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Rovinj

sunny 28 °C

Unfortunately this truly will be a short posting, simply to help bridge my readership along as I fear my neglect these past few days will have lost you. Im in Rovinj, an absolutely stunning city on the Adriatic coast that reminds me of Dubrovnik, the ˝pearl of the adriatic˝but lacks the rustic appeal of that city. This city has a little more color, a little more Italian influence, but the same charm, relic feel without the same decay thats apparent elsewhere. Im staying in a private accommodation for toooooo much money but that is fine for a few days, its worth it. Though, this is the first time I felt that riding solo to be an issue, not only with the cost since im paying virtually a double rate but because this is a place i feel should not be experienced alone, there is too much beauty that I would never feel capable of conveying to people back home who are interested.

I did take a short day trip today to Porec, about 30 km north of here and famous for being the Croatian tourist trip, but also for a basilica that has mosaics rivaling the most famous of ones across the sea in Ravenna. Ive never been, but so ive been told. Tomorrow I head inland to Pazin, and if time permitting, Beram a 6km walk upstream from there. This will be my opportunity to see what the hill towns away from the coast are like, or so i hope since without a car, im limited to only a few options via bus. Well, more to say, but less time as I hemorrhage Kuna. Swimming the Adriatic these past few days have been nice, completely blue skies sure help in cleansing my memory from the cloud that is Ireland. Seeya...

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Posted by AAY 10:58 Archived in Croatia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Main Course

Pula, Croatia

sunny 30 °C

If Ireland was my European Appetizer, the main course has arrived. One day has passed since I arrived in Croatia, landing in the port city of Pula where I'm spending two nights in a tiny hostel near the city center. This town is ostensibly the capital of Istria - an arrowhead shaped peninsula situated directly across the Adriatic Sea from Venice. This region is well known for its rocky beaches, frequented by German and Italian tourists, and its inland vineyards, truffles, and seemingly abandoned hill towns. I find Pula to lack the charm which Istria is well recognized for - its hard to hide the giant cranes in the harbor - but it remains a vibrant place to spend a few days and worth seeing for a day trip, if not a short stay. I have not been to some of the bigger Italian port cities such as Trieste or Genoa but I'd imagine them being quite similar, with Pula possessing a slightly more rustic and/or resort feel (its suburbs).

Some History:

Pula began as a Roman settlement, with a few notorious remnants from their rule. Though not quite as big as the one in Rome, the amplitheater rivals the colleseum in how well its been preserved. Most of the seating has been removed, but at the time, it could fit 22000 people, though for a town of only 5000, the math doesnt seem to add up. Today its used for performances of all sorts - currently tickets are on sale for Croatian version of Grease and a ballet. Pula has since been under the control of Venice, the Habsburgs, and most recently Yugoslavia before gaining its independence in the late eighties. During the Habsburg period Pula was the main naval command station, and James Joyce once was employed here as an english teacher - amusing, nice company - for their officers.

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Small town Airport:

Arriving via plane alone emphasizes the difference between Croatia and its more modernized western counterparts. Though my antiquated guide book warned me it would be the case, I took for granted there would be public transportation from the airport that could shuttle me the 7 km to town, but clearly not. The only way in is via taxi, and luckily I was able to find someone willing to shuttle me in to the bus station for a mere 5 euros, significantly cheaper than the going rate of 100 kuna - about 20 usd, 15 euro. The airport in itself was quite empty, and there was little evidence of any new flights coming or going anywhere, anytime, in the near or distant future. I'd bet there were no more than 40 employees of all things airport oriented making the place run smoothly.

Next Steps:

I'm leaving for Rovinj in the morning, a smaller, more picturesque coastal town where I intend to stay three to four nights. The timing is based on the circumstances of my accomodation, the first place where I am going to have to arrange a sobe or homestay/private accomodation. It should be interesting, and hopefully not too expensive given the time of year. I look forward to writing about the experience of securing one - often by negotiation right outside the bus station. Also, coming soon will be a far more evocative explanation of my special interest in the balkans, and in effect, why I am devoting two months of my life to traveling to cities + places so far off manz peoples radar.

