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Budapest, Montenegro, Italy 2008 Archives

June 24, 2008

Hello From Budapest

Budapest is a fabulous city. We are running ourselves ragged, and loving it.

Decided on the Budapest Card (about $50 per person). It has paid for itself in museum entry fees alone, not to mention all the public transportation.

We were able to actually light Susie's candle in St. Stephen's. I got a great picture. We had to settle for lighting it outside the door of St. Matthias.

If we were here a month instead of a week, we would only begin to scratch the surface.

I can't believe this is already our last night. We leave tomorrow night on the sleeper to Beograd.

We hit the bonanza in festivals. Night before last was the big June 21st festival on the chain bridge. Last night was Budapest's first international food festival.

I took video on my camera, but I don't know how to put it on YouTube. I'll have to wait until I get home to my tech savvy friends.

I also can't get the photo program on this computer to switch from Hungarian to English, so I can't even upload a picture.

Of course, I've take almost 200 so far, so how could I just choose one.

July 1, 2008

Crna Gora !!!!

We are in one of the most beautiful countries you can imagine.

Montenegrin's have a saying: When God finished creating the world, he had a bag of rocks left over. So he dumped them on the shore of the sea and created Crna Gora.

As we look from the windows of our beautiful rental apartment, across the bay, across the rooftops of old town Kotor, we see the shear face of a mountain. Or at least that is what we THINK we are seeing.

Actually we are looking at a series of mountains...each one higher than the one in front of it. It gives the optical illusion of just one solid rock face.

But, as we begin to climb the Ladder of Cattaro, each switchback reveals the side and back of yet another peak, until finally you reach the entrance to Lovcen National Park.

Then you climb higher and higher to the summit, which is 1600+ meters. There you come to the resting place of this countries most beloved national hero, Petar II Petrovic Njegos.

I wish this computer had the ability to edit some of my pictures, and I had the time to post. But I have a long line of people waiting for me to have their turn.

So, I'll just have to paint word pictures with my posts until I can get home.

July 7, 2008

And now, a deep breath, we are in Italy.

That is how it feels. We have been going, going, going. Wanting to see as much of Budapest and as much of the country of Montenegro as we could. After all, we weren't sure if we would ever return.

But, now we are at Montemigiano. (The third picture in our header photo above.)

We are settled in. We are home. We have no need to rush around and take in the sights. We know we will be back many more times.

We arrived at Ancona by ferry from Bar. Picked up our rental car and drove straight to Umbertide.

We made a quick inventory of the provisions and then a shopping list. Ran to the store, came home and put the groceries away before jumping in the pool.

There was a Swedish family in the house upstairs. He is a conductor with an orchestra. Their daughter is an opera singer and has just been accepted to a major conservatory. To thank the owner of the house for its use, they held a recital and dinner party. They invited everyone in residence.

A very pleasant welcome for our first night, don't you think. The food was great, the company was so nice...and the music was wonderful! This young lady has a very bright future. I think we will be hearing from her on an international level some day.

Next time I come to the internet cafe, I will try to upload some pictures into this boring words-only blog.

July 22, 2008

Our Budapest Apartment

I've still not completed my day-by-day blog posts on our trip to Spain & Portugal last year. So, this year, I've decided to be a little bit less ambitious and do isolated topic posts. I'll start with our apartment in Budapest.

When we travel, we like to rent apartments that are in residential areas and are at least for part of the year an actual home to the owners. We have a couple of reasons for this. First, the apartment kitchen tends to be better equipped for cooking. And second, it is not likely to be in a location that is devoted to holiday makers, so we have a better chance of experiencing the day to day life of the city.

For Budapest we choose this apartment: http://www.greatrentals.com/rental-property/p304383

It was recommended to us by one of our SlowTrav friends, Ann. Her one caveat about the apartment turned out to be one of the things we enjoyed most. The configuration that is common to the apartment blocks in Budapest -- interior courtyard.

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Ann pointed out that we would need to have our windows open at night for air. (The apartment isn't air-conditioned.) She was cautioning us about the lack of privacy we would experience. And she is right. If you choose an apartment like this, you are intentionally immersing yourself in the life of a small community.

