Category Archives: Blog

The Best Wallet On the Market

I just discovered a fabulous wallet and it is perfect for travel.

Here’s the thing. When you travel a lot, you tend to rely upon two wallets – a mothership wallet where you store pretty much all of your main paraphernalia and receipts, and a small wallet which is for your daily fix. I’ve tried the orthodox wallets (the bifold, the trifold) and the super slim credit card holders with the money clip on the side, but it just gets complicated. The bifolds and trifolds end up stuffed with business cards, plastic cards, random notes and receipts. Before you know it, you’re walking around with a miniature book in your pocket. The tiny backup ones, are often missing the right cards – did the license get left in the mothership wallet? – and there is no room for money so you have to carry a money clip. It’s a bit messy. And the money clip is not brilliant in general. Where do you put the hotel card, the subway card, and so on?!

I thought I had solved everything when I discovered an Italian wallet with a money clip inside of it and room for a bunch of credit cards but not enough space to tempt you to dump your Costco card, your Global Entry card, and a wad of business cards. All great, except in true Italian style, the wallet started to give too much. One day, while I was paying for something, everything slid out onto the floor. Cash, credit cards, you name it. It was one of those great examples of an Italian invention where everything looked great but nothing really worked. How I love Italy!

So I was recounting this to an Italian friend of mine and he told me he had solved my problem. He recommended a wallet system called Secrid. This wallet has changed my life. It has a money clip inside, a compartment for your driver’s license, and it is small and compact. But most importantly, it has a magic lever on the bottom that fires the credit cards into a fan like display while the wallet is closed. Almost like dealing a deck of cards. I have not come across anything quite so creative and brilliant as this.

Secrid is a Dutch company that was founded over 20 years ago and the wallet piece of the company was almost a secondary part of their business. During the financial collapse in 2008, they decided to focus on what they call a “card dispenser wallet.” It was a brilliant moment. A young Dutch couple, who happen to be designers, started an incredible journey. What they had spotted was that people’s wallet behavior was changing – less cash, more credit cards, and the idea that smaller is better. Being able to dispense a credit card without opening the wallet was more secure.

So I bought one – actually I bought two – and I started telling my friends about them and using the wallet daily. When I travel in London, I put my Oyster Card in there so I can just fire the button and scan the card. I just want to say thanks to the Secrid team. Anybody who has not looked at this product should give it a shot. Follow this link and your life will be changed. Happy spending!!

The Final Day on the Queen Mary 2

Today was our last day at sea. Our day started with an early morning breakfast and then off to a lecture by Maria Friedman and to look at art at the delightful gallery.  In the afternoon the weather broke and we finally saw sun and wispy clouds.  Took a walk around the promenade four times and then had some wonderful English tea sandwiches (cucumber and cheese and tomato) followed by a visit to the spa and gym.

I preordered duck for dinner tonight which was wonderful.  Tonight it’s entertainment night on board with entertainment by the Cunard dancers.  Fit and talented male and female dancers strutting their stuff in front of a wide variety of very unfit and elderly looking male and females. Both sets were all dressed to the nines. As usual we darted to the side front. Great seats and nobody ever sits there.  Thankfully, tonight it was a short show.

Had a nightcap at the Commodore Bar and then went off to bed.  Everyone here had their suitcase outside the door at 6 pm. No idea why. Check out remains a mystery to me!  There were some pamphlets about it but that all looked like a nightmare.  It said to assemble downstairs at 8 am in your designated space etc.  We are going casual though.  They have my credit card.  We have our bags.  We will see what happens tomorrow but I am approaching this a bit like checking into a flight. Late and relaxed. Always board last and never hand someone your luggage.  If they need you they will contact you and in meantime I’m going to get up early to watch landfall as we sail through the English Channel.  Docking at 8 they say.  They caught up blizzard delay.  And how long ago was that, wow.  Time actually did fly.  As it were.

