Josh Wroniewicz Traveled Europe for 3 months May-September 1999
May 28, 1999
I have only about 5 minutes before I leave for my
trip, so this will have to be concise. I am traveling for 3 months all around
western Europe, with no real itenerary. I will begin my travels in London, where i will
meet me sometime traveling partner, James Hurley. we then plan on heading to ireland to
visit some of his relatives there. I have reservations only for my first 2 nights in
London and will have to wing it thereafter. About me: I am 25 years old and from
Richmond, Virginia. I graduated from the University of North Carolina in May 1996, and
have been a member of the working world ever since. having had more than my fill of the
real world, I am retreating to Europe for the summer. hopes are high. Gotta run-- more
May 31, 1999 London
Since my introductory email was so brief, i
thought i would give it another shot... i have been in london for 3 days now, and so far
it has been great. spent the last 2 nights in the hampstead heath youth hostel, the next 3
will be here in the international students house. the first hostel was very nice,
well-maintained, etc. the crowd there was a little more family-oriented than i had hoped
as a solo traveler, but everyone was very nice. this students house has a bar downstairs
which i have yet to explore as well as a much younger clientele. it is also much closer to
the center city of london, which is nice. so far i have seen the british museum, which is
very very large and could take several days to properly explore, and the national gallery,
which is nice and has lots of famous paintings by lots of major artists. the british
museum is based much more in cultural artifacts and ethnography than the gallery, but both
are worth the time. i have also seen regents park, which is right outside the int'l.
students house and the camden market, which is really cool. they have several blocks of
market stalls, where you can find just about anything... they have bootleg cds, clothing
(mostly alternative), and lots of other stuff, including fruits and veggies and chinese
and vietnamese grills. my overall picture of london, so far, has been that it is a cool
and friendly place, but pretty expensive. everything here costs pretty much the same in
pounds as it would in dollars, which means, of course, that i am paying about 1.7 times
what i would in virginia for the same item. anyway, must run now. more to come...
June 9, 1999 London to
It has been quite a while since i wrote as i have been very
busy. i spent a couple more days in london seeing the sights and waiting to meet up with
my friend james who was already abroad in germany. we spent one beautiful day walking all
around town and bought tickets for the globe theatre on the following day. they were
standing room tickets and only cost us £5 each. the day of the play was a typical london
day for weather... overcast and drizzly with occasional spots of real rain. it rained on
us for a little while at the play - "a comedy of errors"- but not so much as to
ruin it for us. we also went to the top of st. pauls cathedral in the heart of the city,
which i highly recomend. it is a great way to get your bearings as to where everything in
town is in relation to other sights. eventually we boarded the train to holyhead, where we
would meet the ferry to dublin. gotta run as i am running out of my internet time, more to
June 11, 1999 Ireland
We stayed in dublin only one night, as we had a free ride to
galway the next afternoon with an old family friend of james'. galway is a small town on
the west coast of ireland in the gaelic speaking part of the country. we stayed there one
night and went to a very cool bar called taafe's (pronounced taff's). the guinness in
ireland is not to be missed. i have no idea if i said that before or not, but it bears
repeating. from galway we rode with ann to her family's home in connemara, even further
west on a small island off the coast. i cannot remember the name of te town, maybe because
there was no real town to it. the entire area is very beautiful, and everyone is very
nice. as with all of the irish folks we met, these people were verrry laid back. they lead
relatively simple lives, largely based on fishing and somewhat on tourism. everyone
treated us like family. we stayed in a bed and breakfast run by ann's aunt.she was nice
and gave us a key so we could go out and come in as late as we pleased without bothering
her and her husband.
Going out in connemara is quite an experience. we were picked
up by the hackney at 10:15pm and proceeded to go to 2 local bars to pick up the rest of
the people in town who were going out. we then rode in the minibus for about 30 minutes to
the nearest town with more than 1 bar, corrarae. there are 4 or 5 bars there and 1
nightclub. the first bar we went to had an awful band composed oof 3 middle-aged irishmen
destroying (mainly) american songs. it was horrendous musically speaking, but quite
humorous as a scene. we stayed there for 2 pints and then went to the nightclub, josie's.
apparently bars can only stay open until 12 or so and then the nightclubs can stay open as
late as they want to. this one closed the bars at 2 but didnt kick us out til 3. next
time... the hackney ride home.
June 14, 1999 Adventures
in Ireland Continued
So we leave these bars in the middle of nowhere prepared for a
30 minute trip to even further into nowhere, tired and ready to be home. 45 minutes later,
having taken people to places i didnt know existed and driving up every driveway to drop
people off, we are left in the middle of the road. "you recognize the house,
lads?" look around. only one house in sight. "yeah. thanks." in the
meantime, a girl has passed out on the seat next to me, and each bump brings her closer to
falling face first, either onto my lap or the floor. james has been crammed so tight into
the corner of the bus that his feet are about to fall asleep. anyway, we are home. what an
Tthe next day we decided to go to the aran islands, a 40 minute
boat ride from a place called rossaveal. we get there amid cloudy skies and decide, since
it is 4:30 or so, to take it easy this afternoon and do our exploring in the morning.
spend the rest of the day/night in 2 pubs, wasting time and money. the decision paid off
the following morning when we had the best weather we had seen since reaching ireland.
beautifully sunny skies, slightly windy, good day for sightseeing. rent bikes for 5 pounds
and take off. see a couple of old castles that are pretty cool. both about 1000 years old,
more fortresses than anyhting else. ride a lot over the very hilly ground, return at the
end of the day for more fish and chips (best ive had yet) and the 5pm ferry back to
rossaveal. sleep like a baby the whole way.
Ann and her boyfriend pick us up outside the ferry office and
said we were going to ennis to stay the night at his house there. went to 2 pretty cool
pubs there very briefly, called it an early night. spent most of the next day in
trying to ifgure out what to do next. did laundry for the first time. one load cost 4.50
pounds. checked email and such, prepared to leave the next morning for dublin. next
day, say good bye to james and hit the road for a real travel-fest that wont end until i
get to amsterdam.
June 19, 1999 Amsterdam
So i make the first of several mad dashes across the continent,
from galway to amsterdam in 2 days. not much fun really. lots of time on trains and boats,
lots of reading and postcards written. amsterdam was a pretty cool town, though i really
was in no mood to party at all. not only was i by myself for the long-term, i was tired.
the major disappointment of amsterdam was that the van gogh museum was closed for
renovations. until the previous week they had been exhibiting most of the major works in
the rijkmuseum, but they had stopped to begin setting them up again in their rightful
place. i may try to return to see that museum.
The red light district was pretty much exactly what i expected.
not terribly lude or terribly pleasant, but worth seeing at least. i did get a kick out of
watching a couple of guys very nervously approach the women, seemingly for their first
time. kinda sad, really. apparently the hostel to stay at in amsterdam is the
flying pig. it is right in the mix of things and has a bar/coffee shop right
From amsterdam i boarded a train to oslo for a 21 hour trek
that included my first couchette sleeper. the couchette was actually very nice, and the
other people in my room were all about my age. 2 from australia, 1 from denmark, the first
person i met from mexico, and a guy who went to duke a mere 8 miles down the road from me
in chapel hill.
June 28, 1999 Oslo
Arrived in oslo at about 8 in the morning on a sunday. walked
about an hour to the hostel that i was staying at because nothing was open and i was too
cheap to take a cab. started raining at about 10. went to the Munch museum- he's the guy
that painted that Scream picture- and to a viking ship museum with 4 ancient viking ship
shells and some other artifacts. both of those things were pretty cool. tried to book a
train to bergen the next morning but they were already full. had to book it for tuesday
instead. bed early. very boring hostel. the following morning i had to switch hostels
because the one i was at was full for the evening. called the hostel known as Ekeberg and
they had room. Took the city train there and was very happy. it is situated on top of a
hill where you get to check out all of oslo from above on the way to the hostel. Spent the
afternoon in the town center, checked out the royal palace and a great park full of
sculptures called Vigeland park. I liked the park so much i went to a museum of
sculptures by the same guy, Vigeland. Tuesday morning i boarde the early train for Bergen
at like 7:30 and rode to a place called Myrdal. From mMyrdal there is a scenic train to
the small port town of Flam. Boarded a ship there for a 2 hour tour of the fjord. very
beautiful and loaded with tourists. then the train resumes to bergen, where i hung out for
a while and then took a night train back to oslo. next time: oslo to paris.
July 1, 1999 Cross
From oslo i made my third and hopefully last mad dash across
the continent, back to dublin to meet James and see a concert. spent 2 days on the trains
and about 3 hours in paris (Notre Dame- in the middle of restorations) and finally made it
to dublin. James never showed up so i went to the Wilco concert solo. it was a great show,
their first of the summer tour with all new equipment and their last in an
left the next day for the night train back to london and then one more day there. on
monday i went to day 1 of wimbledon, a great event if you can make it. the tickets are
only £10 for all the courts except the main 3 or 4. saw some pretty good people play
(wayne ferreira and amanda coetzer if anyone cares) and it was a very nice day for once in
london. tuesday afternoon eurostar back to paris. this train goes about 300 km per hour
which i think is like 180 mph. pretty cool.
got to paris at 6 pm and had a horrible time finding a place to
stay. ended up in a very scenic village about 30 miles outside of town.
more on that later.
July 30, 1999 Greece to Switzerland
From corfu i took the day boat back to brindisi in italy, then
had a miserable 9 hour wait for the night train to venice. i was travelling with 3 girls
from england and wales and a guy from oregon, so i at least had some people to help kill
time. i have learned more new card games in the last 2 months than in the previous 5
years. we were on a terribly hot and full night train with no couchettes (they were full
at 10am when we got to brindisi) and a full compartment. we all slept poorly and for a sum
total of about 2 hours. arrived in venice at 8am to news that there was a daylong train
strike in italy, supposedly ending at 9pm that night.
we all made our separate reservations for that night, myself to
zurich, the girls to vienna, the oregonian to salzburg. then we checked our bags in and
headed for a day on the town. venice is one of the stranger places i have been to see. it
is very beautiful and seemingly romantic, but also overly touristed and somewhat dirty.
the further we got from the train station the better i liked the town. the smaller canals
seemed prettier than the busy main one by the station.
we took a 1/2 hour gondola ride... haggled the price from 180,000 lire to 70,000 by simply
walking away when he offered 100,000. the ride was pretty fun but nothing to write home
about. we spent most of the day walking around. venice seemed to also be a good walking
city because you can only get so lost. the island prevents you from getting too far.
the night train to zurich was the nicest one i have been on
yet. it was fast and clean, but best of all they gave me a great breakfast about an hour
before we reached zurich. croissant and another pastry, orange juice, and fresh coffee.
and for once, not nescafe. arrived in zurich at about 10:30 in the morning, bound
for interlaken and the swiss alps...
July 31, 1999 Switzerland
from zurich i took the next available train to interlaken,
where i was hoping to do some banking and shopping and then head off to gimmelwald, a tiny
village in the alps. i never found an ATM, so i had to make do with leftover italian money
that i changed in zurich. bought what i hoped was 2 days worth of groceries since there is
no grocery store in gimmelwald, then made by way up the mountain. to get there you either
take a train, bus and gondola or the same train, a funicular, which is a cog train set on
about a 45° angle up the mountain, and then another train. i took the second option,
which includes a 35 minute walk, thankfully downhill, to the town itself.
i checked into the Mountain Hostel along with about 20 other
people, where we met Petra, the owner/manager of the place. everyone there seemed very
nice, not quite as touristy as most backpackers. spent the first evening, a saturday,
pretty rowdily in the main dining area at the hostel. the subsequent nights were much
quieter as everyone there hiked and became tired.
there is little to do in gimmelwald other than hike and sleep.
the hostel feels like a family very quickly, partly due to the seclusion and partly
because of the beauty and general pleasantness of the place. i spent my first full day
there just hiking around and enjoyed probably the best meal ivce had in europe at a
restaurant about 2 hours hike up the hill. it wasnt cheap, but it was good.
the second full day i was there i took an 8 hour hike to a
glacial lake that was absolutely fabulous. i spent all day sweating and out of breath, but
it was worth every second of it. somewhat regretfully i left after 3 nights of petra`s
homemade bread and yogurt and cheap beds. on to montreux where Chateau Chillon and the
Jazz Festival await.