Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fuck you, Qantas

OK so maybe that's a bit harsh, I don't know whether Qantas is to blame for my current predicament. It's horrifying, absolutely horrifying. Nothing compares to this torture.

I arrived home on Tuesday at about 6:15am. At 7am, I finally got through customs (Sydney airport- I hate you) and to my baggage carousel. Number 13. My bag was not circling joyfully around on the bag-travellator. I assumed it to be late. But soon, no more bags were coming out. Calmly, I wandered around the carousel, in case I'd missed it. Nothing.

I had arrived in Sydney. My bag had not.

Yesterday afternoon, I still hadn't heard from the airport. I rang them. They did not have my bag. I was told they would send out an alert with a description of my bag and call me the second it arrived. I'm still waiting for that call, 51 hours after I landed. I can only hope they're picking up the phone and dialling my number right now, because... oh I can hardly say it... I. Have. No. Clothes.

You know WHY I have no clothes? They're either in my suitcase, in the two postal boxes that have yet to arrive from various parts of Europe, OR at my mother's house. To which I have no key. It's on my bed. In my bedroom. IN MY MOTHER'S HOUSE! We have house sitters, so even if my dear sister had remembered to leave me her key this morning like I asked her to, I couldn't just waltz on up the hill. I'd have to RING AND CHECK first. Check with the people staying in my house if I can come over and get clothes. How's that for irritating?

AND I'm going out to dinner tonight. AND because I have a few nights planned with my friends this week, I had outfits roughly planned simply because I hate getting dressed then realising the next day that the shirt/skirt/hat/jacket I wore last night would be WAY better with tonight's outfit etc. So, even if I do get to my clothes at my mother's house, or alternatively buy more clothes with the money I don't really have, I won't be happy. I just got back from Europe. I'm meant to be wearing awesome Europey clothes. Even if I get this AWESOME cut out blouse from Sportsgirl that I want, It'll be like "oooh where'd you buy that? Paris?" "Nope. Top Ryde."

Honestly. Something really awesome must be about to happen to me because I have been REALLY ridiculously unlucky over the last few months. This time it's not even due to some mistake of my own! But it kills me because my bag could still be in Frankfurt for all I know, and I might not get it before I got to Melbourne. And I can deal with having to come up with a new outfit for tonight, but two night's in a row is just gunna be a bit infuriating. Clothes make the man, and if I'm not entirely happy with how I look, it really puts a downer on my mood.

So, I'm sure you've realised I'm just too DISTRAUGHT to give you the Europe update you deserve. I'm gunna go re-dye my hair (thank god. It's like the colour the milk goes when you eat cocoa pops. That weird pinky brown?) and watch Top Model.

-m xx

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Firstly, an apology

The Sunday blog MAY NOT be up today. I think it would be silly to do my weekly update when today hasn't happened yet, and I have a huge flight and other exciting things ahead of me. So that will be up when I'm home and have the time slash I'll probably ignore everyone in my house for about an hour on tuesday to write and post it or it won't get done and I'll fall behind and blah blah etc. etc. I'll write most of it on the plane I think.

Anyway, please accept these lyrics (not written by me, but scarily accurate in parts) as a peace offering:

'Lucky'- Jason Mraz

Do you hear me?
I'm talking to you
Across the water,

Across the deep blue
Under the open sky,

Oh my,
Baby I'm trying
Boy I hear you,

In my dreams.
I feel your whisper,

Across the sea.
I keep you with me,

In my heart.
You make it easier

When life gets hard

I'm lucky I'm in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again

They don't know how long it takes,
Waiting for a love like this.
Every time we say goodbye,
I wish we had one more kiss.
I'll wait for you,

I promise you,
I will.

I'm lucky I'm in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again

Lucky we're in love every way
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed
Lucky to be coming home someday

And so I'm sailing

Through the sea
To an island

Where we'll meet
You'll hear the music

Fill the air
I'll put a flower in your hair

Though the breezes

Through the trees
Move so pretty

You're all I see
As the world keeps

Spinning 'round
You hold me right here right now

I'm lucky I'm in love with my best friend
Lucky to have been where I have been
Lucky to be coming home again

I'm lucky we're in love every way
Lucky to have stayed where we have stayed
Lucky to be coming home someday

Thankyou azlyrics. I did edit it slighty because it wasn't punctuated well and the stanzas weren't right and bits of it irritated me. If there's a pause you start a new line gosh. Also, this lyrics-that-inspire-me-or-somehow-relate-to-my-life-right-now thing MAY become a regular feature. I don't think I need to explain why I included this one.

See you in a few days! (When I'm home!)

-m xx

How old are you again?

Remind me, because this seems like something a toddler, or at best a pubescent 12 year old, would say:

"if you have better things to do than talk to me, i have better things to do than pick you up on tuesday!!!"

Yes. That was my dad. Simply because my reply didn't go through to him because his facebook went offline briefly. Of course when I tell him this, his response is merely

"what time are you due in- 6:30?"

Yes. That's fine. I don't need an apology.

Gosh, I'm the teenager here, people!

- m xx

p.s. BTW, he's 54.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I have just had the single most stressful experience of my life. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I totally agree. That IS a bold statement (apparently I’ve moved on from overusing parentheses to capitalising words for emphasis... well... maybe.) The last three months haven’t exactly been smooth sailing. And tonight’s experience certainly wasn’t anywhere near the worst thing to happen to me, in fact it wasn’t bad at all. Right now I’m actually feeling like, after all the bad luck I’ve had in Europe; karma is finally giving back in a good way. But I could have done without the extra stress; I think I’m getting a stomach ulcer.

OK, so you all know about my money troubles of late and my struggle to find a cheapish mode of transport to Frankfurt. I was ecstatic when I found the 45euro bus. Now, when I booked the bus yesterday, there was an option to pay by credit card over the computer, or some-other-option-in-German-that-I-didn’t-understand-but-assumed-to-be-pay-upon-boarding. As it is, I don’t have a credit card. I will have to get one, but it’s probably good I didn’t because it would have been stolen along with the rest of my wallet’s contents and some Sudanese Starbucks employee would be enjoying themselves quite literally at my expense (and there I go being racist. Don’t take me seriously when I stereotype. People who’ve been to Paris SHOULD hopefully find that amusing and relevant). Aaaaaanyway, I chose the other option, and was given a reference number. On the page it said something in German that I wasn’t quite sure of, but I picked out “credit card payments” “get ticket” and “present ticket” or something along those lines and guessed it to mean that I could still change my mind and pay by credit card and print off the ticket to hand over upon boarding the bus. Of course, I COULD have used an online translator, just to double check that it DID say that and not something relevant to non-credit card holders like myself. I COULD have done that indeed. But I didn’t. Mistake Number One.

Tonight, I headed to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (the central station) to find my bus stop. Earlier today I’d been at the HBF and considered searching for my bus stop. I didn’t. I figured if I left my hostel in Altona at 9pm, I’d get to HBF by 9:30pm, giving me an entire hour to find the bus stop. That was Mistake Number 2. I did get to HBF at 9:30pm and found the bus stops right out front of the station. The instructions said that my bus would come to stop 4, 5 or 6, which I found. Having time to spare, I went to Maccas for a hot chocolate. I came back shortly after 10, because I wanted plenty of time to make sure I was in the right place. I wandered up and down, searching for something that would indicate that I WAS in fact in the right place to catch my bus. I saw no indication of my bus company’s existence. I checked the electronic timetable, and there was no mention of my bus. This didn’t REALLY worry me though (everything worries me slightly, so it did a bit) because I figured that maybe the timetable only showed city buses. Mistake Number 3
I was expecting my bus to appear about 10min before the leaving time of 10:35pm. At 10:18pm I started to anticipate the bus coming around the corner. I was worried that I was in the wrong place, but nothing more than my general paranoia that I’m fucking something up, because I usually do. At 10:28pm I began to actually worry. A few minutes later, I approximate the time to have been about 10:32pm, I decided to ask the nearest person if this WAS, in fact, the only central bus stop. She said no, the main one is around the corner, only two buses come here.


Not knowing whether I was doing the right thing by leaving, I scuttled to the end of the street, walked/jogged as fast as possible across roads in front of moving traffic and found the REAL central bus station. I got to stop 16 and broke into a run, which is no easy feat when you’ve got a suitcase with a handbag and laundry bag attached, as well as a camera and a backpack to drag in your wake. An old man laughed at me. I was almost crying. I knew I was cutting it very fine and any second I’d see my bus pulling away from the curb, destined to reach Frankfurt without me. My nose was running like a tap, my throat was burning from the cold air, my heart was thumping from my complete lack of endurance. I was scared. All I could think was “I’m going to miss my bus and not have enough money for the train. I’ll have to sell my body or else be stranded in Hamburg indefinitely.” Suddenly, I saw my bus. It was still there. I ran/scuttled/crab walked even faster. I reached the bus. The door was shut, the driver nowhere to be seen. After what seemed like an eternity he appeared and opened the door. I hurriedly muttered something like “imsosorryiwasathewrongbusstopfrankfurtreferencenumber.” He asked calmly if i had a ticket. I said no, i have a reference number. He looked at me in confusion. This made me panic a little more. Was this the right bus? He asked where I was going, I told him Frankfurt. Recognition passed over his face. A good sign, indeed. He showed me a list of names. My name was not on the list. He told me i would have to buy a ticket from the ticket office. He wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get this bus.

I was prepared to throw money, or maybe myself, at the ticket office people and take the closest thing to a bus ticket to Frankfurt that they could give me; as long as I could get this very bus. Then the bus driver ran over to peer in, and it dawned on him the ticket office was shut. This, surprisingly, was a good thing. He told me I could get on the bus and pay him at the break. Hurriedly, we got my suitcase into the luggage holder and I climbed on, choking on air and relief and trying to hide the copious amounts of snot escaping from my nose.

I now realise that I should ALWAYS translate things just in case, because looking back, I'm fairly certain it actually said "get your ticket printed at the ticket office using your reference number, then hand your ticket in upon boarding" or something along those lines. Woops. But, here i am, an hour later, on the bus, still feeling sick from physical exertion and panic, heading to Frankfurt. Now I can only hope it really is the right bus, and I’m heading to the right Frankfurt.


“I got this guys... we need to go to Berlin?”
“Ah Berlin, I know it well, I stabbed a woman in a bar in Berlin!”
“What did he say?”
“He said he’s going to Berlin!”
“Berlin! I will drive this bus off a cliff before I go back to Berlin.”



(I apologise if I've misquoted 'Eurotrip' somewhat)

-m xx

Friday, October 22, 2010

I've been everywhere, man

I’ve been to...

Paris *LOVED*
Rome *disliked*
Pompeii *loved*
Sorrento *loved*
Isle of Capri *was somewhat intimidated by*
Tuscany *loved*
Florence *loved*
Pisa *disliked. Mostly due to rain, hangover and umbrella-sellers*
La Spezia
La Cinque terra *loved*
Venice *loved*
Athens *hated with the fire of a thousand suns*
Paros *loved*
Mykonos *lost a few braincells to*
Santorini *LOVED*
London *LOVED*
York *loved*
Bath (+Stonehenge) *loved*
Edinburgh *loved*
Belfast *found eye-opening*
Ireland- Republic
Berlin *LOVED*
Hamburg *LOVED*
Frankfurt *to be advised*
Chzek Republik
Prague *loved*
Krakow (+Auschwitz)
Bratislava (+ two East(Europe) Jesus Nowhere Tescos) *loved-except the Tescos. Nothing on UK*
Vienna *loved*
The Netherlands
Amsterdam *lost a few more braincells to*

Yes, that’s all in the last three months. This list doesn’t include airport transfers, train changes, ferry wharfs etc but does include lunch stops. Basically if I felt direct sunlight there, it makes the list.

14 countries in 12 weeks.

"Paris is practically a SUBURB of Berlin. We can WALK there" - Eurotrip

-m xx

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stress and Other Lovely Things

So I made a biiiiiig stuff up.

