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Monday, October 29, 2007

Day and Night in OLYMPOS


We had a beautiful 100 mile ride along the Mediterranean sea yesterday ending up in "tree house" pension at the gates of the ancient city of Olympos. We took a refreshing afternoon swim in the beautiful, clear turquoise water before seeing some of the ruins on our way back to dinner.

In the nighttime we rode about 15 miles up and then down the switchback mountain road of Mt. Olympos, sacred mount of the God Vulcan and others. We walked up about a mile in the dark, a rock and dirt path to see the Chimeara.

The Chimeara are an unexplained phenomenon, flames coming from the rocks which have been burning as long as mankind has been recording history.



The locals say the methane gas doesn't burn as high as it used to, but they are still pretty amazing. We were both impressed and amazed at this natural wonder, which ships at sea can observe on the mountain. It was easy to understand how this could become a sacred site for the ancients
video

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Virgin Mary's House





We visited the alleged last home of the Virgin Mary. While Jesus was on the Cross, he is supposed to have told John to take care of 'his mother'. He moved to Turkey, where the St. John church was built. It is thought that Mary came with him. In the 1800's a stigmatic nun in Germany, who had never left the country had visions of the hills in the area of Turkey where she saw Mary living her last days and drinking from the local well. Two digs went to the area which were described accurately and the base of a stone house were found in the area described. It has now become a pilgrimage site for many people and the water is supposed to have brought miracles. We drank some just in case! It is a beautiful, tranquil spot, not very large which is now just a tiny chapel. Many popes have visited it and left their blessings as well. The picture of me with the wall of notes, are requests left by people for Mary. She is mentioned in the Koran, which considers Jesus a prophet, as the blessed mother of the prophet. So, many muslims visit the site and consider it holy as well.

Don't play with the Dead things!

See the 3000 year old Nike Swoosh displayed by the Goddess!



The main expensive street in Ephesus, lined with statues, mosaic tiles, shops and a public bath.



I keep telling Clara not to play with the Sarcophagi!




A turk, A canadian and A Kevin: there is hope for World Peace

brief update

We've decided to wait an extra day in Boldrum, to enjoy the sun, cheap pension, and let Clara look at jewelry!

We received our Visas to Pakistan yesterday, so now we need to figure out Iran and India and we will be on our way East. It doesn't help that Cheney and company seem to want to start bombing Iran before they are swept out the door.

We made friends with an Iraqi Kurd on the boat from the Ukraine to Istanbul. He invited us to his town in Iraq and he told us that it was plenty safe enough in Kurdistan. We've been in email contact with him, and he has since told us with the Turkish and PKK problem in the area that it is no longer safe there. That is how tenuous this area of the world is. One thing that seems to be clear here, which one doesn't get from reading the American press is that Kurdistan is a defacto country now. They have their own leaders, their own army, their own borders. Although the United States may want to try and keep this "one Iraq" policy, it seems as if this part of the world is working well towards accepting this as a reality.

How about those Sox!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boldrum: England East

We had a wonderful dinner with Eric and Carol last night, right after we visited the Virgin Mary's final home, and drank from the sacred well she used to drink from. It is now a tiny church and pilgrimage sight, visited by many Popes and others.

Clara found a beautiful white leather jacket she bought with her birthday money which we picked up (after she had it altered) on the way out of town. The final words from the salesman were the typical battle cry of the Turkish Businessman: "the stuff at the other guys store really is terrible."

It has become a running joke for us how our 'friends' who is whomever we are talking to are quick to disparage wherever we might be going in order to steer us to someone they know (and will get a kickback from). Usually this also results in someone trying to get you to buy a carpet. None yet!

We drove about another hundred miles today, again mostly in the rain. We stopped to see the Temple of Endymion. Not much to it, but I was drawn by the fact that Endymion is one of the largest New Orleans parades and thus felt a minuscule connection with it.

Later in the afternoon we arrived in Bodrum which is an English tourist haven. Prices are in pounds, Euros and sometimes in Turkish Lira. It is a pretty place with an amazing assortment of wooden yachts in the harbor, white concrete villas overlooking the double harbors, split in two by a peninsula with St. Peters fort at the point.


There are tons of shops, restaurants and activities and we may stay a couple days to beat out the rain. We saw the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world this morning and there is another one of the ruined wonders here as well. Who knew Turkey was such an historic hotspot.

The Turks are pretty ticked about this Kurdish thing, and we have seen marches and even more Turkish and Ataturk flags than normal. War and rain seem to follow us, guard your borders and open your dams, we're coming through!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ephesus!




Unbelievable!

Both the ruins of Ephesus, which were wonderful. But also, while we were walking around we walked into my friends Eric and Dot, who are on my Ward 5 Democratic committee and who supported me in my city council run! It is a tiny world. We talked for awhile and we are going to enjoy dinner here in Selcuk tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Torrential downpours!


After a wonderful homecooked meal of pasta and mushrooms, and conversation with our pension mate, a retired teacher from Canada we went to bed. One of us could hardly sleep wondering how a certain game 7 would turn out.

We awoke to great news from Fenway and overcast skies in southwest Turkey. We spent a couple hours looking at rugs again at a govt. Cooperative, learned more about the process and even saw how they turn silk cocoons into thread.

The afternoon was dark and stormy, 3 straight hours of heavy rain, preceeded by one hour of moderate rain as a warm up. We passed through Izmir a city of 3 million, which featured slums reminiscent of Caracas. The roads were flooded and many sewers backed up but we made it through.

We are now in Selcuk, near the ancient city of Ephesus and also home to one of the seven ancient wonders of the world: the temple of Artemis. Yesterday we saw one of the 7 churches of the apocalypse the Red cathedral of Bergama.

Basically their is a lot of heavy shit going down in this part of the world. Oh, and the virgin Mary lived here along with St. John, and 7 guys who fell asleep for 300 years before being resurrected.

And now, Clara has been here as well. Soaking wet from the effort. We clearly are rain Gods as the moisture follows us everywhere. It hadn't rained in 6 months til we showed up.

Go sox!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Greek and Roman ruins up to here!

Today began overcast and wet after last night's heavy rains, but we decided to trek the 3.5 miles up the hill to the ruins of Greek and Roman temples and towns and along the way Kevin jumped back as he almost stepped on our unexpected walking companion! This one was easy to get rid of as he was equally scared by our presence and quickly slithered away. Much to Kevin's dismay, our other walking companion, a young kitten, was not dissuaded from our company so easily and he had to spend much of the early hour of our walk shooing her away from his pant legs. Here are some sights from the ruins of the ancient (1500 to 2500 years old) city and temples on the hill top in Bergama, Turkey.
s
Kevin's goddess?




These last couple of days we have seen perfect blue skies and never-ending rain and everything in between as we have traveled along the western coast of Turkey. The riding has been amazing as we have often found ourselves alone for miles upon miles of great paved roads or smaller dusty mountain roads mostly under blue skies and a very pleasant 70 degrees F. The Turkish people continue to charm us with their smiles and friendly demeanor, but much to our dismay we have noticed more and more trash and our hotels have once again began to promise hot water which never seems to materialize!

It is a bit mind-boggling to visit ruins of temples and cities that were once thriving centers of culture, religion and politics of some of the most advanced civilizations known to humanity from thousands of years ago, yet see all around these ruins the trash and pollution left behind by modern man. The contrast is stark: beautiful white marble columns, not-so-beautiful plastic water bottles. In addition, one sees ancient properly planned water and sewer systems adjacent to 'modern' cities with sewage thrown into, or spilling into rivers and streams. How far ahead is mankind? It is easy to imagine a wonderful night out at the Greek Amphitheater, the stars, mountains and sea stretched out before you as you enjoy the latest comedy or tragedy. Today however, these modern cities have no communal arts center, and the views if they were outside would all too often be choked off by pollution.

The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism publishes some very nice guides for the country's top tourist destinations and in the end they dedicate a page to explaining why our cultural heritage is fragile and what we can do to protect it and ensure that "future generations may have the opportunities to enjoy [it]." The thing is, we have to teach people to protect the environment as well! One thing I know about the effect that this trip is having on me is that it is making me a much "greener" individual, and I don't mean to say that I'm getting any younger! (I wish!!!!)
Besitos.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hello, Asia!


Knock, knock?

Who is there?

Europe.

Europe Who?

Exactly!

We are on the Asian side of Turkey now, after spending most of a day touring the battlefields, graves and monuments of the war waste known as Gallipolli.

It was a wonderful area to ride through with hardly any traffic, views of the Aegean and of fields, bright blue skies, clean smelling scrub pines and narrow but nice 2 lane curvy roads. Unfortunately, they had just layed some liquid tar on many portions of the road, and our bikes got saturated with the nasty stuff.

After a short ferry to Canakkale, I spent the afternoon with gas and diesel soaked rags getting them cleaned up. We walked the boardwalk along the Dardenelles, filled as everywhere there is in Turkey, with fishermen. We took a picture with the Troy movie prop of the Trojan horse, before getting some cheap dinner. (Completely aside we had a nice lunch in the seaside town of Cumbag the day before)

The locals showed more of the Turkish hospitality by letting us try some Turkish delight and baby cakes that Clara had her eyes on, for free.

Yesterday we spent hours at the excavations of the ancient city of Troy. Fascinating. There are 10 different layers going back 6 or 7 thousand years. They are not sure whether it was Troy VI or Troy VII when the Trojan war took place but there is evidence of a fire and a ruining of the city. It evoked the imagination to feel like King Priam looking out from the limestone hill across the plain, to see the Greek ships on the shore, to see the battle arrayed before you. Did Hector, Achilles, Agememnon and Odysseus really fight down below?


We reached another ancient site in the afternoon: Assos. We explored the Temple of Athena, the old church converted to a mosque, and the large ampitheter looking out over the sea towards the island of Lesbos. St. Paul waled down the road we were on in his trip to Rome.


We settled in for the night, camping in this incredibly cute town, 10 meters from the lapping waves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

And the band played Waltzing Matilda....


We left Istanbul today and are now on the Gallipolli peninsula. Tomorrow we will visit yet another memorial to the absurdity of War. I have Shane McGowan's version of "and the band played waltzing Matilda" running through my head.


The pollution here in Turkey is shocking, 50 miles from Istanbul it was still a strong haze, and as we rode along a dirt road next to the Sea of Marmara there was just a thick layer of smog hanging over the whole body of water.

Gas is $10 a gallon here, but traffic is still bumper to bumper within 7 miles of Istanbul. Once we got into the countryside the roads got much more lonely, which is a good thing. Clara had a cab cut her off and hit her as we tried to leave Takim Square this morning, but he just hit her panniers. I had a car whiz by and hit my crash bars in Munich at about 30mph. Clearly the most dangerous part of this trip is traffic in the heavily congested areas. The cliff side dirt roads with no guardrail and washed out areas look more intimidating, but really we've had no problem.

Clara said she was at one with her bike today and is really becoming a fine motorcyclist. A couple weeks ago she said " I finally get it. The whole motorcycle and freedom thing. It isn't just the riding, it is the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want...and the feeling of being so close with nature as you ride" We've got a winner on our hands!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shopping for Carpets in Istanbul

The last three days in Istanbul have been holidays in honor of the end of Ramadan. Partying and tourists and crowds but not much street traffic which would have been nice to ride the bike around except that it rained for two straight days. Today was back to work, and I looked around for a new rear tire for Clara's bike after 13,000 miles.
The nice guys at ATA motorcycles ordered us one for tomorrow and helped me put on my new front which we've been carrying around since England. They didn't charge me anything despite spending half an hour with me.
The Turkish people have been particularly nice and friendly with us. When we were waiting to get into the Palace, three young guys had two extra tickets which they gave to us, saving us $20. When I took the Metro and the bus out to meet someone last night, a random person on the bus gave me his electronic bus pass (Charlie Card???? please...) to get me on. The shopkeepers and restaurants are very pushy, but they are directly involved in the tourist trade. A good way to tell if you are in a tourist area is if nothing has a price tag, they gauge you before telling you the price.

