Ben's world traels, April, 2003 - January, 2004

I have always wanted to travel. Finally, in 2003 I decided I had waited long enough. Since it hurts my eyes these days to do a lot of reading, and since most travel books are not available in an online format which I can have read to me by my trusty Macintosh, I had to go without much information about what to expect, except what people told me. This makes the entire trip more exciting (and dangerous and scarey) but always interesting.

Since I also do not know any languages (except a tiny bit of Russian and even less Spanish) I was also worried about how I would survive without being able to tell people about my low eyesight. It turned out that my original supposition -that there are people all over the world who are less capable than I who can still survive -even without language- was correct. The skills I have relied upon most heavily in difficult situations were patience, followed closely by humor. Almost everyone I meet has been civil, intellegent and honest (although a few have behaved hungrily).

I'll be filling in this page from time to time. Check back for updates. Hey! I shaved! Whaddya think?


(Click on map for larger view)
Map of Europe


Barcelona

After spending a few weeks running around the country saying goodbye to a few of my friends, I boarded the Goldlen Princess cruise ship on April 26th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The trip across the Atlantic (4500 Miles or so) took 9 days at 25 mph. We arrived on time in Barcelona, Spain on May 5th, 2003.

Paris

After hanging out in and around Barcelona for 3 weeks (I visited the zoo and Gaudi's church and stuff), I took a night train to Paris. I really didn't know where I wanted to go next, but -with the possible exceptions of Lizbon, Madrid and Seville- if I wanted to go anywhere else, I had to go to Paris first. I remained in Paris for around 2-1/2 weeks.

I had a great time taking pictures at the Eifel Tower and up in Notre Dame and at the Louvre. But there were problems, too. The super cheap hostel I found at which to stay flooded one night and I never really got a good night's sleep there any time after that. They kept moving me from room to room, once sharing the dorm with a dozen and a half drunken college students. Ugh. So I finally left Paris, even though there was more I wanted to see there. I never even made it out to the French countryside. :o(

Venice

I had found a hotel in Venice over the internet while in a Paris internet cafe. It took some time to locate it, but finally I did. When I got there, I found that it was too expensive for me. So I dropped my luggage off back at the train station ($3 for all day storage, if memory serves) and just spent the day walking around the suburb of Venice in which I had found myself. That night, I took a night train to Budapest

Budapest

My compartment on the train from Venice was shared by three Scottish students who were all very pleasent to talk to. Unfortunately, the train went through Sarajevo on its way to Budapest (pronounced, "Budha - pesht"). Sometime in the middle of the night -probably while we were stopped in Sarajevo (according to the train conductor's opinion) thieves came into our compartment and made off with allergy pills and some cash, including $80 from me. Oh, well. For a while, I also thought that they had taken my bankcard, but I had placed it in such a safe plaace that I didn't see it there when at first I checked, but it had been with me all along. Whew!.

On the train platform, we were met by several English, German and Hungarian speaking people all wanting to know if we needed a room for the night (or for the week?). The four of us chose a friendly sounding middle-aged woman who took us on the subway to her flat. It was very nice. She wanted $40 per night for it; twice what I could afford by myself, but split 4 ways, very cheap indeed. The bad news came the next morning when my roomates confessed to me that my snoring had not only kept them from sleep last night, but also the night before on the train. I paid them for their share of the flat for the rest of the weekend (more than I could spare, but under the circumestances, only fair) and spent time looking for a place I could afford.

I ended up staying there for a week anyway. I never found a suitable place which was cheaper. Although I did look at several, I wanted to have a place where I could take a shower every day (and not just a bath). This proved hard at my price point ($20/night). So finally, I left for a cheaper town. Also unfortunate, since the area had so many beautiful old engineering and art. I definitely want to go back sometime.

Kosice, Slovakia

Pronounced, Ko-sheet-tze, this town has a rich history for the past 600 years and as you can see from the pictures, recent money from steel has beutifully revitalized the downtown old city. I stayed there three weeks (for $20 per night in a room which I could have payed only $10 per night for if I'd been willing to share it with whomever they could find. I wasn't.)

This is the town near where my great grandfather lived and I located the cemetary in which he is probably burried. While on the train there, I met three more students, slightly older, these. Isrealli grauduade students at the Koscice Veterinary College. I was invited to the graduation ceremony of one of them after my second week. After a few weeks, I went to Ukraine.

Kiev, Ukraine

Here is where I met Helen and Carlos, and Carlos' friend, Ernesto and his wife. Carlos came to Ukraine 20 years ago as a military pilot from Cuba. Ernesto is a Salsa dance teacher. Ernesto's wife, Sveta is pregnant with their first child. Carlos' girlfriend, Helen is a professional English translator. I met her over the net.

They were all very nice, but Ernesto wanted too much money for me to remain at his flat. Also, although I really like Carlos, he has dark skin and I could see that a few Ukrainians treated him badly for it. This was probably the reason that he was somewhat paranoid and, after him being my guide for three days, I began to become so, too. This is why I left Kiev. I will go back sometime when I have more of my own resources (another flat and translator) and then I will be more pleased to spend time with Carlos. Helen and Ernesto and Sveta were all also very nice, but they didn't have much time away from work to spend with me.

Kherson, Ukraine

I spent the rest of the trip living here, in a 1 bedroom apartment (They call it a 2 room apartment) in Ukraine. It is in the center of town. I've been on a trip to the Black Sea I saw lots of people and amusements and commerse as well as a few wild things

Map of Ukraine Contact me.