Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back in the States

I've been back in the States for a few days now. I had an end of year seminar in NYC for 2 days and then I took the Chinatown bus to Boston to meet up with my family. I'm hanging out nearby Boston for a few weeks before starting another trip, this time through the USA, visiting friends and family, and relearning how to speak and write English correctly. I don't have a cell phone yet, but can be reached by email, jmcdoogle22@hotmail.com, or at my parents home.

The last month in Europe was amazing. From Croatia to Greece, via Montenegro and Albania was quite an adventure and one I want to continue. I loved the region, with Croatia being the best, and Montenegro the most expensive which was surprising as we lost power and water one day, which is commonplace there.

After Athens, and two wonderful Greek islands, we headed up to Bratislava, Slovakia. This underrated town is full of surprises, and is a lot better than the image of communist block houses across the river. There are funky statues around the city, a bridge that looks like a UFO, a great clock museum, and a cool castle up on the hill. We couch surfed there for a night and got to learn more about the city.

Next was Vienna for a couple days. This is an impressive city. When you see something, such as a palace that blows your mind, be prepared because more than likely, there is another one that is even better in Vienna, the capital of the last great empire. It was good to be back, to explore and do lots of walking, getting to know the city and see some of the Tour of Austria as well.

After Vienna, it was back to Erfurt for a couple days with my great roomates and friends, before meeting up with the other 74 participants in my program and flying back together to NYC.

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna kicks ass

The watcher statue in Bratislava makes former communists smile
Going in style from Bratislava to Vienna, with no passport control

Last night with the roomates in Erfurt, Germany (still cold in mid July)

Friday, July 11, 2008


I made it to Athens a few days ago for the first time, arriving after the long, dangerous bus ride full of excitement from Albania. We explored Athens, finding lots of ruins, old buildings, history and heat. Ridiculously hot. We got into the Acropolis for free because we are students in teh EU. Quite nice saving 12 euros there and later on as well. We couch surfed saving us money and meeting some great people. Our host was awesome and showed us to the best gyro shop in town. Served wtih french fries and tatziki in it, it was definitely the best.

After Athens for one hot day seeing a lot of ruins and going to an outdoor concert with a bunch of couch surfers, we headed off to the islands. First stop Naxos. This amazing island would be our home for the next few days, staying at an apartment I found. Really cheap, clean and close to the beach. The city itself is awesome, with tons of cafes along the beach and with a castle upon on a hill above the shops and homes. Out on a strip of land nearby is a gateway to the temple of Apollo.

More to come later.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Montenegro to Albania

We were in Montenegro for 2 days, seeing the entire coast and being on 4 buses along the way. In Kotor we went to bed with water and electricity, waking up without electricity at 4, having it come back on, and then waking up at 7 without water. We hiked up to the fortress ruins above the city before the sun got too hot and when we came back down, the electricity went out again at the bar we were at. Time for a beer and to move on. New city in Montenegro, Budva, sandy beaches and thousands of people there, all crowded together under the rented umbrellas, swimming in the Adriatic Sea.

The next day we took more buses to get to a couple more cities and across the Albanian border where we had to pay a 10 euro entry fee. The houses here were more prepared with water storage on top of the houses. A lot of construction going on, but a lot of it seemed to be on a break as weeds were going in new house structures. There are bunkers around the countryside, reminders of the communist past. Impossible to blow up, the inventor stayed inside one as a tank blasted it to prove their strength.

We have been in Tirane, the capital of Albania for a day now, walking through the city, a bit on the dirty side, lots of street vendors, had cow tongue at a traditional restaurant cause I had to try the most interesting thing. Actually quite tasty in a spicy tomato pepper sauce. We have been getting toured around by the family of one of our friends in Germany, which is quite nice with the langguage being quite different.

Coffee here is great, very thick and black, but on the sweet side.

Today at 7 we take a 14 hour bus to Athens overnight. Going to be awesome, hopefully with some sleep, and then we take on the Greek capital for a day before off to the islands of Naxos and Paros for the next 4 days.