Thursday, April 21, 2011

If only I could do this for a living...

The one thing that I do not like about traveling is figuring out where to go next, and after researching and researching I just gave up and decided to just go with the flow and hope that it would all work out, and it has.

I left Rome on April 9th and made it to Split, Croatia the following morning at 7am. This city did a fabulous job of welcoming me to Croatia. The buildings are all white marble, the Adriatic Sea is a deep cool blue, and the weather...well a little brezzy but full of sunshine! I had an 8 hour overlay there until my catamaran ferry took me to Hvar Island, Croatia. This island was nonetheless beautiful, less people than Split due to the fact that is is low season, but unfortunately not the kind of beach that I was looking for. It has a rocky coast, not the best for laying out, and I felt wierd wearing shorts (even thought it was 74!) because all of the locals are still wearing jeans and sweaters! My stay there was quiet and nice, met some great people, one of which I traveled with to my next few destinations of Korcula and Dubrovnik in Croatia and then to Mostar, Bosnia.

We were only in Korcula for a night or two. It is smaller than Hvar, and with it being low season did not have much to offer a tourist. It is the birth place of Marco Polo though! We played some basketball with some local boys, saw the old castle of a town, ate some great food, and then moved on to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik has nice beaches, but just my luck, they had some cold weather that week which stopped me from laying out, but did not stop me from jumping off a cliff into the cold Adriatic Sea. I will give some props to my traveling buddy because after he decided he was jumping in, how could I say no? It was such an adrealine rush and so awesome. The water was probably 54, but after a while the numbness wore off. My traveling buddy also made me an accomplice to some unique souveniors, one being a liscene plate from a scooter (I still feel a little bad about that one, but it is a cool souvenior!) and a big ole glass mug with the logo of the local beer on it. We will see how long that one lasts through my travels though; too heavy to send home and hopefully it will not break during the travels.

From Croatia we headed on a bus to Mostar, Bosnia. Serioualy, best country ever. This place is so rich in history and beauty. When I think of Bosnia I think dirt roads, third world, but wow, I was wrong! We get to Mostar and the war is still visible through the bullet holes on the buildings, the buildings that have yet to be rebuilt from bombings and even from the look on the faces of the locals. I took this unforgetable tour from the hostel which was given by the brother of the lady who owns the hostel. It lasted about 12 hours but was worth every second. He talked about the war, how he and his family fled the war, what happened during the war (the killing and raping of women and children, the destruction of the buildings and surrounding city, and all of the corruption that still exists which segerates Mostar to this day). He also took us to eat some authentic Bosnian food (delicious and can be vegetarian!). We then went to the surrounding areas and saw some of the most beautiful waterfalls that I have ever seen in my life. The water was cold (just like the Adriatic) but that did not stop me from jumping in, swimming around, and climbing into the caves under the waterfalls. The only thing that really sucked is when I would put my head underwater my head would literally throb from the coldness of the water. It was like a massive headache. The sun was warm enough to dry me pretty fast once I got out. The tour continued on and we saw caves, pilgrimage sites, and then ended with some more fabulous food.

In Mostar they have this tall 7 story building that used to be a bank but was destroyed during the war. It was given the nickname of Snipers Nest because that is where all of the snipers would hide to kill off people. I climbed to the top, and wow what a view, but it was crazy to think about everything that happened in the exact spot that I was standing. I actually found some bullet shells and took them as souveniors.

Overall, Mostar is beautiful and is known for thier bridge which was destroyed during the war (it was built by the Turks in 1566) but rebuilt afterwards. The Old Town is lots of fun and I enjoyed walking around. After being there for 3 days I headed on to where I am not which is Sarajevo, Bosnia (the capital city, home to the 1984 winter Olympics, and the where Franz Ferdinand was killed which was the start of WWI). A much bigger city indeed and I have had an amaying tour guide. The old man who owns the apartment has taken me all around town and to all of the local resturants. I met up with some friends I met in Mostar and they showed me around last night and we had a grand ole time drinking and hanging out.  From here I will probably head to Belgrade, Serbia and then who knows.

