The Best Mug In The World

Ok, so I’m biased.  I a) painted the mug myself and b) included 2 of my favourite animals.  I like animals that roar and have sharp teeth and claws and generally cause havoc in a wild animal sort of way.

So whilst on holiday in Wales with some friends, we spent a wet afternoon indoors painting mugs.  After an initial mind blank instigated by being faced with ‘blank mug syndrome’ it dawned on me that I had the power to create the most amazing mug in the world.  I am proud to present to you, my Bear Lion Mug:

roaring bear painted by laura elliott on the side of a muglion mug painted by laura elliott

The flash on the camera does make the bear look like it’s been startled, opposed to heading off to go a-mauling.  And the lion oddly looks like he’s posing for the camera.  Such is my talent to make ferocious creatures look cute…

I was able to add ‘RAWR!’ to the bottom of my mug so that it would be slowly revealed as I finished my drink.  My only regret is that I didn’t manage to add a fez somewhere.  I like fezs.  But they don’t have teeth or claws so I guess it would be out of place.  Perhaps I can blue-tac one on as an optional extra.

The Sketchbook Project 2013

There are different breeds of nerd, I myself am a bit of a book nerd.   A haven for book nerds can be the local library.  I don’t tend to buy books* as I regard my library somewhat as a vast personal bookcase that I don’t have to keep at home, clogging up space.

So imagine my joy at the prospect of making my own book that will go on a road trip across America, finishing up in The Brooklyn Arts Library.  My contribution will be similar to the theme that I followed last time – I love making illustrated journals.  The Sketchbook Project allows me to indulge this.  The great news is that you can take part too!  Check out the link – you’ll even find other inspirational projects to join too:  Art House Co-op

You can see the start I made on my book below:

This was a stall at the Bristol Harbourside Festival, selling candle powered boats.  The stall was fantastic to look at in itself (although the boats were cool), with bunting strung and vintage signage.  The vendors got in the spirit and were dressed as pirates.  Brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

I was also once told by an art teacher that I should never draw with biro.  This picture reminds me that it’s ok to break some rules.

 

Pencil sketch of people laying on the grass at college green in Bristol, taking a rest from the crowds at the harbourside.  The right page shows the Relay Rips and at the bottom, the start of my Gossington Festival drawings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Using the term ‘books’ was a bit generic, therefore saying I don’t buy books is not entirely accurate.  I have a real vice for buying children’s books.  So many in fact, that the combined weight of them all broke my shelf, spewing books all over me and my room.  The homicidal shelf (yes it damn near cracked my head open) chose it’s moment in the dead of night, at my most vulnerable.  It was the most terrifying wake up call I’d ever had.  But that’s another story.

Travel Advice on InterRailing around Eastern Europe

Hello everyone that found my site whilst googling interrailing through europe! I had discovered that people are being directed to my old posts from last year.  So with the benefit of hindsight, I thought I’d write this post.

I realised that a year ago, I was doing the exact same thing that you’re doing now and whilst I was absolutely clueless then, I learnt a lot from my journey and I’d like to offer some advice/experience if you happen by my blog, feeling the same way.

When I say ‘clueless’, I really meant it.  I had no idea how long it would take me to get from A to B.  I had no idea what I should pack.  I had no idea where I wanted to go (other than I wanted to delve into eastern Europe).  For inspiration I looked to organised travel tours, there are a few about that offer trips around Europe.  They were a bit expensive for what I wanted but they were a great place to find a suggested route and a list of must-see places.  This is how I discovered Kutna Hora and the Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic (and I’m so glad I did – it’s a day trip out from Prague).

The dates I looked at for my flight out and return gave me 5 weeks and I stayed in each place (13 stops) about 3 nights each, give or take depending if I liked the place.  I found this gave me time to saunter at my own pace – staying just one night for several stops doesn’t give you time to soak in a place and it just knackers you out.

If you’re interested, this is the route I took, I found it was a good pace for me:

Prague (czech republic) 3 nights

Olomouc (czech republic) 3 nights

Krakow (poland) 4 nights

Zilina (slovakia) 1 night

Kosice (slovakia) 2 nights

Budapest (hungary) 4 nights

Pecs (hungary) 1 night

Budapest (hungary) 1 night

Cluj Napoca (romania) 2 nights

Sibiu (romania) 2 nights

Brasov (romania) 3 nights

Veliko Tarnovo (bulgaria) 2 nights

Sofia (bulgaria) 4 nights

My favourite cities/areas:

Krakow and Budapest and would recommend them.  Be aware that train travel is slow going through Romania and Bulgaria but it’s not so bad because the landscape is just stunning.  It gives you a good amount of time for gawping.

Things I’m so glad I packed:

I bought a digital watch which I love.  It has an alarm for when you need to get up to catch a train; it has a stop watch so you can time how long it takes to walk from the train station to your hostel (so you can allow yourself plenty of time for the walk to the station to catch the train); it even glows in the dark.

A torch in an accessible place in your bag.  Great for when you get back late/get up early and need to tip toe around whilst others are sleeping.
3 separate waterproof bags of varying sizes and colours.  This kept my bag fairly organised so I could get to various bits and bobs easily.

A phrasebook.  But I’m guessing you thought of that already.

The fear:

I was pretty damn scared before I went into the deep unknown (to me, at least), all alone – I guess the people that gasped at me with wide-eyed wonder saying that I was ‘just so Brave’ didn’t help to calm me.  Although this did allow me to feel smug for being so Brave once I’d come back alive and (relatively*) unscathed.  A friend told me that the worst bits are the going and the coming back.  I found that very much true, I had loved my trip so much I didn’t want to come back to real life.  In my case, the way I’d phrase it is that you start out nervous, you bumble about a bit** and come come back saying ‘that was AMAZING!’

*a little bit of being scathed adds to the journey of self discovery.

**(no adverture-er ever knew what they were doing otherwise it wouldn’t be an adventure)

Play the game whilst you’re out there, tasks become puzzles, even your own detective story.  If you’ve never travelled like this before, it’s ok, you get better at it quickly.  It becomes your full time job, so you have to.

I hope you have fun, wherever you go!

Hamburger Watching

At the risk of having made my last post ‘Ich Bin Ein Hamburger’ too long for my liking, I have a section two for my Hamburg adventure.

 

I had found myself with some spare time on my own so settled down at one of the outside tables of M&V Bar.  Here I drank tea and drew people that walked past and inspired me.  Please peruse the fruits of my labour:

 

pencil sketch of man in Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I liked how angular this guy’s face was.

 

 

pencil sketch woman wearing sunglasses in Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This lady made me think of some fly with her sunglasses so huge they almost eclipsed her face.

 

 

pencil sketch of faces

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not so pleased with old man face but I think I caught his life-bothers-me-but-not-as-much-as-your-face-does-right-now expression

 

 

pencil sketch of scruffy man

 

 

 

 

 

I really liked this scruffy trampy dude.  He was most interesting to draw and I think came out best!

 

pencil sketch of faces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was quite impressed how vertical this lady’s hair managed to stay!

Ich bin ein Hamburger

Ok, so I’m feeling a wince at the incorrect German but for comedy effect, it’s staying.  Having felt quite chuffed 10 years previously at the end of my German language G.C.S.E exam I thought a holiday would be a great way of seeing what I remembered.  After a series of awkward hand gestures and fading at the 3rd syllable of incredibly long words I quickly realised my Deustch was the wurst.  Fortunately for me, the friend I had gone to visit spoke German fluently and was able to help clear up my car crash of sounds.  Thank you kindly Amazing Miss Alice.  I had the pleasure of meeting her lovely little hamsters – Hannah and Sophie – in a previous post, you can meet them too if you follow the Amazing Miss Alice link.

 

If you thought my holiday in Hamburg was just a jolly, think again!  We spent lots of effort on moseying, kicking back, hanging out, mooching and swinging. And drawing.  Don’t forget the drawing.

