Thank you, Europe (Day 731)

I am a blogging machine today.  I have just completed a memorable 4 months in Europe.  The highlight was visiting so many of the people I had met in my earlier travels.  When we met way back when, they told me I could come visit them in Europe.  So, I did.  I love seeing familiar faces in foreign places.  I should say I also met some new faces as well.  The common theme was the incredible hospitality I received.  Seriously, I never expected what happened to me all over the continent.  It was great.
I have been treated so well, I am in the enviable position of having many people to thank.  It’s a crazy idea, but I am going to try do so here, as best as I can.  This is one of those blog posts that is more for me than it is for you.  This post won’t even scratch the surface about what was done for me, but I need to try.  Here we go…
My first stop in Europe was Barcelona.  Kate, and her roommates Maxi and Natalia, put me up a few times during my European stint.  Each time, I was welcomed with a beer.  This was also the location of my first hot-water shower in months, so it is a special place for me :)  In Paris, Igor & Elodie let me stay at their incredible apartment and showed me the Paris I had missed the first time I was there, years earlier.  I now love Paris.  From there, Bart, Steve, and Ida let me join them on their epic bike ride through France.  I had such a great time, I kept on cycling through Spain.  In Alicante, Andrea, a frequent fellow traveler of far-off places, let me crash her vacation; the rest was much-needed.  In Dorset, the Sadd Family invited me to their annual party and introduced me to bitter and marmite.  In Marchington, the Lock family made me feel like one of their own.  Up north, Lester guided me on a hike in the Scottish Highlands.  In Dublin, Jen found me a good couch to sleep on and showed me around;  and Daphne, another frequent travel companion, drank with me for hours, we actually forgot about dinner.  In Limerick, Adrian and the lads really took care of me.  His family even treated me to their favourite restaurant.  In London, my New Zealand travelmates travelled from all over England to meet for a weekend in London.  Becky, Naomi, Carina, Andy & Lydia, you rock.  Andy & Lydia hosted us all and prepared a Full English.  Also in London, Stacey, my partner in crime Indonesia, gave me a peak into what her life was like, which I really enjoyed.  Over in Brussels, Signe showed me where I could dance tables.  Veronique, the doctor on my Antarctica ship, walked me around Antwerp, Belgium.  Just east, in Amsterdam, my old Argentina travelmate, Sanne, cooked me dinner — the finest Thai food this side of Bangkok.  Noor, a Galapagos Island companion, drank beer with me and gave me the low-down on her city.  In Maastricht, Esther & Pete were top-notch hosts.  In Ilmenau, Manja, a Torres del Paine trekker from South America, and her family treated me like a king.  Susi, a fellow Great Barrier Reef diver, snuck me into all the cool places in Dresden and took me climbing.  In Berlin, Simone, who I met half a decade ago (!) in Peru, gave me a couch to sleep on and showed me her favourite restaurants.  Antonia, who I met in Laos, reminisced about the good old days with me and showed me where to party Geneva.  Not to be outdone by anyone, my old travel buddy Bart let me live at his apartment in Poznan for a month.  Further, he introduced me to his great Poznan friends whom I partied with often:  Dawid, Jazek, and Agata.  Oh, and Agata took some great pictures for me.  Up in Stockholm, Steven and Ida were epic hosts – we partied, climbed, and tackled the dreaded hinderbana.  I was going to end this list here, but just a couple of days ago, Joe & Erin, Istanbul residents and experts, layed out the red carpet for me.  And, technically, we met on the European side of the city, so it counts, haha. 
Whew!  That was a workout.  Jeez, I hope I got everyone.  My memory is going as I get older…
Also, it needs to be said that these aren’t even half the people I have met in Europe.  I would have like to have visited everyone, but I simply couldn’t find the time (that’s right, an umemployed guy couldn’t find the time).  It is sad.  If you are reading this, and we met travelling, and I didn’t make it to visit you, I apologize.  I wanted to.  I will catch you on the next one.
Anyway, this blog post signifies the end of my Europe.  What now??  I am typing this in Istanbul, Turkey.  My (always) rough plan is to spend the next few months cruising through the Middle East.  You should drop by this blog from time to time and join me for the ride.  I think I will blog more these days, as internet does not cost a limb here as it does in Europe.
Talk more later, it’s time to see Turkey.
PS:  Today is my 2-year anniversary.  On October 8, 2008, my parents dropped me off at the airport in Montreal for my flight to India, and I have been on the move ever since!  Damn, time flies.  What a ride it has been…
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