Sunday, July 30, 2006


Another day in beautiful Vienna. The coffee is good and I seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession for pumpernickel and cottage cheese.

Yesterday I checked out the Naschmarket, the place is the touristy market of Vienna and teems with other out-of-towners, all doing their own imagined version of bargain hunting. I almost bought a clearly stolen mobile phone for 160 Euro and had a few close shaves with the dozens of wasps buzzing around the dried fruit. A non-functioning old school LED watch caught my eye, but when the guy told me he wanted 25 Euro for it, I could help laughing at him. He said that he had originally paid 12 Euro for and that he would except 20. I politely suggested that he was either having a lend of me or that he had been ripped off and offered him 2. No deal. I’ve come to the conclusion that flea markets are more about voyeurism than finding a good deal. You get to look through other people's stuff and maybe even own it. The Russian versions were far more exciting, as the stuff for sale were most often left over from Soviet times, and therefore had a shitty quality not found anywhere else. One thing I found in Russia that I have never seen before or since was a VHS cassette with two sides. Super bazaar stuff. I wish I had bought it and sent it back to Australia for later inspection, but judging on the amount of postcards I sent from Russia that have actually arrived in Australia, it probably would have never got there.

Afterwards I went hunting for the Couchsurfing BBQ, which had no clear start or finish time and was located somewhere near the Danube island. I spent about 2 hours trying to find the place, with the limited directions I had only leading to a nude sunbathing beach. Seriously though, if you were going to hold an event where the majority of people attending are from out of town, you’d give better directions, have a specific time and maybe even a map with pretty arrows pointing to where the fun is at. Accepting that I had failed to find the BBQ, I headed back to the Naschmarket, bought a super tasty falafel and had a nice chat with a local lass who has a really cute smile. Shit, I hope I didn’t have any parsley stuck in my teeth. I returned to the flat for a party nap before heading out with one of the Canadian dancers I met at the party the other night (which I’ll write about tomorrow). It was raining, so by the time I got to the empty MQ, I was saturated. We went to up to café Leopold, where a funk night was brewing and managed to get in before the cover charge started and scored some fairly sweet seats near the dance floor. A couple of Austrians joined our table and there was plenty of fun international chats had. The Canadian got my reference to Alanis Morissette's ironic understanding of the concept of irony and she told me her drama teacher came up the title for the TV show You Can’t Do That on Television. I was impressed. I got the feeling that she thought I was trying to pick her up, but I’ve always preferred hanging out with girls and talking with native English speakers is a rare commodity in these parts. After dancing until about 1, we ventured to a small bookshop / wine bar around the corner and on the way there, she said that I was straight laced because I didn’t take drugs. I said that she didn’t know me well enough and at the café amused myself by getting her to open up a copy of Terry World to gauge her reactions. Apparently, everyone these days has a sex tape floating around somewhere. Good god, I hope not.

The night did not go without incident though. A weird thing happened when I was talking to group of guys on the dance floor at cafe Leopold. We started doing the obligatory introductions of name and country and one guy rattled off that he was Israeli. For a second or so I didn’t know what to say as all the shit I’ve been hearing in the news flooded into my head, unfairly painting this guy with his government’s actions. I contained everything and just said “ah. Israel”, and moved onto the next person, avoiding any emotional, reactive monologue that may have spewed out without giving him a chance as an individual. What a fucked situation it is though. With one hand of America using UK airports to fly in extra weapons for the Israelis, while the other hand struggles to get food and blankets into Lebanon through less speedier routes. Why can’t people just get along in the world?

Ok, now that I have the comments thing sorted out I need to address a few things.

Jo: Music is such an emotional experience for some people because of its close ties with memory. “This song reminds me of that time”, or “this is our song”. Music affects us much in the ways smell does. Music’s ability to make us get up and move around like we’re having a fit is a powerful thing and shouldn’t be underestimated. There are primal things floating around out there on the dance floor and that stuff cuts deeper than the lawnmower I performed at ickiemickie the other night. And tell Craig he should start acting like the citizen he now is and agree with us that Crowded House is indeed an Australian band. They can keep Russell Crowe though. He’s trouble.

Mum: The song was Only Natural, but for the last couple of days every time I tried to remember what the song was, the lyrics “hey now.. hey now” kept floating into my head and clouding my memory. I didn’t get a job at FM4, but that doesn’t stop me trying to convince them I’m the next big thing in Austrian radio. FM4 is a lot like Triple J, but with a European flavour and ex-pat UK djs making up witty links between track-listed music.

Ellie: The Turkish engineering student I stayed with in Munich had access to a whole bunch of digitised TV. I had to be strong and only take the entire second season of Lost from him. I’ve looked a bit on the net about it, but aside from the zillion or so fan sites all with their own “inside knowledge” and theories, there isn’t much in the way of clues into what’s going to happen. I hope the producers know when to end it and that it doesn’t end up dragging on like The X-Files or Spooks. However, the official Lost website says that the relevance of the numbers will be revealed, so get your slide rules and abacuses out because it is sure to be a big one for trainspotting math nerds.

JCriquet: There really is no secret to getting a photopass. Most events will have a media or press link on their website and the details will be contained within. Get in about a month or so before the event and have a publication that is actually interested in maybe printing one or two photos or a review. Too hard? Make your own website and try your luck with getting one as an online freelancer. I know the Big Day Out can be a bit of a pain in the arse to get one for, but that’s because the Australian Music industry has had he same fatties running things for the last 20 years.

Now that my blogging duties are over for the day, I'm off to see the Schonbrunn palace.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

where's the love?

ah.. so that's what 'comment moderation' does.

Yay. All your grouse messages are working and I feel an overwhelming sense of love.

More random Vienna adventures soon.

Friday, July 28, 2006


This place reminds me a bit of Federation Square in Melbourne, but with more people talking and less watching cricket on a big screen.

Had dinner with some fellow Couchsurfers the other night. A few Americans and a German, all crammed into Stefan's maze-like flat. On the way to the supermarket I slipped down his stairs and bashed my elbow trying to save my arse. Now I have a sore elbow. I've met several Americans while I've been travelling and have found that you can roughly gauge their political leanings by how long they are travelling for. But be careful about mentioning the war with a yank. It's kind of like asking an honors student what their thesis is about. After a while they get sick of talking about it and just end up biting your head off.

Yesterday I set myself the task of going out on a coffee house bender. Over a four hour period, I visited three cafes and consumed 2 coffees at each venue. I caught up on some English newspapers (Never realised how bad The Times really is before), learn about the 12 or so varieties of Viennese coffee and temporarily change my brain chemistry. What was cool is that I ran into one of the photographers I met at the NUKE festival and we had a drink together. But by that stage the excessive amounts of coffee had turned my brain to mush and the conversation fell into a surreal discussion about whether or not the celebration of the mundane through photography could be considered art. By the end of it, the caffeine was making me feel a bit anxious and I ended up going home and reading the first two chapters of Lord of the Flies, one of the few English books in the house I'm staying at. Oh man, the TV series Lost has a lot to answer for. Which reminds me.. When does the new season start? I'm hanging to find out if The Others are actually aliens with four toes and how did Desmond's rich lady friend know where (and how), to look for him.

Today is an action packed megamix of fun. After bumming around the house for a bit I plan to go to the Leopold Museum (A few nice Klimts are kept there), then head to a Couchsurfing BBQ (with no actual BBQ), then to night skating (where the police close off a few roads in the centre of town and let people skate on them), and finishing up the night at club called Ickemicke for some electro dancing. I plan to pull out The Robot at some stage, so wish me luck.

Tomorrow morning is the Naschmarket, with its food stalls and flea market goodness. Greasy breakfast will be consumed, so join us if you're in the neighbourhood.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

the slide

I walked into the super market earlier today to get some lunch and Crowded House was playing. For the first time in a while I knew all the words to a song on the radio, so I started to sing along and by the end of it I was a little teary. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving travelling, but there are moments when I'm reminded just how good home really is.

Earlier, I spent some time in the MUMOK modern art gallery. I walked around with my farting Mandels, I found a few gems hidden amongst the "art", just as I expected. The gift shops are always good to browse. This one had everything from edible candy g-strings to post cards with pictures of vomit on it. Oh the irony. Seriously though, modern art galleries are like an over priced mirror maze. The person in charge of the floor plan is either a failed artist wanting to get back at the world or someone who used to design fun park attractions. And if I read the words "duality", "quasi-representational" or "apathetic dialectics" again, I swear I'm going to shoot a mime.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

papa's got a brand new handy

I’m still looking for a place to rent here in Vienna. My CS host, Petra is on the case, but she’s has gone to the alps for a spot of hiking over the next few days, so I’m unsure how I’m going to contact her circle of friends. If you live in Vienna and have a room you want to fill for the next month, leave a comment or give me a call on my brand-spanking-new handy number 0699 8139 6713 - Oh, and a big thanks goes to Walter in Berndorf for donating one of his old phones to this world traveller.

Last night I went to Flex, a club that I’ve been hearing about since Germany. Reviews like “best sound system in Europe” and “huge party atmosphere” gave me the impression it was a place to find Carl Cox and Darren Emerson having a fight about whether or not a 1210 is the same as a 1200, just with a different paintjob. What I found was a venue situated under an overpass, with a sprawling outdoor area for people to sit and enjoy their drinks next to the Donau Kanal. Inside was a smallish club, with a scant crowd daning to a Austrian Latino DJ. Petra explained that thanks to it being summer time, all the students have left the city and that this crowd only represented about a fifth of what it was like during autumn or spring. It is a pretty cool venue, and there were plenty of people outside enjoying the warm evening. I met a guy from Nigeria who had studied aeronautical engineering in Moscow for the last 8 years, spoke perfect Russian, German, English and Nigerian. Sorry about stealing your table.

Bright and early this morning I made my way to the FM4 studios to have an interview about my travel experiences via Couchsurfing. I initially went to FM4 on Friday to find out about getting some work there, but ended up being the focus of a story for one of the disc spinners there. Oh well. Got to take fame anyway I can. But it got me thinking about my travels and all the people I’ve stayed with over the past few months through Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club and random offers. While I chill out in Vienna, I’m going to reflect a little on my travels and leave some stories about the people I’ve met and stayed with.

First off, I travelled through China, Mongolia and Russia with my girlfriend Pippa until we broke up in Finland. So when the following stories read “us” or “we”, I’m not getting delusions of grandeur and speaking like the Queen.


Who: Andre, Max & the creepy looking mafia guy
Omsk, Russia
How: Random offer

max & the man

In China and Mongolia, accommodation through CS and HC is a bit iffy to find, especially when China's government thinks any social network is a meditation cult wanting to tear down the state and Mongolia having a mostly nomadic population with no couch to surf. In Mongolia, I emailed ahead to Russia to a few CS and HC people along the Tran Siberian Railway, but when it came to leave for Irkurst, I had received no replies. So it was with much excitment that on the 2nd day in Russia we were contacted by our first CS hosts in Ekaterinburg: almost 4,000km away from Irkurst. Now all we had to do is get there in one piece.

Next stop: Omsk.

On the way to Omsk, Pip and I realised the leg of the journey we were on went for two days and not one. The wonderful Natasha, who shared a cabin and her advice on how to remain youthful looking well into your twilight years, suggested we jump out a day early at Novosibirsk. And with the majority of the people asking us 'why Omsk?', getting off 10 hours earlier and seeing a cooler city than the one we had intended to go to sounded like fun. And it turned out that Novosibirsk was pretty cool. We checked out a Russian opera for $3 AUD, played thumbs or bums with a few unsuspecting locals and saw some cool old churches. We stayed the first night in the train station, which had the fluffiest and most comfortable bed we found in Russia. Later that night, when I gave my stinky travel towel a much needed wash in the shower, funny coloured water came out of it. The next night we spent in the stupidly expensive, but dependably squalid 'Hotel Novosibirsk' so we could get our Visas registered. This involved paying 1 Ruble on top of the price of the accommodation, which bought us a small bit of paper stapled to our passports. On the third night we returned to the train station for some more fluffy bed goodness, only to be find we had just missed out on getting the last room. Feeling a little bit lost, I remembered something I read in the Lonely Planet about how grandmas rent out the apartments of their dead relatives to weary travellers, and that these grandmas could be found loitering around train stations with signs hanging from their necks. We went grandma hunting and were approached by a girl of about 18 with one of the grandma signs around her neck. Through a process of pointing and charades, we edged our way around the language barrier an into her shabby soviet era apartment for $50 AU. I still think we got the raw end of tourist price stick, but by that stage, we had run out of options with where to sleep.

The next day we got the train to Omsk, and met Andre who was sharing our section with us, he overheard us speaking English and began chatting to us. His English was a little limited, but we came to an agreement to stay at his place for one night. Andre had to go to Uni during the day, so Max, who had less English language skills, was assigned to give us a guided tour of the city, showing us the “sights” of Omsk. A misunderstanding with how the ticket system operated led to some fairly piss-poor behaviour from the Australians, but we managed to get a ticket out this imagined shit hole. When we returned to the house, a mysterious third flatmate (an older guy who had cold eyes, talked really softly and rarely smiled), showed up in the kitchen while we were eating. When he left the room, it was quietly explained to us that he had been in jail for shooting a bunch of people (cue hand gestures representing bars of a prison and a gun), and was involved in the harder side of enforcing the local mafia’s rule. Before we caught the train, we visited a fun park and Andre bought me a ride on the go carts, and later described my driving style as Schumacher like. We went to an outdoor pub and sampled one of the $3, 2.5 litre beers between the group. We then had to hurry to get our train, so we didn’t have enough time to burn off a cd with the photos from our trip. It was a little hard to comprehend that the uni students we were staying with didn't have email addresses or regular contact with the internet. After some stressing and tantrums about why we shouldn’t pull out a laptop at a Russian train station, we got on the train to Yekaterinburg.

In next week's thrilling installment: meeting the Evgenys

Monday, July 24, 2006

gonna get myself connected....

Just received my photo accreditation for the week long Sziget Festival near Budapest and tomorrow morning I'll be on FM4 talking about my travel adventures through Couchsurfing.

For my next trick, I will fly a 747 Jumbo jet upside down while blindfolded.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

are you listening?

I'm now in Vienna.

I've been a bit sick the last few days with a stomach bug and I went out on the turps last night, so I felt shabby the entire day. It was only a 50km ride, but I'm really tired from it. It should have been nice and easy, but felt long and difficult. I waited until 3pm for a storm to break and/or pass, which it didn't. So rather than waiting longer I left at 3 and sure enough 30 minutes into the ride the big nasty black clouds dropped their goodness on me. This cooled everything down for a while and made for a rather pleasant scoot through the Austrian countryside. But the real challenge was finding where I'm staying in Vienna, which took longer than I thought it would.

Thanks to Clara, Gerlinda, Felix and Paul for letting me cook them food and sleep under their roof. I really enjoyed my time with the family and I think I'll probably see them again while I'm here in Vienna.

By the way, I'm on the hunt for a place here in the city to rent for a month or so. I'm thinking a room in a shared flat (no houses here), or a small bedsit somewhere central. This will not only allow me to rest for a bit, it will give me some personal space and an address to send ebay stuff to. I'm really hanging for some new music, maybe even a collection of Adelaide stuff to give it to the radio types I'm trying ever so hard to be one of. So if you are reading this and think that your music tastes are of a superior nature, put a mix cd together and get ready to post it my way. The address will be published here as soon as I know it.

I'll write more about my adventures tomorrow when I don't feel so drained.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

funny walks

I have made it to Vienna..

Well almost.

I'm staying in a town about 30km to the south west called Berndorf and catching the train into Vienna during the day. How I came to be staying with them is a rather random exercise in good luck. At the NUKE Festival I had conversations with about 30 people. One of them was with Clara, who I spoke to while picking up one of the many free Nokia pizzas eaten that weekend. We talked about travel, my adventures thus far and her plans to venture overseas eventually. I gave her my photo page and email address, and a couple of days later I had an invite to stay in Berndorf. It's a cool little country town, with slow trains and early closing shops. The neighbouring villages have started encroaching on each other and now Berndorf is made up of about 4 little villages rolled into one. Last night we walked up to the top of the main hill to the "Googlesplithe" (or something like it), which had a fab view of Berndorf and surrounding area.

The ride to Berndorf was fairly nasty. Hot sun. Big hills. Tired legs. I took the wrong road from St Polten and ended up going over the hills, rather than around them, adding another 2 hours to the journey. I did meet some guys who race old Alfa Romeos in the local rally circuit here. They bought me a Most after they found out I had an Alfa a while ago. It was a hard 5 hours of riding, and wen I got off the bike, my walking style had changed a little.

Vienna is pretty nice. Very touristy in some bits, with the old scam of 'which box is the ball of paper under?' popping up sporadically on back street corners. I'm looking to rent a room/flat for about a month while I'm in Vienna. It's summer time, so all the students have left their flats to go take funny coloured pills in Hungary. Which reminds me, I'm probably going to Budapest in a couple of weeks. There's a massive week long music festival on called Sziget and I think the plan is to camp there with some newly acquired Austrian friends and take some photos. I'll keep you posted on it, but considering the line-up and the cost, it's worth a week in a tent on an island near the Hungary/Czech boarder. Then after that I have one day to get to Salzburg for the Frequency Festival for more photo fun.

Ah Europe.. I love you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the hills are alive with the sound of mung bean

I'm on the road again to ride the 60km from St Polten to Berndorf, which is about 20km outside of Vienna. I will get there eventually.

The funny part is that I haven't met anyone with the last name von Trapp yet. And my badly scribbled list of the von Trapp children names has no ticks on it. So if you are Austrian and your name is either Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta or Gretl, please leave your details in the comments and I'll get back to you ASAP.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Getting into music festivals - Gratis

For me, shelling out over 130 Euro for the three-day NUKE festival seemed a bit steep. The line up wasn’t amazing and the weather was not the best. Saying that, dancing in the rain while The Street played was one of my highlights. Thanks to the girls for donating their spare ticket for the first day and my fellow photographers who sorted out a left over photo pass for me. Aside from the odd mp3 here and there, I don’t condone ripping off musicians or festival operators, and if everyone got in for free, there would be no show. But if you can arrange a legitimate reason for getting in without paying, then all power to you.

I now present to you several ways to get into a music festival for free.

Volunteering for an tree-hugging organisation
This option can see you sitting bored out of your brain for the entire day or almost getting into a punch up with a dreadlocked “pacifist” about the pros and cons of anarchism. An old friend used to go to music festivals through her work at the Wilderness Society. To score her free ticket, she would have to sit in the tent and hand out flyers to anyone that asked for one. Then she would have to walk through the crowd for an hour and hand out free “save the rainforest” postcards, most of which would end up thrown away unread. One year, she got sick from eating too many of the complementary carob balls and had to leave early.

Volunteering for the first aid team
This has its own dangers. I remember talking to someone about free entry a few days before the Big Day Out in Adelaide after I had just bought my $90 ticket. She mentioned on several occasions that I was a chump for paying and that she had got in for free because she volunteered for St Johns Ambulance. Her only obligation was during the daytime, leaving her free to catch the headline acts in the evening. Being 20 with a shitty paying job, I was rather envious of her supposedly superior arrangement, and went to the event in a bit of huff. After about 40 minutes of wandering around the venue, I saw her standing behind one of the crowd barriers and she flashed me a rather smug look. Pft! I wished a pox on her and left to catch one of the local acts. It was one of those super hot days that are so often associated with the BDO. Blistering sunburn, water tents making hair dye run and unplanned reactions to funny coloured pills smuggled into the venue in someone’s jocks. I didn’t see my St John friend for the rest of the event and enjoyed the acts that I had paid for. A few days later, I ran into her in town and asked what her Big Day Out experience was like. Her eyes glazed over and she lost some of the colour in her face. It ended up that there was a particularly nasty batch of pills around 120 people had fallen victim to. Combined with the dancing, the 38-degree day and the lack of water, kids had been dropping left right and centre from about 3pm onwards. She was asked to stay on during the evening to help the already strained medical team, missed out on the main acts and was thrown up on three times.

Sneaking in
Technically illegal, this option is not for the faint hearted and is more of a sport between friends than a way to avoid paying for a ticket. Jumping fences and running from security, finding the weak alternative entry points of a venue (The large drain under the agriculture pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the hole in the fence near the trees at the back of Flemington Showgrounds), are all exciting illicit attractions. These misadventures always provide entertainment, with the slower, less agile friends getting caught and taking the fall for the team. However, I have seen some rather unpleasant looking gashes acquired when scaling tiger wire fences at music venues, so if you are going to take this option. My only foray into was when I was 17. I managed to get into the BDO via the drain at the RAS with no problems, but a couple of the tail-enders got nabbed as they entered. I think it was Peter running around like an idiot after the first few of us got in, shouting “fuck you, I got in for free” at a couple of the security staff just near our not so secret entrance.

Faking it
Most of these methods involve lying, and therefore will end with some shirtless, Doc Martin-wearing guy kicking you in the face and giving you hepatitis as he crowd surfs onto you. Turning up and claiming someone else’s tickets is a no no, but usually the right person knows more about the tickets than you do and can repair the damage you have created. There are ways to get in without saying a word, especially into smaller gigs. But this method is rather ballsy and does require props. The guitar case and confident quick walk through the front door works well.

Being one of the acts
This does involve a bit more forward planning and possibly some talent, but the benefits of being let into the artist and VIP areas far outweigh any public embarrassment. Last year, Luke and I cooked up a plan to perform a Puppet Street Theatre version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at the Big Day Out. A few months before the festival, we found the contact details for the people who run the Lily Pad, the auxiliary stage and chill out area found at the BDO, where the line between irony and drunken 40-something men drooling over the youngins is often blurred. Luke and I had sent in all the right forms and got the go ahead from the organisers. But as our big day got closer, we still hadn’t found out how to get tickets and hadn’t got any replies to our emails. I was in Melbourne for the BDO there and ran into one of the non-drunk guys who manage the Lily Pad. I told him the situation and he said to call him the night before the event to collect the tickets and gave me his number. A few days later I was back in Adelaide, 6am on the morning before the performance, watching the movie for the 4th time, hoping to the end without falling asleep. We acquired some other performers to help out our act, paying them with the extra tickets we had been given. We got to the main entrance, and were told to go to entrance around the corner. When we got to that entrance, we were told to go even further (crossing over the free entry drain, now heavily guarded) and ended up doing nearly one full lap of the RAS to get to the artist entry. We were back stage, drinking the free booze and busily putting the finishing touches on the sock puppets we had neglected to make in the days previous. Our performance was between an act who lifted heavy things with his genitals and a bunch of gender bending semi-naked female cowboys. The act itself only went for 8 minutes, and rather than asking us to leave, the stage manager just turned our mikes off and packed up the mic stands.

Not going in, but listening from outside
This is such a shit option, but as my folks were of the hippie persuasion, this was a regular occurrence during my youth. Once at a Mick Jagger concert at Thebarton oval, I picked up a whole bunch of passout tickets from around the exit and got my entire family in for free. If you actually want to see an event, then there’s a sweet spot on the hill next to Colonel Light where you can see right onto the pitch of Adelaide Oval. It works well for cricket matches, allowing for a BBQ to be set up and a radio to be listened to. Get in early though, as it isn’t that secret and you might have to fight for a place.

Photo passes
Like being an act at the event, this does require a bit of forward planning. This option works the best for me as I’m a bit of a tight arse, but I love music and taking photos. I can see the show, take some photos and have a legit method of getting in for free. Back in Australia, I would have a few months warning about up coming festivals, allowing for the careful process that is involved in acquiring a photo pass. But, with the music industry in Australia being the monopoly of egos it is, with the same people involved year after year, you need to know who to ask, how to ask them and have kissed their arse just enough to get one. And if this
grovelling protocol is not observed, no photo pass or free entry for you.

After attending the NUKE Festival here in Austria thanks to the goodwill of others, I would like to thank everyone that has helped out this little Aussie battler over the last few days. Everyone from the train conductor who carried my bike trailer to the free pizza from the Nokia tent, you have all helped me out in your own way.

I leave it to you the reader to add your own stories of how you got in for free.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


I'm so totally applying for the job at VICE magazine now.

This is perhaps my most favourite photo I've taken at a music festival yet.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I did something yesterday that makes me feel like I've cheated. Maybe because I broke a promise I should have kept or went against the plan I had mapped out. Not that I was particularly obligated to not do this or had signed some sort of guarantee saying that I wouldn’t do this, but it does feel as if I cheated. I rushed into something that was quick, easy and unsatisfying. I didn’t even have a chance to break a sweat before I got to my destination.

Of course, I'm talking about catching a train rather than riding my bike, so get your mind out of the gutter.

Here’s the story: I contacted a whole bunch of people between Linz and Vienna in the hope I could get a place to stay. I’ve been organising my accommodation about 2 weeks in advance so far, just so my hosts have time to consider my And for a week, all I got back was “sorry. I’m in New York” or “it’s not a good time” or just plain old nothing. Then on Wednesday I received half an invite from Dominik to stay in Saint Polten, which is about 140km from Linz. Why it was half an invite was I could only come on the condition that I join Dominik in a tent for the weekend at the Nuke music festival. At the same time I received his email, I got an invite to go to Amsetten, about 80km from Linz, but only from Saturday. This meant 2 more days in Linz. I had already been to the Arts Electronica museum (highly recommended), but I hadn’t tried Hitler’s favourite cake yet, so I was torn.

I didn’t have much time to make my choice, so I went with the more adventurous path. I quickly packed my stuff, said my hurried goodbyes and left Martyna and Fernando’s place, in the hope I would make the 1:31pm train to St Polten. However, on the way to the train station, the joint between my bike and the trailer broke, and ate up any remaining time I had left. I arrived at the station just as my desired train was leaving and felt a little bummed. All worked out ok, because the next train to leave for St Polten, was a slightly slower but drastically cheaper alternative local train. It did involved two rather clumsy transfers at stations, getting the “Schnell, Schnell” treatment from the conductors whilst trying to find the right carriage for the bike and vending machines that only accept 50 Euro cent coins, but I got there in the end.

Once I arrived in St Polten, I was greeted at the station by Dominik, who whisked me out of the station and back to his flat to dump my stuff. He had a photo pass hanging from his neck for the Nuke festival and I asked him what he was shooting with, assuming he had a wizbang Digital SLR I would get tech lust for. He pulled a little 2 megapixel point and shoot out of his pocket and I immediately offered him my much loved D60 for the job. For some reason I said; “Don’t send a man into battle with a spoon”, the meaning of which being lost by even the best English speaker. I gave him a crash course in how to operate the camera, giving him the 50mm prime for the best low light results. He explained where his tent was and took off to catch the Frames, who were playing quite early. I took a shower in his sanitation box, finding the little jets on the walls to be more like needles than a soothing water massage.

I ventured to the festival site, hoping to get in without having to spring for a 40Euro ticket. I had a ticket stub from one of Dominik’s friends, but when I presented it at the gates the security guys pointed out that it was missing the vital piece that would get me in. I was fine with having to return to the flat to figure out how to operate the TV, but a group of girls behind me in the line piped up and said that they may have a magical leftover free ticket. All I had to pay was 3 Euro for the privilege - which was a compulsory donation to the local kids hospital – and I was in. I followed the signs to the campsite and at the same moment I realised I had left Dominik’s map with directions back at the flat, I bumped into him with one of his friends. I explained my good fortune with the ticket. I asked him how the camera was working out, and he started waxing lyrical about its super powers and how he has now made up his mind to finally buy one.

We got to Dominik’s camp site, which was odd in itself, as he only lived 3km from the festival. He said that he preferred camping at the festival site and hanging out with his friends over returning to his flat each night, as this was part of the whole experience. Fair enough. I was handed a beer and told to sit down and drink. A friend of Dominik’s arrived and presented me with a bottle of Fosters, in an attempt to console any homesickness I might have. “I heard a kangaroo was coming to stay”. I pointed out that while I was grateful for his effort, no one in Australia actually drinks Fosters, that the label says “Australia’s Famous Beer” and not “Favourite Beer” and that even though it says “Imported” on the bottle, it had only come from France. I thanked him all the same and put the Fosters to one side, enjoying a can of a cheap and tasty local brew.

I ventured into the venue and caught a bit of Adam Green, who seems to be one of those “acts of the moment” here in Austria. His ironic crooning sounded a bit too much like a group of IMOL gents at a karaoke night, so I ventured outside to grab another beer from the boot of one of Dominik’s friend’s car. Here I explained what a mullet haircut is and the concept of a bogan. I did learn the Austrian equivalent, but the beer has robbed me of those memories. Heading back towards the venue to catch the Strokes, Dominik offered me his photo pass saying that I knew my way around the camera better than he did and was more likely to get some better shots. Anyway, he had been looking forward to the show for a while and said that he preferred to be in the mosh pit for the first three songs rather than worrying about aperture and iso speeds. What a nice guy. The photos weren’t really that good, but I had fun taking them.

The Strokes seemed a little bored with it all, but it was all good. Their songs are catchy and easy to sing along to. Plus, this is St Polten’s first music festival ever, so the kids were lapping it up anyway they could. I had fun jumping around like an idiot and singing along to the bits of the songs I knew. Afterwards we went back to the campsite and sat around chatting about random stuff until about 2am. I found that being an Australian here in Austria is quite a novelty and I got to have a few laughs with some people who have visited oz and had Vegemite thrust upon them on arrival. When I asked why Austrian want to go to Australia, all the answers included some sort of reference to surfing and beaches.

I feel a bit bad that I left Linz so quickly, as Martyna and Fernando were top people and we had just got to that comfortable conversation and beer drinking stage of our Hospitality Club relationship. I have a feeling though that we will see each other again as they are looking to do their own world trip in the next couple of years. If you’re reading this guys, thanks for the accommodation and the smiles.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

an open letter

Dear Birkenstock

How are you today? Me? Well I'm peachy. I've just spent the last few weeks touring through your beautiful home country of Germany. Deutschland! What a marvelous place to visit. The summer time weather was so glorious and warming it reminded me of my home country Australia, just without the nasty sunburn. Although the frequent storms were something different. We don't get those so often down in Adelaide, but it is really sunny there. The weird part is I've seen more houses equipped with solar panels in Germany than I have in my own sun burnt country. Just another example of how far ahead you Germans are thinking. Does it get cold during your winters? It must because on TV I've seen some nasty accidents on your infamous Autobahns when things get a bit icy. Now those Autobahns are a curious oddity of German culture. I get in trouble with the man for opening a bottle of water in a Walmart and you still allow people in their massive German built speed machines to go as fast as they want. Weird. The locals told me it was the last unregulated part of German society and was considered sacred. Well, considering the people who could afford such powerful cars probably have enough influence on your government to keep things freed up.

But the country seems to have changed, or at least the people have. I guess "Germany" is a relatively new thing, with the whole wall coming down and reunification bizzo that went on a few years back. While you still can't mention the war, or be an American, the recent well educated and open minded German youth are leaps and bound away from their parents when it comes to attitude. Everyone seems to be happy, smiling and peace loving. That Rudolf Steiner chap (An Austrian, but we all know that's really part of Germany), has produced some wonderful flower children who are slowly seeping into the world, spreading that Steiner love. One issue kept on creeping up: The economy. Every German I spoke to had a grim outlook on how the country was doing financially, but blamed different things (The Turks, the students, the lack of students, the old people, Asian car manufactures, the EU). What's your take on this one? Seeing that you've been wrapping your leathery contoured insole around the German foot for around 120 years, you might have an idea on what goes into the Germanic sole (no pun intended).

You have so many churches in your country. I never really imagined Germany as being the religious type. And your roads have a sign every 500m telling drivers how far it i to the next major town. This is great for me, as I'm a cyclist. Oh.. Did I mention that I built a bike in Munich and have ridden it across the border into Austria? Yeah, that whole travelling by planes, trains and automobiles wore off pretty quickly. Besides, I wanted to actually see your country, rather than it being a flutter of colour out of a dirty window in one of your expensive trains. Do you use the English "colour" or the American "color"? It's one of those things you can pick who a country likes more when English is the second language. In China it was all over the place. It seemed they didn't care who's it was. As long as they could copy it and ship it out at fraction of the cost, they were happy.

Talking about happy, I haven't been too happy of late. I had an uncomfortable experience. And no, not it wasn't in the back of Volkswagen. Mind you, I only saw two classic bugs during my three weeks in Germany, and all the new ones are so roomy and spacious. That entire "back of a Volkswagen" joke doesn't work in the country of origin. Getting back to me and happiness, it seems to fluctuate more than it used to. Up and down - In and out. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe depression is contagious? The last few days I've had this uncomfortable fear of being homeless for the rest of my life. You know, falling through the cracks in society and living under a bridge and all that. Thankfully today was an up day. Why? I don't know, but I did remember what a Japanese friend of mine told me when we were talking about homeless people in Japan. You see, Japan is very safe, and there is a blind eye approach to homelessness there. So people without a place to call home simply build makeshift tents in public places (usually parks) from discarded tarpaulins and other things they find on the street. And it's not the stereotypical dirty, disorganised shambles that is so often the sum total of a western homeless person's makeshift shack. Being homeless Japanese style entails order and precise placement of your meager personal belongings around your refrigerator box and collection of neatly folded shabby blankets. Plus there is a mild respect given to homeless people by Japanese society. Teenagers don't burn their tents down and the police leave them alone. Even the word occasionally used to describe homeless people, "Kojeki" roughly translates as "to be free from the system". So even if I feel like I am homeless at the moment, I am free.

This is the best thing about the shoes you make. Your feet feel free. I'm told that in Austria, it is encouraged by companies that Birkenstocks are worn by office workers in the workplace. Of course this wouldn't cut it in a factory, unless you could come up with a steel-cap version. I guess if Dunlop can put out a steel cap version of the KT26 sneaker, you could produce an ultra comfortable yet safe work footwear. My recent purchase of your sandals (or Mandals as I have affectionately dubbed them), have been great. They are surprisingly warm and are really comfortable. The only thing I can fault them with is the phenomenon of the "Birkenfart". No, that isn't a typo, this is something serious that should be addressed. They got a little wet during a rainstorm about 4 days ago and ever since then, after a few hours of wearing them, they make a small raspberry sound as I walk. This isn't so bad in normal day to day walking around, as most background noise covers up the small indiscretions coming from my feet. But in the silence of the Modern Art museum here in Linz (which doesn't have the Magritte or Warhol works that were promised in the Lonely Planet), the farting noises coming from my feet sounded rather pronounced and life like. This attracted a few disgusted looks from the ultra trendy gallery attendants and made the inevitable disappointment that is so often associated with modern art that much more unpleasant. I've tried drying them out in the sun, but no good came from it. If you know of a way to stop this from happening (other than using folded up toilet paper between my feet and the shoes), I would love to know.

I hope this letter finds you well and that you enjoy your job as a shoe manufacture. I'm glad that your shoes are appreciated for the comfortable footwear they are in their homeland rather than the wanky fashion statement that seems to be connected to them in Australia.

Yours sincerely

dan murphy

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Today I made special effort to go and see some of the touristy things to see in Linz. After missing out on the world's biggest pipe organ in Passau, I was determined to see the sites in this new town. Places like the Modern Art museum and the technology museum attracted my interest, but in Austria, those kind of places are closed on Tuesdays. Not to let this mishap spoil my day, I initiated Plan B: make a thing that allows me to attach a camera to my bike and pretty much anything else. The actual making part was dead easy, but getting the bits I needed was the adventure.

