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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Montenegro, From Bar To Belgrade By Train



IMG_20160216_213926At about eight in the morning I sadly leave my beautiful apartment in Bar for about a fifteen minute walk to the local train station.





Having already bought my ticket for about 10 Euros the night before I just have to arrive at the station before the 9am departure.

Although it is about a 12 hour journey to Belgrade I am excited about this trip as some consider it to be one of Europe's most spectacular train rides. Taking over 25 years to complete, the almost 300 mile line has 254 tunnels and 435 bridge crossings.



IMG_0003Lake Skadar


After having a very hot cup of tea at the train station café I board a less than full train and exactly at 9am we are on our way to Belgrade. After crossing beautiful Lake Skadar we make our first stop in the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica where a good number of the passengers who boarded the train in Bar disembarks.



IMG_0014An elevated track gives us spectacular views of beautiful towering mountains in the distance along with a paralleling river below us as we pass by small Montenegrin villages.




Along a curved area of the track we go in and out of one tunnel after another and repeatedly cross some amazing bridges.







For most of the journey I have a compartment to myself but at one point I do share it with an elderly gentleman. Although we verbally do not understand each other we communicate with nods and smiles and end up sharing a few cookies together.

For me the scenery along this route never gets boring. As I see a few snow capped mountains I imagine that at certain times of the year the scenery here is even more gorgeous.





Soon darkest covers it all and as anticipated 12 hours after leaving Bar I arrive in Belgrade the Serbian capital.

Bar Montenegro To Belgrade Serbia Train

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Montenegro, Simply Majestic



Snapshot 1 (2-23-2016 9-55 AM)Airborne east from Nikola Tesla International Airport we get nice views of Belgrade including St Sava's Temple before turning southwest towards Tivat.



Our views are soon obstructed by a thick layer of clouds that occasionally give us a glimpse of the landscape below. In these glimpses I can tell the terrain has now changed as I can see mountains lightly covered with snow.

Soon we are making a turn over a body of water when the flight attendant makes an announcement. We are diverting because of bad weather in Tivat to Podogrica.


IMG_20160214_165331Next it is a bus ride that puts us in Tivat about three hours behind schedule.






Although the Tivat airport is now closed I am still fortunate enough to be able to pick up my rental car from Meridian Car Rental after just a short wait. Soon enough I am on my way to “Tivat Star” near Porto Montenegro where I will be spending the next two nights.



Snapshot 2 (2-23-2016 9-59 AM)I get a surprisingly warm welcome at Tivat Star as I am offered to join my host and his friends for dinner.

Ukrainian/Montenegrin Style




Grilled meats, a tuna pate, cheese (which I pass on) delicious tomatoes, fresh bread, spicy mustard and generous shots of liquor followed by lots of laughter make me feel right at home. However, there is one slight problem. My host is a New England Patriots fan. A few more shots and I forgive him.






Morning skies still show a threat of rain as I set off on a drive around coastal Montenegro. My first destination is Gornja Lastva where en route I get splendid views of “The Bay Of Kotor” in the distance below me.


IMG_20160215_120154At Gornja Lastva I visit the 600 year old St Mary's Church but miss the chance to see an olive mill nearby.






A stop at the Tivat Riviera and for about 5 euros I am on a car ferry crossing “The Bay Of Kotor”. A left turn leaving the ferry and I am on my way to Herceg Novi a historical coastal town.



IMG_20160216_144505Herceg Novi


A walk along a beach front gives more spectacular views of the bay as I head towards “Old Town”. Here you can visit St Archangel Michael Church and Square Belavista which are both relatively quiet this time of the year.


IMG_20160216_144746Narrow paths, step stairs, a nice park along with fancy shops and restaurants are also a part of the area.

For simple bargain souvenirs, stop in at “Svepo 1E”.




From Herceg Novi it is a beautiful drive around “The Bay Of Kotor” to Risan then to Kotor. This drive is so stunning it is a part of a UNESCO site. Along this route is one of the most spectacular natural sights that I have ever seen.







At a roadside stop I am at the edge of mountain cave that has a massive volume of water thundering hundreds of feet down into the bay.



IMG_0048It is late afternoon as I arrive in Kotor for an early dinner at Caffe Sara.

This is an amazing walled city that deserved more time to visit.





As night falls I stop in at St Nichols Serbian Orthodox church as a mass is being conducted. The solemn process adds to peacefulness of the city as it now glows under night lights.



IMG_0055Kotor At Night



IMG_20160216_171555One more day of driving around Montenegro and I end up watching the sunset in Stari Grad Budva.






A refreshing pint in an English pub and soon I am making way to a bar. In Bar, Montenegro I will be spending my last night in this naturally beautiful country that is less than ten years old.

From here I am looking forward to taking “The Montenegro Express” a 12 hour train ride back to Belgrade, Serbia. 

Majestic Montenegro

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Serbia, Sightseeing Around Belgrade



IMG_20160211_150537It is a beautiful afternoon as I leave Zurich for Belgrade, Serbia.

However, with an almost 5 hour stop over in Dusseldorf, Germany, it is near midnight before I arrive at Nikola Tesla International Airport.




An arranged airport pickup for 18 Euro and soon enough I am on my way to the city which is about 15 miles from the airport. After checking in at a nice room at Central Park Apartments it is about one in the morning when I set out on a peaceful walk around town.



IMG_20160212_012354Princess Ljubica Residence




IMG_20160212_014106For me, this is a great time to enjoy the layout of the city and to take pictures of its lit up architecture.

Tonight I even get a sampling of some late night city snacks.





A daytime walk around Belgrade takes me to some of its famous sites including historical Skadarska Street along with “The New Court”. The New Court was intended in the early 1900's as the residency of the Royal Family but today serves as the cabinet for the President.



IMG_20160212_163235Here I am fortunate to see the ceremonial changing of the guards take place.







IMG_20160212_162304Next with a delicious Solunac Gyro (filled with hot fries) in hand I set off to St Sava's Temple.

It is the largest Orthodox Temple in the Balkans. Although currently under renovation on the inside it is still an amazing sight to see.







IMG_20160212_165601St Sava’s Temple



My second night in Belgrade rewards me with more beautiful views of the city including the nicely lit up National Assembly building and famous walking street.




National Assembly Building







At the Belgrade Fortress I get a history lesson of the area during World War I when in December 1915 it was reported that “Belgrade is dead”.

Tonight as I look across the Danube River and see colorfully lit bridges it is evident that there has been a resurrection here.

A two hour bus ride outside of Belgrade and I take in views of the Serbian countryside as I head to Topola. Here a visit to “The Cathedral Church” is a must. I think you will be impressed by the colorful and amazing paintings inside this temple. Topola also offers a few more historical Serbian sites.



IMG_0001The Cathedral Church


My last day in Belgrade takes me to a museum of a man who we can all be thankful for. Although there is some minor controversy of which country should take credit for him and his great work, Nikola Tesla of Croatian and Serbian descent has a museum here. Although it is a small museum I can appreciate the significance of the displays here.



IMG_20160214_120606Urn  Of Tesla’s Ashes







After all, this museum is a tribute to the man who contributed so much to the advancement of humanity with his theories and inventions all built around electricity.

The next time you use the internet, talk on a cellphone or turn on a light switch you should be thankful for Tesla.



IMG_20160214_120737Tesla built remote control boat used in New York to demonstrate basic wireless communication.






For this time of the year the weather is unusually nice in Belgrade and I along with many others are really enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon. A delicious slice of Mexican pizza without the hot dog crust and my senses are delighted as I listen to a violin and piano make beautiful music.




IMG_20160214_130337Yes, today Belgrade is very much alive and well

To Serbia With Love

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cruising, Fun On A Star


Barely before sailing we have one of the most efficient and fastest safety briefing ever. By the time we arrive at our muster station it is practically over.


Snapshot 1 (1-30-2016 9-14 AM)Just like that our “Fun On A Star” begins.