He he. I got an e-mail over the weekend from Gavin and Bea, who had a funny story to tell about getting back into Australia with their Bosnian souvenirs.

Sarajevo was full of souvenirs which had been carved out of old shell casings. I had read about them before the holiday and they were absolutely everywhere. Some had patterns on them, others had been converted into keyrings or pens.

Souvenirs in Sarajevo

But Bea says that Australian customs confiscated her bullet-shaped pen when she got back home. Aw!

Day 13, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik was a surprise. When we arrived we found, as we had been warned, that it was absolutely crammed full of tourists. But none of us were prepared for just how touristy it was. We barely saw or heard any locals in the three days we were there.

Day 13 was officially the last full day and night of the trip so we went on a tour of Dubrovnik as our last group tour activity. The view from the city walls was stunning, Dubrovnik is certainly very beautiful – nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic. Our cameras were on overdrive as we walked around the famous Old Town, which was bombed to bits by the Serbs during a seven-month seige.

A chart near the entrance to the Old Town details the damage done by the seige.

Chart showing damage done to the Old Town during the Serb attacks

The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and after the bombing it was rebuilt in the original style. However it wasn’t possible to find roof tiles whose colour exactly matched the originals, so the roofs that you now see are something of a patchwork of the slightly different orangey/red colours used.

Although this was officially the last full day of the trip, almost everyone had booked an extra couple of days in Dubrovnik. We were staying in Private Rooms for the trip – which is the most common form of accommodation in and around the Old Town area. Paulina’s house was right beside the gates to the Old Town and was the perfect location for seeing the sights in the next few days. We were warned that the neighbours were particularly averse to noise and had been known to open their windows and pour buckets of water on revellers. AND apparently they had been known to pour buckets of OTHER things too. Yuck. Needless to say we were very very quiet as we entered and left the house 🙂

We were originally going to have dinner at a seafood place by the harbour (see next day’s entry for details on this place, which turned out to be the lamest restaurant in the Balkans), but it turned out seafood wasn’t to the taste of everyone in the group so we went elsewhere.

As it was the last night we had a big discussion about the highlights and surprises of the trip which each person picking a biggest highlight and biggest surprise.

My biggest surprise:

I picked Sarajevo for mine, for reasons I touched on in my post when I arrived. Sarajevo was a place I really should have known like the back of my hand, but everything was so new and unexpected – I guess you just can’t really learn about a place no matter how many books you read or pictures you look at. But in no way was it ever disappointing – everything was greater and more diverse and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.

My biggest highlight:

My highlight was Little Borjana, strange as it must sound given these little people are everywhere not just in Bosnia. But she stuck in my mind throughout the rest of the trip. She was the very first impression I had of Bosnia, a little thing filled with laughter and fun and hope, and so she really summed it all up for me. And she was so silly and cute that she made me think about a lot of things in my own life, as I played with this girl who had it all ahead of her.

Among the rest of the group the boat cruise around the Bay of Kotor had been both a surprise and a highlight – the main surprise being how great it was, as it wasn’t really a part of the trip that had stuck out at us as we read the itinerary.

I was very touched though when Michael chose travelling with me as his highlight – he said I had really inspired him to learn more about the Balkans and that having me there to ask questions or explain things had really made a difference. That was a very sweet thing to say.

A few people on the trip had told me that my own knowledge of Bosnia had inspired them to go back and read up on it. It feels quite nice to think that I am helping to spread awareness and interest in the history of these beautiful places.

After dinner we went to a bar round the corner but I was pretty tired and didn’t stay too long. As so many people were staying on it didn’t seem so much like a big goodbye so I wanted to get an early night so I could meet some people the following morning to see more sights!

New book

I got a new book today which was quite a treat – the autobiography of Alija Izetbegovic, former President of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He led the country to its independence from the former Yugoslavia and during the wars in the 1990s.

Inescapable Questions by Alija Izetbegovic

We passed by an impressive looking grave on our way up to the fortress to watch the sunset above Sarajevo. We saw a soldier praying beside it and wondered who it was and it turned out when we looked closer on the way back down it was President Izetbegovic’s.

Alija Izetbegovic’s grave, Sarajevo

The water around Izetbegovic’s grave

Day 15, Dubrovnik (continued)

On my last evening I went to check out a War Photo Gallery in Dubrovnik’s old town, quite a modern gallery with a lot of photography from Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. Some of the images were quite horrific but others very touching – there was also a special area focussing on the aftermath of war and life getting back to normal which was nice.

I found these two photos particularly interesting so I took a snap of them when no-one was looking.

Help Bosnia Now

Welcome to Sarajevo

Day 15, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Well, I’m on my last day, everyone else has just about left over the past two days (which I booked extra) so I thought I’d get today’s slightly out of the ordinary adventures down before I get back to updating you on the last week.

The sub-title of today’s post is “Cuts and Ass” aka my mishaps at the nudist beach. I haven’t told anyone in my family about this blog so this is a story I can safely tell.

Me and Gavin and Bea went to Lokrum Island today just off Dubrovnik, a nature reserve full of history and also known for its nudey beaches. Well I am on holiday and it’s not every day you can go skinny dipping without people looking at you funny, so after we had a walk around and saw the other sights, I left Gavin and Bea and headed to check out the nudist beach.

I don’t really see it as a big deal stripping off like that if everyone else is so I wasn’t really embarrassed, but it was actually a very cool experience. No-one there (well almost no-one) is perving, certainly unlike most normal beaches, and because everybody is nude nobody really bothers or pays attention. The view across the Adriatic was amazing and just lying there getting the full heat of the sun all over was just great.

Oh and occasionally some naked honeys would walk past. Perfect.

It was actually one of my highlights of the stay in Croatia, just absolutely relaxing. That is, until the usual Alan mishaps began to occur.

The first spoiler was when a skinny Irish bloke stood over me (don’t even try and picture it it was horrible). He asked me if the water was OK. I said yeah it was cold but nice. He asked how long I was here, where I was from blah blah. When I said Glasgow he said “oh yeah I hear Glasgow has a great gay scene”. I thought “oh for fuck’s sake…”. He then asked me if I wanted to meet him tonight!!

I told him I couldn’t as I had a very early flight the next morning, but in hindsight maybe that was a bit of a lame excuse. A direct “I’m not gay” might have done a better job, but then I guess when I said it I was worried that might sound like he was being really blatant and obvious. Which he was. Maybe that would have been nicer on his feelings though rather than a straight rejection. And a straight rejection it certainly was. I was thinking though, even if I was gay, I very much doubt that a skinny Irish guy with a tiny penis would be my type. He really shouldn’t chat people up on a nudist beach, it can’t do him any favours.

I’m always telling people that people always think I’m gay. I don’t know what it is about me, but it’s definitely true.

As the sun moved around I moved along the beach to a better spot, coincidentally near two spectacularly beautiful sunbathing girls. A spot of luck that was. I decided after a bit of sunbathing to go swimming again, but the area I was in was very rocky so it was a bit of a chore getting in, and I was keen not to humiliate myself in front of the girls. I got in fine and swum around for a little bit, it was great.

As I tried to get out, the waves got very strong and I had trouble getting a footing. All of the ‘beaches’ were rocky, but this one particularly so. I got to a part where I could stand on a rock just a foot or so underwater, and then climb out. But this rock was narrower than I thought, and as I put my other foot down it was straight into the sea. My whole body plummeted a few metres, and just as I got back up to the surface a wave came in which bashed me right into the side of the huge rock in front of me. I grabbed onto the side and held on trying to get a footing and the next couple of waves came in rubbing my body against the rocks. Eventually I got out and as I stumbled up onto the dry rocks, I was greeted by three naked German men who had seen me disappear and had rushed over to check I was OK! It was surreal.

I climbed back up past the honeys and to my sunbathing spot and I lay down on my towel to recuperate, only to realise that my whole left arm was covered in bout 30 or 40 tiny cuts, all showing blood but none thankfully gushing. Both my hands were cut, my foot was cut too. I looked a mess.

I licked my wounds and sunbathed a bit more, before packing up to get the last boat home, which the honeys were doing too. I was able to gain back some of my dignity by helping the two of them up the steep rocks from where they were sunbathing to where I was, and towards the path out of the beach.

The lessons from today:

(1) Sharp rocks and nudity do not mix.

(2) Gay Irish guys will try to pick up *anywhere*.

(3) Needing to be rescued by three naked German men is almost worse than drowning.


Day 12, Budva

We went to Sveti Stefan on Day 12, which is a short and scenic bus ride from Budva. It’s an island with some stuff built on it which is connected to the land by a causeway. Unfortunately it was closed for renovation so we didn’t see much of it and instead had an adventure looking for a beach.

Most of the beaches in this area were private. So you had to pay to get into them, or you couldn’t get in at all. One place (not even a great beach) wanted to charge us 65 EUROs to sunbathe!!! We found a free one in the end and sunbathed for a bit before heading back.

On the way home, Mike, Ange, Cat and me were walking along and this guy raced past us on his bike, before screeching to a halt and saying “there’s an aussie accent!” We chatted to him and it turned out he was riding from Turkey to France (slightly less impressive than the French couple from Ostrog but still amazing). He had about a month left, and like the French couple he was going from place to place telling his story trying to get by with food and makeshift accommodation.  We told him we’d be heading back to the Irish pub that night if he wanted to join us, which he did.

There was a horrendous thunderstorm which almost scuppered our plans for the night, the streets were literally like rivers. But after about 20 minutes it was over and the place was dry. Just a typical coastal storm but the first I had seen.

When we arrived at the Irish pub the Montenegrin barmaid I liked was there again. She didn’t need to ask what drink I wanted. She was being very sweet, and ludicrous as it sounded, Cat thought that she might like me. She kept looking over at me, and was looking at me the whole time I was outside smoking. And as soon as I got back she came from behind the bar and sat across from me to chat.

She was studying in nearby Cetinje, the old capital of Montenegro (new one is Podgorica just in case it comes up in a pub quiz). Her name was Mareca (prounounced mar-ee-tsa). I really liked her, she was so much fun, and had all these cute mannerisms. We left the Irish pub for dinner but were coming back.

Dinner at a place called Mozart was the best of the trip. A pepper steak drizzled with Cognac. Yum! Although we did have the most forgetful waiter ever. I used my smoking breaks to chat to the biker, who came with us. Turned out he was doing this bike ride for an epilepsy charity as his best friend had recently died from it. Aw.

Me and Cat also hatched some plans to chat up Mareca when we got back to the Irish pub. I needed some girl advice on that one.

This biker had the biggest appetite ever, or he hadn’t eaten in a while. Cat offered him some of her pizza after he finished his own and he took it, then another, then another spare slice was going. He basically cleaned up everything that everyone left. Guess he needed the energy!!

When we got back to the Irish pub Mareca’s shift had finished. Aw.

Outside, again on an antisocial cigarette break, I got talking to a guy who had just arrived with his wife and daughter. He was a Londoner working as a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo so this was a bit of a treat for me. We chatted about the war and how things have been going since 1999 when the war in Kosovo was ended by air strikes in Serbia (including the places I’d been to earlier in the trip). He was impressed that I’d picked Serbia and Bosnia etc to come to on my first holiday. I also told him some stories from my trip which kept him and his wife and daughter amused. The wife was Kosovar, and they had come down to the coast for a holiday. The daughter was Australian though, from a previous marriage and she was over visiting.

I chatted to them most of the night, his wife was really nice, although his daughter (around 20 I think) was fidgeting waiting for the pub’s PC to be free so she could look up Facebook :s

I left a little tipsy after a few tequila cokes, including one the UN guy bought for me, and got home around midnight for my last sleep in Budva.

Day 11, Budva

One of the unexpected highlights of the entire trip was on Day 11, an all-day boat cruise around the famous Bay of Kotor.

Myself, Michael, Ange and Cat positioned ourselves on the top deck of the boat before the Russians could put their towels down, but surprisingly although it was a fabulous day (probably the best of the trip) not many people wanted to be up there sunbathing. I was lashing suntan lotion onto my blue skin to make sure I wouldn’t be scraping it off the next day.

Herceg Novi from the boat  Herceg Novi from the boat

The first stop was the historic town of Herceg Novi, and we climbed to the top of yet another fort, as well as doing some shopping for the rest of the cruise. The fort is also a venue for concerts and music festivals, it was pretty cool.

Herceg Novi  Herceg Novi fortress  dsc01309.jpg

Back on the boat there was more sunbathing and then we stopped off for some swimming. Me and Mike had some vodka and red bull and a few others had a swimming race. I did a bit of swimming myself and was especially fond of the inflatable Tom & Jerry swimming aid that Cat had bought for a laugh, it was great. Salty water makes me gag though so I can never spend too long in the sea or I’ll risk drowning in my own vomit 🙂

Me, Tom and Jerry swimming Me, Tom, Jerry, Cat and Angela swimming

Back on the boat there was a Russian girl I had had my eye on all day – probably the prettiest thing I’ve seen on the entire trip. Just perfect perfect perfect. I got a photo of her purely by coincidence, when she happened to be posing in the background of a photo I took of Gavin.

Perfect Russian girl

I ended up talking about this girl almost constantly during the boat trip. This I guess gave my groupmates a taste of what I’m like normally in London 🙂

The girl was looking after a few kids but there was no way they were hers. And she was too old to be a sister so I think she must have been the nanny.

Our next stop was Kotor and two amazing churches built on islands right out of the sea (wait for the photos!).

Church on an island

I can’t remember exactly when it was during the day but the strangest thing happened. One of the girls on the trip, Catherine, is Aussie of Chinese descent, and everywhere we have went, through Serbia and Bosnia people have just STARED at her. This got even weirder in Montenegro. We were walking in a big group and this old man outside a shop saw Cat walk past – I was a little behind her – and he just walked up behind here, and stroked the back of her thigh!! It was so blatant we couldn’t believe it. We all told him to fuck off but he was totally unapologetic. I couldn’t believe he had done it so surrounded by people!

We ended up watching a fire dancing showing beside the castle, it was really cool. These guys had these huge metal contraptions, like puppets, which were in the shape of people, animals etc, and on wheels, and they lit them on fire and animated them. I got a nice video of this which I’ll post up.

Amazing fire show (video)

After dinner we popped into an Irish pub where I met the CUTEST barmaid of all time, she started chatting to me after I ordered my trademark tequila and coke. She was just adorable, very ditsy and silly and really funny, and a really hilarious way with words in her English. I convinced Cat to ask if we could get our picture taken with her 🙂

Cute Mareca

We also met an Irish couple, Paula and Brian, who were also in their honeymoon – one week in Budva and one in Dubrovnik. They were really cool. I wasn’t feeling too great so I went home with Cat and Ange after 1 drink but Ross and Michael stayed for roughly 12 pints of Guiness. Unbelievable – I’d burst if I drank half that much Guinness.

Day 10, Budva, Montenegro

We arrived in sunny Budva at lunchtime on Day 10; it’s a beautiful little place with about 20km of beaches and marinas. Little taxi boats get you from place to place and it’s just a short way from the World Heritage sites of Herceg Novi and the Bay of Kotor.

We went around the town during the day and stopped to do some sunbathing. This second week was the slightly more relaxing part of the holiday. The Montenegrin coast is full of Russians and it seems only the obnoxious ones come to Montenegro. By the end of the day I had been swimming in the sea for the first time since I was a kid (my group-mates must think I’m like a Martian as I tell them all the things I am doing for the first time on this first holiday).

I went for some kalamari at a great seafood restaurant by the beach, and had some bamboos (another shot for the gallery). It was a special night as it was Michael and Angela’s first month anniversary. Aw.

Michael and Angela

After dinner, the waiter came and brought us the most digustingly strong shots I have ever tasted – some kind of Montenegrin whisky. They were complementary and it seemed everyone got them after a meal there. God help anyone with a weak tolerance for alcohol, these things were horrific.

Budva was quite a buzzing little place actually, and the weather was lovely.


Yikes, I just nearly spent 1000 pounds on something by misconverting the price from Kuna (Croatia money). It was actually only as I was entering my PIN that it came up in pounds. I thought it was 100. Well a lucky escape that means thankfully I’ll be able to eat when I get back to London.