Europe

Paris, France

At midnight on 1st January 2008 it became illegal to smoke in public spaces throughout France. Due to a concession it remained legal to smoke indoors throughout New Year’s Day. Sitting in a bar just after midnight. The floor is clean, white tiles, and there are no ashtrays on the tables. I sit at a table with a beer, not smoking. A man who was propping up the bar steps outside for a cigarette, moving about in an attempt to keep warm. He comes back in complaining about the cold. Usually there would be a mound of cigarette butts lining…

Pompidou Centre, Paris, France

I was taking photographs in the Pompidou centre when a guy in a black suit came up to me and asked me if I was filming. I said no, I’m taking photos. He ordered me to show me the photos I’d taken, which I did. He stopped at one of them and said: Delete that one. I’m in that. I couldn’t see him – if he was in it he was very small and in the background. But now standing next to me he was big and intimidating, so I deleted it and he was happy. I guess he was…

Memes and genes in Warsaw, Poland

Memes are like genes. They are passed from one generation to the next. But memes are knowledge, conventions, things we learn, like brush your teeth twice a day, what goes up must come down, say your prayers before you go to bed. Like genes, some memes thrive and flourish, others die out.

Vienna, Austria

Looking for the entrance to the sewers that Harry Lime escapes down in the Third Man, somewhere near Karlsplatz. No sign of a cobbled square. Instead a major road junction and a number of modern buildings including a technical university. Some of the trams look like they could date back to 1949 though.

Belgrade, Serbia

Now I’m in Belgrade, in a place called Hot Spot Cafe, just uploading some pics of Macedonia, pausing briefly to read about the conviction of the lyrical terrorist. Saw a demonstration today against (or for) a writer, with demonstrators all in combat gear. Also went to the Nicola Tesla museum – he who invented electric motors and radio (Marconi stole the idea apparently). Getting the train to Hungary tonight, via Budapest.- which reminds me of an old Goon Show: Grytpype: Now, Captain Seagoon Seagoon: Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes…

Ohrid, Macedonia

I’ve been staying with a family here for the past week: a man, a woman – who approached me at the bus station, or actually it was a guy with her who approached me asking if I needed somewhere to stay, which I did – and an occasional 20 year old son. They invited me into their living room this afternoon for a coffee and then some wine and some pumpkin. They live in the living room at the moment, at least whilst I’m there. The man told me the room I’m now staying in is actually his bedroom. I’m…

Thessaloniki, Greece

I’ve just taken the overnight train from Athens. Sitting in the smoky station cafe waiting for the connection to Skopje, Macedonia, having just eaten a sickly sweet king-size chocolate croissant with Nutella-type chocolate oozing out of it.

Samos, Greece

Paying the bill in the hotel today the woman went through the things I’d eaten or drunk then started saying two and a half hours internet, three hours internet etc.. They had wifi access and I’d been sitting there with my laptop, assuming it was free, not realizing they were noting down how long I was sitting there and charging me for it. There were signs saying internet 3 euros per hour by the computers, but when there’s wifi that’s usually free, except when some charging thing comes up on the screen and you have to put in a credit…

Hunting muslims in the Carpathians

Sitting on the sofa of the small common room area of the hostel in Lviv with my laptop, a two year old Mac Powerbook whose battery has pretty much died so it now needs to be constantly connected to a power supply. In the area just outside, covered by a leaking plastic roof, where building work is going on, occasionally, some men sit around a table drinking vodka and beer. One of them is the owner of the hostel. He invites me to come and join them for a drink. He speaks a little English but none of the others…

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