Splette's Travel Blog
  • Articles
  • August1st

    Sony Vaio Screen

    107 pixels of darkness

    Oh no! My overpriced, yet beloved, Sony Vaio Z laptop is in need of some repair …AGAIN! This is the third time I need to send it in within less than two years. This is a top-of-the-line laptop, I start wondering if Sony closed it’s quality control department years ago. It all started a couple of months ago when one vertical row of pixels went dead. Yes, that is exactly the same problem I sent in the laptop for last year. Well, one row of dead pixels in the center of the screen is pretty annoying. But because my warranty is valid in the U.S.. and Germany but not in Costa Rica, I kept working with that annoyance, trying to ignore it. Apparently, my laptop doesn’t like getting ignored (who does). so when I woke up one day I found 107 rows of dead pixels. In the center of the screen. It looks like someone stuck some gaffer tape across the screen. That’s not cool and impossible to ignore. Conveniently, the warranty expires within a few weeks – before I return to Germany. I hope I can convince Sony Support that it’s okay to report the damage now but let them repair it in December. If I get lucky, I get to talk to that Indian call center boy from last year again who asked me to translate Rammstein songs for him…

    Perhaps Sony’s quality control is not to blame and my laptop just loves traveling as much as his owner does and wants to be sent to one of the Sony repair centers in the U.S. or Germany. But I will not do him that favor.

    PS. Guys, I don’t want to read any “You should have bought a Mac” comments below. Don’t jeopardize your lives…

  • October16th

    Two typical soccer boys with mullets in Medellin, Colombia

    Two mullets from Medellin (© Stefan Ruiz)

    The mullet – ‘business in the front, party in the back’. I don’t know why but I have always had a fascination for that haircut. Hence, I was excited to realize that the mullet is a perfectly socially acceptable hairstyle in Colombia. Without a doubt Medellin is the mullet capital here. You just can’t miss them. The interesting thing is that this is not a short-lived trend of some sort. Medellin and mullets have been inseparable for a long time.
    I did not any take any mullet photos during the few days I spent in Medellin but the Green Soccer Journal has a whole photo series here. Check it out.

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  • September15th

    The active volcán Arenal is close to La Fortuna but too dangerous to climb

    Volcán Arenal, La Fortuna

    I’m on the 16-hour busride from San José to Panama City. After six weeks in San José, it feels quite strange to leave. I got pretty attached to this place and my stay here has been quite different. I wasn’t really travelling, I was living and working. It’s great that I got a taste of how living in Latin America feels like. My Spanish skills made microscopic improvements, though some of the words I learned (such as Polo or Pura Vida!) are Costa Rican slang and pretty much useless in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.

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  • August1st

    Beach time

    Posted in: Articles

    The Pacific Coast: San Juan del Sur, view from my hostel

    San Juan del Sur

    My Central America experience so far consisted mostly of small underdeveloped villages, dirty dangerous capitals, lots of jungle and volcanoes. Time for a change (I love change). After spending the last week in super hot Managua and Granada, I was planning to visit Ometepe, an island in gran lago de Nicaragua formed by two volcanoes. But after yet another very hot day in Granada I decided to visit the Pacific coast instead and went to San Juan del Sur. It’s a small town on a horseshoe-shaped bay with a hill on one side that has a over-sized Jesus statue on it. It’s a bit like a miniature version of Rio de Janeiro.

    San Juan del Sur in the rain

    Rainy day

    This is the first time I get close to a proper beach in a while and guess what happened? I lost my swimming trunks a few days ago… Lot’s of gringos hang out here in San Juan, surfers as well as party-hungry college kids. I met a bunch of British guys and girls and an American with whom I went partying. It’s a pretty chill place where I could easily spend a week but I have to move to Costa Rica tomorrow. I am much looking forward to the colder climate over there.

  • July17th


    Posted in: Articles

    Michelada - a funny mix tomato juice / salsa / beer mix drink. Tastes better than it sounds

    Tomato juice + beer = Michelada

    One of the pleasures of traveling is making new culinary discoveries in the countries you visit. Yesterday I discovered Michelada. It’s an alcoholic mix drink: Gallo beerand tomato juice with a slight salsa taste. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t taste bad at all. I like it. The locals say it’s a great cure for hangovers. But I guess you could also use it for creating hangovers. Isn’t that great?

    PS. Wikipedia tells me, there’s more than one kind of Micheladas.

  • June29th


    Posted in: Articles

    For those of you who like to talk to me I got some news. Since I am in Central America I rarely have my phone on me and texting or calling my German number is quite expensive. Therefore, I decided to make it a habit to keep Skype running on my laptop whenever I managed to hunt down some free WiFi.

    My username is ‘spletto’.
    My status

    A Skype button can also be found in the side bar now, so you can easily see when I am online. Talk to you soon…

  • June2nd

    Google Analytics Map

    Yep, that’s you guys and girls. I am of course curious to know in which places in the world my blog is being read. And I figured, maybe you are curious to know, too. I track my visits with Google Analytics. Not surprisingly the majority of hits come from the U.S.A. and Germany. The city with the most frequent visits is Cambridge, MA (Evelyn…? 🙂 )

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  • May19th

    One of the many great aspects of traveling is meeting interesting people. Some are more interesting than others. Scooter is the owner of the underground-hostel I am staying at and he falls into the first category. There are very few hostels in Texas. I found only one in Austin. An hour after the booking I receive an email from the hostel owner telling me it’s temporary closed but if I want to I can stay in an unofficial hostel in South Austin. I had little choice and agreed. The hostel owner said this place is run by a friend of hers. His name is Scooter and he is ‘one of a kind’. What can I say… yes he is. Scooter converted his apartment into a big dorm room with kitchen and bathroom. 100% IKEA style. He built the bunk beds himself. I did not want to challenge my luck and decided to sleep in one of the lower ones. The very colorful decor, linen, sheets and abundant cushions make it look a little like a kid’s bedroom. He shares the room with his guests, cooks for them and goes out. In his former life, Scooter was an aspiring star in the music business. How often do you get to meet someone who auditioned for American Idol? Don’t miss this video of one of his other auditions:

  • May12th

    This is where the Louisiana alligators hang out

    Swamp near New Orleans

    As you might know reptiles are my favorite animals. The bigger the better. So, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see some alligators while I am in New Orleans which is located in the Mississippi river delta and mostly surrounded by swamps. I booked a swamp tour which gave me the opportunity to share my alligator watching experience with other tourists, families, kids and retired people. How I love those tourist tours… But it was the only way to see the alligators from close up. Our group went out into a nearby swamp with a boat. The alligators there are quite used to people and the tour guides attract them by feeding them with marshmallows and hotdogs. Who would have thought alligators like marshmallows… Also interesting: Unlike crocodiles they don’t eat humans (usually…)

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  • March1st

    As usual (during traveling in general / me traveling in particular) unforeseen things happen. My plans change on a daily basis but then again that’s part of the fun…
    First, my almost new laptop broke which is why I am mostly offline for the moment, relying on the occasional free wifi to go online with my trusted Android. Getting the laptop picked up for repair would deserve a blog post on its own… In short, I spent much time on the phone with some nice but clueless kid in a call center somewhere in India. The phone connection wasn’t good and after endless spelling of my not-so-short surname, address, serial number of laptop, model number, date of purchase, phone number, etc… the guy suddenly asked: “You are from Germany. May I ask you a question, sir?” That’s after he asked my a dozen questions, so I was confused. “Do you know a band called Rammstein?”. I reply yes and what follows is another half a dozen questions about their popularity in Germany now and back then, their songs and especially the lyrics (“Du hast…”, “Du hast mich…”, “Du hast mich gefragt…”). Remind you, all this chit chat on a hotline where conversations are randomly recorded and reviewed for quality control purposes. Anyway, the laptop will be gone for a few weeks which feels like cold withdrawal to me…
    Second, my U.S. SIM card doesn’t work in Canada. Pretty harmless, especially since I rely a lot more on wifi (that’s easy to find just about anywhere) than texting/phone.
    Third, my credit card. When I shipped off the laptop at some FedEx, I forgot my credit card there. I realized that about an hour later. Thankfully, someone gave it to the manager and I got it back. Lucky me. However, since that incident the card is declined wherever I try to use it. No good. Did someone go on a shopping spree with it? Need to call VISA and find out…
    Four, might have some bigger impact on my plans. My visa waiver for the US is expiring sooner than expected. I got a three months waiver when I entered the United States. But I was hoping when I leave the country and go to Canada, then come back to the US I would get a new waiver valid for another three months. Apparently not. For certain administrative purposes the US and Canada count as the same. Now I have two options: cut my trip short and move on to Mexico (skipping Chicago, Vancouver, California etc.) or to leave the country by plane for a short ‘vacation of the vacation’ and then come back to resume the journey.