A new cover for an older book for my first book-signing event!

I thought I would take a quick break from my holiday blogs as things are very exciting in the Stephen household.   On Thursday I have my very first book-signing at Reasons Coffee Shop and Bookstore on the High Street at my nearest big town of Watford.

I’ll be taking all of my paperbacks along for signing and have been advertising it with various flyers at popular local locations and have produced a giant and all encompassing window poster to entice passing shoppers.


One of the exciting things about my book signing apart from the whole thing is that I get to unveil a new cover for my novel The Promise. There are lots of reasons why people might change a cover on an older book.  To re-market it or provoke fresh interest are the most common reasons.  We all know about judging a book by its cover and we all try to not be so superficial and yet I’m sure that most of us fail all the time.

Personally, I really adore old books, antiques if possible but definitely of the old leather bound variety.  Whether in good condition or dog-eared and worn, I still like old books and I too sometimes make my judgements on the covers even if the covers are not the type that would generally sell well today.

The reason why I commissioned Jo Robinson to create this cover is a long story.  The Promise was originally published as part of the epic Let Me Help historical romance novel.  It was published by a longstanding publishing house in London that sadly went broke due to monetary problems after about 9 months and it was a big fight to get my royalties which ran into hundreds of pounds.

I conspired to improve on my work and split up my book and expanded it into The Timeless Trilogy. I found a publisher that was keen to release them but then less than a year later, they too went under…. not due to my books of course.

So I was in a hurry to get all three books back on the market and probably did the wrong thing by rushing creating the old cover without any real art software so that it was similar but less impressive than the published edition which even with that, I was never happy.

In some ways it was the right thing to do as I didn’t know when my books had fallen out of circulation and less than an hour after it re-appeared online, it was selling again.

However, even taking into consideration my lack of interest in promoting my books, it still didn’t sell as well as it should and as it was book one of a trilogy, it likely impacts on the later two books which have covers I’m very happy with.

So here is the new cover.  I hope you like it as much as I do.  I wanted it to convey the nature of the book more closely as well as being all-round much prettier to look at.

As well as looking great, the cover conveys several themes of the book.   Naturally the desert and the camels give the impression it has adventure in a distant land.   As with the original cover, the Moon features prominently as that forms The Promise.  There is also a silhouette of a couple kissing which hopefully gives the impression that there is romance there too.   In the background you can see faint writings which related to a very important letter sent through the centuries from one to the other.

Finally the new cover has a subtitle which I think adds intrigue to the story as previously it was simply just The Promise. Now it gives just a hint of what the story is about.

PromiseIf the new book cover tempts you and if it doesn’t then please tell me why?!?! then you can find more information here.   As always, I will be sending out signed copies for Christmas so if you’d like one or three of the trilogy or any other book then do let me know here in the comments or by email.  I’m sure for a trilogy we can do a deal :-)

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Visiting the Trsteno Arboretum

After visiting both Mostar and Montenegro in successive 12 hour trips and many days of hiking up mountains, climbing city walls and the excitement of long car rides and boat trips I felt like I needed an easy day.  I’d already seen more than everything that I hoped I would see and had such a good time that I could most definitely cut my holiday short right here and right now.

Not really being in the mood for museums, partly as I spend much of my life in museums but also because Dubrovnik itself is just too good to miss, I wanted to do something outdoors and I decided to visit the Tresteno Arboretum.

The gardens are said to be the oldest on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea and were created by the wealthy Gučetić-Gozze family all the way back in the 15th century with such wonders as an aqueduct, fountain and pavilion all looking out over the view of the sea and some of the 1200 islands that line the Croatian coast.

For a long time it remained in private hands but when Yugoslavia fell under Communism it entered state ownership and the gardens were expanded into a scientific institute.  Sadly in the 1990’s the beautiful gardens were deliberately targeted by the Serbian Navy and many rare exhibits were destroyed.  Occupying soldiers also looted everything of value.  It is said that the gardens will take 80 years to reach their former glory.

The gardens are now known around the world for being the filming location for the palace gardens of Kings Landing in Game of Thrones.  If there is a plot to be hatched then this is the place to do it.  The Queen of Thorns practically seemed to live here before King Joffreys wedding.

The gardens are around 22km / 15 miles north of Dubrovnik and though there are bus routes that serve it, at this time of year they are very irregular and run just a few times a day.  Coupled with the fact that I’m on the wrong side of Dubrovnik and would need to get another bus first to cross the city made me decide to get a taxi.

I went to the taxi rank outside Pile Gate, the entrance to the Old City of Dubrovnik.  There was no one around the line of taxis though I soon found a couple of them playing cards under a tree in a nearby park.   My driver was called Davor, Croatian for David.  He was a nice middle-aged man who spoke English much better than what he believed.

