Itís my favorite time of the year, the Best of the BLT. Like always, it's taken from all of my 2017 issues. I've been in Kosovo for over two years now. It's hard coming up with original material even in my original issues but remember what you're paying to read this...nada, zip, zero, zilch! I even plagiarized from my current issue...if it's possible to plagiarize from myself. Now that I've gotten all of the legalese out of the way, here goes!
I last left you heading for Vienna for Christmas.
I played photographer for the company Christmas party. My well-travelled tripod gave me fits but I managed to make it work and someone at work fixed it the following work day with a rivet rather than buying a new unit. I left around ten but the party went well into the night. When the music switched to Albanian, the party went wild.
Christmas Eve...I hit the bakery on the way to workÖafter my usual breakfast of cereal with fruit in yogurt with a DC chaser. Temptation is plenty as there are four bakeries along the way. At our pre-work meeting, the guysí wives baked Christmas cheer that doubled down on the gluttony. I skipped lunch.
Notice the new flag at the top right...Austria...Vienna...if I'd have only done more homework...and Greece but Iím getting ahead of myself. In Vienna, I did check out the concert and sport scene. I considered a cheesy bus tour but Iíd seen what I wanted to see and the day turned glum and rain came.
Expedia sold me the cheapest ticket possible so the airline dinged me for my checked bag. As I was waiting an extended time for my receipt, out from customs comes the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. An associate and I were told they were coming to Camp Bondsteel, my shopping/fast food fix, as a morale booster to the troops who were stationed overseas on the Christmas holiday. I wrote about it on Facebook. Iím confident they awoke from their jetlagged slumber, saw the old bombed-out airline terminal that is still used as a cargo terminal, and wondered what they'd gotten themselves into. To let them know they weren't in total oblivion, I told them there was a Taco Bell and a BK at the base. The airline desk representative shook her head in confusion so I had to explain who these people were and why they were here. These ladies were smokin' hot. I thought about a photo opp but dismissed it. I'm sure they'd view me as some lecherous old man. Hereís their Facebook post.
I did call someone at the office who didnít spread the word to too many folks that the cheerleaders were at the base.
On the flight to Vienna, I read that I could have seen the Vienna Boys Choir perform during Sunday Mass. Trying to get last minute tickets to one of their performances on Christmas day was not possible. If I would have tried when I booked the trip back in September, I may have had an outside chance for success. Iíll have to be content with my Christmas CD with the VBC and the London Symphony purchased so long ago.
I used Google maps to guide me taking the subway from the airport to the city. I used the Bluelou map function to navigate back. I cut my time in half. Following an airline flight attendant didn't hurt either. Google maps are not exactly optimum travel planning but with their poorly planned/poorly worded instructions and my GPS app, I made it to my hotel. Iím surprised more folks donít get lost following Googleís instructions or simply abandon them altogether.
I plead guilty to technological dependence when on the road to a new destination. Put me in a new area or it turns dark outside, I'm lost. I'm totally clueless. I'm marginal with a map. I'm codependent on my smartphone GPS app. It takes about three days for me to get my bearing. I just wish my GPS would say something like "hey dummy, you're heading in the wrong direction".
I stayed at the Rathaus Hotel. It was modern but my room barely had room for my bed. The bathroom was small as well. If I wanted to change my mind, I had to step out into the hallway.
I scouted out the touristy things and really found nothing that I wanted to do other than sightseeing and having a change of pace. No doubt, the holiday season had something to do with the lack of activity.
I had a Facebook friend confirm a recommendation from someone at work who suggested I hit the Christmas markets. She and I went to school together. I believe it was eight years prior that we hooked up when I was in Abu Dhabi. She had just left Vienna the week before I got there. Imagine, if you will, another rendezvous in Vienna. Someone else at work was leaving Vienna as I was departing for Vienna. It was hard to avoid the Christmas markets.
When the press reports about OPEC from Vienna...yup...itís the same place.
I spent lots of time just wandering checking out the Gothic architecture. Even the new looked old. Christmas decorations were everywhere. I even spotted Santa on Christmas Eve. He appeared to be doing some last minute shopping at the Rolex store. Someoneís been good this year! He wasnít too busy for a photo. Iíd be walking to or from lunch or dinner and find plenty of views to distract me. If you like Gothic architecture, Nashville is a bit closer to home and I was reminded of my trip there when wandering the streets.
