Country #102: Croatia, the search for Khal Drogo

One would think that the "sport" of counting countries would be relatively free of controversy. There are no banned enhancement-performing drugs, no need for instant replays and the balls are very rarely deflated. But this was one trip that lead to a bit of soul searching for me.

Back in 1988, I did a summer study abroad program in what was then Yugoslavia. We spend two weeks in Dubrovnik, one in Belgrade and one in Zagreb. In a probably unrelated move, not too long thereafter, the country came out from behind the iron curtain and eventually split up into seven independent countries. Although I had been in what would become Croatia and Serbia, I have always counted this as one country, placing an asterisk next to my listing of Yugoslavia.

And then Game of Thrones happened. Like everyone else who chooses to live among humankind, I'd heard about the show but it wasn't until this spring that I decided to watch the first episode.  That one episode led to another and soon I was staying up all night binge watching the series.  While in the midst of a battle with the condo association manager, I found myself asking "What would Cersei do?" and wondering if the local shelters had any pet dragons up for adoption.
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Seeing Red in Cardiff

What do you do when you have just flown across the Atlantic, slept for only 3 out of the last 48 hours and then caught another flight that brings you to Cardiff, Wales. Well, if it is the day of the Wales/ Portugal Eurocup match-up, you simply keep going. Even if you are bit cross-eyed from exhaustion, are continuously reaching into your purse for pounds but pulling out euros and have often stated that soccer is athletic equivalent of Sominex (seriously, if the score is so often a tie, why even bother). You keep going because Cardiff is a place you haven't been and who knows when you will return.

So that is what I did, even if it meant risking falling asleep on the bus ride into town and ending up in a place where the language was possibly more unintelligible than Welsh. This turned out to be an unfounded fear because the people of Cardiff are one chatty, friendly people.  The bus driver told me all about his visit to Miami as his one other passenger was narrating the drive as it related to his own life (ie: And that is where I bought my car, that is the pub I go to, that is where my wife works).
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The Lady on the Lake? More like the Hussy on the Huron

I don't always know where I am going. This is due to a number of reasons, foremost being my notorious lack of direction. If it were not for Google Maps, I would never make it to any destination on time ever. But there is another reason that I am often "lost". I don't bother reading my schedule as closely as I should, meaning that when work has me flying into, say, PLN airport, unless I am going to stay there for any extended period of time, I am not looking up that airport code. Therefore, when my schedule changes and I now have a full day in this PLN place, I'm at a bit of a loss.

So I look it up: Pellston, Michigan. Nope, still means nothing.  More investigation reveals that it is near Mackinaw City.  That is now two places I have never heard of.  This is where you go to take the ferry to go Mackinac Island. By this point, I am wondering if I am being trolled?  Are these real places?  And if so, why didn't they pick one spelling for this Mackinaw/ Mackinac place and stick with it? What Northern Michigan fuckery is this?
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Shanghai

Orchha

Venice

Monaco

Tbilisi

Puerto Montt