Saturday, September 4, 2010

Photo albums are up!

Hey everyone, thanks for following the blog. Here are links to my five photo galleries from the trip:

Volume 1: Landscapes & Scenics
Volume 2: Architecture & Landmarks
Volume 3: Food Porn & Drink Menu
Volume 4: Street Art
Volume 5: Random Stuff

See you next year!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Winding down in Luxembourg.

Well, friends and family, we're near the end of our journey. Tonight is our final night in Europe.

We got into Luxembourg early in the evening last night, and promptly visited the annual carnival. Very much like the Ex, only even more ironically hilarious because it's Europe.

Then we loaded up on the breakfast buffet at our hotel (yes, was masquerading as a hostel), ie. croissants and pains du chocolat galore.

We began our day of touring by walking along the Chemin de la Corniche, "the most beautiful balcony in Europe."

Then we visited the Bock Casemates, a series of medieval underground tunnels that made up the fortress. It's why Europeans call Luxembourg City the Gibraltar of the North.

And finally, to celebrate Nick's birthday, we went to an awesome restaurant where they served us free champagne (we didn't even mention it was his birthday!) and had great steaks with frites, salad and a local beer (of course) plus dessert (tiramisu for Nick, zabalone tartufo for me).

Tonight we're gonna blow some Euros at the casino, because as our Luxembourg motto goes, why not?

Tomorrow we have a long travel day consisting of two buses and two flights (lovely) so this will likely be the final entry of the trip. I hope you've all enjoyed the photos and stories. My laptop needs some serious TLC when I get back; I think it's struggling with all the battery drains and foreign sources of power and wireless internet.

See you all back in Toronto on the weekend. Cheers!

Take me one more time
Take me one more wave
Take me for one last ride
I’m out of my head

- Deftones, Sextape

Monday, August 30, 2010

The nationwide beach tour continues.

We've kicked things up a notch beach wise in Split. Our first stop was Punta Rata in Brela, ranked the #1 beach in Europe by Forbes. It was pretty awesome.

Then this morning we ducked the unexpected rain and headed to Zlatni Rat Beach in Bol, on Brac Island, just across the way from Split. Somehow it wasn't raining there, but we certainly weren't complaining.

Zlatni Rat is a very unique looking beach; shaped kinda like a horn or a thumb, it juts out into the sea. Very cool, but also pebbly. Not sure what the deal is in Croatia with rocky/pebbly beaches, but at least you don't end up with sand everywhere.

It's still raining in Split, so we're playing drinking games with fellow hostelers until it subsides and we can go out. This should be interesting.

We're off to Zadar tomorrow for our final stop in Croatia before heading to Luxembourg. It's all coming to an end soon, but we're trying not to think about it too much. The beer helps.

Go on, fall in, no one will know
Hold on Foreigner, on you go

- Islands, On Foreigner

Friday, August 27, 2010

Steeped in history, torn apart by war.

Today was one of the most interesting days of the trip, especially with respect to historical significance.

Our first stop was the Latin Bridge, where Gustavo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, starting a little thing called World War I. How’s THAT for history?

Then we took a tour to the Tunnel Museum, the site where Bosnians dug a tunnel during the Siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995, to get supplies and weapons from friendly Bosnian and Croatian territory.

The road to the tunnel was scattered with buildings blown apart by bombs and heavy artillery, including the National Library where nearly all three million books inside were destroyed.

The tunnel took four months to construct, and led underneath the airport and the UN controlled zone; without it, the Bosnians would surely have been defeated and Sarajevo would have been lost.

On the way back we passed through East Sarajevo, which is actually considered an entirely different city, a Serbian republic. Everything was in Cyrillic there, which other than possibly Budapest is the only time I have seen that.

Tonight we shall dine at a traditional Bosnian restaurant, and then head out for some more drinkin’.

We’re not sure when we’re catching the train back to Croatia tomorrow, but I’d like to stop in a picturesque Bosnian town called Mostar, which is between Sarajevo and Split.

Until then...Zivjeli!

The road to Sarajevo.

We’ve left Croatia behind for a couple days, but the journey was not easy either mentally or physically.

First, we took a 2-hour bus to Ploce, where the railway lines begin.

Then we waited at the station for our train to Sarajevo with a couple of English girls who were doing a 5-week train trip and were passing through Sarajevo on the way to Belgrade.

Incidentally, this was NOT our train, but given how ghetto our actual train was, it may as well have been.

We didn’t get too much time to appreciate the rather rustic conditions, however, as a mere 40 minutes into our trip we stopped and were told to get off the train and onto buses that would take us to another unknown station.

Having no other recourse (besides being stranded in a random town in either Croatia or Bosnia, as we had no idea what country we were even in) we got on the bus and crossed our fingers.

After at least a couple hours on that bus, we made it to whatever town we were supposed to catch the train at, and boarded the train with minutes to spare.

By this time it was pitch black and we were quite literally in the dark about where we were going, trusting railway employees and fellow passengers who spoke little to no English.

Luckily, they were right, and we arrived in Sarajevo safe and sound, albeit much later than expected.

We got change for the tram and followed the directions to our hostel as best we could, but the combination of darkness and said directions’ confusion between “left” and “right” left us taking our first and hopefully only taxi, which fortunately was both short and cheap.

We finally arrived at around 11 PM, and some drinks were certainly in order, so we went to the bar across the street from our place, which was both appropriately and inappropriately named Cheers.

For some reason they had Union Jack flags behind the Cheers logo, which makes no sense given that the show was based in Boston, not England, but it’s probably all the same to them. We heard lots of 90s American music, including the likes of Toni Braxton, Seal and, wait for it...Vengaboys. Yikes.

Today we’re going to do some light touring and then check out the nightlife, which should be busy if last night was any indication. It seems we’re very close to, if not right in the middle of the club district.

We head back to Croatia tomorrow. Cheers, I guess?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zabava na suncu (Fun in the sun).

Our first destination on Day 2 in Dubrovnik was the top of Srd Hill by cable car, which had just been built this summer (lucky us).

Basically I will take any opportunity to get an awesome view of a city, and this was no different.

Then we headed to the old port for a ferry ride to Lokrum, the closest island to the city. The island was busy with activity, including that of the feathered variety; there were a ton of wild peacocks, and I saw my first ever baby peacock!

Then we made haste for the beach, which was rocky but gorgeous. Kinda like what a beach in Iceland might look like, except if it were also 28 degrees.

There was also a man-made lake (that they called the Dead Sea, a particularly bad literal translation perhaps) where Nick jumped off the cliff in this picture (long but hilarious video to follow).

When we got off the ferry we made a stop at Banje Beach, the closest beach to the Old Town and rated the 3rd best beach in the world by Marie Claire Magazine. It was pretty good, I guess.

And now, time for another Food Porn moment! Dinner at Konoba Lanterna: Dalmatian Brodetto (assorted fish stew with prawns and short-grain rice) and Rozata (caramel custard pudding).

Tomorrow we're off to the Elaphite Islands for more beachin'. I could get used to this.

They say we will go far, but they don't know how far we'll go
With our legs on the edge and our feet on the horizon

- Beach House, 10 Mile Stereo

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tschüss Berlin, Bok Dubrovnik.

We closed our time in Berlin with a tour through alleyways, squats (abandoned buildings claimed by artists), and alternative art installations.

The quality of street artwork there is stunning; I have never been to a city like that before. It has forced me to consider adopting a new method of constructing my travel galleries; more to come on that after I return.

Here's some of the best stuff I saw on our final day in Berlin, including what may turn out to be the enduring image of the trip: Gameboy Nun.

Following the tour we grabbed some cheap (2.50 total for two 1/2 L bottles) and good beer from the convenience store and proceeded to drink it everywhere you can't in Toronto: in a park in broad daylight, on the street, and in the subway. It was fantastic.

Then we had dinner (Indian food) with a couple of the girls we met on the tour; one was from Ancaster and looked like Anna Faris. Good times!

We narrowly made it to the airport in time to catch our flight, and arrived in Dubrovnik at around 4 PM. Even in the few hours of daylight remaining, I could immediately tell it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.

We got to Sv Jakov beach (a secluded beach mostly made up of locals) at around sunset, which made for nice scenery but not so nice lounging. We're gonna hit up some island beaches over the next couple of days, which should be killer.

Afterwards we walked to the Old Town and had dinner (tagliatelle with salmon for me, lasagna for Nick) and then got a little off track trying to get back to the guesthouse.

Rather than taking the bus back we decided to walk it back, which was ill-advised, at best. We'll be spending the 10 kuna next time around.

The internet in this place is pretty fast (shout out to Ante, you're awesome) so I've been loading up on stuff for when we're doing longer train/bus rides in a few days. We'll also be loading up on the 2 L bottles of beer we saw in the communal fridge. Amazing.

Back to the beach tomorrow...Živjeli!