Here’s the Shkup…

March 15, 2015

A busy two days in Skopje, Macedonia or otherwise known as Shkup in Albanian. I had no expectations for Macedonia whatsoever, not because of any reason, I just had no idea about Macedonia. First off, it’s a lot more developed than Kosovo, which was to be expected. But everything is epic here. I imagine them saying “we will make a statue to commemorate _______…” And the next guy chiming in with “…and we’ll make it really fucking big!” The bronze cast statues here are like forty feet tall. They would make the Soviets blush.

This guy is probably taller than five people standing on each other’s shoulders.

To go along with my earlier rant about “Guy on horse”, this one is literally “Warrior on Horse,” so really they just opted for generic statue out of the catalog. But it’s really big!

Aside from everything being giant, it is a beautiful city and they people are very friendly. The food is very much influenced by Turkey and the other surrounding countries. So bring a hunger for meat!

A trip here wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Museum of the Macedonian Stuggle. Which was a hour of struggle, but it was ~$5. There was no photography allowed, so excuse the blurry photography.

It was a combination of “it’s a small world” and Abu Ghraib. You basically learn that the Macedonians tried to declare independence like 600 times, finally getting it, only to have Greece throw a fit about the name Macedonia. So, to quote the tour guide, “the struggle continues today.” But today’s struggle is just for naming rights apparently. The wax people were done really well though and it was worth the time spent.

Tomorrow is a very long 6 or 7 hour bus ride to Bulgaria, the last stop on the trip.

A pristine day in Pristina…

March 13, 2015

Ok, so maybe not pristine, but definitely interesting. Kosovo is exactly what you’d expect from a country the age of a second grader. A little disorganized, a little disheveled, but still something that may one day graduate to more. A lot of construction is going on. Like, a LOT! 

Having arrived late last night, my first introduction to Pristina was the blaring prayer at five in the morning (people in Kosovo are ridiculously punctual in everything they do, as a side note). When booking your place to stay in Kosovo, you may want to take into consideration your proximity to mosques, because, to quote Spinal Tap, “their amps go to 11″ if you know what I mean.Once awake, it was a quick walk to the Kosovo Museum that details the conflict and all the events of the 90’s. No charge for the museum, because nobody was there. The door opened and the lights were off except for the ones that stay on in the corner. I dont even think there was a lock on the door.Shoulder fired rocket launcher tubes are surprisingly lighter than you’d think.NATO was a major focus of the museum.The most interesting thing I found about the full page New York Times pages were the other crazy articles that made the covers. I encourage you to see what was happening in 1999 and it’s weird to see how much has changed.

There is still a fence where people put pictures of missing people, still not found from the war.And here’s another horse statue. I want to find the statue of some guy not on a horse one day. It’s like that’s all they ever do was ride horses.The newborn monument gets redecorated every year.And Bill Clinton (or Klinton) Boulevard……and the guest of honor.Two doors down from Bill is Hillary.

If you read this blog and the last week’s posts, you may think I only visit underground tourist attractions. I swear to you that have only been to like three or four caves in my life, they just happened to be in the Balkans. Outside of Pristina are the Gadime Caves. It’s a cave that is comprised of marble and has some really cool features. Enjoy the walk through…And finishing the day with the ugly National Library. It’s ugly. I had to take a picture to show how ugly it is. 

Tomorrow is onward to Skopje, Macedonia.

An electric day in Belgrade…

March 11, 2015

Big orthodox church, St. Something. It’s hard to keep track of all the orthodox churches here. The unique thing about the Serbian churches are the inside. They are bare bones concrete buildings. There are no frescoes or artworks. They are pretty unimpressive from the insides. The outsides are beautiful, but I guess they figure once they have you inside, they don’t need the marketing anymore. 





The highlight of the day was down the street at the Nikola Tesla museum. The reason you currently have electricity to power your computer or phone to read this is because of a Serb. 



No, not this guy…



This guy. Complete with swagger.

The Tesla museum went through the history of all of his inventions, his designs and how he immigrated to the U.S. and how he built plans for induction motors, transformers, and even a death ray powerful enough to split the earth in half. Dude was cool.

Magnetic fields are witchcraft…Jedi witchcraft.

Transformers are awesome

The first radio controlled boat

His ashes, apparently trapped inside a brass cannonball. Just for the record, that’s how I want to be posthumously kept. Seal me in a cannonball.

So tomorrow is a five or six hour bus ride to Kosovo. Goodbye fabulous Belgrade with all of your modern conveniences…

Well that escalated quickly…

March 10, 2015

Things I don’t like: 

  • Driving ten hours to get from one place to another

Things I love:

  • Belgrade
  • Belgrade
  • Belgrade

This place is crazy, and nothing like what I expected. Once in a while you come to a place with little or no expectations only to be kicked in the head with amazingness. Got into Belgrade last night too late to see or do anything, but woke up and tried to make up for the boring travel day yesterday. It started with walking around the old fort here and the military museum. It was standard fare military stuff and a bit of rah-rah, but they did have a crazy number of tanks laying around. I could drive a tanklet around. They’re fairly practical (you’d understand if you had ever seen New Mexican drivers) and seem fun. Here are the fort and museum pictures:

But can I get one in candy apple red?

Gavrilo Princip. You may remember him, he started a world war.

