Wednesday, May 16

Film: Deadpool 2 Click for more info

The first Deadpool was clearly genius in all it wanted to do: it was satirical, audacious, fun and showed exactly what could be achieved when filmmakers trust their audiences. It was also novel for all these reasons (and a few more).

Deadpool 2 is more of the same... except for the novelty. And it appears, for me at least, that novelty was part of the reason I liked the first film so much. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Deadpool 2; I just didn't find it as sublime as the first installment. On the other hand, for those who are exactly looking for more of the same, Deadpool 2 delivers in spades.

Oh and I'll also throw a nod to Zazie Beetz, whose portrayal of Domino was my highlight of the film. Recommended.

Friday, May 11

The Adriatic Coast, Day Six: Split

As it was Friday, the plan was always to base today's activities around Jummah. Due to the locality of our accommodation we went even further than this; we were in and out of the apartment for most of the day, mopping up the remainder of our souvenir shopping, sightseeing and prayers.

Split's Old Town was of course old, although uniquely a large part of it was made up of the remainder of Diocletian's Palace... something you don't really appreciate till you've walked around the complex.

There was definitely more of an eclectic mix of architecture and age in and around Split's Old Town. It seems that a lot of the area, in particular the docks, have been well maintained and even modernised, although the effort made to keep the vibe unspoilt was clear and appreciated.

After a brief interlude at home we headed to the western part of central Split to walk up Park Marjan where we were treated with some lovely night views of the town.

The day ended perfectly with us chilling at home over card games and banana milkshakes. The whole day was the perfect ending to what seemed like a month's worth of trip rolled into 6 days. In fact I was actually surprised that we were able to relax as much as we did - it's another sign of how sometimes paradoxically leaving things unplanned provides the space to expand in the way you want to at the time, instead of against a previously thought well laid schedule. Its arguable whether we would have seen as much as we had this trip if we had planned more than the single night that we did.

Thursday, May 10

The Adriatic Coast, Day Five: Hvar

With the remainder of our trip now anchored in Split, there was little uncertainty as to how we were to spend today. Making sure we took the first ferry to Hvar, we got there in good time to make the most of our only trip to the island. After pottering about for the first hour or so, we rented a speedboat to take us island hopping. We went for the pricier option which in hindsight was a bit unnecessary; the sights that could be reached by the more powerful boat didn't really justify the cost or time spent on the sea.

Still we saw some Red Cliffs and visited the islands of Jerolim and Milni where we had an excellent tuna steak for lunch.

After making it back to Hvar Town there wasn't really much time do do anything other than to explore the locality more, so I took an hour or so climbing up to the fort for some elevated views of the port town. A visit to Stari Grad may have been possible given more time - perhaps if we hadn't spent so long on the speedboat.

After this, we were pretty much done. In what seemed like the whole trip so far finally catching up with us, we found a decent cafe on the docks where we planted ourselves while waiting for the ferry back to Split. I suspect for many of us the trip was over and it was pretty much silently agreed that tomorrow would be a well deserved chill day.

Wednesday, May 9

The Adriatic Coast, Day Four: Exploring Bosnia

After spending the early morning mopping up a few Mostar souvenirs and trinkets, we left Mostar for Blagaj, the first of three sights we had planned to see this day. Blagaj and the next stop were actually recommended to us by a friend we made during the previous night's evening prayers - it was again another example of how good things can come from giving yourself the space to be serendipitous.

Apart from the quaint natural beauty, one of the highlights in Blagaj is the Dervish House, the only one in Bosnia (although apparently this ceased to be true as of the day we visited after the opening of another in Sarajevo).

The second unplanned visit was to the village of Pocitelj. Despite its small size, it was hard to miss due to it being situated on a steep bank of a bending river - it was quite the magical approach. We spent a couple of hours or so exploring the village and its forts, mosques and towers - compared to that in Kotor, the hikes were pretty accessible.

Unlike the previous two sights, Kravica Falls was always on the list of things to see. Although we reached there in good time, we spent some of it in the car waiting for the rain to stop. Rain is usually a good thing when viewing waterfalls, but after Blagaj and Pocitelj Kravica for me was the third of three very good sights we saw that day.

After Kravica we made our way out of the country and back to Croatia and our final destination of Split. We caught the coastal route from Baska Voda, which although taking around 45 mins longer than the highway did provide us with some decent views of the Adriatic Coast - time was against us otherwise I would have loved to have stopped off in one of the towns for a bit. As it stood though we reached Split in decent enough time to return our car that day - even though we have two days to go the road tripping part of the holiday was now officially over.

Tuesday, May 8

The Adriatic Coast, Day Three: Mostar

We started early to give ourselves enough time for the hike up to the Castle Of San Giovanni back in Kotor. It was a leisurely trail, even though we took the back (and free) exit to get to the top. The elevated views of the bay were worth the exercise alone, but it was also fun to scramble through the castle ruins. The whole thing took us around 3 hours.

This pretty much ended our time here in the Bay of Kotor, and it was with a relatively heavy heart that we left for our next destination - the bay is definitely a place one could spend time just chilling in. Montenegro itself seemed to agree; it was actually not that easy to exit the country when we found that we had to pay a 5 euro fee (whether this was for the use of the road or some kind of departure tax we're still not sure). With no ATMs nor card facility we had to (over) pay in Croatian kuna which left a bit of a bitter taste. Something to bear in mind if you're planning to cross the border.

When we eventually did cross, we found ourselves in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Technically however we were in Republika Srpska, a separate entity from what is known as the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If this sounds confusing then it is - it's probably a good idea to enter the Balkans with some knowledge of the land and not in ignorance like we did. Nevertheless since our first stop was in Stolac (in the Federation), we just drove on through.

Stolac itself was a bit of a ghost town, eerie in its emptiness and still all too clear signs of conflict. The plan was to stop to check out some Ottoman architecture, but as a group we thought the time would be best spent getting to Mostar in good time. So on we went.

Mostar itself is nice at night. It has a very intimate and romantic feel to it - not least because of the rebuilt old bridge.

Of course the other appeal was in how, unlike the Republika, the Federation is Muslim friendly. We got to offer both evening prayers in congregation in the oldest and most central mosque, and I'm also not ashamed to say that we had our best local meal of the trip so far this evening.

Again, it might have been another place to have spent more than a single night in... but by bedtime we had all decided that we would have to move on the next day.

Monday, May 7

The Adriatic Coast, Day Two: The Bay of Kotor

With a blank slate for the day, we headed north to cover the Adriatic coast up to Ston. This really was a case of the journey being more important than the destination, with the drive giving us some fantastic views of the coast.

On the way back we decided to drive off the beaten path and stopped for a while in Slano, paddling in the sea while taking a break. Once again it was a tiny moment that more than justified the shredding of any plan.

Backtracking all the way to Dubrovnik, we continued south until we crossed the border into Montenegro. The Bay of Kotor is the main feature here, and the drive around such a peculiar shape was an experience in itself.

After settling into our home in Dobrota we headed to Perast for an easy yet late lunch, taking the time to also pay a visit to Our Lady of the Rocks. It was the epitome of a lazy afternoon.

Since the night was still relatively young, we ended our long day by driving to Muo for some night views of Kotor old town and fort.

Considering the lazy pace we had covered a lot today, and for me it was a reassuring sign of how varied and dynamic the next few days would be.

Sunday, May 6

The Adriatic Coast, Day One: Dubrovnik

Full disclosure: the title for this series of posts covering my time in and around Croatia was not set until the holiday was done. This was because we didn't actually know what we would be doing until we got there. That in turn was due to the relative geography of the travelling group (two of whom were from across the pond), a general lack of drive in the planning stage and, crucially, the fact that researching this particular region opens up a huge Pandora's Box of activities and sights that I personally found impossible to incorporate into an agreed plan.

So instead, we decided to book our open jaw flight, our car for the next few days as well as our first night's stay (here in Dubrovnik) and see how it went. In my personal experience "winging it" generally ends up with a holiday to remember... but it largely depends on the flexibility and agility of the group travelling.

Our first day was easily decided: we landed in Dubrovnik at 10am, opening up the real possibility of completing our time in the town on the same day. After settling into our accommodation, we headed out to the Old Town (where we figured would be the meat of our tourist activities). On the way we took the cable car up the adjacent hill for some decent views of the old city, most of which were seen not from the cable car complex itself but further down off track from the side of a cliff.

After we were done with the exterior views, we entered the Old Town itself for a spot of lunch. This was similar to other old towns you can find across Europe, if a bit more busy and perhaps commercial - I often found myself wondering what the town would have been like pre-Game of Thrones. That said, it was fun walking around trying to spot as many scenes from the show as we could (resulting in us chanting "shame" to each other for the whole day as well as what I can only predict will be for the rest of the holiday).

Still, the group seemed in agreement that we were done with Dubrovnik and the decision was made to leave the town the next day. Knowing that we wouldn't have another day here, a couple of us decided to squeeze in a trip to the other side of the peninsula for beach walks and sunset - this side was much less busy and much more chilled out that what we found in the Old Town, and it was a welcome change.

After a pizza dinner we randomly decided to drive back up the hill we visited via cable car earlier in the day - the night drive up winding roads was just about justified by the night views of the Old Town and the wider Dubrovnik. It was a nice intimate end to a busy day, and one that I felt had set the tone for the rest of the trip going forward.