a trip of "epic" proportions
im home....kind of
i have finally arrived here in bella italia! it feels great to be here. Matt and i have already been struck by the people here. they are so nice and outgoing and entertaining to watch. i forgot how theatrical italians are. right now matt and i are on the amalfi coast in a small town called Atrani (about 1km south of the town Amalfi). it is SOOO beautiful! its like an italian Santorini; a ancient town build on a precipitous cliff overlooking stunning tourquoise water below! and the weather is good too...finally
its really nice to be in a small town. last time i was in italy i wasnt in a small town like this, just the toursits meccas of florence, roma and venice. the people in small towns are more open and willing to engage with tourists. last night we went out for pizza and pasta at this little resto in the main piazza. i had a DELICIOUS and huge italian style pizza (with only cheese, fresh tomatoes tossed in olive oil, and basil) all to my self for 3 euro!! matt had an incredible seafood pasta and homemade foccacio.
right now we are sitting in the piazza in Antrani having our first Cafe Latte and a fresh baked chocolate crossant....mmm! the weather is sunny and around 20 degrees. life is very good.
Atrani piazza at night
it feels exciting to be in italy...which will be my home for the next 6 months. i have already started practising my italian and embracing/falling in love the culture and lifestyle. although a nice man we met last night at the pizzeria said that he has been to selva (where i will be living) and its very different there. he said they dont consider themselves italian and even dislike italian speaking people. apparently everyone speaks german and all the signs are in german. i imagine it will be more alpen than italian. but he promised there will still be delicious italian food.
we have rented a room here (right in the main sqaure) for 3 nights and then we will be heading up to naples. we have decided to cut our italy itinerary down and spend more time relaxing and enjoying each place we visit. i think we will go something like this: naples/pompeii, roma, florence (with day trip to Pisa), milan. we are aiming to be in milan on the 25th of nov. to see a AC Milan champions league game!! its matt birthday on the 23rd and thats what he wants to do to celebrate.
thats all for now...i will try to post some stories from Greece when i have more time!
follow the link below
The photos you will see are from my first 2 weeks in Greece--Oct 9 to Oct 24.
The photos are NOT in chronological order! They got all mixed up when I uploaded them.
The photos are of the following:
six weeks of travelling
12.09.2008 - 16.10.2008
Wow. I am very behind in my blog postings...it looks like the last time i posted an entry was sept 12...which was approximately 6 weeks ago. so much has happened in the last 6 weeks. i wont try and capture everything that has happened. instead i will give a brief and superficial run down of what i have been doing the past 6 weeks.
(also you can refer to the travel map that I will repost above to follow my route. it shows dates when you run the mouse over it)
Krakow was one of the longest stop so far (not including Denmark). I was there 11 days in total, and although this sounds like a long time it really flew by
When I first arrived in Krakow my brother, Stewart, was still with me. we got there late at night after a brutal 13 hour train mission from Ceske Krumlov. the first night we didnt do much....just went out for some polish pizza (open-faced baugette with toppings, ketchup and garlic sauce) and went to bed.
in the three days that Stewart and I had together we took a walking tour of old town, went on a pub crawl and partied and went to auchwitz--which was a very hallowing experience. at the auchwitz bookstore i bought a book called "if this is a man" by Primo Levi and Italian auchwitz surviver. if anyone is interested in this tragic historical event i highly recommend this book...it gives an incredible insight as to life in the camp
Krakow main square
after stewart left to head back to canada i rented an apartment in Kazimierz--the former jewish neighbourhood--for a week. i got a really good price like 150 CAN for the week. the week i was there i just hung out and enjoyed Kazimierz, a super funky, raw and energetic neighbourhood that reminded me a lot of the plateau Mont Royal. i also partied quite a bit...
i spent 4 or 5 nights in Budapest. i forget now. I met a really cool Aussie guy named Mark and we hung out quite a bit. The highlights of Budapest were:
1) chilling out at the bath houses
2) the bohemian nightlife scene in different derilict buildings across the city
3) renting a bike and cruising along the river side
4) beholding the parliment buildings
i was only in belgrade for 1 night and two days ( i took a night train to montenegro at the end of the 2nd day). it is by far the most run down, ugly and poor city I visited in eastern europe. it was cool to see the cyrillic alphabet everywhere. it made things feel really other worldly. it was the first time in eastern europe I felt like i had really acutally gone behind the iron curtain into Soviet territory.
i met these two Brazilian girls during some sightseeing and we went out and partied at one of the river side clubs (basically big clubs set up on permanently moored river barges). the club was cool, but expensive and quite pretenious and full of serbian posers. the brazilian girls completely let down their countries reputation for voracious partying and went to bed early. i wasted a bit more money at the club and then headed for some delicoius Serbian cuisine: McDonalds
i arrived in montenegro on a hellish overnight train from Belgrade. i met this crazy orthodox guy on the train who kept me awake telling me his global conspircay theory about how satan worshippers were secretely in control of all world governments and were plotting to enslave humanity. the guy was fucking psycho!
finally i arrived in budva. the best way to describe budva is paradise on earth. it is this beautiful little venetian old town built on a tiny peninsula, surrounded by a multitude of beaches. the mountains come right up flush to the coast line; imagine the adriatic, beautiful sand beaches, towering mountains and a thousand year old fortified village....pretty awesome.
Budva old town
Budva old town
in budva i met up with an austrialian girl named courtenay. we shared a small apartment together in old town for 11 nights. it was cheap, clean and had a full kitchen.
i did a lot in the time i was in budva. i went on a boat trip, went scuba diving with some ukrianian people, hung out at the beach, chilled at an irish bar, watched aussie rules football with courtenay, went to nearby villages (including kotor and sveti stefan)
budva was one of my favorite stops so far
Croatia was really awesome, despite the fact that the croatian people are the most apathetic, uninterested and work avioding people i have ever met.
i spent 3 nights in dubrovnik which was absolutely beautiful. one of the nicest old towns i have ever seen. everyone should go to dubrovnik one in their lives. it is truly "the jewel of the adriatic"
Dubrovnik Old Town
i also went on SAIL CROATIA, which is basically a week-long boose cruise along the coast between split and dubrovnik, stopping at the different islands, such as Hvar and Korcula. it was a ridiculous party. almost too much...every night about 10 boats with 25 people (mostly aussies) on them each pull into port. everyone is partying and goes out to the same bar every night. its totally wild. one guy on my boat got so drunk he fell off a breakwater and almost died. even during the days the drinking was incessant. the best night was probably the toga party.
slovenia was very beautiful.
after croatia i met up with courtenay again and we spent 2 nights in ljubjiana and 4 nights in Lake Bled.
Ljubjiana is quite and quaint. a small baroque old town with a river running lazily through it. one day there we rented bike and just cruised around the old town. another day there we went for a hearty slovenian dinner (think austrian/alpen food)
Lake bled is so picturesque. its a totaly fairytale kind of place: a quiet teal lake, with a island in the middle with a old church on it, a castle clinging to a rugged cliff over looking the lake and a small town with churches and houses on the southern shore of the lake. not to mention the fact that the leaves had began to changes colours and falling into the lake. we rented a row boat and cruise around the lake, took the bus to a ski town and took a gonndala ride up in the alps and hike amongst the autumn leaves, and hike around in this mystic gorge near the town of Bled. it was very relaxing and enjoyable.
i arrived on the overnight train from belgrade thessaloniki. i was only back in belgrade for one night because it is a transport hub, and i decided to break up my trip from slovenia into two parts.
while in Thessaloniki i was couchsurfing with a 23 year old belgian guy (named koen) who is there on an exchange program. as school has just started he has only been there for a week...and he is already hosting: incredible. he is renting his own place with 3 other exchange students, from columbia, france and estoinia.
i stayed in Thessaloniki two nights. we drank by the white tower, walked around the city, went for Greek coffe (like turkish coffe), ate lots of gyros and just chilled out
at the moment of writing this blog entry i am in athens. I am couchsurfing with this awesome greek dude named Giannis. Giannis is literally the couchsurfing king. he doesnt live in an apartment so much as a flop-house. in two years since he joined couch surfing he has had over 1400 people stay in his place. i am just sleeping on the floor with everyone else.
all the negative things i have heard about athens so far (polluted, smoggy, hectic) havent rung true in my opinion. i really like athens.yesterday i just strolled around and had a greek coffee. i walked through the national gardens and check out the first modern olympic stadium. the acropolis lit up at night is truly spectacular. i havent done much other of the tourist stuff cause im waiting for when i come back with matt so we can do it together..
Acropolis at Night
you might have to zoom out to see the whole map....right now I am in Dubrovnik!!
start travelling and don't stop...
Anyone who has ever been backpacking knows that Aussies love to travel. Go to any hostel, anywhere on the planet and you are almost guaranteed find Australians. Go skiing anywhere in BC, for example, and you will likely be greeted "G'day mate". In Silverstar, 80% of the staff at the resort is from AUS. Yes Aussie dominate the workforce in the "canadian ski-fields" but they are similarly present in the Alps. They're leading "free walking tours" or pub-crawls in all European tourist hot-spots, from Berlin to Madrid. They are all over Greece working at bars and and beach resorts. There are droves of them living and working (and partying) in London. and naturally they are all over thailand and indonesia...In short, Aussies are everywhere...(the Aussies Im taking about are almost all young and are just abroad for the fun of it.)
When you talk to Australians in hostels (pronounced hos-tal in Aussie), there is usually about a 50% that they are on a 1+ year travelling mission. Mark, a awesome guy from Melbourne I met in budapest, is into his sixth year!!!
its awesome! When you meet Canadians or Americans however, they are almost invariably here on a 1-4 month trip, usually during there summer holiday or before they start/return to work. whats more, you meet only a fraction of Canadians when compared to how many Aussies you meet.
going abroad seems like a right of passage, an Australian bar mitzvah of sorts. its normal for Australians to go abroad for 2-5 years (sometimes longer) before heading back to Australia and "getting a real life"
why do they travel so much? why are there so many Aussies working in really cool jobs all over the world? MORE IMPORTANTLY, why don't canadians do the same???? why is it not in our culture to travel like crazy? why is it more normal for us to take trips with definite end dates...only to return home to a shitty job and begin saving up for the next trip?.
I dont know the answers. I know that personally i have noticed subliminal angst at the thought of travelling for so long...when i "should" be going back to school, getting a good job, etc. but I have had to remind myself that im in my 20s!! not my 30s. these are the years to have fun, see the world, meet lots of people, work fun jobs that pay nothing but are enjoyable.
i met an American guy named Andrew in a hostel budapest. he was from Virginia. and he is 30. he is backpacking through eastern europe and staying in hostel and living it up. why? because hes never done it before. he spent his 20s in corporate america. out of university, he became a management consultant (something I considered seriously in third year uni), moved up the ladder, made lots of money, worked long hours and had no life. did he like it? no. he said he felt like he had sold his soul. so he quit. I asked him if it would be the right decision to spend my 20s just enjoying myself and rejecting the instinct to begin climbing the corporate ladder. his answer: definitely!
so having been inspired by my conversations with Andrew, Mark and the countless of other Aussies I have met, I have decided to dedicate my twenties to being an Aussie-style nomad: travelling, working and adventuring.
Things I want to do in my 20s:
- work in the Alps (winter 09/10 baby!!!)
- work on a greek island
- live/work in South Africa (specifically Cape Town)
- live/work in Australia
- work on a luxury yacht as crew (this is what Mark did for 3 years and he made big $$$...or should i say €€€)
- teach English in Korea (or Taiwan)
-do a big backpacking tour of southeast Asia
- do a backpacking trip from Panama to LA
- buy a cheap sailboat and spend a year in the Caribbean (using money from Korea and the crewing job)
- Go to Carnival in Rio
This is my list...and i feel it is my mission to do it!! (special shout out to Jonnie Penn and the Buried Life concept)
beer, hearty food and more beer.
19.08.2009 - 24.08.2009 30 °C
Prague was really fun. We were there 4 nights in total. The hostel we stayed at was incredibly nice...it felt like more of a hotel than a hostel honestly. the mattress were good and the linens, pillows and duvets were great quality (which has not consisently been the case).
our first day in Prague we took a siesta when we arrived at the hostel because it as extremely hot and we were exhausted from travelling. later that night we took the tram into old town and went for dinner. we went to this traditional czech restaurant that had been recommended to us by the hostel. it was in the basement of this building and the whole place was wood...it reminded me of that sienfeld episode where kramer wants to be surrounded by wood: "wood jerry...WOOD!" anyway, we ordered this mixed plate of czech food!!! WOW it was incredible. I remember I had eaten great pork the last time i was in Prague with Brian (like 5 years ago), and this meal did not dissapoint. they served us three kinds of meat on this giant wood board: pork neck, ham and duck. it came with lots of red and white cabbage, dumplings (czech style), gravy, mashed potatoes and veg. so damn good. after dinner we walked around old town, which is just incredibly beautiful lit up at night. we crossed the charles bridge (which was shoulder to shoulder even at 22:30) and took a tram back to our luxurious hostel.
the second day was scortching hot. like really damn hot...but we took a 4 hour walking tour anyway. it was a "free tour" given by this austrialian guy...it was pretty enjoyable. after the walking tour we went to this resto/bar right on the river and refresehed ourselves. then we made our way, exhausted, up this hill to this park overlooking the river and the town. there we chilled out at a beer garden for a while enjoying the view and had some bbq-ed sausage for dinner.
prague beer garden
day 3 : explored the castle town and climbed up the hill next to the castle to go up Prague's Eiffel tour replica. was a great view of the city! on our way back down we chilled out in the castel orchard / park. we lazed in the grass amongst the trees and ate apples from the trees. then we headed to this traditional czech brewpub / restaurant...it was actually the orginial Pilsner Urquell restaurant in Prague. We had a snack plate there (meats and cheeses) and some beer. then we headed back the hostel for a while. That night we went out on the Prague pub crawl.
the pub crawl was completely crazy. the deal was 11 euro for 1 hour of unlimited drinking at the beginning, followed by 4 bars and a night club (with free entry). so we got to the first bar and we only had one thing on our minds: getting our money's worth. we sat down at this table with these two guys from toronto and started gettting down to business. we were drinking beer and these absinthe shooters. about halfway through the hour we realised that a shooter of absinthe (70% alcohol) is roughly equal to a straight shot of vodka....so we had drank about double what we thought....anyway we kept going....long story short we didnt finish the pub crawl...we ended up drinking water at the next 2 bars and then just giving up and going home....ironically, i didnt feel like we got our moneys worth.
day 4: we got a slow start to day 4, owning to the pub crawl the night before. eventually we got going and headed downtown where we went up the astronomical clock tower for a view of the city.
view from up the tower
after that we had lunch at bohemian bagel for the second time....so damn tasty. then we headed up to this new vineyard that is right beside the castle on the hill overlooking Old Town. we went to this absolutely beautiful terrace right in the vineyard woth a spectacular view of the city...they were advertising 35 krown (like $2.50) glasses of wine....and since we had come to taste the wine it seemed perfect...even quite cheap. so i ordered a glass of white the waitress recommended.
now Im not a wine connoisseur by any means, but i have drunk enough white wine in my life to know when I am drinking wine mixed with water.
no shit! they watered down the wine. so much for a good deal. needless to say i sent it back. then i ordered the most expensive glass of white wine on the menu for 60 krown (like $4). i figured they would water down the 35 krown glass, but not the 60 krown glass. WRONG. it was just a watered down...i drank it anyway, paid my 60 krown and felt like a chump. after the terrace we headed back to the hostel for an early night and some rest.
imagine the rolling green hills and valleys of vermont....now imagine a crisp blue river snaking through the base of a particularly beautiful valley. NOW, imagine a stunning medieval town in the middle of that valley with a huge, opulent castle on a hill directly above the river. thats ceske krumlov. definitely one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to.
the first day we arrived from prague and checked in to our hostel--a really nice, bohemian cabin right in the old town. the first day we just wandered around somewhat dumbstruck by the beauty of the place. we went to the town brewery for some beers...definitely some of the best lager i have ever drank. don't forget bohemia is the home of pilsner beer. in the evening we went to this incredible terrace overlooking the river with an incredible view of the castle....we had dinner and delicious lager beers. it was a million dollar setting for 5 dollar prices.
the second day in ceske krumlov we went river rafting!!!! we loaded up our backpack with beer and chips and headed down to the rafting office around 11am. they drove us about 10 minutes up the river to this drop point...thus we would drift and occasionally paddle 15km down the river back to ceske krumlov. from the drop point, we launched our inflatable (zodiac style) canoe and began relaxing big time. the scenery down the river reminded me a lot of BC in fact....at times we felt like we were drifting down the cowichan river...it was the canadian summer we had missed! the only problem was the beer was warm...at least until I had the brilliant idea to empty the backpack with everything expect the beer and the sink it and town it beside the canoe. it worked really well and so we drank river-temperature beer all afternoon. there were plenty of restaurants and bars to pull up to along the river banks, but we had cleverly left our wallets in town to avoid them getting wet....
that night we went out for dinner to this really special medieval grill house with all the people in our hostel room (4 others). we were served the most incredible assortment of meats on these huge wooden boards. then we all went to a "horror" themed bar where our table was a coffin. there we met up with some aussie girls from the hostel.