Every now and then while you are traveling the world, take a moment to indulge yourself in a small reminder of home. Movie night in Lithuania is the same all around the world, no matter where you live. It was my first time watching this silly movie, and I laughed even harder among friends. Can you tell which one it is? Drop me a line! I’ll give you a hint, it’s a Disney movie.
Ever felt the urge to go someplace so far away from the normal, the big cities, and tourist traps? A place that not only has retained its’ charm, makes you feel like you’ve entered into a unique world?
Neither have I, but on a visit to friend in a small town in southern Austria called Graz, I stumbled upon a park littered with unique works of art. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!
So you have a vacation, and you want to go to Scotland. Great! Get ready for a unique experience. Glasgow and Edinburgh are two of the largest cities in the region, and both have their attractions. Between the two, I was drawn toward the latter, because of my affection for castles.
First things first, where to stay. If you are short on time, and want to meet interesting people who could introduce you to the best spots in town, try the Light House hostel. Walking distance to the center of town, and with a few minutes more, you are standing beneath Edinburgh castle. One of the greatest things I liked about this hostel is the people. It’s locally owned, not a corporate chain. The full kitchen on the 2nd floor lets you cook your own meals, and each night within the common room you will find a new event each night to enjoy with other travelers.
Night has fallen, you’re looking for a good pub, and the castle hasn’t gotten your attention? The hostel has the best recommendations for any given night, but I found myself exploring on my own, then later with others I met along the way.
During the day, Arthur’s seat is a must if you are not afraid for a mild hike on the outskirts of the city. The panoramic views are the best way to see the city. It was cloudy, and dared to rain on my visit, so I never tried.
It was Christmas season when I visited, and the Christmas market was full of carnival games and rides, a full maze of seasonal trees with decorations for the occasion. Of course, you can also find candy, chocolate, festive clothes, gifts and souvenirs for yourself and your family back home.
Grab your camera, you won’t want to miss Edinburgh!
Hop in your car and drive toward the Nivolet Pass. At 2612 meters, or 8570 feet, you will be able to see the landscape below, and the surrounding lakes. The road is narrow, and the turns are tight, but both the journey there and destination will reward you with a great view among the clouds.
So there I was, restless, staring at the ceiling of the bottom bunk in my hostel, and I was ready to go anywhere on a Friday night in Grenada. It’s 11pm, and I just arrived in the city after my bus from Barcelona dropped me off at the station, and I had no idea what I should do since sleep clearly wasn’t happening anytime soon. Opening my phone, I checked Facebook for local events. Nothing caught my eye, so I switched to google maps, searching for potential vistas for night photography. I quickly found an icon of a castle, Alhambra. The photos looked amazing, but sadly, the attraction was closed. Never before have I seen a castle, so choose to walk the 30 minutes to see it with my own eyes.
As I approached the main gate, I noticed it was “still” open. A handful of people were also coming and going, so I passed through the metal gates. Standing on the other side was the courtyard my imagination went into overdrive. It was dark, yes, hardly lit any better than the moon light in some places, but it was fun to think just a few hundred years ago men & women of Moorish and Christian faith fought to defend, or take these walls in battle. Along the ramparts I pictured the guards walking on patrol, torch in hand. And I pictured those same guards fiercely defending the walls during a siege. For the next half hour I continued to walk the grounds, still captured by my own imagination at every turn.
At some point I heard the bell ring, signaling midnight had a arrived. I wasn’t quite ready to leave, but ironically it was at this point when I discovered leaving may no longer be a choice!
Now standing atop a wall with a view of the main gate, I could clearly see the mental doors closed shut! Alarmed, I ran back to the gate. Both the inner, and outer doors were barred with large iron rods. As I inspected them closer, I noted security hadn’t improved much over the years. Opening them would’ve been easy from the inside, but this was no ordinary door. This was historic. If I, an untrained tourist, tried to move the metal bars and caused scratches or real damage to any of the hinges, would I even be allowed to leave the country for the rest of my life?
I turned around, and walked further into the castle grounds. I knew there had to be another way out. Earlier, I spotted several locals still walking about. Although I hadn’t seen any of them for some time, I suspected, hoped, one of them would know of an open exit.
Eventually, I came upon what was obviously a hotel inside the castle. A taxi cab arrived and dropped off two of its’ passengers. I was relieved. All I had to do was follow the car to where it came from and I would be back on my way to my hostel. My small crisis of being the main character in the new hit movie “Locked In The Castle” was over.
Back in my hostel, I stare at the ceiling of my bottom bunk. No longer restless, but smiling fondly at my new tale I would later retell to friends and family alike on several occasions.
If you’re ever in Grenada and feeling adventurous, check out Castle Alhambra! And if you’d like to learn where you can snap a cool photo of the fortress at night, follow me on Instagram and send me a DM!
You will many many people along the way. Some of whom you will befriend , others you may never see again. There will be missed encounters, there will be times when you wonder what the hell are you doing out here, and times when you would rather be no where else. Every day will be an expense, but also a memory. There will be times when you will be bored out of your mind, times when you long for something constructive to do. There will be times when you are snapping amazing instragram photos, putting on a good face for your friends back home and online, when the next day you are in tears missing family. You will miss your plane, train, bus, tram, boat on occasion and forced to be flexible or cancel or reschedule an evening. But there will also be fleeting moments of discovery. Moments when you recognize a truth, one you may have always known but never accepted. Alone these moments may not change your life significantly, but they might be enough to make a place special, one which you would want to return to.
If you are the organized type who planned every destination, and every day of your trip… bravo! I am not a member of this specifices and so I also spent many days wonderiong what will I do tomorrow? What do I have the passion to do tomorrow? What will motivate me to get out of bed and go? Not having a plan but still havig daily expenses will help you understand what is important to you, and what is not. But it can also lead you into those moments of depression where you wished you did have a plan, or found a travel partner to help you discover things you never would’ve known about.
Switzerland, a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast and an excellent addition to your iteniary. Rivers, torquiose lakes, snow capped mountains, green forests, and trails are all around you. Each no more than a hop & skip away with its’ world-class transit system. Getting there is half the fun, and on my recent adventure I learned how to make my next trip easier.
First, download the SBB Mobile App. This little gem will help you find schedules and tickets for trains and buses to get around the country. If you download this ahead of time, you may find seasonal deals, or discounts for a zone. You can pay for your ticket on your phone, and simply present the QR code to the ticket officer.
If you know you will be around for a while, a 3-day or 7-day ticket may be the best deal.
Google maps is really good at providing accurate train schedules, but the app is better, because it will also tell you the platform number, and include details of the route more concisely.
You will spot platform officers standing next to their trains, or busily walking about the platform at any station. If you are not sure where you need to be to catch your train, to ask them a question. Just remember their job is to keep the trains running on time, like clockwork. Your train will leave at the appointed time, and hardly a moment later. So try to find a tourist information kiosk first.
Intercity trains in Switzerland have a power port above the window. It is the same type used everywhere else on the peniusla, so feel free to charge up on those long day trips around. Local inner city trains don’t have a power connection.
Wifi is fairly strong in most places in the country, even in tunnels and the mountain peaks, and the lowest valleys with 4g almost consistent. Your train does not have a wifi connection however, so if you want data get a sim card.
It is highly recommended to exchange your Euros for francs at an exchange, which are common inside or near at major train station. Euros are accepted in most places, but you may not get a favorable exchange rate through a vendor. Most will caution you about this before your purchase. Using your credit card is an option, but then you must rely on your bank to give you a good rate.
Once on the train, try to avoid confusing first class seating with second. Your ticket is likely going to be second class if you are on a budget. If the chair looks too nice, feels too comfy, and you are surrounded by suits and ties, then you are likely in the wrong car. There are signs on the train, and on the platform that will help indicate where you want to be. Also, the fee for sitting in 1st class without the proper ticket is 100 francs. The ticket officer was kind enough to let me go without paying a fee if I simply relocate myself.
With a swiss pass for the day, you may earn a discount on other activities / tourist spots. I was able to get 50% off on the lift to Oeschinensee lake! This saved me an hour of hiking through the forest, but if I had the time, I would skip the lift entirely.
That’s all for now until my next trip!
What had happened was
I arrived arrived at my connecting station with precisely 10 minutes to spare before my connecting train to Kandersteg departed. My plan for this time was simple, find the correct platform, and the closest restroom, get some food, and board my next train. Simple right? Wrong.
Every business has a beginning, and this is where you talk about yours. People want to know what opportunity you saw or how your passion led to the creation of something new. Talk about your roots--people wanna know you have some.
The Journey Continues...
Thanks for reading this chapter of my adventure around the world! To read more stories, click on the link here and subscribe when others are released.
Today, I write the first page of a story that will take me across oceans, language barriers, and cultural differences. More than any I may write in the future, this will be the most surreal. Because this is the day when a vague idea, bullied by adversity, became a solid part of my reality. Years of saving what I earn, sacrificing what I can do without, and a steadfast belief have paid off. Yet this idea would never have become anything more than a spark without a bottle of courage to abandon the wheel.
I’ve traded a life and career with a comfortable routine for one filled with unexpected encounters & experiences (😊 and ☹), and where no two days will ever be the same. I cannot know how this story ends, but with absolutely clarity I can see to get where I must be, I must put my own feet in front of me. One and then the other on the path less travelled.
And so, my journey begins…