A Travellerspoint blog

SOFIA, BULGARIA

Last country before Turkey - the best part is we have two nights in Sofia

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OHRID-SKOPJE-SOFIA,BULGARIA
This morning, Tuesday 23 September, we had a 7.30am departure for a long day's drive to Sofia. An hour or so lost at the border between Macedonia and Bulgaria meant we didn't arrive till around 7.30pm.

We stopped for lunch in the capital of Macedonia, Skopje, and had a local guide show us around the city centre. We heard about Macedonia's proud history and saw its main sites, like the Millennium Cross, built to celebrate 2,000 years of Christianity; the Memorial House of Mother Theresa, who came from here; and the Alexander the Great statue on Macedonia Square. This city has many statues and growing almost on a monthly basis.

Skopje is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Macedonia. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic center. It was known in the Roman period under the name Scupi.

The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC; remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within the old Kale Fortress that overlooks the modern city centre.
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The old Kale Fortress

On the eve of the 1st century AD, the settlement was seized by the Romans and became a military camp. When the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western halves in 395 AD, Scupi came under Byzantine rule from Constantinople.

The territory of Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC; remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within the old Kale Fortress that overlooks the modern city centre. On the eve of the 1st century AD, the settlement was seized by the Romans and became a military camp.

When the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western halves in 395 AD, Scupi came under Byzantine rule from Constantinople. During much of the early medieval period, the town was contested between the Byzantines and the Bulgarian Empire, whose capital it was between 972 and 992.

From 1282, the town was part of the Serbian Empire and acted as its capital city from 1346. In 1392, the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks who renamed the town Üsküp. The town stayed under Ottoman control over 500 years, serving as the capital of pashasanjak of Uskub and later the Vilayet of Kosovo.

In the Second World War the city was conquered by the Bulgarian Army, which was part of Axis powers. In 1944, it became the capital city of Democratic Macedonia (later Socialist Republic of Macedonia), which was a federal state, part of Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (later Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). The city developed rapidly after World War II, but this trend was interrupted in 1963 when it was hit by a disastrous earthquake. In 1991, it became the capital city of an independent Macedonia.

Here are a few pictures of the many statues in this city.
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The Macedonia Gate
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Statue celebrating women in war
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Statue from the Communist era
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Statue of Alexander the Great
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Statue of Mother Teresa who grew up in a small house adjacent to the now statue of Alexander the Great
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Mother Teresa Card
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Mother Teresa Museum
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Stone bridge over the Varder River, Skopje

We had lunch in an Irish Pub in Skopje and were surprised to find a Go the Maroons plate in a cabinet with other trophies.
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Go the Maroons in Macedonia
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Typical mountainous country with narrow and winding roads.
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The town of Pernik in Bulgaria.
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At last a little sunshine just outside Sofia. Our hotel for the next two nights is the Five Star Hilton, very new and with great service.
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Our hotel, the Hilton Sofia
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After a good night's sleep and a late breakfast we went on a city tour.
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The Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky
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National Theatre, Sofia
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Street scene
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Guards outside the President's Offices

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The changing of the guard at 11.00am
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Colleen watching the spectacle
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The other side of the President's Offices is the Balkan Hotel and Casino
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The National Assembly. Elections are held next month and with 46 political parties it will be interesting. There was a political rally or protest in progress in front of this building while we were there.

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The St. George Rotunda; some remains of Serdica can be seen in the foreground
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Note the two tunnel shapes in the background. The Romans heated under the floors of the church by hot air flowing through the underfloor spaces.

The Church of St George is an Early Christian red brick rotunda that is considered the oldest building in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It is situated behind the Sheraton Hotel, amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica.

Built by the Romans in the 4th century, it is a cylindrical domed structure built on a square base. It is believed that it was built on the site of a pagan temple, though the original purpose of the building was for public use. The building is famous for the 12th-14th-century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. Magnificent frescoes of 22 prophets over 2 metres tall crown the dome. Painted over during the Ottoman period, when the building was used as a mosque, these frescoes were only uncovered and restored in the 20th century.

