Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Wanderin'

I like the Interwebs.

Where else can I settle an argument in a matter of seconds, see a cat doing pretty much anything and catch up with old friends without having to go through the rigmarole of actually speaking with them? Nowhere, that's where.

However, it's made traveling way more work. In the last month, I've been fortunate enough to see some of Europe's coolest places in the form of Santorini, Athens, Budapest and Prague. When I toured Europe in 2006, I didn't have a blog, nor was I on Facebook. What I remember from that trip was enjoying it, getting home and getting on with my life. This time around, six years later, I got home and had homework, with my 1,100 professors (friends) breathing down my neck.

I'm kidding, of course. Posting (bragging) about my travels is a labor of love. In the words of Joe Walsh, "My Maserati does 185..." Wait, no, wrong one, "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do. Life's been good to me so far."

Anyway, on with it. As previously mentioned, I spent the last three weeks traveling, first hitting Greece then meeting some friends at București airport to swing through my village, and then on to Budapest and Prague. Because I think chronologically, that's how I'll organize this. Also, I'm only going to hit the highlights. I put full picture albums on Facebook with commentary. I'll link to each one in the city name. (They'll also work if you don't have Facebook, if those people still exist.)

First off, Santorini. Santorini is a small island in the Greek isles whose beauty has been displayed by such cinema classics as Summer Lovers with Peter Gallagher, his eyebrows and Daryl Hannah; Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life; and of course, The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants 2.

Basically, it's a rim of a super volcano that erupted thousands of years ago. Although this brought about a violent end to a whole civilization of people, their loss is our gain, as the result is a narrow slit of land sitting high above the water below providing spectacular views. More specifically, the views from Thira are pretty surreal. Thira is the island capital that faces west and is perched on the caldera (basically the cliff-face).

Views like this:

And this:

The sunsets from Santorini are also world famous, or more specifically, the unobscured sunsets from the northern tip of the island in a town called Oia. We also spent a couple days there, wandering, eating, drinking and figuring out where we're going to take in the sunset. Yes, this sunset:

After an unforgettable week on Santorini, we took the ferry back to Athens for a day to hit some of the most famous sites. I particularly enjoyed the Acropolis, even if my pronunciation slid from Acropolis to Acropolypse to Hypotenuse and everywhere in between.

And given my love of sports, Olympics and hard seats, I also really enjoyed touring the old Olympic stadium.

And cheering...

And VIP-ing...

And running...


After Greece -- I carried on my gold medal -- we met four of my friends from back home at the airport and took them to my site. The next 36 hours was a blur of palinca, beer, wine, translation and hiking.

Then on to Budapest. I'd heard nothing but good things about Budapest but had never been there. With its cool architecture, natural beauty, rich history and welcoming people, Budapest is definitely nagyon finom.

It was a whirlwind two days where we hit many of Budapest's most famous landmarks, but what stands out for me was the nighttime boat trip we took on the Danube. Budapest is a great place, but after dark -- ohhh yeah -- it becomes magical. The combination of the muted city and the illuminated medieval buildings and bridges gave the experience a cool eerie, surreal vibe.

And then there was Prague. As mentioned, I had been there in 2006, but for some reason, this trip made me fall in love with the city. Sitting here now, I can't put my finger on why. There's simply a feeling in Prague that I've never felt anywhere else.

There's Old Town Square with the Clock Tower, Astronomical Clock and Týn Church:

The Charles Bridge:

Wenceslas Square:

And, of course, the Castle:

Like I said, I can't explain it, but Prague just takes me there. Guess you'll just have to come see for yourself.

And never forget:

I miss you, Coach Taylor.

I'm now back in Tulgheș for a few weeks, working on some miscellaneous projects. This week, I'm trying to put together some information on Tulgheș for a site called, which is an NGO that promotes rural tourism in Romania by offering tourists a real-deal rural experience. Here in Tulgheș, we have that, by the bunches. I'll be sure to post something once it's live.

Then it's a conference, then HOME! Once I come back from HOME!, I'll just have nine months remaining of my 27 here in Romania, which is a pretty overwhelming thought.

In conclusion, I always struggle with ways to end these rambling blogs.