Sunday, January 31, 2010


Wow. It's 9:20pm. I am just nodding off at this point. I have been on a 9-to-9 sleep schedule. It's really really weird. I suppose it'll get better a few days out, but I have been unable to sleep past 9, and unable to stay awake past 9. This is unusual for me. So much so that I am not making sense. Well, I am making sense, but I am being redundant. Goody.

Anyway, watching the Grammys at the moment. I think pop music is finally back. Mainstream music sucked this past decade, imo. I mean, there were good bands and good albums obviously, but there were a lot of bad bands and bad albums too. I think the bad ones are finally weeded out. That nasty spell of pop-punk is mostly over, and the ultra-patriotic cowboy country is pretty much over and now the music industry has improved. Now we have good dance music with the new gay icon Lady Gaga. Granted there are a lot of bad popular songs still out (Miley Cyrus, for example) but no more Hillary Duff or Fall Out Boy.

Anyway, my uninformed, half-thought out music rant is over. I assume people disagree, but ah well. It's my blog. I can post all the half-formed illogical opinions I want! So there!

I just want you to know that I am really excited for Tuesday. Not only can I caucus quickly, but it's the premiere of season 6 of LOST! Also, I get my new boxes of contacts so I don't have to wear glasses all the time. Kick ass! Yea! Whoo! Tuesday will rock!

I think I'm going to bed. It's 9:40pm/4:40am so........ I'm tired. I will close with a short list of things I missed while in Europe:

Bitter MN cold
Getting mail
Reading the newspaper
Meals that don't cost $30
friends and family

Things I will most about Europe:
Music channels that actually play music videos
Humanely-raised meat
Tasty and cheap fruit
Integrated diversity
Long relaxed meals

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 28 - Departure!

All right, so I'm back, but the trip over was eventful so I'll recap:

I got up at 6:30am. We left for the Venice airport at 8am, after a quick goodbye from Duska. I slept on the way there, and ate a muffin and a cappucino in the airport since we had an hour or so after security.

When we arrived in Munich, we got off the plane and onto a bus. Before we left, a flight attendant asked if anyone left behind a black fannypack. Althea ran off the bus to grab it for Alexi, one of the girls on the trip, who then said "oh my god!", ran off the plane, and came back with her passport, which she had left on the seat. Wow.... I'm glad she remembered it, but damn. You do not forget your passport anywhere. I kept mine on me at all times, in the main pocket of my neck pouch that went in between the layers of my clothes.

Anyway, we then went through the hell known as Munich airport security. Goddamn! It's worse than any US airport I've been in. We had to go through customs, then security, then past all the shops and restaurants, then another passport check, then a very invasive security (the sensor picked up a receipt in my pocket, which led to another once-over with the wand), then we arrived at the gate where there was 1 small cafe and no other shops or even a vending machine. Wtf... So then we had to sit there for half an hour bored and hungry before boarding.

Anyway, on the Munich-Chicago flight, we were joined by the Russian speed skating Olympic team on their way to Vancouver. Pretty cool, imo. They were wearing their red sweatsuits and everything. But they also held the plane for them, so we took off about 20 minutes late. Normally, it doesn't matter that much, but we only had an hour and a half in Chicago, and we had to go through customs and security and everything.

By the end of the flight to Chicago, I was so tired that I was on the verge of tears. I spent the flight watching movies again. I watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Wickie the Viking, Fame, Love Aaj Jai, and an episode of How I Met Your Mother. I cried through the end of Aaj Jai, and at the end of HIMYM. Wow. It's an ok show, but good lord, it's not cry worthy!

Anyway, back to the time crunch in Chicago. So, I am tired and my nerves are frayed, and I just want to go home. And then I go through customs, where we have to pick up our checked luggage. My bag was the last one on the conveyor. Damn. Only 25 minutes til we board. I go to the customs officer, who was nice and asked the questions quickly and nicely. Then I joined the line to recheck my luggage. SLOW!!!! Fortunately, a customs officer tells the line to just put our bags near this other conveyor and they will do their best to get it to our flights on time. So, I put my bag there and crossed my fingers. Then I took the tram to Terminal 1. 8 minutes til takeoff.

Then I look to see what gate my flight is at. Oh, it's delayed. Goody! It is leaving 25 minutes late. That makes everything better, especially since I got there 10 minutes after the plane originally should have left. I hate being late, but since 15 of us were going to be late, they held the flight a bit. It was already late coming in, too.

Anyway, I konked out during the flight to MSP. Very uncomfortable seats for sleeping, though. I figured one hour of sleep on the plane wouldn't leave me too jetlagged. In my attempt to keep from falling asleep during non-sleeping Central time hours, I stayed up 24 hours.

Anyway, I got home around 11:30pm and was sleeping by 12. A very busy 24 hours. Unfortunately, I could only sleep til 9am. I am used to that time being 4pm, now. Currently, it's not even 9pm, but I am so exhausted, I will go to bed early tonight, I think.

Also, I got my computer working again. Yay!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 27 - Last night in Piran -- forevah!

Today was our last day. Sad....! We took our last walk to the institute, where I gave my last presentation, and ate my last burek. And my second last burek (I was hungry!). Then I went for a last walk around the city.

On the walk, I went to the only beach in Piran, which is just a disentegrated concrete area next to a heavily graffitied basketball court along the seafront. Then I walked to the square, up to the church, then over to the market with a wider variety of alcohol, where I bought a couple beers for tonight. Along the walk, I picked up 1 rock for memories, and saw about 12 cats. It was warm and sunny, so lots of people and animals were walking around.

Anyway, we watched the Africa cup semi-finals between Ghana and Nigeria (where I drank my beer). I normally don't watch football too often, but it's something to do here. We've been following the tournament since it's been on TV a lot since we've been here. Also, the Snooker world tournament has been on. What's Snooker, you ask? To be honest, I don't really know. It's like pool, only with several red balls, and a few of different colors tht are in particular places on the billiards table. You must hit a red ball in then hit another color in. You keep going until you don't get a ball in, then it's the other players turn. Paddy played it frequently in college, which was very helpful in explaining wtf was going on. Also, you must wear a vest and bowtie while playing. This is a gentleman's game, apparently.

We had a group dinner at 7pm at Ivo, the restaurant closest to our hostel. It was ok. I ordered more tomato soup because I was still hungry. Then we got chocolate crepe for dessert. Fantastic! I love chocolate crepe. I wish they made crepe in the US! Nomnomnom. Lord knows I can't make it!

After, a few of us went to Da Noi, the sketchy bar for a drink. It was still sketchy, but fun. Anyways, I must go finish packing. We leave the hostel at 7:45 tomorrow morning and leave from Venice. Poor Huguette isn't allowed to go to Italy, so she has to leave at 6:45 to catch a flight from Ljubljana. I guess that's what she gets from being Congalese. lol. Silly governments and visas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 26 - Boring!

Hehe. It was a little boring, I guess. I sat through 17 presentations, chit chatted, was cold, and worked on my own presentation. After I finish up a few details, I may head upstairs to hang out with Allysa and Huguette, who presented today. For now, my powerpoint is done, and I just need to make a personal outline with all the stuff I want to say. It's times like now that I would like to have my own computer so I can just copy and paste my notes and read them off the screen. Alas, I must write everything by hand.

In any case, the people who want to go home are really annoyed. We could all tolerate each other early in the month, but now that we leave the day after tomorrow, there is a lot of eye rolling and irritated gossip. Kinda weird, eh? I guess it makes me glad I'm leaving before I get annoyed with the place (although having all the restaurants close at once is pretty annoying).

