Traveling through West Europe

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Euro toursAug. 16 – Sept. 30, 2001

This is the first leg of my travels after living in Prague for 15 years and is written in the form of update letters to my friends, which I eventually put into this blog. Future updates will be in specific pages, my camera will only get better, and my style of writing should also improve.

Subject: first letter about European work travel kemping email distribution list
Date sent: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 23:08:58 +0200

Hey dudes,

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so I just got on the bus going to Amsterdaam. Spent two weeks with my cousin in London. First week was a bit stressed out with work and stayed in trying to get in my ten pages a day. Would wake up at 7 in the morning when the kiddies would be waking up. Brushed my teeth and took a shit, ate breakfast with the kids, said goodbye as they went to school, went back into my room to watch TV while working for about two hours.

Getting ready to leave.

Simonashouse.jpg (19384 bytes)In Simona’s “backyard”. Then I would get tired and sleep for about two hours, wake up, turn on the TV, make myself lunch, work until kids came home at about 5:15. Turn off the computer and TV so they don’t ask me to play the “shooting game” (Quake), play with them out in the garden until dinner, eat dinner, back to work and watching TV (occasionally hang out with cousin). Second week started getting comfortable with new working environment, less stress about work.

Monday afternoon Tina with her husband and new baby came over for lunch (met my cousin), after which I went to the super big carnival in NottingHill.

Spent most of the evening walking in the smaller current running against the major current looking for someone I could trust to buy pot from, this while being amazed that only about 5% of the people there it seemed were NOT black. Eventually found some white guy selling and bought 2 grams of morrocan fudge. Tuesday wrote an email to London central hashers (house harriers – jog and drink beer), got a letter back telling me where they are meeting up and joined them for a run. Got three beers for free and paid for two.

Tinaandfamily.jpg (34575 bytes)A lovely family scene with Tina. Note the pornographic imagry!

Wednesday night hung out with Tina and gang and had dinner and booze paid for. Me and Tina had a bunch of fudge and she was glad to finally party after four months after her pregnancy. Slept over. Thursday night Simona, my cousin, an eye doctor, was invited with her peers to a fancy Thai restaurant by a salesman trying to “sell” them this new gunk you drop into your eyes to help against dry eyes. Booze and food were subsidised by salesman, my cousin paid for the rest for me (we made an agreement beforehand that I would cough up the cash to take a bus to her and then to Amsterdaam under the condition that she would supply all my food.

BeachinEngland.jpg (40678 bytes)On the beach in England.

After all, her kids wanna see me real bad and they don’t really have a father figure. I don’t like spending much money on myself and my goal is to spend only as much during these six weeks as I would spend if staying in Prague). Friday went through some big botannical gardens to spend the day with kiddies and Simona as goodbye, over to aunt’s place for dinner and beer, and 10:00 p.m. departure for Amsterdaam.

Now I’m on the bus with a bunch of people who smoke pot, I got I guess a gram left of my stuff (did a survey and was mentioned to me not to worry about bringing some with me), got happily fudged before getting on and now writing this letter. Tomorrow morning at 9:30 I roll into Amsterdam, Misa (my girl friend at the time) would have arrived 15 minutes before me and her friend drove up from his rinky dinky village in the Dutch country side (where we will be staying for a week), and I am sure we will be well taken care of by him. Misa is also bringin’ some shit with her from Czech. Probably spend the day in Amsterdam going from cafe to cafe and trying to fuck our heads up as much as possible. We might or probably will stay overnight and then go to his village on Sunday. Some chick gave us a contact to some dudes in Amsterdam who will apparently love us for knowing her. Think it will all be interesting and we might be well taken care of the whole trip through. Gonna make a website of all the pictures we’ll take with little stories etc. Will probably notify all of you when it’s done.

Because several people have expressed interest in learning about the progress of my/our travels, am offering if you want to be added to an all, spank bankin’ NEW email distribution list. If you want to be added to this distribution list, respond YES to this letter. Don’t expect any major degree of censorship.


Subject: second letter
Date sent: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 11:48:54 +0200

Hey dudes,

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So, after checking and sending my email for the last time in London on Friday afternoon, went to my auntie’s place for dinner, smoked some fudge, got on the bus and wrote my first letter while on the bus on the way to Amsterdam.

It was a little show, the laptop and all. Most people wanted to see porno, like a computer has no other feasible use. Bit of a party bus that was from London to Amsterdam. The bus rider was jovial, friendly and humorous, but warned us of certain rules and not to smoke fudge in the bus. But there was one dude who couldn’t resist. He got really drunk too and eventually quite obnoxious. So the bus driver pulled through on his promise and soon there was 14 cops (at least those that I counted through the window beside me) surrounding the bus with all their fancy vans.

In the Bulldog in Amsterdaam.

Well, needless to say, got a bit paranoid. You know, with my little bit of fudge on me and all. So I hid in in the seat of the dude in front of me. I’m so evil! More dudes in the back row got pulled out, people were pulling bags out of their pockets, but everything eventually settled down and only the one really bad dude got thrown off.

Bulldogbar.jpg (25277 bytes)Outside the Bulldog in Amsterdaam.
Misa is sitting in the dark on the left.

Rolled into Amsterdaam the next morning, shortly followed by Misa, and then we hooked up with her pal Baas. Made a beeline to the nearest bank machine and then another beeline to the nearest cafe and started “soaking in the culture”. You know, when in Rome… Baas went back to his small village and me and Misa stayed in town. We tried to get hooked up with several dudes, but, alas, we ended up staying several days in a camp, mostly because the weather was too shitty to pack our tents, we wanted to relax on the Sunday instead of rushing off to our next destination, and we wanted to give our “Amsterdam contacts” a chance to give us some interesting offers regarding crash space etc.

The day we were finally ready to split, I thought I’d try to impress everyone with my computer geek skills and tried to hook up my computer to the network at the camp bar. Was installing all sorts of TCP shit, figured out the mask and IP addresses, and almost had the thing going but time was running short so had to bail out and make our move. Took a train to some town where Baas was building a fence (that’s his job), so they picked us up and drove us back to his place. Lot’s of fudge in the car. Made it over to his place in some rinky dinky village, started unpacking my shit and was ready to impress everyone with my roaming internet system. Punched in Holland and the nearest village, was ready to dial up and connect when… Well, we’re not in America you know where every street corner has a McDonalds and everything is standardised. So it was off the next day, a 45 minute jog to the centre of this village, which is essentially broken up into about three parts stretched out like a big long noodle along the river and train tracks. Came back home and still nothing. Tried something again Tuesday and still nothing. Wednesday me an Misa set out on a long hour walk to make a serious attempt. Went to a couple of stores to see if we could find an even more special adapter (struggling to hook up laptop to internet – using AT&T’s roaming dial-up internet through landline, well before the age of mobile phone). No one seemed to pick up on our hint requests that we would like to borrow their phone line to test in case Baas’s line was screwed. Were eventually diverted to a computer store where we hogged up two hours of a technician’s time to determine the following: there is nothing wrong with my modem; nothing seems to be wrong with my laptop; but the laptop does not seem to be communicating with the modem. Hmm, didn’t realise this. Thought it was a phone line problem. So I spent some time trying to resolve it myself and the final decision was that I was gonna phone the guy tomorrow about coming by for the even better techhead to take a look at it. The suggestion was to hook up some harddrive to my laptop, install Dutch Windows on it and see if it is a problem with my modem port or if something screwed up with my Windows. On his suggestion, I started uninstalling all sorts of programs which might be “conflicting” in my system. Even disabled the com port and reinstalled it again, as with all my modem drivers. Still nothing helped. On the way back, occurred to me that I might have to buy an internal modem for my laptop as a quick solution and get the rest resolved back in Prague. Called my Czech dude in Prague and started comparing prices. He agreed to send me an internal modem by FedEx and charge it to my credit card. Seems the stores around here were significantly more expensive. But our planned deadline to leave this village was rapidly approaching and I still hadn’t managed to send out the round of emails to the dudes we were supposed to be visiting. Before the internal modem idea, was contemplating going back to Prague to resolve all this. Or maybe to Munich, which is on the way back to Prague, sort of, where we can stay at a friend’s place and try to resolve this situation. Anyway, so me and Misa are walking back in sombre contemplation. What will happen with our trip (need an income to keep it going)? Will we have to go back to Prague for a while? I couldn’t even send the email out to our next destinations to plan something and we didn’t have telephone numbers to these people. So, rather than getting stressed and depressed, decided we would go buy a bunch of beer, some good cheesy nacho chips and play nintendo for another afternoon. When things go shitty, remember, that is the time to treat yourself. I was getting a bit paranoid, but my life experiences have taught me never to lose faith in the great creator. We are, afterall, so much more important than the bumblebees, which are given an ample amount of flowers. So I tried to follow one of the bible commands: don’t worry about tomorrow dude. Baas came back from work. While at some store, he happened to ask about this or that and was referred to some computer dude in the village.

So, at 9:25 in the evening, I put on my Svejk hat (it might be a cold, ten minute drive), put my laptop under my right arm, held the plastic bag of loose wires and modem parts in my left hand while holding onto Baas’s collar, and sat on his scooter to be driven to the NEW computer dude connection. When walking on the road with Misa earlier that day, I told her, “You know, it’s probably some picovina <very small problem>, quite probably caused by my network fiddling in the camp.”

MeandBaas.jpg (14698 bytes)With Baas at the computer guy’s house.

Afterall, there are no other variables: I didn’t hit my laptop, I take care of my shit, it is not because of the phone line, hooking up another modem in the shop showed that it was not the modem… but where could the problem be? Anyway, the new expert ended up solving the problem in about two minutes flat. But we stayed there for about two hours talking and shit. He offered me some Dutch tobacco and I told him I only smoke tobacco when it is mixed with something else. He asked me to repeat myself, after which he said, “Like this” and stuck an open film canister under my nose. Yaaah, that’s the ticket… Showed me a lot of interesting stuff, offered to give him some cash, but learned he charges 105 USD an hour, double that at this late express hour. But he said, don’t worry my poor little Czech hitchhiking person, I like your Canadian disposition and we will take care of you. No charge. Exchanged email addresses and finally made it back to Baas’s place after midnight. The girlies stayed behind and were all worried about what problems us “men” could have been resolving. SO, I am finally back on line and the trip continues. YEEEHA!!! The computer dude’s wife even offered to drive us down to Belgium on Saturday. She is visiting her sister and says we can stay there as long as we want. But I think Misa might want to hang out here a few days longer. Baas is her friend. His network of village friends are also apparently even preparing a party for us novelty Czech travellers. I’m glad the bumblebees are taken care of. later


Subject: letter no. 3
Date sent: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 01:31:01 +0200

Hey dudes,

well, seems like a good time to write letter number 3.

So, where did I leave off? Guess it was just after I finally got reconnected to the internet again in bum-fuck village town Holland. Well, after three days of not being able to hook up, seems that customers started phoning me again concerning work the moment I was able to connect again. Funny how things seem to work out that way.

So we stayed at Misa’s friend’s place for a week. But I think he sort of had the hots for her or what and, after a week, gave us a little speech why he wanted to throw us out on the streets the next day. All of his reasons seemed pretty pathetic and the most resounding of which was that we loved cooking with garlic and that it made his food taste icky. I mean, anyone out there NOT eat garlic? Perhaps you can tell me: is it possible that if, after we wash our plates manually and then put them into the dishwasher that, if you put food on them, garlic remains hidden in the porcelain molecules and someone particularly sensitive to garlic finds his dinner distasteful with garlic? Whatever. So on the road, homeless again, off to our next destination.

HitchhikinginBrussels.jpg (9806 bytes)Dropped off in another difficult hitch-hiking
spot by a Frenchman and his kids in Brussels.
They gave us some candy before departing.

Hitchhiked to Brussels and made it in reasonable time. Seems that we are having rather good luck hitchhiking through Europe, considering the size of our backpacks and the fact that I am bringing my laptop along. A large enough load to fit into a car. So we make it to Brussels, to our first Hash House Harriers’ hosts. For those of you who are not familiar with the Hash House Harriers, they are an international group of professionals who cannot decide whether they are “joggers with a drinking problem” or “drinkers with a jogging problem”. They were started in Malaysia in 1938 by a group of British army dudes.

They would get together for beers in the Hash House. One guy brought up the idea one day that they should start some routine where they would go for a jog and then get together for a beer afterwards. Anyway, this idea seems to have caught on and now this volunteer organisation has spread all over the world. There seems to be at least one hash group in every city in the world with half a million or more inhabitants.

