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.

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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!

EYES

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.

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City guard shark

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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.

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

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THIGHS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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VIBES

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.

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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.

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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!

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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! 

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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.

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

SEE

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.

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

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

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

VISIT

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

EAT

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.

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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.

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

SHOP

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!

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

COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA

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!

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Photo via yomadic.com

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!

A Summer Holiday In That Other Side of Greece

The last time I was in Greece was in October 2007 with my mom and brother. I’ve wanted to return so badly, and finally had the free time and a pretty sexy reason (if that’s even a requirement) to return. This time for a couple months (yikes) holiday in between my trip home and my return to Spain in October. Not too shabby and a lot a bit scary. I’m here this summer with absolutely nothing to do but eat tzatziki and the reddest tomatoes on the planet, walk around getting blacker by the second, jump in mediterranean waters, squeeze in some exam studying, tend to this blog which I’ve handsomely neglected this year, and see some untouched Greece along the way. Nothing to do. Who even has time to say that? Not many, especially the Greek I’ve come to see.

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My heavenly first meal.

So here I am in the northwest region of Epirus, neighboring the island of Corfu and Albania, in the city of Ioannina, which I’ve been told has about the same population as Santa Barbara County (for those interested in population counts and want a point of reference). It ain’t big, but my, is it beautiful and untouched, and a side of Greece that few, if any, think of when the country comes to mind. At its center lies Lake Pamvotis, with the unnamed island perched in the center. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, the city of Ioannina was once quite secluded and a journey to get to, until the initiation of a great highway system.

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The view from way up in the mountain village of Ligiades.

On my first day here, Mr. Chops zipped us around town via sparkling red Vespa, and my first thought after “I hope I don’t fall off this thing,” was “this is exactly what I envisioned for my European life!” those eons ago when I first planted the seed of a life in Europe in my 10 year old brain. The city consists of a bustling stream of cafes and shops surrounding the hushed part of town lying within the once-upon-a-time castle walls. There are cobblestone streets aplenty, renovated buildings side-by-side with ones in disarray and graffiti, a stunning lake, and of course since it’s Greece, captain of all things ancient and crumbling, a plethora of remnants from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.

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Lambchops has been quite concerned for my boredom here, and how I’ll keep busy for a summer, which is unbearably sweet. To be honest, there isn’t a ton to do in the realm of excitement, so I understand, but I’m also not looking for a crazy time; and gorgeous places are within a mountain’s drive or boat ride away. I also like to wander, so I’ve done enough of that to turn about 5 shades of negro darker and find myself in a new part of town on most days when he comes to fetch me after work around plus or minus 3pm.

Of the ways I’ve spent my weekday afternoons while he’s been busy working his brain off and I’m not trying to add my womanly touch to his quarters (lots of scrubbing required), well, let me break them down for you.

1. Drink Coffee Like the Greeks Do, and People Watch

There are so many cafes in this city that it’s quite hard to choose just the right one. They’re all so cute, and when I look for a cafe to sit in I definitely look for a ‘cute’ ambience. I know, how girly of me. But after coming from Korea, land of the cafe, to Spain thats sucks as far as cafe culture goes, Greece has the cafe on lock. After you’ve chosen your locale, choose your coffee. Nescafé rose to fame some time ago with their Frappé, or simply Nescafé because they own that entire market. They’re quite sweet, and from the looks of the tummies on most men, consumed on the regular. I personally have been ordering an Espresso Freddo, which is essentially espresso over ice with sugar, only I ask for medium sugar because health (and I just can’t do espresso black because of sensitive tummy and bitterness). And when I’m feeling particularly in need of calming, and mind-traveling, a glass of white wine, because I’m in Europe and that’s what people do in the afternoon besides eat a huge lunch and nap.

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The lines of people waiting to retrieve their 50 euro per day is real.

2. Walk Through the Castle Walls

If you’re in the market for some quiet wandering, just walk towards the lake and you will be met with these ancient walls at one point or another. Once you enter it’ll amaze you how you can hear a pin drop. It’s so unbelievably quiet (unless you’re being followed by a hoard of loud and obnoxious out-of-work youths). These homes are from what I have been told some of the most expensive property in the city, and date back 100s of years. This region of the city has seen many changes in power whether under the Byzantine or Ottoman rule of Ali Pasha. Walking through here is one of those reasons why Greece is so fascinating to me as an American. It’s amazing to see structures like Ottoman bathhouses that have been preserved from seriously hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

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3. Visit Its Kale Fortress

As I already mentioned, it’s really amazing to walk through a modern city, and then stumble onto remnants of eras passed. Within the castle walls lies yet another set of walls, and the former home of the Ottoman ruler Ali Pasha. Sitting high on the acropolis overlooking Lake Pamvotis, this fortified area underwent massive amounts of renovation during his rule. While his palace is in ruins, there also lies Fetiyie Mosque overlooking the lake, with his immaculately designed tomb just in front, and the Byzantine Museum in between the two.

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Fetiyie Mosque, The Byzantine Museum, & the residence of Ali Pasha.

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The final resting place of Ali Pasha and one of his wives.

4. Ferry Out To the Nameless Island

A ferry leaves the main port in Ioannina every 30 minutes and makes its 10 minute journey over to the island, which plays home to approximately 100 people. Aside from the restaurants serving up fresh seafood (the specialty I hear is eel, and not my thang), there are a few streets filled with residents begging you to buy souvenirs of silver and baklava from their little shops. Delicious baklava I might add. Once you get past the main entry point, you are free to wander and roam through the white-washed walkways and see the many Ottoman-era monasteries that litter the tiny island. I walked past some, but frankly it was too hot to ascend the hills, plus I get cathedraled or religiositied out and am more into seeing how the people live and the picturesque streets and boats. I basically went to the island and spent a lazy afternoon walking around, swatting mosquitos, itching my bites, visiting the Ali Pasha museum where he was beheaded, drinking white wine by the lake, and talking to two little girls who were in awe of the foreign English speaker at their cousin’s restaurant on this tiny little island.

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The salvaged canon (and balls) used by Ali Pasha to protect from the Turks when Ioannina was seized between  1820 – 1822.

5. Visit Ioannina of the Mountains

This is of course just what I call it. One of my first days here, we took the vespa way up (about halfway up) the mountain on the other side of Lake Pamvotis to a lookout point, that also happens to bear a monument in memoriam to the people of Ligiades who were massacred by the Germans in October 1943. Fun little fact about Ioannina is that before World War II, it was also home to the biggest Jewish population in all of Greece. Who knows, perhaps the Greek side of Mama Schaeff’s family originated from here before settling in Odessa. I wonder! Though not religious in any sense of the word, I am fascinated by Jewish history, and love that Mr. Chops has enlightened me to that history of his city. And funny I’d end up here, in the land of Greek Orthodox.

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6. Jump In A Pool

When the heat needs to be beat, jump in a huge vat of water at a hotel pool. Ioannina is about an hour from the beaches of Igoumenitsa, Sivota, and Preveza (amongst others) which we have definitely visited, but you can see are a bit out of everyday reach when sans vehicle or public transport. So pool it is! Lambchops told me about Hotel du Lac which has a lovely pool open to the public for 8 euros a pop, which is more than worth it for a dip and a shade change in the dead of summer. They also have other nice spa treatments and massages which I may just treat myself to in the not so distant future.

7. Get Fit

Lambchops and I said we were gonna get active and keep our health regimes in check, which I think we’ve both done a decent time of maintaining despite the lack of cooking utensils and materials in his apartment. That aside, we are big meal sharers, and I found the studio Yoga Union which is excellent, unlike the yoga I signed up for in Korea (me, a sweater who never sweat, imagine that). I signed up for the month, and at the very least it gives me one thing I need to commit to!

8. When All Else Fails…

Take a nap, because the entire city turns into a ghost town between the hours of 3-5pm. The siesta culture here is insane. Even more pronounced than that of Spain, the country that claims the siesta. I was out walking around one afternoon and was literally in awe. It’s one of those things you don’t really fully believe until you see that absolutely nothing is open and any restaurant that is actually open is sans comida. I’m not kidding, there’s even a typed out reminder to keep your trap shut during said hours in the entryway to his apartment building.

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Now that you’ve seen the exhilarating ways I’ve been spending my early afternoons, stay tuned for the late afternoon/early evening excursions to come. They’ve been beautious and open an eye to a historical and lush side of Greece that you will definitely want to see if you haven’t already!

Where Have I Been You Ask?

Oh, hello there! It’s been a while, I’m quite aware. I hope you’ve been well since I last wrote to you many moons ago. In all honesty, I’ve sat down to pen some posts, and then got distracted by life. I’m also beginning to think Spain just doesn’t provide much stimulation to my senses quite like Korea did. I don’t feel that much I’ve done here lends itself to a story that I’m excited about. And well, perhaps that’s to thank for the lack of postings. But, on the other hand, I literally have no time for me in this country. Between school, private classes, Spanish classes, sporadic weekend travels, visitors, and getting my teaching license, I’ve been more exhausted here than anywhere else. I don’t know how I feel about it, but it’s overwhelming.

