Day 125: Dear Rome, Please Help Me

05.05.09: And so on to Rome... I arrived at some ungodly hour, which I thought was actually quite appropriate. I slung my bag into the Pop Inn Hostel (with crazy guy Cesar running the joint, I warmly recommend it - it's right by the train station too), and hit the streets - I had to step foot in Vatican City tonight. And so, I found myself walking through Rome with my heart on a string, dear god, please help me. I'm so very tired of doing the right thing... It was past midnight when I got to Popesville and there I found that the entire Piazza di San Pietro was cordoned off. No public access tonight, young Hughes, you atheist dog. Oh well, might as well see if there's a back entrance (I would expect that of the papacy, wouldn't you?). So I set off for…

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Day 124: They’re Digging In The Wrong Place!

04.05.09: It all started so well... By 5am in the morning, I had already stepped foot in both Liechtenstein and Switzerland. My logistical powers were at an all time high and so far in Europe, I hadn't made one serious cock-up when it came to getting the right train to the right place at the right time. That was before I realised that there were two San Marino's in Italy, and they are jolly close to each other. One is a city state, a principality with it's own Grand Prix and everything, the other is a small village in the foothills of the Alps. Guess where I ended up today? After an impossible number of train changes, I was on a train that was going to a place called S. Marino (which I naturally assumed LIKE AN IDIOT stood for ‘San'). After half an hour in…

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Day 123: The Bag Drop

03.05.09: Was rudely awaked by Tom ‘accidently' throwing water in my face. Ah, well, it did the trick anyhow. We got off the train and said our farewells. Tom would be heading to Ljubljana in Slovenia, whereas I'll be shooting straight through Slovenia on the way to Vienna. It means nothing to me... OH VI-ENNA! Wasn't there long though - a quick change and I was heading east towards BUDAPEST! AGAIN! GET. MY. BAG. BACK!! Now, you should know by now that things are never that easy when it comes to The Odyssey. I only had ten minutes to run off my train, get my bag and run onto the train back to Vienna. It means nothing to me... OH VI-ENNA! If I missed it, I'd miss the night train to Liechtenstein and end up waiting until the next day. Timing was critical. I guessed which…

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Day 122: Top Of The Balkans

02.05.09: We got into Podgorica so early, my legs were shaking. I immediately hopped a taxi to the nearby border with Albania. My driver, Ratko, was top - he didn't speak much English, but he got the gist of what I was doing and was happy to take me into Albania for a couple of minutes to stomp around and get some footage and GPS readings to prove that I had broken in. But like when I went to Albania with Stan a couple of years ago, we soon turned around and headed back to civilisation. Interesting fact - everyone with a car in Albania owns an old Mercedes. Everyone. Weird. Tell you what though - last time I came along this road, it was the middle of the night and we though that we were in the middle of farmland or something because there wasn't…

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Day 121: The Swines!

01.05.09: What transpired to be an incredibly long day, started in Thessaloniki before dawn. It was raining hard and John and I took far too long getting off the train, so we found ourselves shunted into the goods yard and having to walk the five-hundred meters back to the station like a pair of divs. I had a few hours to mooch about, say hello to the Aegean Sea and drink an overpriced coffee (I needed the toilet and McDonald's was closed) before returning to the station to hop on the train to Skopje (pronounced Skopia, by the way). Incidentally, on the off-chance that the girl from Canada with the hotpants - whom I helped get the coach to Athens because no domestic trains were running - is reading this, when you ask for somebody's help and they give it, try saying thank you next time,…

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Day 120: The Doctor Will Sue You Now

30.04.09: The lovely girl in the hotel reception made me a packed lunch and before I knew it, I was on the 5am train back to Bucharest. Once there, I went on a MISSION to find a charger for my camcorder... and it was mission successful! Got to drive past Ceausescu's ridiculously big palace in a taxi - yep, it's kinda ridiculous, but I guess I've got some begrudging respect for the fact that the bonkers mad dictator what got shot on Christmas Day, didn't go for your typical concrete shopping-mall affair that Eastern Europeans seem to love even more than us idiots in the West. Righty-right, onto a train and got to spend the day in a carriage with a Romanian guy called John who was on his way to Athens. I, on the other hand, was on my way to Thessaloniki in Greece, passing…

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Day 119: Carlos The Jackal

29.04.09: After all the excitement of yesterday, I slept like a baby. By that, I mean that I woke up every two hours and started screaming. Although my laptop and camcorder were safely by my side on the train to Budapest, the charger for my camcorder and my spare battery were not. And I had about 20 minutes left of power. This would not last until next Sunday. It would not last until the end of today. I arrived in Bucharest around lunchtime and headed to the coach station. A political rally was taking place in the park between - I gave it a wide berth. I've never been one for mob mentality; I prefer to operate under the radar, subverting people's opinions by means of stealth, cunning and outright ridicule. The bus took me to the town of Galati on the border of Moldova and…

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Day 118: Er, Anyone seen my bag?

28.04.09: Today should have been a breeze - well timed connections marked my passage through Poland. My coach arrived half an hour early, so it wasn't even a rush to the station for the first train to Bratislava. I hopped on board - oh wow! It was one of those old fashioned ‘The-Lady-Vanishes'-type trains where you sit in sealed off compartments facing three strangers. Yey! Only I had two strangers, Iva and Monica, and they were the best kind of stranger - ie. Bubbly, lively ones with nice eyes who laugh at my jokes. Iva was from Croatia, but living in Vienna and Monica was from Poland. So I sat with my captive audience and entertained each other as we passed effortlessly through the Czech Republic on the way to Slovakia. I had just finished reading ‘White Tiger', the winner of last years Man Booker prize…

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Day 117: Kettles Of Fish

27.04.09: I emerged from the coach in the wee small hours to find myself in the rather attractive town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I was busy trying to suss out how I was going to get into Belarus (avoiding all the tomfoolery of yesterday) when I ran into none other than Lynn Robinson, my ex-girlfriend Michelle's mum! She was in the coach station getting a bus to the airport. What are the chances of that? Well, statistically speaking, pretty damn high. In fact, considering the number of people I know, times the fact I am travelling for a full year, I think the chances of me running into somebody I know are probably one in one. But that doesn't stop it being really cool! Anyways, we unfortunately didn't have time for coffee as her bus was due, so I headed off to the Belarusian…

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Day 116: Arrested Development

26.04.09: The boat over to Tallinn was quick and easy and got me in to the capital of Estonia in fine fettle just around noon. I grabbed a cab across town (and what a marvellously delightful town it is!) and jumped a bus to Narva, on the Russian border. Here's the plan... I don't have a Russian visa, so I can't actually go into Russia proper, but what I can do is go up to the border and talk to the border guards, and then I'm technically in that country, yeah? Er... no. The border post, and there was only one, was on the European side of the river. Fences, CCTV and border guards standing all around. This was not going to be the cakewalk I expected. IDIOT!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Russia! Putin! Gulags! The KGB! So I had a gander at a map on…

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