Posts tagged ‘People’

Faces of Asia

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

I realize I haven’t been updating the web site for a while and although I have been in Bulgaria during the last months I decided to post some sunny faces from my backpacking trip in Asia from the beginning of this year.

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

Faces of Asia

 

Trekking to the 2468 meter peak of Gjallica, Kukes

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I wake up slightly earlier than the alarm clock that I put on 5:40, but there is already some light outside here in Kukes, Albania. A quick shower followed by a walk to the petrol station from yesterday to tell the people there that I am walking to the mountain top. It is always good to tell someone if you are doing something like this, not that it probably will help in case of an accident. I have even told them earlier which hotel I am staying in, well, explaining its location as I do not know the name of it. The old man looks worried and double checks that I have everything: water, warm clothes, good shoes and so on. Then I start walking.

Albania Kukes Gjallica Fierza lake

It is about 1-1½ hours walk to get to the start of the mountain, and there is no distinct road or path so I walk partly on car road, partly on fields and finally inside a small village. On the way the sunrise is giving me a beautiful welcome to the mountain. There are people around but they look at me a bit strange and no-one of them speaks English. I ask them where the trail up the mountain starts and they point towards the mountain instead. Online I read something the previous night about a trail starting from behind a closed copper mine, but there is nothing like that around so I just start walking up the mountain on one of the shepherd trails from behind a private house.

Albania Kukes Gjallica fields

Albania Kukes Gjallica sunrise
The sun looking up from a lower mountain

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain clouds
The 2468 meter peak which I will try to mount, covered in clouds

Albania Kukes Gjallica spring water

Shortly after my start I find a non marked trail which I blindly follow, but after 1 hours walk the path still looks the same. At least the sun is on the other side of the mountain, giving me shadow instead of the intense heat that I had expected. Still it is very hot just walking upwards so I change clothes. “One hour done, maybe two more before the top, and then 3 more down plus one back to Kukes” I think, calculating how many sun hours I still have left of the day. About 13, so as long as there are no problems on the way and if the path is correct, I should have more than enough time. One hour later I see what looks like the top near me, but at the same time I know it’s to early and from the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and villages I estimate that I am still on low altitude.

Albania Kukes Gjallica low view
View on the shepherd’s path from behind the house

Albania Kukes Gjallica trail

About 1 hour later I reach a small green flat space with a water spring and some very simple huts. I find an old super lady, maybe in her 80s but extracting an energy like a young girl, and ask her how long time she estimates it is to the peak of the mountain. She tells me that it is 2 more hours, pointing out the path for me and asking me why I want to go there (I think at least, we do not speak the same language). Ok time to calculate sun hours again, two more hours means 5 hours in total up, 5 hours down and one hour to Kukes. This gives me little marginal for errors but is still good news, despite the fact that I am pretty tired in the legs and have to walk 2 more hours upwards before I can even start to walk back.

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain spring

Albania Kukes Gjallica plateau

I start walking in the direction where the lady pointed, but after a while I make a turn in the opposite direction as supposed because the path seems to go very long in the wrong direction. I walk along a small trail that after a while just disappears into thin air, well, into semi thick forest. I start walking through the forest, knowing it is not smart to walk without a trail to follow back but as I have a gorge on the left side I know I can find my way back again. I walk upwards through the forest for about an hour or more until the forest gets less dense and a beautiful field opens up in front of me.

Albania Kukes Gjallica forest

Albania Kukes Gjallica high plain

On the field there is a big group of sheep walking around, with some of them drinking from a water spring. Now I can see what could be the top, but I know through experience that the peak is usually not as near as it looks, just hidden behind another hill. Suddenly I see two guys sitting down near the water spring. We meet middle way and greet each others. They tell me to refill my bottle which I do, although it is almost still full because the weather at this height is now more cold, making me drink less. We talk for a while, in different languages as usual, and the younger of them who is 15 years old joins my walk for a few minutes before turning to another group of sheep, just after inviting me for dinner or something like that after my peak ascent.

Albania Kukes Gjallica tableland

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherds

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd boy

I continue to walk and after 2-3 more times of thinking that I have almost reached the peak, and about one more hour, I am standing on the actual peak of Gjallica, about 2200 meters higher than where I started walking (the valley below is on 250 meters elevation). Here, the wind is strong and new clouds are constantly created and pumping in from below. I change clothes and walk around for a while to explore the top, finding the last snow patch of the season, about 10 meters long. Keep in mind that this is on the 31st of July and that the heat below the mountain peak is intense. I linger around for about 10-15 minutes and then start to walk down again, now along a trail which I found a bit below where I was walking up.

Albania Kukes Gjallica near peak

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain peak

Albania Kukes Gjallica peaks

Albania Kukes Gjallica July snow

Albania Kukes Gjallica peak view

Albania Kukes Gjallica path down

When I return to the shepherds, which to one more shepherd now have joined, we sit down in this idyllic surrounding and talk, enjoying some snacks I have brought with me on my trek. The sun is now very strong and the weather is perfect. After about 30 minutes I feel that I should get going, not knowing which path I will take down. The shepherds recommends the non existing path through the forest from where I came, but I want to walk on an actual path this time and they tell me where there is supposed to be one, probably the same as the old lady recommended for me.

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd friends

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd musician

I start walking and even though the path disappears several times I find my way down again to the field with the lady’s house. This time she seems not to be at home, but on the other side of the field I see some cows and people. We start talking and the younger girl who speaks good English tells me that she and her family from the village below have just walked up here with their cows, a donkey and some food to live here for a month during the summer. Around once a week they (or was it only the grandfather?) walks down for more provision. We talk some more and then its really time for me to get going after hearing that the time is now 5:30 PM.

Albania Kukes Gjallica caterpillar

Albania Kukes Gjallica dead forest

Albania Kukes Gjallica houses

Albania Kukes Gjallica house

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain

Albania Kukes Gjallica village family

I hurry on my walk down and this time the path feels much longer than when I walked up. I am tempted to take some shortcuts I see but because I do not know where they end up I do not risk it this time. The sun is burning my skin and I do everything to try to hide from it, also putting on my final sun protection cream. Finally I get down some 2 hours later, still in strong sunlight and realizing that the time they told me must have been wrong.

Albania Kukes Gjallica city view

I start walking to Kukes but a minibus picks me up and drives me to the city for free. When I arrive I jump out at the gas station a bit outside the town to tell the people about my success and for them not to worry anymore. Then I walk into town to find the first possible place to sit down for a coffee and some food. Looking at my clock I realize I actually had more time to walk down if I wanted, but I feel happy being back in town without it being so late. After I finish the food I buy a beer and goes back to the room, turning on the TV and forgetting all about the beer in my tiredness, but still managing to repack half of my bag for tomorrows hitchhiking before crashing into bed.

Trebinje (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Although a bar girl in Dubrovnik tells me there is very little chance I will find a ride from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the history of the two countries, I wake up early in the morning to give it a try. The man in the over priced hostel have told me that I should ask for the border town Metkovic and I tell the Croatian/German man who picks me up that this is where I am going. After about 15 minutes talk while driving I realize that this is the totally wrong direction and jumps out. Half an hour later I am in a new car going the other direction, this time with an Austrian couple who is late to the airport to pick up a friend.

Croatia, Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik, beautiful but expensive and filled with tourists

The couple kicks me out in a road junction and tells me that this is the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It takes me about an hour to get a new ride to the border, which on my Google Maps picture looked really far away but actually was only 500 meters from where I got dropped off. My new drivers are 4 young Croatians which are going to the Black Lake in Montenegro to camp for the night before heading back. I think about joining them but don’t want to miss out on Bosnia and Herzegovina so I stop in Trebinje instead.

Google Maps South Europe map
My picture of Google Maps which I use for traveling

As soon as I am dropped off in Trebinje by my ride I walk by and enters a pub with locals looking strange at me. The pub girl is not speaking English and I quickly realize I have no local currency. On the wall is a poster of a half naked girl together with two televisions: one playing local folk music and the other showing a drunk old man flirting with a young beautiful girl. I find a nearby gas station that lets me take out money even though they do not have an ATM machine. First the guy wants to give me Euro, but when I finally get my hand on some local currency I go back to the pub to drink a Jelen, a 5% beer which goes directly up to my head (I later realize that some places in Bosnia and Herzegovina also accept Euro).

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: bar
Local bar with titties on a poster and folk music on the TV

Next I go to a 4 star restaurant to try some local food. The food is good and about half price from Dubrovnik, but when I try to leave an old man stops me and invites me for a drink. One drink gets several as he does not take a no from me before 2-3 hours later and some grappas and beers has gone down my throat. The old man, which is 80 by his own words, tells me he is the Godfather of Trebinje but is now living in England, only to be back for the summer (6-7 months) in his home town. He knows everyone in the bar and after a while we sits down at a table of his friend, who has a masters in musics and who seems to be a over intelligent alcoholic. We have some interesting conversations (instead of the 30 times repeated stories of the 80 year old man) and then suddenly the old man disappears. Shortly after, his friend also goes away, at least saying goodbye to me and I am free to find a place to sleep.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: restaurant
The restaurant with Facebook on the computer

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: food

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: champagne

I have got a list of homestays from the newly founded tourist information in Trebinje so I ask a girl on the street where it is. I don’t know if it is again the friendliness of the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or that she see that I am drunk (I feel perfectly fine at this moment) but she calls the lady of the homestay and then walks me 5-10 minutes away to meet her. The lady we meet is an extraordinaire woman in colorful clothes (or was it a towel?) and with a big smile. She lets me choose which of her two bedrooms to use and asks me (without speaking English) if I want to go to the nearby free swimming pool. I say I want to sleep for an hour first, but as soon as I lay down the alcohol is catching up on me and that hour becomes 14 hours.

The next morning I go up at 7 o clock and the lady is watching TV quietly outside my room, asking me if I want a coffee. I am a bit sad that I will not stay more with these amazing people in Trebinje, but the road calls for me an I feel rested and ready for another adventure.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: street
Starting to finally walk away from the restaurant

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: homestay woman
Lovely homestay lady

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: free swimming pool
Free swimming pool which is also used for other sports

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: river
Beautiful river, which is supposedly the biggest river in Europe which naturally disappears into the ground instead of ending in a lake or sea.

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: bridge
The mountains around Trebinje

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: river
Trebinje is very picturesque in many ways

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje: river

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Trebinje:  street art

Cockroach robot

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Yesterday I went to a robot fair here in Sofia that is arranged to show off the projects that the students in the university are working on and for them to make connections. The theme of the robots were supposed to be robots that can help people in their homes, but most of the robots were more to show the possibilities with robot technology then to do something practical. The robot that amazed me the most was the Cockroach robot, which is like a car for a cockroach. The cockroach is walking on a ping pong ball and this is then telling the robot which way to drive. If there is a risk for collision this is detected by the robot and small fans start blowing in front of the cockroach to make it change direction.

The guy who made this robot, Valentin, have the idea that for the next step connect a small robot to the cockroach brain and this way be able to control the cockroach with a remote. Although I feel bad for the cockroaches I think Valentin treats them good as he has a big collection of bizarre animals at home as a hobby.

Although Valentin invented this exact cockroach robot the idea was inspired from ConceptLab.

Also right now in Sofia there is a 3 day extreme sport movie festival with movies of varied quality. Today is the last day of the festival and for more information and the program, follow this link: http://www.predizvikatelstva.com

Thoughts on a bus

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I wrote earlier about the importance of backup plans and today I got reminded of this on the bus trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. I overheard a phone call of a Spanish couple sitting next to me. They had booked a hostel some days earlier but never got the booking verified. Now when they called the hostel the booking didn’t exist, and after borrowing my laptop and using the free wifi on board the bus they realized all the hostels in town were fully booked because of a football match. They also tried doing a last minute search on Couchsurfing but without luck. A sms to my father confirmed what I already knew, that there were no possibility for me to let them stay in my fathers apartment. What happened to them after arriving to dark and rainy Copenhagen? Nobody knows, but I gave them my contact details to use if they got into trouble or needed help. Hopefully they could sleep in a couch or floor at the hostel that lost their booking.

Before you start traveling into unknown territory you can prepare against situations like this. First mentally, by visualising how it would be to sleep in a backyard, park or beach. If you think this would be overwhelming for you, then you need to make a backup plan. This would typically involve having addresses and phone numbers to other hostels, friends or just researching where you could sleep if everything is fully booked. Bringing a tent with you while traveling is very helpful in these situations, although it is usually difficult to find a decent place to put it up. Be careful with your backup plans though; if you like spontaneous travel, backup plans take away all the fun of improvising.

This situation also made me think again about the way I am living when I am visiting Copenhagen. I always travel here for short periods of time, usually a weekend trip. Because I have very limited of time in Denmark  I spend it all with my family. This means, although I have traveled to this country for a countless number of times during the last 20+ years, it is the country in the world where I have the least friends. If the situation with the Spanish couple in the bus would have happened in any other country, where I have been before of course, I would have been able to help them quickly and without problem.

The situation is also interesting because when you travel and something happens, like you run out of money or you have no place to stay, you are really stuck and need to stop and think your way out of the situation. This is even more difficult in big and civilized cities then in smaller towns or more southern cities. It takes so much before somebody reach out to another person to help him, if it ever happens. My suggestion to you is to do more. Give money to musicians and artists on the street. Buy the street paper, paper tissue or flowers that the homeless people sells. If you see somebody lost, give them a hand in the right direction even before they ask for it.