I dare any of you with limited German language skills to go into a Austrian hardware store (which you have to find in the first place), and try and explain what a clamp is. My drawing and explanation ("you know, the thing you errr.. clamp stuff with", making crab like gestures with my hands), only convinced the attendant I was partially mad. Eventually I told the guy not to worry and trawled the ailes until I found them myself. Next I needed a bolt which the camera screws onto. It seems that the photography community has conspired with the hardware industry to keep the monopoly on the type of bolt thread which fits camera tripod mounts. After about 3 places and realising that all Austrian radio advertising unfortunately sounds like a Hitler speech mixed with a Schwarzenegger movie, I tried a fixtures shop and the guy had a the right sized nut, but no bolt. "Sorry, that's an Italian thread.. You wont find them here in Austria". Not to be deterred, I went to a photography store (the self proclaimed "most professional in town"), and they wanted something close to the GDP of Nigeria for a bolt. So I returned to what I know and went to a bike shop. Within 2 minutes I was out back in the service workshop chatting to the guys about bikes. They gave me the right bolt for nothing and there were smiles all round. The dover-lackie works a treat and I've posted some of the results on Flickr.

I keep being reminded that I am effectively homeless. What I have with me is pretty much all I own and I have no place to really call home. My mail collects at a few different addresses in Australia, I have no job, partner or children to feel responsible for and the closest thing I have to a permanent place of residence is my sister's place in Melbourne and a room in a share house that is now someone else's. In Passau, I saw a shabbily dressed guy silently working away at one of the old bikes by the house I was staying at. It had been there for a while and wasn't in very good condition, but he was still determined to have it. And over the course of about an hour, he fashioned a makeshift key from a small piece of metal and picked the rusted old lock. I hope I didn't look like that to people in Munich while I was foraging for bits for Frankenbike. Today I rode under a bridge and past a little house made of blankets and sticks with a person possessions hanging from the ends. A fear came over me that maybe this was my future. Over the next few hours I got lonely and depressed, missing the easy one liners and knowing looks I can share with close friends. Sure I'm making friends on the road, but it all feels rather rushed and nothing can be worked on or developed. I must find some direction or goal to travel towards or something that is a constant that isn't myself. This wandering is fun, but not in my current head space. Maybe I need a travel buddy for a month or two. I'm heading through Czech, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia and then heading to Turkey (maybe not to Turkey by bike), when it gets a bit cooler.

Applications can be left in the comments section.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pfaffing about

I've made it to Linz in Austria. It was a short ride compared to the last one. Only about 90km. I'm sure Ianto would scoff at such a measly effort, but in the heat of the German summer, the lack of a yellow guernsey and the unforgiving traffic, I'm sure the rest of you would understand. The German/Austrian additions of bike paths besides their main roads is an excellent idea. Too bad they change sides of the road every 2 km or so and sometimes, completely disappear altogether.

I managed to say goodbye to most of the girls before I left. Those i missed out on: Bye.. If you're ever in Australia and need a place to stay, let me know and I'll see what I can manage.

I feel a bit useless doing this travel thing now. Not that I'm about to stop, but I see all these super intelligent people studying really hard and I feel like my degree was a bit of a waste of time. I want to something a bit more practical, like mechanical engineering or carpentry. Something I can use my hands with. But I think the biggest problem with my degree other than the degree itself, was that I procrastinate I'm lazy, over opinionated and have a healthy fear of failure.

Talking about fears, I think I have found one of my irrational fears. Water. I went swimming yesterday with Simone and a small posse from the house, we only had one car (A Ford 'Ka', like Aliese's), so only 5 people could go in squishy comfort. We climbed a hill to access an old quarry that had filled up with water over time. It was beautiful in its own way and I kicked myself for not bringing my camera. The water was beautiful and warm, but I found that soon after my feet weren't able to touch the bottom, a slight panic came over me. At first I didn't realise what it was and thought I was just fatigued, swimming back to the shore so I could walk around and meet the others on the opposite bank. While I walked around, I thought back to the other times I've been swimming and realised that every time I'm faced with water too deep to see or touch the bottom, I start freaking out. This was a little embarrassing to admit to the others, but they were cool about it and swam with me on the return trip to our beach. I still got a bit freaked out by it, but because I knew what was happening and could see the others close by, I made it. I guess this stems from two incidents; the first being with my sister at Semaphore beach, where I remember us both getting caught in a rip (help me out Jo, my memory is fuzzy), and some guys in a dingy pulled us out of the water. And the second was when I was about 9 at the Parks Community Centre. I dived from the 5 metre tower into the outside pool, wearing goggles and snorkel, ready for some Jacque Custo adventures, completely forgetting that I couldn't swim. After thrashing about and swallowing a whole bunch of chlorinated water, some life guard type person pulled me out and made sure I was ok. I've also had troubles with my ears, which makes me paranoid about swimming. And I thought I was invincible.

On the way today I stopped at a bike shop just outside of Passau. The guy who worked there was super friendly and had exactly what I needed (new tyres for the trailer, which are impossible to get without ordering them). While he was fixing a spoke on one of my wheels, he said that he liked riding bikes because it was a good balance between body and tech. The tech of the bike appeals to the gadget side, the effort required to get something out of riding appeals to the body side. A really simple philosophy which I can easily relate too.

Some cool stuff I saw on the way to Linz but didn't take photos of:

* A big statue of a man made of roof tiles and ornaments. Looked cool but would have probably given me nightmares when I was a kid.
* A train that looked like a truck, which I misjudged the distance of and nearly walked in front of.
* Several people all working a farm semi-nude. It looked straight from a WOLFing website gallery.
* Back streets and little breweries in people's sheds.
* My trailer flipping over for the first time, almost spilling its contents in front of oncoming traffic.
* The dead boarder crossing, no longer needed thanks to the European Union.
* The last 10kms to Linz, which turned into a by the river sprint. Lovely stuff.

I'm staying with Martyna (Poland) and Fernando (Portugal), who both met in France six years ago and are now married. Martyna is doing her PhD at the Institut for Semiconductor and Solid State Physics, and Fernando works as a web programmer from home. They are just another example of the fine people you meet through Hospitality Club. When I said "danke" to Fernando for letting me stay, he said there was no need to struggle with speaking German as he doesn't speak a word.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Passau is such a cool little town. Not much to do, but plenty to see. Everyone is really chilled and the weather has been fairly peachy with some great storms to break the heat up. The place I'm staying has a great vibe, with several floors filled with fun people and a nice little yard out the back to sit and read in. The river Inn is about 10 metres away from the back fence and there is a little bar/cafe next door where one of the girls in the house grudgingly works at. Most of the girls here all study cultural economics or something like that. There's no consistent English translation of the subject, but it involves economics and how cultures interact with it. They all find it boring, but because they are all dong it, it seems to dominate the topic of conversation.

Okk.. so here's a role call of who lives where:

Nora - my contact through hospitality club. I'm not sure if she has given up her bed for me, but she doesn't seem to have a room. Defiantly the blokiest of the girls, with a rough and ready attitude towards life. A great laugh and seems to have the ability to find the fun in any situation.

