Friday, June 17, 2011

The Balling Balkans and Meditating in Budapest

"Yeah, I model on the side."

So we last left off in Italy on our way to Croatia. One overnight 19hr ferry and we were in Split. We hopped on a bus to the walled city of Dubrovnik. The bus ride bordered that strange line of terror and amazement of the drivers ability to keep the bus upright. The periodic fear ridden ride was completely worth it once we got a look at Dubrovnik.

We found our small hostel and began exploring the city. The water was the most amazing color I had ever seen. We stopped at almost every bench overlooking the bay just admiring the beauty of the city. Just when you think this could not get anymore surreal, an old wooden ship would sail past.

One of the main things to do in Dubrovnik is to walk the walls that surround the old city. The city walls were one of the best things we had done up to that point. It took over an hour to walk the whole wall and the entire time you spend stunned by the scenery.
What could make our city even cooler? A fort on the hill.
A professional wall walker.
I could continue to go on about how much we loved Croatia, but for the sake of brevity I will jump to us hoping on a train to Budapest. We started out thinking that the trip to Budapest would be like any of the other travel days we have had. If we only knew what was in store for us...
Enjoy today because tomorrow might suck.
It started with the treacherous bus ride back to Split. Then a train to Zagreb, which promptly broke and we had to be shuttled to a new train. Once we finally arrive in Zagreb we realize that we have missed our train to Budapest and the next one isn't till 5AM the next morning. Guess who gets to spend the night in the Croatian train station? We finally get on the train and proceed to watch the border patrol for Hungary completely tear apart the train. Happy to have the travels behind us we arrive in Budapest.
After walking around Budapest for a good deal and spending time getting to know the people, I must say that it does not get near enough credit. The city was amazing. It was very similar to Paris, except the people were nicer and the American dollar was actually worth something.

I can actually buy things!
We found a little side market and had a great time shopping and just being obnoxious travelers.
Your breath is vile.
Only Russian smile on record.

As we sat on the beams of a bridge we climbed up on, I realized that if I were to come back for a small trip, that I would come back to Eastern Europe.
We enjoyed our days in Budapest, but like anywhere else, it was time to move on to the next city. Time to strap the backpack on and head to Vienna

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Good Ol' Boot

Six Euro never tasted so good.
We arrived in Florence after traveling all night and most of the morning. Despite sleeping on a steel floor the night before we were excited to see the city. We started to walk around the city and almost immediately ran into a parade. We have no idea what the parade was for, but someone told us something about how everyone in it is unemployed. I don't know if this was Florence's way to give them something to do or perhaps shame them into jobs, but I know if I had to wear those tights I would be looking for employment real fast.
Don't quit your day job... Wait
Once the parade finished we continued to walk around and take the city in. Florence is a city that has chosen to stay in the 15th century. That isn't to say that it doesn't have all the modern amenities, but as you walk around you can see how the city appears now just as it would in the renaissance.
Happy times

I loved being able to turn the corner and see or go into the very places that I have read about for years. It really is no wonder that so many of the worlds great artists have came from the unique city. The Duomo seems to be a painting just by itself.
The front of Duomo
In summary the city is pretty awesome. We even found the "hidden bakery" in the city which surprisingly enough is just a bakery. Turns out that if you want to get a slice of pizza really late at night it is the only place open. We had our pizza and made it back right as the hostel was locking up for the night/morning. Having discovered the small and very local bakery we decided that we have conquered this place and it is time to move to Rome. So one short train ride later and we were there.

Rome, home to the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Vatican city, and a really crappy metro. We were forced to walk almost everywhere do to the metro closing or just not working that day for no real reason. Not that walking through a city this gorgeous is bad, but after roaming the city for 7 hours each day you just want a freaking metro train. First up was the Colosseum and the Pantheon.
Unfortunately, Dave started to feel ill during the day we had to walk across town because the metro decided that it didn't need to open up till the evening.
Notice the people in the righthand corner.  This place is huge.

God's flashlight
Even worse, this is the day we decided to go to the Vatican. I am sure seeing me grinning the whole time didn't help him either.
Yellow fever.

I was running around like a kid in a candy store taking pictures. We got to the Sistine chapel where you aren't supposed to take pictures, but I wasn't about to let some "rule" stop me. Using Dave as a shield I snapped a bunch of pictures.
Ninja skills
For the sake of not making this post any longer than it already is I will wrap it up by saying that we enjoyed seeing all the sights, but the masses of other tourists kinda wore us out, it wasn't even the high season either. After Rome we jumped on a boat to Croatia. Thats another post though. Be sure to check out my great lesson on the history of the Colosseum in the video. Real educational.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Canal to the Greek Isles

The worlds largest raw fish smelling maze
So our next stop on our trip was Venice. After close to nine hours of trains we were ready to arrive in the fabled city of water. After roaming the maze they call streets we were so moved that we booked a ferry to Greece for the next day.
This is why people write about Greece
The 26hr mini cruise took us across the astonishing Adriatic Sea to Corfu. We arrived expecting to see a shuttle to take us to our hostel, but was greeted instead by a parking lot full of overzealous taxi cabs. A nice lady allowed me to use her cell phone to contact our hostel. The hostess that answered the phone mumbled something about it being Easter and said we should take a taxi. Upon arriving we realized that the Greeks quite love Easter and the mumble over the phone was a result of the free flowing wine. It was fine though because any frustration we had lingering from the journey instantly melted away as soon as we saw the view from the patio.
I am kinda a big deal...I own many leather bound books

The hostel we stayed at was run by an amazing family that would treat us all to a delicious home cooked meal every night. They insisted that the only way to truly taste the flavors of the meal was to have the wine they made. This lead to a many of late nights of story telling and laughter.

We woke up one morning and realized we had been here for close to a week and decided it was time to move on. We said our good byes and left to head back to Italy and continue our trip. Next up is the home to the Renaissance, Florence!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bears, Moutains and RR&R

So we are still alive for all those concerned. Shady internet plus awesome things to see equals delayed blog posts. Remember, blame the French for the late blog posts. So after flying out of Barcelona we landed in Geneva which was too fancy to have any open hostels so we immediately jumped on a train to Lausanne.
Sometimes pictures don't need captions
We found an amazing lake and spent the rest of the day just admiring it.
Home of the Killer Swans

The next day we hoped on the train to Bern to see some bears. We got off our train and saw a slice of home, McDonalds. We had noticed that Lausanne was very expensive, but surely the home of the dollar menu will help us save some of our precious money. We walked in and scanned the menu for some amazing chicken nuggets and found a price next to it that surely was a typo. 13 dollars for a chicken nugget meal? Crazy talk. Alas, this is the norm in Switzerland. Everyone always talks about how healthy and fit the Swiss are. It is because they can't afford food.

We stayed in the capital Bern for a few days and saw the bears. The bears had a sweet little forest that was riverside. I wonder how much that little pad cost them.

Besides the bears Bern is known for being the home of Einstein. We went to his house and read his whole life story. It was relatively interesting, see what I did there.
Some cousin lovin' went on here

We met an Australian that was heading to Interlaken the same time we were so we packed up and took off.

Interlaken is the home of everything adventurous in Switzerland. Anyway you can think to risk serious bodily harm or potential death they have it. Want to jump off a cliff and swing through a mountain? check. Want to slide off water falls into shallow ponds? check. Basically anything that would make your mother have a heart attack they have. We dropped our bags and went immediately to sign up. The guy at the shop sold us on canyoning. This includes sliding off waterfalls and jumping 30ft into a pond and if we don't land were they say we will crash into rocks. Awesome.

We made it through the seven hour journey thanks to our guides who were some of the most intense guys I have ever met. So when they suggested a hike for us we should have known we were getting in over our heads. Five hours into the hike they said was only about two hours, we accepted defeat and walked down. The view was amazing though.
"Two hour hike" 1/10th of the way in  

When you think of a neat town tucked away in the gorgeous mountains you think of Interlaken.
After leaving we traveling to Zurich to meet up with a friend of my cousins. Rob-Roy and his wife Roberta, thus the RR&R in the title, graciously let us stay at their house and proved to be amazing hosts. Rob-Roy gave us what every guy from Texas cherishes the most, a meal straight from the grill. We were able to take in the sights from Zurich, but they couldn't hold up with great time we had talking and visiting with them and their friends.
Seashell see hell
We couldn't have asked for a better end to our travels in Switzerland or this blog post. Next stop is Venice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dave Spencer Barcelona....a film by Woody Allen