Yup, short blog post. I didn't do too much today, I guess. For lunch, I had a meat and potato burek. For dinner I bought half a loaf of bread, a small wheel of brie, and 2 yogurts with Market brand Fanta. I have €70 left. I suppose I could exchange them, since all I have to buy tomorrow is lunch, which will probably be a burek. Dinner is with the group.

Also, if you're ever in Bosnia, spend all your Marks or exchange them there. No banks take Bosnian Marks. FYI.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 25 - Burea begins!

Today, we gave group presentations. My group presented in the afternoon, so we worked through lunch. We just grabbed burek from the bakery and finalized our presenation. Part of our finalization was working with Meichen's accent so people could understand her more easily. She has difficulty separating her words and ennunciating her consonants. Her part was much more understandable than in previous presentations. We did well, though. Yay!

After, everyone came back to the hostel to work on individual presentations. I don't present til Thursday morning, so I don't have to get much done tonight. 17/25 of the class present tomorrow, so I'll be fine.

For dinner, everywhere is closed! The weather is too cold, so restaurants close to minimize losses because no one goes out to eat. All the restaurants we were going to go to were closed, so we wandered around until we found an open place. We found this tiny little cute restaurant on a side street as we were heading to the harbor to see if those restaurants were open. Inside, we met a cute tiny little older lady who spoke Slovene, Italian and some German. In our group, we speak English, French and Chinese. So, we managed to order 2 fish dinners and 1 meat dinner, 3 teas and 3 risotto with meat. The risotto was amazing! Just white rice with beef chunks and gravy. I ordered the meat meal, so I got 2 pork chops, fried potato slices, steamed peas and carrots, with a salty gravy. Delicious! The fish were just two fish with some potatoes and spinach. Also looked delicious. Then she brought out the aperitifs. She pointed to one and said ˝sherry˝ then the whiter one and said ˝grapa˝. I poured out some sherry for the three of us. It wasn't bad. Drinkable. I poured out half a shot of grapa. I took a sip. Holy hell. It was worse than vodka. I then sat there for 5 minutes dreading finishing the half a shot. Then I got the idea to squeeze a lemon into the glass. So much better! Drinkable, anyway.

The bill was €91! The fish cost €45. It was a relief to me because my meal was only €19, not €36. Awesome!

Anyway, I suppose I could go do research now. Le sigh...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 24 - A day of relaxation!

Today, I got up at 9:15. It was really nice. We got the morning off because quite a few people were going to stay up til 5am watching the Vikings game. They lost. In the playoffs. The sun set yesterday. Hell remains firey. Anyway, so we had class for about 20 minutes this afternoon, and had the rest of the day to work on our presentations.

Tomorrow, each group gives 2 presentations. One in the morning on the relations between Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs, and one in the afternoon about the relations between Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. To simplify things, our group split in two to do one presentation with 3 people each.

And Wednesday and Thursday, we give individual presentations about a topic of our choice. I am doing a presenation on the amount Saudi Arabia has invested into mosques in Sarajevo. There are a lot of mosques in Sarajevo, the newer ones very large and very empty. BiH is a mostly secular state, and even though practicing religion was a fad after the fall of Yugoslavia and during and just after the war, most people are not very religious and only really celebrate major holidays. So, there are large, fancy mosques with speakers in the minarets to loudly call people to prayer. In a secular state with recent, violent ethnoreligious tension, giant fancy loud mosques are not exactly welcome by the other ethnic groups, or even some Muslims.

In any case, we had a relaxed day with minimal effort. We also got our last per diem today, so I have money. Oh! And I went shopping to buy a large purse. I have bought too much stuff to bring home easily, so I'm checking my suitcase, putting liquids and whatever dirty clothes fit in there, then putting breakables and stuff to do on the plane in the new purse, and everything else in my backpack to put in the overhead compartments. Hopefully everything gets home in one piece, eh? It's strange to think that we're leaving soon, but most people are glad to be almost done. I miss some parts of home, but I find it really exciting to be in places I've never been before. I have a lot of reasons to come back to all the places I've visited, though. Particularly the large cities where we only had an evening and early morning there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 22 and 23 - Mostar and Split

Sorry I was unable to update last night. I was sharing a room with someone who left before I had a chance to ask if I could use her computer. I'll try to remember the best I can.

We took a city tour at 9am. We walked around the Austro-Hungarian empire area, but a lot of it had been destroyed in the conflict, and some of it rebuilt. It's a little weird. Trees grow in really weird places here. In Trieste, there were trees growing on a bridge. There are trees growing on the tops of walls, on upper stories of buildings, on tops of boulders. It's really strange.

Anyway, we then walked to the old bridge, Stari Most. It was built in the 1500s, survived German bombing in WWII, was destroyed in the 92-94 conflict, was rebuilt in 2006 and is now a UNESCO heritage site. It's smaller than expected. The river is narrow through the city, though it gets wider outside of the city. It rushes super fast and loudly, and the color of the whole river is a bright blue green. It's not very clear, so I wouldn't swim in it, but it sure is pretty to look at!

After, we walked down the souvenir street. I finally had a chance to buy some souvenirs from Bosnia. It is a really pretty town.

We then headed out to Split, the 2nd largest Croatian city. It was just over 3 hours. The scenery is so drastic here. One second will be a snowy forest, and just 20 minutes later it'll be rocky and dry.

Split is the tourist city. There were a lot of cruise ships in the harbor, and everyone spoke English. We are done learning, so we didn't have any classes here. We just had free time! Yay! We went to dinner in another sketchy-entrance, lovely-dinner place. We had to walk through a narrow alleyway where two walls meet to find this little courtyard and a cute restaurant inside. It was delicious and relatively cheap. The receptionist recommended it, otherwise we never would have found it.

After, Meichen went back to the hotel, and LaVana and I walked around shopping. It was our last night in Croatia, so I wanted to spend all of my kuna. I bought some unmentionables, but it was Saturday night, so most shops closed early. So, we got up early to walk around, and found an old palace, where Mass was being held, but no souvenir shops. I still had 80 kuna (15 dollars), so I bought some food for the long bus trip back to Piran.

Then at a road stop, I bought some more souvenirs, this time the alcoholic kind. I bought some fancy bottles of slivovic (plum brandy) to bring back. After, we just spent a lot of time on either freeways, or windy mountain roads or windy coastal roads. Very few of us felt well at the end of the trip. We went from a few hundred feet, to a mile and a half, to sea level all in a day. Also, we went through a 7km long tunnel. It was pretty cool. No one held their breath. Paddy advised us not to do so, as he did not want any dead bodies on the bus.

Anyway, back in Piran for a few more days to give presentations and wrap up the class, and then back to the US! I'm not sure I want to, but I can't afford to stay. Damn. If only I had a few hundred dollars to spend another week somewhere!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 21 - Mostar!

Today, we drove around Sarajevo a bit before we left. We saw the Olympic stadium, and a massive graveyard. About the size of the national cemetery in DC, but it was only created after 1992. Pretty intense.

After, we left Sarajevo. I kind of dozed off. When I woke up, it was a winter wonderland. It was about 3 degrees C in Sarajevo, and it was -3 degrees C. It had snowed the night before in Sarajevo, so it was slippery, but it didn't really stick. But here, it was white! Everywhere! Lovely! We passed a bombed out and abandoned village, covered in snow. It was a little surreal. Then we had to go down the winding icy mountain road on a coach bus. Luckily, Boris has earned the nickname Ms. Frizzle, so the magic school bus did it somehow.

Then we went through a tunnel, and whoa! No snow! There was a lovely green river flowing alongside the bus, the weather warmed up to 5 degrees C, and we had a lovely balmy drive through the mountains. I have some great pictures.

The valley we were driving through was a strategic valley as it opens to the sea and is very difficult to occupy without help from the locals. We stopped at a museum along the road that was opened by Tito to commemorate a dramatic WWII battle against the Germans. The Yugoslav Partisans were suffering, so they withdrew to this stronghold, and 80,000 Yugoslav citizens came with the military, bearing the wounded Yugoslav soldiers with them. The bridges were all destroyed, so the army built a tiny wooden bridge in 19 hours across the river and up a cliff alongside the old, destroyed train bridge, and had a good battle and whatnot. Our translator, Duska, is an art historian, so I am not exactly clear on what happened. Military translations are not her strong suit.

Anyway, we arrived in a very windy Mostar. Very windy. We actually postponed our city tour til tomorrow morning because the wind is so strong. We instead went to a lecture from the Nansen Dialogue Center. After, we went to dinner at a nice restaurant as a group. LaVana, Meichen and I sat with Darco (whose Christian name is Gabriel), a handsome, charming Croat (who has been dating a girl for 6 years. Damn!). He is a 3rd year Political Science student who is in charge of his faculty's student newspaper. Remember, the years are different. In the US, we have a 4-1-4 system for bachelors, master and doctorates, whereas in most of Europe have a 3-2-3 system. He watches MTV, and asked us if the shows he sees there are real to most American's lives. Answer: hell no! We are a diverse group (Meichen is Chinese, LaVana is Bahamian), so we compared politics and culture a lot.

It was a fun dinner. However, this is the second time I have ordered chicken with curry for dinner, and the second time it has been bland. I haven't had anything spicy since I've been here, and that's not by choice. I don't like spicy food, but everything here is mild. Ah well!

Anyway, we go to Split, Croatia in the afternoon. I hope to be able to buy some souvenirs here in Mostar tomorrow morning, and some from Croatia in the afternoon. Should be exciting! Back in the almost-EU!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 20 - Goodnight Sarajevo!

Tonight is our last night in Sarajevo. I had a lot of fun here, but I wish we had had more free time during the day. This morning, we went to a tunnel museum, which is in a house which turned into a tunnel in 1993 and then into a museum in the lat 90s. The tunnel goes under the Sarajevo airport, which was under UN control, but with Serbian forces on either side. It was the only way out of the city, but the UN had no authority and could not show favoritism, so any Bosniak going across the runway was shot. Ergo, a tunnel. It is 800 meters long, 1 meter wide, and 1.6 meters tall. It was used to bring food, water, electricity, and fuel into the city while it was under siege. Also, materials for producing cigarettes were brought in, turned into cigarettes in Sarajevo, then exported. They produced 100 million tons of cigarettes during the almost 4 year siege. Crazy, eh? But life goes on, even if you have to run zigzag down a street to get to school under sniper fire.

We then ate a quick lunch and went to the courts, where soldiers are tried for war crimes by the ICTY (international criminal tribunal of former Yugoslavia), which is the first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg trials after WWII. It will take about another 15 years to complete the trials. So far, about 800 people have been charged with this court. We were hosted by an American judge, Patricia Wehlan, who has been working in Bosnia with the UN.

After, free time! We ate in a fancy place, but a place where you must go down some obscure stairs and ring the buzzer to be let in. I was apprehensive at first, but it was delicious and relatively cheap! I had vegetable potage, or algae soup, chicken somethingorother which was like a chicken, rice and tomato casserole. Amazing! For dessert, I ordered the special pancake, which was a crepe with chocolate, walnuts and ice cream wrapped in the middle, and covered with some walnutty sauce and chocolate sauce. Amazing!

Anyway, then we did some shopping. LaVana bought a coat, shoes and a couple scarves. Meichen bought some scarves, and I bought a chessboard. I am such a nerd. Lol. It's a really nice, portable chessboard though. It is only 35 KM (Bosnian Marks) which is 17 Euros, so $25 or so. Marks to Euros is easy because its 2 to 1, but the US is .75 to 1 Mark, so it's a little hard to calculate in my head. We are only in Bosnia for another night, so I should spend my Marks before we get back to Croatia, where I should spend my Kuna before we get back to Slovenia, where I should spend my Euro before we get back to the US, where I should spend nothing! : )

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 19 - The Day I Got Lost!

Today, we went to listen to a couple lectures. We went to listen to the folk at the Nansen Dialogue Center at another hotel across town. After, we went to the shopping center for lunch in the food court. They have a lunch line type thing, rather than various restaurants like they do in US malls. It was very good though. I had cooked peas, rice and a turkey patty. Sounds bland, but it was delicious.

After lunch, we walked to the Political Science Faculty of the University of Sarajevo. The university system is different here. Rather than 1 organized university with departments, the university has faculties, which cover one general area, with departments within that. Sort of like different colleges within the university, but each faculty offers all three levels of degrees. The Political Science faculty covers Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, and Journalism, plus all the subfields such as International Relations, Business Journalisms, Peace Studies, etc.

Then we were supposed to walk back to the hotel. Easier said than done. I knew how to get to the river, but that's about it. We followed Paddy for a while, but then we misheard him and thought he told us to go up the hill. But he said go down the main road to the square and then go up the hill. Ergo, we walked up and down that fricken hill for what felt like a very long time. It was only like 45 minutes, and the route Paddy told us was 35 minutes, but still! It was fun though. I don't know if it was a bad neighborhood or anything. My usual indicators of poverty don't really apply to Sarajevo. Everything has graffiti, and there is structural damage in downtown as well, so I have no idea whether or not I was more at risk. There were some kids begging by the University, but they seemed well-fed and had decent clothing, so I don't think they needed money desperately.

Anyway, we went to the brewery for dinner as a group. The brewery, during the war, was the only source of fresh water for the whole city. It's a big city, and the whole population had one source of drinkable water. They have a restaurant that is very nice there. I had chicken curry (which was NOT spicy whatsoever, but still good) with tomato soup as a starter. It certainly made me appreciate the no-smoking laws in MN, though. I still reek of smoke!

Anyway, tomorrow Duska and Boris are taking us on a tour of the city, and then we're going to a court session which is presided over by an American judge, Patty Wehlan. The whole Bosnian government is overseen by the international community, so the judges are all foreign. Weird, eh?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 18 - Welcome to Sarajevo!

Last night I slept in a fantastic bed, which was lovely and soft and perfect for a side sleeper like me! The downside was I was sharing it with LaVana who talks and moves a lot in her sleep. A few hours after I went to bed, she suddenly sat up (taking the comforter with her) and started talking gibberish. A couple hours after that, she smacked me on the head, saying "they're all over you! they're all over you!" Luckily, she only smacked me once, but it was pretty startling.

We started off the morning by going to Vukovar, a city on the border of Croatia and Serbia which was under siege by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) (aka Serbia) for 3 months. At the end, 97% of the buildings in Vukovar were damaged, with around 40% severely damaged. Now, there are still a few buildings in ruins, and many with shrapnel damage. The population has decreased a lot because of the national war, so now it's really a ghost town. A lot of the Croats have returned, though. All non-Serbs were forced to leave in 1992, but since the city was returned to Croatia in 1996, the population is now over 45% Croatian, and 37% Serbian, and the rest other minorities (Bosniak, German, Jew, etc).

