A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Part One

I left Dubai on Sunday to Monday night after 2 hours of sleep. I lined up after a long queque of what I assumed to be Sri Lankans pushing forth trolleys with gigantic TVs, enormous cardboard boxes with mysterious goods and some elephant sized suitcases.
Once I had checked in and passed security I walked over to my gate (after - of course - having bought a stash of candy for my nightly journey). My gate was at the very end of the terminal and the entire way there was decorated with rows existing of 5 chairs and then, straight away, a new row. All rows, every chair, was taken. There was nowhere for me to sit in the entire terminal building and it was 2am and I was supposed to be asleep... All I wanted was to be seated but no space for poor old me. So I walked up and down, up and down, up and down the path till someone - possibly travelling alone because otherwise you’d leave your stuff on your seat - got up for the loo. Without sympathy I sat.
I had to board my plane at 4.50 in the morning and I thought I would go to the gate at 5. In Europe boarding at 4.40 means actually 4.50 and then there will be a massive queue so really don’t bother showing up at the gate 20 minutes late. Around 4.35 I heard my name being called out by someone near me, and then: "Colombo?".
Uhm yes me! I jumped up and walked over asking them why they were walking around the terminal screaming around mu name like some weird form of tourets, surely Dubai Airport would have speakers?
"Madam, did you fall asleep? The plane is ready. You have to hurry."
Too embarrassed to admit I was being daft I fabricated an excuse which involved me falling asleep.
I got on the plane last and was seated somewhere in the middle of the plane so everybody could witness my walk of shame.

I arrived in Colombo and as soon as I stepped out of the plane a warm, moist and humid blanket covered me. Palm trees wavered in the pre-monsoon breeze and the sun was covered behind a little streak of clouds: I was in the tropics.
After a long exhausting taxi ride into town (about 30km takes near to an hour on the Sri Lankan roads and my driver got lost a dozen times trying to find my hostel.
Never in my life had I been happier being in airco-ed surroundings.
I spoke to my dorm-mate for a bit and then, after a quick refreshing and awaking shower set out to Fort Colombo to buy a train ticket to Kandy in a few days and explore the town. I walked to the station, a good hour and after having bought my ticket drenched in sweat got a three wheeler back to the hostel where I pretty much passed out. When I awoke in the chilly room it was 8 and I had to force myself to get up and eat. I had a headache but I knew austerity would not improve the situation. And so I set out solo to the Cricket Club a restaurant nearby. After wandering some dark alleys behind the hostel I found the place at last. A security guard opened the door for me and a waiter seated me: in the middle of the establishment. For everybody to gaze at the lonely girl from all angles. Armed with a book I ate half a chicken burger and got taken aback by their playlist. Nothing like The Backstreet Boys to make you feel at home in a new country.
When I returned to my dorm a couple had arrived, we chatted and they invited me along for dinner. In need for some ’no curry’ I recommended The Cricket Club and joined them for a drink.
The couple, him American her Australian, were living in Japan and she had to fly to India for one day only the next day to partake in some sort of exam, leaving him behind in Colombo. So Justin, as he was called, and I agreed to go sightseeing the next day.

When I finally decided to open my eyes Justin had already been out for breakfast.
We walked to the national museum - not that interesting, lack of proper information made it more confusing than educating, a buddhist temple on lake, and then went in search of another grande buddhist temple.
Looking puzzled a local approached us wanting to practice his English. This is when alarm bells should have gone off in our silly western skulls but didn’t. He would guide us to the temple he ensured and so he walked with us for a while - we were under the impression the temple would be a mere 500 meters away and we’d long passed that and he insisted we take a tuktuk. So we did and he took us not the famous tourist temple we wanted to see (no idea if it had a name?) but to his temple. Admittedly the temple was beautiful. But he made us pay the ’guide’ too much and then insisted on taking us home in the tuktuk making us overpay for the tuktuk about 100 the amount we’d normally pay. We tried to argue it but in the end, I gave in. Have my 12 euros. The dumb thing was that the ’good samaritan’ gave us his address because his daughter collects stamps so he asked us to send him some from our home countries. Of course we could have gone to the tourist police but really who has the patience for that?
So instead we went for lunch. Then we walked to Galle fort and the Dutch Hospital which no longer is a hospital but a sort of shopping centre with a bar which is what were in need for.
After our drink we went back to the hostel to meet Nadine, a Swiss girl, for some old fashioned McD (I can report back to y’all even good ol’ MaccieD is spicy as f*#^ in Sri Lanka).

