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Trip 2011 Travels 2011 Travels   All of my travels in 2011. 1. Czech Republic, Poland - March (Waypoint... Walter Ch (US)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Canada Croatia Czech Republic Poland ... and 2 more

2011 Travels


All of my travels in 2011.

1. Czech Republic, Poland - March (Waypoint 1-15)
2. Chicago - June (Waypoint 16-20)
3. Smokies, Atlanta - June-July (Waypoint 21-31)
4. New York - September (Waypoint 32)
5. Croatia, Bonsia-Herzegovina, Slovenia - November (Waypoint 33-50)

  • 04Mar 2011

    1 Leaving For Some Czech 03/04/2011 USA —

    Philadelphia, USA


    After working my regular shifts at my job, I would head to the Philly airport. I already checked-in online, which was the first time I've ever done that. I figure it would buy me some time to get there and go through security.

    Not my original plan, but I decided to visit the Czech Republic and Poland in this trip. Kind of last minute, as I had a hard time picking places to visit, as I am open to visit most places in the world. And not just picking which countries, but the cities within those places, how time time to allocate, and whether they would work out in an itinerary. How decided on these countries, let's just say there is a method to my madness. :)

    I got to the airport and much to my surprise, I zipped through security quickly. Then went to the gate. I waited until it was time to board. I got on the plane, which took me to Munich.

    Once there, I had enough time there, to make my connection, to Prague, Czech Republic. Just waited around until it was time to board. Once I did, I was on my way.


  • 05Mar 2011

    2 Arrived Into Czech Land 03/05/2011 Czech Republic —

    Prague 2, Prague, Czech Republic


    I arrived into Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Interesting that I would visit the "other half" of what used to be Czechoslovakia, having visited Slovakia back in October 2010.

    First thing was getting the local currency from an ATM, then riding the bus and Metro into town. Once I got there, I went to the Chili Hostel, which was well inside a quite neighborhood. Finding it would not be easy, but I did get good directions. Once there, I checked in and went to the room, to get settled. The hostel felt very disorganized. Not the worst place that I ever stayed at, but I have seen better.

    I went back out, walking to Old Town. Along the way, I stopped by a few places to get something to eat and drink, then proceeded to Old Town Square, the starting point of the tour. When I got there, I could not believe how crowded it was. It was as if it was a popular spring break destination.

    I looked around the square in a clockwise direction, starting at the Jan Hus Memorial. Then looked at the other buildings, from the Church of St. Nicholas, to the Tyn Church, and the big one, Old Town Hall, with the Astronomical Clock on the side. I would come back to it, at the top of the hour.

    I went to the stands, that served ham and sausages, served on the barbecue grill. Smelled very good! I got a piece of sausage, which came with 2 slices of bread. The tough part was finding a place to eat, as all tables had people on them. As it turned out, I just join any one that has room, as they are always shared. Tasted very good, as I enjoyed eating it in the square.

    After that, I went to the Astronomical Clock, where a crowd has already gathered. It reached the top of the hour, and the two doors open, as the apostles showed themselves. I did not get a good look because of the crowds. At the top of the tower, a guy blew on a horn.

    The clock has various features, which told more than just time. It also told the sunrise and sunset times, as well as the phases of the moon. The history and how it worked back then, is remarkable in itself, as it seems to have 2 sets of clocks. Also noticed the little skeleton that rings the bell every hour.

    I walked down one of the streets, to the Tyn Church, which was already closed. Behind it was the entrance to Ungelt Courtyard, which dates back to the 12th century, where merchants stored their goods before selling them on Old Town Square. I walked through it, exiting at the other end, to Celetna Street.

    I walked up to the Powder Tower, and went through it. At that point, it gotten dark, and my mind was feeling tired. So I headed back and stopped by a supermarket on the way. I picked up some things, and had some trouble at the self checkout line, since I forgot to pick the English option. One of the managers had to swipe her card, to get it to work again. Just confusion.

    I headed back to the hostel, and just relaxed for the rest of the night. The room did feel stuffy and warm, as it seemed the heater was blasted very high.

    I talked with one of the guys staying in the same room. Then went to sleep early, as I hoped to get up early next morning.

    Photos & Videos


  • 06Mar 2011

    3 Going Around Prague 03/06/2011 Czech Republic —

    Prague 2, Prague, Czech Republic


    I decided to get up really early, and learned that the hostel did not serve breakfast. So a head start to Old Town, as I wanted to see it without the crowds. Once I got there, it was basically empty. And I loved it, as if I had it all to myself. It just felt different.

    I walked down some streets, as I saw none of the businesses were open yet. Then it was near the top of the hour, at 8 AM, and I headed to the Astronomical Clock. Hardly any people there, but unfortunately, the show actually started 9 AM that day. A little disappointed, but I would come back later.

    So I killed some time, eating breakfast at a McDonald's and just did some day planning. It was near 9:00, so I headed back to the clock to catch the show. There were more people, including a tour group, but still not nearly as many as the day before.

    The clock chimed, and I got to see the apostles pass by. Have to admit, a bit underwhelming, but I guess it was something I had to see. Then some guy at the top of the tower, blowing on a horn on all sides. Then I noticed the tour group leaving, heading down the same direction as I was. It was to the Charles Bridge.

    Along the way, as I walking on Karlova Street, admiring the Old Town architecture and charm of the buildings. Just following the tourists until I got to the Charles Bridge. I started walking across it, seeing the tower and the Vltava River, as well as the statues that line along it. Dating back to the 14th century, when construction began under the rule of Charles IV in 1357. This bridge replaced the previous bridge, the Judith Bridge, which collapsed due to a horrible flood. And no doubt who the bridge was named after.

    Crossing over, I was in the Little Quarter area, also known as the Lesser Quarter. I went around, and under the bridge, to the main square at Kampa Island. Then I crossed a small bridge, with the fence being full of locks. Just so many in shapes and colors, all locked. Nearby is the Lennon Wall, with some art work on it, named after a famous Beatle. ;) Built during communism, it gave Czechs hope for freedom during that time.

    I went to the Church of St. Nicholas, which had 2 different entrances. One of them was to climb to the top, and the other to enter the church. I sat down to relax my sore feet, and looked around the church. I did admire the church art, as I looked at the altar, chapels, and the art on the ceiling. Then I went upstairs, as there was suppose to be a gallery. But nothing to see, as the paintings were on loan.

    I left, went to eat lunch, and walked around as I tried to decide what to do next. Then went up the hill, on Nerudova Street, passing by shops and embassies of some countries, until I came upon a split. One of them was stairs, leading me to the Castle Quarter, which is the one I went. The opposite uphill street, led to the castle itself.

    I got to the top of the stairs, leading me to Castle Square. Looked around, at the surrounding buildings, before entering the castle premise. I went through the gate, with guards on each side. Then through a passageway, and to the ticket office. I sat down for a while, as I was feeling so tired. After that, I bought the short-ticket tour.

    Dating back to the 9th century, Prague Castle consists of different parts. There was the option of Long Visit and Short Visit. I chose Short Visit, since I knew that I would not get to see everything. I started off at the St. Vitus Cathedral. Then the Old Royal Palace, and to the Basilica of St. George after that. I did go to a museum after that, but at that point, I was really worn out. I skimmed through it, and exited the castle grounds.

    Just outside of it, was a terrace, for nice views of Prague. Did not stay long, as I planned to go up one of the towers later on. I went down the hill, and to the nearest Metro station. I took that, and back to the hostel. I rested for a few hours, then went back out. By then, it was night time.

    I went out to the Museum of Communism, which was open late this day. Not easy to find, but I was able to find it, and still had enough time to see it. I always appreciate a museum that is open late on one of the days.

    The museum tells the story of communism in Czechoslovakia (as it was known at the time), from World War II till the Velvet Revolution in 1989. It chronicles the different aspects of communism, not only the history of it, but also how it affected daily life. Displays include a classroom, a workshop, propaganda posters, busts of Stalin & other Communists (who have been reduced to just sitting on the museum floor), among others. Also, there is a video that shows footage of various events leading to the Velvet Revolution.

    After the museum visit, I returned to the hostel. Just relaxed, talked with some people, and took care of some things. Then went to sleep, as this was the only full day in Prague for me.

    Photos & Videos


  • 07Mar 2011

    4 Fined and Jewish Quarter 03/07/2011 Czech Republic —

    Prague 2, Prague, Czech Republic


    The day started with taking care of some business first. First thing was getting a reservation on a night train. I went to the train station, and reserved a bed in a sleeper. I figure, get this out of the way, as I will be riding it in a couple days.

    Next thing was to go to the bus station. I got out of the wrong exit at the Metro station, and walked to it above ground. I crossed the street, and got stopped by the police. I was asked for a passport, which I was reluctant to do, as I worried this was a con job. I wanted to go inside the station, to get to someone who speaks English, as the officers spoke little, as we had a bit of a language barrier. Eventually, I had to show my passport, and pay a 100 Kc fine in cash, for crossing a street above ground when I should have used the underground tunnels. I got a receipt for it, which they are required to do.

    I went inside the bus station, and bought a one-way ticket from the Student Agency booth to Cesky Krumlov. I chose an evening departure, giving me enough time in Prague. And I asked the guy in the booth, about the fine as I showed my receipt, and he told me that it was legal.

    I went back to the hostel, to rest and pack up my things. I checked out and left my backpack in storage. I headed out, and got lost for a bit, as I attempted to go in a different direction to Old Town. After finding my way, I got to Old Town Square, and went to the Church of St. Nicholas. Yes, there are 2 churches of the same name. I went in and sat down for a bit. Compared to the one in Little Quarter, this one did not seem to be much.

    I proceeded to the Jewish Quarter, as I would spend this day there, going to a collection of sights. I walked to the first one, the Pinkas Synagogue, and waited in line, as it was long and slow. I bought a combo ticket to all the sights in the area. Unfortunately, I would have had to pay extra to take photos of the inside, which I declined. So only photos of the outside.

    I went inside the Pinkas Synagogue, and saw the wall with the names of Czech Jews that died in the Holocaust. The memorial had the names, their hometowns, their birthdays, and last date to be alive. Just so many, and just horrible. But that was not as moving as the exhibit upstairs, the Terezin Children's Art Exhibit. This had the drawings by children in Terezin, a concentration camp just outside of Prague. Some of the drawings are scary, but just sad overall.

    I left the Pinkas, and went to the Jewish Cemetery. A bunch of tombstones all jumbled together in such a tight space. Just odd to see. I exited on the other side, next to the Ceremonial Hall, which is where I went next. This place focused on medicine and burial in Jewish communities. I found myself feeling tired, so I ended up skimming through it. I sat down for a while, and dozed off at times. Just that feeling of tiredness hitting me really badly.

    I went to the Klaus Synagogue after that. On the ground level, the exhibitions were about Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur and the Jewish New Year. I toured around the place, then left to get some lunch. Then I read that there was more to see in the Klaus Synagogue, so I went back to it. There was another exhibition upstairs, which was about rituals, like bar & bat mitzvahs, weddings, and other things.

    I went to the Old-New Synagogue. Going down the stairs, feeling like I was going inside a bunker. I walked around the nave, which dated back to the 12th century. I also sat down, being surrounded by school kids, as I observed the place.

    After that, I went to the Maisel Synagogue, which had exhibitions on the history of Jews in the Czech Republic, from the 10th to the 18th century. It got into Jewish settlement in Bohemia and Moravia, and how the Jewish Quarter came to be. I was running out of time, so I hurried through this one. Then went to the Spanish Synagogue. This place picked up where the Maisel Synagogue left off in Jewish history, from the 19th to the 20 century. I got up to the World War II part, when I was told that the place had closed and I had to leave.

    I was on my way back to the hostel, until I stopped to see the Velet Memorial, which commemorated the students of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which led to the fall of communism in the Czech Republic. I got to the hostel, and picked up my backpack, then to bus station, where I waited until departure time.

    The bus, and I hopped on, and left Prague.

    Photos & Videos


  • 07Mar 2011

    5 To Cesky Krumlov 03/07/2011 Czech Republic —

    Český Krumlov, Czech Republic


    During the ride, there was a movie played and an episode of Friends, which I actually remembered. The bus made a stopover in Cesky Budejovice, and then headed to Cesky Krumlov. I got off the bus, and it turned out I got off too soon, along with a few other tourists.

    We all tried to figure out where we were, as I had my guidebook as the only thing that had a map. Some of them found their hostel right away, and one of them was nice enough to get me a map from the hostel. I walked through town, which was very quiet, being late in the night.

    I got to the Travellers Hostel Soukenicka. I went inside, and worried when I saw that reception was closed. I walked back and forth, until I ran into the owner, who was walking her dog. But I was able to check in, and got settled in the room. And I had it all to myself, which is a huge bonus.

    The place dates back to the 13th century, and feels like a step back in time. Rooms are basic, with no bunk beds. Instead, beds are side by side. Looked like a nice place to stay, at a very good location.

    I looked forward to Czeching out this small town. ;)

    Photos & Videos


  • 08Mar 2011

    6 Small Czech Town 03/08/2011 Czech Republic —

    Český Krumlov, Czech Republic


    After getting up, I went out into the hallway, and saw a black kitten. It was so small, and active. I tried to get a picture of it, but it kept moving around, not wanting to stay still. Managed to get a few photos. Then went out to the balcony, for a nice view of the castle.

    On my way out, I heard some music played. I went to the kitchen, and saw the owner playing the keyboard. And then, the cat came. The owner was telling me how she had the cat for a few months, following her home one day, and deciding to stay. It has grown since, but still a kitten.

    Headed out, to the main square, and stopped by the information center, to look for markets. I went to one of them, close to the square. Nearby was a bridge over the Vltava River, which flows through Prague and Cesky Krumlov. A nice view of it and the castle.

    I picked up some food at the grocery store, then just ate at the main square. Then went to follow a walking tour of the town, starting at Horni Bridge. A nice view of the town, with the buildings and the mountains. I walked down one of the streets, passed the museum, to the garden. Being that it was still winter, not much of a garden. But it had better views of the town.

    Across from it, was a hotel with a courtyard, having a couple busts of the founders of Czechoslovakia. One of them is the first president of the nation that formed after World War I, and the other being the successor. Afterwards, I went to the Church of St. Vitus. Inside, I just sat down as I looked around, enjoying looking at the church art. Built back in the 15th century.

    I continued on, to the main square. There were more people there, probably day-trippers from Prague. There was the plague monument, built when there were plagues in the surrounding countryside, but stopped just short of Cesky Krumlov. There were some museums around the square, but none of them caught my interest.

    I stopped by the info center again, to get a bus ticket back to Prague, next day. Then continued on to the Barber's Bridge, a wooden bridge with statues on it. Look around on the bridge, as well as the river flowing by, the castle, and the other buildings. Just a beautiful setting all-around.

    I went back to the square to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Then back to the bridge, crossing it, and continuing on, until I got to the Cesky Krumlov Castle. I went up the stairs, leading me to enter the castle grounds, and looked around the area.

    The castle dates back to 1240, and had been in hands of the Rosenberg family for a few centuries. The Rosenbergs were a royal family that ruled Bohemia, which was the name of the land, consisting most of the present-day Czech Republic. The castle has changed hands between royal families, from the 17th century to the 20th century, when the government took control of the castle in 1950. After the end of Communism, it became an UNESCO World Heritage site.

    I stopped to see the bear pits, where there was actually a brown bear in it. Hard to see, since it kept moving behind the rocks, and the shadows. I continued on, passing through some buildings, until I got to the other side, where I got great views of the town, on the other side.

    I went back down, until I got to the Castle Museum, where I had to enter to climb the tower. I decided to do both, so I bought a combo ticket. I entered, and it turned out I would climb the tower first, as I was led in that direction. Never easy to climb in a narrow staircase, but fortunately, very few people there.

    I made it to the top, for the views of the town. After looking around, I went back down, and toured the Castle Museum. It got into the life inside the castle and the families that lived there. Plus displays of various rooms with period furniture, along with collection of silverware and plates, showing what it was like in the 19th century. As I was going through the museum, I was feeling really tired, making it very difficult to enjoy it. So skimmed through it, then left and headed back to the hostel.

    When I got back to the room, the black cat somehow got in the room. I had no idea how it got in, but I let it out, so I can take a nap for a bit. When I woke up, I went back out and walked around town for a bit. And went to a cafe to get something to eat.

    After eating, I just walked around for a bit, going from one end to another. Looked at the castle at night from the bridge. Then I stopped by a grocery store to get a few items, and then just returned to the hostel, and went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 09Mar 2011

    7 Hurrying Out of Town 03/09/2011 Czech Republic —

    Český Krumlov, Czech Republic


    Getting up later than planned, I decided to take a little walk around town for a bit. It was still very quiet, as the businesses has not yet opened.

    I walked along the river, taking one last look at the castle and the town itself. I crossed the narrow pedestrian bridge, seeing the place from a different angle during the day time. I just took a moment to soak it all in, for the last time.

    I went back to the hostel, and ate some breakfast. Then had to go back to the room, to pack up and get ready. I realized that I was running short on time, as I tend to be a procrastinator.

    After all that, I was ready to go, but I still had the key to return. The office was not open yet, and I could not afford to wait around. I ended up running into some Asian travelers, with one of them telling me that they rang the bell when they arrived late at night. So I did exactly that, and got in contact with the owner. I was able to drop the key off, and had to head to the bus depot.

    I would run and walk, as I had to hurry. Passing the main square and the bridge, and going up a hill, I was out of breath and sweating, worrying that I would miss the bus. I got to the depot, and just barely made it, as the luggage door closed up. So I boarded with my backpack, sitting in a seat that was not mine.

    The bus took off, leaving Cesky Krumlov. I got to see the Czech countryside along the way. The bus arrived into Cesky Budejovice, where I had to change to my assigned seat and put my backpack in storage below, with more people getting on. It took off, heading to Prague.

    Photos & Videos


  • 09Mar 2011

    8 Last Day Czech 03/09/2011 Czech Republic —

    Prague 2, Prague, Czech Republic


    Arriving into Prague at the bus depot, I went to the train station, to store my backpack in the locker there. Then had lunch there, and rode the Metro to the Muzeum stop. This was right by the National Museum, the big building dominating the area. Looked more like a government building.

    I walked around the area, then down Wenceslas Square, the main boulevard. In front of the museum, was the statue of St. Wenceslas, who brought Christianity to the nation, and got canonized as a saint, thus becoming the symbol of Czech nationalism. Nearby is a memorial to the victims of communism. Walking down the street, this was the place where people gathered together in 1989, wanting freedom and basically telling the communists, it's time to go! And they did leave with no bloodshed. This would be known as the Velvet Revolution as the nation was free, and has enjoyed it since then.

    I continued on, seeing the Grand Hotel Europa, which stuck out with its Art Nouveau exterior. Hard to miss, as it looked out of place. I reached the end of the street, then went one block over, where the Mucha Museum was. I entered the place, sweating. I did not expect the weather to be this warm at this time of the year.

    This museum has displays of the drawings and photographs of Alphonse Mucha (or Alfons Mucha), a Czech artist. He was part of the Art Nouveau style. The drawings does look more like posters and advertisements, which are really nice to see. While the actual collection itself are nice, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed, mainly because overpriced admission and a small collection.

    After the museum, I walked to the Municipal House, which is a concert hall, and has nice artwork on the facade. Nearby is the Powder Tower and a shopping mall, across the square. I tried to figure out what next, with limited time and Czech currency. There were a few more things that I hoped to do before leaving Prague. They included the Museum of Medieval Art, a city view at Petrin Tower during daytime, and a brief stop at the Havelska Market. But the problem was that they were far apart.

    So I went to the Havelska Market first, and just browsed around for a bit. Next was the Museum of Medieval Art, but getting there was a huge challenge, and ate up valuable time. It was just hard to find, and the map was not much help. I walked back and forth, as I was lost and confused. And when I did find the place, it was at the back of the building. So I had to go around the block, to the entrance.

    I went inside, and to the gift shop, where I had to pay admission. But I changed my mind and declined to go. It would have taken too much time, or I would have rushed through it. Not really worth it, so I just walked around the building that was accessible without paying. It looked like an old church building, but not much to see.

    So I left, and headed to Old Town, and decided to go to the top of the Clock Tower instead, since it was a lot closer. I went to the top, and the views were really nice. And I got there shortly before the top of the hour. I was able to see the tourists at the bottom, looking up. Plus the guy blowing on the horn on all sides, up close. More about it in the review, earlier in this blog.

    After being at the top, I went back down, and walked to the Charles Bridge. When I got there, I took a left, and went down a narrow sidewalk, to get to an outdoor cafe, to see the bridge from the side. Then I went through a tunnel, which had shops. I realized this was suppose to be the way to get there, rather than the narrow sidewalk, barely enough room for one person to walk on.

    Since I went to the top of one tower already, I debated whether to go up another, the bridge tower. And I decided that I would climb to the top, and I did. So was it worth going to the top of this one as well? I thought so, as it gave different views, which gave a better view of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. And more room to walk around, plus a small museum along the way. So I would say, visit both towers if time permits.

    I went back down, making some stops along way, which included a film on the bridge. Once at the bottom, I walked around for a bit, as I figured out ways to use up the remaining Czech currency. I did stop an internet place, had dinner along the way, and did a little shopping at a supermarket to spend some of the money. That left me with only 5 Kc left, and I used that to use a bathroom at a McDonald's. Now, I had none left, which made me feel good.

    I walked to the train station, getting confused along the way, but I was able to find my way there by foot, since taking the Metro was not an option. Once there, I figured I had about 90 minutes left until my train departed. When looking at the monitor, it turned out to be less than 30 minutes, as I realized that I read the ticket wrong, somehow thinking that 10.3 was 10:30pm. So I had to get my backpack, and hurried to the platform. Then had to go into the train car that had sleepers. I checked with an agent to make sure, and I got into it. I barely made it.

    I checked with an agent to make sure it was the right one, and I got into a sleeper, which had 3 beds. Luckily, I had the sleeper room all to myself. I got settled, and tried to figure out how to get the sink to work. Turns out I had to hit a button to activate the sink, then turn the faucet. Toilets were down the hall.

    The train took off, as it would be leaving Prague. This was my first time taking a night train, as I went to sleep in the Czech Republic, and would wake up in Poland.

    Photos & Videos


  • 10Mar 2011

    9 Waking Up In Poland 03/10/2011

    Stare Miasto, Kraków


    I went to sleep in one country, and would wake up in another, as I arrived into Poland on a night train, coming from the Czech Republic. I did sleep okay, as the bed was not bad to sleep on.

    The train arrived into Krakow, Poland in the early morning. I got off, and found my way to Old Town. Then through the square, as I was sweating a lot. I was able to find the Good Bye Lenin - Let's Rock hostel, which was hidden with no outside sign.

    I was at the front desk and had a little while til check-in time. I ate some of the provided breakfast there, then checked in. Once in the room, I just rested for a bit. Then saw it was snowing outside, and hoped it would stop soon. But it did not stop for a while, so I went out, as I could not wait any longer.

    I went towards the square, and sought for cover, hoping again, that it would stop snowing. But I realized that I had to stop wasting any more time, and just make the best of it. So I went to the starting point of a walking tour, which was the Barbican, just outside of the city wall.

    The Barbican was a fort that was connected to the city wall, which itself marked the boundary line of the city. And used to defend against invaders. Then I entered through the Florian Gate, into the Old Town, onto Florianska Street. A nice place to stroll. There was a McDonald's there, which had a Gothic cellar at the bottom floor. I went in to check it out, as well as enjoying a hot fudge sundae ice cream.

    Afterwards, I continued down the street, looking around. I got to the Main Market Square, where the St. Mary's Church was. I decided to check it out, so I had to go into another building, to pay for admission. Plus there was an extra fee to be allowed to take photos of the place, which I declined. After paying, I entered the church from the side entrance.

    Inside the church, I got to look around, which looked nice. And just in time to see the opening of the wooden altarpiece, which was okay to watch, but nothing special. But it was nice to look at, containing scenes from the Bible. I looked at other parts of the church, but then I started to feel tired. So I went back to the hostel, to nap for a couple hours.

    Waking up, I went back out, walking down Grodzka Street from the hostel spot. I will get back to the Main Market Square at another time. I went to Mary Magdalene Square, across from 2 churches. One of them, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, had a row of statues in front of it, which were that of the 11 apostles and Mary Magdalene.

    Then down Kanonicza Street, where the clergy lived. Pope John Paul II lived here before becoming pope. I reached the end, and went up the ramp, to enter Wawel Castle. Next to the gate, was a statue of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Pole who fought in the American Revolution. I just mention this, because I remember visiting a museum on him, in my hometown of Philadelphia. ;)

    I bought a combo ticket, and looked at the exterior of Wawel Cathedral for a little bit. But with time running out, I would do more of that after closing. So I went inside the cathedral. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the cathedral has gone through some changes over the centuries. The main part of the church is free, walking around and seeing the nave and chapels through the place. This was where Pope John Paul II was bishop at one point.

    The parts that requires a ticket, is to see the Sigismund Bell and the royal tombs. I had to climb some tight, wooden stairs, to get to the bell. And see how big it really is, and can stand under it. An okay view of Old Town, though there is a fence that makes it hard to take good photos. Then went all the way downstairs, to see the royal tombs. The burial place of who's who in Polish history, including war heroes, kings and queens.

    I left the cathedral, and went to the Cathedral Museum. I had very little time left, as it was about to close, so I hurried through it, seeing the robes and things that belonged to the kings. After that, I went to see the cathedral exterior, which was nice to look at. Then I walked around the castle grounds.

    I went to the inner courtyard, which was an enclosed square, and kind of has a Renaissance look to it. I looked around for a bit, then back out, seeing the rest of the castle grounds. There was the field, that used to have churches, which ended up being destroyed. I walked to the buildings, and past them, getting to the terrace.

    I got to see the Vistula River, and a different part of the city. And I did see some fire coming out of a dragon statue. I wanted to see it breathe fire again, but it didn't. So I continued on, walking on the other side of the castle, but saw it led me to a different part of town. So I had to backtracked, and exited the premise.

    I walked to the hostel, then to the Main Market Square. I looked around for a bit. Tried to take photos, but it gotten dark, plus that long building, Cloth Hall, was closed. So I would see it at another time.

    I went to a KFC to eat dinner. While there, I was doing some planning, and saw that a museum was open late. So after dinner, I went to the tram stop, and hopped on. It took me to a different part of the city, the Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz. It did not seem far, but still quite a walk, and dark as well. I got off, and had to figure out where I was, and had to backtrack a block. I was able to find the Ethnographic Museum.

    Entering the museum, the first floor shows the different rooms in a Polish home in the countryside, as well as models of the homes. Some of the rooms include a bedroom and a classroom. On the top floor, there is a display of various costumes worn for different occasions. Plus tools, instruments, and other things on display. And see how the holidays are celebrated, like Christmas and Easter, with decorations on display. There are photos that showcase rural life, and how people live back then and today. A very nice museum to visit, and glad that it was opened late.

    After the museum, I went back to Old Town, and back to the hostel. Just relaxed and took care of some things while there, and got to talk to other travelers. Then went to sleep. This was only the beginning in Poland for me. :)

    Photos & Videos


  • 11Mar 2011

    10 Side Trip to Auschwitz 03/11/2011 Poland —

    Oswiecim, Poland


    I did get early to get a head start. After getting ready, I walked to the bus station, which was next to the train station and a little further away. Once there, I went to the depot and saw that I missed the bus that I hoped to take. I went back up to the station, and bought a one-way ticket to the town of Oswiecim. I waited for the next one, and hopped on a small bus.

    The bus took off, and I slept most of the way. When I woke up, I saw that the bus picked up or dropped off people along the way, as if it was a transit bus, with some people standing. I did get a glimpse of the Polish countryside, as the ride took about 2 hours.

    When it arrived, I walked to the entrance, and through the museum building. I can see there would be crowds, with a bunch of school groups visiting. After leaving the museum building, I walked to the gate, with the message "Arbeit Macht Fri" ("Work Sets You Free"), and entered the most infamous concentration camp of all, Auschwitz.

    Entering the camp, there were rows of barracks, each one being a Block and numbered. The first row of barracks were National Memorials of victims, presented by different countries. I went into each one, most of them I just skimmed through, as I wanted to make sure I had enough time for the next set of barracks. Going through these, just shows how the Holocaust was felt throughout Europe.

    The second row of barracks, focused on different aspects of the camp. I went into each one that had exhibitions, as some of them were not open at all. The tough part about touring these places, is getting around the groups crowding around exhibits. It can get tricky at times, as walkways are very narrow. But still, well worth the time.

    These exhibitions include the extermination process, everyday life, "Death Block", among others. I get to see the piles of shoes, eyeglasses, suitcases, and other things. All tossed aside, which is how the Nazis treated Jews and other prisoners. Also included are photos of prisoners, including graphic ones of both adults and children that became living skeletons due to malnutrition and starvation.

    After seeing the second row, there was a crematorium at the edge of the camp. I went inside to see where the extermination took place. And as the name suggests, where bodies were cremated. Just chilling to stand and see where the horrors actually happened.

    Afterwards, I went back inside the museum building, to see the short film. It was shot by troops after the camp was liberated by Soviet troops. And very graphic, as it showed prisoners who were living skeletons, plus a bunch of bodies in a ditch. Just depressing.

    It was time to go to the second camp. I had to hop on the already-crowded bus, and got squished as more people got on. But no other options, as I wanted enough time to see the second camp before closing. The bus took off, as so many people were squeezed into the bus. But it did make me think, of the prisoners who were transported to Auschwitz, as they had no idea what horrors would come to them.

    I arrived at Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau. This one was more an open field, with a lot more space. Built in 1941, when the first camp was considered too small. Looking in from the outside, just seems too surreal.

    There were train tracks that led to the camp, which were used to transport the prisoners into this camp. I went inside this camp, and would see some barracks that had bunk beds, and one that was a latrine. Following the tracks to the other side of the camp, was the crematorium ruins. Destroyed by the Nazis, as they tried to destroy evidence of their crimes when they knew their days were numbered. But they did not destroy everything.

    Then walked to a different part of the camp, to "The Sauna", which had exhibitions on the processing of prisoners. After going through that, I saw the foundations of the Canada warehouses, which was where the prisoners' belongings were stored.

    After seeing this, I headed for the exit. I tried to cut through the grass, but got confused, with the barbed wire fence. So I had to backtrack, and just follow the trail back. I exited the camp, and hopped on the shuttle bus. It took me back to the first camp. Then I had to wait for the next bus to Krakow. I did worry that there were no more, as it not clear where or when the last bus would depart. The last resort would have been the train, but that station was a 20-minute walk, which would have been too long for a pair of sore feet.

    When it came, I hopped on, paying the driver on board, and headed back to Krakow. Like before, this bus picked up and dropped off people along the way. I got back into town, and stopped by a restaurant to eat some dinner.

    I returned to the hostel, and just chilled for the rest of the night. I did talk with some people in the room, and took care of some things.

    Photos & Videos


  • 12Mar 2011

    11 Quiet and Empty Old Town 03/12/2011 Poland —

    Stare Miasto, Kraków, Poland


    I wanted to get a little bit of head start, so I woke up really early, and head to Main Market Square. At this time, it was empty, which is how I like it.

    I started at the long building in the middle of the square, called Cloth Hall. Named that, because cloth was sold there during the Middle Ages. Entering through it, I saw the various stalls just about to open. These days, they sell mainly souvenirs.

    At the other side of the square, there was the Town Hall Tower, the only thing remaining of the Town Hall building, dating back to the 14th century, when Krakow was the capital of Poland. It was closed during the offseason, so I could not go inside it. Near it, is a model of the Town Hall building. And I can't help but notice the huge head on its side, a sculpture created by Igor Mitoraj.

    About a block away, I went inside St. Francis Basilica, which used to be the base of Pope John Paul II, when he was archbishop. I enjoyed looking at the art, including the stained glass window and a painting of St. Kolbe. I exited in the back, and saw the Archbishop's Palace, where the Pope used to live.

    I went back to the hostel, and ended up sleeping some more. When I woke up, I headed back out, and to a bus stop, as I would heading to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, just outside of Krakow.

    Photos & Videos


  • 12Mar 2011

    12 Going Underground 03/12/2011 Poland —

    Wieliczka, Poland


    During the ride, I had to stand the whole time, and got to talk to a couple of exchange students from China. Strange thing, was that we would talk about the NBA.

    The bus arrived at the salt mine, and I went inside to buy a ticket for the individual tour. I thought I could tag along with the student group, that the exchange students were a part of, but when trying to enter with them, I was stopped. So I had to wait until my tour time was up next. I got in line to get a camera sticker (yes, a fee to take photos), as I figure, why not? But it was time, so I had to leave the line, to enter the mines before the door closed.

    I would go down a bunch of stairs, which seemed to go on forever. When reaching the end, I joined the English tour, as the tour guide gave an introduction. And there was a chance to get the camera sticker later on, which was good thing for me.

    We were given a tour of the salt mines, where salt has been mined since the 11th century. Along the way, there were displays of equipment used and how the miners did their work. Also there were art work made of salt, as miners built them to pass the time. Some of the artwork would include the huge underground cathedral, the Chapel of St. Kinga, where the miners would need a place to pray to just get through the day. There are nice carvings on the wall, including one of The Last Supper, in the cathedral. There is also a chapel there, where people can get married there, if they really wanted to. Plus there sculptures of people who have visited the mines over the years, and even an underground lake. Really impressive to see.

    There were breaks along the way, but they were too short. One of them being in a restaurant, as I did not have enough time to eat. I bought just fries, and quickly the break was about to end. So I ended up shoving all the fries in my mouth, as I did not like wasting money like that. Also, I had to keep up with the group, as it is very easy to get lost in the mines. And it can get quite chilly too.

    I just can't imagine going to work in the mines, having to go underground every time, where miners go to work before sunrise, and leave after sunset, not seeing any daylight. Even today, there are workers who have to go underground to work at the gift shop or restaurant, although most of them probably don't stay there as long as the miners did back then.

    Towards the end, we were led to the museum. But at this point, my feet were sore, and the museum itself just seemed like a rehash of what we have seen already before, all crammed into one space. After getting through that part, it was over. Not really worth the time, and can be skipped. And I went back up in a shaft elevator.

