Departing Email Msg___ in Europe ___Halfway Email Msg
September - December 1997
I had been scheduled to fly to Dussledorf on Friday. I was bumped. Lucky me. This let me retry AirHitching to Athens. This is a complete reroute, of course, but not a problem. I was getting a bit linear about my itinerary anyway.
Addenda: Since then, my itinerary (if it could be called such) has been in freefall. But see later...
So I get to go to Bulgaria now. Sofia and the Black Sea coast. Up to Romania and over to Transylvania. Yes, Transylvania. Say it with me everyone, Traaaansillvayyynya. Oooh-hoo-oooh! Sometimes I scare myself!
Alas. No Traaaaaansillvayyyynya. And no Bulgaria. After Athens I climbed Mt. Olympos and then (after a day of rest) went to Thessaloniki (which I despised, BTW).
Train strike in Bulgaria. And no way to Romania, except through Bulgaria. So, after a coughing fit from the Thessaloniki streets, I decided to go directly to BudaPest.
And after buying my nonrefundable ticket, the nice clerk asked if I had a Yugoslavian Transit Visa. Hmmm.. where was that consulate again?
I arrive at the Yugoslavian consulate and it is just as I imagined it would be: big iron doors (shut, of course) and a small callbox on the side. I ring and a voice bellows something. I start to explain my mission, when I become aware of a commotion behind me. I look.
There is a man in fatigues with a machine gun running right at me.
I tell the callbox to hold on and raise my hands (the only thing I thought to do, but probably best).
The soldier then tells me that the entrance is off the sidestreet. Oh. Sorry. I had been trying to use the super-secret-spy-not-for-americans-restricted-entrance.
Anyway, the small room I was led to had last been ventilated before I was born. The Serbs were behind glass b/c they were getting oxygen. And to top it off, as I am waiting in line there are horrible sounds coming from behind the large door at the end of the room. Really, some demented Halloween sound effects. I couldn't help but think it was some guards in the back: 'hey Dragomir, let's fuck with the American and play the tapes we made of that ethnic cleansing in Bosnia last year!"
All went fine, of course, after that until I got over the border to Skopje . . . Macedonia! A separate country. Something I knew, but had totally blanked on.
These guys _don't_ have to let me through.
After frowning and taking my passport away for a while, they came back with a transit visa. Some sweat, but not too much.
From there I travel (by night)(last dracula joke), to Hungary, and especially Budapest, with twin responsibilities to Kate: secure a nudie pen; and get her divorce papers (if they exist) from her commie husband. I'm looking forward to the papers more than the souvenier shops!
Mission half accomplished. Got the pen. But I also succeeded in annoying several people with names close to that of Kate's (ex?) commie husband.
Anyway, through Bratislava I go to Krakow, where I meet a friend of a friend who will show me the university that Copernicus went to. Wow. On to Warsaw and Auschwitz. Then I go to Bialystok, putative source of my family name (although there is reason to doubt). From there I go to Vilnius, Lithuania. I continue to the other Baltic capitals: Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. I may go to St. Petersburg.
This part is right out. I decided that time being what it was, I should stick to things I am most psyched about. Plus, I have discovered that I am a slower traveller than some. I just don't like to rush unless I want to. Another trip for these things. This isn't my last sojourn.
What I have done is go to Czech to see my cousin Jon and his wife Priscilla. They live in Ceske Budejovice (not quite right in this font) in South Bohemia. From here, the addenda will be more divergent from the text. Oh well.
But I will definitely continue to Helsinki, and then take a cool overnight boat trip to Stockholm (sleeping on deck! since the boat need not sink :)
From Stockholm to Oslo and then to Bergen. Fjords , Fjords, Fjords, Fjords . . .
But I then return to Stockholm and see Uppsala before I journey south to Malmo and Lund (where I lived 23 years ago). Then to Denmark: Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aero and LEGOLAND!!! Ahem.
So, I went to Geneva to see my cousin Amy and her family (husband Garreth, sons Llewelyn and Rhys). And I loved Geneva. Friendly, compact, beautiful and _clean_ beyond belief. Spent the better part of a week there and then did 4 days in Interlaken for rest/relaxation and BUNGY JUMPING From a 33 Story Building!
Other than that. It was real quiet and peaceful-like. Interlaken is quite beautiful. But I couldn't stay there. I yearned to head north to Scandinavia. And so I did.
To Aarhus and Legoland. I got there in time for the last day of the season.
Then to Copenhagen and a visit with Jens who fed me traditional Danish meals featuring spuds and pork skin! Yah! We go to Malmo and Lund tomorrow. I am very excited!
I will then (deo volente) head north for Oslo and then Stockholm and then Helsinki. Stay tuned!
After Lund, I took a long circle to Oslo, up to Bodo (way north of Arctic Circle), and over to Stockholm and then Helsinki. Gave Estonia a miss with a bad cold. Went back to Malmo to retrieve stuff and head to Praha.
So, into Germany and Hamburg (Pete Best postcard to Dave). Then to Berlin and Dresden, on the way to Prague. I will meet up with Jon and Priscilla in South Bohemia, Czech. Jon is the first of two cousins I will meet.
I proceed directly to Geneva (boat ride on Lake of same name), where my other cousin, Amy, lives with her family. I work back to Interlaken, where I take a cable car up into the alps and jump out. With a bungy cord attached, of course.
Not having had enough of the Alps, I continue Eastward through Tirol to Vienna, from whence I go to Munich, making my way through central Germany northward.
Then Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris at Thanksgiving, where Frances and Carol, mindful of my Romanian plans, have insisted on a daylight meeting. Home, broke and exhausted, but wiser and more enlightened, to begin the cycle all over again.