Signing off in Seattle…

Well technically I’ve been north of Seattle on Camano Island, but I’m still signing off.
It’s weird to think that what started months ago is about to draw to a close. Shame really, as it’s been quite possibly, the best 6 months of my life. The jaunt has certainly been jolly.

I went for a nice run in a beautiful state park on the island last night, and I couldn’t help but reminisce as I ran. Thinking back to my first run, in Kyoto, back in March. There has been plenty more of them, and the strangest thing was, I was able to recall each and every run. Seriously, everyone.
This does not surprise me as I have endeavoured to try and commit my trip to memory. Where it became a great way to put myself to sleep at night, recalling a daily snippet from each day of my trip, and then flowing through my journey day by day. I guess I did this as a way of insuring I don’t forget. So perhaps I don’t fail to remember to be thankful for everything I have experienced, not to forget how blessed I have been with this trip.

So yes, to catch my flight tonight I’m driving up to Vancouver with my friend Judith, whom I providentially met at the Sydney airport,  returning from the last time I was over these parts back in 2011. I’ve spent the last week enjoying her wonderful hospitality, traveling around areas of interest, meeting her friends and being fussed over at every cafe we visited, insuring we get the best flat whites. It’s been really nice. Though the sun has only made itself known these last couple of days. It hasn’t been raining, far from it. There has been a huge draught as of late, and massive Forrest fires that have caused very poor visibility due to the smoke. So yeah, I only recently got to see that they do in fact have very large and impressive mountains in Washington State.

Before I came west, and after I left my northern adventure, I got to do one more lunch with my good friend Miss Black, though I’m sure the next time I see her she’ll be a Mrs. I made pancakes for another buddy, in thanks for sleeping on his couch. Good ol Fabio. I gave him his camp name 9 years ago on account of his long flowing locks. It’s good to see he’s traded some of his hair for a briefcase. I got to have one more beer with another exceptional fella, who I wish lived closer. But that’s the things about good friends, time and distance can be quickly resolved. From there I jumped on a train I was very familiar with to see some other good folks I also wish lived closer. The last time I saw them back in 2011, there was just the 3 of them, Steve, Kariss and a 12 month old Henry. I met Steve and Kariss on my first trip to Canada, so a good 10 years ago. I think we bonded over chicken wings and nachos at 4 in the morning watching the All Blacks destroy the Canadian side. Kariss, is a kiwi, so I knew I we’d get along fine, and it was good to hear that she has maintained her strong kiwi accent. It’s been good to keep in touch as the family grew, and pretty darn cool to meet a now 6, Henry, a 4 year old Lydia and Theodore who is almost 2. Steve has always been one of my favourites chefs, and his cooking did not disappoint! I got his very best Perogies and eggs Bene. I’ll store those recipes away.
I left them earlier than epected as I had plans to catch up with some other buddies I’d been hanging out to hang out with since I got to Canada. Firstly, a big northern Irishman whom I spent a good amount of time with both in Canada and Belfast. I do love the Northern Irish accent, as I often find myself adapting my speech to suit. The next was my old housemate from my time living in Waterloo Kitchener, back in 2009-10, Jil. The last time we caught up I realised I trusted her impeccably, as she took me for a ride on her motorcycle at a asquilion miles an hour. This time, it was just nice to hang out on her porch chatting over pizza, watching a storm go by. Plus she was kind enough to let me stay at her place which is near the main train line to the airport. Which meant my early morning departure wasn’t as early.

This league of my trip has certainly been enjoyable. If you remember, the first part I knew know one, but the last part, I went only to where I knew people, well except for Magnetawan. It’s interesting as I, along with everyone else I suspect, would hold that life over the past 6 years has definitely changed us. I’ve grown is some areas and shrunk in others, not all for the good of course. So it’s been enjoyable reestablishing friendships, whilst also forming many others.

It’s all very interesting heading home, I suppose I can’t put the inevitable on hold forever. And to be fair, it’s all on once I get back. I have a medical assessment on the 18th, a pre-interview for Ordination on the 20th and to top it off, a sermon to prepare for on the 24th. I’ve got to find a job, a car and a place in Auckland to call home. I’m ending one adventure only to start another. Sure, I’d like to suggest that I won’t wait as long until my next big trip. I’ve got a few ideas; I like the sound of Central America, almost as much as I’d like to head back to Greece and head East instead of north west. But I also like the idea of using the full 90 days on offer on the tourist visa to road trip around the U.S of A, that would be fun. As Americans are mighty friendly folk.
To be fair, everywhere I have gone, people have been friendly. I really can’t think of any place where people were intentionally mean or unhelpful. A lot of it comes down to my attitude. How you project will shape the way people respond.

Anyways, to conclude.
It’s been an absolutely golden last 6 months and so the awards go to…
Country visited I would most love to return to: Greece, followed by Japan and then Croatia.
Country least likely to return: Slovakia, Bratislava.
Favourite city visited: Vienna, Austria.
Most liveable city: Edinburgh, Scotland.
Most impressive attraction: The Upper Corinth, that place was incredible!

Honourable mentions: Bosnia and Serbia were surprisingly fantastic, as was the Czech Republic. I do love Germany, and I’d like to try travelling extensively around the U.S someday, that would be fun.

So yeah, that’s about it I guess. It’s been fun, I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed getting the material. By last count I have about 1500 photo’s and around 100 videos. Each one tells a story or has a story to tell. It’s been a story I’ve really enjoyed sharing. But my story, God willing, will go on, I just wont be writing about it. Well, perhaps, I’m sure this next 6 months will be just as jolly, if not adventurous.


Where the Lighthouse Landed.

Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been slogging away digging trenches, shifting and raking out gravel, I aided in the building of a tent platform and an indoor couch. I supervised archery, canoeing and paddle boarding and at all times I’ve fought a loosing battle against mosquitoes. It’s been absolutely great!
I managed to find this place last minute through a website called ‘’. It’s a site I’ve used throughout my trip to find places where I could stay whilst balancing a work/play lifestyle. I did a Workaway in Crete, Serbia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic. I hadn’t anticipated that I’d do one in Canada, but I’m very thankful I did.

The place is called Lighthouse Landing, it’s on Lake Cecebe, near a lighthouse, hence the name… The nearest town to Lighthouse Landing is a place called Magnetawan, it’s a 3 min drive, a 3 km jog or a 45 min canoe ride from camp. It’s small, but pretty, and has an ice cream trailer, a general store, a hardware store, a bakery and a grill and 5 churches on the same street. Lighthouse landing is a small camp on a big property that runs autistic camps during July and they rent out their beautiful rustic cabins during the inhabitable times of the year. I managed to check out their website before I came and it looked very scenic, I even read some reviews which all spoke of the genuine friendliness of the staff, so it was reassuring knowing people had good things to say about where I was headed.

I chose it because it’s kinda in the area where I spent a lot of time from 2007-09, that being the beautiful wooded and lake areas surrounding Algonquin park, 4 hours north of Toronto. So it was nice to watch out for familiar scenery as I sat on the bus.

When I checked the weather forecast on the bus coming up it didn’t look good, rain and thunderstorms guaranteed. And rain it did. It’s been a wet summer in Ontario all round, people haven’t been too stoked with it but what can you do. I remember a quote of Robert Laidlaw’s, “The man who smiles when the sun shines and frowns when storms gather is but a creature of circumstance, whereas the joy of life ought to come from the joy of living, not from the surrounding conditions.” The folk I joined up here certainly take the joy of living seriously. Jim and his wife Alyssa with their wee boy Asher, volunteer up here over the summer months, helping his mum, Fran, who acquired this place off her dad. It’s been in their family for 50 odd years. It was really easy to settle into life amidst this small community, I was instantly made to feel welcomed and comfortable. Everyone was just so friendly and genuinely stoked at my willingness to come and help them out.

