Sunday, October 01, 2006

A farewell to Portion 2 - Oktoberfest!

Well time is passing fast. Aaron and I have celebrated our 5th month anniversary from leaving the states, Nithin has spent over half a year abroad, and Mike and Brandle ... well they have been gone a long time too. Oktoberfest was our (well - Aaron, Brandle, Mike and my) send-off from Potion 2. Now we are all travelling alone, entering our solo travel potion.

I guess I should talk about Oktoberfest a bit, but unfortunatly I have less than perfect memory of it. Could be that I experienced so much this trip that my brain can only handle so many memories, or perhaps it's the fact that at Oktoberfest they serve beer by the Liter. However, I can say that we met up with Liz and Nicky (good friends from back at KU), we meet a lot of German folk, (including a guy with a towel on his head, who is now my enemy), we went on two of the coolest rollercoasters ever, and I spent more in 2 days that I did in 2 weeks in Turkey.

Well these are a few of the photos that showed up on my camera the next morning.... Enjoy!

Mike with a new Bavarian friend

Out for a cool refreshing afternoon brewsky

Attempt at a "Beer Moustach"

Friday, September 29, 2006

Coca's Best of Portion 2 Awards!

And the vote(s) are in! The best photos of the greatest portion names after the illustrious 2nd digit of the positive sector of the number line are in. Let's see the results below.

Best Patriotic Photo! - me displaying my Bulgarian pride during the reunification day ceromonies. Beats the rain soaked, scared running photo from the Hungarian National Holiday earlier.

Best Attempt at American-ness! - Nothing says American better than a Hot-Dog from a cart with the god-almighty Confederate Flag! Long live the Confedaracy!

Best Meal! - Home cooked Vegetarian delight with Romanian veggies costing pence on the dollar. Look at the enthusiastic crowd! Sighisoara, Romania.

Best View! From the train crossing Romania to Bulgaria on the Bospor express. All aboard!

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Picture time

Ok so these pictures are from lake Bled

This is us guys and a Brit (Will) from London (left) right after we completed our canyoning experience. As you can tell we have on the wet suit.

This would be Will and Brandle looking at one of the crazy beautiful gorges around Bled

This is the actual Lake. In the center is a tiny island with a church or something. Anyway, the picture looks nice but seeing it in person is much better. Also, I don't know why this text is underlined but oh well.

Finally, this is a shot that Brandle took of the boat taxi people. Tourist season is dying down so they don't do all that much anymore. Of course we would never pay for such a service.

If you ever get to Slovenia this is definatly worth a look. The town is beautiful and the water sports are much cheaper than those in Switzerland. Plus these are the Alps too... the Julian Alps I believe.


It's been awhile

so hello there... after a month or so of no updates i figure it's about time for me to post something because well we are just about to enter into portion 3 of our trip and portion 2 got little to no action from the guy at the keyboard.

Anyway, my whereabouts the last few weeks have been all over the place. As we started portion 2 we entered into Czech Republic. From there I did Poland, Hungry, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and finally I am currently in Salzburg Austria resting up before a few crazy days in Munich for Oktoberfest. Anyway, I can say honestly say that the past few weeks have been a blast. I've gone canyoning in Slovenia, camping and cliff diving on the islands of Croatia, seen war torn Bosnia and Serbia and lived for almost nothing in Romania. On top of all of that, of course there have been the nights of music, drink and excitement.

An interesting tidbit for those of you who like beer. Eastern europe is know for their beer but not for the big portions of food (much like the rest of Europe). However, i do find it funny that you can buy a 2 liter plastic bottle of beer at almost any supermarket or convenient store. I will say that it tastes a lots worse out of the plastic 2 liter than from the glass bottle or tap but it's something that you have to experience if you come to europe. Imagine playing Edward 2 liter hands... I think you would probably die or piss yourself. The Europeans have no idea what that is (also probably the parents reading this).

Anyway, moving on... It's been great fun most of the time, but at one point i think I did hit a 3 month wall where I got a bit tired of the constant moving about and I had to reevaluate what i was doing. But fortunately this hasn't lasted that long at all. Meeting new people and doing new exciting activities such as canyoning and cliff diving have made it all worth while. For those of you who are not aware of what canyoning is... it's essentially cliff diving but instead of diving into the ocean in a swim suit... It is jumping down a gorge into small holes sometimes maybe 3x3 or so wearing a wet suit because the water is super cold and fresh (you can drink it). Anyway, the canyoning cost a bit of money because of the equipment and such but it was well worth it. I'd highly suggest it to anyone who hasn't done it before.

So now is where I talk about my future plans. After Oktoberfest I will be heading off to Italy to meet my father in Florence and Rome. However, before that I have about 5 days where I'll explore Venice and possibly a few other cities in northern Italy. From there I'll be flying to Turkey to have my first experience of middle eastern culture (i figure sliding into it is better than jumping) and then from there I'll be heading off to Egypt, Israel and Jordan. This should take up most of my portion 4 time and will probably conclude in early to middle November. From here It's off to the UAE for a few days and then India, Thailand and the rest of SE Asia.

So from here I leave to Munich tomorrow to drink beer and party... so I say good day to you.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

The World Is too Bıg!

Well I am fınally preparıng to leave Turkey and ıts tıme to start plannıng agaın. Its a terrıble but ınevıtable part of travellıng that you have to set some tıme asıde to scourge the ınternet for the cheapest flıghts, always convencıng yourself ıf you just look longer somethıgn wıll turn up.

Over the few weeks of plannıng I have changed my plans to fly over the mıddle east to get to Indıa and Asıa, to headıng overland and spend more tıme ın Jordan, Syrıa, and Iran than I am ın Thaıland, whıch was once goıng to be a huge chunck of my trıp. I also went from flyıng straıght to Beıjıng, avoıdıng Japan, to flyıng to Japan and takıng a boat to Beıjıng, back to flyıng dırect to Chına skıp Japan. It was a very sad moment for me. Also arrangıng New Years plans, tryıng to corrıspond so that frıends from back home and come vısıt for a few weeks, have shıfted all over Asıa. Orgınally set so that we spend New Years ın Hong Kong, ıt looks more lıke ıt may be ın Thaıland and I could skıp Hong Kong all together.

The poınt of the matter ıs, as we have saıd tıme and tıme agaın, the world ıs far too bıg and 1 year ıs far too lıttle tıme to be able to fıt ıt all ın. Ohhh, ıt paıns me all the places I cant go, but so ıs the way of budget travellıng.

My ıtınerary ıs always changıng but you can get the latest form of where I thınk I wıll be ın the Itınerary sectıon.


I aplogıze that none of the Is have dots over them but I am typıng on a turkısh keyboard.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nithin: Update from Thessaloniki, Greece

Time for a more traditional entry. The past two days I've been Couchsurfing with a extremely friendly Greek couple, Antonia and Cristos, who live in the hills of Thessaloniki, Greece. Thessaloniki (or Salonica) is the 2nd largest city in Greece, and not frequented by tourists.

Maybe its a normal Greek thing, but this city is filled with ruins. And so casually, as you walk down the street, next to the shopping mall, and even in allies. People sleeping on ruins, drinking on ruins. And no mention of these Ruins by Lonely Planet, or by my hosts. Though I assume if I lived here, I probably wouldn't notice the ruins either.

Last night, I met up with another Couchsurfer, Tilemahos, who was nice enough to take a break from studying (its exam time for Greeks) and take me to his favorite Taverna, a tiny place tucked between two narrow steets halfway up the hills of the city. It was exactly the kind of place one would never find on their own, but here I was, sipping Greek white wine with a local, eating food that he had specially choosen for me, but the names of which I didn't know. We talked about politics, culture, girls, and languages, the meaning of friendliness. He admonished me for pretending to like anything that I was given to be "polite", telling me that lieing was a greater insult.

I wish I could spend more time in Greece. The atmosphere, the openness of the locals, is something I've only gotten a taste off. And therein is one problem with travelling - even one year is not enough. You never have enough time to see everything. But I promise you, Hellas, I will be back! Tomorrow, I head to Meteora, then after that, Turkey by some means.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Last night in Istanbul

Hmmm, I started typing up a serious reflexion on Istanbul (where I am now) and how it is the melting pot between the west and east and how eariler today I was hearing the muslim chanting from all the mosques outside while inside the owner to the hostel was watching an episode of "How I met you mother" and blah blah blah. But the internet erased everything I wrote so instead I will write about something a little bit lighter...

Well tonight started off kind of sad since the guy I have been travel with for the past three weeks, James, was about to leave to fly back to Edinburgh after a short stop over in Sofia, Bulgaria. James and I met in Cluj Napoca, Romania one night when it seemed that we were the only people in the hostel wanting to go get a beer. Now a quick note about meeting people in hostels, there is a special phenomenon that happens among people who are all travelling. Travelling friendships do not work along the same timeline as perhaps a normal friendship would if you were back at home. No, people who are travelling are naturally in a more open, relaxed mindset willing, and wanting to meet new people from all around the world, not the mention that they are in a foreign land so they have no other friends to hang out with.

So it normally works out like this, after hanging with a group of people for one night you are comfortable with each other and end up having a great time! By the second night you are all proper friends. The third night of going out, everyone is best friends and it's just like hanging out with a group of your oldest friends from back home. Well James and I were hangout non-stop for the past three weeks together, and we got along really well, so it was sad that we were finally splitting up.

Luckily as we were wandering the streets waiting until James needed to leave to catch his bus we ran into a local Turkish guy named Mehmet. We first met Mehmet when we arrived in Istanbul, he was kind enough to show us all the way to our hostel and he didn't even want to sell us a carpet afterwards (everyone in Istanbul wants to sell you a carpet). Somehow, we ran into Mehmet everyday afterwards all around town, which in a town of 17 million people is quite impressive.

We ended up spending the next hour at our favorite Nargile bar located behind the Blue Mosque, laughing, having fun with the waiters and meeting more locals. Turkish hospitality is really amazing!

(right) Mehmet
(below)James and I at a Nargile bar


My Bulgarian Mother


No country has given me the first impression as Bulgaria.

The train ride into the country was amazing. It was like Kansas, but painted, red, orange, brown sunflowers, an empty countryside on the Bosphor express. It was small train, the conductor took all our tickets and kept checking to make sure we all knew when to get off. Most people were heading to Istanbul, me and a few others, to Veliko Tornovo. Heard of it?

I had no accomodation, and Bulgaria is my first illiterate country (AKA - country where i can't read anything, as they use Cyrillic, like Russian). Others on the train told me that the hostels in the city were completely booked up.

Of course, when I got off, a friendly lady was there to offer a private room. She was small, 5-5, old, but energetic, and took me on a walking tour of Veliko Tornovo, one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria, teeming with history. The room was amazing, 3 beds to myself, a fantastic balcony and view of the city, so amazing that I'm still here.

I became her son, in some sense. She wrote down the address, told me not to go out, told me who I should not hang out with. Later when I was out with some fellow travellers who were on the same train as I, she showed up randomly and forced me to go home, saying my new friends were, quote "narcotics". I had no choice but to agree, she was my mom. She then walked me to my room, which I soon snuck out of. Just like high school!

Velicko Tornovo has made my heart warm, and I'll be sad to leave tomorrow morning. Photos and more stories to come!

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Beograd, Serbia

This is Brandle, hailing from Belgrad, Serbia. I apologize for not posting in a while, it is not very easy to find time to type on a computer out here. Well, to give you a small breakdown of my latest journey, I've spent the last month travelling through the Czech Republik, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and soon to be Croatia. I've written everyday down in my journal and I'm waiting for the moment when I can type it all up for everyone to read. For now I'll tell you about Romania. Mike and I headed to the Transylvania area...Sighisoara and Brasov. Sighisoara is just plain beautiful. It is exactly the place where you would find a vampire wandering the streets at night. The old city sits on a hill top covered in trees. The rooftops are red and very triangular, with sharp points rising high above. The buildings are all crooked and craggy, with a large church and citadel at the top. I found myself in awe as I wandered alone through these streets. There were no tourists anywhere, I got that feeling agian that I am in a special place 100 percent different from anything familiar to me. I found myself strolling along the exterior city wall along the cliffside. I sat down and eventually two things happened to me. First, a little crippled blind old lady wandered out of a tunnel and over to me. She wanted money. Instead, I wanted to give her a conversation. I only knew how to speak a few sentances in Romanian, but it worked just fine. She showed me her blind card which had her disfigured face in a small photograph inside. I expect she used this to show people what a horrible position she is in. She explained to me that there is no money to get help for her. She can not be fixed, so she just wears an eye patch to cover up her eyeball. I asked if I could photograph her and she said yes. I told her that I literally had no Romanian money. But I pulled out some Hungarian coins and she was satisfied with those. I said good bye and she was so happy, she kissed my hand as she walked away down the steep concrete steps leading to the modern city below. In the same place, a few minutes later, a boy, 9 years old named Noah came up to me like I was his best friend. He said "hey! and said follow me," motioning along the wall into some covered bushes. I walked back there with him, being cautious of course, and found a trash pit by the wall. He sat down and pulled out a soggy carton of old cigarettes he probably found in the trash. He asked if I wanted one and I said no. He asked for a light but I didn't have one. So he took the cigarette that he was currently smoking and lit the end of the soggy one he pulled from the box. He asked where I was from and I told him America. His eyes widened and he suddenly became very interested. He asked me all kinds of stuff. I asked if I could take his photo in return and he let me....A nine year old smoking a cigarette in a trash pretty much speaks for itself. He was a very friendly little boy. He wanted to take my photo as well. I trusted him and gave him my camera (ready to grab him of course if he tried to run off with it) but he took my photo and laughed because he could see it on the digital screen. Anyway, he also wanted money of course and he didn't complain when I gave him Hungarian coins. I said goodbye and he held out his hand so I shook it, and left.

Brasov is not quite as nice in my opinion. It is more of a city with more tourists. Mike and I went hiking in the mountains and ran into a local hiking by himself. When I asked if there was anything to be worried about here, he said "watch out for the bears!" So I guess there are bears here. I explained to Mike what to do in case we ran into a bear. Fortunately, I have extensive knowledge on what to do in the case of a bear attack thanks to my Mother. She would read bear attack stories to my brother and I when we were kids road tripping around the national parks of the west and Canada. If there we were to ever run into a bear, my mother had preped us to know exactly what to do. So, Mike was safe for the time being. Brasov has very steep mountains rising up right at the edge of the city with a "hollywood-esque" BRASOV sign at the top of the peak. It is beautiful but it is "city beautiful" if you know what I mean.

Now we are in Serbia. On the train ride here, I couldn't help to notice the concrete buildings of the towns we passed. Some were riddin with bullet holes and scars of war. I don't quite know the history of the past 15 years here, but I know they weren't very happy years. I'll tell you more when I find out about it.

I'll let everyone know how the sunny, crystal clear water beaches of Croatia are. Mike and I are about to take our first vacation from travelling. I know that sounds weird to some of you, but travelling is almost like a job. You have to be responsible and on top of things to survive. Well now is our time to not worry about anything and just chill for a few days. I'll let you know how it turns out.