Symbiosis Gathering 2013

symbiosis man

sign one

sunset crowd

hippie girl

headstand ufo

I drive away from Symbiosis Gathering at the Woodward Reservoir in California, enchanted by the warm and wonderful connections I made.  I ventured here alone, not quite sure what to expect, but I did hope for something wonderful and unexpected. After I pitched my tent along the water, an endless adventure of yoga, meditation, dance, and artwork ensued.

wolf

sunset venue

yoga pose

long walk

fire heart

Symbiosis is defined as an interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both; a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.  There isn’t a better definition that encompasses my magical experience that this event was able to create in such a short amount of time, simply because this festival is a gathering of people that have a similar interest of loving life, our planet, music, creativity, and the sustainability of everything in hopes to create happiness that is shared with one another by embracing our Mother Earth.

flute man

skateboard kid

april umbrella

redhead dred

The hypocrisy of these major events is a relevant topic because the earthly-principled standards of what these festivals dictate do not always jive with the generation of trash and consumerism that they digest.  However, this festival does provide a temporary environment for the “civilized” to live outside the normal commerce of civilized life.  One can feel that our society is uncivilized when you examine the big picture of mass-consumerism which feeds our addicted, gluttonous economy while bleeding our generous planet of her beautiful resources and polluting her in the process.  Freegans and their “anti-consumerist” ideologies proudly showed up at Symbiosis, digging for tasty vegan meals out of the trash.  Mother Earth loves Freegans.

freegan checks

freegan eating

freegans copy

hippies

At Symbiosis you can easily get involved in a deep discussion about understanding how sustainable beliefs and behaviors are in conflict, and that is why events like these are important and relevant even though there are many hurdles to overcome until ideals equate with real actions by the majority.  You can find eco-friendly, intelligent earth-lovers that are eager to converse about change.

chundra hands

black power

cute girl one

hanging out

The social conscious of the youth may be advancing towards understanding the consequences of consumption and how each individual has an unseeingly, substantial contribution to the cumulative effect of every problem and solution – if only we could come together and act on our unified understanding of this we could create no waste or at least manage it more efficiently to renew energy and sustain resources.  Festivals like Symbiosis and Burning Man are trying to make a difference, but at times there purpose is lost in the shuffle of a seemingly endless party.  Maybe there were answers found at the many available discussion groups and seminars at Symbiosis, if not, at least they tried and had a good time doing it.

speaker

crowd five

sunset colors

festival peeps

If you have a conversation with a festival waste-management employee, then you will see the disgusting problem that exists at most festivals from Bonarroo to Coachella to Burning Man.  It takes weeks on end for Bonarroo to clean up abandoned camp-sites and overflowing trash bins, and this problem is easier for them to solve because Bonarroo owns the land, allowing them to develop compost areas on site.

tent lights two

dancers

guy with tie

gongs

Unlike some festivals, Symbiosis Gathering is a festival on the move, which keeps a relatively small, dedicated following.  Fortunately, this magical gathering is still a relatively small festival, and the movement helps keep the network of peaceful, music-yoga-lovers and vegans re-uniting in a mellow setting without too much disturbance from a local community; small towns embrace this festival as it temporarily brings in a good amount of business and exposure to remote areas.

festival crowd 2

guys on tower two

scary people

tattoo folks

The energy was very pure for me at Symbiosis because it wasn’t overblown with 50,000 guests, and people were accessible as you could run into a new friend, time and time again, actually bringing people together for the full event instead of just one magical moment lost in time.  You will find “Burners” at Symbiosis Gathering most likely going through Burning Man de-tox, reminiscing about the crazy and beautiful artwork at Burning Man this year.

crowd close two

teepees

crowd distnace three

moon arm

people 2

The relaxing atmosphere at Symbiois Gathering was enhanced by the meditation and yoga centers which I truly needed; i was wonderfully seduced into more then one venue by harmonium chants that would lay me down to downward dog and long yoga sessions – one of the main reasons I felt comfortably alone.

yoga inside

downward dog

meditation

cool spot

Water is one of the most undervalued commodities on this planet and it is one of the most important draws for me to come to Symbiosis Gathering.  At Burning Man I find myself in swirling dust storms and I cannot dip into fresh water and swim from venue to venue, listening to music as I backstroke in the fresh water, and then dance next to uninhibited people after a long swim, pulsating my wet body to fresh rhythms with clean mud swirling between my toes.

water party

balance act

camp water

water dancer

This water-haven festival could be my temporary heaven on earth and this is why Symbiosis is so special to me as it will always be held on a waterfront area, allowing festival guests to naturally cleanse themselves in the buff and lay themselves on the grassy waterfront.  Although skinny-dipping is not allowed, it is still widely done with no bother.  I admit that I was naked in the water as well.  Why not?  Why should we be afraid to show our naked bodies when it is us in the most pure form.  Power to the naked.

nudes nudes

nudes two

naked hands

house car

I would begin my long swims just beyond where my tent was pitched along the waterfront. I swam around the festival entrance where security checks wristbands, feeling like a water-ninja, although I was swimming with an expensive wrist-band. It was a very lovely, long swim; I just put my head down, flopping my arms in the cool water until I reached the first venue area, The Cove, with the wolf statue nearby that was brought from Burning Man.  I got out, danced in the crowd, and warmed my body in the warm sun to sweet grooves.

lake camping

bus distance

white guy

upside down

bike rig

The hill on the Cove proved to be a large gathering place and there was non-stop dancing on the bamboo towers.  Climbing up the towers gave me an amazing bird’s eye view of the craziness.

man on top wide

long hair

blanket

hanging peeps 2

guy hanging 2

guy hanging

After I got my fill of music at The Cove, I jumped back into the fresh reservoir and began swimming my next journey to the Empire of Love. It was a routine that felt so healthy, and when combined with Yoga and amazing vegan food at the Kiosks, I was energized with a very healthy weekend that gave me a high on good health and sobriety (well almost).  Another great aspect of Symbiosis Gathering is the great selection of vendors that provided a wide selection of food, including a great selection of vegan meals and earthy desserts to die for.

