Monthly Archives: March 2011

Bosnia, Croatia to Montenegro

Oh gee whiz, I’ve done a lot since the last blog post.  Checking in from Athens Greece.. I’ve finished Bosnia i Herzegovina, back into Croatia, another 16 km into Bosnia, back into Croatia again, and then to Montenegro.. (in this blog).. but since I have also ridden through Albania, Macedonia and now in of coarse in Greece.. where to begin!??  Medjugorje..!

Sunset from my little guesthouse on the outskirts of town..

Religion plays such a huge tourism role for every country I have been in Europe, which usually includes the high price for accommodation – including this small town.  So I found a place out of town that will suit my budget – cheap! Secondly, these out of the way cheap places always have the nicest people anyway with the added bonus of the beautiful countryside, rather than concrete buildings and traffic.

Morning walk to “Apparition Hill” and that wind is still roaring over the mountain tops!

A whole lot of praying going on..from people of many different languages. Mostly Catholic I would assume.  Speaking of, it is THE place to go if you need to buy a rosary, every shop was full of them!
Maybe become a priest while your here.. ? (I honestly had no idea you can just buy these robes).
I explored the area for quite a while.. whether you believe in the apparition or not, it is definitely a place with good energy and peace once you get past all the souvenir shops.
Making my way to Medjugorge to Montenegro was easier than I expected. My gps didn’t recognize most roads in Bosnia. So I resorted to google maps on my computer, of which also refused to give me an idea of route. My last chance for a plan was the trusty ol’ paper map – which again, did not show any roads to or from Medjugorge!  I don’t understand as this small place takes many tourists every year.. but not to worry.   Once I was riding around, the roads are very well marked.  So I am really surprised at the lack of map information.
A little ride through BiH toward the coast and back into Croatia.. hello again!  Croatia sees me often!

After a short ride, it’s back through a border post for Bosnia which has 16 km of coastline.  Needed fuel here, but I must make it back into Croatia because I want to use up my remaining Kuna (Croatia money).
I rode these exact roads in November last year through a dark rainy night.. so GREAT to see it on a sunny spring day!
A simple drive by of Dubrovnik, where I stayed for an entire week through the rain last year.. look at it now, so much better!
Need to keep moving though, because my goal is to meet Blazo Milic whom I met along with Nino and Vladimir during their round the world trip in Russia last July.  Here is a reminder photo we took from Vladivostok Russia.  I remember when these guys told me they are from Montenegro, and I didn’t say anything at the time, but when I got back to my computer I quietly had to google it to find out where their country was..  had no idea! ๐Ÿ˜‰
But today is the day, and I get to meet them again and see how they have got on since they returned from their epic 3 month RTW journey… 3 months!  Wow, that is endurance… If interested to see what they’ve accomplished, you can have a look at http://www.theridearound2010.me/

Crna Gora is offical name, meaning ‘black mountain’.  Monte Negro in Spanish means ‘black mountain’..

I made it through the border gates at 11:58, for my 12:00 meet time… whew!

I waited for a bit, and then I hear the motorcycles in the distance… love that sound!  I was only expecting Blazo, and I get 2 for the price of one!  However, young Blazo is not here… it’s Nino and Marko!

Now I understand the wait, Blazo’s bike is not happy and it stopped about 2 km away.. so with a warm Montenegro welcome, thanks guys!  we head back to see about Blazo.

Something to do with the electronics of the fuel pump.. the guys are ingenius and rig a way to fix.. and luckily my little contribution is we got to use one of my tools.. I knew I needed to carry them for some reason! ;-))

The bike starts again and we start riding the beautiful Montenegro coast.  Oops, the bike died again.. this time they call in the mechanics..

These guys were so kind and concerned that I was bored stopped at the side of the road, but seriously I wasn’t.  Have a look around, it’s not a bad place to enjoy a gorgeous Montenegro afternoon!  I am truly loving this place, not complaining a tiny bit, so take your time!

 Nino waits patiently as well.. ๐Ÿ˜‰
The mechanics were good, job well done..to the music of Elvis..! So we go up around the corner for a celebratory snack and a drink.
The sun is getting low, so we pass up the plan for exploring and decide to head straight for Blazo’s home in Podgorica, about an hour’s drive into the mountains.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina

6:30 AM arrive to a familiar ferry port in Split Croatia..  back to familiar faces.. First to Anton and Marija’s whom I stayed with in rainy November, for an early morning visit. And young Paulina who reads my passport to me in … Croatian! (Little translator in the making..)
Then on to familiar faces #2, which is Rakela and his gang at BMW Club Split.. which included another wonderful home cooked club meal, lots of friends and a night for me in the gym!  I loved it..
Miro in the club kitchen.. This is all very technical work making a meal in the BMW service coat!
5 star service by Rakela in the BMW dream coat!
Ever heard that term “too many cooks in the kitchen”?
Very happy cooks, Miro and Josip.
All the guys had me laughing so much, and we had a super meal.. as well as a ride into old town Split for a bit of more fun..
Into a fairly dodgey looking bar, but they are usually the best, and this one is no different.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One of the guys in the pub owns an antique shop nearby which he opened up to show us some really interesting things.. I love antique shops, but walking around old town Split is like wandering through one big antique.. ha!  He did have some amazing pieces, as you might expect in such a region..
Was a great night out, and Protector Rakela never fails to entertain and bring the people together.. thanks again my friend!!  I do hope to return the favor someday!
Tomorrow I ride to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the some of the boys decide to escort me there! Plus it was Sunday and it’s spring, so I am happy they use me for an excuse for the day excursion.
The only trick today is to deal with the famous “burra”.. the crazy adriatic gale force winds.  In this picture above, I try to show how fierce the flags are blowing and if you look far into that line of white cloud barrowing over the mountains, I hope it gives a feel to how strong the wind is.  When I looked at the wind report this day, it was 30 – 36 kts with gusts into the 50s..  yuk.  I was a “weiny”, but I did it!  Plus the guys knew the backroads of Croatia that were full with trees, which helped tremendously.. thank goodness!!  And great scenery as well!
Ivana, Ivan (engaged.. I wonder what their kids names will be..), Stipe, Rakela and Josip

As usual with my life, always a surprise.. we go through the Croatia border check point and then we pull up to a house.. it’s Ivan’s parents home, and they fed us the most wonderful lunch!  Interestingly, we have not yet crossed into Bosnia i Herzegovina.. the house is right in between!

The official border is this property line of the grandfathers’ house and with Bosnia to the left, they are technically Croatians. But if I understood them correctly, they got to choose!

Bosnia border check point from the yard

Now into the house for the best and tastiest lunch.. so good to have home cooked meals on the road, I can tell ya!  

Now they decide to have me try their homemade alcohol.. did I need to mention I am riding a motorcycle today??  (I promise I didn’t drink much, only tasted..but it did help with my confidence in the wind…)

Oops, this one a bit strong!

I think it’s so good to see and learn about their culture. I have tasted some really interesting things in this country, and I love how they eat such pure wholesome food, including the drinks!

This is Rogac, it looks to me like made from a seed I see hanging from a tree in the fall? 
Still plenty to see, so a big thank you to Ivan and his lovely parents.. they tell me if I come back in 100 years, they will still be in that house.. aww!

These guys know their way around, and I love seeing this part of the world..  next stop Medjugorje in Bosnia i Herzegovina… as my planned stop and visit.  Ivan wants me to make double clear that this area is Herzegovina, not Bosnia.  Confusing to me, but Herzegovina is not an officially recognized state/government, but explains the area and region we are in.

Medjugorje is famous for the apparition of Mother Mary to a group of young children in 1981.  Many pilgrims flood the town now each year, and seems that the touristy shops are having a time with it!

But it’s always nice to be welcomed properly into town.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

No worries, everybody’s happy.. Rakela is going to USA in May to experience a bit of culture himself!  Will be great to hear what he thinks about American culture. As you know from my previous posts, Croatia is full of amazingly hospitable and fun people, and I hope he finds the same on his journey.. I love these guys and thank you for the great ride, food and fun!  
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I found a Koala in Tuscany Italy!

A pretty sorry looking one at that… really stands out though here in Tuscany.

One last post to wrap up my time in Italy..

How much will  I miss the comforts of a home!??  A washing machine, a kitchen, a warm bed that I don’t have to search for at night, so many things I love about home..  So here is a little bit of the last days of my life Tuscany before I resume this journey… sometimes wondering if I want to start this again by leaving my comforts – so nervous but excited about the countries coming up…so yes!

Castle walls Monteriggione

I’ve been here long enough and I’ve been passing these places or having a wander through (and making up my own stories about what I see)  But I took one last Artviva Best of Tuscany tour, and now understand so many interesting things!  http://www.italy.artviva.com/

San Gimignano tower houses were usually built by wealthier families for protection against the bad guys.. but you can click on the orange links to learn heaps more..  There are currently 17 towers here, but there were originally 72!  They built wood scaffolding between them to get around without having to  go downstairs in troubled times… would be so interesting to go back in time and see how they did.

                                                                                             

Tea break, San Gimignano

Okay, it’s freezing cold today, tea is nice but I’m in a region where we can do something more…. let’s change that to a wine break ๐Ÿ˜‰

 Chianti of coarse!

Vernaccia wine… gotta try it!  Really don’t think I have before… can I taste that again to be sure I like it?!

I have really come to know wine more from living in South Australia.. and to be able to really get to “know” Italian wines from Tuscany from the vineyards all around me, is something I think everyone should take time to “study”!  And of coarse taking the Artviva Best of Tuscany tour brought everything even more to life for me, just to have so much of the details explained in a really fun way.  I feel like I can ride away from Tuscany knowing that I had a full experience of this part of the planet.. it’s as charming as you can imagine or see here, and the history… gee whiz!!

Italian birthday..beautiful life..

Spring is finally here and it’s time to make a move…

My little polar bear, Lilly and I enjoyed so many winter walks together..  sometimes checking in on the properties’ graveyard.. the more the flowers, the sweeter they must have been?

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My Life in Florence (Firenze) Italy

Florence gets it’s very own blog post.. It deserves it, a very special place and a highlight for most visitors to this country..  And for me, located only 15 km down the road from where I am staying..it’s where I go to take care of normal daily things, like banking, insurance, shopping, etc.  Not a bad hangout!!!

I’ve been here a couple times before, so many years ago, but always in summer.  I love experiencing Florence in winter.. check out the snow in the hills behind.. looks amazing on a very rare but really clear day.. but also less tourists, and more authentic Italian lifestyle which I prefer.

Heck, where do you start talking about a city like Florence.. I’ll tell you where I wish I had started if I wasn’t so into all the motorcycle and blog things that needed to be done – is a proper tour of Florence.

I have been into this city many times, either by my motorcycle or car, and I can tell you it is one extremely confusing place to naviagate, even with a navigator!  I am known to be good at sniffing my way to where I need to go.. knowing where the sun is and which direction by N, S, E or W.  Always been good at it, but here I am confused all the dag gone time!

With 3 months here on winter hiatus, I will do my best to offer a great snapshot.. but I learned a lot while living here, and if you want to know anything in particular, please email me.

First, and most important advice I can give, is to take a tour.. Florence is so full of really big history, and really big art.  Nice to read about, but the tour makes all the difference.  I was here far too long without taking this tour, and it completely changed my perspective of all these streets I have been walking on my own..  The Original and Best walking Tours by Artviva http://www.italy.artviva.com/

One of my favorite things to learn was this art discovery in Santa Trinita.. When restoring a painting, they found the original and different painting underneath.. the original wasn’t finished because the artist got fired!  So those holes (dots) are made by artist #2 to help his fresco adhere to the top of artist #1’s work.. and then under this one is the “pencil” drawing used to start it all.

The chapels on the side of churches are usually paid for by church members and a family status symbol. Interestingly for this family crest, they made their fortune as drug dealers (selling opium!)  Shown by the 3 seeds below the “Non Dormire” flag. Hey, they’re proud of it!  and the church got it’s money too!!

AND THEN!  You find in this fresco (if you can click to enlarge it), that the artist includes a self portrait on the very far right, and on top of that, HE is the only one looking right back at ya!

Without the tour, I would have maybe seen the guy, but would have no idea nor thought much of it…
So it’s interesting to find out business and self promotion are just as important in the 1400’s as today..

Went to a great comedy show, done in both English and Italian, and just the name of it describes my life to a “T”! (I had to sneak these photos in as they are not allowed here..)

Just before the show, we eat the best Italian food from the kitchen, famously called out by the cook when it’s ready..

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Tuscany in January.. friends, food, and culture!

I was honored to have good friends whom I’ve met earlier on this journey travel all the way from Estonia to visit Italia, and me..! Maris and Anneli.  Our main goal together was an Italian culinary extravaganza!!  Food, wine, cheese.. what else!  And I think I can vouch for all of us, mission was a complete success. But first a look around to take in Tuscany towns as well as their kinda sorta good food..

We found our way to Lucca, a suggestion from my other worldy friends Marija and Anton whom I stayed with in Trogir Croatia.  And they were right!  Another little gem to add to my list of “Italian Gems”..  Lucca is a medieval city, and these photos taken on their super wide wall built for protection in the 16th century!

Hoping not to bore you too much with history and info, as much as I love it!  I’ll post links I like to learn more if interested:  Lucca : Tuscany without the crowds (boston.com)

If you watched from above, we must have looked like the black rat in a maze test.. Between the three of us, we did manage to escape the town, but it took much longer than it needed to, for sure… ๐Ÿ˜‰ And we must not damage the rental car while managing the tight streets built long before the idea of an automobile!!

Now for the uh hem… food… !!

How good looking is this family!!? One of many Authentic Tuscan food experiences.. as we explore off the beaten path into smaller villages.  This one in Montefiorelle.  A little castle village outside Greve in Chianti.. so many great choices of where to go and have not found a bad meal yet!!  Is that even possible in this part of the world? So my wasteline is proving!!

Anneli enjoys Italian coffee..

Maris enjoys famous Tuscan soup, Ribollita

Here is a map that is not traveled exactly as shown, but shows the areas we are exploring.




My wonderful Estonian friends explored a lot of Italy, and only had a couple days with me.. So after they left, and my love of Italian food momentum going, I was still on a mission to get the most out of my experience by taking a cooking class!

Melanzane is a dish I’ve had twice here already and loved it. So
it was my special request to the instructors of what I’d like to learn today.. I have honestly never cooked an eggplant in my life, and now I’m in love with it!

Potato gnocci.. it’s having a little rest before it goes in to the boiling water. We had it 2 ways today, one with our homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  And the second was butter and sage sauce.. Oh dear, never had this before either, and darn!  Now I love it too!!  I suppose I should mention the round tin on the table is our fresh out of the oven tuscan cheesecake…

Now I’ve gone and wandered into Pisa on another day..  It was a Saturday, I think I had a full week of blogging.. and no point in adding a blog post about blogging..! So might as well show you the good markets happening here.. and of coarse a quick visit to that well known tower everyone raves about..

Hilarious to watch literally the majority of tourists making photos to appear holding up the tower.. I passed on that one.. ;-/

Not the prettiest of days for photos of the tower.  My treat in Pisa was a homemade Calzone from the tinyest little shop in an alley…mm mm good.

Now, I’m getting a bit food crazy and overboard here, but it’s definitely a picture into my life in Tuscany for the moment. Like I said, I will back on the road full time in a couple weeks, so if you are more into motorcycles than food.. bypass this post! Probably should have said that way earlier than now, hey..

I certainly don’t want to neglect the vines around me in this famous wine producing country.. they are also having a little rest for winter.  I’ll have more on Tuscan wine later when I visit a winery, tastings and tour.. yum! But these are just photos as I make my way around the local area daily..

Life around me is interesting enough in itself, just check out the butcher shop in Greve!

Another dish I was “game” to try in the cucina, is Pappardelle with Wild Boar Sauce.  Better known as Chinghiale (cheen gee allay) Same story, I’ve had it twice now in Italy, and wanted to attempt to make it myself.

Here’s a look at where Lilly and I wander everyday, even amongst the hunters.. always worried they would make a mistake and shoot us too! ;-/

While I’ve got the camera going, a quick snap of the fireplace that keeps me warm while I’m cooking.

Now to add the entire bottle of best Chianti wine.. chef’s recipe philosophy, use the same wine you would serve your friends for dinner to marinate this meat.. okey dokey!  Adding up to quite an expensive meal!

Mix in the veggies, and let them all enjoy this bottle of wine for 2 whole days!!  Which makes me curious, what would I look like if I laid in a bath of red wine for 48 hours, might like to try that! ;-))

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