How about Souvlaki Land?

Plovdiv - Athens (via overnight bus)

The remaining days in Plovdiv were spent enjoying its crazy sunsets and trying desperately not to pass out from the oppressive heat by imbibing as frequently as possible in Kapana - our neighbourhood of choice. We had a 16 hour bus ride lined up, that would bring us all the way down to Athens - leaving at 13:45 and arriving at 5:30AM. To say I was impressed by this bus (Arda Tur) would be an understatement - having to hunker in anywhere for 16 hours can be claustrophobic, but it makes a big difference when someone comes by with foods and snacks at regular intervals. They even had inflight (indrive?) entertainment with the same 3 Simon Pegg movies on loop or an assortment of Eastern European music videos, for which I have a penchant.

Plovdiv Sunsets
Plovdiv Platz
Kapana Reflections
Plovdiv Bus Terminal
Arda Tur
Bulgaria by road
Pit Stop
Inside the bus

A day and a half in Athens

We ended up arriving a full half hour early in Athens at the ripe hour of 5AM. The sun had yet to rise, we were dropped off in what could basically be described as the middle of nowhere, as far as cities go, and fun fact: free and open wifi in Athens is, by my account,  not even a rarity - it simply doesn't happen (not even at Starbucks! Blasphemy!) But, we managed to wander ourselves toward the right direction, passing a just-opening fish and meat market, until we could finally see the peak of the Acropolis to use as a guide. Not able to check-in to our Airbnb for another 5 hours, and having not really slept on the bus, we napped in shifts in the shadows of the Acropolis. Moments like that are what it's all about, no?

After checking in and getting a settled (re: unsweatified) we wandered about, catching the changing of the guards at the Parliament building, and taking in a few cold Mythos atop a mountain whilst watching the sun set over the city below.  

The next morning, we headed up to the Acropolis around 10AM, which seemed like an ideal time weather and other visitor-wise. The scale and views alone were awe-inspiring. 

Fish market
Changing of the guards
Sunset in Athens
Backyard Athens views
Athens views
Athens Acropolis
Acropolis scaffolding
Acropolis workers
Human for scale
@selfiesacrosseurope - acropolis
Amphitheatre from above
@selfiesacrosseurope
Acropolis
Acropolis tourists
Acropolis view
the original sign

Athens - Crete (via overnight ferry)

After the Acropolis, it was time to head over to Piraeus to buy tickets for the overnight ferry to Crete, where we will be making base for the next month. I am thankful to this boat trip for two reasons: 1) I love boats. 2) I now know what a muster point is (assembly points, for the plebs out there.) 

It's an interesting thing, watching people try to entertain themselves on a 10 hour boat trip - some get excited when the onboard TVs are showing the live finale of Greek Survivor going so far as letting out an audible 'yelp' when it begins (this was my seat neighbour, by the by). Others spend longer than they normally do (I hope) getting that perfect selfie - I'm talking well over 30 minutes. Others find a quiet spot on the deck and watch the waves and stars pass by. Myself, I was a combination of the first and last - did you guys know there's some TV show (maybe movie) which stars very '90s people: Scott Wolf, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Eric McCormack? I do now. 

But, by far the most entertaining part of the boat trip was watching the sun ascend at a dramatic rate over the sea horizon as we got closer and closer to the Cretan coast. Upon arrival in Heraklion, we hopped a bus to our beach-front apartment and settled in for a month of soothing wave sounds from our balcony. 

Thissio colours
Thissio metro stop
Athens metro
waves gif
Piraeus Port
Buses at Piraeus
Piraeus gif
Smoke on the water
on board lighting
@selfiesacrosseurope - at see
fast moving ferry gif
on deck at night
sunrise at sea
Ferry morning
morning waves gif
Sunrise shadows
Sunrise on the ferry
Heraklion coast
Heriklion bus
Home sweet Crete
Crete views gif

Culture from day to night

Plovdiv will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019 - and they won't let you forget it. It's hard not to notice the seemingly overwhelming number of signs spotted across the city reminding all who walk the streets of this fact. Some more cynical visitors may have a good laugh about the pride they are taking in the honour, but take a closer look and it becomes clear that this is an honour well-deserved. 

I mentioned in my previous post that the city is full of ancient Roman ruins, one of which is still an active amphitheater - one in which even the likes of Attila the Hun took in a show. Of course, we had to take advantage of Open Opera utilizing the first century AD theatre. We snagged a couple of tickets to La Traviata for this past Saturday. 

The rain was on and off all day, threatening the show itself. But, as the time came closer, it seemed as if the rain would hold off - and as they say, the show must go on. About halfway through the first act, it began to rain once again. The orchestra and actors went as long as they could - even going as far as continuing playing their instruments whilst simultaneously pulling out their umbrellas. When that proved too difficult, they called a rain delay, and waited out the rain. The show began again, not missing a step, and only having to stop one other time in the second act. The cast, orchestra, and crew handled it like champs - not even letting flying props stop them.

It was such a surreal experience. Surreal and simply incredible.

Alyosha Monument
Spirit animal

After climbing the steep Bunarjik Hill to the Alyosha Monument in 85F (29C) degree weather, this kid (aka my spirit animal) responded in the only acceptable way. But, damn, that view.

Plovdiv from above
Plovdiv Together

'Together' - the slogan of Plovdiv Capital of Culture 2019

Blocked skies
Gusto
Abstract Plovdiv
Silver tops
Fast Food
The Cube
Cyrillic Golden Hour
Grand Hotel Plovdiv
Shopping Center
Four Seasons
Sunset in Plovdiv
Plovdiv Times Square
Open Opera Plovdiv
Umbrellas at the Opera

They whipped out their umbrellas. I whipped out my camera.

Onwards to Bulgaria

Brasov - Bucharest (via train) 

After two months in Brasov, we were absolutely ready to move on to a new location. We decided on Plovdiv, Bulgaria to be our next monthly stay, but wanted to make the trip there a little more interesting. Neither of us had really spent any time on the Black Sea, and we were curious to see just how black it actually is (answer: not so much. It's sea-coloured.). So, we created a route that would bring us to Varna, Bulgaria for a week before heading over to Plovdiv. Because Varna is not so close to Brasov, this meant a night in Constanta, Romania before crossing the border. There is also no direct train from Brasov to Constanta, so we had a quick stop over in Bucharest. Those thinking of taking a train trip in Romania should feel comforted that it is incredibly easy to search and book train trips on their official website.

Brasov Home
Brasov Bus
Brasov Bus Inside
Brasov Train Station
Brasov Train Station Tunnel
Brasov To Bucharest

Bucharest - Constanta (via train)

Because our train was 45 minutes late leaving Brasov, our layover in Bucharest was cut down from two hours to just over one, which was fine by us. Last year when we were travelling from Brasov to Chisnau, Moldova, we had a two hours to get from the train station on one side of Bucharest to a bus station on the complete opposite side of the city, and that was a nightmare to say the least. So we were very happy to have just enough time to grab a sandwich from Subway (ick) and get on our connecting train to Constanta.

Bucharest Train Station
Bucharest Train Station Platform
Bucarest to Constanta Train

Constanta - Varna (via mini bus)

We initially were concerned that one night in Constanta wouldn't be enough, but we were perfectly content with our 16 hours spent there. It's a nice beach town, where we were able to catch one of the most 80s-aesthetic sunsets I've experienced, and ate some incredible Lebanese food, but by the next morning, we were perfectly fine with moving on. Despite being only 150km (~93miles), it's actually not as straight forward to get from Constanta to Varna if you are without a car. We ended up going with a minibus (which seemed to be our only real option). When I tried to call to book it, they hung up on me because I couldn't speak Romanian, but we had an obliging Airbnb host in Brasov who booked it for us. When we arrived at the bus station 40 minutes before our scheduled departure time, it was desolate. After 15 minutes of mild freaking out, someone finally showed up and gave us our tickets. We were then squeezed into a small sprinter van with 5 other people (there are only 6 seats). So that was a nice and cosy 3 hour ride without any A/C. 

Constanta Sunset
Constanta Bus Station
Constanta to Varna Bus

Varna - Plovdiv (via train)

Arriving in Varna, we were met with insanely hot weather which we were not properly dressed for, my phone had stopped working despite being told by Vodafone that it would work without problem in Bulgaria. But, there was a perfectly legible map posted right by where we were dropped off, and we were able to successfully read it to get to our apartment for the week. Varna itself was what we call a pleasant surprise. There's a quartered off pedestrian area which leads to a large park bordering the beach. Food and drink is so cheap it's almost insulting (I'm talking $3 Lagavulin and $1 frozen margaritas. Yikes.) The architecture can only be described as mid-century beach town with a Soviet flare. Yes, please. In all its beauty, there is one dark part of Varna: the seagulls. Those little bastards were the most aggressive I've ever encountered - we even saw one snatch a slice of pizza right out of a man's hands then call all his little buddies to feast. Our neighbours had a pretty disconcerting scarecrow - scaregull? - posted up on their balcony which was an unsettling greeting each morning. We spent only a week in Varna overall, but would absolutely go back. On to Plovdiv!

Varna Drinks
Varna Sunset
Varna Scarecrow. Scareseagull?
American Barbeque
Varna Hotel
Varna Hotel
Varna Selfie
Varna Apoteka

Plovdiv (for 28 days)

After a pretty whirlwind week of travel and beach life, we have successfully made it to Plovdiv where we will be posted up until the first week of July. Our first few days here have been incredibly lovely. We've stumbled upon a live show in Plovdiv's First Century AD Roman amphitheatre, climbed a huge mountain to get to a large soviet statue reminiscent of Mother Motherland which we visited in Kiev last year, and have begun to explore the windy roads of the old town. I'm fairly confident that we've found a great place to spend the month - if not only because there's a walk up burrito window right outside our apartment.

Plovdiv Church
Plovdiv Church
Plovdiv Golden Hour
Plovdiv Roman Ampitheatre
Day Glow Building Plovdiv
Plovdiv Street Art
Plovdiv Nights
Plovdiv Cinemagraph

Two Months in Cartoontown

With only five days left in Brasov, I'm feeling anxious to move on to our next destination. Brasov is a beautiful town, and considering the fact that we have spent three out of the last nine months here, I think it's safe to say we like it. It's easy to fall in love with this small Transylvanian town with its colourful facades, countless outdoor eateries, and it's position right at the foot of the Carpathian mountains.

There's something really special about a place where within a two minute walk, you can be in a somewhat metropolitan area or in lush mountains. It has this feeling of living in an amusement park. Because of the location of our apartment, there were some days when we didn't see a single car, and stepping out our front door we are greeted by vibrant pastels on every building.

Brasov certainly is a special place in the world, and I will feel some sadness to say goodbye. 

Brasov Council Hall
Brasov Bus
Brasov Sign
Strada Postavarului
Book Store Brasov
Black Church Brasov

Dracula & Co.

Our time in Brasov is winding down. With less than two weeks left in Romania, we're trying to get in all the adventure we can before heading southward to Bulgaria. In doing so, we spent a rainy, foggy day touring three castles of Transylvania: Peles Palace, Bran Castle (aka Dracula's castle), and Rasnov fortress. The three sights varied widely from intense opulence (Peles) to the barren thirteenth century medieval fortress of Rasnov. In between the two is the main tourist attraction of Transylvania: Bran Castle where Vlad Tepes (The Impaler) was imprisoned. The stories of Dracula attract visitors to the otherwise modest castle in Bran. 

The muted colours of all three are a stark contrast from the bright pastels within city limits. 

Republicii Brasov
Sunset in Brasov
Brasov Square
Summer in Brasov
Brasov Streets
Post office Brasov
Square Brasov

Peles statue in fog
Peles palace
Rasnov
Rasnov Fortress
Bran shops
Bran Castle
Bran Castle

Mountaintown Spring

The spontaneity of weather in a mountain town is something to be reveled, not bemoaned. I thought being from the Northeast of the US set me up well for unpredictable weather, but what we've experienced in the past few weeks is shocking to even me. Being here just shy of a month, we've felt summer, autumn, spring, and surprisingly even winter. All in April. 

Just last week, at least 6 inches of snow piled down upon us over the course of 48 unstopping hours. This lead to roof leaks and power outages, but also incredible snowy mountains backing the pastel buildings. Just when I thought Brasov couldn't be any more magical, it outdid itself. 

Two days later, it had all melted away and we are back firmly in more traditional Springtime. 

This is a stable and unchanged town which never fails to stupify.

DSCF7172.jpg
DSCF7280.jpg
Brasov
Brasov Spring

Transylvania Station

A bus, 10 miles walked in 80 degree Budapest sunshine, 16 hours on a train, three countries, and a total of 31 hours in transit.

Last summer we spent a month in Brasov, Romania and fell in love with this fairy tale land. So, when it came down to deciding where to spend a couple of months after Paris, there wasn't even a discussion. 

Now, the thing about Brasov is its charm comes mainly from it's being tucked in the center of the Carpathian mountains. This makes it a bit tricky to get to. Last year, .we started in Sarajevo, and had to go through Belgrade, to Timisoara, with a short layover in a small one track town called Aiud. The entire process took a few days, and the train which was meant to take eight hours ended up taking fifteen. We were also lucky enough to find ourselves on the train with a school trip of fifty very loud 12 year olds and still-drunk festival goers on their way home from an EDM festival. 

That all being said, we were not keen on repeating our route again this time. Instead we found an overnight train from Budapest for the reasonable price of 39,000 Forint (re: ~118 Euro). That just left getting to Budapest from Zagreb, which was an easy (but very early in the morning) task. 

So, we left Zagreb at 7AM, hopped on a six hour bus ride, entertained ourselves in my favourite city for 5 hours, and made ourselves comfortable in our private sleeper car bound for Brasov. 

There's something very cathartic about sitting in a cubicle-sized room with the only sounds being the train flying down the rails - watching the Hungarian countryside descend into darkness of sunset, only to wake up to the Romanian country-side flooding the small quarters with the morning sunlight. 

We are now in the Hollywood of Romania. A magical land where eggs are sold by the bag. 

Autobusni Kolodvor Zagreb
Budapest Népliget
Budapest Keleti
Chain Bridge Budapest
Falafel Lunch in Budapest
Leaving Keleti
Hungarian countryside via train

Sights and sounds of a sleeper car.

Wires in sunset
Wires gif
Romanian sunrise
Heading Southeast
From farm to mountain
Brasov Station
Sleepercar
Brasov lunch
Magners
Eggs in a bag
Brasov History
Brasov sign

One night in Zadar

(and the world's your oyster) What, reference too esoteric? 

Craving ocean air and the sound of waves, we left Zagreb early morning Sunday to spend one night, two (almost) full days, in Zadar, Croatia. Zadar's tourist website boasts its many (re: 14) celebrities who have visited - they focus heavily on that time Hitchcock visited in the '60s and said that the sunsets are more beautiful than even Florida's. But knowing Jean Reno came once to watch Lenny Kravitz perform is not what drew us to Zadar. 

Zadar is the oldest continually inhabited city in Croatia, with evidence of life dating back as far as the Stone Age. It was once a Roman civilization, which becomes evident walking through the town. Roman ruins flower the Forum, St. Mark's winged lions adorn every gate and wall, and clean white brick floors the old town. 

But, Zadar is not just known for it's antiquities. Named "Europe's Best Destination" in 2016, a big draw is the 2005 installation by Nikola Bašic is one of many improvements made to the Nova riva (new city coast). The Sea Organ is an experimental musical instrument which utilizes the waves of the Adriatic Sea sweeping up against the harbour walls. A series of tubes located underneath white marble steps draws the water in, and releases a hauntingly relaxing melody. 

Zadar is a city many dash through on their way down the Croatian coast, taking a side glance to Split or Dubrovnik. But, it deserves a longer look. I certainly will return - if not for the off chance of bumping into musical performer Seal, but for the surprise dolphin appearances, simply rustic Mediterainnean cuisine, and dramatic jolts from ancient to modern. 

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A video showcasing the sounds and sights of the Zadar Sea Organ. Listen and let the relaxation waft over you. 

We'll always have Paris

Paris is a special city in the world - risky claim, I know. It's a place forgotten by time, but still functioning as a modern Alpha city. A city of nuance and contradiction, it's hard to be wishy-washy on it. I have been to Paris several times before, but have always felt lukewarm, if not disdain for it. Maybe it was the muggy summers, or the broken foot I walked for miles from the canals to the famous Tower, but I never truly saw Paris for what it actually is. 

My husband, on the other hand, loves Paris. He loves Paris like I love London or Budapest. He sees only the good, or maybe chooses to only focus on it. This is our third time together in Paris, and I made a concerted effort to see it through his eyes. We chose to return to Paris following the aftermath of my sister's passing in October partially because it was in Paris where we learnt the tragic news, and I felt it was needed to regain some semblance of normality. 

And so, I took these past two months to heal and to see the world through my husband's optimistic eyes. I will never feel the same way about Paris as I had in the past. I see it now. I understand it. I appreciate it. 

I am pleased to share a selection of my favourite images from the past two months. Each of these images was created in effort to see Paris in a new way - for me. There were a lot of emotions felt the past months, and I hope my images of this complex city reflect that. 

'Sunset over Montmartre' is now available for sale as a limited edition through Fujifeed Prints. Click the image to purchase. 

Montmartre Streets