The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 5 and 6

By day 5 I was tired. I’d walked, I’d explored, I’d eaten, and I needed to rest. I stayed inside most of the day and watched Netflix and wrote in my adventure diary. In the afternoon, I did my favourite thing: I got tattooed. I went to Dot and Daggers Tattoo (https://www.dotsanddaggers.com/) and they were able to fit me in last minute. I’d booked in a session with them in November, but it got cancelled when they went back into lockdown. The shop was my favourite type of shop: good music, friendly staff and amazing artwork. I got a hummingbird skull and some flowers to go with the desert happening on my arm. It was worth every second.

My last day in the city was a sunny and warmish day, so I spent the day in the park. But not just any park. The park at the Schönbrunn Palace. This was the summer palace for the Habsburgs. According to Wikipedia:

The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. It has been a major tourist attraction since the mid-1950s.

I bought a new duck and ended the day finding an old mosaic of a cow and a wolf playing backgammon. According to Atlas Obscura:

IN THE 15TH CENTURY, ENEA Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini, better known later in life as Pope Pius II, described all the fine houses of Vienna as being painted inside and out with fabulous scenery. Like the marginalia found in illuminated manuscripts, the houses would have featured religious and historic portraiture, along with some humorous imagery for good measure.

These medieval murals have mostly been destroyed by time, but one, of the humorous variety, can be seen today on a house in Vienna’s historic center. The facade of the Hasenaus (“Hare House”) features a wolf and a cow in spectacles engaged in a game of backgammon. Behind the board are the legs of a man, who appears to be holding a fly swatter, perhaps to attend to the players.

One explanation for this absurd scene is that it is an allegory for the political tensions between Protestants and Catholics. It’s not clear who’s winning. Others have suggested that the man behind the game is a furrier eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the game so he can take the hide of the loser.

The wall painting dates approximately to 1509. The house would have been originally been covered with scenes of medieval life, in particular one large motif of a rabbit hunt (hence the name). But when it was refurbished in the 18th century, all but the backgammon game was lost. Luckily, it has been carefully preserved so that Viennese and visitors alike can admire it, wondering what it’s supposed to mean. 

The mural was down an unassuming side street, and I am glad that I detoured to find it. I returned to Scotland feeling like I’d had proper time off, got some good culture and allowed myself to separate from my work for a bit. It was a really good way to end my 34th year.

Totally ready for the next adventure. s

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 4

My trip to Bratislava meant that I got to cross an item off my bucket list: Listen to the Bratislava Hot Serenaders in Bratislava. I first saw them in 2016 (I think) and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. They were amazing and fun. If you’ve never heard of them enjoy:

Broken Record by the Bratislava Hot Serenaders

I’ll admit, when I went to see them I was painfully ignorant about Bratislava. The only thing I knew was it was the capital of Slovakia. I enjoyed the performance so much though that I thought it would be great to one day visit the city and experience a little Slovakian culture.

Flashforward to 2022. I hopped on a bus in Vienna and 1 hour later I was in the town square. According to Wikipedia:

 Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia at the foot of the Little Carpathians, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states.[6]

The city’s history has been influenced by people of many nations and religions, including AustriansBulgariansCroatsCzechsGermansHungariansJewsSerbs[7] and Slovaks.[8] It was the coronation site and legislative center and capital of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1536 to 1783;[9] eleven Hungarian kings and eight queens were crowned in St Martin’s Cathedral. Most Hungarian parliament assemblies were held here from the 17th century until the Hungarian Reform Era, and the city has been home to many Hungarian, German and Slovak historical figures.

Today Bratislava is the politicalcultural and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak president, the parliament and the Slovak Executive. It has several universities, and many museums, theatres, galleries and other cultural and educational institutions.[10] Many of Slovakia’s large businesses and financial institutions have headquarters there.

