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Summer fun time: rafting on Tara river

One of the best experiences of this year’s summer holiday to Montenegro has definitely been the rafting day spent on the Tara river with the amazing people from raftingmontenegro.com.

We started the day by driving 70 kilometers through the magical realm that Durmitor National Park is ( narrow, perfect road) from Zabljak, our base camp, to Scepan Polje, the headquarters of the crazy bunch that run the show down Tara.

On our way we kept being surprised by the beauty of… well, everything we saw.

Durmitor park with its mountains, the beautiful Prutas we had climbed only one day before, the mesmerizing blue of the Piva lake ( actually a water reservoir).

Piva lake

Piva lake

We reached the camp site at around 10:00 and were invited to join them for breakfast and a steaming mug of fresh coffee. After the breakfast we had a chance to look around, and, more importantly, to convince two of our most reluctant friends to join us.

Team now in full numbers, we could have our own boat and the fun was ensured, especially since two of our people were terribly afraid of water.

After picking up our gear(helmets, life jackets, water shoes, neoprene suits for those who feared the cold) we were taken to the cars that already had the boats on the roof and our driver took us to the departure point, some 30 Km away from the Waterfall rafting center.

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At the destination the boats were taken down from the cars, we’ve met our “captain” and we went down the river. Oh, the river was assumedly one meter deep, in fact some 15 meters in some tranquil places and a couple of meters in the areas with rapids and waterfalls.

For the first time in a rowing boat, never having rowed before and with two people scared to death, chaos ensued to my great delight.

Our captain tested us and decided, probably, that we were the worst team ever to have rowed down Tara.

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Our unsynchronized rowing was causing us to drift aimlessly or, at best, row upstream.  Want to see the face of true despair and doom? This is it, once our guide saw us rowing:

That's when we knew we were doomed

That’s when we knew we were doomed

We knew things were serious when he lit a cigarette and told us to calm down and listen to him. ( in the meantime, a lot more normal boats and crews were rowing calmly trying to avoid our chaotically spinning in the middle of the river).

After we calmed down enough to listen to him and try to think at what we were doing, some people were found inapt for paddling and others got a paddle instead. I got a paddle and a good place to row with that occasion, yey!

Down we went afterwards, through calm waters, not knowing how our fragile balance will hold in the approaching rapids and waterfalls. When they did come, we behaved admirably, or at least this is how I remember it…

The films taken with the GoPro mounted on my helmet might tell a different story involving screams and hysterical laughter, but that material needs to be edited and will not be available too soon.

We rowed down Tara which is a combination of slow water and rapids for about 4 hours, with two stops, actually three for us since our guide took us to a hidden waterfall. They say the level of water was extremely small, but in the deep areas the water seemed to have been at least 15 meters high, crystal clear and in gorgeous hues of green or blue.

the team

Needless to say, we were soaking wet because our lovely captain had taken great care in making sure we were approaching the rapids the worst possible way, that makes sure everyone gets soaked.

It is a mystery to me how he kept having dry cigarettes while we were all soaking wet and loving it. Meanwhile, my camera was stored in a dry bag tied to my leg and our feet were tightly secured under ropes on the boat’s bottom.

I did not get a chance to use the camera much, as it needed to stay dry, but we shot a lot of films that will find their way to a movie describing the whole holiday, sometimes this winter.

To describe it shortly, we rowed, we laughed, we laughed some more, we rowed some more, we sang happy birthday to Mada ( who is terribly afraid of water but got a rafting trip as a birthday present because that’s the kind of friends we are), we chased other boats in order to be the first and surely made a memorable impression to our captain who was kind enough to play along with our madness, and sadistic enough to make sure we took every descent through rapids the wrong, water splashing way.

The fun ended too fast once we arrived the embarking point where our drivers waited for us with their waterproof now cars since we were soaking. It started raining badly the second we got into our cars but it hardly mattered, we were as wet as we could get.

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Back at the Waterfall center we changed and enjoyed a lovely meal: hot soup and fried trout from the river. We said our goodbyes with sadness to our new friends and drove homo, to Zabljak, through the same perfect landscape, now with clouds meant to add some drama to the scenery.

Durmitor after the rain

Durmitor after the rain

Everyone loved the experience, even the ones that started the day scared to death and now we can hardly wait for the next time.

I wholeheartedly recommend raftingmontenegro.com for your rafting experience, they are the best and their offers are not at all expensive. Our experience cost us only 40 euros each, meals included and was great, from the fast booking process to the rafting trip, the meals and the friendly faces we encountered everywhere.

You can find them here: http://www.raftingmontenegro.com/ . If you decide to go on an adventure with them please come back and tell me how it’s been, I already plan on going back in the spring when the water is bigger and so is the fun.

monkey business

Albums,  a short movie and more stories of a great summer holiday will follow. Stay around and always remember that limits, especially those in your minds, exist for breaking and the feeling of going beyond everything you know is simply amazing.

