Thursday, 30 October 2008

Places I've Been and Things that I've Seen

In Sarajevo I read a lot. Zadie Smith. She's a champ.

In Croatia, a south african retiree told me and Kamilla that 'communism had made the croations grumpy.' She then told us that the 'turkey people will just bend over backwards for you.' I'd say Turkish myself but hey. This woman had the best South African accent EVER and I don't know if Kamilla quite understood why I kept talking to her. Oh Liz, if you had only been there...though we may have lost composure and started giggling!

Louise and I caught overnight buses in Turkey to cover the long distances between the places we wanted to see. Buses in Turkey are amazing. It is like flying (back in the day when flying meant free food and customer service.) One bus even had wifi and headphones for listening to music. A bus attendant comes and gives you water and such. AND, when I left my phone on one of the buses, I got a dude to call the company and it was back in the town I was in 12 hours later! How's that for service!!!

I flew business class from Sarajevo to Istanbul. This was not intentional. I believe it was an error made due to late-night flight booking. It was pretty funny though. I got to sit in the business lounge where plastic surgeryed women didn't eat the peanuts I was gorging on and there was free juice. Then, on the plane I was given real cutlery because rich people don't hijack planes and they pulled a little curtain across so I didn't have to look at the peasants.

We had the best kulfi (indian dessert) I'd ever had in Istanbul. I doubt they make it so good in India. I will have to go check.

My host in Sofia, Bulgaria works for an NGO that helps Roma people living in the ghettos. Her co-worker had just quit after 6 years of working with local sex workers because she can't live on the pay anymore and they can't get more funding. Iskra (my host) was mighty generous despite the fact that I now knew how minimal her salary was. She paid for the dinner she made me and then slept at her boyfriend's place so I could have the bed. Yep, she left a girl she had just met alone in her apartment. I can't believe the trust people have put in me. I did the dishes the next morning. Least I could do really.

While I was in Croatia, an Australian went missing and died. Teresa and Rowan were in Nepal at that time and two Australians died in a plane crash. Creepy.

Travelling with Louise is tops. One can forget sometimes how entertaning one's own family can be. Louise has this habit of saying totally random stuff at strange moments as if it isn't funny. It is funny but she never seems to think it is. It is said in a way that you can laugh at her without feeling like you are mocking her, but at the same time you don't think she is being consciously witty in order to impress anyone. The quotes I managed to write down follow and you may not find them funny. But I did. And it's my mum, so damn well agree with me or there'll be trouble.

Louise in defence of endless window shopping: I think I was arabic in a past life. Or German baroque. I'm just decorative.

Maeve: Ah! Apparently Tsar Boris of Bulgaria sided with Hitler but then refused to send Bulgarian jews to the concentration camps saving 50,000 lives.
Louise: mmm, good reason to name your son Boris.

...meanwhile, interesting fact about Bulgaria, non?

I heard my first call to prayer in Sarajevo and thought it atmospheric and un-western in a cheesy-touristy-exoticising-the-other kinda way. Sometimes it would happen at the same time as church bells. By the time I had spent two weeks in Turkey I had lost patience and religious tolerance. I don't care if people want to pray at 5am, I want to sleep. In a strange switch of alliances, I appreciated the smell of Sarajevo's cevapcici (tiny fried meat matter) more than the burek I lived on for 3 days. But this was mainly because of the masses of raw onion they were served with and the wood smoke from the fires, both overwhelming enough that I could not smell the dead stuff.

