Europe Trip Journal 16: Panthers and Ceiling-Milk


The past night was bad. Feeling “a bit sick” turned into feeling really sick. My head felt hot and my throat started aching. My lungs also felt strange. Earlier the day I had gotten a red warning on my phone informing me of a risky encounter during the pub crawl in Barcelona. Soon I was 90% convinced I had contracted Covid.

Getting the virus while on the trip would suck big time. Where would I quarantine? Would I need to get a hotel room for my own for a week? Or would I be allowed to travel back home? All those thoughts kept me awake for long past midnight.

I’m not afraid of catching Covid for my own sake. I’m young, I am healthy and most importantly I am fully vaccinated and already had the virus half a year or so ago. I trust in modern medicine and surely I would get over it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take the virus too lightly either. Some people I know got it and they had to fight it for a long time. So I consider myself lucky for having had mild symptoms when I got it.

Getting Covid would primarily suck because I would endanger others. If I would be allowed to stay in hostels, I would endanger my room mates. I would have endangered people I had met the past days, people who would have trusted me to have payed more attention.

On the other hand, in Barcelona I had been the only person to wear a mask for about a third of the time, until I obeyed the peer-pressure and put the mask away. So at least I had tried at some point. Sure, this would not acquit me of being guilty for my own behavior in any way, but I also don’t feel like I owe anyone an apology just yet.

Later the night I found out that in Spain quarantine rules had been mostly lifted, so in case I would contract the virus, I was not strictly required to self-isolate if I had only mild symptoms. The reason for this lift being that most of the population in Spain had been fully vaccinated already. Reading this calmed me down a bit. Looks like I wouldn’t be stuck in a hotel room and the risk I would impose on others would also be of limited severity.

In the morning, after getting some breakfast and checking out of the hostel I went to a nearby pharmacy and bought some auto tests. In a park I sat down on a bench and tested myself for the virus.

Negative. *phew* I will test again later, but for now I am positive (hah!) it was maybe some phantom symptoms combined with a sun stroke.

Now it’s time to get a ticket for the next stop of my journey. I’m going back to Madrid for the next night, so I bought a reservation for the train at the North station. The ticket seller told me, that the train would not go from this station, so I had to take a shuttle bus to the Joaquin Sorolla station a few hundred meters away.

Did I mention that I like terminal stations? I’m only used to through-stations, so it’s a strange feeling to see the trains head-on right in front of you. There they are, like sleeping dragons waiting to to be woken up and worm their way out from the platform. Jan Böhmermann recently said that in some sense train stations are like the cathedrals of progress, built in honor for the majestic mechanical beings which are the engines that inhabit them.

Terminal train station with resting trains.

At a McDonald’s in the station I got an alibi coke in order to be able to charge my laptop. The outlet in my last hostel was broken, so the battery was only filled up half way. Unacceptable!

The train ride was productive. I got some utility methods implemented in PGPainless and then turned my focus to some issues in Bouncy Castle. When parsing certificates (OpenPGP public keys), BC will fail hard as soon as it encounters a subkey of an unknown version. While this is very predictable behavior and predictability is always a good thing, it means that as soon as the OpenPGP standard introduces some new algorithm (e.g. post quantum cryptography – PQC), BC will fail to process public keys which make use of these algorithms in its sub-keys. That’s not very good in terms of upwards compatibility. A user might want to have a key with both conventional and PQC subkeys for some time in order to transitition to the latter. I proposed a PR upstream containing a set of changes which enable BC to simply skip unknown subkeys when parsing certificates.

And then I already arrived at Madrid. Again, I did not get to see the hall with the tropical trees as arriving passengers were routed differently. This time my hostel was in the west of the city, some 2km from the train station. When I left the train station I immediately noticed that it was warmer here than it had been in Valencia. The sun was burning more merciless to some degree(s) (hah!).

My hostel was super cheap, and offered a unique experience I had never had before. I had booked online without any human interaction. When I stood in front of the door, there was a bell, which I rang expecting to be let in. However, a telephone rang and at some point a woman answered. I could barely understand her, but she told me I had to use the kiosk to get in. A little confused I was looking for a shop keeper, but there was none. Then I finally understood that the woman was referring me to the vending machine which stood across the entrance door.

This was my first time checking into an hostel without any kind of human interaction (apart from the accidental phone call). The vending machine turned out to be an automaton for checking into the hostel. First I was asked for my name and for the date of departure. Then I was prompted to place my passport on some kind of scanner. Some OCR tool detected the serial number of my passport (which I had to correct), and then I was prompted to place my face in front of a webcam. Afterwards the machine printed a receipt and spat out my key card for accessing the building.

The key card allowed me to enter the front door, as well as my room. Further, I figured out it also opened my locker, which revealed a set of linen for my bed, as well as a towel. Nice.

I unpacked some stuff and then went to take a quick shower after which I went into the city. Rather quickly I recognized landmarks from my last visit a few days ago. My current hostel was located withing a kilometer of my last, just quite a bit lower (did I mention Madrid was 3-dimensional?).

The sun was burning so merciless that after some hours I had to return to the hostel once again. Later the day I planned to visit a place that was recommended to me by I. A pub which was a cave in which they would serve milk that comes from the ceiling. Yeah, I know.

Walking to the place did not took long. Before entering though I had to get something to eat first. I stopped at a restaurant and sat down at one of the tables outside. And then I did what confusingly the job title of the person serving me was. I waited (hah!).

After some 15 minutes or so I could finally persuade the waiter to get my order by aggressively waving at him. I ordered an Ensalada Griega (greek salad). The meal was nice, although I felt a bit odd as they gave me 2 sets of cutlery.

After waiting another 15 minutes for the waiter to take my payment, I finally went into the restaurant to pay at the counter. And then it was finally time for the long anticipated cave-ceiling-milk!

El Chapandaz as the place was called was looking interesting. They gave the place the appearance of a cave, with stalactites everywhere. Sure, it was that cheap kind of fake rock that you might know from amusement park attractions, but still the place had a certain vibe.

El Chapandaz

I was disappointed though from the main attraction of the place. The leche de pantera (panthers milk) was served by pouring half a liter of milk from one of the stalactites into a 1L glass which was first filled with what felt like 3 tablespoons of cinnamon. Then they added some mysterious alcoholic fluids and topped everything off with a bunch of ice cubes.

Unfortunately the result was not made for my taste buds at all. I barely manged to get 3/4 of it down, but then I had to leave the rest standing. I was a bit resigned by the outcome of the evening, but at least today I left on my mask whenever possible. Since I still don’t feel 100% okay, I soon after left and walked back to the hostel.

Tomorrow I will get up early to reserve a seat for the train to Barcelona. There I will probably meet with M. again, who is returning home that day. Then my path will likely lead me in direction of Italy somehow. We will see.

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