Preparing for trips

Last week I wrote about why I chose to do a package holiday to go horse riding in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and this week I want to go into a little more depth as to why it was so great.

Well, for one, I didn’t have to organise anything. It’s weird because I usually really enjoy the process of looking up things to do, finding obscure museums, streets, or cafes, and narrowing down what I want to do when I’m away. I usually keep my options open with a few things I want to do (always more than I actually have time for) so I can decide spontaneously on the day what I feel like doing.

Going on a package holiday is very different. I didn’t have to organise anything. Still, I bought my trusty Bradt guidebooks to prepare for the trip (reading that history and culture section a few times). The only thing I had to organise was book a flight, sort out my visas, and book the trip itself. It was really weird. But in a sort of liberating way.

Not having to plan anything freed up much of my time before the trip to do more work. yay?
No, I’m joking…a little bit.

Something that was weird about not preparing my own trip was that I should have had more time and energy spent on preparing for it mentally and physically, or even for just making myself extra excited about going. None of that happened though. It was weird. Because I didn’t have to figure out where I was going to sleep, how I was going to get from point A to point B, and because I didn’t really have to find obscure museums and places to eat, I somehow didn’t really prepare for the trip. I let it surprise me…which again, is something I don’t usually do.

It was lovely. It’s not how I want to spend every single holiday or trip I go on (I really really enjoy the process of figuring out what I want to do when I’m away), but it’s definitely something I want to do again the next time I go on a horse trek (let’s be honest, I can’t do this once and never do it again…).

Not having to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night is oddly liberating, and not having to figure out how to get there is just really nice. I will never forget my trip from Skodër, Albania to Kotor, Montenegro and then trying to figure out where to sleep that night (it was easter Sunday and I had forgotten what day it was because I’d been on the road for two months…) – I’ve got a little post about it here, but I think that entire day/evening deserves it’s own in-depth post at some point in the future…

Anyway, not having to think about how to get from Osh in Kyrgyzstan to Murgab in Tajikistan was great, particularly because there isn’t, as far as I could find, any public transport that drives across the border. Acording to the internet that particular border crossing isn’t a great place for hitch hiking (though the rest of the countries seem to be okay-ish?), so I’d have to get a shared taxi – which is fine, but is basically what we did and had organised for us anyway.

Since this was the first proper holiday I’d had in a long long time, I also didn’t really want to have to worry about where I was going to sleep at night and how to get there. There’s a time and place for backpacking and hitch hiking (and I love both), but this wasn’t it. This was a time to not have to worry about things, to relax, and to sit on horseback riding through the jailoos of Tajikistan. And that’s what going on a package holiday let me do without having to worry about it.

So, when I started writing this post, I actually wanted to write about something completely different, namely my trip itself (Osh – Gulcha – Border crossing to Murghab – horse trek – Horse Festival in Murghab – Sari Kul – Osh), but oh well. This was an interesting exploration of what my head and heart does to prepare for trips.

Riding at high altitudes

I’ve been back in Newcastle for just over a week now and am slowly starting to process my holiday. I did something I’ve never done before, but something I’ll hopefully do again: I booked a package holiday.

Okay now before all the travel snobs get mad at me, hear me out.

It has been my dream for years, I’d say more than a decade, to go on a multi-day horse trek. Growing up, I went horse back riding and I’ve had a few short holidays with my mum (and sometimes my brother too) where we would drive into the countryside either while living in Romania or while on holiday back home in Austria (though there we’d drive to the Czech Republic – Znojmo, to be precise. If you’re in the area you need to go visit this lovely little town! It’s just an hour away from Vienna!). While in the countryside we’d usually stay in a little guesthouse or Bed and Breakfast type place that had horses. We’d then go riding for a couple of days having breakfast and dinner at the guesthouse and sleeping in a room there too.

I loved these trips. I loved the feeling of freedom and companionship I got from galloping through fields and forests. The serenity of walking through high grass on horseback and the excitement that overcame the horses and us riders when we had to wade our way through a particularly big river. Since having done the first of these trips when I was a little teenager I’ve wanted to do a horse-trek; but a real one. One where you have a pack horse and you carry your luggage in saddle bags. Where you go camping and ride through mountains, forests, rivers, or fields in what seems like the middle of nowhere.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling, and almost everywhere I’ve been I’ve tried to find a place I can go horse riding. The thing with horse riding though is that stables are usually not in cities (and that’s a good thing – let horses run around. The need space, and grass, and fresh air!), but stables are also usually not in small towns. From where I’ve looked they’re somewhere in the countryside that is really hard to get to without having a car. Now, I can drive, but I’ve never really had teh organisational prowess, money, and time (all at the same time) to be able to rent a car for myself, find out where these stables are, somehow manage to find them, to then go on a short ride.

It is because of these prior experiences that I booked a package holiday. I knew my next destination had to be Central Asia (again, I’d been wanting to go for ages. Pretty much since I was studying Eastern European and USSR history back when I was doing my IB History course in High School), and I knew I wanted to go horse riding. Since I haven’t really had a proper holiday since I finished my Bachelor’s degree, since I didn’t take any time off last summer, and since I was pretty upset about not having travelled very much last year, I went looking for an adequate destination and stable in Central Asia in November last year. In the end, I realised that all my previous troubles were true here as well, so I started to have a look at holiday packages that are completely organised. In the end, I went through Unicorn Trails and booked their Pamir Mountain Explorer holiday.

It was absolutely amazing. The holiday had everything I was looking for: there was a lot of horse riding, a lot of different terrains to ride through, beautiful nature, camping, we had pack horses (!), and everyone in the team got along nicely. It was the perfect way for me to have a proper break from my PhD, and when I came back I was ready to get on with my work. I looked forward to it, and really wanted to get back to writing. It took me a couple of days to get back into the swing of things, but this trip was not only a perfect break, it was also a way of really acknowledging that I love what I do. That I want to continue to do what I am doing, and that I really missed it whileI was away.

I think I need to write another post about the trip as a whole, but overall I did the thing I never wanted to do (book a package holiday) but absolutely loved it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m already trying to figure out what kind of horse trek I want to go on next!

My indifference towards music

I know so many people who are very particular about what they like and what they don’t like about music; people who have certain music they listen to when they’re doing homework or writing, doing sports or walking down the street; people who say music saved their life or who look up to some musicians as if they are demi-gods.

OF course, there are some types of music I enjoy more than others, but since my I-only-listen-to-bands-nobody-knows-phase, music has gotten less and less important to me. I haven’t updated or used my ipod in a really, really long time. I take it with e when I travel with all intentions of listening to music, only to not touch it for the entire trip.

There is something so soothing in listening to the white noise that is part of daily life. I enjoy the silence created by the buzzing of the computer, refrigerator, car or plane. The (often strange) music that comes out of public radios or bus playlists. It’s all part of the experience of the journey, and of life. I feel like I am more connected to the journey, to myself, when I take in the sounds that surround me. I am more alert, or more relaxed, depending on my mood.

I think this practice may be the reason why I have become so tolerant of different music styles and genres. I remember the days when anything that wasn’t alternative power punk pop was horribly and painful to my years…how silly I was back then.

I think not listening to my ipod every second of every day makes me see the world differently. It forces me to pay attention to the nature and people around me. To communicate with them silently and to e an active part of the world.

Why I travel alone

There are two answers to this…a short and practical one, and a long one with more substance to it.

The short and practical answer is very simple: I don’t have any close friends tat want to travel to the places I want to travel to whose schedules are similar to mine.

Having said that, this does not bother me one bit. In fact, I prefer travelling by myself anyway.

I’m going to give you a few reasons as to why travelling alone is great, and why I keep doing it.

FREEDOM

I do not have to consult with anyone about the when, where and hows of travelling. At the chance of sounding extremely selfish, I am going to say that I travel alone so I don’t have to compromise the strange things that I find important.

FLEXIBILITY

Although I sometimes play my trips in quite a bit of detail (even though the plan never seems to work out anyway), and with months (or in the case of Nepal years) of research and preparation, some of my trips are very unplanned and can be decided upon on a hunch at very short notice. If I’m alone I don’t have to try to fit everything into hte schedules of other people.

Mine is complicated enough as it is anyway.

Travelling alone also gives me flexibility in where I go, what route I take, the speed of the trip and what I focus on.

SILENCE

I very much enjoy human company, conversation and listening to stories, but one thing I need in my life is time to be alone; time of silence. I like to lay in my bed and read, I like to let my thoughts wander and I like to have stretches of quiet. This is a lot easier to achieve when you don’t have a friend with you when travelling.

Now you might think that these times happen very often when you travel alone, or that I am just writing this to sound like I enjoy being alone because I have to travel alone because I have no friends and am ultimately just a sad and lonely person…but I am not. And this brings my to my next point.

