Monday, September 07, 2015

Family Gathering, Birthday Celebration, and Discovering Beautiful Montenegro

In June last year, all four sisters gathered in Montenegro to celebrate our youngest's 30th birthday. This was no mean feat, with the discussions and organising of this starting many months before.

Firstly we needed somewhere affordable for Katie, the birthday girl, to travel to and enjoy, given that she was living in London at the time, and was about to wrap up her time there. We also wanted somewhere none of us had been before - and here we settled for, and fell in love with, the beauty and surprise of Montenegro.

Further research had us book a house for the week planned, on the edge of the Bay of Kotor, in the tiny village of PrĨanj. Which was perfect, because with our hire cars we were close enough to explore the Bay, get into Kotor for supplies and sightseeing, but far enough away from the throes of tourists that seem to swarm every other day in the area.

The Bay of Kotor is stunning - a weirdly shaped body of crisp, clean, cool water, surrounded by the Alps, creates a quite, calm and still part of the world.

The little villages dotted around the bay each had local restaurants, many of which we walked to from our rented house, across the week. The food we sampled throughout the area was really good - squid ink dishes, arrays of local seafood, little dumplings

The water held much fascination - cold and refreshing for a dip, it also held the twinkles of the lights from Kotor each night, and we were in the perfect position to see the Old Wall lit up.

During the days the water was spectacular, taking in the views of the mountains. The wisps of clouds in the morning that would hang around for some time. The everyday goings on in the little villages - all so photogenic and worth taking the time to take it all in.

Our week was perfect, and meet all our needs and exceeded our expectations. Montenegro felt like such a travel find!

jouljet Notes
Serious tip: Go! Montenegro is one of the world's newest countries, and is affordable, has great food, and feels so fresh. It's beautiful!
Time spent: We spent a full week here, but included a couple of day trips - one across the border to Dubrovnik, one into Budva, and then another inland to the capital of Podgorica and one of the monasteries.
Cost: Our 5 bedroom house worked out to be $45 per night, per person.
Quirky tip: There are so many cute, run down buildings to check out and photograph. Actually, there are so many things to catch your eye - the boats, the water, the islands on the Bay of Kotor. Seriously stunning place!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Sarajevo Rose

The scars of a mortar shell filled with red resin, to mark the site where more than one person was killed during the Seige of Sarajevo. Powerful reminders dot the city streets.

This one was in a square, in front of a church. The bombs falling on the city were so many, and so destructive.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Black Beach, Red Beach Of Santorini

You'd be forgiven if you thought that the Greek Island of Santorini was all white-wash buildings and blue domes - because that is mostly the images you get as standard travel photos of this popular island.

Lots of the island is, of course, white buildings, blue church domes and church bells, bars and hotels, overlooking the caldera. But it is well worth the effort of heading to the other side of the island to check out the other gems of this volcanic rock. You will get away from some of the crowds, and it will also let you see everyday life going on by the little winding roads you need to take to trek across to see the other colours.

The black beach was the first of the two surprise colourations of sand I visited. Kamari was a feast for my eyes, after all the typical and expected colours of the rest of the island.

The volcanic pebble reminded me of walking on a beach in the UK - but these were hot! Of course, as black absorbs the sunlight!

This beach was a delight to visit, with the deckchairs all along the edge of the water, plus a promenade full of restaurants and shops, to allow you to make a day of it. There was also a regular boat that would take you around the mountain you could see, via the sea, to the other Black beach.

The other colour that is worth making the drive down to see is the Red Beach. Again, a force of the minerals of the island, the contrast of red cliffs and stones, and resultant beach, is pretty spectacular!

This one was not as easy to get to, and required a little bit of a hike up and down a slope to get in there once I found the right road and double checked that the nondescript carpark was indeed for the Red Beach.

This, of course, and the fact that it is toward the South-West tip of the island, means that there are even fewer people crowding your view and access to the water.

There is more to Santorini, if you go deeper afield on the island and look for it!

jouljet Notes
Serious Tip: Take the chance to see some more of Santorini, away from the tourist areas. This island has a thriving community away from the busy hospitality spots, and the people are seriously so friendly!
Time Taken: I spend most of an afternoon relaxing and taking in the Black Beach, but I also just stayed on that one beach - there is another one to explore if you want more black sand! Getting to the Red Beach from the car park took around 15 minutes on foot.
Cost: The bus from where I stayed in the centre of the island of Santorini to the Black Beach was less than 3 Euro. To get to the Red Beach I ended up hiring a car, due to timing on my last day - which was around 40 Euro, and allowed me to explore other spots in the area at a whim.
Quirky Tip: Down near the Red Beach on the island there is also an archaeological site, which was worth going into to see the relics.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Human Rights And Arts Festival 2015: Melbourne

This year's Human Rights Arts And Film Festival back in May served up many thought-provoking moments, and glimpses into the incredibly tough journeys many of our fellow man, and women, experience around the world.

Wolfskinder is about the forgotten children of World War II. The "Wolf Children" are the German children - orphans or displaced - who are walking, fleeing, and trying to find safety, through the country-side, through forests. In hiding, alone, and scared.
Facing things children should not have to face, and working out through each day how to survive.
It's clear, as the story continues, that other children are the only people that will help these children along the way. Adults either come to shot at the children, or are suspicious of them and wary of sharing any food they may have. The cobbled group of children that the film follows, which is ever changing and circumstances and tragedy hits, carry each other, find and share food for each other, keep watch as the others sleep.
Heartbreaking, and real. A tragedy of war not often focused on.

Breakfast Sessions were a new forum aspect of the Festival this year, and I attended the one on Refugees: An International Perspective. A panel of 4 experts in the area, including Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre and Rebecca Eckard from the Refugee Council, spoke about the lack of learning Australia takes from reviews of other countries, and of course talked about Australia's current policies of arbitrary, indefinite detention on and offshore.
This was paired with stories and scenarios from across the globe, and how other nations deal with refugees. The humanitarian efforts, and the sheer numbers some small nations are taking in, and providing safety to.
The Rohingya situation at sea at the time was highlighted in many examples, being the most persecuted minority in the world today, and a stunning fact that Australia had not settled any Rohingyan refugees for many, many years, was the stark reality of our current inhumanity in our dealings wit the refugee world issue. In addition to the future refugee crisis of climate change and it's impact on communities
The situation in Nauru was discussed. with the point about their dismantled law, and Australia's role of staying silence in the governance of this island nation, for their own political gains.

Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock 'n' Roll was an incredible and painful look at the music of pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. Vibrant, experimental, blues and jazz influenced rock, music scene, with such interesting characters and impressive instrumentation. So many of these stars were killed during the genocide, and with them, the musical scene that filled the bars and lounges of Phnom Penh. Tragic. A must view for anyone interested in the history of Cambodia, and also of music movements.

Transporting a full cinema of school aged kids for the CineSeeds screening of Bekas, which means 'those without family', to Kurdish Iraq at the time of Saddam Hussein rule. Inspired by a stolen glimpse of American cinema through a window, these boys gather the hope of making it over the far away hill, and to safety and a new life in America, with Superman. Kids doing kid things, having kid dreams and fantasy, as the tragic circumstances of their existence force a harsh reality onto their daily lives.

Lastly, I saw Slums: Cities Of Tomorrow, which also included a really interesting Q and A afterward. This is a documentary about the world's slums, and a look at the industry and the misery, the life and living, of these areas. Communities featured included the places that come to mind, like India and Middle East areas such as Morocco and Turkey. But it also featured the fascinating insight into people in New Jersey and Quebec, and the difficulties of the long-term homeless in Western society.

The Q and A highlighted some interesting reflections around sustainability of living, such as recycling, and living very simply, but also spoke about how the world at present has seemed to lost our way, in a community sense, in our constant strive for materialistic things, for that connectedness to the people around us, our neighbours and direct community, within our living spaces. We live in such a rush, we pass by these opportunities, that this film certainly highlighted as a means of survival for so many people.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sarajevo Tram Scene

The trams rambling around the streets of Sarajevo add to the city's charm. The network is actually one of the oldest in Europe because it was the test system for Vienna's trams.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Grand Building In The Heart Of Sarajevo

Old buildings like this line many of the main streets in Sarajevo. They have clearly been standing for such a long time - imagine what stories they hold.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Fountain At Pigeon Square

At the end of the coppersmith alley, in the Sarajevo Turkish quarter, is this little square with this ornate drinking fountain. The fountain was built in 1891, incredibly. The flocks of pigeons have probably been hanging around since then too!

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