Monday, March 30, 2009


Okay, it's real. Not only have I purchased a plane ticket for LAX to London, May 26th, not returning until July 22, I also now have seats reserved for London-Prague, May 31 and Split-London, July 21. You may be asking yourself where is Split? Well let me tell you, it's a beautiful coastal town on the Western flank of Croatia...part of the Dalmatian Coast along the Adriatic Sea. Let me just reaffirm: I am SO excited. Like butterflies in my stomach excited. And now it is all official, card charged official. Well, thank you easyJet for your cheap, no-frills airfare. $50 for London to Prague, and $120 for Split to London.

Amendment: I have now bought plane tickets for Budapest to Targu Mures, Romania for $22 each. Incredible...cheaper than the 9 hr bus rides I could find.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I am OBSESSED with Leonard Cohen. Not a big surprise considering how much I like Nick Cave; I, however, did not discover his predecessor until recently. His voice is so captivating, alluring...I love it. I love everything, his early folk music through his avant garde style music, all with dark mysterious veins running throughout. It is all so beautiful, yet at the same time there is a sort of shadow...a darkness that makes you hesitate, as if your leaving a sphere of complacent comfort for an unknown...maybe better, maybe worse. Okay, I feel passionately about his music, but I really do think it is very good. Some personal favorites (he's got 50 years of music out, so there is a lot, look into him):

A few other cool things:
  • Leonard Cohen is playing at Coachella! That's right, sunset at Empire Polo Field...I couldn't think of a better setting. Friday is going to be incredible (Paul McCartney, the Airborne Toxic Event, Morrissey and the Crystal Method also playing that day).
  • Leonard Cohen is a Buddhist monk, and he studied at a monastery in the mountains behind my house. I went up looking for the monastery one day a few months ago...thought it would be is way up in the mountains, and we think we saw the building (from a distance) but we couldn't get to it. It can be that secluded even in Los Angeles county.
  • Melissa, my sister, has long revered Leonard Cohen's...ethos I guess, and has this poetry book of his. Anyway, she actually has a tattoo (well multiple, but one in particular) with the stanza:

    Blessed be the One

    Who has sweetened

    My Argument.

Okay, here is the whole poem Argument:

You might be a person who likes to

argue with Eternity. A good way to

begin such an Argument is:

Why do You rule against me

Why do You silence me now

When will the Truth be on my lips

And the Light be on my brow?

After some time has passed, the answer to these questions percolating upwards from the pit of your stomach, or downwards from the crown of your hat, or having been given, at last, the right pill, you might begin to fall in love with the One who asked them; and perhaps then you will cry out, as so many of our parents did:

Blessed be the One

Who has sweetened

my Argument.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yes...Mr. President

Okay, so get this, tomorrow President Obama is visiting my dad's work! That is so cool, huh? My dad works at Southern California Edison, the power company for California. Anyway, it's funny because apparently the workplace my dad is at, in Pomona, is world renowned for their electric technology (ie electric vehicles and stuff I don't know about).  So President Obama is touring the facility and then there is a conference meeting to go over more stuff I don't know anything about, dad gets to go to the meeting! He could seriously like meet Obama, it's pretty exciting. I'm going to make him take a picture if he can. Well...Kim Out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Most Recent Itinerary

Okay, so we have kind of revamped our travel plans. We pretty much completely cut Western Europe from the trip (except for London, where we fly in to). While it would be amazing, we think it deserves its own trip, who wants to rush to see Eastern and Western Europe in one trip, we decided to focus just on one and enjoy it fully. So we think we now will fly from London straight to Prague, and then work our way around and fly back from Zagreb, Croatia to London.
So GUESS WHAT...that means we have added stays in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and more time in Greece. Ahhh, I can't wait. Also, we have decided we cannot miss EXIT fest in Navi Sad, Serbia. It is a huge 4 straight day music festival, held in literally a picturesque 19th century fortress overlooking the Danube river. There are apparently like 12 stages and tunnels that connect them. Plus this is the 10th anniversary, so there are supposed to be many surprises that won't disappoint. On top of the the whole thing costs less than 100 US dollars. Wow. Incredible. What an experience. Here is the new route on a map:

London -> Prague -> Bratislava (Slovakia) -> Slovakian Countryside -> Budapest -> Sighisoara (Romania) -> Brasov (Romania) -> Bucharest (Romania) -> Varna (Bulgaria) -> Istanbul -> Ayvalik (Turkey) -> Lesvos (Greek Island) -> a few days of Greek Island Hopping -> Athens -> Ionnina (Greece) -> Roaming Albania -> Working up Montenegro -> Belgrade *EXIT fest -> Sarajevo (Bosnia) -> Mostar -> Dubrovnik (Croatia) -> Roam along Dalmatian Coastline in Croatia -> Zagreb (Croatia)

Some highlights of things we can see:
  • Hagia Sofia in Istanbul
  • Dracula's Castle in Transylvania (Romania)
  • Golden Sands in Bulgaria along the Black Sea
  • Greek/Roman/Ottoman/Byzantine Ruins all over the area, including the Parthenon
  • The Bridge of Mostar - bombed in 1992 Bosnian War, but rebuilt as a symbol of the nation
  • Greek Islands!!
  • Mt Olympus
  • Castles of Slovakia
  • Cobblestone streets of everywhere
  • The Danube river
  • Emerald Waters of Bosnia
  • ...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday Night at the Serbian Eastern Orthodox Cathedral

I went to a Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church service tonight (like I said, I'm really trying to learn all I can to get the most out of this summer). It was a liturgy service. Let me tell you, the whole experience was so beautiful. True, I am very interested and accepting of other religions and find beauty in most; I really like to go to services and festivals of all sorts of religions, and have been to quite a few. But, this was probably the most beautiful liturgy service I had ever heard (I even told the priest I would come back - not that I'm converting). It was part Serbian, part English. I'm not usually a big fan of the chanting - in terms of pleasing to the ears - but the rhythm of the sing-chanting, the accompaniment of two teenage girls, and the atmosphere of the church was really quite overwhelming, in a good way. I should mention, the church was beautiful...colors, paintings, architecture, priest garb (admittedly I sometimes find it ostentatious, today it was just beautiful), everything. Plus, I talked to a few people about my summer plans in their home countries, and they were so encouraging and excited. I can't wait. Side note: another reason I love living in LA, a literal melting pot of cultures. The church is next to little Asia, seriously like five square miles of China transplanted - except some signs were in Chinese, others Japanese or Korean, maybe others, so little Asia and then bam...a Serbian church - I love it. Well, I didn't have a camera on me, possibly considered disrespectful anyway I guess, so here are a few pictures of the church I found on the internet. They really don't do it justice. Saint Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In an attempt to really glean the most out of my two months in Europe this summer, I have set out to learn as much as I can about the places I am going. This includes reading history books, researching other travel logs, looking at pictures, a lot of pictures, etc. (I'm trying to read one history book about each country before I leave) I really want to be able to understand the most I can about the cultures/places I'll be visiting.

We've decided to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as we bus through Eastern Europe. This decision really makes my mother nervous, seriously, like to the point of anger. I can understand too. While I was only 6 when pictures of the Bosnian War reached the Western world, she remembers them vividly. I, therefore, am able to readily accept Bosnia-Herzegovina as a country that has lived in multi-ethnic stability for over a decade, that is transforming its economy and a potential candidate for the EU, it's harder for her. I also feel it has a lot to offer, in terms of both tourist attraction (Sarajevo's rumored to have quite the night-life, and the country houses two UNESCO world heritage sights) and cultural and human understanding/insight, what an amazing experience it would be to visit and learn about this place, especially for someone in my position - a young American woman.

So, I just finished a book entitled Bosnia and Herzegovina A Tradition Betrayed. It was so interesting, there is so much I didn't learn in World History - obviously how can one class in high school even begin to scrape that subject. Just as a small summary of what I learned this week, here is some of the history of Bosnia-Herzegovina:

For starters Bosnia-Herzegovina is located on the Balkan peninsula of South Eastern Europe. It is home to three ethnic constituents: Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims mainly), Serbs, and Croats; with Bosniaks being the most numerous, then Serbs, then Croats. Religious demographics: Muslim 45%, Serb Orthodox 36%, Roman Catholic 15%, others 4% (thanks Wiki). Bosnia was under the rule of the Ottoman empire, hence the large Muslim population, from the 1400s until the end of the nineteenth century, when Austria-Hungary took over until the end of World War I. For all this time Bosnia-Herzegovina had existed as a multiethnic state, everyone co-existing mostly in peace, with some exceptions. I think it is important to note, ethnic and religious zealots were not an issue in Bosnia until recent history (a common misconception and hence the title of the book, A Tradition Betrayed), everyone lived together in ethnic peace.

