I am behind on my posts. I’d stopped posting in order to redesign the site and finding the time, the right template, and doing the customizing, took far longer than I’d planned. I have been keeping a travel journal so I will be using that to fill you in here. But meanwhile, client’s work comes first. Then comes not missing the amazing experiences that travel brings. So for now… a summary of where I have been. (The photos across the top of my homepage are all from these months, by the way.)
You may have noticed that I’d posted from Prescott, Arizona and Austin, Texas. I’d gone to each place because work came up there, and that’s part of what I do: travel and help people with tech, getting to experience places as I do. I’d failed to post that I returned to LA. I did so for a house-sit, to see my clients there and to get ready to leave again.
I selected this part of the world because I fear that all too soon, the Baltic and Balkan countries — Eastern and Southeastern Europe — will look just like the USA, full of our awful fast-food chains, department stores, clothing styles, and mannerisms. I want to see these counties before they were fully chained and turned into total mirrors of American TV. (I have, so far, seen only a few of these destinations but have many more to visit.)
Note: Unfortunately for long-term travelers, the countries I visited in my first three months were part of the Schengen Area. This means that we only get 90 days out of every 180 days to stay in these counties — collectively. The old days of 30-90 days in any given country and then moving on to the next are gone. It’s horrible for me as I don’t want to be an “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” or “I saw the whole world in 6 months” tourist, and staying less than 30 days is not getting to know a place.
I was also self-limited for my time in Eastern Europe because I had a professional conference, IFA, to attend for Computer Talk Radio, in Berlin on a set date.
In July I left LA, flying to Poland of all places.
It had never been in my plans to go to Poland. Frankly, for a Jewish American of partial Polish descent, the country didn’t conjure good feelings. But while in Austin, I met, through InterNations, a really nice, bright writer from Poland, and as we became friends I learned about her life growing up under Soviet communism and I decided I’d like to know today’s Poland. I also got to know a lot more about yesterday’s Poland — the Poland from which my grandmother’s family disappeared. And yes, I wanted to try to find them, having tried unsuccessfully from the USA for years.
My experiences in Poland were mixed. My host in Warsaw was fantastic and I loved the city. In Krakow and Tarnow I experienced people who were warm but so many who grunted in response to a smile, as a Polish friend had told me I would but I hadn’t believed possible. But I also met kind, helpful people. Tarnow is absolutely not a touristy city. It’s a half-day trip destination for most visitors to Poland.I am sure I was the only non-local that was sleeping there. Lessons in what life was like for non-Jews under attacks from the Nazis. Total ignorance and disrespect by locals for the last shred of a synagogue in Tarnow (with the exception of a handful of amazing people working to teach that legacy and help people like me). And then my friend and I enjoyed a fast holiday in Zakopane, a mountain resort village. I will share more as I catch up.
After too short a time in Poland, but knowing that its location enabled me to easily return, I traveled to Lithuania. My reasons, again, were varied. Some of my family was from Lithuania but I knew the chances of learning anything about them were incredibly slim due to the Czar, then Nazis, then the Soviets. But I also wanted to see the country and know the people — as I do in everywhere. I started with a bus from my fabulous three-time host in Warsaw to Vilnius. In Vilnius, I stayed at HostelGate Hostel, which I highly recommend. After that, I was hosted everywhere I wanted to go, each time by absolutely fabulous hosts! I visited some historic places along the drive to Kaunas, stayed in Kaunas, stayed in Šiauliai, and later Klaipeda. There is much more to see and know in Lithuania and I look forward to visiting my friends there again as well.
Latvia — well, Riga
To me, it is cheating to say I have seen or experienced Latvia because I only had time to stay in Riga. Seeing the countryside on a bus from Šiauliai to Riga and then on another bus from Riga to Klaipeda really doesn’t count to me. But when I was in Lithuania a friend told me I should not miss Riga so I took her advice. I even got to stay at her former host’s home. It was great advice and I am very happy that I got to have some time in Riga. But I definitely must go back to this country.
Germany — Berlin & Munich
After a stop back in Warsaw, I took an overnight bus from Warsaw to Berlin, arriving the morning that IFA opened to press. I stayed in two parts of Berlin while attending IFA. By walking to and/or from the show at times, I was able to get to experience these parts of Berlin while working. (I actually dictated work as I walked, which helped me get to know cellular systems in Berlin, Siri, but yes, watched and learned about the people, shops, and cultures.) After IFA I gave myself days to explore Berlin. My first time in Berlin it was a divided city along a narrow road (from which you dared not deviate) through Soviet-controlled “East Germany.” Things have certainly changed and there is a McDonalds where I once stood in a CheckPoint Charlie office doing the paperwork to go to “East Berlin.”
After Berlin, I traveled by bus to Munich to finally meet a woman I have known and somewhat worked with since I wrote the Adobe GoLive 5 Bible. I also got to see the Munich Apple Store and iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, riding bicycles to the Apple store.
My time in Germany was far too short due to Schengen. I was also unable to visit Andrea, a first-world-trip travel friend, just two hours away in Austria due to the time limit.
Slovenia — Ljubljana
With just days to go before my 90th day in the Schengen Area, I stopped in Ljubljana, Slovenia to see this beautiful city again — and to see Barbara and Goran, one of the most beautiful couples I have ever known and to see their parents again. We’d met in Finland that first time I’d traveled much of the world for three years and when I got to Slovenia (which was then Yugoslavia) their families had hosted me in their hometowns. It was fabulous to see their parents and parent’s homes again. My time, again, was far too short and I will return soon.
I was expected in Israel to help a friend so I booked my flight but gave myself time to get to enjoy Croatia first.
Fortunately, Croatia is not yet part of the stops-people-from-knowing-the-world Schengen Area. I took the train across the board into Croatia and breathed a sigh of relief from 90 days of visa overstay worry. Ah, finally, the beautiful coast of the Adriatic Sea. (Slovenia as has some beautiful Adriatic Sea coastline but seeing it would cost Schengen area time.) I was so happy to be there! This is a coast of old walled cities and amazing vistas. And I was mind-boggling lucky to meet Mariano and Yoel, two great guy,s who let me join them in their rented car and get to see and explore the coast.
Montenegro — Bay of Kotor and area
When I posted on Facebook that I was in Montenegro, I unknowingly sent my friends to world maps to figure out where I was! Montenegro is the Adriatic coastline, just south of Croatia. (Croatia is just south of Slovenia.) People just didn’t know its name because for our lives it had been Yugoslavia. I stayed in Kotor inside the old walled city. I spent most of my time working on client’s work but also had time to take tours and to walk the spectacular area nearby. No one should miss this country!
Bosnia-Herzegovina — well, Sarajevo
Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) was also part of the former Yugoslavia and, again, I’d spent time there the first time I traveled. This time, as it was cold and snowing in Sarajevo, although I’d given myself the time to stay there for a while, I’d opted not to. It was cold enough further south and along the coast Montenegro without the snow! So after a cigarette-smoking bus driver delivered me in Sarajevo I had just two days until I flew to Israel. I did get to enjoy the local food and take a great walking tour though. I was deeply saddened that the city had opted to remove the footsteps of the King Ferdinand assassination off the sidewalk. (I’ll share that story later.)
For 3/4 of a year, I stayed in the north, in Tzfat. Tzfat is one of the four holy cities of Israel. It is the city of air, each other holy city being identified with another element. For months I mostly went between beautiful Tzfat and also beautiful Jerusalem knowing I have plenty of time to get to know all of this fabulous country. More recently I started exploring more of Israel. I am getting to know Tel Aviv. I have been to Tiberias.
As the summer approached, I traveled all around Israel. I started getting to know the amazing Golan Heights and all the beauty it has. I spent months in Tel Aviv, some time in Eilat, months in Jerusalem.