Jared in Madrid (Yep, Spain!)

Buenos Dias!

I am currently in Madrid, Spain. You may ask yourself, “How the hell does he do it?  I mean, he´s been going crazy for nearly three months!”  Well, yeah, you are right. I am crazy.  But, I have three  weeks before I have to return to the states, and I wanna put some more mileage in over here.

I am gonna do Madrid, then maybe Toledo. After that, I plan to plow on into Portugal and hit Lisbon, the capitol. Then, back into Spain to Seville, and then down to the rock of Gibraltar. I will cross the straights of Gibraltar and roam around Morocco for a day or two. And then, back to Spain again, and up to Barcelona, if not something else first. We shall see if all this happens.

Last I left you, Batman was about to go check out Monte Carlo…that´s in Monaco…though, I don’t really know what the difference is. Monaco is an independent sovereignty, but it is in France and you don’t need a passport or visa to get there…it’s basically just a town. I guess Monte Carlo is the capitol?  Whatever. Anyway, I went there on Sunday. Everything was closed, and I found it to be quite boring. The buildings were very nice…everything looked very rich. There were a lot of fancy cars and elderly tourists walking around. The whole place is centered on a casino…I think that’s where the rich and famous spend all their cash. Otherwise, there’s some ritzy hotels, some nice beaches, and a beautiful coast line.

The south of France is very nice and relaxing…a good place to come and get away from life in NY, or wherever you may live. I met a lot of cool people in Nice and spent my time hanging out with them. Meeting people makes all the difference when you are traveling….it is the line between loneliness and companionship. And the latter is a necessity when you are alone on a journey like this one.

So, after I had my fill of Nice, I decided to head for Spain. Little did I know, it was a 22- hour train ride to Madrid! What was I thinking? That was by far the longest ride yet….I had to take a train to Montpellier, France, and then change to Barcelona. In Barcelona I hopped a night train to Madrid. Lucky me, there were no Couchettes left (that’s a bed compartment) so I got to pile in with five fat, smelly Spaniards who snored. It was a loooooong ride.

I am here. I arrived at 7:00am and checked into a hotel. I decided I have had enough of youth hostels and sharing rooms with noisy people…time for a little privacy and luxury, as long as it is under $30 a night.

I plan to eat a lot of chicken and rice…some serious tortillas, tapas, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Tomorrow, I will go running with the Bulls, and the day after I shall join Francisco’s school for the Fledgling Conquistador. Next week, I will go conquer south America for King Ferdinand!

Or maybe, I’ll hit a few bars and get happy….all depends on how I feel. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Spain’s colors are tan and sandy looking….allow me to go romp and play in the dunes.

Later,

Jared

Jared in Spain

Torro Torro!  Passa da burrito…

Well, Madrid was eh. Sorry anyone out there who loved it…I don´t know, it just looked to me like so many other places in Europe that I have been to…but that´s been happening a lot to me lately. What can I say? Maybe it´s just overkill. But Madrid didn´t feel “Spanish” enough to me. Not what I expected. Pretty cosmopolitan…lots of restaurants and sex shops…and movie theaters.

I have been looking everywhere for some good chicken and rice, but all they have here is Paella…which is a mixture of seafood, and all kinds of other nameless meats, and rice. Since I don´t really dig seafood, I have been at a loss for good food. One place I went to, I asked “Esta Paello solo con pollo?” “Do you have paella with only chicken?” And he said “Si!”  And I sat down. He brought me a plate of rice and two chicken bones. As I picked through it, I saw remnants of shrimp and pieces of seafood. Clearly he had gone through his big pot of paella and thought he picked out the stuff I didn’t like. I was pissed.

Then, my hotel was a joke. Promptly at 9:00am, they began construction inside my hallway. Pounding and hammering all morning. I kept screaming out the window “STOP!!!” (with a few colorful exclamatory words), but no go. That was the final straw for me to leave Madrid. I went and checked out, haggled with the hotel guy who wanted to charge me more than we agreed on…but ended up paying what I wanted to pay. I headed for the train station, had a few hours to kill before the next train to Toledo. No, not Ohio. Toledo is a medieval town about an hour and a half outside Madrid.

One thing I have to complain about (I mean ANOTHER thing…) is that I simply cannot get away from cigarette smoke over here. EVERYONE SMOKES! I can’t believe it. No matter where I go, I find it hard to escape. And they do not have the laws we have about smoking in public places, so basically it’s free reign everywhere. Even on the train, which was supposed to be a non-smoking car, people lit up anyway. And the streets are littered with cigarette butts. Sorry smokers, but I don’t understand your addiction. It’s bad for everyone involved. You, because you smoke and I can’t begin to list the health hazards. Me, because I have to breath the second hand smoke. Everyone, because our world is littered with cigarette butts. Oy.

Anyway, I made it to Toledo, which is actually very impressive. It´s a medieval city inside its original walls. The streets are narrow and very old looking. Everywhere you turn there are medieval buildings, cathedrals, and churches. This is what I was looking for. It feels very Spanish to me. Everything is made from stone, so the whole city looks like a city of stone. There are a few synagogues left standing from before the Jews were kicked out of Spain in 1492, so I paid them a visit. Being of Spanish-Jewish decent, I found those particularly interesting. Also, I ate some good chicken.

Hasta manyana.

Jared

Jared in Spain – Part Deux

Hi all, just a quick update here. Just wanna say, I am sorry that my last note was full of negativity. I had a bad day and a series of bad experiences that led me to write what I wrote.

Anyway, Toledo was absolutely amazing. I felt like I was in ancient Spain. The city is so full of medieval looking buildings, that it was easy to imagine what life must have been like back in those times.

Toledo is famous for its metal making craft, and they produce all kinds of knives and swords there. So, I bought a sword. It´s a huge one…picture Conan the Barbarian here…and it´s a replica of the sword of Solomon…I saw it and knew right away that I had to have it. I know it will become a family heirloom someday, and I am very glad I finally bought a serious souvenir on this trip…the only other things I bought for myself were the chessboard in Turkey, and the Golem in Prague. So now I have a real biggie. I will have to put it on display somewhere in NY, so ya´ll can come gawk at it when I return.

I met some people from NY that I ended up hangin out with in Toledo for a few days. It was very spooky at night. Last night I walked outside the city walls and looked at the stars. There was a big medieval castle on the hill in the direction I was looking, and right above it was an eerie full moon. There were smoky clouds passing in front of the moon, so it felt like a scene out of Transylvania! Good moments. Ahhh….

Well, I said this would be short, but what else can I write about? I am back in Madrid right now, waiting for my night train to Lisbon Portugal. I am going to sleep in a Couchette for the first time…I made sure to reserve it well in advance so I know I get a place. I hear the beaches in Lisbon are really nice, so I might spend a few days just chillin there. A lot of people have been advising me to slow down and take some time off from my trip. I think that may be a good idea, so we´ll see about doing that. What do y´all think? Am I doing too much? Do you think I have set out on too long of a journey? I don´t know…when will I ever have the chance to do anything like this again? I figured I would hit as much as I can in the time I had, taste each country, get a feel for Europe…you know. But I guess the danger in that is getting burned out and losing the sense of wonder for the places you go. I suppose I am experiencing that a bit…I am sorry it has come upon me….

Lord of the Rings is an amazing book by the way…I finished the first part and then searched all over the south of France for an English copy of the rest of it..I found it in an obscure bookshop and paid $30 for it…but totally worth it. I suggest to anyone who hasn’t read this book to READ IT.  It is the most incredible fantasy adventure story I have ever had the pleasure to devour….

Well, guess that’s about all for now….

Jared

I am the Barber of Seville

Hola! Back in Spain, I am.

It was a hard decision to make, whether or not to leave Lagos. It was just so nice there, so relaxing and cheap…I was tempted to just stay there for the rest of my trip and make one big trek up to Barcelona to fly home! But, I said to myself, “Self, there is only a week and a half left of your journey, and there are still a few things left to do. So self, put your weariness aside and get off your ass for this last leg.”  “But..but…it’s sunny here and they have cheap beer!”  “Self, don’t give me that crap. This trip is not about beer. It’s about experience! Now, load up and hop the bus to Seville. You won’t regret it. Plus they have chicken there.”

So, I did it for the chicken.

There was no direct train from Lagos to Seville…actually the trains in this region are rather poorly designed. There are gaps in the lines that make one go waaaay out of the way to cover a short distance as the crow flies. So, I took the bus. It was about $15 and five hours, direct from Lagos to Seville, but well worth not having to go all the way back to Madrid just to come back down south. The bus ride was quite fun actually, because, once again, I met a big group of people, and we all sort of banded together to “do” Seville. We joked and laughed all the way there. It was joyous.

As soon as I arrived in Seville, I began to regret leaving Lagos. I have been to so many big cities, and Lagos was small townish…and I didn’t feel like I had the energy to explore yet another big city. But, I was there…so, what choice did I have? Get on a bus back to Lagos? Actually, the idea tempted me.

I joined up with a guy from Boulder, CO, and we went looking for a pension to stay in. ALL of them were full….we finally found one with one room available, but way expensive. No choice in the matter…we took it.

By the time we got out and hit the town, it was dark. But Seville is very beautiful at night. It’s a city full of Moorish architecture, medieval walls, and cathedrals, as well as colorful Spanish looking streets lined with restaurants and houses. Boulder Man and I set out for some Paella and Sangria. Ohhhhh, Sangria. The drink of the gods. I have arrived at the TRUTH.

We ordered up a pitcher of the good stuff. It came full of fruit and wine mixed with brandy, I think. Whatever it was, it did the job…..halfway through the pitcher, I was lit like a campfire. Finally, I got some real chicken and rice too…not mixed with bits of shrimp…not some scam by the restaurant…it was real, and goood. I also tried Gazpacho…think I spelled that wrong, but it’s basically cold tomato soup…good stuff. Between all that and a dish of olives, I was set.

After dinner we walked around town and ran into the rest of our clan…that began a very long evening of bar hopping and merry making that didn’t stop till about 5:00am…..the nightlife here is pretty raging.

There are some serious landmarks here worth seeing. One is a complex called the Alcazar…this was the headquarters for the Moorish empire. What an amazing fortress it is. The walls remind me of Jerusalem. Inside are networks of ornate hallways with Arabic writing all over the walls….and the back gives way to the most lush gardens I have ever seen, full of trees and fountains, rows of shrubberies, as well as several Knights who run around and say “NEEK!”

Impressive.

The other biggie is the cathedral. Apparently it’s the biggest gothic structure of its kind…pretty cool. It also happens to be the burial place of Christopher Columbus…so, I came within a few feet of the guy we owe our country to, I suppose….I feel holy and stuff now.

I think tonight will be another raging party…Boulder Man can drink a fish under the table…so it’ll be interesting.

Tomorrow, I leave for Grenada.

By the way, what is the average velocity of an unladen swallow?

Jared

Jared in Grenada

Still truckin round southern Spain….still hazy after all these beers. The big brew over here is called Cruzcampo….and what shall I say of it?  Not much…I have had better Cerveza elsewhere….but at least they import Corona! I’m stickin to the Sangria.

Well, now I am in a town called Grenada. Arrived yesterday. Seville was really nice, and I could have easily stayed another day there, but I know time is running out for me…and since I have a little more energy after my stint in Lagos, I am ready to rock for another week.

Ahhh, Grenada. So many people told me to come here, and with good reason. This town was where the Moorish empire had its seat, in a lofty fortress called the Alhambra. It sits atop a mountain, at the foot of which sprawls the ancient streets of Grenada. I’ll get to that.

When I arrived yesterday, I was immediately struck with how much this place feels like the Middle East. There is a huge Moroccan influence here….falafel restaurants, tea houses, incense filling the air, Arabic looking people walking around, signs in Arabic, and humus and pita available readily. I felt very much at home. I love the middle eastern feeling…it’s very familiar to me, after so many trips to Israel. I am actually feeling inspired to go to Morocco now…I know, I said I wouldn’t do it, but maybe I will change my mind….we’ll see, cuz tomorrow I am heading down to Gibraltar, and it would be from there that I catch the ferry to Tangiers. Maybe…

Grenada has a lot of back streets that resemble some of the market places I saw in Turkey and Jerusalem…lots of vendors, all selling the same stuff….and I have come upon a new host of chess boards…I guess that is a very middle eastern thing too…chessboards. Well, they got ’em here.

This city is also the final resting place of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella…the fanatics responsible for the Spanish Inquisition and expulsion of the Moors and Jews in 1492. Their grave is right next to the very large and impressive Cathedral here (nicer than many I have seen, yet I am unable to describe it now). The crypt is in their private chapel, and you have to descend into a lower chamber where you can see their lead caskets. I looked for a moment at them, and promptly wished a pox upon their souls.

Coming out of the crypt, I was accosted from all directions by gypsy women who kept trying to hand me a leaf….they are very aggressive about getting you to take the leaf. And once you do, they won’t leave you alone till you pay up. I kept refusing the leaves…and I had to plow my way through a horde of them to make it out of the chapel square. Quite annoying…at every turn, I kept having to angrily say, “NO!”

The nightlife is cool here. Free tapas at every bar when you order a drink…that was good news for me and the people I met up with. Can’t go wrong with free tapas….(little plates of food…)

Next day, today actually, I climbed the mountain up to the Alhambra. That was a hike and wore me out before the day even began! But the hike was worth it. I bought my ticket and went inside.

The fortress is pretty big and it’s enclosed by walls all around. There are several palaces to see, and some of the most beautiful and elaborate gardens even planted. Those are what impressed me the most. I walked around for a few hours amongst the flowers, fountains, and sculpted hedges. Of course, I sneezed a lot…but I endured.

Washington Irving, famed author of…uhhh….stuff…..spent some time here and wrote about it extensively. He was pretty enchanted with the place, so much so that the audio guide was supposed to be his voice (you know audio guides…those things you hold up to your ear as you walk around). The highlight of the Alhambra is the Palace of the Nazarenes…..I think that was the name…sorry, I forget these things….but it was an extremely ornate palace where all the walls were hand carved with Arabic poetry. The rooms were majestic, and the courtyards heavenly. It was built to represent the Islamic concepts of paradise. They did a good job.

So, I just had a falafel. Gonna need to go get some gum now….so, until next time, Salaaaaam.

Jared

Gettin’ a Piece of the Rock

Still goin strong down here! I left Grenada yesterday and made way for a small port town called Algeciras, it’s right on the tip of Spain and provides easy access to the Rock Of Gibraltar, as well as ferries to Tangiers. Otherwise, it’s a dump.

The train ride down here gave me some serious countryside viewage. Spain is really beautiful! Vast mountains and vallies, with sandy colors mixed with green, and bushes and trees scattered about. Quite majestic actually.

BUT! When I got off the train in Algeciras, I soon found it to be the dingy crap hole it was rumored to be. Near the stations, there were a bunch of hostels, so I started looking around for a place to stay. My intentions were to use Algeciras as a base to explore Gibraltar and Morocco. All the rooms I found tended to smell pretty bad, so I went with the cheapest, least smelly room I could find. Something I didn’t think about was the noise factor though…my room had a balcony that opened right on a main road, and I was only one floor up, so I could hear all the noise of the street as though my bed were right on the road.

You may ask yourself, “Why the hell didn’t he just close the window then?” Because it’s bloody hot! I would have sweat myself to death, so it was a choice between heat stroke and noise. I went with the noise, and three showers to keep cool. But let me just tell you, I hate scooters with a passion. They make this extremely loud buzzing noise, at a frequency that is so abrasive, it should be outlawed. But they are all over the place here! So, all night I heard “bzzzzzoooooooom!”  In the morning I bolted from Algeciras and decided to try my fate at staying in Gibraltar itself.

Hopped on the bus. It was about an hour to The Rock. The bus drops you off at a town called La Linea, literally meaning The Line. I think the Spanish are a little pissed off about the Gibraltar situation. You see, the rock of Gibraltar is a British colony, basically. It’s in Spanish territory, but controlled by England. The Spanish really don’t like that, even though it’s been that was for hundreds of years.

From La Linea, you have to pass Spanish customs and wave your passport to get out.  When you enter Gibraltar, you are immediately hit with anglophelia. It’s like walking into a piece of England. I guess this will be the closest I get to the UK on this trip….no wait…I fly back through London…scratch that. The rock itself is a huge daunting cliff-sided mountain that juts right out of the sea. At the foot of it is spread a quaint little town. They use British money, they speak English….hell, they are British in every way here. Kinda strange.

Checked into a cheap hotel..paying 20 pounds a night for a small room. But that’s the cheapest they have here. It’s a big tourist trap.

After I got all settled, I took the cable car ride up to the top of The Rock. That was scary. There was a woman in the car who was deathly afraid of heights, so she was crying all the way. I felt bad for her, but I don’t know why they didn’t just take a cab ride up….I mean, there is a road and stuff.

When we got to the top, there was a guy standing there who said, “Welcome to The Rock” in a deep Scottish accent, and he pointed the way to go. WHAT A VIEW! I can understand why the British want to hold on to this place. You can see much of southern Spain, as well as across the straights to Africa. That was the first time I ever laid eyes on that continent. Seemed strangely inviting. Whoever controls The Rock, effectively controls access to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. Very strategic.

After thoroughly enjoying the view for a while, I met up with some Israelis (they are all over the place) and we went to check out the Ape Den. “The what?!”  Yeah, the Ape Den. Apes have apparently inhabited The Rock for hundreds of years. They roam freely about, and don’t seem to be bothered by the people. They come very close to you and let you feed and pet them. They aren’t overly friendly, but at least they tolerate your presence. There is nothing separating you from the apes, so there are all kinds of disclaimer signs saying, “Touch the monkey at your own risk”.

I watched them swinging around the trees for a while…and I handed one of them a bottle that he was playing with but dropped. He took it from me and chucked it over the side, then jumped from the wall on which he was sitting to a tree about 10 feet away. The trees are mostly where they chill, but if you have food, it’s best to keep it hidden cuz they will approach you and bug you till you give it to them. One lady had an unopened bag of chips, and one of the apes took it from her hands, sat on the wall and opened it (just like a human would do) and began to munch. Hours of delight. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

After the monkeys, I went to a place called St. Michael’s Cave. This is a vast network of caves full of stalactites and stalagmites. I am sure you can picture this, if you have ever visited one of those underground caverns in upstate NY or wherever you are from. Very cool. Literally. It was hot as hell, and the cave gave a brief reprieve from the heat. It was also an amazing natural creation.

So I am back in town now. Maybe I will have some fish-n-chips. That’s the big deal here….it’s the real thing. Wait a sec…I hate fish.

One week to go.

Jared

Jared’s Home Coming Party

DON´T SKIM THIS EMAIL. READ THE WHOLE DANG THANG!

Hiya all!  Well, as you may have been reading, my trip is quickly nearing its end! Hard to believe, since I have been away for so long.

Now, seeing as I am going to summer camp a week after I get back to NYC, I want to have a little get-together for all willing participants. So, my friends, all who I have known over the years, all who I have recently met, come one, come all to:

Jared´s Coming Home/Going Away Again Party!
When: Thursday, June 15th
Where: Luna Lounge, 171 Ludlow Street, just south of East Houston and Katz´s Deli. (Thanks Rob!)
Time:  Early evening, 7:00 pm to whenever

So, save the date. I hope to see everyone there. I will have pictures from my trip and lots of stories to tell. It will be great to have everyone together.

OK, so on to a brief update:

Dad, you will be happy to know I did NOT go to Morocco. No, not because I was worried.  I had actually bought a ticket and everything, and I was supposed to leave at 9:30 yesterday morning from Gibraltar. So, I get up early, drag my ass to the dock, and lo! THE FREAKIN´ BOAT BROKE DOWN. I don’t know if it was a sign from the universe or something, but there were no other boats from Gibraltar going that day, so I was out of luck unless I wanted to haul ass back to Algeciras and take a boat from there. I don´t think my will was that strong, so I abandoned ship. Oh well, what do I have to complain about? I have been to so many places and seen so many cities, what is one more?  Alas, it would have been cool to cross the Straights of Gibraltar.  Oh well, I will live.

So instead, yesterday I hung around Gibraltar, allowing the scooters to drive me batty. They are like swarms of giant mechanical insects constantly buzzing by. I don´t know how people live with this noise on a daily basis.

I spent the day reading. I finished Lord of The Rings! I am overcome by this book. It is just so amazing and epic. I should have read it a long time ago. Thank goodness I did. It goes so well with my journey. But I am sad it is over. I have grown to love the characters so much, and I am sure you know when that happens, it is bittersweet to finish such a good book. Well, that is done.

Now I am in Cordoba, more towards the center of Spain again. Í am spending the afternoon here and then taking a night train to Barcelona. That will be my last train ride on this journey. Wow. I feel like I have spent so much time on trains these last three months…to think that this is the final stretch. It´s surreal. Cordoba is nice…has a lot of old stuff. Looks a little like Seville, but not as much goin on here. The famous Jewish sage, Maimonedes, lived and wrote his works here in Cordoba.

To Barcelona I go! And then, New York!  Someone ready the bagels and cream cheese for my arrival!  And don’t forget the pizza…oh man, it´s been so long.

I will send a few more reminders of my party….

Jared

Jared in Barcelona

Last I left you, I was in Cordoba, somewhere in the central, southern portion of Spain. It was nice and all…but what can I say of it? I was there for a mere few hours, I walked around, saw some old stuff…more ancient buildings and medieval alleyways, and more tourist trap souvenir shops selling “authentic Spanish memorabilia”.

I had bought a ticket for the night train to Barcelona, and reserved a couchette. Remember, these are the sleeper cars that cram four people into a coffin, practically on top of each other. Very close quarters. As the hour arrived, I began to dread the ride. I prophesied to myself: “Verily, there shall be three fat and smelly old men in my car, and behold, the stench thereof shall rise into my nostrils and maketh me wretch”. Perhaps it was the will of the gods to spoil my last ride, or mayhap I was toying with the fabric of space-time with my premonitions, and call me Nostrodamus, but I made the call correctly.

I climbed aboard the train and entered my couchette car, and SMACK! PUNCH! in the face I was hit with nassssty nasssssty BO. And there sat three fat, smelly old men, smiling pleasantly and welcoming me into their stench den. With a grimace of disgust, I dragged my crap in, stored it, and climbed up on my bunk. I faced the wall..put on my walkman…and I tried, really I did…but I just couldn’t stand the smell. I climbed down and made my way to the bar car, mumbling colorful metaphors to myself the whole way there. I sat at the bar and ordered a whole bottle of wine. I figured if I get liquidated, maybe I´ll pass out and sleep through the stench. I poured myself a glass, lifted it to the crowd and pronounced a toast to fat and smelly old men, and proceeded to get ripped. An hour later, I stumbled back to my car, completely wrecked and somehow I managed to climb up onto by bunk and pass out…..I woke up a few times from the stench, but I made it through the night.

So, Barcelona. I had these grandiose visions of getting a nice hotel and spending my last few days in luxury. I planned to use the hotel booking office at the train station to make my arrangements. But there was no booking office. Let the quest begin again. I prayed it would be easy…”Dear travel gods, let my last quest go smoothly, and may I find a nice cheap room, amen”. The gods were laughing at me that day, my friends, oh yes. Every hotel I went to was booked…every single one. I must have tried 15 different hotels, dragging my crap all around the city center. Nothing. Finally I came upon a dingy looking pension that had one dingy room left available, for a lofty price of $30 a night. I had no choice, so I took it. Why, gods, why must I endure these things for thee?

So even though Barcelona is more expensive than I expected it to be, it´s still pretty cool. My pension is right on the main drag that runs through the center of the city, called La Ramblas. This is a median strip full of street vendors and all manner of performers you can imagine. Some of the street vendors are selling birds, live chickens, ducks, ducklings, baby chicks, mice, gerbils, and the whole gambit of rodentery.

Then, you have your books and standard brick-a-brack. But the street performers are certainly the most interesting facet of this avenue. Most of them are the “living statue” types. I am sure you have all seen the people that paint themselves silver and stand on a platform and don´t move until you drop a coin in their box…then they do something mediocre. Well, here in Barcelona, they have taken this practice to the extreme and some of these people have gotten very creative with their art.

There was one guy dressed as a vampire and he laid in a coffin, and when you a drop a coin in, Dracula music starts playin and he rises from the dead, shakes your hand and tries to bite it. Then, there was the ET guy, dressed like our favorite alien, and when you drop a coin in, he holds up his finger and says “ooouuuch” and touches your finger. And let us not forget the Frankenstein guy who, when you drop in a coin, comes to life and chases you down the street trying to make-believe he will strangle you. These are but a mere few of the very creative living statues here. I spent the afternoon walking around dropping coins in all the boxes to see what they would do. Kept me very entertained.

I have been running into a lot of people I have met throughout Spain and Portugal. Strange. It happened three times in the span of an hour…I guess everyone converges on Barcelona before moving on to their next destination. Me, I am goin HOME!

Today I hit the Picasso museum…guess I should take in some serious art before it´s all over…once again.

Don´t forget my party on June 15th, Thursday at Luna Lounge, 7:00pm!

See ya there!

Jared

Jared at the Bull Fights

I shall now attempt to describe to you in detail exactly what goes on at these bull fights that so many of us have heard of, but are not quite sure of what they entail.

Parents, you may want to read this one with your kids….oh hell, they see enough blood and guts on TV and in the movies…so….

Oh, and my vegetarian friends, you have a new ally: Me. But I still like chicken.

Bull Fights are perhaps the most gory, sickening, barbaric display of inhumanity I have ever witnessed. Tonight, in Barcelona, I went to one. Going to a bull fight was something I thought to be the quintessential Spanish experience, having heard of them my whole life. But I certainly was not aware of what went on!

Bull fights are like baseball in Spain…it´s their national pastime, I suppose. It´s a big event, and they have stadiums built just for this purpose. There are famous bull fighters, called Matadors. They are celebrities. People file into the stadiums like they would for any sporting event. The crowd gets very lively, screams, applauds, boos, they throw things into the ring, and they get very angry and emotional. It´s quite interesting to watch.

What happens:

The event begins by parading the three matadors around the stadium. They are dressed in gold outfits looking all adorned. They carry red capes with them, which they use to taunt the bull. There is much cheering and roaring during the parade. Then the field clears and the first matador readies himself for the bull.

The bull comes charging into the arena. It is clearly pissed off. I don´t know what they do to the poor thing behind the scenes, but it comes running in like a freight train and it heads straight for the matador. He waves his red cape, and the bull charges for that. Just as it´s about to hit the cape, he pulls it up and turns around. The crowd cheers “Olay!” I thought this was just a joke, but they really say “Olay!”

So the matador taunts the bull for a while..it keeps charging, he keeps waving his red cape. Then, a horn sounds and into the area come two guys riding horses that are blindfolded. I think they blindfold the horses, because if a horse saw a bull charging at them, they would buck their rider off and run like mad. The horses have shields around their bodies to protect them from the horns of the charging bull. The guys on the horses are carrying big spears. They taunt the bull and it charges the horse, at which time they repeatedly stab the bull. Yes, they stab it…and it bleeds like mad. After stabbing the bull, it goes crazy and starts to run around. Then some more guys come out on the field with mini-spears, and they approach the bull and stab it some more, and the spears stick into the body. So the bull is running around with spears stuck in it, bleeding like mad, panting for breath, slowly dying. All the while the crowd is cheering at the site of this. With every good stab, the crowd cheers. I was ashamed to be a human being.

Once the bull is good and stabbed, all red from blood, the matador comes back alone into the arena and waves his cape some more, and the poor bull keeps heading for the cape. I wish they had more brains to aim for the matador and knock him on his ass, but for some reason they always go for the cape. So, the matador has his fun with the bull, does some dancing around it, smacks it on the ass, plays with it and stuff. The crowd loves this part, and the more daring the matador gets with his approach to the bull, and the more risk he takes, the more they cheer him. Finally, he pulls out a sword and aims right at the back of the bull´s neck and buries the sword to the hilt in the bull. The bull stumbles around, turns circles, falls down, tries to get up, coughs up blood, bleeds profusely, and eventually collapses dead.

There are great cheers and the matador is praised as a hero. He circles the area and people shower him with flowers and applause. A team of men and three horses come into the area and string up the dead bull and drag it around the ring for all to see, leaving a trail of blood, and then through the gates.

This whole sequence repeated six times. Six bulls died tonight, very slow, cruel and painful deaths, all for the pleasure of sick human beings. It´s not safe to be a Spanish bull, to say the least.

I was sickened by the sight of all this. I felt like I was in ancient Rome in the coliseum, watching people get thrown to the lions. I find it hard to believe that bull fights are still common in Spain. Several times I cheered “Go Bull!”,  because honestly, I wanted to see the bull get some good shots in before it got ruthlessly stabbed. At one point the matador slipped when the bull charged him, and he fell under it. The bull kept ramming him and rolled him halfway across the field. That was scary, because the matador could have easily been impaled by the horns. Revenge of the bulls.

So there you have it, the scoop on bull fights, brought to you by moi. Look at what I do for you, my readers 🙂

See you soon…

Jared

The End is Near

The end is near, verily it is upon me.

I find that hard to believe, after months of trekking around this continent. It has finally come to an end.  It feels like forever ago that I left New York…it´s like a faded dream in the back of my mind. The life of a backpacker has been MY life for three months now, and it´s still my current reality, and it´s weird to think my life is about to change again! So much change. But change is good.

When I left New York, I was an unhappy man craving adventure, wanting to see the world and whatever opportunities may be out there for me. After everything, I have learned the real lesson:  The value in having friends and family and loved ones, in a place that you know and can call home. That is what matters in life; your own little universe that you create within your own little sphere of influence.

As human beings, that is all most of us can ever have, and even for the ones who wield more control over the masses, their own little circle matters most to them as well. I have seen so many countries and cities, and I am continually baffled by the sheer numbers of people in this world. It seems like there is just an endless amount of people. Even now, as I am in the Internet cafe, I look around and see dozens of people staring at their screens, typing away, sending messages to their loved ones and friends, and reading about the things that matter to them. They each have their little world, and I have mine.

So, now I return to New York, a place that I have grown to miss considerably. I return to build my little world, live in it, and be happy. But I come with a greater knowledge of the world at large, forever changed by experience, a new person, never to go back to the unhappy rut I left months ago. What I will do, how I will accomplish all of this, I do not know. But I do know that my journey has not ended. It has only begun.

Here now, is a list of the countries I have been to, and the cities I have either seen extensively or passed through for a few hours and got a nice glance. The latter will be marked with a “*.”

Israel:  Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Netanya, Tiveria, Haifa.
Bulgaria:  Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas*.
Turkey: Istanbul, Cappadokia, Pammukale, Selchuk.
Greece: Samos, Mykonos, Athens, Delphi, Patras*
Italy: Brindisi*, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Venice.
Switzerland: Bern, Interlaken
Germany: Munich, Fussen, Dachau, Berlin
Czech Republic: Prague
Netherlands: Amsterdam
France: Paris, Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Montpellier*
Spain: Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Grenada, Algeciras, Gibraltar, Cordoba, Barcelona.
Portugal: Lisbon, Sintra, Lagos.

So, the final count is 12 countries (13 if you count Monaco as its own country) and 50 cities. Whoa…the enormity of my trip just hit me. That´s a lot of ground I covered in 3 months!  A lot of train rides…a lot of youth hostels and hotels. A lot of figuring out the currencies, studying maps, getting over “new city” anxiety. This list does not include all the little towns I stopped in to change trains, or just passed through on the fly. Between this list, and all the amazing countryside I have seen from the windows of my trains, I think it is safe to say I have seen Europe, no?

Today, June 6th, is my last full day in Barcelona. Tomorrow, I hop British Airways, stop over in London, and head back to NYC. My last day. It´s over…very strange to think about….

By the way, I don´t think I am going to stop writing these updates. I have enjoyed writing so much, and I have heard so many things from the people reading them about how they have enjoyed them too. So, I may just have to do a “Jared at Camp” series, and after that, who knows?  But it seems this is becoming my journal. So, if along the way anyone gets sick of these emails, let me know and I will be happy to remove you from the list, no hard feelings 🙂

I hope to see everyone at Luna Lounge on June 15th, Thursday, 7:00 pm.  Early evening pah-tay. I will bring my sword for show and tell. Oh, yesterday I bought a hand made drum from Africa, so I will have that to show off too 🙂

Thank you everyone for reading, for all the messages of support. And to all the people I have met along the way, YOU helped make my trip an amazing time. Please keep in touch with me.

So, that´s it. The final update from Europe. End chapter. Let the new chapter begin……NOW.

Jared