Bran Castle

I spent Halloween weekend at Dracula’s Castle in Romania. WHAT EVEN IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.

You may not know this about me (unless you knew my nerdy self in college) but I went though a Victorian lit phase which conveniently coincided with my major.  My junior and senior year at Bucknell I was taking exclusively English and Psychology coursework, and I had a lot of fun combining principles and themes in my term papers.  So here I was, second semester senior year in a 19th Century English class and a Beauty and Attraction Psych course. Out of this combo came my term paper on sexual undertones in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  And now I’ve seen his castle.  Boom.

I dug through old emails on the bus ride back from Romania and miraculously found the paper (which I circulated to many friends.  I told you – I’m a nerd).  I had a good read, cringing at some of the wording but also remembering what it felt like to write in an academic manner as my writing now is all business (and blog) oriented. As I continue to expand my portfolio as a content writer, it’s fun to look back and see how my writing has varied over time.

While discussing the history of vampires in said paper, I referenced the country of Serbia.  I laughed out loud reading this – there I was, 22 years old, about to graduate with no specific career plan but a vague interest in HR, and no idea that later in life I would actually be living in Serbia and visiting Romania and Bran Castle.  Gotta love it.

Back to my weekend:

  • Castle ‘tour’ which I’m sure would be better had it not been insanely crowded
  • Giant tent dance party till sunrise
  • We did not make it to sunrise
  • I have GoPro footage that will never see the light of day
  • Unless I am bribed
  • I like beer and chocolate

 

All in all, 24 hours of bus travel for the most unique and memorable Halloween ever. Love this crew.



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48 Hours in Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria deserves to be highlighted as an incredible place to live and visit.  It is beautiful yet affordable, deliciously sweet yet savory, and has an all-around good vibe.  It needs to have songs written about it and be on everyone’s bucket lists.  But to make it kitschy which would take away from the very essence of Bulgaria’s capital, and I’m jealously guarding this place for myself.  Stay away.

 

If you for some reason don’t take my advice, here’s what to do if you have two days in Sofia.

 

Day One

Find a bakery and eat banitsa.  Egg, yogurt, cheese, and butter in between flaky layers of filo dough baked in the oven.  Savory goodness and very traditional.

Banitsa

 

Wander the city.  Sofia is extremely walkable and flat, so walk up to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and go inside (donation-based entrance fee).  Walk a little further south to the Stefan Stambolov monument (in a park), and ponder getting an axe to the head.  Then walk south down to Vitosha Boulevard, the main commercial street in Sofia.  A little touristy but worth seeing, and worth the view of the Vitosha mountain in the background.

Nevsky Cathedral

 

Grab lunch – find a place where you can have a good shopska salad, which is similar to a Greek salad with less olives and using a different type of cheese.

Shopska Salad

 

Take the free walking tour of Sofia with a company called – you guessed it – Free Sofia Tour.

Walking Tour

 

Eat dinner at Lavanda and don’t skip the dessert.

LaVanda

 

Walk a little further down to Hambara, which is technically an event venue in order to sneak around fire regulations, but is really a candlelit bar.  Order a glass of rakia and a local beer.

 

Hambara

Day Two

Grab baklava for breakfast, order a sandwich to-go and take a cab to the Vitosha Mountain.  Ride the gondola up to a hiking trail, explore the mountain, eat your sandwich at the summit, and then enjoy a hot coffee or cold beer at the lodge on the way down.

Hiking glamour shot

 

Take a nap.  Naps are essential. Bonus points if you have a cat.

Naps are for winners

 

Dinner at Nikolas.

Dinner at Nikolas

 

Find an outdoor table at The Cocktail Bar, order a goblet of strawberry rhubarb Gin and Tonic, soak in the Bulgarian night air, and extend your stay.

Goblet

How to Hail a Ride in Mykonos

My favorite part of travel is how whacky situations always seem to work out and make a great story.  But while you’re in them, in the midst of an internal panic, it seems like you’re stuck with no options and no idea what to do.  But you are forced to figure it out.

There’s simply no other way.  You can’t sit down on your suitcase, stranded, and just stay there.  You have to keep moving, find a solution.  Even if the solution seems insane, you do it because you have to.

Let’s walk through the example of my trip from Athens to Mykonos and dissect everything that went wrong (which was everything), and how it’s one of my favorite memories from my adventures in Greece.

Step One: Get to the ferry.

It’s early in the morning and my travel companions Horacio and Phil and I are on the hunt for a taxi to take us from downtown Athens to the ferry port.  We have a 7am high speed ferry that will get us to Mykonos by 10.  We hail a cab pretty easily, and get on the road.  Should take us about 20 minutes to get there, and we’re leaving 60 minutes before departure.  No problem.

20 minutes pass and we’re still on a highway. I pull out my phone and check Google Maps – we have been driving in the opposite direction of the ferry port.  Turns out the driver thought we said airport.  We turn around and speed the rest of the way there, me watching the clock and feeling a tightness in my chest.  We wait in a line for our tickets (pre-purchased but not printed) and watch the clock and miraculously get on the ferry before it departs.

Step Two: Get off the ferry, attempt to walk to Airbnb.

We disembark the ferry (a party of 6 now, meeting up with Alison, Bryant, and Maggie) and realize there are two ferry ports on Mykonos, and we are at the wrong one.

Step Three: Find a cab.  Or not.

There is a line for cabs, and one cab comes every 2-3 minutes or so.  Group begins to get frustrated.

Step Four: Learn about a Sea Bus that could take us to the other ferry port.

Step Five: Spend 5 minutes not making a decision on whether to stay in the taxi line or get on the Sea Bus.  A few false starts.

Step Six: Choose the Sea Bus.

Step Seven: We watch the Sea Bus pull away from the dock as we walk over.

Step Eight: The next one comes in 20 minutes, we buy tickets and wait.

Step Nine: Take the Sea Bus to the other ferry port.

Step Ten: Use the pin from the Airbnb host to walk to location.

Step Eleven: I poorly navigate and get us turned around (remember, we’re carrying luggage as well so every wrong turn is a pain).  Phil takes over and only makes fun of me a little bit.

Step Twelve: We’re wandering around downtown and find the pin, but this doesn’t seem right.  This looks nothing like the pictures and isn’t near the beach as in the website description.  I call the Airbnb Host.

Step Thirteen: No answer.

Step Fourteen: Airbnb host calls back, asks why we don’t have the address.  I explain we are using what was provided, and she says Oh no, that’s where you go to take a taxi to get to the house.  You are nowhere near the house.

Step Fifteen: Walk back to the port in search of taxis (we need 2).

Step Sixteen: There are no taxis at all.  A local mentions there are never many taxis around.

Step Seventeen: Minor panic.  Horacio kindly tells me I’m not a good traveler.  I punch him.

Step Eighteen: See an old man on a scooter with a trailer attached.  Ask if he gives rides.

Step Nineteen: He does.  Also has a friend with a scooter and trailer.  We look at each other, know it’s our only option, and pile in.

Step Twenty: Enjoy the bumpy and reasonably dangerous ride across the island and the views and the breeze, and laugh the whole way.