From Reykjavik to Praha

Prague Castle

Iceland left such a strong impression on us that it was hard to leave. Thankfully, things went very smoothly with our flight to Brussels, the car rental, and our drive to Liers, and we had a great evening to look forward to.

Our friends Alema and Johannes live in a small medieval village outside of Bonn, and it is always a real treat when we get to visit them. The village is in the Ahr Region (named after the River Ahr), and on a popular riding road for motorcyclists (I heard several sighs from Rick while coming across riders – he wished he could ride this road on his Harley). We arrived later than we originally expected – after 5 pm, and came straight to a delicious BBQ dinner. I always feel so at home with them as they are those old friends that you might not see for years, and you can just pick up where you last left off. Those friendships are priceless.

The following morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast with traditional German Brötchen (buns that are just sooo delicious and can’t be found anywhere else), and we set off for Bonn to visit my sister (my sister has recently moved to Bonn for a fantastic new job with Deutsche Telekom – woot, woot). We had a quick visit with her and her family as we had to make sure they were all doing well and were settled nicely (we came for a longer visit with them on our way back through Europe).

Then, we set off for Prague. It was a very long drive (arguably too much time spent in the car), but so worth it. Prague is an absolutely stunning city. As I spent most of my teenage and university years in Zagreb, Prague felt very familiar (the history of belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the post-World War II dominance of the socialist/communist ideology is shared between the two countries). At the same time,  partially due to its geographic character (the natural elevation of the Prague Castle, and the impressive width of the River Vltava which flows through the city centre), and partly thanks to its historic importance (the power seat for Bohemia and Holy Roman Empire, as well as the oldest university city in Central Europe), Prague is just so much more grand.

Here come several things that we just loved about Prague:

1. Staying in the Old Town of Prague
Our Airbnb apartment was at the end of one windy and dark passage, a dark courtyard, and then another smaller dark courtyard in the very centre of the Old Town. It was tricky to get home late at night, and absolutely impossible to park our car anywhere near the apartment, but we were so close to all the action, that the car was not needed. We parked the car in a parkade close to the Czech Philharmonic House Rudolfinum, and we spent the following two days – until we were ready to leave Prague – on foot.

2. Charles Bridge (Karlův most)
Charles Bridge is one of the most visited and most popular destinations in Prague. It is the oldest bridge in Prague: commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, it replaced the old Judith Bridge which was damaged by a flood. For a long time (until 1841), it was the only bridge crossing Vltava River and connecting the Old Town and Prague Castle.

All sorts of legends, stories and myths are linked to Charles Bridge – one of them being that if a couple kisses on Charles Bridge, their love would be sealed forever. We did notice that there was a number of couples taking selfies on the bridge, but we unfortunately, did not know about the magic powers of the bridge until after our visit. If you ever go to Prague, try not to miss this unique opportunity!

3. Works of Alfons Mucha

Alfons Mucha was a renowned Czech Art Nouveau painter and graphic designer. He had a very distinct style which he considered simply as the product of himself and Czech art, but the world has learned to identify with Art Nouveau. I’m a fan, so I was very excited to see his original work. Seeing his art up and close made me very nostalgic as I used to collect stamps as a child, and was always greatly impressed with the art work and intricacy of stamps coming from Czechoslovakia. Alfons Mucha was actually the designer of Czechoslovakian stamps (as well as the bank notes) between 1918 and 1992, so it is no wonder that Czechoslovakia had the most beautiful stamps. I saw Mucha at the Gallery of Art Prague  because it’s conveniently located  at one of the corners of the Old Town Square, but you can see a lot more of Mucha’s work at the Mucha Museum.

We also really enjoyed just walking by the river, eating at restaurants we discovered along the way, and coming across random gems – Prague is full of them. Overall, Rick was surprised that Prague was inundated with tourists, but I was pleased to see that. It is such a lovely city, and I am glad it is well visited.

