Balkan Kismet: Bosnia Transport (Mis)Adventures

Our day had started much like a typical one on the road for us.  We had woken early (it happened to be New Year’s Day) in Mostar, done a bit of perfunctory sightseeing, and were anxious to get back to Sarajevo.  We had only stayed overnight in Sarajevo previously, and were eager to explore the city more thoroughly.  We were thrilled to get dropped off at the bus station just as a bus for Sarajevo was departing.  We threw crumpled bills at the ticket kiosk and boarded the bus to see a group of passengers none-to-thrilled by our shenanigans, costing them time that could be spent going home.

Our transportation in the Balkans previous to this had been smooth, easy, and relatively on-time.  Save the fact that the Sarajevo Airport had been closed for the three previous weeks due to heavy fog in the city.  Apparently this happens every year – a fact that clearly eluded our outdated travel guide.  Luckily for us, however, the skies parted in Sarajevo the day before we arrived.  Until this point, our transportation luck felt like kismet. Read more

Off the Beaten Path in My Google History: July 2016

As a full time employee of Corporate America, I spend a lot more time daydreaming about travel than actually traveling.  I toyed around with the idea last year of posting about the places that take me down wikipedia and travel blog rabbit holes, but with little follow through.  And as I’m kind of spent talking about Southeast Asia for the moment, I couldn’t think of a better time to revisit my various wanderlustings.  So without further ado, find below the five spots keeping me up at night, planning adventures well into the 2020s.

Mozambique

I have never been to Africa.  And while there are a million places I would love to visit there, Mozambique is at the top of the list.  I know a few people who have had the privilege of traveling there and I have only heard amazing things.  From the unspoiled Indian Ocean beaches (the country stretches from South Africa in the south all the way to Tanzania in the north – that’s an impressive coastline), to a fascinating and tragic history of Portuguese colonialism, to the diversity of people found there (like many places on the Indian ocean, trade routes catalyzed cross fertilization of cultures belonging to the nations surrounding the body of water), everything about Mozambique is attractive to me.  There’s even a healthy dose of modernist architecture to be found in the larger cities of Maputo and Beira.

Well, maybe everything but the million hours and several thousand dollars it takes to get there from Seattle.5984289274_0b89e1edfd_z 23533936000_f4703e77f9_z Read more

A Three Hour Tour of Herzegovina’s Finest

I have to be honest with this one.  I did no work to plan what we’d see and not see while in Herzegovina.  The Bosnian portion of our Serbia/Bosnia trip in this past December was a fairly standard itinerary: into Sarajevo, then Mostar, and back to Sarajevo again.  In Mostar we hung around the Old Bridge, and did our best to fend off rather forceful drinking invitations from the sole two patrons of our hotel bar.  Peer pressure doesn’t always work (except when it does).december-balkans-1235jpg_24221982231_odecember-balkans-1141jpg_24304434975_o

It was New Years Eve, and we’d had an absolutely magical day in Mostar – we went to bed before midnight (as we had done in Tbilisi, Georgia a year prior), as we were to wake up early (in Bosnian standards, anyway) to see some key sights around Herzegovina the next day. Read more

Anatomy of a Perfect Travel Day: New Years in Mostar, Herzegovina

I have let my feelings known regarding off season travel (I love it), and nowhere has reinforced my opinion of this more than Mostar, Herzegovina.  Walking through Mostar’s Stari Grad, it’s clear why the place is known to become such a hot tourist mess in the Summer.  The combination of the medieval atmosphere with cheap prices and great food has doomed many places once off the beaten path (looking at you, all of Croatia), and Herzegovina’s largest city is no different.  Day tour buses come in droves from Dubrovnik or Split from Spring to Fall – allowing tourists to spend a couple of hours in Mostar before returning to greater relative comfort  and development on the Adriatic.december-balkans-944jpg_24215588351_o december-balkans-954jpg_24002522610_o december-balkans-973jpg_24215619781_o Read more

The Best Time I Broke My Foot in Sarajevo, Bosnia

David and I are avid runners. Not at the moment, but I’ll get to that soon enough.  Before our trip to Serbia and Bosnia over New Years, we were running around 40 miles a week in preparation for a 50k in one of Washington State’s most beautiful parks.  After successfully completing the race (despite high wind advisories), it was a very quick two weeks recovery before we were on our way back to the Balkans – this time spending most of our time in Belgrade, Serbia and Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Not bad views at the start of the Deception Pass 50k. My first ultramarathon!

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My Favorite Ugly Building: The National Library of Kosovo

I’ll be honest, we ended up in Kosovo on a technicality.  When I spontaneously switched jobs last fall and decided to take an impromptu trip through the south Balkans, we were thinking primarily of Buzludzha.  We tacked on Macedonia to Bulgaria for Skopje’s space age Brutalist masterpieces and the relatively undiscovered Lake Ohrid.  We only ended up in Kosovo because it was cheaper to fly into Pristina than it was to fly into Skopje.pristina-29

But boy were we glad we did.  We spent three days there, between Pristina, Pec, and Prizren, and while we loved the latter two towns, Pristina (bad weather and all) was the Kosovar city to really win us over. Read more

We Need to Talk about Yerevan, Armenia

I’ve put off writing this piece for quite a while now.  It’s been over a year (15 months, in fact) since we were in Yerevan, and part of me hoped the distance from the place would make my heart grow fonder of it.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite the case.  And while I don’t actively dislike Yerevan – we actually had quite a good time there, all things considered – I have become sort of ambivalent about visiting again.  pak-shuka-covered-market-yerevan-armenia_16234624526_o marshrutka-yerevan_16397184971_o lada-yerevan_16398938915_o Read more

Top Markets in Eastern Europe (Flea and Otherwise)

As the title of my blog implies (the kitsch part), I am a collector.  I have mild hoarding aspirations that I attempt to disguise by portraying myself as a discerning collector of random, yet CLASSY things from around the world.  Most of the time, this turns out to be postcards, maps, pins and badges, and antique clothing pieces – among many others (including snow globes).  I’ve written a post or two about this, but thought it would be useful to provide a run down of my favorite markets in Eastern Europe for anyone with an eye for kitschy communist goodies from the former Eastern Bloc.

We’ll start from Tallinn, Estonia, before making our way south to the Balkans, and east to the Caucasus. Read more

The Subotica Synagogue: A Troubled Past in Technicolor

The places that David and I frequent when we travel generally fall into two categories.  The first of places we’ve seen, researched, geeked out over, and fallen into rabbit holes about for months (or years!) leading up to our departure.  Places like Buzludzha, the Hara Submarine Pen, Gergeti Sameba Church in Kazbegi, and Gozo’s Azure Window fall into this category.  The other category is a rarer breed – the kind of place that takes you by surprise.  The type of place that you see on a whim, without expectations or prior biases. 

december-balkans-219jpg_23929763689_o The old Subotica Synagogue is this latter, more elusive type of place. Read more

A Slow Burn for Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia is one of those places I was destined to fall in love with. Everything I knew about it spoke to me on an almost primal level.  It’s home to pristine examples of social realist and brutalist architecture.  Serbian food is amazing – including several types of cheesy carbs.  As the capital of the former Socialist Republic of Jugoslavija, it would be full of markets shilling communist shwag.  I’m in love with gypsy horn music (Brasslands is an amazing documentary everyone should watch).  And all of my favorite bloggers had written about the amazingness of the city – see Yomadic, Silvia at Heart my Backpack, The Bohemian Blog, and Waegook Tom have all sung its praises over the course of the past few years.  december-balkans-729jpg_24297985505_o december-balkans-743jpg_24002381850_o Read more