A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Road Trip USA

There was a time back in the early noughties when I was slightly obsessed with the occult. Not in a devil worshipping way I just wanted to be a witch. As I wasn’t actually able to cast spells (cough, muggle, cough) I became fascinated with astrology, tarot and considered becoming a Wiccan only it seemed like too much work to have a religion while I was trying juggle high school and getting up early on weekends to tape my video clips from Rage to VHS.

Given the family penchant for all things historical this fascination with witchcraft included a lot of detailed reading as a 15-year old on the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. I found the whole period fascinating. I then read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and had always wanted to go to this small town north of Boston to see what was left of this early settlement and its witchy inhabitants.

In 1692 nineteen “witches” were hanged and one stoned to death in the small puritan settlement of Salem. The staunchly religious settlers in New England were shaken by some young girls’ sudden flights of uncharacteristic fancy. A Caribbean slave named Tituba had been sharing stories with the girls. They had been captivated and its believed began acting out the stories. Doing normal things that kids do. To the puritans suddenly the girls started acting very peculiar as puritan children were to be seen and not heard so obviously the only explanation to such behaviour was that they were in fact possessed by the devil. It became a big game and before long it was believed witches were at fault possessing the young girls and they started pointing fingers with dire consequences. The hysteria became so widespread people were accusing their neighbours and their foes for monetary gain. At its peak it is believed 150 people were in the tiny dungeons of Salem awaiting trials in a time when the area only housed 200 families. The drama was eventually shut down after the governor’s wife was accused. By then 19 had been hanged in the gallows, more specifically from the branches of a tree and left to rot.

While it was by no means the only instance of witch burnings it became a shameful scar on the history of America. A period of such shame, the nearby towns of Danvers and Peabody changed their names and distanced themselves from the events. Salem on the other hand has wholly embraced their past, their spooky witchy connections and every October is Haunted Happenings, a town wide Halloween festival.

Salem lives for Halloween. In fact many things don’t even bother opening the rest of the year until all the autumn fun. Modern day witches have been drawn to the town by its history and its now openly tolerant acceptance of the supernatural and particularly of modern day Wiccans. You can get your aura photographed, your tarot cards thrown or your palm read. Kitschy museums and specialty shops entertain the tourists as do the haunted houses and anything else spooky they can cash in on, Frankenstein and pirates. You can have a witch photo shoot where you get dressed up and pose in front of witchy backdrops. You can get witch themed everything, a witch hat and matching apron for cooking, jack’o’lantern chocolates, pumpkin ale even hot chocolate that turns orange. You couldn’t live in Salem if you thought Halloween was just another over-commercialised holiday. Samantha Stevens is even cast in bronze and watches over the town from the square.

While the windows are full of ghoulish decorations and pumpkins sit on the doorsteps what gives Salem its real spook factor is of course its wicked history. Were they actually witches hanged for their devilish ways? Had they actually caught real life witches? All sorts of people were accused, particularly poorer people, your everyday cat ladies were a target, anyone who skipped church for a lie in as well as mid-wives who were blamed for still births. There was even a book written by Cotton Mather’s about how to spot a witch. Red hair and freckles were a dead giveaway. A birthmark of any description would have got you in trouble. There was no rhyme or reason. In fact scientists today have even thought that it may have been a bacteria, or a mold on the seasons harvest that may have caused the weird behaviour and hallucinations which were mistaken for being a sign of being possessed.

Hysteria is usually the term thrown around as young girls were testifying in courts that women had made them ride with them on broomsticks and all sorts of nonsense. Sheer fear allowed it to escalate. In the town now a memorial to the victims of the Witch trials sits by a real 17th century cemetery. The real colonial houses associated with the trial are of course haunted as are many other sites around town making it the perfect place to scare the wits out of yourself on night tours.

Salem, like much of New England is at its most beautiful in the autumn, not only for Halloween but traditionally it was the harvest so pumpkins sit on the porches of the houses. Fresh apples are sold by the side of the road, as well as turned in to pies and cider. Corn mazes pop up for some harvest season fun. The leaves are falling and there is a crisp chill in the air of the coming winter.

