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Exploring Pula

Goky is a young Mediterranean who is passionate about traveling and wandering the world. He loves sharing travel experiences and insights with whomever may be interested. When not traveling or writing, he enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Pula is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. Located in the Istria peninsula, it’s a town with a rich history and beautiful beaches. It’s best to visit during the summer, when the combination of the mild Mediterranean climate and the warm Adriatic turn it into paradise.

Moving through & around Pula

The best way to move through the town is by public transport. It is inexpensive (a ticket costs about 11 kuna – less than $2) and is purchased from the bus driver. Such a one-way ticket is valid for an hour. But, if one plans to stay in Pula for a few days, a bus pass which will work out even cheaper. If one does not have the patience for traveling by bus, an affordable taxi service is available.

Masterpieces of Old Roman Times

The symbol of the town is the Pula Arena, a Roman Amphi theatre dating from the first century AD; it’s one of the six largest Roman arenas in the world which have survived to this day and arguably the most important cultural monument in all of Croatia. But the Romans left more:

the Temple of Augustus. Built in the honor of the first emperor of Rome, it’s a beautiful example of Roman architecture, along with the Little Roman Theater built in the same era as the Arena; it could host more than 5000 spectators who came to see Greek-influenced Roman plays.

the Arch of the Sergii. This first century BC triumphal arch commemorates  the Sergii Family, who were an influential force in Pula for centuries during Roman times.

But, it is not only remains from the Roman era that demand a visit, the Venetian Fortress, with its thick walls and impressive cannons, is a “must-see.”

Enjoying beaches & outdoor activities

When one gets tired of exploring the town’s cultural landmarks, there are always the beaches, the most popular being Ambarela, in the touristy Verudela (the Hawaii beach in the same area is also very popular). It won the prestigious Blue Flag award, awarded only to the most exceptional of beaches. It’s a stone pebble beach, especially suitable for families with children. There are plenty of watersport activities available (renting equipment) where cabins, showers, beach bars, and lifeguards are available. Pula also boasts more than a hundred kilometers of hiking trails, some passing through local pine forests. Golfing is also popular, with several courses around the town.

Discovering Brijuni

It would be a shame to visit Pula and not to visit the nearby National Park of Brijuni which is an archipelago of fourteen islands, known for their unique animal and plant species, untouched nature, and spectacular sights. Brijuni even hosts a safari park with many exotic animals, which is the only safari park in the entire region, and there are several important archaeological sites as well. It takes only 30 minutes by boat and various excursions are available.

Visit Pula and you’ll discover why this town is a favorite amongst tourists!

 

 

 

Split, Croatia: Residence of a Retired Roman Emperor

Romeo Demes, a native from Split, Croatia wrote this article. He has traveled extensively and most of his travels were done on a tight budget. He believes: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

There are few cities in the world which are more budget friendly than Split, the beautiful Roman heritage site on the Croatian coast, which embraces one with its sunny days, bluest of blue seas, breathtaking buildings and friendly people. Though certain tourist attractions, and food and drink gatherings in the main tourist areas, can be expensive, it is easy to avoid these places and make purchases where locals do (side streets and districts off the beaten track). But, there is plenty to do here without breaking the bank.

Walk the Old Town

Split is particularly friendly to pedestrians and the first thing I would recommend any tourist coming to Split, is to walk the streets of Old Town and get to know the maze-like alleys and Roman ruins. Look at Diocletian’s Palace and discover the surprising Sphinxes – the real deal from Egypt. Make sure to rub the foot of the statue of Gregory of Nin for good luck! If hungry, wander from the main sites and find an eatery. The fish market has some excellent bargains; so does the Green market.The choice is the visitor’s: shop and cook your own food, or go on a picnic. People- watching in the main square (Narodni Trg) is a pleasant experience, so is watching the fishing boats clustering on the western side of the harbor.

Climb to the top of Marjan hill for greenery in the city and for some of the most amazing views in Dalmatia. On Marjan hill one can rest and look back over the city of Split, or continue on and look out over the scintillating Adriatic and the islands nestled in it. There are lots of recreational options, and one will also find the caves of St. Geronimus.

