On the 30th of August, we spent half a day in Maastricht, marking the first time I’ve left Belgium since the COVID-19 pandemic. We started the day with a guided tour of the North Caves in the St-Pieters hill, a bit to the south of the city. The first tour of day starts at 11 ‘o clock. We were a bit early, which allowed us to have a coffee and to walk around the ruin of  Fort St-Pieter, offering a nice view over the city’s skyline.

We were part of a small group of 13 people. The guide toured us for about an hour through the man-made labyrinth, showing us charcoal drawings on the walls and the vault created in second world war to protect art from the violence and destruction. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch was rolled up and stored there for three years. We had three lanterns, one for the guide, one for last person and I carried the third one in the middle of the group. Without the lanterns, logically, it’s pitch black which the guide let us experience for a brief moment, to the exaggerated horror of some. Incredible that people have worked in these corridors for centuries, carving marlstone and hauling it out of the depths. Today, there still is one mushroom farm operational.

13th century St. Servatius Bridge over the Meuse river.
The first fossil of a Mosasaurus was found in these caves.

We decided to keep the car parked at the Fort. With €6.50 for a day, it offers quite cheap parking compared to the downtown parking garages. and go on foot to our lunch reservation at Harry’s Restaurant in the city center on the other side of the Meuse river: a nice twenty-something minute walk, which led us along the Jeker river and the Nolens park.

At the restaurant, we stared with some oysters and choice three dishes. These are small/medium sized and the concept of this open kitchen restaurant is that you pick two to five courses out of seven options, to create your own multi-course experience. We settled on three courses each. Only our first course choice was different: gnocchi for me and Beef tataki for TingTing, followed by Red Snapper and Guinea Fowl for both of us. Great meal, very fine, delicious food. I heartily recommend this restaurant.

Saint Jan`s church (not the bookstore)

After lunch we walked the city center visiting the ‘most beautiful bookstore‘ located inside an old church, which is indeed quite nice, and enjoying the overall atmosphere of the city with lot’s of people strolling the shopping streets and enjoying food & drinks on the many terraces. Although these looked inviting, we had a hard deadline to meet with the closing time of our smallest son’s daycare. So we headed back to the car and back to Belgium.

A nice day, in a nice city.


Looking back, I believe that the civil war in former Yugoslavia was one of the first world events I was aware of as a child. I still remember some images of it, that I saw in the news. For me, a symbol of that war is the destruction of the Old Bridge, or Stari Most, in Mostar. So when we were planning a trip along the Dalmatian coast, I wanted to make a small detour to include a visit to Mostar and see its famous bridge, which was reconstructed in 2004.

Stari Most
Stari Most or Old Bridge, Mostar

We rented a car, a white Seat with stickers “try me” on the sides, in Dubrovnik and drove to Mostar. We didn’t had a say in the brand, colour or stickers.

The wall of Ston

Along the way we stopped in the Trsteno Arboretum and Ston, a small town renowned for its oysters and wall, also dubbed the European Great Wall. I must say that while walking on it and climbing the hill it was build along, reminded me of my trip to China and the real Great Wall. A big difference is that the wall in Ston is only around five kilometres long, and thus falls a bit short in the comparison. The oysters however are really good.
The journey from Ston to Mostar is about ninety kilometres but it took us a little over two hours. The shortest route includes three border crossings and a highway, we decided to keep it with one border crossing and take a scenic route from Neum to Mostar, driving on smaller roads through the mountaines landscape. It was beautiful and quite lonely, since we hardly saw other cars. A little after six in the evening we passed the city limits of Mostar.

The guesthouse where we stayed for two nights is on the east bank of the River Neretva, in a narrow one way street. It took us a bit of effort to find, but it has a very central location, close to the interesting parts of the city. A young couple is operating the guesthouse and we were welcomed by the woman of the couple. She gave us some maps and told us how to get to the different sights. I found her genuinely friendly and helpful. The room was simple but ok, with a comfortable soft bed and good, hot shower. I really recommend this place if you’re looking for a place to stay in Mostar.

At this time of year there are not that many tourists in Mostar, it’s not empty, but its less crowded than Dubrovnik. Maybe we were lucky, but the weather was great: blue sky and sunshine with temperatures going up to 28 degrees.

Mostar is special in multiple aspects. It’s skyline contains the minarets of mosques and the towers of churches. Some houses still bear the marks of the war while others are renovated. On average the cars are older than in Western Europe. You notice that it’s a poorer city than Dubrovnik, Split or Zadar. But the people are really friendly. I’ve felt it not only in our guesthouse but also in a bar or in a small shop. The shopkeepers of the many souvenier stalls are also not pushy. Things are cheaper in Mostar: ice cream for 0,50€ a scoop, 2,5€ for half a litre beer with a view on the Stari Most, 40€ for two nights in our guesthouse.

Ten kilometres to the southeast of Mostar is a small village called Blagaj. It is located at the spring of the buna river and is known for the Blagaj Tekjia, a Sufi lodge built around 1520 and now a national monument. The house can be visited and is quite nice.

The highlights of Mostar:

Blagaj Tekke: Dervish monastery in Blagaj, 10km from Mostar
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The Isle of Lopud



In the evening of Sunday the 8th of September I arrived at Italy’s largest airport: Fiumicino. After a short and pleasant flight, only 30 kilometers by train separated me from my destination: Rome. With my luggage in hand, I made my way to the train station, where I saw my train leaving the station on my arrival. I queued for a train ticked and when it was my turn the ticket lady suggested me the use of a shuttle service to Rome instead of the train. It would only cost me a euro extra and I would only have to wait six minutes, not the half hour till the next train. I smelled a tourist trap, but I thought why not: let’s go with the flow and see where it takes me. Six minutes turned out to be 20 but then a man arrived and guided me and seven others to the parking lot where his van was parked. He drove us safely to Rome Termini station through quite heavy traffic and only honked his horn once. Later, I looked up the prizes for the train ticket and it was indeed only one euro cheaper by train. So the ticket lady was no liar only someone with two employers who directs customers from the one to the other.

The night, which had already fallen on the city, hadn’t brought coolness. The streets were emitting the heat they had absorbed during the day. We took the metro to Flaminio. Underground it was not only warm but also very damp. From the metro station it was only a short walk to the hotel, located along the shore of the Tiber river, where Inwould be staying. I arrived there around eleven. My room was at the second floor and its balcony gave me a beautiful view over the river and the Saint Peter’s basilica. It made me feel like exploring, so I went out for a midnight stroll along the river, following it down stream till the nearest bridge. The temperature was dropping to a pleasant level. On my way back, I ended up at the Treebar, they where out of Tiramisu but luckily not out of beer and wine. It’s a nice place in a park between the trees with an interior of glass and wood. Good vibe and ditto service.