Tales of a CouchSurfing Vegan


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Familie Tag

Hello!

Just for you- the latest and greatest!

Day before yesterday, we took a trip to Jiufen- a town in the mountains near Taipei with a gold museum. Got to do a bit of sight-seeing and took some beautiful (in my opinion) photos- and saw the Pacific Ocean! Beforehand, we lunched at a little Buddhist vegan restaurant near Karl’s house, where they had organic vegetables grown at the university in Taipei. Neat!  We also wandered through a market outside- kind of down pouring, but that’s okay. Missed our train and froze a little, but that’s okay. Karl then wined and dined me at a ridiculously fancy Japanese restaurant, where the servers bow at you and they give you flavoured vinegar served in little tea cups resting beneath an orchid. A bit fancy for my taste, but tasty, and a kind of funny and surreal experience. 

Yesterday: Went to a market near Karl’s house and got fruit- yessssss!!!! And also saw some rather interesting potential purchases, including huge vats of miso. Went to a veggie buffet which is literally 30 seconds from Karl’s grandpa’s apartment and it was fabulous! You can get so much food for $4! Nomnom. =) It was pretty cold- approximately 20″C colder than a day or two before, so we mostly stayed inside- walked around a few very impressive department stores and I got packaging inspiration for Zimt. Went to another Taoist temple and then met Karl’s family for a very nice dinner. Off to Taipei 101, the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was like being in an airplane that wasn’t going anywhere. 

Today: Went to pick strawberries and go for a hike in the mountains near Taipei. It was so much fun- I love having nature days. We also found some tombs nearby- beautiful. I feel a little disrespectful taking pictures of individual tombs, though, so I tried to avoid that. I don’t think I would mind if anyone did that to my tomb one day, though- just so long as they were mindful. 

 

Image

Tombs Yard.

Picked strawberries! 

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Karl- Expert Erdbeer Pflücker.

 

Started to take the bus back down the mountain (the taxi driver on the way up was crazy) but then it got a flat so we hiked through some really beautiful forest back down to civilization. That bit of the day really felt like being in Germany, in the summer, with my family. Every Sunday, we would all go out to a festival or some such thing and there would quite easily be about 15 of us- it was so fun. Today reminded me of that, except instead of being in Europe with all my relatives, I was in Asia with Karl. It just felt like Sundays I remember. Things are really different now, and that makes me a bit sad.

Longish hike! Visited Karl’s university near the main university in Taipei and then met his friend and his friend’s fiancé for dinner. 

And now I am avoiding the monstrous Zimt to-do list because it just feels kind of overwhelming right now, but stalling won’t help matters. So off I go. There’s just so much to do. 

 

❤ 

gemmer


wordpress ate my last post!

But that is okay- here is what has been happening!

We left off at cloud forest in the mountains. The next day…. we went to the first all you can eat veggie buffet. Amazing! It was also decked with Buddhist monks, so all the better! Ate way too much and rolled to the National Museum. My favourite bits were the vases and other sculptures that had Sanskrit on them, because I really like the melding of different cultures. It is so fascinating- quite like Russia bridging Europe and Asia. 

We then went to a massive night market and got some weird food and some good food, including shaved ice! Yum!!! It was so crowded and busy and there was just so much stuff everywhere- lots of lights and plastic. Quite unbelievable. People buy so much stuff. 

Yesterday, we went to Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s memorial building, checked out some beautiful paintings, then to Loving Hut for some truly stellar and authentic hot pot. Karl’s hot pot got burned =( Then we went to a massive department store with a huge bookstore- Karl got us a vegetarian Chinese dessert cookbook. Cute. I am sure we will make some things in Canada. But the rest of the department store was unbelievable. I don’t even really know how to describe it, except there was cute stuff everywhere. Cute, high-quality, unique, pretty stuff. Everywhere. I guess I just never look out for such things, so I couldn’t even imagine their existence. There was just everything-  little figurines and high-quality electronics accessories, and notebooks and cards and little boxes and I don’t even know what. Totally blew my mind.  All really beautiful things, but things that would never even enter my brain as being a possibility for purchase. I did get toothpaste, though! 

And then downstairs was the food court. We drank some pretty good tea! Again- this is not your average food court. So much stuff. Including a veggie buffet we wisely avoided. 

Then we went to a sort of electronics indoor market, but it is really just a huge department store with individual shops for different electronic things. Again, slightly unbelievable. 

Headed to a Taoist temple! It was very crowded, but I loved it. Witnessing that in real life is so interesting to me- and Karl told me a bit about the practices there. One which we tried was to draw a wooden stick with a number written on it, and then these two red crescent moon bits of wood, throw them on the ground, see which way they end up, go ask the temple office assistant for what it means, go over to the wall with a million drawers and open the drawer with the stick number on it, and see what your fortune is like. I got a good one! Lots of good things coming up, such as it being the right time to feed my farm animals. (?)

Then… we met up with some of Karl’s friends he met while studying at the Göthe institute. Had dinner at an all you can eat veggie buffet and then had to go for a bit of a walk. 

We are going to another town today! Hopefully will get to see the sea.

 

gemmer 


visiting an old friend.

Hi,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote anything here- and for pretty good reason. Reasons. Life is completely different now.

I am kind of confused as to where I actually ended blogging, because this site is a bit of a mess. Here’s what I remember from the last bit of my European travels that I did not get to sharing: 

Went to Liverpool. I like it. Was too cheap to go to the Beatles Museum. Regret that to this day. But I did get plenty of pics on Penny Lane. I got a whole room to myself! I was the first CS guest for my host, and he slept on the couch downstairs. Woah. It’s like we switched lives for a sec.

I don’t know if I wrote about Edinburgh or not, but it is a completely magical place and I want to go back so badly. It is just incredible- Arthur’s Steps is amazing. I wish I had my pictures of it on this computer but life’s changes have included getting a new computer, and my not understanding technology enough to get the things stored on hard drive transferred. I love Edinburgh. It is so romantic and medieval. 

I went to Brighton- stayed with Umit! What a nice guy. We keep in touch to this day- he was so keen on cooking me vegan food and make sure I was safe and happy and was what I would imagine a father would be like. Like, a good one, I mean. …ouch? 

Anyway, in Brighton, I remember a couple of things: Vegetarian Shoes- a bit of a mecca, since I had heard about it for so long.  I got a shopping bag there and a pen. I can’t recall who I gifted them to. I didn’t go to Heather Mill’s restaurant, which I regret to this day, but I think I have more than made up for it. Umit and I went on a lovely walk to see boats. I felt like I better understood Queen after seeing the candy, Brighton rock, what I would imagine to be the inspiration behind the title of Brighton Rock.

Last official stop was my city, London. London is my city and has been since I first laid eyes on it when I was ten.  I got obsessed and had to go back. Took me a good decade, but I vowed to never let that happen again. So, London. What an interesting CS experience. The first night I got there, I ended up being a bit stranded, because my host fell asleep on a train and didn’t meet me at her workplace at 22:00 and so I took up Alicia H’s kind offer and crashed with her in Seven Sisters. She was a server at Inspiral and when I told her what my plans were for the night, she said to come back if I needed a place to stay. Eternally grateful. The next day, I stayed with my host, whose home was full of her housemates family visiting from Italy, and I shared her tiny room with big Italian chef. I think it would’ve been awkward, but he was so nice and I was so used to sleeping in weird situations, that it really hardly mattered anymore. I had square footage for a good chunk of time and it was safe. 

