Friday, October 30, 2009
I spent about an hour at the Academia and then wandered around Florence some more. It's kind of what I have been doing for the last few days. Meandering and wandering. Yesterday I went on a walking tour and then climbed the Duamo. Again, it's too bad I can't tell the future because the weather was much better today, but oh well. I still got some fun shots yesterday. I bought a few souvenirs at the street market yesterday and then spent the evening back at my hostel. This place has been great. As I mentioned they provide free breakfast and dinner and it's fairly tasty. :) My first night I had pizza (Dad's is better) and last night I had spaghetti. I've been having bacon and eggs each morning with orange juice. I am quite a fan.
I also went to the street markets again today. I bought myself a loaf of bread and a pastry as well as some souvenirs/gifts. I am now back at the hostel waiting for the lock-out period to be over (in 45 minutes) so that I can go back to my room and retrieve the rest of my souvenirs and gifts to mail back home so I don't have to tote them through Greece. Tonight one of the girls from my room and I are going to go out and venture around the city after dark. It will be fun to have some night shots of town and it'll be good to be out with someone and not alone.
Tomorrow I take the train to Ancona where I will try to find the ferry terminal to catch an overnight ferry to Greece. Hopefully everything will work out. Worst case there are hostels in Ancona that I can crash at for the night and attempt the ferry on Sunday. I love adventures. I am anticipating an "active" crowd on the ferry as it will be Halloween night. I am not planning to do anything special. I'll save all of my creativity for next year and the years to come.
My last bit of news is that I am contemplating changing my flight home and returning two weeks early. There are a few reasons for this:
1. Everyone I tell that I will be in England/Scotland/Ireland in December looks at me like I'm a crazy person.
2. All the weather information I can find for these countries at that time of the year say how wet and cold and windy it is.
3. Most of the things I want to do involve being outside and walking around and all that jazz.
4. Flights to and from Dublin are not that expensive from Seattle - so I will definitely go back some day.
5. I'm tired and someone put the possibility into my head and now I can't let it go.
6. I'd get to be home for Eddie's and my birthdays.
7. I'd be able to go to Vegas with Eddie for one of his family's celebrations.
8. If my flight is delayed by a few days I wont miss Christmas.
I'm having a lot of trouble making the decision because I am stubborn and don't want to "quit" my trip. I feel like I need to stick it out. But I find myself wondering what the point of my trip is if I can't make my own decisions and do what I want to do. I planned my trip and it is my trip so I should be able to adjust it if I want to, right? Ugh ... I'm a very complicated person. I will probably make my decision in the next day or two, so I will keep you posted as to what I decide - of course.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The last two days have gone by rather quickly. I attribute this to good company and beautiful landscape. My time in Cinque Terre was simply fantastic and it is easy to see why people recommend this location with such fervor. The beauty and splendor of the Mediterranean and the cliffs of the towns put me in awe the entire time I was there. My hostel was interesting, to say the least, but the girls I shared the room with were fantastic and we all got along very well. I ended up hiking the trail from Riomaggiore to Monterosso (through all of the towns, including Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza) with one of the girls, Jessica. The two others had started out on the trail about an hour before us on their own.
The trail was 9km and was supposed to take about 5 hours. Jessica and I hiked it in about 6, but that included all of our stops to take pictures, explore a few of the towns, to rest, and to eat lunch. I think we made pretty good time considering all that we stopped for. Our roommates were crazy ambitions and only took about 3.5 hours to do the whole trail and then they stopped at the final town for lunch before hiking back. Jessica and I took the train back to our town instead of hiking back. The weather was hot and then that mixed with hiking we were definitely sweltering and ready to be done walking once we reached Monterosso.
I filled my memory card with pictures and video yesterday. Everything was so beautiful I had to really focus on not taking pictures of every little thing over and over again. We’d leave a town and take a picture and then climb to the next cliff and take another picture of the town. I think I have 4 pictures of the same town from almost the same angle, just different clearings along the trail. It was just so pretty! I am very glad that the weather was good yesterday and that the trail was open, as it hadn’t been open on the day I arrived to town.
While we stopped for lunch Jessica convinced me to try some focaccia bread, explaining that the Cinque Terre region is known for the fococcia as well as pesto. It truly is amazing and wonderful. I highly recommend it. I ended up buying a focaccia type pizza for lunch and then last night bought another large piece of the bread to take on the train with me this morning. I’ve only been on the train for 45 minutes and the bread is already gone. It truly is delicious. Last night the four of us roommates made dinner together. We had some special Cinque Terre pasta with fresh pesto, tomatoes, and broccoli. We also had bread with pesto and tomatoes and of course some vino. I am a fan of Italy.
My travels continue today as I am on the train on my way to Venice and will be there for three nights. I am looking forward to being in a city that I know a little bit about (from being there three years ago). The girls in my room had all just come from Venice and so they gave me a map, some tourist information, a transportation discount card, and a museum pass that they no longer needed. It was quite the hook up and I am quite thankful. I love it when things work out well like that. I am planning to spend some time in the old Jewish ghetto and go to Lido – both things my parents and I did not have time to do when we were in Venice before. I will probably also find time to visit a few museums as well.
I am hopeful that I will get some good sleep in Venice as I did not sleep well the last two nights. I also need to get some laundry washed and make some travel arrangements for the coming week. I am planning to spend tonight taking care of all that business and hitting the city first thing in the morning. It should be a wonderful three days followed by three more in Florence. Then I’m off to Greece! I will be posting pictures and videos tonight, so please enjoy them!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
I am in Cinque Terre, in the town of Riomaggiore, which is at one end of the five towns. My hostel room is actually an apartment that I am sharing with a few other girls and let's just say that it's quite "authentic." Authentic to what I don't quite know, but it's nothing like any hostel I've stayed in so far. There are three flights of steep cement steps to climb and then six beds set-up throughout the apartment. The kitchen and bathroom are functional so that's all that really matters. The free washing that they advertised is not available though because the machine is broken. :( I guess that means I will be hand washing my socks again tonight. The best part is that the internet is free but you have to go down the street and sit in front of a Pizzaria and borrow the wi-fi. So amazing.
It has been raining here quite a bit so parts of the trail through the five towns are closed and only one 20 minute section is open. If the trail is still closed tomorrow I will probably take the train from town to town and just explore each one. Maybe (say a little prayer) the trails will be open and I'll be able to enjoy the view along the path instead of from each town. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow as I sit in the street writing my update.
The rest of this blog was written on the train on my way to town today. It's a bit long as I had a LONG train ride. :)
My failure of the day is that I left food in the fridge of my last hostel. Unfortunately it’s not the first time I have done this, however it is the first time I have left a significant quantity of food. I left the $10 block of cheese that I splurged and bought yesterday as well as a bell pepper and some cream cheese that I was going to enjoy for lunch today. :( Lame. I’m a bit disappointed with myself, but I will survive. It’s just $10 right?
I am on my train heading to Cinque Terre. I’m on the second of four trains that I will need to take. The first took me from Bern to Brig, this one is taking me from Brig to Milan, the third from Milan to La Spezia, and finally a seven minute train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore is the town that I will be staying in for two nights while I explore Cinque Terre. I am excited about the hostel there as it is supposed to have free laundry facilities, which I need at the moment.
On Sunday I will leave Cinque Terre and go to Venice. I will stay in Venice for three nights and on Wednesday head to Florence for three nights. After Florence I am off to Greece by ferry. I think I will have to stay one night in the town of Ancona, where the ferry leaves from, but that shouldn’t be too terrible. In Greece I will visit a few towns in the northern area before I go to Istanbul for a few days. After Istanbul I will explore some Greek islands and then move on to the Peloponnese area of Greece and then fly from Athens to Lyon, France on November 25. I will spend two nights in Lyon and then on the 27th train to Paris where I will meet up with Eddie for a week.
I’m quite excited about the next phase of my trip. I have heard nothing but good things about the Cinque Terre area and I already know that I love Venice and Florence. I am excited to return to these cities. It will be a much cooler trip compared to when I was last there in July of 2006 and the temperature was in the high 90’s (Fahrenheit). I have my ticket to go see the statue of David in Florence, which I am quite excited about as well. Then after Italy I get to head to Greece, the whole reason for my trip in the first place. I am hopeful that I will not be disappointed, though it is possible that I will be. I have wanted to visit this country since elementary school and even though I was there for a brief time in 2006, it did not satisfy my desire. So I am returning – hopefully it will be everything I have imagined it to be.
After Greece of course I am excited to see Eddie in Paris. I am also looking forward to going to the Louvre and climbing the Eiffel Tower and all that. After France I am in the home stretch of my trip and just have England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland left. It’ll be a whirlwind of three weeks that will probably be cold and wet but I am excited for these countries as well and am anxious to be in an English speaking place.
It’s hard to believe that I started my journey almost two months ago and that I will be home in two months. I’m on day 60 of my 121 day trip and while the time has gone by fast, this day has also taken plenty of time to get here. It’s funny to me how much I longed for this trip and didn’t believe the day would ever arrive when I would be on it. Now that I am on this adventure it feels like I will be forever traveling and it will never end. Obviously, I know that’s not the case, but there is a part of me that is looking forward to December 23 and a part of me that is dreading the day.
I’m ready to be home in so many ways, but I’m not done with my adventure yet and I know that once I get back home and I look back on my trip it will seem like a brief moment of time that flashed before my eyes. I don’t want to say that I wish I was traveling longer, because I don’t. I think four months is a good period of time for many reasons, but I am sure that come January I will be ready to travel again – just maybe not for such a long period of time and probably not by myself.
In all honesty, I AM loving my trip. I know it probably sounds like I complain a lot, but I know I am seeing things and experiencing things daily that I will never again have the opportunity to. The weight of traveling has just gotten to me in a way that I didn’t anticipate that it would. I was worried about my bag being too heavy, about being lost and confused in each city, and the possibility of feeling threatened or unsafe. So far those have not been real struggles. It’s the comforts of home that I miss, like sleeping in my own bed, being able to do laundry whenever I like, and buying food and not having to think about if I can find a way to cook it and store any leftovers. I do miss friends and family, but the internet helps with that to some extent. Skype, IM, and e-mail are great tools that I am extremely thankful for.
While I am excited for life beyond traveling, I am a little nervous too. I know that I will have about two weeks to catch my breath and enjoy the holidays before I need to start looking for a new job and figuring out what the next step in my life is going to be. At the moment everything is up in the air. I may go back to Seattle, or I may move elsewhere. I am not committed to working in any particular field so the opportunities are fairly wide open to me, but sometimes that makes it harder. I am sure it will all work out and I am trying not to let myself think about that until I get home and have to.
Right now I am on the train going across the Swiss/Italian border and it is beautiful. The hills and mountains and country side are fantastic. We just passed a little village that looks like it was abandoned awhile ago, but the little cottages are so cute and at the same time beautifully old. I wish there was a way to capture everything that I have seen and will see but I know there are moments that I will forget to share and may even forget about myself until I am reminded by something completely random at a later date, if at all. There is just too much to see and do and share.
It has been a grand first half of the adventure for sure. I am sure the second half will be just as great, if not better.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Today I move on to country number six, Switzerland. I have spent the last three nights in Salzburg, the home of The Sound of Music (hence the title of my last post - I guess I didn't explain that very well). The hostel I stayed at played the film every night at 8pm. I never actually sat down and watched it, but definitely heard bits and pieces and had songs stuck in my head the next day because of it though. I liked Salzburg. It was a fun little town (that wasn’t so little actually) and was sad to leave today – especially when I walked outside and saw how nice it was and how crisp and amazing the Alps looked. My consolation was that I am heading to Switzerland where I will continue to see the mountains.
In Salzburg I visited several sights. I went to the big fortress on top of the old town. I walked up to it and then took a little tram like thing down. I also tried to visit a monastery. The site was on my tourist map and it had open hours, so I went and knocked on the door. A monk answered and explained to me that the site was not open to visitors but I was welcome to tour the church on site. Oops! I also got to have some Austrian apple strudel and bought some souvenirs. I also found a reasonably priced charm for my charm bracelet for the first time since Munich.
My trip is steadily moving on and it’s weird to think that I’m almost half way through. I have very mixed emotions about the whole thing and they seem to change daily. My journey (as always) seems to be ever changing. I had planned to make Milan my first stop in Italy (after Switzerland) but I am unable to get tickets to see The Last Supper painting, my reason for going to Milan, so I have decided not to go. I will instead spend an extra day in Venice and an extra day in Florence, which I am quite excited about as they are both cities that I love.
I will spend a total of three nights in Switzerland (two in Zurich and one in Bern) – it’ll be a quick trip, but I think it’ll be the right amount of time. Switzerland is expensive and I would prefer not to spend the extra money. I will be staying with a couch surfing host in Zurich, but will be in a hostel in Bern. I will keep you all posted, of course, as to how things pan out.
I posted pictures of Salzburg, it’s my sixth album on facebook. There are so many pictures to put up, I am impressed that some of you are able to keep up! At the rate I’m going I think I will be somewhere between 12 and 15 albums by December. Goodness that is a lot! I also discovered how to upload videos and that has been my new thing to do. Some of you have found them on facebook and some have said that they’ve had trouble. I discovered that I had the video link hidden, but I’ve made it visible now so you should be able to find it.
Well, I think that’s about it for now. I am sure there are more things that have happened but my mind is a t a bit of a loss at the moment. I’m happy just sitting here being mesmerized by the Alps. I can’t imagine people waking up to these mountains every day of their lives. I am jealous – they are beautiful! I always laughed when I saw pictures of them because they looked fake, like someone had digitally created them, but the truth is that is how they look, but ten times more majestic and beautiful. God knew what he was doing when he put them together, that’s for sure.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
1. I was sucked into my first tourist trap and paid almost $6 for just over an hour of internet.
2. I stumbled across my first European perv doing something very private in a public place.
3. I climbed to the top of my first mountain (ok, it's not really a mountain, but it might as well be).
4. I narrowly missed being pooped on by a pigeon for the first time.
5. A priest got mad at me for no apparent reason (that I can figure out anyway) and that has definitely not happened to me before. (He clapped his hands at me and motioned vigoriously for me to go over to him - I opted to just leave the church instead.
6. I spoke Hungarian for the first time and said, "hi" and "thank you." Of course now I cannot remember how to say either of them.
7. A Hungarian man hit on me for the first time. He wanted to know where I was from and how long I was in town for after I bought a souvenior from him. (Don't worry Eddie, I am not leaving you for the castle salesman. You're stuck with me for awhile.)
8. I made my first mistake at the grocery store when I meant to buy yogurt and bought sour cream instead.
9. I almost ran into a monk in the middle of the street. He suddenly appeared next to me in his robe and other monk accessories.
10. I almost fell down the stairs of a tower - oh wait, that's not the first time I have done that, but it is the first time in Hungary. :)
As you can tell I had a very full day. I think that is about it regarding my "firsts," but I did a lot more. I climbed a ginormous hill/mountain to the citadel and took lots of pictures. (Pictures are now up in album #5 on facebook.) I walked a lot and have some blisters to prove it. I visited a castle and two churches. I even managed to buy a few souvenirs and was back at my couch surfing hosts' flat by 4. Wow!
I have two more nights courch surfing in Budapest, then two nights in a hostel. I leave for Vienna on Monday and will be there for four or five nights. I'm sad to be leaving the "cheaper" countries, but am excited to be moving on to some places that I know a little bit more about already!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day and mentioned how long winded my blog updates are. I laughed because I know it is true – even though I’m sure Eddie and my mom wish that I gave more details in each update. I thought, I’d insert a little apology for my long-windedness here. I’ll try to keep this one a little shorter. I am guessing that I have probably lost much of my readership due to the extended length of my updates. :-\ What can I say? I’ve always liked to share extra details and talk and talk and talk and talk – just ask my mom.
I’m on the train to Budapest where I will be couch surfing for a few nights and will then move to a hostel. I’ve just left Brno in the Czech Republic where I couch surfed with a fun girl for two nights. My first night in town I stayed at a hostel and I was very glad to leave the hostel and couch surf. It wasn’t a terrible place, but it was not my most favorite hostel to stay at. In the midst of it all I was fighting a cold, which I’m almost over now, so that presented an extra challenge, to say the least.
Today is a marking point for a few things – it’s the end of the 6th week that I’ve been in Europe, which leaves 11 more to go. It’s also been four months since Eddie and I had our first in-person date, so that’s kind of fun. I have had a lot of alone time during these last six weeks and have realized how thankful I am for Al Gore and his little invention of the internet. Without it would not be keeping my sanity on this trip and I also would not have met Eddie. I am quite glad to be living in the 21st century.
There isn’t a whole lot to report – I think that’s why it’s been difficult for me to find something to write about each day. I think things are beginning to blur together a bit, so I am trying to slow down my pace. I am sure that some of the couch surfing hosts and hostel employees think I am just wasting my time in each city and not taking full advantage of everything there is to see. I however, am realizing that I cannot keep going at the pace I have been or I will burn myself out preemptively. I have seen more churches and climbed more towers than I think most people do in a lifetime. It’s a lot to take in over a short period of time. I am thankful for the opportunity to have this experience though and see these things that many people don’t get to. I’m just pretty sure that every story I tell is going to be about some church in some place that I went to because I wont remember all the details.
So, one story that I do remember is from yesterday when I was at the Peter and Paul church in Brno. I was sitting in the pews admiring the magnificence of the altar when there was a loud crashing noise behind me that enveloped the entire room. I turned around and someone had knocked over the big wooden collection stand. Fortunately the church was not full of people (I think maybe 4 including me were in there) so it was a little funny and I’m sure very embarrassing for the woman who knocked it over. I was just glad it wasn’t me.
I’m sure there will be more things that come to mind to share in the next day or so. I will try to remember to write them down so that you can all enjoy the experience along with me. Until next time friends …
I am thankful to be able to be online, but the lack of the freedom to use my own computer has made me feel a little helpless and cut off. I like knowing that I am only a computer away from my world at home. It is comforting to have that security. Maybe these three days will be a growing experience for me before I am back in a hostel with wi-fi.
We'll see ...
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Today I visited the Prague Castle and the Malá Strana (Lesser Town). I walked from my hostel to a nearby grocery store to pick up some cheese and bread for lunch and then began my adventure. I crossed the Charles Bridge (Karluv most) and bought some souvenir gifts for two wonderful people in my life. I found my way to the John Lennon Wall and then wandered around the streets until I found the castle. You can walk through the courtyard and visit the cathedral for free, but you have to pay to go into the actual castle. I opted for the free option and enjoyed winding my way through the courtyard taking pictures.
The St. Vitus Cathedral, Vitus being the patron saint for epileptics and preventer or oversleeping, is big and gothic and beautiful – but overcrowded with tourists. From the castle I could see just about all of Prague and took some fun pictures. I could see a garden area that had a giant concrete wall. Someone near me said that it was skulls built into the wall. I didn’t remember reading about this or seeing anything in my maps so I checked it out myself. It’s not skulls at all, just a giant concrete wall that has shapes and figures built into it. Some of the shapes look like faces, but no skulls.
After I made my way down from the castle I was going to go see the St. Nicholaus Church, but for a $3 entrance fee I decided to go get a beer instead since I couldn’t even take pictures inside. So lame. Instead I went to Ceska hospoda to enjoy a .5 L Staropramen for all of 25 czk – about $1.45. I am a fan of that.
I think tonight will be another relatively quiet night in for me. I bought some hot dogs at the store last night and will eat a few of them for dinner tonight along with my bread and cheese and beer. Tomorrow I will finish up the few things I haven’t done yet, like the church with the severed arm and try to go to St. Nicholas’ Church in the old town square. I’m debating about climbing the clock tower since I have my city view from the castle, even though it isn’t a full 360 degree view. Tomorrow I will also go to the train station and buy my ticket for Saturday to Cesky Krumlúv and my ticket from there to Brno. I will also need to figure out my housing situation for Brno. I was waiting on a few leads about couch surfing but it does not look as though it will pan out. So sad.
My five male roommates are most likely going to be out drinking tonight so I should be able to fall asleep in peace, unlike last night as they chatted it up for awhile. I should also be able to avoid them walking around in their underwear. I guess that’s the risk you take when staying in a mixed dorm room. Who knows how loud they will be when they return to the room though, my guess is not very quiet, but we’ll see. I’m sure they will appreciate my 7am wake up again. :)
I am feeling good about Prague. I have been able to find my way around pretty well and I was even able to help two people out with directions today. I think for day 2.5 in Prague – really day two since the first day I didn’t go out into the city – that is pretty good. I gave someone directions yesterday too, but it was from where I had just been, so it doesn’t totally count. I’m impressed with my ability to recognize some street names already and know where they are. Yea me! Hahaha …
Well, that is the update from Prague. Nothing too exciting but nothing too terrifying either. I am safe and sound and doing just fine. I have a mission to purchase gloves while in The Czech Republic as well as a new lock. The cheap factor is appealing here and I know it is going to get cold soon so gloves would be a good idea. Also, the lock I bought in Munich broke last night. Somehow the bar got bent and it wont go back in the hole to lock again, so hopefully I will find something that is better quality but not too terribly expensive. Sounds like a plan eh?