As we drove through Dubrovnik the beautiful streets gave way to the coastline and soon after crossing over the large Franja Tudmana bridge we were enjoying some of the serene views on this quiet coastal highway.   All the while Davor giving a running commentary of where I should visit next time I return to Croatia.  He decided on the island of Otok Sipan which said had the nicest beaches and the best all round experience of Croatia before admitting that it was where he grew up.

All too soon we arrived at Trsteno, the gardens are a little way of the main road.  Devour parked up and in the very laid back and casual manner of all my holiday haggling wherever I go, we decided to ignore the taxi meter and that he would stay for 90 minutes I went inside.  The journey there and back plus the wait would cost about £40, quite a lot of money for half a day but unknown to him, that was always my plan and I never intended to wait 3 or 4 hours for the bus back.

Some of the reviews on Trip Advisor state that the gardens are a little run-down and I have to say I do agree with them.  They are stunning and beautiful in places and yet at the same time disappointing.  It was the only place on my entire week away where my expectations were let down.  It was slightly made up for the fact that I didn’t pay a penny to get in.  Yes I walked and walked around the gardens and even went to the only building there but couldn’t find anyone to pay.  Twice I saw an official but by the time I walked to him, he had vanished and I didn’t see anyone else the whole time I was there so it was rather surreal.


The fountain of Neptune.


The iconic view of the pavilion.



This made me laugh for some reason.  100 God years :-)

The garden is full of mostly Mediterranean and sub-tropical plants and they are great to explore.  I really liked the fountain of Neptune with the water nymphs.  I entered a creepy looking building which I later found out to be an olive press mill.

Many parts of the garden I did recognise from Game of Thrones though the famous pavilion was closed due to structural problems, perhaps indicative of the gardens as a whole.  A little disappointed, I walked out of the gardens and found a little lane that took me down to the Adriatic Sea and a small harbour.

It was the most heavenly scene with the Cypress wooded hillsides, beautiful villas and pretty little harbour, complete with a small waterfall.  I sat there for most of the remaining 45 minutes just soaking in the views and the sun and watching the occasional boat sail by.



Trsteno Harbour 


Before I left, my interest had been piqued by a ruined building so in the way that I do but probably shouldn’t, I went for a wee investigation.  I found a likely shelled villa or luxury hotel right on the sea-front.  A little way further through the garden and some overgrown arches I found some steps that led down to the sea.  Embedded in the rock was the remains of an swimming pool connected to the sea and also some sort or bath of jacuzzi.



Once a beautiful seaside property now in ruins from the war of the 1990’s.

After looking it over I then realised it was also the location on Game of Thrones where the one-handed Jaime Lannister and Bronn had their sword fight.


My curiosity satisfied, I sadly called it a day though I could have remained at Trsteno harbour forever.  I did walk right back through the gardens doing my best to pay but could find no-one so I met Davor who was enjoying a cigarette whilst reading in a shady glade near the car.

Davor was a really nice chap and we hit it off to such a degree I decided to use him for my return trip to the Airport on my last day.  Like me he had worked in a good office job before being made redundant and I knew he could likely do with the money.

Having arrived back in Dubrovnik I visited the Jedro Pizzeria.  It was the second time I had eaten there in the week.  I absolutely adored their Dalmatian ham on the very large and home-made style pizza along with a few other items of their menu.  For some reason they became of the opinion that I was some sort of official food reviewer or blogger and so they told me that this second meal would be even better than the first and incredibly it was.


My first pizza at Jedro…. I’m afraid the second was so tempting that I just got on and ate it!

I really liked eating there in the shady narrow street as the two chefs sat outside a few tables away drinking beer.  I stayed there as long as I feasibly could before making back for my place.


Jedro Pizzeria where the staff are as chilled as the diners



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A Day Trip To Montenegro & Casino Royale

I’ve reached the mid-point of my week long trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia.   Having spent all the previous day out in Mostar, Bosnia I was wondering whether anything could come close to beating that incredible day.

With my energy levels still high, I made an early meeting rendezvous with my guide Danijela.  I was still pre-occupied with Mostar, I didn’t know that much about Montenegro but that was one of the reasons I wanted to visit.  I just like going to out of the ordinary places.  If no-one I know has been there than that means it is the sort of place I have to visit.  I know Casino Royale of James Bond fame was not too far away from where we were going but was told it was unlikely we’d get to see it.   I didn’t mind much as I was enjoying everything about this great holiday.

Our minibus parked up and I met the new driver for the day, Jacob.  He was looked very slick or as cool as a cucumber as would have been said when I was lad.  The drive to the border was only about 55km or 35 miles and until then I watched the mountains go by, many of which were covered by slender Cypress trees.

I was told that traditionally, couples planted Cypress trees as if they grew tall and strong then it was a sign of a healthy marriage.  Apparently though divorce rates are soaring in Croatia so don’t leave it too late to come here or you may find the forests all gone!

We passed through the border without a hitch, I managed to get my passport stamped as we were again outside the EU.  My third country in as many days and I think my 25th in total so I’d now visited more than 10% of the nations.

As with Bosnia, the landscape, houses and everything else completely changed once we got over the border. Montenegro though is much wealthier in appearance as it was allied with the Serbian aggressors in the war of the 1990s and the war was not fought on its soil.

Montenegro takes it name from the old days when its very high mountains were heavily forested and with all the dark rock and foliage it looked black.  It is a very beautiful country and it felt like being in another world driving along the coastline with these very imposing and dramatic mountains at every turn.

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The Bay of Kotor

Our first stop off point was reached about two hours after we crossed the border (there being no motorways or freeways in this part of the world) was the tiny but ancient village of Perast.  The buildings were all made of stone with palms along the roadside but what really made this area like nowhere else on Earth was that of the Bay of Kotor.   As you can see from the map above, it is a long route around the coast but the map doesn’t give any idea of how beautiful it is and the bay was filmed in Casino Royale for just that reason.



Perast from the sea.


Hauntingly beautiful


The Church of Our Lady Of The Rocks

About half a mile out to sea were two islands, each of them with a church sat atop of them.  They looked absolutely serene despite the islands being entirely man made.   One island has a monastery on it and the other a church known as Our Lady Of The Rocks.   The reason being is that two sailors found a painting of Our Lady on these rocks in the bay and they along with the locals started dropping rocks into the see, sinking ships fully laden with stone until there was indeed stable dry land.  On top of which they built a beautiful church which even today people visit and pray before or after a long or dangerous sea journey.   Once a year, the locals still come to the island to drop of stones into the sea to make the island ever stronger.

We found a sailor who was willing to take us across to the island for a nominal fee which was a lot of fun, it also allowed me to get a proper look at the village of Perast and the mountain it sat upon.

It was an incredible boat trip and it did come extremely close to matching the excitement and beauty of Mostar but in a different way as it was entirely unexpected.

We looked around the church for 20 minutes before returning to the mainland, mindful of the fact that the driver had assumed I was only stopping to take a few photos and this being pretty much a one-lane street had limited parking options.

Next up we went further into Montenegro to the city of Kotor.  Kotor has been named as the city to visit in 2016, succeeding the city of Salisbury of 2015 which is a beautiful place I often visit on my tours.

Both are medieval citys with very narrow streets are beautiful buildings but whilst Salisbury lays well and truly on its very flat and open plain, Kotor is squashed between the sea and the mountains which are up to 2,534 metres or 8,315 feet tall.

For once in my trip I had found somewhere that was busy as a cruise ship was in port and Kotor was bustling.  My guide took me to a local market where I bought the biggest piece of goats cheese imaginable (I am still confined to my gluten and dairy free diet) as well as tasted for free a selection of local hams, all a little salty but to die for.


Anyone for Goats cheese?

My guide left me and so I was out to explore Kotor for about 90 minutes.  I felt very at ease here and I enjoyed exploring the meandering narrow streets.   The buildings here come under a different historical influence and so despite being much further south than Bosnia or Croatia, seem in many ways more central European.

The first task on the agenda was to visit the church on the castle walls.   I must say, there was no reason to visit the church except for the reason that I knew it to be there.   Do you ever do something and wonder why on earth you are doing something? That would be me climbing up the steeps steps up this mountain.  The mountain being the Montenegrin equivalent of Mount Olympus to Greece.


The church which was my destination.

It was a warm day and as I had been a little cold at times in Bosnia, I was wearing a semi-casual smart jacket.   Being incredibly old fashioned and English, I wore it the entire way up whilst people from much warmer climes were pretty much stripping off as they went.  Besides, my guide had said that in Croatia, everyone thinks of the English as being polite, well-mannered and cultured and I didn’t want to ruin our reputation!

I had teamed up with a Oncology specialist from Montevideo, Uruguay but by the time we reached the church, I and I think he too would be wishing he were a heart specialist.

Having had the memories of climbing Mount Sinai burned into my soul a decade earlier, I had a distinct feeling of deja vu as if I were once more climbing the Steps of Penitence. For my sins, I was rewarded with a magnificent view of Kotor, the bay and the mountains.   The doctor very kindly offered me the first drink from his water bottle, the sort of thing I love about travelling off the beaten track.


How you doin’?


I took a lot of photos and was impressed by the stubbornness of the local lady selling drinks who refused to get out of the way of anyone and everyone wanting to take a photo of the church.   I went a little way further up the path but conveniently by tight schedule meant I could go no higher!

