Tag Archives: Europe

A Bridge to Belgrade

Post adapted from April, 2011:

Okay, so there was no real bridge crossing to enter Belgrade, though as I learned in my few days in the city, there most certainly is a lack of bridges from one part of the city to the other. It might be the only complaint I heard while there, that there are just not enough bridges, and the ones that are open don’t have enough lanes for all the traffic that attempts to flow through them.

Belgrade was a bridge of different sorts for me. It was a bridge to A’s childhood. A bridge to his family and friends, a bridge to a language and culture I know nothing about, and a history so foreign from my own.

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, all of the differences, it was without a doubt one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. For all that is different about it, and for all that I learned and experienced being there in the comforts of a local, I am excited to plan the next visit back.

I arrived on Friday night to rainy weather, which pretty much stayed with us throughout the weekend, (but gave us slight hope every so often with breakthrough bursts of sunshine.) We went over to his cousin’s place, drank some of the wine his father makes at home, and headed to a club with a live band. I recognized most of the music, who doesn’t recognize American 80’s, and enjoyed the 35 Euro champagne we had delivered to our table until the smokey bar became too much, and the realization that I had a hair appointment bright and early in the morning and it was well after 2 sunk in.

The next day I was pampered by A’s hairdresser, who was terrified I had cut my skull in the bike accident I’d had just a week earlier, but who I had A calmly explain to was just a bad dye job from the day before, where for some reason they couldn’t figure out how to wash the red dye OUT of my hair before sending me on my way. A hundred curls and a couple hours later and we were on our way to the wedding! Stylishly 30 minutes late. (ouch)

The ceremony was completely different from any I’ve seen before. It was in a small Orthodox chapel and the bride and groom were surrounded on both sides of the room by family and friends, all standing. They were in the middle and performed rituals I didn’t quite understand, but that involved wearing a crown and walking in a circle three times with the priest in front and smoke (incense?) in hand the room.

At the Ceremony

Then once the Bride and Groom were pronounced, and every guest visiting had the opportunity for individual photos with the B&G you stepped outside to a beautiful courtyard where there was a live band! Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement, as I later learned, since it was a gypsy band that would play as loud as they could and would stand directly in front of whoever looked like they might have some change to spare and blow their trumpet into your face until you gave in with a couple of rolled up bills, (having never seen this before, I still thought it was pretty cool!) We then headed off to the reception which was in a completely separate part of the city where we awaited the B&G with cocktails in hand and hor d’ourves.

Me and My Main Squeeze 🙂

The party lasted late into the night, with the Best Man pleading for another round at a club to follow. Of course as we were about to head out, it became evident that all the Best Man, (and any of us) needed was a comfy bed to spend the night…and probably a few less drinks than we had already had.

The wedding was just a part of the weekend, albeit a big one. But also included was the Serbian Open where A, his dad, and I watched national-hero Djokovic win gold, and a trip to a nearby bakery where we had delicious desserts with his mom.

Even though he was being a total diva, I guess he deserves to win in the stadium named after him!

I left this whirlwind weekend behind with thoughts and dreams of returning to get to the know the city and A’s family better one day. And until we returned a month and a half ago, just dreams they were.

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Exploring Polish Brandy and the Wild Country Side

Once Mallorca came to a close and Ms. Weber and I returned to “life as usual” we were reunited with two more New Yorkers who came to stay, Elise and Christian. They traveled from far far away to see my new life in Berlin, (and maybe do some Euro sight seeing while they were at it.) The day after they arrived we ventured to Poland, thanks to Elise’s friend from home who grew up there and happened to be here at the same time, and went horseback riding through the Polish countryside.

Polish Countryside

It was really beautiful. The only downside was that many of our riders were less than comfortable on horseback and everytime we broke into a trot there was a serious fear we might drop one or two. But alas we made it back to the stables an hour and a half later with all bones in tact and all riders clinging tightly to their horses.

