Stranger Things Afoot in Vilnius

Stranger Things fans may know of Lukiškės Prison where grim scenes for Season 4 were shot.

In my view, it was a perfect location for the representation of a Russian gulag and certainly not difficult to imagine many grim, real-life scenes occurring here. For118 years, the space existed as a bona-fide lock up for both criminals and political prisoners alike throughout both World Wars and The Russian Occupation. 

In a broader sense, meandering The Balkans – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia – awareness of their similarly tumultuous histories remain omnipresent. – despite varied linguist, historical and cultural backgrounds.   

Lukiškės Prison, closed only in 2019, intrinsically connects them to this turmoil in the same way that it simultaneously represents nations trying to break free of their repressive pasts yet maintaining connection to them.

This is done by means of its transformation into a cultural venue hosting musical and theatrical performances, exhibitions, entertainment precincts and artist workshops. Now known as Lukiškės Prison 2.0 it has also become the backdrop for the likes of Stranger Things episodes and other TV shows and films.  

So now, Lukiskes 2.0 should be on your list of must dos in addition to meandering through the narrow, cobbled streets of Vilnius old town, admiring the wide, tree lined Baroque boulevards in its newer districts or strolling through the independent republic of Uzupis. Certainly, galivant out of town to Trakai Castle, but also visit Lukiškės Prison and get the scoop via Hollywood style tours offered on the lot. 

Trakai Castle

Personally, I found the atmosphere of this ex-prison facility still decidedly grim. It certainly juxtaposes with the refined beauty of Vilnius more broadly, a city of young hipsters in New York style long overcoats and multiple sushi supplying outfits.  

Uzupis is a district within Vilnius. Once seedy it claimed independence in 1997 and advocates freedom of expression and spirit.

Throughout my visit I felt decidedly uncomfortable, and I can’t imagine keeping a studio here, too creepy for me. in light of all the misery once perpetrated here.

Fabulous Vilnius architecture throughout the old town and beyond.

 Maybe if I’d gone during the evening when a concert was on and the space was chockas with young creatives, I might have felt differently. But go, it’s an experience.  

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Posted in BALTICS, Eastern Europe, flags, travel, travel blog | Leave a comment

FLUXUS FESTIVAL, Kaunas, Lithuania

İ’ve not experienced anything quite like this before.

Wow, an event of such strange exuberance it’s got me back on the blog.  

And I was spoiled for choice last night in Kaunas. Two other big events that I know of were being held. The basketball mad Lithuanians crowded squares with erected screens to watch a much contested basketball match between Lithuania and Spain.

Then there was the concert held by Ukrainian band Okean Elzy in support of their country’s efforts in the current conflict and which brought to Kaunas expat Ukrainians from all over.

But specifically, last night, THE FLUXUS FESTIVAL held in Kaunas, currently European Capital of Culture 2022, was something out of the ordinary. Like The Dada movement of the early 20th century, its output was wildly diverse – performance art, poetry, music. It had it all.

The brainchild of now deceased, Kaunas artist, Jurgis Maciunas (friends received postcards after his demise, informing all ‘it’s pretty nice here,’) reclaims art and the kooky happenings that can manifest when creativity is once more placed in the hands of the everyday person with all our cumulative eccentricities.

This festival is about change and growth.

FLUXUS exuded an excited yet peaceful vibe with a focus on creativity and community. The idea goes like this: locals build props and costume up with the help of a creative costume workshop held the night before the festival.

All manner of creation emerges: a gloriously, reborn phoenix, a highly indigestible massive representation of a local cuisine known as a zeppelin, jelly fish sporting long, dangling tentacles.

All converge in a specially pedestrianized city street to celebrate and take in the spectacle of community performances staged there. These too, are pretty quirky and some downright peculiar and honestly some might not make the cut in more sophisticated festival circles but somehow seamlessly one short act leads on to another completely unassociated act. 

A drag performer in pink with a wand belting out some local ditty that everyone loved, ladies in bobby socks rock’n’rolling to Elvis, a band playing drills and saws, druid like dancers waving arms languidly…. 

As time passes a countdown clock appears on the screen stage intermittently which heralds the next stage of the evening, ascending Parados Hill to Azuolyno Park. There more performances, off the wall, weird, wonderful and reactive, await.

Poets accompanied by trombones, synchronized dancing to pop songs where anyone with the moves can join, a languid movement artist sporting fluoro paint physically manipulated by punters from the crowd delicately pulling and pushing her as though putty in their hands.

Quite beautiful. And free. And totally unbranded other than FLUXUS and Kaunas 2022 messaging and a small table set up serving coffee, attendants wearing coffee cup costumes.

No admission fee, no bag check. No alcohol in sight that I could see, certainly none sold on site although I did notice some tinny purchasing at the supermarket but no drunkenness that I witnessed. Just making art and having fun.  

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Hoi An, Vietnam

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Lanterns galore

What to say about Hoi An? The whole town is in a state of transformation. You might think that this would be tough for a UNESCO town, included on the basis of her historical significance.

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Architecturally, ‘old town’ is a charming combination of various nationalities congregating here over the centuries to trade and do business. Europeans, Chinese, Indians and Japanese have consequently left their mark through the constructions left behind. Most of these buildings are charming and well maintained especially in light of the recent tourist boom.

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It’s still a beautiful place, an old city by a riverside with a more than OK beach nearby, home of the Cham in past times, with archaeological remains nearby and a coffee culture of cult proportions, which of course, I love. However, man, has it changed in the 23 years since my last visit. Another Ubud, Bali not quite, but getting there.

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It’s sad to say that more often than not it’s really not a good idea to return to a fondly remembered travel spot. The new Hoi An is almost unrecognisable from the old. Many would point out, I’m sure, that nostalgia always brings these types of comments and they’d be right. Somewhere, something was always better 5, 10, 20,30 years ago. Or just BEFORE. I constantly hear such remarks about my current base, Istanbul. Oh, you should have been here BEFORE – it was much BETTER! Well, maybe.

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But the pace of change in Hoi An is in superdrive. Construction is everywhere with new hotels and restaurants and beauty salons and souvenir shops and tailors proliferating everywhere with little planning and environmental consultation. New traffic lights, bitumin and bridges.

At one section of coastline, a massive beachfront hotel stands abandoned, in disarray, a wreck above ground. Big bites of bricks and concrete cascade into the sea, the result of coastal erosion.

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And don’t get me wrong, Hoi An’s success certainly brings a certain financial advantage to many locals. Holiday makers, domestic and foreign, bring prosperity for locals who know how to capitalise on the influx. And an influx it truly is.

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Cham remains. The face of Karma, My Son.

Nigh-time in Hoi An is a magical place. Lanterns light up the streets and throw beguiling shadows on walls of rustic yellows, blues and pinks. But the tour buses have also arrived and it can be more than a little frustrating making your way through the crowds. Daily, buses expunge multitudes of visitors from Korea and other Asian locations not to mention the Europeans, Americans, Australians etc. that descend to make merry. And why not, the locals are friendly, the food is fabulous, the beer is cheap and the weather right now in January, perfect. It’s also Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, which means lots house painting and cleaning and neighbourhood get togethers for food and karaoke and putting old grudges to bed. Orange and yellow flowers are everywhere and signify cash and thought to bring good luck. Cumquat trees, with fruit that symbolises coinage, and marigolds, are faves.

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It’s true to say also that a friend who lives here raves about the expat contingent in resident here. She speaks of a real sense of community. But she no longer visits the old town unless guests visit.

For me, Hoi An has already reached her tipping point. If not another ‘paradise lost,’ just yet, sadly it feels pretty close.

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Posted in Asia, Hoi An, lanterns, travel, Vietnam | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mixing it up. Summer days on The ‘Med’ and The Aegean.

So slack. Yes, I’ve been so slack…again.
No travel blog writing for months now and so much travel has been done.

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In May, a aTurkish friend and I went to Gozceada, a once Greek, now Turkish, island in the Aegean. Fantastic.

Peaceful, easy going, great scenery.

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Then, we hightailed it to Kos, a current day Greek Aegean island accessed via Bodrum in Turkey. Very chilled and relaxing.

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Then a gullet trip around the Dodecanese Islands of Greece, scenically beautiful but NEVER AGAIN.

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And, finally Malta for a week’s rendezvous with an old mate and my fill of crazy Christian iconography.

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Haven’t been home much!

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So, all of this recent travel has highlighted to me what I like and what I don’t.

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I’ll start with the don’ts.

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I will never, ever take a gullet trip or any other boat or such that doesn’t allow me zip all privacy for a whole week nor the chance to get off or away from others and in particular very annoying others. Who no doubt found me just as annoying…

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The destinations and scenery were beautiful, the places interesting and, as always, The Greeks, friendly and relaxed in true Mediterranean fashion.

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However, a week with a bunch of strangers, always a gamble, was this time the quintessential holiday from hell in beautiful locations. All the time feeling guilty that I’m so fortunate to have access to this kind of adventure and all I wanted to do was get the f… OFF!

Unfortunately, at times, this is known to occur in group situations where a few rotten eggs are loud of opinion and bossy in presentation, with a penchant for bad music, also played LOUD.

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On our accompanying sister ‘party’ boat, were various boozers who found themselves hysterically funny from midday and thought it a good idea to share their bullshit around.

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Advice for gullet cruising. 3-4 days max. Preferably not with dickheads😊

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The likes.

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Travelling with good mates and building on our experiences together, good and bad.

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I will know the two friends I met up with, who whizzed in from other locations for a visit, till the day I die.

In old age, despite the dementia, we’ll be able to reminisce on Mediterranean sundowners and sunsets.

I’ve known both these chicks for 20plus years so when the short term memory goes we’ll still have lots to chuckle about.

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Genuine hospitality. Small hotels owned for years by friendly proprietors who go out of their way to make sure you want to come back. Nothing over the top, just simple assistance with things like travel advice, transport and timetables, food and fun. So simple but so special.

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Serenity. Finding somewhere unexpectedly special and sharing it with someone with a similar way of doing stuff and the mindset to truly appreciate it.
Hallelujah!

Posted in dodeconese, Goceada, Greek Islands, religion, travel, travel blog | Leave a comment

Captivating Cape Town, sunning myself in South Africa.

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In the southern summer of 2018/19, I ventured to sunny South Africa.

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Seapoint

Some years ago, I lived in the spectacular Middle Berg region, in a special place called the Champagne Valley. With a name like that how can you lose?

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Heading towards Camps Bay

Since then, I’ve held a special place in my heart for this complicated country. Great food, wine, scenery, English speakers on tap, great mates and driving on my ‘right’ side of the road.

 

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Loin’s Head

This time I ventured to Cape Town and surrounds, an area I have visited several times before. Still magnificent, she continues to dazzle.

 

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Muizenberg Magic

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20181124_194727.jpgSadly however, South Africa is still plagued with internal conflicts, no doubt exacerbated by a former leader bent on tearing down rather than building up and a greedy taste for personal advancement to the detriment to this country’s varied population.

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The fascinating residential district of Bo-Kaap, one of the oldest of Cape Town’s oldest suburbs. The day we visited there were protests held by locals against the rise in house prices due to wealthy buyers coming into the market seeing their chance to profit from tourism.

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The disparity between rich and poor if anything seems to have grown. No surprise with a that previous corrupt captain at the helm.

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Enjoying Stellenbosch 

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Heaven on Earth (Hemel-en-Aarde) inland form Hermanus

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A stunning landscape to ride through in Tulbagh Valley

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Hope abounds however for the newish head guy. Let’s hope he can honour the hope placed in him to set things right.

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Jolly fine ice cream in cape Town

As a visitor though, you really couldn’t ask for more.

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Hospitality at Wild Rescue Wildlife Sanctuary. Volunteers encouraged – for details go to http://wildrescue.co.za/

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From Cape Town to the nearby wine regions and seaside towns, interior landscapes and abounding wildlife, what a place.

 

Posted in Cape Town, South Africa, travel, travel blog, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Istanbul, never a dull moment; International Women’s Day Protest March, 2019

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Last night, I was in Taksim for Istanbul’s International Women’s Day Protest March. It was scheduled to traverse the 1.4km length of Istiklal Avenue, the main pedestrian thoroughfare and shopping and tourism hub of Istanbul.

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In recent times, I’ve become less inclined to place myself in the midst of such large groups of people. Back in 2016, following the attempted coup here, I developed an unsettling phobia about confined spaces largely brought on by the panic that occurred on that night in July, 2016.

Read about it ……

https://girlviking26.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/and-now-for-a-coup/

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Additionally, this was a time of ‘terrorism,’ and indeed 5 died following a bomb explosion that occurred on this very avenue.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/istanbul-explosion-injuries-reported-as-tourist-shopping-area-hit-by-blast-in-turkish-city-a6940706.html

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Plus, of course, crowds can be dangerous places if people are panicked!

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Regardless, a couple of gal pals and I were close by at march time and the vibe was exciting, positive and peaceful.

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Rarely are issues of discrimination honestly and openly challenged in this country anymore. People talk constantly between themselves but rarely voice their concerns loudly in public or en masse. Mostly, protest gatherings are now banned. You wouldn’t have thought so on this night however as hoards of people came out into the streets to have their say.

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Last year’s 2018 Women’s Day March was massive, peaceful and generally uneventful regarding police action or government intervention. I remember it as a damn impressive event and a breath of fresh air in a country with various human rights and other restrictions placed upon citizens in recent times.

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The opportunity to particpate in this year’s event was timely. On my return to Istanbul from Australia, just over a week ago, I came with refreshed eyes. The contrast to Australia was palpable. Far fewer women than men visible on the street and in public.

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Someone might have offered a concept check:)

I don’t feel intimidated or threatened in my daily movements. I don’t feel fear or nervousness regarding my personal safety here. In general, I feel just as safe here as in Oz. But then I’m not easily intimidated and I can run fast but really this disproportionate representation speaks volumes regarding gender roles and social attitudes.

Participating in the march was fun when I was in the midst of it. In my world, feminism is not a dirty word. Along with women, many men were also in attendance and shouting protest slogans as loudly as their female counterparts.

I’ve never experienced such a courteous crowd. High spirits prevailed and despite such large numbers in such a restricted area – the police had barricaded the avenue only one or two blocks into the length of Istiklal – protestors were polite and courteous to one another. ‘Pardon,’ was commonly heard and used as we manoeuvred through the crowd.

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Protestor drawing attention to the artist known as ” The Peace Bride,” who attempted to promote world peace by travelling from Milan to the Middle East in a wedding dress and was raped and murdered in Turkey in 2008. http://www.alearned.com/middle-east/

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It’s such a great energy when regular people get together freely and in common cause to attempt to direct positive change and to be with one another. I experience this every time my Tidy Turkey Clean Up group holds an event. It was sad, therefore, that there was some trouble after my friends and I had left the most crowded part of the march in search of sustenance.

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Prior to the march, there had been many police at the entrance to Istiklal and along the streets nearing Taksim Square. Mostly, they looked bored, playing on their phones and smoking. But yes, they were in full riot gear.

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Of course, no one likes a full-on police presence, but the vibe did not feel particularly threatening. Shame then that the authorities directed the use of tear gas and riot control dogs to restrict the forward passage of protesters and to break up the march. Happily, to the best of my knowledge, no major injuries or catastrophes occurred. The question though remains, why on earth feel so intimidated by this peaceful protest??

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Such cynical actions, no doubt, are brought about for a myriad of complex reasons. Regardless, I’m really happy to have been part of it. It gives me faith that so many locals from this tousled country still have fire in the hearts that hasn’t yet been completely knocked out of them. Turks clearly remain a passionate people.

So, congratulations to all the women who attended, and to their support networks. This includes all the men present in body or spirit, who also demand that womenkind be able to walk in public with confidence and without fear and to live in safety in their own homes.

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Thanks also to all those people who joined The International Women’s Day Clean Up event held last weekend. For information see the link below.

https://turkiyeyitemizle.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/international-womens-day-clean-up-belgrad-ormani/

Environmental and women’s issues share many crossover concepts and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate some of these with two great events this week.

Posted in flags, International Women's Day 2019, Istanbul, travel blog, Turkey | 1 Comment

Bulgarian Booty, Plovdiv Play

Lovely fountain found in Europe’s longest pedestrian ‘zone’.