The Romans left a lot behind, much of it remarkably intact, not only in the city but also all around the area. If interested in Roman ruins, one should slip off to Salona, where much of the best historical material can be found. The Roman ruins cover a large area and it costs only 20 kuna to view. The bus ride will only be 12 kuna ($1 = 6.6 kuna)

Island Idylls
No visit to Split would be complete without visiting some of the many islands (there are nearly 1,200 islands in Croatia) that dot the Adriatic nearby which can be reached via ferry.

How ever one spends one’s time in Split, it will be enjoyable and most probably demand a return trip given the inexpensiveness and gorgeous sites.

Check out these links: http://orvasyachting.com/en/sailing-guide.html  and http://www.croatiaferries.com/

 

 

What to do in beautiful Dubrovnik

Josip Ivanovic is a blogger and traveler from Croatia who knows his way around Dubrovnik and is sharing his love for this wonderful city with you. 

The medieval city of Dubrovnik is crammed with historical treasures, architectural gems and picturesque views. Enjoy nature at its best from the peak of Mount Srdj to the island jewels of the Adriatic (Croatia has nearly 1,200 of them!) There are so many things to do, so much to see in Dubrovnik, that one comes back time after time after time as one visit is simply not enough.

Walk the Walls

The medieval city walls are well preserved, and the views make walking on this high walkway round the old town worth the while. Whatever may pique your interest – history, the views over ruddy rooftops on one side and the sparkling sea and rugged islands on the other – walking the walls has to be on every tourist’s itinerary.

Old Town

The labyrinth of little alleyways through the old town is a perfect place to lose oneself in a world that one never thought existed. It is so easy to imagine that one has gone back in time, or pitched up in ‘King’s Landing’ – one of the ‘Game of Thrones’ locations. Let your imagination run wild, become a kid again as you observe the historic details and stunning vantage points of this picture-perfect location. The main street (Stradun) can be rather crowded at times in the high season, but don’t let that put you off – just dodge around a corner or two and before long you will be away from the worst of the crowds.

Mooch around the Monastery:

The Monastery was started in 1301, though there are additions and changes from the 16th Century. Don’t miss the beautiful, cool, green oasis of the courtyard, filled with orange trees. As if its fascinating architecture were not enough, this building also houses many examples of a number of styles and periods of art.

Scale Mount Srdj

You can climb this peak of 412m to the North of Dubrovnik in about an hour or so, but many choose to take the easier way out via the cable car to the top. It only takes a couple of minutes. The line was destroyed in 1991 during the war, and re-opened twenty years later, for which many tourists are very thankful. The views from the top, as well as from the cable car (both directions) are to die for. Once on top you can visit the cafe to quench your first while drinking in some more spectacular views.

 

Find a Fort

Impressive and imposing Fort Lovrijenac stands on a cliff 37 metres high right on the edge of the sea next to Dubrovnik. This important defensive position dates from 1018 or 1038, though it was altered or repaired many times before the 17th Century. Theatre productions are sometimes impressively staged here during the summer. The path to the Fort can be a little tricky to find, and the climb steep, but the effort is most definitely worthwhile for the stunning panoramic views to be had from the top.There are several other fortresses that form part of the old city’s defenses that can also still be seen today.

 

 

Sveti Jakov beach 

Sveti Jakov beach is a great little beach for swimming and sunning. The round smooth stones make for clear water that don’t hurt one’s feet. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, in spite of the crowds, which are still smaller than at other beaches around the city. The views of out over the bay are lovely. Climb down the stairs by the church and you will find yourself on this strand, probably your best bet if you want to soak and swim without going too far from Dubrovnik city centre.

Sail from the Shore

The Elaphite Islands are close to Dubrovnik’s old harbour, so why not take a ferry, or even better, hire a yacht and experience peace like never before. Or head to the quaint, historical island of Korcula, or find a world away from the crowds on Lokrum, where you can explore an old monastery, walk through cool pine woods, bathe in a salt-pool or swim in the clear blue waters of a quiet cove.

Whatever the reason for your visit to Dubrovnik, you will leave saying: “I’ll be back.” Everyone that has been, knows that as one visit is simply not enough! Until next time …

 

 

 

Ethnocentricity: ONE

I have talked about ethnocentricity (where one believes one’s culture is superior to those of others) in my classes repeatedly, maybe ad nauseam. Having witnessed the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi last night, I realized that I could talk until I am blue in the face, but some “people” (and especially Americans) will NEVER learn.

