Skopje, Macedonia!

IMG_0537I was very thankful to be able to visit Macedonia earlier this year with Defne.  We spent two days in Skopje, the capital.  Macedonia is known as the Disneyland of statues. I can understand, however, considering their history, that they would put up quite a few statues of famous Macedonians, which include a completely historically irrelevant man named Philip and his lazy, do-nothing son Alexander, as seen above. But I digress… 🙂

All of this tourist eye candy (and a lot more) were in a short walk of each other, so it was very easy to see everything in the relatively small city center. We had a chance to meet up with some locals and they took us around the town, the people here are really warm and friendly.

I (as usual) also gave the local kitties some love.  This one was very friendly! 🙂

 

Skopje is a good two day visit, and it’s not very expensive.  The currency is the Macedonian dinar and 100 denar equals to $1.87. Best to bring dollars or euros as those are easiest to transfer from one currency to another.  Major items (hotel rooms, etc) are also charged in Euro.   Most of the young people speak English, but many of the older generation does not, as I do recall Defne and I having a little bit of difficulty communicating with the locals.  Since I lived in Croatia, I managed to get by with the Serbo-Croatian I knew, and that was good enough, but if you’re not so fluent in Serbo-Croatian, best to have a phrasebook with you or keep Uncle Google at the ready.

More to come!

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Majestic Plitvice!

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I recently got the opportunity to visit Plitvice lakes, one of the most beautiful national parks in all of Croatia. It was simply an incredible experience, well worth every penny! Plitvice is located about 2 hours south of Zagreb (about 130 km) which made it a nice day trip.  Here’s a mini map:

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And without further ado, the PARK!  I suggest allotting yourself 3-6 hours for it, depending on how much you want to see.  The cost of admittance depends on which time of the year you decide to go. If you go off season, you will pay much less than if you want to go during “the Season” , which is from April until September.  Prices can be seen here.

Now for the breathtaking photos!

There are trains that will take you to certain areas of the park, but for the most part, it’s a whole lot of walking. Be prepared and take drinking water and some very comfortable walking shoes. It can get very crowded during the summer months, as well as very hot. Unfortunately swimming is not allowed here. If you are visiting Croatia this is definitely worth a visit. So glad I got the chance!

See you soon, more to come!

Tel Aviv– Food, Fashion and Felines!

After 3 amazing days in Jerusalem, Defne and I spent another 2 days in Tel Aviv.  I have so much love for this city. The beach and the way the city is constructed reminds me a lot of San Francisco, my hometown,  so I felt quite at home in Tel Aviv. The weather was very overcast, as it was February, but during the day the temperature rose to the mid 60s  so it was very nice to be outdoors, although it was still too chilly to in the evenings to walk around without a heavy jacket. Here are a few gorgeous beach shots…

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The secondhand fashion was amazing, I really went crazy going to all of the stores. This was my favorite one:

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Scored this amazing tunic there… still my main go-to for summer wear or for layering in the spring/fall.  It says “Stop, Play, Pause”

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There was another store in downtown Tel Aviv where I bought this AMAZING pair pants and jacket combo…and yes, my animal-loving PETA obsessed readers, the pants are MOCK leather, but it looks just like the real thing but they were way more stretchy and comfortable!  They weren’t cheap, but they were worth every penny… I mean shekel!

 

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Of course the evenings by the beach were very chilly… time for soup and traditional delicious Israeli Sahlab! Just what the doctor ordered!

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Tel Aviv also has some AMAZING Asian food… this was some of the tastiest and strangest sushi I have ever tried, but it was simply fantastic!  Have you ever seen sushi like this?

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After dinner I went back to the hotel on the beach to walk and chill a bit.  And the cats were out… everywhere!  Some were quite friendly! Those who know me know that I am an avid cat lover, so I always am happy to give the local felines some love.

 

Tel Aviv was wonderful and I hope to return one day soon. It was quite the contrast of historical Jerusalem,  but a welcome contrast as after 3 days of history I was ready for some beach, shopping, good food, and cats, and Tel Aviv did not disappoint!  Went back to Croatia with a very heavy heart indeed and a full belly!

More to come!

 

Jerusalem, Oh Jerusalem!

Sorry for being out of touch for awhile everyone, I have gone through a lot of changes lately… my contract and my residency ended in Croatia ended in June, therefore I left the country after a little more traveling. I’m currently in Tirana, Albania, but more about that later. I want to do a brief blog post about my trip to Israel, Jerusalem especially. It had been a dream of mine to go for awhile and I’m finally glad I got the opportunity. I went with my really good friend and fellow California girl Defne.  We went to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and had an amazing time.  Here are a few photos and captions of the highlights of the trip….

