A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jcobham

Vienna pt 2, Munich

rain 5 °C

So to continue where Arwyn left off... We went to see the Blue Man Group at the Museums Quarter in Vienna. Apparently there are so many museums, they needed to build an entire city section for them. Anyways, the Blue Man Group was pretty fun. It was a combination of comedy, lighting and special effects with lots of percussion based instruments that they guys have made. Some are pretty crazy, long sections of PVC pipe or a large marimba thing made out of more convoluted pipes. Think of the 3d-pipes screensaver and you get the idea. They also had this other skit where they have bright lights and either water or paint that they pour into a drum kit. When they smash the drums, the paint flies up and looks pretty awesome. Over all, it was a pretty good show, but unfortunately some of it was lost on us because it was in German, and we didn't get any of the jokes.

The next part of the trip was to get to our final destination country... Germany. The rough plan was to get to Munich, where Underworld (One of my all time favorite bands) was playing a show. Then hang out in Munich and check out the scene.

On the way out of Austria we passed through "Linz" which seemed to be a smaller nice little city along the way. The main attraction was the "Ars Electronica" exhibit. It's kind of like science world in Vancouver but perhaps more geared towards art with a strong focus on technology and interaction. There was a lot of information to be read and looked at regarding the evolution of the internet, social media, access to media almost instantly the effects on society etc... They also had an interesting interactive exhibit where you essentially walked into a large plastic jellyfish looking thing that was hanging from the ceiling. When you got close to some of it's bits, they would react to you and the dangling bits would move around as you moved through it. pretty cool. There was also another one that was made to look like flowers with lights in them. When you got close to the flowers, they would open up and the lights would change colors. It was all pretty entertaining.

So we left Linz that same day with just a small glimpse of what it looks like, but from what I saw, I liked it.

We then arrived in Munich, found our hostel and headed out for some sights and a "pay as you wish walking tour". Munich is where Oktoberfest is held and you can tell right away. You're never more than 10 meters from sausages and beer... literally. You can get any kind of Schweinsbraten, W├╝rstl, Sauerkraut etc... at any street corner or subway station. There are open market style beer gardens where you just order a 0.5L or 1L beer and sit down at a bench with your bratwurst and enjoy the atmosphere. Funny enough, with all the readily available beer, you never really see anybody being drunk and obnoxious.

The walking tours are good for finding out the history and the interesting things to see in a city where you just didn't plan it out enough or you didn't get a lonely planet guide for(ahem)... So the first thing we saw on the tour was the Glockenspiel which is basically a mechanical clock that plays some bells and re-enacts two stories. The first is a wedding and the second is a joust match between Bavaria and Austria. Sadly Austria looses the match every day, many times a day for about 102 years and counting. I guess the Austrians just take it in stride. We went to the Haufbrauhaus which is Bavaria's national beer maker. The haus was home to the Natzi party back in the day when all that business was going on and our tour guide pointed this fact out many times while we had some beer and watched an oom-pa-pa band all dressed up in their lederhosen and traditional outfits.

Last night we went to the underworld show at the Muffathalle which is a night club that was converted from the first hydro electric power station in the area. Underworld played an awesome show. Lots of energy, Arwyn and I danced it up, really got into it and had a great time.

So that pretty much brings us up to date. We got a 6 hour train in the morning to Berlin. It's getting late, and there isn't much to tell just yet. More as it comes...

-Jason

Posted by jcobham 13:14 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Midnight Express

A Bulgarian border crossing

overcast 13 °C

The original "plan" was to meet up with my friend Ahmet in Istanbul after the sailing/Ephesus tour, however he's in London on business, so we'll have to defer the meeting for some other time. We've decided to leave the tourism of Turkey behind and continue the journey through Eastern Europe which begins in Bulgaria. We have EU rail passes to get from Bulgaria to Germany but we need to get to Bulgaria first. The standard options are plane, train and bus. Flying in would probably be too expensive for the average budget traveler and we read that taking the train from Turkey to Bulgaria would be slow and sketchy in parts. Not especially wanting to deal with sketchy or slow, it seemed that the bus is the way to do it. So without knowing anything of Bulgaria, we booked an overnight bus to Sophia which is the capital of the Republic of Bulgaria. The bus ride was mostly uneventful with the exception of the Turkey - Bulgaria border crossing.

Leaving Turkey was pretty easy. It was around 1:00am when we got to the border and A Turkish border control person came aboard the bus and took everyone's passport. He mumbled something like "Kanada" as he read the passport and took it from me. A short while later one of the two bus drivers was handing the passports back and we moved on. We moved on about a few hundred meters and stopped at some large dimly lit, nondescript building and everyone started to get out. I thought this was part of the border control so I stepped off the bus with passport in hand and asked the driver what to do. He said it was a smoke break so I got back on the bus. A little while later I realized that it was a duty-free shop that we were in front of when I saw most of the passengers and the second bus driver coming back with bags filled with cartons of cigarettes. While all this was happening, the first bus driver was taking out black plastic bags from a compartment and getting them ready for something. We sat around waiting for a about another 20 minutes while the two bus drivers talked quickly in Turkish and started tearing apart the cigarette cartons and stashing them all over the bus. The smokes went under the stairs, in the top luggage rack and covered with blankets, behind empty seats and basically anywhere else they could stash them. All this happened while Arwyn and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. When the drivers had finished stashing the smokes, we moved on towards the Bulgarian border entry. This part took a long time as we were about 8 busses in line and it seemed like every car and bus was being searched. The first bus driver headed off with another passenger towards some building off the the left which had a sign that might have said traffic control or something like that. Its tough to tell because the Bulgarian language is part of the Slavic linguistic group and it has letters much like Russian. Anyways, these two took off and we never saw the passenger again. (There might have been an issue with his passport or something).

Eventually we piled off the bus and we started to go through the border crossing. Once we all passed through we stood around waiting for the bus to come through and get searched. This appeared to happen in two stages. First, a border crossing guard came on the bus and looked around a bit and chatted with the second bus driver who was moving the bus along at this point as the first driver was still MIA. We saw the second bus driver quickly slip something that looked like a pack of smokes to the border guard who quickly pocketed it, got off the bus and opened the gate. The bus moved to the other side of the gate and stopped. About this time the first bus driver returned and the bus got searched again by more officials with flashlights. They checked through all places I mentioned earlier but only seemed to come off the bus with a few bottles of water that I suppose couldn't be brought across the border for some reason. We all got back on the bus and headed on towards Sophia. A little while later we noticed that there was a black plastic bag with a carton of smokes in the seat pocket of our seat, as well as in the seat across from us where a Turkish girl was sitting. I'm assuming that some stuff got moved around while the second bus driver got some quick advice or something from the first border patrol.

Around the end of the trip when were were in the city limits of Sophia, the second bus driver came round looking for his stash. When he had collected it all, they made a quick stop at the side of the road and dropped it off with some guy who I think was a taxi driver.

That's about the extent of the excitement for the over night bus ride. I get stressed out at border crossings and if you've ever seen the movie "Midnight Express" you'll know why this one was a little sketchy.

Anyways, it's about 3:00 in the afternoon and much colder than Istanbul and the Aegean coast by about 10 degrees. I might need another sweater. Time to find some information about the country...

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Here is a quick photo from outside our hostel window. Apparently the red lettering says "Garage"

-Jason

Posted by jcobham 04:15 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (2)

Three Sheets to the Wind ><}}}}o>

25 °C

We've been out exploring the Turkish coast for almost a week and it's been amazing! Also, it's been a learning experience and it's taken us about this long to get used to the boat and sailing in strange waters. Arwyn was a little sea sick and I had to do some quick anchoring in the dark but the things we've seen and the places we've visited are just spectacular. We've even seen dolphins, flying fish, and birds chasing flying fish in mid-air!

Here's a picture from the ruins at Gemiler Island... (more coming soon)

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-Jason

At many of the popular anchorages, locals in small "putt-putt" boats (they sound like they have a really small, noisy moped engine) will approach you when you arrive. Sometimes they'll offer to help you with your stern line, and then suggest strongly that they come back later and ferry you across to their restaurant. "Best fish!" they'll tell you. Or, if they aren't advertising a restaurant, they're selling ice cream, fruit, bread, or "pancakes." The pancakes are more like a very thin, flat, chewy bread, like a roti, and the pancake boats usually have a man driving and a woman rolling them out, plus a round griddle to fry them on. They're great - and they come with fillings like chocolate, banana, cheese, lemon and sugar. One man in particular gave me a chuckle - he came around every morning hollering "Breakfast service!" and singing loudly and enthusiastically. His boat sold ice cream and pancakes - the pancake lady looked older, maybe his mother? We saw him at two different places we anchored, and once we bought ice cream from him for an exorbitant price. He kissed my hand and called me "sugar."

And the ruins! Good grief, ruins every which way. At Gemiler Island there are ruins of what was once quite a large Byzantine town, and two bays over from there we hiked to Kayakoy, a ghost town abandoned in the 1920s. Kayakoy is about 3000 buildings, some of which date from the 17th century, which were inhabited by Greek Christians until the Turks decided to kick them out (or something - ask me later about the details, I'll have to look them up). We hiked for about half an hour uphill in the heat to get there, and it was totally worth it. At the bottom of the deserted town we found a non-deserted restaurant, where we had cold beer and delicious mixed mezes (cold appetizers like hummus, carrots in yogurt sauce, roasted red peppers, eggplant with cheese, etc.). Apparently what I care about is food... but the ruins and the flying fish are pretty neat too!

-Arwyn

Posted by jcobham 09:48 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

Photos

sunny 29 °C

Here are some photos from the last few days when we were tourist-ing around in Istanbul.

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A Quran in the Topkapi Palace museum

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Some tile-work in the Harem, Topkapi Palace
Basically the entire palace is covered in very detailed tile work and marble. Any picture you could possibly take could not do it justice. That probably goes for basically anything in Turkey that you could lay eyes on.

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Turkish Coffee at lunch time

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Hagia Sophia from the park in the evening. The inside of the structure is absolutely awesome!

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Basilica Cistern... One of my favorite sites we've seen so far.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_Cistern

Posted by jcobham 10:08 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

The current situation

sunny 31 °C

We arrived in Fethiye this afternoon after a really long overnight bus ride. Apparently it's just as cheap to fly. So I figure we;ll do that on the way back. It's atleast 31 degrees today. Not really used to that temp.

Right now we're sitting by the pool at our hostel having some drinks! it's pretty nice.

Tomorrow with updates on the last few days while it's too hot to do anything!

-J&A

Posted by jcobham 12:46 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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