Made it out alive (and in tact)

We were then treated to a delicious meal by a very generous Polish family, (thank you to Elise’s friend Kasia!) Her mother cooked up some delicious chicken soup and wild boar, among other traditional delicacies. My only regret was not taking more photos of the amazing food as we were eating, (as you can imagine my mind was concentrated elsewhere!) But I did manage a nice shot of her father sharing some very appropriately aged Brandy (1985).

Prost, or however you say it in Polish!

So unfortunately we didn’t have much chance to explore Poland in any great way, but it was nice to know how close to the border of Germany it really is (about 45-60 minute train ride,) so I know it’s accessible to venture through again. From the small amount I was able to see I can definitely say there is a marked difference between Germany and Poland – from development of the landscape to the architecture of the buildings, but to say anything else wouldn’t be a fair assessment. Oh, and of course, Polish hospitality seems to beat out anywhere else, easy!

A Last Chance at Summer in Mallorca, Spain

One thing that is so much fun about living in a new country, is that everyone wants to come visit you! Ok, let me correct that, living in a clean, modern, fun country, in the middle of Europe…because no one seemed to want to visit me in the middle of South America (why does it feel so much less accessible than Europe?)

So over the last two weeks I have been showered with visitors (and happiness!) My childhood friend Ali came out at the end of August for a 2 week stay. We spent her first day eating delicious homemade food, (thanks to A’s genius in the kitchen and our frequent homemade feasts cooking up some amazing stuffed eggplant, delicious meatballs, taboule, stuffed mushrooms, greek salads, roasted beet and goat cheese salads, and the list goes on,) and having a beer.

Just two days later we hopped a (6 am) flight to Mallorca, Spain, where we then took a 1 hour taxi ride to the Eastern end of the island, to Calas de Mallorca. We were immediately deflated when we saw our hotel, and dealt with the rude staff at the front desk, but perked up once we saw the gorgeous coastline and hidden alcove beaches. These are truly some of the most beautiful beaches, and are well worth a day trip, but not so much an overnight stay at the Sol Melia (or any Melia Hotel for that matter!)

Private Tiny Beach near our Hotel in Mallorca

We struggled through days filled with sand, sun, and clear blue waters and then truly struggled through mediocre  inedible “all inclusive” buffet food. After only a few hours we found ourselves another hotel located in Palma, the central city on Mallorca (filled with clubs, bars, beaches, and most importantly – people!) and canceled our last night at Sol Melia for greener pastures.

Last Licks at the Gorgeous B eaches - can't say it wasn't stunning!

On our third day we took an early morning bus to the main city and couldn’t help but feel immense relief (and sharp pains from us kicking ourselves for not doing this sooner) upon seeing the metropolis that is Palma! It was a true European city full of fancy shopping, wide avenues, cafe con leche and tortilla española. And the best part was the gorgeous coastlines scattered throughout the city.

We had some time to kill until our room was ready, so we put on our bikinis and hopped a bus to the beach, (the farthest from the city, but also known to be the most beautiful.) While it was beautiful in the style of all Mallorca beaches, it definitely had more of a “touched” feel than the ones we had just been lounging at the days prior on the eastern side.

Palma Coast

After a couple of hours we made our way back to the hotel for check in and a shower. The room was heaven (compared to the labeled 3 star but really 1 star hotel we had just come from) and was just minutes from the main bus station. Convenience and Style were very welcome. And one of the best parts, they had Air Conditioning! Having lived in Paraguay and then in Germany throughout summer months over the last year, I have missed out on the environmentally destructive beauty and wonder of AC. And even though I shouldn’t say this, (especially not in front of anyone at work,) it was amazing!

We got ourselves together, took a refreshing shower, and wandered the streets of Palma looking for culture, cafes, shopping, and history. We wandered past cathedrals, ruins, brilliant plazas, and down quiet cobble stoned streets stopping wherever we pleased, and all the while wishing we had never left the city we landed in originally!

