Empire Avenue

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Europe is such a rich tapestry - so many cultures so many tastes,so many places and people to get to know.
For most Western Europeans and North Americans, the Balkans is not likely to be on their shortlist for a family holiday.
That's a real shame.
Over the next 5 months, I will be sharing with you our plans for our holiday which will include Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.
Five years ago we visited Montenegro and fell in love with its beautiful coast and majestic highlands.
I hope some of the ideas, the places, the food and the people I write about will make you consider the Balkans as a destination.
If you have questions - bang them down in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them.
Right - let's get started.
So that's 1,310 km or about 18 hours driving - so breaking that down into manageable chunks will be key.
There will be two cars, four adults and four kids on this trip - Vuk and Ana Mirkovic, Betty H and myself, Niall H (10), Daragh H (8), Mia M (6), Uros M (2) - this has to work for the kids - if they are happy - we will be happy.
So the trip works like this.....
Cork, Ireland to Heathrow, Greater London - 555 km 1 hour 28 minutes
Heathrow to Nikola Tesla Airport, Belgrade 1,701 km   - 2hrs 48 minutes
I really wish Ryanair flew direct - it would be as close as Rome and just as fascinating a destination
We will be met by the Mirkovic clan and drive in from the airport to the city a short 12 km motorway journey
Our base in Belgrade will be Hotel Nevski
Next morning we will head south to Latkovac  - here is a nice walk through video 
Founded by Serbia's Female Entrepreneur of the year Sanja Knezevic - Ana Mirkovic's sister.
Its a lovely story, this was a tiny derelict hamlet that for over 200 years has been home to the Knezevic family.
Sanja has restored almost all the buildings to their original glory and has created an idyll in what is considered the heart of Serbia.
It's peace, organic traditional food and gentle hospitality attracts visitors from around the world.
Its Artists Colony is one of the most valued in South East Europe.
We are going to chill here for four days - more details on what we plan to get up to later.
We might have some of this food and some of this and this to partner with it!
Then an early start and off for breakfast in one of the most intriguing cities in Europe. Novi Pazar is mostly populated by Moslim Slavs, Bosniaks.
The way of life here allows you to sense what life was like in Turkish Europe, minarets outnumber churches vastly and the pace and details of daily life are unlike any other city in Serbia.
From there we take off on a 328 km journey to reach the Montenegrin Adriatic coast. Initially we drive parallel to the Kosovo border and then cross the border driving along its border with Albania. The journey is mountainous and extremely beautiful.
As we emerge on the other side of the highlands we arrive at Podgorica, the capital. Its a sleepy city and although I have very happy memories of working there over the last ten years- I am going to be impatient to get to the coast - which is one of the world's most extraordinary destinations.
We will take the relatively new Tunnel which cuts the time from Podgorica to the coast down to 1hr.
Then we will arrive at our villa/appt/hotel (the two wives will tell us which one and where shortly).
Apart from eating amazing food and drink, and plopping down on sandy beaches -  we will spend seven days exploring the coast.
We will visit Kotor Bay  Budva,  Petrovac,  UlcinjCetinje, Przno . It sounds daunting but Montenegro, or Crna Gora in the Serbo-Croat is a relatively small coastline to move up and down.
When our week on the beach is over - we will be on the move again.
This trip brings us to the Drina River - and to a famous bridge in Visegrad.
We will spend a day on the river and then move on to beautiful Zlatibor - we will spend three days in the area.
From Zlatibor we will move on to Sarajevo - really looking forward to that.
Then one last road trip  -back to Belgrade
We will be there for five days - Doing AdaDoing the Fortress, Heading to gorgeous Zemun and Novi Sad among other things like.....eating and hanging out
I am exhausted just writing this!!
In the weeks ahead I will be writing blogs in more detail about the various parts of the trip and linking to them from here.
Feel free to give your feedback - feel free to share your experiences and ask for more information or clarification.
Vidimo se!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

End of the Rainbow - an introduction to Richard Thompson

If you only sample one new songwriter's work in 2012 - make it Richard Thompson. 
Here are a bunch of jumping off points....

BBC Documentary

Newstalk BBC review
Here are some of my favourite youtube moments