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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Camino = Meta

Posted 11 November 2007 - Santiago de Compostel

Santiago is a really cool city. Not only was I warmly welcomed by Sigrid and her flat mates, I also enjoyed walking around in the city centre. It`s got a huge pedestrian area and obviously a big cathedral. Throughout the day, pilgrims find their way to the city centre. Even though I am not walking my way through the 27 EU countries, I still feel like I have something in common with them. With one major difference: I have by no means reached the end of my trip yet! Almost nine more months to go and by then I will only be… back home, not in a pretty far away place. But home is a nicer destination in a way, and I can do without the completion certificate.

One thing I wanted to write about earlier was the Portuguese TV program `Do you know more than a 10-year old`. I also encountered it in Spain and was told it exists in France as well. The concept of the program is only moderately interesting, but it does connect well with a theory I composed a few years ago. Big corporations should every now and then invite a 6 year old (the original theory opted for 6 rather than 10, because 6 year-olds always want to know why) to ask questions during a corporate meeting. There is so much bullshitting going on in many countries, and I think a 6 year-old`s questions would be a perfect countermovement. A company uniquely based on know-how doesn`t get far. Know-what is only a little better. Only combined with Know-why they really open doors to anything exceptional. And the overall Know-why usually lacks.

(© Santiago - ES, November 2007)
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Long trip

Posted 12 November 2007 - Salamanca (ES):

I had quite a long day today traveling from Santiago to Salamanca. I am by now used to spending 4 to 5 hours on a bus, but 7 was another thing. I slept most of them but my legs started to hurt and I got a bit annoyed about it. I was happy about the 30-minute lunch break halfway and about arriving in Salamanca. I was offered a place to stay by Willy who in spite of his English-sounding first name was Spanish by nationality. We walked around the old town for a bit, then prepared a nice breakfast consisting of salad and fresh tortilla (potato omelet). Very tasty and a good way to cheer up.

(© Middle of Nowhere - ES, November 2007)
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Looking for St Nicholas

Posted 13 November 2007 - Madrid (ES):

Salamanca and the surrounding region are meteorologically weird. Temperatures rise high during the day (+15°C today), but fall low during the night and the morning hours (-2°C). The sun is warm, but the air is cold. I walked around Salamanca in the morning and had a nice ham sandwich. Tried to talk to somebody but hardly anybody spoke English, not even the people who looked like they would speak English (I trained the skill of recognizing English-speakers by the face extensively during my stay in Lithuania). I still got my stories collected and am now heading for Spain`s capital Madrid.

I could and should have visited Madrid in February of last year, but the circumstances weren`t favourable and so I did not. All I have seen of Madrid until now is the airport – a transfer on the way to and from Ibiza on a job excursion in 2004.

Anyway, I was browsing through my photo archives of this trip and then found the one below. I like it lots but hadn`t posted it yet: la voici..

(© Umeå - SE, October 2007)
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Stuff from Madrid

Posted 14 November 2007 - Madrid (ES):

Hola from Madrid. Things are good here after another day of strolling around in the big city. It always takes some time to get used to a new big city. I kind of felt like I understood a bit of the structure of central Lisbon when I left, particularly the fact that there is no end to the city except on the side of the water. Madrid is still a bit of a mystery to me, even after a long afternoon of walking.

First venue on the list was the Real Madrid stadium Santiago Bernabeu. I was not planning on seeing it but heard people talking about it on the metro and then thought I`d give it a try. After all, this is the stadium where the best football match I have ever seen was played. Once upon a time, when Ajax won every single match it played and the only guess was by how many goals difference, the Amsterdam team came by in Madrid and got even the most fanatic Real supporters to applaud its gallery play. The match ended in a 0-2 victory for Ajax, with two goals erroneously cancelled. Four goals in and against Madrid. Those days are over now.. Check YouTube (search Ajax Real Madrid) , I know the images exist but have not enough bandwith to search and verify the link.

Anyway, back to the real stuff. From Bernabeu, I walked to Bilbao (metro station) to meet up with Carmen, then walked further along the royal palace and some obscure neighbourhoods. Cooked dinner in the evening and that was about it.

On the reflection side, I spent another few thoughts on what I want to when I`m back home in August 2008. I hope I will have enough of all the traveling by then, and can stay home for a while. What I thought about today was to try and document changes in Dutch society, which is not an entirely new idea. It would be interesting to get a chance to follow an experienced news writer and take photos to go with the articles. That would require different photography from whatever I am producing these days, but I know I can do that. Anyway, the day felt like there are a lot of ideas on the way but they did not want to present themselves today. That always feels a bit strange but what can you do about it. Just be patient.

Then another last thing: home has been very far away for the last few months and it is now starting to get closer. It is now finally starting to make sense to even think about the Netherlands. Although I am enjoying Spain, I can`t wait to first get to France and then get home for Christmas. I have been having very weird dreams about being home, while at the same time realising that I was not. These kind of semi-lucid dreams that can make you totally confused while sleeping. I have that a lot anyway, but most of the time it`s quite interesting. Well, that`s probably enough chitchat for the day, I`m off to bed now. Ciaociao.

(© Madrid - ES, November 2007)
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Posted 15 November 20067 - Madrid (ES):

Sorry, I`ve been behind a few days but am working hard to catch up. Here`s some people again, fully concentrated on reading books in the FNAC book shop in Madrid.

(© Madrid - ES, November 2007)
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Excitement in Spain

Posted 16 November 2007 - Torrevieja (ES):

Adventurous day today. When leaving for Torrevieja in the morning, I almost took the wrong bus at the hectic Estación de Autobuses Madrid – Sur but managed alright in the end. More trouble occurred in Elche, after 6 hours of traveling and with one more hour to go. I used the five-minute break at the local bus station to go to the toilet. The main toilets were closed and I had to look for an alternative, then came back and found… no bus. It had left without me. No worries for camera stuff, computer etc, because I always carry those with me wherever I go. Different story for the big backpack.. I quickly phoned Susana, who would collect me at the bus station in Torrevieja at 5 in the afternoon. Quickly explained the situation, after which she collected my big backpack in Torrevieja and I simply took the next bus.

Talking about exciting or worrisome adventures, this was probably the worst one so far and I felt quite stupid about it. But then again, it was solved in five minutes so there was not need or even time to panic. Anyway, below photo is from the stop we made halfway. Another middle of nowhere. Which is by the way a term that`s worth looking up in other languages. I will do that one of these days.

(© Middle of Nowhere II - ES, November 2007)
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Salt mountains

Posted 17 November 2007 - Torrevieja (ES):

Photo of the salt mountains near Torrevieja:

(© Torrevieja - ES, November 2007)
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Costa Blanca Decadency

Posted 18 November 2007 - Murcia (ES):

As you may have read in my recent article about Jubilados along the Spanish Costa Blanca, I have been puzzled by the whole phenomenon of old people living the last days of their life unintentionally annoying Spanish people. Another photographer by the name of Martin Parr - slightly more famous than I am….- spent many of his photographical reports on decadent behaviour in society. Here`s a link to some of his works, while below photo shows the situation at a quick glance: young buildings, old people.

(© Torrevieja - ES, November 2007)
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Happy birthday indeed

Posted 19 LISTOPAD 2007 - Barcelona (ES):

Hello all! Thanks for the SMSs and thoughtful messages! I had a fun birthday in Barcelona, in good company, with a nice glass of champagne and a tasty dinner as well! Also a nice moment to think back of how long I have been away for by now. This photo datums back from the first day of my trip, when I walked from Cork Airport to the city centre. Check the speed limit!

(© Cork - IE, Augustus 2007)
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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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Lack of green

Posted 21 November 2007 - Logroño (ES):

I arrived in Logroño today after a 6-hour train ride along the south sides of the Pyrenees. I haven`t been to Arizona, but I thought the landscape in this part of Spain looked a lot like some images I have seen of Arizona. Flattened yellow pancake hills, dried out rivers. Many aquaducts, but only little water descending from the mountains. The view reminded me that Spain is making me suffer from a serious lack of green.

I took below photo not today but on the way from Madrid to the Costa Blanca. The second one is from the Centre of Europe park in Lithuania:

(© Albacete - ES, Vilnius - LT, 2007)
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Posted 22 November 2007 - Bilbao (ES):

Sorry for complaining about the dry weather and dusty landscapes. My prayers have been heard. Bask country is distinctly different: the hills are green and the sun only sporadically interrupts rain showers. I have been able to escape the beginning of the colder season until now, but this is probably where it ends.. I`m preparing for cold weather from now until at least mid-January. By then I will hopefully be enjoying the moderate winter heat of the Cypriot sun.

(© Bilbao - ES, November 2007)
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Art reflection

Posted 23 November 2007 - Bilbao (ES):

Yes, the Guggenheim Museum and no I did not go in. The building is certainly interesting and worth a photo but at the same time it makes me not want to go in. It looks like a cold and distant place, where art is put on display. That makes sense for a museum, but I prefer to feel the art in the air. The Modern Tate Gallery in London is perfect for that. First of all, it is free of charge. Secondly, it located in a building that was not designed as an art place but transformed into that. It is a place that allows you to experience art rather than purely observe it. It shows that art is accessible, which is quite something. Most art is either undervalued or severely overvalued. Many people like a piece of art because so many others like that piece of art, instead of simply liking it by themselves. Another interesting shape of mass psychology – very fascinating but oftentimes very depressing as well.

(© Bilbao - ES, November 2007)
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Getting to France

Posted 24 November 2007 - San Sebastian (ES):

Getting to France tomorrow but the number of connections is disappointingly limited. Have to get up at 6h30 or wait until the early evening hours. Will opt for the first option. Here`s another photo from Bilbao:

(© Bilbao - ES, November 2007)
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De retour chez moi

Posted 25 November 2007 - Bordeaux (FR):

Arriving in France this morning almost made me feel like arriving back home. Hearing French, reading French, knowing where to go and how to do thing - it hasn`t always been like that for the last few months. Also, the Spanish rythm of having dinner at 21h30 and then stay up for a little longer, then having to write an article.. made me quite tired. But I`m back on schedule and will try to report some interesting findings about France during the days to come.

(© Bordeaux - FR, November 2007)
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