Thursday, April 11, 2013

Notes from Barcelona

Much like my brain at the moment, this post is going to be a bit scattered.  Tomorrow morning, we will embark on a  24  to 36-hour boat ride from Barcelona to Tangiers, at which point we will continue to travel around Morocco for two to three weeks, aiming to experience cities, beaches, mountains and deserts before heading back to Europe and seeing as much as reasonably possible before catching our flight from Istanbul to Singapore on July 1.  Several folks have asked us: "why the ferry?  Aren't flights in Europe really cheap?"  At a particular point in time, depending on multiple travel factors, we have had to figure out the best mode of transportation.  Flights, buses, trains or ferries may all, at some point, be the best option, and indeed, we have utilized them all so far.  We have yet to rent a car, bicycle, motorcycle, etc, so there's that to look forward to as well.  Anyway, in this particular situation, purchasing simple but comfortable seats on the ferry is a fun, economical way to travel that takes us overnight (no need to book lodging!) from Barcelona's beautiful waterfront to that of Tangiers, from where we can walk to our hotel, thus saving on airport- to-city transportation.  In addition, the benefit of buses, trains and ferries is the lack of extra charges for baggage (aka our backpacks) that we have found on the budget airlines.  Also, for those incapable of booking ahead when traveling, such as ourselves, ferries often have plenty of space available :)

Those of you who know me may recall that I have been wanting to travel around Africa for over two decades.  So why is Morocco our only African destination on this trip?  Apart from being one of our top travel destinations of all time, this fascinating country is conveniently located a stone's throw from Spain and apparently feasible to navigate for independent travelers such as ourselves.  The other African destinations on our must-see list, such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Madagascar, didn't end up on the final itinerary due to expense, distance or unease related to political matters and will have to be postponed.  

Before switching continents tomorrow morning and heading to Morocco, we are reflecting on the last six weeks of travel and feeling incredibly fortunate to have been able to see and experience so much of Europe.  I can safely say we have "liked" or "loved" every single place we have visited, for one reason or another.  

(Insert six-hour break in which we went out to eat fruit salad with our Colombian hosts and are now chatting with a Cuban neighbor-oh, now multiple Cuban neighbors- and getting ready to drink some late-night Coca-Cola.  I am now too distracted by these fun folks to write more, so I will post some photos.)

Here is a sampling of photos from the past six weeks of traveling: 

The home of my sister's boyfriend's parents is so energy-efficient that they have negligible need for heating, in the German winter!  Pictured above is their unique, compact staircase that I admired.

We decided to go to Ulm, birthplace of Albert Einstein.  It was really pretty, but freezing cold and snowing- totally hard-core of us.

A bunch of people from different countries signed this cow at the University of Hohenheim, where my sister is working on her Master's in Agronomy.

Have you ever tried Ritter Sport chocolate?  It is one of our faves, and it is produced about a half an hour from where my sister lives in southwest Germany.  There is a super-cute museum at the factory, and a free-sample machine.

My sister's university has a palace in it!  

The university, founded by a Duke in the early 1800s (I believe) in response to a terrible famine in the area, also possesses a vineyard!  Above it is pictured in the cold, and below, in the sun :)

Harold's backpack towards the beginning of the trip.

This is in Tuebingen, Germany.  Sorry- I had to!

Funny door, in Tuebingen.

Schnitzel, with the most delicious black pepper I have ever tasted.

Kaffee and kuchen, a German afternoon ritual.  Best cake we've found anywhere.

Our new boat, in Split, Croatia.

Part of my "derelicte" photo shoot, in Split, Croatia.

There was a storm brewin' over Split.

Croatian cat.

This creepy ad was all over Croatia!

Euphoria in Split.

Croatian street art.

Farmhouse in Croatia.

Sunset in Split, Croatia.

Marjan Peninsula, Split, Croatia.

Happy dog in Split, Croatia.

Walkin' in Croatia.

On the ferry to Supetar Island, Croatia- one of the coolest place names ever.

Croatian flower.

Croatian moped.

Supetar Island.

Coca-cola, in Croatian.

Mia "enjoying" a cup of tea on the beautiful couch in our lodging in Split, Croatia.

This disturbing dolphin rug provided quite the source of conflict for my sister and me, who surprised each other with its' presence in our respective bedrooms on a rotating basis.

Our "Soviet block" lodging in Croatia.  There was a party in the parking lot every night.  

The elevator lighting- illuminating the grimy, spaghetti-smelling contraption.

Yay, we're in Italy!

Renovation of a Roman theater in Trieste, the friendliest place we visited in Italy.

Our first time in an Eastern Orthodox church.  Gorgeous!

Our hotel in Venice (the only hotel we have stayed in so far!), at which we were checked in with an ingenious (and inconvenient) Skype-based concierge service.

Closing my eyes in the sun, in Venice.

Shutters in Venice.

More of picturesque Venice.

Venice in the sun.

A graduating student being bombarded with rotten food and powder, a tradition in the Venice region, we are told.

Harold chats with a Canadian traveler at the Santa Maria Maggiore cathedral in Rome.

Lions, lions everywhere in Europe!  Santa Maria Maggiore cathedral, Rome.

It is now 2am.  I will bid y'all adieu, so as to make some sandwiches for the boat ride in a few hours....  More from Morocco in a few days!

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