So that’s that, and I’d like to fill you in on the probably not-so-exciting-haps since I last posted here so you’re not completely out of my loop.

Goodbye Seoul Tapper, Hello Tapperilla

Did you notice the domain for my little home on the internet? Yep, I finally made the purchase of my little home, and seoultapperilla.com is all mine. It came to be quite randomly, actually. I was up really late one night (per the usual) and had been researching domain purchasing, and at that wee hour I just decided to do it. It had been long enough that I was still non-committal, so I decided it was time to be a woman and commit. So yes, come here or go there, and you’ll still end up here. YAY!

I’m Gettin’ Edumacated

Maybe you glossed over it in the above, or maybe you already know because I’ve been at it since December, but I finally bit the bullet and decided to get my teaching license! This has been something I’ve been sitting on for quite a while, since before my 3rd year in Korea to be exact, and well, I want to be a legit teacher and have my own classroom and plan my own lessons sort of like I did in Korea, but more. Spain has provided a bit of a stifling experience since coming here to ‘teach’, so now is the time to use it for what it is and work towards something more. It’s all online, and my job here in Spain is acting as my practicum. I will finish at the end of October, when I will then need to complete a series of tests, and pending my passing, I’ll be a real teacher – FINALLY. A real teacher in that absurd state of Florida, or wherever the wind blows me. I’ll be in the market for International schools, of which I’ve got a location brewing, and we’ll see what happens once I complete those tests and map out my remaining time in España.

Get Outa Town!

In the past couple months I’ve been on an ‘I must get out of Madrid’ kick. This city is exhausting. In March Jen and I popped off to El Escorial just outside Madrid, and then mid-month we had a long weekend where we hit up Barcelona for some Gaudi (in my gaudy), and Zaragoza in Aragón for some delicious tapa hopping and Medieval castle time. It was a completely last minute trip after rain rerouted our journey to Gibraltar, but with some quick research on the fly, we devoured our way through both cities.

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Barcelona was made for us.

In Barcelona we ate the best paella I’ve probably ever had. At least since my first trip to Barcelona back in 2006. It’s damn hard to find a solid paella in this country! While in search of Gaudi’s first commission, we also stumbled on a hidden gem in Bar Tomás, which serves up the greasiest plate of Patatas Bravas con Ali Oli. We had two plates and probably left with a few clogged arteries. But it was worth it.

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Goodbye arteries.

Added To My Chain of Visitors, & Conquered Another Continent

It’s no secret that people love to come visit my homes-away-from-home, and in the last month I added 3 new ones, plus a second offender. Over Semana Santa (Easter week), sista and the Diamond sistas came for a visit. The Traveling Yarmulkas ate too much Tortilla Española in Madrid, wandered through the medieval Alcazár of Segovia that inspired Walt Disney’s castle, and jumped continents to AFRICA. We all got far too excited when our 8 feet landed in Marrakech. I don’t know why, but that continent seems like a tremendous deal. We explored Morocco in the quickest way possible as we rode some camels, slept in the Sahara, ate tagine up the ying yang, rocked a Kasbah and a shmata, and acquired a stalker. It was a fabulous whirlwind of sista time!

Shmata rocking through the Atlas Mountains

Shmata rocking through the Atlas Mountains.

I also had that second offender in a Lambchop, who was my chariot for a weekend. I got rowed around by a dreamboat through the Retiro Lake, and then we rented a beautiful little Fiat that he whizzed us around Spain in. I finally got to see Toledo, Spain’s once-upon-a-time capital, and we returned to Segovia’s Alcazár. Since I had promised him in a letter written at 15 that my family would take him to Disneyland, what better alternative than Disney’s inspiration? We took the scenic routes, and my, how Spain’s beauty opens up when you’re not traveling via public transport. The view and the company was absolutely divine.

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Castle with a view.

To Infinity & Beyond

As for the future, 7 months in Spain have come and gone, and my first contract is nearing its close at the end of June. Come end of the month, I will be popping back stateside with a chop on my arm, a coast of California to road trip, a wedding to attend, too many beautiful faces to see, and a couple tests to be taken. After jamming all that into the mix, a summer of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in Greece awaits me. And, well, then it’s back to Madrid in October for my second contract, and who knows…

Of course, these are just snippets of what I’ve been up to, but I have full intentions of logging all of the stories behind the haps. Perhaps I left something out, I very well may have. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Will you be in Greece this summer? Holler at me! And of course, if you’re not already, you can get the day-to-day scoop over on Instagram where I actually keep track of my life in real time. 

