Experience of a lifetime

Now that I’m back in Finland and back in Jyväskylä, it’s time to try to sum up the last few months. I won’t say that I loved every second of my time in Croatia because that isn’t true. But that’s all part of the pattern almost everyone goes through when starting something new.

Step 1: Going for an exchange to Croatia was a big step for me. I have never before traveled alone or had to manage things by myself like that. I was afraid to go and hesitated about leaving. I can’t thank my boyfriend and parents enough for being so supportive and practically forcing me to go.

Step 2: The first month in Croatia was filled with excitement and exploring new things. Even going to a bakery or grocery store felt like an experience.

Step 3: At one point I was so lonely, homesick and sick of studying that I was counting days to get back to Finland. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. I just felt like staying at my moldy apartment and crying.

Step 4: I felt really stupid when I realized the situation I was feeling sorry for myself in. I also got some new energy since I was half way of my trip. I realized there’s really not much time to waste. I went to Ljubljana, Bled, Belgrade and Rijeka. I got to know some amazing people and saw some amazing places.

Step 5: Now, over four months and five countries later I have no regrets. It truly was an experience of a lifetime. There are moments when I find myself looking at pictures from Zagreb, from my home streets. There are even moments when I don’t feel like home in Jyväskylä. “Having to” speak Finnish everywhere feels boring. Everything is the same as it was when I left. It’s just me that’s changed.

 

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Vocabulary

I have a final exam tomorrow about Croatian language. That’s why I thought it would be fun to list some words that have been useful for me here. Here goes:

Hvala: Thank you, the most important word.

Dobar dan: Hello/ good day. You have different words in the morning and evening but usually you can use this one if you want to.

Dobro: Good. You can also say super or jako dobro if it’s very good.

Doviđenja (or just đenja): Goodbye. đ is pronounced like ds or dz

Deset jaja: Ten eggs (useful in the marketplace where they don’t always speak English)

Jedan kuhano vino pijelo: One glass of cooked white wine. Kind of like white glögi in Finland, a must have in the Christmas Markets.

Kava s mlijekom: Coffee with milk. It’s basically an espresso with lots of hot milk in it. Going for a cup of coffee here is common every time of year, week or day.

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Živeli: Cheers!

Bok (or sometimes bokbokbokbok, which sounds really funny): Hi or bye, informal greeting.

Može (you can repeat this many times too): Okay (the straight translation is can)

Da/ne: Yes/ no.

Ja sam iz Finske: I am from Finland. There aren’t many Finnish people in Zagreb so people are sometimes wondering why does a person from Finland come to Zagreb. Well, why not?

Kebab sa sirom: Kebab with cheese (my appartment is next to the best kebab place in Zagreb). When they ask for the sauce, just say pola pola which means half and half (spicy and mild).

Ne volim kišu (the š here sounds like your sneezing): I don’t like the rain. Because it’s raining a lot in Zagreb.

That’s just something on the top of my mind. Also knowing the numbers from one to ten have come in handy. After tomorrows exam I have only my E-business presentation left and I’m done! Boy does it feel good to have a vacation. I’m still going to Rijeka with a friend for the weekend before going back home for Christmas so kiirettä pitää, as they say in Finland.

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Our time is running out

It’s already December, I have less than two weeks of school left and in exactly two weeks from now I’m already in the plane on my way back to Finland. I have to say I’m really happy to go back home. I miss the people and I’m really exited about returning to Jyväskylä. I’m also a bit stressed about going back because there’s so much I want to do before I go.

School is really hectic. Last week was probably the most effective week I’ve had in Croatia so far. Although having an ear infection and probably fever, I managed to hold two group presentations, go to school, go to the Christmas Markets two nights in a row and travel to Belgrade for the weekend. This week is also very busy. I had an exam yesterday, I have to finish doing my website for E-business, there’s one presentation on Wednesday and there’s a really hard exam coming on Monday.

Despite this all, I hope I’ll have some time to hang around the Christmas Markets this week also. Christmas Markets in Zagreb are truly adorable and magical. There’s cooked wine and live music everywhere you go, beautiful lights, little booths selling stuff and an outdoor ice rink! I feel like I’ve fallen in love with this city all over again. I guess it’s normal to feel sad about leaving too…

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Recently, I have also used my weekends efficiently. Two weeks ago I went to Ljubljana and Bled in Slovenia. Ljubljana was a wonderful place, smaller than Zagreb, peaceful and beautiful, and colder! That’s where I got a cold and the ear infection. But I had a good time, met some nice people and saw some nice places, here’s some pictures from my trip:

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Next weekend two friends came for a visit and we hung around in Zagreb. And this weekend, as I said, I took a bus to Belgrade. The size of the city really surprised me. Belgrade is almost twice the size of Zagreb. Unofficially, there are about 1,8 million people in Belgrade. That’s why just a weekend felt like a too short time to stay there. There were some things I would’ve liked to see, but I just didn’t have the time. Here’s some pictures from Belgrade. In the first pictures, there’s some main sights and in the second pictures, there are some of the buildings that Nato bombed on 1999. I really got the feeling that people don’t want to talk about the war or the recent history otherwise. Only the buildings tell about the history. The people just want to party. It’s actually a tad irritating.

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That’s it for now. I started writing this post because I’m trying to avoid school work but now I have to get a grip already. Until next time!

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School

Since this is, after all, a school blog, i thought it would be reasonable to write one post only about my school here in Zagreb.

The school I go to is Zagreb School of Economics and Management or shortly just ZSEM. It is a private school so the “normal” students who go there, pay for their tuition. Zagreb has a public university too where you don’t have to pay for the tuition.

Most of our courses have midterm- and final exams. The exams are, in my opinion, quite old fashioned. In Finland, if there are exams, they are for testing that he student has a deep understanding about the subject. Here the exams test that you memorize dates and terms, things that you will just forget after the test. It makes you wonder, why do we study? To pass the course or to learn, to know things? We also have group-works and papers to do but if there’s an exam, the majority of the grade is based on the exam.

I haven’t been doing so well in school and this isn’t because I haven’t tried. I guess that I just study “the wrong way”. I have been blaming myself and really struggling because I’m the “stupidest person in the classroom”. But I’m really not. The school I go to is just somewhere in the last century and I don’t want to be. I’m truly interested about the things and here it doesn’t matter.

Not everything is from the last century, there are a couple of courses that are really good and useful. One of my favorite subjects in school is E-business. There’s no exams, we get to do our own website there and the teacher speaks really good English. Majority of the teachers speak good English though. Introduction to EU and Social Psychology are maybe the most interesting subjects but they have exams so I basically suck at them. The EU course already ended and I didn’t pass the exams so I have to go to some final exam which will be even harder I guess. In Social Psychology I passed the first test but the next is yet to come. We are also doing a group presentation which will make for a small part of the final grade.

Another interesting course is Management of Arts which is a more intensive course. The course gives a different perspective into the subject I have studied a lot about. And the perspective is the one that art students in Finland really should be focusing in: how to get people to buy art and how to get money to be able to continue. With Management of Arts I had some stress first because I couldn’t find a group. Now, fortunately, I found a teammate to do the project with so I can stop worrying. In the course we have to invent a sponsorship or marketing related idea for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Last week we went for a visit to the museum. Some of the things in the museum were really interesting. The museum is a huge building in Novi Zagreb, a little bit further from the city center. The picture below is from the permanent exhibition.

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In Croatian Language and Culture we learned the numbers only this week because it’s so hard. I didn’t think it was hard at all because it’s almost like Russian and having gone to the shops and marketplaces for two months now I start to learn them just by listening. We don’t have any books in Croatian language and Culture. We also don’t really study the culture at all. We go to the class, the teacher writes some Croatian words and sentences down like “How are you?” “Good/ Very good/ Bad” “How is the weather today?” “It’s cold/ It’s raining” “What do you like?” “I like football/ going to a café/ going to the gym”. Then we repeat the sentences for two hours and the same thing continues the next week. We never have homework, we never have to do anything creative like write small texts or something like that.

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Finally learning the numbers.

The biggest disappointment for me is Promotion. The lectures are very late on Wednesdays and none of the students have energy to pay attention to anything the teacher says. I cannot say that I have learned anything new either. The examples that the teacher makes are from the time when internet wasn’t invented so most of what he says is badly outdated. We have a small test coming from Promotion too, I guess it will be terms and numbers again. We will also do a promotion plan as a group assignment and we’re starting to do that next week.

So in conclusion, what going to school here has taught me is that Finland really has an excellent school system. It’s great that no-one has to pay and that being discriminated based on your wealth is harder. The things you learn normally in JAMK is up to date and useful. Complaining about the small number of computers or complaining about any technical thing really in JAMK seems funny. Complaining about Optima work space seems funny. I’m not saying that JAMK is the best school in the world, but it is a good school and I’ve learned to value that.

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A trip around Balkan (almost)

No that I finally have some time, I’ll tell you all about our trip around Balkans (well just Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro). Maybe later I’ll do the rest. 😀

First we went to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We spent two nights in Sarajevo and I fell in love with the city so much I felt bad about leaving. Sarajevo is a mix of everything: east and west, different religions, beauty and sadness. There are about 400 000 inhabitants in Sarajevo so it’s however quite a small city. You can still see the marks of the 90s’ four-year-siege on the streets. The city has really gone through a lot through the history but it’s still a modern city, a lot of work has been done after the war. Anyway, here are some pictures from Sarajevo:

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I fell in love with Bosnian food. These are stuffed peppers. The price of the meal was 3 euros

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A kid playing at the monument made to honor the children killed in the siege of Sarajevo.

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The Bazaar/ Baščaršija

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A Sarajevo rose – a scar in the ground caused by an explosion which has killed people is filled with red. You can find these everywhere in Sarajevo.

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A stall that sells fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. Refreshing. 

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The bobsled from the winter Olympics in 1984.

Then after Sarajevo we drove through the narrow mountain streets to Montenegro and ended up in Budva for the night. Budva is something completely different compared to Sarajevo. Expensive boats and cars, sunshine and beach. It was very deserted since the tourist season had ended and Budva isn’t that big city. But it was beautiful.

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Big boats in Budva.

From Budva we went to Dubrovnik and spent two nights there. Dubrovnik was really nice and there were some other people too in the city – that was a nice change after Budva. Compared to Zagreb Dubrovnik’s a lot more expensive. But the people were nice, weather was good, the city was really really beautiful and overall the atmosphere was welcoming. I would definitely recommend the place for everyone. One of the most interesting places in Croatia and nicer then Split in my opinion.

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A little romance in Dubrovnik.

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Breakfast from our own tree.

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Nice views from the city wall.

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Mysterious streets of Dubrovnik.

After Dubrovnik we started to get a little bit tired of the traveling. We decided to go to Šibenik and just relax there before the final ride back to Zagreb. The city seemed nice but really deserted too after the tourist season. There were a lot of churches everywhere. Finally we just decided to have a pizza and go to sleep.

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A church in Šibenik.

The trip through half of Balkan was unforgettable but it was nice to come back home. After Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina nothing felt quite as amazing and I want to go back there already. It also left a spark to go to Serbia. If I have time before Christmas I will go to Belgrade. At this point the school stuff is really starting to take a lot of my time though so we’ll see… Therefore my next post, coming really soon, is going to be 100 % about school and studying which is different from Finland, I must say.

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Winter is coming

That’s right. Winter is coming. Yesterday the temperature dropped from +20 to +6 and it’s raining ice cold water all the time. Also:  Mikko is coming tomorrow and we’re gonna go road-tripping: one of the places is Dubrovnik, where they film Game of Thrones. SO COOL!

Before that we will do some sightseeing in Zagreb, then travel to Sarajevo and after that maybe to Montenegro. I can’t describe how excited I am about Sarajevo because it was the first place I decided that I want to see on my trip – after Zagreb of course.

Before that I also have two exams on Monday. However, I’ll try to post some pictures  from Zagreb and our road-trip soon.

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Zadar

I just came back from my trip and what a trip it was indeed. For my short vacation from school I decided to go to Zadar for a couple nights.  Zadar is a historic city on the coast in northern Dalmatia and about 80 000 people live there.

First when I got to Zadar bus station I tried to find a map but no-one had any. Then I tried to ask from people how to get to my hostel in the old town and nobody would help me. At last a woman working at the bus station told me that it’s over half an hour (later it turned out it’s max. 20 minutes so she too was bulls****ing me) walk to the old town so I went to the taxi stop. There was a taxi driver that was going to take me to my hostel but he took some German tourists instead and advised me to take the bus without saying which bus to take and where. I went to the bus stop but no-one could help me there either. Then I went back to the taxi stop and one taxi driver came there but he was talking with another woman. Then the guy just said hop in and we left the woman on the bus station. The taxi driver ended up being a really nice guy. He told me that the woman didn’t agree to hop in the taxi and wait until he takes me to my hostel which wasn’t that far after all. So the guy asked me if I want him to drive around a little without extra charges and he showed me the main sights in the old town and took me to my hostel. I complained to him about people being rude and he said he’s not surprised because the tourist season is ended and they don’t really care. He also gave me some maps which came into good use later on. And the best thing, the ride cost 20 kunas! So the nice taxi driver left me to my hostel and I headed to the fifth floor of the building just to find this note on the door:

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Because I already paid a deposit, I tried to call the number on the note but they had turned the phone off. So I grabbed the map that the nice taxi driver gave me and went to the tourist office. There was a nice lady there who gave me directions to three hostels in the old town and said that if they’re booked, come back and she’ll find private accommodation for me. She said that all of the hostels are nice but Boutique Hostel Forum is a bit more expensive and also bigger. I remembered reading something about bedbugs with the other places and decided to try Forum first. And there were single bedrooms and 4 bed dorms. I took the latter and it ended up being THE BEST option. But anyways, note to everyone: DO NOT EVER GO TO HOSTEL HOME ZADAR, THEY SUCK.

Boutique Hostel Forum is in the best location of Zadar, next to the cathedral, and well, everything. The dorms are so cool. It’s almost like having your own room. You can put blinds in your bunk-bed so you have privacy. There are showers and toilets in every room. Everything is nice, new and CLEAN. You don’t get breakfast without extra charge, instead you get a breakfast baggy DELIVERED TO YOUR ROOM in the morning. And the hostel is so peaceful during the night though it is next to everything there is to see in Zadar. Best hostel I have ever stayed in, for the cost of 19 euros/ night. If you’re looking for parties though, you won’t find them here.

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After I got settled in I decided to take a tour around the old town. It was really pretty. The most interesting thing in the old town, at least for me, was the Forum next to my hostel. The ruins of the forum date back to 100 BC and serve now as a sort of “ancient park”. Some of the stones are well preserved, you can even read the texts engraved to them 2000 years ago.

stone  park

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The next day I took a cruise to the Kornati national park which is located in the islands near Zadar. There are maybe 200 islands near Zadar so island hopping is a must if you go there. It cost pretty much (40€) but it was for the whole day and we went to some islands and cruised around them. Welcome drinks, breakfast and lunch was also included in the price. I also did some sunbathing at one of the island stops and swam in the ocean. In my opinion the trip was worth every penny.

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The island hopping took the whole day and after that I was super tired. I went for dinner to a restaurant called 2 ribara because they recommended that one at the hostel. It turned out being a bit of a disappointment. The service was inhospitable and prices were more than I’m used to (13 € for the dinner and glass of wine, I know I’m complaining about nothing here).

Good thing about Zadar is that the prices there aren’t much more expensive then in Zagreb because there aren’t so many tourists. Still you get all the things in Zadar that you would get in Split which is more expensive because it is a popular tourist attraction. There aren’t so many people trying to sell you stuff. It isn’t too far away from Zagreb – the bus ride takes about three and a half hours and buses leave every half hour. I warmly recommend Zadar, just remember: don’t go to Hostel Home Zadar, instead go to Boutique Hostel Forum. If you go to dinner, in my opinion 2 ribara is overrated, try for example Bistro Plankit, good food, half the price. Just look at this, need I say more? No.

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Time flies by

My first month in Croatia has already passed. Time really flies by so fast. We already have our first exam this Saturday and it’s about the history and institutions of EU. So hard but so important to know. After Saturday I have four days off school since Wednesday 8.10. is independence day and I have Mondays AND Tuesdays off now. What to do? Where to go? Tips anyone?

Tuesdays are free because I did some more changes into my learning agreement today. I dropped Financial Institutions and Markets because I have been to the classes for three weeks now and still don’t understand what the teacher is talking about. The course is, I guess or then I’m just really stupid, meant for more advanced studies. In Finland I only studied sales and marketing so finance stuff is really strange for me. I replaced the course with Management of Arts (4 ects) which is an intensive course in October/November. Since I’m a cultural producer by my earlier profession, this stuff really interests me.

My friends from Finland left yesterday and for the first time I’m feeling a little lonely and homesick. I like being/living alone but I really got used to having someone to talk to all the time for the past week. With Venla and Pihla we did some tourist things and went to some really nice restaurants too.

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On Friday we went for dinner to Trilogija which is one of the finer restaurants in Zagreb. My sea-bass and a glass of white wine cost about 20 euros – not bad.

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On Saturday we went to Plitvice lakes. Plitvice is a national park in the heart of Croatia. These pictures really don’t do justice to the place because it’s impossible to capture the real beauty of the place. It literary is paradise. It takes about 2,5 hours to get to Plitvice from Zagreb by bus. The ticket to Plitvice costs 80 kn so about 10 euros. If you go to Plitvice you have to reserve at least five hours of time to go around the park and have some snacks packed with you because the place is big and there’s lots to see.

Until next time, hugs and kisses!

 

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Ja sam iz Jyväskyläe?

I finally know my schedule for the semester and the lectures have properly started. The courses I’m taking are: Financial Institutions and Markets, Social Psychology, E-business, Promotion, Introduction to EU and Croatian Language and Culture. Croatian Language and Culture seems interesting. In the Croatian language if you live in a place that ends in the letter ‘a’ you change the letter ‘a’ to ‘e’ in the genetiv form. The teacher was confused when I told her I live in a city that ends in a… with dots. Actually, all the courses seem interesting, all except Financial Institutions and Markets where I don’t know anything about what the teacher is talking about. Her English is very good, that’s not the problem. The problem is that she’s talking about liquidity, stocks, bonds and everything else that sounds like Hebrew to me. Otherwise, my schedule for the semester seems nice because I have Mondays off so I can go for trips and see Croatia and maybe other places too. The other days are harder, especially Wednesdays ELEVEN hour day.

But enough about school and into the fun stuff. We went to Split and Hvar this weekend with some of the exchange students. It was so much fun! Split is a big city on the coast, a five-hour-ride away from Zagreb. Here’s some pictures of Hvar. I only have pictures from Hvar because we came to Split Friday night when it was already dark. Saturday morning it started to rain in Split. Fortunately when we came to Hvar it was beautiful. We spent two nights in Hvar and came back Monday night.

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The island of Hvar, So beautiful ans warm!

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Going to the beach!

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Anyways, good to be back in Zagreb. My friend and her friend came for a visit from Finland and we’re gonna do all the tourist stuff together. Yei!

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Subota

I decided to list some first impressions of Zagreb.

Language. The headline means Saturday in Croatian. Bok means hi or bye or something like that. I still don’t know how to say thank you or hello for example when I’m at the grocery store where they don’t speak English and I think it would be kind to try to say something in Croatian. It would be helpful to learn a few words also because the product information on the groceries is usually in Croatian, Serbian and Russian, seldom in English.

My place. I got to my own place yesterday. There was something wrong with the pipes upstairs so the plumbers needed to do something in my apartment too. The first night I stayed at Chillout Hostel, which was a nice and clean place at the centrum. My place is near the centrum too and there are shops and everything you need really close. My place is on one of the main streets in Zagreb but it’s still really calm and quiet because the apartment is on the other side of the building than the street. My bathroom is really awful, but everything else is fine.

Restaurants. The service here is really nice and everyone at the restaurants speak English. The food (or coffee, or drinks) is not expensive either. I went to have a pizza at the best pizza place (so I heard) in Zagreb (Karijola) and it cost 50kn (6 €). Not bad, and the pizza really was the best that I’ve had in ages.

Groceries. Everything fresh you can buy from the marketplace. There’s a marketplace next to my apartment and I went there this morning. The marketplace was really crowded as it is Saturday and the tables were full of fresh stuff. I bought myself some vegetables. They would’ve had meat, fish and cheese too. I don’t know what the prices were, I got the impression that it was really cheap, but some of the places didn’t have prices written. So I just gave some kunas to the person who gave me some vegetables and money back. You can also find bread shops in almost every street corner. I went and bought myself a huge bread from a bread shop this morning and the price was under one euro. For other stuff you go to the store but I heard from Boze (my host/landlord) that vegetables and other fresh stuff are more expensive there and they are not as healthy.

Buildings. At the centrum the buildings are really old and incredibly beautiful. A couple blocks from the main square the buildings are just old. I found out that most of the pictures I take are about the weird/sad looking buildings. I don’t know why. Here are some examples.

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Wi-Fi. I don’t have any internet yet, that really sucks because I don’t know that much people yet and the only way I can stay in contact with anyone is through Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp. The operator was supposed to come and connect the internet on Friday but they decided to come on Monday instead. On the other hand, the absence of internet gave me a good excuse to go snooping around the city today. I went to the centrum and found a nice café/bar where I could use Wi-Fi. I spent two hours there, drank a couple cups of coffee and chatted with Mikko on Skype. Also, without the Internet, I had to think of other things to do. So I went to a bookshop and bought myself an English edition of a book by Zoran Ferić who, I guess, is a well-known Croatian author. Anyway, I’m sending you this post from the hallway where I go to steal the neighbours’ Wi-Fi while waiting for Monday. That’s when the school starts too, that I’m really looking forward on.  But more about the school stuff next week. Byeee!