Europe 1998: Week Three

Week Three

September 30, 1998: We went and saw the Sultans Palace. We also visited a carpet shop, and bought some sandals for souvenirs.

Istanbull

This is the Golden Horn River that flows through Istanbul, as seen from the Sultans Palace.

October 1st: At this point Thomas and I had figured that we should probably figure out how we were getting back to Rome, since that is where our airline tickets left from. We explored many possibilities. We thought of flying back, but that was too expensive. We thought of retracing our steps and go back, but that would be too boring. So we decided on the only other alternative that we could come up with. Go North-West through Eastern Europe and get back to Rome that way. Although this represented only a slight problem because neither of us had any clue what the counties along that route were like or even all of the countries we would be passing through. So we bought a map of Europe.

We went and ate at the Chinese Food Restaurant again for lunch. After that we went to the train station and bought tickets to Sofia, Bulgaria. We had the whole afternoon to kill, as the train didn’t leave until the evening. So we went back to the bazaar area by the University and shopped around. Some kid had a “genuine” leather coat that he was trying to sell me. As we didn’t have coats we figured we should get some kind of coat/sweatshirt as it was beginning to get cold in the evenings and we were headed to even least hospitable regions of the Earth. The kid started out wanting something like $120 American for the coat and after a little while of bargaining with him I finally gave him about $20 American for it. And then he sold Thomas a matching one for $10 American. That night we boarded the train for a 11 hour journey to Sofia.

October 2nd: The train took eleven hours to get to Sofia, Bulgaria. When we got off the train we tried to exchange a travelers check but, we had to walk to the downtown area to cash it at a certain bank, it was a real pain in the ass. We ate at KFC, um um delicious. Then we went back to the train station. We had decided in our brief time in Sofia that we did not want to stay there and we were going to move onto Bucharest, Romania. We bought train tickets for the 10:20 train, for 24,000 Bulgarian Lira each, about $15 American. We never saw one tourist during our brief stay, but stuff was cheap anyways. We sat at a cafe and I had a beer and Thomas had a Coke and it was only $1 American. Cigarettes were about 25 Cents a pack too. This is also where I picked up my marvelous magnetic chess set that was to keep us very entertained in the days to come. That night we waited around in the train station until boarding time. When we were getting ready to go this old man came up to us and led us to the train, and showed us where our compartment was and then of course he asked for $10, we gave him two and then ignored him until he left.

October 3rd: We were on the train bound for Bucharest, Romania. We started with an empty eight person compartment. We were alone we spread out and tried to get some sleep. Then at like three in the morning some local people got and crowded into our compartment. There were four of them so Thomas and I sat up and sat across from each other and tried to fall back to sleep despite their chattering. A while later some of their friends decided to come and join them in our car, so we ended up squeezing nine people into the eight person train compartment. At the Romanian-Bulgarian border the customs inspector came and hassled the people because they had like four duffle bags full of cartons of cigarettes which they were attempting to smuggle across. After the border the ticket inspector came to our compartment to check our tickets. He started on the side opposite of me and checked three of the locals and then Thomas, he checked my ticket but when he got to the lady sitting a couple of seats next to me a argument ensued. Apparently the lady did not have a ticket and the ticket inspector grabbed her and was trying to pull her out of the compartment! There were two men among this group and one began to pull on the lady to sit down and the other started grabbing for his huge roll of money while they both exchanged heated comments with the ticket inspector. The skinny man started to push some money in the face of the ticket inspector but he pushed it away and kept tugging on the woman. Now this ensued for several minutes and ended with the ticket inspector finally taking the money and leaving. I have know idea what was being said as they were speaking in either Bulgarian or Romanian, both languages that I don’t know.

We got into Bucharest at 9am. We got a hotel right across from the train station. Two double beds for 105,000 lei ($12 American) a night. We ate at a restaurant across the street, we both had chicken and French fries and a beer for 55,000 lei ($6 American) total. After we were back at the hotel we inquired into getting our clothes washed. The maid came to our room and looked over what we wanted washed and she told us 180,000 lei ($20 American). We told her that was too much. She left and came back five minutes later and told us she would wash them for 85,000 lei ($9.50 American). This time we told her no again, half on general principle of her trying to scam us and half because we still had enough clean clothes to get us to Budapest.

October 4th: It rained all day. The people at the Hotel we stayed at were assholes. We tried to send home a fax but couldn’t because the paper we had written it on was “Too Thin.” We took a taxi to the downtown area, originally the driver wanted 250,000 lei ($28 American), but I talked him down to 40,000 lei ($4.50 American). We had pizza at lunch, and we ate dinner at good ole McDonalds. We figured we could find our way back to the hotel walking but got kinda lost. So we flagged down a taxi but he couldn’t understand that we wanted to go to the train station. So I said “Choo-Choo” and pretended to pull on a train horn. The guy figured it out, and he only charged 30,000 lei to get back to the hotel.

October 5th: We bought tickets for the train. We also sent home a fax. We just generally hung out all day in the plaza outside of the train station and then later moved into the train station. Inside the train station we ate some hotdogs from “Pacos Chicago Style Hot Dog Stand.” They weren’t very good hotdogs. We got on the train at 7pm. We had good sleeping cars, it was 13 hours to Budapest.

October 6th: We got into Budapest at 8am. We got a map of youth hostels from the train station and apparently there was only like two open at that time of year. So we went to the closest one, which required a short ride on the subway. We had to wait a while in the bar of the hostel for a room to open up. For two people it was only like 1 dollar more to get a private room than stay in a large multiple person room, so we went for the private room. It was 1,200 F. ($6 American) each, and my god, it was the smallest room I have ever seen. There were bunk beds, and one of us had to sit down on the bed so the other could get in the room and close the door. After resting for a while we went out into the city to try to find a place to eat. We ended up by the Heroes Square so we checked it out along with some castle type place that was across the street.

Budapest
Thomas in front of the monument at Heroes Square.

budapest

 

Thomas in downtown Budapest.

We walked all over downtown Budapest and finally came across the “Tennessee Grill.” They served burgers and other American style cuisine. We both order a burger and we got mozzarella sticks for an appetizer, which came with of all things mayonnaise. After that we ventured to the other side of the Danube and saw the Castle on the walk back saw the Chain Bridge and went passed the Parliament building. We finished of the night in the bar of the Hostel, where we met up with our soon to be Canadian buddy Perry.

Europe 1998: Turkey Photos

Turkey

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Istanbul

Istanbul

This is the Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia is in the upper left, and the Blue Mosque is on the bottom right.

Istanbul

This is the Golden Horn river that flows through Istanbul.

Chinese Food

This is the Chinese food restaurant we ate at a few times. That is Thomas standing there.

Europe 1998: Week Two

Week Two

September 22, 1998:
We arrived at in Athens, Greece about five am. The bus stopped at the port (for people leaving on ferries) and everyone except Thomas and I got off. So we went to the Hostel Aphrodite with the bus driver and guide. All that was left was a double room, so we took that. It was 8,000 drachmas ($24). We had breakfast in the little bar/restaurant that’s in the basement. After sleeping for a while, we went to the Archeological Museum and looked around. They had lots of statues from ancient Greece. It was a great museum, as far as museums go. After I got done looking around the museum Thomas still wanted to stay longer. So I told him he could stay but I was going to go, and take the map with me. So he had the business card from the hostel and he wrote down some directions on it, and I took off. Needless to say, he had a hard time finding his way back, especially since it was our first day there and we hadn’t gotten a feel for the area yet. Meanwhile I was back at the hostel trimming my beard, which left the sink clogged for the remainder of our stay. We got our laundry washed for 2,500 dr. ($8). That night we went up to the nearby restaurant Pita Pan, which we ate at many times during our stay in Athens. They served different kinds of Gyros, which are very good, as well as French fries and beer. After going out to eat we headed back to the bar at the Aphrodite for our complimentary Ouzo shot. And as always one thing led to another…

Athens
The Acropolis, Athens

Sep. 23: We went and saw the Acropolis (Pictured). It was the hangout for the ancient Greeks, and was very interesting to see. You can walk around and look at all the rubble and the Parthenon, which is the main building. When we were there the Parthenon had scaffolding erected inside, and there were people restoring it. The sign said they had been restoring it for ten years or so. At night I went back to the Aphrodite bar for some beers, while Thomas went to bed early. There was the coolest bartender ever there, She was from Perth, Australia and her name is Tanya.

Sep. 24: We had planned on going to the Ancient Agora, which was a market place in ancient times, however when we got to the metro (subway) station, it was closed, so we had to walk a ways and when we got to the Agora it was going to close in 15 min. so we decided not to go in. Instead we decided to go to the Parliament building. However we had a slight disagreement on how to get there, so we split up and I took the map we got from the hotel and Thomas took the guide book with a map in it. Well, it ends up Thomas’ way was the right one. He got there and waited around for ever for me. Meanwhile I saw Zeus Arch and a track that was used for the Olympic games and I talked to some old guy in the park for a while. However when I tried to get back I ended up going for quite a walk, and finally made it back to the hotel, and still beat Thomas by a few minutes. After resting up for a while we went and tried to buy train tickets to go to Istanbul, Turkey. It was very confusing and we finally ended up with a ticket for 11,400 dr. ($ 38) for both our tickets. This seemed a little cheap, So

Sep. 25: We asked the guy who was at the desk at the hotel about the tickets and he thought that they were only to Thessalonica, Greece, about one third of the way to Istanbul. So we went back to the train station and got it worked out and the tickets ended up costing 18,700 dr. ($62) each ticket.

* The metro was working today, so we took it to the Agora. It was real crowded, and both Thomas I had had money belts on and then would keep like $20 or so in cash in our pockets. Thomas whispers to me “I think that guy pick pocketed you!” So I reach in my pocket and sure enough my cash was gone. I look to this punk next to me and say “Give me my money back!!!” Now this punk was like 16 and not very big, and he just acts stupid then Thomas says look, and my money was on the floor. There was no way it fell out, so either the punk dropped it or tossed it down there. I wasn’t sure at that point so I said sorry and then the punk says “FUCK YOU” and hops off the train just before the doors close.

So we went back to the Agora and saw that, it wasn’t too exciting, just a bunch of old collapsed buildings. We also went back to the Parliament building and the big Park and the Zoo, which was pretty funny. There were just normal animals in there like ducks and rabbits and other normal farm animals. We left on the train at 11:15pm. When we were at the train station I had to pee, so I went to the bathroom and there was an old lady there, now this was my first experience with the pay for usage bathrooms, she wanted like 500 or so drachmas but all I had was a 5,000 dr. and some coins that added up to about 100 dr., so I tried to communicate that I only had to pee and she let me for 100 dr. We had a sleeping car on the way to Thessalonica and then had to switch trains there.

Sep. 26: We switched to seats for the rest of the trip, and of course we were backwards, but right in the middle of the train so there were these two old Greek women across from us. There were these two English guys and one girl who were at the Aphrodite with us and were going to Istanbul too, and they had called a hostel there and supposedly made reservations or something. Thomas was playing his game boy and when at one point dropped it and it slid under the seat where the two old ladies were sitting. Later on one of them got up and them Thomas could reach it, and they were dazzled when he turned it on and it started making noises. After we got to the border we had to buy Visas for entry which were $45 each, which took up almost all the rest of the US Cash I had left. We then had to wait an hour and a half for the Turkish train to show up and then get going. We then got into Istanbul about 10pm. It was something like 23 hours to get from Athens to Istanbul. And most of that was riding backwards on the train!
We followed the English guys to the hostel but when we got there they said they were all full but if we wanted we could sleep in the hall! We said no and then went and ended up at the Cordial House Hotel, which was pretty good. It was 1,250,000 Turkish Lira ($5) a night each, I tried to pay in us dollars but they got angry so we borrowed money from the English guys for that night. We stayed in bunk beds in a room with like 10 other people.

Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey
The Blue Mosque is in the Foreground, and the Hagia Sophia in the background.

Sep. 27: We were so hungry, all we had to eat the day before was some crappy cookies and mushy bananas on the train. We tried to find a place to change money, but it was Sunday so there was no place open, so we ended up getting money off my credit card from the hotel. We went and ate at this restaurant that we went back to several times that was right by the St. Sophia church. We had some beer and some tasty “meatballs.” We also went and saw the Hippodrome, which was the ancient race track, which is now just a couple of pillars. We saw the Blue Mosque and the St or Hagia Sophia, which was a very important church in old Constantinople. We took a tour on a Double Decker bus around town, for fifteen American dollars. Later on we went and ate dinner at the Chinese food restaurant (Pictured Below). We then signed up for the “no hassle” tour to Gallipoli and Troy for $45 for the tour and bus rides and hotel.

Chinese Food
Istanbul, Turkey

Sep. 28: We started our “No Hassle” Tour with a five hour bus ride to Gallipoli. Gallipoli is a site from World War One were the British and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) attack the Ottoman Empire to try to open the area for an attack on Istanbul, which would provide the allies an open supply route to Russia. But anyways, we spent the day touring the area including the museum and five or six memorial sites. There were trenches set up in the same spots as during the war. It was a very good tour, the tour guides name was Ole and he was awesome. It was an excellent tour that lasted about five hours. In 285 dies of fighting, in 1915, at Gallipoli there were 250,000 thousand Allied casualties and 250,000 Turkish casualties, including 39,000 allied deaths.
After the tour we went across the channel and to the Anzac Hotel, where we stayed in a room with two guys from B.C., Canada. We had dinner at the hotel, and then stayed up to watch the Movie Gallipoli, staring Mel Gibson, but they showed an hour long documentary first, and then we were dead tired so we went to bed.

*The “Big Canadians” as we came to call our new pals, had a hilarious story for us about there trip from Athens to Istanbul. It started with them missing there night train, so they got on the train the next morning. However when they got to the border, which consisted of a small store that sold snacks and the government office, they were told they would have to wait some insane amount of time before the next train would be there to take them into Istanbul. I think they said they got to the border sometime like 5 am and would have to wait until 3 or 4 pm for the train. So they made it but had to wait outside for almost 12 hours at the border.

Troy
Troy, Turkey
Thomas at Troy, Turkey.

Sep. 29: We took our tour of Troy, pictured above, today, it lasted two hours. It was much better than I expected. Ole was our tour guide again and even though it was just kind of piles of rocks Ole really explained it and helped envision what it used to be like. It was raining that day but not too hard. There was a big wooden horse that was a remake of the famous “Troy Horse.”

*We then went back to the wonderful Anzac hotel, where we had to wait four hours for the bus to come and get us. We were in the hotel lobby and asked the dude who helped out running the tours (Dubbed Peon Man), if we could watch Gallipoli, why we were waiting. It seemed totally plausible to use since were just sitting there and so was the TV and VHS tape. He told us we could in 40 min, so about 30 min later he took off and never came back. So Thomas took a nap in the lobby and I just walked around the town for a couple hours. When I got back it was time to go so I went and woke Thomas up. While he was napping he had taken off his eyeglasses and when he got up to go he left them on the floor there. So after we got to the other side of the straight (by Ferry), Thomas realized he had lost them and we asked the other tour guy if he would call over to the hotel, so he did but they could find them anywhere. To this day we still think that Peon Man is walking around with them on!

So we started the bus ride back. On the way down this idiot guy had some stupid “Dance Party” tape that the driver played, so when we got back on the bus after a rest stop I gave him my The Doors tape and he played that. So on the way back up to Istanbul they wanted more music so we passed up the Credence Clearwater Revival tape and were jamming to that. We stopped at some truck stop type place and had food, meatballs and rice, Delicious! When we got back to Istanbul, we went back to the Cordial House, and stayed there another night. We had a room to ourselves this time, it was pretty nice.

Europe 1998: Italy Photos

Italy

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Roma

RomeThis is a picture taken from the Coliseum.

Rome

Rome

The Roman Forum

Rome

These skulls are all real.  This is the crypt of a church in the middle of Rome.

Venice, Italy

Venice Venice

These first two pictures were taken from the tower that stands in San Marco Polo Plaza.

Venice

This picture was taken from a water taxi on the Grand Canal.
There are several Gondolas as well as another water taxi in the distance.

Vatican City

Vatican Flag

Vatican

This is a picture of me inside one of the Vatican Museums hallways.

Europe 1998: Week One

Week One
September 15, 1998:
We left home (Portland, Oregon) and flew to Saint Louis, Missouri. We had to wait until the next morning to get the flight to Rome.

Sep. 16: We spent this day on the airplane.

Sep. 17: We made it into Leonardo Di Vinci airport (just outside of Rome) at about 7 am, and we rode the train into the city. This was the worst morning of our trip, we started by trying to go to some of the hostels and hotels listed in our guide book, but of the ones we could find they were either full or way too expensive. We went to at least a dozen hotels and the cheapest price we could find was $100, and the guy wouldn’t let us look at the room before we paid.

Roman Plaza

So, we were sitting at this plaza (above picture) and we saw in our guide book that there was this tour agency that could help travelers find accommodations. It is called Enjoy Rome and they helped us find the wonderful Hostel Rita, which is a nice place to stay if you enjoy cold showers. It was 80,000 Lira ($53) for a double room or 25,000 Lira ($17) each for a bed in the dormitory rooms.
Sep. 18: There are a few main “tourist sites” in Rome that shouldn’t be missed. Among these are the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum (below). We saw all of those sites this day without any rushing around. However, when we got to The Vatican, it was closed. They stop admitting people pretty early (around 3 pm) so everyone has enough time to see everything. So if you want to see everything in one day I suggest going to The Vatican in the morning.

Rome
This picture was taken from the Coliseum.
Erik in Rome.
This is a picture of Erik at the Roman Forum.

Sep. 19: We left for Brindisi at 7 am from the Roman Termini. The night before we asked the desk guy to wake us up a 6 am. Thomas’ watch had an alarm in it, but naturally the battery went dead on the plane ride over. So of course the next morning comes around and luckily we woke up on our own because there was never a wake up call. Basically, Brindisi’s only purposes is a port. There is not really anything to do in the city that is very exiting. We went to a local movie theater and saw Godzilla. Our ferry to Corfu left at night so we had lots of time to kill. We got a two person cabin on the ferry, it was an eight hour journey. We paid 65,000 Lira ($44) each for the cabin. The price for a comfy airline type chair was 55,000 Lira ($36) and the fare for sitting up on deck was 35,000 Lira ($23). There were also discounts for different types of rail passes. The cabins were nice, they were just bunk beds and then there was a bathroom with a shower down the hall. There was a bar on the upper level of the ferry too. This is also Thomas’ birthday. We spent his twentieth birthday enjoying European transportation.

Sep. 20: As soon as people begin getting off the ferry there was a barrage of people trying to get people to stay at their hotel/house. We decided to go to The Pink Palace, because a few people we had met on the ferry were going there and there was a Pink Palace bus at the port to pick people up. However staying at the Pink Palace was a learning experience for us. The people who worked there were really nice to us until the next morning when we decided we wanted to leave. A few of our complaints about the Pink Palace first though. I got bed bug bites from sleeping in the bed. Also the shower used salt water, (and we were right next to the ocean, imagine that!)

Sep. 21: Since the ferries arrive at 7 am, there is an early checkout. Because the Pink Palace wants to get the new people into the rooms of the people leaving. Now, we didn’t have anything against this except that they woke us up early and told us it was time to leave. We went and tried to get breakfast, and finally did after a brief argument with them as to whether or not we had a meal left. Then we wanted to go into the beautiful Corfu Town, and they told us the wrong directions as to where to get on the city bus. But overall it wasn’t too bad, it was safe and everything. Corfu town was very nice. We spent the day wandering through both the old and new fortresses. We also stumbled upon a church, right when they opened up a little room, we went in and saw Saint Spyros mummified body. Then we headed out for Athens on the Pink Palace bus. We left that evening (five pm I think) and we got to Athens about five the next morning.

Europe 1998: Intro

Intro

In August of 1998 I persuaded my best friend Thomas Nancarrow to go on a vacation to Europe with me. We got a hold of two standby airplane tickets round trip from Portland Oregon to Rome, Italy for about $350 each. The first day we could use them was on September 15th, so that set the date of our departure.

We knew we were going to be traveling around a lot, and backpacks are the best way to haul the necessities around. I have a Jansport World Traveler backpack. It has a zip off day pack, and can expand to become huge. Thomas used a standard top loading internal frame backpack.

Before we left we purchased the Lonely Planet guide to Greece and the Rough Guide to Italy. I think that these books were useful but a book that covered all of Europe, that would have been about the same size as both of them or less, would have been more useful to us. These two books were very detailed and the Lonely Planet had good city maps.

 

vatican01Erik

budapest02Thomas

Our Route

tripeurope2

 We started out in Rome, Italy. We took the train to Brindisi, Italy, then took a Ferry to Corfu, Greece. From there we took a bus to Athens, Greece. Next we took the train to Istanbul, Turkey. We went on a bus south to Cannake, Turkey where we saw the Lost City of Troy and the Gallopoli memorials. We then returned to Istanbul. From then on we took the train. We went to Sofia, Bulgaria and from there to Bucharest, Romania. After that we went to Budapest, Hungary. From there we went to Ljublijana, Slovenia. After that we headed for Venice, Italy. From Venice we went to Rome, then to Milan. From Milan we flew back home to Portland, Oregon via New York and St Louis.