Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In Paris!

Greetings everyone! I am in Paris and absolutely loving the city. Patrice happens to have the same camera as I and therefore I am able to upload some of my pictures. So here they are. Descriptions when I have time.



Patrice, on the left, my couchsurfing host, with Yonatan, my roommate, on the right.


Counting the money...


...From a long days work... that is 242 Euros!


Noam, left with their audience member Carlos in the middle and Yonatan on the right.


Wondering what they do at this point?


Well...


They street perform!

video

You must watch this video! Click the play button to see my couchsurfing roommates!

Then there is usual tourist attractions: The Eiffel Tower

The Sacre Couer

Myself, extremely happy, on my first full-day in Paris. I am wondering alone at this point from The Louvre to Arc de Triumph.


A fountain, with the Eiffel Tower in the background,

Me at The Louvre.

More Louvre...

And finally, Patricks place with some balloon animals made by the talented street performers whom I lived with for three nights.




Barcelona Pictures

Descriptions soon. For now just some pictures. Gaudi architecture is everywhere!







Descriptions soon. For now just some pictures. Gaudi architecture is everywhere§!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Recap of Lisboa, Portugal

In short, Lisbon is an absolutely beautiful city. It is located right on the coast of Portugal, (a nice change of pace from the rest of my travels, being so close to the ocean). On Wednesday I took full advantage of this; taking the train to Carcavello beach and swiming on the other side of the Atlantic! It was a bit frigid, but definitely worth it (for story purposes of course). Because it is right on the water, the weather was not nearly as hot as Seville, which was very very refreshing.

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Carcavelo beach - 20 minutes by train from Lisbon (Cais do Sodre)

Thursday was another beautiful day, and again I took a train, with two Australians I met, to a small town called Sintra. Sean, George, and I had a great day trip walking around the palace which, "In the 184os, Ferdinand de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Germanic husband of Queen Maria the II, built. It is described as an immense, almost farcical castle, combining all the luxurious elements of previous ornate and gothic masterpieces."

Visitors will feel as though they have entered a Moorish palace, the kind of which fairy tales are made.

http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~srgordon/europe/pics/sintra-palace.jpg

See what they mean?

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/08/44/89/a-sunny-day-in-sintra.jpg

The place was spectacular. It is located in the center of a large park which has paths running throughout, small ponds / waterfalls, and amazing views of the town.

http://mauromars.no.sapo.pt/blogimagens/sintra/sintra.jpg

The hostel was like most other hostels, except free internet, free breakfast, and two good-sized kitchens (loved that aspect). I stayed in most nights and had some good conversations about traveling with George and Sean. It is looking more and more like my next backpacking trip will be to Australia, although it would have to be during the winter (our summer). Maybe you all will be reading this blog again a few months from now... we will see.

The remaining days in Lisbon were quite low-key. Sean and George both left and I was running out of energy. Traveling takes a lot out of you, and as my friend Jeffrey Kane puts it, "Traveling and vacationing are two completely different things." Traveling involves work, moving from location to location and having to be constantly thinking about what to see during your short stay in the city. Vacationing is, well, a vacation. I prefer traveling at this point in my life.

I went to a free concert one night which was called, "Festival de bandas de Lisboa". It was much different than I thought - more of an orchestra than a small band, which is what I was picturing in my head. The crowd was mostly older folks, locals I would say, but it was great nonetheless. My last day entailed going to a few museums, an outdoor market, and catching an unexpected parade.

Some really cool stuff I saw at the contemporary modern art museum. Here is one picture that I found extremely odd, but very interesting.

http://alexandrepomar.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/03/24/picture_4.png

So much going on in this painting. I cannot remember the name of the artist, but I wrote it down somewhere. I will have to post it later if anyone is interested. Then there was this video... two videos actually. Ana Mendieta was the artist. Maybe some of you have heard of her before...

...body tracks and sweating blood were the names of two of her works. She has a fascination with blood, is what I gathered by those two pieces. Feel free to look her up on youtube if any of you are interested in seeing some graphic and rather taboo artwork.

I also visited an Egyptian artifacts museum, which was extremely cool. Alright that is Lisbon in a nutshell. Here are a few pictures that I will leave you with before ending this post.

http://www.sights-and-culture.com/Portugal/Lisbon-Augusto-649.jpg

The main street in Lisbon - "Rua Augusto"

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Praca do Comercio - where the free music concert was located.

http://www.luis.geezas.net/UUNET-2000-Oct-Lisbon/images/00-Lisbon-bridge.jpg

I obviously did not take this photo. This is the statue in Lisbon which is very similar to the famous statue of Jesus Christ which is located in Rio De Janiero, Brazil. They also have a bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate...interesting.

Well, I am in Barcelona at this very moment and very tired tonight. It took me 20 hours to get from my Lisbon hostel to my hostel in Barcelona. Another long night train, but I made it! Only two weeks left on this European expedition. More updates coming soon. Ciao for now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A few more pictures from Seville, Spain


All of us at the dinner table, following the completion of our delicious meal.


A picture of Caitlin and I. As mentioned before, she goes to school at Boston University.


Myself, Caitlin, and Ronnie hanging out poolside at the rooftop terrace.


Me trying to get a little reading done by the pool during the mid-afternoon heat!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cooking in Europe!

Some of you may be wondering, "What has Ryan been doing for food? Has he been eating out at restaurants every night, cooking a lot, eating lots and lots of cereal?" Well, two out of the three of those are true.

  • I am eating a lot of cereal (my breakfast consists of cereal most mornings, because that is the breakfast that most hostels provide). I buy yogurt at the supermarket (every morning I will take a walk to get it, or if the hostel has a refrigerator in the kitchen, I will get two - three days worth at a time)
  • During the afternoon, I tend to eat fruit (bananas, apples, peaches or pears, and sometimes an occasional orange or clementine). I still have some granola bars and cliff bars left that I brought from home to go with my fruit. This hostel in particular has lots of bread in the morning, so I bought "Mortadella" at the supermarket and made cheap sandwiches for lunch.
  • At night, I always cook. I rarely dine out in Europe (only once or twice since I have been here due to being on a tight budget). Tasting the local food is certainly part of the cultural experience, and I have been trying to do that in each country as I go. For instance, I tried incorporating sausage into all of my dinners while staying in Germany, and in Spain, I would cook Spanish style rice with beans and vege´s (we made Sangria´s to drink). Tomorrow I will buy some fish and potatoes for a Portuguese style meal.
I am extremely sick of spaghetti (or any type of pasta at this point) and even more sick of tomato sauce! It has basically been my cheap and safe meal during this trip, and now I cannot imagine eating it for weeks to come. This week I have been living off of frijoles and salad. Lots and lots of greens (lettuce, cucumber, zuccini, with some onion, garlic, and tomato mixed in) with some bean and potato or rice all mixed together.

This blog post is dedicated to you, Mom, who wanted to know where I am eating, what the kitchens are like in my hostels, and how I am living my daily life here. The pictures below are from Seville, Spain. They show a few of us cooking a big pasta and chilli meal. It consisted of minced meat, beans, tomato, peppers, onion, garlic, and sauce, accompanied by two bottles of cheap Spanish vino tinto (red wine).


On the left is Travis. He is a 26 year old teacher from Portland, Oregon and has travelled around Europe twice, both times by himself.


Preparation for the meal...


All of us cooking in the kitchen of Oasis, Seville (the kitchen was on the top floor, and going out the door you step foot onto the rooftop terrace, which had a pool!) Left to right: Travis, myself, Caitlin from Pittsburgh who goes to school at Boston University, and Joe from Australia. Most of the people I have met are not Americans, but on this particular night there happened to be 3 Americans eating dinner with 2 Australians.

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This is an older picture, taken by James from England. Adam (left), me, and James enjoyed a pasta with mushroom and chicken dinner at Old Prague Hostel (obviously located in Prague, Czech Republic).


Same night as above. Not the greatest picture of me.


I felt this blog needed a little bit of immaturity. Most of my entries have shown a mature side of me, and this picture certainly shows the opposite. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Lisbon, Portugal

Not the best map I know, but you get the idea.


I will try to keep updating the map to show you where I am / where I have been, if you like seeing it. Leave comments on what you think of the blog or what I should add more of!

Anyway, the overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon was...pretty awful. It was just that I thought I had a sleeper compartment and instead I had just an uncomfortable chair to sleep in. I was under prepared... warm clothes packed deep in my pack and my pillow from the last train was hijacked by the last hostel cleaning woman! I survived, but I am very tired right now.

After arriving at the hostel, I made myself some breakfast and ventured out to a market that only occurs on Tuesday and Saturday (until 11:00). It was tough to find, but a pretty cool experience. They sell some of the randomest things, however,...

More to come after I catch up on sleep and explore the city!

Seville, Spain and a story from The-Tent

The four nights I spent in Seville were great. The people I met were interesting, fun to be around, and in general, warm-hearted people. I have found that most travellers are all of these things and will gladly help out a fellow traveller in his / her time of need.

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Here is a story that I have yet to talk about in my blog. It happened at The-Tent in Munich (I know, I talk A LOT about this place). When I arrived in Munich from Prague, I had just left my two travelling companions and I was still new to being on my own. The first few people that I met in Munich were from England and The States. One girl, from Colorado, was 25 years old and had been travelling alone for about 3 months. Her name was Joy.

Joy seemed like a very caring person - I sensed that immediately after meeting her. When I told her that I was also from The States, her eyes widened and she asked me, "I know this will sound random, but what bank do you use?". When I told her Bank of America, her eyes grew even wider and a big smile appeared on her face. What she told me next was that her wallet had gotten stolen a few days prior, and she had no way of getting any money until Bank of America sent her a new card. She was broke at this point: No ATM card, No Credit Card, No Money.

"I know that this will sound a little bit crazy because I just met you and all, but how would you feel about letting me transfer money into your ATM account?" Of course I wasn´t going to keep the money, but take her money out of my account (from the ATM) and give it to her. One day after meeting Joy, we went to an internet cafe to make the transfer, then to the ATM, and this resulted in her having cash again...and being able to survive. For the two days prior to me arriving, she was basically stuck at The-Tent, and her friends she met there would cook extra food for her to eat. She wasn´t able to ask anyone else for money because nobody else at the camp site had a Bank of America account. I was glad to help this girl in her time of need and she greatly appreciated the help.

Sharing food when there is extra, cooking meals with new people (I have become the king of this), and exchanging travel stories / life experiences are all daily rituals that I am observing on my journey. I see myself becoming more and more confident each day when it comes to meeting new people. I can start up conversations with just about anybody at this point, and oddly enough they are some of the best conversations of my life. Easily the most interesting (hearing about places they have travelled and different cultures they have experienced).

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Well, Seville was great and below are a few pictures of the places I visited. My best experiences were easily the conversations I had, the night we cooked a big spaghetti and chilli meal for 4 euro each, and the late nights spent walking around the city - glasses of wine in hand. That is definitely a cultural difference that I feel a lot of Americans take advantage of when coming to Europe. Having a drink in the streets.

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The Cathedral (it is massive)!

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"Caños de Carmona", old Roman Aqueduct.

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Plaza de toros... aka bull ring (there were no bull fights when I was here)

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Plaza de Espana.

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Finalmente, La Garten de Alcazar.

My proudest moment from Seville was ordering tickets at the Santa Justa train station using only Spanish and no English. Although I haven´t studied the language in over four years, I remember enough to get by and have small conversations when I need directions, tickets, etc. It is a great feeling after communicating with someone in a language other than English. It made me consider studying Spanish again, which is similar to how I felt after visiting Italy (I had signed up to take an intensive Italian language course at UMass, but it ended up not fitting in my schedule). I do want to learn another language, though...

Ciao for now!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some interesting stories, conversations, intuitions...

This post will be unlike the others. I am writing this to fill you all in on some personal experiences that I have had thus far during my trip. It will not talk about where I am, what I have done the past couple of days, etc., but rather my thought process on multiple occasions.

First: About 3 weeks ago, I was faced with the decision about whether or not continue travelling with James and Adam - my travel partners from Birmingham, England. After we left Prague, James and Adam had a place to stay in Salzburg, Austria and I ventured on my own to Munich, Germany. Munich turned out to be in my top 3 cities that I have visited, and the hostel I stayed at (The-Tent) was the most fun I have had the entire trip.

Rewind to three weeks ago. I was reading a book that Elisha had given me called "Blink".

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
is a book by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he explores the power of the trained mind to make split second decisions, the ability to think without thinking, or in other words using instinct. Gladwell describes his subject as "thin-slicing": our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones. "He finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than they do with volumes of analysis."

As I am reading this book, I am at the same time convincing myself (by making a list of pros and cons in my head) that it will be good to travel with James and Adam. But something inside me, the feeling that I got from the beginning, told me that I should keep going on my own path. I was not sure what to do. In the end, as you know from reading my blog, I made the decision to continue traveling on my own path. Although it is much more difficult, lonely, scary, and uncomfortable to travel alone, this is the main reason why I came to Europe:

To get outside of my comfort zone, do something that others deem crazy, and become a mentally stronger person because of it.

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I get the following message from Adam just the other day: "It's a good thing you ditched us while you could, we've had a fucking mare (nightmare) trying to get to Athens, took like 3 days with no hostels, a Greek train strike, loads of slow trains, tons of fucking passport checks."

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Thank you to everyone who is reading this blog (you are all, very very important to me) since you have helped shape me into the person I am and taught me how to make good decisions on my own. Thank you to Malcolm Gladwell for writing the book that helped me to know when to trust my first instinct. Most importantly, thank you Elisha for recommending such a wonderful traveling read. Without you, I would be having a much more stressful excursion here in Europe. You are great :)

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This entry is getting fairly long, but I want to now just copy a few paragraphs that I wrote in my personal travel journal. This will give you an idea of how my mind works while I am travelling solo through the European continent. I wrote this on July 10, midway through my 33 hour train ride from Munich to Seville.

"It has been a grea past 6 or 7 days...since my last night in Ceske Krumlov. Hiking Mt. Klet, the three wicked nights in Munich, and these long train rides that I really do not mind. Calling home was also great for my spirit. Hearing familiar voices from home was very uplifting for me.

Day 3 at the tent (more like day 8, since this was my second visit to Munich). I had my breakfast (the usual which consists of cereal with yogurt and some tea) and sat on a bench just thinking and relaxing. Mid-breakfast a girl named Jill who I met the day before asked if she could sit with me. I said yes and we began to talk. I love that aspect of The-Tent. It is very communal. I remember looking around and seeing all these people interact / eating together at the picnic tables. The same thing happens around the fire each night. This is how life should be, or what it should be like: community interaction, meeting new people, having conversations with them during meals and throughout the day. Eating in general with new people is great. There needs to be more places like "The-Tent" around the world. Everyone who stays there says this. My goal is to create this, whether it be in the long-run (a permanent place, a community, where people will live) or something that is temporary for budget travellers like me. Near Boston maybe. A non-profit. Perhaps one day.

Anyway, I talked to Jill (she looked like 30 but is only 22. This is something you do not tell a girl obviously) and she tells me about the volunteer work that she did in Africa. Apparently she paid them to work there, her whole life savings, and spent about 3 1/2 months volunteering and travelling in Africa. There was another volunteer, a guy, who came off seeming like he really had his life together. He came off impressing Jill from all the stuff he had done and accomplished as well as his future goals. But he turned out to be a not-so-great guy in the end - a cocky and over confident person that she could no longer stand working with. He made comments to her that made her feel very uncomfortable.

Jill left after 2 1/2 months and did some travelling on her own around Africa. When she was volunteering, her work entailed building walls around water silos / tanks that farmers used to store water. Elephants there are smart enough to know that by kicking over these structures, they will find water. The elephants, however, are a big nuisance to farmers and it can be detrimental to their crops. They actually have permission from the government to shoot and even kill these massive creatures. Pretty sad stuff. So she built these walls out of stones (heavy lifting, not an easy task) to help the farmers but also saving the lives of the elephants. "

---July 10, 6:30 PM on the train from Madrid to Seville, Spain---

We also went on to talk about safety in Africa, especially for white females, since I have heard some horror stories about what goes on there. It was very interesting to hear her take on this, since she has had this particular life experience.



This is just a random elephant I found on google, since I felt this post needed a picture after all. The meaning of this blog entry was just to inform you all on a particular conversation I had, a good decision that I made, and to make you feel a little bit closer to me even though I am many many miles away. I hope you all enjoyed the read and in a little over 3 weeks, I will be home! Cannot wait to see you all and share some more stories with you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I thought you all might like a visual of where I have been So Far.


Click to enlarge. The white is the 33 hours that I spent traveling from one hostel to another. Started out flying to London, then went to (Bristol / Bath, England) visiting Simon and John, then back to (London, England), (Brugge, Belgium), (Amsterdam, Netherlands), (Berlin, Germany), (Prague, Czech Republic and day trip to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic), (Munich, Germany), (Ceske Krumlov, Czech Republic), (Munich, Germany part 2), and now (Seville, Spain).

The remaining part of my journey is looking like (Lisbon, Portugal for 5 days), (Barcelona, Spain for 2 - 3 days), then most likely (Paris, France for 5 days). The last part of my journey will entail traveling back to Bristol and spending some time with Simon.

I survived 33 STRAIGHT hours of train travel!

Hey everyone. I have recently arrived in Seville, Spain after leaving Munich 33 hours before. It took 7 trains including 1 sleeper train to get me here, but I made it nonetheless. It figures, too, that the one day my alarm didn´t go off was when I took the sleeper train. I was so tired from all the travel that I slept for a good 10 hours! Not a great sleep though...paranoid about my backpack getting stolen that I sleep with one as the pillow (the most uncomfortable pillow ever) and one between my legs. You can imagine how I looked doing that...

But for visual purposes:



Above pretty much captures how I felt at the end of the day. Although tired, I really don´t mind the long train rides. They allow me time to think distraction free, and do some reading / writing / relaxing.



This was me two weeks ago on a train to Prague (picture taken by James, my former traveling buddy). This was essentially me during the 33 hour train rides but with a longer beard :) .

Well everyone, I am going to do some edits of the previous posts (on Ceske Krumlov, and The - Tent, Munich). See below for some pictures from my last two weeks.

I cannot believe that in 3 1/2 weeks I will be returning home to The States. It seems like I literally just left, and just a lot has happened in a very short time span, which is essentially true I guess. I am really looking forward to coming home and sharing all my stories and pictures with those who are / have been a big part of my life. August 4 is just around the corner, talk with you all soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008