So we spent two hours today looking at rugs at one sellers place near the Iranian embassy and a famous Turkish bath. I still feel a bit unclean, and have a headache from the whole experience. I feel like I was date raped, and we didn't even buy anything. Turkish carpet selling is definitely a place where No, doesn't mean No.
You know they are doing anything to try and sell when they are complementing me on my jacket, my orderly attention to detail, and my taste in carpets. They sized us up for 2 wool rugs and 2 silk rugs for a cool $20,880 before coming down to about $8000 for the two area wool rugs. When we explained that we were in Turkey and were going to travel around before returning to Istanbul, they brought in the "closer", who first needed everything explained to him in Turkish before suddenly being passably fluent in English. Pretty soon they were explaining something about warm soup and the spirit of spontaneity in Turkey and how I should let myself live a bit. He then put me into a double vice grip so I couldn't walk out and insisted that Clara give him a price for the two rugs, when she answered $5000, he said $4999 and tried to get a handshake to seal the deal, while still holding onto me. Did that guy have 3 hands somewhere?

I had kept my tongue tied during most of the afternoon, but thought to myself when they said I needed to be more like the Turks, that maybe they needed to more like the Americans. How efficient can it be to spend 2 hours with every client and having 5 guys run around throwing spinning flying carpets through the air and giving everyone free coffee and tea. Just put a price tag on it and make your money through volume! WalMart seems to be doing Ok with this business model.

We went to the Golden Arches for dinner, as I couldn't take anything more Turkish for the day, and frankly the food here is not that exciting or varied(as confirmed by expats living here. While waiting in line I cracked Clara up by saying "imagine if you had to negotiate for your Big Mac? 'would you like a cup of tea, my friend while I explain to you the two whole beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, tomato on a sesame seed bun?', 'can you suggest a price that would make this sandwich close to your heart?', 'don't think of it as a sandwich, but as an investment in your enjoyment of your life'...."
The signs out side wouldn't say "Billions served" they would say, "42 close and good friends served, in business for 3 generations!"

Where are we?


By the way, this is where we are in the world and where we are hopefully headed...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Surprise, shock, dissapointment, amazement and awe in Istanbul

Yesterday we visited two of the most famous sites in Istanbul: the "Aya Sofya Muzesi" and the "Sultanahmet Camii". I had much anticipated seeing the first of these historic places because I had been told of its grandeur by many people in my family who had visited it, in fact, one of my dear cousins had told me that she was left speechless upon stepping foot in this former "grandest church in the world" built in 532 AD, which was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453 and then declared a museum in the 1930s by the beloved Turkish leader Ataturk. Well, I must say that I too was rendered speechless but for different reasons. Even before entering this grandest of buildings I was surprised by the state of disrepair of its exterior, chipped "barely there" red paint and discolored walls, but even that is nothing compared to what I saw inside! The interior of this relic is now in my opinion, in complete ruins compared to its former grandeur. The walls are covered with decades of grime making the dulled marble difficult to identify as such, and the Ottoman layer of plaster is equally decayed to say nothing of the bent and dulled chandeliers that are so abandoned only a handful of them are even in working order. The only things that are remotely maintained in this "museum" are the parts of mosaics that have been uncovered since the 1930s under the plaster. Perhaps because I had such high expectations I felt as empty as the Sofya as I walked inside it. It is noterworthy to say that the Aya Sophya is empty of life and soul, but not empty of bodies as it is the most visited tourist site in Istanbul, and at 10YTL per person, one really has to wonder where the money is going since the only sign of work or restorations being done is the ever-present scaffolding in the middle of the building.




The wondering about where the profits from Aya Sophya are going was short-lived as the mystery seemed to be solved when we visited the Blue Mosque. This Muslim holy site that is still a place of worship is as grand and impressive as it is clean and well maintained. The lush red carpet looks and feels brand new and the famous tiled walls look as bright as if the blue hued tile patterns had been baked in just the other day. In complete contrast to Aya Sophya where I could not even muster a tiny prayer, in this holy place not of my religion, I wanted to kneel down and pray all afternoon.




Today we walked over to Sultanahmet again, this time to spend the afternoon in Topkapi Palace, the grand former home of the Sultans. This huge complex includes many gardens, houses, a humongous kitchen where it was not unusual for the staff to prepare meals to feed 1200 hungry guests, stables, a church, and the 400 room harem where some of the sultan's family and his consorts and concubines and were housed. By a stroke of luck, as we were walking up to the ticket booth to pay our 10ytl each we were approached by three young men of apparent Turkish descent who handed Kevin two free entrance tickets. In addition to visiting most of the sites in the complex, we also walked through four treasury rooms housing the most impressive collection of jewels and jeweled items I have EVER laid eyes on, including an 86 carat diamond, a mother-of-pearl encrusted throne, and two 86lbs solid gold candlesticks encrusted with over 1000 diamonds each!!!! Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed, but really who has time to take pictures when one is busy wiping drool from the sides of one's mouth. There were enough golf-ball sized emeralds and rubies and diamonds throughout the collection to fill a whirlpool and take the most luscious and luxurious bath of all time. This place made me happy, oh so happy and I didn't even feel any guilt about it.

The Harem was a different story. As I walked through the many small rooms, narrow halls and enclosed courtyards of this vast edifice I could feel the sense of incarceration that the concubines may have felt at being destined to a life of confinement. The "queen mother's" and sultan's bathrooms are magnificent odes to white marble and gold leaf, many walls are covered in ornate tiles of many rich colors and intricate patterns and the prince's rooms and main hall are grand affairs with stained glass vitrines and fine upholstered furniture and plush pillows. However, even in the most beautiful of guilded cages, the lovely bird cannot feel free and when it sings it's song is sad, empty and soulless though it may sound lovely to its audience. As melodramatic as it may sound, I found it very appropriate that it was raining when we left harem, as if its former inhabitants were trying to tell me that the sadness I perceived within some of its walls had been a truth.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USSR....


Back in the USSR

We left Romania, a place where many people look as if they’ve never had a square meal or a square deal in their life, and ventured into the former USSR. Our first stop: Moldova.

We arrived midmorning at the pleasant looking, modern border station. The Romanians in casual uniforms were nice as they checked our documents and okayed us to leave. We asked them about the road ahead and they said Moldova was nice but that Transdniestr was “Putinville”.

We got in line at the other side, with just a few cars in front of us. A young border guard with crew cut and impeccable uniform with the oversized pressed cap came out, gave us the Russian scowl and asked for our documents. It was just like the movies! He looked at our papers and asked for the originals of our Registrations, which we had provided him. We insisted for a few minutes that they were the originals and he disappeared, unhappily, into the guard house. 5 or 10 minutes later he reappeared and again insisted on having the original registrations, which he did. Apparently, Massachusetts Registrations don’t look very authentic, and to be honest compared with many European documents which are laminated they look quite flimsy. After a few more back and forths, he again went into the guard house, before finally reappearing a third time to again insist on the proper documents. At this point, a Moldovan trucker took a glance at the papers and told him they looked correct for America and he went back inside.

I almost felt sorry for the youngster. Now that the Cold War is over, and Moldova is (God Forbid!) trying to encourage openness and tourism and maybe get into the EU they don’t have Visa requirements or fees for most nationals so all he can do is basically wave people through. What fun is that when you’ve trained all your life to put terror and fear into travelers with just a disconcerting glance or disdainful look? So eventually he had to let us pass. But just to the vehicle inspection person.

As we moved up the line we were in for one delightful surprise. A huge rose garden was just inside the border in Moldova. I must say it was easily the most beautiful area at any border crossing we have made yet, completely unexpected. What wasn’t unexpected was the run around they put us through to admit our motorcycles. Go to this office, no one there. Go across the street and pay the lady in the big building. Get to the big building and the lady insists that we pay back where we started. Go back there and be sent to a different window. Then pay for the bikes but only one bike is on the paperwork, etc., etc. Meanwhile, it turns out that the Moldovan truck driver speaks Italian/Spanish and we have a nice conversation with him and he helps us out when he can. He says it is the same way all the time; they are always just bumbling around just like border guards everywhere. After about an hour, without any vehicle check we and about 4 cars made it through into Moldova.

It was about 80 miles to Chisinau, the capital, on a newly paved highway. The day was dry and somewhat bright, quite a pleasant Sunday. The scenery was mostly farmland and vineyards and forest. There were many people, families and couples, out picking mushrooms on the side of the road or picnicking. Only a few people were selling them, as opposed to Romania where there were multitudes selling the same products of either mushrooms or potatoes. Only a couple were enterprising enough to sell both and offer one stop shopping. There were more than the usual number of police on the road, but we got tipped off by opposing drivers flashing their lights so we had no problems. Some things are universal, thank god!

