Back from another hiatus ;)

   A year ago today, (thanks Facebook!) I announced that after
a blogging hiatus, I was back. I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s better if
every summer I take a planned ‘hiatus’, because, um, I just kind of took a
summer hiatus for the second year in a row.

   My summers, as most of you know, are hectic because I plan
them to be. All year I work work work, with hardly any play (a couple long-ish
trips and many short day/weekend ones—this for me is hardly any) so the summer
is my time to travel and do what. I. want.
And let me tell you, three months may seem like a lot, but it’s never
enough. Never. There’s always more places to see, more things to do, more
podcasts to listen to, and more books to read.

   In this first blog post back from my ‘hiatus,’ I’m going to
talk a bit about stops one and two, and leave stop three for next time. The
Monday after finishing classes, I took my boyfriend on his first ever plane
ride (!) on his first ever trip to the U.S. We visited the Outerbanks in North
Carolina, plus all of my old haunts in Erie, along with day trips to Pittsburgh
and Buffalo/Niagara Falls.

   What can I say? The whole trip was a high point for him, as
he had never seen the U.S. before. For me, the high point was definitely Frida.
I saw my first Frida painting in person at the Albright Knox Gallery in
Buffalo, New York. To anyone in the area or nearby, GO NOW. Not only do they
have this Frida (pictured below), they also have paintings by Monet, Manet,
Picasso, Van Gogh, and other well-known artists. It is so worth the visit.


    I don’t want to bore you with more details of things you are
probably already familiar with, so let’s move on to trip number two, which
started in Romania. One thing almost immediately pops into everyone’s minds
with mention of Romania, and this is Dracula. I read the book in preparation
for my visit, which was (almost) unnecessary because the castle in Bran, which
was our first stop, was also a very detailed museum, talking about the
different Dracula legends as well as the book by Bram Stoker (who was Irish, by
the way, not even Romanian a little bit).


    After visiting Bran Castle, we moved on to Brasov, a
charming city nestled between mountains with refreshingly cooler summer
temperatures, compared to what we would experience in the capital—90+ degrees
every day. Brasov is known for its Black Cathedral and also an LA-esque sign up
the mountain that you can actually visit after riding up a funicular and taking a
10-minute walk. The view is breathtaking and worth it.


   After spending two days in Brasov, we moved on to the
capital, Bucharest, which for me has been steeped in legends and myths (read The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova,
please!!), but is really just a modern day city trying to step out of the shell
that Communism left it in. Bucharest is surprisingly not touristic. There were
only two (two!) tourist shops in the whole city, and not much to see. It was
easily done in two days, and we visited the Parliament, which is the biggest
Parliament building in Europe and second-largest building in the world, and two
art galleries, one of European art and the other Romanian, both of which were
equally interesting.


    Our last day in Romania, we traveled to the city of
Constanta, on the coast of the Black Sea, where we spent a wonderful day at the
beach. Less for international tourists and more for Romanians wanting to spend
their vacation time at the beach, Constanta has various beaches all of which
are similarly stunning.


    All in all, Romania was beautiful, and considering we saw a
little bit of everything—mountains, city, beach—it was especially memorable. It
was also nice because everything was much cheaper than I am accustomed to.
Countries in this part od Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and even
Greece (we went there next) are among the cheapest in Europe and just as
culturally whole.

    Next, we were on to Greece. Having been in Athens prior to this
trip, we went straight to the island of Crete. Greece has over 5,000 islands,
with humans on about 300 of them, and Crete is the biggest. We stayed in the
capital, called Heraklion, and mainly just went to the beach. Heraklion is also
known for the Palace of Knossos, just outside of town, which are ruins similar
to the Parthenon in Athens.

    This was such a nice way to do vacation: first a week of
hardcore site seeing, then a nice relaxing week at the beach. Although there is
always more to see—there are other islands only a ferry ride away, and just
waiting to be seen!

    Next week I’ll be posting about my last trip, a week on the
Mediterranean. Stay tuned, and enjoy the last days of summer!

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