Spain, Portugal, Spain again, Andorra and Monaco here we go!

Once Upon a Saga:

At last I was fortunate enough to find some sunshine!!! If I get to rest a bit more it could be great! :)

Træ efterårCordoba dekoreret murAndorra kirkeMonaco tcp

Madrid, Spain

So, I made it to Madrid in Spain. It was late and I quickly found a place to sleep. The next day I visited the Spanish Red Cross office and at this point I must tell you all that I am really happy that I am acting as Goodwill Ambassador. I am getting an enormous insight into each country through the work of the Red Cross. Perhaps this is obvious but the Red Cross does deal with people and people are what makes a nation.

And in Spain the Red Cross had a special story. Because the proud nation which was once the strongpoint of European economy today finds itself in a position that nobody could have imagined. The Red Cross acts as a safety net for the entire nation which has been hit hard. And with recent news about the Red Cross now handing out more food in Europe than in Africa it should not be a surprise. Really?? More food in Europe than in Africa?? Yes sir! And the Spanish Red Cross helps more than 1.400.000 people on a daily basis in Spain alone. 

Spain røde kors

The government cut back on education, art and culture, hospitals and other areas...but made no cuts in regards to defense. That is food for thought. Anyway, it is hard to imagine a Spain without the Red Cross...and that is a fact. I kind of noticed this story all over Europe as I have made my way down south. The financial crisis has hit hard and a large portion of the middle class has moved down. You even have "the working poor" who still have jobs but no longer make enough to pay for rent, electricity, school books, medicine, food or clothes when they come to the end of the month. Prices have gone up and the salaries have remained the same. It does not take a genius to see where that is going.

Well, those who know me also know that I am a capitalist. I believe every man makes his own luck. I believe in hard work and in loyalty. And in believe in working smart. Most of the world is made up of hippies and it is up to us to save what's left. But you need to understand that my definition of a hippie is VERY BROAD and with a lot of humor. Most Red Cross workers are for sure hippies by my standards :) 

I have met so many nice people through the Red Cross that it is unbelievable. They are doing such a fantastic job on so many levels and this world we are living in is moving towards a place where those "hippies" are no longer nice to have but need to have. Think about it; a 150 year old organization which is represented in almost every country in the world...and not for selfish reasons but in order to help the weak without concern for race, religion or opinions of any kind. Completely neutral. Help for those who need it. Would you want to live in a world without that?

Spain cafe
A quiet square full of atmosphere 

Anyway. Madrid was nice enough though from what I saw I still prefer Barcelona. But I heard that you can still see bullfighting in Madrid (or around) and I am up for that. I know it is mean and unfair for the bull. But the bull occasionally wins :) I left by night train and had a bed onboard the train all the way to Portugal. There is something oddly romantic about eating a meal in a train's restaurant...

Lisbon, Portugal
I have also been to Portugal before. I like Portugal. Good food, good people, beautiful cities, lots and lots of history! My train arrived in Lisbon where I had not been before. It is a really charming city which was almost completely destroyed in 1755 by Europe's perhaps biggest earthquake ever. That itself did not kill too many people but it set most of the city on fire and people evacuated themselves to outside of the city. Then they were hit by a second disaster; a massive tsunami and that killed a lot of people. A dark history that also killed the faith of many believers. I made my way up to see the old castle; Castelo de S. Jorge. I love how I feel like I belong in most castles. Besides, the view was fantastic.

Portugal kanon
A view from Castelo de S. Jorge

Portugal is perhaps more poor than Spain and there is a large group of senior citizens which makes it even harder. The city of Lisbon needs a good paint job and a tender hand but it is still extremely charming. I dislike all the street dealers trying to push their drugs on me. I wish I could do something clever about it. Pointing at the dealer and screaming: "DEALER, DEALER, DEALER" just doesn't seem clever enough...

Portugal sporvogn

Cute right?

Go to Portugal. You will like it. I even found the strength to go for a run while I was there.

Cordoba, Spain
After a rush of traveling from country to country I felt like it was my turn to see something just for me. So I headed to Cordoba, which is a very nice town. It has a rich history and that is what gets me ticking. I love it. When you have seen enough of it you start to connect the dots and understand more of the world. Or at least it feels like that for me. Cordoba was under Arabic rule for many years and they left their footprints in the architecture. An old mosque had been converted into a Cathedral when the Christians again reclaimed the city after many years of Muslim rule. The converted mosque is now an utterly amazing structure which had me completely blown away. It is just one of those things you need to see for yourself. 

Cordoba springvandCordoba katedralCordoba bro
From a park, the cathedral and the old bridge leading into town

I was hosted by a real English gentleman who works as a teacher in Cordoba. Ricky is his name and though he is only 23 of age he has greatly made up for it by doing more with his life than most have in their forties. The bastard got me drinking beer all night and I was near dead when we left a discotheque at 6:15am. Ricky of course looked like he just arrived and was still ready to party. Damn I am getting old. It was Halloween and as someone pointed out Halloween in America might mostly be about getting drunk and dressing up like a banana. But in Spain they get dressed up really scary. REALLY scary in some cases. Some of them wear near perfect film makeup and it looks amazing. So Ricky, I forgive you.

I lost my train the next day. Because we F#%KING slept until 5:30pm!!! How do you do that? Well, I was stuck in Cordoba for another night and the nearest accommodation was 35km away after checking everything we could find in the city as well as online. In the process we met some really nice Americans. Don't you just love that? In my philosophy everyone is alright all around the world. But I tend to like Americans a lot better once they have seen countries outside North America. These ones were really great!

Cordoba go home
Okay I get it; time to go...

Ricky could not host me again because he was hosting someone else. But what do you know. He saved my ass and called Ruth. Ruth is a colleague of Ricky's and she was game enough to host a complete stranger for the night. It would have been better if I didn't like Ruth. But she was really nice and even likes TED talks ( So we ended up talking until 4am in the morning. However this time I had set the alarm and got out of Cordoba the next morning.

Andorra la Vella, Andorra
You cannot go to Andorra by train. What do I know? I knew virtually nothing about Andorra before I got there. I took a bus into Andorra and found something I did not expect. It is a small country in the Pyrenees and it lies beautifully between the mountains. Apparently Andorra is really good for skiing and has 200km slopes!! I think I will come back. The capital city is Andorra la Vella and it is very modern. It is also a safe heaven for those who do not like to pay taxes and it hugely relies on tourism of which gives it about 80% of its total income. Banks are good business too! 

Andorra streetAndorra oppe fra
Andorra la Vella from within and above

For some strange reason there are many stores that sell model trains. Very big stores...perhaps because the country has no railways...what do I know? There are also a lot of stores for model airplanes and helicopters. And the oddest of things for me was the massive amount of totenschläger's in shop windows. All over town. If you do not know what that is then it is a foldable stick which you can use to beat the crap out of someone with. I am pretty sure they are illegal in Denmark...but in Andorra la Vella they where everywhere.

I really like Andorra. It seems like the perfect place for shopping, enjoying nature, it is a modern city, good hotels and good for drinking coffee. Go there...the people are really nice too...

Because I am doing a minimum of 24hrs in each country I couldn't leave Andorra before 4pm. That meant a 5pm bus to France at the nearest train station. That got me to a small station and another train got me to Toulouse which is not very far into France and very far from Monaco. But I was lucky enough to get on a train that left around 1:20am from Toulouse towards Nice...very close to Monaco. I really don't recommend it. If I had a little more brains I would have found a bed in Toulouse, enjoyed the city the next day and gone slow. But my Interrail ticket is only valid until November 10th and I want to make the best of it. Besides...I want to get out of Europe because I can always come back anyway. It was a really long night getting to Nice!! Most of the night I couldn't sleep as my seat was crap and everything smelled of bad breath and farts. Oh, don't forget the constant noises and flashes of lights. 

But the prize lay ahead...because I got into Nice early morning and then jumped on another train to Monaco and ta-daa...still on schedule and early in Monaco. Monaco is pretty much what I expected. Expensive and full of rich people. But the city kind of looks like a mix of something old, classy and something from the eighties. I do not really get how this could even be a country? The French on one side and the Italians on the other. Which powerful weapon does Monaco have? I would have gone for a run in Monaco but the country was just too small...

Monaco tcp port
Me :)

With that said it is kind of cool though. The entire city/country sits on a hillside like a satellite dish and the open laguna greets the Mediterranean with a welcome. The city is well kept. There is a castle up at the top with a prince who is overlooking his population. Naturally you have the glamorous parties and the famous Grand Prix. This place is more busy than most large countries!

Monaco view
Pretty much all of Monaco...and some of Italy to the far right!

I hade a great time with the Red Cross workers who were extremely nice and handed me multiple gifts to take along. We had a good talk about up and down, in and out, and then I was on my way again. I enjoyed some good food with a nice white wine after watching a movie in the cinema...because I found one that showed a movie in English thank you very much.

Well now...all roads lead to Rome...and so does mine...

Best regards
Torbjørn C. Pedersen...wondering if I may be the only person who is currently traveling to every country in the world?

Once Upon a Saga
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