31 Times I Instagrammed My Life At 30

30, as it would sound, was quite the transitional year for moi. Transitional sort of makes it sound like it wasn’t a good year, but au contraire my friend, au contraire. Transitional in the way that the year had so many types of ups and downs, but all for the good I’d like to think. I started my thirtieth year on the planet dedicating my day to the fashion of a rapist (unbeknownst at the time), went a bit viral on the interwebs, got heart-swollen and then heart-crushed during the wind-down of my Korean life, left the continent I never thought I wanted to live in to put a new twist on my life in the continent I dreamt of since the age of 10, found out what I’ve always been wondering – do I have a BIG VOICE? and had a couple reunions to set my heart aflame along the way.

And all of these lovely happenings were documented via the Instagrammer. So, to ring in my 31st, and the Age of Aquarius, without further adieu, I give you my thirtieth year on this great planet of our’s through the lens of my iPhone 5S and a filter or two.

1. Puddin’ Pops & Rapist Fashion

I don’t think much needs to be explained here, as the fashion is self-explanatory. However, if you must have your hand held, I rang my 30th birthday in with a dinner in which we were all required to wear a Cosby sweater, alla Bill Cosby. I made chocolate pudding cups and we enjoyed an evening in our old-man best. Naturally, my first thought once the allegations came to be was “Holy shit, I themed by birthday around a rapist!” Not many can say that and…laugh.

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2. Lunar New Year In The Organ Black Market of Seoul

In Korea, and Asia for that matter, Lunar New Year is the big deal when it comes to new years. So, to fully immerse ourselves in the Lunar New Yearsness of it all, a group of us went out to China Town in Daerim, also known as one of the sketchiest parts of Seoul, and where you could very well find your organs for sale if you walk down the wrong alley. We all came back to the safe side of Seoul with all our organs in tact, and a gut full of delicious MSG.  It was perfection, even if we did eat at a restaurant where dog was being served at the table just beside us.

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3. Hello Baby Gavin!! 

Gavin wasn’t the first baby of a friend to be born, but he was the first baby of two of my oldest friends to be born, and Auntie D met him when we was just 2 days old! Mommy Kendra was exhausted, Daddy Justin proved to be a baby whisperer, and baby Gavin had a big head from being a trickster in the birth canal. But my god, was he a dream to hold. Heart swells don’t even come close to how happy this moment made me!

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4. In N Out & A Date With My Boo

Collin came down from The Bay because I specifically ordered him to. However, he came home a little bit earlier because he got in a horrendous bike accident. So, I drove my toy car rental all the way down to Riverside, which beforehand, I had no clue where it existed. I had no service on my phone, and got lost on the return home, but before I left I did get to eat In N Out on Collin’s handmade preschool plate. It was a magical day with my boo.

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5. Fab 4 Bangin’ Booties

These 3 are my hearts when it comes to women. A trip around the world we are, and this winter after a champagne brunch in Manhattan Beach, we took my favorite photo of us. It’s just as perfect as those badonks.

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6. The Baby Tour of Los Angeles Continued

This was a special one. Sista and I thought we’d never get to meet Kian, the newest edition to our crazy clan! But we did, and shortly after he had surgery on his head, making him the world’s cutest little race car driver. He was and IS a doll and I am obsessed with his little face!!

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7. Tommy Boy & His Ego Came Back

Tommy and I got close fast, and this time he returned to Korea, professed his love, and we swapped each other’s rings for a day. We walked the Suwon Fortress on St. Patty’s Day, and drank expensive Yellowtail under a temple whilst overlooking all of Seoul. ‘Twas divine.

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8. Ultimate Finds Whilst Vintage Shopping

This makes me sound like a bitch, but oh well. These 3 words sum up mine and Veny’s sentiments to a tee when it comes to new friends, particularly those LBH’s in Korea. I still regret not making this purchase. OH WELL.

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9. Glamping & KPorn

We had been talking about going Glamorous Camping for quite some time, but alas that never happened. Until we stumbled upon the new Glamping bar in Itaewon on Taeho’s birthday. We sat around on beanbags and he was gifted this very special magazine by Joshua. He’s always so thoughtful with his gifts. Taeho very much enjoyed the black and white imagery.

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 10. Continuing the Love of Abandonment 

Abandoned places that is! Joshy is my breaking-into-abandoned-places partner in crime, and for this wild ride at Yongma Land we took our third member of Destiny’s Child along for the ride. Joshy, Veny, and I nearly broke into Yongma Land, though that is entirely unnecessary. Just leave it to us to find the more ‘scenic’ route to enter an establishment. We basically went off-climbing to get in here, and once we were in we had tons of fun riding broken rides and watching creepers have cosplay photoshoots.

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11. Slumbering With Snoring Ajummas

No one wanted to go out of town for this long weekend, so I took it upon myself to jet out of Seoul solo to Ganghwa-do just off the coast of Incheon. There I fulfilled my desire to do a sort-of temple stay, as I slept on a mat, in the sweltering heat, beside a bunch of snoring ajummas who kept throwing candy and fruit at me. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

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12. Life in Polka Dots

Kusama Yayoi is a Japanese artist who’s work consist of one of my favorite things – POLKA DOTS! She literally lives in a polka dot world and created it for the world to see. The end of her exhibit is a room where you get to put your own dots anywhere and become one with her polka dot world. It was stunning, and smelled like feet in there.

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13. Gone Viral Between Two Ding Dongs

My phallus-loving sister and I went to a penis cafe located about an hour outside of Seoul in Pocheon. The entire cafe is themed around the male ‘important part’, and after I wrote about it, my post got picked up by an online magazine and they used me and these two ding dongs as their enticing photo on Facebook. I was thrilled! What a way to make it big!!! Thanks internet!

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14. Saying Goodbye Is The Worst Thing Ever Invented

A week of saying goodbye to the babies who stole my heart was quite possibly the most miserable thing I ever did. After 3 years it was time to part with my kiddos, and these boys made it so hard!

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15. Lovers Getaway To Yang Yang

Perhaps one of my favorite trips done in Korea was this one to Yang Yang. Veny, Joshy, Dustin, and I rented a swanky Sonata and road tripped to the gorgeous coastal town of Yang Yang. It was bittersweet to say the least, and this photo with my first friend in Korea is perfect. We came full circle from looking haggard (if that’s even possible for her) on our first bus ride, to frolicking on the beach not wanting this amazing experience to ever end. Love my Venylove.

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16. The Fucking Core

Weeding through the nut bags we were surrounded by was some work, but at the end of those 3 years I found some of the most solid friends a girl could ever ask for. For our last weekend all together we ended up at some crazy club in Gangnam. It was loud, there was seizure music, there were tears, but it was the best.

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17. #tits

Korea is good for the Trick Eye Museums and the sex themed locales, even though the mere mention of sex causes a stir. But I’ll have you know, despite the contradictory culture, the Love Museum does NOT disappoint, as my kookster in krime and I discovered one rainy afternoon. After many phallic photos, this one of me helping The Hulk hold up some tits was a great indicator of the afternoon amazingness.

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 18. Dolled Up And On a Boat

What ended up being a failed attempt on ‘everyone’s last weekend together’ turned into a divine evening with these gorgeous lady lasses. We dolled up, took far too many posy pictures for my liking, and watched all the KKouples take romantic selfies of themselves under the Han River water show.

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19. Straddling That Border Up North

In the movie The Interview they show all the North and South Korean military hanging out in this room watching Kim Jong Un get his ass shredded on live tele. Well, it’s a bit different in real life. You actually only get like, 5 minutes in the room, and the guards take shifts for show. Mostly. But, here we are, checking off another BIG must-do on the Korean Bucket list of life. Straddling the most heavily militarized border in the world.

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20.  Asianization Meets Europeanization

Getting this Spanish visa was no easy task. As an American it is near impossible to get a work visa in Europe, but thank heaven that programs like the fakakta one I’m in exist! The day I finally stared at (and immediately snapped this photo) this visa gracing MY passport, I literally let out a giant squeal. No joke. I wanted this visa in my passport since I was 10, and 20 years later shit got real. Thank you Javier at the Spanish consulate in Seoul!

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21. The Saddest Day Of My Life So Far

Joshy holds the biggest chunk of my Korean heart, and being the last person I saw and shared a deliciously overpriced naengmyeon and jjigae meal with tore my heart out, despite what these cheesers may say. Saying seeya later to him turned me into a waterworks show and I did not stop crying until well after take off. It was the shittiest.day.ever.

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22. I’m A Bridesmaid!

First, don’t kill me for this photo. You’ll thank me when we’re old and grey. Second, Jeanelly found her wedding dress, then asked us all to be her bridesmaids, then we had a Fab 4 slumber party filled with dress up, sexual Korean face mask selfies, and of course, watching Bridesmaids. It was only suiting.

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23. Reunited With My Soldier 

What are the chances that the next time I visited NYC my Israeli soldier would be there at the same time, 4 years after our last rendezvous in the Big Apple? Well, he was, and he came to Kayla and Jeanette’s birthday, and my heart could burst I was so happy to see him in front of me.

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24. Imbibing Where Honest Abe Once Did 

With only 2 choices of beer to choose from, light or dark, we opted for the more delicious dark at McSorley’s in NYC. My reunion with my Sammy baby was long past overdue, and seeing Shika Shocka was the cherry on top.

