Mustapicked A Good Vacation!

The adventures of Amey and Musty's trip to the Balkans and Italy in September '06...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Photos from Our Trip!

I'm sorry it's taken so long... but these things happen! At long last, we have posted pictures from the Croatia & Bosnia legs of our trip.

Here they are:

Hope you like them!

:) Amey & Musty

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We're Home!

We arrived safely and happily home! It's nice to be back in our house with our furry friends and all the familiar comforts. When you are gone for a whole month, things are just the slightest bit unfamiliar when you return... which we are both enjoying. Being gone for so long really took us out of our routine, and so now we get to reconsider each little habit or routine that we had before leaving - and decide whether we want to adopt it again or not.

We're in the process of uploading all our pictures, and once we have a link we'll post it here for anyone who's interested.

here's to home!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Trip To Ravenna; & Our Last Day!

Hello Everyone!
Yesterday Fabrizio, Musty and I headed off to the small town of Ravenna. Ravenna is about 1 hour away from Bologna, and close to the Adriatic Coast. It's a neat little town, with a great pedestrian-only downtown, and loads of amazing attractions. Ravenna is mostly famous for its beautiful 5th & 6th century churches, which are decorated with brilliant glass & stone mosaics. The mosaics are so detailed and so gorgeous... there are depictions of biblical figures and stories, as well as plants and animals, and also many bright decorative patterns. All of these designs are done with tiny little squares or triangles of glass or stone... smaller than 1/4 inch square. It's really gorgeous. There are probably 5 or 6 places like this, and we had fun walking around the city and exploring each one. It was a great day trip!

Here we are enjoying an afternoon beverage at a little cafe. Musty is a big fan of the cappucino here... I think Fabrizio got something a little stronger! The coffee in Croatia, but especially in Bosnia & Herzegovina, was really strong and a bit unpredictable, so it's nice for Musty to be back in a land with more dependable coffee patterns.

Of course I loved the beautiful mosaics of Ravenna, but it's got a special place in my heart for something much different - non-dairy hazelnut gelato!!!!! We also found some the night before in Bologna, and I just couldn't believe it. Hazelnut is one of my top 3 ice cream flavors of all time and it was so so so so so good! The stuff in Ravenna was really fantastic, such that I gulttonously returned 2 hours later for a second serving. Observe my maniacal grin. I also like the serious look of contemplation on Fabrizio's face. Ha ha. Apparently, he is deciding whether or not to order some gelato, which of course... he did!

Today is our last day here. All good things must come to an end... We have most of the day to spend here with Fabrizio, and also our mutual friend Sara who is coming to town to visit us all. That will be super fun! Tonight we'll catch a train up to Milan, and then our flight leaves bright and early tomorrow morning.

We are both a little homesick by now, and I can't wait to see my family and my friends and my furries... do some longer yoga sessions, teach some yoga... ahhhh! And Musty is longing for a few days spent playing guitar!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News from Bologna

Ciao Everyone!
We are having such a fun time in Bologna! Fabrizio's office is close to the center of town, so it's easy for us to go off and explore, and then walk back to meet up with him when he has some available time.

Bologna is a really cool city. It has the oldest university in the world (started around the year 1000), and so the the city is crowded with students. We didn't really realize how small and laid back Croatia was until we arrived here in Bologna.

In Croatia & BiH, there is a "caffe-bar" every 50 feet - with countless chairs and tables spread out in a welcoming fashion. You just pick your table and someone comes up and takes your order. There is a lot of unemployment there, which is a big part of this phenomena, but it also appears to just be a way of life. People are up late, mornings are very quiet and sleepy... there's a very easy, "all in good time" vibe. Even the drivers almost all seem to just poke along at moderate speeds, Musty found it an incredibly easy place to drive. Our last day in Split, we got a bit lost, and ended up driving around in the pedestrian area near the city center (oops!)... a friendly lady casually approached us and said "You must be lost," looked at our map and slowly explained how we could get ourselves out of there. Musty was feeling like we had to urgently get back out to the main street, but then we realized that it was clear from her demeanor, that there was no rush about it. One thing we noticed over and over again is that Croatia & Croatians have really made a decision to prioritize tourists. Tourism is by far their largest economy, and they are very courteous and welcoming to tourists. It's a very easy place to travel.

Bologna is also a really fun and easy place to be, but it's so different! After watching everyone sit around and drink coffee for 3 weeks, it's exhilarating to watch all the people bustling around the city with so much purpose! We feel all caught up in the excitement! There are scooters scooting everywhere, people whirring by on bikes, dogs being walked, babies being pushed in strollers, students walking with their friends... it's so much activity and fun. Croatia was so tourist-oriented, it's exciting and different to be in a place that is not primarily geared towards tourists. Bologna certainly gets plenty of tourists, but it's not one of the prime tourist destinations in Italy, which actually makes it a great place to visit! Instead of revolving around tourists, it has its own plans, and as a visitor you can really see the people of Bologna living their lives.

Bologna is full of big, beautiful buildings, and is especially famous for it's long covered walkways called "porticos" - of which there are miles and miles in the city center. It's such a beautiful sight to look down the street and see archway after archway... I'll try to take an evocative picture. The city center of Bologna is huge compared to anywhere we've been in the last 3 weeks, so we are having a great time just wandering the beautiful streets and looking in all the shop windows. It seems like most of the buildings in the center are painted with really warm natural hues, yellows and oranges... it makes the sunlight all the more warm and lovely.

Fabrizio has been a great guide! Yesterday morning we explored the city center together and he took us to some really great places. First we went and saw the "Seven Churches"... a cluster of 7 small churches that are really old (looks like they were begun around the year 1000). One church was built, then another right next to it... and so on. They are all connected and so you walk through one to the next. Each one had a character of its own, and they were all really beautiful.
Here is a view of the inside of one of the churches... This church houses the tomb of San Petronio, the patron saint of Bologna

And in this picture we are all in courtyard... the churches are very simple, but have a very sweet beauty all the same. The wall behind us is too small to see clearly in this picture, but with simple brick work, its exterior was made special by creating patterns and shapes with the bricks. A nice example of how something can be beatuful even with such basic materials.

After the Seven Churches, we headed over to the open market! Fabrizio has been reading our blog, so he knows that I am crazy about the market. The market in Bologna certainly didn't disappoint! It was a series of small streets, only for pedestrians, full of produce stands and bakeries and specialty food shops. So much stimulation! Everywhere you look is a new color, a new smell, something looking irresistably tasty. Musty and I especially thought of my dad (hi dad!) who would really love it here... it's his kind of place for sure!

Next, we wound our way back to the famous "Two Towers" of Bologna. There two adjacent towers are the most recognizable symbol of Bologna. In the 10th & 11th centuries, families started building towers, ... apparently just to show off?? So, at one point there were 180 towers! Today there are far fewer, but you still see them pretty often. These two are the most famous though, and you can climb up the taller one (which I think is the tallest in all of the city). It has a slight tilt (1.3 meters), but that's nothing compared to its neighbor which has a momumental tilt of 3 meters! You can't climb up that one but you can stand outside and appreciate its kooky tiltiness. Obviously that wasn't intentional... in fact, originally it was supposed to be taller than the one next to it. Too bad!

Here are Musty and Fabrizio climbing the tower. It's a lot of stairs, but not so hard. We were realizing yesterday that climbing is an important part of a European vacation. We also climbed the tower at Diocletian's palace in Split, and we climbed the walls up to the ancient fort in Kotor (Montenegro)... so if you are coming to Europe, wear some proper footwear! (I don't necessarily recommend just bringing flip flops, like I did.. ha ha!)
And here's our triumphant shot... after having climbed up and back down, here's a view of the towers looming over Musty and Fabrizio.

We're also doing loads of eating here in Italy, which I consider a moral responsibility when you are around this much good food! For lunch yesterday we went to one of Fabrizio's favorite restaurants, specializing in Sicilian cuisine. Yum! And then, for dinner, Musty and Fabrizio were exceedingly generous and decided to take a chance on a little vegetarian place downtown. The restaurant was a casual little spot inside a big yoga/massage/eastern traditions center. It seemed like a really neat place! The food was quite good, and I was most especially thrilled to eat an entire meal that didn't involve bread, refined flour, tomatoes, or lettuce! It was very exciting! So today, I'll happily sit by and watch as they eat all sorts of local treats... with my belly still full and happy from yesterday.

Hope you've enjoyed these little tales...
love, Amey

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do Vidjenja Hrvatska, Buon Giornio Italia!

Hello from Italy!
Yesterday was a pretty administrative travel day. We enjoyed our final morning in Bol, on the Island on Brac. The weather was grey and a bit chilly, which helped because it was easier to leave! We caught a ferry back to the mainland and arrived at the port in Split. We won't bore you with all the details, but we had to purchase tickets for our ship ride to Italy and return our rental car, and stuff like that. Luckily though, it all went smoothly, and we had time to enjoy a nice early dinner in Split. We had some extra dog and cat food left over from our stray animal feeding project, but we easily found many stray cats in Split who were delighted to have a big meal.

The boat to Italy was super cool! We loved it! We decided to get a private cabin, with little beds, so that we could hopefully have a good night's rest. Our little cabin was very small, but very cozy and amazingly comfy too! The ferry boat was really big, but still we could feel the movement of the boat on the water. It was very neat. The boat took off from Split around 9pm and we went up on the deck to watch the lights of Split fade into the distance. We both felt a bit sad to say goodbye to Croatia, after such a fun and interesting trip, but seeing the lights from the sea was a nice goodbye. We spent a couple hours exploring the ship and mostly just sitting out on the deck and watching the water and the lights on the coast... until we were ready for bed.

Then, this morning! We woke up around 5:45 and we were both excited. We got up and went out on the deck to watch the lights of italy get closer and closer. It was really beautiful watching the sunrise over the sea and over the coast.

So, around 7:30 or so, we got off the boat and found ourselves in Ancona, Italy. After 3 weeks, we were both feeling quite accomodated in Croatia, so it's a big suprise to find ourselves somewhere new. Even though I speak pretty good italian, and pretty crummy croatian, I find that all my verbal reflexes are in croatian now! I keep saying "da" instead of "si" or "hvala" instead of "grazie". How weird. However, even with these little hiccups, it is really, really nice to have the ability to communicate effectively, and to be somewhere where I understand the system of how things work.

We made our way to the train station, and eventually up to Bologna, where Fabrizio picked us up! It's super nice to see a familiar friendly face! Fabrizio had a busy day today, but he got us very nicely appointed at his place and then brought us back downtown, so we could explore the city. We spent hours walking around, window shopping, eating snacks, having tea in the piazza... it was great fun. I am super psyched to be back in the land of Italian food!! I had my first gelato of the trip, since the fruit flavors here are mostly all vegan... and I had some nice pasta for lunch, and found a bakery selling great foccacia bread with cherry tomatoes on it. YUM!

There are so many things and stories and observations to share... but only so much time I can spend in front of the computer! Tonight I'm sleepy after our exciting night on the boat, so I think I'll hit the hay early.

love to you all,