Archive for May, 2000

Hallo Everyone!

I hope you´re doing well. If there are any tzpos in this e-mail, it´s most likely because on this keyboard the z is in the y postition and vice versa.

I last e-mailed when I was in Athens, I believe. While there, I stayed at the Athens International Youth Hostel. It was a reasonably nice place. It´s a Hostelling International Hostel, so it was clean and secure. But it was cheap costing me about US$ 4.00 per night!!! Probably the only drawback was the location. It was central but it wasn´t in the nicest area of town, so if I went out at night it was in a group. I spent one day at the Acropolis, which was really neat. Got to take lots of pictures of the Parthenon and other places. It was interesting, especially to see all the white marble. Athens was especially interesting because I guess there´s so much of it there, it´s used everywhere, like BC uses wood. It lined the sidewalks in all areas of the town, not just the expensive areas (which I didn´t visit to verify that it´s there…).

By the time I got to Athens, I´d been doing touristy stuff for about 2 weeks, so I decided it was time for a break. I spent my time in Athens with two girls from North Carolina, Rachael and Rayann. They were great fun, and we had tonnes of things in common, it was sad that we couldn´t travel together longer. But, we did go to Aegina, one of the islands. None of us are very good at going and sitting on a beach for long periods of time, so we only went for a day (Aegina is 1hr away bz ferrz from Athens). It was sooo nice to relax and read and not move (even though we did have to walk 5k each way to get to the beach from the port). The water was clear blue, and the beach was very sandy. It was gorgeous and hot, and I managed to sunburn myself rather well, even with sunblock on(Spray on sunblock is less than useless, my sunburn is horribly blotchy)! Oh well, it´s almost gone.

One of the reasons I spend little time sunbathing…

After Aegina, we all went out to dinner. That was an interesting experience. First, the owners of the restaurants really try hard to get you to come to their place (we even got a tour of the kitchen where we wound up eating). Then we tried to order, which didn´t matter because the waiter brought us what he felt like anyhow. Two girls ordered Greek Salad, so he brought one for each of us. Same with the Tzaziki (I have no idea how to properly spell that!). We sent the extras back. I ordered Lamb for my main course, but since they didn´t have that, the waiter brought me something else (much more expensive). So, I sent that back and reordered. Things went smoothly from there until the bill came. The Waiter had charged us for everything he´d brought out! So, we grabbed a menu and figured out what we owed him and re-wrote the bill. He was fine with that, and was really cheerful throughout the whole thing. We were expecting a fight, but he really didn’t seem to care what we paid.

The last part of my week in Greece was spent in Thessaloniki. (One of my goals on this trip was to visit it.). Wednesday was spent traveling there (my friend Matt came with me, since we met up in Athens). We visited the Archaeological museum, which was really neat because the city is so old. Also saw the Rotunda which was originally a mausoleum (sp?) but was converted to a church.

Thessaloniki was a gorgeous city, I liked it much more than Athens. The streets were wide, with wide sidewalks and trees lined the streets. There were garbage cans every 20 meters, and it was on the water with a great walking area along it. If anyone comes to Greece, I really would suggest the trip up to Thessaloniki. It´s off the beaten path, but that makes it even better!

Friday morning I flew out of Athens to Munich (really cheap flight). Munich is a very fun city, I have felt much safer here than in either Italy or Greece. I stayed at a hotel that also functions as a hostel. It was close to the center of the city and right by the hauptbahnof. Munich as you might know is known for its beer gardens.  So, Friday night Lori, Amy and I (two girls I met at the hostel) went to a beer garden for dinner. I got to try the traditional sausages that Bavaria is also known for, and Weiss Beer (wheat beer, unfiltered so it´s really opaque – one of the few beers I´ve ever liked). After dinner we went to the Hauftbrauhaus – the infamous beer garden of Munich. It was a hilarious place that really did remind me of an American Frat house Party. The band was really good, and I´ve never met anyone who can drink as much as these Bavarian guys. During the time we were sharing a table they drank 3 liters (the beer is served bz the liter there, and it´s at least as strong as Canadian beer). I didn´t have any, but the girls I was with did, and they really felt it the next day…

Yesterday I took a tour to Dachau, the first concentration camp built (and the model for all the others). It was interesting, and very well done with a lot of sensitivity. I´m glad it wasn´t a death camp, but the tortures and horrors of this place made me really question if humankind is civilized. That anyone could and would do what they did. That being said, many thousands did survive, and I admire their strength. After getting back from Dachau, I decided to join a bike tour that´s pretty popular. I´m glad I did because the tour guides were really funny and it helped put me into a more positive mood after the mornings visit. The bikes we had were these hilarious Schwinn Cruiser Sevens. I haven´t been on a bike like that since I was a kid. It was bright blue. It was a fun way to see the city, I´m glad I went. I found it was a bit Americanized though. I was the only non-American there!

After the bike tour, I went to do laundry, which is always amusing. It seems like no matter where I am, I always run into either italian or greek men who try to ask me out. Never any other nationality, and never any of the non slimy ones! (I´ve met non-slimy greek guys, but have yet to meet any non-slimy italian guys…I mean those from those countries, not anyone with that background…). It´s getting amusing. They´re always harmless, but I would really rather fold my laundry in peace! Today I let myself sleep in a bit, and then after packing (I´m off to Berlin tonight), I visited the Deutches Museum. This was a fun place that exhibited lots of science and technology stuff. The last thing I learned is how Bavarians toast each other, very frequently during their daily visits to beer gardens (which by the way, open at 9:30am daily). They clink their glasses (but only the bottom edges of the glasses or they break) and shout “PROST”, slam them down on the table, and take a drink. So, I leave you all this week with…




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Hi Everyone!

Sorry, no local greeting for this one. I don’t yet know what Hello is in Greek, let alone how to type it… I’ll go back to local greetings my next e-mail…

I think last time I e-mailed you I was in Rome. What a beautiful city! I arrived in Rome in the evening and met up with a friend of a friend. I wasn’t expecting that! It was nice to see a familiar face though! Then I had the help of two priests who were in Rome for the Pope’s birthday (and the Jubilee year is this year…). It was great to be on the subway with them, somehow I felt much safer hanging out with priests…

Finally got to the hostel and crashed, I was so tired. The next day Ann and I hooked up with two Aussie girls and we went to Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Gorgeous. At Trevi Fountain it’s said that if you throw in a coin, you’ll return quickly to Rome. If you throw in 2 coins you’ll fall in love (some say in Rome… but since that implies an italian man, No Thanks… ick.). And one person told us three coins means you’ll get married.  Well, we each threw in 3 coins, but later on in Rome I was told that the 3rd coin means divorce!!!  <laugh>  (what do you think Ann???)

That afternoon we went on a walking tour led by this Irish Guy who’s living in Rome now (I think he studied classical history… not sure though). Walking tours are great because they really make the old ruins come alive. Bob (his name, I think), took us to see the Circus Maxximus, the old Roman Forum, the pyramid and the Collesseum (more as well, but I need my pictures do describe all the place).

One thing I really appreciate about Rome is there are these fountains everywhere to refill water bottles, good tasting water too.

The next day, I spent pretty much the entire day at the Vatican City. I spent most of the morning at the Vatican Museum, which is where the Sistine Chapel is located.  I was absolutely awestruck and couldn’t figure out why people kept talking! I just wanted to spend hours staring up at it.  I bought postcards since photographs weren’t allowed, but they just don’t do it justice! The rest of the afternoon was spent walking through St Peter’s Basilica, where St. Peter is buried.  It is an amazing church, with beautiful carvings and statues.  It was interesting to see the many (and I do mean many) different orders of Nuns here.   We all got to walk through the Holy Door.  The Holy Door is only opened on the Jubilee Years and it is said that walking through this doorway allows you to pass from sin to grace.  (Why? I have no idea, not being Catholic…).  Anyhow, leaving the church I got to walk through the crypts of many popes (and I do mean many).  This is the same area where St. Peter is said to be buried (one of the apostles).

The next morning I went back to the Collesseum, so I could go inside.  It was a huge place, and it was daunting to think of all the bloodshed that went on here over the years.  I spent all of that morning there, and then spent part of the afternoon walking around the city before heading back to the hostel to do laundry.

I left the next morning for Salerno (2.5hrs south, close to Pompeii and safer than Napoli). The hostel was a dive, but at least it was clean and close to the train station.

Pompeii is very cool, and it’s hard to describe the feeling I felt when you could see even the expression on the faces of the people killed by the volcano. (I spent the day there with Kate, a girl recently starting a very long trip from New Zealand.) The houses of Pompeii were amazingly well preserved, and it was easy to imagine myself back then in that city. I was warned about all the stray dogs in Pompeii, and there was no exaggeration. What shocked me, was how healthy they looked. It was sad though that no one does anything for them.

Well, as you know I am now in Athens. It’s weird being in a city where I can’t even understand the alphabet!  Some places are written in the Latin alphabet too, fortunately.  The hostel here is fine, though I almost didn’t get a bed, and would have had to pay double for a cheap hotel room.  I think I may fly away from Greece when I head up to Germany in a week. It’s more expensive, but I spent two days traveling to get here, and it wasn’t pleasant (a bed on the boat was expensive too, so I slept fitfully on a chair). It’ll be 3 or 4 days to get to Germany from here by going through Italy (the safer route), so I may fly where it’ll take 2-3 hours…

Anyhow, time to sign off. I’ll see you all in a little over a month!

Take Care Everyone. Thanks for all the Updates! I know I haven’t replied to everyone, but I’ve enjoyed the notes I’ve received!


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It’s time for Episode 2 in Christina’s Europe Adventure…

First off, sorry for the incredibly long header, does anyone know how to suppress the headers in Yahoo???

Also, I appreciate the e-mails you have been sending me, even though I haven’t been replying individually, I enjoy them!

Before I get too far, this is a wonky keyboard, and anytime you see à I mean ‘

Last time I wrote I was in Nice. I’m now in Rome.

Ann and I took an overnight train to Venice and spent two nights there.  It is a great town and very peaceful since there are only a few cars on the outskirts of town. Itàs exactly as you picture it, canals with gondolas (not the ones on cables that go up mountains but these are the paddle boats that the men in stripped shirts are driving), mazes of streets that are easy to get lost in… I visited the Murano Glass factory where I got to see this amazing glass blowing by hand and I got to see the history of glass. It was amazing to see glass bowls that date back to 1 or 2 AD. They also had these hand blown glass pen that you use in dipping ink. They were gorgeous and it made me wish that I had nice writing to warrant buying one. But I didn’t.

Venice is also famous for their paper so I had lots of fun visiting paper and stationary stores… Visiting the Piazza San Murano was great, and it is exactly
like people say, filled with pigeons… I realized how immersed in science I’ve been for so long when I started pondering the genetics of their feather
patterns.  For about 30 seconds… then I decided that since I was on vacation I wasn’t allowed to think about it! (but there were lots of different patterns and I had a sample size of about 2 or 3 thousand…)

Next stop was Florence, we stayed at a really nice HI youth hostel. Itàs the best one so far, they had beautiful sculptures on the walls. Visited Michelangelo’s DAVID. WOW!!! It’s even more amazing than you think. I knew it was big but until I saw it I didn’t realize just how big. It’s stunning, I could have stared at it for hours. I also visited the Duomo and this Piazza Michelangelo which gave a great view of the city. I could have stayed for a week in Florence and still not see everything.

I spent a brief afternoon on a side trip to PISA to see the leaning tower. It really is leaning, I was surprised at how far over it is. It wont surprise me if it does fall one day, I’m impressed it’s still upright. I didn’t stay long in PISA since I had plans to meet up with friend I’d met in Florence Katrina and Laurel (from Winnipeg) for dinner.

I wanted to stay longer in Florence, but two nights was all I had time for… the call of other places lured me away…

I left Florence and went to Siena which is about 1.5hrs away from Florence by train. It’s a great old town with gorgeous burnt sienna colours for houses. It’s a very well preserved city with intact city walls. I met this Swiss German girl Manuela who’s there for two months to learn Italian. We spent the day together looking at the sites. The church there (another Duomo) is probably my favorite so far. It was very ornate but not as overdone as some churches. It was made out of black and white marble with beautiful frescoes and the floors were done in black and white marble pictures. Amazing. It was much simpler than Notre Dame or other Churches I’ve seen.

After spending the day in Siena I travelled to  Rome, where I am now. I arrived and the first people I meet are friends of friends (Jean it was Jav’s friend Trevor)!! I was never expecting to see people I’ve met before!  I hopped on the metro to go to the hostel, and was helped by four priests from the US. A pile of them are here because it’s a Jubilee year, and the Pope’s birthday tomorrow (80 years old).

I haven’t seen much yet, the spanish steps, and Trevi Fountain. I’ve also gone on a walking tour given by an Irish guy who is now in Rome, he studied classical history so he knows a lot. He told us about the Forum and the colleseum, the jewish ghetto, the pyramid (yes Rome has a pyramid), and he took us to the circus maximus where the chariot races was, and where they sometimes killed Christians and than had chariot races around them.

My plan is to spend a few more days here and then go to see Pompeii before heading to Greece.

I’ll e-mail again from Greece.

Talk to you all soon. Please feel free to say hi. I enjoy it, even if I don’t have time to reply.


PS I’ve been asked to include travel tips.

My hostel rankings so far:

  1. Florence
  2. Venice
  3. Rome
  4. Cheap Hotel in Paris (Henri IV)
  5. Private hostel in Barcelona
  6. Nice Hostel
  7. Train
  • I’ve found travellers cheques to work well, though many people are also using ATMs which give good exchange rates too (I’ll be doing that later probably).
  • TAKE CARE on Italian trains, you can’t even trust the staff.
  • Bring 2 padlocks with you, one for your day pack and one for the locker (or big pack for travel days).
  • All Canadians have MEC equipment, and are easy to spot, even without the Canadian flag.
  • Be careful on busy metros everywhere hang on to your stuff.

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Well, I’ve been travelling for a week and I thought it would be great to send an update, before there’s too much stuff to keep things a normal length.

I hope everyone is doing well! I flew into Frankfurt, arriving May 2nd, and I was really tired.  My friend Ann met me at the airport and we headed into the centre of town where we wandered around the older part of town.  It’s very much a business and financial town so all there really was to see was the Jewish museum, which was really neat. Then we spent the afternoon in the square where I completely crashed on a park bench for about an hour! (Thank God for a trustworthy friend to watch my stuff!) That night we headed to Paris on an overnight train. It was a smooth ride, and easy to sleep except for this old couple who were sharing our couchette and were totally drunk! That would have been fine except that we were kept up with the man’s snoring (he’d wake the dead!).

Paris was great, we visited the Conchiergerie, the prison where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned, along with 2780 others in total.  We also went to Place de la Concorde where there is now a monument from Egypt, but it’s where the guillotine was (and where ~1400 people were executed).  What a bloody History! On lighter notes, we saw the Eiffel Tower! It was really neat to see sights that I remember from when I was here as a kid, and to see them again. We tried to go to the Louvre, but it was closed due to a strike.  We walked around the Cathedral Notre Dame, what a stunning place. And we also went to the Pantheon, which used to be a church but is now used to display french history and to ‘glorify humanity’.  It was interesting, though sad to see how a church building has been changed into something so secular. But, it was cool we got to see the crypts of people like Voltaire, Rousseau,  Victor Hugo, and Mme and Dr. Curie.  Mme Curie is the only woman there, and she also was the first female professor at Sorbonne (one of the Paris Universities).  On our last day in Paris we headed out of town to visit the Chateau at Versailles. What an amazing place, it reminded me of all the different things I learned in History 106 (Ros, you would have loved it!).  I think my favourite part was the garden, filled with flowers that were gorgeous and smelled really fragrant!  If anyone decides to come to Paris, you must spend a day at Versailles!

As we left Paris we hooked up with three guys (recent engineering grads from McMaster), and hung out with them for two days. We all travelled to Barcelona where having a bunch of guys around was great! Our first day in Barcelona we  went out for lunch (Everything is sooo cheap there!!!!!!) and had a huge lunch/dinner including Sangria for about eight dollars US. Great food. That night we took a walking tour lead by Fabi (a twentyish guy who’s done tonnes of travelling and has studied the history of the region too). It was a great tour and we learned stuff we wouldn’t have otherwise known.  It had some great roman ruins that we got to see and at the end of the tour he took us to the top of his “Mam’s” apartment building where he gave us local spanish wine and real spanish tortillas (not the flat ones you’re thinking of!).  The next day we went to this unfinished cathedral called (forgive my spelling) the sagrita familla (or something like that…) designed by the architect Gaudi.  I think I know where the term Gaudy comes from. It’s probably from his name. This was probably the ugliest church I’ve ever seen. It’s got  bubblegum pink tiles on these pillars, and it’s just plain tacky! Oh well, I prefer older buildings… to each his own… some people think it should remain unfinished as a monument to the architect who was killed by a tram… I think they should make it into a park in a very cement riddled city (worse than New York).  Barcelona was a great city, and we wanted to stay longer but we couldn’t change our train reservations (I’ll just have to go back some day…). So, last night we headed to Nice.

We’re staying in Nice for tonight, and going to head to Venice on an overnight train tomorrow for two nights.  Today Ann and I relaxed and spent the afternoon at the beach (picture it: blue water, it’s not called the Cote D’Azur for nothing!, gravel beach really warm outside, at least 25 or more, but windy so it wasn’t scorching!) and tomorrow probably more of the same!

Well, I’d better sign off, sorry for typos, but this is a different keyboard and they changed the configuration to the US International one so I wouldn’t have to hunt and peck. But it means I’m totally typing by touch!

I’ll talk to you all later, I’ll find another cafe in a week or so (Rome Probably).  Take Care!


PS Matt:  Make reservations NOW for your hotel in Paris! They weren’t full for us, but ours was this great hotel right by Notre Dame and the Louvre. It’s totally inexpensive and worth it! Ask for a room with a shower. It’s the Hotel Henry IV, and it’s in the Europe books.  It is often booked in the summer, and we barely got a room. We were walking away after being told it was full, and the guy came running after us to give us one that became available!   They include breakfast in the price! A double with shower is 252FF, without or a single is cheaper.

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