Day 7 on the Queen Mary 2

Day 7

We started off the day with a morning breakfast disaster.  They had run out of brown sauce!  Now, to most people outside of the UK and Ireland, this means nothing, but to a Brit it is a major problem with an English or Irish breakfast., They said that the blizzard disrupted the supply in New York. The blizzard wreaks havoc again…

Today I went to an acupuncture session with a really nice lady, Ana, from Portugal.  She was very spiritual, very cool, and stuck lots of needles in me.  I️ felt great after!  She was amazing.  Went to the promenade for a circuit and the English tea sandwiches before I️ headed to gym. After the gym, I went to spa and then headed to a beautiful exhibition in the art gallery. Delightful.

Then to formal dinner where I got dressed up in bow tie and white shirt.  The food and service has been pretty good all the way through but tonight it was exceptional.  Tonight was the walk of the chefs as well. There are 236 chefs on board and they serve 15,000 meals a day.  Bloody hell!

After dinner we walked to a concert where there was an amazing pianist with a band performing classical and show tunes.  Afterwards, we stopped at the very cool art deco Commodore Bar for a nightcap.  What a way to spend the day.

The Weekend on the QM2 (Days 4, 5, and 6)

DAY 4

Last night a little rough out on the high seas.  Want to be armed with Dramamine.  Today we woke up to calmer waters and rain. The QM2 has 1,292 crew members and the capacity is 2,691.  The maiden voyage was in January 2004 – just about 14 years ago.

Today, people are strolling around the deck, mainly for exercise.  The sights out to sea are unrelenting rolling grayness interrupted by white caps.  Alas no whales nor dolphins nor passing boats to break up the dull vista.  There is no sky to peer through as cloud cover is intense.  Today I am off to gym again but yesterday five machines were out of order.  I’ll be heading to a lecture at the theater here that i wanted to go to.

Also today we will move another hour forward as we gobble up the time difference between the US and the UK. The captain came on to announce very causally that there had been a fire somewhere overnight and that various stairways were shut down. Nothing to worry about he said so life continues.  Breakfast ends early (9:30 am) at the waited seating and after that it all goes down to self serve.  It is a little messier and less comfortable.  The internet continues to be relatively hopeless and expensive.  Minutes disappear faster than the setting sun.  Off to connect and take some photos.  A giant whale would be handy.

DAY 5

Saturday showed much calmer seas after a rough night.  It was a night of Dramamine and deep breathing for me.  The secret to sea sickness is to be in center of boat down low.  We are at the top in the front.  The forecast ahead is smooth sailing.

We saw Maria Friedman today.  She did a one woman show on Sondheim and Bernstein. We actually saw Merrily We Roll Along at the Huntington Theater in Boston recently. She directed it! She did a wonderful condensed show of Sondheim songs primarily. What a lovely lady with an extraordinary career and a fabulous voice.  So fortunate to have her pass the week on the crossing with us. Chatted with her by the elevators and she is moving Merrily We Roll Along to New York City soon. It was such an amazing coincidence to see her!

Took to the open promenade for a long walk. We are slowly adjusting to life without internet connection and lots of time on our hands. The walks along the outer perimeter of the boat are quite amazing. The temperature outside is balmy and miles away from the freeze on the eastern shore. Here we are soaking up warmer temperatures and Atlantic rain. Still nothing has been sighted except white caps.  But I am slowly getting used to the nothing vista and the beat of the crossing. Gym and spa every day to ward off temptation of endless mounds of food. Dance routine after dinner plus disco.  Late night ahead.

DAY 6

I have been slowly adjusting and as of Sunday I am starting to evolve into a crossing type! I see the allure. It’s just a nice way to pass the time and it forces you to disconnect from everything.

Announcement from deck this morning called for us moving another hour forward.  We slowly make our way to the British time zone. After a morning of not much at all, we drifted into a lecture on Jack Vetrianno and Fabian Perez.  A really interesting talk about two painters, one Scottish and the other Argentinian. The art gallery on QM2 is stacked up with good stuff. It’s all stocked somewhere below and the collections change every day. The setting is just a dream for the collections too as the waves splash across the porthole windows. Perez is a really cool painter and Vetrianno is the bad boy of modern painting!  Actually loved his stuff but Perez was a great guy to pair him with.

After an interesting chat with the two curators we moved on. For me it was the gym and the spa which I have grown to love.  I like the availability of it and the knowledge that I know how to work everything.  Every day becomes part of my routine.  It’s a good investment for the week. Tonight we went to another curated nighttime show on Broadway and the 1960’s.  We snuck into the front row on the side and what a great show it was. Everyone spills out of dinner and drifts into shows at the end of the day.

The casino was humming, the nightclub noisy and fun, and everything is going full belt.  I am loving the rhythm of the crossing.  Can’t believe I just said that!  The internet is still hopeless.

Day 3 on the Queen Mary 2

It was formal night last night and everyone had to dress up. You sit at the same table as usual but you have to wear a tux. There was a captain soirée earlier for certain sections but I took a massage and enjoyed the spa instead.

The boat is still rocking around fiercely.  It’s a little unpleasant and the decks are still closed. There was an early morning wake up by the captain to announce that all water in the cabins is not working. No toilet or shower. Great wake up news. After breakfast the cold water is back at least but the hot was still out.  Just in time!

We went to watch a dance class which reminded me of my holiday camp days.  The internet connectivity is dreadful and they charge you even though it barely works. So far I have spent 200 dollars and the speed is worse than dial up! The boat is rocking and rolling around. I’m going to try the gym but it could be tricky as it is probably impossible to stand straight. It’s either that or playing bridge. It’s a huge boat. I still get lost. That makes every walk an adventure.

Day 1 and 2 on the Queen Mary 2

Day 1

First, a confession.  I have never been on a cruise ship. So to board a ship with another 3,000 passengers was strange. To understand that this ship had been in the Caribbean and was on its last voyage across the Atlantic before setting off on a round the world cruise was amazing.  There were people on board who were going for the whole thing.

But we were the cruise virgins.

While we were going through the safety procedures on board, as we were looking out on a beautiful Manhattan skyline, we discovered that the boat was stuck. Blizzard! And so we got used to the skyline (which was amazing), had some great food, and waited until the morning.

Day 2

Today we had a morning blizzard.  There were high seas but the tug boats pulled us out of the harbor.  Under zero visibility and raging seas with huge waves and snow lashing the decks, we sailed in a loop passing the Statue of Liberty through the narrows and rocked our way along the coastline of Long Island.  All this before breakfast!

The outer decks were shut down but I sneaked out for a quick photo.  After all, I don’t want to get swept away in these conditions.  Just took a Dramamine, then off to the gym, then a massage later in day plus watercolor class.  Very cruisy.  So far it’s all a bit of an adventure.  The Wifi is expensive and TV is not great unless you want Premiership soccer all day and outdated movies.  But the blizzard is a trip.

Brexit Pains

Hey you Brexiteer Brits, how painful was that decision you all made back in 2016? That promise of independence from those awful Europeans and a restart of those great old days when England ruled the waves. Well, it’s starting to look shaky at the moment.

First of all, if they ran the referendum today, a lot of the people that actually voted without a clue would now reverse their vote and vote to remain. But of course, this puts the current government in a sticky position as they pledge to honor the will of the people during that awful referendum vote. Meanwhile, because of the uncertainty, the effects are starting to play out in the economy.

I was chatting with a leading provider of jobs to the European youth market at the World Travel Market. She reported that applicants from Europeans for jobs in the service industry were 30% down year-on-year and they weren’t being replaced by Brits. These were the Spanish, Italian, French, you name it, all looking for that first year or two in a base industry to perfect their English and have fun in a capital city like London or Manchester. 30% down and where were they going? To other European cities like to Amsterdam, to Dublin, and to Scandinavia. Not to mention, there are about 100,000 jobs that are already projected to leave the financial center as companies begin to develop strategies around Brexit.

At least in American politics, when we have a polarized political situation (as we do now) we can at least count the days down before we go to the voting booth again. Brexit has no statute of limitations, it’s forever….like a cold sore, except we really know what it is, we just don’t like to call it by that name in public. I think one day they might want to put a statue up of David Cameron under the title “The Architect of the Most Devastating Decision that will Linger Forever in the annals of English History.”

Oh well. Abajo y atrás.

Norwegian Airlines Steals the Show

On my travels back from London, I was stranded without a flight and so I went looking for the best deal in business class from London to Boston non-stop. That’s when I discovered Norwegian Airlines. At $650 one-way, their business class competes very well against the main carriers in terms of price (approximately 75% cheaper). However, would it really be 25% of the experience then? It was worth taking the risk and anyhow I had heard so many interesting things about Norwegian that I knew I had to try it.

Norwegian is the third largest transporter of passengers in the low-cost sector of the European airline business. It sits behind Ryanair and EasyJet. They run around 30 million passengers per year and they started their long-haul operation in 2013. Unlike WOW Airlines, who also have incredibly inexpensive fares, Norwegian provides a business class experience for travelers that would like to pay slightly more.

Norwegian operates out of London Gatwick Airport. Getting there involves an easy train link from Victoria Station to Gatwick directly. The train service is great, is relatively inexpensive, runs every 15 minutes, and takes about 30 minutes to get there. Norwegian operates out of the South Terminal which in actual fact is the first airline you encounter as you come out of the train station. Thus, there is no need to take another train transit to the North Terminal. You are straight in and straight out. Incidentally, security lines at Gatwick, at least in the South Terminal, are fantastic compared to those at Heathrow. There is virtually no wait time and it’s highly efficient. Norwegian even has a lounge right in the extensive shopping area. Although I only could spend 10 minutes there, it was satisfactory.

So, how was the flying experience?

London to Boston is around a 7.5 hour flight and the Boeing Dreamliner is used exclusively on this route. I love that plane. In economy, all of the seats looked fine with enough leg room. In business, I had a ton of leg room although the seats did not go back into a full bed. However, for a day flight, I would never usually use that feature anyway. The seats were a little light on padding but not a problem. The food was basic and came in a box but it was fine. When is airline food ever more than fine anyway? The service on board was fantastic and everyone had a great attitude. The entertainment center was decent as well. I always carry my own headsets on a plane and it was quite easy to find the plug to connect on this flight. That is something I can’t say about most other airlines I fly with.

How good was it? Well, on a scale of 1-10 based on $650, it was a 10. Would I take it again? For $650 you bet! I loved it!

WTM and the Emirates Cable Car

The World Travel Market (WTM) takes place every November out at the ExCeL London convention center next to the O2 – the huge entertainment complex that was developed around the Millennium. The World Travel Market is a fun event. It’s a chance to run around the world in a huge auditorium, to network, to research new destinations, and to catch a view of the city that stretches out along the Thames River beyond Canary Wharf to the outer edges of what is called the Thames Barrier. This is the new London – encompassing the financial center, the Olympic Park, and the ExCeL London. It is also the home of London’s City Airport and will be the home of around 20 new businesses over the next five years.

One of the highlights of heading out to that part of London is grabbing the Emirates Air Line.  This cable car links across the River Thames and East London. You board the cable car not from North Greenwich Underground and it delivers you to the ExCeL. It’s about a 10-minute journey and during the World Travel Market, as long as you have your badge on, it’s free! This is one of the great rides across the outer banks of East London that you can take. A prelude to your ski adventures in the new year.

Museo Sorolla

Tucked in the center of Madrid’s busy and bustling metropolis is the Sorolla Museum. When you think of Madrid, you tend to think of the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, or Reina Sofia. These are the three iconic museums all clustered along a museum avenue that stretches from the post office square down to Atocha Train Station. But if you have a moment of space in Madrid, I cannot recommend enough the tranquility of the beautiful Sorolla Museum.


Joaquín Sorolla is Spain’s great impressionist painter. His colors of terracotta, white, and light blue are seductive. His paintings leave you with a sense of optimism and goodness. His house, which is now the museum, was donated to the state when his widow died. The house remains as it was when Sorolla was alive from his studio, to the dining room, and even the kitchen. Recently, the gardens and water fountain outside were restored as well. They offer a delightful respite from the busy city beyond the wall.


