Friday 18th of June
We left the Black Sea on a cloudy morning after doing the washing, drove on into Istanbul via the motorway stopping briefly at an outlet centre for lunch and to look at the goodies, and then on into the city by motorway, over the Bosporus Bridge getting into the city at 4:30 PM.
Yes, we should not have done the washing nor should we have stopped at the outlet centre and perhaps getting their two hours earlier may have avoided the five o'clock rush that we struck the 20 km as we moved across the city, by motorway, to a campground.
Very interesting driving across the city observing how the Turkish drivers made three lanes out of two, how they eased into the flowing traffic without creating chaos, how they stopped on the side of the road in busy traffic without creating a large accident, how the water bottle vendor's stood in the middle of the motorway with traffic going either side of them to sell small bottles of water, this was not just one person that many over the 21km area.
For all of the bad driving and the breaking of every rule that we were aware of, we saw no accidents and considering we drove across a city of over 10 million I think we did very well.
After a little bit of searching we found the campground we stayed at last year which is right by the sea with a beautiful beach, this time we recorded the location into our GPS and the GPS cordinance are North 41° 04.360, East 28° 09.650.
As we travel through Turkey the one thing you cannot help noticing is the Turkish flag flying almost everywhere, the only other country that I've seen flying their country's flag as much has been USA.
We have being told that there is parking for a motorhome in Istanbul near a lighthouse. The GPS cordinance we're being given are N 41° 00. 126: E 28° 58. 599. That this places you in the middle of the Bosporus so the cordinance must be wrong!
Sunday 20th of June
We rested up at the Semizum campground for a couple of days and why we were there we had a good conversation with a couple that have driven their four wheel drive expedition offroad motorhome, this is a monstrous motorhome built on a truck chassis and probably weighs in at about 9 tonnes. They are from Holland and 11 months ago they shipped their motorhome to South Africa had travelled right through Africa, by themselves, and when we saw them in Turkey are on their way back to Holland to start thinking about their next overland travel.
So this morning we left the campground, first for Bulgaria and after about 20 km I realised we'd have to buy a motorway vedette and whilst that is not a problem, it could be if they wise up to the weight of the motorhome in that case I'd have to pay in excess of 100 Euro, carry a motorway machine in the motorhome, and then try and organise a refund as I leave the country. Now this has not happened to me than it has happen to somebody else and I just don't need that sort of hassle today.
So we turned around and drove to the Greek border, paid my speeding ticket as I went through the Turkish border, and then we drove on to the beach area of Platanitis in the Marónia area. So we are 10 m from the sea and were making the most of it because tomorrow we head towards Serbia and I'm not sure we will be this close to the sea again for awhile.
Monday 21st of June
Today we started our journey towards Montenegro but instead of going on the motorways down near the coast which we had fully explored on the way to Turkey I decided to try and travel route through the mountains in what I could call central Greece. Our destination today was a city called Drama, and that word basically sums up our experiences try to get there today.
We left the beach and headed to the city of Komotiní and then got on the motorway which took us directly to Xánthi, we were due to turn right but a few yards further on was a "Lidl" a German supermarket so we pulled into there to replenish supplies and then when we came out the GPS took us through the centre of town to put us back on our route, and this led us into some very narrow streets that are in the rabbit warren series of streets in old European towns, we manage them all even though some were just wider than the motorhome, until we came to one house that had built a second story and had put supports on the side of the ground floor and had narrowed the road down so that there was no way we could get through.
As we were going up the hill at this time, it was quite easy to back down the hill and turn round and one of the side streets and go back the way we came, all the time looking for an outlet to a main road which we eventually found, and all the time the GPS was trying to send this back into the rabbit warren so in the end we just gave up and reprogrammed the GPS to take us to a village called Lekáni which was on the route to Drama.
Now some may question the value of the GPS with all the problems we appear to be having, but they are just a fraction of the problems we be having trying to follow a map which like the GPS probably does not have all the roads that you travel listed. Often we are driving over a new road and the GPS is just lost because the road is too new, also too new to be shown on any of the maps we have and then you have to rely on road signs which are good if you are in the tourist area because they will be in English as well as Greek, but if you are way we were today you better learn Greek very fast.
Well the road to the next destination took us through the hills and there was a warning in English that there were extreme curves for the next 17 km, that was no problem, so we went through the one horse town that was our destination and then on to the next town towards Drama, and the road reduced down to one 1/4 lanes, which again was no problem, and then the road changed into a rough rock covered road which looked like it would present no problems but after about six kilometres we gave up..... and went back to the town and followed another road that led us back towards the coast where we meet up with a road that looks substantial on the map that would take us to Drama.
We saw another friendly turtle on the way, and it felt the vibrations of the car, so pulled its self into its house, which I thought would be not much use if a car ran over it, this is where the faster moving animals have a distinct advantage.
We were quite relieved when we found a large parking area about 8 km out of Kaválla we will spend the night.
Tuesday 22nd of June
We carried on the drama to Drama we have a little bit of drama on the way and so much as it rained from the parking lot until we got about 20 km the other side of Drama good clean motorways all the way however the wet weather coupled with the high speed of the Greek drivers must have been too much for one driver whose car we saw off on the left-hand side of the road parked up a bank, he was out on the road so he'd come to no harm, did not want a lift anywhere so we drove on our way to the next destination of Sérrai were we photographed an old Byzantine monastery and Castle along with a rather delightful new Orthodox Church.
Before we got to all this we had to gain experience the centre of a small city and its chaotic parking, a one-way road in Greece means you can double park with ease and let the traffic worry about self, Luda had to guide me past three badly double parked cars with a few centimetres available on each side.
We then drove on towards the Macedonian border along the edge of the Bulgarian border until we reached Lake Kerkini which is evidently known for its birdlife, so here we are parking near to the lake with all the birds all around us and we're now waiting for the sun set to see if we get any magical moments.
Wednesday, 23 June
We left our delightful campsite on the edge of the lake and the bird sanctuary and headed off towards Macedonia. It was only 43 km away and we seem to cover that in record speed because all of a sudden there we were at the border, a very small border crossing so we let Greece with no problems and when we arrived at the Macedonian border Luda discovered she could read the Macedonian Cyrillic script writing which hopefully may prove useful.
Macedonia is one 10th the size of New Zealand, which makes it about the size of Sicily, has about 2 million people with 81 people per square kilometre.
The tom-tom GPS had no map for Macedonia however when we got to the main road we discovered there was a road on the Albanian map which led directly to the capital city of Albania.
With no maps we started stopping at service stations and on the fourth service station I managed to find for maps of the Balkans area which I snapped up paying them it in Euros.
The next step was to get some Macedonian money, which we could've done at the border town where we saw a bankamat, but when you're dealing with a strange currency you have no idea what they're unit of currency is worth like when I was first in Bulgaria I ended up with a note of their currency that had a value of 1,000,000, which the following year they removed six zeros from their currency.
When I bought the maps I found out that one euro equalled 60 of their units so for the next three cities I try to find a bankamat, and whenever I could find parking there were no bankamat's within a kilometre, and of course whenever we saw a bankamat the only parking available was if I triple parked!
Once we crossed the border we stayed on the one road (there was no other) until we reached the main road and then we passed through the town of Valandovo and then we got on the main expressway that would have taken us right through to Skopje 124 km away, but when we reached Gradsko we turned off the expressway to drive towards Albania, now the tom-tom could guide us!
We were heading towards Ohrid or Struga which were on Lake Skadasko which the Albanian border ran through the centre of, however when we reached Resen we turned off towards Lake Prespes to a village called Pretor which is just a few kilometres from the Greek and Albanian borders.
The countryside were being passing through today in Macedonia appears to be mostly planted in grapevines but we passed through a village called Rosoman which must have been a fruit growing area because we saw pallets and pallets of fruit being shifted about on tractors, being packed onto trucks, and the sale on the roadside. There was also magnificent tomatoes the sale so it looked like a good fruit and vegetable growing area. One of the roads we were on we saw a sign that indicated it was a wine Trail for 50 km but no other signs to entice you anywhere so they have a little bit to learn from that aspect.
The countryside looks fairly poor and a lot of the houses we saw were not exactly modern, but we did see some beautiful new houses so there are a few people here with money. A lot of the towns we went through looked a lot like some of the Russian towns in the type of shops and apartments and general appearance. We saw quite a few large empty buildings where it would appear as if that enterprise had failed, again with the breakup of Yugoslavia could have been responsible.
Round the lake that we are camped beside we saw quite a few campsites which appeared to be left over from socialist times when these campsites were available to the masses for very little money, these campsites and now closed!
The driving and parking is very similar to Greece, this evening the car ahead of me, stopped, blocking the road, while the driver got out to shake hands and chat with his friend, then he came back, got in his car and cleared the road, and I guess went back to carry on his conversation! It's a different pace of life in this part of the world.
Thursday 24th of June
We carried on through this country of lakes and rivers to the next Lake, Lake Ohrid in the city that has the same name. The city of Ohrid has been a lived in town for 2400 years was also known as the Balkan Jerusalem perhaps because at one stage it had 365 churches. The town is at an altitude of 695 m and the lake is considered to be Europe's oldest lake and amongst the oldest in the world.
There's naturally, with the city being so old, a lot of archaeological sites from over the last 2000 years.
We walked through the old town and photographed a lot of the old archaeological sites, the quaint streets, an interesting looking houses. We were lucky finding a large car park on the waterfront which allowed us to wander around without any worries. Once we were satisfied with what we had seen of Ohrid we went down the edge of the lake towards Albania and visited two monastery's almost on the border and then went back to the village of Pestani where we found a campsite on the edge of the lake. The first campsite we tried at Ljubanista was expecting 7500 visitors over the next three days for what I assume will be some sort of rock concert and fortunately they would not let us enter the campsite.
Friday 25th of June
While we were in Ohrid we bought some books on Macedonia and discovered we had passed by an ancient archaeological site at Bitola so today we decided to drive to 70 km back to have a look at it and just hope it was worth the extra 140 K. The ancient city was called Hereclea and was at the foot of Baba mountain and dated from the fourth century BC. It had two beautiful mosaics are very well preserved theatre that had been partly restored, but of course the real fun was finding the place with the lack of road signs directing is towards the site. However with the aid of a petrol station and a taxi driver we eventually found it without any further trouble.
Then it was the drive back and on the way back we stopped at the sign of a old church to find it had disappeared and there was a very small building that perhaps a cat could enter, who knows what happened to the original.
After passing Ohrid for the third time we stopped and looked at the cave church of St Erasmus, that was the first cave that was converted into a church and the 13th century, in this area and since then the church has been reconstructed many times. St Erasmus is said to have converted the local population to Christianity in the third century and this church was named after him.
So we carried on to the next destination around the lake city called Struga and again finding the way to the city from the motorway was not easy when eventually found a road that was one and quarter lanes wide, as rough as hell but there was a road sign that directed us towards a motor camp so decided to stay there for the next couple of days.
It was a course on the lake and we discovered it had been built in 1977 and I don't think he had any improvements or real maintenance since that date. And evidently was purchased by one of the new rich Macedonians 12 months ago and they have started bringing it up to scratch. It has 150 old static caravans, three very good toilet blocks, again in need of update, a very large restaurant in fact everything to cater for 1000 people in a weekend that they expect to start arriving from 1 July till September.
The obviously have two prices one for the locals and one for the tourists, because as we checked in and told me the price in euros but had difficulty in working out the price in the local currency which I felt told it all.
Saturday 26th of June
We read in the new guidebooks we had purchased of some interesting Cave Churches in the village of Radozda which was a kilometre away so we walked through to the village, found two churches, built in the 14th century one just an altar and the other quite elaborate high up in the cliff with a church inside and another door to the living quarters of monks as early as the 12th century.
Sunday 27th of June
Today we caught the bus into Struga walked around the small city, with several mosques, and Orthodox churches, observed the water flowing out of lake Ohrid forming the Black Drim River which eventually flows out into the Adriatic Sea, is very impressive volume of water flowing out of the lake and makes you realise just how many springs are flowing into the lake and the volume of water from them.
The cost is 80 dram for the bus into the city and as it was starting to rain when we are getting ready to return and we weren't sure quite where the bus left from we decided to get a taxi, asked the price and were told €10, said we had no Euro on us so what is the local money and he told us 300 dram which equalled €5 so the taxi driver better get himself a calculator before the tourists start arriving in this area.
It looks like the summer season has started at the campsite because people have started arriving with their suitcases so in a couple weeks time at all be probably unpleasant with the volume of people milling around the campsite.
Monday 28 June
Well we left the 1977 camp, and started heading north in line with the Albanian border, around Debar we passed a large artificial lake created by a dam on the River, the same river that we saw flowing out of lake Ohrid yesterday, we carried on up the main road passing several other lakes, most of the time driving through one gorge after the other, it's interesting they still have no photography signs up around the dam's, they are a little bit out of date with what the satellites now can do.
A roundabout Rostusa in the Mavrovo National Park we visited the monastery of St John Bigorski that was established in 1920 by the monk John of Debar, is dedicated to John the Baptist and has an extremely beautiful interior with incredible carving and beautiful icons.
A lot of the drive today was around 1200 m elevation is rather interesting seeing the lakes at this elevation.
We are now on the motorway towards Tetovo and we will do a right hand turn to carry on to Skopje
Tuesday 29 June
We carried on the Road to Skopje but our first stop off was at Tetovo where we visited a 15th century mosque unlike any others were seen on any of our travels. Whilst we'll been seeing lots of Muslim mosques right throughout our travels through Macedonia this was the first city we felt was a real Muslim city. Whilst the Moslems make up only 23% of the population you certainly get the impression, with all of the mosques you see, that they represent a much larger percentage of the population.
We then went on to Matka to look at a 14th century church and the power station that was there to take advantage of the lake. The canyon and the cliffs that we could see from the footpath were really impressive.
It was then on into the city of Skopje to look for Markos monastery and of course it was just too much to expect any street signs, or even any signs announcing what village you were going into, and that it almost looks like every signpost, if they ever existed, had been removed to help the tourists!
So we wandered around the streets heading in a southerly direction, and the road started getting narrower and narrower, and of course with that we had the surface of the road so that we are running over some of the roughest roads we had seen, and then it is down to one lane, but by keeping on asking the population where the monastery was, again pointed in the correct direction, which was the way we were going, we eventually ended up their and a very large car park where because of the rain we decided to have lunch and when the rain went off we went off in to look at the woman's monastery, as it turned out to be, but of course we were not allowed to take photographs inside the church, but at least we have our memories.
That's all very well to know where you are on the map, yes we were at the monastery! So we drove back down the road we had come on and then turned right on a new road, which led us to a better road, but nowhere were there any signs. Eventually we came to a road that signalled it was a bypass so we followed that as far as we could and again we end up on a road that was one lane and by asking questions again we carried on that road for another 4 km and ended up on one of the main motorways where we were able to move in the direction of Belgrade, but get off at the signpost pointing towards Kriva Palanka and the road that would eventually lead us to Bulgaria.
Then there was a 11th century Orthodox Church of St George, to look at in the village of Nagoricane, again we were led to there, because of the lack of signs, by two guys on motor scooter who took us right to the church, and whilst we were parked outside a guy appeared with the keys to the door and showed us inside to open a magnificent rich view of icons and frescoes.
We carried on the M2 East until we came to a service station with a very large parking area for trucks which is where we are at the moment right beside a large collection of chooks who I'm sure we'll hear of in the morning.
Wednesday 30th of June
Today we drove towards the Bulgarian border stopping first at Kratovo the city that was believed to have been established by an ancient colony of miners in the sixth century BC. The name suggest that city was built in the crater of an extinguished volcano and it boasts a unique architecture with amphitheatrically positioned houses, with elegant mediaeval bridges connecting the banks of the Tabackka River.
We looked for the city of stone on the way back to the main highway, but were told that the bridge over the River to the location some 5 km away would not hold the motorhome so we thought we would spare the bridge for the day.
The next stop some 17 km from the Bulgarian border was the monastery of St Joachim of Osogovo which was a drive about 5 km up into the mountains on a narrow road of course, and the 12th century monastery complex consisting of two temples and all the appropriate frescoes and icons was well worth the drive.
It's been quite interesting as we wandered across this country to observe the extremes in simple things like cutting the grass on the edge of the road, most time is done by a man with a scythe and you see them carrying the scythe to and from work on a bicycle, on the back of the scooter, holding it out the passenger's window of a car and of course over their shoulder as they walked down the road. Other times occasionally you see the grass on the side of the road being cut by a weed eater.
The extremes are all so obvious in the countryside where the scythe is often used for cutting hay on one farm and mechanised on the farm beside it.
When occasionally you do see road signs on the side of the road sometimes they are in good condition other times they are so faded that it is almost impossible to work out what they are pointing towards.
We are seeing a tremendous amount of old buildings as we drive through the country and a surprising amount of houses built out of adobe (mud brick) which have obviously stood the test of time and only now are some of them collapsing.
We saw an interesting bridge today half finished, spanning a valley with some of the pillars possibly 60 m high, and the bridge has not made it halfway across, and I presume this is the collapse of the union of Yugoslavia, the same applies to a lot of new buildings, sometimes just the concrete framework has been put up, with the bricks to follow, sometimes the bricks have been filled in on two of the three stories, and they are being lived in there in all sorts of conditions we see as we wander through the country.
And then of course there are all of the empty buildings, the old factories that are no longer being used are the most obvious.
Thursday, 1 July
We drove the few kilometres to pass over the border into Serbia, Lula was delighted with the Cyrillic alphabet showing up at the border, whilst she can not understand the spoken Serbian language, she can read the Cyrillic script and understand what the word is, which is a great help when you get right out in the country where they don't expect to see tourists.
There was no problems leaving Macedonia, and any problem going into Serbia was when the customs guy tried to speak to me in German, I said English, he said motor German, I said yes, I am English, so he gave up and waved me through.
I changed some of my Macedonian money into Serb, they weren't interested in the Turkish, I should have changed some euros into it as well as the rest of the afternoon we had our eyes peeled for a bankamat.
We headed on the main road to Belgrade but decided to leave the motorway and get into the countryside so we turned off the motorway at Vladicin Han and drove in the direction of Vucadelce and then did a left-hand turn towards Pirot and when we arrived in that city we found plenty of Bankamat's Of course the biggest problem is tried a work out how much you want with all the zeros on the money. We then found a supermarket and it was back on the road towards Nis, and about Vrgudinac we found a truck stop and have parked up in it for the night, with the railway line right behind us.
Serbia is basically a very hilly country, twice the size of Macedonia, 20% the size of New Zealand, twice the density of population of Macedonia, the very high unemployment levels are very obvious when you go through the villages like we did today, you see the men sitting in the cafe's drinking beer, it appears the sufficient money for that and spite of the people in the villages living below the poverty line, I presume this is in dollar terms because at least in the village you got to grow your own food.
As we drove through the villages there was obviously not a lot of money about, the housing was usually very old, and again I saw a lot of adobe bricks in the construction, often you saw a weave of sticks making up the walls with mud filling in the spaces and of course originally that would have been whitewashed over, but most of that has disappeared.
Again we saw a few new houses at various levels of construction and one we noticed had no windows or doors but people were living in it.
Friday 2nd July
We carried on the E 80 which was the main road through to Sofia, Bulgaria, and probably the fastest way to Turkey. Like yesterday we passed a continual stream of large European cars heading south with Dutch, German, Austrian, Belgium and goodness knows what else numberplates. They were travelling in groups so we might see for German cars and then for Dutch cars. Looking at the occupants they had the appearance of being Turkish, while they weren't the blonde German or Dutch, so I presume it's the immigrants from these countries going back home with their children to see their grandparents.
I certainly would not like to be on the border of Turkey trying to enter Turkey with all of these people doing the same. It was a continual stream and did not let up at all, which gives the writer, who has no real understanding of how many Turkish people there are in these European countries, a little bit of an idea as to, what must be, a vast number.
We carried on the road towards Nis and then did a right-hand turn and headed towards the city of Zajecar, and just after the village of Minievo we saw a sign to an 11th century monastery 5 1/2 km up a one-way road, was heading into the foot Hills which were clouded with black clouds and the occasional bolt of lightning, but we did not get that worry us, nor did we let the large four-wheel drive truck took up the whole roadway worry us, we just edged by it closely, hoping the weed covered edge of the road was as substantial as it looked.
I must say the monastery was one will best signposted monastery is we have found and there was a small car park in which we managed to turn round and left the motorhome there whilst we walked inside to look at the Church. It is quite a large church built very high with beautiful frescoes on the ceiling and of course no photography allowed. A young girl of about 18 unlocked the door to let us in, and whilst all of the signs said monastery, I am personally of the opinion that it was just a large church with the priest's house next door to it, and the young girl was probably the daughter.
Just as we were leaving the church to return to the motorhome the skies opened and fortunately I had a umbrella with me.
So was back down the road with fortunately no trucks blocking the way, and like yesterday we found ourselves driving through these little villages, and sometimes larger towns, none of which had the Western affluence one sees throughout Europe but more of the provincial Russian towns.
We saw slight traces of the army presence and we had the impression that the army was not as large as it once was due to what we took as abandoned army camps.
We are still seeing the casual approach by pedestrians to the traffic with people wandering over the road, standing talking in the middle of the road, sitting on the edge of the road, children lying down on the edge of the road, it is as if they are totally confident that none of the traffic will hit them, this confidence seems to carry on over when they get in behind the steering wheel, has a lot of the drivers come around the bend on the wrong side so it is a matter of "Tourists Beware".
Just before we got to the city of Zajecar we did a left-hand turn towards Gamzigrad which is an old fourth century castle complex that is in the process of being archaeologically investigated, it was really in quite good condition, we did note they had received a donation from Germany, which possibly accounts for the reasonable amount of activity we observed.
Saturday, 3 July
We left the parking site of the Roman fortress and drove in a large circle of 310 km in 10 hours with Parain on one edge and Bor on another, in doing so we drove into the hills and passed through a lot of real Serbian villages.
We saw everything that one expects to see in a country that has been in a time warp for 60 years and again all the villages and towns really could have been this anywhere in the Eastern bloc.
As well as all the interesting villages we saw a new monastery for women, a 11th century monastery that had been rebuilt in the centre of the old ruins, a woman's monastery in the centre of what I would have to describe as a castle, and of course several churches.
In the middle of going through some of the hilliest country we came across some no photography signs and a few hundred metres on we are at a military camp with about 12 impressive looking tanks and lots of trucks, I wondered most of the day, what does a tank cost these days, because I was sure there is looking at a very impressive investment in this one little hillside military camp.
The roads today were just the normal, from motorway down to one lane, from beautiful tar seal to rough shingle, all of the type the roads you would expect when driving through villages in the heart of Serbia.
Again in Serbia our tom-tom is useless as the main roads only and if you get off one of the main roads you are on your own. This is the way it was most of today, and many times we stopped and asked directions, and everybody was extremely helpful. Luda did all of the asking because a lot of the Serbian words are very close to Russian salute was able to understand some of the basic instructions, and I was able to understand her translation of them into English.
Of course a lot of the villages had no signs at the start or at the end, so he had no idea where you were on the map, and often if you asked where does this road go, they'll ask you, where do you want to go? Eventually however everything would be resolved and you find out that you are miles away from where you thought you should be, but it is all new sights so has nothing to get worried about.
Was getting a little bit late when we got back on to the main road but I thought we would carry on to the lake where there was a motor camp. We wound our way down the mountain and right where the map said there should be, then it was a motor camp, not just any old motor camp, but a beautiful Soviet System motor camp, it was full of people walking about, row after row of permanent mounted caravans, one space available for off the Road traffic, and the space was unlevel, but not as bad as the road leading in to the space which had massive erosion, and if left untouched, could become the Serbian Grand Canyon!
We decided we could do better than this so we got back on the road around the lake and a little bit further on there must have been some sort of Saturday night activity, perhaps a rock concert or something to do with motorbikes, because there were hundreds of motorbikes about, one came within millimetres of a serious accident with myself, of course he like most of the others were not wearing crash helmets, and of course the ones not wearing crash helmets were going the fastest, often with the girl on the back, with the wind rushing through their hair, it must be great to be young and invincible!
We carried on around the lake, looking for a spot to stop, but it was continual traffic from the nearby city of Bor, so it must have been a major event happening, so we just carried on to Bor finding nothing that would do for the night, into the city, obtain some more Serbian money from the bankamat, and then we started heading towards our next location, and looking at our AutoRoute computer map, we saw we were about 20 km from last nights camping spot, so we carried on in that direction looking for something else but eventually ended back when we started this morning.
Sunday, 4 June
Today we took the Serbian M 25 N. to the Romanian border and then stayed on the Serbian side following the Danube River run along the border for at least 200 km and we decided to stop for the night on a bit of waste ground just off the road. If we carried on this road we would end up in Belgrade in about 100 km or so.
No interesting villages today, they are not on these main roads, however once we reach the Danube then we started driving through the beautiful gorge has been carved out of solid rock by the river, we seem to be stopping very frequently to get interesting photos of the Romanian side of the border and of the gorge itself.
We found a campground on the edge of the Danube River, it, in actual fact looked more like a lake. It was a French motorhome there when we arrived, of course they could not speak English, and of course the owners of the motor camp, whoever they were could not speak English but were happy for us to stay, and found that some electricity.
For the rest of the afternoon cars were coming and going, children were screaming, and then had about 8 PM we had a knock on the door and a young guy with a little bit of English wanted to collect some money, asked me how many nights, I said one or two, he asked, would I pay for one now he asked, I said yes and it worked out at 750 dinar or about €7.5, so we were happy with that.
The next morning the French departed, and so did everybody else and we were there by ourselves and a guy arrived on a scooter with his bed, chair and tent all packed on the scooter, he was probably in his 60s and had had a stroke so was handicapped a little bit, but that did not stop them from putting the tent up by himself, pulling up his bed and getting himself totally organised for the night.
We had a leisurely day, two others arrived on bicycles but there was no one there to greet them so they moved on, and that no one from management arrived all day, or night.
Was a rather nice little camp, not one from Soviet times but more recent, which of course is a disadvantage because at least the Soviet time motorcamp's at least have a built in clientele with all of their static caravans. I think there is a good opportunity there for a younger person with a little bit of money to move into Eastern Europe, or in this particular case Serbia, and modernise the motor camp and then set about attracting Europeans to the country.
Tuesday 6th July
Well it is a rather good motor camp, you pay for one night and get the second one free, or that's what happened to us, because no body came to collect their money.
We set off again on our northern route and today we crossed over the Danube at Smederevo, the bridge in this location was 2 km long and then we drove on towards the Romanian border to the city of Bela Crkva, the landscape has now flattened out and were in the plains of Serbia where they grow all of their food, even the houses in the villages have moved up several notches in quality and we are now seeing more orthodox churches and the ones we're seeing are more grandiose, which of course makes for better photos.
We probably will not spend a great deal of time on the plains of Serbia, let's face it one wheat field is much the same as the other along with all of the other crops look the same in every situation.
We drove on until about the village of Plandiste we were found a restaurant, a little bit off the road, so we decided to have dinner there tonight to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and will stay the night in their parking lot, of course in the motorhome ?
Wednesday, 7 July
Today we carried on North passing through Zrenjanin where we replenished our supplies and we have stopped our driving north on Serbia at the village of Backa Topola where we are parked in the parking area of a disused factory.
Today's scenery was a continuation of the plains with crops of wheat, corn, sunflowers with the wheat being a crop that is being currently harvested. We saw many combine harvesters working in the fields and the skyline, today, was one of many grain silos one after the other. A lot of the wheat fields were quite small, and of course on the other hand there was some way you could not see where they started and where they finished.
There were one or two new harvesters but in all the majority of them were I would guess at least 10 years old, perhaps older.
We of course did pass by at least two monastery's and numerous palaces that were marked on the map but of course the map was not of sufficient scale to find the palaces if indeed they still exist. We also crossed over a canal that ran between the Danube and Tisa Rivers the purpose of which one would need to search the Internet to discover if you are so interested.
We saw a lot of old buildings which had the look of being part of a commune which had possibly failed at least 20 years ago.
Thursday, 8 July
Today we pointed the motorhome's nose south and ended up on a very rough concrete road so we were pleased to see a turn off to the Tollway after about 10 km so we cruised down the Tollway that was subject to massive reconstruction, which fortunately did not affect us, and then got off at the city of Novi Sad where we went for a wander through the old city and drove around the fortress which evidently had some sort of rock concert taking place, and then we drove around the outskirts of the city looking at the little villages, their monastery's and palaces.
We then went on to Sremski Karlovcia a town that is the cultural centre of Serbian culture from the early 17th century. There are four churches built in the 1700s, a town hall and the Museum, (formerly the house of the Rajacic family) built in the 1800s and many other family houses and public buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
That night were parked in the car park of a woman's monastery in the country.
Friday 9th of July
Today we carried on our travel south driving to the motorway in driving south stopping at the petrol station's on the motorway to check if they had WiFi, on the third station we got a connection and so I sent out last newsletter, we clear our e-mails for the first time in about three weeks, and then we carried on south through Belgrade turning off to the right hand side about 40 km outside Belgrade with the intention of driving down the left-hand side of Serbia through the mountains, a noble thought.
First of all once we got off the motorway we had no GPS, so were back to the maps with the best one being 1 to 400,000 which of course gives you a general indication providing the signposts are good, but of course they are not, so we ended up going in a gigantic circle which let us No- where and in the end I decided to hang with that part of Serbia and will head back to the motorway to travel south to Kosovo.
So we set out site on the town of Topola where their is supposed to be an old monastery, we follow the signposts and found nothing, so we turned around and came back and found a Maxi grocery shop, we have shopped at one of these before and found them good, and in this case they had a large car park which we have dropped out anchors in for the evening.
I decided to buy 12 bottles of Serbian wine, most of the wine in New Zealand originally came from the cellars of people from the old Yugoslavia, a lot of them of course were from Croatia so time will tell if I have made a mistake with the wine.
Our total purchase came to about €57, our last purchase had Maxi was €45 in both cases we were given a present for spending so much money at one time. Back home if we get away from the supermarket under €120 I consider myself extremely fortunate, goodness knows what sort of present I get the spending that much money here in Serbia. It is also a pretty good indication as to the amount of money the average person spends when they go to the supermarket, and another indication was today we bought a kilo of apricots which were at least one third of what they would have cost in New Zealand.
So it definitely looks like the cost of living in this country would be a very attractive.
We saw a couple of monastery's in our wanderings today, a brand-new one built, it would appear, with cost as no object and beside it, a beautiful new large house which one would assume would be for the priest. The other monastery was a 15th century one which had been totally restored, a four-storey building with the church portion totally empty, no icon no nothing, is being reconstructed as money becomes available so I think in five years time it will be well worthwhile looking at. The interesting thing was this very, very large building was occupied solely by two Monks and the Road to the monastery was made from crushed rock which was rather interesting to drive up!
We passed through two villages, let's call them town's with the main industry being a company called Kolubara metals, I looked at the name and wondered whether it was an Australian company, it has a slight Australian ring about, but probably just as Serbian name translated into English.
Serbia was one of the major suppliers of copper for Europe before the Balkan war in driving past this mining company today and looking at all the new machinery there, it looks like it's getting a massive kickstart back into production. We stopped at a railway crossing whilst about 50 ore carriages went past, they looked new and it was a major hub looking at all the railway lines so I would guess the copper will be flowing again.
Saturday, 10 July
We carried on our southerly route towards the border in Kosovo during a right-hand turn at about Kraljevo for a drive into the mountains, these drives through the mountains are extremely interesting because of the beautiful scenery, wonderful forests everywhere, the sheer rock that the road has been carved out of, rock which must be amongst the most unstable that I have seen, there are rockfalls everywhere and it must be a major job keeping these roads open.
We went up to 1200 m today and we passed a couple of old 12th and 13th century monastery's both have had extensive renovation and one has a massive new building programme going on so it looks like the churches of Serbia are prospering even of the population is finding it hard for jobs.
I feel quite at home in Serbia, I see the name Ivan everywhere both with the English spelling and the Russian.
On our drive through the country we have seen one or two locations where they have been oil wells working with quite large storage area is close by, and we also assume that there is massive coal deposits as it seems to be a fuel of choice by the large piles of coal we see outside some houses. Today we saw a large number of charcoal oven's for the production of charcoal, the first time on our travels with seen such ovens.
We spent the night in the car park of the motel attached to the monastery.
Sunday, 11 July
We drove 50 km today towards Novi Pazar which is probably the last major city before we cross over to Kosovo, which we intend to do tomorrow.
Today we saw a small very old ninth century church built on a small hill which gave it a very prominent position, and then there was the new 13th century church a kilometre away that bore the same name that had nothing of the character of the old church.
We camped on a corner underneath some trees opposite the 13th century Sopocani monastery, one of the major attractions around Novi Pazar in the interior is absolutely beautiful.
Monday 12th of July
We carried on south to the Kosovo border, there are no signposts pointing towards it, and when we got there all we could see was a policeman in the middle of the road, but yes that was the exit from Serbia. We got out okay! And we carried on our drive towards the Kosovo border and again there was no hassles crossing over the border, whilst we're waiting a couple of EEC soldiers with serious guns arrived and started chatting with the staff, and then we on our way.
Just over the border there are a couple of armoured cars, and around the corner there was a large white troop helicopter busy being photographed by one of the international police with his small camera.
As most people know Kosovo was an autonomous region of Serbia until 1989 when for the next 12 months the Serbian army occupied the country and even today when you get a map of Serbia Kosovo is included as part of Serbia.
Some statistics for those that are interested, Kosovo has about 2 million people, is half the size of Wales, .04 the size of New Zealand, and has 180 people per square kilometre, compared to 16 for New Zealand.
The people of Kosovo are about 90% Albanian Muslims and there is about 10% of the population that are Serbs, it was these people that the Serbian army felt they were protecting.
Well it may be 90% Muslim but the Albanian Muslims appear to be much more relaxed about the way their women dress because we have seen very few women, so far, dressed in what we consider to be the normal Muslim dress. Today at the supermarket I saw in older woman dressed in traditional Muslim garb and her daughter who was in her 20s, with the child, was dressed just like a normal Western woman.
Driving through Kosovo we see no evidence of any international peacekeepers, except some that pass as occasionally in army vehicles, we have seen no war damage, well of course it has been 10 years, but supposedly 120,000 buildings were damaged, but we may see more as we go north.
Today we drove through Kosovska Mitrovica and then onto Prizren where we are currently parked in a supermarket car park. The supermarket is just like any Western supermarket in the currency for Kosovo is the Euro.
The roadsigns are almost non-existent, however if you get to the right corner, somehow, there's usually a road sign pointing to the destination you are trying to reach. Yes, again, the GPS has no maps for this country, which does not make it very easy for Luda.
Driving through Kosovo, and we had not crossed over the border, we could just as well have been in Serbia.
Passing by cemeteries, there are quite a few substantial monuments to people killed in the Kosovo war, and we see the Albanian flag flying everywhere, including on the monuments.
From the car park we can see the area that the Turkish contingent to Kosovo are storing their motor vehicles.
Tuesday, 13 July
As we left Prizren we became very aware of just how large the military contingent is here in Kosovo, we passed two very large barracks as we left the town and then all the way towards Pristina we had many of the United Nations army vehicles, under flags of different countries, passing us, in addition to this we saw very many police on the road, stopping and checking vehicles, doing speed checks on vehicles going through villages, so the security throughout Kosovo appears to be still very high.
We had intended to drive north through Eastern Kosovo and the turn off for the road was in the middle of the city is somewhere and of course there were no roadsigns so we ended up going straight up the centre in the east will have to wait for another time.
The Fiat motor has a safety device that if you are in a smash the fuel pump switches off, and the hazard lights come on. Last year we were crossing the border into Romania we hit a large pothole with such a force the motor thought it must have been a smash so switched the pump off and the hazard lights on, and of course we didn't have a clue as to what was so we ended up stuck in the middle of the main road from the border to Romania.
We had the excitement of this happening again here in Kosovo but this time we knew what the problem was so we glided into a parking area and were able to fiddle round until we found the button to get us going again which thanks to attack in last year we knew where to look.
Evidently, since the war, they are now teaching the Albanian language in the schools with English as a second language, before the war, I presume the locals spoke Albanian, but they were taught Serbian in the schools with Russian has a second language.
You have to have your wits really about you driving through this country, there is almost no road courtesy, is a car that is coming towards you want to park on your side of the road that would turn straight in front of you and it is your job to brake. Passing on the main road is always done with the assumption that the car coming towards you will always brake.
Whilst Kosovo is labelled as a Muslim country, we have been surprised at the lack of mosques we have seen, some villages we have not been aware of a mosque at all, and have seen several Christian churches along with many Orthodox. We have almost seen none of the normal Muslim dress for the women, with most dressing just like the West.
Today we had been quite aware of the possible war damage to ruined houses have seen on our travels, once you start looking they seem to be almost everywhere.
Many times we had stopped to ask for directions and everybody is very keen to help, with trucks stopping to see if they can help with directions.
We decided not to go into Pristina having been in many of the smaller towns and cities the chaos that will obviously be of Pristina we can probably do without, so we did a left-hand turn before Laplje Selo and drove towards Pec turning right just before we got to the city and heading towards the border to Montenegro.
To cross the border requires going over a hill that had a top elevation of 1.8 km with the Kosovo border check 1,276 metres and the Montenegro border check was at 1,675 metres with about possibly 10 km of wine de hilly roads between the two checkpoints.
Heading down from the border crossing the past through our first city and was surprised at the number of mosques we have seen the population of the country is about 700,000 with 10% of them being Muslim, of course the mosques always stand out because of their very high minaret where is the normal Christian churches often blend in with the buildings.
The size of the country is a fraction larger than Kosovo which makes it just over half the size of Wales. It has 49 people per square kilometre.
We drove on past Ibarac and was stopped outside a winter ski hotel which is currently closed for the summer and hopefully a peaceful night.
Wednesday 14th of July
Today we decided to go south towards Podgorica and we drove through absolutely magnificent gorges with incredible mountains either side, is very much a ski area and of course with all the magnificent mountains one other users can they be put to.
We again had to content with the kamikaze drivers on the road, almost everybody cuts corners and think nothing of passing coming up to bend, one current front of us past a truck and had not been for the car coming the opposite way putting on the brakes there would have been ahead on collision, and I experienced several similar situations myself.
Montenegro has about two main roads and these are on my GPS at the moment we move away from them we are on our own.
Tonight we are in Cetinje which is supposed to have an old town so we pulled into a car park close by the monastery and the town and will promise to end the night in the car park.
Thursday 15th July
Today we decided to go back to the main road and to do so, we selected a road that will take us through the mountains, towards a village called Cevo, it was a great for half of the journey but the last half of 20 km was done at an average speed of 15 to 20 km/h, it was a one lane road and winding in and around the hills I'm sure that was not a straight piece of road for 500 m. A lot of the time the undergrowth from each side of the road was scratching the motorhome, but this happened so many times on the roads we choose we no longer worry about it.
We got back to the main road in one piece and once there found a monastery built in the 17th century into a rock face, to get to the road at the bottom of the cliff meant driving up a one-way road climbing all the time, looking for places for buses to pass you and other traffic, yes rather interesting.
We called into one restaurant that had a camping sign up, and they explained to us it was not the camping with motorhomes but for camping in their cabins of which they had five, they weren't interested in us parking anywhere on their property for money, perhaps money is still a dirty word.
It's interesting to note as we wandered through this country, the monuments to the fallen of the Second World War, you find them in the most unusual places and on today's drive through the mountains we saw several which must have been possibly remembering the partisan activity in the mountains.
It's interesting to note on some of the gravestones a red Star instead of a cross obviously a result of the strong Communist belief that was in this country for some time.
When we got near the village of Rastovac we saw another camping sign, this time we were allowed to park on their lawn and plug in to the power in the house and are quite happy to take money.
We saw one of two Muslim mosques as we crossed into this country, but since then have not seen any, and have not seen any woman in conventional Muslim dress.
We camped at N42° 49 903 E18° 55 207 on the E762/18 between Niksic & Jasenovo Polje
Friday, 16 July
Today we move on to Bosnia so we drive about 60 km north stopping to look at a 15th century monastery on the way, and we very quickly found ourselves up as 1000 m and a lot of the countryside we went through was obviously set up for the skiing season.
Near the border we saw a sign directing us to the right to an ethnic village, we thought this might be interesting and went out there and really found nothing but a few interesting photos on the way.
As we got close to the border we started entering a beautiful gorge area where the solid rock went from ground level straight up, they're obviously was a river originally flowing through the gorge, and many, this is down the road they build a dam so it is now a beautiful lake hemmed in by these solid rock walls, an ideal situation for a hydro dam and its lake.
We drove around the age of this lake for about 30 km and most of the way we are going in an out of tunnels, I guess that must have been 50 tunnels in all, I've never experienced so many tunnels over such a short area, but was obviously the best way of building a road around this lake. One interesting side event that happened in one of the first tunnels we went through we saw two goats on the right-hand side, either they were going through the tunnel to another pasture or perhaps they were just inside the tunnel where it was cool on this hot day of 30°C+.
We went over the River -- Lake twice by Bridge and then once again after the dam where we could see the river flowing hundreds of meters below, of course that was signed up for no photography around the dam, but people were stopping and taking photographs in every direction, so we joined in.
We eventually got to the border of Montenegro, they took one look at our papers, did not open them, and waved us on through, so we have an entry stamp but no exit stamp. We drove on to the Serbia border crossing, but first we had to drive over a one-way bridge, with wooden planks on it, that we had to drive on, looked like they were being set up for an Indiana Jones movie, but we drove on and got safely to the other side.
The Bosnian border official could speak very good English, and told us he could only let Luda in for six days on a Russian passport, and that was reduced to 3 days after he had stamped it, so I told him we would not be up to spend as much money in three days as we could in six, and then we drove on to the first city across the border called Srbinje, it was a one-way road winding in and around the hills and of course the traffic coming towards us are all driving like they were on a motor rally time trial but again we got safely through all the narrow parts. One driver saw us when he was on a wide part of the road and kept on driving and met us on a narrow part of the road expecting to get past, he backed up of course, reluctantly.
As we were driving down this one-way road we all of a sudden saw a fox running across the road with what looked like perhaps a mouse in his mouth, he was of course too fast for us to get a photo.
We set our first destination to Mostar and that took us through the city of Sarajevo and we observed the very high range of mountains from which we guess all of the sniping took place, it was quite a distance away, so they must have been the sort of shooting we associate with Hollywood, and as we drove through we observed a lot of buildings that had been patched up and were being lived in, they have yet to be painted saw all of the patchwork is very obvious.
Bosnia is a little bit larger than Holland and Switzerland, but it has a fraction of the density and population having only 78 people per square kilometre. It is 19% the size of New Zealand.
After the 1995 peace accord, however, the country was formally split into a Muslim-Croat federation controlling 51 per cent of its territory, and a Bosnian-Serb statelet with 49 per cent. Sarajevo is the republic’s capital and largest city.
The night were found a little parking area beside a supermarket which hopefully will be quiet.
Saturday 17th of July
This morning we carried on a drive towards Mostar and on the way deserved quite a large number of houses with bullet holes in and in ruined condition.
Again we were driving through magnificent mountains, at the bottom of the gorge, with a river flowing beside us, forming into a lake several times because of hydro dams. There are very picturesque villages on the sides of mountains, a few mosques, a few Catholic churches and of course some Orthodox churches.
When we got into Mostar we found a spot to park the motorhome at a rate of €5 per hour, and with the temperature at 40°C we figured an hour in that temperature was more than adequate.
The streets of the old town were cobbled, some of the buildings back to the 16th century, and add a river with a magnificent old Bridge into the equation made it a very photogenic town.
However the heat drove us away so we set the GPS to our next location of Banja Luka up near the Croatian border, yes the GPS is working on a major roads through this country, but don't turn off a major road because if you do you are on your own.
Again driving north were driving through mountains, with a picturesque river making the picture complete and of course the delightful villages on the sides of the mountains.
We are climbing most of the afternoon to a height of 1000 m and we found a quiet little parking spot off the main road near the town of Prozor.
Sunday 18th of July
We carried on North today towards the city of Banja Luka a few kilometres from the Croatian border, again we are driving past electrical hydro dams at the bottom of tall gorges, again the mountains were so high we could not give a signal for our GPS, so we just atayed on the road!
Again it was a beautiful drive, we passed lots of car wreckers yards, driving the way they do here in the old Yugoslavia, has a good business to be in because there is plenty of material.
When we start getting close to the border we met a long line of trucks, and all the cars drove past them on a normal road so consequently when tracks were coming across the border from Croatia, they could not get through, so after about 30 minutes a lot shuffling things were sorted out.
I've no idea why the powers to be, do not make the trucks go to the border on a different road, I would guess that 100 cars cross the border for every track, so there was always a very long line of trucks waiting was the cars move through a reasonably high speed.
Once across the border we got onto a tollway and headed towards Slavonski Brod with the intention of taking local roads back towards Zagreb. We pulled into the first petrol station we saw and parked up in their parking area for the night hoping they won't be that much traffic.
Monday 19th July
This morning we carried on the motorway towards Novi Grad where we saw a beautiful large redbrick cathedral and then we turned left towards Szekszárd and then a side trip to Vrpolje where there is an permanent exhibition of the famous Croatian sculpture Ivan Mestrovic, who died in 1962 as this is his town of birth there are 50 beautiful examples of his work on permanent exhibition, costs a fraction over €1 to see the exhibition and photographs are allowed providing you give an undertaking not to place them on the Internet.
We then drove on to Earnestindve which has the reputation of being the most damaged village during the war after the breakup of Yugoslavia, in this village there was some wooden carvings in an outdoor museum in memory of the Second World War and the recent war. The carvings were absolutely beautiful, and fortunately for the residents, we could see very little traces of war damage on the buildings, we've seen worse in other parts of the newly formed republics.
Our next destination took us through the city called Osijek, the capital of this area, we found a very large parking area beside the River, beside a very large swimming pool, with lots of shady trees, and look just right for us for tonight. Within this large parking area there are some large brick arches which were being told are from Turkish times, and have also been told there was a bridge that ran for 8 km over the marsh and so perhaps we should assume that these arches are what is left from that.
Tuesday 20th of July
We woke up this morning and looked behind the motorhome to see what was creating a little bit of a disturbance in the night round midnight and we found a small German registered car with two bicycles leaning against a post, it had a roof rack which I guess they may have used to carry the bicycles, and the two guys that we heard talking last night was sound asleep on the ground in their sleeping bags with the sky as their roof.
Around 8 AM, A large commercial lawnmower started cutting around the trees and went by these two sleeping beauties within a metre, and they carried on sleeping, we moved the motorhome, and they carry on sleeping, the lawnmower came back and work around them for a few minutes, and they carried on sleeping, we left at about 9 AM and they were still sleeping, but when we went back past the area 30 minutes later one was sitting up in his sleeping bag, so I guess whilst lawnmower might have awaken the dead, it could not wake the living.
We drove first towards Virovitica driving through all the small villages and we were impressed by the apparent quality of the houses, and we're slowly getting the opinion that Croatia was the better place to live in the old Yugoslavia, because it certainly looks like that now.
We saw lots of Catholic churches going through the villages, no Muslim mosques whatsoever, of course the Croat population of Muslim represents .9%.
We drove to the city of Darda and saw a beautiful old Palace that looked like it had been abandoned, probably only had 100 rooms so would make a nice summer cottage for somebody.
It was then on again to Donji Miholjac and another very large Palace that had been restored and it had a beautiful large park as part of its grounds, it was only a few metres from the Hungarian border and we almost crossed that border trying to turn around.
We finally ended up at Durdevac parked in a large parking area on what we hope is a quiet road about 100 meters from us is a low-lying fortress from about the 15th century, it suffered many Turkish attacks that was never seized and is now a cultural Museum.
It is an interesting question, obviously the Turks were in Croatia at the same time as they were in Bosnia and other parts of Yugoslavia, Croatia is almost 100% Catholic and it will be an interesting piece of history to find out how this happened because in most other countries that the Turks occupied, they ended up with a large Muslim population. That's a question for me for some other day.
Wednesday 21st July
Today we carried on driving along the Hungarian border visiting towns or villages that happen to have old palaces, fortresses, or castles. This area of the country has an abundance of these old buildings sometimes in quite good repair.
As we drive through the villages the same cannot be said about some of the houses, there's usually one or two in each village that I would guess would be well over 100 years old, some barely standing but still occupied. Occasionally we see one that was built out of mud bricks but they are often at the unoccupied stage and are falling in on themselves.
In most villages throughout Eastern Europe you can always find a Tap with running water, this is usually a communal tap but this has been missing throughout Croatia, which leads me to believe that most houses have water available in some form, and we have noted Fire Brigade standpipes throughout the village which means high pressure water has been piped through the village.
We have stopped tonight in the car park of a factory outlet, mainly clothes for women and children with a few shops for men, and of course many footwear shops, most of it appears to be junk but I guess it does good business because people think they're getting a bargain.
The temperature today has been in the mid to high 30°s, it's well past the time for us to move north.
Thursday, 22 July
We have not had Internet or e-mail for three weeks so today we headed towards Zagreb and the campground was saud to have WiFi over 80% of the ground. We got there and found it was just off the motorway, with lots of motorway noise throughout the campground, all we need is a Railway line with the train every 30 minutes, and of course a rock festival happening on the same ground and will be right!
The WiFi was only inside the hotel but we decided to stay, catch up on the e-mails, get the washing done and tomorrow we'll head off towards Hungary.
Today we went up close to the border of Slovenia to a town called Desinic to have a look at the largest castle, or fortress in Croatia, for at the moment doing it up with scaffolding all the way round it, I'm not sure that I would like the account just for the hire of the scaffolding there was so much of it, but I guess the EEC is for footing the biggest part of the bill.
As I've mentioned before the old Yugoslavia is full of Ivan's, from famous people, to Warriors, to poets and scholars, and of course you must not forget the towns, there Ivan forms part of the name for many towns for example Ivan Dolac, Ivanbegovina, Ivancec,Ivanec, Ivanje, Ivankovo, Ivansks, and the list goes on and on, and that is just for Croatia had in all of the other new countries and one will see why it is well and truly a Slav name.