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Durmitor National Park

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Durmitor seen from Prutas peak (2393 m)

Enough beauty for a lifetime, this is Durmitor National Park.

One of the most beautiful and complex national parks I have ever seen, perfect for hikers, climbers and simple tourists looking for fresh air and amazing, accessible views.

A true heaven for photographers also, one that I would like to explore more at ease next time, with some fellow photographers around. I took most of my shots on the run, some even from the car in motion and I still think that they are among my best landscapes. I can only imagine how would they have looked like had I taken the time to think them through.

The Dinaric Alps, next to the Caucasus and the Carpathians that I call home are at the top of my list and heart.

A photo album will follow, once I’ll sort through 25 Gb of photos and GoPro films.

Seafood Heaven

The best lunch ever looked like this. A story to go with it will be provided shortly.  🙂

sea food

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Postcard from Heaven

heaven

Numaratoarea inversă a început

Vacanta 2015

Încă 14 ore şi plecăm la drum lung, dar frumoooos să ne pierdem prin munţi, canioane şi oraşe desprinse din poveşti. Apoi vom trece şi prin Belgrad 🙂 în la fel de lungul drum spre casă, dar la el ne vom gândi mai târziu,

Casa e plină de bagaje, acumulatorii sunt la încărcat, frigiderul este plin de sărăţele făcute în casă ( mulţumiiiiim Tito) şi prin gânduri ne aleargă un singur gând: vine vacanţaaaaaa!

A trip in time: Pompeii

Hello, fellow travelers, we’re back with fresh reports from Italy, this time a short description of a day visit to the amazing ruins of Pompeii.

Taking into account the history of the place I will try to be a bit more serious, if you won’t mind.

Pompeii Scavi is easily reached from Naples by train, the Circumvesuviana, although you might want to keep your purse or backpack close while on the train.

The entrance ticket costs 13 euros and they are well spent money, the place being absolutely amazing. We were part of a group so the people in charge found us a guide that was quite good, but unfortunately I cannot really say how much the services of a guide cost but they are worth it, for sure.

Our guide made our visit to the ruins of Pompeii quite memorable with the things that he explained and the fun way he did it. That’s him in “Villa dei Misteri” telling us the story of the place.

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As you might know, Pompeii is an Italian city in the Bay of Naples not destroyed, as you might think, but preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

This strange method of  unintended but wonderful “preservation” is due to the approximately 6 meters of ash that covered and kept Pompeii  hidden and safe for over a thousand years.

The lucky archaeological event was not so lucky for most of the inhabitants of Pompeii who died either due to the high temperature that liquefied their brains ( 250°) or choked to death in the falling ash.

Their remains, preserved by the fallen ash were found by the archaeologists who discovered that the bodies were in fact gone after over a millennium but the shells of the buried people and objects, remained petrified. In an effort of preservation the archaeologists injected the empty shells recreating exact representations of the victims of the disaster.

One of them is a boy holding his nose while trying not to breathe in the deadly ash… CSI_5064

Huh, I told you this is a way to serious post, but enough with that.

Here’s a fun fact: in 1599 Pompeii was almost rediscovered. Actually, rediscovered and hastily reburied. Why so? Well because the Pompeiians had a very interesting and modern culture, one in which the phallus was an “apotropaion”, that is an intensively used good luck charm so its representations were quite widely spread and picturesque. Too much for the prudes that uncovered it so they hurried and reburied it for more open minded generations.

Oh, by the way, in Naples you will find lots of charms featuring what might seem like clusters of small, red peperoni. They are not actually peperoni, so if you buy them as souvenirs or gifts for your friends be ready to explain to them that they are actually fertility symbols.

Our visit to Pompeii started with the house of pleasure, the first thing a weary traveler ( sailor, mostly) stumbled upon when reaching Pompei. The house we visited was nicely decorated with frescoes and even had “the menu” on the walls, for the convenience of the customers that were not speaking Italian.

If you happen to visit Pompeii and that place make sure to look for the “Pompeiian sandwich”  in the menu,  it is the first representation of its kind uncovered. Unfortunately my photo of it is moved, because of laughter and also of the badly lit room.

You will, nonetheless, find it on most of the magnets and postcards sold in and around Pompeii.

In the well preserved site, with a well-documented guide, you can almost imagine Pompeii bustling with life, a hub for commerce but also of culture.

You look around and you can see the temples, the stores, the bakeries and fast food places, you can hear the rumbling of carts on the cobble streets and smell the freshly baked bread. CSI_5046

Above all, you can almost see the imposing form of Vesuvius, who, before the eruption reached almost 2500 meters, not the meager 1281 meters  he has now after blowing up and burying the area in ash and debris. ( They found a rock from the eruption in 79 AD in Albania, imagine that.)

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One of the most interesting sights in Pompeii is actually not in the city but some 400 meters outside the city walls, just passing through a very interesting, decorative cemetery, also speaking volumes about the rich, educated and beauty lovers Pompeiians.

Villa dei Misteri, extremely well preserved( walls, frescoes, ceiling), was a very rich citizen’s residence.

Among the ruins was discovered a wine press that cannot be visited, and a room with mysterious frescoes that are still leaving room for theories.

vilda dei misteri_lg

Most of the scientists studying the frescoes agree that they seem to represent the initiation in the cult of Dionysus  ( the god of harvest, wine,  and other intoxicants and intoxicating rituals).

The main idea around the frescoes is that in order to become an upstanding citizen and be initiated you have to, first of all, get really, really intoxicated and have a chat with Dionysus.

This comes to show that things do not change so much over millennia since this is exactly what the young people nowadays do while in college, although they might cam it differently and the intoxicants have also changed. 😀

Now, my theory on the frescoes is quite different and it involves aliens. Why? Well because you can clearly see in one of the frescoes a kid taking a selfie with his IPad while his mother is at the hairdresser.  😀

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Now, dear readers, I can only hope that you know I was joking, at least about the Ipad part.

In conclusion I must say that I found the Pompeii site to be the most interesting I have ever visited, well worth the money, the time and the scorching heat. It is a true glimpse into history, one that rises a lot of questions, especially if we compare the glory of the days passed with the not so glorious  daily life the citizens of Naples, for example, seem to have.

But about my thoughts on this matter we can talk some other time, maybe when I’ll dare to write my opinion on Naples and its long faded glory.

That’s it for now. If you want to find out more about Naples and its surroundings you might want to check out my other article with a click right here.

Italy and Darkclauds: it’s complicated

To love or to hate, these were the questions revolving in my mind whenever I thought of Italy. I had one mostly positive memory of Venice and  a not so pleasant experience of  the Umbria region and too many meetings with not so nice people and poor quality services.

To end the dilemma I once more bought tickets to Italy in order to make up my mind and give my verdict. They were a great deal since BlueAir flies directly from Bucharest to Naples and we found the tickets at just 75 euros.

Luckily for me and for Italy also, after the latest trip my decision is that Italy is a country to love, with its perfect places and its flaws also.

I chose a completely new part of Italy, the beginning of summer and jumped in a completely new experience along with some of my best friends.

This time the choice that made the trick was Naples and most importantly its surroundings, the amazing bay of Naples, Amalfi coast and the beautiful Capri.

We flew to Naples one Saturday morning (June 27) and our hosts for the weekend picked us up and took us to our first headquarters in Salerno, at Grand Hotel Salerno, by the beach.

The same afternoon we took a lovely cruise from Salerno to Amalfi, enjoying on the way the lovely views of the famous Amalfi coast, with lush forests, lemon orchards and idyllic houses perched on high cliffs.

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Leaving Salerno

From time to time, small fairytale towns appeared from between the rocks to our amazement. The sun was shining, white puffy clouds kept on rolling lazily over the blue skies  and I remembered how much I love the sea although I am a mountain girl at heart.

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Now do not get me wrong, I hate sunbathing ( and I consider it dangerous), and I’ll stand on a beach for more than an hour only of you tempt me with a really good book, but I love cruises, the sound and smell of the sea, the sense of freedom and tranquility you can only get with water all around you, even on a busy, noisy ferry during high season.

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Positano, I think

 

Amalfi, the very famous town was not a surprise, but was nonetheless nice, with its small twisted streets, shops and street terraces, its delicious ice-cream and bustling life.

The Amalfi cathedral was a lot nicer that we expected, and finding out that St Andrew’s remains are kept there was a very pleasant surprise.

 amalfi shots 1

We tried to get lost on the small streets and explore hidden parts of Amalfi, but my perfect sense of direction prevented us from getting lost. 😀 Nonetheless, we found just the perfect place for a cute photoshoot. Too bad I forgot to instruct my photographer on the proper use of a camera and on the notion of focus.

  So this must be the best photo of myself during my Italian adventure, I hope you like it as much as I do. 😀

CSI_4758Soon our wandering was ended by our guides who reminded us we have a ferry to catch. We took the trip back in silence, a bit tired after a day that had started too early, quite far away.

  We took one long look at Amalfi and said our goodbyes for now.

amalfi shots 2

We enjoyed a quiet and not very spectacular sunset on the ferry thinking that Italy might not be that bad. Little did I know, the best was yet to come.

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To be continued….

P.S You might like to scroll through the rest of the photos of the day. If so, click bravely on the link below. Enjoy!

Italy, July 2015: Amalfi and Salerno
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