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  • hardie karges 7:57 pm on September 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , North Europe   

    NOW AVAILABLE: 1000 Hostels–Britain & North Europe Hyper-Guide 

    1000 Hostels In north Europe

    1000 Hostels In north Europe

    The British Isles and Germany are the historic heartland of the hostel movement, and they’re the heart of this book, too, with over 600 hostels—lodgings with shared rooms—between them.  They have private rooms, too, of course.  And the Benelux countries and Scandinavia are no slouches, either.  Then there’s East Europe—Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and the Baltic countries—a new frontier just waiting to be explored further.  Do you already know how to travel? Do you just want to know where the hostels are, so that you can plan a hostel-based trip along the highways and byways of North Europe, in the major cities, smaller towns and remote villages, too?  Then this is the book for you.

    This is the most comprehensive hostel guide ever written, encompassing the old youth hostel movement and the modern phenomenal spread of backpackers’ hostels around the globe as well.  That ranges from the dozens of the most modern ‘flash-packers’ hostels in the urban centers of London and Berlin to remote wilderness hostels in Ireland and surfers’ camps in Sweden.  Sound good?  Are you afraid that maybe you’re too old for a hostel?  Don’t worry; most hostels have no age restrictions. And they all have English-speaking staff and internet capabilities.  Most even have kitchens.  Some even have bars.  All have cool people as guests.  The 1000 hostels listed here are to be found in over 250 cities and places in north Europe from Dublin to Moscow, and Oslo to Munich.

    Have you been to East Europe yet?  You should, since it’s the hippest travel destination in the world.  The Northern countries of the East are included here—Poland, Russia, and all the rest, now wide open for travel.  I heartily recommend it.  C U in Edinburgh, or Berlin, or Kiev, or Tallinn, or… you name it.

     
  • hardie karges 4:45 pm on September 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    TRAVEL ALERT: LOSE 10 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS! WITHOUT EXERCISE! EAT ICE CREAM! 

    Image

    Shades of Istanbul…

    Yes, you can do all this in Uzbekistan, especially if you’re vegetarian.  When the national cuisine (e.g. comfort food) consists basically of meat, fat and starch, it’s easy for me to abstain.  It’s not that they don’t have good healthy food.  They do.  But like elsewhere, it doesn’t show up much in restaurants.  Fortunately hotels and even hostels tend to include breakfast, frequently good, often massive.  That’s where I stocked up the old belly.  Other than that it’s pretty dismal, and often over-priced.  You could do better in any fast-food Chinese joint in Los Angeles, IMHO.  And if you decide to go with Western food instead, then you’re pretty much limited to xot dogs, gamburgers, and пицца, without the anchovies.  It’s still a nice country.  And you really don’t need to pack the vitamins.  I know when I’m vitamin-deficient.  They do have fresh vegetables, and instant noodles, and fresh eggs.  Mini-fridges are not uncommon either, even in the cheaper rooms.  Next time I’ll take a 220V traveling tea kettle.  The ice cream is cheap and nothing special, but not bad.  They’ve got corn (maize), too.  I like that.  I like people who eat corn on the cob.  I like Uzbekistan, too.

     
  • hardie karges 6:49 pm on September 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Hermen Cain, , Islam Karimov, Tashkent,   

    Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of… Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan (A Satire in Several Parts) 

    Uzbekistan Wear for Guys

    Uzbekistan Wear for Guys: Making Sgt. Pepper Proud

    Poor Ali G: there he busted his hump to make an Oscar-worthy mock-doc poking gentle fun at America while skewering one of the Turkestan republics, in the course of redefining a genre little utilized since Spinal Tap.  Then Herman (Pizza Man) Cain’s reference in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to “Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan” only—what, less than two years ago?—one-upped him just by being a dumb-ass American who doesn’t know his Uz from his BekiStan (much less gthe name of their President).

    My, how time flies…  In the course of that exchange he managed to reveal his own ineptitude more than Uzbekistan’s, of course, but that’s politics for you.  His only real mistake was in assuming that no one else has ever heard of them, either.  That’s when he made really an Uz of himself.  Many people are familiar with the glories of the old Silk Route to China, and the fabulous civilizations that flourished there.  Of course it was a Soviet state for most of the 20th century, and frankly, hasn’t changed much.  That president whose name Cain can’t remember has been in power the whole time.  He supported the coup against Gorbachev, too, and was reluctant to declare independence.

    Uzbek Wear for Gals

    Uzbek Wear for Gals

    What do you miss most about the demise of Soviet-style Communism?  The mindless bureaucracy, maybe, or the endless queues for bread?  Or what about the paranoia?  You gotta’ love the paranoia.  Me, I think my favorite part were the five-year plans.  Those were pretty, cool, certainly better than showing up every day for meetings of the Capitalist Youth League.  Those were boring.  I mean: Cub, Bear, Lion; what’s up with that?  But the five-year plans were cool, as if someone up there were actually doing some thinking and planning, rather than just running for re-election every two to six years in some corrupt capitalist lackey front for democracy.

    (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:18 pm on September 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Khiva Caveats, part II: Partially-Nude Semi-Transparent Thinly-Veiled Over-Priced Lunch 

    Khiva for Sale

    Khiva for Sale

    Besides the over-commercialization of Khiva, then there’s the problem of food.  I’ve mostly been avoiding sit-down restaurant food in Uzbekistan, 1) because it looks pretty fatty, meaty and starchy, so not impressive; 2) it’s pretty much the same everywhere, with little variation, again not impressive; you’ve basically got variations on the theme of fat, meat and starch: somsa, manti, piroshki, palov, shashlik, shwarma.  There are a couple soups that I haven’t tried, but who eats soup in this heat?  And complaint 3) my main beef (pun) about Uzbekistan: dual-pricing, i.e. overcharging of foreigners.  Over-charging is an old travelers’ complaint, of course, and is not limited to any one country or region of the world. (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 3:26 am on September 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Khiva Caveats, part I: Love in the Ruins 

    Kyziylkum Desert Pit Stop

    Kyziylkum Desert Pit Stop

    Well, I’ve been so effusive in my infatuation with Uzbekistan so far, like a kid in a candy store, or with a new toy, or a new girl-friend, that it had to end sometime, so I guess I’ll have to vent my spleen against the good folks of Khiva, since they are less attractive to me than the people of Samarkand or Bukhara in the first place.  You’ve got a vast desert between the two, for one thing, the Kyzylkum (“red sand”), not to be confused with the Karakum (“black sand”) which usually should take no more than a few hours to cross, half day at most.  It took Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah longer than that BTW.

     

    And, just when it seems like the desert itself will never end, you’ll soon come out on a sizeable fertile plain that was the ancient kingdom of Khorezm, the same Khorezm that gave its name to the mathematician al-Khorezmi, architect of the ‘algorithms’ that define the operating systems of the computer you’re using right now.  It doesn’t look like much on the map, not much more than a bend in the river.  In fact it is the capital of an ancient culture, one related but not synonymous with its cousins back east.

    (More …)

     
    • annathrax 11:21 pm on September 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      i am thoroughly enjoying your uzbek blog posts. its my dream to get here one day! (nearly did but then got pregnant lol). looking forward to more stories from you! greets from australia

  • hardie karges 11:29 am on September 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Bukhara, , , ,   

    Six Days in Bukhara 

    Sunrise over Bukhara

    Sunrise over Bukhara

    The babushka looks at me with derision this morning.  That’s nothing new.  She looks at me with derision every morning, up and down, lingering on my shoes, sending me a discreet message.  Or so I imagine.  What?  Are holey kung fu shoes not ‘in fashion’ this morning?  Are they not the ‘next big thing?’  Cut me some slack.  I’ll make up for it a little later.  That’s when I’ll flash the big bad hiking boots for public consumption.  That always wows ‘em down at the marketplace, where souls go for social intercourse, and basic ground provisions.

    The babushka seems dissatisfied with her place in life, as if she thought the revolution would bring instant wealth, as if you could just add water, beat lightly, then allow to settle.  She probably berates her moosh every day, for what he fails to provide.  I’ve never seen her smile.  She probably never wanted the hotel on this side of town, anyway; location location location, remember?  She certainly didn’t want to list the place on a hostel-booking site, I’ll bet.  Doesn’t the moosh know that hostels only bring in the lowliest of backpackers?  She imagined there’d be elegant foreigners, sharing their lives of wealth and fame!  What a crock!

    Passages in Bukhara

    Passages in Bukhara

    This place is nice enough to be a good deal for a backpacker, but not nice enough to bring in the tour buses.  Maybe they should take credit cards.  Everybody wants top dollar, but nobody wants to take credit cards, and this in a nation without ATM’s.  Do the math.  But the WiFi works most of the time, even in my room, so I see an opportunity to catch up on some work.  I’ve even got air conditioning AND a hot tub bath; this could seriously destroy my street cred.  I’ll have Hell to pay if the babushka catches me pocketing a hard-boiled egg, though; and Hell just raised its rates, I think.

    The irony, of course, is that while I refer to her as the ‘old lady’, she is, in fact, probably young enough to be my daughter.  She’s just trying to be ‘adult’, whatever that means.  Now the patriarch of the hostel in Tashkent was old, doddering around half-way hunch-backed, with a hang-dog look, and full of mock seriousness.  He wiped the table with the expertness of a squeegee engineer on the exit ramp of I-10.  Actually he’s a former Soviet soldier and university professor, full of info on Uzbek history.  “Too old now,” he says when asked why he’s not still there.  He’s five years younger than I am; good laugh there.

    (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:34 pm on September 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Samarkand is for Lovers… Crashing Weddings 

    Somebody needs a plumb Bob

    Samarkand’s Registan: Somebody Needs a Plumb Bob

    My main inspiration to be in Samarkand at this particular time was to attend the biennial Sharq Taronalari music festival, but once past that event, I extended my stay.  I kinda’ like this place.  I was always a bit skeptical of the ‘famous Turkish hospitality’ of Istanbul and Turkey, but this seems more genuine to me, and is really quite endearing, I’ll have to admit.  There is always something special about a nation ‘coming out’ for the first time—think Laos 1994, or Cuba 2020—and this is no exception.

     

    And if you figure a nation of ex-Commies and Muslims to be some bad-ass mothers—sleeping with Kalashnikovs (good name for a movie, I think) and bent

    Samarkand Market: Special Bread

    Samarkand Market: Special Bread

    on jihad, then you’d be wrong. There is an optimism on the faces, and a sincerity in the smiles.  Old men want to compare beard lengths with me.  They invite me to tea, and take pictures with me, their long-lost other brother from a different mother.  We can’t communicate much, of course, but that’s okay.  I’d like to pretend that we have some non-linguistic mystic thing going on, but no, we just exchange smiles and stare in silence.  Still it’s nice… and I’m studying Russian, so it should get better.  The kids are studying English.

    (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 4:00 am on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Samarkand is for Lovers… and Babies 

    Samarkand: Afro-Siab

    Samarkand: Ancient Tombs

    Samarkand… the city evokes names as diverse as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane, Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah, and images of lonely desert caravans and exotic colorful markets, sipping tea from samovars and slicing fruit with daggers. It must have been quite the vision in the desert after a week or two of travel from any direction. The present day reality is a bit different, and modernized of course, but still not bad.

    So after a brief stay in Tashkent, I set my sights here, flight already booked in advance in the US. Knowing how bad I get jet-rag (“don’t touch me there!”), I didn’t want to create for myself the extra chore of seeking onward transportation on my only full day in Tashkent. And the Cheapo Air booking was hitch-free, sounds easier than booking in-country, in fact, but I don’t know if it’s the same price. There is a 4:3 difference between market and official exchange rates here. I recommend Cheapo Air for remote locations, though. The other large air bookers won’t touch ‘em.

    Samarkand- On more smoke break

    Samarkand- One more smoke for the road

    Tashkent doesn’t seem too much different from any major ex-Soviet city, be it Yerevan or Vilnius… or Moscow, for that matter, with vestiges of the old guard still lingering, including much Russian language. That includes all the signs reading, “stomatologia,” which I had once mistakenly thought indicated that Russians had frequent stomach problems, but actually I think means ‘dentist.’ I’ll check my dictionary. Either way, it sounds like I better watch what I eat.

    That Russian influence is less in Samarkand, but the Tajik influence is greater, it being the predominant language here, I think, in fact. That reflects old mixings and minglings, and probably a few misgivings, the original meeting of East and West, today still reflected in racial and facial lines, the Mongol-related Turks taking from the Persian Tajiks to compensate for what the Han Chinese took from them, no doubt. (More …)

     
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