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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Slug Tent

With my tent I can camp anywhere. This saves money and it’s fun camping on the sly behind the sightbreak of the hedges. It can be lonely and it lacks the amenities of hot showers/toilets/etcetera...

One is at a distinct disadvantage when camping thusly in Ireland. This is not made fully clear until the morning.

Morning in Ireland brings rain, light rain that is more of an over friendly mist. It has separation anxiety. Something else that seems over eager to be near you are the infinite masses of slugs oozing their slimy way over your tent. The slime has blocked out the light. It’s a fine awakening to see a slug two inches from your face. Its a slightly better morning when you realize that the slug is on the other side of the nylon from yourself. But only very slightly better.

I started flicking, building up my flicking muscles and my flicking skill level. Slugs flew in high arcs over the hedgerow, endangering passing motorists by splattering thunderously upon their windscreens. Imagine the poor cyclist, for he is deserving of our pity.

By the time I’d finished, or thought I’d finished, flicking away all the slippery slugs I had become the undefeated slug flicking world champion. No I do not wish to defend my world champion status, I am perfectly content passing it on without contest. And yes, in retrospect I should have simply burnt the tent, sacrificing the slugs to some sort of Slug God, the patron of cabbage and bathroom floors. Or should that be the Salt God, Melter of Slugs and next year’s Iron Chef. I’m not up to date on my conspicuous, insignificant, minor deities, but what I do know is that I was left with a lovely new silvery tent pattern.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Athens conjures up classical images of pillar and stone, philosophers in togas and of course, the acropolis. Beyond the conjured images is the real athens. A trapped athens, overcrowded, over polluted, infested by thieves, drug dealers and prostitutes on every corner. Sometimes the same corner. Sometimes the same person. Get your drugs, get your sex, but lose your money. The thieves will take it. Beware, the thieves don't take back syphilis. The acropolis is a sad battered once great thing of wonder, now people swarm over it like ants over a corpse. The ants are not conducive to that feeling of age and history and grandeur. The magic of the corpse.

There’s a hostel a couple of blocks north of Omonoia Square. I’m buzzed in and take the two man metal cage lift up to the hostel. The manager is an aging man holding onto his youth with all the strength and vitality offered

by a black mop top wig. It shines like a disco ball in the light. I am asked immediately if I am Australian. “No” I reply, and regret is apparent on the face below the wig.
Unsure of which room to put me, he opens a door and turns on a light to wake two sleeping backpackers to ask them about the third and final bed next to the door, but not before enquiring whether or not they are australian. Confused at being woken to ask after nationality, one replies still asleep, “No, we’re french.”
“oh, okay.” and then gesturing to the third bed. “Is this bed free?”
The french backpackers are unsure, they don’t work there, but they believed it was indeed free and thus it became mine. It was more of a military fold up camp bunk than a bed. The metal in the back was a give away.
Later, in the reception-rec. room combo, Black-wig-mop-top gets out of his chair, looks around at the backpackers there gathered, adopts the pushup position on the floor, and proceeds to not do pushups but instead humps the said floor with mighty pelvic thrusts. Up high, down low, wig shining brightly, face haggard like a dead, weathered squirrel. Chatter amongst travellers had ceased, unsure of what to say and riveted to the spectacle at their feet. His breathing grows heavy, he jumps to his feet sweating, claps his hands together and says in his smoking ravaged, ragged and accented voice, “Got to keep up my stamina, you know.”
Welcome to Athens, where a lot of things are possible if not at all probable, especially when they wear long black wigs and ask anyone and everyone whether or not they are australian.

