A Travellerspoint blog

tracks

Of where I've been, bank hurdles and the present track.

sunny 19 °C
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For six weeks I barely wrote a word. Not just here, but my journal famished too: only a couple pages to account for over a month; poor thing. But I am on a train again, earth rolling beneath my feet. And moving calls to words in a way that staying put does not.

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So, I arrived in Rotterdam, where I did not find the story I was looking for, yet I decided to stay. With pride I saw the days pass, staying put, not hurrying onward. But there was something missing. Maybe if I had stayed just a bit longer... but by the end of the second week, I was on a plane bound for a warmer place.
The Netherlands I found... strange. For all it's beauty and charm, I kept talking about rat races and recalling old conversations with conspiracy theorists, their claims that Big Brother is no longer watching, for he has no need, since we write the log ourselves. According to the internet's wisdom, citizens of the EU can work in the Netherlands for up to three months, without being formal residents. And it must be all true and easy if you have a set life back in your home country. Which I don't. There is a fun triangle they use to make staying around more difficult for anyone slightly outside the system.

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To get a job, you need a bank account. To get a local bank account, you need an address (and a resident's number usually), and to have an address you need a contract, therefore you need a job. So you need a house to get a job, and a job to pay for your house. And work cash? Forget it. There's places where they don't even take cash anymore. So basically, its very, very complicated to just up and arrive. If you are already part of their system, be welcome. If not, kindly do not try, or be ready to don your rat costume and run.
So I left for Romania. I enjoyed it the first time, and though it was a rash decision, I'll stand by it. It was a month of cooking, enjoying, and just living. I saw many new movies, we watched all of Breaking Bad, and I never repeated a recipe. Some days I did not leave the house, many a day did not own a morning. It was great.
I left Rotterdam with the idea to make this project I've been thinking of for an embarrassingly long time, yet haven't really done anything about it. I want to build a functional vehicle using Theo Jansen's walking mechanism. That's the What. Don't ask me Why. But I had a plan, and my notebook grew rich in designs and ideas. Then I faced reality.

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I decided to fund the thing myself, since I can't explain it well enough to look for sponsors. Then I spent the better part of a month trying to get my money across the Atlantic... Tired of annoying people and Western Union's fees, I decided to take care of it myself. I thought the best way (or rather, the least bad way) to do this, would be Paypal.
So I deposited money into my Mexican Paypal account. Then made a Romanian one and transferred the money. All was fine, so minus a good percentage, I had my money in Europe. Or somewhere. That's when the truth got in my way. See, if I had just lied, everything would have been simple. But since, when I opened my new local Bank account using my Spanish ID, a Spanish address was expected. Otherwise, if I gave an address in Bucharest, I would need some proof of residence. Or something, it was all fuzzy and lost in translation. They even got my name wrong. But I got the account in the end, with fake name debit card and everything... But since it was set to a Spanish address, I could not deposit into it from Paypal Romania, as I later learned. But I am not K., so eventually I got it.
By then I had explored material depots and scoured Ebay for pieces and Chinese made ball bearings. But with my budget, I realized I had to size down. From a house sized project, to a car sized one, then a bicycle thingy. By the time I actually got the money, more than half of my allotted time in Bucharest had passed, and I was no closer to starting than when I left Rotterdam. I decided for a scaled model.

And then, without a warning, the travel bug struck. "I'll leave halfway through August", I said one day, then stared off into distance. By next day it was "the end of July". Then “this weekend”. Once the wanderlust set in, only trickery and a half priced train ticket kept me in place.
And so it is that I find myself on the go again. After a month in Bucharest, I decided to follow the original plan. I made no scale model. Instead, I'm going to meet the original designer, and see his creatures first hand, maybe even ask a question or two. I'm off to meet Theo Jansen.
By train. From Romania, back to the Netherlands.

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Posted by Zaspirucho 03:24 Archived in Romania Tagged budapest netherlands romania plans time backpacking rotterdam goodbyes bucharest working thoughts Comments (0)

A place to go

sunny 20 °C
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I was in Budapest, listening to some funky Szkojani Charlatan's carpatian tunes. Dorka stood to dance, but I felt too at peace to follow her, instead I produced my notebooks. I described the surrounding scene on one and journaled the day on another, when...
“Are you writing a poem?”, asked a man.
“Ehm, no. It's just a bit of thoughts release.”
“Oh. I see. And what are you writing?”
“Well, right now... that I think I should go to Rotterdam.”
His eyes widened. “Rotterdam? Well, then you should meet Jitske! Here, have this postcard. That's her name, add her on Facebook! She has an exhibition tomorrow here, so you should contact her.”
Who is this guy? I thought, but didn't ask, only smiled at his words. I had been precisely looking at my reasons to visit Rotterdam, when he gave me a new one.
Now I know that his name is Julius; that day he just gave me the postcard, advice, and left. But my world is one where you trust random strangers you just met in a bar. This attitude got me a job and place to sleep in Cambodia. It got me friends in France and now in Rotterdam. It's awesome.

Now, some cities have passed between here and Krakow. I set out from Istanbul with the firm idea of going to Poland. I thought I might stay there a couple of weeks at the least, then left on the third day. Some stories are better left in memory, where they can be remembered in an ideal form, like a book that finishes on a high, happy note. Not that I had a bad time, no. But as my friend Nathan said, having expectations is just planning your disappointments in advance. In contrast, I expected nothing from Poznań, and found there everything. It is a beautiful city, with a dollhouse historical center plaza. A great place to meet people and just enjoy the scene, to walk and bike and talk and cook and be. Too bad I still don't have a working camera.

Then in Berlin I spent too little time. There's many people I wanted to see! Like Gabriel from highschool, who inspired me to write of my travels, or Sabina, from whom I wanted to learn some tango, since I couldn't in Canada. Then there's Gabriele too, with whom I stayed two years before, and also... But in the end I only saw (that I'd met before) Nina who, like Gabriele, was a classmate from my Basque course in 2011; and Bettina and Jannika, who'd Couchsurfed with me a year before, in Mexico. Just some days, and then I left for Hamburg. I hadn't been there before, and it was a thing of: visit now, or maybe have no one to visit later; so even if it meant staying only a handful of days in Berlin, it was worth it. And anyway, I can still go back!

It seems I'll stay in the Benelux for some weeks, to rest my bones and maybe even do something productive, for a change. I've been here for only a couple of days, yet already it seems I'm involved in one or two projects. And next week they need people for serving drinks somewhere, and Jitske said Dutch language is not required...
So lets see how this thing goes. In the meantime, we are here!

Posted by Zaspirucho 14:18 Archived in Netherlands Tagged art people budapest travel poland netherlands rotterdam nomad working ransack Comments (0)

Two days

Of mixed experiences while crossing Slovakia

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I had popcorn in Budapest... it got me thinking...
Try as I might, I could not remember the last time I'd had popcorn. It's one of those comfort things that's forever been around. We always had a stash of microwaveable packs at home. Later, with my ex, we would even take the time to fry them “old style”. I remember laughing at the way they fizz when you pour chilli sauce over them, their tiny anguished shrills. Popcorn's awesome. So why haven't I had any in months? And what other simple, normal, day to day niceties have I gone without?

I lost my camera's cable, so I'm effectively cameraless. So for this entry, I'll use the magic of Paint, Google Maps and Street View for a couple of images.

The visit to Romania was very homely and personal. For me, Bucharest was a city of graffiti, musicians, painters and writers. I could have stayed had I just wished to. I still might go back. It's a place full of movement and will. I like what I saw of that country, from the beautiful women, to the exquisitely eccentric gypsy castles of Cluj-Napoca. Or their seductive tales of medieval festivals and warm beaches, of werewolves and stabbing love.

Then Budapest. I stayed in the house I sent a Couchrequest to the first time I was there. And I was right. Even two years later, staying with Dorka and her family proved to be the energizing and homely experience that I expected/needed. But it is Budapest, so even though we weren't out looking for it, every night there was music, or friends, or both. There was even a massive Board Game Night event that Dorka is involved with. Just perfect.

But now, let me tell just you about Slovakia. This might take a while, so go grab some coffee.

First day.

I left Budapest a bit late, true; but it was difficult enough to leave, I just could not rush it. I got to the main Pest Train Station at almost 11. My intention was to hitchhike, but still I inquired. A train ticket to Krakow would normally cost around 30€. By normally I mean three days in advance; if you buy it same day it costs three times more. Yes, you read that correctly! Ninety euros for an eight hour ride! I wouldn't pay that even if I had it. So I got my local 500 Ft ticket and left for the highways.

Here was the first mistake. Not a big one, but this things tend to escalate: I missed my stop. Had I stepped off the train where I was supposed to, I would have been on the E77, gotten several rides through Slovakia, maybe make it to Poland that same day. That did not happen. Instead, I got off at the last station and walked towards where the Highway 2 intersects the E77, while holding out my “Kraków” sign. A car stopped. Then, the second mistake. We were enjoying some Manu Chao when I got distracted and saw E77 speed past. My driver was going to visit some friends and insisted I should come. I did. After all, why did I learn to say “Miért ne?” if not to use it! Once in what turned out to be Operentzia's recording studio, I checked the map and decided on a new route. I enjoyed the tea and joint they offered, then left. I should have gone back to the E77.

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It was around 3.30pm when I crossed the Slovakian border at Esztergom. It did not go well from there. After asking and figuring out where to go, I walked a couple of kms out, and got my last ride of the day. It was 4. At some point I found a bridge over some train tracks, and stopped to rest. I never stopped flagging oncoming cars, be it while walking along the road, or while on that bridge, but it was a small road and people were not going far, already going back home. Drivers kept pointing down, which means “I'm coming here” or “not going any further”. It's basically a polite No.

I seriously considered making camp under that bridge. The wind had been getting steadily stronger, and the trees next to the tracks did not seem to sway as much as the rest of the world. Scouting around, I found a nice spot with very little wind, where I'd be protected by thorns. Nice place to camp! So when I had but decided to stay there, I grabbed my packs and continued walking. I would not quit; not while there was still light. It was around 5.30. My next pointer, Slevice, was some 44 km away. I would make that 34 at least. Then I met Josef.

I know his name was Josef because he showed me his I.D. Not just that, he showed me everything he owns. I met him by the side of the road, he said something, so I crossed to hear him better. It was clear that I did not understand a word, but he did not seem to care. I guess some people are just lonely, and will take any chance to talk with (or to) someone. He may have also been a little crazy. He just did not stop talking.

I'd say he's in his sixties. An unremarkable, little old Slovakian man; well shaven, small, gray. He would come some 10 cm from my face when talking. Laughed a lot, spat a little, and licked his finger before turning every page. He was nice. There was no running water in his place, so he had to carry bottles and gallons from the street tap, and that's why he was outside when I walked by. He took me in, and showed me everything he had around, from his empty wine bottles, his dog and empty fridge, to his childhood pictures and the contents of his wallet. I took a tour of his house, admiring every picture on the wall, his magazine cut-outs of pretty girls, and learning how to turn the heating on, and where the thermostats were. He gave me some strawberry jelly and excused himself for not having coffee. I think. I understood very little of what he said, for he did not use his hands when speaking. He simply did not care, being just happy of the human presence. I did get it though, when he asked if I wanted to leave. I guess if I'd stayed for longer he would have offered one of his several dusty couches, but when he asked a second time, I said yes. It was dark already. Cold again, trembling in the biting wind, I walked on.

I think I hit a new low point that night. You will not understand what I felt, unless you've ever started wetting your lips at the sight of a derelict building. What I felt at the sight of that overgrown, roofless carcass can only be described as lust. I stalked it from the other side of the road. Barely any cars passing by, but they were now unimportant. There were three abandoned buildings in total. Two with no roof, one with just no doors. To my relief, all empty of people. But the third one had signs of use: empty bottles, pizza boxes and stray pieces of clothing. Also, a broken down couch, only a hinge holding it all together...

Google was there in 2012. It wasn't so overgrown back then.

Google was there in 2012. It wasn't so overgrown back then.


With the right leverage, I finished splitting that couch and took it's backrest with me to another house, into a room with half a roof. There were no doors, so I could see the highway at my feet. I felt completely vulnerable, but i was safe from the wind. I crawled inside my sleeping bag, set my rucksack as far and protected from the door as possible and had a good night's rest. With my knife under my pillow, of course.

Second day.

After a surprisingly good night, I woke as soon as there was light. The wind had not stopped; I could see the trees swaying violently outside. At least it wasn't raining. Yet.

I got on the road and set a limit: If by 10 I was not in Levice, I would backtrack all the way to Hungary, and back to the E77. But by 7AM I was already at the outskirts of town. Looks like just as people the previous evening were reluctant to pick anyone up when going back home, they seemed almost eager to get some company for their way to work. What came after was my mistake, just mine... My driver told me, when he knew of my destination, to follow road's eastwardly direction where he dropped me. If we had had a common language other than grunts, he also would have told me to get on the proper road, not just follow the one I was on. As such, I ended up walking a good 10k's that morning, going in the complete opposite direction from where I wanted. But it wasnt that bad, really. I could actually call it a nice walk. Still I was glad when I got a ride and finally got back on the planned road.

My leisurely highway strolls

My leisurely highway strolls


A few quick rides and I was past Krupina, halfway through Slovakia. Then I was picked up bt a man who did not speak neither english, spanish, french, italian, german or japanese. We still could exchange a few words. Mexikanski, tekila, that kind of things. Yet we formed one of those inexplicable bonds. An ancient friendship made of silence and smiles. He drove me well past where he was going, leaving me in a service station outside Banska Bystrica. He said there was a good restaurant there, and that I must try a typical Slovakian meal: Bryndzové halušky. He actually wrote the name on a piece of paper, then gave me 25€ for it.

I could not refuse. So I thanked him and got off his truck. I had forgotten it was cold out, we were now in the mountains... so I hurried inside the wooden building. It was like entering a movie set. I was almost surprised to not see minstrels singing among the thick benches and long tables made from whole logs. Furs and old farm instruments decorated the walls, stuffed animals stood or hung here and there, a boar's head at the center of all. The space was dominated by a big fire pit—sadly off— around which the waiting staff pranced about in their traditional garments. Only the waitress's Crocs broke the kitschy charm.

Broke as I am, with still no wallet, nor credit or debit cards and stretching every penny I got, I considered only getting some coffee and moving on. But if I was to truly show my gratitude, I had to eat that which the money was given to me for. Besides, it would have been a mistake not to, I learned. Bryndzové halušky is awesome! At least to me. You either love it or hate it, the guy next table said. And I love it. It's gnocchi-like potato! and the cheese, and the savory bacon! That and a cold draft beer, and I still had 20€ to spare! Take the good as it comes, when it comes. The bad will find you on its own. Delicious.

I got a ride almost as soon as I was back out, and we crossed the mountains. The good times were over, it soon started to rain. When we parted ways in Ruzomberok, on the other side of the pass, it was full storm. Umbrellas flew off people's hands, or clawed at their faces. I stood under a bus stop, with my Krakow sign up high, the wind holding it flat against my outstretched arm. I was wearing double socks, double pants, scarf, sweatshirt, coat, hat and flannel shirt. I was soaked to the core.

But hitchhiking is called like that for a reason. You have to walk to the outskirts of town, out to a point where people know just where you want to go, and are going the same way. Sometimes, that means walking in the shivering rain for a couple of miles, then standing patiently with the backpack on and a smile stamped on your face, until someone stops. Because someone will stop, that is the hitchhiker's faith.

But soon it was five, I was between towns, and people started pointing down again, arriving home. I was close to the border, but not close enough. I crossed the last town in Slovakia with no one stopping. Despair started to grow in me. Very little cars actually passed my way. It was my fault, and I knew it! You see, in my last ride I had seen a highway veer off the side, with a Krakow sign on it. It was a ring road, I saw it, but could not get off in time. So now I trembled through town, with no hope of getting any rides there. Then a car with Polish license plates approached! And drove past. The cold reached inside, and I stopped.

How do you say "I need to go left" in Slovakian? Fast!

How do you say "I need to go left" in Slovakian? Fast!


I had 20€ in my pocket. Surely I could find a place to sleep with that. I could walk back, talk to someone, go to a bar, ask around, go online... But I hate going back. I could see the highway in the far distance, it's little trucks just an arm away. No cars came, I was alone in the rain. I was tired. Tired of waiting, and watching time pass by. But two years it was since I was last in Krakow. I would not wait another day. So instead, I walked faster than before. I started to sweat under the weight of the packs , even with the cold outside. But I did not slow down.

I will not wait for you! I yelled at my fate. I'll get there even if I must walk there! I shouted as if the wind could listen. I shouted as if it would care. I spurred myself onward, my legs were burning when I reached the highway, only then I stopped. There was no space to hail the cars, no safe place for them to stop. I could not hitchhike there. But there was no need. Just before stepping out into the speedway, I felt his presence. I turned around to find a car almost upon me, having come the same way I had, creeping through my rainy thoughts. I bared my thumb. He stopped.

I made it to Krakow some hours later, before it was even dark. I had no local money, so I traded a bookmark and a smile for some coffee and apple pie. I could not stop trembling. A cold had crept inside me that only a very warm shower could thaw. But hell! I was already there. I could rest. I could even get some popcorn too.

Posted by Zaspirucho 22:07 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bridges rain budapest poland camping europe backpacking slovakia wind cold hitchhiking free_camping Comments (0)

Tired

Just a poem.

overcast 13 °C
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I'm tired.
Tired of not having a home,
of people asking if I'm on holiday,
or what my next destination is.
I'm tired of having an answer to that question.

I'm tired of having no place to cook,
and no one to cook for.
Any chance I get, I stay all day inside,
for I miss the cozy warmth,
I miss doing nothing, without anyone staring.
Or asking me why.
I miss having a house, and a day to day life.

I'm tired of eating once at sunrise,
and once at sundown.
Like following some traveling Ramadan.

I'm tired of looking for people that speak my language,
or any other that I speak.
Of repeating myself with simpler words.
I'm tired of depending on others.
And having nothing but a smile to give back.

My shoulders, my back and my feet are tired.
My skin is tired.
My soul is tired.

I'm tired of nostalgia.
Of visiting places I once were,
and finding the memories better.
I'm tired of missing others,
missing places I've never been to.

I'm exhausted of planning,
and then doing something else.

But I guess, I just must love feeling tired.
For I have no intention of stopping.
Not anytime soon.

I wrote this on Facebook originally, but I guess it belongs here.

Posted by Zaspirucho 13:11 Archived in Poland Tagged travel poland europe slovakia tired poem hitchhiking Comments (0)

A good week

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Just don't stop playing.

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Mural in Plovdiv

Mural in Plovdiv


When you journal, the level of detail in the descriptions depends greatly on the time passed between entries. What would be most important in a day, may be but a fleeting comment in a week, or even ignored in a monthly review. Today, and because of the past days, I believe I must not follow this trend, and revisit every day. So this might be a long post.

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Saturday

Last time I saw my wallet was in Istanbul bus station. That’s all I can say for certain. Seven hours later I arrived in Plovdiv, and set out to my usual wanderings. I did not have a place to spend the night there, but it was still nighttime, having arrived there before the sun. Still plenty of time to figure it out.
So I crossed Plovdiv and its old town, walking up to a hill and enjoying the view. It was a cold morning in a new country. I could already see the contrasts. Different shades of green and cats ran away from me. Not in Istanbul anymore! Still unsure whether to spend the night or exit the city and start stretching the thumb, I came down from the hill and resolved to concentrate on the moment: get some food. That’s when I realized my acute lack of wallet.

Now, had I not couchsurfed, hitchhiked and backpacked before, or well, had I not been me, there would have been frustration and fright and negative feelings. I guess. I just took it as fact. “I have no wallet. No money nor way of getting any. This will not stop me.” So I backtracked to a friendly hostel and asked if I could use their internet, and explained my situation. They gave me wifi and breakfast. This allowed me to cancel my cards and assess my situation. I would have to trust in people and goodwill. In fact, I had no choice.

As I wrote and called, next to me sat a family. As it usually happens in this kind of setting, we started talking and eventually I told them of my plight. I got sympathetic smiles and good-lucks. But later, when getting ready to leave, one of them came to me: “We’re going to Sofia—she said—you can come with us if you want. You have a couple of minutes to decide!” Well, it is my personal policy to not say no to this kind of offers and opportunities, and told her so; so of course I came with them. An interesting group they were: a boy of 14, two of 16, a girl of 9 and another of 18. The adults were three old friends, the two mothers and a male. It took me a while to figure out their story, who was son of who, but on the highway, there was plenty of time! And we did not go straight to Sofia either. First stop was Hisarya, the Roman walls and mineral hot baths. In that rainy, cold day, those baths were bliss!

I learned during the day that I had not come in the best of times to Bulgaria. It was Saturday, yes, but not any of them, it was Easter Saturday in the Orthodox Calendar. That’s why the three friends were together, coming from Berlin and London all the way to Sofia, visiting friends and family. That’s why they were out on a road trip! And that’s why, when the day ended, I found myself in Yana’s aunt and uncle’s home. Yana was mother of three of the kids, a yoga instructor and Vipassana student. She took me in with her family, and gave me a place to spend the night. I saw with her another side to Easter: one of joy, community, family and love. I had homemade raki and ate Easter bread with hot cocoa. We clashed coloured eggs. I think I’ve never won an egg joust. We walked with candles in the street, greeted the neighbours on the way to church and back. No one cared whether I believed or not. No one cared whether I belonged or not. And so, in smiles and warmth, I could barely recall that just that morning I had arrived with no wallet from Istanbul.

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Sunday

I left Yana’s house sometime in the afternoon. I did not want to be too much of a burden. And I had a mission. Two years before I had left something in a hostel, and being back in Sofia, it would be a shame if I did not at least ask… So I made my way to the Hostel Mostel, to ask them if, by any chance, my phone was still there.
Of course it wasn’t. It was two years! But wouldn’t it have been awesome to find it?

The good thing was that, on the way there I met some staff of the Art Hostel, and was told to come to their bar. So I got a warm place to hang out and even some food (some Bulgarian meatcake with yogurt!). Everyone I met was sympathetic to my case, I mean, it’s not like I’d gambled my savings. They’d just walked away. While dozing in the bar I heard Spanish, and couldn’t resist the conversation. Turned out to be an Erasmus student and her local friend, wonderful people too. I had already resigned myself to leaving at first light, in the cold, so when I was offered a bed in a dusty spare room I hesitated for a moment. Only for a moment.

Monday

I woke in that spare room after a night of chatting and laughter, and looked around me. No wonder they called this “the dead guy’s room”. Full of books and notes and randomness, some oblivious socialist paraphernalia, other very personal, like a boxes full of letters and postcards. I rummaged through most of it. Took a couple of unwritten postcards from the seventies with me, no one will miss them.
Eventually I left to hitchhike, fashioned myself a sign, and prepared to leave Sofia. A bit over an hour of waiting later, I was joined by Velin, another hitchhiker. He later told me that he had just passed next to me on a city bus, going to his usual spot, but when he saw me there, smiling so happily with my little sign, he just decided to come with me. I quickly recognized in him a friend. Sometimes you do so, just by the look in the eyes, you know to be among equals.

In two rides we got to Veliko Tarnovo. The first a simple, usual ride, with a nice guy, software designer going not too far, took us there and a bit further. The second ride though, was the strangest I’ve ever had. They were lovely people, a very nice and friendly couple. It’s just that I never thought I’d ever be picked up by a deaf couple. I could not talk with them, and although they could read Velin’s lips. All I could do was perform my interpretative dance and smile wide. They even gave us Easter bread. I have no idea what their names are.
In Veliko, Velin asked around and got me a place to sleep in a little funky hotel. For free as well. All in goodwill. Warm shower and a soft bed, wifi and homeliness. I had not touched money in three days.

My bed for the night!

My bed for the night!


At some point during the day Velin had asked me why I hadn’t asked some friend or family to wire me some money through Western Union or something. I had no answer. I realized the thought had not even crossed my mind. So sure I was that I could make it with no money, that I forgot there were other options. I resolved to look into this once in Bucharest.

Tuesday

So well rested, I set out for Romania. A two hour hike got me out of Veliko Tarnovo and into thumbing position. It was a nice day and in some twenty minutes a young road-tripping couple picked me up. They actually drove past me at first, but turned around and came back for me! A delightful ride, we stopped at a little ancient monastery carved in the rock, then they left me on Ruse.

I thought it was a smaller town, but it took me a good three hours to walk through it and get to the Danube. Here it turns out you cannot cross the bridge on foot, so I got a ride from one end of the Friendship Bridge to the other. And then, off to Bucharest! Finally I was in Romania! Gruialand at last. I had wanted to visit Romania because why not, because I’d missed it two years before, and because of some stories by Gheorghe Gruia, my former handball coach. So I was finally there! And with no money or a place to sleep!

I could have probably gotten a place to sleep. I was asked about it and half-offered a place by a Chilean family at the McDonalds (they serve some of the best wifi out there). But I was for some reason betting all my cards at volunteering at a hostel. I had particularly the X Hostel in mind. I met the owner/CEO and everything. But sometimes you go all in and win, sometimes you go all in and lose. Turned out the hostel had been invaded by a roving band of young dutch people. Fifty-some of them. There was simply no place for anyone else! Even the staff were sleeping in the storage room for the week. They did take my backpack for me though, so I was free to roam the streets.

So then, what to do if I don’t have a place to sleep? Well I don’t sleep, of course! For a night or two nothing will happen. I’m a designer after all. All that training in not sleeping did finally pay off while travelling. And then some.
The height of the night occurred when, sitting in a Kebap shop, munching on my travel rations and last Easter bread, a girl sat on the next table. Smile. Then her friend, a long haired, big guy, all in black joined her and they started talking. I could hear English. Eventually we started chatting, then suddenly she offered: “Can I invite you somewhere?” She handed me a flyer, I could make out something about a student discount to somewhere. “Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay any entry fee! I’ll invite you.” I had already said yes before turning the flyer around and realizing what it was I had said yes to.

I’d never been to a Strip Bar before. I've always known that it’s not my kind of place. I have now confirmed it. But if I was ever to enter one, this was the best way to do it. Turned out I was invited to the place by one of the girls, Anna, and I was the only “customer” there. On the way I had told her and Barry the security guard, of my peculiar penniless situation. This did not matter, for as there was no one else, we could just chat and enjoy not being out in the cold. I think I was the first man ever to drink tea at that place. Anna even gave me some bananas to eat, and chocolate—all she could find in the backstage. She performed a bit as well, and pole danced. I was amazed by her ability and strength! Barry agreed, “I’m mostly here for the looks” he said, “This girls can fend for themselves!” I would not like to get in a fight with any of them. Those legs can break you in two.

Barry had once been a martial arts master, and firefighter in the ‘States. After all the misery and pain he’s seen on car crashes, gang fights and fire victims, spending his nights surrounded by topless girls is as good a retirement plan as any. This was not a big strip club, just a little corner bar, with everyone relaxed and happy. Not a bad place to spend some time with nice people. The fact that most of them are topless doesn't hurt either. They even let me have a shower in the massage room. And then it was back to wandering.

No photos there

No photos there

Wednesday

When it was day again I walked back to the X Hostel. Came just in time for the Dutch group’s breakfast. Even helped with some dutch-english-spanish-romanian translation. When there’s big groups, there’s big leftovers. I had breakfast, lunch, and refilled my travel rations. It was delicious. What the staff could not offer me in accommodation they gave in welcoming. If I had money I’d consider staying there. But for now, we're Couchsurfing!

That night I got a place to sleep. A couch, a cat and food. Music too, although it wasn't too much to the taste of Andra, my host. A musician herself, she is picky with what she listens to. I would love to hear her medieval music band. I stayed three nights with her, met her friends, chatted with her boyfriend. They all reminded me of my group of friends in Mexico, talking about music, magic and board games. Sometimes you meet these random people halfway around the world, who come from a completely different background, and yet you realize that you are the same.

Friday

Fearing and caring for me as only a mother can do, my mom offered to get me out of my penniless state, and wired me some euros. She sent them to me sometime Thursday, but by I only could get them on Friday. Gratefully, the first thing I did after getting them was walk into a library-café, sit on a small table by the street window, and buy me some coffee.

How long could I have kept it going? There is an impressive amount of people out there, willing to share all they have with a stranger, just because he needs it. Just because he asks and smiles. I have discovered that my story is an inspiring one: people have approached me just because I look happy, and want to hear the stories that make me smile and dance with no music, even on gloomy days and lonely nights.

That first day in Bucharest, I was approached by a French man. A math teacher, he dreams of leaving his fears behind, grab a backpack and see the world. After some minutes of talking, he put it better than I ever could:

"I saw you there and I had to talk to you. You just seemed so happy, I wanted to know how you do it. Now I understand. You are happy because you are free."

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Posted by Zaspirucho 06:43 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night adventure city friends family music hostel road romania medieval poor sofia nomad cold luck bulgaria bucharest easter strip hitchhiking wallet learning plovdiv ransack Comments (1)

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