Travel Blog  

Slovakia and Slovenia, which one is which? Located very close to each other on the European map with very similar flag, I found it far more legitimate to mix up these two countries than Sweden and Switzerland that many people seems to do as well.

Anyhow, both countries have an interesting past, Slovakia once belonging to Czechoslovakia with an apparent communistic touch while Slovenia was a part of the once great Yugoslavia. The countries and especially the capitals are up and rising with an interesting and trendy appeal to spend the weekend. Bratislava has great sightseeing with a lot of monuments and statues while Ljubljana has a lot of trendy places for food and drinks. Both are also perfect in size to explore by foot and in a easy pace.

Around the countryside both countries have also a lot to offer with it mountainous terrain with great trekking opportunities during summer and skiing in the winter time. Slovenia has an very interesting spot in Bled which almost seems to be synonymous with Slovenia and you have probably already seen photos with the church located on an island just in the middle of the lake.

If you are looking for something different and upcoming I can really recommend a weekend in either of these two capitals. If you have more time to spare and able to bring your car there is a lot more to discover. Follow the links below for some inspiration of this two Eastern European countries.
 

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Albania was a country isolated from the rest of Europe for a very long period during the the Enver Hoxha dictatorship. Now almost 30 years since the revolution the country is up and rising. Tourism is starting to be a big income and the country has even been chosen to one of Lonely Planet's best destinations for 2018.

My family and I always like to visit and experience new and different places so this summer we gave Albania a chance. In the meantime it's always fun to experience a country before everybody else does as well. Actually, we had already plans to visit Albania last year during our long roadtrip in Eastern Europe. We finally found it a bit to hard to squeeze another country into the already intensive planning. 

Now when back home, I guess we were lucky we didn’t squeeze it in since Albania is worth more than just some few days of stress. A two weeks stay gave us plenty of time to experience the capital of Tirana, road tripping within the country and some peaceful days at the beaches of Sarandë and Dürres. 

Here is a top five of places and photo spots which shouldn’t be missed if you are planning a visit to this interesting country.
 

The Pyramid of Tirana

This strange building in Tirana was built back in 1989 and was originally serving as a museum about Enver Hoxha. After the revolution it shortly ceased its function as museum and has since then served as conference center, base for humanitarian organizations and TV broadcasting. Nowadays the building seems to be abandoned and exposed for vandalism. Many locals gathers by the pyramid or even climb to the top just for the view. It’s not the best looking building you have seen but in some kind of way it’s cool and truly worth some shots.
 

The abandoned Pyramid of Tirana

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/320 sec, f/9 @ 73 mm)
 

Dhërmi

When driving north from Sarandë along the coastline you pass several small villages and cities with great beaches. The most famous is probably Dhërmi and no wonder why. The sea is just as blue or should probably say turquoise as you can wish. Sun beds and parasols are nicely aligned along the whole beach with great photo opportunities. At last, the beach walk is very nice and clean as well with many good places to stop for some great food.
 

Sun beds and parasols at Dhërmi beach

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/7,1 @ 300 mm)
 

Llogara Pass

The mountain rage which divides the southern and northern parts of the country is along the coastline has a spectacular road called the Llogara Pass. The drive includes several hairpin turns and have an elevation difference of 1027 m, at the top you also find the entrance to Llogara National Park. There is several viewpoints along the drive where you can stop and take great photos of the surroundings and the coastline.
 

The steep Llogara Pass drive with several hairpin turns

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/10 @ 24 mm)
 

Gjirokastër

This old town located in the inland Albania on the main road to Sarandë when driving from Tirana is an UNESCO World Heritage and definitely worth a stop. Stroll along the elevated old town with its...houses. To see everything from above, take a walk uphill to Gjirokastër Fortress where you also have great photo opportunity of the old clock tower.
 

Old town of Gjirokastër and the fortress in the background

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/10 @ 24 mm)
 

Sarandë

Sarandë is located in the very south of Albania, close to the Greece border and with the island of Corfu just out of the coast. The area around Sarandë including the famous Ksamil is probably the most tourist developed part of the country. In Sarandë, you will find the resorts and bigger hotels. There is even beaches downtown along the beach walk and most beaches are mainly of rock and the water is therefor crystal clear.  At Ksamil you will instead find smaller family run hotels and sandy beaches. Most of beaches are small and the sun beds are cramped together but still the atmosphere is very nice. 
 

