We're officially out of the Schengen area, and our 90 day Balkan adventure started in relaxing fashion with a week of sun and surf in Split, Croatia. Throw in a visit from Alison, our lovely friend from the UK, and we were in full-on vacation mode with beach lounging all day and wine sipping all night.
Leaving our hedonism behind, we crossed into our 16th country of the trip- scorching hot Bosnia and Herzegovina. We toured Mostar, the cultural heart of Herzegovina and the capital, Sarajevo, a place this farm kid from Minnesota never imagined she would see. Experiencing Ramadan in Bosnia, a predominantly Muslim country was an awe inspiring experience which I will share in a future post.
After this week of peaceful clam, we survived a heart pounding trip to Belgrade, Serbia across the mountains of Bosnia in a van driven by a young Serbian lead foot. After 6.5 hours of lurching and near misses, I removed my home made seat belt (I'm sure it's perfectly legal to tie it in a knot), and kissed the ground. Belgrade was also brutally hot and for the first time we skipped going out a couple of days in favor of our air conditioned apartment.
The Hot Town: Summer in the City tour continues with our current stop: Bucharest, Romania. These former Eastern bloc countries do not look very pretty in the harsh, unrelenting sun, so we try and catch the sights during the early morning and dusk.
I've continued to muse on the mundane, yet oddly interesting things I'm experiencing on this trip because... I'm just that kind of writer.
Lucky you, dear reader.
The Big Sleep
If you are chronically sleep deprived, I insist you stop reading immediately and take a nap. I haven't been this well rested since I was a child, and even more thrilling, my sleep is also child-like: deep, blissful and full of vivid dreams. I have a history of sleep walking and talking, but nary a sign of it since the trip started. Getting enough sleep has improved my overall well-being and, to Perry's delight, I have a much sunnier travel disposition, weathering annoyances far better than ever before.
No Toast for the Wicked
When people ask me what I miss about home, the answer 'toast' is not what they expect to hear. I'm not a picky eater, but damnit people, I love a slice of toast with my eggs and coffee. Since we left the UK, I've rarely had access to a toaster, forcing me to experiment with various oven and stovetop methods. In southern Europe, sliced bread doesn't really exist so breakfast is whatever the local bread is. Don't get me wrong, it's great bread, but it's not toast. Guess I'm preparing for Asia where rice will replace bread altogether.
I love how everyone gets his/her own blanket here in Europe. Even on a Queen size bed, there will be two separate comforters. Talk about a relationship saver- no more arguments over hogging the blankets, no more unpleasant cold blast of air when your beloved flips over, no more scratchy toenails. Your own blanket = Utopia.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Sorry to paint such a broad stroke here, but Europeans LOVE to smoke everywhere, including indoors. I've lived with no indoor smoking for so long, it's shocking that there are parts of the world that still allow it. I'm getting used to it in restaurants, but ubiquitous smokers create problems for me in other ways. I sat on a 2.5 hour bus ride to Sarajevo recently where the two older gents behind me talked loudly the entire way. I'm not against good natured banter but MAYBE when you smoke 2 packs a day for 50 years and MAYBE when you last visited the dentist was when Tito was in power, you MIGHT want to speak less so my eyes don't water when your breath cloud surrounds me.
(Un) Happy Feet
I can't stay on top of my foot game.
It really bothered me at first, but I have come to accept that callused heels and hard skin fragments (ew!) from healing blisters is my new normal. At first, it was just calluses which no one had to see since I was wearing boots and sneakers all the time. Suddenly, it was summer and in preparation to break out my Birkenstock Gizeh sandals, I had a pedicure which removed said calluses. I showed off my freshly coiffed toes the next day and that was the last time I had pretty feet. Without the hard skin on my heels, I ended up with horrible blisters of by the end of that day. Now, I have calluses on top of the healing blisters so everything is tough now, just BUTT UGLY. I don't dare get a proper pedicure for fear of another round of blisters. Not easily deterred, I tried my usual home remedy- attack feet with file in the shower, followed by heavy cream and socks, but NO DICE. If you know me, you know I'm obsessed with having good feet, but sadly, they are going to have to serve function over fashion.
Walks Far Woman
I'm proud to say my feet are shot because of the daily mileage Perry and I are accumulating. Despite summer temperatures, we are still clocking in around 8-10 miles per day and our total distance in three months of travel is... drum roll, please....649 miles. This is further than the distance from the top of Minnesota to the bottom (400 miles) or the equivalent of walking from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Akron, Ohio. Or from Minneapolis to Lincoln, Nebraska and back. Take your pick.
And with that, I'm going to bed. All this talk about physical exertion is making me tired so I'm going to get under my very own blanket, have a blissful night's sleep and dream that my feet will be transformed by the time I wake up.
Next time on Gobsmacked: How to Spend Ten Days in Slovenia