Newsletter Number Twenty Six - November 2008

As I look out my window here at home it is clear that winter has started to take hold in Amsterdam. People have resorted to wearing shades of black (well it could be Melbourne), sleet is covering the walkways and there are less tourists around to run over on the bicycle paths. So, before we head for hibernation  I thought it about time reminisce on the past summer months and what has been keeping me out of trouble (well most of the time).

Around the Balkans

During the month of August Michael and I headed off to Croatia and Bosnia for a two week holiday. We started our little adventure in the Adriatic city of Dubrovnik. The walled part of the old city is quite lovely with its red brick roofs and eclectic architecture reflecting the numerous reconstruction efforts due to earthquake, invasion and war. The newer part of the city is built up into the hills which is where our apartment was. Planning was the key to our survival in an effort to minimise the number of journeys each day.
At the entrance to the city is a map which shows "the sites of damage caused by the aggression on Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav army, Serbs and the Montenegrians in 1991 - 1992. Sadly there are similar signs in almost every Balkan city...
We made the most of the opportunity of being where the water is warm - well compared to the North Sea - and did a bit of scuba diving. It had been a while since either Michael or I had gone for a dive. 

From Dubrovnik it is an easy drive across the border to Montenegro where we headed for a day trip. We still can not work out why it took us over an hour to cross the border. After crawling through a traffic jam we finally got to the border guard who simply took our passports, stamped them and waived us through. Now I want to know:
a) Do Michael and I look that honest and innocent that there is no need to search our car - the only one amongst a group of at least 20
b) The Australian and Dutch government's have been so kind to Montenegro that citizens of both are welcomed like long lost family
c) They just couldn't be bothered by the time they got to us.

Despite the wait we found ourselves in the little town of Perast. The cool water and lovely views meant that we were not traveling any further. In the middle of the fjord or two islands, one with the Abbey of St George and the other Our Lady of the Rock, the island on which it is built being total artificial.I am also not sure when the town last had the need to call out the fire brigade - note the Bedford trucks in the pictures below. 


My charming boyfriend thinks I look like a seal

After returning to Dubrovnik we made our way to Sarajevo in Bosnia.  During the siege of Sarajevo a tunnel was constructed in order to link the city, which was entirely cut off-off by Serbian forces, with the supposedly neutral area at the Sarajevo airport set up by the United Nations. The tunnel is 1.5 metres in height and width and ran for approx. 800 meters. During the time it was used, it is estimated that 20 million tons of food entered the city and 1 million people passed through.

 Driving around the region you are often reminded of the tragedy that was the Balkans war. Throughout you see bullet scarred buildings.

One of the more moving and sobering parts of our holiday was a visit to Srebrenica in Serbia. The area around the town is absolutely lovely with green hills that rise into the clouds and wonderful scenery. Unfortunately the name Srebrenica will forever by infamously remembered for the 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were murdered during the war. At the time they were meant to be under the protection of NATO and Dutch forces. Across the road from the burial grounds and memorial is the shell of the DutchBat HQ. As you walk around the building you can still see graffiti from the Dutch soldiers who were stationed there.
Below are a few pictures of the site. There are more in the Bosnia album.


From Serbia we made our way back into Croatia and Zagreb where we had 2 nights before heading back to Holland.
A weekend in Singapore

Crazy as it might sound, Michael and I headed to 
Singapore for a weekend. He had to fly for work so I simply flew stand by and hitched a ride. I had never been to Singapore so this was a good opportunity to see the city - and shop!
Once I had got over the shock of having to turn right when entering the cabin rather than left towards business class I was grateful that he was able to pull rank and find me two seats to myself.  During the flight I did get an appreciation for how unglamorous the job of a flight attendant can be. At one point I was left to look after the galley while the rest of the crew were running around the plane being so busy. For those who want to know what it was like just watch the video to the left.

After recovering from the flight we then spent the two days playing tourist. One of the more interesting things we came across with the National Museum of Singapore. Whilst we were there they had an amazing exhibition entitled VOOM. You can watch some of the portraits by clicking here. At one point I was stopped in my tracks when Michael, a Dutchman, from the land where the population density is over 400 per square km said "this place is so crowded"... well he was right. Now, I pride myself on my command of the English language. 16 years of formal education, an enjoyment for reading and theatre has allowed me to develop and master the English vocabulary (not that you would know from reading my newsletters). Whilst walking through the market place I commented that a particular object was "nice to see". Before I had uttered the final word, a well dressed gentleman walks past and says "it's good to see, not nice to see"!

On this little adventure we were once again joined by the adventureous little rodent
Ieniemienie.


A few picture of our get-a-way are in the Singapore album

Australia The Movie
Much has been written and said about the "great Australian epic of a movie". For those of us in Holland we will need to wait until 18 December before it opens in 'de bioscope'.In the meantime however the Australian Tourism commission is advertising lack crazy around the world. The following page is part of an 8 page promotion in the travel magazine Columbus. Now - can you spot what is missing?

See the bottom of this page for the answer.


The Rest in Summary
               

And on that "ahhhh" Kodak moment note.... till next time, enjoy life where ever this newsletter finds you!

Mark

 So what was missing - Tasmania. How could an advert in a travel magazine drop Tasmania from the map... well it has been happening already for years I guess


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