Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Romania roadtrip: "North is behind us"

There is something to be said about Romania's natural beauty. I fell in love with this country when I trekked the Fagaras Range with my younger sister nearly two summers ago. This time around, we decided to embark on a roadtrip because we wanted to access some towns and villages that were hard to get to by public transportation. 

We quickly realized that the GPS in our car was utterly worthless, as it never managed to navigate properly. A lot of Romanian roads in the mountainside are somewhat unpredictable. Perhaps traveling via horse carriage would have been more fitting. We soon learned to rely primarily on our map and the built in compass of the GPS. Fed up with the constant redirecting, I once and for all declared that, "north is behind us!" Joyce and Ishita found the moment rather humorous.

Romanian bales of hay are rather unique. It resembles the roof of their churches. Celestial hay?

Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Once we bid adieu to Krka National Park, we hit the road again to venture forth to Paklenica National Park. The drive over was quite scenic with mountain ranges in the distance, capped off with wispy clouds. We pulled over a couple times to take in the views.

How beautiful is this sunset? We had to stop roadside, to take a few snaps.

Funny story: Since we arrived at dusk, we hoped to find a small bar or greasy spoon to get some local rakija, the national liquor of Croatia. It's always nice to have a thimble of alcohol as a night cap when you're camping. Keeps you nice and toasty. So, we park and enter the deserted, tiny bar with clearly the only three locals in town. We ordered wine and hot chocolate, and when we were paying our bill we asked if they could fill one of our empty plastic water bottles with a sample of the stuff. They proceeded to give us an entire liter of neon-green rakija, which I'm sure was homemade. I've never had moonshine, but if the smell of alcohol is any indication, this stuff reeked of it. We had straight up Croatian moonshine that glowed inside our car, like kryptonite. I lugged it back home with me, and never drank any of it. It was only a month ago that I finally discarded the stuff. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Krka National Park, Croatia

Following our first stop at Dubrovnik, we drove on up to Krka National Park. It was ethereal, what with the sunbeams shining through foliage and nothing – nothing but the sound of water flowing throughout the forest. At times, deafening, at others, gurgling, but always the onward rush. 

Unlike Dubrovnik, we really were the only ones present in this park for the better part of the day. There was absolutely no one present, and it was pleasantly eery. Imagine having all of Olympic National Park to yourself with no other souls present. It's nice to go during the off-season.

The waterfalls reminded me of Plitvice Jezera, which is probably the more popular destination for natural wonders in Croatia. Krka is the equally resplendent yet overlooked cousin.  

Behold! Swollen waters coming through.

Dubrovnik in the Dead of Winter

My roadtrip to Croatia with my best friend in the dead of winter was probably one of the highlights of 2014. After an initial mishap with reading the train ticket incorrectly – and thereby missing our departure from Budapest – we managed to finally get ourselves into Zagreb. From there, we hoofed it to the airport and rented ourselves a car. 

A very schwanky car, might I add. ;-)

We laughed in glee (cackled is a bit more like it), when we realized that our requested Opel-pumpkin-of-a-station-wagon had decided to transform itself into a pearly-white-ever-so-opulescent-Audi-hatchback. Say what? Whoever was in charge of commissioning rental cars at the Croatian International Airport that day made two girls very happy campers.  

We totally took it in stride and (tried) to play it cool. Now, I'm not one to wax on about cars. But. This Audi was a sweet ride. It had nice black leather interior trimmings and riding in it was pure joy. PURE JOY, I tell you. Gliding along the mostly empty Croatian highways, zipping past mandarin orange fields whilst dozing off in the sublime heating system – need I say any more? I was probably not the best co-pilot, as I kept falling asleep throughout the trip. The car was just too damn comfy! One minute, I'd have my nose smushed up against the windows, looking out like a happy dog, and the next moment – ppfff, I've become the narcoleptic dachsund. My apologies, Ishita. 

Another reason, we were excited about the prospect of having roughly five days with the Audi was because we basically slept in it all week. Yep, that's right. This was: "Croatia Roadtrip on a Budget." Emphasis on budget. After our long weekend trips to Belgium, Romania, and my flight over to Baltimore for a friend's wedding – all in the span of a couple months – I was cautious to not put too much of a dent on the wallet with this trip. The focus was more on appreciating Croatia's natural beauty. 

On car camping: We managed to fold all the seats down and unrolled our sleeping bags just far enough for us to lie out comfortably. Thank goodness we are both rather petite! It's moments like these that you revel in being small. Other ways we saved on costs: We grocery shopped in Zagreb and stocked up for breakfast and dinner. Simple meals like good ole' PB&J or fresh veggies with ajvar (a sort of hummus/veggie dip). During the daytime, when we were exploring the town, we'd eat out. It was a good system, but I don't think I've ever had so much raw cauliflower and olives (of all things). 

Driving south from Zagreb to Dubrovnik proved to be somewhat interesting. In order to get into Dubrovnik, you have to pass border control with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's on account of the pass being rather narrow. As you might've figured, Dubrovnik lies on the coast, and Bosnia dips down southeast of the Croatian border as well. So, we'd pull out our passports and our car rental papers and wait patiently while two countries' border patrol agents went through our documents. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Home for the Holidays!

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you cant beat home, sweet home

 I met a man who lives in Tennessee
He was headin for, Pennsylvania, and some homemade pumpkin pie
From Pennsylvania, folks are travelin' down to Dixie's sunny shore
From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home

 Take a bus, take a train, go and hop an airplane
Put the wife and kiddies in the family car
For the pleasure that you bring when you make that doorbell ring
No trip could be too far

I met a man who lives in Tennessee
He was headin for, Pennsylvania, and some home made pumpkin pie
From Pennsylvania, folks are travelin down to Dixies sunny shore
From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be a happy in a million ways

For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home

For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home