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Are we there yet?



Are we there yet?



Published: Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:12:23 GMT

 



It ends where it all began.

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:45:00 GMT

A holiday isn't really over until you are back on home soil, but Bangkok is as close to home as it gets, geographically and sentimentally. It is very familiar territory and a great place to unwind and transition back into the Broome heat of my real home that awaited me. But it was probably the saddest I have ever felt traveling towards Khao San Road. Fortunately enough, Julia and another tattoo awaited, so it wasn't just going to be sitting around drinking alcohol like it could somehow stay the execution.Julia was just finishing her two month South-East Asia trip so it was great to see each other at the beginning and end of our respective trips. We had grand plans for all the things we were going to do in Bangkok, but we slotted back so easily into a routine of shopping, drinking and people watching that we didn't find much time for anything worth relating here, or anything I could relate.One thing definitely worth mentioning is the incredible work Aod did adding some more of his signature genius on my skin canvas. I merely sought a touch up of the 20 year old owl on my shoulder, and a darkening of my deltoid so it didn't look so pale compared to the awesome Canova sculpture tattoo he had put around my elbow at the start of the trip. Never have I been to a tattooist who takes so much pride in his work and is not happy until he has made any tattoo, old or new, completely his own. If anyone wants a tattoo, do yourself a favour and go see Aod at Divine Ink. I wouldn't trust my skin with another tattooist now, except for myself, but that's just for fun rather than the quality of the results. Aside from sitting around doing nothing, or laying around doing something, it was good to be able to get around in less than 20 or so articles of clothing. But unlike the European winter, where I had decent weather except for a little bit of rain and snow in Istanbul and Scotland, one night in Bangkok saw a downpour so epic that it filled the surrounding area with ankle deep water. Fortunately the area being surrounded was a bar so we just hunkered down and used Black or White Russians to avoid the disappointment of not being able to drunk shop that night. I ordered a phad thai there and it's oily blandness made me wonder why they even bothered when it's far superior from a street vendor 50 meters away and sold for one quarter of the price.There was plenty of opportunities for drunk shopping the other nights that ensured by the time it came to leave, my backpack was full but my wallet was empty. None of the stuff I bought was terribly valuable, or even worthwhile. Wanting a thin backed singlet to avoid the fresh ink being imprinted on anything non-disposable, on one walk back from a bar I snatched up a couple of singlets, failed to haggle, or check the size, and wasn't in the slightest bit surprised when I woke the next morning to find they wouldn't have fit an 8 year old. And I must have been in a more effeminate mood than usual, as the picture below shows, my choice of colour shows that I probably would have been arrested had I tried to wear it out in public in Abu Dhabi.I also bought a Barcelona soccer shirt with their main man Messi, arguably the worlds best players name on the back. Julia was as shocked as any about my new found interest in the game but took great delight in me cheering wildly one moment, asking what the fuck was going on the next. I got nods of approval and high fives from other people sporting their colours, and when I inadvertently ignored one guys appreciative shout out of “Barcelona, Messi” Ash said not to worry as he was probably just making an astute observation of my experience in Barcelona, ie. messy!I clearly have no idea what I am doing in any of these pictures! By the time it came to say a sad goodbye to Julia, I felt I was more than ready to go home. I had one last curry fried rice, spent whatever baht I had left on tramadol and then, with 14 other people, boarded an airport shuttle bus that had 12 seats, 2 of which were taken up by luggage. Fortunately the flight home was the opposite to t[...]



The sins beneath the surface.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:42:00 GMT

Abu Dhabi.......Perhaps that is all I should say. It is almost all I can say, because my memory and camera were rendered redundant the entire time. 'Abu Dhabi' was something that was said a lot, as a justification for whatever crazy shit was going on at the time. I am very thankful I didn't end up stopping here at the start of the trip or I may not have been able to afford to go to Europe at all. My cousin Gow has moved there for the next two years as the draughting work he does is far more abundant in Abu Dhabi than it is back in Melbourne. The delay with his work visa had seen him arrive 48 hours after I had passed through two months ago and as much as I bemoaned a 31 hour 4 flight extravaganza at the time, it was definitely Plutus the God of wealth, looking out for me. Abu Dhabi is composed of roughly 80% ex-pats. Up till half way through the last century the area was a desert with a few villages ecking out a pretty tough existence. Someone was probably trying to bury a goat, struck oil and sky scrapers sprung up, fertilised by all the money oil brings in. Two million people live in a place that will always be a desert no matter how many air conditioned hotels with pools they put in. It is very prosperous place though and people throw their money around like the dirham is diseased and must be shed like lepers limbs. I didn't want to join in with such reckless abandon, but if you don't, you don't do anything at all. This isn't like London where you can wander the streets through millenia of history and look from the outside if you don't want to mortgage your house just to visit a museum. Everything is less than 50 years old, and while there was an impressive mosque or two around, and a few beaches, I had seen some grand examples of the former and was about the return to one of the best examples of the latter. I certainly didn't take that photo either. Abu Dhabi wasn't that hot while I was there and that is a matter of context that requires elaboration. In summer, it regularly gets above 50 degrees, hot enough to melt butter into coal. It was a fuckload hotter than Europe and I soaked my thermals with about 3 litres of sweat just getting to the hotel. And the 30+ degrees while I was there didn't feel that hot because I was hardly ever in it, either sleeping it out or going from one air-conditioned place to another. Within an hour of arriving, my perception of the place had been turned on its head. You cannot have 1.6 million ex-pats here on a working holiday, making great coin, unconcerned about personally observing Islamic religious practices and not have some an underground scene of everything banned by law. Humans have needs and those needs will be satisfied in sketchier and sketchier ways dependant upon how hard the blue line comes down on it. Gow received his residents card while I was there, meaning he was allowed to become an alcoholic to a degree entirely dependant upon his income. Having survived on some gin and whiskey that he'd snuck in, he was now legally allowed to buy beer freely. Nowhere near the extent that he would like, but far more than a 50ml bottle of moonshine a cleaner or restaurant worker would be permitted. That is only personal possession though. I thought pubs and clubs would be so underground, the only way to get to them is to dig. Our first beer was in an open air pub whose only dubious element was how crap they were at bringing out the bill. We waited for half an hour after three requests to pay, then figured someone would accost us before we made it to the door. Not so, and that was the only time something didn't cost us an arm and a leg. The next bar cost $35 to get in, although that got us two drink vouchers as well. After a few ass gropes, a lot of winks, and even a few sly handfuls of my junk, I thought backpackers must be in demand in a city full of western office workers. Gow burst that bubble pretty quickly by stating that the more obvious ones were more interested in what's in the side of your jeans, rather than the front. Who in their right mind thinks[...]



Photos: Abu Dhabi

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:30:00 GMT




….but my liver would strongly disagree!

