A Travellerspoint blog

July 2014

Travel Advice

Here are a few tips from fellow travelers. We have encountered a few of these, the children with a clip board in Spain and the bracelet in Rome.


Posted by CulinarySojourn 08:45 Comments (0)

The Balkans

Our next stop is Bulgaria and in order to get there we traveled haphazardly through the Balkan peninsula. Leaving Italy behind at the port of Ancona, we purchased deck tickets on a ferry to Croatia. This meant we slept on narrow benches near the restaurants on board with other frugal travellers.

Arriving in the city of Split we meandered through the remains of Diocletian's Palace. During the collapse of Rome, many villagers in Dalmatia fled to this walled complex, as it was the only safe haven in the area. For breakfast we had a sandwich of small, spiced, pork sausages in a thick bread. While filling it was really missing multiple textures and a sauce. Something crunchy, like lettuce, would have been an improvement.


Taking the bus at 1am, we headed south to the city of King's Landing. I mean Dubrovnik. Getting in at 5am, we stowed our luggage and headed to see the sights made more famous by the show Game of Thrones.


Our original idea was nixed, as there was no room on the bus from Dubrovnik to Skopje, so we jumped on one heading south to Kotor, Montenegro. Leaving several hours earlier then planned we were unable to secure dinner. Digging into our luggage, we produced a can of tuna and Ritz crackers. Once down in Kotor we managed to get on another bus within minutes to get us to Skopje, Macedonia. This was a trip that would take over 10 hours and through multiple countries. They would wake us up to check passports as we left one Balkan country then again within 15 minutes as we entered another one.

We arrived in Skopje around 5am and had til midnight before we left again. The Republic of Macedonia have really put in the effort to make the city center look grand. Statues and fountains everywhere and the loaming fortress as a backdrop readily made this our favorite stop so far in the whole trip.


For breakfast we had a dough, similar to filo (thin, almost transparent), wrapped in several layers with a salty cheese, reminiscent of feta, in the middle. An entire pan is covered in oil and then baked and you order by weight. The entire piece cost less than $1 and was filling and a nice balance of salt, oil and bread.


We also ran into a Montenegrin that we met on the bus when we stopped in Serbia. She helped us find some food and we passed the time walking around the city center.


At her recommendation, we ate at a eestuarant in the old town. We ordered a traditional Balkan salad called shopke, which consists of diced tomatoes and cucumbers topped with 1/2 inch of a local cheese similar to feta. Refreshing on a hot day and a change from the Italian tomato salad which doesn't use a vinegar in its dressing. We also had grilled meats including a sausage with a real casing. Contrary to the American artificial casings, a natural one has a certain snap to it when you bite it giving a nice texture contrast to the soft meat inside. The bread was the best part. Fluffy, chewy and most impotantly , buttery. We haven't had butter since Bavaria, and before that the cruise. It is often the little things that you appreciate while traveling.


Once again we were on the move around midnight. This time we had a minivan and apparently were over booked a little. Once this got sorted out we headed to Bulgaria. It would have been uneventful other than the fact two Macedonians were not allowed out of the country and had to remain at the checkpoint. We never found out why this happened. The woman traveling with them was not happy and when we got searched at the Bulgarian border the guard deliberately threw her clothes around as he "searched" her bag. As for us, once he saw we were Americans he simply ignored us.

Posted by CulinarySojourn 08:30 Comments (0)

Marche Region of Italy

After the hectic capitol of Rome, we made our way the the coastal province of Marche. The next farm is about 40km inland from the Adriatic Sea and the weather was much cooler than than the city.


Our job over the next ten days was to trim the vineyards so that sunlight would hit the grapes. We would start around 5am and work til lunch was ready, around 12:30pm.


In the afternoon we were able to help in the final stages of the wine process. We would help with the corking process as well as the labeling and packaging.


On our last day, we helped get some wood for the winter.


The farm was about two hundred years old and more importantly had a few cats around.


After work we would travel around the region dropping off boxes of wine and picking up local foods to eat. We saw many small mountain towns with their churches and city walls as well as local natural wonders. The best experience was getting to go into an 12th century underground quarry.


One of the highlight tours was to a small town that grew lentils and to a fish farm where we picked up some fresh fish. This was unsurprisingly fried in olive oil but was nice and flaky. After we were done, the bones were made into a meal for the cats.


We also visited the one of the family member's restaurants had had a chance to finally try wild boar. It was minced and served with fresh egg noodles. It tasted similar to pork but the texture was a little course. For our main dishes we opted for grilled steak and pork chops which was served with lemon. The cuts are different than those in the US. Different pieces would be trimmed or would be a part of other cuts.


The farm is a participate in a local restaurant and on our penultimate day we had the opportunity to eat there. I had a full meal starting with a smoked cheese that is grilled with roasted vegetables on top. This was followed by gnocchi and a frito (fried) plate of various vegetables and meats. The gnocchi was tender and soft while the minced beef was pleasantly salty. The most interesting item on the frito plate was a olive stuffed with meat and then fried. The Italian method of serving one plate at a time didn't quite work here as there was nothing to help cover the saltiness of the pile of fried food.


Posted by CulinarySojourn 12:51 Comments (0)

Rome, Italy

Rome is quite the city. You can not go anywhere without seeing history and majestic buildings. The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, Circus Maximum and the Baths of Caracalla are all world renown and many people flock to Italy to see them. Unfortunately for us, this appears to be the season for repairs and each was concealed by scaffolding. Even the some of the rooms in the Vatican Museum were hidden by repair crews.


The best part of Rome is the Capuchin Crypts. Within these chambers the bones of the deceased monks had been arranged into mosaics and alcoves for the mummified bodies of other members of the order. No pictures are allowed but there are several on the web.

During the day we were in a hurry to see all of the sights, so we went with fast food. Pizza was the first on the list, a little pizzeria served small sized portions for a low price. I had a zucchini and ricotta that had a nice light flavour which was refreshing in the heat. They also had a baked bread with proscuitto and figs that were spread on top. This was a classic sweet and salty pairing that is usually served for breakfast.


We settled on the restuarant below our hostel for the convenience and were not disappointed with the food. The first dish we had was a ravioli filled with ricotta and served with a walnut sauce. Nut sauces are difficult to get a smooth consistency but this one got it right. Both the sauce and the ravioli was mellow and light in flavor. We followed it up with roasted pork and potatoes. Quite a difference in the heaviness but as we spent over an hour trying to find a restaurant we were famished. These were simply covered in olive oil, salt and rosemary and baked in the oven. Most pork and chicken outside the US is well done to eliminate potential health issues, which can often lead to overdone and chewy food. While this dish was cooked more than I like, it was not to far gone.


Another dinner was composed of a smoked cheese, similar to a salty mozzarella, that is grilled and topped with prosciutto and a Milanese chicken breast that is similar to the German snitzel we had in Bavaria with a lighter crust. For a pasta dish we had tender gnocchi with a tangy green tomato sauce.


Finally we had desert. Gelato again, although this time they filled the cone with chocolate sauce and a free topping of whipped cream. The issue was they only had signs in Italian and unlike other gelatorias, they covered their gelato so we couldn't point at what we wanted.


Posted by CulinarySojourn 14:08 Comments (0)

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