Croatia in words

Croatia in a few words

I haven’t been so great at writing blog posts lately, not for any really great reason, I just haven’t been spending the time. Part of the issue, I think, is that we’ve been in the mindset that when we move from one country to the next we’ll write a blog post, but I I think I end up trying to type too much or we don’t type nearly enough.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll starting writing more frequent blog posts. This one is not really one of those though, because it’s another “catch up.”

Croatia was a pretty great country. I’d recommend you visit it if you get a chance. Zagreb, the capital, where we started, felt like a small-ish city compared to a Paris or a Munich, but nice. It sort of reminded me of what I remember Prague to be like I guess. We did a few noteworthy things there:

  • We went to the “museum of broken relationships” – basically a bunch of items from various failed relationships (most of them romantic, but not all). The stories behind the actual items were the most interesting part of the museum. I was/am very happy to have found that the museum felt “authentic” to me, not like people had edited a bunch of stories to make them incredible when they weren’t. There were just a bunch of real feeling, often sad, thought provoking little stories to accompany the items.
  • The mushroom museum. This was difficult to find. We took two days to find it actually (not searching the entire time of course!). The first day we asked the tourist information area where the museum was and they drew the location on a map and said “Next to the Hypo Bank.” We found the bank easy enough (it was visibile from the tourist office), but found not a single sign that indicated that there was a museum there. We ended up walking around the building, but found nothing. The next day we went back, did the same search again, but this time we went into a random door that looked like it led to a closed down building. You walk in the door and it was dark, sort of like a large apartment building that was condemmed or something. But we walked up the staircase (the museum was supposed to be on the second floor), at this point having no idea if this was the correct place or not (having seen no sign). On the second floor, sure enough there was a sign that said something about the something-something society, not exactly “MUSHROOM MUSEUM IS HERE” or anything, but it sounded like something that might be related to a museum so we knocked and it ended up being the right place. The museum itself was small-ish (two rooms or so), but really really impressive. Hundreds of different types of mushrooms, all well preserved. Plus it was free.

Otherwise, in Zagreb, we spent a lot of time walking around the city, eating different foods (things were very cheap having flown from Netherlands), and walking more. I did some work on my website project, Lindsay and I watched a few episodes of Deadwood (a great show by the way).

We also went to see Interstellar in a movie theater. This was for us both I think a great experience because

  1. It was the first American movie we’ve been to on this trip (we saw two movies in Hindi in India, but those were Bollywood films)
  2. I had wanted to see the movie for a long time, in theathers, and had assumed I’d miss the opportunity but for whatever reason the movie was still playing in Zagreb
  3. The movie was awesome I thought, and Lindsay thought
  4. It was pretty cheap – I think we paid around 7 USD for two tickets
  5. I very much enjoy going to the movies in general, and going to the movies in a different country is always an interesting experience I think. Sort of like eating at McDonalds in a different country, it’s similar but the differences make it so interesting

We ended up heading to Zadar next after Zagreb. Zadar is a small coastal town, and the photos if you were to google look amazing. Zadar was very beautiful, but for me at least more then most cities we’ve visited recently it wasn’t really well suited for tourism during the winter. There are a bunch of places we’ve visited that are sort of “dead” during the winter, and often time that’s OK (even nice sometimes as you feel like less of an annoyng tourist and more of a crazy tourist). But Zadar was really really dead.

Honestly I can’t exactly think what we did in Zadar at this point, except that Lindsay liked the city because she ran every day and there were a bunch of nice routes. I did a fair amount of programming I believe, and I drank some coffee and ate musli.

We also saw the Sea Organ, which is basically a cement structure created so that air is forced up over the holes in the concrete structure when waves come in. So it’s like an organ or some other wind instrument. The cool thing about it is that it’s quite large, and it’s actually built into the sidewalk that goes along the water.

Anyway, our time in Zadar we stayed at the “Sea Gallery” apartment, which was a small apartment with a bunch of water colors the owner painted hung up on the walls. It was a pretty nice little apartment. As I mentioned, I’m unsure of what exactly we did in Zadar, but whatever it was we did it for a few days and then moved onto Split.

Split was probably the easiest town to love, and probably the most popular tourist destination I’d guess, but that didn’t stop me from loving it. It’s on the water, there is a park right near the city area, the entire city feels like the sea/water is part of the everyday life, and in general it was just a cool town.

We did a lot of walking in Split, which isn’t abnormal, but we had a few days of beautiful, warm sunshine and it felt like heaven. I went swimming one day, which was great. Well, it was good, maybe not great. It felt great to get in the water, but honestly the water was the coldest I’ve been in in a while. The type of water that is difficult to stay in for long because you get a headache the second your face goes under. Still, even in the shallow water (2-3 feet max?) I brought my mask and saw a bunch of beautiful sea anemones (which is a nearly impossible word to spell by the way).

Lindsay and I ate out one nice meal in Split. The photos you’ve seen already, but we had the black squid ink risotto. I actually thought it was really really good. I also talked to the bartender/waiter for a while about it and asked him if it was just a tourist gimmick, and he said no, and that he didn’t eat it all the time but normally once a month or so.

I also really liked Split because it felt a bit like a gateway to other awesome water areas of Croatia. For instance, the island of Vis. We didn’t go, but I talked to a guy in a freediving/spearfishing shop about places to spearfish and apparently Vis is one of the top spearfishing and scuba diving places in Croatia. This I found exciting.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Split was sitting outside with all of the locals (mainly men) along the water drinking a beer at 1 in the afternoon. Seriously, there were guys that would sit outside all day long on these benches with their friends and their dogs and drink beer. I remember on day Lindsay and I sat outside and drank a beer in the morning, then we walked around all day and did whatever we did, and then on the way home that night, after dark, the same group of guys were sitting exactly where they had been before, still drinking beer and chatting.

There was also a fishing area (best way I can put it), where there were a bunch of small fishing boats and nets and things laying out drying, and there would always be a group of guys sitting around. One particularly memorable day there was a group of guys who I think had been fishing, and they were sitting around on a picnick bench in their fisherman gear, and somebody was grilling up some fish, and then they all started singing. It was awesome. It was like, a fisherman song, I like to think. Maybe they were singing about the sea, and how beautiful it is, and how they love fishing and the sea air. I have an audio recording of it actually, maybe I’ll try to post it.

In closing, let me say that I’d recommend anybody go to Croatia. I would likely recommend visiting in the summer (though I think Split in particular is crazy with tourists at this point, a bit different from the chill atmosphere we had!). I think I’d like to go back to Croatia one day, and when I do I think I’ll probably stick to the South and to the islands.

Next up, a ferry to Ancona, Italy.

Croatia in photos.

(***Forgive me in advance for the worst blog post yet, but we’ve already done so much since Croatia and time’s a wastin’! In the effort to get caught up, here’s a short and sweet version of our time – but I’m not going to do this beautiful country justice!***)

So, when Kev and I decided to visit Croatia, we went to escape the Schengen region visa restrictions, hunker down, save some money, see some beautiful sights, but again really, to avoid digging into our visa time. I have wanted to visit Croatia for years, since one of my best pals, Brian, mentioned it to me as a possible rock climbing destination during college. Croatia turned out to BLOW our expectations, and will be somewhere we without question visit in the near future (hopefully in the summer) to scuba dive, spearfish and enjoy the absolutely pristine, beautiful water. These photos are backwards given our (sadly!) very basic route due to the way they uploaded, but you’ll see a glimpse of what made this country so incredible.

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Squid-ink risotto (a local delicacy) color created by, you guessed it, a perforate ink sack of a squid. Kinda made my stomach turn (seriously, imagine eating across from those lips pictured below). Kinda delicious.IMG_4550IMG_4554

IMG_4551IMG_4500IMG_4504IMG_4493IMG_4526IMG_4491IMG_4509IMG_4498Sunsets like you would not believe.IMG_4540IMG_4529IMG_4539IMG_4528IMG_4544A couple photos for our dear friend, Nicola.IMG_4564IMG_4562IMG_4527Kevin (being a bad ass), doing something even the locals refused to do…swim.IMG_4502

Zadar.

I told you, the sunsets, right?! I got to run on this boardwalk every day. Heaven. Heaven, I tell you.IMG_4476IMG_4460IMG_4475IMG_4466

Zagreb.IMG_4438

Mushroom museum.IMG_4418IMG_4417IMG_4393IMG_4428IMG_4427IMG_4375IMG_4370IMG_4384Museum of Broken Relationships (yes, you read that right). It was awesome.IMG_4453IMG_4451IMG_4452IMG_4437IMG_4442IMG_4440And another 2 weeks zip by, off to Italy we go!IMG_4576

 

Stuttgart, Castles and Spas!

There are a number of popular ride sharing sites in Europe and we used one to book a trip with a guy to Stuttgart. Slightly mind blowing, but the guy we drove with ended up being a developer, and specifically he is an Intershop developer! Some may recall that last year I did a training with Intershop, which is not exactly a hugely popular piece of software. The company lives in a city called Yenna. The guy we drove with actually knew the guy that ran the class that I attended! It was crazy! Anyway, we talked about programming for about 2 hours (or at least as much as I could get him to talk with me about!) and it was awesome.

We arrived in a strange part of Stuttgart quite early (8:30 or 9 AM perhaps?) and spent a few hours trying to figure out exactly where we should go to find something to do. After a number of false starts (I think that’s the expression/phrase) (which included an awesome breakfast of coffee, breads and pastries in a little back alley, and a Burger King for a bathroom and ANOTHER coffee) we found ourselves to the city center and ended up going to a Starbucks to do some trip planning and to wait for Lars to get off work so we could go home with him. It ended up being quite a productive afternoon, as we ended up booking a number of things, including a bus to Amsterdam and a flight from Amsterdam to Zagreb.
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(This would be a good point to mention that a friend of mine, who despite not having seen in many many years and even then only briefly, is likely one of my earliest childhood friends. Julia, whom I had really really hoped to visit in Berlin, offered to host us and I am incredibly sad that it didn’t work out. Julia is one of two daughters of family friends Wolfgang and Grobie (sp?) and these were the people who introduced me to Kinder eggs. Wolfgang visiting on a business trip was very near to Christmas for me as a child as it always meant a box of Kinder eggs. Those of you who know me know how significant this is to me! Anyway, I don’t know Julia well other then her travel adventures I’ve read about on facebook (I probably last saw her when I was in middle school or high school, and even then only briefly) but I have a feeling we may have been kindred spirits. I was really looking forward to getting to know her and perhaps having a connection as our parents did when they were younger. Anyway, I want to say this because I really am very sad that it didn’t work out to visit. Berlin would have been an amazing city to see of course, but most of all I was looking forward to getting to better know Julia. It’s on my list of important things to do, so I hope I have an opportunity to hang out some other time and perhaps we can host Julia and her partner if/when they visit the US next.)

Anyway, back on track. We met Lars at a train station (10-15 minutes late I think! The second time that we didn’t realize that there were multiple stops of the same name in slightly different places depending on the type of train you take (S-Bahn vs U-Bahn)). It was SOOO nice to see Lars at the station. Lars is a friend that I worked with at Infield Design, we spent a number of stressful nights together working on a Magento module and we like to consider ourselves core-committers ;). Anyway it’s been years since I’ve seen him, but it felt like we had just seen each other yesterday, it was so nice to see him once again.

OK, so a thing I have to point out: Lars and Saskia live outside of Stuttgart by an hour or so drive, near/in the Black Forest in a small town called Bad Liebenzell. After all of our travels, as I believe we’ve mentioned in other blog posts, sometimes it is nice to get away from a city and be somewhere smaller. Lars and Saskia’s place was 100% amazing and perfect for this. It’s difficult to describe exactly but basically driving to Lars and Saskia’s was (for us) like driving into what you picture an old small German town should be. Beautiful forests covered with snow, fresh air, old houses in the traditional German style (beams of wood with stones between in a checker sort of pattern). Bad Liebenzell is down in a sort of valley and surrounded by hills/trees and it just felt amazing. As you may have noticed this blog post is getting a bit long in the tooth so I feel like my words are failing me, but I hope some of the photos will give some idea of what I’m talking about.
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When we arrived at Lars and Saskia’s place we were so excited to be there, and their apartment is awesome. You can literally see a castle up in the forest from our bed. It felt sort of like a combination of Houghton/Handcock and Germany, to me. The air was so fresh.
Our bed at Lars and Saskia's

Anyway, again, the highlight here was seeing Lars and Saskia, but we also did a ton of fun stuff. For one thing, I walked to the bakery with Lars or Saskia every morning which was awesome. Walking through a small German town to buy bread for breakfast is basically like a dream for me and I got to do it every single day.
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First night Lars and Saskia took us out for a traditional German dinner where I had snitzel and Lindsay had kase spaetzle. We also had a huge Radler beer (mixture of something like sprite and beer) made from the beer brewed at the restaurant.
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Second day we had an amazing breakfast, then hung around the house for a while (Lars had to work, Saskia very kindly took the day off to hang out with us!) where Lindsay and I did a bit more travel planning for Croatia.

After that we went on a beautiful walk in the forest.
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After this was a highlight for me: we went to a very awesome spa. Generally in the past when I thought of the word “spa” I generally though “girls go there and it’s expensive and I don’t want to go there” but in many parts of the world “spa” is sort of like “relaxing place where you can swim and sit in a hot tub or take a nice hot shower and sit in a steam room.” This particular spa that we went to was seriously crazy awesome. We don’t have any photos really, but the best part of the spa for me was an outdoor swimming pool that was really fancy with different bubble areas. It was heated, and there was a bit of snow falling, and it was very beautiful/clear/very little chlorine water. Lars and I did some “dive training” (swimming around holding our breath) while Lindsay and Saskia did a water exercise class.
Not a great photo of the outdoor area, but you get the idea. This is a view looking down from the apartment:
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Honestly I could spend an hour explaining how awesome this spa was. In the end, it was sort of like the German version of an Onsen in Japan I’d say. Different, but similar in many ways and very relaxing.

For dinner Saskia made us a traditional awesome dinner, spatzle and sausage with a type of bean sauce on top. I forget the name, but it was amazing. We also drank a few new types of beers. As I hope is clearn, the theme throughout the last 2 blog posts is: “amazing hosts.”
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We went to a bar the Lars used to frequent when he was younger and we got to meet the owner which is a friend of Lars. I drank my first beer with coke, which was good (though a bit sweet for me I think).
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The next day we had another amazing breakfast and then took a drive to a Hohenzollern Castle. Honestly, it was like something out of a fairy tale. It was foggy, and snowing and that, coupled with our amazing walk up to the castle itself was out of this world. We had a great small lunch (soup, hot wine) at the castle and went on a tour which was really cool.
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That evening Lindsay made some very great pasta for dinner and we finished the night hanging out, chatting, and watching the second Hobbit movie (which, and this seriously blows my mind, I somehow hadn’t watched yet. I normally see “big” movies like this in theaters, so I’m not quite sure what happened.).

Sunday, the last day, we had another amazing breakfast and then Lars/Saskia brought us back to Stuttgart as they had a vacation planned previously. We were very sad to say goodbye to Lars and Saskia. I truly hope we’ll get a chance to see them again soon, and as with Babsi and Peter I hope to do a better job keeping in touch with them.

We spent our last day in Germany in Stuttgart, coffee shop hopping. Sadly being Sunday there weren’t a lot of places open, so we ended up spending about 8 hours in various Starbucks on that day. It was good though as we got quite a bit of planning for our trip done, and also I got to do a bit of programming work…we even got a geocache in…
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That evening we took another night bus to Paris! It was a bit stressful figuring out where we would go, and there was an hour period of panic when it wasn’t 100% clear if we’d make our bus (frustrating considering we had literally all day to get there but we misjudged the time it’d take to find the bus pickup).

Finding the bus was stressful as I mentioned above, but it got even worse when the bus arrived. The bus driver, who as far as I can tell was just a huge dick, point blank said that we couldn’t get on the bus without a ticket. The thing is, we of course did have a ticket, but it was an “eticket” emailed to us. I’m not going to play dumb, the reality is that it’s not crazy that the bus driver expected the ticket to be printed out, however generally if a ticket needs to be printed it will say so somewhere on the ticket “not valid unless printed” “please print and give to driver” “TICKET MUST BE PRINTED” or something of the like. But this ticket, which again was in large bold letters called our “e ticket” (to me even further making it seem reasonable for us to keep the ticket on our phone). Anyway I hate to be the person who comes off as immature because I feel like I’ve been wronged when I really haven’t, but there was just something about the way the guy spoke that made the situation what it was. He’d look at me, say something in German, scowl. “This isn’t ticket (pointing at the phone), this is ticket (pointing at a printed out ticket.” I said “Sir I’m very very sorry, it says “eticket” and we need to be on the bus!” He’d scowl and shoe us away. Then other people would get on the bus (all who of course had printed their ticket).

Eventually I literally begged the guy, with my hands in the begging position. I said “sorry” and “please” in my best German I could. Lindsay was honestly annoyed because (while understanding the situation) could not believe how we were being talked to/treated. He looked at us like garbage, and was unmistakably clear how stupid he thought we were. He eventually let us on the bus a solid 5 minutes of begging and him looking/speaking to us in very disgusted German.

I’d like to take a minute to point out that Lindsay and I have now taken a nearly countless number of buses, and have never once printed out the ticket. We generally show our passport, or show the ticket on our phone, or some combination of the two. This is the first and only time we’ve ever had any troubles, not to mention the first time in my life I think I truly had to be in such a pitiful begging position like garbage.

Anyway, the lesson is this: print the ticket, or don’t and hope you don’t have to deal with this sort of thing but realize you might.

And with that, we were off to Paris!

Over and Osaka

In 5th grade (might have been 4th?) I started an origami club. I think there was one other member (Andros? Bob? ), and there were only a few club meetings (we were allowed to stay in during recess and do origami), but it was still a thing. I can’t tell you how many origami books I rented from the library at that point in my life – this is years before I even really knew what Japan was.

This is but one example of how Japan sort of just “fit” into my life, but there are many others (my hate for tipping, the fact that I so enjoy taking my shoes off when I go home, my love for gadgety/techy things, etc, etc).

All of this is to say that Japan was a place that I’ve wanted to go more then anywhere else for a very long time. And now Lindsay and I have gone, and as I type this I am at the Kansai international airport in Osaka getting ready to leave. I am quite sad about leaving to be honest. This is in large part because Japan has been everything I had hoped it would be. Every fantastic idea of what I thought Japan might be turned out to be pretty damn close to reality.

To finish up things with the trip itself, we just spent 4 awesome days in Osaka. We had few expectations of Osaka, but sadly it turned out to be one of our favorite cities. I say sadly because we spent less time here than anywhere else in Japan. Honestly, given the choice to stay in Osaka, Tokyo, or Kyoto (the larger cities we spent real time in), we both might choose Osaka. It felt slightly “grittier” and at the same time a bit more down to earth or something. I don’t know.

To start things off, we spent our first night in a capsule hotel. This was “one of those Japanese things” that I’ve sort of always idealized and wished I could experience, and as with other things it was as great as I had expected.

For those not familiar, capsule hotels are generally geared towards “salary men” who might stay too late working (or drinking) or are traveling and can’t make it home at night and don’t want to pay for an expensive hotel. So they are literally just “capsules” stacked on top of each other that you sleep in.

But it’s like being in outer space! Lindsay took these photos of her capsule (note the sexes are separated)

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I had a SUPER drunk guy climb in on top of me sometime around 2am, but he was friendly (I think, based on the few motor skills he was able to use) enough. There are no locking doors, just a wood/fabric mat that covers your door. You can read a lot more about these things on the ol’ internet, but the point is we did this and it was awesome. Also awesome is the fact that you put your shoes in a locker when you enter the capsule hotel, and then you get another locker that has a robe in it that you wear for your stay. There was a Japanese style bath/shower/sauna/soaking area with “free” single use shavers/tooth brush. I would say that one complaint I had is that the common areas allowed smoking and I think my throat is becoming more sensitive to cigarette smoke. Anyway, it was awesome.

After the capsule hotel, we did what we normally did and walked around Osaka a lot. We had ramen, we went to the grocery store, we ate various snacks and drank various beers. We spent a good half a day (if not more) geocaching (though we went like 2/7), and more walking.

We saw the Osaka castle (the photo doesn’t nearly do it justice – it was in a beautiful park, and there was a “Sweet Marathon” going on)

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But a REAL highlight for us was couchsurfing with a great new friend, Kyo. Kyo is a super nice guy and he introduced us to a great new friend Nia. Kyo made us a great hot pot dinner one night, and otherwise was just a really nice guy.

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Kyo also took us to his office to show us where he works. His company (basically) restores/renovates traditional Japanese houses. I happen to love traditional Japanese houses, so it was pretty awesome. His “office” includes various show houses, which are basically my absolutely ideal/dream house. Think wood burning stoves, fresh mountain air, cut cedar planks everywhere.

And that was about it for Osaka, and Japan. Now we fly to Istanbul.

Kyoto (last day) + Etajima + Hiroshima

On our last day in Kyoto, we visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Fushimi is particularly famous for the 10,000 torii gates (honoring Inari, Shinto god of rice) which lead you to (and up!) holy Mount Inari. 10,000 gates! How crazy is that? You can walk for 2-3 hours straight up the mountain-side through these seemingly never-ending gates, to give you an idea of just how crazy of an experience it was. It was pretty intense. While I was especially excited to see the vibrant orange color, I didn’t expect to see such beautiful shades of orange. It was truly quite a magical experience.IMG_1087Prayer plaques adorning fox faces (foxes are thought to have been Inari’s messengers). IMG_1095IMG_1082IMG_1102

We tried raw horse meat and fatty mane sushi…IMG_1113And the infamous (sometimes lethally poisonous!) fugu (pufferfish) sushi – all three of which were surprisingly tasty, if not strange.IMG_1114Late that night, we took a night bus (10:40 pm) from Kyoto to Hiroshima, where we quickly boarded a cable car (at 6 am) to the Hiroshima port, and then from there a ferry to Etajima island and from THERE a bus across the island, where we then TREKKED up this ridiculous hill with our packs to get to our home for the next 4 days. Turns out, the travel was worth it.

Etajima turned out to be the perfect mix of a Marquette, Michigan + Portland, Oregon. It felt industrial, and close-knit, cozy and cold. The people were warm and remarkably curious about us (we saw absolutely no foreigners anywhere). We loved it. One night, Kev and I made our way an onsen (another public bath house) on the other side of the island. I wasn’t there for more than 2 minutes, when I was bombarded by about 12 old Japanese ladies trying to speak with me (again, while stark naked) SOLELY in Japanese. Lots of cave-lady sign language and laughter allowed us to communicate (albeit in a comically basic way :)), but it was experiences like this that made our time so wonderful.

IMG_1134We stayed in a 100+ year old traditional Japanese-style house which was built by the owner’s great-grandfather. Interestingly, he actually saw the “mushroom cloud” from the nuclear bomb across the sea in Hiroshima from this home. It was a balmy 39 degrees while we were on the island, and in an attempt to stay warm, we went through copious hand warmers (of which we had 2-3 stuck to various parts of our bodies or tucked in our socks at any given point throughout the day), drank enough coffee to shake for a 24-hour stretch and (if we weren’t walking around) sat literally inches in front of our kerosene+fan room heater swapping sides every few minutes to prevent one side of ourselves from catching fire while the other side froze like an ice cube. You wouldn’t believe it by my description, but it was glorious.

No shoes allowed in the house (worth noting, Kev was in good company with our host’s love of crocs :))IMG_1142Our backyard.IMG_1144Also worth noting that we truly had the best host ever. Yohei taught us about how to make delicious somen noodles, made us fancy bancha-bark tea, (after learning about our love for ramen) cooked us ramen eggs and homemade toast and overall was just full of great conversation and warmth. While we didn’t think our stay could have gotten much better in Etajima, Yohei was truly the icing on the cake.IMG_1153

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Another beautiful feature of the island, was that it was full of mandarin and orange groves.IMG_1160There were these old-school rickity orange-moving carts scattered up and down the hills, which only added to the nostalgic feel.IMG_2707IMG_2705We collected awesome shells on the beach.IMG_1170IMG_1182

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IMG_2740IMG_2746IMG_2695Geocached through beautiful patches of cabbage and various veges in practically every yard.IMG_2785We tried lots of new snacks.IMG_1192Last night with Yohei.IMG_1213On our way to catch a bus to get to the ferry on our way back to Hiroshima, we happened across these two ladies cooking up Okonomiyaki, these strange cabbage + pancake + noodles + BBQ sauce things and decided to give them a shot. They were delicious and again, the women were unbelievably warm.IMG_1221IMG_1225On our ferry back to the mainland with stormy skies.IMG_1234IMG_1250Back in Hiroshima, we went to the museum. It was something Kev and I both felt really strongly that we wanted to experience, and truly (not that we expected much different), it was just unbelievably depressing. The entire museum was filled with stories of specific people (many of those showcased, children) who were victims of the nuclear bomb. There were melted skin fragments housed in jars, nails and hair and burnt clothing galore. Photographs of charred skin and gaping wounds rinsed with “black rain”. First-hand video accounts of victims remembering what that day was like for them, and all that they lost.  Almost 140,000 people died that day. 140,000…IMG_2810This is the concrete slab that so many of us have seen pictures of in our history books of a person’s shadow “burned” on to the stone.IMG_2812A traumatizing diorama of children with melted skin.IMG_2796Hiroshima’s Peace Dome still standing from the bombings.IMG_2787I still have yet to process what it truly meant to me to be an American walking around the streets of Hiroshima and encountering so many people (on both Etajima and in Hiroshima) that must have been directly affected by the bomb. While everyone we met asked us if we were Americans, we were treated with nothing but kindness. Time and time again I am reminded that there are always two sides to every story – what we learn in history about our reasons for the bomb dropping and learning a bit about the story that Japanese tell their children about why we dropped the bomb in the museum, being a perfect example of this. I’ll never know what is the lesser of two evils, or what makes a time”right” to go to war – and am thankful that I am not in a position where I will ever need to decide, and that I have lived my entire life with my family and those that I love safe from the threat of it. Regardless of the story told though, it is abundantly clear to me what an appalling thing war is, and regardless of how it begins that it is most frequently the innocent that lose the most.

 

 

Quick post – video of our island home

And, here is a bonus video from a few days ago – just taking pictures walking around the island. Note that this is not “edited”, it’s just a video the camera automatically puts together from photos you take by recording a few seconds of video before you take a picture. So, not that exciting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXueKca1ZVc

Life couldn’t get much better, I don’t think

Pictures will come, but I just wanted to quickly post this while the spirit moved me as pictures likely won’t do justice anyway.

Lindsay and I took a night bus from Kyoto South/West to Hiroshima, arriving this morning around 6:30am. From there we took a road trolley to the port of Hiroshima, where we waited an hour or so for a ferry to take us to the Koyou port on the Island of Etajima. Each step of this trip brought us further from the city, further and further into smaller and smaller towns. People are more likely to stare and wonder what a few gaijins are doing walking down the street with giant packs.

Anyway, after arriving on the Island we took a bus (the bus we suspected took us where we wanted, though we weren’t sure) 3 or so kilometers and then hiked up the side of a hill through the backyards of some UP looking houses (except Japanese). Then bam! We arrived at our current living accommodations, a small, 100ish year old traditional Japanese house. It’s not fancy. At all. It’s got a bunch of random stereo equipment laying around. The couches are warn and mismatched.

It’s currently 38 degrees, and there is no central heat. The doors are all rice paper, which is to say, incredibly thin with very little isolation. The only heat comes from propane fans (I’m hoping we don’t die in a tragic fire), which I have pointed directly at my person. I’m also wearing socks for the first time in 4+ months and one of those expose-to-air-and-shake-to-activate heating pads taped to my chest. I’m still cold, but incredibly happy and content.

Outside the house is a garden with mandarin oranges, a bonfire area (complete with a bench that says “I’ve got 99 problems but a bench ain’t one”), and more importantly a direct view of the ocean. We’re up on a hill, so the view is great. It’s not a “top of the empire state building” view but it is a “top of a hill in a very small rural village in Japan overlooking an oyster farm” view.

Lirdy is currently taking a cat nap. Sadly for her, the heater in the room didn’t seem to turn on, so it’s very cold in there. But she’s under blankets, so hopefully she’s doing OK. We’ll see when she wakes up. Speaking of cats there are two here, but they are actually really great cats. You see, I generally don’t like cats, but at least one of the cats is quite dog like. Actually seems to enjoy petting in a dog-like fashion, and the cat is bigger then many cats I’ve seen so it’s got some substance to it when you pet it.

Having just arrived we don’t have many plans, but our host, Tohei has told us there is the oyster farm/factory 2km away that we can walk to and buy cheap oysters at, so we might do that tomorrow. I also plan on looking for a local bar. And, 6km is an onsen (hot spring/public bath) that apparently looks over the ocean, so that’s on the to-do list for sure.

We’ve got 4 days here, and no plans. Maybe do some reading, and definitely do some programming. And walking.

Kurashiki + Thanksgiving in 30 seconds

Looking quite regal.IMG_0963IMG_0964

The Venice of Japan.IMG_0965

This doesn’t even look real, does it?IMG_0966

Kev with our snacks and tea courtesy of the ladies at the next table 🙂IMG_2280IMG_2279IMG_2273IMG_2244

Kev got a hand-carved hanko stamp made. It was pretty cool.IMG_2250IMG_2212

IMG_0930Scary pic – but us Thanksgiving night at our local onsen.IMG_0958IMG_0961

Thanksgiving Dinner part one: Soba, tempura and sushiIMG_0933IMG_0948

Naoshima (aka “Art Island”)

Naoshima did not disappoint. We heard about “Art Island” from a friend in Tokyo, and man am I happy we did. Today, Kev and I wandered around the island relishing in the fall colors, soaking wet from the sweet-smelling rain and breathing in the beauty of the contemporary exhibits scattered around the island. Coming just yesterday from a month in the exhilarating, albeit frenetically paced Tokyo, Naoshima was truly a breath of fresh air and rejuvenated me in a way that I didn’t even know I needed. Maybe it was the fresh sea air, maybe it was the cleansing rain or maybe it was the beautiful exhibits, but whatever the case, it was everything we could have hoped for.

 

Stormy clouds on ferry to NaoshimaNaoshima Beauty

Horrifying spider (which are literally EVERYWHERE in the woods in Japan)Scary Scary Terrifying SpiderOn the beach in NaoshimaGreying Islands in RainPuppet offering at Naoshima Hachiman Shrine

Don't smoke in GraveyardView from Ferry to NaoshimaPano View from Ferry to NaoshimaSwan peeking over wall

Beer at gravesite.Beers on GravesiteWhere we're at, yo.Naoshima Hachiman ShrineGo'o Shrine Art House ProjectGo'o Shrine Art House ProjectLook out over MiyanouraGo'o Shrine Ocean ViewBurnt home wallsLady Liberty in Haisha Shinro Ohtake Art House ProjectBike in alley

Pumpkin sculpture by Kusama Yoyoi, which has become the symbol of the island. Art House Pumpkin

Traveling can take work sometimes!

Hello friends, family, and everybody else.

I just wanted to take a quick second to update this blog and mention some of the things that have been going on.

First of all, as of today, we’re still in Tokyo, Japan. Specifically Koto-ku, which means, I think, the Koto ward of Tokyo.

Anyway, we’ve done quite a bit recently:

  • We’ve gone to a bunch of different incredibly beautiful parks
  • We had Ramen at 5 or so different ramen places
  • We’ve gone to a bunch of different grocery stores and tried a bunch of different foods
  • We’ve met new friends (various meetup groups, including a group from reddit of all places!)
  • We went to an amazingly beautiful sake brewery
  • We’ve tried a bunch of different sakes
  • We’ve walked down a ton of small side streets that are amazingly cool because there is just tons of stuff everywhere
  • We’ve gone to a bunch of museums, including most recently the Studio Ghibli museum, but also the Edo museum
  • We’ve gone to a sashiko meetup group (Lindsay) and a meetup to learn about crochet
  • I gave a small talk at a design meetup about my morse code project
  • More stuff

Anyway, we’ve been both busy and not busy. We’ve been in Tokyo now for just about a month, staying in the same place the entire time. It’s strange, it’s starting to feel less like traveling and more like living. We “go home” at night. We know how to walk to various places of import. We have a grocery store we go to, and we recognize/are recognized by the people that work there. We honestly don’t do that many exciting thngs, we just walk a lot, exploring new side streets, trying different buns with different types of fillings, always on the lookout for sushi at grocery stores that we think is half off. We are getting pretty good at recognizing “half off” as apposed to “20% off” – not as easy as you might think!

Tomorrow we are going to Maker Faire Tokyo, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m hoping to get some sweet stickers, and perhaps see some cool things that you can’t see at the Bay Area Maker Faire. Maker’s Faire. Whatev. This has been something I’ve been excited about for a while, so, awesome!

Anyway, the title of the blog post. Lindsay and I are planning out the next bits of our trip here and there is just so much stuff that we don’t know! It’s crazy! It’s easy enough to be jobless, traveling around to various awesome places, but when you are on a budget and trying to save money every step of the way, trying to optimize your spending, there is a lot to consider!

Currently, our plan is as follows:

  1. Go to Istanbul, Turkey for 2-3 weeks
  2. Go to Greece for a few days or a week or so (?)
  3. Go to Hungary (?) for a week or so (?)
  4. Go to France or Germany…
  5. Go to other places

The thing is, when you are trying to save money on everything, little things matter. Like, which city should we fly into France? How should we get from X city to Y city? Do we need to buy Z in advanced to make sure we are eligible for the X pass? Does the temperature in Y city during X dates mean we’ll be unable to do Z, and so perhaps we should instead fly into W?

Anyway, it’s a lot to consider. At the end of the day, we’re basically just sort of going with the flow and honestly not putting all that much thought into things, but that drives me crazy sometimes because I feel so unprepared! Oh well.

Anyway, happy weekend all!