Saturday, 22 October 2016

Sarajevo: before and after photos

Bombed-out Dobrinja suburb, Sarajevo 1997
1997 disaster zone to 2016 suburb without blast holes, landmines and booby traps. 
I went to Sarajevo just after the war in 1997 with my mate Angus who had been invited to stay in the city's first Internet cafe, The Avatar.

Angus was there to interview the cafe's owner, Morgan Sowden, for Internet Magazine. I was just there for the ride.

Panorama of the Avatar Internet Cafe, Sarajevo 1997
It was a memorable week in an effortlessly cool city (which it still is). I was in a manic phase experimenting with QuickTime Virtual Reality and so I spent my time taking panoramas of, mostly, bomb damage.

19 years on and as Jo and I drove into the city this week it suddenly occurred to me to recreate those panoramas.

In 1997 I had a glorious photographic team: a Nikon FE, a Nikkor architectural 18mm lens, a QTVR parallax rig, Manfrotto tripod, and my friend Glen masterfully stitching all the pictures together. The panorama-creation process, including sending the 35mm Kodachrome off for processing, took three weeks.

Photographer selfie
This time around the quality can't compare but at least each panorama only took a couple of hours to create.

So there are odd artefacts in the new panoramas if you look, but it was worth the effort. I tried to find the exact tripod spot each time (not always successfully as you will see).

It was an entertaining and sometimes emotional job, especially the City Hall interior - what an incredible restoration, which was finished only two years ago.

The panoramas are thumbnailed below. They link through to the full sizes and captions on the Flickr album.

Shelled bus

The Avatar Cafe

Burnt-out National Library

Shelled skyscrapers

City centre

Outside the burnt-out library

Friday, 14 October 2016

Friends travelling with us

We have named our storage boxes after friends. This deserves some explanation.

When we bought our car, Nellie, for our African trip 13 years ago, she came with eight green army boxes.

Lovely plastic box, mmm
They are made of over-engineered hard plastic, they fit perfectly in the back and clip solidly on top of each other,and we're using them again on this trip

Along the way we have accumulated several other boxes, as you do. We like boxes, especially tough ones.

When you have this many, you need some kind of naming system to find them and to know what's inside. The back of the car is packed solid and you don't want to unload the whole thing to unearth a scrubbing brush.

In Africa, young and confused
In Africa we randomly decided to name our boxes after islands close to our hearts. These were Hebridean islands (including Berneray, Pabbay, Boreray) and Gilbertese islands (Tarawa, Nonouti, Bikeman).

As an identification system this worked well. We scrawled the names on the tops and sides so we could find the boxes we were looking for.

But as a guiding taxonomy it was rubbish. We could never fully remember what was where, even after a year.

This time we decided to use meaningful names. Now call us crazy bohemians but we couldn't bring ourselves to use life-sapping, literal words like, "Cooking", "Camping", "Electronics". So we plumped for our friends. We liked the idea of bringing them with us, and whenever we would open a box, we'd be reminded of them.

So at the risk of alienating our friends below for misrepresenting them for cheap laughs, and for missing everyone else out*, here is our list of main boxes in alphabetical order (mostly using surnames; we know too many Pauls):

  • BUTTLE: Hiking/wild camping equipment | Keswick-based Paul is the modern-day Alfred Wainwright and has written books.
  • CALLUM: Charging and recharging plugs and cables | Mr McLeod has more energy than anyone we know.
  • HYLTON: Cooking equipment - in our biggest box, the long black one | Peter has a big capacity for food and life. Yes Peter is tall and black. Coincidence, Pete ;)
  • KENNEDY: Electronics, First Aid Kit, Angus's donated meds | Angus is our most digital chum, widely published, and knows more than most GPs about medicine.
  • LONGDEN: Spares for Nellie | The amazing Paul and Marilyn are currently driving through South America in their converted Mercedes Benz van. Enough said.
  • MARCOS: Shoes | We don't have any friends with a shoe fetish, we think, so Imelda had to stand in.
  • MORRISON: The big tent - in the grey box on the back which keeps slipping off the bike rack | A big camping family; Paul can be a bit awkward (Jo wrote that).
  • NORTH: Spices, herbs, core foods, alcohol | Holly is a great cook and a drinks connoisseur.
  • REYNOLDS: Array of different foods, the more exotic the better | Sarah is a gifted cook/baker.
  • STURGE: Legal etc documentation | Gavin is a natural organiser and a very safe pair of hands.
  • WIGFORD: Games, cards, catapault (yes), bangers (yes), cycle stuff | This family (Dave's sister's) knows how to have fun!

