Monthly Archives: May 2007

Welcome to Sarajevo

The nine-hour bus ride through the Balkan Mountains from Zagreb to Sarajevo was entirely epic. Upon missing my connecting train in Zagreb (I suspect that the German information dude that instructed me that 25 minutes between trains was entirely sufficient was not just having a laugh at a naive American, but actually could not fully conceive of the Eastern European style of timeliness and order and their utter lack of anal-ness in enforcing it) I briefly explored the downtown of Croatia’s capital and figured out how to take the tram to the bus station where I boarded what proved to be my first real Bosnian experience. Exhausted (I took an overnight train from Munich and spent most of that time chatting with two jovial Canadians shared my sleeping car until somewhere in Slovenia), I attempted sleep in the bumpy auto which had slowed down considerably because of the profuse rain.
Having failed to reach Haji earlier that day I was worried that he must be worrying about me and needed to try calling him again. I noticed the woman next to me had been texting on a cell phone and though she seemed exceptionally quiet, reclusive almost, I desperately needed to call my professor. So. I took out some Croatian currency (my wallet stuffed with at least 4 different kinds of money and me not fully understanding any of them) and asked her in English while I signaled with my hands that I wanted to call the number on the little sheet of paper that I held in the other. She looked at me oddly, then signaled back that she was deaf. I made up some of my own sign language and she dialed the number. No answer. But the beginning of a beautiful conversation was well under way.

Amila and I “talked” for the next six hours, scribbling sentences and questions in English on random receipts, envelopes, and finally across the pages of a notebook that we ended up passing back and forth throughout the journey. The bus wound through dark mountains and along sharp precipices; in and out of small towns that had witnessed huge tragedies; past ancient castles, remnants of Bosnia’s vast history. Amila told me about her husband, job, and how much her baby loved music. She pointed out the hospital in which she was born in a small that we passed through, and in the next small town, pointed out her parents house and the small shop where she had purchased her “delicious” wedding dress. I’m sure she looked stunning.

When we finally arrived in Sarajevo she pointed out several notable buildings in the city including the Oslobodenje, the newspaper whose archives I will later scour for a research project. She helped me hail a taxi to the address that Haji had given me (I finally reached him on her cell). I thought of how funny it must be for the taxi driver, me speaking only English while she relied solely on mouthing words and writing directions. We made it up the hill on the southern side of the city where I would be spending the month where we met Haji, I thanked her for lending me her socks (she insisted that my sandaled feet would need them) and told her that I would text message her, and the taxi swept her away into the city below.
I settled my bags and smoked hookah on our rooftop balcony with the gang, marveling over the gorgeous view of the nighttime city that I had read so much about, contemplating my trip, the beauty of human camaraderie, and the way the sweet-scented shisha soothed my tired body as my thoughts drifted out across the street-lamps, tiled rooftops, churches, mosques and parks, the former frontline, shelled buildings, surrounding mountains, and up into the clouds.

Out the train window, somewhere in Austriadsc01412.jpg

Out the train window, somewhere in Slovenia…dsc01414.jpg

Stuck in Zagreb, Croatia…dsc01442.jpg

Castle ruins near Travnik, BiH.dsc01453.jpg

Massive cemetary that was started during the war (1992-1996) in the Winter Olympic Games stadium (held in Sarajevo in 1983). dsc01475.jpg

A famous “Sarajevo Rose”. These shell marks are scattered throughout the city and were filled with plaster and dsc01484.jpgpaint by citizen activists to symbolize all of the damage done to this idyllic city.

Takin’ the city back…dsc01479.jpg

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Of rain, trains and ice cream…

It seems the good weather left with Cathi and Isaac as its been overcast and raining since they left. Actually, I take that back. The sun broke through the cloud cover briefly yesterday – just long enough for me to travel to the Dachau concentration camp and back, and then the sky dropped intense hail on the city just as I entered the apartment.

The rain, as despondent and dreary as it is, has been somewhat pleasant. It’s hampered some of my aspirations here but not my determination in acquiring ice cream. Last night with my head full of big questions about humanity and its intrinsic nature to be destructive, as spurred by my trip to the eerie, grey place of gruesome atrocities committed less than a century ago, I was in the need for some time alone. As such, I needed a mission. What better mission on rainy Sunday night in Deutschland than to seek out a soothing ice cream cone? I got on Cathi’s bike and trekked about the city on my mission. After biking in at least a five-block radius of the apartment, in all directions, down all side streets, and through an all-day market that was serving only beer and wurst, I was near to giving up and just settling down in front of a lighted fountain for contemplation on the lack of ice cream in this world and the meaning of life. Why would a country like Germany discriminate against the fattening habit of midnight ice cream treats when its people consume grease and fat and carbs all day? Especially when a people with weight concerns as serious as the Koreans embrace the frozen dairy midnight heart attack so lovingly! I was just about ready to give up when I came upon this sweet little Gelato shop run by a couple of Italians who served me up a killer vanilla-coffee cone which I promptly enjoyed while standing in the gentle mist and foggy light of a nearby fountain, and then went back to the apartment to chat with my sweetheart. mmm…

I am headed to Eastern Europe tonight and am a little excited to meet up with my group tomorrow in Sarajevo. I’m especially looking forward to visiting the headquarters of the major daily newspaper there, the Oslobodjenje, and raiding their archives for political cartoons for my research paper. My professor, Haji, has also mentioned that the newspaper may be open about letting me accompany them on a story and while I don’t know the language and my research focuses more on the archived cartoons, it would be really amazing to get out in the field.

There is ‘neiselregen’ here in Munich today, a sort of fog-rain. Ben R and I just went for dinner, but it must be some sort of national holiday as EVERYTHING was absolutely and completely closed. We had a difficult time even finding German chocolate let alone an open grocery store or restaurant. We bundled up and braved the nastiness, heading for the all-day market that was sure to have some sort of semblance of nourishment. Alas, it too had shut down for the eve. We finally ended up at a nearby train station eating sandwhiches and fries, but hey, at least they had cheep beer and the people-watching was fantastic. That’s all I got. See you in Sarajevo.

Dachau memorial. I think its really disrespectful to take a bunch of photos of this intense location, but this amazing memorial sought to raise consciousness about the atrocities that took place in this camp and as such, I felt that it was OK to photograph it. I’m not really in the mood to try and illucidate on what I learned and how I felt about this place right now, but it was the first concentration camp, founded in 1933 after Hitler came into power.

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Hot stencil near downtown Munich.

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Cool grafftti seen from the train on my way back from Dachau.

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The Frauenkirche at night, looking ominous. n185200746_30305476_1408.jpg

A cross-sectional cut of a Lufthansa plane as seen at the Deutshes Museum yesterday. If you were scared of flying before, this should make you more afraid. I love how it looks like a big slice of some giant’s science experiment, readied for viewing under the microscope. Or macroscope. Whateva.

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HAHAHA! This is officially the most hilarious example of German practicality. This statue was commissioned for officials in Chili who turned it down when they saw it. It sat around in some sort of warehouse until someone realized when they were building this monument in honor of several Bavarian generals in the 19th century (not featured here, or on the monument in any way…haha….) that the statue would work just fine for the cause. So, instead of scrapping it or sculpting a new statue, this heroic-looking one was erected in a historic downtown square in Munich where Hitler later held massive speeches. HA.

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Regen auf Deutschland

We’ve spent the last few days doing very little, enjoying the sunshine and fantastic weather at the local beach on the Isar river, just a few blocks away. My friends, Isaac and Cathrin, have been really wonderful to visit and we’ve just been lazily enjoying eachother’s company, cooking together every night and drinking lots of delicious local beers. Unfortunately, Isaac and Cathi have gone on vacation to Croatia. I have been left in charge of housesitting. After coffee and croisants I mailed out some postcards and biked down to the Deutsches Museum with my friend Ben who has been visiting. We split up and explored the fantastic exhibits for several hours until the museum closed, much too early. I purchased my ticket to Sarajevo yesterday via Zagreb (in Croatia, I wish I could have ridden along with my pals but there just wasn’t enough room in the car…), I’ll be taking the train there on Monday night. It’s raining now, Ben and I just missed an enormous downpour by a few minutes after returning on bikes from the museum. Biking around this city is definately the way to go. There are bike lanes on every sidewalk and, man, are they serious about their intended purpose. If you ever come to Germany DO NOT WALK IN THE BIKE LANE. You will either be run over or harshly reprimanded by some old lady, if your German skills are on par with mine this shouldn’t be too offensive and you may simply step back into the designated walking area. It’s wierd how the human brain retains language info and taps into it and random times. I could not say ‘ja’ as a response in the positive the other day at a bakery, and kept replying in Korean for ‘yes’ which is unfortunate because it is ‘nay’, recognized in most European countries as negatory. The man at the counter was really understanding but it was still embarassing and hilarious because there was no way to explain to him where the confusion was stemming from and I just looked like a complete idiot. I keep thinking of responses and commentary on weather conditions and other simple phrases in Korean. When I was in SK, it was reversed and I thought in German. HA. Somehow I’ll get this all straight.
We’re headed down for a drink or two at the Haufbrauhaus, which has the most famous beer garden in Munich.

Fantastic graffitti down by the Isar river
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A ridiculously sweet church built by two passionate brothers who were later forced to allow the public to visit it (because of how immensely beautiful it really is)n185200746_30304140_1525.jpg

Pretty much the most amazing street performer of all time. Yes, that is a homemade fountain costume, and yes, it pours real water…n185200746_30304139_1582.jpg

Interior of the famous Haufbrauhaus on a sunny day-
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A Maypole, which, I learned from my fabulous tourguide, are used for many more purposes than we might imagine. For example, competitive climbing games that include slicking the pole with sap and courtship practices that involve the erection of a maypole in the young lass’s garden during the dark of night.n185200746_30303894_4710.jpg

The grandiose Frauenkirche with its slightly imperfect towers. The architect didn’t find the imperfection very minor, however, and committed suicide slightly after the discovery. n185200746_30303422_4002.jpg

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Munich: beer heaven

I safely made it to Munchen (Munich as we imperialistic westerns insist on calling it) yesterday morning uneventfully. Sleep depraved and hopped up on sugar from the massive amounts of nasty Werther’s butterscotch things an old Irish couple fed me on the plane, I navigated the train station and made it to Isaac and Cathrin’s abode in the center of the city. It’s truly beautiful here. Everything is so amazingly tidy and well taken care of. Suddenly the German race becomes all to explainable. They make me at once wish that I was more organized and grateful that I am not.
Isaac and I spent yesterday biking about this monumental, welcoming city. We explored the city center a bit, though not too much because I will have a chance to learn much more on his tour tomorrow and didn’t want to make him give me a personal one as it must get somewhat monotonous to repeat the same information so many times. We spent a lot of time biking about the famous English garden, the old royal hunting grounds, and enjoying the open nudity and warm sunlight. The weather here is a welcomed change coming from mother Superior and then Dublin. I adore this city. I could live here. It seems I feel that way in every city I visit, but truly I just yearn for the big city bustle and excitement. I wish I didn’t love Wisconsin so much, or came from some terrible hometown like Sparta or Eau Claire so that it was easier to be away. Alas, I do so appreciate the land of milk and honey. Well, milk and corn, the bee decline as of late has deprived us somewhat of the latter…
I’ve been a bad blogger. It’s a lot easier to blog when one is stagnating in a dormitory with many commitments and lots of great reasons to use the medium as a tool of procrastination. Instead, I am enjoying the reality of everyday life and lovin’ the summertime.
More on Munchen to come (how can I get an umlout on this computer, damn it?!). Germans are cool, but not nearly as friendly as the Irish (or as forward…). I had at least two older women scold me today, once for walking on the ‘bike track’ of the sidewalks (a measly 6 inches over the border, max.) the second at a shoe store for not wearing ‘stockings’. But whatever, its nice to feel like people around you are abivilant about your existence as opposed to praising or scorning it in association with your nationality/race/gender/etc. Overall, the German folk are pretty open-minded about these issues and tend to be fairly accepting as a society (now) especially as evidenced through the gay rights movement.
Its early morning and I need to catch some sleep. I am looking forward to Isaac’s tour tomorrow and a potential upcoming visit to Dachau.
Here’s a view from a marble pavillion in the English park (this park takes up almost an 8th of the city, its amazing). The turrets in the distance are of a church in the city center…n185200746_30302556_4666.jpg

This is a great view from the crazy-huge clocktower in the city center looking back at the pavillion from which the previous photo was taken. n185200746_30302557_5810-1.jpg

Ah, beautiful beer-laden Munchen…n185200746_30302558_3949-1.jpg

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leaving the emerald isle

Ireland proved to be all that I expected and then some. It was rather a pity to spend my whole time there in the tourist hotspot of Dublin, but I think I still got a nice taste of the Irish culture and mentality. The hostel I stayed in was an absolute pleasure and was simply brimming with foreigners and youthful zest for life. I spent an amazing afternoon with several Italians, Spanish and French friends at the seaside in nearby Hothe. We rode a classic double-decker bus to the mountain, partook of fabulous authentic Irish coffee and merrily jaunted down along the seaside. n185200746_30301051_7133.jpg

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Dublin

I fucken love Ireland! It’s almost noon here in Dublin and it’s been a pleasant morning. I fell asleep early last night, wooed into slumber after a shower, a fresh pair of airplane earplugs, and a good dose of Tom Robbins. I really wanted to go out and explore the live Irish music scene, but it was probably better to catch up on some sleep instead. Tonight I will explore.
I am staying at the Four Courts Hostel on the Quay, a very nice place brimming with eccentric international youth and yerba matte. The city is gorgeous, full of classic old architecture and smiling faces. It’s surprising how friendly everyone really is here, it reminds me of the midwest. Random strangers smile and greet me on the street. Nothing like Seoul.

This morning I walked around the Trinity University campus. I can’t even imagine attending a university that is 400+ years old! The buildings were fascinating and I walked about in a daze, smelling roses and marvelling at the green grass and sunshine, between bouts of showers. Ireland smells like I thought it would. Fresh and classy. It’s hard to place, really, but stunning. The lack of pre-prep that I did before travelling here has been a blessing and a curse. Arriving was fantastic and surprising and hard to fathom because I’de thought so little about it. I couldn’t believe that I was really here. But not being up on politics, history and culture give me little to discuss with the locals, which is a pity, though it seems that they always find something to talk about…

I’m spending my time reading and becoming heavily caffeinated. This morning as I walked about the downtown it was amusing to observe all of the hungover college students and closed shops. This city is slow to wake up on the weekends.
Thats it. I’m off to the Guinness brewery.

(a few photos from my jaunt)n185200746_30301045_5254.jpg

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free Wifi in Shannon, Ireland

Here I thought flights to asia were about as close as one could get to the edge of the planet, but baby, it’s been a long flight. We’ve got a brief layover in Shannon and it’s 7am here. The aiport is full of US military personnel on their way home from the “war on terror” for a brief two week leave. They are marvelling at the greenery of this foggy place in contrast to the stark reality of their recent desert experience. I am marvelling at the terrain’s similarity to my own dear Wisconsin.
I met a splendid old man on my flight from NY and he gave me some tips on staying in Dublin. I’ll be in the city within an hour and anticipate locating a hostel, resting, and exploring the Irish capital. First mission: purchase umbrella.
More to come. The celtic tiger has indeed blessed this little nation of 4 million with decent coffee and fast internet connections. I can’t wait to try the guinness and find the live music…

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