Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I began today at Belgrade's very interesting Muzej automobila (automobile museum). Amongst other rarities it includes a Cadillac, Mercedes and motorcycle ridden by Marshal Tito. The Mercedes cabriolet has serial number 000001 - the Mercedes museum in Germany only has 000003. They also have a German WWII amphibious car ridden (more recently) by Michael Palin. I spoke with someone who I think was the director and collection owner, Mr. Bratislav Petković. The museum is clearly a labor of love and I was impressed.

Then I walked for MANY kilometres around town and along the river - I'd like to upload some photos but this computer does not seem to recognize my flash card reader. More soon.

Off back to Istanbul tomorrow morning. It'll take until late afternoon just to get to Sofia, and then I'll be back in Turkey the following morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


(SPECIAL NOTE: I'm uploading these pictures directly from my memory card in a Belgrade Internet cafe and have no opportunity to crop or manipulate them. I hope to fix them up eventually)

Half my Bucharest adventure was getting there. I took the overnight train from Istanbul and had a couchette to myself once the other occupant complained that it was freezing. (I thought it was roasting.) It was pretty comfortable and the scenery traversing Bulgaria was pretty impressive.

En route through Bulgaria from Istanbul to Bucharest.

En route through Bulgaria from Istanbul to Bucharest.

En route through Bulgaria from Istanbul to Bucharest.

The border crossings (first from Turkey into Bulgaria, and then from Bulgaria into Romania) were a little bit oppressive. The first one was at about 3am and the most complicated part was getting the Turkish exit stamp. Everybody had to climb out of the train, shuffle through bitter wind to the passport control office (which was only slightly warmer than the platform) and then line up for the sole officer to stamp our passports. Having done this I shuffled back to my sauna-compartment, only to face neighbor's begging for help at the duty free. The things I'll do for a pretty woman! We shuffled back to the platform and I showed my passport at the duty free kiosk and she bought three cartons of Marlboros and then I went back to my warmth. About an hour later we were shunted across the border and the Romanian officials were searching her couchette and all I could imagine was the interior of the Romanian jail where I'd have plenty of time to contemplate aiding and abetting a smuggler. Luckily it didn't come to that...

In fact the Romanian authorities were quite welcoming. They did search my compartment about three times (looking for Gypsies?) but at least they did the formalities on the train and eventually we set off across Bulgaria. Once the sun rose I found it to be rather like Canada. The train kept getting later and later and we finally got to Bucharest about four hours late.




I liked Bucharest but as I didn't really have a program there two days was enough. I bought some essential clothing and walked for miles and miles snapping whatever. A highlight was a couple of photo exhibitions at the National Theatre (and sneaking into the main concert hall during a setup) and general strolling around.

Bucharest National Theater.

Bucharest National Theater.





Following Bucharest - overnight to Belgrade.

Istanbul to Bucharest

Waiting room at Sirkeci Train Station, Istanbul

I'm writing this from Belgrade (with Alanis Morissette blaring in this Internet Cafe), which I think is in Serbia. I'll write about it soon but first I'll try to catch up by talking about Turkey.

I've only had a few hours in Turkey so far - I went straight from the airport to the station to catch a train to Bucharest. But I enjoyed my brief exposure to Turkey and look forward to getting back there in a few days. I'm going to meet a special friend in the south and we're going to hike and relax.

I guess I don't actually have much to report no Turkey so I'll send this and move on to Bucharest.

Monday, December 3, 2007

First Afghan snow UPDATED 2007 12 05

It's pretty difficult to compete with Ben-Bob's "weather geek" blog posts like this jewel about the recent Iowa ice storm (even though he does not apparently own a camera) because he's so good at describing stuff and because he's, *cough*, a weather geek.

But I'll try.

Yesterday we drove from Kabul to Mazar e Sharif which involved crossing the Salang pass (tunnelled by the Russians at 3,400m) after its second day of snow this winter.

This picture taken hundreds of metres below the summit shows a jolly Afghan householder relieving his roof of the burden of about 40cm of nice new snow.

I asked my readers (both of them) who could identify the roof construction material used on front edge of the roof?

The first suggestion was that the mystery construction material is toilet rolls - pointing out that toilet rolls are good insulators and surprisingly strong. Excellent suggestion but wrong.

Then I gave the hint that this mystery construction material is almost more common in Afghanistan than toilet rolls... at least that's how it seems...

And then the Weather Geek himself (also known as Ben-Bob) gets it right! (See his comment.) They're artillery shell casings. He probably recalls seeing them in Eritrea. They're a dime a dozen here too.