Skip to content

first stop: gelato!

my adventures in italy and beyond…

Monthly Archives: June 2011

hello! Sorry for the silence over here.  I’ve been too busy!

Dan and I have been in the Balkans for the past week, first in Croatia (Zagreb and Dubrovnik) and now in Kotor, Montenegro, where the mountains are high and, well… black.  Get it? Monte.  Negro.  We just hiked up a fortress outside the old city to get a fabulous view of the bay and the town below.  Earlier today, drove way up into the mountains, around exactly 25 hairpin turns to see this amazing landscape.  Pretty phenomenal stuff!  Tomorrow, we’re off to a national park called Durmitor for some more hiking and then Sarajevo.   Dan will be writing the next post, so I’ll leave the rest of the Balkan reflections to him and backtrack a week and a half to Palestine…

Seeing the occupation up close is an intense experience.  I was in Ramallah and Bethlehem for barely 24 hours, but when I left, my head was spinning with everything that I learned, absorbed, and saw.  I really don’t have the patience or right frame of mind at the moment to do this reflection justice, so I’ll just include a few examples of what I learned and saw: I learned about the bookstore owner in Ramallah who will soon be deported to the US (where he also holds citizenship) for importing anti-Zionist books.  I learned about the black Palestinian water tanks that only fill up 3 days a week, less than the settlers’ white tanks, but more than the tanks in the refugee camps, which only fill up a few times per month.  I saw a house in Bethlehem that’s surrounded by the wall on three sides.   I saw so many examples of how the occupation restricts, narrows and limits Palestinians’ freedom of movement and economic opportunities.  I also had a ton of fun and met some amazing people.

I’ll post the photos when I get home.

Next up… Gelby.

Flavor update_ fresh caught, grilled fish.  And lots of strudel.

Yaeli got married on Tuesday! Yay, Yaeli and Shay!  The bride was lovely; the groom was handsome, and it was a wonderful event all around.  Israeli weddings are different in many ways from American weddings: they rarely start on time, the cocktail hour is before the ceremony (which helps with the whole not-starting-on-time-thing), and they are super casual, which was especially good for me since I’ve been travelling for 2 months. I am proud to say that I packed the perfect, almost wrinkle-free, little black dress for the occasion! Not only was the wedding an opportunity to celebration the partnership of 2 wonderful people, it was also a chance for me to catch up with my bestest friends, the crew that I became close with back in my Young Judaea days.   And one of them has a baby, whom I met for the first time! I think Isaac and I really hit it off. I was a real champ at getting him to giggle!

It’s strange being in Israel. It’s familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.  I remember very little Hebrew, which is fine, since everyone in Tel Aviv speaks English, and I enjoy chowing down on the salads, hummus and ice cream bars that I came to love during my time here, but otherwise, I feel very little connection.  On Monday, I took some time away from the wedding prep to take a “political tour” of Great Jerusalem, with the wonderful Green Olive Tours, with the goal of learning the side of the story that I didn’t learn back in those Young Judaea days that I mentioned before.  Actually, I’ve done some learning or un-learning over the past several years, but I haven’t actually seen the separation barrier, checkpoints, settlements, etc that affect, interrupt and control the daily movement and economic opportunities of Palestinians in the West Bank. One of the first stops on our tour was Mount Scopus, where I lived for 3 months on Year Course. From there, rather than looking west towards the Old City like I used to, we looked East towards the settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, and the Palestinian town of Anata.  Ten years ago, I didn’t even know the names of these places nevermind the politics behind them.

I had to cut short my time here in I/P, since my original flight with the stupid Aeroflot got cancelled, forcing me to reschedule my return to Budapest for early Monday morning, so besides a quick visit with a very sweet friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend in Ramallah on Sunday, I’m not able to do much else in the West Bank, unfortunately. The next time I write, I’ll probably be on my Balkan adventure with Dan. Can’t wait!

… Budapest had it all! My mom and I saw some amazing music during our two weeks together, especially in Budapest where we stumbled across a “Judafest”, literally “Jewishfest” which featured the Budapest Klezmer Band; went to the Barber of Seville at the gorgeous Hungarian State Opera house; and checked out the dance music at the Atha Sam!/We are Here!, Roma Music Festival.  Seeing the various venues was also part of the fun. Like I said, the opera house in Budapest was great, but I think I was most excited about the Art Nouveau concert hall in Prague, with paintings by Alfons Mucha and gold metalwork in a peacock motif — so fanciful and fun! I became a bit of an architechture junkie in Central Europe.  Now, I’m in Tel Aviv, which rocks the Bauhaus style.

The primary reason for this leg of the trip is the wedding of my dear friend, Yaeli. Mazal tov, Yaeli and Shay! I get to see other friends too. And meet their babies! It’s hot, but not unbearable.  After travelling in totally unfamiliar places for 6 weeks, it’s also nice to be somewhere that’s not totally foreign.  (This is my 4th time in Israel.)

Thanks to my guest blogger, Doris Madsen, for being a great travel companion for 2 weeks. Dan, she set a high standard! Mom was a real trooper. Other 20-something travellers couldn’t quite believe that a mom would be with her daughter at a hostel and out at bars.

I really want to get some current photos up, but this computer is not recognizing my camera for some reason and I don’t have the technological know-how to figure it out.  Here are some oldies:

flavor update: not much to report.  I’m eating a lot of humus now.  We drank Palinka, a brandy that comes in dozens of fruit flavors, in Budapest, and tried some Hungarian wine too.

For a change of pace here on “First Stop: Gelato!”, I’m introducing a guest blogger today: Doris Madsen.  Also, I’m removing the feature, gelato flavor update, now that we’re not in Italy anymore,  and replacing it with a flavor update.  Now, Doris Madsen:

I arrived safely about a week ago and Leah and I hit the ground running.  Leah’s a good travelling companion.  She does all the navigating! We’re in Budapest now, but spent the first week in the Czech Republic, first in Prague and then in Olomouc (Oh-low-moats) which is in Moravia.  We received a great introduction to Czech history while we were in Prague. Our tour guide talked about her Czech  mother-in-law who lived in 8 countries even though she never left Prague.  There are reminders of the Soviet era everywhere – lots of ugly buildings mixed in around the Art Noveau and Cubist ones.   In Olomouc, they replaced the rotating disciples on the astronomical clock with figures of workers.  We found Leah’s name day on the socialist clock!

Olomouc has old city walls, narrow cobbled streets, plazas,  interesting fountains and it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside.   We’ve been eating a lot, of course — pig’s knee in Prague, garlic soup in Olomouc, strawberry cream soup in Budapest — and lots of beer, huge mugs of it.   The food is hearty and filling.

Budapest is “shabby chic”, cosmopolitan, arty and fun.  Music everywhere and interesting cafes and restaurants. We checked out the Budapest Klezmer Band at the “Judafest” yesterday and are thinking of going to an opera tomorrow.

Flavor update: see above, plus cottage cheese pancakes; potato dumplings with pork and kraut; potato pancakes; mushroom stew; cake with apple, nuts and poppy seeds; and fried cheese.