Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tapas and Spain

After Valencia I found myself heading even further south to Malaga. It was a quite place, but loads of construction. Met a couple of Canadian brothers from close to home, and spent most of my time there just relaxing. I did wander about and found an incredible city park, full of things like Bird of Paridise plants, orange trees, and palm trees.

From Malaga I took a bus and back-tracked a bit, to Granada. I think Granada may have been one of the more memerable cities I have visited. I randomly ran into someone I had met at a previous hostel (in Valencia), had a traditional Tapas experience, and checked out the Alhambra, an amazing palace with some unreal architecture. Can´t wait to share those pics.

My first day in Granada I opted for a Kebab stand in an effort to eat something cheap and fast. Big mistake, I had some pretty nasty food poisoning later on that night. Full body chills and shakes and getting sick. All around it was a pretty miserable experience. But the other travelers I was with were really helpful, making me tea and trying to give me advice on how to make myself more comfortable. I ended up turning in early and getting a long night´s sleep that night.

My second day in Granada I leared about the traditional Tapas. Tiny drinks of beer or wine go for around 2Euro, but come with more than just a tasty morsel. My first was a ham sandwich, my second a small hamberger, made from scratch. Both came with fries.

The Alhambra was quite a hike to get to, but completely worth the effort. Even though tourist season is about dead, they are still pretty strickt about how many people can visit an any given time, make the experience better for all. There was no crowding here.

My last night in Granada the hostel I stayed at offered a Tapas tour for 1Euro. Decided it would be a great way to dinner, and went along, with just about everyone else from the hostel. In the end I spent very little cash for a meal out with a few drinks. I only ate 4 tapas, but I was so stuffed at the end of the evening that I got a great night´s sleep. I don´t think I could have cooked for myself and eaten that well for the amount I paid. The company was great too, meeting all kinds of people from all over the world.

Now I am making progress towards Morocco. No idea what to expect there, but that is part of the adventure. And the clock is counting down too, only a little more than 2 weeks to go. Wonder what I´ll find for travel excuses back home?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nearly a Month´s Worth of Photos

I was trying to upload several pictures, but the computer I am on is slow, and it was getting annoying, so I didn´t upload everything I have. I also couldn´t upload pictures taken sideways. This computer won´t let me save files, which I need to do to turn the pictures up-right, so maybe in a few weeks when I get home I can post other landmarks I snapped while in Italy.

On top of the church in Dordrect. This was the church right across a canal from my friend´s house. It chimed really loud, but luckily, it only chimed during the day so it wouldn´t keep you up all night.
´Crash Test´car in Dordrecht.
Standing over the canal in Dordrecht, the Netherlands
Usually this is part of a fountain, but this time of year it is just too cold in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The carton of sour milk stuff I drank. Took a picture so I could find out for sure what it was later. From what other people have told me, it was probably buttermilk. Not the best tasting stuff, but it is supposed to be good for you. At least I did learn that it was something meant to be drunk, as opposed to something used in small quanities, such as cream for coffee.
Post box in Bratislava, Slovakia
Duomo Church, Milan, Italy. Hard to see in this picture, but on top of each spire is a carving of a person.
Colliseum, Rome, Italy

Parthenon, Rome, Italy
Mediterrenean Sea as seen from Trapani, Sicily, Italy
Teeny tiny flowers
Barcelona Beach
Octopus in the aquarium in Barcelona. I later ate little one for dinner.
Cool building in Valencia.
Another building in Valencia.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finding Warmness

So...I have ended up in Valencia, Spain. A bit warmer here - no coat needed to wander around. So far I have only walked circles around my hostel (not really intended, but I did´t think looking at the map was necessary) and found something to eat for dinner. Tomorrow I will work on some sight-seeing.

The train ride was nice, better than the budget airlines. Plenty of leg space, a movie with my own personal headphones handed out at the beginning, and candies halfway through. There was a food/beverage car, but I was content with the water I had so I never bothered to check the other options. The movie was dubbed in Spanish, so I listened to music and relaxed. On more than one occasion, the water was right outside my window. Hopefully I´ll find a place warm enough for swimming. Been searching for that since leaving Bratislava.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Planes and Trains (but no Automobiles)

Well, maybe a taxi...

Left from Bratislava, Slovakia over a week ago, and am currently in Spain. Barcelona to be exact.

Started out Italy in Bergamo, north of Milan. Ryanair advertised Milan, but after some closer reading, I found that I would actually be north of the city of fashion. No big deal for me, I was more interested in just getting to the country. I did go to see Duomo Church, and it was incredible. There are carved statues on top of several peaks on the outside of the church. Hopefully the pics I took will turn out, but still haven´t found a computer with the ability to upload (nor have I looked hard. Why pay for internet when the hostel has it for free?)

Milan was never a big point of interest for me, so I didn´t stay long before taking a night train to Rome. Night trains are something else. Sleep is possible, but it comes in broken fragments. Every time the train stopped I woke up, and every time it went through a city the lights woke me up. Then there was just the random waking up. And it was all in the sitting position, I was trying to save on cash by only booking a seat, not a sleeper car.

While in Rome I visited the Colosseum (not sure on the spelling of this. Google gives too many options). Who can go to Rome and miss that?? It was a bit smaller than I expected, but still a great site to see. I also saw the Palestine, Vatican City, and the Parthenon. Vatican City was full of tourists, and the line to the Sistine Chapel was about 1,000 people long. Naturally, I didn´t wait in line for it. Not that I don´t have respect for the history of it, but seeing such a thing with a million other people just didn´t interest me in the way I thought it should.

From Rome I was able to fly for about the same price as a train to Sicily. The lack of sleep from Milan to Rome made the flight a more desirable option. So I took the flight. Glad I did too, it gave me a bit more time in Rome, and was much easier on the wits I am supposed to be keeping about me while traveling. My plane landed in Palermo - or at least kinda close to the city of Palermo. It was a 1 hour train ride to get to the central station.

From Palermo I got my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. I wish it had been warmer, I was hoping for at least sandals. But it was still a beautiful site, even if windy and chilly. And it was in Palermo I saw my first catacombs...creepy to see dead, mummified people wearing the clothing they would have walked around in during their day. The creepiest for me was the children. No pics allowed though, so I can´t fully share the experience on that one.

While in Sicily I also visited the towns of Marsala and Trapani. I think my favorite thing in Italy (besides the food - all of it) was the way people talked. They are all so animated. Even when they are talking on their cell phones, their entire body is involved in the conversation.

And now I am in Barcelona. Got here by another plane. Sure, the Eurorail pass sounds like a good idea, but I think I have saved money so far by searching my options as I go along. And, France is on strike, so the trains aren´t running through the country right now anyway. Lotta good that would have done me (bummer though, I was thinking of going there before exploring more of Spain).

Barcelona has been fun. The hostel I am in isn´t far from the beach, and the people are friendly. Everyone says Spanish would be good to learn, but turns out they don´t speak that here. Not even close. They call it Catalonian, and I don´t understand a word. But maybe Spanish will be useful later (and I still don´t know much). The pedestrian streets are a good way to pass time, and a visit to the aquarium was super cool. It focused on Mediterranean Sea life. Today I made a trip to a nearby town with a monastery. Lots of hiking around and seeing ruins of what used to be. The trains there were amazing, they go straight up the mountain. The cars are shaped more like parallelograms than rectangles.

I would tell you where I´ll be next, but I still don´t know that myself. Should be there tomorrow though.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Random Foodstuffs

Today I learned that there is some importance in being able to read what it is you are buying before the point of purchase. While at a supermarket in Bratislava, I thought a carton of milk and a couple of pastries would make a wonderful breakfast. However, at the register, the lady wouldn't sell me the pastries because I didn't have the "special code" from the bakery - didn't know I needed this, as everyone else was happily putting what they wanted into bags before just walking away. I thought I should do the same.

The next mistake came in the yogurt/milk isle. At least I thought there was milk there. I picked up a carton of what looked to be like milk, and was able to buy it because it had a barcode. But as I opened the container, I realized that maybe it wasn't milk. Smelled a little sour, and was really thick. Oops. But I couldn't just not try it, so I took a HUGE swig. Ugh. Definitely sour. But maybe it was yogurt, just not sweetened. So I drank some more. After about the second drink, it was getting better, so I decided to drink the whole thing. After all, it was all I had, since I had no "special code" for my pastries.

Once drinking all of the contents, I asked a girl at the register of a McDonald's if she knew what it was in English. They told me sour milk. Just for kicks I thought I would ask another group of kids out on the street. While asking another woman heard me, and stopped to explain what it was I had just consumed. Turns out it is about half milk, and half cream, and soured. Uhhh, not quite milk or yogurt....

Not all is bad though, I had a full belly, and I'm (still) not sick from it. I wonder what I will find to abuse my stomach with in the next place?


On Sunday I left my host family in Austria, stopped in Vienna to pick up a friend, and then found myself in Bratislava, Slovakia. The decision was made after not really wanting to go further north to Prague, and not so far away as Budapest.

The weather isn't great here, cold and windy, with lots of rain. But the city is nice and small, something unexpected after visiting other capital cities across Europe.

Today is another day in the city, but a short one, I take a flight tonight to Milan, Italy. Not really sure I'll spend much time in that city, it may be more of a stop-over. Only going because I got a great deal on a flight, and I wanted to get into Italy.