I hit the pavement still relatively fresh despite a seven hour bus ride from Istanbul to Plovdiv. For this happy condition I thank a nanna nap on the bus and purposely travelling oh, so light. Having packed for only a few days, I easily strolled my way under peaceful, green canopies to my guest house – quirkily called My Guest Rooms. Hmm…

Our Walking Tour Guide

A walking tour of Plovdiv, My Aussie mate Tim thought our guide looked like a car salesman but they were mates by tour’s end.

The building itself was a grand old dame with parquet floors and no elevator! I questioned once more why there always so many stairs in my life??

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What are these?

Settled in, I quiz the owner for some restaurant suggestions. In the process he hands me some colourful, personal tales.

‘Your English is good.’ I say.

‘Courtesy of 3 months at The US president’s pleasure back 30 odd years. I used my time in the slammer studying English’, he quips.

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Thus he explains how in the dark communist days, he had attempted to visit what is now Trump’s kingdom via a land crossing at an unofficial Mexican border crossing.

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This adventurous guy suggests his language skills may indeed improve further as he’s yet to visit the Big Apple, a place he wishes to see. His initial escapades have resulted in a life-long travel ban to The States but he’s considering giving breaking in another go. Better get to it before that Mexican Border wall is up and running, I say.

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But I digress.

For me at least, entering Plovdiv was a breeze.

Off I set through the delightful city park in search of fodder. It was resplendent with fountains and dancing folk. Happily, I looked for and found pork and good red wine, the dream of many pig eating foreigners living in Turkey .

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Happy campers, mohitos, cheesy balls and proscuitto

There are many delightful parks in Bulgaria and certainly this one was well attended and appreciated on this dappled, summer evening. I had been told this particular park served as a ‘beat’ by a gay friend of mine in Istanbul.

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The Mosque that was once a Church – those sneaky Ottomans

Well, maybe he would know, but I saw absolutely no evidence of this, the most salacious activity I witnessed a weekend puppet show for the kiddies and locals strolling hand in hand along the pretty promenades. I was later informed for illicit encounters I would need a special app!

Next day, I hit Plovdiv’s central European pedestrian street. An Adelaidean, such as myself, would call this a mall but in the Adelaide sense of the word not the Turkish or American understanding of the term. This was no MMMAAAALLL but rather a delightful, pedestrian ‘zone’.

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This ‘zone’ is now apparently the longest pedestrian strip in Europe, having knocked Copenhagen off her perch by adding to it’s length in the last couple of years. Take that, you Danes, you.

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Regardless, it’s very pleasant meander and has all kinds of nice ice cream shops and a mosque that used to be a church and some decent ancient ruins smack bang in the middle of it all.

A few streets from here, Plovdiv’s hipsterville beckons. Kapana or The Trap in Bulgarian, was designed some centuries ago by merchants to ‘entrap’ clientele.

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Now, as then, it is a web of cobble stone streets currently decorated with pretty flags and walls of arty graffiti. It boasts coffee shops, juice and wine bars, tourists and local groovers and until a few years ago it was pretty down and out.

Happily, with pLOVEdiv being named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, creative locals have been subsidised to set up shop, which continues to reinvigorate the area.

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Tim is overjoyed to hear there is yet again a new Australian Prime Minister and Guy, that there was no cheese in his bacon and cheese, cheesy omelette.

Last of the primary sights of interest is the ‘old town.’

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Yet to get the makeover but soon, baby, soon.

Plenty to see and do here also, with old homes displaying art exhibitions and the ‘piece de resistance’ Plovdiv’s own Roman Stadium.

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So with Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Turks all having left their mark it’s safe to say Plovdiv is well worth a look and not just for the pounds of pork purchased by my mate to return to Istanbul with.

Posted in Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, flags, solo travel, travel, travel blog | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Turkey Tales – Election Time

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So, it’s over. All is said and done. What was hailed as Turkey’s most important election in living memory has run its course and to the victor the spoils. And they’re pretty impressive spoils as they go. In particular, the adoption of a new Presidential system, one the incumbent and now victor went to the polls for last year and which enables enactment of sweeping new powers.

