Thursday, 30 August 2007

Crack or Night Nurse?

Remember we mentioned a while back that there some people converting cold and flu remedies into the illegal stimulant, crstal meth?

Guess how they are going to try to prevent this?

They intend to only sell the products in smaller packs!

It's like the idea of selling aspirin in bottles of 16 to avoid possible suicide bids and then watch wholesale retailers punt them out in cases of 24 bottles...

We really do have some retards in this world- it' hardly going to take them long to work out there are also several chemists around.




In future, products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine will be sold in packs containing a maximum of 720 mg – either 12 tablets of 60mg, or 24 of 30mg. This should be enough for a three-day treatment for an adult but would restrict the manufacture of methylamphetamine, the drug known popularly as crystal meth.

And Then They go to The Brewery




Sarajevo has the massive Sarajevska Pivara (Sarajevo Brewery- directly above) set close by the river on the other side of the city, and it is painted quite the most startling red and yellow, making it very hard to miss.
We didn't and found it quite easily. :oD
Whilst we did not get a tour around the brewery itself (we have already seen more than enough breweries in the UK and the principal is all the same) we did however make ourselves quite at home in the adjoining beer hall (top picture).
WOW!
Almost a Victorian decadence with Austrian opulence thrown in for good measure, we sampled all three of their brews, both the filtered and non-filtered light beer and the darker, almost sweet; treacle-tasting black beer.
Naturally we tried their cheese and Bosnian plates (smoked meats) with some simply delicious, fresh bread rolls and bagels and we spent a top afternoon in the cool (air conditioned) cellar-like hall.
Definitely worth a look in.


ktelontour Do a Museum!

Yesterday we popped into the museum on the corner of the road, by the bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in 1914.

It's a quaint, little place; "little" being the operative word here as it was just one square room. The exhibitions cover only the four walls but they also have video footage of the some of the events of the times, including the assassination showing on a TV screen. However, it was charming in its own right and complimented my gold fish attention span more than adequately.

Most of the exhibits also had a translation into English and it kept us amused and interested for a good 20 minutes or so. Cost of entry is minimal at 2 KM (~70p) but I could have done without the cheesy wax work figures of the Archduke and his wife.

Still, for 70 odd pence you're hardly going to get Madame Tassauds now, are you?


On 28th June 1914, at around 11:00 am, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia & Herzegovina by Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia and one of several (seven) assassins organised by The Black Hand (Crna Ruka).

This event, known as the Assassination in Sarajevo, was the trigger of World War One.

Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had just previously been attacked when a bomb was thrown at their car. It missed them, injuring several civilians instead which they insisted on seeing at hospital.

As a result of this, Princip shot Sophie who was killed instantly while Franz Ferdinand who was shot in the jugular, took a few minutes to die.

The assassinations, along with the arms race, nationalism and the alliance system all contributed to the beginning of World War I, which began less than two months after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia.

Better Safe Than Sorry



Around this time last year, back in Poland, wifey decided to make full use of the excellent private medical centres they have and booked herself in for an ultrasound scan to check things out.

It couldn't have been easier, walk in, make an appointment, come back the next day and get sorted out. Despite Polish not being her strongest language and the guy not being able to speak any English, we got the all clear in German (our mutual language) and made a note of his follow up advice "get scanned every year if you can".

Yesterday, wifey went into Sarajevo for her appointment and anther scan with the quite wonderful Dr Kelle who not only spoke excellent English but also gave the all clear once again.
All for the princely sum of 20€...
No wonder Brits are flying abroad for treatment and check ups- you can't even pay for a consultation with £15.


Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Sky High Prices

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have found BAA, the airport operator, guilty of misleading millions of passengers about prices at shops and bars in its terminals.

One BAA leaflet, entitled "Guide to Stansted Airport" stated: “The price of all food and drink sold in BAA airports is matched with the UK high street, so you won’t pay a penny more than you’ re used to.”

Following complaints to the ASA, it was found this was not the case. For example, a glass of house wine at a bar at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted cost 40% more than in bars run by the same company in regional towns and cities.

You need an investigation to know that you're being ripped off at airports?

A BAA spokesman admitted that “confusion may have been caused” by the leaflets and that the leaflets had since been withdrawn, adding it was “too early to say” if prices would be reduced.

Of course, it is...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Sword Swallowing

An Indian man who swallowed a 10 cm knife to avoid deportation from Germany has finally been returned to India to face fraud charges.

If he is found guilty the blade will be removed from his stomach because convicts are not allowed to possess weapons.

That made me laugh.

Odd Laws

As it's the current "silly season", here are a few strange laws still in force around the world:

25. It is illegal for a cab in the City of London to carry rabid dogs or corpses.

24. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.


23. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down.


22. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon.


21. Under the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know, though you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing.


20. In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.


19. In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.

18. Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.


17. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman’s helmet.


16. In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.


15. In Miami, Florida, it is illegal to skateboard in a police station.


14. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.


13. In England, all men over the age of 14 must carry out two hours of longbow practice a day.

12. In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to drive geese down Cheapside.

11. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a firing squad.


10. In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his vehicle.

9. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed.

8. In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six-feet long.

7. In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset.


6. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

5. In Boulder, Colorado, it is illegal to kill a bird within the city limits and also to “own” a pet – the town’s citizens, legally speaking, are merely “pet minders”.


4. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.
3. In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.


2. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman’s genitals but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination; he may only see their reflection in a mirror.

1. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is legally the property of the King; the tail, on the other hand, belongs to the Queen - in case she needs the bones for her corset.


Shamelessly pilfed from The Times. Ta.

Nescafe?

I don't think so!

They take their coffee very seriously here and its the national drink of Bosnia and Herzegovina (national car sign is BiH, where "i" means "and" by the way) since the arrival of the Ottomans centuries ago.

It is traditionally prepared in a special coffee pot, a dzezva and served in minature cups; fildzan and there are strict names and times for when a particular coffee is served and drunk.

- Razgalica is the first, morning coffee

- Razovorusa is the later morning coffee, drunk with friends and work colleagues

- Sikterusa is usually a polite way of telling your guest it's time to leave

I am regarded as a freak as I don't drink coffee (or tea for that matter) but I'm not sure if it's entirely down to the lack of coffee...

Sesame Street

And now that we are clear on the definition of an English billion, you may be surprised to hear that the series of Labour policies designed to boost the achievements of pre-school children (kids younger than five years old) has had no effect on the development levels of those entering primary school, in the slightest.

So what, you may think.

So think £3 billion wasted in the last six years. Aye, £3 000 000 000 000 just poured down the toilet to achieve precisely bugger all, squared.

Call me old fashioned, but should children who are younger than five be in school at all? Surely theyshould be playing and having some fun? Not being sent to some pre-pre-pre school as if they are some inconvenience to their parents and in the way.

Utter madness.



"Initiatives" since 2001 include the early childhood curriculum, the Sure Start programme, free nursery education for all three-year-olds and the Every Child Matters initiative.

For The Last Time

This really grates my cheese.

One billion is 1 000 000 000 000 in the UK and not 1 000 000 000 as in the USA. OK?

In England we have a million million = our billion (ie, 12 zeros or 10 to the power of 12)

In America they have a thousand million = their billion (ie, 9 zeros or 10 to the power of 9)

Why can't the British press understand this? I've even out it into pretty colours for them.



And whilst we're at it, the US trillion is one thousand, thousand million (ie, it has 12 zeros and equals 1,000,000,000,000 or 10 to the power of 12) and so is the equivalent of the UK billion. The UK trillion is one million million million (ie, it has 18 zeros and equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 10 to the power of 18)

A Spoon Full of Sugar

You would have thought that with the National Health Service (NHS) being in such turmoil through annual over-spending and budget cuts that it would make more of an effort to try and save vital resources and cash.

Yeah, right.

In 2006, 824 tons* of medication was dumped by the NHS because the "use-by date" had expired at a cost of around £202 million to the taxpayer.

That sure is a bitter pill to swallow...





* The equivalent weight of five jumbo jets

Bright City Lights

Having spent the last four months drifting from coastal town to sleepy fishing village to seaside tourist trap, it is most refreshing to be back in a main (capital) city.

