A Travellerspoint blog

The Hajji Diary pt. 3

An Entry By Alex Derry in Slovenia - August 24th


The Hajji's Journey from August 17th to 24th

Alex Derry, a true scholar and a gentlemen, studied with Ben in Maastricht for the last year and we were lucky enough to have him join the Hajji crew for a couple of weeks. We met him (after some trouble) at Sziget Festival and he traveled with us through Austria to Slovenia where he departed. Given his gift of gab, we hired him to write up his experiences in the Hajji (his payment being the liquor we served him for weeks on end). Here is what he had to say about his time in the Hajji, and this portion of our trip....

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Alex Derry Ladies and Gentlemen

˝My first encounter with this red-hued diesel-fueled sex chariot was way back in April, when Ben brought it to Maastricht from Utrecht, as a farmer brings his livestock to market - to present its robust figure and tender features to drooling, moneyed merchants. But this Arab Charger was not for sale. Rather, it was to house, transport, feed, and entertain a vibrtant cast of roaming expatriates who sought exotic new environs for spiritual inspiration, or, in my case, to delay the inevitable reeducation camps of real life. Those early trips within Dutch borders were litmus tests for the Hajjis sheer power - it could hold large crowds, climb hills at a steady pace, blast fresh beats across a field, and, most important of all, stow away vast quantities of jar-burr. The International Gypsy Fest quest (a strange but wonderful turr that brought Taraf De Haidouks to my ears) was a strong indicator of its rhino spirit.

I had hoped to join the mysterious Hajji caravan for their sojourn at Exit Festival in Novi Sad, but circumstances brought me to London, and a meet up was uncertain. So, I booked a flight to Warsaw, spent some time in the Polish countryside spotting bison and dodging Lushenko's border guards, sojourned in Krakow, bought a ticket to Sziget and relied on the harmony of the spheres to bring me and the Hajji crew together in Budapest, via the night train which was full of mysterious romance.

As readers are already well aware, Sziget was a gas. A flurry of sounds and sights and suds and nutritious slop. But I will supplement the reader's digest with some personal perspective. Following a particularly disastrous tear on my part, some enterprising little shit stole my all-access wristband while I was passed out on the grass in only my bathing suit (sometime after Calexico I believe, but I'm sure my fellow pilgrims have more details on that particular fiasco). As such, I was a refugee on Obudai, stripped of my inherent rights and freedoms as a festivalier, and constantly on the look-out for the roaming ticket authorities. As such, I was unable to shower, and therefore had to supplement the already reduced level of festival hygene with infrequent dips in the polluted Danube. But we all made it through, (somewhat) unscathed, in need of the cleansing Turkish-style baths.

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Hajji Boys Sorted By Height

And thencewards to Vienna. via the Hungarian town of Gyor, where we camped for one night out back of a 24-hour Tesco, camping like ghosts in the night in order to avoid security forces and the odd roaming trucker perv. Fogut brought us across the border and into Vienna via the scenic industrial route. After dispelling the rumours of Sting's death, we set up a beer picnic in the park, near the Hilton. Ben, Cous and Fogut, being the budding, thieving entrepreneurs they are, managed to scam the Hilton out of some ice by convincing the concierge they were a band on tour. What the name of the band was I can't quite recall, but I do know that I joined them as their manager when it was decided that we would extend this ruse to obtain a couple of long island iced teas. Great Success!! Reunions all around with Conrad Schmidt-Bens and Johannes Braune (our guide and host, fresh from his work at the International Atomic Energy Agency). Drinks by the river, schnitzel served in a subway stations by a drunken waiter, and a night in the city park. In the morrow, we break up to see the sights, thereby losing our companions Neala and Fogut, (who were returning to Canuckia), more drinks by the Danube, and then a quest to find Daniel's friend Alex, recent owner of Angie's Movie Cafe.

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Hajji Crew (at a record high of 11!) out for dinner in Vienna

And then we set Slovenia in our sights. Cruising through the Julein Alps towards Lake Bled, we are wowed by Austro-Slovene landscapes. We roll into the resort town of Bled in the early evening, and are excited by what we see: a stunning deep blue emerald lake surrounding a small island whereupon is perched a church. Beautiful, robust Slovenes sunning themselves by the water. We found a field to camp in (like ghosts, again, must avoid the state), and after pizza and kebaps, we run naked into the lake, with a tipsy walk back to our campsite. The next day is spend in much the same way, sunning, eating and killing vast quantities of wasps, before we warm ourselves up for a race to the island and back. Explored Dali's biblical period at the local gallery just in time for dinner at the best pizzeria in Slovenia. Ben, Conrad and I decide to hit the town with some innocent Irish girls, and we end up drinking red bull and vodka with some racist Slovenes, who lash out at the mention of Bosnian interlocutors. Nice to see that things have changed.
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Cous at Bled Island

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Bled Island Beauty

Bled was wonderful, but the Hajji purrs for more mileage. So we round up the crew and gear, and after another pizzeria jaunt, we head to the capital, Ljubljana, described by the Lonely Planet as having the atmosphere and culture of Prague or Paris, but with less attitude. I am inclined to agree, to a certain extent. While it is a small city, Ljubljana boasts a vibrant atmosphere with warm inhabitants eager to show us around. Upon arrival, we ascend to the castle, which provided us with a view of the city as well as of some absurdly hip prettyboy/girl Australians that were met with Brett's Kiwi ire. Perhaps so much so that he needed some alone time, because as we prepared our plans for the night as a massive storm loomed in the sky, our friend Brett had disappeared. "Where was he?" you ask? Good question, because as we were racking our brains as to the possibilities of his movements, with Ben cruising the streets with an umbrella and a worried soul, Brett was sitting pretty drinking jar in the Metalkova squat. All is well.

For my last day with the Hajji crew, we enjoyed a traditional Slovenian meal and more beers in the park, at which time we meet up with Conrad's new friend who was to show us about the city's nightlife. It was a night of punks, specifically Canadian punks, called the Flatliners. I bumped my head. And then I had to leave.

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Walking Home from a Punk Concert in Ljubljana

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Alex Derrys Crowd Surfing Head Wound

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Brett, Ben, Cous and Rens Sleeping Spot in Ljubljana


Heading to the Ljubjana train station, not much time, so much love, thank you for saving me, and if you dont know, now you know.˝

Thanks for the write up Derry! We miss you so!
Much love from the Hajji crew to you and yours.

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Goodbye Alex John Jackson Derry Photo Shoot

Posted by rencous 13:09 Comments (1)

Sziget Festival - Our Last and Biggest Festival

Where all come together and unite as one

Hello Dear Hajji Fans,
Wrote this a couple of days ago in Croatia, and now will post it from Sarajevo. We have had an eventful weekend here involving some burglery. We'll post the details soon. About happier things though.....


The blog is divergent, the blog is amiss, the blog is awash in a sea of bliss
Writing from a town just north of Split in Croatia, we've decided to catch things up and send out a bunch of goody godness for the internet to see. The Hajji swims through the Balkans everyday, wracking up the kilometers and making people gasp in happiness at every turn. Lets visit the past and talk about a festival which was unlike all the others.....

Sziget Festival - August 10th to 17th
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Ben sweaty and happy in the Fatboy Slim crowd

As with the other festivals we visited (Fusion Festival in Germany and Exit Festival in Serbia) there is simply too many memories to recall on a blog. But without question, Sziget Festival, held on Obudai Island on the Danube River in Budapest, was our favorite. It was the longest (a week long), the largest (over 400,000 people attending) and presented the most diverse lineup of artists (from rock to electronic to balkan to blues to world to mongolian throat singers to to to). It also served as an epic meeting point for some of our favorite European friends, and our camp at the festival was nearly 15 people. The week we spent there was incredible. Cruising the island in the sun, drinking beers by the bucket, living in and around the Hajj, it was truely phenomenal. Having visited a number of festivals in Europe and in Canada, this one is hands-down the best. The environment is so relaxed and diverse, with people from all over the continent converging annually for this memorable week. Being situated on an island in the city, it is possible to leave out into the city (on our Dutch bikes which we have carted around) and see Budapest (a.k.a. try to sneak in more alcohol disguised as water bottles...whiched worked)
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Some of the Hajji crew (Neala, Alex, Lauren and Brett) partying in the INSANE crowd of Prodigy

The best part of this festival was the people. We were met by my dear Kiwi friend Brett, a true disaster and party spirit extrodinaire Alex Derry, our dutch delights Anke, Ineke and Marjolijn, our Istanbul hosts Isa and Daniel to add to our crew of Scottish Morgan, Canadian Neala and Foget (the best) and Me, Marcus and Ren. To have so many lovely people togethor at one place and one time is something which will be difficult to replace. Everyone who enters the Hajji is always a delight, and we miss these gems so much.

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A good portion of the Hajji Crew (Neala, Foget, Marcus, Brett, Ineke, Marjolijn, Daniel, Morgan, Ben, Alex, Lauren) after Coldcuts

Another amazing aspect of Sziget is that it is not all just music. Situated on an island, there is all the sports you can imagine (football, rugby, ping pong, table hockey, etc), countless activites (like portrait drawing! see below...) and spectacles and excitement going on at every turn. Amazing, i repeat amazing.
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Neala drawing a beautiful portrait of Daniel in the afternoon

The music was incredible and we wanted to link some of our favorite acts from the festival. The group often split up to see many different acts, but here are some that I can recall offhand
Birdy Nam Nam - A 4-man French DJ team (who I have seen at 2 festivals prior) really got us going
http://www.myspace.com/birdynamnam
Boban Markovic - Playing with an American Balkan team, this massive brass orchestra was the final concert (Sunday night) for us and REALLY got us sweaty and moving. Alex crowd surfed about half a dozen times....
http://www.myspace.com/bobanimarko
Fatboy Slim - Super famous DJ playing at the mainstage (40,000+ people!) was a rowdy time. See video posted below....
Haydamaky - A Ukranian Band which played Balkan Style music which made us kick and stomp.
http://www.myspace.com/haydamaky
Coldcuts - A UK DJ team with a 4-man string orchestra which also had a very visual show about global climate change. Student Workforce styles....
Speedcaravan - The Algerian Desert meets Jimi Hendrix. ROCK!
http://www.myspace.com/speedcaravan
Notwist - Chilled out music from Berlin
Hangai - Mongolian Throat Singing Band

The Prodigy, Lily Allen, The Ting Tings, Jet, Placebo, Faith No More, Amadou and Miriam, Antwerp Gypsy Ska Orchestra, and so on and so on. It is too difficult to remember all the amazing bands but there were many more (check out the full lineup athttp://www.sziget.hu/fesztival/?language=en ) . If you like festivals, you NEED to go to this one!!!

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Blurry shot of the lightshow at The Notwist
After the festival the Hajjis berth swelled, with many of our crew wanting to continue the adventure. We had to say goodbye to Morgan, a true gentlemen and scholar, and left him with some Germans on the island. We filled to 8 and drove to the baths of Budapest (an amazing detox/cleansing after a festival) and then headed to Vienna....

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The Hajji crew in the baths of Budapest

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Baths of Budapest

Posted by rencous 04:36 Comments (1)

The Hajji Diary pt. 2

An entry by Ben in Romania - August 9th

Another entry from our beloved Hajji Diary (see post The Hajji Diary below to learn about this gem!)

August 9th
˝A Carpathian Carpus once said to me ˝A man with no seed with never bear fruit˝, I now know this to be false, no watermelon has ever known wisdom.

The sounds of ˝How Bizarre˝ gently wafts through our cattle-feed campground surrounded by cattle-grade corn, another day spent as close to the Fagaras mountains as we may ever be. Yesterday we awoke early in a Carrefore megamall, participated in the biennial Brasov town traffic parade, saw a town enslaved by the touristic spurn of a fictional vampire, Foget entrapped in the grips of super dolce wine, ate at a Sighisoaric piyyaria which had no pizza oven and were eventually sent to bed by a fickle wax candle.

The Euchre score was Ben-Lauren 7 to Neala-Cousy 5, a 2 point lead that late in the game indicated the end was very near. The peace and comfort of wilderness camping will soon be foreign to us...tomorrow we leave Romanistein, a land with a rich history of horse-drawn locamotion, vampires, jew-forsaking, and gypsies. Our next destination is Sziget for over a week of self indulgent hedonism, getting crazy and revelling in pro-selfism. We need to stock up on cheap swill. A couple of quotes of blog worthy wisdom from yesterday...

˝A bad day in the Hajji is better than a good day of work˝
˝The Hajji only drinks the cheapest swill.....kinda like us˝ (talking about diesel...always the cheapest)

Time to settle the scores of last nights card game which was postponed due to luminary difficulties....
With love,
Ben the Impaylor˝

Posted by rencous 06:41 Comments (0)

And of here and now and today and the present

Some more videos because you love videos!

