Regensburg, Germany

"In 1135–1146 a bridge across the Danube, the Stone Bridge, was built at Regensburg. This bridge opened major international trade routes between Northern Europe and Venice, and this started Regensburg's golden age as a city of wealthy trading families. Regensburg became the cultural centre of southern Germany and was celebrated for its gold work and fabrics." -Wikipdeia

A couple months ago, my husband's best friend and college roommate, Reece, moved to Germany on a contract with his company. When we heard about the big move, Chris and I were ecstatic to have a familiar face so close by. "Close" is relative. Google Maps claims Regensburg and Subotica are an eight hour drive from each other, but it still seems close when the rest of "familiar" is an ocean (and then some) away.

Chris and I started planning trips for three people rather than two and trying to coordinate work schedules, because after all, experiences are better when shared with friends. 
In December, we met Reece half way in Vienna, Austria for a fabulous trip through the main stomping grounds of the Hapsburg family. Here is the blog I wrote about that trip just in case you're interested. 

We had to visit both new "homes" next!

Both Chris and Reece have been extremely busy with their prospective companies, so a long weekend seemed out of the question. Or so we thought! Chris and I were pleasantly surprised last week when we realized that Serbia had a two day "bank holiday" and then the government granted everyone a third day off of work (which just happened to be Friday) due to the snow and power rationing. Chris had to work from home for two of the days, but spur of the moment, on Thursday afternoon, we jumped in the car Germany-bound. Of course there was a delay at the border, but, "this is Serbia after all!" We have come to expect such delays. Exactly eight hours after leaving Subotica, we rolled into Regensburg, Germany. 

Wine = the most perfect welcome to Regensburg, Germany!
Reece met us with a bottle of wine, but since all of his possessions had just arrived from the States, he couldn't find a bottle opener. Leave it to two engineers to know how to quickly open a bottle by pushing the cork INTO the bottle. Clever little trick I'll keep in my back pocket for later!

An old city model overlooking the Danube River. 
On Friday, we walked all around the city of Regensburg: checking out ice cream cafes, enjoying the architecture, peeking into old buildings and ducking into hole-in-the-wall bars every so often to avoid the rain.  I also annoyed the boys by making them pose every other minute for a picture. From the moment we started exploring Regensburg, I was struck by how quaint, clean, organized and ancient the city appeared. 

This brick tower dates back ancient Roman times. 
Well - to be fair, it is an ancient city! I found myself fascinated with this particular brick tower in the middle of Regensburg. 

Seen here are the remains of the East Tower of Porta Praetoria from Ancient Roman times. It seems that  this tower could date back as far as 179 A.D.! I was just overwhelmed as I tried to capture this piece of history in the small lens of my Canon Camera.

Chris and I learned that Regensburg was a unique Germany city as it evaded the Allied bombings at the end of World War II. The bombings were avoided simply because the bombers ran out of fuel.Lucky for Regensburg. The history of the city is incredibly rich, and since Regensburg was preserved while many other German cities were destroyed, the nearly intact medieval city is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Enjoy a few pictures of the stunning city of Regensburg, Germany. 

The Regensburg Cathedral or "The Dom." 
Considered the most significant Gothic work in S. Germany
The nave of The Regensburg Cathedral (The Dom)
Quaint and brightly painted streets.

The kicking pose on the Stone Bridge. 
Furstliches Brauhaus in Regensburg, Germany
The family that owns the Furstliches Brauhaus lives here. No big deal!
Awesome hole-in-the-wall bar with ceramic mugs for beer and wine!

Germany is full of well designed pubs!
Our drive home. 
I cannot wait to get back to Regensburg! Chris and I are already planning a trip back in May when they have their own little beer-fest! October Fest what??!?!


Let the Rationing Begin

"Really, Lana, you've never had your electricity rationed? Hasn't the American government ever just . . . you know. . . shut off your power without warning?" All eyes were on me as I awkwardly replied, "Well, sure my power has gone out before . . . but only because a tree fell on a power line, or a drunk driver ran into a nearby utility pole. The utility companies always scramble to get the electricity working because they lose money every second that the power is out." 

I quickly learned that there is no such thing as a private utility company here. 

In Serbia, the government owns the "utility company."

Because of the overwhelming snow fall, the Serbian government worried that the power grid would fail, so their tried-and-true-age-old solution: power rations. 

 I guess it's normal and expected here. 

A few nights ago - around dinner time - Chris and I were finishing cleaning up the kitchen when the lights suddenly turned off. No warning, no flickering, just complete darkness. I peeked outside and realized that we were not the only ones without power; complete darkness enveloped the entire city. 

 In the eerie light of Chris' computer I stumbled around for a lighter and candles. Thanks to Pinterest, my love of red wine, and a whole lot of free time on my hands, I had decorative "candle-holder-wine-bottles" just in case. 

They make for great decorations as well.  

Chris and I looked at each other and started laughed, "so this must be the power rationing that Subotica had been threatening." We had no idea how long we would be living by candle light, so we snuggled up and watched a movie on the laptop. I made a mental note that we should always keep the laptop fully charged just in case the rationing continued through the dwindling winter months. 

I realized in that moment, that there would be no utility company scrambling to restore light to the city of Subotica. No private company was losing money in this blackout. In Serbia, when the lights go out, the government lets out a sigh of relief; they are saving money. 

Luckily our first "power rationing experience" only lasted an hour, but everyone around town keeps whispering that it will get worse before it gets better. 

Ohhhh well, at least I have a whole lot of candles and a best friend by my side. 

After all, it is a little romantic. 

Positive thinking, positive thinking!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you are staying warm and that your home is well lit!
Cao from Serbia!


The Importance of Family

"Bringing up a family should be an adventure, not an anxious discipline in which everybody is constantly graded for performance."
-- Milton R. Saperstein

This quote caught my eye because it had to be the motto my parents chanted as they raised four (very different) children. My childhood was an adventure (in the best sort of way), and at every critical turn, my parents encouraged me and led by example. They never compared me to anyone else and they didn't expected perfection. Mom and Dad saw in me a strong-willed, defiant child that, if handled properly, had some sort of untapped potential. At age 15, all that I saw was everything that I did not have: the height of a volleyball player, the beauty of a cheerleader, that new BMW that my neighbor was given on her 16th birthday, or a pair of those fancy designer jeans that taunted me in the halls of my high school.

Looking back, my parents offered me something that money could never buy; they gave me experiences that ultimately gave structure to the story of my life. My story is constantly being written, but I am finally seeing some sort of definition. I was on an airplane at six months, and as Mom and Dad traversed the world, I traveled with them to over 50 nations. They taught me to see beauty in every culture and to love people, and I quickly got very comfortable living out of a suitcase and sleeping on someone's living room floor. 

Me and Dad at Plato Books in Subotica, Serbia.
When Dad dropped in to see us in Subotica, Serbia, I was hardly shocked. After all, he surprised me in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when I was volunteering there, and then again in Singapore to see the musical I was casted in. He had never been to Serbia and his daughter and son-in-law were a perfect excuse to check the country off his list. 

The Serbian snow hindered us from traveling much, so we made the most of our time in Subotica. Of course our first stop was Plato Books, and Dad just had to try their tiramisu. It passed his taste test, but  it wasn't better than the homemade stuff Mom makes!
We played football in the snow . . . . with a tennis ball (why not)! For weeks I had tried to find an American football in Serbia, but every sports store came up empty. Oh well, a tennis ball still made for a good game, and my team won so that sweetened the deal!

The winning team!
As we left the game, we found an American football not 100 yards from where we were playing!
Snow at Pizzeria Denis in Subotica, Serbia

After a high-stakes game of American football (played with a tennis ball), we took Dad out to our favorite little Italian place, Pizzeria Denis. When I noticed tiramisu on their menu, I knew what we were having for dessert. It was worth every extra calorie, but is still was not as good as Mom's!

Happy Birthday Dad!
Dad celebrated his birthday with us in Serbia, and it was nothing short of memorable. All of our friends brought gifts and baked goods for a man they had never met. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness, and I know that Dad was too. Every time our friends come over, I pray that their generous spirit rubs off onto me. While Chris and I enjoyed a lovely dinner with a member of my family (Dad), I couldn't help but feel a special sort of bond deepening between us and our Serbian friends. It almost felt like family. . . . and maybe because of the lessons of my childhood, I was discovering something extra beautiful in Serbia. 

It doesn't matter that I don't have a clothes dryer, ziplock bags, MAC makeup, Starbucks Coffee, my own car, or Forever 21 in Serbia, because I have found something that means so much more than all that "stuff." The friends we have made in Serbia are more valuable than all of the things money can buy. 

Maybe Mom and Dad were really onto something when I was 15 and begging for a new BMW. They said NO and reminded me that I was so "rich" and blessed to have good family and friends. I am so glad they never were able to give me that BMW.


Bye Bye Battery

Taken by a local Subotica, Serbia photographer
For two weeks, we've been living in a "Winter Wonderland" of sorts. Subotica's City Hall looks like a giant gingerbread house slathered in white frosting, excited children are creating igloo masterpieces in piles of snow that street sweepers have left behind, every hill has turned into an amusement park, and the people look like eskimos in their puffy jackets and fur-lined hoods.

I don't remember a time when I've seen this much snow at "home." Of course you expect several feet when you visit Mr. Hood, Aspen, or the Alps, but not when you step outside your door and try to make your way to work - or to the trash dumpster. This amount of snow just makes living a little more complicated. 

The romance of the Serbian snow quickly wore off for me as 
soon as Chris left on a business trip. 

I waved goodbye to Chris and his driver - relieved (because of the snow) that I was not the one driving him to the airport. Since I was left at home with the car, I started planning my many adventures. A trip to Belgrade, or perhaps a wine tasting at a near by vineyard, and of course I could drive to my job rather than trudge through the snow. My possibilities were endless. 

The only problem was that the snow was ENDLESS as well. 
It just kept coming . . . and coming . . . 
and coming. 

Then the worst thing happened to my "endless possibilities" - the car just stopped starting. Yup, dead battery. Awesome! It was early in the morning and I sat in the car for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Chris was gone, I was alone, I didn't have jumper cables, and I had forgotten if red was positive or negative . . . and of course I had to get to my job. Could I approach a stranger and ask for a jump? Would they understand my broken Serbian? Would they think I was asking them to jump ME?! Hmmmm, Chris would not like the thought of me letting a total stranger mess with the car. 

So, once again, I walked to my job in the snow. At least the snow had stopped falling and the sun was out, but it was still cold! No more snow romance for me! I was ready for the snow to go away.

By the end of the week, I had a good friend volunteer her husband's services. He jumped my car two times; once in the evening, and then again the next day when the car wouldn't start and I needed to get to the dealership. He was a pro (or rather just a man) and he knew exactly where that pesky red cable went. I didn't have to do anything other than say THANK YOU a million times. Oh course I told Chris about the car woes, and he made sure that there was a battery and an English speaking mechanic waiting for me at the Toyota dealership. Once the car was jumped a second time, I quickly drove it to the dealership, and in 10 minutes, they had replaced the battery. 

Easy-peasy. . . . 

At least that's what Chris thinks! He did not have to deal with any car drama; his little housewife took care of everything for him. Now I can add "mechanic" to my list of housewife duties and accomplishments. 

I didn't get to take advantage of my week alone with the car, but perhaps Chris will go on another trip soon, and let's just hope that the snow melts by that point!


Serbia or Siberia?!

Two feet of snow - St. Theresa's Subotica, Serbia
I just laugh when I look outside these days! How optimistic (and misinformed) I was to assume that the "worst" of winter was over; 2+ feet of snow remind me that winter has only just begun! Right now, the temperature is 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 C), and the forecast is promising colder weather to come. 

When we started announcing that we were moving to Serbia, most people looked at us with confused and worried expressions. Once they got over the initial shock of our statement, their first question was always something like this: "What in the world would possess a company to move ANYONE to SIBERIA of all places?! At least Lana can speak Russian, but holy moly that's a move! Just make sure you only bring warm clothes, I hear it always snows up there." We would casually clear up the misunderstanding and reassure our friends that the weather in Subotica, SERBIA was very similar to the weather in Salem, Oregon (Lana's hometown). 

And after all, Oregon has mild weather! It would feel just like "home."

Of course, this year is one for the record books. . .  

Oregon is experiencing a rare, February heat wave. While everyone in the Pacific Northwest is biking, running, and skipping around town in t-shirts and jeans, people in Siberia - er, I mean SERBIA, are wearing as many layers as possible to brave the elements. It is freezing!! People have not seen this amount of snow in Subotica for 20+ years. It is truly record breaking, and the city cannot keep up with the continually falling snow. Needless to say, driving is an obstacle course.

Maybe I should have let everyone think that I was indeed moving to Siberia . . .

I am beginning to wonder if I was tricked!

This is what I think Siberia would look like!
After the first big snow, I told Chris that we MUST dig our car out of the snow. Imagine a foot of snow freezing the car into place?! We could be stranded! I had lived through a catastrophic ice storm in Kentucky, and I managed to break my windshield trying to get the frozen snow off of my car. I didn't want to take any chances in Serbia.

We suited up and started using our arms to shovel the snow off of the car. In this picture, it looks like the car is getting ready to swallow Chris up!

Subotica, Serbia City Hall in a Winter Wonderland of snow!
When you're stranded in the snow, you may as well get your snowboarding clothes on 
and go outside and play! 
I hope you are all staying warm and cozy!


It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas. . .

I know, I know, we are waaaaayyyy past the Christmas hustle and bustle, so maybe a more fitting title would be something like, "It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Winter." To be fair, snow started falling in Serbia on January 7th, but while old-man-winter was wreaking havoc in southern Serbia, the weather in Subotica seemed to be favorably turning towards spring. 
Hurray for spring! 

I started researching warm vacation packages in Greece, Italy and southern France. Let's just say that I got a tad bit ahead of myself, because on Friday I was reminded of the fact that I hadn't had a proper meeting with that illusive Mr. winter. 

Friday, February 3rd, started like every other week day; 6:30 a.m. wake up call, breakfast with Hubby, a hurriedly packed lunch, and sweet farewells. I peeked out the window once Chris had left and noticed small, innocent snowflakes falling on the frozen ground. My first thought, "Well, at least I bought a "Serbian-style, puffy, warm, waterproof-ish jacket with a furry hood and stylish belt for this winter weather. I thought I had bought it for nothing, and today it may actually come in handy." I quickly got ready and grabbed the new coat to shield myself from the cold. 

A couple months ago, I was hired by an English Language School in Subotica, Serbia, and my first jobs have been individual tutoring sessions. Tutoring has been an all-around great fit for me. Basically I get to drink coffee with new friends, make a little money, and I don't even have to be fluent in Serbian! (I have a long way to go until Serbian fluency is accomplished.) Oh well, in the meantime, I guess I am helping people get fluent in English! 

On Friday I was headed to meet a sweet lady from Romania that I've been tutoring. Usually the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) walk to her place is welcomed exercise, but Friday was a different story. Before Chris left for work he said, "Lana, really, don't walk in this weather. They say it is going to snow, and even if it doesn't snow, it's FREEZING. Take a taxi, or a bus if you're too stubborn. Please."

You see more walkers and bikers than drivers in Subotica.
But I will admit it - I am stubborn. Maybe too stubborn for my own good and my own health. But everyone in Subotica walks or bikes; rain or shine, young or old, you use your own power to get from place to place. I don't have a bike yet, so I figured if 90-year-old women are using their legs to get around in the snow, I can do the same with my own pair. 
Bundled up!
It was cold. Even in my Serbian-style, puffy, warm, waterproof-ish jacket with a furry hood and stylish belt, I was still cold. Seriously, it seems that every woman in Serbia owns this jacket - the colors vary, but they style is exactly the same. How do you ladies stay warm walking everywhere? Are you adding like 10 layers under your jacket just to stay decently warm in this weather??

I got to my destination twice as quickly as normal because I was hustling to stay warm. If you look closely, you can see the mascara making puddles under my eyes. Hahah! I could feel my lashes freezing together, but I didn't realize how terrifying I looked until I started unwrapping myself in the warm house.

Tutoring went very well, and of course rather than taking a bus back home . . . I walked. After all, I am in Serbia now, and I hear that the snow will keep falling all weekend. I might just have to get used to walking around if I want to do anything outside of my house this winter. 

Winter is back. 

Farewell sweet illusions of spring. I sincerely hope you come back soon. . . 


He's So Hot Right Now!

After his win - pic. from The Sport Review.
“I think it’s probably the longest final in the history of all Grand Slams, and just to hear that fact is making me cry, really.
“I’m very proud just to be part of this history, part of the elite of the players that have won this tournament several times. - Novak Djokovic

I know it's old news by now, but I have not been able to blog about it until today. . .  
CONGRATULATIONS Novak Djokovic on winning your third Australian Open!

You sure had every Serbian on the edge of their seats. For nearly six straight hours, I am certain that everyone was glued to their television - praying anxiously, offering coaching tips, taking shots of rakija, exchanging hugs and high fives, screaming and refusing to miss even a second of the match. One of my best friends (who rarely drinks) said that she had to open a bottle of wine simply to calm her nerves. 
There is a renewed sense of joy and anticipation that fills the air after his big win.
He's only 24, and he is hope for an entire country.

His father was a professional skier who had high hopes that his Novak would follow in his footsteps. It is lucky for Serbia that Djokovic' father recognized his son's talent in tennis and he encouraged him to pursue his passion. 

He does not give up.
For a nation with such a painful history, he is somewhat of a god-send.  
Maybe Djokovic reminds Serbia that they can overcome the obstacles. . . 
and, that hard work always pays off in the long run.