The hustle and bustle of the workforce thronging through the main streets to get to work, the exhaust-fume filled atmosphere, the noisy and erratic traffic on the roads- all things contributing to make a rich tapestry of sights, sounds and smells of the unmistakable feeling of city life.

And we love it. Especially that they have proper pavements again.

ZzzzzzZZZZzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz...

One wonderful thing that we have noticed here in Sarajevo. The lack of mosquitoes.

I don't miss those evil, little sods in the slightest and both wifey and I have really suffered this summer with some really nasty bites.

However, contrary to popular house wives' tales, mosquitoes are not attracted by "sweet blood"; it is body heat that is the hook.

Like how can one expect to have a low body temperature when the bedroom is usually way up in the 30s?

Road to Hell

Once again raging forest fires hit the headlines with further devastation and carnage being left in the trail of the awful Peloponnese fires.

We had the terribly sad situation of having to travel through Dubrovnik, which at the time was also engulfed in a out of control inferno, on our way down to Herceg Novi and yes, you've guessed it- we're heading off to Porto Heli which is in the Peloponnese region when we stay in Greece later this year.

I do hope this coincidence will now stop.

What I do find appalling though is that the authorities believe it is the work of arsonists and have arrested up to 33 people so far. What kind of sick person would do such a terrible thing? Truly incomprehensible.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Bank Holidays in Bosnia

As you guys are currently having a day off in the UK, spare a thought for us here in Sarajevo where it's business as usual*. In fact, they don't have many public holidays here:

1st & 2nd January (New Year)
1st March (Independence Day)
1st & 2nd May (International Labour Day)
25th November (National Holiday)

Note: Nowt for Christmas.

Bit miserly compared to the UK and the rest of Europe.


*Yeah, like we're complaining!

Ach Those Krazy Krauts

BERLIN (Reuters) - A man who paid 40 euro cents (27 pence) more than he expected for a call to a German television quiz show has filed fraud charges, police said.

Having devised a formula to answer the question "How much milk do 10 oxen produce in 10 minutes if five oxen produce five litres in five minutes?", the man went to a pay phone and made what he thought would be a 50-cent call.

However, he was angered when the cost came to 90 cents, and even more incensed because the phone-in show said the question was actually a riddle with no answer.

"Don't forget that an ox is a castrated bull," said a spokesman for police in the western city of Muenster.

The man did not see the funny side, and went to a police station at 3 a.m. to file charges. Police and state prosecutors are now investigating whether he has a case.

So tell me again that Germans have no sense of humour.

We Currently Live Here





Absolutely first class and very comfortable.

Our Local

As the game was on we made our way to find a local bar in the hope of seeing the match live. Within a few hundred metres of our apartment we found an ideal place which had a TV and they were going to screen the football. Result, or not if you've read the other post and know the score.

We settled down, had a few drinks, I got a bit excited at points during the game, much to the locals' amusement and we had a bit of rapport going back and forth when they discovered I was a Spurs fan, not Manchester. How come the world has so many Man U fans?

Then a round of drinks appeared from the barman on the house. Cheers, mate; most kind and very much unexpected- we were hardly regulars after all.

After the game I went back to the bar to pick up another couple of bottles of Sarajevsko and ask how much a game of pool was. I'm not really a fan; I was always a darts player, but as we try and relate our experiences on here, I figured I'd at least get some details for you.

Instead of finding out how much it was to shoot a frame of pool, I was handed a token and given two cues. Ah, I guess we'll be playing then.

The tables were standard (6' x 3') but had over-sized pockets and balls which help a spacker like me to pretend I have half a clue on what to do on the green baize. Luckily the bar was pretty empty and so no one was able to mock us too openly and we finished the game none the wiser as to how much it had cost us but it was fun to do something different again.

We took the cues back, thanked the barman for his help and grabbed another couple of bottles. He laughed and said we drank a lot (there was us thinking we were being moderate) and looked down at his tally sheet. Shite, that can't be right- it was full of dashes. Oh well, in for a penny, etcetera...

Perhaps 10 or so minutes later the barman came back to our table and put a take away pizza down in front of us. Completely out of the blue and without any fuss or drama, he had called up a pizza company to deliver steaming cheese and tomato special so that we had something to "help with the beer". If it had been served on gold platter with caviar on the side it would not have been any better- this was indeed a gift from the Gods.

Again, the barman laughed off any offers of payment and left us to demolish the food. It was wonderful and naturally we felt obliged to order another couple of beers.

I do remember getting home (all down steep hills in the dark) without mishap, aside from a wrong turn, and can report back that we had such a fine time in our newly found local that we will indeed be returning.

I can not however tell you how many beers we drank, how much the game of pool was nor how much the pizza came to. The sheet of paper had so many marks on it it could have been during the hyper inflation period of the German Reich and in the end I doubt the barman knew either.

He just laughed (he did that a lot, he was a very happy man), shrugged his shoulders and said, I think, "call it 50 KM" (just under £18).

Try getting that much entertainment for your cash in England?

We Wuz Robbed

How can that not have been a penalty?

Wes Brown splayed himself out like a keeper and clearly used his arm to block the ball. And then, to compound matters, they score at they other end within a minute of the appeals!

Shame, it was a great game with nothing much to choose between the two sides and Spurs were very unlucky to not come away with something. We even hit the crossbar in the opening minute.

Martin Jol, the Spurs manager, is by far the best we've had at The Lane, probably since Keith Burkenshaw and it would be criminal if they sack him. However, since when have footballing ideals ever had an impact on how one runs a club- it's all about the money.

We could have gone 7th and yet are now in 17th place. Funny old game, innit?


Man U 1 - 0 Tottenham at Old Trafford

Sunday, 26 August 2007

*Barf*

The next "big thing" for getting married? "Wedding" websites.

Thousands of love struck couples are setting up their sites to share every excruciating detail about their day with us.

How distasteful and crass?

Fancy having a website where all you do is talk about yourself, what you have done, what you think and what has been happening to you during the day...


;-)

Classy to the End

As you will have heard, John Prescott is supposedly retiring from politics after 37 years in the limelight.

To celebrate (and publicly make his decision known), he has invited over 200 Labour Party cronies from his Hull East constituency to his unofficial farewell bash at home where guests have been told soft drinks and his "Prescott Punch" (isn't he a wag?) would be provided - but there would be a "pay bar".

Erm, tight though he may be and distasteful as asking guests to your own party to pay for their booze undoubtedly is, I have a question.

Is he actually licensed to sell alcohol from his abode?

Shame we'll never find out.

It seems that after the outrage amongst his invited guests and the bad publicity his miserly actions have generated, he is falling back on tried and tested Labour policy by lying.

It seems that "there was a mistake on the wording of the invitation and Mr Prescott never intended guests should have to pay for their own drinks".

Well and truly busted. Again.




Mr Prescott recently signed a £300 000 book deal to write his memoirs, he earns £134 000 for his Cabinet salary plus he gets £23 000 as his ministerial pension with another £37 000 additional annual pension when he steps down as an MP and finally he also gets an extra £33 500 "golden goodbye" after leaving office.

And They're Off - Part II

The exclusive hotel, One Aldwych seems to have dropped a bit of a clanger recently when it paid one of its dishwashers, £8,238.97 for his June salary- his usual weekly pay packet brought in around £250.

Unsurprisingly our Eastern European entrepreneur failed to turn up to work when he discovered his good fortune and despite the hotel issuing a High Court writ against their former employee to repay the money, including accrued interest.

Up until that point I may have been slightly sympathetic to the hotel's request in what was obviously an error on some one's behalf.

However, with the profits they must make to then make such a petty claim to claw back a few quid in interest makes me hope that our man on the run (apparently already back in Eastern Europe) gets away with it.

Another Classic Comment

Steve McLaren, England's current football manager declared that he wanted to turn the rebuilt Wembley into a “fortress” for his team.

He is almost correct, it is like a sandcastle.

Did I mention the German side won 2-1, their fifth successive win at the high temple of English football?

*chortle*

Utter Toss

Computer simulations at Manchester University have shown that Tyrannosaurus Rex, once considered to be a slow, lumbering scavenger, could run at speeds of up to 18mph. Wow.

