This is the second post in a two part series on Bosnia. Click here to read part one.
Without hesitation, we hopped in our beat up VW and headed down the only highway to Sarajevo. The landscape was sublime – arid mountains rising up on either side of us, sparkling rivers running beside us, the sun shining in the bright blue sky, and hardly any other traffic to speak of. I spent half the time admiring it, and the other half reading the Sarajevo section of my guidebook, figuring out what we should see in such a short period of time.
As we entered Sarajevo from the west, we drove down the infamous Sniper Alley. Along either side are buildings that were heavily damaged during the war, and, due to the struggles of the government and economy in Bosnia, have not been repaired at all. A dilapidated retirement home with the front torn off covered in graffiti and bullet holes, grey communist-era apartment blocks completely covered in bullet holes, the Holiday Inn which housed foreign journalists. I could rattle off a list of the sights we saw, but I feel empty doing that. As I wrote in my journal the next day from Dubrovnik, I said to myself that I didn’t think my words could do it any justice. So much has happened in Sarajevo. I had never been to a place thus far in my travel career that was still so covered in war wounds, still trying to recover almost 20 years after the end of the war, and still with such a long road ahead. The city was such an unexpected surprise. Such a beautiful place, bustling with life, still shining even though parts of it are very run down. The culture is so fascinating; I wish we had given ourselves more time there and I can’t wait to go back someday. I want to see the museums and the memorials and the monuments. I want to eat delicious burek and admire the minarets piercing the sky next to Orthodox and Catholic churches. Continue reading Sarajevo: A city of conflicting emotions→
I sat on the balcony of our guesthouse on our second night in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting on the last day and a half. The call to prayer was ringing out from I don’t know how many mosques simultaneously, echoing around me, in beautifully haunting voices that could lull me to sleep. And then, as the clock struck 9pm, church bells rang. I was writing in my journal, trying to get all of my thoughts out before I lost them, but my brain was moving too fast for my pen. When Dave and I first began planning this Europe trip, Bosnia wasn’t even on our minds, but visiting there was one of the best decisions we made. Continue reading Mostar: A moving introduction to Bosnia→
Driving into Akureyri, the view of the town and the surrounding area is incredibly breathtaking. It sits at the end of a fjord with mountains rising up all around it. The sky was such a brilliant blue and the sun was shining so bright, it made the water twinkle in the most beautiful way.
After we settled into our guesthouse, we headed out to explore Akureyri by foot. We grabbed a couple of beers at the liquor store to sip on while we walked around. Weekends are a busy time at Icelandic liquor stores, as drinking in the bars is very expensive, so people drink at house parties first. But this liquor store was manic. Foreshadowing of things to come. As we walked around the very cute and photogenic town, something struck us both as very odd. It felt like a ghost town, even though it is a fair size by Icelandic standards with over 17,000 residents. Continue reading Alluring Akureyri, cut short→
The next stop on our Europe trip was Croatia, and the best way for us to get to our destination, Split, was to take an overnight ferry from Ancona, on the Adriatic coast of Italy. We had an easy drive, followed by a mildly irritating time returning the rental car and figuring out how to get to the ferry terminal.
As soon as we got off the elevator into the ship’s reception area, everything felt surreal. Even before that. It was surreal as soon as the Russian elevator attendant crammed the two of us plus bags, plus another young couple and their bags, plus another random bag onto the elevator. We were packed so tight. It was so hot. We were only going two floors, so it wasn’t even a time saver at all!
There was music playing on an intercom system all throughout the ship, but not what you would expect. What made the whole place really the pinnacle of bizarre was the 70s rock music playing over the intercom in every part of the ship, including a little speaker in the wall of our room. Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix… “Everybody Must Get Stoned” was playing as soon as we got to the reception area and a middle aged British man behind me was singing along to it. Continue reading Sailing across the Adriatic to my 20th country→
After two uneventful, yet sleepless, flights, Dave and I touched down in Roma. Although the trip from our door to the airport in Rome was 17.5 hours, we decided to rent a car and hit the road right away to get to San Marino, where we were spending two nights. Continue reading My visit to the world’s oldest republic→
The next big stop on our Iceland road trip was the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, in southeast Iceland, just off of Route One between Höfn and Skaftafell. Even though you can still have a fantastic visit without leaving the shore, we really wanted to immerse ourselves in it, so we had booked a Zodiac boat ride long before we left home.
Our ride was booked for 16:30, but we couldn’t contain our excitement and arrived at the lagoon at 15:00. You can start to see some icebergs while you’re still driving on the road. I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement as soon as I saw them. Even the view from the parking lot is incredible.
We decided to check in with our tour before we went down to the shore to take pictures. As we walked up to the trailer for the company we were to take the ride with, the first words out of the staffers mouth were “I have horrible news”. My heart sank. She told us that the icebergs had shifted and were in the way of where their boats launch, and they had been waiting all day for them to move. She suggested we not even come back because they likely wouldn’t be going out. Continue reading Scatter my ashes at Jökulsárlón→
After our snorkeling adventure, we drove the rest of the Golden Circle, seeing some of the most famous sites of Iceland, Geysir and Gulfoss. We stayed the night in a guesthouse on a farm in Flúðir, relaxing in the hot pot and enjoying the incredible view of the mountains and the open green fields with the iconic Icelandic horses grazing quietly. These pony-sized horses are almost like an unofficial mascot for the country. They have the funniest manes of luscious hair and are very friendly. I was really excited to see them, so we spent some time petting them while they nibbled on grass out of our hands.
Our day was full of driving and sightseeing. There’s lots to see on the south coast of Iceland, so we hit some of the highlights on our way to Vík í Mýrdal, or Vík for short.
Seljalandsfoss – Although there are countless waterfalls in Iceland, this tall beauty is special because you can walk all the way behind it. Be careful, it’s slippery!
Eyjafjallajökull – Even if you don’t live anywhere near Iceland, chances are the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in early 2010 affected someone you know. There is now a small visitor’s centre across the road from the volcano, run by the family whose farm sits right at its base but which miraculously didn’t suffer extensive damage. There is a 20-minute movie that is definitely worth watching. It was chilling to look at Eyjafjallajökull, which doesn’t look like much from the visitor’s centre, and contemplate all the damage it did.
Success! After several weeks of planning and fine tuning many options, Dave and I have finalized our itinerary for a European visit this summer.
It was always in our plan to spend time in Italy on this trip. We also wanted to visit Malta as we almost went there on our last European trip but couldn’t make it work. Other ideas included Croatia and Greece. We struggled a little bit making a trip that didn’t include several internal flights and odd routes. After many hours of research and taking dozens of guidebooks out of the library (thanks EPL!), our itinerary looks quite different, and extremely exciting! Here it is: Continue reading Unveiling my Europe 2013 itinerary→
Welcome to my travel blog. I’ve been traveling as much as I can over the past four and a half years. It’s all I think about, almost all I talk about, and it fills my dreams almost every night. Yet starting this blog is a big step for me.