The other noticeable thing was the preponderance of Mercedes and BMW’s on the road. Between a third to half of the cars on the road were late model German cars. Odd, considering Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and not something we saw in Slovakia, Hungary or Romania. We got to Chisinau enjoyed a pizza lunch and rode up the Soviet designed main boulevard 8 lanes wide, so as to accommodate BIG parades! We stopped at the “arc de triumph” (no caps to signify its size in relation to the Parisian one) to get our bearings and made our way to “Tourist Hotel” Straight our of the guidebooks, this 5 story concrete bunker had so much charm that when we stopped Clara insisted that “it doesn’t look open”. But sure enough it was, and for about $45 we got the full experience. Dilapidated building: check. Two single beds put next to each other with a queen-sized sheet to make a double: check. Tile, flooring, wallpaper and plumbing from the early 60’s: check. A shower that you had to run 5 to 10 minutes to get warm, while sticking the handheld into the sink to drain so that the floor didn’t overflow: check. Strange people calling us on the phone: check. A ‘maid’ on the floor watching our comings and goings: check. Someone knocking on our door by accident: check. But, it was actually nowhere near as bad as many places we have stayed and for us it was almost comical all the stereotypes we racked up.

We took a walk around the town and were impressed with the two caddy cornered parks in the center of town. One had a lightly treed area around a central plaza that had a bell tower and non-descript church in it. Both held surprises. The tower had the most beautiful chimes to mark the time that I think I have ever heard from such a tower. And inside the plain Orthodox Church was a beautifully gilded setting, with richly painted walls and wonderful voices echoing around the domed ceilings to accent a wedding taking place with a purple clothed bride.

In fact, the whole plaza was filled with brides. There was one with a long limo who looked like a perfect doll, with curled hair of a color and hue not familiar, which Clara thought had pink in it although I only saw shades of white and blond. She had a large pouffy dress and she would have been right at home at Cinderella’s Ball. Another girl was younger, poorer and not quite so happy in her traditional white dress as they moved about and her maid of honor took the wedding shots by the tree, the tower, the fountain.


We passed by the ‘arc de triomphe’ on the way to the other park which was filled with trees, crisscrossing paths with many benches filled with lovers of all ages, and an active fountain in the center with parents and children playing. To enter the park you walked through an iron gate which also had brides and grooms lined up to take the picture of “crossing the threshold into marriage”. Clearly, there was a wedding machine in Chisinau with the Church spitting out brides as fast as they can, before the requisite pictures at the anointed places are taken. However, there wasn’t any cheesiness to it just a typical way to get married in the main church and square in the countries capital.

Clara took a break in the evening as I rode around to check out the town. There were some modern buildings around, definitely building was going on, but the most noticeable thing to me was the large number of casinos all around town. Not Vegas Casino’s but more like 7-11 size casino’s occupying the first floor and maybe basement of 4 or 5 story buildings. By far, casinos seemed to be the most consistent business in town. They usually had John Gotti gangster look alikes manning the door, with some of those BMW and Mercedes parked close by. In fact, the city seemed to need a census category for “Male, close shaven head, expensive shoes, suit with colored shirt, no tie. Chain optional.” This was something that Moldova had in common with Romania, as we noticed most of the people driving the BMW’s in Romania had the same description and gave no indication of any familiarity with an MBA or other advanced degree except perhaps high school diploma. The gangster houses in Romania were high comedy.


But I digress from Moldova. We went to the only restaurant I found earlier that took Visa, as I didn’t want to exchange Moldovan money for just one day in the country. I already was carrying about 7 denominations and didn’t want any more. It was a neat, hip, modern open air Italian place with huge fishtank and flat screen TV’s. Unfortunately, by the time we got there they only were serving pizza, the same as we had for lunch. The other problem was the clientele. It was filled with the FGM: Future Gangsters of Moldova. They were chainsmoking away in their junior Gotti suits, some of them even using a hukkah as their dates cuddled up in the nicely provided blankets. The look for women is short skirt, stockings, high heels or cowboy boots and something tight up top. We have seen this look all through Eastern Europe. Not necessarily a bad thing. But thanks to the open air nature of the restaurant and the surprisingly delicious pizza we had a good time and walked back to the hotel before collapsing and resting for the next days trip into the unknown: Transdniestr. A place not even mentioned by the country that supposedly it belongs to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Some pictures now that we are in Istanbul







Our Arrival in Istanbul, a Soviet era monument in the Ukraine, the Blue Mosque/blue bike and ships at the port, and Clara snapped a picture of the Customs House where we were interrogated and shaken down before fleeing the pseudo country of Transdniestr.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Interrogation rooms and Islam

What a day! We started in a soviet tourist hotel in Moldova, went through 3 interrogation shakedown rooms to get through the breakaway republic of Transdinestr (find that on the map!), before Clara decided she had had enough corruption and payola, stared down 2 guards with guns; meanwhile I grabbed our passports and we got on our motorcycles and blew by the security guard as he was insisting we give him our passports, hoping the Ukrainians wouldn't turn us back.