We rushed back down the mountain and visited the beautiful Russian Orthodox church which was largely deserted.  I wasn’t sure if I should take photos inside so took one from the doorway.  I do hate it at some Cathedrals in the UK or Europe when you get people from other cultures just taking photos everywhere knowing full well that it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so in their own places of worship when services are being said.



Looking into the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church at Kotor

Next up was Kotor Cathedral, I paid the entrance fee for my new found Uruguayan friend to equal out my water debt and we both went inside.  It was a beautiful Catholic building though quite plain in comparison to most cathedrals I’d ever visited, even compared to the Russian Orthodox church nearby.

Upstairs was a museum and treasury with the relics of Saint Tryphon which were apparently being brought from the East when the ship carrying them sank.  The locals confiscated them and built the Cathedral in his honour and the treasures upstairs are quite wondrous.


Motor Cathedral


The relics of Saint Tryphon

Soon it was time to return to the minibus so I bade farewell to beautiful Kotor and onwards we went.  Kotor is so entirely surrounded by sea and mountains that it is all but cut-off from elsewhere except by way of a long road tunnel that cuts its way through to the main Adriatic Coast.  Our final stop of the day was to be the city of Budva.

Except for a very tiny old city, Budva is not my sort of place.  It wasn’t the sort of place of my driver, guide or anyone I met.  It’s marketed to wealthy Russian oligarchs and organised crime gangs and full of tacky and very standard high rise blocks of apartments perhaps 10-15 storeys high.  Not very well built and really it could be anyway.

Montenegro has always had close links to Russia and the local officials obviously thought it would be a good way to get some money in to the city, dirty money obviously and at the cost of totally ruining the city and scenery.

I met a few of the Russians around town, perhaps fresh off their anchored yachts.  They all looked very rough indeed, dressed awfully and look like the worst sorts of losers that anywhere else you might see at the very worst parts of town.   My guide said how beautiful the Russian women were who often could be seen at the sides of the rough looking men but I was reliably told that what they have in looks, they totally lose out on for everything else.


Clouds loom over Budva –  Actually parts of Montenegro are amongst the wettest places in Europe due to the tall mountains and coastal weather systems.

I asked my guide whether the locals minded about how their locale was being ruined but was told that it was all down to money and bent politicians with the people not even knowing they could object, one of the relics of communism.

After a brief look round the old city I had a mighty fine meal at the Jadran restaurant overlooking the marina.  Njegusi Steak apparently and it was fantastic.   After talking negatively about some of the visitors to Budva, I must say all the locals I met from Montenegro were wonderful and friendly people.


Njegusi Steak, a Montenegrin speciality.

Our bellies full, it was time to return to Dubrovnik.  We were only around 100km from Albania and a big part of me wanted to carry on to Albania, Greece, Turkey, Iran and forever onwards.

I recognised the area where we parked as looking very similar to the parking lot in Casino Royale, the part where James goes back to his car to electrocute his heart!   I was content to see the advertisements for Casino Royale, knowing I had been to the city was good enough.

A few minutes later though I found that Danijela had obviously persuaded the driver to take a little detour and to my surprise we pulled up right outside Casino Royale.   What a neat surprise and exactly the sort of thing I try to do for my guests on their tours in England.  I was thankful I was wearing something smart as I got a chance to poke my nose around and take a few photos.


Casino Royale

Thinking back to the film, my wife and I always laugh at the line when having been poisoned, almost clinically dead before he electrically reset his heart, James walks back to the card game in the hotel and remarks “That last hand almost killed me”.


Do you like what I’ve done with the place?    I’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond.    The real Casino Royale from the film of the same name.  Could I pass for a Bond villain?

I quickly went over to speak to the doorman to explain why I was messing around outside.  To my surprise he didn’t tell me to hurry up or he;d call security, all he wanted to know was what I thought of Montenegro and the people.  He was ever so glad of my response, neglecting to mention that part of the dodgy criminal gangs of course.

Budva did have a slight feeling of the French Riviera about it and you could tell it could be a really nice place if only it hadn’t been overdeveloped in such a tacky way.  We all agreed that Russia was welcome to Budva and the rest of the world would soon be flocking to beautiful Kotor.

We made our way back towards Dubrovnik, the journey being about 2.5 hours.  That included a short cut when we used a vehicle ferry to cut off half an hour of driving around Kotor Bay.



Sunset on the car ferry across the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Despite the roads being deserted, we got held up at customs.  The Montenegrin border guards holding up some Albanians in a very flashy car in front of us.   I made my driver and guide laugh by doing an impersonation of what the argument was all about “Do you know who my father is” I boomed in my best Albanian accent.  I don’t think I was too far wrong by the response of the security and how everyone was called out of the car, arms flapping around in protest.

It was dark and we had been out from dawn until well past dusk but we went out into Dubrovnik old town to a wonderful ice-cream bar called Dolce Vita. We had all made friends and I couldn’t thank Danijela and her colleagues enough whilst I think they were equally as glad to have had me with them for two days.


It was a long 190 steps back up the steep alleyway to my place in Dubrovnik.   The whole day, the whole holiday had become even more unreal when I had been contacted in the restaurant about doing a UK wide interview on the BBC about my book “How To Get Rich Using Airbnb“It all went very well and I’ll post the interview on my blog in the coming days.

It had been another memorable day and tomorrow I was going to the Trsteno Arboretum, know to Game of Thrones fans around the world as well as being perhaps the oldest and most beautiful gardens in all of Croatia.

BTW the travel agency I used to find my guide and driver to Montenegro and Mostar was Elite Travel of Croatia.  I can’t recommend them enough.


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Mostar Day Trip -Part 2

My guide for tour of Mostar was to be Armina, a friendly and talented young lady who led me around the city for over an hour. Mostar was famously perhaps the most devastated city in Yugoslavia, it being divided between Muslims and Christians. Like many in the city, Armina though a Muslim, thinks in the far distant past, her family were Orthodox Christians.  This is because by and large the Turkish Ottomans didn’t conquer lands to populate them but rather over centuries of increasing social pressure and tax incentives, the local people converted to Islam over time.

Famous for its bridge, at first we visited a smaller bridge which was in fact a proto type for its famous sibling. There is also a more modern flat bridge that was built so Franz Ferdindand could drive his new fangled car into the city.  It wouldn’t be the last time, the Ferdinands and cars would cause problems in Bosnia.

Next up was a Turkish bath with its trademarked domed roof and lack of Windows. Next to the baths is a small mosque which when it was built centuries ago had its prayer goers praying in a stream for reasons no one quite know why. The steam is still there but now goes in a tunnel under the mosque.

One of the incredible things that strikes any visitors to Mostar is how it is surrounded by very high and steep looking mountains with a large and fast flowing river flowing through it.


Beautiful Mostar

Beautiful Mostar

We walked down an ancient lane which can’t have changed much in 500 years. On both sides stood small shops selling food and wares, many of a most distinct and beautiful Turkish style design such as lamps, clothing, rugs and cushion covers.  Usually the area is packed out with coach loads of tourists but today it was entirely empty which both Armina and myself were very grateful for.

At one point I asked her about the reputation for street crime and she confirmed it was a big problem and mire so in the last year since gangs from out if town have arrived.  In fact she’d gone so far as to ask them to at least her groups alone!

After walking through the cobble-stone streets at last we reached Stari Most . Most is the local word for bridge and the Stari were men tasked with guarding it, similar to gatekeepers, charging users for crossing the river. And so with Stari Most we get the name Mostar.


Stari Most - The old bridge of Mostar

Stari Most – The old bridge of Mostar. The raised paving help hirses grip the slippery surface.

Stari Most - The old bridge of Mostar

I have Mostar bridge, a world heritage site to myself.

The building above the arch was an old meeting house for the rich and powerful

The building above the arch was an old meeting house for the rich and powerful

 The bridge was built in 1566 by the esteemed architect Mimar Siman working on the personal orders of Ottoman Sultan, Sulayman The Magnificent (who incredibly lives up to his name). It measures 28 meters long and 20 meters high (90′ by 64′) and was built to last and under heavy loads. Sulayman may have been magnificent but he also insisted on his orders being followed. If the bridge failed then Mimar would suffer the punishment of death. The bridge was opened and Mimar had to stand under it so to be crushed to death if his bridge fell, happily for all concerned, it stood until the 1990s.

The old bridge quickly became a classic and even by the 17th century, legendary Ottoman travel writer Evliya Celebi wrote…

the bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. …I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.

Every year the locals hold a diving contest and jump into the river far below.

In the 1990s the bridge was deliberately targeted over 60 times before it was finally blown up.  Happily after the war, Unesco sponsored it’s reconstruction using local workers, original techniques and even original stone blocks retrieved from the river bed.


Just me in Mostar

Just me in Mostar

I had always wanted to visit the bridge, at least for 25 years and it was incredible having it all to myself on such a warm and sunny mid-November day. I loved the rugged old buildings and dramatic mountains so it all surpassed my expectations and I’d go as far as to say Mostar is one of my favourite places in the world.

We continued the tour and went deep into the old town and the beautiful old streets with many locals but no other tourists. Next we went to the Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque which is now largely a museum / tourist site having been rebuilt back around 1616. On the outside is an attractive courtyard with a fountain for the faithful to wash before going to pray.


The carpet frim Franz Ferdinand

Inside the ornately decorated 17th cebtury mosque

Inside the ornately decorated 17th cebtury mosque

 Inside the mosque is beautiful with all the things we saw in the earlier one in yesterday’s post but this one is more lavish. I knew most of what I saw but my guide was great on expanding on the details and what life is like for those who came here. One wall and the floor is entirely dominated by a large carpet, a gift to Mostar by Franz Ferdinand on his visit before ww1.

