Backpack Europe Homepage

What's New
Travel Tips
Hostels, Hotesl, etc.
Travel Links
Other Stuff
Site Index


Last updated February 07, 2016. 

Travel Tales

Alan Gamboa Traveled Europe July 1999-Sept. 1999

July 5, 1999 August 1, 1999 September 5, 1999
July 14, 1999 August 9, 1999 September 19, 1999
July 21, 1999 August 18-19, 1999 September 25, 1999
August 28, 1999


August 18, 1999 Halfway Through the Trip Eclipse Summer Blow Out Edition

Yes Iīm a little more than halfway through my trip now... 6 weeks down, 5 weeks to go.

When I last wrote I had just arrived in Florence.  I donīt think I would have chosen to go to Florence before I went there, it was Nadineīs idea... but Iīm glad I went (way to go Dine).  Florence was a really cool city.   It was beautiful to just walk around like Venice, but I still got the idea that there were normal people going about normal lives in a real city. So Nadine and I saw all the big sights.  The Duomo there is the largest and most beautiful church Iīve seen, itīs incredible.

Our last day in Florence was the day of the eclipse... an eclipse not visible in America.  We went up to Pizalle Michealangelo which is on a hill above Florence to see it.  We heard that it was going to be about a 90% eclipse, so we kind of imagined sunset all around us.  But really all that happened is that it looked like a cloudy day and it wasnīt so hot.  We looked at it through special dark glasses, and we could see that the sun was only a crescent, so we were both surprised that it didnīt have a greater effect on things.  Oh well, there was a great view of Florence from up there and I drew a picture of the Florence skyline which the Italian lady next to me called, "Bella" and when I was finished with it she said, "Bravo."  I was quite flattered considering I was in the city in with the Renaisance was born!

And as the day wore on it came time to depart.  We had a nice dinner together (best lasagna we ever ate) and then headed for the train station.   Nadineīs train was leaving first, so we said our good byes and she was off.

So I was in the station, figuring out what I wanted to do in Switzerland.  I didnīt even have time to feel lonely when adventures started coming my way.  A German gal, about 20, came up to me and asked me if I was German (in German).  So I replied (in German), "No, but I speak a little German."   So then she went into this fast paced speal which I didnīt fully understand, but I caught the jist of it.  She and a friend had been in Florence for two minutes and somebody had stolen their bag with all their money in it.  She asked for my help (although I didnīt know what I would be able to do) and who am I to refuse? So I put my backpack on and we ran about the station trying to figure out what to do.  We were hoping maybe the bag would be found or something.  I was surprised that she didnīt speak any English because we were having some problems with our German, but then I found out she thought I was Italian.  So when she found out I was American we started using some English too.  The police werenīt much help... apparently this kind of thing happens every day at the Florence train station. Soon a German guy and an Italian guy were trying to help the girls too, but there was nothing really anybody could do.  But apparently their friends were arriving soon and theyīd be OK.

So from an interesting, tiring, dark, night in Florence, I got on the night train to Zurich.  When I woke up, high in the Swiss Alps I was in Heaven. Switzerland is easily the most beautiful country Iīve been to on this trip.   Even from my first glimpses of it out the window I knew that to be true... itīs just green with meadows and forests and the Swiss just know how to make buildings and houses that donīt intrude on the landscape.  Itīs an amazing place.

I stayed in Zurich just long enough to catch my connecting train to Interlaken.  It was in Interlaken that I first truly felt alone.  I got to my hostel, the Funny Farm, and I was just blank.  I was by myself in a new country in a new place and I was thinking, "What am I doing here?"  So I decided to just go for a little hike in the surrounding hills and it started to rain, so I took shelter and finally made my way back. I was planning to stay 3 days, but at this point I was thinking of leaving early... but then things turned completely around and I ended up dragging myself away after 5 days.  When I got back to the Funny Farm a met a couple of Australians named Farmer and Cam.  And hung out with them (and a Swiss couple, I forgot their names) for the night.  So I was feeling better, but things really picked up after that.

I was sharing my room with a South African guy named Robert.   So on the second day I decided to ride mountainbikes and I invited him along.   Now Robert is a total Jeff Geibel look alike (long curly blonde hair).  And even though heīs 30, he excercices and is thus in better shape than me (so is Jeff).   So he was usually in the lead on the mountainbikes.  Jeff and I also ride mountainbikes sometimes (donīt we, Charlie?).  So anyhow, Iīm quite accustomed to following around a blonde mop all day.  It was kind of like hanging out with Jeff.

So Robert and I ended up hanging out most of the time and were also joined by Jason (from Australia) and did lots more hiking and other weird things in the Swiss Alps.

So now Iīm in Barcelona being pressured to get off this computer because others are waiting for it.  So Iīll have to save Spain for another letter.

Take care all, see you in 5 weeks!


August 19, 1999 Halfway Through the Trip Eclipse Summer Blow Out Edition Part 2 (Transmitado en espaņol en SAP)

OK, I wasnīt done yet, this is the blowout edition (yah).   I was going to write a bit more, so here I am with part 2 I guess.

OK... so back to "weird things in the Swiss Alps." After I went biking with Robert, we met this Australian named Jason and started hanging out with him too.

So the next day we went hiking to the top of a smaller mountain (1967 meters, but we were already pretty high to begin with so we didnīt really climb ALL of that). The hike took 4 hours and we had a good time just chatting about life, the universe, and everything.  We reached the top after about 4 hours, but were robbed of our panoramic view by dense clouds... but the hike itself was very scenic too, so it was worth it.

On our way back down, I guess they let the cows out or something.  We could  hear them through the fog because they all have these really loud cow bells, but we didnīt see them on our way up, just on the way down.   So we played with the cows, trying to feed them, and taking pictures with them and stuff, then headed back down the mountain.

I was planning to leave for Barcelona that night (my 4th day in Interlaken), but we got back too late.  So I was quite happy to stay another night.   For some reason, Robert and Jason decided to get a jungle game of cricket going.   So they took a big board and sawed it into the shape of a cricket bat (which is kind of like a paddle).  A couple New Yorkers named Jimmy and Matt joined us.   So of course, Americans know nothing of cricket and it had to be explained to us. Apparently in cricket, there is a wicket.  And the bowler (not to be confused with a pitcher) bowls a ball at the wicket (not to be confused with pitching a ball).  If the ball hits the wicket, youīre out.  And if you hit the ball certain distance you get certain ammounts of runs (points).  At least thatīs how the jungle version went, but we ended up not really keeping score anyway.

So after a few rounds of that and all that hiking, we were pretty tired and hot... so we decided to go for a dip in the freezing swimming pool.   I mean, it was pretty cold up there already, but the pool was just yikes.   There was a surfboard in the pool so we attempted to jump on it and surf across the pool. This time the stakes were up.  The person who went the smallest distance had to buy a round of beers.  So at first we were just falling right off... but on Robertīs second try, his surfboard hit the opposite end of the pool!  But then Jason went and he managed to step off the surfboard on the other side!  So I had to do the same or lose!  So I managed to get one foot on the other side of pool, which was better than Robert.  So Robert had to buy the beers.  After all that we were bushed so we called it a night.

So the next day I left Interlaken at about 3:00pm to hang out in Bern for a couple of hours before catching my train to Barcelona from there.  Bern is pretty cool... itīs the capital of Switzerland, but itīs really just like a giant village.  I walked all around the old town to the bear pits, but there were no bears. :(

On the train to Barcelona I met a couple American guys whose names I canīt remember and a girl from Minnesota named Amanda.  So I spent the last day and a half in Barcelona with Amanda, who is studying in Madrid.  So weīll probably hang out again when I get there.  Now Iīve been hanging out with an Israeli guy named Gaddy. So I truly have not been alone at all since Iīve been traveling alone.   So donīt worry about me (if you were worrying).  More on Spain in the next letter though.

Appendix B: A Day and a Half in the Life of Traveling Alan

Why appendixes?  I donīt know.  Iīm just amused by having appendixes and doing weird things in my letters.

So anyhow, I was kind of vague about Greece and I thought I might give a pretty detailed account of a day and a half I spent on Naxos, which was pretty typical of what it was like on the Greek islands.

So Iīm staring with the half, if that makes sense. Nadine and I got back from the beach and were happy to just hang around at the hostel and relax reading the books we just got at the used book store.

So Dine was reading inside, and I was reading on the patio.   Soon, people started coming home from a day out and getting ready to go out for the night.  First Brun (Australia) came up and we started chatting. Then Donna (Australia) came up and we were all talking.  Then Cecilie (Norway) came up to the patio and we had quite a group going.  Apparently everyone was going to a Tavern for a going away party of this other Australian girl who had been working on Naxos and now was leaving.  So we were walking around the town, picking up more people and soon we had a small mob together.  I was mostly chatting with Cecilie. She had two weeks of vacation and was really traveling by the seat of her pants.  She went to the airport and just bought the first ticket for Southern Europe... it happened to be Greece, so there she was.  Soon she was going to be going on a 9 month trip around the world! I guess they have plane tickets that let you do that. She intended to stop in Florida to go to Disneyworld, but I told her she should come to California and go to Disneyland instead.   So she said she wanted to go to Disneyworld because itīs always on TV and stuff, but I told her that itīs usually Disneyland on TV, and started telling her about Roscoeīs Chicken n Waffles, and that I could probably give her a place to stay. Thatīs a real common thing for travelers to do, Iīve invited a few people and been invited and that kind of thing.  Itīs just nice to have a place to stay in a strange town and good company to show you around.  Iīm not sure if she was convinced that California was better than Florida, but maybe she was... so maybe some of you will get to meet her.   Sheīs a real fun girl.  I may or may not visit her in Norway, really donīt know.  That mostly depends on time.

So anyhow, we finally made it to the tavern... then I realized that I had locked Nadine in our room at the hostel!  Most European locks work differently than the typical American lock, so itīs very easy to lock someone in (thereīs a key hole on both sides of the door).  Nadine decided to stay in and sleep instead of going out, so I figured... Iīll just lock the door on my way out, dum de dum de dum, not realizing that I was locking her in.  So I had to run all the way across town back to the hostel to open it.  I invisioned Nadine in the room jumping about needing to go to the bathroom or something and being freaked out about being locked in the room... but I got back and she was asleep so no worries.  Also, I was able to grab my camera which was cool.  So far, I only had pictures of monuments, cities, that kind of thing... so I was like great... Iīm gonna get home and itīs going to look like I was Mr. Non-stop tourist and I didnīt even meet anyone or do anything... so I was glad to finally get some pictues of some of the people I had met.

When I got back to the tavern, everyone was already eating and drinking and having a good time.  We had been joined by Marcel and Scott (Australia) and a few Greeks whose names I never learned.  One of the Greeks was the owner of a museum in town (where the Australian girl had been working).  So he was encouraging us to eat and drink up, telling us that it was a party and that he was paying.  But we were all pretty aprenhensive since we were all pretty poor and didnīt want to get stuck with a bill.  But he kept ordering things for us!  In the end it was no problem and he paid and all, it was quite a fun, international time. Afterwords, a bunch of us went to the port to just hang out a bit more.  I was the only American there so they were giving me lots of crap (good-humoredly). The Aussies tell me that Americans never meet people because they travel in groups of 30 and that they refuse to try and speak the local language, "Oh my gosh, I canīt believe they donīt speak English here, I mean, hello, this is a touristy area and stuff."  That was Donnaīs impression of an American tourist. :) Americans are also know for having absolutely no knowledge of geography.  Cecilie told a story about how she was in the airport in Oslo when she was approached by an American woman in her 50īs (in her 50īs!) who asked, "Everyone has such a strange accent here, what state am I in?"  So Cecilie had to explain about how the woman got on a plane and flew over the ocean and now sheīs in another country called Norway. So it was pretty embarassing for me, but we were just having a good time so it was fun.  On the positive side, we Americans are known for being extremely friendly and pretty fun in general.

Finally about 4am we made it back to the hostel were I collapsed into bed.  About 10am I woke up because this was our last day on Naxos and I intended to climb to the top of Mt. Zeus (the highest mountain in the Cyclade islands).   Nadine wasnīt up for that and she still wanted to shop for something for her friend Tamiīs birthday.  So I headed off on the bus, the Greek music blaring, other car almost hitting, swerving, scarying me to death bus... but what a ride!

I arrived in Filoti, the village at the foot of Mt. Zeus and ate a gyro pita for 300 drachma (about a buck... you gotta love a country with $1 gyros!). Then I headed off in search of the trail, which I heard was tricky to find.

Now by this time I had picked up a handful of Greek words because Iīm interested in language and just like to do that (yeah, thatīs right, I speak other languages, so nyah Donna!  nyah!  And I know geography too!)  Anyway, it can get me in trouble too, because people often think I know more than I do.  So I asked a Greek guy, "Signomi, Zas?" (Excuse me, Zeus?) and pointed in various directions to indicate my confusion as to which direction the path lay.  So he went into this long speach in Greek eventually laughing and saying, "Mentalo noveno?"   Which Iīm pretty sure means, "You donīt understand?"  So finally, he sent me in the wrong direction, I guess thatīs what I get!

But going in the wrong direction I ran into Alan (Canada).   He also was intending to climb Mt. Zeus, so we decided to go at it together.   We eventually found the trail.  Naxos actually looks a lot like California... itīs kind of yellowish with little patches of Green vegetation here and there.  Mt. Zeus was pretty impressive in that way, and it also had large areas of rock, and lots of goats.  About 1/4 of the way up is the cave where Zeus was born or raised or something like that.  I knew about the cave, but I forgot to bring a flashlight!   So Alan and I kend of ventured in as far as the light from outside was reaching.   I decided to try and go a little farther. A little later a guy came with a flashlight and I saw the place that I was walking had these huge holes on either side of me (about 10 feet away)!

After about 2 hours of chatting and getting along pretty well we reached the summit for a good view of Naxos and the surrounding islands.

When we got back to the village Filoti, we found out it would be an hour before the next bus back to Naxos Town, so we ate dinner... best Greek salad I ever had. But when we got back to the bus stop (still with a couple minutes left according to our watches) we had JUST MISSED the bus... and the next one wasnīt coming for like an hour and a half!  So we were like, "DOH!" We were bored, so we decided to try and hitchhike and made ourselves a little sign that said Naxos in English and Greek.   People were looking at us like we were total freaks as they drove by, but soon a cab came by and it was only going to be 3000 drachma ($10) between the two of us to get back, so we went for it.

Back in Naxos, we split up, I met back up with Nadine. Apparently she did some shopping and ended up talking with one of the shopkeepers for a couple of hours. Then we got on the night ferry back to Athens.

So that was pretty typical of my time in Greece because I met a Scandanvian girl and a Canadian guy. So thatīs the end of my extra special blow out edition.  I probably shanīt write such a long letter (or two letters actually) again.

See yaīll in 5 weeks!



[What's New] [Travel Tips] [Packing] [Hostels, etc.] [Transportation] [Travel Links] [Other Stuff] [Site Index]

[Austria] [Belgium] [Czech Republic] [England & Wales] [Ireland] [France] [Germany]
 [Italy] [Luxembourg] [Netherlands] [Portugal] [Scotland] [
] [Switzerland]

[About Me]  [Coupons and Sales] [Student Stuff

Want to meet and learn from other travelers? Visit the Backpack Europe Bulletin Board.