Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The dog's tail: Appendices

Appendix A : The doggone Ukrainian immigration form

The first thing I skipped out on in the last blog entry was the horror we ran into at the border when we found out we had to specify an adress we were staying at or there would be trouble. We had to do it quickly too! We had just barely managed to scribble "Hotel Kiev, Chernivtsi" on these forms, before they were pretty much taken from us. (click for bigger version)

Appendix B: Dogfood

Dogfood is the opposite of what awaited us upon our arrival at Haska's. As a matter of fact, It was awesome and delicious Borsjt followed by гречка (buckwheat) with meat. It was great, and the second time in my life I had гречка (the first being almost a year ago in Antwerpen with the lovely Nelli)


Appendix C: A comparison

About ten months ago I posted this.
Here is the image of my hitchhiking map at the time:
This covered more or less 1 400 kilometers.
I recently checked to see if I told people the right amount of kilometers when they asked me how much I'd hitch-hiked.
Here's what it looks like at 16 000 kilometers or almost a thousand miles.



Appendix D: The dog's tail

The decision of where to go from here has changed three times in 24 hours. First it was Krakow, then Budapest, then Vienna, and finally Budapest again. I will be leaving for there tomorrow, and after a few days visit Prague for a day, and get back home safe and sound for a few days...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The curious incident of the dog in the night time and some other crimes against god and country

This blog entry is dedicated to former United States president William J Clinton.
a book
This is a book. Actually, it's a digital image representing the cover of the book, but no reason to go all Magritte on my ass.
This book is not only awesome but it also ties into my latest adventures in many different ways. But since my latest adventures aren't the latest I've reported on I will first update you on some other crimes against god and country.

Other crimes against God and Country

I make a point when hitchhiking not to be smuggling anything across the border, but sometimes it just can't be helped. I really needed to bring some weed into Moldova to make some money. But I didn't, actually I doubt that would make me money. So instead we smuggled car-parts. Or at least I think we did. The Romanians picked me up quite quickly everytime, and even though I ended up only starting at 1 pm , around 8 that evening I was in Iasi, which is not far from the Moldovan border. Here's where things start to go wrong.

When things go wrong

When my driver told me they bought up cars in "Europe" and sold the parts in Moldova it explained the fact that he was dragging a platform with a small van on it behind his van, and the fact that he was only driving at 40 km/h at any give time.
It didn't explain why we stopped for at least 2 hours moving stuff between different cars, though they were suspicially covering all the car parts with stuff like washing powder and diapers and the like. Then we spent 3 hours at the border waiting to get through. Conclusion: I got to Chisinau and a warm bed at 7 am.

Christmas is family time

Since Christmas is family time, I try not to disturb my family on Christmas. Instead I found Santa had brought my amazing gift to Chisinau and I found that he had, with incredible foresight enlisted my host Diana to knit me an original design scarf. Now, I never really liked that fat ugly man, but man, he's really earned his milk and cookies this time. That is one awesome scarf.
Now this is where things start to get hectic.

This is a very heterosexual picture

When things get hectic

We only had a few hours to see Chisinau because that evening we were catching the night bus to Chernivtsi. We only had a few hours to see Chernivtsi because our host in L'viv was expecting us that night, and we were hitchhiking.

I decided my travel funds needed upgrading so I taught a quick lecture on CouchSurfing at Chernivtsy university.

Luckily Roman picked us up after less than 5 minutes by the road and took us the 300 something kilometers. He spoke Ukrainian and Russian, and some basic Portuguese, because he's worked in Portugal for 12 years. My bits of Spanish and Monica's Romanian served us well. and he dropped us in a cab to take us to our host, Haska.


Monica and Roman

The curious incident of the dog at night time

Here is a list
  • "Get dressed, we have to go have dinner with my parents."
  • "Sir, please relinquish the ass-dildo and get out of the car"
  • "You're a good kid, I like you, but why did you throw our dog off the balcony?"
These are things you probably don't want to hear after a drunk night. One of them was our running joke on the first day at Haska's. One night some family member (was it an uncle?) managed to convince on of the party goers that the previous night he had indeed commited canicide.

"Oh Lord, / won't you buy me /a night on the town?"

This is one curious incident, the other coincidences surrounding this book are simply that the book was reccomended by one of my best friends, Untung, and I had recently read it. That and Haska, who owns a book store is planning on investing money into a Ukrainian translation of this book.
Haska and my hero Sergij (A guy who hitchhiked from Ukraine to Korea!)
The day we arrived was one big party. We went out on the town with her friends, and as became obvious and I quote, "when you're a foreigner in Ukraine, wodka just materialises." Besides Wodka there was dancing, and generally a lot of fun. The next night was a Sunday, so we thought there wasn't going to be that much going on but oh, surprise, there was a Couchsurfing meeting mhich culminated in me leading the surfers through L'viv as an angry mob back to Haska's place where the party continued. It was too awesome for words.
"No, I don't want to drink more! Nooo!"

Somewhere in between all this we went to "Galicia's most expensive restaurant" which is really awesome. You get to a door, which looks like an apartment door, it opens for you to find a guy standing in what looks like an apartment kitchen. It's very convincing when you go through the curtains and find the "secret society" freemasonry-themed restaurant there. (By the way, it's only the most expensive restaurant before the 90% member discount)

That is a sweet 130 euro discount on those 4 hot wines.
Oh and the toilet...
Finally, a reason for men to spend as much time on the toilet as women

More pictures of this(mixed)!

SurferOfCouches

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I wish I was one of those doctors without borders.

I mean I don't per se care about helping out people. The thing I like about "doctors without borders" is that they don't have borders. I hate borders. I will be hitchhiking to Chisinau tomorrow, in the Republic of moldova, and god knows how long it will take to clear the border.

But you'll find out when I post again, as I leave in the morning. For now some more info about Bulgaria.

This is a traditional Bulgarian greeting

Or it's what I imagined a traditional Bulgarian greeting looked like. I figured sometimes you just have to wing it. And as you can see from the look on Georgi's face, it was well-received.

As previously mentioned hitch-hiking in Bulgaria is easy. Ridiculously so. Between Istanbul and Sofia, I never waited for a car to stop for more than 2 minutes, and with the exception of the border into Romania (40 minutes) the same was true of the Sofia - Bucharest trip.
My last ride (with their adorable dog) dropped me off right in front of my host Vihrena, who was very friendly and we (I) decided we should go out for some food.
Somehow, defintitely without any suggestion, let alone provocation on my part, she decided it would be cool to look gangsta for the photo.


I in no way forced her to do this whatsoever

After a pleasant night on her couch I stayed with her friend and fellow CouchSurfer Marianne, because she would be having a lot of people in the house the next day. Lucky for me Marianne was every bit as friendly and helpful as Vihrena. Unfortunately for both of us, however she wasn't as available socially as she and her co-workers were working a deadline for the local free cultural guide they write.

Luckily my friend Kalina ( whom is a classmate of the famous Jonas) was there with her friends and after I had been shown round the city we had an amazing night drinking beer, and playing darts in a competition over Kalina and Georgi's sexlife. Since I won, that means Kalina wasn't getting any that night.


"You're not getting any."
"Oh yes, I am!"

The next morning it was regrettably time to leave, but a good 8 hours was all I needed to get back to Bucharest, so let's hope I'll have the same luck, cats and kittens!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Touch me, baby! [UPDATE: pics link fixed]


Because of the touchscreen I'm typing on only a short update.

I had a great, easy and fast hitchhike to Sofia, and two amazing hosts and a lovely day. More news from Bucharest where I'm hitching back to tomorrow.




Friday, December 18, 2009

I've been through the Bazaar on a horse with no name (What does the scouter say about the amount of shops?)


But I didn't get out of the rain for very long.
Yes my friends. Every one who's met me at Berlin Beach Camp knows two things about me:
  1. Ich bin der gawddamned ZWAFFELKÖNIG
  2. The only thing I can play on the guitar is a bad rendition of America's "Horse with no name".
The lyrics to this song are elusive to many, but most people seem familiar with the lines:
"I've been through the desert on a horse with no name / It felt good to be out of the rain"

However unlike the desert, Istanbul was wet as all hell and uncharacteristically so! (I think it's uncharacteristic of hell to be wet, too, actually, so isn't that just convenient?) I was however dry at the "Grand Bazaar" which houses over NINE THOUSAND four thousand shops, on 30 000 square meters ( about the size of the Amsterdam ArenA, for dutch readers)
They say you can buy anything there, and some people say you can buy flags, hats and guitars there, and anyone who dares contest it may look at this picture:

hat, guitar, flag

Now one of the things this means is that no way in hell am I getting my flight back from Bucharest, because now I have about twice the amount of stuff allowed, so after new years, which I will be spending in Budapest... (Oh lord, it will be hell finding accommodations with winter camp going on, won't it?) I'll hitchhike to Praha, meet up with old friends there, and head on to the Netherlands, drop off my stuff, and get my plane to Madrid after a few days.

The double tea-pot

I almost forgot to tell you guys how awesome my host Fahrettin is. I was host-less, had slept next to the highway, and didn't expect much from the emergency couch request group. However, within 8 minutes of posting, I had been offered three couches! I have found Turkish people in general to be extremely friendly and my Fahrettin is no exception.


So the reason for the double tea pot is twofold (!). The first reason is that the hot water in the bottom keeps the tea at the top warm, and the second is that they make rather strong tea in the top which can then be adjusted to be as strong or weak as you want by changing the tea/hot water ratio!

Finally after all that tea, you'll surely need to take a wee, so it's off to the...

Toılet?

Yes, my friends, this is indeed a toilet. somewhere about half a year ago Marcin in Wroclaw had already told me about these contraptions which he had encountered in Ukraine. Since I'm going there I was already prepared for them, but I didn't know I'd find them both in Bulgaria and Turkey. It takes some getting used to.

Tomorrow morning I will be heading to Sofia, Bulgaria, this is Tommy reporting from ever sunny Istanbul

Ever sunny Istanbul

Thursday, December 17, 2009

If you've a date in Constantinopel she'll be waiting in Istanbul or "Naked girls in the snow"

If you're nice, and read about what a road to hell the last (more or less) 24 hours have been then at the bottom you get to read about the naked girls in the snow. Or, you can be mean and scroll down, but know that the ghost of christmas perfect simple future will come to haunt you if you do.

And now without further ad-woo, I present:

A day in the life of a hitchhiker

5:00 - Piss off, alarmclock, it's still dark out!

6:00 - Ok, fine, let me check when it gets light. Internet says 7:45. Sleeeeeeep

7:00 - Alright, I'll start packing. Grumble

8:00 - Out the door

9:00 - Arrive at the gas station

9:01 - Get ride to Bulgarian border. Sweet! George is a small man with a small car. He voted Basescu, but doesn't really think it matters much. His boss yells at him through the phone. They're being audited, and he bought chicken coops in Spain (like, seriously) for two million euros. and george is the unfortunate driver of the needed documents.
After waiting in the parking lot of his office building while george now gets screamed at in person, he takes me to the border station, where I "can't"cross the bridge on foot, Immediately a truck takes me to the other side, to PYCE. Where stuff is in cyrillic! It's like what, 12 now?

Early afternoon - time unknown - After meeting a few crazy people a Romanian trucker tells me he is going in the direction of Istanbul, but doesn't know when he'll stop for his 9-hour break. Could be 30 or 40 kilometers. I thank him for his time. When he comesback from the gas station I ask if in those 40 kilometers he might get to a better hitchhiking spot. He motions to get in. Turns out he's actually quite far from his break, and might make it to Istanbul today.

16:15 - My Romanian river has made it to Turkovo for his 45 minute break. However, to make sure he finds his way, he waits for some other romanians to finish their break, so we finally get out of this truckstop after about 2 hours.

20:45 - Turkish border. A full hour's queue for trucks. I have to go a different way to get my visa. I pray to the flying spaghetti monster that ten euroswill cover it, but have a feeling it won't. After 5 passport checks, my suspicions are confirmed at the visa register. 15 euros, and of course it's impossible to pay electronically. I pretend to panic, while actually panicing a little. It has no effect. There's "nothing he can do".
I go back, and the guy at the Bulgarian side asks me what's up. I look my panickiest, and it works (Honestly, I am a bit worried at this point). He asks "You have no place to sleep in Bulgaria?" I answer "No." and conviently leave out that I don't have a place to sleep in Turkey either. I do explain I have a friend waitng with a truck and I have a friend in Istanbul. I manage to sad-orphan-face 10 TL out of him. If it's not enough I should come back, he says. I love this man now.
The visa man seems displeased to see me again and sighs as he accepts the mixed currency, which I think only adds up to about 14,50. Now I need to get the visa stamped by the even grumpier speak-no-word-of-English man. It takes 15 minutes or more for him to appear, and he reluctantly does the job he's paid (poorly) to do, and I finally get out of there. It is now 2 hours after we'd pulled into the queue. I wonder if the trucker waited for me all this time. I head to the restaurant where we were to meet and order the chicken kebob.

0:00 - It is official. I have missed him. I took too long with this visa nonsense. As expected a chicken kebob is not nearly the same in Turkey as it is in the Netherlands. Oh well. Time to ask for a ride.
I get out my... ... map? Great. My book of European maps is in the truck. Just what I needed. At least I know there's people on the road and on the way to Istanbul. Or are they?
I walk to the border. Nothing is coming out on the truck side. Nothing AT ALL. I decide, with nothing better to do, I start walking in the direction indicating Istanbul. This is the single shittiest moment hitchhiking I have ever had.
The awesome thing is, it's fine. I signed up for shit like this, and I don't feel any of the desperation I would have felt in the same situation a year ago.
A sign points out something about the lanes changing. I resent, nay I hate the sign. It's mocking me. Rubbing in my face that I'm the only one to see it, even though it's clearmy meant for cars.
Another sign. Deer crossing, in about 5 kilometers. Yeah, I'll watch out when I get there in about an hour.
I never get there, instead I find a spot to lay down my sleeping bag. I figure traffic might pick up in the morning.

3:30 - I wake up with the shakes. Strange, I don't feel cold. Somehow I must be, or I wouldn't be shaking. I try to shrug it off changing positions, but my body will have none of it. It's determined to shake. I start packing, which is difficult with the shaking and the darkness. pack the makeshift pillow, pack the sleeping bag. get moving.

I don't really mind so much, but I feel a bit defeated. My convictions that if worst comes to worst I can always sleep on the road are crushed.
At least there's traffic now. Things are looking up. Two trucks, just in the time it took me to pack. I guess I'll get some water back at the restaurant. Before I get there, a truck already stops for me.
Ishak is a friendly old fellow and he's going to Edinre. It's hard to tell if that's on the way without my maps but I seem to recall the highway to Istanbul starts.

4:45 - 45 kilometers closer to Istanbul, no longer cold, friendly german-speaking turkish people and a good highway with a good spot to hitchhike from. I haven't been this happy in at least 48 hours.

4:51 - Without effort Sami has found me a ride to Istanbul and I get a free tea. Weçel is extremely friendly, trafficing lightbulbsand goes through great efforts to communicate with me even though we share no language.

7:26 - I'm surprised to wake up to sunlight after dozing off in the car. A beautiful suburb of Istanbul wears a huge Turkish flag proudly. This is going to be awesome

This is going to be awesome

Girls in the snow!

Ok, I didnt get the other three girls in this picture but no-one was naked, but I we did have an awesome snowfight in the park. Pics here!

Also, if you're reading this post on facebook, be a dear, crank my ego, visit Surfer Of Couches where this blog is ACTUALLY housed, and potentially click the follow button (if you have a google account)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The cooler side of Romania

I woke up in the back of a car, hands tied, freezing and unable to move. Ok, my hands weren't tied, and I could have moved if I wanted to, and after a while the car warmed up. I had signed up for a weekend in the mountains.
We were going to Piatra Craiului National park, a lovely mountainous area near Brasov, or for those more familiar with the geography, it's near Zarnesti.
Maps, they're like nature's... maps

There we would be spending the night at some cabin but they were fully booked so we spent our night at Salvamont instead. When I say we, by the way, I mean my host Monica, and her fellow abductors:

We took about 3 and a half hours and almost 900 meters up to the cabin, with some great landscape along the way.

And that's where I fell to my death. No, actually this is on the way back but I think it's the nicest picture in the set. For more awesome pictures of this trip, click here.
Next I'm on my way to Istanbul. Here's hoping I find a couch in time!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The worst 4 beers of your life, or How I Fucked Up The Arrival of The Saint

The old horny man Sinterklaas was about to come to our country again, so what did that mean? weeks of preparing the biggest yearly CS meet of The Netherlands : CSinterklaas. It doesn't beat Midsummernight, but then, Rotterdam doesn't have the weather for them like Utrecht does with their time of year.