The river flows right by the back of the mosque and the view is breathtaking.

Finally my guide took me further into the old town and to one of only 3 remaining Ottoman houses. Once in the ownership of a wealthy local family, it was beautiful with its two courtyards, ornate interior and the open and airy upstairs and back room where they would spend their time in the summer.


Ottoman Fountain

Like many Islamic designs, this fountain is highly symbolic. The 3 stools reoresent birth, lufe and death, The top layer of the fountain has 12 grooves from which the water flows representing tge 12 months. The lower level has 4 grooves for the seasons whikdt all the water recycles itself symbolising the wheel of life.

Ottoman summer room

Ottoman summer room

Ottoman house in Mostar

Ottoman house in Mostar

I chatted with Armina here for some time, we had quite a laugh actually. I love meeting new people especially when you instantly click with someone from a different culture and country. We also shared our own perspectives about being tour guides and had lots in common.

Armina left me in the old town and I decided to browse round the shops, I could have bought lots of things but only bought what I could carry! All the shop keepers were very friendly and not at all pushy. 

With 90 minutes to spare, I went into a local restaurant and ordered a plate of Cevapi, a Bosnian speciality. Soon a local beer arrived along with a plate of chips (fries), salad, 9 or 10 rolled lamb kebabs and some bread, a little like pitta bread but more volumous. The idea is to stick the kebabs in the pocket that is cut into the bread. I must say it was one of the best meals I have ever had. A perfect view and all for just €7.


Cevapi - Decidely delicious

Cevapi – Decidely delicious

The view of Mostar as i ate

The view of Mostar as i ate

 I really didn’t want to leave Mostar, such an incredible place that I had wanted to visit for do long. I felt a great affinity for the place and the very friendly people. I hope my post might encourage even just one person to go there.

I made my way back to Danijela and Leo, over the bridge and buying some gifts for my wife. I then stopped to take a few photos of bombed out buildings, an awful reminder of the war  almost 20 years ago. I’m in no doubt when I return, they will have been replaced by new buildings.

Sadly I was presumed a small way by a young mother wanting money. Normally I would have given her something but I really did have my hands full and with lots of people watching me, I felt it safer to carry on though 3 days later I still feel bad for doing so. I did at least do my best supporting local businesses.


i have Mostar to myself

i have Mostar to myself

The ruins of war in Mostar

The ruins of war in Mostar

I met my guide for the trip back to Dubrovnik next to this astoundingly magnificent church and monastery. In the old days the Ottomans didn’t allow any church steeple to be taller than the tallest minaret but as over 13 mosques were destroyed and many churches too, more enlightened times mean the reconstructions can be as tall as they like.

I’ll never forget my trip to Mostar, it was epic in every way and I’m happy to have become friends with my two guides.  On the way back to Dubrovnik I stopped for photos with Danijeka and Leo before driving along the Crostian coast as the sun set over the Adriatic Sea.

 The next day was to bring another day out to another country. Come back soon for my trip to Montenegro, churches on islands and my visit to Casino Royale.

The day was also my own little way at getting back at Islamic terrorists showing I’m not afraid of visiting Muslim nations as we are all the same and the one thing they don’t like is people showing tolerance and acceptance if different people, cultures and religions. I hope this blog post shows what a real Muslim city is all about and why I so badly wanted to visit Mostar.


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Day trip to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina 

One of the attractions for me to come to Dubrovnik was not just to see this magnificent city and the beautiful Croatian coastline but because of its close proximity to the other former Yugoslav republics, all of whom are now countries in their own right.

One of the places I have always wanted to visit was Mostar.  For those of us in the West of my age and above, Mostar will always be synonymous with the awful war there in the 1990s, the countless deaths and massacres in relative close proximity perpetrated by Serbia on Bosnian Muslims. Dramatically, the bridge which I wanted to visit and what I was studying at the time was blown up after being targeted in over 60 separate attacks.

Happily the bridge has been rebuilt as it and the surrounding streets enjoy a Unesco status. Still, the wounds of the war have not yet healed, land mines lay about Bosnia and the country which was most badly devastated during the war though rich in natural resources is perhaps not so attractive to tourists or their money if only due to the devastation caused and is still comparatively impoverished.


Waiting with my lovely guide for the bus at Dubrivnik

Waiting with my lovely guide for the bus at Dubrivnik

Still, I really wanted to visit and always prefer to go where few others dare. I was lucky to have found some really great guides who would help me with this quite epic trip. I was still daunted though as I know Mostar is plagued by crime induced by poverty and I was particularly unwell that morning suffering from a stomach bug I’ve had since just minutes before I left my house days earlier.