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25. #grandmaswhorally Became A Thing

Here we have my first photo from Spain indicating that I do in fact have friends! This was also the night that the hashtag #grandmaswhorally stuck. What started out as a lazy night where none of us wanted to leave the comforts of our boudoirs (in my case, my hostel cell bed), turned into a delightful evening of sangria, homos all around, evening drinking on a terrace, and feeling old, but still young enough to kick it.

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26. I Found An Apartment, That Turned Out to Be Hell

After a solid 2 full weeks of piso hunting around Malasaña, I finally found one that I should have known was too good to be true. What started off amazing, and quite hilarious, with a naked David hanging in my room, turned out to be a horrendous experience. Let’s just say THANK GOD I’M OUT OF THERE, and someone’s got some (dog) shit flying their way soon.

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27. Mama Schaeff And Her Face Mask Came To Visit

My mother, the world traveler, finally came to visit me in one of my far away homes. We museum hopped, we fought, we ate tons of shitty fast food because Spain is all about the pig and Mama don’t eat the carne, and she walked into a nail salon and asked the nice ladies for a face mask because there’s too much smoke in Madrid. This is what she looked like for the duration of her stay.

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28. 1999 Meets 2014 

A reunion in Madrid that my 14 year old self surely would have died had she known would happen, happened. It was the best, and this cafe con leche from Federal pretty much sums up my feelings about said reunion.

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29. The Asian Who Always Visits Me

Jnetty was my first visitor in Korea, and was one of my first visitors in España. Surely I love her so! So much that I snuck her into my hell hole of an apartment late night, and the next day we popped off to Sevilla and Granada, where we wandered through the stunning walls of the Alhambra in the frigid cold. She even tried her hand at the Español, and failed when she asked for the ‘jambon’. However, she greatly succeeded in getting me kicked out of my dark dungeon of a penis hanging apartment. THANK THE JAMBON ABOVE. No one tells Dani ‘no visitors allowed’.

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30. Leaving Germany In the Most Jewy Way Possible

It might as well have been 1940something that snowy afternoon when I left Berlin headed for Prague. Upon entering the train, our first class tickets became null as our car was ‘out of order’. How, I’m unsure, since it was tagging along with the rest of the train just beyond the locked doors. But, out of order it was. So there I sat for 6 hours, along with about 5o other people, trying to find comfort on the train floor. Here I am finding some semblance of comfort under this man’s rear end. I could not have exited Germany in a Jewier fashion than this. It was utter perfection, and the story itself more than pays for the reimbursement we should be owed.

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31. Why Yes, I Do Have A Big Voice!

For my 31st birthday weekend I popped off for a romantical rendezvous in Brussels, which despite what this blow horn might convey, was quite the quiet little town. We indulged in delicious chocolate and beer aplenty, played with aluminum balls, and even enjoyed a side of terrorist scares in the city. It was a weekend I did not want to return from!

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And there you have it! My life as seen through most likely the Valencia filter with the sharpening tool on Instagram was divine. Though filled with lots of weird emotions, 30 was my favorite year yet and I can’t wait to see what 31 will dish out! If these photos left you intrigued, do follow along on Instagram at @dtschaeff

España, I’m Comin’ For Ya!

The cat’s been let out of the bag, peeps! In a little over 4 months I will be calling Madrid, Spain my second home away from home! It took me a hearty nanosecond to get back to the thrill I had when I first clicked apply, but I have since found my way back and BOY, AM I FUCKING EXCITED!! Excuse the emphatic fuck, totally necessary.

This is coming as a bit of a shocker of shocks to at least a handful of you, I know, considering just as recently as Monday I was on the boat to make Shanghai my next hop. I talked to a recruiter in China, sat at my desk preparing a spreadsheet of countries I’d like to hit on a 4 or 5 month backpacking excursion, sent text messages attempting to recruit travel companions to India, and when that was a bust, because you know, people have jobs back home, psyched myself up to bite the bullet and hit India on my own to get down and dirty with myself. I began concocting this plan to travel through the end of the year, be back home for a few months to watch people tie their knots (and quite possibly go mentally insane), and then peace out after that.

That flipped almost instantly as soon as I got my 2nd acceptance from Spain.

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I applied to two programs that are specific in getting us North American’s legal working rights in the European Union. BEDA and the Ministry Auxiliares de Conversación program through the Spanish government allow Americans to work in Spain under a student visa for one academic year. This is huge because work visas for us are notoriously near impossible to come by in Europe, and well, my dream must be conquered!