#MyStopover in Iceland


For two summers in a row, we did not leave Canada, and how it generally works with us is that the longer we don’t travel long distances, the more land we want to cover once we actually do have an opportunity to travel. Our children left for Croatia at the end of June, and when Rick and I started planning our itinerary, we had only one given to think about: we had to go to Croatia to pick up the kids, and eventually come home with them.

This being the only given, we had gave a great deal of itinerary flexibility as we could get to Croatia any possible way as long as that led to another place that was closer to Croatia. We had never been to Iceland, and with Icelandair currently offering amazing deals on flights, we could just not resist coming to see what Iceland was like.

We bought Icelandair tickets to Brussels with a two-day stopover in Reykjavik; we rented an apartment in downtown Reykjavik on Airbnb; and we also got a car so that we could roam around the island freely.

We have been here only for two days, and it has already been quite an experience. People of Iceland have to deal with very harsh weather, extreme day/night conditions, and chill winds, and all this forces them to be strong and resilient. A great deal of how they live is conditioned by the geographic location and the natural composition of the island. Their pride in the raw and natural beauty of their island, its history, and the not-so-kind weather conditions is noticeable at every corner, as is their sense of humour. No point of complaining about it, right?!

So, what are some of the fun things have done so far? Below, we cover some of our top adventures.

As soon as we flew in early on Thursday morning, and settled in our sweet apartment, we went for a delicious breakfast at  The Laundromat Cafe. This cafe actually still provides laundromat services in the basement, but you would not know this if you just visited the colourful space on the main floor, had your scrumptious meal, and left. We were encouraged by the staff to take a peek downstairs, and were surprised to find red washing machines and dryers working at full speed, a kids’ play area, and tons of Lego to play with. What a brilliant concept!

After a quick nap (as Icelandair kept us well entertained, and we pretty much had no sleep all night), we spent a couple of hours exploring the city, aimlessly walking the streets of Reykjavik, and  enjoying the pedestrian-friendly streetscape. We were pleasantly surprised as one of the bakeries put out their warm and delicious apple cinnamon buns just as we were passing by. It was the end of their working day, and they didn’t want the buns to go to waste, so the passers-by (us included) happily scooped them up.

Yesterday evening at 9 pm was our scheduled time to visit the Blue Lagoon. The visit to the Blue Lagoon was highly recommended by one of my friends (thank you, Jelena), and even though we debated for a while whether to go (the cost was the greatest deterrent), we are really glad we went. It is a geothermal spa built next to the Svartsengi Power Station, a geothermal power plant that generates electrical power and hot water for the district. The water in the Bláa lónið (the Blue Lagoon) is actually the runoff water from the power plant, but minerals in the water are the product of the geological layers of the lava field that holds the pool. Geothermal seawater is very high in sulfur, silica, other minerals and algae. Named as one of the 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic (the designation that has been questioned by some), the spa is worth the visit. Protected by winds and high velocity rain drops, you can soak in the turquoise waters, roam around the large pool, enjoy the views of the surrounding lava field, dare to apply silica and algae mud masks, grab a drink and/or just relax. Everything is apparently “really good for you.”

Today, we decided to attempt to make it to at least parts of the Golden Circle, a 300-km loop that leaves from Reykjavik and leads to some of the best-known sights of Iceland. We completed the loop, but stopped to explore at only two sights. The first stop was at Geysir, the impressive location of the Great Geysir, the hot-water spout that became the source of the term “geyser,” and the surrounding spouts – some of them still active (such as Strokkur). The second stop was at Gullfoss Waterfall, definitely one of Iceland’s most popular destinations, and the best-known waterfall,  where River Hvítá falls first in two stages, and then drops into a deep canyon creating water walls as high as 70 meters. Here, nature’s full force and strength is at display, and the place is a great final destination for  the long drive from Reykjavik.

