The Centre of Light – Signal Festival 2017

Going to write two of these things as there are so many photographs of light shows and I want to do them justice. Catch part II, maybe tomorrow or something

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“Constrained Surface” – Ryochi Kurokawa

One of the most fun things about city life is the sheer variety of events. The week just past was Signal Festival 2017. The Signal Festival is an annual exhibition of art installations, all of which are centred around their use of light and sound.

My fiancée and I were actually shushed during the above display, which was funny as the sound was primarily a type of industrial-ambient, the clanking of chains and the sound of a nut being thrown into a metal bucket. Eerie stuff. It’s somewhat like asking somebody to be quiet because you can’t hear the rain on the window.

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“#glass” – Tets Ohnarib

Before anyone gets to thinking I’ve become conscious of marketing, that hashtag was part of the title of this piece – I do my research.

It’s a really cool concept. So the two pillars look like they have shattered and spilled all over the ground, but the breakage defies physics. After all, it wouldn’t break in a full circle, that’s crazy talk. In addition, the pillars are still intact. It made me reflect on how things are not always as they might appear.

That’s the power of misdirection.

And the point of misdirection is normally stage magic. And what could be more magical than your audience becoming the performers?

This piece, “Heardt” by Anna Feyrerová, Bára Anna Stejskalová, Richard Dobřichovský and Tomáš Bukáček, performs precisely that. A piano connected to the lights to create different patterns based on the music played. Anyone could sit in the piano and create the show, though it seems most people who tried had at least some skill when we were there.

They also weren’t that drunk because, and this will surely shock some Prague people, did you know we can no longer buy drink in Prague 1 after 10pm? What is this, Scotland? I tell you, this city is changing. Not necessarily for the better.

Anyway, here’s a idea of me dancing with two tins at the “Beyond” (Playmodes) exhibit in Old Town Square.

You know how I like to tell a story, well what’s the story here? The story is that the true story is the light show you find along the way. Like, check this out –

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Prague Castle from across the Vltava

And to conclude, the festival is really cool, sadly a little short, and my bird likes expensive tins, but more on that next time.

The writer of this piece is a fan of art and light and hopes that he brightened your day.

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A Love Story – What you learn from paperwork

In our increasingly global world it’s easier than ever for people to fall in love, regardless the colour of their passport. In the past it feels like a lot of these relationships would have been merely sexual, but it is stunningly common to find someone who isn’t from your country. I am one of three Scots that I knew in their 20s in a long term relationship with a non-Scot they met in another country. It’s brilliant, but it does present a challenge – borders.

And not just borders. The men and women who police borders.

Strangely, borders don’t come up in many love stories. I hear love story and I think dramatic death. It’s weird because if anything borders are far sadder. Imagine being stuck behind a basically invisible line, the person you love on the other side, and not being able to embrace or kiss them. With death, it’s just over. With borders you coninue living, but separate. It’s brutal, and it’s been the case for millennia.

Today is a nice time to live, relatively. It’s easier than ever to be with people you want to. It’s not always amazingly quick and it’s rarely totally simple, but with a few strokes of a pen you can be together. Treaty of Westphalia, be damned.

What this means, though, is that you have to do a lot of paperwork. Sometimes it’s in a foreign language, but I imagine it’d also be a bit of a pain to do in your own. It often involves going to several offices and waiting behind a different interminable queue of sweaty, irritated people in every one. It almost always has the impassive face of an office worker at the end. She sees hundreds of cases a day, from a thousand different tired faces, and she doesn’t like to bend very much.

All this paperwork has made me realise two contradictory thing. First of all, a form cannot express everything about a relationship. How could I explain to them that they should let my fiancée stay in Europe because I love it when she sings The Proclaimers in the kitchen and it’d please me greatly if she kept doing it?

These forms are obviously made to protect the border from being crossed by people they don’t trust to have good intentions or whom may become burdensome on social service skills or whatever, but at some point they realised they had to let people in love be together or lose some of their humanity, but if the form cannot encapsulate such information then how can they tell anybody is really in love and is justified in having one by such precepts? I’m sure less than reputable characters are willing to dive into the morass of bureaucracy. It’s a problem and it’s why borders are policed so heavily. People will do dangerous things to get into or out of some places.

Secondly, however, and in total contradiction, the process proves I love her. It’s quite apparent I love her. I am willing to do the paperwork. I can wait in the queues. I can go to offices staffed by Ukrainians and demand updated forms of a contract to prove we are together. I can be very persistent and light fires under bureaucrats to keep the process moving because I know she has a time limit so I also have a time limit as we are sharing our life and if these office sloths don’t stamp a little quicker it’s not just their time and not just my time but our time they are wasting.

Paperwork signifies commitment, and it teaches you to be true in your choices as well as your signatures. You don’t want to have to do more than you have to.

The writer of this piece is bristling with italics and has decided to itch them out on the end here for catharsis.

The Wigwams

Here is a picture of me taken in Edinburgh in 2015.

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I’m about to carve into a birthday cake, I believe it’s a Colin the Caterpillar. I have just finished my last day at a department store. I am leaving one retail for another, but this retail has a key difference and permit me to explain in detail!

I was to start working at a wigwam campsite in the West Highlands. Strathfillan Wigwams, a campsite on an active farm, on the West Highland Way, on the River Fillan. It was definitely an interesting move, neither lateral nor strictly speaking a step up. This is the story of how I left the warm bosom of my mother city for the wetter experience of the West Highlands.

Leaving 1

It all started out a couple years before when I went to visit my friend Cat. She had been working there for a couple, months and I was keen to visit her. I fell in love with the wildness of it all. I loved the epic mountains and the river, the mystical nearby ruins of St. Fillan’s monastery which still held some strange religious energy, the openness of the fields. At that time, I wrote about 3 poems a day, crazy prolific. I wanted to go back.

Fast forward to my last year of uni, I began working in retail. It was OK but department stores famously lack windows and Scotland has famously dark winters. On days working the bureau de change it was required to go in half an hour early. In December the shop opened an hour earlier for the working shopper. Guess who worked the shortest day?

It was brutal. The day was essentially dark to dark. I saw maybe an hour of sunlight, if I’m lucky, obscured by cloud. I couldn’t hack it. I love the Sun. About then I got to thinking of next moves. It wasn’t till about February or March that it occurred to me I could go up there, with the long hours of sunlight and the open air.

After some email communication, a face-to-face meeting, and additional demand for staff, I got the job. It came with a caravan.

I’d still be in a shop, but with additional maintenance responsibilities which let me go outside for much of the day.

Finishing up at the department store, I worked till the end of my contract plus an extra couple weeks to help cover some short days. It felt a bit hard leaving them as we’d become quite close in the short contract, but I knew it was right.

The hardest part was saying goodbye to my friends. People who had got used to being able to see me with very short notice would suddenly need to wait until I called them for a fortnightly visit. The hardest person to leave was my Norwegian pal, Karianne.

We’d been living together for about 9 months after having known each other for nearly 10 years, primarily online. She had only ever had short visits to the UK, really. It took a while till she could move to Edinburgh. It was not fun breaking the news that I was leaving.

She told me, “There is no Edinburgh without you!”.

It was a difficult part of the decision. We had a brilliant flat together, I had stayed there for several years as it was right below the castle and at a good rent. She was very easy to live with and we had a lot of fun times. But I needed to do something else and I was sure the wigwams were it.

She had a support network. She has this brilliant ability to make easy allies wherever she goes. And I’d be back frequently.

The New Place

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A wigwam, a type of wooden tent, set against a very green backdrop of trees with a clear and bright blue sky above with limited cloud cover, pinched from the Facebook page

I was a general assistant at the campsite, but I liked to think of myself more as a Wigwam Merchant and Purveyor of Exotic Meats. Which is to say, I did some of the bookings and upsold a lot of bison. Got to love a farm shop that sells elk, buffalo, camel, and kangaroo in burger and sausage form.

I lived in a caravan near the shop, which cut my commute time considerably. 2 minutes from my bed to the shop’s counter. People criticise caravans as being some kind of trashy place to live but I must say I was quite comfortable. Though basic, it had a cooker, electricity, plumbing though an unworking shower, I got free wifi, and paid no bills at all to stay there. Rain also makes a lovely noise on a caravan roof. Soporific, sleep making, is the best word I’ve heard to describe it.

The Challenges

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I wouldn’t say everyone is cut out for wigwam life.

Those clouds are not rare and in fact are often a touch darker.

What nobody tells you about being a one-man shop runner is that everything gets filthy and needs daily cleaning.

We made bacon rolls on a very hot plate, over 100C, which isn’t nice i) in Summer, ii) to the touch.

But at least I discovered egg shell membrane (the inside of an egg shell) makes for good blister bandages.

It turns out, glamping sites also need to be really, really clean. Not just the wigwams and bathroom blocks, but the paths, and the foliage.

You cannot know how blocked plug hole at a wigwam campsite can get. It’s amazing how many long distance walkers have dreadlocks.

It was a lot of sweaty and hard work. Only some of it fun, like “liberating”, i.e. breaking into, a wigwam because a boy had dropped the key.

It was mentally and socially demanding though. Loneliness is a fixture on a farm. I took to buying in boxed wine so I could always get a glass.

Then again, when I sat by my caravan with a roaring log campfire, I felt at peace. When I had some tins with a guy whose dog was terminally ill in the campsite, I felt like I understood more about the world, and the pain that’s in it. And when I made connections with guests, some of whom would keep coming in to say hello, I felt like I was doing something worthwhile.

Social

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Something you notice with fewer people though is how valuable these connections are. The picture above is me chasing after my niece (technically second cousin, but she has no uncles so I think of myself more like that) when my mum and my aunt brought her and her brother along.  It was nice that though you could be at what seemed the edge of the world people could still make it out to see you.

My friend Adam also visited, as did my friend Tom. And then there were my trips home.

I expected there’d be more of a demand for me coming in as the prodigal son of the city, but truth is people were still busy with their own stuff. What amazed me is how quick the city seemed, how much prettier its inhabitants, after a short time away in the wilderness.

The barometric pressure was different too. The city is far lower, it’s oxygen thick in comparison. Edinburgh’s heady airs kept me awake till 4 in the morning. It felt so much more varied than the countryside, since my area of the West Highlands had only two pubs.

Leaving 2

My time at the wigwams was extended, nearly doubled I think. It was supposed to just be for the season but it lasted until the end of September. I needed out. I needed a break. For parts of the season, I was working 70 and 80 hour weeks, stretching the legal limit. Then again, I’ve always been a “will work as long as you’ll pay me” kind of guy, emphasis on pay.

I couldn’t stay there forever. That much was pretty apparent. They didn’t need a permanent shop assistant and extra member of staff. So I made to get out while the getting was good.

I’d been inspired by my city jaunts to do a TEFL degree as it seems everyone and their mum had one. Instead of catering for travellers on the West Highland Way, and the drunken revellers who on occasion invited me to join them*, I would become a traveller and drunken reveller but somewhere else.

29th of September, 2015 was the day I took that decisive step and left.

As an experience, I learned a hell of a lot. Quite a bit about business. Lots more about keeping things clean. A lot more about how to be cool when you aren’t surrounded by people. In addition, I earned quite a lot of money which I spent mostly on travel and alcohol, after squandering the rest on my TEFL certificate.

*This included one great revel where everyone was dressed up like Disney characters and they dressed me up in Minnie Mouse ears as it was all they had spare.

The writer of this piece feels like it’s fairly good as it explains a bit more about why he is where he is and why he is who he is, but cannot help feel it doesn’t explain why he is why he is. A soul is a very dangerous thing to harbour. 

 

Euroshit

This is the conclusion to the recent trip I took with my fiancée. You can read more about it in three parts of Croatia 123, and also Slovenia

Vienna is a city of culture, fine architecture and a history of great minds. They congregated here as it was the seat of power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and earlier a major city of the Holy Roman Empire. If you needed money and had something to get out this was the place to do it. My experience was somewhat different.

We, my fiancée and I, were making use of a deal on long bus trips. We had used this to get down to the bottom of Croatia and back up to Prague, with a spare ticket for a really long night bus to Amsterdam later. A good deal, but for reasons tiresome to explain it meant we had to stop off in Vienna for a few hours. It wasn’t really long enough to see much or get invested, and by this time we were a bit broke, having been somewhat rinsed in Dubrovnik and Ljubljana. Ah well, still exciting to see a new place.

We stepped off the bus into our new world for the next few hours. The public transport was easy enough to work out but pricier than Prague. Everywhere is pricier than Prague. We headed to the centre.

The centre was cool, very spacious and quite modern, almost futuristic buildings wrapping themselves around the older numbers. The future tends to grow on things. It gives me a funny feeling, sometimes. A feeling quite like the poem ‘Ozymandias’, that as much as was accomplished by anyone in the past, eventually they’re just the story of a broken face in the sand told to some English dude who wasn’t as impressive as his wife. It’s a city of great minds, so I made my higher processing centres at home.

This funny feeling morphed, however, became something else. This feeling didn’t come from around me. After all…

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Vienna is gorgeous. This feeling was visceral.