Kamilla and I spent some time devising amusing ways to convince baffled guesthouse owners that we wanted a double room not a twin after an unsuccessful first night. We didn't get to dress her up as a boy in the end but we did have a VERY funny time with the man who owned our guesthouse in Dubrovnik. I chose him because unlike the others hassling us at the bus station he stood quietly aside with a sign that said "Inside Old City." Once we got in the van, we realised it was the end of the silence. He prattled on about the greatness of his business, leaning away from the steering wheel to point to his reference in some obscure Korean guidebook or to point into the distant suburbs claiming that this giesthouse or that guesthouse was way out there. He spoke of its cleanliness, location (not actually inside the town but right next to the wall so we forgave him) and value for money. He continued to sell his wares at top vocal speed even once we were inside, taking us into both bathrooms, pointing at his large supply of cleaning products, putting his head inside the shower cubicle, inhaling and saying "see! we clean every day!"

In Turkey, stuff is sold by theme in individual areas. When wandering through town we came to a whole suburb devoted to hardware, taps, doorknobs etc., spilling out onto the street. Louise was not wildly into this suburb and politely suggested (i.e. firmly insisted) that we head for a more enjoyable quarter. The bookshop street was great. And just when I was yearning for thermal longjohns, we came upon camping, fishing and outdoor town - right next to our favourite baklava joint!

I saw a land mine action team still at work in Sarajevo. Sarajevo is still covered in bullet and shell damage and packed with crumbling buildings, unlike Dubrovnik which, despite also coming under heavy fire is near perfect.

They drive crazy in Turkey. Though I have since discovered that the true speed demons live in Romania. My oh my, they go sooo fast. In Turkey we had a driver who's first day on the job it was. He got lost and then semed to be falling asleep. Louise and I were sitting in the front seat of the minibus and kept trying to do things to wake him, but it was hard as he spoke no English. Louise considered doing what she thought was the 'international gesture for sleeping' to show that she sympathised but was then concerned that he wouldthink it was the 'international gesturefor do you want to come to bed with me?'

In Zagreb, Croatia, my host Jelena gave me rakia (alcohol - spirit) that her Serbian girlfriend had made. She had stored it with fresh mint and honey and it was a flavour sensation. Whycan't I have a Serbian home-made-alcohol-producing lady friend? Why I ask?

I've punched through a lot of books lately so any suggestions would be appreciated. Though nothing obscure, as I am trawling book exchanges. I went to a charming one in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria run by a Welsh woman. We chatted about books and I ended up selecting Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I gave her Amsterdam by Ian McEwan and now I feel like I ripped her off. Sometimes I am mildly concerned/amused by how many sights I miss because I think I'd rather sit in a cafe and read

soon to come...Bulgaria and Romania aka The Countries That Mother Me

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Don't judge a country by its train station...

Arrival in Romania this evening was not smooth.

I should have stuck to the tourists in the carriage next to mine, followed them to their hostel, split the cost of a cab. But the conversation that wafted through the carriage wall was inane and I was keen to find my Lonely Planet-alleged Villa 11, conveniently close to the train station for tomorrow's departure to Brasov.

I exited, cash in hand and quickly realised that my Lonely Planet map little resembled the heaving city before me. I was soon surrounded by enthusiastic taxi drivers who seemed to be offering to take me to the hostel for an exorbitant 30 lei. In retrospect, I think they were saying 3 lei and that perhaps my hearing had been affected by the numerous warnings I had received about rip off cabs in Bucharest. Nevertheless, I did not want to pay for what appeared to be a 500m walk.

I tried to call the hostel but just as the woman was starting to give directions my phone ran out of batteries.

My next offer, after a hair raising road crossing, was a 10 lei guide on foot in the form of a friendly looking fellow. But I only had a 100 lei note and something told me he would not have the right change. Unable to see the street sign I required I returned to the station in the hope of a tourist information centre. A friendly looking man inside asked if I needed help and, a little exasperated, I just said "I don't have any money."

"um...that's ok, I am a dentist. You just look like you need help."

I felt like a right twat.

With his (sadly incorrect) instructions I wandered through some inner-city backstreets complete with atmospheric dog barking and broken street lights for some time before returning to the corner where my potential 10 lei guide had been to see if I could convince him to show me for the 4 euro I had in coins. He was gone, but thankfully another fellow sent me in the right direction.

Villa 11 is seriously weird. The door finally opened to reveal a pallid, pony tailed boy of about 12 years old who then fetched a pallid, pony tailed boy of about 17...(pallid, pony tailed 15 was outside fixing a bicycle.) I was shown to my dorm with no explanation of bathrooms, keys, breakfast or anything.

Strict instructions about what the staff would and wouldn't do on the sabbath were pasted in reception. A Canadian flag was stuck to the door. The entire house smelt like tuna.

I left and headed to the metro station, starving after taking an hour and a half to travel 500m. And there I found a famailiarity so very unexpected. To get onto the train platform you have to dip your ticket in the exact same green machines we have on Sydney buses. At the Beepbeep-bebeepbeep, I nearly laughed out loud.

I finally made it to food and a glass of red that tasted a little too much like balsamic vinegar but was satisfying nonetheless. And then to this internet cafe. You will be pleased to know that, should I want to, I could also see a number of live sex shows in this area once I am done online.

Over and out.
Maeve. xxx

...The morning brought more confusion as the house appeared empty save for a middle-aged man who did not reply when I said hello. I showered and noticed that there was food on the table, which was set for 8 despite my being the only guest. I ate cold pikelets with jam and a strange (but pleasant) stinky cheese.

Finally the owner, Debbie appeared. I knew her name as 'Debbie's Kitchen' was etched into a wooden mug rag on the wall. She was actually very nice, if oddly conservative and old-fashioned as one might imagine a mormon might look. She was the round, large-breasted, high-waisted full skirt wearing version of her sons, but she was friendly and chatty and I felt bad for passing such harsh judgment on her home.

She told me how they had a single room upstairs that had shelves on which her daughter stored her extensive porcelain doll collection. She had once shown the room to a man and the next day a review appeared on calling her establishment (and her home) "a pedophile's paradise." I thought of telling her she was a Canadian/Romanian Bill Henson but I wasn't sure she'd get the reference.

It must be had for people who open their homes up as hostels. I mean, I maintain the place was weird but that was because of the initial lack of customer service, the location and the tuna smell. I would never go so far as to write cruel things on a hostel site (only on facebook which Debbie won't see.)

If you're interested, Debbie and her family moved to Romania in the 90s. The house was her husband's grandmother's and was seized in 1949 by the government. After the revolution, she told me, they came to get it back. There was a lengthy legal battle and by the time they won they had decided to stay. This explains why the place is in the middle of the military medical institute.

It is interesting to be in a country where people say "after the revolution" casually in conversation.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

this finish skin baby nice

My mother and I were the only customers at Antalya`s hamam and, unlike their regular tourist clientele, we were not German. This did not stop the many Bitte Shuns as we were ushered into the 700 yr old marble bathing room.

Thankfully alone, we were quickly disrobed (our host unceremoniously whipped off our towels) and instructed to lie on a marble bench while she poured hot water on us. She then introduced herself and without any further ado she departed.

We cautiously sat and set about pouring the water on ourselves, thinking that perhaps it wasn`t worth the cash. Then, all of a sudden our host Rose, 5ft tall and round, marched naked past the door, laughing hyserically. She soon re-entered now clad in a zebra print bikini. `Come Baby`she saıd and led me by the hand into the next chamber.

`Sit baby.`
`Sleep baby.`
I was to lie down.

She put on a loofah mitt and said `This finish skin baby nice`before beginning to scrub.

Louise was next while I sat bathing. Rose`s terms of endearment did not take age into consideration. We were both called Baby.

Me again. Sit baby. Sleep baby. But this time with an added `Mama fingers!!`and a friendly wiggle of her paws before she suddsed me up and washed me.

I stood and she splashed away the soap, taking great delight in throwing buckets of water at my bottom. Both back bottom and front bottom. What could I do but laugh with her?

Then she washed my haiir, slamming my face into her belly and even bothering to wipe the soap from my eyes.

As she washed Louise she asked `Where husband?`and `This your baby?,`pointing at me. She then said `Me two babies, no husband,`but she was not part of the sisterhood. She mimed a car crash, pointed at the ground and shrugged.

Then, before you can say sleep baby, we were clean and being hussled out of the room, wrapped in towels and offered tea. I also got two complimentary face pinches complete with a `Nice baby.`

The massage was brief and disappointingly uneventful by comparison, but then, I don`t think we could have coped with any more amusement. Soon Rose was dressed and ushering us into the street.

We walked around Antalya a lıttle dazed before making our way to the otogar and our overnight bus to Goreme.

If you`re ever in Turkey, say Hi to Rose for me.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Biscuits and Patriotism

Please excuse typos, strange letterıng and Is wıthout dots...Turkısh keyboard.

I am not a good patrıot. I went to Gallıpolı the other day and was unmoved by the multıtude of war memorıals and tales of heroıcs. Even when I found out my great-great-Uncle Arthur had fought there and survıved I dıd not feel prıde. I just thought `my, how the Marsdens got around.`

But I have been thınkıng lately about the contradıctıon of beıng able to feel ımmense shame at the terrıble thıngs `my country` has done, but feelıng uncomforable about the possıbılıty of any Natıonal Prıde, Prıde that I have only really notıced ın the last 3 months.

Prıor to travel, I had cheerıly claımed the phrase Scenıc Natıonalısm to descrıbe that physıcal joy I get ın certaın parts pof the Australıan landscape: Coogee beach (well the ladıes` pool...and ıts ınhabıtants...l), the plaıns between the blue mountaıns and Bathurst etc etc. But any other kınd of natıonalısm I shıed away from wıth fear and repulsıon. I stıll fınd blınd patrıotısm rıdıculous (especıally ın lıght of an ıncreased awareness of European hıstory and just how many dıfferent peoples have owned each tıny pıece of land.) But recently, as I meet people from other countrıes ın hostels and buses and such and we ınevıtably ıntroduce ourselves wıth `where are you from?`I have found myself talkıng dıfferently about Australıa (and my Australıanness.) There have been a number of tımes when I have felt dısturbıngly proud to be from Australıa and have found myself extollıng Australıa`s vırtues to others. Sıtauatıons where thıs has happened ınclude:

1) When talkıng to eurocentrıc twats who thınk I lıve ın a cultureless backwater. I am allowed to say that I lıve ın a cultureless backwater but I sure as hell am not goıng to take ıt from some colonıalıst drunk Brıt ın Barcelona.

2) When `my fellow Australıans` use the followıng ıdıotıc sentences when faced by any buıldıng more than 5 years old:
- we just don`t have hıstory lıke that
- we`re such a young country
Hey dıckhead, read a book. You lıve ın a country wıth some of the oldest survıvıng cultures and languages ın the world. Your country has evıdence of habıtatıon from 100,000 of years ago. Paıntıngs from over 30,000 years ago! No, the ındıgenous people dıd not buıld temples. It`s called actually beıng able to lıve wıthın your envıronment. We could learn a thıng or two. Feel free to say that we don`t have archıtecture lıke that. We don`t. It`s one of the reasons I decıded to come to Europe...whıch brıngs me to:

3) When people judge me for ellectıng Europe as a travel destınatıon. Why not Afrıca? Why not South Amerıca? Europe ıs just full of other Western natıons rıght? That one gets me. There ıs an assumptıon that Australıa ıs so lıke Europe that comıng here would not be as worthy frustrates me. You see, we really don`t have archıtecture lıke that. Beıng ın Europe ıs amazıng. It ıs the power centre. Amerıca may have the reıgns at the moment but Europe ıs the damn saddle. Or the horse. Or the leather that the reıgns were made out of...prızes for a better metaphor... To be here, where my ancestors decıded to go and pıllage a few other contınents, fascınates me. And seeıng modern natıons here (prımarıly ın Scandınavıa) that have the gender neutral marrıage laws* and free educatıon of a hıgh standard and the publıc health systems that we want ıs ınspıratıonal.

* I am actually ıntendıng to form a group agaınst gay marrıage. It wıll be the `Ban gay marrıage...ın fact ban all marrıage` group.

4) Talkıng about or to Amerıcans. Proud to be Australıan cos I`m not Amerıcan.

5) When people actually want to come to Australıa but ıntend to only vısıt the east coast and drınk a lot at the Coogee Bay Hotel and sımılar establıshments. Thıs shıts me. The good stuff ıs spread all over. Get thee to Western Australıa! Skıp Canberra.

I can`t be bothered complaınıng anymore because I am ın a good mood today.

Over and out.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

'An Other Tourist' or 'The Problem with Straight People'

The other day Kamilla and I were spat at for kissing in the streets of Dubrovnik. Now, I myself have great disdain for overt public displays of affection, but the violent hate on this man's face told me that it was our gender and not any perceived cutesy romanticism that led him to part with his saliva.

Prior to our arrival, we had both read the Lonely Planet warning that homosexuality was legal, but not generally welcome in Croatia. Our couch host in Zagreb had spoken of being firmly in the closet and we had discussed difficulties and differences...but we mostly found amusing similarities in our stories (lesbian webs, asymmetrical hairdos and such.)

After the incident in Dubrovnik, Kamilla and I did not conclude that Croatia was a homophobe. Sadly, we acknowledged that what we had experienced could be suffered in any country of the world. But this overt rage at my sexuality reminded me of a complaint I've been meaning to Note for some time.

As I travel, I inevitably meet more new people than I would at home. Thus I find myself coming out several times a week, sometimes several times a day. This is not out of some desire to share of myself with these new ˝friends.˝No, it is out of necessity during any conversation that moves beyond the basic - that is, if I do not want to lie by changing gender pronouns on lovers, exes or indeed parents.

It is so tedious.

I have a rainbow flag stitched on to my bag as a reminder to myself that I must not allow laziness or frustration to tempt me back into the proverbial closet. This is of course a luxury of travel in Europe, knowing that the most I will probably suffer is some old man's spit. But my insistence leads to the same conversations time and time again...

Answering those generic questions that people pose as if they are original...or indeed risqué. I am tired of my own voice, producing these old gay-clichés like greeting cards for the people of the world. I never refuse, out of some childhood belief that I can educate in some way. But Pride does not diminish the boredom of repetition.

I try to stay with queer couch hosts when I can to avoid the inevitable Heterosexual Assumption and allow conversation to get to the good stuff. But then, in Berlin of all places, I found myself justifying my need of a queer community to one such host. She didn't ˝need˝ gay friends because all her other friends ˝accepted˝ her as ˝normal˝ and liked her just the way she was, Bridget Jones style (my bad pop culture reference, not hers.) I yearned for Laura to be standing next to me scoffing ˝gay˝under her breath...sigh... I explained, in as many different ways as I could, but she kept bringing it back to prejudice and discrimination, which apparently she has never suffered from.

But it is not the discrimination and the spitters that really bother me. It is the assuming (which I've heard from time to time makes an ass out of u and me...hehe...sorry...) The assumption of heterosexuality. When I meet other lesbians I have a joyous physical reaction, not of arousal but of relief - relief that they will understand that ˝I met a girl in Norway˝ does not mean that I only met one female in 3 weeks of travel, but that I met one significantly interesting female in Norway. (Incidentally there are many significantly interesting women in this fair nation, but one only has so much time...and this is beside the point...)

It is the assumption that bothers me.

So, if you have read this I set you the following challenge -

For one day, assume that everyone you meet is a homo. This is not an original proposition. In fact, I think a certain school teacher was crucified recently for suggesting a similar exercise with his students. But do it, nonetheless. If you meet someone and they mention a partner of the opposite sex, or indeed parents of opposing sexes, ask them the following questions:

1. Wow, you're straight? (insert reference to another straight person you know. Maybe suggest that they should be friends.)
2. When did you know?
3. Do you think you inherited it? (find a way to use the phrase Nature vs. Nurture in a manner that suggests you came up with it yourself.)
4. Why do all of you dress like that? (insert description that suggests all straight women are fat and lack fashion taste or that all straight men spend their life savings on clothes items)
5. Why do you feel the need to separate yourselves from normal people? Like, do you really need your own parade? Your own bars? (scoff scoff)
6. How do you fuck? (you only need to have known a person for an hour or two for this intrusion to be deemed appropriate.)

I know I have straight friends who are sick of this rant, even gay friends who are sick of this rant. Hell, I am sick of this rant. But I shall rant on.

Don't even get me started on coming out as a Vegetarian...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Maeve's Travel Tips for Various Countries

Czech Republic
1. In Prague, be prepared to be somewhat unconvinced that you are in an actual city and not a European Fairytale Theme Park.
2. Avoid large groups of British men with 'lads on the lash' t-shirts and freshly made tattoos.
3. Do NOT avoid the communism museum, amusingly situated behind a MacDonald's. Please also go to the Sex Toy Museum and the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, both of whoch I was devastated to miss.
4. The castle is overrated.
5. Cesky Krumlov is not. In fact, shorten your stay in Prague and lengthen your stay in Cesky. Camp by the river, drink absinthe, go to the Two Marys to eat a massive feast and admire the gorgeous waitress. Travel with people who would rather call the town Crusty Demons than Cesky Krumlov. Continually wonder why.

1. The drive to Budapest from the Czech Republic is long, especially if your are in a car with 4 other people. You will drive through Austria so attempt to find at least one companion (thanks Liz!) who will continue singing Sound of Music ditties with you even when others turn up the radio.
2. DO NOT DRIVE IN BUDAPEST. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PARK IN BUDAPEST. If you do attempt these things, have some cash handy to pay off various people who promise to ensure you do not get a fine. When you do get a fine (and you will), it can be paid at a local post office.
3. Go to Gellert Furdo. Bathe. Relax. When sitting underneath the strongest spa jet in the world, do not attempt to tell a friend that it 'makes the other spa jet feel like an old man pissing on your neck.' You will think you are whispering. You will not be. Everyone in the bath will hear you.
4. Budapest has good bars. Find them.
5. Continue your exploration of Eastern European communism at the Socialist Statue Park. It is weird, and very entertaining to hear Western tourists too stingy to buy the brochure speculate on the significance of the statues.*
* The Western tourists I refer to may or may not include myself and Stanley...

Slovenia is above bulleted points. Slovenia is European heaven. Slovenia deserves prose. Sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia makes Slovenia, first and foremost, a haven for good food. On top of that it is spectacularly beautiful, with mountains, lakes, 47km of stunning, albeit stunted coastline (though I like short things!) and a charming capital with an excellent name (I recommend travelling with people who suffer in silence at your habit of saying Ljubljana over and over again like you have capital city tourettes.) Slovenia has conveniently located and wonderfully situated campsites in all towns and, when unable to provide, you can always pop over to a neighbouring country (see below: Italy.) Its countryside is clean and picturesque (see excessive number of photo albums) and it has all number of fun activities for the adventurous tourist. Its people tend to speak at least German or English so, travelling with people who speak at least one of those languages will mean success. Said people can also be extremely generous. One man, on hearing the average wage in Australia, bought us a round of beers. Others cheerily took us home to Grandma's house but that's another story. Slovenia was once part of Yugoslavia and it makes good cheese. It has one island, in a lake in Bled, and you can ski in Triglavski National Park in Winter. Hitch hiking os common, and generally safe. It even has a cow festival which, in this humble author's opinion, shits all over Spain's ˝running˝of the ˝bulls.˝
Get thee to Slovenia. Now.*
* Your love of Slovenia will be especially heightened if you spend a long time there, having only found out days before heading to Croatia that your German hire car is not actually insured for Croatia. If you then focus all of your energies on getting excited about Slovenia, and sing songs about its marvels before even setting foot on its shore, you will definitely love it. Slovenia. Fuck Yeah.

1. You will only need to go to Italy if Slovenia does not provide a sufficiently wonderful campsite. (NB: As Slovenia is perfect, it is likely your fault that the campsite is shit and small, not Slovenia's.)
2. You may find yourself in a campsite 100m from the Slovenian border, near a town called Muggia. When going out for dinner in Muggia, do ensure that you know what you are ordering and how much it will cost, or you may find yourself spending a day's budget at what must be the most expensive restaurant in town. Make yourself feel better with millefeuille flavoured gelato. MILLEFEUILLE FLAVOURED GELATO!*
* For those not in the know, mille feuille, or 1000 layers, is a French pastry made with layers of vanilla custard and pastry. It is heavenly. My mother, Louise, once decided to quickly illegally park to pop into a cafe and get a mille feuille, such was her craving. She got a $150 fine. I think she still believes it was worth it. They are kind of a family obsession. Anywaaay...
3. Muggia's taxi service stops at 8. Once stranded, I recommend befriending a gang of feckless youth (Liz would make an excellent Australian ambassador) and allowing them to drive you home. The singular experience of careening down the coastal road while your possibly 14yr old driver blares AC/DC's Highway to Hell is one you shan't forget. People of Muggia: You are welcome in Sydney.

1. Slovenia (yes Slovenia) is good for many things. Namely, meeting friendly Germans named Diemut and Max who offer to let you stay with them in Noerdlingen, a small town north of Munich (who needs Munich anyway?)
2. Noerdlingen is the sister town of Wagga Wagga. SERIOUSLY. Apparently, it is also the only town in Europe with a complete city wall and the meteor that hit the region creating the crater in which the town sits led to a particular type of unique rock. Astronauts were sent to train in Noerdlingen. Seriously. Who knew?
3. In Noerdlingen, you may also be subjected to the most amazing display of German hospitality ever known to a troupe of travelling, smelly, dirty, post-campsite Australians. How's 5 beds, in a nice house, with massive traditional dinner and breakfast (both accompanied by a variety of beers and some lessons in local history)? Good yes.
4. Stay in Dresden for longer than we did.
5. Berlin is awesome. Do not go there for four days or you will spend the whole time wishing you were staying longer. I think that, like Slovenia, my Berlin rant could get...well...ranty. Here goes...

Berlin makes the rest of Europe (well, what I've seen of it) look somewhat unlived in. Berlin is lively and messy (Budapest is also like this and is thus also recommended.) Where the rest of Europe has monuments that advertise a country's virtues, Berlin shows its shame, almost grotesquely so. From the Topographie of Terrors, to the Jewish Museum, to the East Side Gallery and other Berlin Walls monuments, the city's ugly past is almost flaunted. Fast food from Snackpoint Charlie anyone? But amongst all this is a massive queer scene (they have a gay museum!), Kreuzberg, which is like Newtown's cooler older sister, buildings covered with amazing street art, an excellent public transport system, great food and shopping...the list goes on. And the historical horrors, while at times presented cheesily (care for a souvenir piece of the wall?), are at least honest. At least we don't get the shiny version of history, packaged in statues of knights and kings and presidents. It feels more real, even when it is tacky. I stayed with two couch hosts and had a wonderful time. I did not want to leave and, when I found out that there was a Leonard Cohen concert on the next week, it is possible I cried. For some time... But Croatia called, and I had already booked my ticket, as had Kamilla. So off I went, to the next chapter.


The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!