Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) EU

A New Upcoming Travel & Old Pictures

Once I returned home, surprising my family with a sudden knock on the door – followed by an hour waiting as no one was home – things quickly got back to the routineus life that had pushed me to travel in the first place. A few breaths and my feet were scurrying from pole to pole, resumes in my hand. I switched jobs faster than tides until my employment agency placed me into the transporting business. Seven months working in a warehouse amidst all kinds of coworkers.

During these months, I had the opportunity to ponder over what the story of the following chapter of my life would be. Many suggested study. Some seemed to know what was best for me, cocksure what I should do. Too many foolishly thought I would actually cage myself within the walls of a study. A moment’s thought, so did I. However, for me, depressions seeps from these walls. As long as I have no motivation to enter such building, bearing the answers to my life passions, it will be a place to drain my happiness. The friends that knew me best, pushed me to follow my heart. Soon after, I was convinced.


Thus, the making of a new travel plan arrived. With heavy heart, my family smiled upon me, as their dreams of me in college shattered to the ground. As expected, they had my back and with every step I took, they were there offering a hand. Their support allowed me to work hard and save my money tight as if a new economy crash was upcoming. To keep my mind out of the gutter that is the boring life in the Netherlands, I spend my time focusing on the upcoming trip and writing about the past one. Even during work, my mind was on the beaches, in the jungles and so on. This worked for some time…

Until the well of motivation had gone dry and my taste for the water faded. Feeling caged in my world of writing, I had to bring a pause to my stories. Unhappy with the words on my screen, feeling forced with every post, I no longer wallowed in the bath of words I used to love. Days were slow and boring, yet my mind was at all times a roaring lion, a machine gone to overdrive, a tornado and volcano burst at the same time. Thoughts, worries, and fears flew in thousands. They hung heavy in my head, bringing exhaustion. Workdays got longer and slower. The same faces, the same boring conversations, the same dumb questions over and over. Days off, I often felt bored. I wanted to go out and live.

But for once, I felt afraid of travelling. I had announced to make the longest trip I ever would. That wasn’t what brought shrivels down my spine however. What shakes my mind, is the fear of being unable to find a path for my life. A direction. Of failing myself. Despite that constant dread chaining me down, I prepared my wings for the next flight. Taking a leap from the nest and hoping my wings would carry me. To find my purpose. Quitting my job to be with my family was a begin. Buying my ticket a second. It took a while before that happened, as I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to fly, afraid of falling. Nonetheless, I did. Giving up on studying, I hope I find what I desire out there.


Now, about my posts. Fresh, I shall begin, hopefully finding my spot in the world of writing. But not before I give you a nip of the last months in Europe (+ a short family trip in Sweden).

 

Some poorly shot pictures of the beautiful town that is Odessa, Ukraine. 

Then, sweltering in a train, I made my way to Chisinau, the capital of beautiful Moldova. Here a wonderful family took me in and showed me around for a few days. Two young, but incredible smart and talented children. 

 

After giving me more than I could take, I was shown the ancient Orheiul Vechi, a lovely village on the side of a hill. Thereafter, I moved on to Romania. 

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My travel through Romania was rapid, however grand. Turning into a smelly swamp at 40 degrees, I received long rides in a beetle, a bus and a worker on duty, offered food with some gin by dry-humoured workers in a warehouse, slept in a warm guesthouse bed in Bran for free, braved the vampires and hitchhiked together with a first-timer. In this week of Romania exploration, I have not a single bad word to say.

I soon arrived in Austria, heading to my work-away location. A small village, filled with drama. Taking care of camels and horses was my job. In exchange, accommodation, meals and riding lessons were provided. A village of all kinds. Four weeks of getting to know them all through long conversations. Besides the village, I visited the town Melk nearby, beautiful Vienna, and some farms.

Then time had come to head home. Without letting my family know, I hitchhiked in three days across Austria and Germany. Astonishingly fast I received rides of many nice people all the way up to final city.

Up next follow a few pictures I took when in Sweden for a family trip (Stepmother’s side). 

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For now, I am doing well. I have all under control and I feel ready to embark on my new adventure. The 11th of August, my trip will begin. I feel ready. I will live, smile, write and be happy. Pictures will come. If you want to stay posted, you may follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook.

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

Sweating in Kiev

His hair seemed as if it had survived a tornado on his way to me. Dark hair flopping and flying around. I’d be surprised would I find a comb in his bathroom. Brown eyes twitched in his skull, full of energy. His hand shoots to mine. A quick introduction and we walk back to his apartment. From the metro, it was a short walk. On our way we pass a few restaurants, a shop and a handful of stands bearing fruits or fresh coffee. I analysed the area, preparing for the coming weeks. The elevator we had to take was an old model, slowly transporting us up. Inside his room, my eyes went exploring. It felt as if I recognised the place from an episode of Hoarders. Yet, instead of hoarding, this pigsty was an act of laziness. A dwelling filled with empty bottles, caps, dirty clothes and everything underneath the pile. However, interesting. His room kept many hidden treasures. Old Ukrainian uniforms, notes of Belarusian currency, pictures, stickers and posters of all sorts, some in German and English, license plates, you name it. As two women in need of housing had claimed the bed before I even was on Kiev soil, the couch became mine to drowse off on.

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Ukrainian Hitchhiking, Reaching Kyiv!!

For breakfast I munched salty fish that was offered by the two bbq-ers I met along the road. This was a few hours before I entered the village Chotyn. Many stands with souvenirs left and right paraded the walk to the entrance of the hilled castle. The damage on my wallet had been acceptable. Friendly faces and chats. Short chats with little meaning. Making my way to the entrance, a new sweatdrop appeared with every step I took. One day, I will fall down to the ground, left panting like a dog long over his due age with this heat. Bottles of water had been going empty left and right. My feet marched on. Once inside the walls, on the left there were two towers separated with roughly 150 meters. Time and war had taken a heavy toll on these towers. On the right side stood a prettiful church built in 1832 with a wide river behind it. The river was a delighted sight on this summer day. In the centre stood the tiny castle. A moat dried to the size of a puddle surrounded it. Over the lowered wooden drawbridge my eyes spotted a group of ogling tourists on the courtyard. So many people. Too many people. A small building stood amidst the crowd. Two kids played with the well next to it. One jumping up and down as the other pulled the lever. For the rest, I had a mere collection of options; the torture room on my left, taking the spiral stairs down to the weaponry or gaze at the two other buildings that had no entry. About an hour ticked away as I read all there was to read on weaponry and torture before dismissing the medieval scene that had been filled with the most obnoxious and annoying species right after mosquitoes. However, this sunny day had provided a perfect ambiance for a visit. Plus, I gained a fairly cheap, homemade wine as I walked passed the houses heading out. Carrying the weight was a bunch better knowing my evening could turn to end well.

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Awkward picture, yaay!!

A small lift right after the purchase brought me to Kamjanets-Podilsky. Around evenfall, my attempt at lifting further seemed fruitless. A sweet, old lady and her friend had walked with me. Short conversations, little understanding. In her hands a book lay gripped. Opening the book, she turned it to me and pointed at the page. Politely she requested if I would read it. Turned out to be a Jehovah’s witness, carrying a page to show care and believe for a moment as such, where a language barrier comes in. After a call with the son, I was able to reside a night at their apartment. Feeling welcomed and at home, I slurped a soup and took bites from my ice cream. For a while we discussed the differences between Ukraine and the Netherlands. Valentin had also showed me a lot about stocks. With interest I listened. I would be lying though, if I said I still remember a thing…


Nearing Kiev with every gained ride, my mood increased. Getting to know this vast land to soon reside in its capital. Through CouchSurfing I had found a place, under Pavlo’s roof – or on it. So singing along with my playlist, I walk the road. Overgoing a hill, I spy a group of neatly dressed people. As I advanced, I gain their attention. Seeing a woman in a white gown, I realise it’s a wedding. Caught off guard, the photographer pulls me by my wrist and puts me in between the groom and bride. He flashes his camera in my face and then guides me away from the group, shoving some Hryvnia notes in my hand. I used it to sleep in the four euro motel a few yards further down the road. Before getting some shuteye, I poured myself a rich of taste redhead. I had a giggle at the fact that a married couple would have to go through their pictures and look at my poorly bearded, lobster-tan face. An actual laugh left my mouth. All alone, in a room with a scent of old, cackling like a hyena at nothing. The red water fell hard, after such a day. So after half, I put the bottle down. As the bottle touched the table, my energy left me. Wiry, I glanced out the window. Awful music was pouring in. For a while, I sat on the edge of my bed, holding a glass with a final sip left. I finished the glass, letting the wine slither down and slipped in bed. No sheep needed, as I was off before my head even hit the pillow.

Finally, after a week hitchhiking – auto stopping – Kyiv would be reached. Sharing the car with two men from the military we laid rubber on the Ukrainian asphalt. They told me about the ongoing war and the daily newly-filled body bags that are carried from the fighting zone. They had broad shoulders and seemed big. The one occupying the passenger seat spoke with a hoarse voice. Everyday more dead people… Both seemed tired. Tired of the war, of fighting. The hoarsely man had to take the metros to reach his home. An excellent chance for me to get to know the underground system of the capital. Reading names, stops, letters and numbers, my simple mind stopped working. Instead, I just listened to the large guy who set me to the right track. On the metro, I wore my poker face. A face neutral hid the mind that counted every stop, double, neh triple, neh quadruple checked the sticker aboard to be able to count the stops correctly and reading every sign to make sure I am not mistaken. Anxious to miss mine. That, all the while being squeezed among the crowd of people swinging with the movement of the underground transport. Body odor of dozens of people on an extremely hot day. A crazy man shouting all the while throwing his hands up in a provocative manner. I hate public transport…

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Unfinished, this shows a part of my travel in Ukraine. Summer 2016.
Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

Exploring the vast Ukraine on my way to Kiev

Sharing a ride with three generations, one screaming in the back everlasting, we are heading to the small village Bortnyky. Speed was not with us, as domestic animals and wild geese roamed the streets. That, and at every turn the baby in the back let out screams of horror, at which the young mother stopped at once to suckle. So there I sat, waiting for the babe to be done sucking as a gaggle of geese approached. The gaggle scattered, as if to surround the car. A mean eye was shot at me, threatening my existence. Then young one burped, seeming satisfied and let go of the teat to return to the loving arms of grandma. Right after, the driver took off, leaving the evil, waggling creatures in dust.

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The Wrong Neighbourhood!

The sun was already going down and darkness began filling the village. Exiting the local shop – to which a lady had haughtily pointed, knowing just enough German to be of help – a drunk man pauses before me. He smiles, shakes my hand and continues. Bedazzled, I finish my snack and walk down the road. To the worker’s dormitory. They had welcomed me, leading me in a fast pace to one of the rooms. Entering, I count about seven beds, of which two seemed unused. Staring out the window, the sun sets before my eyes. Adding layers of colour to the sky. While unpacking, one of the workers walks in with a hot meal. A plate filled with mashed potatoes and meat. Once the hunger was stilled, I went for a shower. Outside in the warm, fresh air. Cold water pouring from a tank over my sore body. Refreshening. A sigh, as I turn off the water and dry up. The bunch of us shared a bunch of clear drinks meant to haze the minds before returning to the rooms.


After a long day of waiting one minute’s, sipping tea, listening to quacking truckers and pushing through the unbearable heat, I had crashed and collapsed in a stranger’s field, crawled up in my tent. Crying for a shower, I lay amidst the vegetables on a small stroke of green. Too exhausted to care. For a minute my mind had paused at the motel a few back. For some reason, after a few glances at the building and the folks stumbling about, the veggie garden seemed more comfortable and clean. And safe. An early rise and departure had made for no attention. As I left the beloved garden, I had no destination yet. Luckily, my next ride, the man with the fedora, would help me with that. Chotyn. A must visit! He had told me as he dropped me in the next city.

Wandering around, I didn’t want to lose my way. Therefore I asked the first I came upon reaching the end of market collection. A small gal, one hand twisted around her bike and with the other fiddling on her phone. She had an impudent and wild look. As I explained, all her attention diverted to me. The family stood a few meters away and pitched in on the translations. Once understood, she was headstrong of getting me to the other side of the city and onto a bus. She did so with long strides, rushing over the long central street. Busy, with people around, I hurried after her. My legs were burning and my head grew weary from the heat, yet I pushed to keep up with her. At the bus stop I explained that public transportation was not necessary. Dismissing, she continued. Ukrainian style, she brayed to get the attention of one the chauffeurs. As they bickered I watched a stray dog attempting to cross the road. With tail behind his legs he returned after a loud honk. Another attempt. Then the girl shouted at me, gesturing I come to her. Before either said a word, she pushed me in the bus. My hand reached hers for a goodbye and gratitude shake, however she rebuffed and slapped my hand instead. A sly grin appeared on her face. The bus came into motion, a bus full with all eyes on me. I felt them burn in my back. Or was that the sunburn? 


A low, modified car, with a NASCAR-look pulled over. The door swung open and a skinny lad popped his out. He gestured me to get in, showing little to no emotion. Without change of words, I climbed into the death machine. Who knows why I got in. Not for the security of my life, that’s certain. The entire piece of metal only had one chair. My seating was solid, making the ride less than pleasant. I saw no seatbelts, although that was no news here. The young lad rammed his foot on the gas pedal and raced over the potholes that were the road. Every tear, bump and pothole went through my body, pushing and shoving me around. Flying through corners with sharp turns there was nothing to hold on to, nothing to clutch with my hands groping the interior of the vehicle. Using my feet, I pushed myself to one side to stay somewhat stable. But it was not until I saw the racing maniac start doing the cross sign and heard inaudible mumbling that I began to lose my shit. It was not literal when they said let Jesus take the wheel!!! Again he did so. Confused I sat, cramped in the back. Yet again. It was then, that I noticed this action came with every church we passed. Slightly relieved, I endured the bumpy and shaky ride from the silent man. My guess estimated me a day from the castle.

 

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016) Personal Favourites

Lost and lonely in Lviv

A rose, blossomed and pure, dazzling in the sunlight. A soft, bright red colour. It’s foliage curling at the end. The flower twirled up, captivating any viewers. Even at the most demurest days, it shines beauty. However today its shine had weakened. It was a weekday somewhere in July and I had felt the rose’s thorn. Poisoned by a thorn tipped with melancholy. Starving and sleep-deprived I meandered the alleys of Lviv, in search of a local place serving food at this hour. It had just dawned, yet I was determined to leave that apartment with the first sounds. The yellow letter M shone and guided me inside, their doors opened even before the bakery had. In repugnance I chewed away a small, dry pancake and a white, mushy substance that had to go for oatmeal. My stomach growled, unsatisfied. My head jammed forward and a sudden shook back up. With long days in this Ukrainian heat, I need my sleep. A thing I had not been gifted with that night. A near hour passed before I moved. I pushed my chair back and left.

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Kiev, July 2016

Truth be told, Lviv is a stunning city. With less than 800.000 inhabitants, it’s a welcoming place for tourists. Their wallets that is, as the ATM had charged me a buck simply for checking the ridiculous valuta change it offered. Reluctantly, I accepted the deal that reminded me of Prague. Needing to take my mind off of last night, I started to wander. Markets came in abundance. A trail of stands moving through the city, following turns and steps. For a moment I felt in a maze. Lost amidst the crowd, surrounded by racks of clothes. A sea of talks with Ukrainian words. I pushed myself past the shops, past the stands and past the people. The further I went, the less there were. My flip-flops drummed with every step I took. I just kept walking. Hour after hour as I tried to escape the chaos of noise. I had gone through the streets, over the hill, past the track and following the road, until it was only me. Sauntering in the warm air. The sky tore open and rain began pouring down. Of the few passing cars, none stopped, nor did I want them to. Solitude and silence is what I begged. Rest what I needed. Exhaustion was pulling at my eyelids. Awake for too long. The sun began to drown. A sigh left my breath as I shifted my backpack. Heavy, it pulled at my shoulders. I told myself I needed to keep moving. I shot into a small alley, where barking dogs guarded the area. Agitated I continued as fierce dogs kept snapping at me. For another hour or so, when houses came scattered and a field lay before me. With a hazed mind, I hid my tent behind a bush and crawled inside. Anxious and exhausted my aching body dropped down. Only a fool trusts a nettle. Yet, a rose, a flower so enchanting, hides the thorns laying behind her beauty. So what can be trusted?