Sunset over Sarandë from the Lëkurësi Castle

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/5,6 @ 45 mm)
 

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If you haven't seen the Statue of Liberty you haven't been to New York! There is nothing that is more symbolic for the United States and New York than this giant statue that overlooks the skyline of Manhattan. Standing in the inlet to city means you have to take a boat to get some great photos of her, a helicopter ride is also an option of course but then you wouldn't get those great closeups.

As many other attractions in the United States, it sure feels like a tourist trap when going out by arranged sea vessels to see her close by. Standing in line for hours is not unusual if you haven't booked a departure time in advance for the Statue Cruises. Anyhow for getting those beautiful closeup shots, you have to go on this tour. I think you will get the best shots just walking in front of her on the Statue of Liberty grounds meaning you don't need to purchase the add-ons to the ticket if your focus is for the photography. 

You have a great alternative or complement to the Statue Cruises though and that's the public Staten Island Ferry. This service runs around the clock to Staten Island from the south of Manhattan. The best of all, it's free of charge! This roundtrip takes approximately one hour but beware that you must disembark and then board the ferry again to get back to Manhattan. From the deck you will get a great view of the statue as well and even twice. The photographs will be more from a distance but still the ferry passing by quite close depending on the traffic situation. 

My photos below is shot during a stay in May during two different occasions, as you can see the weather in the New York can vary a lot and really fast. From a completely grey and overcast day to clear blue skies in minutes, so you may get some interesting shots regardless of the weather I will say.

Hope this blog post and photos will give some advice how to best shoot this icon of New York and the United States!
  

The classic closeup of the face and coronal as seen from the walking path beneath

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 125, 1/250 sec, f/11 @ 300 mm)
 

The weather can deteriorate fast but with interesting shots as results

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/320 sec, f/13 @ 24 mm)
 

Another great angle from the walking path beneath the platform

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/500 sec, f/8 @ 300 mm)
 

Wide angle shot from the walking path with an interesting sky

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/9 @ 300 mm)
 

Sunset shot from the Staten Island Ferry while passing the Liberty Island

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/640 sec, f/8 @ 300 mm)
 

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Today it's kick off for the 2018 World Cup, but this blog post takes us back four years ago when I had a once in a life time experience at that time forthcoming World Cup in Brazil.

In 2014, I worked for Danish Air Transport as a first officer on the McDonnell Douglas MD80 fleet. The airline had two aircraft of the type in the fleet by then and one of these were assigned for a very special mission arranged by FIFA and Coca Cola. The mission lasted for almost a year in the preparation for the World Cup and included flights to approximately 88 countries! The purpose of the tour was to bring football to people all around the world by showing up the coveted World Cup Trophy and of course to market the Coca Cola brand.

One of the main reasons why the MD80 was choosen for this mission was that is self-supporting with integral stairs both in the forward and aft sections with no much need of other ground equipment upon arrival. But still, there was some configurations to be made to the aircraft to get it fulfilled for the mission. First of all and the most obvious one was a new striking red Coca Cola scheme! 

The striking painted McDonnell Douglas MD80 here seen after landing in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, where I started my adventure on the World Cup Trophy Tour.
 

Secondly, the normal passenger configuration was changed to a VIP layout with the first section of the aircraft consisting of an open space that was transformable to a lounge and showroom for the trophy. This was followed by two different sections of business class seats used by invited guests along the tour and the staff from FIFA and Coca Cola. At the rear section of the aircraft there was still some normal passenger 2+3 economy seating but these seats were most used as baggage hold. The standard cargo hold was fully loaded by exhibition material for the throphy that was used during the stops along the tour. 

The cabin was just as striking red as the outside and every detail from overhead bins to catering trolleys were desgined in accordance with the Coca Cola brand. The trophy itself had its very own guards onboard guarding the trophy night and day. The only ocassion when you were able to see trophy without any protection was when we used the onboard showroom for the trophy upon arrival. At all other events it was displayed inside a thick and well protected glass box with the trophy guards in close proximity. 

My adventure which lasted for some weeks started in the Caribbean, more precisely Trinidad and Tobago, were I replaced another first officer and joined the rest of the crew. From there I was fortunate to visit almost all of the islands belonging to the Netherlands Antilles and several countries in Latin America. The trophy event held in each country were different at all places and decided by the local Coca Cola company. It was a truly great experience to be a part of something like this and something that I will never forget.

Here is some photos from the flights during the tour, enjoy!
   

The beautiful and coveted World Cup Trophy were constantly guarded by two trophy guards using white gloves while moving it. For all others - see but don't touch! 
 

Captain and I, here seen during one of our flights during the tour. The flight deck was probably the only place that was not pimped in the Coca Cola colors apart from the can on the glareshield.
 

The red overhead bins displaying the planned route and the background shows the forward section that could be transformed to a reception lounge for officials entering the aircraft upon arrival.
 

The first section of comfortable business class seats used by invited guest or former World Cup players that was fortunate to join the tour during a flight.
 

The second section of business class seats used by the FIFA and Coca Cola staff that worked with the tour. Some of them attended the whole(!) tour and spent weeks in these seats!
  

No doubt about which company sponsoring the World Cup Trophy Tour.
  

Aft galley area of the MD80 with the Coca Cola trolleys.
  

Several Coca Cola cans were consumed during the tour for sure!
  

The big trophy as well as small trophies were brought along the whole tour, in fact I am still wearing it today as a great memory of this once in a lifetime experience. 
  

An after landing Coke upon arrival to Belize City which
marked the end for my World Cup Trophy Tour.

 

Thanks to the World Cup Trophy Tour I was fortunate to experience several countries of the world you usually don't visit on your standard vacation. As a passionate travel photographer I certainly took the advantage of getting some rare shots from these parts of the world which I might not be able to visit again. The time was of course limited during the stops but I still managed to get some great photography and experience of each country visited.

In fact, several of the following shots are my true favourites in my collection and some of them even award winning photos. Since my photos from the Netherlands Antilles already has its very own gallery here on the website, I have just picked some of the shots from Trinidad and Tobago and the countries in Latin America that I visited during the tour.

I hope you enjoyed my #tbt and enjoy my travel photos!
 

Hummingbird in the dense forest in Trinidad and Tobago
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 3200, 1/160 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Boat ride in the swamp outside Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 1600, 1/250 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Pink Heliconia, Trinidad and Tobago
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 640, 1/200 sec, f/5,6 @ 210 mm)
 

A great colony of the red ibis (the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago) is gathering for the night in the trees just outside Port of Spain.
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 3200, 1/200 sec, f/5,0 @ 200 mm)
 

The yellow Cathedral of Granada, Nicaragua
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/10 @ 28 mm)
 

A young mantled howler monkey in the trees, Nicaragua
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 250, 1/320 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Colorful vegetation, Nicaragua
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 2000, 1/320 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Black lava sand at the coast outside San Salvador, El Salvador
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/7,1 @ 70 mm)
 

Colorful public bus transportation, El Salvador
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 125, 1/160 sec, f/5,0 @ 200 mm)
 

The beautiful interior of Iglesia El Rosario in San Salvador, El Salvador
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 125, 1/30 sec, f/4,0 @ 17 mm)
 

Busy marina in Belize City, Belize
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/7,1 @ 145 mm)
 

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During the month of May, the very southern part of Sweden turns all yellow with beautiful blossoming canola fields as far as the eye can see. This is the typical image of the county of Scania or as you say in swedish "Skåne".

Skåne is also the place which I am fortunate to call home. It's a highlight every year, chasing that perfect canola photo in perfect composition with some other specific detail of our county like a wind mill or our purple painted local trains. To make the hard even harder the canola fields changes every year since you can not grow canola in the very same field two years in a row. It's also just during a limited period of time you can see the canola in full blossom, my guess around one week so you have to be lucky with the weather and made your research about where to shoot well in advance.

The ever changing conditions makes it very challenging and you will always end up with new and interesting photos. Here is some of my canola photos shot from the last years!
 

