Older blog entries for quad (starting at number 331)

I needn't have packed food for my train to Montenegro.

My cabin-mates were a group of four Grandmothers and one surly looking young man. I sat in the line of fire of a social interaction that transcends cultures: a gossip circle. But, as my position became more awkward, I “relented” and offered to swap spots with adjacent lady in the window seat.

I’m so gracious.

Of course, now I was a legitimate conversation topic and target. My Serbian was non-existent at this point, but one of the women spoke a few words of English. Between hand signs, small words, and my woeful but rapidly expanding phrasebook, we exchanged stories. The ladies were all returning from visiting their respective families. And, the woman who spoke some English had learned it to teach her son, who was now living abroad and doing well for himself— in part— thanks to her early tutoring.

Eventually, I stopped being interesting, and we resumed our former activities. The Grandmothers chatting over their knitwork. The surly young man and I watching the countryside descend into breathtaking mountain passes.

I alternated between dozing and counting tunnels. On their walls were white Charlie Brown zig-zag patterns. The base of the waves were inset cubbies I decided were for emergencies.

The Grandmothers were clearly veteran riders. Every couple hours, they would reach into their bags or stowed luggage to produce sandwiches. The first time, I took this as a reminder to munch on my own dwindling leftovers. But, I was surprised in short order by a proffered meal!

For the remainder of the trip, I was forcibly stuffed like a piñata. My adopted family had decided I was too helpless to be left to fend for myself. And, after bidding farewell to each woman at her stop, the last and I disembarked and hugged partings at Podgorica.

Syndicated 2009-12-12 12:35:56 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

I snapped this photo because I recognized the icon but...



I snapped this photo because I recognized the icon but couldn’t quite place it.

Shortly after uploading the photo to Flickr, a friend of mine tagged it.

“Fallout!”

Syndicated 2009-12-11 12:35:56 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

The morning train to Montenegro departed five minutes before I...



The morning train to Montenegro departed five minutes before I arrived in Belgrade. I hadn’t planned on exploring; but, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

Back in Sofia, I had cached a map with an overview of the city center. I knew where I was, and I knew where the Kalemegdan was.

North.

I can do north.

The city awoke around me as I walked and watched day begin to break. I ascended on the switchbacked paths and passed through the fortress gates. Finally, I climbed the northern wall that overlooked the Danube.

Then I napped on my backpack.

I was startled back into consciousness by a park warden politely informing me that I couldn’t sleep there. As there were bums dozing in nearby benches, I figured he was just worried about me falling to my death.

Syndicated 2009-12-10 12:35:55 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

Graffiti at the Belgrade tram depot.



Graffiti at the Belgrade tram depot.

Syndicated 2009-12-09 12:35:56 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

I stepped off the train in Sofia and was promptly hustled by a...



I stepped off the train in Sofia and was promptly hustled by a tout.

Two other backpackers and I were searching for international ticketing. Over my half-hearted objections, we accepted the “help” of a man dressed in what passed as a maintenance staff uniform. He guided us and politely demanded a tip.

From using touts as an instrument of abuse upon my travel-mate, to coughing up currency to—frankly — a second-class act. I was so embarrassed. But, I smiled and looked thankful.

Regardless, reservation in hand, I strode out of the dark station and in to the day-lit city of Sofia.

My time limit was nine hours, 50 Bulgarian lev was split between two pockets, and I had no travel guide, But, there was a solid plan fixed in my mind. Two words: ride buses.

I beelined for the transit kiosk and used sign language to purchase a day-pass. (Show the brochure for bus passes. Point at your watch, then use your hands in the air to indicate 24-hours. Realize the kind lady sold you the wrong ticket. Try again while smiling and look thankful!) Then, after photographing a map of the transit system, hopped on the first bus that goes out of the city.

The city center is stylish and modern. It takes a few miles before you’re in communist-era concrete highrises. Another mile, the end the line, and it’s green fields. I lounged in the sun until I was hungry. Rode back to the city and went to the grocery store to make a sandwich.

It was in Sofia that I first encountered the European style tagging of produce. You put your fresh foods in a bag, weigh it, enter an item code on adjacent terminal, and an adhesive ticket is printed. I watched other people do this, and as I was about to tag my green peppers the security guard ran up and did it for me.

His facial expression and body language indicated that he expected me to be confused. I smiled and looked thankful.

The checkout girl flirted with me. She liked my hair. I smiled and looked thankful.

Rode to the city center on the presumption there would be a park. There was. Lounged around and finished both “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “A Hundred Years of Solitude.” Out of books, again.

Chatted with a nice young man from city who was incredulous that I wanted to vacation here. Then we took turns playing WWE SmackDown vs. Raw on his mobile and watching beautiful young women pushing children in strollers.

Finally, with an hour remaining, and I excused myself to catch my train. He said it was nice to talk with an American, I said it was nice to talk with a Bulgarian. We both smiled and looked thankful.

Met back up with my backpacker friends. They had a rushed day seeing the cathedral, visiting a museum, and eating at local restaurants. I had no worries and a half-eaten sandwich.

You know what I did.

Syndicated 2009-12-08 12:35:55 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

Hello Bulgaria

Why is border control at 3am? Why?!

This train runs nightly. Everyone has patiently lined up. None of us are wearing anything more than the barest pajamas.

Except her. What the hell, damn lady?! Oh man, I hate Bulgaria. Why are you fully made-up and dressed in lingerie? Every guy in here just got whiplash tracking your tits, ass and legs cross the room.

Seriously, though. Train. Runs. Nightly. Dozens of us. One stamp wielding official.

Why is it 3am?!

Syndicated 2009-11-21 06:21:53 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

My photo doesn’t do the art justice. Every car on the...



My photo doesn’t do the art justice. Every car on the train was covered in dozens of distinct tags.

The Internet is chock-full of vivid photographs depicting Eastern European industrial scenes with exotic graffiti styles. Hopefully, I will encounter, capture and share a few.

The whistlestop tour from Istanbul to Munich begins.

Syndicated 2009-11-20 06:21:55 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

Meet Chris. He’s been my consistent mancrush for six...



Meet Chris.

He’s been my consistent mancrush for six years and been my constant travel partner for six months.

He’s also been responsible for every good photograph on this travelogue.

Unfortunately for us all, we’re parting ways. Him for the United States, me for Eastern Europe.

Expect quality to promptly falter.

Syndicated 2009-11-19 06:21:54 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

I walked up to the Turkish State Railways international...



I walked up to the Turkish State Railways international ticketing booth and politely asked for a ticket to, “as far away as possible.” “Munich?” Works for me!

Reproduced above is the diagram I used to demolish the language barrier that tried to block my negotiation with the TDD agent. Red is the more popular and slightly cheaper Bosphor Express. Blue is the path of winners via the Balkan Express.

I had an open ticket in my hand. Winners always prosper.

Syndicated 2009-11-18 06:21:52 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

Pinar and Oyku invited me to the Asian side of Istanbul. A...



Pinar and Oyku invited me to the Asian side of Istanbul.

A delicious dinner, a warm evening lounging on the grass of the seaside park, and discussing life over drinks until well past bedtime.

It was my last night in Istanbul.

Syndicated 2009-11-17 06:21:53 from David Ryland Scott Robinson

322 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!