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Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

April 14, 2014

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Croatia was a country that I always especially wanted to visit during the spring or summertime when the trees would all be in bloom and everything would be green. But, life doesn’t always work out exactly according to our plans, so when the opportunity came up to visit during March, I agreed. Of course I was excited to visit this country that I had heard was so beautiful, but I was still slightly disappointed that it wouldn’t be in its “prime” while we were there. In fact, due to high water levels, half the park was even closed and off limits to us =( [they adjusted the entrance price accordingly]. The upside was that the place was practically deserted, which meant we had plenty of space to wander and take photos without others crowding in the way. Of course that also meant that most of the cafes, etc were all closed. And it was rainy. And cold. But we survived and really enjoyed it. I definitely want to go back again sometime when everything is green. Much better for photography, I think.  Plus it’s really hard to get good photos while juggling an umbrella, a bag, and trying to keep the raindrops off the camera lens.
But, here are some “dead” views of Plitvice Lakes. You probably don’t see it like this too often in photos. ;)

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These winding steps take you down into a cool cave and out through to the lakes

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Looking down at the cool boardwalk that lets you walk out over the water

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Heading down into the cave

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Looking out on the way down

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We couldn’t go visit these falls due to the high water levels, so had to be content with viewing them from the boat

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These little ladder-looking things were placed at various places around the park due to the high water levels. At some points we were walking over water on them.

 

 

 

 

Back to Ljubljana, Slovenia

April 11, 2014

After our short side trip to Bled, it was back to Ljubljana for one more night before heading over to Croatia.

We brought the rain from Bled back with us to the capital and spent the evening dodging the rain and wandering the downtown area looking for places that were still open [everything closes SO early in Slovenia!]. The next morning we took the cable car up to the castle before catching an afternoon train over to Croatia. The view of Ljubljana from the castle, as well as the short video presentation on the history of it, are both worth the price of admission.

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Little cafes along the waterfront

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A rainy night in Ljubljana

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Views on the way up to the castle

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Looking down at the castle courtyard

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Alll the steep steps we climbed to get to the top!

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Inside the castle museum

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Such an interesting and somewhat confusing entrance to the castle

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One of the most interesting church doors I have ever seen – it was 3D too!

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Interesting and fun winter wear for a water fountain =)

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So long, beautiful Slovenia! I hope I get to see more of you again in the future!
Next up: Croatia!

 

 

Bled, Slovenia

April 4, 2014

While in Ljubljana, my friend and I took a short side trip over to Bled. We were surprised that we showed up just in time to watch their Carnival parade! It was a grey, misty day, with rain from time to time, but it was still a nice little trip. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it up to the cliffside castle due to all of the recently fallen trees that blocked the path and caused the city to close the entrance.

A few pictures from the day:

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

March 24, 2014

A few weeks ago a friend and I flew from Moscow over to Ljubljana, Slovenia for a 10 day trip around the Balkans. It was such a nice time away, so interesting, informative, and fun.

We only spent a couple of days in Slovenia before heading over to Croatia, so the only cities we spent any time in were the capital, Ljubljana (Loo-b-yana) and Bled. We happened to show up in both cities just in time for their Carnival celebrations, so that added some fun to each city. This was my first experience with “couch surfing” and I have to say that it was a positive one.

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Welcome to Slovenia. Now, be weird. )

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Love locks abound, the whole world over.

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The lights on the bridge made the river a pretty green color

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This bank, at night, made me smile just to look at. Isn’t it fun?

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Graffiti pics seemed to be the theme of the trip

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See?

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Even the trash cans weren’t safe from the art

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Metelkava…an interesting place during the day…and an even more interesting place at night

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The Slovenian flag and me =) My 31st country.

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Little creatures on their way to the Carnival parade

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I could have spent all day just photographing outfits – too bad the people in Slovenia didn’t really like their pictures being taken, so I had to sneak shots.

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Dried flowers for sale

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Spring has come to Slovenia!

 

 

 

Quick update

March 17, 2014

So…of course there is lots to update you on, isn’t there always? And of course I never do. Ha.

Just got back last week from a 10 day trip around some of the former Yugoslavia countries and hopefully will update soon as well as post some pictures. We had an amazing time!

In other news…who knows what’s going on around here these days. Or…what will be going on, I should say. Interesting times to be living in Moscow [ok, when is it not an interesting time to live in Moscow? Ha.] Was just reflecting on the fact that I have only been here just over one year. That’s it. ONE year. That’s such a short amount of time, and yet SO MUCH has been packed into that year, it feels like so much longer [in a good way]. It’s hard to believe that after this year [or sooner?] I might not live here anymore. I don’t even want to think about that. =(

It’s amazing how just one year can change you so much and bring so much adventure! It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago my life was so different, so normal, ha.

Till next time!

