Array ( [total] => 12 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5591] => Array ( [iID] => 5591 [tTitle] => Under the volcano [tSlug] => under-the-volcano [iTime] => 1436738400 [iUpdate] => 1436738400 [tDescription] => The weather significantly improved upon my arrival in the foothills of the Andes. No rain. Sun shining, the town of Villarrica, on a lake peeking at the mountains, could not have been better. Though, with the rains during the previous few days, I had come prepared. As I bought my bus ticket in Temuco, the lady behind the counter likened me to Mary Poppins, due to the multi-colored umbrella sticking out of my backpack. The clear skies also meant that, driving to Villarrica, the volcano overlooking the lake is suddenly, when rows of trees don't obscure the view, just there, in the distance, at the end of mostly flat coastal plain, glimmering white in the sun, the archetypical mountain in a child's drawing. And, to make it almost magical, the volcano is spewing puffs of smoke. There are two towns on the lake, Villarrica is the mellow one, most tourists heading for the town of Pucón, closer to the slopes of the volcano. It's low season now, meaning many of the guesthouses are nearly vacant. Yet, the pizzeria, in Villarrica, where I had a Sunday afternoon pizza, was packed with families, out for the weekend, I suppose, as driving from any major urban area in Chile is a drawnout affair, not something you want to do for just the day. The place, like many buildings in the region, is completely constructed from wood, and could have, for its atmosphere, been pulled straight from any tourist center anywhere. Young female waitresses getting by in several languages, with a healthy sprinkling of foreigners among the staff, speedy service to get the tables empty ASAP, a single musician playing three instruments at the same time (but here performing Andean music) and with the musician on a break, classic rock playing in the background. Thankfully, the pizza was exceptionally good. The weather did not hold for my second day. I visited one of the hot springs in the area. The water was steamy, while snow was falling from a grey sky obfuscating the surrounding hills. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 862 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1434 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462193948 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 7 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -39.2894 [fLongitude] => -72.2184 [tLocation] => Beach [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150713 ) [5518] => Array ( [iID] => 5518 [tTitle] => Easter Island logistics [tSlug] => easter-island-logistics [iTime] => 1401919200 [iUpdate] => 1401919200 [tDescription] => The exorbitant park fee of 60 USD is for two particular sites, as most of the sites are free to visit; The two sites are ground zero of the bird-man cult, which doesn't really warrant the fee, and the quarry of maoi, which for me was one of the most impressive sites I've ever visited.  Both have an entrance gate where your ticket is stamped, meaning you can, in principle visit either only once on one ticket. I was lucky, as my ticket wasn't stamped on my first visit to the quarry as no one was in the entrance booth. I went back on my last day, just to take in the sights for a second time. The easiest way to explore the island is by rented car, though prices start at a steep sixty dollars per day, while insurance apparently is not included. With a car, you could see all the sights in one day, but besides car rental being something more for a small group, forking out the steep amount for getting to Rapa Nui in the first place could suggest that it makes some sense to at least take your time on the island. For example by renting a bike. Bike rental is a ridiculous 20 USD per 24 hours. And if you have, say, a flat tyre, they expect you to pay for that as well. It's possible to beat the price down somewhat and it helps to casually ask a local about bike rental, as they might offer you their bike at a more reasonable rate. I managed to rent bikes for about half the day rate, by renting them only until sundown and asking for a discount. However, on my first day, the bloke at the rental agency freaked out when I said I didn't think it would be correct for me to pay for a flat tire, upon returning with one (and walking with the bike for seven kilometers in the rain). He was ready to start a fight, then threatened to call the police, which I applauded, resulting in him backing down. In the end, I didn't pay at all. Moral of that story: puncture your tires and you can cycle for free on Easter island. The island isn't big. Roughly triangular in shape and only 117 square kilometers in size, with one small and one large tarmac loop. Indeed, perfect for cycling, even though the island is somewhat hilly. Food and groceries on the island are terribly expensive. You'd think that, at least, local produce would be affordable, but restaurants typically sell fish dishes for more than chicken dishes. A main course can easily set you back 30 USD, though some restaurants have a daily special closer to 10. Even a straightforward empanada, a meat pie, can set you back 5 USD, and it's, strangely, the fish pies that are the most expensive. On the up, restaurant food is quite decent, occasionally great. But, specifically if you're staying a few days, it pays to bring in some groceries yourself. It's symptomatic that the USD street rate on Rapa Nui is an impressive 20% below the official rate.  