Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I saw a sign today...

For "Romantic Sex on the Beach" - a drink. Which I admit is terribly cheesy for a name. However, I indulged myself in thoughts of what a Romantic Sex on the Beach drink would contain if I were making it.

I decided: mashed blueberries, lime juice, a bit of maple syrup, club soda and a mint leaf. And then a dark chocolate on the side. But I think I would rather call it "Sex in the Woods by a Campfire But Just a Little Bit High Maintenance." If I start a bar, that is what I will call my signature drink.

And then in the morning I will make my cranberry almond scones and call them something likewise enticing, such as, " Waking Up is Much More Nice When You Have Magical Happy Scones." I am thinking we will only be able to have about three items on the menu with names that long, but it will be easier that way, and then I can be really specialized in my offerings.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pretending to live in Berlin.

Reminders of the states persist.
I wonder why we don't bring back suspenders a bit more?
Walking to my daily park, I came upon interesting buildings.
Which turned out to be an elementary school.

Templehof Airport was expanded by the Nazis in the 1930s and used until 2008. The city had debates on what to do with it, but decided in May 2010 to open it as a park. The old terminal building lies vacant, with signs intact for flights of the past.
It's hard to believe this is right in Berlin.
I laid on a park bench and read Gore Vidal for a while.

Walking the runway... it didn't look that long, but it kept going and going, for 1.31 miles.

In Berlin, they even have fancy signs for the toilets. I feared I was underdressed. But I didn't need to use the facilities anyway.

No, I am not in North Dakota, but it has been on my mind a lot with the recent flooding of my hometown of Minot, where 90% of residents have no flood insurance.
Golden handcuffs are not holding me back.
The Oberbaumbrucke, which we crossed on foot a couple times while wandering the city.
I met Ruth while traveling in Kotor, Montenegro. She is UK/Kiwi/Aussie/Berlin native.
After tasty beers in the park, cameras became highly entertaining. But we still got home without any scrapes on the bicycles sitting in the background.
Ruth's lovely little place in Friedrichshain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Berlin. Studying.

I read a quote once about how a tourist does not know where he's been and a traveler does not know where he's going. It bothered me because I often do not know either. I spend my days somewhat aimlessly wandering down blocks, sitting on railings, sipping brown caffeinated beverages.

Today while reading and writing in a cafe, I decided what I was doing was studying. Coalescing my thoughts and experiences into a new meaning. It feels a lot like college, only more natural. I enjoy documenting what I see and think through photography and writing as the day unfolds. And then later, returning home to reconstruct it, and share.

This does not make sense to other travelers who are trying to see as many sights as possible and go out every evening and drink. But it makes sense to me, and it is what I am doing. Not just on this holiday, but always. The goal of wandering to me is about understanding. Developing new ideas. Doing what I enjoy.


"What is reality?
Deep within us it is as elusive as a dream,
and we are not sure of anything that happened."
-Anaïs Nin

Monday, June 20, 2011

An unwanted interesting experience- heat exhaustion/ dehydration

It's Sofia Take 3: (and here is why)

I’d been noticing the heat is pretty intense down here- direct sunlight coupled with humidity and temps which stay elevated from 9AM-10PM or later had left me feeling quite faded. But I was still walking a bit every day, drinking water, and trying to enjoy myself. (I did fine in SE Asia but then that was their winter.)

Yesterday I attempted to walk (mostly in the shade) to a neighboring town which was about 2.5 km away. Normally not a problem. But I started to feel a bit funny and decided to turn back. I found a roadside market where I bought ice cream and juice, and was drinking water. Slowly, I made my way back to the hostel, knowing that I was not probably getting enough liquids even though I had planned and carried water. The heat was too hot and too direct. I told myself to just get back to the hostel.

I felt pretty weird by the time I got there, so made myself a bottle of water with rehydration salts in it and hopped in a lukewarm shower. I was not feeling normal at all, but sat down to try to wait it out. Molly came on chat, and I told her I was feeling weird. Not wanting to be alarmist, but I was getting scared. (Like telling someone on the other side of the world is going to help…) I emailed my hostel information to her and my aunt Dee, who also happened to be online, and tried to feel normal but was still feeling worse: dizzy, nauseous, faint, flushed, and more… and starting to wonder if I needed to go the doctor. (I never think that!) So I got up to tell the staff and a few other travelers who were in the common room where I was sitting that I was feeling really strange. They all seemed to think I was overreacting and it was no big deal- said to sit down and not worry. I thought, if I pass out hopefully they take me in. In reality I think if I would have passed out they would have just thought I was sleeping and not worried about it. I was probably the only one with any medical training in the room. This is when it is not fun to be traveling alone, and needing to rely on a bunch of untrained, immature (regardless of age) people

