Posts categorized under ‘Travel & Living’

South Africa & Mozambique

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Yesterday I arrived in Maputo (Mozambique), after a weekend in Johannesburg (South Africa). Johannesburg was huge and I was lucky to get to know some new friends with cars. In other case it would have been very difficult to get around in this 10 million people city. As the locals say there is not so much things to do or see in JB, besides partying which I of course managed to have on the agenda. Also I did a visit to the apartheid museum plus it’s temporary exhibition of Nelson Mandela.

After 9 hours on the bus and a somewhat confusing border control I am now in Maputo. This city seems much more easy to get around in, both with walking (6 hours today) and local transportation. You have the local mini busses, shapas, which have fixed but somewhat unknown routes, that stop anywhere you want on the route for you. On top of this there is normal taxi which is quite cheap, and the motorized rickshaws (chopelas) which is like a taxi but about one third of the price, and reminds of the bicycle taxis you can find in Thailand and a lot of other places In Asia.

The food here seems great, with a lot of influence from Europe but also with it’s own dishes. Focus is on sea food which, luckily, is my favorite.

Chapa (minibus) in Maputo, Mozambique

More updates coming soon!

Hitch hiking in Greece

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Wow it was a long time since my last update. I have done a lot of things recently, mostly in Bulgaria where I was living before the summer. Under the summer time though I was living in Greece for about 2½ month, most of the time without computer or mobile phone.

The trip started in Alexandropolis, where we stayed for some days before we got a ride with a sail boat, and his owner Christos, to Samothraki some 6 hours away. Samothraki is a beautiful island in north Greece, very idyllic with waterfalls, lagoons, thermal bath and a lot of hippie people meet up there for the summer. I was living in a camping for about one month, sleeping in a hammock just next to the ocean and with the sunrise waking me up every morning. It was incredibly relaxing to do things in your own pace. Also me and my friends there was doing a lot of trekking on the island, plus walking up to the mountain top which was on 1600 meters height with an incredible view!

After Samothraki we went back to Alexandropolis, where we got a ride (on the first try) with a couple going to Thessanoliki. We ended up staying in Thessanoliki for some days which was a really nice city.

When we finally decided to leave Thessanoliki we got a ride to Platamonas, a small touristic town where everything is centered around the beach. Great for a one-day stop to freshen up and finally go swimming again, which we hadn’t done since Samothraki (where it didn’t go one day without swimming).

The next stop after Platamonas was Larissa, which we later found out is Greece most warm city and definitely not a good place for hitch hiking. After 6 hours in the sun with the thumb up we ended up taking a 6 hour night train instead to Athens. What you should know about Greek trains is that they are usually overbooked and there is not even places to sit, which is why we ended up sleeping on the floor in the middle of one walkway inside the train.

Athens was great and has so much different things to offer, which resulted in us staying for some days there. My favorite part is the Indian area with big illegal markets and interesting small back alleys. The beach in Athens is not recommended as it’s very dirty, so when the city became to hot we left with a ferry to Crete, 6 hours away.

Crete. What to say about this big island? We traveled around a lot, with the biggest places being as following: Chania, Platanias, Kissamos, Falasarna, Chora, Loutra, Samaria Gorge, Agia Roumeli, Rethymno and finally Iraklio. My favorites was definitely these two:

Falasarna: a very beautiful beach with good snorkeling, caves and a ancient city. A few of the caves people have decorated with furniture and are living inside. The beach is not too crowded and OK to camp on without trouble from the police.

Samaria Gore: an interesting 6 hour walk inside the gore, to finally reach a small town next to the sea. After you can continue east (as we did) along two paths, where the one we chose goes up the mountain again very steep and with an incredible view. At the end (some 4 hours later) you will end up in a small small town where you need to hitch hike down to a bigger town to get back to “normal” civilization.

I will not get into more detail about Greece at this moment, as it is too many impressions to recreate. Instead, here are some general tips about hitch hiking:

  • Have a big sign saying where you want to go. This is specially good in countries where you are not good at the language (and pronunciation).
  • Also have a map, so that if a driver is not going exactly where you want to go, you can quickly see if it at least is in the right direction.
  • Look somewhat proper and not too dirty. Smile and don’t use sunglasses or a too big hat that will cover your face. In a lot of countries they are afraid of hitch hikers because of their history of robbing the people who pick them up (like in Greece). Because of this you need the people in the cars to trust you (in the first few seconds they see you).
  • The best place to stay is usually a bit outside the city, where the motorway/highway starts. Don’t stop on the highway itself though if you can avoid it, as it is illegal. Gas stations near the city exit is also good, because that allows you to actually talk to the driver and have a better chance of charming him/her. Also gas stations is usually the only shadow you can find in some countries.
  • Stay in the shadow as much as possible (if that doesn’t hide you too much) and use a cap/suncream.
  • Have enough clothes, food and water to survive for some days outdoor, because you never know how long time it will take you to reach your destination.
  • If you get a bad feeling about a driver, specially when you are hitch hiking by yourself, have an excuse ready to tell him and don’t go with him, even if you have waited for a long time without anybody stopping.
  • If the police stops you for hitch hiking on the highway or in a country where it is illegal, play stupid and be as nice to them as possible. If you are lucky they will give you a ride to the closest bus station, which will be in the next time where you are going anyway.
  • Don’t try to hide one of the persons just to more easily get a ride, but if you have a lot of luggage you can put it away not to scare of the drivers.

I will definitely try to write again soon! At the moment I am visiting friends & family in Denmark & Sweden, but in about a week I am moving on to South Africa & Mozambique where I will focus mainly on scuba diving.

Adventures in Bulgaria

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I have earlier written about the beautiful Bulgarian nature and have also been trekking a lot in the mountains around Sofia. Lately the weather have been really good here which have given me the opportunity also to do a lot of outdoor sports, instead of the indoor climbing I mostly did during the colder part of the year. Some weeks ago for example I was to the opening of the rafting season in Bulgaria. Last weekend, I was checking out the climbing sites in and around Plovdiv. One of them is just 50 meters from the town walking area, and another was about 30 minutes drive from the city. The common thing with them all is that the level of climbing is very advanced, which can be one of the reasons that most of the best climbers in Bulgaria is from Plovdiv and it’s climbing club with only about 10 people in it.

Check out the pictures below from the weekend:

Vertical crimp climbing Plovdiv

Climber and belayer

Plovdiv tepeta climbing

Two climbers on rock wall

Homemade bridge over river

Climber preparing jump

Bulgarian rock climber

Hanging climber

Lead climber

Brjanovshtitza climber

Toprope climbing high

Climbing dog

Climber with hand chalk

Climber handhold

Climber with forest background

Climber and   trees

Curved climber

Climber clipping

Brjanovshtitza climbing

Brjanovshtitza rock view

Brjanovshtitza climbing rock wall

Climbing rope foot edging

Climbing hut on mountain wall

Climber gravical high vertical

Climbing silhouette

Photographing the Roma people of Serbia

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Last week I was in Serbia to take photographs for an article about the Roma people living there. This was a great experience which included meeting a lot of interesting people who was living in these camps or trying to help them.

The main problem the Roma people in Serbia has today is that they have no type of identification. There is a possibility to go to another town to get this, but the trip plus the cost for the identification can be as much as 150 euro per person, which is of course impossible to save up to when you don’t even have money for your daily food. Without identification you are not allowed to get an apartment, hospital treatment or to work, which means no income. A lot of the people collects and returns paper though which barely gives enough money for food. The rest lives from food found in the trash.

The second problem is that the Roma people have no fixed place to stay and are unwanted everywhere. A lot of them move to Belgrade in the belief that it is easier for them to find a job there. Some tries to go to other countries with trucks, paying with their last money/jewelry/possessions, to find themselves get thrown back to Serbia again. When they arrive they get left outside by the police (that follows them from the country throwing them out) outside the Belgrade airport with no money, no information and no idea where to go. Most end up on the streets and after some time hopefully move into one of the about 150 Roma camps in Belgrade, which is houses of cardboard built up on a trash yard. After some years the government will destroy the camp to be able to build on that ground, and you will have to start from the beginning again.

Most of the Roma children don’t go to school because of the parents needing them to work instead, begging or collecting paper. On top of this they can’t afford to pay for the food the children need to buy if going to school. Also, if the children is born or have lived the main part of their life in another country they can’t speak or understand the Serbian language which will disable them in school.

The pictures below is from one of the camps I visited, this one in Belgrade. The spirit of all the people I met was very high and everyone being very positive and warm, although they have been informed that their camp will be totally destroyed to the ground within two months because it disturbs the view of a newly built modern house with expensive apartments, where by the way their old camp were placed before getting destroyed. They will probably not be told the exact date and the government will not allow photographers or other media people on the place when this happens.

kid girl begging for money

romani gypsy paper collecters

gypsy camp rooftops

gypsy house and skyscraper

The old camp was destroyed to make place for the building in the background. In two months time this camp will be destroyed for creating a better view for the people living in the new building.. No replacement living place will be offered to the people living in the camp.

gypsy houses and trash

young child walking in gypsy camp

gypsy kid with beer bottle

gypsy mother and son

gypsy romani housewife

happy romani friends

kids, mother washing in background

roma children in gypsy camp

roma kids play fighting

romani camp belgrade

romani children belgrade

romani cute girl

romani gypsy mother

romani kids playing in backyard

romani kids serbia

romani woman meeting

romani woman washing in camp

romani woman

old gypsy roma woman

Rafting opening season in Kresna

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Just back to Bulgaria and the first weekend happen to be the opening season of rafting, great! One of my friends was earlier in the Bulgarian rafting team and last weekend I joined her to do the first rafting of the year. Below you can see the pictures from these days.

Microphones in mountain

Trekking in the beautiful nature with mountains

Blurred rafters below

Descent into raft

Green kayak in stream

Kayak head down

Overview from mountain

Paddling rafters

Raft in stream

Rafters far below

Rafters with green nature

Rafters paddling

Rafting for beginners (lesson)

Rafting lesson

Rafting seen from above

Stream

Yellow kayak in stream

Trees in different colors

Cloud and trees

Green salamander (amphibian)

Veliko Ternovo + status update

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I realize it was a while since i wrote here. I’ve now moved back to Sofia about two weeks ago and have done a lot of things, but most of all, spending time with my friends here. On top of this one friend from Milan came to visit Bulgaria, and we rented a car for a day trip to Veliko Ternovo. This is the old capital of Bulgaria and a very beautiful picturesque city. Below you will find some of my pictures from this trip.

Tomorrow I will go on a trip to visit friends & family in Italy, Sweden & Denmark. When I return to Sofia I will write a blog post with tips on how to pack your travel bag small & efficient.

Veliko Ternovo river

Veliko Ternovo - house near river

Triple locked box in Veliko Ternovo

Blocked window in Veliko Ternovo

Not so homeless dog in Veliko Ternovo

Balcony with clothes in Veliko Ternovo

Interesting view in Veliko Ternovo

Different place to have a WC - Veliko Ternovo

Beautiful view in Veliko Ternovo

Sunset - end of car trip to Veliko Ternovo

Bus Sofia <-> Istanbul

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Today I arrived back to Istanbul from my one-week-trip “home” to Sofia. I had a great week climbing, snowboarding, going to vernissages, museums, markets and meeting a lot of friends again.

To go with bus to Sofia from Istanbul is very easy and only costs 20 euro one way. There is a lot of bus companies to choose from, and the buses departs several times a day. Because the trip is about 8-9 hours I would recommending taking the night bus at 10 pm, which makes you miss less time and you can get some sleep at the same time. Do not have anything important planned soon after arriving because delays are common, sometimes up to 6 hours but more commonly for 1-2 hours.

The bus company I would recommend you to take is HAS Turizm which have comfortable buses, good service, few people and almost never any tourists. Also included in the price is water, tea, coffee and cake. Don’t expect anyone on the bus to speak English though, so if you want to have more control, go with for example METRO Turizm which have mostly tourists. This company is 5 euro more expensive, but have more comfortable seats together with your own personal media machine where you can watch movies, listen to music, use internet, play games and so on. Be aware that it is not uncommon for all the media machines in the bus not to work.

When you buy the ticket to the Istanbul bus, you can pre-book the ticket some days in advance, or show up one hour before departure (the buses usually don’t get full). Some of the companies tell you that you need a visa in your passport and will not sell you a ticket without this, but this is incorrect. Some nationalities don’t need a visa, and for the rest of you there is a possibility to buy a visa when you reach the border. You need cash though, don’t expect to pay with a payment card, but there should exist an ATM nearby where you can withdraw money.

About the customs between Turkey and Bulgaria, the bus will stop 3 or 4 times. The first stop will be a passport check in your departing country. don’t hesitate to leave away your passport, this is standard procedure and all the passports will be collected later by the bus driver and given back to you. Also here you might need to buy a visa if you don’t already have one. The price for this should be around 15 euro and you can probably pay with Bulgarian Lev, Turkish Lire or Euro. Some nationalities don’t need to get a visa, so check this before you start your trip.

The second stop is duty free shopping. Don’t buy anything that is in a closed box (like some cigarettes) because the customs don’t like this. Sometimes though the bus drivers ask everyone on the bus to ask one big box each for them, and then gives the people who does this a cigarette package each as a “thank you” present.

The third stop is the real customs with luggage check, sometimes skipped. Here everyone has to exit the bus again and place their luggage on a bench. Then some employee of the customs/police will go through your stuff, opening every closed package you have if you are unlucky. Food and beverage (in large amounts at least) is illegal to take between the countries. About half of the times this step with opening your bags will not happen, but be prepared to show everything you have in your bag just in case.

The fourth (and last) stop will be the passport control of the country where you are going to. Same thing here, you will leave away your passport, just to be collected later again by the bus driver and given back to you.

Going back to Sofia (for a week)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

For the first time when I’m in a new country I miss my “real home”, which for now is Sofia in Bulgaria for me. I miss friends, the wonderful people in general, the nature (most of all the mountains), trekking, sports (indoor climbing and so on), warm thermal springs, the great tasting (and varied) food, drinking coffee while walking and a lot more. I also miss being on the road…

That’s why I will be going to Sofia tonight and stay for about a week. What I don’t miss is the cold weather and I know Sofia is covered in snow right now, while Istanbul will be extra warm this week. But I really don’t care right now, and I also left some winter clothes in storage in Sofia so that shouldn’t be a problem (I didn’t bring them to Istanbul because I thought it would be warmer here).

