Cultural Learnings Of… Slovenia!

News is kinda slow of late so I can get through of backlog of stuff I wanetd to tell you all about, and having realised the title of this blog i figuerd I better teach you all something (mostly) factual about Europe. Todays lesson is about one of my favourite little countries, with both the mountains, the sea and pretty girls, it has it all… of course im talking about Slovenia!

Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia but broke away early, declared themselves all on their own-some and promptly applied to become members of both the UN and the European Union. Slovenia is a small country both in size and population (~2.4 million), its easier to turn such an country and economy around than say somewhere the size of Poland and thusly they quickly became the poster child of ex commie countries in Europe.

So onto currency, As most of you know many countries in the EU share a common currency called the Euro with this funky sign € as its symbol. Now creating a common currency between such large economies isnt something which comes easily and its a HUGE credit to the EU they have been able to make it happen, reasonably well with most of their member countries. To keep things in perspective, the EU is celebrating its 50 anniversary this week even though the roots go back much further.

So not all EU countries have the Euro however, this is a common mistake to make. Some of the older, original countries dont because they opted out as effectly their ecomoies are stronger than the euro and it would bring them down, notables here are England with its  pound and denmark and sweden which both have very strong currencies and both had a refferrudum and it was narrowly defeated. This opt out loophole however is reserved only for original members states.

Then you have the new member states and theres a stack of them… Slovenia, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the three baltic nations (who are the again?), who are all attempting to bring their economies up to a standard where they can begin to use the euro… cause see if they had really shitty econoies and they used the euro, it would drag everyone else down because now they are all linked at the hip.

So Slovenia was the first of these countries to meet the criteria because of its small size, smart population and blessing from the gods and thusly in january this year they switched currencies, so people stopped trading in the old Slovenia Tolar and went and traded them in for Euros. Now of course this didnt happen overnight, the change has been coming for years and much has been done to educate the population and get everyone thinking in the new money, switching over even 2.4 million people is a hard thing and I think they learnt A LOT from the inital countries and then Greeces taking the euro later. Ive learnt a lot about how the introduction of the euro hurt middle clas greeks a fair bit but more on that later.

So now Slovenia has a new currency and when you travel there you dont need to exhange currencies anymore. Each country can make its own (of course limited) number of euros and they have their own side. Above is the common 2€ side, here is the german rear side

And all coins are legal tender in all countries, its just chance as to which countries coin you get, nifty eh! Having visited Slovenia last week, I grabbed a few extra shiney new slovenian euro coins to keep before they get circulated to all corners of the EU.

So whos next? Estonia and Latvia should get the euro next year all things going well. They missed out this year because their economnies are growing TOO well, ie their inflation rates were slightly too high and you need to get yours under control so you dont mess with the other nations. So hang onto your krooni and lati, soon it will be euros up there too, its good for finnish sex tourists who come to tallinn for the weekend, I mean its hard to go to the exchange place when your drunk off cheap foreign booze.. and I should know.

So right now I have 60€ on me… which is about 90 aussie dollars and Im going up to Poland tonight so I need to buy a drink and then change the rest into Polish złoty for when I wake up tomorrow morning. I wont see euros again for while with my trip taking me to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and finally Sweden… good news is the Swedish Kronor is stronger than the € anyway… but more on that later.

Keep on rocking peeps, the eurotrip kicks on up north for a while, next time Ill be writing from Warsaw!

The Times They Are a – Changing

They sure are, this week we had a death in the family, an old friend was sent to its final resting place, our beloved Eurotank, the car which took us throughout Europe last year. Eurotank spent its last days in München with Jack, hauling photography gear and beery germans around until the clutch finally gave way and the deregistration papers were sent back to the Swedish. Not quite sure what to do with a undrivable, unregistered car in a foreign country, Jack called the local wreckers. Some things are exactly the same the world over and of course, the guy was dodgy dodgy dodgy.

