Friday, October 31

Bizarre thought

I know where I'm going to sleep every night for the next 10 days, with the except of the two saturday nights.

Tonight (now) Sean's in Paris.

Friday - a couchsurfing friend in Augsburg (who I've already met before!)

Saturday - Hopefully Zagreb somewhere.

Sunday - Definitely Zagreb, and I know where.

Monday - Belgrade - another CSer I've met before.

Tuesday - on a train

Wednesday - Roger's in Istanbul.

Thursday - most likely Roger's again (Yes! TWO nightsin the SAME PLACE!)

Friday - Back on that train.

Saturday - Belgrade OR, if I'm lucky, my *own* apartment in Sarajevo.

Sunday - Definitely Sarajevo.

How bizarre is that!

Wednesday, October 29

Crazy Plan #341

Cross the entire continent of Europe overland in 5 days.
I could make it 4, but I have allowed a day in the middle for reasons of Sanity.

What's happened is:
The school I have just agreed to work for in Sarajevo wants me to start 10 days earlier than originally advertised. I negotiated it back to the 15th of November, instead of the 5th, and yet they still kept going on about the 5th. So I've agreed to get there by the 10th as a compromise.

Getting to Sarajevo by the 5th wouldn't be a problem, except... I left a bunch of stuff in Istanbul when I left there in August, figuring I would be back there a month or so later. And now for some bizarre reason I'm in Paris. And planning to work in Sarajevo. Sometimes my life seems a little crazy, even to me.

So. Here's the current plan.

Friday (the day after tomorrow) hitchhike with Solene from Paris to Nuremburg. It's a long way, but we went even further in a day two weeks ago, so it should be fine. I've lined up a couch for the night there.

Saturday - Solene continues towards Prague on her own, I catch a train to Sagreb, arriving at about 8pm.

Sunday: this is the 'sanity day' I've factored in. If I want, I could continue, but I think I will appreciate the rest day.

Monday - train/bus/hitch (still working that out) to Belgrade. Stay that night there.

Tuesday Morning, take the direct train to Istanbul (a mere 23 hours or so). I'd have a sleeper, so it would probably be quite restful.

Wednesday morning - Arrive Istanbul. Collect Stuff.

I could leave on the same train straight back again that evening, to arrive in Belgrade on Thursday evening, stay the night and get to Sarajevo Friday evening, but there doesn't seem a lot of point in arriving in Sarajevo on Friday evening, so I think I could stay one night in Istanbul and then head back to Sarajevo. Probably via the train back to belgrade or Nis and then a bus, which is infinitely faster than a train. Trains are just a whole lot more comfortable when you have to spend a night on them and are willing to spend the money on a sleeper.

I am not sure what most of this will cost, of course, as it is hard to get that sort of information for the Balkans. I would like to hitch when possible, but doing the overnight trains does save time. Of course, given the average speed of the trains, hitching is actually slightly faster during the day, I believe!

So I've just spent 4 hours solid on all the different options and websites and distances and train times and trying to find prices and ARGH. My brain hurts.

Meanwhile. It's freezing in Paris today.

Thursday, October 23

Random Amusements

You know I have unlimited internet when I post things like this. Or possibly it's being at Sean's place in Paris and the combination of unlimited internet *and* being directed to many amusing links without having to go to the toruble of finding them myself. So. I bring you:

1. An amusing comic that describes my life when I have internet access at home. When I have a home. And when I have a laptop. Although these days I can do this on my telephone, of course.

2. And then this:

Tuesday, October 21

From a Chateau (with update)

I'm sitting here in an actual chateau surrounded by an actual moat. Complete with ducks.
Leaving Toulouse wasn't easy - we spent an hour and a half at the entrance to the freeway waving our thumbs and signs for the freeway towards Bordeaux. We had two signs, because the fist place we tried to stand for a while was in front of a block of flats, and I waved my thumb while Solene sat down to create a 'Bordeaux' sign, and a guy on the third floor must have seen from his balcony, because he came out with a sign he had printed on his computer especially for us. Nice, hey! He also suggested we move further up the road to the traffic light where there was traffic from multiple directions, but it still wasn't a great spot, and it was hard for people to stop.
But eventually someone did, and we convinced him to take both of us (he thought I was on my own, as Solene was accross the road aiming her sign at other traffic) and thus managed to get as far as the toll booths of Montauban, where we were miraculously not told to leave (I'm fairly positive it was a no-pedestrian zone) and managed to get a ride within about 15 minutes. And it was a brilliant ride with a lovely couple with a big car with plenty of space who were going 300km in the right direction. Very lucky. And we had lunch together and everything. At 4pm, they dropped us at a slightly deserted gas station where I accidentally woke up some people sleeping in their car in front of the entrance by getting my recorder out and playing a gig. We didn't ask them if they were going our way after that. We also tried for a ride on a motorbike with the most sophisticated sidecar I have ever seen (think of something like a convertible Smart car on an even smaller scale attached to the side of the bike, which was also enormous). Unfortunately, there was already two people, so the only remaining seat was on the back of the bike, and wouldn't quite fit both of us and our luggage...
Anyway, a nice truckdriver agreed to take us an hour or so up the road to the toll booths at Niort, where we approached a car that was about to leave from the little parking lot there to head onto the motorway, and it turned out they were heading to the nearest little village to the little village we were heading for. and they were Czech, and Solene speaks Czech. So, despite already being three in the car, they took us the whole rest of the way - right to the door of Solene's cousin's Chateau.

So yes, I'm staying in part of a Chateau. It's not wuite as grand as it sounds, but it's pretty cool none the less. The three houses that have been created from what remained of the old buildings (it was mostly destroyed in the revolution, apparently, and most of what is now here was built afterwards) are surrounded by a moat with ducks all a dabbling in it. And this house is all lovely modern rooms, until you open a random door, and there's the old granary, with a peaked roof, no ceiling, and stone castle walls. Oh, and there's a winepress in the garage. Built in. It's the take-you-shoes-off-before-you-get-in style.

And this afternoon, after my phonecall with Sarajevo (about which more later, probably), we went to another, more impressive chateau nearby, (you can look at the pictures and decide which is which) and wandered about the grounds, which was all very pleasant, though a little damp, as it rained all morning. But pleasant in a moist, green sort of way.

And tomorrow, the plan is to set off earlyish and get to Paris earlyish. I'll be staying with Sean for a week or so. Or at least until the weekend. I might need to start heading for Sarajevo after that.

Sunday, October 19

leaving Toulouse

So sometime earlyish tomorrow morning, Solene (my current hitchhiking partner) will leave Toulouse to travel 559km (that's 5 hours and 1 minute, thankyou google maps) to a place called L'Herbergement. There we plan to stay two nights before heading the 400ish km to Paris on Wendesday.
In other news...
I had an email from the school in Sarajevo today. They want to know if I can be there at the beginning of November. And they'd like to interview me.
It would be very, very good for my career to have this job. But it would mean full time work for at least 6 months. Scary idea that.

Thursday, October 16

Kat's current list of crazy plans.

Disclaimer: i don't guarantee that i will actually do any of these things. I also can't promise i won't do all of them.
1. Live in sarajevo- if iH give of a job as dos there, the contract is 6 months, and starts on my birthday...
2. Work in Kyrgyzstan- i applied to a school there asking if they'd give me a 3 month contract.
3. Buy a motorbike- i just had a ride from one end of vienna to the other on the back of a bike. And it was fun. And made me think i should buy one. It would be easier than hitching in some ways. Harder in others. Feels like less responsibility and investment than a campervan, though, which is one of the other ideas always in the back of my mind.
4. Travel from Montonegro to Malta
5. Use Sean as a base in Paris to go to Belgium, amsterdam, bits of france i've never been to.
6. Join the couchsurfer group that plans to hitch from Biarritz to Italy or so in costume in early December.
7. Travel overland from europe to Singapore.
8. Return to Montreal.*

*I miss montreal. I do. But as the weeks since i left turn into months and months, and my life of travel and 'where can i go next' continues- goes back to normal, one might say - i find the memory of the stability, acceptance and 'at-home-ness' is, not exactly fading, but perhaps becoming less important, as i remember what life was like before i had that. This isn't to say i will stop doing the visa application. Just that i accept that it is going to take time, and that it might be a while before i get back. If they let of back at all. But that's ok. I'll find places to live and things to do in the meantime. Not sure where or what, but something will present itself, i'm sure!

Wednesday, October 15

Zagreb-Toulouse via Prague.

2300km in 4 days.
Ridiculous really, isn't it?
So i left Zagreb somewhat reluctantly, as i had a brilliant week there. I was volunteering for the queer festival, which was mostly a film festival, with a few performances. I had the easiest job ever: i just took peoples tickets for the films, then want in and watched the films myself. For free. And the performances. It was great! And i met so many wonderful people and went to some very entertaining parties, and generally had a lot of fun. I definitely plan to go back and visit Zagreb sometime soonish!
However. I left. Late. But i made it to Vienna that night anyway, stayed with a wonderful couchsurfer called Lonny, who fed me well and then drove me all the way across Vienna on the back of his motorbike to the spot recommended by hitchwiki. I waved goodbye, got out my sign, and a car stopped. Instantly. It was a good spot.
I arrived in the suburbs of prague at 5.30, managed to meet Solène by 8.30 and put my stuff at her friend's place where we were staying and then she took me out to see a squat that was having a party for the Freedom not Fear march (which i had missed, as i was still in transit). We didn't stay long, but it's nice to know Prague has some interesting things happening these days.
The next morning we were up horribly early and at the gas station we needed by 9ish and riding with a turkish truck driver 10minutes later. He was very surprised when i greeted him and asked him where he was going in Turkish! I found it a little harder after that, as my turkish is a little more buried under german and random slav than it was a month ago! The day went pretty smoothly after that, too - 850km in 12hours is really not bad. It was the first time i had hitched in germany or france, (apart from a few rides on small roads a few years ago when i accidentally ended up in france instead of spain), and it's a somewhat different experience. For a start, once you're on the freeways, there's no standing on the side of the road. It's all gas station to gas station, with the occasional toll booth for variety. You need a good map with the stations marked. And there are so many highways that you often have choice, which is annoying. In the balkans, most of the time, there was only one road, so the choice was easy. One advantage of the gas station method, though, is that you can choose who you ask, and you often get people who wouldn't stop, and you can avoid anyone that you don't want. You can also talk to them and work out exactly where they're going and if they are the sort of person you want to ride with. And, of course, convince them that you are the sort of person they want to give a ride to!
In this regard, Solène and i were good travel partners for a Czech-Germany-france trip. We would look at the number plates, and if they were Czech, it was Solène's job, germans were for me, and french we could both ask, of course. And then the language also determined which of us sat in the front seat. It worked well!
We spent Sunday night at Solène's aunt's place in Besancon - even arriving in time for dinner- and were dropped back at the toll gates the next morning. The second day went about as quickly, but felt more annoying, as we had several stops when we waited an hour or so. Not bad, but we had got used to excellent luck, i guess. Still, we made the 800ish kilometres to Toulouse in 14 hours, and were dropped off just in time to get the last metro into the centre.
Yesterday i did practically nothing, having something of a recovery day, and then in the evening we went with some of solène's friends to a screening of the 1926 silent film of Faust, in the basilica of St-Sernin, with a live performance of the soundtrack on the rather impressive organ there. So the plan is to be here a week or so, hopefully catch up with people i know, hang out with Solène and friends, who are all trying to help of retrain my accent so that's it's less canadian, and then i'll head for Paris. And I haven't planned past then yet!

Sunday, October 12


Made it to prague without any problems, though getting into the centre and managing to contact Solene was fun, and took 3 hours, thanks mainly to the extraordinary unhelpfulness of every Czech person i asked.
So here i am, with one night in prague before heading to france tomorrow. We have 850km to go in a day, which means an early start. And then almost the same distance the day after all the way to Toulouse.

Friday, October 10

One of my cardinal rules of hitchhiking is never be in a hurry. Things get stressful then. And then you get desperate and make mistakes. So here i am, having left zagreb far too late, barely out of the city and getting annoyed that my ride has just wasted a half hour of my time by wanting to take me to the wrong border. We sorted out the misunderstanding, he's taking me back to my highway, but has stopped for petrol before we get there. Also, he doesn't seen to be going anywhere himself, just willing to take me where i want to go, which isn't a good sign, and we don't have a language. Re i think as soon as we get back to the highway, i will make my excuses, say i'm looking for ride all the way to austria, and get out.