afro guy

food kiosks

food guy

good eats

I came to Symbiosis on a journey by myself not sure what I was looking for, but somehow it found me, immediate connections with positive people that were open to communicating.  Some would immediately greet me with a hug when meeting for the first time – a wonderful, warm first reception that Americans normally aren’t use to.  Most European cultures greet with a kiss, or two or three, on the cheek – much better then a handshake, well, at least for me!

kiss cheek two

two chicks

chicks and guy

smiling girl

umbrella sundancer

artist chick three

artist chick

Another great aspect of Symbiosis was the commerce that was allowed by artists.  Artists were selling their artwork, goods, clothing, and creative wares.

selling rings

rings

girl look

store one

feather mohawk

red hat girl

store people

I also noticed at Symbiosis that there were musicians that would wander around with their instruments, hoping to meet another wandering, soulful musician with notes to share.   I witnessed this violin and trumpet player jamming not too far from the heavy beats of the Pantheon, feeding their impromptu jam-session.

violin trumpet

hippies hanging 2  hippie musicians

guitar player

ukulele

I was ecstatic to see the band, Ecstatic Union, wandering barefoot past the food kiosks while jamming their songs, with their posse singing along.  Their girlfriends were handing out free copies of their latest Album titled Sundog while they walked along the field singing their songs. http://www.ecstaticunionmusic.com

hippie group

hippie group 2

The most welcoming group I met was the Hare Krishnas, and one in particular, Chandra, was so completely magnetic with positive energy; I was drawn into their circle of open arms and soothing chants.

chundra alive

chundra dancing

face paint two

face paint

Chandra would spend her time face-painting new friends and entertaining them with her exuberant and animated conversation that would have me smiling and laughing.  I spent a lot of time with the Krishnas, surrendering to their harmonium meditations in a relaxed state of bliss.

hari krishna

krishna guy

old lady

three eyes

purple hair

krishna

They gave me free cookies and taught me their prayers and beliefs.  I wandered away with beads and subconsciously feeling and hearing the transcendental vibration of my consciousness being revived by the love of my new Hare Krishna friends.  There chants remain inside me.  Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare…

symbols

dad bike

lady umbrella

umbrella girl

Symbisosis festival really lives up to it’s definition of interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both; a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups – well, maybe it should be defined as an interaction of many different organisms living in close physical association.  I learned from some people that were really different then myself, but we came together vibrantly because we shared the common interest of loving the people very much that care for our planet and really live it in celebration.  The Hare Krishnas have contacted me again and I shared with them a blurp about my latest adventure, sailing away on the ocean to Alaska.  We will meet again and I will venture to Symbiosis again and again!  This love is to be continued.  Thank you Symbiosis Gathering.  No more words… just photography… here you go festival lovers…

rainbow

sunset river

pantheon

top view

lights yoga

sunset baby

crowd distance two

naked girl

guys on tower copy

man on top wide

sunset copy jedi boat

dancing umbrella

night rocking

britney

girl walking

crowds food

pantheon copy

color thing

food stands

bingo copy

hangout car

angel wings

fire dancer

canoe

crowd close four

crowd close five

feet up

hanging peeps 2

hanging peeps

bud girl

cute girls 2

sleeping man

pantheon peeps

indian dude copy

flying woman

pantheon one

one bubble

flying bubbles

map

symbols close

sunset crowd four

sunset crowd three

couple sitting

hoop group

hoop guy

hippie dude

water hangout

cool guy

commerce

china man hat

funky stage

funky triangle

laying down guy

funky kid

hula hoop guy

hoop girl

woman umbrella

pantheon car

peeps  girl laughing two

jedi girl laughing

jedi party

bike hangout

pink glasses

moped guy

indian dude april smiling

relaxing

yoga group

yoga chick

bingo

rainbow colors

girls looking

hugs

crowds

smoking

hippie smore

crowd sun3

crowds sun2

crowd sunset

trippy art

open cage

healing man

dreds

water party two

alone chick

hippie photo

hippie girl 2

wolf far

hippies 2

commerce

shopping

cool hair sunset

live music

sunset round

sunset entrance

cute girls2

hammock

bingo 2

hippies copy

pantheon side

weird styles 2

rasta headstand

paintings

red car

feather umbrella

musicians yoga

artist chick copy

prying jaws

cute girls

funny suit

lauren and friend

angel wings

band

crowd close two

fist pump

trippy art

sax player

pointing finger

baby crew

night rocking

cute girls 2

tattoo back

yoga area

hugs

indian dude

whoa

dancing house 2

dancing house

red car copy

dancing man

afro dance 2

afro dance

sign clouds

night sign

zombies

THE END

BeLGrADE, sErBiA

paint graffiti         graffiti wall      fort doors

a la france

I flew from Warsaw to Belgrade excited to see what Serbia had to offer.  I originally wanted to take a train from Krakow, Poland to Belgrade, but the train routes were slow with many stops; it probably would have been better to take a bus, but it still would’ve been a long, slow ride.  I found a last-minute cheap-flight from Poland -  I figured I won’t be in this part of the world for a long time so I really wanted to get to Serbia to see how different it would be from my experiences in nearby countries like Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine.

Belgrade buildings

woman painting

street

NATO bombings caused substantial damage to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, during the Kosovo War in 1999.  I thought the architecture was very similar to Ukraine, with old, drab communist-era buildings.  However, I did find some old, decrepit buildings aesthetically attractive and the people were so much more friendly, warm and approachable then the Ukrainians.

old architecture

old building

courtyard

I stayed at Hotel Moscow which was in a central location with nice rooms.

