Soaking up the fruits of our wonderful friends hospitality Berlin - Holland - Prague - Vienna
It's hard to describe the feeling after camping out in a dry and waterless plain for 5 days amidst 30,000 people who would best be described by most as members of the fringe. The comforts of silence, showers, hygiene, rest, toilets, and most of all, silence, hold a lot of appeal. On the last day of the festival we began to say our goodbyes and skirted around, checking out a last couple of concerts. The festival manages its waste by having every participant pay a 5 euro deposit which is returned when a full bag of garbage is collected before leaving. Garbage is suddenly valuable! A couple of quick faucet showers, and we set off to Berlin accompanied by a number of new friends who were also headed in the same direction. The pace of the Hajji was starting to become a little more understood to the group, but with the massive exodus of people from the festival we ended up doing the 100km jaunt to Berlin in about 4 hours.
I had visited Berlin in the fall of last year with Dan, and was lucky enough to be hosted by one of the most generous men I've met here in Europe, Arne. People really make the places you visit, and to see Berlin through the eyes and ears of Arne is a delightful experience. Our dirty and disheveled group found its way to his place on Sunday evening and quickly spread its greasy little feelers into all corners of his home. Showers, laundry, store-bought turkish pizza's, cold beers....all the luxuries were suddenly available. We indulged.
Hajji Crew at the Berlin Wall
Berlin - Poor but Sexy
The next day we woke up and spent a couple hours connecting with the world again. Not for long, as Berlin laid in wait as well as a new addition to the Hajji crew....Paul Walker! A friend from our old stomping grounds at Western, he is now a fledgling photographer and highly functional member of the team (just to update we now have Ben, Marcus, Lauren, Tannis, and Paul, as well as Conrad tagging along for the Fusion-Berlin adventure). We found him outside a BMW/Bentley dealership as a small degree of hustle and pranced off into the streets. Berlin was a big change after our time at Fusion, and we spent our time checking out the Berlin wall, soaking in Arne's childish enthusiasm, eating cheap kebab and burgermeister burgers, and generally loving life.
Ben and Tan on the Swings - It is nice to have a beautiful photographer like Paul around!
Our time in Berlin was boxerbrief, as Holland and the 6th member of our emo-hiphop-power group awaited, Adam. A couple nights of adventure and we were back on the road...straight to Maastricht. The Hajji is a gentle soul and after a late departure we arrived in Maas around 2am. A couple quick glasses of wine and reunions with my old friends (I have lived in Maastricht the past 2 years and finished my Masters there) and it was bedtime. The next morning we continued our journey north to Utrecht, where Marcus and Ren officially signed on as owners of the Hajji. To celebrate the legal automotive matrimoney we sadled up again and rolled into Amsterdam around dinner time and camped out in a parking lot.
Marcus driving the Hajji on the Autobahn!
A friend and true spirit friend of mine Tommy lives in the city, so we parked our Hajji in a little lot just outside his house. The people surrounding the Hajji had never seen a bunch of scoundrel Canadians like us before, and everyone was out on their balconies at first laughing at our arrival and then scowling in confusion as to why we were suddenly living (cooking, eating, changing, doing make up) there. Amsterdam was a blast as always, and as with all the other cities we visited in Western Europe, was a true example of how important the people you visit in a city are over the city themselves. In Amsterdam we had Tommy, and an old Queens darling named Idette who is currently doing an architecture internship there. Tommy has just launched a line of casual footwear called Dippers (http://www.dippershoes.com) so life is very exciting and busy for him! We explored the red-light district, did some partying, and finally met up with the last member of the Hajji crew - Adam Ambrozy! Just returning from doing a University of Alberta (where he is doing teachers college) course in Ghana, he was joined by his lovely girlfriend named Pam for a few days before we arrived. We met up with them on the 2nd day and paroosed the sunny streets for the afternoon, but settling in a park and telling tales of yesterday and tomorrow. I also received an exciting phone call inticing me to switch my PhD from Australia to Vancouver in this park, a ball which has been rolling for a couple weeks now. Unfortunately, Tannis had a setback with a stolen wallet which gave her a (in)convieniant extra couple of days in Holland to get a new passport when we left for Prague a few days later
After a couple days in Amsterdam, we again said our goodbyes, and rolled south to the crown jewel of Hollands south, a city which should not be missed by any visitors to this tiny lowland country, and a place which holds a lot of love in my heart...Maastricht! It was a Friday night, our friends had just finished their final project for their fashion degree, there a large graduation party for one of the bigger faculties at the school, and we decided to throw a large BBQ party to celebrate/mourn the end of a wonderful era for a lot of people. The BBQ/party was at Conrads amazing mansion of a house and EVERYONE was there. There was also an amazing party at the large factory squat which I've been involved with through various capacities for the past few years. It was a busy and big night, so we stayed up all night.
Ben and Marcus playing pong at the factory
Early the next day (Saturday, July 4th) we all packed in the van, strapped all our bags to the roof, and hopped on the autobahn for another LONG day of driving. The first week of the trip contained a lot of driving as we had so much distance to cover to escape the capitalistic clutches of Western Europe and escape to the crazy solace of the East. We arrived in Prague at the wee hours of the morning (yet again) and hired a taxi driver to lead us to our new home, the home of a great man of noble Cordoban descent that I know from my days in Sweden, Alvaro Recio Garcia a.k.a. Pelon Loco. He is currently doing an internship in Prague, and was happy to host our crazy crew. Prague was as adventure as usual. The first day we were there (Sunday July 5th) was the Wimbledon final, so we all went downtown and watched the game in one of the fine drinking establishments right in the main square of town. After that we went for some cheap massive pizzas (finally starting to reap the cheap rewards of the East). The pace of travelling took its toll on us that night, and we succumbed at a decent hour. The next day we spent some time doing Hajji upkeep, and changed her oil and fixed the tire on a bicycle. Boo and Cous took a wild ride on the highway on our bicycles in search of additional oil, and at one point were biking down the shoulder into oncoming traffic when a police car with a couple of startled officers flew past, unable to keep up with our antipedal pace.
The Hajji Crew (minus Tan) enjoying many massive Pizzas in Prague
The Famous Clock in Prague Main Square
Our last night in Prague we celebrated like insane people and found a number of Mojito's and glasses of champagne falling into our arms at a relaively swanky divebar. At one point, outside to take a pee and breath of fresh air, Cousman felt a zinger in his leg and knew that all was not well. A sniper had taken hold in the windows above, and he was again peppered with a hot pellet in his leg. "Sniper!" he shouted and before he took refugre, Lauren and Paul Walker were also struck down by the mad Czech gunner. We got some police officers and told them of the assailant above, but they didn't seem to care much. We also managed to meet up with an old friend from highschool Latif, and his friend Jalil in Prague, who were there randomly at the same time doing the same thing as us. "Do you want to join our crazy crew and come to Serbia?".....of course they exclaimed! The Hajji crew was now expanded to the cozy number of 8 (although Tannis was still in Netherlands at this point). Another late night...early morning, and we were off to the last bastion of Western frivolity...Vienna!
Lauren ripping off Ben's shirt infront of the UN headquarters in Vienna
We arrived in Vienna around dinnertime and had no idea where we should go. Lauren (a inexperianced standard driver who was quickly learning) found her way to the "European Center" where we parked and saught out a phone to call our host for the evening, a man of undescribable quality and integrity, the founder of gentility, Johannes Braune. Johnny, an old drinking buddy of Couster from Dalhousie, is working for the UN in Vienna, and it turns out that the random location we found ourself parked at, full of urban climbing walls and enthusiasts (including us) was RIGHT infront of the UN buidling and his work! The Hajji truely is a blessed vehicle, and the times we have had luck deliver us boons of fortune are uncountable at this point. Johannes took us back to his beautiful crib where we listened to the wonders of his life (this man is incredible) and went out for some delicious wienerschnitzel. The next morning we said our goodbyes...again....and picked up the Tannis with her new official temporary white-gold passport and set off for Serbia.
Western Europe was a very comfortable sojourn between Fusion Festival and our next stop in Seriba, Exit festival. We regenerated and recooperated under the care of our dearest friends. Visiting any city is defined by the people you see it with, and we were very lucky to have amazing hosts from Berlin, to Amsterdam, to Maastricht, to Prague, and finally Vienna. Thank you for everyone who helped us. Now on to a lost place full of mad individuals, Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia......