Tuesday, July 29, 2008

En belle Paris

This is actually my last night in Paris...didn't have much access to the Internet lately (who blocks Facebook and Blogger? Honestly).

I felt like shit all day today, probably the combination of rich Swiss and French food plus four weeks of non-stop travelling.

But I'm back in the game and ready to close out the trip in style.

A bientot!


Sunday, July 27, 2008

What a Whoredeal.

London. I love you. Malta, I will never forget you.

I'm finally in London, 2 plane tickets, and 16 hours later. Another lesson for the new to travel. The 24h clock is NOT your friend. It will cost you hundreds of Euro's if you are not prepared. For example, I arrive at Malta International Airport on Sat at about 12:30 in the afternoon, with plenty of time to relax and read before catching my 3:40 flight. Right? Wrong.

You see, as my meticulous friends already know. 03:40 is 3:40 AM not 3:40 PM. So, upon arrival at the Malta International Airport, I was immediately informed that I, in fact, am a stupid foreigner and that my flight had departed almost 12 hours prior to my innocent inquiry. Ouch. That was a 110 Euro lesson well learned. Luckily there was another flight leaving at the same time (3:40am) the next day, so I promptly bought a ticket, and called my hostel in London to tell them I'd be checking in a half day late.

Fine; cool, dandy. I've said it before, I'm not on this trip to save money. That being said, I'm really trying to catch a break here. I ended up paying triple for my flight to london, and for a night in my london hostel, which i spent in an airport. Chalk it up to learning experience eh?

Also, as a side note to future travelers of the Mediterranean, ID the girls you go out with. They are for the most part. WAY TOO YOUNG, and will lie and manipulate you to have their fun. I don't care I'm not sayin' I'm just sayin. Lesson Learned.

Speaking of Maltese lessons, here are some basic phrases (in a conversational order) to help you communicate with the locals:

hi = hello
jien nofsi malti = i'm half maltese
x'jismek = what is your name
min fejn inti = where are you from?
jien nahsebli int sobieha - i think you're pretty
trid birra ohra = you want another beer?
trid tkun it-tfajlia tieghi = will you be my girlfriend
tidhaqx bija j'hekk joghgbok = don't laugh at me please
mur tnejjek = go fuck yourself

and finally,

Ma nistax niehu sodisfazzjon.
I can't get no, satisfaction.

Finally, some really cool shots from my day on Gozo. Initially we went to the Red beach, which had red sand and me and my friend Elissa swam in the crystal clear water so far out that eventually we couldn't see the bottom. After a few hours, and layers of skin we tried to make our way cross island to see the 'Aure window' and the 'Blue Hole' which is a65 meter deep pool, in a rock bed right beside the ocean. So beautiful.

And one of the last things I saw as I left Malta. This amazingly articulate poster. Enjoy, I'm ripping a hole in London tonight.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Malta Photo Barrage

No time to write, must catch a plane to London. Here are some pictures from Malta!

Friday, July 25, 2008

How to do Budapest in less than 24 hours.

First off, my hostel was right next to St. Stephen's Basilica, so I did that last night (as seen by the pic in the last post).

Then this morning I set off for City Park along Andrassy, which is a historic street.

I visited the Heroes Square and Millenium Castle, and then took the Metro to the river where I crossed the Chain Bridge which links the two cities of Buda and Pest (if you didn't know Budapest is actually two cities).

From there I went to Buda Castle, which is enormous. It took me a little bit of searching around to realize that the castle is actually the entire complex.

After that I made the long walk up to the Citadel for a great view of the city (seems like every place I go I always end up climbing some huge fucking hill just for the view).

I ate at a nearby restaurant and had a Hungarian specialty, paprika chicken with grilled vegetables, which was awesome.

Then I capped the day off with a visit to one of the thermal baths. This was quite the experience. You basically strip down naked, save for a little loincloth you put over your junk. I was hesitant to do this at first, but then I figured, what the hell, so I threw on the cloth (which doesn't cover the rear, BTW) and headed in.

The baths are divided into a warm main pool and then hot tubs around it...which are HOT. While the actual rooms are nice, all the old naked dudes sort of ruins the atmosphere, many of whom decided to forego the whole loincloth altogether. Photography was not allowed...and it was the only time in my entire trip that I'm glad that sign was there.

I felt great afterwards though...those waters really do have healing powers.

Then I swung by the Great Synagogue on the way back here. Now I'm gonna head out and find a place that serves langos (dumplings) and then head off to the airport for Switzerland.

I did all this in about 9 hours (if you don't count last night at St. Stephen's and about 6 hours of sleep) so it's definitely possible to see pretty much everything in a day.

I'll be getting in to Geneva at around 11 at night, and tomorrow I'll be taking the train to Montreux to check out where Queen and Led Zeppelin recorded albums. I love this continent.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Photo dumpage.

Prague Castle

Astronomical Clock

Ossuary (Bone Church) in Kutna Hora

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

Big Ben

Squirrel in St. James Park

London Eye

St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In merry London town.

Not entirely merry, I'm afraid.

I got in at about 2:30 AM last night after a couple delays during landing, a long bus ride to Victoria Station, and then since the Underground was closed by then, a series of buses and walking around asking people for directions. Good times.

Then a couple hours ago after some serious sightseeing (British Museum, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey) I got to the London Eye...and my camera promptly died. You enjoying that extra power adapter Matt? Heh.

Anyway, it gave me the opportunity to take the Underground back to the hostel. The "tube" is, in a word, fucking insane (OK, that's two words). I plan to use the hell out of it tonight and tomorrow. As soon as my camera is charged (thanks to Sarah from Texas for lending me a UK adapter) I'm gonna go back to the Westminster area and grab night shots of the Eye, Buckingham Palace, etc.

And I've been well fed so far, thanks to Pret a Manger, the greatest takeaway sandwich shops I've ever been at. I plan on making it three times later today, unless I run into a good takeaway curry place.

Tomorrow I'm gonna wake up early and go to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London, and then it's off to Budapest (talk about something completely different).

These computers won't let me post pics, but I will at my next opportunity. I have a bunch from Prague and the bone church outside of town (thanks again to Fil for the hot tip), as well as London.

Hope all is well. Cheerio!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Venice ends with a bang.

Hello Internet. Where have you been lately? Traveling across Europe? ...Oh wait, no, that's me. Sorry it's been a while since my last update, I've been busy. So lets catch up.

I'd like to start by saying, Chris the memories and travels thus far have been timeless. Thank you for nudging me out of my lazy haze and getting me of that Continent-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Time for us to each wreak havoc on this continent in our own individual ways! I trust you will have a blast, and I hope I don't ACTUALLY go to jail... although that would be quite a story. heh.

I met my second and third Finnish friends Indi

and Sonja

There were also more Americans, a Colombian, a crazy Kiwi (I've always loved kiwi) and a bunch more people whose nationality I've forgotten thanks to the alcohol-soaked wasteland that has become my long term memory.... Huh?

JUST a quick aside, I refer to Nick as a 'crazy kiwi' because Nick can now honestly say that he's swam in Venice's canal...for €50.

Me and my favourite Kiwi, Nick

You crazy MF.

After being shafted by the 'hostel' which Chris booked in advance, we bailed and started walking along the canal in search of the 'Venice Fish' hostel, which we remember hearing about along the way from another traveler. The Venice Fish was able to accommodate us, and we had an amazing time there. The people staying there and the owners were all really cool. It will however live on in infested infamy IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN WINK WINK.

With a free concert on the itinerary and 2 backpacks full of wine and beer, the last night in Venice belonged to the hostelers of the Venice Fish. We commandeered a water taxi, and sped off to La Giudecca (the long thin island ajacant to Venice). We were 16 strong when we left the hostel, and lost a few tired Canadians en route just before boarding the water taxi, so by the time we landed on La Giudecca at around 10pm there were 13 of us.

The band was a 16 piece big band/orchestra of considerable talent. They played everything from a bouncy version of Carnival of Venice, to a Micheal Jackson medley and Louis Prima tribute (covering Jump Jive and Wail and Buona Sera.)

We literally started the party, right there on the cobblestones, as the few locals who started to sway and dance were met by the Venice Fish dance squad. Dancing barefoot in the streets, drinking wine from the bottle and having a blast. This is what Europe is about - I think I'm starting to get it.

For the two Finns and I the adventure wasn't over after the show. Since they came to the concert on my word that they'd make their train, I was now on a mission. The party ended at around 11, their train left for Poland at 12:50. Tipsy and happy, we all piled on to the first ferry we saw at the dock to get back to the Venetian mainland - nobody even asked us for money, sweet! As it happened, the boat did bring us to the mainland, but several kilometers away from where we were supposed to be. There was just over an hour before the train left, we were lost in Venice and the clock started to tick.

Out came the maps, and the chase was on. I threw Chris my room key, and the three of us tore away from the rest of the group. Thanks to the great map reading and photographic memory of Indi we were not only making good time, but heading in the right direction. We arrived at the hostel at about 12:30 to pick up the girls' packs. The train station was only a 12-15 minute walk from the hostel so I knew we were were cutting it close.

Shuffling as fast as they could with all their baggage, the girls were starting to fall behind, and after about 10 mins of shuffle-walking, I started to get nervous. 'They cannot miss that train' I told myself. So I decided that steps needed to be taken. Large, rapid, baggage free steps.

I took off my sandals and started to sprint. After a minute or two of hauling ass, the train station was finally in sight. There was a janitor at the front gate starting to lock up the 20 or so front doors to the station. I bolted through the closest one.

As soon as I entered the deserted train station I first looked up at the departure board to find the track which their train was on, then back out the front doors in hopes of seeing Sonja and Indi. The girls were still nowhere in sight.

I found a security guard and somehow managed to get out of him that the train to Poland was at track 17 (the very last track, of course) and departed in under two minutes.

Alone in Venice's empty train station I took off barefoot again. As I passed track 10, sandals in hand, I heard the front doors of the station echo as they slammed shut somewhere behind me. Finally Indi and Sonja were in the station.

Turning the corner past track 10, I saw the train to Poland. It was the only one on the tracks. There was a train steward standing alone on the platform looking at his watch, he caught sight of me and turned to board the train.

As soon as I reached the platform, and I ran into the first door I could, the girls were no more than 20 meters away at this point. As the doors started to close I stood blocking the doorway, while gasping for breath (I really gotta quit smoking).

Sonia and Indi arrived moments later, even more out of breath than myself. We'd made it. Before the train steward could say anything to me for the delay Sonja climbed on board, then Indi and I made our farewells, the doors shut and they were gone; maybe forever.

As I made my way out of the the train station dripping with sweat the janitor was locking up the last door, he saw me coming and opened it for the last time that day while shaking his head with a smile. 'Buona notte' he said as i sauntered through. Good night indeed.

30 minutes and 2 cigarettes later I had returned to Venice Fish with a huge smile across my face and recounted the events that had just transpired. They all cheered and called me hero. I just felt alive.

The next day we walked a bit more, I got to see some real Picasso, Dali, Pollock and other great masterworks at the Peggy Guggenhiem museum. By 3 I was off to Malta for the entire week, which is where I'm sitting right now, crimson and happy after a day of cliff diving off the Dinghi cliffs. I'm out of works for now, and the Cliff jumping photos are stuck on another camera, but the week has just begun. Tonight I'm going to see what Maltese clubs have to offer. But now, I've got to put some aloe on my burns.

Caio Italy, it's been fun. I'm sure we'll cross paths again.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Arrivederci Italia e Mateo, Dobry den Praha

Just got into Prague, which means my second Italian adventure is over. Hopefully I'll be back sometime in the next five years.

Venice was great and I'm glad we found A Venice Fish (the hostel)...great people and fantastic breakfast and dinner (grazie Mimo!).

There was one problem, however. I won't get into it, but let's just say it rhymes with "medmugs".

Matt has gone off to Malta and hopefully is enjoying the beaches and meeting long lost relatives. I did a lot of that the first time I was in Italy and it's a very worthwhile, extremely rewarding experience.

This is day 1 of 11 days going it alone in Europe. What better way to kick it off then being Bohemian in Prague?

Na zdravi!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Venezia, or how one "s" changes everything

We got to our "hostel" in Venice, only to discover that it was an actual hotel.

Since it was expensive and not what we signed up for anyway, we attempted to reason with the hotel clerk, who only seemed interested in getting money from us.

Here was our final exchange:

Shady Hotel Clerk: You should pay.

Chris: Well, I don't know that we're going to be doing that.

Matt (from other room): I agree!

And we walked out the door. And now we're at the Venice Fish and it's awesome. They served us a great dinner (two servings of pasta, one red sauce, one pesto), plus cake and about 5 bottles of vodka.

Now that's more like it.



I have to say I enjoyed Florence much more the second time around. I'm sure not being on a tour with my family helped in that respect (sorry guys).

You can see everything in a day pretty much, sightseeing-wise. We didn't go to the Uffizi or the Academia though, I suppose at the end of the day paying money to see pictures I could see anywhere for free is just not something I absolutely need to do, not all the time anyway. I know all you art/museum dudes and dudettes will bust my balls for it, but waiting in line for two hours and paying 20 Euro to stand in a group around a painting isn't necessarily my idea of a good time.

Our hostel was great and full of cool people, as per the usual. Once again Matt DJ'd at a local bar (that's four of the five towns we've been at, and the other one was Naples, where you probably wouldn't want to anyway). He brought in a ton of people; we probably quadrupled their usual crowd, as we discovered that the nightlife in Florence is not all that great.

The food was also outstanding; I had some great mushroom pizza with like 6 different kinds on it, some nice olive foccacia and a solid pesto & tomato fettuccine. Italy never disappoints in that department of course, but it's always nice to try some different things.

Next up, Venezia. Ciao!


Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.

It's five little towns all along a mountainous coastline. It was about a 2 hour train ride from Florence, and it was absolutely worth it.

There are three ways to travel in Cinque Terre. You can take a train to each town (ie. the bitch way), you can take the mountain footpath (the hardcore way) or you can take the coastal footpath (what I did).

It took six hours to walk the coastal footpath between all five towns. Each town is beautiful, consisting of multicoloured houses all stacked up along the mountainside, and there was a little beach in a couple of them.

Initially the path was very easy, wide and full of railings. As you go it gets much narrower, not even two people's width. Also the distance between each town grows; getting to the final two towns took 1.5 and 2 hours respectively.

It was a great day trip, and definitely one of the visual highlights of the trip so far. Thanks to Fil for telling me about it.