Hotel moscow

hotel moscow one

A wide pedestrian walkway with shops and restaurants leads to Kalemegdan Park and the old, Belgrade fortress that is close to 1500 years old.

signs

stature garden

fortress

The Belgrade Fortress sits high above the Danube, providing a lovely view.

party boats two

fort

fort three
The Danube river runs through the city which is home to many clubs and party boats docked along the Danube.  I had a fun night dancing and admiring the beautiful patrons at some pretty wild and packed party boats.

party boats

party boats one paddle boat

There are lakeside beaches in Belgrade that have restaurants and beach clubs all along the water.

beach area

crowds beaches

volleyball

beach area one

Beach Clubs and cafes are lined up, one after one, all around the lakeside waterfront.  It seems that during the Summer this waterfront is nonstop, jammed packed with locals – especially on the weekends with parties rocking out music all night.

beach area one

beach sunset

Cable wakeboarding is popular which is wakeboarding on a pulley wire system with ramps on the water course to jump off.

wakeboarding

pulley service

wakeboard 2

wakeboard park

At night this place is alive, with clubs blasting music.  I found it interesting to hear lots of latin music, and saw some amazing Latin, Merengue, and Salsa dancing outside.  Although my stay in Belgrade was short, I had a good feeling about the people here.  I saw them leading very active lifestyles and were very easy to approach.  I wish I had more time to explore more of the outdoors and other cities in Serbia.

graffiti

belgrade bridge

clay tennis courts

beach volleyball

under bridge

brick building

beach wake

risk life

graffiti2

THE END

PrAguE, CZecH REpUbLiC

prague city buildings

vineyard

jesus stature

Prague, also known as Praha, is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. This lovely city, centered on the Bohemian Basin, has several, old stone-bridges over the Vltava river.

bridge boat

bridge wide

Prague has some fantastic attractions which include the Prague Castle, The Charles Bridge, the Prague Astronomical Clock, the Old Town Square, and much, much more.  The architecture varies everything from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, to the ultra modern, creating one of the most unique and beautiful cities in Europe.

bridge castle

church

castle

buildings water

old building

Wandering the streets near the Vltava river can be a bit dreamy as you pass by beautiful cathedrals, statues, and bridge towers.

water buildings

bridge

boat trips

St Charles Bridge, built between 1357 and 1378, is one of the oldest stone bridges in Central Europe.  The bridge is packed with tourists slowly walking along and admiring the scenic view, lovely statues, street vendors, artists, and live musicians.

monkey man two

st charles

band

band bridge

The public transit system here is excellent, fast, cheap and easy.  I love the design of the metro stations and they have an efficient tram system along with bus and ferry as well.

metro stop

tram

I was able to find a mellow outdoor flea market with drinks, food, and a free film-screening about building and sustainability.

movie outside

market area

I hit the jackpot on a recommendation to dine at the Imperial Hotel which is home to a very famous chef.  The Chilean Sea Bass was fantastic, the service was impeccable, the restaurant was affordable, and the décor was classic.  I couldn’t have asked for a better meal at a better cost.

imperial cafe

sea bass

There is plenty of wild night-life in Prague with a wide variety of stylized bars, clubs, and absinthe bars.

club entrance

absinthe time bar

You can even find absinthe ice cream – Yummy!

absinth

I was lucky to meet two, beautiful local girls who took me under their wing for a little dancing at one of the top night clubs, Club Roxy.  The locals were very cool and interested in California culture.

girls club

I noticed the police in Prague were much more tolerant of marijuana then other European cities – although it is not legal. I walked into one bar where a patron was rolling a spliff on the bar and everyone was very relaxed about it.

prague joint rolling

Prague is such a wonderful city and I hope to return again soon!

thai mass

city center

church night

side buildings

guy in window

bridge restaurant

monkey man

] clouds

statue

arch city

THE END

WaRsAw OLd tOwN

warsaw three

old town Warsaw, known in Polish as Warszawa, is the capital and largest city in Poland.  This big city is located on the Vistula River which has some popular hangouts for locals, especially during the heat of Summer.  The city centre is home to many big business and institutions, creating a modern day city with tall buildings and wide avenues.  However, Warsaw has an Old Town quarter which has lovely architecture that still gives some of this city wonderful character.

warsaw four

warsaw two

I stayed in a lovely hotel right in the heart of the historic centre of Warsaw.

town memorial

guitar warsaw

hotel warsaw

But I only stayed here one night, 15 hours actually, on a long layover from a Polish Airlines flight from Krakow to Belgrade, Serbia.

polish airlines

I figured I could quickly jet-set a night through Warsaw and I did, enjoying a wild night of partying with some local girls I happened to meet in public on the Vistula River.  We walked to various parts around town and I was able to get a small taste of what this city has to offer.  I didn’t stay here long enough to document this city properly, but I was here long enough to re-enforce my fondness for the Polish.  I spent most of my time in Old Town because I’m not so much a modern soul – meanwhile I reach for my Ipad.  I’m an antique soul, I swear it!

crosswalk

hotel window

warsaw one

warsaw five

warsaw six

THE END

LoVeLy sTaY iN ZaKoPaNE

zakpane hotel

mountain house

man trees

buildings

I was in Krakow, Poland and running out of time as I wanted to move forward with my traveling because I had few cities ahead of me in less then a week’s time.  Usually when tourists visit Krakow they take a day tour to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to learn about the horrors of the Third Reich in Polish areas and the efficient extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II.  It was a tough choice not to visit the camp, but instead I drifted into a beautiful mountain town called Zakopane by word of mouth from the streets of Krakow.

house mountains

farm area

I took an easy, comfortable, cheap bus-ride for two and a half hours.

bus

bus

I figured I could go have a relaxing trip in the mountains opposed to being swamped with the depressing education of War at Auschwitz.