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The famous Dome of the Rock. We were not allowed to enter because apparently there was some Muslim holiday on the day we went and only Muslims were allowed to enter during that time, which was regrettable, so I had to take this amazing photo with a zoom lens.

Continue reading “Jerusalem, Oh Jerusalem!”

Dubrovnik! (Finally)

After calling Croatia home for nearly a year now, I’ve finally gotten the chance to visit Dubrovnik, (one of) the home(s) of Game of Thrones. It is a breathtakingly beautiful city with beautiful coast lines and a stunning old town. The winter weather is actually pretty good with temps reaching 15c during the day, but it’s quite chilly at night, around 5-6c. January is quite boring as many of the shops and restaurants are closed; most of their shops run seasonally. Everything’s open in the summer and closed in the winter. But lack of good shopping aside, that doesn’t detract from the insane beauty of the city. Here are some more shots….

I almost expect to see little Tyrian Lannister walking down these stairs with his older brother Jaime…. yes I am too much of a nerd, I’ll admit it. LOL. But the city itself is grossly underrated when it comes to its sheer beauty. In spite of this, however, I don’t see myself living here. It is probably the most expensive city in all of Croatia but there is simply not as much to do here…, and during the summers it’s so busy and packed with tourists one can’t even walk down the streets without bumping into other people en masse. In addition, there no good secondhand to speak of. I went to desigual and found this gem of a dress…

…but the locals say that everyone goes to split or Zagreb to go shopping, which I believe because of the lack of good clothing stores I’ve seen so far here. Oh well, one can’t have it all I guess. I’m back home to Zagreb tonight and back to the daily grind– teaching– tomorrow. Been a pretty great weekend. Here are a few more lovely shots of the city….

Sarajevo.

Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia was so unKIND! (All apologies to the Cranberries for changing their song).

Hello dear readers.

It’s been awhile, but I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t drop a few lines about my trip to Sarajevo. I took a weekend off and decided to take the long bus ride from Zagreb to Sarajevo. I will probably never take the bus there again unless there is one that goes direct. The bus I took there via getbybus took nearly 9 hours. Border crossing wasn’t too bad (certainly stricter leaving Croatia than entering Bosnia) but after that the bus stopped in nearly every city on the way to Sarajevo to pick up other passengers or for rest/food stops, etc adding nearly another 2 hours to the trip. We arrived nearly 2 hours later than we were supposed to. However I cannot say enough about the beauty of Bosnia! While driving, we were surrounded by beautiful lakes and mountains, it was really breathtaking! Here is one picture from the bus, but of course it doesn’t do it justice.

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Sarajevo is a very hilly city, my hostel was way up in the hills, so it took me awhile to find it. Thankfully google maps now works even if you don’t have any internet which I didn’t. I stayed in Hostel Kucha, shout out to Mujcic who manages the place. He is one of the absolute sweetest, coolest young men I have ever met. He allowed me to check in late and showed me to my dorm and all was well.
The second day I woke up early to spend the entire day in the center. I got in trouble in the hostel telling the female manager that Bosnian coffee was “Turkish style.” Having spent a year in Turkey and having the coffee there I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between Bosnian coffee and Turkish coffee with taste and texture, but according to the manager, it’s made in a different way from Turkish coffee therefore it isn’t. However the Ottoman Turks I believe introduced coffee to Bosnia, if I’m not mistaken (correct me if I’m wrong here, historians), but okay, it’s still different. It looked and tasted nearly the same to me, however that’s probably because I’m not a coffee drinker in general, so maybe I just don’t know. Anyway, moral of story, no matter how similar you may think Bosnian coffee is to Turkish coffee, don’t compare them to each other if you don’t want to tick Bosnian people off. I’ve learned my lesson!

Went to the center after and walked around all day. To me Sarajevo is a true love child of Europe and Turkey. I went to the bazaar and thought I had transformed back to Turkey. Everything felt like Turkey to me. Here are some shots…. it’s an absolutely breathtaking city. I also ate Borek, and the famous Cevapcici.

 

I went shopping, too. They have a Textile house second hand store just like in Croatia, and I bought a few pre-loved items there.

Later in the afternoon/evening I met up with my friend Nick. We had dinner and coffee in a mall and he gave me the ins and outs of Sarajevo and the general overall culture and mindset of the people, and his life there as an English teacher, and I was especially interested in his life being a minority there. It was a very interesting conversation. I didn’t see many other people of color there, one tourist Asian group, but that is all really. Even everyone in my hostel was from Europe, Ukraine, etc. Of course since it is October it isn’t exactly tourist high season, however I was surprised. Still everyone I met there was nice and welcoming. I spoke as much Croatian as I could to service people so I had no trouble in this department.

When I arrived back at the hostel that evening Mujcic was there again working. He gave me his perspective on the war years earlier. He was born right after the war ended but he told me about many stories concerning his parents and older sister and how they managed to survive. I was really riveted to the spot as he was speaking about the terrible things that were happening to the people of Sarajevo during that time, bombs, snipers, and the like, and how it was so dangerous to go outside of your house He showed me a map in the hostel about how the Serbian forces surrounded the city and they happened to live close to the front lines. It’s really amazing how his family survived and how it’s crazy and overwhelming to think that with the slightest change of some fortunate events that happened… wouldn’t be here telling his family’s story today. It’s just amazing the incredible survival stories of the people of Sarajevo and how strong they are. And this all happened in my lifetime. I remember seeing many things about Sarajevo on the news but I was a child at the time myself and didn’t understand what I was seeing and its significance. I am happy I was able to get my accounts from the actual people of Sarajevo who lived through it than from American journalists simply there to do a job but having no real connection to Sarajevo or its people.

Sarajevo was wonderful and I hope to return at least one more before I leave the Balkans for good. I wasn’t able to go to the museum of crimes against humanity in Sarajevo and I regret not being about to do that.

More to come: Heading to Zadar now for a 2 day trip to the Croatian coast. Thankfully this trip is 3.5 hours, direct, with no border crossings. Yes!

Eindhoven. s’Hergotenbosch and shopping in both places!!

Dmitri, a A friend of mine I had met in Amsterdam, invited me down south to Eindhoven, so I happy availed myself of the opportunity to visit. I had been there before, but only in the airport, I had never seen the city center.  It was a nice little spot to visit. Eindhoven is home to the Dutch Philips company, and there are a lot of current and old Philips factories in Eindhoven. My friend and I went out for dinner but I honestly didn’t see very much of the picture worthy city, hence, a lack of pictures for Eindhoven Still it was pleasant enough.  The next day however we took a day trip up to s’Hergotenbosch (more commonly called Den Bosch, ask a local Dutch person to pronounce it for you. As for the ‘s at the beginning of the name, apparently the Dutch, when talking about a possessive noun, put the ‘s at the beginning, not the end of the word, which is the complete opposite of English.), meaning “The Duke’s forest.”  It was a lovely little city with nice churches and great shopping!

Shopping certainly didn’t disappoint either… they had a variety of wonderful shops down their side streets. One in particular I tried on a lot of a little gems but ended up taking home this amazing jumpsuit. The picture doesn’t do it justice:

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It’s absolutely gorgeous.

I eventually had to go back to Eindhoven to meet a dear, old friend of mine that I haven’t seen in like 4 years so while I was waiting I went to the local H&M and tried on these gems:


I didn’t buy anything but it was nice to try on a few. My favorite was by far the black mesh skirt…

After shopping, I met up with two old dear friends of mine. I actually met them in Miami at Nikki Beach when I was there celebrating my my 30th birthday, and I’ve been keeping in contact with them ever since. Both hail from the Netherlands but have lived and have traveled all over, not unlike myself.  They were in town for the football match and we met up after that for dinner and caught up.   They invited me up to Arnhem with them to take a look at their office and some of their businesses, and of course I couldn’t say no….

But this is another post entirely. More to come. Stay tuned!

Amsterdam. Rotterdam. Haarlem.

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Haarlem.

It’s nearly been a week now since I’ve been back in The Netherlands. I really do love this country. The Dutch are really really classy and polite and they all speak English fantastically, probably due to the fact that, like the Croats, they don’t dub their English programming into Dutch but watch it subtitled in English. The Dutch have a really high standard of living. Things here are very expensive but generally, top quality. The bike is the preferred form of transportation, though they have a good bus and metro system for those 1% of their citizens and visitors, like me, who haven’t a clue about the fine art of bike riding. The bikes you see in Amsterdam are really amazing… Whole families come together for tour de force cycling.  Case in point:

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However this concept probably wouldn’t go over so well in the states, as the bikers and the cars share a street and it’s a lot more dangerous say biking in San Francisco. No parents would ride a bike on the streets with their kids, submitting them to the road rage of aggressive drivers. But in Amsterdam they have amazing bike lanes planted firmly in between the sidewalk and the street so both pedestrians and drivers can stay happy.

My time in Amsterdam went by in a BLUR, I hate to say it, I was sick for most of the time, unfortunately. The weather kept changing and I also ate something funky the day after I came and spent the better part of 48 hours throwing up and trying to work whatever it was out of my system, leaving little if any time for sightseeing, so this is why there is a lack of pictures from Amsterdam. I was still feeling slightly ill after arriving in Rotterdam. My trip there too was cut short because my hostess had to go to Belgium earlier than expected, meaning I had to leave too. I did however grab a few shots of the city as well as tried on this really cute jumpsuit.

I arrived in Haarlem today, feeling 90% well again, and am totally amazed by this city. I like Haarlem far more than Amsterdam. More locals, FAR less tourists, and it’s still a breathtaking city.  If I were to move anywhere in the Netherlands it would be Haarlem. Here are some shots to wow you.

 

I will return to Amsterdam briefly this weekend and will either go to Luxembourg or directly to Munich, depending on finances and schedule. Munich will be the last leg of the trip before returning to Croatia. I am tired and nearly ready to go home. I need to go back to work. I’m getting bored. I miss the sun and warmth of Zagreb, which will still be nice deep into September.
The weather has turned lovely even in Holland, too. For the past few days, I haven’t even needed a jacket during the afternoons. I think the warmer weather is helping to speed my recovery.

More to come soon. 😀

Hamburg

Spent a brief 2.5 days in the second biggest city in Germany, Hamburg. It’s a lovely little city, and the second city in Germany I’ve visited so far. I like it so much more than Berlin. Berlin is a huge busy city like NYC or London and the people are rather cold and indifferent. The flavor of Hamburg is much more friendly. It’s a very diverse city with a beautiful city center.   The first day I came it rained all evening so I wasn’t able to really sighsee. Thankfully the weather on the 2nd day was much nicer so I was able to do some sightseeing and shopping.  I will leave you with some photos and highlights:

 

It’s really a lovely city; if I had to choose between living in Berlin and living in Hamburg I totally would choose Hamburg, as it’s smaller and a bit more accessible.  I still managed to get lost on the U-bahn though and take the wrong line. But it wasn’t nearly as much as I got lost in Berlin.  I can’t wait to compare both Berlin and Hamburg with Munich that probably will be my last stop before returning home to Zagreb.

Now time for a quick hamburger dash here in Hamburg before running off to the Netherlands.

More to come.

 

Reflections of returning to Poland.

Being back in Warsaw, which was my home for over a year, is just… surreal. It just feels strange being here…. wonderful, but strange…

Many have said that when you travel you learn a lot about yourself, and that couldn’t be any more true. I realize, only now, that even when I travel somewhere I consider home I feel like I should not consider myself on vacation but I should be off doing something productive. This morning when I woke up and realized that I was in Warsaw, I felt like I shouldn’t be on vacation. I feel that I should be running to be with a student or to teach a class or something like that, which was generally my life when I lived here last year.  I cannot help but feel like teaching is what I should be doing since I am here in Warsaw. It’s actually a nagging feeling inside. It’s the same that when I’m in my hometown, San Francisco, I can’t be home for more than a few days without thinking I need to be working or doing something productive.  I don’t really consider myself that much of a workaholic. I know people who make zero time for friends and family; they are always in the office or otherwise occupied in the pursuit of making money.  But I’m not like that. I always make time for doing what I want to do or to spend time with people I find important in my life. Yet and still I feel like being idle is a bad thing when I could be doing so much work here and did for over a year.

I just realized last night that this is the first time in my life I ever returned to a city (not counting my hometown) where I spent at least a good year of my life working, building structure, and a community.  Ever since leaving, I have not yet been back to New York, Istanbul, Izmir, or Salerno, where I lived and worked before now, but I have a feeling if I did, my heart will pull me back to the same type of routine I had before.  I guess I must be happy working? I guess I am blessed to work in education where going to work to me is a joy, a privilege, though challenging as well.

The bug to work is so bad I’ve even contacted some of my old students here and arranged meetings (unpaid, of course) with them where I can check in on them to see how their English is progressing… today I’m meeting one former student at his office for a half an hour chat, meeting one tonight as well… just for a catch up chat, and will be meeting others too. Am I obsessed with my old life?

My year in Poland was definitely one of if not the best of my life, and I guess maybe psychologists would say I’m just feeling nostalgia and yearning for this year and time back, and now that I’m here again I feel like I should be doing the same things now as I did then. I probably will feel the same way every time I visit Croatia, after I leave, or Izmir or Istanbul too.   I feel like I’ve come back home after a long extended vacation and my working schedule should continue as normal…. Crazy. I need to snap myself out of this and just enjoy myself and have a good time on vacation but I don’t know if I actually can.

Does anyone feel the same?  If anyone has ever visited a place again after they lived many years there, how was it? How did you feel? Did you feel you should have the same or a similar routine again that you did when you were there? Did it simply feel weird, strange, or surreal to you?  What changed?  What stayed the same?

I’ve decided I want to live in Poland again, at least for half a year at a time. I am just so in love with Warsaw. The city is really amazing. One day, one day…. somehow I will.

More to come.