Worrall Travel R's - Kicking the Bucket List

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Following our Dreams and Kicking the Bucket List.  Started on a yacht, now it's planes, trains, Trailblazer 5th wheel, camels, rickshaws.  Exploring our wonderful world.

Our Mantra:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

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SLIDE SHOW of Worrall Travel R's 2014 ODYSSEY

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Now showing 2014 CROATIA

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 70 - Splendiferous Plitvice National Park, Croatia - Include it on Your Bucket List

Natural Water Splendor

Our hike through Plitvice National Park in Croatia today, has to be the natural highlight of our trip so far.  What a great way to spend day 70 of our odyssey.  Waterfalls gurgled, gushed and roared from above and below our feet as we wove our way on boardwalks and trails around and through sixteen lakes.  It was indescribable beauty of crystal clear emerald water cascading from one lake to another in veils of spray, ribbons, and streams.

Not sure we want to check this one off the bucket list as it begs for a repeat!  This is not a good place for even fat short heels (come on ladies, get a grip), wheel chairs, strollers, uncontrolable toddlers, dogs, and others who might have issues walking or balancing over water.  Board walks are rough, stepped up and down in small tripable increments (we tripped a couple of times), no rails, and narrow.  There is a lot of two way walking traffic with picture taking every two feet.

Hint.  Go early.  Start by 7:00-7:30 am before the tour busses and the hoards from Split arrive around 10:00.  We had most of the morning to ourselves, and by the thick of the day we were almost done with our hike.

For those interested in a little more about the geology of this park, I am including a bit from Wikapedia 

"The national park is world famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface.[3]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. They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of mossalgae, and bacteria. The particularly sensitive travertine barriers are the result of an interplay between water, air and plants. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in) per year.
The sixteen lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636 to 503 m (2,087 to 1,650 ft) over a distance of some eight km, aligned in a south-north direction. The lakes collectively cover an area of about two square kilometres (0.77 square miles), with the water exiting from the lowest lake forming the Korana River.
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."
Dreaming of emeral water tonight.  
All is Well With the Worrall Travel R's

Day 69 - Underground Tunnel into Saraevjo

Bullet riddled home of under ground tunnel entrance.

During the Siege of Saraevjo, 1991-1995, the city nestled in an alpine valley was held hostage with gunfire and mortar attacks from the Serbs in the surrounding mountains.  Getting supplies into the residents of the city was next to impossible.  Airplanes could land out of mortar range at the western end of Saraevjo, but getting the supplies overland to the people in the city was always under attack.

We read that the average Saraevjan lost 30 lbs during the seige because food was so scarce. Our AirBNB host explained to us that he was able to open a night club providing some refuge and enterainmen for belaguered Saraevjians, once an underground tunnel from the airport to the city had been dug and human packers could bring in supplies. 

Today the tunnel entrance is open as a museum and testament to Saraejvan fortitude and resolve to hang on to their city and its citizens.  In 1993 the tunnel took 4 months and 4 days to dig the tunnel, 800 meter long and 1 meter wide.  Four thousand men everyday, carrying 50 kilos each tramped through the tunnel carrying supplies.  This is especially remarkable as the tunnel's highest point is only 1.6 meters high which meant men were bent over with packs on their back.  
Russ immediately bumped his head as we descended into the tunnel for a short tramp.  Later, there were some rails installed for push trains.  Given the width of the tunnel, it could really only support one way traffic. 

We had the opportunity to meet the man who lived next to the tunnel and helped to dig the tunnel.  He proudly showed us his tunnel digging commemoration plaque.  Human ingenuity and survival resolve is an amazing trait.

This was a very intersting stop on our way out of Sarajevo and Bosnia on our way to Croatia.

All is Well from the Worrall Travel R's in transit to Croatia

Days 68 - Saraevjo - WHY?

After the war and now,  Museum photo of Saraevjo City Hall

Saraevjo, as most of you may remember, was the Yugoslavian venue for the 1984 Winter Olympics when American Scott Hamilton took men's ice skating gold, Brian Boitano and Rosalyn Summers took silver in ice skating, maverick Bill Johnson won the downhill,  the Mehr brothers took gold in Slalom and Super G, and the American Hockey team came in seventh. This was the last Olympics held in the USSR before the collapse of Soviet Union in 1990.

The Balkins, former Yugoslavia, have a long complex history better explained through Wikipedia than me.  I am still trying to understand how this lovely country of Bosnia i Herzegovina could be so brutally attacked by the Serbs after BiH declared themselves independent from the former Yugoslavia. It's all very confusing and depressing.  The multi-ethnic conflict spanned 4 years, beginning in 1991, devastating cities and lives, and resulting in over 100,000 deaths.  

In my opinion, multi-ethnic, idealogic, or religious wars is a political terminology that sugar coats ancient tribalism/ modern day nationalism and religious beliefs that breed privilege and arrogance over those not of the same ilk.  It is depressing to think that when we think there is peace in the world it is only short gasps between conflicts.  There will never be a war that ends all wars.  But somehow we continue to think that military might (death, destruction, and fear) involvement is the answer.

What will it take to really have peace?  How can we harness and channel our men (sorry guys, but women are not the primary problem here) to be constructors and builders of peaceful humane societies and not destructors and power hungry aggressors?  If our brains cannot evolve faster than our hormones, we are sure to never know peace.  So I don't have the answer except that a broad, reason-based education, character development, global worldview, and decrease of hero worship of testosterone on overdrive (military, sports, rampant capitalism where money is power) would be a big step forward.  Okay, enough of the rant.

Bosnia and Saraevejo has made good progress in recovering from the siege, but bombed out and bullet riddled buildings are still evidenced, and the survivors are still trying to reconstruct their lives from personal and economic ruin.  We talked to locals who tell of the bad politics, corruption, crime, and cronyism that flourishes at the expense of many who are still unemployed.  It's all very sad, as is all conflict when normal people are caught between those who seek power and control.

We spent our day in Saraevjo at the War Museum, walking through old town, visiting the reconstructed city hall/library, churches, mosques,and many shops.  The streets in the old section were filled with tourists.  We enjoyed a quiet evening in our guest house with our host high up on the hill where the Serbians held siege of Saraevjo and watched the sunset over the city.

All is Well with The Worrall Travel R's in Bosnia

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day 67, August 17, Backroads of Montenegro to Saraevjo

Water vapor rises up from the deep canyons.

Our host at Zvono's  told us it was a short drive to Saraevjo, perhaps 2.5 hours if we took the direct route, longer if we took the back road through the Dumitor National Park.  Always eager to travel the road less traveled, we elected the scenic route.  

The drive north was wild and beautiful.  The narrow, one lane road took us into numerous rough cut tunnels through mountains and over lanes hanging on to ascending cliffs.  Surprisingly the roads were mostly paved as we wound up through deciduous and pine forests to high treeless and rocky valleys.  Small farming communities were clustered here and there with steepled churches, graveyards, and cows with full hanging udders lazily munching on unfenced green fields.

The real magnificence of Dumitor however is in its three breathtaking deep canyons and the sparkling wild and emerald rivers that flow through them.  The deepest canyon in Europe, 4,250 feet snaked its way through the valley as we stood high above on a cliff.  By the time we reached the border where Montenegro and Bosnia meet, it was late afternoon, and we were now looking for a quick drive on the main road to Saraevjo.  

Well, not exactly a quick drive.  The border crossing was slow but quicker than it was getting out of Croatia.  It was the 28 kilometer detour on an unpaved road over a mountain and around a ridge that really slowed us down.  Apparently, the main road to Saraevjo suffered some damage in an afternoon rain storm the day before.  The signage was basically a big arrow next to the closed road pointing to a dirt road with no indication where we were going.  Fortunately, the family in front of us (from Sarevjo returning home) talked to someone along the way to clarify directions, and we blindly followed behind him, eating his dust the whole way.

We reached Saraevjo late in the day, tired and dust covered,  as the last remnants of sunlight glowed on the red roofs.  Our accommodations for the night were not easy to find either, but we finally arrived.  Our  host in Saraevjo, is Oliver,...his place is called Olywood.  He is a remarkable fellow who has worked hard to build a new home high above Saraevjo, from where the Serbs held Saraejvo under seige.  Bombed out buildings still stand close by and many of the homes are still remnants of the war in Bosnia.  The view is spectacular.  To make ends meet in a country where  70% of the people are still unemployed, Oly can accommodate 12 tourists in bedrooms in his home, and some tents for car campers.

More on Saraevjo tomorrow.  

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's in Bosnia i Herzgovina.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Days 65-67, August 15-17, Montenegro

Friday, August 15 - Into Montenegro

Our plane left Prague at 1:30 pm and we touched down in Dubrovnik, Croatia and were in our rental car headed to the Croatia - Montenegro border by 4:00.  We are now out of the Schengen zone after 33 days.Our plan is to see Dubrovnik after our cirlce tour through Montengro, Boznia Hersgovina, and northern Croatia.  We didn't take into account that even though the distance beyond the border to our night's accommodation was short, it seemed everyone from Croatia was headed in the same direction for the weekend, and the border traffic was bumper to bumper and moving very slowly. I don't think the border oficials were very efficient.  There seemed to be some consternation over our rental car papers as the registration stamp was in the wrong place.  We alone held up traffic by 15 minutes as the the three people in the control room chatted back and forth scratching their heads looking annoyed.  Finally, they passed us through.

After being in the Schengen zone where there is no border control between countries, this was a real throwback, but we were happy to get some souvenier stamps in our passports.  The climate here was Mediterranean humid, with growing cloudiness over the mountains.  In fact while we were getting our rental car in Croatia, I photographed the formation of a funnel cloud and it was a bit scary as it was not far away, but for whatever reason it never touched down and was sucked up into the inky grey clouds as the storm passed by us.

We drove around a beautiful fjord on our way to Budva, where towering granite mountains dipped into the colbalt blue sea.  Wish we could have sailed our own boat here.  It looks quite protected now, but don't know if the water becomes more treacherous when winds funnel down from the mountain tops.  The subterranean surface is rocky so not sure how ground tackle would hold.  Nevertheless, it looks like a beautiful place to sail.

We arrived at our destination after 7:00, met our friendly host Dragan, ate at a nearby restaurant enjouing local food (lamb roast and grilled chicken with Serbian salads).  The temperature was warm all evening and we slept on top of the sheets, just as we did on our boat while in the tropics.  

Saturday, August 16

The following morning we marveled at the mountainous roads as we headed first south along the coast then up and over the granite passes.  The scenery lookind down on the villages sea, Lake Skadar, mounain farms, monestaries and churches hanging from the cliffs, were spectacular.

Our major stop of the day was at the Ostrag Monestary, the third most visited holy healing place for Catholic pilgrims.  The monestary is carved into a cliffside.  A road goes to the top, but the devout climb the stairs from the cliff bottom up.  The very devout climb the rocky stairs barefoot, and the most devout on their knees.  We noted a few barefoot people amongst the many stair climbers, and no one on their knees.  We were amongst the many cars driving up the hill to the last parking lot.  There was a gate with an English speaking guard that lead to the road and parking lot all the the way to the top.  When we toped to inquire, he said only infants and infirmed could go past the gate.  He would make an exception for us if we would be a good friend to him.  We were tempted but had used all of our Euros for lunch, so we parked in the parking lot for the not so devout and non-believers with and with one less good friend.

The monestary is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.  People were climbing to the top with empty containers to fill with holy water, and were camped out on the deck in front of the monastary hoping and praying for miracles to cure themselves or their loved ones.  A lot of improvements and construction was going on with 3 new holy water fountains.  Loud speakers in the deck court yard filled the air with chanting.  The holy retail store was doing a brisk business taking believers money for all of the holy goods they were selling....wine, olive oil, gilded photos and icons of various saints, but particularly of Saint Basil, whose remains are at this site.  

At many of the rental car places we have been in, there have been a little happy and unhappy face electronic surveys of "How was our service?".  Customers either push the happy face or unhappy face button.  Wonder what statistics the Catholic church gathers on the effectiveness of holy water and pilgrimages as a cure.  Would be very interested in knowing, but then if they knew, it might put a real damper on the miracle business.

After our day's drive through the granitee mountains, we arrived at a beautiful mountain lake, a reservoir constructed in the 1970's.  Our guest house had a nice view of the lake Pivsko, and we immediately, put on our swim suits and walked five minutes to the rocky shore.  The lake temp was about 74 and felt pretty brisk as the air temperature at 2400 feet was not as warm as when we were close to the sea.  Even though we were in in sunlight peaking out from passing clouds, dark ominous clouds were gathering on the mountain tops.

We ate our dinner at the guest house Zvono where we are staying.  Most interesting was our evening cocktail.  It was made with homemade honey mead wine, golden on the bottom with a red wine floating on top.  It was very picturesque ( but did not have my camera) and it was  a very tastey wine cooler.

Day 67 - We are about ready to leave Zvono Guesthouse and Restaurant and look forward to some more gorgeous scenery on our way to Saravejo.

All is Well with the Worrall Travel R's in Montenegro

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Days 62-64, August 12-14 - Prague, Czech 2014

We had read about and been told about the beauty of Prague, and it truly is a beautiful old European city, seemingly unscathed by the physical destruction of World War II. However, during Soviet times, we understand that this gem of a city tarnished and greyed as communism ate into its soul. There is a provocative memorial here to the human lives torn apart by totalitarianism.

Today, the city is colorful, vibrant and a tribute to human spirit and artistry.. Mid August the streets are filled with tourists from all around the world, and not because this is simply a disembarkation off a cruise ship (there are no cruise ships to the middle of the Czech Republic), but a mindful, planned destination of a major capitol city.

This is the old Bohemia with the spires of cathedrals, domes of churches, a magnificent gothic cathedral that took a thousand years of building, cobbled streets, red tiled roofs, palaces, and the largest castle complex in Europe, libraries, and bridges that span the Vltava (Weltawa) River. Commercial shops are filled with souvenirs, food, marionettes, amber and garnet jewelry, Bohemian cut glass and crystal, antique furniture, and interesting liquors including cannabis vodka.

At every turn there is interesting architecture of centuries passed, garden and street cafes, ice cream vendors, street musicians, and boxes of flowers hanging from windows. Churches throughout the city are the acoustic venues for classical organ concerts. The outdoor Senate stage provides numerous cultural shows throughout the summer.

We are on our way out of the city today to see the Karlstejn Castle built in early 1300's to house
royal treasures, holy relics,and Crown Jewels of Charles the IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roma Emperor.

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's in Prague, flying to Dubrovnik, Croatia tomorrow.