Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Beginning in Sarajevo - 2010

From as long as I can remember, Europe was always fascinating to me.
Somewhat in its history, from my ancestry, and the different legends/relics of time that were formed there. But really, for me, it was about the diverse cultures and the sheer weight of how different it was to the US.
So many countries within traveling distance of one another that I just couldn't wait to see.
Hence why I signed up for the Eurotour some teachers from my high school put on every 2 years. This trip was right after I graduated and it was the perfect timing.

At first, I was very nervous. My sister was going, which I had not wanted from the start, but thankfully I knew some other people going on the trip that I could group up with and try to keep up.

After the long flight, the stop in Frankfurt and the transfer to our night train (which was awesome because we had to stop in the middle of our trip due to lightning) it was a crazy busy start to our trek already.
We stopped in Croatia for a few hours and got to visit their amazingly beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park. We rowed around in some cool boats for awhile and had a blast!

After this we had rented cars and drove on to our first destination of the trip, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Initially, I didn't know much about this place, except for that it was in Europe (thankfully I knew that) but I definitely learned a lot more.
I didn't know that recently they had been in a war, until after we had gotten there. Our hostel that we stayed in had a cemetery on the way down into the city, which we walked by every day we were there.

It was sad to see the ruins of the city and to know that it had happened so recently.

Our best time was just walking around the city, the views were amazing and we had a great guide. The food was amazing too! We had a traditional breakfast one morning of their well know Cevapi, which is a mince meat patty or sausage with bread.

We wandered around the marketplace a lot and would find things that we liked. We made a lot of side trips while we were here as well, like to see the Dervish house in Blagaj Tekke which was pretty awesome.

We also met up and traveled into Serbia to visit with a foreign exchange student who had been at our school. We had to be escorted by police officers and were brought to meet the mayor of the town of Priboj for a feast (which the showcased on their evening news and in their newspaper). After which we visited a monastery and a mosque and of course, watched some local basketball.
We also had the pleasure to visit Mostar, which is a really fascinating place, from the busy markets to the bridge people dive off of.

This was only the start to our month long journey. 3 days may not seem like a lot, but as you can see we made the most of our time. If you've ever thought about going, do it. While there are a lot of pickpockets in the city, most of the people are very nice and helpful.
Just be aware and wear your backpacks on the front of you, it's weird but it's not as easy for people to steal your things!

Cheers and safe travels! More to come...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Flashback to Switzerland

In 2010, I went on an amazing month long Eurotour after I graduated high school, with a bunch of other kids and some teachers from there.

One stop which was very memorable to me was our stop in Switzerland, Gimmelwald to be exact.
Taking the gondola up to Murren and trekking down to our mountain hostel, which is an awesome place in itself (here), we knew why we were staying here.

The mountain views, the crisp fresh air, the hundreds of cow bells clanking in the hills. It was wonderful.

But the ultimate reason was to really take a long, strenuous hike up to the top of one of the mountains, the Schilthorn, which you may have seen in a James Bond movie at some time.
This hike was grueling for me and made me very nervous. I'm not good at hiking and I didn't know if I would be stuck climbing by myself (because I'm slow) or be the last one up.

I stuck by one of my friends who seemed to have a tough time from the dinner we had eaten the night before.
Pause: He actually did have trouble from that and had to be taken to the hospital after the hike. He had a piece of food lodged in his throat which was making it hard for him to breathe and swallow. He was ok though!
We hiked together and stopped when either of us needed to, also taking pictures for each other a long the way.

Him with a Swiss cow.

Me at the mountain lake, somewhat near the top!

The tricky thing about hiking up here, is that there weren't any markers, just a slight path to follow that went away at certain point in the journey. Rocky outcroppings and a really sketchy narrow path (surrounded by a drop on both sides, this next picture doesn't do it justice) It was definitely an interesting hike.

While this was probably one of the hardest things I have done, it was altogether worth it.
I made it up to the top in about 4 and a half hours and I proudly say this is a great accomplishment of mine.
I didn't even know if I could make it all the way up, but I did it!

Definitely recommendation if you're ever in this area of the world. You might regret it while you're in the process of hiking up, but you won't regret it after.

More to come from this past trip and my upcoming one!

Safe travels!

(This is Piz Gloria at the top, a revolving restaurant!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Perfect Carry-On

To start off, disclaimer: There is no perfect carry-on.

In a few weeks, I will whisk myself away on the vacation I've been waiting a year for. A 10 day trip over to Europe, to experience 4 amazing cities in 3 amazing countries.
What I hadn't thought about much, prior to my trip, was luggage.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a planner by nature and a researcher by choice, but I figured that it wouldn't be too difficult to find something that worked for me, within my price range, and that fit the overall criteria for airline restrictions.
Well, to my surprise, it was A LOT more difficult than it seemed.

