Beginning a new chapter in our life together, Claudia and I have moved from Ouray to Crested Butte! As much as we love Ouray and the San Juans and all our friends there, after much contemplation we decided that we should try living in a bit larger town where Claudia would have more opportunities. I’ve always loved the Crested Butte area and Claudia was really attracted to it as well last time we were here (it’s hard not to be). And it also doesn’t hurt that there are coffee shops and bicycles everywhere!
Although the rental market is tough in Crested Butte (like most ski towns in Colorado), we ended up finding a nice condo up at Mt. Crested Butte which is a sort of condo-village right near the ski resort base area and only about a 5 minute drive from the town proper. From our terrace we have a panoramic view of the actual Mt. Crested Butte, the ski area, and the Elk Mountains! We celebrated our first morning here by hiking up to the top of the Butte to see the lay of the land.
The aptly named Mt. Crested Butte is indeed a butte with a pointy crested top, rising solo in the center of a broad basin ringed by mountain ranges on almost all sides. From the 12,162 ft. summit you see mountain valleys radiating out in all directions like the spokes of a wheel. There’s a distinct feeling of spaciousness around here; although I’m probably more aware of this having lived in the deep box canyon of Ouray for the last 8 years.
Packing up our house and leaving Ouray was a tough choice to make but now that we’re here I’m super stoked. We’ll be here at least through May and maybe we stay for good, maybe we go back to Ouray; we’re just playing it by ear and making the most of it wherever we are and wherever we end up.
Yesterday evening I was lucky to witness and photograph a fantastic sunset from one of my favorite overlooks of Ouray. This is a seldom visited spot that requires a steep bushwhack and an exposed scramble up crumbly cliffs to get to, but the reward is what I consider one of the best vantage points over the Ouray valley. I’ve been up here probably two or three times before, but never got so lucky with the sunset light!
The next week or so will be our last in Ouray at least for a while, so when I’ve been going on hikes recently and seeing such scenes (like this, and the rainbow last week), I can’t help but feel that the San Juans are smiling upon me, giving me a good sendoff! I know it’s dumb to think that way, but maybe I’m just getting a little sentimental!
As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, during July and August of 2015 we spent a month traveling in the former Yugoslavian countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia. I have finally finished processing my photos and have posted a gallery of my favorite photos from the trip.
I have also gone back and added lots more photos and text to my previously posted trip reports below, so take a look again down further! That is all.
It’s nice to be back!
The best part of the flight between the States and Germany is the chance to see Greenland out the window halfway through the flight. On our recent flight home (between Frankfurt and Chicago) we passed over the southern tip of Greenland, and were treated to awesome views of its mountains and fjords, with glaciers flowing out from the continental ice sheet. See lots more photos below! Continue reading “Flight over Greenland”
After our travels in Bosnia and Montenegro, we made an epic train ride all the way from Sarajevo to Germany to visit Claudia’s family and friends and celebrate her sister’s wedding! We had fun visiting everybody and although I already greatly missed the Balkan wine, I was able to drown my sorrows in plenty of good German Hefeweizen! 🙂
The cobblestoned old town of Mostar is a must-see destination in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Its charming stone buildings line the Neretva River, connected by the high-arched Stari Most bridge (the one pictured below). This iconic bridge was originally built in 1566 under Ottoman rule, and is one of Bosnia & Herzogovina’s most recognizable landmarks.
The Stari Most bridge is not only a symbol of Bosnia & Herzegovina, but also of the tragic events of the Bosnian War and subsequent healing process. Mostar suffered greatly during the war in 1992-95 after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. This war is extremely complex to understand; but here’s the gist of it in a very basic nutshell, as I understand (keeping in mind that I’m no historian, I’m just an outsider trying to make sense of the history):
Since the world wars there were always deep nationalistic tensions between the Croats and Serbs; these tensions were suppressed under Tito’s rule under a unified communist Yugoslavia. After Tito’s death, poor economic times and lack of strong leadership led to a renewed rise in these nationalistic divisions. The Croats, who had felt persecuted under Tito’s regime, were eager to form an independent Croatia, while the Serbians viewed Yugoslavia as a type of “greater Serbia” and resisted the breakup of “their” territory. Bosnia (with its mix of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims) was culturally and geographically at the center this tug of war, and once Croatia and then Bosnia voted for independence, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and other Serbian paramilitaries responded brutally, occupying much of Bosnia and committing atrocities of ethnic cleansing not seen on European soil since WWII. United Nations forces were sent in to “keep the peace” by attempting to disarm both sides, but in reality their policy of “neutrality” meant that they did nothing while the much more heavily armed Yugoslav army continued their massacres.
In 1992 Mostar was attacked and bombed by the JNA (Serbs), until a UN-brokered agreement moved the JNA forces out. The defense of the city was left to the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat armies, while Serbs from Mostar were forced to leave and many Serbian cultural and religious monument were destroyed. In 1993 the allied Croat and Bosniak forces turned against each other, due to the unwillingness of the Bosniaks to form a confederation of Bosnia and Croatia (with large parts of Bosnia carved off for the Croats), resulting in a brutal 11-month siege against the mainly Muslim east side of the Neretva River, which was almost completely destroyed though never captured. In November 1993, after 427 years of spanning the river, the beloved Stari Most bridge collapsed after tank shelling from the Croat side. In March 1994 the Washington Agreement was signed, which ended the Croat-Muslim confict. The broader war continued until finally NATO conducted air strikes that crippled Serbian networks and the Bosnian and Croat armies were able to retake large portions of land. In December 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, formally bringing an end to Bosnian War.
The Stari Most bridge was reconstructed in 2004, once again connecting the two sides of Mostar.
After our treks in the mountains of Montenegro, we were feeling pretty trekked-out and looking forward to a more relaxing stretch of travels along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Yes, we knew it would be hot, crowded, touristy, and expensive compared to the mountains, but we wanted to visit there anyways; no trip to Montenegro would be complete without a visit to the coast.
We spent three days relaxing in the ancient walled town of Kotor at the head of the Bay of Kotor, a fjord off the Adriatic Sea. When I think of fjords Norway comes to mind, so it’s quite novel to see a Mediterranean version of a fjord.
Kotor is a very charming old town with a labyrinth of narrow marble pedestrian alleys and inviting cafes around every corner. Like much of the Adriatic coast, Kotor has a distinctively Italian influence in the architecture and cuisine. It’s a great place to stroll around aimlessly, and sit down with a bottle of Vranac and a plate of mussels!
A few hours drive up the coast from Kotor and over the border in Croatia is the famous walled city of Dubrovnik, our next destination and a romantic place to spend our third anniversary!
Montenegro is a small country — about the size of the state of Connecticut, or in Colorado terms roughly the size of the broader San Juan Mountain region. (See a visual size comparison here). Despite the small area, Montenegro is packed full of beautiful mountain ranges, only a few of which we had time to explore during our travels. One such lesser known range is Zijovo, which we briefly visited on our way from the Prokletije mountains to the coast.
We car camped nearby Bukumirsko Jezero, a popular lake enjoyed by many Montenegrin vacationers. Once the crowds ventured on in the evening, we had the lake to ourselves and enjoyed a pleasant sunset along with a tasty bottle of Vranac. Have I mentioned how incredibly delicious the wine is in Montenegro? When we arrived back at camp, we met a couple of friendly fellows from Slovenia, who insisted on sharing their wine with us and we ended up talking for hours into the night. A refreshing swim in the lake helped ease my throbbing head the next morning!
Though we had hoped to do a long hike in these impressive mountains, our legs were too tired from all our recent treks, the weather was too hot, and our motivation levels dangerously low. So we decided that our time in the mountains was finished for this trip and onwards we went, driving the long winding roads towards the coast.