Thursday, November 10, 2011

Skopje-Zagreb-Zadar (Nov 2)

I think I have had about 4 hours of sleep today. \i woke up at about 2:30 am so I would have time to straighten my hair before traveling (it is just so much easier than curly mess I normally have, so worth the lack of sleep). Then Jen and I called a taxi at about 3:20 am and arrived at the airport at about 40-50 minutes later. The price was going to be 800 MKD (which is weird because the set price is supposed to be 1220 MKD, but hey, I will take the less price!). Well, when we were almost there, and the meter was at 790 MKD the guy pulled over and stopped. Jen and I just looked at each other, like “OMG! What now?” But he was just stopping the meter. I guess they have to use the meter. For some reason the cab ride made me a bit nauseous, and I was extremely worried about the plane ride to Croatia. We were flying in this:

Even though Wiki said that it was supposed to be a smoother ride than the previous type of plane, my last experience with propellers did not end well for my stomach! But the plane ride turned out ok, it was smoother than I expected and comfier. And they gave us FOOD! A sandwich to be exact- which was amazing and super helpful later on the bus ride. We had to wait about 45 minutes before we were able to board the plane, but that involved wandering around the two stories of the airport and drinking Sprite! We had an experience going through security though. After passport control, we had to go through normal security. We had to take off our belts (but not our shoes), take out our nooks (because they were computer like), and then walk through. I went through with no problems but Jen ‘beeped.’ They made her walk back through with her hands in the air and the guy said, “This time, you light up like Christmas Tree!” (it was her bracelet, we think).

As a not: The sun rises at about 5:40 am now and sets at about 4pm in Skopje.

The flight was interesting, but there was almost no views of the countryside we were flying over because of the low cloud cover. Made for some good pictures of the mountain tops however.

When the plane landed, it was solid clouds until about 45 seconds before we landed! It really brought home how much we trust the pilots that fly us and hope they know what they are doing! We then passed through customs. they Bio Scanned my passport!! I do not think my passport had ever been bioscanned! I know it wasn’t in Russia, Finland, or the US! So that was kinda geeky cool! We went to the bathroom (this is important because they had seats and seat covers- welcome to Croatia!) got some money out, grabbed our bags, caught the bus provided by Croatian Air for 30 Kuna (~$5) to the central bus station! From there, Jen caught a tram to the hotel where the conference was at and I went back into the bus station to try to figure out how to get to Zadar. After a bit of wandering (all in one direction), I found the helpfully titled “Ticket Office.” When I went up to the guy I said “Zadar?” and he switched to English to complete the transaction.

I then wandered towards a cafe hoping I could get American Style Hot Chocolate (I could) because it was cold!! It was only 8 C (or about 48 F). I tried to drag out the drinking experience because I had about 30 minutes to kill, but ended up with about15 still, but that was enough time to go to the bathroom (didn’t know when I would have time to do so later) and find the bus to board. When I got there, there were a bunch of people just milling around, so I put my bag into the under compartment and I guy walked up (the bus driver, that I couldn’t tell before hand who he was). He said something that was un-intelligable to me, when I looked confused he asked again. I finally figured out that it was a town, so I told him “Zadar,” and then we needed to move my bag to a different compartment. Makes sense.

I watched the city go by on our way out and then the 5 hours of sleep caught up to me and I crashed. We slowed down to go though this one town and I woke up long enough to watch it go by, then fell back asleep. I woke up every now and then throughout the trip, but mostly saw fog, rock walls or more fog. Rarely did I see any countryside. I did get this:

We then went through the longest tunnel I have ever been in in my life (that I know of). It took a little over 5 minutes to go through! One of them was 5681 meters long (3.5 miles long)! There were fans in there for circulation, and on the wall how far you were from either entrance. Apparently Croatia is a very hilly/mountainous country, which I didn’t know before going. It made it impossible to go around like in Macedonia so they just built tunnels. On one side of the mountain/tunnel it was foggy and on the other it was bright and sunny!

When I arrived in Zadar, I went to get a taxi to go to Erin’s place. She had told me to ask for “bencokica 24.” when I said that they guy said he didn’t know that street, but he knew “ benko bencokica.” So we tried that street first! We got almost all of the way there and then ran into construction! So I called Erin up and we were just on the wrong side of the construction, but I was able to walk to her apartment from there. The taxi cost 50 Kuna (~10!!!), so I decided I would walk back to the bus station on Friday. I grabbed a burek and white hot chocolate before heading back to her place to drop of my stuff. (She was till at work, online).

I wandered down to the Old Town part of Zadar, right on the sea. My first stop was at the Tourist info center to get a better color map than the Lonely Planet one on my Evo (my US based phone that acts as a PDA over here), while their map was good, it was just hard to read on a little screen. I then just wandered through Zadar- down to the quay, around the fortress, through the town, etc. And snapped pictures all along the way:

I ended up at the Sea Organ at sunset, which was about 4:30 pm.I was able to capture a video of the setting sun. Alfred Hitchcock once called it the “Most beautiful sunset in the world.” when he stayed there in the past. So i caught a video for all of you, just to share in the moment, but figured you would rather hear about what had happened rather than wait even longer for me to edit and upload a video. But I will put it up later.
Next to the Sea organ, and built by the same guy, is the Sun Salutation. Now what are these weird named monuments you ask? Well the Sea organ is a series of pipes that are built in to to the sea wall that make ‘music’ when the wind blows and the waves move. There is no real pattern so every day is different! The sun Salutation is a giant round multi-colored light display. It gathers energy from the sun during the day and plays it back in a light show at night to pay homage to the sun! While I was waiting for the Sun Salutation to come on, I overheard a few people speaking English so I went up and introduced myself! One of the ladies worked at the Fulbright office in NYC, but for the foreign students! We chit chatted about vacation and my Fulbright program for a bit before we parted ways.

I wandered back through town, ducking into a few churches along the way. The catholic churches here are interesting (and given, I haven’t been in any catholic churches in the States). You walk into the church and are immediately confronted with a wall, with doors on either side. When you walk through either door (I have no clue if there is a specific side men or women are supposed to go through or not) and you enter the sanctuary. When you walk a bit in, you realize the wall you faced was the back of the place where they play the organ at!

I arranged to meet with Erin or dinner later that night (at about 6:20 to be exact). We both got different kinds of baked pasta. I had baked tortellini and she had lasagna! It was super delicious! We asked about the desserts and they guy convinced us to stay, I got a chocolate melting cake with ice cream. It was called something else, but it was chocolate melting cake! Don’t know what that is, take a Carnival cruise! Or just go here. We stopped off at a grocery store on our way home because I wanted to get some stuff for tomorrow and some fruit.

Then I bought the earliest thing for Christmas (discounting presents) that I have ever bought on November 2, 2011. I bought an advent calendar. I usually get one of these every year,and when I saw it I just knew I had to get it! Just a touch of home for the Holidays!

As soon as we made it back, I crashed!

See you around the globe!

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