Some geeky, scientist gadgy* commented “This carnivore would have little difficulty in chasing down David Beckham/Frank Lampard (delete as appropriate depending on which newspaper you red).” Double wow; said with ab even more sarcastic tone.

Who gives a crap? Why are we funding such shite? What possible good can such superfluous, unnecessary and time wasting "research" possibly bring?

Unless they will use this data to help boost the performance of the England football team, is that it?

Oh, hang on. McLaren is already using tactics from the dinosaur age- I can see the relevance after all.





*Biomechanics expert who carried out the research to give him his official title in case he gets offended and tries to sue.

Passports For Sale

All applications welcome but must have gold medal potential.

As England (or is it Britain? Maybe just London?) is going to host the 2012 Olympics games, there is a strong desire for the "home" team to do well and win lots of medals. So much so that there is even an officially stated target of finishing fourth in the medals table.

I mean, honestly...if that is the mentality behind the desire to succeed; "listen guys, never mind about winning, just aim for fourth" it is hardly an inspiration to go out and do your best for your country. But I digress.

Such is the need to ensure the success of hosting The Games, it would appear that any and all methods are being considered- fair means or foul.

Some of Britain’s sports associations are signing up competitors from overseas who may be eligible for British citizenship. Targets so far include a basketball player for the Chicago Bulls*, a Jamaican high jumper** and an Afghan wrestler***, all may be eligible even if they have represented another country or were born overseas.

Some may consider this cheating, but obviously not England. No, they did much the same back in 1984 (Los Angeles) with Zola Budd, the barefoot South African runner. She came 7th in the 3000m final but she was granted citizenship after discovering one of her grandparents was British.

Or was it she once had a British Bulldog as a child? Whatever the reason, she drank tea and that definitely makes her British...


* Luol Deng (a most British name indeed) who is originally from Sudan. He was given his British passport last year after a lobbying campaign that included a letter from Lord Sebastian Coe. Quote from Mr Deng: “Although I’ve been living in the US for a number of years, London will always be my home.” Of course it is, that's why you live in America, right?

** Born in Kingston (Jamaica, not Upon Thames) and won a world indoor bronze medal for his current country.

*** Aman Sakhizadeh (another quality Basildon name) a champion wrestler and Afghan refugee. His application is currently being considered although the HO (Home Office) said "Olympic hopefuls cannot expect preferential treatment". Quite right, not until Lord Coe sends them another personal letter as with Luol for example...

And They're Off

In the last twelve months, more native Britons left the country permanently since the popular wave of mass emigration to Australia in the 1960s.

385 000 (and don't forget this is in one year) people decided they'd had enough of living in the UK and packed their bags for good, with the most popular destinations being, Australia, South Africa, Spain and France.

I wonder if the weather had anything to do with it?

It's Only a Game

What’s going on? Bielefeld beat Heartha Berlin 2-0 at home and stay second in the Bundesliga and even Southend manage a first win of the season, 1-0 against Millwall and climb to 17th place in Division One.

Spurs take on Manchester United (themselves second from bottom in the league) later on today but I really don’t expect a hat trick of wins this weekend.

However, I can console myself that England still lost to Germany at Wembley during the week so ha, ha, ha…

Ear We Go

The Statue of Liberty originally had golden earrings but they were stolen in 1908; a crime which remains unsolved to this day.

How, springs to mind…?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Enjoy the Bank Holiday

Looking forward to tomorrow and Monday to get a chance to cool off...


A Quality Put Down

William Hague's reply to a comment from John Prescott:

"There was so little English in that answer that President Chirac would have been happy with it."

Outstanding.


You Are Feeling Very Sleepy

In a continuing effort to smarten up the city's image in the run up to next year's Olympics in Beijing, its taxi drivers face further misery. Yawning and snacking behind the wheel is to be banned.

This follows in the wake of the plans to distribute 45 000 "spit sacks" to cabbies to curb their popular habit of rolling down the cab window and expectorating (what a lovely word that is) on to the street.

Poor sods- many already have to work 24 hour shifts for little pay and they are no longer allowed to smoke on the job either.

Putting One's Foot In It

Israeli police arrested a woman for stealing a pair of shoes for her son, when she returned to the store hours later to exchange them as they did not fit him properly.

Unfortunately for the hapless thief, she had been recorded on the store's security cameras and they simply called in Plod.

D'oh...

Don't Bother Wrapping It


An unidentified, wealthy Russian, wearing sunglasses and surrounded by bodyguards tried to buy a US B-52 bomber (pictured above) from a group of American pilots at an air show near Moscow.
An astounded member of the US delegation said the bomber was not for sale but that if it were, it would cost at least $500 million (~£250 million pounds).

"That is no problem. It is such a cool machine" was the reply...
:-D

Double Bubble For Dibble

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that UK police forces have paid out more than £1 billion in overtime in the last three years and these figure do not include the Metropolitan Police, which spent £422 million on overtime.

No wonder the sales of donuts have gone through the roof...

Flying Pigs

A 12 year old kid has been brought before a court because he allegedly lobbed a sausage at an elderly neighbour, hitting him on the shoulder. The case has wasted approximately £2 000 of the tax payer's money in costs.

Fortunately the judge threw out the charge and criticised the police and lawyers for pursuing the case.

Damn straight, but what the hell was the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) doing? Who decided this was in the public's best interests?

Paying to Queue Up

As if the budget flight companies don't make enough profit already, prepare yourself for another kick in the wallet.

Ryanair is going charge passengers for using the airport check-in desk.

As of 20th September, any bookings will be subject to an additional £2, (or €3) if they chose to use the airport’s check-in facilities.

Customers will be able to check in free of charge only by using the internet and taking on hand luggage. Those who check in online will also be granted priority boarding rights.

How fortunate that everyone has a computer and access to the internet, eh?





Other Ryanair charges include a £70 charge to change the name on a booking, a £1-a-minute levy for using the airline's phone helpline and £4 to give a child priority boarding. Nice.

The Rain In Spain Falls Mainly in England

The wet British summer has not been all doom and gloom for some people as a new record for cinema admissions was reached last month.

More than 21 million visits were made beating the previous record of 19 million in February 2002.

Have to say, we've been to the cinema more in the last couple of months than ever before- but we go for the air con; not to keep dry! :oD

Twit Twoo?


Sajavesko Pivo

That's the local brew and at 4.9% and around 70-90p depending on which bar you land in, it's not going to break the bank quenching your thirst in this (current) scorching weather.

We gave it a good try last night and can happily report back that it is not bad, not bad at all. Pale yellow liquid, lightly sparkling, crisp white head and an initial taste almost of a cider. This quickly disappears leaving you with a very bitter after taste (good) and a dry mouth (better) so you're forced to try another.

Which we did, as whilst we were continuing our scientific research it absolutely pissed down with a cracking thunderstorm. However, that soon cleared up allowing us to wobble up to the taxi rank in the dry and get us home for an identical price to before.

Taxis are the only way to gt around town here.

Adhan

Some of you may not have come across the term "adhan" before which is the Islamic call to prayer and is given out by the muezzin (chosen person) from a minaret of a mosque.

The "salat" (prayers) are called out five times a day and are usually amplified, however since we have been in Bosnia, both in Mostar and here in Sarajevo, these calls have been anything but intrusive or disturbing.

Most of the time if one is inside one can't even hear them.




After minarets became customary (previously the roof of the mosque was used), the role of a muezzin in cities was sometimes given to a blind person as they could not look down into the inner courts of the people's houses and thus violate their privacy.

In an age when there was little or no schooling for the blind and blindness was an impediment for almost all other jobs, it also provided a useful employment.

Look, No Wires

A man using his laptop in the street has been arrested on suspicion of illegally logging on to a wireless (Wi-Fi) broadband connection.

Proud Plod arranged for the SWAT team, the army, navy and air force, the TA and Junior Dibble (age 11-14 year old section) to arrest the man for daring to use the internet via a neighbour's unsecured line.

A spokesperson was heard to crow "that'll learn the bastard; it's not all about arresting kids with guns you know."

The crime of “hitching” or “piggy-backing” on to someone else's wireless broadband connection is illegal as it breaches the Computer Misuse Act and the Communications Act 2003.

The first conviction for such an offence was in 2005 and the guilty culprit was fined £500 and given a 12-month conditional discharge and had his computer and wireless card confiscated.

Personally, if someone is stupid enough to not secure their connection stream they deserve all they get, but once again our English coppers are targeting the terrorists where it hurts; the man on the street...

Friday, 24 August 2007

Getting Around Town

Followers of our Blog may well be aware of our dislike, distrust and dismay of using taxis and their usually associated highwaymen-thief owners.

Imagine our surprise when our host suggested that we use taxis wherever possible to get around town!

Whilst the local buses will get you to your destination without fuss or mortgage application for payment, so too will a cab and at pretty much the same price for the bus fare for two- apparently.

Yesterday we put this tip to the test and having walked down hill into town in temperatures of 36 degrees Centigrade and only just surviving that, it was never going to be the same mode of transport back.

After a few hours of sight seeing and getting hot and tired we wanted to get back to fix lunch and chill and so we hailed a cab.

They are everywhere, all regulated and all metered and as soon as you have established your destination, the meter is even used- that's a first on our travels so far...

After a most pleasant up hill drive we were deposited right outside the front door and asked for the princely sum of 4.30 KM; a fiver with tip. Cost in real terms? £1.50, a smidge more than what we would have paid if we had caught the bus.

This I can really get used to. :-)

Sarajevo, What's It All About Then?

A brief potted history:

Sarajevo was formed in the 15th century from the influence of the Ottoman empire and it is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a population of around 700 000- almost the same as the entire population of Montenegro.

It is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps with the Miljacka river passing through the centre and it has a religious tolerance of all faiths; Islam, Catholicism, Judaism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated here sparking off World War One and the city then underwent the longest ever siege during the Bosnian War, lasting from 5th April 1992 to 29th February 1996.

It is estimated that more than 12 000 people were killed and 50 000 wounded during the siege- 85% of them civilians.

In 1984 it hosted the Winter Olympics and since 1995 has hosted the Balkan Film Festival, currently on as we speak.

It is also one dead cool place to visit.

My Apologies, But

England 1 - 2 Germany

BWAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAA..........

:oD

That still feels so good.

Shots of Sarajevo





The diversity of this city is amazing. One minute you think you're in the Austrian Alps and the next you're in a Turkish bazaar.

Welcome to Sarajevo

And what a welcome.

After a much shorter than expected journey from Mostar; a little over three hours, we had made it to Sarajevo and our first visit to this famous city.

Our host had kindly offered to collect us from the bus station and gave assurances he would recognise us without problem- he'd been checking us out on the Blog. And he was still happy to let us stay at his apartment? Obviously a confident man!

Shortly we were greeted in embarrassingly perfect English, taken on a brief orienteering tour of the city in an air conditioned car and delivered to our new home for the next week.

WOW!

The place had been fully refurbished last year and everything was new and spotless. A big, spacious and airy living/bedroom, a separate bathroom (bath and shower) and kitchen and LAN broadband and cable TV as well?

It got better too; an electric kettle, toaster and washing machine? Not had these luxuries since Izola, Slovenia. I think we've landed in heaven...

So much so that we've decided to extend our stay to a fortnight. Having been in to town yesterday and barely seen a tiny part of it (it really is odd being back in a big city instead of the small seaside resorts that we have become used to over the last four months) we just have to spend more time here.

So we're going to. Life is so simple sometimes.

Apartment details here and it is ktelontour thoroughly recommended.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Let's All Go Gnome

Traditionally, a garden gnome on some one's front lawn was meant to signify the home was willing to put up travellers free of charge for the night.

Updated Beerometer


Yup, beer at around 70p a pint here in Bosnia. How can that be bad?

What was the Score?



To all meinen kleinen Englander Freunden:

You're only singing when you're winning, la la llaaa...

More Pictures

OK, we've just uploaded our photos from Bar and Mostar onto Flickr and there are some fairly reasonable shots there to give you an idea of what you're missing out on. ;-)

Speaking of Football

After the Bosnia/Croatia match finished, those kind people at Bosnian TV headquarters then showed the entire England/Germany match directly afterwards.

As I had kept off the internet and not seen the news (my Serbian is not quite up to speed for the local bulletins) I was completely unaware of the result and so settled down to watch what I thought would be a one sided game. Currently the Bundesliga has over 60 injuries to key players, leaving Low a big headache for selection- particularly up front.

With England going 1-0 in front in the opening 15 minutes I had visions of another big defeat (1-5 anyone?), especially as Germany had beaten England in the last ever game at "old" Wembley and naturally the Brits would be out for revenge.

However, watching the game it became apparent that England have still not made any progress since the dire direction SGE took them in (oh the irony; Eriksson is heading the premiership with Manchester City) and cannot retain possession. Nor do they seem to understand the finer points of tactics resorting as ever, to panicking, hoofing the ball up the pitch and hoping.

I was somewhat relieved to see Kevin Kuranyi's equaliser (despite it being the Spurs' keeper's fault which could now cost him his England shirt) go in a quarter of an hour later and even happier when Pander smashed in an absolute screamer from 30 yards into the back of the net just before the end of the first half, giving Paul Robinson no chance.

So England can add yet another defeat against the Germans, but this time at the all new £800 million (money well spent FA people) Wembley stadium.

New ground, new players and managers but same old results.

Long may it continue... :-D

Once Again, So Close.

I've never had much luck with getting to see football games.

I wanted to see St Pauli play in Hamburg last year and despite being at the ground as they were selling tickets, I was under the impression the game was for the next day and people were buying in readiness. Having already made plans for the next day, I didn't bother queuing and subsequently found out that the game was on there and then. D'oh!

On another occasion we had booked our trip to Bratislava and arranged our accommodation and travel arrangements. Turned out if we'd left a day earlier we could have made the game between Slovakia and Germany. A game the Germans won 0-4 as we watched it on television from a distance of 100 miles way...

However, our luck was in.

Arriving at Sarajevo yesterday we were surprised to find out that there was a national game being played the next day between Bosnia and Croatia. Not only that, but tickets were still available and the ground was within walking distance of our apartment. How jammy is that?

Good timing an' all as I wanted to see the England versus Germany game (more on that later after I've shaved...) on the television so I could do both. Sweet.

Then it go to around 8.30 pm and we heard all kinds of noise. Looking out from the balcony we saw the floodlights were on and it sounded like the game was due to kick of imminently. Quick flick over on the channels confirmed our worst fears- the game was now, not the next day.

Bugger.

And I couldn't find the England/Germany game either.

Double bugger.

So not wanting to be so close and miss out again, I got changed and tried to find the ground. OK, with the noise of the fans and the floodlights you'd think it was dead easy find a big bloody stadium but it was dark, there are loads of hills and tiny roads around here and I have the directional sense to challenge a blind mole.

But I made it to the ground in time to hear Bosnia score their first and then realised there were some heavy duty Dibble around with full riot gear and they were not allowing anyone through (some serious fighting had been happening in town and they were taking no chances). I also realised I had no ID on me (who goes to a football match with their passport?) but despite this, I walked around the stadium the long way to try and find the ticket booth.

Again, no way through there so I ended up watching the rest of the first half through the railings (quite a reasonable view as it happens and also favoured by the locals) before heading back to watch the second half at home on the box.

Quite a game too- Croatia beat Bosnia 3-5!

Here We Are


Having just been the furthest south of our trip so far, all the way down in Bar, close to the Albanian border, we are now heading back north-east again. Although we have been further east when we were in Poland (Gdansk) and Slovakia (Banska), our next country, Serbia will see us beat that.
Life. It's all about the little ups and downs, innit?

Harry Potter and The Half-Witted Big Gurl's Blouse

Just before we left Herceg Novi we managed one last visit to the pictures to see the latest HP movie. "The Phoenix From the Bucket" or something?

I know both the books and films have a world wide fan base and the first two films weren't bad, but the third was average and should have been a warning about the latest offering.

Well, it's all a bit formulaic; a bit "wizards by numbers" and a tad tired and predictable to me.

It doesn't help that our Mr Potter is such a wimp either. If ever there was a victim, he'd be first in the queue to cop for some bullying or brow beating. Stand up for yourself for God's sake- you must be at least 37 so act like it...

The other main characters have been reduced to nothing more than two dimensional bit parts with nothing left in them to explore so the newer characters have been drafted in. Sadly, They are utter shite, especially the blonde Irish bint who twitters on about seeing dead things. Erm, sorry pet but that has already been done in "Sixth Sense" and much better than you did.

I still can't work out the court scene at the beginning of the film either. What's the point of having a trial if wizards can't work a spell to see if someone is telling the truth? Pointless padding that only highlights the films one saving grace- the special effects.

First class as usual and it's rather good to see how people's imagination can come to life.

On the whole a thumbs down from ktelontour although wifey enjoyed it and may have a different opinion on this rather limp-wristed outing of the learner wand waver.

Wait for it to come out on Sky or perhaps pay a mere £1.43 to see it at the cinema.

In Montenegro...

Just Doo IT



After an email came flooding in showing concern at my footwear situation (my last pair of Nike sandals got shrunk in a boil wash; if you're interested check out the archives...) I feel the need to update.

My original Nikes, having served me faithfully for several years even before we left the UK (but then again with British summers they were rarely worn) have been replaced with Mikes and are entirely capable of encasing the delicate feet of yours truly against the rigors of modern walking to the beach and back.

I managed to source these exclusive items of footwear at a prestigious market stall in Zadar, Croatia, for the princely sum of a fiver and despite numerous blisters, pinching and a tendency to act like ice skates on any surface except carpet, they are most excellent.

They even have a fancy tick logo...

Bus Transfers

As you can imagine, we've been using the option of public transport exclusively over the last week or so and once again we can report that it is nothing short of first class.

All buses/coaches offer air conditioning (a real life saver with temperatures regularly in the mid to late thirties), punctual departure times, comfortable seats and ample luggage storage in the cargo hold, although you will need to leave aside an extra Euro per item for this.

And the prices themselves are outstanding, averaging around seven quid for a four to five hour journey.

The drivers themselves are mad however. Friendly, happy but mad nonetheless. They will readily drop people off en route at non-scheduled stops, help out senior citizens with a beaming smile and cheerfully disregard any of the "health and safety" rules the companies foist on them and their passengers. Seat belts? Don't think so. Fancy a fag? They most certainly do. Chat to the missus on the mobile? No problem.

We had slowed down to a walking pace and I looked up expecting to see a queue of traffic in front of us; instead the road was gloriously clear. So why was our driver pootling along? Ah yes, silly me- he was texting on his mobile. Business as usual then... :oD

The bus transport system throughout eastern Europe has been nothing short of exceptional and yet it isn't- it's expected and the norm here.

So why can't the UK achieve something similar?

Magical Mostar




Herceg Novi (Montenegro) to Mostar (Bosnia)

We'd been to Mostar before. Three or four years ago, and such was the impression it left on us, we vowed to return.

It was a day trip from Dubrovnik the first time as I recall and I wasn't convinced a three hour bus ride (one way) was going to be worth it. Luckily for me, wifey sometimes puts her size fours down and insists and for that, with hindsight, I was most pleased.

We'd bought a guide book on the place (pre-internet days for us) and on the drive over we whetted our appetite reading up on the history and looking at pictures of widely diverse architecture and awesome structures the city was famed for.

Mostar is the fifth largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, situated on the river Neretva with nine bridges allowing access from one side to the other. Its most famous bridge, is the "Old Bridge" and this is what the city is named after, Stari Most.

The population of the city is pretty much divided between Bosnians and Croatians, each claiming one side of the river but the number of Serbians is negligible following ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War.

When we arrived we were shocked to see the devastation the war had left behind and the majority of buildings we had looked at in the guide book were no longer standing. It was truly awful to witness but as we were there, there was a massive rebuilding project in place (mainly funded by European Union) and there seemed to be an air of positiveness and hope which is what prompted us to want to return.

Sometime thereafter, we stumbled over a documentary on the rebuilding of the Old Bridge on one of the Discovery channels and it was amazing how much effort was being made to restore the bridge to its former glory. Completely original parts wherever possible (most of the stones were reclaimed from the river by divers) and traditional craftsmen were used and the whole project took years. Again, we said we'd return and so we did.

What a change a few years can make.

The city is now flourishing and whilst refurbishment work is on-going, it is transformed. Old meets new, the bridges are back in place and Stari Most still attracts the tourists by the hundreds.

If you're lucky, you'll see the local kids trying to earn a few Marks by diving into the waters off the bridge but be prepared to be patient- they'll milk you for hours and I'm not convinced the guy we saw posturing in his Speedos is still there now, flexing his muscles but getting no wetter than I did.

We loved our stay there and once again we have promised to return again, one day. In the meantime we will have to make do with some pictures.

Yes, We're Back

For what seems to be an age since we last had an opportunity to add to our ever growing collection of shite on the Blog, we are now pleased to advise that after we have dealt with the back log, we will be resuming our business as normal.

So, a tad more patience Dear Reader, we'll be lobbing up some photies, advising on our travel escapades, delighting you with our unique humour* and in general offering you the best way to while away a dreary few minutes if you're stuck at your computer pretending to be working.

To keep the record accurate, we have now left Montenegro and entered Bosnia, having spent a few nights in Mostar before arriving in Sarajevo yesterday. Keep an eye on Flickr too, as we'll be adding more photos of where we have been and what we have seen and I think we've got some good snaps for you to enjoy.





*That was too much, wasn't it?

Bar, Old & New







Sunday, 19 August 2007

You Say "Tomato"

And I say put the nasty little things in the bin.

Isn't it odd that the tomato is factually classified as a fruit and yet the melon is a vegetable?

Go figure.

And We're Off

Tottenham finally kicked their season off with a 4-0 victory at home to Derby and sees them rise to 9th place in the table. Whilst the position is clearly false (they have now played three games and many teams below them have game(s) in hand) it takes them well off the foot of the league. I am somewhat relieved.

Meanwhile, Bielefeld managed a draw against Eintracht Frankfurt settling at 2-2, with Frankfurt equalising in the 89th minute. Gits. The full three points would have taken us top, but we remain in a solid third place and I'm more than happy with that.

Southend took a right pasting away to Leeds, going down 4-1 and they stay in second from last place in the First Division, having been relegated from the Championship last year. Southend have still to win their first match of the campaign and I hope it's soon to give them some much needed confidence.

That's the round up of the important (to me) footie results- see you next week for some more.




Leeds stay bottom, despite 2 wins in a row as they were penalised 15 points for a breach of rules on insolvency following Ken Bates's takeover of the club.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Too Short to be an Eviction Technician

Patrick Swayze's "Road House" is the all-time top-grossing movie in Iceland.

I mention this only to highlight the fact that I have always rated this movie highly and that I am no longer alone.

*yay*

:oD

All's Well That Ends Well

A postcard has finally been delivered, accompanied by a note from the post man, apologising for the delay. It was originally sent in August 1908.

Business as usual then...

Dipping The Toe In

Young swimmers in Essex have been prevented from using their local pool because they were wearing the wrong style of trunks.

Three kids were told to change out of their knee-length shorts for health and safety reasons by officials at Harlow swimming baths, saying that long shorts could hamper "weaker swimmers".

Aside from the stupidity of some people, who are they even question the competency of these swimmers?

And imagine if Bermuda short swimwear was banned at the beach? Middle aged, pot-bellied men in Speedos? Ye Gods- almost as sinful as socks with sandals.

Mow Refund

The council in Hertford are responsible for tending grassed areas and riverside verges over the course of the year and takes its role most seriously.

So much so that it has been mowing grasslands that were in fact privately owned, wasting thousands of pounds in the process over the last for 25 years.

However, having just realised their own mistake, they intend to keep up their good work until the owners can be tracked down.

Can't say fairer than that but it is certainly nice to hear something good for a change; most councils would be suing you in court for back payment. Plus interest...

The Cyrillic Alphabet in Serbia



We are so screwed...

Mostar on Monday

As we prepare to leave Montenegro and head off to Bosnia, a few things that I will not miss about this country.

  • Mosquitoes. Bastard little things that have on occasion eaten us alive despite swimming in gunk to protect us.
  • Taxi drivers, bar ONE, are thieving gits.
  • The noise where we are staying. Not down to the locals but fellow guests at our place of accommodation. Noisy, inconsiderate and completely selfish. Nothing wrong with family holidays but they are your kids, do not assume we want them foisted on us at 7.00 am playing outside our front door.

Not too drastic, is it?

Couple of Things I Learned

About Montenegro.

  • Before the Euro became the accepted currency, they used the Deutsch Mark.
  • The population is only 700 000- tiny.

Happy Cabbie

It is fair to say that thus far we have not been too favourable to taxi drivers on our travels. Obviously this sentiment is justified as they prey on innocent new-comers to a town and proceed to extort every last penny out of their naive victims, but occasionally one gets lucky.

Our transfer from Bar to Utjeha, where we staying with our friends, required the use of a taxi driver but this time we fixed the price before the journey started- clever move as it was miles away.

En route he asked us if we wouldn't mind waiting a short while as he had to collect something from his home and a few minutes later he returned with a huge bunch of grapes taken from the vines of his own garden.

When we arrived in Utjeha, some 20 minutes later we were faced with peaks on scale with Mount Everest and to make matters even more amusing, no one in Montenegro seems to bother with house numbers so the poor guy was up and down the road talking to all and sundry trying to find our address.

Finally we/he cracked it and he would not accept a penny more than the agreed fee. Lovely fellah.

The Chemistry of Death

Was the title of the book we bought in Trogir by a new (to us) author, Simon Beckett.

Jolly good read on a subject off the beaten path and keeps you turning the pages, irrespective of the time (as if we care) and engrosses you into the plot.

Worth a crack if stuck at an airport or similar and need to while away a few hours.

Stand Clear

As we wound our way up the steep and narrow cobbled streets of Stari Bar (the Old Town of Bar) we were slightly concerned to be approached by a careering car, hurtling toward us not to dissimilar to a stray, grounded Red Arrow looking to find the rest of the formation.

We clung desperately to the shop front attempting to give as much room to the rapidly moving vehicle and as the driver flashed past, I looked in and he seemed to be only 12 or 13 years of age!

He certainly did not appear to be having any concerns at driving like Colin McCrae and being considerably under age as he sped past along, grinning his head off.

Obviously training them young for a career as a cabbie although he will need to practise his use of the horn which had remained silent throughout the trip...

Friday, 17 August 2007

Emergency Stop

We were sitting in one of the high street cafes enjoying the cooling shade with a view of the Plod Factory opposite.

Traffic was milling along, back and fro without too much use of the horn (an essential Montenegrin driving aid) when I heard the sound of a bike approaching and he was clearly "making progress" as they say in the trade.

As I saw the rider approaching, I also noted he was not wearing his helmet (despite it being law, most don't bother) and I wondered how he'd fare with local coppers who were outside the Dibble Shop, supping coffee and dunkin' donuts.

Said biker must have been a local though. :-)

He pulled an enormous stoppie (think wheelie in reverse, ie hauling on the anchors and raising the rear wheel aloft under the severe braking forces), plumped the back hoop down, popped on a helmet of sorts (a beret looked more capable of protection) and roared off, past the Rozzers without a care in the world.

Ain't it just good to live once in a while?

Beach Boy From Belgrade to Bar

One of the stories we were told about Bar is that there is a blurk who, every September since living memory, drives down from Belgrade to Bar with his sun bed and brolly and then camps on the beach for an entire month with nothing else.

He uses the sea to wash and keep clean, sleeps only on his sun bed with little else but the stars to keep company and uses the local cafes and bars to sustain him over the 30 days.

He then packs up his stuff and drives back to Serbia for the rest of the eleven months.

Top man.

Meeting Friends in Bar

The reason for our trip down the coast of Montenegro and now the furthest south we have been since our departure from the UK was to meet up with some friends that are originally Serbian but have settled in Southend, our old home.

We had such a great time, catching up and gossiping about the "good" old days. We were as ever, so generously looked after and did not want for anything. Good food (the best cevapcici yet) great beer (Niksicko) and superb company.

Thanks to both Nik and Sanja- next time we'll be hosts and hope repay the compliment.

PS: The beer.

They had bought a crate of 20 half litre bottles and paid 5€ (~3.57) for the lot. Oh, and the empties get a refund too.

Ha, ha!

The Full Monty

In the old days of ale and English type stuff, the usual way to off set a hangover or compensate for being a tad over generous on the quantity of bitter supped was to indulge in a full English breakfast.

This is not something readily available in Bar (all of Montenegro as it goes) but we discovered the next best thing.

The SERBIANA breakfast; comprising of fried egg, sausage, bacon, mushroom all on a traditional pizza.

It really does the trick.

Michael Schumacher

Despite grandly declaring his retirement from Ferrari, it seems our man Michael is having to top up his pension by doubling up as a taxi driver in Montenegro. Well, we all know how much they charge for a fare...

We were "lucky" enough to grab a cab to take us to the Old Town of Bar (photies in due course) and I could have sworn the guy drove like he was auditioning for the Formula One racing squad!

And the best of it was, it was in a Lada (my first [and last, I hope] time) which must have been souped up with a Porsche engine...

And if it wasn't Schumacher, it must have been Niki Lada.

Sorry, that was really bad, wasn't it? ;oD

Honky Ponk Woman

On our coach down to Bar, after a couple of stops a woman got on and sat directly behind me. To say she had a hygiene problem was a bit of an understatement and I almost had to change seats. Luckily it wasn't for long but talk about pen and ink.

Strewth, it took another half an hour for my eyes to stop watering.

Rock Bottom

So the mighty Spurs are once again off to a flyer- played two, lost two and in last place in the Premiership.

It was bad enough to lose 0-1 away to Sunderland, but 1-3 at home to Everton?

*sigh*

It's going to be a long season...

Check This Mutha Out!


So there I was, minding my own business, trying to put something of value on the Blog, when I felt the balcony shake and I thought it was going to be torn off the wall.

This monster had lurched into it and settled there, wondering whether to eat me or the railings. It was the size of about half a brick, and looked like it could take out a tank for fun.

I left rather hurriedly after using full zoom from the other side of the country to get a picture of Godzilla and I still only go on the balcony with a tennis racquet and full PPE on...


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Time for a Baby

The Russian region of Ulyanovsk, 550 miles east of Moscow, has declared a Day of Conception on 12th September and is giving couples time off work to procreate.

It hopes for a baby boom on Russia’s national day (12th June) to counter a declining birth rate, with couples who have a child born exactly on the 12th able to win prizes.

I'll bet there are quite a few countries who will be jealous of this incentive scheme.

And it also serves as a timely reminder that it's my birthday on the 11th September so start shopping NOW for my presents as the postage to Serbia could take a bit longer than normal. :oD



With thanks to The Times (again) for this little gem.

Stamp to...?

With the advent of free European transfer and one big Europe, one of the things we miss is that whilst still having to produce your passport and there is usually a cursory glance at it, you no longer get a stamp from whichever country you are entering. Or leaving, for that matter.

For us that is a shame as we'd have quite a collection over the years we have been travelling; our current tally stands at 48 & 49 countries- wifey has the extra one as s he went to Canada with her mother to catch up with family whilst I had to "work".

However, Montenegro still stamps you in and out (rumour has that if you don't get a stamp coming in, it is a nightmare going out) and so at least we'll have one memento from our travels to date.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The Dangers of Motorcycling

A Japanese motorcycle rider in Tokyo was out for a ride with is friends and failed to to negotiate a curve in the road and bumping into the central barrier. Despite feeling an intense pain, he continued riding for another couple of kilometres before stopping at the next junction.

It was then when he noticed his leg had been severed below the knee!

Unfortunately despite both the rider and the limb being rushed to hospital the leg was too badly crushed to be reattached.

Blimey!

Hells Angels

In the news due to the recent shooting on the M40, this article ripped from The Independent makes for interesting reading for those for a passion for two wheels:

The legend that was to become the Hells Angels was born on 17 March 1948 when Second World War veteran Otto Friedli formed a new bike gang out of the remnants of two notorious fighting and drinking clubs.