Don’t worry about what that is sticking into your back when you’re sleeping, that bed is not pleased to see you, it’s just a metal cross piece.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The spıce market ıs not a market. It ıs a sea of spıce. No, a sea of mountaıns... of spıce. I never knew spıces could look lıke a kaleıdoscope. Smells waft thıther and yon buffetıng you wıth muh more marketıng charısma than the men besıde the stalls could ever hope to possess. When spıce does not occupy a stall, Turkısh Delıght pıcks up the baton. Pıstachıo, lemon, aprocats, and all thıngs ın between. Pıles of the sweet stuff. My tongue has a fıeld day workıng overtıme wıth yum-yums. I try to get by wıth just eatıng the free samples before beıng pushed off towards a rıval Delıghtful stall.
Is ıt bad to say that Mosques look lıke Bobafett? Because they do. Im sure of ıt now. Just as Im sure that any socıety that fınds beıng human a blıght that has to be dıscouraged ıs wrong... Women coverıng themselves head to toe ın 35-40C weather. It must be because, as everyone knows, women are evıl. Thats rıght! And no one, NO ONE, wants to look at evıl thıngs. Yep, I dıd say ıt, mothers, grandmothers, young women that love puppıes, babıes, and flowers are so obviously evıl. So cover them up totally lest we set eyes on somethıng so abhorrent. Just ıgnore that ımfamous bounty hunter watchıng you from the top of the hıll.

When you're a mile or so away from the happiness of your hostel's toilet and you need to use the facilities pretty quickly because of that curry from the night before, panic ensues. This is not a hide behind a bush job, this is serious business. This is as they say, the shit. And it was about to go down. Goodbye Tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent I must leave you abruptly for a rather pressing engagement. Still, there's a one lira WC just next door, and entering through the incredibly tiny door you realise with some horror that there is no commode. There is porcelain, just nothing substantial in terms of relative height. Thank you so much for allowing me to use this hole in the ground. It takes longer that I would like to derobe on the flooded floor, after all, what exactly are you supposed to do with your trousers? Feeling better and fully clothed once more, I smack my head upon the dwarf-sized door on the way out. So maybe not up to my best as I leave the WC designed to have a laugh at foreigners.

"Yes My friend!" joins the throng of noisy sales chatter that lights as I enter the markets. Tiny streets and crowds you'd never think possible to get through make the experience...invigorating.
This is life. Business is happening. I stand poised to eat a flatbread sandwich that the boy next to the stall is still trying to sell me. Stop the pitch, I've already entered into a contract for the damn thing. He's right though, it is good. The sweet chili sauce really makes it. Other salesmen shout things like 'you want jeans?'. No thanks, it's 36 degrees out here and the press of bodies is contributing to my sweat factor. "My friend! Where you from?" He's trying to engage my attention. I leave instead. Show any interest, answer and you're doomed with a new 'friend' trying to sell you a belt or a camel. OK, I made up the camel. "You're from Italy? Spanish?" and then as I get farther and farther away, the guesses get more ridiculous, "India? China? No I know! Korea, yes Korea!" Wrong and wrong.

Cats and kittens stalk and play respectively as the afternoon call to prayer erupts from the nearest and then next nearest mosque. Synchronization is not well known. And yet the effect is wonderful, it's charming and peaceful and as iconic of an Islamic yet secular country as the minarets it's played from.

Yes I had to cover my knees with a skirtive sheet. Yes I took of my shoes to go into the mystical Blue Mosque. Yes women cover their heads and shoulders going into the same. yes other women are dressed like fashionable bomb removal squads roaming the streets with small children in tow and look for that next glamourous headscarf. Yes to all that, and yet explicit erotic music is free to blare out from the nearest rooftop terrace. Really? Yes to that too. No one cares if it's in English.

Leaving Prague

Should you decide to hitch-hike from Prague to say, Bratislava, or even grand Wien, make sure you get someone actually going to one or the other. A series of shorter hops cannot be done on this trail. Should you decide otherwise, there are a number of theoretical possibilities that might occur. Theoretically you might get a lift from a guy that speaks practically no english, which makes communication difficult in regards to where you happen to be going, and he may only be going say, twenty miles or so. Theoretically he could drop you off on the ramp off the motorway that has such an abundance of traffic to see one car every ten minutes. Theoretically, you may try hitching, illegally, on the motorway itself. Theoretically you may decide to get to the town that guy was going to to get a bus. It might be about ten miles away, but what options have you? You might be lucky enough to get a lift to that small town, Theoretically find the bus depot, Theoretically point at pictures of buses so people know that you'd want to take one out of their miniscule area of concrete. Theoretically, the only bus goes back to Prague, where as chance might have it, there's a bus heading towards, say Bratislava, which Theoretically, you could take. Or could've taken in the first place. Theoretically of course, or not. Anyway, 'misewell' chance the thumb right? Oh yeah, and on that Theoretically bus to Bratislava, don't panic, you are probably still on the bus. The Czechs have got the idea about speed and turbulence. They just forgot that speed isn't usually an accompanying factor or that turbulence is usually reserved for the flying variety of bus.


