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17th September, 2006

As usual I was up early since today us a travel day. I had planned it out in detail so as not to miss anything and leave it behind or forget to have enough food. This train ride was a first class sleeper berth from Romania to Greece via Bulgaria, yet a different land. I shaved and showered and was ready to go in 20 minutes. I did not eat breakfast at the fancy hotel since it would be cheaper at the train station. Last night I had charged all my batteries so I would have plenty of power for photos and the compute.

I was not in my walking travel mode with my small computer pack and other key ingredients such as pills and battery chargers plus a tether that I clipped to my belt. I slung the small shoulder bag for food over my arm and pulled my larger case. At the train station I proceeded to collect some food – some cooked chicken, bread, and peach nectar from one shop, some pastry from another, and added a couple of bananas, yogurt, and a candy bar from a little store. Then I sat down for some breakfast (from McDonalds on the platform) of toasted ham and cheese, orange juice, and coffee. Well, that satisfied the stomach for now and later.

I check the big board listing all the trains and found mine to be on platform 3 so there I went to just relax for a while. I was early so a short haul train pulled in an loaded up with people. It was so full that folks were scurrying around trying to find a place. Two old women each carrying two bags carefully hurried to one train door that had been beeping and ready to close. They made just in time but had to carefully step down into the new modern train car.. A number of people were still standing outside the train cars taking their last drag on a cigarette before the train left. The second hand smoke is enough to get to a non-smoker. Finally the train left and ours pulled in.

As I sat on waiting for the train I could see a local train pull in a couple of tracks over. The people immediately rushed from the train and down the platform, all but one person, a old lady. She was small and hunched over but carried two handled plastic bags and another double sack over her left shoulder. Now she was the only one left on the platform shuffling along at a very slow but determined pace. Her first goal seemed to be to get to the end of the platform and into the station proper. Halfway along she stopped and unloaded her burden on her shoulder for a moment of rest. She was dressed in a black dress with a dark scarf on her head. I wondered where she was going and why or where she had come from. Her noted elderly age told that she had been through many changes over the past 80 plus years. What was she thinking, who would care? She now picked up the double sack and put it carefully over her shoulder with the back half laying on her hunched over back; she picked up here other two bags and slowly shuffled off. My what a burden she carried and who would care?

One of the great things about travel is one transcends the immediate situation and can take time to view what is going on. I look around me and see a middle aged couple with their child and a pair of older women talking. Where are they going, where are they from. Some carry small bags while others have several large ones. They live their life as best they can, some having the advantage of enjoying the sea shore and what else. What is the value of life to them, does it matter? I suspect each as some family with whom they participate daily or from time to time. Each works at a job in society or at home making life function for them and gaining satisfaction in their efforts. Of course, for many people in the Communist world, before and after the “big” change, the cataclysmic events have changed their lives and thought processes one way or another. I have seen scowls on the faces of Russians but cannot tell why, others in Croatia seem much happier with life. The meaning of life is in question – we come into being and we die, what is in between? Who cares? Does it really make a difference?

For some reason they tend to put the first class sleepers at the end of the train so I quickly found my “wagon” and my compartment. It was made up for two people and soon a gentleman joined me, Nicholi. What fortune, he holds a doctorate in music and lectures at the local conservatory. A young fellow who is married and has two young kids – one a few months old and a 5 year old – joined me. He is going to Greece in a professional capacity. We launched into a great conversation about music, such as Carl Orff, how and why he wrote the way he did. We also talked about Romania, the old days, today, and possible future. Apparently, Romania is to join the European Union in a year or so. That should make the money changing easier but the country’s economy may have to go through some changes. I then showed him my Oregon picture book – that is always good for looking at.

One thing we noted as we talked was that common among all people is music, a timeless commodity that can be in any society and touch the soul of all who listen. Can this medium be a collaborative effort for different people to stand together?

18th September, 2006

It was not long before we landed at the Bulgarian boarder. First, like Russia, we spent an hour while Romanian authorities came through and picked up our passports. I tried to get off the train to use the station’s WC but a bald headed fat guard growled that I could not do so – well, he had his power and ego to protect. A few people were let off to stand next to the train for a smoke or to make a cell call. I struck a conversation with one younger woman who, I found out, was from Romania but had left about 14 years ago for Canada and was consulting in Iowa. Apparently her husband went along with her but was not happy about it. Her comment was she left because of the attitude of the guard that growled and was not sure when Romania would get back on its feet. I suspect it will be two generations and about 40 years. Many of the older folks were more pleased with their Communist living conditions, Nicholi explained to me – the older folks lost their retirement pension among other things. I had also hear similar comments in Poland.

We made a brief stop for the Bulgarian immigration who radioed in our passport numbers and names – then we were on our way. Nicholi mentioned that we need to be careful to lock our compartment door to keep out possible robbers who come on board at 2 or 3 in the morning while all are asleep. There are door locks but apparently they have the external key. So I guess we shall just tie it shut – we shall see. Well, nothing happened and we passed the Bulgaria – Greece border with two brief 1.5 hour stops. Then before we knew it we were in Thessalonica. Nicholi was staying in a village just outside of the city and helped me find a room there for 1/3 the price in the city. Well, it was early in the morning so I had to wait a bit to occupy the room so I had some good coffee and Greek pastry (this is going to be my downfall here) and took a walk in the local village. Needless to say upon my return and obtaining my room I crashed for a few hours.

In the afternoon, I was up and going again – down the street to have lunch then take a walk. The walk turned into a hike down the road to the main part of the village about 2 km away. I found an open shop; most shops close after lunch for 3 hours, and picked up some fresh fruit and yogurt which along with some bread I saved from lunch will be a good evening snack. Then I found a bar & coffee place where I had a wonderful cappuccino. On the way back I came across an Internet place and took care of my email. Then, of course, it was back up the hill 2 km but having been rejuvenated with the coffee I just marched up. I am taking it easy these days before the sail.

In the middle of the night I awoke to pouring rain that was fresh and cool, but it did not last long.

19th September, 2006 *****

This is my 66th birthday so I took my time getting up. Having managed to get myself up to a hot shower and get dressed, I went down stairs to the coffee and pastry shop for some breakfast. I did have some good fresh fruit first, however. Then I was off to wake myself up with a little walk up the road to see what I could see – sure enough, more road. This road must be a main one since it carries a good deal of traffic of all sorts. Now back to my room to update my log then get a bite of lunch. This evening I am going to dinner with Nicholi to celebrate my birthday; it always good to have a friend for dinner on one’s birthday.

My room is nice and clean; the hot water being the best part. The shower, however, stands in the corner of the bathroom with no walls or curtains so everything gets wet, alas – they have a mop so one can sop up the extra water. Since everything is tile, I was a tad bit careful about stepping out on the very slippery floor – I guess their insurance does not care. A simple rubber mat might be helpful.

I have noticed an interesting statistical fact in Greece – I see a large number of older folks compared to other Eastern European countries and Russia plus they are definitely well fed here since many carry a good deal of weight. One can only speculate as to why this is the case but food and a more “western” way of living may have something to do with it. My doctor told me several times that the oriental food is much better for one’s health – having lost a number of pounds in Japan I can attest to that. When I get back I will have to measure my body statistics and see what difference the world trip has made. However, the Western European food may undo all the advantage I gained to date.

Nicholi and I had a nice birthday dinner and discussed a number of music and family topics. I need to remind myself to send him Carttuli Carmina by Orff since he had an interest. He was delighted since he had uncovered some music research information he had been looking for.

20th September, 2006

So this is the day after my birthday and I do not feel any different. Today, I decided to tour the city of Thessalonica. I took the number #57 bus to town with the expectation that I could find it and come back the same way. There is little doubt in my mind that I shall get back but when everything is “Greek” to me finding the route can be a challenge. I first went to the railroad station and picked up a map – a lot of good that did since everything is spelled in Roman characters for the Greek street names that are in Greek alphabet (I am sure glad I had a good math teacher and can figure out at least some of the characters). So, it became a matter of noting the larger roads and what angle they intersected at. Well, I missed my guessing the first hour and wondered a bit a field; however, I did observe the ship loading cranes and headed in that general direction whereupon I followed the water … sure enough I found the same spot on my map. There was a great black and white photographic gallery show on one of the wharfs. Plus, I could now see the ancient stone tower at the water’s edge – I had my bearings. Along the quay were 101 little cafes for this is “where it is at” with lounging young folk everywhere. On I went to the tower then to the Byzantine Cultural Museum since Ncholi and I had be discussing that period which was the topic of his PhD thesis. The museum is very modern and has 9 rooms, each with a different theme, very well done. This period of history lasted 1,000 years before the Turks overran them in their decay. This peaks my interest to find out more of the story. Well after over an hour I had become saturated. I now just followed my map to the general area of the bus. It is convenient that the bus routs are posted at the bus stops so I readily caught my bus. Keeping a sharp eye out now for land marks that I had taken note of on the way down. Sure enough, I was on the right bus and go off at the right place. Since I had been walking for about 6 hours I was tired.. Since I had a big lunch I kept it light this evening with a salad and bread. It seems all the food eat goes into energy, which is good – keeps the fat off. I stopped at the local market and stocked up on some fruit and yogurt for tomorrows train trip to Athens, finally. I have some soft cheese so I will pick up some bread at the train station.

