June 03, 2006

Iceland is Pretty

17 hours of layover in reykjavik on my way to amsterdam... walking around town i discovered that icelanders are not afraid of color. and don't get me started on their mad ornamentation skillz. what i should be showing is a picture of is their deft wickedness with corrugated aluminum... imagine the offspring from mating a san francisco victorian with the tool shed... it works on so many levels, and seems to be typical of homes of the extreme lattitudes. yes, ushuaia, i'm talking about you.

never got completely dark outside, just a perpetual dusk after midnight... i envy the kids here. remember when you were little, playing outdoors all summer and your mom would call you in just as it was getting difficult to see the grimmacing face of the neighborhood weakling during the twilight games of dodgeball... and it would soon be too dark to continue said humiliation? might explain the high suicide rate in iceland... on second thought... replace "envy" with another word... one that means not envy... yeah, that's what i feel for the kids of iceland.

Posted by bajesus at 01:33 PM | Comments (2)

Amsterdam is starved for beauty

i have my own flat for the week overlooking the canal at Singel 70 and this is my view at 11:11 p.m. on my first night in amsterdam. from this vantage point in the heart of town, i can smell french fries, marijuana and the shame of the more sad and sullen seeking a bargain on love with the bench-warming team of hookers in amsterdam's beige-light district. (red lights lose a bit of saturation in the haze of desperation.)

Posted by bajesus at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is on fire....

from the roof of Singel 70 with california weather... lots of grilled animal... lots of wine... lots of fun... little bit of un...

Posted by bajesus at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2006

Holland has provided

my freshly acquired travel toy at Singel 70.

the journey is set to begin tomorrow morning heading north toward denmark. no plan for where i'll be by the end of the day, but i'm pretty sure i won't be camped out in a field of tulips. might be edelweiss.

today is holland's first game in the World Cup... the beaches which were packed this morning will be empty by the afternon... the mayhem begins in 20 minutes... if they win, i picked the right week to buy an orange helmet.

Posted by bajesus at 10:38 PM | Comments (4)

June 13, 2006

The Dutch are visually astute

i could spend days writing about cruising through the cute hidden towns in northern holland... the ones that from a distance are invisible behind clusters of trees... with nary a billboard nor towering golden arches proclaiming ME TOO! HERE I AM! I LOOK JUST LIKE YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU KNOW! anonymity vs. screaming sameness... blandness comes in two distinct flavors. nothing there photographically stands out. except this...

the hunkering dog has to be one of the most original forms of roadside communication ever, clearly outdoing england’s "man-lifting-heavy-umbrella” and mexico's dearth of notice for critical speed bumps.

Posted by bajesus at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

Mascots frighten the elderly

it's an inexplicable truth. i can't imagine anything threatening about a little stuffed bunny with one missing ear... eyes covered with black electrical tape... harnessed to the back of a motorbike... but as i pulled up to a cafe in oldenburg, an elderly couple seemed damn near pre-occupied with the thing. their dirty looks confirmed that they clearly didn't have a sense of humor and, since they are german, no sense of irony either. a smiling “guten tag” did little to convince them that i was a not menace to be avoided... then again, they may have simply been offended by the dutch license plate... germans of that era are still a bit bitter about how it all ended...

Posted by bajesus at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

Germans are clever bastards

i first visited the town of lŘbeck 19 years ago. karla and i stayed with margot lange, whose relation to karla was never satisfactorily deciphered. margot's husband had died three weeks earlier and we had spoken with her 3 1/2 weeks earlier... so... that was a surprise... even more surprising, she still wanted us to stay. she was in her mid-sixties, but had the walking pace of an ADD pre-schooler on a binge of red M&Ms. she ran us ragged around town, occasionally looking back to see if we were still with her, only slowing down for an occasional moment of sadness, "my man is dead" and then just as quickly, "we go, ja?"

lŘbeck at the time was bordered with east germany, and margot took us to the wall to taunt the east german soldiers... she hated them and pitied them at the same time. our long day of competitive walking ended here at the holstein gate. two giant round brick towers sagging into the earth in a perpetual bow toward each other. this in contrast to the artistically renovated image of it in perfect vertical form depicted on the 50 deutschmark note.

so almost 20 years later, even though the deutchmark is history, the germans are finally performing architectural orthedontia on one of it's most famous landmarks. and just to be sure the tourists get what they came for, have printed an exact image of the completed, fully-aligned towers on the scaffolding drapes. funny to watch people take photos of it none-the-less. except me taking this photo... because... um... the other tourists are just stupid, where as i have an appreciation for cleverness. see?

Posted by bajesus at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2006

Me, Denmark and a Barn

if it looks as though i am holding myself inappropriately, i am. days are long this time of year in this part of the world, and i'm not bright enough to know when i've had enough. kool and the gang can't handle 12 hours on a saddle. by the end of this trip i expect to have acquired a new level of fitness.

i know. you didn't want to know.

Posted by bajesus at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Danish cows are lazy

well, maybe enlightened is a better word. if your inevitable path ended next to a plate of fries, then there is a certain wisdom in laying down on the job. i don't believe in a hereafter, but playing host to a side dish in the afterlife would keep me plenty unmotivated in this one.

Posted by bajesus at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Blind allegience to daisies

the nice thing about hitting denmark without a plan has to be these daisies... they mark the way for the scenic routes and bring me through the best countryside a motorbike could wish for... (limited of course to what denmark has to offer... convenient, yes... magical, no)

today was one of those relaxing meandering days... everything pretty much perfect.* i've been on the road a week and am starting to hit my stride.... i know my head is properly into it when i'm no longer questioning my premise... there is just simple acceptance. i am here. this is what i am supposed to be doing. what else is there.

i've thought about this trip for so long that it has been hard for me to believe i'm actually doing it. there are moments of thinking, oh, this is just me out for a motorbike ride... forgetting i'm in denmark, unable to properly read the road signs, wondering where all the blondes came from... i don't take this for granted, but it just seems NORMAL... (okay, now i sound spoiled... better stop typing...)

*memo to denmark: you disappoint me with your shitty coffee.'member that Got Milk? ad with they guy who thinks he's in heaven macking on a giant chocolate chip cookie but the fridge is full of empty milk cartons and he spews cookie bits through muffled screams of tortured agony when he realizes he's actually in hell? remember that? cuz that's how i feel when i'm face first into one of your buttery cinnamon pastries... you know the one... a whole plantation of sugar cane in every bite? enough icing to burn the enamel from your teeth upon contact? the density of a tugboat with the light flakey crust of a croissant? yeah, that one... and all i'm looking for is a little neutralizing offset.... some balance... which means the coffee needs to have bite... not a nibble, not a love bite, not a kiss... FANGS! to the bone, through the bone and out the other side, FANGS.

UPDATE: Copenhagen gets it... the big city gave me the bite i was whining for along with an incredible array of choice... all is once again right with the world...

Posted by bajesus at 02:07 AM | Comments (5)

June 22, 2006

denmark’s groove is gone...

started off sweden on the wrong footpeg. serves me right for choosing my first destination based on the name of my IKEA sofa. the day was windy, there was too much wind and even more, there was...what's that blustery breezy shit that knocks motorcycles from their lanes? oh yes, WIND... crossing the °resund bridge from denmark to sweden was precarious... such a timid looking bridge over a wimpy little sea... what went wrong? heading north upon crossing along the coast, should have gotten a clue from the legions of windmill on the horizon... wouldn't have mattered, i'd have gone ahead anyway, but it just made for a really tiring day...

then the rain came... stayed ahead of it, stayed behind it, but inevitably couldn't avoid it... got doused... had it. enough. forget the camping... days like this call for a hotel....

the reason i prefer small towns while traveling is that they are easy to sort out in the moment... no planning required. arrival in G÷teborg was tedious. the only map i had available was the microscopic lonely planet map, which has become subatomic since losing my reading glasses... still i behaved as though i knew what i was doing... there's a winning premise... lost, turned aorund and frustrated i finally found the hotel i sought... but, full. right. holiday weekend approaching. midsummers. big deal here in sweden. all hotels pretty much full. i did catch the break of the day when anika (they're all anika) got me a room elsewhere... i then spent the evening walking around a town that shut down early... ate a burger... watched brazil whomp japan in world cup... went to bed.

i am really living large.

