Christian Death-core to Nudist camps!

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hello there again!
Yup its me, and boy I've got some stories for you guys this time!  

I left you all in Devin, Bulgaria where I was staying with some lovely couchsurfing hosts for a weekend of hiking
fun in the mountains.  Well after that I decided to go have some fun in the mountains by myself! So I went to the Rila Mountains south of
Sofia to do the "seven lakes hike" which everyone told me was the coooolest hike in Bulgaria.  Well the hike was definitely one of my top ten hikes
I've ever done but definitely one of the most punishing as well.  The whole time I was hiking up barren rock trails or on the ridge line to the mercy
of the punishing sun.  I'm pretty sure I got some level of sun poisoning on this trip due to the fact that when I arrived at the "seven lakes" destination I
was dizzy, not hungry, sun burn, and extremely tired. Good fun!! Right mom??
So the next day after seeing the seven lakes I hiked all the way to the Rila Monastery which was again a good 8 hours of solid hiking...phew!! I was very glad to have reached civilization again.
That night I splurged and got a hotel room and slept and slept and slept and slept.... I had attempted to arrive in Melnik (apparently the smallest village in Bulgaria)
which is famous for its wine (and you know i like my wine!!)  But unfortunately the hitch hiking that day didn't bring me all the way there...
So the next day I started my long voyage to Romania for the Girana Jazz festival that I had been looking forward to every since I arrived in Romania and heard about it!
I managed to hitch hike all the way to the capital (Sofia) of Bulgaria when I decided that instead crossing the Bulgarian/Romanian border that I'd throw a little adventure into the trip and try
and hitch hike my way through Serbia to Romania.  Well I made it all the way to Serbia via hitch hiking but as soon as I arrived in Serbia it took me two hours to get one ride which was only like 10km and since
I was on a time budget I decided to bus it through Serbia.  Well I took a bus to the capital (Belgrade) which put me there at 5am where i then took a bus out of town to try hitch hiking again.  Well it didn't exactly work too well
and so i just took another bus to the border, changed buses again and headed towards Romania.  This is the bus trip that would prove to be an interesting adventure however!
Apparently in Serbia the Cigarettes and Vodka are much cheaper than in Romania and smuggling these goods is very common.  When I boarded the bus (with these other four British travelers) we didn't quite cue into the fact that everyone minus
one guy our age were old/older ladies.  The one kid our age came up to us and in his best attempt at English tried to tell us that we were sitting in his seat.  We just kinda shrugged him off knowing very well that the idea of a "reserved bus seat"
in eastern Europe is quite a joke and we were all happy to be sitting on the back bench together chatting each other up with travel stories etc.  However this kid kept looking back at us with this nervous look...again and again and again.
We were like...damn this kid really wanted this seat...maybe its his favorite or something hehe.  But whatever we kept talking and what not.  Well everything was going splendid (passport checks, etc) until a border guard came on the bus
and asked to see the contents of this woman's bag.  He asked if she had cigarettes...she said no...vodka? only 5 liters which I am allowed to bring.  Ok well open it up!  Turns out there was only 5 liters inside.....THIS bag...but then in her purse was another
5 and in another bag another 10.  OK EVERYONE OFF THE BUS!! Oh shit...  The ladies desperately tried to hand us bags of vodka to claim so they wouldn't be charge taxes on them but we stood firm and said no to their worried faces...sorry ladies not going to help you smuggle!!!
Well 2 hours later after opening secret compartment after secret compartment (the bus driver was smuggling tons of cigs and vodka too!!) they came up with this huge pile of cigs and vodka (see the picture!!).
Me and Brits were just astonished seeing every 5 minutes a new bag or box of cigs and/or vodka coming out of the bus thinking...no way not another bag!! yup another one!  10 minutes later...another bag!! Where did you find that one!?!?
Well eventually they gave it all back to the ladies after they paid the taxes on the goods (they said it was taxes they had to pay...I'm sure where that money ended up...)
Well we all got back on the bus and headed off to Romania.
Due to our extended stay at the border we arrived in Timisoara late and I asked if we could all split a hotel room to save on money.  We did and went out drinking (i was with Brits...what else do they do??) that night and had a good time.
The next morning as we were sitting down somewhere (one guy needed to cash travelers checks and whatever something else) this lonely looking traveler walked by and looked at us.  I said "hey whats up man" and in a nice Californian accept he replied with a "nothin much man where are you from?."
Well about 10 minutes later I convinced him to go to the jazz festival in the mountains (i mean really who could say no!?!?) and we went off hitch hiking to the festival.
Well hitching didn't work too well that day as it took us a long time to get out of the city and to a good hitching spot.  But eventually a bus actually picked us up and brought us to the nearest city to the festival where my lovely adopted Romanian family picked us up and brought us to 3 beautiful days
of music and camping in the mountains!  I saw a bunch of Bands from Romania, Serbia...i dunno other nearby countries i suppose...and also got to see Victor Wooden and Mike Stern from the USA!  They both put on fabulous shows.  Another highlight of the festival was the Balkan Express band
which plays traditional eastern European songs but all jazzzzed up.  They ROCKED!
Ok must move on here this story is getting loooong.
Well at this festival there was a self titled "american camp" which consisted of a few americans who were peace corps volunteers and I hung out with them a lot at the festival.
Their camp was next to this sunken area looking like a swimming pool or old foundation to what used to be a building of some sort.  But it was perfect for football! (soccer)  We played many many games in this space...so cool.
Well one of the american guys invited me to his place and after the festival we hitched to his town.  Hitching there was quite the adventure as we took i think 12 rides that day!!  Most of them were short rides and it was a loooong day.  One of our shorter rides we had was from three Belgian girls in a van.
They told us it was national Belgian day and they and 6 other Belgian girls were having a small party at their volunteer camp at a local gypsy village.  However before they invited us we were telling them we were in a hurry to get home and then after they told us about the party I was like wait a minute I want to come!
But they pulled over and said goodbye and my american friend got out and so did I and then they pulled away and I was left standing there...going.....wait a minute!!! why aren't we still in the van!?!? 9 Belgian girls having a party!? two traveling guys!? wait wait!!! come back!!
that was a mistake *sigh*  hehe oh well we moved on!!
Well I stayed two nights at this guys place before heading to the Ukraine.  I hitched from his town to the border where i walked across to the Ukraine.  Now if you have every crossed the Ukraine border by car/foot you know that it is quite the scene.  There are hundreds of people waiting in line to cross the border on either side
They are all crossing to the Ukraine, buying cigarettes and coming back....over and over and over again!  Fortunately one of  the border guards saw me (obviously a tourist not a cigarette runner) and let me go to the front of the line.  That was super cool as all of these people were waiting for hours.
I crossed over and got a hotel room which was super nice after couches and camping for the past weeks.  The next day I started out hitching (too see how it was in the Ukraine) and I made it allll the way 60km short of Lviv where this trucker ended his route.  Then it started raining and I was stuck at this gas station trying to ask
people for a ride to Lviv...but nobody spoke English (well one guy did a little bit a chatted me up for a little while) but the search was fruitless.  So during a break in the storm i went to the woods across the highway and set up my tent to sleep for the night.  I set it up JUST IN TIME as it started to downpour like mad crazy
and it rained and rained and rained alll night long.  When I woke up I saw the river that I was camping next to and it was raging!!! This thing was darker than chocolate milk and was wild!! Later I found out that heavy storms in this area of the country had caused this river to flood many towns in this region....oops I guess I was
lucky to have camped on a high bank!!!!
Well the next day didn't go so well for hitch hiking so i caught a bus to Lviv where I met these two polish travelers wandering around and together we found a hostel to stay at.
Lviv was a really nice city, very western European looking due to the various occupations in their war torn history. I met some other polish couples who were staying at the hostel who were street performers!  So I joined them the next day as the girls dressed up with mime-like makeup and danced and laughed and acted and performed for the
tourists as I followed them banging on a little drum.  They made a decent amount of money that day and bought me a beer for my percussion accompaniment.  It was good times!
It made me really want to learn some sort of act or street performing talent to change up my travel routine.  I really don't enjoy being the tourist walking around and taking pictures and visiting museums and blah blah blah and I was thinking how cool it would be to learn some street performing talent and travel around performing for people!
Money aside...I think it would make things quite interesting...so we'll see where that goes.
After Lviv I took a really nice train to the capital (kiev) where I couch surfed with this awesome guy named Roma.  He showed me around the city and told me tons of history of the area...a really knowledgeable and friendly guy.  
He had another american guy staying with him who was currently teaching English in Hong Kong.  We hit it off and explored the city on our own the next day.  He invited me for a place to stay in hong kong so hopefully when i get to Asia I'll go visit him!!
From Kiev I took a train to Crimea, which is the peninsula in the southern part of the Ukraine.  I was told to visit a couple tourist cities there because of the beautiful scenery and what not.  However all plans changed!  My train ride again was like 18 hours long and I didn't want to sleep the entire time
and I also didn't want to just sit in my bed and do nothing so i decided to hunt for English speakers. After walking through about 4 wagon trains I found these two young guys having a cigarette and a beer in the smoking area.  Said hello and asked if they spoke English.  Well to make a long story short within 10 minutes they convinced me
to go to this hard-core metal fest they were going to and that night we drank sooo much beer and vodka that I couldn't remember which train car I was sleeping in!  At about 4am I was wondering up and down the entire length of the train stumbling around trying to desperately find my sleeping area.  I could only remember that I was in bed #12...but not the wagon number!!!
So needless to say I woke up a few people, walked into the wrong cabin multiple times but eventually found my bed after the 7th or 8th car....haha!  I immediately crashed and slept the best I could for the next 3 hours until the train arrived.  Upon arrival I found the guys and we set out for the rock concert!
We took a bus to the festival grounds and as soon as i saw the seaside I knew I was going to have to stay for awhile.  If you ever get the chance you have to go to the black sea coast of Crimea... it is absolutely just amazingly awesome there!! Its like a desert with cliffs and rocks and mountains and sparklingly clear beautiful water...man oh man I don't have to words to explain it.
Well We arrived at the picturesque festival grounds and got a room in the veeery primitive little shacks on the grounds.  It seemed a little odd that they weren't serving any alcohol on the grounds and we had to walk to this "restaurant" near the main road to get a drink but I didn't think too much of it.  To make another long story short it turned out that this was a Christian heavy metal hard-core
scream until you puke music festival!  They had failed to mention this important detail to me!!  But it turned out that these christians were pretty cool and it was very interesting to see people screaming at the top of their lungs what I imagined to be "i loooove jesus!" "I will follow yooouu!!!" to loud crunching guitars.
The guys i had met were in a band, and even though they were "christian" and the lyrics to their songs were all about praise to jesus and what not....they still got wickedly drunk every night.  Beer and tons of vodka under the most beautiful stars sitting on the beach at night....good times!!
Well after two nights of loud loud "death-core" music I was somewhat happy to move on to new adventures.  So we took a bus to the next town where we parted ways and said our goodbyes.  I exchanged the last amount of money I had and bought some lunch and a bus ticket to the big city where i was going to try and take a train to Odessa.  However somewhere after buying the bus ticket and lunch...i lost almost
all of my money..........shit!!!
I had maybe the equivalent of 10$ in my pocket and oh yea I also was unable to use any of the atms in the ukraine and the money i had was money that was kindly wired to me by mom and pops.  and so now I'm super bummed out.  no money, no money for train ticket...middle of Crimea......uh oh what to doooo!!
well i had my bus ticket to the next town so i figured i would get on the bus and go to the town and then try to hitch hike my way out of the country to some country where i can get money!!  Well I was standing there waiting for the bus when this girl comes up to me and starts talking to me in Russian.  I say...sorry but i don't speak russian, do you speak english?  And she says yes a little.
Well when I was in kiev my host Roma had told me about this hippie camp down on the black sea in Crimea called "lisea bukta" and that if i can manage to get there i should because its a great camp filled with dread locked drumming hippies camping on the beach.  It isn't marked on any map and he gave me some fuzzy directions but i didn't think I'd ever be able to find it.  
Well it turns out that this girl thought i was going there (due to my natural hippie appearance) and invited me to go along with her and her friend.  I explained to her that i didn't have any money and should probably leave the country soon as to avoid problems.  then i thought for another 10 seconds and said...ahh fuck it lets go!  And we managed to sell my bus ticket to someone going that way and we caught the next bus
to the city nearest lisea bukta.  Well when i arrived i realized that not only was this a rasta hippie anarchist camp but also a nudist camp!! lots of beautiful people walking around and most of them  nude! haha! awesome! so i stripped down and started showing the sun places it often doesn't have a chance to see!  I was planning on staying for only 2 or 3 nights because i wanted to go to this trumpet festival in Serbia in a few days
but i ended up staying at this camp for two weeks! ha!  Such good times, super awesome people, lots of sunshine and communal kitchens, hikes to the mountains to get spring water, and hikes to the nearest villages to buy vegetables...Lisea Bukta I will never forget you!!!!
The camp I was staying in was mostly russians from Moscow but there were also people from Belarus and Ukraine as well.  Not a lot of people spoke english (actually hardly anyone) and I was one of two americans in the whole camp. The other american guy was from hawaii and was living
in odessa teaching english and this was his second year at the camp.
Well after being there for two weeks I said it was time to move on.  So i hitch hiked/took trains to odessa where I currently am!
Phew!
ok that was a long one...I'm tired of writing!
Well I'm here in Odessa and i met up with this guy i met in Lisea Bukta who gave me his number and he's been showing me around the city and last night we went to this techno dance club on the beach and partied until the sun came up!
Well I'm going to try and make it to the BEER FESTIVAL in Belgrade, Serbia which starts in 3 days...we'll see where I actually end up!!!
Well I hope this finds you all in good health!
adios!
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