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Archive for August, 2013

My daytrip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2013

Today I was going to go onto another daytrip minibus tour. This time I was crossing the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina and in particular to the city of Mostar.

The last time I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina was during the 1990’s civil war when the British Army was deployed on UN and later the NATO SFOR operations. It was no place for a young 4 year old cuddly toy that I was back then.

An old photograph of me on peacekeeping UN duties serving in Bosnia in 1992.

I am the one driving the Warrior armoured personnel carrier.

I am the one driving the Warrior armoured personnel carrier.

I was awarded a medal for my peacekeeping duties.

Me proudly wearing my SFOR medal for service to peacekeeping.

Me proudly wearing my SFOR medal for service to peacekeeping.

Mostar is famous for the Old Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most recognizable landmarks. The Old Bridge and its vicinity are listed by UNESCO onto the World Heritage Sites List.

During the 1991-95 civil war, the old bridge was destroyed by Croat forces. However, a new bridge was reconstructed after the war and this was opened in 2004. Prince Charles opened the new bridge.

This video footage is of the destruction of the Old Bridge in 1993.

With funding from the international community, a new bridge was built after the war.

As with minibus tour yesterday, Pauevnic Roaiski was to be my tour guide. It was a three hour drive from Dubrovnik to Mostar but we did stop in Počitelj just over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina for a little half way stop. The historic site of Počitelj is located on the left bank of the river Neretva, the same river that Mostar stands on.

Počitelj has a mix of medieval and Ottoman architecture.

Počitelj has a mix of medieval and Ottoman architecture.

The old fortifications of the town were built in 1383.

Me posing with Počitelj Tower.

Me posing with Počitelj Tower in the background.

Počitelj tower stands over the town and was built during the medieval peroid.

Počitelj  Tower stands over the town.

Počitelj Tower stands over the town.

The influence of the Ottoman Empire is evident in this town.

Počitelj mostly has an islamic population.

Počitelj mostly has an islamic population.

I was exploring the back streets.

I was exploring the town.

We stayed here for thirty minutes before heading to Mostar.

The mosque that stands in Počitelj.

The mosque that stands in Počitelj.

Back on the road to Mostar, I recall to the tourists on the minibus my service in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war. They were very impressed by how brave a cuddly toy I was.

Upon arrival into Mostar, I could see both damage from the war as well as newly constructed buildings.

The evidence of war still remains.

The evidence of war still remains.

The Old Town has been completed rebuilt.

The Old Town has been completed rebuilt.

The Old Town is very popular with tourists on daytrips from Dubrovnik.

The main street of the Old Town.

The main street of the Old Town.

Mostar is very popular with tourists now, most of who are daytrippers from Dubrovnik.

It was very busy with tourists.

It was very busy with tourists.

The Old Town and bridge is a World Heritage Site.

The Old Town and bridge is a World Heritage Site.

I was glad to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina since the war had ended in 1995.

Me in Bosnia for the first time since the war ended.

Me in Bosnia for the first time since the war ended.

Since the end of the civil war in 1995, great progress has been made in the reconstruction of Mostar.

The bridge has been rebuilt.

The bridge has been rebuilt.

The bridge was opened in 2004.

The bridge looked just like the Old Bridge destroyed in 1993.

The bridge looked just like the Old Bridge destroyed in 1993.

These days, a popular tourist attraction is watching local dive off the bridge into the river. It is a 25 metre drop. The locals divers charge tourists 30 Euros for them to dive off and to allow tourists to video record them.

Of course some tourists dive off the bridge themselves and get their mates to video record it (for free!)

However, one must jump on the correct side of the bridge so that they will not be jumping/diving off into shallow water as has happened already this year to one unlucky tourist.

I posed next to the Old Bridge.

I posed next to the Old Bridge.

After three hours of sight seeing and buying tacky souvenirs, I returned back to Dubrovnik for some ice cream and girls.

The next day I was flying back to the UK and back to work with the British special forces.

For more information about Bosnia and Herzegovina please visit:

www.bhtourism.ba

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My daytrip to Kotor, Montenegro in 2013

Today, I was leaving Dubrovnik for a daytrip to Kotor just across the border in Montenegro. I was going on a tour minibus with a guide named Pauevnic Roaiski.

Montenegro is a former Yugoslavia state and it has a coast on the Adriatic Sea and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast. Its capital and largest city is Podgorica, while Cetinje is designated as the Prijestonica, meaning the former Royal Capital City. It became independent of Yugoslavia on 2006. It is a small country with a population of just 625,000 people.

The tour bus cost 40 Euros and our guide was very knowledgeable. It is a two and a half hours drive to Kotor – a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO list.

My passport stamp from Montenegro.