Which is exactly what i did, and now i'm suffering EU shock at a gas station near graz. The prices are horrible, i have to speak german with actual native speakers, i didn't notice when we entered Austria, and the gas station has free wifi. All shocks to the system.
I will make it to Vienna tonight, but only if i put this down and go and ask some cars!

today's plans

So the plan today was to leave early and hitchhike all the way to Prague in one day. The longest solo hitchhike I have done.
But somehow the reception of Annie Sprinkle's Big Green Queer Wedding last night - the last event of the Zagreb Queer Festival was way too much fun and I didn't get to sleep until 6.30 this morning, which made my plan of leaving around 8 a little tricky. And now it's 2pm, and I'm still here.
So a slight change of plan - I have a choice of two places to stay in Vienna tonight, so I will turn up and work out which one is easiest. Vienna is only halfway to prague, so I should be able to leave here in the next hour and still get there at a reasonable time tonight and then leave early and still make it to the Freedom not Fear march in Prague with Solene. But if not, then at least I'm sure I'll make it to Prague for the night!
And then early Sunday morning, Solene and I head for France in the longest hitchhiking-all-at-once trip I have done. I generally prefer to do shorter trips and stop and see lots of things, but this is a 1600km dash across the continent in two days. Should be fun!

In other strange news - last night someone recognised me from my Couchsurfing profile. She said 'Hey, you're the couchsurfer', and I said 'I am a couchsurfer, but... which couchsurfer?' and she said 'the one from the mailing list!' and I said 'which mailing list' and she said 'the queer couchsurfers list' and I said, 'yes I am but how on earth did you recognise me from that picture?'. It seems she had noticed my posts to the list talking about going to the various festivals I've been to in the last few weeks. So next time I'm in Zagreb, it seems I have more than one option for where to spend the night!

