I'm meeting them in Athens on the 25th!! Were spending a couple days in the city and then are off to explore some of the islands....I really really can't wait! Ive gone longer without seeing them but have never missed them so much :-)
I know I haven't blogged in a lonnnnggg time...I've been bouncing around since Istanbul and enjoying every second of it. Since I last gave an update I've...
been back to Amsterdam, driven to Brussels, spent a couple nights sleeping in a wine cellar in Paris, stayed in Grenoble and hiked around the alps, seen Geneva, Milano and Lake Como, and have lived in a shipping container for two weeks+ in Lecco. Ive also spent the past three nights camping in Portofino and Cinque Terre, have done actual laundry for the first time in 3 months, and finally ran out of the travel sized shampoo I've had since leaving. Its been an eventful past few weeks that's for sure.
I volunteered for the World Ultimate Club Champiomships (WUCC) while in Lecco, and am traveling with some of my new ulti friends now. After cinque terre its off to Tuscany and Pisa and Florence. I'm planning on doing Rome and Venice too while I'm here and then its off to Greece to see my parents!!
I'm going to trt to put up actual posts on my travels asap...have to take advantage of WiFi while I have it!
I also highly recommend 'watching' a Turkish movie in the open air cinema... Have no idea what the movie was about but supposedly it was quite funny. We really just enjoyed a bottle of wine and taught Onur and Samet the noises American animals make.
The boys took us to the beach one day too, so I can check swimming in the Black Sea off my list. We went to Samet's university beach, which was more like an exclusive beach club. Not too far from the city either, maybe a twenty minute drive. One of my most memorable days from Turkey for sure,.
Things I've learned:
- you can't always go into a grocery store and buy a milk carton and assume you're getting milk. Thankfully Ayran (a traditional, salty, liquid yogurt'ish drink) goes quite well with cereal
- causally mentioning 'güllaç' is a great way to start small talk with the locals
- Candace is pretty incredible (I already knew that but Turkey reaffirmed the fact) her phone was lost or taken and she still managed to enjoy the day, and our very unique experience with the 'International' police
I have so much to catch up on from Turkey! It's been going by so fast and I haven't wanted to waste any of it glued to my tablet. It has been a bit of a culture shock, especially at first coming from Croatia. The city of Istanbul its self is huge...a population of over 14 million, and so many of the streets are grid locked with people and the occasional taxi that decides to take the sidewalk. Its the only major city that straddles two different continents, with the Bosphorus dividing the European from the Asian side...ferries are just another form of public transportation here but for Candace and I they've serviced more as mini cruises
It's been pretty incredible to be in the city during Ramadan. A vast majority of the population participates in the month of fasting and worship and the vibe in the city, especially at night, is festival like. Some restaurants are closed during the day until after the sun sets and the fast can be broken (iftar) but other than that the city runs the same. Colorful lights adorn the mosques for 'mahya' or messages of goodwill during Ramadan and there seem to be 20+ call to prayers amplified through the minarets (I think they're actually 5 but when they go off at 3:30 & 5 every morning it seems like a lot more)
Candace went on a food tour and has been filling me in on the Turkish food scene, which is a fusion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine (whatever that means). Basically we eat baklava and Turkish ice cream which requires a knife and fork
More posts on Istanbul to come but signing out for now...missing everyone back home! Especially those reading this :-)
Not too many pictures to show from Bosnia but the country side is gorgeous and there's so much history in Sarajevo. We just had a night and half day in the city but we made the most of it. We saw the bridge where the assassination of Franz Ferdinand sparked World War I, the eternal flame, and Bascarsija or the old town. Much of Sarajevo was destroyed during the war so the city has grown into this unique blend of old and new. The Bascarsija is full of markets and little local cafes on cobble stone streets but go a few blocks further and you're waiting for a crosswalk signal in a modern downtown.
Even in the modern areas there are scars left from more recent hostilities. The sidewalks are freckled with red resin-filled holes, called Sarajevo roses, which were left behind from Serbian grenade attacks in the 1990s.
We met some really nice people along the way...a cyclist from Africa on our bus from Split who told us about his friend that's biking from London to China (crazzzzy) and the most helpful/handsome Bosnian man who led us to the airport. Other than that it was a short flight to Turkey and a great impromptu day in Sarajevo!
Our two weeks in Croatia are over and it's certainly bitter sweet to say goodbye. The country's been so good to us and Candace and I have fallen into quite the nice routine but it's time to move on. To Istanbul actually! It'll be a complete change from the laid back beach towns we've indulged in here but we're looking forward to it. We had to revamp our wardrobes a bit before heading East...the whole bikini and shorts thing isn't really the trend in Istanbul. So we picked up some more modest pieces, a scarf to cover our heads in the mosques, closed toed shoes and socks for me (bleh)
Ciao Croatia! Now for a bus ride through Bosnia for a day in Sarajevo and a flight to Turkey...can't wait!
Laying on the beach for the past week has been pretty tough for Candace & I so we decided to take a mini vacation to Dubrovnik! Its called the Pearl of the Adriatic and the old city dates back to the 13th century. The city's entirely enclosed by huge stone walls and its said that back in the day in order to trade in the city you had to bring a stone and thats how the walls were built. Inside the walls it's all little cobblestone streets, beautiful arches, bell towers, and churches. And since its a major tourist attraction its loaded with cafes and gelato stands...not necessarily a bad thing. Its also one of the locations Game of Thrones is filmed, I only somewhat followed the show but a lot of places were recognisable which was awesome. The best part of Dubrovnik is walking the perimeter of the city on top of the walls.
Candace and I made it more than a week in Croatia without eating out (lots of pasta and tea biscuits) so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner in Dubrovnik. It was so good! Mostly because we didn't have to cook it but I'm pretty sure the food itself was good. They did give us traditional Croatian shots before our meal so who really knows.
All in all Dubrovnik was absolutely beautiful and I'm really glad we could see another corner of this beautiful country. Only disappointment was the lack of John Snow.
Big thank you to the British boy who held an umbrella for me when it started raining.
Croatia is absolutely stunning! We've only been here for a week and I feel like I know the city of Split. Candace & I have spent a lot of time just wandering the streets and have just about walked the whole city. The green market (a local farmers market) is just down the street from our flat and we go almost everyday for fresh fruit and veggies. We've picked up some really good local cheese and eggs from the market too...definitely feeling spoiled food-wise this week. We know how to say goodday, thank you, please, sorry, and 6 (not so confident in the last one) and have made it by just fine so far. Weve been taking advantage of our kitchen and have cooked almost every night so far to save money, although the exchange rate is heavily in our favor. The other day I spent just over 5USD on a baguette, 6 yogurts, a huge bag of cookies, and lemons...not too shabby
The pictures above are from Suma Marian, a huge park on the western tip of the Split peninsula. We spent a full day exploring the park and getting a solid calf workout. The trails wind around the edges of these limestone cliffs with the blue Adriatic sea below...the pictures really don't do it justice. Churches and little houses were built straight into the limestone and had the coolest doors nestled right in the rocks. Before heading back into town we found a gorgeous beach with crystal clear water and a naked man who kept inching closer. One of my favorite days so far!
Other than beaching weve been exploring the old town...its the main hub of Split and its just a 5 minute walk from our flat. Its right on the water and has some amazing old churches and bell towers, cafés, and lots of gelato stands. Its where we've been going to watch the world cup...there are big screens showing the matches everywhere! The atmosphere in the old town for the Croatia game was awesome...it would have been so cool to see them advance. Hoping to see a US win here on Tuesday!
Things I've learned;
-Croatian women don't wear sports bras
-I've been eating a lot of bouncers recently (supposedly an egg on bread?)
-Sunbathing on a cliff side is surprisingly comfortable, can totally see why seals dig it
this was windmill -- watch the video!
I have no idea where to start with Windmill...I feel like its impossible to do any of it justice. Such an incredible experience. Candace & I volunteered starting the Monday before the tournament. That first day there were maybe 15 of us volunteers, all camping out at the field site. I wish I had taken a picture from the same spot each day to show the transformation of the park. There was nothing but open space when we arrived and by the end of the week we had built this entire village. I've never been a part of anything like it. We put up the biggest circus tent imaginable, laid the floors, built the bars, rigged the lights, everything. I got to use a jack hammer and a boat load of other power tools I should have never been given. I loved it, true manual labor but seeing everything come together was so rewarding. Candace, myself, and one of the funniest guys I've met (miss you Ben) lined almost every single one of the fields...all part of the 12 hour work day. All the volunteers were incredible and we formed some really strong connections, Candace & I have people to visit all around the world now.
The volunteering was just one side of Windmill...once the tourney started Candace & I got to play with Element, the National Mixed team from Israel. Also an incredible experience. Its amazing how quickly you can bond with people over sports. It was a little tough adapting to their play style but ultimate is ultimate & it was so cool to play teams from all over the world. I picked up some basic Hebrew like let's go take a bath (one of their cheers) and Candace & I are thinking about squeezing in a trip to Israel to visit everyone. We'll see them in Lecco late July for Worlds regardless!
I ended up bartending at night after playing because they needed extra help...thank goodness it was just beer or else I would have been totally lost. I got to meet so many people, have too many free drinks, and learn about the world of cheap Dutch beer.
So even with volunteering and playing we still got to spend time in the city and get a feel for the Netherlands outside of ultimate. Amsterdam is a beautiful city...I could really see myself living on the outskirts one day. The city center itselfs is pretty touristy but the canals and achiteture are amazing. I really connected with one of the local guys at the tournament and he showed me all the best parts of the city. He took me along the Amstel, through the country side, and we even made it to the beach one night. He showed me a totally different side of the Netherlands which I'll always be thankful for. Its a beautiful country. Hartelijk beddankt Thomas.
Things I've learned:
- always pick up your long skirt on an escalator...sort of got stuck and had to be pulled out (probably my moms greatest fear turned reality)
- mingle mingle is a big dea
- starting a conversation with the person next to you in a public shower is normal
- dutch men are incredibly lovable
Oslo was the first stop of our trip! We just had the day & were exhausted from the flight but its a gorgeous city...one of the cleanest & most efficiently run I've been in. Candace & I felt like we were on a movie set the entire time. We really just wandered around all day...spent some time exploring the old fortress, ate lunch by the water, and napped on the banks of the opera house. Best part was we didn't spend any money in the city, just the train fare out & back. Norway's incredibly expensive so that was a huge plus. I'd love to go back and spend some time up by the fjords...might have to start planning trip number two