My first stop was a Synagogue because Bratislava has a very proud Jewish culture and history. I started at ŽIDOVSKÁ STREET (JEWISH STREET). This was the only place that Jewish people were allowed to live from 1599-1840. There is a memorial there to commemorate the space. The synagogue wasn’t open when I was there, but I made sure to go by for a visit. The next spot I went to was the CHATAM SOFER MEMORIAL. According to their website:

The Chatam Sofer Memorial in Bratislava is a unique Jewish heritage site – the sole remaining part of the centuries-old Jewish cemetery that was destroyed in 1943 when the nearby tunnel was constructed. Only the most important section, with 23 graves surrounding the Chatam Sofer’s tomb, was preserved as an underground compound. In 2000-2002, the whole site was redeveloped and the gravestones were restored. The architect Martin Kvasnica designed a striking new complex that adheres to the strict requirements of the halakhah (Jewish law) as well as to the highest standards of contemporary architecture.

Chatam Sofer is said to be the father of Orthodox Judaism, and his tomb is a pilgrimage site for many Orthodox Jews.

At first, I was a bit confused about the memorial. I wasn’t sure if it was something that anyone could visit, or if you had to be guided. I passed a very serious Hasidic Jewish man and then a family who was being guided by someone who worked nearby. When I asked him if it was a place that anyone could visit, he immediately launched into a well-practised spiel about how it was not a museum but a very serious place of worship for Jewish people. He explained that he had a bus full of Hasidic men from Tel Aviv about to arrive on a pilgrimage and that it was a very serious place. I explained to him that I was Jewish, that was part of the reason for the visit and that I had done my homework before coming down, so I understood the importance of the memorial.

I’m not sure he was convinced, but because I was wearing modest clothes and my head was covered, he was willing to take me into the women’s section and allow me to pray for a bit. He made me feel like I wasn’t Jewish enough to be there, and I was a little embarrassed that I had misunderstood the space, so I thanked him for his willingness to let me in, but I would respect the seriousness of the place and not enter. As I walked away, I felt really strange. I am Jewish, but having to prove my ‘Jewishness’ made me feel like I was somehow an imposter. I would say I am more of a cultural Jew, the history and the importance of the culture is more important to me than the religious aspects, but the fact that I was made to feel like an ‘other’ for that didn’t sit well. So, I did the most Jewish thing I could do and felt guilty for even thinking I could enter the space. I let my imposter syndrome win. I may not be as learned in the Torah, and not as deeply religious as those men on the bus, but I had every right to enter that important space and take in the history.

I continued my wander around the city, visiting the Blue Church (The Church of St Elizabeth), the castle and looked for two famous statues, NAPOLEONIC SOLDIER (NAPOLEÓNEC), and RUBBERNECK (ČUMIL)

All in all, I enjoyed my day in the city and even found a rubber duck to represent my visit. The people that I met in the shops when I got lunch and when I got the duck were nice, but not overly friendly, and I am not sure if I would need to visit again, but I am glad that I made the trip.

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure: Day 3

I woke on day 3 feeling sore. I was not used to walking so much and not just being sat in front of a computer all day, and my poor feet were mad at me.

My first stop was at the Jewish Museum. I try and visit the Jewish quarter of every country that I visit, and the Jewish culture in Vienna is especially important as they were all but wiped out by the Nazis during WWII. The first museum houses the remains of the temple that was destroyed in 1421 and marks where the Jewish quarter used to be. At that time, Jewish people were rounded up and murdered, and their history and culture long buried.

The women’s section of the synagogue destroyed in 1421.

The museum also includes a look at the Jewish culture today and how people feel about living in Vienna. One of the exhibits was called The Vienna Rothschilds. A Thriller. According to the museum:

‘The exhibition presents the history of the Rothschild family in Vienna and Austria. Since the activities and accomplishments of the Viennese Rothschilds have faded from memory, it is important to call them to mind with this exhibition and to make their traces visible.

The rise of the Rothschild family began in the early 19th century with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a Jew from a humble background in Frankfurt. He carved out a career through hard work and sent his five sons out into the world, one of them to Vienna: Salomon von Rothschild. As a banker to the Austrian State Chancellor Metternich, he quickly became one of Austria’s leading entrepreneurs. The name Rothschild served as a positive symbol for a Jewish success story, but also a negative cliché in antisemitic propaganda.

