I arrived in Oslo last night and I have to say, Norway is awesome! I was worried that this city would be really boring, as people say it's not a great tourist city but I disagree. There's loads of good museums, the parks are really cute, there are some really beautiful walks and cafes near the fjord, and it's a big city.

I have found Osloites to be quite different from Stockholmers. They are more friendly, less "Scandinavian" aloof, and dress more quirky. People from Stockholm are very posh and the city seems to be a bit more posh, minus the tacky sports/dive bars (that was the vibe I least liked about Stockholm, even though there are loads of cute bars and restaurants there). Men have long hair here, but they don't always wear it in a crazy man bun like men in Stockholm. They're less concerned with tanning and being fit. Women are also less petite I think, on average. They wear fun clothes and I find people to be more free spirited and fun here. Oddly enough, I think people definitely look different as well! They have a different facial shape and it seems like there's a higher proportion of brunettes here. I think Swedes, especially women, have "sweeter" faces, maybe like French women have sweet faces.

Oslo/Norway seems to be SO sporty, but not gym sporty, more like they LOVE the outdoors, which is so awesome! On my bus ride from the airport to the city center, I noticed plenty of people on road bikes and roller skiing. They are so amazing at Nordic skiing, and apparently they like ski jumping too! The food is also shockingly not bad! I love the freshness of their fish and shellfish. You can get affordable canned fish in tomato paste, shrimp, mussels, and lax here. Today I got reindeer patties, boiled potatoes, coffee, and a lingonberry jello dessert for about $30, which is comparable to Sweden and really not that much more expensive than a nice restaurant in Minneapolis. Norwegians eat a lot of fish cakes (not those disgusting things you buy at the supermarket in the US), brunost (brown cheese, which is actually made out of whey), and maybe not so many open faced sandwiches as Swedes do. I have yet to try any jams here, but there are so many good ones! I am particularly excited to eat cloudberry jam on waffles.

My Couchsurfing host is THE SWEETEST. He let me sleep in his bed (even after I insisted I should sleep on the couch) while he slept on the couch. He has hosted over 100 people, so obviously he loves to meet new people from around the world.

Norwegians are modest, just like Swedes. They don't have "fika" here. They like metal and are really funny people. They're incredibly sporty and outdoorsy. They're very sweet (I've had very good restaurant service and even had a Norwegian guy help me buy groceries). To be honest, I'm really surprised by how much I've enjoyed staying in Scandinavia, considering I have not known much about it before.

Overall, yes, Norway is very expensive but I think it's within reason. It's expensive to get anywhere by public transport (my bus to and from the airport was $35, whereas it was about $20 in Stockholm). Food can be affordable, just don't buy anything crazy and shop at Kiwi. There are more affordable cafes, so I try to eat non-imported products. There are quite a few pastries that are from Norway that I still have yet to try. Lastly, I was watching the news and reading the subtitles and noticed Norwegian sounds SOOO much like Swedish! The text, however, is very different. Some words are the same, but I is "jeg" and not "jag," so it's a bit confusing, especially since I'm only a beginner at speaking Swedish. Finally, just like Sweden, Norway is so so progressive in ways I have not even thought about. For example, one of their city hall offices is decorated with the people that helped build it, even though most European capitals are obsessed with honoring the monarchy or the rich. Both capitals are very admirable and egalitarian, but I feel like I've noticed it even more here.

🦐🐳🦌🌷🌲🌌🤸🏽♀️🏔🛳❤️💙🇳🇴

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Sweden really loves Easter (Påsk). I was shocked by how long their weekend is (they leave work halfway through Thursday, and have Monday off too!). Cute decorations. Also their hares are HUGE!

If only she knew how shit our football team is...

This past week I went to Uppsala and had a fun time walking around the cute university town and sipping coffee in the cute cafes. I went to a few impressive museums (Gustavianum and Upplandsmuseet), which have a nice collection of Egyptian artifacts and an old anatomy lab theater!!!! I walked up the very steep stairs of the theater and looked down onto a tiny little table for dissections. It was awesome! On one table, there were still signs left of the body, which is disgusting and awesome! Upplandsmuseet is more for learning about the past of Uppsala and how people used to live in the city (i.e. What they did for work, what kinds of houses and clothes they had, etc.).

I also fell in love walking around Skansen. Skansen is more for kids, but if you're not from Sweden, you should definitely go! It's got an animal exhibit and a playground, but there are SO many beautiful old Scandinavian buildings and Viking runes in the museum (it's an open air museum). I saw some moose, caribou, chickens, horses (the Gotland pony, which is an old breed that originates from an island east of Stockholm), and even brown bears (they're funny looking when they stand up!!!).

Swedish class has kept me on my toes. I do think it's a very easy language, in comparison to learning German or Arabic, but it has its curveballs, particularly with learning how to change suffixes on adjectives and verbs when you change the tense. Agreement in all languages is quite challenging, so Swedish is no exception.

I've met some really awesome Swedes, both in Uppsala and in Stockholm. I have gone out for drinks, gotten corrections on my grammar and improved my vocabulary, and learned about politics and some taboos here. Swedes think Americans are nuts for obvious reasons (i.e. Healthcare access, gun laws, education access, etc.) however I can't help but think Swedes (and I know Norwegians are similar in this way!) that they like "snus" (chewing tobacco) and cigarettes, yet there's a HUGE stigma against marijuana. My host in Uppsala said marijuana is a gateway drug and it's awful for your health, but he had no problem ruining his teeth with some chew. ICK! He's definitely not the only one who has said the same thing, but of course, everyone is different.

Unfortunately I leave Friday but I'm excited to come back someday. Hopefully I will go north because the wilderness in Sweden is beautiful! There are no fjords here like there are in Norway, but there are certainly hundreds of beautiful islands and forests. Gå till Sverige!

For Norway, I just booked my farm work south of Stavanger! I'm so excited! I'm working on a farm with alpacas, sheep, and chickens! The people are very nice and I'm so happy to work outside all day. I also booked my flights to Bergen, Trondheim, and my lodging in Norway, which is generally Couchsurfing, so at least I can save a bit of money. I'm too lazy to write much and I have to practice conjugation, but I definitely want to share my pictures from the last week.

Vi ses senare!

Damsuggare (vacuum in Swedish).

It's very sweet and has a weird liqueur in it called Punsch.

The tomb on the above right is the guy who founded Skansen (Artur Hazelius). It's so beautiful it's disgusting.

Godnatt Stockholm!

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I'm currently coughing up a lung in Stockholm (annoyingly enough I'm sick once again :K). Every country I visit, there's some strange medication you can get. I had to settle for a codeine-like product (alkaloid) and no Pseudoephedrine, which can only be given with a doctor's prescription. I also bought Bromhexine, which I've never heard of. It's an expectorant and it ended up costing about $7, which is not that bad at all.