Not just visceral, but deeper. I realised I hadn’t dropped anchor.

I needed a poo.

I had no change on me so the nearby public WC weren’t going to do, but this is the centre of a European capital so surely there’d be hotels. I tried one.

It had a turnstyle and was looking for €0.50. Not happening.

I moved out, with as cool a saunter as a guy who needs to shit can do while moving both non-suspiciously and quickly. I nimbly darted into another hotel.

This one had no clearly visible direction to the bog. It appears you were supposed to go into the lift and move floor to find it. Too much time.

Outwards I jogged a little, checking my watch as I headed into a cafe. I like to present a story to the staff of cafes so they don’t think I’m just in to steal their toilet water and wifi connection. Some people are strange and possessive of such things. It’s funny, like they’re worried the boss’ll take it out their pay check. But no time for levity, this shit’s about to get heavy.

The cafe had a bathroom, clearly marked, but upstairs and next door. A very different setup but maybe Viennese cafes are weird like that. I bolted up, three stairs at a time, and smacked into another turnstyle.

At this point, I thought it was getting truly ridiculous. What do they have against people dropping solid waste indoors? Do they want people to do it in the street instead?  Does Austria really have the reputation to burn, what with Hitler and all, by forcing people into crapping in an alleyway?

Well, that wasn’t going to happen to me. I’d say the number of disgusting things I’m willing to do in an alleyway are probably limited to one.

I tried a McDonald’s. Sometimes you need a code off a receipt but normally you can find a spare receipt and get in. Normally.

In Vienna, even McDonald’s bathroom has a turnstyle. That same annoying €0.50.

Philosophically, I almost understand paying for bathrooms. Somebody has to clean them, after all. Hell, that person has at one time been me. But my problem with paid for bathrooms in Europe is that they never justify it by being good bathrooms. They are worse than free bathrooms such as you find in much of Scotland. It’s a shameless cash grab for something which should be considered a public good. Either that or they should pay the cleaners all the money on top of their salary.

Times were desperate hence the philosophising. I find my body holds waste far easier when I’m deeply concerned about some other topic instead. What is philosophy but the Toilet of the Soul?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. We were still basically looking at the buildings and my fiancée saw an angle on the church tower that she wanted. It was harder to see the scaffolding of the reconstruction work.

Reconstruction. That means portaloos.

We found one, in which I did my Wicked Foul Business, and then I found a shot clear of scaffolds.

So what did I learn from this? Well, I have learned that as much as I complain about Europe’s lack of free toilets, some places are worse than others. I have also learned that sometimes it might be easier to take the €0.50 hit, even if it means going to a bank and breaking a note. Principles are these things that seem important when you’re young but as you age it seems more important to go to the toilet than shit yourself. Luckily, I didn’t have that sort of distress and I found a solution. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked and I felt so much lighter by the end.

And so that concludes the story of our recent European travails. I have dragged  suitcase from Prague to Prague, via Dubrovnik, Adriatic Islands, Ljubljana, and Vienna. It’s been big and fun and exciting, and I wanted to end on something like this because I think it captures more of the human experience to get all primal. Incongruous, maybe. Fun, extremely.

Slovenia

Vaguely related to our Dalmatian exploration, parts 12 3my fiancée and I travelled onward to Slovenia.

Holidays are a little different with my fiancée than my old family holidays. We would normally go to some resort or town or something. We’d go out a bit, travelling in the immediate vicinity or whatever, but largely it’d be one place. There was usually a sea. My fiancée likes touring.

It’s so American and I love it.

I feel like I could live in Europe for a hundred years and not learn everything about its realms. Of course, you can’t expect to ever see a whole country in a few hours, which seems to be the American euro-travelling way, but I appreciate the ambition of it.

So my fiancée, who does a lot of the planning and then “hits me up”, not violently, for my opinions on timing and my half of the money, likes to see a lot. Immediately after our holiday in Croatia, we’d follow up by going to Slovenia.

I imagine your imagination of Slovenia is probably pretty similar to mine – a gap. It’s not the sort of place I’ve ever heard much about. I can’t recall it coming up in any books or songs or movies. It all seemed a bit random.

There was actually quite a lot to it. Stick around, this is a country in a thousand words.

The Border of Dreadul Night

I talked in my last set of adventures about bus rides and borders, particularly part 1, the link is above in the italic subheader.

“Get off the bus.”

The flat imperative form aroused me from my groggy half-sleep and made me wonder why. Why do microphones exist on buses? Why are borders still a thing? What’s the deal with Slovenian border control and coming onto buses?

I figure the answer to the last one is probably something stupid. Something dumb like insurance. Most idiot things can be put down to insurance.

“Get your shoes on,” said my fiancée as she rushed out the door to get a good place in the queue.

Meanwhile, I struggled with hard leather. Not the best idea for travelling shoes, but I didn’t expect this inspection. I could have guessed, though. The Croatia-Slovenia border is unusually tough for EU countries.

I got into line. I was near the end. Everyone else had slip on shoes. Oh well, at least I looked good. And the bus couldn’t well leave without me now, could it? Though there’s a thought, if a border guard takes exception to your papers, what happens? The outpost seems miles from the closest town and it doesn’t look like they have public transport. A coach probably wouldn’t wait for one passenger.

I hope my travel documents are good.

Queues are annoying. It always feels like everyone else takes hours to sort out their problems then you fly by once you get to the front. Not on this guys watch.

This is to say, the border guard was really into checking everyone, not just thoroughly but completely. He looked at the main page, compared details, felt the surface for any malfunctions, counted the pages, ran it through his computer system, counted the visa stamps, ran it over with a UV light. For all 50 or so people. Given gloves I think he’d’ve gone deeper. He must’ve been new. Most security could tell you they don’t need to check every detail every time.

Maybe he was lonely.

It took far too long for the bus to get moving again. Then again, it’s not like we had many plans for the instant we got to Ljubljana.

The City of Early Morning

All the above pictures were taken 4 hour so after getting into Ljubljana. That’s right, there is a bus from Split that gets you into Ljubljana at 2 in the morning. Just in time for almost everything to be shut and with none of the cashlines working. (For the benefit for my American audience, a cashline is what you call an ATM.)

Still, traveling is about hiccups. If absolutely everything goes to plan and schedule it is a very uneventful trip.

We did eventually find money and get to a 24 hour kebaberie at 4 in the morning. Other notable culinary delights of Slovenian include horse burgers. I had one. It’s kind of like a more potent beef, if that makes sense.

Cities are interesting in the early morning, too. The only people around were mad ones on bicycles. It seems no cafes opened until about 9 or 10 in the morning. My fiancée has remarked on this as strange. She said she’s noticed that in Europe, cafes don’t open to get people coffee on their way to work.  Maybe Slovenians start later.

We’d had a run of good weather for a couple days, so of course it started raining.

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The Writer, slightly wetter and less shaven than normal

My thoughts on the city in the rain and my take on our hostel would be frightfully unoriginal, who’d expect a place called Simple Accomodation to be a little basic but comfortable enough?, so I’ll skip to the best part.

The Splendour of Slovenia

Slovenia is not a city-country, it is a nature-country. Ljubljana was nice enough but is kind of a village compared to most urban places in Europe. I think Edinburgh may well be twice as big, and Edinburgh is famously like a large village.

Still, nature-countries are grand.

That there is Vintger Gorge, a beautiful, or gorgeous, place.

Amazing sight. We took far too many pictures though and they all look more or less the same. Such are the perils or gorge photography.

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There’s also Lake Bled looking all huge with a castle perched atop a cliff overlooking a big lake.

There’s more. It’s all just so sumptuous.

We were going to go back to Ljubljana and see the castle there but we missed the optimum bus trip back because the “bus station” of Bled, more of a bus stop, didn’t accept cards and the machine was 15 minutes from the station. Oh well, nature.

Instead of going back and seeing Ljubljana castle, we went back to our hostel to collect our things then ran back to the bus station. We wanted to catch a bus to a small village with a castle. A few many buses for my liking but totally worth it.

The bus to Postojna was pretty impressive, up some mountain sides through some dense woods. It’s proper Alpine stuff. I fancy it’d be impressive in Winter but you’d need some specialised gear to navigate it.

Postojna was a quite small and sleepy town. We didn’t know what to do so went into a tourist info centre. It turns out the shuttle to the castle was off. It stopped the week before we went there. Their tourist season is only to the end of August. Fair enough, really. But what could we do?

Turns out there was a local taxi driver who took us there and back for the price of only one direction. Really nice guy, and a brilliant deal. The shuttle would have probably cost the same were it on.

Predjama castle.

It’s a castle in a cave in Slovenia. An amazing sight. It looks a lot more defensible than most castles, too.

 

To wrap up my trip to Slovenia, like, so many kebab wraps that I seemed to eat for every second meal, I had an amazing time. It wasn’t a trip I expected to like as much as I did. I’d heard it was beautiful and amazing but Slovenia just wasn’t ringing any bells in my head. It seemed very distant and far off. It’s amazing how close you feel to somewhere when you see two castles in a day, and so much of the wilderness. Definitely going to return some day.

The Bathroom Review

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Slovenia presented a pleasant surprise here too. Public bathrooms that were reasonably well-maintained and clean and which cost nothing.  Not a common thing on this journey and well appreciated. For this, Ljubljana does  far better than it might’ve done left up to the hostel. Both the men’s and, I’m told, the women’s were lacking seats. A bit bizarre, that.

Slovenia gets a fairly solid 7/10.

The writer of this piece is currently picking bits of a fraying leather sofa off of his skin. It is much less sensual than it sounds.

A Dalmatian Exploration, Part 3 – Leaving

This is the third part of our Dalmatian Adventure,  Part I and Part 2Thanks for reading! There may come some later updates as the journey continues on to Slovenia and Austria. Even fewer pictures in this one as we were on rails for much of it, but I have tried to paint you word pictures.

So all good things, breakfast, ice cream, and holidays, must eventually end. There’s a rule as old as gravity. Then again, that doesn’t mean it has to all end terribly. Sometimes an end is just another sort of beginning and from time to time it has its own special character.

The Bulging Package

Being on average 25% stronger than women, it tends to fall to men on holiday to carry the really heavy things. It’s fair enough and I’m no martyr, but this is useful info for setting the scene.

Due to some kind of annoying noise that I can’t fully remember the quality of, it could’ve been music from the streets below, it might’ve been crickets, or may’ve been the fridge fan making an awkward noise on one point of its rotation, I didn’t really get down to sleep properly on our last night in Korcula. Not for as many hours as would probably be necessary to properly reset all my joints. Nor enough for muscle pain. Gladly, the first leg was all downhill. To the port.

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I really like ports. They smell of salt, fish, oil. There’s always a lot of frayed rope hanging around mooring hooks. The old European ports of the Adriatic are pragmatic, they had to be open to Mediterranean trade but also defensible. Korcula was a little strange in this respect for the port seemed to circumnavigate a peninsula. My guess is that they defended the area from the fort perched on top of the hill, instead. It’s narrow alleyways meaning sure death for invading marauders without sufficient number.

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This, but full of dead pirates and covered with blood

But back to the port. We got there reasonably early. Before I met my fiancée I thought I was fairly responsible. I either arrive exactly on time or early. I now know that I’m probably somewhat responsible as opposed to fairly responsible. She has recast the average. Where I’d be 10 minutes early, she insists on 30. It’s fine on most occasions, where seat availability is affected it makes sense to get there early. For the ferry, though?

There was tons of space last time!

Ah well, don’t mind me, I just like bitching to my quasi-anonymous audience from time to time.

Boats are not like theatre or weddings in that they aren’t on time. On this occasion I can’t tell whose timeframe was better. On the one hand, the ferry was 30 minutes late so we ended up waiting almost an hour for it. On the other hand, the queue was gigantic by the time it got there so we’d have just been standing around like dicks for longer and might have got bad seats if we’d gone with mine. Ah well, her way eased our tensions over missing the boat.

The ferry was fairly uneventful. I was quite annoyed this time though as the seats felt a lot less sleep inducing than the last ferry. Maybe I was somewhat revived after a couple good nights in a bed. The ferry was a lot busier than the one before as well. Dubrovnik to Korcula is evidently a less popular journey than Korcula to Split. For some reason, we were not permitted out onto deck at all on this one. I therefore had to alight at a port but stay very close in order to smoke.

So, if anyone asks if I ever saw Brac I can answer yes with confidence, sporting a wry grin.

The City of Time

We arrived in Split with 4 hours to wait. No sense spending it on land when we were by the sea, so we settled a plan in motion to go swimming. FIrst, we had to find bathroom stalls in which to change. Ideally we could do this without paying.

A Czech complained to me about Croatia saying they liked to charge for everything. I think those who live in glasses houses should be wary of throwing stones. From my journeys in continental Europe I can attest to the fact that bathrooms, museums and tap water seem to have some kind of fee in most of Europe. Travellers should adopt a liberal attitude to nudity and are advised that their choice is between carrying s large bag of change in different currencies and pissing on trees.

I miss free galleries, tap water, and bathrooms.

Miraculously, we found a bathroom that did not require currency. This is rare in pretty much all of Europe near bus stations. Well done, Split.

Dragging a massive suitcase behind me and with a fairly small backpacks for a week’s clothes, we made our way up hill. We made our way up hill as her map suggested the sea could be seen from there. It could.

But might I just say it was a fairly disappointing beach. See, it was covered in people from the nearby hotel. It was a little too deep, in dimension terms, and not wide enough for the capacity. It was also a sand beach instead of the stones I’d become accustomed to. We settled our luggage on the one square of sand not covered in a sunbather and got in the water. It didn’t even reach my ankles.

Adding two and two, it was clearly some package hotel’s beach. They shipped in the sand because some focus group liked it and also levelled out the seabed towards the beach so that it wouldn’t be too deep for children unless they walked a mile out. Clearly not my type of beach. I prefer it a bit more natural.

We didn’t have time to locate a better beach as we were by this point getting hungry. We went back towards the complex with the free toilet, it being more towards the city, and grabbed a cevapi, a kind of sausage kebab type meal. It was quite delicious and we gave ourselves a high five on successfully finding one of the big popular Croatian dishes by chance.

Standards suitably lowered by being a bit tired and bleary eyed and unhappy with the beach, I was a little mixed on Split at this point. Free bathroom and good food versus a bad beach and tiredness. Tie maker, what’s the old town like and was it worth the trek?

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Fuck yes.

History time, promises I’ll keep it short as I haven’t got any books on me. Diocletian was a Roman Emperor, the one before the Empire went Christian from Constantine hedging bets on his deathbed. Much of the old town developed around his palace as he apparently was as the happening guy to know. Also interesting for a Roman emperor is the fact that he abdicated instead of the usual murder.

His house looks swell against a blue sky.

The Road of Beauty

Right, so beauty is an overused word and I can’t show it with pics but bear with me. I know Beauty, well. I was saturated in it from a young age. I have seen the Coasts of Fife in the afternoon, the Winchburgh Shale Bing in the evening, all the delights of West Lothian.

Now there’s a joke with a fairly limited audience.

Okay, instead here’s a bit more. I have seen the Pyrenees as my plane descended into Barcelona. I have felt the bends of the train track as it cuddles the mountains of the West Highlands, curving high up above Lochs and streams. I too have visited American wonders, Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon.

While the road away from Split was maybe not quite as good as all of that, it definitely has a brilliant range. It was urban, but leafy. Flat but hilly. Lots of bends. Vast flat panoramas while going uphill. You’ve got to love a bus ride when a number of passengers start taking pictures from the windows.

This was at a late time part of the journey too. The earlier parts of the journey were equally lovely. Split appears to be in a valley. The bus had to rise from the sea level of the port up to the top of the nearby cliffs. This while driving through the whole urban area stopping numerous times.

It amazing amount to see and my eyes feasted on as much of it as I could bear, drifting in and out of sleep as
I was. The sunset was right in front of the bus once we had made it to the top of the cliff and were driving off towards the border. I fell asleep quite happily then.

So all good things, breakfast, ice cream, and holidays, must eventually end. There’s a rule as old as gravity. Then again, that doesn’t mean it has to all end terribly. Sometimes an end is just another sort of beginning and from time to time it has its own special character.

The Bathroom Review

Split performed quite admirably in this category. It lost out a little due to the bus and ferry toilets being as mediocre as you might expect, but it gains a lot more from the fact that all the bathrooms I saw were reasonably clean and pretty well supplied.

Giving Split a solid 7 out of 10.

And with that all covered the writer might say that’s about a wrap. The writer of this piece would like it to be known that he appreciates all the feedback and plaudits he gets, as well as the interaction of readers in other ways.

A Dalmatian Exploration, Part 2 – Actually There

Psrt of my series, check out part I, if you’re into that kind of thing. You need no knowledge of before to follow this, but it was a fun part to write and I’ve heard good things. This one has also been a blast, so do read on!

Glory and prestige is nothing compared to one good beach

Anout midday some darker clouds had formed over Dubrovnik. At 1:32pm, they burst and it began to rain. We were sheltering in an eclectic bar near to the castle so the rain did not pose an immediate threat to my bird’s vast and lovely locks, which remained straight and thicker than a thesaurus made of porridge. The problem, then, was not so much the rain as what it might mean.

At the port of Dubrovnik, we asked one of the ferryman for the dock of our ship. I must say he told us with minimal fuss but not with so much drama as you might expect of a sailor by the sea. You might expect a bit more of a story, but perhaps he was not that kind of seaman. He did, however, have grim tidings:

The ship this morn did not Her anchor cast
But was marooned, on order of the captain,
Whose wife, an actual woman and not like
His mistress, the sea, had been to augur
That dawn. She reported that though waters
Ne’er were clearer, nor more still, the shower
Of the heavens rendered travel quite absurd.

We consulted our own augurs; the weather reports on our devices. Mine’s said that we may be in for a rough day. While my partner’s said we were in the clear, essentially, beside some gentle droplets about 1pm. I hoped hers was accurate but began forming a backup plan.

In the event of choppy seas we definitely would be best advised to stay out of Dubrovnik. It’s nice but the drink and food prices are more like those of Edinburgh or maybe even London than of somewhere like Prague. It’s pretty odd to have UK or even, I’ve heard, Swiss style prices in a Mediterranean  setting. We would have to find somewhere else in Croatia, preferably within a short distance of Split where we’d catch a later bus on our multi-bus tour. The details I figured we could work out later if and when it became necessary.

The Ferry of Chaos

But it never did. It turns out, her app was the more accurate. The captain’s wife had no complaints about this voyage and so we were good to board. Dubrovnik for Korcula.

It was a pretty different ferry experience than I’m used to. I have been on a few ferries in my life, two that I can remember are one to Arran from Glasgow and the other to Belgium from some southern English port like Hull or something. Arran just took a few hours, and I spent that time moping about the deck and listening to Pete Doherty’s ‘For Lovers’. The Belgium ferry was a bit more active, a lot of running around with high school friends on a history trip, we slept in bunk beds, there was a cabaret act which seemed to consist of one comedian, we were too busy frolicking to pay him any mind. The Korcula ferry was more like a train. It took about three hours. There were a lot of people with big bags.

Overall it was quite comfortable. Not nearly so chaotic as the title of this section suggests. The ferry away from Korcula was worse, about half an hour late. I suppose this is one area in which ferries are nothing like the theatre.

The Island of Korcula

It’s rare that I am ever wholly lost for words. As you can see, I can still find a few to detail my affliction when necessary. With thanks to my gorgeous fiancée, I can thus present you with astounding pictures that do more justice to the island that I might.

