I met him a long time ago in Mexico. I saw him again in Peru, and ended up travelling with him for two months straight (making him my only real travelling companion on this trip). And I last saw him four months ago, back in Argentina. Today, I had yet another reunion with my buddy Chris: only this time, it was here in London, on his home soil; and since we're both going to opposite sides of the world very soon (and staying on those respective sides indefinitely), today's reunion really was our last (I'm serious this time — I swear). But before we parted for good, Chris and I had time for one last lunch. And since the food was some of London's finest Indian cuisine, there really wasn't anything sad about it at all.
To continue my wanderings in Barcelona, this afternoon I took advantage of the improved weather, and I decided to go for a walk up to Montjuïc. This hill — literally meaning "hill of the Jews" — holds some of the city's most important landmarks; and from its slopes and peak, it affords gorgeous views of the whole of Barcelona. I started by walking west up Las Ramblas, and by then cutting south, along the main avenue that leads to the hill. I passed between the two towers that guard the main road up to the hill; and I ascended the lavishly decorated hillside that faces this road, and that's flanked by numerous museums, sweeping stairways and grand fountains. After, I wandered further up the hill, getting quite near to the 1992 Olympic Stadium, before wandering down past the teleférico (cable car) that straddles the eastern hillside, ahead of the onset of dark.
Perched high atop a hill, the Hohensalzburg fortress has — for well over 1,000 years — watched over the city of Salzburg below it, both visually and militarily. The Hohensalzburg is one of the highlights of the town, and at least ½ a day is required to do it justice. After our morning stroll through Salzburg, today Thierry and I embarked on the trek up the mountain, and went to see this grand edifice both inside and out.
This afternoon, I visited one of Europe's most renowned Jewish museums: the "Joods Historisch Museum" of Amsterdam. Amsterdam was home to one of the longest-thriving and best-treated Jewish communities in Europe, for at least 500 years; like everywhere else in Europe, though, it was all but decimated by the Nazis, during the Second World War. The museum is located inside what was once the long-time Jewish quarter of the city — it's built on the site of the old Great Synagogue, the restored version of which is part of the present-day complex — and it gives an extremely well-presented overview of the history of Amsterdam's Jews, from medieval times through to the present.
For something completely different, today uncle Mark took me on a little excursion out of Zürich, west to the city of Basel, in order to visit the unique and fascinating Tinguely museum. And to see the special exhibit that was on there. And for a nice lunch. And just to see beautiful Basel. Susi couldn't make it — she had something else on for most of the day — but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.
One of the more interesting things that I did today — more interesting than my aimless wandering, at least — was to visit the 500-year-old Jewish Ghetto of Venice. In this quiet and (to this day) gloomy-feeling corner of Venice, there's also a modest little Jewish museum. I went and gave myself a brief tour of the museum: but there isn't much to see here, just two or three rooms of Venetian Jewish memorabilia (e.g. siddurim, torah adornments, various household silverware), and a little bit of history; I spent more time downstairs in the bookshop, where they have some very interesting titles. I declined from going on the tour of the Ghetto synagogues: pity, since apparently this is one of the best-preserved and most impressive sights in the Ghetto. Amazing to see that the place has survived, and is still inhabited by Jews, to this day.
One of the main reasons that I came back here to Rome — apart from the necessity of having to collect my large backpack, which I left before going to Sicily — was to see the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. When I was here three weeks ago, I managed to see the Vatican Church and St. Peter's Basilica; but my efforts at seeing the rest were thwarted. Last night's horrendous theft on the train has obviously left me traumatised — and to tell the truth, I didn't feel like doing anything today — but I decided that I shouldn't let that completely spoil the rest of the day; so I gave the outstanding Vatican sights one more shot. And this time, I finally got in.
Yesterday, as part of my visit to the Vatican, I was unable to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, as they were closed for All Souls' Day. Today, I attempted to make up for the loss, and to try visiting them again: but to no avail. When I arrived there this afternoon, I encountered what was quite literally the longest queue I have ever seen in my life. Ever. The queue snaked around about a quarter of the entire Vatican complex (i.e. around a quarter of an entire sovereign nation state :P), taking up the sidewalk for at least 10 blocks, and almsot reaching back into St. Peter's Square itself. It took me 15 minutes of solid walking, just to get to the back of the line. I realised that this queue was so long, I actually had no chance of getting in today (assuming I wished to wait and try for 3+ hours, that is). So it's still a no-go. Maybe next time I'm in Rome, I'll be able to see this incredibly popular attraction. For now, its popularity has defeated me.
This morning, I just managed to fit in two things that I really wanted to do, before leaving London. I visited the British Museum — one of the largest museums in the world, holding some of history's most famous artifacts — and I caught up properly with Jack (as last night, the music and the beer were so good that we didn't have a chance). I'm very glad that I've done both those things: although really, one morning in the British Museum is a bit of a joke — you could wander around it for a week, and still only see a quarter of it.