June 28, 2007
Our 3rd stop as we bunny hop westward was a short touch down in Central Europe. Budapest to be more precise, and the city was a joy to explore and base ourselves for 5 days without the strenuous overnight travel we had experienced in Turkey.Summer is a fine time to be in the Carpathian Basin, as the heat isnt too unbearable yet, but unbearable enough to make the rampant pulbic drinking seem more sensible somehow. Men are incapable of keeping their shirts on, families and students are buzzing about and the night time temp is perfect for the pletheora of incredible outdoor venues on offer. Yes, absurdly cheap beer and awesome European architecture: how is Budapest possibly unlikeable?
Budapest lived upto every Central European cliche I had envisoned. It's a charming city with long straight boulevards, gorgeous old buildings and suicidely cheap beer better than anything Australia could even dream of creating. At over 1500 years old the city is actually comprised of 3 cities ( Buda, Obuda [which doesnt seem to exist anymore] and Pest). Buda occupies the mountains on the West side of the Danube and Pest the flat plains of the East. Buda has the castle and citadella as well as numerous baths, but it is Pest which is the heart of the city where the universities, bars and shops are mostly located. The city has seen a myriad of empires come and go including the Romans who got jiggy with the natural flowing thermal waters there and the Turks who gave the baths a face lift and really made 3 hour soaking a national pasttime. The incredible baths are akin to bathing in church or a greek palace and this is reflected in the the pricey entrance fee for each.
Hungary (Magyar) is at an interesting juncture in it's history. It was only 1989 that hungary ran headlong into democracy which brought a lot of changes that managed to throw everything a little askew. Capitalism brought a death to Communism, vast freedoms never before enjoyed and an end to the limited yet humerous fashion choices given to the Magyars. Economically the city took off and most rejoiced but this also left many without jobs given to them under communist rule and there are many homeless on the streets still today.
I arrived late on my first day and so checked into The Astoria hostel and wandered around the backalleys to the River before hitting up a gyro store and grabbing a few bottles of beer. Hours later I was on the blacony with the guy running the hostel on my 4th litre discussing the national pysche and how shit the breakfasts at the hostel really were. It was 5am (on turkey time) before I went to sleep. I hadnt much shut eye the night before that either. I wonder immensely at the effect of compounding sleep deprivdadition I am experiencing.
Juliet had left her passport in Anatalya and had to stay back a day as changes to out tickets were expensive. While I waited for her I strolled up the leafy street above the millenium metro line (Europes oldest underground, not a 1000 years old), looked at heroes square, admire the buildings and strolled around the park. I took a very long soak in the baths and came close to asphixiation in the Steam room before enjoying a beer and trying out the whirlpool. something the lifeguards werent too happy about.
After the baths I walked back past the 19th century Unesco buildings and met juliet at the hostel before visiting the city park for beer and watching the sun go down with the rest of budapest's youth.
The rest of the days were spent relaxing, strolling round Buda and checking out some of the most amazing bars and venues Europe has on offer. We saw some post-punkish bands in an amazing abandoned warehouse that had a huge courtyard area covered in graffiti and projections with electro clash and techno thumping out of speakers. We also stopped by to watch skaters at Heroes Square before juliet went on a shopping expedition of underground clothing stores. We topped off our last night with goulash, Hungarian wine and more ice cream. Asah! As cool and raw as Budapest was, we both knew this would be competing with New York,our next stop.
Dates: 19 June - 24 June
Still Reading: Don Quixote Pt. II, Moral Imperialism
Music: Constaines - S/T, Husker Du - Zen Arcade, Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 13 & God
June 21, 2007
My visit to Turkey was one of my most memorable from my 1999 tour of Med Europe when I was 19. I realised that Greece and Italy was just playing it safe and the fun really starts east of the Dardenelles. Turkey was lavish, romantic and steeped in history. It had been the crossroads of civilisation for a good 3000 years and seen an incredible array of empires come and go. Vast greek and Roman empires had errected cities of splendor up and down the west coast of Turkey. Much of Early Christian activity took place in Anatolia, including Paul's famous letter to the Euphesians and in the East Mt Nemrut (Where babyloinan kings errected monstrous effigies of fantastic artwork to inflate their egos) noah's Ark was supposed to have come to a rest after the flood. The Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire had flourished for a 1000 years after the fall of the Western Roman empire building the incredible Agya Sofia in 500 or so AD (and still as magical as ever). The Ottoman empire had from here conquered half of Europe and large swaths of the Middle East creating an Empire that lasted up to the first world War.
On top of this the country had amazing rock landscapesin which people had carved huge underground cities and beautiful forests with natural springs. Ballooning and Paragliding were cheap and some of the best in the world. The water an amazing Azure, and the food.... oh to die for. On top of all this the people were super friendly and it was cheap. Who wouldnt want to come back.?
We had only 8 days for Turkey which rushed things a bit, but turkey's cheap and easy going manner would make up for the longhaul bus trips we'd have to undertake. Unfortunately that wasnt to be. A lot changes in 8 years and in that time many more backpackers had crept over form Europe and brought with them Europe's prices. Hotels in Istanbul, Cappadoccia and Olympos had all inflated their prices 4 fold. Olympos, the gorgeous hidden little treehouse gem on the dirt road by the ruins on the beach was swamped with pensions, people and price hikes. Tourist orientated workers more apathetic and less sincere. None the less we soldier on...
Upon landing juliet and I set about exploring Sultanahmet and the Blue Mosque. We hadnt slept properly in 48 hours and this added to the magic of twilight flickering around the minarets. Istanbul is a very European city and juliet swooned about the place, in and out of St Sofia and the Grand Bazzar. We stopped in hidden courtyards where students and old men gathered to smoke shisha pipes and inter sped visits to the palace with doner kebabs frequent turkish coffees. lovely stuff.
We overnighted to Goreme, Cappadoccia after 2 nights in Istanbul and numerous arguements over food and wound up wandering round underground cities on our own the nextday. It was off season and nobody was about at the underground city we visited. This made the trip 50m underground in a labyrinth of rooms thrilling, yet also very very spooky. Persecuted Christians built an amazing underground city with defensives to live for upto 6 months of time without seeing the sunlight and just an hour was enough to give me the shakes.
Back in Cappadoccia we visited the open air museum to look at the carved churches and their frescoes. The area is dotted with weired rock formations and fairy chimneys with rooms cut into them. The sun was fierce and a short cut home through rose valley proved an unwise choice. We got lost, sat under an apricot tree with an old turkish man for an hour and then wound our way to another village where we clambered up a rocky outcropp so hollowed out with passageways and rooms it resembled a giant apartment block perched over the valley. A local 18 year kid took a liking to us and tried it on with juliet. It was funny.
Another overnight bus trip, another sleepless night and we moved along the coast from anatalya to Olmypos. Olympos is the site of an ancient city, once prominent in the lydian league and visited by hadrian during roman times. It is nestled in a wooded valley on the coast with a small river running through it though the city was abandoned long ago and the the trees have consumed this once magnificent city. One still feels like Indiana jones clambering through ruined archways and old ampitheatres half hidden by vines. The Chimaera is also nearby. atop a neighbouring hittop overlookng the sea natural gas spews forth and in ancient times mariners would guide by this. legend had it there was a fire breathing monster beneath the ground and so the pegasus bellophron myth was born.
by our last day in Olympos I was getting quite sick so we didnt do much aside from lounge in the huts and visit the acropolis. at 10.30 pm we were back in anatalya and on a bus back to istanbul. Juliet woke with a start at 3 and realised her passport was still in Olympos and panic set in as we were due at the airport 2 pm later that day.
A bit of wrangling and we managed to get the hostel to overnight it and change Juliet's ticket without penalty:Something we were not supposed to be ablt to do.
We also manged to lose juliets camera memory card and frankily my last 3 kebabs were well below par. not a great ending to what was our supposed stepping stone between east and west. i also bemoan the fact that we have yet to meet any other decenet travellers on this journey thus far who can converse in topics other than drinking achievements and that food options combined with juliets refusal to eat rice or any other carbs are straining our enjoyment and choice of food, our most important decision of the day. hmmm.. next stop.. Hungary
Still Reading: Don Quixote, Moral imperialism
Music: Tucker B's, RJD2, Pela, Boards of Canada, Jose Gonzalez
June 13, 2007
Dısclaımer: Although thıs may look lıke the recommencement of actul journal entrıes, the next couple of months wıll unfortunatey only be travellıng bufferoonery and lıght hearted cultural observatıons. If travel wrıtıng bores you (as ıt does most people), perhaps ıt ıs better you look elsewhere for truly engrossıng ınternet bloggıng. Enjoy!
Malaya we entered on the 28th after a hectic time of wellwishing and partying and consquentily hgad little sleep on our side. singapore is a lush city withe charming colonial archetecture dominated by modern high rises and an alarming amount of crap budget accomodation.
The hawker food stalls help make up for the lack of really interesting things to do as you can eat different kinds Chinese, Indian and Malay food until you explode for well under 6 or 7 dollars.
I myself have a particularly soft spot for old british tropical buildings overgrown with green and stained by 100s of years of humidity perhaps it is the imperial fijian in my bloodlines.
After a night and a healthy dose of bed bug bites juliet and I high tailed it out of the city and bused over the border and up to melaka, another charming little port town dominated by crumbling colonial buildings but without the the press of modernity. The city is small and compact and a stroll up to the abandoned church of St Pauls on a hilltop and wander through China town proved very pleasant, albeit a little dull. once you stop marvelling at the quaintness of the place you're unsure of exactly what to do with yourself. Juliet and I had incredible satay cooked in vats of peanut sauce at the table and pressed home afterwards rubbing our bellys and moaning about our indulgence. Capitol Satay is well worth a gander if you're in the city. 2 nights in Melaka was more than enough and our mezzanie room at travellers lodge was stuffy and over heated. Paying actual money to see Pirates of the Carribean also left a particulary bad taste in my mouth and post dry retchıng we had to move.
It took a whole day to get top the Cameron Highlands via Kula Lumpur but the winding roads provided breathtaking views of thick dark green rainforest straddling mountain peaks as well as hegde rows of bucolic tea plantations. We sauntered through the jungle along old colonıals paths and stopped by a Tea plantatıon for hıgh tea and Cıgarettes before doıng a cheesy butterfly farm whıch had prayıng mantı as long as my arm. I do recall there were some butterflys as well. hmmm.
Penang was by far the most ıntrıguıng ans charmıng cıty we had vısıted thus far wıth fadıng colonıal era shop fronts and ventıan board shutters throughout the old town. A real aır of decay had hovered over the cıty wıthout relent sınce the late 1700s and ıt hasnt seemed to quıte get back on ıts feet. I took a bıke (whıch proved suıcıde wıthın the town ıtself) and Julıet and I bıked round the ısland stoppıng off for laksa aas well as blowıng a tıre. Dodgy ass rental places you shall rue the day! Penang was a great cıty to wander ın but we wanted beaches and waıted round a whole day for a late bus whıch turned ınto an overnıghtmonstronsıty wıth legspace that would have oompa loompas voıcıng cocern before beıng dumped at the pıer for a speed boat to the Perhentıan Islands.
Long sınce dıscovered the ıslands seem to have a healthy dose of backpacker ınfrastructure but we stıll manged to fınd a cheap beach hut (though Julıet's concern over the state of the outsıde bathrooms ıs duly noted hee.) However, wıth perfect turqoıse water and beaches domınated by a bacground of thıck green jungle ıts hard to feel bad about the world and your place ın ıt. We dıdnt do much for 5 days but swım,read, snorkel and eat. I even fıtted ın a couple of Dıves and caught a vıew of a gıant leather back turtle and saw a few bıg reef sharks. Truly amazıng Dıvıng.
Perhentıan Islands - Long beach
Truly amazıng lack of sleep got us down to Sıngapore ın tıme too met one of julıet's frıends and lap up some luxury at her swank apartment and a frıends bırthday party before leavıng at 3 am for a flıght at5 . All ın all 48hrs and barely a wınk of sleep.
Books read:Readıng Lolıta ın Tehran, Indıa's Bandıt Queen: Phoolan Devı
Stıll Readıng: Don Quıxote
Musıc: Deerhunter - Cryptograms, Mıssıon of Burma - Vs, Lots of Pıxıes, Tom Waıts - Raın Dogs