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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Frankfurt, Germany


12/18/2010

Today is the day; after two and a half months in Granada it's time to leave for Germany. Something to bare in mind when matching your ticket to your flight is that sometimes one airline will use another airline. Not to worry, if this is the case it will be noted at the bottom of your ticket, "Operated by SPANAIR Flight Nbr JK6623." It's good to look your ticket over for this information so you're not looking for "Lufthansa Airlines Flight LH6715" because, well, it's kind of hard to find a flight that doesn't exist! 


In Barcelona the connection to Frankfurt was delayed until 5p… on the upside this provided time for making  friends with another American from California. After finally arriving at the Frankfurt airport there was the fun experience of purchasing a metro ticket from an automated machine with options written in German. Fortunately, there is always someone in line who speaks both languages. Finally in Frankfurt the first thing to do after checking in at the hostel is find a decent Kebap and German beer… or so one might think. Frankfurt is a very international city and, having once been occupied mostly by Americans, it is probably safe to assume that it is more Americana than not.  The food is all Asian, Pakistani, etc. and finding anything remotely German takes a bit of searching. Fortunately, the back streets generally have some hole in the wall shops where one can find a reasonably priced Kebap and a beer with some good company.
Frankfurt: The City of Skyscrapers
12/19/2010

The hostel was not the best investment considering the circumstances. After getting back late there wasn't really any time to sleep before returning to the airport. Back at the station with some time to kill, a few croissants as recommended by the hostel, sounded like a good idea and would leave just enough to buy another ticket for the metro... but the metro wasn't running until much later. The train was coming soon, but it costs more than the metro because it goes further. A guy from Turkey was also in a pinch; he worked at the airport de-icing planes and was late. After talking for a bit he explained that the airport is only the first ten minutes of the two hour train ride and that they don't check passengers until much later. This made things very simple - hop the train or miss the flight. 


Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Central Station)
During the short ride a German passenger explained something about Germany which resounded on a global scale. He explained that it's hard to find a good representation of Germany, even Munich being Bavarian is not a very good representation of German culture. This is actually true with any tourist destination - if you want something unique, you have to go off the beaten path. For example, the Wadden Sea of Northern Germany is one of the only seas in the world that recedes enough for you to walk out along the bottom. 
Waiting in line back at the airport a couple other Americans told me about their travels in the army. Apparently they found a loophole allowing them to get paid doing music gigs throughout Europe! 
Frankfurt Am Main Airport
In Chicago the cargo door was frozen shut so baggage took a while to arrive. The nice thing is that immediately after clearing customs in Chicago/O'hare, United Airlines, as well as a few other airlines, have a convenient hub for dumping off baggage so you don't have to lug it to the domestic re-check area. Note, this process can be a bit hectic and the attendants scanning your bags might, for example, mix up your flight and tell you that you missed it and then grab your bag and throw it on some random conveyor belt... but rest assured, they have everything under control!
Back in Seattle all the luggage came through as expected and after calling for a ride home, on a cell that still had its charge from four and half months earlier, it was time to go home. 

Hallo Germany

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Friday, December 17, 2010

La Alhambra


12/17/2010

At 2a some friends were having a going away Christmas celebration at Kamel. This was more appealing than the prospect of laying in bed trying to sleep so I went looking for it. This place is impossible to find but nearby where it should have been is Kapital and, thanks to a friends coupon, entrance was free. At about 5:30a the diversion had served its purpose and sleep had been successfully avoided. A half hour up at La Alhambra waiting in the freezing cold to buy a ticket and they finally opened at 8:30a. 


Sala de la Justicia, Los Reyes (Hall of Justice AKA Hall of the Kings)





















After 1 1/2 hours of barreling through snapping pictures enough was enough, it was siesta time. Back at the flat some friends came over and everyone waited for Elise... who after 20 minutes had to call because the buzzer box was ripped out and nobody could hear her yelling to be let in. After hanging out for a while everyone left and the packing process began... tomorrow: Germany.

La Alhambra

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mirador of St. Nicolas


12/14/2010
Hiding from performers
Random group on Segways
Today I met up with some of the others and took a walk to the Mirador of St. Nicolas, one of the great views in Granada. The Mirador is also a popular place for novice street performers as are a lot of places in Granada. Some may find this entertaining but if not it's probably not a good idea to humor them - street performers expect something for their efforts so don't watch the show if you don't want to pay for it. After the sun went down we went to town to get Churros and a couple of the guys bought Cuban cigars. 
Sunset from Mirador

12/16/2010


Today some of us went to a Futbol Chocolateria to eat churros and a Spanish Tortilla while studying for finals. After finishing classes a few postcards, as suggested by travel guru Rick Steves, were a simple way to share something from home with the instructors.

Chocolate sauce toast

Leaving Soon...

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Gibraltar


12/10/2010

Today I got on a bus and went to Gibraltar in order to get a couple days out of the Schengen area. When I arrived I bought a shwarma, bought my return ticket, and headed for the border. After dropping off some stuff at my hostel I went out exploring. At the Mackintosh Culture Center I met a guy who's family moved to Boston for a generation and then back to Gibraltar for some reason. After that I met some locals and we all went to a club called “The Rock on the Rock” where they play, you guessed it, rock.
People in Gibraltar are really friendly, a guy named Alexis bought me a couple drinks because I didn't have any British pounds on me. Out on the street one of the locals let me ride his £3000 motorbike. One of the guys offered to show me around the town real quick on it and I didn't think twice. Three things I neglected to find out beforehand 1) if he was sober 2) if he could drive 3) who he was. Turns out he was sober but as it turns out he's a street bike racer. He took me flying through the narrow streets at 75 kph, everything was a blur... would have been nice to know he wasn't just on a suicide mission. After the bike ride from hell, we all headed for a club, but I didn't still didn't have any money. No problem though, the biker kid knew the bouncer and got us in for free.
12/11/2010
Today I woke up and went to Alexis' house from the night before. Alexis took me to the top of the rock on his motorbike and showed me all the best views as well as the Barbary Macaque Monkeys. 
After playing with the monkeys a bit it started getting dark so we went back down to the border so I could exchange some euros for British Pounds. On the way we stopped to look at some cannons. 

Gibraltar is famous for the Straits of Gibraltar; the British used the ten and one hundred pound guns to control the sea lanes in and out of the Mediterranean. After I got some money we went to the Star Bar (recommended by Rick Steves) and I had and English breakfast which is a lot of food for only £5. Afterward I bought some tax free stuff at Safeway and we headed to the beach for a bit. Later I finally found free Wifi at a bar called Fresh right outside Castlemates Square.



12/12/2010
Today I missed my bus back to Granada… 20 euro down the drain. I had to catch a bus to Algeciras for 2.50 followed by a bus to Granada for another 22 euro. 
THE ROCK POI:
-People only really go out Friday nights.
-American stores (Safeway, Shell, etc.)
-They call themselves Gibs.
-Mix of people (English, Gibs, Spanish.)
-Apparently it's legal to drink up to two pints and still drive.
-It’s windy.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Exploring Granada

12/01/2010
Today I had to pay rent but I didn't have the money because of the whole visa thing. I had a unpleasant conversation with the manager and ended up paying half of the rent with the promise that I would pay the rest later in the week... you would think she would be more understanding considering that she's the one holding all the cards here.
12/02/2010
Botell√≥n: a social activity among Spain’s youth, who gather in public areas to consume alcohol as an alternative to going to a bar or club. Tonight I finally went to a Botellon to see what all the fuss is about. After arriving I looked for some friends I was meeting but, alas, I do not have a cell phone. No matter, this just made it easier (gave me a reason) to meet some Spaniards. After catching a ride with my new friends back to the Albaicin a couple of us went for Schwarmas and talked about the xenophobic type ideals in Spain that had made it difficult to really meet any Spaniards till now.  In fact, if it wasn't for my English speaking Spanish friend Juan, I probably wouldn't have had a chance.
12/03/2010
Tonight I finally went to El Camborio, a place where all the foreign students go, but I haven’t had the chance to go until now. Tom and I met up at Plaza Nueva and went @ 11:30p. It was still to early, so we went for a couple drinks until 12:30a. We still had the place basically to ourselves but at least it was finally open. Things got busier around 1:30a.
12/04/2010

Today I woke up really late and my leg was really stiff. Turns out it is completely swollen, probably from last night. Elise invited me and Andrew to go walk around the woods up in her area for a bit and have dinner at her host family's. It turns out Elise lives with the best view in Granada. She can just walk down the street into a forrest overlooking all of Granada and the Alhambra. 
We did some hiking around and climbed up a wall we dubbed “the great wall of Granada.”
Andrew fell off while climbing, but I caught him so fortunately wasn't seriously injured. At the top we received a privileged view of Granada as the sun set.


After getting back to Elise’s we played some cards and met her host parents. Later in the night she fed us some chicken, pasta with veal, and other tasty stuff.
Jamon


12/05/2010
Today I posted on Easy Piso and Loquo while emailing people the link to my listing. I got several hits within an hour or so and by evening I had successfully sold the piso to a Japanese girl. She will be paying for the last week of December and for the 225 euro deposit. Later I went out with Elise and Raphael and we met up with some of his friends at a club called BoogaClub where we listened to some interesting Jazz and had a couple drinks. 
Raphael writing "I am a stallion" in German for me. Background: Christmas in Granada.