I thought the opening ceremony was great, excellent, and IMHO the best of all Winter Olympics (I believe the honor for Summer Olympics goes to China and I cannot imagine any country surpassing the opening in Beijing a few years ago). There was, however, a snafu as one snowflake did not transform into one of the Olympic rings. Opening ceremonies at previous Olympics have experienced problems too. The one in Sydney, which was rectified after a significant amount of time, comes to mind. So does the one in Vancouver (I believe?) where one pillar did not surface. And, it was not the end of the world

But what happened after the opening last night? All one could read in the US was the mishap with the snowflakes. In fact, one entrepreneur went so far as to print t-shirts.

All of this made me think about the horrendous Games that were staged in  Atlanta (1996). It was so bad that the President of the IOC did not say in his closing address (as the custom is) that it was the best games ever. It was so bad that any US city will never be awarded the Summer Olympics again (look what happened to Chicago’s bid a few years ago). Yet, nowhere did I read in the media about all the screw-ups, too many to mention (one that stands out was the bus drivers that were recruited from outside Atlanta to transport spectators to the various venues, who did not know the city and could not get the spectators there on time).

We, as Americans, suffer from such superiority complexes that ONLY we can do anything right. No other country in this world can succeed. It’s us and only us who knows what to do. And y’all still want to know why people don’t like us? Look at the incident in Sochi where an American athlete was stuck in his bathroom after having taken a shower. He had to break down the door as he could not bide his time and yell for help. What a powerful nation we are! … more to come …

In 2013 … the BEST?

It has been some time since I have added something. This morning I saw a comment that a South African colleague made about having traveled quite a bit and she considered Bled, Slovenia to be one of the prettiest places in the world. Now, I have not been to Bled, although I have been to Slovenia (in fact two years ago I stayed in Piran for a month … Piran, quaint little village on the Adriatic. On the one side one sees Italy, on the other side, Croatia).

You got it, after Ronel’s comment, I posed the question: What do I consider the TEN most beautiful places (in Europe) that I have visited. Initially I thought I would not rank them, and then I caved in. So here goes. According to me, the ten most beautiful places that I have been to.

1. Ohrid

Without a doubt, it has to be Ohrid. For many reasons, some of which are/could be: the location on Lake Ohrid; the people who are “as warm as the sun; the incredible food where every meal tastes home-cooked. What, that is it? Do me a favor: go and experience those and you will see WHY I intend to retire there and do everything in my power to help the wonderful people of Macedonia in general, and Ohrid in particular, to increase tourism to this hidden gem. It baffles my mind that in this day and age, there could still be “undiscovered” places on this earth!

 

 

 

 

 

2. Dalmatian coastline, Croatian Islands and Dubrovnik

Some of you may think that I cannot choose between these three and that is not true. If one looks at the Dalmatian coastline, one will realize that the Croatian islands (nearly 1,200 of them!) form an integral part of this coastline that ends in Dubrovnik.

I have always said that the former Yugoslavia (considering present day countries that use to make up this country) had to be the most beautiful country in the world. I have NEVER seen beauty like on this coastline. From up north (Umag thru Rovinj, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, Split (for which I do not really care but most ferries run from there to the islands), Makarska and Dubrovnik (to mention the “main” towns/village/cities).

Now, I must admit that I have only been to two islands, viz. Hvar and Korcula; but there are so many more that I intend to visit once I have retired to Ohrid. I was always intrigued to visit the Grecian islands, but, once I discovered Croatian my interest in Greece has waned and once I visited Athens and Corfu, I have no desire to visit Greece any longer!

What can I say about Dubrovnik? The first time I visited and I went to Pile (pronounced Peel-lay, meaning Old Gate) I could not understand why tourists were so excited about the place. Until I took the steps down (most people did, so why shouldn’t I?) When I got to the bottom of the steps, I just wept! I could not believe the beauty. A pianist was playing beautiful old songs outside a restaurant. I plonked myself down, order a bottle of wine and that was my introduction to Dubrovnik. Been back several times and always stay at Villa Micika in Lapad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Cesky Krumlov

I don’t remember how it came that I ended up in Cesky Krumlov but, am I grateful I did! This incredible medieval town is the second most visited place in th Czech Republic and (if it wasn’t for the humidity!) I could easily retire to this indescribable town. I have been back several times and every time I learn something new. Could easily have been in the #1 spot on my list!

 

 

 

 

 

4. Mostar

When I visited the Plitvice National Park, I met an Indian couple who urged me to go to Mostar in Bosnia & Hercegovina. I thought: what the heck, let’s do it. I stayed at Kiki’s place (10 euros’day). Stari Most, a reconstruction of a 16th century Ottoman bridge,  crosses the river Neretva and connects two parts of the city.  The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Bosnian Croat forces during the Croat–Bosniak War. A project was set in motion to reconstruct it, and the rebuilt bridge opened on 23 July 2004.

When I saw this magnificent structure, I just had to talk to someone about this war. I found someone and I was horrified by the atrocities of war. I will HATE all warmongers until my dying day. Nevertheless, I was so mesmerized by this incredible town, the bridge and the beauty of the Neretva, that I stayed for four days (planned to have been there for only day!)

 

 

 

 

 

5. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, or the Five Lands, was “discovered” by Rick Steves and in no time it was (and still is) flooded by American tourists. Five villages, viz., Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, make up the Cinque Terre. I stayed in Levanto and took the train to Riomaggiore and hike thru to Monterosso. It was an unbelievable experience.  Levanto is a top place to stay and I can recommend Mariella (although it has become expensive).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Austrian Villages

I have been a Swarovskik fan for a very long time and wanted to visit the headquarters in Wattens, Tirol. While looking at the map, I “discovered” the villages in Tirol and it became a MUST. I stayed in a beautiful B&B, Mueller’s house on top of the mountain in Wattens (next to the Fire Department) and visited several of the villages (Hall in Tirol, Baumkircher, Volders, Gnadenwald and of course, Innsbruck). I also made a one-day trip to Fussen, Germany and visited the famous castle of mad King Ludwig.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Rome

Samuel Johnstone once wrote: “If you have grown tired of London, you have grown tired of life.” That is how I feel about Rome. It is not called the eternal city for nothing. So much to see, so much to do. Yeah, the people are rude, but look past that and enjoy the Trevi fountain (my favorite) Colosseum, the Vatican with all its opulence and glory, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Spanish steps, Piazza Navona. The food is good IF one knows where to go, otherwise it is mediocre at best. Rome is EXPENSIVE … one week cost me 1,300 euros. There are gazillions of tourists and it gets HOTAZHELL … with all that said, Rome is a MUST!!

 

 

 

 

 

8. Plitvice State Park

There are three “things” that I have seen in my life that I never want to see ever again as the memories/visions/visuals are engrained and I want to treasure those until I go home. Plitvice is one of them. The other two are the Victoria Falls and the Grand Canyon. Only a fool, if the opportunity arises, would not visit these spectacles!

 

 

 

 

 

9. Trip through Montenegro (ex Dubrovnik to Budwa)

Very similar to the Dalmatian coastline, it offers nature and beauty at its best. Budwa is OK but I am sure there are better other towns. Montenegro has a population of only half million.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Salzburg

When I  visited Austria for the first time, I found some very unflattering reviews on Salzburg and decided AGAINGST visiting. In subsequent years I thought: what the heck. My, oh my! How could anyone in his/her right mind give this place a negative review? I always stay at the St Sebastien institute. Sitting on the roofdeck, listening to the tolling of the bells … oh my, life IS good!

 

 

Silvio

I visited the Vatican the first time in 2007 and it was one of the most impressionable sights I have ever seen. I went on a tour of the Vatican, like most tourists do. I did not care for our guide as I got the impression that her heart was not into this. Nevertheless, it was an experience that I would remember for the rest of my life.

On our way to Ohrid in 2013, my young colleague who was accompanying me told me that he had never been to Rome! That was all I needed to know, as Rome is my favorite European city. I am gaga about the place and, for a guy who does not care about big cities, Rome must indeed have a lot to offer. Of course we had to go to the Vatican, and we did.

My, oh my, how things had changed over 6 years! Before we arrived at St Peter’s we were plagued by “agents” recruiting for their guides. “Skip the lines” was the most common line. The further away from St Peter’s, the more expensive the tours were. We ignored them and walked to St Peter’s when there was “something” about one of the “agents.” She gave us the “student” discount and we agreed.

