Yesterday was a much needed escape from Ljubljana. We began our tour bright and early Sunday morning, piling into a bus with eyes still full of sleepy sand and expecting another typical tour experience…”Here’s a church, here’s a bridge, here’s a statue.” I was pleasantly surprised.
Our first stop was the Predjama Castle Cave in Postojna, Slovenia. The castle was built into a cave (If its name itself wasn’t enough to give that part away.) The castle wasn’t nearly exciting as what I happened to do here.
I’ve always loved the penny machines. You know, those machines where you put a dollar in quarters (Or 1 euro) and a penny, pick your cool design, turn the crank, and out pops your cool penny? Yep, the penny machines. Somewhere in the process of cranking out an awesome castle penny, I decided to put my camera down and walk away, completely preoccupied with my penny. (To give myself some credit, it was a pretty damn cool penny.)
I hopped onto the bus a happy girl with a neat penny. Only about half way through our ride to the caves did I realize I had my penny and en empty camera case. Damn.
I told my professor when we got to the caves and he just shook his head. Such a child, being distracted by a penny machine long enough to lose your camera. (Not even your camera, one of your best friend’s camera.) We told our tour guide and he made a few calls, but it was time to explore the Postojna caves so I began my trek downward with a guilty conscious and absolutely convinced that I’d be buying my friend a new camera. (Hi Susan!)
But the caves took my mind off things. Whatever happens, happens and all I wanted to do was look at the pretty stalagmites and stalactites, watch the bats, and enjoy being 90 meters (Yes, meters. You do the math) underground listening to the river.
I’d attach pictures of the caves, but, uh… you know. At this point in the trip I was still without a camera.
After the caves we made a pit stop at a wine and cheese tasting. The wine was good and the cheese was fantastic. I love cheese, especially fancy cheese I don’t have to pay for.
After filling up on wine and cheese we made our way to the Adriatic Coast, the highlight of my day and so far my time in Slovenia. We had about two hours to eat and wander about in the little town of Piran. With buildings influenced by Italy’s reign over the city a few hundred years ago on one side, and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea on the other, walking through Piran was a much needed escape from the graffitied haven of Metelkova. The coast of Italy was visible only a few miles across the sea, and after a lunch of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, we had enough time to mess around on the rocky coast, laughing at tiny crabs and soaking up the sea with the bottoms of my jeans.
I sat on the rocks and took in the scene. Why aren’t we staying here? I’ve finally realized I’m not a city dweller, and never will be. I need water and wind, trees, flowers, plants, birds…caves and the Adriatic Sea. Something. Anything other than a horizon of dirty windows and loud trains.
Reluctantly I hopped off the rocks, rolled up my jeans, threw on my book bag and wandered back over to our bus, which turned out to be a great decision because I scored a free ice cream out of the deal and bought a funny ceramic fish commemorating a beautiful end to a good day.
I found our tour guide, hoping for some good news on the camera situation. Apparently he had been calling all of his friends begging them to pick up my camera from cave castle and bring it to the caves where we would be able to grab it before our ride home. “You’re lucky one of the tour guides working at the cave is gay and fancies me,” he smiled. They had my camera. I sat on the steps in relief with a smile, a free ice cream cone, my fish, and my castle penny. What a day.
I got my camera back, and our tour guide apparently got a nice kiss out of the deal. Someone obviousbly went through my photos and left me with a souvenir (most likely unintentionally.)
The bus ride home was full of sleeping students, humping cows, and a loop of music I’ll probably never get out of my head. (Google Baccara-Parlez Vous Francais-English Version and you’ll know what I mean.)
After returning to our Hostel we eventually went out to look for food. I ordered some falafel and leaned against the restaurants doorway listening to two street performers sing their hearts out to the violin. The city has its own beauty that I’m beginning to appreciate. Graffiti is art. Architecture is art. But so is a windy coast, clear seas and deep caves.
Until tomorrow…or next week. Sending love and meat pockets.
I’m sitting in our hostel’s cafe/bar area listening to American pop music drinking a Fanta. I am in Slovenia, staying in a refurbished prison in a tiny room with three girls. I am horrible at blogging consistently.
Hello Ljubljana, you remind me a bit of home.
After about two days of travel via train/bus, a two day stop in Banja Luka, and dinner in Croatia, we are now at our final destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia in Hostel Celica, in Metelkova, an autonomous social center I can only describe as any mall in The United States on a Friday or Saturday night. I haven’t seen much of the center after dark due to sleep deprivation and a serious tooth problem, but from what I’ve seen it’s a big punk party full of underage, angry teenagers dressed in black sitting around smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. I don’t fit in, and it’s pretty obvious.
Ljubljana is nothing like Sarajevo and I find myself yearning for Bosnia. This city is beautiful and centered around a lot of art and poetry, but lacks the history and culture of Sarajevo I was so enticed by two weeks ago. Ljubljana is too much like home, and I think I’m having more culture shock coming here from Sarajevo than I had leaving the United States two weeks ago.
Some days I’m ready to go home, and others I feel guilty for being a bit homesick. Three weeks really isn’t a long time, and with only one week to go I know it’s going to fly by and I’m going to regret thinking about home. Everyone and everything I love will be waiting for me when I return.
Tomorrow we’re exploring some sort of Caves…somewhere. Yeah, caves!
24 hours of travel later I’m sitting in bed on Monday morning in Sarajevo, Bosnia… Bosnia?
It’s 7:56 am and already our street is alive with the chatter of a few early risers, their footsteps echoing on the uneven cobblestone streets. I don’t know what they’re saying, but Bosnian is fun to listen to and even more fun trying to pronounce by myself.
It’s hard to believe a little more than 15 years ago this country was at war. I don’t know nearly as much as I would like to about the fighting that has plagued this region of Europe for countless years, but as I continue to learn I look forward to seeing for myself the impacts of conflict in this country. Already I’ve noticed the deep holes on the sides of a few buildings from what I can only guess are bullets. (Yes, they were bullets.) The library a few blocks away from the Hostel we’re staying in was bombed years ago, its contents burned by rebelling Serbians. As long as this country has been in existence there has been conflict, whether with neighboring countries or within it’s borders. I can’t imagine what people here have seen. I can’t imagine growing up in a battlefield. My generation of students weren’t sent outside to play.
So why study abroad in Bosnia? Obviously the country isn’t a college student’s typical travel choice when studying abroad. I woke up this morning finally realizing I no longer have to explain the appeal of traveling here to anyone. “Why are you going to the Balkans?” “Where’s Bosnia?” “Is it safe?” I’m here because I want to learn. I’m experiencing life in a country that people don’t just pack up their belongings and vacation in.
How do you survive in a country still building its own identity? How do you survive in a country looked down upon for accepting and embracing its religious and ethnic differences? We walked around the city for a few hours yesterday and as my eyes began to glaze over from sleep deprivation, I realized I really couldn’t tell anyone apart here. I don’t know if they are Muslim Bosniacs, Orthodox Serbs, or Catholic Croats. Do I attribute my lack of discrepancy to growing up in America where I’m used to seeing a number of ethnicities every time I walk out of the door? Do the people here assimilate themselves as to not draw attention to what they might “be” or what they may or may not believe in? I have no idea. But I’m sure I’ll soon find out.
Today we tour the city. Cheers to you, Sarajevo.
Brand New, my favorite band on the planet, not only played Sonar (right before it closed down) on April 26th to a sold out, enthusiastic crowd, they also played at Towson University’s Tigerfest, a festival held every year for students and the community. Although thunder and lightning forced Brand New into the gym, which unfortunately did not have enough outlets to plug-in the entire band’s equipment, Jesse Lacey, lead singer and guitarist, sang the crowd a few songs.
I was looking forward to jumping around and screaming to an energized performance like the one at Sonar and was admittedly a bit disheveled when I learned it would only be the lead singer singing to us. But I wasn’t upset for long when I watched Jesse alone, above us on the balcony begin singing a few of my favorites to a small number of students, quietly singing along.
This performance just reinforced the fact that Brand New is my favorite band. The band could have easily packed up and left without bothering to perform. Rumor has it The Far East Movement refused to play first, pretentiously assuming they were “too good” to open. Please.
Bravo, Brand New. Bravo. You’ve been around for over 10 years, continue to produce amazing music and are still willing to play to a few college students inside of a gym. Below is a podcast I created as a final project for my New Media course at Goucher. What follows is my first concert review, written by myself and Kaitlin Higgins, the current features editor of Goucher College’s The Quindecim. Enjoy!
Brand New took the stage for the first time since late 2010 on Tuesday, April 26 when the band played for a sold-out crowd at Sonar in Baltimore. Kevin Devine, a Brooklyn-based musician and longtime friend of Brand New, opened the show, much to the enjoyment of the jam-packed, already excited crowd.
Devine and his band played a set that lasted nearly an hour, captivating the crowd with a slew of familiar songs as well as a couple of new pieces. Among these numbers were songs such as “Another Bag of Bones,” “I Could Be With Anyone,” “Cotton Crush,” and “Brother’s Blood.” Devine was particularly well-received by the crowd, perhaps because of his friendship with Brand New.
When Brand New finally took the stage, causing the crowd to surge a good few feet forward, their set list was a perfect combination of old, new, soft, and hard. They opened with familiar songs: “Sowing Season (Yeah)” and “Millstone,” the two songs that also open their 2006 album “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.” The stark contrast between the calm of the beginning of “Sowing Season” and the intensity of its chorus reflected the actions of the crowd impressively.
Throughout the remainder of the nearly two-hour long, eighteen-song set, Brand New played a slew of songs from all four of their full-length albums, although they chose the most from “Deja Entendu” and “The Devil and God…” The band’s older songs, especially “Seventy Times 7”—from their debut album “Your Favorite Weapon”—elicited some of the most excited reactions from the crowd. The three songs they played from their most recent release, “Daisy,” seemed to leave some members of the crowd not quite as enthused as the rest, but left those in the mosh pits breathing heavily.
Never a band to disappoint, Brand New ended the show flawlessly. The noisy end of “The Archers’ Bows Have Broken” faded into the slow guitar of “Jesus.” The audience immediately settled down and began to sway, hands glistening with sweat— and many marked with black X’s— held high in the air. We took it all in, knowing this could very well be the last song played. The guitars faded. The crowd went crazy.
Thankfully, Brand New played one more song—a song that made us as crazy as it made us sentimental. Equally as slow, equally as amazing. This was an oldie, and judging by the enthusiasm of the crowd who just about drowned out front man Lacey’s own voice, a favorite. “Soco Amaretto Lime,” a hit from their first album “Your Favorite Weapon,” was Brand New’s final song of the night. As the song approached its end, the crowd continued to shout. “You’re just jealous cause we’re young and in love/ you’re just jealous cause we’re young and in love.” Then Lacey’s final few words: “I’m just jealous cause you’re young and in love. Thank you Baltimore, goodnight.”
Despite the audience screaming for an encore, the stage crew began shuffling around stage and unplugging. The lights flickered on and the exhausted, sweaty crowd made its way to the door, kicking beer bottles across the floor and recalling favorite parts of the show. Baltimore loves Brand New, and we’re looking forward to seeing them perform again at Towson University’s Tigerfest on Friday, May 6.
“Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute” (SCBI) reads the large white screen covering the wood paneling of Goucher’s Hyman Forum on April 27. Steven Monfort, director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute spoke to a small number of biology students at his lecture titled “The Pulse of the Planet: Understanding and Sustaining Biodiversity.”
“We conduct research to aid in the survival or recovery of species and their habitats, and to ensure the health and well-being of animals in captivity and the wild,” flashes onto the screen, the Institute’s mission statement. The Smithsonian’s Grand Challenge: “Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet” is the institution’s consortium which aims to foster interdisciplinary research and find innovative approaches to global problems such as the loss of biological diversity, climate change, and ecosystem degradation.
Monfort, a conservation biologist, physiologist and veterinarian who has worked within the zoological community for his entire career, wasted no time in bluntly stating, “Humans are the cause of extinction.”
“We’ve met the enemy, and he is us,” flashes across the screen, a quote by Pogo from a poster commemorating the first Earth Day. “I don’t think we’re the enemy,” says Monfort. “We’re the organisms that dominate the Earth and are responsible for the life within. We’re also the only hope we have in undoing the damage that has been done over time. Our future depends on that,” he says.
In order to solve the problems that will continue to plague our world for years to come, we must continue to focus on conservation efforts in the future, not just within the time frames of our own careers, according to Monfort. Optimism and an emotional investment in learning to live with the biological diversity on Earth is what will save our planet and all organisms that call it home.
“When you think about solving the kinds of problems we’re talking about, all the science in the world by itself isn’t going to solve them, and emotion alone is not really a strategy,” he says. “We have to keep in mind that fundamental knowledge is the source of solutions, as well as emotions. Hope is not a strategy,” concludes Monfort.
But it’s a start. If I was any good at biology I would indefinitely become a biologist. But for now, I’ll just write about them and dream of one day holding a baby tiger.
Above is my first podcast for my New Media course at Goucher College. I was lucky enough to attend a dinner with David E. Sanger, chief correspondent for The New York Times and son of Goucher alumna Joan Sanger ’53. Followed was his discussion in the Hyman Forum of Goucher’s Athenaeum entitled “New Threats and New Revolutions” on April 14, 2011.