I am looking forward to seeing Bob and Paula tomarrow and get out on out sailing adventure. We have been in email contact and I left him a cell phone voice mail this morning so everything should work out fine – dinner tomorrow with Bob and Paula. Right now they are visiting Athens that they had not seen before and I had. In fact, at this moment I really do not want to see any more cities or museums and just get out on the water. After our sail I will have to just relax is a few places waiting for the Atlantic sail in a month – well, I guess I will see a couple of cities I have not seen before; Napoli and Capri sound interesting and I hope to get into the Youth Hostel there for a cheap sleep.

I still do not see how the Greek society can survive with so much smoking. I have gotten used to the bad sidewalks and the many steps everywhere. Even most of the doorways have a threshold that one must step over, but that is just the way it is in Europe – not for the disabled. Some of the architectural logic defies logic but I hardly notice it now – that is what makes cultures and countries different. On the other hand the heavily traveled road in my current village folks just stop at the side, speed (motorcycles race through and very few helmets are ward, ah, well), and the noise pollution is definitely at a critical sanity level. Well, maybe at my wise ol’ retired age I need more peace and quiet …There is definitely a relaxed attitude among the shop keepers in the village – they seem to take continual breaks for a chat a bear, a smoke, or call on the cell phone. I think the cell phone energy used per capita in Europe and Asia surpasses that in the USA – they seem to be on their cell continuously. Amazing. Oh, yes, there are not mufflers on the motorbikes and the drivers love to make noise and speed – one of these days one or more of them will end up dead; and, yes I see cars pass 5 waiting cards and a bus over a double line and cannot believe I have not seen an accident yet; speed limits are not enforced either. Ah well..

21th September, 2006

It would appear that all of Europe has come to Greece to get warm and there is not a hotel room to be booked for the next two months. Alas, it is nice and warm so shorts is definitely the daily dress. . The noise pollution here in Athens is really bad, just like every other city in the World.

I met up with Bob and Paula who are going sailing with me. We sat on the roof top bar in my hotel and had a beer to chat and look at the Acropolis. Later on in the evening it was lighted as beautiful as could be. An afternoon thunderstorm moved in and for a few hours we had quite a show of lightening and thunder.

I cannot believe the number of shops along the streets and wonder how they all make a living.

22th September, 2006

The three of us went off this morning to a city highpoint. It is the top of one of the local city large hills and could see all of Athens – wow, this is a very large city. As far as the eye could see are apartment buildings. I am not sure what everyone does but it is a very busy city. I am sure glad I live on the unpopulated coast of Oregon. To get there we took a subway then climbed 1,000 steps to the funicular to the top. WE did hesitate and walk through a large fresh fruit and vegetable market. From there we went to the yacht harbor to investigate our yacht we are chartering tomorrow. We were really in luck today since all public transportation was free – that one day of the year when people try to take the public transport instead of drive. Well, the streets were still full of cars and mopeds. One must be very careful here for the cars and mopeds speed through the streets without regard to pedestrians.

We did the final arrangements for the yacht then had a great lunch. Now it is relax time until tomorrow.

23th September, 2006 - Aigina

Bob and Paula arranged for a taxi and picked me up at my hotel for travel to our boat. After finalizing the yacht charter arrangements we loaded our gear aboard then Bob and I went shopping for supplies. The charter company arranged for a car and someone at the store to help us and translate. We first went to the beverage store then to the supermarket, well – super small. We bought some essentials and some food since we would be eating out a lot and needed on stuff for lunch an breakfast plus some ice. We had good choices of food goods as well as fruit and vegetables. Now loaded we headed back to the boat.

The skipper we had arranged for was stuck on an island so we hired another skipper to help guide us to the first island since Bob and I know how to sail the boat. Local knowledge and special island berthing technique are needed. The weather was quite cloudy and it looked like rain. We were off with me at the helm. Our first island was to be Aigina and the port city of Aigina. The wind came a bit so we put up the jib which helped our speed and steadied the boat since the seas were lumpy and choppy. As we rounded the end of the island the wind was sheltered by the island but the rain started.

Now find a place at the old stone wharf. The technique is to drop anchor in the middle of the harbor then back down towards the wharf. There were so many boats that we had to “double park” then climb ashore via another boat. Our temporary skipper left since ours was to meet us in this port tomorrow. Now we were off to see the town of narrow streets with all kinds of shops. I found a shoe shop where I purchased my great 10 Euro deck shoes. This is a tourist town with many tourist shops. It seems many Greeks and tourists take the many ferries that come and go all the time to these islands. We then found a very nice restaurant and had a great fish dinner. In Greece one must be careful when going to the WC since the floors are all marble and when wet are very slippery. Now back to the boat for our first night aboard.

We had no more than reached our boat after dinner than it began to rain with torrential force that included lightning and thunder. Well, we are late in the season and I guess we should expect such weather. However, by the next morning the sky was clear and beautiful.

24th September, 2006 - Aigina

The boats next to us were leaving early in the morning so we had to be up to make boat mooring adjustments. We untied from the other boats and pulled to the side while the other two boats started to leave. Well, started, since one of the boats had a fouled anchor, a very common occurrence since everyone drops their hook out in the middle and who knows whose anchor chain crosses another – exciting. Well, after about 20 minutes the first boat untangled and the second boat left so we just slipped in towards the old stone wharf and lowered our gangplank. Not 20 feet away was the embarcadero road with busses, cars, and motor scooters buzzing up and down. Then across the street were a large line of restaurants..

We called BJ (Billy Joe from the UK), our hired skipper, who suggested some excursions while he took the ferry over to meet us. We hopped a bus and went to the top of on of the small mountains where there were ruins of a temple to the goddess Aphaia (5th century built on more ancient teple). seeing these ruins is quite fantastic. We caught the bus back to town passing hills of old (BC) terraced farm land but it was hard to see since the bus driver thought he was driving a race car down the mountains. We had lunch and walked to the sight of the “old” town.

Finally our skipper came and we were off to our next stop, the very small port of Vathi on the island of Khersonisos Methanon. Our sail today was nice but there was not enough wind to sail. At the end of this island we passed a small Greek church built right on the point. So into the small harbor we went with Bob at the helm this time, dropped our anchor at one side of the harbor and backed down to the wharf – which was two large steps from the harbor restaurant. This was not a tourist place so it was quiet and peaceful, except for the dog who had to bark to show his status.

We then walked along one of the most picturesque roads right along the sea. The skipper told us that just off shore was an ancient city that had sunk a long time ago due to an earthquake. We passed ancient houses and saw a 2,000 year old stone washing tub complete with stopper at the bottom. On we walked to yet another small acropolis where 8,000 people lived; we could see the old walls build so precisely you could not get a piece of paper between the stones. This place has not be excavated and we picked up pieces of pottery everywhere. Now back for a good dinner and sleep. As we walked back to have dinner we passed a couple of little local restaurants with several local gentlemen still sitting there sipping their coffee or Ouzo, what peaceful way of life sitting by the water’s edge and watching the red sunset over the ,mountains across the bay. This place was definitely not a tourist location since the ferries do not stop here and, inf fact, there is not even a tourist shop. My thoughts were this is the kind of location for a new University of Peace and Quiet – not a bad idea.

The skipper knew the folks on the island as well as on several of the yachts. He almost got me a week’s job as crew on a 50 foot sailboat. Ah, well.

25th September, 2006 - Vahti

This morning the boat next to us was leaving and our anchor chain was on top of theirs so we decided to just pull it up and leave too. Alas, on our way again. WE had to retrace our route a bit but continued on around the island. BJ pointed out that in Homer’s time there was a water passage we could have gone through but earth movements had created an isthmus. Now we headed for the island of Poros where we went through a narrow passage a past a rather large city of Poros where the Greek Navy trains its officers. Now we were in a race with about 8 other sailboats to get to the island of Idhra and the town of Idhra, a unique place.

So we were under power since there was little wind but we beat all of the boats into this very unique, small, and very special port so that we had a place to anchor. In fact this place is a World Heritage island where there are no vehicles, except the garbage truck and ambulance – as for hundreds of years donkeys carry the loads up the steep streets. There are a number of ancient monasteries on the island and a neat nautical history museum. This place is a tourist place with many shops and restaurants. Many folks come here by ferry or hydrofoil to just spend the day. There are a number of hotels which are almost reasonable at 80 Euros per day or pensions at 25 Euros.

We arrive and had to hunt for a place to put our boat but the skipper found one. The other 8 boats came also looking for a place to stay the night but there were no spots – as before they stacked two and three deep in this small harbor, what chaos. The harbor police had to move a bunch of them since a large cargo barge was due in that evening. The barge came and skillfully maneuvered around all the yachts but it was not easy. We moored and were off around the town to the local museum, monastery, shops, then for a swim just around the corner from the harbor. The water was cool but very nice and clear.

We slicked up and the skipper took us up the narrow streets, zigging this way and that, to a very nice restaurant. This was to be a highlight since there was music and song by a gentleman who played both the guitar and Greek Bazuka – later a young fellow joined him playing a violin. What an evening. The skipper ordered a special Greek dessert for me, Ekmat Ice Cream ( a coconut and honey baked item with ice cream, whipped cream, and a sparkler on top) in celebration of my birthday – boy was this good. I also met and chatted with a person who had done a great deal of world travel and was a Swiss doctor – it is always interesting to converse with others who like to travel different places. So, after a wonderful evening, I wandered back to the boat about midnight – nothing like living it up.

26th September, 2006 - Idhra

We took our time this morning, needless to say but finally headed off for the mainland and port city of Mouzaki, yet another neat little port. This only took us about a hour and a half. This time I had the pleasure to “park” the boat setting the anchor and backing into a spot along the wharf – a whole new experience – but I did it on the first try. We then headed off to explore the local very ancient ruins on the point then walk up narrow alley ways and down narrow streets through the old town – so very interesting. Among the ruins we could see large stones outlining what appeared to be an ancient religious building which made our walk very interesting to know that we re viewing a fort city that existed hundreds of years BC. We then stopped for coffee and Baklava sitting on the sidewalk just watching the world move slowly. Now for a rest and make some notes before we go for dinner.

We walked to the other side of the island for dinner – I had a great meat dish cooked in tomato sauce; afterwards we went down the road for dessert of ice cream on a waffle with chocolate sauce. We ambled back to the boat for a good sleep.

27th September, 2006 – Mouzaki

Breakfast was oatmeal and coffee then we were off for out next island of Poros where we side tied right along the city’s wharf of restaurants. Our travel was again without wind but we hoped that luck would change. Since we did not travel far we had a good deal of time to explore the local museum where we found artifacts dating back to the 13th century BC – really amazing. I even saw a small clay pot used to feed a baby, clearly a sophisticated society. Outside the building was one of the first sea anchors made of stone. Then we all went across the harbor to the mainland where we found a taxi to take us to some hidden ruins in the hills. At the end of the mountain road we hiked up a path to find an ancient stone bridge over a stream canyon. We hiked further up the canyon to find a stone wall supporting a narrow trail. Down the trail and in the cab we next stopped at a very old house that originally was build in BC then build onto during the more recent 4th century people, nearby was a water cistern – these folks had built one heck of a water delivery system. We found out why at our next stop where a good sized leather factory had been laid out. There was also an ancient church just down the path. Not many folks know of these ruins but our skipper did and was a great guide. To celebrate our adventures we stopped at a coffee shop right on the bay and had a great coffee sitting just in front of a fountain. We took the water taxi across the bay to where our boat was and continued on to another great restaurant for dinner. As we left the restaurant and headed for our boat we could feel some light rain starting indicating that maybe tomorrow we would have different weather

28th September, 2006 – Poros

When we got up, around 07:00 there was a good wind up with a turbulent sky. Sure enough., after breakfast we headed out and there was find coming from our stern out of the south. For the next 3 hours we had a great sail until we fell in the lee of another island. We took the sails down and motored to Agistri, yet another great little port. Bob, Paula, and I took to the streets and explored two villages stopping for coffee and an Internet Café. Shortly after returning to the boat we felt it was best to take advantage of a swim in the Aegean to cool off since it was now clear and warm then for some simple lazy time before dinner.

Agistri is a little known island that is building condos and home like mad. Our skipper feels that since this island now has a new good harbor that it will be a tourist place and that purchase of one of these condos as a rental would be a good idea; the large three story – two bedroom with two baths – is now selling for 120K Euros and could be bought for less. In 5 years the cost will go up by 3 to 5 times. This is worth thinking about, nothing like having a Greek island condo to come to. Besides, it is only 1 hour from Athens by ferry.

29th September, 2006 – Agistri

Today we head for one more port before we have to return our yacht. We left Ageistri with a good wind so we sailed to Aigina once again in preparation for our early morning run to Athens to turn our boat in. There were fewer boats so we had less trouble than the first time. Bob, Paula, and I went off to see the ancient city archeological site and museum that had been closed before. The artifacts were quite incredible, some as old as 2,300 BC. The Greek had quite an advanced culture at the time that included a water delivery system and central heading.. This site was particularly interesting since it had been built and rebuild plus expanded numerous times over four millennia and improved each time against attackers and to accommodate more people.

Tonight’s dinner was something else. The Skipper, BJ, took us to one of his favorite places … up a narrow alley then down a narrow street to a restaurant that was hidden among the homes, it had been here for 19 years and was family run. The menu was a large tray of example dishes to choose from. This is great because you can see exactly what you are getting. We had a variety from sweet and sour carrots [parboiled carrots marinated in honey + vinegar + chopped bell peppers + spices ] and veal and calamari and squid and baked mushroom pie and wine …. We finished up with some local hooch and espresso. Then to owner and chef came over and chatted with us. He told of his working in Africa as manager of a fishing fleet since his schooling was in marine engineering but he always had an interest in cooking, but his wife did not feel this was right that a man should cook. Despite his wife’s objections he opened a restaurant on the island of Aigina – he told how it took several years to be accepted by the locals but being smart he catered to the yacht charter skippers and clients and today his restaurant is filled each night.

Since we started eating at 10 PM we did not get back to the boat until wellafter midnight. This would not be a large problem except that were getting up at 05:30 to head for Athens in order to get the boat to the charter company by 09:00.

30th September, 2006 – Aigina

Before dawn we were on our way on calm seas. In a little over 2.5 hours we arrived at the harbor after watching a beautiful red sunrise. Now all packed up we each went our separate ways. I went to a local hotel near the marina and immediately put my clothes in to be cleaned. Bob and Paula headed down town Athens and will tour around tomorrow before leaving for the USA on Monday. BJ headed to his local flat. Needless to say I crashed on the bed for a couple of hours.

I will pick up my clean clothes then head off for something to eat and an internet café. As I sit here at the table in the hotel the computer seems to be moving back and forth, this will probably occur for the next 24 hours since my body still thinks it is on a moving boat. Ah, well. It was a great trip in the Aegean and I may even do it again. Bob and I learned a great deal about where to go and how to maneuver the boat in the harbor. The is end of yet another objective on my world trip. Next comes the Atlantic sail, but I have to kill some time cruising around Europe for 3 weeks – such a difficult life I am leading.

1st October, 2006 – Athens, Greece

So my clothes are clean and I am packed ready to go forward.  As I walk out the door a cab just happens by so I grab it for the train station. As luck would have it the train for Patra, where I catch the ferry to Italy, leaves in 15 minutes – I’m off via rail once again. Today is beautiful and bright and I watch the Greek houses pass by next to the Aegean Sea all the way, village after village. When we pass close to the water’s edge I can see the crystal images of the rocks below the surface – I wish I had my boat and were just sailing along the coast under the mild breeze.


I met a woman from China on the train who is traveling with her daughter to Germany to a book fair since she is a publisher. After the train ride we get together for a cool drink and talk about China and publishing. She explained how China was a non-market driven economy prior to the big change some years ago where everyone was paid the same independent of their capability or productivity; and, factories produced products as directed by the government, independent of value in to the world and thus would be stored in warehouses – but there was great stability with little crime, prostitution, power struggles, etc. After China turned to a market driven economy all this changed, but China has made a mark in the World market to their great advantage – so China charges ahead building like crazy and the people have many modern items.  With the people gaining affluence there is no turning back to a Communist mentality and social structure.  Now if the China powers that be let the people participate in governance and human/civil rights are protected China will truly emerge as one of the top nations of the World. The USA is now only ONE of the several top nations in the world, the European Union being another.


Patra has a particular and very special meaning for me, I have come full circle, since this is where I first met Merrilyn in 1968 in the Youth Hostel.  At that time Patra was a sleepy little village with old men sipping their Ozo in the afternoon siesta time in cafes along the main street.  Today this port is a major city spreading far and wide – amazing.


I made arrangements for my ferry passage with a cabin to sleep in – no longer can I sit up and sleep in the lounge. The Blue Star Ferry was fist class with sharply dressed stewards and a nice lounge plus a pool.  I met an interesting Scotsman who was traveling, as age 72, by motor bike across Europe and enjoying every minute if it so we had a long chat then had dinner in the cafeteria.  By morning we were approaching Bari, Italy, where we were to dock. I had a good breakfast, packed up, and was ready to face some new travels.


2nd October, 2006 – Blue Star Ferry headed for Italy



After leaving the boat I knew I wanted to get to the central train station so in the company of some Spanish girls we asked as we went along the way/  After some zigging and zagging we came to the station after a 20 minute walk (tour) of the city. In one case, we passed right by an old stone fort probably build several centuries ago.  Alas, once again I walked down and got off the train towards Napoli that left 15 minutes later. 


This train ride was interesting through the flat agriculture lands of southern Italy towards the bottom of tht “boot”.  We arrived in a very large port city where we had to change vehicles.  I met a couple of girls form Seattle traveling Europe following their university graduation.  Since there were no trains running up the west coast of Italy the train arranged for a nice bus – so we now had another view of the countryside, needless to say we stopped at all the small train stations to pick up passengers.  My oh my, along the way was great construction of a new large split highway as well as many buildings.  It seems like everywhere I have gone on this trip there is great amounts of energy being put into building apartments, factories, etc. My conclusion is that in the new market driven, freedom oriented, and well financed project oriented expanding World population that “things” are just happening. Unfortunately, in many places the starting point is very low, e.g. Sierra Leone – tragic.  Also along the way I could see many old buildings from a bygone era, some with bullet holes still in the walls – some of them grand mansions of the aristocracy 100 years ago, old Italy. How tings have changed.


We finally arrived in Napoli – my first impressions were to leave immediately for it was a large city crowded with masses of people and dirty.  I figured out that I needed to take the subway but opted not to since I know that traveling in crowded conditions is taking a larger chance for a traveler to have problems, especially in Italy, Spain, and other places – so I took a cab to the Hostel. 


The International Youth Hostel is very nice located at the edge of the city (if there be such an edge) and next to an old castle, not far from the water, and next door to a Metro station – how convenient.  So for less than $25US I have a nice one star private hotel room with bath plus breakfast.  I walked down to the local square for dinner of spaghetti. Mind you, when you cross the street here you take your life in your hands but soon it becomes natural to walk and dodge the cars and motorbikes but it is a wild experience.


Breakfast each day is different. In Greece it was often bread – cheese – ham plus coffee.  There are three basic coffees in Greece: Greek coffee (Turkish type where you chew a bit on the grounds), Espresso, and filter plus cappuccino, etc. – all are good. Nescafe really has a hold on Europe and you  find it everywhere – the instant coffee is really not too bad. Another thing one must get used to is that the first floor in a hotel is the first one above the lobby, yes, the lobby floor is the ZERO floor, planta baja in Mexico.  The toilets have been quite good but some are the squat type that Americans are not used to – well, then there is no toilet seat problem. Yes, many have the toilet seat missing and there is often a matron there to keep things clean but she collects a small fee for the toilet use.


I do plan ahead, a bit, but my travel is quiet fluid and I just take things as they come as I head towards a particular place accepting what comes in between.  Only in Russia and once in Greece did I make hotel reservations – I normally just wing it and I have not been caught out yet – there is always somewhere to do, just ask – change must be expected for this is the true world.


3rd October, 2006 – Napoli, Italy


So today I am off to see some sights.  First I walked to the metro, just around the corner from the Hostel and four stops from the train station, then to the information desk at the station for directions to the local train to Sorrento. After an hour’s ride and 7 tunnels (this country has a few large hills) we arrived at the end of the line in Sorrento. About a block away was a beautiful town square. Since it was now noon I realized my stomach needed filling so I sat at one of the outdoor cafes for a good roasted chicken – potatoes – salad lunch.  It cost a bit but, then again, I saved on my lodging quite a bit.  Walking down the main street and seeing nothing but boutique and souvenir shops plus hordes of people – I did not realize there there were three large cruise ships in port.


Sorrento sits on cliffs above the bay with very fine hotels along them. I walked down to the port at caught a boat to Capri, only a short ride away. This island is all mountain with a beautiful town straddled in one of the saddles between two peaks. Since it was a couple thousand feet up I took a cab up the narrow winding road. In fact it is so narrow that we had a real traffic jam as a larger bus was coming down the same narrow street, but after some movement we all passed successfully.


I walked into the village filled with an intricate maze of pathways. At each turn was a restaurant, hotel, or expensive tourist shop. Down one path I found an old monastery that had been turned into a hotel and had beautiful gardens – I did not dare guess the price per night. Then back up to the top where I found a funicular ride down the to the port. To complete my circle tour I took a big jet boat back to Napoli.


Of course, upon landing at the Napoli Port I did not have a clue where I was so looking at my map and asking a few people I determined I was too far from the metro so I would take a trolley and bus to the Hostel – but which one? I purchased a 90 minute ticket from a nearby kiosk and set out for the trolley stop. First to get across the busy and fast moving street – this is the Italian challenge. Well, the traffic light was not in our favor but two girls stepped out and cars stopped so I took advantage of the situation and crossed the street with them to the trolley that was waiting. Now I did not know if this was the right one but it was going in the right direction and I remember passing this way in the taxi the previous evening. When the trolley made a big loop and headed back the direction it came from I decided to get off and keep going in the correct direction. I found a bus going that way on a main street so I got on.  The bus driver said something to me when I mentioned the plaza I wanted to go to and a few stops later he suggested, with hand motions, that I get off and get another bus – so I did. The next bus had a word in its lighted marquee that I recognized was near the Hostel so I got on. I then asked a nice young lady next to me about the plaza I was looking for and her few words of English told me it was two stops ahead. I could see this was the proper area since there was a lighted church on a mountain in front of me that I knew was close. When I got off I was right where I wanted to be, only a few blocks from the Hostel.  Upon arriving back I had an evening snack of some fruit, yogurt, and croissant that I had purchased on Capri anticipating I would not want to go out to eat again – besides I had had a good lunch.


Yes, traveling at night in a strange big city in a foreign land is interesting. Dodging cars as one negotiates across a busy street is a matter of timing and one should not falter in any way, or …  Many countries operate on this principle as the high car and people traffic interface to achieve their goals. Alas, I am still alive to prove it too.  Tomorrow I head off for northern Italy.


4th October, 2006 – Napoli, Italy


I am off traveling once again towards Lisbon. This time up I am heading up the Italian west coast to a cluster of neat villages that I am told are worth visiting. I found out from the information desk at the train station that there is a express train to that area leaving in 20 minutes on track 15. I sent straight to the train knowing full well I needed reservations, ah, well. I found the first class car and settled in. Of course, when the conductor came by and expressed serious shock that I did not have reservation, I calmly expressed my surprise and paid the amount – all was well.


After about 4 hours I came to the transfer point, Pisa, and along with several other Americans caught the local train up the coast.  When we arrive at the first station we could not get out since we did not see the obscure on the train door window that that door was not working. Alas, we went to the next station, got off, and caught the next train back to our destination. I met a nice woman, Loral, and her mom Eva, so I helped them with their large luggage since they needed to trek up a long hill to meet their host – the incline being about 30 degrees or more. Through their host I too found a place to stay, a fully appointed apartment.  The only liability is that it is near the street and its noise and not far from a bar where I could hear a bunch of folks singing at the top of their lungs – needless to say any noise carries throughout the village bounding off the narrow passageways. Then there is the church bells that go off every hour, but it is a nice place near to the center.


So, At this moment I am in Riomaggiore [look it up on the WEB,  under Cinque Terre ] on the NW coast of Italy, one of five villages perched on the side of a mountain next to the sea – what a place with its steep, narrow, and winding streets. Restaurants abound – you would love the place.  I intend to stop for a few days to relax from my more intensive traveling although the sailing was nice since I was lodged on the boat for 7 days. 


 5th October, 2006 – Riomaggiore, Italy


It is nice to have a place to fix some breakfast before I go out to explore the area.


It is a nice bright day with a cool sea breeze.  I went down to the center of the village, i.e. bottom of the only road in town, then under the railroad tracks to the boat launching ramp. It seems they have some rowboats for rent but the small craft warning was up so I chose not to. Instead, I sat at the edge of the very small harbor and had some lunch watching the waves crash on the jetty rocks. I met a German family with two little girls learning to speak English so the girls and I had a great conversation.


Looking up the steep cliffs of the village valley I could only see houses clinging to the rock. On some were laundry hung out to dry lending color to the scene. I ambled back under the tracks and up the road past the shops to the small church near where I am staying. I turned up a small road leading up to the larger church and further to the old castle on the top of the promontory overlooking the sea and small harbor below. Unfortunately, it was not open for inspection. I wandered back another road along the hillside and could see many levels of grapes growing on each tier – maybe I just stepped back 100 years. Now I turned and walked down the main village valley road and back to my apartment. Since the shops were closed for the afternoon this meant I should take a nap so I can go out later on for an evening walk and dinner – yep, this is a tough life I am leading at the moment, but the rest is good so I can catch up with myself. 


This evening I walked up the hill to look at the sea as the sun set, just beautiful.  I then found a restaurant on the road high in the village valley where I sat and had a nice dinner watching out to sea over the houses on the hill.  An amble back to my apartment for some dessert yogurt and read for the evening.


I have found the Italians to be quite friendly on a personal basis but the shop keeps to be quite curt and sharp tongued when asked a question, they too tend to speak to one another in crisp explanation points.  I have noticed that in all of my travels there seem to be steps everywhere and in the Hostel they had dark edges and when in dim light makes them almost impossible to see – needless to say I almost went head over heels the first time down those stairs. Of course, in the current village there stone steps of all sizes and shapes going every which way up and down the hills – maybe one could do a study of types of stone stairs worth at least one PhD.


When coming here one of the folks I met at the train station asked me if I had hotel reservations and, of course, I said “no” since this stop was done by the seat of my pants or turn of a traveler. In all my many travels I have never been stuck and had to sit up all night.  Naturally, when I arranged for the Aegean sail I did book a hotel just before the cruise to make sure – I am glad I did since Athens was FULL with no hotel rooms; when no one else could find a room for the night of our return I did – so what is the problem?  Prudence is the best guide to follow and just keep ahead of where you wish to go. Flexibility is the key word for the traveler, not the tourist, so one can change plans as needed to see something new that had not been thought of before the trip.  I have found that language is not really a problem and by listening carefully, observing the context, correlating the word with what I do know (Italian is based on Latin and many of the English, French, and Spanish words are based on Latin), gestures, plus some good guessing & hunches will often get you the meaning of what is being said or what you see on a sign. There are, of course, some universal symbols like the slash through an image/icon meaning “NO”.  The key is to take things in stride and just roll with the situation; sometimes you may be wrong but I have found that locals are readily willing to help you correct your errors.  When asked directions to an Italian you will most often get a vague “over there” plus a wave of the hand … so you go “over there” and ask another person and asymptotically approach your destination – it works almost all the time.  For some reason I never seem to worry about the situation; I guess I am just getting on in years to care much about having a problem when a “problem” most likely would not occur anyway. We often get caught up in worrying about what is going to happen. On the other hand, I do take precautions with my wallet and backpack with my computer in it – this pack is tethered to me  when out in public and it goes with me EVERYWHERE! So far, I have not had a problem – having the computer in a small backpack does disguise it a bit too. I also carry my larger camera in a round shoulder bag that looks nothing like a camera bag. The type of bag can be a real tip to a person looking for such an item.  I am finding that zippered pockets great for valuables and a large safety pin on my wallet tether is a safety precaution for pick pockets. Maybe some of these notes will help those in travel mode.


6th October, 2006 – Riomaggiore, Italy


 Today I am taking the walking tour of the several villages along the ocean. My early start made it a bit cool in the valley where I am staying but once I was on the trail it became warm.  The first link from Riomaggori to Manarola was an easy walk along a cement path at the edge of the sea about 30 meters up.  There is a lot of stone work along the edge that I suspect has been there for one or more centuries. Up the hill are terraces where grapes and olives are grown.  The next trail segment from Manarola to Cornigila was nice but a bit longer with a rougher trail and since this village sits atop a promontory the last part of the trail was about 1,000 steps up to the village. The next trail segment from Cornigila to Vernazza was long and quite rough with rocks and with many ups and downs. This trail was the only link between the villages until recently. Since this was the way the old farmers got the grapes out for wine the work must have been quite difficult and time consuming. I gather this area was all forests in the distant past.


In each village I could feel history walking through the narrow streets and up the steps. It is really a treat to sit in the small square sipping coffee with a sweet roll. The ambience is worth spending some time here. However, each village does have clock chimes that go off every hour and church bells that ring at 06:00 in the morning – I guess that is a wake up call, but I just roll over. Since my apartment is right on one of the main narrow streets I get the early morning sounds and greeting of folks as they pass by.  Yesterday was a bit different since I suddenly heard a priest chanting in conjunction with a response chorus as they marched up my street to the church – behind was the hearse and a crowd of people in the funeral procession. This scene through the narrow streets has probably been done for hundreds of years, just the same way.  I could also hear some kids playing with a stick and ball against the walls of the street; this was not a large play yard but then seemed to be having fun.


 If you were to come to this National Park you definitely would need to bring boots since the trails are quite rocky in many places and definitely pack your stuff in a backpack to make it easy to get to your hotel – everything is uphill and steps.  I think that Cornigila is the best place since it is small and located on a promontory overlooking the sea; my second choice would be Manarola because it is small, then Riomaggiore. Vernazza is nice but bigger and attracts more people but it does have a larger harbor. Monterrosso Al Mare is a much larger place with a real beach and has many restaurants. Of course traveling between any of these is easy via train all within 30 minutes – this makes it easy to hike one way and return by train. There are trails to hike to the top of the local hills.


When I got to Vernazza I met a couple from Washington state so we had lunch and took the boat back to Riomaggori. The sea was calm so the ride was nice but the previous couple of days the sea was really churning. I wanted to see Monterossa al Mare so I hopped the local train to get there – my National Park ticked allowed me use of the trails and the train. IN Monterossa I took my boots off and walked in the sea to cool off.


Restaurants here typically do not open for dinner untl 19:00 so if you are hungry before that it is only drinks and appetizers. When you sit down the waiter will take their time getting to you but it does happen, once served they tend to leave you alone to talk, as seems the custom. To get the check you may have to go into the counter since a waiter does not pay much attention to the customers – no rush here.


7th October, 2006 – Riomaggiore, Italy


I realize that this is the first place in 3 months that I have stayed in one place for more than two nights.  I do not feel the need to rush out to see anything and like just enjoying myself relaxing.  I can see how a writer could sequester himself in a quiet place of a village like this a get good work done.  Well, I have some time to kill until my ship leaves to cross the Atlantic. Tomorrow I shall head to France for a week then down to Spain and Lisbon to catch the ship.   Now it is time for a wander in the village, a slow cup of coffee with pastry, then sit in the sun and read a bit. Yep, this is a tough life.


It the evening I walked up to the castle on the hill to sit and read plus contemplate in the glow of the warm afternoon sun.  I heard some music coming from the castle so I investigated to find a concert in progress. It was a woman citing poetry story about the area with environmental mood music in the background – very interesting. This method of communication might make a different Toastmasters speech.  After the concert I climbed down some stairs from the top of the hill going this way then that.  I wonder how the people constructed all of the maze of steps and apartments on the edge of the cliff. Finally, I ended up at the little boat harbor where I walked up and under the railroad tracks to my favorite restaurant, La Gratta, to have a steak dinner then off to pack up and get a good night’s sleep since I am leaving in the morning.


8th October, 2006 – Riomaggiore, Italy


I paid for my apartment and headed for the train.  First I took the local train to Genoa where I changed to an express train to Nice, France.  The train went right along the coast so it was a beautiful trip.  In Genoa I  met and traveled with a young gal who is an interesting artist arranging unique parties or staging weird/different scenes, such as a bed with articles around showing the results of a lovers fight.


I can sure tell the difference from Italy to France, besides the language is a bit easier for me to handle. From Nice I took an express train to Marseille, France. The train was crowded with people that included many students. We sped along the French southern coast with all its villages and little yacht harbors – I wanted to just get out and wander all these places, or better yet sail between them.  Arriving a bit late in the evening I took a cab to the Youth Hostel figuring that the cab cost worth it and expedient since I was tired and hungry. The cost of the YH, 15 Euros per night, allows me to take such expensive cab rides and eat very well. I have two roommates one from Switzerland and one from France, fortunately both speak English well. I should explain the French YH model – there are no men and women bathroom areas only private toilet and shower stalls – well who cares.


9th October, 2006 – Marseille, France


I’m up and took a great hot shower this morning then off to breakfast of bread, jam, coffee, yogurt, and juice.  I had a conversation with a fellow who does a lot of sailing and is looking to purchase a boat and take a year off work to sail.  Yes, Americans and Europeans are too glued to their jobs not realizing that a sabbatical is required to rejuvenate the mind and body back into a healthy state. I believe we all would be more productive and more inventive/efficient if we took time off to enjoy Life a little more.  And, so I am!


Today I spend visiting downtown Marseille and took the bus from the Hostel and wound up in one of the biggest traffic jams ever and it took us over an hour when it should have taken only 15 minutes, needless to say my bus ticket time ran out.  There is a lot to be said for making one way streets in a city to move traffic.  One attraction downtown where the ancient harbor reaches was the square rigged training vessel, Gloria, from Columbia was docked. All around the port were restaurants and I picked one to have a good lunch of raw salmon and beef with salad – not really too bad.  I found an Internet Café but when I could not log on I was told quite forcefully (as only the French could do) that it was a French keyboard.  It is interesting that since many of the customers were non-French that they did not have any “English” keyboards.  I found out later that the French keyboards stay in the NUM LOCK mode and block use of the digit keys above on the keyboard – naturally my password did not work. And, of course, to get the @ sign you must find the special shift key + special character key or use ALT+CTL+0. It is also interesting that the A and Q keys are switched, the W key is on the right middle row, the PERIOD requires a SHIFT, and a few other changes. However, one quickly gets used to the special arrangement or the reader does not mind the Q for and I.  You should have seen the Russian keyboard or the Japanese one. I am glad when I can plug in my own computer into the café’s network – this does not seem to be allowed in France and Italy, pure paranoia. 


I did catch a tram to the high point of the city which has a church-fortress (note that often churches are combined with military fortress … does this seem odd to you?). Once can see the entire port and city of Marseille city, a massive arrangement of multistory buildings.  Yes, and there is smog.  This smog may be cut back since I understand that France is going to outlaw smoking everywhere.  This is one place the USA is ahead of the world. If the other countries do not get their populations to stop smoking there will be many deaths and the country will have an overtaxed healthcare system and any commercial advantage enjoyed not will not exist if there are no workers.  I will be glad to get out of the rest of the world where almost everyone smokes. It is so sad to see young folks puffing away on cigarettes.


Tonight a new fellow joined us in my Hostel room of three. He is an MD specializing in psychiatric and those with deformities.  Sure enough, he did quickly guess that I had Tourette Syndrome. The other roommate is a farmer but doing work in landscaping. Being in a Hostel sure gives one perspective on life and I am finding that many adults use the hostels. Waldport and Yachats each should have one and create special family rooms for reasonable prices. Most hotels and motels are far too expensive for the average person to travel when only a bed and hot shower is needed; TV is not a necessity nor is a large luxury room nor are a suite of comfortable chairs … Maybe even sharing a common bath (shower) would save costs.


10th October, 2006 – Marseille, France


Today was a laid back day – only a trip to the local Internet Café to get off a bunch of emails and update my WEB site then a walk to the shore and visit the yacht harbor. Now I am back at the Hostel relaxing and reading. Tomorrow I head to Paris via the very high speed train, the TVG.


11th October, 2006 – Marseille, France


I am off on my ground TVG flight – 3 hours from Marseille to Paris, about the same as from LA to SF. Why the US does not invest in public transport is beyond me; I guess it is up to the US to create as much smog and greenhouse gases as possible yielding to each individual’s entitlement to have their own vehicle. It is the American Way!


Wow, does this TVG train travel and is very smooth, unlike the very rough train tracks in the US.  So, I arrived in Paris at the Gare de Lyon and had the address of where I wanted to go that is well outside the city. I picked up a map from the Information booth (there is almost always one in the European train stations) then I visited the Tourist Office where the woman looked up the map and showed me where I was to go and gave me directions to another train station for regional trains. Paris has about 5 or more train stations linked by the Metro so one has to have the right one to go to the place you desire to get to.  All I had to do was walk a few blocks over the Seine River where I asked once again about the train to my destination.  Now down some stairs to the next level of trains below I arrived at the ticket window where I found out I could not use my Eurailpass but had to purchase a ticket for 1.5 Euros. She then told me to go to platform B and take the train marked MONA.  On the train platform they have the destination name (Mona) on a changeable screen plus a list of possible trains and major stops on another changeable marquee. Of course being a stranger I checked and double checked my directions and even asked a couple of folks on the platform.  Having confirmed my travel I climbed aboard the next train for Mona and off I went. In the train there is usually a train stop map reading left to right, simple to follow. However, this train did make stops on the map going from left to right but the map was more complicated and had several directions on it. I found where I wanted to go which was not in the left to right direction but backwards – will sure enough as we stopped at each station I checked it against the map and my train did progress from left to right then down and right to left on the map. Well, I was relieved to know I had done the right thing. If I had made a mistake it is good to know I could just get off and travel back on the same ticket and take an hour to do it – I was not worried. Once I arrived at my destination I found a place to get some food and marched to the front of the rail station to get a cab. I am sure a cab from Paris would have cost me over $60 but by taking the regional train it only cost me $15 to get to the house I was to stay at.  I guess once a traveler gets the hang of going places via public transport in strange places it just seems to work out but one does have to pay attention to direction of travel and observe all possible signs of correct direction as well as have a map and ask people as you go along. So far I have made few mistakes and amaze myself that I have not been lost the maze of some of the large cities.  I know that one day it is going to happen and I will have to call for help.


Speaking of calling – next time I will get a cell phone that works in the several different countries. It sure is handy and the cell phone network seems to be just about everywhere now, even in the back woods of Russia and China. During my travels I know of only a very few instances when a person did not have a cell phone – they are here to stay!


Now I am relaxing, finally, in a nice house in a small French village 25 km outside of Paris.


12th October, 2006 – Near Paris, France


This is a relaxed day so I walked to the local village for lunch and a look at the old church. This neighborhood is an upscale one and the above ˝ million shows it. On the other hand, there are some really old and quaint buildings that were probably built in the nineteenth century.


13th October, 2006 – Near Paris, France


Another relax day and I walked outside the village in another direction which led to some horse paddocks and fields plus a beautiful three story old French farm house that has maintained its stately manner. My leisure time has given me an opportunity to do some sewing repairs too. 


This weekend I hope to see some other areas of the French countryside then on Monday I head to Spain and Portugal.


14th October, 2006 – Near Paris, France


Today I walked around the small French village, Vauhallan, where I am staying. Up on a hill I came across a 12th century monastery, a beautiful place.  Across the street were fields and fields of corn and other crops, a real picturesque scene. The sun came out and really made my walk down the small lanes and across the fields a great one. Of course, I stopped for coffee, then a pastry, and got some fruit – now the whole village knows there is an American in their midst – the word has gotten around quickly. 


Tonight was special sinxw Zoe and Anabele put on a short magic show for us. The two girls are Michael’s daughters by former relationships. There are great kids and we had fun the night before playing a board game – a great way to learn a foreign language.  Martine was telling me that in France it seems that many partnerships are live together situations with no children and marriage is not really considered. In fact, even if married couples do not consider having children but just living a modern life. She told me that in Italy now there is less than one child per family. This situation has interesting consequences since in time the work force will diminish and currently there are a large number of workers from other countries that do produce children who come to France and Italy to do many of the jobs. (does this sound familiar with respect tour Mexican, Indians from India, and oriental workers in the USS?). 


And why not for our World is truly a Global Economy and Society!  As the Arab companies market to Israel and the rest of the World and the European Eastern block countries progress, a little painfully, towards entering the European Union, the World will gain an interdependence upon each other to the extent that no one geographical entity can remain isolated.  Let us hope that this integration (interdependence to live life) provides the necessary market reliance to bind the countries such that any conflict (war) would be deterred in favor of life.  Intermarriages will occur which will bind families across boarders and,hopefully provide the power for peaceful existence.  This is not new since Chinggis Kahn us this same tactic in the 13th century and he encouraged multi-religious groups to freely practice in the society.  This would make an interesting sociological, philosophical, and psychological study for World integration. However, there will always be those who seek power and wealth above all else and who have the means to enforce their objectives. Alas, World management is not easy.


15th October, 2006 – Near Paris, France


Today we are going to a book faire in a small village about an hour away since Martine and Michel had a bunch of books to sell.  The book faire for this village was staged in an old train station.  It seems that this day has been set aside in all of France for “book day” and many villages had book faires going, thus there was a lot of competition for customers and the results were not the best.  Michel bought me some warm red wine since it was on the cool side. This tasted very nice.  Then I proceeded to visit an old medieval guard tower used to protect the local village and castle.  It had 206 steps spiraling to the top; mind you after the wine this was a challenge as was coming down.  From the top I could see the entire village with the farm lands beyond. Across the river stood a grand chateau, all was very green with a hint of yellow leaves of the changing season. Below me were neat French homes with a well kept garden beside each of them.


We finished the book faire and headed home. This evening we went out for a great dinner since we were all going different direction on the next day. I must say that it is great to have a place to just “hang out” for a few days and sort out the travel mind in a small village without an atmosphere of rushing about.


16h October, 2006 – En route to Spain


Michel too me to a train station near his work where I caught the interurban train to Gare de Montpernasse where I was to get my fast train to Spain.  I had a little time before it left so I wandered Paris a bit to find a good lunch. I then sat in a plaza outside the station just watching people and observing downtown Paris. The old buildings with the chimneys looked quaint and neat as I had remembered from a number of previous visits. Marring the skyline was a 100 floor skyscraper – too bad Paris did not relegate these new structures, that just do not fit the Paris architecture, to a ring just outside of Paris that would have made a lot more sense in creating ring roads and trains for movement to them. These monoliths destroy the Paris ambience and character, not to mention clogging up people movement to a central place instead of a distributed area.  When will the city architects learn to save our architectural past (that we often reconstruct later) and distribute the ever expanding city development. In fact, why – with our modern communications and rapid  transportation systems – do we not distribute the “work force” far and wide making it easier for masses of people to move from their homes to their work. Centralization is no longer a requirement for good business and it is cheaper to build outside large business/city centers.


Before I got on the train I did want to find some superglue to fix my camera display cover where some plastic (damn) pieces broke off. So with such quest I set out walking the streets of Paris asking folks as I went along and sure enough I found a shop that had the glue, now back to the train station – I guess I’ll just retrace my steps. Well, it worked and I found my way back. It is amazing how often a traveler’s need turns into a quest, a well focused objective. In our new modern world I have found that most places I have gone on this trip have most of the items one sees at home – things are getting around. Nations are not longer so isolated and seem to trade in the myriad of modern items available in the US that we take for granted. Of course, this is not always true and in the desert of Mongolia one’s expectations needed to be minimized.


The time to leave came and a rush folks headed to board the sleek TGV train. The train started slowly to roll out of the station then gradually picked up speed until we were passing the countryside at over 15 MPH\ and the ride was a smooth as could be. We did not stop for over 4 hours – what a way to go.  I could easily see such train between San Francisco and Los Angeles & San Diego as well as between Eugene,OR, to Portland and Seattle. The door to door travel time is far less than taking a plane and much easier. One can go to the coffee bar and sip away the hours or work on your laptop computr, as well as just read or chat.  The fellow across from my plush first class seat was an interesting person since he had spent – many years ago – time in the French army guarding the are in the South Pacific where France set off an atomic blast – he recounted several stories of the times.


The train was first class and fast, but our termination was not so nice. The train pulled into the station at Irun, Spain – the frontier town – the engineer shut everything down and there were about 15 people wanting to get off the train but the automatic doors would not work, ah, well – I guess he was tired and forgot about his passengers.  So, a train worker used the door’s emergency handle and released us to the platform.  Without such experiences life would be boring.


I had decided to stay here the night since it was a smaller town than San Sebastian and it was still early in the evening. I do not like to arrive I in a large city late at night since it is more difficult to find inexpensive lodgings. So, wandering the streets just down from the station I came across a bar that was also a pension and at $25 Euros a night this was a bargain versus France or Italy at double or triple that, this was almost Youth Hostel prices and a private bath too. Now I had to shift my language from French to Spanish – at first my speaking was really mixed up. I paid my money for the room and was given four keys and directions to the room – down the street 2 doors then go through the gate (use the first key), go left around the back of the building and go in the door (use the second key), now go up to the second floor – three flights up, remember in Europe and the rest of the world the ground floor is level zero – and through the Pensiones door (use the third key), and now find your room 402[but only a “2” is marked on the key ring] (use the fourth key to get into your room.   This challenge was enhanced by the fact that when you turned on a hallway light it timed out and your were in the dark until you pressed the switch again. Well, I pressed the wrong switch and hit an apartment door bell instead, the man who came to the door was not too happy. Alas, all was well and I had a nice hot shower and went to bed.  Being right next to the train station the train noises put me to sleep.


I must mention the shower tubs in Europe.  They all seem to have very high sides causing one to hold on to two wall things so as to not fall when moving into our out of the tub.  The tub in Italy had a seat to sit in while one used the hand shower to dowse yourself, but the water was hot and nice. Other tubs have a rounded bottom edge that one must be very careful with since it is very slippery when wet. No, OSHA would not approve of this.  I really do not see how “older” folks handle this type of bath.  I have mentioned before about the steps everywhere. I went into the toilet area in a restaurant and having opened the door quickly realized there was a step right there at the door – surprise! So far in 3+ months I have only miss one step and almost went head over heels but caught myself; yet, one must bet very observant as you walk anywhere else in the world – the world is not flat.


16h October, 2006 – Irun + Travel


After a lazy breakfast of fresh orange juice, tea, and a croissant I set off for the train station when I caught the local train to San Sebastian, Spain.  This city is on the coast and has a good sized port. I had some time to kill before my train left for Leon so I wandered San Sebastian a bit. First, I crossed a beautiful river bridge with some large guardian statues. As I walked down town I came across a beautiful fountain in the middle of a roundabout.  This city seemed different than others for it was quieter and very clean with some very nice shops along the boulevards.  They even had a well laid out bike path with a dotted while line down the center.  My thoughts were that this would be a nice place to be for a while if one had some work here. As I have come to find out there are many Coffee – Bars along the streets serving coffee, sweet rolls, and liquor drinks. Since I was hungry I searched for some real food only to find out that restaurants do not open until 13:00 here so I settled for a sort of omelet tort and a cup of tea. Since I had an apple and orange in my bag for later I was ok for food.


On the train I met a very nice young lady, Lina from Columbia. She had a good grasp of the English language from only some studies. We chatted as we clacked along on the train. She was in Spain seeking permanent status to get a good job here. She lived in Madrid but had taken a job in Irun for a month while visiting a cousin. We shall see if she writes an email. I have found several people I have met have communicated with me via email – what a world.


Now I am on the regional train headed to Venta Banos where I would change for a local train to Leon. Not far out of San Sebastian we entered into some mountains that were beautiful as we curved around the edges and went through many tunnels. It was raining now and drops rolled down the train window.  This train ride was one of my best since the scenery now changed to rolling hills and fertile valleys. I could see small villages here and there, each with a church in the center. When we passed through a village there were often a number of very old stone buildings that probably dated back several hundred years – this country is full of them. On we went and the rain clouds turned to blue sky with puffy white clouds with the long light of the afternoon.  What caught my eye were the many trees that were beginning to turn their leaves to gold and green leaves that sparkled with moisture from the rain. One special glitter was seen from the freshly tilled soil as many of the large chunks of dirt reflected the suns rays.  It is hard to imagine that war is taking place elsewhere in the world, the “why” of it all and absurdity of disparate thoughts confuses my mind. 


We pulled into Venta Banos where I am to change trains.  I easily found out which platform to be on as my Spanish improves by the minute.  Soon the small local train came and we were on our way. A Spanish gentleman sat near me and we struck up a conversation in Spanish with some English thrown in. Apparently, his son is in New York studying English and he was on his way to visit his elderly mother in Leon.  We were now passing a whole new area of Spain that was large and flat, like Kansas, where wheat and other such crops are grown, it was expansive. The sun settled behind a cloud.   Each little train station we stopped at was neat and looked very well kept. The large train stations were all very well done and updated since I saw them 40 years ago – what a difference. Each large station has an Information window where you can get good information on trains, there is usually a kiosk with sundries and some food, often a small café, and sometimes even an Internet terminal. 


It was almost dark when I arrive in Leon where I decided to spend the night. A short walk from the station over the river I saw a Hostal where again found a nice small room for 25 Euros.  Now I needed some food and the hostal person directed me to several restaurants – I picked a local food one and had a great empanada, salad, and wonderful cream with lemon.  The owners wife, the cook, came out and explained some unknown menu terms for me since she knew some English. I went back very satisfied and slept well.


18h October, 2006 – Leon


Up and onto my job of making some computer travel notes. Alas, I took a break to get some breakfast and found some DVD-R discs to do back up on.  Since it is raining outside this is a good time to catch up on my note taking.


I read in TIME magazine about the issues of merging the Eastern European countries into the European Union and switching to the Euro currency – this seems a tough situation for the local people but in the long run I think it will benefit the whole set of nations.  I have seen great building going on wherever I have gone on this trip – unlike the US where building seems to be at a minimum. Since the USA is spending its building money on war and the other nations are spending their money on building their economy and society, what will the future look like? I am afraid that the US will be behind the power curve, never to catch up.  Our only advantage is that most people in the other countries smoke and this, alone, may curtail their working population and burden their health systems to be detrimental to their economy, but I would not bet on this. France has recently outlawed smoking in many places.


19h October, 2006 – Leon + travel onward


It is not raining at this moment but CNN says that I should expect rain and wind for the next few days. It makes we wonder how the Atlantic sail is going to go. I am up early and went down for some breakfast at the hostal I am at.  Today I am going to go north to the northern Spanish coast just to see what it is like then the day after tomorrow I head for Lisbon; I will be glad to be on my way across the Atlantic.


I did have some time this morning before my train took off so I walked into the city again and found the large Cathedral – this is some place with beautiful stained glass windows all around. It is a marvel what the Roman Church has built as edifices for adoration.


Well, it has started to rain so this is a good day to travel by train.  I really like the train stations in Europe. Most of them have been modernized and are very clean with kiosks to purchase sandwiches, a train information counter, escalators, often an elevator, nice waiting rooms, TV monitors to see those trains schedule to leave and arrivals + which platform to be on.  Since I was in Spain 40 years ago I think things have really improved.  In Spain too there is a lot of construction going on, In particular, the people are very friendly – I even had a gentleman who saw me looking at a map stop and ask where I was going then gave me directions.


We are on our way now rising out of the Spanish planes into coastal mountains. As we climbed into the mountains more pine trees came into view and made a beautiful silhouette along the mountain ridge.  Among the pines were many trees whose leaves were now quite yellow and contrasted against the dark green pines.  We now were over the crest and following a down a river; as we went along the edge of the water we had to go through many tunnels. There were a number of small vintage hydroelectric dams along the way, You could tell because the construction was old with rust marks on the cement where the gates and metal guards were placed. I suspect most of these were over 50 years in age but still seemed to be running.


As we went along we would pass villages where a number of the houses still had slate roofs; some of the older ones were just a shell of stone walls breaking down and a roof that had fallen in.  I could see where many of the newer homes integrated the old stone houses and walls next to their well kept gardens.  Periodically, we would come across an old “station” that had been used many years ago. I found out later on that these abandon buildings were used as bus stops before the railroad was put in more recently.  There were some interesting old bridges across the chasm that I could not catch a photo of since we were moving right along.  The late afternoon turned to early evening and the rain continued.


It finally happened!  After 50 years of World travel on trains everywhere and thousands of miles, our train engine broke down. So there we were in the middle of, seemingly nowhere with the rain coming down and parked at this old station with only one house near by, our engine pulling all of two passenger cars just could not. It seems that under load something was wrong so the conductor called for free soft drinks on the “house” while another engine was summoned to come rescue us. Meanwhile, one lady just got off and began to walk, somewhere. I presume she knew where she was going. Since there were no English speakers around I could only gather bits and pieces from those around me as to what the problem was – “ el machinica”, which told me a lot.  So folks stood around and joked, smoked, and walked in the drizzling rain. Sure enough, a rescue engine came along and we were on our way again, only an hour late. Ah, well – that is life in the travel lane. But, who cares, it really does not matter – time is on my side.


We finally arrived in El Coruna, a sea coast city in the north west of Spain. As we got off the train I realized it was raining a bit harder so I was interested to find a place to stay as soon and as close to the station as possible at 22:30.  Well, at the street corner I ask two gentlemen about where I could find a hostal and they pointed out that the bar across the street might have rooms for rent so we went over there. Sure enough they had a room for my favorite price of 25 Euros, this beats a much larger regular hotel price of 2 or 3 times that.  I have found Spain to be relatively inexpensive compared to France, Italy, or Greece.  Except for the fact that one has to hunt for a larger meal in the afternoon since restaurants are not open, only the coffee bars are, things in Spain are good for tourists/travelers.  So I had a dry place for the night and I could put up with the train station noise across the street and the street lamp right outside the window – it is amazing what one can do despite the situation to get sleep.


 20h October, 2006 –El Coruna


Fortunately, this morning was cloudy but no rain so I grabbed a bite to eat and was off on my foot tour of the city. My, I did not realize just how big this place was. It is a major port city and, apparently, a major tourist destination – there are many high rise buildings, many cars and a freeway to boot, plus many people going here and there.  I walked to the port, which is quite large, and along the very nice park separating it from the city buildings. I was looking for el officina del tourismo to get a map of the place. Along the way I found an Internet Café so I ducked in to pick up my email – this place was cheap, 1/3 the price of anywhere else in Europe.


In my email was one from Anna telling me about the death of Lee Henley who has been fighting cancer for some time now. This was not unexpected but, none the less, I am saddened since I sailed with Lee stating almost 40 years ago. Since that time he and his wife Alma have become family to me. In fact, they were great acting grandparents to my kids as they saw them grow up and treated Mem and I as part of their family. We were always welcome at their house and we stopped my many times. Lee Henley was truly a Great man who had a big heart and was even willing to learn how to use the computer at age 75 – it took us several lessons but he mastered it sufficient to do emails with his kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. My Family and I will miss Lee; I hope to visit Alma when I get back. When I called today it brought tears to my eyes but she seemed as strong as she could be under the circumstances.  Lee lived a wonderful long life and had many friends, as great men do. My Atlantic sail will now also be in memory of Lee who was a great sailor who also loved the sea.


I ambled through the old city to the 12th century fortress out on a point in the harbor where I am sure Romans also had a fort. This place was well preserved and had several lives as a prison, guarding fortress, etc.  While there I met a couple from England so we decided to have lunch together then travel to a very special landmark. We had a nice lunch of fruit and thinly sliced ham and a pasta dish. Now fortified with some food we caught a bus out to a point. There, standing for over 18 centuries, was a Roman lighthouse, The Tower of Hercules. We paid our fee and climbed to the top for a fantastic view of the Atlantic ocean and the city. It was good to know that this lighthouse was still in operation and had been renovated … in the 18th century.  I knew what bus to catch back to near the train station so off we went back through the city to the train station, my room being right across the street.


Now I must prepare to leave for Lisbon tomorrow, finally. It is exciting to think I shall soon be on a luxury sailing cruise soon.


21st October, 2006 –El Coruna and Traveling


I was up early and being packed all ready I was down to have some breakfast in the pub and catch an early train to Vigo, Spain.   Again it was raining so another good day for train travel. It only took a couple of hours to reach Vigo on the express train. My next train did not leave until the early evening so I had a chance to see Vigo.  My, I did not realize that his was a seriously large port city. I walked down the hill to the port. To my surprise there was a orld wide youth sailing regatta going on so I talked to a few of the kids and watched them launch their boats.  The bay is a large on and great for sail racing but here was not much wind.  I ambled back up the hill stopping at a restaurant to get a good lunch then found and Internet café to catch up on my email. Then it started to rain again so I dashed to the rail station to hibernate with a book until my train left. 


It as now approaching 22:30 as we entered Porto, Portugal, and I did not have a place to stay and did not know what to expect.  As usual, and I am getting used to this, I simply walked across the street from the station and found a pension with a room.  This place was right out of the 1930’s which very high sculptured ceilings.  The room was ok and the bed was clean plus it had a shower and sink in the room – so the toilet was down the hall – it was only 20 Euros.  As usual I kept all my stuff right in my back pack so I would not forget and leave it somewhere in the room as I dash out the next day. I am really paranoid about this since I have left stuff behind when I put it somewhere else in the room thinking I would not forget it the next morning – wrong.  I now have a discipline to keep things together so I can focus on picking up and going – just stuff the stuff in and zip up the pack. So far this method has worked well.


On this train I met a nice couple from Brazil here on holidays and we chatted a bit.  I have been finding that both Spain and Portugal folks are very friendly and helpful plus I have not come across any problems as expected.  Well, I stayed away from such tourist places like Madrid.  I was later to find out the in Lisbon there are many pickpockets because there are many tourists. Hence, if you must travel to tourist places, especially in high season one must be very prepared to protect your wallet and stuff – attach it to you and always watch it; take your bags with you everyhere!


The Train station in Porto was large and new well lighted, as have been most of the train stations I have been in for Spain and Portugal. It is such a pleasure to know what awaits you when you get off the train.


22nd October, 2006 –Porto and traveling


So this morning I am off on my last train journey and my last Eurail ride to Lisboa. It was wonderful country side and ocean scenes for three hours of travel. Again it was raining and I could see many new buildings as well as many centry old buildings still in use or is total disrepair.  I arrived mid-day into a very large train station. I found a security guard to ask about getting to the dock where the Star Clipper was to dock; he took me to the correct bus stop and told me the right numbered bus to get on. Along came that bus and I asked the driver to tell me when we arrived at my stop.  I did not realize that this bus route was a neat tour along the very large Lisbon bay. I got off just under a very large bridge across the river and mouth of the bay, a bridge that was build by the same company that built the Golden Gate bridge so it looked very much the same.  Now all I had to do is confirm the location of the Star Clipper dock.  Asking about again I headed to the local marine national guard office who sent me down the road to a port building. I found a friendly security guard there and a young lady handing out flyers for a conference in the building – she spoke English well and helped me communicate that what I wanted to find out. After a few phone calls byu the guard I did confirm that the Star Clipper was arriving at 08:00 on the 24th. Now to find a hotel but first I had to wait out a rain squall.  After the squall had passed I started walking in the direction of a local commercial area but got caught in the rain again so I ducked into a bayside restaurant.  Well, as luck would have it a young lady spoke to me and I found out that she has spent a year in Oregon going to school. So while it rained we had a cup of tea. She then offered to drive me to a nearby hotel.  She was a mother of a 3 year old and as in town at a job fare looking for work in the tourist travel sector since that is what she had been training in.  Hence, we had a good chat about building a consulting practice in that area since she did not want to work full time.  We finally found a local hotel = I told here I would be glad to help her since she had not done that kind of work before.


So, I am in a good 4 star hotel, at 4 star prices, but that is ok.  I immediately sent my clothes off to be cleaned, ate a good dinner, and crashed.  I had finally completed my across land journey from Japan ready to sail the Atlantic, another travel milestone.


I went to dinner and found a lady who was eating on her own so I asked her to join me. She was on R&R from a UN Mission in Sierra Leone.   She has worked for the UN for 27 years and has been all over the World; she is Philippina but lives in New York. She told me about a number of UN activities she has been involved in.  I was unaware of such UN projects and their successes; we often get too tied up with the upper UN politics to realize what is being done at the grass roots level. She is the Director of Human Resources in  Sierra Leone to screen for UN workers to man the UN projects.  She talked too of the UN Volunteer program.  What a wonderful opportunity to speak to a high level UN “internationalist”. Yes, it is the people one meets that makes life interesting.


23rs  October, 2006 – Lisbon


To keep active I took a half day tour of the city this morning and would you believe the day just became nicer and nicer as we went from here to there seeing the sights. We saw the usual statures mad monuments, went across the bridge, stopped for some port wine tasting plus a special Portuguese pastry, walked the winding old town streets, and ended up in the city square here I left the tour.


Realizing I was hungry I stopped for bit to eat.  Now it was nice an sunny so I just walked back to the hotel where I picked up my clean clothes and turned in the ones I was wearing to be cleaned. Yep, I was now almost ready for the luxury sail.


If you wish to view the ship I will be sailing on, including some dynamic moving cam shots, search for STAR CLIPPER or go to and enjoy. I don’t know if I will have Internet connection aboard the ship so it will be 18 days plus before I get back on line.


24th October, 2006 –Lisbon


Today is the day I get aboard the Star Clipper and gain my sea legs again. Boy, am I looking forward to this. At the other end I fly immediately to San Juan for a couple of days to recuperate from the sail before I fly on to Arizona and see my Family.