The Sinterklaas meeting is always a great event with people from nearby countries taking Rotterdam by storm, and of course filling local couchsurfers' couches. It all starts innocently enough on the Friday where the main party is the speed dating mee... wait, that doesn't sound very innocent.

Alright, it IS innocent, it's a bit of a joke on the "CS is not a dating site" motto going around, but as my friend Ben said, that regardless of the joke: "So many people are going to hook up", which sounds like it definitely wouldn't be entirely untrue. Presented by Carel & the speed dating bitches (Damn, I'd buy music by a band with that name.) we were all given cards with suggestive questions on them, and when the other person answered them we'd get to write something related to that answer on their back for everyone to read, and mostly for yourself to read at the end of the night, especially if you're very self-absorbed.

After that, all the men spend half the night finding out who wrote "He is definitely gay" on their backs, because god forbid someone realizes the truth.


Carel, master of the speed date

The next day I woke up in between Katya and Golnar, two lovely ladies from respectively russia, and Iran. Was I in heaven? No, but it was pretty close, I was at Nicolas' place once again, and he'd arranged this dream setup. Ok, he hadn't, the universe just naturally puts me in between awesome people. Especially with Golnar I had some great conversations.

Here start the problems.

THE PROBLEMS!
I blame all my problems on this man! PIERRE! Ok, no I don't. He was simply an overseer of my crimes. It was with Pierre that I got drunk on the afternoon that I was supposed to perform my masterpiece as "narrator-piet" on stage. Unfortunately I had hardly had anything to eat in one and a half days, so a few hours and 4 Karmeliet later, it was rehearsal time and I was MESSED UP.It wasn't much better at performance time, I fear. Conclusion: I am now known to a large portion of the crowd as Drunk Piet.

Drunk Piet in action

After my terrible failing though we had a generaly awesome time, especially after I sobered up. (The barman did get annoyed with my coming back for glasses of water, mind you and everyone thought I was still drunk)

I woke up for a lovely brunch NOT at the actual brunch location and a LOT of muscle aches from 7 hours of dancing. This was followed by the board games meeting, where I got to know some of the people I had entertained with my drunkenness a little better for maximum embarrassment.

I also found out that my most awesome brainchild "Sean Connery: The Card game" had been created by Jasper, and it must have been the best moment of the weekend when (almost) every card had Sean Connery on it!

Fucking Badass

I will try to keep you up to date as tomorrow I leave to Brussels to catch my flight to Romania, from where I'll be hitchhiking practically everywhere, followed straight by a trip to Madrid. and in Februari Finland.

later, homeskillets!

Friday, December 4, 2009

South is almost the same as North.

Yes, yes I did. Cliff-hanger over. I did make the plane. I even got to jump into a taxi, slam the door shut and shout "TO THE AIRPORT!" whilst pointing my finger in a direction that in my imagination was definitely where the aiport must be. Unfortunately in Romania, though, the drivers own the cars they drive, so he didn't appreciate my slamming so much.

After picking up my tiny-sized boarding pass, I was on my way home. Wait, no, I was on my way to Charleroi, but when you're an experienced hitchhiker 250 kilometers away from home, is pretty much "home" or at least compared to the 1800 kilometers or so away I had been two hours ago. So I hitch-hiked home only to realise I was now in Paris. What?

Alright, to be fair, I did at some point realise I was on my way there. A gas station on my mam no longer existed, and now I could choose, I was going to be in the middle of Brussels, or on the road to Gent, which did more or less lead North. On the way there someone was willing to bring me to the gas station at Nazareth, saying that. "Oh there's a bridge there where you would be able to get to the other side"

No.

I got to Paris, called up my friend Mailys, and thus spent a day and a half hanging around Paris and generally having a good time being rescued by mailys. However, when I thought rest was imminent and I could sit at home for a bit, I got an alarming message from my housemate asking me if I didn't forget about the fact that I'd promised to hitch-hike to Poland with her.

So I got back from Paris for exactly one day, before setting out on a 23 hour hitch-hiking trip to Warsaw. I went from 20 degrees in Romania, to 0 in Poland in 4 days, but at least the rides were good. a Halloween party in Warsaw, then a hitchhike down to dabrowa gornicza for my housemates ancestral home, and finally a day in beautiful Wroclaw, where I met up with my host from last time kruczu, and we got hosted by the sweetest couchsurfer, who got up extra early to make us breakfast and show us to the free bus to our hitch-hiking spot. Aleksandra was recommended to us by yet another former host of mine, whom unfortunately couldn't join us.

From Wroclaw we managed to make it to Nijmegen, where we took the train, because hitch-hiking at night may work fine in Poland, it's a bit tougher in the Netherlands.

Now that we're almost caught up, tune in next time for a post on last week's Sinterklaas meet, which is the Netherlands' biggest CS meet!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Who needs the skies? Burn them, I say

Planes are the refuge of the weak! Especially when you miss your flight because you thought the arrival time was the departure time.

I had hitchhiked a day before the flight left, to lovely Brussels, where my ex's friend Irina gave me a little tour of the center, but all was for nought (Except that Brussels is pretty awesome) because the next day came back to her place disappointed to have missed my flight. I had arranged two free weeks from work, though, so I'd be damned if I was just going home.

