October 02, 2006

BALKANS TRIP - PART SEVEN: TROGIR AND SCARY PARKS

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The last two days in Croatia, we visited a small town named Trogir. Founded as a sea port in the third century BC, Trogir belonged to the Greeks, then the Romans, and finally the Slavs (around 800 AD).

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Most of Trogir's historic sites have been destroyed from all this turnover, though many large structures remain, even today. You can traverse the city walls or visit a fortress built in the 15th century. You can also tour a 13th century cathedral, or just stop by for ice cream. We decided to all of the above...

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The town sits on a small island; actually, it is so small that this bridge is the only hurdle.

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Most of the ships that dock in Trogir these days belong to wealthy travelers and tourists.

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The narrow streets are just wide enough to walk, and are filled with small restaurants and gift shops.

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Hidin' out in the back alleys. Oh, what a tough guy I am!

Later, we found plenty of nice little restaurants, had some ice cream, then decided it was time to drive back to Split.

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On the way back, we drove through many small neighborhoods along the coast. If you wanted to know what a normal Croatian house looks like, this is it. I could definitely picture myself throwing a party, or just having a cook out in the backyard.

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When we returned to Split, I saw those buildings again - the ones I mentioned in the last post. They really do look like concrete honeycombs. OK, so YOU tell me what you think they look like!

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Since this website is my personal journal and not some tourist brochure, I can include some of the less glamorous memories from my adventures. For example, look at this park in downtown Split. It looks like it used to be a park, but maybe it was recently firebombed, or an unknown volcano broke through and reformed the playground. Hey, Croatia is beautiful - just not this park.

That concludes my vacation. Oh wait...I still have to fly to Germany, spend a day in Heidelberg, then fly to Dubai!

So give me another day or two, and I'll be back with the rest of the trip.

Do Videnja!

Posted by Dan at 12:54 AM | Comments (6)

October 15, 2006

BALKANS TRIP - PART EIGHT: HUCKLEBERRY MOUNTAIN

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The Neckar River, cutting through Heidelberg.

As if my trip to Romania, Hungary, and Croatia wasn't enough, I had a one-day layover in Germany.

The original plan was to fly to Germany, meet with Richard and Ayse (friends from Kuwait), hang out for a day, then fly down to Dubai as a group. That didn't exactly work out, so as an alternative plan, I was introduced to a friend of theirs, Anna. She lives in Heidelberg, and offered to give me a tour. So, after meeting me in Frankfurt, we drove back to her town and Anna showed me around.

Here are the pics...

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So ya know, Heidelberg is a city in southern Germany, located on the Neckar River.

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Another snazzy fact I learned is the name Heidelberg actually came from Heidelbeerenberg - Huckleberry Mountain.

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One of Heidelberg's most famous attractions is the castle, Heidelberger Schloss. It sits on a hill, overlooking the small town.

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Originally a fort, the castle has been around since the 1500s. The castle is now mostly in ruin, though a major restoration project is underway.

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Here is another angle...

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Inside the castle sits a large wine barrel, known as the Tun, or Groß Fass. Back in the day, the townspeople had to pay taxes to their lord. If they couldn't pay, they would sometimes substitute using goods, such as wine. The various "payments" would be stored in this large barrel, making for a truly unique drinking experience. YUCK. Imagine what it would taste like, filled with hundreds of different wines!!

Interesting but gross, eh?

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After the tour, we stepped out for a walk around the castle grounds.

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From this vantage you can see the castle and the town along the river. You can even see sheep in the grass field below.

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A few hours later, Anna and I walked down into the old square. Despite being summer, the weather was cold and wet...a welcome change for someone who lives mostly in the desert these days!

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One of Europe's greatest stereotypes is its small cobblestone streets. I love it.

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We ended up in the city square, just in time for me to say goodbye and head back to Frankfurt Airport. After all, I had a plane to catch!

I want to thank Anna for being such a cool tourguide, especially on short notice. I know I came out of nowhere. :)

My next and final stop on this crazy journey was Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I met up with Richard there, and partied for two days before ending my trip in Kuwait.

I will post pictures shortly. Until then...Auf Wiedersehen!

Posted by Dan at 01:24 AM | Comments (3)

October 28, 2006

BALKANS TRIP - PART NINE: DUBAI

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The Burj Al Arab (Burj is Arabic for "Tower").

These pictures are from my trip to Dubai two months ago. I have been busy lately and am starting to burn out up here, but I need to finish what I started. So here we are...

After my trip to the Balkans, I had a one-day stop in Germany, then flew down to Dubai to meet up with my co-worker and good friend, Richard. As I said in the last post, his wife Ayse was also supposed to meet us, but she couldn't get a visa in time (Americans can enter without much trouble, but she isn't American). Stupid how rules work.

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This is the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, located next to the Burj Al Arab. I stayed here for two days, and enjoyed every minute of it.

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Pretty nice, eh? Certainly better than what I've had in the past!

Dubai is one of seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, a small but wealthy country in the Gulf. Each Emirate has it's own Sheikh, or leader, and they govern everything in their land. For example, Dubai allows drinking in private places such as hotels, while Sharjah (another Emirate) does not allow drinking at all.

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Rich and I only had two days, so we made our plans and knew what the first stop would be. We jumped on the shuttle and headed for the Mall of the Emirates, known for the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East.

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The mall, with its massive ski resort looming overhead.

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That's me, looking cool as ever in my snazzy gear. Being that nobody normally thinks to bring winter clothing to the desert, the resort offers temporary jackets and pants, so long as you don't mind looking like you came from the '80s.

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Inside, it looks like some bizarre wonderland. I was taken aback by how cold it was in there. Freaking engineers really know how to build crazy stuff, don't they?

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Yeeeaaah....I still got it. :)

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Two nerds, standing in the last place on earth you'd expect snow.

After a few hours of good cold fun, we headed back to the Jumeirah Hotel.

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Next to the Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab is Wild Wadi, a large outdoor waterpark with everything you could imagine. In the distance you can see our hotel.

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We tried all sorts of goofy things, like this wave machine...

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...even took a cruise in the tubes.

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That night we checked out this Lebanese nightclub. I'm really starting to dig this style of music. Cool beat.

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The next day we ate breakfast at a restaurant on the top of our hotel, and this was our view. Very nice.

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With only a few hours to spare, we checked out the Grand Souk, a large bazaar, styled in the old world.

It was almost time to return to Kuwait, so we drove to the airport.

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Rich, being his usual self at Dubai International. hahaha. Sorry, bud. I had to post this picture. :)

From Kuwait, I then flew to Baghdad, and have since actually had to fly back down again to the UAE. This time, I went to Sharjah for a business conference.

Also in the time since I've been back to Iraq, I've noticed the security situation has deteriorated even further. Wow, this place is getting bad.

In other news: We have had some heavy winds in Baghdad; one storm took out three palm trees near our villa. I've got some pictures to post, and will get to that in a few days.

Cheers.

Posted by Dan at 01:27 AM | Comments (5)