La Venencia: Sherry, Hemingway, 1930s Spain

As I’m a tremendous fan of fun facts, a fun fact about Madrid is that it’s got the most bars per capita when weighed against any other European country. Another fun fact is that the Korean peninsula drinks more alcohol per capita than any other country in the world. It’s a shame I’m not even close to being an alcoholic.

A third fun fact is that I love historical places and artifacts. I’ve always felt that way, from the time I leaned over the velvet rope in 8th grade to sneakily touch the Liberty Bell during a school trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia. The idea of touching something that really historic people touched, or for the sake of Madrid, sitting where Ernest Hemingway once imbibed while getting the scoop on the war makes the history lover in me really excited.

That being said, I’m guilty of feeling quite sedentary and saying I want to explore Spain more than I actually get around to exploring it. It’s one of those things I can’t stand about my Spanish self, but so it is. However, this attitude has a tendency to shift whenever a visitor comes knocking on my door from afar. Luckily it happens sorta kinda often. I can go on and on about how Spain and I just never hit it off, but I do love to show it off to my visitors. Plus, there’s still so much I need to see, of which I have a growing list that I need to get around to checking off during these last few months.

One of those places on my list of must-visits was La Venencia, an unassuming bar established over 70 years ago, circa the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The fun facts keep coming – it also happened to be a local hangout of Don Ernesto, as Hemingway was referred by the Spanish. La Venencia is like a little time capsule, and with one foot in the door, you are immediately transported to a time of bygones, of Republican soldiers sipping the one drink the pub sells – sherry, while divulging information to Mr. Hemingway.

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During Veny’s visit I dragged her to the bar at the top of my list, and I got a bit day lit while drinking both glasses of sherry that I ordered for the two of us. Knowing nothing about sherry (or jerez), I ordered one of each – a manzanilla and a palo cortado, served with a tapa of deliciously herbed green olives, and a side of dialogue with the others in the bar after asking the bartender “cual es la mas mejor?” Yes, I asked which is the more best, yes my Spanish sucks, and yes I got people talking with me – intrigued why two clueless girls stumbled into a sherry bar.


Our tab was written on the wooden bar with chalk just before sneaking this picture, disobeying the ‘no photos’ rule which has been long standing since wartime when Republican soldiers didn’t want their photos taken, for fear of being outed by fascist spies. After having a good laugh at my poor Español, the guy standing next to us asked how I found out about this place, wanted to know which sherry I preferred (the manzanilla was fruitier, while the palo cortado grew a little hair on the chest – I enjoyed both as time went on), and told me he has been a long time regular and believes La Venencia to be the most authentic bar in the city.

As if the ambience of the wooden bar, wooden tables, barrels of fermenting sherry, antique cash register, and decades old posters weren’t enough, a couple guys sitting behind us had a bottle of the manzanilla and a plate of machego that they offered us a taste of – unaware that I had ordered a glass already. I loved feeling like a visitor being urged to experience the bar’s offerings to the fullest. On the opposite end of the bar, as we veered our sights to the right, just to the left of the entrance, sat three older gentlemen looking as if they’d been posted there since the ’30s and hadn’t moved since. I sometimes have a bit of a staring problem, and think one may have noticed our gawking which I don’t think he enjoyed, but I was enthralled.

If you’re in Madrid and fancy a bit of history, are looking to try something a little bit different, something a lotta bit Spanish, and stumble into one of Hemingway’s many stumbling-grounds, I urge you to pop into La Venencia.

La Venencia – Calle de Echegaray 7, Madrid, Spain

Have you ever visited La Venencia? Have you ever visited an age-old watering hole that granted you a different side of the city you were in? Let me know in the comments!


An Overnight Bus Ride With Sweaty Macedonian Men

Perhaps one of the most memorable portions of my Balkans Bouncing this summer was the penultimate leg of my trip en route back to Greece. The bus ride between Kotor, Montenegro and Skopje, Macedonia is something between 10 and 13 hours – so long, and one that was filled with an array of bumps, border crossings, interrupted slumbers, and smelly and urky Macedonian men. Yes, urky is a word, you get it.

I was already traveling during the most heightened period of refugee entrance into Europe, capped off with the frontier between Greece and Macedonia shutting its doors sometime while I was bouncing. So tensions were high, and there was no shortage of “be carefuls” coming from afar, as I was a single lady traveling solo via many modes of transport, and not without vigilance by my side. However, I really don’t think any amount of vigilance would have decreased my creeped-out-ness on the journey into Alexander the Great’s (still being debated) Macedonia. I actually think it was the most ON in terms of vigilance that I had to be during my whole three weeks on the road.

I became a pro at maneuvering the internet, bus, and train stations for my desired mode of transport between each point of interest, and my long bus ride was set to depart Kotor a little after 7pm, arriving in Skopje sometime around 8am. Ear plugs, neck pillow, and snacks were packed for easy access.

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When I hopped aboard, I was pleasantly surprised that there were only about 5 or 6 of us on a charter bus. It was glorious and I could definitely get down with all this loungy leg room. That bliss held up for perhaps two or three hours. Two or three hours which consisted of my feet on top of the seat in front of me as I gazed out the window, only to be interrupted by the onslaught of a swarm of sweaty, smelly, mish-mosh teethed Macedonian men. Ugh.

The guy who sat down next to me was balding, round, and snored with deep intensity. And that was in addition to being shouty with his other sweaty friends. Good thing I had my ear plugs within finger’s reach. During the whole bus ride I hugged my purse as I sat or slept, making sure everything was zipped and a part of my bodice. I had never felt like such a good little white American girl in my life.

I eventually got some shut eye, only to be awoken by a tap on the shoulder by my sweaty friend at each border crossing, one after the other. During that sporadic night of shuteye, we traversed four countries, or 3.5 depending on your Kosovo stance. The most memorable was while crossing from Albania into Kosovo, where we were all ordered to disembark the bus, collect our baggage, and line up for a search of our belongings. The immigration officers immediately dismissed me back to the bus when I said I was American; meanwhile my Macedonian companions were searched and patted down multiple times before being cleared. Despite popular belief, being an American abroad tends to have its perks.

Now we were in Kosovo, and I was a little bit excited mixed with a lotta bit on edge and ready to get our, what seemed like the hundredth rest stop, show on the road. It felt like at every rest stop we stayed for at least thirty minutes, so in retrospect our journey probably took well over 12 hours to complete. During my brief trip to Kosovo, while the bus driver and Macedonians ate and smoked, I explored the mini-mart, which was overflowing with packaged drinks and snacks. It looked like they were what I can only imagine military bulk shipments might resemble.

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Enough beverages to start a new country.

At first I was unsure what currency to use to purchase something, since Kosovo is sort of kinda not a country depending who you ask, and there are so many currencies in those parts. Turns out everything was labeled in euros, so euros it was. I bought some candy, and had a good giggle when one of my bus companions asked the guy at checkout what the name of his country was. Hesitantly, the cashier replied “Kosovo” and my homeboy thanked him for his clarification. Twas clearly a touchy subject and awkward interaction I’m thrilled to have bore witness to.

Then I had to pee, so I found the toilet, which of course was a squatter. I have explicitly fond memories of squatters or holes in the ground whilst on other inter-country bus rides, so this was a fun one to add to the list. It warranted a plugged nose, and was topped off with a broken window and a drip dry. I felt safe. Come to think of it, I probably have material to write a book on all the fascinating johns I’ve used.


This is the best I could get of said window and squatter.

I peed and wandered back to the bus in hopes that we’d be ready to get a move on it. Not so fast. I walked past the restaurant’s kitchen and there was a lot of nothing, except for these two plastic containers filled with something that looked like a concoction of peppers, squid, and salmonella. I wondered what they were all eating.



We were finally at the home stretch, with only the final cross into Macedonia. When we arrived in Skopje at the crack of dawn, I was pretty much a shell of a human as can be assumed. I met a Chilean guy on my bus and turns out we were walking in the same direction to our hostels. We walked, talked, gaped at the ridiculous statues literally everywhere, and wowed at the piles of trash decorating the ground as the sun began to rise.


I know, so many beautiful photos in this post!

While I was creeped, urked, and constantly torn from my beauty sleep during this entire bus ride, I can now say I’ve ‘been’ to Kosovo (my passport says so!), and successfully add another weird and humorous international bus journey to the ever-growing list of hilarity that only happens while traversing the developing world.


Have you ever taken a bus ride that left a weird taste in your mouth, but ended up being a favorite travel story in retrospect? Have you actually eaten real food in Kosovo that didn’t exude food poisoning? Tell me about it in the comments! 


I’m Becoming A Professional Panda Cuddler

Just kidding! I haven’t made another career change and left you in the dark!

Just an impending continent change.

As the cat was already let out of the bag, I figured that my return to the Orient and imminent departure from Europe warranted an explanation of sorts (even though I’m sure many aren’t surprised I’m returning to Asia). So, here goes.

While Asia is by far my favorite continent, it wasn’t my initial intention to return so soon to re-set up shop. As you may or may not know, I successfully passed all my exams over the holidays, and the next step was to secure a position in an international school, which took its time to secure, but secure it did! As any plan takes its course while developing, I first had my wallet set on Dubai (then I decided I wanted to keep my rights), then came South America (but alas, I’m too new a teacher to get any interest. Sad face), then I finally circled back to Asia (and HELLO interviews). While I can’t even give you a ballpark of how many schools the world over I applied to, I have happily accepted a position at Kang Chiao International School within their East China Campus’ Bilingual division. This means my third home-away-from-home is going to be set against the backdrop of Shanghai. That’s right – China is receiving me next, and I’d be a big fat liar if I said I wasn’t scared.

For starters, when I think of China, many unpleasantries come to mind, such as: trough toilets, gutter oil, yellow dust, dog festivals, the great firewall, fashion masks for hopeful breathing, and mystery meat.

However, while that pupu platter is scary, I’m trying to instead focus on those fascinating traits that originally caused Asia to flood my heart, and then get back to exploring even more! Even though I spent three years in Korea, the only countries I didn’t make it to in ASIA Asia are anything Chinese. I feel like a giant asshole having never been to the biggest part of the continent, but now is the time! And now is also the time to conquer the Myanmar, the India, the Hong Kong, the Mongolia, the Taiwan, and the Russia of it all.

The travel excitements go without saying, so some other whathaveyous that I’m super excited to have in my life are: Pandas. PANDAS! Cuddling a Panda in Chengdu is definitely going to happen. Then there’s noodles and FLAVORS and hot pot. I can’t wait to be back in a place where flavor is bursting all over the place (sorry Spain and your love of salt). Dumplings because, well, dumplings. In fact, there are already plans to venture to a new Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong sometime in September with my Korean Kookster in Krime soon to become China Chingu, Chrissy. I’m excited for Chinese temples, stepping foot on The Great Wall, spending a Chinese New Year IN China, and learning so much about a massive world power that I know nearly nothing about.

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The only thing I liked about the Shanghai Pudong Airport during my brief 2012 layover.

Oh, and of course while I’m not exploring and cuddling Pandas, I’ll be tasked with teaching even more cute little elementary hoishis Language Arts, and depending on their level, History, Geography and some other subjects as well. I’m leaving the co-teaching life behind to have my own students, plan all my own lessons, have my own classroom and full control. This will be a couple steps up from Korea, and a giant leap up from my job in Spain. It’ll be an adjustment, but I’m really thrilled for the new experience and responsibilites, and in a school that looks so incredibly beautiful and majestic on their website. The school is massive and there will be around 150 foreign teachers, 3 of which I hope are normal.

This position will also allow me to get experience in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, provide many opportunities for professional development, and I’ll have a massive amount of technology at my fingertips.  The whole application process caused me a lot of anxiety once I started getting offers from schools in China, and I’m so happy with the decision I’ve made for the next jump.

Of course, as with when any chapter ends, I’m starting to get the pangs of sadness that go along with leaving a place that has been home. Even though Madrid and I never hit it off (as is demonstrated by this here blog), this country is exquisite and diverse beyond belief. I keep reminding myself to look up at all the beautiful buildings and perfectly crisp blue skies, because in 4 months those will be replaced by grey skies and communist blocks. I’m hugging my kids a little tighter, getting my brain and paperwork in gear for what’s to come, making plans to explore the still unexplored, and hardcore lighting the fire under my Greek Lamb’s ass to get his foot on the gas so we can have many more days of exploring and eating on a new continent together.

And voila! Have you ever visited, lived in, or taught in China? Do you have any tips for me, or any must-sees or abandoned places I must hit up? Do let me know in the comments! 

Captivating Kotor

If you’ve read any of those lists circulating lately about the Top 10 destinations you MUST get to this year, then you’ve most certainly heard of Kotor – only you may have no real idea as to where it is, because I surely did not prior to the summer. In continuing along my Balkans Bouncing, Kotor came as one of the most beautiful and invigorating suggestions, and I’m so happy that I went.

Kotor is an exquisite and still fairly untouched-by-tourists seaside town on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro; nestled between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina to the west and Albania to the south. Only a hop and an offered day-trip away from Dubrovnik, Kotor is virtually the opposite in terms of what you get. Where Dubrovnik is crazy expensive and crawling with tourists from all over the globe (mostly Game of Thrones fans), Kotor is still mellow and just beginning to get traction from commercial cruise liners. I’ll say it now though, it’s only a matter of time until that bay is jam-packed with Titanics. Once people hear about it the treasure chest will come flying open. So, get there now!

Initially, Kotor was ‘planned’ as a one night stay, which quickly turned into 4 nights worth. During my time there I found out I wasn’t alone in this scenario – which could be attributed to the adorably pushy front desk boy with the big brown eyes telling you to stay so you can check out an abandoned building together, or the straight up relaxation, views, and slow change of pace that are so very welcome when your back is killing from backpacks and cramped bus seats.


So, if you’re in the market for a treat to your eyes, a little burn for your thighs, and some relaxing vibes, then Kotor is just for you!


Every angle of Kotor is unbelievable, so your eyes are bound to be in constant wonder. Whether it’s from admiring the walled city from the outside, wandering amidst the old city walls, or climbing up to the top of the UNESCO protected Kotor Fortress, you will not be disappointed. I spent a lot of my time just wandering around all the little Medieval alleyways reminding myself to keep looking up.


City guard shark



I also ventured outside the old town to walk along the Adriatic and try my hardest to tackle at least one abandoned building break-in, which unfortunately to my dismay was an unsuccessful feat. There’s just something about a place left in mysterious disarray that really gets me excited, and well, in Kotor there happens to be the old Hotel Fjord. Sometime in the mid-90s the owner had money problems, forcing the prime property to never see the check-in of one single visitor. When I went to try and jump a fence, I soon noticed that there was absolutely no way in, and later found out that along with the surrounding fence, the authorities had set up cameras to prevent squatters from stealing old mattresses. Why that matters is beyond me, but I was quite displeased.


The closest I got was to the trash-laden pool at the sea’s edge, where people basked just a stone’s throw away.



Perhaps the biggest must-do in Kotor is the hike to the top of the fortress. While I am by no means an avid hiker, I do enjoy the view from the top, and the feeling of worked out thighs. Typically the hike is supposed to take a couple hours to ascend, and significantly less to get back down, however, my Kotor friend and I took a leisurely five hours to reach the view point – which was worth every single second!

Instead of entering through the designated entrance within the city walls, Michaela had been tipped off my the cute front desk boy that there’s a quicker (and free) way to start the climb from just outside the walls. So we took his tip and got on our way.


The hike up was excruciatingly hot and picturesque, causing us to stop and disrobe or pose for photos with our magnificent backdrop around nearly every turn. When we got about half way up there was an abandoned church just nestled into the mountainside. The inside was all eroded with time, with colors from old frescos faintly decorating the walls and ceiling.


It was around here that we reached a fork in the road. To the right was the entrance to the city wall path, and to the left was a suspicious sign saying cold drinks and fresh goat cheese. Initially we thought ‘nahh’ we don’t want to get killed on the side of a massive mountain, but then turned around because why not. And it was the sweetest detour we could have made!

We arrived at the home tucked high on the mountainside where a family has lived for 40 years making their own cheese, selling refreshments on the fortress path to sweltering hikers, and whose children ‘commute’ down the mountain to school everyday. We relaxed, watched the women care for their goats, ate delicious goat cheese from said goats, and enjoyed some of the most spectacular views my eyes have ever been privy to.


After almost getting stampeded by a gaggle of wild goats and a brief photoshoot, we made it inside the walls and successfully mounted the mountain. Feast your eyes on that Pterodactyl call!



When you’re done feeling the burn, it’s time to max, relax, and chillax; and there’s no better place to do just that if you’re bouncing through the Balkans. While the sea is overrun with cruisers on their daily stop-off, the shore also has this gorgeous Mediterranean vibe that just can’t be messed with. Not to mention, if you’re a beach goer used to riding and diving in waves, and dodging from impending shark attacks, you will not get that here, or really anywhere in these parts. The serene waters are perfect for playing, swimming, wading, and always people watching – which this group of 60s-ish men playing a game of dive & catch really brought home for me.


When you’ve surely worked up an appetite there is no shortage of fresh fish restaurants littering the old town. After my time in Bosnia and Serbia I seriously meated myself out, arriving in Croatia and Montenegro on a purely fish kick which did not disappoint. I treated myself to a couple fresh fish feasts at one of the oldest fish restaurants in Old Town Kotor, Scala Santa, which also happened to be just across from my amazing hostel. I left with a very happy tummy each night.


When I wasn’t busy eating or basking, I was wandering (of course). A couple times I happily stumbled on some pop up antique collections, one which was so crazy to me. This guy was selling hundreds or thousands of year old coins and weapons that his father had found in the surrounding areas. It was mind-boggling to me since I have only seen such artifacts in museums; but here I was able to hold them and really examine them with an up close eye. Definitely my kind of enjoyment!


Kotor is on all those lists for a very good reason, as it’s a little gem craving to be visited. It’s got the perfect temperament for romantic getaway or solo jaunt and anything in between.

Have you visited Kotor or anywhere else in Montenegro? What were your thoughts? Have I persuaded you to add this magical place to your travel bucket list? I hope so! 

Falling In Love With Sarajevo

Up until this past August, Sarajevo was a city that sat in my mind as a scary place. Aside from the obvious places that ring scary in the mind of most people, Sarajevo was in the company of Copenhagen; a place that I still need to get my tuchous to. That sounds absurd, right? Well, why? You ask? Because of a couple books I read when I was a wee lass – Zlata’s Diary and Number the Stars. Both stories take place during wartime in the two cities, and well, my 5th grade brain maintained those images 20 years later. The power of a child’s mind!

I still remember laying on Lambchops’ couch asking if Sarajevo is safe to go to; and now when I look back I think that was such a stupid question. Honest, but stupid. For one, that war ended 20 years ago, and the city has truly risen above the siege they were under for 4 years between 1992 and 1996. It is one of the most beautiful, welcoming, and peaceful cities I’ve visited. And well, now I’m here to put Sarajevo on the map, as it so quickly burrowed its way into my heart.

I was in Sarajevo for 4 days, and honestly I could have stayed longer enjoying Baklava and Bosnian coffee on the daily. Since I didn’t stay longer, and I’d like to relive my glorious memories, I’m going to share some of the highlights that made the city so unique and memorable for me, so maybe you too can plan your own getaway to the Eastern European Unknown.


The line joining the Eastern Old Town with the Western new Sarajevo.


For starters, the first activity I did after arriving was attend a walking tour. I’m a big advocate of these since I like to learn about the city and then dive in on my own with some background. This wasn’t like just any other walking tour I’ve been on in other cities. It was super captivating to me as it was led by a guy named Neno of Sarajevo Walking Tours. Neno was around my age, so he was 8 or 9 when the war broke out, and he lived in a shelter inside a building for the 4 years Sarajevo was under siege. Listening to his own accounts of what happened and how life was during that time was so fascinating, and made the tour that much more enriching. Not to mention, he was so cute and I had a mini crush on him (and got a little excited when I kept running into him throughout the rest of the day). But seriously, go on his tour if you find yourself there. So much knowledge and a little piece of eye-candy. Win win!

Sights Not To Be Missed: The Sarajevo Roses around the city to commemorate the lives lost in blast zones, Pijaca Markale market where the biggest bombing of the siege took place, the Latin Bridge where the events leading up to WWI were set in motion with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the Vijecnica old City Hall building, boasting exquisite Austro-Hungarian architecture, the Eternal flame dedicated to the victims of WWII, the memorials to the slaughtered children of the siege and Srebrenica Massacre, and then drop your coins into the tomb of the Seven Brothers which holds a wealth of superstitions and luck to the people of Sarajevo.


These Sarajevo Roses are scattered all throughout the city and commemorate places where at least 3 people died from shrapnel blasts.


Pijaca Markale, where the largest attack on civilians occurred. All names of those lost are on a plaque on the back wall.


Beautiful Vijecnica was severely destroyed during the war, and was once a library and the City Hall. 


The Tunnel of Hope (Tunel Spasa) was Sarajevo’s lifeline to its own Bosnian territory while the Serbians held them under siege. It took 4 months of around the clock work in 1993 for it to be built, beginning from both sides and meeting in the middle, and remained protected during its duration as it was strategically built under the city’s airport being protected by the United Nations. The home where one end of the tunnel began has since been turned into a museum dedicated to the struggle and salvation that the people of Sarajevo fought through, and houses a portion of the tunnel used to flee their death camp of a city to the span of mountains not under Serbian control. For the duration of the war, approximately 400,000 lives were saved and countless supplies were brought into the city. Visitors are welcome to visit the home, view the shrapnel battered walls, and walk through the remaining 25m of the 1km tunnel.


Tip: You can definitely reach the tunnel on your own via tram and bus combination, however I would suggest booking a guide through your hotel/hostel/travel agency in town who can take you out there, as it’s a bit of a trek outside the main city. My guide wasn’t the best, but I found him to be quite interesting as a person, as his family fled Sarajevo just before the siege, he grew up in Dubai, moved to Mexico, and then back to Sarajevo. His take on being Bosnian was very multifaceted and he lacked connection with his city, country, people, and language, having been absent during those years. He also looked like sista’s boyfriend, so I liked the guy quite a bit.


The Jewish Cemetery of Sarajevo was fascinating, and also happens to be the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe just behind Prague. I went here on my extended private tour after visiting the Tunnel of Hope with a gaggle of wonderful Polish ladies. The cemetery has tombstones primarily of Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in the late 1400s early 1500s and resettled in Sarajevo. They look like they’re made of slabs of rock, or the original iMac computer, with the details painted on them and it’s a bit unreal to go here and walk through. They’re in a complete disarrayed mish-mosh of no order. I love visiting cemeteries, so visually it was quite surreal to see tombs so old and so worn from time and shrapnel. It was really beautiful in a creepy way. You also have a great view of the city below and a clear view of the Holiday Inn hotel where journalists stayed during the war.

Fun Fact: Snipers during the war used to perch out here to stake their claims on ‘Sniper Alley’ from above.


Some other Jewy places that I visited worthy of note were the Ashkenazi Synagogue which is the only one in Bosnia, as only about 600-900 Jews remain, and the Jewish Museum, which is housed in the oldest synagogue in Bosnia & Herzegovina, dating back to 1581. I also checked out an exhibit about the Srebrenica Massacre that happened in the town of Srebrenica in July of 1995. Approximately 9,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys were murdered in territory that was said to be protected by the United Nations, but the siege proved otherwise – hence coining the term ‘United Nothing’. This exhibit was incredibly moving and I can’t even believe that people are capable of such horrible atrocious crimes against humanity.


Sights Not To Be Missed: I also suggest visiting Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque located in the center of the Old Town. It was my first time stepping into a mosque, and you must have your legs covered and throw a shmata on your head before entering. It’s also really interesting to watch all the men and women gather on the hour to pray. Of course you’ll also want to get a view of this stunning city from high above, and the place to go is the Yellow Fortress, nestled high on the mountaintop. From here you can see the hundreds of white spiked cemeteries littering the city and everything that was once on lockdown from the eyes who were locking it down. It’s especially beautiful at sunset.


Call to prayer on the hour, every hour. Men are on the right, women on the left.


THE spot to spend sunset in Sarajevo. If you go be sure to hike up through the cemetery and not via the steep road I cluelessly took, unless you want an adventure.


Eating ranks top of my list (this list is obviously in no particular order) when visiting some place new. To me it’s the perfect way to get in touch with a country, city, village, group of people. I always make a list of foods I’ve got to eat while in a new place, and Sarajevo was no different. While most food in Bosnia probably caused me a lot of premature heart cloggage, it was so damn delicious – especially, ESPECIALLY the baklava.

One of my daily rituals while in this quaint city was an afternoon pick-me-up on the Turkish ottoman’s of The Baklava Shop in the Old Town. I’d order a few pistascio, nutella, or whatever other flavor I was feeling, and a Bosnian coffee (which is literally the same as Greek, Turkish, and Serbian coffee). It comes served on a copper tray with a small coffee cup, kettle called a džezva, glass of cold water, and 2 sugar cubes. This combination made for the best afternoon recharge sesh while doing one of my favorite things – people watching.


If you’re a fan of flaky savory pastries, then you must get yourself some Burek. A popular dish in those countries under former Ottoman rule, these Burek are filo dough pastries stuffed with anything from spinach, to potato, to meat, slathered with or without some sort of sour cream sauce, and consumed breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I was a fan of grabbing a small one for the road each morning, and guilty of even indulging later in the day, like I did here with the sweetest Polish girls I met in my hostel. They were (literally) to die for, and this spot was poppin’. Oh, and this plate cost like 50 cents.

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Other Foods Not To Be Missed: I’m a freak for stuffed cabbage, grape leaves, and the ever-present Shopska salad that is everywhere throughout the Balkans. If you too are a fan of stuffed vegetables be sure to try Japrak (stuffed grape leaves), Sarma (stuffed cabbage) or Punjene paprike (stuffed pepper). You’ll also find the cheapest way to eat in these parts is to order a fat plate of Cevapcicci – or small greasy sausages – that are so delish, but for me definitely too much and sent me into a hardcore meat detox for the next 2 months.


Sarma, Shopska, & the Sarajevo Film Festival that I missed by a day.


I haven’t been to Istanbul, but from what I’ve heard and imagined, Old Town Sarajevo is a little Istanbul. At its heart is Baščaršija, the bazaar that is a labyrinth of shop after shop on little streets that always reveal something new. I went to the bazaar nearly everyday and always stumbled on something new, whether it was an alley of copper and silver coffee wares, vintage treasures, traditional trinkets, or a trove of hookah cafes.

If you know me at all, you also know I’m a huge flea marketer. I seek them out nearly everywhere I go, and have found some of my greatest finds from local people selling old trinkets from the past. I stumbled upon a fantastic vintage shop sort of near my hostel just off a main road, and it was like a treasure chest exploded. There were old photos and postcards from WWII, old passports, war memorabillia, and tons and tons of ornamental trinkets. I happened to pick up an amazing old džezva with a little cut on the lip, which makes me love it even more. There’s definitely a story there!



Endless amounts of English books, bras, underwear, and any other chatchki you could want being sold daily on the bridge over the river.


One thing I unfortunately missed which I’m super unhappy about is the abandoned bobsleigh track from the 1984 Winter Olympics. It sits high in the Trebević mountains and photos of it look SO amazing and right up my alley. I guess I’ll have to go back!  I knew there was a reason I missed it!


Photo via

One thing I’ve learned about myself when it comes to really falling in love with a place is that I am absolutely enthralled and drawn to cities once torn by war and have this grave history that you’re always walking through. Places where you can still see the traces of their past and know that there’s a story there. I’ve never visited a place like Sarajevo, where shrapnel scars litter the city, buildings still show the signs of war, but most importantly, how they have turned those scars into a way to remember, honor those who lost their lives, and I guess keep as a reminder so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Have you visited or lived in Sarajevo? Were there any other sites that you saw that struck a chord with you? What were your thoughts about the city? If you haven’t been, have I convinced you to go? I hope so!

32 Times Of Treinta y Uno

When I look back on year thirty-one, it looks like a very weird year. Nothing immediately crazy stands out to me until I actually look at it with a closer eye. Then I realize that this year was very much defined by leaps of faith, incredible travels, and was actually quite the successful year, with some (big) emotional bumps along the way.

Thirty-one started off with a romantical getaway to Brussels with Lambchops, complete with decadent Belgian chocolate aplenty and terrorist scares following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Spring time saw the Sistahood of the Traveling Yarmulkes of Diamonds and Schaeffs pop off to my fourth continent for a Moroccan getaway filled with camels and schmatas. My first full summer in years was spent exploring Greece and its downward spiral via shiny red vespa, and bouncing through the culturally rich Balkans. And now, thirty-one has come to end on a high note with a purposeful trip to New York which included passage of all Teaching Certification exams; and thank God because my entire life revolved around them for 3 months (hence the lack of bloggery).

That was a lot of happenings, and what better way to sum up the year than by highlighting year treinta y uno with thirty-two times my life saw a filter or two through the Instagram lens.

So, without further adieu…

1. Birthday & Balls In Brussels With A Babe

Lambchops and I booked a very last-minute (per the usual) jaunt to Brussels for my birthday weekend, where we drank delicious beer, ate the most decadent Belgian chocolate, visited European Parliament for my Mr. Politician man, and played with these giant silver balls at Atomium, a structure that is entirely retro inside and was originally designed for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. It was bomb, and we had lots of silly fun trying to get the perfect photo cupping these balls.


2. Dining Amidst Hemingway

I only had one spot in mind as to where I wanted to spend the night of the oldest I’d ever been, and that was at the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guiness Book of Records certificate that sits in the front window of Botin. Justin wore a vest and tie and his horrible shoes, we tried their Cochinillo, and we paid a visit to the table in the corner where one Ernest Hemingway used to sit and drink himself away before writing about how Madrid is the most difficult city to fall in love with. I agree with his drunk musings.


3. Hello Year Of The Goat!

I really miss celebrating Lunar New Year in a place where it’s celebrated, but thankfully Spain has Chinos by the bushel and two of the few friends I made in Madrid are an Asian and a pseudo Asian like I. So we went out to indulge our noodle and MSG dreams, and it was divine. Except for the tofu. It could have used some more spice.


4. Wore The Gaudiest Thing I Own

Never one to shy away from a good prop, I wore the gaudiest thing I own to take in some Gaudi on a weekend pop off to Barcelona with Jen. I realized that all I remembered about Barcelona from my 2006 trip with MayMay was Giuseppe, a nap that lasted forever, and Paella followed by some sort of free shot. So we wandered, admired all the stunning Gaudi, found his first commission off the beaten path, ate the best Patatas Bravas ever, and once again ate Paella to remember. I can also now say I have truly (soberly) visited Barcelona.


5. This Man

The seasons changed and Justin and I took in a few Tinto de Veranos terrace-side this fine gentleman. Truly a treat to the eyes and worthy of remembrance.


6. Sistahood Of The Traveling Yarmulkes

This was a trip we first only joked about, and then when everyone got on board it was pretty fabulous. Four crazy sistas who have been bickering and loving each other since the Willow Elementary days found ourselves exploring Madrid and then the most culturally shocking country I’ve ever visited – Morocco. What started out as a holiday where we were keeping our JAPpiness under lock and key, turned into an education about a place where so many religions co-exist peacefully. Morocco was colorful and vibrant and accepting, and perhaps one of the most visually intriguing places I’ve ever visited.


7. Semana Santa’s Own Ku Klux Klan

Semana Santa is Easter, or Holy Week in Spain, and I had no idea that these costumes were traditional to the holiday until the sistas and I stumbled upon them late one night. It was one of the most unsettling visions to walk in to, and we were all a bit disgusted but couldn’t stop staring. However, after some brief research, the Nazarenos actually have no correlation with the Ku Klux Klan, known to wear the same costume in white. In fact, this tradition pre-dates the KKK. Essentially the origins of why they wear these costumes is still a mystery, however their faces are covered as they are in mourning and in repentance for the sins of the past year. Can’t say I’m a fan, but I still find this cultural aspect utterly fascinating.


8. In A Boat With A Dream Boat

My dreamboat came for another visit to España, we went to Retiro Park, and he refused to let me do the rowing. How romantic.


9. Fucking Four Names! 

I think it’s safe to say that everyone from our first year in Korea assumed Thomas Sean Dominic Kelly (otherwise known as 4names) fell off the face of the earth. Well, newsflash, he didn’t and he’s still alive and popped over to Spain to pay me a little visit. We did a couple Asian things, like got bubble tea and posed in front of this Korean restaurant, and then we went and drank many a glass of Vermouth and caught up about life since everyone thought he died. It was a great blast from the past.


10. Shika Shocka Hip Hopping

Two years ago Shika volunteered in the Philippines, met Dustin, came to visit him in Koko, we hit it off over fluffy whipped creamy waffles, fresh lobster, Mickey Mouse ears, and fancy bows. Since then we have become great continent hopping friends from Seoul to NYC to Madrid and back again. During her quick trip to Madrid we people watched in front of the royal palace, caught up about our boys, and enjoyed the most deliciously ginormous tomato dinner. Everything about her visit was a little bit o’ heaven.


11. An Afternoon At The Bull Fight 

I still do not condone this bullfighting business, however, it also sits as one of my favorite, most Spanish experiences since arriving in the country. Before attending I was told things like “It’s an art”, “It’s so beautiful” and was eerily perturbed by that phraseology to describe something so barbaric. Then I went, met an avid bullfight goer, and witnessed the artistry first hand. It’s backwards, but it’s a huge part of Spanish culture, so to me it’s worth the experience. And boy was it. I wrote about it here if you want more of the bloody details.


12. Chef #dadbodenlacocina 

Justin is quite the wizard in the kitchen, and I dearly miss having someone cook for me since he selfishly chose to depart España. Well, this night he cooked a massive Paella feast for me and his favorite Frenchies. It was a very tasty evening.


13. First Father’s Day In Four Years

2015 was the first Father’s Day I’ve actually been present for in four years. I arrived back state side the day before, and the next day we all took him to the cafe at Paradise Cove for lunch and a dip in the great big Pacific. He was so happy and I was so happy to be home to celebrate and take this photo in the most appropriate place we ever could have.


14. Our Jeanelly Became A Novak!

The first of our Fab 4 got hitched on the beach in Malibu to the amazing Alex, and it was the island party I couldn’t wait to get to! There was so much wind, so much dancing, so much wine, and so many lovers all in one place. Not to mention, I also had my first plus one to a wedding and came in tow with my handsome Greek man who got his first taste of America.


15. A Grand Tour Of Los Angeles As Promised 

In 1999 two little teeny boppers promised the cute boy working at the front desk of our London hotel that we’d give him a Grand Tour (capital G and T) of Los Angeles if he ever found himself there. Well, this summer he did and the Sistas Schaeff took him on that Grand Tour. Even though he didn’t want to take us up on our long overdue offer of a trip to the happiest place on Earth, we found the next best thing. Our feet and Walt’s star will have to suffice until next time when he decides he’s only as old as he thinks he is.


16. Googling Away In Silicon Valley

Lambchops and I paid a long overdue visit to my favorite Baller in the world and his brand new bride, Michelle. We barbequed, swam, imbibed, and stayed up late gossiping like the good ol’ days, then woke up bright and early for a grand tour (there’s a trend here) of Google, which was awesome! Later that night we also got the royal treatment at Facebook when Lambros’ Godfather showed us around. I’d say this guy’s trip to America was a great giant success.


17. Countin’ It With This Gem

The guy who has always been so damn close to my heart, Mr. Yoga Master, Mr. Crystal Celebrity on Instagram, and I had a divine lunch at Veggie Grill where he gifted me this pretty Amythyst. When we first saw each other in the parking lot I don’t think I let go of him for like 5 minutes. I was SO happy! When we sat down we realized it had been about 5 years since we last saw each other, and it was like no time had passed at all. My Adam Reff is still one of the most lovely and amazing people and it was the best catch-up date I’ve had in a long long time.


18. Grouchy Gavin

I love Kendra and Justin’s little grouch! This time around he didn’t take too fondly to me, but that’s ok. I understand what ‘Terrible 2s’ means and there’s always next time Gavy boy! Auntie D still loves you and your adorable little face tremendously!


19. The Golden Gate Bridge of Greece 

When we were driving through the Zagori of Epirus in the northwest part of Greece, Lambchops told me we were going to see a bridge just as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the bridge of Kokkorou was unbelievable, dates back to 1750, is one of the most famous bridges in the country, and this photo looks like I’m at the center of the earth!


20. Met Some Real Life Hitchhikers

When I was waiting in line to buy my train ticket from Thessaloniki to Sofia I cut in front of two Frenchie guys who ended up being my favorite travel companions. Turns out Alexis and Konstantin had hitchhiked all over Europe from Paris but couldn’t for the life of them get someone to hitch them out of Thessaloniki, so fate had it that we were to be train buddies to our next destination. They also happened to be the first hitchhikers I ever met (hello, we don’t do that in America) and helped me concoct the perfect travel itinerary. The day they left Sofia they pulled out all their signs and I was in awe with how much work actually goes into being a professional hitchhiker. Two thumbs up!!


21. Bosnia And Its Baklava

Perhaps my favorite destination on my Balkans Bouncing tour was Bosnia; Sarajevo in particular. I didn’t know nearly anything about the city prior to visiting, and actually still thought they were in a war that happened 20 years ago. In contrast to the war, Sarajevo and Bosnia is one of the most exquisite, interesting, and culturally diverse places I’ve ever visited, and the Baklava there is to die for. Everyday in Sarajevo I went to this specific cafe called The Baklava Shop and sat on the ornate turkish ottomans and sipped my Bosnian coffee while people watching. It was the perfect midday pick-me-up and I sorely miss the tradition.


22. The Bridge That Fairytales Are Made Of

Mostar came to me as a suggestion by those hitchhiking Frenchies I mentioned above. I spent a day in Mostar and absolutely adored it. From the cobble stoned streets, the greasy Cevapcicci, the medieval architecture, the insane war-torn history, watching daredevils jump from Stari Most, and climbing up the most claustrophobic minaret of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque to get this photo. Mostar is definitely a place that must be put on the map of must-see destinations. In fact, make that the whole of Bosnia & Herzegovina.


23. Mounting Montenegro

I am not a hiker, in fact, I only do it to say I’ve done it or because there’s a view I absolutely can’t miss. I don’t like that #FOMO crap. And well, the hike up to the fortress in Kotor, Montenegro was definitely worthy of the hike. I even personalized it by wearing pink shorts, gold espadrilles, and silver purse. I’m never one to skimp on glitz, even while I’m sweating. My newly acquired friend and I took the long route (~5 hours worth), on our way stopped for some fresh goat cheese and Coca Cola at a home on the side of the mountain, and then admired the breathtaking fjord from high above. All of those Top 10 Places to Visit in 2016 lists put Kotor on the map and I’m just glad I got to see it before even more cruise ships begin to venture there. Truly stunning.


24. Scared Shitless In Skopje

Skopje, Macedonia was a very bizarre city. Perhaps the most bizarre I’ve visited. There are sculptures and buildings that look like they’re hundreds of years old but were built in the 2000s, it houses Shutka, home of the highest concentration of Gypsies in the world, and has the massive Millennium Cross (bigger than Jesus in Rio) high on the mountain top, which is where I stand perched here. I met a couple Turkish guys on the double decker bus up to the base of the mountain, and well, they were a couple of monkeys who wanted to get up on this gazebo. So you see, once again, #FOMO kicked in and I didn’t want any of that. To actually take this picture was a task, as it took me a solid 20 minutes to hoist my very scared tuchous up there, a couple skinned hands, and then after that was done, even longer to get me down. See what happens when #FOMO fuels you? You land on top of the world (sometimes).


25. Shuffled Through Shutka 

Did you read what I wrote above about Shutka? Or this post I wrote about it a few months back? I heard about this place in passing yet again from those Frenchie hitchhikers. Shutka is just full of juxtapositions, slums, and nothing I’ve ever seen before. Those white bouquets I want to believe are leftover decoration from wedding season, which I’m really sad I didn’t get to see. I heard Gypsy weddings are a treat for the senses. Regardless, Shutka was an experience and I got scolded later for accepting an offer into a Gypsy home. Who said curiosity killed the cat?


26. Exquisite Egremni 

For my last weekend in Greece, Lambchops took us to Lefkada, an island that can be reached by car from the mainland via an underground tunnel. Our destination was Egremni Beach with water so fluorescent you can’t believe it’s not highlighting words in your textbook. Not-so-fun-fact other than the moody afternoon we shared here, is that we were probably some of the last people to get to enjoy its luscious seashore. About a month later Lefkada suffered a major earthquake causing the mountain leading down to the water to completely collapse leaving a shoreless sea. Travesty.


27. LALA En España

Even though Joshua Becker was in my country of residence on a feat of love, I’m glad I was squeezed into the equation as we had a lifetime of things to catch up on. We drank lots, saw royal things, ate the best Paella in Madrid, and visited the center of this here country. All roads lead to Madrid, and I love having any chance of home visit me!


28. Scary Or Stunning?

Thank God my roomie likes to celebrar and decided to have a Halloween party at our casa. They looked more beautiful than death and I finally got to put my ‘when in Spain’ Picasso costume into action. We also have enough face paint left over if you’d like your face painted too.


29. My Life From October To December 

You may have noticed an absence on here for 3 months, and well, that’s because this is what my life looked like. And it all paid off as I am now a fully certified teacher in Elementary Education and ESOL. Now to find a job.


30. Met Gorgeous Georgie Boy! 

Kayla gave me the news of their new addition on my last birthday, to which I responded with a hearty “I beg your pardon, what?” Well, the adorable little man came this summer and was a huge reason I had to take my tests in New York in December, aside from it’s closer and cheaper to fly to NYC than LA. I had to meet this little slobbery boozy dinosaur, and it’s official, I’m in love!


31. Shoving Kimchi In Sammy’s Face 

That’s what he gets for never visiting me in Koko. It’s actually quite shocking that he never did, but oh well, because we found ourselves in NYC’s Koreatown, and my little piece of heaven. We were walking down the main street for a little while looking for a place up to my hardcore Korean taste but everything looked super catery to tourists or white people which is a no-go for me. Sammy, being the social butterfly that he is, asked a gang of Korean guys where we should go, and at first they suggested a very white looking place. When he told them I lived in Korea they gave us the good stuff. So, here we are eating BBQ and devouring kimchi and makkoli at Jongro BBQ (which also happens to be my favorite part of Seoul). Happy tummy and fresh breath with one of my favorito homies.


32. Goodbye Chipless Passport

This is sort of funny, but it was very annoying at the time. You see, my passport expires/d on March 6, 2016 so I made the earliest appointment for renewal at the consulate in Madrid for January 7th. I made it back to America, but when I went to fly back to Madrid I was flagged and denied entry because my passport lacked 3 full months of validity on it. Whoops. Turns out Spain continues to pick and choose what they want to wave their finger at, and passport validity is one of them. Since my just shy of 3 months validity wouldn’t fly (literally), I had to run all over NYC at 12:30am looking for an open Kinkos and a CVS to take my new flawless passport photo (I had to have it retaken due to the definitely drugged up guy who took my first and rejected one) in order to make it and apply for an emergency passport the next morning to fly the following night instead. I succeeded and have since put a note in my calendar for 9.5 years from now to renew my passport at least 6 months prior to the expiration date. On a positive note, when the nice man working at the passport center announced my name he said “Wow!! We were just talking about how flawless your photo is! It’s the best passport photo we’ve ever seen!” The next 10 years of my life thanks you kind sir.


And there it is! That’s a wrap on 31! I guess now that I look back it was a pretty solid year. Now here’s to 32, which is looking to me like a big fat year of transition, and another big move. L’chaim and here’s to you 32!


Shuffling Thru Shutka – Capital Of The Gypsies

Many of you probably know by now, whether in waking life or in social media life, that I’m a big ol’ fan of getting off the beaten track. While I do love seeing all the sites you’re ‘supposed’ to see, I’m also into seeing the abandoned and the rarely-tourist-drawing attractions of places I venture to. And, well, there was one such morning on my recent Balkans trip that took me to one of these places – which came as a must-see recommendation by the fantastic Frenchie hitchhikers I met in Thessaloniki.

Can you guess where on Earth I went?


I went to a town called Shutka, and it was vibrant, slummy, scary, exciting, and surely kept me on my toes and even more vigilant than I usually am when it comes to my surroundings (though one Greek man may say that is most certainly not true).

Shutka is a village in Macedonia just about 25 minutes outside of central Skopje, and is home to the largest concentration of gypsies in the world. They have a sitting Roma mayor, and their official language is Romani. Surely when I learned this I had to make the trip out there to see for myself. I’ve always been quite intrigued by gypsies, but even more so when I learned last year that two of my students in Spain are ‘middle class gypsies’, whatever that means.

In preparation for my gypsy venture, I sort of attempted to dress in a non-conspicuous way, but honestly, I think no matter how I dressed I’d have stood out, let’s be real. So, I still rocked my gold ‘LA’ earrings and golden slippers. However, I did plan my purse ahead of time and wore my new blue one rather than my bling bling silver one, I didn’t bring my entire wallet, only some cash and an ID, and just the bare minimum that I’d need for the afternoon.

I hopped aboard bus #19, which picked up just around the corner from my hostel, and took that all the way to the end of the line, when we arrived at a street filled with street vendors selling everything imaginable. Apparently, this street market, which is open daily and where most of the people have shops, is filled with people from central Skopje coming to do their shopping. I was actually quite surprised to see that the bus was so full when we arrived in Shutka, as I was expecting to be the only person heading out to that part of town. I definitely was not, but most definitely was the only non-Macedonian in those parts, so there’s that.


I walked for a ways on this main street until I got sick of it. It was too loud and just stall after stall, and I wanted to see the places these people live. I started weaving down random streets, and let me tell you, it was probably the closest to the slums of India I’d get outside of India. Some homes were mere shacks, while their neighbor(s) lived in mansions of 2 floors.




Methinks I just missed wedding season.

While walking around, I really wanted to take photos of the people; they were just so fascinating to observe, as people typically are to me. But, I was actually a bit nervous, especially after feeling a little heckled on a couple instances, and feeling like if I wanted a photo I’d better ask for one.



A shop selling delicious burek.

At one point, I was walking and saw these two guys completely staring at me. I mean, I was a solo girl so I knew I stood out, but I just kept walking. Then, like 2 minutes later, I heard shouting in my direction, but since I saw another guy on a bike heading in their direction I didn’t think too much of it, since I thought they were probably friends. Well, they weren’t! They were howling at me, and 2 seconds later their motorcycle pulled right up on my ass. I think they were asking if I was Italian, and all I could say was “I don’t understand! I’m sorry!” To which I got a friendly “Ahhh, English! American!” And they zipped off.

IMG_3002 (1)



Wandering some more, I came up on a street lined with lots of crap for sale. At the end of the street, just up to the left and before the main market street, I was so intrigued by a huge lot filled with heaps of CRAP. It was like everyone and anyone who wanted to could come in, dump a bag of all the shit they could find or steal, and start selling it. I almost didn’t go in, but my curiosity won per the usual, and I entered to no shortage of stares.


I initially went in just wanting to take one souvenir photo and then bounce, but when I took said photo, an elderly gentleman burst out yelling something along the lines of NO PICTURES at me. He stormed over wagging his finger in my face, I apologized and said I was just curious. Within seconds the man who owned the heap of crap shop in front of me came over. Turns out he spoke quite decent English and started talking with me, and told his amigo to pipe down, that I was fine and not to worry. Homie still huffed and puffed relentlessly though.

Soon the English speaking man’s daughter came over and couldn’t stop smiling and staring at me. She also kept saying “nice to meet you too!” on repeat. It was so sweet and reminded me of my Koko babies still saying that to me after year 3. Soon enough this persuaded the feisty gentleman to come check me out. He tried, actually insisted, on getting me on his motorcycle for a ride – which I politely (and profusely) declined. Strike 2! I don’t think he liked me much. Huffy man aside, I spoke with the kind man and his daughter for a little about their lives in Shutka, how poor they are, but how happy they also are. The little girl was all smiles, and her father was so nice – but who knows, perhaps it was a rouse. I’d like to believe they were just good gypsy peeps.


The crap market and motorcycle that my presence was requested on. Sorry sir.

Carrying on, this time on the opposite side of the market street, came the most interesting of my Shutka encounters. I walked past front yards filled with plastic bottles (for tax money collection?), an old television repair hole in the wall shop, and a friendly man who’s eye I caught.




The man was carrying his 2 year old son, and at first approached me speaking what I believe to be Macedonian, because clearly I didn’t look of the Roma type. I responded with the standard “I’m sorry! I don’t understand!” Low and behold, hombre was quite fluent in English, and was so excited when I opened my mouth and English poured out. We talked for a couple minutes on the street about how he learned English (mostly from watching American TV and films), and how he had lived in France for 1 year trying to make more money for his family, but nada. He asked what on earth I was doing there, and invited me to walk with him for a little while he went to grab his son an ice cream down the street. He had to get back to work, but really really wanted me to go to his house and hang out with his mom even though she spoke no English. “You can have a coffee” he said, but I really didn’t want a coffee, and thought it odd that he wanted me to meet his mom so badly.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have gone, for fear of being cut open and sold on the black market, but he seemed harmless, and had an adorable, flirtatious little son in his arms. Men and babies always seem more trustworthy. So, I obliged and went back to his home with him. I was quite curious to see what a gypsy home looked like and wanted to satisfy my curiosity as always.


When we got to his home, his wife was there waiting for him to bring their son so he could get back to work. She didn’t speak any English, but kept offering me everything to drink – coffee, juice, water. Her husband was telling me how their home is so modest (2 tiny rooms), but it’s what they can afford because they get no money from the government and barely make a living. How they want another child, but one is all they can financially support, and they want him to have the best life they can give him. I thought that was a rather responsible outlook, and a parenting tactic that should seriously be adopted by those who think because they can pop a kid out, they should.

The father went back to work, and I hung around for about 15 minutes playing in their kitchen/living room with the baby, taking selfies, and watching him climb up the couch and giggle and flirt with me. He was a little peach, but I was ready to bounce to the ounce and get out of Shutka.


He was so fascinated by my iPhone!

And that about wrapped up my couple hours roaming around the biggest gypsy community in the world. As a whole, Skopje was a very strange city to me. I’m not entirely sure why, but it was, and Shutka definitely added to that feel. Weird feels aside, this wander was one of the major highlights of my Balkans bouncing, and I’d put it on your list of places to explore if you ever plan a trip to Skopje. It’s not to be missed! My only ‘regret’ is that I didn’t get to see actual wedding season in full swing. Gypsy weddings are supposed to be SOMETHING ELSE.

Perhaps the best part of my Shutka story didn’t even happen in Shutka, but upon returning back to wifi to tell Lambchops about my day and visit to a gypsy home. While he was most likely storming through his apartment with a heavy sweat and pace, telling me to come back down to Earth and that I should never ever trust a gypsy and that I’m lucky I’m still alive, I was all laughs, thought his concern was precious, and happy that I had an excellent, albeit strange day.

And voila! Have you ever visited Shutka, or any other gypsy villages on your travels? Do you think I’m a nut job like The Greek did, for going into the home of a gypsy? Tell me your woes in the comments.