Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Road to Montserrat

I wasn't sure what to expect when my roommate asked if I wanted to go to this town in the mountains, but I knew from the moment he asked that this was right up my alley. We vowed to get up early that Tuesday and head out; needless to say we both slept in and did not leave the house until 10:30; which if you ask me is still early. We head out, coffee in hand ( my daily addiction), and head to RED Line1 to stop at Plaza Espanya, where we would hop on a the train R5 and take the 1.5 hour journey there. The train ride was just as impressive as the arrival to Montserrat, OK maybe not,but as the first time seeing the country from a different perspective, away from the hustle and bustle which is Barcelona, I found this to be mind-boggling.

Towns that appear to be ruined by heavy neglect and disregard to common upkeep; with buildings crumbling in front of my face, still held this rustic beauty and told stories of passion behind the cracked broken structures. All the while, graffiti lined walls with brightly colored, bubbled letters transform these desecrated ruins into pieces of urban art. Obvious negativity held in those lands are squashed by spirits greater than the everyday Joe schmo, I know. There was such mystery and allure in the country sides that I knew nothing about. All of a sudden the excitement and curiosity turned me into this a lil kid sitting on the train seat, on my knees in reverse, looking out the window in awe.

Then the train pulled up to a mounitan-ness terrain, and my eyes grew big with gleam. I can see in the distance what looked like this small town up in the mountains, and my excitement grew. We got off the R5 and waited for the funicular to come. I would like to mention that we had no clue where we were going we only just winged it; however, It all worked out because If in doubt, follow the crowd. We get on the funicular and it took us up the hill on the edge of the mountain side, along this narrow path; so high my I can feel my ears clogging. The view was majestic, I could see all of those lil towns I just passed on the R5.

We finally get to Montserrat, which is now a tourist attraction as no actual people live there and it is gorgeous. Naturally chiseled rock formations surround the town as if protecting it from outside influences. When your standing there, staring at this town in the mountains, you instantly feel as if you are closer to God himself. INSTANTLY! Montserrat It is a religious site, and in Arthurian myth it is said to hold the holy grail. The Virgin of Montserrat, a black faced Madonna is located there and said to be the guardian of this grail. The cathedral tho unseemly on the outside, has to be one of the most beautiful sites I have EVER seen in my life; bringing tears and an overwhelming feeling of emotion the minute I walked in. I am not a religious person , but I do believe in God and boy was he there with me. Maybe it was because I was also closer to the heavens but I could feel that my dear and beloved grandmother was there as well. As the organs played and the choir boys sang I sat there astonished, with tears streaming down my face. All I could do was say thank you to God and to my grandmother. Thank for allowing me to experience this magnificence and for allowing me travel to the world. I told my grandmother how much I missed her and asked that she watch over me on my journey. After my talk with god and grandma I made my way to see the black Madonna, and waited in line just to get a glimpse and a touch for prosperity. The beauty of the whole place was just unreal, and from the moment I stepped on those grounds I felt their presence and was filled with constant emotion.

After, the roomie and I decided we were going to take another funicular up to the highest point of the hill. THEN, we had this crazy idea and said to the hell with it lets hike. 2 hours later, hiking up hill, I was muerta, dead, heavy panting and tired limbs made me blurt out, I CAN'T go anymore Luke, I really just cant! Needless to say we didn't make it to the very tippy tip, but we got far up there, only another "20 mins" and we would have been there. I felt kind of bad because I know he wanted to go up, but I hiked up that hill till I couldn't anymore. One of the many draw backs of being a big girl is the heavy breathing, limb pain and the sweating profusely. However, it was nice as we stopped a long the way to take in the sights and my sweet Luke would say "we don't have to go any further I'm sure it looks the same from this point as it does from 20 more minutes up hill". I know he was trying to be nice and spare my feelings, but all in all I felt accomplished and happy we hiked as far as we did. Then the fun began, walking down hill, and what a beautiful sight it is when it's not blocked by your own sweat stinging in your eyes. It was relaxing and memorable, I was honestly glad we decided to walk instead of taking the funicular.

