Gate. It is a wide, sunny street lined with interesting buildings. It can be very crowded. It starts at the Big Onofrio Fountain and St Saviour's Church, passes Orlando's Column and ends at small Onofrio's Fountain, the bell tower, Sponza Palace and the old port.

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Stradun.

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Stradun.

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Stradun.

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Orlando's Column, Stradun.

The Old Port.

I thought this was one of the loveliest areas of the old town. It had several shady seats, great views towards the old town, boat trips, ice-cream sellers and a swimming area. What more could you want?

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Swimming at the Old Port.

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The Old Port.

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The Old Port.

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The Old Port.

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The Old Port.

The Rector's Palace.

This beautifully ornate building is located on Pred Dvorom near the Old Port and the Cathedral. there are some lovely carvings above the arches at the front.

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The Rector's Palace.

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The Rector's Palace.

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The Rector's Palace.

The Cathedral: Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin.

Dubrovnik's Cathedral is near the Rector's Palace. It is a pleasant building to sit in, take a rest and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. We visited more than once to escape the intense heat and have a bit of a rest.

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The Cathedral.

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The Cathedral.

St Ignatius Church.

Walk through the market on Gundulic Square up a stairway modelled on the Spanish steps and you will reach the beautiful and peaceful Church of Ignatius.

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Spanish Steps.

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Spanish Steps.

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St Ignatius Church.

Side Streets in the Old City.

One of the best things to do in Dubrovnik is escape to the quieter shadier side streets.

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Side Streets in the Old City.

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Side Streets in the Old City.

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Side Streets in the Old City.

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Side Streets in the Old City.

Fort Lovrijenac.

There is a good view of this lovey fort from outside the city walls near the Pile gate, but there is an even better view of it from the city walls.

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Fort Lovrijenac.

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Fort Lovrijenac.

Famous View Over Dubrovnik.

There is a famous view over Dubrovnik which I am very familiar with. I was not sure where to take it from.Then I had a look at Sandy Smith's VT page and she had the view and said she had seen it from the airport bus. We went to Cavtat for the day to make sure we passed that view and as I was getting ready to take it, on came the ticket inspectors. It took me ages to find my ticket and I almost missed the view all together ending up with not a great shot of it. I tried again on the way back - harder as we were then on the wrong side of the road. No worries we arrived by bus but were leaving by air so I could get it on the way to the airport. Guess what? The bus had painted windows - still I got a sort of check version of the view and I ended up buying the postcard. There is a viewing point on the way out of the town towards the airport where this view could easily be captured.

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Famous View Over Dubrovnik.

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Famous View Over Dubrovnik.

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Famous View Over Dubrovnik.

Washing.

I don't know what it is about washing lines, but give me a beautiful setting and I want to photograph them. I think it is the fact that it brings home that this place is a living inhabited place, not a museum. Anyway, there were plenty of great washing lines in the old town.

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Washing.

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Washing.

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Washing.

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Washing.

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Washing.

Babin Kuk.

We walked here from Gruz. It is just on the other side of the bay. On route we passed some vehicles used in the war. We also had a look at the beach area and had a swim. It was not great for swimming as there were too many boats, so we could not go out far and the water was not as clean as the other places we swam.There are good views of the bridge from here. Many hotels are here. The restaurants we passed here were noticeably more expensive than in Gruz.

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Babin Kuk.

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Babin Kuk.

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Babin Kuk.

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Babin Kuk.

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Babin Kuk.

Kittens.

OK, I admit I have a thing about kittens, but, tell me, who could resist this little chap? For a start he is so tiny and then when you look into this big, big eyes, your heart just has to melt. Absolutely adorable!

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Kittens.

Sunsets.

Dubrovnik has some lovely sunsets. These shots were not taken from a particularly lovely location even though I think they look attractive. They were taken from a car park as we walked back from a visit to a large supermarket not far from the bus station.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

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Sunsets.

Transport.

We used an Atlas bus from the bus station in Gruz to go to Dubrovnik Airport. The ticket cost 35 Kunas (5 Euros). No payment for check in luggage. It took just over half an hour.We bought our ticket on the bus. If you use the Libertas bus instead you buy your ticket before boarding the bus. The Libertas bus cost 40 Kunas. The Atlas bus timetable changes every 2 days. Its timetable for 2 days is displayed at the bus station. Airport buses depart from stand 8.

Dubrovnik To Cavtat.

The number 10 bus goes from Gruz bus station to Cavtat. It cost 20 Kunas for a one way ticket. Buy your bus ticket from the bus driver; there is no need to stamp it in a machine. There are about 2 buses an hour.

Buses In Dubrovnik.

The bus service in Dubrovnik is quite user friendly. Buy tickets from a Tisak Kiosk. They cost 12 kunas each, 15 if you buy them on the bus. Tickets need to be stamped on the bus to validate them. We used 1A and 1B to go from Gruz to the old town and number 10 from Gruz to Cavtat. The Cavtat journey cost 20 kunas from the driver.

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Mostar to Dubrovnik.