    I left the salt mine, and took the bus back to Krakow.

    Photos & Videos


  • 12Mar 2011

    13 Got Milk Bar? 03/12/2011

    Stare Miasto, Kraków


    Coming back from the salt mine, I would have to stand the entire time. Both at the stop while waiting, and on the bus as there were no seats left. I was heading back to the Old Town of Krakow. Once there, I went to the hostel, and relaxed for a while. Then back out, as I wanted to get something to eat for dinner.

    Looked around for a bit, until I came to a bar mleczny, which is Polish for milk bar. This cafeterias date back to the communist days, and currently subsidized by the government. Now considered a relic, these cafeterias are disappearing, as they face tough competition. As a result, the meal is so cheap, and the food was really good.

    I just went back to the hostel, and just chilled and hung out there. Even got to know some people there as well. Then had to pack up a little, as I will be leaving town the next day. Then to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 13Mar 2011

    14 Last Day in 'Old' Town 03/13/2011 Poland —

    Śródmieście, Warsaw, Poland


    It was time to be on the move. So I had to pack up and check out of the hostel. And I had to check train schedules on the internet. Then left, and headed to the train station. Once there, I bought a ticket, but saw that I would wait at least an hour until the next train. So I headed back to the hostel, and waited it out there.

    Afterwards, I went back to the train station, and to the correct platform, then hopped on the train. I was in one empty compartment, but then got told it was for personnel only. So I had to move to another, and would be in one with 2 other people. The train took off, leaving Krakow, and headed to Warsaw. The train ride took 3 hours.

    Arriving into Warsaw, I walked around the train station, which was rundown and confusing. Basically, like a chicken with its head cut off. I was able to find a kiosk to buy a bus ticket, then went outside to find the stop. I would see the Palace of Culture and Science, which was built by the communists. I hopped on the bus, and headed to Royal Way. Then went down that street, as I was following directions to get to my next hostel. I followed them, until I found the Tamka Hostel. A good place to stay, even if the rooms are cramped and seeing graffiti on the exterior. And out of the way.

    Got settled, and took care of some business, then went back out. I was hoping to do everything that I had on my list, and planned it out. Or so I thought. I went back to Royal Way, and to the palm tree at one end of the street. The palm tree was there, because of a local artist visited Jerusalem, and thought Warsaw should have one as well, since they have a street named Jerusalem as well. I started to go down Royal Way.

    Royal Way was an old route that Polish kings took to their summer palace. Now it's a busy boulevard, with shops and restaurants. The first part of this route is called Nowy Swiat, which is a charming place to stroll, and for shoppers to do some of their shopping.

    After strolling for a little bit, I hopped on a bus, hoping to get to Royal Castle on time before they stopped admitting people. But I hopped on the wrong one, as it took me out of the way. I had to get off, and find my way back. I got on Royal Way, and walked through the Castle Square, to Royal Castle. But I was too late, as no more people were admitted for the day. So I had to backtrack, to the Copernicus statue.

    This part of Royal Way is named Krkowskie Przedmiescie. Near it, is a painting of the same street scene in 1778. It's interesting to look at it, then look at the present day. A bit of a transition, as some things are the same, while others are different. Paintings like these, were used to help rebuild the city after World War II.

    I went inside the Church of the Holy Cross, and sat there for a bit, as there was a rehearsal in progress. Then I left, and saw more of those paintings of street scenes. Not real ones, but basically a picture of it on a block of stone. I continued on, passed Warsaw University, and went a block off Royal Way, coming to Pilsudski Square.

    I walked on the square, which has its share of history, to the colonnade. This used to be part of a palace, which then got destroyed by the Nazis. Now, it's part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by soldiers standing still. Behind it, was Saxon Garden, built by the Saxon kings.

    Getting back to Royal Way, passing by the Radziwill Palace, where the Warsaw Pact was signed during the Cold War. Continued to Castle Square, to St. Anne's Church. I went inside, and climbed to the top. This one did not have as many steps as others, so less time to get there. Once there, just nice views of the city. I looked around, seeing the Old Town and Royal Way being full of activity, and the Vistula River on the other side. Even seeing someone trying to do some breakdancing. At least what I think it is, spinning on their head on the ground.

    Back down, I walked through Castle Square, entering into "Old" Town. Looking around, all these buildings have been rebuilt. That was due to the city being completely destroyed after World War II, as the Nazis retaliated for the 2 Uprisings that the people staged against them. Not a single one remained standing, so there are none now, that could be older than 1945. And throughout this area, there are white plaques on buildings that commemorate the victims from the war.

    I continued walking around Old Town, looking at buildings, passing by churches, and taking a peek into a few of them. I got to Old Town Market Square, and just sat and did some people-watching. Seeing the city today, it is a vibrant place, as I saw kids chasing pigeons and each other, and running around the mermaid fountain. A great place to people-watch. And yes, even heard the kids spoke the local language to each other. Hard to believe that this square was complete rubble at one point.

    I went to the Barbican, the gate to the city. But I decided to turn around, as it got dark. On the way back, I stopped by a cafeteria to eat some dinner. Then tried to use the remaining Polish currency, stopping by a few places. But no luck. I got back to the hostel, and took care of some business, like getting my boarding pass printed to buy myself more time to get to the airport.

    Afterwards, I had to go to sleep early, since I had to wake up way before sunrise.

    Photos & Videos


  • 14Mar 2011

    15 Leaving Europe 03/14/2011



    Getting up really early, so I can make it to the airport. I had to pack up and checked out of the hostel. Then walked to the bus stop. I got there early, and had to wait for a little bit.

    Just thinking about the end of the trip, as I wait on Royal Way, which is a ghost town at this time of the day (or night). And how I could have planned better my time in Warsaw. I thought this city did not have much to offer as the whole city has been rebuilt, and thought the charm would not be there. Well, I was mistaken.

    The bus came, and I rode it to the airport. Once there, I tried to find exchange bureau that was open, but none were, being that it's still early in the morning. I did spend some of the leftover currency, but then realized, it's just silly to do that. I waited at the gate, until it was time to board. I got on, and the plane took off for Amsterdam.

    I slept the whole way through, and woke up when landing in Amsterdam. Once off the plane, I had to go to the other side, which was a long walk. I had enough time to get there. And tried to exchange the zloty, but the lady was saying it was useless and thought I should save it for later. Problem is, I'm not sure when the next time I'll return to Poland. And by then, they could switch to the euro.

    I got to the gate, and checked in, as I learned that I sat next to an empty seat, which meant more room for me. I got on the flight, going back to Philly. At the Philly airport, I was able to exchange most of the zloty back to dollars. Exchange rate is crappy, but no use saving them.

    The end of the trip. Where would I go next, I won't even say it here, as I tend to change my mind many times.


  • 11Jun 2011

    16 At the Wedding 06/11/2011 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    The first domestic trip for me in 2 years. But the first part of the trip was to go to my sister's wedding, as this trip would be different from the others. Here is a brief summary of my time at the wedding:

    The first day was spent with the wedding rehearsal and dinner. And renting the tuxedo, which I had to try on. I do not dressing up, so this was not exactly a fun experience.

    When it came to the rehearsal, I learned that I had to dress up a little bit, but the tux would have been too much. So one of my sister's friends bought some nice clothes for me to wear. And they ended up fitting me very well. Then went to the hotel, where the rehearsal took place. We practiced what we had to do, then went to dinner, with family members and guests. It was a good time, as I got to meet people from my sister's life, and future brother-in-law. I spent the night at my sister's place.

    The next day, the day of the wedding, I took it easy for the most part, not wanting to feel tired later on. So I just chilled until the time came. Then went to the hotel, where most of the family members were staying and just waited there until the wedding began.

    I got to see my sister get married, as I got to walk her down the aisle. And there was dinner and a party afterwards, as I got to see relatives who I have not seen in a long time. Overall, it was a fun time, and unbelievable moment. Even did some dancing, and talked with other guests.

    The big day has come and gone, as it was a huge moment in our family.

    Photos & Videos


  • 12Jun 2011

    17 Millennium Park and LeBron Loser 06/12/2011 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    After starting off the day with a breakfast buffet with the family, I had to drive them back to the airport, using my sister's car. Then I just relaxed at her place for a little while.

    After some time, I went out, hoping to visit the travel store on Michigan Ave, that I can remember visiting back in 2001. And I thought I remembered where it was, so I did not bother looking up directions. But when I got there, I had trouble finding it. After spending some time looking, I just gave up.

    I did ride on the train around the Loop, which was downtown Chicago. Then got off, and went to Millennium Park. I looked at some structures along the way. I entered by the Millennium Monument in Wrigley Square, which was a structure of columns. Then up the stairs to the Jay Pritzer Pavilion, which was an outdoor concert hall. It had no cover, and where people can sit in the seats or on the grass. And a concert was happening at the moment.

    I walked around the place, as I heard the music played. Then got a message, that my sister was having a get-together, so I would meet up with her and her husband, and their friends.

    Along the way, I stopped by Cloud Gate, and just looked at it briefly. This silver structure looked like a giant bean. I took a picture of myself taking a picture, as it acted like a distorted mirror. Then I left the park.

    I walked to the restaurant, not remembering the name, and getting confused along the way. I was looking for Hubbard Street, which intersected with Michigan Ave, according to the map. But I could not find it, and would later find out that it actually under Michigan Ave. And I ended up going around a block until I found it, then I was able to find the restaurant.

    I met up with my sister and her new husband, and their friends and family. And we all had dinner, and watched Game 6 of the NBA Finals, between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. Needless to say, everyone was rooting for the Mavs. And we all came away happy with the outcome, as the Mavs came out as the NBA champions. Nice to see Dirk Nowitzki get a championship ring, after deciding this past offseason, to stay with the Mavericks rather than do what LeBron James did, which was bolt to another team for a ring.

    Afterwards, we all headed back to my sister's place, and just chilled there, until bed time.

    Photos & Videos


  • 13Jun 2011

    18 Looping Around 06/13/2011 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    The day started off, seeing my sister and her new husband, taking off for their honeymoon to Paris. I would crash at her place for the time being, and take care of a few things.

    After some time, I went to downtown. I got a meal along the way, then headed to the Chicago Cultural Center. I can remember visiting this place in my first visit to the city back in 2001. It had different exhibits back then. Also inside, is the visitor center, where I can pick up some info and maps, which is what I did.

    I looked around the exhibits briefly, which was local artwork, made of various things. Then just went to the library, where I like to hang out, and read or just think. Then I went out, to follow a walking tour of the Loop.

    The Loop is what downtown Chicago is called. The name originally derived from the area being enclosed by the El Train, looping around the area. But downtown has expanded beyond the area, and continues to grow, so now, the name is synonymous with downtown, and often used interchangeably.

    I started by walking up Michigan Ave, to the Chicago River. Then walked on the Riverwalk, looking at the various buildings, which looked interesting and reading about their history in the booklet that I had. Going under bridges, passing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Merchandise Mart, then walked into the heart of the Loop, where I continued to walk around, up until the Chicago Board of Trade.

    I can remember visiting inside this place and seeing the actual trade floor, back in August 2001. But now, I could not find it, and even if I did, it was unlikely that I would be allowed since it has been usually closed since 9/11. There was a little exhibition on the history and how business was done, but I only skimmed through it for a few minutes. I went back out, and relaxed in a McDonald's, enjoying a sundae. Then went to the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).

    I entered the building, and after paying admission, there was a short film on the building. Then the ride to the top. Once there, I walked around, looking at different parts of the city and Lake Michigan. On the west side, there were glass balconies, which was nerve-wrecking. I was hesitant to walk on it, but made myself do it. The tough part was getting a photo taken, as there was one kid who acted like he had it all to himself.

    I went back down, and headed to Wrigley Field. Once there, I had to walk to the ticket office, to pick up my ticket. Then I looked around for a bit on the outside, like the Ernie Banks statue and the famous sign in front of the stadium. After that, I entered the Friendly Confines.

    I walked around the concourse, then had to go up the ramps, to the top level, where my seat was. First, I wanted to make sure that it was in the shade. Then went back down, to the ticket office, to buy for next day's game. There were still some left, and I got one from the same section.

    I went back up, and sat in the seat. Looked around for a bit, as I was inside the 2nd oldest stadium in baseball, opening in 1914. I did get to tour the place back in 2008, but this was the first time I was here for a game. To me, visiting a stadium only really counts for a game. I did the see the manual scoreboard, and the ivy-covered walls in the outfield.

    It was chilly, as the Chicago Cubs faced the Milwaukee Brewers. There were some Brewers fans at the game. The game itself, turned out to be a pitchers' duel, between Ryan Dempster and Randy Wolf. It was scoreless until the 8th inning, when the Cubs scored on a fielder's choice, just beating the catcher's tag at the plate. And was the only run scored, and the only one needed, as the Cubs beat the Brewers, 1-0.

    Afterwards, I walked around the ballpark to look around some more. Then exited the ballpark. I tried to look for a place called Lucky's to grab something to eat. But I was not sure where it was, and decided to visit it another day. So I rode back on the El train, eavesdropping on a conversation along the way.

    I got back to my sister's place, where I would be house sitting. And got a message from my aunt, who I did not want to see, knowing fully well that she will annoy me about being single, especially now, that my younger sister has gotten married. I fell asleep after a while.

    Photos & Videos


  • 14Jun 2011

    19 Lucky's Near Wrigley 06/14/2011 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    My day started off late, as I took my time getting out. Basically spending the morning, slacking off, and surfing the net on the laptop, which belonged to my new brother-in-law, looking at various websites. One of them was TravBuddy, and seeing Andrew's (jamesdean252) review of Lucky's being featured this day, was a reminder to go there. So I looked up the directions, then went out, and headed to Wrigley Field.

    Once at the ballpark, I stopped by a 7-Eleven, to get a Big Gulp, which should save me some money from buying a drink at the restaurant. Then walked down a street, until I found Lucky's. This was a place that was featured on the TV show, Man v. Food. I went in, and looked around for a bit. I did see the Wall of Fame, which includes host, Adam Richmond. I did have a very nice meal, having an overstuffed turkey sandwich. And I have to say, if Andrew's review was not featured, I would have totally forgotten about it.

    After the meal, I went to a sports gift shop, just browsing at the merchandise, which includes all the local teams, except for the White Sox. No surprise there. With the area being quiet, I decided to walk around the stadium.

    Along the way, I would pass by the rooftop bleachers, and a number system below one of them. And saw the Harry caray statue, plus various names of players on the ground, who have played for the Cubs over the years, like Ryan Sandberg and Mark Grace. Then came upon the Billy Williams statue.

    After walking around the ballpark, I went back to take care of some things. Then back to Millennium Park, to see more of it. I went to see the fountain monoliths, which were tall structures that poured water, and had video screens that showed faces of people, showing facial expressions. Then it showed them "spitting" water out of their mouths, which was a neat effect. Being that it was a warm day, a bunch of kids played around.

    I went to see the Cloud Gate, and went under it. Then to the BP Bridge, which was some weird looking silver bridge. I crossed halfway, then came back, as the baseball game time was approaching. I passed by some structures, as I left Millennium Park. Hopped on the El, and to Wrigley Field.

    Once there, I did get to see a band play, before entering the ballpark. Once in there, I walked around, seeing the flags of teams in the NL, arranged in order by current standings. Then went to the top deck, where my seat was. I sat one section over from the day before, and had part of my view obstructed by a beam.

    Also, it was interesting that I went to 2 night games at Wrigley, as this place was known for day games. The day games stemmed from the fact that it was the last in the majors to install lights in 1988. And the Cubs had to, otherwise playoff games would be held elsewhere, as MLB wanted the games for prime time TV.

    The 2nd game between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers jumped to a 3-0 lead after 4 innings. The Cubs did not score until the 7th inning, making it 3-1. Then I got to see the manager get ejected from the game, and had some nasty things to say to the umpire. To the 8th inning, when both teams scored, 1 by the Brewers and 3 by the Cubs, tying the score. The game would go extra innings, to the 10th, when the Cubs scored the winning run, to win the game 5-4.

    I went down to the concourse, and saw the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame. Then left, and went back to where I was staying. Took care of some things, then to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 15Jun 2011

    20 Taking Care of Things 06/15/2011 USA —

    Chicago, USA


    Well, the last day of the trip, and I would spend most of it, taking care of things for my sister. I had to do some shopping, as I ran out of cat food. So I had to go to a Target, and got there a little too early. So I had to wait until it opened, as I got to drive my sister's car.

    Once I got back, I had to make sure the cat got fed. After that, I just chilled until the time that I dreaded, which was taking my sister's cat to the vet for boarding. I had to grab and force her into the bag crate. Then drive to the vet, relying on directions that I got from MapQuest. They were helpful, as I got there, and dropped the cat off. Then back to my sister's place.

    I packed my things, and thought I had enough time to try a Chicago hot dog. I took the train into the Loop, and did stop by a place. I bought one, but had no time to eat. I had to head to the airport. Turned out, going to downtown was not such a good idea.