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

A Ukrainian Border

On a bright, sunny day I stood along the road that would take me into the country known to be at war. A country many people around it feared. Chaos, complete and utter chaos. A week from now, two girls in Kiev would burst out in laughing hearing about the false fears of these people. “Oehhh Watch out! Dangerous Ukraine!!” The girls japed in derision. Another tale said that people wouldn’t accept a hitchhiking man so near to the border. I had showered that morning, so I stood self-assured. Singing along with the same songs I have been figuratively shattering glasses and hurting ears with since the beginning of the hitchhiking extravaganza. Waiting. Although not for long. Herald my knight of not so shining steel. It was a simple station wagon, rumbling with every meter it gained. Two men, father and son, occupied the riding piece of steel. The ponderously father, Wussel, had his sweaty palms resting on the steering wheel. His equally named son showed me into the car, the backseat. On top of a thin blanket covering crates of goodies and alcohol ample for days to come I crawled, my head tilted to avoid sticking through the roof. Onwards! With an incessant ticking sound we spurted to the border of Ukraine.

This simple car stood a role model for Ukrainian vehicles; it lacked the necessary safety of seatbelts. A simple piece of polyester that can save a life. Warned about war, I soon learned the roads of Ukraine to be far more dangerous. I have been mocked for grasping the seat belt, seen mothers drive without and been in a modified car speeding limits unheard of without any thought of safety within the devil’s trap. As the door closed behind me, I saw it was a one way door, missing my handle inside. The door in front had it the other way around as Wussel reached through the gap of the window to open it. Pieces of fabric were missing at many spots. The stereo hung down attached to a few wires. The only music we’d be enjoying was the song of the ticking car, rumbling and roaring. I smiled as I viewed the car on its side, my head bended. A head worried about hitching a ride, yet the wait was a mere 5 songs.

Ukraine
The Bridge of Love

At the border, the queue wasn’t particularly long, however tedious it was. Drenched in heat by the blazing sun, we sat sweltered in the car that turned temperatures near to a boiling point. Impudent, the driver had gone through two full bottles of water pouring them out on his bald head. Even a break had been made to refill said bottles. However understanding, as my forehead began to show an army of tiny sweat drops crawling down. My seat had turned adhesive in the heat and I feared I would quail would I spent much longer. Some hours passed and it turned out it was not only me that suffered in the unbearable heat. A dead silence as the engine died. Mumbles came from the front when the father tried to start the car. Succumbed, the rumbling sound faded after a moment. Another try, yet again nothing. Minutes later, son and I stood outside pushing the car surrounded by smirking people and a boiling sun beaming down at us.

Being second in line at the border, anxiously I had prepared to face the niggling, strict and righteous border men. I had figured they would search the car and perhaps even my backpack. One uniformed man stood before us, straight with his face sullen. Looking to the row next to us, I wished we stood there, chatting with the fat man guffawing and slapping his hands together were he to be a seal. Wussel popped open the trunk for the inspection. A glimpse and the man waved us off. Surprised, I handed my passport to the bold man ticking the window. Waiting I read the signs that annotated that corruption was not tolerated. Not in this debauched country! The wait was long enough for me to learn the Ukrainian – Cyrillic – version. But then, that was it. We had our passports and we had made it. Although we first had to push the car before the engine began rumbling and roaring again. I had not thought I would be happy to hear that annoying sound, yet I smiled broadly as we officially entered the country of Blue and Yellow.