Elli - Good laugh and great smile. She has a cool personality with a dry sense of humour that reminds me a lot of Karenski back in A-Town.

Marscha - Has been the one who always shifts the conversation from German to English so I can understand. The time she spent in Canada has given her a rather strong Canadian accent. A good person to talk to and very attractive.

Vera - The reserved and clean girl. Has some really nice things and has a slightly arty side. Likes pretty things and keeping things clean. This house would probably fall apart with untidiness without her.

Katha - Really relaxed and easy going. She has been up for little adventures to entertain the Australian even when she has had to study.

What have I been doing the last few days.

A few nights ago some of the girls and I went to a German Poetry Slam. We got to the outdoor venue, only to be greeted by a nasty storm, so we all moved around the corner to a crowded bar. This was always going to be a misadventure, as none of it was in English. But with the help of gesticulating performers and audience responses, I got the gist. The girls convinced me to get up and read some Australian poetry, so in the break we rushed around the corner to a friend's (Tim) place and printed out a few things from the net. I picked out some stuff by Geoff Goodfellow, partly because his work talks about where i grew up in Adelaide and partly because he had a crack at my mum after my folks split. While we waited for the big moment, I played with a few of the glowsticks the organisers had handed out at the door. While trying to make a few of them into a glowing pair of spectacles, one split and squirted Nora right in the eye. Painful, yet somewhat ironic stuff. We spent the next 40 minutes outside the club washing out her eye with water while we stood in the pouring rain. I missed my big moment but I was more concerned with saving Nora's eye then massaging my ego in front of strangers. All ended well and Nora got a fresh set clothes at her friend Tim's later that night. He even fed us. I did win a wind chime for not understanding anything that was said, which is now hanging from some of he stairs outside the apartment.

My phone smashed. It had been playing up the entire trip and in a burst of frustration I smacked it against a window sill, cracking the screen and rendering it completely useless. I don't usually get angry at tech like that, but I had just reached the limit of the joystick not working properly and deleting an sms accidentally for the umpteenth time. I now need to find a replacement for the following things: an mp3 player, a watch, a compact camera, a bluetooth toy and an alarm clock. Oh yeah, and a phone might be handy as well.

I managed to make it out to a little farm just over the border which sells homemade cider and honey collected from their own hives. Exquisite tasting stuff. The cider had a slight wooden taste and the honey had such a subtle flavor that didn't give that slight sugary burn that most honey does.

A group of us went Karaoke hunting on Friday, and found the place that does it, only to be disappointed that the singing only takes place on Wednesdays. It was pissing down with rain, so we headed for another club close by. The Dj was playing premixed mash ups downloaded from the Internet, but pretended to be mixing it live. I pointed this out to some of the girls and gave them a quick tutorial in the limited djing skills I know.

I went to the local flea market and picked up an old compass which works really well. Not that I know where north is, but it seems to point towards what it says is North even while being spun around. Kartha bought me a stein, that has the logo for the Bavarian wing of the Socialist Party of Deutschland printed on it. It's from 1976, and while the SPD wasn't popular in the rest of Germany, it was hated here in Bavaria, with some of its members being locked up or mysteriously disappearing during the Cold War.

Last night I cooked up a big Mexican feast for the house as thanks for letting me stay for the last week. It was really tasty stuff and we sat in the back yard and enjoyed the food and wine. I bought some Australian wine, but that got the thumbs down from some of the girls, so we drank some stuff from South America instead, which wasn't too bad.

I was going to leave for Austria on Friday, but Nora insisted that I stay at least until Sunday night for the grand final of the World Cup. Her sister (who has an uncanny resemblance to Sarah Masters), has just arrived, so the fun should keep going for a few more days. And after finding about Wednesday night Karaoke, Nora wants me to stay for longer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Italy vs Germany

Today I rode around the postcard perfect Passau. I realised that if I'm going to make a go at riding around Europe thing, I am going to have to get some front suspension for my bike. These cobble stones are really starting to jolt my entire body and cause head aches and the like. But you know.. I'm cycling Europe, so I should just suck it up. Nora informs me that I'm not the first person she has met that built a bike from scrap and rode it around Europe. She met some French guys who did it right here in Passau because they knew where to look. Tomorrow, Nora takes me there and shows me this student bike graveyard. Maybe I will get my new forks there.

I bought some Birkenstocks. I figure whilst I'm in Germany still and they are cheap (28 Euro), I should buy a pair. This is my first foray into the world of the 'mandal' (a man's sandal), but I think after riding about 80km yesterday in $4 thongs from Target, I think i deserve it. I popped over the border into Austria. It was a simple ride across a bridge about 200 metres from where I'm staying. The excitement of crossing into another country was dampened somewhat by the Neo-political landscape of the modern day Europe. No passport required. No fancy stamp given. No soldiers with Kalashnikovs. But it was a cool ride by the river Inn and I got to see where the river meets the Danube (it isn't blue). The university campus is set on the river and is surrounded by gorgeous forests.

I went back to the house but no one was there, so to kill time, I went into a cafe to get a coffee and this guy at the counter starts talking to me in German. I reply with the 'I don't speak German' whilst pointing to my kangaroo. He replies 'you are an Englishman?' I say no and then point to the Australian flag that I was given when I bought my shoes. 'So you are an Englishman'. I say no. I'm from Australia' and he starts talking to me in German, thinking that I said Austria. I correct him and he starts making aloof comments about visitors to his town i a rather camp voice much like Herr Wolf Lipp of League of Gentleman fame. Then he looks me up and down. Not in an aggressive masculine way, but more in a "I'm checking you out" way. He says 'why don't you join me in a drink?' cheersing the air in my direction and putting down the rest of his beer. I decline his offer and turn to wait for my coffee. He then turns away from and starts talking to himself (but loud enough so everyone hears). 'I am an English man, I stand still, I stand stiff'. He emphasised the last word with a long 'ffff' sound and a leer in my direction. I collect my coffee and leave. Are men like this to women? If so, I apologise.

So this Italy vs German game that is played tonight has got the locals all worked up. The whole town had this anticipation floating through the air, and riding past an Italian restaurant where the waiters were decked out in their nations colours you could feel their angst too. And it got me thinking about the relationship between Germany and Italy and how this might make choosing who to support tonight difficult.

Here's some examples:
Michael Schumacher (German) drives for Ferrari (Italy)
The Pope (German) lives and works in Rome (Italy)*
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German poet) loved travelling to Italy
Kamps bakery (German) recently bought Roncardin (an Italian noodle company)

I'm sure there are more examples (and if you think of one, pop it in the comments), but where do people's alligences lie?

view from the kitchen

After 125km and various adventures, I'm here in Passau. I'm staying in an enormous 7 room space, which takes up 1 entire floor of this 400 year old building. My hosts are 5 girls who all study in Passau, and there is no way without name tags I'm going to remember their name. Hair colour won't work, because four of them are blond, so we've decided to differenciate between them by where they are from in Germany. Not only will this help me remember who is who, it'll give me a much needed geography lesson.

But it's not the destination that always makes travel interesting, it's the journey.