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This election was called 1.5 years before it was due, a move partly calculated to stare down the flailing economy, rising inflation and the falling value of the local currency, before they got any worse. And even though the opposition got it’s act together far faster than many would have thought possible, still, as it’s turned out, an early poll date proved a successful tactic, as the incumbent won victory again.

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In the lead up to election day, of course flags galore and vans roaming the streets blaring slogans and blasting recordings of cheesy party tunes, elevating candidates to cultish heights.

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When results were called naturally it was a sad day for the opposition and their supporters. Finally, they’d got their acts together and formed viable coalitions and enlisted charismatic candidates. Countless locals, looking for an alternative to the current political status quo, found a new spring in their step as election day approached. Was change really possible for the first time in a couple of decades? Many dared to dream.

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But, not to be. The Monday after the Sunday election a sense of futility replaced that of optimism in those wishing for a shake up. Heartache, anger, and finally acceptance.

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In a heartbeat, flags and banners disappeared. No more ‘larger than life’ representations of pollie faces suspended above cobbled streets, swaying in the breeze. Except, that is, for those representing the victor. He now appears everywhere, ostensibly thanking his loyal constituents for his re election. Campaign advertising for other candidates has been swiftly replaced on billboards and in other public places by the usual hair shampoo and telco package promotions. Glossy locks and fast internet, a more obtainable source of satisfaction.

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But in the run up, before the results, on the Sunday afternoon of election day, was that a sense of optimism in the air? In hip Kadikoy, where I was out for dinner with friends, there pervaded a strange calm. Not so many people out on the streets relatively and no alcohol served in restaurants and bars for the day. But a subdued sense of hope that I have not experienced here before.

Well, there’s always next time.

Posted in flags, Kadikoy, murals, Politics, travel, Turkey | 1 Comment

Hungry for Hungary

Ms Pacifica, my Kiwi pal and I have just crossed the Danube on our way to Esztergom, on the Hungarian border with Slovakia.

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From our excellent vantage point aboard our comfy, airconditioned train the famous waterway doesn’t really whack one in the face with its majesty. Happily, it was much more impressive viewed in Budapest.

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But beware, in Budapest you’ll have to dodge bucket loads of other tourists doing the same thing. The northern summer tourism invasion of Europe is here although still only late May. It’s also hot, unseasonably so according to those in the know.

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But rather than whining on about the ravages of global warming I’d rather point to Budapest’s eclectic architectural mix and extensive culinary options, her thermal baths and ruin bars.

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The latter are located in vast, once derelict structures resulting from the deportation of much of this Jewish quarter’s population in the aftermath of WW2.

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These spaces are testament to the power of reinvention and are now famous watering holes boasting central courtyard areas and quirky décor. Slide on in and join locals and rubberneckers alike in socializing, imbibing and generally making merry.

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My mate, Amy, now resident in Budapest introduced me to the most famous of these, Szimpla. Interested to know more or read about Amy’s travel meanderings head to
https://budapestflow.com/history-ruin-bars-budapest/

https://storiesalongtheway.blog/?s=budapest

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Following Budapest, Miss Pacifica and I bit into more of the Eastern European apple with gusto.

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Next stop, and another Amy recommendation, was Eger. I’m a firm fan of wandering off the beaten track a little and Eger was a snug fit. This town is certainly not undiscovered, but the tourism here was much less in your face and its natural and man-made attractions called for an extension to our visit. So many things to see and do in such a relaxed atmosphere.

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With a population of around 60000, Eger boasts a cracking castle, impressive Gothic architecture, a wine region and some fantastic food which gallops streets ahead of your standard goulash and pork chop. Me thinks sufficient to rock anyone’s boat.

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Finally, a horse ride. Just out of Eger, in some sublime scenery, a Lipizzaner stud offers me the chance to explore aboard one of these powerful, majestic animals. Before boarding the enormous Igor, I was thoroughly interrogated by my stern Eastern European riding guide. She was a woman of few words.

“You ride cowboy or dressage?”

“I can ride either.”

“Here ONLY dressage.”

Before setting off, she tested my equestrian skills in the ring. No tongue clicking or casual reign holding here. Feeling thoroughly intimidated by this stern mistress, I breathed a sigh of relief once informed the many dressage lessons I’d taken in Adelaide’s North Parklands as a kid, had paid off. Igor and I were allowed to spend the afternoon together under strict supervision naturally.

