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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How We Didn’t do Saaremaa Justice

We went to Saaremaa with the best intentions.  We had a list of things to see and a finite amount of time to see them.  We were also coming from a long day of driving, and sightseeing, on the Estonian mainland.  The day we left Saaremaa, we had a similiarly long day of driving ahead of us, and a similarly long day of sightseeing.  And somehow, amidst the general craziness of the two stacked days of traveling, Saaremaa got lost in the fold.honeymoon-jpegs-256_21287806198_o honeymoon-jpegs-266_20854531713_o honeymoon-jpegs-259_20854538053_o

I am not a slow traveler, and yet I am an advocate of slow travel.  My travel style is necessitated by the amount of time I am able to travel yearly (15-20 days, generally) while still keeping my corporate job.  And because I am generally an ambitious traveler, I try to pack as much into my vacation days as possible.  It’s an unfortunate circumstance that will be remedied whenever I get out of the corporate rat race.  I think I have about ten years left in me before I make that change. Read more

Roadside Attractions in Rural Lithuania

When you’re on a road trip (through the Baltics, or anywhere, really), one of the challenges in keeping things interesting is finding places to stop in between your destinations.  I can say from experience that this can be difficult when you’re driving, for example, the vast stretch of land in Southern Idaho – just flat enough to be totally boring, and conservative enough to be pretty scary.  However, when driving from Klaipeda to Vilnius in Lithuania, as we did on the last day of our Baltic Road Trip Honeymoon ™, we found no lack of interesting/kitschy/somber roadside attractions to keep us entertained.honeymoon-jpegs-15_21464890172_o

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses is located just north of the city of Šiauliai in North Central Lithuania.  I know that every time I talk about a church or other religious site, I preface with the fact that I am not a religious person.  Let me repeat that, I am most certainly not a religious person.  That said, I very much enjoyed visiting the Hill of Crosses.  Gift shop aside, the site was very impressive.  Hundreds of thousands of crosses piled on top of one another as a monument to the nation’s Catholicism.  It is uncertain when folks started placing crosses there – Wikipedia says sometime in the mid 19th century.  The real action at the Hill of Crosses, though, took place when Lithuania was under the Soviets.  The story goes that the Soviets tried many times to destroy the monument – burning the crosses, bulldozing the hill, etc.  But the Lithuanians continued to put crosses there in silent religious protest to the atheist Soviet regime.   Read more

Changing Plans, or the Baltic/Balkan Conundrum

So last I explained, my partner David and I had cancelled our plans to road trip around Tunisia due to some the terrorist attacks targeting tourists in Tunis and Sousse.  While I was upset to cancel my plans to see the North African nation, I was also secretly excited to plan an entirely new trip to a new destination.  For me, much of the joy of travel comes in the pre-work.  I am a meticulous researcher and am prone to map comas – and the need for a location change provided me with an opportunity for both.

Tunisia was the plan - where to now?
Tunisia was the plan – where to now?

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Changing Plans – Tunisia off the Table for 2015

I am recently engaged.  On our last trip (in Istanbul, Turkey and the South Caucasian nations of Georgia and Armenia), I proposed to my soon to be husband David.  What’s more exciting about the marriage and party, however, is clearly the honeymoon.  I’ve never been one to care at all about the romantic implications of a wedding ceremony, and have certainly been to enough of them to know what I do and don’t like, and so David and I have used travel as an excuse to not really have a wedding ceremony at all – instead we’re putting some of that dough toward the honeymoon of our dreams and a lot toward paying down the principal owed on our house.

Sidi Bou Said by https://www.flickr.com/photos/bilwander/
Sidi Bou Said, just north of Tunis, is captivating with its various shades of blue – by https://www.flickr.com/photos/bilwander/

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