I found out I had been placed with BEDA at the end of April, and decided to turn it down since the start date is 1 week after I finish my contract in Korea, the pay is super shitty, and that big of a move with zero time to decompress frankly stressed me the flying fuck out. The Ministry program in turn starts at the beginning of October and runs through June, meaning I’ll need to get myself to Madrid within the last two weeks of September to get settled and attend an orientation. The pay is still crap, albeit a teency bit higher than BEDA, but I will be working less hours than I would with BEDA, for a smidge more money, AND 4 day weeks! YAYAYUYUH! The program doesn’t provide housing, so I will be tasked with finding a little nook to call my own. That should be fun, considering the last time I was in Spain MayMay and I got horribly lost during our first hop on the metro, and my Spanish needs some severe help. Rosetta Stone I’m coming for you.

But we survived, and very much fell in love with Barcelona (and a boy named Giuseppe).

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I’m sure you’re curious about my sudden change of pace, right? Well, lately I had gotten the notion in my head that I’d be turning any offers from Spain down because I decided I fancied making a bit more money, something China would ensure, and up until recently, I thought I’d enjoy an extra cherry on top (read: man). Even though China still is a massive adventure I want to conquer, when this offer popped into my inbox, something snapped. I instantly remembered why I jumped through hoops in a flurry to make the application deadlines. I wasn’t basing my next move on the money, but on following my heart for the experience I’ve always dreamt of. Cue sappy music now and an ecstatic 4th grade (and 30 year old!) Danielle.

Not to mention, cobblestone streets, architecture adorned with character, paella, wine and delicious espresso need a fatass place in my life right about now.

I won’t lose my Asian touch though. That shit sticks with you like kimchi to your refrigerator and apartment and breath. Sorry Cori.

So now begins the annoying task of getting all my legal documents in a pretty little row. I feel pretty overwhelmed right now. It was a huge pain in the ass when I had to get everything for Korea, and now that I’m abroad I feel a little more flustered because there’s all that distance from America. I also have to get all these documents translated to Spanish to add another layer of fun. But it’s all in excited good flustering. Since all my classes were cancelled on Wednesday, literally all I did was scour blogs of people working in the program and it got me SO PUMPED!

To think, just a year ago I was on the phone with Papa Schaeff freaking out about staying a third year, and how my major goal to tackle in the next year was to really figure my shit out, because I was not going to stay in Korea for a 4th year. I’m quite proud of myself for sticking to it and putting myself en route to checking another huge experience off the ol’ bucket list.

Whether or not I will be home in between contracts is up in the air at the moment. I have plizans to hit up the motherland on a free flight that I get for being Bat Mitzvah’d and now in my 30th year (don’t ask), and pop on over to Greece to visit the man my family once asked to bring toilet paper up to our hotel room just because we wanted to see him (don’t ask again).

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So if I don’t see you in Korea before August, or home, I better be seeing you in Spain. I’m on a mission to get double the amount of visitors I had to Korea (and that’s a big number to top).

In other news, it looks like I’m gonna need to start brainstorming a new, broader name for the ol’ bloggy blog. I may just stick with Seoul Tapper because I am quite fond of it, but something all encompassing of the globe may be nice. If you have any ideas, please, help a sista out with your creative seeds.

Hasta luego purple people eaters!

Happy Birthday Buddha, With Love From Gyeongju!

I sit here a week after returning from a very much anticipated long weekend jet out of town with a visitor I just couldn’t wait to be in the same time zone and touchable space with for the past 5 months. A very digital age meet-and-greet story short, Jerry came back to the Koko on a very big leap of faith after we spent a Valentine’s Day in the airport, and many a month Skype cavorting. Well, Skype doesn’t always translate into shooting stars, but I think a snarky and oftentimes brutally honest friendship came from a southern boy’s internet stalking efforts.

I have been wanting to get the heck out of Seoul for a bit now, my lungs have been pretty desperate. Top of my list on the main land has been Gyeongju, which was once the capital of Korea, and is where you can learn about the Shilla Dynasty of Korean history past. It is the cultural epicenter, and where you go if you want to walk in Korean history, not to mention, breathe glorious fresh oxygen.

So, as soon as Jerry Berry arrived from Shanghai, we hitched a KTX train ride down south from Seoul Station to Gyeongju, with a quick transfer to the Mungunghwa slower train. I love train travel, and we wanted a little longer jaunt on the way down. On the return we came direct from Singyeongju station, which is slightly more out of the way from Gyeongju, but has a direct KTX line to Seoul.

