Bologna: Oldest European student city

Bologna was by far the most surprising city I visited in Italy. The city is very rich in history and maybe one of its biggest claims to fame is that it holds the oldest university in the world: the University of Bologna, founded in 1088! Now that’s old. When walking through the streets you can feel the medieval atmosphere that all the buildings give off. There is something very mysterious about the place, even though at first glance it doesn’t look like much.

I arrived on September 11th from Venice on a inter-regional train that stopped at every stop and had no air conditioning so it was brutal. But that’s Italy! My host, Davide, picked me up from the station when I arrived.  After being in Venice where there were no cars on the islands, I was a little shocked to see traffic when I arrived in Bologna. Traffic at 8 pm, that’s worse than Toronto. Davide lived about 20 minutes walk from the city centre which was great for my sight seeing. He prepared a traditional food of northern Italy, called piadina. It is a pita style bread that is folded and half and filled with goodies. In this case I had mine with spinach and gorgonzola (the favourite cheese of the north). Gorgonzola is like blue cheese in other parts of the world, but it is softer than what we are used to traditionally.

I noticed that in Italy, the apartments have stone floors, not wood or the fake stuff you find in North America, and all the ceilings are 12 feet high. It really opens up the rooms and brightens the place up. And it is very sound proof, I never heard anything the neighbours were up to, except what was on their TVs; Italians LOVE to listen to their TVs very loud. I have no idea why, and when I asked no one seemed to have an answer.

Main square

Main square

My first view of Bologna was on a night tour with Davide. The city is full of students and so we walked through the streets and I caught a glimpse of how lively the place is when it’s dark. The students fill the bars and cafes, and sit on the streets and play guitar and sing. It was really fantastic, and made me wish that my university experience had been filled with the same zeal.  On one street there were bill boards on the walls completely filled with white paper. These ads contained information about apartments for rent in the city. The students flock here at the beginning of the day to try and find somewhere to stay for the year, and a lot of the time will pay any price.

The students come here to find rental postings for apartments

The students come here to find rental postings for apartments

The next day I walked into Bologna alone and took a look at some of the important buildings and monuments. The city is much quieter than Venice, I don’t think people generally think of visiting Bologna because it doesn’t seem like the most interesting place on paper. A characteristic of the city all the arcades or porticoes that can be found throughout the entire city, and make it very easy to walk outside when it is raining. I happened to get stuck in a rain storm while I was visiting and the porticoes were life saving. And the porticoes will now lead me into the mini history lesson for this city.

Bologna is an extremely old city, dating back to at least 1000 BC and has been occupied by many empires. The city houses the world’s oldest university, that is now at least 1000 years old. It was the first institution to merge the science and the arts faculties. And much of the city is connected by kilometres and kilometres of porticoes, that were used in the past to keep the students’ horses out of the rain. I noticed that the city is actually a very glamorous place, as it is where some of the biggest brands in the world originated. For example, Ducati, Lamborghini, and Maserati all started in this city.

The Fountain of Neptune

The Fountain of Neptune

My walk from the apartment took me beside Porta San Donato, which was a Roman gate to the city at one point in time. Then I walked along Via Zamboni which leads into the heart of the university community and to Piazza Maggiore in the centre. In the Piazza stands the Basilica di San Petronio and the Palazzo Podesta. The basilica was intended to be larger than San Pietro’s in Rome but it was never completed. If you go see it for yourself you will notice that part of the structure is covered in white stone and the rest is red brick. The Piazza also holds the Fountain of Neptune, which was built in the end by Bandinelli.

One of the characteristics of the city are the Two Towers of Bologna, one of them completed and the other only half built and leaning. These towers were built by aristocratic families in the past to showcase their wealth and power. Those with the highest tower were usually the most powerful families.  The story of these two towers is that the taller was completed by a very wealthy family and then another family wanted to show up the other family so they began construction on the second tower right beside the first. But it was never completed because the foundation of the second tower wasn’t laid down properly and it began to lean. The family decided to stop the construction of the tower and it still remains only partly completed.

My second night in Bologna I spent with a Serbian guy named Nenad who was doing his PhD in Bologna for mechanical engineering. He actually was a fantastic guide even though he wasn’t originally from the city. He showed me this amazing store called Eataly (how clever) that is a bookstore, restaurant, winery, bar, and God knows what else all put into one place. It’s a hit with all the students. There is a very popular concept called “aperativo” which is present in Spain as well but called tapas. You go to a bar and you buy a drink for full price, and then you get a buffet of food. The offer begins at a certain time in the evening and last for a few hours or until the food is all gone. It’s a fantastic option for students who have a budget.

Me looking at Little Venezia through the window in the wall

Me looking at Little Venezia through the window in the wall

Nenad also told me about three other secrets of the city which I found very intriguing. One is something called Little Venezia. There is a place in the city where there is a window in the wall. When you open this window you would expect to see the interior of the building that surround it, however when you open the window you actually see a river that runs through the city and then under it. When he showed me I was actually completely shocked and I thought it was so nice to see. The second is a myth about 3 arrows that are scattered in the arcades of the city. The story goes something like this: a man was set to be executed by arrows in one of squares (where the 7 churches are) and a woman came on a horse and showed her bare breasts and the guards shot the arrows in all directions and they landed in the arcades. The prisoner escaped. I found it to be a funny myth and no one knows if it is true. We tried to find the arrows but weren’t successful. The third secret is actually very cool. In Piazza Maggiore, there is a little square with 4 arches connected by 4 pillars. When you go to a corner and a friend goes to the one opposite you, you can hear each other speak if you talk into the corner. But the people standing in the other two corners can’t hear what you’re saying. Apparently it was used by the church for confessions back in the day. I thought it was so cool.

In the end, I really enjoyed my 2 days in Bologna. I was not expecting much from the city and it totally shocked me. It may even be my favourite city in Italy after Rome. I think everyone should go to Bologna and check out some of the things I have mentioned. It will totally surprise and make the experience there a little more personal, even though so many know about the secrets, which doesn’t really make them secrets at all. Despite that, I loved the city and I think you would as well. Go check it out one day.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Venezia: Port of Italy

I left Vienna on September 8th from the Westbahnhof train station. My trip was 12 hours long until I finally reached Venice-Mestre train station on the morning of September 9th. I had no clue where to go upon my arrival. The information office had moved to another location and there was nowhere to ask for public transportation information. I had the option of finding my way to the bus, or paying 25€ for a taxi (which I wasn’t going to do). I managed to find someone along my walk and they pointed me toward the tram that runs from the major station in Mestre to Marco Polo Airport. I got off at the stop that the hotel had indicated to me and finally found my way to the reception desk.

Now this is where my trip to Venice gets interesting. The receptionist, at Smart Holiday Hotel (4*) tells me that something went wrong with my reservation and that they had to move me to another hotel down the street. My initial reaction was confusion, because I had reserved my room 2 months in advance. But after that passed, I slightly freaked out. What if the hotel they moved me to is horrible? No hot water? Bed bugs? Who knows what else. Their driver took me to the other hotel and I walked inside to find something not quite as modern as I had chosen, but it had a cozy feel to it. This hotel was called Hotel Ducale (3*) in Favaro. They told me my room wasn’t ready yet but that I could eat some breakfast if I wanted and wait in the lounge. I asked if I would be paying the same price for my room that I would have paid at the other hotel, and she told me that the Smart Holiday Hotel is going to pay my accommodation for me. Wow! I was shocked. They even paid for my tourist tax. So I put zero payment forward on my hotel in Venice, one of the most expensive places in Europe.

Now the hotel was fantastic. Everything was clean, breakfast was complementary, they had hot water and great water pressure. The staff were very nice and they speak many different languages so you could always find help when needed. It was located at a major intersection so there were quite a few transportation options available. The bus ride into Venice was about 20 minutes which isn’t too bad at all. For breakfast they had croissants, eggs, salami and cheese, jam, fruit, cereal, and all the drink options such as juice, water, and coffee. I was very pleased with the place and I totally recommend it to everyone.

Alright, so after getting into my room and settling in I decided to head into Venice. I had only ever seen the place in movies, so this was a dream come true. Through my couch surfing account, I had some correspondence with a guy named Mudy, who came from Egypt a few years ago to study in Venice and he fell in love with the place. He agreed to show me around the city, and ensure I didn’t get completely lost in the process. My first impression of the city was overwhelming. The place is so old and there are so many people pouring out of every corner. We went through so many alleyways that I had no clue where we were or how to get back to Piazzale Roma. I felt we had just done 10 circles around the same bridge. The heat didn’t help my confusion either.

Now as usual with my little writing pieces, some history of Venice is needed. I definitely can’t elaborate on everything because it is so complex, but some of the major points I will mention for sure. Venice is composed of 118 islands! It’s citizens came hundreds of years ago as refugees of war who decided to isloate themselves from the mainland. Now that’s serious stuff. The city was actually its own country at one point, the Republic of Venice. It was the meeting point of the East and the West, and the influences from all the cultures can be seen in the architecture of the buildings. Venice lost its independence when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the Republic in 1797.

San Marco

San Marco

After winding through all the alleyways with Mudy, we finally came into a large, open space: the Piazza San Marco. This square is so wide and is flanked by buildings with hundreds of columns. And on the one side stands Basilica di San Marco. The church is absolutely gorgeous. Its frescoes show two worlds: the East and the West. The architecture of the church even has some design elements that can be found on mosques. And let’s not forget the tourists. Thousands of tourists, too many in my opinion. But it is Venice, so the tourist situation is unavoidable.

Now Rialto is something extraordinary. First of all the number of people walking through the market is insane. Secondly, there are so many little shops to buy whatever your heart might desire. I picked up a sweet little ring that was handmade with beads. It’s a very popular craft in Venice, and I didn’t see it in any of the other cities I visited.

I also had the pleasure of walking through Campo Santa Sofia, which has a very large and bustling fish and vegetable market. The smell is overpowering and I heard many people haggling over the prices of the fresh goods. I really wish they had a market with such vibrancy in Toronto somewhere, but St. Lawrence Market just doesn’t have the same atmosphere.

Fruit and veggie market

Fruit and veggie market

A canal

A canal

Lastly, I need to describe the bus culture to those of you that have never been to Venice. So in general, in Italy, you buy your bus tickets from the Tabacchi stores right beside the bus stops. You also have the option to buy the tickets in the bus, but they are more expensive so I would really suggest getting them before you travel. You enter the bus through any door and you put your ticket into the little machine that will stamp a date and time onto your ticket. Unlike in Toronto where you pay a fare for any length of travel, in Italy you pay for the time. So one ticket might be valid for 100 minutes of travel, and if you exceed this then you have to validate two tickets. Another thing that was new to me was that even though you are waiting at the stop, that doesn’t mean the bus will stop. You have to hail the bus down like a cab so that he knows to stop. Isn’t that odd? I think it is.

Overall, Venice was gorgeous. It is alive with people, and its winding canals give the city so much character. I will definitely visit it again in the future.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ex-Yugoslavia: natural beauty

Hey again! I arrived in Belgrade, Serbia on August 16th safe and sound. Belgrade, Serbia’s largest city, has a population of about 1.15 million people which has increased in the last few years. I spent a couple nights in the city, staying in Milan’s, one of my cousins, apartment. He decided it would be a good idea to check out Belgrade’s Beerfest, which lasts 5 days and has all kinds of Serbian and ex-Yu bands playing live music until 4 AM. The night started with my purchase of 4L of beer (pivo in Serbian) for the equivalent of $4 CDN. You would never see that kind of price in Canada. So I drank 2L and Milan drank the other 2L and we set off for the festival with some friends. We arrived at Beerfest already tipsy and enjoyed the live music and beer until very early morning. We walked home, got there around 6 AM, and didn’t wake up until 3 PM that day. What a life!

My cousin and I

My cousin and I

I spent the Saturday trying to find a plug adaptor, because the “universal” one I bought at The Source wasn’t universal at all. I ended up finding what I needed when I came to Jagodina (a small city south of Belgrade, and where my family lives) in a Chinese dollar store for 80 cents!! It works amazingly, I might pick up a few more and send them home if I can…

So a little more about Jagodina. The name means strawberries. During Tito’s time it used to have a different name but that doesn’t matter anymore in this modern age. It has a population of about 36,000 in the city and is run by a big time politician who has made a huge number of improvements to the place.

I spent a few days here with my family, that includes my Aunt and Uncle (tetka and teča), my cousin Vesna, and my grandmother (baba). They live in a 3 storey house about a 10 minute walk from the city centre. It is quiet, but sometimes the stray dogs barking can get on your nerves. My grandmother lives in a little town just outside of Jagodina called Ribare (which means fishermen). She was probably the happiest to see me of all the people I saw here, but of course grandmothers are usually like that.

The time then came to head to Montenegro with my tetka. We left early morning on August 21st in a bus headed for Budva, Montenegro. Since I am already on vacation, why not take more of a vacation? The route took us through Novi Pazar, not far from the Serbian-Kosovo border, and through Podgorica in Montenegro, past Lake Skadar, and into Budva. We had a couple pit stops along the way, and I must say that the scenery at night is quite eerie when you are in the mountains of Montenegro. All you see are stars, and then mountain peaks against the bluish-black sky, and below just a black abyss where a river flows. The highway winds through the mountains, sometimes making you wonder if you will fall down into the darkness.

Standing in a street in Budva

Standing in a street in Budva

Budva is the most popular coastal city in Montenegro. It has an Old Town, with cobble stone roads flanked by stone walls. A typical fortress built hundreds of years ago by the Romans and Turks. In the centre is a clock tower and usually a church of some sort, and then a maze of lanes and alley ways to get lost in.

My view from the window

My view from the window

My tetka and I stayed in a  room in Rafailovići, about a 45 minute walk from Budva’s Old Town. Along the water are restaurants, cafes, amusement parks, and clubs. The stretch of beach between Budva and a hill called Zavala is called Slovenska Plaža (beach). East of this hill, you will find Rafailovići and other towns. We found a room for 10 Euros a night per person, with a shared bathroom, which is not bad at all for this time of year. It was situated right on the beach and had a balcony overlooking the water.

Even though I wasn’t in Montenegro for very long I did decide to take a couple trips outside of Budva and see what the country is about. Our first excursion was to Kotor, Montenegro. This city was settled by the Romans in 168 BC but was greatly influenced by the Venetians in the 15th century. The city is flanked by the Bay of Kotor on one side and then by mountains on all remaining sides. Up in the mountains you can see the remnants of old fort walls that were used to keep watch for invaders. Today the city is protected by UNESCO.

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

Ostrog Monastery

Ostrog Monastery

The next trip was the Monastery of Ostrog holding the remains of Saint Basil of Ostrog. It is the most famous pilgrimage site in Montenegro, where people come to offer prayers and have their illnesses cured. We drove up a mountain for kilometres of serpentine roads around the mountains. At some points when I looked out the window, I couldn’t see the road anymore, it was just a very long fall to the bottom. Despite the danger of the road, no one has ever been injured or died on their way up or down the monastery road. It is a monastery built into the mountain of Ostroška Greda. When I asked my tetka, why anyone would ever want to build a monastery in a place so unreachable, she told me that it was the only way to protect our Serbian heritage from the Turkish invaders. I have to admit that when I was in the monastery there is a very eerie and powerful feeling that envelops you. At some points I had tears in my eyes, it is not something I am able to explain. You feel a strong presence when you are there.

My last trip took me across the border to Croatia to see the city of Dubrovnik. It is an absolutely stunning place. It is very similar to Budva and Kotor, because of its ancient roots, but there is something more magical about it. Its ancient Roman name is Ragusa. On a sunny day the sun beats off the walls of this city, and the heat rebounds off the ground making it very hot. Your consolation are the many fountains located around the city with a constant supply of fresh, cold water. I found the place totally enchanting, with the boats swaying in the water in the harbour, and the sheer antiquity of all the structures. This city is also protected by UNESCO, so most of the buildings are unchanged. You have to see it to fully appreciate it.

Main street filled with tourists

Main street filled with tourists

View of the pier

View of the pier

I absolutely loved my time here in Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. And I will be back in December to explore some more of these countries in a different season. I would recommend anyone to visit some of these places, you will be blown away. My next stops are Vienna and Salzburg. We will see each other again soon!

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Vienna & Bratislava: Pretty in white

On September 2 the time came for me to say good bye to my family in Serbia and come here to Vienna to see my very good friend Nina and her family. Nina and I met in Cuba when I travelled there for my 16th birthday and we have been good friends every since. When I arrived at Tesla Airport in Belgrade with Vesna, my other cousin, we checked my bag and went upstairs for a coffee. I had to pleasure of being amused by a group of bikers from Germany who couldn’t figure out how to pay for their food with the Serbian Dinar (they are accustomed to the Euro). After passing through security, I decided it would be nice to buy a bottle of local wine for Nina’s family. They enjoy these kinds of cultural things. So I picked a nice red wine from 2009, can’t remember the name of it now unfortunately. Upon my arrival in Vienna, I took this bottle of wine with me to get my baggage from the conveyor belt, and someone decided to slam into me, and the bottle of wine broke into two pieces. I left it on the side of the hallway against the wall, and I am sure it made a huge mess. It is possible that my face is stuck to the walls of the airport now and I will be caught when I go back for a flight. Fortunately I am leaving the country by train.

Austria belongs to something called the Schengen Area. This area is made up of 26 European countries that together form a large mega state. When travelling between the countries in the Schengen Area, there is virtually no border control. Access to this area with or without a visa depends on the travel documents you possess. For Canadians and Americans, travel within this area is capped at 90 days within a six month period, at which point you would need to obtain a tourist visa to remain in the area, or leave the Schengen Area for six months before returning.

Austria comprises of nine states, Vienna is one of them. This city is the capital of Austria with a population of about 1.7 million in the main core, and 2.5 million in the metropolitan area (think of our city of Toronto versus the Greater Toronto Area). The population has increased with the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Turkey. Vienna has 23 districts, I stayed with Nina in the 18th. Getting to the centre wasn’t hard at all. I took one tram to Schottentor station which is on the Ring, and is walking distance from all the sights. The transit system is more intricate than ours in Toronto. It comprises of 4 subway lines (U-bahn) and the multiple lines that circle the city (S-bahn) and trams and buses that can get you anywhere. There are many ticket options such as single ride, 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, week pass, 8-day, month pass, and year pass. And it costs a fraction of what we pay in Toronto for a system that doesn’t work. I absolutely love the transit system here, and I know you will too.

Spanish Riding Academy - Vienna

Spanish Riding Academy – Vienna

I have been to Vienna before, so this time around I didn’t have to do the sightseeing stuff. Every day I would head to the centre to walk around, look at the architecture of the buildings, and watch the people. Thousands of tourists come to this city every year. My first day I got completely lost at Stephansplatz, which is a huge pedestrian zone surrounding Stephansdom, the largest Gothic church in Vienna and also the tallest building in the old city. This area also has many shopping options with all kinds of luxury stores to choose from, if your wallet can handle it of course.

I need to make a note about European banks. Generally, most Canadian banks, if not all, belong to the PLUS network and you can withdraw money abroad for a very low fee or maybe even for free. In Serbia I had no problems finding banks that are part of PLUS, but Austria is an entirely different story. I was only able to find the network through the Bank of Austria. Luckily this bank is everywhere (literally) so withdrawing money is much easier.

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of going to Nina’s parents’ house and having palacinke or crepes made by her mother. We have this food in Serbia as well, and I have noticed during this past week that a lot of the food is the same, just made a little differently. But in my opinion, the Serbian versions still taste better.

I did go out a few times during my stay in Vienna and I will describe a few of the places in case you may want to check them out when you visit this city. I went to a restaurant in Naschmarkt, which is a market south of the Museum Quarter in Vienna. There I ate at a restaurant called doan, and I ordered the Exotic Salad, which actually was fantastic. This area is very lively and smells fantastic from all the goods on sale. Another night I went to the University campus to a bar called Stiegl-Ambulanz. It has a great patio outside and the inside has a really nice ambient feel. Then there is Charlie P’s just north of Schottentor station, that is open a little later than other pubs in Vienna. This is an Irish Pub and serves a wide variety of beer. There is the bar Kolar, found in Stephansplatz, that is located in a little laneway made of cobblestone roads. And finally there is a neat little strip located near Spittelau station on the U6 line, that has some neat clubs and bars in the newly remodeled area under the bridge.

Small street - Bratislava

Small street – Bratislava

On Friday I spent the day in Bratislava, Slovakia, which is only 1 hour away from Vienna by train and it costs 14 euros for a round trip ticket. I arrived to a busy train station where English is not a prominent language. Bus tickets are cheap and the historic centre is about 2 or 3 stops away from the main train station. After spending some time finding my bearings I ended up in the centre of Bratislava’s old historical centre. It is a very small place and it can be walked through in a few hours. Bratislava was found in the 5th century AD and later was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until they became a sovereign country in 1994. I visited the Primatial Palace which was the former residence of the Archbishop at the end of the 1700s and it is where the Hall of Mirrors is located. There is also St. Michael’s Gate which is the only remaining gate to the city. The other 3 were destroyed by war most likely. There is also Bratislava Castle, located to the west of the Old City. It is a little walk away, and a climb up a medium sized hill, but the view of the river from the top is beautiful and the castle stands out in the sun.

St. Michael's Gate as I walk up Kosor (pedestrian walkway)

St. Michael’s Gate as I walk up Kosor (pedestrian walkway)

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava Castle

I enjoyed a nice meal in the city centre at a restaurant that serves authentic Slovakian food. I ordered some beef goulash made with dark beer, onions, a hard boiled egg, and some chili pepper. This is served with bread of course. I also drank a beer called Saris (pronounced Sharish) which was fantastic. I will definitely look for it in Canada.

Over all my trip to these 2 countries was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Vienna is familiar already, and Bratislava has the charm that small places usually do. I would recommend both to anyone. Why not go to both cities when they are so close together right?

Next stop, Italy!

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Twenty-one days later

It has been 21 days since I entered the plane in Toronto to come here to travel Europe, and see what this continent has to offer. So far the adventure has been enjoyable, but also difficult. In Serbia I had my family to keep me company and visiting people kept me busy. Now in Vienna, I have realized that this trip will not be as easy as I thought it would be.

The emotional hurdles I have faced this week have been difficult to deal with. I am in a city where I do not know many people. Despite the fact that I am staying with my very good friend Nina, I still feel alone. Nothing is familiar here. There is a slight language barrier, and people here are not as friendly as you would think they are. I have even heard Austrians say that they do not like how cold Austrians are. The lack of friendliness here is hard to get used to.

I always thought that time zones were easier to adjust to, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Yes I go to bed at a normal time here and wake up at a normal time, but my body still has not adjusted to this new clock. I find myself so tired sometimes, and I feel that the time change has something to do with it. Additionally, the diet isn’t the same. I ate fruits and vegetables all the time in Toronto, it constituted a large portion of my diet. But here in Europe people don’t have the same mentality about food, and eating healthy isn’t a huge priority. I have started taking a multivitamin to get the vitamins that are lacking from my diet. Hopefully in a few weeks I will notice an improvement in the fatigue level.

Lastly, I miss my family and friends. I do talk to them on a regular basis but it isn’t the same as seeing their faces. Even if I had a travel companion, I would still miss all these people. Of course, the Austrian hospitality level does not help the situation much. I have high expectations that southern Europe will be very different. Italy, Spain, and Portugal are known for their openness and warm attitudes. My outlook on this trip can change drastically come Sunday. I will let you know how it goes.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

With preparation comes sleep deprivation

As I entered my last year of university I began to wonder where my life would go once I graduated. Many options ran through my mind, such as continuing my education in grad school or paramedic college, or even starting to work right away. But my heart settled on the decision to head to Europe and see everything I have always wanted to see. My family can tell you, I am not one to go off and travel alone. I tend to stay close to home, and when I do travel I go for short periods of time so that I won’t miss home too much. But I finished school after five emotionally and psychologically difficult years, so why wouldn’t I go off on a well deserved adventure?

After coming back from Japan in February I realized that I want to see other parts of the world. I want to experience different cultures and become a global citizen to the best of my ability. I decided to sit down at a computer and buy my ticket to Europe. Now some advice for people who are looking to travel to Europe in the summer: buy your tickets in advance!!! Prices double and sometimes triple the longer you wait to buy tickets, and it will lead you to second guess your desire to pack up and run away.

For the longest time this trip felt so far away. Now I am 3 days away from leaving and the nervousness and panic are starting to set in. As well as some excitement for what’s to come. I have made multiple packing lists and reread them over and over. I have mulled over how many pairs of shoes I want to carry, and how much underwear is necessary for a trip like this. I need my travel insurance, and my credit cards, and God only knows what else. I have to think about my safety, but also go and have fun. And then I have to leave my family and friends for a while. This is the hardest part, to go to a place unfamiliar and unknown, and try to find comfort.

My goal with this trip is to find out who I am, to learn my boundaries and to test them, to work on my patience, and to see the world from a different perspective. New friends will be made, and new lessons will be learned. I invite you to join me on this adventure through this blog.

Until we see each other again, it will be my knapsack and I.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide,Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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