I remember I got really ill on the last day in London and almost passed out several times taking the underground but was really determined to get to Greenwich, which I did, and I met a raw foodist who said I needed to drink coconut water, so I did, and then I met Heather at Pogo Cafe, which was really, really good, but also really bad, and I was sick the whole night and ended up stumbling out of Lindsey’s place to  head to the airport because I figured trying to sleep was useless and I didn’t know what time it was and therefore may actually be late for my flight if I didn’t just leave. Mess! But I made it to the airport and I made it to Basel and then I dragged myself to Freiburg and I don’t remember much else except I think we went to an Irish pub to watch my friend Nate on open mic night and then I slept in my friend’s boyfriend’s old student residence and there were no blankets but that’s ok because my family was going to be in Basel the next day and I was going to meet them and we were going to stay in sanitary conditions and everything would be safe and they could take care of me because four and a half months of travelling like I did can really do some damage and I could’ve sworn I was almost dead at that point. 

So I haven’t travelled internationally since then. I have done the odd border hop to Bellingham or Seattle, and the last two times I have been in Seattle have been completely and utterly blissful. Just incredible. Can’t wait to go back =)

I have stayed, mostly in Vancouver, and finished university. I started a raw chocolate company, and now have product in Whole Foods. The packaging needs work, but working on it I am. Life is so, so different… such a 180.  I have responsibilities now- I have people to be accountable to. I wouldn’t want to go drifting across a continent for months on end anymore. At least not alone. I didn’t have life for a while after moving back. I really hated living in Vancouver and remember being silently (and sometimes not so silently) disgusted at the state of the city- where was the history? Where was the culture? Why did our transit system have to be so inefficient and smell so bad? Why was I going to be trapped here, working on a stupid degree I didn’t see going anywhere after learning work prospects were not going to pan out as foreseen? Why was I in this city, where I had lived for nearly my whole life, feeling so lonely and so bored and so frustrated and so dead, when I had a continent full of people across the globe to share life and community with? 

Vancouver made me quite unhappy, to say the least. I got obsessed with getting out- I wanted to just leave everything there that was damaging me so much and jet set and live on this high of wandering and adventure. I had gotten quite good at it, so might as well! 

But I knew I needed money for this, and, since I didn’t quite want to travel as frugally and unhygienically as I did, set on a way to get some cash- sustainable cash, though- to keep working for me so I could keep running off, but being able to do so without living in compromising conditions. 

So what does the logical person do in this situation? Well, she doesn’t start a chocolate company, that’s for sure. But that is what I did!  And Zimt was born. I had never made chocolate before, but saw an opportunity- a growing market. It is a pretty tough go, but I am trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I just must keep doing my best and not get hung up on the little things, but not be stupid about things either.  At least not too often. 

So that was my brilliant master plan. I was kind of desperate to have some sort of job after graduating, and didn’t think I would be quite suited for most office environments. I could pretend to be for a while, but I knew I would get bored and would not be able to ignore the endless abyss of the nine-to-five life, and would wake up one day, forty something years later, and realize that all I had to show for it were some healthy mutual funds and a shrivelled soul. 

Chocolate makes everything better! While all of my sensible friends were off looking for jobs, or already working downtown and wearing suits and ties and things, I was making up recipes, sorting through red tape, trying not to get totally overwhelmed at the task I had taken on, trying not to feel guilty for not using my piece of paper from UBC to bring in some actual money right away, trying to tell myself that I could help my family way more in the long run if I didn’t screw up with this than I could if I became an accountant or bank teller or operations manager at some place that bottles pasta sauce, trying to focus on an end goal and not lose hope. 

That’s what it was like for a while- a drawn out and desperate attempt to make money that would work for me and my family, being ethical about it, and then just getting out. 

I am so happy things changed. Not completely- I still am building Zimt, things are going well with that (really, really slow, but happening), I still aspire to travel lots, and I still want to bring people a product that I feel good about providing, and which benefits our planet and all of its inhabitants. 

But despite not being in a different city every couple of days, I am happy. I am happy in Vancouver (although, I am technically in Taipei right now.). I don’t feel the compulsion to run away all the time, because I don’t want to leave what I have. For the first time in forever, I actually have a community in Vancouver to belong to- life is feeling a bit more complete. It was all about school for such a long time, and that can really kill a person. I know many who are able to juggle it- lots of work, but also lots of play, but my brain just can’t do that, so… it was a lot of textbooks and a little happiness for a long time. Things are not perfect, but they are really, really good, and I want to keep building up what goodness I have found. And founded. 

Guess that explains why I am in Taipei, right? =) I am visiting Karl! We are checking out his country, and I am living up to my promise of meeting him here before he jets to live in Vancouver.  I may also be scoping out the chocolate market here. 

Anyway, what an awesome experience I am having here- first time in Asia, and am I ever thankful to have such a good friend to guide me along. Yesterday, we went for vegan lunch at a really beautiful restaurant- there is so much vegan food in TaiwanThen we took a cable car up a mountain and hung out there for a bit, drank some tea, took some photos, was in awe by the beauty of this country- it was like a rainforest up there. And cloudy. A bit like a cloud forest, I reckon. 

Being on an adventure like this is a little strange- I haven’t done this in a while. I think that what is different this time, is that I am not completely and utterly dreading going back to Canada. I didn’t leave to escape, I left to just have fun, a new experience, and see a bit of the world. I think that I thought the capacity I would be travelling in, the next time I travelled internationally, would have been out of desperation, and not just for fun. Things are good and interesting here, but I have so much back in Vancouver. 

 

A bit of an update – by no means complete, but a place to start. 

 

gemmer


The last while…

18.05.2010

Hallo,

After Salzburg came Zürich- I arrived pretty late, but it was okay because my host, Katinka, provided me with excellent directions to her home. Except I kept reading the house number wrong and ended up using this guy’s phone to call her, and then had to walk a whole extra block to get to her place.

So, Zürich was beautiful! I love that there is a lake right in the city.  I basically just walked around as much as I could the whole day that I was there- I saw the university, the old town, and some of this other part of Zürich that is often not seen by tourists (like a really, really mild red light district). Very beautiful. I’m not sure if we are going back there in the summer, but i would not be opposed.

CS news: My host, Katinka, was wonderful- not only a genuinely kind person, but great to talk with and generous. I think she has been one of my best hosts ever (not that I keep track of that sort of thing…). We even went to a CS meeting together and met some fellow CSers.

Vegan News: Exciting! I went to the oldest veggie restaurant in Europe, Hiltl, and got way too much dessert! But I couldn’t help it- they have this amazing plum crisp and I think it is one of my favourite things in the world so… was soll ich machen?! I did take out and went to a really pretty park where these guys were learning Tai Chi and took my lunch there. Then, I met Katinka later that evening at a new veggie restaurant in the city called Samses for dinner. Also a buffet. Those’ll getcha.

And then… I went to Freiburg. I wanted to visit my friends there and visit I did. it was so great, I just, miss them a lot sometimes, because despite having tons of work while I was living there, I also had some of the most fun I have ever had in my life. So, I arrived on Thursday afternoon and stayed until last night (Monday) in Vova’s room, which he so kindly offered for me to use while he was in the Ukraine. I loved getting to see everybody, and it was particularly awesome to be Alicia’s neighbour- I missed her lots. We cooked a ton, too, and I just had the best time. Like I said, nothing out there more important than friends and family.  I kind of feel like I have some very unfinished business there, though, and I would like to go back to visit shortly. We will see.

Now, I am heading to Prague. It’ll be pretty, but it’s no Freiburg =)

gemmer

Hi,

Prior to going to Prague, I had heard a lot of nice things about the city- it was highly recommended by many, many people to visit. And I can see why- it is so beautiful.  Everywhere I looked there were beautiful buildings and lots of parks and nature, too. They even have a massive pendulum, or Metronome, in a skate park overlooking the city.

While I was there, lets see… I visited the main sights, I guess- the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle (which is actually a collection of buildings on top of a hill, as far as I could tell. This collection included palaces, though, so I guess “castle” is a fair term to use), The Powder Tower, … things like this. So, Prague is pretty, and a great place to wander through- there are also many good little streets for that.

Normally when I go somewhere, I usually just spend my money on food, because, I don’t really like accumulating things to carry around, and I don’t like to buy anything tourist-y, and I usually just don’t feel the need to buy much.  This pretty much applied to Prague as well, and I think I spent about 90% of my money at this one place, called Country Life – a vegan buffet and health food store. Everything was pretty cheap, too, and organic! And when I was there, I got to know one of the workers, Samuel, and although he was not there the last time I was there, he arranged for his colleagues to give me an ice-kream from him- nice surprise!

Now I am on the bus to Nürnberg, and we will be arriving at the station in a couple of minutes. I slept pretty much the whole way, since i woke up before 6 am this morning since my host, Jitka, had to leave early for work. But wanted to leave extra early this morning to donate blood. Why she chose this morning to be one of the three times out of the year to do this, I am not sure, but donating blood is great.  Speaking of CouchSurfing, it went a bit like this: I stayed on an actual couch in a studio flat. Jitka, and her two cats, Bischkot and Caramella, as well as another CSer, Emaliano.

Okay, now I am on the train to Frankfurt am Main, then to Nassau to see the family =) We are going to go on a bike tour in Landlau for a few days for Tante Christel’s birthday and I have been looking forward to seeing them since… I guess the end of February, which is when I last saw them, which is when mum was visiting. That feels like forever ago, and yet, like nothing really happened in between (which we all know is not the case.).

Aaaanyway, back to the CS experience in Prague. It was so strange to be surfing again, after being so “at home” in Freiburg. I kind of was in shock, actually. The train ride was fine to Prague (a night train. Some people just snore so loudly it is ridiculous) and I left my bags in checked baggage before trying to find Jitka’s once she got back from work. When I arrived there, (kind of finally… the directions were a little sketch and her street was off the city map.) I realized yet again how very good I had it in Freiburg (I know, I know…), not that I was living in terrible conditions at all or anything, it just was really cramped (I was staying in a tiny kitchen/TV room under the actual platform where Jitka’s room was, and didn’t have a ton of privacy. Actually, come to think of it, it was like we were all just staying in one, two-level room). So anyway, I love her cats- they are SO cute, and one of them is really fat. And the other one, who should in theory be just as fat, but unfortunately has a kidney problem, loves me so much and kept rubbing her head on my face when I looked at her. So cute. I miss Tiger.

So anyway, I can’t wait to see the family and hope that Tante Christel’s birthday present has survived the travels (I got her a ceramic bowl from FAST) and I also hope that I can do some laundry once I get to her place. That’d be necessary.

What else… hmmm… I accidentally left a large portion of my provisions on the bus and only realized that I had done so when it was too late to get them back. I am trying not to beat myself up about it too much, but… ughhhh… I just lost a lot of good things there. Fortunately, there was a Lebe Gesund stall in the train station and I was able to get a few things, including the most delicious apple chips in the world. I don’t know how they do it- they are just the best. I think it is because they use above organic quality ingredients from their own farms. Organic standards are actually really declining and are often not even that great, still better than conventional, but Lebe Gesund uses veganic farming, which is way better because then you are not consuming animal wastes and strange body parts along with your food, which are usually used as fertilizers.  It is like the type of farming that I will be doing when I volunteer in June at the veganic farm in Germany. So so so so so so so excited =) I think that after visiting the family, I will soon feel again like I am kind of just wasting time and not being productive and not being very helpful, but just traveling. I still feel like I need something to do or at least be around friends and family. … but France and Spain should be great, too. I am definitely not complaining. Even though it probably sounds like I am. I’m really grateful. Really!

Anyway, very much looking forward to seeing everybody =) … and to having clean clothes.

–          gemmer

Hi!

So, I saw the family and also went to Paris. And now I am on the way to Barcelona. Hahahahah.

I arrived in Nassau from Limburg and Little Carmen and Kyra picked me up when they came to pick up Melissa from the station as well. So nice to see them =) The fam =)

We drove back to Singhofen and just went to their place without stopping first at Tante Christel’s and sat around and chatted and then Jochen got home from work and we chatted some more. Melissa was going clubbing and needed a lift back to Nassau to take the train, so I went with her and Little Carmen back that way and they dropped me off at Tante Christel’s along the way. It was so amazing to be there again! I got my little room that Mum and I had used in Februrary and everything was clean and nice and familiar. We watched some TV for a bit with Susi and Lukas and then when they left, I went to bed.

The next day… I went spatiering with Tante Christel and Leike. It was so beautiful. The last time I had been there was in February, when it was all snowy and cold and now the fields were green and in bloom and the trees were covered in leaves and it was sunny and warm. Fantastic. Oh, I just saw the ocean. Hm. Then…. I don’t really recall what happened. I know I did some laundry and packed and we had lunch and then got ready to go to Landau. I visited Little Carmen for a bit, too. I also booked my reservation to get to Paris, with a LOT of help from Susi.  I had tried to book it in Limburg but it was taking forever and I had another train to catch, so I didn’t get it done. But Susi quite saved my day and helped me figure out how to call DB so that I could get a reservation. Kind of tricky, since so many spots had already been booked, but it happened.

Then… we drove to Landau and got to the hotel and saw Oli and Mareike and Mia and then I think we went for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Later, Susi, Tante Christel and I went for a super long walk with Leike to this horse show. The walk was beautiful- it was already dark, but there was an almost full-moon and it was foggy. And we were walking along the fields and forest, too. But the horse show- that was terrible. Really. There was this jumping-over-a-wall event and so many horses just ran right into the wall because, obviously horses were not made to jump over really high walls. Seriously, I do not know what people are thinking with using animals for entertainment like that. Find something else!

Anyway, I was happy to leave that.

And… the next day we went to a ZOO- awesome! Lots of animals to look at in cages, out of their natural habitats and with very little space to move. I understand that there is a problem with species endangerment but, I don’t think that enclosed confinement is the answer. So we went there and then we went into Landau and got eis and walked around a bit, saw the sights. It was like a real Sunday with the family =) then Klaus called Susi, he had just arrived at the hotel, and so we went back and me and Susi went for a walk with him and Leike before dinner. And then after dinner we went for another walk, I think.

The next day, we went on this sort of bike-wagon ride, where people sit up front and peddle the people who are sitting in the back along rail road tracks. It is hard to describe, so, here is a picture:

I liked it! It was especially nice to go through the forest =)

and then we started to make our way back to Singhofen, but stopped along the way for dinner and more eis and of course, McDonalds for the kids. Yeup.

CS News: When I got back to Singhofen, I checked to see if my host in Paris had written me back yet-  I hadn’t heard from her after sending many, many messages and didn’t have any other hosts lined up, so I was getting a bit worried. She still hadn’t written back, and I was leaving the next day. So… I got a little worried and posted to the CS Emergency Paris group, to ask if anyone could host me. And I got answers right away! The first one was from a guy named Vi Georges, who offered to host me for the first 2 days of my stay and then I also stayed with this guy named Jean Charles for the next 2 days.  They both lived pretty far out of the city center, but at least it was a place to stay! (even all the hostels were booked… I checked before finding the Emergency group. Yikes!)

I was pretty sad that the next day was my last day in Singhofen, but, summer is going to be here so, so soon! I will be back in no time, and this time, I will have my family from Canada with me =)

My last morning there, I went to the Friedhof (cemetery) with Tante Christel to visit B and Onkel Walter’s graves. At least it is very peaceful there.

I got back to the house and had breakfast with Mia, who loves oat milk, apparently. Susi also brought over a mango that we shared. Mia is so, so, so cute =) Then… I intended on vacuuming the little bus that we had taken to Landau, but went to buy cucumbers for the salad for lunch and wanted to visit Tante Edith (who was not home) instead.  When I got back, Tante Christel, Susi, Oli and I all had lunch together and then some of Tante Christel’s friends came over for Kaffee u Kuchen (coffee and cake). Susi drove me to the train station in Nassau and we were surprised by Tante Christel, who got there just a few minutes before my train left. … why? Because she thought I had left my musli in the house and that I would have nothing to eat on the train, so she brought it to me. But it was Susi’s musli, hahahah. I’ve got such nice relatives =)

Then, I was off to…

Paris

I arrived pretty late at night, but met 2 nice German kids on the train. One of them lives in Paris and he helped me to navigate the subway system. Eventually I got to Vi George’s place, had a shower and went to sleep.

The next day… I was off to explore Paris, which, in my opinion, is an almost dauntingly expansive city. Especially when you don’t want to pay for the metro system (like me) and just walk everywhere. I got pretty lost, but I still managed to get to the center and see some important sites.

Okay so now i am on the train back from Barcelona to Freiburg.

I will try to summarize what happened in Paris because i really don’t want to keep typing so much. Point form!

CS News:  Stayed with 2 different hosts, both who lived pretty far outside of the actual city center. Thank goodness for the SOS groups, but, … I think it is best to pick a host that is more suited to one’s individual interests, and not just because one is desperate for a place to sleep. Anyway. I was thankful. Except the 2nd host had told me that he would drive me to the metro to get to the train station but came home at 6am the morning of, drunk, and when I asked him later that morning about when he would be ready, he explained that his friend had driven him home and he had been really drunk and didn’t think he would be driving me anywhere. But… “there’s a bus stop about 100 meters outside of my place that will take you to a metro.” THANKS.

So anyway, i found the bus (sort of), was super late and missed meeting a friend who i had planned to meet at 11 (though sent messages saying i would be late). Didn’t quite plan on being an hour and a half late, but there you go. At least I got to meet Tilly (a friend of mine I met in Vancouver) later that afternoon! It was so great to see her- pretty sure it’s been years.

I also met up with a couple of CSers in Paris who were willing to show me the city- on a rainy afternoon, I saw the Louvre and the night of my leaving for Spain, I went to a Maoz Falafel place with the other, a vegan =)

Vegan News: Paris could have been better for vegans, though there were still options (just… pricy, in my mind).  There was a Loving Hut, where I got a crepe (I wanted something French) and a very amazing falafel place recommended by Lenny Kravitz- because he is clearly a man who knows a good falafel. A lot of bio stores were around, too.

Okay, Barcelona.

CS News: I stayed about 45 minutes (by train) outside of the city with a really kind woman named Rita. I got my own room =) Not in the middle of a living room, either =) And wifi =) These are both big deals =) Oh, aaaaaand bed linen =) big, big deal!

Vegan News: Barcelona, I think, has quite a few good options for vegans. There were several Maoz Falafel places, with all you can eat options (and I did.), another place called “Organic” that also had an all you can eat (and I did. I think the owner was getting a little ticked off. But i wanted to get my money’s worth… and there was paella!). And then I found my favourite place, Gopal – this place is so, so cute- very typical vegan with cupcakes and animal rights materials galore. They make great burgers (including a quinoa burger- yum =) ) and fantastic carrot cake =)  So I went there a few times and was happy, though it was mostly just vegan junk food.  I bought some vegan cheese to take back to Alicia in Freiburg, because she is unsatisfied with the vegan cheese options there. This was after looking around for a mystery “soy cheese” a friend of ours had told us about. It was supposed to be in this famous market called “La Boqueria” but I looked and looked and asked and asked and… I am pretty sure there is no such cheese there.  Okay, about the market- i was a little disappointed. Actually, quite a lot disappointed, though I tried not to get my hopes up in the first place. There was not one organic vendor! And you could actually smell the chemicals in the air from the fruit and vegetables. Really. This made me kind of sad because there were some exotic looking things I really wanted to try, but I didn’t want to support Monsanto and destroy the environment in the process.  Yesterday, though, in Mataro (where I was CSing), Rita showed me the farmer’s market where there was an organic produce stand and I got so much amazing fruit! And for pretty cheap, too- cherries, apricots, pears, apples, peaches, some stuff from Spain I don’t think i’ve ever seen before… fantastic! I am just sad that I did not know about it sooner, because in Barcelona, the organic fruit cost a lot. So i think that next time I couch surf, if it is with someone who does not rally promote an organic, fair trade, vegan etc etc lifestyle, I will ask them specifically if there is something nearby.  I also missed out on one of the most amazing looking fair trade stores ever because it was my last day when i saw it (and it was literally a block away from Rita’s place) and they were closed for a siesta. Gah!

So other actual Barcelona news:

This is a very, very pretty city. I loved the architecture and the winding little streets. Oh, and there was a particularly beautiful park there with parrots- they just flew around. Like pigeons or crows would in North American parks, which I found very impressive. And there were palm trees =) I saw lots of Gaudi buildings, including La Sacrada Familia (… I think is what it is called)- the cathedral that they are still building, and it is beautiful. I don’t know when they will be done with it but… wow. Already- wow.  There is also a really nice neighbourhood in Barcelona called Gracia, which I wish I had more time to walk around but ah well, I was happy to see a bit of it and… I took a really short trip to a beach in Sitges, where I actually was able to use one of my eco friendly swim suits.

So, yes, I am on my way back to Freiburg. I think I will be arriving pretty soon and I have been traveling for almost 20 hours. I almost got kicked off of a night train because I did not have a reservation (even though I specifically asked the guy at the Barcelona Sants station if I needed one. Many, many times)- I attempted to sleep in the bar of the train- ha ha good luck.  The “boss”, or so he called himself, actually picked up my suitcase and put it outside of the train while i was trying to explain the situation to him at 11 pm last night, before the train took off. Then I talked with this other guy who worked at the station where I was to make the connection (Parpignan), and he talked with a guy who worked on the train I was trying to get on (this was this guy’s first day) and he let me on the train. After the train had already left, this new guy was trying to figure out where I could sit, and he even offered me a sleeper cabinet and I, apparently too enthusiastically said “I get a bed?!” went to ask the boss about this, who came there to meet me and said “I TOLD YOU- YOU MUST PAY TO BE ON THIS TRAIN” and I was like “But I have a Eurail pass! And 71 Euros is way too much, I cannot pay that- I do not need a place to sleep- and I talked with the guy at the station and he said I could take this train.” Mr. Boss Man said that that guy was wrong and that I would have to leave at the next stop. Greeeeeeeaaaaat. Who says that to a tiny woman traveling by herself on a night train?!

So I sat in the bar of the train. And although I was perched on a bar stool for about 8 hours, I was just happy that they did not actually kick me off the train.  Everytime I felt the train slowing down (couldn’t really tell by looking outside because everything as totally dark), I just prayed: “Dear God, please, please don’t let them kick me off before I get to Switzerland. Please, God? Just let me get to Switzerland before they kick me off.”

Not only did I get to Switzerland, I got to Geneve, Switzerland, which is where my connecting train to Basel departed.  And that morning, when I realized I was going to make it there, I also got bought a tea by a fellow passenger as well as had a very nice, too-philosophical-for-my-brain-at-that-point chat. So, yes, trying to sleep on a bar stool (and at one point when I was really tired, across three) on a moving train for 8 hours was a little bit difficult, but I made it to Geneve, and after getting through the Swiss border control, I got the next train possible to Basel- home territory.

And then… Freiburg! Ta daaaaa! I was totally sleep deprived and felt pretty gross, but, I made it to Heather’s place, where I was staying while she is in Bali, dropped off my stuff, tried to make myself look and feel slightly more presentable, and then rode off to see Alicia and more friends at the ESW (I used Heather’s bike because Peggy is very, very sick. Vova said he would try to fix her.). And then we went to the Seepark at Stusie (the lake nearby) and it was a glorious, sunny day to just hang out there with friends and it was completely wonderful and fantastic. Then Alicia and I went shopping at Alnatura and took a million years to figure out what we wanted (usual), then went and cooked, then… I think I did laundry, and we hung out with Karl and some people from my Stockwerk and then I rode back to Heather’s place at about 2 or 3 am.  =) Life!

Then came Saturday… I went to the Stühlingermarkt to buy some cheap apples from the bio stand and then went to the ESW, where I hung out with people for a bit and where we got ready for Vova’s birthday bbq, and then… we went to the Seepark and bbq-ed and hung out for a while. And I even played some volleyball with Karl and one of Vova’s friends. I think I have gotten considerably better at sports (definitely not actually good, just better than before) since not playing them for a very long time. I mean, i made a basket in Thessaloniki after not playing for about 4 or 5 years, while I made none the my entire elementary school basketball career. And now I can sort of spike or serve or whatever a volleyball, also after not having played for years.

Then… we went to the Stusie because it was cheap shots night and they like to nourish themselves with those sorts of liquids. It was completely dead there, nobody, though it was only about midnight. And after that, they wanted to go to a club downtown and I said I would meet them because I had Heather’s biciclette and they were going to take the tram. So as I was going to meet them, I happened to bump into a friend of mine who needed quite a bit of help, so instead of going downtown I hung out with her for a bit and tried to avoid future bad situations from being tacked onto the already bad one. That’s all I should say.

And then I thought at about 3 in the morning that I should maybe try to find them at the club they said they were going to go to, but then I thought, no, maybe i shouldn’t. Who know’s if they are even there anymore and they havn’t called lots to ask where I was anyway. Even though Alicia did call once and I told her that something serious had come up and I couldn’t make it. So, I went to sleep at the sensible hour of about 4 thirty am. Or so.

And then I went to church the next day, which I always really enjoy. I don’t really know anybody who goes to the Münster (the church I go to… the cathedral, really), but I know that God’s around and that’s more than enough for me =)

Then I went to the ESW and…. Alicia was away on a wine tasting thing so I just hung out with my Stockwerk for a bit and made some food to take to Lois’ birthday bbq and then went to the Seepark for that. I met some more people from my Stockwerk there as well as a friend from another church I would sometimes go to and also hung out with a lot of the “international students” (cannot believe i am semi one of those). It was so great to see so many familiar faces =) (happy faces) and then it started to pour while they were eating b-day cake (and i was eating vegan pie my friend, Adrienne, brought for me- delicious. Strawberry rhubarb- yuuuuuuum!!!!!!) so we ran to Adrienne and Lois’ place to hang out and finish cake and hung around there for quite a while and then Karl and I went back to the ESW and I hung out with my Stockwerk and folded my laundry and tried to help my friend, Kerstin, iron her laundry but didn’t really do a great job so I just stood around and chatted after a while with her and my old neighbour, Nils. And then… I tried to sort through some of the things I have stored in Alicia’s room and figure out what I wanted to bring with me to work on the organic farm (only… 10 more days until I am there!!!!!!!!!!), while she was still at Lois’ place. Thennnn….

then Alicia got back and they ate cheesecake that she had made for Vova’s birthday and I dreamt of the cheesecake and other nice things that I will soon have readily available to me in places such as Berlin and Leipzig and enjoyed their company. Then I made salad at about 2 or 3 in the morning to take with me on the train for later that day and then… Vova and I met coincidentally, though predicted by Alicia. Confusing? Hilarious.

And after saying bye to everybody, I rode back to Heather’s, showered, and went to sleep.

Woke up a few hours later, packed, got some groceries to take on the train, met with a friend who wanted to meet me, Andie, at the hauptbahnhof (train station) and then met with Alicia there, got some money from the bank, and then… we took funny pictures while waiting for my train. And then the train came. Off to Dresden.

love,

gemmer


BIG Update- Romania and Hungry and Austria

…. and then Romania happened! And now I am on the train to Vienna, so some catching-up is in order.

I think I left off in Greece, in Thessaloniki. My next destination was Bucharest, Romania. To get there, there was a stop in Sofia, Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a beautiful country, from what I saw while looking out the train window. But Sofia was really sketch! Even just being in the train station for a couple of minutes was enough to make one depressed.

On the train from Sofia to Bucharest, I two really nice Greek opera singers, who were on their way to Poland for a concert, and an Australian girl, Kirri, for whom I was very thankful. Our train was about 5 hours late for arriving in Bucharest. Five hours. It was passport control or something- they didn’t show up at the border, so we just waited, and waited. And it was cold and smelled bad.

But then we finally made it to Bucharest and I was really worried that my host, Ioana, would have given up on my train or something, and I would have to try and find other accommodation, though. But i didn’t! She was there, after going home in between waiting for me the first time and for when I actually made it.

Bucharest… what can I say about Bucharest. Not so great, really. Kind of boring- though Kirri and I went to a really interesting cultural museum, with a friend from her hostel, then to a primarily veggie restaurant, called Casa Satya- it was supposed to be an expensive, fancy place, but it was super cheap! They even had some raw options =)

And then I was off to Brasov, my base for the next, almost 2 weeks, for while I was to be volunteering. My first hosts were Simi and Dan, and, despite their detailed directions to their home, I got totally lost (which actually wasn’t my fault because the bus number they told me to take was the wrong one. And it was getting dark and, well… it could’ve been better). So anyway. I fortunately made it onto a bus which, although completely the wrong one, had a very kind passenger, whose name I have totally forgotten. She helped me so much. Completely out of her way- she walked me to Simi and Dan’s place which was really far from the stop and I am eternally grateful to her because I really don’t know how things would’ve gone without this mystery woman!

So, I got to Simi and Dan’s and Simi had prepared this mushroom dish for me, which was really nice of her, and then I was definitely ready to go to sleep. In Romania, it is apparently common for people to have 3 room apartments. Not 3 bedrooms, three rooms in general. I did not know this and, was kind of surprised when we all slept in the TV room. Kitchen, Bathroom, TV/Office/bedroom.

The next day, I went for a very long walk around the neighbourhoods in Brasov. Unbelievably beautiful. The city is situated in the mountains, and there is nature everywhere and everything is so old! I can’t even describe it- just, very picturesque.

That night, I met up with another CSer, named Betty. She lives in Romania, in a town called Sacele, which is very near Brasov. She showed me a lot of the sites in Brasov and then we went for a traditional Romanian dinner, which, has a ton of vegan options, and is very delicious. Anyway, Betty is wonderful- she kept in touch with me while I was trying to find a place to volunteer and while we were at dinner, she told me about how she used to be a lawyer for children’s rights in Romania. Apparently, the system is so corrupt, she got fed up and stopped trying- that says something, especially because she had dedicated so much time trying to improve children’s conditions in Romania. I was kind of depressing to hear about, but, I still feel that we’ve all got to do all we can do to help these kids. If we don’t, who will? The government is so corrupt in so many countries; it is always the kids and the animals that get shafted.

The next day, I moved to another host’s house, Anda. It was really nice to be there, even though it was just for one night because she was very kind, I got lots of space (my own room. Well… the TV room, but it was nice and clean, which was a big deal at this point…). The only thing is that I wanted to go explore some of the nearby towns and stuff but Anda had other ideas. Plus the weather was bad. Ah well.  On the Sunday, we went into town to try and find this craft store to work on Anda’s wedding invitations, but they were of course all closed, so we sat in a coffee shop and chatted with this German man and his daughter forever- the daughter and Anda smoked like crazy and I almost went crazy, but then we went with Betty to a gypsy market to look at second hand clothes- it was totally overwhelming. For the first 20 minutes, I couldn’t even begin to figure out what I wanted- so… I didn’t get anything. Which is okay, because I really shouldn’t buy anything anyway (my backpack isn’t getting any lighter…), and, when I thought about it, I wasn’t really sure as to where the vendors got the clothes from. I am not trying to imply that they were stolen- at all- I just know that they don’t have the typical “consignment” business going on and am not aware of how they would get the clothes.  But Anda, to Betty and my surprise, bought lots of stuff! Including a dress I wanted with money she borrowed from me… haha.

Anyway, that night I moved into my more permanent CS location- with Jen! It was such a crazy coincidence- I wrote her on CS because after reading her profile, it sounded like she would be great to stay with- she is vegetarian (and specified this) and also mentioned how CS is not a dating website- with some people, you wonder. Plus, I was tired of staying with guys, even though they were all fine so far.  But that’s not the real coincidence- the real coincidence is that she volunteers each week at F.A.S.T- the same organization I would be volunteering at! I had no clue. Anyway, that was pretty cool, but for my first few days of being there, I was pretty sure she hated me. I think it is probably because I am not… hmmmm… not really a hipster kid- but what can I say? I find them generally annoying. It was kind of awkward for the first bit, and I just tried to, you know, “pink positive”, but it got a lot better as time went on and I really enjoyed my stay with her and being able to spend time with her and her friend, Paul. Oh, and she also adopted a kitty who followed her home from the train station one night.  This cat… arrghhhh…. kind of did not stop whining and used the bathroom sink as a litter box. Other than that, great cat.  She even helped to take care of the cockroach problem- which I fortunately only found out about on my last day staying with her. I think I would’ve gone nuts otherwise. So, some fun things we did while I stayed with Jen include going out for dinner at this really good place called La Bella Musica, going to a medieval festival (where there were real sword fights!) and occasionally cooking together.  Oh, I also met another CSer, Lara, while I was staying in Brasov. We had intended on meeting up in Bucharest, because she lives there, but this worked out- and I am happy it did!

So, yes, as a very important side note, I was volunteering for a little over a week with an organization called FAST. Specifically, I was working in the education program with 1st graders from the Roma (…”gypsy”) villages around Sacele- the town with the FAST center, founded by two amazing Romanians, Dan and Ema.  Once I got there, there were two other temporary volunteers, Joyce and Elaine, from Edinburgh there- they are amazing! They do so much work for FAST and have been there since the beginning, when they changed the building where the program is currently held from a sort of manufacturing factory into a center for kids. I loved getting to work with them! Anyway, about the program- there would be two sets of kids each day, and we would do things like worksheets (most of the time I was there was fortunately when they were working on the maths stuff- the Romanian worksheets made me feel a little useless.), arts and crafts, snack time (basically their only hot meal of the day. Otherwise they live on bread and potatoes.), singing, playing outside and, just giving them an escape from where they come from. I visited two of the three villages where the groups of kids are from and honestly, I can only describe them as looking like those World Vision ads for kids in Africa, just these were in Europe. The live in shacks, at best, there is garbage everywhere, a million kids with runny noses and in dirty clothes and worn out looking moms (no wonder, most of them have upwards of 10 kids).  But when I went to visit the one village with Dan, who needed to take photos of one of the building projects they have started in the communities, I was wandering around, led by about 5 kids from house to house, all holding hands, in no time. They were so sweet- it’s amazing- kids do not notice the social class difference- people are recognized as people, as they should be. While I was wandering around with them, I kind of felt like I looked like Angelina Jolie- I mean, I was even wearing the gray and black clothing and… well, I don’t know, I just kind of feel like I looked the part. It was odd, in that respect, but we played ring around the rosie, and one of their traditional games (… which I think is kind of like ring around the rosie, but I’m not exactly sure how it works) and it was pretty cool to even get to spend a bit of time with them. It especially reinforced the importance of the education program- I know I wasn’t helping in an orphanage, as I had originally planned, but that’s okay. Because this was helping to prevent the need for orphanages- if we can reach these kids and help them grow up to have an education and especially teach the girls to know that they don’t have to just pop out kids for the span of their reproductive lives, then that is huge. It was a good insight into what the current situation was like, how it is changing through the building and education projects, and, a slight glimpse as to what can be achieved. I really hope I was able to help even a little bit while at FAST. It was a great experience.

On another side note, I think that my trip to Sacele is of worth some note- it would take me about an hour to get there (and an hour to get back) each day, and, two buses. The second bus (the Sacele bus)- I had been warned of. Why? It is pretty gross. I mean, if people think the buses in Vancouver smell bad and are dirty, well… we have nothing to complain about there! These were pretty much filthy. I actually don’t really want to go into it.

And another bit of random information… I went back to Simi and Dan’s to cook for them as a thank you and while I was there, Simi’s work friend, Arina, was also there, working on a project with Simi. I literally said one word to her, as she left right after they did their work and I didn’t want to disturb them, but she texted Simi and said that she wanted to take me to Bran the next day to see “Dracula’s Castle”, and to cook me dinner. She even offered to let me stay at her house in Sacele, but, I was already staying with Jen so it was okay. Anyway, Bran was pretty cool! A pretty town, but very, very, very touristy. Then she drove us all the way back to Sacele and made delicious pasta for us and her twin boy and girl (ages 6 and 6 and so, so cute). Very hospitable lady, to say the very least. We were supposed to meet again, but she didn’t show up. I asked Simi about it and apparently there was a family emergency. I don’t know, I hope everything is fine.

And what else did I do… I went to Sighisiora, a nearby town where “Dracula” was born- but the train was so late, I literally just had time to go there and turn around and go back to Brasov so I could catch my train and go to… BUDAPEST!

… Of course, the train was pretty late (this is Romania we are talking about here… hahah, ah so mean. But true). And it was an overnight-er; I always swear I won’t take them, but… sometimes I just have to! The people in my first cabin were so ridiculously loud and did not sleep at all, even thought it was blatantly obvious that a) it was 2 a.m b) this other guy in the cabin was trying to sleep c) I was trying to sleep (I had an eye mask on for crying out loud). So, I hauled myself out of that compartment and into the next one, where people understood the concept of an overnight train. And I even got some sleep before arriving.

Budapest is, in a word, amazing. For a while there, I thought it would be my new favourite city (sorry Vienna…). It is simply gorgeous- everything is so well taken care of and clean and modern, but with tons of history. The buildings and architecture are incredible and the Danau cuts the city in two! There’s even lots of nature all over the place (mostly in Buda) and… wow, it was just great. One of the things I liked most about Budapest was my CouchSurfing experience! My hostess, Elizabeth, was great- and I felt like royalty staying with her. I didn’t just get my own bedroom (not couch in living room… not that I’m not thankful for those) with a big bed and quilts, I got my own bathroom. How often does that happen? Basically never. So, that was a complete change of pace- cockroaches and kitty litter sink in Brasov to five star hotel in Budapest! I only stayed about a day and a bit in Budapest and I really, really want to go back. There is just so much more to see. Oh, and tons of yummy veggie restaurants. And the food is cheap! My favourite place was Vegetariaus Etterum- I think it was a Christian vegan place. So many desserts. So much good food and the staff were all so kind. Good reason to go back to Budapest! (I also still want to go to a thermal bath, too.)

And then it was to my number one city in Europe- Wien. I am actually just on the train heading to Salzburg, but, as usual, Vienna did not disappoint. I stayed again with Maria- the host I was with during March. This was my first “repeat couch” and the familiarity was fantastic! Always nice to stay with a friend- actually, Heather met me in Vienna and stayed there for a night, too, so it was really two friends for a while there. We went to see Belverde Castle and Schloss Schönbrunn and the Kunst Haus and all this amazing Vienna stuff and speaking of stuff, I feel totally stuffed after leaving that city! I always eat waaaaaay too much there- those chocolate dipped raspberry jam filled croissants get me every time! Other vegan news includes going to Loving Hut (never been to one of their restaurants but… I will definitely be going back- vegan döner and fried banana split?! Yes please.) and Rupp’s Vegetarishes Restaurant- which is kind of like an Irish pub with traditional Viennese food, just veganized, Naschmarkt (where there is a Bio Bakery called Bäckereie Waldherr- www.vollkornbaeckerei-waldherr.at offering many vegan things! (Including those croissants… and these cinnamon energy orbs, and chocolate covered nut filled cones. Yum. Ouch. Bit too much.)) and what else… ah there is just vegan food all over the place in that city. Like I say, it is one of the best places to ethically stuff your face. =) (Good thing I don’t live there permanently… yet.)

So anyway, now I am on my way to Salzburg. The train is pretty late, proving that Eastern Europe isn’t the only victim of late train syndrome. I am staying with the same CS host again as I had in March, Rebecca, and I cannot wait to see her! (but I will have to wait a while because… this train is late. haha!). Anyway, I mostly just want to see all the Sound of Music sites I can while I am there. Kinda a fan… and then tomorrow evening, I head off to Zürich! That’s right, crazy expensive Switzerland!  And then… Freiburg. I am popping in for a couple of days to drop off some things, say some “hallos” and then heading off again…

Yikes that was long.

gemmer

11.05.2010

Hi,

I am on yet another train- this time, to München. Ultimately I am heading to Zürich, but I need to switch trains first.  So, I got into Salzburg last night and headed straight to Rebecca’s place- she was my host in Salzburg the last time I was there, too (in March, when it was FREEZING). It was so good to see her again! I really like going back to nice hosts- almost a bit like going home again.

Anyway, once I got there, I started talking with some of her floormates who were really kind and wanted to help me figure out the best route to Zürich. We chatted for quite a while and I am pleased that I can still converse in German =)

Today, I got up super early, because Rebecca had to get up super early for school, and after re-packing my things and getting ready, I headed out for the day. Christina, Rebecca’s friend, was kind enough to let me borrow one of her bikes for the day, which made things a lot easier! I got to see a lot of the Sound of Music sites, including Schloss Fornburg, which is right by where I went to meet Rebecca after her pilates class. I really love Salzburg- it is so much better when it is not pouring slushy snow. It was even sunny and hot today!

Aaaand… vegan news- I went back to this cafe called “Heart of Joy” and got the same apple cake I tried there in March. It also tasted better with better weather =)

gemmer


Keeping it short! Crete

hi,

Okay, this is going to happen- this post will be SHORT.

So, right now I am in Hiraklio, the capital city of Crete. I got in this morning at about 6 and will leave tomorrow evening, back to mainland Greece at 22:45 (long story about how things worked out that way…).

CouchSurfing update: I am staying with Stelios! He’s really nice and even gave me a gift of traditional Greek olive-oil soap =) AND made a vegan lunch for me. In Athens, I stayed with Karinia- amazing! It was so, so nice to stay with her. I was her first CS guest, too! She even let me do laundry at her place (which, trust me, was essential.)

Veganism update: No exciting food porn… sorry… BUT I will be getting some tasty treats from this amazing place: Glikiarmonia (http://www.glikiarmonia.com/glikiarmonia_eng.html) day after tomorrow! They are not only all vegan but all raw too! AND they deliver! Hopefully we will be able to meet before I catch the train to Thessalonika. Oh, okay, one sort of exciting thing- they grow bananas here on Crete and I saw them at the market- stems attached!

Well, I realize I have been traveling at night for 3 out of the 4 last nights, so I am beat. I walked around lots of the city here today, too, and hope to get to a beach tomorrow.

… night!

emma


About town: Venice

April 12th, 2010-04-12

Ciao,

Heather and I explored Venice some more and also took a couple of trips to neighbouring islands: Lido (where we found a beach and collected shells!) and Murano (where they make the famous Venitian glass). Water bus was the only way to get there… and water bus we took.

Also, I was able to meet up with Karl again- this time in Venice! It was great- we all went out for Indian food (soooooo expensive…) and when I told the waiter (who I think was also the owner) that I am vegan, he knew exactly what I was talking about and modified the vegetarian platter to make it vegan =)

Now I am sitting in a ferry on the way to Greece. Heather was supposed to be on this ferry too but… well, freak story, there was a landslide which seems to have destroyed some pretty major route from Rome to Bari (where the ferry to Patras, Greece sails from) and she has had to stay in Rome to figure out how to meet me in Greece.  Too bad, though, because the ferry trip together would’ve been nice! But I have actually met a lot of other nice people on the ferry, and also met twins from New Zealand, Shelly and Zoey on the bus today, and we toured Bari together- really fun.

Yesterday I met a very interesting man, who lives in a castle near Venice, in the McDonalds at the train station in Mestre (near Venice, where I had to take my train from).  He let me use his computer to get internet access and hung out and talked with me forever. Very, very interesting. He also gave me chocolate (not vegan… but I will find a home for it).  For those who are interested:

A vegan-food update: Not too much to report- just had a delicious pizza with my host and his friends in Treviso after walking back from the train station alone at night to his house because he was not there to pick me up because I apparently kept texting the wrong number and he had forgotten my number at his place. So I finally figured out how it was supposed to work and… it all worked out.  What else… Oh, I was so happy- yesterday I made myself an organic baby-greens and cherry tomato salad, which I had with raw foccacia bread made by Sun Flax – I ate it in McDonalds. It was my last pack of the raw bread that they make and I was very sad to see it go… I guess I will have to wait to get more from the Bellingham Community Co-Op in August… And then today I had calzone with the twins from New Zealand. Nothing much exciting on that front… except there may well be a market in Patras tomorrow =) (or at least in Athens the next day).

CouchSurfing update: My original host sort of accidentally “double-booked” me and two other CSers, so I moved next-door to his neighbour’s house- worked out great! I got lots of internet access (not on my computer… but ah well) and a couch all to myself =) The next place I will be staying is in Athens with a girl named Karinia. Sounds good!

I also finally, finally started working on a more definite schedule for my travels. It is kind of difficult to plan, because things are still not finalized in Brasov for volunteering, but I contacted yet another organization today. I really hope something works out. At least I have a bit more of a clue now. I’m also feeling way, way better about traveling. Except not so great right now because the ship is really noisy and there’s this guy sleeping in a row of chairs behind me who keeps hacking and smells like cigarettes. Sounds great, no?

–          gemmer

April 12th, 2010-04-12

Ciao,

Heather and I explored Venice some more and also took a couple of trips to neighbouring islands: Lido (where we found a beach and collected shells!) and Murano (where they make the famous Venitian glass). Water bus was the only way to get there… and water bus we took.

Also, I was able to meet up with Karl again- this time in Venice! It was great- we all went out for Indian food (soooooo expensive…) and when I told the waiter (who I think was also the owner) that I am vegan, he knew exactly what I was talking about and modified the vegetarian platter to make it vegan =)

Now I am sitting in a ferry on the way to Greece. Heather was supposed to be on this ferry too but… well, freak story, there was a landslide which seems to have destroyed some pretty major route from Rome to Bari (where the ferry to Patras, Greece sails from) and she has had to stay in Rome to figure out how to meet me in Greece.  Too bad, though, because the ferry trip together would’ve been nice! But I have actually met a lot of other nice people on the ferry, and also met twins from New Zealand, Shelly and Zoey on the bus today, and we toured Bari together- really fun.

Yesterday I met a very interesting man, who lives in a castle near Venice, in the McDonalds at the train station in Mestre (near Venice, where I had to take my train from).  He let me use his computer to get internet access and hung out and talked with me forever. Very, very interesting. He also gave me chocolate (not vegan… but I will find a home for it).  For those who are interested:

A vegan-food update: Not too much to report- just had a delicious pizza with my host and his friends in Treviso after walking back from the train station alone at night to his house because he was not there to pick me up because I apparently kept texting the wrong number and he had forgotten my number at his place. So I finally figured out how it was supposed to work and… it all worked out.  What else… Oh, I was so happy- yesterday I made myself an organic baby-greens and cherry tomato salad, which I had with raw foccacia bread made by Love Force (http://www.loveforce.net/) – I ate it in McDonalds. It was my last pack of the raw bread that they make and I was very sad to see it go… I guess I will have to wait to get more from the Bellingham’s Community Food Co-Op (http://www.communityfood.coop/ in August… And then today I had calzone with the twins from New Zealand. Nothing much exciting on that front… except there may well be a market in Patras tomorrow =) (or at least in Athens the next day).

CouchSurfing update: My original host sort of accidentally “double-booked” me and two other CSers, so I moved next-door to his neighbour’s house- worked out great! I got lots of internet access (not on my computer… but ah well) and a couch all to myself =) The next place I will be staying is in Athens with a girl named Karinia. Sounds good!

I also finally, finally started working on a more definite schedule for my travels. It is kind of difficult to plan, because things are still not finalized in Brasov for volunteering, but I contacted yet another organization today. I really hope something works out. At least I have a bit more of a clue now. I’m also feeling way, way better about traveling. Except not so great right now because the ship is really noisy and there’s this guy sleeping in a row of chairs behind me who keeps hacking and smells like cigarettes. Sounds great, no?

–  gemmer


Venice in too much detail.

Venice is very pretty. It has a lot of nice buildings- churches, houses, old old old. A museum…

But yes, very beautiful, indeed. I mean, there is water everywhere and you can really notice the Middle Eastern influence on the architecture- amazing, probably one of my favourite things about the whole city, in fact. And the bridges. And the masks. And it has been very sunny. Oh, and there are, of course, a lot of tourists- so I have been hearing a lot of German.

I got to Venice day before yesterday, and my host met me at the train station and then, after dropping off my stuff at his place, we went for a tour around the city and also took a boat to a nearby island, went up to the top floor of the Hilton Hotel and got an amazing view of Venice.

He had planned to go to a showing of Citizen Kane and thought I should just go back to the main island, but as I had woken-up at 5 am, I was pretty tired. All I would have done is found a cafe and sat and waited for him to be finished so that I could go sleep.  So instead I went with him to the movie and almost fell asleep many times there. … and then I got to actually sleep!

The next day, I basically wandered around Venice aimlessly, as is now my custom. Well, not totally aimlessly, as I was on the hunt for internet. Oh, and I found some organic stores with very, very overpriced goods! But I’m a sucker for dried figs so I had to buy them…. and I actually found organic fresh fruits and veggies, too.

Later that evening, I went back to Giulio’s place and we cooked dinner, which consisted of salad (rucula, yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and spices… for those poor vegans following this blog for the foodie info, the ones who are really  are interested.) and this roasted vegetable from the region and left-over pizza we got the night before when we went to see the movie. And then something magical happened- I got internet. It’s kind of depressing, how reliant I am on it, but… traveling on one’s own will do that.  So I skyped with Alicia and Vova, who wants to visit me at some point during my trip and also looked up more volunteer opportunities- both in Greece and in Spain, and, I even got an e-mail back from the Romanian orphanage (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! helping poor children!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but I have to make an application to work there as well as get a criminal record check, because I will be working with children, but I don’t really know how to do that seeing as I have no station I can go to. We will see… I just really hope it works out.

Anyway, today was an excellent day because…… Heather met me!!!! I am SO happy- no longer traveling alone, a nice, familiar face. Somebody to take pictures with… ah pity me- the poor little rich girl.  So we dropped off our luggage and wandered around Venice- we found a really cute little organic market, which we both hope to go back to tomorrow, and spent quite a bit of time lounging in the glorious sun. And got gelato… I have limited myself to 3 Euros on gelato per day. I mean, it got up to 9 sometimes in Rome, which is a bit excessive.

Then we took the train to Treviso, a nearby city/town where we will be staying with our next host, Gilberto, and now I have some soup on the stove that I have been carrying around since Sicily.

That was a lot to catch up on.

Ciao Bellas,

gemmer


Learning lessons.

Ciaaaaao,

I guess this blog is becoming less and less about what I see while on my travels and more and more about what I am discovering. My host in Rome was very dedicated to showing is guests everything around his city, and indeed, he did just this for me as well. I really, really appreciate this, of course. But… it is still not what I am going for.  I was on CouchSurfing one night, looking up volunteer opportunities in Romania (I still haven’t heard back from one organization I had been in contact with, so decided to try another in another city).  I came across another website called workaway.info. It seems amazing- it is basically like WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms- which I will be partaking in as part of my time in Germany), but it also includes language learning and other work, like caring for kids.  I was hooked- Spain seemed like a great place to go and lucky for me, there are a lot of opportunities there! Some include things like helping at eco-resorts, others are farming, others still are wildlife conservation. I think that, other than the volunteer aspect that attracts me to this, is the community and family aspect.  While volunteering, you get your own place to live, but it is usually in a home with a family- I could really use this right now!  They also feed you, and the food almost is always organic- usually from their own farm! I know I am really lucky to be able to go to restaurants and eat there, but, I still realize it is expensive, my money could be going to way better “causes” and… the food is often not great quality. I don’t like supporting non-organic agriculture- any product we use comes from one source or another, and often the people harvesting or manufacturing what we consume (if it is conventionally manufactured or grown) are paid terribly and work in poor conditions- why support that?

I am still looking for a place to sign up with now, but I think it will either be in Greece (the country I am heading to next, with Heather… where it is warm) or Spain (kind of far away but… I will get to practice mi Espanol!).

We’ll see. In any case, I am really excited about being able to start supporting something good.

Other exciting things that happened while in Rome: saw all of the sites, like the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, had a LOT of vegan gelato- it is everywhere! And, some of my happiest memories of Rome include meeting the parents of an old friend of mine, completely by chance, at the Vatican museum- I could not believe it. The Dumas are such wonderful people and I’ve known them… actually, I guess for about a decade now. We go to the same church and, it was just really, really nice to see them. I also met up with some friend’s from Germany! The first night I was there, I got to see Lena, Adie, and Axel from my Wohnheim (student housing) and we wandered around Rome and went out for dinner. And yesterday and the day before I met up with Karl- so awesome, we kept going on the same sightseeing bus tour because it was raining and cold and we didn’t want to be outside, yet, we were determined to use the free sightseeing ticket I got from a mother and her daughter while I was passing through the main train station after picking up my laundry.

And now I am heading to Venice- a city of unparalleled beauty, I am told. We’ll just see about that! (I hope it is, though. Sounds pretty.)

– gemmer