Euromaidan Unrest

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I wanted to write something about what is happening in Kiev right now, however I am not there and don’t have a first person perspective on the situation. I have been hearing from friends that are there and its bad. Really ugly and deadly.
Here is an article to get informed if you wish.
It’s written by an Ukrainian in the streets, standing up for what is right.

EuroMaidan

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Mostar

20131102-114412.jpgAfter the crowds of Croatia, I wanted to head inland to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I took a bus from Split to Mostar. I sat next to a nice Italian woman who had been living in Spain for 2 years. She was also traveling alone and Couchsurfing her way round the Balkins. It was a nice bit of comfort to meet someone with the same outlook on travel and good will in people.

When I got off the bus, I didn’t have a map, my phones GPS which sometimes gives out a single on the maps app wasn’t working,and all I had was a street name and vague directions to get to a hostel I had read about. I looked wearily around, but I didn’t even know which direction town was so I took my best guess and started walking until I saw a couple to confirm my instincts. I went looking for a hotel or tourist information to get a map and on my way I crossed one of the many bridges in town. On the bridge, a young boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old stopped me and pointed to the river below. I couldn’t tell what he wanted until he made a gesture of a camera and a snapping sound. He was telling me to take a picture of the flowing river. Why? I didn’t know and I hated that I had a gut reaction that he wanted me to take out my camera so he could steal it. When this was my first thought I was saddened especially right after having a reenergized spirit from my conversation on the bus. So, I did it after hesitating and pushing my fear away, I took out my iPhone and snapped a few photos, and we both walked away, off the bridge in different directions smiling. Thanks kid for proving me wrong.

This city has a rich history, and a not such a positive one.
The destruction from the 1990’s is everywhere. Buildings and bridges bombed and left for a decade as reminders of the devestation that occurred.
When talking to the locals, I was shocked at the positivity and friendliness of their manner. It was such a contrast to their surroundings that I was unsure of the quality of their behavior. It was proved time and time how genuine the Mostar people are.

I ran into a couple of ladies enjoying their lunch at a small park while I was still trying to find a hostel. I walked up and they were eager to help, so much so they proposed driving me the few extra feet to the correct street because I looked exhausted and sweaty I’m sure.

When I arrived at the hostel, the owner’s spoke very little English, only HELLO and WELCOME. With gestures the wife pointed me towards the showers and cornflakes. Both were highly appreciated.

When I felt like myself again, I ventured out to find the famous Old Bridge that connects two parts of the city. It is an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkins region.The Stari Most is hump-backed, 4 metres (13 ft 1 in) wide and 30 metres (98 ft 5 in) long, and dominates the river from a height of 24 m (78 ft 9 in). 

The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the War in Bosnia. I was told that it took 60 shells to destroy the bridge. A temporary cable bridge was erected in its place until the completion of the reconstructed Stari Most in 2004.

Diving off the bridge is a traditional annual competition organized every year in the summer. Until 2013 it has been done 477 times. I was lucky enough to arrive just a few days after the competition when some divers had hung around to explore the bridge dynamics a little more intimately. Altough, at all times of the year, local men dive off the bridge as they collect money. They dive once they reach about 23 Euros in donations.

The incline getting onto the bridge, with its limestone slick surface makes for a perfect people watching destination. Especially when you run into the ice cream shop of the lady I met earlier who gave me a ride. The beach below is a good spot for a fast swim as the water is freezing cold and the rapids can take you hours to return to land.

I stayed in town for two nights. I thought it would be too long to discover this small city, however it was just right. The small city has a lot to offer in beauty and culture.

Split

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The waterfront, the Riva, is the focal point where the city meets the sea is 1700 years old. 250 meters long and 55 meters wide, it is also the main public square, the space for all kinds of social events, promenade by day, parade by night, the site of sport events, religious processions, festivals and celebrations. It is where the older generation gathers to sing Croatian tunes, not for money, but for joy.