Categories
Cycling and Hitchhiking (2016)

A confusing ride to Zemplinska Sirava

The most beautiful church of Europe… With sincerity he had spoken, yet I stood reproached. The most beautiful church.. of Europe?? I wouldn’t mind a chat with the judge who decided this small town deserved to earn such a plaque. Without much lingering I had departed, as the ambiance within the Holy House did not feel all that comfortable. They welcomed me, yet as a man without faith their smiles felt strained. My thumb back up, defying Isaac’s theory, I awaited my upcoming ride.

Jozef. I remember him well. His face was drawn and he wore a serious look in his eyes. Not great in English, most conversations were lost in the thin, stale air within the four doors. Short hair covered his head. I guessed him about the age of my father. A silence began as we rode through Slovakia, with surroundings to occupy the wandering eyes. Up high stood a castle.  Kapitula. A smile appeared on his tired face. Then his words cut through the dead air. Jozef started asking questions. However his words did not meet an answer. I merely nodded in endorsement to avoid embarrassment, awkward as I am. I knew he had offered something, although no clue what.

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Soon we arrived at his house, occupied by his mother. He was forced to return after a paper titled ‘divorce‘ landed on his seat. Wait”. My feet paced towards the pavement, where I gazed to my left. To my right. A simple town to the left. Slums to the right. My eyes watched all the people walk by. People close and people far away. Mothers with children, groups of teenagers and a guy watching back, staring with contempt or revulsion. Something, but no affection. His eyes had met mine and seemed locked. A few seconds. Strange I felt. Then a shiver went down my spine and I disregarded the distasteful eye contact to return to the sound of the gate opening. Jozef returned, giving his dogs, true guarding hounds, a loving pet. They became the topic for following minutes as I wondered where we headed. Mayhap to drop me off at a spot to continue.Nope. His brothers house. Although not for long, as a minute later we depart. Where the heck are we going?!

Zemplinska Sirava, a must visit, beautiful, fun town. That’s what I was told as we stood on its beach. Jozef showed me all the bars and restaurants on the strip. The shops, the games and shower/restroom. His nod directed to a passing lady. He then pointed to the cabins one could rent. To the beach where one could use a tent. I figured these suggestions for a sleeping place, the ending of the lift. But no, back into the car. As I said my goodbye to the town that seemed lovely, he took a sharp right. Some houses in this small quarter. Big houses. In front of one he pulled over, pushed the brake and got out. More than slightly confused I followed him on the tour of the house. Three floors. A place forgotten. One floor to be used by me, with kitchen, bathroom and sleeping room. All be the water cold, the furnace worked, a kettle was present and the bed was soft. Back outside, Jozef left the keys in my hand to thereafter jump in his car and exit the driveway. Two nights. A weekend. That’s what he had said. Slowly I began to understand. The man had shown me the place of nightlife and shops, granted me a house for two nights and wished me a pleasant weekend. Such kindness brought a smile to my face. With fair in town, bars filled with lively locals and restaurants serving delights, the weekend flew by.


Gratitude goes to Jozef, as the town is a special one. An ambiance in the air, giving feel to be nowhere yet everywhere. The Slovakia my mind had pictured was not here. A feeling of far from home, lost, yet safe. Hilled forests surrounding the grand lake that took the interest of so many. A relaxing spa and people carrying smiles. The company of many, bloodthirsty gnats. Drenched in warmth by the shining sun, I wandered the place squatting said mosquitoes. The man had me confused, yet gave me a weekend to enjoy. Sunday had reached and at noon he knocked the door. While he smoked his cigarette, we discussed what to follow. Ukraine was such. His face said all. Fear. Worries. Ukraine, the dangerous country. Never in a lifetime would I return safe home. Yet stubborn and curious I stood, declining his suspicions and worries. Not willing to believe all the people that spoke before him. I wore a thin smile, insisting. Without struggling he drove me to a road leading to the border. Before flinging my legs out, I was asked a contact, a way to let him know I am still alive. After he waved me off. I figured hours would be spend there, waiting and waiting, for not many would take a hitchhiker near a border holding controls. Boy could I have been more wrong.

 


Pictures displayed are not owned or take by me. I wanted eyecandy for any readers, yet found out I somehow didn’t take any. Sincere apologies!