The next morning Nadine and I took a train to Kandy but realised half way there we actually got on a wrong train. Not terribly wrong so no big worries there. The plus side of the train was meant to be the scenic route, unfortunately the train so quote wobbly which resulted in us sitting with our eyes closed, breathing like pregnant woman in an attempt not to be sick.
Once we got to our guesthouse Nadine and I walked downhill to the lake and around it. We pasted the sacred tooth temple, had some food and walked back to our hotel. What we’d seen in that walk around the lake consisted of: monkeys, cows, a pelican, fish (both dead and alive) and a turtle (chillin’ out on a floating dead fish). After a mini nap and some reading time we went into town again to visit the temple of the sacred tooth, legend has it the temple holds buddhas tooth. Though only the box where the tooth is allegedly in is on display. But visiting the temple is supposed to hook you up with some good karma so I figured I’d be safe from rape and all that India for visiting the temple.
Unfortunately there is no explanation of anything anywhere and with people praying everywhere you feel a bit awkward at time, fearing you might unknowingly disturb their religious rituals.
After the temple we walked around looking for a place to eat but the choices were limited and monsoon season started right there and then. We hoped into the first bar we saw and had a cold Coke (monsoon is still hot and sweaty), some chicken wings and french fries. Needless to say we tuktuk-ed it back to the hotel after.
The next morning I got up early and waited for Hugh and Melody, an English couple we met on the train a day earlier. They had organised a driver to take them to Dambulla and Sigiriya. First though we stopped at a herb garden where we were told all the medical qualities of each herb and then received a head massage with one of the herbs again fatigue, and then we stopped at an elephant orphanage which was a bit sad.
Then we drove to the two main sights. Both were beautiful and extremely hot. Dambulla has a temple in a cave with incredible wall paintings inside of Buddha as well as many statues. I wont go spoiling it by attempting to describe it - all I ll say is go there quick because they allow flash photography so in a few years the wall paintings might have faded.
Sigiriya was up next. At this point we were exhausted from the heat, had just slept in the car and the sky turned a mighty grey colour as if it could turn on us any minute.
The lion rock of Sigiriya is nearly 200 meters high, this doesn't should so impressive but it is when you imagine a stone, a rock that you see on the street and kick out of the way magnified 2000x. Some ancient paranoid king had once build his kingdom atop of the rock, decorated it with frescoes and made a gateway to the top shaped like a lion. After the king was defeated (in 495) by his own brother I believe, the rock was abandoned and turned into a Buddhist monastery.
Had I mentioned Sri Lanka is a dominantly Buddhist country? Decorating the country's scenery are the orange robbed monks - which is interesting after visiting India which is dominantly Hindu but is where Buddha originated from (technically though I think Prince Siddhartha's home town is in modern day Nepal) though some Hindus believe Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu.
The view from atop the rock was spectacular. Surrounded by jungle I felt like Mowgli, and lucky as we were, got to watch the lightening and rain hit every bit of land around the rock but us.

The next day Nadine and I took a train to Nuwara Eliya. This was quite the adventure again, unexpected changes to be made, delays, all the trouble you expect to get, we got. But we made it at last, to an old and filthy looking guesthouse (nothing around seemed any better). Up here the climate was a lot more pleasant, having gone up to nearly 1800 meters altitude. Nadine and I went for a meal and she lite up when she heard her sort of German being spoken on a table near us (the only other occupied table in the restaurant). We decided we needed a few more people for our walk to World's End the next day and so I marched over and asked the Swiss-German speaking girl and her boyfriend if they wanted to join us. They said they probably would and we exchanged details. BOOM, arranged. The more, the merrier and the price had just halved for each of us.

The next morning we got picked up at 5.30. I was not happy. We drove for an hour to the wild life park, bought our ticket and went in. It was only a 9km walk but it was stunning (apart from the groups of old and loud Russians polluting the surroundings). The famed ’world’s end’ was spectacular but possibly even better was the secluded waterfall. The four of us sat there, enjoying the surroundings. The SriLankan boyfriend played some Bob Dylan on his harmonica, I meditated, it was wonderful.

After the walk we split up from the couple (who’s names I have forgotten by now). Nadine and I both had a shower and some much need energy in the form of food and went up to the tea plantations. The town is cooler but not particularly charming, however visiting the plantations you get it. It is absolutely gorgeous, green and cool air. Sounds simple now but believe me it’s a winning combination. We got a tour of the factory and learned all about tea. After we were done we went back to our crappy hotel and after we chatted to the owner about religion he was nice to us for the first time since arriving.

The next morning Nadine and I walked, yes WALKED - not tuktuked - to the bus station about 2km from our guesthouse with our backpacks on(!!) to catch the 7 o'clock bus. Nadine was going to Ella and I would continue to Mirissa, a beach town.

More about my beach adventures - and adventures they were - in my next post. I will try to write a bit more frequent but honestly I am kind of too busy having fun. What a douchy thing to say even if it is true. Sorry!

Love to all xxxx

Posted by LaPoderosa 23.07.2013 10:46 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged clock colombo inn kandy dambulla sigiriya nuwara eliya Comments (2)

FlyDubai

LuxXxury

The inflight safety video of FlyDubai airlines was amazing and a preparation of what was to come. All airports officials, customs officers and safety guards are wearing immaculate white dresses and - known to me as - the Arafat scarf around their heads. It’s a humble yet aristocratic look. So mysterious and exotic you have to stare... When my friend and hostess later told me the Sheik is known for his love of poetry this really fed my imagination and assured me the 1001 Arabian nights image of these intriguing men was right. Most likely not exactly what they aim for, to be objectified by a Western girl...
After a very long taxi journey with my taxi driver asking me repeatedly WHY I had a nose ring, I finally arrived at Tabi’s and Richard’s not so humble abode. Located on the 28th floor their pad is what you expect it to be. Tabi had left a trail of post-its, in case I’d get lost, so finding my bed for the short night left was easy.

The night wasn’t that short after all, I slept to 5 the next day until I realised I needed to get up soon to meet Tabitha for a leaving party. A brief visit to the closest mall showed me the ’real’ Dubai.
She picked me up and we went to a bar for leaving drinks of a friend/colleague of Tabs and had delicious cocktails and tapas. After that we met lawyerboy and his mates in another bar and Tabi and I shared some French fries as if we hadn’t had enough food yet.
This was pretty much how we spent our next few days. Going from hotel to bar to restaurant to bar to nightclub to hotel. Eating and drinking excessively. One of the main events was brunch on Friday - the Saturday of the Middle East. We went with both Tabi and Richard, Rich’s brother Tim and his girlfriend Veronica. Tabitha was reviewing the brunch but since Tim and Veronica arrived before we did the hotel assumed Veronica was Tabs and she got a special tour of the place and the actual reviewer didn’t.
As soon as we got in we got a passion fruit mojito and at the table full champagne glass were awaiting us. So this is the concept of brunch in Dubai, expats eating but mainly drinking unlimitedly for a set price in expensive hotels around the city. There was a buffet with starters, as a main we got steak and then a buffet with cheeses and the most elaborate desert buffet I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like a dream coming true, sweetness all around. The drink menu was impressive too, it managed to take me back to South America by serving me a delicious Pisco Sour.

Another highlight was a heavenly steak restaurant (my goodbye to veal before entering Holy Cow territory) and drinks at the Burj Khalifa (lychee martinis).

I had no idea - actually I did, I just didn’t allow myself to actively think about it - what a shock it was going to be to go from this luxury to Sri Lanka. Dubai has the potential to be an utopia, everything you see is manmade and most of it got build over the last decade or so. For Dubai you’d use the same description as you would when talking about Barbie: enhanced, tight, out of proportion, manmade, kitsch, yet intriguing in an unnatural way.
The mixture of people there is also an odd and unnatural one: apparently only 13% is UA Emiratey (?). The rest is all western expat and the rest are all foreign works from mainly India or the Philippines. And then there are the Russians... All western expats try to dress slightly modest and appropriate for the culture they are in (doesn’t mean they’ll behave appropriately though, just attend on the fancy-smanzy brunches) but not the Russians. They wear minuscule shorts and dresses and love the kitsch-ness of the place.
Everything in Dubai is excessive, very little things come with moderation from food and luxury to the speed of cars on highways. It’s like you asked a little boy what the world should look like: aquarium in a mall, giant candy store, the tallest building in the wholeeeeeee wide world AND a ski slope in the desert - and then gave this five year old all the money in the world to create exactly this. Dubai is a boy’s dream...

Ps. Thanks everybody for the lovely comments and messages! Love & peace to all.

Posted by LaPoderosa 04.06.2013 10:45 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged dubai burj khalifa Comments (2)

Jordan

And its kolh eyed men...

So after a ’full’ night of sleep Debra and I were off to Eilat. The bus journey was a continuance of our night, the giggles followed by an occasional nap. When we got to Eilat we realised we missed the stop at the border - sleepy time - and had to take an overcharging taxi there.

At the border we did everything in the wrong order. First immigration desk to then find we needed to pay a fee to get out of the country and return to the immigration desk. It was quite a happening. Then we officially arrived in no man’s land. We walked over to the Jordanian border where things went a lot smoother for us - apart from a queue we needed to wait for. After the border official had stared extensively at my boobs we were allowed into the country. Behind us was an elderly Brazilian couple who were also on their way to Petra and so we decided to share a taxi to town, two hours away. The driver spoke hardly any English but was lovely. 10 minutes into our journey he stopped at a gas station and came back with ice cream for everybody. Another half hour later or so he pulled over at the side of the road, put down a carpet, made us sit down and bought a watermelon. None of us really felt like having watermelon but we were good sports (after a hard breeze mine was covered in red desert sand conveniently prohibiting me from eating). Not much later he pulled over again...’we are full we assured him’. But he bought us a pack of crisps each and a big water bottle. When he stopped a fourth time we were all terrified he would buy us more food our bodies could bear but he simply wanted to show us a nice viewing point of the desert.

When we got to Petra the driver took us to the hotel of the Brazilian couple, Debra and I had arranged nothing beforehand. The porters of this place immediately took our bags and we had to chase them to explain we weren’t going to stay there. They kindly offered us a welcomes drink nonetheless.

We said our goodbyes to the Brazilians, strapped on our bag packs and walked out of the wonderful hotel onto the streets in search fir a budget place to stay. We found two: both full of carpets and stuffed dead animals. Now, Debra has a phobia of dead animals and I for carpets in hotels or hostels: I find them unhygienic (how un-bag packery of me). And we made our move, back to the nice expensive hotel with a plan.
I waited around the corner with the bags whilst Debra would go inside to negotiate the price - to ensure we wouldn’t come across desperate. It worked, she drove a hard bargain and managed to get the price down! We got the last room and ohboy was it worth it! We got towels, a tv, and better, there was a swimming pool and jacuzzi in the hotel!
After we had done our shopping in the local shops and got some cash out we went for a dip in the jacuzzi and then opted for the buffet. We had an early night to prepare for our early morning and make up for our lack of sleep the previous night.

The next morning we rose at the crack of dawn, put our bags in storage and had a filling breakfast to energize us for the day to come. We took a minivan to Petra, our purchased our entry ticket and start our walk amongst busloads of elderly German tourists. The sights were impressive, grande and plain beautiful. We hiked up to the ’highest place of sacrifices’ and stopped on the way for some tea with a Bedouin mother and her adorable kids. Then we made our way down to the bottom of ’the monastery’ for which we had to climb a notorious 800 steps. Before getting to the steps we ran into the Brazilians and walked with them whilst the local Bedouins tried to sell us a donkey ride up. On the way up we met many people, a guy from Kentucky who got left behind by his friends for being too slow and also had no clue about the Netherlands being one of the two countries cornered by France, Germany and England; a Lebanese guy living in the US who declared his love for past presidents Bush and Reagan... and then, I was there. At the magical monastery. It was spectacular and a rewarding treat after a climb that wasn’t as difficult as all the donkey men had lead us to believe (though they had good sales pitches "Ferarri, Lamborgini, Porsche", they’d call out, pointing at their donkeys).
Once we made all our pictures a guy came up to me and asked me to take his picture. It was our new Portuguese friend Marco. After I had we all walked up to the viewing point opposite the sight where we met his new friend Andy - American. We all enjoyed the view and sat down for tea with a local Bedouin, who invited Debra to come stay in his cave - he lives in a cave in little Petra. I veto-ed the idea but we listened to him explaining how to make the kohl all the men wear under their eyes - and makes them even more beautiful and intense looking.
After tea we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the wondrous ancient ruins with our newly acquired company.

Initially our plan was to sleep in the desert that evening, in Wadi Rum but the Bedouins told us it was too windy this time of year to enjoy that and so we simply stayed at the hostel Andy and Marco were at. A cheap and decent place Debra and I had missed before - not sure how since town is so tiny. We got beds, showered and went out for dinner. Along the way we made some new additions to our group in the form of Silvia, a gorgeous German girl, and Kim a Swedish dude who happened to be based in Amsterdam. In this little dinner in Petra we then had the most delicious falafel I’ve ever had.
Back in the hostel we all lounged in the common living watching parts of shitty movies and checking the internet on our phones.
In the hostel the owners - a British lady and her Bedouin beau - confirmed a rumour the locals in ancient Petra had told us: a tourist had been missing for the last four days. The tourist was a Peruvian gent who stayed at the same place we were staying that evening (not sure if he has been found since).
After a relaxed evening - everybody had cramps from walking all day - we went to our moist smelling dorm and slept like babies.

The next day we rose yet again early. This time to take a bus, with Marco, to Wadi Rum. When we got there we went to the place where Marco was going to do his jeep tour from which was a house on the outskirts of the ’town’, in which everybody still seemed to be asleep. After we woke them they told us to sit in the garden, drink tea and wait. We obliged and not soon after our guide for the day arrived. We drove from an old ruin to a sand dune, from a naturally formed rock bridge to a natural spring and got out at each ’sight’ to climb the ’sight’. At the end of day we were all covered in red sand and had aching muscles.
Then Debra and I took a taxi to the border - different driver, again ice cream stop - passed the border after my passport had been taken and my bag searched, got into another taxi from the israeli border to the bus station, waited an hour for our bus, and eventually got on it.
We got back to Tel Aviv late around 10 and Yoni - good ol’ Yoni, came to Deb’s where we decided to do whiskey shots on our empty stomaches = two drunk girls. We took the show to a bar and got more drinks and finally some food.
After the bar we had it in our heads we wanted sushi - the snacks had not been enough to sooth our appetite. We walked to Rothschild Ave but found the sushi shop was not open as late as we expected? hoped? believed it to be?
So we went home and warmed up edamame beans and talked for a while longer before eventually passing out.

The next morning Debra and I went for breakfast - at noon - at cafe Sonya. It has the most lovely garden, though it started to rain as we sat down, and simply delicious food. Amit joined us for a coffee after which I had to go pack my bag and leave Tel Aviv again.

This time I took a bus to Nazareth. The bus followed the coast up to haifa and then went land inwards to Jesus’ hometown. Once we got near the city I told the bus driver I needed a taxi (no bus station just random stops). He told me he didn’t want to let me off just anywhere as there are some dodgy areas and so as he was driving, he was looking out for taxis and so were all the passengers on the first few rows.
When we passed a taxi stand the driver hit the breaks and let me off. At the stand was exactly one taxi owned by an ancient driver with ’no english’ and a guy guarding the booth.
I showed them the name of the hotel but they didn’t know it. As the address all I had was ’Old City’. So they called the hotel and got instructions from the owner ad agreed he would pick me up somewhere since there are no street allow (nor able to fit) in the Old City. We drove to the agreed meeting point and there was the owner, with walking cane accompanied by a blind and mank dog. On the walk to the hotel the owner proudly showed me a gulden coin around his neck and declared his love for the motherland, a place he’d spent 6 months in his young years.
At the hotel, which was more of a very messy guesthouse type of situation, the owner told me all rooms were booked but I had a bed in a room with his wife. So there his wife was, an enormous woman with friendly eyes seated in front of the tv, cracking nuts.
I spent the evening talking in the ’garden’ to some French people on a ’Jesus tour’ and some Germans who were travelling around and doing volunteer work.
After a peaceful night of sleep, she snored like a bear - assuming they’d snore, I got up and ready to leave again. The hostel owner wrapped some breakfast for me in paper napkins, a French lady was in awe I was travelling alone and repeatedly asked me if I weren’t scared (should I be?) and off I were.
On the bus to Amman I met two Israeli girls on their way to China with whom I shared a taxi to the airport and then spent an afternoon around the airport with them. We arrived at 14 and my flight wasn’t until 22. After a horrific day of waiting around my flight was an extra two hours delayed.
When I was finally seated I fell asleep straight away... Dubai awaiting!

Posted by LaPoderosa 13.05.2013 10:14 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan petra amman wadi rum eilat nazareth musa Comments (6)

Israel or Isreal?

Entirely written on an iPhone. Prepare for some odd autocorrect

So after flying from Madrid to Athens partially drunk the hangover kicked in. With a five hour layover in a nearly bankrupt country to go I did what anybody in my state would do: get fast food from McDonalds.
Time seemed to pass by not too slow and soon after it was time to board the next flight.
The plane was nearly empty apart from some kids who seemed to have been on tennis camp in Greece and could not be tamed by their guide.
Once landed and on holy land territory came the scary part: immigration.
I heard stories of tough officers and was nervous as soon as I got out of the plane. There were massive queues, especially for the tourists, most of which seemed Russians. Several times did I get asked questions in a foreign, Eastern European sounding language. Unfortunately I had to admit to all these grandmothers I didn't speak Russian (one asked me - I think - to read a line in her passport because after I said "No Russian", she got her reading glasses out and took a look herself...). When all the locals got served I was able to jump the queue to a ’local’ line with a tough lady sitting behind the desk. ’why are you here?’,’how long for?’,’who are you staying with?’. All asked without any display of emotion until I stated I was staying with a friend who’s name was Micha. ’and you are Michou? Micha and Michou? Whahahahahaha’, after she pulled herself together she gave me back my passport and told me to give Micha her best.
I got a taxi to Ramat Aviv, the suburbs where Micha was waiting up for me. We had a little chat and went to bed.

The next day Micha was working and I got up late. Then I went into town and met up with some friends. Now this sounds like a very normal day but you have to understand: it was an adventure! First, I had to find the bus stop, which proved very difficult in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. Then I needed to find out what bus to take (of course Micha had given me instructions to all of this but do I ever listen? No...) which was hard since the script is unreadable to me. And of course, I don’t speak the language. Finally figuring out coins and notes of this currency called shekels.
Then I needed to keep harassing the driver to tell me what stop to get off: he ended up inviting me to go to the beach with him - urhm no thank you.
Finally I got to the right stop, all I needed to was walk up the road... and then I saw the following: a homeless man using his prosthesis as a pillow (however when I tell the story I keep referring to the prosthesis as his prostate - making the image even more odd/shocking).
I past the leg/home-less and met my friend Amit at the Carmel Market. He wanted to take me out for hummus but the only obstacle was finding the place. Lots of place, in fact pretty much all places, serve hummus but his one was special apparently. Whilst in search of this hidden hummus place we ran into one of his friends who, as fat would have it, was also looking for this particular place. So the three of us continued the search - me pretend searching of course since none of the signs made any sense to me. Not too long later we found the place... Now, let me first describe Tel Aviv. I expected Tel Aviv to be an old city, little alleyways and buildings and streets made out of large stones. I expected it to be more run down and well, more middle eastern - I clearly suffer from Orientalism and I am sure Mr. Edward Said would shake his head in disapproval. I have a romantised image of the area - in terms of the buildings - nothing romantic about the situation.
Enfin, the building were mostly concrete not as nice and romantic as I expected but still middle eastern looking.
The hummus place was something that in Europe would be closed down as I am sure it violated pretty much every rule and regulation we have in order to protect us from... Things. A little camping gas bottle on the side and grandpa, behind what if it was bigger and shinier we’d call a counter, copping some onions.
Also discover hummus in Israel is an entire dish. You get a full plate covered in hummus. With a pile of pita, it’s absolutely delicious.
Amit and his friend told me the place used the official Syrian receipt and the chickpeas were imported from Damascus - conning the foreigner...
After that I saw the Tel Aviv beach and met with Debra for a walk through the old part of town - incredible: coloured houses, flowers, boutique shops - and some frozen yogurt until it was time for me to take the bus back to the suburbs.
There Micha whipped up some food and Avi - who I also met in South America - came with two friends for some drinks after which we went to a party at Tel Aviv University.
Now this party was nerd central. All the shit songs that have been released in the last decade were played to a surprisingly dancy crowd. Despite the music and audience I had a fantastic night - nerds seem to be immune to irony, cynicism, etc.

The next day I joined Micha at an independence day BBQ of his work and after we went into town and walked around. The sun was out, the weather was lovely and it was a very relaxed day. That evening Avi came to pick us up and the three of us went into town and for drinks where Debra joined us.

That night I stayed at Avi’s parents place so we could get up in time the next day to take fhe bus to Jerusalem. Only Avi’s parents had left for work and locked the house - with us in it. And so we had to call his dad to release us. He soon came to the rescue and drove us to the bus stop. At the bus stop it started to rain, unheard of this time a year. After 10 minutes the bus still hadn’t come and Avi came to realise it probably wasn’t coming for another 40 minutes. So we stood in the rain with an army girl and later another girl joined us in the wait. We had to duck from cars driving by splashing us and all the locals were acting as if the rain was pure magna.
Of course, once the bus finally rocked up it was full and we had to stand the hour long journey. Thankfully Avi had plenty of funny stories from his time in time the army which always involved someone falling asleep at inappropriate times or locations.
When we got to town Avi dropped me at Jaffa Street where I wandered around whilst he went to uni to drop off a paper and a few hours later we met again and walked to the old town. I had already walked the market at the entrance but this time we went local. The Via Dolorosa where we saw people following every last step of Jesus, carrying around a large wooden cross, Orthodox Armenians and Greek priests and into the Muslim Quarter, in search for some hummus or falafel. When we didn’t find any food place we decided to find the Western Wall instead and the Dome of Rock. We ??
Into the caves -where you aren’t allowed without a guide but Avi’s pokerface and bluffing skills got us in and kept us in.

We saw the Dome afar - non-muslims aren’t allowed in - and the wall up close. The wall is believed to still contain a Devine presents but I didn’t experience any sort of enlightenment, spiritual clarity or Devine intervention. And, unlike other holy places, it’s not very pretty so unless you are a believer it’s not the most exciting sight. Of course, the entire history surrounding the Wall as well as the city of Jerusalem is interesting.
After the Wall we left the old city and went for some Kubba - an Iraqi dish and, of course, hummus. After that we visited the market where Avi and I composed a J-town Shake of the screams of the merchants and he introduced me to some delicious pastry I can’t remember the name of.
Then I took a bus back to Tel Aviv and visited Debra at work and stayed the night at hers.

The next morning we went to Jaffa and browsed the Souk and bargained some tops and dresses. We had food overlooking the sea and found a shop run by a French artist in the old city (which looks like I expected Tel Aviv to look). I bought an artwork and postcard from the artist with my rusty French and after we bus-ed it back to Tel Aviv and had frozen yogurt.
Then I went to Ramat Aviv and met Micha for sushi. I was feeling like a real local! After the most heavenly sushi I’d ever had I went to collect my backpack at Micha’s house, said my goodbyes and went back to town and Debra’s work. There I met Andre, a Brazilian guy I’d met in Buenos Aires two years earlier. We had some drinks across the street and Debra and her friend Yoni came to pick me up after Debra closed shop at her work. By this time I was in a very happy state. I said bye to Andre and was going to meet Amit for one more drink but first I was going to out my backpack at Debra’s. When we got to her place I realised I didn’t have my wallet on me and panicky unpacked both of my bags - underwear and other embarrassing items flying across the living room in vain because my wallet was nowhere to be found. Yoni - Debra’s Canadian friend who I’d complimented on his English skills and accent earlier that evening thinking he was Israeli - called the bar I’d been with Andre and they’d found my wallet.
I ran back to the bar and back to Debra’s house and learned that alcohol and running are not the best combination.
When I got back to Debra’s house, this time with wallet, she and yoni walked me to the bar where I was meeting Amit (I was about an hour late but he was with friends so it was fine!) and promised them not to drink anymore.
Amit and his friends were just leaving as I arrived so we chatted for a while and then Amit and I celebrated that I found my wallet back.
We walked from Allenby (Amit saw the leg/home-less too and refers to this street corner like that now...) to Rothschild where we went to a
bar/club place and sat outside. I bought the first celebratory drinks - not a promised coke. And after that the owner of the establishment came over with another round of drinks because, Amit explained: once when he was still working in Val Thorens he did something nice for the guy - he doesn’t remember what - and he’s been getting free drinks ever since.
I didn’t really want another drink but it would be rude to refuse or not finish it right?
I got back to Debra’s at 4, she was still awake and Yoni was shaking from the cold (?) in the living room. So we all got into Debra’s bed and into sardines in a tin position. Which was, at this time at least, extremely funny. Especially to me since I was tired and intoxicated, so we all got the giggles and at 5 Debra even left the bed to consume a pack of crisps. We fell asleep around 5.30/5.45.

The next morning at 6 we got up - you do the math - to take the bus to the station and from there to Eilat. Our journey to Jordan commenced. We were tired, some of us hangover, and ha the giggles. Promising...

Posted by LaPoderosa 04.05.2013 09:10 Archived in Israel Tagged tel jerusalem frozen avi yogurt hummus Comments (2)

NEW trip

Preparation: zero.

Everybody asked me if I was going to report my trip on a travel blog again, like the last time I wandered around a foreigner continent for months on end. But let’s face it: the only one who diligently reads my irregular posts is my grandmother. My parents just check it to see I’m still alive. My friends are stuck writing master thesis', looking for jobs or are suffering life behind a desk and don’t need to read about my envious world tour ( because let’s face it; it is) Plus, this trip has a completely different angle from the last one. The last travel was made for two reasons: I wanted to see and explore South America and I had nothing better to do with my life. This trip is made because I do know what to do with my life, and not out of a long standing fascination for Asia. I have never felt the slightest desire to visit this continent. So this - for me - is a motive on it’s own.

Awhile ago, during the miserable Dutch winter I was sitting at the office with greyness as the view. I scanned Facebook (as everybody who works knows - you automatically do this countless times a day without genuinely paying attention. It’s a force of habit practiced during uninspired moments) and for some odd reason the "people you might know" section popped up a name I was certain I did not know. I clicked on her profile and discovered it was the sister of one of my Spanish friend’s friends. I had met her once on the beach in Cabrera de Mar and remembered she lived in Australia. The thing that jogged my memory - I assume - were her pictures... The ocean and beautiful sandy beaches. So there, emerged in greyness, I had my "what the F am I doing here?" moment. I think I applied for my Australian visa two days later. I figured: I am not attached to anybody or anything. Why waste my youth on a company instead of on fun, experiences, beaches and yes, boys? I met so many great Ozzies in South America, now I am still in touch with them but in a few years this contact will have faded... Plus, if I got the visa right now, without a plan I would be forced to make it happen and not be able to back out because I would never let a visa go to waste. I applied. I got my visa and made a calculation - end of March I would leave.
Of course, when I told my adventurous friend in Cardiff about my plan she simply declared: I am coming with. No questions.
I developed the idea of travelling before going down under and Yasmina and I came up with the plan of her joining me around August.
The first part of my trip I wanted to visit friends I hadn’t seen in a while or met in South America. I made an itinerary, purchased some tickets and that was it for the planning and preparation.

It wasn’t until five weeks before leaving a friend mentioned needing a visa for India.
I applied for one four weeks before leaving.
Two weeks before leaving I had my last work day which ended with leaving drinks and eventually a leaving dance. As a present from my colleagues I got the South East Asia Lonely Planet, to guide me on location.
A week before leaving I went to Paris for the long Easter weekend where I drank and ate with friends (a lot), danced and laughed even more. I went back to Amsterdam - by bus!! - and the next day (Wednesday) emailed the Indian embassy to ask why the issuing of visa was taking so long. They gave me two options, waiting till the next week to get my passport with visa or sending them a visa withdraw form to get my passport back. I opted for the last since first flight was on Friday. Unfortunately my request to cancel my visa application had been delayed. The reason - I need my passport for travelling and the visa issuing took to long - was not considered a valid reason. I tried again: I need my passport for alternative travelling and had changed my mind about going to India. This form was accepted, I went to the Indian embassy in The Hague on Friday and asked for my passport back. There however, I was informed that they were issuing me a visa after all and I could pick it up between 4 and 5 that day. I told them my flight was the same afternoon at 18.45 from Amsterdam but they couldn’t speed up the process.
At 16.30 I got my passport, including visa, my mother drove as fast as the speed limit allowed her and my dad came to the airport with my luggage. I had made it!

Then it was time for the emotional goodbye. *tears*

I arrived in Barcelona at 9.30 with a slight delay and accompanied by a plane full of men going to Barca for a bachelor party. Maria and her dad picked me up from the airport and her father then dropped us at her place. After dumping my bag there we went for food and drinks and continued the conversation fueled by gin in her tiny studio. The next day we walked, a lot. Maria shopped vicariously through me and at night her mum picked us and Maria’s sis Carla up to go to Cabrera de Mar. We walked on the beach, had paella with her family (all seafood was carefully separated from the rest by me) and then went back to the city. The rest of the week we spent in Barcelona, scootering around the city, walking, talking, enjoying the sun and eating. Of course. Very relaxing, very fun.
Then on Thursday night I took the night train to Madrid. 9 hours, stopping at each station and at no point during the night were the lights dimmed. In other words: hell. I arrived in Madrid Friday morning at 7.20 and at 7.40 an old friend met me at the station, by the lockers, to go for breakfast. It was so nice to see a familiar face. And that someone would wake up this early to meet an old friend you last saw 3 years ago in Berlin... I doubt I would have. After breakfast I went into town to the Starbucks next to Alonso Martinez to connect to the internet and read my book. There was a moment I was so tired I nearly fell asleep but I prevented that from happening by leaving and walking around the city instead. Last time I fell asleep in Starbucks in New Orleans I got asked to leave - I didn’t want that to happen this time and struggled the whole day not to fall asleep and look to hobo-ish. I walked to Plaza Colon, Paseo del Prado, Banco Espana, Sol and Gran Via and eventually up to Bilbao and back to Colon and Goya.

Then, it was finally 20.00 and time to pick up my luggage from Chamartin station an head to Guille’s home. I (thought I) knew how to walk from the metro to Guille’s house but once there I didn’t know. I asked people who sent me in all sorts of strange directions till I finally came across an internet cafe. There I tried to log in to my skype but realised I knew neither my login name nor password. I went onto facebook and spoke to one of Guille’s friends and soon found out why I recognised nothing. He wasn’t staying at his mum’s like usual but at his grandfather’s. I eventually managed to recover my login name and password and called Guille but the mic didn’t work and the internet cafe was closing. The owner helped me fix the mic and told me what street I was on and this is how Guille and I finally managed to meet. We had oven pizza and quick showers and then met the Ropers and Manuel and company. After drinks in a cool and crowded bar we went to a place called Berlin Cabaret, where preforming trannies are part of the menu. After have danced to some very bad music we ate hotdogs and choco waffles on the pavement before taking a taxi back home. The next day Guille and I walked through Retiro park to La Latina and had lunch, then we had Frozen Yogurt from the food market and took a nap on the grass in front of the palace. Guille turned into a lobster whilst the tourist - me - remained authentically white. We then met Manuel and his plus one - who am I define their relationship? But I got to say I loved her. No pressure. - for drinks and talk about Manuel becoming a coffee trader. I argued that being s coffee trader in Barcelona and travelling Nicaragua was no job for an Austrian - a boring and unromantic country - but solely because his name is Manuel it works. After we settled on his future we said goodbye and Guille and I walked home for a super short siesta. Then we met the Ropers and attachments in La Latina and went to the Mercado St. Anton where we has the most delicious tapas and wine. Then pixu walked us to a hidden hotel and made us climb 6 flights of stairs (lift was busy) but the view was worth it. We had drinks on the terrace and then some more. At 2 we left and went to the Morocco, a club that only played Spanish 80’s music. If I were in a sober condition I would have hated it but in the state we were all in it was the best place ever. For a night I was fluent in Spanish and all the lyrics made sense to me. Around 5.30 we stumbled out of the club into a taxi and 2 hours later I woke feeling a little less than glorious. The entire metro ride to the airport I had to tell myself 'my mind is stronger then my body' to keep from being sick and - surprisingly - I succeeded.

And now I am in the plane from Madrid to Athens. My last stop on the European continent - only a 5 hour layover - before continuing to Tel Aviv.
xxx

Posted by LaPoderosa 23.04.2013 07:59 Archived in Spain Tagged home barcelona india amsterdam new madrid trip travels Comments (2)

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