Last weekend we went across the border to Timisoara, Romania to do some school shopping. It is only about a 1 and 1/2 hour or 2 hour drive away and has much better shopping than Belgrade. They have more products and many more deals. We went to the big Ilius Mall and we found many clothes for the kids and I also bought some work pants and shirts. I even found Moleskin® notebooks at a really cool book store. I think we liked the shopping so much because we dropped the kids off at the playland in the mall and had a relaxed time. We also did some grocery shopping at the Real supermarket and stocked up on high processed sugary breakfast cereals for the kids. The city is the fourth-largest city Romania with a population around 300,000 people. The 1989 revolution against the communist regime started in the city and it has more of an Austrian-Hungarian feel than the rest of Romania.
I strongly recommend Timisoara for Belgraders looking for a weekend get-away. Besides the shopping, we made a stop at the Banat Village Museum. The “Banat” is the region covering eastern Romania, western Hungary and northern Serbia. The museum is located in a park setting with examples of old homesteads from the different ethnic groups and time periods. It is nothing flashy, but is a nice spot for kids to run around. They had a great little pond, where the kids threw rocks and chased dragonflies.
We are in Budapest, Hungary this weekend to run in Sunday’s Half Marathon. We will be running through the UNESCO World Heritage city and are looking forward to the beautiful sites and flat course. More on the race tomorrow. We drove up on Friday evening after school and the trip took us around 4 hours. We have diplomatic lisence plates on Eidelweiss which greatly reduced the time stopped at the border. It is always strange for Americans to drive to another country.
We are renting a nice apartment called 7Seasons, I highly recommend it as it is a good price, centrally located, and very comfortable. We can cook meals in the apartment which is great for the kids. We spent most of Saturday shopping as this is “Nadia’s weekend.” The highlight was Ikea, the Swedish superstore. It was not too painful, only $332 worth of housewares. We make an annual trip here to help out our apartment in Belgrade.
We are both very excited for today’s run. The weather will be sunny and in the 70’s, perfect running weather. Last night it was cold and raining, so we are happy for the blue skies this morning.
We had a nice first day of our zimovanje (winter holiday in Serbian). Nadia, Owen, and Ocean are shown above in downtown Belgrade. We did some shopping (kupovina) for Christmas. We stopped at the Turbo Limac, a toy store, similar to Toys R’ Us but smaller. I think it is Croatian.
It was very cold yesterday with below freezing temperatures. It snowed again last night, adding an inch or two. It truly is a winter wonderland.
Owen is not feeling well, with occasional fever and headaches. We went to the US Embassy commissary also. Oliver had a birthday party at his friend Oscar’s house.
We usually do our annual shopping trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin but decided this year to try something different. Nadia wanted to explore the world of outlet malls and so we chose Minneapolis/St. Paul.
The western part of the Upper Peninsula has strong ties to Wisconsin and Minnesota, despite being a part of Michigan. Geographically and culturally, we are more like northern Wisconsin and Minnesota than much of the lower peninsula of Michigan. The “Twin Cities” (Minneapolis and St. Paul) are a 5-hour drive away from my hometown of Caspian. Milwaukee is about the same distance. That compares with Detroit, which is a long 9-10 hour drive away.
We left Wednesday evening and got in very late. Google maps and other internet resources are incredible. I had our whole trip mapped out before we even went. It was so easy on line. What did we do before this? The first day we went to the Albertville Outlet mall which has over 100 stores. Outlet stores (or factory outlets) were originally attached to the warehouse of the clothing company. They sold products directly to the public, bypassing paying rent for a space in a shopping mall or a middle man like Macy’s or Nordstrom’s. Outlet stores no longer are attached to ware houses, but they do offer much cheaper prices than the mall-based stores. They don’ t have the latest selections of items and not every size, but with the significant savings, they are worth going to.
We noticed many foreigners shopping in both the outlet mall and the Mall of America. There is no sales tax in Minnesota on clothes, so we found some great deals. We stayed at a Radisson Hotel that had a large water park for the kids to play. Oliver and Ocean and shown above after their swim in our room.
The Mall of America is the second largest indoor mall in North America, only behind the West Edmonton mall in Canada. Both malls are owned by the same Canadian family. The Mall of America was built in 1992 over the old Metropolitan Stadium, ex-home of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. In the summer of 1977 I fondly remember taking a trip with my family to the Metropolitan Stadium to see Mark “The Bird” Fidrych pitch for the Detroit Tigers against the Twins. I kind of felt that I was following in my parents footsteps taking my family 32 years later. The mall employs over 12,000 people, has 40 million visitors annually, and has 20,000 parking spaces. The kids enjoyed visiting the aquarium and the amusement park inside the mall. I was tired by the consumerism by the end of the second day in the mall. Everything cost something and it was a entire day inside an artificial environment.
But, it is good to see and both Nadia and I are impressed with the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities metro area has a nice northwoods feel and it seemed very safe. We went to Creative Playland, an educational toy store in a neighborhood downtown and it had a very progressive environment like and is an amemable place to live. We will probably return next summer to do some shopping again.