Wednesday, August 29, 2007


When I first left for my internship almost a year ago, the original plan was for me to finish my 6 months in Slovakia and then spend the rest of my time traveling including a trip with my sister. Well I've learned that nothing in life is ever certain and plans change while life is happening making it rather impossible to plan too much! I still had every intention and desire to keep my promise to travel with my sister Anela and so the planning began! (I swear I should become a personal travel agent) After looking at all of our options we decided that Italy was the best one because of its close proximity to Croatia and because we could see a lot in the short time that we had.

Our first stop was of course Rome! We managed to make it on a train into the city from the airport but not without witnessing quite the debacle; the train was clearly leaving as per schedule (and packed to the brim I might add) but this guy thinks he can stop it. He manages to hop on the train as the doors are closing with his baby carriage no less. Then he proceeds to press the door opening button over and over again, as well as the emergency button because well he left his wife and the BABY on the platform! It appeared that the train conductor wasn't having it so he just kept on and didn't stop the train. Again I found myself wishing I could understand another language because he spent the rest of the train ride huffing and puffing into his cell phone. I would have loved to hear his reasoning.

Anywho, we took a taxi to get to our hotel and for all their bad rep, this taxi driver in particular didn't rip us off. I spent forever and a day researching hotels in Rome and it really paid off because our place was amazing both for the price and more importantly the location. It was a cute little Bed and Breakfast located between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. I was all over the air conditioning after sweatin in the heat in Croatia which also continued in Italy.

Anela and I fell in love with Rome right from the first night. We went out for a walk and happened to come across an open air concert with opera and classical music in front of a beautiful church. Seemed like a big deal so we stuck around for a while. Then we went and found a cute little restaurant in a small side street close enough that we could still hear the music as we ate our pasta and drank our wine. Perfection! (and my new happy place as you can see).

The next morning was an early one because I was told that we should get to the Vatican very early in order to avoid the lines. In my mind I was prepared for a long wait, but luckily for us, the rest of the tourists slept in that day and we managed to go in right away, no line up whatsoever. I was absolutely amazed by the sheer size and magnificence of St. Peters Basilica. We bought a guide book on our way there so I tried to keep up with the significance of everything that I was seeing but after a while I gave up and focused on what was in front of me. The visit to the treasury inside St. Peters is definitely worth it, some of the pieces housed in there are incredibly old and represent very significant points in the life of the Catholic Church. The free audio guide was definitely a bonus! While in St. Peters we also went to the Papal tombs but opted out of going up to the tower because the line up had started to develop.

The rest of the day was spent at the Vatican Museums as we gawked over one masterpiece to another. I would strongly suggest getting the audio guide, I remember it being a bit pricey but well worth it. Unfortunately mine broke towards the end but they were kind enough to refund my money. I think my favorite part of the whole museum was all of the fresco's on the walls especially in the Raphael rooms. I think it goes without saying that the Sistine Chapel is amazing in a word. Anela took about a million pictures so I can always go back and pretty much relieve every piece in the whole museum.

All of that only bring us to about late afternoon of day 1 but it was enough to get our appetite going. When picking a pizza place in Rome however, make sure you stay away from the main streets. Our first pizza was pretty terrible (didn't think you could get bad pizza in Italy) but from then on we always picked a place on a secluded side street and it was always delicious. I say every time because that’s literally all we ate, and caprese salad. We got our fix!

For the evening events we headed to Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. I was blown away by Trevi Fountain, less all of the tourists of course. I had my only encounter with a mean Italian at a Gelato shop close to Trevi. So of course I’m craving ice cream, and more so than usual in the heat. Anela and I stop in this shop and there is what seems like a 100 different flavors. I ask the guy if I can try a little piece of the crème caramel before I go for the big scoop, standard practice in all ice cream shops I’ve ever been to. They even have cute little spoons that they designed specifically for this! But this guy says to me with a straight face “NO.” So I try again thinking he doesn’t understand what I want, maybe its my sloppy English and still he says no and adds “ You buy You try!” Anela and I were just floored and can’t do anything but look at him with our mouths open. Then he has the audacity to say “so you want to buy.” Yeah no thanks buddy, not from you. You’ll be happy to know that I did get very good gelato from the place next door and got to try it before hand as well! Italian’s do know their ice cream.