The island of Korcula with its main town, also called Korcula, is gorgeous. It is reputed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, even if his origin is somewhat disputed by scholars. The picture of those windows above are thought to be the windows of his familial home. One piece of evidence that might suggest he was not from the area is the fact that the sea there is so blue and the weather so agreeable. Why leave all that behind to possibly die at the hands of some ruler due to a slip of the tongue? Glory and prestige is nothing compared to one good beach. We found at least two of them.

A crafty panorama of her taking a picture of the sea.

The sea is especially blue in Korcula, that kind of colour you’d see in travel agent windows, back when those were a thing, and would loudly shout “Fuck off! No sea looks like that.” I am quite happy to be wrong on this.

See, the sea at most places with a tourism industry is dredged before the season begins. I saw it in Mallorca when I went there with my dad one January. The sea was dredged, and the whole walk along the seafront was lifted up and replaced. It’s amazing the work people put in to make places look unspoiled. I don’t know how new all the streets are in Korcula, but I can tell you the sea is just blue.

As the sea floor is primarily loose pebbles, the tides throw them around. A rolling stone gathers no moss. A Korculan pebble begets no seaweed. It’s a real delight to the eyes.

The streets of Korcula have this sort of coziness to them. Sure, there are a couple open squares and plazas, but mostly everything is clinging on to the side of a hill for dear life. I can see the appeal of the island, it felt very welcoming.

We stayed in a place my fiancée found on Hostelworld, Rooms Anamarija. We think they have a couple separate buildings. The guy who took care of us was called Mojmir. He picked us up from the port then drove us up the hill. He dropped us off at his mum’s house!

So that was different. Her name was Mila. She didn’t have much English but we communicated as well as we could. Mila was very friendly, she gave us cherry juice and biscuits when we got in, and more cherry juice later. I adore cherry juice. It’s not something you can really find in Scotland, but is truly delicious. Truly, truly scrumptious. Mila liked a Turkish TV series, though we never found out which one.

If you’re looking for an island getaway, I can heartily recommend Korcula. We spent three happy nights there, with an amazing view from the room. I took a couple of pictures.

One dark

And the other bright

Too soon we travelled onwards.

The Voyage Splitwards

So it was back onto the ferry. The three nights of rest and the days of rest and beach going pleased me immensely. As mentioned above, this ferry was half an hour late, but worse things happen at sea.

This leg of the ferry had many more stops. The way to Korcula from Dubrovnik had only one stop, Mljet, but from Korcula there were several. Brac and Hvar. In an interesting piece of news, Hvar has recently started policing tourists far more keenly. Some of the restrictions make a lot of sense, pissing in public is bad and wearing a swimsuit in the old town maybe belies a certain lack of respect. One of the restrictions, eating in public squares, seems a bit far though. I suppose besides tourists there is the other major public nuisance to deal with – pigeons.

We never stopped in Hvar because we were heading to Split for our homeward journey and to see the sights. It is good advice for island hopping partiers, however. Respect the customs of Hvar, don’t piss or sleep in the street and especially not in the same place, or you may end up with some pretty hefty fines. And potentially damp trousers. With all of that taken care of, the bathroom review.

The Toilet Review

The ferry bathrooms were quite peculiar. As the ferry was a sphinx-like cross, a ship with the seats of a plane and the route of a bus, the toilet was as might be expected. A bit small. A bit worn from use. Not of the freshest scent imaginable. But it basically did the trick, even if the hand driers were a bit wanting and awkwardly placed in front of the mirror.

The bathrook of Skver, a restaurant located just off the old town, was modern and clean.

The pizza restaurant we visited had a toilet with one broken light and the hand drier not working, possibly a power cut localised to that one room.

The bathroom of the guesthouse was well-provisioned and quite comfortable.

Overall, I give Korcula bathrooms a solid 7 out of 10 and the ferry bathrooms about a 4.

The writer of this piece is currently on a bus bound for Amsterdam. You read that correctly. A bus. Bound for Amsterdam. It is probably going to be a bit of a trek, but it appears the wifi connection is holding out and the plug socket is working. He hopes he will be allowed to post.

A Dalmatian Exploration, Part I – There

It was a very big night for me

The writer of this piece is writing a series, or at least insofar as there will be three separate posts that function as one overarching narrative. That sounds like the definition of a series, but the writer is at pains to point out that they shall be somewhat episodic . Read them at your leisure. Respond as feels appropriate.

Looks a touch like the New Forth Crossing, which I’m told has been called ‘Kevin’ after Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges.

Above is a picture of a bridge from a boat. Where is that bridge? What is that boat? Allow me to explain.

So my fiancée and I have lived in Prague for a decent amount of time and haven’t exactly been flush with coastal holidays. We needed the sea. For her part, she is from a land of rivers and lakes. Water is important to her. For me, I feel like I belong in the sea. At the very least sea adjacent. During the first 23 years of my life I saw the sea more times per year than I can count. Scotland is essentially an island. In addition, my family had amazing holidays. The sea has become rarer for me in recent years. The West Highlands of Scotland is famously nowhere near water, and I worked there for 6 months. I’ve been in Prague for a year and a half. Rivers are okay, but give me those watery depths!

It is at this point, my friend, that I feel I have caught your attention enough and can reach out the text to tell you a few things that are coming up. This is a travel article, but not as you might expect it. Instead, I’m delving into what it means to be a person on a bus for a really long time, what different countries’ bathrooms are like, and how to travel authentically while recognising that you are always a tourist to someone. Seatbelts fastened and please keep all arms and legs within the safety lines.

Travelling in Central Europe presents few real challenges. There is not much in the way of borders, the occasional errant passport check. It’s almost always quite affordable getting from point A to point Z. The real bitch is time.

The Prague-Brno road, connecting the two largest cities in the Czech Republic, is almost always slow and blocked. Accidents, roadworks, you name it, that road will find some way to keep you there. It’s why our Hungarian adventure back in April took almost double the time to get there. This time I was pretty sure we were in the clear as we were heading south. The bad news? To Zagreb.

Prague to Zagreb is a trip that’d take you 8 hours by car. It is therefore longer by bus. Why on earth were we taking the bus? Same reason as anyone, really. The price is right. We found a deal that gave us multiple bus trips for a flat rate. Given we had three large buses planned on this trip and another fairly long one later on in the month, we figured it was a good deal.

Being a generally positive person, it begrudges me to say anything too bad about the trip too soon. But here I think I can be honest about the buses and say that so many long buses is not generally a good idea. For all that the bus company offered, plug sockets, wifi, toilets, there was almost always something not working. I am hesitant to mention companies as I’d always prefer to go to them first to complain before naming and shaming them in print, but I will say their name rhymes with Pricks Fuss. Buyer beware.

The Place of Borders

“Get out the bus”

This broke my slumber quite effectively. We had set out fairly early so I was taking in a cheeky wee snooze. Crossing the Czech-Austrian border and the Austrian-Slovenian border there wasn’t an awful lot to see. There were a few big shops, and lots of strip clubs and casinos for some reason even though Austria also seems to allow them, but other than that there was very little to distinguish the switch in country. The road signs changed a little, but it’d be imperceptible to people not paying attention to the road. Slovenia-Croatia was something else though.

“Get out the bus”

That metallic voice from the intercom system, demanding like some dictator over a loudspeaker. “Citizens must carry valid ID at all times!”, “Follow the yellow line”,”Move along, sir”, but this one felt a bit more brutal. As an English teacher I know that more polite verbs, “can”, “could”, and “may”, are a bit more complacated than simple demands, but as a traveller I was quite amazed. Most European land checks are somebody pulling up alongside the bus, coming aboard, and having a wee look at everyone’s passports. Here we were being commanded off the bus, to report to a window, where some guy gave them a proper seeing to.

I figured the Croatians were maybe a bit keen to stop refugees coming in.

So we got off, waved our papers in front of a man in a box, and then were told to stand a little further on by the road. Our bus started to drive. The icy terror that filled us all was tangible. Half the people waiting seemed to tense their shoulders. The bus stopped and we got on again, but it was a streesful few seconds.

We got back to our seats and nestled in. Now we were finally in Croatia! At long last. I had heard good things and was expecting quite a lot. I could hardly wait to see that Adriatic foam below us as we take a cliff side drive down the coast from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, taking in the famously beautiful landscape that really put Dalmatia on the map back when it was part of the Roman Empire, then riven by pirates, the Republic of Ragusa and The Most Serene Republic of Venice…

“Get off the bus”

What the fuck?

“Get off the bus”

Nah, mate. Two passport controls. They made us get out of the bus twice to flash our papers at the guy. It’s not really on. Having just looked it up, Croatia is supposed to be part of the EU and you’d imagine that’d mean easier travel arrangements. I never need to have my passport ogled by a human that much when I’m going into the UK. Unimpressive, but at least it was day time!

The City of Storms

Zagreb, an ancient city dating back to Roman times. Distinctive because of its size and the many beautiful Austro-Hungarian buildings there. At least this is what wikipedia tells me.

Our Zagreb was a very small and quite modern place, the bus station. The overall weather above Central Europe that week was a bit murky and grey in places. In Zagreb there was a downpour. And it continued pouring down. And then it went a bit more.

I’d invite the rain to fill its boots but it filled mine so I guess that’s not really worth discussing. We took only one picture of Zagreb.

Much to my dismay, the storm followed us. It seemed to reach right across the country, chasing us all the way to Dubrovnik. I can tell you that with some accuracy having been kept up all night by the blisteringly bright lightning  strikes.

See, I don’t mind being a bit uncomfortable when I sleep; I can always contort. I don’t mind when it’s loud; I lived up the road from a club, noise is fine. But light is just something else. Even obscured starlight can keep me up. Lightning? That kept me very awake and focused the whole way down. Desperate times, but we move on.

As an extra, I got to know how deep is my love. My fiancée’s head was in my lap and so I held a fart in for 40 minutes until she’d moved.

The Land of Sweat

I noticed the sun rise a few minutes after I think the lightning stopped. I had an eye mask for a few hours which helped somewhat, but could not  fully defend from so many photons. The sun rise was gorgeous, orange and yellow above the dark land, the outline of bus seats and other passengers imparting a shadowy theatre to proceedings. I removed my eye mask.

I guess tired is the way forward. Tired but near blinded by the colours.

Here seems an appropriate time to tell you that we’re relying on my powers of memory and description here. If either is lacking I apologise but I don’t take pictures out of bus windows as it always has some irritating reflections. Just imagine.

The road down the coast was not quite how I imagined it. It was very high. The curves were not so sharp as I might have thought. The sea below was bluer. It seems pretty stupid to build mental pictures of places before you go there, but why not, I did and do.

Something that shocked me was that Bosnia and Herzegovina has a coastline. It shouldn’t be that shocking, really, a lot of countries have a coastline. But when you’re bleary eyed at God knows when, the sun is coming up and you’ve been up most of the night, it sure is peculiar to come across a street sign saying ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina’, I can tell you.

This border check was far better. The woman came onto our bus. She paid that quick attention to detail which shows you that the border guard is a professional. It’s always nice to see someone like that, and especially handy when you are pretty much asleep.

We drove through Bosnia and Herzegovina for what felt like 10 or 15 minutes, maybe. The coastline is apparently 20km so that would make sense. It looks pretty similar to the Croatian one, all things considered. Kind of rugged, a little yellowy to my eyes but that might have been the rising sun’s light. Very filmic. I could imagine horses on this terrain.

Eventually, we wound our way down the hills to Dubrovnik. As we approached the sea I felt a sense of trepidation. I hoped I’d remember how to swim. We weren’t swimming here, of course, and I had been for a swim since the last time I saw the sea, but these kind of strange thoughts occur when you’ve been up all night.

Dubrovnik was cool.

It has some brilliant cliffs.

A couple of alleyways in the old town that feel mysterious but comforting.

Amongst so many other things. Really we didn’t get a brilliant chance to see much of it, only the tourist centre. It must be said though that they are really cashing in on this Game of Thrones thing while it’s hot. It seems every second museum or t-shirt shop was flogging something for that show. It’s a good show, but I get the impression there is a lot more to the place. Sadly, we will need to wait several years till this whole GOT thing has died down and we are substantially richer, hopefully but not necessarily boat rich.

The Toilet Review

I promised you a bit of this and I want to honour it. The bus toilet on the way down to Zagreb was alright as far a short bus toilets go. It smelt like chemicals but it’s to be expected. It’s a hole full of chemicals.

Zagreb’s Central bus station had a really shitty toilet. Low provisions, quite vandalised, a bit dirty smelling. Not really worth spending the money to get through the turnstyle but necessary for the time. When you have to go you have to go.

They put us on a bus from Zagreb to Dubrovnik with no toilet. That suffices to explain that problem. 10 hours with no readily accessible toilet and having to wait for seemingly randomly placed stops. The stops themselves were okay. It’s a very good thing I didn’t drink more water.

The toilets in Dubrovnik were quite acceptable in comparison. They were generally clean, decently provisioned, and had working seats. Something I noticed all throughout Croatia however, why is the hand drier over the sink and in about the middle of the mirror? Totally weird position.

Overall, 2/10 – really suffering from that low toilet access for 10 hours thing. Get your shit together, Croatia.

When not being puerile and inappropriate the writer of this piece enjoys appreciating everyone for being so lovely, and is especially grateful to the planners of this world for facilitating dreams. He is also on zero drugs at present.

“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”

On Sunday I was in Dresden. It’s a city in Germany which was famously destroyed by allied bombing. It’s a good city to visit. There is a military museum there with a decent sized collection and a lot of interactive ‘discovery chambers’, essentially cabinets with small descriptions of particular items and themes, such as “the smell of war”. A lot of the collection seemed to be older than the World Wars but they did have a whole floor with both of the wars together. It grew exponentially more powerful when we went to the floor about the bombing of Dresden.


Levelling a settlement is already a pretty dickish thing to do. The Nazis did it to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Potsdam in Poland, Guernica in Spain, Coventry in England, and Lidice in the Czech Republic, amongst others, but nobody’s standard for morality should be doing as the Nazis did but less often. In addition, Germany was already pretty soundly defeated by this point on multiple fronts so it just seems like revenge. An awful act, compounded by the fire storm that developed when the fire bombing got caught by the wind, kicking up a fiery hurricane of destruction. It’s a miracle anything survived.

Despite this awfulness, I found a city that was orderly, pretty and full of happy people, at a festival down by the waterside. Modern Dresden is like any other European city. It has grown past its awful history and really made a success of it. There are echoes of the past from time to time. As you can see in the photograph, the buildings do have what look like seams. It is as if they have been knitted together from the rare older parts that survived the chaos and reconstructed parts which were fitted to the old specifications. As a result of the city being old and new at the same time, there is a distinctly European energy to the town.


To be honest, nice as it was, I couldn’t help but imagine how awful it’d be to get trapped there when it was going on and what the aftermath would have been like. It must have felt like the world was caving in as they saw everything. They had known or cared about engulfed. Children woke up to find their mothers reduced to ash. Mothers woke up to find their children missing. The real human cost of war is utterly appalling. We never should have evolved from monkeys.

Though many people disagree, saying that nature is all good and can do no wrong, in actual fact monkeys have been known to genocide other tribes of monkeys. They can’t do much damage though because they can only arm themselves with rudimentary weaponry like sticks and stones. They do a lot more damage than breaking bones. Knowing that huge swathes of humans can be tricked into supporting such horrific things as indiscriminate bombing terrifies me.

Apologies for being morbid on what was supposed to be a fairly happy update on my travels, but now that it’s written it feels more valuable to keep it. I will dare to behold things as they are. And some things are sad.

All thanks must go to Cat who funded our trip, it may have been one of the most emotionally difficult trips I’ve taken.

I’d like to close with keen final reiteration. Killing Nazis is important, but a strict line of distinction should be made between ideological zealots, brainwashed idiots, and children. I hope in future that humanity does not kill civilians, but if we learn one thing from history it is that there are always new and more efficient ways to make war worse as history goes on. On that bombshell, goodnight.

The writer of this piece is not naturally morbid but is quite strongly affected by the thought of innocents just going about their business then being incinerated. Hopefully not a too radical thought for a broad consensus.

“Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

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You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Today I come to you with a trip, my love for Dr. Seuss, and a valuable life lesson from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. It was his final work and one of his best-selling as it is a firm favourite as a graduation present. From beginning to end, the book thrills and delights. Even when I first read it at the age of 20 I could tell it was something special, something beyond ‘just’ a kid’s book. It is a tale of life. It follows an unnamed character as they adventure, and it is honest. It has the bad times as well as the good. For me, today was one of the good ones.

We, myself, my fiancée, and my friends Tom, Ray, and Yana, went to Czech Switzerland. At first I thought this might be a joke name, something slangy and self-deprecating. Even as a former visitor of the Scottish Highlands I will say it surprised me with how good it was. It had impressive vistas, a verdant forest, and more large rock formations than you could shake a decent sized stick at. The trip all started when Ray and Tom discussed it and sent word around. Never one to pass up a good day trip, I eagerly went for it.

I had been getting stressed. The heat of the city, the mugginess of the oppressive air, and the occasional existential question. A trip to the wilderness was needed. Why could I find not relaxation in the city, you ask? I will let the good doctor explain.

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And the next page!

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And this is why I love Dr. Seuss. He uses the right amount of space to express things. “It’s opener there in the wide open air”, indeed!

Some stress relief on a moderate hike seemed a capital idea.

The crew was made up of other English teachers. About half were American, two from Scotland, and a Russian. All of them are here for different reasons, but I tend not to discuss why other people are here. It hits me as too personal a question, even if I know someone well. They are an interesting crowd. The first thing to know about Ray is that’s he’s giant, and the next is that he’s very warm and personable. Tom hits me like a father-in-waiting, at that cool sepia toned photo stage of life that all our dads went through, when they were just cool dudes and not fathers.  Still tells a million dad jokes, though. Yana hits me as one of the most inquisitive people I’ve ever met. She must have asked me 50 questions, mostly about things or people I hate. I like talking and hate quite a lot so there were no specific problems here.

On the train here we talked shop and life. As we were leaving the greater city area, I took out my copy of Dr. Seuss and started reading. This developed into a round, each person saying a page. Poor Yana got stuck with darker pages almost every time. On the dark pages, the story gets a little sad as Dr. Seuss essentially says, “You know what kid? Life may suck and get bumpy from time to time. You might not be good at everything, but with the right attitude and mindset, you’ll go far.” It’s a valuable lesson for kids and for adults.

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This was the last page Yana read to us on her round. It is my favourite page in the book. To me, it says that even if you aren’t the best, you should push yourself and see what you manage. Most of the time the result is good and you might end up like this guy.

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Pulling a damn mountain with a smile on your face like it’s no issue. We made it up the hill in good time and look at the sights from the top. The Doctor was right, it is certainly open.

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The trip itself was not difficult and end to end it all went well. Still, there’s a brilliant sense of accomplishment that I think we all feel when we do something big on a weekend. It was also a brilliant antidote to the difficulty of city life. In a way, it was a perfect encapsulation of Dr. Seuss’s main point; life has its challenges and difficulties but if you keep on going you have a good chance of doing something amazing. As I go forward in my attempt to write something new every day this month, this lesson will surely be of use.


Extra words: We saw this big rock on our climb. It was so big that everyone had put sticks next to it to hold it up.

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Each of these sticks alone stands little chance of stopping the stone from falling, but with the collective effort of enough people they can hold back the tide. Here was my addition.

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