A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: DavidJFabe

And so it ends!

I am coming home

sunny 24 °C

I've finished my sightseeing and am back at my hostel. It's 6:35pm. I'm going to finish the evening by reading the rest of "For Whom The Bell Tolls" by the side of the lake here in Lucerne. I'm also going to make myself dinner at some point, shower, and eventually go to bed. In the morning I'm going to eat breakfast, catch a train to the Zurich Airport (probably at 11:10am), probably eat lunch at the airport before boarding a plane for London at 3:30pm. I'll have a one and a half hour layover in London and then be on the flight back to Seattle where Laura will pick me up and drive me to Olympia. That's the next 36-hours in a nutshell. Depending on how smoothly the trip goes it might be my last blog update regarding my trip. If it doesn't go smoothly I may have a funny story to tell. I'll probably put up one more post anyway just to really finalize the whole thing.

Anyway, today was lazy. I walked quite a bit but that was about it. I pretty much fully explored both the old and new towns of Lucerne, walked along the battlements and up some towers and enjoyed the view of the Alps. Not a lot to report. I took a bunch of pictures and they should be up shortly (I'm actually in the process of uploading them this second). Enjoy!

Posted by DavidJFabe 09:35 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

At the End of the Line

semi-overcast 20 °C

When I awoke this morning I was greeted by intense rainfall outside my window. It wasn't that I was surprised as it had been raining heavily yesterday but I was frustrated that I had to wear my ridiculous 2-euro rain poncho thing that I bought all the way to the Salzburg train station.

Anyway, I arrived at the train station physically okay but feeling a little out-of-touch style-wise, discovered I had to pay .50euro for the toilet, discovered that I had only .29euro and resigned myself to sitting in mild discomfort while I waited for my train. After a few minutes it arrived from Vienna and I boarded, thankful to be able to relieve myself.

The train was much a degree nicer than what one typically encounters in the former-Communist countries and I guess that's to be expected because Austria is a good deal wealthier and invests a good deal more than the average country in its rail system. Of course leave it to a German speaking people to leave and arrive on the exact minute printed on my ticket (depart at 10:31, arrive at 4:20 ON ZE MINUTEN!).

Arrival in Switzerland was strange. It was very pretty from my window with impossibly beautiful lakes surrounded by impossibly tall mountains everywhere but unfortunately, because of windows, I declined to take photographs. Oh well, photos abound of Swiss nature. Anyway, on to the odd part - I switched trains in Zurich for Lucerne and upon arrival in Lucerne I stepped out into a train station that appeared to be IDENTICAL to the one I left in Zurich. Never have a I seen such a phenomenon. Anyway, not THAT weird but the rest of Lucerne is quite strange. It's the most sterile city I've ever visited. It's painfully clean. However, there seems to be no coherence to the city. It doesn't caress the soul in the least. It has some very pretty architecture, yes, but that architecture also seems freakishly sterile. It's like I stepped into some hyper-modern late 1970's sci-fi film. That feeling was augmented by the fact that there are very strange cars here - while walking back to the hostel from the grocery store I was passed by a woman driving a white angular... something. It had all the grace of a stretched out toasted. It appeared to be a one seater though there may have been "room" for two and it had three wheels situated as one might imagine they would be. The woman was wearing aviator goggles - this despite the fact that the vehicle was entirely enclosed - and other than that appeared to be wearing sharp business attire. Moment after this spectacle passed me I was passed by some great roaring hot-rod thing that I had never seen before and then by a LADA NIVA which I've never seen outside of a former-Communist country.

Then there's the architecture. Most of the architecture that isn't old looks like all of the sketches I've seen of to-be-built Seattle structures. What's the deal Seattle? Where's the originality? Most of these buildings I'm assuming aren't brand new and many might date back 10 years (though they may have originated in the future). Really freaky place, Lucerne. Tomorrow I will photograph but I'm not sure if my photos will do justice and perhaps it's just me.

Lastly - Switzerland, or maybe just Lucerne, is PAINFULLY expensive. I tried to find a restaurant and after finding nothing of (what I considered) reasonable value decided that I might as well stop off at the Burger King next to the grocery store (I would have just gotten groceries but was really hungry from 7 hours of train travel and another hour of hostel business plus I didn't get on the train until 2 hours after I ate breakfast!). I canceled that idea as soon as I saw the price of a meal: ~$12. At Burger King. No force on earth would get me to pay that much for a crappy burger. So I bought a $9.50 kebab roll. What a rip-off. But it was good. Tomorrow I'm going to eat some legit Swiss food regardless of the cost. I just couldn't justify it tonight. I bought some groceries too so, despite their ridiculous cost too, I can save some cash.

See (some of) you all soon!

Posted by DavidJFabe 13:33 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

MEIN FÜETEN!!!

(Not actual German)

storm 21 °C

I had to cut my sightseeing short in Salzburg today due to the rain but I think I pretty much saw everything. Salzburg is a fairly small town with the largest abundance of baroque buildings I've ever seen, at least in such a concentrated area. I'm a huge fan of baroque architecture and so one would imagine that I would find the town irresistible. However, the brand of baroque that makes up the vast majority of the buildings in Salzburg is extraordinarily plain and I'm drawn to the more ornate pieces. That said, there were some fantastic examples of baroque architecture in and around the city center (some photos uploaded!).

My favorite thing about Salzburg is its setting. The old town is built mostly on the south bank of the Salzach river. On the south side is a large flat area backed by impressive cliffs upon which the city fortress is situated. On the north side of the river is a flat area where the new town was built in the mid and later 19th century and to the east is a massive wooded hill with a narrow band of buildings against the river. The approach toward the Salzburg fortress from the southeast takes you along switchbacks. Parts of the walk are absolutely fantastic and provide a surprising sense of seclusion despite the massive throngs of tourists.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Lucerne, Switzerland. It's my last stop in Europe this summer. I've heard great things about Lucerne and I'm really just looking forward to lounging around the city.

Posted by DavidJFabe 07:12 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Ljubljana

sunny 29 °C

I'm in Salzburg now but just wanted to make a quick post re: Ljubljana.

I basically spent my time in Ljubljana walking. I walked a total of about 20 miles during my two days in the city, maybe a bit more. My feet are in pain now but I have a lot of ground to cover in Salzburg - no complaints!

The only sight (at least of the sights that I might care to visit) that I hadn't made it to last time I was in Ljubljana was the National Museum of Contemporary History. It tells a sometimes-contradictory story about Slovenian and Yugoslav history but it was well worth the 3.50Euro entry fee.

I met up with a nice American guy who's going to school at Whitman in Walla Walla and we walked through the former-Yugoslav-army-barracks-cum-artists-commune of Metelkova.

That's about the extent of my experience in Slovenia this time. It was pretty, as usual, and it remains about the most comfortable city in Europe for me. I really love it there. I noticed that while Serbia is a country under construction NOTHING seems to have changed since I was in Ljubljana in 2006 - even the construction sites appeared to be the same...

I'll check back in soon with Salzburg thoughts. I'm definitely getting ready to come home but I can't pass up an opportunity to see the last two towns remaining on my itinerary.

Posted by DavidJFabe 08:07 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

Swinging back toward home

Some thoughts

This trip has been less about sight-seeing and more about catching up with friends before I start law school and am shoved so far into debt that travel will be rendered next to impossible. I'm happy that I managed to save enough money to travel for 2 months and hang out with people who I might not see again for years.

I'm a major proponent of travel - specifically travel that takes you outside of the bounds of well-traversed cities and countries and forces you to interact with locals in ways that aren't explicitly tourist-business related. Such travel has been incredibly rewarding to me and has provided me with some very good friends in Serbia.

On of my favorite things about the trip was how hospitable the average Serb was to me. Mateja, Andreja and their parents Bratislav and Mirjana did everything in their power to show me the best possible time. I met a great number of new friends. I visited places and experienced things that the average tourist to Serbia would never get the chance to do, let alone the average tourist (who doesn't typically visit Serbia). My experience with Slavic hospitality is highlighted by the fact that when we drove to Subotica in the northern province of Vojvodina we were put up by a girl who had only met us the previous day in Belgrade. Additionally, her boyfriend Vladimir (who had been an exchange student in Ohio the previous year) spent the following day showing us around. Slavic hospitality cannot be overstated. I was laughed at for offering to help pay for things and had I the gall to do so I'm sure that most of my friends would have given me the shirt off their back had I asked for it (which in the case of Dusan would have been quite the feat). It's very hard to pay back such kindness. I'm hoping that the people who gave me so much in Serbia will have the chance to visit America one day where I will do my best to return the favor.

So, for now - a very heart-felt thank-you to the Stankovic family, the Kitanovic family, the Kostadinovic family, Maja, Milica, Vladimir, Milan and so many others. I wish you all the best and hope that one day I can show you around my country.

Posted by DavidJFabe 01:31 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Back to Ljubljana

sunny 27 °C

Arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia from Nis, Serbia yesterday but I didn't feel up to making a post regarding the trip. It wasn't that it was particularly eventful but it was an overnight bus so sleep was at a premium and my mind never fully functioned yesterday. I actually did manage to get some sleep on the bus and, because I met up with a couple interesting Brits, I stayed up until almost 2am.

Being back in Ljubljana is nice. It's a very comfortable city that I know very well. It's comparably tiny at only 300,000 people and is very walkable. In the afternoon yesterday I walked from my hostel on the south-west side of the old town far to the north-east to catch a film that I've been wanting to watch. After all was said and done the trip was about 4.2 miles and I nearly traversed the entirety of the town.

Today I'm going to see some other bits of the city that I haven't seen before and probably walk close to 10 miles in the process.

Posted by DavidJFabe 01:07 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

Is Serbia Safe For Foreigners

As well as the rest of former Yugoslavia

sunny 28 °C

Karl Haudbourg, the self-styled "Ambassador of Serbia to the World" and a guy that's doing great work to improve Serbia's international image, found my blog and after some back-and-forth conversation asked me to write an article for his webpage. His webpage is here: http://www.ambassador-serbia.com/ and my article is the current "featured article" titled "Is Serbia Safe For Americans and Other Foreigners". Check it out!

By the way - Some plans have changed: Originally I was going to head straight to Salzburg from Serbia but transportation options have become more difficult. So, instead I'm going to stop off in Ljubljana, Slovenia for a couple days. Ljubljana is one of my favorite cities (if not my outright favorite) in Europe. Over the past week I've been trying to figure how to get from southern Serbia to Salzburg and whenever I did so I ended up looking at Ljubljana on a map. Additionally, Mateja's got to get back to studying because he's got a major exam coming up in late August. So, this coming Friday morning (really, it'll still be Thursday night for me) at 1am I'm getting on a train in Nis bound for Ljubljana. I'll be staying there for two nights.

Posted by DavidJFabe 09:43 Archived in Serbia Comments (3)

Vojvodina

Rapid-paced trip through Vojvodina including Novi Sad, Subotica and Sremski Karlovci.

sunny 35 °C

Planning to get an early start but owing to the complicating factors of drinking too much the night before, me desperately wanting a haircut and the fact that we're all basically on vacation we didn't leave for Vojvodina until 2pm. Despite that the trip turned out to be a fantastic way to spend ~34 hours and I don't feel like we missed much of anything.

We started our trip cutting west toward the Croatian boarder from Belgrade before turning north to drive through the "mountainous" national park of Frus(h)ka Gora. (I put mountainous in parenthesis because it's a very long hill of about 600m which gets it's dramatic look from the fact that it rises suspiciously from the otherwise flat plain of Vojvodina) Fruska Gora is very pretty and reminds me of the drive toward Sol Duc in Washington. There are many Serbian Orthodox monasteries throughout Fruska Gora and it, along with Sremski Karlovci on it's northern edge, has played an important role in the development and maintenance of Serbian cultural identity.

Our first major stop in Vojvodina was in Sremski Karlovci. It's a small town with some very nice baroque buildings in its main square. It was the center of Serb culture for a period and was a very important political center. The facade of the Serbian Orthodox church looks much like the catholic churches in Budapest and Krakow but inside its features are much more obviously Orthodox. Incredible icons in gold and ebony cover one wall and the rest of the walls and decorated in deep greens and reds.

Before leaving Sremski Karlovci we ate lunch/dinner in the main square which consisted of typical Serbian fare - grilled meats, shopska salad and bread. The shopska was easily the worst that I've had. The cheese was horrible and faaar too sharp.

After dinner we headed to Petrovaradin Fortress. It's a very large fortress that was built by the Austrians to defend against the Turks and was never captured. In 2000 growing discontent with the Milosevic regime led a large group of artists and musicians to hold the EXIT Festival on the grounds of the fortress. Initially it featured only domestic musicians and lasted for 60 days but the following year, in 2001, EXIT became international. It's now widely regarded as one of the best international music festivals gathering popular acts from all over the world and few (if any) can claim a setting so dramatic as the grounds of a massive fortress far above the Danube river.

Across the Danube we stopped in Novi Sad. Novi Sad functions as the seat of the Vojvodinian provincial government. Serbia doesn't have a lot of beautiful architecture south of Vojvodina (though there is some!) but Novi Sad, with continued investment, could (and probably will) be a solid tourist attraction. There are some great baroque pieces and a fantastic catholic cathedral built during the time that Vojvodina was under Austro-Hungarian rule.

As the sun started going down we jumped into Mateja's car and made for Subotica, a city in the far north of Serbia and right on the Hungarian border. I had read a little about Subotica but wasn't prepared for the beauty of the small city.

The destruction of World War 2 largely bypassed Subotica and left it's array of baroque and art nouveau buildings intact. Among the more impressive buildings is the modern art gallery which errs on side of Gaudi but is less superficial and superfluous and seems to follow more natural lines with certain Mucha qualities. At one side of Trg Republike (Republic Square) is the huge Subotica town hall - also in the art nouveau style. Oddly, at the base of the town hall is a McDonalds. Also in Subotica is one of the best cafes I've been to in Europe (which, much like the rest of Serbia, has freakishly awesome prices) called Cafe Boss. Apparently the owner invested 1 million euros in the remodeling which left it looking fantastic. It's also located on the back side of the modern art gallery and shares a beautiful setting.

We slept at a girl named Milica's apartment. She works with ISIC (international student organization) and Kristina, who also works with ISIC, made the connection. Milica and her boyfriend, Vladimir, met us at the Boss Cafe. Turns out Vladimir was an exchange student in Ohio and spoke fantastic English (he's also been accepted to a college in Tennessee). We hung out with them for a while before going to bed.

The following morning we walked around the city before hooking back up with Vladimir and heading to Palic. Palic is a lake on the edge of Subotica which has a nice town featuring many art nouveau buildings. We sunbathed and drove a peddle-powered boat around the lake. The lake is pretty filthy owing to the fact that the Subotica sewer flowed directly into the lake for a long time. Thankfully there's a campaign to clean up the lake.

After leaving the lake we dropped Vladimir off at his place and drove back to Belgrade.

Posted by DavidJFabe 16:27 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

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