Monthly Recap: Month 4

Wow! Month 4! The month was characterized by slower travels and more connections! We are also so pleased to announce that we have become first-time uncle and aunt this month. Congrats to Eric’s sister Suzanne on the birth of her beautiful baby girl, Sofia.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 3 (Montenegro, Albania, and Greece)

Beds Slept In: 12

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 7 (Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra, Butrint, Meteora, Archaeological Site of Delphi, Archaeological Site of OlympiaArchaeological Site of Mystras, Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns) Total on RTW: 30

We traveled by 0 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 20 long distance buses.

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at the very beginning of the month! We had been looking forward to our visit to Kotor for a long time. We really enjoyed slowing down in Kotor at the end of last month and the beginning of this month. One of the best days we had there was when we climbed the fortress walls. It was an absolutely gorgeous day weather-wise. We waited until the late afternoon to miss the cruise ship crowds. We climbed up the mountain, enjoying amazing views, and even a sunset on the way down. It was lovely!

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~ Our second moment came in Berat, Albania. We knew almost nothing about Albania when we arrived (though learned a lot while we were there) so we didn’t know what to expect. We had heard that it was not really on the tourist track in Europe. We were so impressed with Berat! Our top moment came when we decided to take a tour of the city offered by the worker at our hostel. He was a native of Berat, and knew a ton about his city and the history of Albania. The tour was particularly personalized because there were only 4 of us. The other couple was an amazing pair of bikers from Belgium. The tour started at 10 am and after seeing the beautiful city of Berat, we sat down for Turkish coffee (tea for us) and then dinner with both our guide and the Belgian couple. It was a fantastic way to spend the day, full of everything we love about traveling – new friends from around the world and learning a lot about cultures we didn’t know much about!

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~ We mentioned above that this was a month where we made some really great connections. The first was our Belgian friends in Berat, the next was a couple of Americans from Washington state (and Idaho). There is almost nothing better than seeing another pair of travelers trying to make the same long travel day as you are. It helps with confidence, knowing that someone else is attempting the same trip, as well as company! It is even better when you find out that you have a lot in common and really enjoy chatting with each other. Our top moment was when we were able to visit the ancient site of Delphi with our new friends. Wow, we have to say, it is a wonderful experience to find another couple who enjoy reading Rick Steves (and other informational signs) as much as we do, and who enjoy talking popular culture, TV, and books (even the Wheel of Time series!!!) in the breaks. What luck! We had a great time!

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Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We already mentioned in this recap that we really enjoyed our time in Albania. Another example of this was our time at the archaeological site of Butrint. This was a wonderful place with a lot of history, but the best part was that we got to experience it practically on our own! We didn’t see any other tourists almost the whole day! What was even funnier was that when we got back to our hostel in Saranda, we found out that 4 other people from there had done it as well, separately, but it was big and empty enough that we didn’t even see each other. This is not to say we don’t enjoy company, but there is something special about experiencing an ancient city (and tourist attraction) without having to dodge the crowds.

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~ Our second runner up was in Meteora, Greece. We were pretty excited to finally reach Greece, which we had been looking forward to for a very long time. Della has dreamed of visiting Greece for as long as she can remember. Meteora did not disappoint. We walked among the monasteries taking in the unique, impressive scenery and imaging what it must be like to make your home on the top of vertical pillar, high above the world. It was especially good when we were able to escape from the tourist bus crowds.

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~ We had a wonderful time with our new friends in Delphi, Greece. One of the activities that we did with them was to take a walk from Delphi, down the mountain, through the olive groves, and to the coast. It is actually the reverse of what many pilgrims did in ancient times on their way up to hear their fortune from the Oracle. We had a magnificent day, with perfect weather. The scenery was shockingly beautiful and our company was grand. It was hard to beat!

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~ As some of you may already know, we celebrated 10 years of being together as a couple this last month. We couldn’t have picked a better locale. Delphi, Greece was absolutely beautiful. It is hard to imagine a better way to remember 10 great years with a person you love while overlooking one of the most fantastic sunsets you’ve ever seen!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Simple Wine Opener

Added:

1. New toothpaste

2. More Complex Wine Opener

3. Butter knives

Packing Update:

We got to use our summer gear a bit this month which made us happy! We also have used our winter and rain gear, so we are glad we have it all. Della hasn’t used her dress since Budapest so is wondering if it is necessary. Eric is happy with all of his contents.

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

Della has read Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Eric has read The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters, Black Ice by Lorene Cary, Making Money by Terry Pratchett, Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler.

Eric and Della have BOTH read The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone and Hope of Earth by Piers Anthony.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3

Budget: Montenegro

This is one of our Budget series of posts to give you an idea of how much we spent traveling around the world. Here we will look at Montenegro. Check our posts to see what kind of activities we did and where we stayed!

In Montenegro we used the euro. We converted to US dollars using the current conversion rates at the time of our visit. It was approximately 1.3 dollars to 1 euro.

Total Spent (6 days): $471.77

Accommodation: $244.40

We stayed in an apartment that we found on Booking.com. We liked it a lot which is why we ended up staying for so long!

Activities: $29.90

This included the entrance fees to climbing the fortress in Kotor and the bell tower in Perast as well as Zumba classes.

Alcohol: $10.60

Our alcohol category does not include alcohol that we buy with food, so this includes a bottle of wine and beers in Perast.

Food: $91.58

We cooked at home for almost every meal during our stay in Kotor. We had one dinner out after we climbed the fortress. This also includes any alcohol we purchased with our groceries.

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Miscellaneous: $23.79

This included postcards, mailing postcards, a bathroom stop, and Eric’s haircut.

Transportation: $71.50

This included buses around Montenegro and from there into Albania. This is higher than it would have been because we ended up having to taxi into Albania because we were told that the buses weren’t running due to a holiday.

This divides out to $71.63/day which is under our $100/day budget!

 

 

 

 

 

Slowing Down in Kotor, Montenegro

Our next stop after Dubrovnik was the town of Kotor in the relatively new nation of Montenegro. Kotor is the main town on the Bay of Kotor, a giant inlet on the Adriatic Sea. After moving so quickly through Croatia with Della’s family, we decided to slow down in Kotor and ended up staying six nights!

Where We Stayed

Apartments Samardzic – Part of the reason why we decided to stay in Kotor for so long was because we really enjoyed our space in this apartment. We had a nice queen-sized bed, a good bathroom, a kitchenette, a big living room, and our favorite feature: a view over the bay. We spent most of our afternoons just relaxing the in the living room, looking out over the bay and catching up on things. The hosts live right next door, and were always very kind whenever we had a question.

What We Did

Honestly, not too much. Even though we stayed in Kotor for many days, a lot of our time was spent catchng up on the blog and reading books. We did try to do a little sightseeing most of the days. So, we did do these activities:

Explore Old Town – The Old Town of Kotor is known for being small but also like a maze. We spent a few different days trying to get lost in its different alleyways. We never got completely lost, but we did find a lot of picturesque little corners. We also found a lot of cute cats!

Climb the City Walls – Kotor has a very impressive defense system. Not only does it have thick walls to protect from attacks from the sea, it also has a series of walls running up the hill behind the Old Town that protect from attacks by land. Today, you can pay a small fee to hike up the old walls all the way to a fort at the very top. We took advantage of this one evening, and had great views over the bay as the sun set.

Day Trip to Perast – On one of the days in town, we also decided to take a day trip to the another interesting town near the mouth of the bay called Perast. There wasn’t too much going on there, but we enjoyed a lazy afternoon admiring its Venetian architecture and exploring its sights.

Zumba Classes – See our separate post.

Got Eric’s Hair Cut – It hadn’t been cut since before we left on our trip. As fun as it would have been to see him in a ponytail, he felt it was time. We asked around and heard that a place in Old Town would do it for a reasonable price. One evening we headed over there, and he got the exact cut he wanted in less than ten minutes!

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Where We Ate

Our Apartment  – For as much as we enjoyed Kotor, its one downside was a lack of cheap, non-touristy restaurants. So, for every night except one, we cooked dinner in our apartment! We found a nice grocery store (in the same fancy shopping mall as the Zumba classes), so we were able to vary the menu each night. We were also able to get a local beer or wine each night for pretty cheap.

Pizzeria Sara – The one exception to our cooking at home was the night we climbed the City Walls – all of those stairs made us pretty hungry! So instead of figuring out what to cook, we decided to eat some pizza. We both tried to get pizzas with a little bit of local flair – Della had a topping of local ham, and Eric had some prosciutto.

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Our table had a nice view on the square in front of the cathedral

Final Thoughts

We may not have done as much sightseeing during our week in Kotor as we had done other weeks, but we really enjoyed the chance to relax and recuperate. The few activities we did do were fun, and Kotor is definitely high on our list of places we have enjoyed visiting!

Zumba Round the World: Kotor, Montenegro

We decided we needed slow down a little bit after a fast paced 14 days with Della’s parents, so we found a place we liked in Kotor, Montenegro. We hunkered down in a comfortable apartment for a week, a few minutes outside the old town. We were only a 5 minute walk to a pretty fancy mall, which surprised us. The great thing about this was that there was a gym within this mall that offered Zumba every day! We went to our first class on a Monday afternoon at 4 pm. The instructor, Duda, was super welcoming and excited to have us! She explained that her Monday classes are a bit smaller because they are early in the day and we were glad to have some space to dance. There were about 6 students in that class and they were all friendly and really made us feel welcome in their class. Unfortunately, Duda also mentioned that in Montenegro, it was not very typical for men to dance, so Eric felt a little uncomfortable. The class was a lot of fun! Duda incorporates some isolations at the beginning of class and some yoga at the end, so it was unique!

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Anticipation: before class starts!

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Sweaty after class with the lovely, talented Duda!

Della enjoyed the class so much that she went back a second time later in the week. The second class was quite a bit bigger as it was later in the day, but again, everyone was so kind! It was a blast and really helped with a little of the homesickness we’ve been feeling to have a regular Zumba class to attend. Thank you, Duda for a wonderful time! If you ever find yourself in Kotor, Montenegro, check out her Zumba classes!

 

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.

Image Credit: adventurouskate.com

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