Sri Lanka Part 1 (Lodz – Prague – Flight)

So initially I planned this to be a daily updated blog on our travels. However, try as I might, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Thus, please forgive me, this is going to be a long one. But on the last post there’ll some useful information and addresses for anyone making the trek to Sri Lanka – a beautiful place. 

 

Lodz – Prague – Flight

So, our story begins in a bar. Not the whole “So I was sitting in a bar one day when my friend turned to me and said ‘Hey, we should go to Sri Lanka!'” (Ok, perhaps the idea may have arisen in one, but that’s not the point). No, we actually met in a pub, our favourite Bear Pub, to down a quick plum vodka and make our to Lodz Kaliska Station. This was our departing point: and ex-socialist (though renovated in the 90s) bus station in the gloomy 8*C Polish winter. Ahead of us was an 8-hour no-frills bus journey to Prague, followed by a “luxurious” 11-hour flight to Colombo with FlyDubai. All in very uncomfortable chairs (that’s just my opinion. Feel free to ask my 187cm tall friend Glowa about his ordeal throughout the journey – he suffered, painfully). But before we even got to Prague, we had to get our darling Sabina (the bargaining chip if we got into trouble) from Wroclaw. So, four hours later – we have our comrade-in-arms and we were off to Prague.

A quite limited sleep in awkward positions and horrible leg space journey later, we arrive in Prague at the decent hour or 5am [You’d be surprised at just how many places were(n’t) open at that time!]. Nevertheless, we set ourselves the goal or seeing the sun rise on King Charles’ Bridge, and our determination was high (think Iron Man Triathlon high)… even if one of use was just a tad cranky from a lack of caffeine (definitely not me, nope, never). After a few slips regarding timetables, directions and realsing that we were absolutely hopeless without the internet (we truly are Gen Y), we got to the metro and a hop, skip and a jump later we got were somewhere not so dear the bridge. But Glowa knew the way!

We saw the pretty Christmas lights in the morning, made our way through those lovely winding, cobbled streets in the Old Town till we finally reached the famed bridge. [Note re: the photos. A couple of weeks ahe my bag was stolen and with it my beautiful and well travelled Canon SLR. Thus, unless otherwise stated, all the photos you see before you are courtesy of a beaten and shattered Nokia Lumia 920 (Nokia/Microsoft – feel free to sponsor me any time now. I cannot fault your camera in any way)]. I must say, even with the fog, the view was amazing. Walking along the bridge, sun rising behind us projecting a siluhouette of gothicesque Prague – yeah, it was gorgeous. However, it was around this time that we started to want to quench anouther thirst: I for coffee; the rest for a decent bathroom/internet combination (with food being an optional extra at this point). The best choice?

Wel, after all that suspenseI guess I ought to tell you – it was Maccas (or McDonald’s for my non-Aus friends). Luckily it was open at 7am, and thus we did the whole “meal, coffee, bathroom, wifi, figure out how the hell to get to the airport” thing.

With around 2 hours to kill before we needed to set off for our flight with our “luxurious” carrier, Glowa and I came up with the most astounding idea to make the most of being in the Czech capital: let’s get a beer (whilst also claiming to be visiting the city). Funnily, we were under the impression that this would be an easy task to complete at 9am. I mean, this was Prague after all! The capital of beers! (note: I have not verified this, but at the time it seemed pertinent to the goal).

We were slightly misguided it turned out in our assumption, and after many a weird turn and crushed dream, we had all but given up hope! That is, until we found this little, strange, reminding me of a fronthouse to a brothel (it wasn’t) bar. They had beer. We drank it. Another check in our To-Do-List. And just like that, we were off to our next port-of-call: Charles Airport.

 

Now, we knew that FlyDubai was a no-frills airline. But we hadn’t realised just how no-frills it was. Remember my 187cm-tall friend? Well, he had to squeeze into a Ryanair economy-size seat for 11 hours. (Sabina was cute though. Upon on boarding the plane and seeing the seats she said “Oh, this won’t be too bad!” …. commenting on the business class seats. Furthermore, we had read that meals weren’t included, thus we adjusted accordingly (by investing heavily in large amounts of sandwiches and chocolate bars. Ok, they other guys did… I got a little travel pack as I had forgotten from Ola – THANKS OLA!). So it was honestly a very pleasant shock when we received a warm (and free!) meal on the 6-hour flight from Prague to Dubai (unfortunately Glowa was dead to the world, so he didn’t actually make use of his. We told him it was amazing so please follow suit and tell him he missed out).

