🕌 Notes on Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

I lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina for three months in late 2022 and early 2023. Here are my notes:

  • Sarajevo is very affordable. We stayed next to the old Ottoman bazaar, just around the corner from where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, and the rent was half as much as anything else we paid in Europe.
  • The bazaar and Ferhadija make the city center pleasantly walkable.
  • The mountains around the city are remarkable. They seemingly go straight up, surrounding the city with massive natural walls.
  • The downside to the surrounding mountains is that they trap smog. They still burn coal in Sarajevo, so the city turns grey and bleak during the winter.
  • Mostar is worth a visit. It’s a small and charming place. The countryside on the drive over is gorgeous.
  • Eat cevapi. Drink Sarajevsko beer.
  • When we visited, smoking was still legal in restaurants. Only a few places with indoor seating did not allow smoking. This led to us mostly ordering takeaway during our stay.
  • Many popular European destinations get overrun with tourists. This can lead to tourist fatigue for locals. Sometimes that fatigue can manifest into a mild display of annoyance towards visitors. Bosnia is nothing like that. I never felt anything but welcome. Bosnians seem genuinely appreciative of tourists visiting their country.
  • On New Year’s Eve, Sarajevo throws a free concert in the city streets. Thousands flock to the city. It’s a blast.

⚾ Notes on Visiting PNC Park in Pittsburgh

There might not be a better way to get to a ballpark than walking across those iconic yellow bridges over the Allegheny.

The ballpark maximizes its use of the city’s best features, the Allegheny River and that gorgeous Pittsburgh skyline. The outfield backs up to the river, so you get sweeping views of downtown Pittsburgh. There are bars, food booths, seating, and activities all along the pavilion. No better place to be.

The hamburgers are hockey pucks. The chicken tenders are decent. Both meals came with more fries than I could eat in one sitting. The condiment bar is excellent.

There was some good merch in the clubhouse store. A lot of love for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

The between-inning pierogi race is high-quality entertainment.

The on-field product is consistently subpar due to owner Bob Nutting’s unwillingness to sufficiently finance personnel improvements as highlighted by the team’s abysmal draft pool usage.

🌷 Notes on the Netherlands

I spent six weeks in the Netherlands in 2022. I stayed in Weesp and spent weekends in Amsterdam. Here are my notes:

  • If you go to a national park and talk to a park ranger, they will be confused if you say you prefer hiking over biking the trails.
  • Eat the apple pie.
  • The Dutch don’t really do consumer debt, so you might encounter businesses that don’t accept credit cards. Some don’t even accept cash, only Dutch bank cards.
  • Weesp is like a town out of a fairy tale. Canals. Windmills. Lily pads. Perfectly picturesque.
  • Reserve tickets for the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museums well in advance. Even with limited entry, the Van Gogh Museum was packed.
  • In Valencia, Spain, citizens follow the pedestrians-over-bicycles-over-cars right-of-way hierarchy very well. That’s not the case in Amsterdam. Cyclists reign supreme (in and out of bike lanes).
  • Every Dutch person I met speaks pitch-perfect American English.
  • Canals are so cool. On separate occasions, I saw a floating pride parade and a floating brass band.

☔ Notes on Edinburgh, Scotland

I spent a month in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2022. Here are my notes:

  • The best food I ate in Edinburgh was Korean fried chicken bao sandwiches and American-style barbecue.
  • You will probably be advised to try a deep-fried Mars bar and a deep-fried pizza. Neither is worth it.
  • Hike up King Arthur’s Seat. Beautiful views. Just be prepared for a crowd.
  • Walking (or biking) the Water of Leith Walkway is a wonderful way to get around if you’re in that part of town.
  • Edinburgh has a solid botanical garden. I especially like the rock garden.
  • Go to Princes Street Gardens. Drink a beer. Admire Ross Fountain and Edinburgh Castle.
  • Absolutely take a trip to the Highlands. Find a trail away from the crowds. It’s gorgeous.

👑 Notes on London

I spent two and a half months in the spring of 2022 living in London. Here are my notes:

  • I could never get bored of London. There is so much to do.
  • The tube and buses make cars unnecessary. Everywhere in London is accessible with public transportation. It’s surprisingly freeing.
  • London museums are free and amazing. I went to the British Museum twice and still didn’t get to see all it has to offer. The Natural History Museum is worth a visit for the building alone. I also enjoyed the Museum of London and National Gallery.
  • When you visit, get a Santander Bicycle and take a ride through Hyde Park. Stop at the cafe by the lake for a snack.
  • Other lovely parks I visited include Hampstead Heath, Bishops Park, Holland Park, and Regent’s Park. I wish I had taken the time to make it out to Richmond Park.
  • The theatre is fun and affordable. Avoid the big productions. Go see something more intimate. The Play That Goes Wrong is a blast.
  • There are outdoor markets everywhere, and the food is always great. I particularly recommend Portobello Market, Borough Market, Broadway Market, and the small farmers’ market at Hampstead Heath.
  • Eat a Sunday roast and a full English breakfast. But don’t stick only to traditional English food. London is full of amazing cuisine from all over the world.

🔔 A Philadelphia Itinerary

For the next few weeks, I’ll be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here are a few activities on my to-do list:

  1. Visit Reading Terminal, eat a pretzel.
  2. Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  3. History stuff: Independence Hall, Ben Franklin Museum, Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank. Skip the Liberty Bell.
  4. Go to a Phillies game.
  5. Spend a day in Fairmount Park.
  6. Make a weekend trip to NYC.
  7. Make a weekend trip to DC.
  8. Eat a roast pork sandwich, either from John’s Roast Pork or Tommy DiNic’s.
  9. Eat a cheesesteak, but not from Pat’s or Geno’s.
  10. Watch: Rocky.
  11. Read: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

🐗 Notes on Florence, Italy

I spent the first quarter of 2022 living in Florence, Italy. Here are my notes:

  • I recommend visiting in the shoulder or off-season (I was there from January to April). The weather is mild, and there aren’t as many tourists as in the summertime.
  • We stayed in the neighborhood of San Frediano. I recommend it for long-term stays. The neighborhood is populated by locals, but still within walking distance of the city center. I also like the Santo Spirito neighborhood, but it’s much more touristy.
  • The Mercato Centrale is the place to go if you need a break from traditional Italian food.
  • Walk through the Piazza della Signoria after dark. The statues and buildings are beautiful to view in the moonlight. And you won’t have to jostle with tour groups for space.
  • The Duomo is the most stunning building I have ever seen. Buy tickets to go up the dome and down to the crypts. Make sure you visit the Opera del Duomo Museum. It’s well worth it.
  • My two favorite places to read a book are in Parco di Villa Strozzi and on the Pescaia di Santa Rosa.
  • Speaking of books, the trains are a great place to get reading done. Make the time to visit Siena, San Gimignano, Bologna, and/or Cinque Terre while in the area.
  • The pasta and pizza are amazing, but I miss the gelato most. Gelateria La Carraia is spectacular.