Welcome!

Keith and I are picking up to move to Pécs, Hungary for one year. He has never been to Europe and the furthest east I've been is Switzerland.... Our Hungarian language skills are...well, we know some phrases. Come follow us on our adventure!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Non-stop

I assumed I'd be unable to fulfill my wanderlust desires post returning to the U.S....oh, how wrong I have been...

Ten days after returning to the U.S. (and driving back and forth between New Haven and Keith's parents' house to retrieve our belongings), I flew to Greenbay, WI to visit my parents in Sisterbay.  I spent a few lovely sweltering days there before my mom and I drove the 5.5 hours to Byron, IL.  After being in Byron for not even 24 hours, my dad flew us to Southern Illinois.
Jim Black & his beloved airplane

Bringing Debbie out of the hanger
 Let's face it - Jim Black is awesome.  He loves my mother to a degree that is almost obnoxious (they've been married for 29 years now), owns his own law firm, has his pilot's license, and is a huge nerd - which fulfills my nerdiness when I can't find said fulfillment elsewhere.  I think he is brilliant....

It's been several years since I flew with him - I was THRILLED!  And then....the airplane wouldn't start.  No big deal, the battery was dead - we just had it jumped like a car.  Like a car we don't need the battery once the plane is started.  It'was rather exciting.  :)
The beloved Debbie / Bonanza

Greenville, IL airport
When this photo is zoomed in a ton - my grandparents' car is visible.  They came to see us off.  P.R., my maternal grandfather, LOVES that my dad lands at the airport three miles from the grandparents' house.  Since my grandmother stopped cooking - which therefore means you are no longer at risk of diabetes type two just by visiting - my dad loves flying down and visiting.  My mom, my dad, and I had a great time visiting the maternal grandparents....age and dementia have a very humanizing effect on people - which as a grandchild, is a really important aspect of life to experience. 

When my dad flew my mom and I back to Byron...we didn't quit make it all the way there.  About 15 minutes out from the airport, my dad said that there was a line of thunderstorms in between us and the airport - at this point I was about to vomit everywhere....so Trisha B and I opted to land.  My dad flew the rest of the way (he found a tunnel between the storms) and then drove an hour to pick my mom and I up and then drove us home. 

Five days later I had the honor of driving my tiny red car 17 hours back to New Haven, CT...alone.

I know I haven't been in the U.S. for even a month yet - which means this sentiment will probably change soon - but I look forward to not having to move again for a long time....

...I give this feeling another month or two...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pedestrians of Pécs

Yield to girls with bows walking with an older brother?  Vienna, Austria
As my Facebook friends know, I had a slight obsession with photographing street signs throughout Europe.  My European friends often asked me, "Are they really that different?" while Keith kept telling me, "Meg, you cannot stand in the middle of the street, even if it is to take a photo." 

Well, I'm here to show you how different these 'yield to pedestrian signs' varied not only from the U.S., but from each other (in the same city) too!  And to show Keith that nearly getting ran down by a car(s) was well worth it.

Yield to Roley Poly Children Pécs, Hungary
Yield to these goofy looking silhouettes Pécs, Hungary
Yield to Fathers with Daughters Pécs, Hungary
Yield to aggressively helpful men with their woman Pécs, Hungary
Yield to the Family Circus Children...?  Pécs, Hungary
Okay...This one someone spray painted near Babits...I just thought it was funny. Pécs, Hungary
I think this girl's head looks like a lollipop  Ljubljana, Slovenia
This one is just out of control....Ljubljana, Slovenia

Yield to Athletes Only  Pécs, Hungary

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bacelona Sants Estació - La Pesadilla


We just arrived at the Barcelona Sants Train Station for the third time during our stay here…and this isn’t the train station where we arrived.  After our debacle of spending four hours here on Friday and not getting to go anywhere, we decided it would be smart to book our seat reservations yesterday on our way to the beach.  There is a line for advanced ticket sales and a line for ticket sales for trains leaving that same day.  We figured the advanced ticket sales line would probably be about the same length—we would be in and out in an hour and have seat reservations for Monday. 