Very European Streets of Palma

At night we made our way to the famous Paseo Maritimo where I broke my shoe, and we found a nice Italian cafe to enjoy Pizza and Tapas. Once sufficiently sated (or stuffed) we walked a few minutes down the road to Tito‘s, a large and extremely populated club on the main clubbing strip in Palma. We paid our 20 Euro entry for 2 “free” drinks and tore up the dance floor – drinks in hand.

All in all Palma was a success, even Mallorca, save for the first couple of days. It is definitely worth a trip for sand and sun, and can be so cheap to fly out of Berlin, especially off season. Just have to be prepared for lots of German and British tourist roaming about with bright red, sometimes blistering, skin – and then the deeply tanned españolas (and guidas) thrown in the mix!

Getting to know the world

Living in Berlin is a fantastic jumping off point to the rest of Europe. Flights are (relatively) cheap to travel around and almost everything is within 2.5 hours. Berlin even has its own airline hub in Tegel Airport, AirBerlin, which has direct flights to NYC, so in case this whole Euro trip ever gets to be too much, I’ve got an escape route!

In the two months I’ve been here, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get settled in my new city, exploring different cafes, different parks, walking down new roads, taking the S-Bahn or U-Bahn (basically, the subway) to down familiar routes but getting off at new stops to see what I find. The city never stops amazing me in its diversity and beauty. Just yesterday I ventured to Tiergarten which I have long heard of, but never had the chance to explore. I walked through an antique market along the S-Bahn stop and then made my way through the gigantic park finding my way to the Avon Women’s 10k that was (unbeknownst to me) taking place that day. People were out on the street cheering and chanting and musicians were playing along the route to motivate the runners, (many of whom were not yet 10 years old.)

But aside from all the great exploring in my new city, I am so excited to have a chance to really get to know Europe. Sure, I have explored quite a bit of it in my 25 years, but there is still so much I haven’t seen. And even of the places I have, sometimes big cities don’t tell you all that much about what the rest of the country is like, so I can’t wait to take time to really get to know what surrounds me.

As soon as I see the flight prices drop below 100 dollars roundtrip, you can expect to be seeing blog posts about a new city (and maybe a crappy hotel, ha).

Okay Starbucks, You Win!

I am back in Zurich and looking to get some work done. Yes, I am currently unemployed, but I am one of those few who still have a To Do list of about 100 things for everyday, of which I am lucky to check off two or three! So I woke up this morning feeling energetic and inspired. Like I could really accomplish something today. The only problem is that I feel trapped if I don’t leave the apartment all day, even though the WiFi and food are free, and sun light is plentiful. I have to get out of the house for at least an hour or two a day or I start to go stir crazy and lose my mind.

So I decided to find a nice local coffee shop/cafe that I could buy a tea or water and sit for a few hours pondering life, checking off my To Do list and writing for my blog. I started by calling a cafe I spent a few hours at the other day, Henrici in the Old City of Zurich, which is actually a beautiful cafe where I thoroughly enjoyed my time people watching and sipping a $7 dollar Chai. They didn’t have WiFi. Bummer. So I  walked around for a little bit with A trying to see what other cafes might be close to home. We came across another bar/cafe that actually did have WiFi (shocking!) but that was a little less than inspiring and I couldn’t imagine spending the next 3 or 4 hours or my day at.

After wandering the Old City and then crossing to the other side of Lake Zurich, and walking around yet another business-looking center of town, I walked past a…gasp…Starbucks! I always tell myself “No!” especially when in another country, (because they are on every street corner here too!) but their tea lattes are quite delicious and the big comfy chairs overlooking the streets of the city are more than inviting. Plus the big FREE WIFI sign might have helped me make a somewhat challenging decision much simpler.

I’ll admit it, I caved! And I couldn’t be happier on my velvety plush green chair with a hot $8 USD Earl Grey Latte in my hand, and a view of the streets below.

 

Mirror Image