Here are some photos from our two-day adventures:


















Paris Room No More

Gallery Wall

We have been in a clearing, cleaning and packing mode for weeks now because our trip to Europe is coming up fast, and a family that found our house via Airbnb is arriving soon after. Ever since the kids left, we have had to do a great amount of work, which has been both time-consuming, and very grounding at the same time (making time to clean, clear and downsize is always cathartic for me; I just don’t find the time to do it frequently enough).

With kids being in Europe for the last two weeks, Aliya’s room was one of the first ones I tackled, and the time I spent in her room made me nostalgic for the times gone by, and for how fast she has grown up.

Three years ago, just after we moved into our new house, Aliya had a hard time leaving our old house, and adjusting to the change. We talked a great deal about what makes a home a home, we discussed how to make her feel at home in our new house, and we planned how to plan and design her bedroom so that she would take charge of creating her new home. Influenced by several of her friends who chose Paris as the theme for their rooms, she also thought that she would try that, and we had fun shopping, looking through items we already owned, and making it all come together. We found a discounted desk at pottery barn kids, matched it with their ivory fur upholstered desk chair, and then it was all fun and games from there. We decorated the walls with decals and art work we had already owned or that Aliya had painted, and we used the Lexington bed we were fortunate to inherit after a friend’s daughter outgrew it. We also splurged on a zebra-print lamp from the Victoria Lampshade Shop. I admit it – I may have had a little too much fun with it.

Well, when I entered Aliya’s room a couple of weeks ago, it struck me how much different her room looked – Paris-themed decor all gone, the zebra-prints all moved to the guest room, decals stripped off walls, and only mature art work left standing. My little girl has grown, her tastes have changed, and even though she loved her room once it was all set up, she obviously had no attachment to any of the things we searched for and purchased while designing her room three years ago. Unlike her, I am attached to every piece.

So, while Aliya is in Europe, I brought back several of the items that have been discarded in the guest room. Who knows… maybe the girl staying in our house next week will like it.

Off to Europe










Summer is approaching fast, and as we have had no big plans for the last two summers, this summer is going to be a bit different. Our children are bigger and at the age when we can finally be more adventurous, don’t need to stick to safe and predictable resorts, and can push ourselves a little out of our comfort zones (or so we would like to think).

This summer’s trip has been primarily planned by Rick, and Rick doesn’t waste time; he has not had the opportunity to spend much time in Europe, and now that we are planning to go, there is a lot of territory he would like to cover. The planned route seems like a lot of driving to me, but hey, why not?! We will have a little bit of time, a rented car, and a whole lot of people to see along the way, so we are super excited!

The trip has been hard for me to wrap my mind around for quite some time now, so here it comes – so that we ourselves can get organized, but also so that we can share our itinerary with our family and friends in Europe. We hope we will be able to see as many of you as possible.

Here comes the summary of where and when we will be this summer. The closer we get to our trip, the more information we will have; and we will be updating the trip info below as we know more:

  • July 13 – flying to Iceland
  • July 16 – flying to Brussels, and then driving to Liers in Germany (staying with Alema & Medeni)
  • July 17, 18 – Prague
  • July 19 – Vienna
  • July 20 – Zagreb
  • July 27 – Sibenik?
  • July 30 – Ivana’s wedding in Mostar (yay!)
  • July 31 – driving back to Zagreb
  • August 1 – Florence
  • August 2, 3 – Zurich
  • August 4 – Luxembourg
  • August 5, 6 – Bonn
  • August 7, 8 – Brussels
  • August 9 – flying back to Vancouver

If you will be in Europe at the same time, let’s make our paths cross. Let us know your coordinates, and we will try to find you. It would be great to see you all, even if it’s just for a coffee or lunch. xoxoxo

20 Years After

Before and After

Today, I wish I could have been somewhere else. I am in Vancouver, Canada, but I wish I was in a completely different part of the world. I wish I was this evening in Zagreb, Croatia, with the ladies and few gentlemen I went to high school with.