We took a ticket, number 532.  We looked at the screen, #276.  This cannot be right…it just can’t. There are not 250 people waiting around here.  We sat and we waited and we waited and we sat…for FOUR hours.  Finally at 5:00pm our number was called.  We get up to the ticket counter to reserve our seats to Madrid… “Necesito sus InterRail.”  (I need your InterRail passes)  WHAT!?  No one has needed these for past seat reservations!!  No one asked for them when we were making seat reservations to Valencia…FROM THIS SAME STATION…TWO DAYS AGO!  We fought and complained and then the ticket sales dude said that when we come back with our InterRail passes, we can cut the line.  Just in case he might accidentally forget the two tourists who were yelling at him, I took another number and waited at the train station while Keith ran to hotel to get out passes.  

Ticket number 897.

An hour later, Keith returned with our InterRail passes.  He seemed hesitant to try to cut the line, but I said I would talk to the ticket sales guy, which worked out fine.  Ticket sales guy apologized for the inconvenience and I apologized for yelling at him (all of this took place in Spanish). 

At 6:30pm—five hours later—we left the train station with our seat reservations in hand.  Since we hadn’t eaten all day, we ate at the first place we found—which was terribly over priced but fabulously filling and headed to the beach. 

17 hours later, we are back at the train station.  Our train leaves at 1:00pm, getting us into Madrid around 3:00.  We will take three different Metro lines to our hotel on the complete other side of Madrid.  It’s close to Madrid’s Barajas Airport and provides a free shuttle service to the airport.  Our flight is at 11:45am Spain time and we will be in NYC at 1:30pm EST tomorrow.


photos to come

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reminders

"1. Laugh when people tell a joke. Otherwise you might make them feel bad.

2. Laugh when you look into a mirror. Otherwise you might feel bad.

3. Laugh when you make a mistake. If you don't, you're liable to forget how ultimately unimportant the whole thing really is, whatever it is.

4. Laugh with small children… They laugh at mashed bananas on their faces, mud in their hair, a dog nuzzling their ears, the sight of their bottoms as bare as silk. It renews your perspective. Clearly nothing is as bad as it could be.

5. Laugh at situations that are out of your control. When the best man comes to the altar without the wedding ring, laugh. When the dog jumps through the window screen at the dinner guests on your doorstep, sit down and laugh a while.

6. When you find yourself in public in mismatched shoes, laugh -- as loudly as you can. Why collapse in mortal agony? There's nothing you can do to change things right now. Besides, it is funny. Ask me; I've done it.

7. Laugh at anything pompous. At anything that needs to puff its way through life in robes and titles… Will Rogers laughed at all the public institutions of life. For instance, "You can't say civilization isn't advancing," he wrote. "In every war they kill you in a new way."

8. Finally, laugh when all your carefully laid plans get changed; when the plane is late and the restaurant is closed and the last day's screening of the movie of the year was yesterday. You're free now to do something else, to be spontaneous… to take a piece of life and treat it with outrageous abandon."

-- Sister Joan Chittister, originally published in her book, There is a Season

Friday, July 1, 2011

Barcelona

 I'm sick of being 'homeless' and traveling with all of my European possessions.  We arrived at the train station today with plans to take the 12:00 to Valencia (far away form my loud prostitute friends).  This train station is more hectic than O'Hare Airport...seriously.  By the time we figured out what line to stand in for seat reservations, it was almost noon.  No big deal, we'll just take the 14:30 train.  Kieth comes back with the seat reservations 45 min later....the first available train we can get on is at 20:30.  So we have 8 hours to kill at the Barcelona Sants train station.  Our original plan was to go to Madrid--luckily we changed said plans because all trains to Madrid are sold out until sometime tomorrow...

Barcelona - minus the loud ladies of the night - has been wonderful.  We've meandered through the Park Guell, Gothic Neighborhood, La Rambla, enjoyed excellent beach days, and other adventures.


...several hours later....

We gave up on waiting at the train station.  Seriously, it was more hectic than O'Hare airport, which was making us both twitch.  We wouldn't have arrived at our hotel until midnight either....so we canceled the hotel, only paying for the first night as a cancellation fee and found another hotel in Barcelona.  We'll be here until Monday. 

This new hotel is great.  We have a.c., a terrace, free wifi in the room, and zero loud people.   

I"ll post photos once I find the cord that connects my camera to my computer.

Lucerne and Trains


Post engagement night, Keith and I spent the day paddling around Lake Lucerne.  It was awesome.  We both went for a short swim, but the mountain water was wicked cold and we both sunk about a foot deep into sand when we stepped on the bottom…it was so gross. 
I can touch the bottom the lake here, but it was too gross
That evening we took the train to Bern and from there an overnight train to Barcelona.  The sleeper cars were 159 Swiss Francs a person, so we were forced to ride in coach.  It looked great!  The seats reclined, there was loads of legroom, and we both thought we’d actually get some sleep.  The entire night was a disaster.

Before the night was frustrating

Around midnight we stopped in Geneva, were about five other people boarded our car. The lights in the car were dimmed and most people were sleeping or pretending to sleep.  Two middle-aged women “sat” in the seats right behind us.  They were so loud.  My seat wasn’t reclined very far because by this point I realized the full reclining capabilities of my chair just caused me to slide out and it was more comfortable “sleeping” sitting up.  Even though the women had  more legroom than other people had due to my sleeping situation, they still tried several times for force my seat into the complete upright position.  After this (which they tried again later in the night), they went around the other passengers, poked them until they woke up.  The women wanted their blankets and water…I think.  This continued on and off throughout the night.

The other bit of excitement was when a guy got kicked off the train for not having a passport.  Since Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, we needed to present our passports.  The man looked like he was from the sub-Sahara.  At first it sounded like he gave the woman papers that weren’t his and then he kept saying (in poor Spanish) that he needed more time to look for his passport.  He was given until morning.  Somewhere in France police officers boarded the train and demanded this man’s papers.  When he couldn’t present his documentation, they took him.  The man put up a fight…grabbing things on the train to keep him from being kicked off. 

Freiburg


Back tracking a bit…I didn’t blog about Freiburg or what else we did in Lucerne because I felt the engagement was a bit more pressing/exciting.  On Friday, June 24th, Keith and I took the train from Berlin to Freiburg to visit our friend Steffi. 

Steffi studied at Central Connecticut State University during the 2009-2010 academic year.  We met in the Modern Language Office whist tutoring language students.  She’s loads of fun, loves the Cheesecake Factory, and squirrels. 

Freiburg is beautiful…super cute university city with about 200,000 people.  There are little waterways everywhere and EVERYONE seems to ride bicycles.  I never really had much interest in going to Germany, but I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly people were and how beautiful it was in both Berlin and Freiburg.
View from Steffi's flat

Friday night Keith stayed in and Steffi and I went out for drinks.  It was great to catch up…also, she is a FABULOUS hostess (eh, hem…Nicole, this entire post is to get you to visit hehe). 
Romantic breakfast for three

On Saturday, Steffi took us to a small town further into the Black Forest called, Titisee. We bought a bottle of wine, rented a rowboat and Keith paddled us around the lake. 

Meg & Steffi on Lake Titisee
Keith rowing some lovely ladies around the lake

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BCN

There are a lot of shirts in Barcelona that say "I <3 BCN"  Keith keeps thinking it says, "I <3 BACON", which it probably should.  It's such a fabulous city...tragically, it is also a rather expensive city (in terms of hotels).  I found this great hotel just a few blocks from La Rambla (the main street) for 30 Euro a night...awesome, right???  Yeah...not so much. 

I first noticed the women when we arrived...hanging out in the middle of the street, talking to no one but passers by, wearing not so tasteful attire.  The same women were there still when we left post nap three hours later...and then still when we got back from dinner.  I pointed this out to Keith..."Meg, they're prostitutes." 

Oh. Really? Are you sure?  I don't turn my nose up at such a profession...I mean, there is obviously a demand--maybe not for these women since they've been standing there continuously for 36 hours now, but still...there is clearly a demand. 

Anyways, in their boredom, the woman have had some drinks...and some gentlemen have brought fireworks.  Also I think the ring leader...(pimp?) showed up...this tiny little woman making a whole hell of a lot of noise.  Drunk men with fireworks, a drunken loud pimp trying to pick fights, and drunk & bored prostitutes....all gathered right below our window.

Normally, we'd just close the windows...but it's 53295783290753829+ degrees in our room with no fan.  I'm a little cranky.  Poor Keith is exhausted and I'm cranky...I think he's sleeping, but I'm not having as much luck.  Thankfully our plans for tomorrow include drinking beer on the beach, swimming and sleeping.  :) 

The police just came through...I think the ladies of the night have gone elsewhere...

The Proposal

I wrote this blog whilst waiting for an overnight train from Bern, Switzerland to Barcelona, Spain on Monday June 27th.  I haven't had internet access since Monday morning so it's just now being posted.


June 27, 2011

The big news: Keith and I are engaged!! We all knew it going to happen and apparently basically everyone but me knew when.  I’m not very good at surprises…mostly because I’m a complete control freak—

Keith took me to look at rings back in August 2010, shortly before we left for Hungary.  I assumed I would get a ring sometime whilst in Europe.  In May we discussed said ring…Keith explained due to financial issues (traveling across Europe for three weeks in June) that there would be no ring in Europe.  I was a little disappointed because I felt like he had been hinting that he would ask me to marry him while we were still on this side of the Atlantic, but I understood.  Plus anyways, we’re together…the officialness of our status shouldn’t matter. 

As we started to plan our trip westward, Keith really was really pushing a stop or at least a day trip to Lucerne.  I LOVE Switzerland, but I felt like I’d rather see something new…and we spent a week in Lucerne in November.   
 One of the covered bridges in Lucerne, Switzerland
But this was Keith’s one request on the trip…(that we stop in Lucerne…oh, and we choose our departing Europe city based on non-stop flights to NYC), so I agreed.

Around my birthday (which was three days before we left on our westward adventure), Keith started dropping hints about a small surprise he had for me and I would get it in route.  I had no idea…I thought perhaps it was a couple’s massage or maybe a Lovers’ Lock for a bridge somewhere (one of the biggest ones is in Pécs), or maybe…maybe…small like a ring…probably not, but maybe…I was more concerned that he knew something that I didn’t know.

We arrived in Lucerne around 3:00pm and meandered about.  Keith told me that we had a dinner reservation at 7:00pm.  We went to Opus for dinner where I discovered my favorite wine the last time we visited the area.  We had fabulous food and ended up ordering two bottles of the wine with the intention of re-corking the second bottle.  I went to the WC at the end of the meal and when I came back the waitress was helping Keith pack up the wine and two of the restaurant’s wine glasses.  I was confused.  “We have to bring them back later tonight,” Keith explained.  We walked about the city, put our feet in the water and then had a glass of wine. 

We watched the water, chatted, and sipped wine.  Keith starts talking about the friendship bracelets I made for us and I show him where mine is falling apart.  While I’m inspecting my bracelet, Keith mentions something about having something that is a bit more durable or something.  The next thing I know he’s down on one knee ring in hand and says, “Will you marry me?”  I stared dumbfounded for a bit and began nodding, crying and eventually say, “Yes, I’d be honored.”  Keith responds, “Really?!”  Laughing through tears I say, “Yes.” 
Shortly after saying, "yes."


Proposal Spot...