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Mostar to Dubrovnik.

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Mostar to Dubrovnik.

Posted by irenevt 06:04 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Mostar.

City of the Bridge Keepers.

sunny

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The Stari Most - Old Bridge.

Mostar.

We travelled to Mostar by bus from Sarajevo. One of the guys in our pension in Sarajevo told us Mostar was the hottest place in Bosnia Herzegovina. It certainly felt like it on the walk to our accommodation. It was around 3pm and the stones of the roads and buildings seemed to be giving out heat. It was not a long walk but we arrived overheated and exhausted.

Apartments Konak: Excellent Location.

We stayed just one night in the Apartments Konak but wished we had booked longer. We walked to the apartments from the bus station. Exit the bus station onto Marsala Tita. Facing towards the river, go left and walk straight for around 15 minutes. The apartments are very close to the old bridge area. They are well signposted. The room we were given was spotlessly clean. It had a comfortable living-room with an excellent and very welcome air conditioner. There was a kitchen area with cooker, sink, fridge and all the crockery, cutlery etc you need to cook for yourself. The bedroom had two single beds. Mine was fine. My husband's was a bit creaky. The bathroom was clean and the shower had plenty of hot water. A father and daughter ran the apartments. They were both helpful and friendly. The daughter spoke good English. There were free maps and tourist information leaflets available by the entrance. The location of the apartments was excellent; very close to the main sights, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets. Despite being central it was lovely and quiet at night. We really enjoyed our stay here and would happily stay here again. Address: Marsala Tita 125, Mostar, 88000, Bosnia and Herzegovina

When we had cooled down and recovered a bit, we set out to explore Mostar. On our walk along Marsala Tita from the bus station to our accommodation we had passed many, many bombed and burnt out buildings. When we reached the area with the old bridge, everything was pristine and repaired. I actually found the contrast really disturbing. It was like wandering through Hell and suddenly arriving in Fairyland. Mostar was a confusing place.

We had been given a map of Mostar at our accommodation with 13 sights marked on it. We decided to wander round trying to see all of these. They were quite widely dispersed. I actually only began to like Mostar when we wandered into a park, not one of our sights, and found a Bruce Lee statue in it. The feeling of disorientation began to leave me and I began to enjoy the beauty of the town.

Stari Most - The Old Bridge.

This beautiful bridge gives the town its name. It must have been absolutely devastating when it was destroyed in the war. Mostar suffered so much, but this must have felt like having its heart ripped out. The bridge is now beautifully restored and in tip-top condition. It's very steep and very slippy and difficult to walk on. On both sides of the bridge there are old Turkish areas filled with beautiful craft shops. From the bridge there are spectacular views over town. There is a very good view of the bridge from the Old Turkish Area and also from the garden of Koski Mehmed Pasha's Mosque. I wandered into the grounds of this mosque and took lots of pictures of the view around 7pm on our first evening. We returned next day to find you had to pay an entrance fee to get to this viewing point. I think they only charge this while all the day-trippers are in town. The bridge was originally built across the Neretva River in 1556. It took 9 years to build. It was totally destroyed by bombs in 1993 and has now been completely restored. A diving competition takes place here each year.

Stari Most - The Old Bridge.

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Beautiful River Scenery.

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Stari Most - The Old Bridge.

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Stari Most at Night.

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Stari Most - The Old Bridge.

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Stari Most Swimming Area.

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Stari Most - The Old Bridge.

View from a bridge.

There are wonderful views from the old bridge. On one side you look over a mosque and the Old Turkish part of town. On the other side you look towards another bridge and over an area where people swim in the river. I would have loved to go for swim in there, too, but time was against us. Spectacular.

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View from a bridge.

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View from a bridge.

Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

This area is around the old bridge. Most of it has been beautifully restored. It has wonderful craft shops and restaurants and is a really pretty area for a stroll.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

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Kujundziluk - Old Turkish Area.

The Crooked Bridge - Kriva Cuprija.

This lovely bridge is near the Old Bridge. It has a similar style but is much smaller. It is located in a lovely setting and spans a branch of the Radobolja River.

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The Crooked Bridge - Kriva Cuprija.

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The Crooked Bridge - Kriva Cuprija.

Franciscan Monastery.

We were on a mission to see all the sights marked on our map and this was one of them. It had such a tall tower we could never fit it in in a shot unless we were really far from it. It was peaceful inside and I loved their dress code sign on the door. Please tell me no-one would consider going to church like that. The Franciscan Monastery is also known as the Catholic Church. You can see its steeple all over town. The Franciscan Monastery is located on Franjevacka near Bulevar.

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Franciscan Monastery.

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Franciscan Monastery.

Cultural Centre Herceg Stjepan Kosaca.

This was marked on our map so we had a look. There were some statues outside and a little cafe where we stopped for a cool refreshing drink. They hold exhibitions here. We enjoyed the refreshments in the cafe.

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Cultural Centre Herceg Stjepan Kosaca.

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Cultural Centre Herceg Stjepan Kosaca.