So far, Sweden is obviously very expensive. A basic coffee is at least $3-4 (even if it's not good) and if you don't want to spend a lot of money on food, you should go to LIDL and get lunch there. I do that after my class sometimes, and I pay about 20 SEK (a little over $2) for a bean salad, which is pretty good and healthy.

My hostel is such a mess, so I cannot wait to get to Uppsala this weekend. Some lady decided in the middle of the night that she should tell me I'm in her bed, when in fact, she couldn't figure out which bed was hers in the first place. She had me get up, remove my sheets and comforter, and take her shit, and then refused to apologize to me and continued talking to me even after I told her I had class the next morning and I reminded her that other people were sleeping in the room. I've been very lucky throughout my 8 months of traveling with annoying people at the hostel, but unfortunately, I can't get away from weird and inconsiderate ones here. Blegh. I have been sleeping awfully and just don't feel like myself! It's crazy how much something as simple as where you sleep affects your health! I've been feeling nauseous, exhausted, and even had a fever this morning! Gross. There's also tons of people at my hostel looking for work here, which is crazy because a lot of them don't even speak English. I know this is incredibly callous of me to say, but I would expect that people would try to go to a country that wasn't so expensive to live in. I know Sweden gives out a lot of benefits to the poor, but I am pretty sure it gives special treatment to people of certain countries (e.g. Somalians and Eritreans) and refugees. A lot of people are just looking for work, say, from Morocco. Unfortunately they only seem to speak French and Darija, so I'm not sure why they didn't go to France when there's already tons of migrants in Sweden looking for work that do know English or have a leg up with their citizenship.

So how is learning Swedish? Fun! It's such a funny language because a lot of the phrases don't make any sense to me (some sound quite passive aggressive when translated into English). It also has a very particular intonation. It goes up-down-up-down-up-down. If you want to simplify that idea, think about how people speak exaggerated Italian. I love that when you ask someone how they are (which by the way, there are millions of ways to ask), you can say "Fint!" Which means "fine!" In English if you asked me the same and I responded "fine!" you would know I was pissed off.

Some of the words are SOOOO hard to pronounce. Some of the sounds really remind me of French (like how you pronounce the letter "r," which has a guttural rolling sound that starts low in your throat. Some hard words are "självklart" (which means obviously) and "säger" (which mean say) and tjugo (which means twenty). Even the word for engineer is crazy, because it sounds very Spanish with the way you pronounce the "j." There are a lot of "yuh" sounds on consonants and honestly, I think those are harder to pronounce than the vowels (once you learn how to properly speak the vowels).

I find myself talking in a "froggy" voice like when I do in French, but of course no "uhmmmmmm....ouais...." sounds! I don't think that Swedish is as "fluid" as French, rather, it's more like English in how the words stop, but not nearly as bad as talking with sticks in your mouth, like English.

Swedish has three unique letters in their alphabet, which are å, ä, and ö. You pronounce them "Oh," "eh" and "ooh" (like book), but for me it's incredibly hard to describe linguistic sounds over a blog post.

In Swedish, it's not common to say that the time is 1:20. Instead you say it's 20 past one or a quarter to 12. It's annoying for me, because I feel like an old person (only old Americans tell the time like that, as if they're reading an analog clock 😜).

It's crazy how many different accents the language has! Even certain words are not spoken in different cities. For example, saying "Hallå" instead of "hej" in Stockholm comes off as aggressive, but it doesn't in Gothenburg. While the US has a lot of dialects (because we are an absolutely enormous country) I would argue that places like Italy, which is far smaller but far older, is more diverse in the language!

In Swedish, there is a verb (fikar) for taking a fika, which is basically a coffee break. Or you can say "fikapauser," which is the name of an amazing Scandinavian restaurant I worked at back home. For me I don't "fika" because I drink coffee at my desk all day.🙈 My favorite part about learning languages has been seeing the different cultural aspects that are reflected in words and phrases.

My professor is very boring and does not have much of a sense of humor. He is almost always scowling and does not really know how to laugh with the class, so I wonder if he has a socializing disability, which is hard when you're teaching people a social subject and not chemistry or math. He is VERY by the book, and honestly too much so. While I am a big advocate of not speaking English when learning a language, sometimes it's necessary when you're absolutely lost. Also he cannot stop class EVER to answer a simple question, which really irritates me. I had a much better experience in Italy with my course. Also, my class is a bit larger than I like, so when we all repeat what he says, he cannot really hear who mispronounced something. My class would be so much better with a different professor, but at least I only have him for two weeks.

All in all, Swedish is an easy language to learn (it's pretty straightforward because there's very little masculine/feminine agreement and NO conjugation (😱), but I do think the pronunciation is quite challenging and it's going to be a LONG time before I nail it, just like it was for French. I am very happy to spend time in Stockholm, although I've been so busy I haven't seen much. I've visited bars and cafes and while many of the service workers are kind, I have to laugh at how "Scandinavian" people are. Some people are very direct, in a way that comes off as either harsh or awkward. For example, I lost my shoes on my flight to Stockholm from Madrid and the ticket counter lady basically said it was my fault and too bad for you (instead of answering my question if there's anything we can do). There was no "sorry, that's too bad because we don't have a tracking number" (a stereotypical customer service demeanor) but rather a "sucks to suck" attitude with a strong note of finality. There's definitely a stereotype that Scandinavian people are aloof, and oh boy, I feel it. To be fair, I can only talk about Swedish people, and only Stockholm. While I was VERY happy to get away from the annoying pestering of Moroccan men, Sweden is totally on the opposite side of the nosiness spectrum. I don't like chit chatting with people unless I connect with them (e.g. Something funny happened between us), but I have to say, Swedish culture is either socially awkward, very wary of foreigners, or all of the above. It doesn't bother me much since I don't live here, but man I think I would be annoyed if I did. That's why I really like places like Germany or Vienna; I fit in in the middle, as I think Spain or Portugal are too friendly for me but I don't like the coldness of Scandinavian culture. I'm very social and straightforward, but I'm definitely not fake and definitely don't want to be friends with everyone. I can't pretend I like you if I can't stand you, so in some ways, I get to be more direct here and not feel guilty like I would in Minnesota.

To describe to you how strange it is to interact with some people I'll tell you a story. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender for recommendations about what to try. He was quite aloof (though not what I consider rude, just not cheerful which is so taboo for American bartenders) and gave me one of his favorite beers. 15 minutes later he asked me how I liked it and we got into a conversation. He totally lit up and we spent five minutes exchanging beer recommendations for each other. Of course not everyone in Stockholm is like that, but it does seem to be the typical idea. People come in all shades and flavors, so it's fun interacting with different cultures and seeing what "makes them tick." I am excited to meet some Norwegians and see how their language compares to Swedish! :)

Finally, I'm going to get something off my chest that absolutely drives me bonkers about some of the people in my course and some of the people that talk about Scandinavia, particularly on online sites like Reddit or among people back home (this doesn't apply to Scandinavians themselves). They have such Scandinavian fetishes due to the successful socialist reputations of the countries. I have people in my course that live here because they have spouses or significant others or are going to school here, which is cool. There's a girl in my course who absolutely fetishizes this country and acts like she knows everything about the culture, which is hilarious to me because Swedes are quite modest and would not look favorably upon this kind of bragging. It's also uncomfortable for me to listen to her, talking about how "she's so embarrassed she doesn't know the articles "ett" vs "en" and that her kids will be embarrassed for her." Mind you, she's 20 years old and is not even married, so why she envisions herself living here with kids is beyond me and cringeworthy at best. I am so sick of people pretending Scandinavia is such a haven. Yes, the government seems to be quite fair, the healthcare and education systems are awesome, and it's a very orderly and flawless system of public transport and societal functioning. Things work, unlike some countries I have visited. That being said...

I see so many people moving here who have NEVER even visited before, expecting free hand outs (someone at my hostel actually asked if they could come with me to my class because he thought it was free!!!! If only he knew how much time and money went into organizing my course!). They don't know anything about the culture or lifestyle. I would love to study here (because the quality of medical school graduate programs are amazing in Scandinavia) but I am almost 100% I could never live here. The weather is cold and rainy like Seattle now, but it's April! It's dark and depressing, so I started taking my antidepressant and Vitamin D pill again 😂. I bring up these things because it doesn't seem like anyone talks about the negative aspects of these countries. The food is very boring, though it is good comfort food. It's so fucking expensive, though yes, Norway is definitely worse! There's a feeling of exclusion within the culture, which is good if you're an introvert like me, but is bad if you're an extroverted introvert like me and you just want to bond over a coffee or some beer. Of course, I understand if people who grew up in Scandinavia and love it and want to stay (just as I have a love/hate relationship with the weather and people in Minnesota).

People in general dress quite stylish, but not a very "put together" stylish like Italians. I went shoe shopping (idiot me lost my Converse on my flight over here in my checked bag pocket) and I had to work hard to avoid platform shoes. I'm too much of a tomboy to not buy Converse or high tops!!! People are so fit! Swedes are very healthy, and some are scarily tan, especially younger men.

I have only been here three days so I look forward to updating at the end of next week, before I leave for Oslo! I like walking around Stockholm and find it to be a very clean and beautiful city. There's so many nice cafes and restaurants, and I find the random parks I stumble upon really charming. I cannot wait to start looking for farms to work on. I look forward to stuffing my face with more pastries and recovering from the virus!√ 

Swedish Princess Cake! Basically a light sponge cake with layers of cream and a green dome of marzipan. It's one of my favorite cakes.

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I'm currently in Madrid and am relaxing/listening to the Sorry About Last Night podcast during my post lunch siesta of Cava/potato chips. I loved Lisbon! It wasn't like anything I expected; the people look very different (they look "Brazilian" but of course, Brazilians look like Portuguese people) and it's a super affordable destination. I went to Sintra which is a castle and palace city 20 minutes west of Lisbon.

I love Lisbon for so many reasons: one, it has many random bars/restaurants in the middle of the roads/in parks that you can buy cheap glasses of beer and nibbles for very little. I went to Banana Cafe near my hostel and enjoyed sitting in the middle of the road watching business men and old ladies walk by. I wouldn't say people are SO friendly (like they are in Minnesota or Ireland) but they are definitely approachable and laid back. I was also shocked to find out coffee was 0,65 euros! It wasn't good coffee but that's insane!

This city loves dogs! I saw so many cute ones walk by and as I passed pet stores, I noticed a lot of high quality brands like Royal Canin. I love places that worship their pets. If you're visiting the tourist areas near the river, try to stay as little as possible because it's overwhelming and there's lots of tacky shops selling junk. That being said, Lisbon is a WONDERFUL city to just slow down your day and sit in Belem to grab a glass of 2 euro sangria and enjoy some salted codfish on toast. I love cities that don't feel so disgustingly touristy (Madrid feels like that, it's just majorly popular) like Vienna, much of Croatia in the winter (or in general, it's not SOOOO popular like Paris or Athens), or even Barcelona! It's not necessarily the city's fault, but I feel bad for the locals that have to deal with that. Growing up in a small tourist city, I loathed going downtown to where all of the tourists clog up traffic and gush over cheesy parts of the city, and patronize tacky junk stores and shitty bars. They're also incredibly loud when you just want to enjoy the beautiful nature of canoeing down the river, but wah, I digress. I know I'm whining but now I know what it feels like for people to dislike tourists (I really feel for all the bikers in Amsterdam that constantly have to watch out for clueless and high tourists). So that is why it is SO important to wander and get lost within cities. I found a really cute bar that wasn't ungodly overpriced selling fake Portuguese food (like 12 euro paella, which by the way, is from the south of Spain!) and really loved sitting in the shade watching kids playing on their toy cars while sipping wine. That may be the best part about traveling: relaxing and getting to know a city on your own. Free walking tours are lovely but honestly, I am quite done with the regimented nature of many tours. I've had enough shitty tours that I'm probably never going to do them again. For me, the best companies to work with were in Prague, Bucharest, Sofia, Vienna, and Berlin where the guides were clearly passionate about their jobs and educating you on their city! I've had lackluster ones in Zagreb, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Budapest.

I also say Lisbon is one of the most "liveable" European cities I've been to because it's clean, well organized, has affordable healthy food, the people seem really happy, and also, they have LOVELY parks. One park near my hostel had tips on Tai Chi, yoga, and even osteoporosis! I can't wait to go back to Portugal someday :). I also tried this interesting sour cherry liqueur called Gijinha. It really puckered my mouth and tasted strong!!

Something I've been thinking about throughout my time traveling across Europe and Northern Africa is that people need to chill out when I ask them to repeat something. A lot of people have been upset or even combative when I show I cannot understand their accent. For example, I have a hard time understanding people with thick Portuguese accents and Spanish accents because I do not know Portuguese and the Spanish I'm used to is more Central American. I can tell you firsthand that I've been misunderstood by French speakers, Italian speakers when I speak my basic Italian, and even people that don't know English very well and claim my accent is hard to understand!!! This is hilarious to me considering that American and Canadian English are by far easier for non-native speakers to understand (at least that's what I've been told by countless people on my travels around the world). When people tell me they can't understand me I stop, reflect on what is confusing, and remember they're not trying to upset me. I LOVE when people correct me on my French and Italian, because I know I must be messing something up and I am always striving to improve.

So please, do not be butt hurt when I ask you to repeat something or look confused. If we were born to always understand one another, it wouldn't be fun :). I can't wait to suck at pronouncing Swedish, cuz I already talked to three Swedish girls today and pronouncing some cities was quite fun and uh, interesting. 😂😂

I also realized how cool it is to hear the different dialects of certain languages. While I don't know WHERE in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, or Germany (or maybe Austria or Switzerland!) you're from, I can definitely tell your accent sounds different. For me, Moroccan French is just the worst. It's super flat sounding and not as "élevé" as Parisian French. I dumbed down my French there because I mimicked the way people talked to me. It's like when I'm traveling with people that don't speak English well; I simplify my grammar and vocabulary and try not to speak with great pronunciation. I call it "sloppy French." When I spoke with my friend who is French, she quickly corrected me on a lot of my sloppy habits.

On a final controversial note, this trip has made me realize how stupid it is to assume you know something about another culture. I have had MANY the opinion on a given political leader or government, BUT it is not my job to tell someone what I think or assume I know what is best for a country. This attitude has gone both ways for me. For example, I watched a documentary on Colonia Dignidad and heard about the atrocities the Pinochet regime had committed in Chile. I asked a Chilean guy about his opinions on the political climate back then and while Pinochet was an awful man, he told me (via his father) that Allende was simply not the good man everyone thought he was, and that the people had actually fairly voted for Pinochet. I am so happy I asked because the Argentinian guy I was eating with was also coming from my perspective, so he clearly did not know that the situation was far more complex than a non-Chilean's perspective.

For me, I fucking hate when people tell me about "who should have won the election" or "why Hillary Clinton is evil" and "if I voted for Trump" when I'm traveling in an Arabic country! For one, what Trump voter would think it's safe to travel to Egypt or Morocco, let alone by themself as a woman?! Second, please do not interject your opinion on American politics if you've a) never lived there; b) never worked there; c) don't understand the ubiquitous corruption that is American politics (really all politics). If you really thought Bernie Sanders should have won, why do you think my country can't even agree on federally supported abortions, gun control reform, and universal healthcare!? We are not Germany or Sweden, so please do not tell me what's wrong with my country (believe me, there's a lot wrong ;)). Also, do not tell me Hillary Clinton is corrupt if you're not going to talk about Obama or the rest of my government, because yes, THEN I can agree with you.

I am so happy I have gotten to talk to so many of my "neighbors" abroad. I've met many Canadians, ranging in age from 24-45+ that do not like Trudeau and view him as a Prince Charming poster boy for the "Bernie bros" (the equivalent in my country) that has gone back on many promises. Reforming the election process in Canada and disallowing the Alberta oil pipelines were two such big campaign promises he went back on, yet he is some sort of saint to the naive (including Americans I know that have never even been to Canada!).

Going off of the last few ideas, it is so important to accept a country for who they are and to not assume they are wrong. For example, many of the middle eastern countries have monarchies, which fairly enough don't always work, but it's important not to be an elitist and assume they're shit. Morocco loves their king and you can see him in so many shops (and no it's not a North Korea leader dictatorship idol). It's the same way in Cambodia and Thailand. Traveling really opens up your eyes to how cultures and societies function and what may not be acceptable for you is the accepted norm in that country. I loved visiting Morocco for a short period, but I know I will absolutely never live there. I love a lot of socialist countries but it would be foolish for me to assume it would be so easy to move there when I have no idea how the tax system works.

​Walking around Lisbon and Madrid

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As I finish my last days in Morocco and head towards Tangers on the bus, I have to say I do not know if I will ever come back here. I liked Egypt far more than Morocco, and I have had too many shitty experiences of being ripped off. Today I asked the kiosk how much a bus ticket would be to Tangers and he claimed it was 220 dirham (which is about $22), and I knew he was lying so I checked online and showed him that it was actually 110 dirham. He muttered something grumpily under his breath and was rude to me when he took my money. While I know there are so many kind people in this country and the hospitality is amazing, I am so done. I've walked with my Asian friends around town and they've been shouted at, with things like "Hello China" (even though my friend is Taiwanese) and "Ni how" in a very exaggerated, barbaric, and rude tone. If I was Asian I would be livid. It makes me wonder how the men would respond if I called them "camel f****ers" or "sand n*****s," which are obviously disgusting and abject terms but is the hateful derogatory sentiment that much different from calling an Asian person "China Town" while you squint your eyes and stare at them like a museum exhibition? It's so hateful, painful, and damaging to the tourist industry!

The overt racism and sexism in Morocco is appalling, and it is so much more wealthy than Egypt! Of course Istanbul was far better to women, but I can't get over how disgusting many of the men in the street are. In Egypt, they asked me if I had a boyfriend, told me I was very pretty (which was awkward but they didn't say it in a way that made me feel horribly uncomfortable), or one tour guide jokingly offered that I should stay in Egypt and have 3 husbands there and some camels. I have spot on intuition and I know none of the Egyptian men were trying to disrespect me, or make me feel uncomfortable, they just wanted to joke with me. 😜 They would leave me alone when I refused a "selfie" with them and they never muttered callous or rude names to me. I never felt unsafe or horribly disrespected. Here, men outright follow you sometimes and exclaim you're angry for walking away (as if you're the problem and how dare you not respect this entitled prick). They also are intimidated by strong, confident women that have no time for their bullshit so they try to call you rude or mean. Maybe women here are more subservient to their childish behavior? I don't know. I don't get treated the same way when I walk with male friends, which disgusts me because they must assume I'm their property as opposed to my own agent. Can't wait for the coldness and shyness of Northern European and North American men :D!!!! They at least respect me as a human being. I'm not a delicate flower that needs to go first through a corridor or have my drinks poured for me. Yes, I know it is common courtesy, but I miss men that don't treat me like a child. I mean, if I was a child, how the hell could I curse like a sailor, travel around 30+ countries, figure out how to do things by myself, and still feel no shame for not wearing nice clothes, make up, and nice hair like a "proper lady?" I'm no Sansa, I'm that tomboy, rough, snarky Brienne of Tarth or Arya Stark and I don't need your pleasantries, thank you. 😂

The Moroccan men in the medina that cat call are straight up degrading man children and the best way to take care of the situation is to shame them for their rudeness. They will repeat what you say while you're walking in the street and I will ask them (in French) why are they being rude and repeating what I'm saying and their demeanor changes and they don't have a response. The best way to fight cat calling is to tell men how they're making you feel (dehumanized and exploited). It's repulsive. I also had a hostel that was incredibly patronizing to me (in Fes) and asked me why I'm so mad (not true, I just complained about the guy who charged my friends and I for a tour we did not know wasn't free) and that I need to calm down (wow thanks for implying that women are hysterical) so I threw it back in his face in French and told him I don't understand why I need a chaperone (he walked me to the restaurant uninvited and refused to dine with my male South American friends I met) and that he was overly sensitive. I'm not a baby, I have traveled by myself for the past 8 months, I do not need a holding hand, especially when I don't ask for your help. You have to tell people no all the time and even then, they don't get the message. The patronizing men at my hostel in Fes defended this behavior claiming that people just want to help strangers, disregarding any compassion for my feelings of lack of privacy or insecurity walking by myself. It's made me bitter and rude sometimes when I should be nice (there have definitely been people who have walked up and down streets to find things for me in the market or a place to go that don't demand any money and of course I graciously thank them for their kindness). The true Moroccan way is hospitality without a price, but more often than not, it is with an expectation that you are a walking money tree. This was not the feeling I had in Egypt, SE Asia or the more poor parts of South America, so I feel valid in saying Morocco is worse than any other place in the dehumanizing aspect.