The next day we put a lock on a fence near where he proposed and threw the keys into the water…and I cried again.  
Our Lovers' Lock

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bicycling Berlin

In middle school I learned about the key on maps and how to figure out the distance ratio.   I know how to do this and after years of traveling & getting lost, one would think that I would use this skill.  Tragically, the thought never crosses my mind...until after I've been walking for 5+ kilometers and am exhausted.  This happened to us in Berlin.

We arrived in Berlin on Tuesday morning.  We lugged our wheel-less luggage uphill and arrived at our flat around noon.  Post nap and showers, we decided to walk to the longest remaining part of the Wall, which is known as the East Side Gallery.

Keith in front of the beginning of the East Side Gallery.  The longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing (1.3 km)
 In 1990, Germany invited 118 artists from around the world to paint & leave messages on the wall.  Since this was the inner wall of East Berlin, such expressions of dissent (and painting the wall at all) were forbidden during the Communist period.  Walking along the wall I had mixed emotions--this city has seen so much death and destruction, but every time picks itself up and moves forward to a brighter, more peaceful future.

Part of the East Side Gallery (this painting is by an artist from the US)

A little over half way down our walk along the wall, we learned this stretch is 1.3km...we had already walked much further from our flat to the start of this stretch of wall...and had a LONG way to go to get anywhere else.

Berlin is not a walking city.

Greer confirmed this for us when we met up with him for dinner a few hours later.  He said Berlin's nickname is 'Fat B' (or something like this...but in German, obviously).  This makes sense since it was divided from the end of WWII until 1989. 

Keith and I were a bit cranky from learning our lesson the hard way.  We decided we'd rent bikes on Wednesday. 
Keith waiting for me to give him the map
Berlin is a bicycling city!! It was wonderful.  A little chaotic in the areas of construction, but still, it was great to be bicycling. 

We set off for Brandenburg Gate, the main gate to the city.  We saw some sites in the area, and then went to the aquarium. 
On the East side of Brandenburg Gate

Turtles and crocs

Sand Tiger Shark (yikes!!)

Me & some giant fish
Post aquarium, we had some wine and I had a nutella filled crepe (I will miss the nutella filled crepes)
Please note the sugar on my face...this was taken before I got chocolaty-hazel nutty deliciousness all over me.
We left for our flat from here...which is on the complete other side of the city (a world away at one time), getting back just as the thunderstorm began.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Pink Suitcase

We bought the pink suitcase (which is now stuffed with 30+ kilos of clothes and books) at one of the little shops outside of TESCO in Kertvaros because we didn't have enough luggage.  We were SO excited about how cheap it was and I was thrilled to have a pink suitcase.  We should have known it was too good to be true...it has become the bane of our trip.

In route to Vienna, we realized that the axle of Pink suitcase was bent--the reason why it was feeling heavier and heavier as we traveled.  Keith attempted to bend it back and was somewhat successful.  Monday night we took an overnight train to Berlin.  Pink suitcase didn't fit down the aisle of the train car, nor did it properly fit in our Harry Potter compartment.  Luckily no one else had seat reservations with us.

An exhausted Keith with all of our bags.
The cool part about our train...even though our luggage took up all the seats, we had beds!  I reserved couchettes for us.  The seats were below us, and the couchette beds were above them where the luggage storage shelves are on other trains.
Coming down from the beds

Keith in his bed...it folds down from the wall...the strap is attached to the ceiling for support
I slept well the first part of the night...from about midnight until 4am.  Keith was a bit too tall for the bed, but eventually exhaustion won and he did get a few hours of sleep.
 
Tuesday morning we arrive in Berlin.  Our system of moving all of our European possessions is still working well.  On the walk to the flat we rented in Berlin, I start struggling with the Pink suitcase (more than usual), so Keith and I switch bags.  About 10 minutes later, a furious Keith drops suitcase.  This is when we notice that wheels on Pink suitcase are completely broken.  Keith continues to drag Pink suitcase the rest of the way.  A 45 minute walk takes us 90 minutes.
An exhausted Keith outside our flat in Berlin
We keep reminding ourselves that this will be funny later....after we're moved into our flat in New Haven.  In the meanwhile though, we need to figure out what we're going to do with this suitcase.  It would be one thing if we were in our last city, but we still have 13 more days before flying to the U.S.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Backpackers

We don't look like we're trekking across Europe....or we look like wicked high maintenance travelers with all of our luggage...but we're moving from Hungary to the U.S. and spending a few weeks traveling in between.
Leaving Pécs
The flowers are from my student, Zéti....I didn't bring them with me...just regifted them to Beszti Eszti who gave us a lift to the train station.  By the way, the pink suitcase weighs about 30 kg...I weigh about 58.something kilos.  The other big black suitcase is a little less and then the smaller one is also a bit lighter, but not much.  We've developed a plan of attack for getting on and off the trains....but we really don't look like we're taking the trains across Europe.

The majority of the stuff in the luggage, we don't need during our travels...but we don't want to spend the money on shipping it to the U.S.

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Vienna after spending some time with our lovely Slovak friends.  It's been surprisingly chilly and windy (which is a wonderful change after Saturday's 57482390574830 degree weather).  Today we frollicked about museums...checking out Monet, Miró, Picasso, Matisse, Klimt, and more.
Klimt's "The Kiss"
The highlight for me was seeing Klimt's "The Kiss".  Any photo I've seen of it (including this one that I stole from Google Images) does not come close to doing it justice.  It's so much bigger than I thought and the gold in the paint and the vibrancy in the colors of the patterns are so impressive and amazing. 

Currently Keith and I are hanging out at the bar in our hostel.  We have an hour until we need to gather our luggage (all 100 kilos of it) and head to the train station.  Our train leaves at 10:23pm and arrives in Berlin at 9:09am.  Greer will be there...and maybe the Frenchie...we'll get to meet up in the evening.  I hope he's still wearing his army helmet everywhere.
Meg & Greer (wearing the helmet he bought at the Pécsi Flee Market)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You say Hállo, and I say Hello, Hállo, Hello"


I hate goodbyes…which is one reason why I particularly like that Hungarians say, "Hállo" when coming and going.

I don’t know anyone who particularly likes goodbyes, but I think Keith handles them much better than I do.  He tells me, “Our only purpose on the Earth is so spread goodness…be the best we can for ourselves and those around us…when you’re sad about saying goodbye, it means we’re doing our job well.”  

This morning was rough…I was acutely hung over and an emotional disaster.  We still had some cleaning to do since Anna and Beszti Eszti came over last night, distracting us from our to do lists.  Whilst cleaning, Keith started reminiscing… “Remember when we first got here…when we first walked into the flat and we were like, ‘Where the hell are we and what are we doing here?!’” And with that I began sobbing and didn’t stop until we were about 20 minutes outside of Pécs (which was a few hours later).

Silliness during our last night in Pécs

I met some amazing people in Pécs…I also met my fair share of weirdos, but that is to be expected. I didn’t think saying goodbye to my students would be so hard.  Some of them drove me absolutely crazy, but I’m so proud of all of them.  Zéti (the biter) was a difficult goodbye…his abilities to communicate at all have grown exponentially this year.  Yesterday morning I went to Eszter’s house to sign my quitting papers.  Emma and Emi met me at the door and said, “Hello, Meg!” (They are both almost 3 years old and in the younger group at Ladybird).  They then began singing the ABCs, which made my heart melt.  And then there are the Mexicans…I cannot even begin to express how much I love them.  Saying goodbye to Ana was really hard…so we made it short and sweet.  I know I will see them again.

We are on the train from Budapest to Bratislava/Pozsony…it’s a much prettier stretch than the ride from Pécs to Budapest.  Visiting Andrej and Nina (and Luci and Majo and Sonia) is like going home to family.  Keith and Andrej met in Moodus, Connecticut in 1998 and have remained close friends…and this was before Facebook…so I know it will be easy to keep in touch with the awesome people I met in Pécs…at minimum we’ll be able to Facebook stalk each other.

