Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Sunny Kirkwall (it rains at least as much as it shines in the five days so far, but the rain is a nice change and the sun is glorious)

 Visiting the cathedral with the brother.

 Inside the cathedral.

 Gaelic football.

How my feet ended the journey. I wonder how long the tan will take to fade...

 A hayshed/ aircraft hanger thing.

 Me in the heather.

A jersey cow (I think, it's the right colour, right?)


 Otters! Sea Otters!

 On the left there, what I would mistake to be a mutant sheep, but I already know is a cow.

 The cathedral.

A bone carved viking linen scraper from the museum.

 Some teeny tiny linen knitting.

 Up close so you can see the detail, even though it no longer looks so teeny tiny. Seriously, I think I would go blind trying to knit these.

Monday, 26 September 2011


Well, I have arrived in Orkney, utterly knackered (which is unsurprising, I suppose). It took me six days and three hours to get from Istanbul, Turkey to Kirkwall, Orkney. In hindsight, I did it a little too quickly, but I felt the pressing weight of ... something chasing me across Europe. I can always go back, right?

It was a beautiful autumn day yesterday, clear and sunny with not much wind. We walked down into the town and looked around. There is a beautiful cathedral made in the 12th century from red sandstone. It is very impressive and, in its way, as beautiful as any of the religious buildings I have seen on the way. On the way to the farmers' market we looked in shops (including two yarn shops) and soaked up the sunshine. We bought ingredients for a hearty stew and had a cuppa in the Judith Glue cafe.
Once we had started the stew in the slow cooker, it was off for a tramp up the hill behind James' place.

I have been feeling a bit panicky or something about, well, everything. I have about four conflicting ideas on what I should do next/now and I feel like the cat on the hot tin roof, not knowing which way to jump.

I suppose it is normal to be feeling a bit bleah after such a wonderful time on the truck (which was easy and always someone else being the boss and plenty of people around and things to do and see and no need to think about The Future).

Thursday, 22 September 2011

London in 5 hours

 Arrive at St Pancras at 1.30 pm. Walk to Euston station, buy a ticket for the overnight train to Inverness. Feel slightly disappointed that they only have seats left, no sleepers. Check your luggage (it is per bag, so try and stuff one bag inside the other).

Walk along Euston Road then turn left down Tottenham Court Road. Turn right at Oxford Street, turn left down Regent Street

Go to Liberty and buy a ball of Rowan and look at the Tana Lawn.

Turn off down Swallow Street and have something to eat in the wifi cafe. Walk along Piccadilly to the Piccadilly Circus and Eros. 

 Walk down Haymarket then along Pall Mall.

 Marvel at Trafalgar Square

 Marvel some more.

 And at the man on the plinth.

 Walk down Whitehall Street and then along the Horse Guards Avenue to Victoria Embankment.

Gaze in wonder at Big Ben. Notice that it is 6.20pm and you probably need to get your skates on.

 Quickly look at Westminster Abbey then bust down Birdcage Walk past St James park. Try and take a picture of a squirrel.

 Quick photo of Australia Gate.

 Stand at Buckingham palace for a ten minutes. Watch the men in red marching up and down. Wonder what they do with all those rooms. Wish for a second that you were actually staying for a day or two so that you could go for a tour.

 Hurry down to Victoria Station and be back at Euston at 7.30pm for your 9.15pm train to Inverness.

Things that are weird about Europe.

Tall people.

Putting toilet paper in the toilet.

Drinking water from the tap.

Hot tea with milk.


Rubbish in bins.


English people.

Sound of Music tour, Salzburg

The painted cow at the ticket place. A guy told a story about how Salzberg people painted and washed a cow a couple of times during a siege to pretend they had lots of food left and now called 'bull washers'.

The fountain where she flicked the water (I think) singing about confidence.

The gazebo.

Where they filmed the scene in the boat when the captain came back.

Where they filmed the wedding, in the other direction there is the mighty organ (sorry, reading Pratchett again).

Where they filmed the bit at the start.

Where she runs down singing about confidence.

The end of the Do-re-mi song. (Yes, I am that type of tourist and I have no shame).

The fountain they run around in the Do-re-mi song.

More Do-re-mi song.

I really enjoyed the extremely corny tour. We sang the songs on the bus on the way round.

Monday, 19 September 2011

I enjoyed the first 22 hours of the 19 hour train journey...

It is nearly half past eight and I am trying not to be nervous about arriving in Bucharest in the dark, instead of at half past five.

Apparently the taxi guys try to rip you off and it is in a dodgy area of town. The hostel I have booked is supposed to be seventeen minutes walk from the station. My mind is obsessively going over the things I need to do - change money, find an ATM, get a ticket to Budapest for tomorrow, get to the hostel, get food and water for the train tomorrow, go to the post office, be a tourist and see the Roman Athenaeum. And all the while a counter thread of 'You're wasting the opportunity to see Bulgaria and Romania, all of those interesting villages you've passed, you should explore.'

I miss the truck. I miss someone else making all the travel decisions. I miss travelling with other people. I miss Jamie's farts and Jess's outrageous comments. I miss the steadiness of the two Johns. I miss Andrew's straight-faced humour. I miss Al and I miss Juan.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Friday morning in Istanbul

The three of us started on Gertie in Bangkok and have made it all the way through to Istanbul. When Jess and Jamie joined us in Tashkent, we had been on the truck for longer than they had been married.

We had a go at going on a shopalopathon, but looked instead of shopped. Which is just as well, I am strangely attracted to the ugly ceramic cats.

We didn't even buy these fabulous undies.

Or this... stuff. (though I did buy a Christmas ornament for my mum in this shop. Expect a Christmas Squirrel coming your way, Mum).

 And we saw some 'feed the birds, tuppence a bag'.

Then Jess and Jamie went for a Bosphorus cruise and I went home to organise my stuff and to go to the post office. I was suffering from lack of sleep and may have had a few bouts of tears over ridiculous things (but not, surprisingly, the fact that the parcel post part of the post office closed early and was shut by the time I got there and now I have a lot of things to carry to Bucharest. Yes, Bucharest. I bought a train ticket this morning for 10pm tonight. Why am I not going to Ismir with Asima any more? Her ferry from Ismir is no longer going to Alexandria, so she is no longer going to Ismir. I will have to come back to Turkey in the future to go and visit Ephesus. [I may have cried a little at the sudden and unexpected loss of my truck.])

I have the sudden conviction that I should have bought a ticket to Sofia instead of Bucharest.

Second day in Istanbul, being a tourist - 15th Sept

 After several weeks of travel through places with hardly any tourists, we were a bit overwhelmed by the queues on the first day. On the second day we braved the short queue to get in to the Aya Sophia. There were promises of scaffolding, but this was all we could find.

 There were some domes.

 And some knitting. (Bless Turkey for being cool enough to knit).

And some people.

 The queue to get in to the Blue Mosque was epic, but we braved that, too. (After posing, I am a poser).

More domes.

 The Basilica Cistern was properly awesome with GIANT carp and two Medusa heads.

 And, um, *coff* the crying tears post (is that what it was called? I can only remember what Jess and Jamie called it and that is something I can't repeat in front of my mother.).

 We had dinner under the Blue Mosque (no alcohol, more kebab). It loomed.