A few days before our arrival a couple got so lost in the corn maze in Danvers they called the police and there was a big search operation to get the fools out. May I emphasise “corn” maze, the walls are made of stalks of corn. Bendable, push throughable corn. Beside the maze is a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkin to take home. Fun for the whole family.

The fall season comes alive in Salem. All the trademark Halloween tack, a novel slice of the occult and a splash of historic spook make it a wicked concoction of fun. Plus it is the only place where you can walk the streets in a cape and not get a second glance.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 15:55 Archived in USA Tagged fall halloween autumn witches salem pumpkins witch_trials Comments (1)

I'm Not Looking for New England

Road Trip USA

In the north east corner of the USA sitting peacefully amongst the pumpkins is New England, the region comprising of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts. It was here, at Plymouth Massachusetts that the Mayflower brought the first settlers to America in 1620. The area is known for its natural beauty, mountains which are deep woods in summer, orange and red in fall and covered in snow in winter. Its rocky coastline is famous for lobsters and being the nation’s first beaches.

Visitors flock to the region in autumn when the foliage is at its most dramatic change. Foliage, as in leaves. Yes, people go out of their way to see leaves. Us ‘leafpeepers’ as we are called cruise the highways and mountains of New England looking at leaves, forests and the vast New England mountainscapes.

There is a small window of opportunity for leaf peeping, it is the period between when the trees are green to when they turn yellow and fall. This transformation occurs in different stages between later September and mid-October varying depending on differing temperatures. The excitement is the effect of a slither of Mother Nature and sciencey photosynthesis and what not which creates a palette of maroons, vermilion reds, peachy pinks, oranges and golden yellows which spread for miles across the mountains which creates (excuse the art nerd) an Impressionist-style blur of warm colours.

New England is beautiful. Amongst the rolling orange hills are dense forests hiding massive silver lakes reflecting the sky. Little log cabins sit on the water with little boats tied to little wooden jettys. It’s very much American summer camp country and it’s some of the most stunning scenery around.

In the towns there are cosy little wooden houses, beautiful multiple story structures with attics and the occasional turret and often an American flag hanging out the front. It is the picturesque American dream. It is the America that was beamed around the world with living space, freedom and liberty and justice for all.

Apart from the foliage, New England is amazing at this time of year because they embrace the end of harvest season, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Houses put pumpkins on their doorsteps and there are pumpkins patches to pick your own which will most likely then become a jack ’o’ lantern. Corn mazes pop up and apples are being harvested so you can buy fresh apples, cider and pies from stalls beside the road. I desperately wanted a pumpkin of my own but for practical reasons it was not permitted. I was dead certain pumpkin carving was going to be an untapped talent of mine.

So I fell in love a bit with New England. And with those bright orange pumpkins everywhere I looked. I had been to Massachusetts before in the depths of winter, snow past my ankles but I was returning in what is considered their regions peak season.
We allowed Barbara the Sat Nav steer us north from Boston to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. There were a few bad turns, a few instances of being off the map and a lot of “recalculating! recalculating” and a lot of swearing in Barbara’s general direction and throwing her and her muffled voice into the glove compartment.

New Hampshire has some of the most spectacular foliage, the mountains and the Kancamangus Highway one of the world’s most scenic drives. There were a lot of leaves. A lot. A whole lot. A lot of leaves in some brilliant gradations of red, orange and yellow. A Derwent enthusiasts dream, they were all there from a rose madder lake to a burnt sienna and everything in between. Colour as far as you could see, sweeping across the mountains.

The area has a cold snowy winter so the leaf season is its last moment of life before hibernating for the winter begins. Before both old men and bears head into the woods, to caves and log cabins respectively.