I called up my friend in Paris, to see if I should drop by for a visit, but she just happened to be in Cologne with Ulf. But hey, why not go there, right? They invited me, and so from Brussels it was a quick half-day hitch to that city with the Dom. I spent a few days hanging out with them and some awesome local CouchSurfers, like these:


Linh and Pete

After this I realised I was basically in the right direction for Bucharest anyway, so I thought I could hitchhike there and take the plane back. I was extremely lucky and found a Romanian truck at the rest stop I started at in Cologne. They were willing to take me all the way to 100 kilometres outside of Bucharest, but instead decided to get out in Budapest and hang out with Adri there, and attend the erasmus party she was helping organise, and be shown around the city a bit.


Me, Kinga, some guy, and Adri

From Budapest I planned to hitchhike to Arad over Szeged and pay for a train to Bucharest from there, but unfortunately the rides just weren't coming. I finally got in a car with Andras and his awesome family who offered me a bed, a breakfast and all the info I needed to get on the train to Bucharest form there the next morning.

In Bucharest I had a great host or the whole week of the 2 weeks that were left by now. Oana had a breakfast for me every morning and took great care of me. The week would have been kind of lame, though if not for all the amazing surfers I met. The city is not exactly beautiful, perhaps even ugly, but the people more than make up for it.

The best part was this amazing tea place that I was shown by Monica. Unfortunately I had left My charger in Budapest so I don't have any pictures of this amazing place.

Tune in next time to see if I catch my flight back!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Czech sandwhich

For potential visitors through Radio Netherlands Worldwide (ha, yeah right)

Rekening houdend met de zeer kleine kans dat er mensen zijn die hier terecht komen via de paar artikelen op de Nederlandse wereldomroep moet ik melden dat de gebeurtenissen in deze post gedeeltelijk reeds behandeld zijn op rnw.nl

What does a Czech sandwich look like? It's two slices of delicious visits to the Czech republic with a slice of Denmark in between, and a sauce of tasty hitchhiking.

When I decided I needed to travel, I looked at a map of Europe, drew an imaginary circle on the map and concluded that two good places I could get to in one day's hitchhike were Prague in the Czech republic and Odense in Denmark. Of course I couldn't settle for choosing, but I had to at least choose which one to visit first. I sent a message to Anna, because a few months earlier I had had an amazing time with her, her two friends from the Czech republic and one from Hungary, when they had all been studying in Gent for a while and decided to visit The Netherlands before going home.


Me, Anna, Marcela, and in spirit, Adri.

First I had a few days discovering Prague, seeing all the typical sights, and attending a fun CouchSurfing meet at a nice restaurant, after which I also saw Prague by night.
The next couple of days I spend in the lovely countryside in Anna's family's city of Decin. A jazz concert at a camp in the middle of nowhere and some great hiking through the mountains ensured that here too, I had a great time. Anna's family, especially her mother Dana did everything to make me feel welcome, and I even got to stay in their summerhouse on the edge of town, where I had the whole house to myself, dog included!
After saying goodbye I got home to receiving a LOT of couchsurfers. Tim and Tom, from the UK, stayed a while before they found their appartment in Leiden and are now, together with some other friends that moved over " The Leiden Rock Company" with their bands "Hyperbowl" "The Sex Pests" and "John Law & The Lawlords". There was Anna, an exchange student from Poland whom has since become my flatmate, Khristian from Hungary, a record label owner, electronic musician and DJ, Himali, an Austrian/Sri Lankan exchange student and briefly Ilaria, Roberto and Silvia. Tom was officially my 100th couchsurfer and as such got a T-shirt saying "I was Tommy's 100th couchsurfer and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

And as 4 of them were left at my place, it was already time to set out to Denmark. Again I had no problem reaching my destination in one day, and what I found was a lovely city full of inviting CouchSurfers. I was welcomed by Niels, who was the one that suggested Odense as the place to go, since I'd posted in the Denmark group to ask which places besides the capital were good for visiting.

The next day I was hosted by Stefan. Stefan and his wife Tamar invited me to the party their student community was having, and it was so much fun with great local ale (one of the students was the daughter of a local beer brewer.) and home made sangria.

Another day, another party, in Odense it turned out, as Rasmus, a local active CouchSurfer gave his yearly party at his parents' greenhouse. One of his family members owned a bar that was closing so there large amounts of liquor this time and everyone cooked some of their specialties, so there was a crazy amount of good food too. Some people have all the luck!

Van CouchSurfing 2
A video of our "glideban" in Odense

Four nights, two parties and a lot of amazing encounters later I hitchhiked back to the Netherlands and got a ride from just across the bridge in Denmark all the way to Groningen and got home in three rides this way.

When I found out that CzechSurfing was already in the second week of September, I once again rushed over there, to attend and once again had the time of my life. Great people, tasty liquor, Kofola, and fun people. One of the highlights was winning the very useful inflatable couch at the main night's Karaoke competition!


Showmanship won us the couch singing Radiohead's "Creep"

I will catch up on the rest of our lost past in some more posts soon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

5 months filled with all sorts of stuff

Hey guys, it's been a while. Since the last update I've been (in chronological) order to

The Czech republic
Denmark
The Czech republic again
Belgium
Hungary
Romania
France
Poland

I've also had loads of surfers and made great new friends, and as soon as the new place Ive moved to has internet you will all be updated about all these things!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Past Months: Part 5: There and back again or "Attack of the flaming crotch"

Now, I know you're all begging to find out what this whole "flaming crotch" thing is about, or even where I went and back again, but first I need to relay how I made it back from Poland. I stepped out of my second's host house somewhere around ten in the morning, only to be confused by the bus that would get me to the good gas station, which was next to a big mall by the name of "Auchan", apparently big in various countries, of which my native country, The Netherlands, is not one.

