Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

Europe doesn’t know, man

so yeah, man, Europe’s almost done.
went to Vienna yesterday for the day. wasn’t bad. freezing cold, very clean. while I can understand everything a little better – I took german, and it’s a romance language – I prefer Hungary a little more. dirtier. cheaper. less touristy.
I did the entire day in flip flops I bought at a mall in Budapest, which didn’t go very well. they rubbed the wrong way, and I got some rough scars on the tops of my feet. I’ll always remember Austria.

Mar and I are staying with her homeboy from the university. Irish guy named Eric. real nice guy, riding his bike back to Ireland in the next few weeks. that’s like, what, couple hundred miles?
he’s sitting next to me, looking out the window and eating Gummi Bears. he’s wearing a Cardinals t-shirt, though he wasn’t aware of where that team plays until I told him. also, he doesn’t drink.
he’s an Irish guy who doesn’t drink. one in a million?

there’s a pretty good chance I lost my phone while over here, which pisses me off to no end. I had it when we left for Romania and Bulgaria. I left it one of the bags we kept here; jammed it in a side pocket. I went back looking for it, and it’s not there. which means I put it somewhere else. god damn it.
bad time to lose it. had a lot of numbers on that shit, man. and I’m moving far away. not easy to talk to anyone with a land line. maybe this is a sign, time to ditch the cell. yes?

tonight, Mar says we’re getting goulash. Hungary likes goulash. okay, Mar.

and, I bought “Non-Fiction” by Palahniuk, which I’m giving a mixed review right now. he gets a lot of press because of who he is, but he realizes that, so it makes him a bit less despicable. also, he’s pretty fucking funny.

alright. Chicago tomorrow. I’ve put the word out; I’d like mom to bring a White Castle to the airport. White Castle didn’t make it to Europe, or hasn’t yet. how very sad. Burger Kings, the obvious McDonalds, Subway, but no White Castle. these motherfuckers just don’t know, man.

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"also, he is fat"

Mar and I just ran the gauntlet.
we got on a train last night Sofia, Bulgaria at 10:30. got off it again at 6 a.m. in Belgrade. got on another one at 8:15 to Budapest. then got off again at like, what, 4:15? that’s a eight hour trip, and it’s about 200 miles. jesus christ, man.

we spent the weekend in Sofia. friday, I don’t think Mar and I were digging it. but sunday reversed fortunes. Mar and I, growing frustrated with bus travel, decided to hire out the service the hostel provided: a real live English-speaking Bulgarian will drive you to whichever Bulgarian national historic site you wish to visit. fuck it. we were game.
this pisses me off, but neither Mar or myself can remember that motherfucker’s name. but he was cool as shit. something like “Stolye,” “Stonye.” either way, he was legit. his English kind of sucked, but he was friendly and talkative. friend of one of the hostel employees.
made small-talk all the way out to Rila Monastery, which is about 70 miles south of thie city in a mountain valley. swarms of tourists. my man driving like he had something to prove. the monastery, while beautiful, isn’t a long-term visit, and we after walking through it, checking out the ancient church and the serious-looking Bulgarian monks, we got in the car to come back. halfway out the valley, my man hits the brakes, hard. throws it in reverse. pulls off and down to a restaurant, which is directly next to a flooded, fast-moving river.
“I need to get drink. hokay?”
so we go in, we get a table, the three of us, and we check out a menu. I start eyeing a Coke. I say this. he looks at me, and goes
“I think you drink beer with me, yes?”
waitress arrives, he rattles through an order, and pretty soon he and I and Mar are drinking Staropramen, which is a Czech beer. cheap.
we all raised our glasses. “cheers,” he says, and immediately drinks about half the glass.
I knew, right then, that I was overmatched.
and he keeps ordering them. and I can’t keep up with the motherfucker.
either way, a bunch of Bulgarian finger food comes out, and we’re eating cold cuts and grilled chicken hearts, which are, uh, interesting. and the beer keeps coming. and we get to talking, and it turns out that he’s a professional stunt man for film companies that come to the country for its low production cost. Jean-Claude Van Damme? “he is … alright.” Steven Seagal? “he is ass. also, he is fat.”
so I got tipsy, and Mar took note, and we got to know him pretty well, and we listened to “gold digger” on his cell phone on the way back to Sophia. when he dropped us off, he told us “do not forget Bulgaria.” then he tore ass down the street. he moved Sophia up a notch.

later, as we walked back to the train station, this junkie singles us out for the obvious tourists that we are, and latches on. for being someone with an obvious drug addiction, he spoke English pretty well, which is intriguing; very few people speak English in Bulgaria, but this guy had a decent command over it.
“hey, I am just like you, you know, I sleep in bus station because it so hard to rent room is too expensive and I just want to go home, you know, I help you out and translate, because I no f-ing liar, you know, man, I just come to Sofia, but Bulgarians not nice people, they not help you, I just need some help, you know …” endlessly. he kept talking.
so I gave him five lev, which was both my first mistake and all of about two bucks and all the loose currency I had on me, but he keeps talking. Mar, being the more experienced traveler that she is, moves on ahead. but I can’t shake this guy. he stays on my hip over two blocks, through traffic, only backing off when we pass in front of a police car, and he seriously won’t fuck off. the entire time, talking.
so finally, he breaks me, and I say, “christ, man, alright. here.” and give him five dollars. and he evaporates, like that.
that guy used up all of my homeless goodwill. I fucking hate train stations.

back on Friday.

alright, enough. I need a shower, man. bad.

Bulgaria, man

me and Mar are in Sophia, Bulgaria right now. after going through a dozen churches today, Mar said, “dude, I think I’ve doubled up on the number of Orthodox I have ever been in.” there’s a lot of them, for sure.

the train ride yesterday from Varna ate dick. this country is roughly the size of Tennessee, but everything gets slowed down in eastern Europe. took like eight or nine hours. the windows didn’t open, I’m pretty sure we doubled back once or twice, and Mar started to hallucinate about Panera. like the restaurant, Panera. weak, Mar.

holy fuck, man, look at this.

our hostel’s alright. called the Backpacker’s Inn, or something. we’re sharing our room with a couple of Israeli spelunkers, who seem to be pretty settled in, so it’s funny; it’s a bit territorial.

that’s about it, man.
parting thoughts: Spencer, remember “Toejam & Earl”?
Smith n’ Josh: what’s your email addresses?

Matt is not an axe murderer

I’m in Varna, Bulgaria right now. at an internet cafe called FRAG. around which there are lots of local teenagers playing internet games and listening to techno. no one speaks English, everyone plays English video games. hmm.
so Mar and I tore ass through Romania over the last couple of days. we stayed in Brasov a few nights ago, which was legit. a very medieval city, what with walls and battlements and streets that make no sense. above the town on a nearby mountain, they’ve erected a Hollywood-esque sign – BRASOV – and it lights up at night. nice.
what else. Romania’s largest gothic church is there, which was legit. and the hostel we stayed at was interesting. an old man was also staying there. he smoked Pall Malls, was missing one of his front teeth and spoke only in French, which didn’t slow him down from talking to me, at great length, a few different times. honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about, but I caught “Elvis Presley” in there somewhere. and Mar and I had dinner with an Australian guy, about my age, who’s been traveling for about six months. we got to talking politics, and he got kind of pissed when I brought up the Sydney beach riots from last year. whoops.
the next day, we took a bus out to Bran Castle, which was described as the inspiration for Dracula’s castle by all of the guide books. according to the walking tour we took through the grounds and its halls, it has absolutely nothing to do with Dracula. which sucked; I had planned to stop Mar in the middle of the tour and say “this is the place that evntually spawned Count Chocula,” but I didn’t get the chance. honestly, though, that didn’t really matter. I got to walk around in a 12th century castle, and the Transylvanian countryside is really pretty. the bus ride out there was worth it.

moved on down to Bucarest, Romania’s capital, which is apparently an awful amalgamation of …
wait, they’re playing Dr. Dre now. christ.
anyway, Bucarest. nothing but communist era apartment blocks and stray dogs. within minutes of getting off the train, I lost my slippers and the sweater I had wrapped them in. they were tied to the top of my pack; they warn you of pickpockets and the like in Bucarest, but chances are the slips fell off, and I didn’t notice. fuck.
the hostel was kind of out of the way, but was cheap and clean. we only stayed the night, as we had a train to catch the next morning, and to be honest, I wasn’t really hating on Bucarest’s ugly sprawl. then I paid a dollar to take a shit at the train station and walked into the lavatory to find some eurotrash jerking off into a urinal, and decided I didn’t like the city anymore. I very smoothly turned around and got on a train to Bulgaria.
now Mar and I are here. the hostel we’re staying at is right in the heart of town on a pedestrian street, and almost empty. run by a British expatriate. one of the guys was watching “The Deer Hunter” when we walked in. small world.
what else.
I like cyrillic, even though I haven’t any idea what I’m looking at when I read it. very utilitarian, though. Bulgaria is very poor, but very pretty. the trainride here was legit. if, of course, you don’t mind the odd local coming up to you and rattling off something totally incomprehensible. you just shrug, and they’ll notice something on you, usually your clothes, which makes you pretty clearly western. and you keep rolling on. I’m nowhere near used to being an absolute tourist, but that comes with this territory. it’s worth it.

also, Spencer. don’t hate on Roseanne, dude. and how did you know?