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Posts tagged ‘travel’

November 10, 2012 – The Full Story (Part 3)

You read yesterday in parts 1 &2 about how after much running, scrambling, searching and decision making, we finally made it to our train that would take us back to Vienna. Or so we thought.

Part 3: Bad Luck

I don’t believe in bad luck. Not in the slightest. I do believe in bad coincidences, things that happen that you look back on later and go, “Funny how that worked out”. This bad coincidence started with – and I am not making this up – a black cat.

We were standing by this forsaken train station, recovering our breath after having just run uphill to catch a train that would come in 2 minutes and take us home, when Holly saw a black cat cross the train tracks. I point this out, again, not because I think it means anything, but only because what was about to happen made us think later of that black cat and go, “Really? A black cat? How cliche can you get?”

So the cat crossed the tracks, Holly made cat noises at it, and we waited for our train to come. Holly ate some Pringles, and I took some photos, satisfied that we were home free.

Lazily, a train worker came out of the station and smiled at us. We smiled back. She said something in Croatian. I said, “Train”, and pulled out our tickets to confirm to her that we were good to go. She smiled and shook her head, and repeated, “Train”. “Right,” I said, “Train. We have tickets. Wir haben Karten,” I repeated in German, just in case that would work. “Nein,” she said. “Ja,” I said. “Ne,” she said. “Da,” I said. “No,” she said. “No train.”

“Oh,” I said.

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November 10, 2012 – The Full Story (Parts 1 &2)

By now you’ve probably heard about our misadventures in getting deported from Europe. If you haven’t, here’s the basic story:

Due to a misinterpretation of immigration laws (and to them being changed in the past several years), Holly and I had the misfortune of not being allowed back into the European Union after a weekend in Croatia, which we had taken because we thought we needed to, to get new stamps on our passports and essentially “reset” our visas. Unfortunately, our interpretation of the law was not correct, and after being stopped at the border crossing back into the EU, we were pulled off the train, put in a police car and driven back to Croatia to be left in the middle of the highway with nowhere to go and no way of getting there.

But believe it or not, getting pulled off a train and put in a police car and dropped off at a border was not everything that happened to us that day. That was just the bureaucratic icing on the cake. We haven’t even really told everyone about our full November 10th – just the climax that resulted in our 3 month, unintentional trip back to the US. But a story with all climax and no lead-up isn’t a good story. So here’s the lead-up.

Part 1: Hidden Gem

All travel is an adventure, and we like to travel purposefully with adventure in mind. But that philosophy is a gamble, and sometimes it turns out like November 9th, 2012 – a day spent in beautiful luxury, in a rarely-explored part of the world, in a hidden gem that we can call our own. That day, the gamble paid off.

But sometimes the gamble results in a day like November 10th.


Rovinj, Croatia, our hidden gem

We spent November 9th in our hidden gem, Rovinj, Croatia, a city so beautiful that it should be popular but so remote that it isn’t. Situated on the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia, the Italo-Croat village is another Venice, without the crowds but with all the atmosphere. The 18 hours we spent here were fantastical, romantic and bold, and we went to sleep November 9th with satisfaction and the exhilaration of new discoveries in our lungs.

November 10th, we woke up still in our own dreamland but in a rush. We had to leave town quickly to catch a bus, then a train, to take us to the neighboring country of Slovenia and then back home, to Austria. We walked through the Rovinj streets in the still, fresh morning, hating to say goodbye so soon to our discovery. But we were ready for more adventure.

Just not this kind.

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11 Tips For Living In, Studying In Or Touring Vienna

So I seem to be writing at a pace of about one blog a month now. That works I guess.

I want everyone to come visit my adopted city. I love OKC, my hometown, but I love Vienna just as much, and I love to show it off (that’s an open invitation to visit, by the way). The cafes, the parks, the music, the food – all of it together makes me extremely proud of and in love with this city every day. Living in Europe – even getting to visit Europe – is definitely a privilege that I am constantly grateful for.

However, if you are going to visit – or live in – this lovely city, here’s a couple of tips you should know about first. They are not necessarily imperatives, but they do make being here an easier and more enriching experience.

1. Stand on the Right

This should really be covered in Europe 101, or Intro To Major Cities. Yet it’s amazing how many people come to an escalator and plant themselves directly in front of an oncoming hoard of rushed commuters, oblivious to the fact that everyone going their speed – AKA the speed of the escalator – is standing on the right to allow others with more important things to do pass by. There’s even signs, in case you can’t comprehend context clues.


