Its been a long time since I last blogged. I have been having too much fun so I have not had time to blog lately. I am now in Greece- it only took me 28 hours of straight travelling to get here from Rome. Athens does not have too much to offer besides the ruins so I am off to the islands early tomorrow morning. I cant wait to sit on the beach and drink some sangria. The hostel I am going to book is on the beach, has a pool, balconies on every room, and only costs 12 euros ($15) a night!! Insane. Talking about crazy nice hostels- I stayed in a hostel in Florence that was nicer than any hotel I have ever been to. It had an indoor pool, sauna, turkish bath, work out machines, laundry mat, restaurant, pool tables, disco, two bars, and a 5th floor rooftop terrence that overlooked the entire city. If that does not change any misconceptions any of you might have about European hostels, then I don't know what to tell you. The great thing about hostels is that every one has its own unique feel. For example, the hostel I stayed at in Rome I found out was more of a party hostel. They handed me a tall beer as I checked in!! I knew it was going to a crazy couple of days. After a going on an organized pub crawl on my last night there, some friends and I ate some ice cream at Coliseum at 4 in the morning where thousands of gladiators and animals fought to their death over 2000 years ago. It was a pretty awesome sight.
So here is a brief overview of the places I have visited since Barcelona.
I took the train through the French Riveria from Barcelona to Nice, France. It was one of the most beautiful train rides ever. The train traveled next to the ocean almost the entire way there. The French Riveria is where all the rich people from all over Europe vacation so as you can imagine, there were some pretty insane looking houses worth who knows how much. While in Nice, I took a day trip to Monaco. All I have to say is wow. This was a mecca for the rich. Lamborginis, Ferreris, Porsches are the norm there. The most impressive thing there were the size of the yachts docked in the harbor. Words cannot explain the size and luxury of those beasts. Most of them had multiple speed boats and jet skis lodged on top of the ythem. Needless to say that I felt extremely poor while I was gawking at all the rich people's toys. Unfortunely, this feeling of being broke is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy sooner than I had hoped. By the way, I love you Mom and Dad :) Hint hint.
Cinque Terra National Park, Italy-
The beauty of this park is jaw dropping. Cinque Terra is a series of 5 villages built on the rugged coast of Italy. They are connected by a trail that takes about 5 hours to hike one way (there is a train that runs the length of the five towns so you only have to hike one way). I went really early in the morning and was just about the only one on the trail for the first 4 villages. However, between the 4th and 5th village, the crowd coming from the other direction came in full strength, making navigating the single track cliff trail somewhat challenging. I think it took me just as long to do the last leg as it did to do the first 4. Hopefully, Ill post the photos soon.
Only stopped here for a few hours on my way to Florence. Leaning tower was cool to see, especially from a civil engineer's standpoint. After taking my soil mechanics and foundation design classes, I could actually explain to you all in engineering terms what happened with the leaning tower. But Ill spare you the details.
A lot of people love this place. I, on the other hand, was there on a Friday and Saturday, and it was waaaaaay too crowded for my liking. I actually started getting a little nauseated being around so many people. I bet if I gave Florence a chance, it is probably a pretty cool city ( a lot of people I have talked say that it was one of their favorite cities in Europe). The hostel I stayed in Florence (descirbed above) was pretty awesome though. The train ride to and from Florence that went through all the Tuscany hillside vineyards was spetacular.
This place has history everywhere you step. It is litterally history overload, but in a good way. It was hard to walk down the street without seeing something that was over a thousand years old. It really puts the history of our country into perspective. I could not ask for a better location for a hostel than the one I stayed in in Rome. It was 3 blocks from the Coliseum. I actually accidentally ran into the Coliseum while exploring the area around my hostel the first day. The Coliseum was quite the sight to see. To think that it was built in only ten years is absolutely mind blowing considering the lack of modern construction tools they had. I guess anything is possible with enough slaves. If I remember correctly, I read that in the first 100 days that the Coliseum was open, over 11,000 men and 10,000 animals were killed. I saw 4 bulls get killed in Madrid and that was way too much for me.
The Vatican is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It is enormous and the attention to every little detail is crazy. I was hoping to give the Pope a high five or something but he was not there the day that I visited. I paid 5 euros to walk 551 steps up a very claustrophobic hallway to the top of the cupola (the dome) of St. Peter's Basilica. The view of the city from the top was amazing. I could see for miles.
Thankfully, Rome was surprising not as crowded as I expected it to be. Being able to walk through places with having to squeeze through multitudes of people and photo opps makes everything so much more enjoyable.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot... I love kebabs!!
Although I really wanted to visit Greece (especially after taking my Ancient Greek history class last quarter), I was really debating wether I should visit Greece because of the duration of the travel it takes to get here (none of the really cheap airlines fly to Greece so air travel was kind of out of the option). I decided the day of that I would do the 28 hour train-ferry-train trip to Athens from Rome. Overall the 28 hours of straight travelling was much easier than I expected. I was really tired from my three days in Rome so sleeping on the train and on the ferry was quite easy. I spread out over four seats in the ferry and slept like a baby. Well, until a lady came on the intercom at 4 in the morning saying that "ALL passengers must exit the ferry" as we were at the destination. This was extremely confusing to me and the others in the seating area who had a final destination of Patras at 12:30 p.m. Oh well. After I figured things out, I feel right back to sleep.
Athens is by far the least developed country I have been to so far. The toilettes at the hostel I am staying can not even take toilette paper. The Acropolis, the ancient Agora, and some other ruins are really the only things to see here. The stray (?..) dogs living in the ruins were a sight to see too. Im kind of glad I only booked two nights here. A few people I talked to regret booking 4 or 5 nights here.
I did have a good laugh at the ridiculous changing of the guards ceremony at the Parliament though. And the highlight of my day was feeding the pigeons in front of the Parliament building. They jump right onto your arms and head. Check out the pictures once I post them.
I'm off to the Greek islands now. Santorini first and then Mykonos and maybe Ios. After about 4 or 5 days in the islands, Ill be taking a 41 hour train and ferry ride to Venice, Italy. I found a travel buddy for the next week so I will see out that turns out.
Until next time...