So what is Prague? It's been called many things, usually good and involving iconic bridges. So what is Prague? An old draughty city choc-a-bloc with bagfuls of all things Baroque. And yet the draughtyness is held at arms length by the integration of technology and tourists swarming the ancient capital. High above, the castle stands guard like a starving soldier waiting in vain for his relief, but still must stand ever so attentively. It's only defense from the tourists is one that was good back when, standing the test of time but no longer repelling militant invaders, its height and endless barrage of stairs to the castle grounds and gardens. Today's invaders are somewhat less dangerous should they not all select 'flash' at the same time.
Should you survive the castle's grand defense mechanism, do not be tempted by Pragish beer. Yes there are stories, the 'piva' is amazing in Prague, and cheap, which is never a bad thing for beer to be. Yes the beer is cheap, but go to pay and see that they've charged you for what you thought were free pretzels sat out for patrons, do not look surprised. At least not too much. This city is clinging to all it's got; a billion tourists a day in a multitude of touring throngs being led by the same number of little flags on sticks. After a while, even Prague's greatest asset becomes little more than a commonplace eyesore. Baroque architecture begins to dwindle from its elaborate pedestal of delightfulness. Gothic structures appear freakish yet tantalising should you be able to see them through the waving wanded flags shepherding its flock of camera bearers. That said, the Astronomical Clock is a thing to marvel, and should you sit down in the old town square to enjoy it, you may care to sample some of the abundant free pretzels... ...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


After leaving the Baltics, you know you're really back in the west, or closer to it anyway, by the sudden appearence of american chain/fast food besides Mcdonalds'(Mcdonalds' is everywhere, even the south pole of inaccessability).

Next, if you thought Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were flat, then you didn't truly understand the meaning of the word until Poland and the North European Plain came into you're path. It's flat as a, well, plain-cake. Gone are the stretches of coniferous acreage, gone are the ferns and low growth greenery. Fields and fields, decidious finite woodland and an endless amount of flatness that precipitate bad jokes like plain-cake.

Then finally, Warsaw...

A sprawling mess of brilliantlly restored war destroyed buildings. It's filled with Neo-Georgian streets in the centre and a miniscule Old Town. Surrounding this is a real hodge-podge of the modern, concrete communist, classical, and ramshackle architecture all thrown in in the hopes that something will be good.

Bakeries are everywhere, bringing with them, as they do, their refreshing and pleasurable aromas of fresh bread, cakes, and pastries. Filling the Old Town square are innumerable Carlsberg umbrellas, shielding from sun or rain the patrons below as they drink to your health and theirs. And why not? This is a revitalised Warsaw, enjoy, but go easy on the pastry.


When you arrive in town, you may be lucky enough to hear the driver say, ''Welcome to Vilnius, have nice day, bye bye.''

A certain something strikes you as you enter Vilnius throught the blue gates of Dawn. It's not the miraculous number of churches or the narrow side streets, street cafes, or high castle up above on a steep hill. No, none of these. Something even better.... No seagulls. Throughout the rest of the Scando-baltic region the threat of the gull is a very real event. But Vilnius if free of the flying enemies, thus allowing for an unparrelled tour of the city.

Down Ausros Vartu, past the butter and sugar filled pancakes to Rotuses Square, where cafes and pubs line the pavement. Take a stroll down crunched yet perfect Stikliu to the Presidential Palace of white and blue. Head past the university to Katedros Square where the Belfry and Cathedral are seperated, making an interesting change to the usual set of ecclesiastical palaces. High above stands Gedimina Castle atop a hill of the same name.

Yet for all of that, the city doesn't feel special, the sounds aren't there, just the regular city annoyances. The smells, sweet and savoury pancakes are few and far between. Sights are there to be seen, but they're so severely spaced that it doesn't feel like an old town should. The view from Gedimina Hill is superb, but apart from that... well I'll say it again:

There are no seagulls in Vilnius.

Oh and by the way, have nice day, bye bye.