In true Polynesian style, many of the local girls wear flowers in their hair. There was a 'missing' poster hanging outside one of the shops. Surely, if sadly, on an island the size of Washington DC, with a population of a tucked away hamlet, that can only mean one thing. And the island has multiple town drunks. If this would be any other village in the middle if nowhere, it would perhaps be understandable, but the amount of tourist money pouring into Easter island is significant. At 80000 tourists per year, it would amount to perhaps some 10000 euros per inhabitant, per year, not counting air fares. The forecast for my five day stay was five days of rain, followed by a continuous sunny and warm spell. It wasn't that bad, thankfully, as the island seems to see very changeable weather, one side of the island possibly getting a full day of sun, while the other might see torrential rains. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1367 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1331 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462154772 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 20 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -27.1864 [fLongitude] => -109.436 [tLocation] => Rano Kao [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20140605 ) [5460] => Array ( [iID] => 5460 [tTitle] => The bustle of Hong Kong [tSlug] => the-bustle-of-hong-kong [iTime] => 1369346400 [iUpdate] => 1369346400 [tDescription] => Clearly, Hong Kong served as a model for the newly developed cities of China, while Hong Kong seems to have had its initial architectural boom in the 60s and 70s, judging from the style and decay of many of hte high rises. The city has very much been built on top of itself, with a diverse local community from all over Asia. My accommodation, in the heart of Kowloon, just across the bay from Hong Kong proper, sees more Africans, Philippinos and Indians than Chinese walk in and out. McDonald's, Starbucks and many other boring fast food joints are all over the place. At night, madams tuck at your arms and keep on insisting that you have to check out the girls before going to bed. "You are a young man, right?" I'm told that if you spend 1000 dollars in one of the nudie bars, you get a complimentary on-site blowjob thrown in. Within 45 minutes of arriving in Hong Kong, taking the bus from Guangzhou through a country side covered in factories owned by Hong Kong Chinese, I was off on a hash, skirting the border with China in a torrential monsoon rain. I unluckily had too much rain while in Hong Kong, the weather only clearing up on the day I had to leave. A pity, as the best views of the city are from the hills on the southern side of town. Using a tram to go up the hills, climbing an incline which at times makes a neat 45 degrees, all I saw was a white mist while being drenched by pouring rain. But I could have known. In the morning, the first 'black cloud' warning in two years was raised. Within 24 hours, 500mm of rain poured from the skies. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130524 ) [5450] => Array ( [iID] => 5450 [tTitle] => In the Northern Capital [tSlug] => in-the-northern-capital [iTime] => 1366754400 [iUpdate] => 1366754400 [tDescription] => Taking the train from Kunming to Beijing, the landscape rolling by is impressive. Mostly somewhat shrouded in mist, much of the hillsides and plains is cultivated. Engineering is everywhere, with the many rail bridges and tunnels jutting out of the sides of hills, spanning the many rivers and lakes. But, perhaps because it's a Sunday, or perhaps because, just like the cities, the country side's architectural wonders have been overdimensionalized, the roads see nary a car, the towns are quiet and many of the buildings appear empty. The train journey was quite pleasant, even though traveling second class meant sleeping six to each compartment. The worst was the Chinese carefree attitude towards generating bodily sounds of any kind. In Beijing, meaning 'northern capital', we were welcomed by what felt like an Eastern European winter, though halfway through our stay, this changed to a somewhat more welcoming crispy spring. The city's sights were overrun with tourists, mostly Chinese, perhaps already taking their days off in preparation for the upcoming national holiday of labour day. The crowds, and the many tour groups, typically all decked out with the same headgear, were a bit too much to keep the sights enjoyable, including the city's two main attractions, the forbidden city and the summer palace. We had more luck with a somewhat overpriced tour of the Great Wall, at least as far as fellow tourists went. Our visit did not go to the most often visited Badaling section, but went a bit further, to a less well restored stretch where we literally were the only ones to be seen. A pity it was that eastern European winter when we visited. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1770 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1227 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462198948 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 51 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 39.9172 [fLongitude] => 116.399 [tLocation] => The Forbidden City [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20130424 ) [5352] => Array ( [iID] => 5352 [tTitle] => Revisiting Serbia [tSlug] => revisiting-serbia [iTime] => 1329260400 [iUpdate] => 1329260400 [tDescription] => Snow was still piled high everywhere we went, but though we came more than prepared, with multiple layers of long sleeved shirts and thermal underwear, it was only at times that we benefited from our multi-layer approach. The temperature bounced up and down like a yo-yo, giving us a total difference of over 30 degrees: approaching minus 15 degrees centigrade upon our arrival in Belgrade and approaching 20 degrees shortly before departure from Kotor, on Montenegro's Adriatic coast. Sadly, though, because of the occasional meters of snowdrifts, trains between Belgrade and Podgorica were canceled, and we had no choice to travel by bus between these two capitals, or so we thought. On our second visit to the Belgrade bus station, we found that buses were also no