Very Scary! Clara was amazing, I was ready to pay the guys off but she would have none of it, and was able to out-bluff them. It seems Colombians are tougher than renegade Soviets!

We got to Ukraine, drove to Odessa and what luck there was the once weekly ferry to Istanbul leaving in 2 hours. We decided we have had enough of Eastern Europe and we are ready for Islam and the Middle East.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bitten in transylvania


As we were riding out of Transylvania today, something quickly and viciously bit my neck. I almost crashed the immediate pain was so strong! I quickly pulled over and had Clara take a picture of it before rubbing garlic, I mean teatree oil, on the wound to make it better. I don't feel undead (yet) but it is also not yet midnight here in Vaslui near the Moldovan border.

There have been some pretty views and uncluttered roads here in Eastern Romania, definitely gave out some yoohhhoooo's today. Very poor here with people selling potatoes and mushrooms on the sides of the roads.

The funniest thing in Vienna was the only 20 minutes of video of Freud and his family known to exist. At one point one of his older well dressed relatives reaches over and points at his wifes frock. When she looks down, he does the 'flick up' with the "made you look gesture". It was truly classic, for the ages. As my friend Chuck would say "the old ones are the good ones, that is why they are the old ones!"

Don't tip in Romanian restaurans, they don't expect it and it isn't worth it!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Dinner at Vlad the Impalers


Yes, we are in the heart of Transylvania! We had dinner at Casa Dracula tonight in the citadel of Sighisoara, Romania birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, known to the west as Dracula.

Of course, we had red meat and red wine for dinner. Mine was on the rare side! Clara feels a kinship with them because the flag has the same colors as Columbia, red, yellow and blue.

Vlad really did impale thousands, maybe tens of thousands at the stake but there are no stories of him drinking anyones blood. In fact he is revered as a Romanian hero for standing up to the Turks and Saxons and for trying to get rid of dishonesty and stealing.

We have a great tent site for 8 bucks in town, two full tanks of gas, and there isn't quite as much pollution here in the Transylvanian Alps. We may head to Moldova tomorrow...

Good investment opportunities here. Although clearly organized crime has a hold and we haven't seen so many cops since Venezuela.

I will write about kevins direct corruption correlation postulate at a later point, but let's just say that Peru, V enezuela and Romania don't rate high.

Go Sox!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Live (so far) from Cluj-Napoca, Romania


After zooming along at 75 to 80 and being constantly passed on the last vestiges of the EU autobahn through Hungary we got our passports stamped at the Romanian border and ventured both back in time and back in worlds. Back to the 3rd world to be precise.


Within a short amount of time we were on roads unseen since South America, choking on diesel truck fumes, unbridled horses wandering through traffic, burning things, like a tire in the fields, crazy drivers passing on the right, huge abandoned soviet era factories and power plants, horse drawn wagons on the roads, hunch backed old women in shawls, even some sort of railway looking device being driven backwards, in an over the shoulder way with 3 guys on board, put-putting up the highway with semi's narrowly avoiding them.

I'm back in my element! I love it, Clara hates it.

By the way, we both saw something we've never seen on a country road in Hungary. It was about 12 inches long, furry but moved quickly across the road like a lizard. I thought it was a cross of a Daschund and an Iguana. Very odd.

There is of course plenty of pollution, again making our faces black. But, we can finally afford to live again. Pizza dinner was about $14, and a hut at the campground $25, complete with roaming donkey and rabid dog running around.

Last night in Budapest we paid $32 just for the privelege of pitching our tent on hard packed dirt.

Time for some oil changes. I need to put on my new front tire and fin a new rear tire for Clara.


Go Sox!