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 05:04:00 GMT

The next morning I woke up feeling so dastardly that Laura said I was looking very Irish, ie. Green. Half a slice of toast made me go white for awhile and had I doused myself in fake tan like all the pikie women in Ireland did, I'd be a flesh version of the Irish flag. The side of the road leading to the Cliffs of Mohar nearly got some half digested Thai curry fertiliser, but any complaints about my state of health, and there was plenty, stopped soon after viewing our destination. That was because the cliffs themselves were breathtaking, and I had concluded that breathing was half of my problem that day. Upon reaching the Atlantic ocean, lovely grassy hills dropped over 100 metres, and the limestone cliff faces stretched both directions as far as the eye could see. Straight down was not one direction I was willing to look or straight up something would come, but views along the coast showed that at some points the ocean petered out onto rocky beaches, in other places smashing against the cliff face hard enough to blur the impact area with mist. The sea here in Europe seems more foreboding and mysterious and not just because it is closer to a solid state than back home. Australian waters may contain more natural threats, but these waters have claimed more sailors than what our oceans ever will. I got as close as I could to the edge, even creeping up on my stomach at one point to see how far my vomit would have to fall if heaving didn't drop me along soon after. I took comfort in knowing that I may not be the bravest, but I'm not as stupid as some who got close enough to be sacrificed by a stiff breeze for the greater good of humanitys gene pool. Fortunately Laura didn't get too close as she managed to slip down one of the muddy slopes and turn her camera into an usuable dirt magnet. We stopped for lunch in a town smaller than the one we had spent overnight in, but it still had a pub, and plain chips was all I was able to stomach. Stopping there wouldn't have been worth mentioning had the lock on the car not stopped working and refused to let us in. Had that been any other day I would have seen that as a sign from above and gone straight back into the pub feeling divinely obligated. After 45 minutes of numerous cunning but ineffective ploys, Colin had managed to work one of the windows down far enough to squeeze inside and save the day. I slept all the way to Kilkenny, which gave my toxic system enough time to prepare itself for the nachos extravaganza that I was expected to cook up. I should make some sort of business out of traveling around the world and cooking nachos for people in their own home. What a life that would be! Further proving how awesome they are was how invigorated I felt the next morning, possibly aided by an early and alcohol free night. This was crucial because it was St. Paddys day and still feeling too crook to drink may have gotten me deported. Laura had her Fathers Months Mind to attend, so Shane I and took in Kilkenny Castle. While being impressive like all castles are from the outside, the interior had been resurected from a derelict state 50 odd years ago and lacked the grandeur of a place that hadn't been rebuilt just to show off a few fancy tapestries. That is being pretty harsh I must admit, but I would have been more impressed with epic ruins than the remodelled hotel feel that it had. Laura admitted that you quickly get 'ruin fatigue' living in Ireland, so they're obviously pretty keen to rebuild one when it's located right in the heart of town. We took a drive to visit the Dunbrody, a coffin ship stationed in a town famous for sending JFK's great grandparents off to change the face of American history. The ship isn't worth detailing because even though it was open until 6, the guy locking the gate at 4:45 said that you weren't allowed on anymore. That's a bit of Irish logic for you, but it meant we got to have a nice meander home through the countryside at dusk instead of high-tailing back to Kilkenny to get[...]



I may have left the best for last....

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 09:29:00 GMT

Let me tell you about the luck of the Irish. They are incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful country. They are lucky that they are all incredibly friendly people. They are lucky their famously cold weather played nice for the entire time or I could have been writing this in less than glowing terms from a hospital hypothermia ward. (Apparently it gets cold enough to require whole wards to treat hypothermia; citation needed) They are lucky I am to starting to run low enough on funds to think about bumping off a rich relative for some inheritance, or otherwise I would definitely extend my stay a lot longer. And they are lucky that guinness is the national drink because I do need to bump off a rich relative after my copious consumption of the black gold almost kickstarted their economy again.I've insulted a few places with the brevity of my visits, foolishly believing the scant days I spent in incredible cities was enough to get even a vague idea what it was like. 6 days in Ireland being summarised in two journals is almost the biggest insult of all, especially as I spent most of that on a awesome road trip rather than just hanging out in the capital city. That I was driving around (Not me driving obviously as licences are for people that are good at planning) somewhat explains why I wasn't writing as I went along. And the booze. And the leprechauns. The latter appearing after lots of the the former.After missing Laura in Paris and Barcelona due to the terrible misfortune of her father passing away, there was no way she could avoid me in her home city of Dublin. And after having so many of my plans to see friends fall through, it was a special treat to have my American friend Shane start his UK stay in Dublin at the same time of my arrival. We had worked together in Bowen and Orbost and had chosen to move to Broome together because working in cornfields will compel you to make random, life changing decisions. Laura had also convinced her boyfreind Colin to be our chauffeur, a strange but likeable fellow who often used goat noises to convey numerous ideas and emotions.Day one started like all road trips should, ie. with most of us still drunk from the night before. We hadn't gotten carried away, but seeing dear friends for the first time in 6 years was more than enough reason for a celebratory ale or three, seven, maybe eleven, who knows? Laura stalling the car at the lights and using the pedals like she was kicking a football made me somewhat thankful that once we had picked up Colin, he was more than happy to be the designated driver for the entire trip.First port of call was a service station for fuel and a business idea that could revolutionise road trip pit stops in any country if some entrepeneur was willing to impliment it. I've already spoken about the wonderful simplicity of a chip butty, a roll stuffed with hot chips. Same principle, but a bain marie full of standard cooked breakfast foods, stuffed into a roll! Somehow stuff a guinness in there and it's the perfect food. Given that Ireland has Guinnessed the shit out of everything, I was just as surprised they hadn't guinnessed a brekkie roll as I was that brekkie roll places are quite common throughout the whole country.We were heading west and Laura warned that is tantamount to heading through Hell's front gate as far as adverse weather went. Even though it was overcast and cold, it wasn't raining, and was nowhere near as cold as I feared. It was to stay that way for most of the duration too, the last day being one of the sunniest and best days I've had in Europe.Our first 'tourist attraction' was an castle haunted by an entity known as 'It'. I was somewhat dubious that anything could live up to the name of the freaky clown in Stephen King's book of the same name and the only thing freaky in that castle was the guy who lived there. Seeming somwewhat entrepreneural himself, he let us wander his home and then he regaled us with stories of the haunting[...]



Photos: Ireland

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 09:16:00 GMT




A delight for the senses.

Sat, 21 Mar 2015 08:08:00 GMT

Scotland has so thoroughly pampered my senses that writing about it soon after leaving, I feel like I should be relaxing with a cigarette and praying the neighbours were asleep. 'Touch' is probably the only sensation that hasn't been lured into loving Edinburgh like the Sirens were excellent bagpipe players. It makes me feel like a dirty cheating scumbag as Istanbul is going to make me sleep on the couch if she catches wind of how Edinburgh has charmed me. I felt anything but charmed being snored awake again at 5am, but coffee is more than a fitting compensation for any of lifes challenges, and even sleep deprived I couldn't help but wander the town with a lovers grin glued on my face. I had to find a tour operator open early as I had decided a tour was my only option at 10:02pm, 2 minutes after they all closed the previous night. The bad luck had ended at 3 dumps on my plate by Lady Luck and the tour I chose at random turned out to be a winner. Murray was the guide and sported a kilt and a Billy Connolly type sense of humour that not only kept me entertained the whole day, it made me confident that if a dude in a man dress can handle the cold, I can tough it out wearing a jacket overloaded with the pluckings of woodland creatures. I feared a total lack of comprehension when encountering the Highland accent and if a tour guide couldn't speak legibly, I might as well just leave the country. Me understanding Murray calling the sun an invasive species and not native to the highlands humourously summarised all the aspects of this paragraph. After 2 hours of driving, our first stop was in Callander, the gateway to the Highlands. Looking back the way we came, a patch of blue sky was still visible, but our path ahead lead us into some pretty bleak and scary looking clouds. All the mountains were still covered in snow, and the taller ones remained hidden behind the low lying clouds they had attracted like moths to a flame. Rivers of blue slate rubble had avalanched down every mountainside, harvesting themselves as valuable building materials and leaving only the assembly of abodes to human hands. Also giving the Highlanders more time to slaughter each other is the multitude of trees that have felled themselves, as snow laden, a strong breeze is enough to uproot their tenuous hold on the thin soil than covers the solid rock underneath. Like Gallipoli, such amazing natural phenomena was soaked with blood as the Scottish clans had survived the harsh conditions by ensuring there was less competition for the limited resources. After Scotlands gruesome history and the atrocious conditions of Gallipoli, the next tour I do will be of Disneyland, a nursery, or most likely, a brewery. If I had a choice though, I wouldn't do any tours, even though they are far more informative than driving around yourself constantly cussing out the local cartographers. A tour is just like any bus trip somewhere except it costs three times as much, you feel more obligated to look at the passing scenery, day dreams are routinely interrupted by random facts and your starting point conveniently doubles as your destination. It wasn't long into the trip that the snow started to fall and I gave thanks that I wasn't actually driving through conditions I had never encountered before. Any form of precipitation was sporadic and there was enough breaks to see most of the beautiful countryside we were speeding through. With a day to cover so much ground, a lot of incredibly interesting sites had a tale told about them as we gunned it past. The Monty Python castle referenced in the previous journal was definitely one that deserved more than a rapid shutter drive by. It highlighted the experience/evidence paradigm in that without photos of what was happening, does it negatively impact upon the poignancy of the memory? If I don't have a selfie of it, did it actually happen at all? Ancient Zen koan right ther[...]



A day of wonder followed by disaster and dorm snoring.

Tue, 17 Mar 2015 09:12:00 GMT

Some cities grow on you. London crept into my favour like its cold that crept into my bones. Some cities are just instantly spellbinding. Istanbul was breath-taking from the first moment I started heading in the wrong direction from the bus stop. Edinburgh was definitely on the instant favourites list, and it's actually quite difficult to define why. I arrived at night and wandering up and down a street in the rain looking for a hostel that had no signage would not normally be a good first impression. Fortuitiously enough, the one place I went into to ask for directions, turned out to be the place I wanted. I paid the human staff little heed as the most welcoming thing was the huge Rottweiler who wanted to play fetch in a 4 metre square room. I had another ridiculous one whole day to take in Edinburghs' sights, at least I thought I did at the time, and a brilliant blue sky was the perfect greeting stepping out into the chilly but bearable morning air. Strolling out of the perfect grid that makes up the new part of town, a wonderful wall of history greeted me as I looked up towards Edinburgh Castle and the old town. I had to stop at Wellington Coffee to see if they were doing my name proud, and by the time I stopped for breakfast an hour later, my eyelids and camera shutter were glued open, my jaw was cleaning the cobblestones beneath my feet, and I was caffeine euphoric. A cafe named Haz Beans continued my uncanny association with great things and their £6 veggie breakfast was so epic it didn't even fit on the plate. I almost expected 'Harry's homebrews' to be the store next door. Returning to my wanderings, I was dismayed to see a cloudless sky had morphed into its opposite, and the rain made the ubiquitous blue slate buildings seem somewhat drab and repetitive under the grey skies. Like the sun that bleaches things white, perhaps the cold stains things a blue grey as Edinburgh seemed built from frozen stone. The rain didn't last long, as it had cleared again by the time I had ascended Carlton Hill. I paid £4 to see the view from the top of the Nelson Monument, conversing somewhat lobsidedly with a bored ticket guy about how London would have charged me four times more for the priviledge. The view was stunning, revealing very few buildings of merit from the last five centuries as all the sturdy stone buildings looked like Scottish versions of an igloo and were similar enough in age and design ethic to imitate a lego toy town. The appearance of being ancient is not surprising whent they are all made of stone and even when it is cut into a shape appropriate for whatever purpose, the material itself is still millions of years old. Hollyrood Park laid off to the left of the city, or to the right if you were facing the other way, and a walk up to Arthurs Seat promised better views for £4 cheaper. By the time I had sweated and panted my way to the top, I had stripped down to a t-shirt and the strenuous exercise was enough to give my calves the ache of neglect for the remainder of the day. The weather had alternated between rain and sunshine so regularly that I was thinking that Scottish people could use it to tell the time, if there wasn't so many clocks around. The appeal of the archeitecture of the Royal Mile that ran from the Castle down to the Royal Palace was equally changeable with the weather, at one moment a beautiful contrast with the blue sky, the next so bland as to blur into the skyline. One thing that rarely changed on the Royal Mile was the wares of the shops. If you want tartan, Edinburgh has definitely got you covered. Combine that with cashmere and kilts and you get pretty bored of window shopping before too long. Every second shop had a request for staff posted in the window, and the staff most of them had were Polish making me think Poland must be devoid of its own people.   Fortunately walkin[...]



The double tonne.

Sat, 14 Mar 2015 19:02:00 GMT

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Edinburgh was always meant to be a milestone. I thought it was going to be the site of my 40th birthday party extravaganza but an inexplicable (Word of the week) desire to freeze the nuggets saw me here two months too early. So instead, this journal marks the 200th time I have burdened the internet with my traveling observations and nonsense.

Like all significant things, there is always an exception, and that comes in the form of the Mongolian journals. They were deleted when the novel was written as they read more like a first draft and were letting people read for free the novel that I had slaved over and give away for free anyway. Encompassing the last 9 or so years of travel, the journals have followed numerous trips to Asia, my bike ride from Brisbane to Melbourne, all my moves around Australia, and now my wonderful European jaunt. They have currently been viewed a total of 260907 times making me wish I made more effort to correct all the mistakes. But traveling is more about getting out there and spending money on souvenirs, rather than spending your time in a hostel hunched over a computer.

Feeling that I have said enough already in the 199 previous journals I am going to let Edinburgh speak for itself with some of the amazing pictures I have so far taken of the place. But fear not, I'll never pass up an opportunity to waffle on about a place so more literary nutrition will follow shortly.

But thank you firstly to all of you who have read some, or all of my journals. I do get a lot of joy out of trying to write about my travels in an interesting and humourous way, and failing anything else, I will be happy to have documented proof of all the things I have done, when the way I have often done them catches up with me and I'm old and senile. Your comments, likes and shares have been very much appreciated, and I sincerely hope you are still reading when I write journal 400, and beyond. And now, cop some Edinburgh beauty.

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Photos: Scotland

Sat, 14 Mar 2015 10:44:00 GMT




A place that deserves to be more famous than it is.

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 11:37:00 GMT

Ask any Australian about Jersey and the only thing they can think of is the cows. The small island is part of the UK, but just off the edge of France with French road names, is full of Polish people and with Parishes (or countys) like St. Johns, St. Marys, St. Lawrence, etc. it sounds like a martydom after-party. They know the value of their most famous residents, as where most countries watermark their currencies with monachs, Jersey notes show a cows head when held up to the light. Buy a chip butty with a 10 pound note and you'll most likely get change in Jersey sterling. It's worth just as much as English sterling but comes with the added bonus of not being accepted anywhere else but Jersey. If carbs are your thing, a chip butty is your Holy Grail. I ordered one with curly fries and hot chili, and even though the girl serving me barely understood a word I said, I managed to receive what I asked for. Perhaps I should have ordered some caustic soda on the side cause the chili just melted the bread into a semi set cement and the starch overload was building some post-modern sculpture in my stomach before I was even half way through. Upon completion, because I've never been bested by a meal with chips in it, we made a mad dash to the nearest pub with the sound of an ambulance running through my mind. I ordered a stout, and when the Polish girl tried to give me a Stella, I finally accepted the fact that Australians mangle the English language more than they speak it. Alex had been my house mate in Broome, and joined me on my first trip to Hobart, so he was pretty sound when it came to grasping my slang. What he failed to grasp what the necessity of tidying up before the arrival of guests. When his sister Jo, one of the 8 girls I had lived with in 'A spy in the house of chocolate, chick flicks and cosmopolitans' dropped me off, we both stopped in our tracks at the entrance to Alex's apartment. We stared in disbelief unable to find a clear path that lead within. Apparently Alex had done three 12 hour shifts in a row and obviously spent the other 12 hours of the day pretending to be Keith Moon in an unattended hotel room. My blow up bed took up every available inch of floor space, and then some, but turned out to be one of the more comfortable beds I have slept on, largely because Alex and I mastered the art of getting plastered together a long time ago. I stayed for 4 days and save for one morning shift, Alex was able to be my tour guide for the entire time. Having heard plenty from Jo and Alex about the beauty of Jersey, but hardly believing them, I had a pretty open mind about what we would do. I thought Jersians might ride their cows around like us Australians ride kangaroos around, but we actually had to go out of our way to find some cows. It wasn't too far out of way though. Due to the Islands size (119 square kilometers) anything out of the way is in another country. The roads were so narrow, with built up edges and no shoulders, that driving anywhere felt like zooming around a go-cart track. Jersey drivers are used to having 2 inches of space or less so they drive like life is one big game of Super Mario Cart. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the cars were hatchbacks, sportcars or those silly smart cars that look like an armchair with wheels and a plastic rain cover. The island is incredibly beautiful though. The interior is quintessential English countryside with beautiful manicured fields of green velvet grass or the almost as famous Jersey Royal potatoes, edged by stone fences so old they seem to have grown into a homogenous entity with old stone cottages over looking real estate as valuable for its beauty, as much for its rarity on such a small island. The islands periphery varies from steep ragged cliff faces that overlook little inlets to vast str[...]



London cram session.

Mon, 9 Mar 2015 22:17:00 GMT

Three days to see London? Really? That is just flipping the bird to the city of double-decker buses, that lady that graces all our currency, Artic weather, millions of rude pedestrians but overly polite drivers, amazing architecture and my heritage. What could I possibly hope to see, let alone afford, in that time? And to make it worse, I went to Brighton for one of those days. Cop a pair of devil horns Motherland. I knew London was going to be expensive from the moment I was quoted a fortune to book a bed in some army like barracks of a hostel in the middle of nowhere, that was still probably considered central London. I knew London was going to be awesome when a friend emailed me half an hour later saying I could stay with her in the swanky hotel she managed in Chelsea, an area so posh you aren't allowed there unless you talk the Queens English and you wear a top hat, to bed. I happily ditched the dorm deposit knowing that the Chelsea Hotel was an appropriate middle ground between Barcelona's loft apartment par excellence and the pigpen that is Alex's room in Jersey. Upon moving in, the big four poster bed immediately made it apparent that it was going to be a lot closer to the former than the latter. With tight corridors fit for people or luggage but not both and wallpaper from a time before wallpaper was invented, the only thing missing was Basil Fawlty at the front desk and Manuel taking my bags somewhere other than my room.   The first day in London was a living hell. I woke up with my addled brain singing the Proclaimers “I would walk 500 hundred miles....” like I already had and figured I would walk 500 more to get out of London. It was sunny out but deceptively cold, especially when the wind blew with the potency of weaponised liquid nitrogen. My 'sleeping bag with arms' jacket needed the sacrifice of at least another 500 ducklings to best those weather conditions and as I walked along the Thames, I couldn't stop thinking “Why the fuck would anyone chose to live in a place like this?” I took photos from the outside of Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls' Cathedral and Tower of London and asked “Why the fuck would people even visit here?” when those tourist spots cost £20, £17.5 & £24.5 respectively! Really? $50 to see the Tower of London? You really are just taking the piss England! The city is beautiful, the buildings and history are mind-boggling but I couldn't think of a worse way to wax cash than to spend 50 knickers on geezing at some old prison. Admittedly my mindset was somewhat affected by the physical and emotional consequence of having a 3 day bender in Barcelona. No matter where I was, my look of utter disdain would have been immutable that day. I had Maz, my recent ex from Tasmania over for a nachos extravaganza and with the beauty of her friendship to cheer me, things started to feel a little less like purgatory and more like a cold version of paradise. The next day looked beautiful from the comfort of my bed and I long considered that to be the extent of how much I enjoyed it. Riding a bike is always where I feel happiest so I decided to brave the elements no matter how cold it was. Rugged up enough to bounce if I fell off the bike I headed over to Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall because today was all about doing cheap shit. The bike had cost £2 for the day, unless someone had scratched away '00' from the sign. A visit to the Lords cricket ground was a must, and this was one of the first times where the changing of my holiday from summer to winter became more biting than the weather. Had I come in May, June and July like I originally intended, I would be here while Australia was playing the second Ashes test. If ever there was a time for a[...]



Not for the judgemental.

Mon, 9 Mar 2015 22:08:00 GMT

Unfortunately this is not the first time I have had to start a journal with a warning, and if you are a long term reader, either previous warnings were heeded and you live in ignorant bliss, or warnings were ignored and you're ok with the stupid things I do. This is about as crazy as I've gotten, and as incriminating as I've written. Therefore, I urge you to read on only if you know me well enough and your opinion of me is somewhat immutable. Or you don't know me, then who cares. Most of the former would know that I grew up playing a lot of basketball so my teens and early 20's involved alcohol and playing video games while waiting for the internet to be invented. Most of my mid 20's were spent living in Buddhist communities that didn't permit alcohol or the overload of porn that was flooding the newly invented internet. By the time peers were acquiring boats and their second mortgage with kids who were grown up and such and such, I was just starting to travel and find a more hedonistic way to live.   So drugs were never a big part of my life. I can still count on my hands the times I have tried nearly all of the more common drugs. I had tried cocaine twice so I was always a little concerned about going to South America, thinking that it was cheap and easy enough to go from newbie to rock and roll burnout in a week. The cost is incredibly exhorbitant in Australia so it was never an option. This is not a problem in Europe so Barcelona had always been pencilled in as the time I let my hair down and widened the nostrils. I was a bastion of restraint and didn't even consider the stuff for the first four days, knowing full well that it was best to have Kirsty there as my partner in crime, that being either the best or worst way to describe her. Awaiting her arrival, I couldn't help but pace relentlessly, but that had far more to do with the excitement of seeing another dear friend I've missed greatly for the last year or more. The fact that she was off chasing weed as soon as she arrived contributed to the grooves I walked into the apartments fancy rug. The first night was rather sedate, by our standards, thanks to the lateness of her arrival. A 6-pack of Estrella beer that I had bought from a shop for completely the wrong reason, and that was that. That may have lulled the liver into a false sense of hope but by noon the next day, the liver knew exactly what to expect. Lunch was at the lovely Black Lab brewery, where I decided I liked the staff enough to buy a glass rather than just pocket one. Next was a highlight that had been a very long time in the coming. Being Scottish, Kirsty and I had always bonded over Brewdog, and had talked for hours about making it to one of their bars together one day. This was that day. Luckily it was early afternoon so there was only two other punters that saw our eyes and our tongues enter before we did. I bought a t-shirt first, to commenorate the ocassion, then sunk a few of the usual delicacies before moving onto the big boys. I knew Kirsty would love the U-bolt as we share a fondness for dark drinks more like gravy than beer. Then shit got real, as you would expect it to with a 24Euro beer. Every year or so Brewdog get highly experimental and release some limited edition random idea under their 'abstrakt' range. This was a triple coffee rye imperial porter and was without a doubt worth every cent spent on it. The bar even had an 'End of history' bottle, one of only 12 ever made that contained a 55% beer wrapped in a taxidermed squirrel or stoat. Unfortunately it was empty, but licking the inside of the bottle, like so many before me probably, felt like licking Jim Morrisons grave stone. Fortunately I hadn't had been able to do that. As we wandered circuitou[...]



Photos: UK

Mon, 9 Mar 2015 21:29:00 GMT




The saga, and the walking, continues.

Thu, 5 Mar 2015 11:00:00 GMT

Mesmerised by the Sagrada Familiar and up to my third eye in Gaudis incredible vision, I decided to double down on the crazy and see where it lead. Describing my visit to Park Quell was actually intended to be a part of the previous journal, but after thinking I would struggle to say anything at all out of awe, I succesfully managed to ramble on quite a lot. How uncharacteristic! Even after ole Light-fingers McGee had a crack at stealing my empty bag, I was still feeling like I had just been somewhere other worldly. It must have been this bewilderment that helped me overlook the fact that the Park was fucking miles away. Or the fact that it was up one of the hills surrounding Barcelona. Yet the anticipation of more Gaudi helped time pass in a semi haze. I wish I had bought a pedometer on this trip because these feet weren't made for walking anywhere near as much as this mouth was made for complaining about them. As previously stated, the fossilising left calcaneal talar joint has performed above and beyond it's usual standard of just locking up after a two degree drop in temperature or a walk over a few hundred metres.   The Park was free to enter, but a ticket booth was set up at the gate that people were queuing up for. I wax enough cash on sites where payment is compulsory so I certainly wasn't about to do it voluntarily. Which soon become apparent as the mistake it was. If you want to wander around and look at trees while endless scores of people try and sell you trinkets and sunglasses from blankets laid out along the pathway, that shit is free all day long. If you want to see something that Gaudi designed, you had to pay for that so I guess it must have been in the park information fine print. I wandered around hoping to find something inspiring, but that came in the form of a few more souvenirs for back home. By continuing to just walk upwards, I managed to find the top of the hill with some incredible panoramic views over the city. The weather had been warm enough on the walk up to strip down to a t-shirt, but the uncovered peak was being buffeted by winds strong enough to blow my moustache off.   I caught a taxi back to the hostel because I am not masochistic, but I do love beer. So I coaxed another small effort out of my aching legs to get me to the Brewdog bar as a reward for a long days hard slog. Two of my all time faves in Punk IPA and 5am Saint Red Ale barely touched the sides. Dogma and Brixton Porter felt like they may have made an impact, and the incredible U-Bolt smoked porter put it beyond doubt at 8.4% ABV. Feeling like my jelly legs had become octopus tentacles, I slivered out the door and began the long walk home. Because my subconscious IS a masochist, and thanks to my utter non-reliance on maps, I simply started walking without worrying about direction. 30 minutes later, I was wondering about the complete absence of anything recognisable. Apparently drunk tourists wandering aimlessly down backroads are a high priority for muggers, but all the shady characters I walked passed must have simply taken pity on me, or admired my stupidity for how far I had managed to walk in the wrong direction. Eventually I pulled out a map and found that I had added an extra 3 kilometres to the days walkings. Apart from the time spent inside Sagrada Familia and the Brewdog bar, I had been walking from 9am until 10pm. The following day I had nothing planned other than moving out of my hostel and into the apartment that Kirsty had rented out for her birthday. She wouldn't be arriving until the day after, giving me a chance to put dibs on the best bed and have a solo night in luxury before seeing a dear old friend and getting too fuc[...]



An insight into the unrivalled genius of Gaudi.

Mon, 2 Mar 2015 09:10:00 GMT

I'm speechless. As I was born with the gift of the gab though, there was only the briefest of pauses after that first sentence. I visited Gaudi's still uncompleted masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, and I feel I need not go into another church again, nor want to. There is simply no way to describe the design or the effect of the place. I do love a challenge though, so with a delicious brewdog beer quickly emptying beside me, I'm going to have a jolly good crack at it. I prebooked tickets online to avoid queues, but something this popular is always going to have queues. Big ones. The biggest being the suckers who hadn't pre-booked, but I still had enough time to finish my Americano before being granted entrance through the line for smart bastards who plan ahead. That was a good opportunity to start deciphering the busy fascade that looked like a traditional church made of wax that had started to melt. The conical hexagon laced towers at the front proved this wasn't a conventional church, but just how unconventional continued to unfold throughout my visit like Russian nesting dolls. I took an obligatory selfie out the front, to prove I had been here and not downloaded photos of the place. The fascade hadn't given away any of its secrets so I hoped the interior might. Upon crossing the threshold, I almost felt myself become digitized. This was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and could only imagine seeing in the best designed computer games of our day. Well, not my day, as we considered any game more involved than getting a frog from the side of the road to the other side of the swamp as being futuristic. As construction started on this church over 100 years ago, and will continue until 2030, the inside shows no signs of age like all other European churches. Therefore, the newness of the surfaces adds to the hyper-realism of it. I didn't take more than 5 steps inside before simply stopping and gazing around in awe. This lasted at least 10 minutes, and still gave me no way in which to describe what laid before me. Stained glass windows to my left poured predominantly blue light in to combat the orange windows on the opposite side. There was no images on them, merely abstract shapes and forms that combined to describe a mood or a feeling more than a scene. I set my camera to semi automatic and wandered through the milling throng who were all doing the same thing. A clear sky outside ensured that I was getting the maximum effect and it was breath-taking. Prebooking tickets meant agreeing to a particular time of entry and my ride up one of the towers was booked in for 15 minutes later. I headed to the lift surprised but suspicious of why there was no queue. Like Notre Dame, my luck had run out again and no one was going up the towers due to the wind outside. Missing out on views of the city was disappointing, but I was still so dazed that I walked away from an attendant who was more informative than a 'technical reasons' sign without even hearing him describe how to obtain a refund. I felt the best thing to do at this point was to just sit down and stare. There wasn't far to walk anyway and I was staring upwards unblinkingly while half accidentally bumping into all the selfie sticks being waved around like a royal rumble fencing duel. There were seats in front of the main alter cordoned off for silent reflection and meditation. Little kids will wail and cry, Asian girls will giggle, and secular people will talk loudly not understanding the concept of sacred space so silence was not possible anywhere. Particularly with construction going on for at least the next 15 years. It was hard to hold onto any sort of peace wh[...]



Pounding plenty of Spanish pavements.

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:46:00 GMT

Something itched under my armpit. Before I knew it, there was a strange sensation of moisture on my skin. It was sweat, something my body had forgotten how to do. It's not like I had returned to Broome where sweating is as normal, and as necessary as breathing. And it's not like Barcelona is warm enough to make someone sweat without them earning it. In this case, I was wandering aimlessly around the streets in my usual manner, marvelling at the clear blue skies above and completely oblivious to the fact that I still had about 5 layers on. After 2 weeks of temperatures closer to your average soccer score, 15 degrees felt like a heat wave, or more like it, a heat ripple. Seeing the sun and having a days worth of blue skies was as refreshing as the first beer that accompanied it. Even more so because it was barely past noon and I wasn't planning on having a beer till the evening. I'd just seen a huge parade come slowly dancing down the street, ornate outfits twirling, drums pounding, asses gyrating and I'm not sure anything was actually being celebrated or whether it was just another Sunday in Barcelona. Enough people were excited by the action to prove it was somewhat unusual. But just as many people paid it no heed like it was usual weekend fare.   I spent a good portion of the morning walking along the rough path it was salsa'ing along, feeling the sensual rhythm almost dance me along. Almost. My arthritic foot has performed exceedingly well under thestrenuous workload of long daily walks, even with the cessation of tramadol reliance out of fear it's a colonic cement as well. So, well ok, I'm not going to use my foot as an excuse. I just don't have any rhythm, unless I'm at least slightly tipsy. Then I still lack rhythm, but giving zero fucks at least loosens up otherwise unco-ordianted muscles. So when a lady thrust a flyer into my hand because I didn't know the Spanish word for no (It's 'no'), I was pleasantly surprised to find it was for a brewery, one that was conveniently located just around the corner. Had I have found the parade by any means other than getting ridiculously lost in the first place, I would have just returned to the brewery later. I knew I'd find Portugal before that same spot so I headed into Black Lab brewery ostensibly to steal a glass for my labrador loving sister. Dogs are allowed in most places, and the BlackLab bar/restarurant was no exception. And there was a gorgeous beagle puppy inside, confirming that they are one of the most common dogs I have seen in Spain, third only to Golden Retrievers and the strange but adorable French Bulldog, an uncommon breed in Australia that looks like a cross between a moth and a wombat. The brewer was lovely, the dry stout 'Black Mirror' was a smokey treat and the girl handing out flyers came in later to hit on me in a sweet and bilingual way that made me wish I knew more Spanish. All that amounted to the place being impressive enough to tell them they should nail more of their stuff down.   It would have been my new favourite bar had I not spent that evening in the recently opened outlet of my favourite brewery in the world, Scotlands Brewdog brewery. And before this journal starts to sound like an alcoholics odessey, I had done my budget that morning and realised that beer was going to be a luxurious and infrequent treat. I had always planned to visit the Brewdog Bar ever since I heard it had opened two weeks prior, and I was willing to skip lunch or dinner if it meant being able to taste some of their incredible beers off tap. Being lost near Blacklabs was just the universe telling me that I must skip lunch AND din[...]



Photos: Barcelona

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 09:15:00 GMT




Cannibis, culture and constipation.

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:30:00 GMT

Amsterdam is a Utopian wonderland for your average teenage stoner. Drugs are either legal or tolerated. Bikes are the main form of transportation so it's easy to go get munchies without being busted DWI. Dutch potato chips enjoy world renown. Prostitution is practised from so many roadside displays that give a whole new meaning to window shopping. Coupled with the fact that Dutch women are so attractive as to be genetically superior beings, it quickly turns to window cleaning; with drool. Unfortunately, this liberal approach to licentious pursuits, and the sort of tourists it attracts, leads to the centre of the town feeling more like a theme park. One with no puppy pooper scoopers and the occasional pile of vomit. The few Dutch were actually easy to pick out of the crowds because they were the ones not smoking, or making an idiot of themselves. Forunately I had a Dutch tour guide to help me avoid making most of the more common tourist mistakes. Getting stoned was not one of them, as the first thing Ainslie did was take me to a weed cafe. Coming from a conservative country, I was used to a more lounge room or street corner orientated transaction for the purchase of such an item. My slack-jaw had dropped open upon smelling the aroma wafting from the first group of people we passed on the street. It reached 'snake consuming a kangaroo' level when the store clerk thrust a list at me detailing all the different potency, methods, flavours, and sizes of getting off your face.  That was possibly the most Australian analogy ever written, but it was apt because I was behaving like nearly all my peers would and tried to buy one of everything. Even though Ainslie turned out to be quite the enabler, she had nothing to do with my original plan of buying a joint turning into a little baggy. I partially regretted it straight away, as I was more interested in enjoying the country, and Ainslies company, than getting stonkered and eating Amsterdam out of potato chips. Outside tables were set up like a real cafe even though the only thing eatable being sold was space cake. Ainslie rolled a number that would have satisfied a small army battalion and given that it had been awhile since I had indulged, I was too ripped to even finish the thing. As soon as I giggled with utter delight at a passing beagle puppy, I knew that the afternoon was going to be more 'dazed and confused' than touristy and cultural. As Ainslies charming and slightly crazy brother pointed out later, there is a lot more to the city than getting high and considering paying for something that is usually free because IT IS RIGHT THERE IN THE WINDOW! Unfortuantely I was baked so my first night was not going to be anything more than an old Australian stoner wandering around giggling at the sites and smells of the Amsterdam 'zoo'. Laid out in co-centric u-shaped canals, the inner city is easy to navigate.... if you're either not stoned and a newbie, or a woman with absolutely zero sense of direction. Together, Ainslie and I had that covered and it was a good thing our wanderings had no particular destination because we would've have found exhaustion before our goal.   We did find an erotic art musuem, or what I think was one of many of them, and decided to see how artistically people could portray dicks. Being an unparalled master in the art of drawing dicks on things, I would usually be fascinated by what was on show. There was the most bizarre sex cartoon with strange dubbed over voices (Probably because all English speaking countries would be too conservative to concoct smut of thi[...]



Photos: The Netherlands

Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:21:00 GMT




Paris pilgrimage

Sat, 21 Feb 2015 19:43:00 GMT

Disney and the Doors in one day. Paris hadn't even been a part of my original plan. Europe is full of so many amazing cities that Paris was just going to be one of those ones that got over-looked, largely because I suspected it would be full of French people. Whoever said the French were rude and arrogant? Yeah right, that was me, but there is nothing like a bit of travel to highlight erronous assumptions. They have been nothing but delightful, extraordinarily helpful and more than willing to overlook my attempts to murder their language. By some strange stroke of luck, I had been reading Victor Hugo's 'The hunchback of Notre Dame' as I was planning this trip, and suspecting I had a latent love for epic structures, I decided to add a stopover in Paris. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque revealed the depth of my appreciation for big old erections and while not quite having that effect on me, even my first glimpse of the twin towers of its belfry from Place de la Concorde left me wide eyed and slack jawed. Ignoring how bad Disney is at historical fact, I had watched it's animated version of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' one night in Istanbul. It had served it's purpose and got me more excited to see the building with my own eyes, but also made me want to see if Esmeralda was around and using Tinder. I had turned that off after my request for company for the concert yielded nothing but more disappointment, and considering my degree of comfort with my own company, I have concluded that the app is best left to the more desparate and dateless. My first night was in the hotel Laura had booked but I moved to a dorm in a hostel closer to Notre Dame for the next two nights. Before leaving, I paid an extra 12Euro to have as much white toast, croissants and black tar coffee as I wanted, which wasn't much at all surprisingly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a hostel costing a third of the price offered such a feast of simple carbohydrates for free. So I did the 25 minute walk feeling 5 kilo heavier than I wanted and wondering if the French ever went to the toilet eating so many crepes, croissants and baguettes. Probably not I concluded, or else their public toilets wouldn't try and kick you out after 20 seconds. Taking nearly 80 years to be constructed into its current appearance, Notre Dame has only undergone a few minor cosmetic changes in the seven centuries since. And that is understandable as the edifice and interior is as awe-inspiring as it needs to be. The patronage of the French Monachy was demonstrated by the 28 Kings that line the lower portion of the fascade. Every other ornate embellishment is either Christian or symbolic of the Gothic style of architecture that the building gave birth to. A queue to enter filled half of the front courtyard so I returned later completely unsurprised to find the line had tripled in length and snaked back on itself. Leaving entrance until the last part of the day meant I missed out on ascending the belfry due to 'technical reasons'. A multilingual sign hung over the fence told me so, accepting my maledictions without expanding on what they were. Unlike Islamic places of worship, I find the Christian iconography too literal, and too depressing to be inspiring. Jesus being cruficied is important to remind Christians that he died for their sins, but that excuses me from feeling guilty for commiting such sins. The cross is suffering incarnate, and the martyred saints that accompany Jesus show the casual observer Christianitys history of persecution and suffe[...]



Only music could describe such ecstacy.

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 08:10:00 GMT

To be in Paris, the city of Love, on Valentines Day is the sort of smaltz that Hallmark wish they could encapsulate in some consumable way. I imagine a significant amount of romancing happens on your average day for the city to have such an appelation, so I couldn't tell if all the couples smooching and touts selling roses was out of the ordinary or not. When you are single, you tend to notice these things more anyway, but my first impressions wandering around felt like being the only eunuch at a city wide orgy. I may have well been a ghost because everyones eyes were on their lovers beside them. That worked to my advantage as I could take in this beautiful city as a wide-eyed first timer without being hassled to buy crap, except for roses. As positive as my first impressions of Paris were, my overwhelming sentiment was of sadness at Laura's absence. To anyone who knows her, or puts any credence in prayer, please direct them her way as her father struggles in hospital with stomach cancer. This was supposed to be our first catch up since The cold winds of change in April 2010. Checking in to the hotel room she had booked for us, part of me hoped beyond hope that she would be waiting there for me.   It wasn't to be, and I was left to wade my way through the ocean of PDA's the Parisians were putting on like some Broadway show. I'm more than happy with my own company, which is lucky because that is the way it has been for most of my life. Most of the time I don't even give it another thought. When it feels like you're back at your high school dance, your date has deserted you and everyone else thinks your personal space is the best spot to make out, you can't help but question whether being 39 and single is tantamount to social leprocy. Turning 40 is a big milestone, one with which I hope that all of Hobart will know about at the end of May, and I have given a lot of thought to a lifetime of bachelorhood. While being single means there is one less person you have to make compromises for, a lot of experiences, particularly traveling, can be more entertaining with another. With no romantic or intimate connection to Laura, I thought the date and location may be noted at some point, jokingly lamented as we both are single. But alas, like Istanbul, the city was mine and mine alone. We had an amazing night planned and paid for so I was going to do it regardless. A shameless plea on Tinder yielded as many results as my other attempts to use it, ie, none, and it was probably for the best that everyone I passed was paired up or I might have been tempted to show them the spare concert ticket I kept in the inside pocket of my long overcoat, with nothing on underneath it. After another day subsisting solely on airport food, my wandering starting with the intention of finding food. My hotel was almost underneath the Eiffel Tower and the sheer number of lovers lolling around meant someone must have been selling food. And they were. Crepes, crepes, crepes, more crepes and some hot dogs. Is that all the French eat? How can 10 crepe stands right next to each other all stay in business? A couple of enterprising places bucked the trend and sold baguettes as well, but with the only vegetarian option being a white bread a cheese extravaganza, I thought it best to go hungry rather than eat more colon concrete. The buildings that line the Parisan streets all reach a similar height and are packed together so tightly as to feel like you are walking along a 6 storey deep trench. Th[...]



Photos: Paris

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 07:56:00 GMT




I wish a week was a lifetime.

Tue, 17 Feb 2015 17:38:00 GMT

Every day in Instabul feels being lost in a fairy tale. Fairy tales don't come cheap it seems, and ticking off all the sights could have bought me another backpacks worth of goods from the Grand Bazaar. And getting lost can be just as costly, as I found out on my two return visits to the Bazaar. I did get lost enough once to find the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, but that was the same as its Grand kin except for a quarter of the stalls and perhaps a few more of them selling spices. One day was spent looking at just museums because travel apparently makes you a more charitable person and do stuff you would consider as boring as bat shit back home. $15 was well spent visiting the Basilica Cistern, a vast underground network of columns built in the 4th century which really felt like the bowels of Constantinople. I had a pretty good idea what to expect having read Dan Brown's latest novel 'Inferno' which features the cistern in its far from gripping climax. Aside from being mildly atmospheric with orange lights at the base of some of the columns, sharp, contrasting shadows and soft music echoing from all quarters, the space was nothing more than a big room of columns, but an awe-inspiring one at that. Water dripped constantly into the 3 feet deep lake like a coy pond and large fish swam around doing whatever it is fish do when they have nothing to play with other than the base of columns. In the far corner, two Medusa heads had been pillaged from Rome, and laid as the base of two of the columns, and were the only things that offered any variety.   Not that the place was dependant upon that. With the streets outisde covered in snow, I was thankful for the shelter and pleased that the other visitors were awed enough to maintain the peace. It is haunting being in such an old space, relatively unchanged since it's construction and overlooked by the sands of time. The same couldn't be said for the constantly morphing Haghia Sophia, my next port of call. It was just across the tram tracks from the Cistern but the short trip and the queue to get in was long enough to require dusting off a layer of snow before going inside. The current building was apparently the third on the site, and most likely the grandest as it would take more than a fire to destroy this old dame. 1000 years it spent as a Christian Church before conquering Sultan Mehmet decked it out to suit the needs of his Muslim brothers. Half of the interior was covered in scaffolding, giving the paradoxical appearance of being ancient yet still under construction. It was similar to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, in as far as it had a dome and lots of Arabic calligraphy, but the few differences like the scale and blend of Islamic and Christian art didn't realy justify the $20 price tag. It also lacked the sacred feel of a religious spot, now being used only as a musuem, and wandering around was more historically interesting than spiritually so.   I should have left it there for the day as I could feel my interest in old buildings waning, but with the Topkapi Palace sitting directly behind the Haghia Sophia, and the snow refusing to relent, I thought I should wax another $20 and visit there as well. Being the Sultans Palace up until the fall of the Ottoman Empire, I should have known that the exhibits were just going to be normal shit with extra bling. Granduer is fine if it is for the glory of God or spiritual pursuits, but when it is pampering to some rich s[...]



A day that epitomises why I travel.

Mon, 16 Feb 2015 20:22:00 GMT

Judging Istabul by Istiklal street is like going to the Taj Mahal and judging it by the garden out the front. I may have been a bit too premature with my praise for Istanbul, literally, but after a couple of days in Sultanahment, I don't think my approbation for this city was profuse enough. It may just be my excitement at something completely new after only ever seeing different aspects of Asia, but I reckon I have found a new favourite place in the world. The ezan did wake me at a time that would be considered a sleep-in back home. Holiday sleep patterns are vastly different to work ones, in duration, but also in the absence of alarms. If my alarm was less beep-beep-beep and more Takbir (God is great) and Shahada (There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah), I would probably start the day with a completely different mindset. Not that I did this morning. I still wanted to fling open the window and tell the faithful that if God is great, he would still be in bed at this hour as well. Instead I rolled over and imagined myself laying amongst my harem, playing chess with my genie while stroking my luxurious moustache and frowning at other stereotypes I have inherited from Disney. After an hour or two procrastibating, I ventured out into a climate that makes fridges totally redundant. I didn't care what the closest restaurant had in vegetarian options, it was going to come with enough white bread to satisfy me regardless and it was as far as I was prepared to walk without a coffee. Turkish coffee is served with the grind and the consumer is supposed to lack the desperation that would see it gulled down before the grind settles. My waiter noticed this being completely absent in my actions and thoughtfully brought a glass of water straight out while I kept trying to swallow down the ground coffee that layered my tongue like unset cement. First port of call after breakfast was the Blue Mosque. It is actually called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and I cannot really grasp why it is called the Blue Mosque. As you can see from the photo below it has blue tiles in it, hence the name, but not enough to really think blue and nothing else when you look at it. It's like calling Earth the planet of snow cause you can see the white stuff from most angles in space, I imagine.   Anyway, shit analogies aside, I prefer the full name because it speaks more of its Islamic heritage, rather than being a smurf playpen. It sits directly behind my luxurious and stately apartment, but remains completely unseen by my room needing a supporting wall or something. Why else wouldn't it have some sort of viewing portal in it when it sits so close to one of the most amazing buildings I have seen? The earlier reference to the Taj Mahal was not a coincidence as that building is the only one I have seen up close that could surpass the Sultan Ahmed Mosque for awe-inspiring beauty and sheer grandeur. As soon as I rounded a corner and merely the side of the structure came into view, my jaw dropped and my camera started clicking away reflexively. If I was writing this from my rooftop terrace, I might have been inspired enough to give some sort of poetic description of the place. Instead, I recall thinking “I must be colour blind because that thing looks every shade of grey to me!” And unfortunately it did. There was a carpet of light grey clouds that hung overhead, robbing the view of any c[...]