Friday, October 19, 2001

Let joy be unconfined! Let angels sing from the heavens! Let the people dance all day and every day in the streets! The unthinkable has happened. Something so unspeakably wonderful that even now I expect to wake from this glorious dream. To live in a world so great makes me weep in awe.

Yes - Simon has got rid of his beetle sunglasses. His giant plastic yellow sunglasses that make him look like a colossal dopey beetle. After two months of these unutterably horrendous sunglasses haunting my every moment, my hell comes to an end. How did this happen? Well, it was all part of our three days in Dubrovnik, three days and three nights which have now earned the undoubtedly dubious title of "Fistfest 2001". Made all the more dubious by the fact the name actually hints at a Fistfest 2002.

With a name like this, you probably really don't want to know about the last few days, but I'll tell you anyway. From my last entry, I'd left you after telling you about the first night in Dubrovnik, spent drinking with an English guy called Peter and the truly awful Australian girl called Alice. There were some others, but Alice scared them off by brnging up the subject of double fisting. She has since tried to defend this accusation by claiming she merely mentioned it in the passing (as if that's possible) but what's undeniable is that this really quite questionable topic of conversation dominated the next couple od days. Even when we weren't talking about it, the subject was hanging in the air, waiting to reappear.

So, the second day in Dubrovnik began with a drink with Peter and Alice in a cafe, and then a short wander into town, and then simply relaxing about the hostel in the pleasant sunshine. But something was in the air (and not just double fisting). Earlier, myself and Peter had formulated the excellent idea of extreme drinking. Bottles of Ozujsko cost 7KN at a nearby shop, but upon returning the empty bottle, you got 3KN back. So, the more Ozujsko we drank, the more money we'd get back. Flawless logic.

It began at 6pm. Me, Simon, Peter and Alice having a couple of bottles each. Warming up. Upon finishing, we went on a second foray to the shop, returning the empty bottles and getting some more. We were now joined by Ian, an Australian guy from the night before (the others from the night before - the very very Australian Danny and the very pleasant Joe from Canada - had been so terrified by the conversation that they had actually left the country) who we decided to rename Zack, because he really didn't suit the name Ian. Seriously, every time someone talked of "Ian" we'd all get confused and have to explain who we meant. He just didn't suit the name. But the moment we christened him Zack, it felt natural. It was his instinctive name. If he takes nothing else from meeting us (and I seriously doubt he will) the I hope he keeps his new and improved name.

So, that was two trips to the shop and things were warming up. Several drinks down us each, but then things changed. Because suddenly four girls from Leicester appeared with a few hours to kill before having to catch a ferry, and the shop that sold the Ozujsko was due to close. And so, with Peter and one of the Leicester girls (Rachael), we went on a final Ozujsko mission and bought 23 bottles of the stuff, and that doesn't count what Rachael bought for her lot. Quite simply, there was no way any of us were going to end the night with actual distinct memories, aside from clouds of drunken haze.

So let's not pretend my memories are ordered and detailed. What I do know is that we really must apologise to all the other residents of the hostel for the awful raucous din we made. There weren't a great deal of others - and one in fact, Stevan, joined us and got on rather well - but those we saw glimpses of looked pleasant, but timid. Especially the poor shy-looking Japanese girl who must have been hiding in her bed, quivering with fear. Because outside, we'd turned into devils, with double fisting jokes flying around, and becoming the depraved and filthy individuals we only imagined we could become in our most dark and horrific nightmares.

I apologise also to friends and relatives, not just of myself and Simon, but of Peter and Alice, when we went on a postcard sending frenzy. Writing perverted postcards to each other's friends. Simon, very foolishly, let us all write a little piece in a letter to Claire his girlfriend, with Zack writing a sickeningly nauseating sentimental piece of garbage, Alice writing some rubbish about red bottoms (the girl was obsessed) and the rest of us clubbing together and creating a fictional girl called Karen with whom Simon was supposed to be having an affair with, and which we all hinted at in our messages. We all await the end of their relationship...

After a flurry of photography, the Leicester girls had to get their ferry, although I suspect if the tickets hadn't been bought in advance, they might have stayed. However, the disappearance of the four girls didn't quieten us down, oh no. Oh no. The sinning continued, and the drinking unabated and I have an indelible memory of that long table we were gathered round literally covered with empty Ozujsko bottles.

I remember nothing more of the evening. If you email me, I might remember a bit more.

The next day then, there was a degree of suffering all round. Because you can't go two straight nights of double fisting without a little pain. Man, listen to me. I apologise to everyone reading about the amount of times I've mentioned double fisting. I think Simon was hit the hardest (um, no pun intended), so hard he's still suffering today and seems unable to eat food without it quickly being evacuated. I was alright actually, after a slightly lazy morning. Alice too wasn't in bad shape, and Peter apparently was up at about 6am, although both complained of delayed effects.

So we (minus Simon, who was afraid to be too far from a toilet) conquered any ill effects by climbing the hill behind Dubrovnik, in the hot sunshine, to the telecom tower and the ruins that were scattered around. It gave a really marvellous view of the area - the old town of Dubrovnik, the castle on the peninsula next to it, the forest covered island nearby, and the entire craggy coastline.

What happened that night then? Uh... more drinking.

Nah, we took it easier this time. Enough to be tipsy, but not psychpathically drunk. It was here that Simon and his sunglasses were parted. Everyone took their sunglasses out, in the dark, to wear for a few minutes, and we all tried each other's on. And to everyone's huge astonishment, Peter actually rather suited Simon's sunglasses from hell. So, if Simon looked 0.01% good in them, Peter looked an unthinkable 1% good. One hundred times better. Simon now has a much better pair of sunglasses. Simon and Peter weren't only people to profit from the evening - I now have a thick jumper, a pair of white socks, and a whistle, all courtesy of Alice. I think she's trying to turn me gay. The jumper especially. She gave me it because I only have T-shirts and she has too many jumpers, and really, this jumper is awesome. As well as being very warm indeed, it has the remarkable quality of making me look like a gay Norweigan fisherman. It was unanimously agreed upon. That's not to say I don't suit it. I do, I really do. It's just that I look like a gay Norweigan fisherman who suits his jumper. That, plus white socks, plus a whistle, and my homosexuality is confirmed.

But the night was more peaceful - perhaps as a result of the sadness in all our heart's that it was our final night together. Or perhaps we were too ill from the night before. But it was a fun night definitely, where me and Simon educated Peter and Alice, plus Stevan who later appeared, as to the wonders of "Famous Blue Raincoat" by Leonard Cohen, letting them listen to it and then giving them a detailed description of what the song was about. Honestly, I could write a thesis about the song. I haven't listened to it in almost a month now, and still am unsure if I ever will again, because it haunts my every waking thought for at least a week after every listen.

So, it was a good night, and early the next morning Peter and Alice left. Probably for the best, as we were all a very bad influence on each other. Not much later, me and Simon left Dubrovnik, and (finally) Croatia.

To the incredibly beautiful town of Kotor in Montenegro. A town at the very end of Europe's biggest fjord (outside Scandinavia. And no, Simon has not been able to resist making a "hilarious" fjord pun) with craggy mountains clinging to the coastline, and a massively impressive partly ruined wall zigzagging up the mountain behind Kotor. We pretty much went here on a whim, with no idea what to expect, and we've been hugely impressed and surprised.

Oh, here's an interesting little fact for you. Montenegro, in Serbian (which is the same language as Croatian, but the two countries hate each other so much that they pretend they've different languages. Like me saying I spoke Scottish. And someone from Newcastle actually claiming their language was English) is Crno Gora. From our Croatian beer experiences, we know Crno to mean "black". As in "crno pivo" or black beer. Therefore, Crno is the negro of Montenegro. Yeah? So, the Gora par is the Monte part. Monte, as in the Alpine mountain Mont Blanc, simply means mountain. So Montenegro, or Crno Gora, means "Black Mountains" - a very appropriate description. And so we can use this knowledge further. The common Croatian/Serbian surnames ending in "-sevic" obviously means "son of", just as the Mac on Scottish names. So, the famous tennis player Goran Ivanisevic means, literally, "Ivan son of the Mountains." Indispitable logic.

I haven't actually checked this with a native Croatian/Serbian speaker, but it's obviously right.

Anyway, our Kotor stay has just been chill out time. We've been staying with an old goatherder (this is true actually, though makes it sound a little more rural than it is) and feel rather guilty as it appears that our 5 pounds a night has actually given us full reign of their house while the goatherder and his family are confined to a tiny little building outside. Oh well. None of them (except the young son) speak any English, but we've actually been getting on very well with our Coratian/Serbian, which is developing quite well. We know a fair few words now, and not just swears.

So, there we are then. Tomorrow, we move along the coast to a town called Budva. It's supposed to have a beach and we're going to risk camping, because the weather's been non-stop good for the last month. It's obviously going ot begin raining tomorrow afternoon. Then, it's going to be a fast moving couple of weeks as we're way behind schedule and if we hope to have a month in the Middle East, we need to be in Turkey for the start of November. So it's going to be a trip through Albania, Kosovo, possibly Macedonia (though we've been hearing some horror stories recently) and then a long long bus/train through Greece to Turkey.

That's the plan anyway. Chances of sticking to it: 8%

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