Kosovar and Serbian Border Crossing: what you need to know

I handed my passport to the Serbian police officer. He scowled, not from the encroaching cold, but because I was American and had Kosovo visa stamps. Thankfully, I also had a Serbian entry stamp so there was nothing he could do but waive me through. A few kilometers down a windy country road I reached the Kosovar border checkpoint. Normally when you cross borders you only have to worry about a valid passport (don’t forget it needs to be good for at least 6 months), and your visa. With Kosovo and Serbia things get a bit more complicated. There is an ambiguous international legal rational for Kosovo; a battle in the Security Council between the US, Russia and China over sovereignty and self-determination; a unilateral declaration of Independence by the Kosovar Government (supported by 65 countries in the world, but not the UN); and the blanket denial of that independence Read full article…

3 Most Dangerous Japanese Matsuri (festivals) to Experience

There is no better way to taste traditional Japanese life and culture than through one of the thousands of matsuri held across Japan each year. They come in all shapes in sizes, with dancing, singing, drinking, lots and lots of drinking, naked g-stringed men, massive floats, and portable shrines to take the gods (8 million at last count) out for a spin around the neighborhood and a bit of fresh air. Most are innocent communal affairs but a few are down right deadly.

As you probably now realize my website looks slightly different. I have moved from Blogger to my very own website…paid for by the bottles I can collect on the street. I am very excited about this move, as I am able to upgrade the website and deliver new content and options for all of  you. The down side is, as with any move, things break and are sometimes lost. In other cases things get thrown out…because they were old, no good in the first place and should have been kicked to the curb ages ago. So, please bear with me as I customize the new and improved Todd’s Wanderings, bring back old features and introduce some new ones. Please note the new web address: www.toddswanderings.net Yes, I know, very professional! I promise this message will be gone soon and replaced with a new travel article. Your blurry eyed editor, writer, Read full article…

My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

My friend Megan who writes the blog See. Write. Live. nominated me to share my three best travel secrets on Todd’s Wanderings. The nomination is a part of Trip Base Blog tag in which the Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a free ebook that will be shared with the “entire online community…” Hmmm, good luck with that! First, I had to decide if my secrets were safe for the average traveler…my lawyers tell me I should be okay (by reading this you have now waived all your rights). So here you are, some of my well kept secrets, and favorite places in this wonderful world: 1. Mount Koya, Japan Aschaf Everyone visits the major temples in Kyoto and Nara but these days they are little more than tourist attractions, albeit pretty ones, lacking that lived in, struggle for enlightenment feel. Mount Koya, the secluded mountain Read full article…

Behind a NATO checkpoint: Kosovo’s Visoki Decani Monastery

Handing over our passports to the Italian NATO troops we waited in the crisp winter air to enter. The secluded canyon exuded peace and tranquility, at odds with the tank barriers, sandbag bunkers and matching barb wire. We weren’t crossing a boarder, or even trying to enter a military base. We were there to visit Visoki Decani Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site and probably the best preserved medieval church in the Balkans. Nestled in the embrace of western Kosovo’s Decan Canyon, surrounded by grapevines, chestnut trees and bucolic pastures the abbey is a lovely two hours drive from the capital Pristina. Ten years since NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign and accompanying peacekeepers, tensions are still evident between  Serbians and Albanian Kosovars. Many of the Serbian cultural heritage sites have a NATO protection force camped on the perimeters. However, at Decani tensions are much lower and it offers a model of Read full article…

Skiing the Four Passes in the Italian Dolomites

Fifty US dollars doesn’t get you much these days, but in the Italian Dolomites it buys 650 miles of downhill trails, and 464 modern ski lifts leading to and from about 40 facilities and through eight charming mountain villages. All this and one of the most spectacular mountain settings in the world. Don’t trust me? Well, UNESCO agrees, and it was named a World Heritage Site in 2009. Set in Italy’s Southern Tyrol region, where German is heard more often than Italian, the Dolomites’ charm bursts into colorful splendor when the twisting rocky peaks turn soft pink during sunrise and burning red at sunset. The ideal setting during any season, winter time sees some of the best skiing in Europe. After a trip to Venice, we drove up into the Dolomites and made the quaint village of San Cassiano our base to ski the region. And I do mean ski Read full article…

An Underwater Tour of Venice, Italy

I faced my dive buddy for a final check as our boat approached the Renaissance city of Venice. Weight belt on, air open, B.C.D. working….we gave each other the final OK symbol, not the thumbs up of course. We weren’t amateurs, this wasn’t our first trip after all, we were ready. We even checked the news that morning before we left, which of course was our downfall. “Venice is underwater” the swanky Italian host informed us. “Dress appropriately,” he advised with a wink. I was taken in by his professional nature and shinny suit.  We stepped off the water taxi, not onto the worn cobble stone streets of lore, but raised platforms sagging with tourists from far flung reaches of the globe. Underwater indeed! We were over dressed! Without the benefit of galoshes the fancier hotels supply, we were left to battle our way through the crowded back alleyways and Read full article…

Vienna Walk About

In November I stopped by imperially romantic Vienna, Austria for two days on my way to a consulting job in Sri Lanka. The holiday season was just starting and the city was awash in Christmas lights and markets selling spiced wine, dried meats and just about any type of cheese you could ask for. Vienna has so much history that it is a challenge to tackle the city in the short time I had. I was assaulted with recommendations by friends, guidebooks and internet sites about what I had to see. However, unlike other cities, I felt no pressure to spend my days locked in old palaces and in quite museums (although you would not be wasting your time if you did.) Instead, I spent my days walking the medieval city streets, exploring the architecture and fabulous statues, and of course drinking glühwein, spiced wine, at every Christmas market I Read full article…

Mirusha Falls, Kosovo

In October I moved from Sri Lanka to Kosovo. Coming from Colombo the streets of Pristina, the capital city, seemed orderly and quaint. The city is a mix of historical Ottoman era mosques, drab communist housing, and new buildings catering to the ever present contingent of international development workers. There is a fantastic cafe scene and a variety of international restaurants that I have not found in other developing countries. A major downside to the city is the pollution due to, a dinosaur of an electrical plant spewing cheap coal fumes over the city and the use of the cheap coal in family stoves to stay warm. Escaping the city is easy though, and Kosovo is blessed with abundant nature and is ringed by amazing mountains. You just have to be careful to stay on the paths as unexploded mines still lay hidden in the undergrowth. Taking advantage of the Read full article…

Our wedding in Newport, Rhode Island

I know this post is coming a bit late but I wanted to share my wedding with everyone. Marriage is certainly one of the biggest adventures I have wandered into. I am sure it will spawn many new stories to share. We had a wonderful September day on the water in Newport, with the sun shining and the boats cruising out of the harbor for a boat show weekend regatta. The wedding was planned from halfway around the world while Kay and I lived in Sri Lanka, and even after Kay left for Kosovo. In fact we didn’t even see the venue until our “last” meeting with the Regatta Place 5 days before the wedding! Crews leaving for the race in Narragansett Bay Despite the distance and the logistics of planning from so far away, the Regatta Place did an incredible job and I would recommend them to anyone based Read full article…

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