We followed her to our guide. It is said that first impressions are lasting ones. If that is the case, I should have walked away. The guide had just bitten into a sandwich when we arrived, so picture this: A man with his mouth full, getting up when it became evident that he was limping!! Oh lawd, I thought, how the heck is a man with his handicap going to get us through this tour? (I later learned that he was NOT handicapped, rather the limp resulted from a motorcycle accident the previous week!) He introduced himself as Silvio and told us that we would be leaving within the next 30 minutes.

In our group was an Indian couple with two little girls (yep, I know how to attract the snot noses, don’t I?) and he involved them immediately (“What is the color of the prince’s white horse?”) as he must have known what a pain kids could be.

Compared to the guide a year ago, it was obvious that Silvio put his heart and soul into his work. He was not only interesting, but also very knowledgeable (and he kept the kid engaged in order for her not to become a nuisance). I really enjoyed Silvio and I do believe the feeling was mutual. We had several conversations “off the cuff” and during one of these, he told me about this incredible restaurant that served (my favorite) spaghetti carbonara that he visits every evening.

Silvio gave me the card of the owner of the restaurant (“it’s only a 10-minute cab ride from your hotel) and I said we would meet him there that evening (I wish I knew what was going through his mind at that moment … maybe, “yeah, I have heard that one before?”)

Silvio was an incredible guide and did an incredible job. We did not meet again and on the way to our hotel, I said to my colleague that I would like to go to the restaurant and buy one of the bottles of wine that Silvio was swooning about (rather than giving him a tip for a job well done). Did not take much persuasion. The lady at reception showed us how easy (and much cheaper) it would have been to take the train compared to a cab.

When we got off the train, I asked for directions! (YES, I am one of those men who refuse to wander around in circles). The lady was very helpful and pointed to where the street was (she did not take into consideration that the street dead-ended and we were one block too far to the right!) Nevertheless, we found the street (after numerous inquiries!) and saw from a distance that Silvio was sitting on the patio.

I wish y’all could have seen his face! (“OMG, they did come!” may have been what went through his mind?). Silvio told us that the owner was having a birthday party for his girlfriend and for 10 euros we could enjoy the buffet as well as a glass of prosecco (but, I thought, what about my spaghetti carbonara?) We paid our “dues” and the food was out of the world. Silvio introduced us to the owner who introduced us to this one who introduced us to … and in no time, we knew all the people present (remember, regular customers stopped by and instead of ordering a a la carte, they too, paid 10 euros for the buffet).

I ordered one of the bottles of wine that Silvio swooned about (30 euros) and he was right … it was out of this world. In the mean time a lady stopped by and said that the chef was making our spaghetti carbonara (free of charge) and I realized that our wine was kaput. I ordered the next bottle, a step closer to heaven, at 45 euros and that did not last long either. I realized that the time had come to say our goodbyes, when Silvio asked if we had time for another bottle, his treat. Of course, we did.

When I realized that there were about 20 minutes left before the last train departed, we said our goodbyes. Great day. Great evening. Great food. Great wine. Great guide. Great city!

The Summer of ’13 …

My young colleague, aka Stefaans, spent the night prior to our scheduled departure at my house. The way things went/developed the next day, Sunday, May 12, was textbook. We left my house, waited about 5 minutes for the train; got off at the station and walked a block where we had just missed the X28 (airport bus) and waited for about 30 minutes. In the mean time yours truly befriended another passenger who just happened to be a chef and you can imagine what we talked about. Got to the airport, checked in and as we had three hours to kill, we spent it at very nice (tho expensive!) restaurant before leving for Gate C51. Wow, Stefaans remarked, things have really been going well. If only he knew what was to follow! “Your flight has been cancelled because of bad weather, and please call this number to reschedule!” What about where we were going to spend the night, I asked, are y’all paying? “No, not when a flight is cancelled because of bad weather.”

TG Stefaans had his phone with him and I called. Instead of flying Pitt-Toronto-Rome, we were now going to Pitt-Toronto-Zurich-Rome, arriving a date later! Hey, what can I say? Served no purpose to bitch a storm out of a bush, stuff happens! As we both felt it was ridiculous to go home, we decided to spend the night at a nearby motel ($68, after someone via a 888 number tried to rip us off wanting to charge us $99 at the same motel). We had great wings at Wings, Spuds and Suds next door before getting some shuteye. The shuttle took us to the airport and, TG, everything went according to plan and when we landed in Rome, our bags were there. Instead of taking the train for 15 euros, a guy with a minibus took us straight to our hotel for the same fee.

But, let’s digress, a la Sophia from Golden Girls:

There were these characters from Africa on the flight from Zurich to Rome. It was a consternation, as it always is when Africans travel who cannot speak English – or German or French or whatever language the crew attempted – however, they got fed, BUT when the young man came around with the basket of chocolates, this mama and here two kids grabbed hands full until they emptied the basket! The priest in front of me, whom I had dubbed, Mr. Personality, burst out in a fit of laughter causing the plane to shake. I shook my head; the crew was ticked off and had some not-to-pleasant things to say about these passengers when I inquired as to where they were from – Somalia – and I, once again, was very pleased that I do not have to deal with the public.

In the mean time, because of the changes in our flight plans, I have cancelled our accommodation in Naples as we decided we would rather stay in Rome longer only to be told bythe  hotel/hostel, it could only accommodate us for 2/3 nights of our extended say. I told the manager that it made no sense to move for one night and then come back for the final two and asked whether he could find us suitable, and comparable, accommodation in the neighborhood. He did, so after three nights we moved to a hotel (literally) around the corner and a much better deal (at least one did not have to leave the room if one wanted to fart because it was so small!)

When we arrived at the hotel, I was pooped! however, I realized that if I went to bed, it would take me 2 – 3 days to recover. On the manager’s recommendation, we went to La Famiglia for dinner. The food was OK (I always judge by how my favorite dish, Spaghetti Carbonara, is prepared) Our waiter, an Indian fella, could not speak a word of English; however, we managed to get through the menu. Teamed up with two wonderful American couples and had a great time. Our bill came to 70 euros and we left 80 euros. Our waiter came to me and said: “you left too much money,” and I responded, “it’s OK, we like you, can you believe that, and that’s your tip!”

The next few days, we did the touristy things. Yeah, I went back to the Trevi fountain as I HAD to toss the coins over my shoulder assuring that I would return (I forgot to do that 6/7 years ago); Piazza Navona; Campo di Fiori; Colosseum; Pantheon and off course, the Vatican!

Now, for someone who “does not do church,” the Vatican will ALWAYS intrigue me. This time was no exception, except it was better. I say that because of our guide, Silvio (I think one has to be super stupid to attempt to “do” the Vatican by oneself. And, for a mere 20 euros, the knowledge and experience of these professionals are simply worth it.) Silvio and I hit it off right away. He’s 47 years old and it became obvious that he takes his job serious. He told me about this wonderful restaurant that he frequents on an almost daily basis (where the spaghetti carbonara was to die for). I asked him for the address, he gave me a card, and that night Stefaans and I set off in search of this place. Silvio nearly freaked out when he saw us (I did not have the opportunity to tip him for an outstanding job, so I decided that I would go there and buy the wine that he raved about).

Well, when we arrived we were told that the owner was having a birthday party for his girlfriend and restaurant guests could join for 10 euros that included a glass of preseco (spelling?) or wine. Of course we forked out our euros as I saw the spread! I ordered the wine (first the “cheap” one at 17 euros and later the “one from the gods” for 23 euros) and we had a ball. While enjoying ourselves, a lady came to our table and said that the owner have decided that, seeing that we came all the way for the spaghetti carbonara, he was going to prepare it for us (at no charge!) See, it pays to be nice and well-mannered as moms taught us. We had such a time that I noticed that we were fast approaching the departure of the last metro and we had to do the inevitable and unpleasant: say goodbye. We did that. I realize I will never see Silvio, or those wonderful people, again;  but y’all know what? I did the right thing as I behaved in such a manner that people would say: you are not your typical American. This is something I strive to teach my students, behave in such a manner that people would love us, rather than hate us, when we travel.

But, let’s digress, a la Sophia from Golden Girls:

The next time anyone says that they hate Americans because we are so loud, I will personally knock your block off. Americans are not, compared to Italians, loud! OMG, I have never seen anyone as bad as the Italians when it comes to loudness. We, Americans, are mild little lambs when it comes to the inhabitants of Italy!