Too bad my Turkish flatmate couldn’t join me this time, would be fun to show him Bulgaria, but I know there will be more opportunities in the future. And when I come back to Sofia next week I will have visitors from Spain and Sweden which I also look forward to! Until then, enjoy some random pictures below from the last week here in Turkey:

Sunset in Istanbul

Sunset in Istanbul

Istiklal street in Istanbul

Istiklal street in Istanbul, with an ocean of heads

Houses in a suburb in Istanbul

A common sight in Istanbul's suburbs

Building construction in Istanbul

Building construction in Istanbul with low security for the workers

Kartepe ski resort

Kartepe ski resort, about 3 hours from Istanbul

Istanbul – the first week

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Today I have been in Istanbul for a week and have already seen and done a lot here. Here are some of my first impressions of this amazing city:

* The city is knows as “the 7 hills” for a reason. You spend most of the days walking up and down when you move around here. Moving around is kind of easy with metro, bus, tram, shared taxi, normal taxi, funicular, boat and so on. The prices are also low and you can get it even lover by buying a metal thing that you charge and use on all kind of transport (except taxi).

* People are really helpful here. On the way here for example (with bus from Sofia) we crossed the border. An old man had 5 bags filled with cheese and some fine wines/champagne. Because it’s not allowed to bring food into the country the custom wanted to throw everything away. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on the bus helped the man in different ways, and after some phone calls from some of them this was fixed and the man could keep his bags.

* Although most people here are really helpful, there are of course also people trying to trick you (as everywhere else). For example in the restaurants when you don’t speak the language.

* If you buy a Turkish mobile card (sim card) you need to register the phone if it’s not bought in Turkey. Normally the people who sell the cards don’t tell you this (see above). This means that after some days your mobile will be locked and you need to go to a certain mobile store to unlock it and buy a new sim card. The official explanation for this is because terrorist use mobiles to detonate bombs, although some people say it’s because they want to sell more Turkish mobile phones.  There are no problem with foreign sim cards though. Also, it’s not allowed to talk in mobile phones on the bus.

* The food here are a little bit more spicy than in a lot of other European countries (finally!). If you are a vegetarian you will have problems because most things you eat here include meat. If you love kebab this is the place for you, as there are a kebab place every 20 meters. The kebab meat is usually of very good quality but there is no sauce as most people in the rest of Europe is used to get.

* The store areas are usually grouped in different categories. For example there is one road with only music stores, another one with only water sport stores and so on.

* Prices here are higher than in Sofia, almost the same as in northern Europe, and some things are even more expensive. If you know where to go you can find cheap and good food for around 4-5 euro though. At the markets you can bargain and lower the price to about half of the start price.

* The Turkish language are somewhat difficult to learn but not impossible. About half of the young people here speak English, and almost nobody of the middle age or older people speak or even understand it.

* Movies at the cinema are in original language, although TV is mostly dubbed.

* Guys kiss each other on the cheeks here. Also you can’t enter a club if you are only guys, you need at least one girl to be let inside.

* A lot of web sites are blocked from Turkey. This includes for example YouTube, which you can “unblock” with a special program installed. It’s still not possible to upload movies though.

* Everything here is called something with “Turk”, for example Turk Cola, Turkcell (mobile company), Powerturk (Music TV-channel) and so on.

* There are a lot of homeless dogs and cats here, the same as there were in Sofia. Also homeless people of course, as the minimum salary here is about 120 euro which is far from what you need to live here.

* It rains a lot in this period of year, that is it rains several days of the week, not so much at one time though

* You never get bored here as there is always things happening around you with this amount of people on the streets at any hour.

Man polishing shoes

Man selling grenade apples

Boy with doves

Istanbul - old tram

Long ladder

Istanbul houses

Homeless cats

Istanbul - bazar

Planting

Man washing feets

Mosque

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet - Blue mosque

Outside praying

Parrots in tree

Istanbul - European side

Istanbul boats

Fishers on bridge in Istanbul

Mosque at nighttime

Sofia -> Istanbul

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

It was a long time since I wrote something in the blog. The reason are many, but mostly because I’ve had a full schedule the two months I have been here in Bulgaria now. I’ve traveled around by car, bus and train, visited small towns, big cities, incredibly friendly & interesting people, been trekking, caving, taking baths in outdoor hot mineral springs, bungee jumping, partying, exploring and learning. I have totally fell in love, both in this country and it’s people.

BUT – I will probably move to Istanbul for 2 months in the beginning of January. There are mainly two reasons for this. First of all I will maybe loose my apartment here in Sofia around New Year’s Eve. Instead of looking for a new apartment here, I will take a break to get a perspective on things, and look for an short term apartment/roommate in Istanbul instead. Also, I need more warm climate than Sofia right now, although this means I will miss the snowboard season here.

First of all I will fly home to my family in Sweden for a week to spend Christmas there. Then back here in Bulgaria  for NYE celebrations. Hopefully at this time i have more concrete plans and an apartment.

The mountains and caves around Sofia

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

I love trekking and when I have not been exploring my new home town Sofia I have done trips to the mountains. Two beautiful places that I want to tell you about are Lakatnik and Skakavitsa.

Lakatnik is about one hour outside of Sofia and there is a train stop which is perfect to start your trekking from. You will cross a bridge over the Iskar river and then walk up through a beautiful forest with an incredible panoramic view. After about one hour you reach one of the many caves you can find here. These natural caves date back to around 130,000 BP and have different difficult levels that suit both beginners and experienced cavers. If you don’t like cave’s (or bats) you can just enjoy the fascinating view! This mountain also has some perfect walls for climbing if you know what you are doing.

Lakatnik - crossing over the Iskar river

Lakatnik - crossing over the Iskar river

Locals we met on the way walking up the mountain

Locals we met on the way walking up the mountain

The river again following the mountain

The river again following the mountain

One of the Lakatnik caves with an incredible view

One of the Lakatnik caves with an incredible view

Portrait photographing on high heights

Portrait photographing on high heights

Beautiful view over the foggy forest

Beautiful view over the foggy forest

Skakavista is two hours from Sofia and is most easy to reach by car. If you don’t have a car available you can also take two buses to get there. Skakavista is perfect for a weekend trip as there is a big hut up in the mountain (within 1-2 hours walk) where you can stay if the weather is not suited for tenting. This place is most famous because of it’s beautiful waterfall and on the other side of the mountain it’s lakes. In the winter the waterfall is turned into ice and great for ice climbing. If you are here in the summer you can instead take a dip in the small river that goes down the mountain.

Skakavitsa - view of one of the mountains

Skakavitsa - view of one of the mountains

Ice on the mountain wall

Ice on the mountain wall

Beautiful ice formations in the river

Beautiful ice formations in the river

More river and ice

More river and ice

Skakavitsa river coming from the waterfall

Skakavitsa river coming from the waterfall

The Skakavitsa waterfall, with periodical ice breaks

The Skakavitsa waterfall, with periodical ice breaks

Both these places are great both for beginners and advanced trekkers because you can find varied level of difficult tracks.

Day trip to Ronda

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

A week in Fuengirola is a little bit too much, so one day I took a short trip to Ronda. This small town is located high up in the mountains and is known mostly because of Ernest Hemingway writing about it’s beauty and the 120 meter tall bridge that you have to cross to get into the old town. I had been there before and went there now mostly to show the town too some people, but this time we took a different way back home and it turned out to be the best part of the whole trip! The roads were newly renovated and great to drive on, if you don’t easily get road sickness as there were almost no straight lines but only curves the whole way. The view was breathtaking and started with a desert landscape which soon changed into high beautiful mountains and a protected nature area with the name Sierra de Las Nievas. If it hadn’t been for the darkness catching in on us we would have spent more time just walking and driving around there.

The beautiful 120 meters tall bridge

The beautiful 120 meters tall bridge

One of the beautiful views from Ronda's parks

One of the beautiful views from Ronda's parks

More breathtaking views from inside Ronda

More breathtaking views from inside Ronda

Ronda's bullfighting arena

Ronda's bullfighting arena

Outside Ronda on the way back home - desert

Outside Ronda on the way back home - desert

More desert but starting to get greener

More desert but starting to get greener

Sierra de Las Nievas - national park

Sierra de Las Nievas - national park

Statue found in Sierra de Las Nievas

Statue found in Sierra de Las Nievas

Statue's (and mine) shadow with beautiful view

Statue's (and mine) shadow with beautiful view over the mountains and the city Coin far away

The city coin with a really "local" feeling

The city Coin with a really "local" feeling

Festival of Virgen del Rosario in Fuengirola

Friday, October 16th, 2009

It’s my last day of a one week long stay in Fuengirola, before travelling further on to Madrid for the weekend. At the same time I was here the festival of Virgen del Rosario occured. This is a week long festival when the town is filled with horses and colorful dresses with main focus in the feria area in the evenings, along with an amusement park built up only for this event.

Fuengirola - horse parade in the streets

Fuengirola - horse parade in the streets

More horses and people from the parade

More horses and people from the parade

Colorful audience of the horse parade

Colorful audience of the horse parade

Some youngsters sitting in the beginning of the feria area

Some youngsters sitting in the beginning of the feria area

The feria area

The feria area

Who says you can't drink and smoke while on a horse?

Who says you can't drink and smoke while on a horse?

It's easy though to get a little bit tipsy because of the warm weather

It's easy though to get a little bit tipsy because of the warm weather

More drinking and colorful clothes

More drinking and colorful clothes

Kids dressed up in the festival area

Parked horses outside of a restaurant

Girls bored after a long week, or after too many photographs taken of them?

Girls bored after a long week, or too many photographs taken of them?

Happy kid jumping on to a horse, impressive how good the kids were riding

Kid jumping on to a horse, impressive how good the kids were riding

Three kids on a horse

Three kids on a horse

Indoor party at the fiesta area

Indoor party at the fiesta area

Riding to the pub to get a drink - without leaving the horse back

Riding to the pub to get a drink - without leaving the horse back

The Sacromonte caves in Granada

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

For the last week I have been traveling and meeting people so I’m a little bit late with the postings in this blog. Anyway, one week ago I went to Granada (on my path Torrevieja -> Granada -> Fuengirola -> Madrid -> Sofia). I was supposed to meet and stay at one CouchSurfers place, but she never answered my calls so I found a cheap central hostel instead. For me it’s always worth living central in a city just to save time, if not the bus/metro-ride itself is interesting or the area you have found. In New York for example I lived in the outskirts of Manhattan in wonderful Spanish Harlem which is a must see in my eyes, and still close to the Hyde Park and the rest of New York if you have good walking boots.

Ok so now back to the topic. Granada was just lovely as every Spanish person I’ve ever met before have told me. A lot of tourists of course, but still very easy to find “hidden” spots you can have for yourself or to spend time with locals. One of the highlights of the city was my walk up to the hills in Sacromonte. There are a lot of people here living for free in caves where they have furniture and all the living capacities they need. I had heard that there was a museum where you can see one of these caves, but I could not find it and just climbed up the hills random. Suddenly I was lucky and walked straight into the area where all these caves are.

Sacromonte caves in Granada

Sacromonte caves in Granada

The best thing with this area was that it was totally deserted of tourists, apart from a group of 7 young persons I met and joined. These persons were local students that had just arrived 2 weeks before from Canada, France and Poland. After looking at the cave area we had a picnic break and then did some more trekking up the hills for some hours. Finally we found the way back and went to one of the guys apartment. After some drinks and snacks we went on to his favorite Marrakesh restaurant. The food and tee was great, as for the company, but the best thing was the restaurant owner who spoke 7 languages fluent (Arabic, Berber, Spanish, French, English, German and Italian)! He was also able to switch between them without a problem, sometimes in one and the same sentence. And his humor was great, joking around with us and sitting down at our table for a long time with the result that the food became almost cold before we started eating. Great day and evening and always fun with new friends!

More caves in Sacromonte, these even with solar power

More caves in Sacromonte, these even with solar power

Alhambra in Granada, view from the Sacromonte caves

Alhambra in Granada, view from the Sacromonte caves

Picnic and later trekking with Granadian students from Canada, France and Poland

Picnic and later trekking with Granadian students from Canada, France and Poland

Stormy Torrevieja

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Last night I was in a poker tournament at a English hard rock pub, Monroe’s. This place is very relaxed with a good atmosphere and great owners, and filled from floor to ceiling with things connected to Marilyn Monroe. When the poker game was over and we were about to leave, there was a flood outside the door and on every street as far as we could see.

The last week here in Torrevieja have been quite stormy, and one local who is born here told me that she has never seen anything like this before. Because there is no drainage in the streets there are floods every time it rains this much. The city is leaning down to the beach which have been ruined because of the heavy streams of water. Also a lot of cellars and garages are flooded, along with apartments and offices on street level.

Flooded street crossing in the night

Flooded street crossing in the night

Playa del cura flooded in the night

Playa del cura flooded in the night

The day after: Playa del cura destroyed

The day after: Playa del cura destroyed

The day after: Playa los locos also destroyed, with cracked pavement

The day after: Playa los locos also destroyed, with cracked pavement. Confused life guard still on watch, though the beach is gone.

The day after: Destroyed bridge at Cala de los Trabajos

The day after: Destroyed bridge at Cala de los Trabajos

The day after: Flooded street near Cala Cornuda

The day after: Flooded street near Cala Cornuda

The day after: Flooded garage, still pumping out water

The day after: Flooded garage, still pumping out water

The last weeks in a country

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Yesterday I had to clean the apartment because the owner was going to show it to someone who wanted to rent it after me. I never like to think about leaving an apartment because I always get really fond of them and have a lot of memories connected to the apartments. The last time it was easier because we were two persons who left the apartment/country at the same time, so we supported each other and tried not to think about it too much. At the same time, we were living there for a longer period in time and also had a lot of common memories and shared experiences.

I always get mood swings the last weeks before moving to a new country. These goes from being depressed about leaving my new friends, going to my favorite places for the last time, wondering if I should stay instead of continue to move and so on. But at the same time I am excited about escaping my daily habits and soon having new surroundings to get to know, while at the same time meeting new people and learning about their culture.

The importance of backup plans

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Recently a Spanish telecom company tricked me and it ended up with me having to pay 110 euros for one month of Internet, instead of their “normal” 50 euro per month which I usually pay. Because you need a Spanish bank account to order all other Internet alternatives here, and for that is a lot of paperwork which takes at least two days, I had no choice than to continue with the same company until I move from Spain (3 weeks later). Not only is extra costs annoying, it can also be very expensive if you for example work with Internet like me and can’t work for several days.

The bottom fact is, have backup plans!
If my Internet goes down I use an U3 USB stick with all my programs, mail, contact information and so on. This stick does not work on all older versions of Windows though, so it can still be a problem in some countries where the Internet cafes are not so modern. But you can have a simpler USB stick and use it as a normal extra hard drive. This is also good to always have with you, so if your computer gets stolen (or brakes down), you have all information on two different physical locations.

Have extra money saved for unplanned costs
This can be apartment costs, other living costs, costs for moving/traveling, fines/bribes (if you do something that you did not know was illegal), phone/internet costs and so on.

Have an alternative place to stay
When moving/traveling, have a backup plan (or at least extra money) that you can use if there is some problem with your primary living arrangement. This is also good when CouchSurfing for example. Even when you are staying put in a country, have the phone number and address to one of your new friends where you could stay for a day or two if something happens.

Always be able to get important phone numbers and documents
When living in a country where you initially does not know anyone, write down important addressed and phone numbers and hide somewhere (not in your apartment, but for example in your mailbox). Now if someone robs you or steals your things (money, keys and so on), you can at least beg for money and call people to help you. Important phone numbers can for example be police, your landlord, family members and so on. This information is also good to always have on internet, for example in your mail, along with a scanned copy of your passport, visa, tickets and other important documents. Imagine for example arriving to a new country, getting robbed and don’t have the address to your new apartment or anyone in the country.

The mathematics of running into people again

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The last weekend in Cartagena I got several new great friends. One of these was an Italian guy who just moved to Cartagena to study there for 10 months. He took my phone number and we decided to meet up someday in the future. The next day I was sitting at a restaurant eating tapas in this 200 000+ inhabitants city, when the same Italian guy walked past and looking in through the door. I was a little bit surprised but not too much as these kinds of things happen to me a lot. Lately I have started to wonder if this also is common to other people.

The restaurant where we found each other again was not near any special place nor near where we were the night before. Not either did we have any common interest that could have drawn us both to this area at exact this time. It was just totally random as I see it.

As I now know around 10 people in Cartagena, this should mean that the chance of running into one of those friends are 1 in 20 000. I have only been to this city 6 days in total, which also should mean that every one of these days is a chance of 1 of 3 333 that I run into somebody I know (from that city, if everybody you see is a new face to you). This usually happens to me in a lot of cities, not only this one time. In other case I would also calculate all cities this don’t happen in, to get a lower number.

In a regular active day I estimate a normal person who are in the city center see about 500 detailed faces in a day (this was an empty Sunday, but lets ignore that). That would mean that my 3 333 now is down to 1 in 7, not so impressive anymore.

Of course there are a LOT of more factors, like how good your face memory and eye vision is, how tired or thoughtful you are, if you look at shop windows or people, how many hours a week you are in certain central areas, if you are indoors or outdoors, how many people are around you, if you are sitting still or moving, your and the other persons age, how good looking or interesting they are, where you work, where you live and so on.

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Bottom note: This also happens to me in much bigger cities, for example in London, where I also know even fewer people. And once I ran into a girl in another country than I first met her in (on the same trip, without knowing we were both traveling in the same direction). If you have similar stories, please share them as comments here below!

Ocean of people near the harbor in Cartagena, at the Sailing MedCup Circuit

Ocean of people near the harbor in Cartagena, at the Sailing MedCup Circuit

Carthaginians and Romans festival in Cartagena

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Just back from another magical weekend in Cartagena with new friends and memories. It all started with me attending a magic school at a youth organization, then it was the final stage of the MedCup Circuit with a lot of people and events, combined with a rave to early morning. But the highlight in Cartagena was without a doubt the Carthaginians and Romans festival. This event is hold on a yearly basis and celebrates the creation of the city at 223 BC and events from then to when the Romans took the city from the Carthaginians at 210 BC. The festival lasts for 10 days and every night there are thousands of local people dressed in costumes from that period, together with a lot of different events like reenactment of battles and people marching through town. On top of all the events a whole new fiesta area is built near the stadium just for the week together with a botellon where people in all ages (too young sadly) are allowed to drink themselves crazy without police interference.

Cartagena is a really beautiful Spanish town with a lot of traces of it’s role as a seaport and naval base. Here the first Peral Submarine was invented in 1888 by Isaac Peral and you can still see the submarine in the port. Besides all the naval buildings in the center there are also a lot of remains from buildings built for protection in the surrounding beautiful mountains, along with views and caves which makes it perfect for trekking (which I will do next weekend).

For more information about this event, check out www.cartaginesesyromanos.es

MedCup Circuit boats in the harbour in the evening after the race

MedCup Circuit boats in the harbor in the evening after the race

A military ship and a mountain fortress in the background

A military ship and a mountain fortress in the background

Another military fortress and a cave. In one of Cartagena's caves human remains was found, dating back more than 10 000 years.

Another military fortress and a cave. In one of Cartagena's caves human remains was found, dating back more than 10 000 years.

In one of the fortress in Cartagena (not this one) there were 8 cannons places being able to shoot at the same time.

In one of the fortress in Cartagena (not this one) there were 8 cannons placed out, being able to all shoot at the same time

A normal sight in Cartagena last week

A normal sight in Cartagena last week

More Romans waiting to be part of a outdoor theater show

More Romans waiting to be part of a outdoor theater show

Fish statue and naval base in background, where ships and submarins are manifactured and repaired

Fish statue and naval base in the background, where ships and submarines are manufactured and repaired

Cartagenas bus station with light house design

Cartagena's bus station with light house design

Improvised weekend full of adventures

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This weekend was full of small random adventures. It started with me going to Cartagena, not knowing anyone there and never having been there before. Before the weekend was ended I had 7 new good friends, done trekking, cliff jumping, tried fishing octopus with hands (a friend managed anyway ;o), went into a military base and down into an active submarine, traveled to Murcia for a festival and survived a lot of partying and crazy driving. Sleeping I did first night at a nice girls (and her mother’s) home, and next night we slept 8 people (who did not know each other from before) in a flat somewhere in Murcia.

Submarine in Cartagena

Me and my CouchSurfing host on top of a Submarine in Cartagena

How was all this possible? Well it’s easy, thanks to a website called CouchSurfing.

CouchSurfing is a website where you meet people all over the world, most with traveling as a common interest. The members of the site can choose to host people, which means that people they have never met will sleep in their couch, extra bed, floor or whatever is in their apartment. The idea is NOT to offer a roof over the head though, but to meet people and learn about their culture, and making new friends all over the world. You can choose if you want to host someone at your home, [sleep at someones] couch or just meet people over a beer or show them around your city.

This is also a great way to learn more about your own city, both because people ask you a lot that you then want to learn, and because travelers tell you about their experiences in your town (or you join them in experiencing new stuff).

After creating an account on  you can do a search in the town you are traveling to, or even in your home town if you just want to meet new interesting (almost all are!) people. If you want to stay at someones home there are several ways to check them before if you feel insecure with this idea. First you can see their verification level, that is, if they have verified the address where they are living. Then read their profile and get a feeling about the person. The last (and best) way though is to see the persons references. If 20 people have met up with the member before and are all writing good stuff about her/him, why would your experience be anything but brilliant?

When you have found your host, send him or her a message (couch request) and tell why you want to meet them and stay at their place. In the beginning or if you are not used to travel, you should have a backup plan if something goes wrong. A good idea is also to have the phone number of your host, and try to send him or her a message before leaving to see if the number is correct.

If you still are insecure about the idea of staying in a strangers house, then start with just meeting someone for a chat, and you will soon be as addicted to the website as I am!

Some statistics taken from the website:

CouchSurfers 1,396,973
Successful Experiences 1,450,280
Friendships Created 1,613,972
Positive Experiences 3,599,635 (99,994% of all experiences!)
Countries Represented 231
Cities Represented 64,888

Good luck! I look forward to hear about your great experiences!

Audi MedCup

Preparations for Audi MedCup next week

A small illegal village in the outskirts of Cartagena

A small illegal village in the outskirts of Cartagena

Perfect place to cliff dive, snorkel and catch/grill octopus

Perfect place to cliff dive, snorkel and catch/grill octopus

Some fishermen in Cartagena

Some fishermen in Cartagena

Bicycle race in Murcia

Bicycle race in Murcia

Food charity in Murcia

Food charity in Murcia

Oh and by the way, my total travel budget for this weekend was less than 9 euro.

La Tomatina – the worlds biggest food fight?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

I was recently at one of the most fun festivals I have ever been to. This festival is hold the last Wednesday of October every year in Buñol (Valencia), on the east cost of Spain. The festival is actually taking place for 7 days, but most people come for the last day which is when the food fight takes place.

Tens of thousands of people meet up to see who can take down a big piece of ham from a greased pole. When this is done (after a hour or so, if not people give up) the food fight starts! 5 trucks with 125 tons of tomatoes enter the packed crowd and people on the trucks start throwing the tomatoes at everyone nearby. If you have a camera you are targeted extra, so have a water resistant camera and preferably in a plastic bag. Also swim goggles are recommended, and clothes that you can throw away after the one hour frenzy! And be prepared to sleep outdoor (if sleep at all) because this small town of around 9000 inhabitants have no chance of accommodate all people that comes for the festival.

Last but not least – don’t miss the great street parties that takes place after the food fight, before people take the bus or train home.

See you at La Tomatina next year!

La Tomatina - afterparty

La Tomatina - people

La Tomatina - people

La Tomatina - people