The story of the Rothschilds in Vienna and Austria reads in parts like a thriller. They had to assert themselves against competitors, became ensnarled in conflicts and were confronted with antisemitic stereotypes. But they repeatedly stood up for their oppressed and persecuted fellow believers and established numerous educational and charitable foundations for the general public.

In 1938, the Gestapo arrested Louis Rothschild and held him hostage for a year to extort the Rothschild’s entire fortune. After the end of the Second World War, a large part of their stolen property was restituted, but they had to forcibly “donate” important works to Austrian museums. The restitution proceedings have dragged on to this day. Yet the story of the Rothschilds in Austria continues.’

I’d never heard this story before, and it was ridiculous. Imagine being robbed and then robbed again under the guise of ‘donating’ to museums for the enjoyment of others. The way that Jewish people are treated in some countries is almost beyond comprehension. My next stop was at the Shoah Memorial. It is in the centre of the Judenplatz (‘Jews Square’). The memorial is beautiful and tragic at the same time. British artist Rachel Whiteread designed the memorial. Around the outside of the memorial are the places in Austria where the Nazis murdered Jews and the memorial itself looks like a large concrete cube, but if you look closely you will see ripples in the cube that look like books. There are 65,000 books, one that represents the story for each of the Jewish people who died in one of the camps.

Once I had gotten my spiritual fulfilment, I walked to the Albertina for more art. I almost skipped this museum. I’m not sure what made me go in, but oh boy, it was one of the best parts of the trip. The Albertina holds amazing works by Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, Degas, Klimt, Kandinsky, Miro and Warhol. Basically all of the artists that I love. I had no idea that there were so many Warhols in Vienna, and even more shocked to see three Miros! He is my favourite artist. I have one of his paintings tattooed on me. This little unexpected surprise was amazing. I could have cried I was so happy.

I gave my poor feet a break and spent the rest of the day enjoying the funky hotel and eating cake. I really wanted to plan some day trips one to Czechia and one to Slovakia so I spent the evening trying to figure out if there was a way I could make it happen. I miss the pre-Covid days when it was just a matter of getting on a train or a bus. Czechia was unfortunately ruled out pretty quickly because of their Covid test rules, but I was able to figure out how to get to Bratislava quite easily. God love public transportation.

The Scamp Goes on an Adventure Day 2

I’m finding it difficult to find the time to write out all of the amazing things that I got to see in Vienna. Most of my energy went into applying for my own job and being sad about having stepped on a scale and seen how much I actually weigh.

But back to the important things: sightseeing in Vienna. Day 2 was just as great as day 1. I started the day in a library. The State Hall of the Austrian National Library was stunning.

The State Hall – built in the 18th century as part of the former Court Library – is a breathtaking 80 metres long and 20 metres high. An intricately decorated dome and numerous frescos provide an imperial flair. This baroque jewel is home to over 200,000 tomes. Four magnificent Venetian globes, each with a diameter of over one metre, provide the finishing touch to the heart of the Austrian National Library.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g190454-d245775-Reviews-State_Hall_of_the_Austrian_National_Library-Vienna.html

The photos that I took do not do the library justice but suffice to say, I was a very happy Kim.

My next stop was Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. This museum is known for housing the Habsburg art and antiques. There was a lot of gold plated and bejewelled everything. The museum had artefacts from ancient Greece, from Egypt and a picture gallery full of amazing art. I spent a good three hours here wandering around. The only bummer was there were not a lot of English translations, so there were some things that I couldn’t follow along with, which was a bit of a bummer. I did a bit of googling though and that helped.

The last stop of the day was to the Vienna Naschmarkt. The smells of spices and sausage and fresh fruit and veg just seep into your pores when you enter the market. I did a lot of browsing, but did not buy anything.

In addition to the market, I was also on the hunt for the Ampelpärchen, or diversity themed traffic lights inspired by Eurovision. They were so fun to spot, but difficult to photograph. I ended the day getting sausage in a giant bread roll from one of the street vendors and enjoying the view in the popular historic square. I don’t usually eat meat when I am on vacation, but you can’t really go to Vienna and not eat a Vienna sausage. It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be.

The Scamp Goes on An Adventure

For the first time since 2018, I actually went on holiday that wasn’t California and wasn’t in the UK! I’ve been trying to get away since Nov 2021, but lockdowns and Covid mean having to be flexible. Instead of a Thanksgiving holiday, I snuck away to celebrate my last week of being 34.

I’ve been really struggling since 2018. The end of the PhD, the horrible viva and rewrites, and then the pandemic have really done a lot to corrode my already tenuous mental health. That coupled with isolation, no travel and a stressful work environment have left me pretty burnt out. I haven’t been writing for fun, haven’t been writing for work, and haven’t done a whole lot to help myself become an adult.

To sort myself out, I decided to head to Vienna for a week. I’ve never been to Austria, and there are a lot of great places to visit that are only an hour by train or bus….and I just needed out of the UK.

I booked a stay at the Student House Vienna. This is a hotel/student dorm. It was fantastic. The people were friendly, I couldn’t hear the people living above me or next to me, and it was right next to the metro, so it was easy to get to city centre.

The first thing I did was buy a week’s pass for the U-Bahn so that I did not have to walk if I did not want to. My first stop was the Museum of Modern Art. According to the museum’s website:

With its collections based on Pop Art and Photorealism, Fluxus and Nouveau Réalisme as well as Viennese Actionism, the mumok combines highlights of societal and reality-related art as well as performance art of the 20th century. The collection comprises around 9,000 works: paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, graphics, photos, videos, films, architectural models and furniture.

https://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/museums-exhibitions/top/mq/museum-modern-art-352902

The museum did not disappoint. Pop art is the type of art I enjoy the most, and the gallery had so many floors to wander about. I actually wandered the museum without a murder podcast playing in my ears and it was nice to have a bit of silence.

The next place that I went was the Natural History Museum. According to their website:

The Natural History Museum preserves, expands, researches and presents its extensive biological, geological, anthropological and archaeological collections in a building designed as a total work of art. It conveys the diversity of nature, the evolution of planet earth and life as well as the associated cultural development of humans and offers an inspiring meeting place where dialogue and exchange between science and society take place.

https://www.nhm-wien.ac.at/museum/leitbild_mission

It is a stunning museum, the building is amazing and everything is presented so well. It is also like a maze. There are so many rooms and corridors that at one point, I was glad that I had a granola bar in my purse.

Naturhistorisches Museum
Dino pals
Mineral collection

There was something really nice about wandering the city, not being sat on my couch all day, and not emotionally eating because I am sad and feeling stuck. Even the GPS gods smiled on me and kept me right the entire time. Vienna is really easy to navigate and I have the directional sense of a bee in a paper bag, so being outside, walking, and not once getting lost made me really happy. I even navigated the metro like I knew what I was doing, and I love any time that I can feel a bit less like a tourist. I ended the day with my favourite thing: cake. There was a market in the metro station, so I was able to get nibbles and eat in the dorm at the end of the day. I was not 100% keen on eating out alone, so being able to get a salad and water and amazing bread. It was a great start to the vacation.

The Scamp Eats Waffles

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If you say the word Belgium to an American, the first thing they will mention is either waffles or chocolate. I have a lifelong love of both of those, but waffles have a special place in my heart. I knew that there was no way that I could leave the country without trying one. After extensive research, I settled on the oldest waffle house in Antwerp: The Waffle House Van Hecke. According to their website:

Gustaaf Van Hecke founded the business in 1905.
Originally the waffles were sold at the door and especially in the pubs in and around the Sint-Andries quarter.

Later on in the Nationalestraat, formerly known as the “Boeksteeg”, a waffle house was established.