Tuesday, October 7

Zagreb adventures

I left zelenkovac at lunchtime on friday, and got rides pretty easily first out to the highway, (i use highway in the australian sense of 'main road between cities' not, as i have recently realised it is used on this side of the world to mean 'freeway, or multi-lane motorway'.) then to past Banja Luka and then all the way to Zagreb with a nice Slovenian businessman.
Once in Zagreb i wandered about the southern suburbs (having been dropped on the highway in the south of the city) until i found wifi to check email for the first time in days and also work out what post of currency they had so that i could decide how much to withdraw. I think the Kuna is about the 305th currency i've dealt with in the last two months. Bring on the euro, i say. Purely for my own convenience, obviously.
Once i had money and the address of the squat i had arranged to stay in, i headed for it, or at least, into the centre, as i couldn't find the street on my map, but figured it was more central than where i was. It wasn't until later that i discovered that streets can be in nominative or genitive case- two forms which, naturally, bear little resemblance to each other. I swear they just do it to confuse foreigners...
Once i asked a nice lady in a bookshop to help of look it up on one of the maps she was selling, and paused for a splurge of an almost real dinner, and then got a little disoriented and walked 10mins in the wrong direction, giving me a tour of the centre on my way, i found the squat. And 3 random montrealers who let me in and then reassured of that i still understand quebecois, and that my accent is more english and french than canadian. The french french think otherwise... I also met some girls who were making an art studio in the squat and ended up going out with them to a bar and then a club at the nearby student centre. Both places were interesting- the bar is called Kriva Put, which means 'the wrong way' and the gallery on the other side of the courtyard/beergarden is 'the Right way'. It was a good place, with the right line of people, and i felt quite at home. At the student centre there was an electronic music performance going on, which was intermittently interesting and unbearable. The guy who appeared to be playing Super Mario Brothers on an old gameboy throughout his set was an example.
At about 1.30 i decided it was time to in home, as it had been a long day. I was a little concerned that i didn't have a key, it was pouring rain and quite cold and i hadn't yet managed to talk to the person i was supposed to about staying, but i figured the canadians would let me in, at least.
When i got back there it was all dark and quiet, though i could hear music from the other side of the yard somewhere. Noone answered my knock, and i resigned myself to waiting in the shelter by the door for someone to come. Half an hour or so later i remembered that the people i had left at the club not far away had a key, but by the time i got back there (through the pain again) it had closed and everyone had left. So i went back and stood and waited again, assessing my options. At one point someone did put their head out a window, but in a part of the building that i wasn't sure was part of the squat, so when i said 'can you let me in' and if shook his head and disappeared, i just figured they were the neighbours or something. Of course i found out later that it was all the same place, so he could have.
Anyway, having considered going to a hostel (not worth it at 3.30 in the morning) and wished very much that i had my sleeping rag and bivvy that were locked inside with my stuff (there were a couple of sheltered almost indoor places i could have slept, if i'd had my stuff) I resigned myself to waiting another 2 hours til the canadians left for their 6am train. And then the door across the courtyard opened and i realised the music was coming from there. I asked the girl who came out if she knew the people in the squat, and she said no, but that i should come and john ties party. So i did, although my exhaustion levels couldn't quite keep up with the dancing they seemed to expert of me. After telling my story and warming up a bit, i discovered that the room we were in was also squatted, and they were just a bunch of friends using the space for a party. And then the police showed up and very politely told us to leave. So we did. And as we did, a girl called Marina said 'you have no where to sleep, so you can come home with me. So i did. And so did half the party, which then continued in a quieter more subdued fashion until 7am, when i finally went to sleep on marina's floor in a borrowed tshirt and trackpants (all my stuff was soaked after so much wandering around in the rain). It was good, though. Marina was an excellent host and i had a shower and heat and all sorts of luxuries the squat didn't have.
The next afternoon when i got back to the squat, i found the art-studio girls again and the introduced me to someone who could give me a key, and i arranged to stay one more night, figuring i would work on getting couchsurfing or something after that. Also, they were having a band play on the sunday night, and were expecting the police to show up, and the chances are we would have been kicked out for the night anyway.
Key in hand and night's accommodation secured, i set off for the film festival office to offer myself as a volunteer, which is, of course, the reason i came to Zagreb.
I found the info centre, rather than the office, but close enough. They rang the office and then asked me if i was ready to in straight to work. Half an hour later i was taking tickets at kino Europa, and then seeing a film about homosexuality, biblical literalism and religious parents. It's called 'For the Bible Tells Me So' and is an excellent doco. Since then i've taken lots of tickets, and seen lots of good films, one terrible one, and a theatre performance involving puppets raping and murdering each other that was so well done i expect nightmares. Very disturbing. Oh, and i have also met Annie Sprinkle, who will be performing tomorrow.
While collecting tickets that first evening, i met Marta, one of the Zagreb people i had met in Sarajevo, and the one who had told me they still needed volunteers and that there was a squat i could stay in. She was impressed to hear i had followed her instructions to the letter, heard my plan to find another place to stay, and resolved to find me something, as she felt somewhat responsible for me! 5 mins later, someone came up to of at the door and said 'i hear you need a place to stay. You can stay at my place.'
I moved to Gordana's place the next afternoon, and found myself very well looked after. I have my own bed in my own room, i have washed myself and my hair and my clothes and my towel and i've caught up on lots of internet. And learnt to appreciate mac computers. And i think i've decided what to do next. But I'll blog about that next time!

