Dear Belgrade, Serbia

As promised, I am finally getting around to writing about our amazing holiday earlier this year. I posted a ton of photos on instagram and twitter (#RAGISAC) and tried to send a message to my family at the end of each day with a little summary of what we did and a few photos to show them.

We traveled from Jozitown to Belgrade, Serbia via Abu Dhabi, explored Serbia and then proceeded to drive to Croatia. We spent the first few days in Rovinj and then took a ferry through to the island of Rab, where The Gypsy’s mother lives. In this post I’ll be focusing on my experience of Belgrade.

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On the plane and on our way! #RAGISAC

We arrived in Belgrade on a Saturday morning and was greeted at the airport by The Gypsy’s parents as a surprise. We were only supposed to meet up with them a bit later in the day, but they took a bus to the airport to surprise us instead. His father awaited me with a bunch of flowers and a big bear hug and his mom wouldn’t let me touch my own suitcase once we showed our faces in arrivals. And this behaviour continued throughout our trip. Whenever we spent any time with them we were spoiled rotten! And it was glorious:)

Belgrade is an incredible city. We spent a day or so exploring before heading off to Fruška Gora (more on this in another post) and then did some more exploring in-between returning from Fruška Gora and heading off to Croatia. It is a city of absolute contradictions. In one block you will see the most beautiful houses right next to a building that looks like something that should be condemned. But even the buildings that are falling apart are beautiful in their own way. It was later explained to me that in some cases the people let the buildings deteriorate on the outside in order to avoid paying property taxes, but i was assured that on the inside they are quite beautiful. In addition, due to the suspicious nature of the people, you may be labelled as an associate of the “mafioso” if you flaunt any sort of money, and not beautifying the homes on the outside is one way of avoiding such flaunting. I have no idea if this is true or one of those “jokes with a hint of truth” or complete fabrication, but honestly it kind of makes sense.

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I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, considering that they were in civil war like only 20 years ago, but let’s just say Belgrade won my heart. The little shops hidden away in holes in the wall (literally), the friendly (yet slightly suspicious) people and the food was an amazing experience and i would definitely recommend people to visit.

 

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On the bus tour with The Gypsy’s parentals

On the day of our arrival we decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city and then proceeded to explore the forts, city wall and the spot where the Sava and the Danube rivers meet. It is SPECTACULARLY beautiful! Most of the city has recovered from the bombings but there are still a few buildings that carry the scars of a civil war less than two decades ago.

We discovered the cutest little pub, lemon beer (which, let’s face it, is the best thing in that heat) and the most amazing food…seriously…the food! Three of my absolute favourite food related Serbian things are Börek (The cheese one to be specific), kajmak (it’s a cheese) and Cevapi.

It’s hard to only choose a few random shots as there were so many amazing things, but if i had to post ALL my photos this post would be miles long. So instead I’ve picked a few pictures below which I think sums up most of the highlights of this spectacular city:)

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A few days in the life of..

So the past few days have been pretty interesting. Life has a way of coming in swings and roundabouts, but the truth is: it ALWAYS evens out in the end, and we have to learn to take the good with the bad. I know this better than most and have a rather amusing set of stories to add under this little file divider. I’ve also long since established that some days I can only say “this shit ONLY ever happens to me” and count on the fact that at least half the people who hear me tell the story won’t believe me….I’m OK with that. I don’t particularly care about your opinions anyway, so if all you take away from it is an amusing little story, that’s fine by me.

So here are a few things that happened during the course of the last 10 days:

  • When I returned from a 2 week out of country work trip the Friday before last, the Gypsy kindly offered to bring groceries and cook me dinner. While he was busy in the kitchen and I was happily sipping on a glass of wine I decided to switch on my “media setup”. This consists of a TV, PS3, Apple TV, Speakers and a laptop. So I plugged everything into the socket and flipped the switch and BAM! Flashes of light, smoke, loud exploding noises and a few shrieks from me before the electricity tripped. GREAT! I had no idea what exploded at the time but had been convinced that all of the above equipment would need to be replaced after that. I followed the smoke and found that the laptop’s charger had quite literally EXPLODED O_o How? I have no idea…but i’m very grateful that I’m pedantic about unplugging and switching off everything except the most essential things when I leave the house. Could you imagine the chaos and potential fire hazard if this happened while I was away? The explosion burnt my floor *facepalm* and the laptop is no longer usable (fantastic) but surprisingly enough everything else seems to have survived the onslaught.
  • On Tuesday I paid a little visit to my dentist as my dental implant (a long story in itself but it cost me a fortune, involved several bone implants and a piece of my jaw removed) felt slightly loose. It wiggled….like a loose tooth about to be pulled. The dentist very kindly tightened my screw and then indicated that he would like to replace the screw as it may have suffered some metal fatigue as a result of the wiggling….I made a follow-up appointment for the Friday.
  • On Friday i returned for a half an hour appointment to replace the screw. Let’s just say it did not go according to plan. DID YOU KNOW: A dental implant can experience a mechanical failure???? The dentist had to completely break the “tooth” of the implant apart in order to remove it. At this point I didn’t know whether i was supposed to laugh or cry. I had paid thousands of rands for that thing and here the dentist was kindly breaking it apart. Not to mention that this whole process took 3 hours. And trust me after 3 hours of someone messing about and “rukking” and “plukking” your mouth in order to try and break the “tooth”, your jaw and mouth in general is pretty damn raw, tired and sore. Then I learnt something new AGAIN. DID YOU KNOW: A dental implant comes with a warranty? I couldn’t stop laughing when the dentist informed me that it was definitely a manufacturing error and that I would no doubt be able to replace it under the warranty. The entire tooth has to be remade, so I will be returning in two weeks to have it replaced….at zero cost to me or my medical aid.
  • On Monday morning I had to head out of country again for yet another business trip. I always use Uber to take me to the airport and I’ve never before experienced any issues with the app or the service. I usually go online to request the uber about 10minutes before I have to leave home for the airport. I also make sure that, bearing traffic at that time in mind, I have more than enough time to get to the airport and drop off my bag etc. I generally don’t cut things close when it comes to flights. But the app had a problem. It simply refused to process payment, which means it refused to get me an Uber. I restarted the app a few times and even downloaded the 163MB update in an attempt to make it work. By now it was already well past the time I was supposed to leave home. I decide to add a different card as payment, but the app wouldn’t even let me do this and just continued to tell me that there is a processing error. In desperation I even tried to pay for the ride in cash…NO LUCK. So I finally gave up (by now running very late) and called a metered taxi service (which I HATE using). Unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to reach my home until only an hour prior to my flight. I would NEVER make it. As a last resort I loaded my suitcase in my car and drove myself to the airport….this will mean an astronomical parking charge, but what else could I do. By now I’m stressing about missing my flight as the traffic at that time is way more hectic than when I was supposed to leave home. I finally got to the airport and dropped my bag off with like a minute to spare prior to check in and bag drop cut off time. PHEW! And then the super nice lady behind the counter says “oh shame mam, you look so stressed. I’ll tell you what. I’m cancelling your online check-in and moving you to a business class seat.” Bless her cotton socks! I managed to make it through security and immigration and walked onto my flight with a few minutes to spare and then I was spoiled with excellent service, WAY better food and a ton of space.
  • When we arrived here the airport had another surprise for us….the immigration queue was literally running outside of the terminal building. Three international flights arrived at exactly the same time due to delays and the airport is simply not geared for that kind of traffic. It was going to be an incredibly long wait. Then a sweet old man in front of me starts asking the officials where the SADC line is. From experience I know there is technically a separate line for the SADC countries, but that when it’s this full nobody adheres to these rules and the immigration officers don’t enforce it either. But the old man spotted my SA passport, grabbed me by the arm and told me to follow him. And within minutes we were right in front of the queue and we sailed through without any hassles.
  • But without a doubt, the highlight of my day was last night. My SIL sent us a little photo of my littlest nephew in a superman shirt looking grumpy and miserable. Apparently the little man was also having a bad day, just like his aunty. So I asked my SIL to give him a big hug from me.  A few minutes later I get a message from my SIL saying that superman asked her to tell me that the hug made him feel better. *heart melts* That right there tops EVERYTHING. Nothing that happened in the last 10 days could spoil or top that moment….nothing. Family is everything.

So life comes with its ups and downs all the time. It’s up to us what we choose to focus on.  All I can say is…life with me = never boring.

Dear Europe (Day 1)

I’ve been exceptionally bad at blogging lately.  The fact that i returned home from my holiday 7 weeks ago and still haven’t blogged about it is staring me in the face….hating me.  Also..the fact that I just had to realise it was that long ago makes me sad.  I wish I could go back and remain in a state of permanent relaxed adventuring…wouldn’t it be awesome?

