Wraiths of the Milk Bar

We walked into the doors of the milk bar (bar mleczny) and immediately felt like we’d stepped back 40 years to when Poland quivered under the glare of the Soviet Union and these state subsidised dens were the only places honest people could afford a meal out. Somewhere between a soup kitchen and workers canteen, the […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

At a Honky-tonk in Poznan

Near the front of the bar was a man with a thick, roughly etched face, a clinging, defiant beard and that honky-tonk stare familiar to every visitor to Nashville, Tennessee. Before us was an old lady with short grey hair and golden earrings waving her arms above her head in time with every song. The […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

7 Days in Hungary

Prostitutes and beggars hang out in front of kebab shops waiting to ensnare unsteady drunks. Loud English and Australian tourists hollar into bars and out of clubs. And me, I’m just walking through. Suitcase rolling along in one hand, the other patting down the pockets, phone in the left, wallet in the right. Over my […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

The Bums of Budapest

There was a homeless man just around the corner from here snarling and muttering to himself by the side of an old building. He was using a concrete window sill to roll a cigarette and as I walked past I noticed with shock that his fevered mutterings were not in Hungarian but in English. “They’re […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

Night Train to Budapest

“Sob! Sob!” He had stood up suddenly and was looking out the window and yelling. “I’m sorry?” “Szob! We’re in Szob! My brother lives in Szob.” Just then our phones beeped simultaneously; “Welcome to Hungary. A call home will cost you $4 a minute.” We’d boarded the train together in Warsaw and were the only […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

Waiting for a Train in Poland

Polish people cringe when I tell them my first experience of this country was the train station at Katowice in 2010. 

The cold concrete interior, swathes of wandering homeless, and an open air butchers shop that filled the station with the dead smell of raw meat are a few of the impressions I’ve retained from […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

A Village with No Pub

In a small village in greater Poland there are farms, houses, two identical conveniences stores, side by side, and a memorial to local pilots who defended the home land during the Second World War.  There was, however, something missing. It took me a couple of hours to realise exactly what. “Where’s the local pub?” I […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

Russians in Prague

Tourists cram the streets and the buildings can be so beautiful it almost seems fake. Still, somehow Prague clings to its Eastern Bloc edginess; outside of the main centre the monolithic living quarters are yellow and harsh and ugly, and there’s a slight strangeness between the cracks in the city that remind you that history […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

Don’t Feed the Chickens

The car was waiting for us as we ambled off the Ferry, still nauseous from the choppy last hour of the journey. Two others were in the car with us, people we didn’t know who’d be sharing a ride. “It’s $10 each.” Sue said to them. She collected their money, and then turned to me. “$10?” […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }

Under the Red Sky in China

Earlier this year I spent a semester studying Chinese at a university in Chengdu, South West China. The key ‘attraction’ of our university was the 操场, “sports ground,” an artificial running track surrounded on all four sides by towering apartment blocks. Myself and handful of other foreigners would often sit on the dusty grandstand in the evening, […]

Read full story Comments { 0 }