beograd

As always I am way behind on updates — dear god like I haven’t even put up Barcelona pix I don’t think — but in my defense I’ve been busy moving to Serbia for a month(ish), which I now have done. Belgrade is beautiful and my hostel is really beautiful, my coworkers are great and so far (after one day) the work is fine. I have a weirdo dormmate (who my coworkers — the ones who actually work here — will deal with if I ask them to) and my other dormmates are cool. Still not sure how my life as equal parts wanderlust and paralytic depression got me here, but HERE WE ARE.

But this is a pretty cool view from my front steps.

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I think I’m going to go to maybe Montenegro or Sarajevo or Macedonia on my first handful of days off (or maybe second) but I still haven’t really explored Belgrade. But I’m here.

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serbia?? serbia!

I am as always behind on updates — I still haven’t posted about Barcelona or Marseille or this week in Paris — but today I got confirmation that I will be volunteering at a hostel in Belgrade from like mid-next week for a month. Or two weeks, if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason over the trial period, or more if everyone’s happy and I want to stay, but a month is what’s planned. I went from last weekend’s oh shit I have to leave the Schengen area like ASAP to okay well guess I’m living in Serbia for a month. So, that’s a thing.

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morocco part II // all roads lead to essaouira

Bonus of hostels: when you’re sleeping two feet away from your adventuring companions, there’s a pretty strong likelihood that someone will wake up on time, even if it isn’t (ever) me.

So, we managed to drag our sleepy asses down to grab some free breakfast and, more importantly, coffee, and actually met up with bus driver on time, and after some walking and another bus, we were en route to Essaouira!

Which I still can’t pronounce and am not sure if I’m spelling it correctly, or even consistently.

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The bus trip was uneventful, even if I did spend much of it wallowing in resentful envy of everyone else’s ability to sleep in transit.

And we stopped at an actual, real live goat tree!

There were some locals under it predictably asking for money in exchange for photos, so we ended up just snapping some ninja shots from the rain-smeared bus window. Very random stop, but neat to see.

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Fucking goats, man.

Post-goats, we made one more random pit stop at a little argan oil cooperative somewhere in the desert, for a quick free tour. It was small, but kinda interesting.

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I bought a token not-quite-obligatory bottle of plain oil, which ended up serving me well later when I accidentally bought two bottles of shampoo and no conditioner. And my hair, if slightly greasy, was god damned soft.

After getting dropped off in Essoiuwiewutioeriortura proper, the first thing we did, of course, was bounce over to the beach. Whereupon the first thing I did, of course, was take off my shoes and socks and splash around. I realized that Essaouira is actually just about the same latitude as my hometown in Florida, so I waved across the ocean.16174523_10102063920593397_5875336860845284877_n

The water was a bit chilly for splashing, but I have always been psychologically unable to be near a body of water of any size and not splash around a little bit. And then regretting it when it’s time to put sandy shoes and socks back in.

But the sun was warm and the breeze lovely, and we had a lovely time taking pictures of the water, taking pictures of each other, and taking pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.

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Professionals, all of us.

Finally we wandered into the old city and souks. It was a lot more chill than Jemaa al-Fna in Marrakech, which was kind of a welcome break. I’m still not 100% sure that the markets of Morocco actually end anywhere, or if the labyrinth of alleys is actually fucking infinite.

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Also, since it’s been awhile since I posted gratuitous pictures of cats that aren’t mine: here, have some gratuitous pictures of cats that aren’t mine.

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We had a couple of hours until we had to back on the bus, so of course we went back to the water, this time to the slightly wilder, rockier area on the other side of the harbor. Where I discovered that my traveling cohorts are in fact part mountain goat.

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I, in depressing contrast, am much more of a sloth/lizard hybrid in terms of agility. But through a joint effort, they all mostly kindly managed to protect me from myself, and I managed to survive intact without nary a skinned limb or sprained ankle or anything worse than a slightly scraped knuckle and some wind-burn on my face.

And it was really gorgeous. There weren’t a lot of people in the area, and the views were beautiful, out to sea in the west, and the fortified walls of the old city on the shore.

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I think the tide may have been coming in at this point, because the smaller waves lapping against the rocks started getting bigger and stronger, leaving shoes and jeans unpleasantly wet. In famous last words, we’re like yeah, we’d better go back, let’s wait for a big one to pass and then go. [pause] Okay, we should be good. Let’s g- –”

And then got nailed in the fucking face with a giant wave of cold saltwater. Two of us, anyway, myself of course included. Fortunately it did not claim any expensive electronics as sacrifices (although I guess we did have one iPhone + ocean = bad moment within about thirty seconds of stepping on the beach the first time.)

And now I am shamelessly stealing some of my (much better photographer) friend Andy’s group photos, in which we pretty consistently look equal parts awesome and ridiculous and possibly like some really lame ’90s band. Personal favorite is the alley picture where I look like I’m all cooler-than-thou until you realize I’m actually staring at the inside of my shoe.

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So yeah, Morocco was a shit ton of fun, and I very much hope we manage some more random adventuring together someday in the future. ❤

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Morocco part I // Marrakech

Marrakech did not have particularly auspicious beginnings.

My flight was at like 7-something in the morning, so I did not sleep, which I know is never  a good idea, but I keep doing it anyway.  And I couldn’t sleep on the plane, because of course.

So I got to Marrakech Medina airport and went to withdraw some dirhams for the bus and hostel, and, whoops — couldn’t. I’d transferred some money and had not taken into consideration the weekend + MLK holiday, so my money was still stuck pending.

I had enough euro to exchange for the bus, at least — though I’d just exchanged a fuckton of random currency into that euro, so ate like twice the exchange fees — and the hostel was chill about “pay us whenever before you leave,” but it still left me rattled right off the bat.

And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the constant assault of the taxis/hoteliers/merchants/scammers/etc etc — you are not really prepared until it hits you. Especially when you’re a tall blonde girl with half pink hair and a suitcase, very obviously cluelessly threading her way through the medina. By the time I made it to the hostel, I was seriously debating not leaving it again, and kind of regretting my decision to stay four nights.

But, as happens occasionally, it ended up one of the best times of my travels so far, and it’s always because of the people I meet. I like to think I’m friendly enough, and usually chat a bit with whoever I’m sharing a fucking bunk bed with or whatever, but I lucked into a room of ridiculous kindred spirits, talked for a couple hours with two new friends from Germany and two from Detroit, and made plans — which as often as not just fizzle, but we managed to not be assholes, and spent early the next afternoon at the ruins of El Badi Palace, built in the late 16th century, with two of my four new BFFs (that I had no idea existed 24 hours prior).

I had no idea really what to expect, but it was amazing. Lots of the old tilework had been partially excavated/uncovered, which really gave an unsettling idea of how impressive it used to be. And how lush; I know Morocco isn’t really a full-on desert, and has cool, wet winters, but the orange trees, man, as a Florida girl…

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And one of the coolest things was that right when we got up to the tower, the call for prayer began around the city, and while I am about as far from a religious person as it possible to be, it really gave me chills. If I ever figure out how to embed video here without upgrading my account, I will. Also there were neat views and neat shadows.

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After that, we threaded our way through the souks of Jemaa el-Fna to find a restaurant that seems to be only known as “the lamb place.” Dudes, I don’t like lamb, I barely like meat in general, and having just a kilogram of lamb set down on the table in front of us with some bread and loose cumin should have been offputting, particularly pulling it off the bone, but shit, it was delicious. And it was beautiful, warm in the sun and cool in the shade, blue skies a breeze.

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We weren’t, like, angry at this particular moment in time, to say the least.

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Eventually we made our way to the gardens of, I think, the Koutoubai Mosque, which was near our hostel. There was a group of dudes playing music in the gazebo, accompanied by some very friendly fellow who was most definitely on many drugs, but it was an awesome place to just sit for a little bit and relax.16143225_10102062409481677_1800197735142365363_n16174648_10102062409277087_6230929666173366619_n16174681_10102062409227187_6191046336631585049_n

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Some of us may have relaxed more than others. 🙂

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And finally, we ducked into the Saadian Tombs for about 20 minutes, just before they closed. Lots of beautiful architecture, lovely flowers and a really fucking fat pigeon.

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SO THEN — this was not a not-tiring day — we rejoined the other half of our newly-formed weird little fivesome, wove our way back through the souks to some little travel agency in the medina, because apparently going to the Atlantic coast of Africa on a day trip with a bunch of dudes you really don’t know is a thing to do. And, it turns out, it’s an awesome thing to do. But this post is long and bloated enough as it is.

After walking through the dark, labyrinthine alleys — and as soon as we reminded ourselves there really wasn’t any danger, stumbling onto quite possibly a freshly dead man — we fought the gauntlet of dinnertime in the souks — which, call me ethnocentric, but, “Five years, no diarrhea, guarantee!” is not really a ringing endorsement — and got chicken tagine. Of which I was not a particular fan, but whatever the sauce was they served with the bread made up for it.

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It was a good day. 🙂

Next post: Essaouira!

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Yesterday was three months to the day (I think) since I left Florida, and Spain is (I think) the 17th country I’ve set foot upon, not counting the transit limbo of Vienna and Amsterdam. I will probably be wandering for at least another month, probably a bit more. As bone-deep exhausted as I am, something in my stomach curdles at the prospect of staying in one place again. I will not, however, miss airports.

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roma part II // vatican city

After Tuesday’s sightseeing extravaganza, my toe/feet in general hurt too bad to particularly want to do a Colosseum or Forum tour like I’d intended, which sucks, but at least on Wednesday I did make it to Vatican City. I did not go into the Sistine Chapel, which I should have, but I just did not have quite enough interest in seeing it firsthand to warrant waiting in line for god knows how long.

And my visit was also abbreviated because apparently, agreeing to take some random dude’s picture was an invitation for him to shadow me awkwardly around St. Peter’s Square and its environs, until I was finally just like uh, look, dude, I uh… am gonna go back to the hostel now.

Which technically, I suppose, is the second time some random dude being weird actually made me leave a country prematurely. Good job, dudes.

Not that I was going to  stay that much longer, but definitely resented not be able to just wander around at will. But I have yet to figure out a way to say, like, “hey, could you like… not walk with me?”

So, here, have some Vatican City photos!

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Roma part I // I’m a traveler, not a — no, okay, I’m a tourist.

A week ago tomorrow I waved farewell to the waters of Venice and hopped on my last Flixbus (until, like, next Thursday, anyway) to Rome.

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The bus had the absolutely appalling gall to not have decent wifi — what is this, 2003?! — but the scenery was pretty neat. Maybe not 7 12 hours’ worth of neat, but still neat.

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So I got to Rome, and managed to figure out how to get to my hostel with only relatively negligible fuckups. The hostel was kind of weird, one of those where there’s not really any staff, per se, just the owner and like a back-up door person. Which is fine, except that the back-up door person doesn’t necessarily tell you things like “oh there are two different wifi networks” and “sometimes the front door key doesn’t really work.” But my dormmates were chill, so I abandoned my vague ideas of wandering the area in favor of sitting on the floor drinking wine and processo and talking in a weird mix of mostly English, some Spanish, a bit of random French and some unintelligible (to me, obviously) Portuguese.

Time well spent, I think.

Tuesday I apparently decided to make up for all the time I’ve spent being a sloth in various places instead of sightseeing.

In all honestly, I’ve never had a burning interest in visiting Rome, despite how endlessly fascinating ancient Greco-Roman history; I really don’t know why. I guess maybe I’m used to history being carefully cordoned off into museum displays and special exhibits and gated castles, but jesus christ, I was not prepared to just wander down the street and see the fucking Colosseum just kind of lounging in the distance like it ain’t no thing.16143260_10102057637230307_5268927693948867487_n16114981_10102057680548497_5571774020282628938_n16002866_10102057637265237_5844530219390357645_n15977662_10102057637305157_4836857585088125729_n15977322_10102057637225317_8849521319814528206_n

Didn’t do a tour inside, because I figured I’d kinda wander around the first day and pick a one or two things to actually see on Wednesday, which didn’t really happen, but oh well. From there I headed to the Trevi Fountain, except not really, because I got lost, of course.

Fortunately, in Rome, apparently “getting lost” sometimes just means “oops, I accidentally wandered into the Roman Forum,” which, I mean, I guess could be worse.

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Also the Temple of Minerva, which was somehow even more striking than the Forum, because it’s just right fucking there, these millennia-old ruins just off the roads that people wander tiredly along on their way to work. I mean I get it, on a smaller scale, having lived in DC and Boston and such, how short a time it takes to get used to things that people travel from across the globe to see just being a part of your daily routine, but like, the Jefferson Memorial is not, like, this.

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I tried to take a break and found some wifi to catch some Pokemon absorb the amazing atmosphere around me, but was immediately approached by some dude who’s like “Hey! You are from Africa?” I’m like yeah, dude, what clued you in. Which is what sucks about these super-solicitous areas, the laws of inertia apply so hard: if you’re walking, you can just keep walking and ignore them, but if you’re sitting still already, it’s infinitely harder to get up and start walking away. But he shoved a couple bracelets and a carved elephant at me; I sighed and took them, gave him a couple euro in change as entreated but not, however, my number.

Which I guess is as good an impetus as any to move on, and Trevi Fountain was pretty fucking spectacular.

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From there I went to the Pantheon, and I have to admit here, the Pantheon did not do all that much for me. I mean, it was cool, of course, and worth seeing, but I sort of walked in, looking around, was like, “huh, that’s cool;” looked up at the ceiling, was like, “huh, that’s cool, too,” and kinda… walked out. Perhaps some of you will have more appreciative eyes than mine.

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And the Piazza Novella, which was (a) astonishingly gorgeous, and (b) made me wonder exactly what hallucinogens the ancient Roman sculptors were actually on.

Which I’m sure has been the subject of more than one interdisciplinary PhD thesis anyway.

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And finally limped to the Spanish Steps and hobbled along the Tiber River for awhile until I finally found a metro station, as I’d been planning to do about six hours earlier.

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And so finally oozed my way back to the hostel, where I discovered that on top of my general body fucker I’d sightseen my way into some sort of exceptionally attractive bloodblister/callus hybrid on my big toe, so minus one sock there. No pictures of that, because you’re welcome.

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