For us this was a bonus. The neighbors were curious about us, and we did feel we were being observed as we came and went -- but it felt friendly and benign. We had the opportunity to smell the delicious evening meals being prepared all around us. We evesdropped on conversations between neighbors even though we didn't understand a word. We were exposed to daily routine. It would not be for everyone, but we loved it.

The owner is in the wine business and a New Zealander ex-pat and living most of the time in California. Because of frequent trips to Budapest he has need for a home there.

He was friendly, easy to work with, and offered some great suggestions. If you are an opera lover he is an especially good source of information.

The location was in district six, one-half block south of Szondi UT and close to two major streets, Andrassy UT and Terez Korut. It was ideal for walking and our metro stop was Vorosmarty on Andrassy near the Liszt Museum.

Although there are pictures on the listing site, here are a few we took ourselves.

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The entry is into the kitchen, with a view directly back to the bathroom. To the left will take you through the diningroom/living room on your way to the bedroom.

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Looking into the kitchen from the dining room/living room. The kitchen is galley style, small but efficient. The side of the galley you don't see has the sink, diswasher and a nice washing machine. (Washing machines are a non-negotiable for us because we only pack a weeks worth of close for a month of traveling.)

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Living room half of this large middle room. The left side of the room, out of view, is a well stocked bookcase and a television.

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The dining room half with its two big windows. Sorry about all our stuff spread out over the table.

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In addition to the bed and wardrobe the bedroom has a big dressing table, two nightstands, and a nice table and two chairs by the windows.

Our practice is to leave by 10AM in the morning and not return until about 7PM. So, we found, even in late June that this apartment was very comfortable at night. There is a small ocillating fan that we moved from kitchen to bedroom. It was very adequate. If you are the kind of renter who wants to spend the heat of the day in your apartment, this one is not for you.

August 3, 2008

The Magic of the Budapest Card

We spent our first few days in Budapest checking out the obvious attractions. The "postcard" sights, as my mother calls them.

Then after a bit of back and forth discussion, we decided to spring for the 72 hour Budapest Card.

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Truthfully, we were getting it more for the transportation advantages during the searing heat than for the other features. Lucky for us, that Budapest was experiencing a heat wave.

Otherwise . . .

We would have gone to visit the famous Elephant Gate at the Budapest Zoo, but we probably would not have paid 1,400 Ft each to go into the zoo itself. After all, we have one of the top zoos in the world in St. Louis. Almost any other zoo is just a zoo. Right? Wrong, because I would not have discovered in St. Louis that I can speak fluent Meerkat. No kidding! I have this weird ability to make a trilling/clicking noise with my tongue that Meerkats seem to view as facinating conversation.

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Without the Budapest Card, we wouldn't have had a prayer of discovering the Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Catering, hidden on the ground floor of an office building. We would not have learned about Hungary's long and proud food history -- much beyond goulash. Nor would we have learned about the vibrant revitalization of the food culture in modern Budapest. Move over Food Network, is all I can say! Oh, yeah, and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to pose here, just for Palma!

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We generally go out of our way to visit a local cemetery when we are in a foreign city. But one wasn't immediately evident in Budapest. The Budapest card offered entry into the Kegyeleti Muzeum (Piety Museum), which was located in the city's main cemetery a fair distance from the city center. The museum was interesting in its own right, but the cemetery was astounding. It will get its own blog entry with many pictures! For now, here is a teaser.

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The Magyar Mezogazdasagi Museum (Hungarian Agricultural Museum) is an homage to taxidermy displayed in a castle that should be the exhibit all by itself. Well to be fair, there is much more than just the hundreds of stuffed animals there. The displays on farming were truly facinating.

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All of these things I've mentioned (and unlimited transportation) are just a small sample of what was available to us through the Budapest Card. The best 12,000 Ft we spent the entire week! It comes with a comprehensive guide book to all the points of interest where it can be used. Within that guide book were great maps that allowed us to plan our days in the most productive way we could. No backtracking, no arrivals to closed doors. It was great!

August 6, 2008

Kerepesi Cemetery

Have you ever visited a place in another country without preparing yourself in advance with information about it? Did you find that the place was not a regular tourist destination and therefore you didn't find onsight tour guides or at least a pamphlet printed in four languages?
Were you astounded and yet not comprehending of what you were seeing?
Did you leave with the sense that you have just visited a truly extraordinary place that you must now learn all you can about?

In Budapest that place for us was Kerepesi Cemetery.

We wondered for three hours through a magical sculpture park masquerading as a cemetery. Huge mausoleums, two long arcades, and hundreds of free standing graves. We rarely saw any grave without at least a life size statue incorporated into its tombstone.

I'm going to show you some pictures. And tell you what we knew at the time, or at least surmised, about this cemetery and these pictures. Then I'm going to add the facts we learned from our research after returning home.

Lujza Blaha: 1850 - 1926

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Our reaction: "Wow, that's one WELL FED rich lady. I wonder who she was?"
The facts: She was born as Lujza Rendl. At an early age she was extremely popular as a child actor. She married conductor Janos Blaha in 1866 and changed her name. She went on to be the most popular female actor and singer of her time, earning many major awards and having a square named after her in the city. Her title was: "The Nation's Nightingale". She died of pneumonia.


Bela Pallik: 1854 - 1908

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Our reaction: "With the big cross, the staff, and the sheep, we're guessing - Priest? You know, 'good shepherd' and all that."
The facts: Bela Pallik is considered to be one of Europe's most important animal painters from the Hungarian school. He is most well known for his depictions of farm animals, especially sheep. duh Here is his most famous painting.

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Adolph Czako: 1860 - 1942

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Our reaction: "Hey, look. It's Harry Potter as an old man! See, he even has the scar on his forehead."
The facts: Dr. Aldolph Czako was the Dean of Engineering for Budapest University of Technology and Economics (the MIT of Hungary). In 1920, he led a fight to prevent the radical right at the university from implementing racial quotas designed to exclude Jews from entry.


Mihaly Vorosmarty: 1800 - 1855

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Our reaction: "This is probably the guy our street is named after. Wonder what he is famous for."
The facts: Yes, he is indeed the guy our street was named for. He was a poet, and acclaimed as a national treasure. His funeral was on November 21st which was declared a national day of mourning, and ensured that a street would be named after him, and one after his funeral date. There is a square named for him as well. Here is his monument in that square.

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Antal Kocze: 1872 - 1926

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Our reaction: "Wish we could read music. Maybe we'd recognize the song and figure out who he was."
The facts: Not likely since we aren't familiar with Gypsy music. A master violinist and composer, he was called "King of the Hungarian Gypsy Virtuosos". His music was and is performed by many well known Gypsy bands.if you google his name you will get 11 pages of listings.
Here is a link to a listing where you can here a few bars from some of the songs he wrote. Not performed by him, of course.
http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=257249


We have dozens of photographs from our day at Kerepesi. Most of them, I will never be able to identify without going back for another visit and making detailed notes for research. Hmmmm...

I'll leave you with a few of my favorites.

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A Brief History of Kerepesi Cemetery, its Hugarian name: Kerepesi uti temeto.
It was founded in 1847, however the first burial was not until 1849. In 1885 the municipal authorities declared that Kerepesi was Budapest's "Ground of Honour". This ensured that most of the countries notable statesmen, writers, sculptors, architects, artists, composers, scientists, actors, and actresses would be interred there. The first notable burial was Mihaly Vorosmarty in 1855.
The cemetery was declared closed for burials in 1952. Partly because of damages during WWII and partly for political reasons because the Communist wanted to divert attention away from the graves of those who were perceived to have "exploited the working class".
In 1958, during the Socialist Period, a Mausoleum for the Labour movement was created and burials began again. In 1989, after the fall of Communism, the burials ceased for a final time, and almost all references to communism were removed from tombs. The scars where red stars were chiseled off are still visable on many monuments.
However, the cemetery is still perceived to be "The Communist Cemetery", causing many to avoid it. A notable example: One of the sons of famous composer, Bela Bartok, refused to allow his father's ashes to be interred there.
At 58 hctrs., it is indeed the largest sculpture park in Europe.
The cemetery is now a quiet park with fewer and fewer surviving families to visit its eternal residents.

research credits:
http://disappearingbudapest.blogspot.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerepesi_Cemetery

http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.php?FScemeteryid=639592&page=cem

August 12, 2008

Matyas Church

It is officially named The Parish church of Our Lady Mary, but it is known and beloved as Matyas Church, after King Matyas Corvinus.
We were anticipating this visit, to a church, whose confused exterior blend of neo-gothic/neo-baroque and its glazed tile roof are legendary. So it was a bit of a disappointed to find it completely shrouded in scaffolding.

