Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gerneral thoughts and ponderings on travel


So I’ve decided that you probably don’t want to hear my every movement in every city (excl. Mum!) and would probably rather hear my opinions rather than the places I see bla bla bla.

So here are my thoughts on hostels. I’ve been forced to think a little more closely about them because I’m actually reviewing each hostel I visit for a website that will pay me $10 per review. Might as well, only takes 10 minutes and takes the expense off a bit, hopefully its not a dodgy set up where I never get paid, but I’ll give it a red hot go hey! (Wow, I sound Australian even whilst typing!)

So basically, East Germany is officially the home of the COOLEST hostels I’ve ever been to! The first one in Berlin was unreal. It was cosy, lively, comfy and had everything you could need (bar a stove top) and contained the coolest people and the coolest art. This hostel was filled with murals and paintings and even had themed rooms (which we unfortunately didn’t get to stay in). There were panels all down our corridor with information about stuff in Berlin, but instead of having framed pieces of paper, they’d used huge panels covered with paint and impasto relief and funky drawings. I knew Berlin was a centre for art and creativity but there is so much visual activity here, I should have studied here instead of Paddington in order to bring out my creative side. The room in Dresden I’m writing my email from is covered in posters lacquered to the wall from fancy German magazines (a giant poster of Orlando Bloom definitely adds to the charm!) and stenciled flowers, and frilly fly nets and funky light shades, and teddy bears tied to beds with string. I feel like I’m in a 13 year old’s room! It makes me want to go home and get out the impasto (a thick paste that dries on canvas to make relief paintings) and create works of art of my own to adorn my room. I’ve never felt so inspired and creative in my life and I have no materials with which to express it!

Back to the hostel thing though. Got a bit carried away.

So there’s another thing I’ve picked up. Boys are SOOO much easier to live with than girls. I’ve had so many girls getting petty and bitching in hostels, complaining about noise, leaving shit everywhere, not taking any notice that you’re even in the room. Boys always acknowledge you and strike up a convo, no matter how old they are or where they’re from. Hence, I’ve decided my future roommates must include at least one male – Mitch, you’re it!! (Actually I find Bec more of a male than a female to live with, easy going, takes about 5 minutes to get ready, so its pretty good!!!)

We went out to a pub around the corner of our hostel in Berlin with a couple of young pommy guys staying in our room and also met 3 Italian guys who spoke very little English! Although the night’s conversations were a huge effort and took some time to get to any agreement on vocabulary, it was very entertaining talking to the Italians about soccer, their hometown of Turin and various Italian foods! We exchanged emails and they said we are welcome to stay with them in Turin but I think it’s a little out of the way for us. We taught them how to eat Vegemite the proper way (lots of butter, very thin scraping of the yeasty goodness) at 4am in the hostel and then parted ways with much hugging and sincerity (bloody Italians, can’t do anything without emotion!).

That’s another thing – there are countless amounts of people you meet whilst traveling. Some of them you swap details with, others you don’t. But Bec and I were discussing the other day that although you may get on well with someone for a day or even a few hours, you don’t feel like you have to ever see them again. Although this may sound sad, its actually good. You don’t find that person’s faults, the niggling habbits that you hate, you never get to know them well enough that they tell you boring stories about their life at home, you only learn of their travels, a brief history of their life in general and is mostly jokes and banter about the different things you’ve see throughout your journey. Its like having a bite of someone else’s chocolate bar – you have the initial richness and taste but you don’t get to the point where you’re full or have overdone on the taste. Like an antipasto. The people you meet are the mezze plate of life.

For example, we went on a tour of Sachsenhausen concentration camp (very depressing and eye opening, but well worth going to) and met 3 Aussies. We got on quite well with them and it was good to have someone to talk to, but we’ll never see them again, and I’m quite happy with that outcome.

So now I’m in Dresden, an almost Florentine city with plenty of churches and castles (although most of them are reconstructions after getting the shite bombed out of them!) and the place is full of little ally ways that open up to giant courtyards with hippy shops, alternative cafes and buildings with the most amazing adornments! This is sort of how I pictured Amsterdam to be. Our hostel is fantastic and we have so many facilities. We cooked spag bowl with spinach to catch up on a high dose of iron after being almost vegetarian for a week, it was bloody unreal! Its amazing the things you miss when you’re a nomad with limited cooking utencils!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Hasty Account of This Week's Events

I woke up early and left Cuz’s place for Heathrow to meet up with Schmecky. I’d been counting down the days until I saw her cos I was missing her so much and keen to start our next adventure! After a very enthusiastic reunion and an 8 hour catch up at the airport, we flew to Amsterdam and caught a train to Delft where Jeff and Anna were waiting for us. We had an early night cos Schmeck was hungover and I was tired from an early start but was so happy to be in a country where the culture was different from my own. London was great for about 2 days but it was boring, cultureless (not historyless but lacked any form of heart or community) too many Australians lived there and I honestly couldn’t wait to leave!

We woke to eggs and bacon cooked by Jeff (god bless him!) and went on a bike tour throughout Delft. Its such a gorgeous little town with a canal running through it and full of blue and white china.
As we were in Holland, we decided to go with Jeff to a ‘coffee shop’ and buy some weed. It was hilarious, Anna’s brother had to teach us what was what as there was a whole menu of different kinds and the two of us, being the drug-free innocent individuals that we are, were clueless.
We bought a little bag of California something (as advised) and were on our merry way feeling rather naughty but had done nothing illegal so used that thought as a justification!


So we made our way to Lowlands where we had to line up for about an hour with huge packs on because they don’t let you take cars into the camping complex.
Basically, Lowlands is Big Day Out on steroids. It’s a 3 day festival where you camp close to the music but we spent 5 days there to get in early and get a good spot close to the loos! There is a 24 hr tent pumping hard core techno beats around the clock so its rather hard to get to sleep but other than that it was a lot of fun! Bec and I saw bands like Pendulum (rocked the house down, so good!), Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco, The Presidents of the USA, Underworld (also fantastic!), Tricky, The Fratellis and so on.

Bec and I chilled out with a joint which we decided wasn’t that great and that we get giggly and hungry without the help of weed so donated the rest of our weed to Jeff and Anna!
After being considerably grubby for 5 days but having an awesome time we came back to Delft feeling out of whack and very sleepy but made our way into The Hague for dinner anyway, we’d come all this way so couldn’t justify not going!
The Hague was cool, but being a Monday, was dead. We went to a pub and had a cider and a curry and perved on the cute English bar tender then made our way home to get a decent night’s sleep!

After a sad departure from Jeff and Anna (we know we won’t see them again for about a year!) and took a train to Amsterdam and I am now writing from my very basic but comfortable hostel about to go and see the sights. My next post will be all about the good ol Amsterdam so until then chaps!!!


Amsterdam was cool. Everyone knows how it goes, prossys, weed and seediness everywhere but I can’t get over the transformation between night and day. We did our own little walking tour throughout the city and it all seemed nice and safe and harmless, canals everywhere with cute little boats, people on bikes and outdoor cafes. Then we went out again at night to the same street we’d walked down hours earlier and it was filled with red-lit windows featuring bikini clad girls wanting a bite from the curious tourist. They were all BEAUTIFUL girls, I was expecting slutty trashbags but they were all gorgeous and some of them looked quite young. Here is a first hand account of the night from Schmecky.

“They say that first impressions last, and now I totally know what ‘they’ mean when ‘they’ say that Amsterdam will stay with you forever. At first glance, perhaps not the most beautiful city, but nice. But it is certainly most phallic!! There are dildos and sex shops and live shows and porno cinemas everywhere! Clare and I had dinner at a pizza place directly opposite one said cinema. But to put a cherry on the top of the first said impression, we have just returned from the illusive red light district! Oh my! I have never seen girls who looked so bored in all my life! And they were good looking and everything! Standing there, some undulating in their fluorescent knickers in the window, some smoking and casually chatting away on their phones (to whom, their mums?)
Clare and I suggested that they up the ante of their window antics pronto (as there weren’t too many drawn curtains if you know what I mean!) and get windmill nipple ornaments or even tassels to increase their clientele!”

The ladies don't like photos so its a bit fuzzy but how whack is this shit???

It was definitely an eye opener walking down that street, but I was glad to go home to my warm hostel bed knowing I’m not a state where I rely on selling my body.

Day 2 in Amsterdam involved a lot of rain, a walk down to the local park for lunch, much people watching and the purchase of some much needed cargo pants! I’ve resolved that the Dam is great for people who like getting drunk, stoned and laid, but not so good for those starting off an adventure where you want to see typical European alps and countryside. We’re on our way to all this, but we have to stop off at Berlin. I know its not exactly countryside but it’s a city you can’t really miss and so my next post will be from there.
Over and out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Clare's Excellent Adventures Cont.

So in just 5 days I am going to resume my travels (thank bloody Christ!) and I've decided to put together a little itinerary, similar to the South American one for you to all follow. It also helps me remember exactly where I'm going as I'm an unorganised git.

The trip begins in Delft, a town 45 minutes out of Amsterdam where my mate Jeff is currently living with his Dutch girlfriend, Anna. Next weekend is dedicated to the Lowlands festival, where we will watch some fantastic bands. Then to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, then Tolmezzo where we will visit Schmecky's family again and attempt to translate their Italian. From here we'll do a bit of Austria, Saltzburg, Innsbruk, then off to Slovenia where Schmecky has some walking tours through a national forest organised. 

We then go to Croatia, where we will board a sailing tour of the Dalmatia Coast (awesome!) for a week, then fly to Barcelona on 1st October. Here, Schmecky and I will trek around up to San Sabastian (I hear is one of the best beaches in the world!) where we'll meet Braddles. Then Schmecky flies home on 14th October and I continue to A Cornuna where I'm planning on accepting a job at a horseriding place where they need help taking care of horses used for tourism and comptition (no kids! Yay!)

So there is the next and last leg of my journey! Another 4 months of excitement and then I'm back hoe just in time for my birthday and a good ol Aussie summer! 

Globetrotting! Gotta love it - Mum, we'll do it together in a couple of years

The Fridge Has Spoken

I am currently sitting in my room, its pissing down outside, here's the proof:
Lara slowly getting covered while Miss Madame cleans her room

I'm watching the first round of Olympic football, Belgium vs Brasil (go Brasil!), wishing they would screen the Australia vs Serbia game, but not to be. It got me thinking about my slight obsession with collecting football jerseys. I bought one for each country I went to in South America and had quite the collection by the time I left, but decided to give them to my soccer mates as a pressie, which they all seem to be quite impressed with (don't worry guys I washed them before I sent them home and only wore them once!!). I kept an Ecuador one, not because they're particularly good at football, but because it was a nice, modern design in a pretty colour! Then just browsing through Facebook the other day, I came across some photos that a new girl in our team had put up. I got a pang of jealously because there are all these new girls in my team (that's right, MY team!) and they're doing really well this year, they're even playing in the finals. We didn't do very well last year as we were in a grade that I thought was too high for us, but I honestly can't wait to get back into it!! I miss playing, and whenever I watch it on TV I find the urge even stronger! I've promised Schmecky that because she's missing the finals to come and play with me in Amsterdam, we will go to a bar on Wednesday and watch a game of Olympic football and drink the blues away with some Dutch lager! Estevez, we're counting on you to keep the team alive! Go Rockets!!!
Most of our team last year. Some people had a habit of not showing up

The Brasilians cheering when Botafago (the nation's favourite) scores a gooooooooool!

The Ecuador jersey I kept, I think its quite trendy!

Peru - we had a 'Colours of Peru' dress up night!


Brasil - sent this one home too but I shall use it at a later date

Didn't buy a Paraguay one but the boys on our tour did. Nice one

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Time for a walk

Due to the fact that I'm working my little butt off and receiving no payment, I have developed this twisted psychological trait that I can't shake. I have been eating as much and as elaborately as I can out of the family fridge as that, and accommodation, is my only reward for working so hard. I've only just discovered that I feel that food is my currency here and if I eat a lot, it justifies all the things I do for free here. I know its insane, but I honestly can't stop myself, I tried for about a week and felt miserable so decided just not to fight it and wait until a weeks to become healthy again. 

The family buy fatty, chocolatey, greesy food and eat minimal vegetables, so naturally, as a result of my unstoppable gorging, i have put on a fair amount of weight. Now, I can't blame the last month only for this weight gain, I think a little too much fun involving alcohol in South America and a little too much fun involving hot dogs and donuts in North America may also have contributed. But I am feeling disgusting, unhealthy, unfit and am in dire need of some fresh fruit and veggies and daily exercise. This will come to me in the form of a friend named Schmecky. I'm meeting her in just over a week at Heathrow to fly to Amsterdam and continue my travels throughout Europe and apparently she's already bought a pair of trainers and is planning some long walking tours through each city we're visiting, including an 18km walk in some forest in Slovenia, as well as a tour through some underground caves. The plan is too lose the weight I've gained in the last 6 months in less than 2 and come home looking tanned, slim and healthy! Good luck Schmeck, you're the only one who can make me do it!


After - damn the temptation of beer!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Kind sir

I've just finished watching Atonement. I read the book earlier in the year and struggled to finish it because of its complete lack of plot, inability to intrigue and missing climax. However I found the movie absolutely intriguing and was in tears the whole way through. Its interesting how a movie managed to evoke emotions the book failed to (usually its the other way around), it could be the music, the imagery, but I've decided that it is due to one actor whom I've completely underrated until now. This is James McAvoy. He's been in a few films, mostly English dramas (Last King of Scotland, Becoming Jane), and I've never really noticed him until recently. He is one of the most amazing actors I've ever seen. He manages to transform stories that I would otherwise be completely disinterested in, into intense dramas. 

In Becoming Jane - a Jane Austin account, he co-stars with Anne Hathaway. I would normally have dismissed this film (Jane Austin - booorrrriiiinng), but I was transfixed. He's not a particularly attractive fellow, but he has this certain aura that I find so unbelievably appealing. Without sounding too cliche, he has the most amazing blue eyes that a girl just melts in! He's the type of person I think I could marry - not arrogant or traditionally beautiful, but he has a kind face and an intensity that makes me faint! 

Keira Knightley, the soppy little pouter that she is, didn't do any favours for Atonement, but James (yes we're on a first name basis) made it such an emotional story and I thought it is one of the best films I've seen this year. 

Why won't a man like this ask kindly for my hand whilst strolling through the gardens on a summers day? 

What's more is he has a tops Scottish accent and is funny too! Does it get any better?: