Month: August 2005 (Page 1 of 2)

Hats on in Belgrade

BBQing in Belarus

No you idoit – the revolutions finished

My head in Belarus

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Munch munch

Since you’re not allowed a Yorkie bar – this one’s for you…

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One mother of a statue

OK, how many of you knew this existed? I certainly didn’t. It’s called the Staue of the Motherland and lives in Kiev, Ukraine.

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Ohrid is not Horrid

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All aboard the night train

Night Trains
Despite the floor episode from Hungary to Serbia, night trains are rapidly becoming my favorite way to travel. Not only are they incredibly reliable (in over 6 months of traveling Europe I’ve never known a single one to be late) but they are comfy fun and cheap and you (mostly) wake up in a new country! What more could you ask for?

The sleepers come in 3 forms. The expensive 2 bed type, the second class 4/6 bed type and the much more fun open and full of beds type. Unfortunately I’ve only enjoyed the open type once. The journey from Belgrade to Sofia was comfy and dotted with bouts of laughter as Danny’s top bunk collapsed folding him away into the side of the compartment.

However, due to the restricted train services down here my train fetish will be put on hold in favor of the much more boring ‘sweaty bus’.

They say that ‘you are what you eat’. This means that three weeks ago I was a meat-filled pancake with sourcream. This week I am a Shopska Salad however, throughout these changes at least one arm has remained a shashlik kebab.

Talking of food – the other day a Frenchman stole my croissants. It’s just weird on many levels.

Why does it always rain on me?
When Frans from Travis posed this question the answer was not because he ‘lied when he was 17’ but obviously because he lives in Scotland! In my case it’s Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia! Yes – it’s rained (in fact thunderously) in every single one. Maybe I lied when I was 17?

There were two very obscures and quite worrying sights while out and about in Bulgaria. The first was a young girl (probably just over 10) selling magazines. Not so bad in itself until you look closely and see that they include a number of ‘adult’ titles. Buying Playboy from a 10 year old is just wrong. The second was a group of school kids (from about 10 to 16 years old) who were disco dancing at 2pm in a nightclub in town. Again – it’s just wrong. OK, so it’s holiday season but they should be riding bikes and playing with action figures not attempting the 80’s style robot dancing to loud turbo-folk. Thankfully the 12 of us from Hostel Mostel managed to raise the average age to an acceptable mid-twenties.

The more astute readers will have worked this out by now – this is where I am, in Macedonia. More about this below.

Macedonian Cuppachinos
The nice folk in Macedonia have taken their own approach to the internationally standard cuppachino. The Mac-Cupp is made by taking a coffee and squirting lots of that instant whipped-cream on top of it. Whilst it actually tastes ok, coffee purists and all Italians should bare this in mind before ordering.

Hospitatlity Club
I’m not going to stop harking on about HC. Not yet anyway and not while I continue to meet nice folk like Daniela, her friend and Aleks. I met Daniela and her friend (who’s name I have embarrassingly forgotten) on Thursday night and, while out I also met (very briefly) another HC’er Aleks. All three are great friendly people who speak great English. Strangely I seem to be a HC first for everyone I’ve met! …Let’s hope I don’t put them all off!

Stupidly Macedonia and, Skopje in particular get far less foreign visitors than Bulgaria. However I like this place much more and all the people I’ve met here are incredibly nice. Skopje has a large modern city center with numerous open cafes and bars along one side of the river and an old Turkish style ‘old town’ on the other side which includes a few impressive old buildings, a fortress on a hill and a massive market/bazaar selling everything from fruit to plumbing equipment. Apparently it occasionally gets bombed but thankfully the local ballistics experts chose not to practice their craft this weekend. Skopje has plenty of entertainment for those who enjoy loud music and beautiful crowds and I managed to enjoy a good does of both. The whole stay was made much better thanks to Danielas expert knowlegde and great hospitality and on Thursday I saw the international DJ Plastikman, who I’ve never heard of and on Friday I shared a beers with Chuck Jordan (guess where he’s from?) a friendly and very American Regional commander from Kosovo and a local celebrity producer Milcho Manchevski.

unfortunately one thing Skopje doesn’t have is any cheap accommodation and at 18 Europs a night my stay here was getting expensive.

While Chuck gave me his contact details and told me to call if I arrived in Kosovo for various reasons (money, non-recognised border crossings into Serbia and the good advice of everyone in Skopje) I decided not to hop across the border at this point. So instead I have continued west to the fantastic lake Ohrid.

Here you can slide your way down the shinny marble walkway passed numerous gift shops and cafes to the crystal clear lake. Mingle with 100’s of Macedonian (and a few other) holiday makers and sun yourself on a Sandy beach. What’s more at a wallet-friendly 5 Euros a night this place is much more affordable and very, very scenic. I’ll be here of a few days and then on elsewhere. Prizes for guessing where?

Until then,

As they say here – Ciao.


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Arrrgghhhh I hate 3 “Welcome to our rubbish Network”

Dear everyone, the nice people at 3 have now disconnected my phone. Although this means it is only slightly more useless than it was before now I can’t recieve texts as well as send them.

Throw in a 12 pound phone call via England to India to speak to 3’s customer services (read: usless waste of time) for good measure and 3 have just won Eddy’s most hated company award.

I could write for hours with the numerous things that they’ve managed to screw up but, that’s not a nice thing to do to the good people (that’s you) who take the time to read this site. However, please bare in mind that email is now my only contact with the outside world.

If I manage to get it working again before I hit the age of 83 i’ll let you all know.

On a positive note, all is good here in Sofia (Bulgaria). And my current home is the fantastic Hostel Mostel. For just 10 Euro’s i’m getting a bed, an all you can eat breakfast and free pasta and beer in the evening. At this price I might never leave!

Bulgaria feels much more Turkish than Serbia but, despite being so far south the weather has been even worse. In between the thunder we’ve managed to see a few sights though and managed a lot of sitting in cafes and drinking coffee and beer.


PS – If anyone know’s the legal in’s and out’s of mobile phone contracts for services that don’t work please email me. I need your help.

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Hello, Ciao, Dober Dan. I finally have a bit more time to sit and ramble on here. Still in Belgrade I am now writing from the ‘dark and dingy cellar’ that I wrote from two years ago. However, the place is anything but dark and dingy now. It’s light, full of new computers and dishing up decent Cuppachino’s courtesy of the new vending machine.

I kind of skipped over the time in Ukraine but it probably deserved more of a write up. It’s actually a pretty interesting place with some of the most impressive sights I’ve seen in Europe and many which I never new existed. The Motherland Statue for example. It’s a huge titanium statute of a woman holding a sword and is located in a park dotted with Soviet statues. Underneath is the museum of ‘the great patriotic war’. There’s nothing in English and nothing but a small cabinet on the allied efforts but the place has an impressive collection of material much of which doesn’t need explaining.

Kiev also has numerous gold dome churches and monasteries and some impressive and proud Soviet architecture. Like many other countries in this region Ukraine suffered heavily at the hands of the Soviets and the Germans and following independence under the rule of a few dodgy premiers. However, the place has a very positive feel to it now, especially after their Orange revolution (which many locals proudly talked about) and new private businesses (like our hostel) are slowly popping up around the place. Despite this we did encounter a number of amusing/frustrating examples of Eastern customer service. When trying to send a fax back to the UK I we were told (by a woman sat next to a fax machine) “No. Maybe later.”. When we asked her why, she walked off and then served someone else. There was also the waitress who told us that “Beer has finished” because she couldn’t be arsed to walk down stairs to the fridge!. Still on the whole the place is fun and the people are friendly. There were numerous occasions when the stopped to offer help even when they didn’t speak English! With few tourists though you still get the amusing stare from many of the locals. It’s an inquisitive “Where are you from?”, “What the hell are you doing here?”, “Are you nuts?” and “It’s nice to see you here in our country” all in one look.

Lviv was less Soviet and very pretty and the night train there was ridiculously chep. 11 hours with a bed for 3 pounds 50!

Budapest was a refreshing change after the last few weeks and should act as a model for countries looking to attract more tourists. From the moment I stepped off the train to the moment I stepped back on again that evening everything was made stupidly easy thanks to the numerous tourist offices, signs, directions, information boards etc etc. The only thing that isn’t easy is learning to say “Cheers” in Hungarian. The Sziget festival was great, the rest of the night was a disaster.

Despite being told at the ticket office that I could buy a cabin and a bed for 5,000 hungarian (which I took out of the cash machine) this was not the case. Of course – they only accept Euros. Stupid me for thinking anything different. Why would a train running from Hungary to Serbia accept any thing else? Local currency – you must be joking! No amount of protesting was convincing these guys. Euros it was or a place with 30 others in the corridor of a stuffed full corrodes at the front of the train. Anyone who’s seen me at 2am after a poor nights sleep and a day at a festival will know how miserable I was. Very. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been that miserable which was amusing the hell out of my 6 Slovakian corridor mates who were well up for talking, drinking and smoking the night away in out 1 square meter of carridge. I often defend the French since I quite like them but, after discovering that this train is run by a French company the phrase “excuse my French” was especially appropriate!

Un-able to speak I followed an Auzzie, an American and (painfully) a French guy to the nearest hostel where I slept like a baby until fully recovered. Since then I’ve felt like a new man and Belgrade has been good to me. It’s also convinced me that the annoying underpasses that are so common in Ukraine and Belarus are actually great. Crossing the road here is little short of terrifying.

And that’s just about enough rambling from me, but if you fancy wasting even more of your day you can check out a few photo’s in the gallery section. It’s not complete because I’ve run out of hosting space. Once I’ve forked out for some more I’ll finish the job.

Be good, keep writing and texting, enjoy your comfy beds and remember – Three is evil.


PS I promise – No more men with moustaches!

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34 Hours, 1044 Kilometers, 3 towns, 3 Countries and one big festival

In the last two days I’ve travelled over 1044 kilometers between 3 differnt countries. That’s 680 kilometers from Lviv (Ukraine) to Budapest (Hungary) and 364 Kilometers from Budapest to Belgrade (Serbia). Thinking it would be very rock’n’roll I even threw in a whole day drinking and dancing at a massive music festival (Sziget) in Budapest!

While the journey to Budapest and the day at Sziget were great – last night was anything but Rock’n’Roll, but i’ll explain about that later, in short I had to sleep on the floor of a corridor of a very packed train.

So, I’m currently having fun in Belgrade and from here I plan to go to Sofia in Bulgaria. If I manage it, it means I’ve pretty much done Eastern Europue from North to South. Sofia, one of Europes highest capitals is supposed to be great (and cheap) so I’m looking forward to it.

Belgrade has really pulled it’s socks up in the last two years and its a differnt place from the Belgrade of two years ago. A group of us from the hostel went out last night and partied on a boat on the river Sava which was good fun and tonight we’re off for some traditional Serbian food, which means – meat.

Also, if anyone has tried to call my mobile in the last month or so, you will probably have been un-sucessful. This is because it’s rubbish. I can revcieve text messages – so keep on sending them but, I cant send any and I can’t recieve incoming calls. 3 (my mobile operator) are currently Eddy Enemy No.1


PS – As many people have pointed out – I never mentioned crow-bar man before. He was a crazy, crow-bar waving Belarussian driver. Thankfully he wasn’t waiving it at me!

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I really wish I could find more time to write stuff here! Now I’m three cities behind myself and just about to add another to the list!

So, a quick word about Minsk. Basically – I had a fantastic time there and it was great. Hotel Orbita (another concrete beauty) is situated 4 metro stops out of the city center but, the place is clean and friendly and situated right next to a large market, a MacDonalds and the Metro stop. So, after arriving on Sunday I explored all three (using my little blue Metro tokens) arriving in the center for the evening to explore. Actually, I wasn’t that adventurous with my exploring because I didn’t want to loose the Metro station. I arrived home shortly before the largest thunder and lightning storm i’ve seen in ages.

On Saturday, I headed to town again but this time I met up with Nastia who is the friend of Ina who’s name is an anagram of mine. Nastia is a friendly, relaxed and intelligent person which obvious from her friendly, relaxed and intelligent nature. She’s also very good at conversing in English (and a bunch of other languages) and so, after three days of me-no-speak-englesh we walked a lap of the city and I almost talked her to death. In need of refreshment we settled don in 0.5 for a beer where we were joined by Nastia’s friend Natasha. Natasha is a friendly, relaxed and intelligent person. Guess how I knew? And again, she has a great hold of the English language! So, after a great night out with them and a few beers I headed home to argue with the gangster granny. Gangster granny is the only other person (see crow-bar man below) who I didn’t like. Despite her friendly grandmother appearence and helpful attitude she tried to fleece me for 25 dollers for wasing my laundry! I managed to put up a fight for almost an hour before giving in and handing over about 15 dollers which, is still flipping expensive!

The during the rest of the week we walked, went to Museums, had a bbq out in the country, explored the city and the botanical gardens and drank a few beers in the evenings. On Tuesday (I think) I also met Yahor, another friend of Nastias and he joined and organised much of the fun along with Nastia. Guess what Yahor was like? Basically, they looked after me and insured that I had a great week in Minsk with some great people. I even enjoyed a long nights grooving at an rnb night where Yahor got snogged by a girl which he described as ‘Nasty’, which she heard – it was quite funny. Minsk as a city is a nice and interesting place and well worth a visit. It deserves many many more visitors than it actually gets.

(I’m going to finnish this post later since I have loads more to write about but, now for a quick run down on what’s next)

I took a night train from Minsk to Kiev with two more nice Belarussian People
Kiev is big and busy and none of the 8 cash machines worked
I eventually found cash and my hostel and met endless other single travellers who were staying there. A Swedish dude, Pedro (from Italy), an Australian dude, a Brazillian from Ireland, A strange American girl from Romaina, American Eric from Moscow, Sharon from Northern Ireland and Rebecca from Edinburgh to name a few…
Explored Minsk, went clubbing and checked out the Chonobyl museum.
Took a night train to Lviv (google it) in North Western Ukraine
Explored a cemetary and the streets of Lviv
Ate fantastic food at fantastic prices
Decided to head to Budapest.

I’ve bottled out of Moldova for the time being because I would have to go back to Minsk first to get a visa and then on another night train to Moldova and whilst I’m happy to do this on my own, I think it’s the sort of place that would be far more fun with a friend or travel buddy and so i’m going to save that one until I find someone else who fancies a party in Moldova. From Budapest I might hop on a train to Belgrade but without any real plans – I don’t know

Bye for now Eddy.

PS – Ukraine is great too – but I prefer Belarus, I’m actually missing it there!

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Bella Belarus

From the moment I contacted the tourist office to book my accommodation, to the moment I left for Kiev the local folk of Belarus were fantastic. Actually that’s not entierly true but there were two exceptions…

Getting a visa is far easier than I had been led to believe. With the correct tourist voucher (provided by the Belarus Tourist Agency) two trips to London and 34 pounds you’ll be in Business.

I arrived at the Belarussian border at 7am on Thursday morning to find a bunch of small huts and a bunch of large guys wearing impossibly large hats.

Admittedly, having read too many horror stories about border crossings in this corner of the world I was a bit nervous. However, there’s a certain buzz to that feeling and it makes traveling that little bit more exciting. Also, the feeling is almost always misplaced and this was certainly the case here. Yes they did insist on checking all our bags but, these guys weren’t in the mood for detaining balding English travelers and after patting my bag, a few words in Russian (or Belarusian?) followed by “OK!” and I was back on the bus and heading to Grodno.

Grodno is a regional center situated in the north-west of Belarus. It’s also one of the few places that has some buildings that survived the second world war. The journey there took me past many small villages and Fields with Christmas tree hedges and we arrived exactly on time and the bus station was exactly where it shows on the map.

Unfortunately for me the local populations grasp of English is no better than my grasp of French. What’s more, my ‘centrally located’ hotel was anything but centrally located and I had no idea where it was. nlike the bus station it was not on the map. However, a quick call to Svetlana at the tourist agency soon had the girl in post office onside and 5 minutes later a taxi arrived to save the day. The driver was old but very funny, he cranked up the funniest pop song I’ve ever heard and dropped me off with a big handshake and a tiny fare.

Hotel Tourist in Grodno is a beauiful concrete affair about 2km out of town and not really close to anything of use or interest. The receptionist were failrly friendly though and, we managed just enough hand gestures and face expressions to get me my room and a cold drink.

My two days in Grodno were good but not great, they also caused meto re-think my stay in Belarus and cancel my two days in Gomel in the south. Whilst the place is OK and the cathedral is well worth visiting the lack of tourists and therefore any tourist infrastructure does make life slightly difficult, especially when traveling alone. I also felt like a dumb illiterate since I can’t read Cyrillic and couldn’t talk to anyone. It’s a friendly place though and it is good to see an average Belarusian city in action. I also enjoyed Russian dubbed Postman Pat, Inspector Gadget, a documentary about ‘Planes that never flew’ and an embarrassing documentary about the British drinking culture!. Enough to make anyone need a beer.

Food was normally accompanied by George Michael and Whitney Huston and each night I was treated to a random phone call from a local girl who, I guess wanted to offer a few local services. That is until she realized she’d have to offer them in English! Repeat Hello three times and I guarantee they’ll hang up. Also, check the pictures (when I put them up) of my telephone – it was great.

So, on Saturday morning I left for Minsk and the journey therewas an experience in itself. Unsure what Svetlana meant by “Maxi Taxi” I happily accepted an offer from the first shady looking guy who whispered ‘Minsk?’ in my ear. I managed to negotiate a 15 dollar price which rested on him finding another 3 people to fill his taxi (aka personal un-registered car). Thankfully he found 3 others. A big old guy and his wife and a young guy in a tracksuit. The big guy spoke a little English and they all seemed confident that our driver was OK. They were right and after two hours of questionable driving I was dropped off on the doorstep of Hotel Orbita – another concrete beauty 🙂


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