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As the site of many royal coronations, marriages, & burials, Matyas is an integral part of Hungary's national and historical pride.
During the amost 150 years that began in 1547 when the Turks ruled Hungary, the church had been converted to a Mosque.
The legend is that during a worship service, an image of the Madonna appeared to the Turkish rulers and convinced them that they were about to be driven away.
It was restored to its current appearance in the late 1800s.

We entered to an extremely dim and dark interior. It felt like a cave. And seemed almost devoid of decoration. It took several minutes for our eyes to adjust to the gloom.
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But once they did we were treated to these amazing frescoed patterns covering almost every square inch of the interior.

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Here is a link to the churches website where the unusual painting is explained.
http://www.matyas-templom.hu/eng/templomtortenet.html

Matyas is just another reason we will have to return to Budapest someday. We need to see her exterior without the scaffolding.

August 15, 2008

Budapest's Central Market Hall -- COLORFUL

When I found out what this week's theme would be I knew immediately what photo I would post.

You can't get much more colorful than this precise lineup of painted wooden nesting dolls from one of the upper level stalls in the Central Market Hall in Budapest.

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Central Market Hall, opened in 1896, is a spectacular building designed by Hungarian architect Samu Pecz. It has the architectural feel of that time period when there was a love affair with exposed steel. It reminds you of the Eiffel Tower or the Santa Justa Elevator in Lisbon. That shouldn't surprise, since Pecz and Eiffel were contemporaries and probably studied each other's work. Plus the architect of the Santa Justa was a protege of Eiffel's.

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It is a huge, airy, and beautiful place. Though we were there in the mid-afternoon and most of the shoppers had come and gone, every food stall was still well stocked and spotlessly clean.

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The 100 plus food stalls are on the ground floor level, were selling everything edible you can imagine. Sausage stalls, meats, fish, spices, veggies & fruit. And, of course, there were dried peppers everywhere.

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The upper level, a sort of gallery overlooking the ground floor, had less than half the number of stalls because it didn't extend into the center. They were mostly mostly traditional needlework, crafts, and tourist trinkets. This is where I got the shot of the nesting dolls. There were also several large restaurants on the upper level.

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If you plan to visit Budapest, do not fail to save part of a day for Central Market Hall. The only thing I would do differently would be to arrive early in the morning to experience the hustle and bustle of the local shoppers. As it was, we were pretty much all tourists.

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August 19, 2008

Budapest's Great Synagogue

One of our most anticipated visits for our time in Budapest was Europe's largest synagogue.

With its distinctive twin onion domes it is one of the most recognizable buildings of Budapest's skyline.

The interior is breathtaking. Words really can't describe how beautiful it is. It can hold up to 3,000 worshippers. The woodworking of the women's galleries is amazing. I apologize that I was so taken with the interior, I completely forgot to turn around and get a picture of the huge rose window with the light coming in.

Since I'm not Jewish, I don't know the proper names for much of what I photographed.

So rather than embarass myself, I'll just post the photos for you to enjoy.

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Next to the synagogue is an interesting museum collection of historical relics, Judica devotional items and objects dating back to ancient Rome.

On the top floor of the museum is a series of stark white walls lined with photographs. This is the Holocaust Memorial Room.

Although photographs were permitted, and actively encouraged by the museum staff, I really couldn't bring myself to take any. In fact, I had a hard time looking at the series of exhibit photographs. The inhumanity was just too overwhelming.

So I'll leave you with only two photos. One of the entry into the exhibit, and one as we exited into the lovely courtyard behind. It is of the 1991 weeping willow sculpture dedicated to the 600,000 Hungarian Jews murdered during WWII. Each silvery leaf bears a name.

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The Minnow

Just sit right back & you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship.

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The mate was a mighty sailing man, The skipper brave & sure.

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Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour,
A three hour tour

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The weather started getting rough, the engine smoked alot.

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If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost,
The Minnow would be lost.

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That, my friends, is my version of our harrowing, death-defying trip across Lago Trasimeno!
Now, we shall see how Alessandra tries to spin it in the face of my photographic evidence.

August 22, 2008

Ferry Accomodations - WRINKLED

This post is a bit out of order as far as my entries about our recent trip to Budapest, Montenegro, & Italy. But, the ferry ride from Montenegro to Italy was when I took the only photo that qualified for the PhotoHunt assignment of 'wrinkled' for this week.

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We are pretty easy going travellers. We don't require first class accomodations, and aren't inclined to pay for them. So, when we booked our tickets on Sv. Stefan II operated by Montenegro Lines, we decided we could tolerate one night of going down the hall to the bathroom and we didn't need an outside cabin. After all, my mantra is "All hotel rooms look the same with the lights out." That is, of course, providing they are clean.

Our cabin wasn't. I don't know if you can tell from the picture just how filthy the mattress was. No mattress pad, Just a thin flat sheet covering a saggy and grimy green canvas 'sack' stuffed with God knows what! The sheet kept coming untucked. The carpet was so dirty and coated with crud, we could not identify the color. I should have taken a picture of the floor, but to tell you the truth, I just didn't want to look at it long enough for that.


The only other picture I took inside the cabin was of the sink area. It appeared, thankfully, clean. However, this was a bring-your-own-towel proposition.

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Our cabin -- inside two beds with sink, but no bathroom was E87 per person ($260 total). We thought that was a steep price, so how bad could the cabin be? Right? We had no intention of paying the E180 per person for a deluxe cabin.

Had we known then, what we know now, we'd have opted to sit up all night in the airline style seats for E66 per person. We would have saved $63 and probably slept just as well. PLUS we wouldn't have come away feeling like we had just been exposed to every disease and microscopic insect known to man.

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When I get to this point in our trip, I'll post some other photos of the ship and provide a more balanced assessment of the entire experience. Fortunately for us, the cabin was the only really awful part.

August 29, 2008

Festival Food in Budapest

Tomorrow's post takes us out of Budapest and on our way to Montenegro. So what better way to leave this great city behind than with images of its festival food?

We were lucky enough to be in Budapest on June 21st - the summer celebration day on the Chain Bridge that spills out into the plazas on either end of the bridge. On the Pest side were the traditional Hungarian food booths.

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We started with a little snack. Hungary's new answer to kettle corn, cotton candy or funnel cakes. This baked-on-a-tube doughy treat is a new invention in Hungary. It first made its appearance at a festival in 2003 and has become a runaway hit. It's called Kurtoskalacs. A basic sweet dough is rolled onto a frame and baked. The baker slides it off the frame and it looks like a very fat paper towel tube. You choose the flavor you want it dipped in (we picked coconut). All I can say is "Move over, funnel cakes!"

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After some music and people watching we wondered over to the largest of the food booths. The one with the most divine smells spreading out in all directions.

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This wasn't your basic cart on wheels portable festival booth. This thing was massive. Set up with a clapboard back wall; antique food cupboards for atmosphere; and big jars of pickled everything for decoration.

The menu was beyond our ability to read.

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But it didn't really matter. Everything worth considering was spread out in front of us in three foot wide woks, bubbling away. All we had to do was try to keep our drooling tongues inside our heads as we pointed to our selections.

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As we tucked into our choices, I thought about the folks back home who would soon be going to Fair St. Louis under the Gateway Arch. It's a really great party with lots of food booths. But, I wasn't homesick, and I didn't care much that I would be missing out on the typical American festival offerings of hotdogs and french fries.

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August 30, 2008

On to Montenegro - BEAUTIFUL

It is time to leave the rest of Budapest for you to discover for yourself. If I don't move on to Montenegro, I'll still be writing these travel entries six months from now.

Saturday means another PhotoHunt assignment. This week -- BEAUTIFUL. And I have the perfect picture from our trip to represent that thought.

We met a gentleman on our train ride from Belgrade to Podgorica. I'd seen him on the platform in Belgrade. Four or five people stood around him with solemn faces as he prepared to board. A young boy of about seven or eight was clinging to his leg and crying. It was obvious that he was well loved and missed before he was gone.

He sought us out within ten minutes of our departure from Belgrade. He came to our coach, and welcomed us to the train as he shook our hands. A two-fisted shaker, like an evangelist, he grabbed my right hand with his and covered both of them with his left. It felt like I was receiving some sort of benediction with that handshake. His hands were surprisingly soft and smooth. I would have expected rough calloused hands to match the rest of his appearance.

His English was thickly accented, but grammatically flawless. He switched from English to either Serbian or Montenegrin (I couldn't tell) effortlessly as he divided his attention between us and our Montenegrin couch mates.

We learned nothing about him. He never bothered to ask our names and never shared his, or anything about himself. The only thing he let slip was an offhand comment about an important historical event. That allowed me to do the math in my head to make an educated guess at his age. Otherwise, he skillfully deflected all inquiries.

Keeping up a running one-sided dialogue, he touched on everything from astronomy to engineering to river navigation to beekeeping.

He bounced from deep philosophical comments on national identity to the nature of the animal-human bond to his admiration for Mark Twain and Marlon Brando.

Without asking if any of us suffered with the problem, he highly recommendation an herbal preparation of Wormwood leaves as a treatment for intestinal parasites.

He seemed enthralled with Native Americans. He was quite pleased to learn that my great-great-grandmother was 1/2 Cherokee. Then he launched into a disertation on the Trail of Tears.

He wondered from car to car, leaving us for an hour at a time, then reappearing and picking up the conversation where he had left off.

He left the train about three hours before Podgorica at a desolate looking stop with no visible town. Just a small concrete shelter next to the tracks. He had been in a different car when he stepped off the train, and we didn't realize he was leaving. Just as the wheels started moving again, I stood up to lean out the window for some photos. He called up to me, "Aren't your going to take my picture, my new friend?" So, I did.

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I have no idea who the woman was. Perhaps his daughter come to collect him. Maybe she had been on the train all along and just didn't participate in his ambassadorial strolls through the train cars. She had a bored but patient look of someone who had been through this many times before. She didn't bother to look up at us.

You know when you meet a spirit that is too big for its body? The eyes flash a fire of restless intelligence and every line on the face testifies to a perpetual smile. That's what made this man so beautiful.

So, how did I figure out his aproximate age? During his discussion of national identity, he let it slip that he was just old enough to join the resistance in time to participate in the great Christmas Uprising. That would have been early January of 1919.
I don't know what age would have been considered "old enough" to be a resistance fighter in 1919, but I'm guessing somewhere between 14 and 18.
And the reason I'm guessing that the woman with him might be his daughter (or even granddaughter) rather than his wife? She looks too young to have a husband who is at least 103 years old, doesn't she?

September 5, 2008

Montenegro's Ethnographic Museum - STRINGS

This week's PhotoHunt theme is STRINGS.

When is it just strings and when is it thread? When does the thread become a work of art?


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Loom on exhibit in the Ethnographic Museum in Cetinje, Montenegro


Cetinje is the historical and cultural capital of Montenegro. It lost its title as the seat of government to Podgorica, but it didn't lose its place in the hearts and minds of Montenegrins.

When Cetinje was at the height of its cultural influence in Europe there were dozens of impressive embassies in operation. Now each of those embassies has become one of Montenegro's many museums. The Ethnographic Museum, housing exhibits about the everyday lives of the people of Crna Gora for the last 300 years is in the former Serbian Embassy. It rotates themed exhibits on subject such as food, housing, arms, musical instruments, money, etc.

When we visited the exhibit was on textiles and specifically clothing. The display is striking and the needlework breathtaking. I looked at the intricated detail and imagined the women sitting in their homes on the high country. Snowed in and spending their forced hours of idleness on the beautiful costumes they and their families would wear to the spring festivals once the weather broke.

In the series of photos that follow, the picture on the left is an article of clothing. the picture on the right is a closeup detail of the needlework.

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September 13, 2008

Durmitor National Park - WILD

The PhotoHunt Theme is WILD. So, I'll show you the wild horses of Durmitor National Park.

One day, we decided to leave sea level Kotor and head for one of Montenegro's highest points. After all, we were in Montenegro for the wild interior, not for the beach. We drove north to Pluzine and entered Durmitor National Park from the west.

Well above the tree line, the peaks of the Durmitor are rocky & grassy with permanent snow in crevices that the sun never warms.

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These are mountains with high meadows for summer grazing -- both by domestic animals brought up for the season by shepherds, and by the WILD horses of the area.


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It took us a while to get high enough to see those horses, however. As we left the low meadow crossroads of Trsa and headed into Durmitor National Park, our goal of the peaks was far in the distance across the fields of summer flowers.


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We climbed higher and the trees and the flowers disappeared. The grass became shorter and greener and the rocky rubble more prevalent.


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We finally reached a point where the road leveled off and we were traveling parallel to the uppermost peaks. At about 2,200 meters, the road was about to turn downhill and take us out the eastern side of the park on our way to Zabljak.


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At the road's summit, we stopped the car beside this memorial. We never did find out who it honored, or how the person came to be memorialized.

September 19, 2008

They Call Them "Modern" Roads - ROADS

The PhotoHunt theme this week is ROAD. So my photo is that of a "modern" road in Montenegro.

There are four designations of road in this beautiful country. International Roads have a number assigned to them -- on the map. Don't expect to see highway signs telling you the road number, however. These roads are easy to recognize, they are paved and have lines painted down the middle. In a few heavily trafficked areas an international road might have a stretch that is divided with two lanes going each direction. But most of the time they are only two lanes with a third slow traffic lane on very steep grades. There are only six numbered roads in all of Montenegro.

One step down are the Regional Roads. Which are also easy to recognize. They are paved and always have two lanes. That is, they are wide enough for two compact cars to pass each other without one of them falling off the cliff or the other plowing into the mountain side. They don't, however, usually have a strip down the middle. So don't count on the other driver giving you an even half of the road.


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This leads us to the third classification of road, and the subject of my PhotoHunt post -- the Modern Road. A modern road is defined as one that is paved and often a full lane and a half wide.


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There are, of course, the random herds of livestock which always have the right of way.


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As well as the right to lie down for a rest on the nice warm pavement if the mood strikes.
With a bit of luck, the cow will pick a spot that allows you to squeeze past without mishap.


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But, no worries. If you have an accident along the way, you will always be within a few dozen meters of the telephone number for a tow-truck. These numbers are thoughtfully painted on every imaginable vertical surface where accidents might happen. Like I said, every few dozen meters.


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Oh, yes, I almost forgot to mention the fourth and final classification. The Local Road. Local roads are unpaved, and not quite as wide as your car. You will need to remember to fold your mirror in on the side that hugs the cliffs. Otherwise you might knock it off. This photo was a little deceptive. We were actually able to get through this tunnel without folding in our mirrors and a good 6 inches on either side of the car to spare.

Don't think we're complaining, though. We absolutely LOVED driving all over the pile of rocks called Montenegro. It was from those very roads that we enjoyed amazing views like this.

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October 29, 2008

The Giant on Mount Lovcen

At a certain angle, the two rounded peaks of Mount Lovcen look like a set of brawny shoulders without a head.

This wasn't lost on Petar II Petrovic Njegos. Njegos is arguably Montenegros most treasured and revered national hero. Before he died, he chose Lovcen as the location for his masoleum, decreeing it would represent the "head" on the shoulders of his beloved country.

A poet/prince/bishop, Njegos was by every measure a giant. At 6 feet, 8 inches, his physical size was imposing. But it was a gigantic intellect that secured his place as the country's most illustrious patriarch. Njegos' poetry has been compared to Homer & Horace. His most famous poem is "The Mountain Wreath". Difficult to find in print, and especially in an English translation, it is available online through some scholarly websites.

Here as some pictures of our visit to Njegos at his final resting place.

