Countdown to Zero: Day 28

I’ve fallen even further behind! I know! I’ve spent the last few days in Brno, Czech Republic visiting a friend I met last year around this time in Armenia and again early this year in Japan. I’m re-evaluating doing a daily post at this time; perhaps it will be easier to do once I’m back home…But for now…

Today’s throwback: Akhaltsikhe, Georgia, August 2013

There’s a fortified castle in this Georgian city, close to the Armenian border, that was almost deserted when I was there in August 2013. It was magical. Earlier in the day, I had avoided a herd of cows as I walked to a nunnery from my guesthouse near the Vardzia cave monastery, then taken a marshrutka to Akhaltsikhe, struggled to find a decently priced place to stay (eventually the hotel across the bus station gave me a discount), hired a taxi to take me to the isolated Sapara Monastery 10 km outside of town in a very old car that had a seatbelt without a belt (complete with an endearing old driver who worked his hardest to go up the sometimes unasphalted mountain roads, then proceeded to give me a tour of the monastery in Russian when we arrived), and returned to town in the midst of a torrential downpour…

The rain subsided and I ventured outside, arriving in the castle just around sunset and pretty much had the place to explore myself, climbing up its towers, walking on its walls, and smiling in amazement at the beauty of the town and surrounding countryside. I’m currently in Prague as I write this, an effortlessly beautiful city but one with countless tourists, and it’s such a contrast to think that I might have been the only foreigner within those walls that day. I really had that sense of discovery which captures the soul of a traveller and makes one appreciate being off the beaten path. What was notable was that I knew almost nothing about this city or its castle before getting here. This day was challenging, memorable, irreplicable, unique, special – one of those travel days that will forever be a highlight in my life 🙂

Here’s a video from the castle:

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Countdown to Zero: Day 29

I’m behind! I know! It’s a combination of spotty wifi in Albania and Greece, very busy travel itineraries, and a bit of laziness thrown in there as well. But I’ve been constantly thinking about more highlights from the last year and a half, and this one is certainly among them…

Today’s throwback: Festa de São João in Porto, Portugal, June 2013

Probably the country’s biggest party, the Festa de São João in the northern Portuguese city of Porto takes place every year on the 23rd of June in honour of Saint John the Baptist, and my travel plans happened to take me here at precisely this time.

On this day and the days leading up to it, the inescapable aroma of grilled sardines fills the air of Porto, and a traditional courtship ritual to hit one’s prospective romantic interest with garlic flowers becomes a free for all with inflatable plastic hammers! Everyone floods the streets to watch the midnight fireworks, and lanterns are set off into the sky from the Rio Douro. The party continues into the night in the city’s bars and clubs. It was easily one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had!

Countdown to Zero: Day 30

Today’s throwback: Pliva Lake, an hour’s walk outside Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina, early August 2013. Clean and clear, calm and peaceful, and practically devoid from any other people, it took practically no effort to find a secluded place along the lake to go for a swim, soak up the sun, and relax before a bus ride to Mostar.

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Countdown to Zero: Day 31

A month from now, I will be flying from Bucharest to Istanbul to Boston to Toronto. It’s a simultaneously frightening and comforting thought that almost a year and a half of travel around the world is coming to an end.

To commemorate, I would like to share with you each day something from these tales of travels, these trials and tribulations that went on somewhere in the world in that time span (really, just my misadventures). This will be in addition to my daily travel posts and updates. Each day, I would like to reflect on a memorable experience I had during the last year and a half of travel – something I did for the first time, something I learned from, something humbling, something that made me feel accomplished, something that made me feel a way I’ll never forget, something that impacted me and left me with an impassioned inspiration – anything, really, that manages to make me smile when I look back upon it with the filter of time which only manages to facilitate the nostalgia I feel.

Today’s throwback: let’s not begin with anything too profound. Instead, here’s something from my time in Georgia from August/September 2013 – the food and drink! Khinkali, khachapuri, ostri, roasted eggplant topped with a walnut/garlic paste, Khevsuruli beer, homemade wine in used plastic bottles – these were my staples, and though sometimes repetitive, were always filling 🙂 By the way, I absolutely loved my time in Georgia and it’s easily one of my favourite countries I’ve ever visited. This won’t be my only post about Georgia in the next month…

Khinkali

Khinkali

khachapuri

khachapuri

Ostri

Ostri

eggplant with walnut garlic paste

eggplant with walnut garlic paste

Khevsuruli beer

Khevsuruli beer

Homemade wine

Homemade wine