Basically my money this trip has been a cashpasport, which is like a credit card preloaded with whatever currency you want. It is, thankfully, reloadable.

The other day i checked the balance to find I had 80euros left, plus about 250euros cash. So, calmly, I emptied the rest of my Australian bank account onto my cash passport. A sum of about 970AUD.

In the mean time, I had my sister's spare cash passport, which she'd left me in case I ran out of money. As you well know, I did run out of money, and have been using my sister's card while i wait for money to magically appear on mine. Now, yesterday, I started to worry. It should take 5 days for money to come through, yesterday made it 6. Today, I felt sure the money would be there. It wasn't. I started to panic.

I decided to check online in case it had miraculously appeared in the last 20min. It hadn't. Not good. Then came major panic. I realised I hadn't even checked if the previous money transfer had come through, so I checked my transactions. Luckily it had, which meant I didn't have $1450 floating around in travelex limbo. So I thought, why don't I check the source- my bank account.

Here's where things got bad. And I mean actually bad, not panic and paranoia inside my own head bad. The money was there, sitting in my bank account, smiling smugly at me. That number seemed to taunt me. It said "hey look, I guess you forgot to confirm the BPAY and now you're in Europe with no money. You could do the BPAY again, but by the time it gets through, you'll be home anyway."

Oh. Fuck.

At first I was simply annoyed because I don't enjoy spending other peoples money and I certainly don't enjoy making dumb mistakes. I had plans for my money when it came through. They involved schnaps, all the flavours of Rittersport chocolate I could find, and awesome German DVDs, as well as a few trips to H&M and my new favourite store, Monki. But no. Now there's only money for NECCESSITIES. Like food and a bed to sleep in.

Things then got worse. I informed my sister of the situation, mostly so she could laugh at me and to warn her that I might just empty her cash passport. She tried to ring me, my phone died. She facebooked me. I just read it then, about 30min ago. And what did it say, I hear you breathe in anticipation? That, apparently, I've spent almost all of her money and, apparently, she's not sure if there'll be enough to get me a bed to sleep in. Not good at all. Also, apparently I should only use it for food, which means she thinks food is more important, even though you can scab free food in hostel kitchens and I'd rather be hungry than sleeping next to a drunk homeless guy? Twisted logic. Nothing beats the "I can't afford to eat because I fucked up and I'm thousands of kilometres away from home but at least the plane food is free!" diet.
Not good indeed. Now, accomodation aside, there is a sliiiiiightly more pressing issue at hand. I'm in Hamburg. My flight leaves from Frankfurt. I couldn't tell you how long it would take to walk that far. The train is 110euros. Panic indeed.

Thanks to some advice from a friend who's currently living in Germany (in the South unfortunately, if he was up here maybe we could road trip it to Frankfurt together) I did a bit of research. First, he put me onto a hitch hiking website. Yes, you pay to hitch hike. It's about 25euros, which is obviously a lot cheaper. Then again, looking at the luck I've had in Europe, I'd probably end up dead in a ditch somewhere. Or it could be like Eurotrip and I'd end up in Bratislava. So, after battling with temptation and a strange desire for reckless spontaneity, I let that idea go. Too risky for a lone female traveller. If I were a freak rapist/murderer I'd probably register for a site like that. You get paid to murder backpackers! Win!

Then, I looked at the trains again. And discovered that at some times of day, the train is only 88euros. 22euros saving is 22 euros saving. Things were looking up. Then, the aforementioned friend found a flight at about 6am for 65euros. Not too shabby, but I'd have to get up at 6am, which, let's be honest, isn't worth 20euros.

Losing hope, resigning myself to my 88euro train ride which hopefully I would have enough for, I made a last ditch attempt at money saving. Buses. Now I've looked at buses before and most of the time, they don't exist. But this time I found one! If I'd known about it a week ago, I could have booked it and only paid 9euros but as it is I didn't at it will cost 45. Basically half of what the train will cost. AND it leaves tomorrow night at 10pm, and gets into Frankfurt at 5:30am, which means I don't need accomodation for that night, which is an extra 20euro saving for me if I can cancel my booking later. So it went from 110euros plus 20 for the hostel, to only being 45! Which means I have an extra 85 euros to hopefully make the difference between running out and not running out.

On the plus side, I won't spend my melbourne cup outfit money, because I can't. And I owed my sister like a bajillion dollars anyway so what's another few hundred? Ooh I'd hate to see her credit rating right now. Love you Steph! :)

-m xx

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Current Living Situtation

Awesome Hostel. Really awesome. They make coffee and hot chocolates and stuff! And there's a bar. And you can get a packed lunch for 4euro which sounds awesome to me but I don't really know since I haven't had one.

Room mates however... Different story. Very different. 3 months of travelling, barely any problems! 2 nights in Hamburg and barely any sleep. The first night, I was woken when people came home late and turned on all the lights and made lots of noise. Then I was woken by snoring. Then again by some German boys having an unneccessarily loud conversation at 8:30am. Last night was even worse. I was lying there, trying to get to sleep, with the TV on in the background. Somebody came into the room. Then they turned off the TV. Then, they left. I was left with no background noise. I was kept awake by every single person who came into the room after that. Turning the lights on, slamming locker doors etc. etc.

Eventually, I got to sleep, and was woken by strange noises. A repeated "Maaaahhh!" noise. And the sound of soft drink bottles being open and drunk from (loudly. Who drinks that loud?) The Mah noise was soon accompanied by a series of other noises. Random yelps, sighs, giggles and German mutterings (at one point I heard "Dankeshoen... *insanse psycho giggle*"). The only conclusion I can come up with is that someone was experiencing night terrors, and someone else was thirsty. On top of this, construction work is going on nearby. It sounded like someone was tap dancing in the elevator with woks strapped to their feet, while shouting incoherently in German and chugging a 2L coke bottle.

Of course, in the morning, I was woken up again by the SAME unneccesarily loud conversationalists. One of whom was almost definitely the night-terror-sufferer. The construction work was still going. I couldn't get out of bed early enough to do the free walking tour. Grumpy Mel indeed...

Thankfully, major offending parties seem to have checked out. Hopefully tonight I will get some sleep. never have I had such inconsiderate/annoying/disagreeable roommates! I mean, night terrors? Don't sleep in a 10-bed dorm if you're likely to wake everyone up by screaming in the middle of the night, PLEASE.

Slowly being driven insane
-m xx

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pondering on the train

I’ve been thinking a bit over the last few weeks about the nature of travel. In many ways, it’s incredibly sad. You meet so many people that you never would have met if you just stayed at home, which is fantastic, but at the same time, saying goodbye to someone when you know you’ll probably never see them again is kind of depressing. In a way, it might be a blessing, because a lot of the time you don’t know someone well enough to see their bad side, and perhaps if you had a less finite experience of their company, you wouldn’t like them anyway. It’s hard to never know, though. And it makes you think about how many of these incredible people that you have great connections with you’ll never have the chance to meet at all. And that’s strangely lonely at times. The worst bit is, so often you intend to catch up with people, but the reality is it rarely happens. For this reason, modern day society and the emphasis on sites such as facebook can be a bit of a hindrance. No one sends letters or emails anymore. You meet someone you like, you add them on facebook. It may guarantee you never truly fall out of contact with that person, but do you REALLY still connect with them? All each of you can do is watch how the others life quietly goes on without you.

That said, it’s fabulous to get an opportunity to meet people that you DO get a chance to see again. Sometimes I get a bit sick of meeting Australians everywhere I go (are there any of us left in Australia?) but there’s always the chance of catching up with them later, even if they are in a different state. And you can make some very valuable contacts all over the world, which definitely come in handy in future travels. It’s never set in stone what will happen, maybe if we stop treating goodbyes as goodbyes, they won’t feel so final. Everyone you meet comes into your life for a reason, and if you have enough of a connection with someone, there’s always a way to stay in each others’ lives.

Never let it be said that being a traveller is easy. But, sometimes you just need to put things into the right perspective.

-m xx

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 81

Just a week left now, readers. One measly little week. Insanity!
So I'm in Amsterdam right now, perched rather precariously on the steep and narrow stairs of my hostel room, since it's the only place the wifi seems to work properly (yes. Annoying). Stairs in general are annoying. Stairs in Amsterdam are torture.

In the last week alone, I've stepped foot in five different countries. FIVE! in a WEEK! Crazy stuff, no? I'm sure you're sitting there thinking "but Mel, what WERE those mysterious and mystical five countries?" so I'll tell you, as well as a few things I actually did.

On day 75 we climbed onto the bus and left Budapest (#1- Hungary). At our first break I discovered something shocking, upsetting, and barely believable. Moo was missing. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've said a huge amount about Moo but if you go back to the post that mentions Edinburgh (whenever that was) you'll see who he is. Or, alternatively, you can visit his blog:

Anyway, I discovered he wasn't in my backpack, which is where he can usually be found. Obviously I searched frantically through my other bags and on the bus for him, and he wasn't anywhere. I'm still quite upset about it actually, I liked having a fluffy little travel companion. He was a good laugh, and he never got to see Australia! My theory is I left him at the hotel in Krakow, because that's the last place I remember seeing him, and he was on my bed instead of in my bag. So of course, I got the phone number for the hotel. Unfortunately, I couldn't ring them because one phone was dead and the other out of credit (story of my life at the moment).

At lunch we stopped at Bratislava (#2- Slovakia). Yes, Bratislava. If you've read my previous post, which was just a mini-post, you already know but Bratislava is positively LOVELY. This is dissapointing, especially since I'd watched Eurotrip only a few days previously. From there we continued on to Vienne (#3- Austria) where we did a bit of a driving tour and visited the summer castle (yes there are two. Every noble person needs two huge homes with sprawling gardens). After dinner we went to the carnival, which is open all year round. Convinced by the others, I went on not one but TWO scary roller coasters and miraculously didn't die. I'm not so sure they should be legal, it wouldn't be difficult to fall out if you wanted to. We pretended the go karts were bumper cars and had a good ol' time on the track intended for young children. I still have numerous bruises on my legs. The track operators didn't like us much.

with our second day in Vienna, me and three other Aussie girls went to see one of the Lipizaner training sessions. ow I know most people are thinking "Lippywhattys?" and they're horses. They're part of the Spanish riding school, and they do dressage to music. But this particular breed (born black but turn white within a few years) a trained to do crazy ass leaps and shit (yes, that's the technical term) and rear up on command, all to classical music. It was pretty cool to watch, especially if you find dressage interesting (which I do, don't judge me). Afterwards we visted the cemtery where many of Vienna's musical greats are buried, including Beethoven and Strauss. Mozart is in a different cemetery, but there is a memorial to him with all the others. Here I attempted to call the hotel where I believe Moo to be, but found I'd lost the list of phone numbers! I took this as a bit of a hint that maybe I was meant to lose him.
After a huge pizza lunch, we met up with the bus and headed to the Schnaps Museum, to learn a bit about their famous flavours as well as sample a few. After dinner, half of the group went to a classical music concert while the other half of us hung out in the bus and watched family guy and Carl Baron DVDs. All in all a fun day.

On Day 77 we left Vienna and headed to Munich (#4- Germany) via Slazburg. We didn't have a huge amount of time in Salzburg, just enough for lunch and a browse of the markets. A few of us went to an Italian restaurant where the food was great but it ate up a lot of time just waiting to get it. In Munich we had a brief tour of the highlights of the Marienplatz, before we went to the Hofbraeuhaus for drinks and dinner (yes. In that order). Being our last night, most everyone got pretty legless, especially the tour guide. There were latenight cheeseburgers and drunken goodbyes in the hotel lobby, as is par for the course. I ripped a 20euro note in two, and lost one of the pieces. Heartbreaking. Paper money is stupid, really it is.

I spent another night in Munich, staying at the Wombats there. I reccommend Wombats hostels to anyone, if you're staying somewhere where thye have one. They're fabulous and it'll only cost you 20euros a night. AND they always save space for walk ins, so you don't have to panic if you haven't booked a place. AND they have free wifi AND a bar. It was a quiet day for me, just moving between accomodation and booking places to stay for the rest of my trip. It's all sorted now which is a nice feeling.