 

How many bronzed college cheerleaders have you seen?

Alan Turing’s toy

Tito

After the fort and the museum it was off to a three hour communist walking tour about the history of Jugoslavia and Serbia. It went through all the conflicts and economic history as well. It started with a trip to Tito’s mausoleum and the history of Tito. Interesting guy and credit to the guy for holding it together for so long.

Tito’s desk makes Donald Trump jealous

Where’s the transparency?

Most everything in Belgrade has been repaired since the NATO bombing campaign, but there are some building still around. 

As you can probably tell from reading this update, I’m exhausted from walking around for twelve miles today. There are so many things to see that it’s hard to cram in to such a short time. Meanwhile, some random pics:

Orthodox Church

Serbian Parliament building

In Soviet Russia… Horse rides you. Or so the joke would go. Honestly, I have no idea why this is the statue in from of parliament, but it’s stupid funny for so many reasons. Why is the man naked? Why is the horse anatomically correct? Please comment to explain what is happening here, because I don’t get it.

Even Belgrade in not immune from the hipster invasion. The corporate, selling you waffles and ice cream invasion.

I’m going to sleep… 

*Drops the mic*

Why not? It’s better than the world’s biggest yarn ball…

March 8, 2015

So in the midst of an otherwise very busy travel day, it’s still important to take in the weirdest of slightly out of the way roadside attractions. The day started in Brasov. Red Bull in hand, competitive driving ensued. Mid-day break for lunch in Sibiu turned into an hour of walking around and climbing a church tower (I took the stairs in case you read that and think it sounds cooler than what actually happened). Some quick pics of Sibiu:





After lunch it was back in the car for more competitive driving. And the interesting thing on the menu was a little town called Turda. Yes, you read it right: Turda. The further you get out of Bucharest, you encounter little towns (and bigger ones) with one main industrial focus. Turda is home to a crazy excavated salt mine. Now that the salt mine has ceased to continue operations, somebody came up with the only logical use for a 1,500 ft carved out salt mine: put in a family fun center. So, it is the creepiest ping pong, mini golf, bowling, boat ride kiddie fun center on earth. Check it out:









So, after hiking down into bowels of family fun, there is no more joy I can find in Romania. Everything will just be a failed version of the splendor of subterranean Ferris wheels. So now onward to Serbia…



An homage?



I’ve played enough Castlevania to know where this is going…

March 7, 2015

After a day of layover in Frankfurt, it’s been a Romanian last couple of days. Brasov, Romania is a cute little town situated in the center of the country, surrounded by mountains (and from the looks of all the outdoor shops, full of climbers). The Romanians have been very hospitable and very nice and pleasant. The food consists of meet on top of meat, with a side of meat. Overall, it’s been easy to navigate and my Ford Fiesta has handled well, even on the snowy Transylvanian roads. Today was a trip to Bran Castle, which is home to “Dracula.” I put that in quotes because it’s a “supposedly his home” situation. Although Vlad III is the supposed inspiration for the myth and he did spend time imprisoned there. Worth the half an hour drive and interesting to see. Hidden staircases and old furniture are alway fun. People were short back then and I did smack my head on a beam at least once. Photos from around:



This guy gave the tour, but kept annoyingly pointing out the quantity of everything that was there…



Bran Castle from the walk up



Palinca – 100 proof plum liquor

The Balkans

January 11, 2015

It’s official. Ticket in hand. Itinerary is a quick 2-1/2 weeks. Romania-Serbia-Kosovo-Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria. Details to follow, but it all kicks off the first week of March…

I feel like George Harrison

January 5, 2013

Okay, any one of the Beatles, but George was the coolest by far. I’m sitting outside my bungalow in Auroville. It’s this crazy commune linked up to the Ashram in Pondicherry. People here are nice and it’s super relaxing out here. It’s home to this golden temple (not like the one in Amritsar). This one looks like a giant golf ball and its actually plated in real gold. New age ashram living is funny to watch. I saw this very Nordic looking Viking type white dude driving a tractor. It reminds me of The Beach (the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio). People come here and work in the fields for ten years before they get a chance to become a citizen of this place. Gotta pay your dues apparently.
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South India

January 3, 2013

Okay, I’m more than a bit surprised. The previous trip to India I made was rough. I stayed in the north the entire time and it was one notch under brutal. So, this time I was prepared for everything to be hard. I’m quite happy to see that south India is a completely different country. It’s still India, and the good and bad that comes with that, but the south is a really laid back version of the north. I like the people, the food, the weather. It has a Southeast Asia feel to it. After landing in Chennai, it was a four hour game of chicken until reaching Pondicherry. The lines in the middle of the highway are only a suggestion in South Asia. I must have seen fifty tech colleges on the way here as well. There is definitely an educated middle class here. The city of Pondicherry is very nice with a colonial French history. The food is spicy and cheap. The city revolves around the Sri Aurobindo Ashram near the water. A beautiful place that is non-denominational and gives off a feel good vibe. More to come…

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Slow pace of life, but big strides…

January 1, 2013

Just a quick update to show some photos of what I’ve been up to in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist temple is the Cave Temple in Dambulla. I wish I’d taken a picture of the never ending stairs you have to walk up before you get to this cool UNESCO heritage site!

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