Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 186: Escaping Morocco (Seville and Faro)

I fancy this idea of giving y'all a small immediate life update followed by a longer recollection. I've spent the past week exploring Lisboa (just got to Porto yesterday) but mainly I want to share an important documentary which I'm in the process of watching called Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. Essentially it explains how from a young age we are conditioned into pawns of a twisted economic system where the focus is on consuming and making money with disregard to quality of life and sustainability. Phew... Anyway, watch it, but not before you read my riveting blarticle about escaping Morocco.

The bathroom was always occupied I made friends with a plant on the roof.

After three weeks of squatting toilets and choosing between tagine or cous-cous I was beginning to go a little crazy. Morocco was an amazing life experience but I longed for the familiar comfort of Europe. I toyed with flying to Spain but the tickets were too expensive. I was destined for the sleeper train from Marrakech to Tangier. I knew the sleeper train left at 9PM so I was happy but exhausted when I arrived in Marrakech at 8PM, having been on a bus for 12 hours. Before I came back to Marrakech from Essaouira I checked out Taghazout and Agadir (bo-ring). With an iron butt I boarded the train and found my cabin. Unfortunately they were sold out of bunk beds so I made the best of first class. Thankfully it ended up just being two of us in there so we each had enough room to lay down. Too bad it wasn't me and a cute girl.

11 hours was my longest train ride yet.
The seats were comfortable but I thought I'd be sleeping in a ball.
Thankfully I got to stretch out over three seats. Well rested? eh.
Goodbye sleeper train!
Before boarding the ferry I met two other backbackers

I was covering the most ground since my bike ride and flight from Geneva. As the ferry arrived in Tarifa I was elated be back in Europe. Fond memories of Tarifa flooded my mind but before I knew it I was on a bus to Algeciras and then to Seville. By the time the bus pulled into the station at Seville I had been on public transport for 30 hours and I was darn tired. As usual I didn't have any accomidation planned, but I followed a girl I met on the ferry to the hostel she booked and immediately got caught up in a free walking tour.

Seville's cathedral was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755.
This tower was built by the Moors on Roman ruins and survived the quake.
One of Seville's many squares.
A statue of Peter the Cruel who's lisp allegedly infected all of Spain.
Our guide herding us like cattle.
Seville is the hottest city in Spain and courtyards help keep houses cool.
The famous Sevillian painter Bartolomé Murillo.
At the end of the tour we acted out a silly skit.
This dog was has no historical value.
Seville's monument to Chris 'Killer' Columbus.
This building used to be used as a boat yard.
The next morning I went on another walking tour.
Bullfighting season was just starting. In fact, there was a match this day.
Before the Triana bridge people used to cross on boats tied together.
A lovely view of some classical houses on the Guadalquivir River's bank. 
A huge tower from the Plaza de España.
The Plaza de España was built to host a huge fair in the 1930's that never happened.

The walking tour was great, in fact I went on two walking tours and one pub crawl in two days. Good fun. Our guides lead us all over the city, through Seville's twisty streets, it was a great way to see the city because the tour guide was very knowledgeable. Like Ronda, life is in the streets – when your city's streets are this beautiful, it's easy to understand why. Despite Seville being an excellent place to visit, I had a CouchSurfing host waiting for me in Faro. When I checked the busses around 5PM the next bus to Faro left at 12AM, which meant I was going to arrive around 3AM.

As I groggily woke up and peered at my watch, sure enough, it was 3:30 and I was in Faro. I found my host, Cosmo's place without any trouble. Luckily he was still up and let me in. Introductions were short and delirious. I went to sleep satisfied, knowing that I didn't have to get on a bus tomorrow.

Faro's beach is only accessible by car because it's separated by a wetland.

The next morning I mixed too much chocolate cereal with my yogurt and it turned into a breakfast rock. In the process of trying to digest my creation, Cosmo and I made small talk. He just finished his dissertation on computer image analysis. Basically he designs and codes programs for computers that allow them not only to look at a picture and say "this is a person" and "this is a truck" but because of a uniform the person is wearing and the shape of a truck it can say "this is a garbage man" and "this is a garbage truck" and even infer that this person is collecting the garbage. Teaching a computer to recognize a scenario like this from a bunch of pixels is pretty complex. Needless to say Cosmo is a smart dude. He just moved from Hamburg, Germany to Faro because he wanted a change of pace and he found work here. Listening to him was fascinating. In the three days we spent together, we talked a lot, cooked some tasty food, and swapped a lot of music. We spent a whole day strolling around Faro from bench to coffee shop talking about this and that.

Cool graffiti right around the corner from Cosmo's.
Faro's small harbor.
A building in the old town.
Muckin' for clams.
Not an uncommon sight in Faro. I loved the textures from disrepair.
One café had tasty and beautiful marzipan.
Cosmo's apartment was small and classical with many balconies. 

Other than conversing with Cosmo, there wasn't a lot to do in Faro. Off season it is a sleepy town with a handful of nice architecture but nothing worth bragging about. Cosmo helped me to understand the lamenting vibe of the Portuguese as an empire past its prime. In fact, due to its failing economic state, the International Monetary Fund is bailing out Portugal with $115 billion. Despite problems caused by economic hardships, the peeling paint and disrepair of Faro create a unique vibe. The slow pace of Faro was a great introduction to Portuguese culture and while there's nothing super exciting there, I was glad I went. When I left for Lisboa in the next few days I would get all the 'super exciting' that I could handle...


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