Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frau has left the building

My life has completely changed since last week, since I have finally begun working again! I'm (substitute) teaching at an international school. To be honest, it's kind of getting in the way of my having fun, but I'm making do. I'm completely getting wanderlusted and wishing to take a trip soon. The weekend is coming and Graz, Austria seems to be calling my name. (Hope T-Slav hears it too!) If you know me, you know that teaching isn't my first career choice. It's all because of me being an overachiever in college; as a sophomore, I heard that I could get into a dual degree program where I could continue with my regular major and add on a few classes so that I'd be able to finish both my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in only 5 years, with the Masters being in Education. Of course, I went for it, got in the program, and lo and behold, that is why I'm teaching today! So my heart isn't really 100% in it, but I know that I'm pretty good at it.

There are good days and bad days and honestly, the good days are pretty great, but the bad days bring me down a lot. I've had one class for the past couple of days that have been acting like little monsters. It's bringing me back to student teaching (where I feel I aged at least 5 extra years for every month I taught). Even though the kids act completely nuts, I know they're just looking for attention and then I end up worrying about them! I love the school I'm at because the students all come from different countries which is really interesting. At the end of one of my classes today, I played a clip from Pippi Langstrumpf (Pippi Longstockings) which was one of my favorite shows as a kid, and I was excited to see that these kids loved it just as much. Still have my fingers crossed that I'll hear back from my dream job sometime soon, but for now, I'm just happy to have a job again! Also looking forward to meeting Couch Surfers in Zagreb tonight at an event tonight in the city! But to be honest...the weekend can't come soon enough!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Most of the time, I'm thrilled by being in a new place with new people and new cultures, but after some time traveling and being away from home (even if you've been away from home so long or so many times that you're not even exactly sure where or what "home" is) a bout of homesickness can hit you, and boy...does it hit! It literally hits you like a bat to the stomach and not much can make you feel better. You just have to spend some time having a good cry, reminiscing, and hopefully, getting a big hug from a friend or loved one. It really depends on you for what can make you feel better. Sometimes skyping or talking with loved ones from home can help, or looking at old pictures, or making a meal that you love to eat at home. Other times, you just need to cry it out.

Today, I am homesick.

I miss my family and my friends and not talking to them enough. I feel bad for not being there for some friends, when I know they need me. I feel bad for what I put my family through sometimes, with running around all over the place, and I miss Philly. There are so many wonderful things that I absolutely adore about that city, ESPECIALLY the food, but for me, it's always a case of "sehnsucht" no matter where I am. (sehnsucht means longing in German) When I'm in the States, I long to be abroad and vice versa. That's the thing about traveling, you meet and fall in love with people and places all the time and then you move on to the next one and you fall in love all over again. I'm lucky to have actually fallen in love with my amazing fiance, who is totally there for me and understands homesickness like no other, but it's hard to deal with sometimes. It definitely passes quickly, but when it happens. Man, it hits you hard.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Glee, Project Runway, and Too Many Comfort Zones

T-Slav and I both are willing to be stand up and be proud to say that we are indeed, Gleeks. Unfortunately, since we were in Croatia this summer, we totally missed the show, The Glee Project. Wow! So glad we found out about this before the new cast member arrives in November. So, we've been going back and watching the episodes of the show from this summer and we are absolutely loving it! It's no shocker, TV in Croatia is just seriously lacking. I'm really not trying to be offensive but the only things to watch are Spanish soap operas (in Spanish) during the day, or all 90's and 2000's sitcoms in English on Fox Life (or soccer, obviously). So, I like to stay up to date on my favorite American shows (with T-Slav) while we are here.

I also introduced T to Project Runway, which I knew he would appreciate. Obviously, I love T-Slav but one of the best things about our relationship is the very different ways of thinking we have since we grew up in totally different countries. I love his comments about American things, that I would never think of. After watching these competition reality shows, he has found a common thread that has really begun to annoy him and I never noticed it before, nor did it bother me! He is so over everyone always saying, "You need to step out of your comfort zone." This comfort zone phrase is becoming completely redundant and every show constantly says it and overuses it. You'll definitely notice next time you're watching a talent competition show of any sort.

Another thing that T noticed is how different advertising is in the States. In Croatia, their commercials for say, medicine, are basically this. Person describes the symptoms they are feeling. Then you see a close up of the box of medicine and you hear the voice-over guy talk about possible side effects, end of commercial. In the States, we were watching this one commercial where this older guy was standing on a bridge talking about how he loves his life or boat or something and then he segwayed into saying that's why he needs to take care of his heart and take some medicine or the other. Everything has to be turned into a mini-movie or story of some sort. Entertainment baby! I love it :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Zagreb

Zagreb is a city that is no stranger to protests. Croatians fight for what they believe in, especially young people (see: Plenum). On Saturday night, October 15th, Croatians young and old came out to protest Capitalism and support the need for change.

 Protestors on the Main Square, Trg Bana Jelacica

Tomislav and I

People came out to show their support not only with their voices, but also through music.

If you haven't seen this pyramid yet, it says:
We rule you
We fool you
We shoot at you
We eat for you
We work for all, We feed all

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Nikki, if it feels right then it is right!!"

This is what one of my dear friends told me recently, and honestly it's crazy, strange, and awesome to accept that. I am having such a great time being in Zagreb and I'm really happy to be here. I couldn't imagine how fun it is to be here in the fall. Tomislav got a deal from Kollektiva (Zagreb's groupon/living social deal) for a concert of a famous string quartet (with an especially famous cellist named Ana) at the Hrvatski Glazbeni Zavod (for 30 kunas which is about $6).

The Program

 That's Ana, the cellist in the middle.

 The music was beautiful, it really told a story. But the location was amazing in itself.

The building was build in 1892.

 The view from the audience up at the balcony.

 It was a great night to stroll through the city after the show, with the music still in our heads. Since I left my camera charger in the States (after I left Cro this summer, I left my camera charger there and T-Slav had to mail it back to me. Now my Mom is mailing it to me again. Thanks Mom!) I've been taking pics with my iPhone.

Here you can see the beautiful different colors on the leaves in Sveta Nedjela, a little town close to Zagreb.

T-Slav is so ready for fall!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fashion Friday

The big trend in Zagreb this fall? Little leather motorcycle jackets. ALL the girls are wearing them! I went on a search to find out more about individual style and fashion favorites (beyond the leather jackets) in Zagreb.

 This is Toni and Josipa, having a coffee on Tkalca, the best street in center city for cool bars and cafes. 

Doris is a college student and total sweetheart, originally from Split. Layering is especially important in Zagreb because it cools down a lot more in the evening.

I love Nikolina's easygoing stylish outfit and the pop of color she brings to it with her scarf and great bag.

Mirta's cozy sweater caught my eye immediately. She also helps further prove my point that Croatians love their Chucks (I love mine too!).

Tea and Martina are law students and I love the way they made their professional looks more casual, since they are still students and not yet lawyers. Especially love Tea's bag and Martina's glasses! The bike really makes their looks even more adorable :)

Ivana is an art student in Zagreb and loves to express herself with her signature '50s style. 

*Thank you to all of my models for being so kind and graceful to me, the crazy American girl, coming up to you randomly on the street and for agreeing to appear on my blog!*

Thursday, October 13, 2011

239 Days to go!

Wedding planning is finally starting to be fun! Tomislav and I got engaged nearly 10 months ago and we're just now starting to seriously plan and I think we needed that time to figure out, you know, which continent we're going to live on and what not. No big deal. Anyway, I'm super excited that we're getting the ball rolling, especially because I'm loving how things are starting to come together. The first time I was in Zagreb back in the winter of 2008, I fell in love with Crkva Sv. Katarine (The Church of St. Katherine). It is the most beautiful baroque church in Zagreb and was built by the Jesuits between 1620 and 1632. It's also located on a beautiful square:

This is it:

Look familiar?

Last summer, I got a painting of it on Stross (nearby) at an outdoor art fair.

We've got the place and the date, looking for a DJ/band now, and I'm getting ready to finally make our save the dates. Luckily, we have the perfect pictures to use thanks to our lovely friends, the Genius Creators, Britt and Lindsay, for taking our awesome engagement pictures!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Natural Penicillin ie: Homemade Chicken Soup!

I've been trying to kick this cold for a week now and I finally decided I had to follow my Mom's advice and make homemade chicken soup, which I had never made before. Now, I've been cooking for just about 2 years now and I absolutely love to cook but for some reason, I always felt like soup was beyond my reach. I was wrong. Since I was feeling so unwell, I had to use ingredients I had on hand but I have to admit, it came out really delicious!

Here is what I put in my chicken soup (again, this is what I had on hand, I would have added a bay leaf and black peppercorns if I had had them):

1 Whole Chicken
Celery root (No celery stalks here like we have in the States! This made me nervous but turned out great!)
Garlic (T-Slav and I both LOVE garlic so I put A LOT in, probably about 15 cloves)

Basically, all you have to do is put everything in a pot and cook it up until the chicken falls off the bone. It made me feel instantly better. I cooked up Pipe Rigate noodles to go with the soup which was a great choice because some of the broth gets in the middle of the pasta and is extra delicious.

Next time you're feeling under the weather, cook up a huge pot of soup. Believe me, it will make you feel better! And homemade is just a trillion times better than any canned or bagged powder version. Dobar tek! :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Medvedgrad aka BEAR CITY!

If you have access to a car in Zagreb, take a couple hours to explore way way way upper Zagreb. The drive from center city to Medvedgrad is a beautiful one, since you pass by not only the Mirogoj cemetery (undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful cemetery parks in Europe) but also all of the gorgeous embassy buildings. This is one of the walls surrounding Mirogoj Cemetery:


Taking a drive through the city really gives you an opportunity to explore and enjoy the scenery around you. We also discovered this random watch tower which we later found out was a part of the science research center called Ruder Boskovic.

Along the way, we also ran into a small soccer field where guys were playing "Mini-Nogomet" or basically, soccer with a mini soccer ball. The game was intense and we stayed to watch the pink shirted team score a goal!

As we headed to our goal destination, Medvedgrad, we passed by the beautiful, cottage like Italian embassy. You would never even think this cute home like building would be an embassy but it is!

We finally made it up to the 1000 meter above sea level area and the view was gorgeous! Unbelievably, they just started charging an entrance fee to this 13th Century Fort recently. Before, you could go anytime you wanted, any day or night, which I think was definitely a risk for the fort area to get damaged or destroyed. I think it's a really good thing that they're charging a fee now and it's only 15 Kunas (about $3) so it's really worth it!

The fort is actually like a little city, complete with a tower, church, and many different areas of the complex to duck into and discover.

 Beautiful! Makes you really feel like you're back in the 13th Century.

If a couple is into this sort of style, this would be a gorgeous area to take engagement or wedding pictures. Especially under this lovely arch.

All in all, Tomislav and I are having the best time discovering "new" parts of Zagreb. I can't believe that I've been to Zagreb so many times and never visited this fort. We certainly enjoyed taking in the breathtaking views all around us at Medvedgrad and definitely want to go back and visit again!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blue Haired, Blue Eyed Older Woman at the Market

My 3rd Annual 21st Birthday Party: Part 2 Croatia Style was a great success which left us feeling pretty groggy on Sunday. (See below:)

Since I arrived back to Croatia, I've been talking about how I wanted to check out the Antique Flea Market on Britanski Trg (British Square) that's held every Sunday morning. So despite our lethargic feeling, we went to the market, and I'm so thankful that we did. It was a really crisp day and on the drive over, I felt like I was seeing Zagreb with new eyes. Everything looked so beautiful and I became really appreciative of the stunning architecture. 

By the time we got to the "British Square" though, it was already 1:30 PM so some of the vendors started to pack up. Tomislav and I walked through row by row and were really impressed by the whole scene. The vendors are made up of mostly older, native Zagrebians who seem to be very high society. This is not a flea market per se, it's made up of exquisite antiques and gorgeous paintings. We saw a lot of jewelry, century old forms of currency, and swords.

The crisp air and good mood of everyone around us really lifted our spirits and soon brought us over to one stand in particular. We were immediately drawn to a painting which looked like it could have been of a church in Zagreb but soon found out from this incredible older woman that was actually in Paris and the painting was from 1954. We continued to check out the artwork and were consumed by this other interpretive, abstract piece which I really enjoyed.

We started talking to the woman and she was just so lovely, it felt like we had known her forever, like she was actually an extended member of our families. Her smile was smile was big and contagious and except for the one moment where she realized she shouldn't smile so wide because some of her teeth were missing, she was smiling constantly. Her hair was dyed as blue as her eyes and it literally felt like her spirit was moving all around her. She shocked us by turning to me and speaking in excellent English, after Tomislav explained to her that I'm American. She told us how proud she is of young people today and how they inspire her. We talked a for a couple of minutes and it immediately felt like an important moment to be there with her.

Reluctantly, we moved on and after a few minutes, I walked back over to talk with the older woman, to see if she would be back next Sunday because I really wanted to talk with her more. She explained that she wasn't sure but was excited to tell us more about the special artwork and where she had collected it from over the years. This woman was very well educated and spoke 6 languages fluently. She reiterated how inspiring young people can and should be and told us that we should be good to each other because we're lucky to have each other, which we definitely know and appreciate.

We talked about the artwork a bit more and she asked us if we were married and we said that we were engaged. She took the abstract painting I had been attracted to and handed it to us and said she doesn't want to hear a protest from us, that the painting is a wedding gift to us from her. We couldn't believe it, especially after she had previously said she would sell it to us for 100 Euros. She said she didn't care whether we were millionaires or had nothing at all, she saw the connection I had with the painting and the love Tomislav and I have and wanted us to be happy together. She said she gave us the painting for good luck. We hugged her a lot, honestly as if we'd known her forever. We're so happy to have met her because she really left an impression on us and has made me value the Croatian people and their genuine warmth and graciousness even more.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits

SUPER excited for my birthday party tonight. Even more excited because I just found an even easier way to play power hour...remember the game where you take a shot of beer every 60 seconds, where the song changes every minute so you know when it's time to take the next one? Check out this website:

They have different playlists already set up, timed correctly with your fav songs from the '90s, like '90s School Dance Mix or 2000's, Best of 2010, and my fav, '90s Original, complete with Ace of Base.

Check it out and invite your friends over to play! Pretend you're in college again (if you're not lucky enough to still be there!)

Go to your happy place...

Tomislav and I did a lot of things this summer that we never thought we'd get to do. The best part of everything was probably that we got to do it together. After spending the last 3 years going back and forth between Philly and Croatia, I'm really glad that I've gotten to spend so much time in Cro Cro. ;) We got to travel so much and one of our favorite places to go is Dubrovnik, Croatia. It's about 600 km from Zagreb, but the drive is really not that bad. Especially driving like this:

 Yep, it was me :) It was only on the highway though!

So, if you've ever been to Zagreb, you know that Croatians take their coffee very seriously. The coffee culture in Zagreb is awesome. Instead of meeting with their friends for happy hour, a beer, or a cocktail like we tend to do in the States, Croatians like to meet up with friends for a coffee. There are tons of cafes to go to and I think it's really nice that they like to sit down and really enjoy that cup of coffee. So imagine my shock and surprise when I realized that it's almost impossible to find coffee to go anywhere! You know, like Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks or somewhere where you can get a to go cup of coffee! We finally got one at a gas station rest stop.

That was this big.

Anyway, the drive down to Dubrovnik is actually really beautiful.
This was the view from a reststop. I'm holding a piece of fresh lavender in my hand because lavender grows wild there! It smells amazing!

Also, because of the way the road is built, you have to cross the border into Bosnia at one point and drive for about 20 minutes through Neum, Bosnia. Luckily, the views of the sea are fantastic from there!

Dubrovnik is amazingly beautiful. The sea is a gorgeous, clear blue. The one thing that really stands out about Dubrovnik is the fantastic service you see everywhere. Because there are so many tourists that visit the city, the service in bars and restaurants is excellent and they really make you feel at home.

Lapad Beach

I really highly recommend you plan a visit to Dubrovnik next summer (you can start daydreaming about it already). June is a great month to go in since there aren't that many tourists yet. You can get the freshest seafood there, especially at the restaurant Orhan:
and Sesame:
 This is the most delicious salad of fresh figs, prosciutto, and shaved parmesan. Seriously fresh and fantastic!

 This is the view inside the city and city walls (I'm eating delicious lemon ice cream, my absolute favorite)

You can see a bit of the city walls here and the orange trees behind us!

Our favorite beach in Dubrovnik is a short ferry ride away from the Old City to the island behind me called, Lokrum. The ferry takes about 20 minutes and the view of the City Walls and sea is great. The beach is unlike any other, since it is on a cliff and you lay on giant boulders relaxing in the sun.

Don't forget the sunblock ;)

By night, the city is very romantic. The mix of music, ancient culture, and gorgeous architecture puts you in great spirits. It's no surprise at all that they're filming the next season of Game of Thrones here and that so many celebrities come to vacation here too.

All in all, by the time you leave Dubrovnik, you'll be sad to go but you'll be feeling like this:


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