Saturday, September 20, 2008


I am currently eating cheese. Delicious cheese. France does cheese very well. And yoghut. And pretty much anything dairy.
I'm definitely going to miss the dairy aisles of the supermarkets here when I return to Oz.

And in other news, I will definitely finish writing the rest of my travel story... I've just been procrastinating lately.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Two lists

I was thinking about lists on the flight from Prague to Paris and figured I may as well post two of them:

Here's my updated list of countries that I've visited (in chronological order of my first visit there):

Czech Republic
Hong Kong
United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales)

The second list is a list of all the airlines I've flown with, which was an appropriate list to think about while flying (listed in chronological order of my first flight with each company):

Virgin Blue
British Airways
Czech Airlines

Part 1 of the Black Sea Adventure

At the moment I'm sitting next to gate D3 in Prague International Airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Paris, after flying here from Istanbul.
This is basically the end of my 2-week holiday after Lines 2008 through the countries around the western side of the Black Sea. I'll be back in Paris soon (although it seems like ages because I have to wait until 20:10 for my flight to board and it's only 19:20 at the moment).
It's been a great trip, through several new places, all of them interesting in their own way. The trip started with a flight to Istanbul from London, where we (Kat and I) spent a couple of days before taking a 2-night ferry to Odessa, Ukraine. Odessa was a pretty town, and will probably be a lot nicer in the coming years as it seemed like half of it was under renovation or reconstruction. I found my basic knowledge of Polish to be quite useful in Odessa (and on the ferry, which was a Ukrainian company) because I was able to understand quite a few basic things, especially a lot of foods and menu items, which was handy in restaurants. We stayed just one night in Odessa, in a strange hotel (also under major renovation) where our room had a rather large support beam right in the middle of it, which was a trap for tall people, but useful for hanging clothes on to dry/air.
After Odessa, we headed to a city called Tiraspol, which is the capital city of Transdniestr (sometimes called Transdinistria in English), a country which doesn't actually exist, apparently. The rest of the world belives it to be a region in Moldova, but the Transdniestrians are quite certain it's an independant communist state (basically the last remnant of the USSR). The government building is called Soviet House. We hadn't heard of the country before we read about it in a guide book while in the hotel in Odessa, and then proceded to visit this country that very day. On the way in, from Ukraine, the border post to what the rest of the world regards as Moldova, is actually Transdniestr. The border guards were actually quite helpful, and one of them spoke fairly good English, who asked us if we knew that it was Transdniestr and not Moldova, and told us that we would need to register with the Police if we wanted to stay longer than 10 hours. At that point we'd considered staying overnight in Tiraspol, but the thought of dealing with Soviet-style biurocracy convinced us that maybe a short stay would be better. After arriving in Tiraspol and looking around for a couple of hours, we realised that a stay of less than 10 hours was really all that was needed to see all of the city, so we hopped on a bus and headed for Chisinau, Moldova. At the "border" between Moldova and Transdniestr, the Transdniestrian border guards (who didn't speak much English at all) told us that we needed to have a stamp on our transit pass in order to be allowed to leave, which was contrary to what the first guy had told us. We pointed this out, but they either didn't understand, or didn't want to, and kept trying to convince us that we'd need to return to Tiraspol to have our papers stamped. This happened at about 7pm on a Friday night, and we didn't feel it was likely that this magical passport office would be opened late Friday night, or all weekend, for that matter. After quite a bit of discussion (while the rest of our bus was waiting patiently for us, thankfully), one of the guards took us into a small room, closed the door and windows, and said "Chisinau OK, present" and we got the hint that if we were to slip some money his way, we would be allowed to leave. We tried with all the Ukrainian Hrivy that we had (I can't remember how much exactly) and with the 55 or so Transdniestrian Roubles also remaining (which aren't able to be exchanged in any other country because the money apparently doesn't exist according to the international community). This apparently wasn't enough for him, and I remembered that I had a 20euro note in my bag, so I offered him that and he accepted it right away and let us continue on to Moldova. Incidentally, Moldova doesn't have a corresponding checkpoint there because the Moldovans don't regard it as a border, so we technically never entered Moldova. This incident was my first experience bribing border guards (or bribing anyone official, for that matter). After Tiraspol and Transdniestr, Chisinau seemed positively refined and civilised, and it was quite a relief to get there.