spray paint

Zakopane is a small, artistic mountain town that the Polish call their winter capitol as it is a prime destination for mountaineering, mountain biking, and skiing. It’s in a beautiful valley between the Tatra Mountains and Gubalowka Hill near the border of Slovakia in Southern Poland.

mountains

rocks mountains

houses

This town gets lots of Polish tourism during both the Summer and the Winter and there are many shops, markets, restaurants where the family crowds slowly wander.

main boardwalk

creek

markets market

market three copy

And let me tell you, the Polish love their meat, barbecues, and formal, traditional dancing.  Needless to say, I found myself a dancing partner and enjoyed some laughs – although she spoke absolutely no English.

dancing

pork

grill

dinner

Zakopane has a waterpark with an indoor slide and a pool that connects to the outdoor pool with a nearby rest area.  I swam a few laps and had fun on the waterslide.

indoor waterpark waterpark

waterpark two

There are extensive hiking trails in the mountains and a lodge at a higher elevation so hikers can go further, deeper along the trails and come back to a nice bed.

lodge

lodge front

I met an adventurous Polish girl, Basia, and her father who were up here for a week, hiking everyday from 8 am until sunset at 9 Pm.

basia

They hike about 10 hours or more, almost nonstop, everyday with little rest to maximize covering the gorgeous terrain.  First, biking riding to hiking routes as fast as they can to access trails faster before they hike up other routes not accessed by bicycle.  They drop over the side of mountains as some trails are so high and dangerous and become inaccessible so they have to adjust routes.  We met on my way back with me riding on the horse carriage like a dumb tourist.

horse carriage

However, this was the fastest way I could get up the mountain and cover the area I wanted as I had little time as I was traveling so much – I didn’t have enough time to hike up before sundown but the serenity of the ride by myself was priceless.  My driver was drunk and would grunt at my requests to go further before sundown.

man eyes

river ride

horse ride

Basia, her father, and I made our way into town in a taxi together from the hiking endpoint and then walked on the main drag to choose a place for dinner and a beer.  They hiked all day and then ate big pork kebabs with a gigantic beer.

basia

I had some vegetables with cheese.  The live music right in front of us was wonderful.

live music

food

Basias dad and I reviewed their routes on the map.  It was a very exciting night for me to be with such amazing company.

map

They weren’t the only wonderful group I met in Zakopane; I had another night with some locals that was special as well. I had a late-night after party at my wonderful wooden home.

entryway

my hotel

ryan guitar

It was quite a lovely stay in Zakopane. You can’t help but fall in love with the rustic, wooden, creative architecture with a dreamy mountain backdrop.

house mountains

green house

cabin

forest trees

houses zakopane

field house

path to church

barn

horse carriage 2

horses

log house

sheep neighborhood

mountains

tractor man eyes two

cabin 2

little car

house trees

buildings

] architecture building flowers

house woods

cattle house

sheep 2

houses river

creek two

burning trash

mike tyson

guitar door

THE END

KraKow iS cRaCkiN’ CLaSSiC & FaNtAstIC

old church

castle 2 boy rose girl

I can’t believe how much Poland has surprised me after already having a wonderful journey this Summer to so many different magical places around Europe.

optical illusion building

girls in frame 2

building vines

I think I shouldn’t tell you too much about how Poland took the cake and ran with it.  The Polish are kind, classic, educated, and it is affordable.  The Polish currency, złoty, is a breath of fresh air when compared to traveling and paying with the Euro.

alkohole

krakow street 2

I wish I could tell you more about my diplomatic-business friends that invited me as a musical guest and put me up in a luxurious hotel suite in front of the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow.

hotel room two

castle

ryan office copy

hotel royal

balcony

It was a very mellow setting with fine-dining, and they wanted some “Western Music” as late-night entertainment during the cigar tasting.  The Polish are very welcoming and intrigued by Californian culture – young and old.

castla wawel

hotel suite waiter

After a tour in the tunneled wine cellar at the host’s magical home, I was brought to the humidifying room for the “divine taste” gathering where I would perform during the ritual ceremony of cigar-philandering.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my camera as no photos were allowed at the event and it’s prestigious guests in tuxedos, including myself.  I enjoyed many days relaxing in the hotel suite and going for long walks in old town Krakow.  At times I felt I was living in a dream and am still scratching my head over the magical opportunity here that fell out of the sky and me along with it.

hotel suite

hotel front

hotel royal stairs

hotel room one

If only this was the truth then you would not believe that I caught a fish “this big” – if you are following my adventures then you will know that the truth is always bent when light shines in your eyes and I am often blind to what opportunities have come through chasing the unknown.  So I will embellish a bit on this adventure I want to re-live, even if it was by myself.  Nevertheless, long hot baths in grand hotel rooms in foreign countries is needed after being on the move for so long.

truck hotel

hotel staircase

I was hung over after the posh event (hence long hot bath) – I blame it on the drinking with diplomats and these wild, Russian business-men who convinced me to stay at Hotel Moscow in Belgrade – that’s another upcoming story.  I had to wake up and nurse myself with my usual delightful, naughty breakfast at Alchemia – raspberry pancakes and eggs Florentine with fresh squeezed orange juice.

alchemia sign

achemia

alchemia candles

aclhemia inside

girls in frame

I spent probably too much time at this bar, but I loved the décor and it was located in the Old Jewish District at Kazimierz Square.

alchemia sign

alchemia back 3

brick building

alchemia back

alchemia back 2

Kazimierz is a classic neighborhood with stylish bars that surround the open square that often has markets during the day with food and goods.  Propaganda Bar and Havana Bar are located around the corner.

la habana

propoganda 2

propaganda bar

propoganda bar 2

propganda 4

propoganda bar

I had to drop some propaganda in Propaganda bar – some Punami music hidden here and there under old records and books.  There were some stylized bars in Krakow, including the Singer, another stylized bar in Kazimierz.  You sit and drink on sewing tables.

