Bla-bla-bla Spanish style
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My actual vacation had started long before I even bought my ticket. I've had an affair with Spain and the Latin culture since forever. It is true that people always adore the opposite of what they have: the curly-haired ones envy the straight-haired ones that they don't have to burn their hair daily and so on. I also love the passionate south more than the frigid north, and having never seen the epitome of Latin culture, I was eager to go. I started looking for people to travel with but everyone was divided into three groups: those who don't have time, those who don't have money, or those who simply don't want to travel. I figured that it shouldn't stop me from traveling anyway. What helps me to travel alone and enjoy it to the maximum is my overly confident personality. When I told my friends that I'm going to Spain alone, I could see amazement and respect in their eyes, with a tiny dash of you-are-out-of-your-mind and some healthy jealousy. During this trip, I spent a lot of time by myself, and even though I'm an extrovert, I would never trade the lone-wolf sightseeing with a marathon of compromise making; I don't have the diplomatic skills for that. The first day was a freezing Thursday, a day when I was ideally supposed to be at the university, but let's be realistic, who wouldn't extend their spring break to simply push the limits of professors? After having to throw out half of my 100mL bottles because it didn't fit the ridiculously small Ryanair plastic bag, I was off on my spring adventure. I admit that initiating my trips is always the hardest part for me - silly stomach butterflies. It is probably because this was only my second alone trip and the unknown mixed with high altitudes resulted in anxiety. On the place I've already heard French and German and I can't explain the overwhelming warmth that such things bring me. Upon landing in Charleroi, Belgium, I was very happy that European guys are so hot; at least I wasn't bored while I waited for the shuttle bus to go to the centre of Brussels. I was paranoid about the weather because www.weather.com pronounced very low temperatures and rain in both Brussels and Barcelona, but at least now I can firmly state that the traveler must trust in no weather forecasts and not even in their intuition, when packing dresses, sandals, and swimwear to 5C weather, but only in irrationality (live on the edge). Also, the rule of "take two times less clothes and two times more money" was confirmed once again, for the gazillionth time. You think that I would learn for once, but no... Brussels hit me as a metropolis of stupendous architecture, gorgeous people and ridiculously strong beer (even for a Lithuanian). I loved the city: its museums, bars and monuments and my ability to explain in broken French how to get to the Palais de Justice to a Parisian. In every city and with every such eventful day, I'm enriched immensely and Brussels has taught me the following: I could have 20 Arabic husbands, I have to make a mental note to cut down the consumption of Belgian beer, to keep a safe distance from the Delirium bar (even though I love the logo of the pink elephant), and last but not least, how to run frantically while being tipsy and miss the shuttle bus to the airport. After finally getting to Charleroi and still being a little drunk, I couldn't help but flirt with every male security guard there was, excruciatingly slowly taking my shoes off and putting them back on. It's not my problem that the Belgian men are attractive. As planned, all the flirtiness disappeared, because as soon as I sat down and put the airplane seatbelt on, I was out. I remember waking up half-way through the flight and wondering why we weren't airborne yet. I was totally passed out during the lift-off. Again, I feel inclined to mention the Belgian beer as it kept surprising me with its effects. Don't let it fool you! One is enough if you want to take photos through the plane window. In Girona, I finally became somewhat conscious again and my host Adria met me with a big and welcoming smile. I had found him through Couchsurfing, which has provided me with countless opportunities to meet the coolest people on Earth, but that's a whole different story. Having walked around all day with my backpack, needless to say, I was dead. After meeting Adria's roommates and familiarizing myself with my temporary home, Adria took me to Club Blau (Blue Club in Catalan) for a reggae/house party. I was surprised at many things: 90% of the crowd were guys, the music was great (but sadly, not Latino) and people smoked inside! (Though, I heard that the smoking won't be allowed inside for much longer). With cigarette butts on the floor or without, and being what they call "rubia" - blond, but if you ask me, my hair is brown- I broke many Spanish hearts that night. I knew their reputation as being hot blooded, but these people had their blood boiling, offering me to go to their homes after ten minutes of introductions, pobrecitos (poor guys). Yet, I was really proud of my Spanglish skills; I could keep up light conversations with the locals for half an hour!! Another contrast to mention is the process of going out. First, they eat ridiculously late, at around 11PM (heart doctors wouldn't be happy), after which they go for drinks, and then finally to dance at 1-2Am. This lifestyle would prematurely kill me, because after four days like this, I felt like I was hit by a moderately sized tractor or something similar. I believe we arrived home just before 6AM and I fell asleep in an eye-blink. To my surprise, I was woken up by sunlight, which I haven’t seen since forever (October) hitting my royal-pale whitie face. I slept all night with a pleasant little cat, amiably called Enclusa. Waking up with a glass of juice and being able to walk around in short sleeves lifted up my otherwise hung-over spirits. We dedicated the whole Friday afternoon to see Girona, and I can confidently state that it is one of the loveliest cities I've ever seen. Perhaps it's because I'm not used to huge urbanized jungles and prefer more natural and cozy cities to live in. Girona was exactly that, with fabulous architecture, miniature streets (one of the top things that I love about Europe), and numerous plazas, including the smallest one in Europe, which is at most two-by-two square meters big. Thanks to Adria, I saw the absolute best of this sunny city and its warm people. I was in a very good mood leaving Girona, because we went to the lioness sculpture, and it's said that if you kiss its bottom, you will come back to Girona. Well, I didn't truly manage to kiss it, as it was about 3 meters tall, but I had the best intentions, and I'm sure that I will go back (for the guacamole hamburgers too)!!!The train took me to Barcelona in no time, where I had to take the metro as suggested by the hostel website. The metro trip was fine, but finding the "Barcelona Sound" party-party hostel was a little bit troublesome and I was walking up and down the main street with my backpack trying to figure out which way the sea was and to regain my biological compass. First, I was disgusted by the hordes of tourists in the main street, but taking side streets was a real pleasure. Luckily, my hostel was in one of the side streets in the Raval area. I love hostels so much, and especially the people that I meet there; sleeping in a bunk bed, and sharing a shower takes me back to kindergarten/summer-camp times, that I absolutely adored. Yet, in the hostel there are no parents, plus you can drink, which is always good (in moderation!). With sort-of my travel companion, we spotted an Indian restaurant where they were teaching how to dance to the Bollywood rhythms. I didn't have the courage to at least try because I was pretty darn tired to even swallow my food. Yet, the shrimp massala was too good to miss and the atmosphere was splendid, including the Spanish beer (at least its lighter than Belgian ). I couldn't count how many of those I actually had during the whole trip; for everyone’s sake, let's leave that scary number undisclosed. Since it was Friday night, and I was feeling funny after a Cuba Libre in a British Bar, naturally I went out. The place was called Jamboree, with funk/disco on the first floor, and r'n'b on the next. I loved the first one and the crazy Spanish sexies on the dance floor. I spent five hours dancing ecstatically, until one of the Angels, Luises, Rodrigos or Carloses offered to "rent a hotel room". I'm becoming to think that finishing the party night with sex is a national hobby (no offence to moral Spanish people). After shattering his expectations in the most painful way possible, I went to the hostel for at least a couple of hours of sleep. I want to use the following lines to say sorry to my roomies for waking them up each early morning. After 2 lousy hours of sleeping like a dead person, it was one of my roommates Florian's last day in Barcelona (Sadly...because after getting to know this crazy Frenchie I wish we had time to party together) and we walked along the coast towards the beach, and I got my first day-time impression of Barcelona - busy, touristy, and windy. Yet, the time spent on the beach with a can of beer, watching the surfers and feeling the rays of sun dancing flamenco on my cheeks, was fabulous. I felt like a rock star walking around with beer - after all drinking in public places, especially in beaches, is forbidden pretty much everywhere in Europe and USA. This relaxed and no-fuss atmosphere is what I love most about Spain, even though I'm sure it is impossible to get anything done, because of the explosive mix of bureaucracy plus "leave everything for tomorrow" attitude. It would drive me silly. After some more eastern food, I was exhausted and took it easy on a couch with a bag of potato chips, watching Catalan TV; I need such moments when traveling also, to at least vaguely remember my identity of a lazy bum. I've met a bunch of people in the hostel during my potato-couch extravaganza and we decided to visit the megataverna called Ovella Negra. As I called it, this watering hole was an enormous drinking hall, with everyone jolly, chanting in gibberish Spanish, and looking for empty tables. That night I believe some Spanish football team lost, and thus the night wasn't as ecstatic as it could have potentially been if their team had won. But now, I'm not even sure if I would have wanted to see those crazy fanatics go wild. Anyway, after a few beers I was ready to go, but nooo...the ridiculous Spanish rule of "party starts at 2AM" drove me nuts, because I simply couldn't sit still, eager to dance dance dance! We went to a club called Razzmatazz, or better I should call it a sacred temple of my dancing religion. It was a bit pricey, but at least a drink was included in the 15EUR fee. The first hall was the biggest one with the kind of music that I adore, e.g. Datarock or MGMT. It was great, filled with friendly people, opposite of what I had been expecting before, because the hostel staff told me to never leave my drink unattended, because they could put valium in it and so I was a little bit freaked out, but as soon as I started dancing, all fears disappeared. I can't exaggerate enough how big the place was, it's an old industrial building with five different halls inside. If you leave your friends to go to the bathroom, the next time that you are going to see them is the following afternoon. The smell of weed is persistent, strobe lights blinding, and overall atmosphere daaaaaance crazy. Lovely place. The following day was spent for the most part in bed, walking around in the stunning Gothic Quarters, hanging out in numerous bars, and just taking in all of the rainy Barcelona. Of course, I had to try something typical and mind-blowing - tapas. I and Rodrigo, a crazy Brazilian marathon runner, went to Las Ramblas, to a random tourist-trap place - of course not the best choice, but I was just too sick of walking around in rain. Until tasting the mussels and octopus and calamari, I had forgotten that other types of food, rather than Lithuanian potato-meat-fat diet, exists! It was amazingly explosive on my palate, and the sangria to wash it down with was getting me rather tipsy. To everyone’s huge amazement, it started snowing. At first it was a light flurry, one of those where kids run around with their mouths open and tongues stuck out to catch the white lovelies. Yet, Barcelona was about to show me the best of it. It started snowing like crazy that even the waiters of the restaurant ran outside with cameras, photographing the phenomenon. Hearing about the sunny Barcelona, I never thought I'd be in a snow-fight in front of the hostel, running around with my summer shoes in the chilly sludge. Needless to say, the whole infrastructure was paralyzed after 10 minutes and numerous people from the hostel didn't catch their trains, planes, and buses, or they were cancelled or delayed. Therefore, we took our time to explore the concept of 1 euro wine, and played card drinking games and foosball in the hostel as a part of a tranquil yet tipsily crazy evening. The following day was officially my last one and I realized that I still didn't see any of the exciting places. Therefore I embarked on a whole day of walking, rather than taking metro, and wandering in the endless Barcelona. First I visited Park Guell, where the cacti had snow caps, tree branches were drastically damaged and on the ground, and the tourist hordes were comparably scarce, so I could even manage to capture the Gaudi benches without a single soul in the photo! I concluded that it is a lovely park, yet not where the sculptures and Gaudi work is, but the other side paths and tiny roads, cause that's where the locals come to escape the hectic city life. I saw many contrasts, but one of the most memorable ones was the one of a tangerine tree with snow on the tiny orange fruit. The white and orange made it look like one of the freshest orange popsicles that I've ever seen! Later on I went to see the Sagrada Familia, which is sooo being renovated that it left hardly any impression. Sorry to all of the church freaks, I'm simply not one of those, as I'm more easily impressed by parks and seaside. I almost dragged myself back to the hostel, swinging by the main market to get some food, and of course some of their amazing chocolate creations. While eating I've noticed that my tooth was giving me trouble; I could hardly chew the cactus fruit or the macadamia chocolate bar. Bad news - I always get sick just before I travel or during the trip. Someone please remove that curse. Anyway, I spent my last afternoon in Barcelona lying in the hostel bed, crying like a baby from the pain, and swearing at the Motrin pills, that basically did nothing to ease the pain. Then I had the challenge to go to a Spanish pharmacy and to explain to this old grey-haired med-wiz how my molar tooth is infected and that I need antibiotics. Obviously, she wouldn't give me any without a prescription, but I got some strong pain killers and something to decrease the inflammation. That was by far, the most painful afternoon that I've ever had; I had to pack and catch the speed train to Zaragoza to visit a friend of mine for a couple of days. I had a first-class seat in the train, with all the classy gelled hair businessmen, and my shabby backpack made me feel rather out of place. Also, I will never forgive myself that I could've had copious glasses of wine; just I couldn't mix the medicine with alcohol and had to survive on lousy pineapple juice. Yet, the size of the train station in Zaragoza was even more hideous than the previous fact; it was just blown out of all proportions. The following day was windy and cold...I'm always unlucky with weather, wherever I travel to, the weather and getting ill. (But it will never stop me!!) We took a road trip to Tarazona, which is a city one hour away from Zaragoza, of stupendous!!! architecture and very laid-back. I was completely charmed by it because walking around through the tiny streets was simply magical. To eat, we took a side-trip to my friend's grandparents who live in a tiny village amiably called Cunchillos. The grandmother paella was fantastic, as little as I could chew without feeling like pulling my own molar out. After food, fruit follows, and then cookies, and then nuts...and the hospitality of Spanish people is endless. Even though I couldn't quite communicate cause they spoke in a dialect and ridiculously fast, I felt like with my own grandparents. Thank you again, Vicente! Other sights to see in Cunchillos are the magnificent blossoming cherry trees and the bar where old (and single) men drink, smoke, and play cards. And a tip for future Cunchillos tourists - watch out for the tramways!!! The following day was dedicated to explore Zaragoza - to see the largest cathedral in Spain, Rodin's sculptures, Goya's sculpture being attacked by pigeons, exhibition of Le Chien Andalou, and to have some very good straciatella ice-cream. Talking about food (I consider ice-cream to be the king/queen of food!) my stomach was so much longing for warm soup, that we went to an Italian restaurant, just so that I could enjoy delicious minestrone and veggie lasagna. Perfect last meal, if you ask me. Goodbyes are always sad, but they happened in Zaragoza airport, and I was off to Charleroi again. Landing super late, I should've slept in the airport, but at the last minute, I've arranged to couch surf. I went from airport to the bus station of Charleroi, and it was rather creepy there, with "Salut!" coming from every corner, and fishy people wandering around. Yet, as soon as I met Jonathan, I was fine. We went home, where he took on the role of a perfect host, while I even managed to break his high-tech shower (he fixed it the following day :) ). Just a fews hours of sleep and I was at the security check, with the same hot Belgian men, yet no energy to flirt. I was exhausted and sad that I was heading home, and the arrogant, evil-faced and rude Lithuanians at the boarding gate didn't help me either. Finally, my Latino extravaganza came to a pitiful end, as the plane landed in cold Kaunas, and I was forced to go back to reality.
Time for concluding words, but I truly hope that my most romantic affair with Spain didn’t end yet. Actually, I’m sure about that. A little bit of this trip’s charm is the architecture, another bigger part is art, and then food takes a lot of credit. Yet the pivotal role was played by the people. I would like to tremendously thank my hosts Adria in lovely Girona, Vicente in Zaragoza, and Jonathan in Charleroi �" my house is your house as well, anytime! I’ve discovered and characterized two completely different countries �" Belgium and Spain �" but the most important discoveries happened inside. Travel, travel, and once again travel, because otherwise you have to work! Paz y Amor