A very sad looking town though. We met with the mayor who was a Croat militiaman during the battle in Vukovar and who became a prisoner in a Serbian concentration camp but who doesn't generalize his experience to all Serbs. He wants a future of peace and unification of the ethnic groups, which is probably why he was elected mayor.

We also had another companion: a stray black scruffy dog, who followed us around while we toured Vukovar. We wanted to bring it with, but it disappeared while we were eating lunch. Paddy vetoed the idea, but Boris was okay with bringing a dog on the bus. : )

We then drove to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. My first impressions of Bosnia and Herzegovina is that it is polluted and poor. That hasn't changed much, as sunset was just a few minutes after we crossed the border. Bosnia and Herzegovina is split into 2 main regions and a city, which are all governed by different governments. We entered in the Republika Serpska, or the Republic of Serbia, the Serbian side, which is poorer than the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Bosniak/Croat side. Sarajevo is on the Bosniak side, but on the border. The Republika Serpska would like to be an independent country, or be annexed into Serbia, but as it is ruled by the international community, that isn't going to happen anytime soon.

As an example of how polluted this place is, we passed a river, where all the plants growing on the banks had toilet paper hanging from them, and there were cars and trucks mostly submerged in the mud along the banks. I could only see the top half of the cabs. There is just trash everywhere. The air in the areas we stopped smelled pretty bad. Sarajevo doesn't seem so bad, though.

We are staying at Hotel Hecco. It's really nice. We have a skylight in our room. I'll post pictures later, but it's a 3 star, so it's pretty nice. We went to a small cafe, where we ordered chicken coutlets and season salad. It was delicious, and just what we needed after a day on the bus eating junk food. Just some grilled chicken breast, coleslaw and tomatoes, and a large fluffy piece of pita bread. Delic! After, we grabbed some ice cream, which was also delic. It's a little weird to be eating ice cream when its 0 degrees C, but you know, whatever. Tastes good. And cheap. I spent 8 euros total on my dinner and dessert. They also take euros here, which is nice. We haven't received our per diem of marks yet, so we only have euro and some kuna.

Anyway, I should give Meichen her computer back. She's been kind enough to let me use it for the past few days. I can't wait to have my own computer back, though. Then I can upload pictures and show you evidence of what I'm talking about.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 17 - Zagreb ande Osijek, still in Croatia!

Last night, I enjoyed for the first time, a bath. Our four star hotel had a deep bathtub, where, also for the first time since I was 12, I was able to take a bath where more than my butt and feet were in the water. It was lovely. The water was a little cloudy, so I rinsed off after, but it was really nice while it lasted.

In the morning, we wandered around confused looking for the continental breakfast, which wasn't that hard to find, but was down the hallway from the lobby, not by the regular restaurant. Their scrambled eggs were good, but the rest was meh. Mostly just really confusing.

After we had a tour of Zagreb with a really funny older woman, who led us around, showing us the sights. It was pretty fun. At one point, we were up on one of the hills of Zagreb, and she says "Oh, I almost forgot. This tower has a cannon that goes off at noon. It's very loud."

I looked at my watch. 12:00:35. My watch must be ahead. I plugged my ears, and BAM! Everyone screamed, and laughed. I picked up a piece of the "cannon ball" which was made of paper. I dunno why. I suppose it'll be a cool souvenir to throw away. Lol.

Anyway, Meichen and I grabbed kebaps and some fruit from the market. The kebaps were better than the kebabs I had when I was in France, but still, I get creeped out by the giant haunches of meat they shave for the kebabs. In Croatian, its spelled kebaps. Not sure why.

I bought three bananas, but Meichen just wanted a few oranges, and ended up with about 20. I still had 5 from the day before, so we had a lot of oranges! The oranges she bought today weren't that great of quality, so some of them we have to throw away.

The bus trip to Osijek from Zagreb was a little longer than the trip from Piran to Zagreb. At our pit stop, we encountered a man who was standing outside the bathroom, asking 50 euro cents or 3 kuna to use it. Not so legit, but we were desperate. The bathrooms were nice enough, though. I bought some orange juice from the gas station, but the aftertaste was a little pukish, so I only drank half of it.

Our drive today was pretty cloudy. It was foggy when we left, sleety during the drive, and dark when we arrived in Osijek. Same as yesterday, so I haven't had to many good pictures of Croatian countryside yet. It's similar to the midwest, though. Flat and farmed. More populated than Iowa, but not suburban.

Anyway, we then arrived at our accommodations which is a guest house of the Nansen center. 10 of the group had to go to another hostel. It's above a nightclub and they can't lock their rooms. After the bar closes, the entrance to the hostel gets locked, but there are only a couple lockers to put small personal items in. Sketchy. I'm staying in a spacious room with LaVana and Meichen with our own bathroom, right outside of the kitchen. I am glad I am in the guest house.

Anyway, we went for a group dinner. They served us two kinds of soups, beef and fish, with egg noodles. And dessert. It wasn't so great. The fish soup was just chunks of fish. I found the head. Someone ate the tail. My little taste had a few bones. I mostly ate the beef soup. Although, I was one of the lucky people who didn't get a piece of spine or something. Then we got weird desserts which weren't bad but not fantastic.

Hopefully it's sunny tomorrow so I can see Osijek before we go to Vukovar for class. Tomorrow will be a hard day. We're starting to get into the area that was affected by the war. Our restaurant had holes in the wall from shrapnel from the 90s. And this is the town that wasn't very heavily attacked. Vukovar, on the other hand, was under siege for 3 months. And the day after tomorrow, we go to Sarajevo, which was under siege for 43 months. Crazy...!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 16 - Zagreb

We left at 10 am this morning. We had to pack everything up. We brought everything we wanted for the next 8 days with us, and the rest we had to pack up and put in one of three rooms that we've rented for the 8 days for storage. I managed to get everything in my backpack and a small string bag. I feel accomplished. Others are dragging along big suitcases and everything. And here I am with a backpack and small bag.

The bus ride was a little long, 4 hours. There was an accident along the way, completely blocking traffic. But everyone pulled over to the side to wait, leaving plenty of room for the tow trucks and ambulances. Very civilized.

We also had to go through the border crossing. First, we had to leave Slovenia, where Boris had to report some stuff to them, then we drove a hundred feet or so to the Croatian station, where a guard came through the bus to stamp visas. It was a different experience for most of us. For some people, this is their first trip out of the country, so they received their second stamp. For others, it was our first time crossing a border via road. I doubt many people have crossed into Mexico in a bus before.

Anyway, we arrived in Zagreb, where they spend Kuna instead of Euros. A kuna is a small weasel-like animal, which I assume derives from when furs were more important than paper. The exchange rate is about 4.5 kuna to a dollar. I was excited when they gave us 270 kuna last night, but its only around 35 dollars. So far, I've spent 90 of my kuna on dinner. We ate Chinese food. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't so great, either. Tomorrow lunch is pizza, and we have a group dinner tomorrow night in Osijek.

Unfortunately, it's Sunday, which means everything is closed, even in the capital city. We stopped in a souvenir shop, but I didn't really see anything worthwhile. Maybe there'll be something in Osijek or Split that I can buy. Split will probably be a better bet, since we'll be there on a Saturday (market day) morning and it's a tourist seaside town.

Aside from the language differences, and our inability to use the tram system, Zagreb doesn't really seem foreign. Maybe I'm used to the older building style now, but it is not as close as Piran, Venice, Paris or London. There are wider sidewalks and breathing room. Also, the elevator fits 4 people and 2 suitcases at a time, which is crazy! They're just a little smaller than the US. Must be a younger city. Or maybe it's just been rebuilt more recently.

We visited a cathedral briefly, but as its Sunday, there were actually people praying there, and confessing, and to prevent disrespect and awkwardness, we left fairly quickly.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 15 - Ljubljana!

Last night, we decided to spend the night enjoying ourselves. We bought a couple bottles of wine, intending to spend the night in the hostel lobby, watching TV and movies and having a good time. We ended up at the sketchy (yet safe, no worries) bar called De Noi which has been frequented by less sleepy and more alcoholic members of our group over the course of this trip. I got fairly drunk. LaVana, Rob and I were the last ones there. Paddy is a little protective of LaVana because her dad is worried about her, so he came to get us at 11:30, which was a little weird. It was a fun time, but we had to leave at 9 in the morning for Ljubljana, which is about an hour and a half bus ride away. No hangover or anything, so it's all good.

So we went to Ljubljana, where after we got over the mountains, it was snowy! With a large pine forest! It was so beautiful! It's crazy how much the climate can change just through a tunnel. I took some great pictures of the snow covered forest through the bus window, and cute little Slovene towns that spot the hills.

Mostly, in Ljubljana I shopped. I bought two shot glasses from someone at the market and some clothes from H&M. I love H&M. It's fantastic. And cheap. I didn't buy too much, either. After we went to a place called Sokol for lunch, where they charge you for everything but it still tastes good. I drank 4 cups of tea, and I was charged a euro for them all, even though I would have been fine with more hot water. I ordered goulash and vegie soup.

Slovene goulash is not like most goulash I have had. I expected egg noodles with a tomato and meat sauce, but instead I got a beef stew with a large dumpling in the middle. Still tasted good. They had horse on the menu. It was a little weird. I didn't eat any, at least I don't think I did. I don't really know what meat was in the soup, but I think it was venison. Or at least the menu said ˝game.˝ Whatever that means...

Anyway, the bathroom at this place is also really cool. Well, at least the doors are. The rest of it isn't so great. The doors are wood with sliding wooden latches. Old school.

Anyway, I should go pack. We leave for Zagreb tomorrow morning, and won't be back to the hostel for 8 days. I think I will survive with just my backpack, but we shall see when I pack. If I can fit 8 shirts and still have room for undies, socks, and notebooks, then backpack it is! Otherwise I'll just leave a large bag of stuff here, since we're renting a room for just storage for the week.

Ciao. (I still haven't learned to say goodbye in Slovene. I usually just end with Hvala, thank you).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 14 - Last full day in Piran... for now!

Today, we gave presentations about three cities we'll be visiting: Osijek/Vukovar, Sarajevo and Mostar. We had to describe what happened there, why it happened, what it's like now and why we are going there. You can find most of the information by reading the Wikipedia pages about these towns. : )

I am currently using Shawn's computer. Shawn is the academic administrative assistant for the political science department. She's having dinner with Paddy at Dushka's house, our talkative tour guide. It's nice to not think about where the letter Y is, and not search for symbols only to find they're not there at all!

Today marks the halfway point of the trip, kinda. In two weeks, we leave early in the morning for Venice, then fly to Munich, then to Chicago, then Minneapolis, where we arrive at 9:30 in the evening. Good times. I think I am going to buy a small bag and check my suitcase on the way back. A few of my souvenirs are alcoholic in nature, and more than three ounces. I am also bringing honey (not to you, orange-sue, don't worry!), which cannot be brought as a carry on, either. I suppose I could just buy 3 ounce containers of honey, but that might be a bit weird. Ha....

I went to the post office today to buy souvenirs. They don't have a souvenir shop in Piran. It is a small town. I also bought ear bands, because it will be hanging around freezing the next week in Croatia and Bosnia. They're very cozy, and only 3 euros each.

Tomorrow, we go to Ljubljana. I am so excited! Just two more nights in Piran, and one more meal to pay for! But it means the end to our amazing breakfasts of bread, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and various spreads.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 13

I forgot to set my alarm last night. So I got up at 7:50 instead of 7:30, nothing too major, but I did have to use the awkwardly broken shower because someone was in the non-broken shower.

We watched Welcome to Sarajevo today in class, starring Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei and some british guy I haven't heard of. It was really good, incorporating real footage from the bombing of Sarajevo in with the movie. Heartbreaking, but good. What isn't heartbreaking about Bosnia from 1992-1994, though?

I'm still sniffly, but functioning properly. One of my roommates has acquired the 24 hour flu, passed on from my next door neighbor. I hope I don't get it. I hate puking.

Tomorrow, we're giving presentations about the three cities we'll be studying in Croatia and Bosnia. My group is presenting on Mostar in southeastern Bosnia, which suffered fighting between Croats and Bosniaks, and who are still living segregated from each other on opposite sides of the river.

Saturday, we're taking a day trip to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and then leaving for Zagreb, capital of Croatia, on Sunday. I'm pretty excited. I get to add 5 countries to the list of places I've been, but only 4 if you don't count airports. I did walk around the tarmac in Munich, though. I breathed the air, right? Kidding, I still have yet to go to Germany. Four ain't bad, though. The only problem with going Croatia and Bosnia is that everyone smokes everywhere. In Slovenia, they smoke a lot, but only outside. Ah well. I guess I can suck it up.

Anyway, I should do some research on Mostar, or make a list of things I want to buy in Croatia and Bosnia. They're famous for their honey, and shrapnel souvenirs. Ah, war.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 12 - ups and downs!

I finally did my laundry! I got up at 7:30, and ran to the kitchen/laundry room, only to find Marija sitting there. But, she wasn't doing laundry! Awesome. I washed tshirts, socks and undies, plus one pair of jeans and a hoodie. It took 2 and a half hours for one load, plus the day or two to dry it. But still, clean clothes are always fun!

We had a test this morning, too. It was ok. We had 4 questions, and we had to answer two of them, one about Italian-Slovene relations and one about Charles Tilly, who wrote our textbook. It was pretty easy. We were given an hour and 4 pages.

Then we had a couple hours for lunch. I went back to the hostel to cut and prepare the pineapple I bought the other day. I couldn't find the big knife, so I used a butter knife to cut the top off, then around the core and along the inside, scooped the insides out, then pulled the core out to make a little cup. Then I peeled a tangerine and a blood orange, put the fruit in the cup, then filled the rest with wine. It's been soaking for 9 hours now, but I'll let it go a bit more before I eat it.

After that was done, I went to the bakery and cafe to get a spinach burek and tea, and read a bit before class started. I've been rereading the Scarlet Letter. It's better than I remember, probably because I've been getting enough sleep and have free time and I'm not forced to read it for class.

In afternoon class, we talked about the collapse of Yugoslavia, then watched a movie about the wars in Bosnia which was made a year before NATO stepped in as ˝peacemakers˝ instead of ˝peacekeepers˝, which means they can fire on people instead of sitting there and watching it. Shit. So depressing and sad and disheartening. There was footage of dead babies and stories of women from the rape camps and old men trying to run for shelter and being shot down and little boys telling stories of their parents dying in front of them and European and American politicians pussyfooting and doing nothing.

We all shuffled out of the class completely silent. Many of the students were crying during the movie. We were definitely dragged out of our comfort zones.

For dinner, we went to Guiseppe Cafe again. Delicious, as always. Today we got free tiramisu, the best tiramisu in Piran, apparently. It was pretty amazing. I found out our cute waiter's name is Elvis. Very cute.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 11 - Nothing exciting

It wasn't a bad day, but it was a little boring. Breakfast and a short class because Paddy has a cold and cannot speak for long periods of time. We just discussed our textbook a bit and talked about the test tomorrow. We weren't hungry at all, so we just grabbed a long coffee and headed back to the hostel. We stopped at the chocolate shop and got some sweets. They have a wide variety of awesome chocolate. Chocolate pianos, penises, breasts, violins, frogs, soldiers, etc, plus a wide variety of smaller chocolates. I bought a small box of chocolate frogs to snack on. Delicious!

I've been trying to do laundry for a couple days now. Each load takes 2 hours, and there are 25 of us all trying to do laundry in the same few days. It's getting annoying to go to the kitchen/laundry room and find the washer going every time. I just need to wash tshirts, undies, socks and 1 pair of jeans. Hoodies if they fit, but I won't push my luck. I'll just keep on trying. Maybe I'll get up at 6:30 to get them in before everyone gets up.

Anyway, instead of doing laundry, I just read for class, ate chocolate frogs, and chatted with folk. A few of us went to the bakery to have bureks (like flaky calzones, or pastries) for lunch. Again, I had a spinach burek. Delectable!

For dinner, we went to Pirat, the place that gives 10% off. I ordered beef noodle soup, tomato salad, tea and a chocolate crepe. I received beef-flavored ramen, a bowl of tomatoes, tea and a chocolate crepe. Not as substantial as I was expecting, but still good. I am getting Paddy's cold, so it's probably good that I had broth with some noodles, lots of tomatoes and tea. The crepe was just too amazing to pass up. There are two crepes filled with melted milk chocolate and covered with powdered sugar and drizzled with more chocolate and whipped cream, topped with a fun sparkly thing.

Anyway, I think I will go study and get lots of sleep so the cold gets better faster. Traveling while sick sucks. :(

Enjoy your day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our First Assigment-Day 10

We actually had to do homework last night because we had to give our first group presentation this afternoon. The 25 of us are divided into four groups: The boundaries, the relations within the boundaries, the relations across the boundaries and the stories about the boundaries. In the context of where we are studying, this focuses on the Italian minority in Slovenia and the Slovene minority in Italy, with the ethnic boundary the boundary of focus.

I am in the Relations Across the Boundary group, so we focused on discrimination and ethnic conflict for both minority groups. Slovenes in Italy are less fortunate than Italian in Slovenia because of multi-ethnic acceptance and legal protection for the Italian minority.

So, we all had to give 30 minute presentations. It was not so bad. No problem.

After that 2.5 hours (technical difficulties), we were released for the day. We started at 1:10, and I figured we would be done by 3, so I only had a coffee just before because I had a big breakfast. I was so hungry by 3:45 when we were done, so Meichen and I went back to Guiseppe Cafe and ate a ton of food for Lunner. I had vegie soup, turkey filet and fruit salad. The soup was amazing, with a light vegie broth with carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, onion and basil. The turkey roast was not as great, but still good. It was three pieces of turkey breast, which were rather dry, olive polenta (polentas good, olives made it taste funny, though), and grilled cucumber and eggplant (which I didn't eat) and sliced tomato and oranges (which were good). The fruit salad was epic. It was a couple layers of canteloupe, topped with strawberry and vanilla ice cream, surrounded with kiwi and pineapple, and topped with whipped cream and diced pineapple and melon.

So full. Still, an hour and a half later.

After, we stopped by the market. I bought cookies, pineapple and Qtips. Their Qtips are ear shaped, with a large bulp and a little tip. Like awkwardly shaped boobs. I'll post pictures. They're awkward looking, but they get the job done.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 8 and 9 - Venice!

So, my free weekend in Venice started off weird. I slept through my alarm. I still got up on time, but I didn't get a shower. Sad morning.

Anyway, we left at 8am so four students could get to Venice by 11 to take the train to Milan for a soccer match. They didn't make it, but there were more trains in half an hour or so. One reason, even though it's a three hour drive, we have to stop to register the bus to go to Venice, and we had to break for half an hour in the middle. One reason: bathroom break. Main reason: one of the girls was really hung over and puked in the back of the bus, so Paddy had to clean it up during the break. He was not happy. Nor would I be.

Anyway, once we got over the mountains, the view got really boring. Just flat vinyards with some cottages and villas. Same as what was on the other side of the mountains, but flat instead of hilly. Ergo, the second half of the bus trip was naptime!

It also started raining after the mountains, which made us sad. However, once we got over the causeway into Venice, it stopped raining and the sun came out! Fantastic timing! We then got on a boat from the parking spot to the main square, San Marcos Piazza, or St. Mark's Square. It took us 30 minutes to walk the few blocks to our hotel because we all wanted to take pictures of every building.

The hotel, not so nice. Tolerable, but not nice. I slept on a cot, but it was bigger than the other two beds in the room which I shared with two other students on the trip. The shower was a tiny corner and the shower doors slid together at the corner. The water didn't drain very well, so I had a foot bath.

Anyway, as to what I did in Venice. We went for a short tour of the city with our guide, Janos, who is 6'9˝. He gave us good info about visiting Venice but not so much about Venice itself. He told us where to eat and how to get back to the hotel (which is very difficult to do at night, more so than anticipated). Meichen and I left the tour early to go to the Galleria dell Academia, where Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man was on it's last official exhibit day. It's the first time in 7 years it's been on display.

I was surprised at how small it is. I know it's just a sketch, but I expected more than a notebook-sized sheet of paper. My reaction was similar when I saw the Mona Lisa, as well. They're such prominent images in our culture that I expect them to be huge and splendorous.

I secretly took a picture of the Vitruvian man. Many of us did. As it is January, there were no huge throngs of tourists pushing and shoving to see it. We were able to take nice flash-less pictures. Museums aren't like in the US. They cost money and there aren't guards in every room.

After, we wandered around aimlessly. We decided to head to the ˝round stuff˝ which turned out to be the Bascilica of St. Mary. We walked around inside, where it was so cold we could see our breath. It wasn't that cold outside. After, we headed to a gold ball, which turned out to be a statue/wind vane. While finding that, we also found a statue of a naked boy holding a frog. Not what we expected to find in Venice. It's apparently part of a new museum in Venice.

We ate at one of two chinese places we found in Venice. It took us 2 hours to find a place to eat, though. Finding a place cheap enough with stuff Meichen wanted to eat was tough. She doesn't like cheese, and she'd been craving Chinese food for a long time. It was probably the cheapest place to eat in Venice, too. It only cost €15! I got curried duck, fried rice and spring rolls. Plus water. I wish water was free here like it is in Europe. But they don't serve tap water, but bottled.

It was getting dark now, so we decided to start meandering back to the hotel. We stopped at many shops along the way. I bought 2 masks, which are part of the Venecian cultural festival in February, and also important items in the souvenir shops. I also bought a nice shirt. Everything is on sale because of the after New Years sales that take over Europe. Good time to travel, imo.

We got really lost heading back. It probably took us an hour to find our hotel. Venice is confusing. While shopping, we accidently took a road that brought us north instead of east, so we ended up across the island from where we needed to be. Hella confusing. Driving in St. Paul : Walking in Venice :: Learning division : Linear Algebra.

Anyway, the next morning, we went to the Guggenheim museum. Fantastic. Normally, I don't appreciate modern art that much, but there were actually painting that held meaning to me in some way. There were Picassos and Pollacks and many other artists I recognized. It was fantastic.

After, we went wandering more, and shopping. We had trouble finding someplace to eat again, but eventually settled on a nice family-owned restaurant. I ate fish and tomato salad. After we went to the Venecian Jewish Ghetto. There are only 5 Jewish families in Venice left, but the area is well preserved.

Meichen has a goal to eat McDonalds in every country, so I tagged along with her as she ate a Big Mac. After, I bought some awesome boxers. There will be pictures on facebook in February.

After we headed back to the hotel, and back on the boat and back on the bus and back to Piran, where two strange men came into the hostel and asked one of the girls to meet them tomorrow morning for a photo shoot. She naively said yes. After they left, we scolded her thoroughly.

Anyway, presentations tomorrow. Woot!

Day 7 - Piran!

To catch up on what I've been up to, here are some journal entries I wrote when I was unable to blog. Old school, hurrah!

We got up early to walk in the rain to Tartini square in Piran. Tartini is the second greatest violinist/composer/instructor, second to Vivaldi, according to the museum in Piran. At the house of Tartini (which is in Tartini square, along with a statue of him), we met with Dr. Anton Bebler, who was our main lecturer of the day.

Bebler's talks focused on the smoothness of Slovenia's transition from Yugoslav republic to European state, and the roughness of Bosnias. Or as I like to call it ˝the WTF that is Bosnia.˝ It's a pretty weird country. It's constitution is an international peace treaty and it is managed by the UN. Google it. It's just the tip of the iceberg.

After lecture, a few of us ate at the Guiseppe Tartini cafe, which was surprisingly cheap, good and empty. Unfortunately, it was also slow and we were almost late for class.

Afternoon class was mostly just housekeeping issues and working on our presentations. So after that, Huguette and I went shopping. I bought a nice gray wool coat and a pair of ankle height boots. I blend in better now. Europeans don't wear hoodies and ratty tennies.

I also bought a bottle of wine to go with my leftover pasta for dinner. For €2, it was surprisingly good.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Internet crisis part Dos

So, currently the internet it down at the hostel. Thus, I am unable to update unless I borrow someone's computer and find a bar with Wifi. Why bars have wifi, I do not know.

Currently, I am sitting in the hotel lobby in Venice with 15 minutes left of my internet. 4 euros for 30 minutes. Crazy prices! Ah well.

Venice is crazy. I like it but I never know where I am. I feel like I am walking in circles and dark alleys and suddenly you are back in a tourist area that is across the island from where you started.

However, this leads to walking past many cute shops and spending money. I bought a nice shirt today in Venice, and a coat and boots yesterday in Piran. Everything is half off because of the New Years Sales. Good time of year to visit, despite the rain and cold. (Still, I'd rather have a dreary, rainy trip for a month than subzero, blustery January days in MN).

I will make a post for each day I miss. This is not Day 8s entry. I will elaborate more on today once I have free internet again in the hostel, but currently everyone who walks by on the street looks at me through the hotel door here, so it's kind of creeping me out.

Anyway, ciao from Venizia!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 6 - Trieste/Trst

Today, we went to Trieste (or Trst), Italy for the day. It was jolly good fun!

We left at 9am, and took the bus. It's about an hours drive, but you can see Piran from Trieste and visa versa. The best news of the day? It was sunny! We could see! Yesterday at lunch, the ceiling was painted like sky, and we joked it was our first blue sky of the trip! But today, it was actually sunny. Still cold, but sunny.

We went to language building of the University of Trieste for a couple lectures by Slovene professors on Trieste's history and then on Slovenes in Italy and Italian-Slovene relations. After, we ate in the University's cafeteria. It really made me appreciate St. Olaf's caf! There was one line, and you could get lasagna, penne, torellini and 4 or 5 different sauces and either an apple strudel or cold steamed vegetables.

Yum... <.< >.>

Anyway, then we went to another lecture room and a professor of politics explained to us about the Italian perspective of our morning lectures. He is a friendly, generous Italian man, and all that goes with that. He took us on a tour of Trieste and ate dinner with us after.

We went to a castle built in the 19th century by Maximillian of the Austro-Hungarian empire (the second son who went on to become emperor of Mexico), the main square in Trieste (where Stefano, the politics prof, arranged for us to go on a tour of the swankiest hotel in Trieste), then an amphitheater from the Roman times that is still in use, then a cathedral and old castle from the early Austro-Hungarian rule.

Then we went out for pizza, real Italian pizza. It was pretty good. They could not put pineapples on pizza, though. After, we were treated to a shot of this sweet yet incredibally strong lemon liquor. It was described by someone as ˝Mikes Hard Lemonade on crack.˝ I'll have to find more of it somewhere, because unlike most strong alcohol which tastes like nothing then tastes bad, this tastes bad then tastes great! I like that better! Just a few minutes after drinking the one shot and my fingers were tingling.

Anyway, fun day all around. Tomorrow we stay in Piran, but then we get a free weekend in Venice!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Trip Day 5!

Today, we had an early departure of 9am! We boarded the bus and headed to Koper, the main port town on the Slovenian coast. I should mention that the Istrian region of Slovenia has 2 names for everything: an Slovenian name and an Italian name. This is because on the Istrian peninsula, there has been a lot of intermingling of Slovenes, Croats and Italians, and there is a large Italian minority on the Slovene part of the Istrian peninsula. So Piran, our main town is Pirano in Italian. Koper is the Slovene name, and Capodistria is the Italian name. It means ˝Capital District˝as in the capital district of Istria.

Anyway, we went to our lecture at the University of Koper, where we first listened to a talk from the Rector of the University. After he gave his brief introduction of the school, a professor of anthropology gave a lecture about Istrian identity. Then one of the American Foreign Service Officers from the Embassy gave a little talk about American-Slovenian relations. Finally, we met with the staff at American Korner, the office for students who want to study abroad in America. Considering college is almost free in Europe, and they are less strict about attendence, not many students want to travel to the US.

We then went to lunch in Koper as a group and after went for a walking tour of the city. It is really small. It used to be an island, but they filled it in about a hundred years ago. The bus then drove along the coast back to Piran, with our talkative tour guide narrating our journey. There were some great views of the vinyards and valleys next to the ocean. The hairpin turns in a coach bus were a little weird, but Boris the Bus Driver is capable and we are still alive.

There are also these super tall clumps of grass. They remind me a little of pampas grass, only way taller and in smaller clumps and without the fuzzy tops. I'll post a picture if I can get one, but it's hard to do from the bus.

For dinner, we went to this place where you can get a 5 course meal for €7. We didn't do that, but it was still pretty cheap (€12) for spaghetti with salmon, wine, a crepe with chocolate and tea. I would get something else for an entree next time I go there, but it was very delicious overall.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Piran Day 4

This morning was unfortunate. I had trouble sleeping from 3-6 again. At 7, I woke up, went down to breakfast, ate a delightful meal (although the eggs were scrambled with ham this morning instead of sunny side up, so I did not eat them). Then I went upstairs to see if my last grade has been posted yet.

All that showed up on my computer was a blue screen. A blue screen of death more specifically.

It was a disappointing morning. Now I won´t be able to use my own computer until I get back to school in February. Alors, I am using the computer in the hostel, which has a slavic keyboard. Easier to use than French because most of the letters are the same, but the Y and Z are switched around, which is surprisingly more annoying than I imagined. Also, it took us about an hour to find the @ symbol.

You must hit ˝Alt Gr˝ + ˝V˝ @@@@@@@ I found it!

Anyway, if there is a random z in my post, please forgive me.

Back to Day 4, now. We went to class, in the warm and humid classroom at the Institute. Interesting lecture, but warm and humid and full and tired = one sleepy Catey!

We ate a quick and filling lunch after in a hotel's cafe. I don't really know what I ate, but it tasted good. The waiter said it was like soy cakes, but they tasted like crab to me. It was served with some sort of mashed potatoes or polenta or something. Plus we had a delightful appetizer of brown bread, lettuce, tomatoes and some sort of potato salad/cole slaw/something. It'd be nice if menus are in English or French but it tasted good even if I didn't know what it is! I'll upload pictures to facebook once I get my computer working again.

Then we watched movie about the 12 day war of independence in Slovenia. I didn't really know who all was talking, so I was kind of confused. The fact that the warm, humid, dark room + food in my belly made it hard to stay awake.

Then we went to the market and bought stuff for dinner. I made penne with diced tomatoes and peas with some sort of cheese (like gruyere or something). It was pretty good. The kitchenette is limited, but nice to have.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Piran day 3!

Today, I woke up at 3:20, and after that I stayed awake til late in the 5'o'clock hour, when I woke at 6, dozed off again til 7:10, when I just got up. I took a shower, then went to eat breakfast.

It was resplendent! I had some sweet star-shaped bread, soft bread with cheese, more bread with nutella/some other nut spread, tomato slices and tea, lots of it. It was fantastic. I can't wait to eat breakfast tomorrow! It lasted well through lunch time, too.

We went to the classroom today at the Institute of Mediterranean Heritage, which is a college for archaeology, part of the regions university system. It's a nice classroom, just very warm and sleepy, and on jetlagged sleep, many of us were nodding off. I think the professor at the institute who was lecturing today understood. He kept it light, and gave us breaks in between powerpoints.

Then we had a break for lunch, the two hours during which were spent mostly trying to avoid the giant puddles in the cobblestones. It was raining/snowing quite a bit today, and probably will for the next week or so. My feet are cold.... : (

Lunch was okay, though. We stopped in this bakery and got these pastry pizza things. Mine was like spinach pie in a pastry instead of a pie crust. Cheap too. Just €2.70. Also at the bakery, a duck egg machine (or gumball/bubble machine, if you prefer) which sold Pokemon zipper pulls for €1. I got Pikachu. Meichen got Magnezone. Good times.

Then we went to the town hall in Piran for a quick tour/art history lesson. Omg, our tour guide does not shut up! It sounded like she was going to stop, but then she would keep going! Hopefully I get more used to her as the month continues, as she'll be coming with us to Trieste and possibly Venice. She's really nice, just long-winded.

After that, everyone went back to the hostel to sleep. Best nap ever!

Then it was up and off to dinner. Two others and I went to a seafood place. I ordered spaghetti and scampi. It was really good! Instead of marinara like I was expecting, it came with a garlic butter sauce, and delicious shrimp, including one still whole. I didn't eat that one. She was pregnant when they boiled her alive. That was a little too disturbing. Anyway, after that, I ordered tiramisu for dessert. Delicious!

I've posted some pictures on facebook if you want to see. I'll try to remember to take more. I forgot to take pictures of my meals today. I'll try to remember to do that in the future.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Arrival in Piran!

I left home today at 1:30pm to go to MSP airport. Paddy, our prof, got stopped going through security because of his artificial knees. Rather entertaining, I must say. Our plane left for Chicago at 5:45pm (it left later than we thought it would, which is why we had to be there at 2:30). That flight showed 30 Rock. Then it was dinner at Chili's in O'Hare, and off to Munich. That flight was super long, but it was pleasant.

If you're going to travel overseas, take a foreign airline. They feed you. A lot. We got beverages, dinner, beverages, snack, late night juice, breakfast and more beverages. Even in our 1 hour connection to Venice, the airline served us dinner at 4:15pm. It was nasty and gross, but still, not bad.

On the way to Munich, I watched 500 Days of Summer, This Is It, and 2 Discovery Channel Documentaries. I slept for a few hours (I slept through the second half of This Is It). The girl next to me kept elbowing me in her sleep, and my neck kept tipping to the left. Super annoying.

I slept the whole way from Munich to Venice though, until they brought the food out. I had a window seat and everything. Alas, I missed most of the Alps.

After that, we ate in the airport as we waited for another of our group to join us who had a later flight. It was not very good, and difficult to order in Italian. Ah well. It was only €7 for the meal. The gum I bought in Munich cost €3.60. Rather ridiculous.

Luckily, I'll be traveling in cheaper countries than Germany and Italy for the most part. I'll save my money as much as possible for when I do travel to Venice on the free weekend.

Anyway, class starts bright and early at 10 tomorrow, so it's bedtime. I haven't taken many pictures, as we arrived at night, so I'll have those up tomorrow or the next day.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decade/Year in Review

I was going to review the year, but it wasn't that great. I guess I successfully completed my sophomore year of college, helped restart the non-religious student organization at St. Olaf, coordinated a lot of events for GLOW and the GSC, played in a Scrabble tournament, got a DS Lite, rented my first apartment, got a new cell phone, turned 21 (and survived), got my wisdom teeth out, became a supervisor at work, got a second job, and actually read books that I enjoyed not just academic texts.

Now that I think about it, it was decent. Still spent most of it stressed out to the point where I wasn't very happy. My only solace was hard work and Pokemon.

The decade overall was good. Just think, 10 years ago. I was 11, just beginning my life in middle school. I think it would be impossible to get worse than middle school. In the past decade, I have got my first email address, started getting my period, stopped getting my period, had crushes, kind of had a boyfriend, dumped him, had a boyfriend, got dumped, traveled overseas to England, France, the Bahamas, and Monaco, traveled over land to many different states, lived through middle school, graduated high school (with highest honors), was accepted into a prestigious liberal arts college, loved it (so far), drank my first alcohol, avoided smoking anything (including oak leaves, my first experience being pressured to smoke), avoided any grade lower than a B-, had my first surgery (wisdom teeth), drove for the first time, disliked driving for the first time, rode a train for the first time, cut my hair, wore my first bra, stopped shaving my legs, got my first tattoo, avoided any cavities, saw the Lord of the Rings (several times) which is still my favorite movie ever (yes, all three just make one big epic movie), became extroverted (but only just), became interested in clothes and appearance, became disinterested in clothes and appearance, got my first pimple (and have had them ever since), wrote a novel, tried to write more, had my first political discussion, came out as bisexual, then pansexual, and genderqueer, realized I am an atheist, started an online diary, a facebook, a deviantart and a blog, alienated a couple people, networked with countless more, and many other interesting milestones that I could list forever.

Yes, the decade overall was better than the year.

Next decade, I'm kicking it off right! Tomorrow I leave for Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia for a month. I am going with a class, and we are studying political identity in Central Europe by looking at former Yugoslavia. I am extremely excited and I hope I am one of the lucky people whose lives are changed by their travel abroad experience. Also, I hope to take an awesome picture so I can win the photo contest when I get back in February.