    I rode the Blue Line to O'Hare Airport, hoping to make it in time to be able to check-in. I was counting down the stops, until I got there. Then ran to the check-in kiosk, sweating along the way. I made it in time to check-in, then had to go through security. After that, to the gate, where they already started boarding. I was one of the last ones to board, before the door closed.

    As it turned out, the flight left very close to schedule. So no delay. I slept during most of the flight, and arrived back into Philly. The trip has ended!

    This trip was different than the other ones I've taken, because the main purpose was for a special occasion. I got to see my sister get married, and see another baseball stadium.

    My next trip would be in 3 weeks, to the South.

    Photos & Videos


  • 28Jun 2011

    21 Getting Smoky 06/28/2011 USA —

    Kodak, USA


    The 2nd domestic trip of the year for me, as I would be visiting Atlanta and the Smokies. I have been to both places before, but not in a long time.

    I got to the Philly airport in the morning, and was able to make my flight, with enough time to spare. It did take a while to take off, as the plane taxied on the runway. But it did, and got me to Atlanta as scheduled. And this time, I would not be making a connection, but plan to see this city. But that would be the later part of the trip, and in a separate blog.

    Getting out of Hartsfield Airport, it looked different than before. There was the Skytrain, which took me to the car rental center. My last visit to Atlanta was in 2002, and there was no Skytrain then, as I had to take one of the company's shuttle buses to go to the individual rental center.

    I got to the car rental center, and bumped into someone I knew back in Philly. Then went to pick up the car, and headed out, following directions that I printed from MapQuest. I drove out of Atlanta, then Georgia, and headed for Tennessee. The drive was a lot longer than I thought, as there was still a long way to go after crossing the state line. It would take me more than 5 hours.

    I arrived into the town of Pigeon Forge, where the hotel that I was staying at, was located. It was further away than I thought, as I scheduled to go to a minor league baseball game. I got to Motel 6, and checked in. I had to do this first, so I know for sure, where it's located, and get the check-in process out of the way. Then did a few other things, before heading to the game.

    I was running late, and ended back towards I-40. It was quite a distance from the hotel. But I got to Smokies Park, which was next to the I-40 exit. Once there, I went to the ticket window for will call, to get my ticket. Looked around the outside for a little bit, then entered Smokies Park, with the game in the top of the 2nd inning.

    Smokies Park is the home of the Tennessee Smokies. The ballpark was in the middle of something, rather than having the area to itself. It was as if it just got inserted in whatever space was available. Behind the outfield, there was a hill, so walking around the stadium was not possible.

    The Smokies are the double-A minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Interesting, since I went to a couple Cubs games earlier in the month. And the Cubs victory song would even play, after each win. Anyways, this was only the 2nd minor league game that I've been to. The first was in 2009, going to a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game in Allentown, PA.

    My seat was directly behind home plate, as it was a lot cheaper than that of a major league game. The Smokies took on the Carolina Mudcats, and led 1-0 in the 2nd inning. The 3rd inning was when the game got wild, with the Mudcats scoring 4 runs, followed by the Smokies scoring 6, which also included a grand slam. It would be a high scoring affair, with more home runs hit in the game. Just not a good day for pitchers, as the Smokies beat the Mudcats, 12-11.

    It was a fun game, and minor league games can be just as enjoyable as major league games. It does have that more intimate feel, and the people do enjoy their team.

    After the game, I headed back, stopping by a few places, to buy some groceries and supplies. Then just relaxed in a nice hotel. Not often I get to stay in a place like this, where I had everything to myself. And for a very great price! Just chilled for a bit, before going to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 29Jun 2011

    22 Reconnecting With History 06/29/2011 USA —

    Gatlinburg, USA


    The day started off, by stopping by a few places, to get some things, like sunscreen. I got the generic kind, which was cheaper but tends to feel more sticky than the more well known brands. Just wanted to save a couple dollars, and then had to rub it on myself. Not a good feeling at all, but a good thing in the long run.

    I headed to the town of Gatlinburg, which was a touristy town. On my way there, just thought about my last trip to the Smokies, in 1991. Back then, I was not into travel, and could only think about playing video games at an arcade, and did not really appreciate the Smokies. My parents would tell me that I should enjoy this, since I may not get a chance in the future. For some reason, that stuck with me. And from that point on, when I went on vacations, I tried to make the most of the place that I'm visiting. And ultimately, I got hooked on traveling.

    I drove into Gatlinburg, remembering some of the places that I visited 20 years ago. I plan to come back to it later on, as I left town, to the entrance of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Stopped by it for a minute, then entered the park for the first time in 20 years.

    Located in 2 states, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the only park in the National Park that does not charge admission, due to an agreement that was set back in the 1930’s, between the federal government and the state of Tennessee. And the most visited park in the US.

    I stopped by the visitor center, to get some information. The ranger showed me the locations of waterfalls, and the distance to hike to them. Then I went through the museum, which had displays of animals that are native to the Smokies. I spent only a few minutes, as there are bigger things to do.

    I left, and tried to make up my mind what hike to do. After some serious thinking, I decided to do the hike to Grotto Falls. Getting there was tricky, as I had to leave the park and go through Gatlinburg. After looking at a few maps, I found the correct road to the starting point of the hike. But that feeling of tiredness hit me, and I parked at a small lot, to nap for a little bit. Not sure how to overcome it any other way.

    Afterwards, I got to the narrow road of Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail. A lot of twists and turns, as I made some stops along the way. One of them was in the middle of the road, when I got to see a bear. Hard to see, with all the tree branches obstructing the view. I continued after that, to the Trillium Gap Trailhead.

    This was the starting point of the hike. I started hiking on the trail, which was about 1.2 miles one-way. a long way to go, and not easy at all. I had to go around puddles and bear poop, plus rocks and branches that are stuck in the ground, as well as getting by people coming in the opposite direction. And always a step away from twisting my ankle. The hike did feel like forever, as I was sweating like crazy. I did decide to not attempt any other hikes on this trip, as this one would be enough.

    I finally reached Grotto Falls, which was the only one in this park, where people can get behind it. And it was nice to look at, even though it was a bit crowded. Hard to believe that kids made the hike through. Just shows how out of shape I am really am. Once here, the next challenge was getting around people and large rocks. But being near the falls, I could feel the breeze from it, which was major relief.

    I walked behind the falls, and to the other side of the stream. Then I just stood and ate some snacks, as I enjoyed the views of the falls. Just a nice feeling, looking and hearing the falls. I went behind the falls again, to get back to the one side. I took one last look, before heading back. The hike back was not as bad, but still long and rough. I couldn't wait until I reached the end. And when I did, it's very hard to believe that I did the entire hike.

    I drove off, and made a few more stops along the way, seeing a stream flowing, and a series of cabins from the 1800's, I presume. I exited the park, and was going to head back to Pigeon Forge. But I got lost along the way, and ended back in the park. I found my way, and got back to the hotel, to take care of some things and rest for a bit. Then back out, to get some dinner.

    Afterwards, I went back into the park, taking a different road. I made a few stops along the way, seeing the Chimney Tops and dealing with a blinding sun glare.

    I reached Newfound Gap, which looked the Smoky Mountains. A nice lookout, and chilly as well. This was the spot of the North Carolina state line. So basically, I walked across from one state to another. And saw the Appalachian Trail, which crosses 14 states. Walking along the overlook, seeing the North Carolina side of the park.

    After that, I proceeded to Clingmans Dome, which was a long 7-mile drive with the twists and turns. And it started to get dark, although the sun was still out, at around 8:30pm, which was strange to see. I made it to the lot, then walked up the hill to the Dome. I got there halfway, then turned back, thinking there would be not much to see, being hazy and dark. Back to the lot, I looked at the mountains. The haze and sunset gave them a pretty look, with multiple colors.

    I drove back, to Newfound Gap, then to the main road, leaving the park, and back into Pigeon Forge. Along the way, I started to feel a little light-headed. Not sure of the cause, and I was not tired. I did pull over a couple times, as I did worry about getting into an accident.

    I made it back to the hotel, and right to bed!

    Photos & Videos


  • 30Jun 2011

    23 2nd Try to Clingmans Dome 06/30/2011 USA —

    Gatlinburg, USA


    Started the morning by taking care of some business, and eating breakfast in my room. And to the library, to check some things, like e-mail, Facebook, and yes, even TB. :) Then made a call to a friend, as we discussed meeting up when I come to Atlanta. Then got ready for the day ahead in the Smokies.

    After all that, I drove into the park, and to the visitor center. I was still feeling light-headed from the night before. No idea what the cause, and just hoped it was not anything major. After browsing there for a little bit, I was back out, and to Newfound Gap. Then just enjoyed the views, and ate some snacks.

    Then back to Clingmans Dome, making the 7-mile journey again. Once there, I started the hike uphill. The entire walk was in the sunlight, with very little shade. This time, I had to keep going, until I got to the top. Needless to say, I was all sweaty and out of breath. The incline was pretty shape, making it more difficult. The Appalachian Trail does pass through the area.

    I made it to the Clingmans Dome observation tower, located on the highest point in the Smokies (and in the state of Tennessee). The structure had a winding ramp, leading to the observation deck. A bit of a walk, adding to the hike, as the ramp went around a few times. I made it to the top, and took in the views.

    As I would learn, Clingmans Dome is actually the name of the mountain, not the tower. Looking at the Smoky Mountains, which were nice to look at. As the name suggests, it is very smoky but also hazy, as the pollution has gotten worse over the years. If really looking, one can see the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but barely, and no way to tell which one is which.

    I would hear about the black bugs getting stuck on people, but would not see them until I went back down. As I went down the ramp, I saw a bunch on the railing, and some did get on my shirt. I plucked them off, as I went downhill, to the parking lot. Needless to say, going down was not as hard as going up, but the heat still made it difficult.

    It was a drive back to Newfound Gap, then a right turn on the main road, to the town of Cherokee, in North Carolina. I did make more stops along the way, until I got to the Oconalutee Visitor Center, which was another entrance on the North Carolina side. Stopped by there, to take a break, and get some information. Then I exited the park, and into the town of Cherokee.

    More about my visit to Cherokee in the next entry.

    Photos & Videos


  • 30Jun 2011

    24 To Cherokee Village 06/30/2011 USA —

    Cherokee, USA


    Leaving Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I was in the town of Cherokee, in North Carolina. This town did look kind of familiar to me, as I did visit it back in 1991. Basically a touristy town, with hotels and shops, and an arcade to play video games. But no time for that, as I wanted to visit Cherokee Village. I passed by the museum, which I also had no time for, with this being my last full day in the Smokies.

    I got to the Oconaluftee Cherokee Village, and entered the premise, following the blue arrows to the parking lot. Once I did that, I went to buy a ticket, and then waited in the pavilion, for the tour to start. There was a school group already there, who entered the village a few minutes later.

    The Cherokees are a Native American tribe that are indigenous to the Southeastern US, which would include Tennessee and North Carolina, the Smoky Mountains area.

    I had to wait a little bit longer. I kept looking at my watch, as I wanted to make sure I had enough time to see a few attractions in Gatlinburg, and get there before it got dark. During the wait, there was a guy that came, and gave a little background on the Cherokee tribe. He would be our guide, who was part-Cherokee himself, and carried a tomahawk. There were questions and answers, and it was really interesting and informative to learn more about this tribe.

    It was time to enter the village, and the tour began. We were shown various booths, where different crafts were demonstrated by the Cherokee people. They would include basket making, weaving, pottery, woodcarving, and even a demonstration of a weapon being used. Plus a replica of cabins, one from before European contact, and the other after.

    The tour did move slowly due to congestion, as I did worry about it taking so long, even going past closing time. But we were told that we would get the full tour, regardless of time.

    The most interesting part was when we went inside the council house, when everyone got to finally sit down. Another guide (not sure if he is the chief), who gave some background on the place, as well as addressing some of the stereotypes of his people. One of them was about what to call the people. They are not Indians, or even Native Americans, but indigenous people. Another stereotype was that sound with the hand to the mouth (hard for me to describe in words), which was actually only done by women, apparently to call their man, but I can't remember the exact meaning. There are a few others, and I wished I recorded it, because it was really interesting to listen to.

    After the tour, I left the village, and drove through the Smokies. The drive back was not as bad, probably because I got used to the roads. The drive would take about 1 hour, getting to back to the Tennessee side. Leaving the park again, I entered the town of Gatlinburg.

    More about that part in the next entry.

    Photos & Videos


  • 30Jun 2011

    25 Good Old Times 06/30/2011 USA —

    Gatlinburg, USA


    Arriving into the touristy town of Gatlinburg, after leaving the Smoky Mountains Park, I drove through the crowded town, and ended up finding parking in a cheap lot.

    Gatlinburg developed into a resort town, as it served as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. While I tend to label it as a "touristy", I don't think it's a bad thing. I can remember wanting to be here 20 years ago, just wanting to play video games. Well, this would be the time to reconnect with my childhood.

    First thing, was a visit to the Dukes of Hazard Museum, based on the TV show. When passing by it the other day, I just had to visit this place. I can remember growing up, watching this show, which was on Friday nights on CBS, back in the early 80's. Watching the show these days on DVD, it can still be entertaining, but I can also see how amazingly cheesy it was. And I'm probably still one of those guys that did not watch it for Daisy Duke. :)

    The place is primarily a gift shop, and episodes of the TV show shown in the background. It also has artifacts used in the show, like Boss Hogg’s book, along with photos taken from the days of filming. Plus displays of articles on some of the cast members, since the show ended its run. A replica of the General Lee is there, where one can sit inside and have a photo taken, but it is not free. Overall, worth a look for those who watched the TV show. But not a must-see.

    After the museum, I walked up on the Parkway, the main street of the town. Then stopped by a Subway, to get something to eat, as I was hungry. After eating, I continued walking up the street, passing by the Reagan Terrace Mall, which has various attractions. Some of them included haunted houses, miniature golf, museums, and yes, arcades.

    I went up to the Ripley's Believe Or Not! entrance, but only checked for hours. Then I went to the nearby arcade. I remember visiting the same spot in 1991, but it looked different this time around. I looked around for old games, and found one, Mortal Kombat II. Next thing you know, I was hooked on the game, just like I was back in the 90's. It felt like old times indeed, as I did get annoyed the controls at times and changing dollar bills into coins. When realizing that I fallen into old habits, I just had to get out of there quickly. And I did.

    Once out, I decided to go to the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. After paying for it, I got on the Sky Lift, taking me up the side of the mountain. I remember riding it back in '91, but don't remember the views. And I have to admit, it was a little nerve-wrecking, riding this thing up the side of the mountain.

    I got to the top, where there was a shop and a terrace to see the town of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. The town was starting to light up as nightfall came. When taking photos of the scenery, I was not sure which mode was the right one for my camera, in terms of flash or no flash, or SL. So I tried all 3, and just wait until I get home to check them out more closely.

    I also got a ride photo for old time's sake, even though it was overpriced. Looking at the sun setting over the Smokies, and seeing the lights of the town, this was a nice way to end my visit to this area, and have a little reunion with personal history. I guess this was a way to pay homage to the travel spirit in me.

    I went back down, and decided to pass on the Ripley's Museum. It was getting late, and I had to save some money, as this trip is costing more than I originally thought. I walked to the car, and drove back to the motel. Then started packing up a little, then went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 01Jul 2011

    26 Leaving the Smokies 07/01/2011 USA —

    Pigeon Forge, USA


    I ended up waking up earlier than planned, and did try to get back to sleep. But figured that was not a good idea, I quickly had to get ready and pack up. I had to get the rental car back to the Atlanta airport by a certain time, to avoid any additional charges.

    After packing up, I had to check out of Motel 6. I did enjoy my stay at this place a lot. And being close to the library made it more worth it, at cheap prices. But I was told it would not be cheap the next few days, with the Independence Day weekend coming up. Then left, stopping by a gas station, to fill up, and use a coupon, which I got from the Smokies baseball game, and would not be able to use anywhere else. After all that, the drive back to Atlanta began.

    The long drive back, taking over 5 hours. I did make some stops along the way. And got tired along the way, and stopped by a rest area, to do exactly that. Leaving Tennessee, I would cross back into Georgia, heading to my next destination, Atlanta.

    Photos & Videos


  • 01Jul 2011

    27 Sweaty Start in Hotlanta 07/01/2011 USA —

    Atlanta, USA


    Continuing on from the Smokies blog left off (the start of that blog here), I came back into the state of Georgia, and to the Atlanta area. I have been to this city only once, which was back in 2002.

    I ended up taking the route through downtown, hitting traffic. Along the way, I had to put gas to refill the car, before returning. I reached the airport, and to the rental center. I returned the car, with no extra charges. Then rode the Skytrain to the airport, where I would transfer to the MARTA train. I bought a 3-day pass, and hopped on, riding to the North Avenue station, in the Midtown area.

    When I got off, I was hit by the intense muggy weather. As soon as I got out of the station, some woman approached me and asked me for the time. As soon as I told her that, she immediately gives me a hard time about the way I was looking at her. Admittedly, I was in no mood to talk, as I was tired. After going back and forth, and trying to be polite through the whole thing, the truth comes out... she wants a couple bucks. I just walked on, saying that I need to get somewhere and had none to give. She kept asking, but I kept walking. I would walk by some guy, saying that there are crazies out there.

    I walked 4 blocks to the Atlanta International Hostel. However, I could not wait to get inside. When getting to the door, I saw that the front desk was closed during this time. I rang the bell twice, then banged on the door. After what I just went through, no way would I walk around with a huge backpack in this muggy weather. Needless to say, I was sweating like crazy.

    Some guy came to the door, and after a little pleading, allowed me inside. I even showed my reservation to prove that I am a customer. I went inside, where I could drop off my backpack, and change clothes. I got the necessary things, and left.

    I stopped by a nearby Walgreen's to get some drinks. I was surprised to see a Pepsi being sold, considering where I am. Then walked to the station. Along the way, I was followed by Homeless Joe, asking me for some money. I did not give any, and just went to the platform. I hopped on when it arrived, and could overhear some kids say that I should be jumped just for having a Pepsi. Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe.

    Arriving into Five Points, I went to Underground Atlanta, which was the first place I saw when I first visited this city back in 2002. An underground shopping mall, which seemed deserted back then, and now, more crowded, as I assume people retreat from the harsh weather outside.

    I went to the food court to eat some lunch. I ended up getting extra food for no extra charge, due to a little mixup. It ended up being more than I eat. Afterwards, I went on MARTA, to Phillips Arena and CNN Studios. The two places were connected, and I went inside the CNN Center. Just went there to look around, but did not stay long. I went back to the hostel.

    Once I got there, I paid for 3 nights. I went to the room, to get settled. Then back out, as it was time to go to the ballgame. Walking to the station, there was that homeless guy waving at me, which did make me feel a little uneasy. I don't know why exactly, since I have dealt with these types of people back in Philly.

    So I went back to the Underground ATL, then hopped on the Braves shuttle bus, to take me to Turner Field. Once there, I looked around, seeing the statues of Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, and others. Plus the huge number structures, representing the numbers retired by the Braves. Then entered the ballpark.

    I saw the CN Place, and continued to look around. Then went up to where my seat was, just to make sure that it was in the shade. Then went back down to the box office, but the line was too long. I plan to come back after the game ends. Then back to my seat, and looked around the stadium, seeing the various features, like the the giant Coke bottle and a view of downtown Atlanta. And I did notice quite a few empty seats in the ballpark. While not as bad as Florida, it was still a bit odd, considering the team being in contention.

    I always remember the Braves for all those division titles in the 90's and early 2000's, winning 14 in a row. And they made it to the World Series 5 times, winning only 1, as they tended to choke in the early rounds of the playoffs. It got annoying that they won so many in a row. Now the Phillies dominate the division, and currently ahead of the Braves.

    Of course, I have to mention the tomahawk chop, that the Braves are most famous for, even if they are not the first sports team to use it. Hearing the drum roll and then the chant from the fans, throughout the game.

    The Atlanta Braves took on the Baltimore Orioles. I was hoping the Braves would lose, but that would not happen. Jair Jurrjens started for the Braves, pitching 6 inning of no-hit ball. I was hoping to see a no-hitter, making up for declining to go to a game before, which turned out to be a no-hitter. Well, that hope would be shattered when the no-hitter was broken in the 7th, on an Adam Jones hit, which would be the only hit the Orioles would get, which was insult to injury to me. I mean, who cares about a 1-hitter!

    The Braves scored 4 runs, 2 of them on a Jason Heyward 2-run home run, as they shut out the O's, 4-0. After the game, there was a pause, then the postgame fireworks, which is always a delight to see, at a ballpark.

    After the fireworks, I went to the ticket office, but found out that it was closed, which happens after the 7th inning. I was bummed, and would have come back the next day. I exited the ballpark, and got on the Braves shuttle bus, taking me back to Five Points, which is the central point of Atlanta (I believe). Once there, I headed back to the hostel.

    Along the way, I called one of my old friends, who I knew from before, when he used to live in Philly. We talked to arrange a meetup the next day. After that, I just washed up, needing a shower so badly, after sweating like crazy. Then relaxed in the lounge for a bit. Then to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 02Jul 2011

    28 Olympics, Baseball, and Sweating 07/02/2011 USA —

    Atlanta, USA


    The day got off to a sweaty start, as I went to downtown, into Underground ATL. Then transferred to a bus, where it stood for some time, until it finally moved. And when it did, the bus moved so slow, due to the rally at the Georgia Capitol. The driver said that they could only proceed if the police allowed them to. I started to lose patience, and decided to get off, as I was heading to Turner Field to buy a ticket for this day's game.

    I passed by the rally and some police cars, and headed to the ballpark. The walk was unbearable, as it was almost entirely in the sunlight, as there was very little shade along the way. As I got closer, there was an arch with the Olympic rings. And nearby, was a memorial for the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta. I passed by the Olympic cauldron and a metal board, which listed the results of all the events. Mainly the ones winning Olympic medals.

    I walked by the results board, and down the stairs to the parking lot, passing by the long blue wall. This was the only thing remaining from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which was one of those cookie cutter stadiums, one time being the home of the Braves and Falcons. Opened in 1966, and closed in 1996, as the Braves moved across the street the following year. The Falcons already left a few years before that, for the Georgia Dome. Now the area is a parking lot. With it being empty, it was the best time to take photos of it, so I was able to see the entire wall.

    I went across the street, and looked around, then waited in line for tickets. Unfortunately, there were other people who had the same idea as me, as the line was pretty long. Even worse, it was in the sunlight. I had to put up with it, as the line moved slowly, until I reached the limited shade. Then to the ticket window, where I bought a ticket, for a seat that was better than the one I sat the day before, and cheaper as well. So it ended up working out, in terms of saving some money.

    I walked back to downtown, to Underground ATL. Then rode up to North Springs, where I would meet up with some old friends, who I have not seen in a long time. We met up and went to a Mexican restaurant. Can't remember the name of the place, but the food was good, and we had a great time catching up.

    Afterwards, I went back into downtown, and to the area where the major attractions were. Passing by the World of Coca-Cola, and into Centennial Olympic Park.

    Walking around the park, I saw the various sculptures and other displays, which symbolize what the Olympic Games were all about. Built for the 1996 Games, this was where the Olympic bombing took place. And I remember visiting it back in 2002, but only remember seeing the fountains area, in the shape of the Olympic rings. Being a typical hot day, a lot of people playing around the fountains, to cool off.

    I went inside the CNN Center, and just relaxed in there. Talk about major relief. Then went back to Underground ATL, stopping by a few places to buy some drinks to take into the stadium. Then to a Johnny Rocket's, a cafe with a 50s look. I took advantage of the promotion of buy one milkshake, get one free, with a Braves ticket. Needless to say, it felt great, drinking the cold shake. Afterwards, I went to the Braves shuttle bus, taking it to the ballpark.

    Once there, I looked around, seeing the numbers and various plaques on the ground. Then entered the ballpark, and went to the Braves Hall of Fame. A museum on the team, tracing back to their time in Boston and Milwaukee as well as Atlanta. And separate memorabilia for each division title in the 90's, among others. Worth seeing it.

    After spending time at the Hall of Fame, I went to my seat. Looked around the stadium, as the game started and went on. The location was better for this game, than the night before. During the game, it started to rain, causing people to retreat for cover. I did as well, as it rained on my seat. But the game went on, and remarkable that the players continue playing. The rain did stop.

    The Braves took on the Baltimore Orioles, and this game was more closer. The scoring started in the 4th inning, when the Orioles took a 2-0 lead, but the Braves scored 5 runs in their half, taking the lead, 5-2. The Orioles would score 2 more runs, both on solo home runs. But it was not enough, as the Braves beat the Orioles, 5-4.

    After the game, there were fireworks, which is always a joy to watch. When that ended, I walked around the ballpark, and went closer to the field, as the place was emptying out. Took a few closeup photos, then left Turner Field. I hopped on the shuttle bus, taking me to Five Points. Then on MARTA, heading back to the hostel.

    When walking down a different way, some strange man wanted to get my attention to read something. But this time, I just ignored and walked away. Just had to trust my gut instinct, as he chose to approach me, but not the other person, who was near me at the time.

    I returned to the hostel, and just relaxed for a bit. Then to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 03Jul 2011

    29 Some News and Soda 07/03/2011 USA —

    Atlanta, USA


    Hardest part for me, was getting out, as I was not willing to deal with the oppressive weather. I tend to sweat and burn easily, and very badly. And sunscreen just feels uncomfortable as well. But I am willing to put up with it, since I love travel, and there was some places to see.

    I headed to the CNN Center, having to pass by Phillips Arena. Along the way, I noticed displays of the Atlanta Thrashers, a hockey team that just left town a few months earlier. The team has relocated to Winnipeg, becoming the Jets. That's twice that Atlanta has lost an NHL team, which I would say it's sad, but not enough people cared.

    I went to the CNN desk, first to buy the tour for a later time. Then had to take care of some business, over the cell phone that was running low on power. After that, I went to the World of Coca-Cola, to buy a ticket and get a head start. Only problem was that most of Centennial Olympic Park was closed off, so I had to go around it, which took longer. By the time I got to the Coke place, I just headed back, as tour time was approaching.

    Made it back on time, just when they were letting people in. I had to go through security, very much like that at the airport. I did see this place back in 2002, and remembered it being nothing special. I guess being older, would I feel the same way?

    First, we were shown how the news and weather are delivered, with the teleprompter and the green screen. Then the other behind-the-scenes stuff, like a peek into CNN and Headline News (HLN). The tour ends with a short promo film on CNN. A nice way to pass an hour, as well as to cool off, while in Atlanta. Though overpriced, it was interesting and informative.

    After the CNN tour, I went to the World of Coca-Cola. Luckily, I was able to buy a ticket from a machine, saving a little time. Then had to go through a little security, and into the lobby, which was major relief from the heat. I can remember this attraction being next to Underground Atlanta back in 2002. Since then, the location moved, and would be different. But would it better? Well, not really. It was a museum on the famous soda, from its beginnings, to its impact to the whole world. In the end, I did get to try out the different types of soda from around the world. Some good, some horrible, and some with no taste.

    While there, I did see a guy and his girlfriend wearing a Pepsi t-shirt and cap, respectively. Since the place is full of tourists, I doubt anyone really cared. Just interesting to note, as I am a Pepsi-holic myself, but I don't mind Coke. In the end, I came away with a small bottle of Coke.

    Afterwards, I went to the airport and to the Rental Center, to pick up a car. Once I did that, I drove to the hostel, and just rested there for a little bit. When I woke up, I headed out, and to Stone Mountain.

    Photos & Videos


  • 03Jul 2011

    30 Laser Show at Stone Mountain 07/03/2011 USA —

    Stone Mountain, USA


    Leaving Atlanta, I just took the highway, and stopped by a place to get some dinner, as I did not want to buy food in the park. After the meal, I drove to Stone Mountain, but did get lost for a bit. I did find my way, and entered the park. I parked the car, and walked to the park.

    It seemed a lot more crowded than the last time I was there. Some would say it was because of the holiday weekend, but my last visit did not seem nearly as crowded, and that was during Labor Day weekend.

    My main reason is to see the laser show. But with so much time to kill, I just walked around the place. I would not repeat the same mistake of buying an all-access ticket to all the attractions, but only get around to doing a few. Not getting my money's worth, as the train ride around the mountain was the only thing I was able to do. And that took a good chunk of time. I considered during the train ride this time around, but ended up not doing it.

    So I just walked to the viewing area, where there were so many people sitting on blankets, reserving their spots. Who knows how long they sat there, as I was looking for a spot myself. I walked around for a quite some time, until I decided on a spot by the block of rock. I would stand the whole time, as sitting on rocks was not allowed. I did notice priority seating, but they were all sold out.

    The laser show started, and it was great. Some of the songs that have been used over the years include: Devil Went Down to Georgia and An American Trilogy. The latter one involves the carving on the mountain, which has 3 figures of the Confederacy. They are Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Even with the pain of standing, tippy-toes at times, the show was still very impressive to watch, even on a second viewing. And I hope to someday return for a third viewing.

    I walked back to the parking lot, and would take a while to get out of it. First was finding the car in a huge lot, and second, was getting through the mess of cars. It came down to right-of-way, or lack thereof. Took me at least 40 minutes to get out.

    Once I was out, I just went back to Atlanta. To the hostel, and just chilled for a little bit, before going to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 04Jul 2011

    31 Seeing the History to the End 07/04/2011 USA —

    Atlanta, USA


    Being the last day, it was time to pack up and check out of the hostel. After going through all that, I drove off, heading to the Atlanta History Center, as I had time for one more attraction, before going home.

    I got lost along the way, when the highway of I-75/I-85 divided, and I went down the wrong one. I had to turn around, and headed in the right direction. When I exited, I got lost along the way. Went down one way, then backtracked and went down the right way. Then it looked familiar, as I saw signs to the museum. Not easy to find.

    Once there, I paid admission for the museum only, as I felt like I did not have time for historical homes. I visited this place back in 2002 and zipped through it, plus toured the Swan House. I remember getting a card, allowing me to come back for free. But I ended up throwing it away, as I was not sure when the next time would be. Never thought that 9 years would pass until I came back.

    I went through 4 different exhibitions. The first one I went to, was on the 1996 Olympics. Then went to the one that looked familiar, which was on the history of Atlanta. After that, was the one on Atlanta and any reminders of the Civil War. And then, there was one on the Civil War itself, going through from the beginning to the end. There was a display of a musket that soldiers carried, which we can lift. Or try to, as it was so heavy. I can't imagine the soldiers carrying them, who were usually around the age of 18.

    I continued going around the museum, until it was time to go. I had to leave, but was satisfied with my visit. I am sure I will return to this place in the future, but when that will be, who really knows. :) But it was a good way to end the trip.

    I left the museum, and had to drive back to the airport. I stopped by a few places, to refuel the car and get some lunch, as I did not want to do it near or in the airport, since they overcharge for everything.

    I was able to get to the airport, and drop the car off at the Rental Center. Then rode the Skytrain to the airport terminal. Checked in and got my boarding pass, then through security without any issues. Then to the tram, to the right terminal. I went to the gate, and waited there, until it was time to board.

    When it came, I got on the plane, which took off from Atlanta. Slept most of the way, until it was approaching Philly. Once it arrived there, I rode the train, and headed home.

    End of the trip. I got to cross another stadium off my list, and reconnect with personal history at the Smokies. But I underestimated the costs, and ran up a huge debt. So a trip in August was out of the question. Just have to wait until fall.

    Photos & Videos


  • 05Sep 2011

    32 Day Trip to the Met 09/05/2011 USA —

    Manhattan, New York, USA


    It was Labor Day, and nothing planned, my mom and I tried to decide where to go, as we did not want to spend it at home, wasting it. So we decided to take a day trip to New York City.

    We would have to get there by car, since it was a last-minute decision. Normally, we prefer to go by bus or train. It has been a long time since driving there, as I used to do back in the day. Driving on the PA Turnpike, then the New Jersey Turnpike, until we reached the George Washington Bridge.

    Once we entered into New York, we went to the Columbia University area, where there is usually free parking available. Where exactly, it's hard to say, as it has been different each time. So we were able to find a spot. Then went on the subway, taking it to the Upper West Side.

    My mom and I walked a few blocks, until we reached Central Park. Then walked through it, as we saw people having picnics, and jogging, even on this very hot and humid day. We walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, more commonly known as the Met.

    I have been to museum before, almost a decade ago. And it was major relief to be indoors, to get out of that oppressive heat. We went to the right side, to the Egyptian exhibits. Very extensive, with a replica of a temple to see. After seeing this area, my mom and I went separately, as we were interested in seeing different sections.

    I would go to the area where the Temple of Dendur was. It was an actual temple, brought to New York, and put indoors, to protect it from the elements. With the huge statues and columns in place, it was an impressive place to see.

    Then I went inside what was a replica of an American mansion. There were rooms, with period furniture. Then walked around the museum, randomly picking sections of the museum. There is just so much to see, and I picked the ones that seem to interest me the most.

    I did check out the Middle Ages section, with the arms and armor. And saw paintings and other art from Europe, along with a replica of a church altar. Seeing these things, just made me think about wanting to go to Europe.

    And I did get to see the extensive Greek collection, which was organized by a different period. Nearby was the Roman art collection. I wanted to see the Asian collection, but it was closed off.

    We ended up spending most of the day at this museum. I knew that I would not be able to see everything. After it was near 5 PM, it was time to leave.

    We walked through Central Park, and then rode the subway, heading back to our car. Then drove out of the city.

    I would take the wrong exit, but not realize it for 30 minutes. But we got back on the right, and drove back towards Philly. Much to our surprise, there was not as much traffic as we feared, being that it was the late afternoon on Labor Day, when loads of people are driving back home after a holiday weekend.

    We came back home. Overall, it was a nice way to spend the day, as it was something to do. But hopefully, I won't have to drive to get there again, as it is not fun to drive in New York, to say the least.

    Photos & Videos


  • 17Nov 2011

    33 Long Layover Starting Trip 11/17/2011 Canada —

    Old Toronto, Toronto, Canada


    The trip to the Balkans has finally happened, after thinking and reading about it for some time, as it is not cheap to get there. And visiting in late November, I did worry about rain. I will be visiting Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia.