Here I bought a marker and a notebook for writing musical compositions in. This because it's very broad and so perfect for using each 2 pages as one hitchhiking sign! From Wroclaw I originally planned to go to Paris, so my sign said "Zgorzelec" when I left. However, halfway I to the border I met a Dutch driver who figured he could drive me to Deventer, which was not unhandy for me at all, so I decided to abandon the Paris-idea and go pay my rent first, which I was quite a bit behind on.

This is where things got a bit weird, as at the Polish border my driver stopped. I said that actually I could buy a polish banknote here for my wall. He agreed to wait for me as I did that, however when I got back two minutes later he had tossed all my stuff out of the car, and driven off. I can only guess as to his motives as he had seemed like he had had no problem with having me in his car, but all I could do was make a new sign. At this point I was still cool with going in the direction of Paris, aswell as Leiden, so I used the next two pages on my musical notebook to simply spell out "W E S T". About two cars later a lovely couple who were on their way from Moldava, back to Kassel took me about halfway through Germany. A couple of rides later I was near the German/Dutch border when it was getting quite late, when a really friendly young driver offered to put me up for the night and drive me back to the highway next morning. I made it home easily with a few more rides.

So "there and back again", you wonder? It's actually not entirely accurate, it's more like "There, back again, there and back again again." and it refers to Paris. I had hitchhiked to Paris once before, and this had been for my friend Jordan's big goodbye party in the countryside. I met Jordan through CouchSurfing when he organized meetings here in Leiden, because he did some study-related activities at the nearby European Space Agency in Noordwijk, and we've been good friends eversince.

This time a friend from Brazil was going to be in Europe for a few weeks and during one of the Netherlands' biggest CouchSurfing meetings, aswell: The Midsummernight meeting in Utrecht. So I went to pick her up, which of course meant bringing her back aswell.

My friend Natalia with some of her fellow brazilians

Not only her, but also a young lady by the name of Mailys travelled with me back to Utrecht. I had met Mailys at Berlin Beach Camp and found out that by a great coincidence she was hitchhiking here the same day I was.

Midsummernight meeting was absolutely amazing, for us it started with the Midsummernight murder mystery, where teams of "Vatican Detectives" were sent through the city to investigate "witnesses" of which I happened to have been one, on the murder of Pope Adrian, the only in the history of the church to come from Utrecht.


The witnesses: Jonas as the drunk student, Francois as the Bohemian poet, Isa as The drug store assistant, Francien as Corelia Drakenburch, Myself as the fool, Jasper as the priest, and Robbert as Frederic van Oudaen.

You're still thinking about that flaming crotch, aren't you? Soon, my friend, soon all will be revealed, first let's move on to the next part of the meeting, the workshops. The (late) afternoon featured a series of workshops in the giftpark (the usual setting for midsummernight) the only one of which I took part in was the Acrobatics workshop run by Wessel (we'll see him again later in relation to the title of this post). It was great fun climbing on eachother's shoulders and the like.

The Acrobatics workshop

After the workshops it was time for dinner, but since the weather wasn't looking too good we vacated to our bad-weather location by the name of Kangadoor. The team had cooked up amazing and tasty food once again and had spent moor than a day cooking up food for around 80 people. After having my share of this amazing food I helped out with cleaning the kitchen of local bar "Averechts" where the cooking had been done and we managed to get back to the park well in time for... the ceremony.

Just like last year the big concrete circle was the scene of the our hailing the longest day of the year, and again there were all sorts of fire related things, and people playing music, but all went quiet when:

Dingo and his whiteclad group of men and women appeared

Chanting and lighting the fire, they came up, went around in a circle a few times when suddenly, apparently according to ancient tradition Wessel disrobed and jumped over the fire completely naked. There was a lot of cheering and laughing and then it was all over. But wait, it wasn't. There was also the lighting of Wessel's famous lanterns that go high into the sky! The rest of the night consisted of beer, talking laughing and music.

'ells yeah

The next day was a brunch for those who hadn't quite had enough yet, and again it was good food and good atmosphere. This is where "Sean Connery: The Card Game" was born, a yet to be released card game featuring Sean Connery in many roles, and many laughs were had. When it started raining a few of us went back to Jasper & Liza's where we had a good dinner, and Natalia and I met up with my good friend Jonas.

Mmm... Brunch

Now the second there and back again was even crazier, whereas last time I was alone one way, and with three back, now on the way to Paris there were four of us, and two of us back. At the last moment both Jonas, and a lovely Romanian girl, whom by now is my girlfriend, both decided they wanted to Join us to Paris. Of course this meant we had to split up. Gabi and Jonas arrived a few hours before us (among other reasons because we gave them the first ride) and we finally met back up in Paris. There we met some amazingly fun people, and spent the night there, and made it back the next day.

These have been the amazing stories of the past months, and another month or so has passed since these tales, and I will update you on these aswell as soon as possible!

A set of links to people's pictures of Midsummernight

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Past Months: Part 4: The magnificent story of the 5 Cherry bisons (UPDATED: Pictures from Wroclaw)

So, as I was trying to write last time: "Poland, land of savages!"

Ok, so not quite. My Hitchhiking partner and host in Warsaw, Asia (not to be confused with the continent) was actually an extremely gentle soul, who helped me in every way possible, even though she had to take care of her little niece!
The Hitchhike went really well, it took us a while to get to our good gas station at Berlin, but from there we made it to Warsaw in only two rides, one to the border, and one from the border to Warsaw. Turns out border stations are pretty good for hitchhiking in Poland.

I only spent two days in Warsaw, and it really is a lovely city. It was also the first time I encountered the people on the street selling a kilo of strawberries for the equivalent of 88 euro cents.

I soon found out that the Polish currency (złoty) was at such a level that I could behave the exact opposite way I could in Norway: I was a king. And as a king, I was of course pre-destined my God, which is why I was not surprised to find that the day after my arrival there was an awesome Warsaw CouchSurfing meeting going on, at a place with a happy hour (read, half a liter of beer for about one eure ten) and very affordable pizza, but most of all, really fun CouchSurfers.

Not only was I served with this meeting but it was arranged that the afternoon before the meeting I could hang out with the organiser łukasz and his friend Ania.

łukasz, laura and myself


Sadly enough I had more places to go and so I set out for Wroclaw, alone this time, no-one there to translate things to something I could understand. The hike started out really badly. I was at the road for three hours, before I decided to walk a bit, when after a mere two minutes I encountered two other hitchhikers. One of the merry travelers was very experienced, spoke Polish AND was going my way. My kingly status had saved me again. after sitting down with my trusty guitar for two minutes we got our first of three rides that would get us to Wroclaw!

In Wroclaw I was picked up by my first host Maciek, and I was lucky enough to arrive early enough to go out and see some of the things that my Polish sister Marta, who is from there suggested. Hidden gnomes, a great pub, and good food for no money awaited me. I would show you some pictures, but alas, I don't have them back from Maciek yet.

After a night at Maciek, I stayed two nights at yet another extremely fun CouchSurfer named Marcin. I have to say, both of my hosts were top notch, and we all went out together, and I finally learned the magic of drinking some good wodka. My two favorites most be Wishnuwka, a cherry wodka with a strong sweet taste, and Zubrowka, the well known "bison grass wodka". I had an amazing night on the town with them and some friends.

It was almost time to leave, but not until I'd set up my own CouchSurfing meeting. So I organized a meeting related to a cultural festival by the name of "podwodny wroclaw" (wroclaw under water) and here I met, to great surprise a couchsurfer that had made me food in the morning many months before that: Tomek! The world really is such a small place.

Because I don't have the photos yet, I leave you with a photo of one of the mst beautiful things I've seen in Poland: Ostrow Tumski
Unfortunately I didn't take the picture, but I assure you, it is this pretty.

Ostrow Tumski

EDIT:

Now that I have the photos in that my host Maciek made I present you with one of them, and a link to the rest of them:

The main square of Wroclaw

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The past months, part 3: Schnitzelkoenig Sollbruch

Poland! Land of Savages, where I... What? We're not...?

I've just got word that we're not ready to write about Poland yet, and so first I proudly present a chapter on BERLIN entitled : Schnitzelkoenig Sollbruch.

A long long time ago, or at least around a year or more, a young man approached one of this world's biggest treasures. A beautiful palace by the name of "Taj Mahal", now some of you may think the Taj Mahal is in India, but if you're not very bright and you've met some of the crew of the Chaser boys you will know it's in Australia. This young man commited a nefarious act there [and last year his youtube video of that act caused for the word of the year in The Netherlands to be "swaffelen". To hit ones penis against an object or person, with or without the intent of getting pleasure.

As a true Dutchman, I had to share this word with my fellow germanic-language-speakers, and so "swaffelen" or "szwaffelen" was born at beach camp. Half a day later I was pronounced "Der Zwaffelkoenig" (The zwaffelking), and I had my very first Zwaffel-adjudant: Martin.

I even had my own song set to the Cologne Carnival song: "Mer losse der Dom in Kölle". Another hit song, created by me, is the "New Slovenian National Anthem" or "Lepi cevli, bise po fukala?" (I don't know if I put all the spaces in the right places there, but I can pronounce and sing it so that's the important part).

However all good things must come to and end, they say, but even with Berlin beach camp ending, my trip did not. I had promised someone I'd make it out of Western Europe, so when I heard a Polish woman who went by the name of Asia wouldn't mind hitch-hiking home to Warsaw, I decided I would stay in Berlin for the week because she wasn't getting back till then, and I figured it would be handy to have someone polish with me, because I didn't speak any polish apart from "nice shoes, want to fuck?". This is where "Der SchnitzelPeter" came in. He found SchnitzelPeter to bemuch more interesting than "Zwaffelkoenig". Incidentally his name was also Martin, A.K.A. Sollbruch Stellen.

Sollbruch was Asia's host in Berlin so I thought it'd be superhandy if I'd stay at his place too since he had space. However, you try to find a guy with a green tent in a few hundred tents by simply shouting "Schnitzelpeter!". (I had forgotten he told me it was the one with the obvious broken pole), so I ended up meeting Ingre first, because she was taking a tour with some of her CouchSurfing friends to see some big Berlin sights I hadn't seen yet.

Since this post is getting long and your patience wearing thin: here's my week in Berlin in a nutshell: Jazz concerts, secret rooftops, candy parties, girls in shopping carts, water guns, bike acrobatics, handcrafting, putzen, putzen and putzen.

Sollbruch Stellen, Ingre and Marcin

I do injustice to Ingre, Asia, and Sollbruch, by not detailing all the things above, but I want this to be a pleasant read, and I just ask of you to use your imagination, before we move on to:

Part 4: The magnificent story of the 5 Cherry bisons and
Part 5: There and back again, and again or "Attack of the flaming crotch"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The past two months, Part 2: Of runners and beaches.

Of Runners...

