Happy Pizza and Khmer Karaoke in Kampot, Cambodia

We ended up in Kampot after I had a hipster traveler existential crisis.  Feeling like we weren’t going anywhere truly “off the beaten path,” I opted to cut our time short in Koh Rong Samloem by a day to spend a night in the relative backwater (at least, compared to Siem Reap and Bangkok) of Kampot, in southern Cambodia.

We wanted to have a laid back 24 hours in a laid back town before heading to less-laid back Siem Reap, and Kampot turned out to do just the trick. DSC_0051 (3) DSC_0083 (2) DSC_0095 (2) 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

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

Balkans, Baltics, and Caucasus, Oh My! 2015 in Review

So I know that the time for year in review posts has come and long gone, but, like your hoarder neighbors who leave the Christmas wreath up until Spring, I too have put off this seminal blogging event.  Blah blah, working 50-60 hours a week, I won’t give you excuses so you don’t have to read them.  Instead, let me jump right into a recap of what became my most eventful year in travel ever.

Tbilisians are not afraid of a little color.
Tbilisi, Georgia
Exploring Tbilisi in Winter allowed us to avoid the tourist hordes.
Tbilisi, Georgia

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Training while Traveling: Running in Sofia, Bulgaria

I don’t talk about it much here, but in the list of hobbies that form the foundation of my adult identity, fitness ranks pretty highly.  In fact, after puppies and travel, I’d say fitness, and running in particular, is a close third.

David and I run several distance events every year, ranging from half marathon to ultramarathon distance, so staying fit when we travel is important to us.  That isn’t to say that we actually do train when we travel, but rather we usually think aloud about how we aren’t doing it, then proceed to stuff additional cheesey carbs into our face holes.  After all, the base of the traveler’s food pyramid is cheesey breads, am I right?

Wait, is this post about running? Cheesy carbs? The latter, please.
Wait, is this post about running? Cheesy carbs? The latter, please.

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Soviet Architecture in Vilnius, Lithuania

While Vilnius, Lithuania is a destination known for its sprawling old town, abundance of churches, and quirky Užupis Republic, its well preserved examples of Soviet architecture is what enticed me most prior to our trip (and the shopping, but I’ve already written about that).  I make no attempt at hiding my affinity for the style (if one can even call it a style…), and whenever I travel in the Eastern Bloc (which is almost every time I travel these days), I do some heavy scouting on what Soviet or Communist-era relics remain in my chosen destinations.

So, as a preface, let me say Vilnius is mostly known for things like this:Gediminas Hill, pretty. Read more

Pärnu, Estonia Stole our Hearts

My boss at my last job spent two years in the Peace Corps in Estonia in the 1990s, and when I told her my now husband and I were planning  a trip to the Baltic States for our honeymoon, she couldn’t stop singing praises for Pärnu.  I thought, better listen to the expert, and include it in our Baltic itinerary, even if for a short stopover on our way into Latvia.  Honeymoon Jpegs-277

And thus, Pärnu was a brief stop on our whirlwind Baltic Road Trip Honeymoon™ this past summer.  We stopped there for an extended lunch and wander period in between Saaremaa and the Gauja National Park.  We were a bit down in the dumps about not having enough time in Saaremaa to properly explore, and had planned to only stop for a quick lunch.  But, as it happens when one visits a place truly unburdened by unrealistic expectations, we ended up loving Pärnu!Honeymoon Jpegs-271 Read more

Karosta, Latvia – The Baltic States’ Urbex Mecca

I am a fledgling urban explorer.  Urban exploration, or urbex in shorthand, is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property (thanks, Wikipedia!).   Urbex is becoming more and more popular as a mainstream travel interest, evident by this year’s induction of cultural industrial complexes to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.Honeymoon Jpegs-384 Honeymoon Jpegs-397

My interest in urbex started with our visit to Chiatura in Georgia last year, and is largely intertwined with my interest in Soviet/Communist era brutal (and largely abandoned) architecture. The former Soviet states are an urban explorers dreams, with many former Soviet military and government buildings empty for the exploring.  So when we (let’s be real, when I), started planning our Baltic Road Trip Honeymoon™, I knew urbex would figure prominently into our plans.  You can read posts I’ve written on urbex in Estonia in Tallinn and in the nearby Lahemaa National Park. Read more