Vienna has an abundance of museums and my hotel was smack dab center of museum central. Iím not a big patron of museums. With the holidays, most businesses and public venues were closed.
Another FB friend suggested I hit St. Stephenís Cathedral for midnight Mass. No, I chose to sleep in my hotel room rather than a church pew. I did go to Mass the next day. I planned on the 1015 service but got there in plenty of time expecting a huge holiday crowd. I arrived at the tail end of the homily and stayed for the rest of the Mass. It was in German so I followed along on my smartphone.
I viewed this trip as a chance to get away from the normal routine and a culinary vacation. I confess, my most popular stop was McDonalds for breakfast and one stop for lunch. With luggage in tow and not having yet checked into my hotel, I hit a Chinese restaurant. Pristina doesnít have a Chinese restaurant. If a city has a Hard Rock Cafť, Iíll find it and I did. I stopped by for dessert on my first night and lunch for Christmas. I found an Indian restaurant that made my custom order at a custom price. My last dinner, Christmas night, was at TGI Fridayís for a steak.
I did see those self-service McDonalds set-ups. You follow the preprogrammed touch menus selecting the item and quantity of each item. You can pay with an app, credit/debit card, or pay at the counter. In most European fast food franchises, you pay extra for ketchup...something Iím not used to nor like. I didnít save my receipt so I had to pay to use the toilet as well. Had I kept the receipt, I was comped on the toilet. The toilet and the ketchup cost fifty Euro cents each ($0.55). One part I did not see is if I wanted a Big Mac without the pickles or some other alteration, I couldnít add this variation to the selection.
I have no doubt that this is the wave of the future. The kitchen staff was the same but there was only one person taking orders and another filling them. The unskilled counter help has given way to the computer programmer and repair tech. Perhaps, as automation progresses, the kitchen staff will be reduced or eliminated.
Weather...there was a thin glazing of snow when I hit the ground. I brought an umbrella but it didnít get used. I saw wet pavements but I didnít get caught in the rain.
I was amazed how popular dogs were in Vienna. There were lots of people out walking their dogs. I spotted one couple who brought their dog into the Indian restaurant. Nobody said a thing and the dog behaved himself underneath the table for the entire meal though he did get up when befriended by a young child.
My electronics werenít behaving on this trip but my backups came to the rescue. The adapter to my tablet didnít like my extension cord so I used my smartphone with a battery bank as my backup. I was hoping to get caught up on my backlog of football during my late night insomnia.
Part of my Christmas tradition is calling back home. This year, there was no total family gathering so I just called around for friends and family.
My airport experience departing was less than optimum. If you fly international out of the US, I have yet to use the self-service kiosk as the FAA doesnít allow it. Viennaís airport allows it for everyone. Unfortunately, the monitor didnít make it clear how to switch the language to English from German...nin spreken sie Deutsch! The attendant assisted and I was soon checking my luggage into the baggage check-in.
Bottom line...I spent three days and three nights in Vienna. Iíd check the events calendar before I returned. It was a nice place to get away from my every day routine. Those wanting travel tips...Bluelouís Tour and Travel Services are just an email away. Iíd go back for R and R when I need to get away from life. Your Vienna photo tour starts here.
Way back in junior high school, we had a new student who said he was from Austria. I thought he said "Australia". Fast forward many years. Now, Iíve been to both! Click on the links at the top for proof.
After work, I walk to the gym. One evening as I was headed to the gym, I crossed paths with two Santas and two of his helpers. Santa reached into his sack and offered me a present. The helpers were the translators. Santa wanted me to have a photo. After the photo session, his helper asked for ten Euros for my "present". I thought about paying the ten Euros for posterity but I handed it back to the helper.
The boss threw a bash for New Years Eve. The game Jenga was a hotly contested game. The boss made his set with actual 2x4 lumber. I went for a bit but Pristina goes nuts with fireworks for New Yearís Eve so I went home early. Last year, it started around Thanksgiving and continued to around the Orthodox Christmas. For 2016 to 2017, there werenít many fireworks leading up to New Years but the void as more than fulfilled at New Years Eve. I still argue that Pristina's New Year's Eve fireworks are only bettered by Beijing's Chinese New Year's fireworks.