The rear of the car without the sleeping platform and the usual dozen soft bags
For the record we have rucksacks and other bags, mostly containing clothes, but they're not boxes so they don't get names.

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*If you're not on this list it doesn't mean you are not a great friend. Clearly you have such a complex and engaging set of attributes that we couldn't put you in a box.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Bimbling to the Balkans

On the 26th September we waved goodbye to a sunny Asturias and headed for the gastronomic delights of San Sebastian (at Jo's insistence; Dave had the mountains of Andorra in mind).

One happy camper
This presented the first big test of the trip: getting the tent up without argument. The last time we tried was in the back garden of our friends Paul and Marilyn and tuts and scowls were involved. 

However, we passed with flying colours. It only took us 20 minutes with one peg broken. Cause for celebration as you will no doubt agree.

 San Sebastian lived up to its exclusive reputation and has a lovely curved beach waterfront, fabulous tapas bars, atmospheric old town and great shopping. What is not to like? We have been to all of the cities along the northern Spanish coast and we love them all. But we agree: San Sebastian is the best. 

Leaving San Sebastian we made a quick scurry into the mountains of Andorra and after one hour of walking without shade concluded that hiking in the midday sun without a hat was not the best idea.

The Andorran Pyrenees
The Spanish Pyrenees
The British Pairoknees
So we called a halt to that and headed for France and its Mediterranean coastline. Canet de Roussillon was the first place flat enough to make us glad we took the "clown bikes" (our Dahon folding bikes). Following a lovely day's pedalling, in an endorphin-fuelled burst of enthusiasm Jo - self-appointed ambassador for clown bikes - opined that "Cycling turns a good day into a great day"©. That and warmth and sunshine.

New friends Mark and Rosalind
 Two days later we visited Lodève where back in 1983 Dave's parents bought a secluded plot of land with a crumbling farmer's shack which they eventually turned into a modest family estate. They sold it six years ago.

The new owners, Mark and Rosalind, kindly offered to not only to let us come up and see the old place but to stop over with them too. It was a delightful visit: good food, good wine, good company and a comfortable bed with crisp clean sheets and quilt. What luxury. Breakfasted and numerous photos and film clips later we bade a fond farewell to Mark and Rosalind.

Old Lodeve chums Carole & Simon
 We got as far as three kilometres down the road to our next social engagement, a delicious lunch with family friends Carole and Simon in their beautiful garden in Les Plans!

 And then it was off to Mandelieu-La-Napoule near Cannes for a night with our old friends Glen and Emma. This was definitely not a spot for clown bikes: even Nellie had trouble navigating the gradients and had to succumb to low range gears for a few steep hairpins. But that night: luxury beyond anything we will experience for the next few months we suspect, so it was certainly a ‘live in the moment’ opportunity.

Old London chums Glen and Emma
 We bade our farewells to our generous friends with freshly laundered clothes and “zoomed” off to Italy to battle with the trucks and speed demons on the energising two-lane-without-hard-shoulder motorways. We have a new-found appreciation for the UK’s gentle and generous motorway joining lanes.

 The weather report was threatening unpromisingly cool weather in Italy so we decided to chase the sun and warmth on the Dalmatian coast - so it was a dash to Ancona to catch the ferry to Split in Croatia.

The odd effects of fresh air in Lucca
Our cross-country trip was briefly paused to take in a spot of cycling around the walls of Lucca. This was entirely an original idea and not in any way influenced by a WhatsApp video that we may have seen a month or so before.

 The 10-hour overnight ferry to Ancona. Least said, soonest mended.

And so to Split to coincide perfectly with the arrival of a cold front. Thank goodness for Airbnb. We easily found a lovely little beachfront apartment with central heating and blankets and a washing machine and other amazing things like an oven and TV with an HDMI socket.

 More on Split and Croatia another time but we didn’t stay long because the weather badly let us down - but we vow to return when we do our tour of the northern Balkan states. And so we have headed off south in search of sunshine, warmth and the chance to keep wearing shorts.
Nellie admires the city of Split in a snatched moment of sunshine

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