Flashback Friday: European Sunsets

Flashback Friday is a picture series where we “flashback” to some of our memories – from either from our prior travel or from home. We hope you’ll enjoy some of our remembrances! 

We’ve been experiencing some nice sunsets here in Asia, so naturally, we remembered some of our other nice sunsets from the road. During our self-drive safari in Africa, we saw some amazing sunsets almost every night. We shared some of those in a flashback Friday post. We were in Africa for only 6 weeks and came up with 11 photos we just needed to share. We were in Europe for much longer and saw much fewer nice sunsets. However, there were 14 pictures we wanted to show you. Enjoy some awesome sunsets!

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“The greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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A closer shot of the “greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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Sunset over the Adriatic from the walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Sunset over a mosque in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

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Berat, Albania

Pretty sunset

Tirana, Albania

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Delphi, Greece

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Nafplio, Greece

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Fethiye, Turkey

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This one was so good, we had to show you two! Fethiye, Turkey

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Selcuk, Turkey

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Kas, Turkey

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Pamukkale, Turkey

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Antalya, Turkey

King’s Landing, Westeros… er… Dubrovnik, Croatia

After we said goodbye to Della’s parents in Mostar, we returned to Dubrovnik. We needed to return our rental car there, but we also wanted to spend just a little bit more time in the “Jewel of the Adriatic” before heading on.

As we crossed over the border from Bosnia-Herzegovina, we decided to take advantage of the fact that we had our own wheels to take a visit to the top of Mount Srđ. Normally you have to pay to take a cable car up, but driving up is free. We followed the narrow windy road up the mountain and got great views down over the city.

For our two nights in Dubrovnik, we stayed in an apartment that was a little cheaper than the place we stayed with Wayne and Peggy on our first trip through the city. It wasn’t too far of a distance from the Old Town, but the biggest downside was that all of the distance was straight up a hill. At one point we counted and we had 421 steps just to get there! We did enjoy the nice views from the terrace though.

Catching the sunset from the stairs near our place

Catching the sunset from the stairs near our place

Catching up on the blog on the patio

Catching up on the blog on the patio

We didn’t have much of a sightseeing plan during our time in Dubrovnik, since we had seen the biggest sights on our first trip through. We were planning to take it easy… but then we heard that Game of Thrones was actively filming! So, we spent most of our time scoping out the the sets and trying to figure out what was going on.

By the time we got down to Old Town on the first night, it was dark enough that filming had wrapped up, we we were able to find the leftovers from a set that looked like it was going to be a marketplace of some kind. The amount of detail put into the tables and chairs was pretty impressive. We were also surprised to see that they were using real produce and bread!

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Those seemed to be real items of produce

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On day two, we knew there were two locations rumored to be active. When we tried to go to the first one, it seemed like they were in the middle of filming, because security guards were blocking all of the different alleys leading to a certain area.

We think there as filming going on up there

We think there as filming going on up there

At the second site though, they were still setting up for what looked to be a massive scene. There were gates up and security to prevent us from passing, but they didn’t seem to mind us taking pictures. We spotted banners with the Baratheon and Lannister sigils, banners with the Tyrell sigil and a litter that with Baratheon/Lannister sigils engraved on it.

Probably the most fascinating thing to note was all of the work that was being put into converting a modern street into something that looks period appropriate. There were people painting over drain pipes and electrical wires, people covering awnings with fabric, and people adding a vegetation-covered trellis to a terrace.

We even got to eavesdrop on a discussion of the next day’s filming! We were sitting on a part of the staircase that hadn’t been roped off, and we noticed that a lot of people with crew badges were suddenly gathered around. Then, one of them called a meeting to order and started to discuss how to position the cameras. We got to hear where Cersei and the High Sparrow will be standing. They planned for how to shoot how Cersei would walk down the stairs right where we were standing. They planned to shoot a lot of the walking from behind with a double doing the walking. We have different opinions about what this scene will be. Della heard something about a shift being removed, which when combined with the discussion of a double indicates one scene that book readers will know… but Eric isn’t so sure.

We lingered around for quite a while, and spotted some of the actors in the process. We saw a few extras walk by in costume, but most exciting for us was seeing two of the main actors. The first one we saw was Aidan Gillen, who plays Peytr Baelish (a.k.a Littlefinger). He was in costume, walking quickly away under an umbrella, but we did get a good view when he turned and smiled in our general direction. That was pretty exciting, so we thought we were done for the day. But then, when we least expected it, we were sitting on a fountain and we suddenly looked up and saw a lady in a blue hoodie walking towards us a few feet away. It took a second to realize that it was Lena Headey, who places Cersei. Her hoodie slipped off and we saw that she was wearing her blonde wig, but she was not in costume beyond that. She quickly moved on so we weren’t able to get a good picture.

We felt like we had been pretty successful in seeing the different Game of Thrones sights, so to cap off our time in Dubrovnik and Croatia, we went to one of the Buza bars. It is just outside of the city walls, perched over the sea – the perfect place to watch the sun set!

The sun sets on our time in Dubrovnik and Croatia

The sun sets on our time in Dubrovnik and Croatia

14 Days with Peggy and Wayne in 14 Pictures: Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina

We wanted to share the best of our trip with Peggy and Wayne with you all. Here are 14 pictures from 14 days exploring Slovenia, Croatian, and Bosnia Herzegovina.

We met up with Peggy and Wayne in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. They took a long distance train from Vienna, we took one from Eger, Hungary. We met up easily and then spent a rainy day in Zagreb together. Here is our very first attempt at a family jelfie. Not bad for the first try!

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After one day and two nights in Zagreb, we headed into Slovenia. We knew we wanted to see the beautiful Lake Bled, so we wasted no time in getting there. What an amazing place! We enjoyed beautiful weather as we visited this lovely mountain lake. It is distinctive because it has an island in the middle with a church and a castle perched on a high cliff overlooking the region. We only wish we had remembered our swimming suits!

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After visiting Lake Bled, we headed back to Ljubljana. We had heard that this capital city of Slovenia was lovely. Not much to do per se, but perfect to enjoy the “Café Culture.” We did enjoy our day here!

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After one quick day in Ljubljana, we headed off to Skocjan Caves. This UNESCO Heritage site was a large cave in two parts. The first part was not super impressive if you’ve seen the likes of Carlsbad Caverns, but lovely all the same. The second part was magnificent. You are perched over a 47 meter drop to the rushing river below. You aren’t allowed to take pictures until you exit. Blargh.

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After the morning at the caves, we rushed back into Croatia. We stopped briefly at a small town called Opitija in the Istria region. We didn’t stay long, but we did stay long enough to enjoy our first views of the Adriatic and to allow our inner school children to emerge!

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After our brief stop on the coast, we went directly to the Plitvice Lakes region. Here we had the best dinner of the entire trip!

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After a bit of a rocky start, rainy and mist and clouds, we finally got a bit of sun and saw the beautiful lakes.

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After our day at Plitvice, we raced on to the lovely city of Zadar, Croatia. We’ve read blog posts that rank this city as having the best sunsets in the world. It definitely did not disappoint- though we have to say, it would be very hard to rank our top sunsets!

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After our evening in Zadar, we headed to our next destination: Split, Croatia. This amazing city is built inside the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. It is hard to beat wandering around ancient Roman ruins.

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After enjoying a short trip in Split, we continued on down the Dalmatian Coast to the big event: Dubrovnik. We enjoyed the beautiful city but could have done without the high prices and huge cruise ship crowds. One of our favorite events was walking the walls of the city.

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One of Eric’s favorite things about having Peggy and Wayne along was that they brought along a Rick Steves guidebook. Eric’s new best friend and travel guru!

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After spending a day in Dubrovnik, we picked up rental car number 2. Everyone who knows Della should be exceedingly proud. She drove this one the entire time.. all by herself! After this trip, no one can hate on her driving stamina ever again!

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We arrived in the amazing, interesting city of Sarajevo. It was hard to explain our feelings about being here. We were relived to be away from the crazy tourist crowds, excited to see something completely different from what we had seen before, but in pain when viewing and hearing about the all too recent wars.

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Finally, we arrived in Mostar. A lovely city with a lovely bridge. It was fitting for our last evening together to dine here with an incredibly atmospheric (as Rick Steves would say) view.

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We are so fortunate to have both Peggy and Wayne, and earlier Donna and Steve, join us on our travels. We could hardly ask for anything better. Thank you parents!

 

Dalmation Coast, Croatia

This is a guest post by Peggy, Della’s mom, who joined us, along with Wayne, for 14 days in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia Herzegovina.

After finishing up at Plitvice Lakes National Park, we headed directly to the coast. Our first stop was Zadar. This was high on Della and Eric’s list because Zadar is home to Maraska, a maker of slivovitz. We didn’t find a brewery tour but we did find the equivalent of an outlet store. We bought several small bottles. Peg’s favorite was Orahovac, made of green walnut.

