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Bosnia (Part 2), February 2011

After a long weekend in Sarajevo we set off for Srebenica this was where in 1995 in a UN safe area Serb forces rounded up over 8000 muslim men of all ages and killed them. The town was largely destroyed during the war but has been largely built and it resembles and an Alpine village almost think you were in Austria (See Pic).

Had an interesting visit in a small factory producing low alchol wines fro Blackberries and Raspberries they are quite nice but don't really see the point, mind you not me to comment I'm here to tell them about food safety etc. After a night in a nice small hotel here it was time to return to Sarajevo but before we did we visited the memorial to those killed ( see pics)

any one who wants to know more see

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id4wtBJHMdU 

there are actually 2 films a bit sad.

After Srebinica was back to Sarajevo before going to historic Mostar when we left Sarajevo early in the morning it was snowing heavy but Mostar is only about 50 miles from the coast and it was a different world halfway there as if by magic the snow was gone and we entered what was almost meditterranean climate. In Mostar I visited their rebuilt bridge that had  been there since the 16th century but in 1993 was shelled by the Croats.See the pic as how it is today

and if you want see the video of 1993

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1XYWtCx6zQ&playnext=1&list=PL680B00366DD6F81F

Any way two days in Mostar nice place completely rebuilt and I imagine it would be nice in the summer when its warm its largely pedestrianised with lots of pavement cafes, one interesting thing the river that the bridge stands on just rises from the ground on the outside of the town see pic just a cave where vast amounts of water come from, evidently percolate through the mountains so very cold and very clean.

On the way back same as coming half way and the snow started that was on the 24th and when we got into Sarajevo still snowing and it snowed all day friday 25th, Its low temperature as I write this around -2 and the sun is coming out no wind so its actually quite nice.

The assignment is nearly finished and am returning to Cyprus on the 3rd has been interesting and if anyone wants to try different holiday destination with reasonable price 500 ml beer = 1 Euro. and a meal is 5 or 6 pounds. You should try here at the coast or Croatia they say Dubrovnik in Croatia is nice and not far to do a bus trip to Bosnia.

Thats it next one from warm Cyprus

 

Bosnia (Part 1) February 2011

Hi All off to Bosnia on 7th February, before leaving I knew very little about the country apart that there had been a war between 1991 - 1995 so was not sure what to expect, other than it would be cold.

Arrived late at night after an easy flight to Sarajevo and was met by English speaking Taxi driver and deposited at what was nice hotel. There was a lot of snow in Sarajevo, but it never seemed to affect life here at all, on the first day found there was an immediate start. Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains and off into the mountains we went to visit a small company making Buck wheat products from pasta to buck wheat pillows (the sort you microwave) so was able to get one for Carol (Lavender scented). (See Pic photo from outside unit) These units are tiny the size of someones house. despite the snow the day was really sunny and the weather stayed like that for the three days I was in Sarajevo. It was then on the road on Saturday to travel to Babja Luka this took 4 hours lovely sunny day over the mountains. (See Pic on the road)

Had sunday free in Banja Luka weather was bit warmer here, had a good walk round the town was quite nice watched a group of men playing chess on a giant chess board on the floor must have been 50 men around the board and before evey move although only two were playing all 50 had a view of what should be the next move, was like a football match.

Over the next few days visited a few more companies in the area around Banja Luka. Bosnia has recovered remarkably from the war but the peace has meant that the 3 groups who were fighting have a bit of the country each Sarajevo and area is Bosniak (Muslim), Baja Luka is Serbian and is known as Republica Srpska Whilst the south around Mostar is Croatian each area has its own parliament laws and police costs a fortune but means while on the surface all is well lot of tensions under the surface.

After a few days in Banja Luka it was back to Sarajevo.

The war destroyed a lot of the country and the buildings although there is not a lot of sign of it now in the towns but you notice the evidence in the rural areas (burnt out houses etc).

Sarajevo is primarily a Muslim town and during the war the Serbians decided to capture it, the city is surrounded by hills and the Serbians got on them and laid siege to the town. The siege lasted 4 years the longest siege in modern history it was shelled daily more than 300 shells a day and snipers sat in the hills killing ordinary people trying to get around the town. Today its all rebuilt but on the floor in many places they have put a "Sarajevo Rose" these are where mortars landed during the siege. See pic 

Might want to look at

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWc27aeQzu0

After long weekend in Sarajevo went on my travels to more Ex war Zones Bratunac, Tuzsla and Srebinica More of that later

 Christmas and new Year 2010

Carol and I left sunny Cyprus to visit arctic Britain, after seeing all the stories on the TV we were not sure what to expect. On arrival at Heathrow was cold but not so cold but ever the intrepid travellers we upgraded our car hire to cope what this arctic winter could throw at us. First night will Gillian in frozen Slough (not really!!) and then off the brave the wilds of Norfolk, but surprise no snow, well afte a pleasnt evening with Carols Mum and following day we set out for Corby, surely this has to be 10 feet, we did find snow - about a quarter of an inch and temperatures of +2C what is going on we thought.

Well we retreated to the Hotel gathered up Mum (Grandma) and settled in to Enjoy Christmas Eve and christmas day. This we did but who has heard of Christmas dinner without Xmas Pud and no Sherry!!! Nearly withdrawal symptons for Grandma until an intrepid member of staff found a bottle, we would have been OK as we had a bottle secreted away in the room so as to avoid hotel prices.

We had a pleasant few days in Corby and then on the 26th set off to meet mark in Wales, bit of a disaster there finally we saw some snow, not a lot, but some snow nevertheless as we approached the M5 temperature dropped to -5 so we started to ring Mark, with the weather worsening we wanted to be sure that he was there and all was OK, unfortunately messages etc but no mark seems all phones off so we abandoned Wales had a night in worcester then went back to Birmingham the next day for two nights. Then the highlight of Xmas, Thomas the Tank engine at drayton Manor Park, a good day was had by all Claire, Lea and girls, Niki, Steve, Emily and Louis not forgetting Michelle with Finley. A cold day but a nice day some good photos (see pics).

After Thomas we went to the hotel where we had a lovely meal with Claire, Lea and Kids, afterwards Carol and Claire had a discussion about dieting and Olivia had a lovely comment about her mum's figure which was ................. think we'll gloss over that.

We had a nice new year in Worcester did a bit of shopping and after a very pleasant evening with Paul and Tess we were glad to get back to Cyprus on the 3rd Jan and the lovely weather. Apart from the 26th Jan never saw the snow that meant we had a 4 wheel drive but never mind meant comfortable travelling.

 

Thursday 18th November 2010

Today we woke to another cloudless blue sky temperatures around 24 and still no sign of rain getting serious this lack of rain. It does make it for nice living though with such beautiful weather all year round. The garden is looking great now its a touch cooler with the orange trees in full fruit. We have started to eat the oranges they are absolutely delicious and have no pips which is an added bonus.

We are members of a ramblers club here and every second Saturday morning we go for a leisurely  walk somewhere relatively close we usually walk for about 2 hours and walk about 7/8 Kms not far but very pleasant, 2 weeks ago we walked close to the "Golf Balls" which can be seen in the distance from our house.

It was a really pleasant walk and afterwards we always go to a local restaurant for lunch and a few beers of course. That was on the 6th November we enjoyed it a lot so the following week sunday we decided to go again this time taking Kuja. All the routes we walk are circular so on the 14th when carol and I repeated it we walked in the opposite direction. What we hadn't appreciated when we went first time was that the first kilometre or so was completely down hill, of course when we walked it the second time it was hot the starting hill was now the finishing hill so it was hard walk Kuja gave up and sat down just wanting to rest, gave us an excuse to rest as well. When we finally got back to the car we were exhausted so it was off to the house to drop off Kuja then to the beach for a beer or two.

Since then Carol has been busy and travelling around the island a lot while I watch - advantage of retirement

Wednesday 3rd November 2010

Have been home in Cyprus a week now weather is still lovely here but getting a bit cooler in the evenings mind you still have all the doors open till we go to bed, and no duvets required yet. We had a couple of dull days last week and actually had to have the water heater on for an hour first time since April as get all the hot water we need from the Solar powered water heating system everyone in Cyprus has.

Got a lovely welcome from Kuja heres a nice photo of him for all those who miss him ( two cheeky monkeys in Wales!!) he was very excited when I got out the car.

Thursday was my Birthday so we went out with a friend to a very nice restaurant called the Mill Hotel about an hour away up towards Troodos in a place called Kakopetria can be found on Google Maps. We had a lovely meal so was nice birthday next day down on the beach for morning coffee for those have been here we went to Kourion (or Curium) beach for those who haven't enjoy the picture.

