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)!


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...


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.

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"


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!