Monthly Archives: June 2009

Waffeling in Beligum

Posted by on June 19, 2009

After arriving in Belgium, I immediately started to feel ill. At about 8pm last night my whole body started to ache and i felt very tired. Since then I have been sleeping for close to 16 hours. When I went to sleep I had chills and by the middle of the night I was sweating. I feel much better now but my body is still sore and I haven’t eaten anything all day.

Getting to Brussels wasn’t a big deal. The taxi ride from my hotel to the train station was almost as much as the train ticket. One thing I have discovered is that you should never take a taxi in Western Europe. Never. Even a short trip can cost you $20-30. What I saved in my hotel by not being in the middle of Luxembourg was more than offset by the monopoly cost of food and transportation. Local buses didn’t go to the hotel, so if I wanted to take a bus I’d have to walk 2-3km with all my stuff to catch it.

I got off at the wrong station in Brussels so I was disorientated for a bit. I found the easiest solution was to just find a metro station and take the train to the closest metro stop. It was one of those situations where having an iPhone with GPS would have been a huge help.

I ended up finding a hotel at a reasonable price (€35/night) which is surprisingly less than staying in a private room in a hostel. They have free wifi, but only in the lobby. Every time I see a hotel like this I feel like offering to set them up to put wifi on every floor in exchange for lodging. It really isn’t hard to do.

There seem to be a lot of Belgians who read the site and follow me on twitter. If you’d like to meet up while I’m here, just send me an email. You can find it on my contact page. Hopefully I’ll be feeling better tomorrow.

With that, I’m going back to bed.

First and probably last thoughts on Luxembourg

Posted by on June 17, 2009

I’ve left France and arrived in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Despite its size, Luxembourg isn’t even close to the smallest country I’ve visited on my trip. The Vatican, Monaco, San Marnio, Nauru, Macau, Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, Guam, CNMI, Micronesia, Bahrian, Singapore, Kiribati, and Hong Kong are all smaller. In fact, I was amazed to find out that that Samoa was larger than Luxembourg. One of the oddities of my trip so far is that because I’ve visited so many small countries, if you look at a map of where I’ve been it doesn’t look like I’ve been to many places at all.

I’m not staying in the City of Luxembourg. I’m staying about 10km out of town which sounded like a good idea based on the price, but getting into town is sort of a pain. There is a village about 1km away which has a bus that is cheap, but the schedule isn’t very good. Taxis here are very expensive. That 10km trip (6mi) is about 22 Euros. The area immediately surrounding my hotel is very serene; all farm land with gently rolling hills.

Beyond its small size and the fact that it is the world’s only remaining grand duchy, what makes Luxembourg odd is the way languages are used. Officially Luxembourg has three languages: French, German and Luxembourgish. Most of the signs I’ve seen appear to be in French and most people seem to be speaking in French. Somethings appear to be in German and as I understand, Luxembourgish is an offshoot of German with French influences. I’m not sure I could tell the difference if I were to hear it. Everyone seems to be fluent in both French and German and both French and German TV stations are shown.

Tomorrow I’m off to Belgium (the other motherland) for a few days before moving on to Amsterdam. The ride from Luxembourg to Brussels should be short but expensive (just like everything else here).

UNESCO World Heritage Site #67: Acropolis, Athens

Posted by on June 17, 2009

World Heritage Site #67: Acropolis, Athens

World Heritage Site #67: Acropolis, Athens

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. In the second half of the fifth century bc, Athens, following the victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, took a leading position amongst the other city-states of the ancient world. In the age that followed, as thought and art flourished, an exceptional group of artists put into effect the ambitious plans of Athenian statesman Pericles and, under the inspired guidance of the sculptor Pheidias, transformed the rocky hill into a unique monument of thought and the arts. The most important monuments were built during that time: the Parthenon, built by Ictinus, the Erechtheon, the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis, designed by Mnesicles and the small temple Athena Nike.

I had an eight hour layover in Athens during my flight from Tel Aviv to Rome. I raced from the Airport with the one objective of visiting the Acropolis. The Acropolis is a small rocky hill in the center of Athens where the Parthanon and other temple buildings are located. There has been extensive restoration there during the 20th century. It is almost impossible to take a photo of any part of the ancient structures without having a modern bit of machinery or support in the photo. Despite the crowds, it turned out that two hours at the Acropolis was more than enough time to visit the site. You are restricted to only walking around the perimeter of the hill because of how old and fragile the ruins are. The Acropolis will also give you the best view of the city of Athens.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #66: Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee

Posted by on June 16, 2009

World Heritage Site #66: Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee

World Heritage Site #66: Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee are inscribed for their profound spiritual meaning and the testimony they bear to the strong tradition of pilgrimage in the Bahá’i faith. The property includes the two most holy places in the Bahá’í religion associated with the founders, the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in Acre and the Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, together with their surrounding gardens, associated buildings and monuments. These two shrines are part of a larger complex of buildings, monuments and sites at seven distinct locations in Haifa and Western Galilee that are visited as part of the Bahá’i pilgrimage.

Unfortunately, I visited the Baha’i gardens on a Baha’i holy day so the gardens were closed to visitors. I was able to take some photos from the top of the hill where the gardens are located (Mount Carmel) but that was it. If I am ever in northern Israel again I will make sure to return to the gardens to explore them more thoroughly.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #65: Old City of Acre

Posted by on June 15, 2009

World Heritage Site #65: Old City of Acre

World Heritage Site #65: Old City of Acre

From the World Heritage inscription:

Acre is a historic walled port-city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. The present city is characteristic of a fortified town dating from the Ottoman 18th and 19th centuries, with typical urban components such as the citadel, mosques, khans and baths. The remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact, both above and below today’s street level, providing an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem.

A former Crusader castle and Ottoman fort, the old city of Acre is still inhabited today. Mostly home to Israeli Arabs, I witnessed kids going to school and an Arab wedding within the walls of the old city. Much of the original Crusader structures are underground, where an network of tunnels was built.