Running around the streets of Venice definitely provides you with a view into classic European cities. Old buildings with exquisite architecture. Heavy accents. And of course the historical art.
The best time to see Venice or any part of Italy really is early March, before the tourist crowds set it. Typically in the height of the tourist season, you may have to wait hours in line to visit Saint Marco Square for a few moments. I hate waiting in queues so having absolutely NO wait for Saint Marco Square, the major churches, or well-known museums was perfect.
The photo to the right is accredited to the day I spent exploring canals and streets. In 60-degree weather, I got caught in a fly-by hail/rain-storm. When I was desperately searching for cover, I found an awning right in front of the boat canal big enough to tuck me away. The canals of Venice definitely make you feel like you're on a boat all day long.
I highly recommend climbing to the top of the bell tower of Saint Marco Square. You get an incredible bird's-eye-view of the city. If you're curious, check out more pictures under Italy. Don't forget to visit the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which stands next to the monastery on a small island (San Maggiore) in northern Venice. Climb all the way to the top of the bell tower for another breathtaking view.
Despite the beauty of Venice and Saint Marco Square, I was somewhat disturbed by the interesting marble sculptures in the nearby museum. Let's just say that there are men and animals of all sorts in compromising positions that make my skin crawl.
As far as food, remember that you're in ITALY aka the land of pasta! Whatever you decide to order at the corner bistro or the romantic candle lit dinner, don't get lobster in Venice. $200 a plate for grilled lobster tails? As a proud New Englander, I can tell you that's not even close to the right way to cook this seafood delicacy.
On a rainy day in Sweden, I found an amazing burial site from the Vikings. (Okay, I didn't find it. I just enjoyed it. Anyways...) I'm standing on top of one of these majestic mounds. Each one of the stones viewed in the photo is bigger than me. Since I'm 6'5 and 220 pounds, you can just imagine that they are quite large and quite awesome to see. Why Sweden? Read on.
I was on a flight from home from traveling through Germany and Eastern Europe. I happened to be sitting next to two absolutely amazing people from Sweden. They were retired and on their way to NYC for the first time. We talked about a myriad of subjects and got along brilliantly. At the end of the flight, I decided (after taking months off to travel) to take the next day off from work as well to offer my services as an "off the beaten path" guide through THE city. When we were saying our goodbyes, they asked me to join them in their home in Sweden. I informed them that I'm a serious globe traveler and to not offer this courtesy unless they were serious. They told me they were. So the next summer, I went to Sweden to spend 11 days with them.
The thing that I find outrageous about all this is they're openness with absolutely no hesitation. In my hometown, when I was married, I owned a house in the suburbs. Since I lived in this house for years, I often saw my neighbors outside and attempted to develop some friendly rapport with them, often saying hello and offering anything I had to them. This was not reciprocated. It's completely sociologically disturbing to me and the prime reason why I enjoy traveling abroad. In the 4 years that I owned this home, my neighbors never waved to me nor did I even know the names of their kids. Yet, when I was on a plane for 5 hours with a beautiful couple, I was warmly invited into their home and lives to be given an amazing time.
Do you know your neighbors? Do you invite strangers into your lives? Is it really THAT unusual?
Welcome to Istanbul, the secular land of religious architecture. In the photo above, you can see not only the breathtaking Blue Mosque but also an obelisk in the center of a hippodrome. Looking back on my travels, I feel very privileged to have seen the inside of this building. Despite the fact that mosaic art has been banned by Islamic Law, the entire inside of the mosque is covered wall-to-wall by beautiful delicate and colorful tiles. However, as much as I enjoyed being inside the Blue Mosque, the adjacent church Anaya Sophia is more spectacular on the inside. The funny thing about man of these buildings in Istanbul is the ostrich eggs hanging from the ceiling to ward off spiders (the decaying smell undetectable to humans AND keeps spiders out).
The other really amazing thing about Istanbul and her architecture is the Cistern. Across the street from Anaya Sophia, there is a small bus stop / office building. Go inside the building and purchase your ticket to go venture down into the depths below the roaring city. Once you walk down a few flights of narrow stairs, which are very dimly lit, you open up your eyes to an underground water cistern that was built in the 4th Century (aka over 1700 years old) to protect the city from invasion. This giant source of water allowed the city to still clean, cook, and generally function while under siege. Extremely useful, since the city has been invaded many times.The cistern has 220 columns that are at least 20 feet high. Each column is 20 meters apart in all directions, making for a very large water cistern underneath the city. Awesome.
The tiered architecture of the buildings and the style of churches constructing hippodromes on top of each other, makes for unimaginable views and a fantastic place to visit. Today, we drive cars through arches that used to carry water from the mountains far away into the city. This view of automobiles driving under each archway holding up the aqueducts is surreal. Each archway is big enough for one lane of cars. Too funny is my mind. It is one of the top 5 things/places to see in the world on my list. To be quite honest, I find it more majestic than the pyramids of Giza.
This picture shows what remains of the Berlin Wall. Amnesty International sponsored a mural to bring more meaning to it. Artists from all over the world have been brought in to paint their own artistic impression of the freedom from walls, destruction of walls. It's supposed to represent the oppressive nature of how walls work. Thank God for the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. It would be my greatest hope that we could grow and evolve from our past mistakes. However, it would seem that new walls are being built and expanded, in several different countries on this planet. It would seem we haven't become as humane as we would like to think our civilization is. Economic or racial issues are not a valid reason to create more walls.
This is a geyser in Iceland that explodes every 10 minutes or so. More than one geyser exists on this site, as well as some hot pools bubbling out of the ground. The beauty of this photo is that I managed to take it before digital cameras were good enough (efficient and cost effective) to buy. I made two attempts at capturing this photo. When I got home and had the film developed (yes people, film is still enjoyable cause of the anticipation of what you've actually captured), I realized that I had snapped the geyser just a microsecond before it goes off. To have captured not only the concave bubble but also the very tip of the water just starting to explode makes this a more magical and breathtaking photo than I was expecting. This geyser explodes to about 75 feet. If your interested in looking at the full explosion, please check out the photos from Iceland under the countries portion of the photos.
Question to my fellow backpackers around the globe...
What’s with traveling to have sex and get drunk in foreign countries? I don’t get it. Why would anybody jump on a plane and fly halfway around the world just to get drunk and fuck? Then, see absolutely nothing of the culture or sites.
For example, I’m in Munchen (Munich for the culturally uneducated). I’m going back into my dorm bedding situation; guest houses in Munchen have dorms. That means 20 people per room, bunk bed style, community showers, and coed. Two girls from New Jersey ask me what I did that day. I told them I had the most amazing day: I went to THE Swan Lake with a bike ride and swam naked. Then, off to the German castle that DISNEY STOLE EVERYTHING FROM. NEUSCHWANSTEIN! I ended the day at an alpine slide ride with a proper German lunch. It was the best strudel ever. It cost me like 60 Euros. There reply was that if they do that then they won’t be able to drink that night. Seriously, don’t they have bars in New Jersey?
I have explored 76 countries, no hand holding, no tour guides just a drive to see, smell, taste, experience, and enjoy the earth. I have been on Reality Television and spend much of my time giving back to the community. From a unique perspective of sports, adventure and travel.