Tuesday, May 24, 2005

from the "something fishy in Denmark" dept.

Tuesday, just after noon. I arrived in Copenhagen after a quick-ish flight from Vienna.

I spent much of the early part of day wandering Vienna via the transit system. For only 5 Euro, you can get an all day pass... which worked well. Although I was never asked to show it!

I finished the day taking lunch at the Indian Rest. across the street from my hotel. And then grabbed my stuff and headed for the airport. It was sunny and hot, but I was glad to be on the road again. Hotels aren't cheap.

Jesper picked me up at Copenhagen International, and we went straight to his place where his wife, Nicolette, had a traditional South African meal waiting for us. After a few glasses of wine, it was time for bed.

This morning, I was on my own. I've been trying to arrange some 2000 digital photos (no easy task as the software I use sucks)... and generally lazing about.

I have little planned for the next few days, other than the odd excursion around the city. But having been here twice before, I don't feel obligated to play tourist.

Friday it's London. Saturday, the long journey home. Which, believe it or not, I am looking forward too.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Albanian Ferris Wheel

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
A great view of Tirana can be had by taking a ride on the cheap (50 LEK) ferris wheel.

Tirana, Albania

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Clock tower and mosque in the heart of Tirana.

Skenderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
In Enver Hoxa's day, people weren't even allowed to own cars. Now a little kid drives a mini-car in front of a monument to the greatness of socialism.

Border Marker! Wooooo!

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
A rare photo: the former Socialist Albania - Yugoslavia boundary stone. The Albania side was obscured by bramble (it had the split eagle, though). The now-Macendonian side featured the old, old, old Socialist Yugoslavia... Never seen one like this before.

Mysterious Land

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Here we are... Albania! Passports please...

The Border Freaks enter Albania

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
This photo was taken by a nice Albanian quasi-offical at the Albania-Macedonia border near Sveti Naum, MK.

We had no idea what to expect in Albania. We were surprised by new roads, many Mercedes (like 95% of cars!), and a huge building boom.

The Home of Hockey Hair

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Welcome to Mullet, Albania: where it's all business in the front and a party in the back.

from the "technology blows" dept.

Sunday May 22, Vienna, Austria.

Maybe the title is a little unfair. Technology doesn’t really blow, but access to it during the border expedition was a challenge.

I had hoped to post daily missives of my experiences in a Turkish prison and sneaking into Albania. But, alas, without a GMRS do-hickey, and a crazy itinerary, it was impossible.

I am now back in Vienna -- the fourth (!) border expedition is over.

We arrived last night after driving something like 500km from the divided town of Gorica-Nova Gorica on the Italian-Slovenian border. We were received early in the morning by the mayor of Nova Goricia, Slovenia.

Through an interpreter, he told us about the history of the area that used to be on the Italian-Yugoslav border. It was quite interesting, though we did not receive soaps (Turkey) wine (Hungary) or tours of divided islands (Greece-Bulgaria-Turkey). No matter, there is little room for any more stuff. I am struggling with trinkets ranging from a Turkish military cap to an Albanian scarf. And a few Cuban cigars.

The rest of Saturday consisted of entering Italy and driving like maniacs on the wonderful Autostradas to a place we visited in 2001: the tri-point of Slovenia-Italy-Austria. First we had to cross back into Slovenia.

The TP is nestled in the Alps, and the view is stunning. The area is actually a ski area. There is an Austrian lift up to a point near the tri-point (which we took in 2001). On the Slovene side there is a winter bar and “road” access which we used. On the Italian side there is a hiking trail and a transmitter for RAI.

The view is beyond belief… and I was very happy that this place was our last major visit of the trip. The skies were clear and the air was hot. Perfect! On the way down we toasted our success with a pint at a small restaurant hidden in the Slovene woods.

Then we headed into Austria and onto the motorway to Vienna. Several hours on, we were detoured off the motorway and trough a number of quaint Austrian villages. We made Vienna around 8:30pm.

There was mass confusion as we exited our rental van that had been home for the last 14 days. We pulled our luggage and collected booty and pamphlets out and created piles on the sidewalk.

After some problems with our small hotel, we got settled and prepared for dinner. I went with Rolf the Finn to an Indian joint. We wanted to talk business. The rest of the gang went to a Greek place a few doors away.

We joined them about an hour later and chatted about what had been. It was a happy/sad affair. We’re all spent. But we’d like the journey to continue. And this may be the last trip of this kind, with this group. We’ve run out of Europe, and it is increasingly hard for everyone to get the time off. I am the only single on of the bunch, so I don’t have to deal with trying to convince kids and spouses why it’s important that I leave them behind for 2 weeks.

