Balkans weblog #2

We arrived in Dubrovnik yesterday, having driven the length of Bosnia-Herzegovina north to south…fiat doblo
After surviving the worst electrical storm in living memory inside our camper van amongst the north Croatian hills, we settled down to living in the woods alongside Ingrid’s working homestead. This included making the half-hour drive into Karlovac where we saw yet more remaining evidence of the nineties’ Balkans conflict. Communist countries of the late twentieth century had a penchant for erecting bow-shaped walls twelve-feet high and covering them with murals depicting workers in all their industrious glory accompanied by state slogans of the ‘onward to a better future’ kind. Croatia was no exception. Today the Karlovac wall is pock-marked with bullet holes and whitewashed all over, while bearing the inscription ‘Britney bitch’ in black spray. With such precise emblems has the early twenty-first century zeitgeist supplanted the intended socialist ideal.
Having learned previously how with satellite technology a straightforward forty-five minute drive could become a six-hour odyssey of near-despair along country roads, we used our atlas map to take us out to the border at Dvor. Departing Croatia was easy enough, entering Bosnia predictably awkward. “Green card,” asks the officious border guard. “Don’t need one.” “Huh? Documents!” Yes, documents, always bloody documents in these little tinpot bureau-states. He takes our passports to the guard-hut, shows them to another official, scratches his head, walks back, hands them over, tells us to be on our way. What a palaver! There is confusion about where we can park in the border town without paying so while I stand guard Anne goes off to spend any leftover kuna on food and drink. Now we are hopeful the Prijedo-Banja Luka road will offer up plenty of camping opportunities. Ur, no. Soviet-hangovers and sinister conflict associations are about all we see. Thankfully, someone at a petrol station points us in the direction of the gorge at Krupa na Vrbasu so we follow the river south and fetch up on a disused camping ground there. In that odd manner some out-of-the-way communities have of quickly exchanging information, within ten minutes a car pulls up, the washhouse is partly-opened, and our passports are requested; money changes hands, and we are permitted to stay overnight. Best of all, we have access to a small supermarket and the Cric Cric bar – where my last post concluded…
At that point, we were headed easterly for Sarajevo, but now refreshed and learning from our mistakes about which roads to take, we make the decision to drop more directly south on the gorge road towards Mostar. With the help of an internet connection we have pinpointed a little campsite not far from the famed Islamic town. That afternoon, we pull into the site alongside the fast-flowing river Buna, say hello to the half-dozen Hungarian bikers relaxing in the shade from the hot sun, and set up in the furthest corner snugly beside the river.
Bosnia-Herzegovina does not fill with me joy. Everywhere are reminders of the most recent conflict and tensions existing between the various communities, most notably the Islamic and Christian. How I would love to see the end of all established religions. They breed so much hatred. In Mostar we see the replacement for the old bridge so infamously destroyed by the Croatians in full view of the TV cameras, then head to the war museum where a series of displays, artifacts and photographs aid us in re-living the terrible torments meted out and undergone under the guise of achieving freedom and independence, but which in actuality had the sole purpose of gaining perceived lost territories and the settling of old scores. Names of places cropped up: Prijedor, Banja Luka, Visegrad… The book I brought with me, Ivo Andric’s 1945 novel ‘The Bridge over the Drina’, tells of the bridge built by an Ottoman vezir – himself a kidnapped blood sacrifice as a ten year old from a Christian Serbian village – and the years of pain and toil it cost to erect over the Drina…and now in the Mostar museum five centuries later I am reading on the walls how Christians and Muslims have continued to torture and murder one another on that same bridge , before throwing the dead and mutilated bodies into the flowing Drina below. Heraclitus says you cannot stand in the same river twice – well, these guys seem able to stand in the self-same place thousands and thousands of times over. So who is telling it like it is, who is enacting out reality: the Hellenic philosopher or the brutal murderers..? You can judge. That is why this country does not fill me with joy, but anguish and dismay. Travelling is troublesome, as much as anything.
Coupled with the above, is the seemingly obsessively remaining sense of state control. Driving through country roads you are prepared around every corner to be pulled over by some hillbilly, dolled-up police officer, who waves you down with his little fluorescent paddle and asks to see your documents, always with that dour expression and the threat of some unpleasant outcome should he feel so inclined.
No, I have had enough of over-zealous guardians of authority pulling me over and demanding to know who I am, what do I have upon my person, where am I going and where have I been. In future, maybe I can refer them to this weblog. This familiar scenario – and I mean familiar even from teenage years in the UK (see in particular DEATH AND THE DEAD – is theatrically enacted four times over during the final two hours of our drive out from BIH: by the policjia, Republika Srpska cross-country patrol and then again at the southern border back into Croatia.
“Green card.”
“We don’t need one.”