First of all, looking back, Neala has published her BEAUTIFUL photos and here is a link to her ones of Istanbul.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=146286&id=509339464&l=51893cce45
Look to the Bulgaria and Romania post to see links of her pictures from there....

Also...here are some current videos! Videos are great! We love videos!
After Italy the Hajji continued to Slovenia en route to its second Balkan adventure. We are now headed south through Croatia and Bosnia into Montenegro and Albania, where the Hajji will take to the water and cross to Italy.

The videos are good for showing the LIFE of the Hajji so here are a couple.....
Ever since the Hajji disasterexplosionfiasco there has been trouble with the Hajji. Nothing too serious, but each morning (only the first start of the day) the Hajji takes a LONG time to start and sings a song to us. The song goes like this...buh buh boouunce buh buh booune buh buh booounce buh buh boounce buh buh boounce). Without fail, she starts everytime (as long as we havent drained the battery) but it takes A WHILE of suspended beating hearts hoping for her to start
Here is a video we caught of her doing just this (in the forest in Slovenia a few nights ago)....

UPDATE: The Hajji DIED yesterday in Bosnia and we took her to a mechanic. The culprit of this problem was the SPARKPLUG which we have now replaced, as well as a fixed muffler (which was noisy!!), a fixed shifter (which was broken by the mechanics washboy while getting us to him) and a general tune-up/oilcheck/maintenance routine all for the pretty price of 20euros (and 30euros parts)!!! The Hajji lives on! Luckily we caught this video before the fix up because now she starts immediately and her ability to sing this sweet song is GONE!

And here is a video that Rain took of the Hajji entering Croatia just a few days ago....Life is good to say the least....

Posted by rencous 12:27 Comments (2)

Eastern Europe is a Honey-Sweet Mister, not a Mistress...

...cus Eastern Europe is definitely a Man, a Mister


So, Istanbul left us twirling and spinning like Stojko and/or Boitano, and we were off to Bulgaria, that most fiendish of all ex-USSR satellites, the one that even applied to Moscow to become a Soviet Replubic in 1968...
With Sean Foget strong-manning the wheel, and the rest of us working on our seatbelt tans, the Hajji crossed the border under the whimsical voice-massages of one Freddie Mercury, that man of men who has one billion imposters roaming the streets and bazaars and rooftops and sewers of India.

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The Hajji Crew Doing What it Does Best

Our first night brought us to Burgas, a beach-side town that throbs with jellyfish and Swedish tourists. We made parking on a bluff that overlooked a majestic sandy beach, majestic like Charlemagne who longed to make Aachen the capital of Europe, majestic like the Blue Jays of the early 90s. We spent two nights at this glory hole, swimming in the Black Sea, rinsing in a hotel's pool, peeing in said hotel's bathroom...and pool. (The bathroom also acted as a shower for our female companions, Ren and Neala.)

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Ren Navigating the roads of Bulgaria

From Burgas, the Hajji chartered us to a bigger party city, one by the name of Varna. We declined the party, however, as it was composed mainly of swinging chubby central European couples, and opted instead for a charming beach-side camp site. Varna made us sweat and sway, and we soaked up every minute. A large restaurant owner adopted us and we became David Banda to his Madonna. A pool and tiny smelt fish entertained us for two more days, before it was high time to evacuate Bulgaria, and make for higher ground: the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.

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The Dinner Crew in Varna

Romania saw the Hajji enter her at sunset. The crew, at this point six strong, (Ren, Ben, Cous, Neala, Sean and Morgan), was gleeful and giddy at the prospect of spending time in the home of a mythical vampire and of a perfect gymnast. Bucharest saw us breeze by, a town in which a local man told us to forget Romania, for "There is nothing here." We were staunch like the rock of Gibraltar, like a drunk Korean man who has been told to get off the police car, and we stayed the course, steady towards somewhere.
That fateful first night, we took a berth along the side of a highway, a dock that most would overlook: the parking lot of a Carrefour. For those ignorant and blissful North Americans reading, Carrefour is the French version of Wal-Mart, and it dots the European roadscape. Their lot did us more than well, and by the morning, after stocking Hajji with cheap beer and stocking our bellies with cheap eggs, we hit the road, muffler-smoking all the way to Bran.
The city/town/hamlet/tourist-soaked polis of Bran, Romania, is a study in how a novel can change the fate and face of a place. In 1897, Bram Stoker set his novel Dracula in the town, and it has been victim to the runoff of tourism ever since. Guilty, we drove in, and Ren and I, (Cous), saw the legendary castle up close...and what a beaut. Enough of this though...
From Bran, we drove to Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, (coincidentally the inspiration for Dracula). Another darling town in Eastern Europe, with an ancient old town set within ancient walls, inhabitated by ancient Romanians. We spent a day and night there, parked Hajji in a farmer's cornfield, made due with the rugged ground, and awoke to a man asking what we were doing there. We told him that we would soon be on our way, and he said it was no problem, we could stay there a month if we needed. We told him "We don't need anything from you , old man." And we were on our way to another dulcet day of daytripping in Sighisoara.

