Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Croatia–Border crossing to Slovenia (30 Oct 2012)

Today we headed for the Slovenian border (Jaravski Brod / Metlika).

On the Slovenian side, the custom officer called an insurance agent so we could buy insurance (30 days insurance cost us EUR 217.50). The officer asked to see all our documents especially on our Sorento, including our Malaysian Driving license despite having showed him our International Driving permit. He also questioned us about our Malaysian road tax disc which was still displayed on our windscreen but had expired about 10 days ago. Took us a while to explain that the Malaysian road tax is not the same as MOT and that our Sorento is save to drive. After all the explanation, he wasn’t convinced and wanted us to get their local road tax and test etc. Good thing for us the insurance agent understood and helped us to explain to the officer on the matter. Happy that our Sorento was road worthy, he let us move on. We got our documents checked and stamped, thank the officers and left.

The snow on the hillsides from last night and the winding roads diverted our thoughts from the argument at the border. Even a land slide further down the road creating a small traffic jam did not bother us that much. Driving towards Ljubjana through snow covered villages and mountains was a first for us.We stopped for photos and dad manage to make a tiny snowman too. We drove to Novo Mesto where we stayed the night.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Rastoke, Slunj (28 Oct 2012)

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It's a cold day today. It rained last night and when we woke up, our Sorento had her first snow cover at Slunj

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RASTOKE, SLUNJ

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Water everywhere

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Autumn at Plitvice Lakes National Park (27 Oct 2012)

Here we are at one of the largest national park in Southeast Europe and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Founded in 1949, the park is made up of 16 cascading lakes.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Bosnia & Herzegovina - border crossing to Croatia (22 Oct 2012)

We drove along the E761. We just love driving along these roads at our own pace taking in the views of the valley and mountains.

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Just 1 km from rest area outside Kupress, driving downhill Dad was stopped for not wearing his seat belt. I was driving and nicely enjoying the winding roads that I did not realise he did not have his seat belt on. We got away with a token 5 Euros, chit chat for a bit and the same policeman told us that UN Malaysian contigent served here. Further down the road, we see empty houses riddled with bullet holes, even cottages belonging to farmers were not spared.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Travnik (21 Oct 2012)

Travnik is located 90km west of Sarajevo. Photos of Travnik skyline taken from the Medieval Fortress.:

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Friday, 19 October 2012

Bosnia & Herzegovina (19 Oct 2012)–Mostar, Blagaj and onwards to Sarajevo

We started our morning at the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over Neretva River and a visit to the Old Bridge Museum. The museum had quite a lot of information on the Old Bridge since its original construction in 1566. The wooden bridge, as it was then, took 9 years to plan and build. Over the years, it was fortified and strengthened. In 1993, the bridge was completely destroyed in the conflict.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bosnia & Herzegovina (18 Oct 2012)– Travel from Klobuk to Mostar

Bosnia & Herzegovina was not on our planned route but we decided to give the country a visit as we were so close to it. We reached the border post at about 10am and within minutes we were stamped in. We bought 5 days insurance cover at the border for 47 Euro (a 3 day cover costs 26 Euro), much more expensive compared to what we paid for Montenegro but we had no choice. 


The scenery that greeted us on entry was breathtaking. It was nice driving down the winding road that took us from Klobuk towards Mostar.


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Vilusi border – Montenegrin border crossing to Bosnia (18 Oct 2012)

We were up just after 7am and the temperature outside was very low (4oC). There were frost on the grass and mist in the air. We packed and headed out just after 8am.

Breakfast at Vilusi
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We came across this café on the way to the border and decided to stop for breakfast. Dad had soup and omelets. Mum and I had coffee and sandwiches.

 
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Breakfast was alright, nothing too fantastic. The lady (we think is the owner), however, was very friendly and showed us around her café. We did not speak each other’s language, so it was mostly pointing and waving and lots of smiles!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Kotor, Montenegro (17 Oct 2012)

The coastal town of Kotor was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. Today, the bay of Kotor attracts cruise ships and luxury yachts of all sizes to its shores.


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Street in Kotor

   
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Street in Kotor

   

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Scenic drive from Skadar Lake to Petrovac and a visit to Rezevici Monastery - Montenegro (16 Oct 2012)

Today is a day of leisurely drive. For the most part of the morning our eyes feasted on rolling hills and valleys all the way from Skadar Lake to Petrovac. Thereafter, the Adriatic coastline greeted us.

 
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We could just about see the Skadar Lake from here. Thick clouds threatening with more rain.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Albania / Montenegro border crossing and onwards to Skadar Lake National Park (15 Oct 2012)

In the morning, we spent some time arranging our documents for the border crossing to Montenegro. We had a small amount of Albanian Lek leftover and spent it on veg, cola, Albanian cakes and pastries.

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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Kruje & Shkodra, Albania (14 Oct 2012)

In the morning we left Durres and headed to Kruje via Vore. It rained off and on all day today. Kruje is located at the foot of Mount Kruje and after driving up the windy narrow road, we were first greeted with a nice view and then the old bazaar.

 
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Kruje castle sits proudly at the highest point in Kruje. Our first glimpse of Kruje town after parking Our Sorento. That is where we are headed to on foot.

 
Kruje Old Bazaar

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This one street bazaar has all sorts of interesting items including traditional clothes and even antiques.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tirane and onwards to Durres, Albania (13 Oct 2012)

We had breakfast and moved on to Tirane, the capital of Albania. It is still drizzling off and on. As expected, traffic in the city was very heavy and drivers in Tirane were less patient compared to other Albanian cities / towns we have visited.

As there is nothing in particular that we wanted to see in the city, we took the quickest and easiest way to cut across and head to Durres. On one of the stretch of road, we came across a row of shops selling insurance. We parked and enquired about green card insurance. After asking around a few of the agents we found out that they only sold green card insurance to Albanian registered vehicle. Foreign registered vehicle coverage is restricted to Albania. Guess we will just have to get our insurance for Europe at the border.

Also, as we had earlier lost our Iphone in Iran, we tried to look for a replacement and saw the 16GB 4S model sold at 85,500 Lek. It was quite expensive and the phone is locked to the local operator, so we did not get it.

We left Tirane and headed for Durres. Traffic was heavy towards Durres with a lot of container lorries, which is understandable as Durres is a port city.


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Pyramid shaped building along the highway to Durres. From the signboard, it looks like they sell office equipments. Interesting choice of design.

Warding off evil – The Albanian way

As we drove through towns and small villages throughout Albania, there are always some sort of construction going on. Quite a number of houses being built, though not many of them had people working on site. Most often, work seemed to have stopped halfway. These houses goes up a couple of floors and sometimes only the ground floor are ready and occupied whilst some ground work for the top floor lay ready for some time in the future when construction could resume.

One thing all these buildings that are under construction had in common was that they always had a doll or a teddy bear on a stick at the top of the houses. A few guesses comes immediately to mind – these might be the local belief / custom to ward off evil whilst the place is being constructed. Here are some photos:

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Elbasan and onwards to Tirane, Albania (12 Oct 2012)

We spent the whole morning walking round Elbasan. Elbasan is more well to do than all the other cities we have been through in Albania. However, like the other cities, there are still a lot of street vendors selling everything from veg, fruits to used clothes and shoes.

 
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  Elbasan Castle, right in the centre of town.

 
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Elbasan Castle

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Fier, Llundjier, Berat and Elbasan–Albania (11 Oct 2012)

We were up early at 6.30am and spent some time observing the city of Fier as it comes to life. Street vendors selling from their car boot came early to book a parking spot or a spot along the pavement/side walk. If you happen to park in one of their spot, they are quick to shoo you away. We see school children of all ages walking to school. On the street, cars, vans and buses move along with no real rush. Several cars were going slow causing a trail of cars behind them. Yet, none of the drivers honked. Albanian drivers are really patient.

Today we were going to Berat, city of a thousand windows. The roads were alright but can be narrow at some sections and uneven with potholes every now and then. There were also a few lorries though none of them were driving like maniacs.

 
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Road from Fier to Llundjier (or Lushnje)

 
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Road from Llundjier to Berat – not so smooth but still bearable.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Vlora city tour and onwards to Fier, Albania (10 Oct 2012)

We spent the morning walking around the old town of Vlora through alleys, markets and cafes busy barbecuing lambs, sausages and cevapis for the raki drinkers. We missed the roasted lamb, they were sold out by the time we got there for lunch. Guess the roasted lamb was more for breakfast.
 
Vlora old town was more raggedy and traffic haphazard. The new town, closer to the port and beaches, are much nicer with wider streets. Vlora is Albania’s first capital city and has the country’s second biggest port (after Durres). It was in this city that Ismail Qemali declared Albania’s independence in 1912.


Walking around the old town of Vlora
 
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One of the roads in the old town. The side walks are dusty.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Driving at a snail’s pace from Tepelene to Vlora, Albania (9 Oct 2012)

We left Gjirokaster in the morning and took SH4 north to Tepelene. By this time we realized that our GPS only showed a few main highways in Albania, other roads in towns and cities are not available. The GPS now useless, we paid more attention on the signboards to lead us out. Luckily they were good enough to get us out of Gjirokaster town and onto the road heading to Tepelene. Along the way there was enough signboards to show us where to go.

After going through a police road block, we arrived at Tepelene at 10.30am, parked Our Sorento and walked the main street. We met a grocer who spoke English and chatted for almost half an hour. He told us a little history of Albania, about how its border with Greece used to be further away before Greece diplomatically took back and made the land theirs after the days of Ali Pasha. We bought some green peppers, potatoes and bananas before bidding him and his parents farewell.


WALKING AROUND TEPELENE
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Main street in Tepelene

Monday, 8 October 2012

Greece / Albania border crossing and onwards to Gjirokaster (8 Oct 2012)

We made our way from Kalpaki (Greece) towards Kakavia, the border town with Albania, in the morning.

We had earlier read on the internet that EUR10 per person tax on entry is chargeable for driving into Albania. On exit a further EUR2/day each will be levied. So, we were ready with some small change. However, the Albanian border police checked our passport, recorded Our Sorento registration details and within minutes cleared us without asking for any payment.

We stopped a few metres away to check that our passport are all in order before leaving the border post – mum’s passport was not stamped. We walked the short distance back to the border police and got it stamped.

We also bought third party insurance for 15 days (EUR40) and exchanged some Euros for the local currency, Albanian Lek, before making our way onto highway SH4 to Gjirokaster.

 
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Welcome to Albania!!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ioannina, Greece (6-7 Oct 2012)

Ioannina is a castle town located on the banks of Lake Pamvotida and is our last stop in Greece before we cross the border to Albania. We arrived on Saturday and since we make it a point to only cross borders on weekdays, we had two days to walk the streets of Ioannina.

The city is very pretty with lots of old trees lining the banks of the lake and colourful rows of shops and houses. The city is lively with many cafes and restaurants to while our time away.

 
Byzantine medieval fortress


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Outside walls of the medieval fortress
 
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Friday, 5 October 2012

Leisurely drive from Athens to Ioannina, Greece (1-5 Oct 2012)

We left Athens and made our way west, driving along the coastal road towards the city of Patra. At Kamari beach near Kineta, we camped for two nights and whiled our time away swimming in the cool waters of the Gulf of Corinth, reading, studying our route and watching locals fishing. Mum and dad took long morning walks along the beach taking in the clear waters and beautiful people. Mum made pancakes for breakfast and we ate them with honey we bought in Turkey. Next, we made our way to Lykopria, Diakoplo, Kamares and Rodini.
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Beach front houses facing the Gulf of Corinth.
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  Dad chit chatting with a local family near Rodini
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