Tuesday marked our 6-month travelversary. On June 17th, 2013, we boarded a plane to Boston on the first leg of our journey, a bit stunned that the trip we had been planning for years was finally happening. Exactly six months to the date, we began another leg of our adventure as we left Europe for Southeast Asia (our first stop is Bangkok, Thailand). Six months on the road taught us to minimize expectations, land with open minds, and let the place welcome us.
To mark the travelversary’s occasion, here are some highlights of the trip so far.
Best facing-my-biggest-fear moment (Lindsay)
Hiking through the Malá Studená Dolina in Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains this July, I spotted some tiny colored dots scaling the rock mountainside a mile or so ahead. “Oh, look, ” I said to Peter. “Rock climbers.” A little while later, as we approached the steep cliff leading up to the saddle we needed to cross, Peter said, “Those weren’t rock climbers. That’s our trail.”
To my utter horror, the path stopped and the chains leading 70 m (210 ft) straight up a rock wall began. I took a deep breath, grabbed a chain, and began a mantra I would not stop repeating until I reached the top “You’re strong, you’re brave, keep going, don’t look down.”
Best Shining moment (Peter)
Belgrade’s Avala Mountain is more than an hour by public transportation outside of downtown. A short hike led us through a forest deserted save for a man staring at the trees on a bench. We shared the park at the top with fallen leaves and the famous TV tower with the angry wind. Caryatids representing all the nations of a dead country that is Yugoslavia failed to lift the sense of abandonment from the black-granite sarcophagus of the 1930’s WWI Monument to the Unknown Hero.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the Avala Restaurant greeted us with flute-playing Pan figures adorning column capitals and a waiter sporting a tux and a unibrow. We sat in the corner of a room whose red carpet, white upholstery, and golden trim aiming at creating a fancy feel only accentuated its eery emptiness. When glass rattled in the door banging shut behind us, we couldn’t help but walk faster.
Greatest “at home” moment (Lindsay)
I was very excited to visit Belgrade and meet Peter’s Serbian friends, especially because travel can get a bit lonely when you’re used to socializing a lot with close friends back home. The Serbians will “insult you to see if you are okay,” and if you pass the test, you are instantly part of their family.
Hanging out with the gang on Djordje’s balcony watching the sun set over Belgrade, drinking copious amounts of homemade rakija (clear brandy), and feasting on various grilled meats, it all suddenly felt very familiar, like I belonged there.
Best football moment (Peter)
The night Bosnia and Herzegovina’s football (soccer in the U.S.) team played my home country Slovakia in the World Cup qualifier we found ourselves walking with my college friend Beca from Kibe restaurant downhill through quiet streets past cafes and pubs and eateries filled with (mostly) men staring at television screens where the game unfolded. The City Pub exploded when Bosnia scored (twice), arms shot up in the air, hugging and chanting and jumping followed. After the final whistle, the whole city ran out into the streets, people waved scarves and flags, cars honked, and the celebration ended up continuing deep into the night. The game having eliminated Slovakia from the running, I pledged to support the Bosnian team in Brazil. Ajde momci!
Best lunch for under $4 (Lindsay)
Call it döner, shoarma, or gyro, those tree-trunk-shaped, rotating pillars of roasted meat always weirded me out. The just seems so…exposed. But a friend had told me that gyros in Greece were the best street food, so when we arrived to the Greek island of Santorini, whose main town Fira is littered with gyro pita counters, I had to try one. And now my mouth is watering as I remember the crispy soft pita stuffed with spicy meat, creamy tzatziki, salad, and french fries for 2.40 euros. Nothing from a Portland food cart will ever compare.
Most poetic cheese
Manouri was supposed to be just another Greek cheese at taverna Roka, in Oia on Santorini, fried with a honey glaze and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. But when I tasted the first morsel, I thought I never had to eat anything else that night. The second morsel made me want to eat two kilos of it. I had the third just as the owner/waitress came by to ask how the food was, and all I could blurt out was, “I want to write a poem about this cheese.” I cannot remember the rest of the dinner, which Lindsay tells me was delicious, because I am still composing the ode two months later…