After six years together, Adi finally popped the question while we were on a gorgeous hike in Alaska. The next day, we talked about possible wedding dates. Megan, a school teacher in Southern California, looked forward to a summer wedding since she would have more time while off work. Adi, originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, dreamed of a honeymoon that included visiting his hometown of Mostar and several family members overseas. With only his two-week vacation time, this simply was not possible. We decided to quit our jobs, move our things into storage, get married, and then travel around Europe for seven weeks. Oh, and upon our return we would move to Northern California and find new jobs. Needless to say, our parents were skeptical!
As we began to consider registering for gifts, we realized we didn’t need the slow-cookers, the towels and the wine glasses typical of a wedding registry. We had been living together for four years and had all of those things already. We truly believe that money is best spent on making memories and good stories, so we were elated to find Traveler’s Joy! This allowed us to share our eventful honeymoon plans with others. As our closest family and friends started to chip in for this amazing trip, we began to feel the support and love that was necessary to take such big risks. Traveler’s Joy also allowed us to schedule family visits into our trip, which alleviated the expensive pressure to attend the wedding in California for those invited from Europe. It seems everyone benefited from our decision to break tradition and create this honeymoon registry instead!
Soon, the honeymoon arrangements were solidified. Our itinerary included Cannes/St. Tropez/Antibes/Monaco (France), Sarajevo/Mostar (Bosnia), Makarska (Croatia), Polcanje/Ljubljana/Bovec/Bled/Portoroz (Slovenia), Venice (Italy) and Oslo/Baerums Verk (Norway). We left on June 24th, 2012 and would not return to the USA until August 11th. We promised to keep photos updated on social media websites so all could feel a part of our amazing journey.
After a spectacular wedding in Chico, CA, we set off on our first adventure as husband and wife. Our first stop: Cannes, France. Adi, a beach-going traveler, chose this destination since he had never been to France. Megan, a mountain-loving vacationer (who also enjoys watching independent films popular at the Cannes Movie Festival), “settled” for Cannes since she would get her mountainous fix in Slovenia and Norway later on. Cannes was a perfect compromise (the first of many in our marriage, I’m sure!).
Megan’s parents gifted us a week’s stay at the JW Marriott in Cannes, which allowed us to “set up camp” there and take day excursions to nearby cities. Megan was clever to slyly mention via email that we were on our honeymoon, so the JW offered us free Wi-Fi and breakfast every morning! The first day, we stayed in Cannes and focused on getting over our jet-lag by sleeping in, relaxing on the beach and wandering the city to get our bearings. That first night we stopped in at a small casino and Megan won 100 euros! We were off to a promising start. Over the next few days, we got to see St. Tropez, Antibes, and Monaco. Our favorite city on the French Riviera was Monaco. We visited the famous Casino, The Monte Carlo and walked the streets that annually host the Monaco Grand Prix. We even had time to swim, visit the Prince’s Palace and enjoy a crepe (ok, fine, we had two!). Throughout the course of the day, we estimated we had walked approximately 11 miles, which earned us an amazing and guilt-free dinner (ok, fine, we had two MORE crepes!). France was a fabulous start to our journey and we were sad to go. We bid the French adieux and it was off to Bosnia.
We spent the first three days in the former Yugoslavia visiting some of Adi’s family. They were thrilled to house us and wanted to hear ALL about the wedding and our lives since we last saw them (in 2008). Adi did most of the talking with the adults since Megan can not speak the language (yet!), but Megan was thankful that their children (ages 17 and 29) spoke wonderful English. Our favorite night in Sarajevo was spent “downtown” amongst hundreds of locals celebrating the annual Sarajevo Film Festival. Since a film based on the tragedies of the war that occurred there in the early 90s had just been released (In the Land of Blood and Honey), it was rumored that the director, Angelina Jolie, was in the city! We were unable to confirm this, but it didn’t ruin our night. We soaked up the rich culture, delicious drinks, festive music and good company. The next morning we said dovidenja to everyone and took a bus to Adi’s hometown.
As a little boy, Adi grew up in the vibrant city of Mostar. Life was good and people were tolerant of the various religions, backgrounds and cultures that mixed on a daily basis. Sadly, tumultuous political issues gave rise to a horrific war displacing more than 100,000 refugees. As a 7-year old, Adi was forced to flee the country with his parents and his younger sister. Miraculously, they escaped and with a lot of hard work began a new life in Southern California. A part of their hearts will always be in Bosnia, so we were looking forward to this leg of our trip.
We spent four days in Mostar and visited some of Adi’s family still living there. With several wedding photos already uploaded onto various social media sites, we were able to share snapshots from the big day with many people that were not able to fly to California. We were also fortunate to coordinate our trip with some friends from the states that happened to be traveling to their hometown of Mostar at the same time. We took advantage of the delicious kava (coffee) and one-of-a-kind Bosnian foods such as burek, cevapi and treats from local pekoe (bakeries). We waved and yelled video se as we drove off in our rental car for a week trip to Slovenia.
Hands down, our favorite part of our honeymoon adventure was Slovenia! Not only did we have a blast on the road trip, but it was the only country we went to that neither of us had previously seen before. We can laugh now at the stressful arrival that involved attempting to cross through border checkpoints reserved only for European citizens. Lesson learned: Do not solely trust a GPS system in another country! We stayed with friends the first three nights as we traveled around the seemingly small, but deceivingly vast country. We locked our love on the Butchers’ Bridge in the capital of Ljubljana; we explored the 500-year old Postonja Caves; we marveled at the scenic views from windy roads near the Vrsic Pass. Our most memorable adventure was white water rafting on the Soca River in Bovec. During our 45-minute ride, we experienced blinding sunlight, foggy drizzle, pounding rain and even a massive hail storm!
The last four nights were spent at the Hotel Riviera in Portoroz, a coastal town in between Italy and Croatia. At this point in our trip, we were due for some relaxation in the sun, which is exactly what we did most of the time. But just for fun, one day we took a treacherously bumpy boat ride to Italy for a day excursion to Venice (we can laugh about that experience now, as well - at the time - not so funny). Venice yielded stunning photos and we learned meaningful history lessons from our intelligent guides (who spoke in at least five different languages!). We quickly tried the famous pizza and gelato before it was already time to say ciao and jump back on the boat. Though it was a quick trip, we did manage to fit in the quintessential gondola ride that was the cherry on top of our honeymoon memories. Once back in Portorz, we packed up to head back to Mostar the next day. Na svidenje, Slovenia!
With a few more days in Mostar, we made sure to pay a visit to Stari Most, the “Old Bridge”, after which the city was named. This structural masterpiece was built in the 16th century and stood for 427 years. During the war, since it was a prideful symbol of the city’s vivacious prosperity, it was targeted by snipers and fell in 1993. In 2004, it was rebuilt and is now a source of faith in the future of Mostar.
After Bosnia, we were excited to spend some time with friends that moved to Croatia years ago. Four of us packed into a small Volkswagen and embarked on a windy trip to the coastal town of Makarska, Croatia. We stayed at an apartment managed by Maria Alajbegovic. She was accommodating and allowed us to stay for five days instead of an entire week. Once there, we immersed ourselves in the laid-back, beach atmosphere. Megan enjoyed reading books on the shorelines while watching Adi play his favorite sport, water polo, with old friends in the Adriatic Sea. We had a blast staying up until 4am eating and drinking with friends watching all the interesting Olympic sports â€¦ in the Croatian language, of course! We managed to peel ourselves away with a teary-eyed cucemo and we were off to Norway for the last part of our honeymoon extravaganza.
Burrrr! Norway was chilly compared to our coastal adventures thus far. We stayed in the city of Baerum Verk right outside of Oslo. Megan was happy to welcome Adi into the darkness that was the inevitable language barrier…he had been able to speak Serbo-Croatian for the last few weeks! Now, he felt as silly as Megan did ordering food and getting directions much like a monkey would. Since it was Megan’s first time there, Adi was happy to take her around to some of his favorite restaurants and introduce her to his troll buddies all over the city. We ate our fair share of blotekake and visited the Nobel Peace Prize Museum. We took amazing bike rides and a breath-taking hike near Holmenkollen, a famous ski jump. But, we felt our precious time spent with Adi’s grandparents was the most valuable in Norway. Though they cannot communicate in English with Megan, they were beside themselves with joy after not having seen us for four years. We shared more photos and stories of our adventures, and of course, the wedding. It was the hardest goodbye of them all, as we waved ha det bra from the car.
Upon our return, we did move to Northern California and both found jobs, much to our parents’ relief! Reliving these incredible experiences makes us want to travel even more! We would absolutely recommend traveling to Eastern Europe -- it is relatively affordable and such a hidden gem with less crowds than other Western European metropolis destinations. We are confident that our money, all of $11,000, was well spent on seven weeks of priceless memories. So, we say goodbye for now, but look forward to many more adventures as husband and wife.