Saturday, 22 February 2020

Ermou 4 (Larnaca, Cyprus)

Has been nice to rest and relax while I’ve been in Larnaca. Even the very firm mattress on the bed isn’t affecting my sleep. I seem to be able to sleep better and attribute that to making a decision to return to the U.S. and planning for my final adventures.

Last week I spoke with Cousins Molly and Ori and shared my tentative travel plans for the next few months. They had some terrific ideas and will check back with them again after I have my visa for visiting Russia. Getting the visa will confirm my stay in Russia (April 15 – 29) and expect to leave for the U.S. from London probably the second week of May at the latest.

My new Larnaca friend, Paschalis, has been kind to take me around to various places while I’ve been here. He is showing me how kind and generous Greeks are. He even drove me up to the Stavrovouni Monastery and enjoyed the view of Cyrus from up there. I’m learning so much about the Greek culture and history.

The biggest obstacle, so far, to being issued a Russia visa is the letter from where I’ll stay when in Russia. Think I have that squared away, but won’t know for sure until I meet with the people at the Russian Visa Service Center in Edinburgh on Friday.

I’ve also made appointments with my dentist, GP, Dermatologist and Ophthalmologist. If I need a follow up visit, or difficulties with my Russian visa, that will extend my time in Edinburgh. I didn’t make firm plans for travel after Edinburgh and before Russia in case there was some delays while in Edinburgh. After I have everything settled in Edinburgh I can then make firm plans.

I’m leaving Larnaca on Wednesday and will travel directly to London where I’ll stay overnight before taking the train to Edinburgh on the 27th. I have a dental appointment the next day and after this appointment I’ll visit the Russian Visa Service Center.

I’m feeling great about making these plans that will wrap up my travels. Looking forward to my final destinations and realize that what I don’t see this time I can always plan a return trip in the future.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Ermou 4 (Larnaca, Cyprus)

I couldn’t believe how long I slept last night and into late morning today. Perhaps the night before, my first night here, I didn’t sleep well. I came across an article in Popular Science that reported that when we are in a new place that our brains are in survival mode, and our brains in this situation are only turning half off, with one hemisphere remaining more “awake” than the other. Researchers published their findings in the journal Current Biology. Interesting.

As for the rest of the day, I managed to get my hair cut. Surprisingly the guy who cut it last November remembered me and my preferences. I was impressed. The shop is located on the ground level of the building where I’m staying. And the haircut only cost €8 (actually €10 because I tipped €2).

From there I went to the nearby market (not as complete as the large Metro market) where I found a few items that I didn’t pick up the day before. I ended up making chicken sandwiches with Gouda cheese slices. I had one late afternoon then another while I was watching, or I guess re-watching, The Da Vinci Code. I hadn’t seen this movie since I had been traveling and now recognize several of the locations where the filming took place.

While here on Larnaca I’ve been mentally considering travel plans for the next few months. I hope to start firming up the plans over the next week. As it stands, I have no idea where I’m going after Larnaca.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Ermou 4 (Larnaca, Cyprus)

Had a great sleep last night, though was somewhat cold until I learned how to effectively adjust the temperature controls. The devices that provide air conditioning in the summer also provide the heat in the cooler months. In any case, I slept quite well until late morning.

For breakfast I ate leftover pizza. I was so tired last night I didn’t shop for anything more than beer and milk. (The milk, of course, was for my coffee.) I really wasn’t hungry for anything more that just that. Think I’ve eaten enough pizza for awhile. But I’ll stop for groceries later.

When I finally left the flat it was nearly mid-afternoon. I walked down to my friend Kris’ shop to say hello. It was on the way to the Metro market where I’ll buy groceries. Thought I’d find an open barber shop along the way but guess they all closed on Thursdays. As I got closer I wondered if his friend, now my friend, Paschalis would be there. I met him last time I was in Larnaca. To my surprise I saw his car outside Kris’ shop. I guess he was surprised too since he hadn’t visited Kris in a couple of weeks. Good timing all around I guess.

The three of us had a great time catching up. Kris’ wife is scheduled to give birth tomorrow so we talked about that and his motor bike that he finished restoring. Of course our conversation became fairly deep and philosophical, and Paschalis is an expert at Greek etymology, which I find fascinating. Also Greek history and customs. It was like being in school (without having to take a test).

We talked for a couple of hours until it started to get dark. When it came time for me to leave Paschalis offered to take me to the store then drive me home. A sample of Greek hospitality. He walked with me through the store as I added items to my basket and helped asked questions of store staff when I was looking for something. We dropped me off at my flat and said we will meet up for a beer in a few days.

I was more hungry than tired. Soon after I walked in the door I prepared the chicken for roasting in the oven. While that was cooking I hung up my laundry and wrote my travel blog. I put away the groceries while finishing up on my dinner: roasted chicken, broccoli (seasoned with mayonnaise and pepper), and a few slices from a baguette.

The highlight of the evening was watching the latest episode of Picard. It is turning out to be a fun program to watch, but new episodes are only released each Thursday. I also watch a couple of episodes of Twilight Zone. It was after 11:00 when I went to bed.

Tomorrow will be mostly a day of rest and to finally get my hair cut. I haven’t had a haircut in several weeks and I’m looking shaggy. Well, as shaggy as a bald man can look. There were a few items I should have bought earlier but I’ll buy them at a local market tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Hampton by Hilton (Munich, Germany)

Was an easy morning. Got up on time, ate breakfast, packed, checked out, and called Uber. Was in very good shape to make my flight to Larnaca. Had a bit of entertainment while waiting for the Uber driver. A taxi pulled into the turnabout driveway of the hotel and sat there. Other drivers (non Taxi) who were picking up passengers from the hotel asked to get around his car and he refused, not very politely, to move. I guess there is a conflict between the taxi drivers and limo and Uber drivers.

My Uber driver showed up just as the taxi left the hotel driveway. I found out that the driver was originally from Romania. We had a good chat on the way to the airport, which was a little over 30 minutes away. Along the way he asked me a question no one, as I recall has ever asked: Where would I rather live, in the U.S. or in Europe? It didn’t take me long to answer. My answer was Europe for three reasons: 1) Cost of Healthcare 2) Guns are rarely in the possession of the public 3) Availability and cost of public transportation. I went on to say that the U.S. is my home, where family and friends live, and is where I need to be. I can always visit Europe again.

When I walked into the terminal building I remembered what I had difficulties with when I was here before. Poor signage. 90% of the time I can walk in to airport terminals, look at the departure board and it tells me where to check in. I now remembered that you have to know which floor of the terminal to check in. If I’m correct, Munich is the only airport where the check in stations are on two different floors of the terminal.

At least the line at my airline check in station was short and I was finished there within a few minutes. I walked to through security and was at the gate within 15 minutes. Had plenty of time before boarding began. While waiting I noticed a mother trying to get her toddler daughter to stop crying. From the sounds of the child’s crying it sounded like the child wasn’t getting her way. Sounded like a fake cry. My mistake was paying attention to the child’s outburst. Was it any surprise that in the very large aircraft we shared that the child and mother would be sitting behind me? If was a very long flight to Athens. The child was fussing and crying the whole way. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often.

Also, I sat next to a guy and while talking for awhile he eventually said that he was a private pilot and knew we would land late in Athens because of our late departure time (45 minutes late). Me, being the optimist, said that we will probably make up for the lost time and land not too much later. We didn’t talk after that. The plane did, in fact, land on time and my pilot friend gave me a thumbs up as the plane touched down.

In Athens I had to go through security again and also through Passport Control. At Passport Control they noted that my passport was a replacement for the one stolen. Then the agent asked to see proof when I entered Europe. I said that was recorded in my stolen passport but was able to show him on my phone via my Hilton application that I was in London one day at a Hilton and later that same day at another Hilton in Zurich. That seemed to be okay with him and I was on my way. The flight to Larnaca was uneventful and no crying from any of the passengers.

Took a taxi from the Larnaca airport to the flat where I stayed last November. I picked up the keys from my host’s mother who works in his father’s medical practice as receptionist and bookkeeper. He is a pathologist and his sister is a dentist who has her practice next door. Both offices are in the same building as the flat. We talked for a little while then I went up to the flat.

I was very hungry by this time. I didn’t eat on either flight and haven’t been eating on flights for the last several months. I’ve been taking along fruit to eat while flying. Just the thought now of eating the food on the plane makes me a little sick to my stomach.

After rolling my suitcase into the flat, found the envelop that contained my replacement credit and debit cards, then immediately left and walked to the nearby Pizza Hut. Some might say that Pizza Hut is better than airline food, but I beg to differ. After I had the takeaway pizza in hand I walked back to the flat but stopped off at a grocery along the way to buy beer to have with the pizza and milk for my coffee in the morning.

Just as I finished the last slice of pizza my doorbell rang and it was my host who had just come home from work. We chatted for a few minutes and said we would meet up again while I’m here. He works somewhere locally as an engineer.

I was in bed early and had a great night of sleep. Tomorrow I’ll get settled, get a haircut, grocery shopping, and do my wash. And probably take a few naps. I’m looking forward to resting while here in Larnaca.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Schmiedgasse 12A (Innsbruck, Austria)

Another adventure while traveling: Having your laptop’s screen go blank. On Monday, at first I thought it was because I forgot to plug it in, but the indicator lights that show the laptop’s charging were not on. I looked and looked for what the cause might be but discovered it could be most anything.

Then, while working on the laptop issue I started a conversation with the consulate on Cyprus, where I was planning to get my permanent passport and it wasn’t going well. First I was told that they were short-staffed and had no open appointments for another three weeks. Then they said I needed to complete a different form than what the Marseille consulate said I needed. Ten emails later I decided that I’ll keep the temporary one until I return to the U.S.

I’m feeling that there are signs that I need to return to the U.S. sooner than later. I had intended on staying a full four years but now I’ll visit just a few more places then return to the U.S. in May rather than July. Not a dramatic shift, but it felt good to make this decision. I’ll have time in Cyprus to make updates to my travel plans.

Before I write about what happened today, this I’ll first write about what I did Sunday and the rest of Monday.

On Sunday the 9th, another nice sunny day, I walked over again to the old town and looked around some more. It was near there the day before but I didn’t see much. It was amazing that just by walking through one street I found myself in a whole new town. The main attraction was the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) that dates back to 1500. The other buildings dated from around that time as well. I also walked down by the Inn River. Was lucky to have two great days in a row. Tomorrow’s weather isn’t expected to be very good.

I wrote above about how Monday started for me and ended up with me walking to a place, in the rain, to find another power cord in hopes that would fix my laptop issue. When I returned to the flat and tried it out, it didn’t work. That confirmed for me that I needed to wrap up my travels here and return to the U.S. The issue with the passport was the icing on the cake. Making this decision made it easy to take a nap in the afternoon. I texted Viktor in Moscow and made arrangements to talk with him tomorrow.

Today (Tuesday) I woke up early and got ready to leave for Munich. I had enough time while getting ready to talk with Viktor who will help with getting my Russian visa. He will take off from work while I’m there and be my guide in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. After the call with Viktor I had time to arrange for a taxi to the train station and boarded the train at 10:40. I found a great seat and a place to put my luggage.

As the train headed to Munich I said goodbye to the Alps. The landscapes between the two cities was amazing to look at. I thought about taking pictures but I’ll just cherish the memories. As the train pulled into the Munich station it started to snow. Here I had been traveling around the Alps for nearly a month with no snowfall and now find myself in a snow storm. What a great welcome to Munich!

After checking into the hotel I immediately went to a computer store, via Uber, to buy a new Chromebook. I found one I liked and bought it. It wasn’t until I got back to my room that I discovered it had a German keyboard, which isn’t too different but it will slow me down while typing. Otherwise, when I logged into the laptop, all of my bookmarks and logins were saved. Though I had to struggle for a few minutes until I could change the on-screen instructions from German to English.

Tomorrow I leave for Cyprus. I received notification from FedEx that my replacement credit cards will arrive in Cyprus about the same time as me. Though they are two days late, which I pretty much expected.

I’m feeling good today how everything is coming together. I’ll sleep well tonight.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Schmiedgasse 12A (Innsbruck, Austria)

Another beautiful clear and sunny day as I woke up. Both the first and second time. I found myself wide awake at 4:30 and decided that it was time for breakfast and fixed hash browns and eggs, with a cup of coffee. Having eaten breakfast I went back to sleep, then woke again at 8:30 and was ready to head up to the mountains, after another cup of coffee.

Just before I was planning to shower there was a knock at the door then someone using a key to enter. I went over to the door, opened it, and found an older woman, who I guess was the woman from next door Hans told me about her the day before. We share this floor of the building and our halves of the building meet in a shared hallway. She didn’t speak a word of English but pointed to my boots that were inside the door. I assumed that she thought my boots should be outside the door (outdoor shoes are forbidden inside). I’ll send Hans a note later about this.

As I left the flat I was still confused when reading about the funicular and mountain trams. Even the directions on how to get to the funicular, that starts from the old town and goes up the mountain, which is where I started. It wasn’t until I arrived at the nearby funicular station, and someone showed me a map with the funicular and cable cars, I finally understood that the funicular takes the rider up to a station above the city, and if you purchased a ticket to go up further, you got on the cable car at the upper station of the funicular. Then, if you wanted to go further up you bought a ticket and went up on the next cable car. This was all shown on one diagram. A-ha! I understand now. I purchased the ticket called “Top of Innsbruck” that would take me up to the 7,400 foot level using the funicular and the two cable cars.

Many skiers were on their way to the slopes as well as us tourists. The funicular wasn’t crowded but the two cable cars going further up the hill were. In any case, the views from each of the three stops were amazing! So clear and sunny in all directions. Of course the snow that had fallen a couple of days before made the view more dramatic. I could see why Innsbruck was chosen to host the Winter Olympics twice (1964 and 1976).

The lower stop, Hungerburg, had a nice restaurant/bar and seemed like the place where most of the skiers hung out. It being a beautiful day, most everyone was outside enjoying the sun. As I came down the hill I visited this stop again and stayed longer this time, just to enjoy the view and watch the people.

The outdoor bar was lively and I’m sure it got more lively towards the evening. I can’t understand how some people can drink and then ski – I never could when I went skiing. Also was interesting watching the little kids using a moving sidewalk to take them a short distance up a hill for their first lessons. When I was first learning I took off my skies and walked up the hill, or when younger our dad carried the skies. Later we used rope tows.

Also at this stop was a place to take pictures, but different from the upper stops. You actually walked out to the snow-packed ledge to take your picture. If you stepped too far you’d fall hundreds of feet down the hill. No warnings or barriers. And here I saw young children, with their parents. If it was me, as a child, I’d probably would have run to the edge to look over. This is why our mom tied rope to me when we went boating or hiking near a cliff. I would wander off if she wasn’t looking or not on a leash.

Eventually I started down the hill into the city. I enjoyed watching the videos I took from up on the mountains. Though my stops were a few thousand feet lower than Mont Blanc, the view was better and could see further. Of course my favorite views were in and above Zermatt.

Thus ends my nearly month-long Alps adventure. From Switzerland, though France and Italy and ending in Austria. I could have added Lucerne to close the Alp circle, but I’ve been there and didn’t feel a need for a return visit just to complete a circle tour of the Alps. I would like to return some day, but not this trip.

I stopped in at McDonald’s since I didn’t eat up on the mountain then made a quick stop in the InterSPAR store next door to buy a few more food items since no store will be open on Sunday. I took the shortcut back to the flat rather than Google’s recommended route. Still, I walked about 8,000 steps but was very tired when I walked in the door to my flat.

After I woke from my nap and wrote the travel blog post, I again because I was tired, made more ravioli bought today at the store and had leftover sauce in the refrigerator.

I’m enjoying watching the Twilight Zone episodes, each about a half hour long. I’m sure I watched each of them at least once, but that was 50 some years ago. Nice way to end the day.

I’ll explore more of the old town of Innsbruck tomorrow and get more walking in. The weather looks questionable but I’m ready for a good walk rain or shine.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Vicolo Mattia Galasso, 13 (Trento, Italy)

Time to pack it up and move on to the next city. Though I was up early to make the hash browns and eggs, I went back to sleep. Packing can wait. When I did start the packing process I was ready at 11:30, locked up, dropped off the last of the rubbish in a bin down the street and was headed towards the nearby train station.

I’m still a bit unsure about Italian trains, but from experience I have reason to be. The train still hadn’t shown up on the display board on the platform until a couple of minutes before the train actually arrived, but it did show up. I didn’t have a reserved seat but easily found a place for me and my luggage for the trip to Innsbruck.

I very much enjoyed this train trip. The train passed through a number of tunnels as it headed north through the Alps. We passed great mountains and green fields before we came upon an accumulation of snow. This area had snow the day before and there was quite an accumulation of snow everywhere as we entered Innsbruck.

Rather than walk to the place where I’m staying I decided to take a taxi. I let the Airbnb host know that I was on my way and he met me outside and welcomed me to Innsbruck. (The taxi cost less than 8 Euro.) I learned that I’m staying in the flat where he once lived with his parents and two years ago remodeled the whole place and nowrents it out to Airbnb guests. It was very nicely done and the kitchen was much more complete than the flat in Trento – it has a toaster, kettle and dishwasher.

After a nap I took a walk to a nearby supermarket to find food for dinner and tomorrow. As I was leaving, since it was now dark, I should have looked back at which building I walked out of. Too late, I was on my way and I’ll figure it out when I return.

It was quite a walk to the store, which was located inside a large shopping mall. And it was getting very cold too. By the time I arrived at the mall I was ready to get warmed up. I should have worn gloves.

It was relatively easy to find what I needed and wanted to make something easy for dinner. I bought freshly made spinach ravioli, a jar of sauce, and a few additional items that filled up a bag. Now to find my way back.

I again walked through a park with many paths (discovering along the way that Google didn’t show me a quicker way to the store) and found my way back through the maze of pathways and used the nearby Still River to keep me on track, as well as the GPS on my phone. The Still River runs by the building where my flat is located.

When I got to where the building was located I got turned around and decided to contact my Airbnb host for help. The first time I’ve ever done that. I had even asked someone who lived in the area and he couldn’t find the building. Thankfully Hans, the Airbnb host, called me back quickly and guided me to the building. From there I found my way into the flat once again. Lesson Learned: On your first day in a new place, take the time to acquaint yourself with the outside of the building where you’re staying and the nearby streets.

Glad I found something easy and delicious to make. I hadn’t alway liked ravioli – probably because I had the canned version in the U.S. as school lunch. It wasn’t until I tried home-made ravioli that hooked me into liking it.

After dinner I wrote a travel blog entry that encompassed two days then watched the last two episodes of Merlin and an episode of the Twilight Zone. Sad that there are no more Merlin episodes to watch, even though I knew that he has to die in the end.

With the flat’s big windows, that don’t seem to be exceptionally well insulated, the flat never did warm up. Though I’m lucky to have a place where I can see the snow-covered mountains from both the front part of the house and my bedroom through the big windows. Not quite up to par with having a view of the Matterhorn, but a very nice one that I like very much.

Another comfortable bed to sleep in and look forward to a good nights sleep. Tomorrow I’ll wake up fairly early and head to the funicular that will take me up into the mountains, the ski resorts and views over the city. Tomorrow looks like it might be the last full day of sunshine while I’m here.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Vicolo Mattia Galasso, 13 (Trento, Italy)

Wednesday the 5th was a sunny day, though I could hear a strong wind blowing as I woke up. The wind kept up until I left the flat shortly after 1:00. Since there was rain most of yesterday I hadn’t walked around the old part of the city where I’m staying.

Thankfully I checked the temperature before I left the flat. It was in the mid-forties and the wind was still blowing. I put on a heavier sweater and away I went. I headed first to the nearby cable car that runs to a point high above the city but found out it was closed because of the high winds. From there I walked up and down the streets and took pictures of the well-maintained city.

I passed many nice shops, churches and restaurants on my walk. The streets seemed that they still follow the same routes that were laid out hundreds of years ago. There were a number of small alleys and walk-through buildings and could easily imagine how it must have been before cars came about. Most of the streets were reserved for pedestrians and cars were limited to a few through streets.

After a couple of hours of walking I was getting cold and walked back to the flat, but made a quick stop at the store to pick up a few more items. I now have enough now for my stay. Looks like I’ll enjoy chicken for the next three nights. I bought a package of two full chicken breasts and the cost was a little over 6 Euros, so my dinners will be very economical.

Today, Thursday the 6th, I walked to the cable cars and they were now open since the wind had died down and it was a bit warmer. Since I was going up in the hills I wore a heavier coat. I also stopped by the train station to buy my ticket to Innsbruck, but there wasn’t anyone selling tickets that could speak English. The guy who helped me because frustrated because I didn’t want to leave at 9:30 in the morning, so I decided to try to purchase the ticket online.

There were a number of people waiting to take the cable car this afternoon but I got on the next one going up the hill. It was only 5 Euros for the ride up and back. What a great view going up the hill and could feel my ears pop a couple of times before we reached the top.

At the top there was a viewing platform where we could look out over the valley where the city was and neighboring towns as well. Beyond the city we had great views of the snow capped mountains. I took quite a few pictures and a video while I was up there. I had considered taking the train to another city located nearby but changed my mind.

Tonight I got ready to leave for Innsbruck and used up most of the food I bought on Monday. I never did find out where to take the garbage so I put what I had into a couple of bags and dropped the garbage into a trash receptacle just down the street. Tomorrow I’ll take out the remaining trash on my way to the station.

It has been interesting watching TV programs while here in Italy. I’ve been using my VPN connection to access programs only available in the U.S. and sometimes using a hotspot connection from my phone. I’m able to view everything I want to see on Netflix and also CBS All Access. Now I have three streaming services to watch TV programs, not including YouTube, which is mostly a free service.

I’m going to miss the bed here in this flat. Probably one of the most comfortable Airbnb beds that I’ve slept in. Big fluffy pillows were also a plus and I’ve been sleeping very well.

Tomorrow I plan to be out of the flat by 11:30 to catch the train to Innsbruck that leaves the station at 11:59. I had read about a train accident just south of Verona, not too far from Trento, where a high-speed train left the tracks and two crew members lost their lives. I hadn’t received any texts from friends or family so maybe the news of the accident hadn’t traveled outside of Italy.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Vicolo Mattia Galasso, 13 (Trento, Italy)

This morning I woke up to rain hitting the skylight above my bed. After having so many nice days I guess I wasn’t expecting rain. Perhaps I should have checked the forecast. But I had hash browns and fried eggs to make for breakfast, so all was well. The bed here if very comfortable, but the curtains in the bedroom do not block the morning light – so I put a blanket over the window opening. Problem solved.

It kept raining much of the morning then cleared up later. By then I wasn’t looking forward to going out to explore. I’ve been keeping watch on early election results from Iowa, but there seems to be a problem with the software they were trying to use. Of course my project management brain knows that someone didn’t do enough testing before deployment of the application. But what a time for this to happen.

I’ve decided, after doing more research, that the prime spots for Dolomite viewing require a car then a hike. I guess the view that I have from here will suffice. Also found out that the Dolomites are considered to be part of the Alps.

Nice to be able to cook again. Just a simple meal of chicken, broccoli, and boiled potatoes for me. I don’t mind. Easy to make and it fills me up.

Watched two more episodes of Merlin last night and finished up on a Twilight Zone episode that cut out on me while viewing it the night before. The small TV in the flat is sitting on a far wall and getting to the HDMI input port will be difficult so watching on my laptop will have to do.

Tomorrow I will plan to walk around the city and try to go up on the nearby cable car to get a better view of the city and the surrounding hills. Not sure what I’ll do on my last day here. Maybe take the train to another place nearby to get a different view.