I’ve always found Canadians to be exceptionally friendly people, and that is always multiplied when they find out you are from New Zealand, which doesn’t take long, and usually only after a couple wrong guesses. One little fella who I was helping on a paddle board said my voice sounded like a Movie… that was funny, though he couldn’t recall which one. Others have been genuinely surprised to meet someone from NZ all the way up in Magnatawan, one lady when she was told I was a kiwi, got out of her car and walked over to tell me how much she enjoyed visiting there earlier this year. Others asked me to help them find the right t-shirts for their friend, just to hear me talk, another lady, when i was grabbing a coffee from bakery couldn’t get over the accent, kept chuckling to herself as I ordered. She told me I made her day, so thats nice.

So here I am sitting on a comfy couch in the office, the day before I catch my early morning bus that will take me back down the line, trying to sum up the past 2 weeks. We’re about to head out on a field trip, to celebrate my time here. I can see how some would find this sought of experience a little daunting, staying with strangers, in a fairly remote place in the northern wilderness, surrounded by trees and on the banks of a deep and dark lake. And yet, with Fran, who would be deaf except for an amazing gizmo that attaches to her ear has provided endless laughter as she has called me at least 8 alternative names, I’ve been called Jo-no, Jonah, Jocko, and Joso, Rono, Rona Rocko and Rosco. It became such a common occurrence that soon Asher the 2 and a bit year old started calling me all of them as well, so yes, happy days.

I started my stay in an old powerless campervan parked in a clearing in the woods and true to prediction it rained. I quickly saw the areas of concern and set pick axe to the path to set about figuring out a proper drainage system. Tis some good honest work that. But I was happy to do it. There’s something about the clean fresh air of northern Ontario, surrounded by trees, pested by mosquitoes but encouraged and thanked all the way by my hosts. It’s easy to work when you like the people you work for and with. Plus, I was moved into my own spacious cabin, flush with the marvels of a fridge, lights and electricity, so I was much comfier.
I’ve had some significant down time as well, which has been nice. I kayaked up the airily calm waters of the Distressed river, where later we went out for a successful beaver spotting as the sun was setting, that was cool. I canoed over to Magnetawan numerous times for ice cream and beer. I swam in the lake and in some rapids, got on the paddle board a bundle of times, read, watched movies, visited the world famous screaming heads, chilled out with great people and chatted the night away on numerous occasions. One of the big highlights was my late night walks back to my cabin, as I’d have enough repellant on to be able to stand in the darkness and just look up. One forgets the beauty that is above us, when living in brightly lit cities.

It’s going to be sad to say goodbye to this place and more significantly to it’s people tomorrow. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here, getting to know them all and become part of the family. I’ve learnt a lot, laughed a lot more, tasted some really fantastic Vegan food and have much to consider as I move into my future. I’m sure it wont be the last time, as we share the love of travel, so we’ll meet again somewhere soon.

I was told the other day that I’ve have 2 weeks till I’m back in New Zealand. I’m beginning to get a little nervous about that, as there’s a lot of things that will need to happen once I’m back. I do however, still have plenty to see and do until then. I’ve still got friends to catch up with, and a new part of the world to explore, Seattle. A lot can happen in 2 weeks, something I’ve become very familiar with.

A great bunch of people, Fran, little Asher, Alyssa, Jim and me
Out Beaver spotting

Oh yeah, Canada aye…

I’m sitting in a cosy little coffee house in the town centre of Barrie. I’ve got 2 hours to kill before I have to be on a bus to take me North.
I can’t help but feel the contrast in the different leagues of my trip. Where Europe was organised (ad hoc) and at each place I visited I tried to get as much out of it as possible. Where Canada, on the other hand has been a fairly laid back affair. Sure I’ve been some what organised with my limited time, but most of the places I’ve been I’d visited maybe 6~9 years ago, so a lot of the touristy things I‘d already ticked off. Resulting in so much continuous down time that the craziest feeling has developed, where sometimes, I almost began to look forward to it all finishing and the onset of settled life. Crazy ay.
I like being in Canada, to be fair its probably one of the only places where having so much down time has been great. It’s meant every place I’ve gone to catch up with an old buddy, we haven’t been rushed, or had other things to do.
I started my time in Toronto staying on the couch of my good buddy JR’s place. He managed to pull some time off work which meant a good couple of days to chill, take in baseball games and just hang like days gone by. A similar thing happened when I pushed on to London Ontario, where another good buddy, Wes, had also managed to get some time off to hang out as well. The weather was gold, as was the beer and conversation.
Coffee has always been a struggle on my trip. Sometimes it’s good, but mostly it’s been just enough caffeine to tie me over til the next day. I’ve tried working off a coffee app called ‘Beanhunter’ which uses your location to locate known coffee places near by. You can read reviews and discern if it’s worth checking out and then leave your own review. This app has worked really well in the bigger touristy cities, but in the smaller ones, I’ve been on my own. Us Kiwi’s and Aussies I’ve found to be a rather fussy bunch of coffee consumers. So when I’ve found a good place I wouldn’t keep it a secret but share the word by adding them to the app, as I know the goodness that can be found in a nice cup of coffee, and sheer frustration/disappointment in a bad one. I’ve even been able to get behind the counter and make my own on the odd occasion, which meant the milk wasn’t boiled beyond belief at least…
Funny really, as it was in Canada where I became a coffee drinker thanks to icy cold mornings and the vast quantity and regularity of Tim Hortons cafes. ‘Timmies’ as it is known, is a chain of coffee shops all throughout Canada. It’s a pretty big institution over here. They do simple coffee, donuts, cookies, bagels and some pretty darn good breakfast sandwiches. I went there for their breakfast sandwich and left hooked on their dark watery coffee. It’s been an interesting 6 years of coffee appreciation. So it’s nice returning to the place where it all began and turning up my nose in disdain at what I used to drink.
After my time in London drew to a close, I returned back to Toronto where I was lucky enough to be staying at my buddy Jeff’s parent’s place, in a nice part of Toronto I was very unfamiliar with. So that meant my downtime, in between catching up with other familiar faces, was nice. Frustratingly though, I haven’t been able to run comfortably due to an Achilles giving me grief. So I had to see these parts at a leisurely speed. I listened to the Podcast called ‘Black Hands’ that looked at the Bain family murders back in 1994, which was riveting stuff! If you like the murder mystery type stuff, look it up then look me up as I have my thoughts on the matter that I’ve been hanging out to discuss.
It’s been really nice catching up with friends from long ago. Sharing stories, catching up on the latest, seeing the changes and reminiscing about former times. I often feel bad that I’m not able to catch up with everyone, but life, as we all know, moves on.
I left Toronto last week to head north to where I am now. Though whilst here I’ve been blessed once again with some great experiences, of cottage life on Severn River and lake life at Blue Mountain resort, near Collingwood, all thanks to my good friend Michelle.

I’ve known for a while now that I’ve had a patch of time that I needed to fill with something. I had initially thought, camping, as I have a tent. But that time to fill increased to 2 weeks so I needed something more substantial. Hence today I’m getting back into the Workaway spirit to do another stint of volunteer life at a small camp up near Magnetawan, which is north of the area where I used to live and do all my wildernessy stuff back in the day. I figured it was more of an adventure than volunteering in a comfy setting. Plus, I may even be able to do a bit of camping whilst I’m up there in my own time so thats a win.
It’s a good 4 hours north of Toronto, so it’s most certainly going to be a change of pace. Plenty more mosquitoes I’m sure, but I have some bug spray so hopefully I’ll be good, doubt it, but let’s hope.

The two Juan’s
At the park
Always wanted to be in a band… my co members Wes and Tom.
Lake Euron, Bayfeild.
Tasty maple water
On a high speed boat with Miss Black.

The big apple…

I recently spent 10 days in New York before I made my move north to Canada. I’ve been kinda putting off writing my take on it, as it’s a petty sensational city, and hard to sum up. Easily one of the top 3 cities in the world. It’s America’s biggest and bestest, anything and everything happens there, so the movies would have you believe.
It was a pretty fun past time, to walk the streets and Parks trying to identify the back drops from movies I know, or TV shows. Of which I was able to identify a bundle, like the pigeon lady bridge from Home Alone 2, Superman’s ‘Daily Planet’, the diner from Seinfeld, the old library from Ghost Busters oh and the part on the movie Limitless where the girl takes a pill and runs down into the ice skating rink to escape a guy whose chasing her…

It’s weird kinda, as you constantly see New York being the location of all the crazy stuff that goes down in movies, it’s just funny being there and nothing that grandiose went down. No aliens, no invasion from different dimensions, no giant gorillas or lizards, just everyday was stinking hot.
I arrived pretty darn tired after my long sleepless night and flight from London, and to top that off my luggage didn’t join me in New York and when it did it was minus my running shoes… 😭😡
Missing luggage did however make it easier for me to get myself over to Penstation, where I met my buddy Sam, very easily and quickly by New York standards.
I used to live with Sam in Christchurch, so it was nice to be staying with him and his lovely wife Sarah, in a city they now call home. They’ve been in New York I think for a year now, so they knew a thing or two about how to navigate this massive sleepless city.
I was rudely awoken from my cheap beer dream, as the price of a nice cool amber drop octupled from Eastern Europe prices. No longer would I find beer cheaper than coffee or water, a sad reality to be broken from, I know. It’s not like it was any better mind you, most of the time it was much worse. It was frustrating and heartbreaking all in one.
Still though, I was in New York.
On the Sunday in some borrowed clothes, we took a ferry over to the Statue of Liberty, which is not as big as it is in the movies. But the viewing deck in the head was a pretty awesome place to be. What an icon that is, and to be up close and personal with it was very unique. We then pushed on to Ellis Island, where we got to take in 100 years of immigration. Everyone who immigrated to the US, well everyone who wasn’t rich, went through Ellis Island. Some really tough stories to read. One particularly horrific one that stood out to me was of a complete family that immigrated over from Eastern Europe, only to loose grandma, as she had the beginnings of blindness, and thus was considered a burden. So in the wisdom of bureaucracy, she was torn from her family and sent back to a country now devoid of any family. They never saw granny again.

On a lighter note, I had heard about a historical bar where George Washington drank and bid farewell to his generals after the War of Independence. That was a cool place!
I went up Trump tower, that was kinda cool, the decor I thought needed upgrading but it was fun seeing all the fuss outside on the streets and having to go past sniffer dogs, heavily armed policemen and metal detectors to get inside.
There was always plenty of things going on in New York, very often the subway would be crowded to the levels I witnessed in Tokyo. Though in New York they didn’t have nice men in smart suits pushing you inside the subway carriage, you were on your own for that. But thats not really my cup of tea so I’d wait for the next one.
I ate a lot of ice cream in New York, mainly because there were a number of cool places doing cool things with ice cream. The first place made it with liquid nitrogen, so it was extra thick, cold and creamy. They also offered frozen cheese balls, that when you ate them, thick steam was the outcome, hence they were called dragon balls. Another cool ice cream place offered cookie dough like ice cream, that surprisingly, was a bit much. I like cookie dough, but I usually only have perhaps a tea spoon of it whilst making cookies, not a massive scoop of it in a bowl.
Time square is an experience! I went through it twice, each time near midnight and each time it was packed. There were plenty of random street acts all vying for your tourist dollars. I think the funniest ones I saw was a pudgy iron man, and a Mexican Micky mouse. Was fun just to people watch, as there’s a lot of interesting peoples in New York.
I went to a number of museums in New York, the best by far was the smallest, but it was right up my alley. It was the private collection of JP Morgan, the elder, who establish the business for his son. His library was super impressive. He had so many first editions, the most impressive being a Gutenberg Bible… so very cool! But his collection of ancient Assyrian artefacts were the things that gave me more enjoyment, as they were 4 and a half thousand years of awesomeness!
I don’t think I saw any famous folks around. I’m not usually the type to be overly fussed either way.
I mentioned already that it was super hot, it made exploring tiring. But most places had air con, so I tended to try and spend more time indoors rather than out. It was far to hot for me to try out my new running shoes in a meaningful manner, I’d often get 5 kms and start over heating. But I did manage to run around Central Park one night after the humidity had finally caused it to rain. So I got to run along the very famous parts of the park. Something I’d been looking forward to for quite some time.
I had a great time in New York, plenty of photos, memories and good times. I think it would be a place I’d be keen to return to in the fall, as it would be a hang of a lot more manageable than the heat of the summer.
I note to those thinking about visiting New York, double your budget. New York is really nice, but it’s an expensive place.
So I’m now in Canada, back in a place I used to live. A place where I spent half of my 20’s. So many memories, not much has changed mind you, well, except the people and me of course.


