The unexpected way home and outside corridors

Jan 20, 2008

As far as we know, things like this happen to other stand-by passengers, but this is the first time it happened to us.

The funny thing was that, when checking in, we were told by the airline employees at Atlanta Airport that the flight was overbooked, but we'd probably make it. So we proceeded with the customs and immigration formalities and then lightheartedly talked about this and that while waiting for our names to be called to approach the counter at the gate. There were also other stand-by passengers. You can easily spot them, as they are the only ones who openly show uneasiness before the flight - but not because of the fear of flying.

They were called to approach the counter; we weren't. Actually, we were, but only to be told that there were no seats for us. However, we were advised to wait until the boarding was completed. And then, all of a sudden, when I was least expecting it, they informed us they had two seats. It was momentarily decided that Dominik and I were flying home. We had less than a minute to take our belongings. I still don't know how we managed to take the right passports, how I gave Zoran the dollars from my purse, how he gave me the car keys. We were all totally bewildered and confused.

Luckily, this feeling soon faded away for the two of us, as we were given seats in the business class. We watched our choice of movies when it suited us, played games, slept in the comfortable horizontal position, were fed and watered all the time, or in a nutshell, we thoroughly enjoyed the elite perks of flying business class over the Pond.

In the meanwhile, Zoran and Mislav, with the laptop only, because all the suitcases were on the plane with us, found a room in a hotel with outside corridors. I deeply wanted to spend a night in such a motel, which I call the Psycho Motel, but unfortunately, I didn't have the nerve to do it. The hotels with inside corridors always seemed so much safer and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Anyway, they did it - and it was all right, although they slept lightly, actually they were more awake than asleep, but nothing dangerous happened. It must be all those films that don't allow me to objectively consider this partiality of mine.

They managed to get aboard the next day. What they got were jump seats. Poor things! But most importantly, they arrived home safe and sound.

The Antebellum Trail

Jan 14, 2008

Antebellum means 'before the war' and in the US it refers to the period before the Civil War, especially in the Southern States.

The Antebellum trail begins in Athens and ends in Macon, but the cities of Atlanta and Augusta are also included, maybe even some other, as well. On the one hand, it represents the romantic old south, but on the other, the fact that it was the time and place of slavery and abuse of human rights should never be forgotten.

We visited Madison, a quaint little city. In Milledgville we went for a short tour of Lockerly Plantation, which isn't so grand as Belle Meade. In Macon we visited the Indian mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument and in Eatonton we saw the Rock Eagle Effigy, which is supposed to have been built thousands years ago, but as usual, no one has the faintest idea why and by whom it was built.

Another interesting question that can be raised here is: What town did Sherman NOT burn? William Tecumseh Sherman was a Union general who burned down towns and villages on his march through Georgia and the Carolinas. Today some of those that weren't burnt, such as Madison, boast of being the only town that Sherman didn't burn, one of the reasons being his girlfriend who lived there. Others, like Augusta, used to have an inferiority complex - because they felt they were so irrelevant that Sherman didn't want to be bothered.

Click here for photos

Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga Choo Choo

Jan 13, 2008

All the way from Nashville to Chattanooga there are billboards announcing the thrills of Lookout Mountain. We arrived at about 4 p.m. and since it was too late to visit all the attractions, we opted for two out of four. The Incline Railway was the first. It is often called "America's most amazing mile" and with the 72.7% grade of the track near the top of the mountain, it certainly is the steepest passenger railway in the world. There are two cars, very similar to the Zagreb funicular, but with only one track so the cars pass each other in the middle. Amazingly enough, the drivers also switch at this point, but I still haven't figured out why. Maybe only one of the two likes the steepest part of the railway.

After the ride in this old-fashioned railway, we headed to Ruby Falls, America's deepest and highest underground waterfall. We were taken into the cave by an elevator, and then walked for about half an hour, admiring all those stalactites and stalagmites that have formed incredible shapes. And finally, there it was, the mysterious waterfall in all its beauty. Nobody knows where it originates, but it is confirmed that it flows into the Tennessee River.

Chattanooga Choo Choo is a song performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in the movie Sun Valley Serenade. It tells a story of going home from New York to Chattanooga. The old Chattanooga train station was turned into a hotel in the 1970s. In the beautiful garden around the hotel you can admire passenger railway cars from the days long past. Perhaps the most exciting thing would be to have "dinner in the diner", which is a restored dining car from the 1940s. But as we were there early in the morning, it was closed, and besides, I don't think we could afford dining at such a prestigious venue.

Nashville

Jan 12, 2008

It took us a couple of hours to get from Memphis to Nashville. We had a travel coupon booklet with discounts for hotels, so Zoran picked a hotel near the Titans Stadium, not very far from Downtown Nashville. We arrived early in the evening and upon seeing how totally desolate this area was, we changed our minds. Finally we found a good, cheap room with breakfast at the Drury Hotel in the airport area, which was very close to downtown, and only 8 minutes to Opry Mills, a huge shopping mall, multiplex cinemas and restaurants, where we immediately headed. We wanted to buy swimsuits, since there was a nice indoor pool and a whirlpool at the Drury. But all we could find was one pair of swimsuits - they don't sell swimwear in winter.

Opry Mills is a new mall, opened only in 2000. Before that, for many years there stood a theme park, known as Opryland, a hotel, and Grand Ole Opry, that first started as a radio show back in 1925 and where country music artists have performed over the years.

Downtown Nashville is really cute, with its old preserved historic district, and some new sky rise buildings and stadiums, that fit in not very badly. It made me feel as in a western movie, with country music blaring from shops and restaurants (or saloons.

Another landmark worth seeing in Nashville is The Parthenon, built for the Centennial Exposition 110 years ago, that now serves as Nashville's art museum.

On this lazy Sunday morning in Downtown Nashville, I was kind of taken aback to see how many bums and panhandlers live on its streets, people who are not old, yet, time has taken its toll on them.

Graceland and beyond

Jan 10, 2008

I admit, Graceland was the main reason for visiting Memphis.

I've heard of Memphis and its Beale Street many times before, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Maybe because it was a bleak, rainy day, and as there was a basketball match at the FedEx Forum, hoodied youngsters wanted to sell us tickets all along Beale Street. As to the Mississippi, yes, it is mighty, even mightier on such a gloomy day. There were no tours in January so we didn't have a chance to go for a ride. No Mark Twain experience, unfortunately. I shouldn't forget the Peabody Ducks, something I first heard of on the Fodor forums. Every day at 11 a.m. ducks march on the red carpet from the elevator to the marble fountain in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. At 5 p.m. they retire to their quarters on the roof, called the Duck palace. They are led by a person named the Duckmaster. It has been a tradition since 1932.

Now back to Graceland. I expected a tacky, cheesy place, but it exceeded my expectations. It's not over the top in any way, from our perspective certainly not, but considering the era when it was built and when it was lived in, I guess it was thought to be extravagant.

First of all, the house, named after one of the previous owners, is not particularly large in size. The living room with white sofa beds and armchairs can be found in many homes today, as well as the eating room and the kitchen. You can not go on a tour of the bedrooms, but certain things have been brought downstairs for us to be admired. Some of these are kitschy, like his furry round bed with a kind of half a roof over it, all in fur. I didn't like the pool room either, because it had pleated fabric on the walls and the ceiling, which, to me, looked kind of strange. The Jungle Room is cool, although a bit (or more than a bit) tacky with zebra chairs, fountains, and a green shaggy on both the floor and the ceiling.

Many rooms are filled with his numerous gold and platinum records. It's amazing to see what a prolific artist he was. The backyard is real huge for all his horses, snowmobiles, go carts etc, which he played with. The tour ends with a visit to his and the graves of his parents and grandma. There's also a little slab in memory of his twin brother who died at birth.

After visiting the house we went to take a look at his cars and two planes. The bigger of the two, the Lisa Marie, was very modern for the time when he flew in it, but I still can't imagine what all those rich guys' planes look like from the inside.

Now I see I have never mentioned his name: but I know there's no need for it. He was and still is the one and only... the King.

Here are some photos.

A banjo on my knees and a little more

Jan 6, 2008

Sweet home Alabama was awaiting us together with a new time zone, Central, which is an hour behind Eastern time. At the Welcome center we were given travel coupons by a nice eldery lady, who recommended several hotels in decent areas of Birmingham. Driving on the I 20, we didn't have a chance to see much of Alabama, and it was dark when we arrived in Birmingham so, except the touristy area around the hotel, we didn't see much there either. In the morning we passed the city and soon crossed the border to Mississippi.

The Welcome center has been the best so far, so my kids, because complimentary sodas (and coffee as well)are offered to needy travelers. A friendly elderly lady was glad to answer all my questions on Tupelo, the town where Elvis was born and where he lived for the first 13 years of his life.

So we went to see this incredibly tiny little house, where he lived with his doting parents.

Atlanta, Georgia

Jan 5, 2008

Atlanta reminds me of Baltimore, with a downtown full of skyrise buildings and the streets are rather dark, because of the lack of sun.

The World of Coca Cola was one of the must do things in Atlanta. It's a bit overpriced, but we enjoyed ourselves there, especially in the tasting room, where a hundred different drinks made by the company can be tasted. I tried about 20 of them and stopped before I'd feel sick. However, a very disappointing thing was to see the commercial "Give a little love" that ends with a chopper with the Yugoslav Army flag, the army that killed thousands of Croats and Bosnians. This part of the commercial was cut out in my country, and I just can't figure out how a company that promotes piece, equality, liberty etc. can be so blind and tolerate murders and vindicate the killers?????

Mixed reviews can be found on the Internet about the Underground Atlanta. We went to see it and were a tad disappointed. Although there were police officers around, it made us feel very unsafe, so we quickly left the area.

What is a picture worth?
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