Day 20 - Vidin, Bulgaria

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:00 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

This morning we are still in Bulgaria. As we dock in Vidin, we see a small chapel-like building which turns out to be a memorial to those who died under Communist oppression. We board our tour buses for the long drive up into the mountains, over 90 minutes each way, to see the dramatic rock formations of Belogradchik, which were once used partly as a fortress for the town.

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However, we had already signed up for the afternoon cooking lesson group, so after lunch out we went again. The cooking lesson was a group of a dozen or so of us, and hosted in a local home with a woman named Ramona. Ramona had lived in the US for many years, and noted that her house at this point probably resembled an American style home more than a typical Bulgarian home. However, she seemed to really enjoy welcoming us in and giving the cooking lesson. Her Auntie Rosa did not speak English as easily, but assisted by preparing measured ingredients and whisking extra dishes out of the way. We immediately determined that everybody ought to have an Auntie Rosa.


Above left: Ramona's house, with Auntie Rosa and her friend Pavel on the porch. Above right: Ramona and Auntie Rosa demonstrate the banitsa mixture.

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Progress report (2)

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:21 pm
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[personal profile] goddessfarmer
This is the week/weekend of chimney. My chimney contractor is here now (on Saturday) putting in new flue liners for wood stoves and making room in the chimney for the gas boilers. 
The heat system is disconnected and 1/2 dismantled, maybe next week the heating contractor will come back and continue work on that.
The new living room is done, and currently serving as office and living room.
The new bathroom is still in progress. 
The hot tub is out.
The foundation on the south side is exposed and new south side footings are poured. 
Waiting for the electrician to move the PV cables, the conduit for that is in place.
The east end that is being demoed is cut off from the rest of the house at the second floor floor and the chimney that was there is down to the first floor ceiling. 
The framers are going to be working on the new outside walls and roof starting next week. 

Day 19 -- Iron Gates

Jun. 19th, 2017 09:50 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Today was a sailing day, with no actual stops to explore towns - just a day of relaxing and admiring the scenery. In the broadest sense of the name, the Iron Gates is the gorge lying between Serbia and Romania, which contains the Danube River. It is a national park on both sides. I will not waste too many words on the basic info you can read in Wikipedia except as it relates to various photos. (Feel free to click the various links for more info.)

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food, language, breakfast

Jul. 14th, 2017 12:41 pm
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[personal profile] chhotii
There I was, in a grocery store in Canada, looking at the bacon. None of the bacon looks like "Canadian bacon" (i.e. what's called "Canadian bacon" in U.S. restaurants). I got some bacon that's as Canadian as can be: grown and processed in Canada, of a Canadian brand named "Maple Leaf". Looks and tastes like American bacon.

Apparently the French word for pancake is crepe. (Pardon me for not dealing with accents over vowels.) I picked up a box of pancake/waffle mix, glanced at the back, and saw recipes-- a recipe for pancakes, and a recipe for crepes-- and then promised Sophia crepes for breakfast. But the recipe titled "crepes" is not for what I would think of as crepes; it was just the French translation of the pancake recipe. D'oh! Tried to wing it, just adding more water than the recipe called for to try to make them thinner. Did not successfully guess correctly how much additional water to add for a really crepe-like result. Oh well, the result was edible and thin enough to manage to fold over the Nutella and banana slices.
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[personal profile] skreeky

After lunch and not expecting very much, we reboarded a bus and headed back into town for the add-on tour of the Opera House, or as it is officially known, the National Theater. Our guide this afternoon was a very upbeat young woman, obviously completely in love with the theater, the opera, and perhaps even her city. This was definitely a welcome and refreshing alternative view.

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[personal profile] skreeky

Ah, Serbia. The only country on our agenda not a member of the E.U. We awoke to a view of a rusty corrugated iron wall and a warehouse with graffiti and several broken windows. (right) I joked about how nice it was that we had the finest docking spot in all of Belgrade. It turned out I was not joking. It was pretty much the best docking spot in Belgrade.

A momentary interlude about passport checks. For the first two weeks of the trip, we were entirely within the Schengen travel region and thus no border checks were required. Read more... )

And now, an even briefer interlude about Josip Broz Tito. Read more... )

Our guide for the morning... I spent the first hour or so of the morning tour trying to figure out if he was clinically depressed, or if Belgrade is really that bad. After awhile I decided that Belgrade is really that bad, and after awhile longer I decided it was both. He was absolutely dripping with sarcasm, which is somewhat amusing and some people thought he was a hilarious joker. In this case though, I got the feeling that is was the kidding-not-kidding sort of sarcasm that is just as depressing in the end. Read more... )

Day 17 -- Osijik, Croatia

Jun. 17th, 2017 04:09 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Some days the Eastern Bloc is blockier than others.

We awoke to this lovely view off the balcony, a stained cement apartment complex in Vukovar. Over the next few days we would be repeatedly assured that most buildings like this in the former Yugoslavia are much, much nicer on the inside than the outside, it's just nearly impossible to get the unit owners to cooperate and trust each other enough to fix up the common areas and exteriors. So much for communism. To their credit though, upon closer viewing, some of the balconies are indeed fixed up prettily with flowers and sitting areas.

Believe it or not, this building is in pretty good shape for Vukovar. It took a real brunt of the violence and destruction during the 90s, being the largest Croatian town actually on the river, on the border of Serbia, and so was directly shelled from across the river for a long time before being occupied. Almost 90% of the homes in town were destroyed. Even now, over half the town was never rebuilt and is abandoned, the roofless smoke-stained stone exoskeletons interspersed with perfectly ordinary looking homes only a few meters away. Read more... )

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[personal profile] yendi
Amazon's got its annual Prime Day going on now (with deals only for Prime members, although I suspect most folks using Amazon regularly fit the bill), and for the most part, it's better than in previous years, but not the national holiday they want it to be. That said, a lot of the hot deals went right away, and there's a ton of stuff to sort through and some hella bad site design, and I can't pretend to be as excited about most of the options as I'd like (but do look in any category that might appeal to you, as there really is stuff site-wide).

A few key pieces of wheat amongst the chaff:

The big one is getting $5 off $15 worth of books using the PRIMEBOOKS17 code. Since that stacks with any Prime Day book deals already, it's really solid. Good deals at the second link include a bunch of Scalzi, lots of YA and cooking options, and a bunch of the Dummies series.

The Echo Dot is down to $34.99 ($15 off).

The 8-quart Instant Pot is down to $89.99, making it $10 cheaper than the 6-quart model that I have, and the Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker is $31.99 (47% off and about $30 below other deals).

I've never gotten the appeal of Dash Buttons, but at $.99 a pop (with a $4.99 credit after you place your first order), that's a solid deal.

And finally, if you buy a $25 Amazon Gift Card (even one for yourself), you can snag a $5 Promotional Credit. That's basically free money if you're going to keep buying stuff on Amazon. Note that the promo credit (unlike the gift card) expires at the end of August.
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