Monthly Archives: April 2011

Italy

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Easy, but long flights from Amman Jordan, then Riga Latvia, then Rome Italy.  I took a €6 bus into the city and eventually found Legends.  Got an expensive room for 3 nights.  I slept for a few hours, got up and found a piece of no-cheese pizza and some red wine…I was back in Italy and felt great.  My hotel was up near the main train station, so I had to walk to the tourist places.  This was holy week in Rome and the place was packed with us tourists.  My first walk was to the Vatican and it got dark as I got there.  Always a strange feeling to re-visit a place after 40 years.

There was a group of people doing the stations of the cross on the road leading to St. Peters Square.  They had a band to play music as they moved from place to place.  They have life size figures to represent the various people at each station.

One funny thing..pictures of John Paul 2 are all over Rome..not too many of the new guy.  The next day I went back to the Vatcan and went into St. Peters. Just as beautiful as i I remembered.  I went down to the crypt and visited the grave of John Paul 2.  Plenty of people praying and crying there..

I kept looking for the fountain of Trevi and the Spanish Steps.. Someone rearranged Rome!!!!

So the next day I visited the Vatican Museum and had a great time… I took my time and tried to see as much of it as I could. I do not remember it as being so large. When I saw it for the first time I just remember some statues some paintings and the Sistene Chapel.

I took as many pixs as I could and it took a long time to finally get to the Sistene Chapel. The guards were up front shouting “silencia” every few minutes. They really ruined the experience for me.

I sent a message to my friend Dean who lives up near Bologna that Rome was too crowded. He asked me to come up and visit him. I meet him on a bus going from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. He has an amazing outgoing personality. Full of life and happiness.  He works half the year to save money to travel and we have been to many of the same places.

The night before I left Rome, I was determined to find the fountain 0f Trevi and the Spanish Steps.  I walked about an hour down to the area near the major tourist places…asked plenty of people and finally found both places.  American Express was still there next to the steps, just like it was in 1971…  So I felt Rome did not beat me… nice going back, but I wanted out.  I never threw any coins into the fountain this time… no plans for me to return to Rome… just to get my jet to Spain on May 6….

I got a very nice train up to Bologna.. my first super train..nice and smooth.  There was Dean to welcome me.  We got in his old Mercedes Benz car and drove to his Village about 30ks from Bologna.  Dean’s parents could not have been nicer to me.  For 4 days I have lived the good life here.  Poppa and Momma are great cooks and have made pasta, salads, fish, calamara and shrimp for me.  All meals have red or white wine.  Dean’s father has a great wood fireplace in the kitchen and cooks some of the food on it.  I WANT ONE SOMEDAY!!!

My days have been full of trips to Raveena, trips to the sea and Bologna.  I have been riding a bike around this little village of Medicina.  I am living a very easy time up here in northern Italia… so much different than Roma.  Tomorrow I go to Ferrara, another medeval town, full of churches and art.  So 10 more days and off to Spain…How is it that I get so lucky with good friends and times??

Ferrara was a good choice..the city centro was very nice.. I walked all day and got back to the local train station. Dean’s mom picked me up. Dean, his friend Andy and I went to see a live show at a bar about 20 k away. There was a guy from Germany who played the banjo and sang very strange songs. He played the bass with his feet on some kind of electrical input device. I recognized 2 songs.. Will the circle be unbroken? Was one of them.

I got on a train on 29 April 2011 and got to Venice. Not much is left in my mind about the first time I was there. I just remember it being cold, rainy and I was sick.

This time was so much better… I had 3 full days here and keep busy walking, taking boat rides all over, eating pizza (no cheese) and drinking red wine.

Jordan

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So the journey from the Punjab to Jordan was 48 hrs. and not that nice.  A very long bus ride from Jalandar to the Delhi Airport, a long wait for a flight to Mumbai another long wait through the nite for the flight to Kuwait another long wait for the flight to Amman, Jordan.  If I had a travel agent I would have fired them.

I wanted to go to the real Middle East, but I thought it could be somewhat dangerous with a US passport.  So I choose Jordan but only for 5 days.  This was my shortest stay of my trip. This turned out to be a great choice.

I ran into a couple of Jordanians when I was leaving Bangkok and they gave me a list of things to do and I did everyone except a sleepover in the desert in a Beduane tent.

I stayed at an excellent hostel and my timing was right.  The first day I visited the Citadal, another Roman ruin.  We then visited Jerresh which was another old Roman site.  I was lucky to see a chariot race and mix with the fake gladiators.

The next day we went to Mt. Nebo the place where Moses died and could see the promised land, the Israel border, and then for a swim in the Dead Sea.  I was surprised how well you float there.  I made a friend with a medical student from Taiwan and we went to Petra together the next day. 

Petra is in the south of Jordan and is a once in a lifetime event.  I did not know much about it before we got there.  It was an incredable day.  We paid $75 to get in.  You walk down to the horses and take a short ride to an amazing rock gorge.  As we approached the Treasury, Dr. Zak said…this is why we came… A temple carved out of the rock suddenly appeared.  The passing of horse drawn carts, people on camels and donkeys really added to the experience.  When you hang with 26 year old kids, you have to keep up with them.  I really got my exercise during my visit to the Petra site.

One of the important things about Petra is that used it to make Indiana Jones.  That night we walked up a very steep hill and had a great Jordanian dinner.

I caught a bus back up to Amman and had a relaxing day walking around the town  in the middle of the city there is a very old Roman ampitheatre which is in pretty good shape.

I bought another filahel and also got an Arabic robe to wear back home.  I put it on in the roman theatre and when i came out the guard said…you went in as a New Yorker and you came out as a Jordanian.

The flight to Riga Latvia was very nice..the sun rose over Europe and as we landed I could still see ice in the Baltic… I thought about Andy an old family friend who came from Riga… Hope to get back here to visit my friends from Lithuania.

Written at the Riga airport 20 April, 2011

India

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When i landed in Mumbai it was still a shock to be back in India. I guess it was seeing the large cows in the street which reminded me that India had not changed much in 39 years.

I stayed a few hours at a hotel near the airport. Not much worked at that place. But i did get some sleep. My train ticket was delivered and i took a “putput” ride to the train station. Not even the worst slum scenes in slumdog millionaire could capture the sheer pandemonium, crowded streets and the poverty around the train station. 

The ride to Jalandhar was long but I was in a cabin with a very nice group of people.  They kept feeding me and i now know that i like marsala..potato fritters.  It is funny that i choose the train to see India.  My window was two paned and the moisture on the inside made it impossible to see outside…welcome to India.

When the train arrived after 36 hrs. My friend Kumar was there to meet me.  He took me on his scooter to his home and I met his wife and his daughter and son. Nice to be with a real family.

The big deal was the world cricket final between India and Sri Lanka. India won the game and the city was full of fireworks and people were beating drums and riding around screaming. I was on the back of Kumar’s bike screaming..yeah India!!!!!!
“We’re number 1”

We got a bus the next day to Amritsar to see the golden temple.  It has been 39 years since i visited this place.  I did not remember that i had to take off my shoes and cover my head to get in.  The place was crowded and Kumar explained the religious significence of the different things inside.  We also visited a place were the British killed 900 people in 1919.

The next day we took a train to Jammu and then a station wagon up into the himalyas.  After 11 hours we arrived at Srinagar and took a small boat out to a house boat and stayed there four nights.  We got some very nice tours of public gardens, holy hindu temples, boat rides and one day we went by jeep way up into the mountains.

This trip was an adventure.  I have been on rides on the sides of mountains all over this world.  My trek through rural Kashmir probably was the most dangerous.  Large portions of the roads were washed out and the jeep had to go through washed out areas with deep water.  The guy in the front seat had to keep a watch for rock slides.  We finally arrived at a very old stone temple that the indian government is restoring.  The stone work reminded me of Greek  and Roman construction.  I was told the structure was probably built by the Persians.

The weather was cold up there in the mountains.  Most of the people wore a warm  garment called a Fairon.  I was cold and the owner of the boat we stayed on loaned me a fairon to wear.  The people carry around little clay pots with burning charcoal.  They keep them under their fairons to keep warm and call them their “winter wives”.

Kashmir was a great experience but an expensive one.  I bought a handmade silk rug, 2 woven rugs, a silver ring, a couple of necklaces for Abigail and Alissa and a little wooden box for me.  I felt this was the one chance to get somethings very nice to remember the Himalayas.  How many people get to visit such a remote place twice in their lives.

Now off to Dharamshela… Written at the Srinagar Airport..

btw.. Kashmir is an area India and Pakistan have been fighting over for years.  The roads up to the lakes is like one big armed camp.  Numerous forts along the way. In some places there were armed soldiers every 100 meters along the road.  The airport security was tough, 4 body scans, 4 patdowns and my bag was searched 4 times.

I knew I heard of Dharamshala before, this is the home of the Dalai Lama. This is where many Tibetan monks live.  We stayed near the bus station, as we arrived very late. The next morning I went outside to see a large city surrounded by snow capped mountains.  I was sitting there nice and comfy and all of a sudden, a very large monkey appeared in front of me.  I am not afraid of them, but this one gave me a good shock.

We got a taxi up to the temple/tourist trap.  This is where the Dalai Lama lives but he was too busy to see me…. 🙂

This hilltop had all kinds of tourists….some looked like they had been on the road a little long. All kinds of items from Tibet and they take visa and master card.  We got to go into the temple and see a group of monks chanting “o mony pot my ommm”.

Another long bus ride to Mandi, India.  I played Barry Manilow’s Mandy on my samsung but no one seemed to get the joke.
The next day off to a real kool temple, located way up in the mountains.  You need to spend a few hours on a bus from hell, along roads made for ox carts but now used by full sized busses and trucks. Plenty of curves above gorges and again..no guardrails!!!

My life is in the hands of someone who has been good to me so far…. When I get myself into incredible situations and places I wonder what I did to deserve such amazing gifts…

We went to Menali, again way up in the mountains and spent a nite walking around.  Again another temple.. Kumar lived there and left back in 1966. He showed me his old school and the area where he lived.

The next day we took 3 busses back to Jahlendar. After 14 hours we arrived back at his house.  The long ride from the bus station back to his house was kool. We took a bike rickshaw through deserted streets.. The bus system here is somewhat bizarre… Most of then