A touch of Britain

I’m sitting in one of the many cafe/dinner type places in the 2nd terminal of Heathrow airport. I arrived late last night or rather, very early this morning. I figured there wasn’t too much point getting a bed for only half a night and I wanted to maximise my time at my previous stop. It has been my night of the long wait. Essentially I just faffed about for a good 6 hours when I otherwise would have been sleeping. There were plenty people doing that in many cramped spaces, I found a couch to laze about on, but sleep eluded me. I’m hoping to sleep on my flight from Frankfurt to New York. I should do, I’m fairly tired.
It’s always a shame to be leaving this part of the world. I’ve spent a good amount of my younger years here, I have some really great friends here that it’s always a great time of catching up on the new and reminiscing about the old.
I started this hole episode at the start of the month. I flew into Glasgow to be met by a drastic drop in temperatures and a good buddy who took me out for a very Scottish meal, a curry. It was strange to be able to understand people, I kept expecting people to start speaking a different language, sure the next day when I walked down Buchanan street it sure sounded foreign. But the Glaswegian accent is a thing of perplexing amusement. It takes time to understand the words coming out of their mouths, but once you do, you don’t forget. So I just walked with a constant smile on my face, enjoying how they turn a phrase, and how it all sounds.
I wasn’t long in Glasgow, I took in a few favourite sites around the city centre then pushed onto Edinburgh. I was able to tick off one of my ‘failed to do it last time I was here’ activities, climbing up Arthur’s Seat. It was more of a jog/ fast paced walk, and absolute murder. It’s a rather high hill that overlooks the city of Edinburgh, I’ve been running on too much flat ground which has made me soft. I love Edinburgh, it’s a beautiful city, one that I would most happily live in. I think out of all the places I’ve been, it’s my most Livable. It was made even nicer by being able to catch up with another good friend, who the last time I saw her, she was minus a husband, two kiddlies and a mortgage, but still as lovely as ever.
My time was fairly uneventful. No crazy stories, near mishaps, well no actually. I went rock climbing on Scotlands Northern Coast and sailing in a very rough and windy Lochgarron. I took in the rugged beauty of Dunnottar castle, increased my love of whiskey by going on a distillery tour. I relaxed a bunch, enjoyed many a beer with some good mates, ran, ate some great food, drank some great coffee and just enjoyed being back in a place I love with people who made it even more enjoyable.
I remember when I first hit up a supermarket, I was so stoked to see many of my old favourite snacks, the attendant nearby checked in to see if I was alright. I was pretty darn alright, and I may have had to run extra hard that week because of it.
It’s been a whirlwind tour primarily concerned with catching up with folk rather than seeing things. A lot of the things I had already seen, sure the last time was 7 years ago, but not much changes in the way of a castle, but plenty of things can change with a buddy who you haven’t seen in that time.
My last destination was quite morbidly fortuitous, where I originally went knowing that, because he was a teacher, he’d be at school during the days. That was until he took a cricket ball to the face, though mostly his teeth and because of it, he wasn’t able to go to school. So it all worked out rather nicely. Kinda, it hurt when he laughed, so he was sadly in pain a lot. Again it was nice to meet the additions to his family, I was already fast friends with his wife from previous trips, but it was nice to become friends or perhaps just that random fella who played tennis and jumped on the trampoline with his two littlies.
I’m yawning pretty hard at the moment, the coffee I had isn’t having the desired effect, that being get me to my plane on time. I may fall asleep in this chair.
I’d best get up and moving, before I get to comfortable. It’s the end of the 2nd stage of my trip. I’m technically onto the return side of my ticket, which isn’t a good feeling. I don’t know how I will manage to settle back in in the NZ life when the time comes, but I guess it has to be done. However, I still have a good 2 months left. Which sounds good, but it’s less than 8 weeks, so I guess I’ll have to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to some warmer temperatures, and some more familiar faces in Canada and the U.S.



Das Wasser

A nice place to sit.
Dresden on an average day…
The view from my room in Dresden.


I sadly had to hang up my paddle the other day, and lifted the canoe out of the lake up to its place next to a tree. I hadn’t realised how much I missed canoeing until I got two weeks of it. It gives me more encouragement to undertake a very auspicious challenge of building my own canoe. That would be cool, ay… I woke early on my last day with every intention of going for a run. I was all set, even doing the warmup stretches on the road, but then I thought, “why run, when I can do that anywhere, but I won’t be able to canoe again for a while”. So I went down to the dock and set out. It was beauty! No wind, no other boats, no other people hardly, just me, the birds and the fishes. I was 2 hours. It was a nice way to say farewell to the Czech Republic.

So I had two days in Dresden, a southern city in Saxony Germany, which was part of East Germany until the wall came down in 89 and Germany was united again a few weeks later. It was a place that got absolutely levelled in WW2, perhaps unnecessarily so, towards the end of the war. The scars of this event remain on the buildings, and on the people’s psyche. The buildings are easier to spot, as they had to rebuild 70% of the city so you can clearly see the difference between the old and new stones. The other scars are graffitied onto walls about not forgetting the atrocity, or wanting justice for the war crime as they see it.
Still though, Dresden is a really nice city, one thing I really liked was a long wall of a building with a mural painted depicting all of the Saxon kings in a long parade. Very unique!
I pushed onto Berlin, and to my amused surprise I missed my bus. By mere meters. I gave myself an 40 mins to get there, and the schedule said I’d have 15 mins to spare. I can attest, public transport in Germany being like clockwork is a grand generalisation. But I got to Berlin nonetheless, and thankfully found a nice lady who lent me her internet so I could locate where exactly I was staying. As once again I had been walking the streets in the general area for a good 15 mins.
I like Germany, it’s a shame I had used up most of my time and Euros before I got there. Berlin is a place I had been before actually, I was 19, it was the week before Christmas and cold. It was great then, and great again now. I got to see a bunch of the things I didn’t get to see last time. One thing primarily was the SS museum, or rather its called the Topography of Terror. It is a free museum that tells the brutal truths of the Nazi party, it’s SS, how they managed to gain control of Germany and what they did as a result. I think the most curious thing was, in the first rounds of votes in 1933, they only got 33% of the vote, but in the subsequent votes in the following years that figure was changed to 94% and then 96% (of those that voted mind you.)
It was a very interesting museum. I followed that up by taking in one of the oldest pubs in Berlin, if not the oldest. Apparently Napoleon himself, drank there, so yes, very happy to check that out.
I was able to catch up again with Susi, the German girl I had met in Corinth, later that night for beer and pizza. That was nice, as I got to see my first familiar face in ages. Which I’ll get to later…
The down side to my time in Berlin this time around was it rained all through the next day, which caused flooding and a general state of emergency in a number of places in Berlin. I had planned on checking out a couple of things that day, but they required me to walk a bundle. And in simply walking for my daily coffee I had got completely drenched. So after I went for a miserable run in the rain, I took a lazy day, but still got drenched as I went out that night looking for a craft beer bar.
So yes, It was pointed out to me, whilst sharing a blablacar from Prague to Dresden, that I had been alone these past 3 months. I thought “haha really!?” But apart from the obvious literal aloneness it was rather in all the places I had visited, I knew no one, and thus I was alone by their reckoning. Which is quite true. I knew no one in Japan, Greece, Macedonia and so on and so forth. Everywhere I went I was met by unfamiliar places and faces. Not a single person I recognised. Which I thought was pretty cool.

Sure, travelling solo has its quiet moments, and times of loneliness or rather times when I would have liked to have had people to hang out with, or share random amusing things with. But, the benefits has been I have been able to have a trip I wanted. I wasn’t accountable to anyone, responsible for anyone else, held up or have to negotiate where, when and what I did. I set my on path, and enjoyed nearly every moment of it.

I’ve been thinking about these things recently as I’m transitioning out of the unknown part of my trip to the known. I’m literally doing that now, sitting in my seat 31A, on a rather cloudy Ryan Air flight to Glasgow. Where a good friend from my days in Scotland is waiting to pick me up from the airport. Its hard to be gutted to be moving on, because of all the familiar faces I will get to see in the next 2 and a half months. Some I haven’t seen in 14 years, others it’s only been 6 months. Everywhere I will go from here on there will be someone I know. Quite the transition.

But, that being said, I met a lot of wonderful and cool people over the past 3 months. The helpful ladies when I first touched down in Tokyo, or the fellas in the Japanese baths, or even my hosts where I stayed. I made some really great friends in Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. Some, I got to catch up with again further along in my travels, which was I guess my only familiar faces. Every Workaway I did I met cool people, I met people on buses, trains and at cafes. I met people whilst out for a run, standing in line, on the tram and at the pub. Or sometimes people just randomly arrived on my door step. So yes, there have been moments of aloneness these past 3 months, but also times full of people. And to be fair, I doubt I would have met half of them if I wasn’t travelling solo.

I can see Scotland

Life in a castle and life by the lake.

Looking for that close shave…
A rather nice change curry
A favourite spot
Loving the sunshine
A typical shot of me after 3pm
Me nd Paco
Start to finish, I’ve loved the Czech Republic


Over the past 3 weeks I have been blessed with the amazing experience of life in the Czech Republic. The time I spent living in the castle in Elbanice was really laid back, the work not overly taxing and the time off, very rewarding. I went to that medieval fair, where I saw pageantry sword fighting, chatted with an old timey builder and blacksmiths, drank refreshing ale, and dodged unruly wenches.
Living in the countryside was, as I said before, a really nice change, though it wasn’t without excitement…
On my second trip into the town, as I was hoping to leave the padlock on my bike broke as I was trying to unlock it with the key. That was a laugh for the locals, as I tried to explain to them that yes it was in fact my bike and could I borrow some bolt cutters to cut the chain, mostly in actions… I even tried asking the local police after I made an inquiry at their station nearby, but after he came and inspected the situation told me it was not their policy to lend out bolt cutters for that purpose. Luckily, Marcel had a buddy who was around and had some bolt cutters in the back of his car, so that was easy and I reckon it looked pretty legit. But if not, I managed to make a speedy getaway, but I also assured the police fella, that if they get any reports of a bike thief in action, it’s just me.

I got to spend two nights alone in the old castle over two stormy nights. It’s funny really as I remember as a youngster, I’d scare myself half silly when I was home alone. To an extent where instead of being inside alone with my imagination, I’d just hang out on the driveway, or make moves to grandma’s place. The crazy thing is the castle place could totally pull off a horror movie type setting, or even a good old fashioned haunting. It’s a good 5 km to the nearest town, with the only one set of neighbours across the road, and the guy is a lumberjack. There are wheat fields behind the place with dark hefty forests behind that and to the right of the estate, through which the drive makes its way. There was also, I was told, an old Jewish graveyard somewhere nearby too. The castle was full or random artsy items, portraits, animal skulls, antique furniture and cupboards, and old fireplaces. There were cobwebs galore, long hallways, creaky stairs; did I mention it was stormy outside? Either way. Nothing, no urges to run outside. It was just nice to have the place to myself, to work and then relax, naturally.
Marcel was a great person to be staying with, he’d often have visitors stopping by to check out the place or stay the night, so there was always new banter to be had with interesting people’s. Plus we went on a couple day trips out, one to the very beautiful old city of Tabor for my first Indian curry in a while, that was nice. Then another time to Prague. Where I had about 2 hours to walk the streets and marvel at the place and masses of people. It’s a very popular spot! There was one square I came to where there was just crowds and crowds of folk looking up at a building. I thought ‘oh no there’s a jumper… don’t jump mate’. But nope, it was just a clock. An old fancy clock that told the time, and a couple of other things. But to be fair I didn’t understand the fascination. I saw a cool clock in Tabor that had a 24hour clock face. I think the one in Prague was astrological as well. Which is why I was surprised by the fascination. I just thought was fairly superfluous to contemporary life.
Still it was a rather large and impressive square, with much and many other cool things to look at.
I had to remind myself though, that I would be back, this was just a taster.
Back to the countryside, where my ability to calmly pick up large spiders and put them outside was outstanding. I shared the shower with two of them which was always a good chat. They were like white tail spiders in that when you see a white tail, it’s always a big one, you never tend to see any small ones. So it was with these spiders, they were always about the size of an old 20cent coin. Not hairy or anything nefarious, just in the wrong place, and happy enough with a helping hand.
My time in the countryside ended with a bang, literally. Marcel had an old school hand musket, I’d found it earlier in my stay, but forgotten to take him up on the offer to shoot it. So I was glad to finally get it out at about 1am in the morning, to shoot it into the sky. It was pretty cool to load with actual gun powder and then pack in a small lead bullet. Shooting the thing had a fair amount of noise and kick too. I’m hoping to do something similar when I get to the States.
The next morning I had to once again pack my things and move on to the next place, my current location, a place called Zivohost. It’s a popular holiday destination as it’s on a man made lake. I finally got to meet my original intended hosts, Martina and George. I was and am helping tidy up their place on the lake. And once again I’ve been regularly left to my own devices to do so. They both work in Prague, so they can only be at the lake on the weekends or at irregular times throughout the week.
I’m happy when they are here, and I’m happy when it’s just me by myself, as there is a fridge full of food and I have plenty to do. There’s a camp fire, plenty of stars at night, a nearby bar with internet and a fishing rod for exercise in patience and frustration. They have paddle boards and a canoe, oh and a sweet inflatable dingy which is nice to laze about on. I’ve found I’m rather content when I have a paddle in my hand and I’m sitting in a canoe, or standing on a paddle board skirting along the beautiful shoreline of the lake. Especially when I’m joined by a school of fish, or one of the massive fish that alludes my hook.
It’s kinda like lake Karapiro, except no lake weed, or farm land. It’s surrounded by cliffs, trees, a smattering of holiday homes, and on one area a large holiday park. The water is just superb. It hasn’t rained during the day time whilst I’ve been here, which means I’ve been able to work hard clearing trees and turning them into wood chips. Then, to cool off, walk 20m down the now treeless path to the private dock. Yeah, it’s not a bad spot.
I quickly came to the conclusion that it was the type of spot that I’d be happy to remain around a little longer, so I agreed to stay for 2 weeks instead of just the one. This meant I now had a weekend off to figure out some plans. Where to go for 2 nights? Do I go to a place called Pilsen? Where Pilsner beer came from… nah I was told it’s not that nice of a city, and there are plenty of really nice places to choose from. I ended up getting on a train to Slavanice, which is in the south. It was so far south that I was able to run to Austria and back, that was cool. Then I took another train to a place called Telc. It’s a UNESCO protected spot because it’s main square is from the 15th century and is pretty darn cool!
Nice just to walk around and have one side conversations with people, them mostly with me. I found a couple of times I’ll try and chat with someone, but they’ll shake their heads, so I’ll get out the trusty translator app, but they’ll see the Union Jack and then say “oh, do you speak English?”, “yeah, I think so” is my response.
I returned to Prague after Telc, where I stayed with George and Martina at their nice place near the centre. I worked a day at their place, and then got to explore for a day. Prague gets very hot and humid! It made my usual plan of walking around from place to place a bit less enjoyable. But then again, Prague is a city that I’ve been wanting to see for a while. I think it was a Jason Bourne movie, either way, It’s very pretty! Amazing architecture, great coffee and beer, and plenty of nice things to look at. I visited the Communist museum, which is ironically next to a Casino. That was interesting! Though later, when I quietly walked around the massive St. Vitus Cathedral, there was a tomb for the former bishop of Prague who held the position during the early communist regime. The thing that stood out when I was reading his impressive and very formidable life, was his advocacy for Freedom of Conscience. That was the interesting comparison between him and the commies, where they wanted one conscience.
I was able to depart the heat of Prague for the refreshing coolness of the Lake earlier than expected, and do so in the company of some new buddies. I’d met them the week before, when whilst taking a break from the trees, they, all of a sudden were there. Paco, is a buddy of George’s and was taking a much needed lake day with some lovely young German ladies, who had finished their studies in Prague, so that broke the silence and I ate very well that day, and again when they brought me back!
I realised the other day that I am now beyond the halfway point of my trip. Kinda disappointed by that fact. It no longer feels like yesterday that I was in Japan, so much has happened since then. I guess it’s rather the complete otherness of this side of my travels. Next Friday, I’ll be touching down in a place I’m very fond of and familiar with, Scotland. I’ve liked not being able to understand people. You get to experience the silence of ignorance for a change. Where you will sit a a table with people, not having a clue what is being said, so you get to just listen to the foreigness of the language. So yeah, everything from Scotland is all very familiar to me.
I’m not complaining, and true, some Scottish accents are fairly close to a foreign language too, but I love it.
I’ve loved the struggle of Japanese, of Greek, Macedonian, Serbian~Bosnian~Croatian, Hungarian and Czech and for my final week German. Though I’ve met a lot of Germans on this trip, and all of them have spoken English really well. I like German, it has an element of fun to it.
Sadly I’m going to be moving on from the Czech Republic on Sunday, tomorrow. Its been the place I’ve stayed the longest of all the places I’ve visited so far. But to be fair, I wish I could have spent 25 days in all the countries I visited, well perhaps not Slovakia. I didn’t much like Slovakia ;) .


An assortment of cities

I’m sitting in the shade of a big walnut tree, outside of an old Czech Manor or mini castle in a place called Elbancice. I’m sampling another of the tasty amber beverages the Czechs are known for, as I’m quite thirsty after a bit of a bike ride into the nearest town, Mlada Vozice, perhaps 5 km away. It’s my second full day here, and its a bit of a change of pace and outlook compared to the previous 10 days or so.
I’m in the countryside surrounded by fields of wheat, with forrests of oak and pine overlooking it all. It’s nice to hear the sound of birds again. It’s quite a peaceful spot.
So I’m staying here for another of those Workaway situations. I hadn’t planned on it initially, but I received a phone call when I was in Zagreb from my original Czech workaway telling me they had to go to Switzerland and wouldn’t be able to have me until later, but they got me in touch with their friend Marcel who owns a big castle type thing, who would certainly appreciate the help. So here I am.
The place has a historical significance because of the natural waters that used to flow here. There was a chapel over the baths, and a massive estate house/castle built to accommodate the daily excursions of folk visiting the baths. Apparently when they built a road nearby, they must have struck the water flow as it stopped. So the chapel and baths went to ruin, but the house has lingered on with a high level of charm and uniqueness.
In exploring the place when I first got here, I discovered a large selection of antique swords and axes, that was cool. As I’ve seen plenty of them in the museums that I’ve visited, but never have i been able to hold them and swipe the air with them, well, thats a different feeling.
So yeah I’ll be here until the 9th then I’ll head over to the other place where I’d originally planned to go. So yeah I’ve got a bit of time to enjoy in the Czech Republic.
But how did I get here?
Well, I spent another beautiful day in Split, Croatia, the rugby turned out to be alright. Not exactly too flash, but not too bad. There was also some games on the next day as well so that was a treat.
I liked Split, it had a cool Mediterranean feel to it. I liked Zagreb too, the capital of Croatia. Though I was only there for an afternoon, but what I saw I liked. I went to the “Museum of broken hearts and failed relationships”. Mainly because I hadn’t seen anything like that before, and a little curious. It wasn’t that great to be honest, some of the stories donated by people were not that surprising as to their failures, some fairly twisted and broken people out there.
I did get to sit and enjoy some of Croatia’s finest Craft beers though, surprise surprise. Was at the Golden Bear, and it was terrific.
The other highlight of my trip to Zagreb was almost loosing my iPad again. I was on the tram back to where I was staying, and I got chatting to a Croatian fella now living in the States, and we were having a good conversation when all of a sudden it was my stop. So I bid him farewell, shook his had and got off the tram. Only to realise perhaps 5 steps later that “CRAP” my iPad was still on the tram now moving away at speed.
Many a scenario past through my head as to what I should do; go back to where I was staying and hope my host could track it down, run after the tram, or try and swallow the loss. I didn’t do any of those, instead I sat there and waited. I waited for the next tram number 6 which came along 8 minutes later. I explained to the conductor guy my situation, thankfully he understood English and was able to suggest getting out at the next station as that tram with my iPad should be coming along shortly. He was right, it came chugging along imminently and its conductor was ready for me, reaching out his window holding my iPad book case thing. Pretty thankful. That’s the second time my negligence hasn’t cost me…
The following morning I took a train for Budapest, a place I had heard many a good thing.It was probably one of the better train journeys I’ve had. I met and chatted with two other fellow travellers, and shared a first class private booth, a good way to spend 4 hours.
In Budapest I was not disappointed. Firstly, my accomodation was 10 metres from a craft beer bar, that was nice, but also Budapest is very beautiful, charming and a great place to walk around. The only complaint would be the number of other travellers with the same idea. So many tourists, tour groups, school groups, stag and hen weekends, and general revellers to contend with. Still I enjoyed myself.

Not however to the full extent of what was on offer in Budapest. I was offered cocaine at one point, by one of the most unlikeliest drug dealers. I was walking back to my place after checking out the city at night, probably around midnight, I was almost home when I walked past a youngish fella out walking his dog, with his lady. I walk past him and he called back to me, then comes closer asking with a pronounced stutter, “you want any c-c-c-c-cocaine?” “Nah, I’m alright thanks” was my polite response. “What about some m-m-marijuana?”, to which again I graciously decline his generous offer, “nah, I’m all good thanks bro.”
So yeah, turns out Budapest is a bit of a party town by night, and the locals will spot foreigners and offer them all kinds of drugs, as another fella I chatted to also told me, as I saw him get offered them right in front of me. To be honest, I preferred what Budapest had to offer during the daytime.
One more unexpected thing however, was on my final night there, I had heard about a really beautiful old theatre that had been made into an eclectic movie theatre, and it was really close by. So I went to go have a wee nosey, and yeah it was pretty darn beautiful, but the cooler thing was one of the movies they were advertising was “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. Turned out it was their main movie that night, so I thought why not, I’m in Budapest. I found myself sitting to some nice young German ladies who had heard a great deal about the movie and were very excited to see it. So I let them know I was happy to answer any questions they might have about the New Zealand peculiarities from the movie. It was nice to hear the laughter and appreciation for a now classic Kiwi film. Though I did find that I was the only one laughing at certain moments.
I pushed onto Bratislava the following day after spending 4 days in Budapest, and to be fair to Bratislava, I probably should have visited it after Bosnia, as it was a bit of a step down from Budapest. The train station was old and run down, apparently the city had been battling corruption in trying to get it renovated. But that wasn’t the depressing part, it was walking down to where I was staying, through derelict, graffiti ridden parks, along uninspiring streets to a hostel, where I had the pleasure of sharing 3 nights with 3 other dudes, two of whom, loved a good snore. But I digress, Bratislava, I heard, has a very cool old town and square, again I was a bit underwhelmed, sure it was nice, but the communists sure did a number of the place. Very drab 4 story buildings, with not much in the way of beauty, apart from a change of colour here and there. I walked around pretty much all it had to offer in the space of 2 hours. I began to regret committing to 3 days here, but I’d already paid for my accomodation. I figured a couple of day trips to Vienna would be a better use of my time, as it is only 45 mins away.
So the next day, I jumped on a bus first thing and headed to Austria’s capital, a place stepped in real history, power and prestige, and I was not disappointed.
It was just great! Once I got off the subway station into the heart of the place I was just a happier person. Vienna has class, beauty and sophistication. Beautiful streets, buildings and many a wonderfully kept park. It even had a whole punch of folk dressed up like Mozart asking me to come to their performances.
I very much enjoyed Vienna! It’s not surprising really that Vienna is so very nice. When you think of its history. It was the power and influence behind the building of much of Eastern Europe. The Austro-Hungarian empire was quite a biggy, and it was home to a number of very fascinating people.
I left it with every intention of returning there the following day. However, when I got back to the vastly quieter Bratislava, I had to check the reality of my spending that day. It was a hefty day, museums and food was probably 3X the usual, or rather what I had become accustomed to in Eastern Europe. So I sadly had to put a pin in Vienna, and try to enjoy a quiet day in Bratislava.
I just faffed about, had an average coffee, attempted to visit a museum which was naturally closed. I thought I’d hire a bike to go out to another museum at a castle, but that was also closed. So I went to the castle the commies built in the 50’s. It was a white block with 4 cylinder turrets, thats about it.
I tried to make the most of it by reading in the park beneath it. That was nice until an English girl of perhaps 7 years came off a swing nearby and probably broke her arm. That was poor.
The poorest thing though was the inaction of the dad.
When it happened, mum ran over there in an instant, and dad just reluctantly followed suit. Mother then looked to comfort the girl, dad watched on. It didn’t look like they were going to be able to get her back down to the main road, as mother was trying to coax the girl, and dad held the bag.
I didn’t feel it my my place to interject, but I felt I needed to do something, so I went over there and asked if they had any items in their bag that might be useful in making a tourniquet. “Oh no, I don’t think so” says dad looking… and pulls out a spare girls dress. “That’ll do”, I say and get to work, remembering my wilderness first aid training, and trying to put little Isabel at ease in the whole situation. She could move her fingers, but it hurt a lot, and she couldn’t raise it up, so I made it immobile by tying it to her side and got her walking down. She didn’t like the idea of going to the hospital, but by the look of the swelling that had recently appeared, that’s was going to have to happen. I regret not seeing them all the way down, but figured I’d done enough.
So yeah, Bratislava, ruining everyone’s day since ages ago.

I was glad to be getting on an early train for Prague the next day, but it probably wasn’t early enough as I was joined the night before by the snoring champion of Syria, a good guy when awake, but a complete ballhead when asleep. Prague from what I saw of it was pretty darn nice, fricken hot, but nice.
I gladly paid the 24hour bag storage fee to briefly walk around outside to get a SIM card for my phone. Once that was sorted I got in touch with Marcel, the guy I’m staying with in his Castle for the workaway, who picked me up from the train station, and gave me a small tour of the city in the car. It’s handy as he spends half his time in Prague, so knows it well. The other half is spent at his country Castle, accomodating guests and weddings, and from that, renovate the place. That’s where I come in, I guess.
I’m pretty stoked I’m getting to have these experiences in far away places, it’s pretty unique.

On my return from the bike ride today I stopped off at a much older castle, well the ruins of it. And there is a homestead nearby, where the people have utilised their location by putting on an annual medieval fair over the weekend. I’m told there will be a number of cool things to see, do and taste. So yeah, thats my weekend sorted:)


Me loving Vienna
Getting a haircut
Bratislava’s wonderful parks
A fun place to hang out.
Yeup it’s rather nice.

Bullet holes and my escape…

It was a curious thing exploring Sarajevo, being Bosnia’s capital, there is a certain charm, plus, it’s definite mix of cultures makes the place very distinct. You could be walking the wide avenues of a European city, then be squished in by the old Turkish bazaar with its overflowing stalls, plentiful Turkish coffee and many a hearty beard.
The other aspect of this is, it’s quite obvious the place has been through hard times, which puts it lightly. Bullet holes still riddle the facades of buildings, some more scarred that others. I went there excited by the prospect of seeing where Gavrello Princep changed the world with two bullets. I left with a profoundly saddened understanding of one it’s outcomes.

The siege of Sarajevo was something I can remember brief news reports about, being 9 when it all kicked off. I remained ignorant of its impact. It was quite humbling to see, in the many museums looking to records its events, the reality of the suffering of that war. It’s disappointing to know with a certainty, that though we have these monuments to a horrific past, they will not serve to stop the next. Concentration camps were used by both sides in this war, and are still used today in others. The one thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

So yes, I pushed on to my Workaway with the rafting place. To my disappointment, it was not as I hoped for. Rather it was a place where they had made a managerial decision to utilise volunteers as the brunt of their workforce. They expected volunteers to “come to terms with” the fact that 45-50+ hours of work in a week would be the reality. The normal being 25. Suffice to say I did not take long to come to different terms and pack up my gear and head to another beautiful yet equally troubled Bosnian city, Mostar.

I managed to score myself an entire house in the Muslim side of the river, maybe 200m away from the famous ‘not so old bridge’. That was a nice change. See I’m not really one for staying in hostels. A couple bad experiences will do that to you. The accomodation at the rafting place was also 11 of us volunteers packed in like sardines into a turret type building. With the added luxury of one bathroom between us all. Still the ‘us’ at that place was truly great. A really great eclectic bunch of people, sharing the same misery, and becoming fast friends in the process. That was the only hard decision I had to make when deciding to leave. I would also be leaving a bloody good bunch of volunteers. Ouch well, let’s hope I can replicate that again soon.

So Mostar was darn pretty. The river that divided the city is a thing of beauty. Clear deep waters flowing quickly under a lot of bridges, with cliffs, rapids, parks and the beautiful ‘not so old bridge’ to cap it off.
Once again though, it’s recent horrible past was clearly visible in the many bullet holes, bigger tank round holes, and empty shells of once marvellous buildings. Also the ‘not so old bridge’, got its name in that conflict, for some persistent concentrated tank rounds finally brought it down as a means of moving the frontline back over the river. The conflict that took place in Mostar was fought on both sides of the river. The Croatians on one side and the Bosnians on the other. Again the sad realities of fighting a war over ones ethnicity and thus ones religion by apparent default, was clearly visible.
Both places I stayed in had bullet holes riddling their walls.
Still though, Mostar is a really beautiful place. It has smaller rivers with smaller bridges but are not less pretty. I found my favourite craft beer place so far, which overlooked one of these bridges. I’ve realised my routine of visiting cities is to have a quick explore on the first day, then a mixture of further exploration taking in museums, coffee and beer, not necessarily in that order and often on numerous occasions throughout the day.

I’m currently in Split, Croatia. It’s a nice place that goes back to the Roman Emperor Diocletian of the 3rd century. He built a massive walled villa for his retirement, where he apparently had a marvellous time growing cabbages. Anyways, the walled off part of town was built up and torn down, added to, as the typical procedure for a city on the banks of the Mediterranean. So now, the central old town is a rabbit warren of lane ways, squares, markets, museums and galleries; cafes, restaurants and every other shop you may need. The great thing is I’m here for 4 nights. I’ve still got one more full day ahead of me. Yesterday consisted of, coffee, museum, long walk to a nice beach, then beer and dinner. Today, has consisted of coffee, museum, another coffee and soon a rugby 7’s tournament.
Yeah, rugby, in Croatia.
I was equally as surprised. I saw the posts and thought “noooo, that’s not a rugby field is it!” But yes, it was. And there was even a team training. So naturally I went in and checked it out. Found the entrance next to a bar called the “rugby bar”, and I found out after chatting to a couple of their coaches that they have a 7’s tournament today. So yeah. I’m about to go enjoy that.

Ahead of me, I managed to arrange another work away place 40min south of Prague Czech Republic. I told them I’d start on the 30th of May, which means I have about 9 days to get there.
I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty darn excited by this. My plan so far is, a night in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. Then I’ll push on to Budapest in Hungary for 4 nights, then 3 nights in Bratislava, Slovakia, which happens to be a mere hour bus ride from Vienna, Austria, so a day trip there to see some galleries will be in order.
The only concern I have with this is making sure I stick to my budget, other wise I’ll have to stay longer at the Workaway to make up for it. What I’ve found is the life as a tourist haemorrhages money, life doing Workaway, costs very little. I spent maybe 50cents in the 10 days I was in the Serbian Workaway. That was gold.
Anyways, I best make a move to go and see how the sevens rugby in Croatia is played. From what I saw of their training, pretty good.
We shall see.


Relic to the past
The valley of indentured servitude
Looking up through the gap between the buildings


A bridge that changed your life…

So it’s been a little while since my last report, and to be fair not a lot happened.
I spent a good chunk of it in a very small village in the countryside of the eastern part of Serbia, near the Danube river and Romanian boarder. I didn’t get out much, apart from two trips to church on the Saturdays and I was lucky enough to be taken along to a birthday party. That was an experience!
When I was told we were going to an 18th birthday party, I thought “hmmm this will be interesting”, and I was not disappointed. It honestly looked like I had walked into a wedding reception. The decorations screamed wedding, everyone was dressed to the nines, the main man greeted people as they arrived, photographers recorded everyone’s entrance, and hovered about taking snaps of the lively celebration. It started off fairly quiet, with this being broken by an an amazing ensemble of not one accordion but two, and a violinist, drummer and a player on keys. So many amazing accordion ummm interludes, I guess that’s what they were. Here I was thinking the accordion, as an instrument, had been put to bed like the harpsichord, or kazoo, but no, I have never been so wrong. People seemed to love it too, so I guess that only confirms it’s validity as a means of getting the party started.
And it cranked from 2pm in the afternoon well beyond when we left at midnight. There was traditional Serbian dancing, foods and ummm the traditional smoke of a hundred cigarettes.
After that joyful occasion, I pretty much just got to work stacking large logs into neatly packed rows. Good honest work.
Sadly it rained from Thursday on, which meant, the work was more undercover and thus easier. I had a great time staying with Dragan and Vera, my Workaway hosts, with their two awesome German shepherds, 3 cats, and 300,000 bees. Though I didn’t have much to do with the bees, apart from enjoy their produce. It’s great knowing that you can return to a place in the future and be welcome, which I would like to take them up on. I managed to be a hang of a lot more effective learning the local language. Attempting to put two words a days into my vocabulary. I made this a focus as I can use this knew knowledge of Serbian in Belgrade, in Bosnia, though they call it Bosnian, and Croatian in Croatia. Apparently I’m not meant to call it Serbian any more, which will probably catch me out. But, I guess English becomes Scottish when in Scotland, so it’s fine…

I spent two great days exploring around Belgrade after I finished up on the farm. My accomodation was right in the middle of the city, which was gold. ‘Tis an interesting place Serbia, it has a troubled past, an ancient past full of struggles, oppression by many tyrants, plenty internal and external strife, and some very recent. And yet, the people are so darn friendly, and so very proud of from where they have come.
However, one criticism; they have pretty much ignored the whole refugee situation. They have thousands squatting around their country with many in Belgrade itself, only to be left to their own devices, except for the wonderful and very hard working volunteers and NGOs that feed and look out for them. The thing is, Serbians themselves know what it is like to be refugees, to be persecuted in places they called home. To be killed, hunted, and derided. So I find it a bit weak and shortsighted that they have responded with mostly apathy, with spottings of hostility.

It’s a poor country, that’s kinda obvious, but it also meant the price of things was a lot cheaper than other parts of Europe, and when you’re on a budget it’s amazingly cheap. We’re talking 60 cents NZ for a 500ml bottle of local beer, at your local supermarket. Coffee, and by coffee I mean a Macchiato is 150 denar, $1.80 nz… I’ve made the move to Macchiatos, because for some reason the Balkan people prefer long life UHT milk instead of fresh, which tastes poor in a coffee. I’m a bit perplexed by their preference, I’ll try and get to the bottom of it and keep you posted.
After my last big travel days I remembered my great dislike of taking the bus. So instead of putting myself through an 8 hour ordeal on a stuffy, packed bus. I paid just a little more to a travel agency that run a door to door shuttle service from Belgrade to Sarajevo, 5 hours later I’m here. I’m fairly excited by what I’ll get to see and do. The very first thing I did, after I got kinda settled into my accomodation, again super central, was to head to the bridge that changed History. It’s now called the Latin Bridge, it was the place where Gavrelo Princip assassinated the crown prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria Hungary in 1914. It was a pebble moved by a grain of sand that caused a landslide that caused the very mountain of history to be changed forever.
Honestly, it’s such a crazy thing to wrestle with, no offence to Sarajevo, but it’s a fairly insignificant kind of place, and yet when you see the plaque, telling you the spot where the shots rang out, it’s crazy to think of the unforeseen impact.
As you probably didn’t know, this was the event that instigated the war that began all wars… WW1. Gavrello Princip was a Serbian nationalist, looking to free his home land of yet another foreign oppressor, they’d just managed to throw off the Ottoman yoke, only to be taken over by the Austrians. Austria-Hungary, naturally, declared war upon Serbia, who being Slavic, appealed to their brethren to the far North, the mighty Russian’s for protection. The Austrians in turn, asked their allies to their north if they had their support, the might of Bismark’s Germany. So yeah, when the Russians started to mobilise their troops, the Germans had to follow suit. And because Russia was allied with France, that meant we had a real war on our hands.
However it got bigger when Germany, in order to sort out the French, before they could sort out the Russians, had to pass through Neutral Belgium. They asked very politely for the Belgians to let them pass through, but the Belgians, couldn’t allow this. And thus they destroyed roads, bridges, rail, whatever they could to stop the grey mass of German forces. The Germans retaliated harshly and so the Belgians appealed to the consigner of their neutrality, Britain. And thus is how NZ, Aussie, Canada and whoever else was in the commonwealth went to war with Germany.
But you see that simply cannot be where the implications of Princip’s actions end. WW1 was the instigator of the fall of the Tsar in Russian to the communist regime, it paved the way for Hitler’s fascism in Germany. Which lead into WW2, the Cold War, Korean War, war in Afghanistan, and thus September 11th. It led to Britain taking Palestine off the Turks which lead to the regimes in the Middle East today. I.E Syria.
It is really quite amazing to consider the reach of the actions of a radicalised 19 year old Serbian Nationalist. Naturally he didn’t act alone, but that’s something if you’re interested you can ask me about another time.
It’s funny really, as we tend to have the belief that one person can not change the world. It’s that picture of the boy on the beach throwing star fish back into the ocean after a storm- ‘You can’t change the world but you can change it for the people in your sphere of influence’. But that is proven completely false with Princip. Because, though he didn’t mean to, his actions are still impacting us today. I mean how many people died, because of him? You have the millions from WW1 the millions of WW2, the millions related to the spread of Communism and the countless numbers outside of those conflicts. You have to wonder, if the young 19 year old knew the outcome of his actions, would he go through with it?
I saw a t-shirt in Belgrade with Princips face on it with the words “It’s a matter of Princip” as in it was the principle of the thing. Still, I find this incredibly hard to reconcile.
And so, I walked away from the spot to ponder. To mull over the share amazement of the story, I mean if you don’t know it, look it up, or again ask me, as the timing of the thing is like it was fated to happen… it’s amazing.
I’m pretty happy to be in Sarajevo, I’m here until Friday when I take a short bus ride, thankfully, down to a place called Konjic, from where I will be picked up by my next workaway, to be a rafting guide on the Naretva River, that’s sure to be fun. However before then, I’m really looking forward to frequenting the Bridge that changed the world, just to try and take it all in. But also, seek to learn more about the principle as to why I’m in Sarajevo. Because I wouldn’t be except for that darned bridge.