The founder Gustaaf Van Hecke 1873-1946

I made it to the waffle house when they opened which meant that I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying the first waffle of the day. I was greeted by the owner, a giant friendly man who clearly loves everything about life. I seated myself outside in the sunshine and he made me a strawberry and mango smoothie while I waited for my waffle. When he brought out the plate he sat down at the table with me for a chat. He seemed worried that I was eating breakfast by myself, so he asked me what brought me to Antwerp, why I moved from California to Edinburgh, and how he grew up with the children of a Jewish family that his mom served as a maid for. He learned English watching American movies, and laughed with enjoyment at the way I pronounced words. Because there was no one else in the restaurant, the women who cooked the waffles came out to have a cigarette, and the owner acted as a translator when the women asked me if I was a tattoo artist.

They laughed a little too hard when I told them I worked for a university.

I only spent an hour there, but I have to say, I probably could have spent the rest of the day there. I don’t mind eating alone, I usually have a book with me, or I get my food to go and then find a nice park or somewhere near water to eat, but I really enjoyed having someone to chat with while I enjoyed my waffle.

One of my favourite things about having the opportunity to travel is getting to sit down across from people from different backgrounds and cultures and have meaningful chats. I love listening to different accents, hearing the stories people are willing to share, and getting to see the world through a different lens. Sometimes I wish I was better about taking photographs or recording these moments in some way because I feel like these little moments make me a better person.

I wish I could say that the waffle and the chat motivated me to get some work done, but it did not. I have the voice of my supervisor in my head telling me that I am doing it wrong every time I sit down to write. Between him beating down my self-esteem in regards to my writing, and the fact that I spent the last 2.5 years going back and forth with a sociopath who used me, and who knows how many other girls to cheat on his girlfriend have not left me wanting to do a whole lot more than just curl up in bed and binge watch true crime documentaries. It doesn’t help that I know what I need to write and just panic when I try and do it.

Oh, and people telling me to just get it done. Like I am just being lazy. That’s not really something that I need to hear. Thank God for therapy….and waffles.

The Scamp in Belguim

I know I promised to finish detailing my journey in Cyprus.

I haven’t.

I know I said I was going to write my discussion chapter and make my chapter edits to finish my thesis by the end of July.

It’s not looking good.

So, in an effort to stick to something, I am going to post this week about my time in Antwerpen and then go back to work on the posts about Cyprus.

And I am going to write my damn thesis.

I was in Belguim to attend the JURE conference. This is dedicated to junior researchers of the European Association for Research and Learning. I had really high hopes for this conference. I thought I would be able to network and meet people who were doing all kinds of interesting research all over Europe. What I got was a keynote speaker who made the point that when a person is sleep deprived they suffer from fatigue, and when they suffer from fatigue they are less motivated to learn.

Seriously.

A quick browse through the programme showed that 90% of the researchers were purely quantitative researchers (they do massive surveys and only care about the numbers) despite the fact that their research deals with the motivation of learners. My favourite moment from the first day of the conference was the presentation by a guy who said that because he interviewed a few teachers and they could not name an educational theory, it meant there was no such thing. I asked about critical pedagogy, which happens to be the educational theory that I am using for my thesis, and he did not really have an answer for that.

I ditched the afternoon sessions to take a wander around the city. While listening to the keynote…and by listening I mean surfing the internet on my tablet, I discovered that Antwerpen has a large Jewish population. I am not sure why this surprised me, but it did. I decided to wander to the Jewish quarter because there is nothing I love more than exploring Jewish neighbourhoods and connecting to my religion all over the world. One thing that I learned is that the Jewish people in Antwerp are very Orthodox and that a tattooed girl in a bright geometric dress is not quite their idea of a good time. I wish I could have gone into the synagogue, but I was not dressed appropriately, and I respect the culture too much to be an ignorant tourist.

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I also wandered into the central train station because it is a fantastically built structure in the heart of the city. I’d been through it the night before when I took the train in from Brussels but went back to really appreciate the marble and polished services.

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I wandered the main shopping area and as I weaved in and out of the shops, I noticed that there was an overabundance of tourists who were more interested in muscling each other out of the way for ice cream then enjoying the city, so I took my dinner back to the hotel to work on chapter edits. Those edits did not go well. I am reading edits about edits my supervisor made, and there are a few comments that make me wonder if he actually read the chapter or if he just skimmed it. All of these edits keep me from feeling like I am making any progress with this work.

I really wanted the break in Cyprus and the week in Belgium to help me feel less burnt out, but I am not sure that any of it helped.

complicated-emotions-contrast-coffee-mug

Day one in the city though was a success, and I hoped that day 2 of the conference would re-energise me about the research being done by other apprentice academics.

The Scamp Plays a Get to Know You Game

I saw this on another blog, and decided that with the sudden influx of new readers (hello everyone!) that I have, it might be fun (not to mention a good break from my PhD) to answer some questions.
About Writing
How did you start your blog?
I started this little beauty 7 years ago because it was cheaper than therapy. When I got accepted to the University of Edinburgh, I decided that it would be a way to tell my family and friends about what I was doing.
What made you decide to begin blogging?

I liked writing, and knew it would be easier for people to share my time in Scotland with me.
Are there other types of writing you enjoy doing?

I love all types of writing. I am working on my 4th degree, so I’ve gotten very comfortable to academic writing, but storytelling, creative writing, travel narratives, I love them all. 

Why do you write?

Because it is cheaper than therapy. Because it is the way I process what is going on in my life. Because I have a lot to say, and yet spend a majority of time alone. Because my mom told me I’m good at it. 
Personality
Do you see yourself as an optimist, pessimist, or neither?
100% pessimist. 
Leader or follower?
Leader….but only because I am way too impatient with how slow people walk to be a follower
Talker or listener?
I’m a little bit of both, depends on who you ask really. 
Broad-minded or opinionated?
I have really strong opinions, and I always think I am right, but I would like to think that I am open enough to listen to people and what they have to say before I then try to convince you that I am right and I know best. 
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. Don’t you dare ask me to dress up for a themed night out, and if you even try to sing happy birthday to me when we are out to dinner, I will kill you with the dessert spoon.
Travel
What’s your next adventure?
I’m headed to Switzerland in November, and then to Denmark in January. I’m sure I will try and fit a few more city breaks in there as well because not travelling makes me antsy.
What’s your favorite place in the world to be?
At the dinner table with all of my family. 
If you could live anywhere in the world for 3-6 months where and why?
Australia or New Zealand
Beach vacation or mountain retreat?
Beach. Give me some sun, sand, clear blue water and a surfboard and I would be a very happy girl.
What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
I don’t think that I have ever been anywhere that I haven’t enjoyed in one way or another….well, maybe Albania. I think Riga, Latvia stands out, as well as Sydney. 
Mindfulness and Happiness
What do you do in the evening to ensure you’re in the swing of self-care and feeling super duper mindful?

I don’t. I’m supposed to. For awhile I was really good about doing yoga and mindfulness meditation. I battle crazy depression and anxiety, so it is worth it for me to keep going with it, but when I’m stressed it is hard for me to focus on anything other than eating bad foods and taking extended naps.

How do you inject happiness into those days when you’re not feeling as positive as you’d like to?
Baby animal videos. Photos and videos of my nephews and my cat. Talking to my friends. Hugging strangers’ dogs.
For Fun
What is your favorite time of day?
Anytime that I can sit down and get some writing done. I have a lot of words that need to get on the page right now, so anytime that I can sit down and get some of them from my brain to my Word doc I am a happy girl. 
The world ends in 48 hours and you’ve lost your bucket list. What two things would you like to do?
If the world is going to end then I don’t really care about my bucket list. I just want to get home to my family.
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Mark Twain and Harper Lee
What is your dream job?
Trophy wife. professional napper. I’d like to be a travel writer. I’d love to get paid to travel all over the world and tell people about it. I’m also not giving up on my literacy foundation to help people all over the world learn to read (in their native language and then in English or another language should they choose).
Do you have any pets?
In my mind I have a small farm of pets. In reality, I have a cat who lives with my parents. I’m not sure he remembers me. 
What book(s) have made you cry?
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The Velveteen Rabbit. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
What’s your favourite poem?

“Asparagus in a lean in a lean is to hot. This makes it art and it is wet weather wet weather wet”


― Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons

What is your favourite song?

 

The Scamp in Bosnia

…and now for the final post of my epic adventure. This also happens to be one of the highlights of the trip for me. The surprise favourite. A friend of mine told me that Sarajevo was perhaps the most beautiful capital city that he had ever been to, and he’s been to a lot of capital cities, so I was both curious and excited to see what surprises the city had in store for me.

Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Sarajevo, but the beautiful fusion of East and West in the ‘plains around the palace’ offered me a regular feast for my eyes. We  got into Bosnia a bit late in the evening, so after checking into a lovely hotel, we went to perhaps one of the best houses in the city for dinner.

The Spite House has a very interesting story. According to Atlas Obscura:

An elderly Bosnian fellow named Benderija refused to agree to the destruction of his house, even after being offered more money than the property was worth. Without the land under his house, there would be no way for the city hall to be built at the desired location, right next to the River Miljacka. Lengthy negotiations ensued between the old man and the city (with even the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Finances getting involved) until finally, in 1895, he agreed to sell his property for the extravagant price of a sackful of gold ducats, but only under one condition: the authorities would have to move his Ottoman-era house, brick by brick, and rebuild it on the other side of the river.

Benderija got his way; in the popular account of the story, the old man spent every day of the move sitting in the middle of a nearby bridge, smoking cigarettes and carefully watching the workers transport each brick across the river. When the house was finally rebuilt, it was aptly named Inat Kuća, or the House of Spite. 

Today, this proud symbol of Bosnian stubbornness serves a more practical purpose: it was converted into a Bosnian restaurant in 1997.

The government got the last laugh though because while the man’s favorite spot used to face the river, it now faced a mountain.

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We were treated to a tour of the city by a local guide of about my age. He was full of the typical stories, and showed us the site where the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand happened. It was an odd bit of history to walk over, and the unfortunately for Sarajevo, it was not the last of the struggles that happened there.

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It was interesting to see the influences of the West on side of the city, and the East on the other. There are markets that look much like I imagine the markets of Istanbul to look, and they sell Turkish coffee, Turkish delights (which are not a delight), and beautiful weavings, jewelery and tourist fluff. There are traditional bars and fancy brand name shops there as well.

We were able to take a trip outside the city to see the Sarajevo War Tunnel. Before this trip, I was pretty ignorant to the history of Bosnia, but I was aware of the war that plagued them in the early 90s. I remember seeing news reports of fighting, and hearing that bad things were happening, but I was little and did not really understand what it meant, or who was actually in the wrong. The Tunnel of Hope is just one of the examples of resistance.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I hate that site too, but it is the best place for quick summaries to help paint a clear picture to a complicated story):

The Sarajevo Tunnel (BosnianCroatian and Serbian: Sarajevski tunel / Сарајевски тунел), also known as Tunel spasa (Тунел спаса, English: Tunnel of rescue) and Tunnel of Hope, was an underground tunnel constructed between March and June 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian War. It was built by the Bosnian Army in order to link the city of Sarajevo, which was entirely cut off by Serbian forces, with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the Sarajevo Airport, an area controlled by the United Nations. The tunnel linked the Sarajevo neighbourhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir, allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and allowing people to get out. The tunnel became a major way of bypassing the international arms embargo and providing the city defenders with weaponry. 

We got to go through a small part of the tunnel, and the house that hides it (and well, a lot of buildings in the city) or still covered in bullet holes.

In fact, bullet holes, and bullet shell are quite the popular tourist attraction. Many of the trinkets that tourists can buy are made with spent casings. I found this to be really dark, and somewhat distasteful, but plenty of people seem to think it is a good idea. We had some time to wander after the tour, and while I would have liked to hike to the old bobsled track, I instead went in search of Jewish people. I dragged the Golden Girls to an old temple and got to see the Jewish people of the city lived, and how many of them were protected by the Muslims in WWII. It was rare on this trip to be able to see this little bit of culture, but I am glad that the girls indulged me and let me have a wander in the sacred space.

The Golden Girls and I completed our day climbing the fortress and looking out over the city. We were hot and sweaty, but it the views were lovely.

One of the hidden gems of the city was the bar that is  decorated like a granny’s house. It is called Zlanta Ribica. I’d go back there are put on a funny hat and some big sunglasses and drink cocktails until the day is done.

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We left Bosnia to head to Mostrar, one of the most important cities in Herzegovina. I do not remember most of what we were told about the city, but the famous old bridge. It was built in the 16th century and is said to be one of the best examples of Islamic architecture. It has become famous with the tourists because the men of Mostrar jump off the 25 meter bridge to transition to manhood. It looks crazy, and scary, and one of our very own did it while we were there. It has been completed almost 500 times, and I get to say that I know someone who has done it and survived.

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The end of the guided tour took us back to Split, and I spent the last day of holiday laying on the beach and wishing that I had 17 more days of warm weather. This trip was truly one of the most fun adventures that I have ever had, and although I did complain about some of the people, it would not have been the same  without the people I was with. I have a sincere hope that I will get to meet some of these people again, whether in my home or in theres.

 

The Scamp in Serbia

I can’t believe that I haven’t finished updating my travels. I have been out of my routine and feeling a bit out of sorts with all of the rain. I was so tired when I wrote about Macedonia that I completely forgot that while I was there I saw where Mother Teresa was born. She was born in the capital city, but eventually made her way to India. I stood on the spot where her childhood home used to be, and we saw the memorial house that has now been constructed in her honor.

Figures that I would be too tired to remember something that important.

From Macedonia we headed to Nis, Serbia. I’m not sure what I expected from Serbia, but Nis was something else. We only stopped for lunch, but I spent that time in a beautiful fortress.

We then moved on to the city of Belgrade. A lot of my friends have been here, and told me how much they loved it. We went on a walking tour with a very very enthusiastic tour guide who gave us the bare bones history as he lived it for his entire 26 (He might have been older, but that is the age in my mind for some reason) years. We walked through the fortress and saw an amazing sunset over the Danube, and the Knez Mihailova, a popular shopping street in the area. We spent the first day having dinner as a group, and it was an unorganized mess. Things got worse when we then went for a ‘pub crawl’ that started an hour late. After being dragged from a nice bar to two places that weren’t open, I made my way back to the hotel with the super cool married couple and let Kelsey have all the fun for me.

She was feeling a bit under the weather the next day so I wandered around the city with some of the people from the tour and ended up having the most amazing burrito. Burrito Madre was everything I didn’t know I ever wanted. By this point in the journey I was tired of only having meat options for dinners, or soggy veg, wilted salads and the like. I was ready to be in clean clothes, sleep in my own bed, or at least have a beach near by. This burrito was heaven. The fresh squeezed strawberry juice was heaven. The churros and chat with Kelsey when she was ready to eat was heaven.

Kelsey and I wandered around a bit once she had the burrito and we had rolled ice cream for dinner. It was nice to be out in the sunshine and walk through the streets looking at the street art. I always thought that Lisbon had the best street art, but Belgrade might take the cake. I even found a book of street art in Belgrade with stories behind some of the more popular art. It was a one of my best purchases of the trip.

Until I got to Bosnia that is.

Belgrade was the most westernized of the all the cities that we visited on this trip, and while that is not necessarily a good or bad thing, I also found this to be one of the easiest cities to navigate without the need for GPS. It also felt really safe, with (mostly) friendly people and a lot of deep rooted history.

I am almost halfway through July and I still do not have any of the things on my list and without an office, I am finding it hard to stay motivated. Tomorrow is another day.