One Last Glance Back: Piran Cafe’s Top Posts and Pics of 2016

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

As year-end reviews go, this one is a bit late.

I decided last month that this year’s look back on 2016 wouldn’t begin until the year was actually over. You know, to allow the flames of the tire fire and train wreck that the year was to finally burn out.

In hindsight it was a good decision; I was planning to open with a vignette about a mid-spring visit to Istanbul, with keen observations about how the massive city’s already heavy melancholy was growing even heavier from the steady influx of terrorist attacks that continue to hit the country in general and the city in particular. Then came the New Year’s Eve attack where more than 40 people celebrating that 2016 was finally going away were gunned down in a nightclub on a Bosporus shore.

I don’t want to dwell on that –or the political madness that the year wrought– but I only brought it up as an example of how hard it was for a difficult year to finally die. And how events outside of our control can so swiftly change our perceptions of place and time.

The memories associated with both the image at top, of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque snapped from the rooftop of a nearby restaurant, and the one immediately below, of a young server at a modest restaurant in the city’s Fatih neighborhood, have taken on different meanings to me over the course of the past eight months, looked at and remembered in vastly different ways each time events in Istanbul captured the headlines.

Especially that of the young man, whose face now represents in my mind, that of an otherwise anonymous victim of a heinous crime who’s usually forgotten before they’re even remembered. It’s a way of humanizing and connecting those we cross paths with, even if briefly, with those impacted by the events around us. Through that, so the hope goes, a way to begin bringing us all just a little bit closer together. That’s critically important in a time when we’re increasingly being torn further apart. I hope he, and family operating the rooftop restaurant with this sublimeview of the Blue Mosque are doing well.

Afteroon daydream at a fast food restaurant Istanbul
Restaurant server, Akdeniz Caddesi, Fathi, Istanbul, April 2016


In my corner of the universe, insignificant as it is, 2015 was guided by themes of displacement –mostly that of others, but my own, to a much lesser degree, as well. Humanity was on the move and I found myself surrounded by that forced migration wherever I went: Colombia, Lebanon and here is Slovenia.

By comparison, last year was almost the polar opposite, time spent trying to settle down –as much as I can– after three years of near continuous travel. The feeling of belonging –in a place, in a community, in a relationship– returned stronger than ever. It was invigorating, energizing and inspiring. Not always here on the site, where other things continue to get in the way of the best laid and well-intentioned plans, but in other aspects of my life, both professional and personal. That conspired to add a different dimension to both my travels and to the time spent on Piran Café over the past year, a welcome one.

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Travel-wise 2016 included two more working visits to Doha and Qatar; return trips to Istanbul, Oslo, Lausanne and Monaco; further exploration to nearby northern Adriatic destinations in Croatia’s Istrian peninsula; and 10 days on northern Poland. That was in addition to more roaming about in new and favorite spots here at home in Slovenia. I know I’m leaving out a few but the latter roaming proved to be some of the most memorable.

Here on the website, 2016 was Piran Café’s best year numbers-wise, finally surpassing 2007, my blog’s first full year, when nearly 40,000 visits just that January –primarily to this post about the Amazonian candiru, a fish that swims into and firmly lodges itself inside an unsuspecting swimmer’s penis– skewed my stats forevermore. And yes, it came down to the final day, so I guess I have leap year to thank.

Dandy Dozen Images For 2016

Nearly each year since this blog’s unceremonious beginnings in late December 2006, I’ve ended the calendar year by cobbling together a selection of my favorite images from the previous 12 months. I can’t say this is a definitive top-12 list, but they’d all fall on the short list.

In no particular order:

Triglav from the air, November 2016
Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak, from the air through a dirty window at sunrise, November 2016
An Asylum seeker carries a balloon that reads Life Beautiful
An Afghan asylum seeker and his balloon at a demonstration in Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2 April 2016
Church above the clouds: in the village of Osredek pri Dobrovi, near Ljubljana, Slovenia
Church above the clouds: in the village of Osredek pri Dobrovi, near Ljubljana, Slovenia
Crocus field in Ljubljana
Crocus field in my backyard. Ljubljana, March 2016
Desert sunrise over the Persian Gulf near Khor Al-Adaid in southern Qatar
Desert sunrise over the Persian Gulf near the Khor Al-Adaid, or inland sea, in southern Qatar, February 2016
Slovenia's Julian Alps at Twilight
Slovenia’s Julian Alps at Twilight, September 2016. The site’s 1,000th straight daily Pic du Jour.
Man at a Bedouin style camp in the Arabian desert in Southern Qatar
Man at a Bedouin style camp in the Arabian desert in Southern Qatar, February 2016
Soca River near Kobarid Slovenia 1
Soca River near Kobarid, Slovenia, July 2016
Museum of Islamic Art Doha
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, 07 May 2016
Oslo Opera House at Sunset
Bicyclists on the roof of the Oslo Opera House, June 2016
Tram on Gdanska street, Bydgoszcz, Poland
Tram on Gdanska street, Bydgoszcz, Poland, July 2016
Snail on a flower Slovenia
Snail on a flower, Soca River valley, Slovenia, July 2016
Afternoon frost, Lake Bohinj
Afternoon frost, Lake Bohinj, Triglav National Park, Slovenia, December 2016

Top-10 Posts for 2016

What did most of you read?

Unlike the very subjective photo selection above, this one is based simply on the number of views during the last calendar year, so let’s just cut to the chase.

For the most part, I’m again very pleased with what wound up on this list. If you missed any, I suggest you pour yourself a big mug of tea or (preferably) a generous glass of wine, sit back, click away and enjoy. Most should be self-explanatory.

10. A Park at the Planet’s Edge: Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park. A brief guide to a park at South America’s southernmost tip.

Lapataia Bay, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
Lapataia Bay, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

9. How Ljubljana, Slovenia Became the 2016 European Green Capital. A dispatch from home. Slovenia’s capital has a long way to go on the road to true green sustainability, but it’s got a solid plan in place. And it’s good to celebrate how much it’s achieved in a relatively short period of time.

8. Sunrise Drive to Khor Al Adaid: Pre-dawn Dune Bashing Near Southern Qatar’s Inland Sea. 4am wake-up calls don’t come easy and they’re rarely recommended. This one is.

A man contemplating the sunrise at the Khor Al-Adaid in southern Qatar
My guide at sunrise at the Khor Al-Adaid in southern Qatar

7. On the Photoshopped Fictions of Steve McCurry. Thoughts on the legendary photographer, the one who gave us the Afghan Girl twice, and his sloppy relationship with the truth.

6. Report: Ljubljana’s TopVino International Wine Festival – Slovenia Wine Notes. A report on the best event I attended in Ljubljana in 2016. Glasses of successive vintages of Chateau Pontet-Canet don’t get passed around every day.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 29 at TopVino 2016 in Ljubljana
100 years old. Tesseron Cognac Lot 29 at TopVino 2016 in Ljubljana

5. Eleven Minutes With Tori Bowie. A brief candid photo shoot last May with US sprinter Tori Bowie who later in the summer would win three Olympic medals in Rio.

4. Layover in Doha? Here’s the Only ‘Top Five Things To Do List’ You’ll Ever Need. Seriously. It is.

Mounted Police Patrol Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar
Mounted Police Patrol Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar

3. Former CIA Officer Amaryllis Fox on Learning to Listen to Your Enemy. See note in intro about humanizing each other.

2. Leaving Drama Behind. A Pic du Jour of a few bicyclists that really caught on.

Bicyclists leaving Drama, Slovenia
Bicyclists leaving Drama, Slovenia

1. Reciprocity and Visa Fees in South America: A Regularly Updated Guide. Practical info that’s hard to find in one place, still regularly updated. Bloggers take note.

And while we’re at it: number two overall over the past 12 months? 11,000km Later: an Osprey Sojourn 25 Review – my go-to travel bag that I still use regularly four years later. And number three?  Hiking Patagonia’s Fitz Roy Trail: El Chalten Day Hike 1 – a description of a place that I’d love to return to, that bag in hand.

Oh, and this: my Pic du Jour daily travel picture project hit 1,000 straight days in September, with today’s serving admirably as the 1,101st straight. I rock, huh?

Looking Ahead

I try to shy away from public pronouncements (aka promises) that I can’t keep, so won’t start now. I will only say that as was the case last year, I do plan to devote more time to the site in 2017.

On the travel side of things, for the moment I’m really looking forward to a trip to Uganda in March (country #56!) and a return to The Bahamas for the first time since a spontaneous spring break visit during the mid-Reagan years. I wonder how much its changed?

As I mentioned, 2016 has been the site’s best year, a trend I hope will continue in 2017. As always, many thanks for visiting, reading, commenting, sharing and spreading the word. Please don’t stop. Your interest and support means more than you can possible know.


