A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Gelli

How do you sum up a year on the road? In my case, Badly!

So much has happened over the course of my trip that for my own purposes, I decided that I had to try and sum up the trip as best as I could . And if I was going to do it for myself, I figured that I may as well bore you lot one last time.

It's had it's ups and downs for sure. Twists and turns, arrests, hospitalisations and escapes. In a strangely circular way, I managed to start and end the trip with big personal lows. A week in and broke up with Anna-Lise [and i now understand why, and it is definitely a good thing. Good riddance] and ended with the funeral of my best friend. On a slightly better note, Andy, father to my godchildren and who broke his back whilst i was in Vietnam is making slow but solid progress. Not out of the woods yet, but he has some movement and the prognosis is that he will be able to walk again in a few months. I am really looking forward to seeing him, Charlotte and the kids again. But all that just goes to show that in the almost la-la land of travelling, normal life must go on.

As well as walking, cycling (and riding a motorbike) under my own steam, I travelled on Trains, buses, coaches, mini-buses, in private cars, on boats and ferries of assorted shapes and styles (including a sinking ferry, and another i had to push) . On trams, subways/metro's, in cable cars and funiculars, in taxis, vans, a post office bus and a lorry, and on a maglev, the worlds fastest train. In tuk-tuks, sawgnys, rickshaws, the back of pickups and on the roof of a van. And as a motorcycle passenger, pillion on a bicycle, in a tractor, on both a bucking bronco and an elephant and in the back of an ambulance. Hitchhiking got me, amongst others, around Hokkaido, forced me to jump from the roof of a speeding van, gave me a ride on the aforementioned elephant (with a broken bike) and finally back to the office courtesy of some mad Lithuanian lorry drivers.

But with the possible exception of a few seconds as i jumped from the roof of the minivan in Cambodia (and once or twice hitting speed bumps or dodgy road surfaces too quickly), i did not fly at all, thus keeping in tact the record of never having been in a plane or helicopter in my entire life.

By ignoring the first month or so, when I was partly away and free but not entirely, I've logged my trip at 413 days, and into week 60. In that time, excluding daily/urban travels etc, I believe that i have travelled the grand total of 109,343km. After a little deliberation, I have decided that I visited 29countries in that period (I have ignored North Korea who's waters I was in, and Turkmenistan who's embassy i visited, which i technically entered, but counted both Hong Kong and Macau, which although no longer separate to China, involve different immigration procedures etc). And I've also ignored non UN recognised countries, thus counting BiH as one, instead of the 3 which the locals believe it to be. And i crossed a border 57 times, although many of those were the result of my initial (and final) dashes around Europe.

At a (very) rough calculation, I drank 794 pints of beer, plus untold amounts and varieties of spirits and wine. Of the 413nights, 121 were at friends or as guests of CS/HCers, whilst a further 71 were spent travelling, and 6 were roughed.

I've stayed with a number of assorted friends and willing hosts (and thank you all sooo much), spent nights in hostels and hotels and slept on buses, trains and boats (including on the deck). More randomly, I've also spent nights in a hammock, on a beach, in a half built house, on a sand dune, in a hedge, in a bus shelter, in a tent and on a balcony (both of which were nights I'd paid for in a hostel and were supposed to be hostel beds), in wooden huts and on some railway stations. Plus in a capsule hotel [aka a coffin], a Ryokan, a Love Hotel, 24hour Internet cafes and once, even in a Guets House...

I've stayed in dorms, Private rooms, in beds, on mattresses, a lilo, on tatami mats, in a chair, on couches and on numerous floors, and under mosquito nets. And entirely innocently, I've shared a bed with cats, dogs, a Thai bar girl, male and female couch surfers, 2 Japanese guys (at the same time) and 3 people who's names i didn't even know, including a middle aged German lady....

I've met untold numbers of people from all walks of life, some briefly, others who have been around for several months; some amazing and fascinating people, some nondescript ones and a few absolute utter f*cking w*kers. I've been to meet ups of TT, CS, HC, FT, TP and BE (but not AA or BB), and met people from New Caledonia, the Peoples Republic of Seattle, Bangladesh and Canukistan plus a 70year old Luxembourger who hasn't been home in 15years. Those I've met have included such luminaries as Mick Jagger, Martin Tyler, a Danish former Eurovison winner, one of Russia's biggest pop stars, an Indian TV hero and the English voice of Hello Kitty. More minor names I've met include TV/radio presenters in Japan, Bosnia, Slovenia, Russia (in several places), Romania, China (but relevant in Colorado) and Lithuania amongst others, plus large numbers of press, reporters and camera men during the World Cup.

Then there was a former member of ska band Secret Agent 8, Nicolae Ceaucescu's former head chef, a Zimbabwean professional tennis player, some ambassadors and a couple of high level Turkmenistani's. I was disrupted by George W Bush in Kyoto and Vladimir Putin in Tokyo. On a more random and personal level, i also came across the self proclaimed Hawaiian Ambassador to Asakusa, a female penguin, a high ranking monk, a Russian Nuclear Submarine captain, doppelgangers of Michael Owen and Ze Roberto (plus assorted people you wouldn't know), Kiki, My Boss and a couple of colleagues, some customers, My Aunt, an old Scottish friend from watching rugby in Copenhagen days, and a Canadian friend who is more or less solely responsible for "Hmmm. Needs More Rope". Plus of course, my stalkers, a guy who drove a knackered old Ford Fiesta all the way from the UK to Mongolia, a just released Trotskiyst convict and an old school friend I haven't seen since I was 12 years old

And even a few Welsh people.

I've consumed many strange or unconventional items, of which some of the more unlikely include such simple delicacies as horse, snake wine, wild boar, sheep's testicles, starfish on a stick, assorted insects, Chicken feet, Monkey brains, silk worm larvae, millipede, deep fried tarantula and live scorpion. And in the course of one month, drunk huge amounts of Chili vodka, one of the worlds greatest inventions.

I visited forces bases (of assorted ownership) in 5 countries, 3 radio stations and a TV studio, was interviewed - badly and by mistake - on live radio (in Russian) in Krasnoyarsk. I ended up on stage in front of 40,000 in Ulan Ude, on Japanese TV during a typhoon, on a publicity poster for a Beijing bar and being serialised in an Ecuadorian newspaper. As well as actually doing some real work - kind of - in a few countries, I have been offered a slew of jobs, including teaching English in Chelyabinsk, Dongguan and Morioka, and grabbed on a street in China twice to be invited come into a school. A couple of vaguely relevant cartographic jobs as well in China and elsewhere, whilst more unlikely (and I'm not sure which is the most unlikely) I've also been offered jobs as a Turkmenistani presidential advisor, and as a Japanese marriage councillor. And I've been in weather ranging from minus many and blizzards in China to plus even more scorchers in Siberia, Nagasaki, Vietnam and Thailand

There have been countless great parties and memorable nights, of which maybe a dozen or so really stand out. Those of you who may have been present on specific nights in Vienna, Sofia, Sighisoara, Vilnius, Moscow, Busan, Tokyo, Shanghai, Yangshuo, Beijing and Hong Kong (both on multiple occasions), one or two in Vietnam plus assorted Thai places, Luang Namtha, Tyumen and Berlin might also recall them fondly. Or alternatively, not recall them alt all. I've also managed to crash a dozen or so birthdays unintentionally, a couple of leaving do's (both often for people i didn't or barely knew), a graduation or 2, a restaurant opening, a pregnancy discovery, a prison release celebration, a wedding and a funeral.

I've accumulated a huge chunk of music, and become big fans of Tyumenski University and several classic Soviet themes and Georgian tunes (thanks Masha), Zdub si Zdob and Umathurman (thanks Mjeh and Zhenyia), B.U.G Mafia and Parazitii (thanks Oana), Guster and John Mayer (thanks Erin), Joeyboy and the hot-hip trampoline school (thanks Sam and Desh), Foje and Rebelheart (Thanks Ina) and some really cheesy Chinese music (thank you both China and Helene) amongst others.

Randomly, i started visiting the wombles (that idea has not yet been extinguished, had 4 New Years - parts of which were in 6 different countries), discovered that my MP3 player was both possessed, and had both a great sense of humour and irony, had my birthday with a group of revolutionaries picnicking under a statue of Lenin in Vietnam, stayed in such oddballs as Tyumen, Dongguan, Muroran, Daejon, Hua Hin, Oudomxay, Cluj and Banja Luka and visited, amongst others, the Worlds most polluted city, 3 dead dictators and military bases in more countries and of more different forces than is probably healthy...

There have been many firsts, although thankfully flying has not been amongst them... However, I crossed the Tropic of Cancer, Was on a ferry which went through a lock, one which was sinking, and one which I'd paid for and still had to push, went through a typhoon, slept under a mosquito net, was taken into a brothel by a female (and she didn't even work there), went to a baseball game, rode a motorcycle (and was a passenger on a motorcycle) and went into a real Karoake joint. More oddly - due to the fact that i got to 26years old without experiencing any of these delights - , for the first time in my life, I went bowling, got sunburn, and tried soju, sushi,tofu and root beer. And discovered i was allergic to cats.

And then there were the incidents or actions themselves. Some were definitely not highlights, and I more or less started by splitting with Anna-Lise over (seemingly) an odd joke about the Avon lady and in a vaguely circular way, ended with the death and funeral of my best friend.

In between, I spent a couple of days looking after a poor girl in Thailand who everything had gone really pear shaped for, had to deal with the collapse of my life in Vietnam, discovered that my inflatible camel and long term hitch-hiking pal was no longer able to inflate and then be best man at the wedding from hell. I'm still trying to work out what all the arrests were about. Plus, of course, and in no particular order, I had my wallet stolen in Romania, lost my phone in Shanghai and suffered consistent pick pocket attempts in Moscow and Hanoi. Got shot at leaving Bosnia, and had a machine gun pointed at me in Lao. Suffered any number of delays due to punctures, accidents, roadworks, running out of fuel and once because they thought I had a gun (in Beijing), was in a couple of minor road accidents (excluding the sheer mayhem of returning to Xi'an from the warriors), a taxi crash in Kunming and then had to jump off the roof of a van in Cambodia and was thrown from the back of pickup in Bangkok.

The trip was characterised at various phases by broken zips (8, i think), headphones (7? pairs), monkeys and all things related to them, and stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. My bike broke in Lao (and Erin's in China), whilst another was "stolen" in Japan. I was adopted by a village on Hokkaido and almost adopted by a woman and her kids on a Russian train (the former being great fun, the later very scary); back on Hokkaido, of course, I also almost ended up getting married entirely without realising, and from which I am still hearing the fall out from over 9months later. Leaving Russia the first time (the whole ferry gone day early, bus down dirt road to North Korea and sinking ferry in a typhoon thing) was fun, whilst entering Russia the second time was part of a 3day trip which was spent trying to mediate between large waring Chinese and Russian factions of traders in two languages I can't speak. I got caught in another typhoon in Hiroshima, was arrested for drug smuggling (frickin' liquorice) entering Korea, and had my coffee confiscated leaving Vietnam. Somebody urinated on my bag in Seoul, I celebrated a prison release in Siberia, saw a restaurant burn down in Beijing, went to the Football World Cup, got involved in the now infamous battle of ChMZ, saw an attempted suicide in Irkutsk, possibly the recent site of two dead people in Lithuania and a dead man in China.

Perhaps most amazingly, I even left Hässleholm

And I'm sure there are any number of other key moments and incidents that I just haven't been able to recall off the top of my head.

I've eaten a huge variety of local fare and have subsequently found myself craving Amok, Omul, Lok Lak, Fried Wonton, Caulau, Somun, Bibimbap, Zapiekanka, Ramen and Pho, Blini, Burek, Russian dried anchovies, Pelmeni, Korean Barbecue, Beijing Duck, Flavoured toast squares, Mandu, Piroshka, assorted Street food (what the heck were those amazing things in Beijing called?!), Gyoza and the egg and tomato dish so omnipotent in China, but always amazing. My craving for Cevapicci lasted almost a year (thank you, Beijing). I would almost be tempted to use an entire years leave to travel back to Asia, solely in order to get Tofu in that place in Huangzhou, Lok Lak in a specific place in Siem Reap, some of those Thingies in Beijing or to eat at that vegetarian restaurant in Hue.

And despite being away for such a long time, even in the countries that i visited, i missed out on so much that I wanted to see. Yakushima, The Korean DMZ, Halong Bay, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Chiang Mai, Sakhalin, the BAM, the three gorges on the Yangtzee, Sloboli and Novgorod, Savanakhet, Kazan (damned you!), the Killing Fields in Cambodia and Summer Palace in Beijing, plus of course, North Korea (as soon as possible!), Myanmar, Tibet, Malaysia and numerous other countries that I never made it to at all, will all have to wait for a future trip(s).

Wow. That looks like even more than I remember.

From here, it just leaves me to sum up, I suppose. It's had it's ups and downs, but it's been great. With the exception of Matt's death, there is nothing I would change if i had to do it all over again. Even the fuck ups and strange situations have been great (looking back, if nothing else) and have been experiences - character building and all that cr*p - and left me with a ream of stories and daft tales. Some of which have already been picked up and run with by other people. I want to thank everybody who's paths I have crossed, all of whom have added greatly to the whole experience in it's whole. Many of you I hope to see again. And a special thank you to all those people who have been stupid enough to host me or look after me. It's been amazing. Look live Couchsurfing!

