Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 16

September 2009

Day 16

After a quick breakfast we headed back down the hill to catch the local bus to Budva. Once we arrived, we took an orientation walk of the town and stopped for a pizza lunch down by the water. After lunch we broke off from the group and walked around the coast to the private beaches, and enjoyed looking through the old town.

We then booked our boat trip for the following morning before heading back to the hotel, stopping by for some Cevapcici on the way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 15

September 2009

Day 15

We took a very crowded bus across the border into Montenegro. It was a picturesque (though windy) trip
through the Piva Canyon, which I've been told is the second longest canyon in the world. We got off the main bus and was picked up by the monastery bus to take us to the Ostrong Monastery. Once we dropped off our things and got into suitable clothing (covering the knees and shoulders) we took the 30 min hike to the top of the hill to get an up and close view of the Monastery.
We then headed back down the hill, for a well earned dinner at a local restaurant that caters to the many "Pilgrims" that visit the Monastery every year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wish List: The Ice Hotel

So I've decided to take a break from documenting our Hong Kong and Eastern Europe trip of 2009 with one of my "wish list" holidays.
So you may remember a past post of mine, which was a cruise on the Kimberly and I mentioned that my immediate family had this one their list when we win the lottery. However, it's a seasonal trip and we have a back up location if this happens to be the case. This trip is the Ice Hotel in Lapland.

Now some people may not get the attraction of staying in -5C temperatures and paying good money to do so, but I know two people who have and they say it is definitely one of those one in a life time opportunities. So as those of you in the Northern Hemisphere head into winter and those of us who are looking forward to another Christmas on the beach, can sit back, scroll through the link above and dream.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 14

September 2009

Day 14

We caught the morning train to the town of Mostar, to see the famous bridge and enjoy the old quarter. In the peak season you have to pay top price to see a guy jump from the top of the bridge, but it was off peak and there happened to be another tour group there, who were obviously willing to pay the going rate on the day, so we caught the experience for free.

We enjoyed lunch at the Sadrvan restaurant, trying the local delicacy of "pies" stuffed with meat and cheese, before wandering around the wold town.

We then caught the bus back to Sarajevo for our last night, where we enjoyed dinner at Inat House (or Spite House), where when sampled the variety of dolma and the chicken kebabs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 13

September 2009

Day 13

We had breakfast at the pension before heading off on a locally run tour to see the tunnels built during the 1990s conflict and learn some of the more recent history of the country. We drove through town, past the Holiday Inn (which every time it was brought up I had the song by Chingy running through my head) and were given a guided tour of the tunnels that had been built to smuggle food, medicine, people and I'm sure arms during the 1990s war.

After the tour we headed back into the old city to walk through the Bazaar and amble through the old streets before having lunch at the Cevabdzinica Hodzic, in which we enjoyed the lovely Cecapcici with Shopska salad.

After lunch we took a walk up the hill to the cemetery to get a great view of the city, followed by a drink at the local brewery.

That evening we tried a small local eatery Cevabdzincia, and enjoyed the veal kebabs, more Cecapcici and salad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 12

September 2009

Day 12

We caught a taxi to the bus station and headed across the Serbian - Bosnian border. The Bosnian countryside was very beautiful, with many mountains, tunnels and hills. Once we arrived in Sarajevo we caught a tram to our hotel pension, where there is a lot of evidence of the damage done during the 1992-1995 bombings that took place. But what a beautiful city.

We joined a walking tour for the afternoon with a local guide who had a great sense of humor and took in the sights of the City Hall, the Bazaar, the Catholic Church, where Pope John Paul had given a speech, the largest of the local Mosque's which unfortunately we couldn't view due to it being Ramadan and finishing off at the corner where Franz Ferdinand had been shot, hence starting WWI.

We finished off the day with dinner at Dzenita, where we had Sarma (a local cabbage dish), Klepe (stuffed pastry with meat) and the Soksja salad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 11

September 2009

Day 11

We caught the bus into town again and went to check out one of the local bookstores that we had passed on our walking tour the day before. I have an obsession with books, being an avid reader, but it was the chandeliers (and the number of them) that had caught my eye. We got lost trying to find the right tram to take us to the local markets, and after finding it discovered we could have walked! After checking the markets out we had a sandwich lunch in Republic Square and enjoyed a drink in a cafe, people watching the the afternoon sun.

From here we headed back to the fort to check out the old tanks they have before stopping to visit the Military Museum, which focuses on the history of the Balkan area battles and has a room dedicated to the 1999 NATO attacks, which like the bombed buildings they have left in place, just seemed a bit strange.

We headed back to the ? Cafe for an afternoon drink, before heading back to the Bohemian quarter to try another restaurant for our evening meal.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 10

September 2009

Day 10

We headed off on the early train to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We booked into our accommodation, which was student accommodation at a local University before hopping on a bus into the city and enjoying lunch at ? Cafe, the oldest cafe in Belgrade (1929). We enjoyed what was to soon become one of our favourite local dishes, the Cevapcic, before also trying our first Turkish coffee, and lets just say, we won't be having that again until we're in Turkey!

We then headed off with our group for a city walking tour. This included viewing the fort, the park, the main street and Republic Square. After our tour we caught a bus to check out what is currently the largest orthodox church in the world, which had building start in 1935, but due to various wars is not due to be finished until 2020 (and by then it may no longer be the largest Orthodox Church).

We then walked back to town, stopping by to check out the buildings that have been left standing that show the damage done by NATO forces during their attacks in the 1990s, a very strange concept indeed, and finishing up in the Bohemian quarter where we enjoyed a lovely dinner.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 9

September 2009

Day 9

After breakfast in our hotel, we headed off with our tour group (see, first group activity) for a walking orientation tour of the city. This included taking in the sites of the city hall, the catholic church, the Serbian Orthodox church with Bishops palace, Danube park and finishing off at the Petrovaradin Fortress with it's clock tower. After a refreshing drink overlooking the river and city we headed back into town to look through the "Fishers Market", although we were a bit late in the day for the hustle and bustle of it all.

We then decided to check out the Orthodox church. Not being church goers we decided to check it out on the basis of a tour guide who had earlier pointed out the differences between the insides of a Serbian Orthodox Church and the insides on a Catholic church, needless to say after the end of our time in Eastern Europe, we were definitely suffering from church fatigue!

We grabed gelato from one of the many shops selling them and then decided it was also time for lunch and grabed some pastries from a near by deli.

We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the people watching from a cafe square, before once again meeting up with our group for an afternoon of wine and honey tasting. Now I don't drink and DHs beverage of choice is beer so we were aprehensive about how much we would get out of this trip, but we had a great time tasting honey, learning about the wineries history and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 8

September 2009

Day 8

After another breakfast in the hotel we headed over to "Buda" to walk up Gellert Hill to get a close up view of the Liberty Statue, one of the few remaining Soviet statues left in place after independence.

We then met up with our group to head off to the train station, for our first stop in Serbia, Novi Sad. We stayed in a lovely little hotel, where we were directed towards a local eatery Fontana for dinner, where we first started to realise, that in this part of the world the diet is very meat based.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 7

September 2009

Day 7

Now we were part of a tour, the breakfast was included in the room rate and we enjoyed the new pace before heading off to enjoy our last full day in Budapest. Seeing that so much of the city is centered around the Danube river, both DH and I wanted to take a boat trip, but so much of the tourist orientated river cruises were quite pricey. So we stumbled across the local ferry service that runs to Margaret Island, and instead of getting off on the Island, just stayed on the boat for the 1 hr journey. We enjoyed taking in the sites from the different perspective of being on the river and enjoyed the people watching that came with it.

After the ride was over, we stopped at the Gerbeaud Cafe. A local Budapest institution, that was mentioned more than once in every fiction and non-fiction book I had read about the city prior to coming, I had added this as a specific to my to do list while in the city. Originally we were just going to go for coffee and cake (the most cost effective option, and if you get the cake of the day, quite inexpensive), but seeing we had underspent our Budapest funds, decided to enjoy lunch here instead, where we enjoyed the meat and cheese platter while enjoying the afternoon, the square and the people watching.

After lunch we took a stroll, once again, across the beautiful Chain Bridge, before taking the Funicular (cable car) to the top of the Castle District. We took a tour through the Castle Labyrinth system, before walking back across the Chain bridge to take a closer look at the Holocaust Garden at the Great Synagogue.

After a leisurely afternoon in a local beer cafe, we had dinner at our hotel, which included local dishes, the meat filled pancakes, Hungarian pork chops and veal paprika with dumplings.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 6

September 2009

Day 6

Once again we started our morning with a pastry breakfast, good thing we're doing all this walking! We then headed off on the metro line to the Szechenyi Baths. Before we got to Budapest we did a lot of research and reading on Budapest's bath and decided on the Szechenyi for two main reasons, the first being that it's unisex, the second that it seemed to be a more traditional Budapest style bath, rather than the local Turkish style or some of the more tourist style. The Szechenyi baths did not disappoint. We started in the outside baths, the one's you've probably seen pictures of the men outside in the baths playing chess. We were glad that we came in the morning instead of the afternoon, as it wasn't that busy and it was clean, when we met up with our tour later, some of them had been that afternoon and said it was packed and not very enjoyable, so keep that in mind when you head out.

After the baths we caught the metro back to the Great markets and had lunch upstairs "fast food" style. I loved my stuffed cabbage with sour kraut and you are sure to find a local delicacies at a great price. With the rest of the afternoon to spare, we decided to spend the afternoon at the National Museum before meeting our Intrepid tour group in the afternoon. Now most people don't understand why we nearly always participate in small group travel, such as Intrepid while on holidays, and it's simple this was my 5th Intrepid trip and DH's 2nd and I wouldn't do it any other way, the groups are never over 15, you're with other like minded travellers, it takes the hassle out of border control, site recommendations, travel and other small bits that can take up so much time, plus there is plenty of time for doing things on your own with or without other group members.

Our new tour companions all headed out for dinner at a local restaurant, Koleves, serving traditional Hungarian food in a funky setting (the chandeliers were made from wine glasses!). Before once again heading back to the hotel for a good nights rest.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hong Kong and Eastern Europe Day 5

September 2009

Day 5

We grabbed a quick breakfast of pastries before heading off to the meeting point for our Budapest walking tour. It's often the best way to see the city, and will often help you narrow the long list of possible activities that you can prepared with! This tour covered Hero's square, Vajdahunyad castle, the Szechenyi bath area, St Stephen's Basilica, the Great Synagogue (with it's beautiful memorial left), a trip on the third oldest metro in the world (the 1st on mainland Europe), the opera house, Deak Square, the Chain bridge, a step walk up to the Castle district and finishing off at Fisherman's Bastian (right). While the Pest side is flat and lovely for even those of us that aren't too fit, the walk up the Buda side was another mater, the view however was definitely worth it.

We left our group and after lunch from a local supermarket, we headed back down the hill to go and visit the Terror Museum, which documents Budapest's history during WWII and the Soviet occupation. While I learnt a fair amount, I felt they tried to make it to dramatic and too high tech which took away from the essence of what they were trying to convey, if anyone has visited what the Vietnamese use to call the "American War Museum" in Ho Chi Minh City, the Hungarians could learn a bit about the horrors of war and occupation speaking for themselves.

That night we headed out to dinner at the M Restaurant, a small, quaint Transylvania place, where the walls, lamps, tables and pipework are covered in brown paper! We had a lovely meal, before heading back to our hotel, looking forward to our next days adventure in Budapest.