To find something that met my specific requirements along with everything else was going to be a very hard decision.
The thing about going on an excursion, for me, is to make it as easy as possible. So step number one was to only stick to carry-on bags. Easy enough, I could find a decent carry-on, plus use a backpack filled with other necessities and be fine.
What I found out though, is that I'm paranoid about dimension restrictions. Most airlines will allow (at the very most) a 22x14x9  and 45 linear inch carry-on limit. That shouldn't seem hard... when I first started looking up luggage for this purpose, a lot popped up with those exact dimensions... but hold on.
A lot of them also go under the false pretense of "expandable" luggage, which means if you pack it just a little too full, move it out a little too much, and the airline decides they want to try your luggage out in the check box and it doesn't fit... You're screwed!

So here I am, looking for a bag, preferably of the 20 inch size, or even less if I could handle it and to my dismay, nothing seemed to come up from that search.
Either one side would be too long, or too wide and throw the dimensions all off or it was WAY out of my price range (why is smaller luggage more expensive sometimes?).

So I trekked on with my search. SwissGear caught my eye for a lot of my luggage needs and the prices were fine but come to find out that their dimensions that they stated did not include the wheels of the bag... which could ultimately be your downfall, if again you got chosen to test your bags out.
Paranoia set in once again and I kept searching.

Well, maybe I don't want a rolling bag at all! So duffel bags came to mind. If only they had rolling duffel bags, right? BAM.
Thankfully, I did happen upon some rolling duffel bags that suited my needs.
The first was this from London Fog
London Fog Chatham 19 inch Club Bag

I loved the look of this bag and it seemed like it would be a great contender. This was not the one I picked though, as the 10 inch side was not quite working for me.

I set my sights on this one and ultimately bought this from Samsonite (which also has other great bags, but a little pricey)
Samsonite Savor Wheeled Tote Bag

The dimensions worked for me, the size worked great for the packing cubes I ordered (these ones) and I think I could deal with the bag check, even if it was a little off.
This is what I wanted and for the price, it was pretty good. If I end up not liking it when I get it, I will update this with other ones I find.

Now, if price had truly been no problem, I would have gone with this from Tom Bihn
Aeronaut 30 Bag (or the 45)

In the coming weeks I will be posting about how I'm going to pack and fit everything I need for a 10 day trip to Europe in just carry-ons.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Taco Truck Challenge 2015

Hosted by 107.7 The End (Seattle, WA)
At Volunteer Park 5/2

What a great way to spend a lovely sunny day in the Pacific Northwest. Out and about in a beautiful park in Seattle. Tacos, beer, music and sun. Nope, I don't it could have gotten much better, unless the lines for the trucks had been shorter and I had gotten to try all the tacos. Then yes, that could have been better, but I'm not complaining.

The Taco Truck Challenge was a fun time, filled with over 20 trucks of delicious food and sponsored by Bud Light and the Seafair Foundation, waiting in line for some of those delicious tacos was definitely worth it.
While we only had the opportunity to try a couple, the ones we had were... well there are no words, just YUM!

I think my favorite taco that I had, although the fish tacos we had were awesome as well, was the biscuit taco from Biscuit Box, which was a yummy biscuit filled with boa spicy pork and a slaw of a few vegetable.
The pork was delicious, veggies helped by giving a crispy texture, and the biscuit was phenomenal, sweet to go along with the savory and the texture was perfect.
I would definitely recommend you try these if you ever see this truck passing by anywhere!

The other truck I had the pleasure to try was The Grilled Cheese Experience and while this truck had a line down a few trucks or more, it was worth it. For a good price, I got a generous amount of cheesy filled quesadilla goodness, with lamb chorizo and onions. I'm glad I waited in line, it was worth it.

While it doesn't seem like we got to try too many trucks (we didn't, the lines were ridiculous and getting full was easy from just two) it was still an amazing day. Sun shining, even got a slight sunburn on my face from it!

Also got to listen to some music, brought to you by The End, as well as, a performance by Colorworks (a local band) and Wild Party. They put on a good show and had song good songs, but the crowd was more interested in the beer garden and I stayed to hear Outright because I do really like that song on the radio lately.

Not the best show, but for $5 I didn't mind at all! I would say, if you have a chance to go to a taco truck challenge either coming up or to the one they put on next year, go! It's cheap, good eats and invite friends, that would have made our experience better as well.

Thanks, cheers!