Look out for the next chapter in coming months EDIT: Now starting at http://needsmorerope.travellerspoint.com

((With continued apologies for the lack of photos - I have no upload all as far as the end of Thailand, and will get up those from my journey back and the World Cup in the next few days. Look out also for a couple of final random entries of compilations of odd things from my trip, and also a round up of assorted people. And Kiki))

That's all folks.

Posted by Gelli 07:57 Comments (7)

And so, *sigh*, back to the daily grind

I've now been back pretending to be a real human being for a couple of weeks.

I love being back at work, the stability, normality, effort and office life is brilliant. I have now totally got the travelling bug out of me, and intend to now buy a house and even some furniture, find a girl, have a bunch of kids and settle down for gooo.... Aw heck. Who am I kidding. Don't be stupid. Sorry, boss, but of course i'm not over it. The problem with travelling (for many of us) is that instead of ticking places off your list, you with each journey you might loose one or two, but you'll gain a whole chunk of new places. I miss the life. The travel. The meetings and incidental occurences. The people. The food. So many great people, memories, and experiences. I've had time to reflect on everything that has been, and also attempt to rejoin the productive (well not really, but it's possible that my boss is reading this) work force. It's very strange being back. Certain things I really shouldn't still recall or know, I do. Some things I still seem to know better than some of my colleagues, even though I haven't looked at it in 15months. Other really simple things I have no idea what to do.

It will be a steep (re)learning curve.

It could be worse. I have returned in the middle of what is so far (and looks like continuing to be) is a glorious Swedish summer, and for those of you who all believe Sweden to be a cold miserable place most of the year, I can inform you that there are very few things better than good Swedish summers. The town is alive (for 10months each year, you see livelier ghost towns), there are people everywhere and the feeling is good. As is traditional, 80% of the population is off work at the same time, and all are taking 4 or 5 consecutive weeks. Work isn't piled as high as when i left right now, so i have time to readjust, whilst the beer is flowing, the beach is not far away, and the girls are all stunning and scantily clad, as is the way of summer.

I'm still homeless. In 2 weeks, i've stayed at 6 different places. And that will surely rise (thank you all) as immediate prospects aren't looking amazing. If anybody knows of somewhere (small-ish apartment or room in a house) in Kristianstad or NE Skåne, please let me know!

Kristianstadsdagener are also now over for another year. For those unfamiliar with the custom, basically for a week (read: 9 days) each town in Sweden has a summer festival, whereby booze is easy to get everywhere, and they sell it on the streets. Hoards of people descend on the town to enjoy the revelries, whilst numerous events and concerts keep people entertained. It's a great week in some ways, astonishing in others (you really can't believe that it is the same place in autumn, winter or spring), scary in yet more (Scandinavian prices again. Holy cow. A conservative and easy going week cost almost as much as a months travel!). And now it's back to the grind.


As a way of dropping in slowly, and taking advantage of summer and certain offers, I'm wandering around a bit, and trying to avoid sitting here glumly all the time. I've already met glorious TP leader Pete and his lovely wife Janelle in Copenhagen, and have trips planned to Lund, Varberg, Ven, Ystad, Helsingborg, Gothenburg and Åhus in Sweden, plus Bornholm and Copenhagen (again) in Denmark in the next few weeks. Plus a trip to Norway, Stockholm, one to Poland, and a longer trip back to the UK and Ireland. So many people to see, places to visit and things to do. And some work stuff and trips as well. And of course I'm pondering the next big one, the when, where and how of which is still formulating.

For that, you'll just have to wait and see.

But It isn't the end. Oh no. It's just a break between books. And the next one will be the most exciting, complex and longest yet.

See you in 2007.

Me with my pack, back in the office in Kristianstad, Sweden.

My famous possessed MP3 player, a Creative Zen 40gb, as previously noted with it's own sense of humour, irony and brilliant timing. Without it, I doubt I'd have survived the trip

And Clive even made it back to! Yes, I am aware that a good 99%+ of readers will have no idea who the heck Clive is, or what is such an achievement. In fairness, I should probably have introduced him last year from Hong Kong, instead of waiting until I got back and it was all over. But I didn't.

Posted by Gelli 06:45 Archived in Sweden Comments (2)

Wow, Eek, Sob, and hearing about myself

Somebody relevant once said something vaguely like "A journey of 1327.6 furlongs, starts with but a single drunken stumble". Or something like that.

More pertinently perhaps, journeys must also end the same way. Although financial constraints often mean that the stumble is due to dodgy paving rather than alcoholic inducement.

I left Liechtenstein as early as i could manage after such a night, re-acquainted myself with one of my favourite Durum (Shwarma type kebab) sellers in the world, a couple of hundred metres away from Feldkirk station - astonishingly, they still remembered me, and were delighted to see me. I haven't been there in about 16months - and then started the trek back. And thus after Innsbruck, Seefeld im Tirol (illogically, i had decided to delay myself by about 2hours by going via Garmisch again, albeit without stopping), Munich, Hamburg, broken train at Neumunster, Kolding, Roskilde festival ending induced chaos, Copenhagen (the train from which was enlivened by the conductor singing Monty Python songs over the P.A) and finally Malmö, about 36hours later I arrive in Kristianstad. With the same humour and stunning timing that I have come to expect, I got off the train to Joe Jackson's "Home Town", followed fittingly enough by "Homeless" by Paul Simon. With that in mind, I walked to Markeys apartment in the hope of crashing for a couple of nights, and that was it. Just like that, the trip was over.




And other useless three letter notes including Gpw and Qdl.

In a nicely if oddly circular (and slightly freaky) ending to my trip, on the night train between Munich and Hamburg, i got talking to an Aussie (who else?) whilst having a beer. He started telling me tales about a 'really good Welsh friend of his' who had been travelling for years. I was possibly less surprised than I should have been to then be recounted a tale of how his friend had got strip searched and arrested entering Korea because he had some liquorice, and had also barely managed to avoid getting married to a crazy girl in Japan after knowing her barely a week... Like a good boy, I played the "wow, that's amazing, what a story" role, not letting on that It was actually me and was a tad bemused at being described as a very good friend to this guy who I'd never seen before. I accept that It's theoretically possible that a similar set of things happened to another Welsh traveller, but I would guess that the odds are against it...

I wonder if Kiki knows my impersonator as well?

I've always known that the world is small. You meet people over and over again in strange situations, and often come across people who know people that you know. In fact for me, if i go more than 2 or 3 weeks without it happening, it's very unusual. But I've never before been had my own stories retold to me by somebody either doing it in the first person, or pretending that they know me. It seemed a very fitting way to end. Somehow, I've seemed to leave my mark on people and the world in the last year or so, and logically, it's now time to go and hide from all the angry people I have insulted/wronged in the last year.