After a shit load of leafpeeping and collecting enough leaves for autumn-themed dashboard display we deserved pancakes. We drove 20 minutes out of our way to go to Polly’s Pancake Parlour, a White Mountains institution. Like everything in America there were options. Americas love options. You don’t just get what you are given here. I get so overwhelmed in a Dunkin Donuts I just end up with the staff special ie. Whatever dude stop asking questions. Ah shit they gave me artificial sweetener! The little family run parlour sits in a tiny little mountain town of Sugar Hill but people go out of their way to come to Polly’s. Americans love pancakes. You see on movies how they serve them with bacon and eggs then douse it all in syrup. For us Australians pancakes are pancakes, they are usually from a shake and bake mix unless you are feeling adventurous and make your own. Pancakes are serious business here. First you need to choose your batter. There are four different types of batter, not flavours, batter. Four! Buttermilk, whole wheat, plain or buckwheat. Obviously you are essentially picking from four words because who the hell knows the difference? I though Buckwheat was from The Little Rascals? Then you can combine one of those with a flavour; choc chip, blueberry, coconut or me having developed my pumpkin obsession by then, pumpkin and walnuts. You get them served hot so three at a time two times over, so a casual six pancake breakfast. I persevered obviously and ate them all. Then you can add maple syrup, but only if you want to kick it old school like a loser. Maple is a prefix in these parts so you can have maple sugar or maple butter or even maple pepper if you want savoury. Wash it down with some classic American ‘cawfee’ or unlimited bitter, black water as it should be known as. Of course my unrefined pancake palette thought pancakes were pancakes but these were slightly better than the shake mix. So if you are ever in Sugar Hill on Route 19A New Hampshire do pull over. There is also a wooden toy horse out the front which also makes a nice photo opportunity.

There was a lot of nature appreciation going on, scenic mountainscapes, reflective lakes, babbling brooks and water falls. It was so pretty it was sickening. Nature lovers would wet their pants with excitement at it all. As more of an urban hipster (obvs) than an outdoorsy type personally I like the leaves the best because you didn’t have to hike to them and I could appreciate them from the car while eating lollies and singing along to leafy mountain FM. There were a few rocky rivers with people fly fishing. I obviously needed to climb out on the boulders into the river to have a photo which was great until an older lady followed me and got stranded and I had to rescue her. I watched for a bit to see if she was going to struggle or just quietly succumb to her dire fate but then noticed that her useless friend couldn’t even reach the camera that was outstretched to her so was most likely not going to make any drastic rescue attempts. I think old friend Mabel’s plan was to wait out the season until the snow melted and pick up old stranded Sue somewhere around Maine where the river flowed into the sea sometime next April.

I swept in gallantly with my square chin and puffed out chest and aided her back to land.

After adding “lifesaver” to my resume we headed south from New Hampshire and crossed the state line into Maine where the leaves and mountains begin to blend in with the rocky North American coast and I found my spiritual home. There were big wooden houses with turrets and attics and I spent the majority of Maine spotting houses I wanted to live in. I also fancied getting myself a log cabin on a lake and imagined myself sitting there all winter long with a shawl and a typewriter (because it was also the late 60s in this dream) just being a hermit. Probably carving pumpkins as a side gig and scaring small children around Halloween.

The unseasonably warm weather began to change as we hit the Maine coast and the sky clouded over with a dark grey and brought the rough seas crashing on to the rocks. We stopped in Ogunquit, where I also wanted to live, for a lobster dinner, to be fair, mostly to wear a lobster bib rather than sample the crustacean.

It was goodbye to New England. I made some real estate enquiries for when I have am rich and in the market for a witchy house on a rocky coastline. Part one of Road trip USA was complete.
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IMG_7435.jpgMy new house in Ogunquit.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 20:53 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip leaves lobster new_hampshire new_england maine leafpeepers Comments (1)

Indians, Aliens and Me driving South on Route 3

Road Trip USA

As a fan of all things kitschy and novel I do love what America can offer me. A drive-thru Dunkin Donuts bagel for breakfast is only the beginning. We picked up our wheels, hooked up ‘Barbara the Sat Nav’, also known as ‘Barbara you useless bitch’, picked up the aforementioned bagel and headed north from Boston into the depths of New England.

Now the dollar is good, but the America of my budget isn’t Hilton’s and Ritz’s but rather favours the old style motor inn, usually a double tiered building with a view of the car park and your own car out the front, reminiscent if you will of another famous New Hampshire lodging, Bates Motel. I do look for peep holes in the bathrooms of this style in case it is a design flaw.
Indian Head Resort in the leaf peeping region of New Hampshire is a little gem straight out of the early 60s, almost unchanged from the timber wood panelling interiors to the faux grass non-slip walkways.

It was like being in a time warp, it was still functioning exactly as it would have when it was THE family resort to spend your vacations. There is a lake down behind the hotel with paddle boats (and compulsory life jacket) pinball in the games room, you don’t have to go out you can eat at the restaurant which comes complete with a Rod Stewart impersonator to entertain while you eat. Nestled in the White Mountains, the hills around are covered in hundreds of different shades of reds, orange and yellows in the famous New England fall.

Its pride and joy is it tower atop which offers a somewhat vaguely closer view of Indian head, a mountain rock ledge formation which resembles, if you squint, an Indian. Originally wooden it was so popular they had to rebuild it with somewhat stronger steel parts meaning its wobbles only slightly as you climb its old, unsteady vertical ladder.
The tower is such a landmark its image is emblazoned on t-shirts and it even sets you back 50 cents to climb.

The 60s décor, the tower then throw in a few novelty Indian themed souvenirs in the gift shop, a teepee out the front and a totem pole and you have quite the authentic 1960s mountain family holiday experience.

While Indian Head offered so much joy from its appearance, the icing on the cake was that it is on the site of an alien abduction from the 60s. Betty and Barney Hill were just cruising down the highway on Route 3 outside Lincoln, NH and saw a whole lot of bright lights and an odd shape, their car began to tremble. They watched as the lights flew across the sky over nearby Cannon Mountain before stopping a few hundred feet from them right by Indian Head Resort.

The next thing they knew a few hours had passed and they were 35 miles south. And they no doubt had a sore anus.

By piecing together memories, dreams and accounts under hypnosis it became one of the most detailed accounts of an encounter. Sceptics claim it might have been hallucinations as a result of an exhaustive long drive from Montreal or some have suggested it was a consequence of the pressures of being an inter-racial couple in the 60s but whether or not they really were abducted and anal probed we will never know. The incident was covered up and hidden in some secret government files until a few years later when it was accidentally leaked by a newspaper. Why did the government want to keep it a secret? :Insert X-Files music here:

So really what doesn't Indian Head have to offer? Why would you ever stay at the Hilton? You can't get a UFO magnet, an Indian themed printed t-shirt and a tub of Ben and Jerry's in a Hilton giftshop.

Sadly we said goodbye and readjusted ourselves back to 2011 and continued the road trip making it to the border in one piece with no close encounters and no probing. Maybe if we were interracial we may have had more luck.
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 15:21 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip indian usa new_hampshire new_england motels alien_abduction leafpeepers Comments (0)

America, Home of the Grave

As my trans-continental flight on steward retirement airlines began its descent into Philadelphia the young man next to me who I had engaged in the awkward ‘I’m sitting there’ initiation chit-chat assured me I would love my visit to the US because it is “the best country in the world”. Now I am not sure what data he had collated, assuming the trip to London on business was perhaps his gauge nevertheless it was exciting to be in a country that was my obsession as a NBA basketball card collecting pre-teen.

Big fat America, rich in quantity and where consumerism is big business. Where Starbucks really is on every corner which people continue to frequent because it is convenient and while mediocre, at least consistently so.

It is a nation where your soft drink is bottomless and your McDonalds Cheeseburger meal comes with two burgers and the pride of the nation, dipping sauce, comes in bulk, not rationed Sweet ‘n’ Sour tubs for an extra $1. It’s a squirt at your leisure lifestyle here. It is an instant gratification world where you can walk around a mall the size of a small country and find yourself standing in front of a mall church. Slightly surreal to see people leave the Dunkin Donuts counter with a filter coffee brewed in 1987 and a stale donut and walk mere metres to say their hail Jesus’ before they continue to peruse the rest of the shops. The lucky country offers a solution to all life’s problems, can’t think of the perfect Mother’s Day gift at the mall? Seek Divine inspiration. Can’t sleep on a plane? Skymall can sell you a giant wedge pillow to sit on your lap and lean forward on to sleep. Lacking a bootylicious behind? Grab yourself a pair of only-available-on-TV Booty Pop pants, underwear with a padded rear to really make your booty pop.

Having been raised on American television and film the whole country had a Twilight-Zone familiarity. It is an odd sensation to see it actually exist, just like it is on the television, complete with the star spangled banner fluttering in every direction and the yellow cabs racing up and down the opposite side of the road. A lifetime of obsessive TV addiction served well identifying everything a guide book could like the Lincoln Memorial recognisable from when Lisa visits it for advice in The Simpsons. Pop culture is American culture and it adds to the novelty travel experience to walk into a store and buy TV candy like Twizzlers, Goobers and Swedish fish and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper or a Snapple.

Everywhere you turn you are exposed to the American fascination with celebrity; you can even take professional stalking tours which in this instance resulted in standing outside in the January weather while my travel mate pressed her nose against the window of the exclusive, and I dare say comfortably heated, Henri Bendel where an actor from Gossip Girl was attending a trendy champagne junket. While I secretly hoped I would casually run in to Tina Fey and become her best friend what I enjoyed even more than a disillusioned desire for a brush with fame was their penchant for celebrity statues, the obvious highlight being the incarnation of Rocky outside the Contemporary Art museum in Philadelphia and the be-broomed Samantha Stevens in the centre of kitsch Salem, Massachusetts. Only in America or in a former USSR satellite state would it be a logical move to set an idol in bronze.

It is a rather fickle place, a country where it is perfectly okay to have firearms on your person, as long as you tell someone before you walk through the security scanner. Terrorism has rightly bumped up security, evident from the moment I left Heathrow when the person next to me had her box of Cadbury Favourites upended in search of explosives. There is always a burly man in dark glasses nearby telling you to “ma’am please retain possession of your possessions” whenever one contemplates resting a bag or jacket on the floor. Paranoia has oft been a staple of American society, in the bathroom there are signs how to avoid the H1N1 virus but not how to flush the toilet or turn on the shower which leads on to their tendency to need to Americanise everything which it seems doesn’t end with The Office. Take showers for instance, why have a handle to turn like the rest of the world? When instead you can stand in a cold, damp hostel bathroom in a towel hitting the supposed ‘on’ knob to a shower before you realise you need to either pull, push, pull and twist, pan left, spin or ask very nicely before any water will flow, and don’t even get me started on their need to have the toilet water rise to the rim before it flushes your business.

It is like a continent in itself, each state is different from the next, the people and their values differ as much as the landscape. You can understand why Americans don’t tend to travel because they have everything right within their borders, mountains, deserts, beaches, snow and great cities of all sizes. It covers all levels of expectations, you have some of the world’s best museums and galleries and then you have the Salem Witch museum where mannequins are placed in large scale dioramas. Some of the most disgraceful food you could ever consume is on offer as well as some amazing multicultural fare. American’s truly are nice, they believe in the greatness of their country and go out of the way to ensure you see what they do. When my aforementioned plane buddy sincerely asked “it must be hard to drive on the wrong side of the road” you have to remember that their world literally revolves around America. This narcissism perhaps exemplifies why much of the world detests their arrogance but this obscene level of national patriotism can also be somewhat endearing and before long you tend to find yourself humming along to the Star Spangled Banner with one hand placed over your heart whenever an opportunity arises.

My journey to America, or as I came to think of it, inside my TV was unexpectedly positive. At first I had to overcome my somewhat irrational fear of slow moving, black SUV’s and resist the urge to dive into a gutter covering my head from inevitable gang warfare but the country tends to take over your rational thought and in the end I left quite reluctantly, wishing I were there longer and seeing more, having a game of little league and growing up in a suburban American city with their manicured lawns and big double story houses.

Like it’s food America itself has a surprise cheese layer, the land of freedom, liberty, independence, as is continually drummed into you, really is rather fantastic, flaws and all.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 14:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A Hostel Environment

Until last month it had been a while since my last hostel experience and I had found myself sitting in a bunk bed reliving the experience.

Now hostelling isn’t for everyone.
Avoid them if you rate highly cleanliness, personal space, beds without another above your head and your own bathroom.

I am for the most part okay with hostels. Cleanliness, well I obviously don’t appreciate filth but I am not going to lie, my standards are possibly lower than average. Most hostels are tidy clean just not clean-clean, the floors smell feety, the toilets toilety and the showers have mould. The covers are clean but you wouldn't dare look at the pillow and the duvet underneath.

“Why in God’s name would you do it?” I hear you grumble as you puff on your cigar.

There are several benefits to hostelling. The price. Travelling solo means B&Bs and hotels are for the most part out unless you want to pay twice the price and have an empty bed beside you and I ain’t no Donald Trump.

You never feel alone in a hostel. You don’t need to talk to them it’s just nice to have them around.
Hostels are the only place in the world that can get away with vivid, nausea-inducing colour on everything partially to look funky and partly to cover filth I gather. They usually have free wifi, kitchen facilities and even breakfast provided.

They are either walking distance or public transport accessible meaning you don’t have to break the budget to get to where you are going.

Need a hair clip? Why there’s one right here on the window still. There is also probably a spare sock under the bunk in the corner.

Shit things.

Obviously there is a small chance it doesn’t go to plan and you might either be robbed of all your possessions or be feasted on by bed bugs and other such fungal parasitical bacterial nasties. It is uncommon. Hot water is usually an issue, either it’s all gone, the pressure is terrible or it has an automatic timer cut out every 10 seconds. In winter this is a bother in what is most likely already an under heated establishment. I remember running down to a cold shower in an Irish winter, shivering under ice water and running up to my room and sitting with my back on the heater and cursing like a leprechaun. Or if it was hot, stay under the shower and drying one limb at a time while the rest stayed under the warm.

Dirty bastards. Some people are just filthy people. A lot of them frequent hostels and don’t clean up after themselves.

Also be aware that weirdos also frequent hostels especially in big cities where it is expensive to rent.

There is a good amount of people watching that can be done. In a typical hostel you may encounter some the following stereotyped characters.

Noisy Spanish: There are a lot of Spanish people travelling in Europe, they would have to be the second biggest group after Australians. They always travel in big groups and usually don’t talk to anyone else. They go out at around 12pm and come home at some stage during my rem cycle. They chitter chatter in loud Spanish voices when they do return regardless of the hour.

After I had already made my mass generalisation of Spanish people I shared a room with two in Berlin.
This is how it played out.
Asian girl, German boy and I were all catching z's and these two hombres come in turn the light waking us all. I pretend to stay asleep for I do not wish to engage in chitter chatter I wish to sleep. They talk loudly in Spanish. One might have been that little cartoon mouse with a sombrero as it was high pitched and I was under the covers trying to sleep.
Young German boy from Cologne wakes up and Senõr numero uno says
“Why are you in bed so early? Why aren’t you partying man”
“What time is it?” says Klaus wearily,
"Is just a little after twelve”.
"A little after 12!", I think to myself under my blanket "What are you a bloody owl? Go to bed, man"

Klaus makes an excuse about still being wasted from a big weekend as it was a Monday night. Eventually they leave to go out, naturally leaving the light on as they leave giving ammunition to my Spanish people are nuts with the partying and the lateness, loudness and dare I say, inconsiderateness concept.

New bff/stalker: Travelling solo can be quite lonely at times. It can be nice to have a polite conversation with the person you are eating breakfast with or sharing a room with what you don’t want to do is go beyond polite conversation (unless they seem normal). This will result in long winded chit-chat where they will tell you way too much information about themselves, ask for your email or phone number and want to spend every moment of hostel life with you, their new best friend, you, the idiot that talked to the weirdo. Rookie mistake.

The diva: Some people are Hilton travellers on hostel budgets. These people are a pain in the ass. They want the light off. Complete silence. Basically they want what they don’t have or what is not possible in a communal area for $20 a night.

Mumma or papa hostel: Long stayers are a common sight in most hostels. They are the ones on first name basis with the desk staff and the ones cooking roast chicken in the kitchen and not pasta and jar sauce. Many are just working or newly arrived and looking for housing. Others are there because it is cost effective. These are often a bit older and have set up camp in a hostel of 18-30 year olds. The ones who shhhhh people when they walk in. In Ireland, where I myself was a long stayer albeit a normal-ish one, Papa Hostel was an older guy who sat on a chair in front of the TV watching EastEnders, then Coronation St every night during dinner time. He would have the volume so high to drown out the sound people chatting in the common areas. Cursing rude youth. Shhing people as they had a social beer before going out. Mama Hostel was a bag/cat lady, she dried herself with a roll of toilet paper and collected coffee cups to reuse. Don’t talk to these people.

Sleepy jet lag man: Every time you arrive without fail you will walk into a room and there will be someone sleeping somewhere. They are usually fully clothed and will be asleep your entire stay. They either wake during the night hours or not at all. Are they jetlagged? who knows, but I would prefer they got into some pj’s especially because 90 per cent of the time when I do see them wake they go out in the same clothes.

See it’s a myriad of excitement. You don’t get that in a hotel. Strangers provide the greatest amusement. And the best part is instead of £80 per night it costs £12, throw in free breakfast, walking distance to attractions and a kitchen to heat your baked beans and you have a comprehensive experience for ¼ of the price. And the entertainment, well that’s just thrown in.
Sometimes you even meet some really great people who can make your stay so much better than it ever could have been and you have a new best friend for a city.
I mean there is that odd occasion when you come back to your room at night and there is a person sleeping in your bed and your bag is on the floor as happened to me a few weeks ago. A bit of a blow.
Sleepy Spanish dude 1, Regan the schmuck who then had to drag all the activities and essentials possibly needed in the next 12 hours to the top bunk in the dark = 0.

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I particularly liked the way this hostel used sheets which were too small for the bed as fitted sheets. Its nice to wake up with your face a mattress that has had a million other peoples faces on.
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This was some ingenious use of space. The middle bunk. I kindly offered this one to my more agile younger sister. She couldn't get back out.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 13:07 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged hostel backpacking backpackers bunks Comments (0)

Poland: Statue art

Observations of Poland

Poland seems to have an unhealthy obsession with sculptures. Every city has half a dozen artistic wonders. Obviously there is your national heroes, Kopernicus and JP2 but there might also be a gnome at tripping height outside a building. Animals are also popular, just a donkey on a street corner or a chicken eating pretend grain. It’s hard to say why. I think sculptors made their biggest comeback since Ancient Greece in Eastern Europe in the post-war period when a statue, a monument or memorial was placed on every corner.

It doesn't stop at statues. Monuments are a big thing from Eastern Bloc times. The Soviets loved a good, giant, ugly memorial with happy communists farming or just a big, omnipresent Lenin in a town centre. There are sculptures every where you look from confronting, skeletal sculptures honouring those who perished in WW2 camps to big dramatic, often morbidly styled pieces of bronze to honour the heroes of communism, great battles and the fallen.

With the fall of communism much of the socialist art was destroyed and many statues ceremoniously toppled as a symbol of the fall. Nowadays where a Stalin the size of a building loomed is something less confronting, a nice statue of a national hero, a fountain or in Prague they replaced theirs with a giant metronome.

It seems in Poland they couldn’t quite do away with this love of statue art. As throwback to old times perhaps they keep putting up statues but now, obviously they are not going to have a Stalin so how about puppy? Or a donkey? Or a gnome watching TV?

The types of statues Poland replaced its socialist art with:

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Some of the Communist era memorials that survived:
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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 02:33 Archived in Poland Tagged art statues poland sculpture Comments (0)

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