So just quickly, here's what happened:

I left Landshut was too late. I wanted to leave at 10 or 11, but an extended breakfast and mp3 swapping drew this out to 1:30. Leaving town was difficult, as I took the wrong road out and found myself South of the city, head back towards Munich. I followed my compass back to where I was supposed to be going, cutting through back roads and beautiful forest to get there. I must remember when going through the trees that it's totally ok to have all these European trees growing there, because here they aren't introduced species.

It started to become clear that if I was going to make it to Passau by the time I had told Nora, I would have to get a lift from someone. So I decided to make a sign. I called into a little shop to get someone to help me to make a sign in German to attract the attention of passing drivers. But through a mis-communication with the shop keep, he thought I wanted directions, went to his car, got his street directory and gave it me saying "Gratis. Gratis". So I now have a fairly extensive road map of Germany, with other bits of Europe thrown in. I ended up following the map to the next town and asking a bike shop owner (who looked uncannily like Adam Spencer), to help with the sign. He did so, and after finishing it said that I should have just written it in English as to appear more international. I agreed and then took the German flag I had connected to the trailer off and drew a rather crude version of Australia, in the hope that someone would get the idea and help.

This failed to work, and the shadows started to get longer. So I rode quicker, covering the last 50km in around an hour and a half in actual riding time. But it took longer than this to get there.

As I was riding, I almost ran over a baby mole who had wandered on the road and looked as if he was about to get squished. I turned my bike around and dropped it so I could rescue the little guy. Very cute. I put him in the grass off of the road and picked up my bike to continue riding. The problem was that when I dropped my bike, the right side handlebar had landed on a big juicy slug, squirting it's innards all over the hand grip. So much for saving animals. I wiped it off and went to ride away, only to find that my chain had become jammed in the peddles. I freed it with my pliers and continued riding with sluggy, greasy hands.

I stopped to for something to eat at Vilshofen, and ate my food on the banks of the Danube. It isn't blue, but it is big and has a mean looking current, the type you see after heavy rains. I tried to find a phone to call ahead and let Nora know where I was and how long I would be, but I couldn't see one anywhere. I put my lights on and I rode on into the night. Riding alongside the Danube was great. There was plenty to see. And the fireflies were amazing. Like seeing little galaxies floating by the side of the road, lighting up in a Mexican wave once I had passed them. But fireflies are still bugs, and bugs while you're riding your bike get up your nose, down your throat and into your eyes. The problem with fireflies getting into your eyes is that when they freak out, their natural response is to light up. Now from a few metres away, the light is tiny and cute. But when one of them turns it on in your eye, it's like catching a glimpse of the sun, temporally blinding you. This happened to me around 4kms from Passau and I soon found myself in a ditch beside the road. I wasn't hurt and Frankenbike is fairly sturdy, but i did rip a hole in the cover of the trailer. It was only when I got into Passau that i discovered the centre bit of my compass had popped out into the mud somewhere 4km back. This made me sad, becasue maybe now I won't be able to find my way back to the person who gave it to me.

But when I finally got to the place I'm staying, the girls were hanging out of their second storey window, waving flags and shouting greetings at me as I approached. Such a welcoming bunch. And tonight we go to the bar next door and watch the Germany vs Italy match. Exciting stuff.

Monday, July 03, 2006

On the road again

Ok.. I'm off to Passau. I just had a look at a map of Austria and I think I might go to Vienna.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Landshut, Germany


This blog entry is the reassurance loved ones need to show that I survived the 80km from Munich of wet motorways and speeding BMWs and made it to Landshut. I got to a place called Erding and just as I was about to head down the road out of town I noticed my front tyre was going flat. So I turned around and started riding back to a garage about 1km in the other direction and it started to piss down with big raindrop rain. Thunder and lightning. A storm, good and proper. There was a cherry tree hanging over the footpath on the way, so it wasn't all bad. Thanks to the kindness of a Peugeot mechanic, I fixed my flat and glued up the hole in my tyre and rode away 30 minutes later. I turned the corner which I almost went down before the puncture, and rode straight into the best stocked bike shop I've seen in Germany so far. It was heaven. I bought up big on the bits I needed and shared the story of Frankenbike with the guys behind the counter. And yes, Frankenbike is the best. Aside from not having front shocks, the bike itself is pretty good. While the breaks aren't as tight as my bike in Oz, I had no gear issues and considering I paid sweet fanny adams to set it up, I can't complain.

Having studying google maps fairly closely the previous day, I rode knowing the basic direction and had some key place names written down to act as guides (out of 10 I saw 3). I had my compass strapped to my handlebars and I just headed down random back roads through fields and farmland, avoiding all the big roads, following roughly the same amount of East as I did North. It was the best. The trailer held up ok, but almost fell apart thanks to a loose screw. Taking out the time wasted learning that my trailer wheels are not a readily available size, I made the 80km journey in around 6 hours.

Landshut looks like postcards of Prague. Churches, bridges and multicoloured buildings. Just no tourists. It is nicknamed "LA", but that's because of the number plates and not the culture. The kids I'm staying with are super chilled. It's a share house with 4 peeps living there, but two of them are away at the moment. Ina and Sansch are my current hosts. Ina works at the local pub, and Sansch is a German/Polish free-styler with the biggest music collection I've seen for while. Ina has a young boy named Max, but his staying with his grandparent's in Dresden.

I've seen two of the night clubs here thanks to the assistance of Ina's mates and this place is still house music crazy. I guess my exposure to clubs in Australia have been mostly R&B driven, but it is a welcome change to see happy faces and people having fun. The macho shit that usually floats around in an R&B club isn't a good vibe. That said, I did see a fight last night. Maybe I'm just a raging queen and don't know it yet.

LA Island

There is a faux beach called LA Island, which a outside club set up for the summer by one of Ina's friends (she also works there during the day). It's nice to be lazy there and soak up the sun, but don't buy the overpriced schnitzel from the place next door. It's totally not worth it. I've seen the castle and checked out the ye olde town and riding around on the cobblestoned roads has it's moments. I think i could easily spend more time here, but Passau calls. I leave tomorrow morning.

Pictures of Frankenbike and trailer coming soon. Any suggestion for a name for the trailer can be made in the comments.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

RIP - Mr Jobby

It is with great sorrow that I announce the passing of the infamous Mr Jobby. He was my sister's cat for the past 14 years, has lived through many different version of her life and seen Jo's life change in the most amazing ways. He suffered from skin cancer over the last 5 years, and late last year his kidneys began to fail. After extensive consultation with the local vet, the decision was made to have him put down. He was a fantastic cat, with such a beautiful personality (except around other cats) and was loved by many people. This is part of an email Jo sent me earlier today:

I have some sad news. Mr J passed away today. Sadly his cancer had eaten his nose up really badly and he was starting to get uncomfortable- sneezing and bleeding everywhere.His kidneys were stuffed as well and even his special diet made him vomit.

He had a lovely breakfast of fresh chicken breast and I held him as he went to sleep... It was a really hard decision but it was the right thing to do as he was in a bad way and I didn't want him to be in pain. I feel a kind of relief. I mean he has been going down hill all year and his right hand side of his nose was just an open wound and it was all eaten away.

Craig and I are both very upset and there were lots of tears at the vet and here but I on a deeper level we know it was the right thing to do.He was the best cat of all time - a legend! We have so many funny stories and I plan to write them down when it is not so raw and painful.He will be cremated and we will make a special shrine to him in one of his sunny places.