Monthly Archives: April 2013

Serbia

Alex and Marko,my old Cape Cod friends, were there at the Belgrade Airport to get me. TOihey drove me 30 miles to Smedervo where they live. Valentina and Marko are teachers and Alex is working for a gas company in Belgrade.

Valentina and Alex met in Cape Cod. She is a Serb and he is a Russian. Love conquers all and they are happily married. Marko married Maria and now they have a little baby girl.

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My Serbian friends

My days with Valentina and Alex were easy. While they worked I walked around town. I love their cafe culture of lingering around over coffee and taking things easy. I had some nice long walks along the Danube and enjoyed the Serbian Spring.

We took off on the weekend to visit Valentina’s mom. She lives in Cacak and was so nice to me. I also met Valentina’s grandma who told me I hug like a lion.

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Valentina, Grandma and Mom

Then we went to Zlatibor to hand me off to Petar another Wellfleet friend. I got to stay with Petar at his house in Z-town. This resort town is beautiful.

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My friends in Serbia

Petar is a wonderful host. He set me up in a great apartment in his house and has driven me around the Zlotibor area. I have gone on an antique train ride, visited wonderful ethnic villages, seen a monster cave and visited a waterfall.

Petar’s mother is cooking for us and my time in Setbia has been so easy and fantastic.

Here are my plans…tomorrow a bus to Sarajevo, see Mr. B, then a bus to Dubrovnik, then to Split, Crotia, then Zagreb. Train to Paris, 4 nights there and home May 15, 2013.

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Good luck

A great….LONG…..trip.

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Istanbul

So nice to be back here again. First time was 42 years ago. I was here 4 years ago too. Interesting how this city has changed over the years. I came when all the Spring flowers were in bloom. Tulips all over the place. Thousands of tourists are here. My hostel was great and I made friends with some great travellers.

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Istanbul Mosque

I went to Topkapi but the lines were too long so I went to the National Antiquities Museum. That was a good choice. Turkey brought back many old things from the countries they invaded. Plenty of statues and cemetary art, some 4000 years old. I got to see Alexander the Great’s tomb. Actually this is a big marble box which is a beautiful piece of art.

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Burial container

I took 3 rides on the Bosphorus. On my last day I took the boat all the way to the Black Sea. The boat stops at Kavagi which has an old fort at the top of a very tall hill. I visited here back in 1971  and the climb up the hill was somewhat tougher this time, but I did it.

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Kavagi Fort

I was only here for 5 days but I did plenty of things….like..
-visit the Blue Mosque
-took a quick stroll through the Grand Bazaar
-took the tram to the end, then a funicular up the hill to Taksim Square, then walked down the great walking street back to the bridge
-ate great fish kabob
-subjected to the amazing Istanbul rug salesmen… “where are you from….want to buy a rug?”
-spent plenty of time on the hostel`s terrace looking at the Bosphorus and Sea of Mamara

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Blue Mosque

So I am looking forward to seeing my old friends in Serbia. Starting to realize my great adventure is coming to an end in a month.

Thoughts on Egypt

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Egypt

..Most people are great…everyone says “welcome”

..do not touch an Egyptian, both men and woman are offended by any touch, I naturally touch people and was surprised by the outrage they show when you innocently touch anybody

..many men have black marks on their foreheads, I learned they get them when they pray and hit their heads on the floor

..many people here depend on tourists and the people have stopped coming because of the political unrest and violence. The Chinese, Japanese and Americans have stopped coming

..there are plenty of English speaking hucksters, they try to get your confidence and then try to get money from you. A $2 taxi ride turns into a $4 taxi ride, nobody has change, or they say they don’t

..Egypt is dusty, the Sahara blows sand and dust into the populated areas and I did not see any rain while I was here to wash the dust away

..wifi was pretty dismal outside of Cairo, I hope people with good internet access appreciate the web, pretty dismal without it

..the street sellers at the tourist sites are aggressive and really make touring the sites unpleasant

..I visited the Luxor Temple at sunset, the beauty of 3000 year old structures, statues and ancient Egyptian drawings and engravings were incredible. It was nice seeing the structures all lite up at night.

..every person I talked to was unhappy with the current government

..Egyptian men tend to show their emotions, they are always screaming at each other and it seems like physical fights are about to break out

..most of the women where head coverings, I was surprised to see many women in burkas, some were wearing heavy gloves in the heat

..with regret I guess I would advise people to stay away for now, at least until the unrest calms down.

..a few weeks before I arrived here I read a headline like this “Al-qaeda VOWS TO KIDNAP AMERICANS IN EGYPT“…there were a couple of times I thought this was gonna happen to me, I always kept this in mind and tried to keep a low profile

Aswan and Luxor Egypt

A 14 hr. train ride from Cairo to Aswan; arrived at 6 pm, met by tour agent and then a short walk to the Nubian Nile Hotel. I got 4 pita breads with beans and filafil, ate them and fell asleep until 3 am. Then a 130 mile convoy through the Sahara to Abu Simbl. The security was everywhere. This is a very popular tourist place.

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Abu Simbl

They moved these temples before they built the second Aswan Dam which would have put them under the Nasser Lake.. After visiting them I understand why people come here. Another UNESCO World Heritage site I have run into.
We got back to Aswan in time for a tour of the new High Dam which was built by the Russians in the early 1960s.

Then a motorboat ride to the island of Philo Temple. This was relocated like Abu Simbl.

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Philo Temple

Next stop was my overnight Felluca sail boat ride on the Nile. This started off weird. 2 young brothers had no key for the boat so they broke open the doors. I was the only passenger and I started to wonder if this was a mistake.  It turned out to be a great Felluca experience. They got me a great dinner, got some Stella beer (no beer for the past month) and the sleeping mats were comfy.
We took a ride up the river with very little sail, then back up the river and against the wind with full sail. 2 great Nubian Rasta Sailors really gave me a memorable time on the Nile.

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Nile boat ride

And now…another train ride back up to Luxor. So far a successful tour of Egypt. Luxor is hurting..tourists have stopped coming here. The Kings Tombs are worth seeing but my favorite site was Luxor Temple. We visited the site as the sun was going down over the Nile. My fellow tourist were a Vietnamese lady from Vegas and Diago from Rio.

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Luxor Temple

This place takes on a different feeling under the night lights. I have OD’d on Egyptian tourist sites, but this was a great thing to see. I like the people here but the street sales people begging you to buy are way too much.

Tonite a train ride up the Nile to Cairo and my tour is over. Got a hostel reservation in Cairo and Istanbul.

Egypt

The flights to Bangkok and Cairo were easy….After I got through customs there was a taxi driver holding a sign which said “John Simpson”…that was close enough for me. He took me to my hostel which is on the fifth floor. These floors are over 20ft. high. Of course the elevator was broken.

I timed my arrival perfectly….just as breakfast was being served. My first non-asian food in half a year. The bread, hummus and filafel tasted so good.

My roommates were 3 Scottish guys who were riding motorbikes from Scotland to South Africa. Great guys with big plans…

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I found Tajir Square where all the riots take place. One big hotel was burned out… Saw some broken store windows. They told me to avoid this place on Fridays. I bought a tour of the Nile and will take an overnight train to Aswan on Tuesday.

Cairo is not that bad….plenty of sights to see. I took the subway to Giza to see the pyramids. Rode a horse and really enjoyed the day.

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off to Aswan tonite by train…then s boat to Luxor and then back to Cairo. Happy, good friends, good food and great experiences….