Posts Tagged ‘on.the.road’

What I want for this summer

In around the world, travelling on May 30, 2011 at 11:03 am

yes please. NOW.

In travelling, Uncategorized on January 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

via Mudchicken.

it happened one December…

In travelling on January 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm

…or the story of how I was miserably defeated by the joined forces of bad weather and human stupidity.

I had planned for the winter holidays to visit a friend in Vienna on the 18th of December and then to head home for Christmas like any other international student on the 21st. My plans were delayed from the start as a 3 am text from BA read that my flight due the next day was cancelled due to averse weather conditions. ‘Averse weather conditions?’, I ask myself innocently. The answer to that came after a quick check on MetOffice that informed me of the presence of 5 cm of snow in south London. 5 cm, not 10, not 50. Foolishly, I go ahead with my plans of travelling to London and go through the emotional roller-coaster of leaving-not-leaving for five days, over which I had the pleasure of having six flights cancelled.

By that point I had given up the idea of going back to Romania and just enjoyed the time spent with friends and family in London, until I said to myself ‘I’ll try to rebook one last time’. The ‘one last time’ proved to be fatal and you will see why exactly.

I left Heathrow on the fresh morning of the 23rd to Brussels where I had an evening connection to Budapest, where a family friend was supposed to pick me up in order to to get to Oradea from where I had a morning flight for Bucharest. Looking back, the plan sounds bonkers from the very beginning, but at that time it looked like only an exciting adventure before Christmas. Adventure I wanted, adventure I got…

…As it started snowing heavily in Brussels. We got on the plane at 8 pm and waited for a flight approval until 3 am, when we were finally told that we’re not going anywhere. After we got off the plane tired, groggy and very pissed off, I ended up in a random arrivals room where all the suitcases from all the cancelled flights were sent without any information regarding where they were coming from or where they were supposed to go. After trekking through an enormous amount of unidentified suitcases I finally found mine (and promised myself I’ll never, ever check-in luggage for short-haul flights) and moved on to the next chapter of the chaos: rebooking the flight.

After queueing for about an eternity and a half, I was the next in line after a girl that seemed not to understand anything she was being explained, her reason for being on Earth, or the fact that she was making all the people behind her hate her with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Including myself. By that point (6 am), I was feeling very ill and tired. So, I went up and asked the woman to hurry up as I was not feeling quite well. The reply was ‘we can only serve one at a time and if you feel ill there is a doctor….’. I didn’t manage to hear the last part of the sentence as I vomited over her counter. Mostly orange juice, and I did warn her.

This incident aside, I rebooked the flight for 10 am and managed to get an hour’s sleep behind a closed check-in counter. At 8 am, when I was supposed to check in for the rescheduled 10 am flight, they couldn’t find the names of the people from the cancelled flight in the system. And while we were in for good news, they announced that the airport was closed till 12 pm so that they can clean all the snow. To top everything, I also got into a fight with some women, as they had the impression I skipped the queue for check-in, fact that just made me regret I could not vomit on comand…

We finally got on the plane around 1 pm and left for Budapest, but because the flight was late, the people in Budapest thought I wouldn’t make it for my re-rescheduled connection to Bucharest so they just cancelled my ticket and moved it for the 26th. 20 bloody 6th.

So I had my chance to say Cartman’s favourite line, ‘screw you guys, I’m going home!’ and I took a minibus to Timisoara and then made it to the overnight train for Bucharest and finally arrived just in time for Christmas day – even though I slept through most of it.

The mad holiday plans continued, and 48 hours after I arrived I left on a 15 hour drive with the final destination Innsbruck, where I spent New Years, followed by another 5 hour drive on the 3rd of January in order to make for the Milan – Manchester flight.

And now I’m finally back in Sheffield, which is also why I’m writing all this: avoiding getting work done.


once upon a time in Berlin

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

on Japan [part 1]

In travelling on October 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

The nights before big journeys. When there’s a strange feeling that it’s not you who’s doing this, but someone else. When you can’t think of anything, when you don’t know what to expect, when you don’t know who to expect. When you hope you haven’t forgotten anything and the gas is off. When you hope your dreams will match up with your pay.

So, after a marathon of three days in which I’ve ticked off the list coming back from Venice, changing the suitcase for the good old backpack in Bucharest, going to a birthday party in York and visiting family in London, we (Andra and I) have finally set off for Japan. Early in the morning, the Heathrow Express and the excitement in our eyes. A cup of coffee too many and we’re in Abu Dhabi changing planes. A long nap and we’re in Tokyo Narita. Could’ve been on a different planet as a matter of fact. As we head towards the train connection for Tokyo Shinjuku, the first thing that strikes us is the perfectly routinised, perfectly organised and perfectly executed movements of cleaning the train. Movements, as the women  looked like they were staging a choreographed dance rather than just clean. Strange, but somehow expected.

Tokyo. Well, how can one sum up the ultimate metropolis? City of infinite layers, home of around 14 milion people, challenged every single notion on urban planning I had in my mind. Everyone seemed perfectly adapted to the density (you share a square kilometre with only other 5654 people) , using every available inch and making the streets a place for manifestation. A place for trading, advertising, consuming, living, an extension of the Japanese home esentially. Tokyo is an endless aglomeration of many cities and villages, a mysterious, almost mythical place nurtured by fantasy, the layering of memories and the rituals of daily life, just as in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities…Who knew Venice and Tokyo would share so many folds in common?

So we started ‘sigh-seeing’. Quotes needed as the term is seriously challenged by the Asian lifestyle – you’d never apply the European ways of exploring (usually starting with the city centre) to this. As it has no traditional centre and no geometric framework to lend it a clear spatial hierarchy, it is easier to explore the city by embracing the ‘mosaic’ dimension and get lost around the maze of scales and ever-changing elements, one ward at a time.

The development of subcentres unfolds a series of densley built, villagelike districts, each centred around a subway or train station. So, you have Shibuya, a town that generates information and fashion, Shinjuku for business and entertainment, Roppongi, newly developed and packed with bars, clubs and museums, Ueno-Asakusa, the traditional centre, Ikebukuro, a town expected to grow into a composite city, Akihabara, or the town of crazy electronics and a real challenge for your senses and their limits, and the Waterfront development of Tokyo Bay(including Tsukiji Fish Market).

My favourites? There’d be Tokyo Met Building (by Kenzo Tange), Park Hyatt Hotel (52nd floor bar with amazing panoramic views, live jazz bands, and twee wine names after Lost in Translation – filmed there), Mori Art Museum (and its open air sky deck), Shibyua crossing and people watching, the Prada store in Omotesando (by Herzog and de Meuron), Electric City, utopian capsule hotels, winding alleys and hidden restaurants and clubs, Fashion’s night out on the 11th of September, Kagurazaka walk and the general urban maze.

Streets don’t have traditional names. Expressing the Japanese ‘nested’ rather than the Western ‘linear’ spatial conception, in their addressing system, territorial units (cho and machi) are identified with names while the numbering of lots is done according to the time-related process of land registration rather than along the street in sequential order. Enjoy the chaos and the chance encounters, get lost and say you’ve done it on purpose. Or that’s how we got by at least.

When we finally got our bearings around Tokyo, it was time to move on…

[to follow: Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Naoshima]

Snip, snap!