singer bar 3 singer singer bar one singer bar

Krakow is easy to get around by bike and find very excellent food quickly by searching online. The architecture design in the main town is magnificent which makes for peaceful, dreamy bike rides.

krakow main square horse

architecture buildings

I ate at Klimaty Poludnia restaurant a few times because it was amazing.

salad

bike restaurant

This gem was tucked in a quaint, peaceful alleyway.  I ordered the baked pear with blue cheese, rucula and walnuts a few times.  Also, a spinach and walnut quiche served with green salad and rucula.

food one

food 3

They also served Pierogi – which is a traditional Polish food, filled with Sherpa cheese, meat, buckwheat, cabbage, mushrooms, served with bacon lardoons.  Not a very vegetarian dish like most of Polish food, but there were some excellent, tasty vegetarian options.

stature

The Main Square in Old Town Krakow dates back to the 13th Century and is the largest medieval town square in Europe.  Broad streets are easy to walk on along the classic setting of the dreamy buildings.  No cars are allowed to drive in the middle of the town with the exception of residents and taxi drivers.

boy and girl

boy and rose

I have to say Krakow is amazing and Poland proved to be a gem with the cost of living relative to the quality and happiness of the people.  Life is sufficient, classic, friendly, and not overly complicated.

tin man

couple walking

the look

At least in my short stay there – although it seems young locals are ready to hit the high road out of town even though the economy is picking up.  The local currency has not been ruined by the euro and you can still find wonderful opportunities here.  The Polish are rad.  The city is getting quite a bit of tourism in the Summer, so you will see street performers, which include some quality live music.

violinists

Two local sisters, Asia and Monika Mikurda, would often stir up quite a crowd with lovely violins.   A quartet was quite wonderful as well.  Here is a link to a video of Poland with the quartet playing:

quartet

accordion

clock guy

boy insturme

ice cream store

red flowers

church

krakow street

castle one

THE END

ViENNa VibRaTiONs

mozart stature

girls

beer garden two  floating pool

I didn’t stay in Vienna long enough to have a deep experience with the culture nor did I take enough photographs on my long bike ride through the city and along the Danube, but I do have a lot of great information here to share about this fantastic capital city in Austria.

danube two

walkway

I stayed at a laid-back hostel called Ruthensteiner, which has a great outdoor courtyard, bar, and lots of musical instruments available for use inside, including a beautiful piano.  The staff was very helpful and friendly, and I enjoyed talking with a beautiful and intelligent girl from Milan who works there.  She told stories of her travels and advised me to go for a long bike ride along the Danube.  She made me feel very welcome at the hostel and I enjoyed chatting with her in the mornings.

girl posing

Vienna has a very happy, calm, intelligent vibe, and is not much of a wild, party-city in comparison to other wild, European cities, although you can find it here and there are some very cool hangout spots to check out.   The city is very clean, organized, and the people were very educated and kind.  I rented a bike from my hostel and rode along the Danube as recommended.  After my long bike ride along the river, I intentionally got lost riding my bike in the city and randomly came across some cool restaurants and bars along the Danube Canal that provide an awesome area to relax during the heat of the day and warm nights of summer.

danube one

Strandbar Hermann at the Urania is a sandy beach area in front of the canal where the crowds come in to enjoy the relaxing chairs, hammocks, food, and music.

beach arda

beer garden

beach area close

The sandy beach was jam-packed; and just a five-minute walk away on the canal, you can take a dip in a floating pool-boat at Badeschiff.

canal pool

vienna

pool close

This floating pool is about 30 meters long and is open until 10 pm.  This is the best way to go swimming in the heart of Vienna, and it is so cool to be swimming on a floating boat in the Danube Canal.  There is a nice restaurant and bar connected to the pool on a second level, providing a good view and a cooler breeze.

wien number one

scwhimmen two

schwimmen

I met a group of locals at a common table at the restaurant in front of Badeschiff.

outdoor cafe

They recommended me to go to Volksgarten Pavillon – as it was Thursday night and there was an event going on there at Volksgarten which is located in the Museums Quarter.

volksgarten

I was warned not to show up after 9pm because of the long lines, but I did anyway and had to wait for almost an hour to get inside this wonderful outdoor venue loaded with stylish locals ready to mingle.  Volksgarten was alive with great music and beautiful hangout spots outside along the garden areas.  I definitely recommend events at this place if you want a great place at night to meet people and have drinks.

graffiti

danube three

danube four

Again, my stay in Vienna was way to short to have a full experience here as I missed out on so much this city has to offer. There are so many great museums to go to and a ton of great exhibitions always ongoing – and of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart settled here and composed some of his best-known symphonies in Vienna; so you can also visit his house, The Mozarthaus, and learn a lot about this amazing composer in Vienna.

mozart two

danube canal

graffiti

Next time I will have to check out more of what this laid-back, classic city has to offer. I was given lots of recommendations that I will pass on.  Here they are:

Check out the Naschmarkt especially on the weekends as it has lots of stalls, food, wine stalls, cafes, restaurants, and sometimes live music. A favorite bar of a friend there is Bar di Mar which is an excellent seafood spot. Naschmarkt is about 1.5 kilometers long.

If you take the Ring Road – or Ringstrasse (a circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt district of Vienna), you can get on and off here at lots of the main sites. You can get a pass at one of the stands – better to get the 5-day pass if you plan on staying long and it is good for metro and trolley.

Figlmueller is where to go to have the biggest schnitzel in the city with some schnapps of course. The Vienna Plater is a huge park with a huge ferris-wheel. This is a great place to just hang out and I have been told there are some strange clubs around there too.

There are also lots of great trails in and around Vienna to explore including the nearby vineyards. This is a very nice bike-ride and will get you out of the city and into a bit of nature.

If you are feeling adventurous you can bike about 2.5 hours to (or take a bus) to Neusiedl am See – Lake near Vienna and wine region. This is a very nice place to stay overnight or camp. My friend’s favorite restaurant there is Mole West, which is a chill spot with very good food, great parties, and live music. Check out the upcoming events. www.mole-west.at/en/

Other notable places to check out are Flex Café, Adria Wien, Tel Aviv Beach, Vienna Schützenhaus, Summer Stage, and beach club Sand in the City on Heumarkt.

vienna bitches

THE END

BUttERfLiEs iN BuDApEsT, HuNgArY

musicians two

castle old car one budapest bus           bath house

After traveling a good portion of Europe, I found Budapest to be one of the most aesthetically attractive cities around.  Budapest is filled with energy and excitement, but I did have some serious qualms with the taxi drivers and the quality of the food.  The taxi drivers are definitely the worst in Europe, and if you don’t research online on where to dine out, you will most definitely strike out with some very horrible and overpriced food, especially in the long, pedestrian walkways in the heart of the city.

fatal rest

budapest buildings

view from tram

budapest view buildings

What I love most about Budapest is the architecture and how active the city is.  There was so much going on in this city every day and so much to learn on one of the many educating tours; and if you like to party, well you can do a lot of that here too.

djs

There are bars and parties that cater to the traveling-tourists, which can be a lot of fun, but most likely you will not connect with locals at those big events. One of the coolest bars I went to was Szimpla – although it was jam packed with travelers, it had an amazing open-air ambiance with creative decor.

szimpla

szimpla crowd

Every Thursday there is a party boat that sails along the Danube.  It is a very young crowd and will be all tourists.

bridge night

parliament 2

Every Saturday there is the Thermal Bathhouse Party at Szechenyi Bathhouse.  You will find very young crowds there eager to frolic with one another.  One of the best things to do during the day is relax at one of the many bathhouses in Budapest – they are massive and elegantly decorated with marble architecture, providing a wide variety of thermal pools, steam rooms, saunas, spa services and medicine baths – indoor and outdoor.

gallet bath house

bathhouse one

bathhouse two

bathhouse close

Szechenyi Bathhouse has a fitness center and Gellert Bathhouse has a wave pool – not for surfing but just for fun water movement. Szechenyi Bathhouse turns into a massive party on Saturday night, and there aren’t many rules at this party.  You will see many people kissing amongst floating beer cans.  Epic.

night people pool

night flash pool 3

bar pool

A live DJ blasts music for the young tourists to frolic and dance in the water.

night pool flash one

bath house pool

bar pool people

There is so much wonderful history in Budapest and an abundance of local tours available to teach you the history of this beautiful city.

castle

parliament

There are a lot of great hostels to choose from if you want to keep it cheap.  The Mavericks hostel is located in a gigantic mansion with wide, winding staircases and comfortable rooms, providing a very helpful, friendly staff and a mellow setting for laid-back travelers.

hostel mavericks

The California Hostel feels like a cozy apartment and is much smaller.  And if you want an endless party, then join the wild party-staff at the Grandio hostel where they are constantly drinking in the courtyard, playing beer pong, and sticking together in groups, attending the daily, wild parties in Budapest.

grandio hostel

grandios beer

grandios beer pong

grandios art

grandios bar

If you avoid getting a taxi off the street and research where to eat, Budapest will warm your heart. But if you don’t take caution, you might have a very horrible stay. I had a muscular taxi driver blatantly rob me in money exchange.  He said I gave him 2000 forint when I gave him 20,000 forint – which is about 100 US dollars.  There wasn’t much I could do about it as it was my word against his. And to top it off, he also overcharged me for the ride. I should have listened to the locals who warned me to always call for a radio taxi as they are always honest.  Never, ever get a taxi off the street here as the taxi drivers are borderline thugs.  Many of us consistently had problems here  – a fellow traveler and I had a bad standoff with a taxi driver who wildly drove us past our stop and around town after we protested the unfair charge.  It ended up with him screaming, me getting out of his taxi in some random place when he finally slammed the brakes in the middle of the street, and me posing in my best boxing stance and standing my ground against him in the street when he charged after me.  It was not a good scene.

budapest panorama

Unfortunately, I also got pick-pocketed late at night and as a result, I have been traveling Europe with only my American Express card that I fortunately left behind at my hostel.  The theft and taxi driving experiences really put a bad taste in my mouth with Budapest, but I still want to love this city, I just need to learn how to have a better head on my shoulders when I visit again.  Getting your wallet stolen really puts a damper on traveling overseas; two months on the road and I finally got burnt in Budapest.  And I thought I had a good head on my shoulders!  I guess that’s what I get for storming around late at night at wild parties.  At times I think I’m getting too old for my late night shenanigans. Traveling with just your American Express in Europe is very challenging, but I have made sure that the road will continue.

parliament

old car

parliament river

budapest view

Heroes square is near city park and Szechenyi Bathhouse.  This is a great part of the city to check out and walk around.

heroes square

castle water

boats

At sunset locals would sit on one of the many bridges and drink beers.  So cool!

bridge party

bridge party 2

budapest view two

garden building

buildings

When you visit Budapest, make sure you go to Margaret Island.  It has a wonderful wonderful waterpark and lots of great outdoor activities.  There are also some cool parties there that will be mostly all locals.

men pool

old building

buildings budapest

THE END

Odd mAN oUt iN oDeSSA, UkRAiNE

heart odessa

ukrainian passports

beach people 2

bar menu

bono bar outside

You aren’t a world traveler if you don’t wander off the beaten path sometimes… so I read about Odessa, Ukraine and decided to vacation there by myself.  I took a flight from Amsterdam via Kiev to Odessa on Ukrainian International Airlines.