I had never stayed in a love motel (which is exactly what it sounds like) since being in Korea, so I booked us a room at the swanky Sugar Motel on the sexy love motel street. Since we were planning to be total tourists on this getaway, we took the free pick up from the train station that was provided, and the lovely Miran fetched us upon our arrival. Ajumma visor modeling was provided on-the-house from the backseat.

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We were greeted with elevator Astrology. Are Aquarius and Libra compatible? I guess we were to find out.

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After settling in and finding horrendously disgusting Korean ramen slurping-esq porn on the tele (which we watched for far too long), we went out for a nice long wander around town, where we mocked the giant political poster-men, noshed on a snack (which he fucked up and needed assistance), and inhaled some dakgalbi. We also enjoyed a heaping serving of miserable couples not talking to each other all around us. Jerry was very happy to be back in Korea.

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We had one full day in Gyeongju, so the next morning we had a leisurely sleep in, and went off to rent some bikes for a couple hours. I think I always mention that biking in foreign places is one of my favorites ways to see a city, and this was no different, except that there are people EVERYWHERE in Korea, and add a holiday weekend. So, there was lots of swerving. I even saw a woman plummet straight for a curbside lunch. For once I wasn’t the one eating shit, and Asians suck at driving in all its forms.

Gyeongju is scattered with these spectacular rolling green hills which are actually tomb mounds, and they’re all over the city. They are stunning! We visited Cheonmachong, meaning Heavenly Horse tomb, which is believed to house one of the Kings of the Shilla Dynasty. This particular tomb was named for the horses that were found painted on a saddle that was found during excavations in the 1970s.

It also proved to be a spectacular setting for selfie-stalking (or as Selena Meyer would say “Ussie” stalking), which also happens to be another of my favorite pastimes in the country of narcissism.

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We stumbled upon some gangsters who were climbing a trail up to the top of one of the mounds, and just as I was about to shlep our asses up there, the ajussi police came and ran them off. So instead of rebelling, we biked some more in search of a park that we soon realized was far too far for our little bicycles. So we forded a river and followed this little lady down her alleyway. 

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I also found what resembles a massive menorah downtown. L’chaim!

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That night, after getting a tad bit lost, we got a jeongsik (정식) dinner, which is a meal comprised of a bunch of sides. It’s super delicious and usually comes with soup and tons of plates to cover your table. Our first one happened to be a baby jeongsik. I believe this one cost around 5,000won/person! Not too shabby.

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After stuffing our bellies, we oriented ourselves and walked across town to Cheomseongdae Observatory, which is claimed to be the oldest observatory in all of Asia. Glory glory Korea! I wasn’t super impressed, but I did read that this observatory is built of 361.5 stone slabs, which is equal to the number of days in the Lunar calendar. Ok, so some scientific thought went into the construction.

We took this horrendous selfie as a souvenir.

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And this one of these people with their asshole arm extender.  Then we peaced on out to Anapji Pond, which disappointingly enough, we got there too late to see in its illuminated glory. Sadface.

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Tuesday was actual Buddha’s Birthday, so we got up at the crack of the morn and hit the road to make the most of our half day before shlepping back up to the ol’ concrete jungle. Before hopping a bus, we needed to caffeinate, and he needed to continue documentation of the horizontal stripe phenomenon in Korea for the mind-blowing science project that he’s conducting.

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Stripes taken, we popped on a bus headed for Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is about 35-40 minutes outside of the city center. We took this ussie where Jerry continued to practice his smile.

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Bulguksa is beautiful, and there were some prayers and speeches going on while we wandered the grounds. I think all temples in Korea look the same, but they’re still quite perty to see. I especially love the lanterns they use to adorn during Buddhist holidays.

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We made some friends.

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This Jew is always trying to find beauty in a Buddhist symbol turned disgusting.

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I stalked a bit, per the usual.

IMG_3370We were going to head out to Seokguram Grotto, but alas there was no time. Seokguram was also recently declared a UNESCO site, so I’d like to see that at some point.

Our last meal in Gyeongju was another jeongsik, this time much bigger and with a lot more variety. We were actually on a sardine cramped bus headed back to the city center when we passed it, jumped off and bolted across the street. This place was really cute and traditional, and we got to sit in our own private little room on the floor instead of standing pressed up against the man’s farting ass next to us.

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I really really loved Gyeongju and am so glad I finally got to visit. It’s so quaint, and I’d say one of my favorite places I’ve visited during my time in Korea. Living in Seoul, it’s so easy to get swept up in the big city life where things can become mundane and sort of easy once you get the hang of life, even while still being in a foreign country. However, this weekend I felt like I was out of my as-of-late element for the first time in a long time, and I needed that in a bad bad way.

Have you been to Gyeongju? Any must see places or tips should I take another wander down yonder? Let me know!