Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Markets!

The first time I ever went to a real Christmas Market was in Estonia, and it was love at first Gluwine!

The sights, the smells, the spirit, I love everything about it.

So this year, because we are so close to Germany (a quick 2-hour flight to Munich), we decided to check out some Christmas markets this year.

We went for Munich (which has like five or more in different parts of the city) and then took the train to Salzburg, Austria to check out their market as well.

The Munich Markets:


The Salzburg Market


And then in Salzburg, there was this (I missed the beginning):

Sunday, October 04, 2015

So They Make Good Wine in Macedonia

I haven't left Kosovo since I got here back in the beginning of August, but I finally rectified that yesterday.

CLO (Community Liaison Officer, or basically the morale officer for post) organized a trip to the Stobi Winery in Macedonia.

Now we all know I pretty much don't drink (probably why I didn't get promoted is sort of a Foreign Service requirement...), but I do like the taste of some wine. That said, we decided to go on the trip mostly for my wife, who likes wine a lot.

But actually, they had some really good wine! And the trip was a lot of fun.

We toured the vineyards first. They have some 600 hectares of grapes of a variety of types.

Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes in one bunch

You can see the mountains in the background

Then we toured the winery, where we got to see all the way from "skvishing" to the end of the process.

And then we got to taste...there was a frickin' lot of wine. We sampled 12 before lunch. I just took sips...some of our group were VERY happy by lunchtime (which was at 3:30! Twelve samples before a lunch that late seems risky, but fortunately everyone was very behaved.)

The logo comes from a mosaic at nearby Roman ruins...
that I didn't hear about until we got home! Guess we'll go back!

We ended up buying four cases of wine, good wine, for only about $135. We bought Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvingon, Cuvee and Sirah. We figure they will make good gifts when we go to other people's houses plus we will have plenty to serve here as well.

Plus, the trip got me another country visited...I love living in Europe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Houston, we have an apartment

It is no secret that I am a nester.

I like to have my home decorated with things that mean something to me: art, souvenirs, pictures, things that tell stories.

So when we pack our HHE (and to a degree, but less so, our UAB), I like to include things that make our place overseas feel like home.

Apparently, my wife also likes that I do this, because this time, even she was clamoring for something to make our apartment (which is ginormous) look less like a corporate apartment.

So we were both really happy when our HHE finally arrived a week ago Tuesday. And there was lots of it, like 6000 lbs (and that number is low because I deliberately reduced how much we brought this time!). Of course, probably half that amount is books...

Lotsa Stuff

The cats approved of the boxes

And the paper
And true to form, I got all of our stuff unpacked and the boxes thrown out within two days (with the help of a local holiday...yay! Bajram!..on Thursday). Admit it, you wish you were married to me.

Making progress
Friday, I put in the order for GSO to come hang our pictures (I tried it myself, but the walls are concrete and I lack concrete nails or transportation to go buy some). And they came yesterday. So now we even have art on the wall.

Even my office at work has a touch of home:

Why yes, I am from SC, why do you ask?
Now it feels more like home...for another 21 or 22 months anyway...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Anibar Internation Animation Festival

 Well, I didn't get the entire weekend off, but at least my job is lots of fun.

Sunday, I headed to Peje, a town in the mountains near the border with Montenegro.

We went with the Ambassador because the city hosts, and we help sponsor, the Anibar International Animation Festival.

We helped the festival bring Mike Reiss, one of the writers of The Simpsons, to speak and do workshops with the attendees.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, even if it was for work!

Plus, the mountains there are gorgeous!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Visiting My Happy Place

So this weekend I got to take a road trip.

Not my first, because I am a PD officer, so we get out more than your average Service Officer.

But this one was for fun.

The CLO (Community Liaison Officer) organized a trip to the Gracanica Monastery and Ulpiana.

We started off at the monastery, a Serbian orthodox monastery established in 1321 on the ruins of a 6th century church.

Gracinica Monastery

The monastery is really beautiful and has some absolutely amazing frescoes inside. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside in order to protest the frescoes, but I did take some shots from outside.

After the monastery, we grabbed some lunch...
Ribs and creme with pitalka...yum!
And then headed to Ulpiana, a Roman city located about 30 minutes outside of Pristina that was established in 169 AD and reached its peak of development in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

We were given a tour by the head archaeologist, who also is an alum of one of our programs. They are doing amazing work there despite the challenges they face (like that the country can't afford to buy the land and so they lease it for 3 years at a time and have no security in being able to keep it. Plus the land is divided up into tons of parcels, most owned by Serbian farmers who distrust the Kosovo government, so they have been able to excavate only a tiny fraction of the site. Even so, they have uncovered a massive basilica, a smaller basilica with a baptisterium, a Roman bath, and several cemeteries.
Basilica 1

Basilica 2 with Baptisterium
Roman bath

Definitely need to go back. Archaeology is clearly my happy place!