Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Istanbul

We are having a great time in Istanbul - it is a fantastic place, with lots of stuff to do and see. Hyrum was ill for a few days when we got here, poor guy with food poisoning or something, but he's doing much better now. His mate Rustin arrives tonight, so we are a group of 5 for the new few weeks.
Yesterday we went on a cruise up the Bosphorous and the day before we took a ferry to Asia - well the asian side of Istanbul.
People haggle with you here to buy things almost all the time but it is not that bad, it is actually quite funny!
Its super hot here though, but nothing that I can't deal with really. The airconditioning in this computer place is fantastic.
Our hostel has a roof top bar which overlooks the water and the Blue Mosque. Absolutely stunning, and very laid back. I've been eating a lot of Kebaps and baklava. Food is really good here!
Yesterday I went to the Grand Bazaar with Canadian Dan (the second canadian Dan of the trip) and had fun buying jewelry and backgammon boards for his friends. I also did some jewlery purchasing myself. It is amazing how cheap things can get when you walk away from them..
There a mosques scattered everywhere over this vast city, and along with the call to prayer 5 times a day I know I'm not really in europe anymore. People are very friendly here, even when they are not trying to sell you something (which is most of the time). Great place to visit all in all.
On the 17th we are flying to Izmir, then going to Kusadasi, a beachside town for a night where our hostel has a pool! Can't wait for a swim, that is one thing istanbul is lacking right now. Then we catch a ferry to the greek island of Samos, and then onto Mykonos. We might go to another island around there and then we head to athens on the 24th, I have my job interview on the 25th (you can really see me researching sustainable ecosystems on a greek island now can't you....) and then off to italy on the 26th/27th where we stay with Hyrum in Naples for a few days. Once we leave turkey things are going to get much more expensive than eastern europe and istanbul... I'm sure we'll be right.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Transylvania

We had a great day today on a tour of Transylvania. it was really beautiful up there in the forest covered mountains. The castles we visited were very fairytale like.

First stop was the Palais castle, which is quite a modern one really

Transylvannia was awesome today. Beautiful, very atmospheric and fairytale. I can understand the mystic about it, although the whole dracula thing is just a myth created by someone who'd never been here.

We never made it to dracula's tomb (well, Vlad's tomb). It is much more difficult to get around Bucharest than you would think. It is so not set up for tourists yet - there are no signs, people try to help but don't really know how to... Its generally a pretty crazy city, and it reminds me of a latin american city. There are parallels too - Romanian is a romance language (latin) and like some latin american countries they are just emerging from a hard core dictatorship.

The day before yesterday we walked around Bucharest to see some of the sites. Not as easy as you might think! We went to the people's palace, which is the second largest administrative building in the world, the brain child of the dictator Ceausescu , a megolmaniac to say the least. From 1984 to 1989 all the resources in romania went to building this thing, while most people were queuing for 20 hours to buy meat and had no running water. So walking around this enormous building encrusted in marble kind of gave you the creeps. The palace is at the end of a 'copy' of the Champs Elysee in Paris - only it is 1m wider and 15m longer... the dictator guy thought he was tops to say the least.

We are catching a 18 hour train to Istanbul today - we are skipping bulgaria so that we can spend some more time in Turkey. We have heard lots of warnings for all the scams when travelling in Istanbul so we feel prepared. Good there are 4 of us too.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

draculas castle

At dracula's castle in Transylvannia... Hyrum, me and Ken eating black bullets, a Newcastle mint. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Romania, land of Dracula

I'm in Bucharest now, after a brilliant but speedy trip through the Czech republic, Vienna and Budapest.
We have met up with Hyrum now, our friend from Hawaii who is living in Naples. So we have a group of 4 for the next week until we meet Hyrum's mate Rustin in Istanbul. Ken, my mate from Newcastle met us in Budapest.
Was stressing out a bit today when I realised that it is actually quite far from Istanbul to Greece... we are trying to sort that out now so I can figure out where I will be doing my interview from!.
We had a really nice sleeper train from Budapest to Bucharest... 1st class I believe, with even a sink in the room. Played monopoly last night, very fun. Met a social anthropologist from Cambridge, so very random...
We had a great time in Budapest. It was nice hanging with our gang of friends that we had made. They have all moved onto Croatia now. Most sad. There is a pic of some of them - when we were in the train and then our last dinner in Budapest before the farewell.
The snail pic refers to our 4 hour mission to find a park in Budapest where they put all the communist propaganda statues after regime ended. We never found it that day, despite following a guy in khaki and flip flops blindly and asking loads of people for directions. the next day we caught the direct bus there. much, much easier!
Bucharest is an interesting place. Certainly a lot poorer than the other cities we have visited so far. I was wondering today whether the prevalence of sex shops, casinos, currency changers, dodgy Internet places and fancy clothes stores are a consequence of the relatively recent move from a hard core socialist government to a democratic society. Things are cheap here though, or they might be, if I can ever manage to sort out the currency conversions (they have new and old Lei, one has 4 extra zeros, and the other doesn't.... I'm so very confused!!!).

Had a massage yesterday at the baths in budapest. Was sooooo awesome. Perhaps I\'m feeling too relaxed/scattered right now or something.

Must get to sleep, as it is almost 2am, and everyone else has bunked down for the night.