2016 Travel Plans…

Here is a brief run-down of my plan for 2016…it’s rather comprehensive – but if I pull it off then that’ll mean a whole host of new stories for Storytime with John! 

So wish me luck, please!

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Food Giant (Top 5)

Travel broadens your mind – that seems to be the consensus among most people…well yeah sure, I guess – but one of the best things about travel, no joke; is the new food you get to sample and consequently fall in love with!

This is my top five list…I honestly could have did a top fifty…yes, I am that greedy…anyway, here it goes:

5. 热干面  (China)

Whilst in Wuhan, China – I found that the area’s traditional dish  热干面 (rè gān miàn) was just sensational…it isn’t going to sound like anything too special – but the simple collaboration of flavours just worked so well! Think boiled spaghetti, peanut butter (well, sesame sauce), and chopped carrot…sounds disgusting? It was AMAZING! And at 30p (50¢?) a pop, there’s only one winner! ME, AND MY DAILY HABIT!

4. Escargot (France)

As a child the thought of eating snails…was…well…unthinkable – after all they look like little alien creatures from the planet Zoozlax! Butttt, in reality escargot are beyond delicious! It could be argued that anything would taste wonderful if it was smothered in enough garlic butter…but still…wow – oh yeah, and then get some freshly baked bread; dip it in there…wow x2.

3. Bernerwurst (Austria)

Austria disappointed me a little, sure they had spectacular cakes – and equally good coffee (100 automatic points to Gryffindor!) but other than that I didn’t find anything too special…that was until I had a couple of hours spare at the airport…that’s when I met my soulmate; the Bernerwurst. This beautiful thing, oh my goodness – so it’s a sausage, stuffed with cheese, and then wrapped in bacon. It’s enough to give you a heart attack just thinking about it…but you would die happy, VERY happy.

2. Haggis (Scotland)

One of my all-time favourites is Haggis – I bet I can make your mouth water with this one… so think of the liver, lungs, and heart of a sheep – all chopped up, mixed with other stuff, and then shoved back into a sheep’s stomach before being boiled, and served. Delightful. It may sound like the menu of a post-apocalyptic world, but it is actually gorgeous…you can get it at my local chippy back home. It’s just amazing. I can’t even find the words…

1. 샤브 샤브 (South Korea)

샤브 샤브 (shabu-shabu) is actually a Korean twist of a Japanese dish…and it is my number one favourite thing to do on a Sunday…you know, when you have a full day free to GORGE yourself. It also introduces a little bit of Vietnamese style cooking, so it is a huge beautiful mix of different flavours! You have the pot in the middle, that you may put noodles, rice, veggies – whatever! And then around the side there is a hot plate that you cook up pork, and beef strips…

I returned to my old neighborhood recently, with the sole intention of going back to the 샤브 샤브  restaurant I loved so much…it had closed down (probably because they temporarily lost their best customer) – I cried…I broke down…and I haven’t been the same since.

Notebook Fries GIF

Anyway, so recounting all of these ridiculously delicious dishes, just made me very, very, HUNGRY. I am off to eat myself to an early grave…I guess the diet is off, I shouldn’t have started this…

What are some of your favourite dishes? (This has to be one of my most loved things to discuss!)

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Hate at First Sight (Hungary)

Hungary ~ Budapest – 2014

I hadn’t been to Hungary in well over five years, so on this recent trip to eastern Europe I was hoping for a different experience with more mature eyes…for those of you who didn’t read it before, this was my last encounter with the country:- “scrotum-stares-hungary” I mean the name says it all…but it’s still probably worth a quick read just so you are up to speed!

Anyway, rest assured I had my fingers crossed hoping that there would be a lot less scrotums this time around, and a little less staring if possible! Well the short version is that I didn’t see any scrotums on this adventure (automatic huge plus!), but the staring was at threat level midnight! This time there was a lot more hostility to the gazes, I think it was due to the fact that I was now a young man…so therefore probably fair game, perhaps when I was a child they didn’t think it was so acceptable to give me the type of look that suggests they want to rip off my head and use it as an ornament, or more likely – an ash tray.

Hostile GIF

As my brother and I walked around it became clear that the male portion of the population were the most forthright in their glares – they sneered, growled, and made every other caveman-ish attempt to make us feel uncomfortable. We stood out I guess, the native’s clothes looked like they had been purchased in the early 90s…usually the look was completed with a raggedy mullet curling down the flabby neck of its owner – so in comparison, despite the fact we were just wearing shirts and dark jeans, in their eyes we may as well have been wearing Elton John style glitter jackets. This is largely conjecture, but we came to the conclusion that they probably thought we were two young homosexual chaps on a nice week break together…and that they would try and laser-eye the homosexuality out of us, or at least make us feel sufficiently uncomfortable with the whole thing. Hard to enjoy licking an ice cream cone, with 20 bigoted men staring at your every movement. Very awkward. 

On the subway we took to staring at the ground, pretending we were not aware of the blatant display of hatred – in our hometown it was pretty much the same drill in certain areas. Both places were filled with people who will aggressively stare, and if you even glance at them it will be all, “are you looking at me?! You want to start something?! Someone hold my brain I’m going to fuck this cheeky bastard up!!!” I can’t speak Hungarian, but I imagine it is pretty much the same, word for word. One time we stepped on the train, cue hateful stares of course – but this time we were also met with a strange gypsy-looking lady humming a bizarre tune loudly to the rest of the cramped carriage…I assumed she was asking for money for her performance, but nope…she was just rocking back and forth wailing out of her lungs…this would make a great eerie tune on a horror movie sequence, I thought to myself…but was cut short from this imaginary sequence by a mustached man in front of me – he pointed at my trainers, so naturally I looked down…maybe my laces were untied, or a bird had shit on them or something…nothing…I looked back at him, and he pointed again – oh God, leave me alone – I shook my head, and looked away, wondering if my ear drums would explode anytime soon so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to the lady’s groaning tune anymore –

“JUST LOOK, JUST LOOK!”

I knew it was him. I took my time to turn to face him, and even when I did it was with a slow robotic movement…I didn’t want to have anything more to do with him, but perhaps if I didn’t give him drips of conversation he would pin me down and make me listen to the harpy-lady’s song for the rest of time. And I couldn’t take that. He made gestures that insinuated he wanted me to take of my shoes, and give them to him…you know, just so he could look.

Oh my God, I am going to be beaten up and robbed for my trainers…I’ll have to walk back to the flat in my socks…I bet there will be loads of little stones that are mildly uncomfortable to tread on…oh God, no…just FUCK OFF, comb your mustache, slap a Gran, go cow-tipping, something, anything – whatever you do – JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

So scared GIF

I shot him a confused look, that in my head would be perfect Oscar-winning acting…”I done, I done no…what you say…when…I done” I stammered to him slowly, even introducing my hands and shoulders, to further emphasise just how little sense his broken English was making to me…in my head I was Russian…but I suppose it doesn’t really matter, so long as he didn’t run off with my Nike Airs.

We arrived at a station, the doors opened – and the majority of the cabin flooded out together, they had been some kind of strange collective group…the strange singing lady, the burly sneaker thief, and the rest of his staring entourage. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief…as did my shoes.

Stepped in shit on the way back to the flat though, go figure – should have left him have em after all! 

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Anything but Fine (Austria)

Austria ~ Vienna – 2014

As I walked the streets of Vienna, I couldn’t help but realise something; (well…aside from the gorgeous architectural heritage sprawled out on every block, and the cheery friendly folk inhabiting the bustling pavements!) No, instead what gripped me more intensely was something a lot less in your face – something that passes you by quite easily, but once you notice it – you cannot stop seeing it…Vienna is very clean, well maintained – which is great and everything, but it appears that rules are followed completely by just about everyone. I have probably lost you there, why is this a bad thing you may ask? So let me explain…the reason this struck me as unusual is that it all felt a little…well…forced. Yes, yes, people were following the rules but it was to the letter! Perhaps I am a hoodlum and I don’t even realise it, but it all made me a little uncomfortable at times.

It reminded me of a programme I used to watch as a kid – The Demon Headmaster; where the crazy head of the school would take off his glasses and hypnotise the kids into doing his will…sounds super, super paedo crazy these days I know, but it was a different climate, and the innocent child’s mind doesn’t see it that way. Anyway so in the show the afflicted kids would walk around in a daze just obeying orders, when I saw that crowds of people were standing at the pedestrian stop sign despite the fact that there was not a single vehicle in sight, it made me sure that there was something in the water here, or there was a hypnotism feature built into the Austrian television. It was the only theory that made sense to me.

Demon-Headmaster GIF

Of course my brother and I didn’t have the same problem, we simply assessed the situation and crossed the road – after all, we were drinking bottled water (ahem…okay, okay…I mean beer) and were only watching streamed episodes of our favourite comedy shows on my laptop. So we were safe! Coming to think of it that’s probably a top travel tip, so perhaps you ought to write it down? Just a thought.

You’ve probably already guessed that this policy of ours ended up badly.

On one ill-fated occasion we stopped at the end of the pavement for the red man – just as the rest of the drone population did, we looked right, then left – then repeated – feel free to compliment me on my road safety skills, cheers! – we subsequently came to a conclusion it was safe to cross due to there being NO traffic whatsoever and, well…did so!

WAAHHHHHH-WAHHHHH!” a bizarre screeching sound rang out behind me once I had reached the middle of the small road – I turned around slightly in shock, and in my peripheral vision saw a plump lady dressed in a strange outfit, still screaming and gyrating wildly – naturally I took her to be an absolute mental case, so quickly rushed myself over to safety! Phew!

Running GIF

“Fucking pigs!” my brother joked under his breath,

“What?” I chuckled, vaguely confused,

We continued walking as he explained that the high pitched noise had been two policewomen who had probably been kicking off about crossing the road on a red man – we shrugged in a ah well no big deal kinda way, and went back to the map, we were lost – that’s for sure – but we didn’t really care much, we had ate a huge lunch and a few…err…bottles of water, so we were happy to just wander about aimlessly…we got to the next block and stopped at the red man signal – this time around he was right, the road was impassible as cars streamed wildly in and out, honking as they went.

AAAY! AAAY!” something screamed in my ear hole,

“Erm, hi?” I replied – to the two extremely pissed off ladies standing next to me,

SHLURGUNN-SHLURGUNN-SHLOOZHLE, SHLIGINN…” one of them was blabbering away some total nonsense with aggressive vigor, as the other stood arms crossed, intermittently nodding in agreement.

Confusion GIF

“We don’t understand you, sorry, we-” my brother began,

“English – English!” I begged,

OH, O-KAY. YOU RUNNING AND LAUGHING!” she blurted out, red in the face with emotion,

“No…no…” I almost giggled at the thought of being apprehended for laughing, but held myself together…”I didn’t run or laugh, I would never do tha -”

YES!” interrupted the other one – “YOU LOOKED AROUND! SAW US STANDING! LAUGHED! THEN LOOKED AGAIN! LAUGHED AGAIN! THEN WITH THE RUNNING AWAY! YES!”

Oh my goodness! I really was a menace, somebody stop me!

I glanced at my brother uneasily, glaring with wide eyes – we were both sporting the standard ruby coloured Taggart cheeks – as per usual in awkward situations such as these! I tried to plead my innocence but it was a lost cause, she had fabricated some story blatantly: I mean do I look like the kind of guy who would laugh? Or run? Or even worse, do them both together? Of course not.

SO NOW YOU PAY. YES. THIRTY EUROS – SO IT’S SIXTY EUROS FOR TWO.”

“WHAT?!” my brother exclaimed,

YES! Eeen London you can’t jus cross the road…we knows zis…you have to-”

“YES YOU CAN! IF YOU WANT TO CROSS, YOU…YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO CROSS THE ROAD, REALLY?”

YAH – NO – you cannot in London, it’s the rule – so -”

“WELL IT’S A RIDICULOUS RULE!” he replied defiantly, “yes, yes! It may be a ridiculous rule – but it is the rule, so we have to follow it!” Urgh, what a great mentality to have…I glanced down at my feet because I wasn’t sure where to look, and became aware of the sympathetic stares from the other drone members of the public – which appeared to range from sympathetic looks to shakes of the head…I bet this shit happens all the time, I mean it should be an unofficial rule that if someone looks clueless and has a map in their hand there should be some form of leniency! My brother was going off on one, but despite the fact I was pissed off, I had sudden flashbacks to documentaries about young guys being locked up for years in foreign parts for some bogus crimes, and as we had a plane to catch the next day, I couldn’t see how this would fit into our itinerary:

Prison GIF

“Alright, okay. JAMES – shh…”

I grabbed my wallet and sniffled as I counted out fifty Euros, my brother muttered that he had barely any money left – “HE HAS FIFTY SO HE PAYS.” Of course, of course I do. As I handed over the money I felt my blood pressure rise and every vein in my eyeballs throb – “so where does this money go?” my brother began to inquire, “IT GOES TO US – THEN WE TAKE IT TO THE BUILDING AND YES!” So basically straight in their back pocket then. Fantastic! They began to fill out some little ticket sheet, didn’t once ask for names or any form of ID, or well…anything…just took the money and then that was that.

FIned

We began to walk off down the street (rather than crossing like we had originally planned), just to get away from them – but they followed, we quickened our pace to try and escape – but they stayed with us, largely because we had to be sure to stop and wait for the green man at every crossing. Eventually we looped around and made a break for it, eventually getting back to the hotel where I could top my wallet back up from my stash.

“Fucking ridiculous that!” my brother would repeat, over and over, “THIRTY EUROS?! Fucking ridiculous that!” I would nod and agree, shedding a private tear at paying FIFTY Euros for the privilege of crossing the road when my own brain told me I should. I was also a little irked that someone who had paid ten Euros was being more vocal in outrage than myself…perhaps he had forgotten…I should remind him…nahhh, save that for a rainy day – bank that gold for an argument in the future.

Celebrate GIF

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/08/28/not-so-fancy-footwork/

Fancy footwork!

My couple of days in Austria were for the most part overwhelmingly positive, (stay tuned for the single negative part in another post soon!) – I mean, the place is beautiful; filled with breathtaking architecture, some of the best art the world has ever seen, and people who are warm and friendly – especially when compared with their far more stern and stand-offish Hungarian neighbours. Case in point, in Hungary someone tried to have a go at stealing my trainers…in Austria a stranger saw me battling with a map and pointed me in the right direction…

Also the coffee in Hungary tastes like someone has put some coffee granules in their mouths, washed it about with a bit of luke warm water, and then spat it into warm-ish milk – making sure to stir thoroughly before serving to unsuspecting customers. Coffee in Austria is totally on point: espresso that makes you feel like it isn’t such a big deal that you haven’t slept more than four hours a night for a week straight…now I look at the situation with fresh well rested eyes, I am starting to question whether the caffeine situation has a lot to do with my (probably) terrible bias – yeah, probably – so apologies to both sides, but you do both have great cakes – so perhaps you can take solace in that? Joint first on the cake podium? No? Okay.

Continue reading “Fancy footwork!”