The Bishop's Residence And Catholic Cathedral.

The Bishop's Residence was on our map as a sight, so we went to have a look. It was quite a nice building but more interesting was the futuristic looking Catholic Cathedral across the road from it which was not even marked on our map. The Bishop's Residence dates from 1906. These are located on Biskupa Cule.

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The Bishop's Residence And Catholic Cathedral.

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The Bishop's Residence And Catholic Cathedral.

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The Bishop's Residence And Catholic Cathedral.

Parks.

Back near the cultural centre there was a pleasant park located between Nikole Subica Srinjskog and Kralja Tvrtka. This was not marked on our map as a sight but it was pleasant for a stroll or a seat. Then right in the middle of it we found a statue of Bruce Lee. We were pleasantly surprised by this since we live in Hong Kong and used to live next door to an actress who was his former girlfriend. The other thing we liked about the park was near one exit it had been very creatively graffittied and this continued in a bombed out building just across the street.

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Parks.

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Parks.

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Parks.

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Parks.

Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

Near the exit to the park there was a bombed out building filled with discarded bottles and rubbish but covered with really beautiful graffiti. We had a look but did not venture inside as it is dangerous.

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Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

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Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

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Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

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Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

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Bombed Out Building On Kralja Zvonimira.

Grammar School.

This beautiful building was surrounded by burnt out buildings. It is a grammar school in pseudo-Moorish style and dates from 1898. It was built by Franz Blasek. It is located at the junction of Bulevar and Kralja Zvonimira. From here we continued down Mostarskog Bataljona to the Bristol Hotel and a bridge with good views over the river.

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Grammar School.

Karadozbegova Mosque.

This lovely mosque is located on Brace Fejica. My photo does not do it justice as it was hard to fit it all in. There were beautiful well kept graveyards around it, too. This mosque was built in 1557 by Mehmed beg - Karadoz a great legislator

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Karadozbegova Mosque.

Biscevic's House.

This house was built in 1635. It dates from Ottoman times. Nowadays it houses a private ethnography collection. It was closed when we visited but we looked at the famous bit that juts out over the Neretva River supported by tall columns.

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Biscevic's House.

Koski Mehmed Pasha's Mosque.

This mosque has some stalls in its grounds. There are great views of the Old Bridge from the gardens here. Apparently you can also climb up the minaret for views - though we did not. This mosque was built in 1617.

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Stalls in the grounds.

Koski Mehmed Pasha's Mosque.

Clock Tower.

The old clock tower is located on Bajatova. It is known to predate 1636, but its ts exact date is unknown. It's near a lovely mosque that I do not know the name of. Worth a look if you are in the area.

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Clock Tower.

Hilltop Cemetery.

We were looking for the Old Orthodox Church and went the wrong way and ended up in this stunning Christian cemetery with spectacular views over Mostar. The cemetery was well-kept, colourful and very peaceful.

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Hilltop Cemetery.

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Hilltop Cemetery.

The Old Orthodox Church.

This was hard to find and when we eventually found it it was closed. We headed up the hill past the old clock tower, passed under a motorway and then should have climbed some stairs behind a fence next to some bombed out buildings. The church is behind the bombed buildings. We only found it because we could see it from the cemetery I just wrote about. The church dates from 1833 and is supposed to contain wonderful icons.

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The Old Orthodox Church.

Supermarkets.

We were delighted to find Mostar absolutely full of supermarkets and little bakeries excellent for snacks and cold drinks. After our long long day of sightseeing in the burning sun, we were too exhausted to eat out plus we wanted to be in the dark and cool. Since we had our own living-room/kitchen/dining-room the supermarket was the best place to purchase all we needed for a pleasant night in.

Bombed Buildings.

Sadly you will see bombed out buildings all over Mostar. You must not go inside any as they are dangerous. There may be unexploded devices inside. Parts of the building may be unstable and could fall down. They are a poignant reminder of the horrors that took place here.

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Burnt Out Bombed Buildings.

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Burnt Out Bombed Buildings.

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Burnt Out Bombed Buildings.

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Burnt Out Bombed Buildings.

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Burnt Out Bombed Buildings.

Transportation: Bus To Dubrovnik.

We booked a bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik.It is quite a frequent service. Please note you must pay 1 Euro or 1 KM per item of luggage you put in the boot of a Bosnian bus. The bus was comfortable and air-conditioned. It did, however, take a long time to go through customs/passport control. On route you exit Bosnia, enter Croatia; then when you hit Neum exit Croatia and re-enter Bosnia. Then after Neum exit Bosnia and re-enter Croatia. Passports are checked each time. The scenery especially the coastal scenery was lovely. The bus cost 32 KM (16 Euros). It took 4 hours due to delays at customs.

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Transportation: Bus To Dubrovnik.

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Transportation: Bus To Dubrovnik.

Posted by irenevt 04:03 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Sofia. City of Wisdom.

In the Land of Roses.

sunny

Sofia.

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Bulgaria, Land of Roses.

