Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit

LOADS OF NEW PICTURES
The Loch Ness Monster Walking back from Urquhart Castle, a short walk from the town of Drumnadrochit, I passed a man who realized how foreign I was and told me he was the Loch Ness Monster. After a short conversation I realized he was pleasantly developmentally disabled and unfortunately was not a monster. We chatted about some random stuff–he said I was from ‘The City of Beautiful Angels’ after I told him my home is LA–but then his handler stole him away and told him not to speak to strangers. He was quick to confess his monstrous identity. I just wanted his jacket. And of course you must keep in mind that he had a strong Scottish accent.

I’m staying in Hiller??d, a small city north of Copenhagen in a Folk Skole. It’s an collection of one room apartments where American students (10) live with Danish post-high school kids (50) while they’re either beginning at a local college or still looking for what they want to do with themselves. It’s like a massive dorm attached to no school–a pleasant limbo between schools–with a kitchen staff that prepares the best food, fireplaces and tv rooms, and arts and craft basements for the long dark winter days.

Best Sunset yet: Barcelona, on top of Montjuic Castle.
Barcelona

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Splurge. Madrid now, but I have catching up to do

For the visually oriented, mash here.
Madrid royal PalacioI’m now in Madrid staying at a hostel voted number one in the world… a converted 18th century Spanish Villa with a marble fountain in the center covered by a stunning stained glass ceiling. The basement cave has free internet access and live music on Fridays, and the massive speakers scattered around the common area blast the Rolling Stones, Kanye, Sublime….

The writings that follow are some scraps and pieces that I quickly wrote in Rome, and corrected here in Madrid. They are just a few pieces of my travels but an honest compilation of some things I felt worth writing down.
There are big things to come: I was pick pocketed of 20 euros in Barcelona by a sly scar faced hooligan, and later that evening fooled into trusting the kindness of a professional 50 year old homosexual molester named Rafael. Don’t worry, I avoided the sly hand of Rafael and there was no molesting. But that’s just part of the exciting story to come.

Edinburgh:
It was very nice to start my trip in countries that speak English, and I had a fun time hearing snippets of conversations as I walked from the bus stop to the apartment I stayed at on a street called Cowgate. I stayed in University of Edinburgh apartment housing at the end of a hall on my own mattress, lent from some girls upstairs.
A regrettable truth of my travels is the number of non-locals I spend my time with. For each city I’ve visited I’ve always lived and hostelled among Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Swedes–the big four Western European Explorers. The upside is I get to learn about their lives and what they’re interested in when they play the tourist, but I feel I could be getting a more immersing plunge into Europe without them. I’m not at all complaining. Seeing a new country or city in any company is an incredible experience.
The Scots have a quick way with words: staccatos and half-syllables that compress simple things into a quarter-breath and a grunt. “I have to take a piss” becomes “Aye hata tahk a pech”
After a few days in the city, it quickly became my favorite. It may have been the kebabs, or the ghouley feeling when I walked to the top of Arthur’s seat.

Sweden:

One of the first things I tell people when they ask about Sweden is the solemn individuality of its people. It may have just been a Stockholm phenomenon, but people seemed very silent. As I walked one day through the largest department store on a busy Saturday, I could barely squeeze by the people in the aisles of the basement’s food section–but I remember hearing the sound of people crinkling packages and putting them in their baskets. The place was silent. They’ve got their goals at the store, and it doesn’t involve any sort of inefficient chit chat it seems. On a packed train from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Denmark, I could almost hear the reindeer outside thinking.

Of course the Swedish aren’t always quiet… among friends they are very talkative and friendly. In public, however, they see no need to remove their blinders.

What follows is a bit of a penned evening I wrote down in Sweden:

The only dancing I’ve seen here was at a jazz club in the basement of an Irish pub. I went with a couple girls who I had met in Dublin. It was here where I met two musicians, one an outspoken black man from Detroit who has lived in Sweden for 14 years, and the other a shy Swede pianist who studies ‘way up North’ in a place that Detroit calls ‘the equivalent of the American boondocks.’ Both play in a Jazz band, and Detroit teaches music on the side. Detroit wears a NY Yankees hat and talks with a slow purposeful clarity like he’s been speaking to people learning English his whole life. The Swede wore a black beanie, jean jacket, and had a snuse packet (a small paper-wrapped packet of tobacco) creeped out of his upper lip whenever he smiled.
Continue reading “Splurge. Madrid now, but I have catching up to do”

Peak Oil. Wait, I mean Inverness and Barcelona

I’m almost at the 2 month mark, and it looks like I just passed the 6,000 unique visitors mark for this travel blog thing. Thanks for reading. Grazie, tag, gracias, chin chin, cheers, and whatnot.

Get a job

If this is the first time you’ve heard the words Peak and Oil together, it’s time you read this article.
Or go to this website.
Or read some of these books.

If this kind of hard truth is what gets you off (like it does me) read any of the books in this list. I can most faithfully recommend ‘Crosing the Rubicon’
I just finished a peak oil book, and it makes me very happy I’m travelling furiously right now. It’s going to be a different world when economic growth just doesn’t happen any more. It’s almost funny how little real work people do when compared to the heaps of muscle power we substitute with non-human energy like that in oil. The most work I do in one day for example is carry my tired body from one airport or train station to another.

I was just up in the Scottish highlands… but it wasn’t all rock-clinging goats and thistle trees the size of mountains… I was in Inverness, officially the adminstrative capitol of the Scottish Highlands. I arrive on a Saturday, and right outside my hostel door (Eastgate Backpackers hostel: incredible) was the weekend market. All sorts of everything… german bread, polish sausages, cheeses, meats, and produce of the freshest variety… a great welcoming party for the victim of a long bus ride from Edinburgh where I had a very dancey and late Friday night, but worked things out so I could get laundry done before my bus left. I’ll post my adventures in Inverness (and Loch Ness) when I have pictures because I wouldn’t want to just TELL you about the monster… you must see it with your own bloody eyes.’
Now I’m in Barcelona, but it’s only been a short while, so I can’t say much, except It’s exceedingly pleasant to understand what people are saying while at the same time feel very foreign. I said to myself after I asked for directions… “I remember you, Spanish… we parted ways in 11th grade. It’s nice to see you again.”

More Plans

Because I’ve cemented the next month or so, I thought I’d throw my itinerary up here in case anyone wants to meet up:
November 10th through 15th: Inverness, Scotland
Nov 15th through 22: Barcelona then Madrid, Spain
Nov 22nd through 28th: Copenhagen, Denmark
Nov 28th through Dec 13th: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dec 13th through the 18th: Budapest Hungary
Dec 18th – 26th: Prague, Czech Republic

Bits and Pieces

Countries are fun. Here are some first impressions from the 6 countries I’ve sauntered through so far:
England:
Politeness. Every single construction site I walked by in London, Brighton, and York had a sign that read something like this: Dear Neighbor, Please excuse the scaffolding and the noise. Our working hours are 0900-1700. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call the site manager, Nigel Doormouse, at 0774567667. The Brits have a thing for safety as well. When I came to stay at Sussex University in Brighton, I was told by my friend that during her orientation she was told that “The British are afraid of two things. Salmonella and Fire.” Instantly the song ‘London’s Burning’ by The Clash came to mind, and I set right off to document the numerous fire protection schemata in her dorm. You can find that almost thrilling sequence here. It begins with a very sad silhouette on a disposal bag. Don’t be ashamed. It happens to everyone.
But back to the point. London is approaching paranoid on the scale of safety. If you want to bring your dog to the UK it must be quarantined for a year. Apparently it’s because of their pride that there hasn’t been a case of rabies since the 1800s. There may be better things to brag about than that. I’m sure there’s more bits and pieces like that, but I’m not about to check.
Everyone drinks all the time. 9am: Hop on the Tube with your Tweed suit, Pink Tie (London businessman casual dresscode) and swig Carlsberg after a good left-right looksee. 10:30: Board meeting at Bannerman’s on Oxford Street. Have a seat in a wicker chair, sit up straight, cross your leg, and down a pint of Guinness with your business partners. Lunch, TeaTime, Dinner… pints. Could start to explain the staggering bureaucracy that is a sticky point of the British psyche…
Scotland
Ireland
Sweden
Denmark
Italy

I’m in Florence now, seeing Cinque Terre tomorrow (for some see-side hiking), and going to the walled city of Lucca tomorrow night and exploring the next day. Then flowing over to Bologna, then back to Rome on the 9th.