I like running. I can run a full five minutes before I am out of breath. I'm practically an athlete. If I ran the full five minutes every day for two months, why, I might make it all the way to the Hague! Some of us however, can run for hours. Hours? Hours. Like Ryan. Ryan Johns. You've never heard of him? Man, go take a hike, or a run. Just go run all the way from Amsterdam to Athens like Ryan. Ryan Johns. This dude surfed my couch for a night a while back. Just check out his blog. It's much more interesting than this one.But hey! Come back when you're done. I went on a trip too! Hitchhiking, partying! Excitement! I promise.

The man himself

Of Beaches...

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) is the national publicly funded broadcaster of the United Kingdom, it's also a boatload of other things, if you'll look at the Wikipedia disambiguation page. One thing you will not find on this list is Berlin Beach Camp, pretty much the biggest thing to happen to CouchSurfing (and other hospitality networks) in Europe every year. And this year I finally got to be there. Intrigue as I use the only real sentences I know in Polish to amuse and ashame those around me. Drama, as I play the only 2-chord song I know on the guitar. And action, well, let's just say there were lots of tents, and some of them were a-rockin'.

Here's an actual quote from someone who shall not be named. "Yeah, I made up last year for this year, because last year I had three." Now, granted, the man in question might have been discussing the number of popsicles he consumed, but something in the hand gestures he made and the grin on his face made me suspect otherwise.

All this aside, it was a hell of time with great music , campfires, hikes, tours of Berlin, and swimming. Also the dreadful concept known as "ahoj".

I imagine I was eating something

You know what's not that far from Berlin? The frontier of the wild. That's right. Poland, land of MADMEN!

Stay tuned for
part 3: Schnitzelkoenig Sollbruch and
part 4: The magnificent story of the 5 Cherry bisons.

The past 2 months, Part 1 : More of Norway

So, my friend, you and I have a lot of catching up to do. That is to say, you have a lot of catching up to do, and I'm going to provide you with all the information you need to do so!

I start off with a hint of DANGER!


That's right: rickety bridges with holes in them that could fail at any moment, leaving me to fall to my death a full meter below! On the other side? My daredevil host: Christian. I spent a fair week with him in Bergen, where one of the things he showed me was the way up Ulriken, the biggest of the 6 small mountains that surround bergen. I went on to Oslo with my neat 199 NOK minipris ticket, but didn't see much as I only spent a day and a half there. I hadn't even found a host, but luckily my friend Kjerstin's father was willing to put me up for a night. The evening after I took a bus for 140 NOK to Larvik, where I spent a few nights with my ex-girlfriend Christin, before flying home.

More pictures of this


Stay tuned for Part 2: Of Runners and Sands

Monday, April 27, 2009

6 surfers, 2 trips to Keukenhof and My first days in/before Norway!

Well, a lot has happened since last time I contacted you, world, so let's get down to it. First I was visited by two Taiwanese CouchSurfers that are currently studying in Bonn, Germany, so a bunch of German was spoken inbetween the English, and I learned to say Jordan's famous sentence (Il y a trop de chinois) in Mandarin, being something along the lines of "Hao doh zhongo run o". I went to the Keukenhof for the first time with them, to see what all the fuss was about, and even though it's quite pretty, it's hardly worth the 13,50!

Gotta love them flowers, I guess


Now the title does say 6 CouchSurfers, so yeah, for the second time in a short period, I had full house again. Three Czech erasmus students and their Bulgarian Hungarian warrior friend (I do like to switch the two around) graced my couches and matresses and it was super fun hanging out with them, seeing things, and generally making fun.

L2R: Me, Eva, Marcela, Adri, Anna (Jefferson, Morgan, Sanders and McGraw - not in that order)


Something I haven't taken any pictures of was the trial of Jasper's new card game: Pergamon. Though the game is probably going to take a few revisions to play a bit more fluently, it has a very neat idea behind it, involving the excavation of treasures, and stealing them from eachother. It was a neat night.

Now, those of you that paid attention will also notice a second trip to Keukenhof. This is because not long after my first trip The Leiden CS community was doing it's yearly bicycle trip there. So I set my alarm early the night after Pergamon, got on my newly bought second bike (named Jaklin Charlotte) and was on my way. Even though they'd manage to get a neat half price deal for us, it wasn't really worth seeing it again so soon. Deb didn't think it was worth it either so we set out on our own little bike trip to the beach, only to meet up with the rest of the crew at the teylingen ruins later.

Good weather at the ruins

More pictures related to this

Then there's me doing some real travelling again. A few months ago I bought my ridiculously cheap ticket to Norway for 22 euros each way, followed by some traintickets cross country (to Bergen and Oslo) and so last week I left for Bedburg-Hau in Germany, a city about an hour's bike ride from my departing airport, Weeze. There I was welcomed for two nights, by Jaron, a really awesome and friendly CouchSurfer, and his friends. We had some drinks and music by the rhine, and I saw the cute city of Kleve, which was about 10 minutes biking.

"Yup, that's a fire, alright"


From there, I left ealy in the morning to the airport, when a few kilometres from the airport, inside the town of Weeze, this happened to my bike:

Whaaaaaat?
My poor penelope broke an arm! Luckily she still managed to get me to the airport in time, but I'll have to have her fixed when I get back.

Upon arrival in Sandefjord, where all sorts of weird things had happened to my hosts, I was hosted by the awesome Hans-Morten and his family. I was lucky in terms of hosts once again, because Hans-Morten is a really clever man, something he seems to have passed on to his three children, if they didn't get it from his wife, who not only had a good head on her shoulders like he does, but who welcomed me in his stead when he was out as I arrived.

My hosts, only slightly unprepared for the photo

I took the train to Bergen this morning, and I will be reporting more when I get the chance, which might not be until I'm back home. In the mean time, happy surfings!