hip hopping through eastern europe

26 December 2010 § Leave a comment

I wonder how long it will be before I feel like this matters. A day here, a night there, a few pictures when the weather isn’t whining and crying on me because I’m here, or snowing and blowing like it doesn’t want me here. Well, fuck you, too, because I didn’t want to be there either. So I’m leaving now, off to the next town, to find some porch to sleep on til the next train passes through on its way to who knows where.

The station masters are all dressed alike, no matter how small the village or dilapidated the building. They stand there in their red officer caps and the forest green uniform, freshly pressed and dry cleaned that morning. They are giving their approval of the arriving train, which is usually early instead of late like the trains in Germany, and holding open the doors that frequent convenience stores – aluminum frame with the horizontal handle in the middle, and the full glass pane – with their linebacker bodies, to block access to – or to inspect – anyone wishing entrance.

The blind spider stared out the window the entire time.

Soon we were out of the Alps that were a tragic fairytale gone horribly wrong once the ogre came through, which might’ve been right before we arrived in Zell am See with the Ukrainians off on their ski holiday on christmas day. Irene did say something about jesus day not being celebrated in her home country until the seventh of january anyway. Let’s go riding.

Or not.

Last spring, which seems like half a decade ago now, I drove through a few of the Colorado ski mountain towns right in the crux of the season – spring time and beautiful weather, mud season, the summer shops weren’t open yet because no one wanted to be there but the snowboarders trying to get in a few more runs before the heavy sun broke out into a sweat… and they stunk of such money and pretension, I could hardly stand it, though I tried my best because I thought I belonged in a mountain town, not wanting to accept that the rich and famous had claimed many of them already. They must have all gotten their ideas from places like Zell am See, walking through it was like listening to bad pop music from the 80’s – I got to see just where these idiots now got all their ideas from. Just polish it a little more, says the producer… The audio engineer just does what he’s told.

I’m too far gone to expect a surprise to drop out of the sky in the form of an easy path through these flooding valleys, though my packraft might have been a good idea in Slovenia. The cozy warm air is melting all that fresh snow you’ve been hearing about, and the fields are waterways. Class III rapids over a cabbage patch – spectacular. We’ll keep moving now, the spider and I – we’re without names now, at least until the border agent asking for my passport spelled it out in Croatian. I hid the spider under my bag to smuggle him through, and they were none the wiser. Within twenty minutes I got two stamps in my cool little blue book with the bad picture and patriotic drawings and quotes I’ve given tours of my country with to unsuspecting foreigners. Maybe I miss it a little bit. Maybe I wouldn’t mind being in New Zealand instead, where it is hot summer and I could go rafting again…but no. I am in Croatia, headed for the Adriatic in a few hours because I convinced myself a couple of countries ago that Croatia contained something that I’m looking for, though I can’t imagine what it is.

Zagreb is an ancient city with museums for naïve art and broken relationships, and every surface is written on, mostly in quick and dirty graffiti by cats trying to get their names out instead of creating decent art. But that speaks nothing for the street art in the rest of the places that I’ve seen – I far prefer the train corridors and back alleys to all the packed museums you could handle in six months here. I found the inner part of a city block as colorful as a hundred rainbows and wordful as a David Foster Wallace novel, if only I could get to it… but there were polizei around and I’m not risking getting into trouble with the law right now. My bitter mood would lead to unbecoming behaviour and I don’t need the bother.

I’ll just pretend like it’s enough to know there is a hidden gem in the middle of Zagreb and I’m leaving it unphotographed for now – though I’ve documented little of what I’ve seen, the abundance has been so great and the trains moving quickly. But I admire them, the artists, for their fervor, for their going back to old pieces and tagging their practiced improvements next to them, to remind us of progress in the art community.

I want to start a city and invite all the taggers free reign. Music shops and skate parks and recording studios and a lovely wine shop and good hostels. My god, good hostels. With kitchens people can use. And ones that serve beer for €2 and unlimited quality breakfasts for 3 where you can stuff your face because you know that, it being 7.30 in the morning,  this is all you’ll eat today. Not bad ones. Not the hollow and dull and cheaply fashioned Hostelling International spots that people stay at only because three other places on the map don’t seem to exist, and it’s pouring out, so please, I just need a roof tonight…

My thoughts are wandering, but sometimes not far enough from those I had before, and I ask the spider what’s wrong with me, and he just looks back without his eyes and I know what he’s thinking already. I don’t deserve what I have had, and what have I got to go back to?

I discovered the best recipe for christmas eve dinner ever, one that even tops the fondue feast I enjoyed as a kid in the wonderful 90s: nutella, stale rolls, cheese and eggplants in oil. a little jam and a banana or two and you’ve got it made, except for the park bench on the mountain lake and the orangeglow of the streetlamps and the reverb of a seven-century-old church amplifying the children’s choir. It could have been machinery, or the train brakes screeching. Or the groomers on the mountain. Could have been anything. But this is mine, so I’ll call it what I like.

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