Thursday, June 29, 2006

Island Hopping

Hello all,
As you may have been able to tell, I wasn't able to do a post about the wonderful time we had in Munich (and probably won't be able to do a full one until we get back). We're currently in Split waiting for a ferry to take us to Supetar. From there we plan to take a bus to Bol, on the other side of the island. Buzz on the backpacker information circuit is that it's the place to be.

Croatia is swelteringly hot and humid. I have to concentrate quite a bit to think of anything other than water. Luckily Croatia has lots of it. Clear and blue. Our day long bus ride down the coast yesterday had us salivating as we looked out the window and down the sheer drop to the enticingly beautiful water of the adriatic. When the bus slowed for the corners, we could even make out schools of fish darting around in the water (boding well for Geoff and my planned scuba adventures). Upon arriving in Split and getting a room, our first destination was the water. Wonderfully refreshing.

Split is a neat place with an old Roman fort in the center, but it's the beach life that calls us. So we're off, the ferry awaits.

Take care and thanks for all the supportive comments in our posts.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Whirlwind Update

It's been a while and I've admittedly been lazily riding off the fact that Geoff is doing a lot of the blog updates. Currently we're enjoying Munich with Karl's relative, Wolfgang. Since he has an unlimited Internet plan, that means I'll have the rare opportunity to do a post accompanied by pictures. So what follows will be a speedy recap with pictures and a few snippets of text thrown in.


I already wrote a bit about Porto. One of the neat things about Portugal was the colourful tiles used on the buildings, as can be seen on the buildings below.

A typical street in Porto

Porto is of course famous for Port, a fortified wine, which gets its name from the city where it originated. Although created in Portugal, port is a British invention created out of desperation to keep the wine flowing to their country despite the efforts of the French. The result is a very smooth and full tasting drink, which now lives on for its own merits.

Sampling the Port

A Church in Porto

Below is the street festival (mentioned in a previous post) that we randomly came across during our night time exploration.

The Town Square at Night

Monsanto and surrounding towns

Our next destination was with Pedro's relatives

Small Town Portugal

Two Fisting

Cruising with Pedro's Grandpa

After a morning mass in beautiful little church, we spotted an old stone tower on top of a nearby hill. What followed was somewhat inevitable for those of you who know Geoff McGrath. The mission proved to be a very aromatic and picturesque one. Crunching through the arid but beautiful landscape, Geoff and I found our way to the tower, which offered and excellent vantage of the surrounding country.

A Predictable Development

A view from our hike


Lisbon is Portugal's capital and we arrived at the height of the cities summer celebrations.

Home in Lisbon

Earlier I compared the festivities to the intensity of San Fermin, that description may have little meaning for the average Winnipeger. Picture walking from Market Square to The Village. Now transform Portage and Memorial into cobblestone streets the width of a back alley. Fill those streets with young partiers until you can barely walk through them. Turn all the buildings into tall and narrow store fronts, each blaring music to the streets outside. Throw in the odd street vendor, selling food and alcohol of questionable origin. For good measure, make the city a little more 3D and you'll get an idea of what the experience was like. That's the first party area, now copy and paste that, except now make it an all ages crowd and superimpose it over an even older part of the city that feels like you're stepping straight into the middle ages (which architecturally speaking, you pretty much are). It was an amazing experience to say the least.

Scene from a street party

Lisbon has a reputation for thuggery. The amount of people that the festival brings out makes it quite safe, but the old part of town around the castle is essentially a labyrinth and the difference of a block can lead you to dead ends or side streets which are devoid of any company you would wish to share. Below is view of an area in which one would not want to visit at night (even during the day we walked through it at a decidedly quick pace).

A Shady Corner

The castle on top of the "old" part of town is pictured below. I use quotation marks, because by North American standards the main part of the city could be considered quite old as it is. The "old" section, distinguishes itself as being the part the city which remained intact after the earthquake of 1755.

Castle in Lisbon

Striking a Pose

The Algarve

The Algarve is the incredibly touristy section made up by the south of Portugal. The reason it attracted both tourists and ourselves, is fairly self explanatory. Gorgeous beaches at Portuguese prices.

A Night in Faro

The Beach Life

Tagged Tiles


I think I'll revert back to being as brief as I planned. Stuttgart is a really nice city where we saw our World Cup match.

Fanfest Stuttgart

The day of the match I had the great opportunity to visit with Olga again. It was wonderful to catch up and be thoroughly spoiled by her great cooking. Thanks. For those of you in Canada who remember Olga but haven't had a chance to see her new baby, her new baby is super sweet and quite cute (the photographic evidence is below).

The Hoffmans

At our game


Staying in Munich has been a complete blast. Our host, Wolfgang, has been so great that, I'm sure that we would have had an amazing time no matter where we met up with him. The fact that Munich is such a great city is simply a multiplier. It's almost three o'clock in the morning here and everyone else is in bed, so I'll try and add a more deserving and detailed post of the past few days tomorrow. For now, a small sample picture.

On the terrace in Munich

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

More of Germany

Never let it be said that the Germans don't like to eat! We have been here in Munich (or more properly, Müchen) for three days now, and I am still full from the supper our first day here! We arrived in the afternoon on Friday, and met Karl's local connection, Wolfgang. They are related, but I have not figured out how yet. We dropped our stuff off at Wolfgang's place, and took off to see the city, which is full of tons of old beautiful buildings, made in the gothic style, sometime before I was born. In the evening the street lighting iluminates them brilliantly, but unfortunatly, I had not my camera with me, so you'll have to take my word for it. The city is bustling with activity, especially since there was a world cup game here last night. Taking a metro yesterday, was an event by itself. The trains were so full, that we were jamed to within inches of the doors, with no room to even raise our arms. Our train also had a couple of semi drunk German guys who were very much into world cup football, and Germany, and were trying very hard to spread the excitement. Karl and Jon had gotten into the spirit of things and were ready for action when game time came around.

The city had set up several giant screens for people to watch the game on, this picture is in the old olympic stadium, where one of them was set up. The place was only maybe a quarter full, but it was easily louder than any hockey game I've ever been too! After the game, we went to a local arts festival near by, which just happend to have live bands playing in tented beer gardens. So we got to listien to some local talent, while drinking one litre beers! We found some interesting statues there too, which of course we took pictures of.
Wolfgang's daughter came out later that evening as well, and joined in the festivities. Unfortunatly, she had to leave early, having to study for a exams, but we are looking forward to going out on monday night with her and partying it up before heading to Croatia. This morning we went and visited another of Karls relations, who gave us a true Bavarian brunch. The prime ingredients were, white sausage, pretzels, cheese, beer, snaps, and desserts, with real whiped cream. Needless to say, we came away very stuffed!

The empties, halfway through brunch...

Our wonderful host's on the left, Erich and Borka, Karl, Thomas, Wolfgang, Suzie, Jon, and me in front.

By for now!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quick note

Hi all, we are in Stuttgart at the moment, and are just getting ready for our world cup game! We´ve had a blast over the last week at Albufeira, but that´s for Jon to relate. We are staying in a youth hostle at the moment, and it´s pretty awesome. There are lots of young people staying at the hostle, and the atmosphere is really exciting, since there is an even mix of Aussies and Croatians staying there, and the game tonight is between Aus. and Croatia. So far everything has been amiable between the two sides, but you can sense the competition in the air. Jon is gone for the day to visit Olga, a friend in another town in Germany, the rest of us are relaxing and getting ready for the game tonight. The city here is in full world cup swing, they have made over one of the main squares in the town and turned it into a giant viewing area, with three huge outdoor screens and lots of sitting area. The party really got going last night, when after the evening game, about 2000 ausie fans, and 2000 croatian fans faced off, and had a singing/cheering contest. We are off, ciao for now!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pictures, pictures, and more pictures.

Here´s some of what we´ve been up to, with photos.

Jon and I went on a hike outside of Pedro´s family´s town, great scenery, and we even found a small fort.

Jon and karl relax in Lisboa

The Wineries of Porto

Another Proximity death...

Yes, this is a foosball table!

That´s it for now, ciao all!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Portugal, for a week

Wow, what a wonderful week it´s been! Since getting off the plane in London, life took on a different feel; it was traveling time again! I had a monstrous layover in London, and then a short flight south to Porto, where we were all going to meet up, and officialy start our group trip.

From the first night, things took on a different aspect. We all stoped for a light supper at a restaurant close to our hostle, arriving just before it closed. Everything was in Portugues, so we had our native (AKA Pedro) order for us. The food was awesome, apparently the local dishes that Pedro ordered for us were specialties of the city, only to be found in Porto. Possibly the best part of the night though, was when a local fella got up and started singing. We had no idea what he was singing, but it was good, and set the tone for the trip.
When visiting Porto, you must visit the wineries! Located along the river, there is an entire district of the city dedicated to the potent drink, Port. We took a couple of tours, the first of which was by far the better, and picked up a bottle of vintage port, to be opened in 15-20 years by all of us.
We Left Porto, a couple of bottles heavier, went to meet Pedro´s family, who lived in a couple of towns to the east of Lisboa. Upon arriving, we were met at the train station by his cousin, and aunt, who spoke fluent english(having lived in Canada for several years), and were taken to his grandparents house. I need a little back history for this next story, so bear with me for a minute. For a while, Jon and Pedro have been joking about switching identies when arriving in Portugal, and meeting Pedro´s family. They, having not seen Pedro for most of his life(since he was two, if I remember right), were quite in the dark as to what he looked like today. The most recent picture was probably 10 years old too. So, Jon and Pete made up and little plan to anounce Jon as Pedro when we arrived, and see how long it could last. It was even better than they had hoped. When we arrived, we came in two seperate cars, Jon and Karl in one, and Pedro and I in the other. Pedro and I were driven by his aunt, who fortunatly for the situation, drove a little slower than her daughter, letting Jon and Karl get there a little bit ahead of us. Jon got out, and was imidiatly approached by Pedro´s great uncle. Eyewitness accounts differe, but the basic story stays the same. When Pedro and I arrived, with Pedro´s english speaking cousin, and aunt, his entire family was gathered around a very bewildered looking Jonathan Epp, embracing him as their long lost Pedro. Eventually the situation was clarified, and Pedro´s great aunt was holding onto him for dear life, but not before we all had a good laugh!
The time with Pedro´s family was wonderfull, they treated us extremely well, and we all got along great. For lunch on Sunday, they took us out to a very traditional Portugues meal of Eel. It took a little to get over eating these things, but when you did, they were actually really good! On the way to and from the resteraunt, the four of us decided to ride with Pedro´s grandfather, who is a very cool old fella, that speaks french with a heavy portugues accent. He also has a very cool car. This picture is a little deceptive, the car is actually very large... big enough for five anyway! Besides having a slightly overloaded car(hey, most of us are canadian sized young guys, not portugues), Pedro´s grandfather is definatly where Pedro got his driving style from, there were a few corners I thought we were going to take on two weels! Driving around the country in this wonder was definatly the highlight of my time with Pedro´s family!
Eventually we had to take off, and head to Lisboa, where we stayed in a prime location, and got there just in time for the anual Portugual day Celebrations, which is basically Canada day, but Portugues. There was a huge parade and much partying, which unfortunatly for Pedro and I, we missed out on, due to the large quantities of alchohol in our system at the time. Jon has some great video, and hopefully will post some stuff about the night, as he was much more aware at the time. We had a couple of days in Lisboa, and we spent them shopping around, and taking in the sights. We headed south to the algarve on wednesday, and stopped over for a day in Faro, to check out the sights, and the city.

Ops, gotta go, the cafe is closing for a couple of hours, so I´ll come and finish this post in a bit. Thanks for all the comments, and emails, they have been great!

Ciao for now

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Quick Post

Internet connections and time won´t allow me to do anything fancier, but you can see two pictures I upload on my flickr site (

Also, I´ve added Geoff to this blog, so you may posts from him in the future.

Portugal, the fifteen minute version

So we´ve been in Portugal for barely a week and a recap of events is already near impossible. Each day is packed with new discoveries and events I could devote an entire post for. I´ll try and do a quick overview.

We visited Porto, home of the Port wine distilleries, for the first two nights. The city is quite old and beautiful and the 3D landscape on which it is located pulls out the buildings like an elaborate pop-up book to great effect. Beyond the our overwhelmingly beautiful surroundings, it is the little touches that make Europe come to life; the impromptu opera singing stand-off during a late night snack in a local restaurant, the midnight festival in an open courtyard as we walk past, the people, the food.

Having Pedro along as a guide has been great. Not only is his joy for being in his "homeland" contagious, but his memories of foods tried as a child has found us many tasty treats we probably would have never contemplateded trying before and his ability to speak the language has us joking with locals on a regular basis.

From Porto it was off to the region surrounding Lisbon for a get together with Pedro´s family. Before coming to Portugal I had joked that I would pretend to be Pedro, since his family hasn´t seen Pedro since he was quite young. The premise was clearly impossible, to put it simply I don´t look Portuguese. So I was completely dumbfounded, when upon meeting Pedro´s grandfather and family, I was mistaken for Pedro. I was so shocked I did nothing. At first I was sure Pedro had let them in on the joke and they were doing it to try and fool me, but oddly enough that wasn´t the case. I have no explination.

Staying with Pedro´s family was wonderful, friendly people and so more good food than you would think possible. The country side here is very picturesque. Geoff and I had the opportunity to take a hike from the small village where we were staying up to a hill overlooking the countryside. Fresh Rosemary was growing in the fields and we crushed it as we walked, leaving wonderful aroma. As an additional bonus, the smell became infused into my sandals, leaving them pleasant smelling... no small feat on a backpacking trip.

After visiting Pedro´s relatives, it was off to Lisboa, where we´ve only been for one day, but still taken quite a lot in. It just so happens to be that the festival of the saints occurs right when we are here, so the town is in full scale party mode. Last night we saw a parade and attended a mass scale street party, that I can only compare to San Fermin in Pampalona for its intestity.

Anyways, that´s all for now. Hope everything is going well for everybody wherever life finds them.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Domestication of Jonathan Epp

There are times in life when it seems lessons are learned at a quicker pace than normal. The parents being gone, is one of those times for me. Sometimes these lessons have greater day to day use, such as the lesson involving the toaster and the butter dish. At other times the lessons have a more infrequent application, such as the lesson I recently learned about how to operate a sewing machine (or perhaps more accurately, how not to operate a sewing machine).

Sewing a test cloth

It was last Thursday, that found me trying to sew flags on my bag in preparation for my Europe trip. The sew by hand method was going quite slow and was of questionable practicality (the flags seemed free themselves faster than the could be affixed). How can one improve any process? By mechanizing it! So it was at the sewing machine that they found me, when Dave (he of the black eye) and Peter (fresh from Quebec) decided to drop by. (At this point in the sewing process I had managed to lose the needle irretrievably inside the sewing machine.) The combined efforts of three men, one an engineer and another in med school with a penchant for cross dressing in church plays (I'm not sure how any of that helps, but it should), proved futile in deciphering the trickery that is the modern sewing machine.

Dave works away while Peter looks on

I abandoned the efforts, but a weekend later, with my Europe trip looming and my bag still unpacked, desperation set in. Let me try to illustrate how far things had gone, I read the manual. You heard correct, in a last ditch effort to complete my project, I read the instructions to the sewing machine and ... it worked. Now the job I did isn't perfect. The look is something more or less I would like to call "backpacker". The craftsmanship, I would like to think, lends a measure of authenticity to the project. Perhaps leading the viewer to believe that the flags were actually sewn on to the bag hastily mid trip. Some flags maybe even after experiencing a prolonged brewery tour and some, perhaps, sewn while running down the streets of Pampalona during the annual running of the bulls. The bag however is ready for Europe and myself, along with my new found skills, am too.

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