We visited another church, the Boyana Church, which had some wonderfully preserved frescoes. The Boyana Church is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of Sofia, in the Boyana quarter. In 1979, the building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The east wing of the two-storey church was originally constructed in the late 10th or early 11th century, then the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire, the whole building being finished with a further expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church.

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The oldest part of the church
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Frescoes
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The scene shows a 12 year old Jesus with his parents to the left.

After the visit to the Boyana Church we visited the National Historical Museum in Sofia. It is Bulgaria's largest museum. It was founded on 5 May 1973 and its first representative exposition was opened in 1984 to commemorate 1300 years of Bulgarian history. The museum was moved to a former governmental residence in 2000 and currently stores and owns over 650,000 objects connected to archaeology, fine arts, history and ethnography, although only 10% of them are permanently exhibited.

We had our city guide from the morning still with us. Violetta had an interesting way of dealing with people who didn't pay enough attention and asked a question that had been answered previously.

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The National Museum
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Old Russian helicopter on display outside the a Museum.

We had a short break back at our hotel and then prepared for our Bulgarian Folklore Night in the foothills of Vitosha.
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The Restaurant
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The doorman
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The travellers
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More dancing in national costumes
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More dancing
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Fire walking

An early start for tomorrow for the last leg from Sofia to Istanbul.

Posted by Kangatraveller 12:53 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

MONTENGRO and TIRANA, ALBANIA and OHRID, MACEDONIA

The Republic of Montenegro and then on to Albania.

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DUBROVNIK-KOTOR, REPUBLIC OF MONTENEGRO-TIRANA, ALBANIA
Monday 22 September we travelled through the Republic of Montenegro and visited stunning Kotor on the northern part of the Montenegrin coastline. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is fringed by mountains and nestled into the Bay of Kotor, the deepest natural fjord in the Mediterranean Sea. Protected by an impressive wall since the early Middle Ages, the city has one of the best preserved medieval Old Towns in the Adriatic.

Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro. It is located in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor. The city has a population of 13,510 and is the administrative center of Kotor Municipality.

The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period. It is located on the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea. Some have called the southern-most fjord in Europe, but it is a ria, a submerged river canyon. Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs of Orjen and Lovcen, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive and picturesque Mediterranean landscape.
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The old Castle of St John is seen on top of the mountain behind Kotor.
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Church of St Tryphon built in 1166.

After lunch we travelled along some incredibly winding and narrow "roads" which would deter some people in small four wheel drives let alone a 24 tonne coach.

We arrived in Tirana, the capital of Albania around 6.00pm and had to wait for roads to re-open after the visit of Pope Francis who visited Albania that day for a twelve hour visit, the first European country to be visited by the Pontiff.
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Signs welcoming Pope Francis.
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The double headed eagle of the Albanian Flag.

On Monday 22 September. We left our hotel for a short drive to Mother Teresa Square. Mother Teresa was born in Albania.
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Mother Teresa
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The other great hero of Albania in addition to Mother Teresa and Skanderbeg who beat the Ottomans in every battle. He ruled this area of Albania in the 15th century.
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Skanderbeg 1405 - 1465
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Typical roads in this part of the world.
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Housing is good in some areas
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Winding, narrow mountainous roads
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Many buildings are like this. Some have people living on the bottom story but many are incomplete.
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Donkey ready for work.

We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant that served the local trout from Lake Ohrid. The city is the oldest in the area. We walked around Ohrid with its beautiful lake, where a guided walking tour featured the Old Town with its picturesque houses and many churches. Apparently, Ohrid once had 365 churches, one for each day of the year.

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Lake Ohrid
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Roman Amphitheatre in Ohrid
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View over Ohrid

Posted by Kangatraveller 09:51 Archived in Albania Comments (1)

ZAGREB, ZADAR, SPLIT AND DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

The first stage of the journey through Eastern Europe to Instanbul

Monday, 15 September we entered Croatia, and stopped in the town of Kumrovec for a visit of the open-air Stare Selo ETHNOLOGICAL MUSEUM, and for an early dinner with regional specialties. Then, we headed for Zagreb, capital of Croatia. The map below shows where we go for the next fortnight.