That being said, I LOVE Berber people. There's quite a lot of racism (not just Asians) in Morocco towards black people and nomadic Berber people, which really infuriates me considering that the Berber people I've met (including men, women, and children) have been incredibly gracious, welcoming, and fair when I barter with them. That is the true Morocco for me, so to see them be referred to poorly really pisses me off. In Egypt, they are also very racist towards the Nubians (in the south) and the Sudanese refugees coming from the civil war. It's heartbreaking (naively I thought such anti-black racism was unique to the US and Europe) but you can still see that even economically disadvantaged people exploit other people.

Some of the good aspects thus far: Morocco has some very nice cuisine. You can get stewed meat (usually chicken, beef, or sheep) that is cooked with lemons, onions, potatoes, or squash, which is called tagine. They have a sweet meat pie called pastilla here in the northern parts of Morocco. The tabbouleh salad is excellent, but you can find the same cuisine in Spain. Sweet mint tea is served with everything here, and it is rude to refuse. The topography is beautiful, with canyons, mountains, beautiful lush green fields of orange trees and olives, and even Roman villages.

I'm sick of people here or online (tourists) that try to glorify and defend the sexist behavior of this country and outright ignore the disgusting side of the culture. Again, I have met plenty of Moroccans abroad and have met many kind ones, so no, not all Moroccan men are bad but stop sugar coating! It's also important to add that most Moroccan women I've met (and Egyptian) working in restaurants or in the small villages have been very kind, though you never see them because they have to play housewife while the men go out and socialize. Unfortunately, this woman wanted to share a taxi and only spoke Moroccan Arabic. When the taxi kicked both of us out (2 kilometers away from where I was supposed to be) he demanded 20 dirham for me, and of course she didn't pay anything and just used my kindness for a free ride. I hate to say it, but I can't trust Moroccans anymore. Maybe I'm the most unlucky person in the world here but it seems quite coincidental...When I compare my similarly long trip to Egypt (and 4 very different cities there) with my travel across part of Morocco, I am left with far less dehumanizing feelings and a better understanding of the culture. In Egypt, hospitality and tourist people treated me THE SAME as my male counterparts, not like a fragile little flower that can't possibly think for herself. I miss the people in Thailand and Vietnam that tell you where to go with a simple smile and a special kindness that leaves you longing to get to know the people. There are people like that here, but in my 10 day experience, that is far and few between. Modern Morocco (again, specifically Marrakech and Fes) is so staunchly anti feminist and racist and full of people trying to rip you off, it just sours my feelings about this country. Maybe I will go back to visit the local peoples again, I do not know.

​Top Left: Berber man pouring "Berber whisky" (mint tea). It's much easier and less stressful haggling with the nomadic people who make all of their own carpets out of camel fur and sheep's wool.

Top Right: Beautiful textiles in Aït Ben Haddou (famous movie setting)

Bottom Left: Overlooking the beautiful Ourika Valley on the way to Gorges de Dades

​Top: Doors of Fes and tannery

Middle: Famous Blue door of Fes

Bottom: Meknes fountain and Remnants of Volibulus

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Let's go!

I've been picking up on little Arabic phrases from Egypt but also a few in Morocco. Shukran is "thanks" and Salaam means "Hello" as well "Bye" (it basically means peace be with you) and "Chellah" is the Moroccan Arabic way to say hello. Keep in mind the Arabic in Morocco is a mixture of French, Arabic, and colloquial Arabic. There is also a completely separate language for Berbers (the nomadic Moroccan peoples). I've had mixed feelings about Morocco so far. I was ripped off by my taxi in Marrakech coming from the airport, even though I have outstanding haggling skills. Unfortunately, there's only one taxi stand there and it's not exactly like all the drivers are trying to grab you like in SE Asia. So even though I wanted a given price, they refused. I've also been followed and rudely shouted at in the night market with my friend by a guy who worked at a restaurant. He said we were racist and impolite (probably for not saying hello, which is absurd considering that EVERYONE says hello to you and it's exhausting). While I hate being yelled at and followed, it's luckily been the exception, and I think it's a uniquely Moroccan thing (though I would not say it's common).

People in Morocco takes manners to a whole new level. They constantly offer you their favorite sugary mint tea, which is rude to refuse (at least upon meeting someone). Moroccans are outstanding hosts! One host heard about my taxi ride and gave me free breakfast and spent 20 minutes trying to comfort me (even though I was okay). I'll write it off as being too sensitive but I know it's a signature of the caring Moroccans in this society.

Speaking of my dislike of Marrakech, I love Berber people and how beautiful the mountains, valleys, gorges, and Sahara desert is in Morocco. I was welcomed into a Berber village and shown some amazingly well crafted tapestries made of sheep and camel wool. Riding through the desert for an hour to get to the campsite via camel was amazing. It was funny how we just pissed in the sand (there's no toilet or shower) and our beds were covered in sand. I've been sick with a bad head cold lately and the desert had only exacerbated my illness. The bed was covered in sand and I think I got some bug bites from the bed (I had some crazy red bites on my wrists). One thing I've learned traveling (especially backpacking) is you WILL get crazy illnesses and infections. Crazy things WILL happen to you, like losing your coat and boots on the van to Marrakech and finding out you have this weird spot on your mouth called angular cheilitis, and no it's not herpes, and it is quite common...

I just arrived in Fes and it's famous for this beautiful gate called Bab Bou Jeloud. A worker at my hostel was kind enough to show me to an amazing cafe (just outside this beautiful gate). I dined on couscous (with cilantro, cucumber, and tomatoes), pastilla (a Moroccan-Andalusian sweet chicken pie), mint tea and and almond pastry. It was all very delicious, even though I couldn't fully taste it.

I am leaving for a day trip to Meknes tomorrow, so I need to fall asleep.

Choking back sniffles and pathetic coughs,

Salaam


P.S. the following photos are a mélange of some of my favorite snaps from my time in Morocco (the first half, at least)


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The last few days I've been incredibly lazy as I'm just catching up on sleep (from a crazy, though very rewarding and packed week in Egypt). I've walked into my first mosque (the famous Blue Mosque of Istanbul), which is a lot like a Buddhist temple in that your knees and shoulders need to be covered, and you are not allowed to wear shoes. Like some temples, women and men have separate areas for prayer or meditation. Women must also cover their hair, whether it's a hoodie or a hijab. There's a giant carpet on the floor covering the mosque. I was very impressed with the beautiful domed ceilings and ornate mosaics. I really love the art of Islam, including the calligraphy of Arabic. Naively, I assumed not many Turkish people were muslims and that if they were, they would definitely speak Arabic so they could read the Quran. Apparently the majority of Turks in Turkey are Islamic but they don't necessarily read Arabic, just as not all jews read Hebrew.

For someone who is very western, I am still trying to wrap my head around the whole Muslim concept. I'm so surprised at how incredibly broad the religion is. It's like the practice of Christianity, which has a zillion different sects, spectrums, and schools of thought. Muslims in Turkey wear the hijab and the burka a lot less than in Egypt, though in Egypt I felt like I saw fewer mosques. While Egypt is not secular like Turkey, it didn't come as such a surprise to me at how religious they were like Turkey has! There are so many mosques here and I have only seen two churches (zero synagogues). It's strange, considering how many Turks I meet abroad that don't practice Islam yet all Egyptians I've ever met are active Muslims (i.e. They told me or I asked them about their faith) or Coptic Christian.

Speaking of religion and vices, I have had only one drink the last week and a half!!!! Considering how much I enjoyed in Italy, it's humorous! I feel fine but alcohol is so expensive here and it's not very good. I can't wait to drink Cava in Spain.😈

Today I booked my two week Swedish course intensive in Stockholm and I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!! I really loved and treasured my experience learning Italian in Bologna and am looking forward to better understanding the culture in Sweden's capital city. I am planning on going to Uppsala (a university town) for the weekend but we'll see if I go anywhere else. Scandinavia is one of the last places I haven't seen much of in Europe, and I see very few of their people abroad.

After leaving Egypt and getting quite used to how aggressive and annoying the catcalling can be, I braced myself for Istanbul. Luckily, it really hasn't been bad. I haven't gone out at night yet, but at least people haven't (jokingly) offered to marry me for 3 camels. Speaking of marriage, I brought a fake wedding ring with me that I bought at a market in Chiang Mai just in case someone was thinking about harassing me. Unfortunately, I am the world's worst liar and I'd feel like Kristin Wiig pretending to be Khaleesi on Jimmy Kimmel if someone asked me about my fiancé or husband, so I quickly ditched that plan.😂 Luckily, I've been okay as I am pretty damn good at being assertive and having a poker face when I need to. In all seriousness, if someone ever gave me the creeps and was asking where my boyfriend was (something that I was asked a million times to my annoyance in Egypt), I would lie and say back at my hostel. It's better to be safe than sorry. To be fair, I met my fair share of creepy men ALL OVER the world, from Korea to Singapore to the US.

On a semi-related note, it's funny how inherently sexist Islamic culture is. I will preface this paragraph by saying I do not care what other people want to wear, what to believe, and what philosophy they practice so long as it doesn't hurt other people. If you want to wear a burka and only allow your husband to see you, that's your choice. If you want to refuse getting an abortion even though you were raped, that's your choice. However, I am so impatient with anti feminism. One of my guides kindly offered to take me to a shisha bar in Egypt. In Egyptian culture, the man pays for everything. He invited me to shisha and tea, so I obliged and was very grateful for his guidance in showing me how to smoke and eat some of the deserts from Egypt. We were having an interesting discussion on the family structure of Egyptians and he brought up strong women. He said that strong women are "equal to ten men." I bit my tongue and internally giggled at his comment, and he continued to explain that I couldn't bend the spoon on the table as fast as he could. While I know for certain he wasn't trying to be patronizing nor rude, it made me realize that although his mindset is incredibly backwards, American (or rather, Western) ideology is also very backwards and pretends to be feminist. While some may think equality is as simple as realizing that self-worth isn't as benign as being able to deftly bend an eating utensil, it's much bigger than that. It's looking at a woman doctor and realizing she is as capable of doing her job as a man. A male nurse isn't gay or incompetent or a man who couldn't get into medical school. The west still fails to see how equality works, and instead lazily point their finger to Saudi Arabia and patronizingly tell feminists "oh boohoo, you could be there and you think you don't have equality." This cavemen mentality is how progress is prevented.

Speaking of differences in cultural philosophies, I was shocked at the behavior I witnessed as a Westerner getting a free walking tour. The concept of free walking tours is simple: if you like the tour you go on (the several hour long tour that takes up the guide's time and energy), you can tip as much or as little as you like. A tip is expected and it is INCREDIBLY rude to not tip. I went on a guided tour with some people from Western Asia and Northeastern Europe and I was so shocked to see they didn't even leave this 45-year old man a few lira. I ended up tipping $8 (he said it was very generous) but when I asked if they were going to leave anything, one lady said "Oh we don't tip." She said it with a flirtatious smile on her face that made it seem like it should be funny, but there's nothing funny about being a freeloading cheapskate that thinks they're entitled to another person's kindness. Moral of the story: culture is CRAZY and something that you think is obvious may not be so obvious. I'm sure there have been times on my trip that I've unintentionally been rude, so I hope the more I travel the better I am able to communicate respectfully with people. There's nothing more irritating to me personally than someone who is deliberately rude or ignorant. Respecting a culture while you're traveling is SO IMPORTANT. That's why it's paramount to understand just because you're following the rules doesn't mean you uphold these ideals to yourself. To clarify, just because I'm wearing a hijab in a mosque or allowing a man to pay for me does not mean I don't believe in free expression of clothing or providing equal compensation for other people. However, it would be incredibly rude to walk into a place of religious worship without respecting their customs or to disrespect my host by not accepting his payment for our tea and shisha. It's all about cultural perspective, not ethnocentrism.

Left: ignorantly didn't know about the etiquette of walking into a mosque so luckily pulled out this scarf (made me feel like my grandma when she dressed up for the winter)

Right: I absolutely adore Islamic art! I'm so excited to go to Morocco!!!

Left: Grand Bazaar. Bought some Lavender soap there and was hassled by a million vendors to buy tea (they made me some and kindly shoved bits of chocolate Turkish Delight in my face)

Right: Nothing funnier than watching an ice cream vendor mess with you (it took him a minute to finally give me the cone)

​Left: Breakfast platter with cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, fried egg, fry bread, olives, and apple and strawberry jams (not picture is Lebanese bread)

Right: Walked into this hilarious traditional Turkish dancing circle...reminds me of the traditional dances of Bulgaria I learned!

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Top: getting some air in the pyramids

Bottom Left: Sphinx in Giza!

Bottom Right: I was so desperate to ride my first camel so my guide switched halfway through for me! Such a stubborn animal. Like a tall llama with a big hump (they give you major side eye).


Top: The government unfairly charges tour guides throughout their trips (they may double fine sometimes!). When other people ask for money it's called baksheesh and it's commonly enforced because people are not making enough money here due to the heavy inflation!

Bottom: Giza is basically a giant sand pile with fun pyramids surrounding a city.

Left: Beautiful panorama of Giza

Center: Catacombs of Alexandria

Right: Citadel of Alexandria behind me and the ocean (Northern part of Egypt)

Salaam. The last few days have been absolutely exhausting but so fun! From staying out late with my Italian friend treating me to Bolognese dinner and Fernet colas at the night market to sleeping in the Istanbul airport before catching my flight to Cairo, I've done a lot and slept in a lot of cars and strange places! Egypt in one word: wow. I had no idea or expectations coming into the country but there are so many thoughts pounding in my head.

Horrible traffic. Oh my GOD. We got in a minor scratch ordeal when coming to Giza because "little boys" (as my driver called them, AKA teenage Egyptians) driving a horse drawn carriage carelessly went too close to the car and scratched the bumper. It's hilarious watching and listening to the drivers quickly say things in Arabic under their breath and make hand signals (nothing profane like in the US) to people in the street and driving. People in Egypt DO NOT respect any traffic laws. At all. I thought Korean drivers were bad, or Croatian, or driving a motorcycle in Vietnam. LOL I wouldn't be caught dead driving anywhere here, whether a tuk tuk, a bike, or a car. Scary! Everyone rudely cuts each other off and honks. For me, the honking isn't stressful (reminds me of SE Asia), but the tail gating is irritating. I always worry about hitting people (and am shocked the highways aren't littered with decapitated feet everywhere) in the street because they cross right when traffic speeds up. It's like Russian Roulette for crossing the highway. People walk in between cars to sell stuff, like newspapers, food, and toys.

The people. Are. So. Sweet. Egyptian people provide amazing hospitality. I have been told "as you like" more times than I can count and always feel indebted to them because they go so above and beyond what they need to do as your driver or the receptionist. The servers are very sweet. I read somewhere not to look men directly in the eyes here (as it might mean you are attracted to the men) but everyone does and it doesn't seem to be a problem. Men are flirty but I think it's more of a cultural thing, rather than a "I want to fuck you" thing. Though, my tour guide did say he left his wife because he has always loved her sister, which was quite weird to admit to someone you barely know. You will be called habibti if you're a woman, which is a term of endearment. However, I've heard men call one another habibi, which is basically the same idea. While riding a camel across the desert, my guide joked that I was a queen (queue rolling eyes) and that I'm going to my pyramid (there was a queen's pyramid). Though it may seem creepy, it's totally in jest and Egyptian men love to joke. The Egyptian women I've met have been so sweet. Women drive cars (lol this isn't Saudi Arabia!!!!), are very smart (I've met a few young ladies that are getting hard degrees in engineering and the sciences), and work hard.

The people love foreigners, including Americans. I got stopped a million times today, much to my discontent, because people wanted to take pictures with a white person...ugh. There was an Australian guy I took a photo for and when he left a group of squealing teenage girls came up to me and asked me if we were married (lol I don't have a ring!) and if we could take selfies. Egypt is VERY westernized. Of the Middle Eastern countries, Egypt is probably the most westernized (if not Turkey). Keep in mind, something I didn't really think about is that Turkey is NOT Arabic. Do not ever call a Turkish person Arabic (it might be the same thing as calling a Brazilian person Chicano, which is Mexican). Another thing that is VERY cool about Egypt is that while the majority of people are Muslims, there are women that don't wear the hijab that are Muslim, and there are a few Coptic Christian churches. There is even a synagogue in downtown Cairo. People seem to be very peaceful with other religions here and mindsets, though of course they're probably going to be biased when it comes to topics like abortion and gay marriage (it's just not in the culture).

I will say, I was disappointed (though not surprised) when someone at my hostel told me about how he wanted to fight gay people and that he just can't understand them. He mentioned some horrible stereotypes about them (of course he mentioned the way they walk) to which I asked him how he didn't know I was gay or how did I not know he was gay? I told him you can't tell people are gay by the way they walk or chew gum, that everyone is different and that not all gay people are automatically attracted to you. It made me really sad to see some gay American guys come into the lounge, as I hope he hadn't treated them poorly. :(. While it's completely unacceptable to treat people poorly by their sexual orientation, it made me realize how Americans must view Muslims. He may hate gays and may be the extremist (maybe not though), but it's like an American talking about how you can just tell Muslims are bad and they're scary and want to kill you (of course disgusting propaganda).

Islam is such a new thing for me! I have no idea about the rules or how each country or each person views their religion, but I found out that it's just like Christianity in that you don't have to follow all the rules to be a Muslim. I naively thought Muslims could not drink alcohol (though they're not supposed to, just as Catholics aren't supposed to get divorced) and was shocked to hear people have sex outside of marriage quite commonly. Just goes to show how little you know about things outside of your culture's customs and religions! Before going to SE Asia, I had no idea what Buddhism was like, aside from my Tibetan Medicine class.

The weather is not too hot here! I'm happy to be here in the off season (though with the revolutions a few years ago, business has slowed down so much and the economy has completely crashed), and I cannot wait to come back to see more of the country, particularly the desert next time. I am only in Cairo a few days, and am about to take the overnight train to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings, many other temples, and take a hot air balloon ride. I've been to Alexandria (today) to see the Catacombs and will end my trip scuba diving and snorkeling in Sharm el Sheikh.

I am currently very sore from riding the camel and horse yesterday. Camels have such a funny gait (you feel like you're on a tilt-a-whirl without the circle motion) and it's so funny to watch them growl and snort at you as you ask them to sit down. Once you touch their back, they get up really quickly so you must sit down right away! They're fun but VERY stubborn! I'm hoping to ride one in Morocco.

Left: My messy room in Bologna (in city center). So nice to have my own room for a change!!!!

Right: My tiny kitchen! Oh how I miss cooking!!!! Of course that's my prosecco! I made Linguine with Bolognese sauce (fun fact: the sauce is not from Bologna!), and freshly grated Parmesan EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. NOMMMMMMM

Left: Historic Bologna tours in city center

Right: Unfinished church. The city wanted the biggest church in Italy yet before they could finish, the Pope canceled their plans because he insisted that the biggest church should be in Rome.

Left: overlooking Bologna from San Luca

Top Right: a violin luthier I passed everyday on my way to school

Bottom Right: Bologna used to be a canal city, like a miniature Venice! Here is one such canal.

As for Italy. I'm in love! I love Italian people, am in love with the Italian men I've met (😍😍) as they're extremely polite, go out of their way to treat you, and although they have a bit of machismo attitude (of course they always insist on paying for everything and helping you everywhere, so different from Germans or Austrians!), they're so fun and smart! I loveeeee Bologna and I loved the school I went to. I would love to move there someday (as well as Vienna!) so we'll see how my Italian progresses. I was surprised to see how easy Italian was, as it is SO similar to French. Italians themselves are very good at Spanish, Portuguese, and French. In Bologna, they're very good at English. The city is so laid back and friendly to foreigners, though it's not a big tourist city like Roma or Firenze. It's affordable and beautiful, though a bit small. I've definitely fattened up from all of the pasta, gelato, birra, vino, and fernet colas I've had!

Ciao e Buona Sera!

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Left: Overlooking the old part of Dubrovnik

Right: Bombing from Serbian forces during the War at Fort Imperial


Left: Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana

Right: Looking out across Lake Bled

Looking out over Rialto Bridge in Venice. A dreary day on the Grand Canal. Believe it or not, there were still lines of tourists wanting a ride on the overpriced gondola in the rain!

​I'm just about to go grab dinner near my hostel before I meet up with some Venetian locals for drinks! As much as I whine and make fun of Venice for being the most touristy city I've ever been to, I can't help but admire how much locals admire it and how fun it is to walk around at night after getting 3 euro glasses of wine at the bar. It is a completely different city at night, and nobody was even out on Friday night!!!! It was just Carneval, so maybe locals are pooped out? I don't know.

I am getting ready to plan my trip to Egypt in a few weeks and am also preparing myself to start my Italian course in Bologna on Monday!! I'm very excited as the instructors are very friendly and enthusiastic. I have to laugh at Italians though. After being in more "passive" countries like Austria and Germany and even Eastern Europe (although I'm not sure I would call them passive, just not aggressive) I find it hilarious how blunt people are here. They are not afraid to tell you to fuck off if they feel it's necessary. For example, I just walked into the restroom to brush my teeth and the cleaning lady was so pissy sounding and asked rudely if I could wait 2 minutes?! I am sure she didn't mean to sound rude, but it came off very sharp, especially to someone spending $20 a night to stay in a hostel dorm... o_O. Also, while I had a great tour of Venice today, I couldn't help but laugh internally at how assertive our guide was up front. She angrily told us not to videotape her (the same was said by my guide in Prague, but he was more jovial about it) as it was very rude. While I totally agree with her and respect that, the Italian fierceness totally caught me by surprise (it's been a few years since I've been here). Oh Italians. They are also quite sweet people. I've hung out with a few the last couple of days and I can't believe how thoughtful and friendly they are :). One of the best parts about traveling is discovering what makes cultures unique. While you can't stereotype everyone, here are some of my general observations:

-Germans are so fun and quirky and intelligent and practical (I would probably say the same about the Dutch people I've met)

-The French tend to be either aloof and insensitive, or have a great sense of aestheticism (they know all about good food, wines, fun things to do, etc.)

-The Viennese people are also very fun and outgoing! I love Vienna and the people I've met there!!!!!

-Croatians are loving and welcoming. They have dealt with a lot of tragedy in the recent past (ehem Serbian war in 1991) but are so friendly and hospitable nonetheless. They're also fun and know how to party!

-I can't say much about Slovenians (only there 2 days) but I found them to be very passionate about their country and proud (but not arrogant per se)

There's more places I've been but I couldn't really describe to you the average Czech person or Hungarian person I've met as well as the other groups.

I've been sleeping a lot (due to very early morning buses), but the more I've traveled, the less I like to be out all day long.

Since my last post, I've been to Dubrovnik (in Croatia) and ran into the cast and crew of Robin Hood, though I didn't see Jamie Foxx :(. I loved Dubrovnik, although all of the things to do are pretty much not available at this time of year. Croatia is so much more affordable and "undiscovered" (meaning it's less popular than Italy, Greece, or more traditional countries to travel to) than any destination I've been to in Europe. I loved getting lost in the city walls and weaving my way in and out of the markets. I felt like Arya Stark in Game of Thrones :).

I love Ljubljana, although it is far too small for me!!! Lake Bled reminded me a lot of the alpine villages in Austria. Slovenia is a very cute little stop through the middle of Europe.


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For every rant about a city, there's gotta be at least some positive news right? Well, coming into Croatia I had no idea what to expect. I knew the beaches were beautiful (even though it's cold and it's the off season) and I figured people would be somewhere in between Greece aloofness and Italian friendliness. I cannot tell you how happy I am I decided to come here!

I've had very few bad experiences with Croatians and am shocked by how friendly they are. They're not in your face so sweet and smiley like a lot of the Italian people I met in Florence, Rome, and Cinque Terre, but they are downright kind people that are willing to help you. I was shocked when several people opened the door for me, waited for me to pass and apologized, and the amount of "thank yous" I get from shop owners. I know that sounds awful but believe me, you're not going to get that in a lot of Eastern Europe, at least where I've been.

One old man at a cafe even bought my espresso at the bus station! I was worried it would be creepy but he just smiled and said "Ciao." The Croatians I have met are so interesting, conversational, amazing at English, and bright. The men are so handsome here! :) And I had to go to the doctor for an infection (you need a doctor's prescription to get antibiotics) and he didn't even fill out paperwork so I would have to pay!!! The antibiotics were only $7 (about 42 kuna).

I'm also very surprised how well people speak English here! It's much better than Italy or Greece. Again, I had very few expectations for Croatia and I am so pleasantly surprised and happy to be here!

The food is so affordable. Everyday I get a pastry (usually a doughnut with chocolade filling) and an espresso, which comes out to $2. I also love their sandwiches which are only $2! They like deli meats here. I've had Ćevapi which is a popular Balkan dish consisting of minced meat "sausage" (there's no casing on the beef), paprika sauce, a Balkan flat bread, and chopped onions. There's a lot of variations but it's very good, even for someone who doesn't usually eat meat.

The alcohol here is interesting. I love Pelinkovac (pronounced "puh-link-o-vitz"), which is a wormwood liquor. It's amazing with coke! They also love Medica (a honey brandy) and other Rakias like cherry or blueberry brandy.

One thing I find funny about this country is that smoking rooms are everywhere, or rather, you can smoke in cafes and bars. It sometimes annoying when you're in a cramped room and somebody has particularly bad smelling tobacco, but I've gotten used to it. My hostel in Zadar even had a smoking room, which I've never seen! Most hostels in Europe (and Asia for that matter) don't want you smoking in or near the building, so this was surprising to see.

On the left is the view of the harbor in Split from the Bell Tower

On the right is the courtyard surrounding Diocletian's Palace. The old town of Split is basically a castle labyrinth. It's so cool!

Today I went walking around this massive park called Marjan in Split. Split is quite tiny (the old town is literally a fortress with business built into it) and there's not much else to see in 2 days, so I've been enjoying going out with people to the small pubs and cafes. It's a beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea. Zagreb was my favorite city, in the North. Zadar was too slow and not worth going to in the winter. There were many closed businesses. Don't come here in February, unless you're going to Zagreb. I am still happy I'm here, but this country would be so much better in all its glory if I was touring it in the summer. Tomorrow afternoon I leave for Dubrovnik, where King's Landing in Game of Thrones is. My friend told me that I will cross through Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to get to the very thin coastline of Dubrovnik.

After I'm in Dubrovnik, I'll be flying to Zagreb again (it's such a long, expensive bus ride back!) and then taking a bus to Ljubljana, Slovenia the next day.

All in all, I'm very pleased to be here and am so excited to continue this awesome journey. I'm going to miss the fun loving, sweet people of Croatia, but I know I will be back someday.

There are stray cats everywhere here!

Hiking through beautiful Marjan park

Pictures of the church on the hill and a panorama of the harbor. There are sailboats in the distance (kids learning how to sail).

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