COMPANIONSHIP

Although I just wrote about how much I enjoy travelling alone, I really do enjoy travel company at times. You meet such interesting, diverse and friendly people in hostels. A good conversation, or a bus companion is usually not far away if you are looking for one.

If I am travelling alone, this new friend doesn’t have to be approved of by my companions, the changes in the itinerary that may happen because I want to adjust my journey to spend more time with the new companion don’t have to be discussed with anyone else…this goes back to the freedom and flexibility points.

PERSONAL INTERESTS

I have a very strange way of travelling to new places. I like to get lost in new places…without a map. I like to walk quickly, and I like street food. I take pictures of the graffiti next to the amazing landmark before I even see the church, mosque or statue.

I want to take this opportunity to openly apologize to anyone I might have annoyed with my silly little habits when traveling. I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to anyone and everyone who has spent time with me, who has helped me find hostels or certain places, who told me their stories or just gave me a smile.

Moldova’s future

Today, I want to share with you a story from my last trip to Moldova. On the bus from Comrat to Chisinau, I met a young man. He looked quite ordinary, but after talking to him for a bit, was quite extraordinary.

Moldova is going through quite a rough patch. Many of the young people are leaving to work not only in Russia but in Spain, France, Romania and many other countries. They are looking for possibilities that they cannot find in their own country. This leaves behind a nation of very old and very young people. The 20 to 50 year olds seem to have fled the country in large numbers.

Meet R., 22 years old. Has completed 4 years of University and is waiting to hear where he can start his three year placement that he has to complete before he can be a cardiologist.

He told me that he would like to do his placement in Comrat, because he liked it there. Coming from a formerly Ukrainian family, and having completed Russian school in Moldova, R. speaks Russian better than he does Romanian. He likes Gagauzia for its Russian connections and has been there many, many times. In the future, he wants to stay in Moldova, because he sees that his country needs young, able workers. He told me Moldova needed good doctors, so he was going to stay here to help people. Apparently cardio-vascular diseases are the main cause of death in Moldova…so he is on his road to becoming a cardiologist. It was so inspiring to hear his story on the scenic bus ride from Comrat to Chisinau. It was so heart-warming to hear of a young man who wants to stay in Moldova despite having many more opportunities, a lot higher pay, and probably better equipped hospitals if he were to go abroad. No, not this man. He wants to stay in his country to help build it into a better state.

More Moldovan’s should start to think like this. I know it must be very difficult, and it is probably impossible for me to understand how almost an entire generation can leave a country, but R. inspired me to put his story out there. To tell the world that Moldova’s not doomed. I am sure there are many more who think like R. Who want to stay in Moldova to build up a workforce, to create a better country.

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hitch hiking

I particularly remember talking to a friend of mine back in Newcastle about an upcoming trip he was going to do. He was going to join a hitch gathering and hitch his way down to Spain with a group of people. My response was somewhere along the lines of: wow that sounds great! Aren’t you scared? I would be too scared to go hitch hiking!

Yet here I am a few weeks later…

I have been talking to people who hitch hike, and have talked particularly much to a lad from Sweden who has been hitching for 6 months straight. I became more and more intrigued and even started thinking about hitching my way from Vienna to Newcastle in the summer to get back to Uni.

The only experiences I had of this were on this trip so far…both of which were accidental. 1) a friendly person I had asked directions from in Corfu at the beginning of my trip took me to where I went to meet my Couchsurfing host, and 2) a lovely man in Bitola, Albania took me from the National Park back to the city.

Maybe it was those two accidental, yet positive experiences that stopped me from freaking out when all the things that happened today happened…

I took a bus from Tirana, Albania to Shkodre, Albania in the hopes of catching the 3pm bus to Ulcinj, Montenegro from where I will take one of the many regular buses to my destination of Kotor, Montenegro. Sounds easy enough, but don’t forget, I’m in the Balkans.

I didn’t think much of it being sunday, or easter for that matter, because Albania is a mainly muslim country that doesn’t celebrate easter and everything works as normal on sundays…

So I get to Shkodre and ask where the 3pm bus would leave from…

First shock: There is no 3pm bus, but there might be one at 4pm…but nobody’s sure. I should go check if the bus is parked in the station by the stadium. If it’s there it will go, if it’s not there, it won’t be going today. I walk to the bus station by the stadium and ask around for the Ulcinj bus. Nope, not happening today, but I can take a Taxi (for twice the price) I leave the place, thinking about it..but not really wanting to take a Taxi…maybe I’ll spend the night here?

I head back to the place my Bus dropped me off where a man asks me if I want to go to Tirana…no thank you. Another man asks me about Ulcinj. YES! Thank you. The bus leaves at 2pm from across the road.

GREAT. I go to walk around the old part of town and the pedestrian area.

Second shock: At around 1:30pm I go to where the bus is supposed to be to be told that there is no bus at 2pm, but that there was one at 1pm and another one at 4pm.

I walk around a little when the man that told me about the 1pm bus comes to get me. He knows a guy who’s driving to the border. He can take me for E7. After a little hesitation I agree.

Once we get to the car the man was very eager to show me his passport with all the stamps for Croatia and Bosnia and Montenegro as if he was making sure that I knew that he does this often and that he’s not going to kidnap me.

Thanks man, I appreciated that.

Third shock: He leaves me at the border, telling me a bus will be at the other side. Of course, there isn’t. So I am standing on the Montenegrin side of the border with my backpacks. Not knowing the language or anybody. Only that I want to get to Ulcinj and then Kotor. After some waiting and contemplating hitch hiking I see a bus crossing the border. I ask where they’re going and if they’ll take me. Ulcinj, and yes.

Thank you.

Fourth shock: After finally having reached Ulcinj comes my next shock. Although the buses are supposedly frequently travelling between the Montenegrin coastal cities, the next one will leave at 19:35. It was somewhere around 14:00…

I was told to walk to the traffic lights to maybe get a lift from there.

So off I go, still not really realizing that I am actually going to hitch hike…by myself.

After standing and walking along the road awkwardly a car actually stops. The elderly man asks me if I wanted a lift for a couple of kilometres. He seemed friendly, so I got in the car. After being offered sex, I politely ask to get out of the car…which was absolutely no problem. Somehow the man still seemed friendly, I don’t know how to explain it, but it seemed like he was just asking to see if it was possible, without really meaning to be rude or creepy. He was a little creepy after that though. So I got out at a restaurant that was along the way.

I ask there whether there will be a bus to Budva or Bar any time soon, but nobody seems to know. They tell me to stand by the road and to wave if I see a bus, it’ll stop and take me.

After waving at some cars and getting some waves in return from drivers and passengers in cars a car does actually pull over after 10 mins. or so..maybe not even that long. A young man gets out and asks me where I want to go. Remembering the tips my new swedish friend had given me in Kosovo a couple of days before I answered with the same question. He and his friend were going to Budva. PERFECT. I asked if they’ll take me. A couple of seconds later I was in the car shaking hands with Dorian and Florin. Two friends on their way to Budva to have a coffee.

This is actually the longest leg of my journey, so I am very happy to have found them. This was seriously a great hitch hiking experience. After the initial minutes of feeling awkward, the rest of the journey was very natural. I even wasn’t really scared when Florin thought that he had to drive off the road because this bay looked too beautiful. He wanted to take pictures. We spent a couple of minutes looking for a path among the cliffs, but went back into the car when it started to rain.

Once we reached Budva they wanted to have coffee with me, but I said I wanted to know when the buses left first, so we went off to find the bus station…none of us knew where it was. We stop to ask a woman walking on the street who promptly gets in the back seat with me, because she was also heading there. So the four of us are driving towards the Budva bus station; the two girls in the back terribly squished, because I had my big backpack by my side (another one of those tips my new friend, and all the forums, seem to be quite persistent about).

Dorian is even nice enough to escort me to the ticket counter to ask when the next bus will leave, because I don’t speak Serbian.

I was a little sad to hear that the bus will leave in 5 minutes, since that meant I wouldn’t be having coffee with my new friends. After saying thank you and shaking hands to say bye I was on the bus heading to Kotor.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the two guys for taking me with them and for making my first proper hitch hiking experience a great one, and to say I am sorry to my mum for having done the one thing you told me never to do…

3 things you MUST bring with you when you travel

Besides the obvious passport, visa, hard currency, camera, and curiosity and patience…

  1. A large shawl

I don’t care if you’re a guy or a gal, you need one of these! My large pashmina a Pakistani friend gave me has saved me on several occasions. The weather can turn without much announcement in many parts of the world. This large shawl can keep you from getting completely soaked, keep your ears and neck warm or even work instead of a jacket sometimes. On top of this, it can double up as a blanket on bus or airplane trips or as a towel if need be. You can turn it into a picnic blanket and a head/shoulder covering when entering churches, mosques or other religious places.

  1. An unlocked phone

This might seem obvious, but make sure you have an unlocked phone on hand when you go to travel. Save all the important numbers on the phone, not the sim card and make sure you have numbers of hostels/couch surfers, embassies and whatnot saved. This phone can be as shabby as anything, as long as it can call and sms you’ll be fine. Getting local sim cards is cheap and easy.

Most of the world is starting to have wifi-hotspots, so I would also recommend taking your smartphone with you so you can keep in contact with your loved ones at home via whatsapp, skype and your blog.

  1. Flip flops

Make sure you travel light and bring as little clothing as possible, but don’t forget these babies. In the summer heat of some places these can keep your feet nice and airy and are a good alternative to your sneakers or hiking boots every now and again. They will also save you from attempting to get rid of fungus on your feet that you might catch from showers in hostels. They are also a comfortable alternative to walking barefoot into springs, fountains, lakes or rivers.

EXTRA!

Personally, I always take a diary with me when I travel. Bus journeys are always a good time to reflect on thoughts, feelings and experiences that have occurred in the last couple of hours or days. I have so many pages filled with messy, squiggly writing and sketches. Even if I don’t look back into the journals regularly writing things down by hand is my way of working through things. I get my thoughts and feelings in order like that. It’s very different to writing on the computer…which I do a lot for this blog now too.

How to get from the (Buharest-Athens) bus station to the city centre in Athens…or how not to do it.

Let me start off with saying that you should bring good shoes if you try to do what I did in Athens. I didn’t wear my hiking boots, so I got blisters. It’s my own fault.

Anyway.

I arrived somewhere in Athens at around 8 o’clock in the morning. I had no idea where I was. I just knew, I didn’t want to take a taxi to the city centre. I’m sure there’s a bus to somewhere. I set off to find a bus station, which I do very quickly. After waiting for a while and witnessing some funny secret cigarette sales the bus arrives. I, being as stupid as I am, got on to buy a ticket, but was told I had to get it at the kiosk. Of course. Whatever, I’m not going to wait another 15 minutes for the next bus to come, so I shoulder my backpack and start walking to where the bus took off.

If I walk along the bus stops I’ll get to where I have to go, right?

Yea, if I would actually follow the bus stops…
Somehow, I lost them…I don’t know how. But I followed the road signs to a square that was actually on the map in my little “South Eastern Europe” guidebook.

Inevitably, I got quite lost…looking up all sorts of streets I suddenly saw something that looked like it would be a large square. I walk towards it, and lo and behold there was a large square filled with cars, mopeds and tired pedestrians.

There was even a metro station!

I skip down the steps to the metro station, because I still had no idea where I was. After consulting my trusty map and the metro stations I conclude that I was one station away from the city centre.

Despite carrying a 10kg pack and my little backpack converted to a frontpack-with my water, passport and money in it-I decide that it’s not far enough to pay the E1,40 ticket. I head back to the square and go to look for the street I need to take. After a short couple of minutes of looking around I find it and am on my way to the Acropolis. It wasn’t until I had the first ruins infront of me that I realized that I was smack in the centre of Athens.

So to conclude…I could’ve just taken a bus that would have dropped me off exactly here, but I decided to spend quite a long time walking, searching and getting lost in this city with a 10kg backpack. I still think I made the right choice.

What’s your travel style?

Recently I read the following on a travel forum:

trees are made with roots, people with legs.
we are meant to wander!
and wonder, with both senses of the word!

Immediately, I was inspired to write a post about this coupled with the daily prompt from a couple of days ago: The happy wanderer.

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

 

This is strange to write about, because I feel like my style is always changing…I seem to have two different kinds of travel.

  1. Work and travel

What I have done all my summers since 10th grade is work and travel. I would pick a country/region I wanted to see and then figure out what I was going to do there. It was important for my mum, and for me, that I didn’t just do ‘nothing’, that I was gaining work experience. I made sure to do jobs that I enjoyed (I am very proud to say that I have never had a job that I have not enjoyed doing!) Since this time I knew I wanted to help countries develop, and I thought that education would be the best way to do this. So I made sure to find programmes that would get me into this field of work.

So far, I’ve done the following:

  • I lived in a rural Romanian village for two months planning and running a summer school for the children. I was able to do this through the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest who run several programmes in this village.
  • Some kids and I worked together to create a play (pretty much from scratch) within the SOS-Childrens Village of Bucharest, Romania
  • I worked in a public school and a learning centre in Rural Nepal
  • I went to Oslo, Norway as part of the Summer University to take a course in Development and Globalization
  • I worked in an orphanage in a small town in Moldova for two months the summer after I graduated high school and was able to travel to areas of the Ukraine I hadn’t seen before either.
  • As part of my research for University, I was able to come back to Romania to get to know Bucharest from a very different angle.

What I have to say about the work I have done is that I was very, very lucky to have the opportunities I had. Many of them were due to the contacts my parents had with the embassy and certain people in high positions in certain companies…but also, I didn’t earn any money for any of these jobs. Mostly I was paid in smiles, food and lodging, and work experience.

Something I would never do is pay those $2000 prices to work in an NGO in Nepal for 2 weeks. There really is no need to pay that much. Life in Nepal is incredibly cheap. When I was looking for a place to work in Nepal that was EXACTLY what I wanted to avoid. I had been looking at places to work at for years in Nepal. Only when I found FACE Nepal did I feel like the price I paid was appropriate for what I was getting. And it really was. Nobody’s really making a profit there, except the people who benefit from the NGO. The programmes are incredibly volunteer driven, and I would recommend it to anyone.

  1. Going back to the same places

Some people might not understand why I like to do this, but I tend to go back to the places I have visited (several times). From what I have experienced, it is different every single time. The place changes, but I also change a lot. Over the last couple of years I have changed so much; my world views, my education, my political standpoint, my clothing style and the number of piercings I have. All of these things shape me as the person I am becoming. And I hope I will never stop changing. It is incredibly interesting to go back to the same place for different reasons. You get to know so many different faces of the same place; you get to see new things that you didn’t know existed. Because of this, I am very glad I went back to Romania for my research. The week before I left I had quite a negative episode, because I felt so silly for going back to Romania. My university colleagues were going off to India or Ghana, places they’d never been to before, and I went back to Bucharest…bleh. But boy am I happy I did. I got to know this place in SUCH a different light. It was truly an enriching experience. And it is not an experience I could have had in a place I had not seen from the point of view of someone who knows the beautiful side of the place. Had I gone to a city I had never been to, to do my research I would probably have a very different image of the place than I have of Bucharest.

  1. Long haul bus journeys-local style

It is only recently that I started visiting places without a real purpose other than seeing the place. I used to always have a purpose in the places I visited. A reason to be there other than the city itself. Yes, I would go sight-seeing, but the purpose of my visit would be a sports tournament, my job, visiting friends, etc.

I am still not sure how much I like going to places simply for the sake of going to them. It’s what I have ahead of me now though. 4 weeks of travel, for the purpose of travel. I hope I meet lots of interesting people, and that I get to live somewhat like a local. It’s what I love about the type of travelling I have done so far…living with locals, being able to truly feel what the culture felt like. I don’t know how much I’ll like jetting (in slow buses…) across city and country borders to see as much as I can in as little time as possible. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a place I like and I’ll stay there for 3 weeks working with an NGO or something. Probably not, but we’ll see what the next month brings for me.

I love to hear about the way different people travel. What’s your style?

Transnistria and its money…

The only money that you can change in Transnistria are US$, Euros, Russian Rubles, Ukrainian Rubles, Moldovan Lei and sometimes British Pounds.

So if you’re stupid like me, and you only brought what you thought you were going to spend in Moldovan Lei, and the rest in Romanian Lei, you need to go looking for an ATM. Finding them isn’t actually that hard, but finding one that (a) has money in it, and (b) doesn’t have technical difficulties at the time is a little more difficult. In the end I resorted to going into a bank. The first one didn’t recognize my card, but the second one did.

If you decide to get money out of a bank in this country, make sure you are patient, have a lot of time and don’t get worried too quickly. Have your passport, registration card and your bank card at the ready.

It took around 30 mins. To get some money, because the woman behind the counter had never seen an Austrian passport before. She had to check it out several times, ask her colleague and then make some phone calls before she could continue with the tedious data entry process.

The funny thing was that she couldn’t actually hand me any Transnistrian Rubles. She could only take out US dollars from my account, and then would have to change the dollars into Transnistrian Rubles. This really is a strange country.