Doing It Frenchie Style

rock and roll, I got my aussie friend Lucy in Amsterdam and we drove down to Brouges in Belgium… you know what they have in Belgium? Beer! and waawaaweewaa its good stuff, 9 percent beer is the norm and its tasty as. We stayed there for a night and we were having one of said super strong beers in a small pub and who the fuck walks in but Krishna from Newcastle! Hes a mate of mine from Newcastle and did med with Adam and Rob. Holy crap, what a coincidence! Hes on a 5 week european holiday and was roadtripping with some german friends. What are the odds? I dont know but its got low odds. You wouldnt bed on it.. no way. So we had a great night with them, what a spin out!

Today Lucy and I drove down to BERNIERES SUR MER which I like to call "Weekend at De Bernieres" because its friggin awesome. Its in the Normandy region right where the allies landed on D-Day in WWII, tomorrow we will crack the bikes out and cycle down to Omaha beach where one of the great landings happens. kick ass! We are in a great caravan park and I am winning the Ross Cairns award for camping preparedness, we have it all, bikes, tents, air mattress, sleeping bags, rugs, a case of 8.5% belgium beer, nederlands beer, german beer, baugettes and a whopping great volvo. All we need now is a BBQ… oh man we have it made here! The weather is clear and sunny and all the frenchies have been really cool so far. We will camp in France for the next 6 nights and then I have a stop over in Sweden before heading to Hamburg again. End of summer and we are still rocking on, thats the lifestyle baby!

From Tragedy to Triumph, Its Gold for Australia In The Cycling

What a week! After the loss of the first bike, I decided enough is enough, I am in friggin Holland, the land of the bike and theres got to be some good ones out there!

I scoured the online ads here and at the end of one crazy day I ended up with not 1 but 2 bikes! Its a long story which I have tried to explain 3 times now but I dont seem to be able to get it across properly (hester did listen very intently however) so let me just say, I have 2 bikes and it really makes no sense. Lets see what I found…

Cost 25€ to buy but had flat tyres and slightly busted gears, thats why it was so cheap. It is a 20 year old Peugeot racing bike, been garaged for the last 10 years. I took it into the bike store here and the guy Martin was awesome. He had it up on the rack before i could finish my sentence and got it sorted out quick smart. We were talking about our love of old bikes for ages and in the end he charged me 8.50€ for the repairs and now it runs lovely. Theres some small bumps in the rims but they dont stop you and I LOVE this bike. its so nice to ride in a funny way, something with history. I did 30 km on it this morning in the dutch countryside and i can say its hard to get better than moments like this…

Cost 75€. Its big, smooth and it really comfortable, its the sort of thing you can drop a saddle bag on the back and go for days with.

So now I have two bikes, an old frenchie racing bike and a touring bike… see where I am going with this? Well I can carry them because I have a big assed volvo and I am thinking my next move is going to be down to the north of france… can you think of anything better than riding my old frenchie around the countryside of france? maybe even take off for a few days on the tourer? I could easily do a vineyard tour of the champagne region on that thing with the tent strapped to the back.

So thats me, I fell out of the third story window and landed WAY up on the roof. I love the old frenchie now, I started to polish up the metal with some metho I had in the car (doesnt everyone?) and it looks gorgeous, I cant wait to restore it futher.

Onward to chowder land! (oh, with a stop in Amsterdam this week)

Cultural Learnings Of… Trilingual Words

As some of you might know, I have a t shirt which says "KAKMONSTER" on it. Now this is absolutely hi-larious because of its bilingual meaning

1) In Swedish it means Cookie Monster
2) In English it err… mean… well say it to yourself and work it out

The high of high brow humor right? I have been wearing it around Utrecht all day and only now was I told of a third, even more hilarious meaning.

In Dutch it means "poop"… which means….

Ive been walking around with a shirt on all day which says "SHITMONSTER"

welcome to holland

Georgia and South Ossetia – One Year On

Given the events happening in the north of Georgia right now a lot of you are visiting my page from Google you can go straight to all the good articles about my visit there one year ago where Iiris and I met a bunch of American guys and we tried to get into South Ossetia for no reason better than to have a beer there…

What Went Down in Georgia… Getting Into South Ossetia

its a long story but its one of my better tales and pretty relevant right now considering we were within a few km of Tskhinvali which is ground zero. For the short of attention there are pictures and videos also. Other blogs about my time in Georgia…

Cultural Learnings Of… Stalins Home Town
Irenas Homestay, Tbilisi
The Road From Georgia To Back Home

For my background and take on the situation, as you can read from this blog, I have been off the grid in the national park for 4 days so I only just read about this stuff today and holy shit, I was taken completly aback. I have a friend of mine who is touring through this region right now and 2 nights ago I got an SMS from a mutal friend asking for her number so she could check on her. I wrote back that the sentiment was lovely but these incidents tend to be nothing more than propganda hissie fits and she shouldnt worry….. and today I get online and see what is really happening…. since I am in Nederlands may I have some extra mayo while I eat my words? Luckily our friend had already arrived in Baku in azerbaijan and was safe and sound. I heard from her just now "dont worry, we fly out of here…." well last time I checked, your flight path is taking you over a war zone… I am sure they have it in check however.

I have maintained from the beginning, while I am on Georgias side of this, they are hardly blameless in this situation. As far as I can tell Russia started to drop some bombs on Georgia a few days ago "oh WHOOPS, did we drop those old things THERE? How silly of us, how about if we promise NEVER to do it again?" To which,  the Georgian president decided enough was enough and declared war on Russia… so whos being played here? Russia provokes Georgia, Georgia knows they are fighting a massive army but knows very well the South Ossetian capital is hard for the Russians to defend and they have a chance to take back "their" territory easily…. so georgia rushes in and grabs the land… but whats this…. of course Russia wasnt being silly here, they had several thousand tanks stationed rather closely… you know… incase something… like say a war… caused by their misguided bombs… might ever happen.

shiiit, its all messed up now. Now the russians have a supply line into South Ossetia and are throughly beating the Georgians back from their quick early victory. Not only that, why not let a few bombs fall on the Georgian capital and in a move of stunning irony, on Gori, the hometown of Joseph Stalin, where as you will have noted, exists a 50 meter statue in the big mans honour. I wonder… in Putins master plan… the statue will be left alone. Showing the might of the Russian army by levelling Gori and leaving nothing but the statue standing in the middle of town is something so wonderfully telling I wonder if Putin could help himself*

As wth any conflict anywhere, I hope it is over quickly, a big dose of real UN peacekeepers are needed in that region, not just some dodgy russian ones. My thoughts are with my friends in the region and I know Irena is keeping everyone safe in her homestay in Tbilisi.

*please note this last idea is wild speculation as I sit here in a comfortable hostel in nederlands, hardly anywhere near the action.

Cultural Learning Of… The Mean Streets Of Utrecht

In the never ending pursuit of authentic cultural experiences I have had the most dutch experience in Utrecht… I had my bike stolen last night.

I was stupid, after everyones warnings I came home late last night and left the bike outside instead of bringing it in I locked it outside to the rail, I dont know why, I just plain wasnt thinking… and this morning I went out the front door to find no bike and the shattered remains of my locks on the ground. Nederlands is a country if bikes and Ive just learnt a hard lesson about how to protect what you got. Looking at this picture has bummed me a bit but hey, this is the first thing Ive had stolen in all my time in Europe, seriously! So if you put in all in perspective and think if its only a bike which got pinched then you are doing ok 🙂

So this leaves me now, still in need of a bike! The upside of all of this is that, if you are going to buy a bike, well Nederlands is the place to do it right? I dont want to buy something decent again, Im looking for a rickety old thing which doesnt stand out. In a funny turn, a friend of a friend told me a place to go to buy used bikes, its not a shop, just some guys house in an outside suburb… hmmmm Ill find something somewhere, I kind of need one for next week… and dont forget Ive still got old betsy the road bike back in Tallinn.

Tonight is a big international party here in Utrecht and Bart is coming from Nijmegen to party with us, its time to get into it again

Utrecht: Its Dutch for Awesome Student City

I am in Utrecht Nederland and its all happening here. Anna and I just camped for 3 nights in the De Hoge National Park here in Dutchieland. Once apparently, a long time ago, some mega right dude wanted a place to hunt for animals, however his wife wanted to make a museum… anyway so they bought a crapload of land in the middle of nederlands and made this park*… which today is a national park with 1700 free bikes to ride around the place. Of course, you only need 1 at a time.

so we camped there and it was sweet, again the Eurotank makes a trusty companion to all our adventures. The best part about camping in the park is that after hours, its fun to take the bikes out, plus a few ciders, for a nighttime ride around the park where you see way more animals around the place. Just dont let the ranger catch you, woopwoopwoopwoop

Tonight I am in Utrecht staying in a very cool hostel called Strowis which is run by a bunch of really super chilled people who just wanna make a cool place to stay. Im definitly in here for the week, also am I am told this week is a massive student gathering in town so its party central…. unless of course I go to Nijmegen to party with Bart…. of down to Belgium to see Geert…. man… this dutchie lifestyle is a hard one. Its not all fun and games, next week I am teaching in Amsterdam… which of course as we know… standing in front of people and making them laugh and enjoy learning is hardly to be considered work.

Ive met stacks of good people along the way too, from the danish (female!) big farmer to the japanse guy who said I was "really handsome" and had "sexy jeans" (no sexy times unfortunately) to the old dude in the 760 BMW who wanted to see pigs in the national park (because your tank wont half scare off any animals mate) to the 50 year old dutchie hardcore cyclist who filled me in on a few of the local secrets. Rock on to you all!

* This may or may not be the correct story. There was an old dude who built a huge manor house on the grounds and thats about it, the museum was all in dutch writing. Now while its not the hardest of languages, the subtlities are indeed beyond me.

Hamburg, wherein one does not find hamburgers

Eurotrip 2008 is on the road and rocking in Hamburg, Ive been here for a day already and I really like the place, its just a cool german city. I hit the road south from stockholm down to Malmö where I had a couple of cool hitchikers along the way, I like to give people a lift in general but I think I was even more impressed they were trying to get a ride in Sweden, its not the first place Id try to thumb a lift. After getting myself very confused with ferry times I decided to drive my way south, so I stayed with Nils in Cophenhagen for a night and then turned south to Hamburg.

Seen here the mighty eurotank mark II. I got a little worried about oil, it was down to nothing, then it dropped to half, then even lower, then I added a bit more, now this morning, after sitting for  day, it shows full… im confoosed. Ill keep checking it at regular intervals

I am really glad I am prepared for this trip, Ive got a GPS and a bike, which is friggin sweet because I can find my way exactly to the hostel and then just jump out and peddle into the center. The even better thing is GPS works on your bike too, just detach it from the car and off you go, never to be lost again. Now I dont fear big cities and their small, confusing streets. I am also running on Estonian diplomatic number plates too, meaning, regular estonian number plates because they cant fine me here, theres no hook up between such far off countries so I can speed, park anywhere I want and as long as they dont catch me in the act, im sweet. Im virtually the Estonian ambassador right now!

Autobahn baby, the volvos speedo says 170 but I believe the GPS in such matters

With all the global worries about petrol prices I too have been looking into what this beast uses.. I never used to worry and its not as much fun to think "shiiiit, I cant go to berlin because thats an extra 500km". doing some rough maths I have worked out the volvo can do 8.9 km per hundred on the highway. Ive also been tracking petrol prices in each country and it seems to exactly match what this website has to say about prices around europe. Sweden is cheaper than germany??? shiiit, if I didnt have my own receipts I wouldnt believe it myself. It does seem however I should top up in Germany before I hit the Nederlands tomorrow… the most expensive petrol in europe!

Hamburg gets a thumbs up from me, now back to the Warsteiners…

Lost In The Baltics

Its been a while, I know. Its true I have been off with my one true love, the swedish one… thats right the Volvo! It is summertime here and after living in a country where we take hot sun for granted as always being there, Im starting to really appreciate summer days again. The last weeks have been hot, some even too hot for me and when its sunny now, I feel a real pull to be outside, I must make the most of every moment. With this spirit in mind Ive been to a music festival in Latvia for 2 days where Fatboy Slim rocked the set and after this I crashed in on a big group of international friends who were travelling through the Baltics. There were people from all over, Baltics, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Spain you name it and I camped with them for some days through Latvia and Estonia. I saw some old friends of mine, Mojca from Slovenia was there as well as Anita from Latvia and I met a bunch of really great new people too.

Theres some new photos up in the gallery, both of Latvia and also of our Jaanipäev which Iiris took. One of my favourites is from a trip we took to a Latvian bobsled track, which is still in ue (in winter duuh) and on the side they had a monument to the greatest winter olmypics of them all, the ones held in Sarajevo in Yugoslavia in 1984. With Mojca coming from Slovenia and on this day I was chosing to identify with the Serbian part of my heritage (it changes on a daily basis, Romania, Serbia, Australia, Estonia…) we had a brief but beautiful moment to remember the old country.

So whats next? Ive been chilling in Stockholm for a few days, its awesome now I have a massive car again I can put all of my crap into it, Ive brought one of my bikes too, aint no better way to see a place than on 2 wheels. In the next few days I am heading on


what is this Eurotrip2008 I hear you ask? Why do I always start sentences with questions I hear you ask?? oh. right. So seeing as its a lovely summer and now I have this big volvo and all and you know, petrol is so cheap these days… and I am working in Amsterdam in a few weeks again I though that a big roadtrip was in order. Flying is no fun, so clincal, all that check in and waiting for your baggage stuff… how abouta few weeks on the road to really get to know my new swedish auto?

So Ill be heading to Copenhagen first and stay with my good man Nils for a night then its down into central europe and hitting Holland. Anna will join me for a few days and we will do some camping around the coast and then I still have free time to check out Holland and go pester Hester a bit more in Utrecht. oohh and of course I have the bike too… all I need is a pair of wooden shoes and I am as dutchie as they come.

So viva la eurotrip2008! Its time to hit the road, fire up the volvo and enjoy the summer in europe!