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Monday, August 24, 2015

DRUNK IN WARSAW

OUT DRINKING

While in Warsaw, went out with Pawel to do some drinking.

The evening started out fine.  We went to a friend of his bar and did a couple flavored shots and had some mixed drinks.  Everything was going fine until Pawel announced we should go to his which he would be closing down in a couple hours.

Then it all went to shit.

Normally, Pawel's friends aren't allowed to hang out behind the bar.  Even after this night, he said I was welcomed back there as I increased business.

Unfortunately, my charm worked against me.  People wanted to do shots with me.  I was invited to various tables but didn't go.  I think I was asked to join a secret society.  More shots with customers.  Fucking tequila?  Shit.

I fell asleep sitting behind the bar.

Pawel woke me up while he was closing down the place.  He woke me up when the place was getting closed down.  Put into a taxi.  Stopped at a gas station to take a shit.  Drunk like every bad movie you've seen.  Got put to bed eventually.

Felt like the guy would after a night like this.  Er...now that I watch the video again, probably not actually.

I've not been this drunk in decades.  I was too drunk to smoke.  Hollywood drunk.  Not good.

Next day felt a little under the weather but not too bad.  Was OK with going out and doing stuff.  My host thought I would "dying till after midnight" but I was up a couple hours before him.  He was impressed.

The night did fulfill the "Live and Staggering" title.

We later went to their summer cabin for a couple days.  Despite my buddy Pawel getting sick as a dog and being in bed for nearly all of it, we had a great time.

I wanted to thank Pawel and Ola - the consummate hosts.

THANK YOU FOR AN AWESOME TIME IN POLAND!



WIZZAIR

This is is useful webpage if you must deal with the dread Wizzair.

(Cancellation fee would equal the fare itself - a rather high cancellation fee.  Plus they may charge me for the 'call center fee'.  Hence, I would actually owe them ten euro to call and cancel my flight.)

Never book a plane ticket before finding out the exact prices of accommodation.  What someone else calls a 'good deal', you might consider pretty rotten.



MILKY BARS

In Poland, they have something called 'Milky Bars'.


Sadly, there are none like this.

They are a Polish institution and have been around for years.  When fancy developers try to close them to use the property for something more profitable, the locals freak the hell out.  So, they don't.

Essentially, they are cafeterias where you can get some cheap solid meals.  Even poor people get vouchers to eat there for free.  In the USA, we don't do this because 'fuck poor people'.  Everyone in the USA has a feeling that deep down, if the poor person wanted they could become 'not poor'.

And that's working out super for us.

Anyway, the 'milky bar' gives you a solid meal for under $3.

For prices in USD, at the time of this writing, divide by four.

I asked, 'What keeps everyone from just eating at those instead of restaurants?'  A few different factors - perceived social status, selection, taste.  Right across the street from one of the ones we visited was a full restaurant.

If you'd like to read more on this interesting staple of Polish life, here is a wiki article.

Logan's final analysis - go to at least one or two but bring someone who speaks Polish because nobody will speak anything but there.



COSTS

Dinner for three, nice upscale restaurant, Warsaw, 150 zloties.
Lunch for two, Prague, 440 crowns including tip.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

LIVE AND STAGGERING: ROMANIA TO POLAND

LIVE AND STAGGERING: ROMANIA TO POLAND

My host Sorin had gotten back in from partying and dancing the night away with his wife Diana (oh, the lives those without children live!) an hour before it was time for me to leave.  The original plan had been for him to take me to the train station, but he was partied out.  He called me a cab and went (staggered) downstairs to make sure I got it.  Don't get the wrong impression about Sorin and Diana - they are amazingly gracious hosts.  They are also very experienced at hosting having taken in over one hundred couch surfers.  The whole concept of having that many strangers in ones home (sometimes unsupervised) is baffling to fear fed Americans.  Again, turn off the news gang - it's not doing you any favors.  After working non-stop, constantly on call for a month I suspected it was just time to cut loose for them.  I got sleep instead.

At the deserted, mostly abandoned and under construction train station I bought a large bottle of water to keep me company on the journey.  As I walked toward the station, a couple guys in a car stopped to warn me that three guys had taken an unhealthy interest in me.  "Great.  I'm going to get stabbed and robbed before I can even wake up." I thought.   Even at my peak I couldn't take three - it was the odds the old USSR liked.  It was odd getting this warning because I hadn't sensed any malice in the area.  While I'm by no means infallible, I do have a pretty good nose for these things.  Nothing ended up coming of it but it is a hell of a way to wake up.


In retrospect, it was probably three gypsies.  Romanians dislike gypsies.  Not as much as police in the USA seem to dislike blacks but...

I hope Morgan Freeman never gets gunned down.  Who would explain over complicated movie plots to me?

Getting a seat with high visibility and starting a cigarette (possible weapon or distraction and I like to smoke) I blearily glared around me.  One of the ladies who works the ticket counter came out to tell me which train I needed and which specific cars to use.  They drop some of the cars off at different places.

Because that's not confusing at all.

The toilets within the train are disgusting.  I did see the cleaning lady making her rounds but it appeared she was only checking to see if the bathroom itself had been stolen rather than anything to do with cleaning.

I did try to take a pic but it did not come out.  Apparently, my camera even has limits of disgusting shots.  I did find this meme though.

On European trains, it is often fun to sit near the door and watch people try to figure it out.  Often it's something like 'push this button, wait for two seconds and the door opens'.  The first time they came to use the door they get a free pass.  Time to figure out the door.  After the third time of them getting unexpectedly caught in the door or needing to try to figure it out all over again you begin to get the feeling they may be retarded.

And they are so much fun to watch.


Aside from the dungeon like bathrooms (I've actually seen nicer dungeons) the train was fairly modern.  Like buses, they've been squishing the seats closer and closer together as people get fatter and fatter.  Wonder if it is some sort of 'press'.

A 'duck press' for those who don't know what it is.  Apparently, the rich like to squeeze the shit out of their fowl.


Indeed the train was climate controlled.  It was set to 'sweltering' and the first class cabins were even worse.

Once we crossed the border into Hungary, the formerly happy smoking area within the dining car became non-smoking.  Strange.

More importantly, for my trip, the train was inexplicably delayed for an hour.  I got to see some other foreigners go and complain to the driver.  They had clearly not traveled often.  Complaining does nothing.  According to my ticket, I had to travel back in time fifty minutes to make my connecting train.  Rather than speaking aggressively to the conductor, I politely inquired the next time he passed by about my lack of time machine problem.  By careful use of body language and his hands, he conveyed to me that it was not his fucking problem.

It turns out later that two other trains had a head on collision.  Twenty people or so were injured but nobody was killed.  I doubt the angry foreigner found out about this but they must have felt like an asshole.  Unless they were the 'look, I don't care if we have to drive the train over people' type.

Drive over all these people so I am not late!

Avoid Budapest train station ticket office.  If you need a ticket, buy it online.  Yes, this is the actual advice the only English speaker was giving the hoard of people trying to get in to the ticket office.  Rather than having lines inside and queuing like regular folk, they kept everyone outside and employed pushers to keep the people out of the ticket office.  Yes, I got pushed and pissed.

Fortunately, I found some nice volunteer (?) customer service teens who directed me to a different 'lineless' office.  They told me my ticket would still work on the next train.  Do I need a seat reservation?  Not at all.  If they tell you that you don't need a seat reservation, howl and scream till  you get one.  Really.

Otherwise, on the train you will probably need to change seats several times and may end up lurking in the aisles or connecting areas between the car like a troll whose bridge has been destroyed.

Fucking goats...

I was so out of it I needed to go back and ask the customer service guy four different questions - or the same one four different times.  I forget which.  My hands were shaking and I was covered in sweat.  And I stank.  Ah, the world of budget traveling.

I feel and smell homeless while en-route...

Since I was in this state, I completely forgot about the whole seat reservation thing.

After a few hours layover I was back on the train watching locals and tourists alike dislodging reservation-less people from their seats and feeling resentful.  By some miracle, I didn't have to move or lurk.  Possibly they thought I couldn't stand.

Generally, there was a lot of beer drinking (but no smoking) going on.  Several patrons got sprayed by a badly open beer can.  It was that kind of crowd.


One of the locals I spoke with told me the train station was not a good place to wait.  There were no chairs inside.  Apparently, homeless people had been using them to avoid freezing to death.  They took out all the chairs because, 'fuck the homeless'.  She advised the bus station.


Which turned out to be closed for several hours so I dug my sweater out of my backpack and put it on my sweaty body for the long wait.   The bus station in Bratislava is a major transportation hub.  Although buses are in and out of there 24/7, they close the building and businesses within for many hours daily.  Because, fuck tourists!


Some Polish night hitchhikers trying to get back home after going to some music festival joined me.  They had a bottle of wine but no way to open it.  They were impressed I carry a professional corkscrew.  Professional alcoholic!

And I blacked out for several hours.  When I awoke, it was daytime.  Of the hitchhikers, the two girls went to try their luck on the road, the guy got a ticket to Prague.  Afterward, he discovered there were no buses going from Prague back to Poland.  I advised him to start a new life in the Czech Republic.  He seemed less than enthusiastic with this option.

Since people in Europe don't watch CNN, they have no fears about hitchhiking.  Not everyone is interested in making your skin into a suit, apparently.

At least in Europe...

Eventually, Polski bus arrived.  This has the most uncomfortable small seats of any Western European bus I've ever been on.  Yes, it is cheap but your ass pays for it.

And that got me without incident to Poland where Pawel picked me up.

More in the next exciting edition!



TJ'S GUIDE TO LEVELS OF THINKING ABOUT MOVING OUT OF THE USA

Level 1 we have talked about it.
Level 2 we have also surfed the Internet looking at nice places to live.
Level 3 we have researched the legal requirements to move to another country.
Level 4 we have been saving money for a year exclusively for the cost of moving.
Level 5 we have our passports and both have applied to companies over seas to see what our chances of getting employment are.
Level 6 we have spent a few weeks living and traveling out side of the United States to see what life is like elsewhere and done all the previous items listed.

Do you agree with his levels?



WHY DO AMERICAN (US) RESTAURANTS SERVE FREE TAP WATER?

I had thought it was due to the laws of hospitality, crossing of the plains and such during the colonization, take over and destruction of the indigenous people.  I was wrong.  Again, the answer seems to have been religious wackjobs.  Check out this article here.



FEELING OLD YET?

Mad Max 2, The Road Warrior.


As of the writing of the blog, this guy is now forty three.  Holy crap.



STUPID SAYINGS

"You've got some big shoes to fill here."

Tired of people using that 'old chestnut' (a different subject entirely) on you?  Feel like smacking them in the face with a wet pimp stick?

Try these helpful comebacks instead!

>>> "You've got some big shoes to fill here." <<<

"Don't worry, I've brought my own."

"Not as big as the ones at Clown College!"

"Are you saying my predecessors' most memorable feature was his/her freakishly large feet?"

"There is a uniform that comes with this job?"

"So when someone leaves your company, they are stripped of their clothing, pushed out the door naked and the next person has to wear the same clothing?  Can I bring an extra set of clothing in case you are unsatisfied with my performance?"



BOOK REVIEW

D6 Caverns and Creatures by Robert Bevan

A collection of short stories.  See previous blog for his other book.  I found this one to be even better than the first book.  The characters are really hitting their stride.  Some very funny parts.

7/10



COSTS

Taxi ride from train station to main bus station in Bratislava at night, 15 EUR
Using the toilet in the bus station, Bratislava, .25 EUR
Small sandwich and juice, 3 EUR

Thursday, August 6, 2015

BULGARIA TO ROMANIA

BULGARIA TO ROMANIA

Although I was made to be very comfortable - and welcome - back at Kosto's apartments (the same apartment I'd rented before), honestly being in the same small town was kind of a drag.  I resolved to go somewhere new next time I'm in Bulgaria.

Unlike the USA, trains are still used as transport in Eastern Europe.  I resolved to use them while I could as they are freaky expensive in Western Europe.

From Plovdiv to Sophia (capital) there is a small local train.

While waiting for that at about two in the morning, I asked a couple cops where I could take a leak.  They showed me to the pay bathroom which was closed.  For some reason.  They then gestured to a nearby wall.  "If you don't care, I don't care." I retorted.

Eventually, I reached the under construction Sophia train station.  It looks like they are going for a 'cubist concrete' style.

I was trying to figure out how to get the train for the next leg of my journey (Sophia to Bucharest) and asked one of the ticket sellers.  She didn't speak any languages useful for a traveler.  Eventually, I was shown a TV monitor they had conspicuously set up.  Hey, I didn't have any sleep last night.


The only important parts are the first column, what train you have and the last - what platform it's on.  Red box means you'd better run.

Er - to catch the train.  Not because you're going to be hunted down and killed like a common snow leopard.

That's HIS job.

My platform came up as "83".  Quite a trick considering there were seven platforms.

I only wish I was joking.

It turned out later (after getting the police in on helping me to find out what the hell was going on) there are indeed eight platforms.  The eighth is handwritten on a piece of paper and not labeled on the "this way to platforms one through seven".

Turns out that I was, once again, not picked for wizarding school.

So platform eight?  Great - what's the three?  Oh - your local language symbol for west.  No, that's not freakishly confusing at all.  Thanks so much.

The 'west' thing is important because they load multiple trains on the same tracks (despite some other tracks not being busy) because that is not at all confusing either.

Is this why buses have been buttfucking the rail industry?

Possibly that and they haven't caught on to the 'offer free wifi on your trains'.

So we went through the border.  Though it took longer than perhaps it should have, it was one of the relaxed border crossings where the border guard came on to the train, collected the passports and returned them later.

I eventually arrived in Bucharest, got the local train to Ploiesti (we're still talking Romania here), called my hosts and they collected me from the train station.  Thanks to the nice couple that let me borrow their phone!



MY HOSTS

In the LHI tour I didn't put up pics of my hosts.  I regret that.  So, this time I am doing it.

Here are my hosts in Romania, Sorin and Diana.


These guys have an interesting job - they work for a casino!  They're high falutin' managers which means that if I go with them to their work, they leave me at the bar with as much free booze as I can stomach.

That's a nice deal.

Since the bartenders aren't doing much (summer is the slow season), we sit around and talk.

Ma-ki-hel, Logan, Kat-a-leen.  (Spelled phonetically, sorry I don't know how to spell it but it's better this way.)

Getting back to my hosts, they are super nice to me.  I consider a week to be about the max I should freeload off someone.  Last time I was in Romania, I ended up staying with them for a week.  This time they said I should come for two weeks.

Nice folks.  They treat me super well.  And, best yet, getting to meet them in yet a different town!  Yea!

Hope to visit them in a few more years.



HOW MUCH DO PEOPLE IN THE USA LIKE BACON?

Apparently, enough to be fucked by it...



BOOK REVIEWS

Note on 'graphic audio'.  Those are audio books where they put in sound effects and such.  These are designed for people who have no fucking imagination.  I find such things - as well as multiple 'cast members' to be extremely distracting.  Hence, I avoid that shit.  I figure these things are a symptom of people who have been raised on TV and are incapable of forming pictures in their mind.

"Libriomancer", "Codex Born" and "Unbound" by Jim C. Hines

Pretty decent urban fantasy.  The most interesting part is the type of magic (see title of book) used.  By drawing on the collective belief and emotions of the people who have read books, the magicians can literally reach into a book and draw forth what they want from the book.  This reminds me a bit of the book "Geekomancy" which did partially the same thing, using the collective belief/love of people to get the magic but this puts a new slant on it.

The story, heroes and such are really nothing new.  The big powerful organization is way too busy to deal with what seems important to the hero.  He even had a 'turn in your badge and gun' moment with one of the bosses but was later reinstated because he is too damned good.  The hero also suffers from not being very clever and hella reckless.

The author became upset when I mentioned that with the hero getting into that much trouble (and being an extremely fast reader and great researcher) he would bother to learn a bit of 'trade craft' (spy stuff).  Apparently that isn't ever going to happen.  I would encourage anyone who is constantly put into life and death situations to bother to learn some of this.   Eventually, you just end up shaking your head wondering why this guy is still alive and hasn't gotten the people close to him killed.  If these characters were either overconfident or suicidal nihilists it would make more sense.

Note, I don't recommend contacting this author.  Normally, authors I talk to are not so overly sensitive.  No doubt there is more to the story than I know.  Perhaps he just discovered someone had raped his dog.  (If so, my condolences to the dog, contact PETA.)  I've no idea, but it is not often I need to 'unfriend' someone.

[Note, if this sounds overly harsh, rather than bitching about someone posting on your wall within that thread, delete the thread (it's your wall) and send them a PM.  If they do it again, unfriend and block them.  This isn't rocket science.]

Nothing new here but it is not a bad series either.

5/10


Books by F. Paul Wilson:  "Cold City", "Dark City", "Fear City" - early Repairman Jack books.

While these may look like three different book titles, take my word for it, they are all pretty much one long book.

Prequels are usually shit (the "Amber" by Zelazny ones come to mind) but these were different.  These were written by the same author, unlike the ones mentioned above which I begin to suspect I may be holding an illogical grudge against.

Normally you cringe when protagonists do stupid stuff.  Like in the "Libriomancer" series I reviewed above.  However, in these books they talk about the protagonist in his early formative years.  He's a bit hot headed, morally conflicted, completely inexperienced and getting some training.  Yeah.  This is exactly the right place for him to mess up without the audience screaming "Are you stupid?"  Quite a refreshing read after "Libriomancer".

This guy's story is not unlike "The Equalizer" from the ancient days of television that anyone born post internet has no idea exists.  It's not really a new concept.  In the later (sprawling) series, he solves problems.  These books are how he gets started.

Part of the appeal of the series is the guy leads a very 'off the grid' lifestyle.   While Logan leads a fairly off the grid 'alternative' lifestyle, this guy is completely off the grid.  No last name, no social security number, all payment under the table.  Good stuff.

I'd recommend these books.  They are easy to read and were made long after the author had 'sharpened his quill'.  Maybe that expression is too old.  Authors get better as they get older.  This was made fairly recently.

It may suck you into the series.  Without giving any spoilers (hate those people) I can say that there is more going on than some guy getting paid to rough up people for cash.  The series is eventually classified as 'urban fantasy'.  Enjoy.

7/10



LOGANISMS

"Cold McDonald's french fries taste like...broken dreams..."

"Electricity is what separates us from cheetahs."



Costs (Romania):

Bottle of hard alcohol, about 10 USD
Bulgarian 'fast food' (think BBQ), about 1.5 USD (yeah, not bad)


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

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