A couple of weeks ago, I was added to a Viber chat, and then a Facebook group as several of my high-school friends were trying to organize an informal get-together. Thanks to the miracles of social media, and the realization that this year marked not just any number of years since our graduation, the informal get-together quickly became a full-blown high-school reunion. Several of us missed it as, over the years, we have been scattered around the globe – New York, Barcelona, Vancouver, but most of our friends made it.

I kept receiving live updates, photos and messages all day, and even though I wasn’t physically present at this wonderful event, it really felt like I was there. And then, this surprise came in. The photo of eight of us at the age of 16, and another one recreated 20 years later.

Many thanks to the ladies who stepped in for the two of us who were missing in action – in order for the photo to be recreated.  It brought tears of joy to my eyes. (If wondering where I am in the photo – I am the kid in orange with bushy eyebrows, and flushed cheeks. In the second photo, my gal pal Iva stands for me, which is really quite special.)

Even though the first photo was taken in 1992 or 93, you would not be able to guess that there was a war in the country at the time. It makes me happy to see that we really were just teenagers who knew how to smile, have a good time, and take good pictures, and that 20 years later, with so much life in between, the same smiles are there; it’s just that the kids have grown into beautiful, successful, and inspiring women with so many stories to tell.

And even though I have received reports that the reunion was light and fun, and there were no difficult discussions about life paths, choices, and possible regrets, this is something I wish I could have asked these smart and lovely women about – their stories, and the words of wisdom to be shared.

One thing is certain, though: our parents did well and had nothing to worry about – we all turned out pretty good in the end!

Mad Bulgar

Today was one of those days when planets magically line up, and everything is just perfect. Nothing shockingly spectacular happened today, but it was an absolutely perfect day. The morning spent with Kenan at the Color Run, then cleaning up and getting ready for our visitors who are coming on Monday (exciting!), and the evening at the North Shore Celtic Ensemble’s performance. It was a beautiful and shiny day; kids had friends over most of the day, and even though I was still recovering from being sick last week, I will remember the beautiful simplicity of this day for years – I just know it.

The highlight of the day was definitely Aliya’s violin performance. The kids have learned so much in just one year, and next fall, Aliya is moving to the Ensemble’s higher level. The song that I thought would have been too complicated for them just a couple of months ago, they performed with such ease and skill this evening, that it made my Gypsy soul sing and dance.

Here it is, Mad Bulgar performed by the Ensemble of super cute and serious (about music) North Shore kids:

Zen Ties

Zen Ties

I am very pleased to say that Kenan has the best taste in books. Anything he picks at the school or public library is well written, well designed, and usually some sort of an award winner. He doesn’t care about award winners; he just goes for what interests him: subtle graphics, simple and amusing writing, gentle humour, and just a wide variety. It is a real pleasure to read to him before bed because the books he chooses are fresh, light and fun for me as well.

Today, he brought from school Zen Ties by Jon J Muth. I truly love anything Jon J. Muth has written, several of our family all-time favourites being The Three Questions, Stone Soup, and Zen Shorts. This book is just as lovely and insightful, and in addition, it makes children think and rethink their views on old age. Aliya has always had a strong connection with, and a great deal of respect and admiration for seniors, and she has expressed interest to join me during my work and volunteer work with seniors, but Kenan has been more reserved. His observations and comments are pure and innocent, and observantly focused on the physical changes he has noticed in seniors, and this book has helped us turn his thoughts into a meaningful dialogue.

The Author’s Note at the end of the book states the following: “Zen Ties is a fun play on words. For me it’s also a gentle reminder that we are all connected and interdependent whether we recognize our neighbour’s face or not. It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.” It is the note from the author of this children’s book that kept me thinking, long after Kenan was asleep, about everything and nothing, and in essence, how difficult the truth can be to grasp, and yet how simple it is once you just simply let it in.