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Nov. 22nd, 2007 @ 04:21 pm Mythbusting
Current Location: India
Don't believe the hype. Cows CAN walk down stairs.

Or maybe just the ones with painted horns and orange spots.
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Nov. 16th, 2007 @ 06:20 pm Only in India.
"Umm, do you think we should tell someone?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Err, 'scuse us. There's a fire upstairs."

*In your best Indian accent* "No, no, they are just doing some welding."

"No, seriously, it's on fire."

*Do your best Indian head wobble, and grudgingly walk up the stairs*

*Sounds of yelling*

*Ten minutes later, again in your best Indian accent* "It is ok, they are just doing some welding."
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Nov. 16th, 2007 @ 05:06 pm Somebody get me a burka, I can't take it anymore
Current Location: Jodhpur, India
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Something with a sitar
Adriana says:

Somebody get me a burka, I can't take it anymore. But I'll get to that in a minute, first to the positive stuff!

When Joel last wrote we were cooling our heels in Varkala, hippie Indian beach town. It was so wonderful that we couldn't bring ourselves to leave for Goa. We had sun, sea, and endless restaurants outbidding each other to get us to eat their fresh fish. I think the winner was the whole red snapper marinated in spices and cooked in a tandoor. At 300Rs ($10) it was pricey, but worth it. So with all that we decided to skip Goa - why trade one hippie beach town you love for another one with more hassle and frankly, more hippies?

Our time in Varkala included an Ayurvedic massage - nothing like being stripped down and drenched in warm oil. Not really for us, but it will be notched up on the 'experiences' board.

Next we headed to Mumbai. Mumbai - the India I remember: crowds, cows and countless individuals who want to give you the best deal. It was ok as far as Indian cities go and it was good to see the more cosmopolitan side of India. After only a few days we headed up to Jaipur in Rajasthan. My Lonely Planet guide describes Jaipur as a 'majestic pink city' - yet another point in which my opinion differs from that of Lonely Planet.

Happy to leave the bustle of Jaipur we set out to meet a friend in Jaisalmer. A girl I went to Cambodia with all those years ago, so that was pretty special to meet up with her in India! In Jaisalmer we did a camel safari, just like every other tourist there. Many people opt for three or four day trips but we decided to go for just a one day one - and boy were we glad we did! Three hours on a camel is quite enough thank you very much! It was amazing to see the desert, although we did get mobbed by a group of teenagers at some sand dunes, but that's a too long and complicated story to put here...especially since the cow dung outside is wafting into this internet cafe and I am starting to gag.

Jaisalmer was a great place to visit to see the fort and the camels, but a real dampener were the young men with their ogling eyes and wandering hands, hence the burka comment. It can be a struggle for western women in India, because of the very distorted views that young men have of us (thanks Hollywood). But after Varanasi we are going to sit in front of a fire in Darjeeling up near Nepal, there apparently everything is far more chilled out, excuse the pun.

I guess all this has helped me fully understand the term 'love-hate relationship'. I love India, it is amazing and enthralling and majestic. But I hate it too. Thankfully the love is bigger than the hate, and traveling here continues to be an amazing experience. As we enter the home stretch of this incredible trip, I am also really looking forward to going home for Christmas. Aw!
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Oct. 27th, 2007 @ 04:56 pm Hippies, Hobbits and Hematophagy, Oh My.
Joel Says:

Like Jebediah Springfield, we found ourselves in Cappadocia after misinterpreting a passage in the Bible.

Cappadocia is this weird, lunar-esque landscape where the locals somehow subsist, despite the land being perfect for dirt farming. There are caves here, more caves than you can shake (see that! Earthquake pun! Haha!) a stick at. Most of them are kind of cut into the sides of cliffs, but a lot are also hollowed out gigantic stone mushroom things. We stayed in one, it was cool.

There are also these massive underground cities. They aren't populated anymore, but apparently they used to be full of Christians, during some period in which persecution was a problem and living in a cave was the solution. (Our guide had a pretty thick Turkish accent, so details are...hazy).

Did I say Christians? I meant Hobbits. These passages were like 3 feet high in most places, and the areas of the cities that were churches only had normal level ceilings (as opposed to the airy cathedral like spaces they would have seemed to them). It reminded me of Peru more than a little (I smacked my head on more things in that country than my entire youth of drunken revelry). But of course, as a well-fed Westerner I am more than qualified to berate poorer cultures for their lack of consideration.

Does anyone know if the Eastern Orthodox Church has a Saint Bilbo? (sorry :) )

But really, there were a lot of churches. They're mainly cave's, semi-open to the outside, and most with barely remaining paintings on the walls. Pictures may come.

Then we arrived in India.

Bangalore was alright, but more a pain than anything else. The place is so spread out, and the rickshaw drivers ask ridiculous prices (and have dodgy meters). But we had some good food, and acclimatised to the general madness a bit.

Next up was Kollam. Kollam is in Kerala, way down south, and a mere 30 hours on a train from Bangalore. We sprung for the air conditioned train carriage, sleeper of course, and spent the night not unpleasantly.

Well, Adriana spent it not unpleasantly. You see, I had received the dreaded Flea Pillow (TM).

There's really no humorous or dramatic way to put this, my pillow had fleas on one side. Luckily it wasn't the side my head was on :D But I woke up in the morning with flea bites on my hands. Gone now thankfully, but man, I am in solidarity with my canine brothers and sisters now, let me tell you. It's election time yeah? Does anyone know which party has the most developed platform on flea eradication, cause they've got my vote.

*Pause for all the people still laughing at the thought of me with fleas*

*Pause continued*

Yeah Ha Bloody Ha. I'm looking at you, yeah you. :P

Anyway, Kollam was everything you'd expect a tiny Indian town to be. Things were cheap, it was small, and the people are nice (to me, towards Adriana their attitude can best be described as "Curse you white woman, my mouth is now full of dirt. How dare you allow my jaw to hit the ground so?").

We spent our 5 year anniversary on a house boat. It definitely beat every other year :)

Since the only reason we went to Kollam was for the aforementioned house boat, we soon scarpered and now find ourselves in one of those bastions of the 1960s, the Indian Hippy Beach Town.

This one's called Varkala, and it's this thin strip of filthy sand on the Arabian Sea. Thankfully, it's topped by massive cliffs, on the top of which are all the restaurants and shops you could possibly want. (Including a pretty good bookshop! Ha! Take that, Mostly-In-The-Non-English-Speaking-World-Trip! I win!)

So now we rest, amongst the palms and hippies, eating seafood curries and watching the tropical rain. Next up is Goa, for pretty much the same thing.

Hope you're all well. Next time I promise I'll have better things to relate, and funnier things than Joel with Fleas.

PS, Anyone want anything from India?

UPDATE: New photos up, use the link below in the last post.
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Oct. 20th, 2007 @ 05:10 pm Just a quick post to say hi
Current Location: Bangalore, India
Current Music: Car horns
Adriana says:

We arrived in Bangalore this morning, and India is just how I remembered it. Although Bangalore is thankfully a relatively chilled out city by Indian standards. We found Istanbul to be a lovely cosmopolitan city, and enjoyed discovering its underground, metal bar scene! Cappadocia, the region of central Turkey where people have been living in caves since the 2nd century when Christians took refuge there, was incredible.

The main point of this post is to include a link to our photo site where interested parties can view photos of us with monkeys, us with various world icons, and a few pics of Turkey. To be honest we have haven't uploaded many so far because it has been taking eons to just upload a few, but the site has a new 'bulk uploader' function that does it in seconds, so there will be more soon!


One other thing: I came across this quote on a toilet wall in a bookshop in Spain somewhere, it spoke to me very much then, because we were joyously living in dorm rooms. I was also reminded of it upon meeting the copious amounts of Aussies in Istanbul on their way to Gallipoli. Not that there's anything wrong with going to Gallipoli, but screaming Aussie Aussie Aussie! while stumbling drunk in front of the Blue Mosque during Ramadan is pretty much as disrespectful as it can get. The quote?

"An ass can go traveling, but he won't come back a horse."

It may also speak to you if you are constantly surrounded by people who think they are gods gift to humanity because they lived in London for a year and did a Contiki tour around Europe. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, people should travel where and how they want to.

And on that note, the tropical downpour has stopped and we may venture outside again.

All my love, Adriana.
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Oct. 7th, 2007 @ 08:45 pm Haldvan Wuz Ere, 9th Century
Current Location: It was Constantınople
So today we saw some of the best graffıtı ever. We went to the Hagıa Sophıa, thıs museum ın Istanbul that was a mosque that was a cathedral (and then ıt swallowed a fly, or somethıng).

On one of the marble bannısters, quıte randomly, that I was leanıng on 'cos I was knackered, there's a lıttle sıgn that poınts to some ıllegıble scratchıngs ın the marble. It says somethıng lıke "Here ıs some graffıtı from a 9th Century Vıkıng called Haldvan".

I laughed pretty hard.

So the next tıme you see some bozo who's wrıtten theır name and the year on the toılet wall, just take a moment and wonder who mıght be lookıng at ıt ın 1200 years.

Well the whırlwınd tour of London ıs over. Sınce last we spoke, dear reader, we spent several days back ın Roma checkıng out some of the sıtes that we mıssed the fırst tıme round. Rome, by the way, ıs awesome, and ıgnore anyone who tells you dıfferent.

We managed to see the Palatıne Hıll, full of palatıal ruıns, as well as the outsıde of the Castel San Angelo (I call ıt Vatıcan Castle), the Pantheon (whıch was beyond awesome) and the Tıvolı Fountaın (surprısıngly cool). Photos to come, dont know when though, I dont trust the computers here very much :) .

So then we left Rome. Or trıed to at least. Our flıght was really early ın the mornıng, and the aırport traıns dıdnt start up agaın untıl too late so we made the foolısh but economıcally necessary decısıon of sleepıng at the aırport. Yeeeeuugghh. I won't say much here, for a convıncıng facsımıle of how ıt felt, refer to my Madrıd post :)

We then arrıved ın London and got to our hostel about mıdday, but the lack of sleep dıd not deter us. After an hours nap we ventured out ınto the bıg cıty and dıd the shoppıng that I had been waıtıng for for some tıme (Books! Englısh books! Everywhere! *mad cackle*). We went and drank ın several bars ın Soho (not much, human blood ıs cheaper) and had Indıan for dınner (ıt's local cuısıne after all). Then we gratefully retıred for the evenıng to our dorm beds. Ahhh.

The next day we packed wıth as much London sıghtseeıng as possıble. Hyde Park, Buckıngham Palace (lazy gıts weren't changıng the guard tıl the day after, how the heck does that work? Poor guys must pull 48 hour shıfts! Must be on AWAs), Westmınster Abbey, Bıg Ben, Downıng Street, Trafalgar Square, The Strand and Fleet Street and the Tower of London.

There ıs a lot to see ın London.

Then we went to see Les Mıs at the theatre. Quıte cıvılısed :) If anyone could lend me some money though, I'd lıke to get my arm and leg back.

Then we slept for a couple of hours before gettıng a cab to Heathrow for our Istanbul flıght (repeat the sleepıng ın Rome aırport reason, and repeat the arm and leg costıng joke).

So now we are ın Istanbul. Thats Constantınople for all you fans out there (Brendan I'm lookıng ın your dırectıon). After 24 hours sleep, we trıed for a short day and ıt worked pretty well. Turkısh ıs the most bızarre language I've yet seen (worse than Portuguese even), and typıng on a Turkısh keyboard aınt easy.

Gıve me tıme. Soon I'll be able to accıdentaly ınsult peoples mothers whıle orderıng coffee ınstead of wısely keepıng my mouth shut.

Cards whıle I am ın hospıtal wıll be greatly apprecıated.
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Sep. 30th, 2007 @ 09:49 pm Joel and Adriana's Gastronimic Journey
Current Location: Naples, Italy
Current Mood: contentcontent
Adriana says:

Ok I admit it: one of the deciding factors in choosing where to go on this trip has been cuisine. While other poor backpackers are spending their money on tacky souvenirs and getting smashed in Irish pubs with other backpackers (why did you bother leaving home?), Joel and I are quietly engaging in our gastronomic tour of the world. Here have been some highlights so far: Alpaca and alligator in Peru; Bahian fish stew in Brazil; Iberian pork tapas in Spain. Which brings me to Italy, the jewel in the crown of Joel and Adriana's Gastronomic Journey (although we haven't gotten to the south-west coast of India yet).

The variable cornucopia of Italian cuisine means that our three weeks here will only scratch the surface. That said we have had some amazing things here: whole fish marinated in white wine (served in a cave with a stream that used to be a roman bath house!), cannelloni, hot doughy bread served with a plate of ham, oh the spicy sausage! We have had some amazing pasta: pasta in wild boar sauce, pasta with exotic mushrooms, pasta with salmon, pasta with Mediterranean periwinkles. Hungry yet? But most of the time we have just eaten pizza: pizza with sausage, pizza with four different cheeses, pizza with rocket and mushrooms, pizza with mozzarella made from buffalo milk, pizza with broccoli (it was yum honest). To make things just perfect we are in awesome shape from all the walking we do (usually about 5 hours a day) so we can enjoy our gastronomic journey without guilt!

Despite all the amazing things these food lovers have imagined to do with food, I think the secret lies in the simplicity. We have had some amazing and complicated food here, but inevitably the most satisfying is the pasta in a basic tomato and basil sauce with a glass of good wine...like the one we had on a bike ride through the Tuscan countryside...

Not wanting to miss out on knowing what everyone was bleating on about when they talked about Tuscany, we decided to go on a cycling winery tour. We were a bit sick of churches and art and wanted to get some fresh country air. The first stop was a 13th century winery that makes Chianti wines and boutique olive oil - it even had a Count! And we met him! He was telling us about the wine and I couldn't stop laughing because Joel was making 'I want to suck your blood' jokes under his breath. I admit he did look a little vampire-ish. We all had a glass of the good stuff and headed on our way.

The ride was great - all flat or downhill! And the scenery truly lived up to its reputation. Our next stop was a villa for lunch where we were plied with good home-cooked pasta and lots more wine...which may not have been the best idea, because as we all mounted our bikes again after lunch we were all far less steady than we had been before!

The one place in Italy we haven't enjoyed eating was Venice - it was too expensive even to have a glass of water. It was gorgeous I admit, but city of lovers I think not. It may have been romantic, if we weren't constantly being physically assaulted by pigeons and audibly assaulted by hoards of loud, obnoxious American tourists. To top things off it had rained the day before so San Marco piazza was flooded - it was pandemonium: hoards of demanding, fat tourists being hoarded onto a tiny make-shift boardwalk by power-drunk Italian police with deafening whistles. But we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless, especially wandering the tiny canals away from the main squares.

We are currently in Naples (not great, we only came here because we didn't have accomm booked and it was the only place left where we could get a bed!) and are heading back to Rome tomorrow. Then its London for a few days before we embark on Turkey!

Love, Adriana
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Sep. 19th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm But where were they going without ever knowing the way?
Tags: ,
Adriana says:

But where were they going wihtout ever knowing the way? (Its a line from a song, Mum). They were in fact going to Vizzini! Does the name ring a bell? Thats because it is the name of the infamous Sicilian from The Princess Bride. Let me jog your memory, oh yee of little knowledge of obscure popular culture references (hi Jane!): ''The first rule is never to get involved in a land war in Asia, only slightly less known is to never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line! HAHAHA HAHAHA!'' (and then he dies, cunningly poisoned by our dashing farm-boy hero Wesley)

But I digress.

If you didn't quite understand Joel's post below, it is probably because you are not a member of his lovely family. Vizzini is the town that Joel's Nonna grew up in before she moved to Australia when she was a young woman. It is a village about an hour out of Catania in Sicily. We couldn't come to Italy without visiting!

When we arrived in Catania we set out to find the best way of reaching Vizzini. We managed to get out of the rather unhelpful people at the tourist information office that we could reach it by bus or train. We decided to take the bus because the train stops about 5km out of Vizzini, between Vizzini and Licodia. The next morning, after a series of mishaps and misinformation, we missed the bus.

No problem! We will take the train! Surely there will be a bus from the train station to the town. Surely! Surely not. Upon arrival at the falling-down tin shed of a station we were greeted by an open road and some fields struggling in the drought. We started walking. We didn't come all this way to turn back now! Luckily there was a sign and it wasn't as hot has it has been.

I've never hitch-hiked before! It was exciting and scary. I was sure we were going to get picked up by a serial killer (don't watch Wolf Creek, it still makes me shiver). Instead my virgin hitching thumb found us a lovely old Sicilian man in a little, red, beat-up truck-like vehicle. He dropped us right in the central Piazza.

As Joel said, the tourist office was a god-send and supplied us with the essentials for our mission: a map, and information on how not to get stranded in Vizzini that afternoon. We set off to find Joel's Nonna's old house. Vizzini is a gorgeous little town, and I was so glad we went there - not just for the history, but also because it was a different side of Italy that is more difficult to see.

The old quarter, where the house was, was iconically 'old Sicilian village'. It was a charming maze of tiny streets, atop a hill overlooking vineyards. We felt a real sense of achievement when we found the house, and we took lots of photos while a small boy peeked around the corner nervously. The rest of the town was gorgeous too, and we had lunch on a wide boulevard lined with palm trees.

I am really glad we came to Sicily, and especially that we went to Vizzini. There has been so much more to the whole place than I realised. And I don't know what people are going on about when they say it is grubby and dangerous, we have had a great time and the whole place is charming.

Tonight we head to Florence! Our Italy Eurail tickets were a great investment, we have only taken 2 of our 7 trips and they have already nearly paid for themselves!

Much love, and thanks for all the comments, Adriana.
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Sep. 18th, 2007 @ 04:57 pm Gum Trees Grow in the Hills of Vizzini
Current Location: Catania, Sicily.
Joel says:

We pulled up in the main piazza at about midday. Despite a pre-dawn start, we'd had to walk a kilometre or two from the train station before we managed to get picked up by a helpful old local man in a tiny red European car.

In our broken tourist Italian we'd established that he was from Licodia, and that my mothers side of the family came from Licodia and Vizzini. He smiled a bit, but didn't surrender much else. It made me wonder how often he picked up tourists with a not-so-close connection to the place.

We were relieved to find a tourist office in the main square, Piazza Umberto. Our experience with maps in Catania made us appreciate a tourist office like never before, and so we were only slightly disappointed at the fact that no English was spoken.

Again in broken Italian we managed to find a map, which the lovely woman spent a half hour trying to print for us, the location of the bus stop out of town, and the fact that the last bus left town in about two hours time.

I think I managed quite well with the knowledge that we had trekked down to Sicily to spend a few scant hours here. It bothered me at first, but as we walked it seemed to matter less and less. Just coming here was enough, not as much as we would have liked, but better than I'd ever expected to get. As we boarded that final bus back to Catania a couple of hours later, I knew I was grateful for the chance.

Via Emilia wasn't difficult to find, nor was the Chiesa de Sant Antonio. After some photos we sort of stood there dumbly, looking at the door to number 5, not really sure what to do. Our tourist Italian wasn't even close to enabling us to have a simple conversation, let alone one complex enough to explain why we might knock at the door. We decided to see the rest of the town.

Vizzini sits on a hill, surrounded by farmland and little valleys full of gum trees. It was a little surprising to see them here, like there'd been some sort of inconceivable exchange between the two countries. People for trees.

The hill that Vizzini is built on might look like a little fort from far away, so covered in buildings is it. About a dozen churches are dotted around the town, and as we crested the hill coming from Via Emilia the church bells rang out. Not just in the ding-dong pattern I'd heard so many times before but with several sets of bells, each ringing out their own little part in a bronze symphony.

We walked the length and breadth of the place, finding little open, much to our dismay. We lunched at a little cafe on small pizzas and beer, taking a lemon gelati in a cone away to keep us company.

Before I really knew what was happening, we'd wandered into the Piazza Umberto as the last bus of the day pulled up at 2pm. We negotiated passage easily enough, our bus tickets that had originally been for our trip here serving to get us back without any hassles.

The whole thing felt like a dream, one of those fleetingly short ones just before you wake. The camera holds proof that it wasn't though, and just the knowledge that we'd made it there was reassuring enough.

Soon we say goodbye to Sicily, which turned out to be so much more inviting and complex than we had thought. Our goodbye to Vizzini was said hastily, not long after our greeting, but it proved to be even more complex and inviting than anywhere we have been so far.
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Sep. 15th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm In Hell, the Italians run the trains
Current Location: Rome, Italy
Current Mood: happyhappy
Adriana says:

Before I start I would like to point out that Italian keyboards are very confusing, and I cannot find many required grammar point keys. So my lack of grammar is not illiteracy, or laziness, but capacity.

They (whoever they are) say that humor always has a grain of truth in it. So I have a joke. You have probably heard it before, since its an olden but a gooden, and it speaks to me very profoundly right now:

In heaven: the Germans run the trains, the British are the police, the French are the cooks and the Italians are the lovers.
In hell: the British are the lovers, the Germans are the cooks, the French are the police, and the Italians run the trains.

Actually you know what? I think I am exaggerating. We are having an awesome time here in Rome, and despite a slight mishap today with some buses in Tivoli (a small town just outside Rome) the public transport system has been a breeze.

So, Rome! And much to Joels delight the food is living up to all high expectations. It is also unexpectedly cheaper than in Spain which is a wonderful surprise. We have spent the last 3 days in a whirl-wind of ancient ruins (dont talk about the Vatican like that Adriana!). The Vatican was great, although I am a little churched out. The Colosseum was also amazing.

But today we went to...drum roll please...Villa Adriana! Yes thats right, a whole Villa named after me! Built sometime around 400AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as his summer place, it is massive, with lots of ponds surrounded by lots of statues of naked greek men, and an expanse of (now ruined) buildings. We took a train to Tivoli, then a bus (after some confusion) to the site. It was worth the hassle just to take my photo with the entrance sign. Well I thought so, Joel I think may have been indulging me. How unusual!

So Rome has been filled with churches, pizza and ruins. Most satisfying and far more entertaining than I anticipated. We had a great time in Madrid and Sevilla, although Valencia was a bit average (cant win em all I guess). Barcelona was fun, especially since I went shopping! Sick of looking like a tourist, I have indulged in EuroTrash to the max, complete with wedge heels.

Tomorrow we are going to Catania in Sicily to visit the village where Joels Nanna grew up.

Feel free to leave a comment!!!

Love, Adriana
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