Today’s tidbits

February 24, 2014

One thing I love about Moscow? There is an аптека (pharmacy) on practically every corner. Seriously. No googling “nearest CVS/Walgreens” needed here! If you don’t live next to one, there is surely one (or ten) on your daily route! Today I set out to walk to the one near my apartment. I knew right where it was, since I had been there once, AND the bus stop just outside is simply named “аптека” so I hear it every day as well as I ride past it. Well, I walked to the store that I just knew it was located next to, and it wasn’t there! I kept walking, so confused. Where was it? Could it have closed? I walked farther. Then turned around and headed back, thoroughly confused. And then I spotted it. It was not exactly where I had remembered it, but was set back behind where I had thought it should be. [I will definitely remember for next time]. When I walked in, a lady behind the counter called me up and as I stooped to look through her little window [think bank teller window], I pushed through a little piece of paper on which I had carefully written “Тетрациклиновая мазь,” just as my nurse friend had told me. She rattled off something in Russian and I had no idea what she was asking. I gathered she was asking which kind I needed, but I didn’t know there would be options, so I responded simply with a Russian “I don’t know.” To which she smiled and made a face like “how can you not know?” I think she was asking if I needed an oral or topical antibiotic, but I am not entirely sure. I just pointed to my toe and she went off to get it. When she brought it back and told me the price I was shocked. Surely this was not the antibiotic that my friend had told me to get! I reached in and looked at the box. It looked almost exactly like what had been written on the paper, minus the last “овая”, but I was pretty sure that didn’t matter as I figured it was just an adjective ending. She said something in Russian and nodded as if to say “yes, that’s what you wanted.” So I paid the 15 rubles that she had asked for, and that was written on the box, and left. How could an antibiotic cost only fifty cents? I am still shocked at the price, but my friend confirmed that yes, some medications here are very cheap. I googled it to see what it’s used for, and it does appear to be what I need, so we’ll see what happens. I think my toe is looking better already!

[My roommate went to the pharmacy yesterday and brought me back some balsam liniment that she said would help my toe. It cost 200 rubles (6 dollars), but my friend said that won't help. I'm still surprised that what I did need cost so much less than what I didn't need, ha].

(I know, I sound like such an old lady talking about medical stuff, gah. The adventures of medical problems overseas just brings it out in me, I can’t help it. So thankful though for good health this entire last year. I can’t imagine dealing with more difficult things over here!)

After the pharmacy, I went up to a lesson before needing to run some errands for my upcoming trip. While we were playing and such, the little girl decided to name one of the butterflies [from our storyboard/cling-on set] “Jesus Christ” and then proceeded to ask me to provide his speaking parts as one of the dinosaurs wanted to eat him, oh my. Talk about feeling very sacrilegious! At least she didn’t tell me she was Jesus, like she has in the past. This girl…

Next up on today’s agenda was to find the only Bath and Body Works in Moscow and get some travel sized body wash for my trip. Thankfully it was easy to find the mall, considering it was one I had never been to before. I’ve been here over a year and the malls still never cease to amaze me! They are so modern and fancy and have such exquisite stores and merchandise. I just wish it wasn’t all so stinkin’ expensive! I would have THE most legit wardrobe ever if it was cheaper. Seriously. They know how to do fashion here and it’s amazing. After not finding a mall plan and wandering the entire 4 story mall, I finally looked it up on my phone and saw that it was located back down on the first floor. Ugh, how had I missed it? [Ok, it's the smallest BBW I've ever seen but still...]. After finding what I needed, I was definitely missing American BBW stores since these 3 travel sized items cost me over 15 dollars. And that’s with getting one of the gels for FREE! [so basically, 2 travel gels and the tiniest hand sanitizer I've ever seen for 15 bucks. Crazy.]
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After I got back on the metro to head home, I smelled the strong odor of nail polish and was surprised that someone was getting on the metro with wet nails! Then I realized who it was as a woman sat down right next to me. In her hand she was holding a bottle of nail polish, and she was admiring the nails on her other hand, which she had half smeared with the polish. Her nails looked awful and soon I realized she was crazy as she started carrying on a conversation with the empty space next to her (the woman who HAD been sitting there had quickly gotten up when this other woman sat down). I started worrying that she would get her wet nails near me, or start trying to talk to me. As soon as we stopped and I had the chance, I slid way over on the bench. =) Here’s a cell pic I snapped, trying to capture her crazy nails. Oh well, you can’t really see. [to top it off she was wearing a hilarious outfit and the most ridiculous eye makeup]

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Partway through the ride she pulled out this camera and started watching something on it.

After getting off at my metro stop, I wandered in to the mall to find a Megafone store to add money to my cell phone [phone plans here are basically all pre-paid/pay as you go plans, and I LOVE it. Plus they are cheap. Love that even more. Medicine and talking on the phone here = cheap]. I didn’t need to add money yet to my phone but my friend wanted me to add money so we can use it to call our hosts on our trip, so…one more trip thing done, yay. So much still to do. [You know you are getting ready to go on a trip when you start to have those “I have to leave in one hour and I haven’t packed yet” dreams! Ugh. Hate them. Dreamed the other night that I had 2 hours before my flight left and I hadn’t packed yet. My dad told me “you really should leave right now” and as I tried to quickly go pack, all my brothers jumped on me and were like “We need to take pictures” and kept taking group shot after group shot as I was like “you guys, I have to pack!” haha. My brothers wanting pictures taken, right. That should have been my first clue it was just a dream.

