A Bootleg Pirate, on Tour. Part One.
Firstly, this has been a long time coming, my plan was to write this months ago.. But what with the dreaded virus, lockdown and lots of things to organise before leaving the UK, this blog has had to wait. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I love to travel and explore new countries, cultures, histories and the natural beauty of this planet, so when I suggested going on a big road trip around Europe, I was so happy that my partner was keen to do the same. Coronavirus has made things more difficult than it would normally be and we’ve had to make sure we are especially careful. So, armed with a big supply of sanitiser, masks, our musical instruments, equipment for my coin jewellery and other basic essentials, we left Edinburgh! There were some emotional goodbyes...
During lockdown, my website has had so much traffic and orders, that it is now in the top 11% of all websites in the world that were launched at the same time, something I never expected! Thanks to everyone for your support, feedback and orders, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without you! Also, a huge thanks to Ian who spent, and continues to spend a lot of time on my social media and the website itself. Again, I’d be really struggling to concentrate on making my jewellery without your help!
So after visiting my lovely siblings, nieces and nephews, Grandma and special friends down in Nottingham and Devon, getting a taste of proper summer weather for the first time since moving to Edinburgh (brrrr!), it was time to leave the UK.
All along the way. I’ve had orders coming in daily, which gives its own challenges while on the road.. I’ve had to find libraries for printing off designs, post offices in mountain villages to send orders out, picnic areas to shelter from the rain and massive thunderstorms to cut coins, going to coin shops in various towns and cities to find what I need, finding jewellery supply shops for various bits and bobs, trying to work out addresses of where I might be in a couple of weeks so I can order saw blades and drill bits (The wonders of online ordering to your home is not something to take for granted!!). Places with wifi or even phone signal are hard to come by in the natural splendour we found ourselves in, which meant sometimes I couldn't even check on the website or social media interactions for a few days.
So, after leaving the UK, we docked in Calais. Drove as fast as possible (on the wrong side of the road in a right-hand drive car!) across the never-ending flat landscape of north coast France, Belgium and Holland, before arriving in Amsterdam. We only stayed for a day, walked around the quite empty city, had a coffee or two, marvelled at the canals and played football in one of the parks. Our main target was to get to Berlin soon so I could visit some friends who I met on my travels in Morocco and others from when I lived in that incredible city a few years ago. From this point, we didn’t use a single motorway or duel carriageway :)
What a place. The history is laid bare for all to see, from the remnants of the Berlin wall now used as art spaces and graffiti areas, the mixture of old and new buildings, reminding you of the destruction of the wars, memorials for the massacres that occurred, and the bullet holes poignantly left visible around doorways of museums and other historical buildings. The abandoned water parks, theme parks and Soviet satellite complexes are either smashed up and covered in political graffiti with nature slowly reclaiming them, or squatted in or turned into art spaces open to the public.
All of which give a post-apocalyptic feel, mixed with creative inspiration. But more than anything, for me, is the widespread open-mindedness of the people who live there. People don’t judge you on your appearance, most are very willing to help, and enjoy random interaction with complete strangers, more than any developed city I’ve ever been to. The art and creativity that surrounds you is hard not to be inspired by. The possibilities for art or music collaborations seem endless. If you can look past it’s dirtiness, it’s a wonderful place. It might seem a bit dodgy at first glance, but even in the shadiest of alleyways and abandoned buildings, I’ve never experienced anything that even came close to being scary. It’s also really cheap! You can eat out every night and drink moderately without it smashing your budget. I couldn’t recommend it more highly, especially if you’re into techno, ja!
We left Berlin after walking well over 150km around the city over a week or so, to head to the wilderness, something I’d been so excited to see since deciding to leave the UK.
Our first stop in nature was the Bohemian Switzerland National Park in Czech Republic. At this point, I’d already cut around 15-20 coin pendants in various parks in Berlin, where I could find a suitable table; but being in the peaceful and spectacular National Park, I felt relaxed enough to really crack on and get a load of orders done. The views from my office were beginning to get special.
We spent many days exploring the forests and valleys of this truly beautiful part of Czech Republic, unique in its geology due to it being vast slabs of limestone that was under sea water many thousands of years ago. The erosion causing sharp jagged outcrops of rock and sheer cliffs surrounded by ancient forest and beautiful rivers
The bird life and scenery were the perfect tonic to the monotonous flat and intensively farmed landscape that we’d just driven through. After another 15 coins cut and a ridiculous amount of hiking in the nature, we left to go to Prague.
We only stayed for a day in this Gothic city as we’d both been there and explored it thoroughly before, so I bought a load of coins from an amazing coin shop, stocked with every currency you could imagine, before heading toward the Low Tatra mountains of Slovakia – Bear country!
Thanks for reading. The next instalment will be coming out next week. Until then, stay safe and thanks for everyone's continued support, I couldn't do it without you!