Wednesday, October 17, 2012

bringing it all back home

"... mama, mama many worlds i've come since i first left home." you wanna know what mixed feelings are? buy a ticket home after nearly fifteen months on the road.

barn envy.
yup, it'll be good to set foot in our house after all this time away. yup, it will be great to see friends and family again. but, damn, travel is awesome. "they" warned us it would be.

i can say this, we've learned that our idea of "home" is changeable, which only magnifies the "mixedness" in the feelings. we've made a home in places where we've only spent a few days. our mantra has been "home is where we are," and we've found that to be true. well, except for vietnam, but that's a whole other post!

this summer we've been lucky to make our home on a 30 acre farm/orchard draped over the green hills of northern slovenia, complete with a 150 year old (or so) farmhouse and, man, is it stunningly beautiful. go ahead, think of your mental map of europe and try to place slovenia in it. this time last year, when we came through for the first time, we only kinda-sorta knew where it was. not to get all rick steves on you but it's the hidden gem of europe.

wow, have we enjoyed being farm folk! ok, pretend farm folk, yes. but we've mowed broad areas of green grass and large meadows keeping them tidy, and we've tended a huge vegetable garden as if it was our own back forty. we've harvested and eaten whatever we could, and whatever we couldn't, we've canned or pickled and put up for the winter. hope our friends like grape jam! it was made from the grapes growing outside their back door. we've stacked wood for winter and walked around the property with our thumbs in our (mental) overalls, nodding our heads and saying out loud, "yup, good livin'."

not our cows but the neighbors'. there's some good cheese about to come out of those.
when we were done with that stuff, we stepped out our front door and went hiking for a couple of hours. these hillsides are laced with trails and we walk out one side of this farm through the trees to visit our closest neighbors a mile away. we didn't even know we had neighbors until the trail literally went through their front yard. and we've hiked through the woods only to emerge an hour later in a 900 year old town below, all on beautifully marked and well traveled paths. hell, we could walk to another COUNTRY from here on a marked path. austria is right over there (i'm pointing north)!

trail markers painted on an outhouse and leading
right through someone's farm

our friends have been generous in allowing us to take care of their place for these months. i'm sure they see it as us doing them a favor but i can say for certain that it's worked the other way around. what a fantastic way to wrap up our time on the road.

but for now, it's back home we go. wonder what "home" will feel like this time around? we're approaching it as just another part of the adventure.

we'll report back.

man, we'll miss this place. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

anniversary day!

"twenty years ago today, sergeant pepper told the band to play..." - the beatles

on a hill somewhere in slovenia. 

twenty years ago today michelle and i moved in together.

20 years! the mind reels. it feels like 20 minutes. michelle was starting law school (the next day!) and i was, well, probably hiking in the hills avoiding responsibility. in those days, we could barely afford to go car camping for the weekend.

today, however, after 30 countries and countless miles together, we're sitting on top of a hill in slovenia looking out over rolling green countryside and loving the fact that we had no idea this would ever happen.

we could reach for the weak "relationships are like travel" metaphors, but we won't. we'll save you the sappy thoughts and cut to the chase.

to all of our family and friends, old and new, thank you. thank you for making our relationship stronger through your love, friendship and humor. especially the humor. and when we told you "we're quitting our jobs to travel around the world for a while," thank you for not laughing in our face. thank you for saying, "yes! go for it." for the record, it was great advice...

it's been an excellent ride so far! we'll report back in another twenty years. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

slovenia: beer and god

saint ignatius church, built in 1759, rdeci breg, sovenia.
most of our sunday mornings are spent reading and drinking coffee, but... when we're in rural slovenia and we're hanging out at a pub at the bottom of our mountain and someone's just bought us a round and the pub owner says in broken english, "you should come to church tomorrow," we go. but we weren't ready for the next sentence, "yeah, i'll be pouring beer."

in this particular case, the church is a 250 year old chapel on the top of "our" mountain with one of the most wonderful views around. we'd hiked to it on several days and lamented each time that it was locked. turns out, it's dedicated to saint ignatius, a bit of a tough dude, and this sunday was "saint ignatius day." it also turns out that this is the only church in slovenia dedicated to st. iggy. that's quite a feat, too, since if you knew just HOW MANY churches there are in this country you'd think they would run out of saints pretty quick and start doubling up. it's a miracle.

god's country. our walk to church one time in slovenia.
the next morning we were a little nervous as we got dressed for church. after being on the road for more than a year our wardrobe is a tad limited and we didn't want to offend. we had no idea what folks in the hills of northern slovenia would wear to church. on top of which it was already baking hot at 10am and we were pretty sure st. iggy wouldn't have a.c. (note to self: jeans and sundress seem to be fine.)

we made our way to the top of the mountain, parked the car about a mile down the last bit of road and walked the rest of the way surrounded by green. lots of locals do the same, so we had plenty of company. as we broke through the pine trees and into the clearing where the old church sits, we came face to face with a crowd of people, half of them with pints of beer in their hands and it was only 11am! hallelujah, indeed!

this area is a pretty popular place for weekend hikers and clearly a lot of them were on the mountain this morning and, just as clearly, a lot of them had no intention of going to church. we said hi to zvanko and janja, owners of said pub who invited us, and made our way into the church. sadly, past the beer booth but, oh yes, we'd be back.

a stolen moment through the scaffolding during service. inside saint ignatius church, rdeci breg, slovenia.
they're slowly restoring the inside of this church so most of the pews have been removed and the crowd was spilling out the front. we really wanted to get inside this historic place and see a slovenian church service. so we wandered around the side, found another door, slid in behind the priest and took a seat on the children's bench. they eyed us curiously. and there we sat, listening to an old dude in white robes muttering on in sloevenian and it was perfectly wonderful. sunlight was pouring through the old windows, choir was singing, congregation was chanting, we were standing up and sitting down, watching everyone else's movements so we'd know what to do.

after the service we hung around as most people emptied out, this would be our only opportunity to look around in here. i knew our ticket was to ask a question of one of the college-aged girls sitting across from  us since most young people here speak english, and get the low down on today's service, the beer tent outside, the beautiful countryside and, well, just get to know the "neighbors" a bit. well, one thing led to another and next thing we know we're being introduced to friends, family, comrades, the priest... seemingly the whole town.

later, when i explained that in the u.s. a bar or liquor store can't be within a certain distance of a church, they were dumbfounded. they all just shook their heads, even the guy studying to be a priest. monks and monasteries have been brewing beer across europe for centuries. see here, for instance.

memorial to partisans: in memory of those fighting here on march 4, 1945
who gave their lives...

after meeting mom and dad, our new friends invited us to the hunting lodge up the road that was serving goulash and sausage. this, too, is quite special as it's a members-only lodge (hunters around here are held in the highest regard) and only open to the public once or twice a year. this was one of those times. with promises of "we'll see you there," we left them behind and walked up to lovska koča klančnik (the hunting lodge), another hike destination of ours and the site where in 1945, near the end of world war II, nazis shot seven slovenian partisans.

our new friends from ribnica and lovrenc, slovenia.

oompah music hit us as we arrived and there were tables hewn from the local pine trees across the lawn filled with people in the sunshine who clearly had been here a while already. i can't remember how we did it but we succeeded in ordering, and actually receiving, goulash and sausage and beer and wine, half in slovenian and half in english. with lots of body language and smiles thrown in.

we found our friends and sat around talking for the rest of the afternoon. they live on a farm opposite us in the next "obcina," or county. they also informed us that lovrenc (pronounced: low-rents), the village, was beginning a three week festival with a church service and feast the next sunday, music on saturday nights (that's where we'll be) and, get this, a new fire truck for the town! apparently, that's a huge deal as there's going to be a big party for that. charm factor: 10. by the end of the afternoon, the mother of the family was inviting us to their farm for dinner and a lesson in how to pick wild mushrooms of which, she assured us, our farm had many. we'll report back.


later that day... out the back door. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

always share your strudel!

last summer while on a train from austria to slovenia we made a new friend, an american who, with his wife, bought some land and an old farmhouse in the rolling hills of northern slovenia just across the austrian border. well, we had some strudel and some other viennese foodstuffs in our bag so we passed them around and got to talking. although we were headed to slovenia, our compartment-mates convinced us that we must see graz, austria along the way. so we grabbed our bags, hastily exchanged contact information and jumped off the train for a night in the lovely little city of graz. a couple of days later, while we were staying on pahorje mountain overlooking maribor, we received an invitation from mike (guy from train) and paula (wife of guy from train) to spend some time out at their farm.

catholicism: prettying up the the countryside for hundreds of years.
muta, slovenia, founded in the 14th century.
it's embarrassing to admit now that our first thought was, "what if they're ax murderers with a lot of time on their hands at their very remote farm?" it's true, we did. we were new to our travels and this was our first encounter with the incredible, spontaneous generosity of total strangers that we would often experience on this trip. but our second thought was, "why would we embark on travel if not to meet new people?" regardless of whether they're ax murderers or not. no offense to ax murderers.

long story short, we spent a day and a night out on the farm hiking, talking, eating and enjoying mike and paula's company immensely. we also fell in love with the countryside, and i mean fell hard. it's stunning. the drava river valley, west of maribor, is one of the most beautifully serene stretches of landscape we have ever seen. when we left, we jokingly said, "if you ever need someone to farm-sit, let us know." maybe not so jokingly, as we really meant it, but we never thought it would actually happen. i mean, we were on our way around the world in the opposite direction. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

one year on the road!

"lost my boots in transit, a pile of smoking leather." - robert hunter

getting friendly with the wildlife of cambodia.
one year ago today, we left our home in california for a year "on the road." sixteen countries and nearly 30,000 miles later, we're heading back to the good ol' u.s of a. for a couple of weeks. we're not stopping there, though, but more on that later. we are very much looking forward to some time with family and friends and, believe us when we say this, we can't wait to be in a country where we understand everything that's being spoken around us.

"been lots of places, seen plenty things." - brutha iz

this has been one fantastic year. if we were to make one simple observation from traveling through such diverse cultures, it would be this: the world is full of good people. whether it was the people whose country we were visiting or other travelers with whom we crossed paths, it's the people who have made this such a great experience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

living la vida cuenca

the "new" cathedral, built around 1885, downtown cuenca, ecuador.
after three weeks of laying on the beach in puerto lopez, ecuador we dragged our lazy butts out of our hammocks and made the seven hour bus journey up to cuenca, a spanish colonial city sitting at about 9,000 feet at the southern end of the "spine of the andes" that runs right through the country.

we actually stood on an ande. this trip continues to bring those kinds of moments. like "oh my god, we're floating on the irrawaddy river," or "holy cow, that's the black sea," or "check us out, we're actually crossing the mekong river," or "no way, you call this toilet paper?" moments of wonder.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

welcome to ecuador: you want a hammock with that?

buenos aires, 5:30am, waiting for a taxi.

arriving at night we had no idea where we ended up. after a day that began in buenos aires at 4:30am and ended after two taxis and three flights, we heard the sound of the ocean somewhere nearby. but it was pitch black and we were wiped out. the fine folks at la hosteria mandala showed us our room and a beautiful looking bed and zzzzz...

in the morning, however, wow. buenos aires was turning cold and the leaves were falling from the trees and we were needing to wear our jeans far more often than we wanted to. so, scheduled to be in cuenca, ecuador to house-sit during the month of june, we decided to spend the next three weeks at the beach about 100 miles south of the equator and we high-tailed it to puerto lopez. hello pacific ocean! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

buenos aires: i can't quit you

sunset over buenos aires, argentina.
we came to buenos aires planning to stay for a month and welcoming the opportunity to sit still after 9.5 months of constantly moving around. we loved it so much that we added two more weeks, and then tried to add yet another two weeks. alas, the airlines made that impossible but we would have if we could have!

we were sitting around the other day asking ourselves what makes buenos aires so uniquely wonderful, what sets it apart from other destinations? aside from quirks like milk in a bag, or dinner at 10pm, street salesmen selling everything everywhere, its obsession with the falkland islands, wine served in porcelain penguins, the talented dog walkers, people with mate cups and thermoses of hot water permanently attached to their bodies... well, we'll get to those in a minute.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

los barrios of buenos aires, some random shots

again, i take the map, the wife takes the camera, we cruise the neighborhoods and this happens...

turns out, some of the best alfajores in town are right around the corner! palermo, buenos aires, argentina.

ford falcon wagon, these things are everywhere in buenos aires. they produced them here for years (thanks chris!).

Friday, April 13, 2012

los colectivos de buenos aires. or, i feel like a freaking genius!

that's right, this is an entire post devoted to figuring out a form of public transport. 

one of my most favorite things to do in this world is to figure out how to get from point a to point b and full-time travel provides that opportunity in a big way.

a sample of "los colectivos" in buenos aires taken from our bus stop in el barrio de palermo.

the wife is good at research, very good in fact, and loves to make lists. this is where the team effort comes in and just one of the many reasons why we travel together so well. she makes a list of the places she would like to visit, hands said list to me and says "get me here." i smile, find map, and off we go...

we added it up and figured out we've taken some form of public transportation in 23 countries.

linea a, buenos aires metro system.
we're now in buenos aires and it has a subway system with, as they will proudly tell you over and over and over again, "the oldest underground line in the southern hemisphere, linea a." it's really quite cool, in fact. sure it's a bit gritty but it gets us some places and it gets us there in style. they've preserved the old cars and stations; check out the seats and lamps. during a particularly brutal rush hour we also experienced our first attempted pickpocket here. fun!