After getting back down to the monastery we were both more than exhausted, but we felt accomplished after our day of adventure. It had excitement of the unknown, a religious experience and healthy fun. And best of all we only spent a total of 12 euros, for the train ride. It was definitely a successful day I highly recommend if you in this area, to visit Montserrat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Random Thought- Thank You Montserrat

Today I said a prayer. I am not Catholic, nor am I Jehovah's witness; or any other religion for that matter. I just wanted him to listen, I wanted her to listen. I wanted to say how grateful I was and how much I missed her. And then I felt them both, and I knew they were listening to me and a tear rolled down my cheek as this feeling of overwhelming love enveloped me. And though I can try to describe my feelings of how I felt, no words can truly explain, how and why I knew they were there with me. Now I say thank you Montserrat for allowing me to be closer to MY God and my beautiful grandmother, I will be forever in debt.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Istanbul, Oh Istanbul

Istanbul, Oh Istanbul.

As I wrap up my Istanbul part of my voyage across Europe, I have allot to say about this beautiful city. Istanbul is truly filled with a distinct culture. One of the oldest city's in the world, it offers so much. I did not know what too accept from this city. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a lot more impoverish than it was; however, It is a bustling metropolis alive at all hours of the night. Where religious culture clash with modern day nuances. Where burka covered women roam the streets while young men/women in the latest fashion pass you by. It is a world where new and old cultures mix and live harmoniously (for the most part).

There are some distinct parts of my trip that I have to mention in this article. The first thing is to make sure to dress modestly; as any provocative clothing on a woman ( because in this we have stepped back into time and women are not seen in the same respect as men) will get you stares, dirty looks and annoying cat calls. Everyone smokes and between the countless smokers, the lack of deodorant, and various spices used in different restaurants it can get kinda smelly. Hammam's or Turkish bath houses are amazing. You instantly feel as if you stepped back to the year 1593A.D, and you are a Roman empresses being bathed by your help. It is amazing and the notion of being topless in a marble slabbed Roman esque room, tho at first may seem embarrassing, it's not, it's exhilarating. Every woman has tits, don't be shy and let them hang. The lady who bathed me was awesome we cracked jokes and she told me I was beautiful. I'm almost certain she was hitting on 
Try and see all the touristy things there to see. Some are worth it and some are not, but I will let you be the judge of that. Every touristy thing I did was necessary. It gave me a true feel of how Istanbul was during the various periods of life from the Ottoman empire to the Roman take over. 

The beauty of listening to the prayer calls five times a day is unreal. Every time a prayer call would be heard it would penetrate my soul. You can hear these prayers from any part of the city. As the muezzin ( a person appointed to say these prayers) will stand a top the minaret and call his followers. I felt the yearning of the call, the melodic tones of the men's voices were warm, and the spiritual aspect of it all was amazing. The faith they have is unwavering and tho I am not religious, it is appreciated and equally as beautiful. 
The food for me was a hit and miss. Tho I liked lamb, by day 6 I was ready for some arroz con gandules. You'll find the same dishes over and over, and some stops are better than others, you just have to explore. Their diets lacks fruit and actual veggies, the spice is like nothing I have ever tasted before, and they are big on meats and starches. Even the strongest of stomachs will have some issues. Two out of six of us were constipated (myself included) and two more suffered really bad diarrhea. Nothing that prevented us from enjoying our time, but just make sure you know the food is def different from typical American/Caribbean dishes. 
The men, what do I say, they are intense. I mean they made me feel as if I was a prude. They do not treat Turkish women the way they treat foreigner and I think it is because we are much more loose to say it lightly and have somewhat of a reputation. They will stop their cars for you, they will try and kiss you within the first 5 minutes of knowing you, they will call you beautiful and ask you if you want to have sex with them right in front of their mothers. They are horny horny bastards and sometimes may cross the line. Be coy, do flirt, but be strong and impeccable with your word and you should be fine. The language barrier can get you in some trouble, so be as direct as possible. I found that by the last few days this was truly annoying and uncomfortable. I have always been a confident big girl, but at home I do not get recognized and I thought I would not in turkey, but the men loved me and were not afraid to show it.

