Dec 31, 2009

My only resolution is to meet my dear twitter friends in real life.

Happy New Year to my PLN!

Lessons Learned from Great Educators

I was tagged by Shelly Terrell in her wonderful challenge to write about our most inspirational educators.

German was my first foreign language. I studied it for 5 years before other languages came along. These days, however, it's all about English. At school, out of 21 classes that I teach per week only two are German. I write my blog in English, I google in English, I tweet in English, I sometimes communicate with other German teachers in English. However, the most inspirational educators who have deeply influenced me belong to the German side of my education.

Mr. Kazimir Sviben was my primary school German teacher. It was him who opened the door to the amazing world of foreign languages. He was one of the first multitaskers and lifelong learners I have ever met and he always encouraged us to pursue our dreams. His teaching instilled a love of languages in his students, many of whom became language teachers later on.

Professor Viktor Zmegac, my German Literature professor, is one of the most prominent Germanists in Croatia. This learned and versatile scholar is also a very quiet and modest man who has always been enthusiastic about sharing his profound knowledge of literature and music history with his students. His new book Masters of European Music, published earlier this year, carries a dedication to his wife who he loves as much as he did on the first day, immeasurably. This simple yet very powerful statement of love by a 78-year-old scholar shows the true greatness of an extraordinary man.

Christmas Eve at my house

Dec 26, 2009

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Happy holidays

Dec 22, 2009

And the Educational Oscar goes to....

Dec 19, 2009

We're famous in Croatia today. There are articles about our achievement in the papers. As far as I know, we're the first school in Croatia to be recognized with the Edublog Award, so that's why it is called the Educational Oscar.

Published in today's paper

Dec 15, 2009

The proud nominees for the Best Educational Wiki.

I need this

Dec 12, 2009

I've just read a post about a blogger who is going to decline his nomination for the Best Individual blog 2009 because he knows the worth of his work and his readers' daily comments and reading are affirmation enough.

I guess it takes all kinds to make a world. I'm the complete opposite. I don't know what I'm worth. I'm an ordinary teacher teaching ordinary students. I need nominations to show me which way to go. I deeply appreciate it when my colleagues tell me I'm doing my job well.

I cried when I saw the nomination for my wiki. I immediately tweeted about it, published it in my Facebook status, wrote a blog post, sent emails to all my contacts and called my friends.

The ICT teacher from my school linked the voting page to the school website and the head teacher informed all the Croatian educational institutions and all the newspapers and Internet portals about this nomination. On Monday, reporters are coming to my school to interview my students. We have received much kudos. I need this.

One of the reason why everybody is so excited about this nomination is that there haven't been any nominees or winners from Croatia yet, as far as I know.

This morning the head teacher attended an awards ceremony (it's this time of the year) at the Institute of Public Health because our students won the awards for the best poster and slogan in the "School Without Drugs" campaign. She was sitting there with the students waiting to be called to the stage to receive the award when all of a sudden the ceremony host invited the audience to vote for the outstanding wiki Greetings from the World created by students from IX. gimnazija and their teacher Arjana Blazic. She called me immediately to share her excitement. I need this.

I won't be disappointed if we don't win, because to me, this nomination is my Oscar. The ultimate proof that ordinary teachers and their ordinary students can do extraordinary things extraordinarily well. I need this.

And the nominees are....

Dec 10, 2009

Yes, I'm thrilled, I'm overwhelmed with joy and I'm sure this is how the Oscar winners feel....

Thank you Eva, Valentina and Karenne for nominating my wiki project Greetings from the world. Thank you Edublogs judges for shortlisting it.

My heartfelt thanks to all the members of the wiki who created such amazing glogsters. You're awesome!!!

If you feel like voting, just click here.

There's another nomination I want the world to know about:

talk.ed is nominated for the Best Educational Use of a Social networking Service. Monika and her webclass definitely deserve this award because they help, they encourage, they support.... they care!

Edublog Awards 2009

Dec 6, 2009

My nominations for Edublog Awards 2009:

Best individual blog: Teacher Reboot Camp by Shelly Terrell

Best individual tweeter @shellterrell

Best group blog: Macmillan Dictionary

Best new blog: Ken Wilson's Blog

Best resource sharing blog: Esolcourses by Sue Lyon Jones

Most influential blog post: Thnx 4 ur RTs by Karenne Sylvester

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion: #edchat

Best teacher blog: Kalinago English by Karenne Sylvester

Best educational tech support blog: The Box of Tricks by Jose Picardo

Best educational use of audio: Breaking News English by Sean Banville

Best educational use of video / visual: Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard

Best educational wiki: Ktitraci by Traci Blazoski

Best educational use of a social networking service: talk.ed by Monika Hardy

Best educational use of a virtual world: Virtual Round Table Conference by Heike Philp

Update on Going Virtual

Nov 25, 2009

It's 7 pm in our virtual room. Monika and I extend a warm welcome to our students. The long awaited virtual lesson begins. We listen to American students talking about Thanksgiving. Croatian students ask questions. Whoever wants to speak next, raises their hand. At the end, they all deserve a round of applause. The 'freedom bloggers' in two classrooms on two continents raise their glass of sparkling cider and toast to change. Tupac Shakur is singing in the background. Everybody is happy.

Too good to be true? Unfortunately, yes. Our first Connect Pro Meeting was complete chaos.

The beginning was almost perfect, though. A very friendly CARNet guy went over the whole meeting with me. I was even sent a tweet by @connectusers, the official community for users of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro wishing us fun:

Then I sent the address of the site to Monika, but she just couldn't open it. Later we found out that it was blocked by her school district! However, after 29 hours of phone calls, tweets, Ning messages and an Elluminate session, I received a tweet that said:

Some might say that what followed was a teacher's worst nightmare. All the participants were either hosts or presenters, so everybody was talking at the same time. Some of them suddenly discovered what fun it was to play with the pods, so they minimized the camera and voice pods, maximized the attendee list pod, made the chat box disappear or simply ended the meeting and then restored it just for fun...

But we didn't mind. We were just sitting there, smiling happily at each other because we brought our students together in this e-room and no nightmare or chaos could diminish our excitement.

Going virtual

Nov 21, 2009

When @shellterrell tweeted about glogster, I immediately set up a glogster project called Greetings from the world. @monk51295 showed me her voicethread presentation for the district people and it didn't take me long to start my own voicethread for teaching Croatian. @chickensaltash blogged about Dvolver and soon movie making was the new game in my classroom. I don't remember who first tweeted about wallwisher, but, yes, I have one of these too. I took part at the Pecha Kucha night last week and my students already know how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

But the PK night made an even deeper impact on me. Ever since then I've been dreaming about Adobe Connect Pro Meeting and its use in the classroom.

And guess what! Today, only ten days after I first heard about this Adobe application, I have a virtual room scheduled on the Croatian Academic and Research Network site. CARNet implemented this video conferencing software so that we, teachers and students can use it in order to enhance teaching and learning. With no extra charge. Dear people at CARNet, we're lucky to have you!

However, it takes at least two for a video conference, and luckily, our collaboration partners from Colorado invited us to their Thanksgiving party, which will be thrown in their school on Tuesday. Because of the time difference, we will be attending it from our homes.

Now I'm not tech savvy and I don't know if it is going to work, but at least I know that I have given it a try and that's what makes it so exciting.

Pecha Kucha

Nov 14, 2009

This twitter thing is absolutely amazing. Not only do you learn about various new tools that can be used in the classroom, but you also get invited to join webinars, online conferences and virtual round table discussions.

Yesterday, I jumped at the opportunity to join my first Pecha Kucha night, held in a virtual classroom on The Virtual Round Table site, where over the past two days the first virtual conference on language learning with technology took place. The conference was coordinated by Heike Philp from Lancelot school, and the Pecha Kucha was moderated by Shelly Terrell.

I first heard about Pecha Kucha, when some teachers from my PLN tweeted about it as preparation for the TESOL France conference. Then I saw the recordings on Shelly's YouTube channel. The presenters were fabulous, just like the ones I saw yesterday. It was a fantastic experience, thanks to the brilliant presenters sharing 20 slides in 6 minutes and 40 seconds each.

I liked it so much that I immediately started wondering if my class could do something similar with Monika's web class, as part of our collaboration project. It would be a great way to connect the kids visually in real time.

What do you think? Can (only extra)ordinary teachers create such an extraordinary event for their students?

My Ning, Your Ning

Nov 4, 2009

Whenever I start a new project with my students I have great, usually unrealistic expectations. It wasn't any different this September when I opened up a Ning site for my students. But life works in mysterious ways. Not in my wildest dreams could I imagine what my Ning will turn into.

It took only one tweet to set the things in motion:

@monk51295 read your post - we're experiencing the same with our class ning... i'm in colorado, usa, math, we should colab... :) #unboxed

This is what it looked like at that time:

Two schools on two continents, two classes eager to collaborate, two teachers keen on using web 2.0 tools in class.

This is what we have today:

One online class, one Ning for math, one Ning for English, one voicethread for Croatian, one project for learning to respect and to understand, one (better) world.

And there's more to come, brilliant plans are afoot. The students have so many ideas, and we just need to hear what they want to say.

Ning, Glogster and Wiki

Oct 25, 2009

I can hardly believe that it's been a month since my last post. But what a month! Full of amazing web 2.0 adventures.

In my last post I wrote about the successful launch of Ning with my 16-year old students as part of their Elective English Class. Only two students didn't join as they claimed they didn't have either a computer or the Internet access. However, after seeing what fun the other students were having, they suddenly got both a computer and the Internet access. Now I can't say they are eagerly participating in our online class, but they're there with us, and that's what matters. With time, their attitude might change.

Anyway, I decided to integrate glogsterEDU, an excellent tool for creating mulitmedia posters, in my classroom. I wanted my students to present parts of Croatia to their peers from all over the world so I set up a wiki where they could display their glogs. We called it the Greetings from the world project and after several weeks of total addiction (hence my absence from blog world) we got the first few glogs embedded. It took only several tweets by my dear twitter friends for the project to go global.

So, join us, world! We would like to know more about you. Tell us what travel books can't. Share your world with us. There are no age limits for this project. Everyone is welcome. Especially the young and the young @ heart.

Ning in my classroom

Sep 26, 2009

Students in Croatian high school have three hours a week of the first foreign language (mostly English), but at my school we offer them an extra lesson, called Elective English, where we usually do tons of reading/listening/writing/speaking exercises as a preparation for the unified school leaving exams. This year, however, I decided to try out some of the web 2.0 technologies as part of my elective English class. Both the principal and the ICT teacher were entirely supportive of this idea and even offered to put me on the computer lab reservation list for the whole school year, which will probably make my fellow teachers frown on me, but I can live with that as long as I can use the lab with my class.

As I couldn't make up my mind on whether to use Ning or Moodle for my first e-learning class, I decided to try out both, which turned out to be an impossible task. The first problem we encountered were the students' electronic identities and passwords which were given to them when they first enrolled in our school two years ago. They hardly ever used these accounts set up by the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet) and only a couple of students could remember where their passwords are stored. It's usually no problem for the ICT teacher to get the new ones, but unfortunately, as Croatia is having a completely new e-education system implemented, there have been delays and the students still haven't received their new passwords which they would use to log in to Moodle. So Ning was our only option.

My students fell in love with it instantly. They started using it from home as a tool to communicate with their classmates. What I'm most proud of is that they readily accepted that the language of communication is English only, even when they know that I'm not around. Out of 25 students, only two don't have a computer with Internet access at home. It turns out that they are the lowest-performing students in this class. However, they don't come from the low social backgrounds. I know they have their facebook profiles, but I don't know when and from where they update them. I think I'll talk to their parents, although it's kind of a delicate situation: if their families can't make ends meet, how can I ask them to buy a computer and pay for the Internet access? It seems these students will have to make do with one class a week in the school's computer lab, which is certainly better than nothing at all.

Anyway, while I still haven't figured out how to do tons of things on Ning, I can't stop wondering how my students managed to change their Ning member pages by using their own photos or why a song begins to play when I visit them. I know, I know, I'm only a digital immigrant in their world. But isn't it amazing that it was me who first told them about Ning? And now they can teach me some of the tricks. But I'm a life long learner and I don't mind. On the contrary, I enjoy it.

Gloggings from.... the world

Sep 18, 2009

Every now and then my students are assigned a task to create posters on different topics. Some of them turn out great and are then displayed in the classroom for a while, but all of them end up in the waste paper basket at the end of the school year.

I'm happy to announce that web 2.0 has brought an end to these ecologically unconscious habits. Glogging is a new game in town. Edu.Glogster is an amazing tool that enables students to create online posters. It's easy to use and can be embedded in a blog, wiki or website.

I believe that glogster is a great collaboration tool that allows valuable cross-cultural communication. That's why I've set up a new project called Gloggings from ... the world. Students of all ages and from all parts of the world are invited to create online posters about their country, which will be published in the wiki I created specifically for this purpose. Their glogs are similar to postcards or greetings that we send when traveling (or better: used to send before the Age of the Internet).

Students show us what their country is like through their eyes. They tell us what travel books can't. And we can make it happen. Let's collaborate. This is what web 2.0 is about.

What do you think? I'm looking forward to your comments and tweets.

My Magic Wand a.k.a Web 2.0

Sep 16, 2009

This is my first glog! I created it to show my students the exciting possibilities of web 2.0 technologies. It's an amazing tool so I'm going to use it with my class, as of tomorrow morning.

I learned about Glogster from tweets by my PLN and my special thanks go to @ShellTerrell, @vale24 and @cristama who provided valuable links to this brilliant site and also to @NikPeachey for his comprehensive manual on Web 2.0 tools and @josepicardo for his remarkable Box of Tricks.

Oh the indecision!

Sep 12, 2009

I'd given a lot of thought to travelblogging vs. edublogging and eventually I reached a decision to blog on two fronts: keep writing my travelogue and create a brand new educational blog. Unfortunately, this got me into another predicament: choosing a perfect name for my new blog. Different names kept popping into my head, such as A life in the day of a ..... teacher, Getting there, The smiling teacher, The happy teacher, etc. but Google ruthlessly showed me that all the best names had already been taken.

Suddenly it occurred to me that Traveloteacher would be a perfect name for my edublog, not only because it is such a splendid, cool, unique, already well-known, ....(you name it...) blog name, but also because it shows who I am - both a teacher and a traveler. On the other hand, is it really of the utmost importance for your blog to have a catchy name?

What's in a name? That which we call an edublog
By any other name would inspire as profoundly.

So I created a new traveloteacher blog on Edublogs and I struggled one whole day with changing the password. I believe the people at edublogs must have thought I was round the bend after my seventh Forgot your password? message. And I still haven't managed to change it. Just to boost my self-confidence, I wrote a post for the traveloteacher on blogger. And I realized that I'm perfectly able to maintain only one blog.

But what is your say?

My Birthday Presents

Sep 3, 2009

Less than an hour ago, Shelly Terrell published my post on her blog as part of the series Investigating International Edtech Issues, called Sweet High-Tech Dreams. Shelly told me that I write just like a professional native speaker . Then within minutes the link got retweeted on twitter by Jason Renshaw, who left a comment saying excellent article, extremely well-written and illuminating.

Today is my birthday and these two comments are a wonderful present. Thank you Shelly and Jason!

I like writing but sometimes it is a long and difficult process. I'm a slow writer. Maybe because I'm a perfectionist. I don't know what's wrong, I just know that something is not right. I'm simply not satisfied with it. I struggle with words, I fight with my feelings, I contend for my thoughts. Then suddenly I can feel it and I know this is what I was looking for. However, after it's finished, I'm sure that I've given my best, but still have doubts and think that nobody will like it. That's why I appreciate all the comments. Yes, comments keep me writing.

So here's a birthday cake for all of you who did or didn't post a comment.
Free Clipart Picture of a Birthday Cake with Candles. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart

To travelblog or to edublog

Aug 24, 2009

Travelers don’t teach, teachers don’t travel, right? No, absolutely not! Take this blog's name, for instance. Traveloteacher. I invented it because I wanted to write not only about my own travels, but also about school exchanges and projects I organize with my students. But, to be honest, my blog has always been more about traveling, and much less about teaching.

Then suddenly and for a reason as silly as following Ashton Kutcher, Twitter became a site I couldn't do without, although not before I got to know some amazing people from the ELT world, most of whom write brilliant edublogs and who have all contributed to my professional development as a teacher. I've been teaching for 23 years, and although I've been trying really hard to use new technologies for almost 13 years, I'm still a newbie, a digital immigrant in the e-world.

Some of these blogs that I've been following ever since, are a real eye-opener, and have made me contemplate the idea about starting my own edublog, where I could share my experiences as a language teacher and write about the problems both teachers and students in my country face, or perhaps about a completely new project I’m about to launch with two of my fellow teachers this September.

But right now I'm unable to make a decision whether to write two blogs at the same time, one travelblog and one edublog, or only one, the Traveloteacher blog that has been in existence for almost three years. As to the former, how will I manage to maintain two blogs at the same time? Being a blogger is enormously time-consuming and addictive if you want your posts to be well-written and of course, well-visited.

As to the latter, wouldn't this switch from travelblogging to edublogging be too sharp, too sudden, too abrupt?

There’s also the option of letting my travelblog go – however, I'm not willing to do this. As I've read somewhere, blogs are like your babies, they simply grow on you and you just can’t abandon them so easily.

I could have one two-page blog, but I'm not sure if this is possible on Blogger. As a matter of fact, this seems a very good option. I might give it a try.

Then again, who needs just another edublog?

Dublin Airport Sleepover

Jul 20, 2009

Here are the reasons why we, a decent, law abiding family of four, decided to sleep at Dublin Airport.

  • The first Lufthansa flight from Dublin was scheduled very early in the morning, with the check in starting at 5. This meant we had to get up at 4.
  • The four of us exceeded the capacity of the rooms in most of the hotels in the airport area (children stop being children at the age of twelve in European hotels!) so we were supposed to book two rooms at a price that definitely exceeded the money we were willing to spend for such a short stay.
  • There might be other people sleeping at the airport so we won't be standing out.
  • If we get arrested, we'll sheepishly apologise and promise not to do that ever again, after which they might let us go find a room, well, two rooms in the nearest hotel.

But it turned out to be an awesome experience, which we shared with people of all ages from different parts of the world. We ended up at a Starbucks on the third floor, where there are large armchairs that can be joined together to make a comfy bed. Starbucks is open all night long, except between 2 and 3 am.

While my kids and hubbie were sleeping, I was keeping the night watch, sipping a frapucino and reading New Moon. We weren't disturbed by anyone, but by:

  • the cleaning ladies at about midnight, when we had to get up and let them do the cleaning. However, the waitress who told us to move was so polite that she even apologised for disturbing us.
  • the announcement about the unattended luggage that went on every hour.

The most pleasing moment, however, was to hear there were seats available on the flight for all of us, and we made it home safely.

The hottest destination in the Mediterranean this summer

Jul 3, 2009

This is my 100th post so I'm going to write about my fave destination, the Croatian Adriatic. It's definitely the hottest destination this and every summer for different reasons.

This is our little house. I absolutely adore the palms and the pink oleanders.

Let the photos speak of the beauty of my favourite sea:

Dublin Photos

Here are some photos we took in Dublin.


Jul 2, 2009

Dia duit!

The weather on our trip was unbelievably good for April. Every single day it was sunny with occasional showers. That is, until we arrived in Dublin. Actually the first evening was fine, but the rain that started in the morning didn't stop for three days and it was cold and windy and grey all the time.

The city itself is bigger than I imagined, or read about it. It is compact and easily walkable, but not when it's raining incessantly.

What impressed me most was the striking Memorial to the Great Irish Famine, a poignant testament to one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Ireland.

The Trinity College Library is also very impressive with its rare books and manuscript collections. It brought to mind my visit to St. Gallen, Switzerland, where there is an equally beautiful, although much smaller library, where we were made to put some huge slippers on our shoes.

As a sensible shopaholic ( can these two words even go together?) I can't but mention Grafton Street, a shopper's paradise. It's a traffic-free street with a plethora of shops and shopping malls, and I suppose, buskers, if the weather permits, which it didn't.

Leaving Dublin without visiting a pub and having a mighty craic is a practical impossibility. This time the kids decided they had enough of the pubs, which the two of us embraced wholeheartedly. The hotel receptionist recommended a pub with live music that is usually frequented by the locals. Unfortunately, they only had live music at weekends so there were only six people there, including the bartender. That's how we ended up in the Temple Bar Area, which I wanted to avoid, since it's so touristy. There were no Dubliners in the Temple Bar, but it was packed with people from all over the globe. And it wasn't bad at all, on the contrary, we had a lot fun. I always wonder why I insist so much on blending in, on wanting not to be perceived as a tourist, when I'm such a typical one, dressed in comfortable, not very fancy clothes and always carrying my DK guide with me. Why don't I just give up on it and say out loud: YES, I'M A TOURIST and I'm proud of it.


Jul 1, 2009

Yes, it's a beer, and a very good one, indeed. But it's also a charming medieval city, and although I spent only a couple of hours there, I think it's the nicest city in Ireland. It's small, it's walkable, with beautiful well-preserved buildings and a splendid castle overlooking the River Nore. The streets, called slips, are narrow, which, come to think of it, reminds me of little towns on the Adriatic coast and its islands. Butter Slip, one of the smallest in the city, is named after the butter stalls that lined this alley.

Kilkenny was named after a 6th century monk St Canice. Kil or kill means church in Irish. For those interested in learning Irish, Dia duit means hello.

The Lakes of Killarney or the Ring of Kerry?

Jun 15, 2009

At first we thought we can easily squeeze both in our tight itinerary, especially since the Lakes are part of the Ring of Kerry, and then drive to Cork, see the sights and on to Waterford for the night. It turned out that such a schedule was absolutely impossible, so we put the Ring on our next time list.

The Ring is about 200 km long, and one day is hardly enough to see its amazing beauty. The upper part, the Lakes of Killarney, is also part of the Killarney National Park. Its most famous spots are the Muckross House and the Abbey, The Torc Waterfall and the Ladies View, or to be sincere, these were the ones we saw.
Now if I had to decide which of these was the most beautiful, I'd say it's the Muckross House with its lush gardens. The coolest, though, was at the Ladies View, because it was there of all the places we visited in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, that we saw this world-famous leprechaun signpost. Speaking of leprechauns, you know what you should never do if you catch one?

The craic was mighty in Killarney

Jun 6, 2009

Having the craic was a must, or actually, to find out what this strange word really means. So it was in Killarney, a touristy town in the south, that we went on a pub crawl. So to speak. The problem was that we had our two kids in tow. Under 18's are absolutely not allowed in pubs. It wasn't a big deal for my older son who was only four months shy of his 18th birthday, but the younger, who's 14, just couldn't pass as a grown-up.

And we simply didn't want to leave him alone in the hotel room. No one wanted to babysit him. We all wanted to have the craic. So we put a baseball cap on his head, and told him not to look people in the eye. OMG; as I'm writing this, I'm thinking what despicable, lousy parents we are!!!! So if anyone, anywhere is reading this, please leave a comment, and tell me what we did was just what all the other parents would do in this situation. Or tell me we should be sued. In which case I'll delete this entry.

Anyway, we did it, our clandestine operation wasn't revealed and we weren't thrown out. We ended up in a pub that catered to pensioners, mostly, who, you wouldn't believe it, wanted to be on the stage and sing. And they did sing, as a matter of fact, they sang quite well. The whole pub was singing along, with pints being pulled incessantly. It was fun, and yes, the craic was mighty.

The Cliffs of Moher

May 14, 2009

I didn't know a lot about the Cliffs of Moher before the trip. It definitely was a must see, but I didn't expect much, as there are so many amazing cliffs on the islands of the Adriatic. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw. The Cliffs of Moher are spectacular, to say the least.

As you climb the first cliff from the visitor center, you feel safe as there's a concrete fence to keep you from falling into the foamy sea, but once you have disregarded the polite request to not go any further, you unexpectedly realize that you suffer from the fear of heights. All of a sudden you don't dare to look down any more, so you try to walk far from the edge by letting the tourists who're already going back take the precarious seaward side of the precipice. There's something that forces you to go beyond and to face your fear, so you go on until it's only you and the waves crashing against the rocks, the sea gulls shrieking in the distance and the wind roaring.

Except that I didn't have the courage to go beyond the fence, but here's a photo of those who did.

Easter Sunday in Galway

May 12, 2009

Upon saying our goodbyes to the owner and his missus and after patting their cute little springer spaniels, we left Moycullen and headed for Galway, one of the five European Rising Stars, according to Fodor's.

It was a warm and sunny day, one of those lazy Sundays, when everything seems to be in slow motion, with no hurry and no rush. The exact opposite of what we're used to. Given the circumstances, who wouldn't like Galway, with its old historical center and quirky little shops, situated where the River Corrib meets the sea. It's called the cultural capital of Ireland, but since we were there in the morning only, we didn't get to feel the other, more vibrant side of the city, neither did we learn what mighty craic really means. Well, not yet, and not there.

I can't leave Galway without mentioning The Claddagh Ring. The Claddagh is a fishermen's village and the Ring is absolutely stunning. Its design features two hands holding a heart with a crown upon it. Some would say it means "With my two hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love." OMG, so romantic, isn't it?


May 10, 2009

Connemara is one of the most beautiful regions in Ireland. It's in the west of the country, one of the very popular spots for hiking, cycling and horse riding. As you might have guessed, we didn't have time to visit the National Park and we didn't see the famous ponies. We were just driving around for a while with a short stop in the little town of Clifden. Since our five weary travelers, who hadn't slept a wink for the previous 48 hours or so, were eager to hit the sack as soon as possible, we made it an early night.

When traveling, we're early birds, always leaving hotel rooms as early as possible, so it was no wonder we wanted to have breakfast at 8. However, this was impossible here at Portara. Breakfast was served when the hostess said, at 8:30 with no changes possible. We didn't mind because half an hour made absolutely no difference, but on the other hand, doesn't it seem a bit strange that you can't have it your way at a place where you're a paying customer?

The Kylemore Abbey

May 5, 2009

After three-ish hours we arrived in Co. Galway. Our GPS brought us to our destination - which was a nice row of terraced houses, but absolutely unlike the photos of our B&B from the web. However, it didn't take us long to find it eventually. Although well-hidden from accidental tourists, the Portara Fishing Lodge is a cosy guesthouse, run by a friendly couple, Michael and Maire.

We immediately set out to explore the Connemara Region. Being given the maps by Michael, we easily found one of the most beautiful places in Connemara: The Kylemore Abbey. Imagine our disappointment when we got there and found the gates closed, since it was after 5 p.m. As Zoran was about to head backwards, the van went a bit forwards, and the gate started to open. We were just sitting there, unable to believe our eyes, feeling suddenly that the luck was on our side, again. Of course, it had to do with the automatic gate, not with luck, but still, it made us jump with joy.

As the gate remained open, the parking place soon filled with cars, but there were not too many tourists, and we all enjoyed the tranquility of the place. We didn't go inside, we didn't see the walled gardens, since everything was closed, but we tremendoulsy enjoyed the visit.

The Great Reunion

May 2, 2009

After strolling the streets of Derry and taking photos of all the gates and murals, we headed back to the Angel House, where we were finally able to use the internet and tell our family and friends back home everything about our journey that had taken such an unexpected turn.

In the meantime, the stranded five were desperately trying to cross the Irish Sea, but were destined to do it in the middle of the night, at 2:30. Luckily, the ferry wasn't cancelled and they arrived in Dublin early Saturday morning, exactly 47 hours after they left Zagreb. It was a real drag, but what the heck, they were there, happy that St. Patrick had finally let them set foot on the Irish soil.

However, he wanted them to suffer for another five hours, while they were searching for a rental agency with an available car. Ironically, we booked a car before the trip, but I just didn't dare to drive on the left - I simply couldn't make myself do it, so I cancelled the reservation at Dublin Airport. Lesson learned: Never, never go to Ireland without renting a car in advance!!! The demand was so huge that all the cars on the whole island were rented. All but one, that is. A rental agency, called Company Car (never heard of) had a Toyota van, aka mini bus (a 10-seater - wow, so much space for shopping bags, unlike last year in England, when we were all cramped in a tiny Kia Sedona). And all those seats for less than 500 euros for five days, which was a good deal, considering that we split the price in half. Actually, we would have paid anything just to have a car.

The two of us arrived in Dublin at noon and we definitely brought the luck back to our gang because from that point on everything went as planned.


Apr 27, 2009

In the afternoon, after a phone briefing with the stranded members of our little group, we made a decision to go on with our plan, especially since we were booked in Derry. Dominik and I got on a bus in Belfast and after 2 1/2 hours of an uneventful ride we found ourselves in Derry.

Northern Ireland is simply beautiful. The green colour of the hills and pastures and valleys is absolutely wonderful and totally unique. And I'm talking only about what I saw from the bus. I can't imagine what the more amazing parts of Northern Ireland look like, such as the Antrim Coast, for instance. My greatest wish was to see it, together with the Giant Causeway and I deeply hope I'll have a chance to do it some time in the future.

In Derry we stayed at Serendipity House B&B, or actually, its sister B&B, the Angel House, just across the street from Serendipity. Paul and Charlotte welcomed us warmly, especially after sharing with them what an ordeal the rest of the party were going through. Anyway, we quickly left the guesthouse, in order to look around Derry, a walled city of the north, that became famous, at least to me, for an incident on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday, when 13 unarmed civilians were killed by the British soldiers.

Inside the walls, which have never been breached, hence its nickname the Maiden City, there lies a cute little city centre, with the Diamond War Memorial on the main square.


Apr 22, 2009

In the meantime, the two of us arrived in Belfast by bus and with the help of a really friendly couple we found our Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue. In the morning, after a huge Irish breakfast, which is actually the same as English breakfast, we headed for Falls and Shankill Roads, which was supposed to be an easy stroll, but it took us quite a long time on the empty streets of the Belfast suburbs, which didn't make us comfortable at all. There were not many sightseers in this part of town, and those who were there, were on a 'Black Taxi' tour. I believe it's the best thing to do if you want to learn more about this troubled neighbourhoods of Belfast, because the cabbies are the locals who know a lot about the area.

I had printed a map with the exact route to see all the murals in both the Catholic and the Protestant area, together with the so called Peace Line on a road in between. Unfortunately, the map was somewhere in London with Zoran, so I asked at the nearby newsagent's about the way. I just couldn't believe my ears when the newsagent and a customer suggested I shouldn't go there because it wasn't safe, since the people on that side were not as friendly as they were. We went in spite of it, but felt ill at ease all the time - for no apparent reason but prejudice. It's a country still troubled so much by its past. I feel so sorry for them. We didn't see the Peace Line because we just couldn't find it anywhere. But never mind, we always keep something for next time.

The way back to the centre was an easy and a peaceful one. The centre of Belfast is a different story, or at least it seemed to be more cosmopolitan, unprejudiced, open, modern, and oh so full of shoppers - my kind of people and I felt like I was home.

Another really wonderful thing that will always remind me of Belfast was the friendliness and helpfulness of a Holiday Inn receptionist. I didn't know whether I was going to Derry or to Dublin, whether I was going to rent a car in Belfast, Derry or Dublin, if at all, I had so many questions about so many other things concerning our stay in Ireland, but he patiently and kindly answered all of them, made a thousand phone calls, let me use the hotel phone for my private calls without any charge, all with witty remarks to keep me going. And I don't even know his name!

Leprechauns - continued

Apr 19, 2009

Their luggage arrived on the 10:00 p.m.flight and so they dozed off in those not really comfortable airport chairs at Terminal 2. At 5 a.m. they took the Tube to Euston Station, only to find out that all the trains to the West Coast were cancelled, because of a fatality on the main line. Can you imagine? Someone decided to commit a suicide that morning on that line! Odd, isn't it?

Anyway, they were instructed to go to Marlborough Street Station and get on the Birmingham train for which their tickets would be valid. However, upon arriving at this station they were told there was an error in their computer system so they couldn't accept their train tickets and if they wanted to go to Holyhead, they would have to pay 100 pounds, which was three times more than what they paid for Euston - Dublin, train and ferry included! So they headed back to Euston Station, hoping the trains would start running sooner or later. It was rather later than sooner, and it was not the train to Holyhead, but to Liverpool that brought them closer to Dublin, i.e. to Crewe where they had to change trains for Chester, where they would change for Holyhead, where they would board the ferry. Way too complicated.

Suddenly, it dawned on Zoran that they would be three minutes late for the ferry, and as soon as he got off the train in Crewe he headed for the Information Counter where he was told that it had already been taken care of, because they were not the only passengers for Dublin. How relieved they were!

But only for a moment! Because all of a sudden the 14.21 train on the monitor changed first to delayed and then to cancelled! They were sheerly devastated. It was then when someone dropped a hint of giving up, which was rejected with contempt by the others. Clearly aware of the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing went the way they wanted, and that everything that could go wrong went wrong, they started to make fun of it and laugh at themselves and their misery. Laughter is always the best remedy and it helped them to go on with their adventure.

Eventually they boarded the 2:30 ferry and fell asleep the moment they hit the soft armchair cushions on Deck 9. They crossed the Irish Sea in 3 1/2 hours and arrived in Dublin after a 48-hour long journey during which they had used all the major means of transport!

Was it because of the Leprechauns?!?

Apr 18, 2009

Not in my wildest dreams would I be able to imagine what an ordeal was awaiting us on this trip to Ireland. Still, I'd go through it again since everything turned out fine in the end. We all came back home safe and sound, and that's what matters.

When the lady at the Lufthansa counter for the flight to Dublin said that there was absolutely no chance to board the morning flight, I wasn't disappointed at all, since I knew there were two more flights that day. After four hours, a feeling of uneasiness rose within me as we were told there were only six available seats and 11 people on the waiting list before us! In the end, we managed to get two seats, so again, it was quickly decided that Dominik and I were going to Dublin. Again, a quick and crazy exchange of passports, tickets, hotel reservations, cell phone chargers, suitcases, sterlings and euros. And yet again, I wasn't prepared for the split up, I still blame myself for not having a spare bag with the bare essentials for those staying behind. It was a replay of Atlanta, with me taking everything, leaving Zoran and Mislav with nothing but a comb, a hairbrush, a mascara, an eyeshadow compact with applicator and cleaning pads - the absolute necessities for two guys! I even took Zoran's high blood pressure pills with me.

Anyway, the two of us arrived safely in Dublin, took a bus to Belfast,checked in at the hotel and we pretty much did what we had planned. Actually, we took all the luck from the rest of our party, who were later told they didn't have to wait for the third flight since it was overbooked and they would stand absolutely no chance to board it. However, Zoran had a contingency plan: fly to Manchester and take the train to Holyhead, Wales and the ferry to Dublin. Unfortunately, this flight was fully booked, too. Which was no problem for Zoran, who had a plan B - fly to London and yes, after hauling and tugging about exchanging air tickets, after leaving the laptop with the immigration officers and proving that it was his, they managed to arrive in London in time to be taken to Euston Station by taxi and to get on the train to Holyhead. But alas, Sanja and Mladen's suitcases were lost somewhere on the way, so they had to wait for another flight from Frankfurt.

Malmo, Sweden

Jan 21, 2009

I'm delighted to hear that there's another faithful reader of this blog. This really makes me more enthusiastic about writing it. So, Marianne and Sanja, keep on doing it for me.

It's been a while since I uploaded photos from Denmark and Sweden.

Let me tell you more about this trip. In May 2008, Croatia Airlines introduced a new direct flight to Copenhagen, so we decided to trade the pleasant warmth of the Adriatic for the cold and rainy Northern Europe. As the prices of accommodation were unreasonably high in Copenhagen, we booked a room in Malmo, a cute little town on the Swedish side of the magnificent Oresund Bridge. There was a Food festival going on in Malmo at the time of our visit, so we had the opportunity to taste somewhat strange, but truly scrumptious food from all over the world. Malmo's Vastra Hamnen (Western Harbour) with its magnificent Turning Torso is stunning. I could live there, were it not for the long cold winters.

An excellent idea is to buy an "Around the Sound" ticket for 20 Euros, and in 48 hours you can explore the sights and attractions in the Oresund region, which is part in Denmark, part in Sweden. It allows you access to all the trains in this region as well as the Helsingborg - Helsingor ferry. We boarded the train early in the morning, then stopped in the historic city of Lund, the not so interesting Landeskrone and the scenic Helsingborg, which looks just like a coastal northern city should.

Then we crossed over to Denmark, but that's another post.
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