Fri - August 15, 2003

Map of my travels


As requested, I have created whereIvebeen.html">a page showing maps of where I've been and where I am. Eventually, I will try to populate it also with links to the various libraries of pictures.

Posted at 10:54     Read More  


Sun - August 10, 2003

Cellphone


I have a new cellular phone here in Ukraine. The number is +380 678-101-654. To direct dial from the USA, enter 011-380-678-101-654. You can also 380678101654@2sms.kyivstar.net">email my phone directly with small messages to which I can respond wherever I am. Isn't GSM cool?

Posted at 01:31     Read More  

Kherson, Ukraine


Sorry it has taken so long to get these up. Here are a few pictures of Kherson, Ukraine. This is the town I've been living in all month.

Posted at 01:22     Read More  


Fri - June 13, 2003

No room at the hostel


Rats! The one hostel I thought I could stand does not have any room. I'm going to someplace cooler. I'll stay here one more night then go to Kosice, Slovakia.

Posted at 10:53     Read More  


Sun - June 8, 2003

Budapest for a week


I have indeed had a great night's sleep, although I still feel a little bad that my roomates had to take such drastic action. At least I was able to pay them for the money they spent on this place. They grudgingly accepted it. I am sad that they're gone, but I guess we each must learn whatever is for us to learn.

My lesson: No more late night dinners for me -- especially not with cheese sauce! I had lunch at that same restraunt today. Great food! about $9. (1350 Florens) eneough to hold me until tomorrow with lots of water.

I told the landlady, Piroshka. We talked. I will stay in one of the smaller rooms in this flat for a week for 189 Euros. That's about $30 per day or so). I could only do better at a hostel, with roomates. And then I'd be worried about my stuff. This is a good deal.

So now, I'm off to post all this stuff an an internet place I found yesterady during the walking tour (3500 florens)

Posted at 02:05     Read More  


Fri - June 6, 2003

in Budapest


The flat was a huge room with a private bath in an apartment with three other such rooms (although only one other of which had its own bath) and an nice kitchen and dining area. We ate a late dinner (my bad) and in the morning my roomates informed me that I snored and kept them all awake for the past TWO nights. So I left (and felt great, albeit somewhat guilty) and took the walking tour and checked on other places to stay. They slept in.

The walking tour was a blast. It lasted all afternoon and by the end, I knew where I could find a woman who hooked up travelers with apartments. She only had one in my price range and the lady was very nice although neither of us could understand a word the other spoke and her apartment was amazing, but alas, the bathroom had no shower curtain. She wanted me to use the tub; I pantomimed that I wanted to wash my hair; she pantomimed that it would get water all over the floor. I asked if she had more towels. Alas, it wasn't to be. I went back to my flat to ask my flatemates if they'd be willing to try one more night (there were spaces available in the dorm at the hostel the next night) but they were not enthused. On the contrary, they went out to dinner and returned less than an hour later informing me that they had found a hotel room and they were moving out immediately and I could have this place all to myself. Well, I paid them what they had spent here and not used and watched them go sadly.

Posted at 01:59     Read More  


Thu - June 5, 2003

Taking the train to Budapest


So the train to Budapest was in the company of a group of three traveling students, a semester or two away from graduating. Vee (a guy) had been studying computers. His girlfriend, Lena (short for Carolina) has been studying zoology with an thought toward veterinary school, but it is insanely expensive. She asked me about vet schools in the US, but I'm afraid I was only minimally helpful. But they've got to be cheaper than Australia. The other girl's name is Jo (short for JoAnn). She studies tourism and hostel management, if I understood correctly. We had nice chats for a while and as it got late, they set up the beds (the conductor had shown them how before I got on).

During that night, we were awoken by border agents 5 times. At some point, the door was left open and someone (the conductor thinks it was someone who entered the train and left when it was breifly parked at Sarajevo) came in and rumaged around in two of the girls daypacks but only took a brand new wallet meant as a gift containing a Scotts 5 pound note (not good outside Scotland) and some alergy pills and 70 Euros cash out of my wallet. (I had put the rest in my money belt). At first, I also thought they had taken my bankcard, but fortunately, I was an idiot; it was simply hidden between the pages of my passport back in my moneybelt. Briefly, I entertained what the world would have been like if I had to wait in Budapest for my bank to send me a net card; not happy thoughts, but at least I could have managed it. I had 120 Euros and my ID. The bank would send me money and charge me $50 per transaction, until I could figure out how to get them to send me a new card. So even if the worst happened, it would still have been okay. The girls' packs were found by the conductur in the toilet room in the morning. My wallet had been in my packet, but at some point during the night, as I turned over it fell out and I asked one of the others (I was in the top bunk) to put it in an outside compartment of my small backpack; they had.

When we finally got off the train (2 hours late arriving into Budapest) we were isntantly mobbed by a motley group asking if we needed rooms. The four of us picked out an attractive woman in her late thirties (or early fourties) who seemed reasonable and followed her into the station to change money to Hungarian Florens (250 or so Florens per Euro) and then onto the subway to her flat downtown.

Posted at 01:55     Read More  


Wed - June 4, 2003

Taking the train from Paris to Venice, Italy


Happily, since I haven't had much sleep in a few days, whoever I was supposed to share my train compartment with has not showed up so I have a compartment and a bed all to myself all night from Paris to Venice. The only hotel I could find in Venice even remotely cheap enough (and yet with my own private room) was $100 for the first night (because it is a triple room) and then $40 per night thereafter.

But since I slept so well on the train, I arrived feeling fresh and enthusiastic. I walked around (dragging my luggage) the suburbs of Venice for a few hours until I found the hotel. Their directions were abysmal. So then I waited in the waiting room (there was nobody at the front desk) for another hour and by the time a woman showed up (and yelled upstairs to the woman who was supposed to have been there) I decided to cancel my reservation there. This took another half hour or so and then I was free. I went back to the train station and discovered that I could get a ticket to either Bratislava or Budapest. I've always thought Budapest sounded like a romantic place so that's where I got a ticket to. The train leaves twice per day. Once 15 minutes after my train from Paris was due to have arrived that morning (but didn't; it had been late) and then again at 9pm to arrive the next morning at 11:30am.

So I found a luggage check place (3 Euros to store your stuff all day) and spent a very pleasant day wandering around the suburb of Venice I was in. I found an internet cafe that gave free food while you were online. I found a canal (just one). I found a store that sold cellphones and vaccume cleaners (who didn't speak enough English).

Posted at 01:34     Read More  


Tue - June 3, 2003

Reporting from Paris...


There was a big rainstorm one afternoon. Room 19 didn't fare very well. I was put that night into the dorm. There was no chance of sleep for me or any of the others. Thee was a large group of drunken young people who spent half the night joking and laughing. At least the lights were out for part of that time. In the morning, I had been moved (I was told) to room 17. This was tons better. It even had its own shower. But alas, it didn't last. The next night I was told I had to move to room 3 downstairs.

Room 3 was okay, but it used the downstairs shower which was pretty bad. Also, it had a window on the courtyard in which people stayed up all night talking. So I slept during the day to catch up on sleep and began searching for another hostel or hotel or room or something. I never found one.

So after a couple days of this I decided to come back to Paris another time. The next question is, "where next?". So spent some time after sleeping only a little more and finally decided I wanted to get to places where I could afford a room to myself at night. (I wonder why that would have occurred to me?) So rather than north to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm or west to Glastenbury, Bath, Dublin, Edinborough and so on, I decided to head east to Venice, Italy. It was as far west as I could get a train.

At each train station, you can only get a train to the next station to which the train goes from here. You can usually get a local in-country train almost anywhere, but Europe has no central train reservation computer so there is no way to buy a ticket all the way from here to, say, Kiev. So I went east.



Posted at 09:50     Read More  


Sun - June 1, 2003

Arriving in Paris


Upon arriving at the station, I used my main most powerful tool for learning how to get to the hostel at which I had made reservations: Patience. I slowly walked around the station and asked a vendor, "Metro?" and "Information English?" and he rattled off a bunch of stuff and seemed to wave his arm in a direction, so I walked that way and found a while nother part of the station I hadn't seen before and before long, I found a counter with the sign, "Billets" which reminded me of places to sleep in World War I war movies so I figured it referred to hotels and that they'd understand English; I was right! The woman sold me ten subway rides for a little under 10 Euros (1 Euro = Approx. $1.25) and directed me to a subway map. I studied it for a good half hour and found both the station I was at and the one to which I was going and from there, it was easy to figure out the route. All the different lines are numbered so it was just a matter of memorizing something unique about the names of the station at the end of each line I was taking (so I knew in which direction to go) and the stop names or count stops.

I arrived at the hostel and was put in room 19. There are little separate toilet rooms all around but there was only one shower on the floor (for 30 or 40 people). The shower itself had a little changing area which was only separated from the hallway by .. you guessed it .. a shower curtain. This was a little nerve wracking but all in all, everyone was very respectful that way. On the other hand, later at night, there were an awful lot of party people who would come into the rooms they were in in the middle of the night.

Posted at 01:57     Read More  


Sat - May 24, 2003

La Sagrada Familia


La Sagrada Familia is the name of a famous church designed by Gaudi here in Barcelona. Here is its website. It looks like it was the inspiration for Dr. Suess. There seems to currently be a great deal of construction and restoration, but there was a walkway for the public (for 9 Euros!) which turned out quite entertaining as you can see from the pictures. Going up into one of the spires, a spiral staircase winds up to the beginning of the first spire and then one switches to a staircase that winds around the hollow spire as it ascends, perhaps, 20 or 30 floors or more. I'm not sure how high it was, but it was a ways up there. There is only one set of windows along the extremely narrow spiral staircase, so you can count'em to see how many turns around it makes. There are bridges between the spires which is how we get from one to the next. There are arrows telling us that some ways we must go up or down so that the traffic does not bottleneck. Two slim people cannot pass each other, so you're kinda stuck with whomever is ahead and behind you for a good ways, although every now and again there is a balcony or bridge so people can step around each other if they wish. It was pretty neat.

Posted at 11:06     Read More  


Tue - May 20, 2003

Onward to Paris!


So now that I've been in Barcelona, Spain for two weeks, I am beginning to feel that the end (of me, here that is) is near. So I've made reservations at a hostel in Paris for next week and purchased a ticket on the night train to take me there on Sunday night, arriving Monday morning.

Posted at 06:17     Read More  

The zoo and other stuff


So here are a few pictures I took this week at the zoo and the beach and other stuff. The zoo begins at the bottom of page 2.

Posted at 06:16     Read More  


Wed - May 7, 2003

Arrived in Barcelona, Spain!


I am staying in a private flat. I met a woman on the street who saw me with my luggage and rented me a room for 20 Euros per night. That's about $25. dollars. It is very clean and I'll put up the pictures now that I have finally found a place to connect to the internet (3.60 Euros per hour -- abour $4). I will post lots of pictures. Here are the pictures!

Posted at 07:32     Read More  


Sun - April 27, 2003

Onboard the Golden Princess: Impressions.


This is a beautiful hotel. Oh yea, and it floats. Here are some pictures.

Everithing's made of polymers and composit amterials which probably all seal against water and look like various woods and ceramics. There is also lots of actual glass and very ultra shiny metals. This ship is brand new. Almost a thousand feet long, it has the feel of a very expensive hotel. Even my room is clearly modeled on the concept of an upscale USA hotel room. There's a hair dryer, soaps and shampoos in the bathroom (head?) although the door to the bathroom looks like it can seal against moisture. Many things are attached - lights, TV but surprisingly, many are not. Trash cans and telephones are just like in a normal hotel. Drawers lock when closed. There's a thermostat and, of course, a view. Pretty consistent, that.

The ship is always moving a tiny bit in three different ways. There's an occasional hum (it's there all the time, but you can only feel it in certain places) of 100-200 hertz which must be engine noise. There are also occasional oscillations as impossibly strong waves cut by the ship send shivers of resonence throughout the heavier pieces of metal surrounding me. These come and go and last for a moment or two and are generally between 4 and 8 hertz. Then, of course, there's also occasional gentle rocking. (Or maybe I can feel us occasionally leaping forward). Sometimes it feels almost but not quite like vertigo. Often, it feels oddly relaxing, like stretching out for a nap in the back seat of a car moving down the highway, but without the nasty bumps.

I've got the balcony door open so I can alsy hear the sea-- it, too, is calming. The weather is fine and warm, but occasionally too humid. They must have dehumidifiers in the rooms, because when I had it open while I slept, after a while I felt briney so I closed it and felt clean again after a surprisingly short time.

There are two kinds of crew members. THose in white run the ship and enjoy a kind of awed respect from the other passengers and crew. So far, without exception, they've been white, british and short haired. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The other kind of crew are all maner of servants who behave more like hotel staff, but always so deferential that it makes me uncomfortable. Like carnies or people running on not enough sleep, they are always so willing to help, but not always mentally capable of doing so. They're accustomed to work which requires no though maybe? I don't know. I'd be more inclined to beleive that they haven't slepa dn they've been recently afraid for their jobs and/or they're starving and trolling for better tips. Or maybe they're all type A and brown nosing for tips? It's an odd feeling.

This ship carries up to 2,600 passengers. On this voyage, I have heard that there are either 900 or 1,100 of us. I have also heard that 400 crew members were recently laid off. Notice that I have no way of verifying either of these so called, "facts". But it is interesting..

Posted at 09:07     Read More  
Two dumb mistakes
Hanging out at Robin & Jim's house
Spent the week in the Bay Area
Leaving Albuquerque
Brief change in plans to get to California
Current Travel Plans
Where've I been?


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