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The Diocletian’s Palace stands behind the Riva, once the home of the Roman emperor, now a world heritage site protected by UNESCO. Now the palace serves as a residential area and is therefore open to all, my hostel was situated inside the palace walls. The cobblestone streets are narrow and winding, leading for a perfect opportunity for a “lost walk”. There are many things to see within the palace, but the most viewed is the St. Duje Cathedral on Peristyle square. Other popular sites are the Temple of Jupiter, the Egyptian Sphinx and the cellars of the palace.

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Croatia’s sea is tourists hot spot. It reminds me of what Costa Rica is like. Known for its beauty and a popular destination for sun and beach. While this is all true, the locals have captured these elements and capitalized on it. When a country does this, to me it loses its appeal. It ruins the essence that everyone came there for in the first place. There is no more natural beauty as its covered up in souvenir stands and wide brimmed hats.

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I did try and get out of the downtown area, walking up the foothills, through peoples driveways and alleyways. I felt a little uncomfortable doing this, but kept going with nothing else to do. They staircases leading to peoples front doors where quite interesting, the music illuminating from their kitchen windows, the smell of prepared food, the voices of children playing. It was the nicest part for me.

Ljubljana

Ljubljana (“lyoob-lyAH-nah”) is a charming city full of artists, museums, and galleries.
With a population of 300,000, it is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. The draw is about the people as they come out to gather in the central part of town as the sun sets. Musicians play on the street and crowds come to sit and dance on the cobblestone pavement. The beer flows the ice cream is scoped and people get to know your name.

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An outside library to sit, grab a book and a coffee and spend the afternoon in the shade of trees.

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Zmajski Most, Dragon Bridge, is guarded by four detailed dragon statues from the city’s coat-of-arms. According to legend, the Argonauts found a large lake surrounded by a marsh between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. It is there that Jason struck down this dragon after a heroic struggle.

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Triple Bridge, or Tromostovje, consists of three separate picturesque bridges located next to one another. At night, when they are lit up, its really a beautiful site.

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Prešeren square with the statue of Slovenian greatest poet France Prešeren is the central location of downtown Ljubljana. His statue is directed at a balcony, where his forbidden love lived. He was a poor man, she a wealthy daughter of a merchant. Prešeren fell in love with her after a chance meeting in the Trnovo church. For many years she was the inspiration for his love poems, they were not allowed to marry.

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Bled

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After the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918, Bled came under the rule of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and became a summer vila of the ruling House of Karađorđević, a tradition that Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito continued when he built his residence here in 1947

Bled is a small town with a big lake. It should take about an hour to walk around it, so maybe its not THAT big. However the day I went it was upwards of 40 degrees. So about every 5 feet I stopped, put my bag inside of a tree or bush, jumped in the cold water until I was frozen solid. About 30 seconds after coming onto the land, into the sun, I was dry as a bone, even the hair! There were a few beaches scattered around, but they were mostly full of families and screaming babies, so I opted for the secluded, in the trees spots. I met a British dude doing the same thing and spent the rest of the day having a swimming buddy.

The lake has a small island in the middle where a church rests. You can take a boat, or swim, to this tiny destination where many people enjoy to ring the loud bell for good luck. You can hear is all day long from the main land. We didn’t do this because we didn’t know what to do with our cellphones and wallets. Technology bringing me down.

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The church as 99 steps leading up to it from the water. A local tradition at weddings is for the husband to carry his new bride up these steps, during which the bride must remain silent.

Perched on a rock overlooking the lake is the iconic medieval Bled Castle. The history of the castle goes back to 1004 when the German Emperor Henry II gave his estate at Bled to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. At that time, only a Romanesque tower protected by walls stood in the place of the present day castle. The first castle was built in approximately 1011 but the Bishops of Brixen never resided here. The castle has no luxurious halls as the greater emphasis was placed on the defence system.

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