I used to think the only way to travel was for months at a time. Then I took on a serious job at a small college which limited my ability to buy one way tickets to random places. This last week I experimented with a “normal” vacation. You know, the ones that only go one week. But in that week I made it to New York, Bulgaria, and a 11 hour night time expedition through Berlin during a layover. Here’s a quick story from my road trip in the Balkans.
If you google Buzludzha Monument, or even just “Bulgarian UFO Thing”, you’ll get some info about this awesome building the Balkan High Country. So for this post, you’re going to have to choose your own adventure, like my friends Patrick and Aylah, who came with me on the 3 hour car ride from the capital Sofia.
If you want to hear about what this building is actually about, read this
If you want to hear a history I made up, read below
If you just want to look at some cool pictures, stop reading now and scroll to the full gallery below.
“Buzludzha” literally translates to “Space Person” and commemorates the first contact with extraterrestrials by the Soviet Union. The building appears to be just a monument, but it was actually also one of the first Bulgarian attempts at time travel. The original scientists deemed the project a failure, and it was abandoned in the 80’s. However, time does actually travel slower through the building at rates of 40-50 seconds/minute. Today it is only visited by nosy kids with too much time on their hands and weirdos who would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those aforementioned meddling kids.
“Are you sure you want to go in?” Our friend who spoke Bulgarian said after translating the signs everywhere. All the obvious doors had been welded shut, but Aylah had just found an entrance and we were halfway through squeezing past a little hole into a pitch black room. We paused and looked back. Yeah, we were definitely going in. Unfortunately, so were a few people who noticed us sneaking around. Eventually most got scared off by the dark hallways, sketchy climb through another hole, and 15 foot drop that you had to shimmy down. Once you were in, things got good.
We ended the exploration by finding a ladder that took us up the tower into the star. Wish I would have packed a picnic because it was a nice view up top.
The months long trips might be in the cards again- I’m maneuvering to get summer’s off at the college- but until then I’m going to keep finding adventures wherever and whenever I can.
Full gallery is below so you can look at pictures in higher resolution.
Years ago, my brother and I started crafting this blog together with nothing but poor grammar, some snapshots and a bunch of half cocked ideas. Doing a project for over 3 years was inspiring but also challenging. It became a lesson on powering through artistic doldrums, and pushing new concepts.
For me, the progression of these adventures has culminated in a new project called www.rad.voyage. Launching today, we are a international travel company based in our native Portland, Oregon. We build custom adventures for people that want to capitalize on their free time and reach outside the “typical” travel experience.
R.V. is inspired by the experiences, people and adventures we found during the travels we captured in this blog. It is a method to expand those experiences to include new people. People like you. So please check out the site, tell us what you think or share it with someone who has feet that are itching to travel.
Until next time. We will continue to get lost, muddy and delayed, but more than any of that we will continue to discuss the core essence of the human question: Who would win in a fight between a bear and a Shark?
The styrofoam cup of Tequila next to me continues to devour the ice cubes I feed it. I purchased the bottle from a smiling hawaiian shirt clad lady in the lobby, which left me feeling like she is pretty successful at what she does, which isn’t hard, selling booze to tired travelers who just got in from the heat. Despite the pleasantries of cold agave on a hot day, I can not think of a worse beverage to accompany our dinner of strip mall sushi. Welcome to old Honolulu.
We didn’t expect to find ourselves here, away from the glamour I can imagine on Waikiki beach, but we literally just landed here after driving the whole way around O’ahu. Our hotel has that charming “old vegas” vibe, like staying at The Flamingo, while the Luxor flashes in all it glory across the street. Our building is full of the tacky grandeur of yesteryears. Furn printed footpaths surrounded by flower adored curtains, and every sentiment of beige. This whole building exists from a time when it was practical to have 350 rooms, stacked between the freeway, airport and industrial district. At at a time when “classy” hotels planners positioned the restaurant next to the slightly dilapidated pool.
Our fellow patrons seemed to be an instant margarita mix of working class people, hustlers and families with too many kids. Outside, a 5 lanes of highway seemed to run up and down the coast line like tracks on a junky’s arm. A small group of fellows chat softly, outside our window, the smell of marijuana hanging strange between them in the humid air. The cars on the highway and the planes landing serve as their background music.
Meanwhile, the label on the bottle of tequila swears it’s from the futile hillsides of Guadalajara but it smells like it’s from mexico city. I take a few sips and decide it is better to just go to bed. A motorcycle’s engine whines into the top of 3 gear. A 737 lands from Tokyo and my eyes close instantly.
“May’s gonna be flat.” Many on the mainland said it, those classic surfer words from the guys who sit and look at the charts all day, searching for small bands of purple swell on computer screens. The unglorified reality of much of this sport is that everyone is basically a amature ocean forecaster. They weren’t wrong but not exactly right either.
When our little band of Americans, Canadians and Australians finally got to the North Shore of Oahu, we were glad it was forecasted at two foot. Our greeting party was lava rock and slabby waves, with crystal clear bottoms. The turtles kept things friendly but everything else looked pretty hectic. As the week went on the waves cleaned up before eventually dying completely.
Off season is great, no crowds and the local guys where really friendly, showing us the difference between chums, pipeline and the other multitude of peaks all stacked onto each other in the mericle 8 miles.
Its hard to tell, but the surf pictures where Lauren’s first time shooting something like this.
He looked like Hawaiian Danny Trejo but with an extra 60 pounds.
His walk was predictably slow, dragging his worn out flip-flops, who’s foam had long ago given away underneath yellow rusting feet. The kind of shoes that had been flattened for so long by this massive man that I can only wonder what kind of support they could have ever offered him.
As he approaches me with purpose, I am uncertain if I am more intimidated by his collection of tattoos done in that classically Jail-ish style, or of his thick black panhandle ‘stache. When combined with his slow menacing shuffle and overwhelming size, I am left a little tightly wound as he stops and stands over me, as Im sitting down as I wait for my food.
“Can I sit here.” Said the mustache, with no affect assistance from either his eyes or lips.It wasn’t really a question. The ogre was pointing directly across from me. I imagine the whole picnic table tilting his direction as he sat down, like a house pearched on the edge of a cliff in an old Chaplin film.
“Sorry buddy, my wife’s sitting there.” It wasn’t a lie but it sure sounded like one.
“You should leave her.” Said the mustache on top of the deadpan face.
“I tried, but she keeps coming back.”At that his face cracked and the mustache gave away to a somewhat full set of teeth, all of which seemed to unravel from his face, the way a drawbridge opens over an impossibly wide moat. His eyes lit up a little more as he took a big sip from a bottle dressed in a paperbag, which appeared from somewhere within his massive hand.
He proceeded on his shuffling routine to another seat on the other side of the BBQ shop, wearing nothing but a big pink towel and his old lady hula tattoos.
“You see the guy in the towel?” Linzay would ask later.
“Yeah, He’s cool.” I wished him a good day as we left with our greasy stack of beef short ribs and rice. He gave me nod and returned to his can.