Bob R and Falcon in Doha
Yes, it’s apparently impossible to make a blindfolded falcon look at the camera. Doha, Qatar, 03-May-2016



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  1. nomad, interrupted says

    What a wonderful series of photos; I have been following you for a long time on my Reader, but I think I need to subscribe as I forget to look at my Reader!! Anyway, I need to go visit your posts, especially those about Slovenia; I’m interested in traveling there and Croatia. I’m so glad I stopped by for this post. 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks for stopping by, much appreciated. Get in touch when you’re preparing to come this way, will be delighted to answer any questions or help out in any way. Better yet, stay in touch. 🙂 Happy 2017!

      1. nomad, interrupted says

        I certainly will do just that. Thanks for the offer. Happy year ahead to you too! 🙂

  2. Brad Nixon says

    Congrats, Bob, and thank you. The travel descriptions and photos are superb, but your perspective is what distinguishes this cafe from others in a crowded world. FYI, the “like” for WordPress isn’t showing up in my feed lately, so you’re getting comments from me to let you know how much I appreciate your work. As for that glass of wine, sigh, I’m stuck with tea now, having left wine behind in the past. I’m happy to watch others appreciate it who may. Avanti.

    1. Bob R says

      Brad, really appreciate the kind words. It was great meeting you and Mary here last year. Here’s hoping that our real paths will cross soon, too. Cheers!

      1. Brad Nixon says

        We certainly owe it to ourselves to discover SOMETHING of the world south of Austria, east of Italy! You might inspire us.

  3. Les Petits Pas de Juls says

    Gorgeous set of pictures and reminder of your best writings. It’s always great to see you work and learn from your travels as you have that particular journalistic viewpoint that I find refreshing, objective, open-minded and true. Thanks for showing what others don’t, for being respectful and always choosing to show and talk about what’s close to your heart.
    Happy new year to you too, happy travelling, discovering, meetings, shootings! Happy trails and happy life!

    1. Bob R says

      Merci Juli – you’re much too kind. (Don’t stop. 🙂 ) I trust you’re enjoying the winter in Mexico. Cheers!

      1. Les Petits Pas de Juls says

        Never too kind to others! 😉 I won’t stop…
        Winter in Mexico is soooooo nice! Yes, I enjoy it fully and will do so even more once we’re back working on the beach early February.

        Where have your travels taken you now?

        1. Bob R says

          Since I’m not near a warm beach, for me winter is for skiing (while I still can 🙂 ). Dolomites next week. Pretty sure I’ll be going to Uganda for a couple weeks in late March. Very much looking forward to that.

          1. Les Petits Pas de Juls says

            Skiing is so much fun! I’ll enjoy the beach for you and you’ll enjoy skiing for me! 😉 Dolomites sound awesome and so does Uganda… Are you going to see the gorillas?

          2. Bob R says

            Not sure yet, but quite likely. Will start mapping out the plan in the next week or two.

          3. Les Petits Pas de Juls says


  4. GeorgieMoon says

    Wow, you’ve been to so many places! Looking forward to reading of your 2017 adventures. Great photos as usual. And I’m definitely itely going to visit some of your posts that I missed, thanks for the links.

  5. Anonymous says

    Love all the photos Bob. I have shared your photos with my daughter who has the urge to see the world. She gets inspired every time she sees your pictures.
    Not likely that I would ever see any of the places you photograph but I feel like I have by viewing and reading your blog. We have hosted many exchange students over the years , mostly from Germany. I hope to at least get there someday. Have you ever been to Australia? I would love to someyday have the opportunity to explore the land down under.

    Happy and safe travels for 2017!

    1. Lisa Thiedemann says

      Sorry, didn’t enter my name

      1. Bob R says

        Thanks, Lisa. Very much appreciated. No, I haven’t been to Australia; that’s an area my finer half and I will hopefully explore together. All the best to you and yours as well in 2017.

  6. Greg says

    Great recap and, as always, wonderfully soulful photos. Here’s wishing you a fantastic 2017 Bob.

    1. Bob R says

      And to you as well, Sir. Looking forward to keeping up with your upcoming exploits. Cheers!

  7. Mick Canning says

    No, hardly a great year. But a year of great posts, thanks, Bob.

  8. Tanja says

    happy 2017!

  9. Pam Fossett Wilson says

    Nice! 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks, Pam, and thanks for checking it out. Much appreciated.

  10. Tonkin - Travel Vietnam says

    Your blog is really inspiring and informative. I hope that you will travel to Asia and write some articles talking about your experience there.

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