My passport stamp from Montenegro.

The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period. It is located on the Bay of Kotor, one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea. Some have called the southern-most fjord in Europe, but it is a ria, a submerged river canyon. Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive and picturesque Mediterranean landscape.

In recent years, Kotor has become very touristy due to day trippers from Dubrovnik.

The Old Town is surrounded by the walls.

The Old Town is surrounded by the walls.

As my guide said, some 90% of tourists are from either cruise ships or day tours from Croatia.

I was taking in all of the sights.

I was taking in all of the sights.

In World War I, Kotor was one of three main bases of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

Me admiring the city walls.

Me admiring the city walls.

The Old Town has been fortified many times over the years.

The hilltop fortifications can been seen.

The hilltop fortifications can been seen.

Kotor was first recorded in 168 BC as a Roman settlement.

The walls of the Old Town.

The walls of the Old Town.

The water works of Kotor.

The water works of Kotor.

The narrow streets of the Old Town.

The narrow streets of the Old Town.

Kotor is part of the World Heritage Site dubbed the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor.

Chrikes.... they shoot monkeys here!

Chrikes…. they shoot monkeys here!

In 1979 a earthquake destroyed many buildings in the Old Town. It has since been rebuilt.

The hilltops surrounding the Old Town.

The hilltops surrounding the Old Town.

A band was playing in the square.

A band was playing in the square.

The square had floating umbrellas in the sky.

The square had floating umbrellas in the sky.

Pardon?!?

Pardon?!?

Kotor’s Old Town has many churches.

A Serbian Orthodox church of St. Nicolas

A Serbian Orthodox church of St. Nicolas.

After sighting around Kotor, the tour minibus headed off to the coastal town of Budva. This town has a charming old town fortifications and a nice harbour.

Budva is 3,500 years old, which makes it one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Sea coast.

I went to the beach next to the fort for some sunbathing.

The coastal town of Budva.

The coastal town of Budva.

Many Russians come here for their holidays. Many Russian girls in sexy bikinis were on the beach and I liked that!

I was peeping at the bikini girls.

I was peeping at the bikini girls.

As the sun went down, I went to the harbour to admire the luxury yachts of the Russian rich.

The motor yachts of the rich.

The motor yachts of the rich.

I headed back to Dubrovnik for some ice cream and girls.

To be continued….

For more information about Kotor please visit:

www.visit-montenegro.com/cities-kotor


My trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2013 – part 3

Today I was going to climb up Srđ Hill that overlooks Dubrovnik.

Srđ Hill rises 412m over the Old Town and at the top of which is adorned with Imperial Fortress, built in 1806-1816 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Before the 1991 to 1995 war there was a cable car to take visitors to the top. Although destroyed in 1991, it was recently rebuilt and makes a great excursion for tourists. However the cable car is 90 Kunas (£12) to get to the top.

The hill is the scene to one of the fiercest battles of the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence, namely the Siege of Dubrovnik.

Of course with my military training and fitness, I wasn’t going to take the cable car to get to the top of the hill. I needed the 90 Kunas for serious beer drinking later on. So, I was going to yomp it up the hill using the footpath that runs through the woods and countryside.

The walk starts on a track that is off the main highway above Dubrovnik. Because I was starting my walk from the Old Town, I had to climb the narrows streets of Dubrovnik to get to the highway and then play “frogger” to cross the highway.

The sight of Dubrovnik through the woods.

The sight of Dubrovnik through the woods.

The first section of the walk is through the woods just avove Dubrovnik.

I could see Imperial Fortress was near now.

I could see Imperial Fortress was near now.

The fortress comes into view, with the cable car running to it.

I could see Lokrum Island through the trees.

I could see Lokrum Island through the trees.

Looking back down onto the Old Town, I could clearly see Lokrum Island now. This Island is only 600 metres from the harbour and is a nature reserve.

I was about half way now.

Lokrum Island near to Dubrovnik Harbour.

Lokrum Island near to Dubrovnik Harbour.

Lokrum Island also has a nudist beach which I went to earlier. I was disappointed as it was all men! Apparently, this nudist beach is popular with the gay population.

Beside the nudist beach, Lokrum Island has many things to do with a tower, a monastery, many cafes and loads of peacocks.

Almost at the top.

Almost at the top.

I was near the top. It has taken me two hours because of the heat and exhaustion.

I could see for miles.

I could see for miles.

I was glad not to take the cable car – that is cheating!

I could see the Old Town and Lokrum Island clearly now.

I could see the Old Town and Lokrum Island clearly now.

Great views of the Old Town from above.

A close up of the harbour.

A close up of the harbour.

The fort was very close now.

Just a few metres to go....

Just a few metres to go….