So a lot more important historical events happen which I will breeze through, Austria-Hungry were on the losing side of WWI (which was sparked in Sarajevo, fyi, with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) so Yugoslavia is formed, and nationalism becomes a factor (Croat nationalism, Serb nationalism, Bosnian nationalism). Yugoslavia fought the Axis-powers during WWII but were invaded and occupied by the Nazis in 1941. Once again during this time, Tito organized a mulitethnic resistance group and eventually succeeded in expelling the Axis and other genocidal ethnic-cleansing, bull-crap groups like the Utasha in Croatia, who had pretty much exterminated Jewish groups and nearly 200,000 Serbs during the War. The atrocities of WWII were terrible all over Europe, and it was definitely hard to read about. So Tito lead a Socialist Yugoslavia until his death in 1980, which began the twilight era of Yugoslavia, which would collapse after about a decade.

The Bosnia War is what I really wanted to talk about, as it is relatively recent, many of us remember something of it, and it is an important event in Bosnia and Herzegovina history and modern culture. The war was an international armed conflict that took place between March 1992 and November 1995. It is hard to define it as either a civil was or an international war. It showed the world, specifically the West, horrific images which hadn't been seen since WWII. The war resulted from the instability of the whole Yugoslavia area and resulted in an Independent Bosnia-Herzegovina state. Sensing the downfall of Yugoslavia, which had already began, neighboring Presidents of Serbia and Croatia made a deal to split the land of Bosnia-Herzegovina between themselves. Obviously there were many political reasons from many sides (Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, etc) for a war and each fueled it, and the Bosnian citizens paid. Once Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, the Serbs attacked, with the Yugoslavian People's Army, parts of the country, and Croatia soon attacked hoping to secure other parts of the country. Bosnian Muslims fought for Bosnia - along with citizens who hoped for the multiethinical Bosnia of history. Serbians targeted non-Serb Bosnians, Croats non-Croats, Bosniaks non-Bosniaks. Ethnic-cleansing was practiced on all sides of the conflict, Serbians being the worst perpetrators.

This is an exert from the book I just finished, I was shocked, saddened, how terrible. But I wanted to put it up, as I feel it's important to know about these horrors and do something if we can.

The methodology of ethnic cleansing is terror practiced openly, calculated to drive from their homes those longtime inhabitants belonging to the "wrong" ethnic group...Along with ethnic cleansing operations in the cities and countryside of Bosnia, the perpetrators of ethnic exclusivism used a variety of other terror tactics to impose their will on members of other ethnic groups and sow the seed of hatred to prevent multiethnic reconciliation. Women of all ages were raped. While some rapes were commited by out of control troops, many rapes were deliberate, systematically encouraged by commanders to demean conquered people and to reward soldiers for acts of brutality. Prison camps were established; inmates were starved, beaten, or killed, giving Western television audiences images of emaciated prisoners not seen from Europe since WWII. Despite International steps to convene, no outside power did more than issue warnings to stop the atrocities while they were taking place.

-Bosnia and Herzegovina A Tradition Betrayed

NATO became involved in 1994, and Croatia backed out of the war, leaving only Serbia and Bosnia. After Serbians committed several massacres, NATO responded with open air-strikes against Bosnian Serbs. At this point, the Presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia met in the US and ended the War with a peace treaty, which has held to this day. Nearly 100,000 Bosnians died in this war and 200,000 were displaced, a tragedy no doubt still reflected in the culture. But there is also so much hope and optimism now, and the country is recovering. I thought it was very important to now this history before travel; the historical relationship between the three main ethnic constituents as well as modern relations and politics.

Okay, but really tourism is on the rise, and Bosnia-Herzegovina is now one of the safest countries in Eastern Europe to travel to. People are said to be very welcoming and hospitable. And remember it was home to the Olympics in 84. This is Lonely Planet's description of the country:

Imagine a backpacker wish list.
Old stuff: Sarajevo's cobbled lanes are stuffed with ancient shops, mosques and churches in the old Bascarsija bazaar. Mostar's iconic, slender bridge spans the green Neretva River; young men plun ge off it for money.
Places to party: enough bars - trendy or grungy - live music venues, groovy nightclubs and pubs that you'll wonder when you'll sleep.
Accommodation and transport: cheap hostels and private, plus an extensive bus network.
Scenery and thrills: pristine forested mountains crossed by gorges with emerald rivers ready.
A welcome: visitors find a country with such vitality that it's infectious, that shakes their hand warmly and suggests they stay longer than planned.

Alright, there are unexploded land mines in the country, partly the reason they're not an EU candidate yet, but don't be a stupid tourist and you'll be fine. Stay out of roped of areas in the mountains or war-torn buildings and don't wander in the wilderness in places the locals won't go, stay with a guide if in the countryside. I think traveling to this country would be a very rewarding experience and I am excited. Okay, that's all for today's history lesson. Check out these pictures of the country (all from Wikipedia), and tell me you don't want to go.

Up next...Albania.