Tag Archives: pins
October 24, 2011

Thoughts on Bulgaria

This was our plan when we thought we had a lot of time:  Fly from Israel to Istanbul, then work or way north through Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.  From there, we’d swing west to Poland (because Belarus has an expensive visa) and continue up through Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia on the way to visit a friend in Finland.

By the time we left Turkey, however, our plans had changed.  Our new plan was to go north to Bulgaria… and then fly directly to Helsinki.

We still had some time, but we came to this decision for two reasons.  First, Oksana’s childhood friend, Karina, invited us to stay with her vacationing family in their Sveti Vlas condo on the Black Sea.  Second, the stay was offered rent-free and without a limit on duration!  It turned out to be a great opportunity for us to recoup some of the money we’d spent on our recent travels.

Staying with Karina in her one-bedroom condo was her grandmother and one-year-old daughter.  They generously gave us the bedroom and we quickly settled into a routine.  Babuska busied herself making three huge meals every day, Oksana and Karina spent every waking hour catching up and fussing over Liza, Karina’s daughter, and I spent most of my time in the bedroom (since I couldn’t keep up with the spoken Russian) making a lot of headway on my travel writing.

From time to time, we’d go for a walk with Liza in the stroller, pick up some groceries, go to the beach, or buy a beer at the pub across the street so we could use their wi-fi.  A week turned into 10 days.  10 days turned into two weeks.  We left Sveti Vlas on a bus, bound for the capital city of Sofia, where we spent just a couple of days before flying out.

Sveti Vlas was a total resort town, which was a great place to kick back and enjoy the warm weather, but it didn’t give us any idea about what the rest of Bulgaria was like.  Sofia was more interesting; both Oksana and I enjoyed it a lot.  It was in Sofia that Oksana first remarked, “You know what?  I think I could live here for a little while…”

Here are some of the things I found interesting about Bulgaria:

June 12, 2009


Points of Interest in South America

When Oksana and I got serious about planning our year-long trip, I started bookmarking all the intriguing travel sites as I came across them.  I mean, of course, we’ll see the pyramids in Egypt, walk along the Great Wall of China, and visit the Taj Mahal… assuming we find ourselves wandering anywhere near those places, that is.  But what about those things that hardly anyone even knows about?  The fireflies of Thailand that blink in perfect synch, the starling congregations on Ot Moor, or the Darvaza crater in Turkmenistan?  The things you’ve never heard of are so easy to forget…

While we’re traveling, I want to try to update a map of our progress around the world.  Ideally, some combination of a GPS unit and the Google Maps API would automate the process for us, but at the very least, I’ll update the website myself just to let people know our current location.

This week, I’ve been playing with the Google Maps interface, just to see what I could whip up without any real work.  The results are pretty cool and I liked them enough to go ahead and create a new page on my website.  There’s a permanent button up above on my navigation bar, but here, let me make it easy; Check it out: Destinations.

It’s a good start; there are already a few dozen entries on the map, and I still haven’t quite depleted my store of travel bookmarks.  Go ahead, click around.  If your sense of wonder about the world is at all similar to mine, you’ll probably end up following a few of the handy links.

Already we’re visualizing how best we can use this map.  Oksana has recommended that we change the colors of the pins to green as we visit each site – a great idea that will very quickly show what we’re up to.  Also, as more pins are put on the map, I can’t help but notice when they start to cluster.  I imagine that whenever we face a fork in the road, we’ll take the path that travels towards the biggest group of pins!

If you have a minute, take a look at the map, down Argentina way.  See how we’re using different types of pins already?  We’re going to use the “person” icon to remind us where we should go to visit friends and family, the “film” icon to point towards our own video podcasts (I used the Transient Books video as an example), and the little “camera” icon to share the photos we take.  Google makes it easy to embed YouTube videos, image tags, etc.  This could be a pretty neat document when we’re done.

As I said, right now we have a couple dozen points of interest already saved on the map.  I’ve got enough ideas – mostly common one, but a few more  “off the beaten path” ones, too – to round out the first hundred or so, but I hope to have at least two or three hundred before we set off.  We don’t want to pass right by something cool just because we forgot to write it down!

If you’ve been somewhere really neat, heard of a place that sparked your imagination, or even if you simply come across something on the internet and it reminds you of our upcoming trip, please, please, please, send me a link!  I’d love to consider it for one of our Destinations!