Posted by bajesus at 02:03 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2006

Sweden, you’re aDORable!

no one ever told me of the giant marshmallow fields of western sweden... but no one had to tell me that thsee plushy sugar farms are run by oompa loompas...

today i decided to follw any road that took me towards a viking/hobbit name... heading north towards T÷rg, Trollhńttan and Vargon i passed by g÷teborg’s SECOND ikea store... but it was closed for midsummer’s... (they don’t even close for christmas, do they?) i had thought a pilgramage might be in order... thankfully, circumstance set me straight.

since sweden was going to be shut down for a few days i was on the fence about whether to head straight to norway or deal with the holiday headache... since i missed the exit to oslo while winding around some backroads, i decided to head toward lake siljan, where supposedly EVERYone went for midsummers*. ended up in the town of mora right on the lake... it bypasses sleepy and heads straight to comatose. i didn't mind.

while watching sweden get their ass handed to them by germany in the world cup, a swede named max stuck up a converstaion with me... a very drunken conversation... i'll give you a hint... the drunkeness was one-sided, and so was the conversation. nevertheless, when his friends tried to pull him away, he invited me to join them back at his place for a few minutes. i thought it would be harmless. i also thought his place was close by, given his syntax, and not, as it turned out, a 20 minute drive into the woods. i wasn’t nervous (well...), but relaxed completely when we arrived at his place... it was my ideal home. in the woods, lot’s of space, no neighbors, on the lake, big open rooms... just perfect. stayed a few hours, drank many beers, avoided a proper midsummers bash, and was driven back to town by (another) anika around 1am pretty much intact... the only thing that took a hit were my eardrums.

* rule number ONE of taking the travel guide too seriously... i believe lonely planet writers are creatively frustrated, and will use any opportunity to introduce a cleverly illiterative description, even if the adjectives involved don't reconcile with the facts... for example: “Siljan is Sweden’s salacious summer solstace sunspot”. the shame is mine for taking it at face value...

Posted by bajesus at 08:58 AM | Comments (4)

June 26, 2006

Stockholm, even YOU’RE adorable

your quaintness is complicted like a russian novel.... but since i only gave you two days, i have very little to tell...

actually, stockholm had some of the best people-watching i’ve encountered. partly because the young and fashionable try SO hard, and partly because of the heavy-metal-fans who are a bit like the ghosts of an unwelcome past. i’ve never been more aware of clothing as costume... it seemed a bit absurd. and memo to the men of sweden: nothing screams “neutered male” louder than capri pants. they are not suave and ”beachy”... find your diginity. reclaim your manhood. respect yourselves. christ.

Posted by bajesus at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

i can shoot pics and groom simultaneously

the premise beyond stockholm was simply to ride until i found sun. such a californian thing to do... and not a wise adaptation here. slowly i’ll get it. i chose to end the day 600 km away in ÷stersund simply because it had ”sun” in the name and i could fulfill my premise... weakly.

the day after brought more of the same... slightly better weather, but i changed my premise to the more manageable ”ride until i see another motorcycle like mine”. hadn’t seen one in the last few days, but sure enough, now that i was really looking, i spotted 2 within minutes of each other near arvidsjaur... had to stop. found a secluded spot along a lake, behind a barn. set up camp. hid from the bugs. slept 12 hours...

Posted by bajesus at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2006

Norway is blessed

Troms°, from the bridge

along the road to Troms°

Polaria arctic museum and aquarium

arrived in troms° much later than i expected after detouring a few too many of the billion fjord-side ribbons of asphalt. (other than fatigue, what else is there to say “nope. enough beauty. no more twisty roads. call it a day”?) every hotel and hostel in the budget price range was full. could have easily camped, but i wanted to go soft for the weekend. i got a recommendation from the last hotell as they shut the door in my face... ”try the fjellheim sommerhotell”... which i couldn’t find at first because it is a.k.a. the fjellheim bibelskole... the local seminary becomes a hotell for the summer... but they had room... cheap. and it's HUGE. and my room is right across the hall from the make-yourelf-all-the-free-waffles-you-want kitchen... i kid you not. really. i’m eating one now. AND they have free wireless internet access. it’s travelgeek heaven. downloading the daily show as i take my last bite of waffle. sweeeeeet.

troms° is one of those places where anything goes... very much an outpost with pioneer spirit, an oddly thriving house music scene, and is one of the most ethnically diverse place i think i’ve ever been...( must explain the taco baguette i had for lunch ).

Posted by bajesus at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2006

Norway nags nicely

these raod signs are all over norway... a very clever, visually compelling “buckle up!” campaign. much more effective than text alone. sweet too.

Posted by bajesus at 01:14 AM | Comments (2)

July 03, 2006

the edge of the world™

the sun at midnight   nordkapp, norway

fog rolling in at the end of the world   nordkapp, norway

on the way to the edge   nordkapp, norway

my destination these last three weeks has been the north cape of norway, the northernmost point of europe (inconveniently short a few seconds of lattitude from the ACTUAL northernmost point some 80 km away, but history dictated, the brochures had been printed, the road already built... as was the visitor center. i had been warned in advance that the northcape was a bit disneyfied, but found the visitors center was kind of nice, though a bit overdone, and not as virulent as i had been lead to believe... until... the earth shook, rumbled, as it were, upon the arrival of the blue-rinse brigade... legions of doe-eyed pensioners, so sweet and docile individually, but as a collective, some 25 tour buses strong, constitute a pestilence... a plague of doddering, mawing tourism gone feral... and all seemingly under the illusion that the midnight sun was something that "happened" on cue at midnight.

i couldn’t take it. i live my life under the illusion that the world is inaccessible and hard won. therefore, when i find coolness in the extreme, it is mine. i earned it. this whole nonsense of “everyone should have access to everything” simply shatters all i wish to tell myself about myself. well, not really... i just hate crowds. so i fled.

it was nice to have the 80 km of coast-hugging cape road to myself on the way back south. found a shitty place to camp around 2am and dreamt of dark nights... odd.

Posted by bajesus at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2006

lappland’s indigenous...

an albino rainier obstacle   invaro, finland

on the way out of norway, i stopped at a roadside souvenir stand of sami (the indigenous people of scandanavia) craftwork... most being crafted out of reindeer pieces... pelts, boots, scrotal purses... the usual dead animal bounty. chatted with the lovely sami woman at the stand for almost an hour. she’s a reindeer sami and politically active in sami rights. her people have lived in the region, raising and relying on reindeer for more than 10,000 years... and now have to attend mandatory compassionate slaughter classes due to the offended sensibilites of urban dwelling animal rights activists who, with no real culture of their own, have the luxury of morally infringing on the sami way of life. the woman i was talking with shrugged it off, not so much upset by audacity of it, that’s typical, but by the fact that she had to pay for this two day course out of her own pocket.

i was invited to stay a while in their lßvvu (a teepee) for coffee... could have stayed all day... it was warm and friendly and the conversation was riveting (not from my contribution)... but after an hour, for some reason i felt compelled to move on, even though it was raining... even though she offered to let me stay the night... even though i found her very compelling...

i am retarded. there is simply no other explanation (except the ones involving social ineptitude, which really, are covered by the retard thing). i don’t believe in signs, but the albino reindeer that almost forced me off the road, the neverending deluge that followed me the entire day, and the voice in my head repeating the mantra “turn back, turn back, turn back” are difficult to ignore. yet i did. because... i am retarded.

Posted by bajesus at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

Finland is soggy

the final of many that ended my day   invaro, finland

i like water. i like to drink it. i like to bathe in it. i even like to flush my colon with a warm floral infusion of... um... well... i’m not predisposed to hating the stuff is what i”m getting at... but yesterday was one big waterlogged, oversaturated swim... all day long the road veered toward every black cloud the sky would put up... i didn’t suspect collusion until team lightning entered the picture. everything i own is now drying out in a hotel room the morning after, as i sip coffee in a pub, and everyone else is sipping beer... it’s 9am... finland is shaping up to be one badass country.

Posted by bajesus at 01:17 AM | Comments (3)

July 06, 2006

Finland IS badass!

i guessed it was so, but when i saw the finnish oompa’s giant whole-cane marshmallow field, then i knew...

the bike is female, btw, which is also problematic).*

*if i can explain...
all my bikes have been female... tomboy would be a better description... but because this one is silver, it resembles “a dolphin” on the road... given the german pedigree, i shortened that and added a faux dutch surname as a nod to it’s citizenship... therefore, the bike’s full name is Adolph van der Straat: tombike with attitude... and now rattling bits. you’re thinking that i should just call the bike a bloke and be done with it, but you clearly don’t understand the finer art of anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, do you?

Posted by bajesus at 02:20 PM | Comments (1)

July 07, 2006

dimes a dozen

last week while in troms° i met a danish family at the hotel where i was staying. we lounged in front of world cup in the freewaffle kitchen... i had waffles, they had a proper meal... commenting on the game, only half-heartedly caring, and dropping episodes from our respective trips. they were the typical family on the final week of a typical one year trip around the world in their own plane... with 3 kids. they literally sold the farm and left, taking the year to decide what would be next. (though with a week left were no closer to knowing.)

they return to denmark this week, to a house bought unseen over the internet and a life still waiting to be sorted. this is how i want to be when i grow up. great role models. check out their site...

Posted by bajesus at 08:06 AM | Comments (3)

July 09, 2006

all my world looks like mister roger’s neighborhood

river cottages  porvoo, finland

yesterday i did a novel thing. i took the bus. soooo nice to leave the responsibility to someone else, sit back, enjoy the view, jack into the ipod and just exist. no thought. no attention span. no desire. no ambition... just like a real tourist. was nice. spent the day in porvoo.

part of traveling abroad is taking in different styles of cooking whenever possible. but... sometimes its fun to see how others take on your favorite food from back home. like korean barbecue. i love me the korean barbecue. love to see how finland does the korean barbecue... only thing is, i was going for mexican. restaurant named Iguana. check. pillowy tortilla duvet all stuffed and drippy. check. jalape˝os. check. the sleeping bag on my plate looked like a burrito... but with none of the flavors i was expecting. not one. even the chicken was on siesta... gummy and oversaturated with a glazy resin... it tasted like... if i closed my eyes, a korean barbecue wrap...

just watched the world cup final at the hostel where i am staying in helsinki... didn’t care as much about the outcome, but it has been fun to travel the last month with the competition threading my journey. the french are crying, a group of 3 italian girls were kissing... which seemed to cheer up the french guys a bit... italy would be a great place to be tonight... france... not so much. (I'm trying to work out another sport where the 3rd place finishers throw a party while the 2nd place finishers hang their heads in shame. don’t understand why FIFA bothers to rank the top three like that.)

Posted by bajesus at 02:30 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2006

new europe is so... old

me, happy, and kinda smirky  tallinn, estonia

i don’t want to sound cynical, but it can’t be helped... tallinn’s old town is a shopping mall theme park pure and simple, no matter how you want call it. sure it’s pieced together from the rubble of a fractured soviet past and it’s antiquated cobblestoned charm can’t be denied, but there’s little diversity beyond “spend money here”... i cut it some slack for not being filled with chain stores, and for the choclateria outdoor courtyard cafe where i now sit accessing one of estonia’s 200+ free wifi access points while sipping some kickass coffee... and the beerhouse where i had home-brewed medovar honey beer and hand-stuffed roadkill sausage... and the welcome return of the decadent aray of pastires that was sorely lacking in finland (sorry, finland, my friend, but you don’t know shit about sugar)... and okay, old town itself has more of an elevation change than i’ve experienced in the last month between holland and finland minus norway... and the estonian women are easy on the optics, even if they are ridiculously tarted up in tourist-pleasing medieval garb... and the town hall square is a premium people-watching portal... um... how did this post begin again? oh yeah, tallinn rocks...

(the hair experiment has ended... a month of helmet-hair drove me insane... being freshly shorn is as oddly liberating as really long hair was back in the day).

Posted by bajesus at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2006

The russians came and all they left us was this shitty landscape

outside the theme park  “residential” tallinn, estonia

heading east out of tallinn was super depressing. a wide open dusty landscape with almost zero vegitation, wide roads, smoggy busses and residential towers from the bygone soviet era of “one people, one architect, one design.” fortunately it all improved dramatically some 20km down the road where the forest abrubptly began and continued forever...

just put a roof on it and make it mine  lahemaa, estonia

lahemaa national park is some 75km away from tallinn and is strangely unspoiled... sort of. i should say undeveloped, because that kind of coastline anywhere else in the world would be overrun with hotels and even private ownership of land along the sea. instead lay the ruins of soviet buildings... all concrete and pale green tile, reduced to rubble and ignored as if that were preferable to turning it all around towards something beautiful. while surveying one of the dead buildings, i met a texan with and australian accent, married to an estonian woman and now living on a siberian island north of japan (that’s another conversation) and his first comment to me was “we fucking got ’em, didn’t we?” he lived in estonia for a while under soviet rule and just had nothing good to say about it. could have listened to his stories for hours.

town hall square  tallinn, estonia

all in all, estonia is a beautiful place, and i say the same about the people... since i had no expectations, everything is a surprise, and that’s what i want more of...

Posted by bajesus at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

teasers... or not..

things we never pay attention to  riga, latvia

zero-tolerance  just outside baltezers, latvia

restaurant for bulimiacs?  riga, latvia

Windmill Home–BYOB (bring your own blades)  talsi, latvia

Chuck Norris is so badass he tagged latvia single-handedly... with the blood of his foes  riga, latvia

i don’t want to suggest he wasn’t entertaining...  riga, latvia

riga is adorable  riga, latvia

all of these are examples of themes i could easily extend to their own individual pages... adorability, street art, road signs (cheap, but still... come on... baltezers? it's a gem...).

spent the last 2 days exploring the northwest coast of latvia. some of the most amazingly unspoiled coastline ever. camped in "unkel" theodor’s yard just south of cape kolka. his yard is just a dune or two removed from the beach. rusty brown water is pumped from the well and the outhouse has simply never been emptied. the 2 latt bought me unprecedented access... (i made like a bear and shat in the woods... and was plenty thirsty by the time i left... early... the next morning)

the 32km stretch of beach in jűrmala is unlike any i’ve seen before... not in the zanzibar bleached-white-flour-sand-skirting-turquoise-bathwater sense, but there is still a certain charm about the coastal town... part dilapidated elegance of former afluence, part naivitÚ, and a large part the lack of resorts. i don’t imagine it will stay semi-virginal for long, but it's nice to have seen it when...

tomorrow i leave on a holiday from my holiday... may not post for another week or so...

Posted by bajesus at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2006

m... m... m... my verona

Aida in the open  verona, italy

flew to italy to meet up with my antipodian friend kim. australia being so far away, it only makes sense to hook up in some gelato-infested backwater halfway in between.

a few weeks ago i was so immersed in forward momentum that i missed out on finland’s big open air opera festival in savonlinna.. not that i'm a big opera fan... but as experiences go, it had promise. i arrived unknowingly in an impossibly overbooked verona in the middle of its big open air opera season... the colosium arena in the middle of town hosts a different opera every night... the scale of the staging is immense and yet every day a crane lifts out the pieces of Aida to make way for the stage of Carmen. we scored the equivalent of bleacher seats and our late arrival had us sitting aloft in the nosebleeds. it was wicked hot and we were all packed together on marble steps that retained and radiated the direct sun from earlier in the day. i have nothing to compare it to, but Aida was amazing... at least the music, the singing and the dancing was... but to be honest, i found the story itself to be a facile ham-fisted charade of high drama lacking any real emotive power of its own, forcing reliance on the singers’ operatic strength to do the heavy lifting... or is that what opera is all about to begin with? someone tell me. i’m uncultered and pedestrian. my idea of high entertainment is watching the family guy on a laptop in a hotel room with a friend...

