Auteursarchief: tuneintoluke

Hostel San Marino

San Marino, the world’s fifth-smallest state, claims to be the world’s oldest surviving republic. According to tradition, San Marino was founded in 301 AD. San Marino now is the only surviving Italian microstate. Like Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco, it’s a reminder of the times when Europe — particularly Germany, Italy and the Pyrenees — was made up of tiny political units, sometimes extending no further than a cannon could fire from a city’s walls. Along with Vatican City and Lesotho it is one of the three states surrounded by a single other country. San Marino asserts its independence and various treaties of friendship have been signed with Italy since the latter’s unification.

I visited San Marino on a short trip that took me from Pisa via Bologna and Tuscany and on the way back I visited Florence. There was a hostel in San Marino that looked quite ok on the photos, that I had booked beforehand. It turned out it had a great view from halfway up the mountain, where the old city has their impressive castle built on. Arriving late in the evening I entered through a bar and then got sent through the back, where a big steel door granted me access to a dark staircase that went up to the hostel.

Although I liked my time walking around San Marino and the amazing views, I mostly remember the 2 people I encountered in the hostel, that were the only – and also most unlikely – people in my dorm room.
One was a girl named Yuki, from Japan, a 20-ish year old with typical schoolgirl looks. Terrible at English, but totally not shy about it. Not comprehending every second sentence, for example I saw her explaining at the front desk in 7 different ways that she need a hair dryer, but still chatting away with me too until I grew a bit tired of trying to explain what I was saying. Luckily she went to bed very early… She got up really early too, 5 am it must have been as she disappeared into the dark, supposedly on her way to Poland for some reason.
My other roommate was Oleg. A 55-year old Russian ex military guy. Extreme traveller, avid swimmer, typical tough Russian storyteller. He talked to me part of the late evening and in the morning. He showed me his passport, filled with stamps, telling me about Chinese trips, border checks in Belarus and his love for finding exotic records. And if I ever go to Moscow he will host me he promises…

It’s these fun(ny) meetings that make trips like this extra valuable to me. So many countries, so many different people. It’s a special place, this world… Anyways, I only have 21 Capitals left on my list!

GetAttachment-6.aspx GetAttachment-1.aspx GetAttachment-3.aspx GetAttachment.aspx

Over half done!

It’s really not easy to get the list done, but I decided to finish this European Capital list at some point… 2 weeks ago I visited Belgrade. What a splendid city. Next week I’ll go to San Marino…! I also visited Prague again this summer… That was already my 4th visit to Prague. So. I am at 23 European Captitals now… And no 24 coming up soon. There is 45 capitals in my European Capital list…
People ask me how I do it. I just do it…! That is the key. Look, trips don’t have to cost that much. I have a travel budget… Most cities you can see in 2 or 3 days. And if you manage to keep travel cost to a minimum it can work out fine… I look at all possible flights, I keep cost of accommodation in check. And then I can go again not too soon after my last trip… ;)

Country Name Capital City DONE coming soon month Time Travel
Albania Tirana
Andorra Andorra la Vella
Austria Vienna x aug ’11 4 days car
Belarus Minsk
Belgium Brussels x sept ’11 2 days car
Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo
Bulgaria Sofia
Croatia Zagreb
Cyprus Nicosia
Czech Republic Prague x apr ’13 2 days car
Denmark Copenhagen x nov ’11 3 days boat/car
Estonia Tallinn
Finland Helsinki
France Paris x July ’11 2 days car
Germany Berlin x mar ’13 2 days car
Greece Athens
Hungary Budapest x apr ’13 2 days plane
Iceland Reykjavik
Ireland Dublin 0
Italy Rome x mar ’11 4 days plane
Latvia Riga x april ’11 4 days plane
Liechtenstein Vaduz
Lithuania Vilnius
Luxembourg Luxembourg x dec ’11 3 days car
Macedonia Skopje x jun ’14 3 days plane
Malta Valletta x feb ’11 4 days plane
Moldova Chisinau
Monaco Monaco x june ’11 3 days plane/car
Montenegro Podgorica
Netherlands Amsterdam x april ’11 1 day train
Norway Oslo
N. Ireland Belfast x oct ’11 3 days plane
Poland Warsaw
Portugal Lisbon x oct ’10 2 days plane / car from Sevilla
Romania Bucharest x nov ’14 3 days plane
San Marino San Marino 0
Serbia Belgrade x sep ’15 3 days plane
Slovakia Bratislava x sep ’14 2 days plane / car from Budapest
Slovenia Ljubljana
Spain Madrid x nov ’10 4 days plane
Sweden Stockholm x feb ’07 3 days
Switzerland Bern
Turkey Istanbul
Ukraine Kiev 0
United Kingdom London x jan ’11 2 days boat/car
Vatican City Vatican City x mar ’11  (Rome)

Klaus

I have met many Germans in my life. I have lots of German friends even. They’re like all other people, just different, like all other people are different too… One of the things I like about Germans is that it’s fun to hear them speak English. They go to “zee” toilet. Well, you know what I mean. Schwarzenegger-English I ll call it. It so happens that in Cape Town there are very many Germans so I keep sensing them everywhere.

As always in any foreign country I make some friends in South Africa as well. I find on my travels that the car rental place is always a good place to make a friend. You might get a free upgrade or they don’t look so exact when you bring the car back with some extra scratches. It happened to be that near where I was staying in Cape Town, in the suburb Rondebosch, is a German car rental place. It has a bunch of older German cars standing around and it looks a bit chaotic, but I still have a good feel about it.
The owner’s name is Klaus. A probably 70 year old guy who is clearly unhappy with being stuck in his garage all the time. The first time I come visit him it is just before Christmas and we agree on me renting an old BMW after Christmas. I do also wish him a pleasant time with his family for Christmas.

When I come pick up the car after a coupe of days and we’re filling out the paperwork I ask Klaus how his christmas was. “Horrible” he says. “I had to drive to and from the airport and I was in the office most the time.” Clearly he has all kinds of problems on his plate. He paused a moment, gave me a friendly look and helped me further. Klaus’s assistent Basil shows me the old car and how it works. He tells me there is no radio front unfortunately. “It somehow got lost, we ordered a new radio.” An hour later when I’m driving I find the radio front under the floor mat and I can listen to some good tunes.

The Garden Route in South Africa is beautiful. Driving down in your very own silver BMW is extra special. It’s surprising how European the country feels. Roads are perfectly fine. There’s just some occasional jay walkers on the road. (People will just walk slowly across a highway without any fear or respect.) Well, this is Africa after all.

Knysna, Plettenburg Bay and Wilderness are beautiful places. I enjoyed the beaches, did nature walks, made friends. A full week of good experiences, socializing and tanning. On the way back I dropped off a lady from Iran with an unspeakable name a couple towns further, I met her in one of the backpackers places and then ran in to her again another place. She has been travelling for a couple years already and told me about many places she had been to.

Back in Capetown I come home one saturdayevening really late. It’s dark and I’m not thinking clear… The way I’ve gotten used to locking this old BMW is just by pushing down all the buttons on the inside, as the key doesn’t work properly on the outside. This way ofcourse if you forget to take the key out of the car, but do lock all the doors, you are running in to trouble. This is exactly what happens to me. Key inside. Me outside. I call Basil right away. He sounds tired and tells me to go to Klaus in the early morning. He’ll be there and there should be spare keys somewhere in the office.

When I arrive with my taxi at the garage the next morning, Klaus finds some keys, but he is absolutely not sure if these are the right ones. He tells me he won’t be around the rest of the day and Basil is preaching at a church. So he looks at me patiently again and says: “take zee blue mercedes no extra charge, if zee key doesn’t work you can use that car and we’ll zee tomorrow.”

Turns out the keys did work. And for a full day I am the proud “owner” of a Mercedes and a BMW. I must have been the happiest guy in Cape Town that day. Although, you can only drive one car at a time…

(null)

(null)

IMG_9109.JPG

Dis ‘n land

Het taaltje hier is wel fascinerend. Het Afrikaans wordt gesproken door 9 miljoen mensen in Zuid Afrika, en ik hoorde het zelfs in Namibie gesproken worden. Ik quote even een bij dit land passend liedje van de Kaapstadse band, de “Van Coke Kartel” zodat de gelijkenissen en verschillen te voelen zijn.

“In die land van blindes is een-oog koning. Loop met die losprys weg en moordenaars groet mekaar met ‘n hi-five. Ek wou my krane stadig afdraai, maar die lotery is klaar gewen met ‘n skoot deur die kop van ‘n magnaat. Dis ‘n land van kleure en klank, dis ‘n land van liefde vir drank. Jij is nie ek nie, ek’s jaloers op jou, dis ‘n land van korrupsie en god dank dis ‘n land van liefde vir drank. Blameer die duiwel, lippe bewe morsig en die spoeg spat oorgehaal. Maar beheer verloor en ons vier dit met ‘n hi-five. Ek wou my krane regtig afdraai, maar die lotery is klaar gewen met skote deur die bors van die magnaat, dis ons land. Ek’s nie jy nie, jy’s jaloers op my.”

IMG_8564.JPG

Urban Legends in Capetown

When I arrived to Capetown, my first host was so nice to take me on a morning walk and couple of tours around the city. He would tell me things about the city and life in South Africa.

One story that particularly appealed to me was an urban legend about Devil’s Peak, part of the Table Mountain Range. We stood on the balcony of his house looking at it when he started telling the small story about the clouds hovering around the top. Devil’s Peak was originally known as Wind-berg or Charles Mountain. The English term Devil’s Peak is actually a 19th-century translation from the Dutch Duiwels Kop, and supposidly comes from the folk-tale about a Dutch man called Jan van Hunks, a good man who lived at the foot of the mountain circa 1700.

He was forced by his wife to leave the house whenever he smoked his pipe. One day, while smoking on the slopes of the peak, he met a mysterious stranger who also smoked. They each bragged of how much they smoked and so they fell into a pipe-smoking contest. The stranger turned out to be the Devil and Van Hunks eventually won the contest, but not before the smoke that they had made had covered the mountain, forming the table cloth cloud.

IMG_8542.JPG

Wandering through Bucaresti

Romania is certainly not the most popular country to visit in Europe. Stories about the poverty and corruption are well known and people look surprised when I tell them I am going on this trip. I didn’t really have Bucharest as a high priority on my list of capitals that I would like to visit. But I did some reading up and it certainly is a country with a lot of interesting history and the people are a proud folk.

A taxi ride to the city
When I arrived to the city’s 2nd airport named Henri Cuanda (the inventor of the jet engine) I decide I want to get to the city as quick as possible, so I walk out to get a taxi. Taxi’s seem to be the most common way of transportation in Bucharest. After asking for the price of a taxi ride into the city to the first taxi guy, I tell him that’s too expensive straight away, and I walk around the block to the next to ask again -if I do get ripped off I don’t want to feel too stupid- and this taxi driver confirms that it really is about 80 Lei to get to my apartment in the city centre.

IMG_7637.JPG    IMG_7680.JPG
My taxi driver’s name is Nikolai. This older gentleman starts to speak a couple of words in German to me and tries to talk with me on the 30 minute drive by shouting words at me like “politik”, “korrupt” and I try to sound friendly to compliment his driving style by saying “Schumacher” (which I say to most taxi drivers in Eastern Europe to make conversation, they always give a chuckle). He tells me he is 3 months away from his pension. So I sure hope he’ll survive his driving style before he gets to his pension but at least as long as I am in his car. Else he warns me about 5000 taxi drivers in Bucharest are “pirati” and I should be very careful with what taxi I get in to. I pay 80 Lei to Nikolai. Funny. Later that week I get a taxi back to the airport. This costs me 35 Lei. I guess Nikolai is secretly the king of the taxi Pirati’s.

Steaua Bucaresti
After I arrive to the apartment and drop my stuff, I know I can go to a football match of the number 1 team in Romania, Steaua, I found out they play that evening. On google maps I found the stadium. It’s a 4,5 kilometre walk that will take me an hour. I do feel like going for a walk especially as I have this sudden fear of getting into taxi’s as well.

It’s a cold evening, the route takes me through some desolate streets and suburbs, with gray buildings. And it’s a lot of manoeuvring over sidewalks, where there are lots of broken tiles – or no tiles – and especially holes in the ground to avoid.  On the way I run into two different people who I ask if I’m on the right way. Both these people can’t help me. One asks me “Steaua? Which sport?” When I say “football, ofcourse” he doesn’t have a clue, about anything. The other guy a couple of blocks further down the road tells me there are 4 stadiums for Steaua football in the city, and surely I am walking the wrong way. But the right way he cannot tell me either. I am stubborn and focussed so I proceed on my route. After 50 minutes of walking I see the big lights of the stadium deeming in the distance. I found it! I am getting excited. This will be fun!
When I approach the gate there are 2 military guards who tell me I cannot go in. I tell them I came from Holland,I just flew in and I walked 4,5 kilometres because of the pirate taxi’s in their city. Can’t they please let me in? “No way”, they say, the match has no attendees because of some kind of ruling by the football association. Oh my. That is bad for me. I meet a guy from Malmö, Bogdan, who is formerly Romanian military and had to defend Ceaucescu’s government as a 18 year old guy. We both try to get in in a diplomatic way, but the military police is like talking to a wall. They say no and no seems to stay no. Bogdan gives up after half an hour. And I decide I’ll just get a taxi back to the city. Bogdan tells me it is really safe. The taxi guy I walk up to doesn’t look like a pirate. Later I ask another taxi guy and I hear Steaua won with 2-0. Well. That’s really really good and I am proud I almost saw them play.

AirBnB
The 4 days that I was in Bucharest I used AirBnB again. I love this concept. For sure not every experience is good, but 8 out of 10 are. And it’s way better if I can help a Bucharest person by renting their place, they usually try to make an extra effort, and I like putting some money in their pocket instead of going to a more expensive international chain of hotels. This way I really get to feel the real city much more. Walking around in authentic neighborhoods, untouched by masses of tourists, I always appreciate a lot.
IMG_7709.PNG

I buy my groceries in a typical small corner store, where they hardly speak English. Prizes always amaze me in Eastern Europe. A couple of beers, some fruits, cookies, meat, other snacks. All for little more than 6 euro. I put them in the fridge. That’s one of the perks of having a whole apartment, and it’s close to the center, and that all for a rent of 22 euro per night. The only thing – my mattress came to life at night, where I would feel a spring coming up and pushing me in my chest. That can be the surprising fun of AirBnB!

Night life in smoke
In the city I chose to go into the first nice place I find. I don’t like the freezing cold. And wow, I could not have found a better place. Caru Cu Bere I walk in, this is also known as Carul cu Bere; “the beer wagon” and it is a bar and restaurant in the Lipscani district, in a gothic revival building designed by Austrian architect Siegfrid Kofczinsky, in 1899. It is noted for its interior decoration, in Art nouveau style. And people I spoke told me it is the number one bar in Romania to hang out.
Inside I meet an Austrian guy (not sure if he’s family of Kofczinsky, I didn’t ask), his first name is Thomas, whom I share a table on the balcony with and I order a beer and some real Romanian dinner. As a bonus while we sit, there is lively music and from time to time there are dancers on the ground floor that provide extra entertainment. A very nice evening it turns out to be!IMG_7651.JPG  IMG_7885.JPG

When I go to a different club much later in the “Old Town” with Thomas and a group of English we meet on the way there, walking in this club is horrific because of it being blue with smoke and all people seem to be smoking. I decide to leave right away and find my bed and say a friendly good-bye to Thomas. It seems smoking is very popular in Romania unfortunately and almost every club or baris filled with a thick curtain of smoke. Pretty disgusting, but fine for them if they like it, I’ll find better places to hang out a different night…

IMG_7892.JPG   IMG_7714.JPG

There are also some real fancy places with old fashioned hospitality in Bucharest. They’re called casino’s(!) and they are all over the city. I decide to go into a casino another night. I am welcomed by some very nice hospitality ladies and the games are cheap to begin with. And that’s enough fun for me as also the drinks are free and sometimes the hospitality ladies hold you company as you play. They claim to be the only 7 star Casino in the world. To me the atmosphere I would like to describe as a 1930’s New Orleans restaurant – I have never been to one, but I do hope my readers have imagination for the classy feeling I am trying to sketch…

Overall I had a great couple of days in Bucharest! I will definitely put it in my top 10 list so far of European Capitals I have visited.