Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where Did The Year Go?

OK, so what have I been up to in the past year that has made me too busy to keep up my blog? Well, for one thing, I haven't been that busy, and certainly not on the travelling front. One thing that I have taken a bit of time to do, is to have a look around a bit more of England, which I had barely really seen before (you always neglect what's on your doorstep). So over the past year I've had the opportunity to discover the Peak District, Dartmoor and some of the Home Counties around London. Although England will never have the spectacular scenery of Pakistan, or the Caucausus, there is, nevertheless, a homely charm in its rolling hills, quaint, orderly villages and verdant countryside. Plus it's very close by so you can go for a day trip or a long weekend. I've also been lucky enough to find some people to kick my lazy behind out of the house and get out and about, because if left to my own devices I will slob a weekend away in the blink of an eye.

I did, however, manage to take some time off to do one trip abroad last year, and that was to Croatia - a little 3-week jaunt, starting in the south and flying out of Austria (god bless Ryanair - no matter how much people complain about budget airlines, even with all the surcharges and crummy service it is still incredibly good value for money). It only served to reinforce my love for the Balkans, which certainly has my vote for the best region in Europe: stunning scenery, easy to get off the beaten path, relatively cheap (although Croatia didn't quite make it into that category), a fascinating history and crazy, endearing locals. The bijou coastal towns and dainty islands were pretty, but what enchanted me were the mountains and national parks inland from the coast - the karst landscape of the Velebit arm of the Dinaric Alps rises straight from the coast, and yet despite its accessibility it is possible to get away from it all and marvel at the majesty of nature and geology. And since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll let some of my hack photos do the rest of the talking for me:

The pristine white peaks of Rozanski Kukovi.

The setting sun sets the white limestone and autumn leaves ablaze. The little hut partially hidden behind the trees is where I spent the night: although all it contained were a few wooden boards and a wood-burning stove, the view across the Adriatic to Italy was priceless.

The path off the mountain went through this (partially cleared) minefield and I'm too stubborn to turn back and take the same way back.

Autumnal colours.

Moth stopping for a quick drink on Hvar.

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