Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Home Sweet Home

After a grueling 12-hour busride that started at 8:30 pm, we are finally back home in Sarajevo after spending the weekend in Graz, Austria. I think I actually preferred the night bus. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep, but since I was trying to sleep, the time passed somewhat more quickly (not to mention we didn't have to get out of the bus each time we crossed a border). But I'm starting at the end, and that's wrong!

Ok. So enter Thursday morning. Wiley and I pack a suitcase and head out to the bus station. Bus ride is pretty uneventful save for the mom and daughter in front of us who recline into our space...perfectly their right, you'd say, and normally you'd be right, except I was the one behind them. I hate doing that to people, so I notice when it's done to me. And I wish I had my camera at the ready because in Republika Srpska (Serp-skah), we drove through the most gorgeous landscape. The road was carved out of the hillside. The hills were on fire with yellow, red and orange leaves. Below was a river with crystal waters in parts (and was kinda dirty in others). And it was the only time it was sunny on the bus. Alas, I have no pictures to show you of that. We arrived in Graz, Austria, around 8:15, about 45 minutes later than we were supposed to...which is what happens when you cross the border into Slovenia, then leave Slovenia and get questioned as to why you're passing through Slovenia, and oh, you live in Bosnia? Can you show us your residence permit, please? No matter that it's 35 degrees outside - everyone else can wait. Board bus again, pass through Croatia, then finally get into Austria. Wiley's friends were meeting us at the train station (right next to the bus stop), and Wiley tried to send a text message, to no avail. But have no fear! The Graz train station is connected - not only do they have trains, they have a bookstore, a McDonald's (and no, I didn't go once), a grocery store, and an internet cafe. So Wiley checks his email to make sure the number was correct, and then tried another friend whose number he knew was right. Nothing. This was when we realized that our cell phones, since they're now prepaid, don't let you use them outside of Bosnia. But we can receive phone calls and text messages...we just can't call out or send our own. Coming to grips with this, Wiley goes into mild panic mode, which is somewhat funny because usually I'm the one who panics, and he's mild-mannered. This time, he's combing his fingers through his hair at a frantic rate, while I say casually, "Well, I'll go see if I can find your friends," and walk around the train station. No luck. I come back in, and Wiley's still-frantic fingers are typing and running through hair, when I turn around, and out of the corner of my eye, see the back braid of who I think is Wiley's female friend. So, rather than create a scene, I stalk. Very quickly, I follow this chick (who I've met once, back in May) to the grocery store, and I watch her. I have a sack full of food that we brought with us, so I'm not about to step foot in the busiest grocery store in Graz right before closing time. She is standing there, trying to get someone's attention in line. Just when I think that this isn't who I'm looking for, I spot Wiley's guy friend, who is very easy to recognize, in line, and I go screaming into the grocery store, sack full of food be damned. When I called out Chick's name, she turned around to see some crazy woman with her arms outstretched, speaking a mix of German and English a mile a minute. Then she realized who I was and reciprocated the hug. I ran to get Wiley, who was in line paying for the internet and phone usage, and then he went into the grocery store to get a little food - Friday was an Austrian holiday, so EVERTHING except what's at the train station is closed. Wiley's poor friends had been there since 7:30, waiting for us to show up. We finally got out of the station around nine and headed over to the apartment Wiley's friends graciously offered us for our stay.

And let me just say that the next time we go abroad, we're living in Graz and we're renting this apartment. It was perfect. Dark bedroom, not on a busy street, only a floor up, big kitchen by European standards, nice hallway, a spare room and a living room, all decorated to coordinate beautifully.

The weather all weekend was awful. We went to Riegersburg castle. Lovely castle. Cold. I used to really really like castles, but they're so cold, so forget it. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so all I have are outside pictures.

Autumn in Austria is the best I've seen so far. You'll see when you view the pictures when I get them uploaded. After the castle, we had lunch at the equivalent of a winery. I had some hot chocolate and some sturm, which is wine made out of the first picked grapes of the season and sugar is added to it. So to me, it's perfect, but I'm told you'll get the runs if you drink too much. We had a potato that was fried and shaped like a teardrop on top of lettuce and turkey strips. Wiley and I intended to split, but I didn't like the potato thing that much, so he let me eat the turkey strips which were breaded in pumpkin seeds. So now I have a new recipe to try!! Wiley's friend drove us around the countryside more, and then dropped us off at our apartment.

Saturday was a day of shopping. I got some new Ecco walking shoes, which so far, are great, though I wish there was a slight heel. I feel so short all the time now. We also looked for a new winter coat for me, as well as some sweaters, but I didn't find one damn thing. Not one. Turns out leggings are in, long, light sweaters are in, and military-style jackets are in. The double-breast is big this year. For people who have a shelf, the double-breast is not the best look. Guess whose jacket is in before it was popular? Yours truly. So I'm looking for a wool coat that's single-breasted and cuts off right at the knee or just above (like an inch), preferably with a hood. Think I could find it? Close, but no cigar. The sweaters I found that I liked had no shape, as in they hung from the shoulders so anyone could look like a linebacker. I also tried to find slippers and a replacement earring, to no avail. However, I did find yarn, so I have a whole bunch to use for crochet. And we found an American grocery store, where I found microwave popcorn. We had some soup - pumpkin for Wiley, which was great, and schilcherwine soup for me, which is made from grapes that only grow on volcanic soil. Also tasty. Dinner consisted of french fries and a turkey cutlet breaded in pumpkin seeds!! In a non-smoking part of a restaurant, no less.

Sunday found us going out with Wiley's friend that took us to the castle Friday. We stayed at her apartment in May while she was in the US, visiting New York and South Dakota with her students. The apartments in Graz are so darling. I've found two I could easily live in. We had lunch at a place nearby, where I had a pork cutlet breaded in the pumpkin seeds...it was a weekend of fries and pumpkin seeds! Then we had dessert at this little gelateria. It's cold outside, and I want ice cream. Don't ask me why. But it's darn good. Then we walked around a bit, found a cha cha class taking place. All we heard was, "Eins, zwei, cha cha cha," but we thought maybe it was coming from the Kunsthaus (art house), so all three of our faces are plastered against the glass, looking in, and all we see are people at computers. Then I looked up and saw people dancing on the second floor of a building. Think "Shall We Dance?" Seriously. That gave Wiley and me the idea to find a dance class in Sarajevo. "Jedan, dva, cha cha cha." I can just imagine not understanding dancing commands. But that'll make me a stronger follower. Sunday night we met another friend for a quick drink at a little wine bar and then ate pizza with the ones who picked us up from the airport, which is always fun because there's limited English knowledge. I can work on understanding German...which I understand fairly well, though when Wiley's friend said something about Protestants, I thought he said in addition to the boarders being Protestant, he was, so he took them to church, but he really just said that they were Protestant and he knew of a church they could go to so he told them about it...potato, pohtahto, I say.

And on Monday, we finally got some stinkin' sun, so I was a photographin' fool. Since I've taken lots of pictures of Graz before, back in May, this time I didn't focus so much on the town, but more on the leaves around town. So if you were looking for street photos or pictures of buildings, don't click on the link. You'll only be disappointed. We had a turkey kebap, which I think is one of God's greatest inventions, then went home to clean the apartment and headed to the train station to board an overnight bus. Today, I feel good - nose seems to be improved, no pain in feet, stomach is happy with M&Ms that were bought in Graz. Now we go grocery shopping.

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