Zadar is famous for its sunsets and we were not disappointed. It’s really nice sitting on the sea wall listening to the eerie but somewhat repetitive sounds of the sea organ. Embedded pipes in the sea wall produce the sound. We were a little disappointed by the Salute to the Sun but maybe it wasn’t quite dark enough to fully appreciate its virtues. It reminded us of water fountains, like the one in front of Denver’s natural history museum. Instead of randomly shooting water it randomly produces lights in the pavement. (Editor’s Note: We tried to take videos of the Sea Organ and Salute to the Sun but neither came out great). In the morning, Della and Wayne took a quick swim on the more sheltered side of town.

Then we were off to Split. The main attraction here is Diocletian’s palace, built for the retirement of the emperor of the Roman empire around 300 AD. There are an interesting mix of original roman structures and other houses and shops built during the next several centuries after villagers moved inside the walls following the Slavic invasion in 700 AD.

In both Zadar and Split we had excellent airbnbs in fairly ugly high rise Tito era buildings, but with modern interiors. We think both cities warranted longer stays.

The view from our highrise during a rainstorm

The view from our highrise during a rainstorm

The next day we drove to Dubrovnik. We had a bit of a snafu when our airbnb canceled at the last minute due to a roof leak. Our host helped us find something else, though not quite as nice. We also had a snafu with the rental car. The office was closed so we left the car and hoped for the best. It all turned out OK.

Dubrovnik is a beautiful walled city which oozes charm.  But it was packed with tourists and felt a teeny bit like Disney world. Or perhaps the set for a film. Which indeed it was. We missed Game of Thrones filming by a couple of days!  We spent 2 days in Dubrovnik. We enjoyed walking the wall and also swimming in a cool lagoon.

While everywhere we went in Croatia had great natural beauty and grand historic sites, there is also ample evidence of the recent ugly past and the damage from the Yugoslav wars. The area around Plivice had been home to many Serbs, placed there by the Austrians to serve as a first line of defense against the Ottomons.  You could see many abandoned homes.  And of course Dubrovnik was subject to a siege, although the war stories in Croatia paled in comparison to those we heard later in Bosnia.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

This is a guest post by Peggy, Della’s mom, who joined us, along with Wayne, for 14 days in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia Herzegovina.

We drove from Skocjan Caves in Slovenia to a town near Plitvice Lakes National Park back in Croatia. We stopped midway at Opatija, an old resort town from the Hapsburg Empire era.  We enjoyed strolling along the seaside path.

We stayed at an apartment rented through AirBnB in the small town of Rudanovac, about ten minutes from the park entrance. Our host worked at a local brewery and brought us several bottles of beer to enjoy. We ate one of our best meals at a nearby restaurant. It was all such a pleasure because everyone was wonderfully friendly, which came as a surprise since Rick Steves told us to expect otherwise.

Our day for visiting the park was very cloudy and misty. While it never really got sunny, it fortunately cleared enough that we could see the wondrous sights.  We were charged the winter admission charge of 55 kuna, about $10, half the normal summer rate. It turned out many paths along the lakes were underwater, so we missed some of the neat things in the park.  Nevertheless, it was quite something. Lake follows lake down a mountain slope, separated by travertine rock dams, and hence, waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls are high, others short and wide.  It is an incredible world of still and running water and mist. You walk along numerous paths, sometimes high above, sometimes just below the falls.  Many of the paths are boardwalks constructed of non milled timber (in other words – from logs and branches). There is a boat ride for one stretch and a shuttle bus that takes you from the upper lakes back down to the lower lakes.

We were there in shoulder season, on a not so nice day, in a relatively remote part of Croatia. Even so this park is CROWDED. We were ahead of the big tour groups, but even so there were lots of people. It was a bit hard to get unobstructed views but people were generally in good spirit about jockeying for position.

We were told that Krka Park (another in Croatia that is somewhat similar to Plitvice) has somewhat similar formations and allows swimming. At Plitvice you are not allowed in the water. Had it been hotter, that rule would have made us very unhappy because the water was clear and beautiful.