We spent our second day at the Coliseum area. Didn’t get up as early cuz Anela was starting to call me Hitler for cutting short her beauty rest. But then we ended up in a long line to get in. I heard that you can skip past the line if you do a tour so I hopped outside and signed us up for one. Unfortunately I don’t think it saved us any time because we just missed a tour and had to wait for the next one to begin. And in all honesty, I didn’t learn a whole lot more from the tour that the guidebooks didn’t tell me. I also wasn’t as blown away at the Coliseum as I thought I would be, and I actually liked the view more from the outside than I did from the inside especially at a cost of 21 euros.

Good part about doing the tour though was that it included another tour of Palatine Hill. This tour guide was a lot better and gave us a lot of interesting little tidbits that we can use for dinner conversation down the line! Like for instance did you know that the expression “short end of the stick” comes from the Romans use of a “toilet brush” or our form of toilet paper nowadays? Apparently, the brush part would fall off and all you were left with was a stick….it was dark….you fill in the rest. It could have all be a huge joke for him but it kept us entertained. Plus Anela and I received a personal tour of the Roman forum afterwards so all in all I guess we got our money’s worth.

By the end of it we were so exhausted from all of the walking and the extreme heat but I made Anela walk with me to Circus Maximus which turned out to be a big, dried out field. Needless to say she wasn’t impressed with me and insisted that I take a picture of it since I wanted to see it so badly. They should really leave that off the tourist map or at least put something on there to look at.

The rest of our time in Rome we walked around to some of the smaller monuments plus we tried to do a little bit of shopping. Both of us snagged some good Italian wine and I also brought back a big block of Parmesan cheese, olive oil and olives. I can say that we felt like we’d seen everything we wanted to see in Rome, plus we got to take in some of the culture. A lot of catching up was done over pizza, wine and fresh air! Our trip couldn’t have gone better.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bosnia and Croatia

When planning my summer holiday this year, the motherland was a natural selection as my family was going to be there and quite frankly there is no other place on earth more beautiful to me. Plus I really needed a beach vacation as I've taken many city breaks this past year which are by no means relaxing. Basically you run around like a mad man for 3 days making sure you pack in as much as possible and not miss a thing. Don't get me wrong, I love every minute of it, but once in a while you need to get up in the morning and think hmmm I have absolutely nothing to do today but lay on a beach!

So we started out going to Bosnia to visit my extended family and celebrate my Grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary, a crowning achievement in my eyes and one that few get to these days. I've always admired the marriage that my grandparents have because you can see how happy they are to be together and how much they love each other. The celebration was in the works for a while so a bunch of my extended family in Calgary was there as well. 2 birds with one stone I guess. My parents came to pick up Alex and I from the airport and the first thing we wanted to do was eat some Cevape! Nobody in the world makes them as good as in Bosnia. After that was settled, we spent the rest of Saturday visiting with family. It was easy for Alex to blend in since we were there for Christmas so everyone already knew him, and his Croatian had improved by about a percent (we'll keep trying!)

Sunday was the big celebration and it started at the local church, same one that my grandparents had been married in 50 years earlier, where they renewed their vow's in front of all of us. Right after the ceremony the singing and dancing began outside of the church as an accordion player was hired to play away Croatian folk dance songs. I have to say that for 70, my grandparents still have the moves! Then it was back to their place for a family lunch and more singing. Lets just say we like to celebrate. The official party happened in this restaurant in the city where we again, you guessed it, partied the night away. I loved seeing my mom with all her brothers and sisters celebrating this special occasion with their parents. Actually, we also commemorated my parents 25th wedding anniversary at the party so there was more to drink to. We spent Monday recovering from all of the festivities and visiting some more with family then it was off to Croatia!

Since there was 6 of us all together and only a 5 seater car, Alex and I ended up taking the bus to Croatia which really wasn't bad at all. First stop was Split, and then we switched to another bus which took us to Makarska. In the meantime my family had enough time to get there and find an apartment for the 6 of us. They were lucky to find a 4 bedroom apartment at a killer deal of 10 euros per person per night (this is for all those people whom I've been trying to convince to go visit). Naturally our first stop was the beach and it was so nice to jump into the clear water with temperatures hovering around the 40* mark every day that we were there. I think we must have used the same phrase every time that we stepped outside for those 8 days "I think today is hotter than yesterday!" Seriously though, it was HOT. And my skin can handle it but Alex, well he's another story....We kept trying to hide him in what ever shade we could make with the two umbrella's we got right away.


I've been to Makarska several times before and loved it although this time it was a bit too packed with tourists. Because of this, we ended up going to other smaller towns along the riviera to escape the crowds. The second day we were there, we took a boat trip to two islands, Brac and Hvar. The first stop on the trip was to a small port town called Jesla on the Island Hvar. Its quite a popular boat and the "captain" does a lot to make the trip more fun and interactive with music and drink pouring from the early hours (we boarded at 8:3o am). Alex and I took the opportunity to walk around the small town in the little time we had there while the rest settle down for some cold drinks. Walking around, I was really intrigued by how people must live in such a small town on an island nonetheless. Anywho, we boarded the boat once again and then headed off to Brac where there is the most famous beach in Croatia called Bol. On the way, we saw many smaller islands out in the sea and several nudy beaches lets say.

Bol was absolutely beautiful and had the clearest water I've ever swam in. I was afraid that it would be really busy but the beach wasn't that packed at all. I pretty much spent the whole 3 or 4 hours we were there in the water and Alex and I swam from one end to the tip of the long beach. The scenery around there is just breath taking and I definitely plan to do another trip to Croatia where we can rent our own boat and do some private island hopping. On the way back to Makarska everyone was just exhausted, the sun really took it out of us and being on the top deck of the boat certainly didn't help. We all came back with sun burns and I was sporting a very noticeable tan line across my face where my sun glasses had been. Took a couple days to even it out but embarrassing nonetheless.

Bol Beach

A couple of the other days we headed to Brela which is another city about 15 km from Makarska where we met some family from Canada and spent the day on the beach there. Alex bought a snorkeling set and we had fun checking out the undersea creatures in the rocks below (lots of sea urchins). Brela is recognized for this big rock that's separated from the rest of the beach and stands alone in the water. Couple of people were climbing up and jumping off the top. I thought about it only for about a second and then I snapped back to reality and realized that that I would never have the guts to actually do it!

The rest of the time we literally just laid on the beach and relaxed. Only got up to go for lunch, ice cream, and lots of water to rehydrate. One of the nights in Makarska, there was a fisherman's night where local fisherman set up stands along the pier and fried all kinds of sea food. We didn't think of this before we went and loaded up on seafood in a restaurant along the pier, bad planning in hindsight. Alex was in sea food heaven and we had to stop several times as he poked his head in every stand to see what was cookin. I made sure I got my fix of fish and all things sea food while I was there because now living in a land locked country, you really start to miss good sea food. On our last night there, my sister and I shared a whole kilo of scampi of the barbecue and I can't even explain how good it was!

I parted ways with my parents and my little brother in Split but not without tears. I realize that I will see them in several months when I move back to Calgary (God that's scary to even think about) but I'm terrible at goodbyes and it doesn't get any easier no matter how many times I do it. This time was especially difficult because we had such an amazing summer together and it was hard to see them go. But I had my trip to Italy with my sister to look forward to and that helped to raise my spirits. Overall though, one of the best holidays I've taken in my life and lots of good memories to hold on to. Not to mention the gazillion photo's all thanks to 4 camera's floating around!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Some People I wonder about

I really need to update this blog about my amazing summer holidays but first I want to bring peoples attention to this:
So the story goes as such: I'm standing at a touristy square (Malostranske Namesti) waiting to meet my friend Lise for dinner. People watching was on the forefront of entertainment and this couple caught my eye for some reason. In the beginning I didn't even see the dog and that's where half the fun of it comes from. What I saw was the guy struggling to buckle the straps on what I thought was a baby carrying device. He was having lots of problems because her hair was too long and getting in the way. Finally when he got it, this woman turns around and I see this dog hanging from chest! Needless to say it freaked me out a little cuz I was expecting to see a cute little baby, but seriously who does this?? Clearly they're tourists too judging from the map they're holding onto, camera strapped along the side and fanny pack in front. Why would you drag your poor dog to Prague and then subject him to siting strapped on your chest while you prance around doing the tourist thing. I don't get.

PS: Check out the matching purse! Diaper bag I presume.....

PPS: If You the couple happen to see this, please start having some babies.