My experience and 7 things of the Camino de Santiago

Hi folks! I’m sharing with you my experience of the walk of Santiago. Mainly I’m gonna talk about what I enjoyed the most during the walk and the difficulties I found across it. I am also going to add some tips to help you get psychologically ready for this experience.

Many people think there is just one way to get Santiago, but actually there are 6 ways.

There is the French way starting from Sant Jean Pied de Port (800 km), the Portuguese way from Lisbon, the North way from Irum (800 km), the Original route from Oviedo, Via de la plata from Seville, the English way from A Ferrol or Coruna and finally the Sanabrese way from Granja de Moreruela.

Everyone of them is different in terms of landscapes and difficulties.

I chose to run across the French way and given that I had just 3 weeks I decided to start from Burgos and walk until Santiago which is 500 kilometres.

If you search in other blogs most of them tell you to train for months before starting the walk, so that your legs are ready to march. I didn’t train at all and I didn’t have any problems overall.

1 “Buen Camino”

I admit the first week I walked at a slow pace and I felt like everyone was passing me, even elderly people.

Anyways along the walk there is this kind of vibe and atmosphere where people are conscious that you are there for reaching the same destination: Santiago.

Along the walk there are many signs like this one so you can’t get lost.

The route between Burgos and Lèon are all “Mesetas”

Indeed everyone passing next to you was like “buen camino” and at the end of the day you heard it and said it like 2000 times but it was cool.

In addition, with some pilgrims I randomly met and spoke to for few hours I really felt like they would have helped me and shared what they had with me more than my friends whom have known for several years.

2 “Albergues” and bedbugs

Along the walk there are many villages (pueblos) where you can stop from a break, look around a bit and fill up your water water.

Having become very popular (the French way), there are many services, and so many hostels, called “albergues”.

Most of them are private, with lots of services, especially for tourists but there are public ones and they are called “albergues municipales”

The managers are volunteers (hospitaleros) and the dorms are huge with normally 30-40 beds per dorm but in the one of O Cebreiro, which was on the top of a mountain, I was in a 80 bed dorm. It was fun though because when I woke up in the night there were so many people snooring, it was like a snooring orchestra.

I knew about the existence of the bedbugs but for the ones who don’t know, they are small insects that stay in the mattresses and in the night they come out to sting you and suck your blood. They can sting more than once.

One morning I woke up because my body was itchy. I straight away noticed some red marks on my arms. I thought they were normal mosquito bites. However, afterwards a friend told me that they were bedbugs bites because of the red dots in them.

The next night I felt so scared, I suddenly woke up in fear that the bedbugs were going to enter my nose, ears or mouth.

This one is the best hostel I slept in. *Albergue Karl Leisner in Hospital de Orbigo*

3 The Walk

As I did, most people started their walk alone.

Travelling alone allows you to meet random people and if you like them you spend time together and if you don’t, you continue on your way.

The highest point to watch the sunrise along the French way

I like spending time on my own, and when I was walking, I could continue strolling into the nature for hours and hours. It allowed me to feel more conscious and to let me thoughts be more pure, and my emotions go thourgh my body. In the end, I felt more conscious.

I also met and walked with some friends I met there. I hope to see them again soon somewhere.

4 Long distances

The entire French way is 800 km which is a lot of kilometres and is not easy to finish it.

But there are no rules, no one tells you much you have to walk, you can do 10, 20, 30, 40 km per day.

Everyone can create his own route, maybe one day you stop because you stop because your feet hurt, for example I stopped one day in Lèon to visit the city and to rest a bit, and from Lèon to Santiago I never stopped, even if the lasts days I felt like I needed some rest.

Personally, I was always trying to push my body to walk a bit more, continuing to walk even when I was tired, trying to reach 30 km per day.

Walking a lot, if you are used to it can cause pains, usually at the feet or knees, or to the back because of a heavy backpack, so you also need to be careful and to stop or rest if your body asks you so.

La casa de los Dioses, a donative buffet made by volunteers halfway from two villages

5 Phone

A thing that I would suggest, is to stay without the phone. It just distracts and you don’t need it except for taking pictures.

For avoiding using the phone I deleted Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram (but I was re-downloading and re-deleting the latter every night).

It has been a good choice because during the day I was not using the phone at all, and when you chat with someone or just read a whatsapp group, even after you have put your phone in the pocket, your mind continues to think about that person or events, and that’s just time you have lost.

One thing I used internet for was to download the application “El buen Camino”, that was useful for watching the distances between the villages, find the albergues and personalize your route.

7 The Credential

When you finish an experience, what do you keep with you after it?

Memories, pictures, videos, friendships, writing a diary, souvenirs or other objects?

What I found amazing about the walk was the “Credential”.

Basically this is the Pilgrim passport, along the walk most of the restaurants, bars, churches have their stamp and you can get it everywhere, at the end of the walk you have your credential full of stamps of all the bars you have taken the coffee in, hostels where you slept in and other places.

It’s a nice memory.

The credential with all the stamps

7 Feeling at home

Everyday I saw a lot of people along the walk, everyone on the same path. What happens is that pilgrilms more or less walk at the same pace, I mean in general 20-25-30 km per day, it means many people that you see on the way today, are going to be at your point even the next days.

Indeed the last week, when at the end of the day I was getting the albergue, in the albergue it was like I knew 15-20 guys staying there, and sometimes I was meeting someone around the village.

That’s why once arrived to the villages, I felt like that place was new, but I was not a stranger.

After 20 days and 500 km from Burgos, where I started, I reach Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and I started to walk barefoot.

Plaza do Obradoiro, where the Cathedral stands

Here I share a funny song about the Camino, listen it.

Typical Latin American words

Where are you from?

There are on the earth other countries where the official language is the same as yours?

I’m Italian, and the Italian language unluckily is spoken just in Italy, San Marino, Vatican and in the Southern region of Switzerland, so it’s actually nothing special.

Instead, in the Spanish world there are 14 countries speaking Spanish.

Languages evolve, so I was wondering what are the typical words and intercalaries that a Latin country uses while the others don’t, and viceversa.

I made some researches and now I want to share with you the ones listed by country that I liked the most!

Chile

Como estai?

It means “como estàs?”(how are you?), the singular “you” structure in Chilean Spanish is often conjugated informally with “i.” 

Cachai?

It comes from “to catch”, so it’s like “you know?”

Sipo, nopo

The “po” (pues) is like “well”, but they don’t mean well, it’s just their way to talk.

Weòn

This word comes from “huevo” (egg), and is referred to a man in a derogatory sense, but it is also used between friends.

Pololo/a

It means boyfriend/girlfriend, in Spanish it would be novio/a.

Fome y bakan

They mean “boring” and “exciting/cool”

Al tiro

It means “right now/immediately”.

This is a funny video made by a Mexican youtuber Alejandro Velasco.

Mexico

Güey

It’s an expression used to call a friend or a person you know.

Andale

A word used to make an other person to take actions like “come on” or “let’s go”.

Chingaquedito

It’s referred to a shy person who acts in an untrustworthy way.

No mames

It’s an expression of disbelief, like “I don’t trust you”.

Me vale madre

Used to say “I don’t care”, “I don’t mind”.

Pendejo

Mexican insult, means “stupid, fool”

Padrìsimo

It’s an adjective for something surprising, astonishing.

¡ Chin!

To indicate surprise and disappointment, like “darn it, damn”

Chela

In Spain is called “cerveza”, it’s the “beer”.

Argentina

Che

It means “friend”, but it’s also used to call the attention.

Quilombo

The meaning literally is “brothel”, but it’s used to describe a situation where there is caos or mess.

Dale

Aceptance word like “ok”, “all right”.

Fiaca

It means both “lazy” and “laziness”.

Boliche

Used to talk about bars or discos.

Boludo

An adjective meaning “stupid, foolish”.

Viste?

Comes from the verb “ver” (to see), and it means “you know?” (sabes?).

Colombia

Vaina

It means a “thing”, so for a Colombian everything is a “vaina”.

Jartera or Mamera

When something or someone bores you can say “es una mamera”.

Traga

When a Colombian felt in love or likes someone.

Jincho

The word to say “drunk” (borracho).

Vaca

Literally in spanish is “cow”, but in Colombia means collecting moneyfor something.

Parcero

Other way to say “friend”, used in the region of Antioquia.

Guaro

It’s the national alcoholic drink of Colombia.

Pola

It’s the beer.

Tinto

People think it’s a wine, but it’s not, it’s just coffee, without cream or milk, just black coffee.

Rumbear

Like the music Rumba, this is the verb to say go partying.

Vieja

Means “old woman”, but in Colombia is also used to talk to every lady you meet.

Del putas

Something that is incredible that you like, like a thing or an event.

Que chimba

Another way to say that something is cool.

How do airline fares vary over time?

How do airline fares vary over time?

The answer to this question takes into consideration different variables and it also help us understand when to buy a flight ticket in the case we go for holidays or a business trip.

Travellers who want to book a flight must face a constantly changing ticket price, in fact, there is no set value for any route.

Fares changes consequently of the use of the Yield management, it’s a pricing strategy based on anticipating and influencing consumers behaviour in order to maximize the profit from a fixed and time-limited resource, as the flight seats are.

The Yield management is based on 3 factors that affect the price.

The first one is the pricing strategy, is a strategy that alters the price depending on customers need. Most of the companies use the first minute strategy, selling the ticket at a lower price if it is bought in advance, for example a family going for holidays, while a last-minute traveller or a business flier, booking in correspondence of the departure day, may pay the full price.

The second factor is the availability control; the airline must decide precisely how many seats can be available for people who plan ahead or people who fly at a full price. Being places limited, the more seats are booked, and consequently less seats remain available, the higher will be the price for the next customers.

The third one is the control of the inventory; indeed, the airlines must ensure that fuel, employees and aircrafts are available.

These are the three main pillars used by the airlines yield managers.

Of course, also depends on the period of the year that the reservation is made, how much margin the company wants to keep, what is the air route etc…

Nowadays low costs airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet ad Wizzair keep the margin low, ending up in creating their revenues more on additional services.

Airplane Tickets.

In fact, they make also high revenues from the suitcase in the hold, selling food and beverages on board, selling the favourite seat on board, getting a percentage of car rentals and hotel bookings.

They also reduce costs using the same type of planes, so is not needed new training for employees and they use secondary airports, for example in London Ryanair and EasyJet land to Stansted and Luton airports rather than Heathrow or London City, in Milan Ryanair land to the airport Orio al Serio rather than Milano Malpensa or Linate, in Berlin low cost airlines land in Schoenfeld airport rather than in Tegel, and the same in many other cities.

Flight prices generally don’t change drastically within a short period of time, but instead airfares slowly increase over weeks and months. For international flights, the sooner you book the cheaper. For domestic flights, the best moment to book is between 21 and 42 days before, so 3 to 6 weeks out.

Airlines tend to generally know who is behind his laptop or phone screen ready to book the flight, if it’s a family a leisure traveller or a business flier.

Routes like London to Majorca, tend to have a leisure profile, airlines generally consider leisure travellers make their reservations early, months before the departure, consequently the airline in many cases start pricing seats on that route relatively high and they adjust it later depending on the market response.

While on a typical business flight like London to Frankfurt, the airline may start with a low price to fill some seats and increase them rapidly at the last minute when business fliers are going to book it.

Price also changes depending on in which country you are, the same airline company can charge different prices, if we consider Northern Europe, like UK, Sweden and Norway, we know the average income is higher than in East Europe, as a result Northern travellers are willing to pay more and will be charged an higher price.

The same concept can be transferred for the device used to book a flight.

The Apple company sells iPhones, iPad and Mac that are much more costly respect smartphones produced by Huawei or Xiaomi, in average this means people using the iOS operating system are wealthier that Android users, this fact can also change the price.

Still has not resulted yet if it’s true, but travel consumers experts said that “cookies”, can raise your ticket flight. Cookies memorize when a user log in their website and keep information about what the user do inside the website, so the airlines use internet cookies being conscious that if a customers returns on the booking website, in some cases will be willing to pay more.

However, loyalty programmes and registered users give the airlines data like, who is the passenger and where and why they are flying, so they can be used in revenue management.

Talking about the different strategies or ”methods” used by different companies we can focus on the two main methods used.

The traditional method, that is the traditional approach where airlines offer different range of fares with various sale conditions and restrictions within each RBD, Reservation Booking Designator, and each cabin.

In this method the price is fixed and here revenue managers maximize revenues controlling capacity, so they allocate capacity among all the proposed fares.

The low-cost method doesn’t segment the market on the basis of willingness to pay for the air ticket with different conditions and restrictions.

They offer at any time a single price for the single flight at the departure. In general, the closer the departure date, the higher will be the price. For this reason, is more convenient to buy the ticket in advance.

With low cost airlines tickets are non-refundable and changes are prohibited or subject to administrative fees.

Here the capacity control is not a problem, because only one service is for sale, instead, the problem is deciding when to close the sales at one particular price and open the sales at the next price level.

In this method the objective is to maximize revenue through dynamic pricing, managing price levels currently on sales.

Pricing strategies mainly depends on the decision of the company itself, but there are also 3 important external factors that have an impact on prices and these are:

Market structure, demand and operational factors.

The market structure is the external environment, so how the airline sector is organized in the country, national regulations, environmental economics and market competition.

Of course, the demand affects the price, the higher the demand, the higher ticket prices will be, and on the other hand, if the demand is less than what airlines offer, prices drop.

Operational factors are a category merging other factors like fuel, online booking, aircraft handling etc.

In this industry, the markets are segmented on markets with time sensitive passengers and price sensitive passengers. Time sensitive passengers are mostly business travellers, while price sensitive passengers are mostly leisure travellers.

The first ones need to travel at exact days and times, the seconds generally adapt their travel days in less demanded days and sometimes their travel time is significantly longer if the final price is lower.

Another way to divide market is on the markets of business travellers and leisure travellers.

Business travellers require higher frequencies, because their time is highly valuable in comparison with leisure travellers and they pay higher tax when they are forced to wait longer than their preferred time departures. Therefore, schedule focused on business travellers is more expensive compared to the flight schedules created for leisure passengers. On the other hand, higher revenues from tickets, which are sold at noticeably higher fares, compensate higher costs. While some markets are purely focused on business travellers (London City), others are oriented for leisure passengers (Venice), in most markets airlines transport mix of both passenger´s types. In this case, the airline has divided passengers to different groups based on certain characteristics. At this stage, each group of passengers pays a different price for tickets.

As the market is full of customers, sellers and products, an important factor is the number of airlines offering their services on a particular O&D (origin and destination), and it depends on the regulation of the environment, location and nature of the market.

Market can be in three stages: market with ideal competition, monopoly and oligopoly. Increasing fuel price creates significant pressure on airlines. In the past fuel was approximately 10-15% of total operational costs. Today it is the largest cost part representing 35% of the total costs. Despite of all steps reducing fuel costs, airlines are still struggling with increased costs.

Therefore, if carriers have higher fuel costs, they try to shift costs to customers in the form of fuel surcharges. Airline representatives claim that increasing fuel price will cause more expensive air travelling, but prices cannot rise to a level that will not be accepted by the market or over a level of competitors. Nowadays, it is common that carriers increase fuel surcharges. Passengers pay these mandatory fees at the time of booking.

Customers income is one of the major factors influencing demand for air travel. As soon as economic activity and trade increase, demand for business air travel grows. With greater economic activity, income of the population rises. Consequently, people start to have higher expenses for less important goods and services such as holidays.

Similarly, with increasing prosperity, people are less price-sensitive and more predisposed to product quality. This leads airlines to sell tickets in higher prices in an effort to offer the best service. Conversely during a recession customers are more sensitive and are more interested in price than the comfort and brand image. These facts force airlines to stimulate demand for air transport with various promotions with discounted tickets. Often bad financial situation of customers results in shifting of passengers from traditional airlines to low-cost airlines.

Most and least powerful passports

While some travellers are able to stay abroad for months or even years, others are subject to expenses Visas, strict time limits or even long waiting processes.

paasssaap

Why is there this division?

Which are the most and least powerful passports?

Passports tend to reflect the international position of its country, then of course, countries with positive diplomatic relations, tend to have stronger passports.

On the other hand countries involved in international conflicts, have a less powerful passport.

How long to get a visa?

Generally you get the visa 60 days after your application or the visa’s interview, anyways this time can vary depending on where the consulate is located, the price also changes depending on from which country you are, where you are going to and the purpose of the journey.

To go to some countries you need the Visa, to go to some other countries you can go Visa free, and to go to some other countries you need the Visa on arrival.

What does Visa on arrival mean?

It means Visa on arrival.

That let you obtain your visa upon landing at your destination instead of having it in hand before you even get on the plane.

arrivals

Ok, now I list some of the most and least powerful passports!

At the end I link you the website where you can check if from your country you need the Visa, the Visa on arrival, an electronic travel authorization, or simply nothing.

Remember that these are the statistics of the Henley Passport Index and are based on data released by the Canadian-based International Air Transport Association (IATA).

class

The most powerful passport is the Japanese, whom citizens can travel to 190 countries without Visa (or obtain one upon arrival), Japan has overtook Singapore that in 2017 was at the first one, and now…

…it is the second! Citizens of this small country in the south of Malaysia, can travel to 189 nations, Singapore in fact,  being a global financial centre has kept good diplomatic relatonships with many countries.

At the third place we find 3 countries: Germany, France and South Korea.

Germany has fallen to the 3rd place, while France and South Korea moved up when France gained Visa free access to Uzbekistan and South Korea with Myanmar.

With 187 countries Visa free we have: Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

If by chance you have the Italian passport, know that you can enter in almost any European country without any paperwork, but you will still need a visa to go to Russia, China, India, Saudi Arabia and others. For other common destinations like Austrialia, United States and Canada yo need to obtain an electronic travel authorization in advance (it should cost 10-15€).

 

Now the least powerful, or the first from the bottom.

Iraq and Afghanistan are positioned at the least desirable passport in terms of how many countries to which they allow their holders to travel, they are just 30.

Then with the least visa free accesses we find Syria and Somalia, with 32 countries, Pakistan 33, Yemen 37, Eritrea, Palestinian territory and Sudan at 39 etc…

top 5 e 5

These coutries have a low number of visa free accesses so their movement to other countries is limited from their passport.

In addition, in some cases there may also be other kinds of restrinctions.

For example with the North Korean passport a person can travel to more countries compared to the Iraqis, indeed, North Koreans can travel to dozens of countries without prearranging a visa, some countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Kyrgyzstan, don’t ask for a visa at all, but…

…North Koreans need an exit visa from their own government to travel abroad and as you might expect, those documents are usually rejected.

Another factor to take into cosideration is the price of the passport, it should be affordable, in Syria the last year a new amendment raised the fees to 400$ for regular applications, and given that the minimum wage in Syria is around 50$ per month, just few people can afford it.

 

Here you can check where you can go with your passport!

https://www.henleypassportindex.com/passport

4 Bad Habits when travelling

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.       -John A. Shedd

What I really like about travelling is how naturally habits break, your daily routine during those days you’re abroad for vacation gets broken.

It’s because you can’t do sport at the usual place, you are not in your house, there are not your friends, you don’t have your car and so on and so on and so forth.

This is wonderful because you realize you are doing some activities in different ways, at a different time with different people, and this situation gives you the possibility to experiment how it is, how you feel.

There are anyway some habits we automatically form, even when we are travelling, some of them are good and others can be bad for us, and sometimes for locals as well.

Here I list 4 bad habits and 4 new habits to replace them!

 

1- Google maps (or others maps online), it’s very useful, even without internet you can see the point that tells you where you are, with the small arrow that looks toward the direction you are going.

It is really easy and confortable to use, but what happens is that you will probably watch you phone during the entire walk, missing the views of the city and feeling also a bit stoned.

What you can do instead is to get a paper map of the city for free at your hostel, hotel or  touristic information points and write down on the map where you want to go.

Try to follow the map and get help from locals!

maps

 

2- We all take lots of pictures when we are abroad for holidays, cause we get in an environment where everything is new for our eyes.

I like to take some pictures to have a memory of my trip.

But I think there are many people that, when they are in a suggestive place, have a stronger desire to take pictures rather than enjoy the moment.

Being focused on taking many pictures, can actually alter the way your brain processes an experience, you’ll forget it faster because you rely on your camera to remember it for you.

Instead, take some pictures and then put your phone back, then take into scene your 5 senses.

photo

3- Do you like to try local food?

It’s a way to get in the culture that hosts you.

If you are used to have breakfast from Starbucks and lunch or dinner from Mc Donalds, Burger King or Domino’s Pizza during your trip, try instead to go to some local bars or restaurants.

If you go to fast food chains you feed multinationals, if you go to local restaurants you feed the local community.

multinn

4- Another way to keep a memory of your trip is to buy souvenirs.

Maybe a cup or a shot glass with the name of the city on it, a t-shirt with the writing “I love Rome”, a keychain or a magnet with the landscape of the city and many others.

These are the typical souvenirs made for tourists and sold in souvenirs shops.

Probably they are all produced in the same chinese factories and the gadget you bought in Berlin is identic to the one in a London’s souvenir shop but with the different city name.

To improve the quality of your purchase buy handcrafted products!

They are usually more expensive, but:

They are unique.

They can be personalized because you talk directly with the artisan.

In this manner you are supporting skilled work, that with technology is slowly being replaced with machines.

And, as for restaurants, locally owned independent businesses, selling handmade products, return a higher percentage of their revenue to their communities than chains.

In fact, owners and employees, are more likely to spend their salary or invest their profit at places in the same area where they work.

The second type of “souvenir” I suggest to get are objects you used during your trip.

These are the memories I prefer and they are free.

For example if you went to a Museum in Berlin you keep with you the ticket you got at the entrance for remembering that day, or if you went to the Saxon Switzerland National Park you get a stone you find along the trail, an empty bottle of a typical beer or whatever leaves you a memory.

souvenir

The 3 cheapest European destinations

Do you think that travelling in Europe is expensive?

Not always.

Depends where  you go.

Travelling to Europe doesn’t necessarily mean going to Rome, Berlin, London or Paris.

Personally I find quite boring choosing always the most famous destinations, even if of course there is a reason why the are top destinations.

There are interesting places to visit everywhere, depending on the kind of experience you are looking for.

Here I list 3 between the most affordable countries, taking into account expenses like food & drinks, accommodation, local transports (public and private) and activities (city tours, nightlife etc…). They exclude the flight ticket.

All of them located in central-eastern Europe and none of them using the Euro currency.

 

1) Bulgaria

Local currency: Lev -> 1 Euro = 1,95 Lev

This country is slowly becoming more popular to traveller’s eyes for it’s incredibly low cost of life, but also because since its entrance in the European Union in 2017 has been improving its touristic infrastructure.

Many low cost airlines have direct flights to Sofia, but also Varna and Burgas.

Here the taxi’s fare is the cheapest in Europe, if you are in a small group of 3 friends and you do 5-6 kilometres distance you pay 1-1,50 euros each person.

I recommend the Hostel Mostel (https://www.hostelmostel.com/)if you are planning to go to Sofia, dorms for 7-8 euros per nights, and they also offer breakfast and dinner for a really low price.

 

2) Romania

Local currency: Lei -> 1 Euro = 4,63 Lei

It’s economy is now one of the fastest growing in Europe, this country is well known for being the land of Gypsies (false), the country of Dracula (false), a place where is dangerous to go around alone (false), where everyone is religious, where citizens eat a lot of garlics and onions and where everything is cheap!

As most of the countries the capital is more expensive, but if you go outside the centre or in other cities like TImisoara, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca the prices are even smaller.

You can find an accommodation in a hostel’s dorm with prices from 7 euros per night, I stayed in the ‘Podstel Bucharest’ (http://www.podstel.com/)  hostel for 5 nights  and I payd less than 40 euros, they are really friendly and in the common room there was a nice atmosphere.

You can eat in a restaurant for 8-10 euros and in Unirii Square, right in the centre of Bucharest there is a shop that sells hotdogs for 2 Lei (less than 50 cents).

If you buy the bus tickets airport-centre and centre-airport together the price is 3 euros in total.

If you need a taxi ask before to locals in order to avoid to be scammed, anyways the fare is low.

 

3)  Ukraine

Local currency: Hryvnia -> 1 Euro = 31,79 Hryvnia

Ukraine ranks as the most affordable country in Europe and also one of the top-10 cheapest countries in terms of living costs in a new study “The Cost of Living Around the World 2018” published by British moving company MoveHub.

But what’s cheap for tourists is still pretty expensive for the majority of Ukrainians.

In fact, gross domestic product per capita stood at just $2,459 in 2017, marking a significant fall from the $3,969 in 2013. Among European countries, only Moldova has a lower GDP per capita.

Nice cities to visit here are Kyiv, Zaporizhia, Odessa and Lviv.

europes

Icelandic’s things

Let your memory be your travel bag.                                       -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

1) How many islands bigger than Iceland?

In Europe there are many islands and archipelagos, but just one is bigger than Iceland, and it is… the Great Britain!

In the globe there are many more bigger islands than Iceland, guess how many?

They are exactly 17:

Greenland, New Guinea, Borneo (Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei), Madagascar, Baffin (between Canada and Greenland), Sumatra (Malesia), Honshu (Japan), Victoria (over Canada), Great Britain, Ellesmere (next to Greenland), Sulawesi (Indonesia), South Island (New Zeland), Java (Indonesia), North Island (New Zeland), Luzon (Philippines), Newfoundland or Terranova (Canada) and Cuba!

If you are asking yourself why Australia is not included in the list it’s because it’s not considered an island, being the main part of the continent ‘Oceania’.

islands

2) Ponies vs Horses

Have you seen Icelandic horses?

Many people consider them Pony because of the small size, but they are horses, they weights in average between 330 and 380 kilograms and their height is between 132 and 142 centimetres.

horse

This Icelandic race, it’s a unique race, that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago.

Forming part of their culture, this horse’s breed is protected by the Icelandic law. Hence, to prevent possible diseases and races from mixing, no any kind of horse can enter in the country!

Normally horses have 3 types of paces: Walk, trot and gallop.

These small Icelandic super skillful hairy horses have 5 paces.

These are the ‘tölt’ and  ‘skeið’ or flying pace.

Watch this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV9P0w8vZi8

 

3) Quiet country

Iceland is considered one of the quietest country on earth, they are roughly 335000 people, also well spread around the territory.

Hence, it’s normal their are not loud, probably puffins make more noise than people.

Yes, these are the puffins.

puffin

Icelanders are a bit reserved and distant, they have opinions about politics and world events they open up with people that are close to them. A small island far from everything and with a small population I guess doesn’t receive attention about what they think.

In addition, being over there in the North Atlantic, more than 1000 km far from the UK, being a really isolated island, needing to import almost everything, they feel like ‘we are tough’, a sort of drunk boxers with broken noses, broken facial bones and bruises going back to te ring for one more round.

Sometimes they keep it in their patrol car, but the policemen don’t carry guns with them, anyway every officer is trained to use firearms.

Crimes and violence are almost non existing, this facts is reflected in the prisons. In Iceland there are 5 prisons, Fangelsið Hólmsheiði, Fangelsið Kvíabryggju,Fangelsið Sogni, Litla-Hraun, Fangelsið Akureyri, in order with 56, 22, 20, 45 and 10 capacity’s places, in total just 153!!!

stay

4) What’s your surname?

Icelandic names are different from the western family names system.

Iceland shares a common cultural heritage with others Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

But, unlike the others 4 countries mentioned, Iceland continued using its traditional name system, which was previously used by all the Nordic countries.

In general, a person’s second names, in made by his father’s name plus -son if he’s a guy or -dòttir if she is a girl.

For example if the father’s name is Jòn:

Son —> Jònsson

Daughter —> Jònsdòttir

There are few cases where the kid gets his mother name.

surnamer

5) Bonusss

Last but not least, Bonus.

I wouldn’t write anything about bonus if I wouldn’t have loved its symbol.

Bonus is a normal discount supermarket, you can find 32 stores in Iceland and 7 in the Faroe Islands.

It’s symbol is a funny moneybox with the shape of a pig smiling and looking up!

Nothing else to say.

bonus

 

5 facts that (maybe) you don’t know about Spain!

1) Habla español?

Spanish is today one of the most spoken languages in the world, over 400 million people in the world are Spanish native speakers (more than English) and 100 million more can speak it fluently on all continents.

It is the official language in many countries, and these are:

Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Perù, Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and of course, Spain.

Every of these countries I listed has it’s own dialect and others depending from the region.

In Spain in addition to all the different dialects, there also other languages that are the Galician in Galicia, the Catalan in Catalonia and Euskera or Basque in the Basque region.

hablas

2) Travel abroad

Sometime travelling abroad can be boring, at the moment you are crossing a country’s limit you are just sitting on a bus, train or airplane.

Have you tried other methods?

In Sanlucar de Guadiana, a small neighbourhood close to Huelva, in the South of Spain, there is a more exciting transport to cross the border with Portugal.

A 720 metres long zipline separates the two countries and passes over the river Guadiana, that gives you the possibility to fly to Portugal but without airplane and also to fly back to the past, cause Portugal has 1 hour behind of the time zone. :’)

This is the video!

 

3) What time is it?

Had you ever thought about the time zone in European countries?

If yes, have you found any incongruity?

I thought about this few days ago, and I saw Spain has a different time zone respect the UK.

Spanish territory’s crosses exactly the Greenwich meridian, so they should use the UTC-+0, like in the UK.

But they don’t, they use the one of central europe, like Italy, Germany, France, Poland, Norway and others.

Then.. why?

During the second world war, in 1940, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco also known as ‘El caudillo’, decided something.

Spain didn’t fight in the second world war, the country was devastated by the civil war, and during that was, being Franco allied with the two other European supernationalist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, whose sent him troops during the war.

He decided to change their time zone, in order to have a better collaboration with them, since that time Spain adopted the UTC+1, still present today.

time zone

4) Without words

Have you ever noticed that the Spaniards never sing along when their anthem
is played?
That’s because the spanish anthem has no official lyrics!

If you search on YouTube you’ll find the anthem with a lyrics, but that’s not the official one, anyway, the anthem’s name is ‘marcha real’ (real march), made in 1770 by an unknown person.

Spain is one of the only few countries in the world with no official lyrics for
their anthem, the only one other country I could find is Kosovo (maybe there are also others).

5) Alcohol party

How to do when you are too poor for buying cocktails in bar or clubs?

The answer is ——-> Botellòn!

I explain you what it is.

The origins of botellón trace back to Andalusia in the 1980s, workers began buying alcohol to drink outdoors in areas such as plazas or parks instead of spending money in a bar or club.
Young people, especially students (obviously), adopted the concept of botellón in the ’90s and it first appeared in the city of Cáceres (Extremadura, poorest region in Spain).

It’s a Spanish activity when people congregate in public areas to socialize while drinking alcohol. The activity is popular partly because more people can
meet in one place, Botellón is not an alternative to typical nightlife, but is rather an economical way to drink with people before going out to bars, discos, or clubs.

I lived one year in Seville, every time we went to discos, before we did the botellòn, personally I love this stuff, it’s a good way to meet new people and save money while staying in a open-air area.

But, on the other side, in Spain it’s illegal to drink alcohol on the streets, so the ‘botellòn’ are made, let’s say ‘illegally’, in places hidden from the streets. 

I also want to say that guys doing so, are really well organized.

I mean that they bring plastic bags with super alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and also cylinder plastic glasses (with the same shape of the ones you get in a disco) and a pack of ice! Well done :’)

botellon

What you didn’t know about Leipzig (Germany)

1)  Johann Sebastian Bach

You heard about this name right?

If you don’t, listen some of his melodies.

He was born in Eisenach, Germany the 31 March 1685… then what does he have to do with Leipzig?

Well, from 1723 until his death he lived there!

He devoted himself to the production of holy music, because he is deeply religious and he conceives his music as a tribute to the greatness of the Creator.

Bach, in fact, means to express, through his notes, a deep spirituality, in order to promote the communication between humans and God.

Today, at the entrance of the Leipzig’s main train station, there are music boxes always playing Bach’s melodies, letting visitors hear his music at the same moment they can have the first glance to the city!

bach

2) Leipzig’s beer?!

In Leipzig there is one beer that’s really popular and famous, the Gose beer, what they claim it’s their ‘local’ beer.

Is it really so?

Actually, the Gose Beer, so widely popular, is in fact a product of Goslar.

Though Leipzig is a city in the country known for its beer, what they affirm its their local beer isn’t even so.

It belongs to the same family of sour wheat beers as the Berlin-made Weiss and Belgian Witbier.

But cause of the use of coriander and salt, Gose does not comply with the “Reinheitsgebot” (German Beer Purity Law in English, is a series of regulations limiting the ingredients in beer in Germany), nevertheless, it is allowed an exemption on the grounds of being a regional specialty.

gose bier

3) The revolution begins

Leipzig’s located just 2 hours by car from Berlin.

And the revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany, saw its humble beginnings in Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikirche, built in 1165) on September 4 of 1989.

Meetings that began quietly on Mondays in this church changed the destiny with East Germany, bowing to the feelings of its people.

nikolaikirche

4) ‘Red Bull Leipzig’ or ‘Rasenballsport Leipzig’?

The Rasenballsport Leipzig, better known as RB Leipzig, is a German football society located as you can imagine, in Leipzig.

It was founded in 2009 by the initiative of the famous Austrian multinational ‘Red Bull’.

The initial forecast of investment by Red Bull to the team amounted 100 millions euro,in order to lead it at the top of the German football and fight for the access to European Cups.

Of course given the huge investment of the company the symbol of the team should had been Red Bull.

But…

It’s forbidden by the German la to insert a commercial brand directly in the team’s name (there are just few exceptions, like for the Bayer Leverkusen). 

As a consequence, the team had been named ‘RasenBallsport Leipzig’, that means ‘sport of the ball on the lawn’, where the two initial R and B, are the ones of Red Bull.

On the other hand, the picture symbol of the society, was made by placing two bulls, using the red and white colours and as official nickname ‘Die Roten Bullen’, literally ‘the red bulls’.

rb

Differences East and West Germany nowadays

The next 9th November will be the birthday of Germany, 29 years after the reunification of the two parts.

It’s a unique country, but is it really united?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, ex-communist eastern German companies and factories suddenly had to compete with their much more efficient western neighbours. Capitalism arrived too fast and many eastern German companies went bankrupt and some regions never recovered from the shock. Until today, income levels are much lower in the east than in the west.

In 1991, per capita GDP in East Germany was 33% of Western per capita GDP, rose to  63% in 2003, and again until 68% in 2015.

In 2015 the total GDP of Germany was 3.025 millions euro, of which 455 millions in the 6 regions of East Germany (including Berlin) and 2.570 millions in the 10 regions of West Germany.

Dividing 455/3.025 we get 0,15041, as a result we know that East Germany produces just the 15% of Germany’s GDP.

We shouldn’t forget that the dimension of the East is smaller and the population lower, but despite this the productivity follows the wave.

gdp

Germany’s unemployment rate is one the lowest in Europe.

But that rate is not evenly spread:  West German states still have far better
employment levels than their eastern neighbours. That’s in part because more young
people have moved from rural eastern areas to the west, which has also decreased
the amount of job-seeking eastern Germans.

Now, the latest release of the 30th August 2018, gives the unemployment at 5,2%.

unemploy

Of all the 28 countries in the European Union, Germany is the one with the highest amount of immigrants. They are over 10 millions in a country of 82 millions inhabitants, they cover around the 12% and main part settled in West.

Where do they come from?

Everywhere, but mainly Turkey, Poland, Russia and Italy.

immi

It was also the German government to encourage this immigrant flow.

For 2 reasons:

To address the labor shortage and to address longer terms demographic problems, like the low birth rate.

The density population is highest in West, but the highest dense areas are the biggest cities that are:

Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Essen, Dortmund, Stuttgard, Dusseldorf, Hannover, Bremen.

In 1990 the population of West Germany was 63,73 millions and of East Germany was 16,11 millions.

Germany-Population-Pyramid

Furthermore, the climate is less friendly to foreigners in the east, according to a study by Leipzig University researchers who interviewed 16,000 Germans over 10 years.

These findings coincide with a larger presence of right-wing neo Nazi sympathizers. The right-wing National Democratic Party, whose members have often been accused of glorifying Adolf Hitler, enjoys particular support in the east.

Why did right-wing politicians are successful in the once-communist east?

The explanation is complex, but scientists often attribute it to a mixture of anti-leftist views after the wall fell and the economic downturn in the east.