Taken from the Ancient Greek sports stadium built around 2 - 3000 years ago.

Have done very little this week out again on Saturday night for joint birtday meal in Pissouri once more lovely restaurant and still able to sit outside to eat.

Soon it was Sunday and football so off down the Pub to celebrate as Liverpool won - just!!

Already its Wednesday Carol has been busy and I haven't, just pottering around could get used to this retirement.

 

Monday 25th October 2010

Last Wednesday I was scheduled to give a talk to a group of Afghans on Food Safety, scheduled for 9 am we all joked that would probably actually be Afghan time or 9.30am anyway they proved us all wrong was 11 am when the talk started. That's the way it is here and no one thinks anything wrong really makes life difficult in the juice factory we start around 7.30 actually that's anything up to 8.30, not sure how long term It will work out.

So finally to today glad I'm finished here so it was off to the airport at 5 am the airport has three perimeters the first outer has only one entrance guarded by troops and an armoured vehicle with very big machine gun. At this point you have to leave your vehicle and you are body searched by someone dressed like special forces complete with balaclava. Its then back in the vehicle drive to the next checkpoint out of the vehicle again another body search. At this point offload the suitcases and join a rugby scrum in a little room with one corridor whilst your case is opened and searched then - back in the car. Finally drive to the car park to offload and get pestered by all sorts trying to help carry your bag, after getting rid of them say goodbye to the armoured vehicle driver and then walk 100 metres to another check point, another body search thankfully that's the end?? Oh no it isn't another 50 metres and we get to the gate finally on the outskirts of the terminal at this stage another checkpoint no search this time just check the ticket to be told your too early was 5.30 am now flight in 2 hours can't go further till 6. It was 3 degrees outside so when the guard checked the next group was time to sneak by.

Finally from here get into a bus parking area and you have to get on a very ancient bus, as was getting on a guy lifted my suitcase onto the bus, next thing I find him standing next to me demanding payment I gave him all the Afghan money I had, about a dollar, this was not enough and he demanded more - being a foreigner he expected $10 minimum. Suffice to say he was told no, hopefully things be OK now, bus goes all of 200 metres and off we get, two terminals domestic and international so head for that but wait, another checkpoint really stopped now in the freezing cold as not open till 6 am.  

6 am and finally we can get into the terminal and wait for it another search this time empty all pockets onto a table and a really quite personal search. Then the bags through an Xray and finally we can check in.

The airport is new and after we went through more checks shoes off belt off etc etc into departure lounge which smelt very clean and polished after the overnight clean. Flight was due out at 7.40 of course this came and went but finally at about 7.55 boarding started, on the plane and we wait 8.30 and we are told they've lost a passenger and were searching the airport finally another 30 minutes and they found him, well 3 actually so we finally took off 1.5 hours late obviously Afghan time, was I glad to get to Dubai.

You all thought security was a pain in England of course I forgot to tell you that every one of these guards had a AK47 whilst doing the search.

Thats the Afghan adventure over I won't be returning.

Tuesday 12th October 2010

Less than two weeks now before get on that plane to Dubai, have had an interesting week this week we have had the Annual Kabul Agfair its interesting event put on by our organisation and as I explained previous a lot of security. Well it worked, it all went very well and was opened by the Minister of Agriculture with the American Ambassador who with his wife seemed to have a good time walking round all the stalls. See the picture of the Ambassador on the stall with the Afghan fruit and the school children performing, worth remembering under the Taliban all forms of entertainment were banned and many musicians were killed in their time, lastly on a lighter note the Honey stall - don't think English is there best language!

        

                                   

On Saturday for the first time since I have been in Afghanistan I left Kabul and visited a raisin factory in a town called Charikar, Afghanistan used to be one of the largest producers of Raisins in the world. The factory had the original equipment of 30 years ago but all was working OK, the raisins are very nice but its still hard to export from this country they hope to next year, just one photo from the trip we stopped to look at some raisins at the roadside and I took a photo of some schoolboys could have been anywhere except discreetly at the back you can see my Ghurka bodyguard as he says protecting the perimeter there were 3 of them.

                                

Before sign off I forgot to tell about the earthquake we had about 2 weeks ago was 6.7 on the Richter scale, it was 2 minutes to midnight and was in bed reading and all of a sudden started to shake the whole building not much can do but gets a bit scary when the window frames start rattling like crazy, lasted about 15 seconds we had another minor one a bit later but its strange experience, was second time been in an earthquake here last one was last year.

Thats it

 

Tuesday 5th October 2010 11:45am

Still sunny and very dusty in Kabul but its pleasant and no sign of any rain been here since 8th September and haven't had to wear a coat yet but i think that will end this weekend as it cools down a little every day. Work is a bit tedious at the moment I continue to being paid for doing very little, bit boring really. theoretically I am not allowed to visit the Juice factory as support has been removed, the Afghan owner has fallen out with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), As I ultimately work for USAID my services have been removed but i'm working on evaluating other projects keeps me busy but not so interesting.
 
Our organisation as part of its role here in Afghanistan is to organise an annual agricultural fair called the Kabul Agfair, this is quite an undertaking lots of BS and lots of VIP's, we have incredible security the venue has a 1 kilometre ring around it by the Afghan Army, inside this we have the roadblocks and police patrols, inside this at the actual venue we have more police, the secret police and the Ghurkas who protect the expats, As many VIP's are Afghan MP's, Governors etc etc they all come with individual bodyguards estimated another 200 guns on these guys.

Last night we had to go to the venue to undertake a drill on how to react if it comes under mortar attack (the venue is completely overlooked by hills) I attended last years  Agfairand actually have no intention of going this year so the drill for me was waste of time its a shame really as the people here work really hard to make it work Wednesday is VIP day and Thursday is business day then Friday its open to the public many thousands will come as here in Kabul there is very little for people to do so something like this is a real "event". There is a webpage www.agfair.af if anyone wants to look unfortunately no pictures yet. 
 
On to more important issues just unbelievable about what is happening at Liverpool and there first game after the break is Everton at Goodison I dread to think what will happen at the moment Liverpool look a complete shambles.

 

Sat 2nd October 2010 12:55pm

Saturday today another sunny dusty Kabul day, finished work and am waiting for the footie to start we get Indian satellite sports channels so spoilt for choice today The Ryder Cup, or Australia v India cricket and of course 3 Premier league games. Tomorrow Liverpool more pain and agony. Of course whilst here read quite a bit have just read Harlen Coben - 61 hours and Michael Connely - Nine Dragons. both really good reads. Have also read a book about the fall of Crete and the resistance good story lousily written. Am now about to start two novels by Mark Gimenez will let you know if any good.

Of course when not reading have watched a few films all the Dirty Harry films again, and some other oldies but goodies, modern films watched Green Zone which is OK but not brilliant.

Todays attached photo - shopping Afghan style and Beautiful Afghanistan - not my picture but one of our past employees here.

 


Friday 1st October 2010

Carol's Birthday today and once again I'm on a different continent not sure how many times we've been together on her birthday, not very many!

Today in Kabul is a non-working day as Friday here is the equivalent to Sunday in the UK, that means a boring day as we are only allowed out to the supermarket in our little armoured vehicle which has windows 2 inches thick and doors you can't open from the inside if the air conditioning goes you've had it, forget the insurgents.

Have been visiting the ultra-modern fruit juice factory this week it is only been doing trials this last week in processing melons, it has been busy and has processed 300 tons of Apricot Puree not sure where it can be sold though. Next week the pomegranate season starts and will operate at least till Xmas - without me I'm out of here on the 25th October.

The operators in the factory are all pretty good guys just hardworking like most of our friends and all they want is for all of us to go and leave them alone that includes the Taliban who most of them dislike.  

It is nice weather here at the moment sunny all day and nice temperature about 25C but soon it will change we had a thunderstorm last night so in a week or so the temperature will probably drop like a stone, we are surrounded by mountains and once snow forms on the peaks the cold drops into Kabul. At this time it is very nice although the city is very dusty and dirty there are no underground sewers here just open ditches at the side of the road that double up as sewers and rain water drains.

Life is hard for the average Afghan and they have very strict codes of conduct that they have to follow especially the women.

Tomorrow is another working day as is Sunday but as we are three and a half hours ahead of the UK I have time to work then get home in time for the football. Mind you if you think its agony watching Liverpool play from there you want to be here where there dismal performances seem even worse. On that happy note leave for now, Hope you all are well in the UK.