Madrid is the kind of place that needs a museum like this. It is one of those delightful museums that are a little off the beaten path where you can spend a few hours and collect your thoughts away from the cacophony of the Plaza Mayor and Plaza Sant Ana, and the craziness of the Grand Via and the Puerta del Sol. This place offers a breather for tourists and locals alike; a chance to reflect and look back at an age long since gone. I have been several times and each time it feels like I am about to start a yoga session because it is so peaceful and relaxing.


It is easy to get to the museum as well. You can take the Metro to Iglesia (line 1), or if you are adventurous, take the bus. If you are super fit, you can combine it with a walk from the Paseo de la Castellana. For me, I have to admit, I grabbed a cab.

Albania Adventures

I don’t know anybody that has been to Albania except for my crazy Italian friend. I mean, nobody.

Enver Hoxha took care of all of our dreams of traveling to Albania in the early days. By the time Albania became open to tourism in the 1990’s, the Hoxha regime, a pseudo-Stalinist dictatorship, had decimated the entire country. For 50 years after World War II, this place had been closed off to all tourism. Nobody could leave, nobody could enter, there was no free press, state TV, lots of “disappearing factions” and it was pretty much the most frightening place inside of Europe that you can imagine. It made Franco’s Spain look like Club Med!

Imagine this, from the Albanian coast to the beautiful island of Corfu took only 30 minutes on a ferry. Except the ferries did not go. What this guy left was no infrastructure for tourism or anything – no roads, no nothing – and a completely beautiful coast line was so underdeveloped that it makes you want to cry. Imagine what the journey from Montenegro along the coast to Albania could have been. You have to take the inland road to get to the border crossing because there simply was no other way, then hang out for an hour and a half to two hours to exit out of Montenegro and enter into Albania. Both Montenegro and Albania are in the queue for application to the EU. Shame on you England for opting out.

In that moment, when you cross into Albania, you are in another world. We drove to a fairly large town called Shkoder. It was a mix of rundown buildings with satellite dishes hanging off of the edge of balconies. Not the sort of place you would want to hang out in and that is precisely why we carried on.

We followed the main highway heading towards Tirana with a view to test out the coastal road to see if there were any resorts worth reporting back on. The highway was nothing but gas station after gas station interspersed with tacky, palatial casinos and nothing else. We stopped at a highway restaurant and everybody was smoking inside and outside in spite of the ‘No Smoking’ signs. It had this feeling of mafia pasted all over it. The gas station scene was ridiculous. It had to be a front for something else. We headed to the “coastal resort” of Durres. No surprises here. There are several shoddy resorts and the sea did not look safe to dive into. This place needed a serious overhaul and probably some of the money that had gone into the gas stations should have gone into the development of the coastal community here. Alas, the thought of buying a villa on the Albanian coastline quickly subsided in my mind. This place needed time which was a great pity because it has the same beautiful climate as Greece and southern Italy.

Tirana, the capital, came at us very fast. It had been built up quickly after the collapse of the old regime. Our hotel was super glitzy, Las Vegas-style, and it overlooked this very Soviet-style square called Skanderbeg Square named after Albania’s national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti, who was later renamed by the Ottomans, Skanderbeg. He unified the country, defeated the Ottomans, and died in the 15th century, but still they love him! Around these parts, believe me, you cling onto anything after what these guys have been through. In the square there is a beautiful mosque, an orthodox church, and a huge mural dedicated to the Soviet-style revolution. The square reminded me of Red Square or Tiananmen; vast, open, and stark.

I thought that maybe I should come back here in 20 years but for now I just needed a great fish restaurant in the center of town. I found one on TripAdvisor called Il Gusto. It had fabulous food, brilliant service, and frankly it was just about the greatest thing I discovered in Albania. See you in 20 years.

The Great Cruise Ship Dilemma

First confession: I have never taken a cruise. I sort of always have wanted to, but every time I get close, I run out of enthusiasm. Maybe it’s just the thought of all of that food in seven days or the toilets jamming up or being stuck with 5,000 people day after day and night after night. But something always does me in. Recently, on the Montenegro coast, I was in a beautiful town tucked into the fjords called Kotar. It took an eternity to drive into the center and park the car. It wasn’t clear to me why until we got close to the center and I realized that a cruise ship was there, disgorging its travelers on excursions in this tiny town. Then it struck me…that’s why I don’t like cruises!

There must have been 50 sightseeing tours taking place at one time…maybe more. Here’s the church, here’s the piazza, here’s the shops, and on and on and on. This place was not that big and I could feel myself drowning in the guided talk and the crowds following the guides with their paddle boards.

As I sat there eating a rather desperate and dodgy slice of cold pizza, I thought how invasive these cruise ships can be. The bottom line was that the town could not cope with that number of visitors all arriving at the same moment. The cruise ship was almost as big as the town itself. It essentially chokes up the town. In Dubrovnik the night before, they had even installed a traffic signal to control the flow of cruise tourists coming into the beautiful center. A traffic light for people?! The cruise tourists rarely give back to bars and restaurants since all of the meals are free on the ship. Souvenir shops are the only ones that win. It seems a shame that cruise tourism, which is in the ascendant, is like tourism pollution.

For example, in Venice, it’s suffocating the city. While the glass factories may be rubbing their hands, the innocence of regular tourism and mingling with locals, is flying out the window. What is good for the gondolieri is not always good for the city. I spoke to somebody in Kotar who was staying there for a week. They said that they spent most of the daylight hours outside of Kotar and only came back in the evening when the cruise ships had packed up to leave. It’s a strange thing and a strange sight to see a gorgeous coast line with two cruise ships the size of Texas docked. The question really is, should I try a cruise? I’m not feeling terribly inclined at the moment.

Surprises in Split

The last time I was in Croatia was 1987. We had taken a two-week vacation at a hotel north of Dubrovnik which was then bombed out of existence during the Yugoslav Wars. This time I had decided to drive from Sarajevo over a very pretty mountain road, onto a prairie-like plain that stretched for miles, and then down into the city of Split and along the coast.

Split was a fabulous surprise. It was Diocletian’s hometown and as any good Roman emperor would have it, he had a remarkable looking palace built. Situated along what is now a very cool and groovy promenade, it hosts restaurants and bars and at any point in time during a busy evening, musicians gather to perform in the open square.

Split is a lively town with a nightlife that seems to go on forever. The restaurants are very decent and in Croatia, the big dish is the risotto with blank ink squid. In my opinion, it is not quite as good as its Venetian heritage, but given the fact that this entire Dalmatian Coast was once part of the great Venetian empire, it was not that bad either. The white stone streets and the palace are constructed with Dalmatian stone and all hail from the same quarries that gave us St. Mark’s Square.

Croatia was the second country to successfully apply for EU citizenship after Slovenia – and it shows. There are EU dollars in these hills for sure. Split is a port, a beach resort, a party resort, and a historical heritage site.

The delight of the Croatian coast is that it never really faces the open sea but nestles itself in between beautiful islands that are never too far away. We drove to Trogir to take a boat ride to the Blue Lagoon. Trogir has a beautiful main square, lots of shops, and a great clock tower that reminded me of a mini San Marco. The influences of Venice are everywhere here. Another fun excursion from Split is to take a double ferry ride to Korcula. Both ferries are car ferries and it’s a fun way to experience the Adriatic coastline.

Interestingly, Korcula was the apparent starting out point for Marco Polo as he began his journeys to the East. It is a delightful town and on a beautiful day it’s well worth the visit. It’s Marco’s town after all! Every traveler should tred in the footsteps of the greatest traveler of all. The drive down towards Dubrovnik reminded me of some of the great drives in the world: Big Sur, the Corniche in the South of France, and the drive down to the tip of Cape Horn from Cape Town. It is simply breathtaking. There are lots of impressive places to stop off – the village of Ston being one place that comes to mind. Lots of signs for wild boar along the road although there is not much evidence of boar in the restaurants!

What we did in one day we could have spent a week doing. Eventually we lost the sun and ended up on a high cliff looking down into the Dubrovnik harbor as a huge cruise ship was getting ready to head out. It looked magical in the evening light and was as a tall as the mountains behind it. But cruise ships take their toll and that is another story.

A Day Trip to Mostar

If you are planning on doing a day trip from Sarajevo or Split in Croatia, there is really only one place you should think about, Mostar. We were based in Sarajevo for a few days so this was a natural break for our team. We also wanted to visit Tito’s Secret Bunker. Sarajevo to Mostar is around 2.5 hours – from Split it’s a little longer.

Tito’s Bunker

Who would ever guess that hidden in the forest around an hour away from Sarajevo near a town called Konjic, Tito, the former president of former Yugoslavia, was so convinced that the nukes would be flying that he decided to have a nuke-proof bunker made for him. The project started in the early 1950’s and was completed in 1979, one year before Tito’s death. It was built during the height of the Cold War and was designed to essentially withstand a bomb the size of Hiroshima. It ended up not being much good because by the time the bunker had been completed, the technology for nukes had far superseded the impact of the first iteration of nuclear bombs. Still, he was determined and so convinced there was going to be a war that he built a series of tunnels that could not be detected from the air. They were completely off the grid and this was a state secret that only became public knowledge after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. It is still guarded by the Bosnian military although today it is used as an art exhibition center and a fascinating look into a world that no longer exists. It literally is a time capsule. The people that built it almost certainly “disappeared.” In today’s dollars, it would cost around $26 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for an art installation! There was room for 350 people (family, friends, and military advisors) to live and work and enough food storage for six months.

Entering down the 900 feet through the labyrinth is a bizarre experience. Everything is exactly as it was with the old phones and the Telex machine (it looked a little like our office in 1979!), there were pictures of Tito on the wall, and giant refrigeration and heating generators. Even today, you need to have a pass to get in. There is a security officer that controls the flow of tourist traffic (incidentally there is hardly any) and you need a guide to walk you through the tunnels lest you get stuck in there and everybody goes home for the night. This was a trip, literally. Room after room reminded me of a grandiose version of Churchill’s War Rooms. I loved it but I could not wait to leave. I was getting claustrophobic and we still had to get to Mostar. It’s a must see.

The City of Mostar

The journey to Mostar through wine country was beautiful but nothing could quite prepare us for the walk down to the Neretva River. There was the famous bridge, the Stari Most. According to popular legend, the name Mostar actually means ‘bridge keeper.’ The bridge was built under the auspices of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 and replaced an older wooden suspension bridge that was, allegedly, pasted together with egg whites and pins. Anybody that dared to walk over it risked their life. During the Croat-Bosniak War, the bridge sadly became a victim of warfare. As it was such an iconic site in the city, it was reconstructed using the same local stone that the original bridge was based upon. The entire area of the town on both sides of the bridge including the old bazaar was also reconstructed.

The bridge is one of the great sites of the world. Bizarrely, it’s also famous for its diving competitions and the Red Bull diving competition has taken place on this bridge. It’s scary. We had set up an arrangement with the local dive school in Mostar. There is an annual local diving competition held yearly in mid summer where it’s traditional for expert divers to leap off the bridge. It is 60 feet high and the divers dive into a relatively small, deep patch of freezing water where it’s only 12 feet deep. The complication for divers is that it’s cold, it’s high, and you have to shallow dive otherwise it’s bad news. We had organized with one of the divers to show off his expertise and it was quite a breathtaking moment to see this guy in a wetsuit making the jump.

More than 2,000 people lost their lives in the conflict in Mostar. The constant bombardment was one of the most intense outside of Sarajevo during the Yugoslav Wars. Walking through the reconstructed bazaar today is a delightful shopping expedition. There are restaurants that cling to the cliffs with incredible views back across the bridge. One of the most spectacular views of the bridge is from the top of the mosque. But because the stairway is tiny, it can be super claustrophobic. The best thing to do is to have a small person go up and have them take a picture for you if you happen to be A) Claustrophobic or B) taller than 5’10”.

This is a great town to hang out in, shop, take lunch, but if you can overnight here, it’s super cool because literally the daytime tourists spill out. And there are lots of daytime cruise tourists coming in from Split.