Thursday, 3 September 2015

New York City

Even though I'm not a fan of the "American dream", I have to admit that this city is really vibrating and glamorous. I had my trip to NY planned for October (which will also happen) but due to a work-related trip I ended up going in August first.

After all the work agenda was done, me and my work colleagues had a spare time for some sightseeing in Manhattan having only two nights, staying in a hotel in Times Square, Midtown.

Well, I can say that a lot has changed since my first time there back in 1998. Not talking about how fatter I look in the photo, but the city has changed too. Things are more expensive, city got more crowded. I remember walking the streets of Manhattan on a Sunday back in the 90's and it was quite empty. Now, it is really like "the city that doesn't sleep" like sung by Frank Sinatra.

Restaurants now expect minimum of 15% tips (formally called 'gratuity') and by default 18% of gratuity is included in the bill. For a big piece of meat in a Brazilian restaurant in Times Square, including two beers and dessert costed me 63 USD. ATM machines charge 3 USD for international money withdrawals and beer in pubs have Scandinavian prices (between 5 and 8 dollars for a pint). The electronic shops within Manhattan are expensive. Don't forget to bring your European plug converter for power outlets, otherwise you will have to buy an overpriced one in one of these shops.

Times Square


Times Square is the a commercial area in Midtown Manhattan brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements. Times Square is sometimes referred to as The Crossroads of the World. That crossroad in this photo was taken just two blocks away from our hotel. In there you can find the Madame Tussauds wax museum and it is also close to Broadway neighborhood. 

Empire State building


Used to be the tallest building in the world for decades. Now, it is not even the highest in Manhattan anymore (currently it is the One World Center near Ground Zero), but still has a lot of prestige. It has 102 floors and is open for tourists. Nice view from up there. I didn't climb it this time, but I was glad to have a view from my hotel window to it.

WTC Memorial (Ground zero)


In the site where big aircraft hit commercial buildings back in 2001 a memorial was built, with fountains and the names of all the victims killed back then. Worth a visit. There is also a museum on site.
People might think it is theory of conspiracy but I really believe it was somehow planned by Bush administration, so that the government would get public support to go for "war on terror" in the middle east. There is a lot of unanswered questions about this 9/11 attacks if you watch the documentary film Fahrenheit by Moore. Nevertheless, these lives were taken unfairly and the memorial makes totally sense to exist.

Brooklyn bridge


The first bridge to connect Manhattan to the mainland. Over 100 years old. I couldn't walk this one but I had this nice view from the boat ride on the way to Statue of Liberty. Not much to say about it. Check Wikipedia if you want to know more. :)

Statue of Liberty


The Statue of Liberty was a present from the French, as gratitude for liberation after WWII. 
Before the 9/11 attacks, the procedure to visit the islet and go inside the statue was much simpler. Nowadays, there is a lot of screening and strict safety precautions for the tourist who wants to go there. So, the simplest way to enjoy this attraction and take some nice photos from close is to take the "water taxi" for 31 USD and it will stop for a while in front of the statue so you can take nice photos like this one I took.

In my humble opinion, the minimum length of a trip to New York city, should be 5 days. There should be no maximum length. =)

Bye!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Wherever I may roam

This is what I have to say after visiting my home town after nearly 8 years living abroad and after I traveled more than 30 countries. It's not a direct attack to Salvador, nor Brazil. It could be any city or town which is no longer good to live according to one's view. This post portraits Brazil negatively though.
I can now see places from a more skeptic/critic point of view to analyse pros and cons when choosing a place to live which fulfills my desired/demanded standards. The only way to be able to do it is by traveling a lot! Places can change and one's satisfaction to live in a given city or country may also change. Sometimes very quickly.