I find it pretty amazing that he died before his 40th birthday, yet he accomplished so much. This crypt is in the lower level of the moselum.
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We were about half-way up the mountain when I took this picture of the masoleum on the top. It just looks like a concrete block box from the road below, doesn't it?
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As we got closer, we saw a cave-like opening in the mountain at the top of a long walkway leading from the parking lot. See the opening, above the orange tile roof of the visitors center?
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We parked our car and then walked, or should I say climbed, flights of stairs through the mountain to the top. Each of 60 landings were separated by a set of 10 stairs. I meant to ask someone if there was any significance, but forgot to.
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As we came out of the darkness at the top, we saw this walkway leading to the front entrance to the masoleum. The two big statues standing guard are of black marble. In fact what looked like plain concrete block from below is actually entirely made of marble. Walkways, stairs, walls, floors, roof. Everything but the wrought iron gates, bronze doors, & aluminium flag pole is marble.
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Njegos, also in black marble, sits with an eagle behind him. This imposing statue is all that greets the visitor stepping through into the main level of the masoleum.
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on the back side of the building was another long walkway that follows the ridge top of the mountain and leads to a circular observation area.
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The view is breathtaking, isn't it?
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December 3, 2009

Mt. Lovcen Dreamin'

It was an especially long and tiring day at work today. I stopped and sat down only one or two times in 13 hours.

At one point I passed through the international travel aisle and this book caught my eye: The Mountains of Montenegro by Rudolf Abraham It was the same guidebook one I bought before our 2008 trip to Montenegro..

Seeing that book on the shelf immediately sent me back in my mind to the day we stood on the left shoulder of Mt. Lovcen and marveled at the rugged beauty of that amazing granite strewn country.

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January 8, 2010

Translation Please

I don't speak Hungarian. But, I'd love to know what this song is about, and what the young lady is telling the audience in the end.

Any one out there who can translate?

March 13, 2010

The Holy Crown of St. Stephen

When Stephen became King of Hungary on Christmas Day in the year 1000, Pope Sylvester II made him the gift of a crown. Stephen had resolved to raise Hungary to the status of a Christian kingdom, placing it on an equal footing with other European states. This crown became one of the most powerful symbols of Hungarian nationhood.

During World War II, the crown was secretly taken out of Hungary to protect it from the Germans and the Soviets. On May 2, 1945, the Holy Crown and other jewels were handed over by a Hungarian Army General to a U.S. Army Colonel near Egglesberg, Austria. It first went to Wiesbaden, in the American Zone, and was later transferred to the United States Gold Reserve at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. It was not considered as spoils of war; rather, the U.S. Government stored it in hopes of returning it to the Hungarian people one day.

In 1978, the U.S. Government felt that the time was right for the Crown be returned before a whole generation of Hungarians came of age without understanding its symbolism.

The delegation bringing the Crown to Hungary was led by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. It included Senator Adlai Stevenson, Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi. On the Hungarian side, the Cardinal, the Chief Rabbi, Protestant Bishops, and leaders of the academic, scientific and cultural communities participated in the ceremony, as well as representatives of the Hungarian state.


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As I stood in front of the glass case that housed the crown, it was awesome to think that my country, in understanding the significance of this crown to the people of Hungary, chose to treat it as a national treasure. We protected it for 33 years until it was safe to return it to its rightful home.

It is hard to imagine a war on our own soil that would jeopardize such an important symbol of nationhood for us. The Liberty Bell for example. But, if it did, what country would be there for us? What country would spirit our national treasure away for safekeeping until we could reclaim it?

March 22, 2010

I Love You Trulli

Here's my new real estate acquisition in Italy.

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Well, not really. It was vacant. It looked like it needed to be reclaimed and loved. But, as much as I think it would be a fun project, I knew it wouldn't be my project.

The trullo is a unique and interesting style that dates back to the neolithic era. Here is an interesting history. The website I found it on appears to be a real estate site. In fact, while browsing the site, I actually found a current listing for the very property pictured above. What are the odds? And it could be all ours for only Euro 80,000.

The town of Alberobello is unique. It is a UNESCO protected site, and at the same time is a vibrant little community where people live in and among their trulli.

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Some of the trulli have been converted to restaurants, shops, and hotels.

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And some are single family homes, just like they've always been.

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We loved our visit to Alberobello. And, we'd like to return someday. But I think we'll be content to rent a trullo for a week.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Budapest, Montenegro, Italy 2008 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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