Showing posts from August, 2009

The City of a Thousand Names

TURKISH POLITENESS: Reticence, Courtesy, and Frankness of the Mussulman — Men Who Will Not Lie Or Cheat But Protect Their Women And Their Dogs. —From The Pall Mall Gazette of June 24, 1878 When I arrived in the Sirkeci Train Station in Eminönü, the sun had risen but it was still early in the morning. Businesses opened their doors, shopkeepers swept off their porticoes, and the kebab shops loaded up great cones of compressed meat onto the döner ovens, although few people were eating as Ramadan, Turkish Ramazan, had just started. I changed dollars for lira in the cobbled streets near the Spice Bazaar, and took the ferry Hamdi Karahason across the Bosphorus to Kadıköy to Asia. Rocky fortressed islands and towered shipping galleys loomed in the hazy Propontis, the water dark with the Black Sea's sulfurous sediment. Ah, those first steps on a continent. When Alexander took them, he lept from the stern of the first boat, like the ill-starred Achaean Protesilaus, and planted a spear in

Beers of Europe

What follows is a small and incomplete list of the beers I sampled on my travels through Western and Eastern Europe. Belgium Trappiestes Rochefort 8, from Abbey St Remy: Too little flavor to cover the 9% alcohol, but still a good blonde. Golden Drak De Garre: Get this strong blonde if you are in Bruges. It's only served at the pub of the same name. Germany & Austria Bitburger: sucks ass Radeburger: okay Feldschöschen Urdbock: Local Dresden dark that's really tasty and really cheap -- if you're in Dresden. Friedberger Bock: Bad German dark with a foul, too bitter flavor. Erdbeer Porter: Okay; really sweet and fruity. Erdinger Heffeweizen & Dunkel: both mid-shelf beers, good at what they do, especially the dark Köstrisser Schwarabier: A bad dunkel. Schöfferhoffer Dunkel Hefeweizen: Fucking awesome combination of dark and wheat beer, which is cheap and has an excellent flavor. Franziskener Weissbier: They make a good stock dunkel and hefeweizen, and both are worth the

More News From Nowhere

And it's getting strange in here, Yeah, it gets stranger every year. —Nick Cave The minibus crossed the border and entered Codri Forest, the patches of oaks and willows broken by small farmsteads. The economy of landlocked Moldova, Europe's poorest country and one of its most densely populated, is almost entirely agricultural, especially after all their industry seceded with Transnistria twenty years ago. They grow grapes for Moldovan wine, famous for its freshness and fruity flavor according to the expertise of the Frenchman on the bus. Everyone else was Romanian, but I sat in the back with Pierre-Henri of France, Lidy of Moldova, and a Romanian. Lidy had taught English before marrying, and although she had not spoken in four years remembered it quickly. She pointed out the forest and Lake Ghidighici when we passed, and recommended some Moldovan cuisine: goulash, rolls in grape leaf and cabbage, and mamaliga , a sort of cornmeal mush. Her brother lives in Boston and she has t

Marking Time

I drink and smoke errday while you travel the world. FML. —Sissy Katy A great sign of white letters propped up on the hilltop like Hollywood told us we were in RASNOV, south of Brasov on the road to Bran. Although Vlad Tepes, or Dracula, never lived at the Bran castle and only maybe visited, it has become the penultimate site of his legend and absorbed Bram Stoker's character and a tourist flair. The castle would be better called a palace or a country manor, with its peaceful inner courtyard of white stucco and many quiet rooms. There were no spiked pits nor slag piles, no dungeons, no sulphurous smoke, not even a cemetery; just this little castle on a wooded hill over a pleasant village and its knick-knack market, peddling masks and Dracula shirts with images from every film adaptation and also Blade . It had a high tower, but this was closed off by a gate, which we slid under so we could get a few pictures. Out in the market, Marty saw a stand of Romanian instruments that he com

The Paris of the East

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life, for me... And I'm feeling good. —Muse Bucharest has a bad reputation , and the train station, roamed by ragged strays, both canine and human, under a dismal grey sky untouched by morning light, did little to allay doubts. I took a bus to the Butterfly Villa Hostel, ate some breakfast, and talked with some hostelers in the courtyard. There was one Birmy, and a far-eyed Canadian girl who had this poor South Korean by a leash since she spoke a little of his language, and then three people with whom I would later travel: an Aussie named Marty and two Brits, Alan and Jezz, from the same town, although they first met in Ukraine. Marty lived in Sarajevo until he was twelve, all through that great siege of the Bosnian War. He could take apart and refit an AK-47 and disarm a hand grenade, and recalled this story: He and his friends were searching through an old ruined building to find steel tubes for blowguns when a cop found the

The Metamorphosis

I'm serious Everybody so serious That boy so serious Came meet me, get, I wanna blood, You don't really wanna get serious My whole crew is serious That man is serious, Serious, serious, serious. —Dubblededge, "Lips 2 Da Floor" P ART 1: I NVESTIGATION I took up Dave's offer of a complimentary night on my sandy mattress in the hostel, and intended to stay Thursday as well. Dave, who in that sardonic way of the British describes himself as a fat bastard, advised me to forget about it and to go out to the beach for a day. Yet rather than this sensualism, I went to bed early, slept fitfully, woke early, and dressed myself in my only possessions and a severe mood. Warily I set out, the day after I lost my backpack, to investigate its theft. First I looked around the hostel, in the bushes and the alleys, for any sign of my bag or its contents, and in the dumpsters, but they were all emptied that morning. At the Flag Hostel's main branch I ate some toast and drank so