There's Something about Mary

Stories and thoughts about my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova


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Last Stop-Croatia

The last stop of my trip was Croatia.  I started in the capital, Zagreb, and arrived around 9 PM.  I then followed the poorly written directions to my hostel.  I finally arrived at the hostel around 10:30, tired and frustrated because of the poor directions.  All I wanted at this point was to shower and sleep, but that was not in the cards for me. The owner told me that they didn’t have space for me and I should have made my reservation sooner, I made my reservation before I left Slovenia while I was waiting for my train, thinking that I wouldn’t have a problem since they still had space available on hostelworld.  Instead the owner told me that there was no space and it was my fault since I didn’t book enough in advance. (Note: Funk House Hostel has awful customer service) Eventually after complaining enough she called another hostel and paid for a taxi for me to get there.  The hostel I ended up staying in, wasn’t bad, just pretty far away from the center of Zagreb, I did get a room all to myself though.  The next day I spent the day in Zagreb exploring.  It wasn’t an amazing city, but parts were really pretty and I would have enjoyed myself more if it hadn’t been raining all day.

I took a night train to Split, and arrived in Split around 6 AM. I wasn’t sure what to do at first, but was so pleased with the beautiful weather.  I had some time to kill before I could check into my hostel, so I stored my backpack, grabbed a coffee and started walking.   It was so peaceful since almost nothing was open and there was not a lot of people around.  I found a bench along the water and read my Kindle for a few hours.  Sitting there reading was where my vacation became exactly what I thought it was going to be.  Around noon I collected my backpack and checked in to my hostel.  The Tchaikovsky Hostel was probably one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed in.  It was really clean, had super comfortable beds and the owner was fantastic.  Since I forgot that Easter was the next day a few hours after I checked in I added an extra day to my stay since I heard that nothing was going to be open Sunday.  That night I met some interesting people, a couple of Americans, a guy from Britain, one from Mexico and one from France, we all went out and had a few beers.  The guy from Britain was my favorite, he was killing time in Croatia before he went down to work in a nudist colony in Montenegro.  Easter Sunday was pretty relaxing, in the morning it rained and later in the afternoon I went for a walk around town, met a couple of guys from my hometown who went to WSU and had some homemade wine with the owner of the hostel.

Monday morning I made my way to the bus station to catch the bus to Dubrovnik.  I had made reservations at a hostel in the old walled city.  They had amazing directions to their place and when I arrived I was welcomed with a shot of homemade alcohol.  It was delicious and had a nice nutty flavor.  One of the other people on my bus showed up a few minutes later and we decided to go out and find some seafood.  We went to a place recommended by our hostel and I got a pan full of little fish, while she had some fresh mussels.  The hostel also did a happy-hour at 7 so you could meet some of the other travelers.   I ended up going out to a nearby Irish Pub with a few.  The next day the weather was awful so I spent most of my time inside, but did get out to have some excellent Bosnian food.  I then went back to the hostel to dry off since my shoes were soaked from all the rain and I was cold.  From there I learned how to make a balloon dog and watched one of the other travelers make all sorts of flowers and hats with balloons.  Later that evening it finally stopped raining so I went out for dinner with 2 people.  We got a seafood platter with shrimp, squid, mussels and octopus.  The next day I made my way back to Zagreb so that I could catch a flight to Chisinau.  I felt blessed to see some amazing places, meet some great people and eat some great food.

To see photos from Croatia, check my Facebook album

O zi buna!

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Slovenia

I left Belgrade at around 9 PM on a bus headed for Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Along the way we cut through Croatia and got to stop at 4 different border crossings.  Two weren’t so bad, but the other 2 everyone had to get out of the bus, show your passport and open your bags, they wouldn’t have been bad except the bus was so warm, and outside it was not.  The first time we had to get out was when we were entering Croatia.  As the passengers were inside the border patrol was inspecting the bus and they were doing a thorough job.  The assistant to the bus driver got caught trying to bring about 30 cartons of cigarettes (I am not sure the rule for Croatia, butin the European Union you are only allowed 2 unopened cartons per person).  He had them hidden under the bus seats in the back row of the bus.  The border patrol took his cigarettes and fined him before the bus was allowed to continue on.  We also had to exit the bus again at the Slovenian border (which is an EU country) and the 2 ladies behind me did not have proper visas to get in so we drove the bus back into Croatia and left them at a gas station.

The bus arrived in Ljubljana around 7 AM and from there I bought a train ticket out to Bled.  While I waited for my train to leave I had a delicious Egg McMuffin from McDonalds (I never ate McDonalds in the US, but something about it here tastes delicious :)).  When I arrived at my stop I didn’t realize the train didn’t actually to the town of Bled, but a town about 4 KM away, so since I didn’t want to pay for a taxi I started walking to my destination.  I made it to Bled, grabbed something quick to eat and then went to find my hostel.  The hostel was pretty easy to find and one of the owners checked me in, she was so sweet and friendly and gave me lots of options of things to do and also gave me a cheaper price on my room since it was the off season.  After settling into the hostel I went for a walk around the town and then up to the Bled castle. My original plan for the day was to ride one of the bikes free for use  at the hostel to a waterfall that the hostel owner had told me about.  I ended up changing my plans though when I realized I was not tall enough for the bikes 😦  Instead I took a nice walk around the lake and also got really excited when I saw a bar advertising IPA and stout beers.  I made my way back to that bar later in the evening and talked to the bartender for a few hours about Slovenia and how it was changed since its independence from Yugoslavia.  Bled was an amazing beautiful place, I wish I had more time to explore it, I also want to see it in the summer and really be able to enjoy all the outdoor activities it has to offer.

The next afternoon I took a bus back to Ljubljana.  The weather in Ljubljana was beautiful and sunny, which was a change from what I had been seeing.  I walked around not having much of plan, stopped for a delicious lunch and then headed up the the castle area. After the castle, I continued to walk around and see what I could before I caught a late train to Zagreb, Croatia.

To see more photos from my trip check out Facebook.

O zi buna!


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Visiting Friends in Romania :)

I got back from my last vacation before COS (Close of Service) about a week ago.  My vacation started in Romania where I visited my friends from college, who are serving as PCVs in Romania.  They came and saw Moldova and where I live last June, so I figured now it was my turn. 😉  I took the night bus from Chisinau to Bucharest and arrived in Bucharest around 6 in the morning, I waited a few hours and then took a train to their site which is about 2 hours away.  There town has a population of 8,000, and even though that is half of what Riscani has, it seemed much more developed.  My friend told me I would know her town by the large cement factory that I would pass on the train.  She was correct.  My friends who excellent hosts, we played Settlers of Catan and ate some delicious home-cooked food.

On the Saturday of my arrival we met up with their Italian friend who lived in the next town over and went to visit Sinaia and Peleș Castle about an hour away.  Peleș Castle is in the Carpathian Mountains and was built in the late 19th century.  We paid for a tour of all 3 levels and I was rather impressed with the interior.  The exterior reminded me of the castle in Beauty and the Beast.  After our tour we walked around Sinaia before catching the bus back to town.  Sunday we had some delicious fajitas and walked around the town.  And on Monday afternoon I caught a bus back to Bucharest so I could catch a night train to Serbia.  (which I found out doesn’t actually exist anymore, that is another story).

To check out more photos, look on Facebook.  O zi buna!


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Lesson Learned: Don’t be in a hurry

A few weeks ago I traveled down to the capital early Saturday morning because a group of volunteers and I were visiting an orphanage about 45 minutes away.  My original plan for that Saturday was to takethe last bus back to my site at 6 PM, and then on Sunday head further north to a potato festival.  I changed my mind last minute when I saw how many of my fellow volunteers were in town, and ended up helping test a simulation game for Moldovan youth about the frozen conflict with Transnistria.  The next morning, Sunday, my plan was to go to a Potato Festival in a village outside of the town Briceni.  Briceni is about 4 hours away from the capital so I set my alarm for 5:30 AM so I could be at the bus station around 6.   I pushed snooze several times, got a little lost when I went outside due to the thick fog and ended up making it to the station around 7 AM.

Once at the station, two different drivers thought I should go in their rutiera.  I ended up taking my seat in one, gave the driver my money then was told I should go get in the other one.  Unlike the first one, this rutiera was empty, and as we were pulling out to leave another passenger joined me.  I took a nice nap, and then after stopping to pick up two more passenger my driver pulled off the road to what looked like someones house to get the rutiera fixed.  The driver gave us no explanation, and for the next 90 minutes we sat there in the cold van.  (Rutiera’s aren’t usually heated in the winter.)  We then continued on our way and finally I made it to my first destination, Briceni, a little after noon.  I got on another bus and went out to the festival to meet my friends.

The whole time I was sitting on the cold rutiera I was getting angry and frustrated because the driver never told us why he was stopping or how long he would be stopped for.  Then I remembered that somethings are out of my control and I really should just sit back and relax.  So remember, don’t be in too much of a hurry, sometimes life has other plans for you.

This was my view for the 90 minutes I was waiting in the rutiera

O zi buna!