Obviously I am not dead or in the hospital, so I was actually ok, though it was not maybe until about midnight that I really started feeling normal and this morning pretty good. I’d looked at the forecast for the last two cities I had planned, and they were forecasted to be even hotter. Plus I’d heard that Romainia was hotter anyway… so I started dreaming of flying north early, where it was only about 68, and even raining! I thought perhaps I was overreacting but then thought, how am I going to take a night train if it does not cool off, what if the bus a/c doesn’t work that well? How am I going to see anything if I am afraid to walk outside and overheat/dehydrate again?

It didn’t take much effort to find a flight for 116E from Sofia to Berlin on the 21st of June. Eight days earlier than planned. I knew the busses in Bulgaria are quite decent, so here I am headed back to Sofia. In the morning I can go north, where the sun is kinder and gentler on my feeble heat-tolerance genes. I am not interested in testing out Bulgarian or Romanian medical care on my own. That’s a trip I don’t want to take!

I’ve decided to just take the week and pretend I’m living in Berlin. I miss speaking German anyway and the analness of the north. It is true. I am anal. And I like colder weather.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am forever a northerner.

Current location: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria (just south of the Romania border)
Current temp: 31C/88F

It does not look particularly hot. But I wonder what the heat index is here. I feel unable to do anything outside, without feeling an impending heatstroke. I have noticed this the last few days. Several years ago, maybe ten actually, I was hiking in Oregon with friends but I didn't have enough water along, and it was summer and hot, and I was near dehydration or heatstroke, not sure which one, so ever since then I've been a bit careful.

I'd say that I usually adapt to the heat just fine- my body normalizes, and I eventually feel cold in the evenings regardless of the location. But there is something about the heat here in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. I have not been able to adapt. It is disabling to me. I don't know what exactly I can do about it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When the Bulgarian border patrol decides to take apart the train, and other fun times...

Two days ago, I planned to take the 18:00 bus from Sarajevo to Nis, Serbia. I set out for the bus station at 4:15, got there at 5:30 to discover the bus wasn't going. It wouldn't leave until the next night. I checked my options and decided to take the 22:00 bus to Belgrade, where I didn't want to go. I slept the whole night, but woke up a lot due to border crossings and whatnot. At 6:00 we arrived to Belgrade. I tried to find a bus or train to the Serbia border where I'd planned to cross into Bulgaria to a hiking town, but there was only a train leaving at 15:30 and was arriving at 11PM into the town. Not a good idea for a single female traveler, and knowing Serbian trains, I would've arrived at 1AM or so. So I checked the schedules and decided to reroute myself to Sofia, Bulgaria and then decide what to do.

The train left at 7:50 and was supposed to arrive at 14:47. I could have walked or hitchhiked faster and with less harm to my personal health, because I smoked an equivalent of 10 packs of cigarettes in second-hand smoke. But never mind that, the train was overcrowded and people were standing. Then the Serbian border people took about an hour to search our train, and the same with the Bulgarians, who actually rode with us for a while and started to take panels off the the inside of the train. They came into our compartment and patted down the woman who had gotten on just before the Bulgarian border but did not find anything. **However, once they left, she jumped up and pulled out her hidden smuggled cigarettes and other things. So they had the right person, they just did not try hard enough...

Also I'd only had 4 small carrots, a yogurt, 2 chocolate pieces and 7 pretzel sticks the whole day. They did not sell food on the train and I didn't have the right money anyway. I hadn't planned on a 27 hour trip.

Anyway. We arrived in Sofia about 7PM. So I had to stay the night. I called Hostel Mostel where I'd stayed last time. They had a bed. The Bulgarian biologists who I shared a compartment with helped me find the tram, and gave me 1 Leva to buy a ticket inside and asked, "Do you need someone to go with you?" I said, no, then many thanks and hopped aboard.

I missed my stop by one stop and it was quite a distance but I wasn't bothered because I needed the exercise after sitting for so long. I found the hostel and went in to register myself. The guy at the counter said, "I hope you have a reservation because we are full." I said I'd called. He said he had no record and acted like I was an idiot. So he called his boss and then said they were only waiting for Pablo. I realised I'd called their hostel in a different town and told him what I'd done. He looked at me again like I was a hopeless moron. I said, "Do you have another suggestion?" He said, "Hostel Sofia." I asked where they were and he showed me on the map. I asked if he could call them before I walked there. He said, "Our phone does not work." I said, "Ok, I'll just take your map then."(It was a photocopied map.) He said, "No, we are running short, you cannot have it." And was done with me.

