Travel: Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Malta, Sicily – September 2014 (part 2)

If you missed the start of this journey, jump to the beginning  here:

Montenegro

Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger  - inland sea

Montenegro – inland sea – Image: DJR

Day Six

Drove down to Montenegro. Initial impression is a place that is vastly poorer than Croatia with its tourist-rich coastline.  Do not let this deter you.  Drove around the shores of the inland sea, which holds moments of Switzerland – lakes and mountains – framed by post-Communist era construction and shabby, lived-in, houses crowding the steep slopes.

Inland Sea - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger  - Our Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady of the Rocks – inland sea, Montenegro – image: DJR

Like a scene from a movie, Our Lady of the Rocks sits isolated within the Inland Sea on an island created from rocks and sunken ships. Started in 1452, it grew over the centuries as local seamen kept an ancient oath, placing a rock every time they returned safely. There certainly is a tangible atmosphere to the place.

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Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - view of the ancient mountain fortifications

Kotor – Montenegro – the ancient mountains above the town – image: DJR

The real surprise here was the ancient walled-city of Kotor. I had never heard of it and it really is a hidden gem of Montenegro and  the Adriatic – but does require some effort to get to.  They have maintained an incredible medieval vibe, far more authentic than many other places I have been to. You can get enjoyably lost within the twist and weave of cobbled streets, tall buildings that could have come from the set of James Whale’s classic Frankenstein (1931).  The town is protected by ramparts, towers, citadels, gates, bastions, a castle and ancillary structures that incorporate military technology of Illyricum, Byzantium, Venice, and Austria…but best of all are the immense fortifications that snake up the steep mountain slopes, walls, forts and churches, clinging dramatically to the rock. It can take an hour at a good pace to reach the Castel St John, an Illyrian fort that has a dominating view of the town below, and the surrounding landscape – which is rugged and dramatic to fulfill your cravings for such scenery. Scrambling up there  was one of my highlights of the trip.

Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - climbing mountain to ancient church and fortress

Climbing mountain to ancient church and fortress above Kotor – image: DJR

Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - church of our lady

Kotor – climbing higher – church of our lady – image: DJR

Church of our lady of remedy (healing). Highly evocative sense of history here. I used this location in a short story called Crisis in Kotor.

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Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - final destination

Kotor – climbing higher – final destination – image: DJR

Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - beautiful decay

Kotor – layers of medieval decay are woven into the very fabric of the town. – image: DJR

Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - like a scene from James Whales production of Frankenstein where the locals gather into a mob

Kotor – like a scene from James Whales production of Frankenstein where the locals gather into a mob – image: DJR

Kotor - Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - medieval fortress above the town

Kotor – medieval fortress above the town – image: DJR

Driving further along the shoreline came to Budvar which had been hyped up as something special but was a total let down.  Really not worth the effort unless you’re into shopping at pricey boutiques for wealthy Russians and Italians. Took the vehicle ferry back to Igalo then drove back to Dubrovnik.

David J Rodger lunch in Budvar - Montenegro

David J Rodger – lunch in Budvar, Montenegro

Montenegro Travel Photo by David J Rodger - street cover

Montenegro – language shift

 

Day Seven

Returned to Dubrovnik and the bliss of the Argossy hotel.

Dubrovnik - Croatia  Travel Photo by David J Rodger - back to the bliss of the Argossy hotel

Dubrovnik – back to the bliss of the Argossy hotel – image: DJR

Spent the day in Dubrovnik. Also took the cable car up to the Napoleonic fort that sits atop the mountain overlooking the walled Old Town. This was a real highlight for me, I spent 3 hours up there, reveling in the views, supping a couple of beers, reading, sitting in the sunshine and enjoying the time and space away from the crowds. It can get busy in the cable car complex but there is lots to do and see up there and you can strike out on two legs (or hire a buggy) to explore the surrounding terrain.

David J Rodger above Dubrovnik - take the cable car to the napoleonic fort, great place to spend time and amazing views

David J Rodger above Dubrovnik – take the cable car

Malta / Gozo

This trip was more about revisiting old haunts and wish fulfillment.  I walked away from Malta and Sicily (click links for photos and write up) in 2012 for the first time, with such a sense of heavy heart, that I was determined I would go back. This was one of those moments when you act upon a wishful fancy.

Getting to my final destination was a long long day. Bus to London Heathrow, flight to Malta, 33KM taxi ride to ferry terminal, ferry to Gozo, and a taxi from there via a supermarket to pick up supplies before heading to the apartment I had rented for 4 nights.  The location was Xlendi. After the high-intensity and constant activity of last week, driving through Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro, finding myself in sleepy Xlendi was a shock to my system and took me a day to get into the groove and relax.  There is nothing to do in Xlendi except swim in the sheltered bay, rent a boat, scuba dive, relax….and eat at one of the dozen or restaurants that huddle against the shoreline.  There are no other facilities there.  Just beds to sleep in and places to eat.  Some of them purport to sell freshly caught fish… and one of them certainly did, serving up such an amazing dish (oven roasted Lapouki cooked with white wine, olive oil, garlic and cherry tomatoes) that I went there twice – and had it again.  Best fresh fish I’ve eaten since being a kid with family in the north of Norway.

Xlendi - Gozo  Travel Photo by David J Rodger - the bay at sunset

Gozo – Xlendi the bay at sunset – image: DJR

I did some scuba diving.  Doing it there is convenience incarnate. The perfect waters and bay within twenty strides of the rental outlet.

Feeling restless I spent one day tracking back to Valletta, the gorgeous heart of Malta. However, it took me 3 hours to get there, with a bus from Xlendi to Victoria / Rabat, another bus from there to the ferry terminal, then the ferry, then a bus to Valletta.  With a 3 hour return journey, I had myself 4 hours in the city before heading back so I could have my feet in Xlendi in time for dinner.

The apartment had a TV and one night I came back to discover the one English speaking channel was showing an H.P.Lovecraft movie, From Beyond. Loved it.

Jean Parisot de Valette the man who built Valletta - Order of Knights Hospitaller - image David J Rodger

Jean Parisot de Valette – image: DJR

I traveled to Valletta.  Jean Parisot de Valette. The man who built Valletta. De Valette joined the Order of Knights Hospitaller when he was 20. Around 1514. Was present during the Great Siege of Rhodes in 1522 and subsequent expulsion from Rhodes by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Order was granted the Maltese Islands. He fought and successfully repulsed the Turks at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, in which the vastly outnumbered Christians held out for over 3 months against Ottoman forces. After the great siege, he commissioned the construction of the new city of Valletta in 1566, laying the first stone with his own hands. De Valette was heartbroken after his illegitimate daughter was murdered in July 1568. He suffered from a stroke while praying in a chapel and died soon after on 21 August 1568, exactly eleven years after he became Grandmaster. De Valette never saw the completed city of Valletta. The inscription on his tomb, which was composed by his Latin Secretary, Sir Oliver Starkey, the last Knight of the English Langue at the time of the Great Siege, states in Latin: Here lies La Valette. Worthy of eternal honour, He who was once the scourge of Africa and Asia, And the shield of Europe, Whence he expelled the barbarians by his Holy Arms, Is the first to be buried in this beloved city, Whose founder he was.

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Valletta - Malta Travel Photo by David J Rodger - medieval streets like San Francisco

Valletta – medieval streets like San Francisco – image: DJR

It took me 3 hours!!! to get to Valletta from Xlendi, on Gozo island, and subsequently took 3 hours to get back. So a 6 hour round trip. Which is insane when you consider how small Malta and Gozo are. But, it was worth it. Valletta is beautiful. You could spend eternity shooting its buildings and monuments. I spent 3 hours there, drifting around locations now familiar to me; enjoying the narrow streets that descend and ascend steeply, or gazing out across the harbour at the vast, incredible fortifications.

Valletta - Malta Travel Photo by David J Rodger

Valletta – Image: DJR

Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta -sculpture of unknown origin arrived 1653 forms part of three figures crucifixion group or Golgotha group

Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – image: DJR

Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – a remarkable sculpture of unknown origins but arrived in Valletta in 1653. Style is very close to that of Alessandro Algardi. It forms part of three figures, a crucifixion group or Golgotha group. Remarkable piece of work and you have to wonder how many thousands of minds have contemplated it over the last four centuries of human history.

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Valletta - Malta Travel photo by David J Rodger - Saint John’s Co-Cathedral

Saint John’s Co-Cathedral – image: DJR

Part of the jaw-dropping ornamentation and wall painting that dominates the interior of Saint John’s Co-Cathedral. Don’t be tempted to just drift through and out again. Stop, sit down and really soak it in. It can be almost overwhelming, there is so much detail everywhere you look. In this image by the window you can see a Knight hospitaller in his classic black smock with the white crucifix.

Valletta - Malta Travel photo by David J Rodger - Saint John’s Co-Cathedral incredible gilding

Valletta – Saint John’s Co-Cathedral – incredible gilding – image: DJR

Photo by David J Rodger that conjures up a sense of Haunter of the Dark classic Cthulhu Mythos horror story by H.P.Lovecraft

Haunter of the Dark (Gozo)

Amazing sunset on my return to Gozo. Crossing the channel by ferry, I saw a distant church cast in silhouette, a black spire pointing up with an eerie glow oozing through central windows. Evoked a strong sense of The Haunter in the Dark, one of my favourite tales by H.P.Lovecraft.

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Xlendi - Gozo  Travel Photo by David J Rodger - water play

Xlendi – water play – image: DJR

scuba diving in Xlendi Gozo

Scuba diving in Xlendi, Gozo

After 4 nights, I handed back the keys to the apartment, endured a 4 hour journey to the airport and then flew from Malta to Catania in Sicily. Met by an excellent driver from a very good value private shuttle service. 45 minute drive to Taormina.

Final sunset in Xlendi Gozo - photo by David J Rodger

Final sunset in Xlendi Gozo – image: DJR

SICILY

Taormina

Cafe Wunderbar Taormina Sicily travel photo by David J Rodger - coffee cup and spoon

Cafe Wunderbar Taormina Sicily travel photo by David J Rodger – coffee cup and spoon

This is like living in picture postcard. Very beautiful. My trip to Sicily revolved entirely around Taormina.  You can see more photos and words from my extended travel through Sicily in 2012 (Click here).  My main pleasure from being there is spending time within a location I used heavily within the thriller {novel} Iron Man Project.

Iron Man Project a science fiction cyberpunk thriller by David J Rodger

Available in paperback and Kindle format

Iron Man Project

By David J Rodger

Fast-paced, action-packed novel that spans numerous countries and a fantastic array of skilfully crafted characters.

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AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND KINDLE

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“The universe Rodger has built is his own and with each book the lore gets richer, deeper and more compelling. The tight cast of characters play off each other well, strong dialogue and surprising twists with the interpersonal dynamics keeps the reader turning the pages”

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BUY IRON MAN PROJECT TODAY

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Available to buy in paperback from LULU Global

Available to buy in paperback from Amazon UK ¦ USA ¦ DE

Available to buy on Kindle UK ¦ USA ¦ DE

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