I was able to spend part of my time off school traveling to Belgrade, Serbia. Three major highlights were the Nikola Tesla museum, the Church of St. Sava, and the Belgrade fortress.
“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone; that is the secret of invention. Be alone; that is when ideas are born.” — Nikola Tesla
I greatly enjoyed my time in Belgrade, despite suffering from a massive cold. I hope I am able to go back and visit again before I leave the Balkans.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend Christmas in London with my parents. I had quickly visited London last year, so I was eager to return to the city and explore more. We spent four nights in Kensington (arriving late Saturday evening and leaving early Wednesday morning). Here’s a list of what we did:
A visit to Abbey Road
Church service at Westminster Abbey
Dinner in Highgate/ a visit to George Michael’s memorial park
Monday (Christmas Day)
Bus tour of the city
A visit to Harrod’s
A walk through Hyde Park
A ghost tour
We had a great time! For privacy’s sake, I didn’t want to post pictures of my family here. Instead, I chose a few of my best pictures from the trip to share.
Thanks for reading! 🙂 I’ve got a few other London pictures posted on my Instagram feed.
This past weekend, I visited the National History Museum in Tirana, Albania.
My friend was telling my about the artist Onufri, who is thought to be from what is now Berat, Albania. He is famous for the color pink. According to Wikipedia, “He was the first to introduce the colour pink into icon painting. The secret of this color was not passed on and died with him.”
(Keep reading for tips and observations about my first day in Gothenburg, Sweden.)
Some tips and observations about Gothenburg, Sweden:
For my trip, I created a custom Google map following this tutorial. It really helped me visually lay out the city and plan what I wanted to do based on proximity. This is probably the only time I’ve been on vacation where I didn’t get lost once.
Getting into Gothenburg from Landvetter airport was super easy. I bought a round-trip ticket at a kiosk at the airport ($23 USD), walked outside, got on the bus, and it took off. The bus driver was the nicest bus driver I’ve ever met. (I’m used to Chicago bus drivers, who are a bit … salty.) My hotel, which was centrally located, was near the third stop (Kungsportsplaten).
Since I was only spending two nights in Gothenburg, I splurged on a nice hotel, Hotel Royal (which I highly recommend).
Other than gettting to/from the airport, I did not use public transportation. I traveled everywhere on foot.
I had read about a food truck that served Swedish meatballs near my hotel. I went to one that didn’t have meatballs, and was kindly directed to another one nearby.
During the bus ride from the airport, I saw a beautiful old church and cemetery, so I walked back to take pictures. (I realize I post a lot of church and cemetery pictures to this blog … I don’t consider myself particularly interested in either, but maybe I am? They’re easy to take good photos of, I guess.)
Liseberg amusement park is a main attraction in Gothenburg. It is only open during the summer, Halloween, and Christmas. So, I got lucky and was able to visit. I was hoping to see kids in costume (struck out … no one was dressed up). I wanted to visit the haunted house but I was too wimpy to go alone. 😦 Instead, I rode the ferris wheel. 🙂
I try to avoid making sweeping generalizations about groups of people. But, MY GOD, Swedish people are beautiful! (Imagine being surrounded by friendly super models, and you’ll know what my life was like for two days.) The man who waited on me at amusement park ticket office was the most beautiful man I have ever seen. I wanted to be like, “Sir, why do you work here? You are better looking than any movie star I can think of.”
I visited Myrorna, a thrift shop I had read about in an online travel guide. I had visions of finding beautiful Scandinavian items at a fraction of the cost, but Myrorna was like the Salvation Army back at home. I guess no matter where you are in the world, other people’s junk is just … other people’s junk. A woman made a comment to me in Swedish about the merchandise. I pretended I understood her and laughed along with her. 🙂
I later walked by a store called Flying Tiger Copenhagen and ended up buying an impromptu gift for someone. If I were to compare the store to one in the U.S., I’d say it was similar to Five Below.
I was feeling extremely full after my lunch of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and ligonberries. I’d made a reservation at a nice restaurant called Smaka in the hope of getting to eat reindeer (I had elk instead). I wasn’t feeling up to another heavy meal of meat and potatoes, but I am glad I made myself go. I had a really nice time. I re-read parts of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Myrorna was mentioned! Haha!) and enjoyed a nice meal alone. Elk is very mild. It almost has no flavor. My favorite part of the meal was the whipped butter with caviar that was brought out with my bread basket. Holy cow … I ate all of it (the butter, not the bread basket). I had heard that dining out in Sweden is super expensive, but the total cost for my meal (elk entree + a glass of wine + a tip) was about 320 Kronor (32 Euro), which I thought was reasonable. It was the fanciest meal I had during my trip.
On a recent visit to Skopje, Macedonia, I took a walk to the fortress in the middle of the city. I had previously posted a photo of the outside of the fortress on a different visit to Skopje:
You enter the fortress by crossing through a public park. There was a gate with a stop sign, but an older man selling bottles of water by the entrance just waved me through. I’m going to be honest — I was less than impressed by my visit. There were no signs ANYWHERE, so I had no idea what I was looking at. I had hoped to learn some of the fortress’ history. I had also thought maybe there would be … I don’t know … some artifacts or something? It does offer good views of the whole city, though.
From a Google search, I learned that the fortress is from the Byzantine empire and was built in 6th century A.D. Even online info about this place seems pretty scant.
On my walk back to the bus station, I took this picture. I liked the lion statue. 🙂
Living in Kosovo is the first time I have ever been landlocked. The town where I grew up shares a border river with Canada. When I lived in Boston for two years, I would sometimes spend my lunch break at the harbor. And my last apartment in Chicago (which I rented for 4.5 years) had a view of Lake Michigan from every window.
When I was home last month, my family and I went to a local arts and crafts fair along the water. As we watched a giant freighter float down the river, my Dad asked, “Are there boats like that in Kosovo?” And I said, “We don’t have water in Kosovo. It’s all mountains.”
Well, that’s not entirely true. Kosovo is mountainous and shares land borders with four other countries (Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro). However, it does have a few lakes. On Friday, my friend Chester and I visited Batlava Lake, a man-made lake.
When we arrived, we walked halfway around the lake, and decided to rent a paddleboat. (Cost: 5 Euro for one hour.)
When we were done paddling, we walked halfway back around the lake and had lunch at a restaurant on the water.
Batlava Lake was clean and quiet. I was surprised more people weren’t there. It was a nice little summer day trip. 🙂
If you plan to visit Batlava Lake, here is something to note: You don’t catch the bus at the main bus station in Pristina. Instead, you catch the bus at a stop near here:
The cost is 1.70 Euro each way (it is about a 45-minute trip from Pristina to the lake).
A volunteer friend suggested visiting the bazaar in Pristina, so a small group of us went last week. I had no idea there was a bazaar in Pristina!
There was SO MUCH produce for sale, for prices even cheaper than what I can find in my village. (Fifty cents for a carton of strawberries, versus 1.50 Euro in my village.) You can also finds lots of other goods at the bazaar, everything from clothing and yarn, to household items, to cigarettes.
As far as I know, the bazaar is open every week day. You can find it here: