Wednesday, November 07, 2007


So the plan was to man up and hitch hike to Paris from Berlin. Just a sneaky thousand or so kilometers. I got a kilogram of waffles, three blocks of chocolate and a litre of water and caught a local train to a service station on the edge of Berlin. I then proceeded to ask people where they were going and could I tag along...

... 15 minutes in a frickin awesome old French dude told me he could only take me as far as Dijon... only Dijon I think? I check my map... and bang.. its 200kms from Paris. Holy moly. I thought this has got to be the best ride ever.. but it got better! He bought me breakfast (all you can eat!), lunch, dinner and a french coffee at 3am. We had to make a detour to Munich to pick up a load of timber (I helped load it and got a free jacket!). Holy moly. So I was sitting under this....... only 27 hours after I left Berlin. If that's not the dream, then I don't want to live it.

Paris is super awesome. I feel much the same about Paris as I did Italy. It would be a cliche to fall in love with Paris, but I guess its a cliche for a reason. There is so much history, architecture, museums, pubs, awesome french people and Rugby that its hard not to have fun. Here are some dudes smoking a cigar outside the Louve.. I hope they are living their dream.

We did a sneaky day trip out to Versailles a day before a massive transport strike bought the city to a stand still. You can't really say you have been to France until you have experienced a strike. Versailles was awesome, the gardens were amazing (some of the most impressive box hedges I have ever seen, I love box hedges), and the palace itself was really beautiful. This is me in the galerie des glaces (Hall of Mirrors) where the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end WWI. Wow.French food is indeed rather good. Word of advice though: Never mix camembert and pate in a baguette in front of a french man.

We did a lot of exploring in North Eastern Paris where a lot of North African immigrants live. It was awesome, such hustle and bustle. Such cheap food. So much fun. We also found this basketball court... a fully fledged cage court built under a railway line.

I shall leave you with a picture of Paris in the evening. This is the last chapter of this part of my life. The next is a return to the motherland to seek work and settle down for a while... something I hope I am capable of.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Berlin. I have heard from many many people that Berlin is absolutely fantastic and that I must go there.. so I went there.. and it was absolutely fantastic.. once I got there.

It was quite as mission. First I got a sweet sweet hitch from Poznań to the Berlin Ring Road with a really cool Polish/German dude whom I communicated with with my extensive Polish and German ('spoko spoko', 'alles fitt im schritt?'). Once I was on the Berlin Ring road it took two rides, some bush whacking, a nervous wait at an semi-abandoned rest area and a mad dash across a 6 lane autobahn in my bare feet with cars passing me at 200km/h to get there!

Once I got a ride (and what a ride! Two blocks from where I was staying!) it was all good. I met up with the guy I was staying with who was absolutely fantastic... mostly as the first thing we did was go to the pub for a Berlin beer. This guys main mission was for me to try all the beers from Berlin, which was one I was happy to help out with.

Did some exploring, saw some cool sights. Like a street basketball court in the middle of Alexanderplatz next to the beautiful TV tower (above). There are some amazing museums there, especially the Pergamon Museum which houses the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way from Babylon and if my historical biblical knowledge is in line, would be the very one Daniel would have walked past/through on his arrival in Babylon to hang out with King Nebuchadnezzar. Also of note: Dudes with BBQ's attached to themselves selling sausages!

Also saw the Berlin Wall which was pretty neat. Even if it is pretty much all gone and you can't tell which graffiti is from before the fall, while David Hasselhoff was pulling down the wall, or after it fell. But it was all pretty cool, and it was good to see Sports were represented by some of its finest ambassadors.

Lastly a neat picture of some trails from passing planes catching the sunset... I have never seen this before and it was pretty cool. Rather romantic really.. well, bromantic at least.

I had decided a while back to man up and hitch hike to Paris.. I thought I was being very brave, adventurous and crazy... next post you will see how manly I really was..

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Poland: Olsztyn, Gdańsk, Toruń, Poznań

Ok... this has got to be the most out of date blog on the planet, but I still want to tell you about my continued adventures in Poland ( I will tell you about my current situation shortly).

After Estonia we had a plan to hitch hike all the way to Poland in two days. This plan failed spectacularly and we ended up getting a night bus from Riga to Białystok. From here we hitch hiked to Olsztyn where we spent a few nights with a couple of fantastic people (one of which I think I have man crush on...) One of the coolest things I noticed was the old soviet style apartment buildings had some very cool paint jobs done, including massive (3m+) high street numbers painted on them. Very handy. Sorry you can't see the numbers on the below photo.

From Olsztyn I embarked on my first solo hitch hiking experience where I pretty speedily (and in once case a little too speedily with a crazy pole in a rattling old Mercedes) got to Gdańsk. Gdańsk is a pretty darn cool city, it has a massive historical centre and a cool history to match (Being part of German mercantile leagues, part of Germany [known to them as Danzig] and the odd solidarity movement). I stayed with some hippies in a small cottage in the middle of a forest somewhere which was incredible. I was once again stunned by other peoples (complete strangers) hospitality. And I even got a chance to get some gardening done.. my first real work in months (if not years).
From Gdańsk I took a sneaky train to Malbork which has the largest medieval castle in Poland. It was well worth the two hour detour.

Hitch hiked from here to Toruń which is a very cool town, again one with a whole lot of history to offer (heaps of churches and it is the birth place of Copernicus). Had fun relaxing and exploring there. On the way there got a sweet ride with a truck driver who was on his way to Hungary. He magically pulled a beer from a sneaky fridge in the truck and gave it too me... right then I was living the definition of living the dream: Getting a free ride with in a massive truck, drinking a free beer, talking Polish to a fantastic Pole driving around Poland on a beautiful autumn day. Damn... could I be any luckier?

Toruń at dusk.

My luck ran out... I got to Poznań and watched the Rugby World Cup quarter final... my plans for Paris and the semi's were slowly being changed to a week recovering from the lose in Amsterdam. These things happen though, onwards and upwards I guess. Poznań was very cool, I don't have any super photos but I had a fantastic time there in art galleries, pubs, bars, clubs, sheesha lounges and an apartment jungle.

From here I hitch hiked to Berlin, which will be the next post, perhaps tomorrow if you are lucky... what an adventure that was. To finish: here is a photo of me and my fantastic host in Toruń, you can take from this what you like, I learnt that I am massive, she is not so massive, and I am a very bad photographer. Boy Henry James would be proud of the number of commas in that sentence (perhaps a public blog is not the best place for a joke only Andy would get?).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Estonia: Tallinn, Saaremaa Island, Tartu

Yep, I am in love again... Estonia this time. During this trip I have got use to talking to people about little old New Zealand and how we are such a small country trying to make it in a big country's world... well, that doesn't work in Estonia. There are only about 1.5 million Estonians and they are doing way better than we are (at least in regards to web based software application: Skype, Kazaa..). We had been told by a few people and Lonely Planet that Estonians are quiet, reserved people and you had to work hard to get a conversation out of them: that is not the case at all. All Estonians are frickin awesome and out going.

We started in Tallinn. Hitch hiked of course, one ride took us in completely the wrong direction (our fault, good fun though) and another was a Russian dude whose answer to the question "are you a student, or do you work, or what?", was "I do business.... Russian business...". There after an awkward silence ensued.

In Tallinn we went to an old KGB Prison which was again very interesting and made things very real. A bunch of churches (which I am yet to get bored of), a little more protestant in these parts after 99% Catholic Poland (mostly thanks to Pope John Paul II I believe).

Off to Saaremaa Island for an Autumn retreat by the seaside. Was good and relaxing and the Autumn-ness is really starting to come out. On the ferry back to the main land we tried a new hitch hiking technique of simply walking up to people and asking where they are going and can we come along... worked a charm. This is near Tartu, my Saaremaa photos are not quite as cool.

Off to Tartu to party with some students. Fantastic time there, met a world famous (in Estonia) film producer, Ken Saan, who proceeded to buy us Tequila till the early hours. Hard work being us. Also went on a super cool fantastic day trip to look at Russia, it was pretty cool, wish we had a visa. Look at it taunting us:

From Tartu we tried to hitch hike down to Kaunas. I am a good chewer usually but this time we bit off a little to much. We made it to Riga then bussed it to somewhere in Poland. And you will have to wait another month before I write about that as I am still 'doin' it now.

Oh, I am beginning to appreciate art, even went to an art gallery today.. all by myself! So here is some art, I call it: Slide in Water with Sky and No People.

Peace out.

Latvia: Riga, Sigoulda

Once again I have gotten behind, nonetheless I will attempt to update you on my grand tour. Note that I will plagiarise most of this from Rox, he does such a good job of blogging.

So from Klaipeda in Lithuania we hitch hiked up to Riga which again was a little too easy (aside from an almost 3hrs wait in the rain and hail, but you can't be a real hitch hiker without getting wet). Riga was pretty neat. Saw the Occupation Museum of Latvia which was really good, its still amazing what these people went through. Although Mrs Ayers did a fantastic job of teaching us about World War II in 5th Form History I never truly grasped the significance of it all or the effect it had on normal peoples lives, it was just dates, places and statistics. Going to museums like this one really make it real, which I guess is why we travel, to better understand... stuff. On a lighter note, Rox being a chicken in Riga Old Town:

We went on a sneaky day trip out to Sigoulda which has a National Park with lots of nature and castles. The nature was very Baltic (birches, oaks etc ['etc' as those are the only tree names I know...]) which are slowly getting some good autumn colours going. Here is a view of the main castle, possible built or used by the Teutonic Knights.

While we were exploring something really amazing happened... well, something really amazing form a bunch of kiwis from the land of birds and small harmless reptiles... we saw a snake! and I got a photo! and we chased it! Such an adventure.

So that was Latvia... I feel a little bad only spending 4 days in a country, and I apologise to all Latvians for that, but the World Cup semis are approaching and my money is finally starting to run low, so we had to really get Latvia done and move on to... ESTONIA.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lithuania: Kaunas, Vilnius, Klaipeda

After meeting Rox in Warsaw we caught a bus to Kaunas in Lithuania. Kaunas is pretty cool, best part was we found the town square full of locals almost fighting over free beer and a spit roast cow! Due to our lack of a desire to elbow old ladies to get any chance of a piece we settled for sitting back and watching... boy the meat looked good though.

From Kaunas we hitch hiked to Vilnius. Yep, we hitch hiked. We have decided to hitch hike all around these Baltic States as we heard it was the easiest place in the world to do so... and it has turned out really well actually. We got our first ride in less than 20 minutes, in fact, it took me longer to make the sign than to get the ride! The combination of Hitch Hiking and couchsurfing is lethal... we have pretty much only met local people, which I think is the travellers dream.

In Vilnius we destroyed a castle on a hill (read destroyed as went to/saw/appreciated) but the retreat was marred by a fence...

... so we used all our skills and analysed the situation, elicited the requirements then came upon the required solution (on time and on budget):

There is also a district in Vilnius which has declared Independence and has a constitution which was rather interesting, made for a good photo opportunity.

We also did a day trip around the south, went to a cool castle next to a pretty lake..

..and to a theme park dedicated to the old Communists Statues that were everywhere... whose this guy you ask? The dude that gave Warsaw its prettiest building.

From Vilnius we hitch hiked up to the Hill of Crosses which is quite cool, worth the 300km deviation to have a look at.

8 rides and a sneaky bus ride later we arrived in Klaipeda which is right next to a national park on the Curonian Spit which is good for a spot of hiking.

So we are now in Latvia, and Rox is beside me looking at whether hitchhiking all the way to Paris is a good option or not... hopefully it is. Hitch hiking is the new awesome thing we have discovered, the best part is getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and thinking all is lost, having to see views like this till you see a car with there indicator on... is there a sweeter sight?.

Poland: WARSAW

I am so fickle. I have fallen in love again. My first impression of Warsaw came in Wroclaw where a resident of Warsaw told me it sucked and was not worth it... so I went there with an expectation of a pretty average city, and this expectation was spectacularly exceeded!

How about I refrain from my usual poor commentary and visually stun you with some cool pictures and small descriptions?

My walk from the train station to the metro station afforded me my first glimpse of the Palace of Culture and Science.

Its frickin' beautiful. A gift from Stalin to Warsaw (which Warsaw had to pay for and build).

The old town. Completely rebuilt from scratch recently as it was utterly destroyed after Hitler ordered Warsaw off the map in 1944 after the Uprising.

A new street from the old town.

The old phone exchange building with the Warsaw Uprising logo atop. There was a big battle here during the uprising.

An old Vodka factory.


A fantastic market in an old Stadium. Got me some cheap socks.

Graffiti. If you can translate please let me know... I hope its not too offensive.
And last and least, Pierce Brosnan. He was everywhere man, massive billboards across the whole city. Made me feel safe knowing he was watching over us.

Ok, so perhaps one story.... First up, Rox and I met up on my last night in Warsaw and we then met up with the students I met in Wroclaw. We started out evening with some sheesha and beers then Kris, the main man, suggested we come to some VIP function his dad was involved with... turned out to be far more than we expected. We were in the same room as the Mayor of Warsaw, the Mayor of Budapest, heaps of free food, and free wine! The last two I was most excited about. Saw some really cool live Polish music too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poland: Wroclaw, Krakow

Gen Dobra. Here is an run down on my adventurous 2 weeks in Poland. I have adopted Poland as my home country in Eastern Europe, and Warsaw as one of my top favourite cites of all time... up there with Cairo and Genova.

So I started my adventure in Wroclaw (pronounced vro-shlav... or something, I am still working on that). I actually stayed in a hostel there as I hadn't organised any couches or anything, but it turned out for the best (as everything always seems to) as I met a student from Warsaw and we went out for a drink... he also introduced me to two other friends of his who we went out with the next night as well... more about them later...

This is the Museum which was closed, but looked real cool. Wroclaw is neat, 3rd in the world for number of bridges in a city (120, behind Venice and St. Petersburg). Its a nice town, good for a few days, and not too many tourists. No one likes tourists.

Lots of art and crap too, which I am increasingly beginning to appreitiate. This is the anonymous pedistrian.

From there to Krakow. Krakow is the main tourist destination in Poland and has a heap of stuff. I spent a few days here (perhaps 5?). Lots of castles, old towns, history, Sheesha, art, beer, new friends, old friends, everything really. Rox and I managed to be on the same connecting train in Poland somewhere where we caught up and then parted ways again, it was an incredible display of timing really.

This is a view from the window of the apartment I was staying in, all very socialist, heaps of apartments in this part of town. From Krakow we went for a day in Aushwitz which is the largest Nazi concentration camp... pretty intense. Also off to the Tatras for a few days hiking with a new friend.Unfortunately the weather wasn't tops so we couldn't spend the night up there, but it was good to get about and about and see some of Poland.

The Tatra Mountains were really cool, and cold. And like German hiking there were pubs with beer scattered threw them... oh well.

Back in Krakow I got to play some real street ball with the same guy in the Tatra photo on this ghetto hoop. Man it was cool, the back board was solid steel, the net was made from a massive chain and the hoop had absolutley no give so all my triples seemed to miss...

Ok, I was going to tack Warsaw on here but seen as its one of my top cities (and Cairo got 4 posts!) I think it deserves its own post... so... off to Warsaw!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Czech Rep.: Pilsner, Olomouc, Prague

From reading these posts it may seem I throw the word "love" around quite a lot. Its not that I take the use of the word lightly, on the contrary, I think the word love is one of the strongest words to use when describing how you feel about something. I guess everything has its on degree of awesome-ness that I love, really love. On that note...

I love the Central/Eastern Europe. I love the Czech Republic.

First in Pilsner, the home of Pilsner beer. An alright town, if you like beer. Not much else really, a bit of old stuff and tasty whole chickens sold in a kiosk on the street. Went to BEER WORLD which was a massive brewery with 9kms of cellars under ground. Admittedly the beer was pretty good. I love that they call it Beer World... so subtle.

From Pilsner to Olomouc. The reason we went there was because we found a couch and it wasn't in my guide book. Turned out to be fantastic. Stayed with a neat dude who was also hosted an American film crew who were doing a documentary on CouchSurfing. Had me a fantastic birthday out on the town in cellar bars and played Settlers of Catan. What could be better? Well... how about a visit to a zoo where the monkeys run around you! Man, monkeys are cool.

We then joined the film crew as they were very fun people, and I wanted to be there boom operator (alas they had no boom). Off to Prague we went. I love Prague. Some cities are just awesome, often for no real tangible reason. Perhaps it was the mix of a rich old and modern history...,
...or the contemporary cosmopolitan vibe, or the moving Communist Museum...
... or perhaps just the really cheap beer. But I loved it. Spent 5 days with an Slovakian dude who was, and still is I am sure, super super super awesome. Had some real good times exploring, going to church, seeing palaces, shape cutting, inline skating and becoming a famous actor in the next big thing. Loved it.

From Prague I have sneaked into Poland... I love Poland. It is actually a super cool country, one of my favourite so far... well, you can't compare, but it is super awesome. Currently I am sitting in an Internet cafe in Krakow contemplating my future.... where shall I go? The options are many, and the obstacles few... makes for a tough decision. You can count on one thing though, I want blog the results of my decision till well after I have made it.

Keep it real folks, and I apologise for the lack of wit and charm, but I haven't had any meat today (aside from some patay stuff for breakfast which isn't really meat).