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  • Macedonia

    Instead of walking back Bulgaria I decided to go west again and discover new countries in the Balkans like Makedonia (Skopja) 

    Skopje

    About

    Skopje is the capital city of Macedonia. It is a barely new city as result of the several destructions of the original one along the history. Located sever kilometres away from the first roman city it accommodates half of the population of Macedonia. With one million inhabitants is the bigger city of the country.

    As it lacks of a great historic past, the government is building it, filling the city with statues and monuments. The old town is one of the little vestiges together with the castle that remains.

    Getting to Skopje from Sofia

    I took the midnight bus from Sofia to Skopje. I was told that the bus takes 5 hours between the two capital cities. That day it took just 4 hours. I expected to spend the night in the bus, but at 3:00 am from Macedonia I was at the bus station of Skopje. Yes, Macedonia is UGT+1 as the rest of Europe. I forgot that fact as well.

    The bus station was an old station under the train station. At night, it had a look of an abandon building. At the main room of the station there were some other travellers accommodated in the chairs. Some of them in group other individually. I found a place for me and seated I hugged my best friend, my backpack and try to get a nap.

    It was not comfortable at all, but nap by nap the clock got to 6:00 am. As I couldn’t sleep more I decided to go to the city centre and look for a coffee shop. It was still night and the streets were barely empty of cars and people. Everyone was sleeping. I walked next to the river and get my first big impression of Skopje.

    First impression

    On both sides of the river I could see the neo-baroque buildings lightened, the new bridges full of statues. The bridge of culture with all kind of artists, and the bridge of history with kings and heroes. I wondered how was possible that a country barely born from the division of Yugoslavia in 1991 that had no precedent as an independent country in history could have all these historic celebrities.

    Following the river, I get to the old stone bridge and the mayor square. I was already surprise of the megalomaniac investment to create a capital symbol of the nation, but I end up wordless when I found myself in front of the fountain of Alexander the Great. Far from a beautiful monument it was the most megalomaniac statue of the modern times I had ever seen.

    The experience

    What a surprise when I get to the hostel, the staff told me that I was about to stay there on my own. He showed me my room, the facilities and gave me the key of the hostel before leaving me on my own. I had a full hostel for my own!!

    I was tired but decided to join the Walking free tour at 10:00 so I had a fast shower and went out. The walking free tour of Skopje might be one of the funniest I have attended so far. The guide, a real entrepreneur that started the business in Macedonia by his own was polite and critical. Probably sometimes a bit too much subjective. The tour started with a fast overview of the history of the territory now called Macedonia and how it belonged to several cultures and nations. The result is a multicultural country where different cultures and religions live in peace most of the time. The country is mostly Slavic orthodox, but there’s a big Muslim community as an Albanian in the southwest.


    During all the walk around the new centre of the city the guide showed us his disagreement with the governments investment on monuments and statues. He agreed that the country had not that much to presume. As the colour revolution supporters, less than one year ago, he considered that this investment would be more useful in sanitary, education or other social aspects.

    The colour revolution was a demonstration of the citizens of Skopje against the monuments. For showing their disapproval, they painted statues of monument in colours. You can still see the traces of the revolution. Personally, I think that it might be the only original trace of history in all the monuments. How sarcastic!

    With the guide, I discovered how deep gets to be the arguments between Greeks and Macedonians. As I’ve been told and confirmed in my research, Macedonians had to change their original flag design due to the Greek pressure. Greeks claim that Macedonia and all what is related with the classic Macedonian culture, including Philip II, Alexander the great and his empire are Greeks, no Macedonians and they are fighting for it. They even blocked trades with Macedonia due to the flag design.

    Now a day the fight is focus in the name of the country as Greeks are blocking Macedonian progress to be member of the European Community if they don’t change the name of their country. How crazy!

    Among these monuments, we visited the Memorial House of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was born here in a humble house next to were now is located the big horse of Alexander.

    Mother Theresa Memorial

    In the Old Town, where the old medina was, we learnt about the history of the people that use to leave here, no matter the country who they belonged to. The old town is like an Arabic medina on one side of the hill that goes to the fortress. From the old fortress, there is a nice panorama of the city and the new national stadium – another polemic investment of the government. Unfortunately, all these historic buildings are not restored neither well preserved. It is ironic to me, or I don’t get to understand properly, the intention of the investment in creating a new past but not investing in the real one.

    The Mosque of Skopje

    During the tour the guide offered to us some local Rakia in the restaurant we came all together to eat. Having lunch was where we get to meet each other of the travellers. We arranged there to meet again in the afternoon for a drink together.

    The night, I went out of the hostel to meet the night life of Skopje. Together with some friends, we had a drink in a cosy bar out of the city centre that we had been suggested and then went to the old town. The old town I must say is always full of life. During the day like a medina, with restaurants and shops and during the night with bars and tea shops.

    We ended the night on top of the medina in a craft beer bar with live music and Tabaco smoke everywhere. Yes, in Macedonia there is no restriction concerning smoking cigarettes.

    Matka canyon

    Getting there

    The following day, I went to the bus station to figure out how to get to Matka.

    The bus was supposed to pass by at 13:50 but it never appeared. Lucky me, I start talking with two other guys that were there waiting for the same bus. As the bus was not coming we decided to share a taxi ride to Matka as I did already in Neuswanstein Castle.

    The experience

    The gorges of Matka are located south of Skopje and are worth a visit. As we were told by the taxi driver, Matka means “vagina”. There in the gorges there are the caves considered one of the largest caves in Europe and probably of the world. It seems that there still places to discover inside them.

    To get to the caves you need to take a boat next to the restaurants and the monastery. We chose to go for a hiking along the river instead. Together with my new friends, a polish guy and a Belgium one named Piotr and Jonathan respectively, we went for a walk. We walked all the way until the end of the path. We get to see the entrance of the caves, but from the other side of the river. YOU CAN NOT GETT TO THE ENTRANCE OF THE CAVES BY FOOT!

     

    The walk was full of anecdotes and stories with my two new friends. Piotr works as a journalist in Poland and he taught me about the Polish and Ukrainian history and current situation. He’s been working in Donetsk were now a day is the Ukrainian conflict. As a speaker, and I believe as a journalist also. He was very objective always showing the positions and ideas of both sides of the conflict without judging.

    We went back to Skopje by bus, the bus station is at the entrance of the parking, in front of a restaurant. The crew of the restaurant knows perfectly the timetable of the buses and hopefully, this time the bus was there on time. I would not be surprise if I meet again Piotr on the way. He seemed to have such a free soul as mine.

    While having a beer back at the craft beer bar at the top of the Old Town is when we get the news that Motorola, a well-known soldier of the independentism faction in the Ukrainian conflict. Taking about him I realized how important might be that he passed away for the history of the conflict and how irrelevant it is for the rest of the world.

    Have you ever heard about him?

    Alexander the Great

    Ohrid

    About

    Ohrid is a little village in the south of Macedonia. In the banks of the lake Ohrid, is the summer holydays village of a country without sea. It is also visited in summer by Germans, Turkish and Netherlanders. You can feel that the city might change a lot from high to low touristic season.

    It is located in the border with Albania, which is in the other side of the lake. It is also here where Macedonians claim that Naum, student of Cyril and Methodius created the Cyrillic alphabet.

    Getting there

    It is pretty easy to get to Ohrid from Skopje, there are several buses along the day that cover that distance and they are pretty cheap.

    Once you get to Ohrid, the bus station is away from the city centre, but if you ask the driver he can stop next to the city centre before continue all the way to the bus station.

    The experience

    I had no accommodation booked in Ohrid, but I wasn’t worried at all. Jonathan and Piotr told me that here is common that people approaches you to offer an accommodation. So that is what I did. Not far away from the bus stop where I get out of the bus a man asked me if I needed a room. His English was basic but we get to understood each other. He offered me a one bed apartment. The price he was asking for it was reasonable, but in my long trip I need to save money. I just need one bed and a shower, so I believed I could get something cheaper or a hostel. I rejected his offer, before leaving he stopped me and called a friend. His friend showed me a little studio, after burgling we get to an arrangement.

    Naum happened to be a friendly old man, electric engineer retired that had always left in Ohrid.

    At 8:30 I was in the laundry with the intention of catch later the earliest bus to the Monastery of Saint Naum and visit in the afternoon Ohrid. However, after leaving my clothing on the laundry at the bus stop I found out that the bus was at 8:30 and the next at 11:30 as I had to be back to pick up my clean clothing at 14:00 I thought that missing the Monastery was the only option.

    I had the full day to visit Ohrid which is a little village, so I took my time to walk around all the little streets if the old town. The main sightseeing are the Castle on the top of the hill and the Monastery of St. Clement and Panteleimon. Near the lake is also the Church of St. John the Theologian. In the old town, there are several orthodox churches a byzantine basilica and a roman theatre. At one end of the main street of Ohrid is the mosque and there a perpendicular street with many Turkish tea and pastry shops.

    Old Port of Ohrid

    Monastery of St. Clement and Panteleimon

    Church of St. John the Theologian

    Cyril and Metodius

    Old gate

    After a long day walking I went to enjoy the sunset at the old port of Ohrid. Then I meet a couple of couchsurfers and travellers. She from Bulgaria and he from U.S.A. they were also traveling around the world doing volunteering work. In Ohrid, the showed me the little hidden treasures of the village: Some mosaics next to the old theatre that I didn’t find on my own and a paper store with original gravures. We ended the walk at one of the tea shops having Turkish tea along the secondary street of Ohrid. The main is a commercial pedestrian street that goes from the port to the mosques are. The second one is perpendicular to the first on near the mosques and is full of tea shops and Turkish pastries.

    Nest day I had the idea of leaving my studio to go to Tirana, Albania, as I had planned. But at the same time, I had this feeling of tranquillity and peace inside of me telling me to stay and relax here a little more. So I checked hostels in Tirana and Vlora. The prices where more or less the same that what I was paying for an studio for my own. After that I decided to contact my landlord and ask him if I can stay two more nights. He accepted with pleasure.

    Struga

    I went to visit the village of Struga nearby. This village is like Ohrid, a touristic summer destiny for Macedonians. The main difference is that here there are almost no historical remains. It is mostly a new city.

    Getting there

    As Struga is the main city in the area and is few kilometres away, there are buses every 20 minutes from the main roundabout near the city centre that goes straight to Struga. However if you want to go to Struga bus station, you better tell the driver in advance as he won’t go there if no one ask for it.

    The experience

    When I get there I went to the bus station from where I have to departure to Tirana to get the information about the journey. Thanks to doing this I get to know that the bus station was far away from the city centre and quite hidden.

    From there I walked the canal of Struga until the lake side where I encounter a lovely French old couple travelling in a caravan. In the city there was nothing really interesting to see. As I visited it, the greater attraction was the main commercial street and walking along the canal.

    Anecdote

    Visiting the city, I get to one of the orthodox churches they have. As I approached to the entrance an old man said me something. As I couldn’t understand him I continued. He raised his voice and pointed a bunch of bills he had in his hand. I assume that he wanted to charge me an entrance fee, but I nodded my head saying “no” and continued. He started yelling to me, but I peacefully continued in my way in. Most of the Orthodox churches I’ve visited you cannot take pictures inside, so to admire them you not need to act like a tourist. When I was getting in I felt how the old man did stand up in my direction. I already was getting in the church. Once inside I step in the middle and prayed at the time I was looking around me. I might not be Orthodox but after visiting so many churches I learnt how praying works.

    The old man stayed out of the church at the door. When I left the church in rehabilitation he did say nothing to me.

    The way back to Ohrid from Struga is the same as coming to Struga. There is a bus every 10-20 min that goes from the city centre of one village to the other one.

    Monastery Saint Naum

    I woke up early to catch the 8:30 bus to the Monastery of Saint Naum. The Monastery is located 30km. from Ohrid on the border with Albania. The monastery is a byzantine orthodox monastery next to natural water springs. It is there where Cyril and Methodius are buried.

    Getting there

    During the high season, there are several buses that goes from Ohrid centre to the monastery. However, out of tourist season, they get reduced to 3 or 4. The best was to catch the earliest bus at 8:00 am to so you can get the one back at 13:00 having time enough to visit the monastery and the surroundings. There are also taxis and shared taxis that will charge you more, even more if you don’t speak their language.

    Anecdote

    Waiting at the bus stop at 8:00 a man approaches to the locals waiting there. He told me together with them to join in his car. From the previous day I knew that there were taxis that try to pic people from the bus stops to their destiny for a bit more than the bus price. This car was not a taxi and the people that came in were locals so I felt confident and joined. He dropped people in the way and picked others. He was doing a service as a taxi and people were paying him. Normally about 40-50 denars.

    When we get to the monastery I asked him how much it was and he asked me for 20€, what in terms of denars was 1200. I told him that this was a robbery that I can only afford the price of the bus, 150 denars. At that time, I had no idea what was the real price of the bus. He asked me for 300 both ways, I ended up giving him 200 and I will give him 100 more when he picked me up from there at 10:00.

    The experience

    The monastery is a small orthodox monastery on top of a little promontory over a port. It was beautiful and the views of the Ohrid lake and the mountains from there are amazing. At around 9:50 I was ready. Waiting to the car driver to come I asked the time and price of the bus. It was 110 denars. While waiting, I thought that it was early in the morning, too early to come back to Ohrid to do nothing, looking around I found that I could visit the water springs by foot hiking around the little lake. Considering than taking the bus will be only 10 denars more than what I was about to pay the driver at 10:00 I started walking. In the way, I discovered a spring inside of a little chapel and walked in the nature in the only sunny day I had in Ohrid. There were also a little chapel and another monastery in the other side of the springs. In the way I could see snakes and lizards.

     

     

    At noon, I took the bus back to Ohrid where I had lunch at the port. Next to the centre of Ohrid, along the lake there are several restaurants with terraces. If you pay attention to the pricing and the look of the food in other tables you might find a good deal as most of them have prices for tourists.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling near the lake. Next step was Albania.

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  • Across the Black Sea

    I get out of Russia across the Black Sea. I participated in the regatta as trainee at the Ayla Training Ship. A Vanuatu vessel from Bilbao, Spain.

    The Black Sea Tall Ship Regatta

    This Regatta takes place in September every year. The goal is to sail across the Black sea and every year the ports change due to political reasons. This regatta is sponsored by Russia and one of the companies which chairman it’s Putin itself.

    In 2016 the Regatta started in Constanta, Rumania to Novorossiysk, Russia, then to Sochi and ending in Varna, Bulgaria.

    Among the vessels that participated in the Regatta there where most of the emblems of Russia: MIR, Kruzenshtern, Nadezhda, Akela; the emblems of Bulgaria: Royal Helena, Kaliakra; from Poland: Pogoria; from Rumania: Adornate; and other small vessels.

    As every regatta, most of the people know each other. Sailors, as Jan has told me many times are a big huge family. Not only because their shared passion to sail, but also for the social events beyond the sailing legs. In the regattas, since the vessels get to port, there are events every single day for the crews and the visitors. Almost a non-stop party.

    Sochi

    I was in need to find a way out of Russia before my visa expires the 28th of September. It was already the 24th and to cross by land to Georgia I would need to surround the region of Abkhazia. For this I would need to be leaving Sochi without visiting it as the journey might take a couple of days.

    However, there is always another way. In Sochi I met with my big friend Jan. He is another crazy traveller. Originally from Antwerp but adoptive son of Malaga. We met for the first time in Malaga and we came to be close friends. He was in Sochi due to the Black Sea Tall Ship Regatta of 2016 where he was about to volunteering.

    As he knew about my issue getting out from Russia, we both get to the point that if there was a regatta from Sochi to Varna, Bulgaria, probably I can get out of Russia in a vessel. As he was working with the organizers, he checked If I could join any of the vessels and contacted with the captains.

    He found a place for me in one of the Tall Ships. The Atyla Training Ship. It is a top sail schooner with two masts. It was built in Bilbao, Spain but due to politics it sails under the flag of Vanuatu. It seems that Spain has struggles considering timber boats in his maritime regulations. How funny that the captain, Spanish, had my same name.

    with Maremoto Jan next to Atyla

    Atyla

    Atyla wasn’t the fastest vessel in the regatta. Moreover, it might be the slowest, but it had other qualities. It was for sure the funniest and the one with the more international crew.

    As it was about to be my first sailing experience I joined the crew as a Trainee. That means I was about to learn about what is sailing during my week on board. After Captain Rodrigo told me the terms and conditions of joining their crew, it took me 20 minutes to call my mom and tell her that I would be out of network the next week as I might be crossing the Black Sea.

    The day I joined Atyla I first had to cross the hard control of access to the port. Seriously, the security is madness in Russia. Normally it was hard to get in, but that day Vladimir Putin was about to visit the Regatta. For that I came early morning and I had to leave behind to the security the cognac I brought for the crew. Pity!

    At the time I joined the crew there were preparing for the events of the day. A Crew Parade and Putin’s speech. We took it really seriously and as we hadn’t a uniform as the other military training vessels, neither an anthem or march, we disguised like pirates. Our vessel looked like a little pirate ship, why not us?

    Atyla Pirates

    We parade across Sochi playing with the people and dancing at the rhythm of the other crews bands. We hadn’t our band, but we sang pop songs a cappella. We were the fun of the parade and maybe because of that we won a couple of trophies.

    Crew Parade

    Trophies

    After the parade was the speech of Putin, We wait for him hours and due to the wind, and the security, they whole event was spoiled. There where dancers, singers and people dressed for a big event that never took place.

    After the parade, when Putin has left the area and the security let us get back to our vessel, we opened to the public. That day was my first duty as member of the crew. I had to welcome the visitors to the vessel and watch for their security. Not at all a hard job.

    When all the visitors had left the vessel, some members of the crew, we went out for dinner a night walk a fish massage and back. Next day we would depart from Sochi.

    Fish Massage

    As you might see, the first impression I had is that the journey on board of Atyla was about to be a great journey.

    Once the ship was ready to depart we waited until the custom control double checked our passports and visas. They even checked with magnifying glass and blue light to be sure of the authenticity of our documents. In terms of security in Russia, it is never enough.

    Before starting the regatta across the Black Sea there was a last event to satisfy the visitors, a Sails Parade. That means that all the vessels release their sails and sails along the coast in line so everyone can see them, from the coast or from their boats.

    Sails Parade

    The Black Sea – Learning to Sail

    On board of Atyla we were a few. As Captain Rodrigo told me, normally they have more crew members, but Russia was a difficult destination. The need of a visa and the Russian security prevent a lot of people from joining Atyla in this part of the Regatta. From Sochi I sail with people from all over the world.

    The organization to do the watches was easy. Every time there had to be a Crew member a volunteer – watch leaders – and a trainee on watch. Crew and volunteers had a fix time to do their watches every day, trainees we changed from one day to another. As we were only two volunteers, some of the watch leaders participated in the watches as trainees.

    Workshops

    A part from our watches, the trainees we had workshops where we learn about sailing terms, maritime regulations, signals, lights, manoeuvres, knots, etc. – To sail. The rest of the time we had free time to rest. However, when we were about to manoeuver every one awake was asked to help with the sails, the ropes and the control of the boat.

    I expected a hard work on board so I was always willing to help. Jan told me that for me it would be an easy thing, that I might be able to be a watch leader at the end of the Regatta. I felt that I could be so half way to Varna. As we were few Volunteers, the workshops weren’t taking place as they were supposed to. My trainee brother felt a bit seasick so was not always available and some watch leaders where lost in other matters. As I really wanted to get deep immerse in what was sailing, I read all the boos about sailing, the manuals and I was continuously asking questions to Captain Rodrigo, Veera, the first on board, and the engineer Henry.

    In several days, I get to feel more confident with terms and explanations than some of the watch leaders. Veera taught me the NATO phonetic alphabet. The engineer gave me a steering masterclass.

    Anecdote

    That night Henry was the crew responsible and I was the trainee in watch. The wind was almost against us and strong. The sea was agitated and we were sailing with engine to get to Varna on time. By then, the leg was already cancelled. We had as every time the order to follow a precise direction. In the sea, it is in terms of degrees from the North.

    I had several explanations of how to steer, but it changed regarding who was the watch leader. I was zig-zagging +-10 degrees from my course and so was my watch leader. Henry could saw this and angry came up to the deck to complain. I accepted my mistake and told him to teach me how to do it properly. So in his anger he started teaching me how to put the boat in course and keep it there with few movements.

    Since then steering was an easy task. Next day I knew how to steer almost without touching the steering wheel.

    I learnt that accepting what you ignore you get to learn how to do it better. To complete this thought, couple of days later I had another experience. I was again Steering, this time with another watch leader. It was night and we were surrounded by dolphins and bioluminescent plankton all around. Every night was like that and it was always impressive. My watch leader who was steering – barely let me do it – wanted to had a look on the bow so she gave me the steering wheel with 15 degrees’ deviation. Trying to take it back to position I over pass other 15 degrees’ in the other direction. That, and the previews zigzag course made the crew responsible call our attention.

    I admitted I was trying to put the boat in course, but my watch leader far from accepting her fault, accused me of losing the path. I said nothing. One way or another, she was responsible of my behaviour and the one that was supposes to teach me how to do it properly.

    A part from the sailing experience, where I felt I learnt a lot we I had other adventures. One of the most amazing things that happened on board was to see the dolphins in the night with the bioluminescence waters. In the middle of the night you could see them perfectly underwater. They were like torpedoes approaching the cask of the vessel and disappeared when they jumped out of the water.

    Also, I climb the mast for the first time in a windy day. The view from the top was amazing and the movements, the rolling of the boat with the waves was such an experience. That windy day I spent most of the day running from one corner to another. I also went to the bow to end up a bit seasick in the coach after the sunset.

    The sunsets and sunrise in the middle of the Black Sea where awesome and when looking to the horizon is easy to understand why it is called the Black Sea.

    Sunset

    On the way to Varna we had days with fair winds and others without wind. We get to sail a couple of days and the other part of the journey we used the engine.

    On board relationships are more intense. As Jan used to say, one week on board with someone is like one month in land. I get to meet the people of the crew and develop strong bonds with them. As everywhere there were people I liked more than others. But in any case, it’s necessary to be tolerant and empathetic to work together with the rest of the crew. At the end, we all have one single goal.

    Varna

    When getting to Varna I was on the watch. It was early morning and we were the first vessel to arrive to port. At that time, Captain Rodrigo, tough me about the communication with the horn. In the sea, there are many ways of sending a message.

    Once in port it was time to work. We still have watches, but they seemed vanished as al the crew had to work on the maintenance of the vessel. We start fixing sails, ropes, doors, cleaning the deck, shopping and have a shower. To save water in the 6-days journey I had one shower in overseas, one before departing and every day once in Varna.

    The following morning of our arrival, most of the other vessels get to port. It was beautiful to see them arriving from our ship. In Varna, the Regatta committee had organized a lot of activities for the crews. I wanted to participate in all of them, unfortunately some competitions we need to be a team and I happened to be the only one of our crew to participate. Pity.

    Foggy view

    On my day-off, I went for a walk in Varna and I pretty much walk the whole city. But I will tell you more about Varna in the next post.

    Almost every night there was a party in one of the Vessels, if not in ours, in Adornate.

    Anecdote

    One of the first days at Varna we host the party in our ship. But first some of us went for a walk on the shipyard. We met with a Russian drunk guy who wanted to climb to our mast. As he was drunk and it was late we told him that it was late to climb the mast. He happened to be part of a small tall ship in the regatta and understanding our point, he invited us to have a drink in their vessel. There we met with the sailor kids of Akela, a Russian training boat of future sailors. The kids that sails in this boat are part of a sailing school in Saint Petersburg. There we drunk Rakia, Whiskey and Vodka.

    To get in the boat we had to leave our shoes out of the vessel in the port. What a surprise when we were coming back to the party in our ship, one of my sandals was missing. Drunk, the captain of our Russian drunk friend fell into the water trying to find my sandal. I simply assume that the sea will bring it back to me, or maybe my friend Sebastian. Who knows?

    That night we drunk a lot. Jan was there. And I say that because I hadn’t drink in all my journey as much as I did with Jan. That is why I end up naming him Maremoto Jan.

    The following day I felt more sick than any other day sailing. Dam hangover. We welcome new members of the crew that day, I had to do my watch welcoming people to the vessel as I did in Sochi and deal with my headache.

    In one of my travels to refresh myself with water, Sebastian started crying my name as crazy. When I get to the deck. Pointing the water, he screamed – your sandal! – what a coincidence I thought.

    We get one of the fishing canes and fished my sandal.

    That same day was the Crew Parade and the Crew Party. As in Varna there was no security on the port, neither the streets at it was in Sochi, the parade was hundred times better. We could run among the other crews, cheers with them and mixed with the spectators.

    Parade

    The party however was more annoying. They run out of beer really soon. I guess they feared not to get the bar full of Russian drunk sailors. After this failure party, we continued at Adornate. That was a real party. Everyone brought drinks from every vessel and the feeling was as if we all knew each other from long time ago. That night I get to meet one of the new members of our vessel that moved my thoughts and feelings. In so little time we had a really good connection, but not time enough to talk about all our ideas, thoughts, believes and experiences. At this regatta, I really felt like being party of a new family. The family of the seas.  I get in contact with so many people that shared similar passions than mines that I bet I will get back to the seas sooner or later.

    The parties and event followed a couple of days more until everyone had to say farewell. As in Sochi before the depart, there was a Parade of Sails. As Jan was sailing at The Royal Helena, and Jan arranged with the captain so we could stay on the vessel the following days, I get to sea the parade from one of the Bulgarian tall ships

    Sails parade in Varna

    It was the end of the Regatta so separately every vessel start departing from port back home. Just the Bulgarian boats, Pogoria and Akela stayed few days more. Jan and I had to find our way across Bulgaria. But that belong to the next post.

    Saying farewell to does you get to appreciate in such a few days was again painful. However, I am getting used to it and to the fact that if the winds let us, we will meet in the future someday.

    Farewell Atyla

    For this experience, I want to thank specially my friend Jan Martinus who welcome me as member of his family of the seas.

    I am more than happy to be your winds brother, friend, and travel partner.

    Thanks a lot Jan

  • Blog
  • Russia

    Visiting Russia was achieving a dream. There, people showed me how much Russians are generous, sociable, friendly and warm. Who said that smiling in Russia was exceptional?

    Train to Moscow

    As I already told in the previous post -> UKRAINE , I was in a hot 3rd class wagon. Once again, as I find it comfortable and it was cheaper, I get an upper bed. The one here had less space towards the celling as on top was the space for the luggage.

    Next to me, in the upper bed was a Russian guy with whom I didn’t get to chat too much. Bellow us to women, one from Russia and the other form Ukraine. Between them all the three spoke in Russian. None of them spoke English. However, one of the woman helped me a lot with my passport, offered me to sat next to her, and told me about her family. If you wander how we get to talk about all that, just by willing. My favourite international language, hand shaking! She even introduced to me a lady from England that was crossing Eurasia and was about to catch the Trans-Siberian. In one week, she would be in Vladivostok. That would be the fast way for me. I prefer always to take the long way.

    1515 Entering Russia

    The passport control on the train took one hour and a part form the surprise of the policeman and the soldiers that escort him when they knew that I was Spanish, we had no other surprise. As a little anecdote. One of the soldiers started playing with a kid and at the end gave his phone number in a paper to the mother.

    Moscow

    Moscow is the capital city of Russia. Heart of the Soviet Union in the past and of the communism. That is something that you can see and feel all around. AS the USSR was the “victorious” of the Second World War and the Communism ended progressively, all the monuments and symbols of that time still everywhere. There is a debate if they shall remove some of them or leave them as part of their history.

    Also, the communist even being non-religious and non-monarchical, they left many churches and palaces as treasures of the city with a didactical purpose. Other buildings that had been demolished or destroyed during the communism were rebuilt as they were originally.

    The city is a huge city perfectly connected with a concentric and radial underground. In the heart of the city is the Kremlin and there are big open areas everywhere. Not only the red square for political demonstrations, but also green gardens and parks. Even if there’s people all around the city, I never felt Moscow as a busy, crowded city.

    One of the most amazing thing in Moscow is the Underground or Metro. In the city centre, most of the stations are masterpieces. That is due to the fact that the USSR government wanted to make the labourers that they were the power of the city and that all this was made for them as the communism was great for everyone. Anyway, also the new or more contemporary stations in the outskirts of the city are also impressive. However, these ones have no trace of Communist symbols.


    13/09

    My host in Moscow sent a friend to pick me up at the train station. However, it took us almost an hour to find each other. As I couldn’t find her I looked for some open Wi-Fi next to the station and contacted her.

    She took me to Lepold’s house and told me a little about the city, where to go and what to eat. Then she went to work and left me alone. I took my time to have a shower and waited for Leopold to meet him.

    With Leopold, I spoked in French as he wanted to improve his French speaking. The first moments he asked me several times to slow down. I was so excited for being in Moscow that I forget about it.

    We ate something and he took me for a bike ride around the city centre. It was already night and a bit cold, but I really enjoy passing by the Kremlin, the Red Square, and the Church of Jesus the Saviour.

    Mockba

    Church of Jesus the Saviour

    Me and my new host at hos favourite metro station

    Also, I start to learn how was Leopold. He told me about his life in Russia and his family. With him I felt like I will bother him if I asked too much, so I just let him tell me rather than inquiry him as I tend to do sometimes.

    Back home we had a tea and went to bed.

    14/09

    Leopold went to work in the morning and when I woke up I went to visit the city centre. I started next to the Bolshoi Theatre and walked to the Red Square; around the Kremlin; across the river at the Church of Jesus the Saviour and back to Old Arbat Street.

    I didn’t want to visit any monument as first I wanted to have an Idea of what was Moscow as a city. At least the heart of the city.

    Bolshoi Theatre

    History museum and the Red Square

    Church of Jesus the Saviour

    As happy as if I were in Moscow

    I must say that everything was clean and all the buildings were well preserved. It was because it is the capital city and have to be impressive? Probably. I doubt that all Russia will be as impressive as Moscow.

    Regarding the security, there are police everywhere and bag and metal controls in every entrance to a public building: Commercial centres, Monuments, Museums, and the Metro. I felt completely save.

    As I’ve been told, Putin recently renew all the police department, the former Militia, to finish with the corruption and to grant security. All the police officers were young fitted agents.

    Back to my tour, Old Arbat is a long commercial street were the youth goes for shipping. It is one of the alternative areas of Moscow. At the end of the street is the Palace of Justice. One of the Staling Imperialist Style towers. There are seven in Moscow – and one in Warsaw. Also, next to Old Arbat is the house of the Russian architect Melnikov. As an architect, I had to visit it.

    Walking along Old Arbat Street

    Melnikof Studio House near Old Arbat Street

    Pace of justice

    After a long day walk I went back to Leopold’s to meet him there. He planned to take me to the Russian Bath.

    He prepared everything, even after asking him what did I need to go, his answer wasn’t clear to me so I just helped to put everything into a bag to go together.

    The Russian Bath is basically a big sauna next to a shower and some cold-water baths and out of the wet area a big room like a restaurant where you can drink and eat. Locals use to come once a week or a month to relax after work. They talk about football, politics, women, and hobbies while they have a Vodka or a bier with some shrimps.

    We ate some snacks and drunk water as a first-time experience. We spent 15 minutes at the sauna, whipped each other with a plant they use to open the pores and then a cold bath, a shower and 5 to 10 minutes resting at the bar. We did that like four times in two hours.

    After the experience, I felt completely relaxed. Back home we had a tea and went to bed.

    15/09

    In the morning, I tried to get early to the Kremlin to avoid the crowd and the tours. When I get there, I found no one. Not even someone that could tell me where was the entrance.

    Finally, I found out that it was closed on Thursdays. Every board was in Russian, so I couldn’t understand anything so far. Disappointed, I started thinking what to do then. At that point I saw two men struggling looking where to buy a entrance to the Kremlin. I approach them and told them that it was closed. They appreciated the information and after telling me that there were about to stay only one day in Moscow, I decided to take them around and showed them the little I discovered with my host.

    Former KGB building

    I showed them the former KGB building, the Bolshoi and the Old Arbat Street. We ate together and then they went to catch a flight to Siberia. There were two men from the U.S.A. One of them was married with a Russian and was about to move to Alicante. They came to Russia to pick their car and made a Road Trip across Europe to Spain. As you might see, we had a lot in common to talk about.

    That afternoon Leopoldo was about to meet with some friends so not to bother him I had a date with a girl from Couchsurfing. Vika showed me the University, Another Stalin Imperialistic Tower, she showed me the fanciest supermarket I had ever seen and took me for a cheap 50% reduction dinner. I felt a really good with her and we talked about many things. She was of those smiley people I like to encounter.

    University of Moscow

    The fanciest Supermarket ever

    Back to Leopoldo’s, his friends still there and we chatted and drunk together. They didn’t speak a fluent English, but we get to understood each other.

    Once they left Leopoldo and I we had our goodnight tea while I told him how happy I was feeling in Moscow.

    16/09

    I woke up after Leopoldo left the house so I had breakfast and went out. Not to end what he had in his house I went every day to the supermarket next to his place and brought some products like fruit, bred and chocolate for both of us. He almost never took of what I brought.

    Days were getting colder little by little. Winter is coming. As Leopoldo told me, normally by this time of the year it is much colder and rainy. I felt lucky. As the day was uncertain about the rain I took an umbrella and went to visit the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

    Total disappointment. It is as an History museum filled with replicas. I can understand it might be good to have some replicas as support to teach the kids, but then it should be much cheaper the entrance fee. Create a replica it is much cheaper than preserve an original.

    Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

    In the afternoon, I went to try to accomplish one challenge. Elise sent me a letter to Moscow. As I have no address she sent it here. I told them to send it to the central post office, so I could pick it up there. The challenge was to recover the letter.

    I went to three post office from one they send me to another. No one spoke English so I had to explain myself with a paper a pen and mimic. There I found what a different make someone willing to help against someone who doesn’t care.

    At the end I didn’t get the letter as Elise happened to drop it at the post box rather than presented at the post office where she would have get a number to follow the letter. Pity!

    Le Corbousier in my challenge to receive my letter

    As in Russia I get a SIM card, I contacted some people to meet in Couchsurfing and we went for a beer. What started with some beers at 8 pm., ended at 4 am. with gallons of beer. We had fun though!

    Moscow fast CS meeting

    17/09

    I was alone at Leopoldo’s as he went to meet his family in a village at the outskirt of Moscow. How gently that he left me alone. I even ask him twice if he would have preferred me to leave. I really get to feel like home with him. I cleaned, cooked, and did everything I would have done at my house.

    After lunch as I woke up a bit late, I went for a relaxing walk at the park next to his place. The day was again uncertain, cold, sunny and rainy from time to time. The perfect day for a walk on a big park with nice views to Moscow, some Orthodox old churches and a forest to get lost.

     

    I wanted to relax after last day non-stop. So back home from my walk I cook some dinner and watched a movie. I had an invitation to go to a birthday party that night though. It happened to be really easy to make friends in Moscow so far.

    18/09

    As that morning, the weather was cold but it was not potentially rainy I went to visit the Kremlin. This time I didn’t care about the crowd. I just went there. And yes, it was full of tourist everywhere. AS you may imagine there is a hard security control to get in. It is there where Putin works.

    At the queue, I get confused and at the beginning I stopped in the groups one. I thought it was the only one. But it is not. There is one for independent visitors that goes much faster.

    Inside of the Kremlin you can visit most of the area and the Orthodox Churches. Also, the Kremlin museum, but you cannot take pictures inside of the buildings. Also there is normally possible to visit one of the towers, but that day it was closed due to the wind. I guess they fear that the tower may fall down. If not it make no sense to me.

    After the visit to the Kremlin, I attend a Couchsurfing Pic-Nic at the Gorky Central Park of Culture. To get to there I walked along the river watching the monuments and observing people all around. Someone told me not to smile too much in Russia and that Russians weren’t close together when they were walking in couples. All lies or inventions, they behaved the same as does people in the rest of Europe.

    At the Pic-Nic I met a lot of people and I end up talking with a girl that was learning Spanish by her own.

    Later on I had an appointment with another girl from Couchsurfing. A designer. With her we walker her favourite street, Old Arbat. She wanted to show me the house of Melnikof even if had already visited, we went back. What I wanted was more to learn about her life in Moscow rather than the city. I really liked to meet her and get to know many things of Russia with her. Also, we spoke about design art and architecture. We disagreed in our appreciation of Zaha Hadid, but that made it much more interesting.

     

    As it was about to be my last night at Leopoldo’s I get home before him to cook something for him. I prepare “Pisto” for four and none of us eat more than one dish. Hope he liked it as I left him food for the whole week.

    19/09

    This was my last day in Moscow and I was not in a hurry to get to visit anything. I knew I was leaving many big parks and monuments behind, but I was happy of my Moscow experience. So complete.

    On Facebook I get suggested to visit the Orthodox Churches at the south of the Kremlin. Half way from Leopoldo’s to the city centre. So that I did. There are all in line along the main street and when I get to the end I had a magnificent view of the Red Square and the Kremlin from the other side of the river. I spent most of the day walking the area.

    Back at Leopoldo’s I went for him to get back from work to say farewell and went straight to the train station where I had something for dinner.

    Once again a 20 hours night train. This time the destination was Volgograd. Once again in the upper bed of a second-class wagon. However, this time everyone in my compartment was speaking English.

    At the compartment, we were two girls, one was a teacher of Russian and the other her chines student. They travelled to Moscow to solve some Visa issues. The fourth was Irakli. There I met a great friend.

    Irakli lives in Volgograd and came to Moscow for some businesses. I spent most of the ride talking with him. Also with the girls, but he told me a lot about what to do and where to go in Volgograd. I know that if I hadn’t a place to stay he would have host me. He happened to be originally from Georgia when the USSR. So when I told him that I was going there he offer me the contact of his friends to help me.

    I think I have never found someone more generous than Irakli. He might be in the top class with my mom.

    Volgograd

    Volgograd, former Stalingrad. The city changed his name to the city of the Volga, the river after the Troika. Locals didn’t want their city be named after Stalin as they believe that he committed so many cruel actions.

    The city is 120km. long and host only one million inhabitants. It is a linear city along the Volga and you may take from one to three hours to drive from one to the other side of the city. Hopefully, the few touristic places of interest are in the city centre near the train station.

    It is more an industrial city rather than a touristic one. Their main business is the metallurgy industry. Due to the global crisis, their economy has fall down and many factories stopped their production.

    20/09

    Anecdote

    I get to Volgograd in the afternoon and walked to the Hostel I was about to stay. It was raining. I went to the address of the Hostel and I couldn’t find a trace of it. As I thought that I might have been wrong, I walked in the other way of the street to see if I could find it out. It wasn’t there either. I asked some police man and private security where was that address. No one spoke English, but they helped me a lot. Finally, they all confirmed me that it was where I started to look for it.

    I was checking the comments of other guest to find the location. The place had a 9.4 on Booking it shouldn’t be so difficult to find it. But yes, it was. It was in the back of a building and without any indication. Once I get to the hostel it was a regular house adapted. They simply change the furniture of the rooms to bunkbeds and that’s it. The toilet was disgusting. Soo disgusting, that I changed my stay from two days to one in the fact. And for sure I didn’t have a shower even if I felt as I need one.

    However, I spent the night there as I wasn’t in the mood to look for another place. I just went to the supermarket to buy something for dinner. I cooked and while cooking I was drinking a beer. When the landlady saw me, she freaked out and explained me that I could not drink Alcohol in the hostel. I apologised and she explained me that was the law, but I could finish my beer. My solution, and I did it in front of her, was to finish a bottle of juice I had from the train and refill the bottle with the beer. She couldn’t do but smile to me.

    After eating I spent the night talking with a Israeli guy that had a strong bond with Russia. He told me about his travels in Russia and worldwide and about Israel. We had a good chat, so good that I forget to ask his contact. Like him there will be lot of people that are going to light my day, gave me an interesting chat full of knowledge and then vanish from my life into the world.

    21/09

    First thing in the morning, moving out. I checked for another hostel in the area and move there. Not even booked online, just get to the place and asked for a bed. Again, the girl at the reception spoke no English, but we get to communicate. Half an hour later I was clean and on the road to visit the city.

    As I told, Volgograd is about to mayor streets along the river. I walked one, Lenin Street, north. In the way, I found the Tourist information, where I decided to stop to ask for a map of the city and some advice.

    There were three ladies working there. The three of them spoke English, and one also French. I spoke in both languages with them. Anastasia, the one who spoke more directly to me, explained me all I could do in Volgograd. I guess they were happy that I came in as they interview me about how I was there and my trip. I end up telling them all my story.

    Such a nice encounter. We even exchange contacts. Ans they offered me to help me in whatever I might need in the city. What a kind and generous ladies.

    From there I walked to the Stalingrad Battle Museum. What a shame that it was closed and it was about to be closed just the days I was in Volgograd. At the beginning, I thought they were restoring. But all the police control all around the museum made me think differently.

    Stalingrad Museum

    Pavlov’s House

    I continued by the house of Pavlov and the Lenin Square North to the site of the new Stadium for the World Cup. It was under construction, I could see the structure, what already caught my eye.

    Then I get below the hill of Mamayev Kurgan – Motherland – This is a huge monument of a women holding a sward leading Russia to Victory. This hill is a memorial to the Russians dead in the World War and to the victory against the Nazis.

    On the way to the top there are several memorials to the working class and the army. Before getting to the top, on the right side is the monument to the unknown soldier. I get the chance to see how they change the guard. Event that happens every hour.

     Mamayev Kurgan


    Unknown Soldier Memorial

    Behind Mamayev Kurgan is the Army museum and a little soldiers’ cemetery.

    Cemetery

    It is a long walk from the hostel to Mamayev Kurgan, but I walked back again. In the way back I ate something in a menu restaurant next to the University and cross the University to feel the environment and then I continued next to the river back to the Stalingrad Battle Museum. Pretending to be a tourist I tried to reach the gate until a Policeman stopped me and told me that It was closed.

    I crossed the railway to visit an Orthodox Church that Irakli suggested me. And in my way back to the hostel I had the chance to see the sunset and the night coming up from the top of the Train Station.

    Train Station Night

    I thought it was early to get back to the hostel, but there was not much to do around. Against my feeling I bought something to cook at the hostel and went back in. At the hostel, there were only two other guests that seemed more to have been there for a long term. We slept all in the same room. Also, there was a guy at the reception. Well, all the three of them were watching a stupid film in the TV. None of them talked to me neither said “Dobro” to answer my salutation.

    22/09

    I had all the day in Volgograd and I had already seen almost everything interesting. I had only one other suggestion from Irakli, a church to the south. I decided to walk there. First I walked to the riverside next to my hostel. The Volga is impressive. I could imagine the people having a sunbath in summer in the other riverside. I walked south and crossed a bridge to the real Volgograd. The side my hostel was, was more bureaucratic and touristic. The other side was full of people walking on the streets, shops and commerce all around. It really made a change. I walked watching people and I realized that there was a big community of students from India and China.

    The Church was a long walk south, but I had plenty time to walk back. I spent my time visiting the vivid areas of the city to see people behaviour. Walked to a mall and a street full of fast food restaurants. I ate at one of them and continued my way to the hostel where I picked my backpack

    That day Irakli called me, he picked me at the hostel and took me for a ride in his car to the other side of the Volga. He showed me the little things I couldn’t visit as they were a little too far. What a genuine great guy. I wish I would meet him again.

    He dropped me at the train station to catch my train. The entrance of the train station is the fountain of the film Enemy at the Gates and I couldn’t avoid sending a picture of it to me best friend Laura with whom I had shared a lot of comments about the film when it was released.

    That afternoon I had another 20-hours train to Sochi. At that time, I was already an expert on how to travel by train in Russia

    Tips to travel by train in Russia

    I prefer an upper bed in a 2nd class wagon. They are cheaper even some times that the lower bed in a 3rd class wagon.

    Over the door you can place your backpack and access to it whenever you need it without disturbing anyone.

    If you want to chat with someone get a cabin with people, if not, the best option is to get one empty and probably you can get the whole cabin for you on your own.

    There’s no plugs inside of the cabins, but there are two pairs of theme in both sides of the wagon. Approximately between the second and third cabin in both sides. Getting a bed in one of those cabins allow you to plug your device and keep an eye on it from inside the cabin.

    Normally people starts buying their places from the centre of the wagon as is the farthest from the toilets that might be smelly sometimes. I prefer however to take the one that’s in the other side of the cabin of the wagon assistant. Is quitter.

    The waggons assistant will serve you hot water for free all the ride and help you with any issue. That makes people walk to that side more often than to the other.

    As you have hot water all the way I suggest to bring Noodles that you can cook with the boiled water in five minutes, and some bags of tea or soluble coffee. Also, some chocolate, nuts or chips to share with the other people in the waggon. That makes friendship in matters of minutes no matter the language.

    I had the chance to travel on my own most of the way. The waggon was half empty. So, I spare as if it were my room. Just a guy came in for a while and went out all the night. I bet he was working on the train. And sometime in the night a couple occupied the two lower beds for not even 5 hours. I even play music with my phone.

    23/09

    Sochi

    Sochi is a little city in the coast of the Black Sea. It is a summer tourism city that during the high season receives Russians from all the country, specially from Moscow. It is considered to have a microclimate that mild the cold temperatures of Russia. For sure, most of the businesses here are related with the tourism.

    Also, is one of the main trading ports of the Black Sea what has a big influence in Sochi’s economy and infrastructure. However, if the name of Sochi sound familiar to you is probably due to the Winter Olympic Games of 2014. Hosting this event Sochi built a mayor Olympic city with modern architecture next to the border with Georgia.

    Even if everyone told me about the good weather here, I get in a tropical style rainy day. I had to cover myself and my backpack with my raincoat and as I was wearing my sandals to be comfortable at the train, accept that my feet where about to get wet.

    I walked under the rain to my hostel. Even if it was raining, the temperature was good and some lights of sun trespassing the clouds were predicting a sunny afternoon.

    I get to a hostel ran by an Italo-Russian family that barely speaks English. Just the daughter did. However, Italian and Spanish are friendly languages, so we get to understand each other. As I wait for the check in I did the laundry and had a shower, so I could be ready as soon as possible.

    Before coming to Sochi I have been struggling to find out my way out from Russia. My visa is going to expire, and my plan to go to Georgia from Sochi has been changed when I realized that crossing Abkhazia was a problem. Abkhazia is a region in the north of Georgia on the border with Russia. Recently, 2 years ago, they claimed their independence from Georgia. The point is that only Russia recognize Abkhazia as an independent country.

    Georgia still recognise the region of Abkhazia as part of their territory, but they have no control on the border with Russia. So, if I get to Georgia across Abkhazia, when I get to Georgia police control I would be considered to have entered in the country illegally. This would not only difficult my way out from Georgia, but also can take me to four years of prison. No need to take the risk.

    The other option to exit to Georgia is to surround Abkhazia. The problem is that will take me a couple of days. So, I will have to run to get it before my visa expires. I also checked if there where ferries from Sochi to Batumi, but they only work during the high season.

    Talking with Jan, a friend from Malaga that I will meet here in Sochi we found another possible solution.

    Jan is one of my sailor friends from Malaga. We meet thanks to the events I used to organise back there and came really good friends. He came to Sochi at the same time as I did not to meet me but to sail from Sochi to Varna, Bulgaria in a Tall Ship Regatta across the Black Sea. As there where several vessels leaving Russia we thought that maybe I could find a place in one of the vessels before I get there.

    Maremoto-Jan and I

     

    Jan was part of the organisation, so he knew most of the people of the event. He started asking for a place for me before I get there. How ironic is life sometimes, that he found a place for me in a boat with a Vanuatu flag made in Bilbao whose captain is called Rodrigo.

    To join the crew, I had to get to the port as soon as possible, to meet the captain, arrange with him my inscription and also with the Regatta and the Customs. Lot of paperwork to do in so little time.

    Once ready, I met Jan at the shipyard. Meeting him in Sochi, dressed as an organizer of the Regatta was weird but amazing. As social as he is, he started introducing me people of the Sailing world. He really welcomed me to his sailing family.

    After a little tour around we went to Atyla, the Vanuatu Sailing ship of Rodrigo. There he explained me what was to be a member of his crew and how would be my day-a-day as Trainee. He asked me to think about it before taking any decision. It just took about one hour to confirm him that I wanted to joining the Atyla Training Ship.

    Atyla

    Documents fulfilled I was welcome to join the vessel whenever it pleased me. I decided to do it the following day.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon with Jan from one corner to one another of the decks and meeting new people.

    The night was the Crew Party. All the crew members of all the vessels had a party in every city they visit. This time was in an hotel where we had beers for free and some snacks. Basically, Potato Chips. There I met for the first time the crew of the Atyla and end up talking with a Russian guy that was about to leave the vessel the day I would join it.

    Crew party

    At the end of the night Jan get lovely lost and I walked back to the city with Chuck. In the way, we met a random Russian guy with whom we spoke about the political situation of Russia, Putin and as I like to say, we fixed the world.

    To be continue…

  • Blog
  • Au sud de la France

    In the way out from Spain, the first stop is France. Here I travel along the south from Henday to Ventimiglia, visiting Toulouse and old friends in Nice. To cross this country by train has been an adventure itself.

    Starting Late

    01/08

    I was supposed to wake up early to catch the Euskotren to Henday at 5:00 am. But after two nights sleeping 3 hours I woke up later than expected and get to the train station at 5:02. Two minutes in terms of trains timing changed my day from getting to Toulouse at 12:30 to get there at 15:50. Having to catch the train that departed 15 minutes later did not allow me to get the easiest combination that went to Toulouse so I had to went to Bordeaux to later catch a train to Toulouse. Until here everything is alright. The accumulative delay was supposed to take only 2 hours more. To this we have to add a couple of inconvenience on the way. We stayed almost one hour stopped in Montauban due to a suicidal between Carcassonne and Toulouse. In this journey I will find out that the railways in France are not at all as good as I expected.

    Toulouse

    Once in Toulouse I went straight to the Hostel. It is located behind the Cathedral of Saint Sernin. A nice area with several bars in the nearest square and drug dealers hunting tourists. After check in I drop my backpack at the room and went for a walk. The next day I had a ticket to leave the city at 13:00 so in total I will be in town for less than 24 hours. I had to optimise my time there to enjoy and discover the city.

    Panorama Toulouse

    Panorama of the Daurade

    First I went for a walk along the river Garonne. Pass behind the city walls to get to the place all Pokemon hunters concentrate in the city. La Daurade is a garden in the banks of the river which is the perfect spot to chill out and have a drink. As the weather is sunny and warm this garden is full of people. Continuing the river is the Church of Notre-Dame de la Daurade where you can find a peculiar Black Madonna.

    The Quai de la Daurade continues to the “Pont Neuf” where I turn into the city to get lost in his streets and observe the urbanism and culture. First I went South and then turned East to went back North. Toulouse city centre is arranged in imperfect squares and streets that goes North-South and East-West.

    I came across the Museum of Jacobins to get to the Capitol square before getting back to the Basilique de Saint Sernin. The square of the Capitol is the mayor square of the city in front the City Hall and the Capitol Theatre. In the centre of the square there is a 12-point star with the zodiacs on it.

    The Basilica of Saint Sernin is a medieval basilica with a stunning tower. It’s believe that in the basilica they store one of the thorns from the Crown of Thorns of Christ.

    Sunset was coming so I decided to get some take away on the city and went back to La Daurade to enjoy the sunset from there. Chilling out next to the river let me pay attention to the people that was living the city at the time.

    After an hour there I went back to the hostel to prepare how I was about to continue my trip and next day adventure.

    02/08

    Before going to the train station I went for a walk. This time I went north from the hostel to the Japanese Garden where people were doing sport, stretching and having a walk in the early morning. This garden has the name of Japanese as they have a real Japanese garden with a reproduction of a Japanese house.

    Japanese Garden Toulouse

    the Japanese Garden.

    After a long morning at the garden, I went to the south of the city and visit the Cathedral of Toulouse. This Cathedral has the particularity of being built in two parts which are not in line one with the other.

    After picking back my backpack at the hostel I went straight to the train station where I started my greatest adventure on a train

    Train to Nice

    The train departs from Toulouse at 12:57 to get to Nice at 19:30 where my friend Benedetta will await me to dinner. At the Train station, 20 minutes before departing, it is announced a delay of 1:30. All of a sudden it disappeared so I address myself to the platform. There was the train waiting for the passengers. Once in the train we leave Toulouse 10 minutes later than expected. But that is too much expecting for a 4:30 train in France. In the way we stopped at Carcassonne for almost one hour due to another suicide on the rail to Béziers. There we received free meal as reward – Cold pasta salad, water, cookies, bread, juice and some candies. We stopped once again in the middle of the rail a couple of times due to several problems on the way, but the greatest one was in a small village between Marseille and Nice where we had to wait almost two hours. It happened that there was one train stuck on the way. They needed to detach our machine to get catch the other train and bring it back so we can continue our way.

    Nice

    Finally, in Nice at 23:30 I get to my friends’ place where they were waiting for me after dinner. They had cook nice pasta for me that I hadn’t the chance to taste as when I get there I had already eaten something at the train. They offered me however some ice-cream and Italian liqueur.

    03/08

    Next morning, we all wake up early and I went for a walk in town. First up hill to the “Castle”. There is not a Castle, but the ruins of a Basilica at the top and for sure a great Panorama of the city. From the top of the Hill of the Castle – East from the Old Town.

    IMG_1117_stitchWEB-min

    Panorama of Nice

    From there I descend to the old town and zig-zag on it visiting the different churches and great houses there.

    Church of Saint-Jaques le Majeur

    Cathedral Saint-Reparete

    Church of Saint-Matin and Saint-Augustin

    PANO_20160803_115129-min

    Prefacture Palace and the Flowers Market

    From there I walk West by the Opera and the City Hall to get to the Garden of Albert I and to the Rue de France which is one of the main commercial streets in town.

    In Nice you can easily see the contrast between the rich people that lives and visits the city in summer time and the not so rich, locals and immigrants that works giving services to the first ones.

    I went north to the train station to get my ticket to Torino the following day. I changed my plan of going to Milan as Vittorio, the boyfriend of my friend Benedetta, who is from Torino convinced me.

    At the train station I had a curious Anecdote.

    Waiting out of the station checking the timetables with my phone before asking inside to book the tickets a guy approaches me. He stopped in front of me and said “Salam”. I turn my face up with a soft smile and looked at him to his eyes. The he continued asking me with a foreign accent “Arab?”. I smiled more and answered him “Unfortunately not”. That made me feel that sometimes I seem Arab which might be of use once I get to the Middle East Countries.

    For lunch time I went back to the Port where I started my walk that morning to Chez Pipo. One of the main dishes to taste here is the Succo. It is a bread oven what normally you combine with some salad and Pizza. I have to say, that the salad they suggest me really disappointed me as there was nothing else but green leaves.

    After lunch I walk along the west coast from the port where the people goes for a sunbath over the rocks. Here there is less people than in the main beach that links the Castle Hill with the Airport, but there is less place and is all about rocks.

    Beach of Nice

    After chilling a little here, I went back to the Port to visit the church of Notre-Dame du Port and from there across Garibaldi Square and the area of Carabacel to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption on the Avenue Jean Medecin.

    Garibaldi-Nice

    Back to meet Vittorio I took this main commercial avenue and followed the Promenade du Paillon till I arrive to the Piazza Garibaldi. There we had a beer talking about architecture, Couchsurfing, travels and other of our common interest.

    At about 19:00 we meet with Beni at their place where other female friends came for an appetizer at then we went to a concert with an inexistent appetizer at stARTup. The concert wasn’t that great and the appetizer not more than a bunch of peanuts.

    At the end we were not satisfied so we went to dinner to a nice bar in the avenue of the Market. The bar, named Le Safari, was expensive, but with good local food. There I meet an Italian couple friends of Beni and Vitto. With them we shared adventures and comments about architecture, life philosophy and travels. They also talk me about things to do in Italy while visiting next week.

    Friends Nice Le Safari

    Next to dinner we went for a nice Ice-Cream and back home as next day we had to wake up early as Beni had her flight early morning and one hour later I will start my adventure to Italy. Hope there the trains are better than in France.

  • Blog
  • From Sevilla to Sochi

    It took me long to decide how long I would stay in Europe, there are many places I want to visit and many friends to meet in the way. Finally I decided that crossing Europe shouldn’t take longer that a couple of month as my real goal is to discover Asia and Oceania.
    First I thought of crossing the continent by hitchhiking but not to take to long I end up buying an Interrail Pass so I will be travelling by Train. Interrail ends in Poland so in Ukraine and Belarus and Rusia I will have to combine, car, bus and train to keep on going.
    This schedule is a sketch of my journey and might change along the way. I am open and flexible to what it have to come. I am coming to cities I have never been so regarding if I like them or not I will stay longer or leave them behind.
     
    In my way I hope to meet a lot of people and some friends from the past that are living in the cities I come. For this reason, if you are in any of the cities at the time I come, let me know so we can meet there. Like a friend of mine always says, “Compartir es vivir” [Shearing is living].
    I do not know much about the places I am visiting and must of the information I found on the Internet is for the common tourist. I will love to discover the cities not only visiting the big cathedrals, city halls, past and modern architecture, but also getting lost in the cities and meet the daily culture. If you have any suggestion of what should I visit or where should I stay. Feel free to let me know as well.