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There has been major flooding all over Croatia with many roads closed we had to travel around flooded areas using many back roads. Here are a few pictures of the countryside. Asks expected it is a vibrant green.
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Kumrovec's claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Marshal Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980), the president of former Yugoslavia. The birth house of Tito (built in 1860 as the first brickwork house in the village) features the Memorial Museum of Marshal Tito, opened in 1953. The Museum is also important for the local folklore. Next to the house is the bronze standing statue of Marshal Tito (made by Antun Augustinčić, 1948). The old part of Kumrovec comprises the Ethnological Museum with 18 village houses, displaying permanent exhibitions of artifacts related to the life and work of Zagorje peasants in the 19th/20th century. The village is small but was of great popularity in the former Yugoslavia.

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Main entrance to the Kumrovec Village

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Statue of Marshall Tito, President of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980

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The house where Tito was born.

Today the major attraction of Kumrovec is the Ethnological Museum Staro Selo (Old Village) Kumrovec with very well preserved village houses from the turn of 19th/20th century. The reconstruction and redecoration of these houses started in 1977. So far 40-odd houses and other farm-stead facilities have been restored, which makes Staro Selo the most attractive place of this kind in Croatia. Visitors may see permanent ethnological exhibitions such as the Zagorje-style Wedding, the Life of Newly-weds, From Hemp to Linen, Blacksmith's Crafts, Cart-wright's Craft, Pottery, From Grain to Bread, etc.

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Some suspicious looking characters

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The spinning cottage

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The Fire Station
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Colleen in front of the tavern
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We had an early dinner (read enormous country style feast) in a restaurant across the hill from a 13th century castle.
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The road up to the restaurant was extremely steep.

Tuesday 16 September we had a City Tour with Tatiana. Our guided sightseeing this morning featured all important landmarks of the Lower and medieval Upper Town, such as the Parliament, Stone Gate, the Archbishop's Palace, plus a visit to the majestic CATHEDRAL.
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The National Theatre

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The Cathedral
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Markets in Zagreb
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Markets - Guess what Colleen bought?
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St George and the Dragon - Patron Saint of the Knights Templars with the 13th century city gate in the background.
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St Mark's Church in the old city
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View over Zagreb taken from the old city.

We then continued to Plitvice, to soak in the pure beauty of the NATIONAL PARK, famous for its lakes, waterfalls, and forests. Afterwards we drove towards the Adriatic coast and arrived in the pretty coastal city of Zadar.

Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia.

The national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The important north-south road connection, which passes through the national park area, connects the Croatian inland with the Adriatic coastal region.

The national park is world famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. The colors change constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
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Rastoke is a small town on the way to Plitivice with an amazing number of waterfalls.

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Rastoke with its many waterfalls.

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Map of Plitvice National Park
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Veliki Slap -The Big Waterfall.

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Plitvice -small waterfalls
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Upper lake with boat in the background

Our overnight stay was in Zadar. The next morning, Wednesday 17 September was a beautiful sunny day. We had a a city tour. Here are a few photos.

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First sighting of the Adriatic

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This is called the Greeting to the Sun. The cells store power from the sun and light up a night display. The waves along the shore power organ pipes.

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St Francis Church and Franciscan Monastery built in 1280.
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The old Roman Forum. The Pillar is called the Pillar of Shame as it was used to chain prisoners so they could be humiliated publicly.
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Colleen with a new silk scarf of a Monet print.
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Land Gate was completed in 1543.

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City Hall in City Square
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The Adriatic Sea

SPLIT
After lunch we drove to Split, the ancient Spalato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had a guided walking tour and learnt about the history of this captivating resort and visited the labyrinth of 4th century DIOCLETIAN'S PALACE, a well-preserved fortress and a living part of the Old Town. Tonight we enjoyed a special dinner with wine at a local restaurant in the old town.

Split is the second-largest city of Croatia and the largest city of the region of Dalmatia. It lies on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, centred on the Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian.

Split is one of the oldest cities in the area. While it is traditionally considered just over 1,700 years old counting from the construction of Diocletian's Palace in 305 CE, archaeological research relating to the original founding of the city as the Greek colony of Aspálathosin the 4th century BCE establishes the urban history of the area as being several centuries older. The city turned into a prominent settlement around 650 AD, when it became successor to the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, Salona: as after the Sack of Salona by the Avars and Slavs, the fortified Palace of Diocletian was settled by the Roman refugees. Split became a Byzantine city, to later gradually drift into the sphere of the Byzantine vassal, the Republic of Venice. For much of the High and Late Middle Ages, Split enjoyed autonomy as a free city, caught in the middle of a struggle between Venice and the king of Hungary for control over the Dalmatian cities. After a long period of Hungarian rule, Venice eventually prevailed, as the Kingdom of Hungary was ravaged by Ottoman incursions.

During the early modern period, Split remained a Venetian city, a heavily fortified outpost surrounded by Ottoman territory. Eventually, its hinterland was won from the Turks in the Morean War of 1699, and in 1796, as Venice fell to Napoleon, the Treaty of Campo Formio rendered the city to the Habsburg Monarchy.

In 1805, the Peace of Pressburg added it to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, and in 1809, after the Treaty of Schönbrunn, it was included directly in the French Empire, as part of the Illyrian Provinces. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, it was eventually granted to the Austrian Empire, where the city remained a part of the Austrian Kingdom of Dalmatia until the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and the formation of Yugoslavia.

During WWII, the city was annexed by Italy, then liberated by the Partisans after the Italian capitulation in 1943. It was then re-occupied by Germany, which granted it to its puppet Independent State of Croatia. The city was liberated again by the Partisans in 1944, and was included in the post-war Federal Yugoslavia, as part of its republic of Croatia. In 1991 Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia amid the Yugoslav Wars.

Diocletian's Palace is an amazing mix of very original structures from 305 CE and newer structures around 500 to 1000 year

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Mammontova, the Main Street leads down to the Adriatic
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Narrow streets leading off Mammontova over to Diocletian's Palace.

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The tower of the Cathedral in Diocletian's Palace. Christianity was allowed in 313CE and the building was turned into a Cathedral around 650AD or CE.
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The old part of the Cathedral was built as Diocletian's Mausoleum in 305CE. Diocletian was Emperor from 284CE and abdicated in 305CE and built this palace as his home. It is about 7km from Salona, the town where he was born.
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The Cupola of the Cathedral in original condition from 305CE
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The entrance to Diocletian's apartments and the balcony from where he would appear in public. The square below is deliberate as his people had to be on a lower level and prostrate before him.

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The entrance hall to Diocletian's apartments. The walls would have been covered in marble and gold.
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The roof of the Temple of Zeus built in 305CE
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Map of Diocletian's Palace
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Rooms below his apartments
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The original walls of Diocletian's apartments now have these old buildings built up against them as well as a broad esplanade in front.
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The Adriatic Sea at 7.00pm

DUBROVNIK
Dubrovnik is the second sunniest place in Croatia but our luck ran out on Saturday 20 September as we had showers off and on all day. We still went on our tour of the old town.
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Bridge across the river

Dubrovnik was once an independent maritime republic rivaling Venice. We saw the impressive ramparts, erected during the Crusades to protect the town against land attacks, and the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries.
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The Church of St Blaise
We also visited the 15th-century RECTOR'S PALACE. The Rector's Palace is a palace in the city of Dubrovnik that used to serve as the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa between the 14th century and 1808. It was built in the Gothic style, but it also has Renaissance and Baroque elements. A museum has operated in the palace since 1872.

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The Rector's Palace
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The old port
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View from the old town

Tonight, Saturday 20th we go for a cruise if the weather is kind and then, in the morning we head off for Tirana where Pope Francis is visiting. This could be an interesting day and certainly a long one.

Posted by Kangatraveller 05:24 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA

The place where the Great War started and ended peace.

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This is published out of sequence as we were in Croatia from Monday to Thursday morning then left for Bosnia and we are now back in Croatia.

We left Zadar to Sarajevo, where the Olympics took place in 1984, and the first city in Europe to own an electric tram network.
We saw the street corner where the assassination of the Archduke of Austria in 1914 happened in 1914. Were saw still a lot of damage from the recent Bosnian War. We visited the SARAJEVO TUNNEL, built between 1992 and 1995 during the Bosnian War and returned to Croatia and arrived in Dubrovnik, beautifully situated on a promontory jutting into the Adriatic Sea.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH, and in short often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in Southeastern Europe located on the Balkan Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Sarajevo. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for 20 kilometres (12 miles) of coastline on the Adriatic Sea surrounding the city of Neum. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest it is moderately hilly, and the northeast is predominantly flatland. The inland is a geographically larger region and has a moderate continental climate, bookended by hot summers and cold and snowy winters. The southern tip of the country has a Mediterranean climate and plain topography.

Sarajevo is the leading political, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its region-wide influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts contribute to its status as Bosnia and Herzegovina's biggest and most important economic center.

Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century. Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history. In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco. In 1914, it was the site of the assassination of the Archduke of Austria that sparked World War I. Seventy years later, it hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. For nearly four years, from 1992 to 1996, the city suffered the longest siege of a city in the history of modern warfare (1,425 days long) during the Bosnian War for independence.

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Leaving Split to climb over the Dinearic Alps on our way to Sarajevo
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Our lunch stop was at Mostar. This is the Franciscan Church with the bus stop behind it.
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The bridge at Mostar was built in the 1550s and was destroyed in the war in 1993 and rebuilt in 2004.
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The bridge at Mostar
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We drove around many beautiful lakes which reflected their surroundings.
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The street corner where Grand Duke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by the 19 year old Gavrilo Princip. this event was widely believed to precipitate World War 1.
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We visited the Mosque that was built in 1553 after the Ottomans invaded.
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Inside the Mosque. Many if the carpets here are 500 to 600 years old and used daily.
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Inside the Synagogue built in 1538.
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Our city guide Ziad who has been doing the job for 26 years. firstly as a Communist guide then for German visitors and now in English. He is a font of information.
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The library which lost 2 000 000 books during the war.

Friday 19 September, we took the short trip to the Serb Republic which is just near the airport to see the Tunnel. The tunnel was built in an old farmhouse on the edge of the airport then under the runway to an apartment just on the other side. The Serbian Army (The Yugoslavian National Army had surrounded the town except for the airport which was controlled by the UN. In 1 452 days of siege 10% of the population (11 451 people) died while under the overview of the UN.

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Map showing the Siege of Sarajevo for 4 years from 1992 to 1995
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The farmhouse which hid one end of the tunnel on the northern side of the runway of the airport.
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All weapons, some food and power were bought into Sarajevo through this tunnel.
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Steps down into the tunnel. The tunnel had an average height of 1.6 metres and often filled with water.
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Ottoman Fort from the 1400s.
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Mountainous terrain on the road from Sarajevo ( Bosnia Herzegovina) to Dubrovnik (Croatia).
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Bosnia under the Dayton Agreement that ended the war was given access to the sea with 20 km of coastline. The town of Neum is the town in this area.
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Colleen is surveying the coastline.
After going through two borders during the day we reached Dubrovnik in Croatia. Short journey but different currencies. Bosnia uses the Bosnian Mark and Croatia uses the Kuna.

Posted by Kangatraveller 09:15 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Great coffee, good music, beautiful buildings and architecture

Wednesday 10 September we flew from Berlin to Vienna. We will start another tour here that will take us from Vienna to Istanbul.

Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.757 million (2.4 million within the metropolitan area, more than 20% of Austria's population), and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I the city had 2 million inhabitants. The city lies in the east of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants.

Apart from being regarded as the City of Music because of its musical legacy, Vienna is also said to be "The City of Dreams" because it was home to the world's first psycho-analyst – Sigmund Freud. The city's roots lie in early Celtic and Roman settlements that transformed into a Medieval and Baroque city, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is well known for having played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century. The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, and the late-19th-century Ringstrasse lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks.

On Wednesday, we had an easy day with quite a bit if walking despite our hotel being very central. We are opposite the Vienna Konserthaus.
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The Wiener Konserthaus
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Franzosische Botschaft - The French Embassy, located next to our hotel, is housed in a unique building designed in the French style of art nouveau. Inside are many palace relics of the 18th century.

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Some of the streets are so wide you need to have at least two changes of lights to get across. Here is Colleen crossing the Stuben Ring road.

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The very beautiful Karl's Kirche
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The Technische Universitat where Johann and Josef Strauss were educated.
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St Stephan's Cathedral

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Karntner Strasse, a walking street with lots of high end shopping.
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Window shopping can put on weight just by looking.

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The Albertina Museum boasts one of the world's largest graphics collections nd includes such famous drawings as Albrecht Durer's Young Hare
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A little bit of home here in Vienna where you can indulge yourself on vegemite toast.
On Thursday 11 September, we caught the U4 to the Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schonbrunn) is a former imperial 1,441-room Rococo summer residence in modern Vienna, Austria. One of the most important cultural monuments in the country, since the 1960s it has been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace and gardens illustrate the tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

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No photography was allowed in the palace. The rooms were very elegant with beautiful ceilings and chandeliers. The palace dates back to the mid eighteenth century and was used as the winter palace of the Habsburgs right through to Emperor Franz Josef who died there in 1916.

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The Gloriette
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The garden axis points towards a 60-metre-high hill, which since 1775 has been crowned by the Gloriette structure (Fischer von Erlach had initially planned to erect the main palace on the top of this hill). Empress Maria Theresa decided Gloriette should be designed to glorify Habsburg power.

Later we took the train back to Schwedenberg Plasse and had lunch at a very nice restaurant. After lunch we took the Ring Tram around the Austrian World heritage Site. The majestic boulevards were laid out in the mid nineteenth century around the centre of the city, replacing the old city wall and the glacis. Ornate buildings such as the State Opera, parliament building, city hall ( I just love the name - Rathaus), the stock exchange and numerous palaces.

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Parliament House designed by a famous Danish Architect

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The Rathaus - City Hall

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The Votive Church
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The Stadt Park, a wonderful walking park near the centre of Vienna.

Colleen went to check on tickets for Mozart at the Schonbrunn Palace. They were. Poked out a few days ahead so she was lucky enough to get last minute tickets to the Muncher Philharmonikar < Munich Philomonic Orchestra) playing at the Musikbereinsaal. There was a crowd of about 1500 in the hall we were in. They were a steal at €100 each.
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On Friday 12 September, we had a later start and decided to just go to one attraction. We chose the Belvedere Palace which was just a short walk from our hotel. On the way we stopped at the Bawag Bank and Post Office for Colleen to post a small present to our two little granddaughters. Here she is at the counter.
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It is probably fair to say that I enjoy the art galleries a little more than Colleen. She has a simple calibrator in viewing art. if Mia or Evie can do it better then it is not really art.

The Belvedere Palace is also an art gallery.

The Belvedere is a historic building complex in Vienna, Austria, consisting of two Baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape in the third district of the city, on the south-eastern edge of its centre. It houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy.

The Belvedere was built during a period of extensive construction in Vienna, which at the time was both the imperial capital and home to the ruling Habsburg dynasty. This period of prosperity followed on from the commander-in-chief Prince Eugene of Savoy's successful conclusion of a series of wars against the Ottoman Empire.
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Lower Belvedere. The single-storey Lower Belvedere, with its exotic gardens, was completed in 1716.

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An ornate room in the Lower Belvedere.

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Fountain that was originally in the Neu Markt in the 1500's.

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Moscow Ballet clothing display from 1900 when Diaghilev was the Director with budding tsars such as Nijinski and Pavlova.

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It is rather a long walk from the Lower Belvedere up to the Upper Belvedere.

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The Upper Belvedere. The Upper Belvedere, completed between 1720 and 1722, is a more substantial building; with sparkling white stucco walls and copper roof it became a wonder of Europe.

It was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy 1663 to 1736 who was not the a member of the Royal family of the Holy Roman Empire rather one of the most accomplished military commanders in the history of Europe and using that success to achieve the highest offices of state at the Imperial court in Vienna.

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Ceiling painting of the Marble Hall in the Upper Belvedere by Carlo Carlone

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The Baroque gardens between the Lower and Upper Belvedere.

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Ornate ceiling in the Upper Belvedere.

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Modern art display in one of the rooms. The ceilings here would be at least 10 metres high.

The art collection is varied with Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Pisarro etc. The most visited paintings are those by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

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The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

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The size of this oil on canvas is obvious when you compare the size of the people looking at it.

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We walked back down Prinz Eugene Strasse past the War Memorial to our hotel.

Later we went out for dinner. When in Vienna, it is a good idea to eat what the locals eat. here are our meals below - Pork hock with sauerkraut and dumplings and Wienerschnitzel.
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Pork Hock

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Schnitzel

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Imperial Hotel at night

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The Konzerthaus at night

On Saturday 13 September, we joined a walking tour of the old town. it was supposed to be an English tour but as we were small in number it was a German/English walking tour.
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The oldest building in Vienna, St Ruperecht Church nearly 1000 years old.

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Salt Lane. The salt came down the Danube from Salzburg salt mines and the ships were required to tie up here and sell the salt at a special price before they were allowed to sail on to other cities.
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This map shows the old town at this point before WW2. Gestapo HQ was on this bank of the Danube and the Soviet Army shelled the city from the other side. Houses along the river were destroyed.

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Old Town

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Oldest traffic sign. It says be careful and walk your horses with someone going ahead. See the narrowness of the street in the photo below.
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Very old and narrow street

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Greek Orthodox Church

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Oldest tavern 1436 and run continuously as a tavern.
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Gateway to the city branch of the Cistercian Holy Cross Abbey famous for their Gregorian Chants

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Cistercian Church

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Viennese legend of a mythical creature that lived in a well below this building
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Jesuit Church as part of the old university.
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The altar inside the Jesuit Church
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Laneway between buildings in old town

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St Stephan's Cathedral
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Houses built around a 700 year old tree
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Mozart lived in this house with a maid and a cook. The house cost 400 Guilders a year and the maid was paid 10 Guilders a year. Mozart was out of resources when he died so was buried in a mass grave.

Tonight we had a traditional Heurigan (Viennese wine restaurant) dinner with music.
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On Sunday 14 September we woke early to Facetime a call to Tony for his birthday. after breakfast we had a city tour with Globus. We ended up having an extended tour as we had to miss parts of the city closed because of the Bike Marathon so we went to the Belvedere Palace once again. Here is a picture taken from the front gate this time.

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The front gates showing the coat of arms of Prince Eugene of Savoy
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The gardens in front of the Upper Belvedere
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Colleen in the picture showing the view from the Upper Belvedere over Vienna

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The Albertina Art Gallery in Vienna
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The Hofburg Palace, the Winter home of the Habsburgs. The Palace has 1 600 rooms.
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Hofburg Palace
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Hofburg Palace

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Roman ruins in Vienna
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Roman ruins in the centre of Vienna. the Romans left in 5 AD
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The Pestsaule (English: Plague Column) is located on the Graben, a street in the inner city of Vienna and is one of the most well-known and prominent pieces of sculpture in the city.

In 1679, Vienna was visited by one of the last big plague epidemics. Fleeing the city, Emperor Leopold I vowed to erect a mercy column if the epidemic would end.

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St Stephen's Cathedral was consecrated in 1147. The area was bombed by the US on 13 April 1945 two days before the end of the war and a fire destroyed the roof.
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The 850 year old front doors of the Cathedral.

In the morning we leave Vienna. We need 50 cents for a toilet stop before we leave Austria then enter Croatia where we stop overnight in Zagreb.

Posted by Kangatraveller 07:07 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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