All in all Istanbul was enlightening for me. It taught me allot about how I handle certain situations and how strong I am. There were moments I was scared, for example when I decided to take on the town by myself, but I made it out alive. I appreciated the culture and the differences; it made me appreciate home that much more. For my taste, Istanbul is not a place I could see myself living, there are too many people, the drinks are expensive, the food is limited, and they don't use actual milk. I know you may say, “so what, they don't use traditional milk” but I never realized how much I loved milk until I had to drink carton milk (sorry call me a princess). I am glad I visited it and would never take it back. It completely took me out of my comfort level and where I could see some of my closets friends complain I tried my very best not too. Even tho those two hundred stairs I had to take uphill daily to get anywhere were a bitch and I'm pretty sure I complained about those once or twice, but it was all in jest. I love those stairs (not really) for I lost four pounds on this trip...jajajaja. I am a better person because of Istanbul and I will be forever grateful.

For all the friends I made on this trip Cathy, Wilmi, Luis, Jo, Oz, Altup and the gang, kemal and family, and Nur. Thank you, thank you for showing me a great time. It was awesome; the good, the bad, the ups and downs.

Till we meet again

Friday, October 10, 2014

Random Thought- Who Are You?

I do not know you, but I know how you smell.
I know when you touch me , the hair on my skin raises.
We have never met, but I have dreamt of you and your blurred face.
I love the way you stare at me and I long for your something.
I long for you, your kiss, your touch, your heat.
We are strangers, but you know me better than I know myself;
And you don't know it, but you care for me more than anyone else.
Today you are this faint memory of what could be.

But maybe, just maybe tomorrow we will be able to meet somewhere between here and the distant sea.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do's and Don't(s) of shopping at a Bazaar!

Navigating your way through a Turkish bazaar can be cumbersome. I was lucky to visit two bazaars on my trip to Istanbul; the Spice Bazaar and The Grand Bazaar. The names give away what your most likely to find at those given bazaars. Both however will house the same items for the most part. The Spice will have more spice/tea shops, while the Grand will have more jewelry (gold/silver) and trinket shops. I personally liked the Spice better, as it was less crowded and more manageable to get through. The grand was just too much soliciting and body odor for one person to endure. However, there are just a few simple rules you must follow when going into a bazaar and I have listed them below, to make your life easier.

  • The most important rule, and the hardest to follow: Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT buy at the first few shops. Take your time to look around, most shops will have the same items and the deeper you get into the bazaar, the cheaper it will get; also,the haggling will also get easier.
  • Do Haggle (within reason of course) never accept the first offer they give you. Be ready to have exact change and state how much you are willing to pay. For example: “I'm sorry, 60 liras is too much, I only have 45 liras” the worst that can happen is they will say no.
  • If pushed out of the way by an old Turkish lady cursing you out in a language you do not understand,because your a stupid tourist oooo'ing and aaweee'ing, all while standing in the middle of the pathway, let her. She's over the tourists and I get it, I would be over them too. Plus “her” pushes and curses don't really hurt much.
  • Do accept tea from the various spice shacks, to say no is quite an insult. It is polite and customary to accept the tea. I recommend the apple but the pomegranate is good as well. “Turkish Tea” is just black tea people.
  • Do NOT accept every single offer of tea! I know contradictory to what I just said, right? Everyone will offer you tea, and if you accept like I did, you will more than likely have to shit your pants by the end of the first hour. Find a nice way to turn them down. By tea three I used the following lines, “I just had some tea but thank you very much” OR “No thank you, but would you be so kind and give me water?”
  • Do Not accept an offer for a free gift from an old Turkish man (or a young one for that matter), nothing is free my friends and they are more than likely going to try and seduce you and will try to kiss you.

Okay, that's about it, with these simple rules, you will make it out of the bazaars that are scattered all over Istanbul alive and not too broke.