Friday, August 10, 2018

Leaving the Azores and crossing 8 countries. Planes, trains and automobiles

Awesome video —> check it out.

Hello to all!  Friends and family!  Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Time has flown by over the past month, I’ve visited 9 cities and 8 countries.  It’s been a non-stop wild ride. 

Saturday July 14th after climbing to the top of the volcano in Horta, I decided to take off and tour Europe.  I told Dan bye and he thanked me for everything and said he was planning on hauling the boat out of the water nearby in Ponta Delgada for a few months.  With no pre arranged plans what so ever I booked a flight from Horta in the Azores to Lisbon Portugal. My main goal was to visit the least expensive countries and as many famous cities as possible. 

 While waiting at the airport I trusted the ratings on and booked a hotel and ended up in a strange place the first night, called Residencial Lord.  If it says residencial it’s not a hotel its a run down apartment where you can hear the person snoring in the room next to you.  Luckily it was 1am when I arrived and I only had to spend a few hours there before moving to central Lisbon at Turim Restauradores where I stayed four nights right across from the Hard Rock cafe with a nice balcony overlooking the famous antique street trolly. Outstanding location and only $40 a night.  The Portuguese food is incredible, the all you can eat churascos (grilled meat and veggies)for €7.5 euros (not $50 like fogo de chao in the states), and the Kebab huts are cheap and open late.  The pizza is always good, but don’t get it at the Kebab place only get a kebab there but try the aioli (garlic mayo). The prices are good in Portugal by European standards.  The beaches are incredible with lots of restaurants where you can sit have a coffee, people watch,  and listen to the waves crash.  Miles and miles of beaches.  I was standing in the famous Comercio square when France beat Croatia in the World cup final.  Talk about a bunch of crazy Frenchmen, the celebration lasted for days!!!  Guys were climbing the lightpoles literally.  Pure insanity.    The next day I rented a 125cc scooter and rode the little thing on the major highway an hour and a half to Quinta de la Regaleira.  weird and interesting place, supposedly part of the knights templar with ties to free masons.  Made it back to Lisbon and Had a wreck on the scooter trying to visit the Torre de Belem.ém_Tower  When I turned left a guy was passing on my left at 50 miles an hour.  Luckily he only hit the front wheel.  Said he didn’t see me.  We filled out the insurance stuff and somehow no damage to the scooter.  Dodged a bullet there, thank God! Needless to say I turned in the scooter called it a day and left Lisbon for Valencia Spain.

     A 16 hour bus ride from Lisbon to Valencia is always fun..Talked with a drunk Nigerian guy who insisted on setting next to me and breathing cheap beer breath in my face for 4 hours while telling me all about how logistically to break the mafia boss out of a high security prison on Grand Theft Auto and then he invited me to stay at he and his girlfriends house in Valencia.  Unfortunately My Airbnb reservation wasn’t going to change... He was a nice kid though.. lol. I arrived at the bus station at 11am.  I contacted Mercé to see if I could come at 12:00.  She said no, and asked me if I read the conditions.  So I waited patiently for five hours at the hot and dirty bus station. I arrived at 4pm and the room was nice and very clean and good for $20 a night.  She quickly described the room (and showed me the fan which was very nice since there is no a/c.) and showed me the bathroom.  So I was gone most of the time only there for shower and sleeping. She did leave me a good review on Airbnb “David had been a good guest, respectful, clean, and silent.  Highly recommended”.  But I think this will be the last time I rent a shared room.  Entire apartment only from now on. Loved riding my rented mountain bike in Valencia for a few days.  It’s nice, flat and spread out and good for riding with lots to see and do. Had my first Paella, and cuddle fish on the beach with a nice waiter who took good care of me at El Trompo on the Mediterranean at Dos Lunas Beach.  Rode 30 kilometers on the bike.  Got a bad sunburn.  Only two nights in Valencia then I was off. 

 The bus landed in Barcelona. Spain is turning out to not be my favorite country because of too many tourists, and the locals don’t like tourists, but I wanted to see it because I speak spanish.  So I Ubered to Jam Hostel met the front desk guy Jesus and we quickly became friends.  He Recommended an electric bike because of the hills in Barcelona and so I rented one and rode to Cathedral Familia which was booked solid for four days so I couldn’t go inside. But outside was Impressive. Rode to the science district and along the beaches.  Literally all over Barcelona. The good thing about an electric bike is people think you’re on a bike and you can ride on the sidewalks.  Unlike a moped or motorcycle you can see so much more with less effort.  I’m hooked.  Couldn’t use the kitchen at Jam Hostel cause all the kids were cooking they did invite me to dinner though.  Also tried Turkish and Indian food for the first time in Barcelona.  Then I Told my buddy Jesus bye and ubered to the airport.   Only two nights at Jam Hostel, enjoyed it there. 

I Decided to fly to Rome Italy for three days.  What the heck, you only live once.  I booked at Allesandro hostel just outside the colliseum.  The coolest thing happened.  As I arrived a guy in my room named Mauricio from Cali Colombia was getting ready to go on a nightwalk to see all the sites and asked of I wanted to go.  Awesome opportunity!  I barely arrived set my bags down and I was already on a tour.  Mauricio is a professor at the University and was training people in Portugal on computer programming.  We had a blast.  I was blown away with all the sites and he knew exactly how to get to each one.  Trastavere, the Trevi fountain, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, the coliseum, the Tiber River, Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, aka Altare della Patria, aka the wedding cake as the local’s like to call it, even saw the Vatican feom a distance.  It was even better to see at night with no crowds a cool breeze good lighting and great conversation with my new bud, I think we calculated 16 kilometers of walking in 4 1/2 hours.  Had Mcdonalds to top it off.  Mauricio left on a plane back to Colombia that morning and I was on my own. So I booked of course a three hour electric bike tour.  Met a nice solo girl from Australia and we buddied up for the ride.  Had a great day and a cheap way to see Rome.  The next day I booked A St. Peters Cathedral, Basilica, Michaelangelos Cistene chapel, and Vatican Museum tour.  Had a great day.  That afternoon I booked a Coliseum and Paletine Hill tour which was a very good way to end my trip to Rome. I packed up and bought a bus ticket to Ancona Italy on the Adriatic sea coast.  I had a plan. 

The bus ride from Rome to Ancona was an experience as a group of muslim teenagers behind me were yelling, singing, chanting and shouting Allah all the way.  I think because they knew I was American.  I just put my headphones and ignored them which made them even louder.  Oh well. Thats bus life.  I booked a ten hour ferry from Ancona Italy to Zadar Croatia and set sail across the Adriatic sea.  Nice ten hour trip!  Then ubered to the bus station for a 4 hour bus ride from Zadar to Split Croatia where I had reserved a room at Wonderful world Hostel.  What a great city -Rome meets the coast - lots and lots of sailors!  I rented a bicycle and rode to the top of the mountain in Marjan Forest Park.  Talk about a work out.  I tried to make it to the top without stopping, but my legs burned out just before the summit.  Beautiful views of the sea from the top.  Toured the city and saw the Roman ruins.  Enjoyed watching the sailboats arrive refuel and depart.  Made me want to set sail again. So my European coast days had come to an end, it was time to head east 
So I booked a bus 8 hours to Sarajevo, in  Bosnia-Herzegovina.  
I booked a four bed room at Hostel Vagabond.  Right on the main walking street with a balcony overlooking.  The front desk clerk said they have tour of war tunnel, and only one spot available for in the morning, so I booked it.  What great trip it turned out to be. Bosnian coffee on the mountain top, walked  through the tunnel of hope, saw the 1987 Olympic bob sled track and had a great lunch and conversation with friends a couple from Switzerland and three college kids from London and our guide. The conversations were heavy and serious mainly because our guide had experienced the war and the Serbians attempt at ethnic cleansing first hand.  100,000 Bosnians died.  10,000 in Sarajevo. We went through the tunnel of hope ( where the ethnic cleansing by Bosnian serbs was taking place and they secretly dug the tunnel under the airport runway to avoid snipers so they could get food.  I remembered watching it on the news.  They say some 200,000 land mines are still active there so don’t walk away from the trail on your hikes.  Mixed communities suddenly found their friends, neighbours and even their children’s school teachers wanting to kill them.  The situation was and still is exceptionally complicated. 
It was interesting to be there and see it all in person.  Sarajevo is interesting and you can feel the tension between the Muslims and Christians which divide the small City with mosques and churches side by side.  Definitely one of the highlights of my trip.  The next day I ubered to the bis station and took a bus to   Belgrade, Serbia. 

I had heard good things so I had to see Belgrade.  I booked a room at Hedonist hostel.  Nice people.  My room mate was from Holland and gave me lots of good ideas on what to see, but to be honest the underlying reason I came was because the flight to Bucharest from Belgrade was only 95€uros versus €200 from Sarajevo.   So I liked what I saw but had to leave early - nicest people.  When I got to the airport I was informed that I had missed my flight it had left at midnight the night before and was not leaving at noon.  Lol.  At least they refunded my fees and taxes.  So I bought another ticket for 7pm that evening for €140, so much for saving €100z. 7 hours later we boarded the prop plane.  Engine problems.  We got on a bus and were taken back to the lobby.  Three hours later we were back on the same plane.  I made feiends with a Romanian royal carribean cruise ship diesel mechanic who was seated next to me.  So we finally had lift off for Bucharest Romania!! Woohoo.  An uneventful 1:20 minute flight. 
     In Bucharest Romania had a good time where I was kinda stuck til Sunday waiting for the direct train with a sleeper room and bed to go 27 hours to Kiev Ukraine.  I got bored so I Found a gathering on and went to a hostel for boardgames and met Kathi from Austria, Christina and Anestasia from Ukraine, George from Italy, Lucas from Sydney, and Angelica from Romania.  Had a Great time.  Also did the free city walking tour visiting Parliament and the castle.  Had great meals at  La Placinte. And enjoyed conversations with the local coffee shop owner and the girls at the Liad Hotel who were extremely helpful on my excursions and even ordered me a pizza at 10:30 pm.  English language is going away the further east I go.  So on Sunday morning I ubered to the train station and boarded the train for Kiev Ukraine.

Half way there the passenger car I was in had a problem.  So they pulled us to a repair yard and while I was still in the car they lifted it off the track pulled out a set of four wheels, put in a new set, and lowered us back on to the tracks.  Took two hours.  Very entertaining. I shared a cabin with an engineer from Kiev named Sergei and even though he didn’t speak much english we had lots of communication.  A picture tells a thousand words.  We exchanged numbers and he put me in contact with a part time tour guide friend of his in Kiev.  So After a 28 hour train from Bucharest to Kiev.  I bought a sim card for unlimited everything for $4.00.  Booked airbnb entire apartment for $25 a night near city center with Marina.  She met me at the door showed me the amazing apartment and gave me the keys.  I then called and met Lena at 6pm for a city tour. There is zero english spoken here. Thank God for Lena.  Nicest person ever.  She went to school to be a Kiev tour guide but works in a highrise at a bank and only guides part time.  Had a great afternoon and she refused to take my money??  Today is July 8th.  Have another tour scheduled today at 6pm with Lena.  Having a blast here.  The food is too cheap and really high quality.  A salmon dinner at a restaurant is $3.50.  Uber anywhere in the city is $2.00.  Bought a 1 pound filet mignon and 1 pound bone in ribeye for $3.00.  My apartment has an amazing kitchen, high-speed internet, a grocery store down stairs, a 5 minute walk to Guliver center, and the fountains.  Weather is 70 degrees.  I have friends here.  I’m never’s been a wild ride, but I have a long way to go. 

After a few days in Horta, the Azores.

Climbed to the Caldeira crater entrance

Then along the narrow path to the peak

The Caldeira crater below.  Click for a better view

Out of breath climbing the Caldeira in Horta

Notice the volcano crater below.  This is called the Caldeira.

Decisions decisions, where do I go from here...

I think I’ll go to Lisboa to start...

 No more sunsets like these

Saying good bye to the Atlantic!

Hello to Lisbon.  1€uro gets you up and down the hill 

Antique trolley near my hotel to get you up the steep hill.  

O actually rode it up and its worth the €uro
Lisbon tower.  Nice view from the top I hear.  Line was too long though.

Notice the guy climbing the light pole after France beat Croatia in the world cup!

They kept announcing on the PA for him to climb down. 
Praça do Comércio, the Square of Commerce

Christ the King statue created in 1959

Praça do Comércio, the Square of Commerce

The Praça do Comércio
On 1 February 1908, the square was the scene of the assassination of Carlos I, the penultimate King of Portugal. On their way back from the palace of Vila Viçosa to the royal palace in Lisbon, the carriage containing Carlos I and his family passed through the Terreiro do Paço. While crossing the square, shots were fired from the crowd by at least two men: Alfredo Luís da Costa and Manuel Buiça. The king died immediately, his heir Luís Filipe was mortally wounded, and Prince Manuel was hit in the arm. The assassins were shot on the spot by members of the bodyguard and later recognized as members of the Republican Party – which two years later overthrew the Portuguese monarchy.
Lisbon at the Plaza.  Nice relaxing place

Beaches were packed.

Quinta de la Regaleira tour in 

enigmatic buildings that allegedly held symbols related to alchemyMasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians

Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

This place was spooky

It belonged to the Viscountess of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants from Porto, when it was sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro for 25,000 réis. Monteiro was eager to build a bewildering place where he could collect symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies.

All kinds of hidden passages, caves, and tunnels.  Hidden stairways.

I was impressed by the wood work

Quinta de la Regaleira

Mu damage = zero

He took my paint though.

This is the scooter I was on when he hit me.

Castle of st. George in lisbon.  I stole these 5 pics from google to show you because my phone died and I have no pictures.

St. George Castle Lisbon city.  

View of Lisbon from the top of the hill.

Waiting at the bus station to leave for Lisbon for Valencia

Valencia - Silk trade era castle

Nice door.

 Valencia - Old city

Bull fighting is popular in Valencia Spain

Out of breath after a 30 kilometer bike ride.  My chain kept coming off every five minutes until I finally called and asked for a replacement.  Took them an hour

El Trompo Dos Lunas Beach Valencia Spain

Fried cuttle fish.  Not bad

Paella on the beach at El Trompo

A guy balancing on a slack line

Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona

I teied to get tickets but they were sold out for four days

Sagrada Famila.  Began construction in 1852 and they are still working on it.  

The size and gothic style are pretty impressive

On my electric bike.

Trying Indian food in Spain

Jam Hostel in Spain

My room is to the left

Ready to take on the Romans!

When in Rome...

The colisseum at night was a good start to my visit!

The colisseum

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, aka Altare della Patria, aka the wedding cake as the local’s like to call it

Not sure where I was.  Lol

Trevi fountain at night

Under the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity or Bethlehem Crypt, with a crystal reliquary designed by Giuseppe Valadier said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore 

Inside the churh Under the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity or Bethlehem Crypt, with a crystal reliquary designed by Giuseppe Valadier said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ.

Electric bicycle tour of rome

Jewish quarter

Free ice-cream on the tour

They are all trying to sell tours

I gave this beggar money and then I asked if I could have a photo he smiled and said yes.

Swiss guard regular duty uniform

Customs at the Vatican

Vatican courtyard

Most famous staue.  The statue of Laocoön and His Sons, also called the Laocoön Group (ItalianGruppo del Laocoonte), has been one of the most famous ancient sculptures ever since it was excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican,[2] where it remains. It is very likely the same statue praised in the highest terms by the main Roman writer on art, Pliny the Elder.[3] The figures are near life-size and the group is a little over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height, showing the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by sea serpents.

Belvedere Torso.  Michaelangelos favorite statue.  It was once believed to be a 1st-century BC original, but is now believed to be a copy from the 1st century BC or AD of an older statue, which probably dated to the early 2nd century BC.

Statue of a pope at the gift Vatican gift shop.

Gift shop art for sale

Vatican Mueum

Pontifical Swiss guard

Recruits to the guards must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces and can obtain certificates of good conduct. Recruits must have a professional degree or high school diploma and must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 174 cm (5 ft 8.5 in) tall

Someone trying to enter the Vatican city will be stopped by these guards.

Their eyes move and thats about all.  I couldnt stand still that long.

Vatican museum Roman marble statues. 

Tapestries.  One of my favorite exhibits.

I liked how the guide explained when visitors came to see the pope the guard would tap his staff as he walked down this empty hall of paintings and maps of all that they had conquered.  That would be intimidating.  And on the other side you have three more rooms to pass through with hundreds of high level dignitaries watching you pass.

St. Peters Cathedral


Michaelangelos Cistene chapel painted in 1508.  He had a rivalry going with jealous Raphael.  Raphael convinced the pope  to make michaelangelo paint the chapel in a plaster form in hopes he would mess it up because he was more of a sculptor than a painter.  So michaelangelo hid the ceiling from the pope with sheets and scaffolds.  Until he was done and everyone was stunned by his work.

Carbonara lunch between tours

Bruchetta Lunch between tours.  The food was cheap but he tried to charge 6€ for a coke.  I refused to pay it so he lowered it to 5€uros.  
Many customers were complaining.
Vatican city plaza


Wow.  Never thought I would see it in person.  Pretty impressive.  Would have held 50,000 spectators.  Modern stadiums are still built this way. 

“Paletine Hill” I believe is what they call this.  You can see the Coliseum at the top.

My ferry from Italy to Croatia.  It departs from Ancona which is 8 hours from Rome.

Having dinner as the ferry arrives.  It departed at 10:30 pm.  I was late boarding and the people on the top deck started cheering for me to run.  I guess I was holding up the boat.  I took a bow, and apologized.  Lol

Bye bye Italy

My “ferry” from Ancona to Zadar was more like a cruise

Croatian word list.  Which is spoken in Bosnia and Serbia so it was very useful.

Given to me by the hostel “wonderful world”

The boardwalk in Split on the Adriatic sea.  Beautiful.

The Roman archways still exist in the old market area.

You can pay to climb to the top of the bell tower

Ancient Roman scene

These guys dress up and take photos with tourists

This is a Nauticat like the one I crossed the Atlantic on but about 10 feet longer in Split Croatia.

Marina in Split Croatia

This is the largest sailboat I have ever seen in person

View drom my hostel Sarajevo

View from my room Sarajevo

Tunnel of Hope tour Sarajevo

Home that was the site of the tunnel entrance

Back side of the Tunnel entrance 

Our guide explaining the land mines.  He was 16 years old when the war started.

Bosnian tea and turkish delight On our tour

They used the winter olympics map during the war

Typical mortar grenade

Home made guns used during the war

Our guide

Bobsled track Sarajevo 1987 winter olympics

1987 winter olympics bobsled track 

1987 Sarajevo winter olympics bobsled track

This monument was in memory of the food the people were forced to eat.  Often dating back to the 1960’s expiration on the can.  

Appetizer in Sarajevo

Dinner in Sarajevo

Belgrade Serbia historic building




The different energy drink art tells a lot about a country

Bucharest Parliament building

Coffee in old town Bucharest

Bucharest historic building
Lunch at La Plaćinte
Bucharest old city stilt square dance 

Bucharest old city mime taking turns doing skits

Bucharest old city mime taking turns doing skits
Sarurday at the old city bucharest

Bucharest bronze gypsy sculpture

Bucharest train starion mcdonalds
Desert.  So hot on the train it was melting the chocolate.

My lunch on the train

On time
Passenger car hallway

Picking up passengers along the way

Massive stork nest
Repair yard halfway between Bucharest and Kiev

The workers fed this dog a bunch of bones

Workers at the repair yard 
The train is lifted 4 feet off the tracks

Working on the train

Repair yard
Kiev main train station

My sleeper cabin on the train

Working on rolling the new wheels under my car
Lunch at the train station while I wait on my airbnb 
Famous cat mosaic sculptures in Kiev
My homemade pizza cost me $3.00. Food is so cheap

The seasonings are 10cents a piece

27 Hyvrnia per dollar 

My walk to the apartment in Kiev

Lunch (hand made Ukranian dumplings) at gulliver center $4.00

Lena on the walking tour first day in Kiev