Our apologies about the delays in posting, we were travelling from Holland to Spain on Monday, and there´s only one computer here at our hostel, so it is difficult to get enough time to do a blog entry. But we are currently waiting for a phone call from DHL in regards to the package that has our camera in it, so we are hostel-bound for at least a little while, so you´re in luck! So late last week, on Thursday, we returned to Nijmegen from Amsterdam, after having a great 4 days there. Amsterdam is a fun city, but very pricey compared to most others in Europe, so while it is a place worth experiencing, a couple days give you the flavor, staying longer is merely indulgent and superfluous. On Friday we explored the town of Nijmegen with Nicole a bit more, she gave us a walking tour of her school, and we did the now usual shopping for our dinner at the market. We layed low Friday night, because we had been invited by Nicole´s friend Enni to join a bunch of international students on a ¨field trip¨ of sorts. We ended up being gone most of the day, at the De Hoge Veluwe, a 40 square km national park, that is internationally known for its 1700 white-painted bicycles that are free to use with admission in order to get around the park. The bikes were fun to ride, and gave us at least a part of the Holland bicycle experience, though they lacked any gears and were somewhat low-riders, so cruising around the dirt and sand paths was challenging at times, but lots of fun. It added some nice variety to our Holland visit, and our train and bus timing that day was amazing, as we twice caught them right before they were departing. Our last day in Holland was on Sunday then, and we headed south by train to explore the town of Maastricht for a little while with Nicole, before taking the train to Brussels in order to catch our flight to Madrid early Monday morning. So Sunday was kind of a long day on various trains, around 3 or 4 total hours, with us ending up in Brussels at around 8 pm. We got to the airport quite easily, since there was a direct airport express train, though the Virgin Express ticket counter was already closed for the evening, so weren´t able to check in, and thus we had to sleep on the aiport floor until morning. However, we were rather tired from travelling, and with our sleeping bag liners and some well-placed clothes and jackets we both managed to get a more-than-adequate night of sleep.
Monday morning then, was spent flying from Brussels to Madrid, though our plane left a bit late, so we didn´t really get to our hostel, Pop Hostel, until around 2 pm. The hostel here is quite nice, and much more social than our Amsterdam experience. We´re on the European 1st floor, which is really the 2nd floor, so you have to buzz downstairs to be let in, but it´s a good system that seems to work well, though the market downstairs means that it smells rather fishy going up the stairs. We´ve spent far too much of our time here attempting to get our package, from DHL, that is supposedly tied up with Spanish customs. Not that we haven´t been enjoying Madrid, which we definitely have been, but we only have 24 more hours before our flight, and we don´t want to leave here package-less. Our Monday night ended up being rather unusual: we were relaxing at a nearby park, waiting while a one-hour-photo place developed our disposable cameras, and a mute hippie-looking guy came and ¨chatted¨ us up. We would speak to him, and then he would write back with us. He was very nice, and after a while invited us to his house for tea. We figured we might as well, since we had some time kill, and we ended up spending the entire evening with him and his roommmate, who was an old woman from the Philippines. She spoiled us with 2 meals, mostly consisting of fruit and cheese, from a fruit salad, to fruit cakes, to fresh oranges and cheese plates. It was a very weird experience, since the man, Youman, had a lifetime of stories to tell, as well as numerous (and we mean numerous) pages of miscellaneous writings. While eccentric, he didn´t seem crazy at all, so we had to believe that what he said was true, that he´d attended Harvard but been expelled for protesting, had spent 5 years in jail in India, and had spent time with Naga tribes in north-east India, who were traditional headhunters (no longer, of course). He had a unique style of writing, mixing small words, mostly English but sometimes in Spanish, with psychedelic drawings and word-pictures. Time seemed to fly by, and Youman seemed more than happy to have visitors, so were did not leave until 4 am, much later (obviously) than we had ever intended on staying. But we´re travelling to experience the world, so unusual happenings are just part of the journey!
Yesterday we went to the massive Retiro Park, where we rented a rowboat and floated around the massive man-made lake there, which is surrounded by large statues and is a very relaxing area. We then walked around the rest of the park, which was simply massive for being within a major city; it includes all sorts of gardens, long paths with benches, a sports complex, numerous ponds, and several massive buildings, including the Crystal Palace, a huge glass structure overlooking a tree-filled pond. Last night, after cooking a nice dinner at the hostel, fresh pork cuts and cheese from the market down the street, as well as fresh bread from a nearby bakery, we hung out with some other hostel-ers, a couple of guys from Ireland and an American from Montana. We all then ended up going out for a while, which ended up being a bunch of wandering and talking, before ending up at an Irish bar. Irish bars are universally similar, but universally acceptable when one is thirsty for a pint. So we had a fun evening, and since the beds here are quite comfortable, a good night sleep as well.
So it´s time to give up the computer, but we´ll be leaving for Greece tomorrow afternoon, and won´t get to Athens until tomorrow night, since we are going through London, which is the exact opposite direction. The joys of connecting flights...