Brazil is suffering with large-scale corruption, violence, high taxes and poor services and low economic growth despite its potential. People protested in the streets during the 2014 FIFA World Cup for better hospitals, schools and so forth while the government was spending billions building/restoring football stadiums to host the world's biggest football event with tax payers' money. FIFA demanded 8 stadiums for the host country to prepare, but the corrupt government built 12 (initially they were trying to prepare 17 of them!) and the expenditure was twice as much as foreseen for some of the stadiums (Well, if this blog would be a news website, I would have to provide links to the sources containing these figures but this is just my blog, so believe if you want).

Even after dozens of corruption scandals the same president managed to get re-elected after offering an increase in the social welfare monthly subsidy to poor families. What the big flock of voters didn't notice was that the increase was lower than the inflation since the subsidy was established. People actually got deceived. The government did it to basically 'buy' votes.
In the funny Brazilian democracy, voting is mandatory. So, the government brainwashes its poorly educated people via TV to collect their votes. Perhaps, if voting wouldn't be mandatory and only people more interested in politics give out their votes, the results would probably be much better.

During this 2-week visit to Salvador (North-east of Brazil), I noticed how its overall situation deteriorated: High inflation is back, traffic jams are heavier, the average temperature has increased by 2-3 degrees Celsius in the last 8 years according to my own estimates, making it terrible to handle even in winter. Global warming exists.

The best thing of not being a TREE is that I can go somewhere else.

Perhaps, I have passed the point of no return in my travel to Europe which initially was supposed to be temporary. Poland is my new reference country even though I live currently in Sweden. Most of my personal values can now be more easily matched with an European individual then with a Brazilian. My Brazilian roots and creation helped me a lot to deal with a "new and hostile" environment, which is how one sees the new place of living before getting fully adapted to reach a new comfort zone eventually.

Some people prefer to fight for changes, some people flee whilst some people just accept their place of living the way it is. I fled away. Was it a coward move? Maybe. But I prefer to see it as a pragmatic move. Brazil may become a good place to live someday. I admire those doing the Panelaço protests fighting for a better Brazil as well as I admire those fighting for a better Poland or for a better Sweden but in my case, the road has become my bride and she keeps me satisfied because she gives me all I need, wherever I may roam.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Discovering Iceland

This is me going even farther north! This time I went up to 64°N - Welcome to Iceland!
For you to have an idea: if I would try to do this in the southern hemisphere and go as low in latitude as 64°S, that could be located in Antarctica just like the Island of James Ross which is 64°S 57°W.

Iceland is a volcanic island whose first settlers were vikings coming from the European continent in the middle age over a thousand years ago. These settlers persevered through the years, protected from wars due to its geographic isolation. It then eventually became the country named Iceland.

The island is very touristic thanks to its exotic nature. Why exotic? Because Iceland depicts the destructive side of the nature: volcanoes, ashes, strong winds and cold. Due to the non-organic soil, the island has no trees and very small fauna. People go to Iceland for hiking or to see they uncommon nature phenomenons like the aurora Borealis and geyser eruptions. If one is "lucky" enough, can be contemplated with a volcanic eruption. Keep your distance! 

I summarize below the main attractions of Iceland (or at least the ones I visited):

The Golden Circle

The golden circle is a ring route with approximately  350 km and it is fully paved, so there is no need for a 4x4 car. On the way there are several mainstream attractions of Iceland such as the Strokkur geyser, the Gullfoss waterfalls, the Þingvallavatn lake and the volcanic crater of Kerið.
For those who are visiting Iceland for the first time, these are 'must see' attractions.

Strokkur geyser


This geyser which is the main one in Iceland erupts around every 5 minutes and the intensity of its eruption varies. This eruption I caught on camera and I believe was a weak one but still impressive. There are several other smaller geysers around. These attractions are for free. 





Gullfoss


These are beautiful waterfalls somewhere located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.

During the winter the water flows with the intensity of 140 m3 of water per second. During summer, it lowers to 80 m3.



Volcanic crater in Kerið

Well, a volcanic crater is less than an inactive volcano because the there isn't any volcanic activity detected underneath. The view is awesome, just as a volcanic caldera but with a frozen lake in the middle. For this attraction you actually have to pay 2 Euros to see and get much less 'wow' effect than the waterfalls or the geysers.




Hot river in Hveragerði


When the water comes hot from the ground in Iceland, one thing is for sure: it is going to be HOT. So, if you don't want to be just like a chicken in a soup, take precautions.
The hot river in Hveragerði is suitable for bathing because it mixes with some cold stream of water from melting snow and balances the temperature of the water for a bath in a more human-friendly temperature (which normally shouldn't exceed 45°C).

Really nice hike! I recommend! :)





Climbing Ajakfull hills



Not far from Reykjavik, by the city of Akranes, you can find the Ajakfull hills for an easy hike but with a nice view from the top, if not cloudy. On top of the hill you will find a box with a guestbook so you can sign! Cool!

The road to Akranes is fully paved too and if you can't find the beginning of the track just go to the city and find the HI hostel and get more information in there. People are friendly.




Blue lagoon



Probably the #1 attraction in Reykjavik, due to its convenient location and infrastructure.
The Blue Lagoon is located on a lava field (no lava anymore, of course, but just a vast rocky field which was once lava before it cooled down) nearby the international airport of Iceland (KEF). It is so convenient for people having connecting flights in Reykjavik when flying from U.S./Canada to Europe (and vice-versa) to drop by for few hours in this beautiful geothermal spa and then going back to the airport.

That photo above shows it as if it was a raw nature attraction but from my other photos you can clearly see the 'human touch' in it:



Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Nano's 100000 years birthday (32 in decimal base)



The birthday itself is basically a context creator for people to gather. I always prefer to say that we are all celebrating life together and there is nothing better than one day after the other. :)
 
It also marks exactly my first 6 months in Sweden and counting...

Disclaimer: Ballooning is not easy and people in this video are experts in it. So don't try this at home by yourself.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Steel Panther in Copenhagen

Steel Panther hits Copenhagen with its unremarkable sexist hits for a total delirium of the audience in the club Vega.
Well, sexism and gender equality are main topics nowadays, especially in Sweden, the country of feminist women. However, I think most of the people attending the concert were there because the band has nice songs and the lyrics are undeniably funny when you pay attention to them.
I like to make joke about the feminists but deep inside I support gender equality. I wish I could see more women working in the same company as I, for example. :)

Michael Starr, the front man of Steel Panther keeps asking babes to show their boobs which ends up providing really sweet views during the concert and let's be fair, it's not only Steel Panther! Ozzy Osbourne or Metallica also used to request some of that too. It's quite of an old cliché.

For the song "17 girls in a row", they invited several babes up on the stage to dance along. Maybe they couldn't fit 17 in there but I think I saw around 8. Not bad! See 'em below:



When they were about to play the song "Asian hooker", they spotted an Asian babe in the audience so they invited her up on stage and then started to play the song! Was so intense! haha! Especially when she started to kiss the singer preventing him from singing one of the verses. that's an outrageous fun!

I made a HD video of the song "Community property", which was among the last songs played in the concert, note the funny and sexist lyrics which goes like: "I would give you the stars in the sky, but they're too far away..."



One song I wished they play was "Eatin' ain't cheating", but unfortunately they skipped that one. So, from 0 to 10, I give 'em a 9 for the concert! :P

Some more photos I took:

 




Thursday, 12 February 2015

Slipknot Experience

Slipknot was one of the missing pieces in my puzzle of giant metal bands' concerts to attend. In my list there is already: Metallica, Sepultura, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth and now Slipknot. Many more still to come.
I could count on a nice group of international friends who attended the concert with me: one American, one Polish, one more Brazilian and one Swedish!
The decoration of the stage was very devilish, depicting the devil himself in the center, matching perfectly the band Slipknot, which is pure evil high quality heavy metal from California.

I couldn't hide my euphoria before, during and after the concert but still I managed to make my own footage of the opening song when the adrenaline started to mix with the alcohol in my veins, turning me into a fireball of joy and ecstasy. :)

Here it is, enjoy: