United Airlines, Airport Sleepovers, and Steve Feiden

There’s no better welcoming to remind you that you’re back in America than United Airlines. After our 5 pm flight was delayed 20 minutes at a time for 4 hours and ultimately canceled, we were welcomed with complimentary bottles of water for our overnight stay at the DC airport. The one saving grace to this unfortunate turnout was a single United customer service employee who decided to help out our group of students traveling back. This employee was the one and only Steve Feiden. Despite my complete lack of trust for this man, after 30 minutes of him cranking away on his computer and not having to wait in any lines, Steve came back and had every single one of us rebooked an another flight for the morning. Some, like myself, got luckier than others with a direct flight home, and other were a little less fortunate with another full day of travel ahead of them.

The saying goes that you never know what you have until it’s gone. Never has this saying rang more true to me than last night lying on the floor of the Washington DC airport. There was no waking up to a sunrise over a beautiful city, but rather it was someone vacuuming the floor directly next to your head. Instead of the warm hospitable people of Slovenia that were always welcome to have a conversation with you, you were surrounded by airline personnel who are battling between hating their job or the people they have to deal with more. There was no three course meal for dinner followed by an hour long conversation, but rather a bag of chips at a store where I had to beg the person closing to let me make a purchase.

Slovenia, you were amazing. You left me with more memories and great friends than I ever could have imagined. You blew my expectations out of the water and I cannot stress enough the need for anyone and everyone to see this place. As I finish this last blog of the trip, I realize that I only have one thing left to do…. convince my mom to come and see this place. See you soon Slovenia.

-Marty

Advertisements

What I Love (and Hate) about European Dining

If there is one thing that America and Europe differ on completely, it’s the dining experience. In America, tipping is expected and at a high level of 15% for average service due to the lack of hourly pay waiters and waitresses receive. Due to this need for tips, American dining experiences are oftentimes rushed as the waiters do their best to turn the table and get other customers involved. Although this can be nice sometimes, especially when in a rush, it can also hurt the dynamic of having a dinner with either friends or family.

To contrast the time of dining I will reference a dinner I took on a free night with three other friends. We went to a fairly inexpensive restaurant, ordered no appetizers or desserts, and received our food in a timely manner. We had all eaten and had our places cleared, but not once did the waitress or anyone else ask if we wanted anything else, or if we wanted the check or anything. They would just occasionally come by to make sure everything was going okay, but there was never any need to rush us out of table, and that was something that I absolutely loved about the European dining experience.

Another thing that I noticed about dining in Europe was the use of outdoor seating. Granted I did grow up in Texas where we hit triple digits in more days out of the year than days under 40, but it was still amazing to see so many people eating outside. In many restaurants, you could be seated immediately inside, but had a wait in order to sit outside which was a stark difference that I saw in my home culture and in Europe. Eating outside, in good weather, is something that I always have loved to do and it was something that was great to get to experience as such a cultural norm for this week and a half.

Border Patrol, Bribery, and Croatian Jail

Throughout my recent years of travel, it has become an inside joke in my family that I am always the one who gets randomly searched or stopped going through customs or border checks. Coming onto this trip, I felt it was necessary to inform the group I was traveling with of this problem for when we did go to another country, they would be aware that they would most likely have to wait for me.

With this background, we will now fast forward to my trip to Croatia for a lovely morning round of golf. To get across the border, 5 guys and I all took a quick taxi in order to get to the golf course. When we pulled up to the border check we all handed our passports to the cab driver and waited for the border patrol guy to approve our documentation and let us through. After thorough examination of our passports, it seemed as if one was giving him trouble. All the sudden, he slams a passport against the window demanding, “WHO IS THIS?” Remembering the story that I told them earlier, my friends saw that the passport against the glass was me and began to laugh which just made the situation even worse. After finally acknowledging that the person he was looking for was myself, the man began to question me as to why there was 5 euro in-between the pages of my passport. It appears that when I wan in Venice I accidentally had put a 5 euro in my pocket with my passport and the two must have accidentally come together. Whether or not border patrol was mad because of the “bribe” attempt or in disgust that I thought 5 euro would get me anywhere is still yet to be decided. Moral of the story, however, is always check your passport before heading through border patrol because there’s nothing that’ll get your heart going like a Croatian border patrol worker who becomes visually upset and is looking for you.

Pros and Cons of European Hotels

Throughout my life I have been in many hotels throughout the United States for various reasons and accumulated a large sample size in order to draw a general judgement about general American Hotels. Now having stayed in my second European Hotel on this trip, I am going to discuss a few pros and cons of European hotels versus the general American hotel.

Pros:

Water Pressure: The water pressure here in Europe is absolutely phenomenal. Every single time I step into the shower I am blasted with water and it is absolutely phenomenal.

Cons:

Lack of provided body soap: At both hotels that we are staying at, they have each failed to provide a type of soap in which you can clean your body. This is something that is quite interesting, but easily fixable with a quick run to the local grocery store for a bar of soap.

