Posted by: jottertree | September 12, 2010

Adventures from Home

Although I had originally created this blog with a travelogue in mind, I have been receiving complaints that I have not been updating it recently. I guess a Jottertree can have adventures here as well.

From 2010 Gucher Senior Year

My first few weeks of the semester have been packed with classes, activities and road trips. All my classes are excellent: interesting topics and engaging teachers. I am taking cryptology, probability, art history and drawing. I am especially excited about my cryptology and art history courses. In addition to my normal classes, I am continuing to work on my senior thesis in functional analysis, which is proving to be as challenging as ever.

I have filled all my free time with fun activities. I go contra dancing on Wednesdays in a church basement in downtown Baltimore. The church was actually founded by the founder of Goucher, and is a part of our original campus. For those of you who don’t know contra dancing, it is a mix between line dancing and square dancing. There are lots of swing-your-partners and do-si-does. My friends and I are the only regulars who are under the age of 70. There is always live music and plenty of dance partners; it’s a blast.

In addition to contra dancing, I have been hiking at Gunpowder State Park and kite flying in a nearby park. I went to a Gaelic Storm concert, to Hershey Park, and spent Labor Day weekend in Lake Placid for a wedding. On the way home from the wedding, I took a detour into Vermont to visit friends of a friend, took a shortcut that added an hour to our trip and returned home at 4:30 am in time to get a little sleep before one of my 8:30 classes that I have five days a week.

From 2010 Gucher Senior Year

So my senior year is shaping up to be a good one. I’ll try to be better about keeping you all updated as it seems there are some regular readers out there.

Posted by: jottertree | August 22, 2010

JotterTree Crafts

My webstore, JotterTree Crafts, is finally up and running.

Check it out! http://www.jottertree.com.

From Jewelry

I am selling beaded bracelets, my metal work and photography.

There are still a few quirks if you are using Internet Explorer version 6 or 7, in which case simply use a different browser to view my site. These issues should be resolved soon.

From Jottertree Crafts (bracelets)

As a thank you for following my blog, you get 10% off! Simply use the promotion code “ireadyourblog” and 10% will be taken off your order.

Posted by: jottertree | July 31, 2010

Really Old Stuff

Being in Europe or Asia makes any American traveler acutely aware of just how young our society is. It becomes common place to stand in a cathedral built 700 years ago or see the ruins of a castle a 1000 years old but even in a society with a rich and long history, it is unbelievable to see items from the 20th century B.C.

When we entered the Topkapi Palace we had no idea in what an amazing place we were about to be. The courtyards were full of roses, the rooms covered in intricate, gorgeous tiles. The treasury had jewel incrusted objects, the likes of which I had never imagined. Included in these objects was the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, an 84 carat diamond made into a turbin pin. The worth of such a piece is unfathomable–it is the fifth largest diamond in the world.

From The Balkans 2010

The most spectacular area was the room of religious relics. It took us a minute to figure out just what it was we were examining. We stood in front of a rather unassuming wooden staff wondering why exactly it was there, when finally I looked down and read the title placard, “Moses’s staff-20th century, B.C.” It was unbelievable. As we moved around the room we saw objects from many prophets. We saw Joseph’s turbin, Abraham’s sauce pan, Muhammad’s sword. Even with all these relics, we were struck speechless when suddenly we found ourselves staring at the prophet John’s arm and then part of his skull.

We were marginally less taken aback at a case holding some of Muhammad’s beard or one of his teeth, but still my mind is blown.

From The Balkans 2010

The rest of our time in Istanbul was filled with markets and sites. We saw the famous blue mosque and Aya Sofia, the cathedral turned mosque turned museum. We took a cruise up the Bosphorous Strait and were able to see Europe, Asia and the Black Sea simultaneously, while standing in the shade of a castle. We saw dolphins and pigeons and lots and lots of people. We bought tea and journals, scarves and even a spiderman suit for me. We ate seafood, kababs, baclava and tried raki (a licorice flavored liquor) which I decidedly don’t like.

From The Balkans 2010

Now we are heading home. This crazy adventure has come to a close, but knowing me there will be more to come. So keep checking and I’ll keep posting!

Posted by: jottertree | July 24, 2010

Columns and Colosseums

Somehow we found ourselves standing where Alexander the Great stood, and where millions of other people who died thousands of years before we were born lived their lives. We walked on the streets they walked on; we sat on the steps of their library. In their houses we examined the incredible mosaics that made up their floors and walls. Edessa, the capital of the eastern Roman empire, was amazingly preserved: an ancient city a few kilometers from a modern one.

From The Balkans 2010

The ruins in Pammukale were also impressive but it was the walk to up to this ancient city that was truly spectacular. Above the modern town are huge calcium deposits that form large pools of water saturated with calcium. It appeared from a distance to be huge drifts of snow but as we approached it became clear that it was mounds of white stone creating patterns and formations beneath the ruins. We hiked barefoot to the top of the mountain through the pools and as the streams of water flowed over our feet. Once we reached the top, we had a picnic amongst the columns and colosseums.

From The Balkans 2010

Now, after twentyfour hours of trains and ferries, we find ourselves in Istanbul with three days to explore before heading back home.

Posted by: jottertree | July 20, 2010

Turkey at Last

Twenty-four hours is a long time to be on a boat. Same as it is a long time to be on a plane or a train or a bus but if you can find a secluded corner, you can curl up and get some sleep. And if you can find a table and some concentration, you can get some work done on your thesis.

From The Balkans 2010

After your 24 hours are up, you may find yourself in some new exotic corner of the world or perhaps somewhere barren and uninteresting. For us, this new corner was Kos, Greece, in all, a pretty good place to end up. We found the island town to possess a healthy level of tourism, but also a substantial amount of enchantment. We found narrow streets, stairs, stone walls, beaches and a castle. We found small houses with red tiles roofs, churches and kebab stands.

From The Balkans 2010

From Kos it was an short ferry ride to Bodrum, Turkey. Getting the tickets and through customs turned into a complicated mess but finally we found ourselves in Turkey where we had meant to be all along. Bodrum turned out to be a classic beach-party-town but, with height restrictions on buildings, it had a certain charm to it despite its many bars and neon lights.

From The Balkans 2010

In Bodrum we encountered the most amusing dining experience I have ever had. We were at waterside restaurant sitting at small tables on a large expanse of astroturf. There were nearly as many waiters as there were occupied tables, and it appeared that more were continually appearing out of the framework. My final count totaled more than 20 waiters in gray shirts, all waiting tables like their lives depended on it. Many of them sprinted everywhere they needed to go, even though the longest distances were a few meters tops. I don’t think I can accurately convey the atmosphere of the place, but we were thoroughly stressed by the constant scurrying of the waiters. As our food came, it came in what seemed to be an order opposite of normal convention. First came our entrees, then the salads, then the bread and finally our drinks. The moment we had finished eating, three waiters had collected all of the plates, napkins and glasses, and, suddenly, we were sitting at a completely empty table wondering if we had even eaten at all.
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From Bodrum we headed North to Selcuk. Selcuk is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but it turns out that all that remains of this past wonder is a lone pillar. Selcuk also boasts being 3km from Edessa, the best preserved Roman city in the Eastern Mediterranean and that is where we are headed today.

Posted by: jottertree | July 15, 2010

Thessaloniki

Instead of taking a bus or another train, we have decided to take the water route to Turkey. We discovered that it is possible to take a ferry from Thessaloniki down the Aegean Sea and end up in Southern Turkey. Then we can make our way back up and end up in Istanbul. The ferry leaves on Friday so we have a few days to explore Thessaloniki.

From The Balkans 2010

We just returned from a successful day trip to Edessa. Instead of the 11 hours in a train for Brasov, it was only 3 hours in a bus. Edessa was where Alexander the Great was born, and there is a spectacular waterfall right outside the town. It was the first waterfall Annette has ever seen, and it was definitely one worth seeing. It was long and roaring but it also split, merged and meandered. There are caves behind the water and views from the front.

From The Balkans 2010

Sarah Jane left me with a challenge. The challenge was to take a picture of myself doing a head stand in front of a monument. Challenge completed, Sarah Jane!

From The Balkans 2010
Posted by: jottertree | July 13, 2010

Vampire Land

Romania, I am told, is vampire land. Luckily though, we managed to escape with no blood-losing encounters. One day, we decided we wanted to see Dracula’s castle. Lonely Planet’s website said this made a good day trip so off we went. We woke up at 4:30am in order to catch the train north to Brasov from Bucharest. We thought the ride could be 3 hours at most as it was only 60 miles away. We were wrong. Who knew trains could move so slowly?

From The Balkans 2010

Five and a half hours later we arrived in Brasov where we were supposed to take a bus to the castle itself. However, the last train back to Bucharest left half an hour after we arrived, so we only had time to get off, get some food and then get back on the train to make the reverse five and a half hour train ride back to Bucharest.

In Bucharest we had two hours before our train left for Sofia. We have these train tickets that allow us five non consecutive days of unlimited train travel in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and Serbia. Although these are first class seats, they are not sleeper cars so we have spent many nights sleeping sitting up.

From The Balkans 2010

In fact, last night was the first night we have spent in a real bed. We had a great meal. No one at the restaraunt spoke any English so they just brought us a table full of food. It was delicious. Then full, we returned to our rooms and had full nights sleep. It was lovely.

From The Balkans 2010

We leave Bulgaria today; we’re heading off to Greece and Sarah Jane to Paris. I’ll keep the stories coming when I can!

Posted by: jottertree | July 10, 2010

A city a day keeps the apples away

My ferry-train-plane experience could not have gone smoother. Before I knew it, I had arrived in Vienna and my friends Sarah Jane, Annette and David were standing there waiting for me. We took a train into downtown Vienna and began a two or three hour search for a one of my friends from Thailand. All we had was a phone number but no phone with which to dial it. After calling from a magic shop, a call shop, various pay phones and gas stations we finally got through and arrived at her dormitory in just enough time to get a room there for ourselves.

From The Balkans 2010

We spent the night and the next day exploring Vienna before hopping on an all-night bus to Belgrade, Serbia. Driving through Budapest at night was lovely with all the old buildings and bridges lit up. We watched as our bus stopped and continued on through Belgrade, and we did not get off. Finally we realized that the city we had just passed was indeed Belgrade; the drivers luckily stopped the bus and called us a taxi so we could return to the city. After buying an overnight train ticket to Bucharest for that night, we began to explore the Belgrade. Belgrade was a charming city with large parks, pedestrian-only streets, cathedrals and fortresses.

From The Balkans 2010

At four o’clock we had been wandering for nearly nine hours and were ready to board our next train. Every hour or so someone would come by and look at our tickets or passports. When customs came by to enter Romania, they determined we weren’t smuggling anything but began pulling the siding off the walls outside our compartment. Inside the walls were bottles of some form of alcohol. This apparently was not okay, and they began pulling off more siding on the inside and the outside of the train. I don’t think they found anything else but the compartment next to ours was chained and padlocked for the duration of the ride.

From The Balkans 2010

Now here we are in Bucharest. We have a train to visit Dracula’s castle tomorrow at 5:46 am, and now are ready to begin exploring the city.

Posted by: jottertree | July 7, 2010

Thoughts from the Train

Norway is poetry that I don’t know how to write. It’s mountains and oceans and towns. It’s magic and nobility and reality. The mountains forbid our passage while bleeding streams and clinging to their snow from the winter as a warning sign. They may be forbidden but we uncoil our ropes and arrange our gear. We strap on helmets and harnesses; we lace on shoes of leather and rubber that mold perfectly to the shape of our feet. Then we climb. Belay ledge after ledge, we ascend higher and higher up the faces of these majestic giants and once we reach the top, our own faces touch the sky. Triumphant songs of glee melt the snow as we hug the earth.

From Norway Part 2

We descend the mountains to the oceans equally forbidden. The water turquoise near the white sand beaches but this water is liquid ice spilling from the fjords cut deep between the mountain. The water turns black in its depths. Here the jellies roam silently, gliding with the smoothness of a gentle breeze moving the tall grasses of the meadow. But here the fish have teeth and tear apart the beautiful jellies and leave the remnants to float to sea.

From Norway Part 2

Dark clouds roll down the mountains bridging the gap between the earth and sky, and when the sun shines the world glows. The bright colored fishing villages sing in their vibrancy. This is a land of trolls and of the lupine lady, of fishermen, painters and climbers. This is a land of poetry but I’m more a girl of prose.

From Norway Part 2
Posted by: jottertree | July 6, 2010

Quick note

I’m leaving Norway in 20 minutes. I’m taking a ferry to Bodo then a train to Oslo then a plane to Vienna where I meet up with my friends from Goucher and a friend from Thailand. Norway has been awesome, and I’m excited for the adventures to come!

From Norway Part 2

Look it’s me on “the Goat” in Svolvaer! I’ll give more info on this soon!

From Norway Part 2

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