(translated into aussie for you)
"So we have this Volvo, what do we do with it?"
"oohhh maaaaatee…. ill tell you what, bring her on in and ill scrap it for you, for free.. but your breaking my balls here"
"did I mention it still actually turns over AND has 60L of fuel in it?"
"60L of fuel you say…. how about I come pick it up for you mate"

And so, old german bogan mate comes by with what looks like a truck designed for a rubbish skip…

So thats it, the end, the dream is over. So for a brief history of our fine vehicle… it all started a little under a year ago in Sweden, and the three of us had recognised the need for an auto given our absolutle lack of knowledge about the baltic countries we were about to face… so a bunch of phone calls later, Id organised myself a swedish ID number which gives me the right to buy a car, off who turned out to be a VERY dodgy swedish bloke, your an out of work builder are you maaate? we call them dole buldgers in australia. Anyway I was running out of time and hes was the best offer so around 25,000 SEK later we owned a car and insurance to drive it anywhere we wanted… except kosovo.

And together and apart we went on to drive this thing through every highway and backwater from Estonia to Portugal to Spain. Having such a big car was a travellers paradise, always room to have a sleep or if we met a bunch of likeminded travellers in the hostel, we all climbed in the car and went to the next town together, often hanging out for days afterwards. Middle of Europe was some good days alright. Its hard to list all the good times without boring you stiff but im thinking of being turned back at the latvian border for not having OWNERSHIP papers, bribing polish cops, blowing a tyre at 190 on the autobahn, 6 people in a full car in spain or hauling a car full of wood through the romanian countryside. I myself spent the most time in the car and I became firmly attached to it but anyone who rode it in for an hour got a feeling for the legend of eurotank.  And what of eurotank mark II? Its called a train and thats what a ride these days, the deniros are running too low to even afford an old golf… untill the SEK starts flowing in that is… another volvo? a mission van? a future adventure for sure.

If you want to relive the good times once more, theres all the final ending shots in the gallery, along with a collection of the finest days of our white, Swedish Volvo 940. Someone last night said to me "aint nothing better to spend your money on than travel" and with all the petrol money we spent I couldnt agree more: every kroon, every forint and every euro well worth it, these are the stories Ill be telling my kids, im sure of it.

Too Much Cranken and Now Im Kranken

Oh man, I got sick in Rijeka, what a bummer! After 2 weeks of parties, travelling, not sleeping much and not so much as looking at a piece of fruit kind of caught up with me but still, thats life on the road, a few days of bed rest and Im good to go again.. of course it helps that the bedroom has a gorgeous view out to the adriatic sea, I like!

Upon leaving Croatia I was set to fly out of Rijeka airport, which gets the title of the smallest Flughafen ive ever flown from, the Croatian border guard says to me in his rather broken slavic english

"So you have been in Croatia for 1 year?"

Now remember ive got the jungle fever and Im tripping out on too many asprins so I have a minor freakout for a moment

"what are you talking about, ive been here for 2 days… thats crazy talk, what are you talking about, hey, what the?"

And I point to my passport to show him the stamp which he has already seen and I take a closer look

When they stamped me into Sapjane two days before, the guy has got they year wrong, so according to this I have indeed been in Croatia for 1 year and 2 days. The guy is pretty confused and I show him the million other stamps Ive had since 15/03/2006, including the last one for Bratislava two weeks ago and he seems content to let me out. He lets me go and starts laughing to his mate "haha, Bratislava, haha".

What a fantastic two weeks I had, Bratislava into Wien and onto Salzburg then down to Slovenia and finally Croatia. I met so many fantastic new people and we had a great time together, now thats travelling to me.

Ill leave you with a last little piece of Croatian craziness, this is on the front door to the airport in Rijeka.

No women in underwear, you heard the man, put those clothes back on young lady! Only after Id taken the photo off my camera did I notice the two marks some wise guy had made on it, good to see some things are universal 🙂

Ski Slovenia

Ive made it down to Rijeka in Croatia but more on that one later, lets just say its good to see the water again, oh yes.

However, 2 days ago I finally did go skiing in Slovenia with Mojca and her two friends and it was fantastic, rock and roll! Matic leant me the gear so all i had to pay was for the lift pass and i had a ball getting into the runs. Thankfully my skiing ability hadn`t completly dissapeared… wow its quite crazy for me to think that is was almost this time last year I was skiing in Sweden, before most of the euro adventures had even happened, even before eurotank but hey, atleast I didnt cut my finger open, this time there were no surgeons on hand.

Heres the customary video:

All the photos can be found at the bottom of the latest photo gallery

Once again the train ride from Ljubljana down here to Rijeka in Croatia was absolutly stunning, a wonderful afternoon as we snaked our way through the lower Slovenian mountains. I must say I was feeling happy and content, Slovenian hospitality is the best, whenever Im in Loobiarna I never seem to have a free moment, theres always something happening, something going on. Ive got a lot of time for this country, as well as having mountains AND sealine (small but its sea) it is the poster child for former commie/socialist countries waking up from their former governments. Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia early and quickly joined the UN and the EU and got in at just the right time and with a lot of hard work, they now use arguably the second strongest currency in the world.. by comparision countries like Croatia and definitly Serbia missed that boat a bit and the doors of the EU are a little bit more closed, after Romania and Bulgaria there wont be any more admissions for a while… but still this begs the question… why ROMANIA and not Croatia? I can definitly tell you, Croatia seems far far more along the road than Romania… this is a question for another time when indeed, I will be giving you a few more cultural learnings of europe.

So today I find myself a bit sick so maybe just a slow walka round the city. I feel like my body is saying to me "YO SUCKA, Ive pumped you full of Endorphins for the last two weeks but now you gotta slow down fool". Yes, my body speaks to me in a Mr T voice.

What To Do With Eurotank?

This car is a pain in my ass right now, its sitting in München, it doesnt work, its unregistered and needs to get moved soon… You can even see its big assed white roof from space…

Slow Train to Slovenia

I am loving these train rides! Today I went down from Salzburg to Ljubljana through the east part of the alps and it was fantastic, lots of snow still up on the high peaks and plenty of tunnels… miii scuuuuzie! Heres my first video blog of the year to keep you all entertained.

As a finale to this story, I fell asleep on the train and ended up over shooting Ljubljana by about 30 minutes! No hassle though, got off at the next stop and went for a kebab. Sitting on the platform of a Slovenian train station with the warm afternoon sun I remembered some days theres no other place Id rather be than wherever I am right now.

All the photos of the ride and the crazy Salzbuger parties can be seen in the gallery

heute gestohlen, morgen polen

Salzburg, Austria. Birthplace of mozart and eastern gateway to the alps, what more can be said about this place which hasnt been said before? It was once home to a race of super human nordic mathematicians? It sits at the boundary between contintental europe and asia? This city wasnt settled until 1992? None of those things have been said before about it.

Im a bit tired after another good night out. Are these stories getting boring yet? My friend meelika lives in a student dorm here and in the basement they have a small bar run by the students where beers are a euro, thats as cheap as bratislava prices!

Not much happening here, lifes good, the coffee is nice and the mountains look fantastic. Im a bit excited because I might get to go skiing in Slovenia next week…. and ski hire… 10€!! blow that out your ass Åre! Loving. It.

Send In The Dancing Nurses!

Ive got a few hours to kick back in Vienna and I am havign a ball here, the last few days have been a über fun wirlwind of meeting lots of really cool new people and having some great parties. I am staying with my friend Sarah here and its definitly a nice place to lose a few days, art (old and new), schnitzels and vienese coffee make for some good times.

They have a lot of old building in Vienna, its choice.

But lets start the story where i left off a few days ago, in Bratislava and I was going to the dance party… ahh I remember it clearly.. sort of. The nice girl at the reception told me to get the bus right to the end so I did and it turns out the event is in a massive student dorm building, so I followed my nose around the place, asked a few people and came to the room, a massive area which turns out to be their own club inside the dorm building. It goes off each weekend but this one was special, a twice a year party with all the trappings and a DJ from london and all. As I entered I immediately saw my friends from the night before and we got settled into it…

And what a night it was! We danced and danced and the guys were really cool, introducing me to all their friends, who also spoke really good english, I feel like I met half of Bratislava that night. The DJ from London was good too, he was a wanker for sure but thats a professional qualification for a DJ, his music was good and I was going off like a frog in a sock. By this stage ive got people coming up to me "oh hey, your that aussie guy!" and we would have a chat. I even found 2 other aussies in the club too, one works in Bratislava and the other was visiting them from London. The cool vibe in this town seems to be a magnet for people from all over, I lost count of the different nationalaities which were represented there.

Come 5am the party winds down and we all head into town to the after party at a club in town which hasnt opened yet where we chilled out for the rest of the evening and I met the other half of the party I hadnt at the club. However, come 8am I had a problem, it was time for me to go, my train to Vienna was leaving at 10am and I had to go pack my shit and get a move on, so much to the other wishes of my mates, I had to leave the party and bid farewell to everyone with a big smile on my face. Bratislava had proved to be a rockin town full of cool, really welcoming people. I still hadnt slept my this stage and manged to make it through till 3pm before mz head hit a pillow, which is a major achievment, usually im cranky pants if I miss an hours sleep, but there was too much fun to be had, im back in Vienna and thats exctement in itself.

Since then ive just been chilling out in Wien… ok so you know the schnitzel comes from Vienna but heres how stupid I am, amongst many things I didnt know before I came to europe (did someone say nein sprechen ze doitch?), I didnt realise the german language spells Vienna as Wien (say Veen in English) and Wiener is something from Wien so thusly a Wiener Schnitzel is a schnitty from Vienna… oh man soemtimes we really lack some things in australia… Just as some people think aussie do nothing but drink beer and ride kangaroos, some aussies thing people in Vienna walk around all day in a red outfit like mozart and play classical music. For sure, thats exactly how it is here.

After this im off to Salzburg on Wednesday to see the crazied Estonian Meelika and then sometime over the weekend down to Loobs to catch up with everyone, it was really nice to hear they are looking forward to seeing me again awww, i love yous guys too. Then, I break for new territory again briefly, going down to Rijeka on the Croatian coast where I fly back to Köln in Germany. Im on a bit of a bender at the moment, having an awesome time, getting a lot of energy from being back in such awesome places… still Dieters photos on the eurotrip site make me wish for the aussie beach a little bit.

Incase you dont know, heres Vienna, im at a dicey net cafe behind the westbahnhof and to the right a bit is the main center of town. Next Stop: Salzburg in the west of Austria

Head Hurts In Bratislava

Cop the photos Ive taken here

Ive been checking out Bratislava for a few days now and its a pretty sweet place, i really dig it here. The old town center is packed with non stop little cafes and bars which are all uber trendy. Today im going up to the castle, its the big assed thing which looks down over the river danube, thats if I can make it up there… walking is a bit difficult right now…

Last night i went to a bar called the "Sub Club" upon Dieters recommendation and it was rockin, its in an old bombshelter, inside the mountain underneath the castle. I met this cool Slovakian bloke called Boris and started drinking with his friends and then we went to another bar and the shots kept coming… jesus… i totally forget the name of what we were having but it is traditional slovak stuff and not too bad… beside the obvious alcoholic effects. There was even some absinthe in there too, the good stuff, like the stuff they cant sell in the rest of europe… it stung on the way down but it was a smooth stinging feeling… if thats possible… not like the moonshine in romania which had a harsh, cutting stinging feeling to it. Together we drank to health, to Slovakia, to Australia, to Kangaroos, to it all. So i had a great night with my new friends, we went to go to another bar but the absynthe scooter got me and took me back to the hostel, god bless you absynthe scooter.

Tonight is some big party they have been organising with a DJ from london and all, so Im definitly off there… maybe less of that local drink and more dancing.

Slovakia is what most people think as "eastern" europe but its not that far out of the way, only 70km east of Vienna, which is literally the cultural capital of the world, even paris hilton says so, however unlike her my passport is in order. It just so happens they had some lowsy commies roll into this place at the end of the second war but check it out for yourself below, the marker is the net cafe im in now, just to the left is the castle and thats the danube under it. If you zoom out just a little the Austrian border is right there too, thats where im going on Saturday, sweet as bro