Then as I walked to the bus stop to head home, I walked past a man out walking his dog. The boxer was wearing four black boots. Now, I’ve seen lots of dogs here in all sorts of costumes, shoes, etc. But this one was like wearing lace up black boots that went halfway up his legs. He made clacking sounds on the sidewalk as if he was a person wearing dress shoes. I realllllly wanted to take a picture!

And that was pretty much my day in its entirety.

Another rambling update

February 23, 2014

There is so much swirling around in my brain these days…I don’t think I will even try to assemble this into any sort of cohesive post. I will just throw all my jumbled thoughts out there and let them lie where they fall.

These days wanderlust is taking over my head. I think this being in one place for an entire year now is making me anxious to be out there traveling and exploring new places. Which is silly, really, considering I’ve only been back in Moscow for 5 weeks now. And last year? I spent so much time traveling that it’s not like I was just “cooped up” in Moscow. Which, even if I had been…there is so much to see and do here that that would not have been a bad thing. Honestly, when I stop and think about all the capital cities I have visited around the world, I can’t think of a single one that would be more interesting to live in. London used to be my favorite city, and still holds a huge piece of my heart, but while I think it would be fabulous to live there, it might also get boring quickly. Then again, I might get so much more out of it considering I’d understand the language and know exactly what is going on and when. And there are plenty of fabulous nearby destinations to check out. Maybe I wouldn’t be bored after all.

Rome? Love it, but not sure I’d want to live there. Maybe I would. I do adore the gelato and pizza. And the views. And the architecture.  Budapest? Loved it. But it’s so small…Okay, I might really enjoy Stockholm. I did fall head over heels in love with Sweden when I was there last summer. I have only good things to say about Sweden. Monte Carlo? The French Riviera might be nice…insanely pricey though, and pretty hot during the summer. Besides, same for Paris, I’d for sure have to pick up some French to feel at home there and I have no desire to learn French. I don’t know…I can’t think of where I’d like to live next. Africa might be cool.

I’m pretty sure wanderlust is a disease, ha. I absolutely love where I am right now [minus a few annoyances and such] but this urge to get out and see, see, see and photograph, photograph, photograph is…overwhelming. I have to force myself at times to simply relax and enjoy where I am and not think about all that is out there that I am missing out on.

I distinctively remember one day when I was a teenager working at the public library and pushing around a cart of books and this thought popped into my head, “you will never have enough time in your lifetime to read all that has been written [all that I would be interested in].” It was such a sad thought and it really made me think. We have a finite number of days on this earth. There is only so much we can do and see. And the thought that I won’t even get to see all of this amazing world that God created, much less really experience it,  makes me sad, too. I want to see as much as I can. And I feel like I am running out of time, ha.

Anyway…

I guess it’s a good thing I have a trip coming up on Friday! My friend and I are flying to Ljubljana, Slovenia and then off to Croatia, then to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally on a short layover in Serbia we’ll try to see Belgrade before heading back to Moscow. To be honest, I am not even sure of all the details since she pretty much planned the whole thing. I am super excited about it all, except for the packing part. Not a fan of packing in the first place, but since she’s only bringing a backpack, I am trying to fit my stuff at least into my tiny rolling carryon, and it’s going to be rough. I won’t even be able to bring my laptop, which means no uploading pictures each day, which means having to conserve memory card space on my camera. =( Now I wish I had an extra memory card!

The other day, while Skyping with my parents, I absentmindedly ripped a  hangnail off my toenail. [I knew you would really want to know that, that's why I shared it. ;P] Then I kinda freaked out when I realized what I had done. [See, people? This is why you shouldn't talk on the phone and drive at the same time - you don't even pay attention to what you are doing when you are talking!] And yep, then it got all nasty and infected and boo it hurts so bad. I was limping around Moscow yesterday. And now I’m really, really, really praying it gets better by Friday! I’m off to track down some antibiotic cream tomorrow. Wish me luck! [ I also have a million other odds and ends to get done/purchased before Friday and I'm trying not to think about it {because that really helps things}.

The weather here lately? FABulous. Yesterday was all cloudy/overcast/foggy, but the weather report said the sun was supposed to come out at 2pm. Well, not only did the sun NOT come out, it started SNOWING instead. Light, light snow, but still, snow. But it was so light that it didn't accumulate and the roads and sidewalks were still so nice and clean and dry. (Usually they are slushy and muddy and GROSS). Then I woke up at 2 am and peered out the window and was shocked to find everything was white! It had really been snowing overnight! I guess I had thought all that great weather was here to stay.  But then it all melted today.

Here are a few pictures from the last few days:

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Are these not the most amazing roses?

 

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A fun bench we found in Gorky Park

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