The Scamp in Montenegro

Greetings from Kotor!

I wish. I have been stress eating my way through the week so far (and it is only Wednesday) and miss the warm sunshine of Montenegro eating ice cream and trying to find one of the many cats that have taken up residence in the old town. According to the Visit Montenegro website:

Located along one of Wold’s most beautiful bays is Kotor, a city of traders and famous sailors, with many stories to tell.

The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved urbanization typical of the middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century. Medieval architecture and numerous monuments of cultural heritage have made Kotor a UNESCO listed “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site”.

Through the entire city the buildings are criss-crossed with narrow streets and squares. One of these squares contains the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon (Sveti Tripun), a monument of Roman culture and one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.

The old town was amazing. Smooth stones, beautiful mountain views, and the windy streets with little treasures everywhere made the first couple of days getting used to the tour group manageable.

IMG_1787IMG_1804IMG_1806IMG_1810

What I really liked about Kotor was how peaceful it was. We stayed in a funky hostel that was completely impractical for people who had more than a backpack. We went up some steep stairs to get to the rooms and then ended up going up three more flights to get to an 8 person room. I was really lucky and the people that I ended up sharing a room with were amazing. They were okay with my grandma like curmudgeon ways, and were not the type that wanted to get drunk and sleep their way through this trip.

*photos of the hostel courtesy of bookings.com

While in Montenegro we also went to the town of Budva. I’m not sure I could tell you much about being there though. I had crazy bad heartburn thanks to my anti depressant, so I spent most of our time there trying to find a chemist and some antacids. The lifemate and I were finally able to find a place, and although the chemist spoke no English, rubbing my throat and stomach and led her to saying stomach burn and giving me some pills that made me feel better pretty quickly. I still have no idea what I took, but I’m still alive, so I would say that whatever she gave me worked.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived, but I loved the historic feel of the place. What I noticed about Montenegro, besides how beautiful it was, was how friendly the people were. The chemist spoke no English, but did her best to help me, waiters and bar tenders were patient and kind, and the people at the hostel put together breakfast, dinner, and their version of a pub crawl (I passed on that, so I have no idea how it was). I would like to go back there one day and spend a little more time relaxing there and visit their national treasure, the cat museum.

I can get behind any place that worships cats.

This was stop number 1 on the trip, and after two days in Montenegro, it was time to make the long long long drive to Tirana, Albania.

 

 

The Scamp in Croatia

I seemed to have brought the rain with me to Scotland. Or, more, Scotland knows that I am sad to be back in work mode.

Well, work mode with a touch of a friend visiting from California. I feel bad that he came and spent a lot of time on his own. I wish that I had been in more of a position to hang out, but the work just had to be done. We did make it up Arthur’s Seat and we managed to bring oh missing pal with us.

18922473_745252497915_3927337127228945187_o And now it is back to the tales of my time in the Balkans.

We left Split and went to the town of Dubrovnik. Many people will recognise the backdrop that it provides as the setting for Game of Thrones. I’ve seen the show maybe once, and have been to another landmark used in the show (it now no longer exists, but it was in Malta). The lifemate and I had some pretty strong feelings about the people in the tour group based on first impressions, so we decided that we would wander the city a bit and then eat lunch. In our wanders we found an exhibit dedicated to some rare Salvador Dali works.

That was better than Game of Thrones any day. It was also the only art museum/gallery, super cultural thing that I did during the trip…which is a shame. I really did enjoy the Dali work, and even bought a crazy melting clock to bring home with me. While many people were excited to be  on a movie set, I was excited for the artwork, and for the funky cocktail bar we found that had an amazing vine covered patio and bathtubs that had been turned into lounge chairs. The smoothie was quite tasty.

This part of the trip was the start of us getting to know the people that we were in a group with. My first impression of some of them was not entirely favourable. A lot of the people that we were with were super young, and we all know that I have a low tolerance for most people. The one saving grace from the drive to Kotor was the killer playlist on the bus and the two seasons of My Dad Wrote and Porno to get through. Rocky Flinstone made the drive so much more entertaining.

We had an interesting pit stop that forced us to cross from Croatia into Bosnia, or into the little bit of coastline that they have before going through second crossing into Montengro. At the Bosnian rest stop I had my very first Jaffa cake. It was good, although I’m not sure if it was good because I was hungry and happy to be off the bus for a second, or if it was really that good.

The boarder crossing for these stops was easy and painless, and I was able to get three new stamps in the passport.

The Scamp in Croatia

The start of my Ultimate Balkan adventure was in the beautiful city of Split Croatia. Officially known as the Republic of Croatia, it is home to 4.28 million people, over 1,000 islands and a rich history of war and conflict. I would not be able to do the country justice if I tried to give a condensed version, but for those interested, I encourage you to do your research. On 25 June 1991 Croatia declared independence, which came wholly into effect on 8 October of the same year. The Croatian War of Independence was fought successfully during the four years following the declaration.

Image result for croatia map

It was a little known tourist destination until the rise of Game of Thrones, with enthusiasts flocking to Dubrovnik. It has a mostly Mediterranean climate and is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday.  When the heterolifemate and I landed in Split, we knew that the only thing we really wanted to do was lay on a beach and gear up for our trip. It is on the Eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and part of the Dalmatian Coast. We stayed at the Croparadise Hostel, and I cannot say enough good things about this place. It is good value for the money, close to the touristy areas, and the people who work there are really friendly and helpful.

Image result for croparadise hostel

*photo courtesy of Hostelworld.com

There was a really great rooftop patio that Kelsey and sat on and talked to some super naive 19 year old boys from Buffalo. I had had just enough beer to want to educate these young men in the ways of the world. I ended up helping one write an application essay so he could transfer universities.

We spent the first day wandering the open air fruit market for fresh fruit, tasty bread, meats and cheeses and then went on a hike up the Marjan Forest Park and then wandered to the beach for some much needed sunshine.

20170518_11050520170518_133339IMG_1707IMG_1720 - Copy

As you can see, I really needed the sunshine. We ate a lot of ice cream, listened to a lot of tourists and wandered around Dicoletian’s Palace. The palace is more like a fortress, and this was the least researched trip I have ever gone on, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of the history of the place (Thank God for Wikipedia).

Diocletian’s Palace (Croatian: Dioklecijanova palača, pronounced [diɔklɛt͡sijǎːnɔʋa pǎlat͡ʃa]) is an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, that today forms about half the old town of Split, Croatia. While it is referred to as a “palace” because of its intended use as the retirement residence of Diocletian, the term can be misleading as the structure is massive and more resembles a large fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian’s personal use, and the rest housed the military garrison.

20170518_15384420170518_181545 - Copy20170519_203656

*photo courtesy of http://www.romeacrosseurope.com/?p=6807#sthash.ST9ju68a.dpbs

I loved Split. The people were friendly and the city was very easy to get around. We were able to wind through the palace and sample good food and a lot of good ice cream. I would have happily spent a week there just sitting at the beach everyday and taking trips to the islands. I wish that I would have gone to see the synagogue, but hey, that gives me a reason to go back again!

We met the tour group in Split and it also served as the final destination. The first meeting with out Busabout group was not a good one for me in terms of my judgey ways. I’m really glad Kelsey was there because there were a couple of girls that said some really ignorant shit and really got me in the killing mood.

On the upside, I did get to cross two things off my list. Split offered me the chance for a long hike, and when I get to the Greek part of the adventure I will cross learning to dance off the list (there is a video, but I’m trying to decide if I want that out in the world still).

  • Learn how to drive in the UK.
  • Present at an academic conference
  • Start a new tradition
  • Go back to therapy
  • Visit three new countries (Paris, Malta, Hungary)
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Quit the tutoring centre
  • Volunteer for a literacy programme
  • Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  • Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  • Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  • Master scorpion pose
  • Attend the symphony
  • Learn a rap song from start to finish
  • Host a dinner party
  • Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  • Create something original
  • Create a solid workout regime
  •  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  • Learn to dance
  • Eat an exotic meal
  • Learn to cook a fancy meal
  • Yell at a football match
  • Go horseback riding
  • Master British spelling and punctuation
  • Create a good sleep schedule
  • See my favorite group in concert
  • Fall in love
  • Stop holding grudges
  • Let go of my expectations

 

The Scamp Wanders the Balkans

Zdravo! It has been awhile since I’ve written anything, and part of that is my sheer laziness, and part of it is because I was wandering around the Balkans soaking up Eastern European culture and ignore my responsibility to my PhD, my job, and adulting. The heterolifemate and I booked the trip in November. It was a massive celebration of the end of her Masters, and it was a chance for me to get some serious wanderlusting done. When I booked it it seemed to be ages away, something that was just on the calendar, but so far away that it wasn’t a real thing. As the date got closer, I did my typical Kim thing of getting stressed about the amount of work that I need to do and waited for something bad to happen that would mean I needed to cancel the trip.

Luckily for me, I did not have to cancel the trip. In fact, I spent 17 glorious days in Eastern Europe soaking up sunshine, good food, a tragic history and phenomenal culture. I was even welcomed home with all the wet weather and rain I can handle. I’m on my couch taking a break from my PhD work (which is actually progressing quite nicely) and only feeling a little guilty for letting one of my friends from home wander around Edinburgh on his own.

Now, while I should be spending my words on my theory and literature chapter, I am going to set the scene for my next few posts about the wonders of the Balkans.

Image result for the balkans

According to the easy to understand Wikipedia blurb:

The abstract term “The Balkans”, unlike the geographical borders of the Peninsula, is defined by the political borders of the states comprising it. The term is used to describe areas beyond the Balkan Peninsula, or inversely[clarification needed] in the case of the part of Italy in the Peninsula, which is always excluded from the Balkans and as a totality is generally accepted as part of Western Europe and the Apennines.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Balkans are usually said to comprise Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo,[a] the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, while Greece and Turkey are often included (depending on the definition), and its total area is usually given as 666,700 square km (257,400 square miles) and the population as 59,297,000 (est. 2002).[28]

According to an earlier version of the Britannica, the Balkans comprise the territories of the states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo,[a] the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and the European part of Turkey; it notes Turkey as a non-Balkan state and the inclusion of Slovenia and the Transylvanian part of Romania in the region as dubious.[29]

The Balkans are bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea on the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) in the Rila mountain range.

Before this trip I had very little knowledge of the area. To be honest, other than Croatia and Greece, many of the countries in the Balkans were not on my travel radar. I’m ashamed to admit that I thought Macedonia was a part of Greece (and that is not entirely wrong, at least when using the term Macedonia, but I’ll get to that later.) and that Kosovo was actually a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I remember learning about Yugoslavia when I was in school, and knew that it was no more, but I did not remember much beyond that. What I learned from this trip was that this region has seen its fair share of war, strife, and has an unrelenting sense of national pride and perseverance.

My trip looked like this:

Image result for ultimate balkan

and included some of the following highlights:

  • Gorge on great Greek grub in Thessaloniki
  • Climb to St John’s Fortress for a vista of Kotor
  • Scale the city walls of Dubrovnik – ‘Game of Thrones’
  • Climb to St John’s Fortress for a vista of Kotor
  • Discover the ‘off the beaten track’ feeling of Albania
  • Visit UNESCO-listed town of Gjirokastra
  • Marvel at Meteora’s stunning cliff top monasteries
  • Visit Thermopylae, where the Spartans battled the Persians
  • The stunning Acropolis
  • Enjoy the buzz of Belgrade on a night out
  • Sarajevo walk and tunnel tour
  • Grab a photo at Mostar’s famous bridge on a locally-guided walking tour

Now that I have set the stage for my trip, for the next week I will feature one of the 7 seven countries that I had the pleasure of visiting and all of the highlights and lowlights of a fascinating part of the world. I’ll try to include some history of each country, the food and drinks I sampled, the people I met, and how many times a day I had to remind myself to have vacation Zen and not kill one of the 33 people travelling with me.

balkan-opening-final-2

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 19 and 20

Feed your senses

Write down the first sight, sound, smell, and sensation you experienced on waking up today. Pick the one you’re most  drawn to, and write. (For a bigger challenge, pick the one you’re least drawn to.)

Sight: my flamingo pillowcase

Sound: The jack-hammering demolition sounds of my next door neighbors (starting at 8 am)

Smell: lavender

Sensation: the stiff feeling in my bones that comes with the Lupus

To be honest, I am not drawn to any of them. I was looking forward to sleeping in today, but whatever construction is going on in the building woke me up earlier than I wanted, and I am a tiny bit cranky. I know that it is a work day, and I do not begrudge anyone for working, but if they could have started at 9 am, that would have been nice….or even better, started tomorrow when I am gone for two weeks.

That’s right. Wanderlust is kicking in and I am headed to the Balkans with my heterolifemate. We’ve had this trip on the books since November, and I cannot wait to be off on an adventure. We start our journey in Croatia, then cruise by bus through Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia.

I’ve packed a tiny carry on sized suitcase and a backpack. Who knows if I am forgetting anything, but at this point I am so excited for some sun, beaches, and culture. The lifemate and I work well together, so travelling together will be a lot of fun.

I’m a bit worried about not working on my thesis for two weeks. I have not really been working as hard as the people around me who are in the same boat, so I am really worried about falling behind. I started playing around with the stats, and so far they are showing me the same trends that I am getting from the interviews and focus groups, so I am optimistic about how the write up for that chapter will go. I am worried though because there is talk of me having to collect more data, which means adding another year to my programme. I am not thrilled about that because I am not sure there is funding, but also because I am ready to be done. I have been a students non stop since I was five years old, and I am tired. I am also lacking a bit of motivation (yay 2nd year slump), but I’m taking a notebook and pen with me, so hopefully I can get some work done while I am sitting on a beach or hiding from the other people I will be on tour with.

Then it will be me locked in my office almost nonstop for the summer cranking out drafts so I can either get ready to complete my final year, or be in a pretty good place to collect data and be ready for my fourth year should it come to that.

I also wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to give me a really good academic job here in Scotland so that I could stay here forever.

Please and thank you.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 18

I’m a week late. I know. I know.

Same story, different day. I have found myself with a distinct lack of motivation and a profound sense of wanderlust. Thank God by this time next week I will be on an adventure through the Balkans. 7 countries, 5 different currencies, and plenty of sunshine. I’m not taking my laptop with me, but I am going to take my travel journal, so I’ll write it all up when I get back.

The challenge for last week was to look through my couch cushions and find the first coin that I could. I was to then write about what I was doing on the date on the coin. My couch has a lot of strange stains under the cushions, and a lot of crumbs (note to self, hoover the couch), but no coins. Next to my couch though is a little table and on it sat a rogue penny and ten cent euro. The euro was dated 2000 and the penny 2006. I was in the 7th grade in the year 2000, so I decided that 2006 would be more fun to write about.

In 2006 I was in my second year at UC Merced. I was living in my first apartment with two girls I had shared a dorm with, and I was well into my literature degree. I thought I had made friends that would be a part of my life forever.

I spent a lot of time in the sun, and learned the hard way that it is hard to have an odd number of friends, especially girls, and that my low tolerance for drama would leave me feeling isolated and alone. I went to a lot of parties at the start of the year, and then hid away for the second half so that people would stop talking about me. The people I worked with at the library became my really close friends, and the boys often dragged me out for poker nights. I watched the movie Waiting way too many times that year. I didn’t date, but was okay with it, and spent a lot of time watching Grey’s Anatomy in my bed on the weekends. I learned a lot about myself that year.

In 2006 I didn’t have Lupus, didn’t have chronic depression, and didn’t have trouble sleeping. My self esteem had taken a bit of a hit, but I still went on conquering academia. I took a literature class that year with a well respected professor of Spanish literature who told me he was impressed with me because I made a connection between the visual image presented in a play with the actual image of the dialogue. The fundamentals of literature I learned in that class would later help me with my MA at SDSU. I was still driving the Tugboat, and only had 1 tattoo (I know, I don’t even remember me with only one tattoo).

In 2006 I hadn’t figured out how to quell my wanderlust. I had no idea how much fun I’d have with my passport, and how much better life would get once I figured out that not everyone sucked and that it was okay to not want to immediately go back to the place I grew up and become an ‘adult’. I grew a thicker skin, got ready to leave my teen years behind me, and started doing yoga. All in all, not a bad year for me.

I have no forgotten that I still have activities to cross off my list of things to do before I turn 30. I’ve made tentative plans to ride a horse and I am hoping that I can go on a hike while in Croatia, learn to dance in Greece and continue to work on Scorpion pose.

 

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (1/3 done with my trip to Malta, next up, France in November and Hungary in December)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 17

The writing challenge this week is a really fun one. I’m tasked with answering this prompt:

Wall to wall What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?

I love this. I love art. I collect vintage travel posters (although they all live in California right now) and love funky and colourful art. I’m a little bit weird, and I feel like the art that I have on display says a lot about me. None of it really matches, some of it is weird, some of it offensive, but all of it together somehow works. I want people to feel at ease when they come visit me, and also have something to look at other than my off white walls. I don’t do well with empty and blank spaces, so I’ve always had a lot of posters and photos on my walls. My desk at work is also decorated and covered with family photos, a mini drum kit, and pictures of my friends. While I could show you everything in my place, I think I’ll stick to sharing my favourite wall with you.

I spend a lot of time in my living room watching TV or working on my couch. The wall that the couch faces is the most decorated in the place. I happen to think it is the best view in the flat.

IMG_20170428_194356

The painting of California was the first thing I ever hung on my wall here. I know that I spend a lot of time writing about how I don’t want to live there and how California and I had to break up, but the rest of my heart is there, and it is where I started life, so I like to have the little reminder with me. The photo underneath it was my maid of honour present from the wombmate when she got married. She had it made for me, and I think it really speaks to my personality. The rest of the art displayed is from local artists.

Strike that…the two photos of France I bought in Paris, and the nesting doll I bought in Budapest, but the rest of the artwork comes from Scottish artists. The photos all seem to be a bit crooked, and to be honest, I really like them that way. It seems more honest that way. I can’t really pick a favourite piece, they are just all so good.