Jayce, Pliva Lakes, and Travnik

Mill houses at Pliva Lakes

This might be the two glasses of affordable wine and jet lag talking but I really like Bosnia so far. I slept almost a complete night last night so I hope I am well rested for today: a day tour of areas north of Sarajevo.

Good morning Sarajevo

We start the tour by visiting the Pliva lakes. One of the advantages of visiting off season is that we have the lakes almost completely to ourselves. One disadvantage is that it is chilly and overcast. During the summer people swim and do water sports here. We only have a short stop but it is beautiful for the time we visit.

The highlight of the area is the mill houses on the lake. They were once used for local housing but now they are mostly a tourist attraction.

I also learn about the fun but political Bosnian music group Dubioza Kolektiv. I am really enjoying their tunes while we go from location to location

We then walk the old town of Jajce to the Jajce fortress (Yie-sz to pronounce, I only include this because I had no idea). It is the best preserved fortress from the former Bosnian Kingdom. The Bosnian kingdom lasted about 100 years around 1300’s to 1400’s. We enjoy nice views of the city of Jajce.

We then visit the old Bear Tower, named so because the walls were strong as a bear.

We walk down stairs to the catacombs that were never actually used for their intended purpose – to bury Hrvoje Vukcic Hrvatinic and his family. It was used as a church. Notable is the cross symbol on the lower level accompanied by the moon and the sun. These two symbols often appear in Bosnian history as they tried to mix the former pagan symbols with Christianity symbols.

We walk into the newer part of town and see two memorials to people fallen in the war of Yugoslavia. We have lunch at a local restaurant where I finally try Cevapi. The bread is the most amazing thing I’ve had in a while. I added the cream cheese on the side and it takes like a combination of sour cream and butter. Very rich.

We walk over to the Jajce waterfall. My guides insist this place is even more beautiful in the summer (it is Spring). I don’t see how it can get much better than this.

Our next stop is at Travnik where we visit another fortress, this town is very important in the origins of the Bosnian Kingdom. It is in the museum we learn about all the different eras of Bosnia from prehistoric, to the Ottoman, Austo-Hungarian, Yugoslavia, to present day. One display is traditional dress from the three distinct ethic groups: Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. We learn about an annual scrambled egg festival.

We stop for Bosnian coffee, not unlike Turkish coffee if you are familar. This place near the water has a special where the cofffee comes with a cigarette – smoking can be considered a national pastime here, it is still wildly popular.

We then visit an old restored mosque. It is very nice inside. I forgot my scarf today but luckily they had some to borrow.

Coffee shop in the mosque building

After our last stop it is the long ride back to Sarajevo to complete the tour. As always I wish I had more time at all of the stops but the tour is a great introduction to a beautiful country.

For dinner I choose a small but cute restaurant. I didn’t try the Travnik cheese earlier so I want to try that and other local cheeses but knowing I cannot handle all that cheese at once I settle on only the one. It is a feta like cheese. Very salty but good. For my main course I order a squid ink seafood risotto. I am also very happy with my affordable glasses of local wine. It is raining and I am jet lagged so I head to bed after dinner.

It is a nice full long day in Bosnia & Herzegovina .

Back at it again

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzgovina

Having to hurry up tonight to document my thoughts because I am in a fog of lack of sleep and jet lag due to my twenty something hour three flight journey to where I am now: Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I’d say my flight was pretty much uneventful except the slight delay on the first leg where I had an already tight connection to my first international leg. I did stop to use the bathroom but only because the rest of the time I ran to the gate. I make it just in time only to see that yes I am in a middle seat for the entire nine hour flight. Booking through United Airlines I had no way to choose my seats for two out of three flights. The bottom line is I survived. I barely slept on the flights though so I am hoping that when I go to bed tonight I will have a long and rejuvenating sleep.

This is the start of the “third” round of traveling around the world. Unlike my two previous rounds I will be sticking to one continent this time around – Europe. I will also concentrate on Eastern Europe meaning the Balkan/former Austrian-Hungarian empire with some northern countries thrown in. I’m excited because while I’ve seen a good amount of Europe all these countries are very new to me.

Spot that ignited World War I

I take the bus from the airport into town because it is so cheap and convenient. I don’t know what stop to get off but follow everyone else when they exit. The walk is short to the apartment/hotel I rented.

At the rental apartment there is no one in yet to greet me but someone does buzz me in. There is also a key out for me and my door is unlocked. I drop my bags and drag myself out to eat. I’m famished. I originally wanted cevapi but decided on something else instead. I eat dinner and wander around town and buy a container of way too much Turkish delight.

Local white wine
Sarma or stuffed cabbage
Bosnian style pita bread

It is a delightful yet touristy town from my first observations. I am looking forward to exploring more of it when I am well rested. From the looks of some in winter coats I should feel colder than I do but I am comfortable enough walking around in my short sleeved shirt. I‘ll probably still carry a jacket around just in case the weather finally catches up to my body. In the sun it feels pretty darn warm though.


I have one more free breakfast at my hotel since I am still enjoying the rate my friend booked. My friend is out the door when I am still half sleeping and I am sad to see her go. I have one more day in Dublin and today I am taking a day trip to the peninsula of Howth. It is supposed to be pretty out there and worthy of a day trip.

Lobby of my hotel

I leave at 8:30 and walk 30 minutes to the Dart station (Dublin Pearce). On the way I walk through a park I have yet to walk through. I definitely need to spend more time in Dublin. I will return.

When I get off the train I consult the trail map and admire all the boats in the water.

I pick a trail that walks the coast and go on my way. The trails are color coded and most follow the same path for a long while but mine suddenly disappears. I follow one of the other ones for a while until I get near the lighthouse and then there is a visible exit to a parking lot. I decide to head back that way. I follow the roads back into town. I want to head in to catch some fresh crab and lobster for lunch.

I am disappointed to find that I can find no fresh crab or lobster anywhere today. I am assuming they are not in season. I decide to get lunch at King Sitric Seafood Bar, the place I had picked out for today anyway. I enjoyed a snack of oysters and a cheese crab dish thing (not fresh crab apparently).

I walk around the rest of town. Noticing no crabs available anywhere. I am still a little hungry and intrigued about the half and half fish and chips (half traditional fish and half smoked fish). I wouldn’t say it tastes bad because under normal circumstances I would like it but I am absolutely sick of greasy fish and chips. I have a very hard time eating it. Unfortunately I end up tossing most of it.

After already getting the most out of the town for the day I head back by train to Dublin.

At the start of the day I had planned to come back from Howth and see the Epic museum and go see an evening Celtic show. None of that is happening. The most I can do is walk back through town, get ice cream and get another look at St Patrick cathedral.

The next morning I find my flight already delayed so I switch my itinerary to fly into a different airport in the USA.

I have one more whisky at the airport. I realize I have already gone through customs here in Dublin so I don’t need to do so in the USA. I could have carried on some bottles from duty free all the way back home if I really wanted too. I am not sure why I didn’t pick up some bottles of local whisky.

I going home for a month or so. I have a music festival, a friend coming into town, a grand birthday to celebrate in New Orleans at the French Quarter Fest, and hope to catch up with some friends and family back home before I go out to travel again.

After two months what have I learned?

I am heading home after two months of traveling.

What have I learned from this go around of traveling, because really for me traveling is about learning and growing and not necessarily relaxation.

  • I can no longer stay in moist climates or moldy/moist lodging for too long or I will have sinus issues.
  • Some people’s idea of paradise can be hell for others – Bali. There are plenty of good things about Bali but for me the bad outweighed the good.
  • Even with my broken body and advanced age I can still do many things with time and patience (surfing). Imagine what I could have accomplished if I didn’t get sick during my surf week!
  • I value my alone time but I also don’t mind much having travel companions. In fact it is quite nice.
  • I am amazed of how friendly and accepting people can be outside of the USA. At home I feel invisible most of the time outside of my friend group or network. While traveling people see me and are generally interested in me. It is a good feeling and makes me try to come out of my shell to reciprocate. 
  • Many of my “issues” are due to the standard American lifestyle and diet. Over the weeks of traveling I noticed my need for over the counter anti-acid medicine and topical pain cream lessened and almost disappeared. I hope I don’t go home a return to like it was before.

Catch up with you soon when I am back on the road.

Taking a ride on the Paddywagon

I’ve already taken a couple of bus tours in Ireland and while doing so I’ve noticed the Paddywagon tour buses look much more fun that the tours I am on. For today my friend has booked us one of these tours. We are heading to Rock of Cashel, Cork City and Blarney Castle.

Our first stop is at Rock of Cashel, a place of religious significance in Ireland. St Patrick came here to try to convert a king to christianity. Today the rock are ruins that are fun to look at. It’s cool to wander around and wonder how it looked during its time.

Rock of Cashel

The second stop is at Blarney Castle. Blarney castle is basically an old medieval castle. People come for the beautiful lure of the castle, the nice grounds around the castle and the most popular Blarney Stone. The legend is that if one kisses the stone they get the gift of gab, or ability to speak with eloquence. I don’t know about all that but I waited in a pretty long line to kiss the stone and not sure much has changed with me. My friend decided to forgo it all and I don’t blame her, who in their right mind would kiss a stone that millions of others kiss. Anyway I am here and I am doing it. As I wait in the long line I admire the castle but it would be nicer to see it without a line snaking through it. I get closer to the top and ask these two girls near me to take my picture figuring they would do a decent job since I see them taking other photos of each other. However at the last minute the man in front of me, also by himself, wants to work out an agreement that we take each others pictures. I reluctantly agree. They do sell photos here of the kiss but I want my own instead. When it is time for the guy to go do the thing he freaks out and cannot do it. We wait there for him to gain his composure which he never does. You see you need to lay on your back and lean your head over while one of the men lower you down. I can see how some would find this whole thing scary but I just turn off the fear switch and do stupid stuff like this so it is no sweat to me. Did I mention it is raining the whole time so everything around is like wet? He decides not to do it so I give him my phone making him at least hold up his part of the bargain. The whole thing happens so fast but I think I am really good at this and have reached down low. I pop back up and my guy says to me “I’m sorry I forgot”. What?!? He forgot to take my picture, his one job? I am annoyed and he is still up there contemplating everything and I resolve to buy the photo the castle takes. He eventually gives up and goes back down. I buy my photos since they are not too terrible anyway. Since I spend so much time in line I basically have no time left to explore the grounds. I head to the bathrooms to meet my friend and return to the bus. While I wait for her I look at photos on my phone and realize he did actually take some pictures. They aren’t the best but he wasn’t totally unsuccessful. Now I feel bad for being annoyed since his anxiety about the whole thing problem had him all out of sorts (plus language barriers). I’ve been there with the anxiety so I know. I feel fortunate that I am able to control my anxiety most of the time these days.

This is another I could have skipped the lunch days. We stop for lunch and the guide makes it seem like they’ve held some space for us at this upcoming restaurant so we can get in and out very quickly. What we find is an extremely busy restaurant packed with diners and possibly other tour groups. It is a buffet with a line out the door. However it is not an all you can eat, it is more cafeteria style where you pick out your main dish and sides. We are here for the long haul so I decide to eat. It is expensive and way too much food. I should have opted for a side dish like my friend. We finish early but have to wait around because the line was so long that some in our group just got their meals. While we wait my friend plays bus driver.

We finalize our day by a stop in Cork. We don’t have much time in cork because our long lunch. The roads are torn up in town and things don’t look too pretty today. I already know I am going to have to return another time to really see it. We just pop into a pub for a drink because its all we have time for.

We do stop at one more pub before we get back closer to Dublin. We sit down and chat with some girls from our tour and have a drink.

Soon we head back to town. Overall the tour is fun but the second half feels rushed. This is where a car would come in handy. I definitely plan to come back and do Ireland properly by car.

A late night Italian dinner is in the agenda. My friend is leaving tomorrow and I’m on my own again for another day. However I am heading back to the USA too. I will be taking a break from traveling to do some stuff back home. But first tomorrow is Howth. More on that later.

Day in Dublin

Trinity College Library

My friend S is still in town and we do a great job of not overdoing the fun so we can get in a fair share of sightseeing. Today we are exploring Dublin. What better way than book a hop-on hop-off bus?! We reserve a ticket to see the book of Kells and Trinity College Library this afternoon as well. Luckily we did because it is completely sold out for the day by the time we get there.

We follow the bus around its path deciding we can stop at one or two stops and still make our Book of Kells time. First stop is some historic pubs were we stop to get a snack at one.

General Post Office
Molly Malone statue

We enter into the book of Kells exhibit and learn all about this ancient text. We learn how the colored ink is made and we learn of the meaning of different symbols. The book is basically a book of a couple gospels of the New Testament but in elaborate visual detail.

Next we visit the library at trinity college. They are in the process of removing all the books to preserve them. Fortunately we get to see the library with some of the books still in place.

We take our hop on hop off tour for a little longer and end up on the other side of the river where we come upon the Jameson distillery. Unable to get tickets ahead of time we pop in to see if they talk walk ins and they do. We get a included Jameson drink and start our tour. The tour ends with a sampling. We enjoy hanging out at the bar in the front for a little bit.

Finally we end the evening at the Cobblestone, known for its local Irish music. It is impossibly packed but we wait it out and score two seats. We can’t really view the band but we enjoy the music just the same. I am surprised we stay as long as we do because of the thick crowds but we do have a limit and call it a night.

We have another long day tour scheduled tomorrow. Nite nite.