Tuesday, December 15, 2009

April - June: Donners and Bart go East

Three main things happened in this quarter: Donners returned to the UK; I finally got to see AC/DC live; and a lost passport causing a right fuck up. Here's the Monday morning conversation:

Bart: Lou, sorry, I've missed the train so I'm going to be late.
Lou: Just catch the next one.
Bart: It's not for another 2 hours.
Lou: Where are you?
Bart: Lille
Lou: What?
Bart: I'm in France, Lou...France. It was a big weekend.

In brighter news, at the start of April, Donners had returned to the UK. We won’t go in to details about why he hadn’t done much travelling when he was last in town, but we decided that we wanted to start seeing the more rugged side of Eastern Europe. That was to take a Friday and Monday off and spend the next four days travelling through some of the poorest and most rural areas on the continent. So, with travel buddy in hand it was off to see what the far away lands held.

Eastern Europe doesn't do directions
Now I knew what was in it for me: Donners is a nice guy, never a bad word to say about anyone and always ready to go off the beaten track to see something new and different. I still can’t figure out what was in it for him, but decided it must have been my pleasant nature.
Deciding that the first place we’d hit up was Romania, we had a stellar plan to fly in to the capital - Bucharest - explore during the day and then train it east to Brasov, before heading up in to Transylvania and going to Dracula’s Castle in Bran, back through Rasov and in to Bucharest again. We had friends in the area, so catching up with them our little trip started.

Now it’s damn hard to find bars in Bucharest, but after kidnapping a local we found it easy to get around (no seriously, we did – we stole him from his friends and took him with us everywhere, buying him drinks and ended up paying for a bed form him in the hostel that night simply so he could lead us to the train station the next morning). And weren’t we lucky that we had his advice. No sooner had he left than we were drinking with local Romanian Gypsies. That was until a man who spoke a little English whispered over and suggested that we leave what we were doing and board the train. Well, it was actually: ‘be careful. You will die’. Good point. Time to get on the train.

Now I want these blog updates to simply be quick to let everyone know what’s been going on in the past year, and as I’ve got to summarise a lot, I’m really going to make this quick.

Dracula lived in the castle behind me (Castle Bran)

And apparently converted his currency here


A few weeks later we took the hint from someone that Bulgaria was a bit up and coming, and we should check it out. So taking a day off either side of the weekend, we headed off to the capital, Sofia. However, this time we wanted to do it a little different, and rather than wasting our time on trains, we decided to travel during the night and pay the little bit extra for sleeper cabins (basically chairs that folded back half way in a separate cabin).

Leaving Sofia – not really much to say but it’s a shitty dust bowl – we were heading to the other side of the country to a town on the Black Sea called Varna, which I think translates to ‘Resort for Fat, Rich Russians’. Now these trains are famous for bandits attacking you in the middle of the night and stealing all your belongings, so with us sleeping on the train, the risk of being attacked was a little higher. With that, I set up the perfect security plan – I made sure Donners and Wortho (our new travelling companion) slept closest to the door. Genius.

Now Varna was an interesting place. It’s trying to be a sea side resort town in the middle of one of Europe’s poorest areas – I think the crude oil shipping lane in the middle of the sea says it all…
However with a long line of bars up the beach we weren’t in the water for long. In fact, we made many friends very quickly.

It wasn’t long until we realised that our new friends were in fact Bulgarian mafia that ran the beachside town. And it was so clichéd. You had the big, fat guy sitting in the corner not saying much, but trying to pimp out his daughter to Donners; his little henchman who did all the talking; and then the huge tattooed guy who laughed at random points and stared you down at others.

I don't know what was said to Mafia Man #2, but I know we left soon after

Escaping with all our fingers we spent the night up and down the beach before the next day heading North in to the mountains. The next few days were the usual site seeing that I won’t bore you with, but all in all, our decision to abandon the more popular places for the relative isolation of Eastern European countryside paid off; and we’ll be doing it again in 2010. Donners – Ukraine and Serbia – got our names all over it!

The quarter closed on the awesomeness of AC/DC at Wembley. All I need to say really. It took my neck, back
and air guitar arm at least three weeks to recover, I stunk like piss and was covered in at least 34 cigarette burns. It was hilarious to watch the old and the new fans. Right at the start you had a lot of the older fans at the front of the stage after getting there early of course, but by half way through the first song they flooding back to the seats after the pushing began.

The next blog sees me head to Belgium for Rock Werchter and U2 at Wembley, but easily the highlight of the year concert wise was this.


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