Sunday, October 16, 2011

the things you see

"the things you see." uttered by a friend, maureen m., when our conversation was stopped mid-sentence many years ago at an outdoor cafe while a completely skinned, uncooked hog on a spit was paraded by two men past our table and into the restaurant next door. we've repeated that phrase nearly every day while traveling.

we've been on the road now for 100 days and if there's any wisdom we can pass on, it would be this: save your plastic bags. seriously. trust us on this. michelle's got a pretty serious collecting, collating and storage routine down now that we're never wanting for proper storage of anything we carry, and when you move around a lot like we do, it becomes quite the priority.

our cretan throne, 3rd century b.c., fallasarna, crete
you're welcome.

we've learned a few things, taken some notes and made up our minds about things we never really thought were that important, like plastic bags. who knew?

so, a little 100 day wrap up:

1. the world is full of fantastic people, or at least the small part of the world we've seen so far.

2. people of dubrovnik are exempt from statement number 1. especially the old folks at the green market. such a stunningly beautiful place this old city is and such a stunning contrast are the manners of its citizens. we're tourists, we get that, and we really try our hardest to be unintrusive and, at the very least, (see #7) learn a few words to ease communication and, we hope, offer some sort of message that we're trying. *sigh* in spite of this statement, you should absolutely visit dubrovnik.

3. there are a LOT of different toilet designs in the world, some of which take a few minutes of concentration to figure out, including the push button on the bottom of the tank which is hung on the wall over a cretan commode. we both looked around for a good minute or so until we looked up. it was the only thing left in the bathroom that we hadn't pushed.

3a. the same goes for showers of the world. some you pull, some you push, some are completely inoperable once you've lathered up and a slipperiness factor has been introduced and you're reduced to "hhhooooonnneeeyyy..."

birthday, mirce, brac island, croatia

4. we love our keen hiking shoes. couldn't imagine a better pair of shoes to cover all of our bases. these things have brought us across old european cities, over the green hills of the austrian countryside, the rocky hills of south crete and a couple of pretty fine restaurants.

5. don't underestimate the power of a leatherman. we've used ours to cut cheese, to fix a shower head, to cut off a toenail, to open beer and wine bottles, to pop out a sim card... if the airlines ever take it from us, we may break down and cry.

6. a map and a metro pass is your ticket to happiness. european cities have got it down when it comes to public transportation. we've seen way more of a place than we could in the u.s. with the purchase of a few dollars worth of tram passes and a free tourist map. berlin, budapest, vienna, zagreb all come quickly to mind but you could drop in there any european city or town.

kissamos, crete, greece
7. regardless of the language where you find yourself, communication really does come down to a few common words and some body language. we haven't traveled so far away from home but almost everyone speaks english to some degree. even if they don't, if you can say "thank you," "good morning," "nice hair" or "the bill, please," whether or not you can even remotely understand the reply, you'll be half way home.

8. ask the person next to you, "so where are you from?" most of the time we get an unintelligible reply in some language we don't understand but sometimes we hit a goldmine and make an immediate friend. meet a fellow traveler who has been on the road and you share an instant bond. everyone wants to share experiences and recommendations and after however many days they've been surrounded by languages they don't understand, or are too tired to try to find meaning in those words, a little common english goes a long way.

9. don't judge a new place by first impression, let it come to you. we've learned this in a couple locations where after only a day or two our opinions were completely changed. it's amazing just how quickly some new place becomes familiar. that vague unsettled feeling when you first arrive, particularly after a long or arduous transit day of some sort, quickly fades away with a night's sleep and a wander around town. or a quick conversation with a local, however cobbled together.

10. take a break. take a vacation from your vacation. learn to identify those moments of information overload, when looking at or visiting something with profound historical or cultural significance and all you can think about is taking a nap... go take a nap. don't "power through." trust us on that one, too.

today, we've been invited by our new friend arianne to a "chestnut festival" in elos, on crete. we're hoping for the crowning of a chestnut queen! "the things you see."

midpoint of an incredible hike, lisos, crete

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