I made it to the top of the hill and arrived at the fortress. This fortress was built in the Napoleonic Wars and is over 200 years old.

It was built in 1806 by Marshal Marmont, called the Imperial Fortress, in honor of emperor Napoleon. The fortress was strategically important to defend the northern side of the city.

Today, the fortress is a museum for the Croatian War of Independence also known as the Homeland War. Now there are plans to build a golf course and luxury resort on top also.

The fortress is now a museum for the Homeland War.

The fortress is now a museum for the Homeland War.

I went for a little walk around the fortress and found remains of defences from the 1991-95 war.

The countryside is full of makeshift defences from the 1991-95 war.

The countryside is full of makeshift defences from the 1991-95 war.

Remains from the war is easily found.

I found an expended round on the ground.

I found an expended round on the ground.

I stayed on top of the hill for the sunset over the Adriatic Sea.

I watch the sun go down over the Adriatic Sea.

I watch the sun go down over the Adriatic Sea.

It soon got dark.

It was nighttime over Dubrovnik.

It was nighttime over Dubrovnik.

I headed back down the hill under darkness and into the Old Town for an extra large size one scoop ice cream. It was Smurf flavour! I don’t like Smurfs.

To be continued….

For more information about Croatia please visit:

http://www.croatia.hr


My trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2013 – part 2

Following my arrest upon my arrival, I set about to enjoy the rest of my two week holiday in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik is on the coast of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is a popular tourist destination on the coast of Croatia and is popular with day trippers from docking cruise ships. In 1979 the walled city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

My first attraction that I was going to visit was the City Walls. It cost 90 Kuna (almost £12) to walk the walls.

The City Walls walk is a good introduction to Dubrovnik as you will have the chance to see some of the city’s monuments.

The length of the walls walk is 2km, but with my active military training I was fit enough to do this walk. It is best to do this walk either early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday sun.

Many tourists here fresh off the cruise ships.

Many tourists here fresh off the cruise ships.

This is a very popular tourist attraction and is very busy. The authorities make people walk anti-clockwise to avoid people congestion.

Onofrio's Great Fountain near the Pile Gate.

Onofrio’s Great Fountain near the Pile Gate.

Onofrio’s Great and Small Fountains were built by Neapolitan architect Onofrio della Cava as part of Dubrovnik’s water supply system.

Onofrio’s Great Fountain is located at the very entrance to Dubrovnik (by the Pile Gate), while the Small Fountain stands at the eastern end of the city.

The fortifications of Dubrovnik.

The fortifications of Dubrovnik.

The walls are considered to be amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages.

Looking across to St. Lawrence Fortress.

Looking across to St. Lawrence Fortress.

Heading towards the seaward side of the City walls, you will see St. Lawrence Fortress which emerges from the cliff 37m high.

I got to see lots from high up on the walls.

I got to see lots from high up on the walls.

The walk is very hard going in the heat so bring plenty of drinks.

Almost half way.

Almost half way.

It is a very tiring walk as there is little shade from the sun.

The fortifications of the old town.

The fortifications of the old town.

The walls are reinforced by three circular and fourteen quadrangular towers, five bastions (bulwarks), two angular fortifications and the large St. John’s Fortress.

The red top roofs of the old town.

The red top roofs of the old town.

The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Serb controlled Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and local Serb forces, with the JNA ending its combat operations in Croatia by 1992. In Croatia, the war is primarily referred to as the Homeland War.

Dubrovnik became under seige from Serb forces in October 1991 and the first bombardment of Dubrovnik culminated on 6th December of that year. The seige lasted for nine months of which many houses within the old town became damaged or destroyed. 88 civilians were killed. Nowadays, the old town had been rebuilt and the roof tops of the house are new.

Laundry underwear on the city walls walk.

Laundry underwear on the city walls walk.

Walking the length of walls, one get to see inside people back gardens! Hanging laundry is everywhere.

Looking into the harbour.

Looking into the harbour.

Going further you will reach St John’s Fortress standing proudly at the entrance to the Old Town Harbour.

Dubrovnik harbour.

Dubrovnik harbour.

The harbour is full of tourists boat tours.

This cannon overlooks the harbour.

This cannon overlooks the harbour.

The harbour is now popular with sea-front cafes and ice cream shops.

Looking over the houses of the old town.

Looking over the houses of the old town.

As a result of the post 1991-95 war reconstruction, many of the roof tops in the old town are new and very brightly red in colour.

Finally we reach the northernmost point of the walls – Minčeta Tower.

Near the end of my walk is Minčeta Tower.

Near the end of my walk is Minčeta Tower.

The tower was near the end of the walk.

I was near the end of my 2km walls walk.

I was near the end of my 2km walls walk.

It took me two hours to do the walk with all the sights and I have short legs!

I was exhausted at the end of my walk, so I went down to the main street of the old town – the Stradun. The limestone-paved pedestrian street runs some 300 metres through the Old Town.

I got myself a ice cream for 10 Kuna (about £1.20). In Dubrovnik, ice cream comes on one size – VERY BIG! They fill the cone with as much ice cream as possible before gravity becomes the issue.

To be continued….

For more information about Croatia please visit:

http://www.croatia.hr


My trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2013 – part 1

I have just come back from my two week hoilday in Dubrovnik in Croatia.

The last time I was in Croatia was in the 1990’s when I served with the UN in the war torn former Yugoslavia. I was only 4 years old* when I joined the British Army and sent to the conflict that raged the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The war was no place for a young wee cuddly toy but I fulfill my UN duties with honour.

On the day of my departure, my foster auntie and uncle left our house at four in the morning and set off in a waiting taxi. I was very angry – had they forgotten me! So a quick check of my uncle’s email account (I know his password) and grrrrr I found out they never purchase any flight tickets for me! Were they planning to hoilday without me – a private romantic hoilday without me? So, I grab my bags and ran down the street as fast as my wee legs could take me and I manage to jump on to the taxi rear bumper. We made it to the airport but what was I suppose to do! I had no flight ticket. Using my army ninja training I sneaked on the aircraft by climbing in between the undercarriage. My auntie and uncle did not know that I was a stowaway on the flight. I was looking forward to surprising them at the rented appartment.

The next part of my stowaway plan was to climb inside my uncle’s luggage within the aircraft hold and I did it within ease.

When the plane landed in Dubrovnik, a wee sniffer dog snuffed me out on the luggage conveyor belt. The Croatia secret state police arrested me!

They tortured me!

The secret state police tortured me!

The secret state police tortured me!

They put a plastic bag over me and said nasty things to me such as “You are not a cute cuddly toy!”

The Chief of Secret police said that I was to be executed for entering the country illegally.

The old town in Dubrovnik still has the public execution square and I was to be executed at dawn the next day. It was to the first public execution in Dubrovnik since the medieval times.

The execution square in the old city of Dubrovnik.

The execution square in the old town of Dubrovnik.

I was pooping myself as I was led out to the square.

I was scare!

I was scare!

They read out my sins as I was placed into the blocks.

This was it! The end of Sgt. Monkey!

This was it! The end of Sgt. Monkey!

Suddenly there was a cry from the auidence. It was the mayor of Dubrovnik Miss Lynojka Sneobnic. She said something to the Chief of State police! He then came over to me and said he was sorry! The mayor recognised me as the one and only famous travelling Sgt. Monkey from the internet. The mayor decided to parden me after realising that I was no ordinary cuddly toy. I was a free monkey once again.

I made it to my uncle’s rented appartment and when he let me in – I punched him for not taking me on hoilday with him.

My self catering appartment was wee cute – I tend to avoid major hotels as I like to feel that I living in a destination.

Anyway, twenty years on and I am back in Croatia on my summer holidays. It was a hot 35 degrees Celicus and my wee soft cotton fur got burnt.

It was a hot day for sunbathing.

It was a hot day for sunbathing.

To be continued….

For more information about Croatia please visit:

http://www.croatia.hr

* 4 years old for a wee cuddly toy monkey is the equivalent to 16 years in human years.


Off on my summer holidays to Croatia

This weekend I am off to Croatia.

YIPPPPEEEEE……

A map of Croatia.

A map of Croatia.

With the heavy workload that us British Army cuddly toys have to undergo, I am looking forward to summer stand down this coming weekend.

Getting ready for a patrol carrying all my fighting order equipment

Getting ready for a patrol carrying all my fighting order equipment.

I am off to Croatia for some summer sun. Loads of sun, beachs and girls in sexy bikinis (and some not in bikinis – nude sunbathing is popular in Croatia!)

The last time I was in Croatia was on my UN tours of the 1990’s and I was being shot at almost daily! This time round I can enjoy myself without dodging the bullets and lets the girls in bikinis (and naturist girls) pamper me.

I have started my packing for my flight on Saturday.

Me packing my scuba diving gear.

Me packing my scuba diving gear.

I will be staying in Dubrovnik in a self catering appartment. Plenty of activities to do – such as scuba diving, sea kayaking and hill trekking as well as day trips to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Mostar in Bosina and Kotor in Montenegro.

Dubrovnik old town, a world heritage site.

Dubrovnik old town, a world heritage site.

If you are in Dubrovnik in the coming few weeks then please say hello to me if you see me out and about.

For more information about Croatia please visit:

http://www.croatia.hr