Photos!

I have 489 photos uploaded for you to check out here.

No, they’re not all captioned.

No, I haven’t updated travelpod yet, but I did plot out my route (even though the dates are incorrect).

You’re welcome.

P.S. I’ve been staying in Lahti, Finland for the last 2 weeks. Thanks, Heli et al.

Prague.

Ok, because I’m too lazy to update my travelpod at the moment, here’s an email I just sent to work (yes, I’m still attached).

Hello all,

yes, it’s been a while. This email will be a bit shorter as I’m on the verge of being physically ill, mainly because I’m in Prague and have been savouring the $2 pints.

I hope everyone is well. I am too (apart from my current condition) and I’ve been meeting people from all over the place (as one would expect, I suppose).

In the tradition of my last email, here’s yet another run-down of my travels:

Dubrovnik: as I said, cool. Worth visiting. Nothing really of great notice apart from the old town which got shelled in the early 90s and rebuilt. I think I mentioned this before. I can’t really remember. Anyway, definitely tick it off if you consider visiting Croatia (or Hrvatska, if you want to be down with the local language).

Kolocep: an Island near Dubrovnik (or Dubbo, as I like to call it). We visited here for a day, nothing extraordinary but it was nice. I hiked for about 3 hours and took the odd photo here and there of the views. Yeah, amazing, I know.

Mljet: Nice, foresty island. Pronounced Mil-yet. I got eaten alive by ants because I slept outdoors in a campground (too proud to rent a tent). The bites have only just disappeared (after about 3 weeks, I had scary black spots on my fingers and everything). I swam in Odysseus’ cave (ask Homer) and literally nearly had a heart attack because I was terrified of the fish in the water. I then had to climb back up a cliff in wet thongs, which is impossible if anyone’s ever tried it.

Split: Goran Ivanisevich (?sp) is from here. Cool town. I liked it better than Dubrovnik. We actually stayed in an apartment owned by a guy called Goran. One day he confronted me in his tight white underwear and a singlet asking for money for the other nights that we’d be staying. It was dirt cheap, though. About $15 a night. By the way, beer is disturbingly cheap in Croatian supermarkets. They even sell their own brand (Konsume is the store, K-Plus is the brand. 2 litre plastic bottle go for about $2.50 Australian). If anyone’s even heard of Gregor of Nin (or his “famous” statue), I’ve rubbed his toe (for luck).

In Split we met a French Canadian girl (Quebec) that I’ve ended up travelling with. My group split (pardon the pun) from her when we returned from Hvar (another Croatian resort island, apparently popular with Paris Hilton [yawn]) and we went to Sibenik.

Sibenik: small but has the largest stone cathedral built without wooden support (or whatever else) in Europe. Sounds amazing but it’s really just a small church. Still, I took photos (ask me if you really care). I also scored free Internet here because no one was around to charge me (even though I looked for someone to pay) and I walked out. Yes, I’m a rebel.

Krka national park: people swim under the waterfalls (they even made it a hydroelectric plant, thanks Mr Tesla). I didn’t swim because I was too scared of the fish.

Zagreb: the capital of Croatia. No one knows that. Well, barely anyone. It’s a nice place, reminds me of Melbourne but about 4 times bigger and with 1/4 of the people. The nightlife was pretty lame (ie, Sydney’s sad, lonely clubs are basically more popular on bad nights compared to a busy night in Zagreb) but I didn’t care that much as I can’t dance and don’t really like much beyond cheap beer and good company (hi, Andrew).

Ok, this is getting a bit long. If you’ve made it this far I thank you for persisting with my writings. If you’re still interested I pity you, but for the sake of sympathy I’ll continue with my journey.

Budapest: Massive, masive city (two cities in fact, which I found strange and didn’t learn until about 2 days before I arrived). Monuments are spaced out everywhere and I bought an AWESOME Spider-Man t-shirt in a supermarket there, then started wearing it as I sat around the Danube. Apparently the night-life is really fun there but my trio failed to discover it. We still amused ourselves and I met some other Aussies, which is always nice. Most are from Melbourne though, which is always a little depressing. ;)

Krakow: Nice, nice city. I had two nights here in a really good hostel, unfortunately there were a big group of Americans staying so I didn’t bother socialising (I had early mornings anyway). I went to Auschwitz, which I thought was very… interesting. It’s very touristy now, unfortunately, so it lost (at least, I felt) a lot of impact. Still, I’m glad I went there.

Olomouc: Billed as “Prague without the tourists”, this place is about 5 hours west of Krakow by train, in the Czech Republic. I loved it here even though I only had 1 night to explore it. An Australian couple ran the hostel I stayed in and although they were somewhat inexplicably timid they still gave us some good advice, so I ticked off basically everything in town within 6 hours. One day I’d definitely like to return, though.