When Stefaans and I went to the Bridge of Angels, we “lost each other” and seeing that I was not far from the Vatican, I decided to go back there. If only I knew what I was doing. I did NOT know that the Pope was going to address the masses at 18h00, so imagine my surprise when I arrived around noon only to see that most of the 200K people were already there! It was scary and I got caught up in that crowd. Now, I have seen the New Year in on Trafalgar Square and I have been where there were mega crowds, but this was outright FRIGHTENING! Never again, as I am just your country boy.

Another time when Stefaans and I went our separate ways, I went back to the Trevi. Simply sat around and, true to being an Anthropologist a la Tom Kelley, simply observed. Well, the next thing this crazy ass walked into the fountain and took off his shirt started cutting himself with a blade. About 40 minutes he was removed and obviously transferred to a loony bin (as this is where he belonged).

Before we knew it, our time in Rome has come to an end. I do not care for big cities, but I am crazy about Rome and I fully understand why it is referred to the ETERNAL  city. There is simply something about this city that makes it get under your skin and once it’s there, one cannot get away from it (although I consider Italians to be extremely rude!)

We took the train from the Termini station (very close to our hotel) and set off for Bari. The plan was: if we liked Bari, we will stay for a day, or whatever, before taking the ferry to Durres, Albania. As Stefaans has said, there were so many issues on this trip. First the cancellation of our flight; having to move from our hotel because of lack of room/space … We bought the cheap tickets to Bari, on a longer trip. The air conditioning was not working in a coach that booked to capacity and when the young uns pleaded with this nun to open a window, she said no as she was cold! (outside it felt like what hell must feel like) and then the brakes of our coach was not working and we had to go to another while our coach was unhooked.

Nevertheless, when we got to Bari, we were HOT (and I am not referring in way of attracting people of the opposite gender) and in NO mood to explore Bari. Went to an ATM and after Stefaans withdrew his funds, I was told that the ATM was out of order. Stumbled into a Burger King and ordered a coke and when she asked whether I wanted ice, I just gave her this look … visualize this: drenched with perspiration, hotazhel outside and she wanted to know whether I wanted ice? Eish!

Needless to say, we got on the bus that took us to the port and, yes some more drama. No, you have to embark the ferry to Durres on the other side. Got off there, only to be told we have to buy the tickets somewhere else (now this is a MEGA place, one cannot simply walk to wherever one has to be) and again waited for the free shuttle. Got the tickets. Waited for the shuttle. Got off at the right place and was told that we could board at 20h00. Went to the restaurant upstairs, had bad, expensive, food and made our way to line. We were waiting behind an Albanian couple whose English was as good as my Albanian, when Miss Albania, or maybe she thought she was Miss Universe, tried one of the oldest tricks in the book. Went to the front of the line, trying to “find out” something from the guy in charge and then stayed put when she was told to wait in line. Well, that’s when yours truly chirped in and told her in my best Afrikaans: “Jou moer sussa, kom wag hier agter ons plebs.” Well in no time the others chimed in and she went to the back of the line, feeling like a total ass.

So we had fun, boarded at 20h00, had a few drinks and went to our cabin (this is an overnight cruise, from Bari, Italy to Durres Albania) and slept. Set the alarm clock (which I bought in Salzburg, such a cute yellow and pink one) but was awakened by an announcement the next morning that we need to get our behinds in gear. Did that, disembark told the cab driver that I want to go to the bus stop in order to catch a bus to Saranda. The poor ass thought I wanted a restaurant and I said to him: “Jirre oompie, ek wil ry nie vreet nie!”

Dropped us off at the bus stop where the lady who was in front of us the previous night, saw us and once again we “talked.” Sokol, our driver, drove us to Saranda for 60 euros (our luggage took up a seat so we had to fork out 20 euros for them!) The trip between Durres and Saranda was Ecuador on the Andes between Guayaquil and Cuenca all over again (only this time I did not pray out aloud. If you so wish, check it out under the section, NOT Europe). Road was terrible. We got to Saranda. Where the heck was the unspoiled beaches that I was told about. This is no virgin territory, rather grandma with many, many, kids and grandkids and great grandkids. Saranda is a HUGE disappointment to me. However, I/we are hanging in there. Stefaans went to the beach, I have been sitting here at this restaurant for the past few hours, updating my site and informing all my millions of devoted followers.

Just had a half  a kilo of lamb ribs for a few pennies. Things are really inexpensive here. Friday morning we will take a bus for the 7-hour ride to Tirana (10 euros). We will spend the night there and the next day a cab driver from Ohrid will come and get us (150 euros) to take us home. Ohrid, home is where the heart is. I cannot wait.

 

Summer 2013 here we come!

When I was in Ohrid last summer, I agreed on a project with Vesna Palmer of Multilingual and Multicultural Harmony (MMH) according to which I would bring six students to Ohrid during June and July. During these months students will conduct workshops on design and layout of menus, business cards, posters, to mention a few. On top of that, they will be working on an IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) plan to promote tourism to the Ohrid/Struga area. Their plan will be presented to the communities on July 26 during a dinner/presentation evening.

The beauty of this venture is, as far as I can determine, that it will be a first for any American university as these students will be WORKING and putting what they were taught in the classroom, to good use. This is NOT a study abroad program (every university does that!) or a “let’s have a good time at a heck of a price in Europe for two weeks” venture. Students are paying their own way (other than a small “scholarship” from the School of Communication, they had to fend for themselves. Accommodation is provided by Ms Palmer of MMH). Students will be dealing with the media and whoever wants to work with them. The interest in this project is overwhelming and these kids are going to be busy! Whichever way one looks at this, it is going to be an opportunity of a lifetime for them and there is very little doubt in my mind that the experience gained from this, will aid them tremendously in acquiring a job (But, time will tell as the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof!) The chair will be attending the presentation on July 26 and will also conduct a workshop on social media prior to the big night. Another colleague will be dropping by to say “hi” prior to the presentation

One of my colleagues (his specialty is photography) will be accompanying me and we will share the Tito apartment. Although I am old enough to be his grandfather (OK, not really that bad) we share the same interests and I know we will get along famously. Our apartment overlooks the amphitheater where many concerts of the 53rd Annual Ohrid music festival will take place and I foresee many evenings on the terrace, sipping good Macedonian wine, while listening to music forthcoming from this ancient structure. For what it is worth, the music festival is one of our “clients!”

It is indeed something that we all, especially yours truly, are looking forward to. In the mean time, I had to make the necessary arrangements for my colleague and I to get to Ohrid. We decided that we were going to leave two weeks PRIOR to the date that we are expected to show up in Ohrid in order to do a bit of touring on our own.

We will leave Pittsburgh on Sunday, May 12 and fly into Rome where we will spend four days. Yes, I will be going back to the Vatican and of course the Trevi fountain as I forgot the last time to throw a coin over my shoulder into the fountain to assure my return. From Rome we will take the train to Naples (it was too difficult, and expensive, to arrange accommodation in Sorrento) from where we will take daily trips to the Amalfi coast and whatever else we would like to explore. These are the only bookings that I have made and, true to my nature, it was very difficult for me to do. However, when traveling with someone else it is much more difficult to find suitable accommodation and furthermore, we are dealing with ITALY (enuf said!)

From Naples (May 19) we will take the train to Bari from where we will get a ferry to Durres (Albania) from where we will get a bus to Sarande (south Albania) from where we will get a bus to Tirana (capital of Albania) from where we will take the final bus to arrive in Ohrid on May 24. The students will arrive a week later and we will meet at the Belvedere restaurant. After a quick drink, they will be taken to their lodging and given an address of a restaurant where to meet us later that evening for their first dinner in Ohrid. The next day they start working! Watch this space for their progress …

 

 

 

 

 

 

My beautiful apartment

It’s called the Tito house (no, NOT related to the former Field Marshall who ruled Yugoslavia for so long), a three story house in Ohrid. Behind the St Sofia church with the ancient theater where many of the performances of this year’s festival will take place.

The upper two stories are occupied by the family (who incidentally live in Illinois for most of the time) and the first story will be my apartment. Two bedrooms, kitchen and all those “goodies” with a terrace, overlooking the ancient theatre and with the lake in the background!

This is where my young colleague and I will be entertaining a lot of people this summer. We will take turns on cooking/preparing food.  Am SOOOO looking forward to this!

Life is good!