Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sneak peak of some Thailand pics! We are still in Railay Bay (been here over a week) and will be heading to Ko Tao in the next couple days. Our responsibilities include not spending too much money and remembering to apply sunscreen.  xoxoox


After spending 2 weeks in Croatia, we took a train from Zagreb to Budapest, Hungary...which happens to be my homeland (on my Dad's maternal side)! The train was 7 hours long and was slow as molasses, although it was nice not to be in car - particularly for Niko. The train was very similar to the Darjeling Limited trains with the separate rooms with 6 seats each. We arrived in Buda and navigated our way over to Pest, where all the hotels are. It's such a beautiful city

I was about to go into detail, but instead I am going to post pictures and hopefully elaborate later, but overall we LOVED Budapest. We sprung for a fancy hotel right downtown and we able to relax in between sight-seeing. Some highlights include: the FOOD, which is incredible - pastries, chicken paprika, goulash...the people - so friendly....the castles and architecture - so unique and stunning, the Turkish baths (we spent hours there)...turns out they are better than the Turkish baths in Turkey. 

I could go on and on... I highly recommend Budapest to everyone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Croatia - Montenegro - Bosnia

Although this portion of our trip was almost a month ago, its better late than never to blog about it! This area is Niko's homeland...he is actually first generation American. On September 17th we took a train/bus to Pula, Croatia on the Istrian peninsula (where Lidia Bastianich is from) and found a great apartment on a resort right on the beach. The water is the Adriatic Sea and it's so beautiful! It's crystal clear/turquiose and, although it's rocky, it's so fabulous for swimming. It's so salty you float so easily you hardly have to swim...perfect for us lazy folk.

Since we had an apartment we were able to cook (which we were thrilled about) so we would sit on our deck overlooking the sea and eat a delish homemade dinner of risotto and salad. During the day we visited the ancient Roman ruins from the 1st century, ate Greek salads, lots of meat and pasta, and the local beer (that I can't pronounce or spell). We relaxed and swam, hiked around, explored... it was so nice to have a "home" for a bit.

We stayed in Pula for 4 nights and opted to rent a car, which was so luxurious to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted to go. We drove along the cost for six hours and stopped at cute little authentic towns and ate a huge Branzizi (whole fish) for lunch. We saw castles and were in awe of the beauty of the coast line. That night we stopped in a charming town called Senj that reminded us of Italy.

  The next day we drove to the Plitvice National Park, which was probably my favorite part of Croatia. There are 16 cascading waterfalls that are bright turquoise/sea green. It was pouring rain while we were there, but we loved it because it made the waterfalls very misty and there were less tourists. There are wooden planks that weave throughout the waterfalls for about 3 miles... so amazing. The Yugoslavian war started in this national park. In fact, all over Croatia there are bullet holes in the buildings and the homes...there is actually a feeling of sadness from the war(s) that is hard to describe. 

Anyway, the Plitvice lakes are a MUST do...National Geographic even says it's the 8th wonder of the world. After staying in/near the park for a couple days we continued south and stumbled upon a town called Trogir, which is so similar to Venice! It has narrow cobblestone streets that wind through the town with palm trees along the promenade dotted with restaurants and shops. There is also a huge castle that the town is known for. 

After Trogir, our adventure continued south and we stayed in a few towns along the way until we arrived in Dubrovnik (another MUST do). It is an incredible city that has an enormous castle and a wall encompassing the city that resembles the Great Wall of China. In 1991, it was caught in the crossfire of the shelling, but they have restored it quite well. It was way too crowded for our taste since myriad cruise ships stop in every day and, unfortunately, it took away from the charm of the city, but it is still such a stunning city. We stayed in a cute apartment 4km (I'm on the metric system now!) outside the city in a cute little fishing village that had a promenade along the water with restaurants and 3 nice swimming beaches. Our apartment had a nice little patio overlooking the sea with grape vines brightly colored flowers.

One day we took a "fish picnic" which is a full day boat trip that visits 3 islands and serves a fresh fish lunch on the boat. Oh, and it was all you can drink. We met two couples from S. Africa that we loved and had a great time seeing some of the other islands in the area.
The tourist season was coming to an end and we tried to make it to "end of the season" parties that start around 10pm...we realized we are getting old when we couldn't stay up long enough to make it to the parties.

We took a day trip to Montenegro, which just recently became its own country and is surprisingly in the EU. Montenegro is has extremely tall mountains towering over an enormous lake with gorgeous stone lake front houses. There are also (allegedly) beautiful beaches, but the beach we went to was dirty and overcrowded. The driving in Montenegro is crazy and Niko was not a happy camper, but he was certainly a tropper.

We also drove through Bosnia and ate lunch, so technically we've been there, but we didn't see much and it basically felt as if we were in Croatia. I ordered a chicken kebab and received a hot dog on a hambuger bun.

After we left Dubrovinik started to head back north and stayed in a cute town called Skradin that was close to Krka National Park - similar to Plitvice - with several cascading beautiful!!

We visited a little town outside Obrovac, Niko's maternal grandfather's hometown. I'll let him elaborate on it, but it was so wonderful and touching to be on his family's soil.

As we continued north, we stopped in Zadar (very strange city) and then Zagreb, which is the capital and an amazing & vibrant city filled with so much life.It had a very different feel than the rest of Croatia. There is a long walkway filled with outdoor cafes and cute shops...highly recommend Zagreb. We stayed in a fun hostel (first hostel of the trip).

Overall, we spent 2 full weeks in Croatia and drove 1,500 miles (!). We were virutally the only Americans there, probably due to the poor exchange rate, although Croatia was the cheapest place up to this point. While we loved our time in Croatia, we felt the people weren't very friendly and, again, there was an overarching sense of sadness in the country likely from the recent wars. The menus became very monontonous with pnly pizza and pasta, which dissapointed us because the food we know of Niko's culture (Zora's infamous cooking) is so incredible and we hardly found any authentic food. All that aside, Croatia has so much to offer and I would recommend it to anyone.

Here are a few pictures, FYI, these are not in any order...I can't wait to share the rest of them with you all soon!

Maggie (& Niko) xoox

Intermission's been way too long since I've updated my blog...this is what happens when you're having such a great time I suppose. We have been traveling now for 8 weeks or's hard to keep track of the time (let alone the day of the week!). We have been to 12 countries so far (UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, and now Thailand) and have stayed in 24 hotels. We are in SE Asia until the end of December and have yet to go to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We will be enjoying the islands in Thailand for a bit longer though :)

Niko and I are getting along's particularly remarkable how little we bicker for being together 24/7. We are not even half way through our trip and we are so excited to continue exploring! We are having the time of our lives and every place we go seems to be better than the last! I must say, however, that Thailand and Istanbul have been the highlights. Thailand is the most incredible place I've ever been to in my life. I am going to post to the blog in chronological order (don't want to jump the gun) but hope to catch up soon.
We feel so incredibly blessed to be on this journey together and you all are on our minds constantly. Love to all!


Maggie & Niko