Prague: This is were I am now. I’m staying in an Anglo-friendly hostel called the “Clown and Bard”. Mainly it’s Canadians and Americans but it’s not so bad. ;) The Quebec girl I’ve been travelling with is leaving for Berlin tomorrow so I’m going to have a few nights alone (ahh!). It’s a nice enough city, I guess. I’ve heard so many stories about it but I certainly think there are better ones out there. I’m probably going to end up knowing it better than Paris, as I have to stay here until Wednesday as I’ve booked a flight to Helsinki that evening (for only 120 Euros!). Hopefully I don’t get quite as frequently inebriated as I have tonight.

Well, that’s about it so far. Thanks for reading. I’m sure you haven’t. If you have, you’ll probably have been given a warning for not doing enough work (I’ve heard the rule have gotten a bit strict lately, you poor folk).

As always, I’m delighted to hear from anyone that can be bothered emailing me (but no, this isn’t a desperate plea for attention, even though it may look like it). Don’t be shy! :)

Bah, I’m still dizzy from all my cheap beer. I haven’t used the spell checker on this email so if I’ve made mistakes forgive me. If I haven’t made mistakes it’s simply testament to my meticulous spelling and typing ability. Hurrah for me.

Ok, I’ll stop now, this is getting ridiculous.

All the best!
Ollie. :)

Hi!

The good news is that I’m alive.

The potentially bad news is that I’m trying to update my travelpod again and it’s going to be a lot of reading (and writing).

These whacky Italian net cafes don’t ever seem to want to let me copy my photos off my camera, so they’ll be coming later.

The end.

P.S. I love you all.

Plush in Parugia

Our hostel in Parugia was cheap, massive, had an amazing view of the town from its balcony, was immaculately clean and had a funny old man running it (that took 40 minutes to check the four of us in as he checked our passports and stuffed around doing something that I’m sure he thought was important but only seemed to make everything slower). It was also strict, with a cleaning lock-out from 9:30am until 4pm, the kitchen open from 7:30pm until 10pm, the balcony and upstairs area closed at 12am and a lockout at 1am. We called it the Hitler Hostel.

Parugia’s another university town. It’s beautiful and has a vibe similar to Bordeaux. We went exploring up and down the main street on the Saturday night when we arrived, nearly drowning in the sea of young people who seemed to only be walking up and down the road, eating gelato or sitting on the massive set of steps in front of some building that I never determined the purpose of.

We decided to treat ourselves to some pizza and beer on our own set of stairs before we practically crashed in our beds from travel exhaustion. It was probably a good thing that the curfew was 1am as it meant we made the effort to get to sleep earlier than we had been for the last few nights due to partying in Riomaggiore.

Kate’s Lonely Planet had a few suggestions for activies to try in Parugia for the next day. We ignored them and spent time sleeping in the shade by a church while a wedding went underway, then Al and I shared a big fat pizza then had a quiet beer from a vantage point overlooking another part of town. We thought the drunken South American we’d all met on the bus during the day who continued to try speaking to us even though we told him we couldn’t understand him would be the only oddball we’d run into. To our delight, Al and I got to witness an older man who’d come to the same overlook for a peaceful read in the shade. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t begin without a cigarette. He cheerily walked up to every single invidiual that passed by and did his best to beg for a freebie but time and time again he was refused a nicotine hit. Eventually, after spying two young girls who’d just sat down and lit up, he snuck up towards them using trees as cover until he casually walked past them and asked for a cigarette like it was sheer coincidence that they’d ever met. A little scared, the girls gave in to his request and lit him up. He sat down and contently read, never again bothering to move the whole time we were there.

That evening we all ended up drinking beers on the balcony in front of the amazing view. More people from the hostel ended up joining us and by accident we’d started a mini party. We chatted away the hours with more Americans, Swedes and Brits until midnight when we were kicked off the floor. I’d polished off the perfect amount of 660mL, 0.90 and 1 Euro beers so I walked up and back on the main street to clear my head and made it into bed before the curfew.

Nice is nice

We had difficulty at first in finding a hostel. Good old Chez Patrick’s was full to the brim so we had to walk down the road to what turned out to be a better hostel.

Nice was as or more expensive than Paris so we again relied on the friendly prices of Monoprix and a lot of baguettes to get by. We hiked around, exploring an old ruined fort above a cliff looking out to sea and sucked up some of the view before relaxing under a tree in a nearby park for a few hours.

Down by the coast there’s nothing but rock beaches and a million vendors selling overpriced junk, like hats and knock-off sunglasses. Our only adventure was a trip to the delicately titled Chez Wayne’s pub for a happy hour pint and the first half of the England vs Sweden football match. Expense and the sardine effect deterred us from remaining, so I again navigated our party to a bottle shop and we returned to the beach and killed a few hours talking about nothing.

While I was on the beach I found a rock. I liked this rock in particular and adopted it as a pet. I washed off the white, powdery crap that seemed to be on every rock in the region and carried him back to our hostel, where I planted him in the garden so that he could long be seen and remembered by other travellers as my favourite rock.

Alone in Paris

Bienvenue!

I can’t speak French, I can only copy what I see.

Compared to Incheon International, Charles de Gaulle is miniscule. Customs don’t even bother comparing your face to your passport photo, let alone stamp you into the country. They don’t even bother with declarations. I guess anything goes if you’ve got a history this long.

I had to repack my bags after I grabbed it off the carousel (yes, it arrived) so that I could attach the daypack, transforming my luggage into one massive, cumbersome, bulky travelpack breaking my back and an overstuffed green manbag hanging off to my side, the nylon strap digging into my neck.

I had no idea how to get a train ticket into Paris, I just knew where I wanted to go. In typical French style, the ticket vending machines at the international airport are French-only and accept only European credit cards. I found this out after I’d queued up and bravely attempted to purchase one.

Fortunately for me a middle-aged Englishman stood behind me in the line and ended up buying the ticket for me so that I didn’t have to queue in the other ticket line with ticket staff. He then took me down to the platform and caught the train into town together. We spoke about the packaging industry, rugby and university. Not something you’d expect as your first encounter in Paris.

I finally reached Gare du Nord and hopped off the train, confident I could somehow find my way to my hotel. Somehow, I managed to locate it without getting too lost or collapsing under my backpack. I checked in and took the 1m² elevator up to the fifth floor, found my room and gratefully dumped my bag onto the bed.

The bulkiness of my luggage had not only irritated me but it had made me concerned that I’d brought too much. I immediately unpacked my clothes and re-arranged everything I’d brought with me until I was satisfied that my new system was not only more efficient, it was going to be more comfortable as well.

I was forced to run a bath in my en suite as there was no way to attach the showerhead to the wall. I pondered for a while as I soaked in the steaming broth of my own filth as to what the hell I was going to do with myself this first week. Somewhat scared and in need of reassurance (and with the desire to let people know I’d made it safely), I rang dad and Emily and spoke to both of them for a little while. I ended up surrending to fatigue and fear of the unknown by curling up under my bedsheet and falling asleep.

By 8am the following morning I’d already bathed, eaten my supplied breakfast of croissants, bread and coffee and was out the door. I figured I’d go exploring incognito so I left my bag and camera in my room, only taking ,y wallet, phone, passport and a map.

It took me about 30 minutes walk directly south to reach the Seine and I followed it west until I wandered around the Louvre – it’s enourmous. I’m going to try and get inside on Monday as I heard the tickets are half-price then. Continuing my exploration, I sat for a moment at a fountain then kept walking until I crossed through the busy intersections surrounding the Place de la Concorde. I kept going all the way up the Champs-Elysees for kilometres until I hit the Arc de Triomphe and the terrifying round-a-bout circling it.

After taking my shoe off and adjusting my sock whilst sitting under the Arc, I casually followed my feet towards the Eiffel tower. There’s an abundance of streets and roads named after dead US politicians just opposite the tower, something I found out considering I was practically underneath one of France’s (and Europe’s) most famous landmark.

Before I checked out more of the magnificent, metallic monstrosity, I skipped down to the banks of the Seine and stuck my hand into the water for nostalgia’s sake. I walked back up from the artificial shore and admired the construction of the monument and the monumental queues winding underneath it. I touched the north-western buttress (if that’s what you call it) before I walked through the Champ de Mars and all the way back towards Notre Dame.

I gave in to exhaustion before I reached the hunchback’s residence and ended up dragging myself back to my hotel room for a 4 hour nap. When I woke I again ventured south to Cafe Oz, an Australian themed pub that was overcrowded and lacked seating. I drank my €6,50 pint of some mystery Aussie beer the barmaid thought I’d ordered and left.

I stopped by the Hotel de Ville and noticed some workers erecting an outdoor screen for what I assume will screen rugby matches for the local competition. It was still daylight at 8:30pm, so I walked around Notre Dame and continued into the Latin Quarter until I found the student restaurants and bars near the Sorbonne which aren’t any cheaper.

There are no cafes here, only restaurants and bars. It’s not cheap either and I’m being quite miserly. I walked all the way back from the Quartier and sat on the rock wall 2 feet above the waters of the Seine for a while to rest my weary legs. Eventually I made it back to my hotel room and collapsed into a hot bath in an attempt to numb the aches and pains I’d acquired from walking probably 30km or more during the day.

Korea.

I’m in Incheon, bitches. Incheon International Airport to be precise.

$8 for a coffee. Rock on.

I’ll update my Travelpod when I get to France. Hopefully I’ll find a cheap net cafe to spend some time in and inform people.

My mobile hasn’t got any reception here, thanks m8 roaming. If it doesn’t pick up anything in France I’ll get another SIM or something.

Anyway, I’m alive so far.

Driving.

I just went to Canberra and back (4:30am to 2:30pm) to submit my working holiday visa application. It went through alright but I won’t get my passport back until either Friday or Monday. Too bad my flight is booked for Friday. The nice man from STA travel said he can get me a flight next Wednesday on Korean Air instead for only a few hundred bucks more (Tahiti Air is all booked out now). I’ll do that when I visit him in a minute and make it a return ticket. Then I’ll have the pleasure of trying to find more accommodation for the new dates from the 8th to the 13th, probably. It may even work out cheaper in the long run, I’ll see.

There was a strange burnt smell in the car on the way back. I hope my little red mumcar™ isn’t going to die on me…