GLYN RIDGLEY NOVELS AT AMAZON

Balkans weblog #1

fiat doblo


ANSWER and SOUL JOURNEY
are travelogue fiction which pretty much started out as blog posts. But I did say this weblog would become ‘old skool’ for the duration of our Balkans trip, and so that is how it will begin.
DAY ONE: The drive to Harwich and the ferry to the Hook of Holland were simplicity itself. TomTom and the crew did all the hard work. I simply drove and slept.
DAY TWO: We made the mistake of thinking it would be easy enough to drive through the Netherlands to Germany and the Mosel region of France, stopping on the way, as we rumbled down to the Austria/Slovenia border. Hah! Getting out through the motorway system which makes up the middle-west of that country is a nightmare – almost as bad as the escape route from LA’s Hollywood Hills out to the 10 we made in a frightening thunderstorm after a Todd Rundgren gig a couple of winters ago.
In the end, we opted for the original route, cutting across to the A61, going south down past Koblenz and Heidelberg, hitting the good southern sunshine en route.
By the end of Day Two we were sitting in a layby twenty kilometres short of Munich, eating vegetarian chilli and drinking a couple of bottles of German beer. Sleep was vaguely disturbed by the sound from a refridgerated lorry parked alongside, but utterly refreshing all the same.
DAY THREE: starts with coffee and a bowl of cereal before continuing south beyond Munich and into Slovenia by way of the Austrian Alps (replete with a sing-a-long rendition of remembered songs from the ‘Sound of Music’).
In Bled we were directed to a campsite full of Dutch and German oldies in their coach-built campervans (plus a good smattering of Brits) and although we disliked the smugly suburban feel of the place – stayed; dog-tired. After sleep we traversed the lake, purchased poor Slovenian beer and sauerkraut, but ate okay – and put up the bed…
DAY FOUR: Head for Novo Mesto on the good, EU-funded dual-carriageway. We found a lovely, old castle which is now a hotel set on an island in the river Krka, but didn’t feel like paying top-dollar to camp in a field next to a privately-owned leisure complex. All of which, perhaps, sums up modern-day, post-Communist Slovenia.
That meant searching for another place to sleep, which we did in a dozy campground by the river Kupa.
DAY FIVE: I get attacked by a dog as I make my way back from the washhouse. Completely minding my own business, toilet bag and towel in hand, thoughts elsewhere, I feel a set of sharp teeth snapping into my football shorts and digging into my thigh. The collie growls and bites for no apparent reason as I start hitting out and shouting. The owner runs up, looking horrified, and pulls the mad beast away.
‘Were you walking slowly?’ the owner asks.
‘Normal,’ I reply.
Anne and I placate the dog-owner but I am seething as he offers me money. Later, he comes over with a bottle of wine as compensation and an offer of good will, which I refuse, but he leaves behind anyway. I don’t want his money or wine but to be left alone as I walk along the path to my old campervan. I let him know about this, but he is at a loss about how to make amends. So we let the matter go. I apply antiseptic to the wound, pack the van, and we leave the campsite, as arranged.
A forty-five minute journey down into Croatia then turns into a six-hour, sometimes frightening, odyssey. First, TomTom gets us hopelessly lost in the alien Slovenian countryside until we, at length, stumble unexpectedly upon a Croatian border crossing where two very unsmiling officers let us through, and we enter their country by way of an old bridge surrounded with razor-wire. Immediately, you are reminded this area was a war zone less than 30 years earlier. On the Croatian side, the houses look more dilapidated and are built from wood, not rendered brick. We locate the motorway to Karlovac – the last sort of driving we want to undertake – and, by chance, have sufficient Croatian change (given to us by someone on the last campsite) and pass through the toll station.
Already forlorn, rather than drive into the town centre, we head for a site previously marked out on our road atlas. And again TomTom gets us completely lost. We drive to and fro, spooked out, along summer country lanes dotted with abandoned white-washed dwellings still showing the bullet holes from the previous conflict in their remaining walls. Using our most basic idiot-Slavic, we ask a labourer gathering hay, how to reach our destination. He points up a non-laid track which TomTom had already pointed to and I had rejected. The hay-gatherer assures me the route is safe: “Bezopastnii”. Okay. Except a kilometre in as it begins to rise sharply the surface becomes horribly rutted – fine for tractors – and I am fearful we will lose the car’s exhaust system. Near panic results in our managing to turn around and reversing the route back to the asphalt road. The friendly hay-maker is still smiling at us as we explain our decision to go all the way back to Karlovac. At least to a junction where we can head south east to the small town of Voijic where we know a friendly campsite awaits …
Except …
Having bought provisions, and obtained directions in the centre, can we find the trail “past the timber yard”? No, we cannot. We drive and we drive and we drive, and we look and we look and we look, and we ask and we ask and we ask, but still we can’t find it. TomTom is useless. Worse than useless – it can not only get us lost in unknown territory but it can take us along routes that threaten the safety of the vehicle, and thereby us, its inhabitants. At length, we find a signal and a tiny blue dot on Google Maps leads us to our cunningly concealed destination, high up in the north Croatian hills. Our host is welcoming and leads us to a spot in the woods near her house.
And then the thunder begins to rumble amongst the surrounding hills and valleys as the grey clouds gather. Forked lightning appears in the darkening sky many miles away. We erect the makeshift cover of a tarp over the van’s rear doors I had assembled but not tried out before leaving, in order to cook and eat our dinner in the dry.
As we clear away, the wind picks up, the tarp flaps wildly, we tie down the strings more tightly around the pegs already driven into the ground. A piece of ice falls out of the sky near my feet, spooking Anne. But then we climb inside the van and feel romantic as the thunder roars and lightning flashes all around us. Then the hail begins, big lumps of ice the size of ping-pong balls ricocheting noisily off the van roof. The lightning is blinding, literally. We have to look away. The wind howls in the trees and the thunder roars across the skies, Wotan in all his fury. I slam the rear doors shut, but water seeps in. Damn. Some material got caught in the hinge. I remove it. The door lock has been damaged, but it does at least pull up as the rain falls thicker than the curtains. Lightning flashes but we cannot see more than a yard beyond the van’s windows. I am panicking inwardly (not for the for the first time today) and can see us being frazzled by a bolt of electricity hitting our metallic vehicle, can feel the jolt of electricity passing through me as I am about to die in the car, or at least be chronically disabled and lying in a hospital bed for several months, all bandaged up like the Invisible Man, wondering what on earth Anne and I were thinking of as we sat in our comfortable, five-bedroom townhouse making plans for our year-long getaway from the safety and mundanity of everyday lives…posted from the Cric Cric Gril bar on the road to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

