Posted on 31 August 2012 by brett
Seven Rila Lakes Trek Celebration
We’ve learned to live in the moment and to be prepared for anything to happen while on the road. A chance meeting in Chumphon, Thailand with Jeff & Neda led us to Bulgaria….. a hidden gem we would have never known.
It is now more than 100 years since Bulgaria declared its independence from Ottoman rule. And, 20 years since the fall of Communism. The average standard of living suffered a catastrophic decline in the early 1990’s in many former Communist states. Many began to rise with Capitalistic policies toward the end of the 21st century. Some countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia are poorer today than they were in 1989. Others like Bulgaria & Romania have managed to bounce back considerably. The IMF ranks Bulgaria 67th in the world by per capita GDP (PPP). Romania is slightly behind in the 73rd position. Both are 15-20% above the world average. A list of European countries by monthly net average wage reveals both countries around $400. To put this in perspective, Turkey is at $634, the US around $2,197, and the UK at $2,556. Continue Reading
Posted on 31 July 2012 by brett
Pearl Jam Prague Finale
The Pearl Jam show in Prague was so inspiring that we decided to spontaneously follow the 10 Club to Berlin for two more shows. It did help that our new PJ friends (Dave & Lauren) offered their hospitality in Istanbul if we joined the parade. And, just when things were getting exciting….. we met our favorite guitarist Mike McCready at the Prague rail station. What an amazing guy traveling like a normal dude with his friends and family.
Mike McCready at Praha Train Station
In hindsight, I wish I had told Mike about my friend Kevin. I vividly remember our sophomore year at the University of Maryland listening to Mike’s side project “Mad Season”. Kevin loved the “Above” album and always wanted to play it along with Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains Unplugged. Mad Season is up there with some of my favorite albums of all time. The band consisted of Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), a friend of Staley’s from drug rehab and of course Mike on lead guitar. Like Kevin, Mike had alcohol abuse issues…. but fortunately was able to turn his life around. I wish I could say the same for Kevin and think about him everyday. We badly wanted Pearl Jam to play “Release” in Kevin’s memory. Continue Reading
Posted on 05 July 2012 by brett
Mike McCready at Praha Train Station
Our decision to leave Prague and follow Pearl Jam to Berlin was spontaneous and what life’s all about. That morning, we scored two seats in Section 102 and a small guesthouse in Wedding, Berlin. We approached the train platform in Praha to notice a bunch of 10c members crowded around Mike McCready. What?? OMG!!
At the right moment, we jumped in for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. Brett said, “dude?” and Mike was like, “where you from?”. We should have made a request or said something witty, but you know how that goes. Mike is such a cool and genuine dude. He travels independently by train with his family. It’s actually much easier in some ways than trekking to the airport, etc…… and, there is 1st class. We couldn’t wait to get to Berlin and share our story!
The Berlin Wall Near Wedding
Not too far from the Wedding District in North Western Berlin are remnants of the Berlin Wall. We did a self-guided tour of the “walls” with watch tower foundations in between. Some parts of the wall are brick and intact. Others, are rusted steel beams. Pictorials exist all over with stories of escape attempts. We read about a young boy who scaled the wall and ran atop before being gunned down. There, remains a memorial with his story. Our favorite story is of a man who drove a pickup truck filled with sand, his wife, and child through the wall and then multiple barracks. There are sections of the wall where one could technically be on the east side, but think he’s on the west side. We met friends who shared their family story of migrating from east to west. They followed the “economic miracle” in West Germany (around 1950) as the Parliamentary Democracy prospered. Children secretly carried household items everyday to school until everything was moved. Continue Reading