Wanderlusting Europe

In summer 2005, I got a scholarship to study Spanish Language and Culture but I end up touring Europe.

Best time of my life.

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Photo: Madrid – Granada bus ticket

I had always dreamed of traveling around the world and had stole pictures of Europe from the library but nothing could prepared me for the reality.

There was no word for it. I was overwhelmed by the smell, sights and sound. I can’t even find a better word than happy. I don’t know if ‘blessed’ fit the profile but I knew ‘fulfilled’ was some part of it.

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Photo: Bus ticket from Barcelona – Paris (You can get a Euroline pass to 51 countries from 185 Euros for 15 days. See Eurolines website for more.)

It was a scary experience too. I did not know anyone and that was my first trip overseas but I came too far to say ‘maybe next time.’

It was not a known fact that a single Malaysian Malay/English/Spanish/un-petit-peu-de-French speaking girl would travel alone in unknown territory. I was immediately dubbed ‘crazy’ by many peers.

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Photo: Apartment rent receipt from a luxurious unit across the Prague Florenc Bus Station.

I enjoyed Prague the most, of all the countries that I have been. There was a different vibe; mysterious and beckoning on the pebbled streets.

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I was robbed by a group of gypsies in Rome but I never felt that was a bad day. I met a good Samaritan, slipped in a deaf tour with him because he knew a friend who knew someone who could let us in for free and ate the most glorious food with ample Italian kisses.

I don’t know any day more perfect than that one.

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Photo: Ticket from London – Brussels

Funny thing about London was that it was a city of contradiction. Coming from a third world country and a country being colonized by the British Empire, everyone was fed different facts about England and my first impression did not meet any of it.

One thing that didn’t change is that the Englishmen are always the gentlemen.

I told a fellow English passenger in the bus that a Portuguese sat close-by harassed me. In seconds, it was chaos. The fight lasted for about 15 minutes and both broke their nose but later apologized.

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Photo: Frankfurt – Rome

I was not particularly into Frankfurt. The people scared me. I need some time to adjust to the normal volume pitch of the locals. I don’t find them very friendly when they’re yelling on top of their lungs but it’s the norm. Surprisingly, I later found out that they made the best of friends when you earn their trust.

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To be honest I only understood the second last line 🙂

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Photo: Marseilles – Barcelona

My surprise destination was Marseilles. I never planned to go there but it was kind of an accident that left me no choice.

I could never thank the accident enough. Marseilles is the epitome of vintage, free, wandering soul. The strong wind, the old port, the clear turquoise water, the lines of parked yachts, the fresh seafood, the freckles of the waving children, flapping skirts of old ladies, gleaming teeth of the old men. I will never forget the first time I got the glimpse of the famous port. I never recovered that piece of my heart left in Marseilles.

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Photo: Metro map of Barcelona

I have been to Barcelona more than 3 times but I have this feeling that Barcelona did not like me very much. There was always something that made my stay unbearable. Be it a rude remark from a local that I took seriously, unsympathetic friend that preferred to let me sleep at the airport for 2 days than offer any sort of refuge or being ignored when asked for help.

I don’t know why all these happen just when I arrived in Barcelona and sincerely hoped to God that every single time it would be different. It never did.

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Photo: Spanish grammar notes

I am lucky enough to be able to reach out for my dreams just because I was determined to learn a foreign tongue. Although I did learn French for 4 years in secondary school, the foundation made me decide to try Spanish and there lies my road to the world.

I am hoping for a new adventure, a new luck and a new place to tread this year. Maybe this time it would truly happen.

And you, yes, YOU. what are you waiting for? If not now, then when?

Happy wandering, wanderfolks!

Madrid Memories – Part I

I don’t know when will I see them again but this was taken in 2008. Curiously I did not feel the same emotions when I was there the first time in 2005. Everything was different; the vibe, the people, etc. Maybe because the crisis was upon the horizon and people’s head was swarming with misery.

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I loved the bear at Sol. I wondered why it was there. He’s like an important symbol but my teachers at the language school never mentioned it.

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I loved the Metro of Madrid. It’s more spacious and cleaner than the one in Barcelona or even Rome and Paris. But the one that I found better than this one is BTS of Bangkok.

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It’s fascinating how much people loved cured ham of Spain. There’s even a ‘museum’ dedicated to it. I managed to stand at the entrance but cannot cooperate my body inside. I find the stench unbearable 😦

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TABAC, as they said. I bought my monthly Metro pass here. The teller did not speak English and I have very few Spanish vocabulary at that time but we managed with a lot of sign language, miming and a bit of yelling. There were a lot of improvisation too and the customers that came later did their bit of hand gestures until I understood.

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I bought several second hand books here for less than 2 Euros. You can find old stamps, old sketches and many priceless memorabilia. This very same narrow way also lead to another place.

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The one, the only, the famous Plaza Mayor 🙂 I went here so many times along with some other exchange students. Most of them are Turkish, Polish and Hungarian. They made me sing a famous Malay pop song on top of my lungs here. I never thought I could miss a country by singing a decade old love song that I don’t even like in the first place.

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Nahid Ramazanov, one of the exchange students from Istanbul had a friend working here and he bought us lunch. It was amazing, rambunctious room filled with laughter and people in 2005 but by summer 2008 no one was there, the food was quite bland and there was almost a heavy dread on the shoulders of the server.

I wonder if it was a good idea to return to a place that you once knew. I wanted to remember Madrid as a place I once belonged, full of beautiful people and dreamy, rustic, citrusy summer but I can’t.

I can only hope for the charm of the third try.