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.
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.
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
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. Read more
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 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.
The old Subotica Synagogue is this latter, more elusive type of place. Read more
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. Read more
In the flurry of spontaneous excitement that comprised planning our first Bitchin’ Balkans adventure in October of last year, we added a night in Ohrid, thinking that three nights in Skopje might be a little excessive. We’re fans of nature, and thought that a night on one of Europe’s oldest lakes would be a good counterbalance to the concrete architecture peeping we’d be doing in Pristina, Kosovo, Skopje, Macedonia and Sofia, Bulgaria.
It was one of those rare moments in our travels when we arrived in a place with very few expectations. David had spent much of our previous bus rides on the trip crippled by motion sickness, and I had yet to get completely acclimated to Balkan time. The few images of Ohrid that I had seen had been very captivating, but I hadn’t developed a solid feel about what to expect from the place. For those of us able to look outside on the bus ride, the main line between the two cities afforded some impressive views, and a rest stop about halfway between the cities provided some much needed cheese filled burek – a Balkan staple. Read more
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but have put it off because I’m not quite sure how to unpack my feelings about Buzludzha. Have you ever seen pictures of a place, and become so captivated by it that you are compelled to see it in person? Even if, when you are first exposed to that single image, you have no idea where that place is? And, when you follow clues and finally discover where it is, its remoteness doesn’t deter you, or even compels you further into obsession? The first time I can remember this happening to me was with Erdene Zuu Khiid in Kharkhorin, Mongolia when I was maybe 13 years old – when I visited at 28 it was somewhat of a watershed travel moment. It’s happened a limited number of times since – Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan, the Rossiya Cinema Complex in Yerevan, Armenia, and Three Brothers in Riga, Latvia come to mind.
And then I became so obsessively captivated by Buzludzha – several years ago, while I was taking a relative travel hiatus. And it was more severe than I had ever experienced before. Read more
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.
Something that I’ve always been fascinated by is the rhetoric in travel blogging around the ability to travel, and the financial discussions and implications of traveling for a living. Most bloggers, from my experience, have defended their lifestyle as something that anyone can attain, no matter their current means or socioeconomic status. The common thread is the thought that if one works hard and saves the best they can, then they too can quit their job (or jobs) and become “location independent.” I see article after article (ok, blog post after blog post) about bloggers sick of answering questions about how they can afford to travel – and other than a few honest posts here and there, I don’t see many bloggers actually answering the question directly.
I think it’s because no one likes to talk about privilege. Read more