Posted by AAY 09:11 Archived in Croatia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

As Good As Advertised

Galway; Burren; Cliffs of Moher

sunny 18 °C

Day's Events:

Yesterday the majority of my day was spent on a day tour to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher. Though I tend to avoid such tours, this one was well worth it given the wealth of Western Ireland's natural attractions on the agenda. The Burren is a strange, Limestone infested rocky mountainous region which is on the whole, relatively thinly inhabited. It was interesting to view the rocky landscape, once settled by the druids several thousand years ago, and what remains today of their time here. During one stop there was enough time for me to hike partially up this rocky mountain, with fantastic views below, with the lush green fields cleared in recent decades for farming. Some may say its just a bunch of rocks, but it was cool.

The real show lied ahead, the thing which made this entire day trip worth my time and my clams. Though saturated with tourists, the cliffs did not disappoint. Their is scale is astounding, crash of the Atlantic waves breathtaking, and the temptation to play chicken with the 200 meter high edge frightening. The tour afforded us just short of an hour to walk portions of the cliff's edge designated for tourists, though most - and I mean everyone - choose to ignore the signs and jump the fence to explore the private property of those fortunate to own land overlooking such a majestic site. This trip truly made the entire afternoon, and visit to Galway, quite memorable. It should not be missed.

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Unexpected Reunion:

You hear the stories of people stumbling upon friends or acquaintances from the distant past on such trips and you wonder if and when it will ever happen to you. Well, it turns out pretty early in the trip and pretty distant in my past. Five years ago I was working for Emory University during the summer after my sophomore year and we were given free housing - the 20 or so of us employed - for the duration of our employment in one of the freshman halls on campus. A few doors down was this kid Bart, a good guy but not someone who I ever clicked with at the time. Last night, he walked in the front door of the hostel I am staying at and our eyes met, somewhat of a double take, before placing each other. It was real cool to meet up in this fashion, to go out and have a drink with someone you haven't even thought about in five years. Enjoyed it quite a bit, as well as a lot of the other people that were at this hostel. If ever in Galway, Claddagh is the place to be - I was never bored and met some great people with a bunch of great stories to share.

Next Stop:

I'm leaving for Dublin in an hour or so via bus, staying one night before I'm to fly to Istria, a Croatian Peninsula near Italy, in the morning. Internet has been so omnipresent in Ireland that it has made writing consistently in this blog surprisingly easy. I doubt Croatia will afford me the same luxury, less the ubiquitousness of cafes, but more so the price - one euro or free in the majority of Irish locations frequented. Anyway, til next time. Seeya.

Posted by AAY 13:17 Archived in Ireland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Brisk

Galway, Ireland

10 °C

This entry will be short as I have spent most of my time since the last entry traveling across the isle on a bus. My first impressions of Galway are very positive. Though small, it is quite a pleasant, manageable town to spend a few hours wandering around, and really, there isn't much else to it. It is a real Irish town, with 65,000 people, with the majority of its energy based in the center core which caters well to the tourists. Having not considered visiting it when I began to plan this trip, I appreciate the suggestion - there are several of you and you know who you are. Tomorrow, I'm heading out of town to the Cliffs of Moher and Burren on a group bus tour. I look forward to passing along my thoughts, as well as some pictures once I've sorted that out - still not sure how to do it, lack the appropriate chords.

Next, some quick responses to the comments I received. To be honest, skipped the stone kissing as the line for doing so was a little longer than thought worthwhile. Also, need to express appreciation for the Dingle suggestion - I wish I had left enough time to make a visit out there, from everything I've read its great to check out, real peaceful, pretty and such. This trip was never intended to be a deep dive into Ireland, though having seen it, realize that it would be a fun thing to do down the road. Having moved on from Cork, I really do appreciate it being a more real city for those visiting. Life goes on, and tourists need to get out of the way bc the locals feel no real need to make it easy for you. I like that a lot about such cities, where the tourist remains out of place, with no predestined plan. I prefer to sit back and observe the locals.

