Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Travel update from Bulgaria

Greetings from Bulgaria .

I am in Plovdiv, which is the former capital of Bulgaria. I left Sofia which is the current capital after staying ther for a week. I will be here in Plovdid only a couple of days. Just checking out some ancient roman Ruins and then I will go to Varnas on the Black sea for some well deserved, and lonb put off beach time. This city is built on seven hill just like Rome. Perhaps this is why the Romans chose it for their regional capital 1,800 years ago. I am staying in the "old city" which is quaint and enjoyable. It is nice to stroll around the hilly streets on the cobbleston pedestrian walkways and to sit on the benches and whatch the people go by. Bulgaria is a cheap country. Hostel beds go for 20 lev per night which is about 10 euros or about 13 or 14US dollars.

The locals make excellent cheeses and yoghurt mostly from sheeps milk but some from cows as well. the yoghurt is quite good. I am developing a taste for sheep yogurt. They make a really good soup here sold chilled of fine chopped cucumbers and walnuts in a thinned down sheep yogurt which is cool and refreshing as well as delicious. The weather is quite hot here. about 30 degreees (88F) but here in Plovdiv it is a little cooler than Sofia where it was 32 to 36 degrees for the week I was there.

I had the strangest dream the other night . I dreamed that George Bush was the leader of the free world and that Dick Cheney was out hunting mosquitos with a shot gun... Go figure!
I am meeting many travellers in the hostels I am staying at. Mostly Europeans but a couple of Aussies and Kiwis as well. A few Israelites and a couple of Japanese.

I went and visited the famous Rila monestery with two nice women from Finland. A mother and daughter who were in my hostel. The monestary was founded by St John the miracle worker in the 9th century AD. This is the man who started the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He was a hermit for 12 years who stayed in the mountains in caves contemplating and meditating until he acheived a form of enlightenment and then performed a few miracles or so the story goes. The monestery is built in the year 900something and it is a monument ot him and his worrks. The day we visited was two days following his birthday and there were thousands of Bulgarians there getting their kids baptised by the monks and taking tours and the like. The building is very impresive and particularly the church in the center with its 5 domes and incredibly beautiful and comples paintings of all biblical stories. Very beautiful.

In Sofia I went and visited the ST Nicolas cathedral and the Jewish synagogue. I liked the cathedral. I was a little burned out on the catholic cathedrasl because they seem to be amuseum of torture or something. All the art work seems to be Jesus getting flogged or crucified or wearing thorns on his head and getting stabbed in the side and never any of the miracles and the good times. The Bulgarian orthodox focus more on the fish and loaves and healing the sick. They (unlike the catholics) dont depict Jesus and his family as wealthy people but rather as poor people dressed modestly.

The jewish synagogue was built in 1901 by an Austrian architect who came over here to build a synagogue. It is still used today as a house of worship for Jews and has been used continuously for this purpose since it was built almost 100 years ago. it is Europes largest Jewish temple. The Bulgarians valiantly defied Hitler and saved their 52,000 Jews from deportation and certain anihilation during the second world war. Only Bulgaria and Denmmark had the courage and will to do this. The Bulgarian Church was instrumental in saving the Jews here. The Bulgarians were then and still are now a very compassionate and tolerant people.
I hads a nice Bulgarian dinner with a family of 4 french people and a nice couple from New Zealand. After the dinner, they put on a great show of Bulgarian folk singing and dancing in beautiful costumes and played ancient traditional instruments. it was a most excellent time.

I hate to hear about tourists or travelers getting ripped off and husteled. I hate to hear when travelers let it go when they are getting gypted for a few pennies. Took for a penny is took for a pound. These little two bit rip offs where they short you 30 slotnicks (15euro cents or 20 US cents) Is just bull shit yeah? That is why McConalds is burying these people... Travelers would rather eat shit than get ripped off!

I met two nice young Brits today. They just got here from Romania. They are on a three week holiday and have 2 weeks left. In Romania they get off a train and into a taxi. They have no local money. They dont know what the conversion rate is. They dont know how much the 5 minute taxi ride is SUPPOSED to cost. The taxi driver wont take euros. ( I would immediately be suspicious)He takes them to a cashpoint machine and tells them to get 3000 lei the ride will be about 1000. they do so and pay him and then when they arrive at the hostel the room costs 40. They take about 5 more minuets to figure they just paid 200 british pounds (aboutUS$ 370 )for a 5 minute taxi ride!!

I HATE when that happens. Never get into a taxi without some idea what the ride will cost. Never pay in money you dont know the conversion rate for ( not sure how to find conversion rate? go to http://www.xe.com/ucc/) Be smart dont get husteled. Count your change. Always ask what a thing costs before you buy it.I reemember an Irish guy who had to pay 200 euros fro a beer in Istanbul from a Russian Mafia bar bedcause he didnt ask in advance what the drinks cost!!!

So now its 2 days later and I am in Varna on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. Leaving Plovdid, I arrived at the bus station at 615 AM and found the bus sold out with the next one at 3 in the afternoon!! Aye Chingaso! taking a chance I hurried over to the train station and made it onto the train 3 minutes before the train left.

Varna is nice the Black Sea is not very salty. Good swimming. Crowded beach. It seems everyone in Bulgaria who is more than 12 years old smokes cigarettesw and they all use the beach as one big giant ashtray!!Yecchhh!!
Next update from Romania

Here are 3 quotes to close with. Some food for thought...

Love and Peace to you all ,

Rambling Robert

It is the habit of every aggressor nation to claim that it is acting on the defensive. Jawaharlal Nehru
The noblest revenge is to forgive. Thomas Fuller
Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both. Abraham Flexner

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Leaving vienna

Leaving Vienna

I got my ticket to go to Sofia, Bulgaria. I leave on Monday 14 August at 2100 and arrive on 15 August at 1400.Aye Aye Aye 19 housrs is a long time on a bus. But it is a lot cheaper and not so much longer than to taake a train and way way cheaper than flying I remember a line in a Sean Penn movie where this guy is in court and the judge says he can pay a 500 dollar fine or go to the county jail for a month and the guy says well "I got a lot more time than money so..." For a lon term traveller this is often the choices that it comes down to. I have a lot more time than money- and this is by no means a complaint. I would much rather have time than money!!!

So I have now been in Vienna for 2 weeks. What a wonderful city. In its glory days , this was one of the great cultural centers of the world. Its days of glory lasted from the early mid 1700s till the end of the first world war. The city was relatively un harmed by allied bombing of the second world war and so today there are a great many examples of beautiful 19th century architecture every where. It has the old world charm that I find so enthralling about Europe.

I have had a great many very positive experiences here. I went to a concert of Mozart and Johann Strauss music in a 200 year old concdrt hall. The room is all in golden paint and there are like 10 ENORMOUS cristal chandelliers. We sat of course in the cheap seats high up in the balcony to the rear but there isnt a bad seat anywhere in the hall. We could see and hear perfectly. Even the cheap seats are $50.00. The show was performed by a 35 member orchestra and they were all dressed in costume from the late 1700s. They played a wonderful program of Many of Mozarts best loved peices inlcuding eine keina nachtmusik and the love theme of Papagallo and other peices which I am familiar with but am hard pressed to recall their titles. They finished up with two pieces from Strauss including the hauntingly beautiful Blue Danube Waltz. So of course I have heard this piece a hundred times and so have all of you even if you dont know what it is called but to hear it only 2 kilometers from the Danube...well its just a little more special.

I met my travelling buddy Hans whom I hung out with a couple of days in Nicaragua and we went to a jazz night club called Tunnel and heard a most excellent grop of two women on sax and piano and two guys on drums and an acousic 6 string bass guitar. Very hot. Although Jazz is (I am proud to say) an American musical format, it is sadly not really apreciated very much in USA. Here in Europe I find many more opportunities to hear good live jazz than back at home but of course this depends on where you live too...

Vienna is filled with nice green areas and parks. Angela and I have gone for some nice long morning walking meditation strolls in the parks and had nice tranquil times. The city also has a dozen fine museums but I only went to two of them. There are plenty of beaustiful fountains and monuments here too and we walked and took the trams and trains to all corners of this vibrant city.

Many cool outdoor markets with lots of imigrants selling all kinds of wares here too. Lots of Slavs from the East and from Serbia and lots of Turks and other muslims. The muslim men come here for a better life and the women come because the men bring them. Great apparent inequality between the men and women in this culture. UnfortunatelĂ˝ modern day Islam is riddled with corrupted influences and bears little resemblance to the religion their prophet Muhammed(upon him be peace and blessings) started and articulated in his recitations.

We also took a few day trips outside Vienna and went three times to near by wine regions and tasted many of the local wines. The two most important red wine (rotwein) varieties are Zweigelt and Blaumen Portuguiese. the Zweigelt is far superior. Both are tasty drunk young and real cheap when you go to a Heurigen.

A Huerigen is a winery that has an agricultural business on the side. They grow some veggies and raise a few hogs and then sell foods they make on the premises with their own home grown ingredients and featuring of course their wines. These places are ridiculously cheap and not at all frequented by tourists or travellers. Of the three I visited, none had any outward appearance of a thriving bistro beyond the rather plain facades. Once inside it was really great fun with all the locals drinking and eating and talking and just smiling and having a good old laid back time.

Angela has a brother in law named Georg (Gay-Org) who happens to be an orathologist ( a guy who studies birds). As many of you know, I am a big fan of bird watching. Georg took us out one day to Austrias biggest lake called Neusiedlersee. Here we spotted many great and beautiful and some very rare birds. The guy has the best binoculars I have ever put up to my eyes!! They cost 1000 euros ($1,250 American) and it is easy to see why.(No pun intended). We saw the rare and utterly fabulous purple crane. We only spotted one of these but it was just breathtaking!! The largest of all the cranes, the mature male has beautiful puple plumage and stands stork still on his long bony legs in shallow water and snatches up little fish in his long thin needle nose beek. We also saw perigrin falcons, blue herons, egrets and some pink beek geese plus lots of other birds.

The highlight of this aftewrnoon however was away from the lake where we went to a wine vineyard and spotted 5 or 6 pairs of Austrias most beautiful birds the Bee-Eater. We were lucky to see them because usually by this time of the year, they have all migrated to sub sahara Africa for the season. These birds hang around the grape vines and eat large black bumble bees and dragon flies. They are blue and pink and green with yellow wings and orange breasts. Words fall way short in describing their uncommon beauty. I felt very luckv to be able to hang out with an ornthologist and got a great afternoons education on some of central Europes most beautiful birds.

My next update will come to you all from Bulgaria. I have lately gotten a lot of feed back on some of my more recent posts 26 of you have voiced opinions on my observations about the worlds politiaal situations and the recent middle east fighting. All but 2 of you have INSISTED that I continue to share these views (even the painful ones) with you as I travel. I had considerde to no longer express myself on theswe matters as I do not want to hurt anyones feelings but I guess I will just keep on speaking my mind and sharing my views with my readers.
As always I will close with a few quotes from some interesting figures from history some food for thought you might say...

"Naturally, the common people don't want war ... but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."-Hermann Goering, Nazi leader at the Nuremberg Trials after World War 2

"Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country."Bertrand Russell

"Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace." Charles Sumner

"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing." Dwight D. Eisenhower

Peace and Love to All of you,
Rambling Robert