Month: July 2007
“You are 1978 man” said the receptionist at our hostel.
“I am cave man” said one of the 65 carpet sellers we spoke to today.
“Why you have no hair?” asked THREE differnt Turks today! I might wear a wig tomorrow.
“You are a beutiful girl – I give your dad five thousand camels” a travel agent said to Ajda. Definately worth some consideration.
Anyway, I’m back on dry land in Istanbul. Our 2 day ferry from Odessa (Ukraine) was fun and we met a bunch of people from Moldova, Ukraine, Syria, France, England, Canada and Turkey – quite a random lot. We shared a cabin with Yulia from Ukraine and a Moldovan grandmother who managed to befriended the entire ship in just two days. They were both great.
We hit the disco bar last night so we all rolled off looking a little green and we’ve all been having serious land-sickness problems today which is a new experience. It feels like you’re still at sea and I keep going wobbly.
I haven’t seen much of it but Instanbul is an incredible and large (16+ million people – that’s 8 times the population of Slovenia) city and we have a busy schedule before we catch a night train to Bulgaria on Wednesday.
To our amusement, Bruce (one of the guys we met on the boat) just found a bottle of wine called Dikmen. Nice. It’s not as funny as this guy‘s name though.
Our hostel looks out over the Blue Mosque. Not a bad view.
Oh, and apologies to everyone for not emailing – I’ll do it soon, honest.
Big, 1978 man Eddy
A police car and a screaming siren –
A pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete –
A baby wailing and stray dog howling –
The screech of brakes and lamp light blinking –
“That’s Entertainment” and it’s a pretty good description of Chisinau too BUT, that’s not the only entertainment you’ll find in Moldova.
Despite the problems that exist in this small and relatively new republic – I had a suspicion I’d love this place and I did. OK, culture vultures won’t find much to photograph and boast about but then, I’ve never been into magnificent churches and over-sized monuments.
It’s small, it has it’s problems (largely thanks years of Soviet mismanagement) and the Eastern part has decided to go-it-alone but, put this aside, grab yourself a Chisinau beer and start talking to the locals and you’ll have a great time.
Once we were settled in our flat (along with an American (Kevin), a Swiss guy (Michael), a Welshman, a French guy (Johan), Sara (an English girl) a dutch guy (who I lost during a night out – and never saw again) and a German guy called Tossten) – we hit the town. I will remember Moldova (and Transdniestr) for the following things…
Buses that cost 4 pence
The man wearing a cabbage leaf as a hat (apparently this is not unusual)
People who talk with high voices (a Russian thing) and say ‘excuse me’ when they don’t have what you want and ‘good luck’ when you leave.
Cash machines that don’t work with any card that has a ‘chip’
Girls that dance with themselves in the mirror in strange Sunday night discos
Eating cucumber with honey!! (try it – it’s nice and not unusual for Moldovans who “like to experiment with taste combinations”)
Girls in high-heels and dresses to impress 24-7
Common parents. You get these in Moldova when you get married. They are very important and should be visited first during important holidays (Christmas etc)
The breakaway region of Trandniestr – a non-recognized (therefore non-existant) country that does exist and resembles Moldova but in Cyrillic. Luckily for me the border guards wanted to marry Ajda and decided to like me. I was mildly concerned when he laughed at my name and called me ‘big man’ but I think he was joking.
…and last but not least the people. That is, almost all the people we met in Moldova. In particular the ‘shoe man’, Marisha, Natasha, the girl who worked in the bar (and told me how to find shoe-man) and most importantly Cristina and Dumitru. They were all great and I’ll write about them all when I have time as they all deserve a mention – however I have 10 minutes to get back to our hotel and 40 minutes to be the other-side of town.
Odessa is a cool city, full of people and today we walked up the famous Potemkin steps, explored town and failed (annoyingly) to book ourselves on the ferry to Istanbul tomorrow.
You can see a selection of pictures HERE
Love from the black sea
Bunã ziua, from Chisinau Moldova!
Fourty-Two hot, smelly but fun hours after leaving – we made it safely to Chisinau Moldova. I’ve not got much time to write but so far it’s been fun and we’ve been entertained by…
:: An Egyptian travel agent who clearly doesn’t like Slovenia (i’m always suspicious of people who don’t like Slovenia) but it was fun to here him rant.
:: An expressive Croatian girl on her way to a Jazz festival in Hungary
:: The craziest (happiest) passport controller I’ve ever met (Croatian/Hungarian border)
:: Great views of lake Balaton in Hungary, the largest fresh water lake in Europe outside Scandinavia
:: A nice Hungarian man who acted as a translator and helped us acquire some Forint
:: Three Austrian students who shared our Couchette. (Guy’s I hope you made it to the festival OK)
:: Two gypsy children begging on our train. They weren’t happy with the chocolate croissant we gave them, they wanted the biscuits, my mobile and my camera too. Cheeky beggars
:: The huge ‘peoples palace’ in Bucharest. The worlds largest failure.
:: A shifty looking guy at the station who clearly wanted to do something shifty to us.
:: A guy who (in Romania so this is all deduced) started by asking if our water cost 2 lei (which it did) and then, undeterred by our lack of Romanian, launched into a story about being Moldovan and how the Soviets were big fascists!
…and last but not least our friendly and extremely helpful host Marsha who met us at the train station and has told us everything we need to know about Chisinau.
