Nashville, Indiana and Brown County State Park

Hi all.

For those who read this blog, and who live in Indiana, you already know how beautiful the yellow forests are with the changing autumn leaves. This fall of 2018 is especially worth a visit, even if you already go out to spend time in nature, because the leaves in Yellowwood State Forest are truly incredible, yellow and golden in hue because of the chill and the incoming cold of winter – still months away!

For those who do not live in southern Indiana near Nashville, Indiana and Brown Country, it is one of the most beautiful, stunning, and scenic destinations in the world and in the northern US. Things to do:

Visit Lake Monroe, a place for kayaking, canoeing, boating, swimming, and exploring the wetlands and wildlife nearby in the nature preserves

Have a drink in a Nashville pub or go for dinner and art shop hunting (there are plenty of galleries and fun touristy artisan shops in Nashville, Indiana)

Walk through Yellowwood State Park – the Jackson Creek trail is a short (roughly a mile loop) trail that has fairy-tale like views of the forest, with log bridges, moss covered stones, delicate light rays, and the ferns and the forest itself (there is a lake nearby that has stunning views either before or after hiking through the forest trees

Take photos of the birds/go birdwatching/admire the farmlands by taking the lesser known gravel roads off the main highway SR 46

Visit Brown County State Park – there’s so much beauty there and people have been known to call it the “Little Smokies” and also one of the most beautiful places in Indiana

As always, time for the photos!





The American Southwest Canyonlands – On Travelling The Grand Circle

Having recently returned from the Canyonlands in the American Southwest as I write this short review, I find the 14-day tour of the canyons to be a great way to see a snapshot of each different geological segment on America’s well-known National Parks “Grand Circle” that tracks through Utah and Arizona.

In case you want to follow the Grand Circle, here’s a sample itinerary of what I did out there.

Without further ado, roughly the details of the roundtrip experience you can easily do with a car in 10-14 days.

Day 1 (Arrival)
Las Vegas

Fly in to Las Vegas (or drive), and head to Williams to get closer to the Grand Canyon. I stayed in a log cabin AirBnb which was so rustic and pleasant, it could not have gotten any better. Located roughly 45 minutes from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the drive through the Kaibab Forest and the changing landscape scenery only made the sheer astounding, stunning beauty of the vast Grand Canyon more immersive due to the contrast.

Day 2
The Grand Canyon – South Rim

This is where I went, although I am sure the North Rim is equally gorgeous in a different manner. The South Rim was stunning and in October, it was pleasant with a couple warm layers and a strong wind breaker or coat. The wind could get very gusty in pockets of rock or exposed surfaces and make the air feel like it was nipping coldly even though wearing warm clothes. Sand also gets blown about, so be aware of that on your hikes.

The Kaibab Trail down to Skeleton Point has multiple scenic photographic spots to stop and rest. It is a steep trail in places, not very difficult if you are in decent shape, but it takes time and energy, so be prepared. It is a 6 mile round-trip trail up and down the canyon, to Skeleton Point and back to the top. You’ll have to take a quick bus ride to reach the trail head from the Visitor’s Center and the Parking Lot.

I have also heard the Bright Angel Trail is particularly pretty, but I did not go on that one this time. Visit the NPS for more information on the Grand Canyon and the best trails.

Day 3
Page, Arizona in Navajo Nation

The drive takes roughly 3 and a half hours from Williams to Page, so give yourself time to rest. For me, this day was spent getting over jet-lag and adjusting to the magnificent scenery everywhere around me. The sheer enormity causes a different view of perspective – everything that seemed so vast and important before started to diminish in the scale of long stretches of vastness visible everywhere, in the mountains and outcroppings of the desert. There is a Safeway in Page, which is part of the Kroger chain, so you can stock up on groceries here if you need. It is fairly large and has everything you might need, organics, vegan, meat, toiletries, and so on.

Day 4
The Slot Canyons – Antelope Canyon Tours – Upper and Lower Canyons

Although everywhere is beautiful in the Southwest, with its geological formations that have lasted through time, Page has the Antelope Canyon Tours in the Navajo Nation.

The name of the tribe is actually the Diné – the Spanish gave the name “Navajo” to the Diné tribe of Native Americans that existed before when the Spanish came over to America, so please be aware and be respectful of the Diné. They have peaceful ways, and sacred lands.

The Antelope “slot” canyons are stunning. They are sacred, both upper and lower, and I recommend visiting both if you go. Carved with wind, water, sand, and time, they are like waves and ribbons of orange and red waving through the desert itself. If you decide to venture through them, please don’t deface the canyon or climb on the walls or trash the place. It’s truly amazing and something special. They have been there for millions of years – it’s not right for tourists to mar the place in a span of minutes in one day. They do tend to get crowded, so be prepared to take photos with lots of people around you when you’re there at high ISOs in the canyons.

No bags or skirts are allowed as the canyons climb through narrow places.

I went with a Diné-owned Antelope Canyon Tour company: Adventurous Antelope Canyon Photo Tours, as it is their lands and their canyons.

Fun Fact: While driving to Page, AZ, you’ll also get to see Horseshoe Bend, a sheer drop-off cliff with the Colorado River winding its way through it, located in a desert spot just off the highway. Take photos, take selfies, take in the view – and don’t fall into the Colorado River. It’s really steep and far below, which is what makes Horseshoe Bend so stunning. I saw lots of people getting precariously close to the edge the cliff’s sheer drop-offs with their outstretched selfie sticks, trying to take better selfies. It looked extremely dangerous and awfully risky. There are signs however warning against the dangers of getting too close to the edge and stepping out on unsupported rock.

Day 5
Needles – Canyonlands National Park
Drive to Needles, part of the Canyonlands National Park near Monticello, Utah.

To get to Needles Outpost, which is a fine camping site with plenty of hot water in the showers (so I am told). I did not actually go in to the showers. I was too tired and cold and had already showered that morning in Page to attempt it. To reach this remote paradise of absolutely nothing but natural rock beauty, you’ll have to drive several hours. The drive takes you down Highway 98 from Page to Highway 160 to Kayenta, through Monument Valley (in itself a national treasure). Remember, you’re in the desert and in the Indian Nation, so there are very few gas stations and small towns around for over an hour or so on these long drives through the desert. It’s truly beautiful to be out there in the middle of the wilderness.

Needles
Slickrock is by far the most scenic short trail. It’s a 2.4 mile roundtrip loop through the canyons, with their roughly shaped, irregular beauty that is simply charming and awe-inspiring at the same time. Needles has some of the most interesting rock formations and pristine beauty because it is so remote and inaccessible compared to the bigger attractions like Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. That’s why I recommend true wilderness people – the people who want to be peacefully alone in nature – to go there. It’s what you will find.

I also did the shorter hikes on the NPS guidelines (Roadside Ruin, Pothole Point – we could not find the cairns to mark the trail and turned around after twenty minutes or less, and Cave Springs, which had good views), but those are more tourist attractions. Slickrock is the best one if you are only there for a short time and don’t want to exert yourself too much. You might see rock climbers on the high cliffs if you spot them, but they are hard to see as the crags are high up from the road.

Day 6
Moab

Driving to Moab is the halfway mark of The Grand Circle, at least it was for me. I spent three nights in Moab and it was plenty of time to rest and see Arches National Park and Island in the Sky, although if you’re happy in the outdoors, you could spend months and not want to leave.

We were lucky enough to stay in a fun little Airbnb with 1960s interior decor and a large hot-tub in the back, which made the cold stays in the cabin and camping sites of the previous days evaporate away under the desert skies and cold evening air.

Day 7
Arches National Park
The best time to go is before sunrise. Early morning is when few people will be heading to the park, right before dawn. That way you can hike the 1.5 mile steep climb up the rocks to see Delicate Arch, take photos, and come back before the crowds. Then go to Devils Garden and see how far you can take the 7.2 mile roundtrip “primitive” trail to see the arches!

Warning – don’t go beyond Double O Arch if you have vertigo or fear of heights. The trail goes for roughly 100 feet over a long stretch of rock “fin” with steep drop-offs on either side and occasionally, strong winds. With the clothing we had on, we could not do it. The wind would fill the air-pockets in our clothes and lift us up like a parachute.

Until the Double O Arch, you can see the magnificent Landscape Arch, truly natural beauty. Not far along is the Partition Arch and the Navajo Arch, with a little body of water inside and a pine tree. It is all beautiful in Arches National Park. The loop to Double O Arch and back is 4.2 miles round-trip. Wear hiking shoes and bring water and food to eat later when you are done. There is still plenty to see afterwards, on the drive out of the park, from Fireside Furnace, Balanced Rock, the Windows, and the La Sal Mountains.

Day 8
Island in the Sky

By far one of the most remotely beautiful places in the region, Island in the Sky has a special beauty because it is located a mile high. The road winds up to the top of a plateau where grass and trees grow and eagles land in the rocks away from people. With not many large parking lots, Island in the Sky is not made for crowds. It is for those who seek serenity and peaceful moments, who can appreciate the exertion it takes to see a stunning view off a trail, because although the drive in is beautiful, it was off the trails about a mile or two in that I truly admired the surrounding landscape away from cars and traces of people’s work.

The best places to go in a short day are Mesa Arch, White Rim Overlook (we didn’t go on this trail this trip, as the Grand View Point goes roughly the same direction), Grand View Point, Murphy Point, and Upheaval Dome.

Day 9
Scenic Byway 24, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

Leaving Moab, the 191 turns into a desert and you’ll have to take the 70 west back to Las Vegas, in that direction, at least. Scenic Byway 24 is one of America’s most beautifully scenic drives, and I recommend taking it if you’re going that direction. On it, you’ll see Goblin Valley State Park, one of Utah’s hidden treasures, and see stunning views all the time.

Captiol Reef National Park is beautiful, during the day or at sunrise or sunset. There are not many restaurants or places to get food, so be aware, it’s only a small town in Torrey. That’s what makes staying there fun. It’s the camping experience of being in the old southwest that is evoked here. I recommend the La Cueva Mexican Restaurant for its friendly service, big portions, and hot, good food.

Day 10
Captiol Reef National Park

The two best short hikes are Hickman’s Bridge, a 2 mile round-trip loop to a natural rock bridge and stunning canyon views, and Cassidy Arch, a steep 3.2 mile round-trip climb around the edge of the mountains to see Butch Cassidy’s hideout.

Day 11
Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin, Grand Staircase, etc.

Leaving Capitol Reef taking the Scenic Byway 24/Highway 24, you’ll drive through an alpine forest with views of mountains and snow. It’s absolutely beautiful. Larb Hollow is a great place to stop and take photos and see how far you have come along the Grand Circle, and to go onwards through the Grand Staircase in Escalante and drive towards Bryce Canyon. Along the way, you’ll pass Anasazi Village (I did not stop here), Petrified Forest (I did not stop here either), and the Kodachrome Basin State Park, which has spectacular views of delicate sand formed geological rock formations that geologists call the Entrada.

Bryce Canyon is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. To take photos of its beauty is almost damaging the parks beauty because it does not capture the crystal castle-like, pure beauty of the natural state of the park. Please don’t mar the park’s beauty by tampering with it while you are here. Like the Antelope Canyons, there is something special about Bryce Canyon.

Go down the Navajo Loop trail (1.3) and along the whispering pines and head out to the Queen’s Garden (1.8) for spectacular views, a 4.4 mile roundtrip hike.

The prettiest time to see the canyon is when the sun is shining over the rock crystals, making them glitter in the light.

Day 12
Zion National Park

This trip planned for a day and a morning in Bryce Canyon, which was more than enough to see its astounding beauty.

Zion was crowded and better for tourists than the other canyons, something which was different after the time spent in more remote regions. You’ll have to take the bus up to the 9 drop-off spots and hop-on and hop-off. With crowds, getting on the bus can take 30-45 minutes because of the long line, although the buses run regularly during the day, from about 7:30-6:30, but check the NPS site to be sure.

The best short hikes are Riverside Walk to see the Narrows, Weeping Rock, and Lower Emerald Pool Trails. We arrived there in the morning, and spent the evening seeing those three, the Narrows riverwalk being the most famous, and Weeping Rock in my opinion the most naturally beautiful with the falling drops of water and the hanging gardens surrounding the large cave at the end of the trail.

There’s also an astounding view at the end of a steep, rocky, drop-off type trail, the Canyon Overlook, 1 mile roundtrip, that provides a vista of the crags and peaks from above, in the mountains, capping off the trip. It was raining the next morning, but this one last journey was beautiful in the mists.

That’s the Grand Circle.

Day 13
Las Vegas

Two nights were spent in Las Vegas, although the trip itinerary we originally had planned for two nights camping in Zion, although the end-of-season cold October thundershowers and cold camping weather made us decide to head to Las Vegas. Even with eating healthy foods and drinking pure spring water the entire trip, I was starting to get sick. Although stronger physiques could most certainly withstand this moderately grueling schedule, my already weakened physique from the strain of other long travels made it harder to continually adjust to the evolving warm or freezing cold temperatures, long day hikes and being hours on the road, and staying places with varyingly bitter temperatures or heated rooms.

We stayed in the Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip, which is an experience of lights and noise. It’s the city, which is vastly different from the serenity of natural beauty, a chaotic natural force in itself. Las Vegas has no time, and is best at night. Walk the strip and you will see all you need to see.

Day 14 – Departure

Thanks for reading, and I wish you fun planning your next adventure to the American Southwest with its magnificent Canyons and the Diné canyons! As always, all opinions are my own.

As usual, time for the photos, although this time I’m sharing less then usual as there’s a request for a travel book from the photographs I took in the southwest. Enjoy!

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The freshness of an Indiana Farm

Hi all!

Who knew that life in a small college town could have such a diverse and subversive counterculture? I didn’t, and I have spent years here (ouch!).

I recently became aware of a small artisan community that exists in town, artists who make a living by dying wool, composing music, growing produce, raising sheep, and so on. While I have searched all my life for a way to live a peaceful life that is consistent with my moral values and love for the world in which we live, finding real life examples has been hard on my life path. To be honest, I had not done a lot of “seeking these people out.”

Lately, however, the more I delve into the world of “art” the more the “art world” reaches out to me. Mutual attraction of beliefs and so on.

To the point!

I met a really cool guy who lives on a farm, recently. He was kind enough to show me his way of life, his lifestyle, and the benefits of farm life. The peace that I felt walking amongst the tall yellow winter grass, land that could be tilled one day for a harvest, which he intended to use as a grazing pasture for sheep, was a stronger force than I had reckoned. The rabbits, guinea fowls, and chickens he is raising felt like a giant flock of babies that would one day range free and sow more life. It was blessed. It was beautiful. I felt for the first time, how farmers could love to live on the land, working the earth with their hands day in and day out, tilling the soil, planting the crops, tending the crops, and the thankfulness of the harvest and the pleasure of surviving the incoming winter.

It was the most beautiful thing I have had the chance to experience in a while, notwithstanding my natural love of the forests and lakes that surround the town.

Afterwards, when I read “The Wild Birds” by Wendell Berry, I had greater understanding of the characters Berry so expertly weaves, depicting farm life in a changing environment that increasingly is drawn to the city lifestyle, away from the land. And, when I finished reading “The Man Who Quit Money” a day earlier, I also felt a similar exhilaration for living as one with nature, enjoying the journey and the harvest.

Thank you for letting me experience this! Is all I wish to say. Life on earth is truly awesome.

The hidden Quarries from “Breaking Away”

It’s really something that most Hoosiers know about: the popular 1979 film directed by Peter Yates called “Breaking Away” that put Bloomington, Indiana on the map. I even saw the book called “Breaking Away” sitting in a bookstore window in Malta. Imagine that!

Anyway, it’s a well-known secret that those who are familiar with Bloomington, Indiana, home of the Big Ten college Indiana University, should know where the “Breaking Away” quarries are. After all, they are quite famous.

Despite being protected by patrol and by “No Trespassing” signs, it is safe to say that many visitors and their parents have visited these quarries over the years. I have heard rumors that they are quite beautiful. Whether that is true or not, I really cannot divulge any state secrets…

Nevertheless, if you happen to stumble around a quarry that looks like the image below while hiking through the woods south of Bloomington, you will know you have reached the famous “Breaking Away” quarry after which a beer is named, that of “Rooftop,” one of the largest of eight or nine quarries you can locate easily on Google Maps.

It IS in a no-trespassing zone, however, so don’t say you were not warned…

Happy hunting!

S

These New Photos Show Rooftop Is Inaccessible But Not Destroyed

Munich – The City of Monks and its strangely beautiful ways

Hello dear readers,

I have been in Munich for a few days now and am enjoying myself. There is something about Munich that is very regal and refreshing and altogether welcoming to me. It is not like Italy, or Spain, or Ireland, or any other country where I have been. I like how neat and tidy Germany is. I enjoy being in a city where the standard of living is high and yet the people will leave you completely alone to do your own thing. I also enjoy that it has everything I could want in a city: international airport and bus/train lines, luxury stores and a world class ballet theatre, high fashion shops, cobble-stone streets, and beautiful architecture and lots of history. It is a fairy-tale city and truly in Munich, dreams come true.

I don’t really enjoy list posts, so I won’t write it out in numbers. But I do count my blessings. I can say this much.
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In Munich, I have really learned the importance of caring for one’s appearance. It makes a difference how people look at you because it is how you look at yourself.

Love can blossom wherever there is spring.

If you give something, never expect a single thing in return. That is true love.

Do not be afraid of having fun and being childlike. Not throwing tantrums or something like that. But childlike. Innocent and kind and imaginative, the way we all are as children before the hurt comes. It doesn’t have to split our souls when we become adults when we heal from traumatic experiences. Everyone has their own private pain, no matter how great or small. What is important is that it informs us, but doesn’t deform us.

The best thing in the world is having someone on your side who you can trust.

It is not about the money, but about the intention behind it.

Live with the purpose of having all your dreams fulfilled. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The universe will fulfil all our requests.

There is nothing better than being kind.

Be the person you say you are.

Now, time for the photos. As always, all opinions are my own.

Staatsoper Munich
Staatsoper Munich
Near Marienplatz
Near Marienplatz
Blooming tulips near Marienplatz
Blooming tulips near Marienplatz
Rathaus in Marienplatz
Rathaus in Marienplatz
Rainy day with sunshine streaks in Munich
Rainy day with sunshine streaks in Munich
Karlsplatz gate
Karlsplatz gate

Munich, Germany

Hello!

Okay, so first I shall admit, this wasn’t part of my plan. At least, not on paper. On paper, I was supposed to go from Stockholm, Sweden directly to Warsaw, Poland, and continue on to Budapest after a day or two.

But even when I was planning my 10-country-Europe-hop, I knew I would come back to Munich after Stockholm to see my best friend Raphael.

And, as circumstance happened, the events turned out just so that could happen.

Call it coincidence, call it feelings, call it intuition, call it rebelling against your limits of control, call it whatever you want: I just had a bad feeling about going to Warsaw. Not that I have anything against Warsaw. It’s just one of those things you should listen to in your gut, when you have a voice telling you in your mind ‘do this. Your soul will be happy later.’

Dear readers of this blog, I had chosen earlier not to go to Munich because Warsaw was the cheaper option. However, I can say that this ‘mistake’ was probably one of the best ones in my life. I got to see my best friend at exactly the right time, at exactly the right hour. Listen to your heart when it tells you to do something, because that is your soul telling you it is exactly the choice you need to make to be truly, utterly happy!

So, here’s what happened that led to this mishap:

I stayed in Acco Hostel, in Stockholm.

I do not recommend this hostel. The reason is because while the photos on the website look amazing, with lots of white light and wide-angle camera shots, it is in reality quite small, crowded, cramped, and most importantly to me, it was not so clean.

Cleanliness in a hostel is really important to me. I don’t like taking showers in places that are dirty, for example, or going into a toilet/Water Closet/bathroom that is not spick-and-span. Who does?

Especially if you are paying for somewhere to rest your tired body and find some refreshing sleep and peace of mind. It’s hard to love anything that makes you go ‘ew.’ Cleanliness is extremely important. And unfortunately, I was disappointed by Acco Hostel. It cost $26 for one night in a 6-bed all-girl dorm, and while the people there were absolutely friendly and polite, and I was able to rest for a while in a warm, clean room without bad smells in a cozy bed, it was the lack of staff who was cleaning the place that made me feel unsettled.

I was told once when I was in Venice that there is a hostel on the island that has 150 beds when there is a permit of only 45 or so. That places a huge strain on the bathrooms, because the bathrooms only have one toilet and one shower for all those people. Imagine 150 people using only 6 bathrooms every day and night! It’s incredible.

I sometimes wonder if hostels elsewhere do the same thing as the one in Venice: take advantage of their permits. I can understand cutting costs and hiring less staff. But quality of service suffers, and that, dear readers, means loss of reputation and future guests! And no business wants that if it wants to survive!

So, as it turned out, I had a 2 hour journey ahead of me to get back to Skavsta airport, about 56 miles outside of Stockholm. Relying on the train and bus, I managed to get there right in time to still have a chance at catching my plane to Warsaw.

But it was not to be. As soon as I got to the security checkpoint, I was denied access because the ‘gate was closed’ even though they were clearly doing a ‘final call’ right in front of me at the gate. So, not really worried, I went back to the service counter and after some deliberation, bought a relatively cheap ($70ish) flight to Venice Treviso, from where I would catch a Flixbus back to Munich.

All in all, the deviation from my carefully planned trip cost about $200, for the flight, the Flixbus ($50 for an 11 hour ride through the beautiful Swiss alps), the bus shuttle from the airport ($12), food at the airport ($6) and a night in a hostel ($26) and another Flixbus to get to Budapest from Munich to resume my travel plans ($40).

But, what is $200 in the face of love?

There are times when you must make those decisions that your heart tells you to make. There are the decisions that are important, like ‘get a job’ and ‘pay your bills’ and so on. But then there are also the choices, such as ‘seeing this person is important to me at this time.’

Sometimes, you simply have to deviate from the ‘plan.’ Having once been a solider following strict orders, I have since become someone who is slowly learning how to balance the tightrope of following what I have to do, and what I want to do.

I told myself when planning for this trip that I would never deviate my course again for anyone, like I have done in trips past. A few more days in one place. A week in another. A few months in another. Staying for years for friends.

Yes, there is a time and a place to follow the plan that you make. But I have to say, sometimes, when your heart tells you it is right to deviate, you should pay the money and deviate. The reason why? Because for me, what matters most in the end is not how well I followed orders, but how well I can live with my soul. And that, my dear readers, is a life-long journey of self-discovery.

And, you know what? I am so glad I took the bus back to Munich. The 8 hours that we spent winding along on the road through the Italian mountains into the Swiss alps into the beautiful flowering plains of southern Germany is one of the most precious and beautiful experiences of my life. And leading up to seeing my best friend one more time, it is a combination I would never regret. For moments like that, it is truly priceless.

Just don’t look at the credit card bill immediately afterwards :-)! (But pay it on time).

Now, time for the photos. The pictures of the alps are not so good because I took them on my cell phone, but you can see why it was truly a magical experience.

I was glad I was able to spend a couple days refreshing my soul in Munich. Sometimes, after all the stress and worry that comes with the joy and happiness of travelling, we all need somewhere that we can call home. A home away from home. If you can find one of those, then travelling all over the world will never be so hard, because after all that time spent out in the distant lands soaking up the ideas and culture of change and curiosity, there will always be a road back home.

Italian mountains!
Italian mountains!
Swiss alps!
Swiss alps!
Swiss alps!
Swiss alps!

Stockholm, Sweden

Hello dear readers,

I am thoroughly enjoying being in Stockholm, Sweden. If you are looking for a place to visit that has high class living standards for everyone, beautiful architecture, well dressed people, arts and culture, and a very ‘Harry Potter feel,’ then Stockholm is just the ticket.

I honestly cannot recommend anything in Stockholm that isn’t absolutely wonderful. It is simply a world city where anywhere you go will be nice. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around on the promenade in the island, where the Old Town section is, going in and out of the shops and looking at the different things in the windows. There is even a pub called The Hairy Pig Pub. For me, that is simply delightful!

Stockholm is like one giant IKEA store. There is in fact the first original IKEA store nearby where I am staying (I am staying in a great house in Huddinge, which is a small town right next to Stockholm). There are gardens in Stockholm to walk around and explore the natural beauty, like Djurgarden, for example, mixed into the city.

Stockholm is a delightful mix of old and new in a very seamless fashion. Everything is a bit expensive in Stockholm, but that means the standard of living is very high for everyone, also. The commuter trains are clean and comfortable, and the buses run on time.

If you fly into one of the airports surrounding Stockholm, you have to pay about $17-20 for a bus to take you into Stockholm. From there, you can take any commuter train or bus, you just have to buy a ticket. A single journey ticket costs about $4.

I am staying in a great Airbnb in Huddinge, which is 5 stops by train away from Stockholm. The roommates are great, they play games, watch movies together, go on excursions to the forests and lakes, and basically welcome you like a good friend. Here is the link: Room in Huddinge with awesome roommates

So far, it seems to be a very ideal society.

Now for the photos. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Sofia, Bulgaria

Hello!

After Athens, Greece, what could be better than going back to the country right next to Romania, Bulgaria? It’s not a real question. It’s a rhetorical question, and I asked it because I was just in Athens, where Socratic methods of thought were born. The point is, I didn’t expect to like Sofia at all, from anything I have read or heard (which is not much). However, I was totally surprised.

Sofia is an excellent city! I love nature, as you all know, and Sofia’s huge green parks with blooming tulips and trees, real old trees, made me feel very much at home after the concrete jungle that was poor Athens, Greece.

Now, it might occur to you if you follow me, that I have a very simplistic mind. The fact is, when I am travelling, I do have a very simplistic mind. Food, nature, art, music, shelter, warmth — I am thoroughly reminded how life is not so easy out in the wild where I would be helplessly lost if I tried to survive away from civilisation.

The thing is, young kids these days (in general, and I have been told never to generalise) are kind of mad at the ‘state of things.’ Lots of economic hardship around the world, lack of internet privacy, feeling disillusioned, hopeless, etc. about global climate change and overpopulation and pollution — you know, the big picture. It all sounds pretty depressing and let’s face it, watching the destruction of our home is never easy. I mean, hey everyone, where are we going to find another habitable planet anywhere near our galaxy?

Okay, I strayed away from Sofia. The point is, Sofia was once under communist rule, but it is not any longer, and while I don’t know the state of its economy or government rule, it is a very nice place to be, from my vantage point. The streets are wide, there are buses, street trams, the metro, public parks to play in, and promenades to walk and shop.

Despite the fact that citizens of Bulgaria find it really hard (or impossible) to get a visa to the United States, their way of life doesn’t seem so bad at all, unlike Romania, its neighbouring country. Of course, good and bad quality of life is entirely based on our own point of view, but from my line of sight, these people are doing just fine. At least, on the surface. What do I know? I am just an observer from a different place.

I walked from Vasil Levski Stadium to Sofia University, up around the magnificent old monuments and buildings, stopped in the National Museum of Art, which had a kind of black and white screen printing exhibition which none of the people there understood but thought it was ‘interesting,’ and down to the old Roman city remains of Serdika, by the mosque, and then through the shopping street Vitosha to the Bulgaria Square, which has a lot of fountains leading down from what I think was the National Palace of Culture (according to my paper map).

Food: the pastries are excellent. As for anything else, I cannot say. I know I am the bastion of healthy living in all other areas, but when it comes to travelling, these cheap pasties and croissant shops that line the streets always capture my money. We don’t have them in the United States. They are an excellent (carbohydrate only) food!

Getting around: You can use the Metro, which is very cheap, about 1.40 Lva per single ride, or you can take the bus or street tram. I had a lot of time, and I like to walk, so I walked. I like to see the sights that way.

Also, did I mention there is a giant mountain right beside the city? Beautiful.

Time for the photos. As always, all opinions are my own!
NOTE: Until I can get back to Munich HQ, my photos are not yet operational. These are not my own, but they show you what Sofia looks like.

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Athens, Greece

Hello!

Athens, Greece. Who hasn’t heard of the Greek Gods and the ancient history surrounding the Greeks? And, who hasn’t heard of the catastrophic economic struggles of the modern day Greeks?

It was a little strange to see these two dynamics standing side by side. When I visited Athens, I stayed in an Airbnb a few hundred meters walk down to the sea, in Paleo Faliro. It was nice to be so close to the beach, and walk along the water’s edge watching the mountains stretching out on the horizon of the water, and the expanse of white-walled abodes surrounding Athens. What surprised me most, however, was walking to the ‘ancient part’ of Athens.

It was simply nothing like I had pictured in my imagination. There were the ruins, yes, tall columns of pillars from stone that somehow lasted hundreds of years.

But it wasn’t mesmerising and mystical anymore.

The pillars, the sites of ancient history, were understandably closed off in gated areas, but you had to pay between 30 – 45 Euros to walk inside and tour around and take pictures. Then, outside of these small islands of ancient history, there was the constant barrage of modernity: buses, electric buses, cars, motorcycles, street hawkers, and row after row of shops selling an array of food and sex.

That was what surprised me the most. I had always imagined ancient Hellenic Greece to be the most indestructible of all places in the world, given its history and the fact that gods are supposed to be, well, invincible. I was unprepared for the harsh reality that the world was stuck in the now, and the now consisted of a massive economic fallout for the Greeks. I was shocked and saddened, to be quite honest.

What to do in Athens:
If you tour around Athens, you will find that there are touristy places that are ‘must-sees’ marked on any map: like Hadrian’s Gate, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and so on. For me, just going near the site and taking photographs was enough — once I had lost that magical feeling upon seeing it turned into a tourist attraction, my interest was largely gone. It was still incredibly cool to be there, in Athens, steps away from the remains of an ancient world…but maybe you know what I mean.

There are also beautiful beaches in Athens, and in Paleo Faliro, where I was, there was a nice stretch of sand leading a few hundred meters along the coast. It had a pleasant view of the setting sun and I especially liked seeing the mountains rising out of the horizon.

As for food, I am a vegetarian, and I don’t really eat all that much. At least, not in Athens. I wasn’t really hungry after my shock of the state of things, so I can’t recommend much. I was very surprised to see Lidl, Dominos, McDonald’s, and other familiar global food chains around my streets. Somehow, I had thought that Athens would be different and more closed off.

Transportation: I flew into the Athens airport and took the bus X96 into Athens city. It cost 6 Euros and you have to buy it from a little bus ticket stall. Then you have to stamp verify it on the bus in case any police man asks.

You can buy single ride tickets for 1.40 Euros from mini markets. Unfortunately, you can’t buy them from the bus driver. I think it is because the buses are too crowded and the drivers don’t have the time. Anyway, Greece is going through some hard times, so don’t expect the bus fleet to be clean and new all the time. It’s a bit worn, but it will get you where you need to go.

Anyway. Time for the photos!

As always, all opinions are my own.

The ancient Olympic site in Athens, Greece
The ancient Olympic site in Athens, Greece
Up at the Acropolis
Up at the Acropolis
The setting sun in Athens, Greece
The setting sun in Athens, Greece
The beach view of the sea in Athens, Greece
The beach view of the sea in Athens, Greece
Hadrian's Gate
Hadrian’s Gate
Site of the Olympics
Site of the Olympics
A building with columns in the park in Athens
A building with columns in the park in Athens
Statue in a park near the ancient part of Athens
Statue in a park near the ancient part of Athens
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis
The Acropolis
Athens
Athens
The Acropolis
The Acropolis
An open air theatre close to the Acropolis
An open air theatre close to the Acropolis
Another view of the Acropolis area
Another view of the Acropolis area