Plovdiv Part 1: First Night In Plovdiv

Walking for 90 minutes to finally catch a bus to Plovdiv, I was knackered. I hadn’t done much research into Plovdiv and assumed I’d be fine.

I got off the bus and saw two people speaking English. I went up to them and asked if I could tag along with them to find a hostel and I soon realised they looked just like Frankie Muniz and his mate in the wheelchair from Malcolm In The Middle. I resisted the urge to call him Malcolm and followed them to the hostel.

Malcolm and Stevie (who for the record wasn’t in a wheelchair, and didn’t speak slowly) weren’t even staying there, they had a private room together so they went off on their merry way and I booked a room for a couple of nights looking into where I was going to spend my birthday, Christmas etc…

Then this attractive girl walked past me. I smiled at her not expecting much back and she smiled at me as she walked past, so at least I knew she was friendly. Then a few minutes later I made a joke with everyone in the room without thinking and she burst out laughing. I thought it was cool that she got my sense of humour because not everyone does and eventually started chatting away with her.

Her name was Amunda (It was actually Amanda, but she said she’s so used to talking to non native speakers she says ‘Amunda’ without thinking. I have to to say LewEES or Lewie for the same reason…) and we got on really well. We went out and grabbed some Bulgarian food and because she was only in town for one night I decided to not write anything that night and focus all my energy on her.

She confided in me at dinner, telling me about her life and what had happened recently (which I’m not going to write on here because it’s not my place to say) and I was feeling a real connection with her. After trying some frogs legs and some world class sauteed potatoes I couldn’t wait to go out, have a few drinks with her and get to know her even more.

We went back to the hostel because I needed a shower. When you can smell yourself you know the rest of the world can smell you. Then once I was done another bloke, Michael decided to come along with us.

Michael was not like me at all; and was declaring that he was going to party until 5 in the morning. We went out and the cliche ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’ felt very real. Not in the sense that he was doing anything wrong, but the balance had definitely shifted. We were in a loud bar and couldn’t all talk to each other at the same time, so whoever was in the middle would alternate between talking to people while the third wheel at the time would be awkwardly staring at their phone or daydreaming.

We went to a second bar and by midnight Michael was alternating between falling asleep and scrolling through Tinder. I tried to liven the party up by getting up and dancing with random Bulgarians but to no avail.

Just then Frankie Muniz and his mate walked into the bar. I tapped Frankie on the shoulder and gestured that I knew them. He looked like he didn’t give a shit, smiled and moved on. Stevie then mumbled something about going to another bar and followed him out. I then carried on drinking and boogieing with scary looking Bulgarians until I got tired.

We eventually headed back at 1 and I couldn’t help but think I’d missed an opportunity to get to know a cool girl better before she headed off. I mean we talked and definitely got on, but I feel like it would have been a much better night out if it was just the two of us since we’d already built up that rapport. It wasn’t Michael’s fault by any means; he was just a lot younger than us and wanted to do different things (for example he wanted to go clubbing and we wanted to chill somewhere where we could talk with music in the background)

Me and this girl are friends on social media though so I’ll be keeping in touch with her to see how she’s getting on back in North Carolina. You never know we may end up crossing paths again, whether it’s in America, Europe or Asia. I was originally going to catch up with her in Macedonia but I ended up enjoying Plovdiv so much that I decided to stay there instead. Oh, and I finished the book there as well, which I’ll go into in my next blog post tomorrow…


Stop 21: Sofia, This Country Is Shit…Oh Wait, No It Isn’t!

Right, here’s the plan; find somewhere to stay tonight for two days and suss out this city tomorrow. See if I want to stay here or rock up to another city or country.

Sounds like a good plan right? In theory yes, except I got off the bus and was surrounded by nothing. It was time for my Lewis instincts to kick in. New country, no money, no place to stay, it’s 8 in the evening and its freezing. I’m gonna hazard a guess and say I’m probably fucked…

Oh wait, fucking hero! I found a place advertising a room in English. I ask, they say 60 Lev (€31) I back away and say “Nooo…” Like Consuela from Family Guy

Then after 10 minutes of walking I find a massive sign that says ‘hostel’. I do a jig and accept the fact I’ve saved a little bit of cash. I go upstairs and the woman behind the counter says they are full, and knows nowhere else in the city.

“Thanks fucker. Have a good day…”

This carries on for five more hostels. All full. No one is friendly either. I begin to think Bulgarians hate the world and am debating to get on a night bus to whatever country is willing to accept a receding Englishman. I end up walking around for an hour and a half. Everything’s closed. I look around the city and realise there’s nothing. I’m so lost, and there’s not even any hotels at this point either. I’m debating on putting on a pencil skirt, lighting up a fag and waiting for a drunk Bulgarian guy to pick me up in his car and probably murder me when I turn around and in the middle of nowhere I see this tiny lit up sign that says ‘hostel’

“NO FUCKING WAY!!!” I shout to myself in pure relief, and run up to the hostel. I ask if they have any beds and she says yes. She leads me up to the room in what can only be described as a brothel. It has two beds, a sofa, a TV and the tiniest floor heater. Bear in mind it’s a couple of degrees above freezing. I write off the fact the private room cost me 35 Lev (£17) and prepare to find a hostel the next day.

I did, but I failed. All the hostels are STILL full! I came back to the original hotel defeated booking another night it was the last bloody room as well! So I spent the day exploring Sofia (Not the lady, that would be such a better story…) So I set out to see the history and shit…

Sofia has a lot or history and not a lot of shit. I’d even go as far as to say there’s more history in Bulgaria than Greece! Bulgaria be spitting out relics from the 3rd and 4th century for fun blood!

Sorry, I got so excited I started talking like a wannabe gangster! So mission of the day was to find a Russian church. I got lost. I seemed to spend the majority of my time in Sofia getting lost. I saw some Bulgarians busking on the streets and gave them some money. It adds so much character to European cities to hear music so I like to encourage them. Then I looked at this building and wondered if it was the big ass church (Or Nicki Minaj church, whatever you prefer to call it…) So I asked a guy with a Polska jacket on if he spoke English while he was taking a legit photo of the building. He smiled and said yes so I asked him if that was the church.

“Nah mate!” He said in a thick Aussie accent.

“Fuck me, it wasn’t expecting that accent!” I blurted out, interrupting him.

“Nah, no worries mate! So yeah just go down this road and you can’t miss it!” He said Australiany.

I did, and after a few wrong turns (yeah, it wasn’t straight…) I found the place. I also found the same guy standing next to the church looking at me like he was a side mission in a computer game. I smiled and went to approach him.

“This isn’t the place you are looking for…” He said as if I’ve just lost the game and he’s asking me if I wanted to replay the mission. “This is the Russian church.”

“Oh, I was looking for the Russian church!” I said excitedly.

“Oh right…” He said in a confused tone. “Well there’s a big ass cathedral (sorry Nicki, please don’t sue me. I actually think you are cute if you want to swap numbers or something…) Right behind this and it’s ten times the size!”

I had no idea, I felt so uneducated and slightly aroused at the same time. “OK cheers mate!” I said in my fake London accent and explored both places. They were cool. I’m cooler for the experience and I was cool because it was fucking cold outside!

I got loads of work done that night then headed out in search of a super hostel that housed 150 people. Hostel Mostel it was called. Not the Mall of Sofia where I’d somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up at. I used their wi-fi and figured out where the hostel was and I McBooked a room.

“How many nights would you like to stay?” Sofiaman asked.

“Two nights please.” I answered.

“We’re actually full tomorrow.” He said.

“In that case I will stay for one night…” I replied confidently.

So I stayed there and the atmosphere was pretty cool. They even supplied free dinner which was medal worthy. One of the blokes that worked there also pointed me towards a local Bulgarian restaurant that served chicken steaks and a salad for 4 Lev (two English pounds) and it was Boom Ba Doom that Boom Ba Doom Boom Bass (no treble…)

I stayed up until early in the morning with the Korean Zombie (I’m not being racist, it was a Korean guy who loved UFC so we called him the Korean Zombie) and a Canadian who’s been living in Bulgaria for a year. The Korean Zombie liked me because I knew the fight words in Korean thanks to my Taekwondoness. We chatted about life and other topics until we got tired enough to fall asleep.

And just like that it’s over! (UFC reference. If you don’t get it then get ugly like Jason Derulo to make up for it…) Next stop, Plovdiv. Rusev’s home town. PLOVDIV CRUSH!!!!


So I Managed To Finish My Eighth Book Before My 30th Birthday…

EIGHT fuken books…?

Oh yeah! Didn’t think I would be able to finish this one before my birthday but I managed to finish it with 2 days to spare. 73,921 words baby!

Hold on, I need to absorb this: I repeat, EIGHT fuken books…?

Yep, doesn’t seem real when I say it out loud but I managed to get this one finished in hostel in Bulgaria. Now I’m done I’m going to rest my brain for a bit before plotting my next move.

Wait…What? Bulgaria?!?

Oh yeah, I’m actually travelling around Europe right now. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write a book whilst on the move because all of the others were written back in Thailand when I lived there. But this is a huge psychological victory because now I know I can literally write anywhere. Not only that, but the book is compelling as well and not just drivel.

Fair play son! What’s this one about?

It’s called Stranded. It’s about being stuck in a foreign country with no passport and credit cards and having to fend for yourself.

Personal experience I guess…?

Actually yes. I had everything stolen from me in Cambodia last year. It was the shittest day of my life but it helped me spawn this book, so every cloud has a silver lining and all that.

So when’s this bad boy going to be published then?

Not until 2018 at least. I have others that need publishing first. Also I need to reedit this book multiple times, add/delete scenes that don’t fit in, interrupt the flow of the story or quite frankly are shit. There’ll also be times I’ve contradicted myself where I have to tweak the book slightly. Then I have to send it to an editor, edit it one more time then it’s ready to go!

Oh, so it’s not really done; it’s just the first draft…

Well, yes and no. It IS a first draft, but the spine of the story is done. There’s not much else that needs to be changed in terms of the story line. I’ve finished four books so far and have published them on Amazon.

Can I have a gander?

