hitching out of paris in the winter green/highway tangle.

the vortex and the snow (berlin to NL)

it was in the middle of some conversation about the kinds of places travellers need from time to time. i started throwing around all these descriptions: you can go there any time and stay as long as you like, there is always food in the kitchen and conversation in the living room, a place you can feel safe and secure.

and my friend responded, “are you trying to make me homesick?”

but i really wasn’t. all of these things, and so many more, apply to a-flat.

because a-flat, this berlin hideaway, is a a home away from home. you don’t need money, or to know people. you don’t really need to do anything. but the beauty of the place is that you will.

i really tried to leave. so many times. but always another day passed and i was still there, smoking on the balcony or grazing in the kitchen, chatting in the hall or singing in the living room.

and by the time i left, i had a dozen new friends that seemed like old ones.

we were hitching together, pati, masha, and i, the three of us, together we three. but we were all going to different places. luckily masha is about the most charming hitcher i have had the pleasure of accompanying.

really, the photo doesn’t do justice to the singing and dancing, the pure joy radiating from her big smile and suggestive thumb.

and it really worked, within a couple of hours the other two were at their respective destinations, and i soldiered on westward.

unfortunately i didn’t make it to leiden that night. but i was hosted by a friendly cat-lady in a very tiny village. she gave me a gift, three paris of dutch police issue wool socks! (she was a policewoman; she thought they were itchy).
so if anybody wants a pair, ask! :)

in the morning i left again, for leiden.
 

and this day, i totally made it!

leiden is such a sweet town.  and it chose the day of my arrival to blossom with its first snow.

i saw my cousin and his partner, and i am now with amazing J and R, with their cat looming over me all the time, 100%.

 

photos + thoughts (to berlin)

i like this format. i can keep things up to date in bite size pieces. these stories come from the road to berlin and the city itself.

so i was hitching at the serbian border, trying to get across all of hungary. unfortunately it was very cold and the sun set. dancing around, trying my best, i found a ride to budapest.

after a couple more hours of fruitless hitching from my new spot, and some help from a german couple who had exactly the amount of empathy as hope to have when i am done with all this, i called the man who had taken me from the border and took up his offer of hospitality.

above, my digs for the night, the living room of my host’s grandmother. walls lined with countless books and giant indoor rubber plants. 
i took a shower and used a little of the shampoo.
i read a few chapters of an agatha christie book (in english).

i slept soundly till the morning, when my hosts dropped me off once more at the maccas on the motorway.
sometimes you have great rides, and sometimes you meet great people. 

some thoughts about hitchhiking in wintertime: 
a lot of layers. as many shirts and sweaters as i can handle, plus the ubiquitous winter long johns.
i am careful to always leave some long strands of my blonde hair peeking out from my beanie, and i take the beanie off whenever i can. it helps.
when it gets really rainy, be sure to have some plastic bags to wear around your socks.

 

i bought a beautiful old russian camera. a pity that the lens is blurry as fuck :/

when the sun does come out, it blazes across the countryside like lava. right after this, i made a mistake. that mistake, coupled with some bad luck, landed me at a lightless intersection far away from the highway i wanted.
eventually a nice person came along.

a-flat (where i am staying right now) is always amazing. food for an army, near-constant hug action, and laughter. one of my favorite things is that i always manage to make some new friendships there, the kind that i know i will last a little while.

 the new years party was on the roof of the factory nearby. the berlin skyline was a battleground of unrelenting explosions. the first song of the new year: skinny love.

persia in black and white

iran is not a black and white country. its spectrum its so full and extreme that i am having a hard time condensing it into a simple post.

so i will simplify things for myself. some black and white photos, with a short story or thought (related or just inspired) underneath.

image

esfahan. i sat on chaharbagh boulevard, smoking cigarettes and writing nonsense in my notebook, my shit stacked beside me. an old man walks up and asks if i need any help. he has no teeth, clean shaven. “stop smoking” he tells me. as i thank him and right before he ambles away, i notice strange tattoo shapes and markings between his wrinkled fingers.

image

my soul sometimes felt empty in iran; diffused by the sheer space around me. cities, landscapes. they aren’t built up like i am used to. the streets are wide, the squares expansive. without the tight spaces and narrow alleyways, i felt spread out like a pancake.

image

this little ute was everywhere in iran. you would see them stacked up high with every kind of thing, wobbling down the streets and motorways. i was picked up by this guy before he came to pick up a ton of straw. guess where my bags are?

needless to say, i found surprise straw for weeks afterward.

image

persepolis. the government here is trying to make this place less and less relevant to the country’s history now. i guess it wouldn’t be good for them, having people remember their great zoroastrian empire, when success sprung forth from tolerance and openness.

image

i travelled with my close friend matilda for three months, and we planned to continue. but it was especially in iran where i felt her and i beginning to diverge emotionally. somehow, i have the ability to both be moved by the stories of the people i meet, and to  not have these stories linger in my mind, clouding my emotions, after i leave.

matilda was never quite as good at this as me. 

she blossomed in iran. and when it was time to leave, she couldn’t move on in the same way. so she moved home.

i can sleep anywhere pt. 1

one of my rules is to never pay for accommodation. one of my fascinations is sleeping in beautiful and/or strange places. sometimes these two intersect, and someone is there to capture that (namely, matilda).

i think this post could be the beginning of many.

on the ferry between denmark and germany i was busking, and gained some astonishingly loyal tweenage fans. they convinced their parents to take us with them in their campervan, but we ended making a sleeping stop on the way. there i am, soaking up the sun after a very cold night in the cornfields.

we had metaphorical lightning strike us on the way between berlin and vienna. we found a very good ride, regrettably going through poland (we would have liked to go through czech). and her car broke down near wroclaw. we spent the entire afternoon correcting that unfortunate problem, and ended up sleeping in the corner of a burger king near dresden.

kipping in some grass next to a slovenian gas station.

somehow galata magic conspired to let us sleep in the penthouse apartment of a famous turkish artist. once i saw the amazing terrace, i knew i had to sleep outside in the summer night-heat. i could see the tower itself, just one hundred metres away, as i closed my eyes.

the berlin vortex and other powerful forces

writing this from a houseboat in glopenglagen/flopenhaven/shopenblagren.
this place is amazing. it is filled with industry standard cooking toys, and crazy nordic fermentation projects. this afternoon i have been passing the time by sorting frozen bee larvae from wax and honey.

but i can feel the powerful pull of berlin from here.

i spent a week there, drinking large amounts of beer, and hanging out in an abandoned factory. this pitch black location was the inspiration for my latest musical project, with my new friend dara:

expect a bandcamp ep later on. 

the warm, generous, inspiring arms of the family here in europe have opened to me once again, and all kinds of opportunities are pulling at my imagination.

there is a hitchgathering in lithuania, a rainbow in slovakia, a farm in sweden, and this project in berlin. and so many friends scattered an cities across the continent. 

it is difficult to know where to start, where to go next.

however, i am free. i have the ability and the will to go wherever i choose. and there is nothing holding me back. instinct is the captain and the sails are full.

istanbul life essay part 1: tarlabaşı market day

so i live in tarlabaşı, a neighbourhood predominantly populated by kurds, roma people, africans, and erasmus students. due to it’s almost unbelievably central location, it is being heavily gentrified by poor foreigners and the government, but i will focus on that in another essay. this one is about the two markets that take over the area every sunday, with kilometres of fruit, vegetables, and old things.

i am worried that the gentrification will kill these beautiful markets. they are some of the most charming, beautiful, and useful things about living here. it starts just twenty metres from my door, and i love going every sunday, first in the morning for the best quality food and the first pick of the second hand goods, and then in the evening as the prices drop to almost nothing.

you can buy anything.

you really see an entirely different istanbul here

and you can look for the gems

and make new friends

this is my kazakh friend Slava

(she took most of the photos)

this neighbourhood is filled with oddities, everywhere you look

next we went to the food market

these guys always give us the hook-up on the best cheese

anyway. it is amazing.

finally, breakfast on the balcony

i would find it hard to live anywhere else in istanbul, partly because of these markets. they bring all the different social and cultural groups i mentioned together for the day, because this market is one of the main reasons these people can afford to live here, in the center of the city.

i consider a trip to this market to be an intrinsic part of any visit to istanbul, which is why i always insist on taking any visiting friends.

here in istanbul it can be easy to forget that you are in turkey. people are drinking outside and playing music everywhere, you have all of the same stores on the high streets, and people come here from every corner of the world. but this market is grounding, it reminds me that i really am in a foreign city, a foreign culture, that i possibly will never quite understand and constantly have to adjust to.

so it is the perfect sunday morning remedy to a night of drinking efes at galata tower.

i don’t have a camera yet

so therefore i can’t really start on the istanbul part of my project yet.

but what i can do is talk about the things i am most excited about.

i try not to hold too many ideas and expectations in my head before i visit some place. but  when i read or see certain things i can’t help myself. and i will try now to talk about those things that really grab me. a good deal of this travel inspiration comes from roadjunky.com and hitchwiki.org.

first up: Iran. i am so crazy excited to go there.

as a warm up you can read this: http://www.roadjunky.com/guide/382/iran-travel-guide-online

and/or this: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Iran

so there are a lot of things people say about Iran. a lot of this is bullshit, but some things are true, and these are some of the various facts that have made the biggest impressions on me: 

no alcohol, no dancing, no women singing (although they can play an instrument), no hosting foreigners (although people often break this rule, and i am counting on them to do so), no facebook. also i find the idea of temporary marriages ridiculous (temporary marriages are exactly that - temporary. both parties agree on the period of the marriage and the compensation to the women, and men can have as many of these as they like. of course, women can’t have more than one of these at a time.

moving away from all of the laws, i have heard, and also found through my own experience, that the people are among the world leaders in being kind, polite, and hospitable. Iran is the kind of place where it is impossible to go hungry, and it is especially important to be good to travellers and foreigners. 

with all these laws telling you what not to do, especially considering how the islamic government hijacked a perfectly liberal revolution, there has been a radical change of perspective among the young people. in Tehran and Esfahan, the largest cities, most of the youth aren’t interested in religion and oil, but are instead interested in changing their world. i assumed young, modern, liberal iranians would want to get the hell out, because that is what i feel i would want. but they don’t want to leave, despite, and perhaps partly because of, all of the restricting laws and the imposing military. in a way, they are defined by what confines them. that brings them together. it is hard to leave when there is so much to be done to change things. so there are these tightly knit communities that are forced to express themselves underground, whether by drinking, dancing, and having parties in their houses, or by meeting in a series of ever changing cafes to discuss how they will protest against the government and educate the people around them. Iran has always had a very highly educated middle class, and that is still true, many young people speak excellent english and have a good idea about the world and what is in it. these middle class youth are the agents of change now.

I am lucky enough to have friends that are a part of this culture, and i am really excited to go and see their world.

another country i can’t wait to see is Georgia. their government has been on a strong path toward modernisation for a while now, and there is a huge english teaching initiative (Teach and Learn with Georgia) that also has the side effect of bringing in thousands of english speakers. 

there is one story that i find really exciting: the georgian traffic police force used to be very corrupt, treating the roads as their personal piggy bank. eventually the government issued an ultimatum: stop the bribery or i will fire everybody. it didn’t stop, and the government made good on their promise. about 30,000 officers were fired, from the top down. for about three months the entire country lived without traffic police. then they restructured everything about the force. one of these changes was a rule about foreigners, and now, whenever you feel in danger, you can ask a police officer to drive you anywhere in a 140km radius, for free. all you need to do is fill out a form.

so this is a country which is performing a radical experiment. they are doing everything they can to modernise themselves, and make their country more accessible. i would like to see how well it is working. also i have heard it is a really beautiful country, with amazing people.

a location i am fascinated by is Lake Baikal in Russia, the world’s oldest and deepest lake. two thirds of the plants and animals that live there are unique to the lake. it is so clear, you can see the bottom 40 metres down. it will still be very cold though, even during the summer, so i don’t know how much i will be able to interact with the lake. but whatever, i am nerd for these kinds of things.

i have always wanted to go to the mongolian steppes. i have these visions of me standing in the middle of a deserted road, seeing only empty plains in every direction, with nothing but my guitar to keep my company. i actually think that this picture will be quite easy to realise.

