Tuesday, September 8, 2009
For about two weeks we travelled around visiting family and friends. Pictures include dinner with two sets of aunts and uncles along with several cousins, Laura's cousin and children, Steve's brother and children and our youngest niece holding her cousin's baby (that's right, we're great uncle and aunt!).
Friday, August 28, 2009
We have returned to our townhouse in smalltown USA. The renters took pretty decent care of it, only a few odd complaints which I am sure are normal.
We spent the month between arriving and moving back in staying at Laura's grandma's house (the picture is Laura with both grandma's. we stayed with the one in red), and traveling to see friends and family.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
We have arrived safely back in America with only minor jetlag. We are however feeling very uprooted right now, still semi living out of our suitcases. We are staying with a Grandma but plan to move back in our soon-to-be-vacated house after we have made some important visits to friends and family around the country.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Back in January, we tried to reach the top of Mount Lovćen, were Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the most famous Montenegrin is buried. At the time, snow kept us from our goal. This time, we were able to get there. So after taking a taxi as far as we could, we climbed 300+ steep steps, with two pauses (there were outlooks with nice ledges to sit on, and Laura really needed to stop and sit).
Upon reaching the top, there is a small room with a large statue of Njegoš, as they call him, with an eagle behind him, and gold ceiling tiles. Below is the room where he is buried, then there is a place you can view most of Montenegro from (it's safe to say that Steve enjoyed that part much more than Laura).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Steve opened our door yesterday to find this funny dog laying on our welcome mat. The dog got up and went over to the neighbor's mat, but when we returned from our shopping trip, the puppy was back on our mat again. This time doggy didn't move, so we just stepped around.
Monday, July 13, 2009
We went to a beach yesterday on the Adriatic. The name, "Plavi Horizant" translates to Blue Horizon. It was a beautiful beach, although rather crowded. Interestingly, not too far from the sand there is a small evergreen forest and then a stretch of grass. We stayed in the shade unless we were walking along the shoreline. Some of our friends played chess and drank coffee on the lawn.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Not too far from Podgorica there is a monastery built into the side of a mountain, Ostrog, which contains the body of Saint Vasili. Many Orthodox followers believe that his remains have special healing power. As you explore the monastery you can enter this tiny little room where his remains are "on display" although you can't actually see him (not that I'd want to see a century old dead body). There is a cloth over his body slippers on his feet and sock like mittens on his hands. There was also a priest in the room, for the purpose of prayers I suppose, and also to protect the corpse. Pilgrims walk up rather treacherous looking stairs (the last few on their knees) in the hopes that this dead saint will bring them healing. As we didn't have any desire to be healed, we drove up. In every conceivable space, coins and Orthodox bracelets and necklaces were deposited to be a further insurance that their prayers would be answered. And there was one small room full of lit, beeswax candles in various sizes that were also related to prayers.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the monastery, so we only have these two. Halfway down the mountain there are many little trinket vendors who sell icons, jewelry and Ostrog souvenirs to the pilgrims and tourists who flock there.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
At roughly six foot, I (Laura) wouldn't consider Steve short, especially as I am only 5'4". But Montenegro is a country of (very) tall people. Very often we are walking and see some people that the NBA (or WNBA for that matter) would just drool to get their hands on. Here Steve is standing with our friends Tanja and Ivan. You will notice that Ivan is not just tall, but stocky. We think the NFL would welcome him as a linebacker should he ever choose to give American football a try.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
We live in a first floor (in America we would say second floor, but here they have "ground floor" and then the next floor is "first") apartment, and there are trees right beside our balconies, so we really don't have much of a view. In the past week however, we were invited to two different apartments one on 5th floor and the other on 7th, where we were able to really see the city. And they are on opposite sides of the city so the view is unique to each one. In the first one, you can see the Millennium Bridge in the center.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Here is Montenegro, there is a wonderful food called priganica. It is basically fried dough, slightly lighter than a doughnut. They usually serve it "slane" -salty, with cheese or "slatka"-sweet, with honey or jam. Last night we were invited to a friend's house and her mother made us so many of these that we felt like we would bust.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We took the camera along yesterday, because I, Laura, really wanted to get a picture of these yellow thistles, since the only ones I've seen in America are purple. We went for coffee with a friend, spent some time comparison shopping for soveniers, ate dinner at an outdoor cafe where we watched Wimbledon, and then went to visit some other friends.
Imagine our surprise on the way home to see this tiny little hedgehog foraging in the grass. A bit farther on, we saw another one, but he was too fast to photograph. We weren't even aware that they were native to the area, although we had learned the Serbian word for them, "ješ" (pronounced yesh). If he would have curled into his defensive posture, he probably would have been the size of a baseball.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Every so often a product you have come to rely on is no longer available for purchase. We've had this problem in the states as well. Recently, we've discovered two different discontinuations on items we had used frequently. We can no longer find lemon juice (easy enough, just buy real lemons and squeeze the juice out of them) and we also can't get the packets of drink mix we liked. Solving this took a bit more thought. Then I, Laura, thought about how I used to make mint tea with the fresh leaves we grew at our home in America, and how ice tea makers use tea bags to make ice tea, and why couldn't I combine those two methods to make ice mint tea?
Step 1, in a two liter container, add a small amount of water, and approximately a cup of sugar.
Step 2, add 8 mint tea bags to a pan of boiling water and steep for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bags.
Step 3, pour concentrated tea into 2 liter bottle , shake well, and then fill bottle with water.
Continue to shake until sugar is dissolved.
Refrigerate, and shake before serving.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
By a strange twist of fate, Laura's parents celebrate their anniversary just one day before Steve's parents celebrate their's. So on behalf of both of us, we want to send a happy anniversary to both of them. I really wanted to post pictures from their wedding days, but I don't seem to have any along. Wishing both couples all the best for many more years.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
When we first moved in, our apartment had a very old washing machine. It had a few quirks, but we figured out how to use it, and got by. Recently though, it wasn't spinning properly, and there would be water in the bottom of the drum when we went to take the clothes out. Wringing a load of wash by hand is not much fun, especially towels and sheets. But we need clean clothes, so we dealt with it. On our final attempt however, water started pouring out of the emergency overflow valve and the entire drum was full of water. We let our landlords know, and they very graciously provided a brand new machine. We did a load yesterday and it was lovely. The clean clothes smelled like fabric softner and were ready to be hung on the clothesline without any wringing.
We have found the informational pictures on the control to be rather funny though. It appears that we can wash sheep and butterflies, although not on the same cycle :)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
This past Saturday we had a party for our English students to wrap up the year. Children could choose from table tennis, fooseball, Wii, English matching games on the computer and tie-dying T-shirts. Laura baked two batches of chocolate chip cookies for an authentic American treat. We also presented our students with certificates and a small toy for attendance. To receive the certificate, the student was expected to say something in English. It was wonderful to see how well each child had improved in speaking English since they started coming to our class.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Products with English translations usually have something amusing about them. The restaurant that offers "mashrooms" on your pizza, or "meat fingers" (sausages). The blueberry tea that vaunted it's ability to aid renal health. And these matches. Just what does "average contents" imply? That these matches are not excellent? That they are merely better than some lesser matches? But not as good as those "best" matches next to them?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Our first few days in Italy we were at a conference in Avelino. Here are some pictures of us during "down time."
It got pleasantly cool there at night, so we put on our jackets to watch this artificial waterfall at the hotel. Behind Steve you can see the curious architecture in the stairs.
The grounds of the hotel were abundant in fountains, pools and gardens, and the second picture has us crossing a "bridge" that goes over the lily pond.
Friday, May 22, 2009
On Sunday we discovered some sort of hornets (yellow-jackets we think) building a nest on our bedroom window sill. We find this disturbing as it is "open window" season. We waited until the busy "bee" flew off (presumably in search of more construction material) and then Steve knocked the nest down with a mop handle. A few days later we noticed that there was a new nest being built there. So we armed ourselves with a can of bug spray and the handle and again knocked down the nest and sprayed the area.
Now today we have noticed that our window is again sporting a nest. Who knew that we had such prime location for hornet realty. We welcome your tips on how to permanently dislodge these unwelcome subleasers.
Monday, May 18, 2009
On Thursday we visited the Forum and Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. The Forum was basically the heart of ancient Rome, where senators and Caesars made the laws that governed the empire. Though much is in ruins now, some buildings were preserved because they were turned into Catholic churches. Along with the curia where the laws were made, there were many temples to Roman gods and also some arches like this one to the right which was raised to commemorate Titus destroying Jerusalem and bringing the Temple treasures to Rome.
The Palatine Hill was the prime spot of realty available to wealthy ancient Romans. The Caesars built their homes there, and you could still see the remains of the palaces of Augustus and Nero.
The Colosseum is truly huge in size. It used to have a wooden floor but now you can see the underground tunnels used to move the animals, gladiators and those doomed to execution into the arena. Outside you can get a picture with some (almost) authentically costumed gladiators.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
For two and a half days, we wandered through the Eternal City of Rome. Nearly every street we turned on led us to some monumental feat of architecture or ancient ruin. We learned how to get around using the excellent public transportation system composed of metro and bus lines. The metros ran consistantly every few minutes, the buses were more of a guess. For example, when we went to see the Appian Way (we were a bit disappointed in this by the way), we waited 15-20 minutes for the bus that ran that way. But we waited more than half an hour for the return bus. And waiting with us was about 30-40 people. When the bus got there, it was already "full" but we all piled on any way. At the next stop 10-15 more people got on. We were squished in pretty tight.
We arrived in Rome around 2:00 on Tuesday and after getting lunch we went to our hotel and then out on the town. We visited the Trevi Fountain first, where Laura threw in a coin [top picture] to "ensure" a return visit (it took 14 years for Steve to return after he tossed a coin in back in '95). We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and bought a guide book of Rome and the Vatican.
Wednesday we went to the Vatican, and as soon as you get out at the metro station there are people offering their services for tours. We didn't accept any (the tour costs more than the entrance ticket), and went through using the audioguide. The collection of Egyptian artifacts and Greek and Roman statues (mostly of gods and godesses, seems weird in the Pope's house) were getting to the point of overwhelming when we finally got to the rooms painted by Raphael-The School of Athens in particular is awesome. And of course the Sistine Chapel is spectacular. We weren't allowed to take pictures in there (of course some annoying people did anyway, grr) but it was beautiful.
Next we went to Saint Peter's Basillica [second photo] and many people were asked to cover up (you can't wear shorts or tank tops in). The Pieta (Michaelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion) is quite touching, and he was only 24 at the time he made it! There was a mass in session, but as the Pope was in Israel, there wasn't a full house in attendance.
Later we went to the Spanish Steps [bottom photo] and sat among the crowd of people there.
In my next post I'll cover the Forum and The Colloseum.