I have a voice mail number I got so that Ma could call me locally wherever I happen to be in the world. When you call me, like a cell phone, you donít know if Iím next door or around the world but itís a local call for the folks back home. Email me and Iíll send it to you. The home town newspaper, not realizing Iím seven hours ahead, called me at 0300 on a Saturday. When I awoke from my slumber, I answered their call and they hung up on me. They called me later that afternoon when I was at work.
"How are you today?"
"Frozen." Although I was warm and cozy in my office, the same cold spell they were experiencing back home was here in Kosovo. Weíre at the same latitude as she was back home. We had a foot of new snow on the ground and temperatures plummeted after the snow left. I thought she might identify with my condition.
The voice on the other end, Kim if memory serves me, went into her spiel saying that a three dollar per week delivery cost was well below the news stand cost.
"Do you deliver to Kosovo? I live in Kosovo."
"Iím sorry...Do you know what Iím calling about?"
"You want to sell me the newspaper."
"Yes, we deliver it seven days a week and you'll save a great deal of money over the news stand price. When can we start your delivery?"
"I live in Kosovo. Iím seven time zones away from you. Do you deliver to Kosovo? Itís the former Serbia."
Silence..."Iím sorry. Have a nice day!"
I really wanted them to deliver just one newspaper to my apartment. I should have had her start delivery on Monday. I was willing to pay the three dollar weekly cost! I didnít ask if they took Euros.
I was dozing off on the couch when I got a call from Ma. Some creature had chewed his way into the exterior wall and eaten the insulation on the water pipe in the house. The pipe froze and cracked which leaked water into the basement. Ma went door to door looking for someone to help. After about six stops, she found a neighbor willing to help. The city utility company shut off the water before the neighbor did. Gypsum walls and ceilings were damaged. Tile and carpet floors were damaged. Insurance covered the damage control but restoring the house was still an issue as they gave her the runaround.
My sister said they can take care of the problem so I dismissed the possibility of coming home. Ma called and asked if I could come home. Not for Christmas as I have issues about flying home for Christmas and I already booked my trip to Vienna. I booked a January trip home to lend moral support and to see if I could orchestrate the repair and the insurance settlement.
I have someone who can take care of the repairs but to bring the insurance folks into reality was the challenge.
When I got home, I saw the damage. Putting the numbers together in my head and confirming them with one of the carpenters I deal with, I realized arguing with the insurance company would be a big waste of time. Ma needed a new stove to boot. I made a deal within a day and the rest of my time at home was for food, friends, and family. That was part one of the remediation. Part two came in June where we repaired the source of the damage, did final drywall patching, and replaced the deck.
For whatever reason, cars and Kosovo arenít a good combination for me. I forgot my cell phone at home so I got in the car to run an errand before heading home to get my phone. Pulling out of the drive at the office, facing a lot of cross traffic so I scooted across the traffic circle only to have an oncoming car clip the left rear end, spin me around, and with the same corner of the car that hit me, I clipped the left front fender. My head hit the roof of the car and snapped the neck round in the process. The center knuckle on the right hand felt as if I punched something. I donít remember much except the thud. The other driver got out of his car speaking in Albanian. My response was that I hoped he spoke English. He spoke English so I was in luck. Not again! I wore a light weight coat rather than my winter weight coat...mistake. After I told them my head was aching but I was going to be ok, the police offered me two choices, I could take their ambulance or one of my choosing. My boss came and took me to the American hospital. It looked new and modern. The doctor checked my hand saying there wasnít any broken bones. I had several x-rays taken...I didnít have my insurance with me. I paid 40 euros for the whole experience. The company removed the insurance papers from my car. It expired that day. They had to produce those documents. The doctor prescribed a neck collar which I didnít need and aspirin. My sister, the Pharm D, told me to use Ibuprofen. I had both but didnít find one more effective than the other. After I was cleared by the doctor, I headed to the police station. We had to wait a bit before I could give my testimony. I caught a rash of crap from the guys on our team. With the accident happening at the edge of the job, the news spread faster than wildfire. Oh well! I called Ma to let her know I was ok. I was surprised the doctor didnít prescribe a CT scan. Iím told they do have a CT scanner. I skipped the walk home and the gym to finish the evening under caution.
I took the Ibuprofen for a few days afterward but stopped without impact.
The boss told me to plead guilty, pay the fine, and get it over with. I was in the traffic circle and had the right of way but I did as instructed. It cost me 170 Euros, about 190 USD. Sometimes, a false admonition of guilt is the easiest solution.
Same store, same window, same promotion, one year later. I saw a few more window displays for Black Friday this year. Black Friday in a Muslim Country...I wonder if any Kosovar really understands the true meaning of this window. I didn't see any early bird campers. Word had it that going anywhere near the big shopping mall resulted in several frustrating hours of pure gridlock.
Creighton Joseph Wright, son of Crash, my niece! He was born May 3, 2017. He's Bluelou's latest great nephew.
I was riding my bike early one morning when I saw this billboard. McCain was on a diplomatic mission to encourage friendly relations between the Serbians and the Kosovars. Truth is that he'd come and gone before I saw this.
I made a total of three trips home in 2017, January to get the repairs underway on the house, June for more house repairs and the other usuals. The November trip was the five Fís. During the June visit, I got a ticket for the College World Series. Omaha is the host. Many years ago, before the age of cable TV, I used to go to the games when I played Little League baseball. They couldnít give the tickets away so we always got to see at least two games. ESPN has definitely upped the ante forcing lots of change to the format and even a new stadium. Now, you have to buy packages and ticket prices have skyrocketed. My sisterís church choir was singing the National Anthem and another sister bought tickets so I got to go. I arrived at the stadium just in time to hear the Anthem. That was cool. I didnít have a dog in the hunt regarding the game but the nostalgia it brought back was great.
Many of our crew are making road trips to Greece. The closer parts are about four hours by car. As my travel buddy gave up on road trips, Iím not much for going places alone. Part of my June trip home was to get a checkup for diving in Greece. I did my homework for that trip. Iíd fly to Athens, take the hotel shuttle, and go diving the next day. After three days on the island of Zakynthos, I go back to the mainland for another couple of days where playing tourist on the Segway and bicycle are in order. I had to charge up the GoPro as I haven't used it since my trip to Australia. That was the plan...
I was trying to arrange a trip from the airport to the hotel I was staying at my first night of my trip. The hotel helped me connect the dots that I was landing in Athens yet needed a taxi to take me to the hotel to the island, over two-hundred miles away! I thought about the possibilities of renting a car or scrapping the island trip. Expedia.com to the rescue! I couldnít get a refund for the hotel Iíd already booked in Zakynthos so I booked the flight from Athens to Zakynthos Island two hours before my first flight. I had a five-hour layover in the Athens airport and not much to do but read to kill time.
When I landed at my final destination, the winds were whipping. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel seemed more like a rollercoaster ride rather than a car trip. I was seasick from the winding roads with hilly curves. Even the locals experienced this. Still, it didn't take much to realize the wisdom of the airplane rather than taking a car from Athens over land and via ferry.
The hotel claimed to be a five star hotel. Thatís subjective. Any hotel can claim to be a five star hotel. It was classy and they did take very good care of me. They had a dress code for the dining room. I discovered the dress code from their web site and inquired at the hotel. As I was waiting to be seated, the couple ahead of me in line discovered the dress code by accident. Even though the conversation wasnít English, it didnít take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the problem. Their clothes were wet from the swimwear underneath and the maÓtreíd didnít let them in. I did myself an internal hi-five as I got right in all due to my homework. I called my stay there "roughing it" as we couldnít get the AC to work in my room until the very last day and the hotel only offered Wi-Fi internet only in the lobby. No internet is truly 'roughing it'! There were only five tv channels so I did a lot of reading. I got a kick out of the door man. Iíd walk to the front desk, uphill from my room. Heíd drive me back to my room...the easy part.
The appearance of the hotel, reminded me of the Ritz-Carlton we built in Jamaica many years ago.
The BBC told of wild fires in Greece. On my way to the dive shop, I saw a fire truck putting out the remains of a wild fire on the edge of the roadway.
Ok, the diving...I prefer one dive but, like my Australia dive trip, I did two dives. FYI, diving has a physical impact on the body that I donít like. Like Australia, in all likelihood, it was a once in a lifetime trip so I did two dives.
FYI, I left the infamous red lens filter for my camera in Kosovo. The photos are untreated except for size. You can compare the Greece diving photos with the Australia diving photos. The Australia photos have the red lens filter but the Greece photos do not.
On to the dive. Each time I go diving, it seems to be a new experience. My body mass was more than when I dove in Australia and I had a different wet suit. A longer dive, the dive shop gave me a larger tank. With all of these variables, it was a best guess as far as dive weights.
The actual diving was ok. The water was very clear but there wasnít much to see in the line of sea creatures. Like golf, a bad day diving is better than a good day at the office. It was perfect weather for diving. With my travels, Iíve been to much better places to dive (Tanzania, Indonesia, Australia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Oman). Thatíd be my recommendation. If in the neighborhood, Iíd go diving. If not, Iíd go somewhere else if I was looking for diving alone.
My trip to Greece left me with Tinnitus...ringing of the ear...the right ear. While diving, I had problems equalizing the pressure in my ear canal with the water around me. It was a first time for me. While flying from Athens to Pristina, I had water in the ear. After it dried up, the ear started ringing. A few weeks later, I went to see an Otolaryngologist, an ear, nose, and throat doctor. He prescribed two antihistamine medications for daily use and another specifically for airplane travel.
Finding these meds was like a scavenger hunt. The hospital had no pharmacy to purchase these medications. The first pharmacy had none of these meds. The second pharmacy had two of the three. The last didn't have the one the doctor prescribed but they sold me an asthma inhaler which I bought skeptically. Total cost for all meds was just over twenty dollars.
Each visit to the doctor cost about eleven dollars.
During my trip to Berlin, I replaced the inhaler with a generic equivalent according to the pharmacist. The German pharmacist told me the med the doctor prescribed me was a controlled substance. I had a prescription but not on me at that time. There was no telling if they'd even honor my Kosovo doctor's prescription. FYI, in Germany, aspirin is a controlled substance. I later found an American equivalent at Bondsteel, the local military base.
The local Otolaryngologist told me my Tinnitus should clear up in a week. Three weeks later, it hadn't cleared up so I went back. He reassured me that it would go away. Two months later, it hadn't gone away so I booked an appointment with an Otolaryngologist during my November trip to Omaha. The Omaha Otolaryngologist told me to discontinue the medications previously prescribed and put me on steroids. There was some hearing loss which, like the Tinnitus, may heal or may not heal. The medical profession hasnít found a reliable cure for Tinnitus. Doing my research online, I knew the answers coming in. I just wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to maximize my chances of recovery. There are treatments for masking the ringing. I'll keep you posted.
Back to the Greece trip. There were lots of folks buzzing around the island on quads (4-wheel ATVs). I used to own one. They used the all-terrain tires. It didnít add up. Like a dirt track racer, a quad is counter-steered when at speed. You turn the handle bars in the opposite direction of the desired turn and kick the back out as well. The all-terrain tires with the dried asphalt paving are a recipe for disaster. When the tires catch traction, look out. The asphalt will cause premature wear for the tires. This did nothing to dissuade the riders.
The next day, I went to the beach. I pretty much kept to the shade. A short trip predicated by the hotel shuttle bus schedule, I hung out at the hotel pool afterwards. That night, I went to a nearby restaurant for traditional Greek cuisine (lamb, potatoes, and chicken noodle soup) and to watch the sunset from on high.
Just off of my balcony to my room was a pool for the other rooms of my villa. I confirmed this with the night manager. Although I could see it from my balcony, I had no direct access to the pool other than hopping the plaster railing. I wondered how a 'Five-Star Hotel' would react to one of their customers hopping the railing and 'borrowing' the pool for a few minutes. Nobody was using it. I needed to wash off all that beach sand that followed me to the hotel. I would be doing them a service by not washing it down the shower drain in my room. Lucky for me, discretion sometimes overrides my ornery inner self. "...and lead me not into temptation..."!!! I used the main pool instead. Rats! Iím no fun!
I flew back to Athens. I took the subway to and from the airport to the Athens city limits. I had barely checked into my hotel when I headed out the door and navigated my way via GPS to the local Hard Rock Cafť. Without looking at the menu, I placed my usual order of BBQ chicken only to hear theyíd removed it from the menu. Thatís WRONG!
On the walk back home from the HRC, I saw the Acropolis at night. Iím a big night time fan when it comes to viewing monuments if given proper lighting. The Acropolis was lit very well. I found the roof of my hotel was one of the best locations to see the Acropolis at night.
Back to civilization. I had internet in my room and I could watch my Slingbox from my tablet.
My next day was my Segway tour. I did the Segway tour of San Antonio but that was more for the Segway ride. Frankly, the Segway was the only way to view given it was August. The sun was in beat-down mode. Walking all over Athens would have been torture. Having a guided tour to show the Athens highlights on a Segway was a bonus.
No, I did not make the trek to the top of the Acropolis. Seeing it was good for me. There was a line and a major crowd during the height of the tourist season so making the trek up to see it wasnít big for me. I skipped the bike tour. The Segway tour was enough.
Part of my "entertainment" while traveling, especially in capitals of nations, is to sample the various international cuisines. Pristina doesnít fill that part. Chinese and Indian food rank as my favorites right behind the American foods. Again, exactly what is American but a blend of lots of different nationalities? I did my best with the HRC, a local Chinese restaurant recommended by the hotel desk clerk, and an Indian restaurant. McNastyís at the airport, along with the HRC, provided my American food fix.
Greece tour bottom line... For scuba diving...great timing but better locations are available for better diving. For tourist attractions, Iíd go late spring, early fall. August is the peak European tourist season and Athens was flooded with tourists and cheesy tourist shops. In my situation, the scuba diving and tourist travel were in contrast to each other especially when combined to one trip. Your tour of Greece starts here.
Before I could pay off the credit card for the Greece trip (I booked the flights about three weeks before the actual trip) and the next day after my return to Pristina from Greece, the boss invited me to join him on a car journey back to Greece. For Labor Day weekend, we had a four-day weekend which sounded like an eternity to someone who normally calls his only day off, Sunday, a "weekend" or is it a weekette? I tried hooking up with former colleagues in Turkey who said theyíd be gone for the Labor Day weekend. I checked in with a former colleague in Berlin...Bingo! I could stay with him!
It took several attempts to get Expedia to get the booking right. They wanted thirty dollars more for the fare to pay off Lufthansa for renting seats from Austria Airlines but I got it right. I stayed with a former colleague who was living and working in Berlin. I had a six-hour layover in Vienna. That would be playing it close if I were take the shuttle downtown, had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafť, and head back to the airport in time for my flight. I booked business class and got bored in the business lounge. I told my friend Iíd meet him at the subway stop by his apartment at 1900 but I got there about forty-five minutes early without a wrong train or turn on a subway I had not used before without speaking the local language in a city Iíd never visited. Yay me!
Without unpacking, I ditched the luggage and we headed off to the Hard Rock Cafť. I discovered that the HRC corporate folks took their BBQ chicken off their menus worldwide. Boo!
On my first full day in Berlin, we did a Segway tour (again) around historic Berlin, had lunch, and followed it up with a cheesy boat tour around much of the same area as the Segway tour.
The next day, I attended Mass at St. Hedwig's Cathedral. The cupola was designed by the same person who designed the cupola for the Pantheon in Rome. The acoustics couldnít have been more different but, with four men singing without accompaniment, it brought back audio memories of a St. Peter's Catholic Church I attended nineteen years ago while living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We did a lot more exploring that day hitting some other spots.
One sobering visit was the Berlin Wall Memorial. My historical memory isnít all that good but seeing many of this not so distant place captured a feeling of somber. It brought back the not-so-long ago pearls of wisdom from the late Rodney King: "why canít we all just get along" and another famous challenge from President Reagan to Gorbachev tear down the wall.
The next day, to complete the trifecta, I took the cheesy bus ride before heading out to the airport to return to Pristina.
Short review...Iíd go back to Berlin in a New York minute...but I want to see other parts of the world first like the Big Apple. I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay in Berlin. The weather, Iím told, has been unseasonably cool. During my visit, it was sunny and cool for the month of September. There was a brief rain but it didnít stop any of our activities.
Public transit was readily available and widely used with trams, busses, and subways. In a very large metropolitan city, it was green with lots of grassy areas, trees, and lakes. Bicycles were widely used and there were lots of bike racks to park them. Recycling was the norm.
There was plenty to see and do. Folks would speak to me in German but would quickly shift to English.
Your tour of Berlin starts here.
For Thanksgiving, we worked as we always do when overseas. The first year I was here, the company chipped in for turkeys along with our choice of steak or salmon dinner. The turkey was a bit dry and two of our crew did the actual cutting and serving. Still, the effort was much appreciated. This year, we had the same steak or salmon dinner at a different restaurant but no turkey. Our client threw an impromptu Thanksgiving party and invited our company to attend. I ate part of a wing so I got my turkey on turkey day.
As a kid, I didn't care for turkey as it was always dry. Until I discovered dark meat, I'd eat a hot dog while the rest of the family ate turkey. I had chili dogs for my Thanksgiving lunch. Oh, checking the boxes!
Like most project locations where folks are away from home, the married couples take pity on the single folks and adopt them for special festivities. We generally have potluck celebrations. This year was no exception. That second plate, a drumstick...my weakness, followed by the dessert plate did me in.
I did doing my turkey leg crock pot potluck Thanksgiving dinner this year. Several years ago, a colleague and I searched Helsinki via the internet yet found no hotel or restaurant that would help us get a turkey fix. We settled for cheeseburgers from a local chain restaurant named Chico's. The following year, we moved to Jakarta. I spotted turkey legs at the local butcher so I brought in the bachelors for turkey, potatoes, and carrots from the crock with canned gravy. The others brought bread, dessert, and their favorite beverage. Thus, a new tradition was born. It may not happen directly on Thanksgiving Day but I will help those get their turkey fix. I may have some football on the DVR so we can follow that tradition to boot.
This year, besides the turkey, spuds, and carrots, I tossed in canned cream of mushroom soup, stove top stuffing I brought from home, and the previously mentioned canned gravy. There were no short cuts this year. I brought the bread from a favorite bakery not from my church. I think I made some crock pot converts.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, the decorations started going up in Pristina. They grow from year to year so they'll be better for this holiday season.
Holiday plans...I intentionally bumped up the November trip home so I didn't have to travel anywhere near the holiday season. I have no plans to travel for Christmas and New Year's. I thought about it but my criteria for travel didn't really work out. I wanted to travel with one flight and still use just what the company gave us, two and a half days off. Unfortunately, the flight schedules didnít really work for me. I have no regrets as I usually get the last minute travel jitters so I spared myself this year. I will be entertaining a Kiwi friend I met on my Australian rain forest tour. He started in his former home of London and he's on European walkabout on his way back home to New Zealand. I usually work on things I've procrastinated about doing and watch the glut of sports programs I've built up on the DVR. I'm sure there will be a bunch of parties with the folks at work. These company Christmas parties usually have a white elephant gift giveaway that gets quite competitive. I'm thinking a last minute tour of Skopje for the New Year may be in order. Nothing has been finalized. For Christmas, I bought some new music CD's and some new Bose headphones.
I'm eagerly anticipating New Year's Eve fireworks as well. Itís not one single display but several independent displays lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Last year, I grabbed a few cold beers and propped myself on my balcony and watched the festivities around the city skyline.
I'd love to hear from each and every one of my readers. Send me an email, text, or IM through Facebook or Skype. I live for your updates. I love your family photos. I hope your 2017 was full of blessings and those same blessings continue on through 2018. In the same regard, I love your feedback about my web site.
For 2018, we'll be finishing up this project in Kosovo and we'll all be moving to another job in some other corner of the world. The boss is teasing me about a job in Iraq. As I've learned about the word "never", any time I say it, I usually end up eating that five letter word so I simply say this: "I have no current plans." While I love Kosovo, I don't love the winters...part of that warm in the winter thing. If forced to choose, I'd take being warm in the winter over cool in the summer. I'm at the beginning of my third winter in Kosovo where I've acquired six new coats since I arrived in November 2015. Without being extreme, I'm hoping for more of the warm in the winter thing on my next project! You'll hear about it here first at the BLT.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Kwanza! Happy Chanukah!