A Travellerspoint blog

A Classic Trip Through Europe

Going by rail to see it all.

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View Part 9 - Newcastle and Europe on intrigue's travel map.

Heard that quite a bit in Europe.

That's a bit hard to see, so:
Man, what a mess lol. It seemed like it made sense when I was doing it.

It’s been an adventure trying to get settled back into the US. I have to say, one of the strangest things about traveling as much as I have is that I’m starting to get tired of traveling. Sure, I still want to see the parts of the world that I haven’t been to, but going long term is just so difficult, and in ways you wouldn’t expect. Being around different people every day, never sleeping in the same bed, always having to get food only when you stumble upon it, never knowing your way around… literally, the day to day inconsistency of life starts to drag on you. Sadly, going at a slower pace isn’t really an option either because every day spent in one place, is a day *not* spent somewhere else. At one point while traveling through Europe, I hit 13 cities in 13 days. I even think that’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t have done it another way, but man, I think I’m done with the crazy, break neck speed, long term travel. Small vacations and home for me from now on. Which is not to say I won’t move somewhere in the future again, but we’ll see what happens.

While I was going through South East Asia, I got my job offer to go work in Newcastle, England, so I turned around, flew to the US and packed up my stuff, and then headed over to the UK and started work. Newcastle isn’t exactly known for being a nice or modern city, but I really liked it there. Everyone was really friendly, the city was easily walkable, and it was a good time. It was also really cool to see a different perspective and way of life. I had planned on staying at least a year, but after only a few months, my work started to dry up and I decided to leave and head through Europe on my way back to the US.

From there, I took the route on the map which was totally nuts. And whoah is Europe expensive. Even with nights on trains and such, it was still crazy expensive. A Big Mac meal in Norway was around $17 USD. It was really nice being able to see a huge chunk of the “classic” tourist destinations, but it was definitely different than other parts of the world. For one, *everyone* goes to Europe so everything was crowded no matter where I went (and especially in Italy). And two, everything seemed vaguely familiar. We’ve all seen so many pictures of castles, and seen Rome in tons of movies and pictures, that going through those spots didn’t quite have the same wow factor that other places have had. The best part though, was that it was really easy and well organized. Pretty much everywhere was a first world country, so it was incredibly easy to just head to an information desk and get going.

Would I head back to Europe? Well, I still want to head to Spain, Portugal, and France, but in general I think I would probably go to other, more exotic places first before coming back to European places. Mainly, again, because all of it is just so familiar from an American perspective. Either way, good times and a lot of fun.

Right now I’m continuing to do my thing in the US again, and it’s all good.

This was the view literally across the street from my flat, and I had to walk past it everyday to go to work. This castle is actually the "new castle" that Newcastle was named after (or at least this is the keep of that castle). Oddly enough, this turned out to be one of the best castles in all of Europe that I've seen so far. The main reason being that it's actually old. Most of the "castles" in Europe are from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. But windows, guns, and cannons were already common at those points, so the "castles" are more like stone mansions. I think most people expect castles to be grungy and not have glass windows, and if so, the Newcastle castle is an excellent example of that.

The famous bridges over the Tyne river (this picture taken from the top of the castle keep). The city name of Newcastle is really Newcastle Upon Tyne, and that's the Tyne there. We have Jersey Shore in the US, and over in the UK, they have Geordie Shore. The people in Newcastle are called Geordies for historical reasons, but yeah, Newcastle is the New Jersey of the UK. If you ever watch any of that, you'll see the famous bridges in the opening sequence.

At the mouth of the Tyne river, just east of central Newcastle, an old and ruinous cathedral perched over the sea.

The very central most point of Newcastle, with the tower of Earl Charles Grey, the guy Earl Grey tea is named after.

After working Newcastle I headed up to Scotland first and saw the actual sword of Sir William Wallace.

This is the Roslyn Chapel outside of Edinborough of Da Vinci Code fame. It's pretty cool, though reaaaaallllllllly small.

Seriously, this is 90% of the Roslyn Chapel from the inside. It's not very big.

A creepy find in Scotland.

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip: Getting to go on the HMS Victory, the flagship of Lord Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. This is everything you think of when you think pirates era ships in the Atlantic. So cool.

The West Pier burnt out ruins in Brighton. This burned down in 2003.

The burial place of Lord Admiral Nelson under St. Paul's in London.

In the hot baths of Iceland covered in silicon mud. That was the slickest softest mud I've ever felt and it's apparently really good for your skin.

The terrorist damage caused by Anders Breivik in Oslo in 2011. Not much has been fixed yet. This was caused by a truck bomb and is only a small portion of the total damage caused.

This is the Vasa, a ship from 1628 that sank on her maiden voyage that was pulled up from the button of the sea in 1961. They think she may have sunk because her cannon ports took on water once she experienced a strong breeze and tilted over. The fact that it's in such amazing condition is sheer luck due to local water conditions.

You may have seen this before but not known what it was. This is what doctors during the Black Plague wore to protect themselves from infection. At that point it was unknown what caused the disease, and technology was quite primitive, so doctors put herbs in the nose to prevent breathing in the disease, and had rubies cut for the eyes to prevent seeing the disease for fear that could be the infection route.

The famous gate where many presidents gave speeches during the Cold War. This monument was one part of the wall that separated East and West Germany.

Bullet and munition marks from WWII, left intentionally damaged to remind people what war causes.

The apartments over Hitler's bunker where he committed suicide at the end of the war. Looks so normal on the surface.

Would you be so brave as to not conform?

Artwork dedicated to the Holocaust.

The memorial and courtyard where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was executed for plotting to assassinate Hitler. This was popularized by the move Valkyrie, and every year the top German leaders lay a wreath here in memory of all the conspirators who were so close to taking down such an evil person.

Check Point Charlie, which is dramatically underwhelming. I thought this was going to be a grand border check, but yeah, here ya go.

A huge section of the Berlin Wall still stands. Could you imagine living on the east side, and knowing that even getting too close to the wall could get you executed?

Hitler's personal resort pad. This is the Eagle's Nest at the end of Band of Brothers. If you've ever seen videos of Eva Braun, this is where they were filmed.

Getting to the top was impossible without a huge construction effort of a big elevator, and this was the tunnel to the elevator. Hitler didn't come here much because he didn't like heights.

And that's kind of crazy because the views are amazing from up there.

Oktoberfest!!!! It was an absolute madhouse on opening day!!!

The Colosseum in Rome.

The Patheon in Rome.

It eats your hand if you lie?

The view of the square in the Vatican from the top of St. Peter's

St. Peter's interior shot.

Pompeii is a Roman city that was buried under the ash of a volcanic explosion. Because the city was buried so quickly, everything underneath the ash was surprisingly intact. It's literally a whole Roman city.

And crazy enough, because the ash fell so quickly, people were buried alive and asphyxiated, so their decaying bodies left cavities in the ash. Someone had the bright idea of pouring plaster into the hollow cavities, and as such you can see the exact position someone was in as they died, with their skeleton at the bottom.

They were really hardcore about not taking pictures of David, but how is taking a picture without a flash going to damage stone? Let alone stone that used to be outside in the elements for a long time.

View from the cathedral top in Florence, with a bike race going on below.

Quaint. On Burano outside of Venice.

One of the dodgiest structures I've ever been on.

Bone mounds in the bone cathedral in Kutna Hora outside of Prague.

And the ghastly interior. It's not much bigger than this really.

Crazy man.

At Auschwitz, translates roughly as "work will set you free" or "work makes freedom". So messed up.

Stacks of shoes of the dead. This was only a small portion of the shoes.

The execution wall.

The tracks leading in, and keep in mind this entire stretch would be filled with carts that were stuffed with people. Some were executed, others were sorted and sent to other camps, and it all happened so fast hardly anyone really knew what was happening.

The gas chambers and ovens next door. The poison gas was dropped through vents at the top, and then the bodies carried next door to be cremated which was apparently really difficult since bodies are quite wet. The scratch marks on the walls in the gas chamber were disturbing to say the least.

Something used quite often in the games industry, but this is a plaque outside of Dublin, and a super nerdy side adventure.

From the Isle of Man, I got to tour the TT course, if you're unfamiliar with this insane motorcycle race, check this out: Super Awesome Link


Don't get run over by tank. Got it.

Interesting promotion concept in Trafalgar Square.

One of the last random pics I took in London before heading home.

And coming up later this year for my next trip... Antarctica!

Posted by intrigue 13:21 Archived in United Kingdom

Away From Everything

Deep In The Rainforest In A Place With Almost No Tourists

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View Part 8 - Down Under Again, and...? on intrigue's travel map.

Heard on the beach while watching the sun set over the ocean in Borneo.

After leaving Singapore, I headed over to Borneo. Not too many people head that way, but that was actually part of why I wanted to go there. After months in Australia where I couldn’t meet any Australians, and time in Bali where it was full of drunks and the culture had been partially destroyed by tourism, I wanted to head somewhere that was “pristine” as it were. Plus, there’s some really cool caves over there in the middle of the rainforest, so why not?

Turns out it was totally worth it. Good food, few tourists, and nothing but locals around.

While I was there I ended up getting the job offer that took me to England. But, I got it while I was deep in the rainforest, so I had to go through 2 more airports before I was even able to get back to the US to pack and head to England. It was a crazy rush.

Not really too much more to say about Borneo and Malaysia. It was pretty crazy that I was literally a week or so from being in Thailand and then ended up on the other side of the world, and this happened pretty much on the fly.

As for now, the project I came to England for has finished up and so I’m moving on. Going to head through Europe and then back to the US. Europe isn’t exactly exotic to anyone, so I’ll probably only make one blog at the end. We’ll see how it goes.

Kuala Lumpur mosque pictures and rainforest bug pictures at the end.

They're really big on cats in Kuching, and I have no idea why.

This is one of the tastiest things I've ever had. If you ever find Malaysian food somewhere, try laksa.

The fancy Government building. Both of the Malaysian states on the island of Borneo are autonomous, so while they consider themselves part of Malaysia, technically this is a separate country/territory, meaning you may get stamped out of the regular Malaysian Peninsula and into Malaysian Borneo depending on your immigration officer. So this is the parliament building in one of the two Bornean states.

The state mosque.

My first leech. Man these little guys are hard to get rid of. You rip one off and it immediately bends around backwards and latches right back on. You've got to catch them pretty quick or they really dig in, and then you kind of have to tear them off, which makes you start bleeding everywhere. Fun times.

Hanging out by a waterfall in the middle of bloody nowhere in the primary rain forests of Borneo.

Those are tens of thousands of bats flying out of a monster cave in waves.

I almost broke my arm here by slipping on the rock. Awesome. What I did do was get a small open wound, which then promptly got filled with bat poo. Later in the day when I got back to the incredibly slow satellite internet connection there was a frantic search for "can you get rabies from getting bat shit in an open wound?". (Turns out the answer is no, rabies can only be spread by getting bitten. Who would have guessed?)

Up above the rainforest.

Jungle river run.

Nice skull at the entrance to a cave.

And now a bunch of cave pics:
Look at the size of these!!!! The biggest looking one, was in fact, the largest cave in the world until just recently when another one was discovered in (I think) Vietnam.

Niah caves from the inside, and with some size perspective (those are people in the second one). These caves are a bit closer to civilization (outside Miri), and easy to navigate, so you just walk by yourself through the cave.

Water drops falling through a hole.

Kinda scary.

Inside one of the caves, this time by myself and in the pitch blackness where loads of flies that live off of poo reside. I was desperately trying to keep the poo flies out of my mouth.

Another traveler gave me a Burmese cigarette, which was quite good. The tobacco had strong hints of anise.

Getting back to civilization after days in the rainforest. I think these are rice terraces? Maybe?

The Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur. These guys are the headquarters for a oil company, and there's a huge mall at the bottom.

Being in a predominantly Muslim country is a bit different.

The huge Lord Muruga statue outside the Batu caves. Basically these are temples to the Hindu gods, but inside mountainous caves. They're pretty cool.

Stories of the Hindu gods.

And another separate cave.

This was wild. Inside the airport in Kuala Lumpur is a small outdoor waterfall garden that's completely surrounded by the gate itself.

On my flight back to the US from Tokyo. I love Mos Burgers (a Japanese chain), but the fact that my inflight meal needed instructions was almost too much to deal with after 3-4 hours of sleep over 48 hours.

And those mosque pics:
Inside the prayer room of a massive huge mosque in Kuala Lumpur. This was my first time in a real mosque, and I still wasn't allowed to step into the main prayer room, but I could at least see into it. I would have thought it would be more elaborate in a mosque, but I was told the artwork is not supposed to compete with the beauty of God, so everything is kept simple.

I had to dress appropriately to get into the mosque (my legs were exposed in shorts).

Some other pics of the mosque, outside the prayer room.

And now the bugs:
This is a crazy rainforest tree that is partially sentient in the sense that it's part animal, part plant. When you touch the spines, the entire plant cringes and makes a whoosing noise in the process. Do it enough times and it causes all the insects around the plant to attack whatever is annoying the plant.

Big caterpillar that just so happens to be mild poisonous. Touch this thing and you'll start itching like crazy. I asked what would happen if you ate one, and they looked at me like "why would you ask such a stupid question?".

Stick bug. Easy to see here. Not so easy to see when it's on a plant, as so:
I had a hard time seeing pretty much anything in the rainforest. I am not visually built for trudging the jungle apparently. "Oh, look at that branch, I'll grab that to help me along.... <gets bit by giant poisonous bug>". Most of the stuff I did see was along the walkway cause it had nothing to camouflage against.

Can you see this one? Zoomed in:
The leaf bug.

Hell if I know. Looks scary and has a head for it's butt.

Big centipede.

And some centipede love. That's a serious hug.

That is one incredibly big snail.

And an army of something.... possibly ants? lol

Posted by intrigue 12:58 Archived in Malaysia

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