Lonely Planet Thinks You Should Visit Kosovo

Lonely Planet listed Kosovo as one of their “Best in Europe” destinations for 2018. Well, all right. I can do my part to help Kosovo’s tourism. Here are some pictures I took in Rugova Canyon and Bogë this last weekend when my friend visited and rented a car. I am so glad I was able to visit because neither place is accessible via bus.

The restaurant we visited in Bogë (where I took all the sheep photos, below) is called Guri i Kuq, which is Shqip (Albanian) for “Red Stone.”

Rugova Canyon:

Rugova Canyon 1

Rugova Canyon 2

Rugova Canyon 3

Rugova Canyon 4

Rugova Canyon 5

Rugova Canyon 6
Lots of construction …

Bogë:

Boge Kosovo 1

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Boge Kosovo 4

Boge Kosovo 5

Boge Kosovo 6

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Boge Kosovo 7
Tiny baby goats!

Driving back down through Rugova Canyon:

Rugova Canyon 8
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Rugova Canyon 9
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Rugova Canyon 10
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Rugova Canyon 11
Yours truly

Kosovo is a gorgeous country in general, but the views in Bogë were especially stunning!

The Cliffs of Moher

Hello, Everyone! This will be my last blog post about Ireland. Last week, we left off at the Aran Islands. Whitney and I were on a tour with Wild Atlantic Way. After exploring the Aran Islands, we got back on the ferry and it took us to the Cliffs of Moher.

cliffs of moher 2
The ferry behind ours, for scale

I stood at the back of our ferry for this photo, and shortly thereafter, a wave crashed over the side and soaked my jeans. 😦 !!!

april cliffs of moher
Little did I know what was about to happen …

I went into the ferry’s bathroom and peeled off my jeans. It was way too cold to wear wet pants. I had leggings on underneath and decided that wearing only one layer was better than wearing a wet layer.

no pants
Attempting to dry my pants

The ferry returned to Doolin and we got back on the tour bus, which then drove us to the top of the cliffs. I had imagined visiting the Cliffs of Moher to be a tranquil experience, but it was a wind tunnel up there.

april cliffs of moher 2
So windy!
cliffs of moher 3
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cliffs of moher 4

Then, we got back on the bus to go back to Galway. We stopped twice along the way for photos.

irish countryside
Irish countryside
thatched roofs ireland
Thatched roofs

Here is a fun fact: Thatched roofs are falling out of popularity in Ireland, despite being excellent insulators. Because they are a natural material, they need to be replaced every 5-7 years and the cost each time (I forget the figure our tour guide gave) exceeds what it would cost to roof your house with a regular roof that lasts for a lifetime.

dunguaire castle ireland
Dunguaire Castle

After a day of being cold and pants-less, I treated myself to oysters for dinner. Of course, I stopped at our Airbnb to put on dry pants first. 😉

oysters
My first time eating oysters in two years! My life is hard.

***

Friday, Whitney and I walked around Galway and visited shops and looked for souvenirs. We wanted to do a wine and cheese tasting that afternoon. I stopped at a local wine shop to ask the guy working there where he would suggest going. At first, I got a snarky reply, “Uh, go to a bar and buy a cheese plate.” I persisted in my cheerfulness, though (“Oh? Is there anywhere you would recommend?”) and the guy told me to go to the downstairs bar at Kasbah (better wine there than at its sister restaurant upstairs) and order a cheese plate down from the restaurant. He launched into Kasbah’s wine-buying strategies and when I finally left the shop, Whitney wondered what had taken me so long. 🙂

I am glad I stopped to ask for a recommendation, because Kasbah ended up being our favorite bar that we visited in all of Ireland (and we went to a few *ahem*). We stopped by the (quiet) restaurant upstairs first, and then we wound our way downstairs to the bar, which was packed and lively. The wine and cheese were great!

cheeseplate

Well, friends, this marks the end of my stories of Ireland. The next day, Whitney and I returned to Dublin to fly to our respective homes. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my spring break trip!

My tips for the day:

  • Don’t stand at the end of the ferry for photos.
  • Wear waterproof pants if you are on a ferry.
  • If you are ever in Galway, stop for a drink at the downstairs bar at Kasbeh.

(I took this video on our last morning in Galway.)

Tours in Dublin (including Guinness)

“Green, green / It’s green they say / on the far side of the hill. / Green, green / I’m going away / to where the grass is greener still.” — The New Christy Minstrels

After gray and rainy weather our first two days in Dublin and more rain in the forecast, Whitney and I lucked out that Tuesday. The weather defied the forecast and we later saw our first blue sky in Ireland!

april chester beatty library
The grounds of the Chester Beatty Library

Our first stop of the day was the Chester Beatty Library. Chester Beatty was a wealthy art collector and collected religious art and texts from all over Europe and Asia. What I liked about this museum was that it displayed works from Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I found the collection to be far more interesting than the Book of Kells.

Next, we jumped on the bus and headed for Kilmainham Gaol prison for a tour. This is where we hit a snag — I had bought a Groupon for the wrong prison! We had our Guinness tickets booked for later in the day and we couldn’t stay to tour Gaol at their next available tour time. 😦 Oh, well. This wasn’t my worst travel disaster. (Ask me about the time I missed my flight from Paris to Kosovo, or the time I was stuck at Luton airport for 21 hours).

With our sudden free time, we walked across the street to tour the grounds of the old Royal Hospital (which has now been converted into a modern art museum). Since the museum was free, we also went inside, though neither of us especially likes modern art.

hospital walk
First blue sky!
hedgehog
Don’t ask … I don’t know why!
april royal hospital grounds
Royal Hospital grounds

Next, we walked to the Guinness factory. This is Dublin’s most-popular tour. The exhibits are done well but beer production has since moved sites, so we didn’t actually see beer being made. We did get to sample beer, though, at the rooftop bar.

w and a
At Guinness
my first guinness
My first Guinness … I didn’t like it!
Dublin city view
The view from the rooftop bar

We ended the day with yet another tour — a literary pub crawl another friend had highly recommended. The tour was fun and informative. Our only complaint was that the pub stops were short (twenty minutes), which didn’t leave much time for drinking.

molly malone
Molly Malone statue, one stop during the pub crawl

My Dublin tips for the day:

  • If you like religious art, I highly recommend visiting the Chester Beatty Library and Museum. (Bonus: admission is free.) I enjoyed it more than the Book of Kells.
  • I like whiskey and I don’t like beer so I am bias in this opinion, but I enjoyed drinking at the bar at the Jameson Distillery far more than at the Guinness bar. While the Guinness bar had nice views, it was very crowded and difficult to find a seat. Jameson was much quieter and we could actually sit at the bar and chat with the bartenders.

 

Things to do on a Rainy Day in Dublin

On Monday in Dublin, it rained all day. Whitney and I had planned to visit the Book of Kells and do a walking tour of Trinity College. We decided to scrap the walking tour, since it was outside, and find something else to do in the morning. We had passed Christ Church cathedral the day before and felt inspired to go on a guided tour. I am glad we did because the tour ended up being one of my favorite things.

view from christ church

Christ Church is 1,000 years old.

christchurch floor
Cathedral floor
christ church stained glass
Stained glass

Our tour guide was funny and informative. We learned a lot about the history of Dublin and of the church. We even got to ring the church bells!

ringing the bells
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Also, Christ Church has a famous organ that was donated in the 1920s. The only problem was, it didn’t work. They took it apart and found a mummified cat and rat inside! This story was the inspiration behind the cartoon “Tom and Jerry.”

mumified cat and mouse

That afternoon, we went to see the Book of Kells and Trinity Library, both famous sites on the Trinity College campus. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript (meaning, a text supplemented with illustrations) of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that was created sometime around 800 AD. Pictures weren’t allowed, so I have none to show you. Several people had recommended the Book of Kells before I went on my trip. Honestly, though, it wasn’t my favorite thing that we did.

The Trinity Library had an impressive collection of books.

trinity library
Trinity College library

trinity library 2

It was still raining after our tours, so Whit and I decided to go to the Jameson Distillery for a drink at their bar. We had a great time sampling different whiskeys and shooting the breeze with the bartenders. We topped off our evening by pub-hopping near our hotel.

jameson distillery
Whitney


My Dublin tip for the day:
Take a guided tour of Christ Church cathedral!

 

 

Knitting Class in Dublin, Ireland

Hi, everyone! Did you miss me? I am back to blogging after a full two weeks off. It’s been nice to have time away. I spent my spring break in Ireland with Whitney, my childhood friend.

I got to Dublin on a Saturday afternoon. Whit arrived the next morning (Easter Sunday) from Los Angeles. If it were me I would have been dead tired, but Whit was a real champ and arrived ready to see the city. She had a surprise planned for me and I had no idea what it was.

But first! We had to stop for a drink at Dublin’s oldest pub.

brazen head pub.jpg

Next up was the surprise. I had kind of thought it would be a facial or massage or something. I was wrong, though! Whitney took me to a loom knitting class where we got to make our own Merino wool scarves. (How cool is that?!) We took our class with Liadian Aiken.

knitting class
Knitting class
choosing yarn
Choosing our yarn colors
plotting colors
Plotting colors on a grid
loom
Setting up the loom …
threading the loom
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sample
Starting with a sample

Things went well at first but then my yarn kept falling off the hooks. Righting it was a tedious process where our instructor had to re-hook each loop back on the loom. My yarn fell off about five or six times. 😦

knitting going well
When things went well …
knitting mistake
When things did not go well 😦 !!!

But FINALLY we finished and I am really happy with the result.

Now I have a beautiful, warm scarf that I handmade and that will remind me of Ireland and spending time with Whitney. 🙂 I love it so much! I wore it all week.

Here’s a little video of some live pub music that evening:

I’ve got lots more to share about Ireland. Four upcoming posts will be about my trip.

Amsterdam: the Fun Side

Here I am in Amsterdam!

April in Amsterdam
“A” is for “April” … and also Amsterdam 🙂

One of my missions while in Amsterdam was to eat at Dunkin Donuts. I was surprised to see how fancy the donuts are.

dunkin donuts amsterdam
Cookie Monster and smiley faces … whaaaat?! So fancy!

We went to a place called the Cheese Museum, where you can freely sample all different kinds of cheeses. It was heaven.

colored cheese
Mmmmmmmmm!

My friend took me on the commuter ferry at night so I could see a different view of the city. 🙂 It was lovely.

night ferry amsterdam
Amsterdam at night

My friend claims I made her walk through the red light district twelve times a day. (She is exaggerating somewhat.) In my defense, the red light district is centrally located and we had to cut through it to get to other places. 😉 Riiiiight …

condoms amsterdam
Who says safe sex can’t be fun?
magic mushrooms
I did not go in here …
sex palace amsterdam
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Thoughts and observations about Amsterdam …

  • Like Sweden, bikes are EVERYWHERE! Be careful when you are crossing the street.
  • Getting to the city center from the airport is super easy via train and only costs around 5 Euro.
  • The Anne Frank Museum (see: Monday’s post) sells out weeks in advance, so plan way ahead if you want to visit.

Side note: I visited both the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, but found myself wanting to just absorb everything and not be concerned with taking photos. I think I saw most of Van Gogh, but the Rijksmuseum is huge! I could return and see things I didn’t on my first trip.

Amsterdam: the Serious Side

I spent last weekend in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and wanted to share some highlights of my trip with all of you. Rather than break my trip into chronological order, I decided to show the serious side and then the fun side of the city. I did not want to post my photos of my visit to the Anne Frank house alongside my photos of Amsterdam’s red light district.

So, on the serious side … (Some of my observations may seem kind of obvious, but I really did not know much about the city or country before I visited.)

My friend and I took a guided canal boat tour around Amsterdam on my first afternoon there. I may have fallen asleep for part of it (I’d had an early flight, and the boat was so soothing!) but I did manage to learn a good deal about the city.

house boat amsterdam
House boat

If this hadn’t been pointed out on the tour I’m not sure I would have noticed it on my own, but many buildings in Amsterdam are pitched forward or crooked. That’s because the city was built on filled-in swamp land, and the houses rest on sand (and they shift). Once I learned this, I could not stop seeing crooked buildings everywhere!

leaning building amsterdam
Notice how the red-roofed building leans forward from its neighbor.

Houses in Amsterdam tend to be tall and steep, and many buildings have hooks hanging from the roofs to help move furniture up through the windows.

Amsterdam moving hook
Moving hook

I also learned that the Neterlands is the world’s largest exporter of petrol, even though they don’t produce petrol.

Furthermore, I learned that Amsterdam is below sea level. Gates have been constructed out in the water to keep the North Sea from flooding the city.

amsterdam canal
A canal at night

***

“Most parents don’t know, really, their children.” — Otto Frank

My friend and I visited the Anne Frank House the next day. As you might know from reading her story, the annex where she and her family and four other Jews hid was raided after two years and they were split up and sent to different concentration camps. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. The picture that moved me most was of Otto Frank as an older man and was taken when he went back to see the annex many years later (around 1979?). I will never forget the image of him standing in profile, looking at the empty attic where his family had hidden.

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Anne Frank House Museum
anne frank photos
Anne Frank
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Bookcase that hid the annex

The museum’s final exhibit is a video montage of different public figures talking about what Anne Frank’s story has meant to them. As actress Emma Thompson said: “Her would-haves are our real possibilities.”