Thursday, January 31, 2013

These boots [gum] were[n't] made for walking [down wet cobblestones].

Kala Castle

 The path to the Kala Castle is a very steep, narrow cobblestone path. The only shoes I have are gum boots, so when it started to rain I thought I'll be fine - these are all terrain shoes. Apparently not, as soon as there was a little bit of water between the soles of my shoes and the cobblestones it was as if there was large chunks of lard strapped to the bottom of my shoes.

I broke up the walk to the castle by visiting the ethnographic museum. There were signs everywhere saying no photos but the woman running the place must of liked the look of me because she said, "For you, photos ok." It was probably because I was the only person they had seen in a while. I didn't want to push my luck so I only took this one photo. The loom.

15C Loom

 I think looming has died out as an art form. Perhaps because the term looming as such sinister connotations, when someone looms you don't think of weaving together a beautiful rug. You think of a creepy 40 year old man in a black trench coat, creeping up behind you as you read a book in the dying afternoon sunlight.

Cannon guarding the entrance to the castle. 
When I first walked into the castle, I bought my ticket strolled through the archway. There was an older woman in a peach coat, I walked past her, she started to follow me. Being young I figured I would just walk a bit quicker surely she would soon lose interest in me. No. She chased me, she legitimately chased after me. I turned around and looked at her (I assume my face said "what are you doing you crazy old bat") she said nothing and just stuck out her hand. I think somebody should tell the beggars of the world that aggression doesn't work, you get much further with politeness and a pathetic look in your eyes.

SIDEBAR - When I was in Pristina waiting for the bus back to Skopje, I was enjoying a coffee with a young American fellow. A small beggar child came up to us. He was dressed like a very tiny gangster; wallet chain, sideways hat and all. He demanded money, not please, just "give me money." He must have felt us smirking at his attire, because he threatened to hit me. Come on kid, if I had even thought about giving you money I was most certainly not going to now. Your four foot tall you can't threaten me into giving you money.

After I walked up to the castle, I came back down crossed the river and walked right back up the mountains on the other side. This was not a gentle walk up the cobblestones, this was an actual trek. There was a path, which was overgrown and scattered with fallen trees. It wasn't bad and to get to the top was only about 20 minutes, there was supposed to be remnants of the old area of Illyria. There was very little left of the ruins. Only one wall. The trek was up there was worth it for the amazing view of the city.

The view of the city. 

There was an odd man walking around at the top of the mountain, he was wrapping the trees in multicoloured construction tape and carrying two unopened umbrellas on his arm.

I thought this sign was funny. "These trees were planted with the support of the EU." Is that it, that one lousy little tree that looks like the next big gust of wind would blow it over? There were a few more around but all pretty much in the same shape. Hopefully just because it is winter.

Osum river

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Armenia loves a statue

Yerevan - Armenia
The Cascade is one of the most prominent tourist spots in Yerevan, you can climb to the top of it's 500 steps and see into the beautiful mountain range that is within Turkey's borders. Below these steps is a park, filled with multiple sculptures, none of these sculptures have a connecting theme. Like this one above rabbits doing acrobats.

Yerevan  - Armenia 
It was found adjacent to this large, very prideful looking bronze cat. For height comparison in the second image, all of these guys are above (or pretty close to it) six foot tall. 

Sihanoukville - Cambodia

Sihanoukville - Cambodia 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Words from other travellers

' I don't understand the military service, what do we have to be worried about? The French? What are they going to do - throw a wheel of cheese at us and hit us over the head with a crusty baguette?" - David (Swiss)

"What is that jacket? It looks like a freshly skinned jiggly puff pelt coat." James (Aus) 

Blog title explained

Choosing a blog title is one of the hardest decisions  one has to make. The title speaks to the tone of the blog, you want it to give the audience a little taste of what is going on inside. In my case I wanted it to be light hearted maybe a little funny, but not the kind of funny where it was humorous at the time but when you look back at it you cringe - like when you think of the Hotmail address you created when you were twelve and first discovered MSN chat.

My friend was helping me brain storm ideas for it and we came up with "One Bag Full." This is a blog relating to my exploits whilst travelling, so it makes sense. I have my one bag full. But it is also an inside joke between my friend Ash and I. It started on a faithful trip to Sydney.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
I had recently been accepted in the teach and Learn Georgia program so I was making the voyage to Sydney to see my father and some other family before I left. I convinced my friend ash to come with my promising him after the family formalities were done we would share in a few debaucherous nights.
Ash testing out our incredibly small hotel room 

We woke up on our second day there with the hangover of champions, but we weren't going to let that stop us. Luna park was waiting for us. On the way to Luna Park we walked under the Sydney harbour bridge, there was a little old woman sitting outside of a corner store talking to her friend, also a little old woman. As we walked past we managed to catch a snippet of her conversation.

'...and so I said to Mabel, there was not one measly bag full, there wasn't even two bags full, there was a remarkable three bags full."

Ash and I stopped and looked at each other, was this woman telling her friend a nursery rhyme and passing it off as her own story? Did her friend have Alzheimer's and believed what this woman was saying?

In all honesty this woman could have owned a sheep farm and was talking about the yield she had off her animals this season. But what fun is that she was definitely stealing nursery rhymes and claiming them as her own material.

That night a challenge was born, talk to a stranger using claiming a fairytale or nursery rhyme to be your own story.  I don't remember if we were successful in our endeavour.

The next time I was at work I sent Ash this text message.

Did I tell you what my god daughter Cindy got up to? Well that girl has got some nerve. She was complaining and complaining about how her step mother was being mean to her and how she favoured her own daughters. So I called up her step mother and talked to her, convinced her to let Cindy go to the upcoming ball, she reluctantly agreed, saying she really needed a break and it would be good for her. So I went over there and brought Cindy the beautiful dress, it was one of my own, passed down through the family -  I thought it would look beautiful on her. I organised everything, a suitable mode of transport, a male escort, she was going to have the night of her life. I only had one request, not an unreasonable one, be home before midnight. It is not proper for a girl of her age to be out galavanting around half the night doing god knows what. AND do you know what! She disobeyed me, she turned up at some awful hour in the morning torn clothes, her hair a mess missing a shoe! I don't know what that little slut was up to. She was babbling nonsense about a prince and her car being a pumpkin. I think she's on drugs. I don't know what to do with her. 

Needless to say, I wasn't very busy at work that day. 

Tirana- The small town capital city

Before I start I will admit my opinions of this city are probably tainted.

 I'm waiting for some people. People that I was working with in Georgia, we organise a month ago to meet on this day in the capital of Albania, today is the 29th and I have heard nothing from them. They still have another seven hours in which they can appear but I have a sinking feeling that they are not going to show up. It may seem paranoid, but I think it speaks more to my fear of abandonment over anything else. If they were not going to show up they could have sent me a text message, I wouldn't have been upset. To just completely ignore previous plans is a jerk move. I think I would be more forgiving if they were other travellers that I had just met somewhere and didn't know to well, you expect travellers to be flippant and flighty when it comes to planning a trip. But I worked with these people for four months. I'll be crossing these chums off my Christmas card list. (I have never sent a Christmas card in my life, but if I were going to they would not be receiving one.) 

It feels like Tirana has not evolved with the rest of Europe, for a country that is so close to Italy, Greece and Macedonia it seems remarkably underdeveloped. I know that Albania has had a tumultuous past but so have a lot of countries in this region. Sarajevo for example was a war zone 20 years ago but looking at it now it seems to be a thriving metropolis  Yes, there are still bullet hole shaped reminders sprayed into some of the buildings but they are people who look toward the future and the capital city reflects that. Tirana doesn't look like they are taking any steps towards the future, after spending five days here I could see very little signs of improving infrastructure, there are talks of building a tram system, but they are exactly that, talks. One of my favourite things about European capital cities is their efficiency, being mega, super anal retentive and coming from a city that has the efficiency of a square tire it is something that I get really excited about. I know it's not really fair to compare Tirana to Berlin or Paris.

The city itself is pretty run down, there is very little to see or do, there is three major attractions. The Skanderberg Square, the clock tower and the pyramid. The pyramid is about to be demolished, you can climbed to the top of it, but the windows are broken and it looks like a death trap. You can walk between these places in less than an hour. 

Tirana was not what I was expecting, you most certainly don't need a week here and if your on time limit you could probably completely avoid it and not feel deprived. 

I don't like be completely negative, I posted this and felt so guilty I instantly got a stomach aches. I have come back to add some positives. There is some truly delicious food in Tirana, I have eaten at a few local places and it has all been so good, amazing ice cream from street vendors, the people are fantastic as well, everyone is really friendly and make you feel very welcomed here.  I am looking forward to Berat.

Sorry there are no photos to accompany this article but my camera had no battery and I never got around to charging it before I left. But here is a picture of a robot I drew, I am trying to convince my friend to get it tattooed on his body. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Skopje, Macedonia
Just some figurines of two woman chilling, stuck outside a coffee shop on a very busy pedestrian strip. 

The Pro's of Hitch Hiking

I will start this post by saying, use your common sense. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't and you should get out and this is a theory that can be applied to any situation.

In Georgia hitch hiking isn't frowned upon as much as it is in Western society. it can still be quite dangerous and I think everyone I know who used to hitch around Georgia has at least one horror story. But it's free and can be a good way to meet people so we often did it.

My friend and were heading to Tbilisi, from the West side of the country. I started in my town of Senaki and hitched a lift into her town of Abasha and from there we wanted to head as directly as we could to Tbilisi. It was the weekend we had places to be.

The intended root.
 We kind of expected that it would take more than one car to get there, it was long drive (about 5 hours,  give or take depending on the traffic and road conditions.) We had been waiting on the road for about ten minutes when a car pulled up. He was a youngish looking guy, probably about late 20's travelling by himself. he said he was only heading to Samtredia. Samtredia 's the next town, about 25km away but we figured we would jump out and continue on from there, it was progress. When we go to town the guy (we very much later found out his name was Giorgi) said he just needed to exchange some money, he pulled out a very large wad of US money and proceeded to drive around until he found someone to change the money. This was an odd situation to begin with but neither of us seemed to phased by it, we figured at least he wouldn't ask us for money for the lift.

Whilst my friend was in the bathroom he asked me if we needed to be there at a certain time, because he was actually going to go to Tbilisi but he just had to do something first, he needed to get a bag from his parents. As a rule of thumb if someone says they are only going part of the was and then change their mind and claim they are going the full distance it is completely acceptable to be suspicious  They may expect something when they get to the destination because they have gone out of their way for you.

When my friend got back to the car I explained the situation to her, she seemed to think that he was an all right guy so we went with him. On the way out of town he picked up two more people on the side of the road that he seemed to know**. Giorgi then proceeded to drive 40 minutes into the mountains, the opposite direction to where we needed to go. I immediately started thinking that this was  bad idea, he was taking us into the mountains to chop our bodies into tiny little pieces. We would never be heard from again. I only wished that I had a significant other so that I could tell them that I loved them one more time.

We stopped the car at a tiny little house, Giorgi asked us to come inside with him. There was not much we could do outside and I didn't want to be locked inside the car. Before we even got through the gate we were greeted with multiple cheek kisses by a middle aged Georgian woman who dragged us inside and sat us down at the family table. From the other room came Giorgi's grandparents who joined us at the table as his Mother started bringing out brimming plates of freshly cooked Georgian specialities. The Babua (Georgian for grandfather) dashed outside and brought back a bottle of his home-made wine and immediately poured us a glass. From there the toasts started, to family, to friends, to those in the ground, to woman, to children, to America and to Australia.
(Left to Right Deda, Me, Babua and in the front Bebia)
Giorgi had called ahead and told his mother that he had picked up some foreigners and was bringing them to the house. This spectacle was Georgian hospitality at it's finest. We stayed at the house for about two hours until our stomachs ached with amazing food and we had drank the obligatory amount of wine - four glasses, skolled quickly.

Giorgi did not join us for wine, and when all was said and one we hoped back in the car and made our way to Tbilisi. After the four glasses of wine we had a little buzz on and we wanted to keep it going. It was a Friday night after all.  Giorgi stopped in the village market and bought us each a beer. Which set the precedent for the rest of the journey. Drive an hour, bathroom break, buy another beer.

We didn't make it to Tbilisi in record time, but we had way more fun than the other chumps who caught marshutkas. This is both one of the greatest shows of Georgian hospitality and one of the greatest hitching stories.
Actual route taken

** Seemed to know - in Georgia this could be anything from your best friend from high school to your second cousins neighbours mother. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Sacrilegiously good time...

I find the problem when travelling alone is sometimes you have to hang out with less than questionable characters, people you probably wouldn't associate with at home. I guess you don't have to hang out with them but the reality of spending everyday by yourself is a lonely one.

The old rubber arm is also my other problem; I will rarely say no to anything. So when I was hanging out with a group of Croatian students and one of the girls innocently asked me if I would like to smoke some weed with them, who am I to say no.
River Miljacka

It was the days leading up to New Years Eve and everything was full, I found a hostel that was really nice but a bit more than I would normally like to pay. Everyone who was staying there knew each other except me. They all went to the same university in Zagreb, most of them studying medicine.  One of the girls had smuggled some weed across the border. Her theory was that Bosnia was a poor country and therefore wouldn't have drug sniffing dogs. She was probably right but I can't help but feel a drug conviction wouldn't look good if you were trying to apply for your medical licence.

The weather was pretty poor in Sarajevo that day so we just hung around drinking coffee, after we left the coffee shop some people decided to shop. One of the girls pulled me aside and asked if I would like to join her to have a smoke.

Not wanting to go all the way back to the hostel we snuck into an alley way and smoked this reasonably sized joint, when we finished we realized that we had been in full view of a mosque the entire time, perhaps I was just high but I didn't feel too bad.  The next day when we shared another joint we actually went into the oldest temple in Bosnia I did feel a little bit guilty.
Smoking shisha in the old Turkish Quarter of Sarajevo

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I think I may start a section entitled statues I do not understand.

Starting with this one.

It could be the lower half of two different bodies.

It could just be random shapes.

From this angle however it looks like a malformed butterfly.

Your guess is as good as mine. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

I don't remember the sun setting, ever, and especially not when I'm on buses. I don't know what I am so engrossed in that I don't notice a giant orb dipping into the ocean or sneaking away behind the mountains. I hope on and then the next time I think about it darkness has fallen.

Which brings me to my main point.

I don't think is possible or me to catch a long distance bus ride without their being an insane person somewhere along the journey. What brought me to this conclusion was today on what should have been a three hour (it was six) ride into Macedonia there was an older woman who was yelled at my chair companion. I'm normally the first person to hate the person I'm sitting next to. Something about being confined in such a small place with a person you have never met before and have no desire to talk to (there is exceptions leads me to blind hatred for no explainable reason. I think the reason I like this one is because she didn't make me take assigned seat 41, the window seat; the worst seat. But this older woman in the coat that made her  look like she had skinned a Labrador had the same seat number as one of us, there was 30 empty seats though so it made no sense for to be yelling and screaming about it. The conductor told her the what I'm sure is the Serbian equivalent of "sit down and shut up."

But the award for craziest bus passenger goes to a woman on the overnight from Ankara to Sarpi. Her "friend" (pretty sure this woman was just another crazy) had trouble getting her on to the bus to begin with, I personally think this was the sign that we should have just left her behind. Every time the bus would stop she would scream and fight her way off and refuse to get back on. Eventually her friend would coax her back on and she would, settled and when the bus was moving she was silent.

I don't know where she went to from Sarpi... nor do I care to know.

Niš Fortress, Niš, Serbia

Vani, Georgia

Vani - Georgia

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Statistics.....

Days Travelled: 24

Lowest Temperature: -5 Celsius (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) 


  •  Bruised behind from falling down a flight of stairs. 
  • Incredibly sore lower back (I think it may also be from the fall)
  • Bruises along my shoulders from carry my backpack long distances

Countries Visited: Four

Cities Visited: Nine

Modes of Transport: 5 (plane, bus, train, taxi and fiat (caught a lift with a Canadian driving though Croatia)

Border Crossings: Eight

Number of Beds Slept in: 10

Current Location: Niš, Serbia 

View Untitled in a larger map

Next Destination: Podgorica, Montenegro or Pristine, Kosovo.

Four Months in Georgia.

I got really lazy when it came to writing about my Georgian escapades, so I have given up on that for now. I have promised myself as of tomorrow I will make more effort to write about my travels because I am loosing my mind and if I don't I will forget.

So here is a video I created: Four months of Georgia in a three minute song.

Music : British India - March Into the Ocean