Monthly Recap: Month 3

Here we are at Month 3. Hard to believe. We’re still going strong, though Della is going through her first bout of true homesickness. This was an emotional and eventful month. We dedicate our thoughts this month to two wonderful women who lived long, meaningful lives. We both lost our grandmothers this month. Lucille, Della’s grandma, was 101 years old. Marvis, Eric’s grandma, was 94. They were both kind, caring, and generous. They will be missed.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 6 (Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro)

Beds Slept In: 16

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 8 (Levoca Spišský Hrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments, Budapest including the Banks of the Danube the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrassy Avenue, Škocjan Caves, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, Old City of Dubrovnik, Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar, Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor) Total on RTW: 23

We traveled by 0 planes this month!

We traveled by 4 trains (though one of them involved a train, a transfer to a bus, then a transfer back to a train!)

We traveled by 5 long distance buses.

We traveled by 2 different rental cars which took us from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, then Dubrovnik to Sarajevo and back!

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at the very beginning of the month! We had long been looking forward to visiting Spis Castle. We had planned to do it as a day trip from Ždiar, but felt thwarted by it being a holiday weekend and therefore bad bus schedules. We switched our plan and it totally worked out for the best. We added one more UNESCO site of the old town of Levoča and were able to spend a wonderful day at the castle. The weather was glorious and the castle even exceeded our expectations!

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The amazing Spis Castle

 

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~ We had a top moment when, after a long day of traveling, we were able to successfully meet Della’s parents at the bus station in Zagreb. It involved both her parents making a train, bus, train connection as well as us doing the same. We converged on Zagreb one Saturday evening- Peggy and Wayne from Vienna and Della and Eric from Eger. Della and Eric arrived first, connected with our VRBO host, and then decided to head back to the train station to meet Peggy and Wayne’s train. It made for quite a happy reunion!

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~ During our two weeks with Della’s parents, we had the benefit of Peggy’s Rick Steves’ Guide Book. (Eric loved that book and might consider it a top moment by itself!) Rick had warned us not to expect too much from the people in the Plitvice Lakes region of Croatia, stating that often the service left something to be desired. We were so pleasantly surprised during another one of our top moments. We had a long day of driving to arrive in the Plitvice Lakes region. We met our Airbnb host, who was wonderfully friendly, making sure we had everything we needed in a great apartment. He even brought up some free beers from the local brewery where he works. We then headed to a restaurant that he recommended where we enjoyed the service of a wonderful man. He was friendly, funny, and competent. It was just a cherry on top when he gave us travarica (Eric’s new favorite liquor) shots on the house!

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The beer was actually quite tasty!

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Dessert with free shots!

~ Eric and Della returned to Dubrovnik after a few days in Bosnia-Herzegovina with Della’s parents. They said goodbye to Peggy and Wayne in Mostar before driving the rental car back into Croatia. We weren’t really looking forward to spending more time in Dubrovnik given that we had been slightly underwhelmed by our first experience (high prices and a LOT of tourists). We were also a little depressed after having to say goodbye to Della’s parents. However, we enjoyed another glorious, sunny day (after many of rain) upon our return. There was no drama with returning the car (which was unexpected) and we found our lodging quickly, despite having to hike up 421 stairs with our bags. But it was the next day that really brought the top moment- we found out that Game of Thrones was filming in the city at that moment. We slept in (which could have been a top moment also) and then headed into the city to hunt for the sites of filming. Turned out that it was easy to find. We were able to watch them setting up for a large scene this coming season. The excitement came when we, first, got to listen to what must have been the camera director explaining exactly how the scene was to be shot and getting some inside info about what was coming! Then we saw LITTLEFINGER walk right by us! Finally, when we weren’t even expecting it (sitting on the square, enjoying a Coke Zero and some snacks), we looked up and saw CERSEI walk right by. Della feels like she even got a smile. =) What fun!

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Eric is the King in the ever-continuing Game of Thrones

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We were right there with the official Baratheon/Lannister banner!

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It was quite fascinating to watch them set up for what is probably one scene. So many people and so much work involved.

Runners up for Top Moments:

~Della, especially, loved all of Hungary. She doesn’t have any really great reasons except that it was extremely enjoyable and she somehow identified with the place and people. She wishes that she could list the whole time in Hungary as a top moment, but we try to be a little more specific in these recaps. So, we picked a moment that was in Eger, Hungary. You probably read how we experienced some pretty depressing, rainy days in Eger. There was one day in particular where we were quite annoyed. We had a lot we wanted to do, but we just weren’t feeling like getting soaking wet while trying to do it. So, we headed back to our pension to relax and read. All of a sudden, after a few hours holed up in the room, we glanced to the window and saw the sun peeking from behind the clouds. We dropped what we were doing and ran out to visit the Eger Castle before it closed. What views!

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The clouds actually added to the effect

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We love castles and views…

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so happy the sun came out!!

~ The middle of our trip with Della’s parents was plagued with a bit of bad luck: we experienced days of gloomy rain, bouts of bad colds (all of us in succession), injuries (Della tweaked her back, Peggy’s toe continued to bother her, and Wayne sprained his ankle badly), unpleasant experiences (lodging being cancelled on us at the last minute and then having to pay more for less, car companies who didn’t do what they said and then literally yelled at us and hung up on us, threating to let the car be towed instead of allowing us to return it: Sixt Car Rental, by the way), some sad family news from back home, etc. I tell you all of this because it was the backdrop for one of our runners up for top moment. After all of this stuff to make us unhappy, we arrived in Sarajevo. Sarajevo is a difficult city to visit for a number of reasons, but we found it amazing. We also were able to finally find affordable, good food. This may sound like a small thing, but, somehow good dining options seem to be able to make or break a place for us. We found multiple pleasant restaurants with genuine servers, good prices, and tasty food. (Even the hardest person to please among us was happy!) Our last night with Della’s parents was amazingly pleasant. We dined in our second town in Bosnia Herzegovina, Mostar. The evening at a restaurant with all the above, plus a great ambiance, and amazing views of the wonderful Old Bridge of Mostar.

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Happy campers… er… eaters!

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Local food delicacy called Burek. Yum!

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Our meal, see the view in the background.

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This lovely bridge!

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Sunset in Mostar, adding to the wonderful ambiance of our final dinner

~ See above for the lead up to this second runner up as well. We had had many days of rain during our trip and expected many more. We arrived in the Plitvice Lakes region on a cloudy evening, had a wonderful dinner (see above top moment), and slept well (except for Della who was fighting the cold at that time). We woke up to more cloudy, gloomy weather, which was truly unfortunate for our trip to the amazing Plitvice Lakes. We had been looking forward to this for a long time, reading blog after blog about how wonderful these lakes were. This is what they are supposed to look like.

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This is what they actually looked like when we arrived.

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The rain had also caused many of the wooden paths to be closed due to flooding. We were quite distraught but hiked on anyway. The top moment arrived when, at around noon, the sun was able to peek through the clouds! It wasn’t perfect, but it gave us the light that we had been hoping for. The mist cleared and we were able to enjoy the second part of the lakes!

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The lovely upper lakes

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The sun is out!

~ We had a wonderful time with Della’s parents, however, because their trip was short and there was a lot they wanted to see, we moved very fast! We rented cars and zipped from city to city, mostly spending only one night in each location. This was great because we saw a lot, however, we were quite exhausted by the time Peggy and Wayne left. Traveling like that is OK when you get to go home after, but on this long trip, we can’t keep up that kind of pace. We knew we wanted to slow down and thought that maybe we had found the place to do it. We headed to the bayside town of Kotor in Montenegro. We had booked an apartment through booking.com and didn’t exactly know what to expect. We arrived to a great place! Spacious, homey, and with almost everything we could want. We had already decided to hunker down for a few days, but now we think we might even go for more!

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Stay tuned to the blog for more pictures of the actual town. It is lovely.

Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Eric’s computer. We were quite frustrated because we had bought a lightweight netbook for the purpose of this trip, but by the second month of the trip, it was starting to malfunction. It wouldn’t start up regularly and we began to worry that it was on its last legs. Luckily, we were able to buy a new one, ship it to Della’s parents and have them bring it to us.

2. Della’s cell phone battery. While in Budapest Della’s phone died. Luckily, it turned out to just be the battery. Unluckily, we were told that the specific battery she needed was not sold anywhere in Hungary. Cue a late night rush to the store in Denver by Wayne (Della’s dad) the day before they left to meet us.

Added:

1. See above: New computer and new cell phone battery, purchased at home and brought to us

2. New soap

3. New toothpaste and two new toothbrushes

Packing Update:

We’re still mostly happy with the contents of our bags. We probably have more than we really need. We still feel like we haven’t used some of our summer clothing. Shorts haven’t been worn virtually at all. We have finally used our swim suits (swimming in the Adriatic, next to the walls of Dubrovnik, and in Zadar) and we made use of our cold weather gear again during our time in Sarajevo. We also have been potentially carrying more books with us at a time then strictly needed.

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Poland by James Michener, Everything is Going to be Great by Rachel Shukert, The Bridge at Andau by James Michener, Final Epidemic by Earl Merkel

Eric has read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Eric and Della have BOTH read Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2