Posted by bajesus at 02:16 AM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2006

venice looks like amsterdam... with italians... and gondolas... and sun...

what you’d expect to find  venice, italy

what you’d expect...  venice, italy

what you wouldn’t...  venice, italy

Posted by bajesus at 03:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2006

florence is a troubled ghetto

rippley (believe it or not)  florence, italy

heart not quite into it  florence, italy

finding guinness with the best people in the strangest places  florence, italy

italy has been hot. africa hot. and following up a meander through humid, sun-baked streets and airless museums with a stroll uphill on the other side of the river got us a deleriously and dryly joking about the suppposed treats we could find at the top, on a sunday, away from the tourist throng. kim peaked the list of unattainable desireables when she pleaded certain that there we'd find ice-cold guinness.

so when we reach the top, our thrist, like the view, was stunning. walking around, i found the outdoor cafe was open... and unbelievably they had GUINNESS (YES!) in cans (oh.) without the widget (sigh...). the guy pours delicately from the can into a plastic cup (como agua para chocolate) so there is not even the slightest hint of the trademark foamy cream floe that separates guinness from the lesser pack of chocolate-flavored barley water. i wasn't sure i could pass it off to kim as the thing it was. she'd suspect deception. but the bartender set each glass on the small plate of a ultra-sonic device, flipped a switch, and within seconds the cup was clouded cream, with the cascading separation taking place as though it were draught freshly poured from the tap. like most, i'm reluctant to use the word "hero" self-referentially, but were i to judge from the look on kim's face and the subsequent smiling disbelief as i stood before her with the very improbability we joked about...

(if you're lost, you don't love guninness... hey, look down there, it's a horsey!)

horseandcarriage!  florence, italy

pollyanna sunset  florence, italy

Posted by bajesus at 04:09 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2006

a roman holiday from my roamin’ holiday

these are strays from the italy diversion that defy proper category... because this website is... so... um... well-defined...

because a leash is humiliating  verona, italy

a great new game: italian cop or backstreet boy?  florence, italy  photo: kimberley kidger

still trying to work out the relationship between the police and the african street merchants. obviously the africans are selling illegally, but we couldn’t work out why they fold up their wares and make a mad dash at times and why they just go through the motions until the police pass at other times. how do they know when to run? when do police decide to take action and when are they just inconveniencing the sellers? kim shot this while we watched two africans lose their faux D&G gear to the very fashion-conscious police... i wonder what they do with all that contraband?

tribute  venice, italy

i collect pictures of urban street art everywhere i go. love it. can't get enough of it. but usually never know the significance of it. saw this stencil around venice many times. while shooting a picture of it, a russian man standing nearby asked if i knew what it meant. told him i didn't and he explained that it was a tribute to the men who died when the supposedly nuclear russian submarine "kursk" sank in the barents sea after an explosion... he was bitter that putin rejected help from the west (who had the equipment to raise the sub) out of pride or fear.

shot it like this and inexplicably like it enough to share  florence, italy

me on a stoop awaiting the gelato express  verona, italy  photo: kimberley kidger

Posted by bajesus at 03:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

the “alps” are overrated

a little slice of planet all for me  sigulda, latvia

years ago i had a friend report back from switzerland that it was like lodi with the alps. i’ve never been able to shake that from my mind for the utter lack of appreciation and waste of airline ticket that it was. it always comes to mind when i hear of a place referred to as “the (insert-name-of-place-being-referred-to) alps”. yesterday i rode out to sigulda, the latvian alps. my guess is that its a tongue-in-cheek reference from the start. from all that i’ve seen so far, nothing latvian geographically approximates the elevation needed to come close to an alpine reference. so my first thought upon reaching sigulda is that it was latvia’s lodi. which turned out to be a necessary vantage point for appreciation. all that came after my initial impression was positively bliss. camped along the river, went swimming in its refreshing iced-tea coolness, and simply enjoyed being outside of the city.

Posted by bajesus at 04:03 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2006

christians are creepy...

Hill of Crosses  Šiauliai, lithuania

Hill of Crosses  Šiauliai, lithuania

Hill of Crosses  Šiauliai, lithuania

...but they make some wicked cool memorials. the Hill of Crosses in lithuania is located some 40km south of the latvian border. the importance of this site goes back to the 14th century as a place where catholics paid tribute to the survival of the church in the face of numerous invasions. in more recent times, the hill was bull-dozed by the soviets many times beginning in 1961 (going so far is to level the hill and dump rubbish on the site) each time coming back bigger, stronger and creepier than before. during the great soviet debacle, placing a cross on the hill was dangerous and forbidden and had more to do with lithuanian nationalism than an act of devotion. today the hill is once again a place of pilgrimage, where the faithful can create a memorial fire hazard in relatively safe environs...

Posted by bajesus at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2006

curonian spit.. worth drooling over

the lagoon side of the spit  nerunga (the curonian spit), lithuania

no clubs, no bars, no ice cream stands, no lifeguards... can it really be?  nerunga (the curonian spit), lithuania

it thrills me to find unspoiled coastline... a shame that it needs an unesco world heritage designation to exist that way...

Posted by bajesus at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

kaunas dulls the senses... hardly...

window ornament  kaunas, lithuania

they followed me, he glared at me...  kaunas, lithuania

texture  kaunas, lithuania

surface  kaunas, lithuania

surface  kaunas, lithuania

form  kaunas, lithuania

le boulevard  kaunas, lithuania

the ground benath my feet  kaunas, lithuania

kaunas is one of those places i added to the itinerary based on a recommendation as a “lovely place”. as i rolled into kaunas, i was hard-pressed to remember exactly what was meant to be lovely about it. the long road into town ran through industrial areas both abandoned and working... all of it less than charming. even when i arrived at the center of town, i still couldn't see it. i checked into a big sovet-era hotel in the center and set out for a stroll along the main pedestrian boulevard behind the hotel. little by little the town grew on me... from odd sculptures, to beautiful people to the run-down old town which has yet to be seized up on by architecture offices and loft developers (it's really only a matter of time...)

Posted by bajesus at 12:51 AM | Comments (1)

August 01, 2006

off the beaten trakai

the reason for going  trakai, lithuania

the reason for going  trakai, lithuania

could have been a day trip from vilnius... but i met a dutch couple, kees and saakje, as well as an english couple, gary and wendy, while at the campground, which turned out to be nicer than the sight-seeing... the above images represent the fairy tale we all want to tell ourselves, this is the reality

Posted by bajesus at 03:05 AM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2006

vilnius doesn’t live up... however...

atop the state small theatre company  vilnius, lithuania

zappa’s head on a steel pole in a dodgy plaza full of drunk high school kids. vilnius “gets it”.  vilnius, lithuania

the constitutional declaration of the repbulic of užupis (click the pic to read...)  vilnius, lithuania

užupis is small district within vilnius that is home to artists and galleries. the residents have set up a tongue-in-cheek independent republic as way to create a sense of community. they even have their own army (of 12). they, in fact, are responsible for the bust of frank zappa. the guardian has the story here.

home, in all its glory  vilnius, lithuania

i began my stay in lithuania’s capitol city with resentment. the centrally located hotel i booked was 4km from the center, on a bustling, run-down avenue, in and old soviet architectural monstrocity monument on the opposite side of the river from where it is all happening. the hotel charged my card for the first night in case of no-show without my consent or authorization (thanks, visa... nice to know you’re looking out for me), and the directions provided on their website were for those arriving by train or airport, and not in their own vehicle. my guess is so that they could keep up the “centrally located” pretext. so when i emailed them to ask for direction coming by motorbike, all they could tell me was that it was near a mall called Europa... i guess the highly-visible M-1, Canon and Mazda logos on top of their building escaped their memory... or were no match for the neon Europa sign which is only visible when you’re right in front of it.

so vilnius began on the wrong foot... and i have to say, stayed that way. i should have left yesterday...

Posted by bajesus at 02:33 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

trivialities... polish edition

cheap deluxe home for the night...  mikolajki, poland

...with superdeluxe view  mikolajki, poland

me, the bike and a bitchin’ backroad  ryn, poland

a day of winding and twisty country roads ended in a lakeside town very much geared toward german tourists. the polish countryside is the same landscape as lithuania, yet so different... some of the towns remind me of the south of france. aside from a and a few road signs and satellite dishes, you could imagine that this placed looked exactly the same 50 to 100 years ago. i’ve been sticiking to the small roads, which are lined with trees and heavily canopy of leaves makes for a giant umbrella during the rain...

anyone? anyone?  mikolajki, poland

Posted by bajesus at 11:32 AM | Comments (2)

August 04, 2006

the wolf’s lair

hitler’s deluxe condo during the war has seen better days  wolfschanze, poland

inside looking out  wolfschanze, poland

i remember visiting the arizona memorial when i was in hawaii some 23 years ago, and was struck by the number of japanese tourists flocking to see the wreckage. i couldn't quite tell if it was a somber reflection on a dark moment in japan’s history or a winking confirmation of a job well done. there wasn’t even a hint of the same thing while visiting wolfschanze in poland. during WWII this was hitler’s hideaway, tucked in the forest of his recent annexation’s great mansurian lake district. many german tourists exploring with fascination... curiosity... not so much admiration. amazing to see how much the forest is enveloping the rubble... if it were not a tourist attraction, it would easily be invisible by now... something that is hard to imagine when you see the size of the bunkers firsthand.

seeing such a thing, it makes me wonder how so much post-war architecture in europe resembles concrete bunkers...

Posted by bajesus at 11:56 AM | Comments (2)

August 07, 2006

krakow gives good square

dusk in europe’s largest town square  krakow, poland

the market in old town  krakow, poland

horsey ghosts  krakow, poland

before coming to poland, i had this impression of the place as being dark and industrial with out of date people in ill-fitting clothing... nothing coud be further from the truth. sometimes i dont know why i do what i do, but for some reason i've felt compelled to sepia the bajesus out of all my images in the previous posts. maybe in an effort to make poland look like “poland” instead of the modern european country it really is. though before i go and give it too much credit for existing beyond the scope of my preconceoptions, the men all look like the “da bears” fans from snl and drviing behind buses and trucks is like smoking an entire pack of cigarettes simultaneously. diesel heaven...

krakow is home to the largest public square in all of europe. it's a big one... but, dare i say, public squares are going the way of cathedrals and castles for me... seen one...

couldn’t resist just one more...  krakow, poland

Posted by bajesus at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

anatomy of waiting in line...

finally after more than 3 hours...  zakopane, poland

just couldn’t get him to fly away... he kept posing  zakopane, poland

end-of-day pint with two gutarists (if only i could get guinness to sponsor my travels...)  zakopane, poland

decided to do a bit of hiking today. decided to take the cable car tram up 3000 feet to the top of the tatras, put one foot in slovakia and one foot in poland, then spend the afternoon walking back to zakopane. here’s what i didn’t decide on... waiting in line for 3 hours to take that tram. so how does that even happen? i get in line. i can't see the front, but i’m by myself so i don’t have the luxury of having someone hold my space in line while i go check it all out. the line doesn't seem so long, i think maybe i’ve got a half hour wait. seems like we’re all inching along at a good pace. what i don’t realize is that there are only 2 trams that leave 10 minutes apart and hold about 25 people each. by the time i figure that out, i can now see the front of the line. it has been 45 minutes. well, i think, i have nothing else planned for the day, i can wait a bit longer... i’ve stuck it out THIS long. another 30 minutes and the line just stalls. people are moving forward, but the queue becomes more populated as the places being held for food foragers and bathroom goers fill in... at this point the self-loathing kicks in... how could i have wasted an hour and a half and clearly there is another hour to go... i bet i can hike to the top faster than this line moves... but now it's too late in the day... if i start now... naw... better see it through... 2 hours... i hate myself... i truly question my capacity for decision, and yet somehow can't allow myself to have wasted 2 hours... i have to see this through... 2 and a half hours... i'm at the gate... 3 groups of reservations pass ahead of my group... damn them! but i'm at the front... HOW can i leave NOW? so finally we’re herded into the tram and it shoots off up into the fog and within minutes we’re up at the top and all is forgotten... i don’t hate myself anymore... but after a long hike down the mountain, i see a sign that points back up the way i came saying 3 HOURS... i would have rather spent my 3 walking up a hill in a blizzard than stanind in line... but that’s not the decision i defaulted to... okay, shrapnel of self-loathing can still be found...

Posted by bajesus at 12:59 PM | Comments (2)

August 09, 2006

god hates jews (just like everyone else)

the simplest hinderance...  auschwitz-birkenau, poland

...multiplied and electrified  auschwitz, poland

the infamous gates (Work Frees)  auschwitz, poland

disposal...  auschwitz, poland

seems rational, right? he allowed the senseless extermination of millions of his children who just wouldn’t buy into the jesus myth... or maybe i have it wrong and satan is more powerful than god... no, wait, it WAS god, but he was trying to teach us a lesson... no, that’s not it... the “promised land” was actually heaven, see, and the jewish got it all wrong, thinking that it was some parcel of earthly real estate, and what better way to correct this silly misconception AND bring all his chosen ones home in one graceful swoop.. i mean ungraceful... i mean tragic... er... i forget how this game is played... the rules seem malleable, but is it: omnipotent deity, unaccountable to logic, reason and evidence with vaguely-stated mission, conflicting and contradicting messages open to misinterpretation, own-able equally by everyone’s self-serving agenda, on everyone’s side simultaneously, there to give us strength in our trivial moments of selfish indulgence, prison time and football, believe it as given, don’t question it, god cannot be second-guessed (he can only be “interpreted”... understand the difference? i don’t...)...? what have i left out? too much...

i’m not clever enough by half to continue that thread...

too much coffee... but what i really wanted to write about seemed crass and appalling... that is, my appreciation for nazi efficiency... walking around the grounds of birkenau, i was struck by just how methodical ones hatred can be. i understand provoked moments of rage, but premeditated extermination on a grand a scale is simply shocking... more shocking still, is that one man with a vendetta can implement the apparatus for ritual genocide... and incite others to carry out his will...

its noble that the two auschwitz camps are open to the public as a living memorial, museum and history lesson, and if you’ve even walked through the gates, you’d have to be completely detached from humanity to not feel the slightest bit of sorrow for the people slaughtered here. but so what? it didn’t stop the khmer rouge in cambodia, or ethnic cleansing in bosnia, rwanda, the sudan, tibet, uganda, east timor... i worry that when the last survivors of these camps are no longer alive, maybe one generation removed, it will be all too easily lost... even with the preservation of these camps, it will be all to easy for people to either forget, ignore, or dispute...

affected? yeah, i was...

Posted by bajesus at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2006

PRAGUE!!! um... so what..

the money shot...  prague, czech republic

more of this, prague... make me work a bit...  prague, czech republic

even the beer needs help...  prague, czech republic

i’m setting myself up for a grilling on this for being an unsatisfiable ingrate, but i can’t help how i feel... or don’t, and prague... i don’t feel ya. i know you’re like the expat mecca heaven from the early nineties, and maybe back then you was all that. but. it’s 2006 and you’ve got some work to do. for one thing, stop wearing it all on your sleeve. everyone likes a bit of mystery and you have none. everyone’s on to ya and charm is depreciating capital in estern europe these days... maybe your glory days are behind you and we just have to rest settled that you’re now just a tourist destination shy of a cruiseship port. look. i’ve done what i can with photoshop to hide a few of your essentials, but now the rest is up to you. stop resting on your laurels. make yourself interesting. 13 classical musical recitals in churches tonight all competing with each other with almost the exact same line up of vivaldi, bach and schubert...? are you kidding me? spice it up a bit. and i don’t mean a freaking OXYGEN BAR!

Posted by bajesus at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)


i wish i could explain, but i really don’t have to...  prague, czech republic

antonin, the man, the legend...  prague, czech republic

i never buy art. and maybe this doesn’t qualify, but i really like this guy. nutters, jittery, barely able to speak, unwashed, sloppy... all of his art is the same 3 images... but he does what he does well and he tries sooo hard. he wouldn’t haggle the price of his art so i walked away but came back. total respect. even his devilly horns are just nubby little things... dangerously harmless and loony... just how i like my creative types...

Posted by bajesus at 07:36 AM | Comments (2)

August 16, 2006

edelweiss austria hungary 2006

yes, that is a real sign, and yes, that is my real dad  tatß, hungary

doug with his GS, bob with his RT  gyˇr, hungary

an empty adolf points the way  gyˇr, hungary

on sunday my dad and brother joined me in vienna for a 9 day organized motorbike trip through austria and hungary. while i’ve never been crazy about group tours, i have to say it's been great so far. great to spend time on bikes with my family, but also to travel with others who are like-minded about motorcycles and adventure.

Posted by bajesus at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

August 20, 2006

more scenes from an edelweiss tour

from a high point in buda  budapest, hungary

axel, don, bruce and josef refuel  maribor, slovenia

go, dougs, go...!  maribor, slovenia

fun with gravel  maribor, slovenia

gettin our kicks... on...  route 69, austria

a place for bikers to upstage one another  route 69, austria

josef in the lead, wes coming up strong, doug hanging in there, bruce & susan behaving like specks  route 69, austria

wes, me, doug and the back of my dad’s head terracing at a vinyard  hilltop winery, hungary

still struggling with luxurious accomodation, an overabundance of food and the subsequesnt pressure to bathe every day. i do prefer a grubbier world, but i'd be lying if i said i hated this poshness. on one hand it's nice that somebody else is figuring out the details... after 2 months of doing that for myself, i'm ready to let go of the reins a bit, but then it sucks because i'm not paying attention to where i am at and why i am there to begin with. adds a little, takes away a little... but overall, it's nice to travel with good people to places i would otherwise never consider.

traveling with family hasn’t been the zen exercise in patience i half-anticipated... in fact, quite the opposite. maybe my brother and dad would say different... maybe i test their nerves on a dily basis... nah... who am i kidding. i”m a dream to travel with. aside from a few dawdling moments of ”what do you want to do? i don”t know, what do YOU want to do... shall we go this way, hmm.. this way..? well, YOU tell ME where we should go...” it’s been a breeze...

today we’re back in austria. the ride ends tomorrow in vienna.. more images then.

Posted by bajesus at 01:27 PM | Comments (2)

edelweiss poster child

dad having a very good day  budapest, hungary

Posted by bajesus at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

edelweiss extras

i swear this wasn’t posed... and they dressed themselves  graz, austria

the island cafe  graz, austria

hovering over the edge of the alps  graz, austria

from the best day of riding  semmering, austria

click on the follow through for 9 different pictures of the very same sunrise  semmering, austria

Continue reading "edelweiss extras"
Posted by bajesus at 04:00 AM | Comments (2)

August 29, 2006


streetscene  istanbul, turkey

the hagia sophia  istanbul, turkey

another streetscene  istanbul, turkey

whirling dervish performance at an ourdoor cafe  istanbul, turkey

not a very clever headline, but sums up my feelings about that city. i’ve spent a bit of time in the rest of turkey during two previous visits, so i know that istanbul doesn’t represent, but being there with my dad and brother on their three visitis (first, last, only) reminded me what a dificult place it can be. three different minds really need to be synced in order to minimize frustration... the carpet sellers are easy to avoid, it's the restaurant wallers that are the most unsettling. their pretense of friendliness barely cloaks the deep dislike for their customers... pressure and guilt seem to be a substitute for the reputation of a fine meal. our one rooftop terrace experience suffered from pushy, snotty waiters...one in particular who glared at us while muttering something in turkish... the very same one who tried to trick us into 3 more beers through ‘misunderstanding’. seems that misunderstanding is a very common leveraging tool in the turkish service arsenal. upon leaving our hotel, the concierge attempted a “you seem to have not yet paid” for the airport transfer that was indeed paid well in advance... it’s a shame for istanbul that it relies on such shiftiness to survive... should they ever attain EU membership, they’ll be the only member who relies on backward medieval manners.

i only lost my shit once within minutes of arrival when a potential self-appointed guide to the blue mosque accosted us. he pushed himself on us in every way possible, and when clever tactics such as “we don’t shoot americans here” failed to earn our business, he shouted something in frustration like “you don’t respect us, maybe you’re jewish!” at that moment, i wish i had been, just to make the confrontation complete. i walked back to him, stared him down and asked him if he thought HE was being respectful. it didn’t end with satisfaction. once you’ve engaged them on any level, particularily rage, they’ve got you. i was oblivious to his response and just walked away, remembering all i had learned during previous visits just a little too late.

doug, never without IT  istanbul, turkey

from the terrace of harrassment, but what a view  istanbul, turkey

Posted by bajesus at 04:00 AM | Comments (1)

istanbul by bus

to alleviate the tedium of the commute going back and forth to istanbul park each day. what istanbul lacks in charm, it makes up for with character.

Posted by bajesus at 04:51 AM | Comments (0)

let’s have a race in an out of the way place

formula 1 turkish grand prix  istanbul, turkey

ferrari fans can be so annoying  istanbul, turkey

our vantage point (click the pic to see the start of the race)  istanbul, turkey

the stark contrast of worlds  istanbul, turkey

Posted by bajesus at 05:08 AM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2006

i’m sloving it...

my new island home...  bled, slovenia

...and it’s hilltop companion  bled, slovenia

okay, my actual home... riverfront camping along the soca  kobarid, slovenia

i had a few days to kill before my passenger arrived in zagreb, so i headed back to slovenia... a very friendly country for motorcyclists. not only do you see “Bikers Welcome” signs everywhere, but they thoughtfully carved the roads into the landscape especially for two-wheeled meandering... even going so far as numbering the switchbacks for later bragging. i was enjoying the ride too much to break out the camera, so, use your imaginations... much of the roads narrowed to a mere car-width when passing through villages where the road’s boundaries were dictated by the space between buildings.

both slovenia and austria are in love with their tunnels... great for saving the landscape for itself while depriving drivers of the surrounding environment. i’ve discovered my limit for driving underground is about 2 km. beyond that i become hypnotized by the rhythm of the lights, the fans and the ambient darkness. shooting out the other end into blinding daylight has a birthing metaphor waiting to be made, but since i can’t work in an umbilical cord with the materials at hand, i leave it to y’all everybody to do some work.

Posted by bajesus at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2006

where yugos came from...

they’re usually faceless, no?...  zagreb, croatia

shrunken-apple face lady in market  zagreb, croatia

shrunken-potato face lady in market  zagreb, croatia

faces young, old and super mario  zagreb, croatia

zagreb’s arterial thrombosis  zagreb, croatia

zagreb is a city of surprises. the first surprise upon arriving by road from slovenia is that this place is so impossibly ugly it makes sacramento look like paradise... i think we all have a picture of how ugly that can be... dry, scrubby, industrial, residential tower blocks and eye-punishing slabs of soviet era concrete. the next surprise is that the center of the city looks nothing like it’s nasty exterior... keep going further and you find pedestrian avenues that retain the small village feel of zagreb circa 1400 A.D... so visceral you can almost smell the plague... and going one step further, zagreb is not city full of tourist... even though it is.

Posted by bajesus at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2006

croatia needs more boundaries

passenger posing within the city walls  zadar, croatia

underneath, inside and outside zadar (click the pic for a sample of the sea organ)  zadar, croatia

the walled city on the island of hvar  hvar, croatia

arriving in trogir, impressions from dubrovnik  croatia

nightlife reflecting on the shiny marble streets of dubrovnik  dubrovnik, croatia

views from a walk on the wall  dubrovnik, croatia

goal acheived!  dubrovnik, croatia

i’ve had a passenger for my run through croatia.. that means i got to spend a week compromising everything... ; ). i made it a personal goal to get at least one photo of passenger as i see her, which the camera usually quarrels with. in addition, the week sort of became the ancient walled town tour: zadar, trogir, hvar and dubrovnik (which really puts all other walled cities to shame... even when overrun with cruiseship cattle, it's still stunning).

it’s always nice to have something from back home when you travel, usually it’s as simple as an oreo cookie, but having a friend show up to share part of the journey with is even better. especially if they know your moods. passenger has seen me come and go many times without a real sense of my travels and like with my father and brother on the edelweiss tour, its nice to pull them in for a bit... and then send them packing.

Posted by bajesus at 12:56 PM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2006

fools rush in...

the rebuilt bridge  mostar, war-torn bosnia-hercegovina

i personally think all soviet-era buildings should suffer this fate  mostar, war-stuffed bosnia-hercegovina

the bridge at night  mostar, war-ravaged bosnia-hercegovina

the lone fruit peddler  mostar, war-imperiled bosnia-hercegovina

survivied a heavily caffeinated morning, enjoyed a final bit of relaxation with passenger, dropped her off at the airport and headed for mostar in war-torn bosnia. yet another place that failed to impress me upon first glance. add to that the most difficult border cossing i’ve had on this trip, and very little information on where to stay when i got to where i got. it is a typical example of where my lack of patience upon arrival in a new place works against me. i found what i thought was a nice centrally located hotel, checked in, went for a stroll, and 2 km away stumble into the old town... the adorable heart of mostar where accomodation is more cheap, more quaint, more beautiful, more fun... it pains me that i repeat this mistake so often. so, silver linings must be gleaned, and i kid myself that my stupidity is actually an asset that introduced me to the side of a town most people don’t (and shouldn’t) see...

the old town of mostar is a thing of beauty. terraced stone structures stacked atop one another on either side of a river that is bridged by a recently rebuilt replica of the 500 year old version which was blown up during the war years... first by the yugoslav army and then by croats. i stayed on the croat side, but the party was on the muslim side. if there is residual tension between the two, i couldn’t feel it... me with my 24 hour tourist survey.

i saw an empty eatery next to a cemetery on the main street of the muslim side and thought to myself that the owner must have missed the “Location” lesson in the opening-your-own-restaurant seminar... then i noticed that all the gravestones shared a common feature... death in 1993. maybe the restaurant location novelty doesn’t rate anymore... stupid tourist moves on... slinking, sobering feeling slowly dissolves with ice cream opiate...

Posted by bajesus at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2006

sigh... sarajevo

you know your city has a troubled past when...  sarajevo, war-pummeled bosnia-hercegovina

a sarajevo rose  sarajevo, war-forsaken bosnia-hercegovina

these winged cats are all over sarajevo... anyone?  sarajevo, war-tattered bosnia-hercegovina

i can’t say sarajevo is my favorite city... well, i can, it just wouldn’t be true... but it is one of the heaviest places i’ve ever visited. people go about their everyday lives like you would see in any other major city oblvious to the ravaged backdrop that surrounds them constantly. i can’t tell whether it is denial or a “life goes on, we’ll clean up the damage when we get to it,so STOP REMINDING US” thing. again, i haven’t spent the time there that would allow me to earn the confidence of anyone’s psyche, but disposition cuts through explaination and sarajevo is one moody mistress.

as the city slowly repairs itself, a series of perversely sobering monuments dwindles. the “sarajevo rose” is the remains of a shell blast that leaves a distinctive pattern in the ground. where 3 or more were killed by such a blast, residents have filled in the hole with red cement or polymer as a memorial. if you didn’t know what it was, you’d assume cal-trans type patch job efficiency... while photographing various examples of these, i couldn’t tell if the attention i drew was a “how dare you focus on our bloody past, we’re civilized now” contempt or your garden variety “stupid tourist” disdain... either way, there was a palpable tension felt when photographing any residue of the war...

Posted by bajesus at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2006

the newest country on the planet

two places in a day that made my knees buckle  tara canyon & ostrog, montenegro

monasteries are tokens of self-loathing construction  ostrog, montenegro

cambodianesque minnow nets over the ulcinj delta... would love to see them in action  ulcinj, montenegro

easy to misplace yourself on a motorbike in montenegro. many of the signs are still in cyrillic and many of the roads are as yet unmapped, so the possibilities for frustration are as endless as the potential surprises. surprise! the pavement just ended. surprise! you're 50 km north of your destination.

the landscape of ending pavement  Ledenice, montenegro

the pavement returns, fresh and tasty  Ledenice, montenegro

...and round the bend the landscape dropped to this  Risan, montenegro

me, gratuitously  ??????, montenegro

my first indication that coastal montenegro should be avoidd  ulcinj, montenegro

i spent an extra night along the coast to get a bit of beach and ocean... super depressing to spend time in a place that is built for july and august only... i like solitude, but get a bit creeped out walking the grounds of an empty resort en route to the beach... kind of apocalyptic... like a heads up on what my life will be like after the rapture...

i don’t think i’ve ever experienced so much trash washing up on shore and being blown around the beach... you think if people drove their ratty diesel ladas on the beach, they's not be so lazy with their picnic’s disposal... and i think i know where the idea for sand in ashtrays came from...

Posted by bajesus at 12:23 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2006

albania’s charms are elusive

if only i could record smells  shkodra, albania

a name that hardly implies power. good thing horses can’t read  shkodra, albania

trash. that’s where it begins to go wrong in albania and the degree to which it is strewn around the land is positively stupifying. yesterday i was run off the road by a garbage truck of all things, and what upset me most is that there are actually garbage trucks in this country. i think is must be for show, or, i happened to encounter something more elusive than a yeti and i am writing here now to testify as to it’s existence. i said the trash was the beginning... how does it get worse? they burn it... plastic bags, plastic bottles, diapers, you name it, anything with incendiary properties goes up in smoke (where it lies, of course, special pollutant-limiting incinerators are for pussies) so you're adding a bile toxic plume to the already nasal-gouging funk of decay).

it's like a mild form of collective retardation (and i say this remembering the anti-roadside littering campaigns in the US with the tearing indian, so we’re not too far removed from such insipid behavior...) that ranges from dropping a wrapper from your hands as you walk, to tossing rubbish out the window of a moving car, to entire truckloads of debris dumped over the edge of the road into a ditch, hillside, or riverbed and thoughtfully set ablaze... the country-wide prevalence of this behavior is overwhelming... and i swear that albanians have developed a blind-spot for refuse and shellacked olfactory pipes for stench.

crossing the border from montenegro dropped me into shkodra, albania’s tiajuana (though i hate to disparage tiajuana in such a way, i figure it is a more handy reference point than albania’s bangladesh... but you decide. which ever visual allows you to view natty half-dressed children splashing around in puddles of stewed filth, then go with that). i’m used to children shouting at me in a bid for attention as i ride by, but when adults behave the same way, it red-flags a simple mentality that brings forth the sir charles emerson winchester the III within and i unavoidably develop a form of pedantic snottiness i detest... it removes me from participant to spectator, and i loathe myself as well as the idiot in front of me. i’ll go one step further and suggest that repetitious use of the car horn for communication has an inverse relationship to intelligence, as if sound were uni-directional and knowingly applied itself exclusively to the intended target.

two eras pass each other on the street  koršŰ, albania

it’s a castle, a military museum and feral cat haven (shot down 50s spyplane shown with pride)  gjirokastor, albania

albania shows what it could be, when it wants to be  gjirokastor, albania

unfortunately first impressions are hard to shake, but i did manage to see the worst of the worst of albania upon entry, and aside from the trash, which is pervasive, albania did manage to serve up more than disgust. without exception, every person i talked with or had contact with was friendly and helpful, as though i was either a friend or even friend of a friend... and that goes a long way. in tirana, i managed to find an oasis in the midst of chaos... a hotel/restaurant called qendra stefan founded by american missionaries in the early 90’s when albania first opened up after decades of isolation. (i have to say, christians, while undeniably creepy*, have the hospitality thing down. a super comfy room, food i understand, and wifi... things i never expected to see back in shkodra.) josef, manager of the hotel, is a motorcyclist, and gave me the run down of where to go, what to avoid, how to find the tasty roads, where to buy gas** and even where to stay further south along the ionian coast.

let me be clear. i’ve wanted to leave albania from the moment i arrived, yet i’ve a morbid fascination with the place that propels me further into it's miserable trash-carpeted depths while simultaneously serving up intrigue, and occasionally yielding to tolerance and eventually a sort of love, which is both tentative and codependent. by far the most dynamic country i’ve visited on this trip.

700,000 of these littered throughout albania  dhermi, albania

an ever-present reminder of albania’s isolationist and paranoid past, are the little cement mushrooms that pass for personal bunkers still dotting the landscape. and, given their mass and impenetrability, probably will remain standing for eternity alongside elvis and cockroaches. more than half a million of these things were commissioned by the former dictator xhosa after the engineer who designed them personally demonstrated their effectiveness (against his will). most have been converted to unemptiable trash bins or love nests.

the eggman of tirana  tirana, albania

yesterday i spent 9 hours in the saddle experiencing the entire spectrum of road quality along with the entire spectrum of albania. the road between dhermi on the coast and korša in the eastern interior is a giant zig zag that traverses valleys and crosses mountain passes, alongside rivers and through medieval ruins. an entirely unexpected view of this country, except for the trash which is deviantly absent from korša. (they get it... and they pride themselves on being more civilized than the rest of the country. amazing to me how unpaved streets become charming and quaint minus the litter and exposed sewage).

*see post from july 28
**(that’s another entire post right there. gas stations every 50 meters, some ‘borrowing’ logos from legitimate petroleum firms and others content to build big and spend big for their own one-off station making it look as though shell or chevron ladled out gasoline from buckets by comparison, and yet all of these look like the loneliest, cricket-chriping outposts, on the verge of bankruptcy. in fact, albania will have a certain future in archeological digs that focus on the history of the gas pump..

Posted by bajesus at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2006

suggested macedonian tourist slogan: we’re NOT albania

the macedonian side of the lake  ohrid, macednonia

they watched me pack up, giving the play-by-play in macedonian, then tried to keep up  ohrid, macednonia

the trout he seeks has been banned, and is therefore, lucrative  ohrid, macednonia

albania is so love/hate, but macedonia was pure love. not intrinsically, though it may be, but coming out of albania alongside lake Ohrid which divides the two countries, really brought home just how medieval albania can be... trashy shoreline, bunkers crumbling on the periphery... i’m cerain that the endemic pollution in the lake has a lopsided source.

i spent the evening in ohrid with loren and cindy... i’ll carve that tale when i can better do it justice... the short version is that the world is VERY small and paths cross inexplicably and unexpectedly... then there is the issue of timing... and the evening capped itself off with guinness, which also has a history of unexpectedness...

Posted by bajesus at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

bulgaria is up and coming

yes, that’s a real sign. manifested.  bansko, bulgaria

the commute. visited.  bansko, bulgaria

the commute revisited. visited.  bansko, bulgaria

brown bear fornerly known as ‘dancing’ doing the slumba  on the road to plovdiv, bulgaria

i tried hard to make bulgaria look as modern as it really is in the metropolitan areas, but the time-gone-by hasn’t quite gone by and i find it visually more compelling than the stuff that maks bulgaria look just like everywhere else on the planet.

while on the road between bansko and plovdiv i saw a sign for dancing bears park... how could i resist? me love bears. though i shamefully admit, i anticipated a horrid 3rd rate bear kennel full of circus freaks, i was happily surprised to discover that that place is a sanctuary for rescued bears. when i say rescued, i mean bought from gypsies for $7K. the place is well funded and first rate. the bears live better than many bulgarians. i'm not kidding. i got my own personal tour from one of the workers, who heaved up the hills chain-smoking Gitanes as he spit out bits of broken english between bits of broken breath. (i have a difficult time holding down a conversation with someone who smokes Gitanes... the nicotine fog-breath just crawls down my throat and renders me mute.)

Posted by bajesus at 10:34 AM | Comments (1)

September 25, 2006

land speed record

since bulgaria i've been on an asphalt bender... trying to get back to amsterdam with enough time to sell my bike before re-entry...

belgrade was a disappointment, though i did stay in hotel splendid which was a few heaping tablepoons shy of splendor.

ljubljana... was so happy to be back in slovenia... the teletubby landscape is otherworldly... its like a giant golf course without the electric carts and bad wardrobe... and golf clubs... and, well, all the things that make a golf course so... it is just very green. stayed at hostel celica, a converted former prison centered in a bohemian compound of rehabilitated industry... really cool place. artfully chaotic... made me happy.

and i hate pigeons...  lago como, italy

...but they are nice in flight...  lago como, italy

...and pastilla  lago como, italy

lake como north of milan was an unbelievably welcome paradise after an entire day fighting massive highway traffic across northern italy. the sky was unusually hazy all day... i don't think i've ever seen italy uglier... at the end of the day, i just couldn't take a big city, so i turned north from milan and headed into the alpine foothills. not 50 km along was the turnoff to como. knew nothing of it. took the turnoff, dropped down a series of hilly roads til a turn brought me round to a stunning lake. dined on pumpkin ravioli in a walnut cream sauce and drank away the day’s ugliness with a tall cold beer at an outdoor cafe in the old town, stayed at the hostel, played cards all night with some turkish students... the day ended better than i thought possible.

dijon... couldn't make it to paris. couldn't have cared less about dijon. pity. it looked like it was worth caring about. ate at mcdonald’s just because i laugh that the french allowed that to happen...

Posted by bajesus at 09:44 AM | Comments (2)

October 01, 2006


some tower thingy in france...  paris, france

the last few days of my travels were spent in paris with julien, karen and no, i’m not kidding (but i am sucking up) luc, the cutest boy in the world. were i to have unsheathed my camera in his presence, my claim would be easily supported, but by paris i just couldn’t muster the effort.

i really hate to end this travelogue with such a fizzle, because my experience was anything but. i just wanted to enjoy and not document. so. there you have it. (or don’t).

Posted by bajesus at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2006


adolph prior to sale...sniff sniff, i'll miss ya, girl...  amsterdam, netherlands

studio stallinga across the ij...  amsterdam, netherlands

studio stallinga...  amsterdam, netherlands

j & r hotelliers were able to put me up in esther’s canalhouse and kitten taxedermy parlor for my final week. i had the place to myself and simply hibernated, catching up on missed episodes of the daily show, fattening up on big breakfasts and sushi and simply chilling.

the purpose of my final week in a'dam was to sell my beloved adolph. not so easy to sell a motorbike in the netherlands in october. after suffering a humiliating last-minute lowballing from a shop owner in enkhuizen and a subsequent cold, wet ride back to amsterdam, i found an enthusiastic buyer who seems to love the bike as much as i did... nice... hope she treats you well, eric.

Posted by bajesus at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2006

iceland is still pretty...

a very sad binky...  reykjavik, ficeland

maybe one day i’ll see fit to properly represent iceland in all it’s glory. may when i actually travel the country properly. killing a day on layover had limitations...

iceland air thoughtfully sent my luggage onward to san francisco directly from amsterdam leaving me to survive with a laptop, a camera, an ipod and a 2-month old vanity fair. i considered trading any or all of them for 5 minutes in a fleece. i kept warm by walking quickly between pubs... a premise that worked well-enough that i was left with nothing to truly whine about... i guess i just needed to fill a bit of space... (probably not the first writer to find motivation that way).

Posted by bajesus at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

home... is a four-letter word

back to living, um... large...  emeryville, CA, USA

there i am and here it remains.

i could compose a grand swirling summary of the last 4 months and wax philosophical and nostalgic (what else does one “wax” about?) but as devin choicely stated when he picked me up from the airport, “okay, i’m gonna ask how it was, and then i’m gonna tune you out as you ramble for the next half hour”.

understood. implicitly.

aside from a forthcoming post of stray photos that please me to no end, yet support no story and were insignificant to the plot (there was one?) this will be my last bit of word.

Posted by bajesus at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)