Above: The Road to Kharkhorin
Taken while traveling in Mongolia. October 2010.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Four years later

Coming back to a city you lived in 5 years ago can be a bit strange. "Will everything be different?", "Will my old friends be the same?", "Have we grown apart?", "Is it going to be weird" are among the many questions that were running through my head during my train ride from Geneva to Clermont-Ferrand, where I spent my entire junior year of high school.

I hadn't really had time to think about the month and a half I was about to spend in Clermont, so the train ride was quite stressful. The closer I got to Clermont-Ferrand, the more nervous I got; 30 minutes to Clermont, 15 minutes, then 5, and then, there I was, getting picked up by my old friend Juliette at the train station where I had first arrived in September of 2006. Although my French was a bit choppy at first, we slowly got used to each other again, with the help of old stories and jokes and a few glasses of cheap French beer.

If only it were that easy... The whole "getting used to" process was repeated about fifty times during the time I was in France. That being said, I quickly got used to everything, seeing as not much had changed among my old high-school friends, or at least it seemed that way when we were together. Yes, we may all lead different lives in different place now, but when we were all together it felt like I'd never left.

Improvised cocktails at the Place de Jaude at night, sitting at various cafés, visiting friends and host-grandparents, going to the lake, helping out at Laura's new apartment, eating a LOT of good food, and meeting new people are just a few highlights of my 5 weeks in a place wich is kind of a second or third home to me.

At the top of the Puy-de-Dôme, France's most famous dormant volcano

Poulet Fafa with host-siblings, host-grandparents and friends

Bike riding in Chomérac, country home of my host-grandparents on my
host-dad's side

The gang near Chomérac

Downtown Clermont-Ferrand

The high-school gang

More photos HERE

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A few more highlights...

Some more pictures from our trip at the beginning of this summer.

We took the 8 euro ecolines bus from Vilnius to Warsaw a bit earlier than expected, due to a combination of lack of time and the eerie tranquility of Vilnius (no offense). Despite the rain, Warsaw was great!

Joanna Rajkowska's artificial palm tree,
"Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue",  on Aleje Jerozolimskie

Downtown Warsaw

Off to Krakow! We ended up leaving a few hours later than planned because our original train left from a different platform and the announcement was only in Polish. So we watched that train leave right before our eyes, walked around for a few hours, and took the next train to Kraow

Somewhere in between

St. Mary's Basilica - every hour, a trumpet signal,
called the Hejnał mariacki, is played from the top of the taller
of the two towers. The call breaks off in mid-stream to commemorate
the famous trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding
the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city in the 13th century

We went from Krakow to Przemysl, a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border, without really knowing how we were going to get to Kiev. We ended up taking a bus from Przemysl to Medyka, a minibus from there to the border,  crossing the border by foot, then taking a taxi from the border to Mostys'ka, another bus from there to Lviv, where we walked around for a few hours until our overnight train to Kiev. Piece of cake.

It's pronounced Pshemыschl. Duh.

Almost across the border!
Lost in Kiev's chaotic downtown

After a few days in Kiev, we took what we thought to be the cheapest and most convenient train down to Odessa. It was the cheapest, but in no way was it the most convenient; it took something like 4 more hours than the regular train and went some roundabout way in order to go through some other cities. Oh well.

Somewhere in Odessa
A few days later, we took a bus to Chisinau a couple hours later than expected. The first just didn't arrive and no one, including the people who worked at the bus station, seemed to know why. When we arrived in Chisinau with a Dutch guy and a German guy we had met on the bus, we asked around how to get to our hostel, telling people the street name. For some reason, the street's name was also the name of a town outside the city, and we ended up going on a chaotic and confusing two-hour-long adventure outside Chisinau near a prison (?). Everyone in our minibus was really helpful and friendly (and luckily spoke Russian), so we figured out we needed to get back to the city and start all over again. Yes, we finally made it to our hostel, albeit a few hours later than we would have liked...

Chisinau's 24-hour flower market... at 3am

Chisinau - Bucharest!

The enormous Casa Poporului in Bucharest, which houses the Romanian Parliament. "According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Palace is the world's largest civilian administrative building, most expensive administrative building, and heaviest building."

Judging by the price of the tickets from Bucharest to Budapest, we realized we were slowly but surely making our way into Western Europe.

The best cafe in Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament Building

And then another long train ride (with no stops long enough to buy snacks, so we arrived STARVING) to Ljubljana.

Downtown Ljubljana, taken from the castle tower

Somewhere in the tiny streets of downtown Ljubz

Fritz's final stop - South Tirol!

Fritz's driveway...

The beginning of a really nice hike
Planeil in the background
Fritz's town
I was a happy camper
Burgusio's Knödelfest. So much delicious Knödel.
Also lots of lederhosen and shoe slapping. And beer.

And my last stop before Clermont-Ferrand: Geneva with an old friend

As always, all pictures HERE