Canola closeup
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/7,1 @ 300 mm)
 

The purple local train called "Pågatåg" among the canola fields and wind mills
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/640 sec, f/5,6 @ 150 mm)
 

Canola field with an old mill in the background
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/320 sec, f/7,1 @ 190 mm)
 

Contrasts to the yellow canola field
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

The purple local train called "Pågatåg" among the canola fields
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/1000 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Typical scenery of Skåne county during the canola blossom
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/500 sec, f/7,1 @ 300 mm)
 

Closeup of the canola flowers
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/6,3 @ 300 mm)
 

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One thing not to miss while visiting Japan is to take the advantage as foreigner to interrail with a Japan Rail Pass. This pass must be arranged from home before entering Japan via a travel agency or similar. It's quite expensive but it's all worth it just after a single return trip Tokyo-Kyoto. It's such a great experience to interrail and without doubt the easiest way to get around in Japan. Even though the pass cover most of the different trains and areas operated by Japan Railways, the highlight is of course riding the Shinkansen high speed train.  
 

Japan Rail Pass
 

The experience starts already at the station where you have to be in good time and stand in line at your assigned car and seat location. It's all clearly marked in the air and on the platform how to stand queing. When the train arrives the process of deboarding and boarding of passengers are impressive and very efficient. After a short stop the train starts rolling exactly on the minute for an on time departure. 

The comfort and seat pitch onboard the Shinkansen is just great even in the economy section and before you know it, you travel in the speed of nearly 300 km/h! Still with great comfort and quiet atmosphere. 

In my opinion the Shinkansen is something more than just a train, it's an extraordinary experience which you can't miss when visiting Japan. Since it's such a great part of the japanese infrastructure and significantly for the country, it sure has to be a part of my travel photography when in Japan. The train and many stations for that matter are very photogenic and it's quite easy to get some interesting shots of the trains and the operation while spending some time at the platform before your own departure. 

Still dreaming of that perfect photo of a Shinkansen train on the japanese countryside with Mount Fuji as backdrop...until then enjoy these shots! 
 

Shinkansen at the platform, Kyoto Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/50 sec, f/4,5 @ 47 mm)
 

Female train crew awaiting the signal for departure
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 125, 1/200 sec, f/5,0 @ 165 mm)
 

Shinkansen Nozomi train bound for Tokyo
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/50 sec, f/4,5 @ 47 mm)
 

Shinkansen train approaching the platform at Mishima Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 320, 1/2000 sec, f/5,0 @ 165 mm)
 

Onboard Shinkansen with its comfortable 3+2 seating and great seat pitch
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/40 sec, f/4,0 @ 24 mm)
 

Shinkansen trains arriving and departing Kyoto Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/6,3 @ 300 mm)
 

Punctuality is of great importance for the japanese railway
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/5,0 @ 220 mm)
 

Older generation Shinkansen train arriving at Kyoto Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/7,1 @ 300 mm)
 

Train crew overlooking the train from the rear station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Artistic shot of the train cab at Mishima Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/500 sec, f/8,0 @ 300 mm)
 

Train crew overlooking the boarding at Kyoto Station
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/5,0 @ 160 mm)
 

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My family and I are just back home again after a fantastic vacation in Japan. The timing was just right for the cherry blossom season and Japan was more beautiful than ever. The japanese people call this period "Sakura" and they are just crazy about taking photos of the cherry blossom. They even have forecasts when the cherry start to bloom all over the country. You can have a look and follow the progress on the link below:

Cherry Blossom Forecast 2018 

This year's cherry blossom was quite early due to a warm and early spring in the Tokyo area. Luckily we managed to visit most of the spots when it was full bloom both in Tokyo and Kyoto. It's just an amazing sight and a great experience which I really recommend if you are planning a trip to Japan. Even though the season has finished in most parts of Japan right now, there is still chances in the north of the main island and Hokkaido.  

This was my second visit to Japan after experienced the country all white during a winter some years ago. To my disappointment that time, I didn't see any locals wandering around in their beautiful dresses and kimonos. That was not a problem this time because the japanese people were all out taking photos of the cherry blossom in their kimonos as well and if you are really luck you will even see a geisha! 

It will be major update of my Japan gallery (linked below) shortly but until then enjoy the japanese sakura!
  

Chureito Pagoda with Fuji and cherry trees in the background, Kawaguchiko

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/50 sec, f/4,5 @ 47 mm)
 

Cherry blossom in Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden, Tokyo

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 250, 1/320 sec, f/14 @ 300 mm)
 

One of the best massive cherry blossom spots is Ueno Park, Tokyo

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/320 sec, f/6,3 @ 165 mm)
 

Tokyo Sky Tree in the background of pink cherry blossom tree, Tokyo

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/8 @ 60 mm)
 

A japanese woman in its beautiful kimono along Philospher's Path, Kyoto

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/5 @ 180 mm)
 

White cherry blossom in Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden, Tokyo

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/14 @ 70 mm)
 

A lonely cherry flower along Philospher's Path, Kyoto

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 1000, 1/250 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Philospher's Path, Kyoto

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/6,3 @ 50 mm)
 

Cherry blossom in Ueno Park, Tokyo

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 200, 1/320 sec, f/5,6 @ 300 mm)
 

Japanese women with their beautiful kimonos along Philospher's Path, Kyoto

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/5,6 @ 82 mm)
 

Himeji Castle, Himeji

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/9 @ 70 mm)
 

Flowers on closeup along Philospher's Path, Kyoto

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/5,6 @ 250 mm)
 

Himeji Castle, Himeji

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/10 @ 70 mm)
 

Illuminated cherry trees along Meguro River, Tokyo 

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 30 sec, f/5 @ 24 mm)
 

Lanterns and cherry trees along Meguro River, Tokyo 

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 800, 1/50 sec, f/4 @ 55 mm)
 

Mount Fuji framed by some cherry trees branches, Kawaguchiko

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/7,1 @ 73 mm)
 

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The southernmost stop during our road trip in Eastern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula was Montenegro. Only two nights spent in country, one among the resorts in the popular and well known Budva and the other one in the capital of Podgorica. Limited time for photography and new experiences for sure but still we managed to do everything we wanted even with an infant in the back seat. 

First of all, the scenery of Montenegro is stunning with high mountain ridges and deep cutting fjords with excellent photo opportunities in every needle eye turn but be prepared for time consuming driving on roads in poor condition. The overall impression of the country is unfortunately pulled down by the tourist influenced atmosphere at places like Budva and Kotor with souvenir traders everywhere. Apart from this there is of course a lot of beautiful spots not to be missed and well worth a photo.
 

The serpentine Crnojevic River, Lake Skadar National Park

This beautiful horse bend view of the Crnojevic river in the Lake Skadar National Park might be one of the most beautiful places I have photographed lately. I was lucky enough that everything was just right that morning when we finally arrived at this spot after hesitant driving on serpentine roads. I must confess I didn’t have a clue about this place until I came across another travel blogger that had visited this place. As time were limited on this trip I will certainly make a longer stop at the Lake Skadar National Park if I ever will come to Montenegro again.
 

The Crnojevic River in Lake Skadar National Park photographed in the early morning

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/7.1 @ 19 mm)
 

Old town of Kotor

An old town surrounded by city walls in the inlet of one of the fjords in the country. Excellent photo opportunities almost everywhere you go inside the walls but the best one is probably from the path that leads to St John Fortress which overlooks the city from above. It’s from this path the following shot is taken, in my case in full daylight but still quite nice with some cumulus building up above the mountainous surroundings.
 

Overview of Kotor from the St John Fortress hiking trail in the afternoon light

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/9 @ 19 mm)
 

The Ostrog Monastery

An hour drive to the north of the capital of Podgorica, you can find the very interesting Ostrog Monastery. What makes it so special is that it is built inside the mountain highly elevated to be safe guarded from intruders. From a distance and in sunlight the white colored monastery looks almost surrealistic against the mountain and it's just as impressive when standing close by. You are able to shoot this sight from several locations which generate in completely different views and perspectives.
 

The Ostrog Monastery is actually best lighted at midday due to the high terrain 

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/11 @ 32 mm)
 

Sveti Stefan, Budva

This five star property well known for its visits by celebrities is located a short drive outside Budva. During the early morning hours when the guests are still sleeping or about to have breakfast is the perfect time for a perfectly enlightened view of a silent and peaceful Sveti Stefan. You may either take a shot from the beach with the sunchairs and umbrellas perfectly aligned for the sunbathing guest or from the main road above where you can get a great overview shot of the strangely located resort.
 

Sveti Stefan nicely lighted in the early morning hours

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/8 @ 47 mm)
 

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Podgorica

The attractions and sights in the now appointed capital of Podgorica are not that many or in fact none apart from this beautiful church called The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Podgorica. Located in a rather rough and worn part of the city, it really stands out in its white colored facade during the late afternoon sun.
 

The main entrance of the cathedral is best lighted during the afternoon

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/11 @ 28 mm)
 

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The Kingdom of Swaziland totally landlocked by South Africa and Mocambique is one of the smallest countries within Africa and a given stop when on road trip in this region. Driving from Johannesburg, the best way to cross the border was via the Oshoek Border Post at least if you are planning to visit the capital of Mbabane.

Mbabane is the biggest city in the country and houses both the classic markets as well as modern looking shopping centres. The city doesn't offer any special sightings but when exploring by foot we found at least some spots worth taking some shots, among them some Swazi street art as seen below. Apart from the commerce at the market and the busy scene at the taxi station, there is not that much more to see. Anyhow it still deserves a stop when passing by and for us it was a perfect timing for a lunch before continuing south in the country.  
 

Street art in Mbabane with truly Swazi inspiration
 


After leaving Mbabane behind it was time to make the short drive to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This is one of several parks within the Big Game Parks and the oldest protected area of the country. At Mlilwane, we were advised to stay in the Beehive Village which is a typical Swazi accomondation in the shape of a hive. Be sure to book well in advance though as they seemed to be very popular way to stay the night within the park. I have never slept or even seen something like this before so it was a nice and exciting experience, especially to hear the wildlife just outside during the night.
 

Entrance to the Mliliwane Wildlife Sanctuary
 

The Beehive Village
 

Inside the Beehive with comfortable beds and even electricity
 


The afternoon was about to turn to early evening and it was time for a sunset safari arranged by the camp. The Mlilwane park offers a diverse habitat and quite extensive numbers of species, most of them non predators so you were even able to hike or ride a bike through the beautiful landscape on your own. We went by a safari jeep though and sighted several different kind of hoofed animals just after leaving the village. The game drive continued through the hilly landscape and up for a sunset view from the highest point and like all game drives with an ice cold local beer.
 

The 4x4 safari jeep
 

The beautiful sunset view from the top of the mountain at Mlilwane
 

Local beer to enjoy in the sunset
 


Back at the camp, it was time for dinner which was served at the main building in connection of a small lake. Not that easy to get a view since when it's get dark in Africa, it's really dark! But the sound of the awakening wildlife could not be missed, a powerful flashlight would be great to spot some of the action. The walk back to beehive in the dark was quite interesting as well as of now the impalas and gazelles had dared to enter the camp area in shelter of the darkness.

Next morning and breakfast at the same place as the dinner last night, this time with a great view of the birdlife around the lake.  The camera was as always ready and I managed to get some great shots of an hunting heron and some other smaller birds flying around. Since the camp area was located in the middle of the park we had the chance to go on our own game drive while checking out from the facitlity and leaving the park. We could ceratinly have stayed one or two more nights at this place to try some more of the acitivities offered, it's not everywhere you can go game driving on a bike!
 

Warthog with two small suckling piglets during our own game drive
 


Now we had about three hours of driving in front of us before reaching our next stop and the safari lodge in the Kwazulu Natal region in South Africa. This gave us a great opportunity to see and experience the beautiful landscape along the route while driving southbound to the Golela Border Post. As you can see on the photo below the road network was in good condition and made us no worries. Beware of speeding though since the police had radar controls at several places to my very own experience.

To summarize, 24 hours pass by quite fast but in the same time you are able to do quite a lot anyway if planned ahead. I can really recommend a visit to Swaziland even if it's short. We managed to experience both the capital, a great game drive with an memorable stay in a beehive all without rushing. Just click the link below if you want to see more photos from our stop in Swaziland!  
 

A typical Swazi road sign on our way south to the border
 

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Bosnia and Herzegovina geographically located in the heart of the former Yugoslavian country was hit hard by the Bosnian war back in early 1990's and the country that probably suffered the most. There is still a lot of visible marks and scars in the country and its people that reminds of the horrible events during the dissolution of Yugoslavia. 

The country itself may not be the first one you are thinking about when going for vacation but when on road tripp in the Balkan area this was a chance not to miss. The roads especially at the countryside and at the smaller border controls are in poor condition and not developed to the degree that you are used to compared to other European countries or even its neighbouring countries. Anyhow this makes it more genuine and interesting in my opinion, just make sure to understand that driving here takes time. The scenery is very beautiful with wide diversity in the landscape with interesting spots to photograph almost everywhere. Many of the other places you have to visit and experience are of course related to the war. 


Sarajevo
A stay in this multi ethnic capital is of course a must do when visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo has played a major role in many historical events and everywhere you will be reminded of the impact that the war had on this city. You will see damaged buildings with bullet holes almost every where and many cemeteries in the middle of the city. It's of course interesting to learn more about the war but in the same time frightening to imgaine how it was just some years ago. Don’t miss the interesting photo exhibition at Gallery 11/07/95 of the Srebrenica massacre.

The old bazaar called Bascarsija is the heart of Sarajevo and its architecture reminds of a middle eastern city. Here you will find small shops just like a souk with all kind of merchandise. There is also a famous fountain called Sebilj Brunnen in the town square which often is seen on photos from Sarajevo.

Everything is within easy reach at least in downtown but the surroundings are mountainous and many interesting places are located highly elevated with stunning views with some exhausting walking getting there. The walk up to the White Fortress is well worth the effort with stunning views of Sarajevo from the top. To finish your stay in Sarajevo go by sunset and bring some take away food, why not some local bureks.
 

Sarajevo overview as seen from the White Fortress in the late afternoon
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/400 sec, f/7.1 @ 105 mm)


The Srebrenica Memorial Genocide
The memorial is located in the eastern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a three hours drive from Sarajevo. The memorial is officially known as the Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial and is set up honour the victims of the massacre in 1995. The cemetery is a peaceful place and very well organized with grave stones for every single victim even though all of them are not yet identified. It's a truly awful sight but still beautifully arranged in an impressive lines and patterns.
 

Grave stones photographed nicely aligned and with an appropriate field of depth
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/800 sec, f/10 @ 300 mm)


Mostar
The town of Mostar in the western part of the country is within easy reach for a day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia. I would recommend a full day here with a night stop to see the newly rebuilt Stari Most at blue hour though. The brigde connected the two sides of the Neretva river and the people of Mostar but it was destroyed during the war. The one standing there today is a replica of the original.

The town of Mostar is of course an experience in itself and attracts a lot of visitors per year. The heart of the city is small and the stone combed streets makes it very genuine to explore even though with a small touristic touch. 

There is several great spots to photograph the Stari Most bridge. My favourite is the view from below where it looks like you are standing in the middle of the Neretva river, in fact I almost did. It requires some climbing and jumping on rocks to get there. Anyhow, the other spots are as seen from the photo the left side riverfront, from the top of the mosque in background and from a bridge located behind from where this photo was taken.
 

The Mostar bridge photographed at blue hour with long exposure
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 30 sec, f/10 @ 32 mm)


Kravica Waterfalls
This beautiful and scenic spot of the bosnian landscape is a popular place to visit even by the locals. During the hot summer months you can even take a swim in the emerald green water. It wasn’t that easy to find though, despite some research beforehand with Google Earth and some hints from other visitors while searching the net. It's located quite close to the Croatian border and could be included in the full day tour from Dubrovnik or when visiting Mostar.
 

Kravica Waterfalls photographed with polarisation filter and long exposure
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 0,3 sec, f/22 @ 24 mm)
 


Blagaj Tekija
Located just a short drive outside Mostar, you will find a Dervish monastery built at the base of a cliff on the Buna River. This small monastery was built around 1520 and is considered as a national monument. It's an interesting and photogenic location of the monastery against the mountain and the emerald colored river which also includes a small waterfall.  
 

Blagaj Tekija photographed with wide angle lens and polarisation filter
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III - ISO 100, 1/30 sec, f/4 @ 17 mm)
 

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