NOVELS BY GLYN F RIDGLEY

Speaking aloud allowed

Speaking to a Ukrainian student today, I was told that in the Balkans everybody will be perfectly happy to speak with us in Russian. No surprise, really. Just nice to hear – living as I do in the UK 2018. At the same time I was informed by a group of German students they are undergoing the same anti-Russia media propaganda programme as that being foisted upon us here.eu map What is going on? It seemed so certain just a few years ago that the current generation would be in the vanguard of creating a harmonious globalised world – only to have it undermined and snatched away from them and us by a bunch of old-time conservative dotards stuck in their warlike way, intent on destroying the fragile integrity of a new collective spirit. Quite obviously, these war-mongers who want to destroy the planet have deep-seated psychological problems and need to be called out. What’s more, this is happening. Information is still being spread, despite the conservatives’ efforts at censorship – whether this be the attempted muzzling of information channels such as Wikileaks or further governmental legislation to make their own unlawful acts publicly known. Starting locally and spreading universally, people all over are communicating with one another, listening to one another, supporting one another. The fightback is happening. People are choosing knowledge over ignorance, so that no matter what language is being spoken a common humanity is being realised.

GLYN F RIDGLEY

Novels are available locally and universally

To the Balkans..!

And, so – to unfinished business…

Back in 1991, we were heading for the Russian-Polish border as news came through that the USSR was finally being wound up. Not wanting to return immediately to a wintry UK, we made the decision to head on south. Except the Balkans War was raging and that meant we were prevented from going down through the old Yugoslavia. Instead we braved the snow and ice of the eastern European states until we finally arrived in northern Greece by way of Bulgaria. (I have written about this trip in my anti-capitalist novel QUESTION, where the main protagonists must flee Russia after being involved in a murderous mafia shoot-out.) Question_Cover_for_Kindle

Now, at last, nearly thirty years later, we are in a position to make that drive down through the Balkans – and maybe beyond…

We had thought to take the more circuitous route across northern Europe and drive down through the Baltic states, but the rotten spring weather has left us desiring an immediate dose of southern warmth. So straight to the Balkans it will be. For reading matter, I have chosen Ivo Andric’s ‘The Bridge on the Drina’ – a novelistic account of the region’s history which brought the author the Nobel Prize, and recommended to me by a recent Slovenian student. Along with Bulwer-Lytton’s ‘Zanoni’, as audio. I’ll also be taking some books to re-acquaint myself with the Russian language. fiat doblo

I really can’t wait to make a break with all this anti-Russian propaganda swirling about on the media. As though the Russians were responsible for the horrible, social, warring mess were are currently experiencing. Whereas it is our own government and our own selves who are responsible for all the unease. To think we could be living in unbridled wealth and happiness if only divisions weren’t being deliberately sown within our communities and hatred being stirred up by those with invested economic and political interests! It’s very painful to consider.

How this will come through in my blog, I do not know. That is why I write novels (even if the MSM agents and publishers act as unwanted censors by refusing to make them available).

My only disappointment is that the trip means that I won’t be able to attend the annual big family get together. This year we were hoping to extend the event to include more overnight camping and music. That still remains an objective. There are strong connections with the area which we wish to celebrate and share. As I do in my writing.

NOVELS BY GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon

aylesbury-vale

South Bucks, and proud!

A revolution is going on about the ‘other’ world and nothing can be hidden from my generation

The Serpentine Myth is an open message of love, life and peace deeper than the Deep State and its secret message of hate, death and war

SOUL JOURNEY @ Amazon

Life is NOT all about pretending to be reckless under pre-prepared, paid-for, controlled conditions. That is the very opposite of life if you believe life ought not to provide any safety net in order to be fully experienced.
As a matter of fact, connecting a rope to your ankle and jumping from a perilous height is all about death – or, rather, the threat of death. The same can be said for all manner of purchased and only apparently dangerous activities. Crossing the road is far more likely to be injurious.
And so…

DEATH AND THE DEAD @ Amazon

Life may be considered a kind of gnosis. To have life is to have the opportunity of complete understanding.

LIFE IS A FEELING @ Amazon

People say, ‘You only get one life,’ – which is demonstrably untrue since reincarnation is a matter of fact about which numerous proofs exist, of a personal and more general nature.
People say, ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal,’ – and again, sorry to say, they are utterly wrong. Life is precisely that, undeniably it IS a dress rehearsal, a trying on of new clothes, of looking in the mirror, and practising one’s lines. That’s just what life is!
People most often use these sayings when they simply want an excuse to be frivolous with their time and energy. Well, be frivolous – it’s great fun! – but don’t use LIFE as any kind of vindication.

“That’s all, Folks!”

The Righter You Are The Wronger You Get

Question_Cover_for_KindleThe text heading my FB page is not meant to be nearly as clever as it may appear; rather, it was suggested to me by the name of a Joe Walsh album from the seventies: The Player You Are The Smoker You Get – a kind of gibberish that at the same time sounds quite substantial (Players were a favourite cigarette brand). I might have easily typed The Writer You Are The Reader You Get; or, more likely, The Righter You Are The Wronger You Get.
If you click on it, that Russian hotel sign says POLIST, which is the name of the river flowing through Staraya Russa, and is the place I stayed during a 2001 trip in search of where my own personal favourite writer, FM Dostoevsky, conjured up The Brothers Karamazov.
When you are reading a text that fails to jar with you at all (as Bros K did till Book 9 and Dmitri’s guilt-trip), then by definition you and that text are in perfect harmony. If you enjoy reading something that is hate-filled – however well written – or is conceptually idiotic then you really ought to consider what type of person you have become. If you could step back and re-read that text and assess what it contains objectively, then you could know just what the words say about you. At least as you were at the time of the original reading. Looking back over all the texts that have chimed so perfectly with you over your lifetime will tell you a lot about yourself and what has driven you ever since conscious existence has been yours to enjoy. Well, that’s my maxim anyhow.
The inserted photo is of me reading at the entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY @ Amazon

Peace Pact (Pax Cultura)

peace pact banner
The symbol above – which has sometimes been used as the site icon – is The Banner of Peace designed in conjunction with the so-called Roerich Pact, and was designed by the Russian artist of that name (Nicholas Roerich 1874-1947).

‘The Banner of Peace symbol has ancient origins. Perhaps its earliest known example appears on Stone Age amulets: three dots, without the enclosing circle. Roerich came across numerous later examples in various parts of the world, and knew that it represented a deep and sophisticated understanding of the triune nature of existence. But for the purposes of the Banner and the Pact, Roerich described the circle as representing the totality of culture, with the three dots being Art, Science, and Religion, three of the most embracing of human cultural activities. He also described the circle as representing the eternity of time, encompassing the past, present, and future. The sacred origins of the symbol, as an illustration of the trinities fundamental to all religions, remain central to the meaning of the Pact and the Banner today.’

ARTICLE I

The historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions shall be considered as neutral and as such respected and protected by belligerents. The same respect and protection shall be due to the personnel of the institutions mentioned above. The same respect and protection shall be accorded to the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in time of peace as well as in war.

‘The history of international treaties shows us how many of them were relevant and applicable to the times in which they were signed, but then lapsed into irrelevance. The Roerich Pact, however, has kept its heart and its life, and is linked to the needs of today’s chaotic world as much as ever. In so many countries we see a deterioration of cultural values and a disregard for the right of all cultural treasures to have their own continued existence, forever protected and unimpeded. We see destruction of life, property, and the inheritance of the creative genius of the nations. One can only hope that a greater awareness of the importance of humanity’s cultural heritage will increase, rather than deteriorate. There is no greater value to a nation than its culture.’

‘The Roerich Pact was first agreed to by twenty-one nations of the Americas and signed as a treaty in the White House, in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on April 15, 1935, by all the members of the Pan-American Union. It was later signed by other countries also.’

(from the Roerich Museum website)

GLYN F RIDGLEY BOOKS @ Amazon

Reading on the road

Thinking about what to take away with me to read on my trip across Europe, made me think about what it means to be a reader. To be honest, what I’d like is a whole series of very cool reading where you can just sit back and enjoy and go along with the experience and not have to be concerned what’s going on in your mind at all. The same as listening to music. Or maybe even driving. There must be a whole bunch of people out there who’d actually like this. Or possibly not. People seem to like feeling anxious. As though being anxious makes them important.
Anxiety makes you forget about the world-reality – makes you feel wrapped up in yourself. A lot of reading material seems deliberately produced to make us feel like that – it sells: the news, Twitter, Facebook, thrillers…they’re all designed to arouse fear and increase anxiety levels…coffee, too, actually…believe it or not; that is part of making a whole nation continually be on tippytoe… Movies are the same. Constant high anxiety.
So, a whole series of reading material which has a rhythm and content that actually removes the reader from those high anxiety levels and enables them to escape and forget themself and that chitty-chatty environment might actually be very good for the individual – might well soothe the soul and bring it back to a personal level of being removed from fear. No need to visit or sign up to a guru or an online course or enlist in some philosophical movement – all you’ve got to do is sit back, relax – open the text…and read…be free…
None of which has actually helped me to decide what I will bring away. Not yet, anyway. Maybe just some good tour guides…

GLYN F RIDGLEY BOOKS @ Amazon

Of the Road

I can’t set out on a six-thousand mile road trip across Europe without giving it a moment’s thought.
Why am I going?
Because I can. At fifty-nine, I have very nearly lived out all my cat’s lives and am simply amazed to still be here and in a position to just GO!

Since it’s the sixtieth anniversary of that great spiritual opus On the Road, which its author described in a letter as ‘…a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God…’ I could use this as a reference point. If I do, it will be as a point of departure – with no pun originally intended; but there for all to see. Miles-wise, JK covered about twice this distance, over three years, and the same trips often repeated. Jack was half my age.

Am I searching for God?
No. Been there. Done that.
Am I a Catholic, even?
Hell, no!

Going with a buddy?
You bet. The best buddy ever – my missus (lapsed RC).
(A previous road trip we undertook recently through wintry southern California and Arizona in a beat-up old Chevrolet Astra van is re-told in ANSWER.)
This one is different…
We’re going in the summer and we’ll be going through lots of different countries (inshalla) – about fifteen or so, and in a circular motion rather than there-and-back. So that ought to make it more interesting, by my reckoning – culturally-speaking.

Kerouac: ‘Oh, where is the girl I love?’
Me: Beside me.
K was looking for kicks; I’ll be looking for…the midnight sun.
K was looking for sex (as I said this morning: A whole year of this…!)

And so, the road beckons – and, god-willing, we’ll be on the ferry out of the UK come early June.

Ah, yes, now I recall why I am going – to escape this benighted country with its lying politicians and media before it separates itself off from the rest of Europe and we’ll all need visas and passes to get around.

(Except I won’t, because I am actually…

irish passport

…half-Irish..!)

GLYN F RIDGLEY BOOKS

 

Yellow Shoes

I dreamed of yellow shoes last night, and guess what..?

yellow shoes

‘Dream about yellow shoes represent your desire to travel and change your current place of stay’ (dreamingandsleeping.com)

‘Yellow Shoes
Yellow shoes represent the path to wisdom’ (dream_meaning.net)

🙂 🙂 🙂

SWEET DREAMS ZZZZZZZ

Boots…er, I mean BOOKS available from Amazon by
Glyn Ridgley