Page 14 of sapere18 Travel Blog Posts

South America » Brazil » São Paulo » São Paulo June 24th 2006

While pretending to do post-grad work in Coimbra, Portugal over thirteen years ago, I shared a ramshackle room on the Largo de Sé Velha. It was decorated with grainy floorboards that warped and creaked with every carefully placed footstep. His name was Martin Reiger. My German companion lacked the linguistic acumen I hoped to latch onto in order to maximize my time away from the barren and cavernous classrooms of the University of Coimbra. One of my most vivid memories of this period were the countless hours Martin would put forth to learning Portuguese; his was practically non-existent. He relentlessly attacked grammar books and his vocabulary lists like, well, a German would. Over time Martin warmed up to me and our friendship continues today. My fascination with Portugal has never subsided. I often frequent local Portuguese ... read more

Europe » Serbia » West » Belgrade August 23rd 2005

I have to be fair although it’s nowhere near as fun. I am only here for one day, not very much time to shape a conclusion of the city. Moreover, it is Sunday. As with most European cities, only the minimum of shops is open. As it is midsummer, half the city is in Budva, either burning itself on an uncomfortable and dirty beach or recovering from their hangovers from the night before. It is practically the sole destination promoted in every travel agency’s front window. A few Serbs may have accidentally gone to Turkey. But they were not paying attention and missed the special week’s offer for hotel and entertainment on the Montenegrin coast. If Belgrade were any more lifeless, everyone remaining in this very ordinary metropolis would be driving around in hearses. Extremely ordinary ... read more
Worse than The Commercial
Well, Well, Well
We Did This?

Europe » Macedonia » Skopje August 18th 2005

Much to my surprise, getting out of Albania was rather trouble-free. I managed to board the bus mildly conscious for a five-in-the-morning departure for Korçe. Having arrived a few minutes early and aware that Albanians share the same concept of punctuality as the rest of their Mediterranean neighbors (which is zero), I darted off for an espresso only to be told to get right back on the bus immediately. The driver saw no other passengers this steamy morning and decided it was time to go. We were out of Berat before 4:50. Go figure. The bus to Korçe takes a circuitous route, in an almost 180-kilometer clockwise crescent. According to maps, there exists a road that covers that distance in more or less ninety kilometers. But when I inquired why no bus traveled the apparently shorter ... read more

Europe » Albania » West » Berat August 15th 2005

For every reason to steer clear of Tirana, there exist two to go to Berat. An undiscovered jewel three hours south of the capital, Berat welcomes you with both the same Albanian hospitality as before, but in more majestic and sanitary surroundings. Mysteriously, much more trash seems to find its way into bins and dumpsters that appear out of nowhere. While indeed ditches and the riverbank are defiled with non-biodegradable garbage, it is only a fraction of scenes further north. This permits the eyes to concentrate on Berat’s real attraction: the white-faced village communities perched on both mountainsides of the valley and the imposing walled castle with town located within. The two hundred or so dwellings that make up the castle village are home to about 1,200 residents, who enjoy life in a quaint, sheltered, and ... read more
Brining Home Groceries?
Touching Image
Olive Groves

Europe » Albania » West » Tirana August 13th 2005

Some European cities beg to be explored. The less quiet, romantic, and dimly lit back streets of Lisbon and Budapest come to mind. Others cities, however, instill a deep desire to remain in your hotel room with the door locked and all windows shut tight. Tirana pertains to the latter. Albania’s capital does very little to diminish the already horrendous first impression the northern city of Shkodër delivered. Hot and layered with a coating of chalky grime, Tirana only confirms that Albania is a third-world country in an otherwise modern Europe. Overcrowded and polluted with an endless blaring of horns from backed-up traffic, only a rare cool and rainy day in summer provides relief from the loads of fermenting trash at every street corner that overflows from neglected dumpsters. No matter what the weather, there is ... read more
All Aboard!
Exiting Train Station
Refuge in Tirana

Europe » Albania » North » Shkodër August 12th 2005

No buses run to Albania. In fact, when inquiring at the eyesore of a bus station in Pogdirica, Montenegro’s flat and characterless capital, I received the same reaction for going to Albania as I did for Moldova while in Odessa: “Why do you want to go there?” I took a look around and resisted the retort that Pogdirica was no gem, either. If Montenegro is to separate from Serbia (and we have seen how well the Serbs take it when that happens) Pogdirica will need a serious facelift to be taken seriously as a European capital. Unlike the thick line that indicates the route on local road maps, the twenty-eight kilometer taxi ride from the bus station started on a two-lane highway that soon enough was no more than a gravel path into the mountains. It ... read more
Back Streets

Europe » Montenegro » Kotor August 12th 2005

Having abandoned all hope for a meaningful stay in Budva, I am now in a much better place. Then again, any place is better than Budva. Barrow, Alaska would be better. For Montenegro, Kotor is that town. Though, its popularity with visitors and limited number of beds almost had me call of my entire interest in exploring the area and head elsewhere. All hotels within walking distance have been booked for months and have no vacancies until early October. So said the lady at the reception desk at the Hotel Fjord, with a snicker and dismissive shake of her head as if to say, Enjoy sleeping in a dumpster tonight, you idiot. Nemad approached me around nine o’clock in the morning by the main gate of Kotor’s Stari Grad. I could not have been hard to ... read more
Kotor Marina
Walled City
Morning Stroll

Europe » Montenegro August 11th 2005

I have been fortunate enough not to have made too many poor decisions since leaving Ternopil for Odessa. Coming to Budva was one of them, however. I should have listened to the three young French tourists who implored me not to come to Budva. Yet, I said that it would be OK since I needed a more mindless destination. I wanted to kick back for a while and look at the Adriatic. Anyway, I was too busy correcting them on every ill-conceived and tedious opinion they had about the U.S. and their country’s increasing irrelevance in world affairs to get the message that Budva was to be avoided. No more than a seaside touristic hell that sucks you into to its marvelous backdrop of forest green mountains, you need only check your brain in at the ... read more

Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina » South » Mostar August 9th 2005

Anticipation has run very high about my visit to Mostar. Its Stari Most, or Old Bridge, is its eternal symbol of the link between the city’s Muslim and Croat communities. My excitement and pace picked up during my brisk walk to the center as I envisioned the impact of casting my eyes upon it for the first time. But that eagerness propelled my right by it, as I missed the right turn and continued a few more hundred yards, almost completely out of the downtown area. I realized I had gone too far only because the density of tourists had become more sparse. Moreover, the bridge I did manage to reach was a metal monstrosity for motor traffic. This was embarrassing, having come all this distance to miss my intended target and to have to double ... read more
Cold Blue Below
Historic Icon
Can't Escape The Past

Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina August 8th 2005

Planning to leave Sarajevo in search of a Bosnia less plagued by tourists and bullet holes, I was eager to veer off the tourist-crushed Sarajevo-Mostar-Dubrovnik path. I ran into the same smug tour guide form two days prior and finally posed him those questions that timidity had put a stop to. He was very forthcoming and honest and I admit now to liking him a lot more. Of course, this has a lot to do with our agreeing with each other on our interpretation of recent events in Bosnia and the way they transpired. So, for no other reason than his fervent conviction that I would most enjoy it, I have taken his suggestion and have come to Travnik, a two-and-a-half hour ride northwest of Sarajevo. This was a good move: I received some accurate information ... read more
Castle Ruins
Castle Minaret
A More Rural Sarajevo

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