Dozens of loose-knit biker groups had sprung up across America in the mid-1940s. Motorcycles were cheap, and appealed in particular to the hundreds of former soldiers and airmen who found it hard to cope with uneventful lives following the end of the war. They came together at weekends, riding hard and drinking even harder. For those who had nowhere to go when Monday came, the club turned into a surrogate family.

In 1947, at a drag-racing meeting organised by the American Motorcycle Association in the quiet town of Hollister, California, a gang called the Pissed-Off Bastards rode in drunk and created mayhem, fighting anyone and everyone and ripping the place to shreds. The local sheriff later described the scene as "just one hell of a mess".

In the months following Hollister, Bastard member Friedli broke away and took a few like-minded souls with him. Basing himself in San Bernadino, he adopted a name favoured by fighter pilots – Hell's Angels – structured the gang along military lines and continued the theme on the gang's crest: a grinning, winged death's head wearing a pilot's helmet. (Friedli's seamstress forgot to include the apostrophe and it has been officially omitted ever since.)

Their exploits reached a new level of public awareness with the 1953 Marlon Brando film The Wild One (based loosely on the Hollister incident). That same year, the original Hells Angels chapter merged with San Francisco's Market Street Commandos to spawn the club's second chapter, and soon more chapters popped up along the California coastline.

In 1964, four Angels were accused of rape in the oceanside town of Monterey. The high-profile case not only saw the first of many, many headlines demonising the biker gang, but also allegedly marked the beginning of the Angels' move into international drug-trafficking, to pay legal bills.

Infamy bred notoriety, and in the mid-1960s The Nation magazine sent a young Hunter S Thompson to write about the Hells Angels. Soon afterwards, Hollywood came calling again and Jack Nicholson starred in the 1967 release Hell's Angels on Wheels. Rock stars such as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead struck up friendships with the bikers, which Garcia admitted was a bit scary because they were, as he put it, "good in all the violent spaces".

That was proved beyond doubt on 6 December 1969, when Angels were hired – for $500 worth of free beer – as security guards for a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway outside San Francisco. Armed with pool cues, they attempted to keep order while drinking, smoking marijuana and dropping acid. At one point a black, 18-year-old Stones fan named Meredith Hunter rushed the stage, just as the band finished playing "Under My Thumb" , and was beaten back. He rushed again, was pushed back, pulled a gun, and shot a Hells Angel in the arm.

An eyewitness, Tony Sanchez, described the ensuing scene thus: "Five more Angels came crashing to the aid of their buddy, while Meredith tried to run off through the packed crowd. An Angel caught him by the arm and brought down a sheath knife hard in the black man's back... then the Angels were upon him like a pack of wolves. One tore the gun from his hand, another stabbed him in the face and still another stabbed him repeatedly, insanely, in the back until his knees buckled."

When the Angels finished with Hunter, several people tried to come to his aid, but an Angel stood guard over the motionless body. "Don't touch him," he said menacingly. "He's going to die anyway, so just let him die."

Now, with their bad-boy reputation squarely in place, the Hells Angels began to emerge as a more sophisticated outfit. They formed a corporation to protect their legitimate business interests, trademarked the infamous death's head logo and opened more chapters around the world.

The first British chapter was formed in London in mid-1969, and it took only three years to achieve the same kind of status as their American brothers. In late 1972, 18-year-old Ian Everest, along with two others, abducted a 14-year-old Girl Guide off the streets of Winchester and dragged her along to an Angels party, where he raped her in front of cheering clubmates. At the subsequent court case the girl told a horrified jury that Everest had laughed throughout the assault.

Sentencing him to nine years, Mr Justice Waller launched a thousand tabloid shock-horror headlines: "We have heard of Hells Angels as an utterly evil organisation, evil and corrosive of young people. I do not sentence you for being a Hells Angel, but no doubt the evil nature of that organisation has led you into this situation."

Every few years something new happened to keep the image alive, often helped by the media's inability to tell the Hells Angels apart from other biker gangs. And each summer, the Angels organise the Bulldog Bash, Europe's premier biking event, which now attracts around 40,000 bikers from all over the world for a non-stop, four-day party at the Long Marston Airfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Inside the grounds there is a massive beer tent, open 24 hours a day, hundreds of food stalls, a shopping village, bungee-jumping, mini-motorbike tracks and tattoo parlours. In the evening there is a giant musical stage with top rock and heavy-metal bands. Up on stage, the grinning death's head skull is replaced by a far more family-friendly image – a cute bulldog sitting astride a Harley, its little paws up on the handlebars.

The event is policed by Angels themselves and, despite the vast numbers attending, is now recognised by Warwickshire Police as their least troublesome public event. Teams make regular "security" patrols in customised black Ford Escorts that have had all the glass removed and large white swastikas painted on the sides

And a couple of quick witted tales:

But even when caught red-handed, many Angels are bolshie enough to beat the rap. When one senior member was stopped in his car soon after leaving a rally and found to have a bag containing nine kilos of high-quality cannabis resin beside him, he didn't hesitate.


"What a coincidence," he told them. "I was just on my way to the police station to hand this in. I found it at the rally. I think it might be drugs." Fingerprints were found on the outside of the bag, but not on the packets of drugs inside. It was impossible to disprove his story – no matter how unlikely – and charges were dropped.

It was a similar story when another Angel was stopped with half a kilo of cocaine and a loaded handgun hidden behind a door panel of the vehicle. " You've got me bang to rights," he told the officers. "I stole the car." All those connected to the vehicle were later acquitted of all charges.

Fancy an Egg?

Then that is exactly what you can buy, as eggs are sold separately in the supermarkets here at a more than reasonable 10 cents (~7p) per egg.

What a great idea.

Blind Drunk

A week ago, Tallinn police arrested an Estonian man for drunk driving and then realised he was blind- he was being given directions/instructions by his three (brave?) passengers.

He's just been nicked again and police now want to confiscate his car.

Why not just hide his keys?

Sarajevo Soon

We leave Herceg Novi tomorrow and head even further south to Bar, where we are meeting up with some Serbian friends from England. Then we leave Montenegro and travel to Bosnia with Mostar being our first port of call, before spending a week in Sarajevo. Which coincidentally has just made the news:

SARAJEVO: Bosnian MPs could soon face fines equal to half their monthly salary for talking on their mobile phones or reading newspapers during sessions of parliament and for being rude to their colleagues. The new code of conduct, drawn up by an NGO and a parliamentary commission, is expected to be adopted next month. (Reuters)

Again, we hope to find internet connection along the way but we will be off line during our travels. Don't worry, we will be back soon though.

Monday, 13 August 2007

You're Nicked

Want to know how Dibble is reaching its targets of bringing 1.25 million offences to justice in 2007 to 2008? It issues an on the spot fine, called a "penalty notice for disorder" (PND).

Such is the popularity of this "fast track" method of closing a case that Plod is issuing PNDs at a rate of one every three minutes.

They're not too fussed that the offender may have caused criminal damage of £500 or stolen up to £200 of goods from a shop either. No, as long as they issue them with a fine (usually £50 or £80) the case is closed and it's one less offence off the annual target total.

Ho hum...

Mini Plod

Two 16-year-olds have been enlisted as police community support officers (PCSOs), despite being two years too young to join the regular police force. They will have the right to detain suspects, to stop and search and issue penalty notices for disorder.

Not only do I find this rather absurd (are 16 year olds really mature or confident enough to enforce the law?) but how would the under age coppers be allowed to enter pubs or cinemas showing 18-certificate films during the course of their "duties"?






PCSOs are cheaper and less fully-trained. They are given an initial training course of 5 weeks duration, compared with 19 for a regular police officer.They earn between £17,000 and £20,000 while a full PC starts at £21,000 rising to £33,000.

Don't Like Criticism?

Then just sue instead.

Britain’s worst-performing train company, First Great Western (FGW) has tried to silence the official passenger watchdog, London TravelWatch, by threatening to sue it for libel after they dared to make a complaint about the train company's poor performance.

London TravelWatch had written to the railways minister, to ask whether FGW was in breach of its franchise agreement, because almost a third of its commuter trains in the Thames Valley were late.

The railway company has a target in its contract of ensuring 92% of trains are on time but managed only 68.3% on its peak services. Its long-distance services are also the least punctual in the industry, with only 75.6% on time compared with a national average of 85.2%.

So, despite the damning sta-testicles, FGW instructed its solicitors (amusingly called Slaughter & May) to sue for libel.

Meanwhile, the Government knows about First Great Western’s bullying attempts to silence the watchdog, but continues to take no action.


Fancy being threatened with court action simply for telling the truth?

Little Britlander

As mentioned we can receive German television here and we were watching their Comedy Channel (surely an oxymoron?) last night.

Next up was "Little Britain" and unlike most Eastern European countries, the Germans dub all their programmes and do not use sub-titles.

It was quite amazing to hear the sketches performed in German but not only that, the choice of dubbed voices were bang on and the whole thing worked incredibly well. It was still very funny.

I just wonder what true Germans make of it?

Private Medical Insurance

Was being advertised on German television, which we can receive here via satellite transmission.

What struck me was that they suggested average starting costs for a 30 year old man and a similarly aged woman.

Monthly premium for the blurk was 79€ but for the wifey it was an astonishing 140€; a substantial difference.


They do say women are far higher maintenance, mind...

Montenegrin TV Ads

Remember the smell of the 70s? Brut, Old Spice and Denim?

Well, Denim is still going strong here and the advert, whilst played out with new actors is exactly as it was over 30 odd years ago.

It's also probably just as successful at pulling the chicks- nil chance...

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Did a musical about cats and thus must be a fan. He'd love it here in Herceg Novi.

Cats everywhere, and wild, kittens at that. Scraggly, mangy, flea-bitten bundles of fur, teeth and sharp claws.

Just like babies, they seem to sense my dislike and make a concentrated effort to home in on me.

Little bastids.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Spanish Anthem

Unlike the the French, who sing "The Marseillaise" and the British, who chant "God Save the Queen", but the Spanish tune, one of the oldest national anthems, does not have any lyrics whatsoever.

Pity the words for the UK anthem can't be dropped then.

Not because they are ridiculously out of date and out of touch with reality, but just to spare our embarrassment at watching some of our sportspeople gurning on the camera, pretending that chewing their gum is indeed them singing along...

I Name Thee

With the current trend of parents naming their children all sorts of cobblers in a desperate attempt for them to be "different", it may surprise you that the UK has pretty much no ban on naming a child anything the parents choose outside of words deemed offensive.

In contrast to some countries, such as Portugal*, Norway*, Argentina, Germany and Spain which have officially-sanctioned lists; including both allowed and disallowed names.

This helps explain that since 1984, there are:

2 x Superman
6 x boys named Gandalf
29 x Gazzas,
36 x Arsenals (both sexes)

currently in the UK!

No accounting for taste, is there?

*For example, in Portugal, the Ministry of Justice's website includes 39 pages of officially-sanctioned names and 41 pages of those which are banned. Included in the latter group are Lolita, Maradona and Mona Lisa, however Portugal is being lobbied to repeal its controls.
Norway replaced its own list with a ban on swear and sex words, illnesses and negative names only as recently as four years ago.

More From Venice

Having just highlighted that the police are issuing fines of 25€ in Venice for eating takeaway food in public, here's another little known fact.

Bar owners and restaurateurs in the city are accused of operating a three-tier pricing system.

One price for Italians, a higher price for visitors who might make an effort, but a much higher price for visitors who are offhand or rude.

Quote from Codacons, the Italian consumer rights group:

“If you are Italian, a croissant and a cappuccino cost €3.50. If you speak another language, it costs €7."

Still want to take a romantic trip there? Take a spare suitcase for your spending money and a phrase book...

ktelontour At The Pictures, Again

Our first visit to a Montenegrin cinema and to kick off our maiden outing, we ended up seeing Live Free or Die Hard (0.4).

We'd heard the hype, read the maybe not so hot reviews but I have to confess to having a bit of a soft spot for our Mr Willis and was really looking forward to seeing the film.

I was not disappointed as it turned out to be exactly what one would expect, with big guns, big chases, big fights and of course big explosions. Very 1980s and none the worse for it. OK, it's been updated a bit for the 21st century with the plot revolving around computer hacking and lots of IT stuff, but deep down it's back to good old basics.

Bruce is wearing well and has opted to leave the white vest hanging in the wardrobe. Despite advancing years, he can still do the macho stuff and the one liners still crack a smile. The supporting cast all play their roles to perfection and all in all you come out of the theatre thoroughly entertained.

Speaking of which, whilst not quite the luxurious surroundings we got spoilt with in Croatia, the ~100 seat cinema was more than adequate, if a tad cramped for those of long legs. Again, self service snacking is encouraged, ie bring your own, and the highlight has to be the crazy price of 2€ (£1.43) to get in. :oD

ktelontour verdict? Smashing fun, good night out at the flicks, catch it if you still can or take out the DVD ASAP!

Pete & Hills, Bruv and Sis-in-Law

Many congrats to you all on your wedding anniversary- today P & H, tomorrow brother and sis.

We were lucky enough to be with you on your special days several years ago and have the fondest of memories.

As ever, a glass will be raised, but wishing you many, many more anniversaries to come.

Red or White Pizza

Here's an unusual custom we've not yet mentioned; something we've noticed in pretty much all the eastern European countries we've visited to date.

Folk love to pour on ketchup (usually) or mayonnaise onto their pizzas- and quite liberally at that too. Whether it's in the restaurant, a takeaway or simply a slice to go in the street, the first thing they will reach for is the ketchup bottle.

My bottle is not big enough to try this tradition yet, but never say never, right? In the meantime I'll stick with the more obvious accompaniment of drowning my pizza with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Bie-ler-feld...

Blimey- they won 1-3 away from home against Wolfsburg and that puts them second in the Bundesliga, behind Bayern Munich.

OK, it's only the first game of the season, but, GET IN THERE!

Makes up for Spurs making an utter bollocks of things...

Do Videnja Hrvatska

Given that Dubrovnik is now in a state of emergency following the terrible forest fires we drove through on Sunday, we have decided that we will try and move directly on into Bosnia from Montenegro rather than going back via Croatia. (Not least because I find this very upsetting. The lush greenery contrasting with the blue Adriatic is one of the delights of Croatia.)

So we will not see Croatia again for a while. But rest assured we will be back. It really is such a beautiful, wonderful country with fantastic scenery, superb architecture and generous, honest people.

I simply cannot praise it enough -So here are my Top Five Tips for visiting Croatia

- Brijuni Island. A £7 cab fare from Pula Airport (served by Ryanair) will bring you to Fazana from where you board your boat for the short hop to Brijuni Island. There are a couple of decent hotels on the Island, and a good golf course, and after 6pm all the day trippers are kicked off so you have the entire Island to yourself. It is something special. So for a real film star getaway at a fraction of the cost check out Brijuni Island.

- Tour Istria. Istria is a gem. Breathtaking coastline. Rolling hills. Venetian towns and Medieval hilltop fortresses, truffles and wine. It is all very Tuscan. I can't wait to come back on a motorbike and tour it properly.

- Cres Island. My favourite of the Kvarner Islands. Again to do it justice you need to be able to traverse the entire island with your own transport. A pretty peaceful island dotted with hospitable stone fishing villages.

- Plitvice National Parks. There are 8 national parks in Croatia. See how gorgeous it is. Of which Plitvice is the biggest and most diverse. You need a good couple of days to see it properly. It really is a little bit of Heaven.

- Split. After Venice, Split is my favourite city in Europe. It is so eclectic. You start at one end with the 3rd century roman palace of Diocletian and wander through streets fashioned by Byzantine, Venetian and Hapsburg architects until you arrive at modern day Milano. Everyone who ever came here left their mark, but were all then assimilated by the locals. This is not so much an open air museum as a living city and what remains is quintessentially Croatian. This is the heart of Dalmatia. It is perfect for a romantic weekend break.

If you have a few extra days, visit Trogir - old wall town, 4th century BC Solina, Krka waterfalls or one of the near by islands (Brac, Hvar or Viz).

I'm missing it already............When we come back we hope to have 2 wheels so we can visit Slavonia and central Croatia.