29 November 2012

The 700 Club

Today is our 700th official day of the trip and, in a bizarre coincidence, we just happened to publish our 700th post.  So, in honor of both milestones, we've decided to pick a favorite post from each block of the trip.  Looking back, we're a little embarrassed by some of our earliest writing and photography.  We didn't quite have a knack for the whole blogging thing yet.  There was also a matter of learning to balance the time spent experiencing things and the time it takes to sit in a dark hotel room and plug away at documenting it all.  We hope you enjoy reminiscing a little with us.
Centrāltirgus, Riga - Lithuania
1-100, Holland to Estonia.   The snow began to fall in Riga and we didn't see uncovered earth again until Ukraine, well into our next block.  This was the beginning of our Slavic winter and wandering into the Centrāltirgus in Riga was surreal.  We had never seen a market like it and still count it amongst the best we've ever encountered - and we got to a lot of markets.  They're perfect gateways into a new place, an accessible entry into the authentic life of a place.   Looking back, it was probably our experience at this one in Riga that really taught us that lesson.  Monumental Brest - Belarus
101 - 200, Russia to San Marino.  We began in one place and ended in quite another.  In between was a lot of snow, a crash-course in Russian language, two Pope Benedict sightings and the last remaining dictatorship in Europe.  Belarus.  Monumental Brest was an experience of true Communist grandeur, propaganda and pomp.  We are forever grateful to have made the effort, obtained the visas and crossed the border into Belarus at this point in its history.  We've no doubt it'll be very different in the not-too-distant future.
Puszta Horse Show - Hungary
201 - 300, Switzerland to Croatia.  Sometimes we resent this blog for keeping us in on a sunny afternoon, keeping a camera in hand when it only adds to our conspicuousness, taking up time we could be spending doing something wonderful and exotic... but more often, we realize that actively thinking about content has lead us to do so many things we wouldn't have otherwise.  For example, the Puszta Horse Show.  Basically a Hungarian rodeo, how could it not make a good post?  It also made for a hysterical, wonderful afternoon.
The Water Cave - Slovenia
301 - 400, Slovenia to Spain.  Like Marketplaces, Caves are a common theme for us.  We love spelunking and never would have even known it had we not gone to Slovenia a few years before this trip began.  That time, we went to the Škocjan Caves (which doesn't allow pictures).  On our return trip, we upped the ante with this once-in-a-lifetime tour of The Water Cave.  One of our very favorite days of this entire trip. 
In a Land Far, Far Away... - Azerbaijan
401 - 500, Georgia to Malta.  At the beginning of this year, we became backpackers.  Our loyal companion Nilla (our Subaru Outback) had been sent home.  We left Christmas with our families and took one, two, three planes to get to Georgia.  It was exhilarating and scary and with our comfort zone punctured, we decided to really just go all-in.  We never would have driven to Xinaliq, Azerbaijan ourselves.  And staying with a family whose house was heated with dung was a homestay to remember.
The Beautiful Lake Komani Ferry - Albania
501 - 600, Albania - Bosnia & Herzegovina.  We found ourselves missing Nilla a lot.  Wishing we could camp, have our own cooking equipment, just have the freedom to get from point A to point B on our own time.  But any time we start thinking this way, we inevitably think of all the experiences we never would have had if we'd kept the car around.  All the situations we were thrown headfirst into.  We always think of the Lake Komani ferry, a bus made to float which carried us, a man showing off his machine gun, elderly people in traditional clothes and whoever they randomly picked up at the water's edge of nowhere to northern Albania.  It was beautiful, yes, but also bizarre, adventurous and unlike anything before it or since.
Forty-Eight People - Iceland
601 - 700, Iceland - United Kingdom.  Iceland is sort of Europe and sort of nowhere.  At the edge of the Arctic and in the middle of the Atlantic, it's very much its own thing.  Huge swaths of the country can only be seen by hiking for days with everything you need on you.  In some places, we got a tiny insight into what it must feel like to be in space.  The deepest sense of isolation in an unimaginably beautiful place.  On the eastern coast of the Westfjords, only a small number of resilient people have remained.  Forty-eight to be exact.  We contemplated staying put and bringing their number up to fifty.