We visited Sofia for a few days in July 2010. Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and its largest city. Sofia has a history dating back thousands of years and has been occupied by Philip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great. It spent several centuries under the control of the Ottomans and was later under the control of the Russians.

Things to see in Sofia.

Most of Sofia's historical sights are close together. It can be explored on foot in about a day, or two days if you take a more leisurely approach. Sights include churches, markets, mosques, bath houses, parks, monuments and museums.

A pretty relaxing destination.

In addition to the sights, Sofia is a pretty laid back place and, in the height of the summer season at least, it is fun to sit back and relax in pavement cafe after pavement cafe, sipping your coffee or beer and watching the world pass by. We stayed in two hotels in Sofia. For the start of our stay we were in the Dedeman Hotel then after returing from Plovdiv we were in the Kempinski Hotel.

Dedeman Hotel: A Good Stay.

The Dedeman Hotel is located very close to Sofia's Central train station and bus station, so it's very handy if you want to move around Bulgaria. It's an easy 15 minute walk into the centre. You can either walk down Maria Luisa Boulevard and cross Lion Bridge. You will end up at the Banya Bashi Mosque, Central Baths and Central Market (good for eating and drinking) or you can walk to the centre via the Ladies Market which sells food and clothes and is worth a quick look. It is a Turkish run hotel and the staff are fairly friendly by comparison with other Bulgarian hotels.We were put on floor 14 which was one of the executive floor. We were upgraded for booking on-line. Don't know if that is normal or we were just lucky. Our room was large, clean and comfortable. We got free small snacks and soft drinks for a couple of hours in the evening due to being on the executive floor. Breakfast was also on the 16th floor and was reasonably good. Coffee or tea, some hot food scrambled egg, boiled egg, sausage, bread, toaster available, cheeses, meat, olives, some salad vegetables, juices. Not fantastic but fine. Good view from this room. The hotel had a large indoor swimming pool free of charge and spa facilities at a fee. The pool was very good due to its size. There were outdoor loungers available for sunbathing. Staff at the pool were very reluctant to give us towels and told us to use our room towels which was strange. Swimming caps must be worn in the pool. One thing that annoyed me was that there was no safe in our room and when we asked to leave valuables in a safety deposit box at reception they told us they were all full. Tea/coffee making facilities in room. An evening turn down service brought us Turkish delight and the next day's weather forecast each evening. Restaurants including a good traditional Bulgarian restaurant with folk music nearby.

Kempinski Hotel Zografski:Luxurious Stay.

We stayed in the Kempinski for our last night in Sofia. My husband had found a very good deal on the internet and we got the room for a fraction of its normal price. I'm guessing this might be because the hotel attracts a lot of business people and maybe summer is not their busiest time. The reception staff were pleasant and welcoming. The room was lovely and there was a small complementary bottle of wine and some snacks in our room when we checked in. Safety deposit boxes were available at the reception. Breakfast at the Kempinski was excellent with a large selection of hot food, lots of cold fish - smoked salmon, herring. There was a salad bar, a selection of cereals, bread. You could even have sparkling wine with your meal. The hotel also has an elegant Japanese garden. Down sides of the hotel were it was quite far from the main tourist sights. It was around a 20 minute walk to get to Bulgaria Square. Also during our visit the swimming pool and spa were shut for renovation. I think the notices said the renovation would continue until December. The biggest down side was the price of items in the minibar. Water was about 18x the price of water in the shops. I think only the very rich or those on expenses would buy anything from it. There was a supermarket around 5 minutes walk away so no need to use it anyway. If I could get a good deal here again, I would certainly stay here again. Also there is a spectacular view from the upper floors. You can see the domes of the Alexander Nevsky Church glinting in the sunshine. You could get a wire from reception for free internet access. Address: 100 James Bourchier Boulevard, Sofia, 1407, Bulgaria

Things to Do in Sofia.

Churches.

Sofia has several beautiful churches. Most of the churches we visited are listed below. The Alexander Nevsky Church is probably Sofia's most visually impressive church. It was built by Russian architects and completed in 1924. The walls and domes of the interior are covered with beautiful frescoes. Part of the cathedral is now used as an icon museum. Entry to the church is free. There is a charge for the icon museum. Located on Ploshtad Alexander Nevski and open daily from 7am to 6pm. There is an interesting market selling lots of communist memorabilia nearby. So if you want a picture of Stalin or a furry Russian army hat, this is the place to find it. Open daily 10am to 6pm

The Church of Saint Sofia is close to the Alexander Nevsky Church. Dating back to the 5th century, it was this church that gave Sofia its name. There is a war memorial with an eternal flame just outside. Located on Poshtad Alexander Nevski and open daily from 7am to 6pm.

The Russian Church of St Nickolas is a beautiful church with a green steeple and five golden domes. It was built by Russians in 1912. After visiting the main church take the side path to the crypt of Archbishop Serafim, who died in 1950. People post prayers to him in the box next to his crypt.
Located on Bulvard Tsar Osvoboditel 3, open daily from 7.30am to 6pm.