I met my guide Danijela near the Dubrovnik Hilton hotel at 7.30am and soon afterward the minibus style vehicle arrived. I was the only one going to Mostar but I quite liked it as I could develop a good rapport with my guide and also the driver, Leo.  We chatted away for hours as we drove along the coast until we came to the first border crossing.  

The borders of Croatia and Bosnia are a little complicated as a narrow section of Bosnia reaches the sea and splits Croatia in two. The reason being is that centuries ago, the powerful Venetians were snapping up all the Dalmatian (Croatian) coast and Dubrovnik was getting worried. To stop Venice getting to close, Dubrovnik invited the Ottomans to take over thus stretch of coast in a similar manner to nations inviting American, British or French bases to deter hostile aggression. I suppose even then it was the case of better the devil you know.

So we drove from Croatia into Bosnia and Bosnia into Croatia and then Croatia into Bosnia, each time stopping twice at each border for various checks. Finally as the terrain turned very mountainous and spectacularly rugged, we headed into Bosnia for the second time.  It was one of the most beautiful and memorable journeys of my life, the autumnal colours and Mosques gave a distinct central Asian feel to me.  

I had spent 4 years studying Ottoman (Turkish) history at university and it was exciting to finally arrive in one of their strongholds, many of the mountain tops still have old castles from the fierce battles the Ottomans and their plucky opponents waged. I stopped off at the village of Pocitelj which is distinctly Turkish in appearance with steep narrow streets, stone towers, a Hammam and of course a mosque. The steep path into the village was lined with ladies offering to sell me all manner of goods. I felt sorry for them but only had so much use for all of what was being sold. I was their only tourist of the day but even bring nice, I knew their prices were high and aimed at the summer coach crowd who know the value of nothing.


Pocitelj castle  guarded the ricer and road from raiders and invaders. Pocitelj is what i woukd call a Caravanserais, a place where traders sleep overnight on the way to Mostar.

Pocitelj castle guarded the ricer and road from raiders and invaders. Pocitelj is what i woukd call a Caravanserais, a place where traders sleep overnight on the way to Mostar.

Beautiful Pocitelj Mosque

Beautiful Pocitelj Mosque

Pocitelj bell tower

Pocitelj bell tower



Right frim the beginning Bosnia felt like a very different country and iI really love it.

Old Ottoman Turkish bath house

Old Ottoman Turkish bath house



I bought a few items from the man who looks after the mosque and he graciously opened up for me. Like everyone else I met in Bosnia, he was extremely nice and I felt very at home.  The mosque itself was rather plainly decorated in comparison to the austentatious mosques of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Iran but in a more artsy style than those in the U.K.

I continued on my way through ever more beautiful terrain, road signs coming into sight which stirred memories, Sarejevo, the city that started WW1 and which in the 90s was ruined and under siege for around 5 years. Other names of places I knew from battles and killings and it is sad that 20 years later, that is all I still know them for.

Many places in Bosnia were almost totally destroyed (including the mosque I had just visited) and everywhere there are signs of both huge construction and improvement projects and also more than a few ruined buildings. It really was an interesting journey with lovely people in the most intensely sunny autumnal day.


Standing in front if the mosque with the River Neretva behind me. Those with good memories like myself may remember thecold WW2 film of The Battle of Neretva about the heroic Yugoslav Patriots... now you know  where it took place.

Standing in front if the mosque with the River Neretva behind me. Those with good memories like myself may remember thecold WW2 film of The Battle of Neretva about the heroic Yugoslav Patriots… now you know where it took place.

After travelling since 7.30am, we finally reached Mostar at around 11am. We were a little early and Danijela went out to find my local guide as the bus couldn’t stop at its usual place due to construction work.  I’d been waiting to visit Mostar for almost 25 years and at last here I was. A few minutes later my Bosnian guide arrived. I wondered what to expect but like everyone I’d met in Crostia and Bosnia she would turn out to be lovely.
Beautiful rugged Bosnia Herzigovina

Beautiful rugged Bosnia Herzigovina

UI’ll continue my Mostar trip tomorrow as I got held up doing a BBC radio interview on my Airbnb book last night and so am a little behind… I want to do justice to Mostar and I am on holiday too :-)  mire posts to come on Mostar, Dubrovnik, Mobtenegro and Casino Royale and not forgetting that minor to show, Game of something or other.

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Fort Lovrijenac, Fort Imperial & the Dubrovnik Cable Car

Fort Lovrijenac is an imposing 3 sided castle overlooking the main entrances to Dubrovnik by land and sea. It is said that in the 11th century the rising maritime power of Venice identified the rocks on which it is built as being an ideal location to build a fortress. However the industrious people of Dubrovnik incredibly built their own and when the Venetian navy arrived just 3 months later with the supplies and manpower to construct their castle, they found the site taken by a fully functional fort and Dubrovnik was  likely saved from an eternity of Venetian domination.

The castle was constantly upgraded as Venice and the Turkish Ottomans were always looking to find a way to capture this great city for the next 850 years. Above the entrance to the fort is an inscription “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” which means the freedom is not to be sold for all the treasures in the world.   

In Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark flees for her life from this pier after King Joffrey meets his grisly end.

In Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark flees for her life from this pier after King Joffrey meets his grisly end.

Inside Joffreys stronghold.

Inside Joffreys stronghold.

Next up I took a boat ride out to the island of Lokrum which is now a natures reserve. It was a great experience and afforded great views of the coastline and Dubrovnik from the sea.


The island has many ruins but no one lives there any more, not even the nudists who have a beach on the corner of the island which apparently shocks many a kayaker who is paddling around the island!

Throughout my first days here, my attention often focuses on the looming Mount Srd which is 412 metre so/1350 feet high. I could see the giant Fortress Imperial looming on top along with a large white cross. Luckily for me there is a cable car that runs from just outside the city walls to the summit.

Now everyone knows I hate flying… Or rather crashing but I have no fear of heights and very happy standing on top of cliff tops or London towers and I knew I would have no trouble with this though one or two others had a nervous moment or two.

Going Up Dubrovnik Cable Car

The view from the top of the mountain is incredible. There is an fortress which is now a museum dedicated to the recent war which I found interesting but very grim. There is also a cross that overlooks the city and standing next to it made me think or the statue of Christ The Redeemer in Brazil.


what a direct hit does to a shelter

what a direct hit does to a shelter

Fort Imperial Graffiti

Fort Imperial Graffiti from the brave, last ditched and outnumbered Croatian defenders of Dubrivnik… the Serbs got to within a few hubdred yards/metres of this position and Dubrovnik

The Panorama Restaurant

The Panorama Restaurant sits on top of Mt Srd. It is said to have the best view of The Adriatic Sea as well as Dubrovnic far below. can you blame me for having a meal here. What a view and wgat a sunset


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Walking the walls of Dubrovnik 

My first full day at Dubrovnik had a mighty big to-do list even if I were only to visit the highlights. Of course if you come to Dubrovnik and only do one thing, walking the city walls is that thing.  I went up on Sunday morning at 10am and for the price of 100 Kune (about £9 / $15).  By all accounts Dubrovnik is frequently packed out by cruise ship passengers to such a degree that it can ruin the experience for everyone.

I had no such problem and in my 3 hours or so, I met maybe 5 tourists and 2 very friendly locals who just wanted to chat. Apparently it takes just 2 hours to walk the walls but I investigated everywhere and just soaked it all in. Dubrovnik is that sort of place.


Looking down the  main street of Dubrovnik

Looking down the main street of Dubrovnik

Lovrijenac Fortress, an imposing castle protecting western Dubrovnik. Also home of the dastardly King Joffrey in Game of Thrones

Lovrijenac Fortress, an imposing castle protecting western Dubrovnik. Also home of the dastardly King Joffrey in Game of Thrones

Beautiful red roofs of Dubrovnik

Beautiful red roofs of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik earthquake

A small corner of Dubrovnik is in ruins. Apparentky sone believe it is fron the war, well nit unless the Serbs had guns that could make houses into 17th century ruins. These are the remains if hiuses destroyed in a massuve earthquake in 1667.

The assault in Kings Landing obviously took its toll on the walls.

The assault in Kings Landing obviously took its toll on the walls.

Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island

Soooo many steps in Dubrovnik and I have these bad boys all to myself.

Soooo many steps in Dubrovnik and I have these bad biys all to myself.

Old Harbour in Dubrovnik

Old Harbour in Dubrovnik

Red roofs of Dubrovnik

Red roofs of Dubrovnik , arent they great? Maybe Florence in Italy can match them but nowhere ekse has tgese walls and the sea.

The Minčeta Tower built in the 15th century to combat the Ottoman threat. With walls  20 feet / 6 metres thick, Dubrivnik really was inpregnable.

The Minčeta Tower built in the 15th century to combat the Ottoman threat. With walls 20 feet / 6 metres thick, Dubrivnik really was inpregnable.

Khaleesi was here

Khaleesi was here – For GoT fans, and those like myself with loyalty to the house of Daeneyrs Targaryen this is where she walked to try to find her way into the city in Season 2.

Long live Croatia!

Long live Croatia!


I’m sure you’ll agree how uniquely beautiful Dubrovnik is and how fortunate I was to have it all to myself. Tomorrow there will be more photos of the fortress, an island cruise and an unforgettable Cable Car ride up Mount Srd with the most wonderful views of Dubrovnik and The Adriatic Sea.

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