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There’s even a hash group in Antartica. Basically, anywhere where you have some people who aspire to “try” and stay in shape but who also love beer, etc. etc. Then they have these things called interhashes, where one city’s hash wants to host a hash inviting hashers from other cities to come visit their hash event. Two years ago, there was a world hash held in Malaysia and apparently 60,000 hashers from all over the world were running the streets of Malaysia, dropping in to this and that pub to swig down a beer along the way. The average Prague interhash (I even organised my own big event once) has about 85 visiting hashers, mostly from around Europe but easily from as far away as Vancouver. Anyway, it is customary for hosting hashers to offer their place to crash for visiting hashers. I hosted hashers from Finland and different parts of Europe without even knowing them beforehand. So, when we were planning our trip through Europe, it occurred to me that I could approach various hashes around Europe (I referred to a website of all of the world’s hashes for this) asking them if anyone would be willing to let us crash at their place for a while. I sent them a picture of us (directly above) and said we needed a place to crash (or a place to set up our tent), an electrical socket to plug my computer into and a telephone line to make the occasional local call so that I could check my email (I have an internet roaming account in more than 50 countries). Well, the response was good and 3 people we didn’t even know said we could crash at their place. So now we’re in Brussels visiting some hash fanatics. They seemed pretty pleased because there’s a big interhash coming up in Prague next May and they’re glad to know they have a place to crash as well.

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Drinking down-downs with the
Hashers in Brussels.

Unfortunately, they too are a bit in bumf*ck nowhere, so I spent the week working, we’d go for the occasional walk, and Misa would try to venture outside the house to “soak in the culture”.
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Misa on one of her trips to the centre.

The average people we visit must think we’re sometimes pathetic. I mean, here we are, visiting some other country, and all we do is loaf around the house all day watching movies, playing Nintendo, sleeping a lot…

Brussels.jpg (13585 bytes)In the living room at the Brussels Hashers.

After all, we should be so excited to see their great country that we should be prepared to spend all sorts of money to visit museums, operas, take pictures of buildings, blah blah blah. Whatever. I guess the fact that we were on a budget as when living in Prague didn’t help any either. One day we came home from a walk and Martin, the dude, says, “Did you know about this?”, pointing to the TV. We focus in on the tube to notice what looks like New York’s twin towers on fire.

The whole time we were staying there, the words Shape Hash House Harriers kept coming up. Didn’t really know what they were talking about. But, one day, while taking a shit, I learned from a poster that SHAPE stands for Strategic Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Yes, Joyce worked for Nato and her work, about four klicks away, was the political headquarters of apparently the largest military organisation in the world. Added to that, we were rather close to the city’s airport, so I started taking greater notice to the sounds of jets flying overhead. But, alas, our stay came to a close.

There is a saying in Czech: a fish and a guest begin to smell after three days. I developed a saying during my trip too: it is time to think of leaving when the bathroom decorations start to get boring (I noticed that a lot during my travels). But, since I don’t mind smelling and I was kind of bored anyway, stayed the full week (didn’t have much choice anyway). So we packed our shit and made our way to the next onramp. Got picked up by some nice lady who dropped us off at a better spot. Helps us and which happens to us a lot when hitchhiking.

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One of our first stops in Luxembourg.
Shouldn’t I get commission for this?

I mean, we’ve never been to these places and we don’t know where the good and shitty places are for hitchiking.

A picturesque shot of Luxembourg.
Notice the railbridge in the background.

She dropped us off at a truck stop. We ordered our last greasy Belgium fries from a stand, drank our last Belgium beer from our backpack, and I fancied the thought to Misa that it would be nice to be picked up by a truck driver and see the world for a change high up in the loft of some truck, looking down at the little cars below us and with a much nicer view of the surrounding country side. Well, fancy that, to our luck this is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, speed was not the name of the game and it took us the better part of the day to roll into Luxembourg.

We were planning on taking a day trip in Luxembourg but, because it was already late enough in the day, we thought we might as well stay overnight.

Found some hidden spot below a railroad bridge, set up our camp (what, you think WE are going to pay for some Youth Hostel or something?), and went to town to party up a storm. Had a meal at McDonald’s, a joint in the central square and three beers each in a cool, happenin’ pub. We’re on Czech budget, our beer consumption has been quite low the past two weeks and the three beers seemed to do the trick nicely. Got up the next morning, scanned the situation and decided to lug our bags up the slope through the forest to the bigger grocery store. After all, looked like this store was on some main road leading out of town (all we had was the small central map they were giving away at the Youth Hostel).

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Under a railbridge in Luxembourg.

The trip up the hill was a killer and heard a lot of complaining from Misa. But made it we did and now we were in search of this “grocery store” the guy at the reception at the Youth Hostel drew on our map. Anyway, turns out that the grocery store was a hypermart and that it was a good hour’s walk from where he drew his little square. We gave up looking for the “grocery store” and decided we would try hitchhiking to our next destination.

luxonbridge.jpg (26193 bytes)Going to party in Lux after setting up the first tent.

But there was construction for what seemed like a mile’s stretch along the main road, so, after trying this way and that, we eventually had to go all the way back to where we were two hours beforehand and try our luck there. It wasn’t a great place for cars to pull over and, by that time (around 2:30 p.m.), we were becoming rather unenthused by the lack of interest by drivers to pick us up, so we decided to bag it, set up the tent and go for a nap. Are we ever going to get out of this place? [Side note about Luxembourg: quite a nice little town. The country apparently has a population of only half a million, the city something less than a hundred thousand and something like 64,000 make it into town each day to work.]

Had a wonderful snooze after quite a tiring day and finally woke up and made a serious attempt to find this grocery store. Misa stayed behind to watch the property and this is when I found out that it was a good hour’s walk. Got there to find out it was already closed. There I was, standing before isle after isle after isle of food. That day we only had three pieced of bread each, smeared over with boringish mustard and globbed over with graded cheese from a bag which we didn’t managed to use for spaghetti yet, nothing to drink all day and this pot of gold is CLOSED! So, had a quick beer at a local pub and headed out for the long trek back. Decided to hide the laptop in a bush again, leave the tent behind and walk back downtown for yet another McDonald’s meal (barf), a couple of beers, make it an early night and try our luck early in the morning. This time though we will take a city bus to the on ramp and start earlier (we are also quite near to the bus stop). So, here I am, lying on my back in the tent, my laptop propped on my bent thighs (quite comfortable actually), our tent set up in a forest just next to the main road where no one was willing to pick us up, little drops falling on our tent from the trees above, and writing some letters before I snooze off to sleep. Tomorrow we can either crash overnight in Stuttgart with some friends of Misa’s or make it all the way to Munich to stay with some friends of mine while visiting my crazy uncle, practically the only artist in my entire family. Then we plan to zip through Austria on our way to Slovakia, where we will stay with Misa’s grandparents for a week. Already wrote to some friends I have in Austria, so we shall see what develops there. So far, the trip has not been the most exciting, but it is nice to be living my dream of working while travelling and to do it on a budget as if I was living in Prague (budget excluding rental expenses of course). Seems we have been managing quite easily. Makes me think that I must spend a serious penny on beer indeed when living in Prague. But I also realise that the serious limiting factor to our trip is not having a van to live out of. If I wasn’t paying rent in Prague and using the expense instead to pay off some loan for a van, had a good internet connection through a mobile or mobile satellite, and took showers for free in Youth hostels or at friends’ or hashers’ places along the way while Misa would be driving and I working, watching the world roll by below me, I think the trip could be a lot more interesting. But, shit, shouldn’t complain, should I? On On!


Subject: letter no. 4
Date sent: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 10:25:47 +0200

Well, we’re into our fourth week and hence we have letter no. 4.

So, where did we last leave off last?

We climbed up the hill, exhausted ourselves from our previous bender the night before, and decided we didn’t have enough energy to stand there by the road waiting for someone to pick us up, so we bailed out, set up the tent in the forest next to us and spent one more party evening in Luxembourg. The next morning we got up fairly early and made our way to the bus stop. But, when the bus finally arrived, contrary to what we were told by the receptionist at the youth hostel, the bus driver said there wasn’t really any advantage of taking the bus to the highway, that we essentially already were by the highway. Something like that. So we decided we would trust the bus driver instead. After all, a large part of the previous day’s problem was due to the instruction the same receptionist gave us concerning the location of the “grocery store”. So we walked back to the place we tried hitchhiking the day before and waited there, without success, for an hour. After that, we thought we would try the bus again.

I guess the biggest problem was that the highways were mighty noodly in this part of Germany, onramp after onramp after onramp, each highway going different directions, and it made it difficult to find a good place to stand.

A different map, the map we started with, of the same section as above. Looked much more “innocent” than the closeup. Note also the minute distance we travelled for the whole day compared to our desired destination: Munich.

