FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Homeward bound once again!

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on October 23, 2011

After a relaxing breakfast in the Hotel Hollywood those of us who were leaving today said our farewells. Most of the tour group were continuing their travels for a second week, visiting the last surviving steam locations in Bosnia, but as I had seen these places in April 2010 I had arranged to leave the tour at Sarajevo.

My flight from Sarajevo to Munich was pretty much on time, which was just as well as the connection experience at Munich airport was pretty dreadful. After an agonisingly slow transfer/security check I reached the gates midway through boarding so had no problems, but there was clearly not much margin for delay!

The journey back to London and then across town by tube, train and bus gave me ample time to reflect on the trip. In spite of the problems and the attrocious weather at the end I had enjoyed the experience and managed to come away with some halfway decent shots/video footage which is all I could ask for.

I am always stunned by the quality of photographs taken on the trips by the guys around me. At the end of the day though, you have to focus on what you are doing and my personal goal on each trip is to make some small improvements in my photographic technique, composition and get to know my camera a little better. I think I managed to achieve that, though there is still far too much room for improvement!

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Back to Sarajevo

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on October 22, 2011

Our drive to Sarajevo was expected to take about three to three and a half hours. Once we manoeuvred our way out of the station grounds we followed the approximate route of the narrow gauge railway for a short distance, noting the old railway tunnel that has since been converted to a road tunnel. Our route took us down towards the river Drina where we got a good view of the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge before continuing on the road to Sarajevo.

On the road to Sarajevo

The route was especially beautiful as we drove in and out of modern tunnels along one side of the river valleys, whilst trying to make out the route of the old narrow gauge line to Sarajevo (and another old road) on the opposite side. The old routes could just be made out from the abandoned tunnels and ledges lurking amidst the stunning scenery. It really does impress upon you the lost tourist opportunity in the 1970s when the railway closed (which ran with steam until the last day). It seems all the more strange as this was precisely the time that the authorities were turning to tourism to support the economy.

The drive took a little longer than usual as a tunnel was under construction on the approach to Sarajevo, which diverted us over an especially foggy hilltop with ridiculous hairpin bens and zig-zags. It was no wonder that we saw quite a few accidents along the way. Finally at 8pm we arrived at our hotel in Sarajevo.

Around 18 months ago I had stayed at the Hotel Hollywood at the beginning of a FarRail tour to Bosnia so in theory it should have seemed familiar but in that time it seemed to have gone through quite a transformation. Since my last stay the place appears to have added conference halls, an extra wing, an internet cafe and completely re-arranged the restaurant facilities. It also presented me with the most lurid wallpaper I have ever seen in a hotel – a picture of a giant asteroid crashing to earth no less! Most importantly though, it provided a comfortable bed to crash out on and for once I knew that I could wake up to a relatively relaxed morning. It was time to go home.

A tip: If you ever find yourself staying at Hotel Hollywood you will find that the sprawling building is hopelessly un-integrated. In the reception area there are lifts to each wing, round the corner from each other, but as there is seemingly no connection between the wings you will never find your room if you take the wrong lift…

Dentists and dinosaurs

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on April 1, 2010

The first night on the tour brought us to the Hotel Hollywood in  Ilidza. The hotel was quite comfortable but had a bizarre line of offers for dental treatment, ranging from check ups to amputation of the dental pulp. Not my idea of a good way to start a holiday…

As we had some time to kill before our evening meal I checked out the surroundings, which included the last stop on the tram line from the old town. The trams take a loop here and head back. In the middle of all this is the rather bizarre sight of two dinosaurs fighting on a tram chassis! It seems somewhat appropriate, given the dinosaurs we are seeking out on this trip.

Dinosaurs at Ilidza

All in all, it has been a good beginning – catching up with familiar faces from previous trips and recalling mad moments from the past. I’m sure there will be the odd anecdote or two to tell at the end of the trip.

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Steam in Bosnia

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on April 1, 2010

Ok, so I’ve spent a few days mooching around Sarajevo – enjoying the friendly welcome, educating myself in the museums and taking in the city from every viewpoint – but it’s time now for the real purpose of my visit…

I am joining a trip organised by Bernd Seiler of FarRail Tours to see (and photograph) the last working steam locomotives in Bosnia. I’ve been on two tours with FarRail to China and been incredibly impressed by the set-up so I think I am well and truly hooked now.

One reason that I am looking forward to see ‘real steam’ in Europe is that I have never seen that in my own lifetime back home in the UK. I have to say that I am not  particularly skilled with a camera but I find it fascinating to go on a tour with so many experienced photographers – listening,  learning and (hopefully) improving.

I hope to end up with some photos and video footage that I can feel satisfied with (and which remind me of the experience). However, there is always a nagging worry that in trying to do both I could end up doing neither well… leaving me with mediocre video and mediocre photos!

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A morning stroll…

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on April 1, 2010

Took a morning stroll up some steep roads to a fortified wall overlooking Sarajevo for a view of the city which looked truly beautiful in the morning light. From such a viewpoint, it’s hard to imagine the turmoil that this city has been through. It’s a strange feeling, much like the one I get when I see a quiet country field alive with birdsong in France and Flanders.

Sarajevo in the morning

Sarajevo in the morning

A wander through town…

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on March 31, 2010

Something of a whirlwind day of sightseeing, trying to pack as much in as I could – helped somewhat by the compact nature of the city. In the course of the day I managed to take in the Bosnian Historical Museum, the Brusa Bezistan, Despić House and Svrzo’s House – all of which helped to address the woeful gaps in my knowledge of the region.

The one constant through the day was the incredible helpfulness and welcome I received wherever I went. In fact I would go as far as saying that in my travels across the world I have never been welcomed quite so warmly as here in Sarajevo.

Sarajevo

Posted in Bosnia, Sarajevo by folkestonejack on March 30, 2010

Arrived in Sarajevo in the early afternoon after a smooth flight with Austrian airlines via Vienna. It was a fairly tight connection so I was most impressed with the timekeeping of the flights and the fact that my baggage made it onto the second flight.

A taxi through the outskirts of Sarajevo gave me my first taste of the city. Initially it felt quite eastern european in flavour but by the time I had reached the old town you could easily believe you were in the heart of a middle eastern city.

I had a wander round the old town in the few hours of daylight that remained and got my bearings. As night fell it was wonderful to see the buildings lit up – especially the lights on the minarets.