On day 79 I boarded a train to Amsterdam (#5 The Netherlands). On the train I discovered the sheet with the phone numbers for the hotels, and rang the one in Krakow. They said they didn't have an item of my description ("it's a cow. he has horns? kinda furry and brownish?") which is crap because I'm 99.99999999999% sure that I left him there. It's horrible to think of him, possibly still under the bed, gathering dust and loneliness. I like to think perhaps a child stayed in the room after me and Moo will make their life a little better. I've been adding to his blog still, I feel I have to finish his tales now that he's gone. Pehraps whoever find him may stumble accross it and contact me? You never know what could happen.

Now stupidly, I made the mistake of getting phone numbers off people on the last night, when nobody was sober, and I found out on the train that those numbers were completely wrong. So I arrived in Amsterdam without being able to contact them. Thankfully, I arrived to a roomfull of roommates, and they were fair decent guys so I had someone to hang out with (read: get drunk with) on my first night. yesterday the whole room slept in pretty late and I tried to get into contact with my friends. Thank god for facebook is all I can say. I met them last night for dinner and drinks and tonight we might be heading to a shisha bar or some similar venue.

Today (day 81 in case you forgot) hasn't been hugely eventful. I ran out of money yesterday. Like completely out of money. I'm waiting for more to come through onto my card and in the meantime I have my sisters spare travelex card. Unfortunately, last night I realised I didn't have the pin number for it, so it's not entirely useful. This morning I attempted to ring her to get it, to find out that despite having put $50 credit on my phone the other day, the balance was now -$35. Yes, negative. I don't know what happened, but obviously I couldn't use it. I ended up having to add more just so I could call her and get the pin number because my other phone isn't reliable enough to make phonecalls. She din't answer. I actually ended up ringing Dad's mobile and thankfully, both of them were at home so he could put me onto her. All's well now and I'll be able to withdraw cash when I need it. Was a wee bit stressful though, for a short while there.
Normally I just rmeind myself of how not-so-bad-at-all the worst case scenario is and I calm down. But in this case it was "I'm stuck in Amsterdam, without money for food or accomodation, untill money comes through onto my card which might not be till wednesday. It is now Sunday morning. I have less than 3 euros."
Oh wait that's not not-so-bad-at-all at all!

Untill next week (side note in brackets)

-m xx

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dear Bratislava

Be more like the Bratislava in Europtrip, please.
Not that I was expecting a town with no train station and dogs running around with human body parts in their mouths or to be able to buy a hotel with 10c but I thought it would be at least a little bit dodgy.
Not Eastern-Europey enough, AT ALL! All nice and quaint, with cute markets and amusing t-shirts and a bar with a beer menu bigger than the food menu. It's just not right!
Please fix this, asap.



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 74

Be proud, I’m back on schedule! Which means this should be a much shorter blog than usual because I only have the last 4 days to talk about. I’m sure you’re all aware though, that I have this incredible talent to turn even a few hours into a long winded, super-descriptive, unnecessarily lengthy tale. So we’ll see ahaha.

So, as of today, it’s only 2 weeks until I board that plane to take me home (well technically the plane to take me to Singapore where I have something ridiculous of a stop-over, like 8 hours, before I board the plane that will actually take me home!). It’s gone incredibly fast, particularly the last few weeks. It’s my second day in Budapest, Hungary, and tomorrow we’re heading to Vienna, and therefore back to a place where they actually use the Euro! No more conversions!
Originally I had planned to stay in Germany after my Eastern escape tour ends on the 14th. I made a rough plan to return to Berlin (because I love it so) before heading to Hamburg and finally Frankfurt, where I fly out from. But after finding out quite a few people from my tour group are heading to Amsterdam after our tour, combined with the fact that I really want to go there AND it’s the cheapest place to post from, I’ve made a last minute decision to go there for a few nights too. Unfortunately, because of the price of trains, and my 10-night time limit, it came down to choosing between Amsterdam and Berlin, but I chose to see something new and hopefully return to Berlin on another trip someday. This is why I left the last 10 nights free, so I can have a bit of spontaneity.

So, on day 71 I embarrassed myself a wee bit. I had an alarm set for 6:30am, with the plan to get up at 7am to get down to the bus by 7:45am. Having stayed awake until about 4am making good use of the wifi I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when my alarm went off, and for some reason thought that I would stay awake. So I turned it off. I was awoken later by a loud knock on the hotel room door. Springing up and opening the door, I found one of my tour mates, who informed me we had to go down to the bus soon. I checked the time. It was 7:48am. The bus was leaving at 8am. I hadn’t packed. Stressful indeed, but somehow me and my roommate were packed, dressed and in the lobby by 8:05am. On the bus we met further delays at lunch after everyone got lost in the largest and most disappointing Tesco on Earth (possibly). Where are the ready-made wraps and pre-cut pineapple pieces?!

It was a long drive to our destination, Auschwitz, and (possibly inappropriately) we killed time on the bus after lunch by watching Team America (fuck yeah!). Eventually we got there, and the rest of the afternoon was a bit more subdued in nature. The part that I found most affecting was probably one of the display rooms in the museum, which contains a glass case filled with close to 2000kg of human hair. Real human hair, taken off the bodies of the murdered and sold for use in textiles. It was interesting to see a group of 20 odd Australian and American tourists, not breathing a single word. Unfortunately for Tim, it was his birthday, so we were able to rally for a bit of a celebration at this cute and cosy cocktail bar (alliteration much?) after dinner in Krakow. Jeff made the mistake of promising to pay for Sally’s drinks, since he owed her some money. Sally of course, took advantage of the opportunity, and bought shots for everyone. The bill was an amusing thing to see, between the 10 of us we racked up something like 1800 Polish Zloty or about $700AU. To put in into perspective I got 3 cocktails and a hot chocolate for only 55Zl (20AUD), so you can imagine how long the bill was with all of our drinks on it.

I woke up the next day with an entirely unrelated migraine and didn’t crawl out of bed until 3pm, after sleep and nurofen did their magic. I managed to catch a bus into town by myself and went to Galleria, the main shopping centre of Krakow. This was stupid, especially when I saw Sephora, and though “oh that’s right, I need new mineral foundation!” and allowed myself to enter its shiny shiny temple of delicious powders and creams. Oh, I bought foundation. And of course then I needed a brush for my foundation. This did little damage to my wallet but I stupidly allowed myself to browse the lipstick section and ended up leaving with not one but TWO lipsticks, in rather similar shades of red. One is matte, which I’ve wanted for a while because I feel like matte lipstick has a more casual feel to it, and therefore works for day or night time looks. Also, with lips like mine, that really don’t need any plumping or enhancement, I have to be careful with red lipstick because it can very easily make me look like a whore, basically. With matte lipstick, I don’t have this problem. Matte lips are not whorish. Also, it’s a smaller lipstick, which makes it really easy to apply and removes the need for liner. I’ve become obsessed with my matte lipstick over the last few days, so it was a worthwhile purchase. The other lipstick on the other hand is moist, shiny, and practically the same as another lipstick I already own and never wear, only in a slightly more orangey red. But not quite orangey enough, so wasn’t the smartest purchase I’ve ever made. Silly Mel.

I also found these cute little markets which all sell dragon toys and amber jewellery so I got myself a ring and managed to finally find some reasonably priced shot glasses to take home for friends! Honestly, in most European countries they will cost you at least 4euros each. Each! In Krakow you can get 6 packs for 9euros. Excellent stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t quite buy enough so I’m hoping I can find some cheapish ones in Amsterdam (which obviously people will fight over and everyone with a Krakow one will hate me etc. Fun times).

On day 73 (yesterday) we climbed onto the bus again (this time early!) to find that the handbrake had frozen overnight. Something interesting about Poland is that it’s freezing. Absolutely freezing. It’s the coldest place I’ve been so far and I can’t imagine what it would be like in winter. Anyway, after about 8min the driver realised he’d forgotten all about the “winter button” which is designed for when the breaks freeze. Then of course the gate to get us out of the car park wouldn’t work, so we were running about 15minutes late and it was in no way our fault!

It was an incredibly long driving day, and we watched Eurotrip AND played boy vs. girl trivia. We drew, but the boys won the tie-breaker. We found out later that they’d had access to an atlas and that had helped them get an extra point in one of the questions so technically the girls should have won. But men need to feel successful sometimes. We stopped for lunch at a Tesco somewhere in Slovakia (“For the love of God. We’re in eastern Europe.”) where surprisingly it was sunny and warm. We basked like lizards on the grass and even felt like we might burn! It was a nice change from the Polish weather.

That night, after a driving tour of Budapest and dinner, we got a taste of the Budapestian night life. We started the night with pre drinks at the hotel bar, followed by a bit of a Topdeck bus party, before climbing into taxis and heading to RnB club “Pink.” Of course, the boys panicked over the name and we had to ask some locals if it was a gay bar but it certainly wasn’t. RnB club-goers are really serious about their dancing. Honestly, I went to the bathroom, and two girls were just practising their moves or something in front of a mirror. And the hardcore girls barely wear anything, but they finish the look with sneakers, for maximum ease of getting low. It was fun just to watch people, as well as see the looks on people faces when they saw us dancing about like complete idiots. We like to have fun, what can I say? Actually it might have looked like we were making fun of them because we’ve developed this thing where we dance in a circle and one by one call someone into the centre to “bust some moves” which is absolutely hilarious. Or we could have possibly looked like we thought we were awesome which is an amusing thought.
Today has been a quiet day. I’ve been fighting a cold all week so every morning I get woken up by my alarm and normally then again by my roommate moving around and I can’t bring myself to get up. I stayed in bed until about 1pm today, simply because I was too tired to get up any earlier. When I finally arose and got myself ready to face the world, I walk up the street, wandered around and then went to Maccas, where I got a drink and updated my note book. Suddenly it was 4pm, and too late to bother doing anything so I came back here. In about an hour we’re all going to dinner and then out for drinks as most of the Americans are leaving us tomorrow to go back home to work.

Just before I sign off I do have to mention something that’s been bugging me. It’s not a problem in many places, but I’ve experienced it a lot throughout Eastern Europe: Smoking inside. It’s still legal around Eastern Europe, as well as Greece and it’s incredibly annoying! I don’t want to be ashed on by the people on the second floor of the club I’m in. Likewise, I don’t want to be scared that the desperate chubby girls doing their thing on the pole on the dance floor are going to burn me in their enthusiasm. I hate getting home at the end of the night and smelling nothing but cigarette smoke. Even more I hate waking up in the morning and STILL smelling it, because the smoke sticks to your hair. It’s annoying enough when someone smokes near you at a bus stop, or in the outdoor section of a restaurant, but I don’t think I’ll be complaining about either of those for a very long time. A lot of things have made me appreciate just how brilliant living in Sydney is, but the smoking laws take the cake. Thanks Australian government, you did something good!

Until next week (if not sooner)
-m xx

Friday, October 08, 2010

A List

Of things I can't wait to do when I get back home
  1. Kiss J.
  2. Drive home via Mascot, to get a roll
  3. Shower. For free, with no time limit, with a regularly sized towel.
  4. Lay on my OWN BED. Even if just for a second.
  5. Introduce the clothes I left behind to the clothes I bought here. Let them make friends.
  6. Bask in the glory of my new super-wardrobe! Oh the endless outfit possibilities...
  7. Watch foxtel on the 50inch
  8. Visit Rocky (pooch)
  9. Visit the newly completed Top Ryde and, somehow, NOT die of excitement. Myer! At Top Ryde! That's class!
  10. Get goooood thai food.
  11. Make fun of Newington.
  12. Possibly drink in the park in Newington, like 16year olds
  13. Attempt to find the perfect Melbourne Cup outfit
  14. Get schnitzel, chips, unlimited salad and mushroom gravy, with a vodka, lemon lime and bitters at Mary's (West Ryde Hotel, for the stalkers)
  15. Get messy at Scary Canary.
  16. Go to Vinnies. Buy stuff.
  17. Make purchases in general WITHOUT converting the currency in my head.
  18. Hit up the beach (when the water isn't 16 degrees)
  19. Have vegemite and avocado toast, preferably while hungover.
  20. Go to a Ramshackle Gig

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Day 70

Yes. I'm late again. I apologise, but there was no wifi in the hotel I was in on Sunday. And by hotel I mean piece of shit. But that's not the point.

So it is, indeed day 70. Seventy. Outrageous.


Ok so i wrote that, then one of my fellow tourers came to my door with the invite of "we're going to room blah with wine. want to come with?" so I sort of abandoned this for a few hours to watch youtube/drink/go on a maccas trek. I'm sorry. I should be ashamed of myself.
First I'm late, then I leave you like that! Bad blogger!

Ok so on to the more pressing/exciting matter of what have I done over the last weekish. I've said goodbye to Berlin (hopefully not for long) and hello to Prague, which is where I am currently (in a hotel that has wifi in the bedrooms ftw.) Tomorrow we hit the road for Krakow, Poland, and I have to get up super early (for me). Which is a little bit lame. Apparently the drive is obnoxiously lengthy so I'll snooze on the bus (dedication to the interwebz).

Anyway. On day 63 I took in a bit more of Berlin with the fabulous Sandemans New Europe free walking tour. Seriously love those doods. Life savers. Especially fabulous was that they came and picked us up from our hostel and guided us through the metro to the meeting place. My Berlin guide was definitely my favourite so far. Very passionate about what he was talking about, unlike a lot of them who, though knowledgable and entertaining, are obviously a bit scripted and sometimes come accross as being sick of saying the same things every day. Then again, with a history like Berlin's it's hard not to stay interested.

Day 63 was also the day my icky boy room mates (who were allright, minus the dirty socks) arrived. I had a quiet evening of attempting to sew my leather shorts (which are now done! woo! pics when I have fast enough wifi) while they got messy at various alcohol-providing venues. I finished reading the Diary of Anne Frank that night, for the first time in my life. I'll admit it's shameful that I've never read it but I reccommend it to anyone who still hasn't. The last entry, written 3 days before their secret annexe was discovered, was particularly haunting in its mood. The last line reflects her wish that she could be alone in the world, so that her inner self could come out. Something thagt irked me though is the fact that it's been translated from Dutch. i'm not a big believer in translating literature, because it never has quite the same meaning to it. Also, the grammar and spelling were edited, which I don't think is right with diaries. I would love to be able to read the original, in Dutch but obviously that's not possible. Dammit Anne, why couldn't you write in German?!

One of the best things about Wombats hostel is that they have their own bar. On my third night I went up for happy hour with a few of my room mates. It's fantastic rooming with other lone travellers. Mostly in hostels it's people in twos or threes, so they just do their own thing, but if you've got a few people on their own you can all hang together. And therefor not go to the bar alone, causing people to think you're a prostitute (women who go to bars alone have to be prostitutes right?). The Wombar is good. Small, cheap, and comes with a pool table and smoking balcony with a fantastic view. Also, the menu may say that a double is only 40mL, but kind bar tenders who don't have a legal requirement to measure amounts will give you a lot more. One particular red bull and vodka was undrinkable. 40mL my ass.

Now in my previous post I did ambiguously allude to a mystery wrapped in an enigma. This particular MWIE occured on day 65, a Friday like any other. Most of you probably know because face book is a good way to broadcast these things but I got a tattoo. it's something I've been considering for about a month (by that I mean I've been considering getting one during my trip for about a month. I've wanted one in general for a while). I chose the words "Freiheit ist Alles," or freedom is everything, after a short brainstorm in my handy notebook. I can't think of a much better way to sum up travelling, my personal values and even a little bit of German history in three words. The experience was pretty interesting, I think the tattoo parlour was run by neo-Nazis because there were a few small, subtley placed swastikas on the walls of the room I was in. I didn't notice them until I was getting it so don't think I'm a monster. If I'd have known i would have gone somewhere else. It's getting pretty scabby now and starting to itch a little bit and peel which is dissapointing because when the scab falls off it won't be quite as dark ahaha. Oh and it's on my arm. Once again, pics when poss.

Now, getting a tattoo affected me emotionally more than I would of thought. It was an absolute mental battle for the whole day before, and for a few hours after the event. And let's not forget during. My personal Nazi left me in the room for 5-10min while he went to make the stencil, which was the worst bit because it gave the two halves of my brain ample time to fight it out. If it were an argument between people, it would be a bit like this.
"shit, do you really want to do this?"
"yeah, it'll be fine."
"but it's quite big. And on your ARM. It's pretty visible"
"Oh I can wear sleaves/foundation/big bandaids"
"Mums gunna hate it."
"Seriously. This is permanent. It's not a piercing. You can't take it out tomorrow if you hate it and not even have a scar"
"Oh I can get it removed in a couple of years if i no longer like it, who cares?"
"You're getting a TATTOO :0"
"Fuck it. I'm gettign a tattoo :)"

Kind of like that. It kept going for a few hours afterwards. Whenever I undergo major change, like a dramatic haircut/colour, new piercing etc. I have to get used to it. I mostly end up liking things, but I have to wait untill I've adjusted and come to terms with the differences between before/after and reality/expectation. It's takes me a while to realise that just because things don't look they way you picture, doesn't mean it's bad. By the next night I was at the bar, finding ways to make it visible at all times without beign obvious and generally showing it off to anyone I'd met before I got it.

On day 67 I said farewell to Wombats, my favourite hostel thus far (and my roomies!), and headed west (unfortunately) to find my accomodation for the next two nights. I got lost walking from the train station, mostly because I can't read maps. The hotel was a bit of a mess. Small, decrepit, devoid of English-speaking reception staff (not a problem for me but the same can't be said for some of my tour group) and worst of all, in the WEST. If you're going to Berlin, there isn't much point even going to the former West. There's nothing there really. Shops, yes, but none that can't be found in the East. Bars, yes, but none as good as the East. The East is where the majority of the history is too- the Reichstag, the Wall, the Brandenburg Gate and Hotel Adlon, where MJ chose to dangle his baby out of a window. Anyway, the East is the place to be (unless you wish to go to the Zoo). I got more lost than ever before trying to make my way back to the laundrette that I'd already dropped my clothes off at. I walked off my map, it is safe to say I was in the back arse of WEST Jesus nowhere, not too far from Woop Woop. Even when I got back on the map, I didn't know if I was going the right way because the streets weren't labelled on it. Nightmare. Exhausting, frustrating, possibly rethinking my travellers-are-never-lost theory.

In short, East > West and Pug > You.

That night I did get to have to closest thing I'll ever get to my regular West Ryde Hotel dinner outside of the West Ryde Hotel (affectionately reffered to as Mary's). Pork schnitzel in a mushroom sauce, with baked potatos. Just three weeks and I'll be eating the real thing. Bring on the salad bar.

The next day was the first active day of our tour. Which I forgot to tell you about really... Topdeck Eastern Escape. Lots of countries and currencies. Lots of cheap beer. That's enough background info there. As I was saying, we went on a bit of a driving tour around Berlin, visiting the east Side Gallery, which is a stretch of the wall that has been covered with various murals and the scrawled messages of visitors. I didn't write anything, but realised that I had the perfect sentiment for that time in history, permanently inked into my arm. Silly me. The most notable message I read was "Du has gelernt, was Freiheit heisst, und das vergiss nie mehr" which roughly translates to "you have learned what freedom is/means, and never forget it again." Sounds a bit better in German. I'm sure someone could translate that a bit nicer than me ahaha. We then did the Third Reich walking tour, which focuses more on the sites that are relevant to WWII. Our guide was a proper, well spoken English gentlemen. it was like Mr. Darcy was teaching us about Hitler and German architecture. On this tour, I visited the Holocaust Memorial (full name: Memorial to the murdered Jews of the Holocaust or something similar) for the second time (first being on the free walking tour). It's a field of stelae, or tomb stones, all different in size and shape. It is intended to be walked through, in order to fully experience it. The ground is deliberately uneven and some of the stelae are over 6 feet tall which makes it really quite unnerving to walk through. The artist never stated what the work meant, intending people to come up with their own interpretations and I have a few. The us of tomb-stone-like object is obvious. They're all different, which I believe is to represent the individuality of the victims. They were each their own person, not just part of a massive number. When you walk through there is a definite feeling of fear. It's a bit dark, sounds are cut out, and every now and then you get a glimpse of someone. I think it's supposed to represent the confusion and fear felt both by the captured Jews, and those in hiding. For example, many were driven underground in search of a safe place, which is somewhat reflected by the way the stelae rise up like walls of a maze as well as the unneven ground. It's impossible to properly describe what you feel in there, it's something that has to be felt, and it's incredibly effective at making you really think about what the victims of the war went through.

Of course, when I was there, there were teenagers or some form of school visit running around and laughing and screaming and just generally mucking around which some say is just disrespectful. Don't get me wrong, obviously it is, but I think some people will do anything to avoid feeling the way you're meant to in there. It's not a pleasant experience, to be honest.

I made the mistake of doing some shopping this week (with Josephine, one of the Americans on my tour. She's a bad influence, took me to all of the cute yet reasonably priced boutiques right on the street Wombats is on, which I'd managed to avoid for a week). There were some good finds though so I'm not totally regretful. I got this cool t-shirt with a picture of an SLR on it, and "reflected" in the lense is a mini-map of Europe and Africa. It's really cool, and it was only 15euros. I also found the perfect maxi skirt at Humana, which is a charity shop chain over here. It's white and loose, which is great for me because I love maxi skirts/dresses but, being pair shaped can't wear the tight ones as they just don't look right if you have a butt. I think I spent 16euros on the skirt, a blouse and 2 scarves in that shop. Win. I debuted my leather shorts that night on our pub crawl, and I'm happy with how they turned out. They're very high waisted though, they come up to my ribs which is a bit strange to see these days but they're still cool.

Yesterday was our first driving day on our tour, with many more to come. We climbed onto the bus, after three hours sleep, and drove as far as Dresden, where we stopped for lunch (and internet usage) before continuing on to Prague. Dresden is a gorgeous little place that was almost completely destroyed in the war. The buildings hae been rebuilt to look like the original, some are even as new as the 90s, yet look hundreds of years old. I made myself popular at Subway by speaking German to the staff and enjoyed 6 minutes of facebook for 50c.

In Prague we freshened up at our new (awesome, wifi-in-room-having hotel) before catching the metro in to town for a bit of a walk and then dinner. Our attentions were waning from hunger on the walk and when we finally got to the restaurant we had to wait close to 90 minutes to actually get food. Which, thank God, or perhaps a higher being that I actually believe in such as Coco Chanel, was fantastic. I had duck. It tasted good.

We went to a bar that night for a few drinks (and to watch the show jumping because they don't seem to watch football at their pubs here? Which suits me since I actually understand/enjoy equestrian) where the American boys tought us a fantastic photo-game called "shake face" whereby you violently shake your head from side to side, allowing your lips/cheeks/nose to fly free, while people take photos. Hilarity ensues. I had a fairly early night, and spent the last half hour before bed trying to get a new tattoo-incorporating profile picture for facebook. I'm that cool. In fact, I need a new profile pic for blogger so expect to see it soon!

Today was a lazy day. I slept in, took advantage of the wifi and headed into town at about lunchtime, when I had the best Italian lunch. Bruschetta, rocket salad AND penne amatriciana, with a glass of red, all for 500 kurunas (20euros/30AUD). Awesome sauce. Then I checked out the markets with my room mate Jen before returning here for wifi (and Schoolies-reminiscent-hotel-room-drinking/tubing) And here I am, watching Ren and Stimpy in German. Thank God they have a couple of German channels so I can sort of understand what's going on. Good night (slash good morning for those at home)

-m xx