Friday, 27 April 2007

Hos Geldiniz!

We left Istanbul and traveled some days on the countryside. We visited an old mosque on a hilltop today, a beautiful place without any of the sultan glamour of the Istanbul mosques. Just round bowls, floors stuffed with carpets, old tombs, praying men and women. As soon as we arrived, we were surrounded by women who praised Gaya, laughed, talked, kissed to her. Some later we were invited to a food party outside the mosque and invited by different people at their homes in Istanbul. We had a nice lunch there and we enjoyed seeing all the people in and around the mosque being themselves, enjoying life. Being invited to a party is maybe not the first thing you think of when it comes to religion, but we felt it was quite an spiritual experience!

Being invited is here part of the culture, though in the cities and tourist areas it is rather rare. Travelling trhough the countryside, we could hardly stop with our van without being invited, or at least with some people gathering around Gaya to praise her. We were quite out of gazolin, we tried a few tankstations but their tanks were emty. When we found one, we were invited to chai (tea) in the small, smoky and dirty office, but sitting there drinking our tea was a wonderful experience. After all it is not about the perfect spot but about the intention.

We had an overnight on a mountain pass, with a view in all directions. The farmer of the fields passed with hiss tractor and stopped. Off course we wondered if he was going to send us away. He stepped out, walked to us, shaked our hands: Merhabba, Hos Geldiniz! (hello and be welcome). He showed us chickpeas from his land and when he was very worried that Gaya gets too cold so we show him our heater. Later he waved to us when he passed by again. We felt welcome.
Next day we drove on a small road, in the villages we felt really watched, we realized here noone came except for people from there. Imagine driving with your camper bus through a small village, everyone stares, you have to find your way between chickens and cows hanging around on the streets. We sweated, but found our way, next to a water well, of which you find a lot in the coutryside, for animals to drink and for humans to wash themselves before prayer (or just for refreshment, off course!). With a view on the close by snow mountain.
Also here villagers welcomed us. Frans and Gaya went into the mountains next day, and when they asked the road in a small village, an small, old man expressed: no road. But he took them through the village, knocked on the doors, organized chai and all off a sudden we were having tea party with half the village.

Later we visited the great Pamukkale sources by night. They are hundreds of meters high chalk clusters, formed naturally. It used to be an old holy source, and on top of it is Hierapolis, a large ancient site with temples, baths and amphitheaters. In the daytime we saw a stream of touring cars, but amazingly we were the only ones who visited it in the magic moonlight. It was spooky to walk in the dark, moonlighted sight between some large tombs and reading a signs: Necropolis North. But also really special to visit one of the worlds largest tourist attractions all alone!
The guard was first suspicious about us: forbidden! Forbidden! No camp! Go! But got on better terms with him, and he promised to watch our car. When we got back after about two hours he was standing just next to our bus. And off course we were invited for tea…

Later we found a overnight spot next to a well again, and next morning a tractor stopped next to our bus, we were invited for breakfast at the farmers house. We had a marvelous breakfast on the ground of a very small, wooden farmers house. Honey, cheese, olives, vegetables, everything came from their own land except for the bread. And they just shared this with us because they liked us to be their guests. Just like that!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Culture shocks from Istanbul

It is quite a kick driving into Istanbul with your own van around 4 o clock pm! Five track roads without street markings, all kinds of vehicles crisscrossing wherever they can go. We got fuzzed around and wondered how big the city would be. Okay, driving into a city of about 16 million inhabitants without any preparation may not be recommendable, and we felt quite lost. Asking people for a map, no one understood, or just started to laugh. Trying to park, roads got stunningly steep and narrow and one moment even some locals thought that our van would turn over!

After some desperate hours we found our way, and started to enjoy the city more and more. In Istanbul every kind of shop has its own area, you have whole quarters just for car radios or ship robes, wand we found our home in the music instrument area. In some shops jams sessions were going on, shop owners were playing guitar outside. The main street in our area, Istiklal Caddesi, is broad and just stuffed with people, they say in the weekend there are 5 million visitors per day in the area! Walking this street you get pretty dizzy after a while. It has quite an impact on the ecology of your mind, all this chaos, all this people, and we noticed the enormous contrast with living on the countryside, where the mind gets calm and you forget to hurry. But a huge city does not necessarily mean loose structures. In all the chaos there is a lot of hidden orders and codes. It is just that they seam to differ per street so it is hard as an outsider to read them and adjust to them. A man showed us how a dog was waiting outside a butchers till they came and gave him a bag with meat. The dog always smelled first if the meat was good enough for him. As a special customer, all butchers respected the dog and gave him meat. The dog smelled the bag, took it in his mouth, and walked.

Istanbul carries huge contrasts next to each other, a big shopping street, a yuppie area, and a poorest area are just walking distance from each other. When we entered the poor area, we felt it was not normal that foreigners came here, everyone watched us, and although no one was unfriendly to us we did not feel too comfortable in the small slum-like streets. Around the Istikal Caddesi you have to get deaf for all the street sellers, beggars and restaurant people, but five minutes from there we had a hard time finding a place where they were willing to serve us a dish!

We met some friends´ friends and had a nice time with them. They are buzzy with a project documenting street culture in Istanbul with photo´s and sounds, categorizing them in themes like ´stencil art´, ´little notes´ or ´Don´t leave your trash here or your family is cursed-´signs. Now they want to do the same in Amsterdam and Berlin. It is nice to come to such an enormous city to get to know a few people working on their own crazy ideas, and we started to feel quite at home in the city. Hard decision: nature and culture, but we felt the fuzz of the city was a bit overwhelming and longed for nature again!

The road to Istanbul

Without any money we entered Bulgaria by night. A lot of gates and checks, and then in nomansland a small office man: `Pay 5 Euro`. For what`? Frans asked. Again: `Five Euro´s`. Ok, we did not have a single Eurocent. The last peage we emptied all our pockets to get through. The man let us sweat, then smiled: Ok, you can pass. We had already a lot of stress on the way because our last Euros were just enough to pay peages in Kroatia and the first one in Serbia, and the last peage costed all our Serbian dinars. Ok, we are crazy not bringing any cash. No bank wants our travelers cheques. But somehow we managed all the times passing with just enough money. Thank the almighty!

In Bulgaria roads got worse again, it was night, we just drove in a side street, and slept on a field between the stars. In the morning we saw the view: we slept close to a snow mountain again. We drove to Plovdiv, recommended by Frans´mother because it was such a quiet, nice town when we are there in 1990. But Bulgaria has changed a lot! Now it is a westernized city, full of shopping crowds and traffic, huge commercials and hard to find the picturesque spots in between them. The landscape also changed. Empty fields full of trash, some herds with goats or cows just in between the trash. On a stop Gaya and Frans had an encounter with a wine farmer, hitting his donkey to work harder. He was very nice to us, but not so nice to his donkey.

The project we wanted to visit in Bulgaria was canceled, and so we decided to drive further, being so close to Turkey. The Turkish border was a huge terrain and we passed at least twelve checks. At one they sent Frans to get a visa, and meanwhile the others ´checked´our buss, found Gaya. One of the officers took her on his arm and walked to the other officers. They all melted as little boys! This was just the beginning of a long story of masculine, macho man shouting, bubbling, laughing, tickling, kissing, when we pass with Gaya. It is hard to walk streets in Turkey because everyone wants to talk to her, touch her. Massalah, a bless of God, people say all the time. We have to give a good travel advice: it is not always easy to travel with a baby, but it also makes everyone weak and friendly. Even the most annoying market sellers just melt and forget to sell us anything!

Again we slept on some fields, next morning we drove into Babaeska, a small town. We felt a bit like home again in Kreuzberg, and people even spoke German to us. The first mosques, the calling for prayers, the different atmosphere, we started to realize we entered another world, somehow. But this was just the beginning...

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Entering a tropical Novi Sad

From Istria we had a long trip to Novi Sad. They are building a highway through the mountains between Rijeka and Zagreb all at once, just everywhere there are huge bridges and tunnels built, and we wondered who finances this, until we had to pay peage (highway fee). After Zagreb there is a certain change of atmosphere. Slovenia looks quite western nowadays, although the countryside is much less polluted by mass tourism or high tech agricultural industries. There is still a small farmers culture and a lot of people grow vegetables and fruits in their own gardens. Istria and the Kroatian coast are more polluted by tourism, and there is a certain welfare ass well. After Zagreb, tank stations started to look crappy, cars drove more crazy, and all of a sudden we were driving in the middle of a Dutch army convoy!

We crossed the first ´real´ border, and unfriendly officers were asking loudly: Gaya Prins Palmer! But off course even they could not refuse to smile after all. And in Serbia, everyone was really, really friendly to Gaya, smiling at her, coming to say hello, talk to her. We are noticing a culture change getting stronger and stronger since we corssed the alps. The more south east we go, the more enthousiastic and open people get towards Gaya, and I guess also towards us.

The political situation in Serbia is insecure since they don´t have a government, and the Kosovo affair still hanging in the air as a sword of Damocles. No one wants to get at power, because no one wants to be responsible for the though decisions to make. The International community have been punishing Serbia a long time, and with the isolation the ultranationalists gained more influence. It seems to be double, on the one hand capitalism is conquering Serbia rapidly, in tow years since we were here, there has been a rapid boom of clubs, cafes, fashion stores, international banks, etc. in Novi sad. On the other hand there is not such a Europe friendly atmosphere. As Serbia is a black sheep for Europe, it is maybe not even so strange that foreigners have to pay a double highway fee (50 Euros for 200 km hobly highway).

Most people are very friendly, and the atmosfere was good. It is actually hard to say what is so nice about Novi Sad, but it has something special. Maybe it is the strange magic of the enormous Petrovaradin Fortress (largest fortress tunnel complex of its kind in the world) at the other side of the Danube, maybe just the atmosphere of a rapidly changing city. A city in which youngsters try to live more western than westerners,and where the pourness is expressed only at the backsides. It is off course nice and exotic to see horse and carriages in the streets of a city. And soon enough they will drive around tourists in stead of garbage.

It was great to spend a couple of days with Goran, sitting on his balcony in the evening drinking Hungarian champaign, going barbequing with his friends in the forest, sharing ideas and opinions. Goran has a lot of ideas and plans to realize, which is quite brave in a country where not everything is just possible like that. You need great courage and believe to realize your ideas while swimming upstream! We wish him all the best and if anyone is interested in the support a group of promising cultural activists and creatives in Novi Sad, we will be pleased to bring you in contact with them!

Close to paradise

From Rakitni we traveled to the south of Istria, Kroatia, and visited the Eco Art Centar EIA,
which is located close to the village Bale. We arrived around sunset and we were immediately amazed by the place. You can really see how much energy and care they have put in here. Next day we had a walk in the forest behind the place, which is like a fairytale, with flowers, low trees, big white stones and cliffs. The people from the centar, Igor and Lilly, call it a holy place. In the forest one can find a natural formed stone circle, surrounded by older oak trees, where they also do meditations. Nice to have these miraculous places so close to your home!

Gaya had a lot of encounters with the animals, with the ducks and the chickens, which we got fresh eggs from; the old, blind donkey, who shouted us goodbye when we left; and the ill sheep and her lambs. The sheep was doing not well and couldn’t give milk to her lambs, and the lambs where fed with bottle. Cecilia and Gaya had a special moment feeding them, just before the lambs where brought away to be with other sheep on an ecological farm close by.

It was interesting to see how they made their house and living, with solar panels, catching rain for water, building an outside shower on solar power, etc. During our time there we helped with arranging a volunteer sleeping place, Cecilia painted a road sign for the centar, and Frans picked stones from the land and fixed a part of the road with it.

Just when we were to go we realized our time here was way too short and we wished we could have stayed longer and work and learn more here. But it was also great to be able to visit so short, and still be able to help with things. We would like to go back and then stay for a longer time here!

Geocaching adventures

You liked treasure hunting when you where small, but now you think you are too grown up for it? All over the world there are treasures hidden, in nature areas and in the middle of cities, on the weirdest locations. It is called geocaching, a form of searching and hiding treasures with help of longitudes, riddles and a GPS system. You can be quite sure that treasures are hidden just close to where you are...

Lately we found out about it and we had already our first treasure found (see pic). You can just search look on the internet for their coordinates and description and try to find them. Some are hidden behind riddles or codes, and the sport is off course to find ones that are not too easy to find. Once you found one, you can take something from the treasure box, but then you also have to leave something else. Some treasures travel from box to box all over the world.

We went to find one, and came out in a nature area with water and caves, cliffs and small steep paths. After reading the description again we located the place and found the cach, which was hidden pretty well. It was exciting, and even more when you realzy how many of these are hidden everywhere you could imagine. The game is easily to join, and everyone can hide their own treasures. People finding a treasure usually leave a message in the logbook and inform the one who put the cach that he or she found it.

It is so great to know that people are doing these kind of things. A few years ago we were really into street art, looking around in the cities for nice creations. You create a more developed sense for noticing small objects and drawings. This kind of focuses are nice, you look to the world with other eyes. Treasure hunting is also an interesting way of moving around, while you know somewhere something is hidden, and this makes you looking at everything that could be something. One of the few rules of the game is not to disturb anything and to only hide on places where people are not damaging anything. I believe usually it should be people who also care for the environment, while the caches are often hidden far from the civilized world, so you have to like hiking and being in the nature. Yes, we found another secret movement, and if you are interested, check

earth ships

We would like to learn more about earth ships. They are ecological houses made of recycled materials made with simple, low tech methods. The houses look great and it is cheap to make them. But they are different then normal houses and so in most countries people have a hard time convincing their governments that this is also a proper way of building a house. Ok, we need rules to prevent us from evil and ugly buildings, but mostly the rules cause that all buildings look the same and most buildings are not creative! There is only a few of them still in Europe, but a lot of projects that plan building them. Only that most projects still seam to be pretty expensive and luxurious, while the principle is interesting also for cheap applications For more info on earthships:,

The good life in Slovenia

Just before the roads on the highway splitted, we came to the idea of going to Slovenia and visit some friends there, so our trip to Slovenia was really a last minute decision. We had the idea to go to Vienna and then to Slowakia, but friends in Vienna did not have time and the ecovillage we contacted we could only come to a week later. So all of a sudden we were in Slovenia!

First we visited Irena in Lubljiana, who is organizing a big event in autumn, around martial arts and ecology. Next day she left early and we stayed in het house and worked a bit in turns while the other went with Gaya into town. It was really nice to have some time to work on our things, because we left Berlin with some unfinished projects. But yeah, why wait till you are ready when you can work on the way…

Ljubljiana is a nice, friendly town with a beautiful old centre, and we liked being there, but we felt more like being outside, and so we left Lubljiana on Friday and took small roads up in the mountains again, to visit our friends Simon and Palona. They live in a small cottage on top of a mountain village with a nice view over the valley and the mountains. If you climb up for 20 minutes, you can see the snowtops of the Alps and Ljubliana. It is such a great place where they live, everything is so silent and peaceful, and time is going a bit slower there. Their house is perfectly sufficient without any unnecessary luxury. I think such a way of living is quite to the ideal, because without all the extra´s you can enjoy the simpleness of life much better. We slept in the wooden summer room, and it felt like being in a little mountain hut. In the mornings we sat on the balcony to enjoy the sunshine. We made hikes in the forest and played games till late in the night.

They were fixing things in and around the house and I realized how good it is to have your own place to take care of instead of a rented place that is not really yours. It is kind of ineffective with the ordinary renting model, while this is absolutely making people less responsible and caring for their living environment. If you do or fix or clean something in a rental house, you know you are quite crazy because no one will care anyway. Some new ecological living projects take involve more responsibility that is carried together. For a sustainable living you need a place that you carry responsibility for, otherwise you just consume a place without any care.
Something we had in common I guess was a relatively unboundedness to duties. They were planning to move to Brazil in a few months, and it was nice to be with people crazy at us, not caring too much about life structures, but living the life they want to live.
We just left our daily routines behind to travel, while they were planning to go to Brazil and see how long to stay. Oh, we had a good time there, and it was hard to say good bye! Also Gaya had a lot of fun with them, and we hope to meet soon again.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Wilderness experience

Nature in the alps is so tres magnefique! It is a wonderful landscape to experience wilderness and come closer to yourself and to heaven. Not for nothing people greet here with `Grüss Got!´. High in the mountains you feel the energy is pure, the water is flowing from fresh melted snow, the birds sing without sorrows, the view is far and bright. Experiencing the wilderness is a good way to recover your senses and fresh up your mind. The beauty of wilderness goes far beyond the world of purposes and usefullness, it simply has value in itself. Something for philosophers and researchers to bother about: what does make this so special? Though when you experience the wilderness itself, one can just feel one with the wild nature as the source of life. That´s something of the mystery where people greet their God for here, high up in the mountains.

We stayed overnight at the foot of some high snow top mountains. Under us a frozen lake, a fresh mountain stream and a marvellous view. It was pretty cold in the night as snow was around us. In the morning we walked up a mountain until the snow was getting up to our knees. In the snow we found traces of different animals, but really not one single human. If it wouldn´t have been so cold, we would have stayed longer, now we moved on, over the Alps, heading for Slovenia.

Brothers and sisters of the rainbow

In the morning we climbed the hill to the hippie camp. On top of the hill was a tipi standing, with a little fire still burning, and around it people sleeping or just waking up. In the shades down we found a base camp with tipi´s and yars, surrounded by small tents.
People were sitting around a leek and some were playing music and singing, while others where doing their dishes. Between the trees children run around and climbed in the trees. Some people were cutting wood, others were making coffee and tea on a fire. We had found a little forest community, looking like a nomad tribe.

There were not too much things were going on. There was the care for food and the campsite, and some spontaneous encounters were happening. There was no goals or forwardedness, people were very relaxed and living the time being. For us, having always another idea to realize, this was not easy to accept, though it is quite a sustainable way of living, not using more of your energy than you really need. The question for us was, is this then a ´good way of living´? We missed creativity and real dedication. We both were also too tired to give a really inspiring input, so decided it was better to go for more silence. It was nice to experience the atmosphere, and we enjoyed the fire in the night, with music, singing and dancing, and a still round moon shining upon us. And it is a nice idea that real hippies are still gathering around in nature all over Europe. We will see if we find more of them on our way…

Leaving Berlin full spead

We worked our asses of to be able to leave the day we planned, and still we had to arrange paperwork on Sunday morning. In all the hurry Frans forgot our passports and about 700 euros cash at some Arabic internetcafe in Berlin. But the gods were mercy, the local boys honest and we were ready to go. Around noon we left Berlin with our red minivan stuffed with clothes, a sewing machine, materials and a computer. We did not have a plan or route, but decided to see on the way where to go...

We were driving in the mountains when our van started to make strange noises, produce smoke and a burning smell. We stopped and dediced to sleep where we were, in the middle of the Ertzgebirge. But everywhere in the mountains there was some sort of pollution, by factories and by tourists. The small river next to our buss smelled awful and the trees looked sick. We expected beauty but we got the beast!

Next day we went on, all the way through Czech Republic, through hills and mountains, until we were in the south east of Bavaria, close to Passau. Somewhere there we expected to find a hippie camp, but we did not find it. After some 1,5 hours searching we gave up, gave it one more try, and then we got lost again. The full moon was spreading it´s light over the hilly landscape and gave it mysterious impression. In the middle of the darkness we got followed by a white car. `Hey, isn´t that car following us?` we stopped. The white car stopped in front of us. A small man in some centuries old suit stepped out of the car and walked to our car. What are you searching for? He asked in strong dialect. He showed us the way. We found it immediately.
`That was a gnome´, Cecilia said, when we finally had found the way. `They always drive white cars.´ I realized
it was true, and remembered being totally lost while hitchhiking, being picked up by a small man in a white car, talking only local dialect. He just put us on the right way again, and than he left us again.

We drove on a small sand road, found a parking lot full of vans in the valley and a full moon party on top of the hill. We heard drums and guitars, singing and shouting, and we knew we were right. We were just too tired to climb the hill for the full moon party and rolled into our bed. We realized we were still going full speed and it we had to slow down. Living in a city, you are getting used to some kind of speed. Every city has it´s own speed, and Berlin is much slower than in example London or Paris. But still, nature and countryside are slower, and we definitely have to slow down! Talking about sustainability: taking care of the energy and balance firstly counts for oneself! Slowly we are slowing down, and all the unnecessary sorrows and ideas fall of from our shoulders. Sustainable living is living in a tempo that you can walk on for days. Not running and than breathing but breathing deep while you walk, and enjoy the view on the way. Let´s be slow!

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Travelling for sustainability

One moment we decided to go, just like that. We wished our trip to be something of a research, a learning journey, a documentation of projects and ideas on sustainability. But then we asked ourselves: isn´t driving a car to research sustainability a bit of a contradiction? Shouldn´t we just all stay where we are to save the climate once and for all?

It is a painful question, and all travelers on this planet should at least think about it a bit. Most likely we do not like to ask ourselves this question, and push it away again when it appears. It is a hard topic, because it is about guilt. We just don´t want to be confronted with it, and so we look away. For a long time, environmental organizations, governments and companies have put a large part of the blame for pollution and environmental crisis at the consumers side. The consumer decides. ´A better world starts with you´ carries the hidden threat: also a dirty, spoiled and polluted world starts with you. The message is: If one is to blame, it is you! And most consumers say, yeah, sure, but most pollution is done by companies and governments, let them do something about it. And in the end, nothing really happens.
So let´s stop blaming and putting guilt with it because it does not work and it is not about being guilty but simply about taking your responsibility. A lot of environmental activists and campaigners realized lately that the best strategy is a positive one, in which people feel they can contribute one way or another. The rise of doing good is so extreme, that it changed the whole way products are marketed today. One could bring in a lot of critical remarks, but in essence this is a good and hopeful development, because instead of being guilty you can contribute yourself. So let´s forget about who is guilty and contribute to this planet in a positive way!

What this means in practice is something that could be different for anyone. For us it means to strive to consume when possible products that you know that are not produced by child slaves, with deathly pesticides, gene technology or whatever evil things are practiced. And next to that to choose small, local shops for big mega stores. For our trip we will use a climate compensator program. With this, the pollution you create is counted out and you restore the damage with planting trees (in example treesfortravel). There are nice projects with restoring damaged rainforests, it is not expensive and you travel with the knowledge that your pollution is compensated. Off course no pollution is better, but it is good if you travel anyway. So hey ho, let´s go!