-Marty

How 6 College Kids Pulled Off the Greatest 15 Hour Stretch of All Time

IMG_0246.jpgSunday was a free day for us students in the city of Piran.  For this day, 5 guys and I all decided that we would spare no expense and go all out for the day. Starting the day at 6:45 in the morning we woke up, got breakfast and called a cab that took us across the border to go play golf on the Adriatic coastline of Croatia. After arriving, we were immediately blown away by the scenery of the course and everything that it had to offer for us. I knew that this day was going to be special when we hit the first tee box and had to hit our first shot over one of the many wine vineyards scattered throughout and around the course.

IMG_1617.jpg

After golfing, we came back to Slovenia where we met a local who ran a boat rental shop. Here we agreed to rent a boat to take out into the Adriatic Sea where we were able to cruise around and take in different sceneries and coastlines throughout the Slovenian shoreline. After a couple hours of cruising and swimming in the Adriatic Sea, we came back to dry land and decided to watch the sunset over an Italian mountain range that was faintly visible across the sea. IMG_0253.jpg

Finally after the sunset, the 6 of us came up on a little hole in the wall restaurant that served calamari three ways, all of which would take home any prize across the world. Dinner was followed with a leisurelyIMG_0287.jpg walk home along the coastline which helped complete what has come to be known as, “The greatest day of my life”.

-Marty

Food Appreciation Post

After the first two days of our trip, I came to the realization that one of the best parts of everything that we were doing was the fantastic 4 course meals that we are being served 2 – 3 times a day. After this, I began to photograph every course of every meal that has been served to us. Below, you can find a montage and brief description of all of my favorite dishes that we have been served.

Appetizers:

IMG_0117.jpg

This salad was an arugula and asparagus salad served with cheese, strawberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. Prepared by the Culinary Institute of Slovenia, this salad was one of the most visual appeasing dishes that has been served on this trip.

Entrees:

IMG_0111.jpgIMG_0128.jpgIMG_0289.jpg

For the entrees, I chose three different dishes that we were served. The first was a grilled white fish that was served in Ljubljana that would absolutely blow you away with the tender flaky fish and crunchy skin, everything came together perfect.

The second dish is a traditional Slovenian Klobasa sausage. This sausage is made with 80% pork and 20% bacon which made it some of the best sausage that I have ever been served.

The third dish was the grilled calamari that I had in Piran. This calamari was a dish that would change every single person reading this’s view on Calamari for the better. The flavors and textures all came together beautifully in your mouth and it was unable to stop eating or smiling bite after bite.

Dessert:

IMG_0295.jpgIMG_0140.jpgIMG_0136.jpg

As far as desserts go, I went with two different dishes as well as one special appearance. For the first dish, it is a Jefka or “hedgehog” This chocolate covered chocolate cake ball was phenomenal and felt like you were biting into a piece of chocolate heaven every time you would go back for another piece.

The second dish, was an apricot crepe that we were served in the coastal town of Piran. This crepe was one of my favorite dessert dishes and was one of the only dishes that seemed to be enjoyed by almost the entire group.

The third and final picture here is in honor of my father, who for some reason has always had a strange obsession with salt and butter from different countries. As we drove into the town of Piran, our tour guide informed us that the city was founded by miners in the local salt fields that are still active nearby the city. These local salt fields meant that the restaurant in which we were eating provided fresh and natural salt before it was iodized, and let me tell you that if I lived here I would easily cut an additional 10 years of my life with this salt.

All things considered, the food that we have been served on this trip has been exquisite, and I am really looking forward to many different and new dishes ahead of me, but as discussed earlier today……. I would kill for a burger right now.

-Marty

Why You Should Take On the Romantic City of Venice With Your Best Friends

Everyone knows, Venice is romantic. Even though we visited in some skeptical weather with scattered showers all throughout the day, the public display of affection was definitely still out and about. This abundance of romance may make most people want to travel the city with their significant other, but in the case of Wyatt, Jack, Noah, and myself we chose a slightly different approach.

IMG_0189.jpg

To start the trip we left the tourist capital of Saint Mark’s Basilica in search of some cuisine in the quieter parts of the town. After a short walk we settled on a local pizzeria to stop and enjoy ourselves for some lunch. After spending almost triple what we would have spent in Slovenia on food we decided to take a trip on down to the Rialto Bridge over the main canal of Venice. It was here that we made an on the fly decision to take a gondola ride through the “streets” of the city.

IMG_0201.jpg

After the Gondola ride, we took a trip back to the square in which we bought ticket to go to the top of the campanile in order to get a bird’s eye view of Venice which in itself was remarkable. It was up here that I noticed how large this city was in comparison to what it felt like on the ground and also just how miraculous it is that this city was artificially made on tree trunks stuck into the water hundreds of years ago. IMG_0221.jpg

Finally, we used the last bit of our time walking around the square and taking in the final sites of the city. Although the city itself was wonderful, the mass tourism was a little bit much to handle especially coming from Slovenia. Walking off the boat and being bombarded by locals trying to sell ponchos, umbrellas, selfie sticks, etc. was something that really made me appreciate the beautiful serenity that the country of Slovenia provides.

IMG_0195.jpg

-Marty