Thursday, December 11, 2008

A FEW VIDEOS

Me trying to unlock the sequence on the perfect tree in Meteora Greece. I'm obsessed, what can I say.


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Traffic Jam on the Monastery road in Meteora.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

MY BIG FAT GREEK VACATION

Leaving on the train in Thessoliniki (by the way these pictures are in reverse order- I dunno, I'm an idiot).
This the outside market in Thessoliniki. Notice all the meat hanging. There were all kinds of meats, fishes, vegetables, and other "old world" products.

One of the monasteries in Meteora

Tracy topping out a cool boulder in Meteora.

Some of our passes from the monasteries.

My lady of the woods.

All of these human skulls were in one of the monasteries. I swear it was something out Indiana Jones.

A little cairn we made to mark one of the "trails" we took while exploring.

Look closely and you can see this mank ring on one of the climbs.


Pulling party tricks in a valley in Meteora.


Meteora terrain

More Meteora terrain shooting out of window in a monastery.
More human skulls. We found about 20 human skulls and leg bones just sitting outside at one of the monasteries. I'd never seen any shit like that before.

I should have taken one of these now that I think about it.

The view from our apartment in Meteora. I loved this place. I just needed a drill, about 200 bolts, and a healthy finger and I would have gone to town.


Tracy climbing
Outdoor model of the year :)

More Meteora terra firma. These pics don't do it any justice. It was such a beautiful contrast of gray and orange stone with bright vibrant hues of green in the grass, moss, and foliage.

Mist shrouding the rock pinacles in Meteora


A perfectly positioned 40 meter pinacle

This particular morning we took the road less traveled and I was able to convince Tracy to follow me up through a gully with some 4 class terrain and down another to reach a huge valley where we hiked out of and up to our first monastery of the trip.

In the town of Kastraki. What a cool little town. We stayed here and it felt as if you woke up along with the monoliths.

A local church in Kastraki. By the end of our trip we were thinking of ways how we could live here for a few years.

Downtown Thessoliniki

Old fortress tower used to look out for the Turks.

Pizza Hut in Greek.
Starbucks in Greece.
Looking out into the Adriatic. If you look closely enough you can make out snow capped mountains in the distance. It was beautiful.


Some of the bikes in Thessoliniki. I swear people rode everything from scooters to dirtbikes to crazy rigs like this BMW deal.
I saw many different music fliers for great musicians but don't worry they still have Greek Geek acts like this one for "Theosoroius the Love Crooner".

You know the city is good when they have Pink Floyd tribute bands and bring acts like Public Enemy, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden into the hizzy.


One good thing (and really the only good thing) about teaching at our school is that we get both American holidays and local holidays off. This makes for many long weekends. Over Thanksgiving (God I missed that Turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, stuffing, drool, drool, drool) we took advantage of the 4-day weekend and disembarked to the land of the grape leaf, or the land of slavaki, or the land of the gyro; or as I learned the land of the Greek staple- Lamb meat. I always felt kind of bad eating a poor, little, cute, lamb but after a few juicy tender bites I made my peace with it and grubbed like a fatty mcgee.

Well to make a long story short, our trip down there was epic. We missed the bus out of Prishtina to Skopje. Because we needed to make our 4pm train from Skopje to Thessoliniki we had no choice but give in to the road pirates and pay the 65Euros to get to Skopje. Fucking outrageous! Then, to add more stress and complication into the matter, we come to find that no train is leaving Skopje at 4 pm but instead the train now leaves at 8am. Well, this wouldn't have been so bad if we actually enjoyed Skopje and hadn't booked a hotel in Thessolinki for the night. After a bit of weighing out our options we decided it would be best to take another taxi to the Greek border and from there catch a shuttle bus to Thessoliniki. Once again we hand over our hard (and I mean years off your life HARD) earned money to the road pirate and spend the next 3 hours in a nicotine torture chamber. Awesome, this is exactly how I pictured my BIG FAT GREEK VACATION to start. Finally, we reach the Greek border and we look for our connecting shuttle to Thessoliniki like the taxi driver assured us there would be. Duped again!! That's right, of course there's no shuttle. Once again, we pay yet another road pirate to get us to Thessoliniki. Finally, after nearly 8 hours of travelling, 200 Euros less, and me boiling mad at the circumstances you get into not having a car, we finally reach Thessoliniki. After a short walk we crash for the night and hope that the next few days will be much better.
After a good nights rest and a free breakfast with REAL COFFEE (that made my day right there) we head out into the city to explore. Right away I felt about a million, no make that a gazillion times better walking around this city than in Prishtina. Thessoliniki was a real city with diversity in culture, food, music, art, architecture, etc. It is also beautiful with its location right on the adriatic. A few things came as a surprise to me: 2 out of every 5 people drive a scooter or motorcycle in the city, Americana rings loud in Thessoliniki with music acts such as Public Enemy and Strike Anywhere fliers pasting buildings, Starbucks on every other block. Ruby Tuesdays, TGIFridays, Applebees, and even Pizza Hut serving food in the city, and name brands like General Electric, Ford, McDonalds, Shell Gas, competing and probably outselling many of the local brands with the amount of billboards they were advertised on. Another thing that surprised me was how good I felt being in a clean (well as far as cities go) and modern environment.

After picking up our rental car (this car cost 18 Euros a day to rent compared to the 60 a day in Prishtina) we hightailed (or so we thought we would) it out of the city to where we would spend the majority of our trip- Meteora Greece. Navigating in Greece proved tougher than we thought. As I was driving trying desperately to not get into an accident or kill one of the thousand maniacal scooter drivers whizzing in and out of traffic, Tracy was reading road signs and checking our crappy Greek road map. Needlsess to say we lost over an hour taking countless wrong turns while we screamed at each other blaming the other for not doing his/her "job". Finally, we made out of the city. Whew!!!

Now, between yesterday's taxi musical chairs and today's navigational horror show the stress meter was redlining. As we began climing into the hills of the central Greek countryside both of us began to cool down and started to downright enjoy our vacation. We put on some traditional Greek music and rocked (uh, maybe rocked is not the word) out as we drove towards Meteora. After we couldn't take the Greek music anymore we tried the American rock station. Some of it was good and other songs were the absolute worst hair band rock acts of the 80s. Nothing like cruising through Greece at 140km/hr blasting some Poison knock off band.

I knew of Meteora because of my rock climbing obsession but we didn't chose it solely on the climbing. I knew that it was an absolutely beautiful location with ancient monasteries perched on monoliths nearly 1000 meters high in some places. I also knew that between the culture, natural beauty, and outdoor activities we would both enjoy it. When we finally arrived we were not disappointed. Pictures don't do this place justice but its all I have to share with you guys until I see you and then I'm sure I chew your ear off with stories. I'm getting tired and don't feel like typing much more so I'll let the pictures and captions tell you the rest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

OLD MAN WINTER CAME KNOCKING


The old, abandoned Serbian church
A few birds trying to get some food from a plant poking out of the snow
Pro-Credit Bank in downtown Prishtina
In front of our school, American School of Kosova

This past Saturday I awoke to a heavy snow falling. I remember wondering why it looked so light outside in the middle of the night when I had briefly awoken, but I shrugged it off to my imagination. Finally, around 6am when I got up for good I looked out the window and saw a blanket of white snow covering as far as I could see in the city. Immediately I felt the buzz that a snow storm gives me. It was as if the city was transformed into an entirely new environment. I knew from the swelling feeling inside me that I needed to submerge myself in the new environment. I also had this trip planned with my Outdoor Club from school in which we were suppose to meet at 7:30 am and go on a day hike in Matka Canyon, Macedonia. As I walked to school I realized that the chances of most of the kids showing up was slim, and even slimmer chance of getting the buses to do the 2 hr drive to Matka.

When I arrived at school only 1 student, Krenare, was there. She had the same buzz as I and was ready to make the most of this new environment. Within a few minutes another student arrived, Sami. He too was one of us. As a group of 3 we waited around for awhile for any other students but none came. We took one look at the bus which was running and ready to go, but decided that the rear tires were so bald, and the roads were to bad to risk the drive to Matka. So, we did the next best thing and walked through the city and made our way to Germia Park where we could get into the woods and hike the snowed in trails. Krenare wanted to take photos of the snowed in city so she went her separate way. Sami and I spent the next 7 hours or so hiking, helping stuck cars get out, and talking about life. It was great to connect on a different level with one of my students. Sami is an extremely bright kid with a great perspective on things. It was great to share with him and learn from him throughout the day. He hopes one day to design cars. I have no doubt that if that's the path he continues on, that sure enough, one day he will be the one shaping the future look of automobiles. Here are a few pictures that I took from the day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A FEW SHORT WEEKEND TRIPS MIXED UP WITH WEEKLY BOREDOM


Looking into Tara Canyon Montenegro

Hiking in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Durmitor Ski resort

Look closely, I took these pictures one morning to capture the massive crow invasion that wakes us up every morning. I swear there are literally thousands.


Drinking beer, hiking, and cow roaming wild-yup, that's Montenegro


This one's for you Andrea. A local meat shop where they hang the animal in the window and drain the blood out. UMM YUMMY!
Prizren- an old Ottoman city
Last weekend me and Tracy rented a car and drove over the mountain into Montenegro. We didn't have any real plan but just went exploring. We had hopes of finding this place Durmitor National Park but one thing I've learned living in this part of the world is to not expect finding a place when you can't speak the language, read the road signs, and have never been there before. Lucky for us we found Durmitor but not without nearly driving out of the country into Serbia. Here are some pictures from our trip. The video is funny as hell and a perfect example of how boredom can seriously affect a person.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Craziness in Macedonia and at home


My new do. Notice the facial growth -1 week so far, only 6.5 more to go. I love how it grows in like Joe Dirt, all redneck like.


Blues brotha

Standing among legends-city murals in Skopje, Macedonia

Some cows shared the path with us on route from Matka Canyon to Skopje

Umm! Doh!nuts

This bear is locked in this cage the size of Uhaul truck. Oh, and the cage is right next to the playground. I'm suprised a kid hasn't reached into the cage yet and gotten mauled.

Hanging at a local Kulla-a traditonal "hangout" for local men to discuss issues

Here are a few pictures we took on a trip to Skopje, Macedonia. I was a concentration camp victim for Halloween, hence the shaved head. No, not really-just a rash decision because I was hot and annoyed with hair curling around my ears. One more thing... Tracy has always wanted me to grow a beard but I always end of shaving after a week or so because it starts to annoy me. In fact the longest I've ever gone without shaving was 3 weeks one summer ago. We have a bet going between the two of us in which if I win-I WIN BIG TIME!!! So, I'm determined to win. All I have to do is not shave until we return to the states on Dec. 21. So, I'll post a picture of me to evaluate the grizz-factor every couple of weeks. Just wait, I'll return to the states like a Pakistani terrorist but a great reward awaits me.
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