M & P and their trip to the Balkans

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The past few months have been just insane.  Summertime in the Foreign Service appears to kind of be a mixed bag.  Kids are out of school so of course it’s the ideal time to take vacation, some EFMs take the opportunity to take LWOP for the summer to go visit family back home (a move that I am deeply jealous of, because it is brilliant.)  The weather is sunny and warm and our proximity to the coast means a lot of people take long weekends or even weeks at a time.  Awesome, right?  Well…not so much.  Summer is also known as TRANSFER SEASON, which means our dear coworkers are leaving post, newbies are arriving daily, every section is short staffed and the Management Section in particular is up to their ears with make-readies, account transfers, moving desks, shuffling offices, issuing phones and radios, you name it, we’ve done it.  We’ve also been having VIP visitors, the Embassy supported an FPOTUS visit (Former POTUS, natch), we need to finish end-of-the-fiscal-year purchases, I’m still short a staff member in my office (going on over a year now!) and for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to become acting Certifying Officer (yay finances!) and spearheaded a wellness program that I have yet to actually lift a finger on.  Hello overtime!

Sigh.

So if you’ve noticed less activity on my FB page and this blog, that’s why.  Work has been insane, and after pounding away on a keyboard all day I have a hard time wanting to do so when I get home.  I’ve been distracting myself with Netflix marathons, lots of sleeping, and not nearly enough exercise.  Oh, and very few adventures!  I like to spend my weekends exploring new places, trying new things, hitting up exciting restaurants, and things like that.  But honestly I’ve been too exhausted to do things that require much more effort on my part.  The good news is that transfer season is slowly winding down and I’m starting to get my life back.  Yesterday I went to an outdoor market, went to a BBQ at a friends house, went to a bar, and did normal Brenda things.  I’m coming back to my normal life, and am very happy about it.

*****

So, instead of focusing on things that have been stressing me out about my past few months, lets talk about some things that were awesome and fun that happened in MARCH!  Yes, this recap is from march.  #NotSorry.  My sister Melanie and her husband Phil decided to take a truly-whirlwind trip to Europe, using up airline miles and free hotel nights and truly putting my trip planning skills to shame.  They started in Vienna and met up with my cousins Melissa and Aaron, then took a train and headed to Zagreb.  I did the 5 hour drive from Sarajevo and met them at the train station, and we stayed overnight at the Westin in Zagreb, for free because of hotel points.  Impressive.

The next morning I introduced M + P to burek, and we grabbed some breakfast and coffee and made our way to the Plitvice Lakes.  This was definitely the off-season, and we were met with empty parking lots, info booths that weren’t even open, NO food anywhere on the grounds, and half of the lakes closed to the public.  But what we did experience was truly awesome.  The paths were mostly ours, the water was gorgeous green, and we enjoyed wandering around the lakes and seeing some lovely waterfalls.

Amazed

Amazed

My family!

My family!

View from the overhead path

View from the overhead path

Classic Phil pose

Classic Phil pose

After a day at the park we headed across the border into Bosnia to overnight in Bihac (please pronounce it beee-haatch for me) at Hotel Kostelski Buk.  The drive there was, in a word, bonkers.  I made the mistake of listening to my GPS “Karen” and she took me down a scary dirt road, riddled with potholes, under heavy construction, and oh yeah, blocked by about 300 sheep.  After some hysterical laughter and a minor freakout, we headed down a PAVED road to get to the hotel, eat a delicious dinner of local Bosnian cuisine, and cuddled up in the hotel room with a movie for the night.  The next morning we ate the complimentary breakfast and explored the strange little zoo out back before heading back to Sarajevo for a few days.  Mel and Phil loved the gorgeous scenery and we had a much less eventful drive home.

As I headed back to work, Mel and Phil explored Sarajevo with a guided tour, took the opportunity to sleep in, eat way too much, and relax.  Oh and they did all of their laundry.  We celebrated St. Paddys Day at the Brew Pub, I introduced them to my fave restaurants Noovi, Kibe and Dveri, and they introduced ME to a burek shop that Rick Steves recommended. Luckily I got to take a few days off towards the end of the week, and we headed down to Dubrovnik for a few days.  On the way out of town we stopped in Mostar to see the historic bridge and grab a MASSIVE lunch.  And to get cursed by a gypsy or two.  Oh and we found some more freaking livestock blocking the roads.

Pretty people and bridge

Pretty people and bridge

Oh Bosnia

Oh Bosnia

Keeping in the theme of awesome free lodging, somehow the Reinhardt’s got a free night at the Hilton in Dubrovnik, a gorgeous hotel RIGHT outside the Pile gate of old down.  The place was seriously amazing, its normally way out of my price range so if you have any free nights to burn, do it here.  Holy cow.  We walked the walls of old town, got some delicious seafood at Dalmatino, found a cliff-side bar called Buza where we drank beer and wine out of plastic cups…who could ask for more?  In true Brenda-vacation tradition I was sick as a dog the whole time.  Every time.  But I powered through and we had an amazing weekend!

Buza, a cliff-side bar

Buza, a cliff-side bar

Rick Steves never lets me down.  Ever.

Rick Steves never lets me down. Ever.

I love these two!

I love these two!

The awesome Hilton

The awesome Hilton

Enjoying the city walls

Enjoying the city walls

Lovebirds

Lovebirds

We drove home after what felt like WAY too short of a trip because I was headed to Budapest for work training, and the lovebirds were headed to Paris for another free hotel and another country added to their trip.  I had such an amazing time hanging out with two of my favorite people on the planet and continue to be amazed how my loved ones go out of their way to spend their precious vacations with me.

Love you guys, thanks for coming!