 

Ah! And just in case you fly with FlyDubai, entertainment isn’t included either (we spent a fascinating 11 hours watching the free-option, that is, our plane moving across the world map. Man was that thrilling).

 

 

There’s not much more to say about the journey to Colombo, minus a very rushed 4 cheeseburgers in Dubai, so I shall see you all in Sri Lanka!

 

 

 

 

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A thankyou….

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Hello everyone!
This is to the beautiful pin ups and handsome devils, that for the past 3 weeks have put Sylwia and I up, taken us out and shown us the town, paid for so many drinks and meals that we honestly have lost count (we do blame,the drinks there), and of course, for just being able to fit us in. Thank you. We honestly had a blast, Sylwia loved the place and all of you (and perhaps it is best that she didn’t encounter Scotty…). I really do have to apologise to all of you whom I didn’t manage to spend enough or even any time with – it was so hectic these three weeks, and though it seems like we were on holiday, Sylwia honestly thinks that we didn’t get much rest. Seriously, without you all, and your open and smiling hearts, this trip could not have been as brilliant as it was. Of course, in an attempt to redeem ourselves, if you are ever within the realms of Central Europe, you are graciously welcome to our home. I cook, clean, and promise to make time for each of you 🙂 till then, once again, thank you!l I will sorely miss you.

Hey…. So I’m a bad person….

So, I know it’s been a long time. And for that, I really don’t have any excuse. I’ve been slack, I know it; I’m sure that no amount of apologies can make up for it. However, perhaps a tale or two about my past two years will make it up to you? I do hope so. Ah, it’s probably worth mentioning to you all; Bambi shall be in Aus in July 2014. Your faces better be there at the Pig n Whistle. Or else, the wrath of Bambi shall come down upon you like a thousands kittens licking your face and rubbing themselves against you. Maybe this might not scare some of you…. But those with severe cat allergies will be more than understanding :p

Right, as a warning, I am on a 3-5 hour train ride from Katowice, Silesia to Lodz ( I say 3-5 hours, as this is just a suggestion provided by the Polish State Owned Railways), on an iPad, and with many ideas about what I want to say and very little idea about how to structure it. So please bear with me (or is it bare with me? Dammit).

Actually, that brings to a very good point. I teach English now! Yeah! Ok, maybe you guys got a chill down your spine imagining me, the butcher of the English language in Australia, teaching in Poland… But I’m not that bad at it I swear! Although, as Matt or Esther will tell you, when they came to visit I did have some problems with speaking English. It’s funny actually, there a came a point where I was living in Lodz, and barely ever had the opportunity to speak English. Thus, instead of saying icing sugar I believe I said something along the lines of ‘sweet cocaine that you put on your cakes’. Trust me, I haven’t changed a bit.

Well, ok, that was a lie. I’m no longer as ginger as I once was, and am quite pudgy…. Thus I must actually do some,thing with myself. I hear eating disorders are quite fun 🙂 (because my reactions to the word diet usually consist of disbelief, and the sudden urge to eat everything that is not fungus or mucus). But getting back on topic – Bambi in Poland: a two year review.

I guess I best start my story where we left off: Budapest. After I came back from Budapest I unfortunately got caught up with the whole university thing. I’ve graduated from one of my masters by the way 🙂 one to go. However, the idiot that I am I decided to stay on to do a doctorate; although, let’s not run before we can crawl… Or rather roll out of bed gracefully in the morning. So where was, right the uni thing. So yeah, a year past by so quickly that I could barely notice what was going on around me. However, on New Year’s Eve 2011, I did meet a lovely, gorgeous girl, with whom I’m proud to say I’m still with. Sylwia.

Oh, someone just got into the carriage with me. Give me a sec – small talk about the weather and the local football team must ensue…

Right, back. So yes. Well, 2012 was filled with a lot of interesting events. Although, now that it comes to write them, I seem to have forgotten them all in an effort to remember. Man I’m bad at this. Well, ok travel wise, it was pretty meek. Although I shall have to look at my journal to find the truly interesting or funny stories, I’ll merely say that it’s always too little.

The highlight of my stay here is and will be when my two best friends came to visit me. Matt and Esther. Of course, as is my luck, they just so happened to come during a period of absolute craziness in my life (exams, getting a new job, exams, loosing my boogying ability). But, as always, they were ridiculously ok about it and proceeded to enjoy the high roller life in Poland 🙂 sufficed to say, they didn’t go hungry I don’t believe. Of course Sis and Mum came to visit this year, but once again, straight in aerodynamic of absolute craziness; my thesis was due. I just don’t understand how this keeps happening… So I do hope that July is ok with everyone in Aus. If not, I will understand.

Anyway, I’m going to finish up for now. Be prepared though, I’ve put this blog at number two on my resolutions list… So I will be coming back to it 🙂 but for now, a little picture of your beloved or maybe hated Bambi traveling home 🙂

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Budapest, Hungary (or Wódapeszt for my Polish Companions)

Skyline of Budapest at Night

Skyline of Budapest at Night

To understand this entry, I must first ask you, the reader, to picture that place where you’ve been to, where the first thought you ever had was: Wow. I don’t care if it was in some little bush country near Longreach or on the steps of the Taj Mahal in India, that feeling where they subsequent words are: this is beautiful, is all I require of you.

I can’t exactly say that I’m well travelled, or have seen much in my short life, but I’ve seen a bit, experience more than the average 20 odd year old, and upon standing on top of this little brick wall, looking over the city of Budapest at night, all that escaped my lips was that phrase we’ve all uttered: Wow. I have seen, nothing.

The city itself has the main characteristics of most other. It has a heart, a couple of arteries, and little veins that spread across the rest of it. But other than that initial statement (and very much teething with naivety), it’s nothing that you’ve ever seen, or possibly experienced, before. An old and historic city that has seen its fair share of wars and bullet holes, you feel the cultural side of you grow as soon as you set foot upon the parapet. It might help you to picture a weather beaten face that has the cutest dimples, eyes that seem to just glow with age and wisdom, and more importantly smile lines. You can tell that the inhabitants of Budapest take pride in their capital, and so they should.

Usually I would have some funny anecdotes that I encountered with the natives, but alas, this time it would be different. I signed up for a trip with the university, and the goal was something similar to putting three monkeys in a room with a typewriter and sooner or later they’ll write Shakespeare’s King Lear. The student equivalent was: send a group of polish university students to an unknown city with money and the ability to purchase large amounts of alcohol, and see what happens. Luckily (or rather, as far as I am aware of) no arrests happened.

The City Centre

The City Centre - or rather, the walkway

The bus drops us all off in the centre of town, at which point we’re given some non-descript directions and left to our own devices. Now, this is slightly dangerous for me, as even armed with my trusty (and well worn) phrasebook and camera, I usually end up insulting some of the locals and making a couple of cultural faux pas. However, this time I had a security net in the form of number; there were now 34 of me. The city centre absolutely fascinated me. The hustle and bustle, the old paved roads and the cute little buildings, the enormous amounts of statues and statuettes, all taken care of to the finest possible measure. Street musicians and theatrical acts littered the streets, as well as these amazing market stalls displaying the best of Hungary’s culture ( food & wine…. oh the wine, my downfall). Writing this I succumb to the opinion that I am not nearly mature enough in my literary prowess to describe to you what it feels like to be there, for even a thousand of my own words would not do any justice to just one of the photos (so please, for my sake, have a look at them). And to add insult to injury, later on a group of us would take a little ferry trip along the Danube at night, and apart from being frozen to the bone, I was even more transfixed by this city.

The Danube at Night

The hotel life was, as you might imagine, and alcoholics convention. The poles have many a great thing: Girls, Food, History, but one thing that they certainly trump most of the other countries I have been lucky enough to visit is, their ability to drink. And being the token foreign guy with a quirky accent, well there was a great cause to get him drunk and get to know him. But we’ve all seen dancy dom, so I won’t describe to you the rest of the night (partially because my memory is a tad hazy)

Question time with the foreigner - yes vodka was drunk from a glass...

The next day we got assigned our tour guide, a cute old Hungarian man with a talent for story telling and hilarious jokes. The advantage of a tour guide is he knows where to go, and you find out a lot about the city that you won’t find in a guide book. The disadvantage (and the reason I usually avoid such class trips) is time, you never get enough time to just venture out and experience the things you’d like to see. The basicilica of St Stephen was beautiful, and I would have loved to stay there for hours and go to the top of the dome and look out onto the city, however, time was of the essence, and we still had a lot to see (and yet, not enough). If you guys go to Budapest, take a good friend, a guidebook, and a bit of cash (it is a capital

Our cute little guide

city, and even though it is reasonably priced, it still weighs on your pockets),  and be left to your own wills.

At night, we got what I was longing for, some free time. So a group of us got together, and let loose upon the town. Nothing is better than exploring a city with like minded people, especially ones that just seem to get you. We walked for hours and just tried to see as much as was humanly possible before heading back to the hotel, for our last night in this amazing city. I’m not going to lie, I was sad to go back to Poland and leave this spectacle. But next time, I’ll take one of you with me, and you will understand every word I’ve used. On that note, it’s time for your Bambi to go off and do something… not sure just what but I’ll come up with something.

YMCA near a national monument... that's alright , right?

Until next time,

Bambi

Berlin, Germany

So where did I leave you guys? Oh right, Doha. So you remember how it was ridiculously hot in Doha? I walked so much that I had worn holes in my shoe (yes singular), a rather large one and a smaller one, which caused more trouble than the big one (this shows again, that size does NOT matter, and I shall not heed to any opposing argument) Well, I decided to leave a couple things that I had in my carry on that were weighing me down and I was sure I wouldn’t need. I mean come on, like I’m going to need an umbrella, spare socks, and a cheap poncho, right? Well, funny story there.

I left that blissfuly hot Middle Eastern nation and popped onto a plane and made my way to Zee Germans (Snatch fans can giggle now. Others can giggle at the fact that I wrote Snatch. Twice.) The flight was pretty fun, met another fellow solitary traveller at the airport who had just been doing the after uni south east asia trip. His comments where: So. Blood. Hot. I never wore underwear! He was of the Scandinavian variety, and I didn’t feel like mentioning to him that somethings are best left unsaid. Thankfully I did not sit next to Mr. Free Ball on the flight, just a kind German man who insisted we drink to our healths, as the beer was free. I did not decline. And yes, we did get a bit silly.

I land in Berlin at 7:45am, to find it rainy and I can’t get in touch with my friend, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember her address. So there I am, standing outside Berlin Airport in the pouring rain at 8am in the morning slightly drunk and sporting a white shirt, black skinny jeans (which would soon decide to become skin tight and display 00 and 7), and a pair of shoes which were not, shall we say, comfortable? It felt more as though I was last in line crossing the red sea with Moses, and he decided ‘ah screw it, most of us got through. The sucker can get a bit wet.’ Well what else was there for me to do but go to the 24hr bar at the airport and enjoy a couple of reasonably priced Whiskeys to warm myself up and wait till I got through to my friend. 2 hours passed by, and I was making myself quite at home when I finally got in touch with her.

Now, Carolina (my friend) is this amazing violin player, and was very kind to me. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and it felt as though we’d just hung out yesterday and told stupid jokes to each other. We hung out, and I went off to explore Berlin, in style. That is to say, water proof (Duct tape people, duct tape. It is one of the best inventions since… screw it, there is nothing better, actually no, perhaps the condom. – sorry mum-) Why did I just type that?

Anyway, I spent two days in Berlin, and fell in love with the city and the people all over again. It’s beautiful, cultural, interesting, and I would never be able to find something boring about it. The days flew past, but I checked off some km’s of fantastic German built street (no wonder they got to Poland so fast!), and already found some cafe’s that I am sure that I will become a fixture of in the future. As well as a cute barista. I was sad to see it go, but I had to make my way to Poland, it was time to plant some new roots again.

The train trip from Berlin to Poland was honestly one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I was stuck in a carriage with a French German, and 2 of the most quintessential Jewish New Yorkers you would ever meet. But that my friends, is a story for my next blog.

I shall leave you with this though: Never, ever, ever, attempt to use hand signals whilst trying to find the way to a certain place when you do not know your audience. Apparently certain gestures are fine with Germans, but when you encounter, oh say a group of Turkish immigrants, you politely walk away after you notice that their smiles have turned to deathly glares. And you do this fast.

Till next time,

Bambi

Doha, Qatar.

I arrive in Doha at 6:20 in the morning. By 7:15 it’s already 32 degrees. So what was my first thought about Doha? Black skinny jeans were a bad choice. With 19 hours to kill I decided to venture out into the big city. That’s a literal thing guys, Doha only knows how to do BIG. Meals, buildings, restaurants, cars. Now, I attempted the public transport thing, however, that ended in severe sweating as well as swearing. A bus came, yes, however neither the conductor nor the passengers were able to give me a direct answer on whether or not the bus was going to the city centre… they all thought it was in a different direction. As much as I like getting lost in a unknown city with only a 10 page Arabic phrasebook in a city were 85% of the population aren’t actually from Qatar, I decided not to chance it. Instead, I was in for a whole new world of trouble: Illegal taxi’s. I ventured back to the arrivals terminal and was stopped by a man, who introduced himself as a ‘sourcer of taxis’. Now, this sounded good to me… he called up a driver, and whilst we were waiting we got to talking and exchanged life stories, quickly. I say quickly as my Arabic was limited to ‘thank you’, ‘coffee’, and ‘not my marijuana’ (sorry mum). And his English was to rival my Arabic.  Unfortunately our deeply philosophical conversation (the last 5 minutes of which resembled much of Marceu Marceu’s collected works) was cut short by the authorities; the legal taxi drivers of Doha, who were not impressed by this man. They quickly whisked me away into an air-conditioned vehicle (which was a very pleasant thing, as my white shirt was starting to look like I had just come second place in the wet t-shirt competition at the Down Under Bar on a Tuesday), and we made our way to the ‘city centre’. Now, what I didn’t realise was that the city centre was actually a quite large shopping centre. This was not my idea of ‘seeing the sights’ and ‘becoming one with the locals’. But my fears were soon to be put at rest. I got a coffee, and wrote a bit of my story so far down, when I noticed a young gentleman that I had met a couple of hours ago. We’d only spoken for a 15 or so minutes, but we greeted each other like old lovers who hadn’t seen each other since the exchange of possessions. Awkwardly that is. He was a Frenchman by the name of Mustafa Bababuk (I giggled). However, he assigned me a task, to help him find a sheesha. I gladly accepted this mission of moumental risk (as we had no idea where to begin, and our common language was pidgin French). We enlisted the help of a friendly native taxi driver (legal), and we went off. And this is were I felt at home, getting lost and making a fool of myself.

 

The driver took us to the market area of Doha, which was definitely what I was looking for.  Now, the markets were of the dark alleyway variety, with shady types all over the place and many dead ends, and apparently a rabbit farm as well. But my colleague succeeded in procuring 10kg of apple and raspberry tobacco for his sheesha , to be picked up in a weeks time (he later explained that this was to be a business enterprise when he got back to France. I didn’t feel like faulting my only friend in the Middle East with the words ‘Customs will ask questions…’). After his purchase, we parted ways, Mustafa to China (I didn’t want to know what venture he was planning there… But I was really hoping he was going to say Afghanistan to see about some pretty Poppy plants), and I in search of caffeine.

 

I was rewarded after many a dead end and odd look, and offer to buy authentic Arabic dresses.. The corner café, with one of the best coffees I think I will ever experience, a cigarette, and all the time in the world to do nothing but order round after round and watch the people go by.

One of my favourites was this:

 

A man in his 50s was walking by, and caught his eye upon a lady, to which he insisted that she have a coffee with him. Drinking coffee alone is a sad affair, and reserved only for the non-cultured (eh, I saw his point). She politely refused, shocked to the core and desperately trying to find her husband who was a few stalls back bartering for a ship in a bottle. Impressed by the man’s actions I invited him for a coffee, which he accepted. I gave the man my name, and shaking his hand he introduced himself as Isaiah, but with a smirk he said: “You can call me Jesus”. I laughed, and for a split second I thought he might run away, however he composed himself and sat down. We talked for a long time, and the man turned out to be a jack-of-all-trades. A painter, poet, writer, inventor, scholar, mechanic. I remarked that he could rival Da Vinci, to which he responded: “No. I’m better, I’m still alive.”

 

I left that cosy café as I had a appointment to see a man about a painting. The Museum of Islamic Art that is, and the man turned out to be a woman…

 

Now the museum of Islamic Art is a beautiful building (just look at the photos!), and the exhibits were quite awe inspiring. The flowed perfectly, and detailed the influences from Greece to India that Islamic contained. However, I was much more interested in the people. I met John The Brit, from North Hampshire. I however will remember him as Batman (a remark that he used for himself). By day, he worked in the complaints department of a bank in a sleepy town in the middle of England. But for 2 months of the year, he ventured to the farthest corners of the earth in search of culture shock. All of Asia, South America, Middle East, and soon North Africa were to be conquered by this pasty, polite mannered Englishman. I liked him; we compared notes on where we’d been, and the pros and cons of the solitary traveller. We parted as old friends.

 

The rest of the day was marked by incidences such as these, not to mention some typical Dom events (laughing, tripping over my own feet, not being able to tell which one is the male toilet and chancing it… to mixed reviews and what I’m sure were insults from the Arabic woman).

 

However, even after all the sights, my favourite part of that day was just sitting at that little café, chatting to the customers that came and went, and watching the day pass me by.

 

Till next time,

Bambi