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Cous Reading at Our Beautiful Cornfield Campsite in Romania

It was that very same afternoon, as we were conversing with some folks from Vancouver outside Hajji, that a fine, young, robust and vital and vibrant man happened to pass us by, and, upon seeing Hajj, whispered "Rock on!" I, (with hearing aids cranked), replied "Right on man" and he stopped in his tracks. "Where you going?" was asked of him, and he responded that he was simply walking this way, with no destination in mind. "Well, there's room in our van..." And that is how we came to know John, our Turkish/American pal who you might remember from our post of August 23rd, ´The Hajji Diary´. He hopped in and we drove to yet another deserted field in the foothills of Romania. We drank beer, Morgan and John stoked fire, and we devised another delicious derivation of delightful delectables from Hajji's inner sanctuary, (kitchen). In the morning, no man visited us. We awoke and sauntered like self-satisfied conquerors down to the stream to bathe, to wash dishes and bodies in the water. Soaped in crevices and crannies, it was back to Hajji to make for Budapest and Sziget. Tear down the tent, gather our everlasting garbage, and pile in. Sziget here we come!!! And the Hajji fails us.
Her usual pre-ignition anthem flooded our ears, "buh-buh-bounce, buh-buh-bounce, buh-buh-bounce", until we realized that we had most probably flooded her engine with over-zealous key-turning and pedal-revving. She would not start. A problem descended upon us. Immediately, however, the crew responded with positivity, and all jumped out ready to push-start the doll we call Hajji. The dirt road was flat and muddy, not desirable conditions for a push-start, but we tried...oh lord we tried. After a handful of unsuccess, Ren took a bike and made for the highway to commandeer a jumper car. She returned minutes later with a massive industrial vehicle made for clipping branches that obscure road signs...sans jumpers. The Romanians who drove her left to gather some cables, and we continued to push...up and down and up the road. It was on the last push, (obviously), that Foget popped her clutch, talked to her smoothly, and she rolled over and purred like only she can do. The scare was out of us, the road was before us, and Sziget lay ahead.

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An old man we picked up for 5km in Romania...he gave us 5 lei...check XE.com for conversions

The photos we posted here are just a few of the delights which Neala Kelly, a Hajji voyager from Istanbul to Vienna, produced along the way. We are so happy when people bring cameras in the Hajji and document the wonders she contains (it is an added bonus when they know how to use them and share the photos they produce!). Here are the links to Nealas facebook albums of Bulgaria and Romania photos (worth checking out!!!)

Bulgaria Pictures
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=146315&id=509339464&l=c674dda24e
Romania Pictures
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=147297&id=509339464&l=0556c9a35f

Posted by rencous 12:19 Comments (2)

Real Time Reality Movie Upload Fiasco

From our home...the Streets...video style

August 27th, 2009, reporting from Trento, Italy
The Hajji awoke this morn to a car-and-bicycle accident mere meters from her berth. The crew is slim now, the slimmest its ever been. Curdling in their sweat, Marcus Ren and Ben, the heart of the Hajji, beating salty brine through their pores arose to the sights of tragedy. Luckily the worst of the crash seemed to be the twisted iron frame of a bicycle that wasnt ours. Sigh and Relief, under the Hajjis careful gaze people need not fear injury.

We are in the beautiful town of Trento, nestled in the quiet surrounds of the Italian Alps, living in the streets as was before. Although our adventures havnt been thoroughly updated since Istanbul, we wanted to let everyone know that everything is going well and life is as good as ever. A write-up of our journey from Turkey to Sziget festival (via Bulgaria and Romania) has been commissioned from the ever-exhuberant Sean Foget, and we wait until such is so. Then we write Vienna....Slovenia...and our brief sojourn in Italy.

The details of our path are laborous, and will be tended to in due time, but today is today and today we are in Trento. We popped into Italy to drop off the lovely Brett Lorier in his new home of Bologna. Marcus and Ren in the Hajji....Ben Brett and Conrad found a small and well shaded apartment garden to sleep in. Splish splash, we soon realized why the garden was so lush as we awoke to a thorough sprinkler shower at 5am. Escape! The escapde continued at around 10am, when 2 well dressed police officers woke up Ben from his bedside on the ground beside the Hajji. Coincidentally, Cousy arose in the sweaty bowels of said van, and, after rubbing the sleep from his yeux, and adjusting to the morning sun of Bologna, his first sight of the day was of the auto di polizia circling like Adriatic sharks. "Documento!" they preached, being extremely polite and gentle in manner. We showed them our passports, and documents for the car and assured them we were legal travellers just enjoying the beauties of their country. The one officer, the speaker of the two, very much enjoyed Marcus's passport which is decorated with visas from a gaggle of Asian countries. "I know a very nice place for you to visit, 40km from here in Ferrara there is an International Street Buskers Festival, it is a world phenomenon, I think you would like it very much" he said with a smile on his face. Tipping his hat, he wished us the best of luck and went on his way.

So we went! The festival was incredible, with musicians lining the street throughout the night. A man even bought me a pizza while I played coke-bottle drums in the middle of the street. The crowd was mostly middle aged families, and much to our surprise not very many people were DANCING. So we DANCED, and the buskers LOVED it...obviously. Amazing indeed! Here is a video....oops the video isnt working...ooh it is working! Here are two videos from the festival in Trento...

Ben and Cous dancing with an older, smaller Italian woman on the streets of Ferrara, Italy at the International Street Buskers Festival

Ben and Cous Dancing to the Beatles in Front of a Crowd of Many, again in Ferrara, Italy

Here are some other videos because we have some time to upload them!! First up, a video of Ren doing a backdive into the beautiful Lake Bled in NW Slovenia. It was a very nice place...and so were Rens backdives...

Ren Doing a 10/10 Backdive at Pristine Lake Bled, Slovenia

Also, to give a little insight into the insanity of Sziget, here is a video of us dancing to Fatboy Slim at the main-stage...I think it was the 2nd night...maybe the 3rd night...there were many a nights......

Some of the Hajji Crew (Daniel, Isa, Neala, Derry, Ben, Brett, Morgan and Ren) Dancing Like Maniacs to Fatboy Slim Amongst a Crowd of Many Thousand at Sziget Festival, Hungary

Keep reading and commenting! And subscribe as well so we can know who is reading! We miss you guys all and cant wait to see you again.
Love with the fire of a thousand suns....
Benny

Posted by rencous 03:47 Comments (6)

The Hajji Diary

An Entry from John the Turk in Romania - August 9th-10th

Before all this madness began, in a quieter place, south Limburg, a wonderful creation was born. For Ben's 25th birthday, two darling angels, one German Ineke and one Dutch Marjolijn, created a diary purposed to house the memories of the Hajji. Black and leather bound, it proudly shows the Hajji on its face and the word Hajji is delicately woven into its smooth surface with red and gold thread. We have been using this diary since beginning the trip and everyone who enters into the van is obliged to make at least one entry. This is John's....

"Canadians in a VW with NL Plates and Buddhist Flag-lets stand out in a crowd....this must be Europe! I'm green with envy, I hope to be doing the same sometime soon (I'll need a driver's license...)

Awesome night at an awesome campsite, you guys are the most insane crowd of characters I could ever imagine to run across in 'downtown' Sighisoara and bum a ride with absolutely no money to Budapest....you guys rock

It's been an amazing experience, what with the unhappy rhythm of the non-starting engine, the cool bonfire at night, you pissing in a plastic bottle, stashing booze under seats, and all the random insider jokes I didn't get...

I wish I could offer something to make up for the hospitality and kindness; I'd be thrilled to put you guys up once I have a place of my own (if you can tear yourselves from Khameer and Hasan and Acar)...or maybe (once I have my own super-cool Hajji knockoff) I'll give you guys a lift someday.

Peace (and thanks)!
Ozgur Can Leonard ('Johnny')
(hitchhiker with beard from Turkey.....I have a feeling this honey-on-moustache is a bad idea)"

We picked up Johnny in Romania in the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and he travelled with us for a couple days en route to Sziget festival in Budapest. He was a real delight. Just a little taste of some of the happenings of the Hajj. A write up of this part of the adventure looms.....

Posted by rencous 02:53 Comments (0)

Eels on Wheels

Where the Hajji has brought us so far...

Just a quick update here from Vienna, from the fabulous Johnny Braune's apartment, where free internet can not be passed up. We're leaving in a few hours for Slovenia, but I really wanted to show you guys a map of where we've been since Ren and I arrived in Rostock, northern Germany, back on June 23rd. More than 5,000 kms have been racked up so far, but the big drives are still ahead of us. Next chance I get, I'll try and put up the projected remainder of the trip...

Love you all,
Cous

As always, you guys can zoom in or out, and touch the dots to see exactly where we've been.

More to come...

Posted by rencous 00:44 Comments (0)

Photo Update!

Look at us If you want to look at us

Uploading photos to the site takes too much time which is better spent drinking burr in the sun. But luckily for us, for every person who rides in the Hajji and eventually leaves they find time to upload all their photos which we can show to you. Here are some of our lost comrades digital delights....

Adster rode with us from Amsterdam to Istanbul and has made a single album which contains all his photos. He did a academic stint in Ghana before, so skip to page 5 and start near the bottem. This covers his entire trip and there are LOTS of delights!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=130031&id=511182245&l=8857f8667e
Also here is a video he took of Marcus talking with Milans crazy grandpa in Serbia

Tannis uploaded a TON of photos as well. Here are her albums...
Fusion Festival - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2308572&id=120803088&l=aa5ea81d5a
From Fusion to Exit (Western Europe) - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2308639&id=120803088&l=0d3191a16b
Exit Festival and Serbia - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2313364&id=120803088&l=a2e1097d5b
Macedonia to Istanbul - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2313575&id=120803088&l=139b02834f

Enjoy the pictures! We will update again soon. Much love from the Hajji crew!!!

Posted by rencous 08:42 Comments (1)

The Hajji in Istanbul

A Real Turkish Delight....The East and the West and the East and the West

istanbul.jpg
The Sun Setting on Istanbul

The Hajji sits and waits along the Danube as Ben and Cous hammer away an update in a cafe in Vienna. We just saw two of our dearest, Foget and Neala, hop aboard a train to a plane to a brothel to a plane to Vancouver as another set of friends rips themselves away. But you havent even heard of their arrival...and are probably in disbelief that they were ever even here. To bring things a little more up to date....

6:00PM, July 24th, 2009 - A sleak red bullet loudly stumbles into a new land, the Hajji arrives in Constantinople
Another easy border crossing (we have yet to be searched or questioned despite our appearances) and we left the EU and headed into the prospective member state of Turkey. Having been slighted by Harry Potter release dates mere days before in Greece, our first stop was the cinema...Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was finally before us. It was fantastic, but we wont say anything more incase you havnt seen it. After the movies we set out to find our Istanbul connection, who over the next ten days was a constant source of joy and pleasure for us. Daniel van Hauten, an accomplished and incredibly handsome German filmmaker was currently at stay in Istanbul with his girlfriend Isa (also an accomplished sweetheart) rendezvous'd with us just off one of the main tourist drags, Taksim. Our stay in the Bul had begun, finally, at last, we (Adam, Ben, Cous, Ren, Tannis and Daniel and Isa) were there.

To run you through the details of our time in Turkey, the longest we had stayed anywhere on the trip, would be exhausting, so here is a selection of our highlights.
-The Wonders of Istanbul: A city that has been hyped by so many, the Hajji crew was very happy to spent such a large chunk of time here. The people are so friendly and humorous, things are so cheap and plentiful, and the weather is so hot and stinky. Our time here was spent mainly cruising the streets, drinking beers in cafes, eating kebabs on the street, smoking nargila (Turkish water pipes) on a magical rooftop terrace, seeing the many mosques and sights, and eating many a many spicy rice mussels with lemon. A city so close to Europe, but so incredibly different, the Hajji crew gives Istanbul a full 1981VWs out of a possible 1981 VWs
- Street Sleeping in Istanbul: We parked the Hajji on the streets and slept around it for almost the entire time there. Waking up on the roof we would get some of the strangest looks possible, with people seemingly believing us to be from Mars. After a bag (Bens) being stolen, we moved to a much nicer location, an autopark. This was one of our most darling homestays. The park came with a large pack of guard dogs who barked at ANYONE who drove through the park but would never do anything but cuddle with the Hajji or other vehicle owners in the park. The attendants were also incredible sweet and very happy to have us living in their parking lot. They offered us tea in the morning and joints at night to boot. It also had an incredible view of the city and only cost 5€ per night
- The Burly Cellphone Bandit and a One-Eyed Angel: One night the Hajji crew split up, and Daniel and Ben set off to get the Hajji and bring it into center and move into the carpark (mentioned above). On the way to meet them, at 11pm on a Saturday night, stopped on one of the main streets in New Istanbul, the Hajji was approached by a somewhat burly man with a devious grin on his face. The Turkish people are incredibly friendly and trustworthy so we thought nothing of it. After reaching into the car to shake Daniels (passenger seat) hand, he began to mutter and seemed quite frustrated. With amazing speed and strength his hand shot into the van and Daniels lap and grabbed his cellphone. It was over before it began, and the stout man made of into the night. We were shaken to say the least, and rolled up the windows, locked the doors, breathed heavily, and stared straight ahead in dismay. We now had no phone or way to contact the other Hajjiers, whose whereabouts was unbeknownst to us. We pulled up 100m and pulled over and thought of what to do. About 5-10 minutes later, we heard a soft tap on the passenger window. We turned our heads right and saw a younger, leaner, and less hairy man staring with one milky cloudy cataracty eye back at us. Oh my lord, dont open the window. Suddenly the cellphone appeared and he indicated he wanted to give it to us. Daniel rolled the window 3 inches down, and the cellphone popped through the crack. The man gave us a smile, and we hurridly said thanks as he also vanished into the night. We would never see our One Eyed Angel again, or know the ultimate fate of the Burly Bandit.
-A Golden Few Days on the Black Sea: Fiending to get away from the muck and the mire of one of Europe's biggest metropolises, Ren, Ben, Daniel and Cousy dressed and primed Hajji, and she took us to a small town on the coast of the African-American Ocean, Agva. This place was pretty touristy, Turkishy touristy though, which is all nice for us. Stole some hours in the sun and surf, took burr, made nice with a loveable Turkish lady who worked at a fancy hotel and was more than eager to practice her English on us and who was to tell us of the place we spent that first night. We drove to a secluded cove with super amazing rock formations, had a supreme dinner on a bluff overlooking the Sea, and whiled away the night playing cards in an abandoned field, owned by three drunk Turks who made their way to the light of the Hajj and ruined our game bigtime. Another day and night in town, and the next day came with formidable news: our dear friend Sean Foget was in Istanbul, waiting for us to scoop him. Away from Agva and back into the din.
-Fenerbahce Versus Besiktas!!!!: Upon arrival in Istanbul we joked of how awesome it would be to see a fanatical Turkish football match. Asking far and wide about when the next game was, we got too many answers to count. Finally we met someone who seemed to know what was going on, and it was perfect, our very last day in Istanbul there was going to be a derby match between two rival Istanbul teams - Fenerbahce and Besiktas. We scurried to the ticket office and bought 6. On the Sunday we cabbed to the Besiktas arena, and got on a bus full of crazy Besiktas fans. One small boy, who was selling cigarettes at the stop, turned out to have a ticket and led the majority of the fan songs on the one hour busride to a massive stadium outside of the city. The game was epic (if somewhat low scoring) with roaring songs and no alcohol and police everywhere and a rain of sunflower shells and a darling police officer who upgraded our tickets to the first level and super salty kebabs and a long very crammed cabride home. Fenerbahce (not the team we were cheering for) won the game 2-0, but who is really counting.

Istanbul saw our darling Tannis and disheveled Adam leave the van, but we had backups on the batting deck. Sean Foget, an old roomate from Western and highschool friend from Ottawa announced just a week before his arrival that he was coming. When we showed up to pick him up, SURPRISE (although we already knew) he was accompanied by another Ottawa (now Vancouverite) resident, Mrs. Neala Kelly, one of Laurens best friends. On our last day in Turkey we added one more to the crew to make an even 6. Morgan Quinn, a friend we met in India some 18 months ago had just finished a 4 week medical rotation in Beirut and was hungry for adventure. Toss the bags on the roof my friends, its time to head back to Eastern Europe. First stop, Bulgaria.....

Posted by rencous 08:38 Comments (2)

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