At the end of each month I am going to send out a summary of the highlights of the month. I will tell you about any travel bargains I’ve found and update you on our plans for upcoming trips and activities. Here is the summary for September 2017.
Saying Goodbye to Europe
As I am writing this, I am still in Dubrovnik, so we haven’t actually left Europe, but it was our last full month here.
We started our month off by travelling to country number seventeen, Montenegro. Our first stop was in the coastal town of Budva. Budva is a party town. It is the place many Europeans visit for their summer beach holidays. The beaches are jam packed with beach umbrellas and lounges, behind which are beach bars during the day and nightclubs at night. It also has a really nice little old town, and so great views. We felt as sense of relief arriving here. The sun was shining and it felt like we were bad in Italy. Things were getting easier. We could. make sense of the bus timetables, just the fact that there WERE timetables! It wasn’t until we got here that we realised how much harder it had been without little things we take for granted.
Budva is only thirty minute down the road from the beautiful Kotor, probably the most well known town in Montenegro. This is a regular port of call for the cruise ships that make their way around the Adriatic Sea. Kotor is the town you think of when you see those amazing photos looking over an ancient old town with beautiful blue seas and towering mountains in the background. We climbed up over 1300 steps to be blown away by those exact views.
From Budva we made our way to Montenego’s capital, Podgorica. Never heard of it? You are not alone. It’s not exactly on the tourist trail, and there is a good reason for that. There really is not a whole lot to do here! We used the time for a bit of R&R, staying at a Hilton and indulging in all it had to offer. We were upgraded to a fantastic suite and took advantage of the luxury.
Just when we thought we were back in the land of the organised, our next bus trip to Sarajevo proved how wrong we were. We had bought tickets on line a couple of days in advance, but when we turned up at the bus station, they only had one seat left on the bus. Since people can just jump on and pay the driver, all the seats had been filled at earlier stops with no regard to people who already had paid to get on later. We pleaded with the driver, and in the end I was allowed to sit on the floor in the aisle. For seven hours! Not the most fun bus ride I have ever had. There was at least one other person that had a ticket that didn’t get on the bus. (We coincidentally ran into her the next day in Sarajevo and commiserated. She was almost stranded in a small town, but managed to get on another bus later in the day.)
Sarajevo was a revelation! One of my favourite cities on this trip. The war in the nineties is still so obvious throughout the city. There are mortar wounds on so many of the buildings to remind everyone. We did a couple of different walking tours, and our guides were kids in the war, and it was so enlightening to hear their stories. Sarajevo isn’t just about that war though, it is also the place where World War I was “started” with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Before that it was an Ottoman stronghold, and the Baščaršija is an old style bazaar from those times. It’s a great area to explore, and I got to indulge in some of my favourites – Turkish tea and baklava. We also learnt about Bosnian coffee, which looks as good as it tastes when it is served in it’s little pot with Turkish delight.
Next up in Bosnia & Herzegovina was Mostar. Most people will have heard of this down because of it’s bridge and the tradition of jumping off the bridge into the river below. While we were there the Red Bull Cliff Diving series was in town, so not only were they jumping off the bridge, but off of a tower built on top of the bridge! Crazy is all I can say.
While in Mostar we also did a day trip to visit the Kravice Waterfalls, amongst other places. These were absolutely beautiful, and the perfect place to visit in the middle of summer for a swim. I took on look and knew it was going to be too cold so didn’t go near it. The other girls with us wanted to swim but soon came back saying it was cold too. Did Simon listen to any of us? No, he just went and jumped straight in. Five seconds later he was again out! I thought he would have remembered doing the same thing at Lake Como, but I guess not.
Our visit to Mostar ended in disaster – or as close as you can get while travelling – a stomach bug! Or food poisoning! Or something else that really isn’t so much fun right before a bus trip to another country! It was touch and go if we would even try to get to Croatia, but we had a shared bathroom in our hostel in Mostar and a whole apartment waiting for us in Split. If only we could make it we would be so much more comfortable. Make it we did, thanks to some drugs and positive thoughts, but we were totally wiped out and spent the next two days recovering. Apart from a short walk around the old town, we didn’t really see much of the town.
We boarded the bus to Zadar feeling full of energy again. We didn’t need it all though, because Zadar has quite a small old town, so we didn’t have to go very far to see all the sites. We could tell we were back in the former Roman Empire, because the influence here is strong. The cobbled streets and narrow alleyways are just like those in Italy. Zadar though has a couple of new attractions, with the most popular one being the sea organ. Built along the foreshore, this art installation allows the sea to produce music as the waves move against the shore. This is a really popular spot for watching the sunset, as the sun dips below islands opposite.
While we did see a nice sunset at the sea organ, the best sunset during our time in Zadar we almost missed. Our very first night we had gone back to our room but I noticed the change in light outside. We quickly made out way back to the seafront, about a five minute walk, and unfortunately missed more of the sunset, but the few minutes we saw were spectacular. I had thought it was too cloudy for a decent sunset, but in fact it was the clouds that made it absolutely amazing. The colours were unbelievable.
From Zadar we did a day trip up to Plitvice National Park, in search of more waterfalls. And we saw heaps of them! This place is really worth a visit, but even towards the end of September it was really busy, so I would not go near the place in July or August.
Our original plan after Zadar, was to spend a few days on the island of Hvar, but we instead decided to spend those days on the mainland at Split. Mostly this was because we had almost completely missed Split while we were there, but we were also hearing that many of the places on Hvar were closing down now that the season was over. This was confirmed even more when we got to Split, with our host saying she had been over there recently.
Even though we had come back to see Split, on our first day we abandoned the place again. We jumped on a boat and went over to the town of Trogir – or Qarth as Game of Thrones fans know it. The boat ride was about 45 minutes each way, and it was so nice to sit in the sun and enjoy the scenery. We also had a great chat with some other Aussies we were sitting across from. Croatia seems to be very popular amongst our countrymen.
The sunny weather didn’t last, with a full day of rain the next day. We had booked a short walking tour of Split to get an idea of some of the history. I think the bad weather meant no one went out on any boat trips, because the streets of the old town were crowded with people. I’m not great with crowds at the best of times, but with very narrow streets, rain, umbrellas, and a cruise ship in port, we soon retreated back to our room for the rest of the day.
I was determined to had a good look around Split, so the next morning I went out for a walk as the sun came up and it was so much better! I could actually see the buildings and points of interest without being jostled or poked with a selfie stick. I even managed photos with no one in them! The sun came out later in the day, and we braved the outside word again, and discovered the crowds must all be out doing other things, as the old town was much less crowded.
Then it was on to Dubrovnik. We are spending six nights here, the longest stop so far on our trip. We are meeting up with friends from back in Australia for a few days. Wandering through the crowded Old Town was a bit of a chore, but it was interesting to see some of the Game of Thrones locations. I am not a huge fan, but I have seen some of the earlier series, and it is easy to see why Dubrovnik was chosen as Kings Landing. It is almost a perfect medieval city.
The last day in September was spent doing a trip over to the island of Lokrum. It’s only a fifteen minute boat trip from the Old Town Harbour, and a great way to excape the chaos and crowds. The island has enough to occupy a few hours. There is the Dead Sea for a quick swim, the monastery to visit, and of course a hike up to the fortress on the hilltop, to wear off the lunch eaten at one of the many restaurants. The island is home to lots of huge rabbits, and also peacocks, that love to parade around to entertain their guests. On Lokrum it is also possible to sit on the Iron Throne! I was pleased to find it was free to do this, and only a handfull of people in the room looking at the throne and the displays. We did not need to wait at all.
In a couple of days we fly to Istanbul, our first flight since all the way back in May when the kids were still with us and we flew into Rome. The plan is to spend a week in Istanbul, to see parts of the city we didn’t see last time, do a couple of day trips, and sort out a few house keeping things – like hopefully get my phone screen replaced so I can read it! Then we want to head to the south of Turkey, to Bodrum and Antalya, before flying to Jordan. I’m still putting together the itinerary, but I am thinking we will spend about ten days there, to see Petra, Wadi Rum and of course swim in the Dead Sea (I don’t care how cold it is!). We will then hopefully move on to Iran. Another itinerary I am yet to pull together, and that one will be a bit more difficult. That should easily take us through into November, and I will have to figure out where to go next. I anticipate a very busy month.
In case you missed them, here are my September blog posts:
August 2017 Summary
Travel Diaries – Prague
Travel Diaries – Romania
Travel Diaries – Bulgaria
Free Food Tour in Sofia, Bulgaria
Travel Diaries – Macedonia (FYROM)
Monastery of St Naum – A Day Trip from Ohrid
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In last month’s summary I mentioned that I was so close to it being my best month ever and asked you all to have a look at some posts. We thank you to those who did, I have smashed it this month and have had about thirty percent more people read my posts.
I have caught up stlightly on my schedule, but with a really busy October coming up, I see that I will probably be back to six weeks behind very soon.
September also saw me swap to a https site. As a blogger this was a huge step, as I was so happy it went smoothly. I had heard so many horror stories beforehand. This means this site more secure for you as a user. I don’t expect there will be much difference, but if you do find something broken, please let me know.
Until next month, take care.
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