    Leaving home, I took the train to the Philly airport. Even though I was running a little late, I was still taking my time, as I tried not to panic. And it did not help that the trains were running behind schedule. When arriving at the airport, I got off at the wrong terminal, as one of the conductors told me the wrong terminal to get off at. I would find out it was another one, which was farther out.

    When I got to the right one, I learned the flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. Strangely enough, it was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me more time to check-in and go through security. Then just waited at the gate, until it was time to board, heading to Toronto.

    This would be the 3rd time I've been to the Toronto airport, and would have a 6-hour layover. I really wanted to go to downtown, but decided it was not worth the risk, as I would be driving myself crazy when heading back. Besides, what happened earlier back in Philly, is enough reason not to head into downtown.

    I just waited around, trying to sleep, and did eat a poutine. I can remember eating this only once, back when I visited Montreal in 2000. A poutine was french fries with cheese and gravy. It was so good.

    I stayed around, doing whatever to bypass the time. Tried to sleep, but those armrests that won't move, made that difficult. Walked back and forth, and sat at the food court table, to do some things. Basically, not much to do.

    Went back to the gate, with one hour to go until takeoff, and can see it will be a full flight. I got on and had a window seat, and had to sit next to someone, who had no concept of boundaries when it came to leg room. And very stubborn to even get up, when I needed more space to look for my glasses, which I dropped.

    The flight took off, leaving Toronto, and heading to Frankfurt, Germany.

    Photos & Videos


  • 18Nov 2011

    34 Couple Side Trips Start 11/18/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    I arrived into Frankfurt, Germany, and originally had a 3-hour layover. But I saw that there was an earlier flight to Zagreb, but only had 30 minutes to catch it. So I went through security, which was faster than the last time I was there. Then to the gate, and checked to see if I could get on the earlier flight. And I was able to, getting on the Croatia Air flight.

    I got on the plane, which took off for Croatia. As it approached Zagreb, I learned that the plane would be diverted to Split instead, due to a strike at the Zagreb Airport. Did that mean they decided to strike at that moment? Just seemed kind of sudden. The plane landed in Split, I received a "Transit Boarding Pass", and had to go through immigration. After that, I was not sure what to do next.

    I went to the information desk, and kept being told that shuttles are being arranged to get people to get where they need to get. The only question was when. I wanted to go out to the city center, but the info desk kept saying that it would not be a good idea. Very annoying!

    I walked around and waited, until a blonde lady came, who was an agent for Croatia Airlines. First, she explained the situation in Croatian, then in English. Have to admit, I was impressed by the fact that she was answering questions in both languages, switching between the two without much of a struggle.

    The situation with the strike in Zagreb led to a couple options... a shuttle bus to Zagreb, or to Dubrovnik. I chose the bus to Dubrovnik since that was where I planned to be that night. And no point to head to Zagreb, since who knows when the strike would end. Either way, my sightseeing day was wiped out, as I originally planned to see Zagreb, then return to the airport, and fly to Dubrovnik. But it was still a good thing that I took the earlier flight to Zagreb, otherwise I would be stuck in Frankfurt for who-knows how long.

    The shuttle was more like a van, but comfortable. Finally left the Split Airport, as I'm told the journey would be over 4 hours. And the guy in front of me, said it was very scenic, which is true, seeing the water and mountains. The only sightseeing of the day.

    I fell asleep along the way, and when I woke up, we were off the highway, and onto mountain roads. The distance was not long, but a lot of curves along the mountains. And scary, as the driver went fast on these roads. I did worry that we could fly off the cliff, but can see it was not bothering anyone else.

    We made a rest stop, and there was a terrace to oversee the area, like the mountains and the village below. Very nice to see. I ate some snacks and drank water, that were included on the bus. And talked with fellow passengers, getting to know them a little bit.

    It was time to go, and we got back on the bus. I dozed off, as it started to get dark.

    **I did not know until years later, that I actually left Croatia for a little bit, and was in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The name of the town is Neum.

    Photos & Videos


  • 18Nov 2011

    35 Sightseeing Day Wiped Out 11/18/2011 Croatia —

    Dubrovnik, Croatia


    I woke up when arriving at Dubrovnik. I got off, and went to the stop to take public transportation to get to the Lapad area. I got on one of the buses, and got off. There, I had to hear a boy making a racial mocking noise, and wanted to punch the kid. Just had to move along, and stopped inside a store to ask for directions. After that, I went to the other side of the street, and hopped on the bus to Lapad.

    I was being stared at by 2 boys, who probably never saw an Asian, but they kept pointing and laughing. Have to admit, it's reminding me of childhood, and not in a good way. But then, a woman noticed I was looking around and a piece of paper, offered to help me with directions. We got off the bus at the same time, and she showed me part of the way, and told me the rest. I was able to process the info, and found the place, Vila Micika. Turned out that woman does have rooms to rent, but only during the busy season.

    I arrived at the Vila Micika, and checked in. The guy on staff was very nice, and let me use the internet in his office. And put me in a private room, which was nice. I went to the nearby Tommy supermarket, to buy some food as my dinner, and just spent the rest of the night, relaxing and planning the next day.

    Photos & Videos


  • 19Nov 2011

    36 Around the Wall 11/19/2011 Croatia —

    Dubrovnik, Croatia


    It was tough sleeping, as the room was very cold. But I managed until after sunrise. Then had to take care of a few things, like getting some sunscreen, since it was a sunny day. But I had a hard time finding a pharmacy, and kept walking around, relying on a map, but no luck. It was not until I asked someone, that I was able to find one. After buying and applying the sunscreen, I waited for a little bit, as I wanted it to settle on my skin. Then headed out.

    Rode the bus towards Old Town, then walked to the terrace, seeing the Adriatic Sea, the Fort of St. Lawrence, and the City Walls. Then went to Pile Gate, the entrance to Old Town Dubrovnik. Then entered through it, passing through the wall, and into Old Town.

    First thing to do, was walking the Town Walls. But I had to buy a ticket at a separate location. After doing that, I entered and walked up the stairs. I went one way, but it was the wrong way. So I turned around, and saw a different set of stairs, which was in a construction area. Hard to explain.

    Built in the 15th century to protect the town from Ottoman invaders, the town walls also protected people during the war in 1991-92. And while it was damaged, it was quickly rebuilt, and these days, has been invaded by tourists.

    I was walking on the Town Walls, overlooking the town and sea. Walking over Pile Gate, I was walking towards the sea, to the corner. Then walked alongside the Adriatic Sea, and seeing the town along the way. Some of those building were homes, with clothes hanging out. One of them even had some kind of underclothes hanging out.

    It was bright and sunny, which was the weather that I wanted. But it did make it a bit difficult to take photos. And there was not much shade, but luckily, it was not hot or crowded. So I had a lot of room to walk around, and at times, it felt like I had the place to myself, as I was snapping photos like crazy, and enjoying the views at various points.

    The wall was steep at some sides, but the barrier was built high enough, so no risk of falling off the cliff, unless that person was incredibly stupid.

    I continued on, seeing the cruise ship and an island in the distance, and passing by some huge buildings like the Cathedral and the Dominican Monastery Museum. Passing by the Old Port, I reached the mountainside, which had some buildings on it. This side was more about seeing the town itself.

    It's hard not to notice the colors of tiles on the roofs of buildings. From what I read, the bright orange tiles were rebuilt after the war, while the less brighter ones are the originals. Either way, it does make the town more attractive to see, and add to the charm. Walking around and finally seeing the place, I had to pinch myself, that I was really in Croatia.

    Passing by the bell tower, I reached the Minceta Tower, and went up on it, to the top. Seeing the surrounding area and the fort, which are located throughout the wall. These forts were used as lookout for invaders, and nice views without interference from the sun. Some nice photo ops.

    I came towards Pile Gate, and exited the Town Walls. The entire walk took about 2 hours. Back on street level, I decided to treat myself to some gelato. Then went outside Old Town, and sat on the bench to rest for a bit, as I was feeling tired.

    After dozing off for a bit, I went back into Old Town, and to the Franciscan Monastery Museum. Inside, a cloister with a row of columns, which is very peaceful and feels like a world away from the busy main street outside. In the middle is a small courtyard with a well. And frescos on the wall in the cloister and the monastery itself, are nice to look around as well. Also inside, is an old pharmacy that dated back to the Middle Ages, in a separate room.

    Afterwards, I went to Net Cafe, which was an internet cafe, where I took care of some business. Then went to the main street, and walked to the Cathedral.

    I went inside, and looked around. Dating back to the 12th century, the place looked a little more modern, with less church art. Then I went to the Treasury, which required separate admission. Admission was listed in 3 currencies, but the best deal with the local one. The Treasury itself, was in a small room, but it looked very nice with a lot of gold coloring. There were body parts encased, along with an altarpiece and a crucifix, among other religious artifacts.

    Afterwards, I went to the Old Port, looking at the water. Then walked down the main street, through Pile Gate, and rode the bus back to the hostel. I'll explore more of Old Town itself the next day. It had gotten dark very early, and not much for me to do at night. I did walk around the block, but that's about it.

    Just planned for the next day, then went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 20Nov 2011

    37 Seeing Old Town 11/20/2011 Croatia —

    Dubrovnik, Croatia


    The day started with getting breakfast from the nearby supermarket, and taking care of business along the way. After getting ready, I went to the main bus station, where I would buy a ticket to my next destination. My name was printed on it, but my last name was printed incorrectly. May not be a big deal, though.

    I hopped on the next bus to Old Town. Once there, I went through Pile Gate, and started looking around Old Town on the main street. Along the way, while going through the gate, there was a town map, showing where the bombs dropped and the buildings that were burned, during the war, locally known as the Homeland War.

    Back at one end of the main street, known as Stradun, where the Big Fountain was located. Then I went inside the church, which was part of the Franciscan Monastery Museum. There was a service in progress, so I was only able to get a peek. As soon as I exited the place, the service just ended and people came out.

    I took a stroll on the Stradun, where there were places to eat, shop, and just hang out and people-watch. A fun place, even if it's crowded with tourists. I walked towards the other end, which is not far at all, to where Orlando's Column was. This was where important news was announced to the town, back when Dubrovnik turned their back on Venice. It was built in 1417.

    I was standing on Luza Square, where the column was located. Then went inside Sponza Palace, built during Dubrovnik's Golden Age and now houses the Memorial Room of Dubrovnik Defenders. I went in that room, which was exactly as the name indicated. There were photos of the men who died while defending the town in 1991-92, along with a TV that showed the damage to the town. It was very moving, and scary as well.

    Just outside the room, was a courtyard. Then I stepped outside, looking at the Bell Tower. This one was unique with 3 different parts, that were the following: (1) having a clock with many hands, (2) a sphere that told what was the phase of the moon and (3) an old digital clock that tells time every 5 minutes, with the hour in Roman numerals. Hard to describe in words, but it is very unusual to see that it came from centuries ago.

    Looking around at places near the Bell Tower, I went to the nearby church, St. Blaise's Church, named after the saint of Dubrovnik. I sat down for a little bit, looking at the altar and chapels. Then exited, looking at my list of sites that were open and I wanted to see.

    I went to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was located further back, and off the main street. A very big place in tight space. I entered, and looked around. Afterwards, I left and to Net Cafe. Took care of some business on the computer, and made sure of other things. Net Cafe was located on restaurant row, about one street over from Stradun. When I was done, I continued on that street, then up some stairs, towards another Wall gate, the Buza Gate.

    Getting there, I saw the map of where the bombs were dropped. Then went through the Buza Gate, to the spot where the cable car station was. I bought a ticket and waited until the cable car arrived. Then I hopped on, and headed to the top of Mount Srd. It was scary, being in the air like that. But I made it there, and walked around to get a bird eye's view of the town. Definitely worth the ride, for the views. And saves time too.

    Passing by the outdoor cafe, I walked to the huge cross and flag of Croatia. A bit nervous, being near the edge of the cliff, although it was not a sharp drop. But the view of Dubrovnik and the sea were really nice, seeing the sea of orange in Old Town. The problem for me, was taking photos against sunlight, as I could not see what I was zooming in on. Not sure how to solve this problem.

    After a while, I went to Fort Imperial, which was the nearby fortress that served as a key strategic point for the Croatians during the war. I tried to walk around the fortress, there was a sign that said "Enter At Own Risk", which could mean, there could still be land mines. I decided not to go any further. The damage can still be seen, and the fortress now houses a museum, called Dubrovnik During the Homeland War. I was surprised to see some kids there. Interesting museum, as the descriptions were definitely biased on the Croatian side. But still worth the time, to learn more about the war.

    After seeing the museum, I rode back down on the cable car. Then walked back to Old Town, and headed to the Rupe Granary and Ethnographic Museum. It was not easy to find, as I had to go up some steep steps and got very sweaty. I did find it, and had less than an hour to see the place. This museum covers the different aspects of life in Croatia. I was able to see everything with still some time to spare. That alone, should tell you how much there is to see in this place. Not bad, but still underwhelming, as I expected more.

    Leaving the museum, I walked to the Dominican Monastery Museum. Also not easy to find, as it got confusing on the map. Walked back and forth until I finally found it. I went inside, and it was similar as the other Monastery Museum, with a cloister and a courtyard. Plus a room with full of paintings, some from Croatian artists and others from Renaissance artists. Definitely worth checking out.

    Afterwards, I went to Luza Square, where I saw a bunch of kids playing around. And I got to hear some Croatian, as hearing the local language from kids is a delight, especially if they talk to each other. Watched for a little while, then stopped by the Net Cafe again. Afterwards, to the Franciscan Monastery, which was still open, and one of the few places where photos were allowed. Looked around for a bit, then back on the main street.

    Walked around for the last time, as it got crowded. Then went to some fast food place, eating some American food as my dinner. Very satisfying. After that, I left Old Town, and went back to the hostel.

    Called it a day really early, as I tend not to do much at night. I can see why this is the off-season.

    Photos & Videos


  • 21Nov 2011

    38 Leaving Croatia For a Bit 11/21/2011 Croatia —

    Dubrovnik, Croatia


    I had to get up early enough, to get ready and pack up, as my bus to Mostar was at 8 AM. All of this took a lot of time, as I made sure nothing got left behind. I exited the room, and checked out of the place. Stopped by the supermarket to get some things to eat along the way. Then to the bus stop.

    I hopped on the bus, which later got crowded with school kids, around teenagers. Then transfer to another, taking me to the main bus station. I got to the right platform, and had to check my backpack in the compartment below. I had to pay the driver some money for storage, which was a bit of a rip-off. I got out some of the things and put them in my carry-on, then hopped on the bus.

    The bus was not crowded, which was a bit surprising, but hey, I am certainly not complaining. Heading out of Dubrovnik, and out of Croatia, I fell asleep along the way. I was awakened by the border guard, and had to show my passport. Then the bus continued on, and I was in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Or so I thought. Because I would have to show my passport 2 more times. The 3rd time, after crossing the border, I was really in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Now, I will return to Croatia later on this trip.


  • 21Nov 2011

    39 Close Call 11/21/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    Coming from Croatia, I have arrived into Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosnia or BiH for short), after going through the border check 3 times. Turned out, that was due to Neum, a Bosnian region that stretches to the sea and cuts Croatia into 2, hence the multiple border checks. And that I visited earlier a few days earlier, coming from Split.

    After the 3rd check, there was a little break. Then the bus continued on, until I arrived at Mostar. When I got off, I checked if I had my passport in my pocket, but it was not there. I searched through my coat and backpack, and then on the bus, where it was lying on the floor. I was relieved to find it, as I hate to think what I had to do, to get a replacement. And good thing that the bus was still there.

    I could not get a map, so I had to ask for directions to get to Old Town. I went that way, and would immediately see the damage from the war. Hard not to notice, and unbelievable to see, as I would have never thought I would be in Bosnia.

    I continued on, stopping by another travel agency, making sure that I was going the right way. And I was, and continued on, until I came upon a small street. I went down it, all the way towards the end, where I found Hostel Nina. A hostel that is being run by Nina and her family, it felt more like being a guest in someone's home than an actual hostel. A very nice place to stay.

    After checking in and leaving my things in the room, I walked to Old Town. I had to withdraw some Convertible Marks (KM) from an ATM, and had to go through 3 different ones, as the first 2 rejected my card. I realized that the amount that I withdrew, was too little. Along the way, I had to deal with some obnoxious teens, who had to make rude noises to me. They probably never seen an Asian before.

    I stopped by a restaurant, and had a cevapcici, which was minced meat in some kind of bread, with raw onions and tomato. A Bosnian specialty. It was pretty good and filling. After that, I walked through Old Town, crossing the Old Bridge, all the way towards the end of it, near the Franciscan Church of Sts. Peter and Paul.

    I walked onto the street, heading back into Old Town, passing by buildings destroyed by the war. Then into Old Town, walking on the stoned street. While the street looks charming, but sure does not feel like it. It could be a tripping hazard.

    I would see the Crooked Bridge, and a mosque by the stream in the distance. Then went down some stairs, to the riverbank, for a nice view of the Old Bridge and the Neretva River. After that, I crossed the Old Bridge halfway, for nice views of the town and river on both sides. I noticed a bunch of mosques and the minarets (the towers connected to the mosques), making this city feeling less European, and more like a Muslim city.

    I stopped by the photo exhibition, near the Old Bridge. Inside the place, which is a gift shop, were photos on display, of what happened to the Old Bridge, from before the war in 1991, then during the war, and after. They showed the bridge getting completely destroyed during the war, and how it got rebuilt. So actually, the name is a bit of a misnomer. And a video played, that showed the events, along with some people diving off the bridge. Just hard to imagine, as it's very cold outside and the river looked very shallow.

    I passed by the Museum of the Old Bridge, which was closed. Then onto Coppersmiths' Street, which felt like a bazaar. Then went towards a mosque, which was closed, but the courtyard was open. Afterwards, I walked to the Muslim cemetery, where I noticed on the tombs dated from 1993-95, which I can only assume, is from the Balkan War. Just looking at the dates, is scary in itself.

    I went to the nearby museum, but it was not open. So I went back on the pedestrian street, until the end. Then to the main street, which was a little tricky to walk on, as I had to pass by parked cars on sidewalks, which is narrow. I continued on to the bus station, to get some information. Then walked back to the pedestrian street, stopping by a supermarket to buy a can of chicken. Very cheap dinner. I walked through Old Town, and back to the hostel. I tried to eat the can of chicken, but it was nasty as hell. I could only eat very little, and threw the rest away.

    I met a Swiss guy, who was staying in the same room as me. He told me about being invited to a bar owned by the hostel owner. After relaxing for a little while, we both went out and looked for the bar. Not easy to find, as we had to ask around where it was. It was past the Old Bridge, but after that, it got tricky. The bar was located on a little square, and we had to go through an arch doorway.

    We arrived and just sat and hung out there, with the owner who was there. I can't remember his name exactly, but he is the husband of Nina (owner of the hostel), and had some stories to tell, going through the war as a civilian and how he bounced back and doing well after that. We all talked and had a great time.

    After spending some hours there, we headed back to the hostel. Then took care of some things, and went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 22Nov 2011

    40 Walking Around Top and Confused 11/22/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    Originally, I planned to leave town first thing in the morning. But there were some sights that I wanted to see. I left my backpack in the hostel, and headed out. I stopped by a grocery store to buy some things to eat, then headed to Old Town to eat there.

    I was at a spot, where I could see the river and Old Bridge. And a bunch of cats came and gathered together, passing each other without incident. When I finished, I walked to the mosque, and came across a little girl, who wanted my bag full of trash. I gave it to her, and entered the courtyard of the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque (try pronouncing that). The fountain was running, but the mosque was still closed. I asked the guy from the nearby shop when it would open, and his response was "when my friend gets here."

    I left, and came across the same little girl, begging for money. I just ignored her, and to be honest, I really wanted to smack her, as she should really be in school. I did see her go into a restaurant, only to get chased out by one of the owners. It's not cute when kids beg, as I try to avoid them like the plague.

    I stopped by a travel agency, to ask about the hours of the museums. The woman working there, told me that it is never clear or consistent in the off-season, and said that I should just show up one hour later than the posted time. She also said, that's just how things are in Bosnia. Okay! I left and went to the Turkish House, but it was not open.

    So I went to the nearby Karadjoz Bey (sp?)Mosque, which was open. Paid admission, and looked around. The first time I have entered a mosque. This mosque was back in 1557 during Ottoman rule. Later, it was damaged during the Bosnian War, but has quickly been rebuilt. Now, it is open to visitors. After seeing the mosque, I went up in the minaret.

    Going up the narrow, tight, and sometimes dark stairs, I can't see how 2-way traffic could happen here. And the steps are very uneven and steeper than most towers that I've been to, in Europe. But the payoff is well-worth effort, for nice views of Mostar and the surrounding area. And much to my surprise, the Swiss guy who stayed at the same hostel and room as me, also came up.

    Seeing the multiple mosques and minarets, makes it feel like I'm in a Turkish city. Mostar had been under Ottoman rule for centuries, with people converting to Islam during that time, giving that Muslim feel that it has to this day. Also, I could see the war-damaged buildings that are still around. Just depressing to see, and a shame that there is not enough money to repair them, from what I'm told.

    I went back down, and went with the guy, walking around the mosque, seeing the nearby cemetery. Then walked around town, looking for the Clock Tower, listed in the list of attractions that he had. Along the way, we walked through the Muslim Cemetery, and checked on the Museum of Herzegovina. I find out from the guy there, that the museum is NOT open at all. Well, if that was the case, then how about posting a sign saying so?

    Moving on, we looked for the Clock Tower, but had no luck. After a while, we gave up after realizing we wasted too much time looking for it. We went to another Turkish House, but it was closed during the offseason. At least, they had a sign saying so.

    We went back to the main street, where we parted ways. It was fun meeting and hanging out with him, making my trip to Mostar more memorable. I went back to the first Turkish House, which was the Biscevic Turkish House. It was one last check, and it was... open! I went in, and looked around. This is a traditional Turkish House from the Ottoman days, with the different rooms with period furniture. The main highlight is the gathering room in the back, with a nice view of the river. Definitely worth visiting.

    After seeing the Turkish House, I went to the same restaurant, getting a cevapcici again. While it was good and filling, the raw onions gave me bad breath. And I would forget to brush my teeth, as I did not have much time left.

    I walked back to the hostel, to pick up my backpack, and return the key, to Nina (owner of the hostel). Then walked out of the hostel, and down the stairs. But then, Nina offered me a ride to the bus station, which I accepted. I would ride with Nina's mother, in an old car. She was interesting to talk to, as she spoke pretty good English. And it turned out to be a good move for the ride, as I barely had enough time to catch my bus.

    I got there, and bought my bus ticket. Instead of 2:00 PM departure, it was actually 1:50 PM. I got on the bus, with only 7 minutes to spare. The bus left on time, leaving Mostar, and heading to Sarajevo.

    Photos & Videos


  • 22Nov 2011

    41 Arrived Unprepared 11/22/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    The bus ride took about 2.5 hours, as I slept most of the way there. I woke up when nearby. Looking out, it was foggy and a bit rundown. Well, something told me, that I was in for a surprise.

    The bus arrived, as the driver told me that this was the place. I got off, and asked for directions to the city center, and tried to get a map. Only they don't have one. Then walked to the train station, which was nearby, and where the tram stop was. I hopped on the tram, and rode into the city, going along the Miljacka River. I got off at the 5th stop, and had no idea where to go. Walked around for a bit, completely confused and unprepared. The guidebook that I was carrying, had no information on Sarajevo. And I was too cheap to buy a Lonely Planet guidebook, so I just printed only the list of attractions from Wikitravel. But that did not help at all, with getting where I need to go.

    I stopped by a few places to ask where the street that the hostel was located on. But without a map, it was not really helpful, and even ran into one guy who was being a smartass. It was not until I stopped by a hotel, when I finally got a map, and was told where to go. After that, I headed that way, and eventually found the Hostel Ljubicica. And I would have another problem... the owner had stepped out, as I saw the "Be Back in 15 minutes" sign.

    Needless to say, I was not happy. Tried to walk around for a bit, but just could not get my mind off the fact that I could not check in. Eventually, the owner did come, and we went through the whole process. Then she offered me a breath mint, which meant, she smelled my bad breath, mainly from the onions from my lunch back in Mostar.

    The owner gave me a ride to the dorms, located somewhere else. When getting in the car, she drove in reverse in heavy traffic, which was completely nuts. But also understood that she did not want to go around the block, which was long and chaotic. We arrived at the dorms, and to the room, where I met Sally, who is from Australia. She has been traveling around Europe for months now.

    The room is very basic, with an attached kitchen. And not really in a good location, being out of the way. The bathroom is cramped, and the drain can get clogged. The rule is that toilet paper has to be thrown in the basket, and never in the toilet itself.

    After getting settled, I would go with Sally, to a restaurant for some dinner. We walked around Old Town for a little while, trying to find a place. Then we did find one, which was dark and not much lighting inside. But the food was really good, at cheap prices. I could not even finish mine, which I had to have wrapped up. It was fun hanging out, and talking.

    Afterwards, we went back to the hostel, as we would have to go up and down the hill, to get between the hostel and city center. Then met with another guy at the hostel, from Japan. He traveled all the way from Japan without flying at all.

    And problems with the bathroom, with the shower clogged, among other things. I just took care of some things, then went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 23Nov 2011

    42 Sore Rainy Day in the Tunnel 11/23/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    The day started off, with being woken up by the Japanese guy, telling me about the tour time of the Tunnel Museum. A bit annoyed that he did that, and went back to sleep after that, as it was raining very hard outside.

    When I woke up again, it was still raining. And a guy came to the hostel, to fix the shower drain. I ate my breakfast, and went out, into the rain. It was very cold, as I walked down the hill, into Old Town. I went to the Tourism Information Center, where I got a map and location of the internet cafe, Click. Then I went to it, and used the computer to take care of some things.

    After that, I decided to walk to the museums near the train station. It would take about 20 minutes in the rain. And a big mistake, for not only getting wet, but possibly getting sick in the process. I was coming down with a sore throat, and it really sucks to be sick while traveling. I followed along the river and the street with the tram lines, but it did get confusing finding my way around.

    I was able to find the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was recommended by a booklet that I got from the info center. I went inside, and found that left wing was closed, and no photography was allowed. I dried off for a bit, then started touring around the museum.

    This museum consists of 3 parts, which include the Archaeology Museum, Ethnology Museum and Natural History Museum. The first two were the most interesting, which includes the book, Sarajevo Haggadah. Dating back to 14th century, when it came to Sarajevo with the Jews. Also, there is a garden with gravestones. The only part where photography is allowed. But not at all, inside all 3 museums. I thought it was well worth the visit, though I feel like it could be better.

    After seeing the National Museum, I went over to the Historical Museum, to check the hours. The entrance was a little hidden, with uneven and broken steps. I figure, I would come back later. I got on the tram, which was completely packed, that I could not even validate my ticket. So I ended up getting a free ride, due to not being able to reach the validation machine.

    I got off, and stopped by a market, to buy some things, then back to the hostel. I took a pill, hoping to avoid being sick. I did not stay long, as I would be heading back out, with the girl from Australia, to the Tunnel Museum tour.

    Stopped by the tourist office in Old Town, then got directed to another one. We got there, where we met the Japanese guy, whose name is Tetarso. It would be just the 3 of us on the tour. We left the office, and crossed the Latin Bridge, the spot that sparked the Great War.

    That spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The assassin was Princip from Serbia, who killed the archduke and his wife. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which caused more countries to get involved, thus the start of the Great War (later known as World War I).

    Once across, we hopped onto a van, and headed to the Tunnel Museum. Along the way, the tour guide gave some history on certain places, mainly from the days of the Sarajevo Siege. We went onto streets that were commonly known as Sniper Alley, where walking on that street was certain death by a sniper. We would leave the city center, passing by the airport, and quickly be in a residential neighborhood.

    We arrived at the Tunnel Museum, and went inside to a room. Our guide gave background about the Siege of Sarajevo, and then we watched a video showing actual footage from the siege, and the tunnel being built. It was just unbelievable to watch. The Siege was when the city was completely blockaded by Serb forces during the war, as nothing could get in or out of the city, as the Serbs tried to bring the city to its knees. So a tunnel was built under the airport to bypass the blockade, to get food, water, and weapons into the city.

    After watching the video, we entered the actual tunnel, which has one set of tracks, used to get people and supplies in and out of the city. Only a small portion remained open, as we quickly went out to the other side. Then a display of things used, like the wheelchair used to carry the Bosnian president through the tunnel. And a map of the siege, along with the list of people killed in the conflict.

    After seeing the museum, we headed back to the tourist office. We paid Adan, the guide, and I waited for a little bit, while the others needed to get some information on certain things. Afterwards, we all decided to go a restaurant for some dinner.

    Along the way, I had to use the restroom, and used one of the public ones. Seeing the "toilet", which looked like nothing more than a hole in the ground, I was like "I don't need go that bad". Plus there was no toilet paper. I'll just leave at it that!

    Back in the restaurant, I was having dinner with 2 other travelers, and having a great time hanging out together. After dinner, we headed back to the hostel. On the way, we heard the call of prayer, which was interesting to hear. Once at the hostel, we just chilled for the rest of the night.

    I dozed off for a bit, then went back out, to the internet cafe. Spent about 30 minutes there, then back to the hostel. I did not do much else, and went to sleep.

    Photos & Videos


  • 24Nov 2011

    43 Going Around in the Rain 11/24/2011 Bosnia and Herzegovina —

    Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    I was awakened when the Japanese guy made noise when he was moving his things around, as he was checking out. I tried to go back to sleep. When I got out of bed, I started packing up myself.

    I went out early, as the weather was still not good, but not raining at the moment. I did stop by a pharmacy, as I had a sore throat. I got a syrup for it, as I hoped to prevent a cold coming onto me. Then walked around Old Town, just as it was opening up. I went through the courtyard of the mosque, seeing only the fountain, as the building was still closed. Then passed by some ruins.

    I stopped by one hotel, then went to another when the first one had a long line, asking where to get a panoramic views of the city. In the 2nd hotel, the lady at reception, got someone to accompany me to the roof. I did not expect this at all, as I thought I would be given the location of a place. So I went with the guy, riding the elevator to the top.

    At the top, I was able to get nice views of Sarajevo. I could see a bunch of mosques, and old buildings around the city. Just nice to look at, and for free. But I can imagine it was not fun for the guy, waiting in the cold weather in a uniform. After looking around, I went back down with him, then left the hotel.

    I walked by the ruins, which date back to the Middle Ages. Then walked through a shopping mall, and to the street with tram lines, by the synagogue. Walking on that street, I passed by the Cathedral of Jesus' Sacred Heart.

    Then came across the Markale Marketplace, the site of 2 massacres during the war. The 2nd one was the one that prompted NATO to order airstrikes against Serb forces, leading to the end of the war. Now, it's an open air market. I continued on, passing the by the Eternal Flame, a memorial for those that died in World War II. Then to a McDonald's, the first I've seen on this trip. I went inside to eat there, then back out, contiuning on.

    I came upon the Children's Memorial, which I read about in a TBer's blog a year ago, and had to see for myself. There was a green sculpture in a fountain, and nearby are the rolls with the names of the children killed during the Sarajevo Siege from 1992 to 1996. Just seeing the dates and ages of the kids, was really depressing, and very hard to believe that such evil exists in the world, even in recent times.

    I went back to the hostel, to get my backpack, and say goodbye to a few people. Then went to the reception to check out and get my deposit back. After that, I went to the tourist center, to ask how to get to the airport by public transportation. Turned out, there was no direct way to get there except by taxi, which I was not willing to take. Plus I was running low on KM.

    I left, and walked around Old Town for a bit. Then got some lunch, and went to the internet cafe, to take care of some business. Next, to the Latin Bridge, where I would hop on the trolley, taking me towards the airport. I had to stand the whole time, and kept looking at my map, as I was a little anxious of how long it may take to get there.

    There was a teen girl, who offered help as she noticed me looking at my map. And she spoke fluent English, as she was heading the same area. When the trolley got to the stop, we got off, and the girl told a man who was heading towards the airport, to show me the way. I followed the man, walking through a residential neighborhood. Probably not a good idea, as I was dealing with a stranger who spoke no English. When getting towards the busy street, he pointed the way I should go, and we parted ways.

    I walked to the airport, having a little trouble getting there, as there was no sidewalk to walk on. Went one way, then another, and got to the airport. Once inside, I was relieved that I made it, and checked in, with enough time. Then went through security, and to my gate. I did donate the rest of my KM in the box.

    I slept while waiting, and woke up when it was boarding time. Got on the plane, and had the row to myself. The plane took off, leaving Bosnia-Herzegovina, and heading to Slovenia.

    Photos & Videos


  • 24Nov 2011

    44 Heading Into Prison 11/24/2011 Slovenia —

    Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Coming from Sarajevo, the plane landed in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I got off quickly, and tried to get on the local bus. But I just missed it, so I ended up taking the airport shuttle. I got on it, and had to wait until it was filled up. Once that happened, then the airport shuttle finally took off.

    Along the way, I did see some nice scenery, reminding me more of Austria than either Croatia or Bosnia, despite the fact that Slovenia was once part of Yugoslavia. But it started to get dark, and the ride took a while, as the shuttle bus was dropping other people off at their hotel. By the time I got off, it was completely dark.

    I got off at the train station, and went to the tourist center inside the station. I asked for directions to the Celica Hostel, and got a map. Then walked out, trying to find it. I had a little trouble finding it, until someone pointed the way for me. I was able to find it, and went inside.

    I had to wait to check-in, as it felt like forever, for other people to check-in. I made 2 separate reservations for 2 different room types, since one of them was full for one of the nights, and I did not want to change hostels. I went to the room, which was the one with 3 beds, and got the top bed.

    Getting there would be a pain, as I had to use a ladder, with the bottom at the end of the other 2 beds. In other words, to go up and down, you may have to step onto the bed with people sleeping in them. Going up, it somehow caused a cut on my finger, which was bleeding. It did not hurt, but it was a bit messy. Then I looked around the hostel, as this used to be a prison. The room doors are prison gates, and the arrangement of beds is kind of interesting. Hard to describe, but this would be an interesting place to stay.

    Afterwards, I went out, to the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum, which was only a few buildings away. Finding the entrance was a little tricky, as I would be going around the square, checking each door. I did not see any sign pointing to the entrance, but only figured out where when I tried to enter through a restaurant.

    I got to the entrance, and went in with only 45 minutes. Ended up going in for free. I started on the 2nd level, then the 3rd level, zipping through all of them. Then the 1st level, which was a temporary exhibition on the tropical rainforests.

    The other 2 levels were permanent exhibitions, basically being about Slovenian folk culture, with costumes and various objects on display. And another being about other parts of the world. A lot to see, and looked a lot more interesting than the one in Croatia. Too bad that I did not have enough time to see this place, so no review.

    Leaving, I went to the market, to get something to eat. Then to the hostel, where I ate at the kitchen table on the top floor. Then had to do laundry, and bought a token from the front desk, to use the washing machine. Then got my clothes and washed them. I waited around, until it was time to put them in the dryer.

    I kept checking the dryer, as I was not sure how it worked. And I had a girl who kept bugging me if I was done. The dryer did not seem to work properly, and I took my clothes out and ended up hanging them in the room to dry.

    Feeling sick, I decided to go to bed early. Hope the rest would help.

    Photos & Videos


  • 25Nov 2011

    45 Sick In Bled 11/25/2011 Slovenia —

    Bled, Slovenia


    Getting up, I was actually feeling worse, as I was coughing now. I was sick on vacation, and wonder how did this happen? Just sucks big-time!!

    I went down to eat some breakfast, which was very nice. Then back to the room, where I had to pack up. I went to the front desk, to check out, then check in again. That was due to making 2 different reservations. I had my backpack in storage, then headed out.

    I stopped by the medical center, and the pharmacy, to get some pills for dry cough. Then headed to the bus station, which was located near the train station. Inside a small building, I went inside to buy the ticket, which only accepts cash. Then quickly hopped on the bus, which took off shortly after.

    I slept most of the way, and woke up when getting nearby the town of Bled. The scenery was nice, but hard to enjoy since I was feeling awful. The bus arrived, and I got off, and walked to Lake Bled. Starting to walk around the lake, going clockwise first, then counterclockwise for some unknown reason.

    Passed through a little forest, the views of the island got a lot better, with the sunlight being less of a factor. Also seeing the mountains in the distance. Passing by a pier, coming to Tito's Vila, which was the summer residence of Marshal Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia from the end of World War II to his death in 1980. It was not open, being the offseason. I remember reading about him in history class, and how he was Communist, but not the Soviet kind.

    As I walked, I was coughing and had a nagging nasal drip. Needless to say, my time in Bled was less fun than it could be. And I ran out of tissues, and luckily came to a market, to restock on tissues. Let's just say, it did get a little messy. I'll just leave it at that.

    I came to a boat, and hopped on, taking me to Bled Island. By then, I was feeling worse and could not enjoy the passing scenery. When the boat arrived, we had only about 40 minutes to see the island.

    I went up the steps, going around the church, to the other side, to the "marriage steps". Not really called that, just a name that I gave them. These steps is where the tradition of the groom to carry (or try to) his bride to the top, basically proving if they are "fit for marriage". I went up and down those steps, then to the House of the Chaplain, which is now a restaurant and gift shop. Walked through the gift shop, which looked historical. Then to the Church of the Assumption. Paid admission and entered.

    Looked around the church, at the main altar. In the middle of it, was a long rope that rings the bell. According to local superstition, if one can get the bell to ring 3 times on 1 Pull, their dreams can come true. Well, I tried to pull on the rope, and oh man, I barely moved it at all. It's just that hard. Yet, the woman after me, was able to get it to ring it once. Talk about embarrassing. I tried again, when everyone else left, but still no luck.

    Leaving the church, and looking at the building, I walked around the island, heading back to the boat. Everyone got back on the boat, and headed back. I was feeling worse, as I was starting to get a headache. Back on the mainland, I continued walking, completing one loop around the lake. I went to a nearby restaurant, where I ate a huge lunch.

    After lunch, I walked around town, looking for a pharmacy. I was able to find one, and had to buy more supplies. Then back towards the lake, and to St. Martin's Church. I went inside, sat down, and prayed that I would recover from this illness right away, as it's terrible to be sick while traveling.

    I went back out, and started up the journey to Bled Castle. But then, I decided not to, since I was feeling terrible, and it got dark. So I went to the bus stop, and hopped on the next bus back to Ljubljana. I tried to sleep and not cough during the ride.

    Once back, I went to the hostel, and went to my room, which only had 2 beds. I went to sleep early, needing the rest badly. And kept sleeping, hoping to get better.

    Photos & Videos


  • 26Nov 2011

    46 Last Day in Slovenia 11/26/2011 Slovenia —

    Ljubljana, Slovenia


    After sleeping a lot more, I did feel a little better. Since this was my last day in Slovenia, I had to start packing, and check out of the hostel. After getting ready, eating breakfast and doing the rest, I decided to check out officially when the time approaches. Probably because of access to nicer bathrooms.

    I went out, heading to Old Town. I went to Preseren Square, which is considered the center of Ljubljana. Named after the Slovenian poet who wrote the nation's national anthem. Near it, is the Triple Bridge, which as the name suggests, 3 bridges crossing the river.

    Looked around the square, seeing the various buildings, and the Christmas tree being put up. Then crossed one of the bridges to the Riverside Market. Located inside the colonnade, looking like some Greek structure. There was a cafe and places that sold souvenirs, meat, and baked goods. Then went inside, to the fish market, which was full of fresh seafood. Probably caught that day, it was really interesting to see the variety of things being sold.

    Next, I went to the Church of St. Nicholas, which is sometimes called the Ljubljana Cathedral or St. Nicholas Cathedral. I went to the front door, where I grabbed a head to go inside. Then I looked around at the church art. was once a Gothic church from the 12th century. Then it got replaced in the Baroque style in 1707.

    Afterwards, I went back out, passing by a cone, and went inside a building by the corner of the cathedral. To the basement, where there is a market hall, where vendors were selling things, like cheese, meat, and bread. I went through it, the back out, to the outdoor market.

    I went to the riverbank, for views of the river, seeing the Greek-like architecture. But checkout time was approaching, so I had to go back to Celica Hostel to do that, and not get charged extra. Made it on time, pack up my things, check out, and put my backpack in storage. Then back to Old Town, to Butchers' Bridge, seeing the sculptures on it. Walked across, going back to the outdoor market.

    Browsing through the market, seeing the various produce on sale. Then walked to the Dragon Bridge, which has statues of dragons, guarding the bridge, and built to mark the 40th anniversary of Franz Josef's rule of the Habsburg Empire.

    Afterwards, I stopped by a shop, to get something to eat. I got to try some cream cake, known as kremna rezina, which tasted good. I did some people-watching on this busy market day, even though it was very cold. After eating, I went to Town Square, seeing the column of the Fountain of the Three Carniolian Rivers and Town Hall. Then went inside Town Hall.

    Inside, there was a model of the town, and some artwork on the wall. Walking around, there was currently a display of works by one artist, who drew animals. I left, and crossed the Cobbler's Bridge, which was lined up with column. Then walked along the river, to the University Library, which did not look like one.

    As I turned the knob to enter the library, I noticed it was in the shape of a horsehead. It was done by Jose Plecnik, the architect who help build Ljubljana. Going inside, it looked like a museum. Up the stairs, to the actual library, which I could not go inside, since I was not a student of the University of Ljubljana. A nice place to look around though.

    Then back out, passing by Congress Square, to Preseren Square. Then got lunch at a McDonald, needing a warm place to rest. After that, I headed to Ljubljana Castle, on the top of the hill, above the city. I chose to walk up the hill, being cheap instead of taking the funicular. Not easy, but worth it. Reached a bridge, crossing it, and to the castle entrance.

    I entered the grounds, and looked around. It was foggy, but still visible enough to see the city from the top of the castle. Located high above the city, and probably dating back to Roman times. I would see the chapel and the museum there too.

    After visiting, I exited and passed by a small wedding, where the bride and groom were. Then went down a different way to ground level, heading to the City of the Museum of Ljubljana. It is the history museum on the city of Ljubljana, which in turn, would be the history of Slovenia as well. Very interesting museum, and while photography was not allowed, I still liked this place.

    After visiting the museum, I went straight to the train station, to buy a ticket for the next train to Zagreb. Once I bought it, I saw that I did not have much time left, so I hurried back to the hostel, to get my backpack. Then hurried back, and got confused trying to find the correct platform. And had to do that without crossing on the tracks directly. Not sure if it's allowed.

    But I was able to find it, and got on, just in time, all sweating, as I headed back to Croatia.

    Photos & Videos


  • 26Nov 2011

    47 Part 2 - Returning to Croatia 11/26/2011 Croatia —

    Zagreb, Croatia


    I had to deal with a border crossing, having to show my passport twice. I was back in Croatia, heading to Zagreb. Strange that this was my first time to this city, instead of a return trip, since my plan to be there on the first day was wiped out due to the stupid airport strike.

    Once there, I got a map, then rode the tram, heading to the correct stop to the hostel. I followed footprints, which was suppose to lead me to the Lika Hostel. But once I got there, I would have to call, even though it was within the hours of reception. Since I don't carry a cell phone, I would have to hop on the tram, and head to the bus station. But I could not find a pay phone, so I hopped on the next tram that came by. Only that it was the wrong one, as I noticed it took longer than usual to get to the train station. So I got off, and backtracked to the bus station. Then got on the right tram, to the train station.

    Once there, I saw some pay phones, but they required a phone card. I went to a newsstand to buy one, but the owner lady told me that they were really not working at all. But she would let me use her cell phone, and I finally got in contact with the owner. Very nice of her, and I should have thought of it myself, but I was too stubborn.

    So back on the tram, where I was being stared at by some kids, laughing at me. Never an easy feeling! I got off, and to the hostel. Finally checked in, and had to learn to use multiple keys in the place. Finally, after all that trouble!

    I went to the room, which I had to myself. Turned out to be a private room, which was nice. The whole place was good itself, just in a lousy location. As I looked around, I met an American, who has been traveling for months. A nice guy, as we talked for a little while. Then back to the room, and to sleep.

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  • 27Nov 2011

    48 Foggy Day 11/27/2011 Croatia —

    Zagreb, Croatia


    Getting up and ready, the first thing that I did, was go to the bus station, mainly to check for bus times and airport shuttle. Then bought a round-trip ticket to Plitivice Lakes National Park. With some time left to kill, I rode the tram to the city center, and finally getting a chance to see Zagreb.

    Arriving at Jelacic Square, named after national hero, Josip Jelacic. Walking down a street, I went through the Octagon shopping gallery, and came to the Trg Petra Preradovica, a square. Look around, then went through the shopping gallery, seeing the Octagon stained glass dome.

    Then to the funicular. Being cheap, I chose to walk up the steps, to the Gradec area. Once there, I got some good views of Zagreb, though not great, since it was foggy.

    Nearby was a building with a cannon in it, Burglars' Tower. Then walked up the street, seeing the Church of St. Catherine, and to the Museum of Broken Relationships. I remember this museum, from Vipin's review on TravBuddy, so I had to visit it. But that will have to wait. Luckily, I checked the hours and saw that it was open until 9 PM, so I would have time to see it when I got back.

    Continuing on, passing by another museum, I came to St. Mark's Square, looking around, and seeing the big Church of St. Mark, along with the parliament building known as the Sabor, and the prime minister's building. The prime minister's building was one of the few places in Zagreb that was hit during the 1991 war, as it is noticed with the orange tiled roofs. But Zagreb fared a lot better than Dubrovnik, which was a lot harder hit.

    It was time to head back to the bus station, so I went down the steps, then passed by Jelacic Square. Looked for a place to grab something to eat, but time was running out. I walked around, then rode the tram back to the bus station, and had to look for the terminal. I walked around the station, asking around where to board the buses. Then I got there, at the platforms, where I had to go to the 4th row. I got on, making it by a few minutes.

    The bus departed, leaving Zagreb, and headed for Plitvice Lakes National Park.

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  • 27Nov 2011

    49 Lower Lakes Letdown 11/27/2011 Croatia —

    Plitvički Ljeskovac, Croatia


    Leaving Zagreb, I rode the bus to Plitivice Lakes National Park, which took around 2 hours. I slept most of the way, and when I woke up, we were in a mountainous area. I had to ask a few times to make sure it was the right stop, and looked at the sky, seeing it was partly cloudy. So no worries about rain.

    I got off, and walked to Entrance 2. Paid child admission, which was what everyone paid this day, due to boats not running. I entered, and walked to the lake. This was where I got confused, as I was not sure which way to go. The dock was closed, so I took a left, onto paved road. This road was icy, as I almost slipped a few times. Also, my view of the lake was obscured. Something felt wrong, so I decided to backtrack, and somehow ended up outside the park. No idea how that happened, as I came to Entrance 2. So I went through it again.

    At the lake, I took a right, and walked on a trail along the lake. The scenery was okay, but so far, not great. And saw a boat running by. Again, something felt wrong, and I realized that I would miss the best part of the park, the Upper Lakes. I've seen it on TV, but very disappointing that I won't see it in person. The downside of off-season travel.

    I took a detour, to a boat dock. Saw a sign saying that it departs every hour to the Upper Lakes. There was one more, and I would have waited a long time. Also, not sure if any coming back, so I decided not to risk it. Back on the main trail, passing by little waterfalls.

    I came onto the boardwalk, seeing ice on the cliff walls, and to the Big Waterfall. Very nice to see, as I got closer. Then I decided to climb the steps to the sightseeing point for nicer views of the waterfall. The steps were very icy, and probably not a good idea on my part. And very steep. I got to the top, but the views were no better. So it was a waste of time.

    Going back down was harder, and I did slip, falling on my butt. Not too painful, but just a scare and getting dirty. Back at the bottom, it was time to head out, as nightfall was approaching. Walked on the boardwalk across the water, then up the hill, towards the exit at Entrance 1. Coming out, I admit, this visit was a disappointment, not seeing the best part of the park. And it was not clear on whether boats were actually running or not.

    So, was it worth the time, just for the Lower Lakes? I would have to say, no.

    I went to the bus stop, and ate some snacks as I waited. And I came across 2 girls, who I saw back in Slovenia. Just strange on this trip, I would see the same people in different places along the way. When the bus came, I got on, and headed back to Zagreb.

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  • 27Nov 2011

    50 Christmas Feel in Zagreb 11/27/2011 Croatia —

    Zagreb, Croatia


    Arriving back in Zagreb, I headed to Jelacic Square by tram. Once there, I saw that the square was crowded, and quite festive. There was the Christmas tree, and a concert of little girls singing in Croatian. I assume they were Christmas songs. Just music to my ears, to hear kids speak and sing in the local language. Even more so, when it's kids speaking to each other.

    I went to the McDonald's, and would see kids staring at me, and even making that mocking accent. I had to ignore, as I ordered food and ate my meal. Those same kids passed by me, but didn't look at me. Just felt too much like high school all over again.

    Afterwards, I headed to the square. By then, the concert was over. So I went to the hill, going up the steps, and to the Museum of Broken Relationships. I read about this place, when a review of this place by Vipin, was featured on TravBuddy. So I had to check it out myself.

    The Museum of Broken Relationships is basically what the name would suggest. A museum about relationships that went bad. There are objects on display, with a story to each of them, telling the story of how the relationship ended. There are objects, where the relationships ended either due to moving away or death. Some of them were sad, while others were either maddening or funny. It may sound like a joke, but I thought this was an enjoyable and unusual museum to visit.

    After spending about an hour in the museum, I went back down the hill, and to the square. With not much else to do, I headed back to the hostel, and started to pack up a little. Then met with the American, who was staying next door to me. He did have an impressive collection of phone cards, from his travels. But his room was smoky, as he smoked in there.

    I just packed up as much as I could, then went to sleep as early as possible. Hopefully, it will be enough sleep, and I will wake up on time.

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  • 28Nov 2011

    51 The End With Delay 11/28/2011 Croatia —

    Zagreb, Croatia


    Tough part is getting up really early, as I try to get as much sleep as possible on a bed. Once awake, I had to force myself to physically get off the bed, otherwise I would fall back to sleep. Getting ready, and packed up, I left the hostel and the key behind.

    I walked to the tram stop, where I waited nervously for 40 minutes, as there were none going my way while 9 have passed the opposite way. I did consider walking there, until the guy sitting there, told me that one was coming soon. I stuck around a little longer, and one did come. I hopped on, to the bus station. Once there, I got on the shuttle bus, taking me to the airport.

    At the airport, I checked in and just waited. I put the remaining kuna in the donation box. When it was time to board, I had to ride a bus to the plane, which I got on. Taking off, to Frankfurt, Germany. It took a while to land, probably due to the fog. But it did, not that it mattered, as I had enough time to connect.

    I had to go through security again, and this was the only time my money belt would cause the alarm to go off. That was weird, since that never happened to me before. After that, I just waited, and would deal with a delay.

    Once it was time, I got on board, and returned to Philly. The trip was over, and while I did have a very good time, this was not a good time of year to travel. That's mainly due to the limited daylight, as the sun sets really early. It also did not help that I got sick, or had to deal with a little racism.