 

My first picture of St. Marien Cathedral was a bit of a warm up, which is why it looks representative of the leaning tower of Pisa opposed to a cathedral…

domkirche cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hand cramp and numb fingers told me it might be a good idea to head inside.  Pew numbers and a stained glass window took my fancy –

stained glass window at st marien cathedral   biro drawing of pew numbers at saint marien cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst drawing the window, I was lucky enough to be treated to the organist’s practise time.  The dramatic music penetrating every bit of my head made me feel like I should have been in Mordor or something but I always manage to leave my Ring at home, dammit.  I couldn’t decide whether an elf leap or a hobbit waddle was more appropriate but I made my way to a good view of the dwarfed musician.

 

dwarfed organist playing at saint marien cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was truly incredible; the sound of the organ filling every corner of the cathedral, filling my head, every space as I walked to the door and into silence.

 

Well, the relative silence of outside.  I later drew the train station Hauptbahnhof (a few stops down from Hasslehof):

main train station in Hamburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the spire of St Georgs as viewed from Hauptbahnhof:

st georgs spire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pocket Etch-A-Sketch Gets Some Action

A small collection of pictures from my travels via the gift of etch-a-sketch.

Travels in Technicolour

Finally I’ve updated the relevant posts with pictures from my trusty sketchbook.  I’ve helpfully put everything from The Awesome Adventure under the ‘travel’ category listed in the right side of the blog.  Not all posts have pictures but stick with it, there are a few gems in there!  To see imagery better, click on a picture and it’ll enlarge.

Enjoy!

Waking From The Adventure

Well, ‘the list part one’ suggests perhaps a follow up but I realised I’d probably end up listing everything I’ve already told you…

Returning to England was curious, not a wonderful welcome of familiarity but seemed a somewhat sharp shock of bland.  All the signs in the airport were announced only in one language (of course, why do we need to have it in any other language when everyone obviously knows English, right?).  This is a reminder that Britain becomes lazy with other languages because of a lack of needing to know other languages.  I think that’s a bad thing.

Suddenly the conversations around me weren’t exotic and mysterious because I couldn’t understand them; they were all about parents telling off their kids, men talking business, couples asking the other if they remembered to pack the toothpaste…

I waited in the cold damp weather for the coach to take me to Bristol .  After weeks of scorching heat I thought I’d be appreciative of this but it was far from comforting.  Just as I was thinking (and not for the first time) that I should have accidentally-on-purpose missed my flight, the chortling friendly bus driver makes fun at my battered travel worn bus ticket in his dashing English accent (I’m sure after a couple of days of being surrounded by British accents its novelty will soon wear off!).  He heaves my bag into the luggage storage and says ‘welcome back!’.  I can’t help but smile.

So now I’m back, as if awoken from some crazy dream and I’m sure real life will come with a bit of a bump; but that will be it’s own Adventure.

The list part 1

It’s a little strange for it to be my final day, I’ll admit I have very mixed feelings about this.  Sofia has been successfully keeping me occupied so far which has been good.  Yesterday I wrote a list of some places taking part in the Sofia design week and spent a lot of time searching out the galleries, also enjoyed drawing the Russian church for a while.  In the evening I went to a couchsurfing meeting and met someone who offered to take me around today, so I’ll be catching them later to see the city with a local.

I have learnt so much being on my travels and feel very grateful for having had the opportunity to do a journey like this.  It’s been so interesting, especially starting in Czech Republic which is very ‘western’ and working my way south where the countries seem to get poorer and in more disrepair and the people have less and less faith in the government.  But it has been heartening to see that a lot of people have been so welcoming everywhere I’ve been, offering me opportunities to see life as they see it and not sugar coating it for tourists.

Some experiences I will never forget –

  • Communist queuing (it took me a couple of times being queue jumped before I cottoned on, at first I thought people were in a group when they stood at the window together and then when one person left and the other just slid right in, I had a ‘hey!’ moment when I realised that standing a polite distance behind does not work here if you want to get served)
  • Meeting specific people (one guy whose ex was threatening police action for stalking; making friends with locals who have been so kind to show me around – students in Olomoucs saved my trip there from being horrifically boring – the couch surfers I’ve befriended – the random Romanians I got talking to in Brasov; some of the people who work at hostels have gone out of their way to make your stay as great as they can make it – for example one guy in Budapest used fabric softener in my laundry, never has soft clothes meant so much as when you’re travelling – one woman running the Sibiu hostel was fantastic when I told her about my awkward experience with an over friendly train conductor; the woman whom I met in Krakow and were able to share the Auschwitz experience together)
  • That being said, Auschwitz.  Horrifyingly fascinating.
  • The somewhat thrill seeking Crazy Guides tour of Krakow.
  • Catching trains in Romania (scrambling over train tracks and complete lack of platforms)
  • Having to learn 6 different languages for ‘do you speak English?’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘cheers!’.  Please don’t test me when I come back – I’m afraid I won’t be able to remember them all…
  • The fantastic festivals I’ve bumped into, counting 6 in all.  The one that stood out most was the Sibiu Theatre festival.
  • The hostel in Olomouc.  A swimming pool, seriously?  But at least everything else has been really nice in comparison.  And truth be told, it could have been worse but to me it stood out.
  • Having to communicate with people that don’t speak any English at all.

There is someone waiting for the computer and I’m probably over the time limit so will continue later…

Getting to know Sofia

After a wonderful time in Plovdiv, my friend saw me off at the train station with a big hug and promises to keep in touch.  This is after having laughed at me when I said I was getting the train.  A Bulgarian train, are you kidding?  I’d already heard many stories of how slow the network was, where people would leave Istanbul to go to Sofia, one traveling by train, one by bus and the bus would win, every time.  In fact, any Bulgarian I mentioned that I was getting the train laughed.  Hmmm.  But I’ve already got my trusty InterRail ticket, so it’s a no brainer.

I get to Sofia, track down my hostel and find that there is  a walking tour in a couple hours.  I head over so that I can get my bearings here, hoping that I’ll discover lots of things to do.  Which may be a little tough, according to people that I’ve spoken to about Sofia.  Most reports say it’s just another city.  And that 4 nights here are too long.  So my mission is to find all the interesting points of Sofia to fill up 4 nights.  My InterRail ticket has now run out so this is definitely the winding down of The Adventure.

The walking tour showed interesting points of the city; mosques from the ottoman empire, russian built churches, the cathedral, lots of churches.  There were lots of communist buildings, the one which housed the main seat of ruling used to have a great red star on top.  Which now is tossed (well, as unceremoniously placed as you can with a giant glass star) in the grounds of an old abandoned building.  At the end of the tour I was asked my first impressions of Sofia.  Honestly.  I said that there seemed to be lots of interesting pockets in the city but it’s hard to see it apart from just being a big grey city, mostly thanks to the communism era…  I’d like to know more about it because I’m sure there is lots to it that I don’t know.  My impressions of Bulgaria in general is mostly influenced by the people.  Everyone I’ve met has been so friendly and welcoming but terribly pessimistic about the conditions in Bulgaria.  The tour guide laughed, I asked if that was true, and he agreed.  He said that despite people wanting change, the next generation just falls into the old habits of their parents because they’re the only habits they know.  But there are people working hard to be optimistic, to open up Sofia and Bulgaria to the traveling community to help others understand it and make changes within the country.  So again, here seemed to be a deep core of faith for the future.

Today I went on an organised day trip to Rila Monastery, the biggest in Bulgaria.  It’s set on a site where a monk went and lived in a cave for 7 years.  We went to the cave, saw that there were bits of paper with prayers and wishes tucked into the cracks of the rocks.  In the cave was a little platform which is where he must have stayed and there were religious pictures and burning candles arranged amongst the rocks.  We were able to climb through the cave – legend says that if you climb through you are absolved of all your sins….

We then traveled to the actual monastery building which was quite magnificent.  Similar to Bachkovo in that there was a courtyard with a church but much much bigger.  I know I over use the word awesome, but I thought it was beautiful, and a little Tim Burtonesque with black and white stripes on a lot of the pillars.  Awesome.  Inside, the walls were totally covered with paintings and gold displays, as is usual for the orthodox churches.

Now I’ve done a day trip out, I think I’ll next be doing the meanderings around the city – bonus design week festival will help – and hopefully I’ll find that 4 nights in Sofia isn’t way too long!