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Soul Journey

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Where to begin?

Perhaps not so much from where I last left off but more about where I am now.  Not in the physical sense but perhaps the emotional one….

It’s been about a month since I last wrote of my time in India.  Since then, I’ve been to Nepal for a week, two weeks in Thailand as a beach bum basically, and now in Bali, Indonesia.  Yet I write of the physical state and not the emotional one…

It’s a bit difficult.  To state the obvious—I am not ready for this journey to end in many ways, but in other ways I must for awhile at least.  My body is physically exhausted, so much so that a few nights ago I had to call a doctor.  Everything was fine afterwards, but it scared me quite a bit.  I awoke in the middle of the night with stomach spasms so severe I wasn’t able to stand up, much less get out of bed.  So now I find myself just kind of “hanging out” more than going, doing, and exploring like I was.  Yet again, I am not ready to call this journey over with either.  And it isn’t at this point.  I’m in the beautiful country of Bali with local people that are just so kind, sweet to talk to, and again so connected by their spirituality that gives them this essence you don’t find readily in daily life in the states.  Not really.  I don’t know what it is I am trying to say.  Perhaps this t-shirt I saw today says it best.  It had symbols on it for all the major world religions, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and it said, “God is so big he can’t wear just one label”….

How true is that?

As I look back on the countries I’ve been in and the kindness of people in spite of their social/economic situation—what sustains them is their faith.  Their beliefs.  Their thoughts.  That is where their happiness lies.  What brings them through realities we cannot imagine in our daily existence…is just that.  It is something I constantly struggle with within myself.  That believing all things are possible with faith, determination, and a dream. 

I have been so truly blessed in this lifetime in so many ways.  To have been able to live this past year doing what I have.  Seeing what I have.  Meeting some of the wonderful people I have.

So do you understand why I don’t want this journey to end yet?  I feel as if the best part has just begun.  I’ve just learned so much but have so much more to learn still…

So let me see what the road ahead still has in store.  I still have another week left in Bali then a few weeks in Australia before returning home to the islands.  It will be wonderful to see my family again.  I’ve missed them immensely, I realize this especially in my travels when I see little ones. 

But this soul still has much to learn on this journey of life and the road seems to be my best teacher of all thus far….

Let’s see where that road leads from here.

At the Water Temple

Trains, Towns, & traveling on…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I write this from my seat on the train to Prague, in the Czech Republic.  I’ve just finished up 5 nights in Budapest, Hungary after having spent a week in Vienna, Austria.  Next stop after Prague is Berlin, then on to Copenhagen, where a girlfriend awaits to show me her lovely city & countryside. 

The road, the rails, the rambling this soul has been doing is starting to catch up somewhat.  The week in Vienna was excellent, since I had the pleasure of a couple of girlfriend’s company.  It was great to not have to think ahead or plan anything or research a thing.  Do I sound like I’m getting a bit tired of this traveling nomad’s life??  Perhaps, yes—but the reality is when it’s over with, I’ll wish I was on the road again.  So I’m taking it all in stride as best as I can.  Let me recap some of the highlights of the cities I’ve just visited, while they are still fresh in my memory.

Vienna…  What an elegant city–that’s how I kept describing it to people I would talk with.  Sites that were just a delight to explore more than once were definitely Shonbrunn Castle & its beautiful grounds.  I believe it is something like 40 hectares in the heart of the city.  Simply gorgeous.  Tranquil, even with all the crowds that come to see it daily.  My dear TEFL classmate, Kathi, shared it with me my first day in Vienna.  What fun to explore the grounds, we never went to tour the inside of the castle; the grounds were so spectacular we didn’t want to spend our time indoors!  I returned on another day with a friend that joined me in Vienna for a few days, without really seeing the same areas in the same manner twice.  It truly is a splendid place to spend a day or several hours.

Kathi & Shonbrunn

Something I’ve come to realize in my travels is the real joy I find when I’m in nature.  It can be in a city park, a botanical garden, or lovely settings like the national park in Plitvice, Croatia.  I find serenity in these places, but also a real connection with the environment around me.  I knew this at a young age, when I decided to major in forestry in college, later finishing in horticulture.  After my travels are done, I intend to find work in a national park seasonally. 

Vienna has so much to offer it’s really hard to put into words the feelings I felt about the city, other than it is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, culturally aware, and just a real gem of a city.  The public transportation is excellent; there are bike paths throughout the city too, so if you are so inclined the choice is really up to you.  Fun experiences were at the Rathausplatz (town hall plaza) where my final night they had the opera “Carmen” on the big 50x 80 foot screen with incredible high definition & a sound system that was equally impressive.  All for free! =)  Also, the Praterplatz with its amusement park, the Danube River of course which my friend Tina took me out on for an afternoon cruise.  All equally wonderful experiences and the list could go on & on.

Rathausplatz

Next stop was Budapest…..

But now I’m on the train from Prague heading to Berlin.

Where to pick up?  I think from where I am—although I don’t want to side step Budapest. 

The city was also beautiful, but a definite air of depression seemed to cover it too.  The buildings were covered in soot, from years and years of traffic exhaust. It sort of gave the city a feel of the obvious in terms of the years of oppression from communist ruling and occupation.  The streets are all under some type of construction with a new metro line being installed, so the city felt like it was trying to come out of its past, but it has not emerged yet.  I hope it recovers the way that the Czech Republic seems to have. 

Prague is alive. 

Budapest was best experienced for me by hitting the amazing baths it’s renowned for.  The one I went to the first day was definitely my favorite.  I went to the Gellert Baths on my last day, which is known as one of the original bath houses.  The Szecheryr Furdo baths where I went first, were pure indulgence, vibrant, & filled with all kinds of people.  I spent a good 6 hours there that day, which flew by.  At the Gellert Baths I stayed maybe 3 hours and was ready to leave at that time…enough said.

Szecheryr Furdo Chess match

Bathing Buda-style!

Budapest also has some amazing sites to visit all of which I really enjoyed, from the Parliament where the crown jewels are on display, to its castle that overlooks the Danube from the Buda-side of the river, to Margaret Island, with its lovely gardens & bike paths to ride along under beautiful wooded paths, while the Danube is circling it’s coastline.  It’s what you make of it right?!  I indeed made the best of the city, in spite of a traveling companion who turned sour quickly.  I knew something was up when that feather floated down in front of me as soon as we entered our hostel—life really is like a box of chocolates….  =)

So as I said, previously Prague is ALIVE!

Its buildings are beautiful, its architecture amazing, the pastel colors of the buildings all speak to you as you walk by them, the tender care that has been taken of them is so evident everywhere you turn.  The city is vibrant, with tourists, locals, music & art forms everywhere you turn.  The weather while I was there was cold, rainy, but instead of feeling like remaining indoors I felt inspired to take photographs in sepia my first day out!  Does that tell you something?

Prague Castle from Charles Bridge

Prague also has a beautiful river flowing through it, called the Vltava River.  It also boasts the Charles Bridge with fantastic statues every few meters on either side of it.  There is no lack of great photography that has captured it from every possible angle & time of day, via the artists that line the bridge as you walk across to the other side of town where its impressive castle is known as Prazsky Hrad.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about Prague was it’s wonderful music scene, with composers such as Mozart having adopted it as a second home, during his glory days, it has brought a diverse population of musicians with the best you could ask for in everything from classical, to opera, to jazz, blues and beyond.  I was in Prague only for 4 nights but was able to hear live music for free in the Old Town Square two of four days, due to the Prague Jazz Festival being put on by the Agartha Jazz folks.  My last night I spent listening to some hot R&B, by a Scotsman named “Stan the Man” at the U Maleho Glena club.

Berlin—you have a tall order to fill!

Prague at night

Croatia Coastal Time…

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Good morning to you all, as I sip my lovely cappuccino delivered with a smile in the foam.  How can you not start the day off with a smile???  I am sitting in a lovely courtyard off this great little pension in the heart of Old Town Zagreb, Croatia.  I have beautiful flowers spilling out of their window boxes next to me and the waterfall just kicked into gear as did my coffee.  I am catching the 3:45 p.m. train to Vienna, Austria today and will be meeting up with a sweet TEFL classmate, Kathi, who just returned to her hometown of Vienna after living in Argentina the past year.  I’m sure we will have some fantastic catching up to do!!  But wait–I’m still in Croatia for the day and want to share about my time here in this country.

I arrived here after just a few days in Veronna and Venice, Italy.  It was a great way to begin my “water therapy” time after having spent the past 2 months or so in desert climates of Northern Africa and Israel.  I took the ferry from Venice to Pula, Croatia which is on the Istrian Peninsula area of northern Croatia.  The town is known for it’s old Roman colosseum ruins that overlook the harbor.  Nice point of entry and plenty of other ferry options to continue going south hopping into harbors of towns along the way. 

I must admit a bit of disappointment though when I got my first look at the “beaches” there….all rock.  Unique yes, it’s what the geography of the area is, that make up these islands, but for this tropical island gal it just was a bit of a let down.  On the positive side though the water was fabulous!  The Adriatic is a very inviting place to swim in.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had been diving in off of a sailing vessel instead!  Okay, I will state the obvious–spoiled to my island ways of life I’ve left behind just a little bit? =)

The towns were all gorgeous with cobblestone streets and fantastic ruins.  Arriving into the towns via water, on the ferries was a great way to get my perspective, along with a feel of the area before deciding to stay or move on.   I did this for Pula, Zadar, Split and then finally landed in Bol, where I stayed the longest.  It had just what this tired traveler was looking for, a village.  Not a town, nor a city.  And one of the most lovely stretches of beach these islands have to offer, Zlatni Rat.

Zlatni Rat Morning

I had met a really sweet couple on the ferry to Zadar who I ran into the morning I arrived in Bol, travelers from Ottawa, Canada, Lyne and Ghislain.  We made plans to meet up the next day for dinner and wound up spending another day going to Hvar Town together.  They heading on–me doing a day excursion and a “recon” investigation of Hvar Town, which after said inspection, this exhausted body said stay put!  Which I did.  I spent a couple more days on Bol,  from which I did another day excursion to Jelsa and Vabroska, beautiful little towns too.  I decided at that point to continue heading on south to more islands and towns which were beginning to look the same to this weary soul, that what I needed was to a change of scenery and to be with some friends that I could connect with beyond the chance travelers, even though those random folks you meet along the road is what this journey is about too.  

Pula Harbor

Lyne & GhislainBol Harbor View

 

Change of scenery is just what I got when I headed off to Plitvice National Park!  It’s forested, lush, waterfalls from travertine terraces forming beautiful lakes that are pristine in every sense of the word.  Visitors to the park are not allowed to swim in the waters and it’s fantastic to see lakes and marine life in an beautifully preserved environment.  I spent yesterday morning hiking through the park for several hours and did it ever give me the recharge I was so desperately needing and a chance to refocus.  I will miss the ocean for sure, I already do–wishing I could take a dive in the water again.  But good friends await me and new cities to explore.  In less than a month I will no longer be traveling the countryside of Eastern Europe’s great cities…I’ll begin two weeks in India finishing in Katmandu.  Wow!!

Plitvice Lake