The British Isles and Southeastern Europe - June 5th - June 15th, 2016

Please give a warm welcome to our special guest!

"Any idea why you might be getting these?", the explosives expert asked, gesturing to the "SSSS" printed in multiple spots on my Denver->Philly boarding pass. This was the third time in as many months that the code had appeared, necessitating the use of a dedicated security lane and team to search and swab all my possessions and deliver multiple vigorous pat-downs. I had nearly committed to memory the long, mandated speel explaining that my groin and buttocks would be swiped from every possible angle -- but only with the back of the agent's hand.

"Well I did book a one-way ticket for a solo trip to Turkey, mere hours before the flight's departure, in the midst of daily news stories on bombings in Ankara and Istanbul." Saying this aloud for the first time made me question why I had ever even bothered to ask "Why me?". Even if the TSA's automated algorithm had failed to note my passport picture's scraggly beard or olive complexion, this was a no-brainer. I chatted convivially with the army consultant as every element of my pack was painstakingly dismantled and examined.

"You can't bring peanut butter", said the agent in charge of the third round of inspections. "It's not peanut butter - just granola in a peanut butter jar", the screener from round two came to my defense.

An hour later, the lead investigator punched a dozen holes through the codes on my boarding pass. At the height of the summer travel season, as masses of anxious passengers spilled forth from DIA's security hall, snaking in thick tendrils through the surrounding terminal and out the sliding glass doors onto the curb, a full third of the available security resources had been dedicated to insuring that I was not a threat. I couldn't help but feel a little bit honored.

Some hours later, the head of security for Philly's Terminal A was faced with a difficult decision. A passenger about to board a flight for Dublin had just presented a boarding pass with an "SSSS" code, the paper ticket unmarred by the vigorous hole punching of the local screening team. Sure, he had flown from Denver, a major American airport, just hours before, and hadn't left the terminal since -- but no one could argue that they have the same work ethic of the east coast. Yes, calling in the necessary security team at this late hour would inevitably delay the flight, impact the travel plans of hundreds of people, and cost the airline thousands of dollars -- but there were bigger things at stake. A heated internal debate wreaked havoc across her haggard face, as I stood there stupidly smiling, resigned to whatever fate might await me. After many silent minutes, she begrudgingly and wordlessly handed my pass back to me, and I slowly backed away, cautiously moving in the direction of the gate, maintaining eye contact all the while.

The Wicklow Way

One of a group of hitchhikers that had a way easier time than I did (they had a sign -- and a girl)
Indigenous gnome habitat
There was a cute fox in this picture, but he ran off before I got close enough. The sheep wasn't as quick
Just barely made the cut-off for the trail
3 quid for a pint of Bud? You're probably better off with the softy.


The iconic cranes of Pula
Curious local fauna
Safari Bar
Really fun slide
From atop the crow's nest
I looked all over town for the thousand-foot jet of water, but to no avail
"Antique Fair" - a reenactment of Roman times
The stuff of nightmares
In comparison to the Stations of the Cross, the trial of the switchbacks didn't seem so bad
Beer in 2L plastic bottles!


After his success with the Louvre entryway, the glass pyramid guy decided to try his hand at public restrooms.


Canyon ferry



Sage advice
Cross diver
Keep your fingers out of the gigolo cage!
Skopje's iconic funfetti building
Mother Teresa's futuristic memorial house
Traditional Macedonian art
A private piano concert for me, the only visitor to the museum
The omnipresent coffee machine
St. George's dragon reimagined as a rather foppish young man
Kind of the antithesis of your typical fortress
Surprise camel!
Busking festival - most of the buskers spoke English and thus, no one got the jokes

Costs (US$1=.8928 Euros, .6894 Pounds, 6.54 Croatian Kuna, 54.16 Macedonian Denar, 122 Albanian Lek)

Flights from New York to Dublin rt: $568
Bus from Dublin airport to start of trail: 3.30 euros
Pub soup: 4.7 euros
Bed and breakfast (in village of Kyle): 40 euros
Loaf of Bread: 1.6 euros
Ferry to Pembroke: 45 euros
Kilo of granola: 2.6 pounds
Bus to Stansted airport: 10 pounds
Flight to Pula (same-day on Ryan Air): 71 pounds
Gelato in Pula: 6 kuna
Hostel in Pula: 90 kuna
(Discount) bus to Dubrovnik: 157 kuna
Bus to Kotor, Montenegro: 146 kuna
Hitchhiking from Podgerica to Shkoder: 3 euro
Deluxe hotel room in Shkoder: 25 euro
Ice cream in waffle cone: 40 lek
Bus to ferry and canyon ferry dance party: 10 euro
Bus from Djakova to Prizren, Kosovo: 2.5 euro
Gelato: .50 euros
Traditional pie at restaurant: 2.50 euros
Prizren hostel bed: 10 euros
Bus to Skopje: 9 euros
Return bus to Ohrid: 680 denar
Deluxe suite in city center of Ohrid: 16 euros
Macedonian bean stew and Turkish coffee: 130 denar
Pint of local craft brew: 70 denar
Bus to airport: 175 denar
Flight to Copenhagen: 1799 denar
Flight to SFO via Iceland: $199