It’s hot, very hot, infact – it’s too hot today at 45 degrees. I cannot think about things and so instead I deal with everything by breaking into a sweat and mumbling ‘shit it’s hot’. It seems to work.
Hope life is good with y’all and I’ll keep you posted with pictures and updates when possible.
Hugs and Kisses
A few years ago, back in the hazy past – I promised a good friend of mine Trude that I would come and visit her and her husband Gunnar in Bergen, Norway. Her birthday (and my invite) provided the perfect opportunity.
I had 1 hour and 45 minutes to checkout, check in and change planes in Stanstead and my flight from Slovenia was delayed by 1 hour and 15 minutes. This caused a mild sense of worry and possibly a little more hair-loss.
Naturally, as sods law dictates – the customs guy decided I was dodgy enough to require a full (by full I mean baggage only) search. So, 10 minutes before my plane was due to leave I had the full contents of my bag removed, half of my toiletries confiscated (damn those new rules) and was made to wait whilst my toothpaste and sun-lotion were re-scanned by the x-ray thing.
Anyway, I made it to Bergen and had a great time in the company of Trude, Gunnar and lots of very Norwegian looking people. Apparently, in Norway “there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing” but thankfully, I wasn’t humiliated by my 2 t-shirts and old trainers as the weather was great. The speedboat-trip to a costal summer-house, the 30th birthday, Trude and Gunnar and the sea food at breakfast (??) were also great. The Norwegian word for ‘speed’ is ‘fart’ ha ha…
Oh, the amateur English customs guy had allowed me to keep my aftershave because it was in a clear bottle and half empty. Don’t worry though – the Norwegians spotted my potential terrorist threat and binned that too.
I got home on Sunday and most of you know what happened from there as I saw you. Anyway, the drivers that don’t beep, the toilets that don’t display your creations, common courtesy and the people (that’s you lot) were as great as ever. The weather, the prices and the public transport were crap as ever.
Back in Lj I worked hard at doing nothing all week and then let my hair down (yes, ha ha – I’m speaking figuratively) at the Lasko ‘beer and flower’ festival, in Lasko. It’s the Slovene version of Octoberfest and it goes on for 4 days. Unfortunately I was driving so I could only drink flowers. Unlike Octoberfest, you will be drinking just one thing – Lasko. I know this is cruel (so I didn’t take a picture) but the (presumably dark humoured) Slovenes had given traffic duty to a guy with one arm! He was waving traffic with a stump!?!
The taxi driver back to the train station was a Bulgarian who had lived in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and then Slovenia. He has a published book of poetry he wrote in Slovene and is one half of the first ever gay marriage in Slovenia.
What’s next? Well this is where it get’s exciting but I’m not sure I’m ready to jump from ‘no posts for a month’ to ‘posts about future plans’ just yet. Maybe I’ll write before I leave. Having just finished Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’ – I might make a top-five list about something instead. Watch this space.
Zdravo dear friends, I’m back. Actually, I’ve spent a lot of time being ‘to’ and ‘back from’ places recently so, I’m gonna sit here until I’ve filled in the gaps since I last wrote anything here in June.
This time I’m gonna work backwards starting with the oldest news first and the newest news last. If you’re lucky I might even go into future plans but we’ll see how it goes.
The impossibly difficult to pronounce island of Cres
‘Eh? What? Difficult?’ you say. Well, now try saying it again in Slovene where, the C is pronounced like the ‘ts’ at the end of cats and, the ‘r’ is rolled like the Scots do.
Anyway, phonetics aside, Cres is a small Croatian Island (small compared to England but large compared to other Croatian Islands) about 3 hours drive from Ljubljana and, it was the destination of our next day trip.
So, once again, Obi was loaded, me Christophe, Jaimie and Alenka climbed in and we set off in search of sun, sea, sand and swimming. We didn’t find any sand but we did find the rest. We also found white-headed Eagles, stunning views, funny bars selling the worlds smallest beers, good food, men in white shirts with white vests underneath (it’s an eastern thing) and lots and lots of jelly fish. Actually, the jelly fish were the weirdest thing I’ve had to deal with for a while. Pioneering the way into the sea on Saturday morning, Alenka discovered that she wasn’t alone. Actually she was in the company of thousands (possibly millions) of little squidgy clear things about the size of a jelly bean.
Either, our bay was pushing for a part in the X-files or, the island of Cres had provided the perfect conditions for jelly-fish baby making. They didn’t sting but it did feel like you were swimming in baked beans.
The weeks that followed Cres (I bet you still can’t say it) Island were pretty much like most other weeks here. They involved a little bit of teaching, a little hiking, drinking, talking and a lot (infact more than usual) of swimming. I discovered outdoor swimming pools you see – what more do you need in a heatwave? Oh, we also conquered Skofja Loka and Kranj (pronounced without the ‘j’) and joined the flag-wavers for the Slovene ‘National Day’ on the 25th of June.
This brings us nicely to the end of the academic term (end of July) and the emotional conclusion of my teaching career in Slovenia. I survived, it wasn’t so hard – in fact I really enjoyed it and I wouldn’t know half as much about Slovenia and the Slovenes if I hadn’t done it. On the last day, I was given 3 ‘free’ tickets to a sex club by one of my students. See the members section for photo’s 😉 (no mum I didn’t really go)
With all that out of the way it was time for a holiday, a trip to Norway and short visit to the mainland – England. I’m gonna write about that now but, I’m gonna bag that post for a future update. For now, I’ll let your rest the reading part of your brain and enjoy some pretty colours…