BUT I’ve finally managed to navigate my way through my over 1 700 pictures and narrowed them down to just a few.  Even so the holiday was action packed and I’ve decided to break the trip down into 1 and 2 day posts in order to make it easier to read:) So here we go…Day 1:)

As a lot of you know my cousin’s wedding was the day before I was due to depart on my holiday, and due to a lot of work and a lot of wedding arrangements I wasn’t even halfway packed by the morning of the 11th, the day I was due to leave and I had a house full of guests.  The parentals and my aunt were awesome by making me breakfast, helping to tidy the house and reminding me of small things I would need to remember to pack. And shortly after lunchtime we were on our way to the airport, where i spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around reading and drinking the free wine while feeling super excited.  It should be noted that this is not day 1, this was Day 0:P

The obligatory wing picture...I was told I wasn't officially on holiday until I posted one of these
The obligatory wing picture…I was told I wasn’t officially on holiday until I posted one of these

I landed in Frankfurt on the morning of the 12th (super tired as my superpowers include the ability to NOT be able to sleep on a plane and we had spectacular turbulence for the entire 10 hour flight) where i tried out my broken German on the passport control dude. He pretended to be impressed and waved me through without any issues.  I proceeded to my departure gate for my flight to Zürich and waited.  The time to board arrived and there was no sign of the gate being opened.  I asked around, checked the boards and bugged a number of airport staff, but no one could tell me what happened to my flight. 15minutes before my flight was due to depart they finally figured out that my newly assigned gate was 2km down….I nearly died.  Metal ankle or not, I ran the 2km and was rushed through an already closed door onto my connecting flight.  The fault was entirely that of the airline, to which they admitted and my fellow passengers were only mildly annoyed. Crisis only narrowly averted.

I finally arrived in Zürich and had to wait 2 hours for my various traveling companions to arrive from South Africa and Ireland.  The wait was made more bearable by a bucketload of Starbucks. From there we took a bajillion trains and buses (missing 1 or 2) until we finally arrived at our new home in Emmetten. The one thing that completely astounded me was how incredibly CLEAN everything was.  The train and bus stations were all sparkly and non-foul smelling. Not to mention how beautiful and clean the entire country was. Switzerland had managed to steal my heart within minutes.

SEE??? This is the main train station right by the airport...so clean
SEE??? This is the main train station right by the airport…so clean
Tired happy faces:) Waiting for our train
Tired happy faces:) Waiting for our train
Our first glimpse of the Swiss countryside from the train
Our first glimpse of the Swiss countryside from the train
One of the many little towns where we had to change trains/buses
One of the many little towns where we had to change trains/buses
Emmetten! We finally made it:)
Emmetten! We finally made it:)

After a brisk 1km walk from the train station to our apartment with our suitcases in tow, we refreshed our weary bones with a much-needed shower and headed out in search of dinner and to have a good look around the little town we would be calling home for the next week.  Here are some snapshots of the town…..and guys…it was waaaaay past 8pm, but we were convinced it was like 4pm latest.  The looong summer days really messed with our heads.

The little hotel where we had dinner
The little hotel where we had dinner
The start of a beautiful sunset over Emmetten
The start of a beautiful sunset over Emmetten
The little church...guys seriously..this was like just before 9pm
The little church…guys seriously..this was like just before 9pm
I couldn't get over how incredibly and intensely green everything was...so beautiful
I couldn’t get over how incredibly and intensely green everything was…so beautiful
Sunset over Emmetten
Sunset over Emmetten

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We wined and dined ourselves at the local hotel where NO ONE spoke a word of english.  Let’s just say it was a rather entertaining affair with our bit of broken german and the help of google translate in order to figure out the menu and order. And then it was time for bed, as tomorrow we would be heading off to Zermatt, the home of chocolate mountain, more commonly known as the Matterhorn. (To be continued)

Ruby
xxxx

Dear America

Ball drop

In 2 months EXACTLY we will be preparing to take off on our super fun “new year’s in New York” holiday.  I CAN’T wait:)  2 months exactly today:)  This time round I’ll be able to watch this here ball drop for realz! Partying in the new year in style in Time’s square…these are the things dreams are made of:)

I’ll be walking these streets once again:

Central Park

Madison ave

Drinking good and proper Starbucks and it will taste even better because I’m in America

Starbucks

And I’ll be seeing these sights again, and also plenty plenty more that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the last time:

Rockefellar centre

Lady Liberty

View

newspapers

And I get to shop at Macy’s #FTW

Macy's

Last time I was fortunate enough to experience all of this with my family.  This year I get to celebrate the new year and see and experience all of this with my best friend.  Life is pretty awesome and I certainly hope that the next 2 months will fly by:)

Love
Ruby
xxxxx