So far in Hungary, I’m one happy camper😊
For more on our adventures head to Miss Pacifica’s blog
https://mspacifica.com/

Posted in Budapest, Eastern Europe, Hungary, travel | 1 Comment

Gallipoli, Troy and Assos – history and scenery: a winning combo.

Gallipoli, what a surprise.

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I enjoyed my visit. As I’m an Aussie, I’ve been hearing about this part of the world and the events that happened here, forevveeerrr! Happily though, I didn’t come away feeling like it was a crock of war glorifying indoctrination.

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A couple of years ago, prior to the April 25th centenary of the ANZACs landing on the Canakkale Peninsula, as part of the allied forces of WW1, even the most hardy ANZAC enthusiast in Australia must have tired of the media coverage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany politicians droned on endlessly about the ‘mateship’ displayed by ‘our’ forces during a military deployment that essentially led to the slaughter of thousands of Turks and ANZACs. Yes, I feel cynicism for the motivations behind this coverage. But not for the soldiers or the circumstances.

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Having lived in Istanbul for almost three years now – and no one is more surprised about this than me – I’ve felt visiting this region was always going to become part of my Turkish experience.

The trenches

 

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Two sides

The memorials were tasteful and the location itself quite beautiful, the weather was sublime and the companionship top notch. I did wonder though, when visiting a cemetery of fallen Turkish soldiers, whether the Aussies and Kiwis who come here annually to participate in the dawn service, visited the ‘enemy’ grave sites, too. On this visit, a Turkish family, were wailing for their lost son, father, brother, so many years later.

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The following day we visited Troy.

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That too was a pleasant surprise as I’d been told it was really just a bunch of rubble but although the replica of the famous Troy horse was pretty cheesy the ruins themselves were interesting and the story surrounding their discovery also.

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A gold seeking German businessman essentially found, financed archaeological work on, and then plundered the site, causing permanent damage to the ruins dating back to The Bronze Age (around 4th Century BC – thankyou Lonely Planet!) but leaving a fascinating tale.

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Brickwork from 2 of the 7 different Troy incarnations

Both sites were made infinitely more interesting and enjoyable with the assistance of knowledgeable guides working for Crowded House Tours.

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Instantly recognisable to any Aussie or Kiwi, Crowded House is a very well-known band from NZ who now call Australia home, as far as I know. Anyway, I grew up with an earlier version of the Finn brothers and their music when they were in Split Ends. My point though, is that it’s obviously an appropriate name for a tour company specialising in this region. And they were good. And reasonably priced.

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A ferry to far away

Personally, I’m more of a muddle along solo rather than a ‘flag following’ kind of explorer, but this time, joining a tour worked a treat, They were on the money with transport, information, humour and bookings. Plus, the guides never waved a tour group flag at me, not even once.

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Dinner and a view in Gelibolu

One of the bookings we were helped with was for a place to stay in Assos. Tick, a charming hotel, looking out over the harbour and the Aegeon. Assos, is itself a place of mythology. At one time it was home to Aristotle and other stars of legend, and it is built amid ancient ruins.

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Assos

Now, I was only there for a day so I’m no expert but it was a really lovely, little spot.  I’m sure in peak season, locals will have boom, boom blaring from every musical orifice to drown out the tranquillity but week ago, in late May, all was peaceful and thoroughly chilled.

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Thankyou to Ramazan and the guides from Crowded House, thankyou to the bus driver who picked us up from the highway outside Troy and didn’t just drive by, and thanks to the powers that be that it wasn’t me that got taken off the bus by Turkish police and whisked away during the second of two identity checks we experienced en route back to Istanbul. Don’t travel without ID, people.

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There’s an election in the wind in Turkey, and it seems there is extra security entering and leaving the capital, no stone to be left unturned. My suggestion to counter pre-election mania, head to this beachy, informative historical neck of the woods to get on down to see these sights😊

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Posted in Anzac, Assos, Australia, Gallipoli, Greek Islands, solo travel, travel, travel blog, Troy, Turkey, WW1 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments