Travels trhough Italy – Vencice, Florence Rome

30 08 2005
Im now in rome and its amazing! Absolutely love it here! So much to do and see! So much history.Theres no way i can do it all so i’ll have to come back sometime again i already know it. Today i went to St. Peteres Basilica in vatican city and then to the sistine chapel. Its just amazing. The I was there from 11 to 5pm. Yesterday i checked out Santa Maria Maggiore Bascilica and the crypt of the cappucin munks.  When a capucin monk dies rahter than burrying the body all of their bones are used to decorate the walls of the crypt. So the walls were lined with skulls, held in place by arm bones, fences made of leg bones, mumified monks  in skeletal thrones.
At the very last sepulchre there is a sign saying "What you are now we once were, what we are now you will be".  a chilling reminder of ones mortality.
Tomorrow im checking out the catacombs and also doing allthe ancient stuff here in rome the pantheon, colloseum,spanish steps etc. Rome is the kind of city where you get lost and still winde up at a fascinating *thats what happened to me a few times anyway.
 
Italy keeps on getting better – before rome, florence was my favorite city so far, now rome has eclipsed it.
 
Florence was also amazing – spent the first day just roaming the streets gawking at the different types of architecture and sculpture and just getting a feel for the city. Next day i took a walking tour and i definetly have to recomend them – i learned about renaisance and middle age architecture, the spats between Da Vinci and Michaelangelo the history florence and the meddici’s – definetly worth it and ive decided i will shell out for walking tours from now on. Nex day wne to pitti palace – the home of the medicis*who ruled florence) and had a squiz at painings by the likes of Titian, rafael, carrevegio etc. Also wondered through the meddici residence – in a word extravagant. While in Florence i spent a fair bit of time with two english girls who i met after we both missed our train into florence. They were cool to hang out their and on the first night we were there we listened to the maddest beatboxer jamming it up with two scottish folk singers. The kind of experience you can never predict which makes me feel so lucky to be traveling.
 
Venice was also really cool – however i definetly liked florence and rome better.This probably had somethign to do with the rainy weatheri had there which was rainy and fickle.Although probably more to do with the cynical view towards tourists i experienced their. I mean of course the whole sity is now designed for tourists but their were a few little things which made me feel that they were just blatantly trying to milk us for all we were worth. For example no seats anywhere in venice – not even in the main bus terminal. The only reason i can think of for this was so that if you wanted to sit down, you had to sit down at a cafe. Now not only do you then have to buy a drink – but they charge you a couple of euro for the privilige of sitting down – so costs the equivalent of $5 aussie just to parkyour bum. Little things like that tainted venice for me – although still wonderful is not as easy to fall for as florence or Rome. Venice is like that super gorgeous (but superficial)  woman you meet , who knows it and milks it for all its worth – guaranteed to burn a hole in your wallet. 
 
Anyways im going to spend another day or two in Rome and then go down to Naples which is supposed to be a very differen t kind of city altogether. Then up to the Cinque Terra which has been the highlight of europe for a number of people i know. After that im not sure whether to head up through to France via Monaco, or Swing through to Austria and Hungary and a short stint in Poland before going to munich to catch up with the boys again for oktoberfest.
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italy :)

25 08 2005

alright im now in italy and wont be updating much as internet costs a packet!! definetly not enough time for any reflections. I only have 5 imnutes left to write an enttry after responding to emails (thanks guys). Thankyou also to those people i dont know personallz who are reading the blog and lettimg me know what thez think – i appreciate it! Anyway Italy is great and interesting completely unexpected things are happening every day. I had a great time in venice even though the weather was not the best. Im now in florence and i love it already – random interesting stuff just seems to happen all the time. For example for example last night i was sitting looking out over florence with a bottle of wine (or three) on a balmy night with two english models – listening to two scottish folk singers jam with the best beatboxer i’ve ever heard (doing all the razel stuff singing and beat at same time)- was just an amazing.  Unfortunately i dont have time to write anything more interesting as internet costs an arm and a leg here. Ok i have my last minute of internet so have to go… but am loving italy at the mment!

 





Skofja Loka

20 08 2005
Today i went out to a little town called skofja Loka – partly because someone said it was good and partly because it wasnt in the lonely planet. Slovenia on the weekends tends to get really touristy and packed – so i was hoping to avoid to at least some of the crowd..
It was an absolutely gorgous town and the people in slovenia are so friendly. When i got off i was a fair way from the old town and didn’t know how to get there – the people i asked for directions offered to drive me there! It was a five minute drive but would have taken me a fair while. This isnt the first random act of kindness to a tourist in slovenia – the other day i accidently called a mobile number from a phone card – a random guy saw this happen and lent me his mobie to call back this mobile number! Little things like that have given me a really positive feeling for the people of slovenia. Walking through skofja loka is like walking through a postcard. Everywhere i looked was just gorgeous. Loved walking through this town – and for some reason there was no tourists there! Probably because its not in the lonely planet. Grogeous city, gorgeous backdrop (the Julian alps), plenty to see (churches and museums) , friendly people and no tourists – definetly my favorite town so far.

Anyway theres a que waiting for this computer so wont write any more. Ill post the photos for slovenia soon.





Croatia and Slovenia update

20 08 2005

Havent written in this for a while now. Its been harder whilst i’ve been with the boys and also ive been trying to sort out a whole lot of stuff with my uni. Basically i had 6 units to do in 2nd semester which would have been a pain to do and affected my grades for postgrad, so ive been trying to sort out a better way to do it – this has been really hard because ive been cut off from the university system. Someone in my family (they know who they are) didnt return a book and this has made my life very difficult. So ive been working away emailing lecturers and searching for similar units i can do by distance education.Anyway finally got something sorted out now and if it all pans out i wont need to be back for first semester of uni! Hopefully…Thats not to say i wont be back because the money run out or something else, but it does give me some options anyway.

I’ve been in ljublana the last few week sorting out a whole heap of problems that keep pestering me from back in australia. Its been a perfect place to do this as its only 5 euro a night and the internet is free. AlsoIts a beautiful old city with pine forrest creeping in to the city. I was here with the boys for a few days but they have now gone on to Hungary. It was good tocatch up with the guys but i think we want very different things from our trips, and also when i had another look at my intenerary i had only given myself3 weeks to do netherlands, france and italy – not enough at all considering how much their is to see in these countries. I’ll catch up with them again for octoberfest which will be good and then be seeing a fair bit of them again in England.

 

 Ok a brief update on whats been going on : Besides the last week in ljublana taking care of stuff for home ive also been out to the scojan caves, which are some of the most famous caves in europe . The caves stretched on for 20km, we took a little train through the caves and then got out and did a tour then back on the train again to get out. Was a dangerous ride for me as the train was going fast and as i was rubbernecking at all the rock formations -outcrops would pass jsut above my head (all the shorter people on the train were fine). Also these weird little pink lizards which can live for 100 years and can live without food for 10 years! Also the day after the guys left i met another interesting and very inteligent american guy -after checking out the castle that overlooks ljublana and its very informative video about the history of the town(during which i fell asleep about 12 times), we had a great night out at a hooker bar. No its not as perverted as it sounds – a hooker bar is a turkish bar that serves kebabs and where you go and smoke sheisha  through a hooker (kinda like a party bong). I got a theory on why i’m finding the americans so interesting but i’ll save it for another time.

 

 15/8 Revovered from the big night the night before highlight being dodgem cars – low point was probably falling asleep in a secluded area of the club – i wasnt even that drunk! Today was a great day to be leaving Pug, it was pouring rain and we jumped on a bus to rijeka and then on to ljubjiana late that night.

 

11/8-14/8 Pug Came to Pug from Split. Pug is not in the lonely planet and hence there are hardly any english/aussie/american backpackers here which is good. However theres lots of germans around the place. Pug was nice and relaxed, we eventually found a nice house to stay in and we spent most of the time lazing on the beach, playing cards and going out.

 

 10/8 Split Came here from Hvar, much nicer city for me. Easy to find good accomadation (thanks to alex speaking croatian), prices about 1/3 of those in hvar. Better beach than any i saw on Hvar and great food – we all shelled out after eating rabbit food on hvar – i got an extralarge plate of squid and roasted vegetables drank a few 1/2 litre beers and finished it off with choclate pancakes. was damn good.

 

7/8-9/8 Hvar – traveled from split to hvar-  the crappest part of the whole trip for me – there were a number of reasons for this. One of these was that i got in there at 11am and was no exageration trying to find accomadation until 8pm. It was PACKED! finally found something. The next day alex came along and it was awesome to catch up with him. I snuck him into my room because there simply was no accomadation elsewhere.  We went out that night and partied till dawn at a castle that had been converted into a club.However when it came time to leave the next day, the old lady who ran the place had been into our rooms – worked out their were two people their and kidnapped our books as ransom! Luckily alex was able to smooth talk the old lady in croatian and we sorted it all out – he still had to pay for a night sleeping on the floor, but we got our books back. Our time was up at this place and we couldnt find any more accomadation, and were getting sick of hvar anyway so we caught a ferry back to split.

Ok so thats a brief overview of what ive been doing. Reading it again it seems dry but otherwise this would be a too big an (even by my standards).





Bosnia – Mostow & Going to Sarajevo

7 08 2005
Im writing this post after coming back from Bosnia to croatia – tomorrow i head on to the island of hvar. Im at an internet stant in The American Dream Cafe. Its filled with american kitch, from neon sighns to pictures of the statue of liberty snd a lifesize highway police officer -im the only foreighner in here-  when i ordered a coffee here they brought me a turkish one – oviously the tast of the local clientele who inhabit this cafe… One thing ive noticed whilst traveling the east is the universal fascination with the west. Anything western is instantly cool, hip and happening. It seems to represent coolness, success, abundance and a better life. Ive seen many similarly named cafes over here from bar hollywood, to cafe dallas etc. Its as if the owners are trying to capture some of the magic glow the west incites in people here.
Just before i left australia i had got a mowhawk haircut , it was a bit more extreme than i would have liked as i thought that although it was cool in australia i would look like (even more) of a freak overseas. But the other night out in Mostow/Bosnia it was the most common haircut! People in Bosnia are right up there with their fashion. trying as best their meagre incomes will allow to emulate the west. In mostow People were walking between bullet riddled buildings, wearing their latest style jeans and christina dior sunnies.
 
The cafe i am in is filled with locals, i imagine going through the motions they must see on their tv screens. The importance of television should not be underestimated. although people were living above and below bombsites, and couldnt afford to fix up the bullet riddled houses they lived in most had "shelled out" and bought sattelite dishes attached to their homes so they could pick up the forieghn televeision shows. This kind of outlay to see forieghn movies is indicative of the fascination particularly in bosnia. Interestingly ive seen less satelites in croatia, which has a higher standard of living. Perhaps the more depressing ones surroundings the greater the need for escapism from ones surroundings. So they dress as they see on the televisions and are here in the american dreams cafe, doing what i suppose they think westerners do – drinking their budweiser and smoking marlboros. But paradoxically by doing so they only reinforce the differences between themselves and the west. Westerners do not try to imitate and emulate someone else, they are not straining to be something else- we just are.  We dont think about trying to be western. As long as eastern europe is consciously trying to be western theyll never really be westerners.  Because in their attempts is a hidden admission that they really are not "western" and are displaying their feelings of inferiority for their own position.
 
Anyway dubrovnik was beautiful and their were lots of tourist sights to see, but that brought heaps of tourists and in some ways their influences have marred the uniqueness of dubrovnik (see last post). We decided to head somewhere more off the tourist track – mostow in Bosnia.  When we got there our first sights were of ugly buildings pock-marked with bullet holes, the obvious sighns of war increased the further in with bullet holes scaring every surface and large burnt out shells of buildings transformed into a testament of the recent strife that engulfed this region. We found accomadation with a nice old lady who insisted of speaking to us in german – even though none of us knew any german. Then we  went out to see mostow. I’ve never been anywhere like it before – the sighns of war were everywhere, burn out buildings, bullet – riddled buildings and the gaping holes left by artillery. What i found interesting was the way people lived in a battlefield. People carried on in spiteof their macabre surroundings similar to other parts of europe. We walked past a hairdreser where the level above had been blown appart. Their were bridal shops next to the shattered buildings. The most interesting for me was an outside cafe, similar to those in spain and croatia which was built on the first level the skeleton of a building, people sat, laughing, drinking and listening to american pop music – apparently oblivious to their surroundings.   Their were also lany less tourists throughout the city which was refreshing. The tourists who were in mostow congregated around the old bridge, that seperated the different ethnic groups (bosniak, croat and serb) which were trying to wipe each other out as recently as 1995 the only real "tourist" attraction in mostow.  The other noticable sights were the abundance of gorgeous women. It was ridiculous how many stunners were roaming the streets – without boys in tow.  This led to a unanimous and enthusiastic decision to check out the nightlife in mostow. That night when we got to the old town their was some of the best nightlife i’ve come accross – because the entire young population of mostow was concentrated around two bars. Their were so many people the party spilled out and engulfed about 100 meters of street as well. I don’t know what they put in the water in mostow.. but it does the girls there a world of good. By far the largest grouping of stunners ive seen. We had a good night socialising with the people on the streets.
 
 When we arrived in mostow, i decided i wanted to see more of Bosnia and that i’d go to Sarajevo. The the other boys decided to head back to croatia and hit the beaches of korcula. While Korcula is supposed to be quite pretty, Ićm already sick of the tourists around such beach resort islands and ićm probably going to be doing a few of them with the boys. I decided I still wanted to see more of Bosnia and that id go on to Sarajevo by myself.
 
However during the prevous night in Mostow i met a fascinating guy called Dave. He is

one of the most knowledgable and interesting people ive ever met. I wont give you a description of dave: suffice to say hes very interesting and if u wanna know more check out his blog by clicking here. Turned out we were staying at the same pension. Anyway after a night out in mostow (see previous post) id lost the other guys and came back with him, we ended up having a long chat and turned out he was going to sarajevo as well with another guy nick – who has been traveling for the last 3 yearspretty much straight, has been everywhere and is bloody intelligent (he also has been doing this with a bag not much bigger than a standard school backpack, so i hooked up with these two intriguing charecters and traveled out to sarajevo…
 
The scenery on the journey was amazing – our bus wided through pristine,mountainous pineforersts. The river alongside the bus for most of the trip was a brilliant aqua- ive never seen natural water that colour before. Small cotteges dotted the countryside beside huge lakes – it was like traveling through a postcard. Its such a pity that during the war both sides covered the countryside with mines, making travel through the forests unsafe. They robbed the rest of the world of a beutiful countrside and themselves of a valuable source of income – even more poignant given that Bosnia has nearly no industries.
 
Anyway im running out of time on the internet so ill move through sarejevo quickly. We met the cousin of the lady we stayed with in mostow and she took us to our room which was about 100 meters from sniper alley (a notorious stretch of road where serbian snipers indiscriminantly killed men women and children for the length of the war)  then me and dave went off to  check out the sarajevo tunnel museum while nick went to the hospital (he was having pains in his chest turned out to be fine). We were lucky in we got the chance to talk to the family of the house where the tunnel was built, i forget the name fo the guy we spoke too but during the war he had been on the front line and then had come back to help building the tunnel at his home. Then we checked out the holiday inn (significant during the war) and then went for awalk through the town. the war damage was obvious in sarajevo but not nearly as bad as in mostow. Although on the ground "sarajevo roses" were another reminder of what had happened here. these were shell craters filled with red cement whenever anyone had been killed by that shell. They were all over the city. Checked out the mosque and also the latin bridge where gavrillo princip killed franz ferdinand (precipitating ww1)  – for such a significant bridge there wasnt even a plaque comemorating it! we walked over it and thought it couldnt be it because there wasnt a plaque or anything  – i mean this bridge was where ww1 started and they hadnt commemorated it at all! shows that tourism isnt yet being fully milked as an industry in bosnia anywway. One of the most memorable parts ofsarajevo will be my conversations with my travel companions (and listening in when i realised i was clearly out of my depth), both these guys were incredibly knowledgable and the more i got to know them the more impressed i was.
unfortunately this interet is coin operated and the bar has run out of coins..its about to log me off but  i have more to write, oh wel. Bosnia was a fantastic experience and im really glad i went. anyway tomorroww im heading on to hvar to meet up with the boys again. 
 
 




Dubrovnik

4 08 2005
Havent written anything for a few days now. Been pretty busy.
Madrid:
Loved madrid. Everyone said it was gonna be scorching and muggy but the weather was beautiful and there was heaps to see and do. I think the people you stay with can really make a difference to a destination. When in barcelona i was in a hostel of mostly french speaking peopl
I flew out from Madrid airport after my plane was delayed, by a few hours – again. As we approached gatwick airport (in london) we weren’t able to land for ages because of the cloud cover. Finally were able to land and it was 1 in the morning in london. My flight to dubrovnik was not until 11 so i had a fair amount of time to kill in the airport. I tried to find a place to sleep and found where everyone else was trying to sleep, couldn’t get a bench so wound up just lying on the floor in the airport. It was hell trying to sleep becasue after the recent terrorist bombings and scares in london, the airport security measures have been stepped up. One of these measures is a booming announcement over the loudspeaker saying "Please keep your bags with you at all times, otherwise they will be confiscated and maybe destroyed" this was followed by a kinder but equally loud message to "help avoid security scares by keeping luggage", these wen’t off every 10 minutes. This made it hell to sleep and i wasn’t helped by the 9 year old black kid who’s foot kept dropping off the bench and landing in my face/gut. I moved and finally got a bench, and slept in 10 minute sessions interspersed with security alerts until around 6.
Anyway my plane to dubrovnik was also delaed by a few hours… I’d like to point out that every plane i’ve been on this trip has been delayed – thats 4 out of 4.
 
 
Anyway finally got to dubrovnik and caught up with Owen and Bongers in town. Was great to catch up with mates. However the boys had picked up a few fellow travelers along the way  Dave and Rod from Sydney and jarrad from leongatha. So theres the 6 of us aussies terrorising dubrovnik! After getting shafted on accomadation from a place recommedned in the lonely planet, we have moved in to a nice little pension about 250meters from the old city (which is great location).
Dubrovnik is a beautiful city. The roads and pavements are made of white marble. I’ll put te photo’s up but as always they don’t do it justice. I’ve been spending my days walking around the old city during the days, and heading out with the boys at night. The town is amazing. One side of the city walls (which were originally built by the romans around 300ad) borders the adriatic ocean and me and the boys swam around it the other day. Can’t say it was an easy swim, but it sure was pretty all the way. I’ve been wondering in and out of wonderful buildings and it’s been really nice. As regards catching up with the boys,
One word which eptomises that aspect of the ‘Fuego!’ all the boys favorite club here – although i’m not as keen. Every night we’ve been hiting that club and the drinks pretty hard ($2.50 for a litre of beer over here), it’s not bad ,but i’m pretty over it now. The other thing i’m over in dubrovnik is people like me – tourists!
The first day was ok but these other days dubrovnik has been swamped with tourists. Tourists everywhere, the only locals i’ve really seen have been working in the shops. THats only a slight exageration. I understant that tourists bring money into the city, and tourist money is better than no money at all –  but sadly the tourism begins to ruin the very thing people are coming to see!
 
Tourism hasn’t been in dubrovnik for too long – it was being bombed  by serbs and the yugoslav army up until 1995.But already it appears to have radically alteredto cash in on tourism.  All the stores are catered to tourists. Restaurants, tourists shops selling kitch and shoe and jewlery shops are about all you can find in the city. Like i literally walked passed 4 jewlery shops in a row selling pretty much the same stuff. Not to mention the tourists who take away from the ambience – Tourists who find nothing wrong or ironic about tour guides who bring gourps of 50 into a silent cathedral and scatter them through the congregation – then have the temerity to launch into a (microphone magnified) spiel about the history of the church whilst others are trying to pray. Tourists who come to see something different and then complain when they can’t have the luxuries from home. This leads to these luxuries beng incorperated into the town and the loss of uniqueness that makes the place special in the first place. Also their mere presence changes the atmosphere of a place, it’s not the same walking through a church when there’s 50 other tourists rubber necking as well.
I like tourist destinations because theres somehthing to see, i even like some tourists as individuals (as i’ve met heaps of interesting tourists on my travels so far) but i don’t like tourists as a group.
 
Anyway now heading somewhere that the tourists won’t be such a nuisance – i’m off to Bosnia tommorow morning. Going to Mostow  – a town still recovering from the ethnic wars of the 90’s.  No tourist attractions per se, but definetly lots to see there…