The rain has been pouring down all day and with increasing fury as daylight faded behind the night’s heavy clouds. Yet I sit outside, braving the storm on a humid terrace under a dry umbrella. The night is roaring thunder – its rolling downhill from a stone street, bouncing off the exposed rocks. It frightens with sharp intensity. It grumbles like a hungry stomach with a strong metabolism. And it is expected but shouts long after patient prediction permits. It is close. The lightning was less than five seconds ago. The electricity skipped a beat in-between. Strike. Lightning. Pop. Complete darkness. Crackle. Electric light flickers. Boom! Thunder.
Rila national park is one of few Bulgarian protected regions. And unlike many other national parks, the Rila region is more than natural beauty that accumulates with the highest point in the Balkans, Musala peak, coming in a few meters shy of 3000m; it has a rich cultural history as well.
Leonard Cohen is my home boy. I refer him affectionately as L.C. or simply Leonard. He’s at once a living legend and an unknown mystery. Some people have never heard of him but they have undoubtedly heard his songs.
I first saw this tourist thrill in Tallinn: come spend over 100 euro and shoot all these guns that you’ve seen in the movies like the AK-47, the cowboy’s Smith & Wesson, James Bond’s Golden Gun, the rapper’s Glock pistol, and some big fakin US military automatic assault rifle.
I’m not into guns or anything but this sounds like something I would try once just for the sake of my inner video-game addict twelve year-old self.
Adventure strikes the fearsome, investigative duo again. A simple enough plan turned ridiculous in the early afternoon heat. Follow the convenient tourists signs scattered throughout Lviv and make it up the city’s mountain to their main attraction, the High Castle.
A month spent in the wilderness of Siberia taught me much about Russian mentality. The most important aspect of Russian culture a foreigner must grasp to feel welcomed and comfortable amongst their Russian hosts is that of Russian humor.
When I arrived in north Baikal to start my volunteer work with the Great Baikal Trail, the first thing our team leader said was, “Put tents up fast; snow in four hours.”
“There’s an erergy to that island. It’s magic. You have to go to Olkhon.”
That’s all I kept hearing from Siberians when I arrived in Irkutsk. This ain’t hockey so why fight these pesky Russians?
Actually, one thing I learned from being in Siberia and the Baltic states, Ukraine – places that continue to have Russian influence, at least in language – is that a Russian is very much like an African: an over simplified term that can refer to hundreds of different ethnic and cultural groups.
Where does the time go? I’ve been cruising down Eastern Europe these past six weeks in a trip that was both dreamt of for many years, and spontaneously executed. It even has a title: From the Balkans to Baltics and Back. And as I crossed the Bosphorus and landed on the Anatolian shore of Istanbul, this dream trip came to an end.
Editor’s note: All persons interviewed have been given pseudonyms to protect their identity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.
July 20th, 2012 – It is day 66 of Beijing’s 100-day crackdown on those working and living illegally in the country’s capital. The atmosphere appears calmer than during the initial phases of the government’s campaign. However, many are still choosing to err on the side of caution. Those with legal documentation looking to avoid the hassle of reporting themselves to the police station carry photocopies of their passport, visa, and temporary residence registration form on their person at all times.
Beijing reports that there are over 120,000 foreign immigrants in the city with as many as 200,000 foreigners passing through each day. The vast majority are here legally on valid tourist, business, or work visas.