Friday, October 3

forest interlude at Zelenkovac

So i'm sleepingin a wooden bungalow in a forest, and i've spent the evening tending a fire, playing with a kitten and talking to a woman from Nis who came here for a one week holiday 4 months ago and never left.
Getting here was relatively easy. I walked out of Mostar and spent about 20mins with my thumb out before a truck stopped for me and i had a lovely 4 hours with a nice guy called mari, who spoke enough german to explain to me some of the more confusing things about Bosnian geography, like which villages are muslim and where Hercegovina ended and Bosnia began and then where the Bosnian republic of Serbia started. It was odd, knowing we were nowhere near the border, when he points at the hillside across the gorge (there are some gorgeous gorges in this country. Or countries) and says 'that's croatia'. By which if meant the bit of Bosnia that is catholic, and therefore croatian...).
From Jajce i got a ride with a guy who spoke about 10words of italian, except some of them were german... If had never heard of Zelenkovac, but, after a brief pause to get a 30mark fine for speeding, dropped me at the turnoff to Mrkonjic Grad, where i asked the first person i saw, and discovered that i had got out about 10km too early. But it turned out ok, as i was only there another 10mins or so, a little worried in the fading daylight, when a farmer who lived somewhere right near this place picked me up, bought me a beer in a bar in the village of Podrasnica, and not only drove me to the door but walked in with of and explained where he had found me. All the while talking to me in local language (whatever they call it here- it's too political for me), despite my minimal understanding.
Zelenkovac is a rather amazing place to have found on couchsurfing. It's an ecological zone, and a site that hosts a jazz festival and similar things in the summer, and they rent out the bungalows that are already finished. There's a plan to finish more of then by next summer. It's good to be in the mountains and out of the cities, even if it is rather chilly up here. And my bungalow is unheated... The bar/gallery has a nice fire though, and there is a bathroom with hot water. And a little kitchen. It all feels rather like camping, though. And it's definitely a summer sort of place- i'm told it will be closed in a few weeks and not reopened until april when the snow melts. It's almost a pity, because i could imagine it would be cosy and oh so rustic to spend a few nights here in the middle of winter, probably snowed in and very dependent on the fire. And then it would be very annoying that all the different rooms are only accessible from the outside- you have to in outside to get to the shower, the bedrooms, the kitchen...
Today, however, I spent nearly the whole day today outside in whatever sun i could find with the noise of the brook (it was originally a water mill) constantly in my ears. Makes a change from city and highway noises. I sat about, read my book (i'm about halfway through the french Terry Pratchett Sean lent me a few months ago!), played my recorder (added the blackadder theme, early one morning and danny boy to my previous repertoire of mainly mythica songs), went for a walk and found some of the most impressive mushrooms i have ever seen, played with the kitten some more, poked the fire (which was appreciated even in the middle of the day), and walked the kilometre or so into the village for supplies and a coffee in one of the TWO bars there (it's may be a one horse town, but it's got two bars...).
All in all a very peaceful break. And completely internet free (though i did spend an hour getting my computer fix by sorting photos and playing solitaire). But the lack of net means i have no idea if i have a couch in Banja Luka tmrw night, or if i should go straight to Zagreb, where at least i know there is a squat where i can stay.

Thursday, October 2

Pros and cons of staying in Sarajevo

Pros and cons of staying in Sarajevo
It's cheap.
I know a few people there now.
I know a place to stay
The IH school there is looking for teachers and sound pretty flexible about contracts and whatnot
The school provides accommodation to native speaker teachers.
Otherwise i'm told i can rent a house in the centre for 150euro a month, and don't need a whole house and i don't need to live in the centre.
I haven't seen all i want to see there.
It's easy to ride the trams for free...
It's pretty, despite the communist concrete and war damage, which rather add considerably to its charm.
There are dozens of second hand clothing shops in Sarajevo.
I might actually learn some modern history
The people i've met are all interesting and interested.
It would be interesting to live somewhere where people my age remember war so clearly.
Bosnia Hercegovina is a beautiful and very confused and confusing country.
Such a huge percentage of the population left during the war, and a lot have come back, which means a lot of people have travelled or lived in other cultures. Even as refugees, this gives then a different viewpoint to that which i have seen in most of the rest of the Balkans.
I'd have to learn a slavic language...

I'd have to learn a slavic language...
Sarajevo gets pretty damn cold and snowy, i think. And i bet there is less heating around than in canada...
I wouldn't be able to wander about europe as i have been. And there are still festivals i want to go to, although not so many in winter.
They might want me to start soon, which would make my vague plan of going through italy to malta difficult.
They might want me to work full time! Gah! Though i did ask about part time and they said they were very flexible.
There's that whole extremist element who beat up queer festival goers last week. Living in the same city as people like that could be interesting.
More than one local warned of that Sarajevo is not such a safe place, and that i should watch out for pickpockets etc.
Didn't i want to live in Romania? And learn romanian?
Or do some sort of volunteer thing somewhere? Why an i looking at a real job?
I would end up saying 'super' in regular conversation. Probably when speaking any language, too.

Wednesday, October 1

next stop

setting off from mostar right now to a place called Zelenkovac. Google it. It's pretty. I found it on couchsurfing and thought it would make a great place to stop on the way to Zagreb!
The only problem is finding it. I know the nearest town, but from there i just have to hope people know. I'm thinking they will.
No net there though. Or not much, and it's a long distance call. So i.ll post next from Banja Luka or Zagreb, in a day or two!