A Fine Day for Castling

2018-06-30-15.12.10I didn’t spend my entire time in Lisbon having pneumonia and eating pastry; I also left the city twice on day trips, once I was well enough to walk more than a block without having to take a nap immediately afterward.

30 June, 2018: What do you do after you’ve been basically laid up for two weeks and haven’t managed to eat more than one small meal a day for most of that time? Head to a mountain town and spend the whole day walking up and down steep hills and stairs looking at castles, obviously. My doctor had encouraged me to try to take deep breaths and work to get my lung capacity back (probably only partly with the ulterior motive of gaining a vocal new fan for Portugal in the world cup, as previously mentioned), so as soon as I felt somewhat recovered I hopped on a train and went to Sintra. Continue reading “A Fine Day for Castling”

The healing power of music and art (oh and also modern medicine): two weeks in Lisbon

2018-07-07-12.41.4023 June, 2018: After the week at the seaside with Debbie as my very kind nurse, and after a hellish day-long journey to Lisbon, I met my host and her cats and collapsed into bed. I had planned to visit the doctor the following Monday (I arrived on Saturday), and my host had offered to help me find one.

When I woke up late in the morning on Sunday, my host was out for the day, and I had the place to myself (well, me and the two lovely cats — more about them soon). I got up and took a shower…. and then was so completely exhausted and out of breath that I had to take a nap. When I woke up an hour or so later, I had had enough; I picked myself up, Googled “expat walk-in clinic Lisbon” and ordered an Uber. Continue reading “The healing power of music and art (oh and also modern medicine): two weeks in Lisbon”

They used to send sick people to the seaside for a reason, right?

2018-06-15-20-27-11-115 June, 2018: After an early-morning flight from Zagreb to Lisbon, I took the metro to the train station and then hopped on a train south to Faro. I had purchased my ticket online in advance, and as a result had found a special advance-purchase fare in first class that was cheaper than the normal fare in second class. Score! Continue reading “They used to send sick people to the seaside for a reason, right?”

The Albanian Alps, Part 3: Meeting Horses On Their Way to Church

02 June, 2018: When I woke up I was slightly sore, but eager to start the day. It was beautiful and sunny and I had several hours to kill before my ride back to Shkodër, so I started off with a walk.  Continue reading “The Albanian Alps, Part 3: Meeting Horses On Their Way to Church”

The Albanian Alps, Part 2: Up and Up and Up

Up to the neck

01 June, 2018: I woke up early and headed over to the dining room for breakfast, which consisted of eggs, hot dog links, and bread with butter, homemade jam, and cheese. Having skipped a proper dinner the night before, and with a long day of hiking ahead, I enjoyed it very much. Skender made me a perfect cup of coffee, lamenting that he hadn’t yet managed to train the village boys as proper baristas, and then got out a full-size topographic map to direct me on my hike for the day. He also offered to drive me through the valley to the trailhead, which I accepted gratefully as my leg had been bothering me the day before and this would shave nearly two (fairly uneventful) hours off my overall hiking time. I waited for him to finish up his morning tasks to get the guesthouse running smoothly for the day, and then we hopped into his old pickup and were off.

Continue reading “The Albanian Alps, Part 2: Up and Up and Up”

The Albanian Alps, Part 1: I Went to the Accursed Mountains and I Never Wanted to Leave

At the very beginning of June I hiked the Albanian Alps, also known as the Accursed Mountains. It was one of the more challenging hikes I’ve done, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Along the way I met some of the most welcoming people I’ve encountered anywhere in the world.

Continue reading “The Albanian Alps, Part 1: I Went to the Accursed Mountains and I Never Wanted to Leave”

Outside Tirana: Two More Stops in Northern Albania

I spent the majority of my time in Albania in Tirana, but I did venture beyond for 10 days or so. I’ve been told repeatedly that southern Albania is where it’s at — pristine beaches, even fewer tourists, etc — but I didn’t make it that direction on this trip. Instead, I spent a day at the beach in Durrës, a week or so in Shkodër, and then a couple days hiking in the Albanian Alps, which will be the subject of a separate post.

Continue reading “Outside Tirana: Two More Stops in Northern Albania”

Weird and Wonderful Albania

I spent a month in Albania this spring (May 2018), and I loved it. Because it was almost completely isolated under an extremely repressive communist regime from the 1950s through the early 1990s, it looks and feels like a slightly alternate universe. Those who are up on their Albanian history, skip ahead; I knew nothing about it before I went, so here’s a little bit of backstory in case you’re in the same boat. Continue reading “Weird and Wonderful Albania”