We all agree that Denmark has one of the best welfare system of the world, right?
Well, I can say that about homelessness, the Danes are still far from perfection. Why?
Read to know!
Pax is not the only one sleeping rough in Copenhagen, as I always wandered around, I have many friends sleeping rough and sometimes, I am a bit homeless myself, that’s why the issue of shelters is quite close to my heart.
I decided to see how easy it is, for a homeless, to find shelter in Copenhagen, the world’s capital of “support to less lucky people”. It took me months to gather some information about shelters here, I have contacted all the people I knew, institutions, organizations, and churches. I have also checked the list of shelters on the dedicated website CopenHelp.
The most shelters just allow people with a cpr number—a registration number you get when you register your domicile in Denmark—or from specific categories: old and sick people, pregnant women, heavy drug users, etc…
I’ve contacted many shelters, just few answered, I post you some of the answers below.
Kofoes Kælder (Frederiksborggade 1 A, 1360 København) They just help people aged between 18-29. “We are a contact place for young homeless people in Copenhagen between the ages of 18-29. We can help you get in touch with proper authorities for solving dole money problems, getting on waiting lists for shelters, medical help, give you directions to other places that have specialised in helping non Danish citizens etc….if you are not a Danish citizen we can also help you get in touch the Copenhagen homeless unit to discuss your travel home and help you with getting id papers and so on for your travels. You are very welcome to come in for a cup of coffee and we can see how we can help you the best way possible”
Kirkens Korshaer (Stengade 40, 2200 København N)
I send them an email asking if is possible to have shelter on 10/01/2017. “we offer adults vulnerable citizens shelter. However, I have to know a little more of your background story before we can offer you a room for the night. You are always welcome to contact us at Hillerødgade 62 9 PM for a clarification of your situation.Natcaféen has 30 spaces intended for adult men and women who do not currently be accommodated in a residential facility.It is possible to bring your dog. The café is housed in the inn’s cafeteria and is open all year. It is free to spend the night in the cafe. Natcaféen operated acc. Service Law § 110” Once I went to visit them, I had no place to sleep myself and I asked if it was possible to sleep there without danish documents, they told me just old and sick people, selected by them, can get inside.
Grace (Baggesensgade 9, 2200 København N)
I have heard this to be the best shelter of Copenhagen, where they are really open and kind to anyone, regardless their documents.
Once I arrived there on a Friday night, the door was closed and nobody answered me at the phone.
Other shelters I wanted to check out also Natcafeen Sundholm (Sundholmsvej 36) &
Nødherberget (Hørhusvej 5), but I didn’t have the chance to get there.
I always had a computer, good skills to search and communicate, I have friends and family that supports me, in addition, I have some financial resources, and fortuitously, I also have EU citizenship; nevertheless, after arduous and complex researches, I have no clue about where a homeless can go to sleep in Copenhagen.
I don’t even imagine how hard it is for someone that sleeps in the streets, with heavy physical, psychological, social, and economical problems, to find a place where to go.
If you are a homeless in need of care, you wont get much support when you don’t match the criteria of the shelter.
If you are not local or between 29-50yo, you risk to get not support at all.
What do you think when you see a person sleeping in the street? Do you think it’s fair to leave people sleeping under bridges? Let me know in the comments.
Food waste is an issue that we can’t just ignore.
It’s not just a pity to throw away food, but it it’s an act of ignorance, egoism, and self-destruction.
We often forget that huge resources are used to produce food: from production to the consumer, almost the half of it gets thrown away.
We should remember that there are people which can’t afford even to buy enough food; in Copenhagen, there is a graffiti stating: “someone’s trash, is someone’s else treasure”.
I had the chance to volunteer with and discuss with some of the activists which started Foodsharing Copenhagen
To fight food waste, a movement called Foodsharing started first in Germany, where it is now well-established.
Since about one year it started in Denmark, where it conquered Copenhagen.
Foodsharing Copenhagen was, in the beginning, a really small project, a grassroots initiative.
Thanks to the help of many volunteers, among which there was the great people of Floating City and the legendary Francois—who arranged many agreements with food donors—, it became a well structured non-profit movement with almost 10.000 followers on their Facebook page.
By the way, if you don’t know what Foodsharing is, well, it’s simple: there are weekly events where people can share their food or take food that they need.
A simple, human to human action, to share time and food with people, in the street.
It serves mostly for two causes:
– Create awareness about homelessness
– As sign of humanity and warmth to people sleeping rough
Once a week, we first gather with all the volunteers to prepare food with love; something simple is good enough.
After having a short conversation and planning about who goes where, we go in the streets in small groups, two to three persons in each group.
There is already a map which we can use to find the points where people sleeping rough are.
In an extremely kind, casual and humble way, we approach people sleeping rough, we start a conversation as we would talk to a person in a bar, then we aim at keeping it, about any topic, but we would never ever ask about their problems during the first or second time we meet them. Later on, if we feel confident and we sense that our connection is strong enough, we can start talking about their problems with them, but always trying to let them start the topic first, without pushing.
The next week we do the same, but with more knowledge, experience, and love acquired from the previous time.
Once we have enough information about the problems of our friends in the streets, we can brainstorm for solutions. Every person needs a different solution.
Each of us can propose to follow up one person in the street. This is the most effective way to create something beneficial.
We could, for example, help in making them an account into an accommodation or volunteer platform such as:
The first thing to create is a connection, a bridge, and a humble, true friendship. Even just one connection is enough. Once this is built up, each volunteer can understand situations and problems of people sleeping rough. Just then, there are possible actions that could improve their situation.
It’s not a rescue mission and it does not aim to fix problems instantly. It’s rather a long-term process, where each volunteer decides to open their minds and hearts making friendship with someone who meets mostly indifference and ignorance. It is about creating an individual and unique relationship.
WHO HELPS WHOM
You are not simply “helping people in the street”, you are actually helping yourself too. From this activity, you may benefit more than the one you meet. It may seem strange but it is true.
Getting connections and understanding realities that you have never imagined to exist, will give you more than you can imagine.
“I feel really excited and tensioned to connect with people sleeping rough. I sometimes give food I have with me but I don’t actually talk with these people.”—Those are the words of a really kind-hearted activist. So, it seems, it’s hard even for highly aware people to connect with the ones in the street.
This may be exactly the same feeling of many others: you want to help, but you find it awkward or even embarrassing to randomly talk to people in the street.
“Street Connections” is a kind of workshop for those, like you, who have a big heart, but feel a bit uncertain about going and talking to rough sleepers.
Being in a sociable group, sharing knowledge and experience, will transform your tension into pleasure.
Cyprus is not reachable by using a bicycle only, so I needed other transportations means to get there, but once arrived, I did a tour of the island on the bicycle together with two unexpected cyclo-friends.
While you travel in exotic countries, often will happen of course, to not understand people talking in foreign languages. This is actually one of the reasons why I love traveling. Being somewhere without understanding people talking, is a bit like walking with closed eyes, I can feel more connection with the earth.
In Cyprus I notice how paradoxical and contradictory our ‘civilization’ is
Police, which should protect the weaker often bites them up. Hospitals, which should heal us and improve our health, sometimes (often?), transmit us sicknesses and make us pay for services and medicines we no need. Governments, which have the duty to organize and legislate for the benefit of the public, regularly do the interest of private, powerful, individuals.
As final mockery, western cultures, which are based on the above-mentioned institutions, call “wild and uncivilized” population as native Americans that have much fairer, and nature-friendly, regulations.
UNDERSTANDING AND RESPECTING WHAT IS DIFFERENT
The most people I meet think either I am a poor guy or I am really rich to afford such a long travel. For the most people is hard to realize that with little money you can travel all the world.
On the other hand, thinking about my extravagant Cypriot landlord and my wild father makes me reflect on the following:
There are things, or persons, that we will never understand. There are behaviors that we will always find weird and we will never be able to give an explanation for. This does not mean that we have to fight against it or judge these persons as wrong. We should still respect such things and give everyone his right to be different.
People doing wrong things are really useful to us, they show us how not to behave.
The main reason why we do certain things or we take a particular decision is not because it is right or we believe in it, but mostly because we are used to act in a certain way, or cause the most people do it.
The hardest in life is to do what we like. We need to have the courage to do what we like.
CARNIVAL IN LIMASSOL
In Limassol’s carnival, there was no rubbish on the streets, it was all quite clean and tidy, on the other hand, I remember that in Northen ‘clean’ counties, during carnival, the streets were full of the most diverse items. It seems a paradox; Carnival in Nordic, well organized, wealthy countries is much more liberating and wild than in southern nations.
With carnival everything changes, the most people take advantage of this event to do what is not allowed otherwise.
THE ISLAND OF CATS
Cyprus is artificially filled up with cats, this to keep snakes away, not exactly for safety, because snakes don’t kill normally, but for touristic reasons, to not let the tourists be afraid of them.
Here, people ask me about pets, I have just formulated an answer to the question: “do you like pets?”—My answer is—“as I try to not discriminate humans, I don’t want to discriminate animals based on race either.”
Humans try all the time to train pets to make them behave like us, actually, I think it would be more useful if WE would learn from them; wild animals, for example, can help us to understand how to survive.
AFTER A FIGHT WITH EIGHT PERSONS
On a windy night, I had a discussion with some people that ended up with little blood.
The day after the fight, I went to the hospital to check the stitches on my face. At the surgery department, I see a long ‘zig-zag’ queue; people are constantly skipping it by just running to the first place, I try to talk to them telling that this is not correct while an English man tells me: “here is always the same, Cypriot people don’t respect lines and you have to fight to get people not to skip”—I thought—“oh, no! fighting again…”
Now I know where South Italians got the habit of not respecting queue.
“I prefer not to use cars because they kill.”—If I may say this statement in Cyprus, people would not understand it—Jeeps are everywhere, it seems like there is a permanent rally competition going on.
The stairs of the hospital in Paphos were empty, the elevators were full and medical departments filled up with people in line. Same for the city: sidewalks are empty, while the streets are full of cars and people walks solely in shopping centers, in chaotic lines.
Sun & sea? Smoke & Internet monopoly!
What’s to find in Cyprus? Sun and sea of course, but also: people smoking indoors everywhere, the worst Internet connection, a huge amount of Shops of bodybuilding, Sports bets venues, Car rental—also everywhere! Wealth show off is rampant too.
The difference between a person with a lot of money and someone with less wealth is that the first, most probably, can’t live without money, the latter can live both with or without money.
THE GOOD OF CYPRUS – English and no criminality
I was surprised to notice that everyone speaks English in this tiny island, even older people. The most of them quite good.
There is a significant British presence in Cyprus, for sure in Paphos. The reasons is that British were ruling here for a while. Now you find principally pensioners, but they are into interesting activities: second-hand shops, Theater workshops, cultural events, and related. It looks like that the British don’t really mix with locals, you can easily see restaurants stating in big letters outside: “real English breakfast, English television…”
While speaking with some English persons, they “confessed” me they think that local people don’t speak proper English, I immediately thought: “let’s hope they don’t go to Italy!”.
One of the warmest people I met in Cyprus was a Syrian family, I felt more welcome there than at my own place. They are really my brother’s and sisters.
I had just a few connections with Cypriots, in Limassol, through CouchSurfing, I got to know some beautiful human beings.
A really good thing that happened here is that I’ve met other globe cyclers, one of them is Jacques. But this has little to do with the characteristics of the island.
Another positive point is that there is nearly no criminality, it seems to be one of the ‘safest’ places on earth—if you exclude traffic dangers.—
People in Paphos speaks like Sicilians, or maybe Sicilians speak like “Paphonian”. The latter, I would guess.
THE BAD – “Car culture, shopping, and smoke: everywhere in the air.”
The mentality is extremely conservative in Cyprus, if locals see a girl speaking with strangers in the street she may not get married, for real!
They are selling land, houses, and any kind of building to foreigners, which is not a bad thing itself; the sad thing is that together with propriety sale, they are selling their soul, their culture. Giving to big real estate companies (called ‘developers’) the right of doing whatever they want with the land, even building, on the beach, cement shit monstrosity for stupid tourists.
People don’t walk in Cyprus, they all use cars. The bigger the car is (mostly SUV’s or jeeps) the higher is the status of the transported people.
Locals don’t enjoy simple things, they find it boring to breath clean air, and instead, they breathe smoke, they find it not fun to drink water, and instead, they drink crappy Coca-Cola. But they don’t find it boring to do every day the same: going to the office, watching TV, and gossiping trying to live other’s life.
Corruption, at high levels, is really common and accepted.
CAFE’s in Paphos
Unfortunately, the EU non-smoking law is not enforced in Cyprus, it means that wherever you go, you will get quite smoked, not sure a salmon would be any jealous.
My favorite places:
Vintage art bar, sometimes they don’t smoke in one of the rooms
Ananas 8Bit Coffee
Finally, I did manage to find some non-Smoking places:
Mud, wind, sun, rain, the black sea, Russian Army with helicopters, lack of food, lack of water, my back hernias, my painful knee, lack of money, drunken Georgians driving like there is no tomorrow, holes in the street, toxic substances, any kind of animal in the middle of the street, Georgian excessive hospitality, mountains, hunters shooting even at night, the fact that I a have a city bike, and even farmers with axes pointed at me: none of these stopped me from getting from Kiev to Tbilisi.
Wanna know what happened on the way?
Simply read below.
CYCLING VS MOTORIZED VEHICLES
You can call a cyclist irrational, or even masochist, you may think it’s meaningless to cycle when you can take the car or an airplane, and be much faster.
Nevertheless, a cyclist believes in what he does. He believes that using the legs instead of polluting vehicles, makes you feel proud of yourself, proud of your body and of your respect to nature.
Hence, why do painters still exist when you can take a picture and get everything much faster?
This was the sentence my father used to pronounce when someone would argue that his paintings are not exactly as reality.
The same difference between a painting and a picture we can transpose to bicycles and cars.
That’s the reason why a while ago I jumped on an abandoned bicycle and decided to go to the other side of the world with it.
INSPIRATION TO CYCLE
The books that inspired me the most:
– The tour of the world in 80 days
– Future Boy Conan
– Don Chuck Monogatari
– Hokuto no Ken
I Share my Bicyle Diary with you
KIEV – ODESSA
Kiev – Bila Tserkva, First 50 km’s
I can’t easily find vegetarian food, the most people eat meat and milk products.
On the right side of the road, there is a small fence with a crowd of cows constricted inside. They have extremely little space, being forced to squeeze and can barely move.
The people I meet along the way are not too interested in interacting, some of them don’t even look in my direction. I guess this is not due to anything negative in their character, they are probably introverted and reserved. That’s actually a polite way of behaving; I appreciate much more who gives me my personal space and privacy, instead of those who go behind my boundaries. Nevertheless, while bicycle touring, one is more open and can get benefit from getting to know locals.
The 80% of the houses in the rural areas, have the roof made of this toxic material. Asbestos is everywhere. Fences, walls, water pipes, and aqueducts are in asbestos too.
I initially felt preoccupied and sad about the people’s health here, but after seeing how old peoples get, I feel released: even though they grow up around toxic’s substances and not far from Chernobyl, many manage to get quite old and still in reasonable shape.
My curiosity made me wish to know the real age of those old men and woman, still, I didn’t dare to ask.
The worst thing a cyclist can encounter are definitely dogs, that’s a constant in all countries. Northern countries are much more safe in this aspect, dogs are friendly there, they don’t bother you.
The more you go south, the more dogs become aggressive, without being racist, we can make an analogy about people.
From the moment it’s proven that dogs behave in a parallel way to humans around them, these in Ukraine start to become a problem, luckily, they get scared of me once I look at them in the eyes and they run away.
Installing the tent on the side of the road, behind few trees, where the level of the ground is about two meters below the street; I have little space cause the road is right on my left, on my right I have a grain field.
The ground is not smooth, the noise of vehicles, many of which are tractors, is annoying my sleep. Furthermore, dogs from a nearby farm, bark all night and I get really cold.
Bila Tserkva 50km – Rokytne 110km
A BABUSHKA KICKS ME OFF
In the deep countryside, I see some nut trees along the road, so I decide to harvest this healthy dry fruit. While I pick some nuts, a babushka, from a house at the other side of the street, shouts at me and points her right hand to the street, showing me the way to go away from her surroundings.
Everything is made of asbestos here, people do not seem to care.
The night passes with a continuous barking of dogs, they seem to be near the tent, I shrink into a ball in order to avoid any of them to reach me at the edges of the tent.
The sunflowers bend their head down, to the opposite side of the sun, it seems almost like a sign of rebellion to nature or maybe it could represent the nature itself, surrendering to humans, which burn and pollute the fields without respect.
It’s hard to count all the camps of sunflower, now dead, that I find on my way. I have the impression sunflower is in absolute the main crop of Ukraine, following, in smaller number, I see grain and corn fields too.
ROKYTNE, MY FAVORITE TOWN
A different town is in front of me, it’s called Rokytne. I notice immediately the many cyclists, friendly people, and finer shops.
I have a break here, it’s the only place that stands out from the standard Ukrainian post-soviet, outdated style. Also, the mentality of the people seems to be more forward. I get to this conclusion judging by how the cars drive and the fact that many locals ride bicycles for choice, not because of poverty.
Rokytne 110km – Skibin 150km
DRUNKEN MAN, WANTING TO PAY AND KISS ME
In order to get water and some food, I stop in a “Magazin”, an omnipresent small shop that sells a bit of everything. NB: the everyting that you can find in a country where import is quite limited due struggling economy and an active war.
I see a table outside, where a drunken man is napping, in a deep sleep, which is for me surprising because it’s about 10:00 in the morning; I seat at the opposite side of him, there are two bottles of beer on the table, one is right where I am sitting. From the moment nobody is there, I move the drink away from me.
After few minutes, a man comes straight to me and shouts something. I understand that I took his place, I try to explain but from the moment he realizes that I cycling a long way, he smiles, holds my hands, and introduces himself; proposing me some food. Once I tell him that I am coming from Finland with the bicycle, he becomes euphoric, offering me money as help; at a certain point, he even tries to kiss me while we take a picture.
Highlights of the rest of the day:
Too much wind, I can’t cycle.
Stop for a long reparation. My hands get black and I don’t find a place to wash them.
A scooter stops next to me, the driver has a technical problem.
Skibin 150km – Uman 220km
All the way with no restaurants or snacks.
A man is on the ground, lying on a bicycle.
Many cows and goats attached at few meters of chain.
I talk to a woman milking a cow.
Uman 220km – Kryve Ozero 310km
Lost in the woods full of trash.
In a snack, the shop owner tries to cheat with the price. It’s the first time I notice someone tryes to cheat about prices in Ukraine.
Many dead foxes on the highway.
I meet Alexander, a young boy walking on the highway attempting to reach Odessa by foot. He has not even a bag or backpack, wears dirty clothes and broken sandals. I think about the difference between him and me.
A golden toothed man gives me fruits.
Many horses on the chain.
Without knowing, I slept at the entrance of a school.
Cryve Ozero 310km – Zhovten 400km
EXTREMELY HOT AND SUNNY, I GOT A SUNBURN
A man hosts me, he is caring and helpful, drinks vodka, but misses two front teeth. He heals my burning arms by applying milk cream on my skin.
When I am about to sleep, he comes to the room without knocking, looks at me smiling, makes a circle with his right hand, putting the index and the thumb together, then releases the index finger to his neck making a sound.
I am not sure about what this may mean, but I go to another room with him.
He shows me a bottle of Ukrainian vodka, I get a full glass of it. Explaining that it’s too much, I take another glass and pour one finger of vodka in it, he takes the rest and drinks it all in one shoot.
Not even five minutes are passed, he wants to show me how strong he his, so he starts to do push-ups and similar exercises.
Zhovten 400 – Odessa 500
Main issues: disastrous road, dogs, wind, sun.
ODESSA – BOAT
Going fast under the rain: slaloming around huge ponds, crossing with red traffic lights to get to my ship, which is departing soon.
Before boarding, in the check-in room that looked more like a refugee camp for mentally disturbed and alcoholic, I already get to know that Georgians are heavy drinkers. They drink and drive, and as it turns out, they also drink and sail: a drunken officer coming from the ship confirms this.
Waiting for hours in the corridor of the custom control area, I discover that inside this small space a full ecosystem is around me. There is a mini bank office, which is actually a two square meters hole with a think glass; a miniature restaurant and even toilets, the latter smelling like an open latrine.
THE GEORGIAN NEANDERTHAL MAN
A drunken tall man, featuring a Neanderthal walking style, argues with me about his ‘priority’ in getting through the entrance.
For unknown reasons, he was carrying an old washing machine from Ukraine to Georgia. He was there with his mother, which was constantely embarassed by his behavior.
There is not much I can tell him because he is totally drunk and doesn’t appear to understand any language that I know, anyhow I explain him the situation in English, he does not get any happier.
This individual continues, during the long hours of the custom control, to harass people and disturb. He reaches the point of repeatedly attempting to kiss a well-shaped female bank employee, a security woman—old and of the dubious attractiveness—, and other women.
During these absurd actions, he was leaning so close to the victims that his lips almost reached them. He was explicitly asking to have sex, verbally and physically.
Constant shouts, aggressive approaches, pushing and pulling, verbal assaults, were all perpetrated by this monkey-man. He was talking no-sense even with whom didn’t speak his language.
We were maybe fifty passengers, there was at least a dozen of people working in the station, nevertheless, nobody stopped him, not even the border control police, customs, and military personnel.
Walking with feet at two shoulder distance, bended knees, and open arms, he looked like a zoo escape.
After the initial feeling of indignation, I could not stop to laugh, I thought to be in a dream, real life can’t be so funny.
There were continuous grotesque scenes, going from unreal hilarious to unbearable, these could all have been used in a low-quality comedy, which could have been really funny somehow.
He ended up falling asleep on the benches of the waiting room.
Two Russian helicopters visit us, they roam around the boat for about half hour. Coming approximately ten meters close to the vessel.
It is a quite intimidating experience, also because I am on a regular, innocent, ferry boat. The only issue with it is that it’s a Ukrainian ship, that’s why the Russian harassment.
DANCING ON THE DECK, DRUNKEN
Passengers offer me drinks, I drink more vodka than what I am supposed to drink, this caused:
Discussions with officers.
All night vomiting.
Sleeping for two days.
Back highly painful.
BATUMI – TBILISI
Batumi 0 – Kobuleti 35
HILLS ON MY WAY
My first kilometers in Georgia are a new experience for me.
All is really different than in Ukraine. The traffic, the roads, the altitude and the people.
A kind-hearted man helps me uphill and gives me food. There is no mutual language we both speak properly, so we communicate by hands. He tells me that with his car he just needs two hours to get to the capital. Pointing at the Coca-Cola he is drinking, and at his chubby belly, I tell him: “this drink, together with a car, are the worst for health”.
The way was becoming really steep, it seemed that the mountains I was cycling on would never end. My back it’s painful since four days already, today more than ever, I can barely walk. My bicycle has just three gears so I have to push it, operation almost impossible due the condition of my spine.
Next the first high hill, three young girls give me some water, cause my bottle was empty
Kobuleti 35 – Lanchkhuti 100
A minibus stops, there are two men in it, one of them tells me to get inside, he helps me to load the bicycle. He does not speak any English, it’s hard to communicate, nevertheless, I do understand that he is offering to bring me to Tbilisi.
I speak also with his wife on the phone, she could speak English and was really kind too.
My point is to cycle to Tbilisi, I explain this and I tell him that I just needed a bit of help for these hills and because my back hurts.
His sense of hospitality it’s really disarming, he definitely wants to do more for me, so he offers me a coffee, food, and asks if I need anything else.
Before leaving he gives me a bag full of food. There is a piece of flatbread, which is really tasty. When they are about to leave, the minibus does not start, I help to push it but it does not work. Luckily, the other person, who is his father in law, knew a trick and by maneuvering at the engine, managed to make the vehicle start.
It starts to rain, I stop at a snack, the only of the village. There I spend half day and I get to know nearly all the students of the village.
They are friendly and many of them speak english. It seems they don’t want me to leave.
One of them tells me that he knows a place where I can put my tent, I follow him but instead he brings me his home, not sure about what to do, I cycle fast to the first possible place where I can install my tent, it’s pouring rain and I am in the mud.
Lanchkhuti 100 – Samtredia 150
I get Bread and water from a sweet old lady.
I am outside the tent, shirtless, about to pack my stuff, when an older woman passes by, I regret to not have asked the people nearby if I could camp there, so I say to the woman who I am, that I have slept there and where I am going. She says something like “cleb” , I just understand that she may want to offer me some food, so I try to explain that I have already bread–offered me from another kind Georgian the day before–.
She is faster than me, I get a big fresh backed piece of bread and a bottle of water.
RAIN IN THE MORNING
I was about to depart when it started to rain, the tent and the bicycle were all wet, the sky didn’t promise any sun, I packed and I started cycling anyway, hoping to find a place where to get my stuff dry.
HORSES ON CHAINS
One of the nicest things of Georgia is the freedom of domestic animals, they are just everywhere, with no chains.
Horses don’t have the same fortune, I have seen many of them with short chains; which is horrendous for an anymal that is naturally made to roam fast in vast spaces.
Samtredia 150 – Meore Sviri 200
RAIN AND MUD: A CAR STOPS IN FRONT OF THE TENT
Blocked in the rain I can’t move from the tent, I hear people passing in front of it.
An old mercedes is slaloming in the mud like a rally car. Two man with a little beard are inside. They tell me to get in the car, I do it.
I am brought some kilometers away, in a house where there are six more men, I don’t know what to expect, also cause we don’t have any language we can use to communicate.
Some tension and worrying feeling builds up, I relax and it all ends up really sweet.
They are all very welcoming and hospitable, offering me food, drinks, even drugs!–the latter I refuse–.
I am invited to stay for the night and I get even the mud from my feet and the bicycle cleaned up by them.
Watermelons are brought to me by them as present for the morning breakfast.
The only negative side is that the host is drunk since the beginning and he does not hesitate to drive the car, like there is no tomorrow.
Meore Sviri 200 – Kvesrevi 300
Rain, rain rain.
Kvesrevi 300 – Tsromi 350
I have to depart with the tent being wet and the rain continues almost all day.
A young dog followed me a little. For the first time not to attack me, but in search of company, or food.
He was so sweet that I almost wished to take him with me.
One of his legs was injured, in a car accident probably. Anyhow he managed to run and jump run behind me. Happy as I have never seen a dog before.
Once I shouted at him to make him stop following me, he makes a dog cry, it’s disarming and pitiful, even for me that I don’t consider a dog better than a pig.
PERCEPTIVE ILLUSION OF THE STREET INCLINATION
I have to do the highest climbing now, reaching almost 1.000 meters of height.
The bicycle seems not to cycle properly, I feel that something is preventing its wheels from spinning smoothly. Therefore I stop and by putting the bicycle upside down, I check what’s the problem. All seems to be normal with the bicycle. The way, a two-lane road, goes uphill but it seemed to my eyes that it was downhill, so I got confused thinking that the problem was the bicycle. Probably my perspective made me have a wrong perception of the road’s inclination.
After the long climbing, here the fun part comes: the downhill!
In the first village, a Kid asks me for money, I am really touched by that, unfortunately, I am not able to give him money, nor I manage to spend some time with him to understand his problems.
In the fields, where pastors bring animals, I met a Man who served in the USSR army in the Baltics. We can’t understand each other much cause he speaks Georgian and Russian, I just understand few words of Russian. He seemed to be nostalgic of the USSR time.
Few hours before the sun sets down, when you still see a strong yellow-orange light, I set my tent up, on a beautiful hill, where there are cultivated fields and no garbage, finally, except for a couple of synthetic napkins.
I hear shootings nearby, it’s gonna be another night of worrying for hunters.
Tsromi 350 – Gori 400
In the night before, I have a visit of several different animals around the tent.
It was deep night. A craving creature comes out from few centimeter of my tent’s back side.
After few hours, something that could have been a fox, defecated just outside the entrance of the tent.
HOUSES AND CAR – POLICE AND COMMON PEOPLE
My eye catches many houses with just the front façade painted: it first seemed funny to see houses where the only finished side is the one facing the street. The other three sides have just bricks. Later I understand that poverty is still rampant here, the most people don’t have enough means to finish the building works. Probably stucco and paint are also expensive because they need to be imported.
From the other hand, Police buildings are really modern and luxurious. For reasons to me unknown, they have the European flag outside their police stations.
Police cars are extravagant too. They often leave police vehicles in the street with the engine running. When they are driving they keep the emergency lights, blue and red, always on. As it’s permanent emergency. Which is true, seen how georgians drive!
It seems there is a lot of money for police, but not for the Georgians or the streets, the latter often with rainwater draining gaps unfinished, transforming them in a mortal trap.
Georgians drive Cars, mostly vans actually, with German and Dutch text on it.
In first instance I was surprised, I thought many Germans were living here. Nevertheless, when I started to notice that these vehicles had German and Dutch minor businesses’s advertising, I realized Georgians were driving them.
They simply didn’t have means to paint the cars again, probably it looks cool for them to have a van with some European ununderstandable text such as: “schilderwerken Van Den Lieve”
TOMATO SELLERS GIVE ME FOOD
I was going off-road, for about two hours, going at walking speed and stopping often because the way was uphill. The bicycle was heavy, the weather is hot, therefore I get quite tired.
To get out of the dirtroad, I cross tomato sellers, one of them invites me inside a van, offering me tomatos, bread and anything he had on the small table.
In a small shop, they are kind to me, offering coffee and sweets.
This time my politeness got me into troubles, because I am not supposed to drink coffee, still, I accepted it. The coffee made me totally nervous for all the day and I could not sleep properly at night.
I discover that Georgians shops owners, to save electricity, do not keep the freezers for food always on, they unplug it for a while. They ignore maybe that unfreezing and freezing again makes food going bad.
Now I finally understand why ice-cream’s taste like expired here.
Gori 400 – Noste 428
THE CITY OF STALIN
I actually got to know just after have crossed Gori that it was the city where Stalin was born. Anyhow I had a feeling of strangeness while I was the city.
NIGHT VISIT OF A KIND THIEF
I have my tent in a side path of a muddy county road, between cultivated lands with low trees and green crops.
It’s really dark, late, cold, and it rains.
A kind shop owner offered me a coffie yesterday, I did the wrong act of drinking it, so I am restless all night. This makes me really sensitive to noises.
The bicycle is parked at the tent’s side, from the other side, I hear footsteps: “hallo”—I say immediately—“hallo”—the man replies, —“karasho”—I say, but there is no reply to it.
I hear footsteps going to the back side of the tent, then I don’t hear anything, I guess he went over a small path behind the tent.
Trying to sleep again, when not even ten minutes are passed, the same man is passing by, I pop out with my head from the tent and I see, in the darkness, his shape, the reddish light of a cigarette, and three animals going with him.
He does not come to talk to me and seems evasive, so I deduct he has stolen the beasties.
It rains since yesterday, I was wet when I went to sleep and I wake up wet, in the morning the sky is totally covered with gray, intimidating clouds, so I stay in the tent.
I discover that the ‘thief’ of yesterday, was actually the pastor of the animals.
Maybe the fact that I have eaten yesterday a tomato from the, not too clean, hands of a farmer, or maybe some other food I got in a shop which was not really hygienic or not rinsed properly; possibly a mix of these, plus a coffee that I was not supposed to accept—because caffeine act to my body like a drug—all this made my belly going crazy in the night.
I had cramps and swollen stomach, my sleep was constantly disturbed, it seemed like the digestion was having main issues.
SHOOTINGS IN THE NIGHT
Hunters became a constant, they hunt everywhere and do not seem to have much legal regulation.
I am not surprised anymore to hear shootings few hundred meters from the tent.
What surprised me was the fact that yesterday night there were shootings during hours of complete darkness, it could have been after midnight.
I wonder: “How can they see where they shoot in the night?”
Hoping they will not shoot in my direction, and that there will be no bullets coming back from the sky to me, I managed to sleep a bit.
INVITED FOR LUNCH
I go in a restaurant to eat, before I am able to order any food, I get invited from a group of people eating. They are really sweet and caring, adding food to my dish every five minutes.
GEORGIANS EATING HABITS
Just one is person talking while toasting, and strangely to me, he just cheers with few persons. I get to know that some of them are deputies.
At the end, suddenly, all people stand up and leaves within one minute.
I MEET A BICYCLE TRAVELER
From far, I see a shape of something that looks like a bicycle coming in my direction.
It’s a cyclist, traveling.
Henk, is his name, he is Dutch and we have a lot of experiences to share.
Homelessness for example, he is involved in helping people sleeping rough.
Moreover, our cycling route has similarities, he is doing the same route, but the opposite direction.
He started in America, coming from California to Asia and Middle East. Now heading to Greece, to help in refugees’ camps.
Two hunters with dogs pass by us, between the harvested corn fields. After circa five minutes we already hear shootings. For few hours they will be hunting just next to us.
Noste 428 – Tbilisi 460
A COLD NIGHT
On top of the high Georgian hills, the wind blows strong, the temperature drops steep down in the night and I get quite cold.
I have an unfortunate body setting that makes me feel extremely cold at night.
My sleeping bag is too thin, I need to wear all my clothes, even the jacket, hat, and gloves. Yet, I am not warm enough, I wake up often.
This cold night, added to all other cold, uncomfortable nights I had so far, makes me thing about people sleeping rough for all their life.
I have dreams of Henk, a boat, and a girl.
ARRIVING IN TIBLISI
The first huge advertising panels I find:
Great at hospitality.
Superb with food.
Bad with trash disposal.
Horrendous with driving.
The most recurring Georgian question: “how are Georgians” – meaning if they are welcoming enough.
Hygiene to improve.
Expensive cars, but broken teeth
As other post USSR counties, Tbilisi it’s full of architectural barriers. Car culture it’s spread as the plague and a pedastrian has big difficulty sometimes just to cross a road. Risking maybe his life.
HOSPITALITY CUSTOMS AND HOMELESSNESS
Why hospitality rules don’t apply for an homeless?
What’s the meaning of these hospitality traditions?
Are they more a “show off” or do they have social implications?
THE MORE SOUTH, THE MORE CONTRASTS
Traveling south, traveling slow, connecting with locals, this will make you truly understand a culture.
It seems that the southern one goes, the more people are different in their kindness and honesty.
In Northern Europe, you will find mostly friendly people with strong ethical values.
In Central Europe, some people may be less trustworthy.
Southern Europe is considered to be a region where you can’t really give a generic opinion, some people are extremely sweet and helpful, others quite dishonest. Asia and USA could also be placed at this level.
More South, in middle-east and North Africa, this contrast becomes more visible, many would help you no matter what, while others are just waiting to get any kind of own advantage from you.
In the Southest of the world, central-southern Africa and Latin America, you find angels, but also devils.
I still have a long way to go to prove this thesis.
It’s time for me to cycle from Ukraine to Georgia.
I am on my way to Georgia, I am leaving Europe to get to Asia, on my way, for the first time I will be cycling on mountains, this will challenge my tour.
I am first heading south from Kiev, I will avoid Crimea and the war zone because I already have enough troubles on my way without armed conflicts going on.
I will reach Odessa and there take a boat to Batumi, in Georgia.
From Batumi, I will cycle to Tbilisi, the capital. Which is near Azerbaijan.
I am quite excited because I am going south where the weather should be good!
Georgia is known to be a welcoming country, I have heard great things about Georgia, especially the fact that Georgians are quite hospitable and make good food. Let’s hope they have some vegan stuff for me, let’s also hope that they will offer food to me while I cycle, as I have heard cyclists saying.
This time I have also a helmet and a 280 degrees camera.
I have just discovered an app with maps for bike touring, hiking, running and outdoors. It’s called Komoot.
After long online researches, it seems that this software it’s the best for people traveling to by bicycle.
It tracks your route and you can also share it.
What makes this app more useful than others is the possibility to get cycling directions for any country in the world, you can also download the maps offline (paid).
Once you planned the tour, you can save it and see how the way will be, the elevation, which kind of street you will be on (asphalt, path, paved…).
It tells you also how many kilometers will be uphill or downhill.
You get even information about how fit you should be to do a certain route and you can set your own fitness level.
From Kiev to the black sea
From Batumi to Tbilisi
AFTER HAVE TESTED THE APP
I have to say that Komoot is practical, fast, intuitive, easy to use, user-friendly, effective, smart.
It really covers all the world, the instructions easy to use, allowing you to share routes, embedding, and see them online.
All important information are on the panel when you navigate: altitude, next stop, speed, average speed, time to destination, km to destination.
Going on a bicycle as much as I can, unfortunately, I can’t cycle on water, therefore in some special circumstances, I still have to use other transportation means.
The view from an airplane shows you a perfect world, the small cars all going their pattern, all the perfectly aligned lights. It seems to be a world that does not contain anything harmful, it shows as everything good is going on, you would never think people would be killing each, being in wars, doing abuse and commit a crime, in such a beautiful, round world. Maybe this is also the vision of “god”, everything appears perfect to him, that’s why he does not intervene.
Maybe his sight degraded with time, as did mine.
THE LESS EDUCATION THE MORE DEGRADATION;
It’s independence day, a big celebration in the Dominican capital because it’s more than one century since the separation from Haiti.
Carnival shows and army parade are organized: helicopters, airplanes, fireworks; All that money spent—a euphemism, to not say wasted—for fun, could be used in social, education and health care. Here they really need these last three things.
I walk, as always, in a historical area, it’s inside the ‘Zona colonial’, which is one of the few safe areas here, that’s why I discretely take out my device to record an old woman sleeping in the street. Unfortunately many, old and young, sleep in the streets in this country.
I walk few hundred meters, suddenly, I am pushed and pulled from a group of about five or six teenagers, they are trying to steal my phone. I defend myself holding the hand of one boy.
I am quite unprepared, I didn’t expect it to happen right there, but I do manage to put one hand in my pocket to protect the smartphone and keep them away with my legs.
I try to talk to them, attempting to calm down the situation, telling that I could give them some money but I really need the phone and I can’t afford to lose it.
They don’t really listen and attempt to punch me, I shout to attract the attention of nearby people, it’s a central area and there are cars passing by, but nobody helps.
After short, I see a man with a gun pointing straight to my face as he would fire, I put my hands up, trying to calm him down. I notice the boys starting to run away; I see a policeman in uniform taking his gun and pointing at those kids; I tell him not to fire.
I find out that the first man with the gun was a policeman too, the touristic police station “Cestur” was just in front of me.
My shirt is broken, my arm bleeds but nothing was stolen. I thank the police and I go to do the report.
I meet ‘el Coronel’, I tell him what I think: “I appreciate your work; all this happened not because there is not enough police: we need here less punishment and more education for the kids”.
He tells me to come back the day after, I don’t know why.
To avoid any risk, from now on I put the phone in my underwear. This created the situation where I thought I lost my phone and was searching for it for hours, while it so was deep in my pants that I had forgotten about it.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE CARIBBEAN’S COUNTRIES AND THE USA
How different is the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico?
Long traveling still didn’t make me master politics about all the countries: before arriving in San Juan, I actually didn’t even know it was part of US, I discovered it when I had to make my travel documents.
Among the Puerto Ricans, there is a strong feeling of being independent of USA, for sure the more politically involved ones have it, but at the same time, after 100 years of Politically belonging to the US, there are many North American habits that are so strong now in PR that I would be really curious to know if Puerto-Ricans could get rid of it. Things such as driving with big cars, consumeristic mentality, and money based society.
Consequently, I wonder how Puerto Rico would have been without the US, or, how would the Dominican Republic have been now belonging to the US?
Anyhow the US still comes here to suck resources, with Coca Cola, McDonald’s and various other multinational.
I GET ROBBED IN THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRIES
As you have read above, I was assaulted in the Dominican Republic but ultimately, nobody stole anything from me.
Do you want to know where I did get my stuff stolen?
I got stolen in the richest places of the world: Copenhagen and Helsinki.
In two different situations, my bag was stolen, in Copenhagen, it was taken away from between my feet!
But this is another story…
So, what about you? Where have you got robbed? Share your story!
No, I am not going out of path, I assure you that this blog is still about minimalism.
Here I list gear you may find useful to add on your bicycle if you want to cycle the world, or just have a couple of days on the saddle, even though accessories are not the most important thing in life.
I list what can be useful to take with you for a long, maybe never-ending, road bicycle trip.
It’s a short list for a minimalistic bicycle touring set up, starting with the most important items and ending with the gear you don’t essentially need.
Security – This is the most important gear you need
Lights – Solar powered
2x on front with steady light, to fasten on each side of the basket eventually
2x on the back, installed on the mudguard Reelight – Electromagnetic: one on front & one in the back
Bike locks, two – Best with code
Pepper Spray – You will be probably approached by dogs, so you really need it
Strong stick for dogs – Anything light and practical to take with you
It seems strange, but the lights are the most important accessory. You need in total six lights fastened on the bike!
In this post I don’t disclose about which bicycle to use simply because it’s not important at all, any bicycle can be good to travel the world, it all depends on your budget and needs.
I can say that the best bicycle is the one you find comfortable to cycle with, possibly a strong bicycle that matches the geography and urbanistic you have to cycle in.
As you may have noticed, the most of those gear I have mentioned are inexpensive and can be easily bought on eBay, keep in mind that the shipping may take about one month, so plan your trip ahead.
From tomorrow, 15 June 2017, the European Parliament mandated to have “no more” roaming costs for calls, sms and data connections.
The president of the Council says: “The European Union is about bringing people together and making their lives easier. The end of roaming charges is a true European success story.”
But the truth is that there are many rules about this policy, so better you read them, here I share the official statement from the EU:
“End of roaming charges in the EU – 15 June 2017
Roam like at home
The EU “roam like at home” rules mean that when you use your mobile phone while travelling outside your home country in any EU country you don’t have to pay any additional roaming charges. You benefit from these rules when calling (to mobile and fixed phones), sending text messages (SMS) and using data services while abroad.
You pay exactly the same price for using these services when travelling in the EU as you would if you were at home. In practice, your operator simply charges or takes your roaming consumption from the volumes in your domestic mobile tariff plan / bundle.
If you have a contract with a mobile operator which includes roaming services it will automatically be considered as a roam like at home contract. The default option for all new mobile contracts with roaming services will be roam like at home.
Roam like at home is intended for people who occasionally travel outside the country where they live or have stable links i.e. they work or study there. It’s not meant to be used for permanent roaming. As long as you spend more time at home than abroad, or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you can roam freely at domestic prices when travelling anywhere in the EU. This is considered a “fair use of roaming services”.
If you use your mobile phone abroad permanently, your mobile operator may charge you for your roaming use. These charges are capped however (see fair use policy below).
When you cross a border within the EU, you will continue to receive a text message from your mobile operator informing you that you are roaming and reminding you of its fair use policy.
Fair use policy
Mobile operators may apply what is known as a “fair use policy” to ensure that all roaming customers have access to and benefit from the roam like at home rules (i.e. regulated roaming services at domestic price) when travelling in the EU. Mobile operators may apply fair, reasonable and proportionate control mechanisms to avoid abusive use of these rules.
Fair use policy and data limits
When you roam like at home there are no volume restrictions for voice calls and SMS, but there are rules and limits for data usage at domestic price which are determined by the type of contract you have.
In some specific cases (see below), beyond a reasonably high volume of roaming data at domestic price, you may have to pay a data roaming surcharge which will be equal to the wholesale (EU-wide) data cap (€7.70 / GB of data in 2017 plus VAT). This wholesale roaming price is the maximum your domestic operator has to pay a foreign operator when you use data roaming services.
Data limits – pre-paid cards
If you have a pre-paid card (meaning that you pay in advance for using your mobile phone) you can roam like at home. However, your mobile operator may apply a roam like at home limit for data if you pay per unit and your domestic unit price for data is less than €7.70 per GB.
If your mobile operator applies a roam like at home volume limit for data, that limit should be at least the volume obtained by dividing the remaining credit on your pre-paid card by €7.70 as soon you start using data roaming services. You will get the same volume of roaming data that you have paid for in advance. You can of course top up your credit while roaming.
Jana lives in Slovakia and has a pre-paid card with €20 credit (including VAT) for her mobile phone, which covers calls, SMS and data services. When she goes on holiday to Spain, she has €12 (excluding VAT) credit left on her card. This means that during her holiday in Spain Jana can have a volume of data equal to the value of the remaining credit on her pre-paid card. She will get at least 1.5 GB of roaming data (€12/€7.70 = 1.5).
Data limits – national bundles with unlimited data
If you have a contract where you pay a fixed monthly fee and it includes bundled services with unlimited data, your mobile operator must provide you with a large volume of roam like at home data. The exact amount will depend on the price you pay for your mobile bundle. The roaming data volume must be at least twice the volume obtained by dividing the price of your mobile bundle (excluding VAT) by the wholesale data roaming cap (€7.70 in 2017).
For example: you pay €40 (excluding VAT) for your mobile bundle with unlimited calls, SMS and data. When you roam like at home in the EU, you get unlimited calls and SMS and at least 10.3 GB of data (2x(€40/€7.70) =10.3).
Your operator must inform you of your roam like at home data allowance. If you go beyond this allowance while roaming the surcharge will be the wholesale data cap = €7.70 / GB of data in 2017 plus VAT, €6 / GB plus VAT in 2018. The data cap will decrease further after 2018.
Data limits – national bundles with limited data
If you have limited or very cheap mobile data (less than €3.85 / GB in 2017), your operator may apply a “fair use” limit for data when you are roaming. The limit is calculated on the basis of the retail price of your domestic mobile bundle as in the case of unlimited data (above). Your operator must inform you in advance about this limit and will have to alert you when you reach it. Be aware that you can continue data roaming but your operator will apply a surcharge. This surcharge will be the wholesale data cap = €7.70 / GB of data in 2017 plus VAT, €6 / GB plus VAT in 2018. The data cap will decrease further after 2018.
Operators may also offer contracts without roaming services or specifically designed alternative roaming contracts with tariffs which fall outside the scope of the roam like at home rules (for example if you roam outside the EU) but these types of options must be specially chosen by the customer. As mobile operators are free to offer cheaper rates, you should shop around to find the best value and offer to fit your specific needs.
Fair use policy – monitoring
As part of their fair use policy, your operator can monitor and check your roaming use over a 4 month period. If, during this period, you have spent more time abroad than at home and your roaming exceeds your domestic usage, your operator may contact you and ask you to clarify your situation. You will have 14 days to do so. If you continue to spend more time abroad than you do at home and your roaming consumption continues to exceed your domestic usage your operator may start applying a surcharge to your roaming consumption. The surcharges (excluding VAT) are capped as follows:
3.2 cents per minute of voice call made
1 cent per SMS
€7.70 per GB of data (cap in 2017)
The cap for data will progressively decrease on 1 January each year as from 2018 as follows: €6, €4.50, €3.50, €3 to €2.50 in 2022. The cap after 2019 may be revised following a review of the wholesale roaming markets in 2019.
Fair use policy – cross border workers
If you work in one EU country and live in a different one, you can choose a mobile operator in either country and roam like at home with a SIM from the country where you live or from the country where you work. The roam like at home fair use policy applies: as long as you log on at least once day to your domestic operator’s network, it will count as a day of presence (even if you go abroad the same day).
Calling from home / roaming outside the EU
Calling another EU or non-EU country from home is not considered as roaming so the roam like at home rules don’t apply. You should be aware that the prices for these calls are not regulated and can be expensive.
The cost of roaming (particularly data roaming) outside the EU can be expensive, so to avoid running up steep roaming bills check the cost for roaming outside the EU with your provider before travelling.
Roaming while travelling by ship or plane
When travelling by ship or plane in the EU you can roam like at home as long as you are connected to a terrestrial (land-based) mobile network. If mobile services are provided via satellite systems, roam like at home no longer applies and you will be charged for non-regulated roaming services (no price caps).
Protection of personal data
Your operator is required to comply with the relevant personal data protection rules and may only use your data (which they already have for billing purposes) to check and compare your roaming usage with your domestic consumption.
If things go wrong – your consumer rights
If you think your service provider has not respected your roam like at home rights and you have been charged for roaming services while travelling within the EU, contact your operator and use the complaint procedure in place to contest these extra charges.
If you are not satisfied with the response you can contact the relevant national regulatory authorities in your country, usually your national telecoms regulator who will resolve your case.”