Well I don’t want to spam this page with links to my book. I’ll tell you what I’ll do though; I’ll post one of the book covers and you can click on that to see the Amazon page, otherwise this blog is going to be overrun with links…



Click here to view this book on Amazon. You can also use this page to browse all my other books

What’s he holding?

Oh, that’s my illustrator being really smart. He’s actually holding a copy of another book of mine ‘The Butterfly Killings’

Cool! So what’s next for Lewis J F Clarke?

In terms of life, I’m looking for work around Europe or Asia wondering where I can call home for 2017. In terms of writing I will write another book eventually, but first I need to edit my sixth book and get that ready to be published.

Oh OK, what’s that called?

The Pornstar.


Yep, it was an industry that has always intrigued me and something I’ve wanted to explore for a while now. That one is over 110,000 words and the people who critiqued it have told me it doesn’t drag so I’m happy. Same as the book Stranded though there’s parts I have to edit. When I go through it and obsess over the book again I’ll be able to start making it flow properly, then it’ll be time to make that available to the world.

So I’m guessing that’s just like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Not at all! There’s obviously sex involved because of the nature of the book and its genre, but the only similarity to that book is that they both have detailed graphic sex scenes in them. I say graphic but it is not smutty by any means. I hope I have portrayed it elegantly because that was the plan.

Cool! Let me know when it’s out!

I will! All the others are available as well and are only £2-£3 ($3-$5) so they’re not expensive by any means. But of course once the next one is out I’ll post it on here so you are aware.

Hidden Restaurant in Athens

I haven’t gone travelling to try KFC in 15 different countries; I’m doing this because I want to see the non touristy areas and experience the ‘real’ country, meet real people and not only see what the tourist board wants you to see…

Athens is a strange one: Porn EVERYWHERE you look, con artists constantly at work and touts trying to make as much money as possible (which to be fair is to be expected in capital cities)

So one night I decided to head in a general direction and just keep going. I was either going to see something cool or get lost, spending hours trying to find my way back…

I’d been walking for 2 miles and was starting to get hungry, only this wasn’t the tourist area anymore so there were no restaurants. I accepted my fate and continued to walk until I saw an A frame in front of me advertising in English that there was a restaurant nearby selling Greek food.

I tentatively walked through what looked like part of a shopping centre that had been closed down and around the corner was an empty restaurant. It didn’t look like it belonged there. It was very humble and unsurprisingly dead considering its location. I walked in to find the owner by himself watching TV. He shot up and smiled. I asked if he was still serving and he said in very broken English that he was. He had no menu so I simply said yes to the first dish he said he did, which was ‘traditional Greek meatballs and potatoes’.

Turns out ‘potatoes’ was chips. I was kind of hoping for mash potatoes but you can’t win them all. The food was good though! It took over half an hour to cook mind (he made it all from scratch) and he clearly made an effort, giving me extra side plates of random Greekness. The only negative being some guy who looked much better groomed than me asking for food using his hands as a gesture, and when I said no multiple times he reached for my plate anyway to take a meatball. I literally had to slap his hand like a naughty toddler to stop him from taking my food…

Ironically I couldn’t eat it all because I was still ill, but the fact that this guy didn’t look like he was struggling at all (he was dressed in jeans and a nice shirt, and had his hair slicked back), he was just trying to get something for free. You get nothing in this life for free mate, you can fuck the fuck off! If he seemed desperate and/or homeless it would have been a different story, but not for some geezer who probably had more money than me!

When I paid I thanked the guy and asked his name. “Valios.” was the reply, then he told me a story about it being a Christian name having something to do with one of the days of the week. I didn’t question this at all and blindly accepted it as fact. Finally I took a picture of Valios at his bar before heading off for the rest of my evening.

People like Valios is one of the reasons I travel. No common language, but an honest man trying to make a living just like the rest of us. We communicated through multiple broken languages and hand gestures, yet it was still fun. Much more fun than some droning conversations you can have in your own language. I hope I meet more people like him throughout the rest of my Europe trip.

Stop 20: Thessaloniki, drastically changing the route for no reason…

Jumping off the bus into a huge terminal in the middle of nowhere, I was beginning to see a pattern in Greece. I’d read I needed to get the number 31 bus and then catch another bus to get to where my hostel was. Luckily for me I did because I wouldn’t have had a clue otherwise.

I asked around and got off at the first stop (kind of) then I asked people which one I needed to get, showing them the leaflet. Some shook their heads, others slowly read random words on the leaflet. Once I heard someone say “…DISSSSCOVERRR…” I realised that I was on my own.

So I walked it. I figured out ‘Ano Poli’ was something that Greeks would understand as it wasn’t English, so I followed the pointing directions until I finally got to the hostel. It was dark and I had been walking uphill for nearly an hour. I was ready to collapse.

“Sorry, full…” Was the receptionist’s response. I’m not a fan of booking things online so sometimes there are disadvantages for that. She rang another hostel on the other side of town and said they had a bed in a dorm room for me at €17 and that they’d hold it for me for 1 hour. It took 30 minutes to walk across town to find the place. At least it wasn’t (that far) uphill…

I checked in and seemingly had the dorm to myself. The other bunk was clearly taken by two people who had made it their home, but there was no sign of them. I went out and got a soutzoukhaki that was much better than the one in Trikala and decided to call it a night.

As I was on my bed a German guy checked in. We started chatting whilst I was trying and failing to sync my photos to my laptop (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t for no reason. Stupid technology, you get what you pay for…) Then two blokes invaded our rooms with sinister smiles on their faces introducing themselves. I asked where they were from and they said “Devon, a place called Totnes…”

“No fucking way!” Was my response. I have family who live in Totnes and have been there multiple times. Turns out one of them went to school with my cousin. Small world.

So me and the Totnes Two (The Germanator didn’t want to come) headed up to the castle to chill out. As they were Totnesians they were a bit more adventurous than the average bear and climbed up the broken part of the castle wall to get to the top of a derelict part.


We made it! And our reward was a stunning view overlooking the whole of Thessaloniki. I took a few pictures but they didn’t do the scene justice so I reverted back to the old fashioned method and used my eyes, soaking it all in and feeling chilled out as the Totnes Two passed around a bottle of Greek wine.

It was getting chilly, so I left the Totnes Two to chat to another group of lads (One was Albanian, and he found it funny that I’d just been there). The two came back half an hour later and one of them was absolutely steaming, nearly treading on my laptop which was on charge in the corner as he stumbled around. I made a point of emailing the book file to myself five minutes later…

I stayed another day, mainly because I was tired and didn’t want to move (hard life) and spent the day with the Germanator walking around Thessaloniki. It was nice, but no nicer than any other place I’d been to, so after that day I was ready to say “Next!” And head out.

There were two new people that evening; an American girl with beautiful pale skin and light brown hair that suggested she had Irish roots, and an Australian bloke who did not have beautiful pale skin nor have Irish roots. I invited the two of them up to the viewpoint me and the Totnes Two had been to so they could enjoy it. We chilled out up there for a while getting to know each other before going to bed (our OWN beds. Calm the fuck down…)

As we were falling asleep we were talking about places we’d been and Aussie Ardiles said he’d been through Albania and loved it. I sighed in disappointment as me and Matt had to rush through so he could make his flight. Then I thought that I didn’t HAVE to miss it; this was a trip of my choosing, so I did what I have done memorably in the past, grabbed a coin and was ready to let it decide my fate.

“Oh my God, you’re actually going to do it!” The American girl shouted in delight.

“Heads I go to Albania, tails I go to Bulgaria!” I exclaimed as I threw the coin in the air. It landed on the floor and as I picked it up I saw it had landed on tails, much to my disappointment.

As I was about to say ‘tails’ I soon realised it was the lighting, and it had in fact landed on heads. “…Oh wait, it’s heads!” I squealed, doing a little monologue with myself.

“Wait, what was heads again?” said Aussie Ardiles, massively confusing matters…

“Heads means I’m going to Albania!” I proudly announced. Then I started frantically looking at how to get to Sarande or Corfu (the Greek island on the border) by bus.

“Oh wow, you’re really going to do it aren’t you?” The American girl said.

“Yep!” I said confidently, hoping it would impress her. She goes to Yale so she’s a lot smarter than that…

The next day I noticed that the buses towards Albania were way overpriced, so thinking on my feet I decided to go to Bulgaria anyway, but instead of doing Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Slovenia the plan is to now do Bulgaria-Macedonia-Albania-Montenegro-Bosnia-Slovenia, which may kill me, but doesn’t everything kill you nowadays…?

So I have no idea where I’ll be (a) on my birthday, and (b) when I finish my book. That’s pretty cool. I wonder what the next few days have in store for me, let alone the next few months…

Stop 19: Trikala: Well, that was unexpected…


“Hi, welcome!” Said the friendly girl behind reception as she poured me an orange juice. I assumed she thought I was someone else but accepted the freebie anyway as I have no soul…

We started talking and eventually I asked her if she was Greek (Because her English was impeccable), turns out it was impeccable because she was from New Zealand, so she understood the gist of what I was saying. Once we established we had a common language I spoke at her for a while about my books until she gave me the key to the dorm.

Everyone was passed out, so I thought I’d follow suit and laze around. I grabbed a local dinner that was called soutzoukhaki, all I read was ‘shit and kaki’ and I was worried as hell what was going to come out. It was meatballs, they were average. It cost me 7 euros and I wished that I had a kebab instead…

The next day was Meteora, the next town over which is brilliantly underpopulated with tourism because no one has heard of it. We (me and this Alaskan girl Jaime) went together. How romantic you may think, oh it was, except I was dressed like this:


Don’t hate the player hate the game…

It was fine, I wasn’t on the pull anyway, if you don’t believe me look at that plastic bag again… We awkwardly chatted for a while until Jaime dropped her water bottle, cracking it all around the top. I was stuck in a loop continuously saying “Oh no!” like Bruce from Family Guy until we got up to the first monastery.

When we got there we were greeted by a friendly face, which turned out to be another girl from the hostel. She’d been dropped off by this random Greek guy who was stalkerishly waiting for her at the bottom of the monastery, so we became a threesome! (Not that kind of threesome. Bloody hell, this is a PG blog. Away with your crude thought processes!!!)

Even if it was going to turn out that way, I ruined the moment by treading in a huge pile of dog shit. If I wasn’t repelling the women with my smooth banter, then dragging my feet like a zombie from Thriller for the next quarter of an hour was going to do the job…

2 monasteries later and enough viewpoints win social media with our cover photos this week, we were cream crackered, and I was looking forward to lying on my bed, recovering and heading north to Thessaloniki the next day.

Enter the Quinn…

Beasty Australian man walks into the room, single handedly raises everyone’s spirits, invites us all out for food, is the life of the party and THEN has the audacity to say that he isn’t feeling as social as he normally is. Thanks fucker! Way to rub it in that your social skills are so much better than mine. You read the part about the dog shit right?

That evening Quinn further establishes himself as Champion of the hostel by pulling out a guitar and being Bieber. I’m not good with music – I love it but I’m not very skilled – so I just sang any song that came into my head while he was playing chords. I went from Taylor Swift’s shake it off to Eminem’s Without me with very similar acoustic chords. I think everyone had fun!

I decided to stay another day now I’d found the cool kids, and the cool kids went back to Meteora whilst I did a day trip around Trikala. I got lost trying to find the clock tower and was ready to shoot a flare into the sky when I heard a dong to the right. I looked over and there was this towering…err…clock tower probably 250 metes away from me.

“I’m guessing that it…”I concluded. I’m such a fucking genius…

That night involved Gyros (Greek kebabs, that are hilariously pronounced ‘Euros’, which confuses the bejeebus out of anyone not in the know) with the cool kids. Then we went back and I wrote some more of my book. Once I was done I came downstairs to find everyone having a party! I had some vino and chilled out with everyone until 1 in the morning. We all said we were going clubbing but we slowly decided against it one by one when we realised we would have to physically step outside into the cold. All but two people remained: Jaime (Audacious Alaskan) and Ollie (Erratic Englishman)

Why was he erratic do you ask? He’s a really cool guy, but would switch to this mental case when he’s had too much to drink.

I left them to it and wished them a good evening, then as I went to turn the key to get into my room something inside me told me to go with them or I’d regret it, so I was soon running down the road after them and walking beside them like before the final fight in Green Street.

It nearly turned out to be Green Street as well; Ollie was buzzing and was dancing well, but throwing a lot of elbows around and pissing off some locals at the same time. I was there for 30 minutes before I said to them both I was going to go home, and I left the two of them to have shots with some Greeks.

Jaime wasn’t sure where she was going the next day and neither was I, so I had a feeling that we would end up going to the bus station together and pick a random city so instead of leaving at 10 in the morning I waited for her to see what she wanted to do. Then she said to me she’s probably going to stay one more day before heading south. I thought to myself that I had no reason to leave and as it was Saturday everyone was talking about doing a drinking game (which never ends badly!) So after contemplating it for a few minutes I decided to stay one more night as long as there was a bed for me. Everyone cheered. (They didn’t but I want to feel cool…)

Same thing: I got some work done and finished at around 9:30 to find the drinking game had started. I joined in and was told the rules by our champion elect (Quinn if you are keeping up,  if not I don’t blame you, but I will hold it against you…) and we drunk wine until I got my nipples out. Oh yeah, it was that level of drunk! Ollie chose me as his ‘drinking buddy’ during one of his rounds, so basically when he drank I had to drink as well. Ollie was fucked by this point and didn’t care, so when he lost a lot of the side games I had to drink as well.

Ollie then showed his cultured side by randomly playing Mozart on the piano, then he went outside and swept the same square metre area for twenty minutes. I didn’t mind because it meant I didn’t have to drink as much. Once the big bottles of wine were empty it was time for round 2 out in Trikala, except the whole gang was going!

I boogied, and others were chatting to each other and locals. Then after 10 minutes this big Greek guy came up to me and started talking in Greek. I said I didn’t speak Greek so he shouted in my ear that I ‘had to go outside’.

I didn’t know what I’d done, but I wasn’t about to start arguing. Whatever it was it must have been serious because every time there was a small gap in the packed club I could feel this guy shoving me towards the exit.

I got out and was told I couldn’t come back in. I looked around and saw Quinn, Candice, Sam and Obi Wan there so at least it wasn’t just me. Apparently Ollie had pissed off a load of Greek people. I didn’t see what happened but the bouncer said three people wanted to fight him. I’d never been kicked out of a club before, so that’s something I can add to the list I guess…

Maybe it was a race thing, because we were stopped at the next club and the bouncer said it was full, even though loads of people were walking out. Then as Quinn negotiated our way in the bouncer let in a load of people.

“Because they have jackets…” Was his excuse. He eventually crumbled and let us in. It wasn’t even that good if I’m honest. I loved the company I was with but the episode seemed to put a dampener on the evening and after 10 minutes I called it a night.

So the next day I left Trikala and headed to Thessaloniki. Four days had flown by just like that and I’d made a load of friends I hope to keep in contact with for years. I had a goodbye Gyros with Quinn and Candice and then went on my way.

Thessaloniki, you’d better be good. I left Trikala for you…

Stop 18: The two sides of Athens

After the worlds shittest bus ride (and I’m including the one where I was sexually molested by a monk and the one in Laos where I had to share a bed with some fat Laotian man…) Me and Matt got to Greece with a day to spare, a crick in our necks and severe lack of sleep. But we made it, so go us! I think…

Check in was at 1:30, but the hotelier let us check in at 9 in the morning. I collapsed on my bed and stared at the ceiling. That’s a lie; I got on top of my washing and dried it all on the balcony. I had 24 hours for it to dry so as long as it didn’t rain I wouldn’t have to leave any clothes like I had to in Italy with my CM Punk jacket…

Midday was afoot and it was time for us to be tourists. Great! Except the tourist area is a shithole. Well overpriced to see things (so you literally stand outside, take a photo and carry on…) and there were pickpockets in droves. I felt two separate people brush past my pockets only to be thwarted my my zip pockets. (I may not be making women ovulate with my sexual prowess, but I still have my wallet!) Oh, and graffiti, lots and lots of fucking graffiti. Couple that with the smell and I was looking at Matt wondering why he wanted to come here so quickly as opposed to staying in Albania. Poor old Matt was looking at me in disbelief saying, “This wasn’t what I was expecting…”

To make up for it we wandered into this sex shop for a laugh. I joked to Matt that one of the huge fists, butt plugs or the multiple dildo collections could the present for his girlfriend that she was asking for on this trip. He looked back at me in pure panic…

After we saw enough ‘alternative’ porn DVD’s on the shelves to mentally scar us until 2019, we then went home and had a nap, charging up for the evening. Matt left the heating on so it was boiling in the room, which I think he did deliberately so I could bring my clothes in and dry them quicker, the thoughtful bastard!

That night on the way home we saw some more nasty looking pornos casually being sold on the street like it was at a car boot sale on a Sunday afternoon. I told Matt that this was going to be my present to him. I don’t know if he wanted it or not but he didn’t put up much of a fight! It was strange because the normal porn was only €5, whereas the more graphic and borderline fucked up porn was €10 a pop. Maybe the Greeks have to pay more to admit they are into sick shit. Either way it worked in my favour and I got one for him with cute Ariana Sure and petite Pixie Dakota cheering up the male population who can’t get laid, and it only cost me €5! I was expecting it to be a lot more expensive than that…

The next day we got our stuff and left, I found a hostel and left my bags in there so I could walk around nice and free. I skipped around Matt like Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory…

DEE DEE! Get out of my laboratory!!!!!!!!!

…until we found a place to have lunch for the last time. We went to this place next to the bus stop that took Matt to the airport. It was pretty emotional, well for me anyway; Matt didn’t give a fuck and swapped my water with pure Ouzo as I went to the toilet…

And that was it! I hugged Matt for the last time and he jumped on the bus excited to see his missus again (I’m sure the porno had nothing to do with it…) and I was left in Athens, a city that hadn’t appealed to me so I decided I was going to stay one more day and then head north.

Good plan, except I got sick about 2 hours later (I think I was missing Matt that much…) and a day turned into four. It was cool though because on the second day I had the room to myself (€9 for a private room…SCHWING!!!!) and not only were they really cool at Zeus Hostel, the people who were staying there were easy to chat to and I made a shed load of friends, including some crazy Belgian’s who are cycling from Antwerp to China. 

So Athens had a mixed vibe for me. I couldn’t say if it was good or bad because even though there were negatives it still had an energy about it that made me somewhat like the place even though it was a city (I’m not usually a fan of cities) The place itself wasn’t that great despite all the historic monuments, but what made it a cool place was the tourists I met and the hostel. This means I’ll be looking forward to the rest of my hostelling around southern and eastern Europe (And I suppose western Europe if the work situation doesn’t work out and I have to fly to Asia from Heathrow). Next stop: Trikala! As recommended by some legendary bloke from Oregon. Let’s do this!

Stop 17: Twenty five hours in Tirana

There have been a few places I’ve been looking forward to on this trip; going back to Diano Marina and catching up with everyone, a possibility of checking out Prague and Budapest, seeing what Croatia had to offer, sauntering through Slovenia (although we were only there for a couple of hours), and many more. One of the hidden treasures that has really interested me though is Albania. This country has a reputation of being dangerous solely because it is the unknown for most people. When I lived in Italy I met loads of friendly Albanians and even went to college with a guy from there. He turned out to be a decent, loyal, trustworthy mate and I hoped to meet a lot more whilst out there…

We got into Tirana at 3, and was told that we could get the bus out of Tirana to Athens in 1 hour. Matt’s eyes lit up but there was no way I was going to miss this place, especially since he’d already talked me out of Brac (an island in Croatia), Lake Bled and southern Albania because of time restraints.

“I don’t want to leave Albania after only being here for an hour…” I said in an irritated tone. He’d mentioned a few times he wanted to go straight through but unless it was nothing what I expected it to be and hated the place I wanted to stay, and to be fair I found it interesting.

We booked the night bus for the next day, meaning we had just over a day in Tirana, the capital. Then we looked online and found the cheapest accommodation was Freddy’s, a hotel recommended to us by an Albanian guy who worked in Diano Marina saying it was his friend.

We went to book it but the tour operator was relentless, obviously wanting the commission from the sale. I felt like I was back in Thailand again with workers being completely uninterested but suddenly swarming you if there’s a chance of commission. We followed these angry looking guys to Freddy’s who gave us a price of €30 with breakfast.

I asked the owner if he knew Ladi, and said he recommended that we come here. Freddy had no clue who I was talking about and if anything was beginning to get irritated at the sight of me. I took the hint and headed upstairs.

I then changed my remaining Croatian Kuna into Albanian Leks. I had 6400, which was more than enough for one day in the country. I got rid up my mop of hair for 200 leks (about £1.33) and then Matt wanted to have a few drinks, so we headed to a nearby bar.

I had a soft drink, then after a while I asked the barman what local spirits he had on offer. He looked at me mischieviously and smiled, “Raki…”

I asked what they have raki with, and they said they drink it straight which is never a good sign. However I remembered how good Nepalese Aila was straight and that was 58%, so I said fook it and ordered one.

Turns out it was foul, but strangely addictive. Like going back to a shitty ex who keeps cheating on you; you hope it’ll change but it never does… I drank two and I was soon warm, and surprisingly drunk, but I didn’t enjoy the taste in my mouth. So it was time to get some food to counteract the nastiness…

I’d been told about a place called Bloc, which apparently was where the affluent Albanians headed. I wanted to pretend to be an affluent Albanian and we headed in that direction. We missed, but nearby was a gorgeous outdoor restaurant called ‘La Voglia’ (Italian helped quite a lot with translation issues as Italian is the unofficial second language in Albania) and I had some chicken and vegetables dish. It was delish, not delish enough that I remembered the name of the meal but good enough for me to recommend the place to anyone in that area one day.

The night didn’t end there for me. It did for Matt who headed home, but I had a few thousand Lek in my pocket that I wanted to burn, and after missing out after being so close in Croatia, I swiftly headed to an Albanian lap dancing club.

Albanian women are stunning; on par with Croatians in terms of beauty, but it’s well documented that unless you plan on marrying the girl straight after their cousins are going to swing wildly with baseball bats until you stop struggling, so realistically this was the closest I will ever get to even being alone with an Albanian girl, let alone doing anything intimate. So I headed in and ordered a drink which came to £6. I was with the elite now…

It was very intriguing though; none of the girls approached me, assumingly because I was English and didn’t speak their language, and I spent most of the time analyzing the girls and their mannerisms. Looking at their reactions, where they went, what they did and how they interacted with the clients and the mirrors watching themselves as they danced. The author in me turned it into a research session and I got loads of info ready for my next scene in my latest book. Only I can go into a strip club and zone in intensely thinking about how to move my book along and make it all connect logically whilst putting genuine emotions from multiple characters in there…

I still had fun! I didn’t see any skin which was disappointing, but that’s probably why it was free to get in. After that I answered a few emails and then went to sleep, looking forward to having breakfast included.

I came down the next day and Freddy was much happier. He saw me and called me over, stating that he’d found Ladi on Facebook (which was spelled Lavdi) and tagged him in a photo we’d taken together. Albania is very similar to most of Europe and values family, and the fact he knew a friend of mine almost classified me as family as well. For the rest of the time we were there everytime he saw us he greeted us with a warm smile. Cheers Lavdi!!!


From left: Me, Freddy and Triple M

We went out that lunchtime to find a bridge and this Bloc place that had evaded us. We found the bridge, but before we got to Bloc it started chucking it down so we hid in a coffee shop. I had a hot chocolate which was good, but not as good as the Montenegrin hot chocolate, which to be fair if I was a billionaire I’d fly to Montenegro just to have it! We found Bloc. It was OK, but we preferred the area we found the night before when we had food.

And that was our 25 hours! If I had to sum up Albania in three words it would be ‘intimidating but friendly’. When you go to places and talk to people you get a distinct feeling that something is not right, but soon you realize these people are friendly and just want to help. So Albania wasn’t a disappointment even though I had high hopes. I didn’t get to do Vlore and Sarande but it gives me a reason to back. Even on the bus to Greece we met an Albanian lady who said she would rent her house out in Southern Albania for a month or so if I went back, so there’s an option. I could even find some English teaching work there as their English isn’t that great. That would be really cool!


Stop 16: Podgorica. No, I’ve never heard of it either…

Bye Croatia! Hi Montenegro! That’s pretty much how it went as we sailed over border number 7. Neither of us knew what to expect when we got to Montenegro. We got into Podgorica bus station at 6:30 and immediately booked our bus ticket to Tirana the next day. This relaxed Matt because he knew there were daily flight from Tirana to Athens and could reach his connecting flight that way. I knew we’d be fine but let him stress about it because that’s the kind of friend I am…

When we booked the ticket we couldn’t get out. I waited to copy a local and watched her scan her ticket so I did the same. We got out to find we couldn’t get out the bus station that way and it was vehicles only, so we headed back through the turnstyles. Well, Matt headed through, I got my leg caught in the turnstyle and was stuck in the air for a split second. Sometimes I wonder why I’m still single…

God knows what the locals thought of us! We found the hotel easily enough, then went to explore the town. The woman behind reception said it would take ten minutes to explore the whole town and she wasn’t wrong…

It was pretty much a ghost town. Nothing happening really. There were a few shops selling old 60’s TV’s, but other than that we gave up after 5 minutes and headed back to the hotel to get some food in the restaurant.

It was the right decision! I had a veal steak in breadcrumbs and Matt had a Montenegrin dish which I assume was their version of the cevapi. We ended up swapping plates because we both liked the other’s dish more. Then it was time for dessert.


Hot chocolate for dessert? You’re having a bubble me old china! No I be not me old china, as the Montenegrin hot chocolate was so lusciously thick it was like a cup of hot chocolatey yoghurt. Oh the legendness!

Well I knew what I was having for breakfast in the morning! I watch some MMA show on TV before going to sleep.

That morning at the bus stop we found a Turkish guy who spoke no English. I had no alcohol to be able to make friends without talking so I pulled out the juggling balls and started doing some tricks. He seemed impressed, and jokingly gave me 10 cents. Being the poor fucker I am I put it straight in my pocket. I guess my latest job title is ‘professional beggar’…

So we were in and out of Montenegro like we were doing the hokey cokey from the border! The plus side was that now we were going to go to Albania. I was looking forward to Albania most of all on this trip. I lived in Italy 10 years ago and I worked with a lot of Albanians. The vast majority of them were such genuinely nice people and couldn’t do enough for you, so this was a country I was licking my lips in the thought of visiting. Normally when you build up a place you are disappointed, but I’m hoping this won’t be the case over there.

Oh, and on a side note; Montenegro is not in the EU, but uses the Euro. Work that one out…

Thieves in Athens

I’m not a huge fan of cities at the best of times. I like meeting people but cities for me are way too crowded, so when I came to Athens I wasn’t looking forward to it. Sure, I was excited to see all the history, but I was adamant I’d be in and out in the space of a day or two.

After a day I’d already had two near misses. Obviously things you cannot prove and if anything you feel you are just being paranoid, but I’d felt two seperate people brush up beside my pocket only to be ‘thwarted’ by my zip pockets, which I had because unfortunately Europe’s reputation of being rife with common pickpockets is there for a reason…

I was ill yesterday, so I’d been hiding in my room all day catching up with book writing and blog posts. As I normally do when I’m sick in a foreign country I get dinner at an international fast food chain of some sort, because you know no matter which country you are in they have to adhere to the international health standards and the food will be safe to eat. So off I went to find a McDonalds.

When I ordered I got given some McDonalds vouchers. Obviously I wasn’t going to use them, but I thought I’d give them to the people at the hostel as they had been really good to me so they could either use it themselves or give it to guests for free to make the place look even friendlier. So I grabbed a seat and began slowly scoffing my meal. Shivering because I was ill counting the seconds until I could get back in my bed and wrap up.

Then this Greek kid sat next to me. He was no older than 7 years old and had a huge lipstick kiss on his cheek. He came up to me, smiled and said something softly in Greek at me. I thought he was someone’s kid and didn’t pay much attention to him other than a polite smile back. Then he said something else, so I looked behind me to the Greek teenage girl sitting the other side of me wondering if he was talking to her but I soon realised he was talking to me.

“Sorry, no Greek.” I smiled. So he held his hand out and said, “Please one euro.”

This irritated me, because in my opinion people who go around asking others for money are not genuinely homeless, they are chancers, and possibly even conmen. So I tried to not show my anger and said “No, sorry.” in a firm way.

Then as he left he used a slight of hand and swiftly took my voucher. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought to myself “Did he actually just do that?” and shouted “Hey…Hey!!!” at him before he ran off, snatching the voucher from him.

I was fuming by now, and had a few more chips before leaving. Then as I walked back home I almost felt proud of myself. My mind hasn’t been anywhere near as sharp in the last year or so which could be for a number of reasons; most likely either because I’ve lived in a non English speaking country for so long and don’t have the English sharpness anymore, or because I’m burnt out from writing so many books in such a short space of time. In all honesty over the last two years I’ve lost a lot of confidence and simply don’t feel intelligent any more, so it was nice to know my mental sharpness is still there somewhere. Point being I was so pleased with myself that my mind worked quick enough to spot a professional thief at work. Sure, it was only a McDonald’s voucher, but it wasn’t his to take.

When I walked back I saw a homeless man asleep on the street. It broke my heart and I slipped a couple of Euros into his cup. Most decent human beings want to help our fellow man when they are on hard times, but there are so many con artists out there who make more money than you doing it that it gets to a point where you can’t trust anyone, so most people are reluctant to give any charity, and that’s a real shame. I hope that the rest of Greece doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth like Athens has. I’m hoping that it’s only because its a big city that it has thieves and cheats working there in droves, just like when you go to the markets in Italy…

And unfortunately that’s how I’ll remember Athens; not how cool the hostel was, not all the people I met there, not how cheap the place was considering it’s a vibrant city, but as a city of pickpockets. Most people I met in the hostels who had travelled all over the world and had very positive attitudes would still describe Athens as ‘pretty thievey’, which is a right shame, because it could be so much better. Get rid of the graffiti and the common thieves and you could have yourself an infinitely better city. The potential is there.