01.07.2008 35 °C
To reflect at length on my times here in Madrid - the experiences I have had, the people I have met, the city I have come to love - would be a daunting task. Its a special place and I'm certain that it won't hit me just how special it really is until I am gone. Leaving is bittersweet - I know I will miss calling Madrid home but it would be a lie to not admit its the right time to move on. I am anxious to see what comes next...
The Spanish football team was accommodating enough to give me some great memories on the eve of my departure. To be witness to all of the excitement/euphoria surrounding Spain's Eurocup victory will remain fresh in my memory for a long time. The sea of red and yellow that invaded the streets of Madrid, with the interminable sound of horns being honked all night, people dancing in fountains, the sheer exuberance of the moment - they were champions and nothing could strip the smile from their faces. It continued deeep into the night, people simply enjoy the moment, partying in the street. Very unique experience. We are as crazy in America about sports as any country, and probably more so - but our culture doesn't emphasize or even appreciate national success like they do here - it adds something special because in these cases there is no loser - boston isnt celebrating at the expense of new york or los angeles rather a nation that is as disjointed as any in Europe, the least patriotic country I have visited, joined together over the course of a few weeks to celebrate something very rare. I was glad I was to be able to witness it - to see the hope of a nation crescendo across the tournament with all of the emotions that go along with that rollercoaster ride.
But its time to move on and before I hop back across the pond I have 45 days to play with...
My itinerary for this summer is a little disjointed relative to last summers and to be honest this has made it a bit of a struggle to generate excitement leading into the trip. Two of the most important traits that make for a great trip are absent from the start - a thematically unified agenda (for example, my Balkans trip last year) and limited flexibility (given the distance covered I have already purchased 4 flights to help me move across Europe before it has even begun). I hope what I outline below reflects about what I will be doing but given my state of mind at the onset it seems highly probable I will scrap portions for greener pastures - ah Slovenia! I hope I find enough to distract me/contain my cravings for American soil - ah Chipotle!
The first two weeks will be spent in Spain. My original plan had been to cross the north of the county but it has been adjusted to reflect the financial constraints of travelling solo. That trip will have to wait. I will first head to Salamanca, then on to Galicia - Santiago de Compostela for a few nights, with a bunch of day trips around the region - Pontevedra and A Coruna. I will then make a completely irrational but welcomed leap across the country to Granada, before making a quick stop in Malaga. Next will be Girona - a Catalan city between Barcelona and the French border which I will reach by plane via Madrid.
From Girona I leave Spain. The next portion is the least defined. I fly to Graz, Austria. After a quick stop in this town, I will head to Vienna, then Bratislava and other parts of Slovakia. Poland is next, with at minimum time spent in Krakow and Warsaw, if not other spots. I have a few extra days to kill here and may come by way of Budapest - I didnt fall in love the first time but it may be deserving a second chance I think. Finally, I head to the Baltic states - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia - for about 12 days a few countries Ive been looking forward to visiting for a long time. If time permits, Helsinki will get a day or two before flying to Berlin - six days, including my birthday. Fly to Madrid. Pick up bags. Fly home to America. The end.
Its looks like a solid trip. I hope it proves to be better than that. I have saved plenty of money teaching and won't need to tighten the belt so much this time around - maybe this will mean an occasional upgrade from a chicken kebab (flakes of meat) to a chicken breast (real meat), or perhaps a few less pizzas in favor of a well rounded meal - one can dream. My plan is also to scale back on things to lighten my bag. Six shirts will likely now be four this summer. I think two pants will now be one, and so on. Nothing better than a light pack.
I hope to maintain my commitment to the blog all summer this time around - last time I faltered late. Feel free to follow along, ask questions, comment positively or negatively, whatever suits your interest. There is a nice subscribe function to - you can receive an email every time i post rather than need to look it up - it makes it easier to follow if you so wish. Anyway we shall see - cross your fingers.