catch-up // kiev

Man, I really thought I had more photos from Kiev, since I was there for three or four days, but I guess I am a lazy asshole, as always.

I got to go to Eurovision, though! A dress rehearsal, anyway, since that was only like 17 USD. I had never actually seen the show at all, aside from a couple famous clips, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and didn’t really know what was going on, but it was a lot of fun. Even the dress rehearsal was fucking packed.

I was vaguely aware of the incredibly awesome cheese-level, thanks to the show, but wow, I was not prepared.

Aside from that, as usual, since my savings were wearing pretty thin by this point, I just wandered around the city, trying not to spend any money I didn’t have to. An exception was made for buying a new suitcase, as the roads of Plovdiv literally destroyed the wheels on my old one, and that was kind of important.

And then I had it for all of like three weeks, until I left it in the Manchester airport on the worst day possible and never got it back, and discovered that, well, I guess I don’t need a suitcase after all.

So, yeah, Kiev. It’s one of those cities that to me exists at that sweet spot between old, old, astonishing history, and different from the major Western European capitals, but also a major metropolitan city in itself. I wish I’d made it to the Арсенальна subway station, one of the deepest in the world (possibly the deepest?), because jesus, at 305 feet it’s over three times as deep as Porter Square in Boston, which already always gave me a little bit of vertigo looking down.

It’s an odd city — as, I suppose, are most cities — but I kind of loved it. Also, really fucking pretty.

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catch-up // odessa

Am back in the US now, and super not happy about it, hanging out with some dear friends in Boston for a few days (aka mostly being a pile of useless sloth but whatever) before catching a bus to NYC at like 2am tonight/tomorrow morning, so maybe I can at least start catching up with the tail end of my wanderings before I get back to Florida and sink back into the depths of suicidal stupor. So anyway.

Odessa, like Chisinau, was a little pointless, only in that I got there late on a Monday night and left at fuck o’clock on Wednesday morning. And my hostel was creepy-silent; I’m not sure I actually heard anyone having a conversation above a whisper. It’s a very, very lovely city, though, and given my lack of time there, there’s not much to say aside from photodumping.

Though I did have possibly the most hilarious non-conversation with an Uber driver to get to the train station at 4am. For whatever reason, I guess the destination didn’t go through when I put it into the app, and the dude spoke no English. So I’m like, uh, train station? Train? …Tren?? Which in most languages will be close enough, but naturally in Ukrainian it’s поїзд (“poizd” or thereabouts) and I didn’t remember it in Russian either.

So we’re both sitting there in the car looking at each other helplessly. Finally I’m like… train? *makes a tugging motion* choo-choo?

Dude’s face just lights the hell up and he burst out laughing, making the same gesture. Да! choo-choo! Да, да! And I’m like yes, train, choo-choo! Yes! Choo-choo, choo-choo!

I think we became best friends in that moment.

Anyway there’s a lot more pictures and more interesting things from Kiev — I went to Eurovision! — and then just Budapest, all around the UK/Ireland (plus Eddie Izzard and Neil Gaiman/Stephen Fry/Chris Riddell at the Hay Festival!) aaaand then probably radio silence until I drag myself elsewhere again.

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i can’t find my way home

Well, although I was almost caught up on blogs/photodumps for about a day, that day was about a month ago, and here we still are.

I am in Dublin now, the last city and country of this six-week-turned-eight-month vagabondry. Thursday I fly from Dublin to Boston for a long weekend or so, then spend four nights in NYC with my mom, and then back to Florida, trying to figure out how to replenish my bank accounts quickly enough to run away again before losing my mind entirely.

Final count of this “oh, I just want to see Scandinavia, meet a friend in Poland, visit Paris again, maybe Prague and Amsterdam” ended up three continents (ISTANBUL COUNTS FOR ASIA OKAY), 40 countries, and something like 63 cities/individual places (none of which ended up being Amsterdam after all).

  1. USA (Daytona Beach, Boston, NYC)
  2. Canada (Montreal)
  3. Iceland (Reykjavik)
  4. Poland (Krakow, Warsaw)
  5. England (London, Manchester, York, Scarborough)
  6. Norway (Oslo)
  7. Finland (Helsinki)
  8. Estonia (Tallinn)
  9. Latvia (Riga)
  10. Lithuania (Vilnius, Kaunas)
  11. Czech Republic (Prague)
  12. Slovakia (Bratislava)
  13. Croatia (Zagreb, Dubrovnik)
  14. Slovenia (Ljubljana)
  15. Italy (Venice, Rome)
  16. Morocco (Marrakech, Essouira)
  17. Spain (Barcelona)
  18. France (Marseilles, Paris)
  19. Belgium (Bruges, Vaalserberg)
  20. Austria (Vienna[ish])
  21. Germany (Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf/Hamm/Bokum, Aachen/Vaalserberg)
  22. Netherlands (Vaalserberg)
  23. Serbia (Belgrade, Novi Sad)
  24. Romania (Timisoura, Bucharest)
  25. Bosnia & Herzogovina (Sarajevo, Mostar)
  26. Montenegro (Kotor, Ulcinj)
  27. Albania (Shkoder, Tirana)
  28. Kosovo (Prizren)
  29. Macedonia (Skopje)
  30. Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna)
  31. Turkey (Istanbul)
  32. Moldova (Chisinau)
  33. Ukraine (Odessa, Kiev)
  34. Hungary (Budapest)
  35. Sweden (Gothenburg)
  36. Denmark (Copenhagen)
  37. Wales (Cardiff, Hay on Wye)
  38. Scotland (Inverness, Portree, Glasgow)
  39. Northern Ireland (Belfast, Derry)
  40. Republic of Ireland (Dublin)

… I think.

There have been many highlights (Eurovision in Kiev; Eddie Izzard, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Chris Riddell in Wales; hot baths in Budapest and Reykjavik, NYE in Bratislava in which I was totally not asleep for the fireworks over the Danube) and a few not-so-highlights (of which coming to Manchester on 22 May basically negates every other mildly bad thing that happened).

But as always, it is the friends that I finally met after years and the new ones I made that made all this ridiculousness worth it, more so than any astonishing castles and cathedrals and mountain and views and anything. I like to kind of catalog this kind of thing, because my fucked-up brain always likes to helpfully detail how lonely and alone I am, and how hard it is for me to meet people and make friends, and sometimes it is perversely satisfying to tell my own brain to fuck off because it’s lying. I think.

So-o-o-ooo, if nothing else, once I’m back in one place, hopefully I can actually catch up on the blog, and also maybe settle down enough to write for real a bit. And in the meantime:

Question 1: how to make another few grand asap, and

Question 2: where do I go next?

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Moldova // MolDOGva

Why is it that I sleep better on a tiny couchette in a rattling train through Romania and Moldova than I do in an actual bed in an actual home? Even with the 3am passport control and changing of the fucking train wheels?

I don’t know, but I do.

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Not going to lie, Moldova was a slightly pointless stopover. And I knew it would be, so I didn’t really care, but it was there, and on the way to Ukraine, so, you know, fuck it, I spent the day/night in Chisinau. Which I also still don’t know how to pronounce.

My hostel was full of a group where everyone knew each other already, so I basically just slothed around my bed, chatted with the host a bit — in French! which was nice because yes, I can actually still speak French, even if not amazingly well — and hung out with this most excellent specimen of canine delight.

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I also had my first experience with being shouted at by men in cars since I’d been in eastern Europe, which was a bit unsettling. Except then I realized they were just trying to tell me that I’d dropped my scarf on the other side of the street, which I would never have noticed and would have been really sad to lose it.

So yeah, I don’t have anything insightful to say about Moldova except the dogs are A+ and the people are really nice.

(Although the weird bus to Ukraine was hella fucking sketch, but that’s for the next post.)

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Bucaresti // interlude

How to start your stay in Bucharest? Probably hanging out with two dudes you met in the back of a minivan from Bulgaria, because that’s not how people die or anything.

(Full disclosure, they’re really awesome guys. My mom’s all like, you meet so many good-looking people in your travels! But it’s still a funny byline for a story: back of a minivan from Bulgaria, because why the fuck not.)

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I’ve been to Romania once before, on a weekend trip to Timisoara which I still can’t pronounce when I was working in Serbia — which was a neat but not terribly exciting town. I kind of only was interested in Bucharest because the name is so romantic — Bucharest — but it’s a really cool city. Amazing history and architecture, good food, not very expensive. I stayed at the Podstel Doors hostel, which is pretty new so not perfect, but overall great and definitely recommend.

There were even hostel kitties there, and I got to hang out with my friendly guys’ hostel dog, which always makes my day. 😀

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God, I love dogs.

(Please don’t tell my cat.)

In conclusion: a day in Bucharest.

(Moldova is next and the blog post will be even more boring, because I did literally nothing in Chisinau. I’m sorry.)

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Varna // sick-sabbatical

This is pretty much my entire takeaway from Varna, Bulgaria: a massive bruise that resulted only from my purse banging against my knee as I wandered lost, sick and despairing in the pre-dawn; a creepy-ass cologne ad in the drugstore; some pretty fountains; porno.

Which is not the city’s fault at all, really. I was still so sick I actually considered — gasp — seeing a doctor, since I (think I?) have travel insurance, but didn’t, of course. The last decade of my medical history is basically just like, I don’t have any STDs and my liver is already side-eyeing me. So, one for two, I guess.

But yeah, I got into town on the bus from Istanbul at fuck-all o’clock in the morning, and my phone hates Google Maps so I pretty much spent two hours asking random people on the street for help, slowly circling closer to the hostel.

There was a great dog at the hostel, and it illustrates how sick I was that I did not take even one single picture of the dog. I got a private room for once, to avoid inflicting plague on roommates, and pretty much slept all day and left in the morning.

Sorry, Varna; I could not give you a chance.

 

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