Ms Chocaholic with lots of opinions and an attitude

Friday, November 30, 2007

a visit to Nafplio revealed my Greek-ness

Katerina drove us out to Nafplio so I could see a little bit more of Greece than just Athens. Greece is so beautiful! The drive out was through some really picturesque landscape.........seaside resorts along the way.
nafplio is this nice quaint little town that was Greek's first capital. it also has an acropolis...which is the Greek term for the city essentially every city would have an acropolis...(the trick being..theres only one Parthenon ofcourse!)
anyway..there we were... walked around town...had some nice Greek coffee (ok...I was a traitor and had Viennese chocolate instead!) followed by some shopping at a very very nice local produce shop of honey, olives and Greek liquers. The shop is run by a computer programmer who had gotten tired of the big city life and given up his big corporate career to pursue his passion and hobby turned career of managing this delicatesen shop. what a story huh! remember that most movies and books are inspired by true life. so there you go.
had a really really nice lunch....and this was where my Greek identity was revealed. well considering the amount of feta cheese I was quite impossible to think Im anything but Greek. In true Greek spirit I decided to also have bread dipped in Olive oil, with feta, tomatoes and origano for dinner as well.
Olive oil is such a good invention! but then is feta cheese!

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Making new friends in Ancient Agora

so there I was exploring this wonder of the world.....not really expecting Id also find yet another friendly voice atop this ancient temple. turns out..not only did I run into Sangeeta and Preeti from South Africa again...and also bumping into the 2 German tourists from yesterday.....but the guard in charge of protecting all this sacred antiquity...Marios....also made friends with me.
we started on a friendly casual conversation about Greece, Thailand, EU, and their respective people...ending up in quite an interesting political discussion......and later in the evening at a local cafe more political discussion over _____ (fill in the blanks by Katerina-pedia for the greek liquer).

Also encountered a few other friendly helpful locals over the course of my day....... a guy offereing to help the minute he saw me pull out a map....and a few other similar incidents. So just as I was telling Katerina...the Greeks have been nice to me.....and must admit..Greek boys arent bad looking either :)
ohhh and they all speak quite a fair bit of English! thats certainly made my life easier...cos otherwise this is what things look like:
Jyoti with a map of Athens....street names in English
Jyoti walking about on the streets and hopping on and off buses..checking out the street signs...all in Greek :p
you get the idea......

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Exploring Ancient Greece

I was at the Acropolis today.....yes the famous one...Parthenon. truly truly amazing! Describing it in words is so inadequate. I spent almost the entire day there...and what a pleasant day it was....bright sunshine...temperatures must have been around 20 or 22 degrees C. I could finally get rid of the layers of warm clothing I have had to wear these past 3 weeks!

after the Parthenon I decided to take the tram out to the beach the time I got there it was already dark though...but still felt good :)

and yes..Im taking things slow...........

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Kale Mera Athina

First off...I have to say...Athens is lovely!! and Ive met some really really nice people here.
took the first day a bit slow.....went into city centre taking the metro from Kiffissia...where our greek-chairgoddess Katerina lives with her sweet sweet Mom Vicky, and Dimitri...and her brother Stathios (well he partially lives here...physically in Romania..but through phone calls in Kiffisia)
so I got to station further than the Monastiraki...walked back towards Monastiraki....saw the entrance to Ancient Agora...but decided Id come back when I have a full day to explore. checked out the little nice things in the Plaka market. I just love it all!!

hopped on some unknown bus....ended up at the Archealogical musuem.....quite nice. hopped on some other bus....went past the barracks, the hilton...kept going..until I must have got to some really residential the bus, on to the metro back to Syntagma......across the road is Parliament house....saw the end of the changing of the guards...well will have to come back to see this one again wont I.....

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Girls..but we are in Milan!!!

well what can I say about the girls reunion weekend in Milan ....except that it was totally fabulous! We all had a fantastic time. and the catch-phrase for all the things that went right is ---- but of course.... we are in Milan!
meaning everything is possible and everything is available!!

thanks girls -- Sunay for flying in all the way from London, Katerina from Athens (what a pickup service.....all the way to Milan!) and Laura for rushing straight to Milan after work!!!
plus ofcourse also thanks to Ale our very own wonderful local guide...with all his info about every little corner and statue and places to eat and drink in Milan.

the day went somewhat like this:
Sunay and Katerina meet up ... go for some food
Sunay, Katerina and I meet up...go for some food
Sunay, Katerina, me, Laura and Ale...and 3 other of Ale's friends meet up....go for a very nice Milano style aperitivo!!
followed by a big dinner of appetiser, pizza and ofcourse some Italian wine. some red sparkling and chilled italian wine as it turns out.
the night ended at a very nice retro style bar...thanks to Francesca.

finally it was time to say goodbye to my beloved Italy.....but there is Athens to look forward to!!

ciao Italia

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Friday, November 23, 2007

being a local in Verona

so apart from the tourist things, Ive also been doing other things like going to watch Laura play volleyball with the girls, cooking thai food for Laura and Alessandro, learning how to make risotto

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Verona

Some more walking today...but away from the city centre. I headed towards the Ponte Pietra, stopped at Teatro Romano, then headed up the stairs to the Castelo San Pietro for a view of the city. Quite beautiful....with the river running through the myriads of houses and churches on both sides of the bank.

Also had my brush with the italian charm today.... 2 separate incidents...... one offered to take photos for me.....funnily enough after several attempts for some reason he never succeeded. He kept trying...and was talking italian ofcourse...and I didnt understand a word! the passionate Italian at play....

then a second guy started talking to me while I was still walking around taking more photos. an improvement this time...... since we each understood at least one word from any sentence that the other person spoke. and yes Carla...I know you wont find this surprising because according to you I can have a conversation with pretty much anyone hehehe. (as an aside....I can prove you wrong first night in Verona....there I was...with my friend Laura and 15 other Italian friends of hers....2 Norwegian and a French....all of whom spoke fluent Italian.....and then there was little me...with my ciao, pia cere....and lots of yes I can be speechless at times)

anyhow.......I managed to figure out he was offering to take me on a tour of Verona...after my appreciation but firm refusal he then offered to buy me coffee or wine...or some other drink...(didnt quite figure what the other drink is...), which again I had to turn down. The strange thing is...if something like this happens to me elsewhere Id not engage in conversation with the guy.....but try to quikly move away. But Italy being Italy, and the italian men being known for their charm...I didnt feel threatened by having strangers approach me.

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the city of Romeo and Juliet

being here, seeing the house of Juliet, the bronze statue, the writings of Shakespeare...all of that has brought back the romantic in me. Even the photos Ive taken cant do the place justice.

But soft what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun
It is my lady; oh it is my love
Romeo-Juliet, William Shakespeare

Also saw the Arena, and the piazza delle Erbe. Too bad that there isnt any opera on at the Arena.....will have to come back in summer for that.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

what I like about Europe

I think my favourite thing about being in Europe would have to be ----crossing the road!!
no really, life is so much easier on that aspect .......compared to Thailand/Bangkok...where even when you are already standing in the middle of the road, cars would still speed by...and you are struggling to stay out of their way!

I still wish for the ideal job....summer in europe...winter in asia. perfect huh.....


in Verona

Made the relatively uneventful train journey to Verona. Laura was there to pick me her usual vibrant and energetic self. I feel so lucky to have such friends in my life. So many of them making efforts so we can see each other.... Quintus coming all the way from Holland to Koln, Sunay and Kat flying in to Milan for our mini-reunion, Juliane travelling across Germany.......and Laura organising all the details for the girls reunion.......

anyhow, so my first Italian experience on this trip was joining a group of Laura's friends for dinner in this wonderful little cafe 3kms outside of Verona. The food was superb!! some kind of pizza bread that is somewhat similar to the Indian roti, with a variety of ham, some cheese, and italian style minced pork sausage.
I think I should do a before and after Italy photos of myself!

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Theres something about Italy

I still cant fugure what it is...but there certainly is something about Italy. I was sitting on the having just landed in Milan......and suddenly I was happy! I already mentioned this many times how I think Italy must be god's own land........ yes yes I know many people will get really upset with this sentiment...but think about it.....amazing people...I dont know where they get their passion from! lovely architecture....and mmmm the food! its just beyond description. There must really be something in the air....cos as soon as I step out...Im surrounded with that feeling of being happy again...almost in love perhaps?

well the cute boys....? what can I say....even the the very first guy I see is cute! our bus driver.....for the bus between airport to the central train station......

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More goodbyes....

Time to say goodbye...both to Germany and also to some friends. Gulmina left at 3am on I wished her farewell the night before. Interestingly, Tauseeq and I ended up being the last to say goodbyes to each other...possibly from the whole group? I assume everyone else had already left for their separate ways........ this wasnt exactly planned, but interesting that the person I got closest to should also be the person I ended up spending my last goodbye with.

Ofcourse Quintus came along to drop me off at the train station as well. He was even considering to join me to Frankfurt very sweet.....but knowing the expensive rail tickets in Germany...I didnt think it was such a wise idea...well certainly not cost efficient....certainly appreciated the thought ofcourse.

Koln to Dusseldorf

Juliane and Sascha came to Koln to meet me...we had coffee (well they did..I opted for the iced chocolate despite the 4 degrees celcius!). After that we stopped by at the tourist office to see what we could do in Koln....turned out...apart from the Dom, and the chocolate musuem ...(which I ofcourse didnt miss)...theres not much else. So Sascha decided we should go to Dusseldorf instead.

We went for a nice walk in the city area...found a really good market...had ourselves some nice warm gluhwine...and continued on our walk to the riverside. had it not been for the gluhwine..I dont think Id have been able to do that walk in this almost freezing cold temperature.

after the stroll along the river....we decided to continue with the german way and went for a very traditional german meal. was quite good, but also very heavy with lots of meat.
Juliane and Sascha asked that we join them for a night out in Essen...but knowing that Quintus doesnt drink...nor likes being in clubs...and I wasnt too keen to be out at midnight or later trying to figure out how to make the 50minute train journey back to Koln...I decided it was time to say our farewells.

Got back to Koln station just in time to meet Quintus at the train....head out towards the hotel....ran into Gulmina and Tauseeq at Starbucks.....small place it is......


Friday, November 16, 2007

Quintus in Cologne

well at least thats the plan..... slightly messed up ofcourse since he got the timing confused and will only arrive saturday night, and leave sunday night...totally forgetting that I have to leave sunday morning!

anyhow.....still looking forward to catching up..... will come back with updates..

Snow, gluhwine, fireplace, farewell dinner in Gummersbach

as you see from the title....its turned out to be quite an interesting mix of things in Gummersbach. Ofcourse on the journey to Dresden and back we already saw lots of snow, but mostly it was just seeing from behind the protected warm of our bus...with the exception of the cold rainy 2 hours walk in Weimar.
when we arrived back in Gummersbach on Saturday after the snowed quite a bit. Many of the group went out and had a good laugh throwing snowballs at each other. I reluctantly went out for about 10seconds before returning to the safe haven of central heating. The kitchen staff very kindly arranged for some Gluhwein (hot wine) for us to keep warm. Was the first time I tried it...and have to say it worked for me....sweet just the way I like my drinks....and warm. We even had a fire going on one of the evenings. I could get used to this side of winter....the warmth and cosy indoor life is what Id opt for.

too soon, it was time to say goodbye to the friends from the seminar. I dont know what it is...could be the less stress of having to worry about work, or the thought of the unknown in Australia...I feel that I opened up and was unusually friendly on this trip. Hence was quite difficult to say goodbye....well ok who am I trying to kid...I never do well with goodbyes. One by one....said goodbyes to most of the friends individually...... Ironic enough....the only person I didnt quite manage a personal goodbye to was Oren.


some random thoughts

....... well its so random that Ill have to get back to this later.......

another holocaust reminder.......

the excursion is pretty much the same as last trip in august, with exception ofcourse that this is a different group.
it was raining in Weimar just as it did last time. this being winter however meant we suffered a lot more. some of us had to buy more warm clothes,gloves,jackets and such. I thought I was dressed pretty warm, yet myhands felt like I was holding ice despite having gloves on!

I decided not to go in to Buchenwald this time. The images from the last visit are still fresh in my mind, and simply being back on the premise is enough to already cast a heavy weight on my heart. I cant describe it, and know that words are not enough to show empathy for those who suffered under the brutal nazi regime. I talk a lot about the need to be able to move on...that our German friends need to be able to move past that stigma that comes with being German and the role Germany had in both world wars. Ofcourse moving on does not mean forgetting. I may not be a victim or associated with any of the victims, but those that know me realise that for all of my compassion for different people and those that have suffered, the fate and persecution of the Jewish people are those closest to my heart.

I hope their souls will rest in peace and their surviving friends and families can find their peace of mind.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

thinking about the title

so much has happened,over the past 10days that Im not sure I may forget something this post is dedicated to all the unsaid important things
well atleast until it comes back to me

Gummersbach one more time

so here I am back for another 2 week course in Gummersbach, to my own surprise. After the August trip, and with my imminent departure I didnt think Id get to come to the Academy again,let alone this soon.

I also met my first Israeli friend here, and was...still am quite excited about it!