ukrainian airlines

I am intrigued by Eastern European countries – as there can be special opportunities that arise in countries with up and coming, or cheaper economies; you never really know what great things (or bad) can happen until you just go.

golden angel

A key factor in any wonderful place with a poor economy is the heart of the people.  I always follow my instinct and gut, and I unfortunately learned first-hand that the culture of Ukraine can at times be somewhat heartless – at least in my short week-long experience in Odessa at Arcadia Beach.  Maybe I was a bit jaded by the cab drivers, but I felt uneasy in Ukraine in comparison to the many other countries I have traveled to.

eagles

odessa building

Maybe I was in a bad mood, but the difference in the way I interacted with people in other European countries was much different, with the exception of the horrific taxi drivers in Budapest that are mere, dirty thieves.  But the majority of taxi drivers I have encountered in Europe are crooks to various degrees.  Ukraine was just as bad, but the economy is so different that it really doesn’t have as much of an impact on your wallet as European taxi driver’s overcharging you.  Bottom line, try your best at other forms of transit or call a radio taxi as they are always the most honest.

odessa fountain

Although I met some good people, they were far and few in between.  I saw a country battered by corruption, creating an economy with no middle-class, leaving the lower-class desperate to make money during the Summer as that’s when the money pours in with the height of tourism.   Taxi drivers rip you off at the airport on the get-go, but this especially happens in Eastern Europe anywhere from Czech Republic to Hungary… and I have to give credit to the Odessa drivers, they weren’t nearly as criminal as Budapest taxi drivers. Sometimes bus riding is not only cheaper, but better – especially if the trains haven’t been upgraded since early communist days.

odessa tram

beach area

odessa buildings

Street vendors are looking to pinch a dollar from you, occasionally from the taxi driver swerving tricks on the road, the waiter not bringing you your change, or some street thug throwing a giant eagle on your shoulder.  The wealthy elite have created businesses in Odessa that are exquisite, serving the wealthy and their price ranges.  There you will find excellent food, amazing décor and ambiance, and an honest staff.

club ibiza beach

club bono club

club bono pool

Sometimes you will see young, gorgeous women walk hand and hand with older men; at first it seems like they are father and daughter, but soon it is discovered that they are loving, evening entertainment to a wealthy counterpart.

club ibiza pool

blue building

This country is loaded with gorgeous people – the women are quite possibly some of the most beautiful I have seen in the world and the men are quite muscular and athletic.  The women tend to dress like they are attending high school prom in the United States, as their dress style is very formal and colorful.  You will often get a “niet” in Russian if you strike up conversation with a female, because more likely in these tourist areas the people having a good time are Russians on vacation – and the wealthy from Moscow at times can be a tough bunch.

potomokin stairs

golden angel two

I struck up conversation with a young Russian oligarchy princess, who politely warned me of her entourage security team nearby and how at times they can act very unfriendly.  We danced a bit and then I had to escape for the beach by the water because I saw the group mounting up to make a move on me. This gorgeous girl and I ran into each other a few times in Odessa. She would dance alone by the pool during the day – she was perhaps one of the most beautiful women I have seen in my entire life.  There were many gorgeous women working as the entry way staff in club Ibiza.  They were easy to talk with and extremely kind – either being from Ukraine or Moldova.

bono cloud

bono beach djh

bono outside pool

I have learned that they love to box in Ukraine.  At the gym I saw a muscular boxing-trainer training a toddler in the ring.  This explains why every 10 meters there are two or more boxing games on the street.  The game measures how hard you hit the bag, and believe me I have witnessed many locals playing this game and playing it well.  At times, I have seen men almost maxing out the boxing machine.

punch belly

Every day I would go get coffee at a small coffee truck by the boxing machine.  The coffee vendor watched me hit the bag one day and I did okay.  The next day he wanted to have a competition with me and he whooped my ass, well not that bad but he did hammer the bag with amazing strength.  I wasn’t too far behind him, but was not near enough where he was, consistently hammering the bag to almost full capacity.  You can tell when someone has real quickness and power even though they aren’t gigantic or muscular – just good leverage and quickness with muscle-strength and good form.  We joked everyday after that and he gave me free coffee.  One of a couple cool guys I met at Odessa and connected with, another being a young ice-cream vendor who watched me pig out on his tasty ice-cream every other day.   He was kind, informative, and generous – even refusing  a tip.  I did some exploring outside of Arcadia Beach in search of other areas and I found a cool dive bar with phenomenal live jazz.  I made friends with and hung out with two Russian girls and two Ukrainian guys.  Another positive Odessa experience – so it was not all that bad, just far and few in between with frustrations of the social system and the brash culture.

russian couople

roses buildings

lights pier

flares

beach people

I witnessed a strange brawl in Ukraine – two guys slugged each other in the street and then talked and then slugged each other some more.  My taxi driver slammed on his brakes and left me alone in the cab so he could run over and get front row to the show.  He came back to the taxi explaining how it was his friend fighting in the street.  I was amazed how these two guys were unaffected by the heavy slugs and would calmly walk back to talk after a heavy blow to the face.  By this point, I realized that these people here come from a different mold.

boat

strong house rest

I slept on the hardest bed of my life in the worst beachfront hotel ever – The Strong House. I don’t say something like “it is the hardest bed ever” without traveling around the world and sleeping on bunks on more dirt and ships then I can count on my fingers and toes.   How do I pay for a beach-front hotel room and sleep in pain every night with metal springs gouging into my entire body?  Serious.

bono inside

club moscow room

Furthermore, the hotel was right next to the beach club called Moscow which blasts its music until after sunrise, vibrating my room with a pounding bass and making it very difficult to sleep because the music is louder then anyone would believe.   I am not a wimp either, but when your room becomes a torture technique with music then I will tell the truth  here in this Blog.  It caused me some sleep deprivation because of the hard bed and the bass thumping music – the clubs blast there music all night and keep the bass pounding until well after sunrise.

ibiza crowd

I guess I was looking for a party and I sure found it in Odessa as there is definitely a party every night here in the Summer – with great DJs and live acts performing every night at these beachfront clubs.

club ibiza night

But the quality of life in general is not so good if you aren’t at a fancy resort, and you could go somewhere like Poland for equal cost and have a magical stay.  It just wasn’t worth the cost and the low quality of restaurants and businesses available. And you have to deal with the vultures.

club ibiza entrance 2

There are many beach clubs to choose from in Odessa if you just want to dip in the Black Sea all day in a nice poolside cabana with food served to your table.  The nice ones are Club Ibiza and Club Bono, but Club Ibiza takes the cake with an amazing ambiance and great live bands, gorgeous stage dances, and top touring DJs like DJ Sebastian.

sabastian sign

ibiza pool two

lights club

There were great live musical acts, Russian and Ukrainian popular rock bands with large energetic horn sections.  The Russian fans overly crowded the venue and absolutely loved this Russian rock-band – jubilant and rowdy.

club ibiza entrance

crowd rock band

Club Ibiza is right on the beach and provides top notch food and services all day and all night.  I ate here frequently and enjoyed renting my spot by the pool.  It is a great place to relax on the beach, and you will be accompanied by many wealthy Turkish and Russian tourists – gorgeous ones at that.  All the waitress staff was local or from Moldova – very pretty girls, professional and extremely kind.  These clubs have tons of local staff making sure this place is beyond above par.

wine beach

lunch table ibiza

cigarrette light

club ibiza couches

Years ago when I worked for the military, I was the navigator aboard a special dive operation navy vessel that made a transit through the Turkish straights into the Black Sea.  We made ports of call to Varna, Bulgaria and Constanta, Romania, working and training with the local military special-operation units in those countries. I remember strong bonds and good times.  But my recent visit to Ukraine has been much different as a tourist and at times do not feel completely comfortable or welcome.  There are almost no European or American tourists in Odessa now in the height of Summer and during Odessa’s 3rd Annual International Film Festival.

loreal ad

Not a lot of tourists from your own country can be a wonderful thing for a traveler like me, but it also makes me stick out like a sore thumb.  Word on the street is that this Summer had a very low turnout compared to the recent Summers and Film Festivals a couple years back.  The poor tourism this summer is obviously indicative of the way the locals treat tourists and the poor services that are either not available or hard to find.  Simple things like getting your laundry done can be very difficult, unless of course you are staying at a luxury hotel. Very few people here speak any English at all and have little patience trying to figure out what I am saying.  I can understand this – why give a rat’s ass about an English speaking American in your territory?  I guess I should have learned some words, but some business have been very rude to me at the get-go, from checking into my flight with Ukrainian International Airlines at the ticket counter to the restaurant at my beachfront hotel called Strong House, to the laundry cleaners.  I searched for a laundry facility for couple days, spending lots of money in a taxi, in hopes of finding any place to clean my underwear and socks.  I walked forever trying to find a place, and when I finally did, every place refused to clean my underwear and socks or they would charge me about 30 US dollars for a small bag.  It was absolutely ridiculous and it became a theme of my stay here – so I decided to clean my socks and underwear in my sink.

potomokin stairs

I am often give the ugly face and have not experienced many strangers that offer an inkling of kindness to me.  It can be a little disheartening as a solo traveler – furthermore, I have found it difficult to connect with locals and have friendly conversations.  Women are very defensive and think I am hitting on them and have no time for any conversation – but I think most of these women are Russian on vacation. I did meet one group of three guys in my hotel who are Ukrainian – they were somewhat nice and invited me into there room for a chat – I played them a few tunes on my guitar.  Although I am very skeptical of anyone I meet in Ukraine now because of the strong, strange vibes I have been receiving.  Some guy yelled in my face for no reason at a club.  I have eyes in the back of my head here.  I probably hang out too much in the wealthy areas and clubs, which are host to the very rich Russians on vacation. But it is where I felt most comfortable because the clubs were right on the beach and offered some cool lounge areas that were absolutely beautiful.  The hot spot in Odessa is Arcadia Beach.  Oh my Odessa, how far you need to go to become what you want to be.

anchor odessa

ibiza night

western club

bono club dark

club bono poolside

cabanas

THE END

NeW CiTy EvErY DaY oN tHe RoaD mUsIc tOuR ENDS Cologne HaMbUrG FrAnKFuRT GeRMaNY LiLLe & PAriS FrANcE AmStErDaM

eiffel punami

ryan standing metro                        punami group

It has been difficult for me to keep up with the Blog and write about every city we have seen and experienced because we have been traveling every day at the end of our tour.  It can be a challenge to travel, check in to accommodations, play a show, celebrate and promote all night – then wake up and travel again on the train and do it all over again.

train

trainsytat

ryan train station

We have been hauling around Europe a ton of promotional materials and musical equipment which could be exhausting at times.  But the tour was unforgettable as we connected to some fantastic people in different cities and sometimes danced with them in the streets.

french couple

amp

We played an unforgettable show by a subway entrance in Paris and probably had one of our biggest, warmest crowds in the street.

statues

I was able to see some tourist attractions along the way, saw some wonderful architecture in Frankfurt.

windspirale

beth building

justin eiffel blanket

Saisha and Justin and a wild night in Germany and met up with some pro skaters.

skate crew

justin skate

Lille, France was an amazing town mostly because of the people we met there.  The French are welcoming, warm, loving, and so very cool!  It has been such a wonderful adventure… to be continued in the future.

boat ride

light ryan laptop saisha justin tickets face justin finger ryan office final ryan jeans 2

ryan bags

justin bar

traintrACKS

jazz fest

ryancartbike

girlsbike

ryan lunch girl

cat

trains

sun

ryan sweat

birds

ryansleep

louvre

THE END