longer going to Podgorica. Trains, so it turned out, did go just across the border, and we figured it would be possible, one way or the other, to get from there, Bijelo Polje, to Podgorica. Not so, as on the morning of our intended departure, I learned that all the roads in northern Montenegro were actually closed for all traffic. We took a last minute flight, ponied up the cash and flew JAT to the capital of Europe's newest country (bar Kosovo, if you're so inclined). [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 1778 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1125 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462170984 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 6 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 44.8143 [fLongitude] => 20.4744 [tLocation] => Good Morning Hostel [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20120215 ) [5266] => Array ( [iID] => 5266 [tTitle] => Gotta catch them all [tSlug] => gotta-catch-them-all [iTime] => 1312322400 [iUpdate] => 1312322400 [tDescription] => Ever since entering the European Union some two weeks ago, the weather has been more appropriate for a gloomy September than befitting a central European summer. Arriving in Katowice, the sun peeked out briefly, only to disappear again behind clouds and rain. I really would appreciate a bit more warmth and sunshine, if only for it helping my chances of shooting nice pictures. Close to Aushwitz, Katowice hasn't got as much to offer as, say, nearby Krakow, the city and area having gained economic ascendency through its industrial prowess. The town, more functional than historical, feels a bit like Antwerp or Rotterdam. Though pretty buildings can be found all over town, it's functional constructions from the 1970s which dominate the city. Interestingly, for a brief period during the 1950s, from shortly before to shortly after comrade number one's demise, Katowice was passed of as Stalin's city, Stalinogrod. The region, Silesia, is named after a local river and mountain, Åšlęża, of which the etymology has been traced back to the pre-indoeuropean Vandals, coming down from the Baltics in prehistoric times. Still, though it's not agreed whether Silesians should constitute their own nation, Silesian nationalism, or perhaps pride, is obvious, with the Silesian blue and white flag hanging all over Katowice. The Silesian language, on the other hand, is most often considered a Polish dialect, not a unique language. I'm staying in a very pleasant hostel which is clean, quiet and efficient. Katowice not being one of Poland's backpacker hotspots, the scope is limited, meaning that budget options were few, and I resigned to having to sleep in a dorm. Nevertheless, the attributes of the hostel make up for it. Arriving at four in the afternoon, I went out to take in a bit of the town, including what is said to be the largest monument in Poland, commemorating three Silesian uprisings, a good 80 years ago. I returned after chilling and some good food and drinks around ten in the evening, only to find a bunch of youngsters hanging out in the dorm, on their bunk beds, reading their tattered paperbacks. I took my bottle of Zubrowka, acquired at the Polish equivalent of Aldi, and headed down to the, very nice, common room to nerd and read.
What I don't get and see too often, grandpa mode engaged, is why these 'kids' prefer to read in their bunk beds, while they could be out having a good time for a pittance, or at least relax in a chair. Half a liter of beer at a fancy Irish pub, here, goes for just two euros. Meanwhile, walking down one of Katowice's main drags lined with pubs, bars and restaurants, I couldn't help but noticing scores of youngsters hanging out on and around the permanent furniture in-between the pubs, smoking and drinking their own beers and vodkas. There is little to discover on a dorm room. It's happening on the street! The great death factory tourism factory It's a must to visit Auschwitz, near Krakow, but nearer to Katowice. Last time I was in the area, Krakow, was 16 years ago and I failed this obligatory stop. Not so now. It's been observed that with ubiquitous access to information and flash tourism, it's the prominent tourism attractions that thrive, while the also rans slowly slump back. That's probably why though access to Auschwitz is normally free, in summer between 10 and 3, you can only access Auschwitz I, the main camp, on a guided tour costing you 40 zloty, about ten euros. Access to Auschwitz II, Birkenau, is still free, but the one and only 'Arbeit macht frei' sign can only be found at the former. And extremely busy it indeed is. English tours are held the most often, sometimes as much as every 15 minutes, but even then, my group was so big it still had to be split in three groups of about 20. The tour was decent enough, if too long, but also lacking. The tour guide was very good at going through, presenting, the logistics of running the death camp, sure. No problem there.
At the entrance of the first building, containing information on and photos of the transports to the camps, the famous quote by George Santayana had been put up, "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it". Obviously, we have not learned; Cambodia, South Africa, Rwanda, Yugoslavia being recent proof. But learning about the logistics of a death camp won't help anyone to understand the underlying causes of these sad events and won't foster the realization of it having happened before, when it happens now or in the future, for there is always the justification which will make it alright, in the eyes of the perpetrators, thinking that 'now' is different from before. However, if we, in this case visitors of Auschwitz, can understand the reasons for Nazi Germany to so abuse man and understand the fallacies in their thinking, we have a better chance at recognizing these fallacies in our own or