Thursday, October 28, 2010

Travel romance

My friend Oliver recently wrote a heart-wrenchingly tragic blog (he probably won't mind me linking to it) about travelling to Israel in pursuit of an amazing Russian-Israeli girl he met once, who ultimately seemed less enthusiastic than him. The beautiful fool.

I obviously didn't learn a thing from this parable, and became a bit obsessively infatuated with a Russian-Israeli girl (not the same one) who I met last month in Florence, who was irresponsibly appealing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sleeping on a roof bloody cool. Lying under the stars, watching the red moon rise over the golden temple roofs. I might never go back to sleeping indoors again. I wonder why I ever did in the first place?

Oh yes - because I lived in Scotland.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And did those feet

Jerusalem is a great place for people who love to aimlessly wander around, especially in the Old City.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Travel safety

Shoe-based incidents aside, I haven't run into any problems so far on my World Tour, but imagine how different things could be if I were a woman.

Are you imagining it? Arousing, isn't it?... No? No, um, I didn't think so either, I was just joking or something.

None of the female solo travellers I've met have run into any problems with strange men (until they met me at least), but I can understand how the universal presence of dickheads puts many women off heading out on their own.

To help out my sisters (not literally, I don't have any - that explains a lot), I've developed a Female Solo Traveller Safety Kit that I hope to patent when I can be bothered. It features items that women can wear or otherwise absent-mindedly leaf through, when the possibility of a dickhead manifests itself in the hostel lounge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amusing podcasts

Travelling around a lot by bus, ferry, foot, plane and train (in alphabetical order), I find podcasts and audiobooks perfect companions. I've gathered quite a collection of radio comedy that sees me through too, a lot of it from the 1990s when Radio 1 bizarrely let people like Chris Morris, Simon Munnery and Lee and Herring do pretty much what they wanted for an hour each week. We won't see the likes of those days again.

Podcasts feel like the natural successor to those alternative radio shows, now that broadcasters like the BBC are too timid to take risks on innovative comedy and things like the Mighty Boosh are seen as 'edgy.'

Simultaneously less professional but also much freer from constraints, the podcast medium has been embraced by many comedians as a chance to express themselves without censorship and try out new material just as they would on stage. While their generally unedited and unscripted nature means they can often be a bit shit, this is also part of the podcast's charm - they are free after all, done for love rather than money, even if the effort ultimately pays off in terms of greater publicity for other projects.

Here are my (probably) top five comedy podcasts, most of which are current and ongoing and all of which can be legally downloaded free of charge, at least in part.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Learning Hebrew

I was planning to spend a week or so longer in Greece and really master the language, but after all the ferry annoyance, and spotting a tempting last-minute flight, there no longer seemed a point in delaying Israel until November. I'm not a slave to your calendar, Pope Gregory!

So, to while away the travel time I've entered the realm of the Hebrew language, so I can blend in like a local in the immigrant nation. I've always thought I'd make a good Jew, in any case - I'm called David, I appreciate sardonic humour, I'm tight with money and I've got quite a big nose. Really, I'm just one very small operation away from being a true Son of Israel.

Farewell forever, Europe

...well, probably not, but I probably/hopefully won't be back in the continent for a very long time. To turn back time (zones) now would seem foolish, now that I've finally broken my Asian hymen.

Not literally, mother, if you're reading.

I'm writing this in Athens International Airport, waiting for a flight to Tel Aviv. That's right, regular readers (Oliver?), my self-imposed no-planes rule has now been broken twice, but it's not like I didn't exhaust and stress over all the other non-options for days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

From the Athens of the North to the Athens of Greece

Pointless mission accomplished - by land and sea, I travelled from the self-styled 'Athens of the North' (Edinburgh) to the bona fide 'Athens of Greece' (Athens), with just one cheating plane ride across the Alps.

Arriving by bus in a remote and smelly part of the city, my first impressions of Athens were pretty unfavourable. But I remembered I had a similar reaction to Florence at first, before getting to the nice, pedestrian-friendly tourism parts.

Like in Italian, the word pedestrian in Greek roughly translates as 'public footpath that nevertheless permits motorcycles, as if they aren't basically cars, and stupid bloody choo-choo trains.' With its speedy and sparkling clean metro system too, this shithole has had a major colonic irrigation, but the skidmarks are still clear to see if you venture too far...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't judge a man by the quality of his footwear

I've been on the tourist trail for almost a month, and today I was delighted to be approached by my first con artist, outside the Acropolis.

I say 'artist,' but he still had some way to go in perfecting his shtick, whatever it was. The fact that his opening gambit was to compliment the high quality of my shoes was a dead giveaway that something was awry:

My post-Acropalistic footwear

Friday, October 15, 2010

Still learning Greek

I'm embracing today's 10-hour bus ride to Athens as a chance to become master of the language, and jack off none (well, that would be inappropriate behaviour on a bus).

After the embarrassment of getting around in Italy with just a weather-beaten print-out to remind me of key phrases - and to be honest, cruising by on little more than ci, buongiorno and grazie - I was determined to put more effort into learning the language during my visit to Greece, with help from Pimsleur's Modern Greek Short Course which I sort of stole...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Learning Greek

What the hell does that mean? It's all Greek to me. A-ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Actually, Greek doesn't present much of a problem here in Ipsos, a second home for vermilion sunbathers escaping from North West England. Practically all the neo-locals who frequent the bar I use for internet access hail from Greater Manchester, meaning I've heard more accents from my home counties in these last two weeks than I did in the previous three years, and I'm in the bloody Mediterranean.

What do these Mancs think they're doing, abandoning their birth nation to make a new life overseas? They make me sick.

Because I'm obviously nothing like them, I'm committed to at least trying to learn the local language while I'm in Greece. Here's how to learn foreign numbers easily and keep them in your head for all time, along with all the other junk.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where are all the Canadians?

It's probably not surprising that I've met a hell of a lot of Australians on my travels. They are a naturally curious species after all, most of them having relatives scattered in annoyingly convenient locations across Europe that offer a valid reason to track down their heritage.

That's compared to my own tedious family which, for some masochistic reason, chose to live in Crewe for as far back as I have the stomach to trace. Which means as far back as the ones I've met in person. My dad is a farmer, so I'm naturally wary about uncovering the intertwining branches that would, to be honest, explain quite a few things about my anatomy.

But I'm surprised at the lack of Canadians I've met along the way, which is currently no Canadians. Not one. I've met Argentines, Brazilians, Chinese, Danes, Germans, Greeks, Irish, Israelis, Italians, Japanese, Kiwis, Mauritanians, Norwegians, Sicilians, Slovenians, Spaniards, even a couple of bloody Brits, but no moose-hugging Canucks in sight.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Italian Time

I don't know where I heard that Italy was a country ruled by efficiency. Probably on the same fictional TV show that I remembered showing giant snails the size of Alsatians sliming their gargantuan way past a disinterested man, which I only realised clearly don't exist when I took a second to think about it at the embarrassingly late age of about 17.

Maybe it's the oft-quoted but historically incorrect trivia about Mussolini making the trains run on time that gave me this mistaken impression of Italian efficiency. I'm not saying that Italy is a country in serious need of a fascist dictator to sort things out at the cost of the peoples' democratic freedom, but I am implying it heavily.