At 4:30 this morning (Sunday) I waved good-bye to the group as they headed to the airport in their taxi. I am here in Vienna for an extra night, due to the scheduling of my ticket purchased with points.

I spent the mid-part of the day wandering around the city and caught the finish of the Vienna Marathon. Then I came back to the room to snooze and flake out. It’s now 4:17 and I feel the urge to get outside and shoot some pictures at during magic hour.

Speaking of which, I believe I shot something like 2000 images on this trip. More than a few are nothing more that reminders: signs to help me remember places that we were at. But there are many, many more. Of people and places that will surprise you.

I also have stories. And I will start posting them in reverse order beginning Wednesday. I head to Copenhagen Monday night… but will probably relax.

I return to Canada on Saturday and work the following Monday. Look there: on the horizon! Real life!


Thursday, May 19, 2005

from the one second in Dubrovnik dept.

Only a few seconds to say Dubrovnik is amazing and I am alive and well.

Heading north to.. ? Tonight!


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

from the On The Road dept.

After more than a week on the road... I have finally found internet access in a small town
in Montenegro...

All is good. Albania was amazing... and will require tons of space to explain.

Belgrade was a chaotic dream. As was the rest of Serbia.

Macedonia was unexpectedly beautiful.

Turkey bordered on bizarre as we were special guests of the goverment.

Greece went by in a blink.

Romania was all about the food.

Bulgaria was all about the food and the beer.

Heading to Croatia today. And to Trieste, Italy by the end of the week.

And then to Vienna... and then to Copenhagen... and London... and real life.

More soon, I hope. But most likely, this is it until I hit Vienna on Sunday.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Biting the hand that feeds

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
This is the final image from Vienna. We are heading off in about one hour... first to Bratislava, Slovakia and then to Budapest, Hungary.

Three European capitals in one day.

The weather is cool, but sunny. And our van looks decent enough for the next couple of weeks.

Heading down to breakfast, then I will pack the computer away and leave it at Peter's mom's place here in Vienna.

I'll be back when possible...


Hula Girl at the Hotel Arpi

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Hula Girl seems to be interested in WiFi antenna boy.

Wagons East!

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
First we take Budapest... (Sunday) and Belgrade (Monday).

Hula Girl at Vienna Airport

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Sign of the times

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Errr... just what does this mean?

The #5

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Waiting for the tram.

Dinner in Vienna

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
The pre-trip feed.


Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Harry checks out the locals.

from the "hair of the dog for Herr Murray" dept.

A quick morning post.

It's about 10:30am here at the Hotel Apri. My wifi antenna continues to be a good purchase as it dangles out the window and keeps me connected.

Peter and I met up last night around 10. We headed do the shopping area of the city and found a dandy place to eat. I had a massive plateful of goulash for only 8 euro. Beer was 2.

We strolled around for a bit, and then stopped in for a couple of pints at a decent little Irish bar. Tal Bachman was on the stereo, and a pretty Austrian lass was serving the perfect pints.

It's still tough getting used to the smoke -- there are no wonderful laws banning smoking public places. I reek.

Breakfast this morning was the typical European fare: a selection of meats and cheeses avec coffee and OJ. It's included in the room rate (scared to ask!)... and nothing is better than a handy and "free" breakfast.

Our mission today: pick up our van, which will serve as home for the next couple of weeks. And then head to the airport to pick up the rest of the gang.

Tonight we are heading to Peter's mom's place for a little celebration. And then out to a nice dinner downtown.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we load up the van and head to Budapest.

Pictures to come tonight, I hope.


Friday, May 06, 2005

from the "our man in Vienna" dept.

Wow! What a long way from there to here. Or from home to away!

After mucking around in Heathrow for several hours this morning, and paying crazy prices for food (coffee 2 GBP, sandwich 3 GBP), my flight to Vienna was called.

I took a few snaps of Hula Girl and boarded the packed and cramped flight. I was surrounded by pleasant Spainards and the flight was relatively short -- about 2 hours.

Upon arriving in Vienna, I felt fatigued. I had not slept much, if at all, and it was taking its toll. Wah!

I hopped on the new train that connect Wien International with Wien-Mitte. From there I took the U4 subway a few stops to the U2, which I took one stop to Tram 34 which I took 3 stops to a point near my hotel. A quick 2 block walk and I was again wondering why I pack so much stuff!

I hauled my crap and my ass up several flights of stairs to my small but comfy room at the Hotel Apri on Kochgasse. Immediately I headed too the shower and then took a several hour long nap.

To my surprise there is wireless internet access available in the room, which saves a few Euros that I would have spent in an internet cafe.

The plan is simple. At 10pm (it's 9:30pm now) I am meeting Peter Hering for a Guinness and dinner. Could be a late night.

Tomorrow, the rest of the gang arrives, and we have to fetch our rental van.

So far so good.

I should file a few more stories before leaving for Budapest on Sunday... but I will be leaving my laptop with Peter's mom in Vienna. Online access will be much more limited.

Well... Vienna calls... and it sounds like Mozart!


from the "in transit" dept.

Now in London. Waiting for flight to Vienna.
No free wifi... expensive internet terminal.

More from Vienna tonight!


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Hula Girl says "fancy a pint? Mai tai?"

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
Just moments before a tragic accident, Hula Girl suggests a little liquid courage for the flight. Only moments later, she tumbled to the ground, losing both her feet (and pedestal!).

The images were too graphic. I will post some less shocking ones in London.


Hula Girl looks for our flight...

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
... where is AC 830 to London? Ah!

Hula Girl at Vancouver International Airport

Originally uploaded by borderfilms.com.
The border expedition has begun. It is 11:55am at YVR and Hula Girl and I are marvelling at how much of the world we have yet to see.

from the "it's almost time" dept.

The numbers:

7. Which is the number of times I have been to Europe, counting this trip.

4. Which is the number of hours remaining before I fly out of Vancouver again.

2. Which is the number of hours remaining before I call a cab.

1000's. Which is the number of Euros I will spend over the next 3 weeks.

4. Which is the number of border expeditions I have been on, counting this one.

39. Which is the number of countries I have visited in my life as of today.

48. Which is the number of countries I will have visited by the time I return May 28.

12. Which is the number of days I will work straight upon arriving home.

It's hard to believe this is the 4th border expedition, another grand 5000 km road trip across the most rural and undeveloped parts of Europe.

My mind can't even paint a picture of what it will be like in Albania, much less Montenegro and Macedonia.

It's going to be a long haul overseas. I arrive in Vienna sometime tomorrow.

The computer is coming with me, but I will leave it in Vienna. No sense tempting fate on the road.

I will endeavour to write as much as possible and post images often, but I think that access to the internet will be quite spotty.

However, it is 2005.

With that then, I will take my leave. More to come soon. Please do follow along!


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

from the "next we take Belgrade" dept.

I think it's time I posted our/my itinerary for the upcoming trip. If you have a map of former-Yugoslavia, dig it out and follow along at home!

Some destinations have photos. More will be added soon.

THU May 5: Fly to Vienna via London.

FRI May 6: Arrive Vienna. Overnight (o/n) Vienna.

SAT May 7: o/n Vienna.

SUN May 8: Budapest & Szeged (o/n), Hungary,

MON May 9: Timisoara, Romania, o/n Belgrade, Serbia.

TUE May 10: Motor along Danube River, o/n Vidin, Bulgaria.

WED May 11: o/n Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.

THU May 12: o/n Edirne, Turkey.

FRI May 13: o/n Kavala, Greece.

SAT May 14: o/n Skjopje, Macedonia.

SUN May 15: o/n Lake Ohrid, Macedonia.

MON May 16: o/n Tirana, Albania.

TUE May 17: Podgorica, Montenegro. o/n Petrovac, Montenegro.

WED May 18: o/n Dubrovnik, Croatia.

THU May 19: o/n Dalmatian Coast

FRI May 20: Trieste, Italy & o/n Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

SAT May 21: back to Vienna!

13 countries, 4,500-5,000 kms of driving.

Then... 5 nights in Copenhagen followed by one night in London before arriving home May 28!


Monday, May 02, 2005

from the "final countdown redux" dept.

It's late Monday evening. I am finishing up a shift at work, the last scheduled shift until May 30th, I believe.

Vienna is on the horizon: only 3 sleeps before I depart. However, I'll be flying all night, so I won't really be there on Thursday... officially I land Friday.

Everything seems to be coming together smoothly. I've got lots of time to pack, and I know what I need. And don't.

All the running around is finished. So, it's now a matter of hurry up and wait.

It's going to be exciting, this trip. But be prepared for big gaps in postings... as I have no idea if there will be any internet available in the wilds of Romania.