I will end this blog with saying how traveling alone has been such a different experience than traveling with someone. I would say that I definitely do prefer traveling alone, but I do not think I could have traveled solo if not having my travel buddy along in the beginning. Travling solo can be scary sometimes, but I believe if I can do this than I can do anything. You meet soooooo many more people when traveling alone and the experiences are so very different. I now have friends from all around the world and it is so much fun to hear their story and learn new things from their culture. I honestly could do this for the rest of my life if I could financially afford it. This really is the life for me. It is so cool to know that everything I have fits in a backpack on my back and that I go anywhere I want. Which is sometimes the problem, figuring where to go!  My favorite thing to do is put my iPod in and walk around the city. It puts me in my own world and I am able to take everything in my way (and less people will bug you when you have headphones in too). Hopefully I can make it through June, but if not there is no doubt that I will be back to travel. I am averaging about a country a week, but right now I do not know whether to head south towards Bulgaria and Greece or North towards Prague and Vienna. I will try to keep updating this blog as best as I can to keep you all update!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

And Then There Was Only ONE

As of Wednesday, March 30th I have been traveling solo. For personal reasons Jay has decided to go back to the states and I decided to continue on with my travels. I really have not been alone though. While in Barcelona I met some guys from California who are doing study abroad in Rome and have been hanging out with them. Well actually, more like staying with them. They have been very grateful and have let me sleep on their extra bed while I await for my new debit card to arrive so that I can actually afford to move on to my next destination.

While in Madrid my purse was stolen (which included my wallet with everything in it and my camera) so thankfully the hostel we were staying at was nice enough to let me phone my bank to cancel my card and order another one, and they even helped me file a police report. Amazing people! My bank sent a new card to my house in Atlanta and then once my dad got it he had to wait till I had an address in Rome to send it to, and well, I am still waiting on it! It finally arrived Friday according to the tracking system but the hostel never received it, so now I will be spending Monday tracking down my card between the hostel and the post office. Once I get my card the first thing I am going to do is book a very nice room to spend my 25th birthday in and invite the amazing people that I have been staying with to have one hell of a birthday bash!

Rome is amazing. The first day here I was walking around getting lost and I take a left and out of nowhere I am like oh shit! There is the Coliseum right there! It was insane! Around this busy road and somewhat modern buildings you have this piece of history that was built around 80AD. I just stood there and starred at it in complete awe. After walking around it all I could think about is how much I wanted to watch Gladiator.

My all time favorite place in Rome though is the Vatican City. It is by far the best place in the world to people watch. When I first got there, and after visiting St. Peters Church, which is the largest and most amazing church in the world by the way (seriously, thats a fact, look it up), I just sat by a monument in front of St. Peters for over an hour just listening to my iPod, enjoying the warm sun, and people watching. The Vatican brings in all kinds of people and it is so fascinating to observe such a thing. I even went to a mass in St. Peters today with some friends. I am not Catholic, nor am I religious person, but I can appreciate certain aspects to religion and I felt that going to a mass at the Vatican seemed like a thing to do while in Rome. It only lasted 45 minutes and the entire thing was in Italian so obviously my mind wondered, but so did my eyes as it was hard for them not to constantly look around at the beautiful architecture that encompasses such a place. Michelangelo's artwork around me, statues of over 17ft are on the walls, an organ five times the size of me is playing to my right and a nun is praying in front of me. The sights and sounds are so unbelievable, and what it comes down to, which is always such an awe for me, that right now at this moment I am not only in Italy, but in Rome, and in the Vatican, participating in a mass at the most famous and holy church in the world. Just that thought alone gives my body the tingles and it is hard to not smile knowing what I am experiencing at that moment.

Other than walking past the place where Caesar was stabbed, throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, eating more gelato than my body can handle, I have been enjoying the relaxed party life at the same time. Since I am now crashing at a college dorm room my evenings have been replaced with the usual relaxing and an early to bed with instead a bottle of wine and bedtime at 4am. I have not met a person yet that I have not enjoyed talking to and I take time in getting to know everyone's story, especially with the people that I am staying with. It is fascinating to hear where they have been, what they have done, and what they plane on doing later in life. More so than ever in my life before I am so intrigued by people and I would rather listen and ask them questions then talk about me. And plus, I have told the same ole same ole story about me to dozens of people over the course of the past few months and I am tired of it. It is refreshing to hear about new stories and learn new things about new people.

Europe is wicked expensive and I want to try and move on to Asia as I really do miss that place, but unfortunately it is expensive to get back there and then back to Europe again in June, so I am not sure where my adventure will lead me, but right now I am looking into Croatia. The Balkin area of Europe tends to be much cheaper and I am dying for a beach right now, which is why Croatia is number one on the list. I am looking into Hvar Island and I can take a ferry there from the east coast of Italy. I have also seriously been considering finding a place I like a lot, renting an apartment for a month, and just hanging in one location for a while. One thing I have found that I really do miss and do enjoy since staying with these boys is having a place to come home to. It is nice to come back to a place and just be able to just sit on the couch and read, or cook food, or take a siesta without random people coming through the room. I would like to find a small little place in the middle of nowhere on a beach and just relax and do things I have been wanting to do for years such as take a cooking class and practice what I learn, read books all day long, do puzzles, meet the locals and learn their culture, and at the same time being alone and living in solitude for a while. That is what I really want, now it is just a matter of finding it, if I can.