Country


Threatened with jail at Nicaragua border over exit stamp position

Each time someone tells me they want to go to Nicaragua I cringe. I hear the people are lovely, they say, and it’s so inexpensive. Yes, that might be true — but my experience wasn’t about nice people. I was locked in a room at the border and threatened with jail — because of an immigration agent on a sick power trip.

I have long debated telling this story, but I feel it’s important. I’ll never know if I really would have been sent to jail in this Dictatorship, but the Tourism agent at the border certainly believed I was about to land there.

Please read this — and take it seriously.


Riding the tram in Bratislava Slovenia

When you’re new to public transportation in a new county it can be daunting so I’ve documented my tram ride in Bratislava, Slovakia. Your first tram or bus may be in any other country but it’s likely to have the same basic system. Not Bratislava bound? Just use this one as an example.

Each tram stop has a vending machine for you to purchase your ticket. You purchase a ticket that covers the amount of time it will take you to ride.

Then…


Side-trip from Bratislava to Prague

One of three popular destinations from Bratislava is Prague. It’s a relatively short train or bus ride. As I had not been to Prague or any of what was Czechoslovakia during my first travels, I decided that a couple of days in Prague, Czech Republic (as it is now called) would be a new experience and more worthwhile. So today, having relaxed and enjoyed much of Bratislava at my leisure, and knowing I needed to be back there for my friend Annaline to arrive and travel with me to Israel, it was the perfect time to take my side-trip.

I don’t always know where I’ll stay upon arrival to a new place but in this case, I had already selected and reserved my accommodations for the night. All that was left was to enjoy getting to Prague and making it my next home.

Deb in Prague train station

Catania to Palermo by train, finally going to start seeing Sicily

My first morning in Sicily wasn’t where I had planned it. I’d planned to arrive into Palermo, but due to circumstances had to end my into-Sicily travels in Catania instead. This morning I would continue onto Palermo with just enough time to start my first-ever organized tour — Sicily’s Beating Heart Tour with La RosaWorks.

I woke up at 10 — only because I’d set my alarm for the last possible minute that I could shower quickly and still make check-out. Still groggy and with my coordination not intact, I started my day.


Redondo Beach get-away packing

I’m back to living in my adopted hometown for a while, so you might not call that traveling. But LA is a major travel destination — and I am traveling within it this weekend! From Friday – Tuesday, I’ll be a guest of a friend in Redondo Beach. I get to show her all the tricks of the iPhone, see friends, and enjoy the beach air and all that Redondo Beach and the Redondo Beach Marina and Pier have to offer.

Wondering how I packed?


Slovenia into Croatia by train

I am writing this as I sit, alone, in a six-person compartment on the 3:10 train from the Ljubljana (Slovenia) railway station to the Rijeka (Croatia) train station. As I entered the first available train car, the back-most car, I was at first taken aback and disappointed by the car full of 6-seat compartments. The separate compartments can be nice, but I was disappointed because I’d hoped to meet people on the train. I’d met my Ljubljana friends on a train.

I don’t want to be leaving. Slovenia is a beautiful area, I enjoy Ljubljana, and more importantly, I love my friends. However, I must leave. Today is my 89th day in the Schengen Area and 90 days is the limit.

As I stepped off the train there was one other woman with me, I asked about a hostel and she told me there was one just down the road five minutes, but that was all I had from her. I will never know if I found that hostel.

Traveling from Ljubljana into Croatia

Šiauliai Lithuania to Riga Latvia by mini-bus

As I headed to Lithuania, world-traveling friend Esther Snippe “Facebooked me” telling me that if I was going to be in Lithuania, I had to go to Riga (the capital of Latvia). Due to the Schengen Agreement, my time in Europe was limited to three months. In all of my years (3 + 1½) of traveling, I had never entered a country and only gone to one town. That just isn’t in line with how I travel.

But Riga and its many fine Art Nouveau buildings beaconed and the Schengen limitations make me crazy — so I made an exception and went to Riga.

Want to join me on my 2½-hour bus ride from Šiauliai (show-leh) Lithuania to Riga Latvia?


Hill of the Crosses, Lithuania

The story of the Hill of the Crosses in Šiauliai is a testament to humanity as well as of faith. As I am not Christian, a cross doesn’t have the same feeling that it does to Christians. However, this is a show of people who, through the generations, fought Czarist Russia and then Soviet Russia for their freedoms.


The cellular package I bought in Lithuania.

Cell phone & data SIM card in Lithuania

I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Thursday afternoon at 3pm. I’d needed to text my friend Pedro on Friday afternoon but was able to use the roaming feature on my Polish SIM card. (I’m pretty sure that data would have expired by the time I got back to Poland anyway.) When Pedro came with me to get a SIM the next afternoon, the nearest shop was closed. So I didn’t get a SIM unil my 3rd day in Vilnius.

However, it never occurred to me that a bus or train station was actually THE place to buy a SIM card and I had not learned that at this point in my travels. (It turns out that was the case, at least in the major cities, through the entire area.) Having known, I might have purchased my SIM and plan at the Vilnius Coach Station, which is right across from the train station.

For $1.35 I got:
150 phone minutes
1,000 text messages
100mb data


Castle ruins of Vilnius Lithuania

My second day in Vilnius, after visiting the Lithuanian Archives in search of my family history, I again met Pedro in the afternoon and he showed me around. We walked to the Gediminas Tower, or specifically, Gediminas Tower. It is the last standing part of the Upper Castle, which is what remains of Vilnius castle complex, hoping to get there while it was still open.

For speed, we opted to walk around to the front, the river side, and took the funicular, then walked down.

These are some of my photos of the castle remnants.


Vilnius bus and train stations

Are you wondering arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania and getting to a great hostel or hotel for your stay there? You’re in luck because both the bus station and train station — right across from each other — are easily walkable to the beautiful old city of Vilnius, where there are several options for accommodations.


Traditional Lithuania food in Vilnius

For my first meal in Vilnius, Lithuania, I wanted something traditional. My Portuguese friend Pedro, having met me at the bus, was with me for the afternoon and evening. After we’d checked me into a great hostel, we kept an eye out for a good, but affordable place to eat.

The main street through the old city is really nice, but, as you’d expect, the restaurants are touristy and costly. I felt we did fairly well finding Forto Dvaras.


Warsaw to Vilnius on SimpleBus

8:15am
I am comfortably seated on SimpleBus, as our driver makes his way over a mostly (so far) 2-lane road through green countryside. At one point we were surrounded by trees and I imagined how Jews hid out there once. Now, as we near Lomza we are going through open farm fields sometimes separated by Clusters of trees sometimes there is a row or two of tall trees separating the farm and home from the road. I think I see corn growing.

2:31
I replied to Pedro and he texted:
“Ok ok…I am on my way to the station…see you there at the entrance.”
He asked if I found a CouchSurfing host. I hadn’t had any luck and asked if he knew hostels. He said there are at least four and he would help. It is so amazing to land somewhere and not go it alone. (First Michal in Warsaw, then Dorota in Krakow, and now Pedro in Vilnius. This was a very different trip for me!)

3:00
IWhen the bus pulled into the Vilnius Coach Station, Pedro was waiting for me. It was fabulous to be met by a friend. (Technically an acquaintance, but in travels like this, I consider such a nice guy a friend.)

I was in Vilnius, Lithuania — a place I’d never thought I’d get to in my life. What would I find here, in the city (or area) of my family’s past generations?


Great hostel in Vilnius Lithuania

Hostelgate Backpackers is an ideally located hostel right on what I think is the main street of the old city. Not far down this street is the Astoria Hotel and other top hotels are right there, too.

Clean, convenient, friendly. Various sized dorm rooms. Good kitchen. Comfy places to hang out. Supermarket right down the road too.

Hostelgate reception

Subway™ — even in Zakopane, a resort town

I noticed the American chain, Subway™, in a lot of places. But it really took me by surprise when I saw it in Zakopane! I wasn’t surprised to see it elsewhere in Poland — but to see an American chain in a classic old-style resort town… well, I never expected to see anything American there! And I don’t recall seeing anything else American. I’m not sure there were even any other chains there, American, Polish, or other. Of course, whenever I did see it, I tried to go in and take photos of the menus in each country. (In Panama I ate at Subway once. I didn’t try it in Poland.) Inside, they all looked pretty much the same as in the USA.   In Europe where they use the metric system, the sandwhiches were 15cm and 30cm, which works out to slightly smaller sandwhiches. 5.9″ and 11.81 actually. At this […]


A town square in Zakopane Poland

Scenes of a day in Zakopane Poland

Dorota and I spent our days in Zakopane simply walking around and enjoying the sites, sounds, and foods — despite the rain. (Remember you can click an image to enlarge it.)   One of the things you can’t miss is the local cheese. It’s sold in each of the main areas of Zakopane and comes in many sizes, shapes, and nuances. Notice it’s not refrigerated? It’s all quite salty and doesn’t need refrigeration. At least not until cut info or for some time. I brought some back to Warsaw as a gift to my host and hostess there. The Square Food stalls surrounded a local square (well circle). The potato pancake stand was irresistible as our lunch. They serve these hot crisp beauties covered in cream.   I got to people-watch as we joined others sitting on a low stone curb to enjoy our casual snack or meal. The entertainment included this […]


Zakopane dinner of Spinach Pierogi

Here’s the place that attracted our attention for a good sit-down meal for a late lunch or early dinner. The Pierogi caught my attention. I ordered the Spinach Pierogi for 12zl. When the waitress brought it, swimming in butter, I had one bite and was in heaven. I know I took photos of it, but don’t know what happened to those photos. So I can only share a photo of the restaurant and show you its menus. Arranging the night’s accommodations as we ate Dorota needed to get back to work so our mini holiday was ending soon. We were taking a bus back to Krakow by dark. Dorota was worried about me having a place to stay. I wasn’t. I had called Joanna, a woman with whom I’d stayed the first time I came through Krakow because she’d told me to call when I returned. Besides, I can always walk […]

The menus

Zakopane Poland summer holiday

I arrived in Zakopane, a popular mountain resort in Poland. My Polish friend was on the way by bus. I walked around, found a place for a sit-down lunch, then I listened to room-hawkers who approached me as I awaited my friend’s bus. It was a change for me to stay in a chalet rather that a hostel.


Kraków to Tarnow to seeking my roots

I started this day in Krakow, left my backpack behind and headed to Tarnow for a night.

Tarnow is not a tourist town. Finding a place to stay was part of my entire day’s adventure as I saw much of the city with my daypack and side bag on me. This post follows that very long day.

Map of Tarnow