It was getting a bit depressing and Misa said it seems like prayer time (although she doesn’t really believe). It was early in the evening and I couldn’t sleep so I took my only book out, which was my bible. She mentioned the word prayer a few more times out of desperation and the subject somehow got onto consultation. I told her my technique of consulting with God, which was by opening to a random passage in the bible. The first random section I opened to, just for fun, spoke of massive calamities and a horrible situation. Well, I guess that might have reflected the situation we were in. I generally use it to ask God to help me make a decision, but she wanted to use it to ask God if we will make it Munich the next day. Looking at the map beforehand, I came to realise that we only managed to make 50 km that day. Considering from when we were first picked up by that lady in Luxembourg (I looked at my watch when we finally got to the highway and it was the dreaded 13:13, the same time we started hitchhiking by our failure spot the day before), that meant 50 km in five hours, a whopping 10 km an hour. Misafreebeer01.jpg (28817 bytes)Furthermore, Luxembourg to Saarbrucken looked like only one tenth the way to Munich. Added to that, the noodleness of the highways seemed to only get worse from this point forward, so we weren’t very hopeful. Nevertheless, Misa’s consultation yielded a good result, so we went to sleep with some comfort that we would get up early the next morning and somehow make it to Munich by the end of the next day. Got up at the crack of dawn, pulled down the camp and made our way back to our previous day’s spot. But by now the traffic was very heavy and we couldn’t even cross the highway, so we made our way back to the roundabout and took the long way around. When we got up in the morning, I made the suggestion that we try hitchhiking up to a certain time, let’s say noon, and then consider taking the train the rest of the way. But, during the 10 minutes we were struggling our way with all our shit along the skinny stretch by the roundabout, we noticed at least 5 cop cars zipping buy. Didn’t want to risk a fine and eventually decided we’d just bag it and take a train all the way to Munich. After all, it was already Monday and I technically lose more money every day by not working than the money I would have saved by not taking the train. So on to Munich it was. Took the snail and cheaper train and rolled into Munich by 8:30 in the evening. My friend picked us up from the train station (I SMSed him to be prepared for two, mighty stinky Czechs) and took the tram to his place, about a 10

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minute bicycle ride to the centre and what seemed like a lap of luxury. My friend’s wife is very clean and it was quite a nice change from our previous three days. But, as seems to be the case almost everywhere we go, a fish truly does seem to smell after three days and it is now high time to move on to our next destination. We are clean and feel we manage to be very respectful of our hosts’ wishes and way of life, but Misa’s burps and my farts were just too much for this finicky person and it is time to move on. During our stay, saw my famous artist uncle several times and he showed us some of his sculptures around town.

Misa getting free beer, again.

Yesterday we went to the Oktoberfest and it was nice to get drunk again (I had to pull Misa around by the hand because her tolerance was exceptionally low – she could barely stand up). Now I write this the next day while waiting for Misa to recover. Our hosts are sleeping in the next room and probably looking forward to settling back to their normal lives. I can’t hook up to the internet right now because Paul had to do something yesterday and took his T1 constant online connection to the living room, so I can’t check out the train schedule. But I already suggested to Misa several times and we will still have to make a final decision. It’s Sunday and I’m thinking, hmmm, maybe we should try hitchhiking…

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Partying with Ivo’s statues.

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Ivo himself in one of his statues.

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Subject: last letter
Date sent: Mon, 1 Oct 2001 11:32:50 +0200

Well, am finally back in Prague, it’s Monday morning and I am getting ready to make the final adjustments to get back into my “normal” life. So, it was Sunday morning whatever in Munich and we were toying with the idea of hitchhiking through Austria to pass through Bratislava and on our way past Nitra to the village where Misa’s grandma lived. I wrote a few letters to some people I knew in Austria, but didn’t get a response and the dead sack of intoxication lying next to me didn’t seem like it was going to get up at any reasonable time, so we voted instead for a train straight to grandma’s. Surfed the net, made some phone calls and got on the train. It was going to be tight. On the way, Misa SMSed some friend of hers who proceeded to make all sorts of phone calls to inform us our exact connections. Looked really tight and like we might not make it, but, along the way, we discovered that our German train tickets pay all the way to Plzen (in Germany, they have this great deal where 40 DM can get as many as 5 people anywhere in the German state the ticket is good for – hence about 400 Kc each from Munich to Plzen) and, once in Czech, we discovered an express train from Plzen to Prague. This put us ahead of schedule and about two hours to kill in Prague. So we sent a few SMSs and spent an hour and a half, complete with backpacks, my laptop and our goofy “kemping” clothes, in Chapeau (my favourite Prague bar at the time). It felt so international, all those cool and hip people oozing their way from Norway to wherever, and there we were, oozing our way from Munich to Nitra. Said our goodbyes, got back to the train, and eventually had a cabin to ourselves, so we each stretched out on the stinky seats and had a good sleep all the way there.

Misawbigmushroom.jpg (29390 bytes)Misa holding a big mushroom picked that day
in grandma’s yard.

Arrived around six in the morning and made our way to the village. Nitra is supposedly the third largest city in Slovakia. Considering that Bratislava, the country’s capital, is smaller than Brno (capital city of the province of Moravia in Czechia, less than 700,000 people), I guess that doesn’t say much. It’s maybe only a hundred thousand people living there or something, but I was surprised how clean, repaired and decent looking it was indeed. Looked like any other, fancy, touristy European city, but not polluted by McDonald’s or almost anything of the sort. But, even though it was small, it’s central bus station was quite extensive and it connected the city to all sorts of small villages in the surroundings.

So we got onto one of these buses and took a 20 minute trip to grandma’s. This was probably the most relaxing part of my entire trip. Felt like home. Cooking with garlic was no problem.

Misa, out of politeness, would go to the bathroom to burp and fart but would leave the door open such that the clear echo reverberating down hall was noticeably as bad as if she had farted right at the table (giggles all through the house).

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The pantry at grandma’s.

As expected, her grandma was the typical such grandma who didn’t accept “No, I positively can’t eat anymore” as a viable answer. They showed us their vineyard and we helped them get ready for another season of harvest.

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Grandma’s vineyard.

The day we arrived, she picked a mushroom in her backyard which was bigger than Misa’s head (picture available on website later) and we spent the next week eating healthy food picked from the backyard and raised in other people’s backyard.

Wineyard02.jpg (24281 bytes)View of the neighbour’s vineyards.

Oinks could be heard from two pigs in the back barn (forgot their names), but we didn’t manage to make the pig slaughter party.

I got entangled a few times in a supposedly standard monologue by grandma about how things were so much better under communism and about that “bastard” Gorbachev guy (Russian president who liberalised Communism, introducing private enterprise), but, after getting the point of her conversation (it took me a while to get used to this Slovakian language), I would spit out a wealth of information in a few concise sentences and even the cards. Nevertheless, after exchanging our opinions, I decided it was simply better to agree with her from her angle. She already knew my opinion anyway.

Partied a few times, it was nice to be able to afford the beer again, and then back on the train Friday night to make it back to Prague for Misa’s brother’s going away party (he was about to be sent off for a year to be denied sleep, brainwashed and programmed how to kill other human beings).

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Posing with the band in Nitra

My very good friend who was housesitting for me warned me that her living habits are significantly different than mine. At first glance, the place seemed okay.

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Posing in downtown Nitra.

There was even an apologetic note with a little canister of grass as compensation, but it seemed essentially fine to me – until I started touching things. But perhaps that was due to her heavy smoking, and maybe all the parties she organised at my place while I was gone. Don’t know. Anyway, before I embark on wiping the grease off of every peace of cutlery etc., thought I would pound off this last letter. I’m still in my kemping (my code word with my friends for “camping”) shorts and today’s house cleaning will be part of my process back to “normal”. I’d say it was fun, from a novelty point of view of being in new locations and staring at different faces, but the expensive beer killed me. Perhaps it was good for me anyway, for I see what Prague does to many people. I’ve learned how to improve things if there would be a next time. The different ways of hooking up to the internet was interesting – at grandma’s the most, considering the stark contrast to my surroundings. I am even negotiating for a major contract which could almost double my revenues this year, so it was good to keep online. My next plan is, after I make the website of the trip, I will send an email to the thousands of publishing companies my Ukrainian dude collected for me a year back, asking them if they would be interested in a story like this but around the world. Who knows, perhaps they would want an exclusive deal and be willing to cough up some cash for a live-in van and satellite internet connection. What’s life without dreams anyway?

After the long travels, it’s back to the dread and bore of work.
Here I am on the roof of my pad on the terrace which my landlord so kindly built for me.
To the left are my stereo speakers producing ambient sound overtop the tweety birds.
Various chords lay strewn along the roof ensuring my internet connection
so I could waste more time making sites like this.

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Home » Travel Europe » First Euro tour » Traveling through West Europe

We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the Philippines, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all. These pages in this section cover my various solo travels through Europe before meeting my wife.

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