This guy keeps showing up everywhere.
The thoughts of getting back to a warm and sunny climate made us both excited to get off the plane in Barcelona. The bus ride into town only helped to fuel the excitement. To top it all off, we found the hostel we were staying at without any problems! Well we thought we found it. Turns out that we had booked another one that was across town. When we finally got there we discovered that they couldn't reserve a room for Saturday and the whole town was booked. Why you might ask? We have no idea.
Spaniards can't seem to finish a church...
We went ahead and enjoyed the city over the next few days. I dragged Dave to some churches and after that we decided that a beach visit is in order. We finally reached the beach clear after walking across the city and were amazed by the amazing view in front of us, then we looked at the water. Turns out modesty is not something the Spaniards worry about. Topless sun bathing is more common than not. I am not sure how those Spanish guys worked that out, but well done.
Fun fact: All this sand was imported from the Sahara.
For the first few days we had our room at the hostel to ourselves, then we came back to find two more bags. I looked at Dave and said, "Man I hope these people are fun." They walked in right after as if they were on cue. They introduced themselves and we found out they were Irish and I knew then we were going to have a great time. Turns out that they had nine other friends staying there and they were gracious enough to let Dave and myself hangout with them. The two in our room also couldn't find a place to stay Saturday night so at the very least there were now four homeless friends, rather than just two. On our night of homelessness we decided, like any reasonable person, that the best thing to do was go out until closing time.
Three of the guys in the group were nice enough to let us homeless folk sleep in their room that night. The following morning we checked back in and breathed a sigh of relief. We spent the next few days hanging out with our new friends and having a blast seeing the city. We ate lunch in front of the Sagrada Familia, which is the most amazing church. Each side is a different architectural style. It blew us away.
Yet another unfinished church.
After almost a week in Barcelona we said goodbye and flew off to Switzerland. You will hear about how Switzerland took all our money later.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All "Seine"s point to Paris

A childlike wonder

After a restful 8hr bus ride from London we arrived in Paris. We only got confused about 20 times finding out hostel, so we are getting better. Like any self respecting man we ran to the Louve jumping with excitement the next morning. I had heard alot of talk about the size of the Louve, but I was still not prepared for just how much they had there. Obviously we visited the more popular pieces.
If you look closely you can see Tom Hanks with a bad haircut in the background

"I'm kind of a big deal"
I'm your Venus, I'm your fire! Your desire!
I could write about the Louve for the whole post, but there is a lot more to cover. Upon leaving the Louve we noticed the Arc de Triomphe. It didn't seem that far so we decided to walk over and get some pictures. Turns out Paris is quite flat and that it was a brisk 5 miles away or so.

A normal person would call it a day after that, but not us. We figured that the Eiffel tower shouldn't be far so we started to walking towards it.

Another couple of miles later we were there. It was a bit surreal to sit there and look up at the very tower you see in movies or ads all the time.
The most famous phallus in France!
Upon arriving home we found out the internet was out and living up to Victor Hugo's quote, "To err is human. To loaf is Parisian" It stayed broken the entire time we were there. So blame the French for the blog being delayed.

The next day we decided to embrace the culture and went to cafe for coffee and a croissant. With the coffee, croissant, scarf and Norte Dame in view, I could swear Pepe le Pew was right around the corner. We finished our coffee and headed to Norte Dame. At the point we have visited a good deal of churches, but nothing like this. The stained glass and vaulted ceilings were captivating.

God showed up!
The church had set out chairs and played soft choral music. We sat down and took in all the church had to offer. After leaving the holy church we decided to the only real thing to do is go see the Moulin Rouge.
Boobs and stuff.

It was a pretty quick view of Paris, but we were ready to head to the sun and beaches of Barcelona. That is a different post though. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Much Needed Bath

So can Red Bull.

Okay, A few things first. I know it has been awhile since the last update, but time and internet are becoming an increasingly rare thing. Our hostel in Paris (wait for it, you will hear about Paris soon) decided to lie about their Wi-Fi access.

We temporary left London for Bath. It was a short ride west of London where we got to see some country side and as always....more sheep.

"This is the song that never ends..."

Bath is pretty well known for being the home of Jane Austen. Yeah, that's right, eat your heart girls. On a slightly more masculine note, it is also close to Stonehenge. Our hostel provided a free ride to Stonehenge and being the thrifty fellows we are, we took them up on it.
New construction site for a strip mall.

I never thought a couple of rocks would interest me so much. There is a kinda mystical feeling about the stones. We found out from our guide that Bath is essentially the Roswell of England, so I suppose the mystical feeling is appropriate.
Get off your cell phone.

Our time in Bath would best be described as relaxing. It is hard not to be relaxed when you can casually walk to a park and have a river gently running across rocks.

After leaving Bath we returned to London to meet up with our friend Sebastian. You will hear more about him in good time. One last description. There was a guy in front of us on the bus home from a night out in London. He entertained me for the better part of an hour. He sat down and I noticed he was listening to Whitney Houston and we was into it. He waved his arms around and really felt her music. I couldn't tell what else he was listening to, but I have to assume it was the Burlesque soundtrack. Oh, and his pants were tight enough that he could probably match the highest note of his favorite diva. With that I leave you. Enjoy.
Tank crossing is a serious issue in rural England.