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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

SARAJEVO INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

STUFF THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE PREVIOUS BLOG POST BUT I FUCKED UP SO YOU GET IT HERE

Bruderschaft! While hanging out with my new Polish friends, I got to find out about the Polish version of Bruderschaft. Note, this is a German word I've never heard of before so I didn't know the Germans also had this. Weird. In the Polish language - like in the German language - there are both formal and informal ways of addressing someone. The informal way is usually used on kids and close friends. Anyway, how it works is that you link arms in order to drink. Apparently, several cultures have this tradition, but that is the only picture I've found of it. After doing that, you kiss cheeks. I don't know if it is left-right-left or the other way around but we skipped the kissing part.

I found a couple interesting things about the Polish way of doing it.

First, this is a 'once in a lifetime' thing with a specific other person. In other words, once Fred and George (for example) do it, they never do it again. If Fred meets Phil and does it with him, they are done on that part. After doing 'bruderschaft', they then address each other with the informal case.

Second, in the Polish culture, you don't look into each others eyes as you drink. It is seen as 'proactive' - the angry challenging sort.

And yes, I did bruderschaft with all of my new Polish friends and even poor Chris the Englishman. So, if I ever learn Polish, I can address them in an informal way.





TRAIN TO SARAJEVO

There were three main things I fucked up in my journey.

First, I got a 'whistle stop' train instead of a fast train. Basically, it stops at every little village on the way there. This caused my travel time to balloon from seven or eight hours to eleven hours. It was a fucking nightmare. Be sure to get the right ticket when you book a train!

Second, I had forgotten to get local currency before leaving. You have to visit the currency exchange but it is better than trying to lug around a heavy backpack and find an ATM when you get there. Anything to avoid more walking than necessary with the pack is a good thing. Also, some places - like Sarajevo - don't have handy ATM's at train stations. Even if they do, you aren't sure if you can trust them as opposed to ones inside in a bank with a security guard watching them.

Third, I forgot to get food and water - for an eleven hour train ride. Alarming for a fat man. Fortunately, for the first three hours of the train voyage, they had a dining car. I bought two half liter bottles of water and two eighty gram bags of pistachios. The nuts weren't very good. Total price, 1420 HUF. I remember reading somewhere that slaves on their way to America were stuck in ships for weeks and fed only nuts. I figured I could rough it and eat nuts for a day. Plus, I really didn't feel comfortable either lugging my pack all of the way to the dining car or leaving it unattended (though chained) while I ate a meal so it was hurry there, grab nuts hurry back.

Hopefully, I won't repeat my mistakes in the next country I go to - but you can never tell.

My great and noble thoughts as I was on the train (aside from my crippling fear of midgets punching me in the nuts as I law sprawled out on the seat) were that of Chokeahontis.



THE STORY OF CHOKEAHONTIS, INDIAN PRINCESS

Once upon a time lived the daughter of the head chief of the surrounding tribes, Chokeahontis. All of the chiefs immediate family were blessed with exceptional health and happiness, except for poor Chokeahontis. She was possessed of a psychotic rage that would cause her to choke the shit out of those she encountered. Because of this, she could not go and visit members outside of her immediate family. One day, two foreign explorers - just like Lewis and Clark but possessing sillier names - came to visit. Chokeahontis immediately attempted to choke the shit out of Lewis but he was able to redirect her hands and she choked something else. And was sprayed with a refreshing 'medicinal' substance. So long as she concentrated on choking this, she did not feel the need to choke other people. And Lewis seemed to enjoy it. Chokeahontis was so happy she offered to guide the explorers around to all of the other tribes she had previously been unable to visit. They happily accepted and went to visit all of the other tribes. Sadly, this caused all of the other tribes to get smallpox and die. The end. PS: Chokeahontis was a 'gasper'.

I have no idea why that shit goes through my brain, but now it may be going through yours as well. This makes me feel perversely better. I suppose it may be either a sense of sadism or schadenfreude on my part.



BACK TO THE TRAIN INSTEAD OF THE DISEASED RAMBLINGS OF LOGAN'S BROKEN BRAIN

So, the train then went through several border control check points. I have no clue at all which countries I went through. I suspect Croatia but there were a total of six border checks - that implies three countries to me. You get one border check when you're leaving a country and one when entering a country. I have no idea what the third one was. Logan Horsford - world traveler. And he has no clue what country he is in. For some reason, I imagine Jana saying "Good on ya".

The border control uses some sort of box that appears to be about as large and heavy as babies women carry around in the slings on front of their bodies. This is for sticking your passport into and allowing the box to do something mysterious. Maybe it checks to see if it is a real passport. Maybe it tells someone where you are. Maybe it gives attack coordinates to an alien invasion fleet. I just don't know.

Two of the border guards stick out in my mind. One was very careful not to look at me while I sat there with the large, cartoon grin on my face. I was trying to appear as non-threatening as possible. She had large, impractical hoop earrings in her head. Not a good thing for someone carrying a gun to wear. The other lady looked very much like Amy Lee from the musical group Evanescence. Now, I do realize that people might think that I'm hallucinating again. I still do think it was Robert De Niro I saw in Amsterdam (I'd swear it was him). I don't think this guard was Amy Lee but I do think she could have worked as her stunt double. She was way too good looking to be in a 'border control' field. She was messing up the 'average look'. [Note - if good looking border guard women wish to object to this sort of stereotyping, feel free to submit pictures of yourself in uniform. They will be posted for the audience to make a decision. If you don't want to submit a photo, you'll just have to live with the stereotype.]

In addition to having my passport literally checked six different times, my train ticket was also checked six different times by different conductors as they kept switching them in each country. Keep your ticket and passport handy!

All of the passport checks were extremely perfunctory. I could have had nothing but a backpack full of condemns or cocaine and nobody would have ever known. [Disclaimer: I have nothing illegal on me if you are a good looking border guard who is still upset about the earlier stereotype remark.]

Yes, I managed to sneak off an back on the train after the border checks for a quick smoke. I am a bad man. Note that when the conductor whistles loudly, you've got just a few seconds to re-board the train. Lots of fun there.

On the train, I literally had my own compartment until I hit Bosnia when it suddenly filled up. Prior to that, the train seemed mostly empty and I contented myself with having Vietnam flashbacks while I was headed to 'the heart of Charley'. I wonder if I'll have more Vietnam flashbacks when I get to Vietnam?

I in all of the countries that had communists running them (including this one) I keep passing masses of the communist style block homes. I wonder "Fuck - where the hell did everyone live before the communists came?"

If I didn't note it before, the train from Budapest to Sarajevo is 14470 HUF.

Sometimes, when you are on the train for close to a half day, you may find yourself wanting to put your feet on the unoccupied seat opposite. Many conductors don't seem to care, others get as offended as they would if you raped their dog.

Once we got into the Bosnia area, I had conversations with several different people - all in German. It seems that a lot of them fled to Germany during the war. As of right now, I haven't yet found anyone who claims to have been here during the war.

The area around Sarajevo is wooded and hilly. It must have been a bitch to fight in.

The train passed through several towns that you, the reader, won't give a shit as to what the names are. Just insert some random letters if you're curious.

One interesting thing I was told is that they (archaeologists) have apparently discovered pyramids in a town called Visoko. But, I was told, they aren't excavated. I asked 'Did they just find little triangles on the ground and figure they must be connected to bigger pyramids below?' but I think the joke was lost in translation. I'm not sure if I'll get over to see them or not.

While we were riding on the train in Bosnia, a couple of the men in the car pretty much insisted I smoke with them. In the train. Eventually, I did - fearing the wrath of the conductor - but apparently it is legal to smoke pretty much everywhere here.

They also have big piles of hay with weird stick things protruding from it. It's regular enough to be a symbolic thing but I'm not sure what it means.

I had a long conversation with "Yas-Me" who is training to be a dentist. He's still got three years to go or I'd head to his office to have him check out my tooth and see what's up with it. He also thought that taking care of my tooth problem would probably cost about 70 BAM. Nice.

Upon reaching the town, I wandered around till I found an ATM then 'Hostel Enjoy'. This hostel was the closest to the train station. Nobody was home. Apparently, they don't feel the need to man the desk. They were so confident of their business, they didn't eve feel the need to have a sign. It was a name on a buzzer in a big building. What the fuck is that shit? I then got a cab (4 BAM for 2-3 KM - really cheap) over to hostel 'TITO46' This place seemed clean and such and my first night there was enjoyable. Unfortunately, I discovered that you have to register within the first 48 hours of your stay in Sarajevo with the police or you get a fine (no idea how much) when leaving the country. The better hotels and hostels do it for you but TITO46 claims not to know about it. When I went to them and said I had been to the police, they modified their story, saying they'd only be open for a month and were still doing the paperwork. A different hostel I spoke with believes that TITO46 is purposefully ignoring the registration in order to keep the prices down (registration costs a small amount) in order to get more business. Seems like a shitty practice to me. Also, the lockers of most hostels are large enough to store your backpack. Not so at TITO46 - you can fit in some valuables but that's about it. Also, if you can't find the small, unlit light switch in the hallway, navigating up the two flights of irregularly shaped stairs to the hostel can be tricky - really, the flashlight I carry has paid off so many times. They also have only two single person bathrooms - not sure how many guests they can hold. I really can't recommend TITO46 although it is clean - and you are required to remove your shoes when entering. Not my favorite place thus far but I've got three nights there which should allow me time to scope out the town and maybe find a different place to stay.

This is yet another European town that seems to have a lot of shit close after nine or ten PM - I grabbed some shitty (non-chain) fast food and unwound with three rum and cokes (7 BAM each on the 'strip').

I've also noticed that the spike in the middle of the head hairstyle is popular here - that makes me vaguely nervous.



THE LANGUAGE RANT

I accept the fact that if I go off of the 'beaten tourist path' - whether to businesses that don't see a lot of tourists like barbers or if I go to small villages that don't see tourists that I will need to speak some of the local lingo. I'm good with that. However, when I'm in the big tourist area of a town that attracts tourists I often run into people who only speak their native language. Which is not one of the top 30 in the world. And who sometimes look insulted that I haven't taken the time to learn whatever minor language they happen to speak. This is baffling to me. If English (for example) had the popularity of Czech and Italian was the 'international language', my ass would be up late nights trying to learn it as I did with German. More so if I'm working in an area that is trying to get money from tourists. Given the choice, I'd rather devote time to learning Russian than Bosnian (Russian being number eight on the list and Bosnian not making the list). I don't mind learning a couple of polite Bosnian phrases but for time invested, I think Russian would pay off better even though I won't be able to visit Russia until they relax their visa situation.



LANGUAGES LOGAN KNOWS OR KNOWS PIECES OF

Because someone may want to know, here are the languages I currently speak:

English (native)
German (enough to hold a conversation if the other person is patient)

Languages I know some pieces of:

ASL (American sign language), Czech, Dutch, French, Italian, Korean, Mayer (Hungarian) and Spanish (I am from the USA...). It would be a lot more impressive if I had all of these at conversational level.

Of course, I rely on gestures, body language, facial expressions and micro-expressions to help communicate.



BACK TO THE HOSTEL

I met up with Danielle (Australian) and Matt (Welsh) who are traveling together. They had the extreme misfortune to be quartered in the same room as I. They changed the next morning. Tomorrow morning, we're going to go together to the police station to get registered. When I write later, I'll talk about my experience. So far, it's been a nightmare as the police I've spoken to don't speak (or have any interest in doing so) either English or German.

My goal is to live on 60 BAM a day. Don't know if it will happen but we'll see. The hotel room is 20 BAM a night. Ironically, this is (after conversion) exactly the same price I was paying to rent an apartment in Blacksburg, VA.



SHAVE

I managed to find a Turkish barber lady who used the 'razorette' shave style of straight razor. For those who don't know, basically they hook up a new razor blade for each person to keep you from dying of AIDS and still get a great shave.



VARIOUS THINGS

As I usually do when getting to know a place, I wandered off of the beaten path. I found a little out of the way restaurant. Although the waiter claimed to speak English he was much more proficient in German. He also brought me a packet of something that I had to ask what it was. It turned out that it was honey but closer to 'raw' with the consistency of soft butter. It was pretty decent. I had an interesting and unusual breakfast in a place with cloth napkins for 6 BAM. I felt generous and tipped 2 BAM. He seemed very pleased so we were both happy. With the tip, what I spent could have bought a shitty breakfast at McDonald's. Instead, I ate at a swanky place with good food. Cheap food make Logan happy.

They also sell blue, grapefruit flavored Fanta here. I'm not kidding. It's a very strange taste.

I've also seen bullet holes in some of the buildings. As Pete would say, "Interesting."

I also bought some Slovak cigarettes for 2.5 BAM. They are as good (or as bad) as anything else I've smoked. I miss Muriel Sweets.

the city itself is much cleaner than I expected. There is some graffiti and such but they don't seem to have the 'culture of littering' as they do in Prague. I also have yet to see anyone 'making a prayer' when they throw out garbage as I saw Jana and Marianna do in Prague. Which, if you think about it, is strange behavior for Atheists.

Later, for lunch I had something called 'Burek' which may be Turkish. It is some sort of bread stuff around meat or cheese or potatoes. The first two weren't bad but I don't know what sort of horrible shit had been done to those poor potatoes. With a .25 liter of Coke (tiny!) the total cost was 6.5 BAM.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap |

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