others' thinking when they happen, hopefully being able to recognize the build ups to genocide before it occurs. Sadly, learning how efficient the Germans were is not going to do that. Getting to Oswiecim, the Polish name for the town, from Katowice, is a bit of a hassle, compared to getting there from Krakow. Only three direct trains a day do the trip, while several bus services ply the route as well, but all starting in different locations in the city and running infrequently. Real estate Believing in society as something that could be constructed, the early 20th century saw a number of (social) engineering projects, typically related to then, newly developing industrial projects. Many of these housing estates, often to a large extent self sufficient, were also often built along similar concepts and similar designs. One example is the Agnetapark in Delft, related to the Gist en Spiritus fabriek (yeast and spirits factory), later Calve, of peanut butter fame, now DSM. Another one is an estate I visited a few years ago in Budapest, Wekerle telep.
I love Nikisz
Quite similar in design and layout to the latter, but this one built in red brick, is the housing estate in Nikiszowiec, now part of Katowice's municipality. Nikiszowiec consists of nine ring shaped blocks, three stories high, with each surrounding a large courtyard, landscaped into a semi private park. A nice neo-baroque church complements the settlement, built for the workers of the nearby mineshaft, Nickisch, which started operating in 1906. For me, slowing down a bit on my schedule of 8 countries in four weeks, taking this extra day in Katowice, I was able to see a few sights slightly off the beaten track. Not only Nikiszowiec, but I also wandered around the city's modernist quarter, which includes a skyscraper of 14 stories which once was the highest building in the country. I also visited what was once the largest building in Poland, the former Silesian parliament, from when Silesia was, briefly, independent, or rather, an autonomous province of the interwar Second Polish Republic. In other news, finally, after some two weeks, the sun has been shining the whole day. It actually makes this industrial city rather attractive. The summer dress code does help with that. Still, its weird that for the whole week, the highs are predicted to be higher in Oslo, than here in central Europe. The sun started shining a day earlier, while in Auschwitz, but by the time I got back to Katowice, and stumbled upon Le Tour de Pologne, sunshine had turned into rain again. No bucket full of meat I've been trying to find one of the city's milk bars. No, milk plus is not served, here, these are low priced, almost communal, kitchens serving good food. Or so I'm told. I found one, but found it closed. Three times. Instead, I ended up at the vegetarian restaurant Zloty Osiol, smack in the middle of town. The food is SO GOOD, I had no choice but to eat there. Three times. In fact, the only meat I had in Poland was inside two kroket, indeed, written just like in Holland, though of slightly different texture, just before going on my tour of Auschwitz. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110803 ) [5079] => Array ( [iID] => 5079 [tTitle] => Meknes: undervalued imperial city [tSlug] => meknes-undervalued-imperial-city [iTime] => 1293145200 [iUpdate] => 1293145200 [tDescription] => Meknes is one of Morocco's four imperial cities: Fez, Rabat, Marrakech and then Meknes itself. It's also the most undervalued one, or so they say. Though not unpleasant, it does feel more provincial than either Rabat or Casablanca. Meknes' medina, or old town, is big, but I feel I'm starting to get medina fatigue. They're all attractive to some extent, but whether they are in Morocco, Egypt, Croatia or Iran, the differences aren't that big. Meknes' main square, though, on this Friday afternoon, did have the attraction of live musicians, story tellers, kids games and more. A welcome place to spend hours just sipping coffee and watching the world go by. If only it wasn't so sodding cold. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2165 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1050 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461845805 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 8 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 33.8958 [fLongitude] => -5.55535 [tLocation] => McDonald's [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20101224 ) [4869] => Array ( [iID] => 4869 [tTitle] => Meanwhile, in Wexford [tSlug] => meanwhile-in-wexford [iTime] => 1278885600 [iUpdate] => 1278885600 [tDescription] => Visiting the family in Kilmore, close to Wexford, it's Niamh first homecoming in 18 months. The sunniest side of Ireland, as the area is known, felt rather cold and wet, while they're working on luring tourists with, amongst other things, the Wexford Festival Opera (sic) and the Wexford Strawberry Festival. On the drive down, slowly, the scenery changed from what reminded me of Scotland to what reminded me of Kent, but most of the trip goes through a green corridor of trees, shielding the lovely scenery from view. Our first weekend saw all the siblings, a total of no less than six, all visiting for the occasion, with add-ons, partying like everyone was 19 again, in Wexford town, where it was all the rage to slap each other around the face with your own open wallet. Possibly a local invention, Niamh's youngest brother Kevin later also introduced me to the terms curious claw, where a tight hug allows your hand to wander around a girl's side to grope the sideboob, and 2am poaching, where, at the end of a night's out, the stragglers left on the dance floor are much easier to score. For the Barrys, it was the first time in years the whole family was together again. Niamh hadn't been home for 18 months, but hadn't seen her oldest brother Allan for three years. A family of six, it was quite the happy madhouse. During our stay, we visited the nearby village of Kilmore Quay, population 400, no less than three times. We had our first and only fish and chips in Ireland there and were mildly entertained by the Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival, which also hosted a strongman competition, which turned out to be a mildly boring affair. Close to the village, you can check out the remains of what might have been a land bridge connecting the village with the Saltee islands, a few kilometers out at sea, called St. Patrick's Causeway or St. Patrick's bridge. However interesting, there's very little information available online to support this popular claim, the feature possibly simply being a natural formation. We also imbibed other local culture, experiencing the Bannow Rathangan show, a local agricultural show and for some the highlight of the year, I'm sure, even though, certainly to most people's chagrin, alcohol was not served. My favorite was the sheep herding competition, though the Wexford dairy and cheese tasting was a very close second. The bake-offs and challenged talent competitions on photography, flower growing and knitting were slightly less interesting. And we were keeping ourselves busy, professionally, too! Niamh had to get some vaccines in the nearby town of Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland, founded by the Vikings in 914 AD and now the country's fifth largest. Surprisingly, it has rather little to offer, besides a few plaques commemorating old buildings no longer there. Brr brr Though summer has started, temperatures feel much more winter-like, to the extent where on several days, not evenings(!), we were able to see our breath upon exhaling. I mean, seriously! That said, we were told several times that this year's summer is the best in half a decade. OMG. Apparently, however, the weather is doing wonders for Niamh's dad vegetable garden. Though his primary business is building furniture, particularly kitchens, his satisfaction seems to come more from perfecting the produce from around the house. The beauty, or lack thereof, of roaming In this age of connectivity, you expect cellphone roaming to simply work. And if it doesn't, but pretends to, you don't easily find out. It seems that at least some SMSs directed at me never arrived. Including those telling me I had new voice mail messages. Grr grr. 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[tSlug] => brighton-rocks [iTime] => 1277071200 [iUpdate] => 1277071200 [tDescription] => The stark blue sky, the brightly shining sun, the biting cold in the shade. This is Brighton in summer. Or rather, in the weekend directly preceding the advent of summer. But... why? On our hopskipjump to Sierra Leone, Niamh and I flew through London, which allowed us to stop for the weekend in Brighton, visiting Felicia and Todd, who moved to Brighton from Chiang Mai last year. Due to a small hiccup when booking our tickets from Dar, we had to mismisfortune to not arrive in Heathrow (far from Brighton), but in Gatwick (practically next door). In between the cosmopolitans traveling from the US and going to south east Asia, Geneva and Tanzania, we were able to appreciate the exvcellentness of the couple's couch, just inside the Hove boundaries, separating the town from Brighton. Todd, looking for gifts for Pascal, who's still mastering the wild life in Chiang Mai, ended up with a t-shirt that said "Hove, actually". As said, the weather was gorgeous, but fresh, in my mind almost as cold as when I was here last time, though Felicia debunked that myth quickly. Still, it felt as cold, even though it was now several months later in the year. Waiting on a train to whisk us off to Brighton, the breeze was chilly, while most of the chickies were showing way too much leg, myself getting goosebumps in their stead. But while waiting, we also were accosted by three dressed up ladies, huge hats and all, on their way to the races at Ascot.  On our last day, already after both Todd and Felicia had departed for sunnier climes, Niamh and I visited The Pavilion, enjoying an excellent audio tour of the premises. Built by the future King George the fourth from the late 1700s onwards, the structure is mostly built in the style called Chinoise, though on the outside it reminds the visitor of a building straight from the videogame The Prince of Persia. The exhibition and tour were livened up by Clare Twomey, who was authorised to glorify the show with hundreds of black clay-baked butterflies. This, through the museumaker program. A lot of our time was spent eating, drinking and shopping. Just walking down the Brighton highstreet felt, after a year in Africa, like walking around in Paradise. And the sun not setting until very late in the day was almost magical, or at least very disorienting. It's quite amazing how one forgets these experiences. That is, not intellectually, but how they are actually experienced. It meant we stayed out, though indoors, as we are really no longer built for the cold, till late, before having the intention to continue drinking back home, though each evening realising we were totally knackered after a full day's out. Sunday afternoon was spent over a Sunday roast. As British as it gets, perhaps. And Saturday afternoon a superb fish and chips was had at The Master Mariner, in the Brighton Marina. And so many nice beers. My biggest surprise was being reminded again at how affordable it is to shop, here. Down Church street, Brighton's main shopping alley, many restaurants offer all you can eat buffets for 6 or 7 pounds. Our Sunday roast was 8, we had superb pizzas for 6 to 8 and our masterful fish and chips was around 8 pounds as well. Even at Gatwick, we snacked on hummus and Scotch eggs, the latter to which I was first introduced in Zambia, where I figured their abysmal taste was due to the local cuisine, though I realise now they are simply horrible, for a mere 2.30 pounds. To compare, four boiled eggs on Bongoyo were sold for 5000 Tsh, around 2.50 pounds. Good meals at Le Corsica went for 20.000, around 10 pounds and even a, though nice, burger, chips and milkshake at Best Bite still cost the equivalent of some 5 pounds. And this in a place where day laborers make less than 2 pounds per day. Of course, in Brighton, costs are incurred elsewhere. Housing, for example, is pricey, though the apartment in Dar in which I rented a room was making the owner a cool 1300 USD per month. Even in Brighton you can get something decent for juice like that. Niamh was creaming over the many really cheap deals on clothes. It's hard to get nice and good clothing in sub Saharan Africa, outside of South Africa, and in the latter, prices aren't too low anyhow. The man on the street I satisfied my inner dancer and did two rounds of DDR on the pier. We were proper tourists by, besides enjoying the Pavilion, also finding ourselves on the Volks train, which at some point in history had its rails completely under water, ferrying between the two piers of Brighton, and now runs between the one remaining pier and the Marina. There, or rather, between the Marina and the pier, a narrow greenzone is used by the city's younger population to fuck at will, us finding heaps, well, proverbially, of used condoms, used packets of lubricants, dirty underwear and whatnot. The man in the street clearly also needs to be satisfied. Unfortunately, the week before our arrival saw the Brighton naked bikeride in which Todd managed to participate. It would have been an excellent epilogue to our homecoming tour. Convenience At Gatwick airport, the condom dispensers in the bathrooms also sold herbal Viagra, just as, later, the dispenser in the bathroom of The Bank, in Dublin. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6664 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 993 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462228286 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.8153 [fLongitude] => -0.1372 [tLocation] => Brighton pier [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100621 ) [4786] => Array ( [iID] => 4786 [tTitle] => Biking, bussing and commenting [tSlug] => biking-bussing-and-commenting [iTime] => 1273356000 [iUpdate] => 1273356000 [tDescription] => I wasn't feeling too great yesterday (and no, for once that was not because of a hangover), which resulted in me missing today's Dar es Salaam Cycle Caravan 2010, organized by UWABA, which seeks to promote cycling as an alternative to more typical forms of urban transport here in Dar, while highlighting the relative challenges of cycling in this metropole. For one, I've so far been hit a handful of times, by cars, on the roads of the city. Nothing major, but still. What's funny is that UWABA chose to highlight their pleas on the quietest of moments; downtown on a Sunday morning at 8am... Brrr brrr Dar is significantly fresher than when I left it. Not too unpleasant, although it also means I now shower in lukewarm water instead of cold. Public transport Dar has reasonably effective and reasonably well organized public transport. Buses, though often overcrowded, run the length and breadth of the city. Buses are color coded and carry the names of their starting and end points. A pity no map of all the routes exists. Oh wait, once it did. One of my colleagues at Twaweza mentioned that, once, she had seen a paper based map of the bus lines crisscrossing the city, but that it had disappeared into obscurity. Now, my new housemate Leslie managed to somehow get hold of a copy. It was put together by Celtel, what is now operating as Zain, a Kuwait-based cellphone group operating in some 25 countries. Interestingly, though about 60% of Zain's customers are currently in Africa, the continent contributes only 15% to the group's net profit.
The map is not totally accurate, though. There's one line which both stops right at the airport and right infront of my house here. Extremely convenient, as the line avoids the city center, but not on the map. Comments In other news, I made some tweaks to my website. For one, I moved old comments to the Disqus commenting system. This required some investigation. First to find keys, with which Mikkel Hoegh helped, and then the DISQUS API wrapper by Rob Loach, followed by some tweaking around with the RESTful API Disqus provides and some help from the Disqus Google group. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100509 ) [761] => Array ( [iID] => 761 [tTitle] => Pisa [tSlug] => pisa [iTime] => 997308000 [iUpdate] => 997308000 [tDescription] => The very first pleasantry we enjoyed when disembarking from the plane was the heat. Although back in Holland the weather hadn't been that bad for the past couple of weeks, it's difficult to beat Italian weather. As specially Tuscany weather. It was hot. I had made reservations some days before at the only hostel in Pisa. The hostel is closed most of every day, only taking bookings between 6 and 8 in the evening. It took awhile before I finally found that out, since they also do not carry an answering machine. Even so, I was happily surprised they still had room. By the time we arrived at the hostel, we already fully understood why they still had some vacancies when I called. The hostel is located some 30 minutes walking out of town. Additionally, there is truly nothing to Pisa, outside the Campo del Miracoli, the square that houses the leaning tower, as well as a very impressive baptistry and a cathedral. Although you can not say the city is not nice, particularly in August, it's as dead as a city can be. I have to note here that in August, all Italians, everywhere go on holiday themselves. That is, the only restaurants, shops, etc. that you find are open, purely cater for tourists. Since, apparantly, tourists only visit Pisa for the leaning tower, it was very, very difficult to find anything that was open and not a five minute walk from the square. Originally, we had planned to stay in Pisa for a full four days, but it became painfully clear that we would not make that. Although the supermarkets did sell very affordable and good whisky, we decided to travel to Il 5 Terre the next day, and Firenze on the third day. 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[tSlug] => the-rain-in-spain [iTime] => 978822000 [iUpdate] => 978822000 [tDescription] => The almost obligatory new year's sea dive, on which Vinca and I also had agreed, eventually was only done by Irene en Nico. During the night a really terrible storm had set in, where Vinca and I continuously wandered when exactly the windows would finally come down from their sockets, and because of that we had decided not to dive. Although it turned out that, the next day, not only was the storm not as strong as it had been during the night, the wind was also a warm wind. Locals, that is, Portuguese people, seem to celebrate new year inside. The streets where exceptionally empty, although many Portuguese had come from around Monte Gordo to spend the weekend at one of the parties the hotels were giving. This mainly meant eating till after 12 and then dancing, mostly to classical music. After witnessing Nico and Irene's morning dive, Vinca and I went to the little town of Tavira, a quaint little town where we spent some time drinking espresso in a nice little tavern. You can listen to what is was like there. Giso and Jaap staid in bed, after a night of heavy drinking in the 'NOX'. Vroom vroom Already before we left, we figured it would make sense if we would rent a car and drive around the Algarve a bit. We expected Monte Gordo to be less than very spectacular. Something that was also confirmed by a group of travelers that was in the same van with us, being picked up at the airport after arrival. They had rented a car. However, we were with a total of six people. Not amount that easily fits in one car. At first, to keep the price down, we considered renting a Fiat Palio. A reasonably spacious car, however not built to hold 4 people in the back. Additionally, I had had a quite interesting adventure with a Fiat Palio a couple of years ago, where the window next to the passengers seat almost without warning fell off the car. While driving. A Palio it was not going to be. A second option was a very expensive mini van. In stead we opted for twice the smallest car possible, a Fiat Punto. Not only turned this car to be reasonably cheap, just about $20 per person, excluding gas for a total of three days. It also is a very nice car to drive. And we now had the opportunity to split the group in two, if the need would arise. Sevilla Tuesday we went for Sevilla. The double 'l' you pronounce as a 'j', so when Nico, when later ordering a piece of chicken in some restaurant ordered a 'pollo' (with the double 'l', he not only received the chicken, but you could hear staff making fun of him in the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately, there is no highway between the Spanish-Portuguese border and Huelva, a Spanish town, some 80km after the border and some 70km from Sevilla. In stead you get a very busy secondary road, which resulted in the trip to Sevilla taking much longer than planned. The very reason why Vinca and I later in the week decided we would not go to Cordoba, another Spanish town, even further away than Sevilla. We still, however, could consider us lucky, that the very nasty looking Guarda Civil at the border didn't stop our car at seeing my terrorist-like face. The host of EXPO92 has two must-sees within it's city borders. The first is the Gothic cathedral, according to the Guiness book of records the largest in the world. Which is something interesting altogether, since later, in New York City, I was to come across another Gothic cathedral that claims to be the largest gothic cathedral in the world and also the largest cathedral in the world after the St. Peter in Rome and some creation in Ivory Coast. Either way, the cathedral is quite a sight and gives you a very nice view of the city of Sevilla. If it's not the biggest, it is still very impressive and also has a very interesting history attached to it. Originally, on the site of the cathedral, there used to stand a mosque, built by the conquering Mores, at the beginning of their conquest on the Iberian peninsula. When, finally after some 500 years, Christians took over from the Mores, they raised the mosque to the ground, except for its minaret, which they used as the bell tower for the newly to be constructed cathedral. Besides the interesting history, the church also probably harbors the remains of Columbus. Probably, since although there is an impressive grave for him in the church, no one is really sure whether his remains didn't get misplaced somewhere in the Caribbean. The other must see in Sevilla is, what is called, 'Alcazar'. A name that, even after having been to Sevilla, only can remind of the general from the Tintin comics. The guy that tries to stage a coup in some unnamed South American country and ends up as a knife throwing artist. Large parts of Portugal and Spain were part of the Morish empire, during the middle ages. In Spain, in Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla and in Portugal along the whole Algarve, many reminders of that era still exist. One thing in which the Mores differed from most occupying forces, is that they let Christians continue them practicing their faith. Alcazar was the location where Morish and Christian nobles had their luxurious houses with very luxurious gardens. Lisboa On Wednesday, Nico and Irene went for a bike ride around Monte Gordo. Something which was rewarded with Nico enjoying a flat tire along the way. Although the guide, at first, stubbornly refused to believe the tire was really flat and had it pumped up several times before he finally gave in. The kids, Vinca, Giso, Jaap and myself, took one of the two cars and drove to Lisbon. Again, a large part of the journey took us across secondary roads, where trucks and busses were keeping our speed down. And to make us even more joyous, just before arrival it started to rain badly, which only finished way after we returned. Lisbon supposedly is one of the 'undiscovered gems' of Europe and I have to admit that that seems to be true, even though we didn't have much time to explore the city, since Giso and Jaap already wanted to head back after a mere three hours. It is a fact that the Tower of Belem, the church and convent in the district of Belem, the old citadel, the small and zigzagging streets of the old town, the largest suspension bridge in Europe and the commercial center do give Lisbon the air of a Paris, London or Rome. And one that has largely still not been discovered by tourists at large. Prices are, although slightly higher than on the Algarve, very reasonable and since, without a hassle, you get large chunks of hash offered to you in the streets, what else could you ask for? A Jesus-on-a-mountain, just like in Rio? Well, it's got that too! We want Moor Earlier in the week, Vinca and I had taken up the plan to drive to Cordoba, in Spain. However, since the trip would take us first to Sevilla, we decided not to go there. The secondary road up to Huelva would simply take too long. Earlier in the week, the rest of the group had declared that in stead of going to Spain, again, they would rather drive around a bit in the Algarve. As it turned out, Vinca and I staid in the Algarve, visiting Silves and Estoi, the rest of the group went to Ayamonte, just across the border with Spain. Silves once was a Morish settlement but is now nothing more but a small, quaint, friendly town, not so much touched by tourism. Estoi, some 20km north of Faro, is nothing more than two streets converging but has two sights worth mentioning. The first is a totally not interesting dug up Roman ruin, for which you have to pay to see it. The second is a very neglected 16th century garden from some rich landowner. The garden is free to walk in and is quite impressive, even now, after so many years of neglect. The day basically was a day of chilling were we spent a large part of the day drinking coffee and, later, port in several of the bars of Silves and Estoi. Not that Portuguese bars are 'cosy' in a European sort of way. All bars, cafes, restaurants and most shops too, have one or more TVs in the waiting area. Not so much to please the customers, since they don't really seem to be watching that much. If anyone, it seems to be to please the workers. There and back And then Friday came about again. Vinca and I had the opportunity to sleep late and spend our day doing nothing much more than chilling. The rest of the group was to be picked up at 4:30am, to be driven to the airport. Our bus wasn't coming until 3:30pm. Not that we had an easy trip back. After arriving at Faro airport, we were told that our plain had a two and a half hour delay. In the end, that turned out to be a four hour delay. To compensate us for our troubles, the airline gave us a snack voucher. The snack voucher gave us a cheese sandwich, egg on a role and a small bottle of coke. Great. But we did get to say the Lethal Weapon version of Mel Gibson! Besides the not so great trip back, this type of vacation clearly caters to older couples who want to encounter as little uncertainties on their holiday as possible. They want to be able to speak their own language, they want to eat their own food. Literally, to them it must feel as if they really haven't left home. That's also why we were welcomed in Monte Gordo by a guide from our travel organization. The very friendly lady even wanted to explain, in as much detail as humanly possible, how to use an ATM in Monte Gordo ("And then you set the language...") Of course, she also showed up at the airport. It was a pity though she didn't know of our delay before we were picked up at our hotel. Luckily enough, the bottle of whisky I had bought when flying in to Faro was still one quarter full, which gave me about an hour to relax. Ready... Get set... Go! Eventually we went to bed, Saturday morning at 4am. Sunday afternoon at 1pm I was already in a plane going to Reykjavik. For the first time in years I was getting a normal meal on the flight and, a first for me, the plain was equipped with LCD displays. A pity they were showing old episodes of Frasier, the problem not so much lying in that they were 'old', but that they were 'Frasier'. After our four our delay at Faro, everything fell perfectly in to place. When I arrived at my gate on Sunday, I had still 10 minutes left to drink a coffee. I couldn't have been there any minute earlier. That is, of course, not true if I would have slept less than the four and a half hours that I did. Saying goodbye to my Love was more difficult for me as I expected. It seems that, because of the busy weeks and months prior to leaving, I hadn't really had the time to consider the consequences of us not seeing each other for so long a time. Only when on Saturday night, we lay together in bed, after tying together too many loose ends during the day, did it slowly dawn on my what really was going to happen over the coming months. And I didn't like the prospect at all of not seeing my baby for four months at least. Morning did eventually come around and we staid in bed just a little bit longer to enjoy each other just that little bit more. Eventually, four wet eyes later, we did manage to say goodbye for now. Just before finally getting up, Vinca asked me where her box was. "Which box?", I replied. "The box in which you will take me with you!" 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