I haven’t been very good at updating the blog as of late, but I plan on being better…at least over these next three weeks.  We’re taking the trains across Europe, eventually flying out of Madrid.  I plan on writing on the train and uploading as soon as I have internet access. 

Sok puszi!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Croatian Road Trip: Part II--Yugoslav Wars

The Yugoslav Wars, from 1991 until 1995, were the first "conflicts" to be formally judged as genocidal since World War II.  Keith was 10 when these armed conflicts erupted.  It was the first real international affair he paid attention to.  The brutality of the wars deeply impacted him. Even when we were getting ready to move to Hungary, Keith was anxious about living so closely to Croatia because in his mind that was, "where you go to die."

The conflicts were primarily based on "ethnic tensions."  The Serbs against the Croats and Bosniaks and Slovenes...and then the Croats against the Bosniaks.  (Later I will get into my problems with "culture" and "being different" and how it fuels the fires of hatred...when really 99% of our genes are the same...but another time)

The Yugoslavian Wars are made up of three wars:
1. War in Slovenia 1991
2. Croatian War for Independence 1991-1995
3. Bosnian War 1992-1995

Slovenia Flag

The war for independence in Slovenia lasted 10 days.  88 people total (Slovenes, Yugoslav nationalists, and foreigners) lost their lives.  Slovenia officially became a European Community member on January 15, 1992 and a member of the United Nations on May 22, 1992.

Croatia Flag

The Croatian War for Independence was fought between forces loyal to the Croatian government, which  declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFR Yugoslavia),  the Serbian-controlled Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).   In Croatia, the war is primarily referred to as the Homeland War (Domovinski rat) and also as the Greater-Serbian aggression (Velikosrpska agresija).

Driving through Croatia we saw a lot of the the scars from the war--mostly what looked to be houses that had been shot at.  I've been told that people have left many houses with the scars as a reminder of the war.  Across the street from our bed & breakfast in Plitvice was one of these houses. 
View from outside the house
Bathroom

Living Room - tree and moss growing inside.  Someone's socks drying...indicating squatters.

The owner of the B&B told us that an elderly couple lived there during the war and it was burned down.  Although the children live up the road from here, they haven't done anything with the house.  Obviously, we had to explore.  I was too scared to go in, but Keith snapped some photos. 

Bosnia Herzegovina Flag

The Bosnian War becomes even more complex and hate filled due to "ethnic differences."  This territory of Yugoslavia eventually became the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina
More on this later.

Serbia Flag


Croatian Road Trip: Part I

"I think you did a good job driving, but I will never be your passenger on a road trip again--especially if you are driving stick." -Keith Lambert

I feel the same way...I definitely feel "cool" to be able to drive a manual transmission automobile, but I really hate driving.  It is a very stressful experience for me and everyone else involved.  We got lost about 5783902576834906743890 times. 

Once we got to Plitvice, Croatia.....it was incredible and very much worth it.  Definitely the most beautiful place I have ever been.  The lakes were made into a national park in 1949 and is Croatia's largest national park (294.82 km squared).  UNESCO put it on the list of World Natural Heritages sites in 1979. 

Plitvice Lakes




Fish swimming out of part of the Supljara caves

Keith watching Veliki Slap, Croatia's largest waterfall, Plitvice



View of the Plitvice Lakes from the bluffs
We hiked for seven hours and the incredible beauty didn't stop.  We thought we'd see a few awesome waterfalls and that would be the end...but it just kept going.  We took a ferry across one of the lakes to get to a different part of the trail...the ride into the dock was incredible.  It reminded me of that scene in the first Jurassic park when they are taking the helicopter onto the island.



video
 Scientists identified 1267 different plant species (including 55 different types of orchids), 321 species of butterflies, 161 species of birds, and 21 species of bats in the national park.  The forest is also home to brown bears.