There will be a couple more entries (WooHoo! Town Festival. Semi naked and mostly drunk Swedish beauties everwhere!), plus a kind of overview which I've done etc solely for my own purposes but will probably share with you, and some of the many long promised photos. And then for at least a month or two, I have to pretend to work.

And the brilliant Couchsurfing has risen, Phoenix like. Couchsurfing 2.0 is here already!

Posted by Gelli 08:25 Comments (1)

Stop the clock. They finally actually got married. Sort of.

In the circumstances, i really don't feel like doing a long interesting or waffly entry, so your just going to have to live with it.

Strangely enough, I didn't bother going to Germany v Sweden. You can probably work out why. I spent a couple of days wandering around kind of dazedly whilst i let things soak in and my head accept them. I got involved in a chunk of the organisation etc, which helped keep me vaguely sane, and with other people definitely in a much worse way, spent time looking after them. But after a couple of days, i realised that I needed a bit of time, and had a few other things I needed to attend to, so left for a few days.

As previously envisaged, I headed through to Slovenia (spending 7hours on a sweltering train in 35+ heat and with the air con packing in after 20mins), and spent a couple of days staying with my old friends Miha and Katja, who I'd also stayed with at the beginning of my trip. It was good to see them again, but also to be elsewhere and away from the grief and events in Germany. I could just switch off a bit and get my bearings. And I really needed it. From there, it was through to Zagreb.


Ljubljana, again

Timings were of course perfect, but it was finally the much delayed wedding. 6 times, I believe. The wedding. The one I had been really dreading. Level of detail here will necessarily remain low. I had been dreading it for a while. But I may have already mentioned that. There were many complications. I was best man (yes, the day before the funeral) so had to be cheery and alive at least somewhat, although I had managed to arrange to only stay for only 1 of the 3 days of the actual wedding, so that i could return to Germany for the funeral. Whilst this will sound horrible, I'm delighted that I managed to escape. Amazingly, my best man speech went off reasonably well. That sounds not too hard, but when you consider that i had to talk for about 90mins with several toasts, to a room full of people that i didn't know (baring the bride and groom, i had only met 4 others before, and 3 of them only briefly) in a language that i speak maybe a dozen words of, it was a great achievement. Sadly, the rest of the wedding was farcial.

I've been at strange weddings before. Ones which never happened, due to somebody, erm, pulling out. Ones where there have been, shall we say, occasional differences of opinion between people. But nothing to even vaguely compare with this. The kids, amazingly, were brilliant (4 month old twins). The groom even managed to stay mostly sober (a recovering alcoholic). However, there were several fights and confrontations. Knives were pulled. Things were destroyed. There were screams, and tears from many. And the police arrived on THREE separate occasions, two of which they departed with a handful of people to spend time at the pleasure of whoever they spend the pleasure of in Croatia. I suppose the Croatian taxpayer. It was utter chaos. And of course, i have barely any idea what the fr1cking hell was going on most of the time, as translating stuff for the poor sole non Serbo-Croat speaker in the room wasn't a high priority. I don*t even know what some of the arrests were about (or rather, i do, but can*t work out why certain other individuals weren't arrested instead of what seemed to be mostly innocent bystanders on the second occasion). And somewhere in the middle of it all, they even actually got married. Wow. And it was with great delight that i gave my congratulations, apologies for having to leave and legged it out onto the night train back to Bavaria.

If Kiki had been involved somewhere, I really wouldn't be surprised.

Sadly, none of the photos I have of the wedding are usable on a family website, although I will endeavour to get, at the very least, a nice Bride & groom and kids picture for you all to go 'awwwww' to...

The funeral was very fitting, and a good send off to two very close friends. Another chapter in life is over. And I can feel the end of my journey must be soon. It just feels right, even though i have time and money still available.
My original plan was to hang around for a day or two after the funeral, but it became very clear that the family wanted some time alone, so Aldo and I headed back to his place in Liechtenstein to ponder things in general. We were a somewhat morose duo, sitting there reminiscing about the past. The original group of 5 is now down to the remaining duo and we can*t help wonder which of us will be next. And the sheer number of people in general from our large group no longer with us is really scary. Am I (are we?) cursed? Is it just life? Sh1t happens? Karma from a previous existence, or...? Oh well.

What I do know is that between we got through a really scary amount of whiskey that evening, and certainly more than 2 people should be able to get through.



Schaan church at night, the huge outdoors tent they had erected for the World Cup, watching France v Brazil, and don't ask about what a depressed Welshman is doing with a 4am picture of sheep. Sometimes, you just need companionship that you can truly trust.

The only other thing of note that happened that night, was that thankfully the English finally went out of the World cup. I don*t have a huge problem with the English, but even them getting to the semis you know that you would never hear the end of it. And i can*t stand the media portrayals and hype. But the thing that really made it memorable was think was something that I had forgotten. Despite the tiny population of the country, there is an amazingly large (and that i always forget) Portuguese minority here, who went absolutely nuts on victory. You can't believe how much noise a couple of hundred cars full of Portuguese celebrating can really make. If that's what they are like after barely winning a quarter, I really need to be in Portugal (or indeed Germany, Italy or France) after the final for the winning celebrations.

And so it was, that I awoke in Liechtenstein, slightly the worse the wear shall we say, in a strange frame of tranquility, and knowing there and then that my trip was over. It was time to think about reentering the productive world. Sort of.


Vaduz Castle, somewhat hungover, and a sight for sore eyes

Posted by Gelli 11:20 Comments (1)

Despite all the great times, there had to be a real downer

This is a strange and very sad entry. It´s also probably worth glossing over completely as it´s really not a cheery one. And to be honest, i don't even know why i`m writing this as I really don`t have any enthusiasm to write it at all. I think i´m only doing it to stay occupied so I don`t break down.

Ideally I would be now boring you all with tales from Germany and the World Cup, especially since i have been to 4 more matches (Australia v Brazil, Germany v Ecuador, Cote d´Ivoire v Serbia-Montenegro and Ghana v USA) since i last posted here, as well as seeing England fail to beat the Swede´s for the umpteenth time to my obvious huge delight. But to be honest, I can`t really. The rest of my time has been spent in hospital with my best friend, Matt, who has been battling Pancreatic cancer. He suffered from a slightly complicated strain which took time to diagnose, and in the last few months has deteriorated rapidly. Changes in his condition was one of the reasons why I almost quit whilst in Vietnam and flew back there and then, although as you know, for assorted reasons I was talked out of it.

Seeing somebody you know and love dearly after over a year is always emotional, but to see him in his current condition was devastating. When I left he was slightly ill, but not overly and it hadn`t yet been diagnosed, and he looked more or less normal. I had been kept updated on his condition and progress as i went along, and had believed that despite what i was being told, that there must be some hope left. One look at him told me there was none, and if he lasted more than a month or so it would be almost miraculous. He was in such a bad way that if i hadn`t been so shocked at his sight, and he not been partly conscious, I would probably have tried to kill him there and then to put him out of his suffering.

The drugs no longer had any effect on dulling the pain, and it had got the point where he had even cut back, deciding that if he was going to live out his time in pain, that he would prefer more pain but trying to remain as lucid as possible instead of more or less being kept alive but so drugged that he was never awake. He had more or less been keeping himself alive on will power alone, fighting on partly until i returned and partly so he could watch the World Cup in his beloved Germany. Together with another great friend, Aldo, we had tickets for a couple of games, including the aforementioned Australia v Brazil, and it was essentially Matt´s last request that we do everything possible to get him to the game. He had never seen Brazil, and it was his life´s dream. After much discussion with everybody involved (and many who weren`t) and against all medical advice, we managed to come to an arrangement whereby an ambulance was paid for and somehow with the stadiums agreement managed to get him wheel chair, drip, drugs, nurses and all to the game where we sat and watched, a group of 7 of us huddled around him in support, until midway through the second half when it just all became too much for him and we left. Despite the fact that nobody wanted to see him suffer that way at all, and all logic said it was the worst thing that we could do, the realisation that we had made a dying man happy, at least for a short time, and had fulfilled his dream and last request mean´t it was most definitely worthwhile. The decision to go probably cost him over half of his remaining life, but he was going to go out on as much a high as possible.

Matt had also made us promise (to our disgust and guilt) that under no circumstances were we to give up any other tickets that we had, and despite his condition and that he could not accompany us, we had to go. Thus it was that i went back to Berlin on a day trip for Germany - Ecuador (which was an absolutely amazing atmosphere. 70,000 happy Germans supporting their own side at home in the World Cup, and with things going well, plus a small number of wildly happy Ecuadorians who had also already qualified) and to watch Sweden v England with the 300,000 others by Brandenberg Gate, another amazing experience. The following morning I got straight off the night train and went to the hospital for the day, before Aldo and I went to Cote d´Ivoire v Serbia Montenegro that evening, back to the hospital and then I went on a day trip to Nürnberg to see Ghana v USA, where the Americans managed to loose by 1 soccer point to 2 after poor second quarter offence. Or some such. I even managed to come across the only other person draped in a large Welsh flag in Nürnberg (plus the likes of Elvis, Captain America, Dubya, the Blues Brothers, Robin [but no Batman], Flash and Wonder woman). In fairness, they were 3 decent games, and a great World Cup experience, but I just wasn`t ever really in the mood, and more or less spent the whole time there feeling guilty and wishing I wasn`t there. As soon as I could, I was back in the hospital, watching and waiting.

Matt lost his battle and died early this weekend. It is strange how you can *know* that it will end that day, for no apparent reason. But that morning we all instinctively seemed to know it would, and it was a very strange and scary experience. Aldo and I had been taking it shifts with his parents, and we phoned them to say. They arrived a couple of hours later, and all 4 of us were there at the end. Looking at him in those minutes, he looked utterly at peace and entirely relaxed, the pain which had racked his face had gone and the release from his pain was almost joyful. I had been dreading that my last image of a dear friend would be one of him in pain, but instead i have a picture of calm serenity. Because of the situation, the initial reaction all around was more of relief than anything else. It wasn´t unexpected or sudden, and he had suffered greatly, thus the feeling that the had been released from that suffering was relief.

I have almost become too accustomed to death for it to register as anything more than a kind of strange "desolate and depressingly resigned sh1t happens" kind of feeling which I can`t really describe at all. Yes, there is overriding grief, but it´s much more than that. It´s hollow, empty, guilty (part "why me?" and part "Why not me?") painful kind of feeling and for the moment that´s all i can really say.















Images from Germany v Ecuador (above) and Serbia-Montenegro v Cote d'Ivoire (below)








Nurnberg, and images from USA v Ghana, below














Posted by Gelli 03:45 Archived in Germany Comments (3)

Which idiot let the entire Swedish population in?

A Blue gold invasion of Berlin

It's amazing just how many Swedish people it's possible to fit into Berlin at any one time. Granted they were going to be playing in the city that very evening, but the numbers were just scary. Two people with a large van full of copies of Aftonbladet (A Swedish tabloid) had driven over to sell their paper and sold out in under an hour. What had started as a decent sprinkling around during Brazil v Croatia had evolved into a full scale invasion of blue and yellow, and with me sporting my large Swedish flag as a kind of cape (as, indeed, I had at the Tunisia v Saudi game and on the train) I certainly wasn't letting the side down. The question was whether the Swedish side would.

I watched Ecuador - Costa Rica in the pub with Toby, one of the English guys who had also headed down to watch the Tunisia game, and in fact even had tickets for the Ecuador game in Hamburg (and his friend, Dan, had gone). Frustratingly for him, he had come down with a problem during the previous afternoon (his legs had swollen to huge red things) and was struggling to walk, so had reluctantly had to give up his ticket in order to visit a Berlin doctor. And with Ecuador being the early kick off, there was no chance of subsequently getting to Hamburg on time. Gutting. For those that have tried to get tickets, you will know what he went through and how hard it had been. To then actually get tickets, be in Germany and be unable to go is about as bad as it can be.

That was followed by another pub trip with some Aussie's to join the hoards of people cheering on the Trinidadians against the poms. Damned English. In fairness for them to loose would have been harsh, but they weren't exactly outstanding against a limited Trinidad side of mainly lower league British players. But they were superb and held on until the last 10mins when Crouch (who's beginning to look like a seriously prolific scorer, by stats at least) finally scored, before Gerrard got a late second.

And then to the main event and the hoards of blue and yellow. We headed again to Brandenberg Tor and the Fan Fest, which was simply a wash with Swedes. The only others out in any force were Aussies (with the exception of Sydney, has anybody ever come across anywhere where there isn't a large crowd of Aussies? It's scary just how omnipotent they are) who were also in yellow, and a scattering of English, many with Swedish partners. You couldn't have told that Paraguay were playing, as there were a total of 4 Paraguayans in a crowd of well over 100,000... The game itself was one of those extreme exercises in patience. The Swedes were on the offensive all game, but couldn't do much with it. Zlatan - long time superhero and saviour of the Swedish people - went off at half time injured, Allbäck somehow managed to have a lob cleared off the line, and with all hope beginning to fade and the entire crowd about to go into mourning, Freddy popped up with a late, late. late winner.


Queue absolute mayhem and a huge party all around. You would have thought that we had just won the World Cup. The evening went downhill rapidly from there, and ignoring the fact that the 3 Aussies I had started with had metamorphosed into 13 (just how do they do it?!) plus a fair few others - and amazingly considering the make up of the crowd, somehow not including a single Swede - the rest of the events of that evening will remain untold. And not entirely because I don't remember most of them. The fact we didn't make it home until gone 9am probably says something though...


The following day was, shall we say, somewhat unproductive. I achieved nothing at all except sitting outside of a kebab van watching football on TV. Movement wasn't going to happen. Plans to play football really weren't going to happen. And I was the active one - none of the Aussies even surfaced before 7pm. But it wasn't a bad day to be stuck there. Argentina gave a masterclass of possession football and attacking intent, demolishing Serbia - Montenegro 6-0, whilst also having a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, missing several good chances and scoring a fantastic goal, after a 3minute long 25pass (forward and back, left and right), and 9player build up. I've long thought the Argentinians have had the most depth - for the last 10 years or so - but curiously they have often failed to use it to it's potential. Admittedly teams that blow away their groups historically have peaked too early and then blow up in the knock outs, but there's always exceptions... The Dutch then beat the unlucky Ivorians 2-1 to send them out and mean my Cote d'Ivoire v Serbia -M game is irrelevant, except for pride and as S-M's last ever appearance together. The Ivorians again looked extremely good, and to my money would qualify from any other group, easily being amongst the top 5 teams. But unlucky enough to be in the hardest group.

That evening, I somehow managed to score tickets on the FIFA site for 2 more games - the Germany v Ecuador group decider and a tasty looking Ghana v USA. Typically after booking 5 nights in Berlin, only to then have to travel to Munich for a game, I will now be staying near Munich and have to travel to Berlin for a game (plus Nürnberg, which is easy). Oh well.

Left Berlin the following morning to Bavaria which is awash with yellow (Aussies of course, bolstered by a large Brazilian following for their game the following day). I have tickets for that, and now have 4 games in 5 days, but whether we manage to go to them all - or any - depends on a very important external factor.

Some of you know why, and I hope the rest will accept that I am deliberately leaving out details, but things are really not looking good down here, and I will probably now be in Bavaria for the duration. How long I'm here depends upon developments, but sadly we don't have much hope left. And because of that, i won't be around much for a bit as I have much more important things to do than be online. I'll update you when there is news, and hopefully will have some stories from Australia - Brazil et al as well, but your going to have to wait until I am in some kind of useful frame of mind to be able to put them together. If I ever am.

Sadly, and despite what Bill Shankly said, football isn't the most important thing in the world, even when it is the world cup. Life and death don't pay attention to TV schedules.

Posted by Gelli 05:40 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

2006 Battle of the Arabs

The delights of an essentially irrelevant World Cup game

Some people might wonder why the heck I went out of my way to spend 60euros on a second level ticket to see a game between two Arabic nations that I have no particular affiliation with, in a city over 6hours away from where I was staying, and which I would then have to return to only 2 days later on anyway.

For the rest of you, it's obvious. It's the World Cup!

And thus it was that i crawled out of bed at an hour almost as unseemly as the one I first got into it (about 20mins previously) and with two (shudder) England fans also heading there, headed off onto the train to Munich. Spain were opening their campaign against the Ukraine in Leipzig that day, and as the train went via Leipzig, we were first treated to a train full of press, officials and Spanish and Ukrainian fans. I had the, erm, honour, of sitting opposite Martin Tyler (looking somewhat old, haggard and pissed off with the world, despite being paid to be there and report) and a couple of Aussie cameramen, who were replaced in Leipzig by a German newspaper reporter who didn't stop talking for the rest of the 5 or so hours - an hour's delay not helping - although as it was football stuff, I didn't really care.

After an interesting game of sardines, which in fairness was notable really only for watching the chaos - almost at Shanghai levels - of people trying to squeeze on to an empty train, we headed off into the German suburbs, with everybody else (mostly Brits and Germans) complaining about how cramped the train was, whilst I marvelled at how empty it was in comparison to Moscow or Tokyo rush hours... Munich's spanking new (ok, a year old) Allianz arenA really is spanking new, and stunning. Resembling a kind of, erm, dunno really, Maybe a large white alien craft?, it certainly doesn't look liker a traditional stadium. Entering was surprisingly easy, with no ID checks at all, although my water bottle didn't make it, and finding my seat was simple. I had ended up in the middle tier, right in the corner above the flag, with a great and unobstructed view.


Munich's Allianz ArenA exterior and the stadium filling up prior to the game

Oddly, and despite FIFA's later protestations that it was a 66,000 sell out, there were large chunks of empty seats. Many were in the side reserved for corporate sponsors, who, I'm guessing, being underwhelmed by the two teams on offer had decided not to bother, but were too arrogant to actually return the tickets for real fans to use, whilst even my row of 24 was half empty. It was also a very strange crowd. Of maybe 55,000 people actually there, probably no more than about 5,000 were actual patriotic fans. The rest of us were essentially random football fans (huge numbers of English, lots of Germans, sprinklings of virtually everything else) who had managed to get tickets and were there because it was the world cup. It was great fun, but a strange atmosphere as there was little of other partisan cheering and support that tends to heighten the atmosphere.


The teams line up before the game starts, and some of the Tunisian fans cheering on their team

The game itself was decent and entertaining without being amazing, although most of the crowd seemed more interested in starting Mexican waves than actually watching the game. Technique and talent seemed to be lacking a bit and it wasn't the most technically amazing game at all, although as there are few African-Asian competitive Arab matches, they certainly weren't taking it easy. The Tunisians went 1-0, and then 2-1 when the veteran Al Jaber, formerly of Wolves scored seconds after coming on with less than 10mins to play, before Raidi Jaidi of Bolton equalised right at the death. Both teams could have won it, but i thought a draw was fair. And with Ukraine (who I've bet on to reach the semi's, woe betide me on that showing) oddly capitulating against the Spanish earlier, a draw certainly gives both sides a decent chance to progress to the next round.


Action from the game


The Saudi fans cheering on their team after Jaber's goal, and Me at the end of the game in the emptying stadium

I watched most of Germany v Poland in the Station awaiting my night train back to Berlin, and was amazed to see some common sense and thinking being applied by DB, German railways. Not only were they putting on extra trains on the four core internal routes away from Munich (to Stuttgart and Frankfurt, Köln and the Ruhrgebeit, Hannover and Hamburg and Berlin) to help people to get home after the game, But they had delayed all night trains leaving by between 10 and 30mins until after the end of the German game to allow fans (and staff) to finish watching it. And as Germany didn't score the only goal until the 91st minute, that extra time was definitely needed...


Crowds of fans leaving the game, and then heading into the U-Bahn station at Fröttmaning after the Tunisia v Saudi Arabia game

Posted by Gelli 05:39 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Welcome to Fan Fest 2006

After spending a happy afternoon in Copenhagen on my way south, revisiting old haunts, watching football (an unexpected and oddly great atmosphere and high number of Angolans for the Angola - Portugal game in the station sports bar) and spending a couple of hours catching up with Camilla (for those with really long memories, I had met her in Romania, and she was there when my wallet was swiped, and had trawled through Rubbish bins with me) it was time to head to Germany.

I had failed to find free accommodation in Copenhagen at such short notice, but had then come up with a cunning plan. I had a ticket which was valid from the following day, and had expected to be on the 07.45 train, but it occurred to me that my ticket started at midnight, and Denmark has a few trains leaving Copenhagen and Kastrup airport in the early morning which I could use, thus saving on accommodation and getting to Berlin earlier to boot. Thus, at 00.30, and with typically convoluted indirectness and cunning (or, perhaps, "me-ness"), I headed from Copenhagen to the German capital via Aarhus, Fredericia - and yes, i did indeed go to all the way to Aarhus for no reason at all except to double back about an hour to Fredericia. I did say it was convoluted me-ness - Kolding, Padborg and Hamburg, eventually winding up in Berlin. An amazing city, and one of my favourites, and I was delighted to be back, football or no.

When I had been killing an hour waiting for my train from Copenhagen, I had farted around online and actually managed to score tickets to another World Cup game. Thus it was shortly after checking in to my hostel, I headed to the Olympiastadia to queue for several hours to receive my ticket for that heavyweight battle to top all others, Tunisia v Saudi Arabia. Annoyingly, it meant that i missed the Australia v Japan game, but that couldn't be helped. Fifa not showing their own football in the ticket centre until huge pressure changed their minds was odd, so i saw it was 1-0 with 81mins gone. I should have actually stayed to watch the last 10mins, of course, but I didn't and only discovered later that Hiddink had inspired a 3goal comeback. Pah!

Instead, i headed to the fan fest in Berlin's central Brandenberg Tor, a mass of colourful fans watching football on some huge screens whilst enjoying German sausage and beer, which thankfully as it wasn't in the stadium, was real German beer, instead of the American cats p1ss cr*p that has to be served within the stadiums due to a certain 'beer' company being one of the official sponsors. I have no problem with official sponsors, and even one who's slogan says 'you do the football, we'll do the beer', except that to have such a slogan, surely they should actually supply beer, and not whatever the heck the water stuff they actually do is.

Despite barely seeing her 2weeks ago on my second pass through Siberia, it was great to catch up with the mad Masha again, although tragically she was neither wearing her superb wellington boots or any fancy multicoloured socks. Gutting. I'm sure that shouldn't really be allowed. Masha had been doing a bit of work in the city, but was now free to enjoy herself, and also celebrate her recent acceptance to Edmonton University. I don't know why, but most of my Eastern European/Russian friends seem to be in the process of moving to Canada. Me thinks at this rate, a new trip will have to be planned very soon... Amongst other things i learned that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the human Trotskyist (the hero in this little tale for those who have no idea what I'm talking about http://gelli.travellerspoint.com/90/ ) had lost his job on his release. You might think that a little harsh for somebody that didn't even have to fight an attempted terrorism rap, but when you realise that he was a primary school teacher, it becomes a bit more understandable...

Assorted freelance entertainment outside the Brandenerg gate included this group of break dancers etc

We spent the afternoon watching football in the square (Czechs looking good), meeting up with random other friends of Masha's - by the end we were a Welshman, Russian, German Polish expert, Italian, Brazilian and handful of Spaniards - and seemingly constantly walking back and fore between Brandenborg Tor and Fredericksraße S-Bahn station, utterly confusing the guards outside the American embassy on the way and probably appearing increasingly suspicious to boot.

Oh, and Kiki is pregnant. With twins. And Christian is not the father.

Croatian fans preparing to face Brazil

The following day can probably be summed up in the way that many subsequent days will be. Football in the fan fest. 3 games over an 8hour period where i did little except watch and take in the great atmosphere. The final game was Brazil v Croatia, the first to be played in Berlin, and also the first time I saw the Berlin Fan Fest properly packed. As with the previous day, their were fans from almost every conceivable country, including many from countries not even in the finals. Probably 70% of the crowd were wearing Brazilian tops or waving Brazil flags, although suspiciously high numbers of them were English speakers or Germans, and probably the number of real Brazilians there was very low. The remainder included large pockets of noisy Croats plus lots of Swedes (who play here in a few days time), who added to the general yellow-ness. And even a fair few Scots, including one with a simple yellow T-Shirt with Brazil in big letters, followed by the line 'because my team is rubbish'. It's still slightly odd how such a successful team can attract such affection and support from virtually ever other nation, but that sums it up really. The game itself wasn't great, but the atmosphere was, and it was a heck of allot of fun.

Brazilian fans with musical accompaniment passing through Berlin's Central Station

Croatian fans in central Berlin "celebrate" the pitch invasion by a random naked guy...

And the pregnancy (why the heck does everybody i know - without exception - have to have complicated kids. They either have twins or triplets, have one parent missing, unknown, in prison, or some other twist, and even in one case, a single mother still utterly convinced she's a virgin despite obvious evidence to the contrary... Why the heck am i seemingly incapable of knowing a happy couple who have a single child at a time????) wasn't even the twist I was going to tell you all about if the response had been that you wanted to hear about it. That one is even better!

Pictures, like so much of the last few months, will follow at a later date, but for now it's gone 3am and time to try and sleep. I haven't really in 2 days, and I have a 6hour trip to the other end of Germany to watch an Arab game tomorrow.

I get reminder's of the whole Kiki thing everywhere...

Posted by Gelli 08:50 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

A boring bit about being back in Kristianstad

Returning home after any trip is strange, but having been away for over a year, it felt even stranger than normal. I was dropped off on the edge of town and walked into the centre, right past my old home. The weird feeling of familiarity hit me quickly as I wandered towards he bus centre, whilst the lack of virtually any obvious changes on my route made it feel like I had never left. The sun was out, and you could tell that it was summer by the sheer number of Swedes wearing shorts. Doesn't matter if it's hot or cold, in summer all Swedes will wear shorts as it is summer... The only obvious changes I encountered was that the ATM now also dispenses Euros as well as Krona (the later of which i had a desperate need to acquire), and that half of the bus station is closed for resurfacing, causing momentary confusion as to where the heck my bus left from. Stora Torg, which had been ravaged by a large fire shortly before I had left, I left for a later visit, whilst my old music bar, Banken (also destroyed by fire, shortly after i left - Kristianstad having been in the middle of a fairly long and sustained pyromaniac attack) looked the same as before.

I utterly confused everybody at work by just randomly appearing without any forewarning at all, with one or two going in to major shock at my appearance. I don't think anybody actually expected me to return at all, and even now, many still doubt it. Do I really give the impression that I want to leave that badly?? If it was strange to be back in Kristianstad, it was even stranger to be back in work. Not a huge amount had changed, although two of the old hands had left (one for 6months, the other permanently), Matthew had finally gained a clone and good old Marky Ryan, an old colleague from the Aylesbury days where we were spent more or less our entire time scheming as to how the heck we could leave the office of doom and get out from under the cosh of the evil boss man, and who I had first encountered at University, had recently joined and was now settling into life in Sweden. Useful to have around, as he is (a) a crusader for mac's as well - of course I was only ever going to Conn TK into hiring Mac people and (b) has enough quirks that my habitual wandering around the office in odd coloured socked feet with numerous assorted holes probably won't attract as much comment as previously...

And the electronic store around the corner had gained a portable Thai food wagon.

Excitement knows no bounds, doesn't it?

But no, don't be daft. Of course i wasn't back properly and almost having to do real work again. That's one I'm really trying to avoid. I farted around for a couple of days, catching up with everybody - work colleagues and other friends - crashing at 3 different peoples places, and trying to work out what the future held for me and at work. Made a few small plans, and after spending an evening in Banken watching the opening two games (Germans don't look bad, Poles look pathetic) and then a good triple bill of watching the English start in customary style (doing not allot whilst trying to defend a 1-0 lead against inferior opposition), the Swede's somehow managing to fail to realise that the ball needs to go into the net if they were to beat Trinidad and Tobago (and that would have been a great party to be at, following the result) and the Argentinian and Ivorian teams putting on a good display of technical and mostly attacking football in the group of death, it was time to head off.

As you may have realised, It's World Cup time. It's in Germany. And i'm not. Yet. This must be rectified. Time to get there as quickly as possible.

Without flying, of course...

Posted by Gelli 08:31 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

University celebrations and calm before the home coming

Although very sad to be back in Europe and the trip definitely winding down, I was delighted to return to Lithuania. Vilnius has long been one of my favourite cities, and whilst it has started to be discovered more and more by backpackers (who more or less without exception have either come direct from Krakow or Warsaw and then heading to Riga and Tallinn, or are going the opposite direction) and stag do's etc, hasn't yet really taken off and been affected in the way that Riga has. Part of that is that Ryanair only fly to Kaunas, an hour away, and with Vilnius airport at capacity and not due expansion for a few years it should stay that way, and at least keep some of the stag-do horrors away.

The weather was beginning to get decent after a few dodgy days in Russia, and I was looking forward to seeing some friends again. With a few people away at summer camp, and others in the middle of exams or in the process of moving so unable to let me crash, i found myself an excellent (if bizarrely full of Aussie's) hostel in the centre and spent a couple of days wandering around happily, catching up with some friends and generally relaxing. Amongst others, I managed to spend some time with wonderful Vaida who i had met on my way through last time, and who after a very tough few weeks was in the middle of her final course commitments and about to finish, with, hopefully a pass from her Thesis presentation, which ends their course and after which they will know straight away whether they had passed or failed everything. Plus a few others who I knew from various places, and one or two commitments which I won't go into, which were necessary but sadly not the most fun.

Even though it isn't all that big, I never manage to have enough time in Vilnius. I think perhaps I just need to move here for a few months, which would be easier. And I can never tire of watching the girls wandering around, as they are almost to a fault all universally stunning.

In the middle of my time in Vilnius, I went to Kaunas for a couple of nights. Vilnius's second city is about 80minutes West of Vilnius, but despite passing through maybe 20times, I'd never managed to stop off for even a couple of hours to see it, and was determined to rectify the situation. Admittedly my timing was bad - the weather changed so that it was mostly wet or rainy, it was right in the middle of end of year (or course) exams so few people were about, and I arrived Sunday with only Monday as a full day there, which with most things being closed meant they were are the worst days possible. Oh well. But I had managed to find myself yet another (as they all have been) great host, in the shape of Ina - of the many Lithuanian girls with an Italian boyfriend - and we had a look around town. I also spent a day walking through the old town, and out to the convent by the lake, which despite the weather was very pleasant, and I'm more than happy to have finally managed to see Kaunas.



Central Kaunas, the old town, and covent by the lake

Ina also gave me a chunk of Lithuanian music to add to my growing collection of World Music, and introduced me to a hither unto unknown Italian liqueur, which whilst admittedly on the sweet side, had the totally unexpected quality of tasting more or less perfectly like liquid Bakewell Tart. I used to love Bakewell tarts (a kind of English pie/cake, originally from Bakewell in Derbyshire, for the many of you know wondering what the fr1ggin heck Bakewell tart is) and haven't seen or tasted one in many years, so was both stunned and delighted when the realisation of the taste hit me. I also had an extremely strange experience with 3 young-ish girls in a kebab shop (and another Uni celebration) which for your amusement I should probably expand greatly on, but in this case i really won't.

It's just better that way.




Progress is building new things right next to old buildings; Kaunas by night; art or really bad parking depending on your point of view, and proving just how safe Lithuania is!

Back in Vilnius it was midweek, so the hoards of English speakers there at weekends and the stag-do mob that do exist had all gone, leaving the city much quieter, more relaxed, and mostly composed of Lithuanians. WooHoo! Vai had had her Thesis presentation that morning with excellent results, and thus we celebrated both her graduation and imminent move to London to join her English boyfriend and start a new life there. Later and deliberately, if a bit more randomly, i hooked up with my old Norwegian friend Tina and one of her friends, who had just finished their exams in Trondheim and who had just flown in to start a well deserved summer holiday.

I've said it before, but I wish I could stay longer.

However, I had another semi-commitment to take care of, and so i took the bus to Klaipeda on the coast, and after wandering around for a couple of hours (the old centre is OK, but I've never liked the city in general), went to the port to get the ferry to Karlshamn and my return to Sweden. The ferry was boring, and I had very little of either Litas or Krona so restricted myself mostly to watching the water pass by. It was the calmest ferry I think i have ever been on, with not even a hint of rocking, and if i hadn't known i would never have guessed I was on a boat or moving. I watched Sweden appear the next morning, feeling very strange about my return, even if only a brief one, and after negotiating one slight problem (Karlshamn port is nowhere near Karlshamn, and there is no public transport to it) with the help of a couple of nice Lithuanian lorry drivers, we passed through Sölvesborg and the Swedish rock festival and I was dropped in Kristianstad.

I was finally back.

Why? I'll explain next time.

Klaipeda central square

Posted by Gelli 05:35 Archived in Lithuania Comments (1)

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