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To recycle or..

Posted 20 November 2007 - Barcelona (ES):

I have difficulties taking nice photos of Barcelona. I mentioned that already when I was here last February and I haven`t changed my opinion since. Es pore so that I post a photo I took earlier in Lisbon. Translation of the text: some things are not suitable for recycling:

(© Lisbon - PT, October 2007)
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Speaking Spanish?

Posted 10 November 2007 - Santiago C (ES):

Holland has come yet another step closer today. Until now, I have mostly been speaking English but I will dedicate the rest of the year to other language. Spanish for the next to weeks, then French for a while, and some Dutch afterwards. Among those, Spanish is for sure the biggest challenge. I did have some courses in university, but at the time I preferred to spend my days traveling the Dutch rail network. I could have paid a little more attention than I actually did.. Anyway, my first day in Spain was full of language exposure and I am confident that by the end of the coming two weeks, I will have learnt lots more Spanish than I know now.

The plan for Spain is a bit chaotic and the traveling distances will be long. After my visit to Sigrid here in Santiago, I will visit a Couch Surfer in Salamanca, then in Madrid, I will stay with some people I met in Ireland. From Madrid to the coast to say hello to Bas`s classmate from Wroclaw (Susana), then northbound to be in Barcelona during my birthday, staying with an ex-colleague, then to Bask country and further north to France. Sanne will pay another visit when I am in Paris and, after that, I will be home in three weeks time.

Tomorrow, I will walk around in Santiago de Compostela to take photos. I haven`t done lots of that during the past few days, so it`s time to catch up.

Photo from Evora (PT):

(© Evora - PT, November 2007)
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Heading for Santiago

Posted 9 November 2007 - Porto (PT):

It`s my last day in Portugal and I spent most of it on the bus. I wanted to see the inlands of Portugal – well I have! And it does take forever to get from one place to the other, even though the condition of the roads is surprisingly good.

Anyway, I did not take many photos today, but here`s one of the Cascais Lighthouse which I visited with Mercedes and Fabien last week.

(© Cascais - PT, November 2007)
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European projects

Posted 8 November 2007 - Castelo Branco (PT):

Home is coming closer as I am slowly moving north. For now, I am enjoying the stay at Rui`s place, where his parents are stuffing me with all sorts of food. This afternoon, I had the biggest breakfast ever, complete with wine, fish, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, olives, cake, home-made juice in the alcoholic sense of the word and maybe something else that I now forget to write about. A good change from some more sober meals over the last few days.

Tomorrow, I will move on (or back) to Porto. The day after, I will take the train to Spain! A new flag again, country number 10 this time. The new flag is always a good sign of progress, and it means new stuff. I will try to speak as much Spanish as I can, although it is not necessarily a language I am very good at. Had is as a subject in uni for two years, with little opportunity to practice ever after. I will be staying with Spanish people for most of the cities I visit, so their should at least be enough exposure to other people speaking Spanish.

I wrote on Us Europeans about the many old people that hang around in the streets of Portugal. Beside one photo today, I have not feel urged to take photos of them, because I already take so many other photos and I can`t be bothered to make the effort. Maybe another time.. Anyway, the photographer of Le monde vu du ciel, known in English as The world from above, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, recently started a nice project with quite some old people in it. Name of the project is 6 Billion others. It shows portraits of many people who tell a short story about their own life or experiences. So if you want to see old interesting people – try and have a look there.

Another source of information if you`re looking for history rather than present and future, is In Europa (Fluency in Dutch required). It`s a weekly TV documentary based on the book In Europa by Geert Mak. He made a big journey through all of Europe (in 1999), in search for survivors, witnesses, descendants, whatever, of all major events that took place in Europe during the 20th century. The book was quite interesting to read – even for somebody who doesn`t like reading, like myself – and the program concept looks promising too!

(© Castelo Branco - PT, November 2007)
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Reporting from Co. Blanco

Posted 7 November 2007 - Castelo Branco (PT):

I left Lisbon again today. For Castelo Branco today. I wanted to see some more of the inlands of Portugal before moving on to Spain, and Castelo Branco sounded like a good name. I found somebody from Couch Surfing who could host me, and so I was happy to get on the 3h30 bus trip from Lisbon to here. I got a bit sick on the way. The bus looked all nice but the seats were to small and the road to bumpy and curly. Anyway, I made it safely but did not take many photos during the day. So here’s an old one. It`s the outside wall of the Sintra fort, the one I was telling about earlier. The outside is on the lefthand side. The village of Sintra lies in the background, a few hundred meters below in the valley.

(© Sintra - PT, November 2007)
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Away from Lisbon

Posted 6 November 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

I am back in Lisbon but only for two nights. I am going to the North East of Portugal tomorrow because the name Castelo Branco sounded appealing. Today, I walked around with Mercedes (girl) from Germany and Fabien (guy) from France. Lots of languages, but that is nothing strange here in Lisbon. Photo from the beach of Cascais – shall we go into the water or not?

(© Cascais - PT, Nov 2007)
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Blue skies part 10

Posted 5 November 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

It`s starting to get boring to report about sunny weather with blue skies and temperatures of well over 20 degrees. Today was another such day. I got up early from the nearly empty youth hostel in Beja to take the train to Evora, one hour north of Beja and two hours east of Lisbon. The train was small yet modern because co-financed by the European Union. It was shaking like crazy and if I were an egg sitting on the roof, I would have mutated into an omelet by the time I got to Evora.

Evora was just as white as Beja, but it had many more monumental buildings. I had lunch with Ines from Couchsurfing: bean soup and another small cup of coffee for which I forgot to thank her. I spent the afternoon doing some administrative stuff. The number of links towards Us Europeans is slowly increasing and I am very happy about that. I think it makes the project more useful, as just writing for myself will help me organise my thoughts but if other people can read along, they will also be able to learn along if they want.

I got back to Lisbon in the evening and was happy to see familiar faces there! No plans for tomorrow yet. Sleep as long as possible to save the costs of another meal – breakfast is included here – then walk around the city for a bit trying to find people from Portugal`s overseas colonies. I have sorted out the rest of my trip until Santiago in Spain, and know which subjects I want to cover before leaving the country. Time for some relaxation now!

(© Evora - PT, November 2007)
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Plans for rest of Portugal

Posted 4 November 2007 - Beja (PT):

I had a quiet day today, walking around in un-vibrant Beja. I caught up with the writing, took some photos of cross roads (below) and other things, tried to figure out which places to visit during the rest of my stay in Portugal. For now, it looks like I will be heaving north to Evora tomorrow morning, then back to Lisbon in the evening (=west), then North East to Castel Branco or Viseu before getting back to Porto and from there to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

(© Beja - PT, November 2007)
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Posted 3 November 2007 - Beja (PT):

Not much news today. I packed my stuff, walked around the Baixa neighbourhood (photo) with my two backpacks and then took a bus to Beja. Some people told me that it was a boring town so I thought I`d have a good chance of finding a place to stay – which was not obvious during this Portuguese long weekend holiday. It worked out well, I arrived safely. After three days of no cooking possibilities (the Lisbon youth hostel had no kitchen facilities), I prepared myself a nice meal and went to bed early.

(© Lisbon - PT, Nov 2007)
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Bélem and Sintra

Posted 2 November 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

Another nice and sunny day in Portugal. I spent the day walking around with Veronica, a girl from Argentina whom I met during breakfast. The day started off in Bélem, a neighbourhood of Lisbon that is known for its Bélem pastry and the fact that the famous Portuguese sailors left the country from there (see photo of monument below). After Bélem, we went to Sintra: a sort of castle yard that compared to Lisbon in the same way Versailles does to Paris and Potsdam to Berlin.

Sintra has a big fort on the hill next to it. Obviously we needed to pay to get in, but I did not like that idea so much so we tried to climb in via surrounding rocks and trees. Veronica made it halfway and then went back. I didn`t think I was going to make it either, but I could hear the flag on one of the towers, and continued a little further. I then got the wall in sight again and pulled myself up from one of the teeth whatever those are called in English. The other tourists were a bit surprised to see somebody climb in from outside, which added to the fun. I shot a few photos and then left the castle through the normal entrance/exit, leaving the guard puzzled about how I could walk out after he did not let me in.

After the castle and the steep way down to Sintra, Veronica visited another castle park. In the meantime, I walked around the city centre and met a Dutch guy who was on a business trip to Portugal. He was visiting his local distributor and they had gone to Sintra for some site-seeing. They ended up in this wine place, which suited me because I was given a nice glass of Portuguese red wine and talked a little with the other people who had been invited to the same table.

The Sintra experience ended with local pastry again, something with egg yolk this time. Once back in Lisbon, I tried to work on my article but didn`t get anywhere. Veronica was planning to go to Alto Barrio for a drink so I joined her.

We got to Alto Barrio by 11 and the streets were packed with people. A few of them seemed to enjoy themselves trying to sell illicit materials like cocaine, marihuana and hash. One of the guys recognised me, and I then recognised him too – he was walking around the cemetery when I was taking photos yesterday. Already back then, I was suspicious about him. That initial reaction seemed to be quite adequate. Anyway, two glasses of wine on the streets of Alto Barrio were enough for the night. We walked back to the hostel and that was the end of a pleasant day.

(© Bélem - PT, Nov 2007)
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All Saints Day in PT

Posted 1 November 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

It`s November! LISTOPAD! I remember walking around in Poland exactly 3 years ago, visiting Bas in Wroclaw and attending the candle-lit All Saints Day celebrations there. I was happy to learn that the Polish Order and Justice party was voted out of power last week, so Poland can finally return to be the sympathetic country it was when I first visited it in 2001.

My current location is Portugal, which is about just as religious as Poland is. All Saints Day is a public holiday here like it is in Poland, so I headed to the cemetery to see how people `celebrate` that day here. Well, they go to the graves of their loved ones, open them (not the coffins or the loved ones, just the graves) and clean the grave, leave fresh flowers, mourn and pray. And then go home.

Here`s two photos I took at the San Joao cemetery:

(© Lisbon - PT, November 2007)
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Mass psychology

Posted 31 October 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

I arrived in Portugal`s chaotic capital Lisbon today. There`s a lot of beeping going on, lots of traffic jams and lots of people hurrying to I-don`t-know-where. I feel like everybody in the streets is about half my size, which turns the city into a giant ants` pile. I have not yet been able to understand the structure of the city, so for now I feel a bit lost. The city has some vague resemblances with Paris for the buildings and the streets, with Rome for some of the monuments.

Below is the photo of yesterday`s student marches in Coimbra. Starting all quiet and disorganized, passing by some strange behaviour, ending in a masses of students hitting the road. All in strange costumes and acting ridiculous. Interesting mass psychology. I wonder if they would dare to behave like that if they were not surrounded by thousands of fellow students behaving equally weird.

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Pretty Coimbra

Posted 30 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

Day three in Coimbra was just as nice as day one and two. The same sunny weather and it`s still very warm for the time of year. I spent the day walking around the city centre with a guy from Austria named Josko. The whole day was organised around a students parade to welcome the first-years` in university. I will post some photos of that tomorrow, because I already promised a pretty one of the old city centre for today:

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Coimbra and reflections

Posted 29 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

Coimbra is a very nice university city that shows vague resemblances with Rome. It is obviously a lot smaller, but it has many pretty statues, churches, hills and cobble stone streets. The food market does not compare to the Campo di Fiori in size, but it is still a good place to get some healthy food.

I also spent some time this morning reading a Dutch newspaper – the first one since I left Holland three months ago. I was unhappily surprised by the coloured and polarised views, that are slowly shifting towards nothing but ordinary cultural fundamentalism – a movement that goes against all traditions and conventions of the Dutch society.

Apparently, the word `national pride` has somehow been given a different meaning. We have never had any other national pride than our Orange coloured football team that is always expected to win big tournaments but never does, and the Eleven Cities Skating tour that was not held for the last 10 years.

It is only against a supposed external threat that some populist politicians have decided that Dutch sources of pride should be revived. They forget to mention that tolerance and open-mindedness are the only virtues that The Netherlands can really be proud of. The current climate of fear will bring the Dutch success model to a grinding halt. It will kill tolerance, diversity and common sense: the only pillars of our economy and society since The Netherlands became a country of its own.

Enough commenting on politics, I have some other missions to complete. One of them is to increase my collection of crossroads. Here`s another one. I will post some pretty photos of the old city centre tomorrow.

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Lucky bastard

Posted 28 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

I have had plenty of time to enjoy Porto, mostly because I did not get a lot of sleep while there. Yesterday was another evening out, and like the previous one, it only started at midnight. The night out included a pub visit until 2AM, followed by some dancing place until 6AM. I was lucky to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning, but unlucky to mess up with my phone and still wake up one hour earlier than necessary.

I said goodbye to Helena and took the metro to the train station. From there to Coimbra, one hour south of Porto. I had not made any reservation with the youth hostel and did not even check the location of the youth hostel on the map so arrived in a randomly lost kind of way. I only knew that the hostel was 6 kilometers away, the street address, and that it would cost 11 euros for the night, in case they had any vacant beds left. No sign of life at the train station though, so I just started walking in whatever direction. Allow me to add that the sun was shining, the sky blue and the temperature about 22 degrees. Nothing to worry about for that part at least.

When I was halfway, I obviously did not know that because I did not know where I was going, I asked a boy and a girl whether they knew the street name and the guy replied that they had been living there, that it was quite far, but that he would take me there by car. Quite cool and I made it to the youth hostel in less than 10 minutes. They still had beds available but I could only check in at 6. I then spent about an hour sleeping in a chair, before I grabbed myself together to do today`s interviews. And I will put them online in a few minutes from now:

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Sleepy day in PT

Posted 27 October 2007 - Porto (PT):

Uhm, today was not the longest day of all. After going out with Helena, Ivo and their friends last night, we only made it home (yes, home can be everywhere in Europe these days..) at 6. I woke up at 3 and only had breakfast at half 5. Helena (photo on today`s posting at Us Europeans) cooked her favourite pasta dish, with tuna and cream sauce. Very tasty! Now it is almost 9 o`clock and I haven`t done much more than typing my story. Shame but no shame 

(© Porto - PT, October 2007)
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Healthy habits

Posted 26 October 2007 - Porto (PT):

Decent food!! I have been eating lots of fruits and vegetables (oranges, banana, tomatoes, aubergine, onions, zucchini and peppers) today and am very excited about that. The air is fresh here, the sun is out. The temperature is pleasant and the people look happy. It`s good to be here!

(© Porto - PT, October 2007)
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(© Tavira - PT)
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