2. Learn to Like Coffee

It would be a tragedy to come to Vienna, the city most known for its coffeehouse culture out of all other European cities, and not be able to properly appreciate the experience of sipping a Melange in a 100-year old cafe frequented by Freud, or cooling down with a properly-made Viennese Eiskaffee on a warm, sunny patio. It’s quintessential Vienna, and I know very few Viennese who will say no to morning coffee, an afternoon Kaffeepause or a cup to go down with dessert after dinner. If you don’t like it black, that’s fine, as even the most famous Viennese drink – the Melange – is an espresso with milk foam. No one will judge you – start with an espresso with whipped cream (Schlagobers) and milk until you can manage the Kleiner Brauner (literally, “Small Brown One”, just a shot of espresso).

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Thoughts On America While Road Tripping

Over Christmas, Holly and I spent three weeks traversing the American South, from Oklahoma to Tennessee and Georgia, down to Florida, then through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana before heading home. The main purpose was to visit family for the holidays, but we purposely took extra time to relax and meander lazily through some areas one or both of us had never seen before.

During these three weeks and over 60 hours of driving, having just come back from 6 months in Europe, I couldn’t help but ponder my home country, and I tried to do this with as much of an outsider’s perspective as possible. Here are the results.

GA trees

Georgia trees

1. One of the best things about the US is its nature

I was reading a forum one time where a British guy was asking other British people what he should see on his upcoming trip to America. One comment after another, the main thought was simply, “nature”. At first, that kind of surprised me. That’s your number one thing you want to see in the US? But after some thinking, it made sense. Europeans (generally) don’t have the wide open spaces we have. Nor do they have as much natural diversity. There’s beautiful nature in the UK, but it’s all very homogenous and compact, due to the high population density and size of the island itself. The same goes for the Continent. Europe has beautiful nature, for sure, from the Swiss alps to the Norwegian fjords to the Tuscan countryside. But it’s not as open. It’s not as diverse. And there’s really not that much of it, comparatively. Europeans have to live somewhere, right?



This is one of the major advantages of the US. Sure, we have a large population. But our country is that much larger. Our wide open spaces are more wide, and more open, and have so much more space. As I drove, I kept noticing the miles and miles of complete emptiness, from the Florida forests to the Georgia farmland to the Louisiana bayou. We have not even begun to scratch the surface of filling up America with Americans. Not that I’m not advocating we do. This is one of our great accomplishments, that we so far have been able to settle a continent from coast to coast yet (for the most part) have kept nature natural. We have kept civilization away from the wilds, and let wilderness flourish. With one of the lower population densities in the world (177th, behind countries like Madagascar, Afghanistan and Kenya), we can afford to do this, and it’s one of my favorite things about my country.

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Zagreb in Three Days

I have a similar post on our missions blog, however this post on my personal blog is more about the travel/culture of Croatia.

This weekend, we go the opportunity to travel to the beautiful Balkan country of Croatia.

Chapel with a pedestrian street running through it

Chapel with a pedestrian street running through it

Croatia is part of both the Balkan peninsula and the former Yugoslavia. Its language is Slavic and its people are heavily Catholic (one of the main reasons for continued tension with its Eastern Orthodox neighbor Serbia and the Muslim Bosnia, as well as the 90′s war). The south part of the country is renowned for its coasts, islands and Mediterranean feel in its cities, food and people. Many Northern Europeans (Germans, Scandinavians, Austrians) travel to the Croatian coast for holidays. The north part of the country seems more Eastern European than Mediterranean, but still has a more relaxed vibe than, say, Hungary or Slovakia.

Jelačić Square

Jelačić Square

Our trip was fast and consisted of only a short visit to the capital Zagreb and a quick jaunt down to Plitvice Lakes National Park (a must-see). Zagreb is a bustling and trendy city, without any sign of being in a major war less than 20 years ago. We started off with a walk through the Old Town: through the Times Square-like Jelačić Square, up a funicular to the medieval village of Gradec, in and out of the extremely entertaining Museum of Broken Relationships (it’s just like it sounds), down winding switchback streets through Gradec’s historical rival village Kaptol, and back to the main square. Zagreb is many eras rolled into one. Medieval and Renaissance buildings dominate Gradec, the old town still has a regal Hapsburg feel from being part of the Austrian Empire (with some signs still in German), and from the Gradec hill, you can see Communist-era block apartment buildings ringing the center. But venture down the busy Ilica shopping street and you’re confronted with the modern-era’s designer shops and luxury eateries. Zagreb seems to be in all times at once.

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Vienna Video Blog 1

So I live in Vienna, Austria now. You can read about that here (as well as here). I made a video talking about our first couple of weeks. Here it is.

FYI I’ve been shooting all of this on my iPhone 4S. I still haven’t quite learned how to master it as my primary video camera, hence why shots are sometimes shaky and whatnot. Hopefully this will get better in the future. Also, I’m looking for suggestions for a good lapel mic that would work with iPhone. Anything?