Sunday, July 27, 2014

My landlady is famous!

About a month ago, my landlady was surprised by a camera crew who came to interview her about her garden for the program "Najbolji Vrt" (Best Garden). Someone has recommended her garden as this year the flowers are looking particularly amazing! All I have to do is water the ones on my balcony and she pretty much does the rest... (and she usually has to remind me to water anyway!)

Every year she plants the new flowers, tends to the old ones, mows the lawn, keep everything watered and trimmed, and just does a fantastic job... so it was really great that she got some recognition for her hard work! 

I managed to get the below sneaky pic from my balcony while they were interviewing her. You can see some of the beautiful flowers, including the ones on my balcony! She really deserves to be on the program!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blogging for books review: The Accident

One of the 8 books I managed to read on holiday was this thriller by Chris Pavone. I was intrigued by the premise: a book about something so explosive that no one is sure that it will be published. A manuscript so unbelievably believable that uncovers secrets that have long stayed hidden, and a rush to try and get it published before the person who doesn't want it publish kills everyone who knows about it.

In the beginning, you are not told what the manuscript is about and who is the author, but as the story unfolds, more and more details are revealed, and more and more possibilities emerge as to who the author could be and what exactly is so terribly horrifying about the manuscript and what it reveals.

I won't spoil the story by giving away plot twists, suffice it to say that it was a page turner. My only gripe is that there are a lot of characters who are involved and sometimes I had to go back to try and recall who each of them were as the story flipped back and forth between the different people involved. I was also a bit disappointed in the ending, maybe because it wasn't what I was hoping would come out at the end. Oh well.

Otherwise, I would give this book a 4 stars as a good read, makes you think, kind of novel - this certainly wasn't the mindless holiday read I was hoping for!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free to review through, however, the opinions expressed are purely my own.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Unexpected Dutch guests!

I was contacted last week by a friend of one of the Dutch team we had last summer. They were coming to Banja Luka for a couple of hours, could we meet up? Well, of course! In the end there weren't just two of them as I originally thought, but four lovely Dutch people showed up at Ihtus. They are here for a conference in Velika Kladusa this week, and decided to hire a car and take a drive to see Banja Luka, and also drop off some Hebrew bibles for the Jewish Society here.

As it took them longer to hire the car, and then also the route they took (off google maps) was a little bit rough, they arrive 2 hours later than expected. Also, unexpected was the fact that their car started spouting oil as soon as they arrived. The plan was for them to go back that night as they had things to do the next day, but even upon arrival that plan wasn't looking too likely...

Not having any overnight things, they were loath to stay at first, but after taking a look around the apartment we have for teams they were finally persuaded. Luckily we had spare toothbrushes for them at least :)

So, after making sure we had a place to take the car in the morning, I took them into town for dinner, and as they hadn't had cevapi yet, that is what we had: (the chicken sandwich is mine as I already had cevapi the night before!) Marko, Menzo, Jan-Willem and Lavinia.
On Saturday two of them took the bus back while the others stayed behind to fix the car, which turned out to be the fuel pump, and luckily was able to be fixed (thanks to a friend of mine telling her auto-mechanic friend that they were her Dutch nephews... otherwise we wouldn't have had a chance of getting it in to be fixed on a Saturday!).

I think it taught them a lot about never really being sure of plans working out - and it reminded me that you can never expect things to be quite as simple as they seem: always expect the unexpected!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adventures in the Balkans...

Instead of going on our normal Croatian vacation as in the past three years, Ljlija, Sina and I decided to finish off the Balkans by going to the Black sea in Bulgaria. (Now all of us have visited all the countries in the Balkan Peninsula!). Wherever we went everyone was again wondering how a Bosnian, Finn and South African/Brit got together, but it didn't matter, the main thing is that we had fun!!

We travelled two days to get to our Nessebar View (overlooking Sunny Beach) apartment. It was MUCH better value for money than in Croatia - including a pool (and as the complex was fairly empty it was almost a private pool!). Here are Ljilja and Sina in front of our place (on the right) with the pool in the background... 
And here is a close-up of the pool with the two of them ready to go jogging - aren't they cute in their matching outfits!
I didn't get any pics of the inside of the place, but it was really nice, and this was the view from the complex...
The highlight of our stay was definitely the old town in Nessebar. It is a UNESCO World Heritage City for good reason! Here I am in front of the peninsula on which it is situated:
The statue of St Nicholas on the entry of the city - it is full of great symbolism: he is holding a cross and a dove...
 The streets are full of old wooden houses:
 And loads of stunning byzantine era churches:
 And some other pretty scenic photos as well:
We did go to the beach a couple of times... but I must admit that we weren't overawed by the beaches: crowded or full of seaweed (as below). We made good use of the pool instead! 
We mostly ate in our apartment (including a braai/barbecue one night!), but 3 times we celebrated something special in Nessebar. The restaurants there were really amazing...

Here we are having strawberries and cream (and sparklers thanks to the fun waiter) in celebration of Novak Djokovic's Wimbledon win :)
Celebrating Ljilja and Sina's birthday (which are only this week, and in August, but a good excuse none-the-less!)...
And enjoying the last night of our holiday in style...
On the way back we decided to break our trip at a place which was recommended on tripadvisor, and which kind of broke the trip halfway...Belogradchik rocks and fortress... And it turned out to be the highlight of the whole trip!!

I still can't believe how amazing it was and how blessed we were that we were able to go there: The pictures do NOT do it justice, and I can't believe it isn't more exploited as a tourist destination by the Bulgarians...

It is a formation of sandstone rocks that cover an area of about 50m2, but in one particular area a fortress was built (first by the Romans, then the Bulgarians and finally the Ottomans) which took advantage of the already impenetrable rocky outcrops... and it is just stunning!!!!
 Once inside the fortress you can see how wide an area is covered by the rocks themselves...
And here is a fun photo of Sina and Ljilja:
 And just to give you some idea of scale, here I am in the middle of the rocks inside the fortress...
And just one more photo of the stunning rocks and fortress...
We come back from our Balkan Adventures well rested (I managed to finish 8 books... now that is what I call a real holiday!!) and completely ready for more adventures back in the real world :)
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