Finally, I'm hoping to instill greater discipline into the topics which I am writing about in my blog. Focusing on clear, reader friendly issues like my eating adventures, top sites or attractions, weird interactions with other travelers and/or locals and such. Please email me if you want to put forth one over another, or suggest a new theme of interest which will give me greater sense of how the public - is there anybody out there? - would like me to organize, it in a way that I am not simply rambling along about each day. That, I think, will grow tiresome in due time, as I alone have already grown somewhat sick of recounting it all. So, if you are out there, please, if you for whatever reason have sustained interest in reading my blog, send me suggestions. I will be sure to do a better job organizing my thoughts in a thoughtful manner.

Posted by AAY 12:01 Archived in Ireland Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Serenity Now

Cork

semi-overcast 15 °C

My spirits have improved since my last post and I apologize for my use of the word 'defeated' at that time, probably too dramatic. Deflated seems to be a more suitable term. Changing cities has really helped me rebound and I am confident that when Dublin and I meet again in a few days, I'll be plenty prepared for whatever it throws my direction. A quick recap is in order: as I mentioned, I have moved on from Dublin, traveling early yesterday via bus to Cork, Ireland's reluctant "second city." The four hour ride was for the most part quite peaceful, exhibiting some of the natural landscapes' beauty for which this country is famed. I'd imagine the experience would have been only that much better if there were not two polish men in the back screaming into their phones every few minutes of the trip, but wont go any further there as I promised a more positive message this time.

Cork is a vibrant city with a busy city centre set on an island created by a river which splits to the east of the city, and meets up again further to the west after what seems like little over a mile or two. Having arrived on a Saturday, it seemed that most of the city was out and about, walking along the busy shopping streets. Beyond the main avenues, many of the streets are dominated by pedestrians. Pubs abound, and two local beers battle for dominance - Murphy's and Beamish Stouts - and oddly enough compete with America's own Bud Light for supremacy in the region. Weird no? Even stranger, as I arrived at my hostel, a little more pressed for space then the one in Dublin, I was handed a 'buy one get one free' voucher for Coors light at the bar inside the hostel. I reluctantly accepted later on in the afternoon. This hostel was located to the north of the city, on a street also shared by the local polish population - same as Dublin. I remember hearing about polish plumbers storming the UK when the borders were opened but had never seen the result, functioning polish communities but a few years later, with polish supermarkets, and even a pizza place which I ate at for dinner last night, though it wasnt very good.

So, as I mentioned, my time spent in Cork has been therapeutic. This morning the sky opened to reveal its familiar, though recently absent, blue tone, and the sun continued to shine most of the day, though it did give way to some rain late afternoon. I ventured to blarney castle only a few km from the city center by bus, spending a few hours on the grounds of this famous castle, with its famous stone which, when kissed upside down, allegedly grants one the gift of eloquent speech. The weather could not have been better - no jacket, no sweatshirt, so if I was to have clear skies for but one morning, this would be the time to have it. I also made friends with an older girl from Niagara, Canada - maybe young 30s - also traveling alone, spending the next few hours with her, returning to the city, and visiting the Cork City Gaol. Yes, a Gaol, or Jail, that very same thing which had eluded me during my time in Dublin. Hence, serenity now. It was truly cathartic experience, and helped to cleanse the memories of my previous failure. The jail was ok to visit, nothing extraordinary, but interesting to see what life would is like living in such a setting. I was disappointed that most of those who had been incarcerated had committed only petty crimes, whereas the gaol in Dublin had revolutionary relevance. That said, this visit was not about what was inside anymore, finding it was enough.

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Posted by AAY 09:24 Archived in Ireland Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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