My 2017 Travel Review

I didn’t get to travel abroad as much in 2017 as much as I have in previous years or as much as I would have liked for a couple of reasons. The first being that in March 2017, my (now) husband moved stateside. Because he was in bureaucratic limbo in terms of his immigration status until October of 2017, he couldn’t exit the United States. And I wasn’t going to travel without him ūüėČ After October, he landed his first job here, which also prevented us from taking a lot of time away.

Nevertheless, we were still able to have a few city breaks to explore cities here in the US. Staying local (ish) only made us more excited to travel abroad in 2018 and 2019! So without further ado, a bit about the trips we did take in 2017!

April 2017 : Savannah, GA

My sister is currently in PA School (that’s Physician’s Assistant, for those of you who aren’t aware ūüėČ ) in Savannah, so YG and I took a long weekend to travel down to see her white coat ceremony. This was the first time I’d been to Savannah in about 10 or so years, so it was great to see the city again. We did a hop-on-hop-off trolley tour of the city’s historic center, drank a couple of pints at an English pub and of course saw my sister receive recognition for accomplishments thus far!

May 2017 and June 2017: Wilmington, NC and Wrightsville Beach, NC

I’m lumping two visits to two cities together because, yes, I went to both places two months in a row. Strange, I know. In May, YG and I decided to spend Memorial weekend by the coast in Wilmington, and at the actual beach in Wrightsville Beach, as he’d never seen the North Carolina coast yet. It was a very relaxing trip – Wilmington has a very cute historic downtown with so many choices for restaurants. And of course, I really love a beach day. In June, I went back to the same area for my sister’s bachelorette party (this time, no YG). We rented a house in Wilmington and spent our days on the beach!

July 2017: Boston, MA

YG and I decided to spend 4th of July week in Boston. I had only been once previously – I had a 10 hour layover there in 2006 on the way to Europe and left the airport to discover the city, although how much can you really see in one day?! Anyway, we¬†loved¬†Boston – I think it’s like a smaller, more historic and classier version of NYC. We walked the Freedom Trail, ate in Little Italy, drank fishbowls (lol) by the bay, went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (a fave of mine!!!), and went to the aquarium. All in all, a great city – I’d definitely go back. Though it was SCORCHING hot when we were there, so maybe we’d aim to go back in spring or fall next time.

September 2017: Savannah, GA (again)

Aaaaand we went back to Savannah in September for my sister’s wedding! So not a ton of sightseeing this time, though we did get to spend some time with extended family in the city. We took a ghost tour (and actually thought it was really cheesy and not at all worth the cost). My sister’s wedding was beautiful and the reception was in Vic’s on the River which is in a historic building that has balconies overlooking the river. So picturesque and old-south. Savannah really is a unique city and I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t been.

November 2017: Miami, FL

So, before I went to Miami, all of Florida was, in my head, old people, disney tourists, and sweltering heat. We had to go to visit the Turkish consulate there (as Miami is the one that we are districted to). I was SO pleasantly surprised by Miami. It’s incredibly glamorous (lots of wealthy investors flocking there, obviously), but I think what really made me love the city was the Cuban/Latin American vibes. They say that Miami is the capital of South America – and I would not argue with that! While I wouldn’t say Miami has as much to see in light of history and culture (not like New York or Boston does), the food, shopping and tropical vibes aren’t replicated anywhere else I’ve been. I’d 100% go back to Miami for some R&R, some empanadas and mojitos and just the general chill vibes. I’d say its definitely one of my top 3 favorite cities in the US, if not my favorite.

December 2017: New York City

My cousin Sydney and I came up with the brilliant pipe dream of visiting New York over the Christmas holidays and were luckily able to turn our plans into reality sort of at the last minute. The last time I’d been to New York was in 2015 when I lived there for a hot minute (that’s a story for another time), so I was really longing to go back and experience the city’s museums and culture. There are some things you just can’t get when you live in a smaller city (*ahem* the Met and the MoMA) and after a while, I’ve found I really have a yearning to immerse myself in some big city vibes. Anyway, we did a lot while there (YG joined us a couple of days into the trip as he had to work). We went to the Met, the MoMa, saw NYC Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, shopped, went to the Tenement Museum, and ate a lot of bagels!

So I suppose that’s it, my 2017 wrap up. I didn’t go into the year with the intention of it being a big travel year because of bureaucracy and such, but we somehow found a way to sneak in visits to many cities, which I’m really happy about! Here’s to 2018 travels!

My favorite museum in New York : the Tenement Museum

I recently spent the end of 2017 and the veeery beginning of 2018 in New York City with my husband and cousin. We managed to see A LOT and to eat a lot as well (so many bagels….). But my absolute favorite thing that we did was visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Now, I’d visited this museum before (in 2013/14, I think), but this time I booked a different tour for our visit. During my previous visit, I took the ‘Hard Times’ tour and during this visit, I took the ‘Irish Outsiders’ tour.¬† The Tenement Museum isn’t like other museums in that it’s self-guided and made up of information panels and artifacts. Rather, each visit is comprised of a tour with a guide. The experience is centered on the building that the museum owns, 86 Orchard Street, a real tenement, and the stories of the families that inhabited the building during the 19th and early 20th century families.

Usually when I go to a museum that focuses on history I tend to spend my visit thinking of the stories of the individuals during that period in history – what were their day-to-day lives like? How did they feel about the events presented in the exhibit? What were their personalities like? Unfortunately I think a lot of these details have been lost in time.

Through research about individuals who inhabited the building and piecing together various cultures present in New York during the time period that respective tenants inhabited the building, the museum has been able to sculpt detailed stories about what life would have been like for the people who lived at 86 Orchard – the details of their lives that have faded into history. The museum guides provide a narrative through factual information, and the tenement building serves as the perfect historically accurate backdrop.

I absolutely adore this museum as I feel that it really captures the multi-ethnic story of New York – a beautiful facet of the city that is still felt today!

 

 

I left my heart in Sarajevo

 

I fell so in love with a city that I had to revive my blog to tell the world about it.  The magical ambiance of Sarajevo truly is a force to be reckoned with.

14021519_3147192044048_9037089112285624367_n

YG and I decided to go on holiday to a rather obscure location this summer. ¬†The original plan was for me to visit him in Turkey, but after the coup attempt in Istanbul in mid-July, we weren’t sure what the situation would be like come August. ¬†So, we re-arranged plans and decided to check out Serbia and Bosnia instead. ¬†Both countries have visa-free travel for Turks (something that’s unfortunately hard to come by). ¬†I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Belgrade and Sarajevo seeing as they’re not common tourist locations, but I was so so pleasantly surprised (especially by Sarajevo).

14034757_3147196284154_5177808788453610792_n
View of the city from the White Fortress

Sarajevo is in a really big valley, with the main part of the city in in the center, and residential areas creeping up the mountains. The city has changed hands many times – it was founded by the Ottomans in the 1450s, became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878, and then became part of Yugoslavia after the first world war. According to wikipedia, until the late 20th century, it was the only major European city to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood. Which is pretty cool.

IMG_2248

The architecture reflects all of these changes – the¬†BaŇ°ńćarŇ°ija (old town) area of the city reminds me of Istanbul, with cafes selling Turkish style tea and coffee and mosques from the 16th century; the Austro-Hungarian era part of the city having extravagant, pastel colored buildings and the Yugoslav era part of the city with concrete bloc buildings.

14113851_3149182613811_159989731_o

Before going on this trip, I was a little concerned that there wouldn’t be enough to do – whenever I told people where I was going, the reaction I got was either ‘where?’ or ‘why?’ – ¬†but we actually ran out of time to do everything we wanted to. We ended up taking three tours through an NGO travel agency in the city – the first being a tour through the major points of the city, including the AMAZING city hall built in the pseudo-Moorish style, the cathedral, the oldest mosque, etc., the second being a tour based on the war in the 1990s and the third being a tour of sites in the surrounding Bosnian countryside.

14046017_3147194324105_5566316021395165484_n

I think that the thing that made me fall so in love with Sarajevo was the layers of history present in the city – it was an Ottoman administrative center, it was the site of the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, which marked the beginning of World War I, and it saw the longest siege of a city in modern times. To me, this mixture of cultures has created one of the most unique places I’ve ever been.

13924979_3143875121127_4438204409603549423_n

But, I think the most fascinating thing about Sarajevo is how this culture has bounced back after the war in the 1990s. My mind was constantly blown that the streets that we were walking were part of a city in which the residents were trapped for four years. And that this happened just twenty years ago.  Most of the historical buildings have been fully restored and reminders of the conflict only remain in the cemeteries on the hills surrounding the cities and random spatters of bullet holes in buildings.

We sort of like made friends (lolz) with our tour guides and our air bnb hosts and their stories about the war were incredibly moving and devastating to hear. The people there were absolutely lovely and it’s obscure enough that it’s not overwhelmingly touristy (like Amsterdam or London or something), but there is a whole lot to see and learn about. YG and I observed that it’s more of a place for seasoned travelers (like people backpacking all of Europe), rather than folks like us on summer holiday.

I don’t know – there’s something about the mountain air and old world charm that just captured my heart, along with the cultural mixture of Slavic and Ottoman roots. Sarajevo isn’t like anywhere else that I have ever been and I’ll definitely be returning to Bosnia.

IMG_2183
Stalls outside the marketplace that were created for traveling merchants to stay during the Ottoman era.

Things worth seeing:

  • City Hall¬†– this amazing 19th century building designed in the pseudo-moorish style. It was burned in the 1990s and was restored in 2014 and the inside is GORGEOUS.

    IMG_2236
    Inside of the city hall
  • Gallerija 11/07/95¬†– this place is somewhat of a mixture between gallery and museum. It describes the Srebrenice massacre of 1995 in which over 8000 muslim Bosnians were massacred by Serb forces despite UN initiatives to keep them safe. I found it heartwrenching and incredibly important to see.
  • 1984 Olympic Bobsled Track¬†– Located on the surrounding¬†Trebevińá mountain, the track has largely remained unused since the games and served as an artillery position during the war in the 1990s. It’s a must-see if you’re at all into urban ruins. You can actually walk down the track, it’s pretty creepy and cool. Apparently it’s being renovated this year…..IMG_2311
  • The Latin Bridge¬† – Site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria Hungary – the shot that caused WW1.
  • The Old Town¬†– Boasts loads of cafes with Bosnian coffee, Burek (A pastry filled with minced meat and onions or cheese) and souvenirs.
Processed with VSCO with g3 preset
Processed with VSCO with g3 preset
  • The Tunnel Museum¬† – This isn’t in Sarajevo’s city proper, but is a fascinating museum about the efforts of Bosniaks to survive in the city while it was under siege.

 

All in all, I think Sarajevo is a magical city that can’t be missed. It doesn’t seem that it’s hit that level of obnoxious tourism that most European cities have, and it still retains a really authentic feel, which truly captured my heart.