The Church of Saint Peter of the Saddlemakers is a small church with some interesting frescoes. Inside, it is abit like being in a cave. There is a 2 lev admission fee for this church. Located on Place Nezavisimost.

The Rotunda of Saint George is in a courtyard behind the Sheraton Hotel. It was built by the Romans in the 4th century and is the old’est preserved building in Sofia. It has some lovely frescoes of Christ within its central dome. Located on Ploshtad Sveta Nedelya 5, open from 8am to 5pm

Sveta Nedalya Church was originally a medieval church, but was rebuilt after being blown up in 1925 in a left wing terrorist attack aimed at killing the Bulgarian royal family who were attending a funeral at the church. The royals survived the attack but around 100 other mourners were killed.The square in which this church is located once housed a giant Lenin statue but this has now been replaced with a statue of the goddess Sofia holding an owl in her hand to symbolise wisdom. Located on Ploshtad Sveta Nedelya and open daily from 7am to 6pm.

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Church of Saint Sofia.

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Antique Market.

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The Church of Saint Peter of the Saddlemakers.

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Alexander Nevsky Church.

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Russian Church of St Nickolas.

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Sofia, goddess of wisdom.

Archaeology Museum.

Archaeological Museum - I enjoyed visiting this museum because I enjoy looking at Greek and Roman remains. My husband on the other hand found it boring. It is an old style look only museum, not the more modern hands on activity style one.The ground floor mainly consists of Greek and Roman statues. The only one to get my husband's interest was the statue of a woman with a mismatched head. The most impressive exhibit in the museum is definitely the very detailed solid gold Thracian burial mask uncovered in 2004 and dating back to the 4th century. In the same upstairs room I rather liked the foot shaped Roman oil lamp, too. There are a series of orthodox church paintings around the first floor gallery with warning signs that if you stepped too close an alarm would sound. That was certainly accurate as the extremely high piercing alarm went off several times during our visit. The museum is housed in a restored 15th century mosque, just opposite the presidency. Location Ul Saborna 2, open 10am to 17.30pm.

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My husband outside the museum.

Changing of the Guard.

The changing of the guard is worth watching. It takes place outside the presidency building just across from the archaeology museum on the hour and lasts for a few minutes. There is lots of high kicking and marching involved in the ceremony.

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Changing of the guard.

Monument of the Red Army.

Soviet Statues - maybe I'm a bit of a Commie at heart but I love all the Soviet style monuments. In Sofia the Red Army Monument in the Soviet Army Park was interesting. It was built in by the Russians in 1954. On a 34 metre high pillar stands a Red Army soldier leading a happy and thankful Bulgarian couple to freedom. Bronze bas-reliefs around the bottom of the monument depict a cheerful and grateful population welcoming the Russian troops to their land, as well as fighting scenes from the October Revolution and World War Two . Actually, from things I've read, Russia is supposed to have had a fairly amiable relationship with the Bulgarians as they helped free them from the Ottomans. Location Orlov Most.

There are also some Soviet era statues celebrating sporting prowess and youth in front of the Vasil Levski Stadium and, although we did not actually go to it, a Soviet Mound of Brotherhood monument inside Boris Gardens.

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Part of the Red Army Monument.

Tsentrali Hali Market.

Tsentrali Hali - we really liked this indoor market hall. It had some useful shops for snacks, alcohol, souvenirs. There was a pleasant bar downstairs and upstairs there was a very cheap food court selling pizza, sausage, kebab and very cheap draft beer (the bar downstairs was reasonable, upstairs was half the price). The market has a glass roof, a bubbling fountain, an interesting clock and some archaeological remains in the basement. Clean and free toilets in the basement and first floor. Just across the road from the Tsentrali Hali was the Banya Bashi Mosque and the Central Baths. Behind the Tsentrali Hali was the synagogue.

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Tsentrali Hali Market.

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Tsentrali Hali Market.

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Tsentrali Hali Market.

The Banya Bashi Mosque and the Central Baths.

The Banya Bashi Mosque is the last mosque still in use in Sofia and was designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan around 1576. Location Bul Maria Luiza. The Central Baths are housed in a beautiful old building which was built in 1911. It has some lovely tile mosaics.

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The Old Bath House.

War Cemetery.

By accident we got on a number 6 tram thinking we were heading towards Bulgaria Square but in fact we were heading in the wrong direction. We got off near the end of the line next to a large cemetery. Many of the graves, though quite interesting, were fairly overgrown. Some had hammer and sickle insignia on them. Then we found a large Jewish section. Our most interesting find though was the war cemetery. Various nationalities of war dead are laid to rest here. We explored the British and German sections. Most of the British war dead were prisoners of war in Bulgaria during World War 1. Several graves were of soldiers from the Macedonian Muleteers Regiment which I had never heard of. The German cemetery next door had some war dead from World War 1, but many more were from World War 11. The war cemeteries were very well kept and interesting.

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War Cemetery.

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War Cemetery.

Trams in Sofia.

Using the tram in Sofia is good fun. We just entered at the front and bought our ticket from the driver. Tickets cost 1 lev. After buying a ticket you must hole punch it in the little orange hole punchers sticking out of the tram walls. Ticket inspections are very frequent and you will be fined if you do not have a valid hole punched ticket. The ticket inspector will take the ticket off you and rip it in half to make sure you don't use it again. My husband got into a fight with a ticket inspector on our last tram trip. We got on at Sofia train station with luggage and bought tickets from the driver. I watched the luggage while Peter went straight to the hole punch machine. An inspector appeared out of nowhere and accused Peter of not hole punching his ticket. As we were in the process of punching the tickets when the inspector challenged us I guess the inspector thought we had been travelling for some time and were only punching them because he had appeared. There followed a lot of shouting that we had only just got on and were punching our tickets straight away. Several Bulgarian passengers intervened on our behalf and eventually the inspector backed off, but boy do they mean business. Don't travel without a hole punched ticket.

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A Sofia Tram.

As well as looking at Sofia, we booked a day trip to the Rila Monastery.

The Rila Monastery.

The Rila Monastery - we booked a car with driver to take us to Rila Monastery. We booked in the Eurolines office in the basement of Sofia Central Train Station. It cost 70 Euros. The car turned out to be an OK Supertrans taxi. It arrived on time. The journey to Rila took 2 hours. We spent 3 hours there and our taxi was waiting to take us back at the end of this time. I read you can do the trip by public transport which would of course be much cheaper, but it did not sound like there were many buses a day so we decided to book a day trip. The drive to the monastery was quite pretty especially when we passed fields filled with golden sunflowers and during the final stretch which went up the mountain. The Rila Monastery was founded in the 10th century by St John of Rila. He was a hermit canonized by the Orthodox Church. The Rila monastery is stunning. The main church is covered with wonderful, colourful frescoes both inside and out. You can photograph the outside but not inside. Entry to the main church is free. There are several parts of the monastery you can pay to go into. I paid 8 lev to visit the monastery museum. There were various censors, candlesticks and religious icons. The most famous exhibit is a wooden cross carved by Raphael, one of the monks, and depicting tiny religious scenes in intricate detail. Apparently he worked using a magnifying glass. Near the monastery there are a few restaurants and cafes, a small convenience store and some souvenir shops. We set off on a short forest walk which had nice mountain views, a stream and waterfall.

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The Rila Monastery.

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The Rila Monastery.

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The Rila Monastery.

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The Rila Monastery.

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The Rila Monastery.

Posted by irenevt 18:53 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

Sarajevo, Bosnia.

A Beautiful and Friendly Place.

sunny

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Sarajevo's old Town.

Sarajevo.

We first visited Yugoslavia, when it still was Yugoslavia, in 1987 and again in 1988. At that time I was still at university and my husband was working in Istanbul and we were both working in Austria for the summer, so we travelled by train from Istanbul through Northern Greece and through Yugoslavia all the way to Austria.

In Yugoslavia we stopped in Belgrade twice and in Ljubljana once. I know our train passed through Skopje so I know we went via Macedonia, but I don't think we passed through Bosnia. The train journey was extremely crowded, hot and uncomfortable, but we were impressed by the fact that all the people who shared our train compartment talked to each other and shared food with each other and helped each other with luggage. It was impossible to take luggage off due to the crowds, so it was passed out the window. I remember commenting how great it was that all these people from different ethnic backgrounds got on so well. That was of course before the war and that was of course ordinary people, not politicians.

I got interested in visiting Sarajevo after reading 'The Cellist of Sarajevo'. The book apparently upset the real cellist because it used him in a fictionalized story without his permission. However, the book's descriptions of the hardships involved in everyday activities such as crossing the street or collecting water deeply moved me. Also the description of the library burning and the ashes of all the irreplaceable books raining down on the people touched something inside me, too. It sounded such a sad but lovely place and I wanted to see it for myself.

Our Stay.

We had just part of an evening and two full days in Sarajevo. We decided not to do anything too strenuous as my husband is still recovering from a toe amputation and now has to walk with a stick. We explored the river, the yellow fort, the Turkish area and the Austro-Hungarian area. Bosnian people are very friendly despite having suffered a great deal. Food and drink are quite cheap and there are plenty of interesting things to see. We really enjoyed our stay.

Pansion Stari Grad: Very Friendly Hotel.

We stayed in the Pansion Stari Grad for three nights. We asked the hotel to provide us with airport pick up. This cost 10 Euros. Our driver was there waiting for us when we arrived. He was extremely pleasant, helpful, spoke excellent English and gave us lots of useful information about the town. The pansion is in an excellent location - very close to the Bascarsija area. There is a Konsume supermarket nearby. There are lots of restaurants, shops and sights within walking distance. The pansion is also very close to a tram stop. Tram 3 goes to Ilidža, tram 1 to the train and bus station. All the staff at the pansion spoke good English and German. Everyone was extremely helpful and friendly. The pansion was spotlessly clean and beautifully decorated. Our room was very comfortable. Breakfast was provided each day. It included tea or coffee, juice, rolls, cold meat, cheese, cereal. You can either eat next to the buffet area or in the courtyard. The pansion was mainly quiet except on one night when other guests were noisy. The pansion is located on a side street so does not have traffic noise. There is no fridge, safe or coffee making facilities in the room. The beds are comfortable. There was plenty of hot water in the shower. I would strongly recommend this pansion for its lovely staff and perfect location and would happily stay here again. Address: Bijelina Cikma 4, Sarajevo, 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Decorations in our hotel.

The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

Baščaršija is the old Turkish area of Sarajevo. The name means main market. Baščaršija dates from the 16th century. One of the oldest streets in Baščaršija is Kazandžiluk Street which means Coppersmith Street. This street is lined with beautiful copper goods such as coffee pots and plates. There are many other interesting craft streets and stalls in this area. There are also several mosques, restaurants and a famous Ottoman fountain. If you drink from the fountain you will return to Sarajevo some day.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

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The Old Turkish Area: Bascarsija.

The Cathedral.

Sarajevo's cathedral is a very attractive building set on a pretty square with restaurants and a museum about Sebrinica. Unfortunately the cathedral was closed during our visit so we could not go inside. The cathedral is beautifully lit up at night. The cathedral is known as the Sacred Heart Cathedral and is modelled on Notre Dame Cathedral.

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The Cathedral.

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The Cathedral.

The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

This cathedral is set on a lovely little park with a sculpture representing peace and a huge chess set. Several people were crowded around enjoying a game when we visited. The church was damaged during the war. The church was built in 1869. The park also had a craft market during our visit.

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The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

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Park near the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

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Park near the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

Bezistan Saraci.

The Bezistan Saraci is an Ottoman covered market dating from 1555. There is a nice view over it from outside the Hotel Europe with the clock tower and minarets in the background.

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Bezistan Saraci.

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Bezistan Saraci.

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Bezistan Saraci.

The Eternal Flame: Vjecna Vatra.

This is in memory of Bosnia's war dead from World War 11. It can be found at the end of Ferhadija Street where it joins with Marshal Tito Street. The eternal flame dates from 1946 and continued to burn throughout the siege of Sarajevo.

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The Eternal Flame: Vjecna Vatra.

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The Eternal Flame: Vjecna Vatra.

The Yellow Fort.

We walked up to the Yellow Fort. The route up passes some interesting shop fronts, then lots of cemeteries. It is a very steep climb. There is not much left of the fort itself just the broken outer walls. However, there is a great view from this location over the river and the old town. If you exit the fort and turn right instead of back down the steep slope, then follow this street to the end, then turn left, you will go down through one of the old city gates and then get back down to the bottom of the cemetery. The view is definitely worth going to see but because it is so steep climbing up before the heat of the day would be a good idea.

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The Yellow Fort.

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The Yellow Fort.

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The Yellow Fort.

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The Yellow Fort.

Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

From the Yellow Fort you look down onto a large cemetery sloping down the hill. There are some older Ottoman style graves with turbans on top, but most of the graves date from the siege of Sarajevo. All the graves are well-tended white columns and many of them are covered in roses. It is a beautiful and peaceful place but obviously comes from a terrible and tragic period of Sarajevo's history.

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Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

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Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

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Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

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Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

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Cemetery Near Yellow Fort.

Market.

Behind the beautiful Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and slightly further down to the left you can find a very colourful and busy fruit, vegetable and Pflower market. It is worth taking a stroll through.

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Market.

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Market.

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Market.

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Market.

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Market.

Kittens.

This little fellow was just adorable. I love cats and find them so photogenic that I have to take pictures of them everywhere I go. There are many of them it would be a joy to adopt, too.

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Kittens.

Miljacka River.

We took a long walk along the Miljacka River as many of Sarajevo's sights are located on or near its banks.

Along the river - House of Spite: Inat Kuca.

This house is now a restaurant. It has an interesting history because it was originally on the other side of the river. In 1895 the city authorities wanted to demolish the buildings in this area to build a new local authority building. The owner of this house refused to move unless they rebuilt his house brick by brick on the other side of the river. As he would not budge on this issue, they eventually agreed. We did not eat here, but the location on the river is very pretty.

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House of Spite: Inat Kuca.

Along the river - Sarajevo: National Library.

This beautiful building was targeted during the siege of Sarajevo. It was shelled and subsequently went on fire. Despite a line up of people passing bucket after bucket of river water to try and extinguish the flames, more than 2 million books were destroyed in the flames, many of them irreplaceable. Ashes from the books rained down on Sarajevo for days. This willful act of destruction shocked the world at the time. The building is currently sealed off and is still being restored.

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National Library.

Along the river - Emperor's Mosque.

This beautiful mosque dates from 1565. It was built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It has a lovely shady inner courtyard and there are many turban topped tombs in its cemetery.

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Emperor's Mosque.

Along the river: General Post Office.

The post office is located on the river right next to the university. It is an attractive building on the outside and it is well worth looking inside. It has a lovely interior including a large brass clock.

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General Post Office.

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General Post Office.

Along the river - Latin Bridge and Museum.

The Latin Bridge was in a bit of a sorry state during our visit. The cobble stones across it were being relaid and the bridge was covered in tarpaulin and partially closed. From the state of the stones on the non-repaired side, I would have to say the repairs were essential. This bridge is, of course, famous as the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his pregnant wife, Sophia, were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist called Gavrilo Princip on 28th June 1914. This assassination sparked off the First World War and thus changed the course of world history. There is a little museum next to the bridge all about the assassination. I did not visit, but had a look at the old photos of the archduke's visit, his subsequent funeral and Gavrilo Princip's court case which are displayed on the outside of the museum's windows. On the outer wall of the museum there is a plaque marking the site of the assassination.

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Latin Bridge and Museum.

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Latin Bridge and Museum.

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Latin Bridge and Museum.

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Latin Bridge and Museum.

Along the river - Academy of Fine Art.

This lovely building was once an evangelical church. We did not go inside just admired it from the outside. There is an interesting and unusual bridge in front of this building.

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Academy of Fine Art.

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Academy of Fine Art.

Along the river - The University.

This attractive yellow building is located on the river next door to the post-office. We did not look inside, just admired it from the outside.

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The University.

Along the river - Romeo and Juliet Bridge.

This bridge is really called the Vrbana Bridge. It does not look special, but during the Bosnian War in May 1993 two lovers, Bosko Brckic and Admira Ismi, were shot dead here as they tried to flee the besieged city. They had been sweethearts since high school. He was a Serb and she was a Moslem. The area was so dangerous no one could recover their bodies. They were shot at the same time. He died instantly; she crawled across and cuddled up to his body then she died, too. For days they lay in each other's arms. 'Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo' was an international documentary about their deaths.

This bridge also saw the first casualties of the Bosnian War. Suada Dilberović was born in Dubrovnik to a Bosniak family. She came to Sarajevo t study medicine and was in her sixth year of study when the war in Bosnia started in the early days of April 1992. Olga Sučić (1958 – April 5, 1992) was a Croat. Both Suada Dilberović and Olga Sučić are considered to be the first casualties of the Bosnian War in Sarajevo when they were mown down on the Vrbana Bridge during a peaceful protest. There is a plaque in the middle of the bridge in memory of these tragic deaths. The buildings near the bridge are still riddled with bullet holes.

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Buildings with bullet holes.

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Buildings with bullet holes.

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Romeo and Juliet Bridge.

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Plaque on Romeo and Juliet Bridge.

Along the river -Burned Out Houses.

We walked back from the Romeo and Juliet Bridge to the Museum of Fine Arts through an area of bombed out burned down houses. Some people were living in little houses among the ruins.

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Burned Out Houses.

Along the river - Brewery.

The brewery in Sarajevo is a beautiful colourful building and is well worth a visit. We had lunch here - Bosnian cold platter with two local cheeses and two local meats plus a basket of bread. All washed down with ice cold Sarajvsko beer. The restaurant in the brewery looks like a theatre and is well worth a visit.

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Brewery.

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Brewery.

Along the river - French Church.

This building is near the brewery. It has lovely stain glass windows and some attractive paintings. Worth a visit.

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French Church.

Cafe Tito: Interesting Decor.

This is not a restaurant. It is a bar. It is directly behind the history museum. The walls are decorated with posters of Tito and there are guns and model aircraft decorating the ceilings and walls. In the garden there are tanks and other old army vehicles. Children love to climb on them and play. There are shady areas to sit in in the garden. Very mellow, relaxed atmosphere. Clean toilet. We went here for beer and coffee.

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Cafe Tito: Interesting Decor.

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Cafe Tito: Interesting Decor.

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Cafe Tito: Interesting Decor.

Transportation.

Trams.

We mainly walked around Sarajevo but on a couple of occasions we used the tram. We bought our tickets from a kiosk for 1.60 KM (1.80 from the driver). When you get on the tram you must validate the ticket in the ticket machine. The machines are at each end of the tram. Failure to stamp the ticket will result in a fine. Throw away used tickets. When we were ticket inspected, we accidentally handed over old ones, then other old ones, before finally finding the new ones. They were quite pleasant about it. If it had been the ticket inspecor we encountered in Sofia, we'd still be in jail. Tram 1 goes Bašèaršija to the train station and bus station. Tram 3 Bašèaršija to Ilidza.

Bus To Mostar.

We defied all the advice and took a bus rather than a train from Sarajevo to Mostar. Everyone says the train journey is great. We choose the bus as there are many a day and we could leave at a more convenient time. We went at 11.30am. The bus was comfortable. At one point people picked up from later stops outside Sarajevo had to stand, but it turned out they were not travelling far. The bus was air-conditioned. The scenery was great. The ticket cost 20KM (10 Euros). The journey took 2 and a half hours.

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Bus To Mostar.

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Bus To Mostar.

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Bus To Mostar.

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Bus To Mostar.

Posted by irenevt 18:40 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

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