One of the biggest and most expensive side trips i am going to make is from China to South Korea and Japan (with ferries).

bizarrely enough, i became much more excited about going to SK after spending time in Seoul-Incheon airport during my layovers to and from NZ. it was by far the best airport i have had the pleasure of spending time in. free showers, computers, smoking rooms that were not disgusting, water fountains everywhere. and the workers were amazingly polite and genuine. and the cultural centres! you could go and make (and keep!) traditional crafts, watch concerts, and play traditional games. it was great, actually.

i usually hate airports, but this one i can support.

and Japan. even with the current radioactive state of affairs, i feel like my time spent there will be some of the most rewarding of the entire trip. Diego, a friend i met at the hitchhikers gathering in Portugal, wrote a fair bit about hitchhiking there, and made it sound wonderful - http://hitchwiki.org/en/Japan.

I think i might create a part two for this post later on.

why make this journey?

i have a lot of reasons to spend the next chapter of my life making this trip across eurasia. 

one reason is that i am scared of settling in too much. i feel like i have to justify the time i spend doing something or staying someplace. so if i become too comfortable in some routine, and i stop learning quite as much, i can no longer justify that time spent to myself. so i need to go.

another reason is that i am incredibly fascinated with most of the countries in the world. i need to experience everything, and gain a closer connection with the places on the maps i have been studying since i was a child.

i also need to test myself. i have never really undertaken a journey like this before, and although i am fairly certain in my ability to do this, the proof is in the pudding.

and one hang up i have is about hitchhiking. i am a hitchhiker. i have travelled over 50,000km with just this mode of transport. but i have never hitchhiked outside of europe, new zealand, or turkey. i tell people that i spent two years travelling without really stopping much. and i did. and then i hang my head slightly when i must answer, “just around europe”.

so a part of it is that i want the credibility and the glory of becoming one of those few hitchhikers that managed to cross this, the largest landmass on earth.

also i just love making new friends.

statements of intent

so this is the beginning of a new blog.

i want this to be a platform that can show my spread out, eclectic bunch of friends and family who i am, and what i am doing, now. i would like this also to potentially become a source of inspiration for experienced travellers and newbies alike. and i would like to share some of the things i learn or see as i live. 

to introduce this blog to the wider world, the method i have chosen is to pose myself questions that i can imagine various people asking me.

Q: what is up with the name of the blog?

A: fireworks refers to my home in istanbul. my habitual seat in the living room looks out and across to two skyscrapers, both of which light up each night with ascending colours, which i refer to as fireworks. gunshots refers to the short, sharp moments which change the course of a life, whether in a big or a small way. although most of these moments are silenced.

Q: where are you going?

A: the plan is to hitchhike through Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia, to New Zealand.

Q: Who are you?

A: Dominic Remmerswaal, currently 21 years old, based abroad these past three years (again, currently), musician, new zealand born.

Q: didn’t you have another blog? why aren’t you updating that?

A: yes, i had another blog that i sporadically updated for about one and a half years. however i don’t feel that it is appropriate to use that one anymore, and perhaps i have outgrown that old one. this blog is a reflection of a different me, and a chronicle of a different journey.

Q: where are you now?

A: I am living in istanbul, turkey. i have been here since last summer and i love it.

Q: what are your plans for this blog?

A: my idea is to first write about different aspects of my life here in istanbul, and then the style will change somewhat as i start to travel.

Q: What are the main tools in your abstract travel kit?

A: the first is hitchhiking. ideally this is my only method of getting from place to place. the second is hospitality exchange, which i use to meet people, sleep, and shower as i go from place to place. the third is music, which i use to ground myself, but also to make money, and to connect with other people. the fourth is a smile.

Q: Why are you making this journey?

A: That is such an expansive question that i think i will devote my next post entirely to it.

if you have any actual questions, just ask me and i will answer them, either here, or in their own post.

hitching out of paris in the winter green/highway tangle.

the vortex and the snow (berlin to NL)

it was in the middle of some conversation about the kinds of places travellers need from time to time. i started throwing around all these descriptions: you can go there any time and stay as long as you like, there is always food in the kitchen and conversation in the living room, a place you can feel safe and secure.

and my friend responded, “are you trying to make me homesick?”

but i really wasn’t. all of these things, and so many more, apply to a-flat.

because a-flat, this berlin hideaway, is a a home away from home. you don’t need money, or to know people. you don’t really need to do anything. but the beauty of the place is that you will.

i really tried to leave. so many times. but always another day passed and i was still there, smoking on the balcony or grazing in the kitchen, chatting in the hall or singing in the living room.

and by the time i left, i had a dozen new friends that seemed like old ones.

we were hitching together, pati, masha, and i, the three of us, together we three. but we were all going to different places. luckily masha is about the most charming hitcher i have had the pleasure of accompanying.

really, the photo doesn’t do justice to the singing and dancing, the pure joy radiating from her big smile and suggestive thumb.

and it really worked, within a couple of hours the other two were at their respective destinations, and i soldiered on westward.

unfortunately i didn’t make it to leiden that night. but i was hosted by a friendly cat-lady in a very tiny village. she gave me a gift, three paris of dutch police issue wool socks! (she was a policewoman; she thought they were itchy).
so if anybody wants a pair, ask! :)

in the morning i left again, for leiden.
 

and this day, i totally made it!

leiden is such a sweet town.  and it chose the day of my arrival to blossom with its first snow.

i saw my cousin and his partner, and i am now with amazing J and R, with their cat looming over me all the time, 100%.

 

photos + thoughts (to berlin)

i like this format. i can keep things up to date in bite size pieces. these stories come from the road to berlin and the city itself.

so i was hitching at the serbian border, trying to get across all of hungary. unfortunately it was very cold and the sun set. dancing around, trying my best, i found a ride to budapest.

after a couple more hours of fruitless hitching from my new spot, and some help from a german couple who had exactly the amount of empathy as hope to have when i am done with all this, i called the man who had taken me from the border and took up his offer of hospitality.

above, my digs for the night, the living room of my host’s grandmother. walls lined with countless books and giant indoor rubber plants. 
i took a shower and used a little of the shampoo.
i read a few chapters of an agatha christie book (in english).

i slept soundly till the morning, when my hosts dropped me off once more at the maccas on the motorway.
sometimes you have great rides, and sometimes you meet great people. 

some thoughts about hitchhiking in wintertime: 
a lot of layers. as many shirts and sweaters as i can handle, plus the ubiquitous winter long johns.
i am careful to always leave some long strands of my blonde hair peeking out from my beanie, and i take the beanie off whenever i can. it helps.
when it gets really rainy, be sure to have some plastic bags to wear around your socks.

 

i bought a beautiful old russian camera. a pity that the lens is blurry as fuck :/

when the sun does come out, it blazes across the countryside like lava. right after this, i made a mistake. that mistake, coupled with some bad luck, landed me at a lightless intersection far away from the highway i wanted.
eventually a nice person came along.

a-flat (where i am staying right now) is always amazing. food for an army, near-constant hug action, and laughter. one of my favorite things is that i always manage to make some new friendships there, the kind that i know i will last a little while.

 the new years party was on the roof of the factory nearby. the berlin skyline was a battleground of unrelenting explosions. the first song of the new year: skinny love.

persia in black and white

iran is not a black and white country. its spectrum its so full and extreme that i am having a hard time condensing it into a simple post.

so i will simplify things for myself. some black and white photos, with a short story or thought (related or just inspired) underneath.

image

esfahan. i sat on chaharbagh boulevard, smoking cigarettes and writing nonsense in my notebook, my shit stacked beside me. an old man walks up and asks if i need any help. he has no teeth, clean shaven. “stop smoking” he tells me. as i thank him and right before he ambles away, i notice strange tattoo shapes and markings between his wrinkled fingers.

image

my soul sometimes felt empty in iran; diffused by the sheer space around me. cities, landscapes. they aren’t built up like i am used to. the streets are wide, the squares expansive. without the tight spaces and narrow alleyways, i felt spread out like a pancake.

image

this little ute was everywhere in iran. you would see them stacked up high with every kind of thing, wobbling down the streets and motorways. i was picked up by this guy before he came to pick up a ton of straw. guess where my bags are?

needless to say, i found surprise straw for weeks afterward.

image

persepolis. the government here is trying to make this place less and less relevant to the country’s history now. i guess it wouldn’t be good for them, having people remember their great zoroastrian empire, when success sprung forth from tolerance and openness.

image

i travelled with my close friend matilda for three months, and we planned to continue. but it was especially in iran where i felt her and i beginning to diverge emotionally. somehow, i have the ability to both be moved by the stories of the people i meet, and to  not have these stories linger in my mind, clouding my emotions, after i leave.

matilda was never quite as good at this as me. 

she blossomed in iran. and when it was time to leave, she couldn’t move on in the same way. so she moved home.

i can sleep anywhere pt. 1

one of my rules is to never pay for accommodation. one of my fascinations is sleeping in beautiful and/or strange places. sometimes these two intersect, and someone is there to capture that (namely, matilda).

i think this post could be the beginning of many.

on the ferry between denmark and germany i was busking, and gained some astonishingly loyal tweenage fans. they convinced their parents to take us with them in their campervan, but we ended making a sleeping stop on the way. there i am, soaking up the sun after a very cold night in the cornfields.

we had metaphorical lightning strike us on the way between berlin and vienna. we found a very good ride, regrettably going through poland (we would have liked to go through czech). and her car broke down near wroclaw. we spent the entire afternoon correcting that unfortunate problem, and ended up sleeping in the corner of a burger king near dresden.

kipping in some grass next to a slovenian gas station.

somehow galata magic conspired to let us sleep in the penthouse apartment of a famous turkish artist. once i saw the amazing terrace, i knew i had to sleep outside in the summer night-heat. i could see the tower itself, just one hundred metres away, as i closed my eyes.

the berlin vortex and other powerful forces

writing this from a houseboat in glopenglagen/flopenhaven/shopenblagren.
this place is amazing. it is filled with industry standard cooking toys, and crazy nordic fermentation projects. this afternoon i have been passing the time by sorting frozen bee larvae from wax and honey.

but i can feel the powerful pull of berlin from here.

i spent a week there, drinking large amounts of beer, and hanging out in an abandoned factory. this pitch black location was the inspiration for my latest musical project, with my new friend dara:

expect a bandcamp ep later on. 

the warm, generous, inspiring arms of the family here in europe have opened to me once again, and all kinds of opportunities are pulling at my imagination.

there is a hitchgathering in lithuania, a rainbow in slovakia, a farm in sweden, and this project in berlin. and so many friends scattered an cities across the continent. 

it is difficult to know where to start, where to go next.

however, i am free. i have the ability and the will to go wherever i choose. and there is nothing holding me back. instinct is the captain and the sails are full.

istanbul life essay part 1: tarlabaşı market day

so i live in tarlabaşı, a neighbourhood predominantly populated by kurds, roma people, africans, and erasmus students. due to it’s almost unbelievably central location, it is being heavily gentrified by poor foreigners and the government, but i will focus on that in another essay. this one is about the two markets that take over the area every sunday, with kilometres of fruit, vegetables, and old things.

i am worried that the gentrification will kill these beautiful markets. they are some of the most charming, beautiful, and useful things about living here. it starts just twenty metres from my door, and i love going every sunday, first in the morning for the best quality food and the first pick of the second hand goods, and then in the evening as the prices drop to almost nothing.

you can buy anything.

you really see an entirely different istanbul here

and you can look for the gems

and make new friends

this is my kazakh friend Slava

(she took most of the photos)

this neighbourhood is filled with oddities, everywhere you look

next we went to the food market

these guys always give us the hook-up on the best cheese

anyway. it is amazing.

finally, breakfast on the balcony

i would find it hard to live anywhere else in istanbul, partly because of these markets. they bring all the different social and cultural groups i mentioned together for the day, because this market is one of the main reasons these people can afford to live here, in the center of the city.

i consider a trip to this market to be an intrinsic part of any visit to istanbul, which is why i always insist on taking any visiting friends.

here in istanbul it can be easy to forget that you are in turkey. people are drinking outside and playing music everywhere, you have all of the same stores on the high streets, and people come here from every corner of the world. but this market is grounding, it reminds me that i really am in a foreign city, a foreign culture, that i possibly will never quite understand and constantly have to adjust to.

so it is the perfect sunday morning remedy to a night of drinking efes at galata tower.

i don’t have a camera yet

so therefore i can’t really start on the istanbul part of my project yet.

but what i can do is talk about the things i am most excited about.

i try not to hold too many ideas and expectations in my head before i visit some place. but  when i read or see certain things i can’t help myself. and i will try now to talk about those things that really grab me. a good deal of this travel inspiration comes from roadjunky.com and hitchwiki.org.

first up: Iran. i am so crazy excited to go there.

as a warm up you can read this: http://www.roadjunky.com/guide/382/iran-travel-guide-online

and/or this: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Iran

so there are a lot of things people say about Iran. a lot of this is bullshit, but some things are true, and these are some of the various facts that have made the biggest impressions on me: 

no alcohol, no dancing, no women singing (although they can play an instrument), no hosting foreigners (although people often break this rule, and i am counting on them to do so), no facebook. also i find the idea of temporary marriages ridiculous (temporary marriages are exactly that - temporary. both parties agree on the period of the marriage and the compensation to the women, and men can have as many of these as they like. of course, women can’t have more than one of these at a time.

moving away from all of the laws, i have heard, and also found through my own experience, that the people are among the world leaders in being kind, polite, and hospitable. Iran is the kind of place where it is impossible to go hungry, and it is especially important to be good to travellers and foreigners. 

with all these laws telling you what not to do, especially considering how the islamic government hijacked a perfectly liberal revolution, there has been a radical change of perspective among the young people. in Tehran and Esfahan, the largest cities, most of the youth aren’t interested in religion and oil, but are instead interested in changing their world. i assumed young, modern, liberal iranians would want to get the hell out, because that is what i feel i would want. but they don’t want to leave, despite, and perhaps partly because of, all of the restricting laws and the imposing military. in a way, they are defined by what confines them. that brings them together. it is hard to leave when there is so much to be done to change things. so there are these tightly knit communities that are forced to express themselves underground, whether by drinking, dancing, and having parties in their houses, or by meeting in a series of ever changing cafes to discuss how they will protest against the government and educate the people around them. Iran has always had a very highly educated middle class, and that is still true, many young people speak excellent english and have a good idea about the world and what is in it. these middle class youth are the agents of change now.

I am lucky enough to have friends that are a part of this culture, and i am really excited to go and see their world.

another country i can’t wait to see is Georgia. their government has been on a strong path toward modernisation for a while now, and there is a huge english teaching initiative (Teach and Learn with Georgia) that also has the side effect of bringing in thousands of english speakers. 

there is one story that i find really exciting: the georgian traffic police force used to be very corrupt, treating the roads as their personal piggy bank. eventually the government issued an ultimatum: stop the bribery or i will fire everybody. it didn’t stop, and the government made good on their promise. about 30,000 officers were fired, from the top down. for about three months the entire country lived without traffic police. then they restructured everything about the force. one of these changes was a rule about foreigners, and now, whenever you feel in danger, you can ask a police officer to drive you anywhere in a 140km radius, for free. all you need to do is fill out a form.

so this is a country which is performing a radical experiment. they are doing everything they can to modernise themselves, and make their country more accessible. i would like to see how well it is working. also i have heard it is a really beautiful country, with amazing people.

a location i am fascinated by is Lake Baikal in Russia, the world’s oldest and deepest lake. two thirds of the plants and animals that live there are unique to the lake. it is so clear, you can see the bottom 40 metres down. it will still be very cold though, even during the summer, so i don’t know how much i will be able to interact with the lake. but whatever, i am nerd for these kinds of things.

i have always wanted to go to the mongolian steppes. i have these visions of me standing in the middle of a deserted road, seeing only empty plains in every direction, with nothing but my guitar to keep my company. i actually think that this picture will be quite easy to realise.

One of the biggest and most expensive side trips i am going to make is from China to South Korea and Japan (with ferries).

bizarrely enough, i became much more excited about going to SK after spending time in Seoul-Incheon airport during my layovers to and from NZ. it was by far the best airport i have had the pleasure of spending time in. free showers, computers, smoking rooms that were not disgusting, water fountains everywhere. and the workers were amazingly polite and genuine. and the cultural centres! you could go and make (and keep!) traditional crafts, watch concerts, and play traditional games. it was great, actually.

i usually hate airports, but this one i can support.

and Japan. even with the current radioactive state of affairs, i feel like my time spent there will be some of the most rewarding of the entire trip. Diego, a friend i met at the hitchhikers gathering in Portugal, wrote a fair bit about hitchhiking there, and made it sound wonderful - http://hitchwiki.org/en/Japan.

I think i might create a part two for this post later on.

why make this journey?

i have a lot of reasons to spend the next chapter of my life making this trip across eurasia. 

one reason is that i am scared of settling in too much. i feel like i have to justify the time i spend doing something or staying someplace. so if i become too comfortable in some routine, and i stop learning quite as much, i can no longer justify that time spent to myself. so i need to go.

another reason is that i am incredibly fascinated with most of the countries in the world. i need to experience everything, and gain a closer connection with the places on the maps i have been studying since i was a child.

i also need to test myself. i have never really undertaken a journey like this before, and although i am fairly certain in my ability to do this, the proof is in the pudding.

and one hang up i have is about hitchhiking. i am a hitchhiker. i have travelled over 50,000km with just this mode of transport. but i have never hitchhiked outside of europe, new zealand, or turkey. i tell people that i spent two years travelling without really stopping much. and i did. and then i hang my head slightly when i must answer, “just around europe”.

so a part of it is that i want the credibility and the glory of becoming one of those few hitchhikers that managed to cross this, the largest landmass on earth.

also i just love making new friends.

statements of intent

so this is the beginning of a new blog.

i want this to be a platform that can show my spread out, eclectic bunch of friends and family who i am, and what i am doing, now. i would like this also to potentially become a source of inspiration for experienced travellers and newbies alike. and i would like to share some of the things i learn or see as i live. 

to introduce this blog to the wider world, the method i have chosen is to pose myself questions that i can imagine various people asking me.

Q: what is up with the name of the blog?

A: fireworks refers to my home in istanbul. my habitual seat in the living room looks out and across to two skyscrapers, both of which light up each night with ascending colours, which i refer to as fireworks. gunshots refers to the short, sharp moments which change the course of a life, whether in a big or a small way. although most of these moments are silenced.

Q: where are you going?

A: the plan is to hitchhike through Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia, to New Zealand.

Q: Who are you?

A: Dominic Remmerswaal, currently 21 years old, based abroad these past three years (again, currently), musician, new zealand born.

Q: didn’t you have another blog? why aren’t you updating that?

A: yes, i had another blog that i sporadically updated for about one and a half years. however i don’t feel that it is appropriate to use that one anymore, and perhaps i have outgrown that old one. this blog is a reflection of a different me, and a chronicle of a different journey.

Q: where are you now?

A: I am living in istanbul, turkey. i have been here since last summer and i love it.

Q: what are your plans for this blog?

A: my idea is to first write about different aspects of my life here in istanbul, and then the style will change somewhat as i start to travel.

Q: What are the main tools in your abstract travel kit?

A: the first is hitchhiking. ideally this is my only method of getting from place to place. the second is hospitality exchange, which i use to meet people, sleep, and shower as i go from place to place. the third is music, which i use to ground myself, but also to make money, and to connect with other people. the fourth is a smile.

Q: Why are you making this journey?

A: That is such an expansive question that i think i will devote my next post entirely to it.

if you have any actual questions, just ask me and i will answer them, either here, or in their own post.

the vortex and the snow (berlin to NL)
photos + thoughts (to berlin)
persia in black and white
i can sleep anywhere pt. 1
the berlin vortex and other powerful forces
istanbul life essay part 1: tarlabaşı market day
i don’t have a camera yet
why make this journey?
statements of intent

About:

Following: