I was fortunate to find a way to explore the world after graduating high school. Through the European Volunteer Service under the European Union, I got the chance to work in Ljubljana, Slovenia for a year.
Through 2004 and 2005 I lived in this beautiful small capital of an amazing country with friendly and engaging people. I came to love Slovenia and feel as my home. I got to work with young people attempting to get back on track and start an education through my days at Projektno Ucinje Mlade and in my free time I met friends from all over the world, hung out and travelled to different parts of Slovenia, and the neighbouring countries.
It wasn't until the end of my stay that I began to write about my time abroad.
Enjoying My Last Days in Ljubljana
For an entire year, I have been living as a foreigner. For an entire year, I have been living in a country which is not my own.
I had the amazing fortune to meet and work with the wonderful and engaging people at PUM (Projektno učenje za mlade) in Ljubljana for a year. These pictures are a few from my time on the project.
First part of my 2005 spring vacation which took Marieke and I to Belgrade to visit Magdalena. After Marieke returned to Ljubljana I journeyed on to Novi Sad in the north of Serbia before journeying onwards to Bulgaria.
Second part of my 2005 spring vacation which took my across the Serbo-Bulgarian border to the beautiful Sofia and Plovdid and the peaceful Rila Monastery.
In the summer of 2005, after living in Ljubljana for a year, I was heading out on my first ever backpacking trip. I'd seen a fair mount of Slovenia already and visited both Vienna, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sofia and the surprisingly pleasant town Plovdiv. But nothing was to compare to this my final trip.
After having been a part of Ljubljana society for an entire year which to a twenty year old seemed an ice-age it was with a strange sense of wonder and yet sadness that I left behind what I still to this day define as the best year of my life. The year I grew up. The year I belonged. A year that would shape me for a long time since, both in regards to my interest in Eastern Europe and European unity and in my defining tolerance of others as a central value. Having met so many wonderful people from all across Europe and the world and having come to regard them as my closest friends, I would for the years that followed try my best to be respectful of others and meet that which I didn't understand with curiosity rather than disgust.
My first attempt at being curious towards the world and to explore the culture and history of others came with this final trip. A trip that would take me down along the beautiful Adriatic coast from Pula to Athens and onwards to Santorini before return by the inland route through Skopje and back to Ljubljana.
It was a journey that had me fall in love. In love with the richness of Balkan culture and society, the complicated history and the friendliness of the locals. I trip of a lifetime.
First Stop ... Pula!
The centre of Pula is beautiful. Anyone interested in history would walk around with open mouth and eyes out the forehead.
Zadar 7 Hours in a Bus, Sightseeing and a Big Computer Hell
With my camera in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, I walked, what seemed to me, all the streets of this magnificent city.
Join ABBA for a Trip to the Kornati Islands
As the boat left Zadar, we were served coffee, juice and wine, while the speaker system at the boat started playing Waterloo followed by Dancing Queen and most of the ABBA-Gold collection.
Day trip: Meeting Friends in Šibenik
Then he asked if it was because I was in need of money, where after he grabbed my hand and told me with a terrible smile that he could pay me money... for sex!
Split Between Beautiful and Sad
In between these stands you will often hear an elderly woman yelling: cigarettes, cigarettes, Marlboroooo light. These are the women who do not own a place big enough to accommodate people. They have found another way of surviving, another way to gain a few of the money that tourists throw at Split.
Mostar: Tourists at the Old Frontline
As I viewed the bridge for the second time I must admit that it is absolutely stunning. With all the day-trippers gone and the bridge beautifully lightened, we stopped to gaze and press the buttons on our cameras like there was no tomorrow.
Dubrovnik - Truly a Beauty!
I ended up on the back of his scooter with my pale legs spreading in each direction and the skirt crawling up. I must have looked a hoot, but my driver, that charmer, only added: please don't worry, in five minutes we will be in love.
Fashion Show in Kotor
Arriving in Kotor two days ago, I met a rather strange woman at the bus station who constantly followed me, wanting me to accommodate at her place. She was extremely old and all dressed in black - looking a little bit like my idea of the witch in the Little Red Riding Hood.
Shkodër: Finally the Only Tourist
Before I knew it, he said: welcome to Shkodër and pointed at a sign indicating that indeed we were nearing Shkodër.
A Backpacker’s Meeting with Albanian Culture
Yes Tirana is an ugly city which has been given a major and very dramatic makeover bordering on the psychotic, but while it might seem weird in the day that the buildings are hundreds of colours - by night it makes so much sense.
to the EU – Mainland Greece
I spent most of my visit partly sightseeing, partly visiting every coffee shop in town to get refreshments and another chapter of Harry Potter.
Finally Climbing the Acropolis
Athens is dirty and the city seems almost sad. Many of the houses seem to have been built during a less fortunate period in the history of architecture. Worst of all, I really long for a breath of fresh air.
Back in Dirty Athens
I left Santorini yesterday. It was nice to finally leave the island, though it has been great, but I started feeling that I did nothing with these precious days of holiday, - except trying to get a little more brown, which is and always has been impossible for me.
Skopje - I'm in Love
But with only a day in Skopje, I know that I have to come back one day to explore this country. The people are so friendly and smiling all the time. I feel relaxed and clean though that probably has more to do with the fact that this is my first really nice shower in weeks.
Sarajevo - Last Stop on the Road
Along with the bullet and shell holes in the buildings and the large cemeteries with white headstones, the trip to the Jewish graveyard has made it clear that less than a decade ago Sarajevo was under siege for almost four years.