Nate's Euro Life

May 16, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 9:55 pm

¡Hola! ¿Qué tal? Ojalá que todo este bien en los Estados Unidos. Ahora, estoy relajando con Scott cerca de la calle mayor aqui en Barcelona, que se llama La Rambla. Despues de te pongo al día, vamos a la playa para descansar un pocito, y luego, una corrida de toros.

All that to say, I’m in Starbucks with Scott, beach later, and then possibly bullfight tonight. Just to let you guys know, Barcelona is incredible. It’s tied for second in favorite foreign city with Salzburg. Allow me to inform you of the past week or so.

Scott got here last Sunday the 9th, fairly early in the morning.

Also, here’s the link to Scott’s blog, because he’s been faithfully posting to it almost every night to make sure the details are correct (read it, he’s a perfectionist for sure):

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to culture this sheltered young soul. Joke, he’s been to quite a few places, but this is the first time to Europe, so I’m making sure it’s a good time.  The downside, this past week was my last week at IES and thus finals galore. It was extremely hard trying to balance studying and making sure Scott has a good time, but I’m pretty sure it was a success. That Sunday morning, Scott and I dropped off bags at the house and headed to El Rastro (huge flea market). This was to be the first European experience for Scott. We were plagued with cloudy weather for the majority of the week but were extra grateful for breaks of sun when we got them.  Later that day, we headed to Templo de Debod to watch the sunset with the panoramic.  (I’m going to be cruising through this update).  Monday: Teleferico, which gave us awesome views of the city. Palacio Real (closed early due to a festival), Catedral de Almudena, and Imperial for dinner. We ate SO much food that night: Sandwich mixto, this tapas of mixed egg and potatoes and other stuff, patatas bravas, bread with brie cheese and awesome marmalade, and a huge jar of sangria. Legitimate Spanish cuisine: check.

Tuesday was spent at Palacio Real and Parque del Retiro. Wednesday was at El Escorial, a small village outside of Madrid with a HUGE monastery/palace built to mimic that of Solomon’s. Its crypts are home to the dead rotted carcasses of the Spanish Monarchs of old, with two spots waiting for the current King Juan Carlos and his wife. Like how I phrased that? Scott and I went with a couple friends to that, and afterwards we went on a hike up the mountain to get a better view of the layout of the monastery/palace/combine, where it periodically rained on us and we tried to track down some mysterious howling creature. Good times. Later that night, we went to a Mexican Restaurant, called La Mordida, with some friends. Upon leaving, we saw a car drive by with flags and people hanging out the windows, yelling “ATLETICCCCCC”. Aaron says, “Well, looks like Atletico Madrid won the European League Finals tonight.” I responded, “No way…one of the biggest victories in history for Atletico and it’s tonight…in Madrid…and we’re here. Everyone will be at Fuente de Neptuno to celebrate! LET’S GO!!!” Fountain of Neptune was absolutely chaotic. We followed the yelling, drunk, elated, crazy fans to Paseo del Prado to the gathering place of the Atletico faithful. We joined over 60,000 people in that square alone, not including the people that continually poured in for hours on end after we had left.  We got there at midnight or so and left 2 hours later. I have some great video/pics from that experience, and was really glad that Scott got to experience some European soccer culture. What a night.

Now onto Thursday, my last day of finals. It was slowly hitting me that I was leaving this place, never to see IES again, and abandoning the place I grew to adore, as well as people I spent 4 months with, having the time of our lives. Literally. Man, saying goodbye would be tough. That night, we had our going away dinner with IES. Scott wouldn’t be allowed to come to the dinner, so he spent that night having his own adventures after we had toured El Prado Museum.  The dinner was at a schwank (awesome word) hotel, with lots of gourmet food. Evan, my really good friend from Brown University, is a professional magician (not even joking, he’s a young Houdini) and did a show for probably 150 people.  Afterwards, we all went out to some bars, and then stayed at a club till 5:30 in the morning, followed by Churros at 6, and stalling the whole good-bye process.

The next morning, after a few hours of sleep, Scott, Matt and I got up to head to The Magic Box (La Caja Mágica) to watch The Williams sisters and Raphael Nadal. Talk about the world’s best tennis. Facilities were incredible. There was no bad seat in the house. I was in awe of how incredible it was to see the #2 best player in the world in action. Unfortunately, if we had bought night tickets, we would have seen Federer, Andy Murray, and David Ferrer, but we tried not to complain too much 😉 The home town crowd for Nadal made it worth it.

We got home where I had to start packing my life up. We had reservations for 4 at Sobrino el Botín, the oldest restaurent in the WORLD (it’s in the Guiness Book of World Records). We met my friends Jenna and Shannon there and ate Suckling Baby Pig, Garlic Soup, delicious sangria, and other stuff. Great company, great food, better experience. Immediately after that, we hurried home to finish packing a bit and had to head to the bus station to catch our ride to Barcelona. I was already dead. I was, as my Dad says, “burning the wick at both ends”. On the bus, Scott slept like a freaking baby, and I didn’t sleep at all. It was almost an 8 hour ride, with fairly comfy seats.  Hilarious story unfolded once we arrived at 7:30am:

At the bus station, I immediately got up, knowing that the bus would probably take off again shortly. I was half asleep and not really aware what was going on. As I stepped off the bus, the door literally shut on me, cutting me in half…I have half a body now…

Okay no seriously, an onlooking lady saw it and yelled “Oy!” and I just barely snatched myself from the grips of the door. I slowly turned around to face the bus, staring upwards through the window to see Scott still gathering his things from his seat. The bus lurched forward, and began to crawl away. There goes Scott, I thought, as I rotated my head to follow the bus that was taking my friend away. I probably should’ve panicked. Instead, I started walking towards the station, with no emotion at all. That’s what happens when you have no energy. But Scott used some type of high school Spanish to tell the bus driver to let him off, which worked. That definitely could’ve ruined the trip.

So onwards, we spent the whole day touring the city, as soon as we got to our hostel. Our hostel is situated on La Rambla, post popular street in Barca. Anyways, I have a lot to complain about this hostel, but I’ll save it. At the end of the day, it was Scott and my best day of his visit, no doubts. We got lost, saw an awesome park, walked to La Sagrada Familia, trekked forever uphill to Gaudi’s Parc Güell, which was absolutely incredible, with a breathtaking view. Walked back down, got Domino’s, bought myself a Real Madrid flag, took a 3.5 hour nap, went to the most the most amazing fountain I’ve ever seen, with a light show, music, and synchronized water stuff included (see pics). At that point, Scott and I decided that Barcelona was THAT good.

Okay, we just found out that Nadal beat Federer in an intense match!!! That’s right baby, Viva España, later Federer. So now onto today.

We woke up at 10 or so, and did the following: Starbucks to research Seville, beach, and possibly a Bullfight. We definitely did all of that. The beach was SO good, and I probably should’ve flipped like I did in Mallorca, because I definitely got burnt, been lathering on Aloe Vera ever since. We walked to the Plaza de Toros Monumental to see a Bullfight. Luckily, it was Barca’s last soccer game of the season, so the crowd was sparse and tickets were plentiful. I’m SO glad we did this. What a great Spanish experience. Don’t worry, Scott has been documenting everything with an HD camera and I have some good pics. It’s definitely different, but I’d say that as brutal and cruel as the first killing of the bull was, I became more and more calloused as they killed more. Kind of sad, but true. I can see both sides of the HUGE controversy of bullfighting. Afterwards, I just wanted food, because I haven’t been feeling the greatest with an oncoming cold and sunburn. We got Italian food and enjoyed the yelling, screaming, horns, gatherings, car honks, of all the Barca fans throughout the city. That will make sleeping easy. Watching the bullfight tonight made the thought of home seem absurd..I mean the actual possibility of it. I felt so far away from American culture. To the airport for Seville tomorrow very early. Should be goood. See you then.



May 6, 2010

Gettin’ down to home stretch

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 10:43 pm

The title of this post is definitely something my Dad would say. I pay homage to my father for this reason…TODAY IS HIS BIRTHDAYYYYYY!!!!! For you thousands of faithful readers out there, Kirk Chastain was born on May 6, 1957 in good ol’ western Missourah. What’s most impressive, he looks like he’s 32, considering he ran a marathon last year…incredible. So basically, if you give him anything with sugar, he will love it, although he’ll pretend to say that he’s trying to stop loving it, but he will secretly say “yea…I love sugar.”

New favorite song recommended by Jessie Chastain: the song is called “King of Spain” by                           the Tallest Man on Earth.      

Wow. I have a lot to post. I will spare you some details in order to fit the most important things in. I will start with most recent events and move backwards. Sunday, my best friend Scott Kellenberger (senior at KSU) gets to Madrid. This is really good news for the following reasons: 1) he’s my best friend 2) we are awesome 3) we are doing awesome things. What sort of awesome things? We plan on spending this week in Madrid while I finish up finals and then on Friday night head to Barcelona. But during the day Friday, I happened to have just completed buying two tickets for the 2010 MADRID OPEN. That’s right, with the chances of seeing Roddick, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Blake, Nadal, etc. We shall see. Regardless, it’s the best tennis in the world and Scott, Matt, and I will be there experiencing it. We hope to see a bullfight during the week as well.

I have a Grammar final tomorrow. I received an ‘A’ on my presentation with very encouraging comments such as, “your grammar and rhythm of speaking have come along so well. At times you really sound like a native of Spain.” Those type of comments make my day. I hope to impress this teacher tomorrow (Enrique) as he has been the best teacher I’ve had in my life. After the final tomorrow (Friday) we have an IES Program watching of the students who have learned Flamenco, and others who have put together a play, then possibly sushi with some friends. Okay, this will honestly be the FIRST time I’ve ever had sushi. Whatever, don’t judge me. You don’t even know. It’s raw fish people, it’s not like it sounds appealing from the get-go. So stop glaring at your screen as if I’m inferior….

Last week, our class went to a Residence home to talk to some of the older folks there. You can see some photos on my facebook album. I was pretty nervous because it’s definitely difficult to comprehend the language when it’s scratchy or very inaudible. I knew it would be good but still a bit apprehensive. Anyways, I was placed alone with Jesús and Florentino. 85 and 91 years respectively. I could understand Jesús very well because he was very aware that I was learning the language and helped me get the context, even though he had had a disease in his throat at one point that made his voice scratchy. They both asked if I could stay longer but I had class. My heart was so moved. I know that they loved having that type of interaction and God shows his blessings in the most tender of hearts, and I know that both of their hearts had been softened by almost 100 years of life. I told Jesús that we sould see eachother again, because I had a feeling. This is no lie. Later that night, as I was off to meet some friends in Parque del Retiro, I saw Jesús with his wife on his arm walking in the street. I said “¡Jesús, te dije que nos veríamos otra vez!” (I told you we would see eachother again!) I talked to them for a few minutes and his wife was adorable, asking if I have been enjoying Madrid and where have I traveled, etc. That seriously made my week.

Other event. Early last week, I went with 5 or 6 friends to….guess…no come on just guess where we went….okay it’s really popular in the States. It’s not healthy for you at all. It makes you smile. The name has a ring to it…….TACO BELL!!!!! We made an hour trip out to a huge brand spankin’ new mall that reminded me of the States and spent almost 2 hours enjoying the comfort food, the sauce packets with spanish on them, free refills, Cheesy bean and rice burritos, you know the drill. One of three Taco Bells in Spain. Anyways, totally worth it.

And now…I get to talk about one of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. Like my little sister, Jessie, told me, it’s kind of like one of those stories you think of as a child, a life-defining tale. I will admit that although it does seem a bit over dramatic, it really did have that type of impact on my life that transcends an explanation via blog. It all started with talking to my dear friend, Justin Beck. We mutually encourage each other spiritually, and testeronally (of course it’s a word). In other words, to push each other to the limits to prove ourselves men in ways of adventure, risk, and death-defying activities. So I decided that I would set out and climb a mountain, sleep on the top, and come down the next morning. Simple enough, yet this adventure turned out quite differently than I had expected.

I departed my cozy quarters in my Madrileña flat and headed for the north district of the city to catch a bus. This bus would take me north, to the mountains of Madrid, La Guadarrama. After struggling to differentiate between subterranean buses and those of ‘superficie’, I finally found what I was looking for. Armed with a v-neck, converse shoes, and a backpack filled with coke, fruit, a waffle shirt, jacket, Bible, journal, lighter, and knife, I was set. The ride was about an hour. I had no clue where to get off because this town of Manzanares Real was foreign to me (as if anywhere in Spain wouldn’t be), but I got off near a gorgeous lake, by a huge well-preserved castle, beneath the beginning of a green terrain, sloping upwards, with an exponential growth of boulders, as well as growth in size, as it neared the top. Immediately as I got off the bus, I picked the highest place I could see and settled on it. I hit up the random gas station to buy lunch and water for later. A visit to the gorgeous castle was required, and after that, I began my journey upwards….wow I really should be studying for my test right now…okay back to the story. I wandered through the small town first, passing outdoor barbecues, taking in scents that brought me back to Kansas summers. I finally got to an opening and began my ascent.

In my video camera recording, I told myself, “The weather is great, this hike will be beautifu, I hope to reach the peak in the next couple of hours”. Oh Mr. Recorded Nate, how wrong you were. I was roughing it. I didn’t need a trail. I hopped over streams, scaled huge boulders, swam through thickets, climbed trees for better views of openings. I had never felt more like a child running around and jumping and leaping. I couldn’t help but smile as this was exactly as I had envisioned it. An hour later, it seemed that the peak I was aiming for seemed just as far away. After wedging myself between to rock walls in order to reach the top of a path, I was able to see that I needed a better way. Luckily, I happened upon an old rugged path. To prevent this blog from becoming a novel, I will tell you that I used this path to reach the top, but, to my dismay, discovered that the “top” was one of three tiers. I wanted the third. So I continued. For 4 more hours. Slightly sunburnt, extremely tired, and low on water, I was determined to get to the cumbre (summit). I had come across a few people, most of them were professional rock climbers, scouting out ways, but the last hour of the expedition was spent alone. Or so I thought. I had reached a meadow filled with shoulder-height bushes and timber shrubs. I pressed on, knowing I was almost able to start a fire, it was nearing 9 o’clock. I stopped to drink the remains of my water. As I screwed the top back on, I paused when I heard a rustling about 40m ahead. This was not good. I took NO time to research the wildlife here in Spain. What could this be. A head poked above the tips of the bushes. Staring straight at me was the biggest ram I had ever seen in my life. To say it had horns would be an understatement. This beats had horns that twisted and turned and looked like it had taken a few lives in the past. My thoughts: “I’m going to have my ribs broken and skull cracked by a ram. Is this how I’m gonna go? Okay well…that’s kind of cool though, to be battered by a ram to death on a mountain. Yeah…I’m down with that.” I picked up a loaf of bread-sized rock. The ram squared up with me and made a shriek war cry that I had no idea was capable of making. I had no idea how to kill a ram. Should I get my knife and try to make one fell swoop before I am concussed? Should I run? No, this thing will chase you down. You’re in his territory now. I readied myself. Quick thinking: “Make yourself look big and loud, intrusive”. So I threw the rock in the air threw up my arms and yelled. AHHHHHHH! The ram looked confused, started hopping on its from two hooves, turned sideways, and ran off…………..I won’t say that I wasn’t terrified. Because I was.

I had a fire. Spent 10 hours stoking it and feeding it because it was too cold to sleep if the fire went out. This gave me plenty of time to think. I also liked the fact that I couldn’t sleep so I didn’t have to wake up with some creature breathing in my face. Especially a ram looking for vengeance. I missed myself. I missed the time I had alone with God in Eastern Europe. I had that then and it was fulfilling, beneath the stars, above the city, in God’s creation. I had a lot of Spiritual Truth revealed to me that night. If you want to hear, ask me sometime, I’d love to talk about it.

I fell asleep as I was waiting for sunrise. This lasted for 10 minutes until the fire went out and the shivers took over. I sat up, as the sun came up. Time to head down. Only one problem, I couldn’t find the trail. I prayed for 3 things: to find the trail, for water, and for my money that I had left (4.30 euros) to get me home. After making a semi semi cirlce on the mountain top, I randomly found the path by luck (God’s grace) and began the descent. This was fulfilling as well, besides the fact that my hands were blistered, fingers cut open from rocks and collecting wood, and legs half-dead from jumping from boulder to boulder. I loved it. Absolutely loved every creak of my muscle and soreness in my feet. The blisters made me feel alive and the sun that beat down was just comforting. I had to collect dew from the grass with my shirt to drink. Barbaric? Yes. Awesome? Also yes. I finally made it down, and found my way to the lake. After relaxing for an hour, I headed to the gas station and filled my bottle with water from a hose. The bus cost 3.20, leaving a euro for the metro, and 10 cents left over. All 3 prayers answered, with extra left. God is more than enough.


April 26, 2010

T-minus too soon

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 7:42 pm

In all honesty, I was pretty excited to blog. Although, I almost opted to shave in place of blogging. Hmm, look like Brad Pitt with my scruff or shave…obvious answer. I had such a good weekend that I definitely need to brag about it and make everyone in Kansas/Missouri wish they were here. Okay…so that’s not why, but I do feel that if I share my lows, I should share my highs as well.

Let me start with this whole Volcano deal. The population of this country is 317,593 which, combined with their size, amounts to 7.5 people every square mile. Kansas has 2,802,134 and 32.9 people every square mile. As you can see, not a hugely influential country, until now. Iceland was actually interested in joining the European Union, but I feel like the EU will be a bit too bitter to give them the nod given they cost Spain alone over $500 million in tourism. I bet the EU will give it to Turkey to spite them and their conveniently named volcano: Eyjafjallajokull. That sounds like something the scary guy in Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom, would mutter before sacrificing someone as he is holding their beating heart in his hand…ew. But I do have a positive that came out of this (the volcano incident, not the human sacrifice). My roommate, Matt, was stuck in Amsterdam and then Paris for over a week (tragic, right?). Well, he had bought a ticket to a Mika concert and consequently could not go. I got a call from Paris saying that I should take it. “Are you sure man? I mean…OKAY THANKS!” So that concert was incredible and I’m glad I got to experience it. The following day, I ended up spending 4 hours in a park with a few friends, two of which go to Yale. Yeah, I like to mention that because it makes me seem more intellectual, even though I’m pretty jealous of them. We smoked hookah (don’t worry…it’s tobacco) and just had fun talking and being silly. After that night, I had been reinforced so many times that relationships are the absolute key to this life. And God continues to show me that on a daily basis.

Friday shows up. I ended up going on a day trip with IES to Aranjuez and Chinchón, which are two places a little outside of Madrid. Aranjuez was basically a summer retreat with a luxurious palace for the kings of the past, and Chinchón was just a cool historic village. We called it a day trip to China as we said “Ching Chong” and proceeded to not make fun of how the Chinese sound…So that whole day was GREAT. I don’t think I laughed more in one day in my life. We also got a free meal at this great famous restaurant called “La Cueva del Vino” (the Cave of Wine) because they actually stored wine in their cave beneath the restaurant in the past.

So now we’re on Saturday. I woke up, did practically nothing, and thought that considering the 70 degree weather, I should go to Parque del Retiro. I took my Mere Christianity book (which I finally finished), my Bible, and my journal and spent a relaxing afternoon there, falling asleep to Owl City with a background of a saxophone player playing a portion of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. As I was walking home, they had blocked off part of Gran Via, Madrid’s most famous street. I knew there would be a marathon the following day, and didn’t think anything of it. That was until I looked up the street and saw thousands of people marching with signs, flags, and chants. Another protest in Madrid…not too surprising. They were all marching to Puerta del Sol, so I decided to follow them (see pictures). Long story short: a judge is set out to investigate the disappearance of 114,000 people during the Civil War in Spain (1936-1939). A lot of people on the right say he has no authority to do this as a judge? I don’t know. Most of the people were just pissed off at el Franquisimo (Francoism) in general. I heard shouts of “España! Mañana! Será Republicana!” which translates Spain! Tomorrow! Will be a Republic. So it was all the supporters of the Republic, obviously. So I bypassed the crowd and stepped into H&M to look for summer tank tops. I value fashion over anger.

Later that night, I went out to dinner with a few friends, and then we just hit the city with probably 20 people and I got back at around hmmm 6am? Again, great time. So after waking up on Sunday at 3, I finished my group presentation and felt like the weekend was a huge success.

I was not looking forward to today, simply because it was a Monday. But I ended up having a good class, meeting some Spanish college kids, and having a great time teaching English. God’s salvation was definitely made clear today. So in short, that wrapped up my weekend!

WAIT!!! I forgot to tell you how my interview went with Plattform Ad Agency on Friday! Well, via Skype, I had a great time talking to Tricia. She asked fairly easy questions like “How would you describe yourself in general? What motivates you? Why Plattform? Strongest characteristic?” Little did Trish know that I was one step ahead and had thought of those questions already. So it was a great interview that flowed well. She pretty much said I had the internship (which I opted for part time from June 7 to early August, which leaves time to make money on the side and other summer antics). I’m VERY excited about this and know I will get great experience in the marketing field.

I color coded this post because I care about your reading enjoyment so much.

Dios te bendiga


April 14, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 10:26 pm

So I’ve been back in Madrid for a week and a half now. This is the part where I tell you that nothing really has happened but you read on, hoping for some kind of entertaining reading, and it never shows up. Well here starts my ramble. I love being back here. My Spanish is improving a ton and I’m beginning to realize that more and more. I like my situation here. I have little to no homework yet I learn a ton and am in one of the best classes I’ve had in my college career. I have fun friends to hang out with and we go out a lot. I get to talk to a little old lady in Spanish every day, while eating authentic Spanish cuisine. I get to travel a lot, and countless other little small cultural things. It hit me a few days ago that I’m leaving in a month, and it was a bit disappointing. When you make a place your home, it’s obviously hard to leave it. You’ve invested all your emotions into settling in, only to uproot them and place them back in reality. I think I’m feeling this now because I’m about to leave. The thought of leaving has allowed me to value all of this. Hold on, I need to dab some tears from my eyes…………..okay done. I’m glad it has hit me with a month left rather than a week 😉  I’m going to be creeped out by clerks that only speak English, Wal-Marts, and fast food. Speaking of American things, I let my friend Stacy borrow my sunglasses under one condition: that she uses the Peanut Butter her parents mailed her to make me a PB&J sandwhich. It was one of the better sandwhiches in my life. So thank you Stacy.

So last night, I went with a few friends to this intercambios at a bar. Intercambios is a place where you go to talk to people in order to learn a different language. It was a very hospitable and open atmosphere and I got to use Spanish and listen to Spanish, meet different natives, as long as I helped them with their English. Pretty cool deal, right? Anyways, I wish I had found this place earlier. It’s every Tuesday night, so every Tuesday that I have left I’m definitely hitting this place up.

Today we had our Prado class at a different location. Unfortunately, Matt and I found that out after we had got on the bus to head to the museum. We then had to hop on a metro and head back to a small church next to the river in Madrid. This is where Goya is buried and one of his most famous works, a gigantic ceiling mural, is found. Why is it that every time I step in front of a famous tomb, I imagine myself opening it up and seeing the skeleton of the dead person just chillin’ out. I’ve literally done that to Goya, Paul, Peter, and a bunch of dead kings. Am I a bad person? Although I abhor standing for long periods of time, our teacher is a genius and I’m glad I’m taking advantage of this class.

On an additional and non-related note, I have a phone interview with Plattform Ad Agency on Monday night. We’ll see how that goes. It’s for a part-time internship with flexible hours. Sounds like exactly what I wan: to get experience, hands-on work, fulfill Jewell’s internship requirement, still have time to work at Robeks to get some cash, and do awesome summer stuff. I’m excited. So let’s all pray for that to work out. Ready? GO! Joke…but seriously, you should pray.

MY MOM’S BIRTHDAY IS THIS WEEK. So, if you know Julie you better give her a huge hug, a Happy Birthday sign, or a bag of cherry licorice because that’s one of her favorite candies. Or M&Ms. Oh, and if you’re getting M&Ms, you should get an extra bag for me too. Seriously, I freaking love those things.

Alright, I’m becoming less and less coherent. I will make more posts like this. The ones that aren’t ridiculously long, yet somewhat enjoyable.

P.S. I share birthdays with Pat Sajak, Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk), anddddd Hillary Clinton. Yeah…you killed it Hillary…you killed it.

April 10, 2010

Disculpa las molestias

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 5:28 pm

The title of the post is basically, excuse the annoyances. Mostly because I’m jumping around everywhere, making new posts in random spots, and updating it on random days. Regardless, we’re back. So here we are, headed to Serbia now. Okay, it’s been over a week now, let me sit and think…Serbia Serbia Serbia…

The train ride into Serbia was pretty. It was rained and it felt pretty refreshing. I remember having to stop at the border for quite awhile because supposedly a lot of drugs had been smuggled into Serbia from Bulgaria and trains had been the preferred method of transportation. Apparently Americans seemed to be highly suspicious, considering my passport was checked a good 7 or 8 times. Luckily they didn’t get my confiscate my stash. The clouds that had formed outside were spectacular as well as the rain that was pattering on the roof of the train. At that point in time, a lot of things had been running through my head, and God had told me to focus only on whatever things were lovely, of good report, and praise-worthy. Not on regret, frustration, and bitterness. So it was a great time of meditation. Upon arriving into Belgrade, I found out that its sister-city is Chicago, and the city itself was fairly big and modern. I had to ask a Serbian guard where to go, and found my hostel, which was actually this guys apartment. He was extremely nice and had the best green tea, so I gave him a good rating. Although, now that I think about it, he kind of seemed like a spy off of Alias, you know? That show with Jennifer Garner? Okay, so I went out and explored part of Belgrade while it was slightly raining. It was peaceful and I felt pretty safe once again. I headed to the large fortress ot walk around and watch the full moon rise.

The following day, after realizing what an unbelievable family and set of friends I have, I tried to see the little bit of Belgrade that I knew of, which was the gigantic fortress and the cool pedestrian/shopping streets. My breakfast was 2 things of fresh bread, peanut butter for the first time in 3 months!!!, a banana, and a huge of thing of pretty thick milk that I drank straight up and people looked at me weird. I figured that I was man enough to drink out of the bottle, mostly because I wanted to show who wears the pants in this world, and that’s America. I walked FOREVER that day with my 40 lb. backpack and definitely felt sore in my shoulders later. I attempted to spend all my Serbian dinari but failed and have a wad of it in my backpack (only a few dollars worth). But I boarded my train later that day to head to Zagreb, having no idea why, but knowing it was going to be awesome.

On the train, a guy of about 55 years of age walks into my booth, mostly gray-haired, carrying 3 cartons of Marlboro, and a scent of salami. I was skeptical about this guy, so I focused on my Serbian junk food I had bought for my lunch. Anyways, allow me to introduce you to my new 55 year old Salami smelling Bulgarian friend, Zvonimir. Definitely one of those guys that doesn’t see much purpose in life outside of making money and pursuing worldly pleasures. After having talked a little bit with his broken English, I asked him why he had liked working as a mechanical engineer in Romania (Bucarest) so much. He said, “Women gypsies, they are cheap.” I said, “And what about your wife?” He scoffed and said, “Forget the wife”. This was yet another story of infidelity that I’ve heard while abroad. We moved the topic to religion because he had mentioned he was agnostic, so I worked with that. I asked him why he believed what he believed. He said he didn’t know much about the Bible, but had been to church every once in awhile. I was surprised that the conversation had been on this topic for so long. I had asked him how much he knew about Jesus Christ. He said he had heard of him but didn’t know much. Zvonimir was a history buff and had taught it before. I tried to appeal historically to him. I asked if he wanted to know about him, he says, sure why not. This was probably the first time I had ever shared the entirety of the story of salvation with a complete stranger. It was difficult at times, having to substitute out words like “salvation, mercy, grace, repentence” for ones not as Sunday School and more suitable for someone who had a hard time understanding English. He was pretty inquisitive and receptive, but who knows what he’ll do with that story. All I know is it was somewhat of a seed and God can work with seeds. So after that, I arrived in Zagreb. I wanted to head for the coast but was very limited on time. I had to be in Austria by April 3rd. The capitol of Zagreb was, again, somewhere I knew very little about but knew that the adventures would be plentiful. So I’ll continue with Croatia after tonight. Tonight is the biggest game of the year: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. El Clásico. Thousands and thousands will surround the stadium tonight to watch, and millions will crowd bars everywhere here in Madrid. Barcelona is probably the world’s best team right now, but anything can happen when you play at Bernabeu. So I’ll be going to Café Yemen with some friends to eat 3 euro hamburgers and watch history. I’ll be back.

Back. So I roll into Zagreb around 11 and get to my hostel. It seems to be a fairly nice place. I walk into the common room to check in and see a few people drinking and watching TV. I check in, and end up meeting those people just hanging out. One is Erin, she’s from Pennsylvania, the other is Kevin from Canada, and the third is James from Scotland. So I end up going out with them that night. We wander around looking for some club/bar place to hang out. We happened upon a group of Erasmus students (Erasmus is a scholarship given to European students allowing them to study anywhere in the EU for free, basically). There were Turks, French, Spanish, and Irish kids in this group that we end up following. We end up at some Croatian club with quite a few people there. That night, we met a 3 or 4 Croatian guys that were about 23 that were extremely nice, well-to-do, and spoke perfect English. One was actually applying to go to Columbia Law School. Anyways, it was a fun night and we got back around 4. The next day was just a walking day, seeing what Zagreb had and just hanging out. It was pretty funny that every time James the Scottish guy had seen some annoying American tourist kid start to whine he would be like, “look mate, it’s one of your kind, ruining the atmosphere again”. I said, “Alright, the only Scottish song I know is “Loch Lomond” and the only songs you listen to are American. Later.” My new friend from Australia ended up talking me out of leaving Zagreb that night to get into Slovenia at midnight and waiting 7 hours for a train to Salzburg. Instead, they snuck me into the hostel for a free night, where I may or may not have broken into the common room by unscrewing the latch and sleeping on a huge comfy couch before taking off at 6 to catch the 7:15 train to Salzburg.

The ride through Slovenia (although I slept through most of it) into Austria was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I have seen. We literally went straight through mountain after mountain, in snow, through green lush valleys, through small towns, through ski towns, and more. I was slowly getting an idea of what Salzburg would be like.

Upon arriving at the station, I was pleased to see the amount of sun, given that Salzburg is not known for great weather.

I will bullet point highlight some things about Salzburg:

*Fortress *Mozart Geburtshaus (birthhome) and Museum *Awesome town center/Cathedral *Fancy Austrian rich people *Incredible chocolate *Fortress plus great views *Riverwalk *Walking in the Hills *Sound of Music Tour *Breaking in to more places *Rainy day *new friend from Hawaii who said I could crash at his place

I didn’t want to bore with too much detail, yet I feel like we’re adequately updated. So now onto the last leg of the trip. I’ve had to refer to my journal a few times for things; which, by the way, keep a journal when you’re traveling. I’ve especially appreciated it because it has been my outlet and stores a lot of good thoughts. So now onto Palma de Mallorca (Majorca in English).

SPANISH!!! Yes, about time. I could actually get around the city talking to people and more or less know what they were saying. What a relief. I got to my hostel around 2, which came off as a former hotel. I had my own private room for a good price with an oceanview, if you haven’t been jealous at all this blog, then now is the time to start. I immediately bought a liter of Fanta, grabbed my towel, and headed to the beach 50m away. The weather was near perfect. For almost 3 hours I faithfully flipped over like a rotisserie every 15 minutes. Consequently, no burn. I was pretty proud. At this point I was so comfortable with being alone that it felt natural. Once it got a bit chilly, I went dinner shopping, and headed back to my hostel to relax for the night. I ended up watching “Into the Wild”. If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. I felt like I could relate exactly to some of the themes of being in solitude and alone, obviously not on the same scale but with the same feelings. The next morning, it was a bit cloudy and not ideal for a beach bum. I decided to hike. I could either head for the cliff in the distance on the left side of the bay, or the mountains on the right. At first, the mountains sounded like an awesome way to get out of the crowds, but after walking for an hour and not feeling like I had gotten any closer, I decided to head for the gigantic cliff on the other side. While walking along the beach, this was where I ended up thinking about the afore mentioned thought that the Lord has taught me how to get over being lonely and learn how to be alone. This day could honestly be the best day of being alone with God and my thoughts that I’ve ever had. After following the coast for an hour, I actually had to rockclimb past different hanging cliffs that blocked me from my goal. I was getting more and more excited to reach this cliff, which seemed like a great place to hang out with my bag of journal, water, bible, ipod, and pringles. I ended up walking for 15 more minutes until I was blocked off by a huge wall with a 20 foot metal door that only allowed construction trucks end. It seemed like other people had found this cliff area just as beautiful and decided to build a resort. I was actually stuck this time. The chain linked fences were topped with barbed wire and I was pretty disappointed. I guess I would settle for a smaller cliff. But then I jokingly said, “that would be funny if God was just like, ‘hey look over here, an opening’.” So I have no idea if God was actually behind this or not but I followed the fence line to a spot overlooking the coast below and actually…there was an opening. NO WAY. So the game was back on! I had to bypass a few construction workers but ended up making my way further out. Finally…FINALLY I found myself on the edge of one of the most stunning vistas. So stunning that I had to attach a photo to this blog. I spent almost 2 hours there, just sitting and listening to my iPod and feeling the breeze and wondering how I got so lucky to be there. Pretty unbelievable. Needless to say, that was one of the highlights of my trip.

So now I’m back in Madrid. It’s nice to be home but I kept thinking to myself, “Okay so what country is next?!” I was just so accustomed to moving across the borders one day after another. When I had realized that there was none left, it was a bit of a let down. I am mostly using this blog to give updates not only you guys but to myself. I obviously could not come close to sharing every life-changing detail, but I must share that the details are life-changing in themselves. No one will understand what I went through. I can’t share that with you. But that’s the point.

April 5, 2010

Continued from last post

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 12:10 am

Okay so this is my last night in Salzburg, which I’m pretty upset about because I could spend a long time here…a long time. Anyways, I would love to talk about Salzburg right now (just posted pics) but I have to finish with previous travels. So now I’m headed to Sofia right? Right. Okay hold on, I’m trying to remember what the train ride was like…OH yes. Okay, so basically on this train I sat next to a Greek version of Angelina Jolie. I actually slept quite a bit, apart from the police checking my passport once we crossed the borders into Bulgaria. It was a pretty boring right if I remember correctly. Anyways, Angelina Jolie woke me up once we got to the station, which is confusing because I never know if there aren’t any signs, and everyone on the train either spoke Greek, Bulgarian, and very little English. So we got to Bulgaria at around 11 pm if I recall correctly. I remember the three things that stood out when I got to the station: the lack of people/abundance of sketchy private taxi drivers, the cold, and the huge blaring neon red sign outside that said SEX. Welcome to Bulgaria, right? So okay, here was THE biggest problem. The letters. I had never seen so many weird letters in an alphabet and they were so hard to discern let alone say. I pulled out my directions to Hostel Mostel and was told to look for a street named ASDFJASLKFJasdfaksfASdfasdf. Easy enough. I ended up asking police officers along the way there, walking through Sofia in the dead of night, slightly scared and wondering if my life would truly end this way. The people I asked were surprisingly helpful and I made it to the Hostel about 40 minutes later. The hostel was my favorite I had ever stayed. The staff was great, the location was super secure, the atmosphere was great. The building itself used to be a traveler’s inn owned by Greeks before the Nazis took it over and used it for offices. After the fall of communism it was restored as a hostel. Anyways, my bed was in a HUGE attic with 13 others. Best sleep I had gotten in Europe, not even joking. This hostel helped my whole loneliness concept and I was content and ready to explore the country I knew nothing about.

So the next day I had breakfast at the hostel and headed out, after referring to the great staff they pointed out some good stuff. If you check out the pics, there are a lot of monasteries and mosques. Also, the mineral springs were really cool as well. What I really wanted to do was head to the foothills and checkout the mountain monastery and the Boyana Church. It sounded easy enough. Wrong. I was told to wait at a stop and I did for 30 min. on a bus that never came. I bought an incredible 75 cent pizza because the euro was so strong against the Bulgarian Levan…or whatever. I then was told to go to another stop. That bus never came. So I hopped on a random one headed to the mountain. Bad idea Nate, bad idea. The bus driver tried to help me get to the mountain village of Dragalesvki, but I got dropped out about a couple miles from the footbills. Screw it, I’ll walk. This sounded familiar. I ended up walking over an hour, through construction, and into the woods I went. See pics. I was literally lost in the mountains. No sense of direction or of where I had been. It was kind of cool. I was enjoying this, until the sun started fading. I just decided to keep climbing until I found a village. Turns out, this Mount Vitosha was aa lot bigger than I had imagined. I stumbled across a commune type of place, with wooden watch towers and cabins. I immediately had a flash of getting kidnapped and kept as a prisoner in the woods for the rest of my life. I quickened my pace. Alright, it’s not time to panic, but it was getting close. I literally had said out loud, “Wow Nate, what mess have you gotten yourself into this time?”…I answered myself, “The biggest one yet”. Then I started to laugh. At that point I think I lost my sanity. So imagine this, an hour later after going so high I could see the snow, I found a local and asked…Boyana Village? She says, “Here…” Wow…did I just happen on this village? Literally, thank you God. So I wandered around and finally found the church, which was closed. Ha…closed. That’s funny. I hopped the wall and went to scope out the church. Pretty cool but not that cool. It was time to head home. That was another story, let’s just say it was a hassle but I made it. Later that night I missed my train my reading the time table wrong and had to leave in the morning. I headed to Belgrade. To be continued again…

April 2, 2010

Eastern European Solo Travels

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 8:44 pm

So currently, I am in Zagreb, Croatia, in a good hostel, hanging out with some new friends and feeling comfortable. I have about 15 minutes before they close the common room so I will start with the update, but will obviously continue it later 🙂

So let’s start with Greece! Wow…that was a long time ago, over a week. I got to the airport and met up with Tim from Chicago, and Lindsay from Indiana, two of the three I’d be hanging out with in Athens. Funny thing happened, as Tim was waiting in line, he met a guy from Greece who happened to be friends with the guy that Tim had met online to go rock climbing with. So once we got to the Athens airport, our new Greek friend, Marcos, showed us how to get where we needed to go. Upon arriving, the place looked pretty “dodgey” as people in Britain say. On our way to our hostel at around 9 at night, I saw 2 people shooting up with heroine right in the streets. Also, many Indians and Sub-saharan Africans had filled the streets (all males) , so the place was kind of scary, won’t lie. Oops, actually I think some of my friends and I are going to grab a drink because we all have early trains tomorrow so…that makes sense right? Okay good. Don’t worry folks, I’ll be back.

Alright! I’m back. I’m in Salzburg, Austria in a McDonald’s because my hostel internet is being stupid. Anyways, where was I…oh yes, heroine. So the room is good and we’re stoked. We hit up the bar in the hostel to just chill out and wait for Robyn, our fourth friend who was showing up. Once he did, he immediately saw a friend he hadn’t seen in like 3 years just randomly show up. Same thing happened with me kind of, I saw Annie Papineau and Sam Hill in my hostel (I knew they were in Athens) but they literally walked in on us checking in. CRAZY. Something cool was I got to share my faith with a few of my friends, which I have wanted to do for a long time and was happy God gave me a chance to do so over a beer. So we got good sleep because we were going to hit Athens hard the next day. Athens is a really unique city, not what I expected. To be honest, I didn’t really expect anything, I just knew that the Parthenon was there and some other old junk. Nonetheless, I was excited. Forgive me, all my traveling is running together so I’m trying to recall key details. So we walked straight for the Acropolis the first morning. The sky was as clear as a bell. We stopped and walked into a meat market. This wasn’t just any meat market, this was like, hang up your guys, lay your skinned sheep, chop meat with foot long cleavers and yell your prices super loud kind of meat market. Now THIS was Greece. Except, after about 10 minutes Lindsay started to get nauseous, and I soon followed, it was mostly the smell. Gizzards and liver and blood were everywhere, not so appetizing. So we sped to the Acropolis, looking over the entire city. When we got halfway up, we turned around to see such an awesome site. Thinking about it now is really cool, I love remembering good visions like that 🙂 So at the admission deal, we asked the price for a student, the Greek man said “ID card?”. No one had a real one because US College ones don’t count. EXCEPT I had said to everyone all along they needed an International Student Card like me, and it would work out for them. No one got it but me. So it was 12 euros for Tim with no card, 6 for Lindsay and Robyn for having kind of cards (everyone was pissed), and when I put my card up, the Greek  man smiled, looks at me, and says, “And you my friend, are FREE”. Immediately the other 3 start an outrage of how unfair, the first words that are said from Lindsay, “What?! Is it because he’s from Kansas?!” She was serious, and we still give her crap today.

So check out my pics, the Acropolis is awesome. Then we headed over to the Areopagus. What was cool about this was it’s personal meaning for me, the fact that Paul had ventured up those same steps and threw out words that contradicted a religion so deeply ingrained…and had success. It’s also cool how I’ve been able to follow Paul around a bit, Rome, Athens, Thessaloniki. So I got to share that with my friends too so I don’t know, Athens was a place I could read about in Acts and that was pretty awesome. We ended up heading out to the beach, which we took the wrong route and got there way late, but it was darn cold. We watched the sunset over the Ionian Sea, which was worth it, and just hung out. I loved being with those guys, I can’t wait to hang out with them again back in Spain.

Next day was Delphi Day Trip. Tim was headed out to climb rocks with his Greek buddies, while the remaining 3 decided to do something awesome. Although, a fairly funny story ensued. Our perfect plan was to get to the Bus station by 10:15 and be in Delphi by 1, with plenty of time to see everything. Well, the bus that was to take us to the Bus station came a bit late…20 minutes late. We mussed our Delphi Bus and the next one was 2.5 hours later. So, pretty frustrated, we headed to a café and had frappes, the 3 of us, and talked. Not just any talk, we talked about religion mostly. Intense conversation. Robyn is extremely intelligent and we have opposing views at times, so it was an interesting conversation to say the least. But it was nice that we could civilly discuss that. Okay, so bus time came, and we were off. On the way there, we had to take a detour because there was a huge …something on fire in the middle of the road with dozens of spectators. I don’t know if it was a riot event or an actual accident, I’ll never know. We then started the climb in the mountains. Absolutely gorgeous. Winding roads, stretching valleys, all green. I thought the ride itself was worth the whole trip. Anyways, we got dropped off in a small quaint town. Delphi is the home of the Oracle, which in Ancient Greek times was where a priest or priestess acted as a medium for prophecy from the Gods, and everyone from all around came to seek whatever it was. Also some great pics from that. So we only got to spend an hour and a half there because the last train left at 6pm, oh well, none of us complained because we were so content with that awesome day trip.

The next day I said goodbye to those guys in the afternoon as they headed for Santorini and I headed to Thessaloniki. Wow, I’m sitting next to these Austrians in McDonald’s and boy are they goofy. Okay, so let me speed on or else this will turn into a novel real fast. Thessaloniki, got there at 7am. Made friends with a guy my age from Hungary. We walked around for awhile, then I parted ways with him because he was kind of a spacey guy, ha. Nothing was opened…it was Monday morning and I just headed to the White Tower on the coast. It was pretty neat, Byzantine history behind it. The better sight was the Thermaic Gulf and the mountains in the background. I grabbed some coffee and walked around, kind of disappointed with the lack of luster. Well, for the first time ever I stopped by the tourism office and looked at a pamphlet. There was a bus that gave 1 euro tours of the city for students. I said, heck why not. It actually was super informative and gave me access to the upper city where the BEST views were. So later that day I just headed up there, sat down in some grass, and sketched one of the best panoramic views I’ve seen.Top 3 current panoramic views thus far: view from Salzburg fortress, Cinque Terre coast, and either Thessaloniki or Athens city view. So anyways, after I sketched, I decided to do something adventurous. They had these huge walls that surrounded the upper city. I wanted to climb it. So I did. It took awhile because they were pretty tall, but my goal was to reach the end wall for the view. Again, look at my pics. Later that day I had the best gyro ever, got on my train and headed to Sofia. Although, this Greek guy on my train from Athens (I forgot to tell you) lived in Cincinnati back in ’68 (he’s now 72). Anyways, he pretended to know everything about the U.S. and tried to tell me everything wrong about it. I then asked him why Greece was in a crisis and has the lowest GDP in the European Union and single-handedly ruining the euro…of course he didn’t answer and diverted to religion. Okay…let’s talk religion. Well, this was a first for me. He explained to me that the Big Bang Theory resulted from the God Ares coming from a star, and doing something. Well, he explained his religion to me and afterwards I said, “In America, we call that Greek Mythology”. He said, “No, that’s what truth is.” Wow, ummm okay. I honestly didn’t know people still believed that. That was a unique experience. Okay, so I need to stop now because my fingers hurt. Tomorrow is the Sound of Music Tour, brewery in a monastery, and a personal easter egg hunt. Today I visited Mozart’s childhood home and saw the fortress. It’s one of those cities where you just don’t understand how you can leave. Also, the train ride from Zagreb through Slovenia to Salzburg was without a doubt the best views I’ve ever taken in. To be continued, thanks for your patience.

March 23, 2010

Remember me?!

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 8:35 pm

Yeah I know…I’m back, quite a surprise huh? This post will be more or less a stream of consciousness, seeing as how I’m way to comfortable here on this couch to form extremely coherent, well-connected, and chronologically ordered thoughts.

Tomorrow is Wednesday. Thursday, I leave for Greece. I bought that ticket a month ago or so. I then had no idea what to do from there. Two weeks later I bought a Eurorail Pass, that was a start. I then decided that Austria would be cool. So that is my final destination. I hadn’t bought my return ticked to Madrid as of Monday, so I thought I should get on that one. Anyways, the flight from Salzburg stopped in Palma Mallorca (gorgeous and tropical island off of Spain in Mediterranean) for about 3 hours and then headed back to Madrid. I thought to myself, “Man…I wish I could spend more time on those awesome beaches in perfect weather”. So I decided to buy a ticket back on Monday that stops in Palma Mallorca at 1 pm, and then the next day April 6, I’ll be heading back to Madrid at 8pm. That leaves over 24 hours to bum on the beach. That was too easy…

I also need to mentally prepare myself for traveling. I’ll be with friends for a few days, but then they’re going to Santorini for 4 days (I can’t do that because I’ll need to start my train trip by then). Also, Santorini is not nearly as warm now as it is in the summer, so if I ever go to Santorini it will have to be much warmer so I can actually enjoy the incredible beaches to the fullest.

I had midterms last week. Some turned out…pretty good, others, not so much. BUT, on the bright side, I got back from Italy on Tuesday and found out I had a final an hour later that I hadn’t studied a single minute for. But turns out, I got one of the top grades in the class. From now on I’m not studying for anything! (that was a joke…maybe).

Well let me tell you about Italy!!! You should definitely check out my pictures on facebook because I had so much fun abusing that camera for 5 days. Anyways, here we go…man this sounds like an eternity ago already…

So Thursday night, March 11th, I pull into Rome. I have no idea where my hostel is but I thought I’d walk around and get a feel for the place. Roma is a bit ominous at night, but still a lot of people were out. I figured out the metro system and found my hostel. I bought some pizza that I thought had meat on it. Turns out, they were mushy mushrooms. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! So I threw those on the sidewalk as they made a grotesque “splat” sound. I needed to hit the sack because I knew I’d have one full day to see all that Rome had to offer, okay yeah it’s impossible but but I had a ton to see nonetheless. As I was lying in bed I met this dude from Vancouver who was just skipping out of school and traveling alone for 6 months, and now in his final weeks. He had some great stories. I was just lying in bed as he was standing there telling me. Afterwards I was like, “Okay Scott….um I’m gonna go to bed now.” He responds, “Okay, so yeah I mean I’m really excited to see all my family and friends and it’s getting lonely and everything but it’s so worth it eh?” I roll back over, “Dude that’s sweet, it sounds like you should write a book or something…shoot is it already midnight?! I gotta be up in 7 hours. I’ll see you tomorrow night at the pasta dig the hostel is having.” He goes, “Oh man pasta is sooo good. Especially the wine here. You will absolutely love it eh? It’s like…”– “Bro…” –“Yeah?”–“You can keep talking, and I’m going to go to sleep. Depending on how soothing your voice is I will allow you to continue talking, but it’s not looking great…haha”.

So I woke up at 7, breakfast at 7:30. I had charted out my adventure on a map I picked up. Wow…this map literally was peppered with icons of historic buildings dating back to when Caesar was walking around, or Maximus, or Paul…there was something famous every half inch on this huge map! So I ventured out. First stop: Vatican City. Passing the local high school with kids out picketing or striking or something, I continued to the metro. Turns out, Italians do talk really funny. All stereotypes? True. I crammed into the metro next to some bishop, I tried to ask him a question, but my Italian is limited…to zero. I hopped out of the metro and headed to the famed St. Peter’s Square. I was kind of nervous. I kept walking faster because I was finally seeing this place. I passed under these huge columns, crossed the street, under a wall and BOOM. Glistening white in the incredibly bright sun, was the square. This place hadn’t changed a BIT. The obelisk! The dome! The pope’s window! Everything. So here’s a funny story: I bought new contact solution in Madrid. Story has it, the stuff was SOOO strong and irritated my eyes for 2 days. Thus, anything really bright just made my eyes water. Let’s just say that when I first got into the square people probably thought I had a religion-related emotional breakdown.

So I walked around, trying to take in the vastness of every detail of every stone of every pillar of every monument. Un…believable. Then I headed for the basilica. To see where Peter was buried, was pretty moving. The FIRST pope, back before the catholic church screwed over a lot of things, haha. What a legit guy. I can’t imagine hanging out with someone who hung out with Jesus. It was a cool experience.

Next stop: Vatican Museum. Total wait time in line: 45 minutes. Ticket cost for student w/ID: 8 euro. Audio phone that was completely worthless and stupid: 7 euro. What made it all worth it: Sistine Chapel. That’s basically what you need to know about that. Michelangelo was, one of the most talented human beings to walk the earth.

So here’s what else I saw on Friday throughout the day, amidst a few showers here and there. The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, a tonnn of old Roman Gov’t buildings, the Pantheon, a lot of great back alley ways, breathtaking piazzas, and probably 10 other things. I walked for 7 hours straight. I don’t mess around. You can see how they ran an empire out of this place. Then I napped for 2 hours, and then met a ton of cool people in my hostel over some pasta dinner including 2 Australians, a South Korean, a Chinese, a Japanese, 2 Canadians, an Italian, an Indian, and a partridge in a pear tree. GREAT conversation. Especially since I was the only American BUT most of the conversation was focused on America…hmmm. I was SOOO excited to see Jessie, Hannah, and Drew the next day…oh wait

The next day I woke up early to get a good start on the Coliseum and the Forum before the siblings got here. But upon readin my email, their flight was delayed, and then eventually put off an entire day……………I was more or less heart broken. Who knew if I’d even see them at all. Well, I took the picture perfect sunny day in Rome, Italy to head to the Coliseum, a 15 minute walk away. I spent the entire morning there, reading my Bible, journaling, reading the newspaper, watching, thinking. It was absolutely unreal. I was sitting on my favorite stump in the world in a patch of grass (I have a pic of it), next to one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. And I met this awesome guy from Oslo, Norway who made my morning by being super cheerful. Later I went and grabbed lunch at a local grocery and came back to my stump, which was a VERY popular spot, but I selfishly grabbed it again and had the greatest time.

Other cool thing that day. I was getting on the metro to head back to get ready for Florence. As I got one, I saw the metro stop “Basilica di Sao Paolo”. Okay, I want to go there! I didn’t it was accessible by metro. The cathedral was AWESOME. Before St. Peter’s, it was the biggest one in Rome. I loved it. I also took the time to relax and just think about the Word of God which was cool. I sat like 20 feet away from Paul’s sarcophagus as I read Romans out of my Bible. That definitely made it real. His burial place was pretty cool PLUS they had chains in a box, that supposedly were the chains that held Paul in prison in Rome…craaazy. Great choice to go there.

Later that day, I headed to Florence. I was passing through the Italian countryside just like in the movies. The sun was setting. The light literally poured into the valley, over the train blanketed small town houses and headed to the snow-capped mountains. And as it set, it retreated, leaving behind the most beautiful purple hue. Yep, I love Italy. Oh come on Spain, don’t be jealous!…it was just a one time thing. What? How about YOU go home. Whatever, I’m gonna go hang out with Greece. Have fun by yourself. Whatever, you tell me when the Spain I knew comes back…

I apologize for that.

I scoped out Florence, got to my hostel, and figured out what to do once my siblings got here, IF they get here. I slept so well that night.

The next day I walked around Firenze, saw the stunning Duomo Cathedral, the adorable little stores, Dante’s house, and some more, but didn’t want to see too much because I was expecting them at noon. Went to the train station: nothing. Waited for an hour: nothing. Had lunch and went back to the hostel just in case: nothing. Stared out my window over beautiful Florence and waited. FINALLY THEY CAMEEEEE OH MY GOSHHHH. Haha, it was a great scene though when I saw them from the street and met them at the door.

About time folks. I let them recuperate a while and summarize their hellacious venture here. Then we headed out, walked around, had dinner, drank wine, laughed, and enjoyed just being with eachother. We had basically seen all that Florence had to offer, including Ponte Vicchio? The oldest bridge that the Nazis didn’t destroy, pretty historic. I was having a great time.

The next day we wanted to head out to Cinque Terre on the coast. I was happy because althought I love European cities, I’ve seen so many cathedrals to last a life time haha. I was ready for the cliffs and the smell of the Mediterranean. I loved hanging out on the train with my sisters and brother. Great quality time. Plus, we were able to squeeze in an hour layover in Pisa to see the leaning tower! Yes please.

We got to Rio Maggiore, the first of 5 towns of Cinque (Five) Terre.

Oh. My. Goodness. I’ve seen a lot of places in the world people. But this was probably one of those at the top. We walked the tiny streets, being probably the only Americans there, picked lemons, got the hostel, and decided on dinner. I couldn’t get over looking out into the sea. Our dinner was perfect. Real authentic Italian pasta (I had penne pasta with smoked salmon) and the best wine I’ve tasted in my life. While being accompanied by Michael Bublé). Thank you God for your blessings.

Then I had to go. It was so hard watching the train doors shut on them. I was pretty beat up about it. They still had a week in Italy and I was sooo jealous and just wanted more time with them. And no I didn’t cry…So I headed back to Rome, shoes still wet from the Mediterranean.

The following is a story that is only worth telling in person or over skype. I’ll briefly summarize main points. I needed to go 35 minutes from Rome’s train station to Ciampino Airport. My flight was at 6am and gates closed at 5:35am. I got to the station at midnight. Total trip time using various forms of transportation: 5.5 hours. Total walking time: 1 hour. Total jogging time: .5 hours. Total sprinting time: 10 minutes. Should I have just paid 30 euro to take a taxi in half hour? Absolutely not.

Welp, that was my longest post by far. It’s March 23rd and although I’m soaking up everything here and have so much to see and learn and do, I will definitely be ready to come home once May 20th comes around. I love God. I love my supportive family. I love my faithful friends. And I got to skype with Kaela today and I love her. (“aw’s” ensue). I’ll be journaling about my experience in eastern Europe, as I traverse a world I’ve never seen before. I hope the following things happen: something scary, breathtaking, nostalgic, thought-provoking, exciting, strange, life-threatening, beautiful. Maybe not life-threatening but I’m all about good stories.

March 11, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 1:08 am

Okay this is going to be the most cursory post I’ll make. It’s 2am here and I don’t have my contacts in so I can’t exactly see the screen very well. I have to study for a midterm tomorrow and finish an 8 page research deal on Panama that’s due next Monday but I won’t be here Monday because I’LL BE IN ITALY WITH MY SISTERS AND BROTHER-IN-LAW. That felt good. But anyways, I completelyyyyy forgot to make an update on my weekend in Ireland. So I will.

After I tell you something. I just got back from the Real Madrid game. It was a Champions League Tournament game versus Lyon of France. We tied, which means we lost because of a complicated scoring scenario that made us have to win either 1 0 or 3 to 1. Long story. Anyways, it was sooo unbelievable. I want to go to another Champions League game for sure. I hope I can come back to a Real Madrid game.

So Ireland. Um left Thursday afternoon, got in Thursday night, toured the part of Dublin where we stayed at our hostel briefly and went to sleep. Woke up early and basically did everything big in Dublin: Trinity College, Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and of course the Guinness Storehouse. All of it was awesome. I loved the storehouse. It was definitely worth it. Later that night we partied a little bit in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Good times.

The next morning we woke up at 6, almost missed our train but had to run. Headed out to Cork crossing over the countryside. I decided that I definitely have to come back to Ireland because it wasn’t as green as I wanted it to be because of the season, so I need to see it in full bloom. Anyways, Blarney Castle was incredible and I smooched the stone. We ate lunch in a park in the quaint village and stayed the night in Cork and had a grand old time. It was super cold though.

The next day we came back to Dublin and were fairly bored walking around and freezing. We had nothing to do but wait around till that night to go to the airport. That was until Matt Harrop said, ” Hey my friend highly recommended that we visit Howth”. Howth is a small fishing village outside of Dublin. So we grabbed train tickets and did it. Best decision ever. Check out the facebook pics. It was so relaxing. We saw real live sea lions hanging out by the fishing boats. We took great pictures with the Ocean, and spent the afternoon, waiting for the sunset in a coffeehouse, just relaxing. Perfect.

Later that night we headed for the airport, planning on sleeping there. We got much more than we bargained for, including a run in with an immigration officer with an attitude and Matt laughing in her face. It’s a long story and I would love to tell it in person, but I need to study so I gotta get out of here.

Tomorrow after my test I’m headed to the airport at 2 to fly out at 4 or so. I will be staying Thurs and Fri night in a hostel by myself in Rome, making my way around. I will then meet up with Jessie Hannah and Drew at the train station, and head from there t Florence, and then from there to Cinque Terre. I plan on having breath taking photos so keep your eyes peeled. I got mail from my Mom, Dad, and Grandparents the other day, and hopefully will be able to send letters back soon. I loved getting mail from them, it made my day. If you have written me before, expect a reply shortly, it’s just hard to find time to head down to Corte Ingles to ship a letter off for some reason. We’ll talk soon. I apologize for the brief and hurried post but i figured it was better than nothing.



March 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — natechastain @ 12:15 am

Originally, I wasn’t going to post anything, mostly because nothing newsworthy from my side of the pond has occurred. I just misspelled “occurred” 4 times because I never know if it’s one c then two r’s, or two of both, or what about the present tense of occur? Okay, I misspelled “misspelled” and I just typo’d on occur, and that’s not even how you spell typo’d but I’m too pissed off to correct it because “typo” isn’t even an original word. It turns out I can’t even speak English or Spanish.

Well I just hung out this weekend. I planned on going to El Escorial, where they bury all the dead kings from the past 400 years butttt that didn’t work. I need to get out of Madrid. Be careful what you wish for because March is going to be Mayhem (I just thought of March Madness and the fact that KU and USA lost, two of America’s favorite teams, and there’s not even a smiley to express how depressed we are).

Dublin this weekend. Maybe a perfect pour of a pint of Guinness will help me, as 10 billion nitrogen bubbles surge up the center of the glass and back down the sides of the pint…yep. Also, kissin’ the Blarney Stone and reliving my childhood days as a knight at the Castle will be fun as well. I already told my dad that he and I are coming back to Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher.

So after conversing with my brother Drew, and I had literally exhausted all possible options of travel after Greece (one of which being Norway, to where I almost booked a flight but then remembered how cold it was and how I have no gear for that, and that I would spend 10 times the money on North Face stuff than actually traveling). So after all that, Drew says, “Dude, why don’t you just get a Eurail Pass and train it back to Madrid.” Well said. So here, at last, is what I will be doing:

Eurail Passes are sweet. They allow non Euro citizens to buy a pass for a certain amount of days or certain amount of countries. And then you have unlimited travel within those countries/days. I will be buying a    4 Country Pass. It will be pretty expensive, but well worth it. TELL US THE COUNTRIES!!! Well I will, patience. But the cool thing is that some of the Eastern Euro countries are grouped together that they count as one. So on my 4 country Euro pass, after flying to Greece on Mar 25, I will be leaving on Mar 30 or 31 to do the following on a train.

Athína (Athens) to Thessaloniki (Apostle Paul represent)

Thessaloniki to Sofia (Bulgaria)

Sofia to Beograd [Belgrade] (Serbia)

Beograd to Zagreb (Croatia) [my looks will fit in right?!]

Zagreb to Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Ljubljana to Salzburg

Salzburg to Madrid (plane)

A total of 6 countries ANNND I’ll get my Austrian kick in. Although, if there are no flights left from Austria, I will be staying there for the remainder of my life, and it was a pleasure to know all of you.)

Okay, so that’s good stuff. I wanted to visit a ton of countries, but more obscure countries. Check.

In other news, can you believe all the natural disasters going on ??? First Haiti, killing over 100,000 people. Then the Iberian Peninsula surpassing its 50 year record of rain total (it’s raining as I type) and flooding the south, the Canary Islands, and killing dozens in Portugal. And now an 8.8 earthquake in Chile? You’ve got to be kidding me. Pray for safety for all of those places.

Well, I’m still alive, and God and life are beautiful among many things. And pray for me. My heart feels a little weird tonight, hopefully it’s just a Sunday night funk. Don’t look into it too much. Also, I’m going to lunch with Iggy this Thursday. We’re going to have supposedly THE best burger he’s ever had, and according to him, he’s had a lot. Well, I’ll have you know that I’m kindddd of an extraordinaire when it comes to burgers, so we’ll see about this. But apparently, the owner of this place is from Forth Worth, TX and has lived in Madrid for 20 years and barely knows ANY Spanish. Now that’s just impressive. He wears a cowboy hat and boots, and has a HUGE American flag outside his restaurant. Thursday will be a good day.

Have you noticed though? Even the Bible said that natural disasters would occur (spelled it correctly first go around!) much more often near the End Times. Think about all the CRAZY amount of global natural disasters in the past decade. Off the top of my head? Katrina, Sri Lanka, Chile, Haiti, Iran (2003), South Asia. You should find a graph of earthquake activity over the past couple of centuries…you will be blown away by how the activity as literally SPIKED in the past century, even more recent than that. I’m not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying…Jesus could come back at like any ti

HA you totally thought the rapture JUST went down. You were all like, “What?! He’s gone! But wait I’m still here…what does that mean?! Uh oh………” And you were like checking other rooms and stuff for other people, stocking the pantry, etc. Haaaa. Nah just playin’ I’m still here. But seriously…it’s coming.

Older Posts »

Blog at