The Importance of Getting to Know Local People

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

If I have learned one thing with all my travels it would probably be how important it is to get local friends in the country where you are staying. Not because of the social factor, but to really understand a place you need to understand the people, and to see how they are living their every day lives. This means, if they go to the church, do sports, have hobbies, go partying and so on, go with them, participate and be open minded. This is the only way to learn about the real culture and way of living in a region, and is also why I recently noticed I have lost all interest in travel guides or programs. These guides and TV programs are almost always made by foreigners with very short experience of the region, and who probably themselves read in guides what they should visit, see or do when arriving before creating their own guide. At the same time they are the result of only one opinion, and that is also why it is not only important to spend time with local people, but to meet a lot of them and with different local cultures and viewpoints of life.

A walk in the park part II – Open Air Berlin

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

During the summer in Berlin it’s very common with Sunday parties and yesterday I went to a friends Open Air party which they organize for the second year in a row. The party takes place in a park near the area Wedding and just next to the river, which makes it a beautiful surrounding with both the feeling of the nature and at the same time people passing by just taking a walk in the park.

Usually these events start in the early afternoon and continues to a short time after the sunlight have disappeared. It’s very uncommon that the police in Berlin shuts down these illegal Open Air parties and if they arrive to the place they usually just ask polite to turn down the volume a bit, or sets an end time when the music should be stopped.

For me these Sunday parties are way better then going to a club and the atmosphere reminds more of a festival then a pub or a club. Sundays are perfect for a chill out party and to get beautiful nature, great music & friends at the same time – it can’t be better!

For you who know your minimal techno, here are the lineup for yesterdays party:

Rndm [DIAL]
Simon Beeston [Highgrade]
Chris Schwarzwälder [Bar25]
Fabian Drews [mama-j]
Convex Shape [Iwillchange.Ipromise]
Holger Hecler [juciemarket]

Minimal Techno Berlin

Wild Wedding

Open Air girls

Open Air equipment

Open Air Berlin

Open Air tent

Open Air party

Party sunset

Open Air packing

Comparison of Berlin areas

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

After living in Berlin for 1+ month I had to move to another apartment when the owner was coming back to the room I rented. Even though I really liked living in that apartment, not only because of the people living there but also because of the location, this gives me an interesting opportunity to compare how it is to live in two different areas of Berlin.

The first area I was living in, Friedrichshain, is the main clubbing area of Berlin and where a lot of tourists end up at least for the night when partying. Here you find famous night clubs like Berghain, Suicide Circus, RAW and so on… There is not one single night in the week where the Warschauer straße is not full of people, mostly foreigners, all the way to late morning. Here you find a lot of Asian restaurants, mainly Indian and Thai, together with the usual kebab places that is one of Berlin’s trademarks. There is not so much shops in the area, mostly second hand clothes, which makes it less crowded during the day times. At the same time it’s very near to tourist monuments like the Berlin Wall or the Oberbaumbrücke.

Yesterday I moved to Neukölln, which is the up-and-coming area of Berlin. This area has during the last five years become more and more attractive, and at the same time more expensive, to live in. Here you can find a lot of restaurants, bars and cafés combined with a huge Turkish area. Neukölln is more “ruff” then Friedrichshain and at the same time more social, probably mainly because of the mixed southern nationalities living here. As soon as our moving truck arrived to the street, a gang of people came to help us carry our things up to the 4th floor, and some even came back the second day to continue to help us.

So why do I need a moving truck to move, when everything I own is in my backpack? Actually, at the same time it was time for me to change apartment a German couple I met in Dahab about 4 months ago told me I could stay at their new place where they are currently moving into. So here I am, helping them to move & fix their apartment in Berlin and at the same time I get the opportunity to live together with good friends I thought I would not see again for a long time.

Peace out

Living in Berlin

Apartment areas Berlin

Again in Brussels

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I took some days off to visit one of my new European favorite cities, Brussels. It was just 3 months since I was in Brussels last time, on my way to Dahab. After two months in Egypt it’s was very refreshing to be back in Europe. The contrasts were big, like the gray weather which I had missed so much and the quietness even though the city is big.

Brussels is very idyllic with green parks and beautiful streets. Most people are happy and smiling here, but at the same time they are “trapped” in their boxed every day lives not integrating with the people around them. Here, for example, people look strange at you if you start a conversation or smile to a person that you don’t know. While it’s very relaxing to be back in a “civilized” city I can also miss Egypt where you start conversations with random people on the street several times per day.

Belgian tree

Bois de la Cambre

Brussels bus

Brussels lake

Brussels park

Etang d Ixelles

Flower girl

Belgian swan in Brussels

Mirror effect

Belgian graffiti

Graffiti Bruxelles

Jupiler Belgium

Abstract plants

Atomium Brussels

In Cairo

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Cairo is a great contrast after Dahab. Too bad I will only stay here a few days, but I will come back.

Tahrir square on a Friday

The picture is from the Tahrir Square where the 2011 Egyptian Revolution took place and where they still have demonstrations every Friday. More pictures from Cairo will come later.