I just realized sitting here in the airplane to Israel that I forgot to remind you all before I left, so now you have been stuck with the same post for several days with no apparent reason for my departure from blogland. It has come to my attention that the whole world does not have Facebook or Twitter and therefore some of you may have been left in the dark. By the way, for the first time in my life I have joined the masses of those who whip out their laptops on airplanes, I never thought I could be this cool, not only have I joined the airplane laptop masses, but I am writing on my brand spanking new Netbook – 10inches of computer portability with a claimed 7 hour battery life.
7 hour battery life my ass, just like EPA highway miles per gallon which is always done while in neutral going down a steep hill, laptop battery life is very optimistic. My old laptop had a claimed 2.5 hours of battery life but if it lasted an hour that was great! This current machine says 7 hours but I think 5 is more like it, unless you turn it on sleep mode, then maybe.
I landed in Madrid, Spain on Monday morning after a mildly pleasant overnight flight. I immediately hopped on the train, because that’s what people in Europe do, they take trains everywhere, or they ride motor bikes and really small cars. As was probably said a million times before, the subways of Madrid are super clean and quiet, fact is Spaniards are generally quiet, this wasn’t the Peurto Rican day parade, after spending 3 days in Spain I am thoroughly impressed with the silence of the people, oh, and its illegal to use your horn in Madrid, so the horrible traffic is done in silence.
As I mentioned I hopped on the train and proceeded to navigate to the main train station where I could take another train to the ancient city of Toledo, located 30 miles south of Madrid. I took out 100 Euro and figured that my money was worth half, but wouldn’t know the damage until later. The train wasn’t leaving for another 2 hours so I shouldered my goods and walked out of the Atocha train station in Madrid.
It was beautiful when I got out of the train station, clear warm and sunny and right away I noticed some beautiful buildings across the street, so I followed my nose and walked for 2 hours and looked at some beautiful architecture, went into the most amazing cathedral (I know its assur – especially catholic) but I couldn’t help myself.
Got back to the station and hopped on the train, did I mention that the ticket buying counter was a zoo? I can’t understand what takes these agents 5 minutes to give you a ticket, this is Europe, I thought they were all efficient and stuff?
I immediately fell asleep on the train after passing some cornfields, I awoke in pre-jetlag stupor and stumbled out of the train into one amazing station building of Gothic style with a whole wooden building inside the current one carved with crosses. They really take their crosses seriously in Spain. I followed the crowd into the blazing sun, it was very hot as I walked up this incredibly steep hill across an ancient arched bridge built 1000 years ago, the walls of the city rose up in castle like formation and I could see I had a ways to go. I was dead tired and sweating buckets, but thanks to my new backpack I had no carry on luggage and everything I would need, save for presentable clothing, for 3 weeks of travel. I had even opted out of my shaver, and extra pair of shoes for weight savings, bringing my total to 22 pounds, although I would eat all of my energy bars through the trip lowering the weight.
I walked around the old city of Toledo, walked in and out of ancient cathedrals and churches and even found me two shuls, one of which housed the museum Sfard and was closed and the other which was a shul and had loads of Jewish artwork but that had a big cross above the bimah, I was very confused, and my Spanish, although doable, is about enough to get me to a bathroom, train station and bank.
Did I mention I was tired, 6 hour time change and I had just walked several up hill miles with a full pack in 95 degrees. So I did what any tired backpacker does, I found a bench and went to sleep. I heard voices every now and then wondering why I was sleeping smack in the middle of a tourist street but no one bothered me and I slept for several hours. I woke up with one thing on my mind, Hostal, in Spain they have something called a Hostal, which is different then a hostel in that its a cheap hotel in which you get your own room. If I was going to get a decent nights sleep I didn’t need to sleep in a dorm room with a bunch of yapping European backpackers back from a night of partying.
I found a Hostal after hours of walking, Toledo is very complex and it seems you are going in circles, Imagine the old city of Jerusalem, make the roads narrower, enter a bunch of squares and then throw in some cars that make the driving scenes from the Italian Job look easy.
I paid 30 euro for a night, the room was really nice, albeit small. Just enough room for a bed, the bathroom had a full sized shower, not what I was used to having been in Greece and Turkey I was expecting to sit on the toilet and take a shower. The room had AC and soap and shampoo, so what if it was $50, which is way more than I would pay in America, fact is I always camp out in America and did in Greece as well.
I woke up the next day at 11:30 after more than 10 hours of sleep, I felt refreshed and starving, I resisted all temptation to eat non-kosher and it was damned tempting, I figured 2.5 days of energy bars wouldn’t be that bad, but I was wrong, I started thinking of all the food I would eat in Israel.
I took a train back into Madrid and had to go to another train station to catch the train for another place I had heard was key to visit if I were to have time. Multiple people told me upon learning of my trip that Madrid was nothing special, but they had their recommendations and both were amazing. I hopped on a train to Segovia, 51 miles north of Madrid near the mountains.
This time I was awake and loving the scenery, which looked exactly like New Mexico with some good sized jagged peaks in the distance. I wondered where the train would go as we approached them, then suddenly we were flying through this very long tunnel and 15 minutes later the peaks were behind us and we were in a great grassy plain kind of like western Nebraska with random hills and cliffs poking through.
The train station for Segovia is far from the town and 86 cents later I was on the bus to the main Tourist area. The Spanish love their traffic circles, we must have gone around 4 when we finally pulled up at the bottom of Segovia right next to its main attraction the fully intact 2900 foot long Roman Aqueduct with a high point of 115 feet off the ground, its pretty amazing. Again I had to hike up a steep hill and navigate a maze of streets with ancient buildings and passageways.
This time, besides for visiting several cathedrals and random buildings, I went to my first real castle. That’s right folks, the castle in central park is not really counted and Castle Loma in Toronto I never actually visited. This was the ancient Alcazar in Segovia which was originally a Roman fortress but rebuilt in the 12th and 14th centuries. The castle complete with a mote, and towers wherre the hot princess would be held was striking, I also paid for entrance which I rarely do, I have theories about paying for tourist sites when so many things are free.
The rooms of the castle were gorgeous with original artwork and wood carved cielings and all sorts of goodies including a load of those crusader like shields and body armour probably used to expel the Jews in 1492.
After wandering around Segovia a bit more I decided to head back to Madrid since I had an 11:45am flight to Tel Aiv. I got up at 9am thinking I had enough time and for the first time in my life, lots of virginity breaking om this trip, I ran like a madman through the airport taking out helpless Spaniards with my swinging pack, I also smelled like dried sweat and was dehydrated by the time I got to my gate. I was late like hell but like all Jews the flight didn’t start boarding until an hour after the claimed time.
After flying on Iberia airlines I have decided that ElAl is the best service besides for Mexicana airlines. Iberia is terrible, I love Israeli flight attendants and not just becuase they are hot, they don’t go apeshit about your seatbacks and tray tables, they have better things to worry about, like refilling your water enough times to compete with kosher Chinese restuarant servers.
Stay tuned for more of my trip…This was typed on some random program on my new netbook so don’t blame me for mistakes.