I started walking to the other hostel, Lonely Planet in hand, a bit confused and exhausted. An Irish voice behind me, "Do you need help?" He pointed out the way and nearly walked me to the hostel. I was standing in front of it, but it was hard to see, just a black metal gate with Hostel Sofia on the front, the first hostel in Sofia. I rang the buzzer and the door unlocked. The stairs were dodgy and dim and I went up two flights to a door answered by a rotund man in shorts about 70 years old. He showed me a bed in a 9 bed room, and pointed to the empty ones (two top bunks). Three guys were in the room, and one said, "Would you rather have a bottom bunk? You can have one of ours, we don't mind." I said ok, since I was pretty tired and unsure about getting down from the top in the middle of the night if I had to pee. They were from Israel, and I was impressed with their kindness.

The owner offered me tea. I said ok. He said, "Black or Herbal?" I chose herbal. He returned with a large cup with a lemon slice floating on top. I sat on the couch happy to be there. He thought I was from NZ because he'd heard me talking to the Israeli guys. I said I was American. He lit up and said his daughter lived in America. In Oregon. In Portland. I said, "I have to show you something and pulled out my OR driver's license and said I was from Portland too!

He came back with a picture of his daughter and the American from the Peace Corps who she'd married. She'd worked in marketing for a NZ company (Icebreaker) and now works in design for Nike. Small world... Next the old man came back with a bowl containing four freshly washed apricots. He sat with me on the couch and played Bulgarian music on the TV for me, and said he'd been a professional musician when he was younger. He left and returned with very old pictures, from around 1968, with him playing guitar in a band and pictures of his wife (who I think is dead) who he called "my love." She looked just like his daughter.

I was thinking as I sat there how happy I was just to be sitting on a couch in someone's home in Bulgaria. I really enjoyed it. It was not the place I would have picked to stay, but it was just what I needed.

This morning I went to get cash after TWO espressos at my hostel. (Yes, he had a real espresso machine.) And then the buzzer was not working so I was locked out. I had to go to a floral shop where a lady customer helped me and the shop let me make a call to the hostel. But then the old hostel man did not understand what was wrong so the customer lady helped me again (though her english was not so good either) and the old man let me in, and we fixed the buzzer together. So everything was good.

In the bad, there is always good. This little hostel was a good reminder of a lot of things, and my one night there was worth the pains of yesterday... it was a reminder of the good in humanity and what is important in life... and sometimes that is just sitting on the couch watching bad music with apricots and a person who does not speak the same word language, but still can be understood.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sara in Sarajevo. Flag Day 2011, the year she can run for president.

A recent horoscope asked me to consider foreshadowings in my childhood or adolescence, signs of magic to come, capacities and commitment. While wandering, I've been considering this for a few days. I think it is quite simple. I have always loved to learn. I think my whole life has been a project in learning as much as I could. Extended travel is one of the best teachers. In daily interactions with new people and new places, I'm filled up with ideas and joy at what I experience. So full, it is as if I am holding my breath in wonder.

I've been saying I was thirty-five for several months now. It wasn't a conscious decision but it was what came out of my mouth. (Perhaps ingrained from childhood, when I couldn't wait to be the next year up.) Now the day is here. And I am in Sarajevo. A city I recall in the news from high school. It is a city of surprises. Feels simultaneously large and small, cozily situated in a valley with the river Miljacka running through. Destruction and beauty weave throughout. War-damaged rundown buildings pervade, yet the city is so tidy I know residents take pride in their city. I am glad to be here on this day.

(the hostel I'm staying in is like a home- we even take our shoes off outside the door.)
(a courtyard to apartments)
(the old town has a touristy feel but it is not overrun)
(old guys are always drinking coffee and talking)

(it is maybe hard to see, but many of the buildings have bullet damage)

(I was surprised how much the city reminded me of Turkey)
(here is where the journalists stayed during the Bosnian war, and there was a sniper zone in front of it)

(I see beauty in destruction)
(Sarajevo, though large, is situated in a valley which is delightful for wandering- it's I think impossible to get lost, you just go down and look around... I've been walking the hills for a couple days now and I could do this for quite a while)