Europe

ON THE PENINSULA

Ryan, the Kiwi who can fix any bike and makes a mean mulled wine.  

Ryan, the Kiwi who can fix any bike and makes a mean mulled wine.  

Olivier, the Frenchman who taught me the wonder of camembert and honey for breakfast. 

Olivier, the Frenchman who taught me the wonder of camembert and honey for breakfast. 

Peniche Harbor

Peniche Harbor

Daniel the Swede, whose love of surfing is only rivaled by his love of desserts.   

Daniel the Swede, whose love of surfing is only rivaled by his love of desserts.   

Brad, the mischievous American with beautiful ombre dreads.

Brad, the mischievous American with beautiful ombre dreads.

At Bar de Bruno, the best cafe in Baleal. 

At Bar de Bruno, the best cafe in Baleal. 

THINGS I LEARNED IN PORTUGAL:

1. Portuguese sounds like Russian.

2. When living in relative filth (camping) I turn surprisingly domestic. I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to "deep clean" the kitchen and would set the dinner table each night as though a tablescape is necessary when eating ramen mixed with tuna. 

3. Pangs of homesickness strike at surprising times. After ordering an iced coffee I practically flipped the table over in a rage when the server arrived with a tiny cup of espresso accompanied by tiny cup of ice. I was obviously expecting something that AT LEAST VAGUELY RESEMBLED a medium iced regula(r) from Dunkin Donuts: obscenely massive cup with at least 15 tablespoons of sugar. C'mon, Portugal. However, they did make-up for it with this

PORTUGUESE STORMS + SUNSETS

Since I was in Portugal during November, it wasn't always sunny surf weather. It was often chilly and rainy, making for some slippery bike rides and rather rustic igloo living. 

On the bright side, the storm clouds did make for some killer sunsets. There's a metaphor for life in there somewhere... but let's not get too deep and just enjoy the photos. 

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BALEAL, PORTUGAL

Two weeks in Portugal were spent on the little island of Baleal, a small surf spot off the peninsula of Peniche. I worked at a campsite/B&B to sleep for free in an igloo and have access to the surf gear.

I wasn't kidding about the igloo. 

I wasn't kidding about the igloo. 

There were 7 workers and only 1 guest at the B&B (Daniel, from Sweden), so Daniel became one of us and we all did the only 2 things there are to do in Baleal: surf and ride bikes. It was a simple and relaxing two weeks: we'd wake up, eat a big breakfast, ride our bikes down to see if the surf was good, maybe surf (I use that word loosely, more waves rode me than I rode them) or maybe ride bikes, work for a few hours, cook dinner and then get creative with YouTube for evening entertainment (we followed the Rosetta Mission Comet Landing and watched a dated Behind The Music on Dr. Dre - both equally fascinating). 

Daniel, the best guest. 

Daniel, the best guest. 

Our group included an Argentinian, Spaniard, 2 Italians, a Swede, 2 Americans, a Frenchman and a Kiwi. 

Our group included an Argentinian, Spaniard, 2 Italians, a Swede, 2 Americans, a Frenchman and a Kiwi. 

It was like being a kid on summer vacation. Which I'd now definitely recommend to any adult. 

BARCELONA, SPAIN

Despite Berlin's solid effort to pull ahead, a whirlwind trip enabled Barcelona to maintain it's position as my favorite European city. Dominating factors include: proximity to the coast and flip-flop friendly weather in November.

Barcelona consisted of: an adventurous night out which led to 48 hours of no sleep, art galleries, a bit of shopping, catching up with Matthew (an Oregonian ex-pat who once called Naples home and is now one half of the cutest couple in Barcelona), a trip to Park Guell and eating more Vietnamese food than is socially acceptable when visiting a Spanish country. 

AROUND BERLIN

Any place that requires me to buy a hat, scarf and gloves upon arrival has a tough chance of becoming a favorite but Berlin plowed through my cold-weather prejudice and left me smitten. 

When faced with a menu in a language I don't understand, I like to just pick at random and hope for the best. I was particularly pleased when ALL THIS arrived at my table for 4 Euros. 

When faced with a menu in a language I don't understand, I like to just pick at random and hope for the best. I was particularly pleased when ALL THIS arrived at my table for 4 Euros. 

My favorite day in Berlin was when Gianluca (an Italian from my hostel) and I rented bikes and did a self-guided street art tour. I'm usually a bit wary of bicycling in the city (face planting on South Huntington Ave in Boston and having to be rushed to the hospital in a stretcher will do that to you) but it was fantastic and definitely the best way to get around Berlin. 

We stopped into the   Michelberger Hotel   to warm up with some coffee and I've never been more enamored by cafe/bar  . So colorful and charming. I can't imagine what the hotel rooms look like.    

We stopped into the Michelberger Hotel to warm up with some coffee and I've never been more enamored by cafe/bar. So colorful and charming. I can't imagine what the hotel rooms look like.  

Berlin is quite big on repurposing abandoned places (there's even a website) so the next day I rode over to Tempelhofer, an abandoned airport turned public park. The massive space was lovely for riding around (on the runway!) and in better weather would be perfect for a picnic. 

The Jewish Museum proved to be the best historical museum I've ever visited. Certain sections of the actual building were designed to conjure up physical sensations within the visitor as they walk through (feeling sick, feeling alone) that symbolize the past, present and future of Jewish-German co-existence. It was tremendously effective.

This installation examined the industrial reproducibility of the torah as well as the relationship between man and machine. Titled "bios [torah]", it illustrated how the bios system (that all computers are built upon) is as "fundamental to the development of the machine as the Scriptures are the cultural history of mankind". 

This installation examined the industrial reproducibility of the torah as well as the relationship between man and machine. Titled "bios [torah]", it illustrated how the bios system (that all computers are built upon) is as "fundamental to the development of the machine as the Scriptures are the cultural history of mankind". 

LASTLY: before arriving, I figured the food in Berlin wouldn't be anything of note (bratwurst or whatever) but oh man, was I wrong. The food selection was epic. After a month of pizza and pasta in Naples, I was psyched about all the delicious ethnic food in Berlin (particularly Thai in Kreuzberg) and the doner kebabs were UNREAL. I barely consider kebabs to be serious food, just something you eat post-party at 3 AM but there's something about the bread they use that just takes it to a whole other level. 

Burgermeister, a burger joint in an (again) abandoned U-Bahn station (metro station). 

Burgermeister, a burger joint in an (again) abandoned U-Bahn station (metro station). 

In conclusion, German's excel at doner kebabs as well as engineeringI don't even have a photo of a kebab but I just needed to share that with the internet. 

NIGHTS OUT IN BERLIN

Berlin nightlife goes all night and into the morning (and into the afternoon at certain clubs) so a few big nights were in order with friends from the hostel. 

We skipped attempting to get into Berghain (Berlin's most exclusive night club) after receiving ridiculous advice on how to get in ("don't make eye contact with the bouncer", "wear black Nike's", "look a little gay but not TOO gay") but an eclectic bar crawl took us a 60's themed bar, a goth club, an absinthe bar, a bar inside an abandoned train station and a hip-hop club. 

My first night I met these 8 guys in the hostel kitchen and we all went out clubbing.  It was like the European version of Reggie, Bender, Trevor, Sean, et al. 

My first night I met these 8 guys in the hostel kitchen and we all went out clubbing.  It was like the European version of Reggie, Bender, Trevor, Sean, et al. 

Dancing at the last club I was reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut quote that talked about how foreigners don't hate us for our 'liberty and justice for all' but rather for our arrogance, but that they do love us for our jazz. I would add that they love us for our pop and hip-hop too as I happily joined a massive room of Germans getting down to this song with this dance. 

BERLIN, GERMANY

Ever since I landed in London, everyone and their grandmother has been telling me that I need to visit Berlin. As I have no set itinerary, after my month-long stint in Naples was over I decided to see what all the fuss was about and booked a flight. Luckily enough, my 5 day trip fell on the 25th anniversary of Fall of the Wall and the city was full of events for the celebration. I'm happy to report that everyone was right, Berlin truly is, seriously, awesome. 

I stayed at the JetPak Alternative Hostel in Kreuzberg which was the perfect location for just about everything. The hostel was beautifully designed, clean and safe despite having mixed reviews citing "aggressive drug dealers on the corner".  That turned out to be a bunch of Nigerian guys asking "you ok?" and offering "African cigarettes" that, when met with a response of "no thanks!" would simply say "ok bye" and leave you alone. Which if you ask me, is actually a polite group of immigrant entrepreneurs committed to customer service and convenience.

All weekend, the city was buzzing with events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. An obvious symbol for the Iron Curtain that divided Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall existed from 1961 to 1989. 104 miles long, the Wall (along with guards and barbed wire) was used to prevent people from escaping the Eastern Communist half of Berlin. Today, one of the sections that remains is called the "The East Side Gallery" and is covered with ever-evolving murals and street art. 

For the 25th Anniversary, 8000 illuminated balloons lined the entire path of the wall and were released into the night sky during the big concert. 

The big celebration event was at Brandenburg Gate and consisted of: food stands of delicious curry wurst and Glühwein, impressive projection mapping, live music including Peter Gabriel, a weak fireworks show (the Lincoln July 4th fireworks show would've put it to shame), and speeches from various politicians and public figures that seemed very emotional but I had no idea what they were saying. Plus a lot of German techno music. I can't say I'm fully behind techno yet but after enough Glühwein I'll bop around to just about anything. It was a great night. 

LAST OF NAPLES

Kris and I attended a HempFest and got hemp pizza. (Only effect was that it was crunchier)

Kris and I attended a HempFest and got hemp pizza. (Only effect was that it was crunchier)

I kept seeing so many English phrases on decorations or clothing around Italy and none of them made any goddamn sense. 

I kept seeing so many English phrases on decorations or clothing around Italy and none of them made any goddamn sense. 

THINGS I'LL MISS ABOUT NAPLES: pizza, ultra-colorful metro stations, Nocciola flavored everything, cheap fruits and veggies, the family that owns the fruit and veggie shop that scream at each other in Italian while I shop and have no idea what they're saying, gelato, the hills of the city, Kris playing John Mayer songs on piano while I bartend, ordering DELIVERY coffee (you call and 5 minutes later an Italian kid shows up at your door with a cappuccino and it's only 1.30 Euro! Why has this not caught on globally?), over groomed Italian men who kind of look like drag queens, ferry access to gorgeous islands, Matias' impression of this, the thrill of just crossing the street, walking by a volcano every day and buffala mozzarella. 

Next stop: Berlin (!)

PROCIDA

Procida is a dreamy little island off the coast of Naples. 

Procida is lovely for just walking around and swooning over the sun drenched, pastel crayon colored buildings all day. I took an outrageous amount of photos so keep clicking the photo below for a few more. 

FUN FACTS:  Procida was formed by the eruption of 4 volcanos, during Roman rule, it was a famous resort for patrician class AND it was a location for the filming of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Trying to get back to the port to catch my ferry, I waited 30 minutes for a bus that never arrived and then a tiny little Italian man who spoke no English (there was a lot of gesturing and me saying "autobus?" "dove?" and "non lo so?") offered me a ride on his scooter. I took him up on his offer and it was simultaneously terrifying and so, SO exciting and fun. Every time Giovanni veered from the path to the port, I became sure that this was it, I was going to die on a beautiful island at the hands of a chubby Italian man half my height and twice my width but of course, he would then stop and say "bella photo! bella photo!" and it became clear that he was just stopping at a scenic point so I could take a photograph of his lovely little island. He dropped me off safely at the port and left me wanting to only travel via scooter from here on out. 

LA CONTRORA HOSTEL

During my month in Naples, I did a workaway gig at La Controra Hostel to sleep/eat/drink for free and save money for my travels. La Controra was an oasis (high ceilings, garden courtyard) in the middle of the madness that is Naples, Italy and (bias aside) it's easily the best hostel I've ever stayed at. 

La Controra is actually a converted monastery, so when you turn to enter your first view is of this eery old cathedral.

La Controra is actually a converted monastery, so when you turn to enter your first view is of this eery old cathedral.

My job was to bartend, lead social activities and cook the Happy Hour Pasta. My culinary repertoire which was limited to stir-fry, omelettes and roasted veggies vastly expanded during my time there... so it now includes: stir-fry, omelettes, roasted veggies and about 15 different kinds of pasta dishes. PRO-TIP: cover everything in cheese.

My job was to bartend, lead social activities and cook the Happy Hour Pasta. My culinary repertoire which was limited to stir-fry, omelettes and roasted veggies vastly expanded during my time there... so it now includes: stir-fry, omelettes, roasted veggies and about 15 different kinds of pasta dishes. PRO-TIP: cover everything in cheese.

An enthusiastic and international (Mexican, German, Canadian and Argentinian) group at reception. 

An enthusiastic and international (Mexican, German, Canadian and Argentinian) group at reception. 

La Controra had an ideal central location, was comfortable for lounging about (this can be rare with hostels) and the built-in bar that was frequented by local Italians and travelers alike always proved to be a good time. Below are a few photos from our Halloween party where we had drink specials ("gin and bubonic" + "sex on a haunted beach"), "blood-and-guts veggie pasta" and I bought a hat and therefore, was a pirate. 

Alessandro:   the receptionist, l  ocal Nea  politan and my toughest pasta critic ("mmm. Not al dente.")

Alessandro: the receptionist, local Neapolitan and my toughest pasta critic ("mmm. Not al dente.")

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This guy (1/2 of a pair of American twins) fell asleep STANDING at the bar. He was not allowed any more Nastro Azzuro's. 

This guy (1/2 of a pair of American twins) fell asleep STANDING at the bar. He was not allowed any more Nastro Azzuro's. 

If you ever find yourself in Naples, get over to La Controra Hostel for a nice stay or at least for a pint of Peroni. 

VESUVIUS + POMPEII

Had a nice little touristy day at Vesuvius and Pompeii, two of the most famous historical sights around Naples.

Here's Vesuvius from the city of Naples (for perspective). 

Here's Vesuvius from the city of Naples (for perspective). 

 Now, here I am on the top of Vesuvius. 

 Now, here I am on the top of Vesuvius. 

Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano on the European mainland and the only one that's erupted in the last 100 years (1944). If or when it does erupt, there would be a 14-20 day warning period where approximately 600,000 people would need to evacuate the area. Let's hope that only happens after my stint in Naples is finished. 

After Vesuvius we took the train to visit Pompeii, the town that was destroyed and buried with ash from the 79 AD eruption. It was a mix of sad/creepy/fascinating but it was mostly wild visiting a place I've been learning about since elementary school. 

Ryan (a Kiwi I found on the island of Ischia and then brought back to the big city) is considerably taller than the residents of Pompeii back in the day. 

Ryan (a Kiwi I found on the island of Ischia and then brought back to the big city) is considerably taller than the residents of Pompeii back in the day. 

ISCHIA

A spontaneous trip to the island of Ischia with Mugu (the fun-sized Romanian manager at La Controra) led to: a ferry ride on the Tyrrhenian Sea, night swimming, a stay at a hidden paradise of a hostel and a morning at the hot springs. 

Ischia's a volcanic island and natural hot springs flow out of certain parts of the coast, so we hung out in the relaxing springs for a few hours before heading back to the hectic city. 

I visited Ischia a few days later for pumpkin pasta (which I was thrilled to see on the menu...Italy doesn't embrace the ultimate seasonal flavor nearly as much as it ought to) and to do a hike up Mount Epomeo. 

Just hanging out, in front of a sketchy cave.

Just hanging out, in front of a sketchy cave.

Never dressed appropriately for a hike. 

Never dressed appropriately for a hike. 

We made it to the top in 6 hours, just before sunset and had a steep trip down followed by boxed wine and cookies for dinner and of course, epic pizzas for lunch the following day. 

One of the greatest things about pizza in Italy is that people don't share them. It's just understood that everyone is going to eat an entire pizza themselves. Every pizza is a personal pan pizza. What a beautiful concept. 

HIKING ON THE AMALFI COAST

Kris and I headed to the Amalfi Coast to do the Path of the Gods hike, but refusing such practical things as maps or directions we found ourselves on a "more difficult and far less civilized" (according to one English tourist we ran into after) path that went UP the mountain rather than along it. 5 hours later, it ended up being a great workout with some killer views. 

We made it to the coastal town of Amalfi for dinner and gelato...

...and just in time for sunset. 

MORE AROUND NAPLES

Naples has a decaying kind of beauty to it and it's current look seems to reveal the eruptions, earthquakes, bombings, rebellions and conquests it's endured. 

Nowadays, Naples has an energy to it that's reminiscent of when you first step off the train at Penn Station in Manhattan. It's (loud) buzz is made up of the whirring engines of scooters, little cars honking and Neapolitans yelling in (what I've learned to actually be is) the most affectionate way possible.

Watching Italians interact with each other on the street (eyes wide, voices raised, hands flying) I keep expecting fist fights to break out but every time it ends with double cheek kisses and it's clear that they were just discussing their favorite type of bufala mozzarella or something. 

The other day I was sitting outside a cafe giggling at this book (Amazon Prime is just as awesome while abroad) when the whole city actually ROARED when a goal was scored in a Naples vs. Rome. I wasn't sitting within a block of a television but I swear the ground vibrated with cheers from miles around. These people truly express themselves.  

This kind of energy also makes for lively nights out, specifically in Piazza Bellini where everyone congregates just about every night of the week. There's a few cute bars surrounding it but everyone mostly buys 2 Euro beers and takes over the square with live music and loud conversation. With crowds blocking the street I'm floored that it's never broken up by the police because it's absolutely packed. It looks a protest or a riot or like Southie on St. Patrick's Day but it's just another night Napoli.