cobblestones, bricks and english picks

One Year

It’s been a year since we left the states.

hitchhiking out of reading englandLast year, around this time, we were recovering from the flu while balancing on our European land-legs.

We were equally confused about how to navigate English street signs as we were about how to properly use the fifteen-hundred different types of coins. The British still had a noticeable accent.

I remember what happened – we hadn’t planned how we were going to travel around, for better or worse, so made a quick decision to hitchhike out of London. On day 3 of our tour, we landed in Reading where at 6 pm the wind was so strong and cold that we curled up next to a tree stump to try and keep warm. We practiced a little, but our hands were unresponsively stiff. We hadn’t bought a saw yet.

Neither of us had a proper jacket because we hadn’t thought of that. Our feet were a little sore from walking long miles in converse and dress shoes.

Humps for miles English street signs

That night in Reading we slept behind the parks maintenance building next to 500 ml beer cans and disposed needles. We went to bed when the sun was out to try and stay warm, it must have been around 8 pm. We woke up early in the morning when it started drizzling but we were too tired to find shelter. We just covered ourselves with the sleeping bags and crossed our fingers and managed to sleep in until the dogs found us and started jumping all over our sleeping bags.

It rains a lot in England but, as we learned that night, it doesn’t really pour. Just drips and drizzles all through the morning. It’s cold, no it’s freezing, but you can sort of ignore it if you cover yourself, close your eyes and daydream about your next academy award.

It’s not pleasant – it’s like a migraine headache. You keep turning from side to side, hoping that if you arrange your body just right it’ll all go away.

robot in cambridge tunnelThat’s what England was like last April.

I couldn’t tell you what it’s doing now. Now I’m living in a house and so I can’t be bothered to wake up at 6 am just because it’s raining! We’ve come a long way…

Does that story sound crazy to you? It does to me … I’d almost forgot about it all, but out on a walk this evening I felt those frozen bites on my skin again and I remembered…

Bristol, where I finally had to abandon my down sleeping bag around 9 am because it was irreversibly wet.

Birmingham, where we woke up in a field next to the elementary school bus stop (and under rain, always under rain).

Glasgow where we fearlessly played under an overhang while small pools of water ran down the edges of our guitar case.

east cackalacky with crudbot in washington d.c.Yup, crazy! 

This year, we’ll start tour in May. Closer to dry.

We won’t be doing anymore sleeping outside without a tent. We won’t be expecting too much out of England. We’ll bring proper coats. We’ll start out with all our equipment.

We will be conquering all of Europe. We can’t promise more than that – we know it would be ridiculous. But we can conquer all of Europe. This tour is loosely plotted in a loop: through Paris, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, Italy, and last but not least, the Netherlands.

 

We start tour again May 20th…watch out!!!!!!

Week 12 in Review ::: From Lyon to Stuttgart in 7 Days

Lyon's book market overlooking the river

book market in Lyon

We have a mission.

Intercept the Ready for Buskers before their path diverges from ours.

The Ready for Buskers are: Valentine and Savanne, two traveling musicians from Romania and Hungary who’ve busked around Europe.

They’ve got a blog, it’s THE BEST resource out there for wanna-be Western European busker, and it totally inspired us to do this Europe trip.

the ready for busking vagabond satchel

ready for busking messenger bag

CHECK IT OUT::: readyforbusking.blogspot.com ::: !!! 

You’ll get city laws, and how to break them, maps of  busking pitches, realistic estimates for how much one can earn, inspiring photos of the landscape and more. Plus, They’re all around genuine people and it’s fun to watch their ups-and-downs as they travel.

Right, so we have a mission: Sometime before we left the states we vowed to cross paths. And it just so happens that today we are very, very close. So now the Cack is headed to Chamonix …

camping in the park in Lyon France

Happy Monday from Lyon

Monday July 1st

From Lyon to the Lac d’Annecy.  Walking, hitchhiking, busking, Carrefour detour, hanging by the peage in a foothill town, some panicking @ Geneva, a hitchhike ride that takes us out of our way, but we still land safe in the serene town of Annecy and camp by the lake.

the lake in Annecy France

Lac d’Annecy

Tuesday July 2nd

Hitchhiking the alps is a summer breeze. Mission accomplished! In Chamonix with Valentine, Savanne, and their programmer friend, Fedot, who does freelance IT and rock climbing in his spare time. This outdoor-enthusiast vacation resort looks busker-plausible, but we reserve today for revelry at British pubs with Eastern European tour guides.

Wednesday July 3rd

Lazy day in Chamonix. We can’t busk because it’s raining and Sharmini lost her voice, so instead the five of us cram on the couch and watch the rain. Valentine & Savanne’s decision to give up their 2014 busking journey and head back home adds a tinge of sadness. They’ve found France too difficult, and we worry about our own busking future. But we are not about to give up, and they offer us a ride to Switzerland on their way.

romanian dwelling in Chamonix France

hanging out at Fedot’s aparment – one programmer, four couchsurfers and two laundry lines

Thursday July 4th

From Chamonix to Bern – A fed-tastic ride in Fedot’s car! Bern is, warning: Under Construction. All the pedestrian walkways are all catastrophically boxed-in by scaffolding, a very unpleasant place for making art. We earn 24 Francs over three sets, spend 7 on one hamburger, and then unanimously agree to leave. That damn bagpiper’s loud music certainly isn’t helping us either.

the hill town of Bern Switzerland

from a distance, you can’t see the ugly truth of Bern construction

Friday July 5th

Hitchhiking is especially thrilling today: our ride DROPS US OFF ON THE FREEWAY! Just as soon as we’re picked up, the cops pull our new driver over. We escape with only a scolding, but I now fear Swiss cops! Our driver, Mentor, is pretty cool Serbian- and we apologize to him for almost making him late to work at the prescription drug factory, and, it’s good he didn’t hear Sharmini throw up in the back.

Saturday July 6th

Basel. LOVE THIS CITY! In 30 minutes we make 30 Franks and 5€ and Sharmini doesn’t even have a voice today! It’s so much fun to play down by the bridge, but we can’t stay, we have another mission to get to Strasbourg and meet our American friends. And we succeed after the most epic hitchhiking trip ever, landing in Strasbourg with a total of 5€ in our pocket. 

Sunday July 7thwine towns in Northern France, Colmar

Strasbourg. HATE THIS CITY! A half hour set and the cops shut us down. Why? No busking allowed in Strasbourg. That’s funny, because I thought I saw a clan of gypsies jamming away by the main cathedral. But our American friends Abby, Nicola and Khalid rescue us from the bad busk with beers and a ride to Germany.

hell beer germany

we found hell in Germany – and it was only okay

Lesson of the Week – Lesson? Blah…let me sleep a little and then I’ll let you know!

WEEk 11 in Review ::: Familiar France

caravans for miles

caravans for miles

Monday June 24th

Montpellier. After our coolest hitchhike ride ever, with the fabulous Julio Cesar, we end up camping in the snail fields of France on a cold and windy night. Montpellier’s got some stiff competition including human statue Neptune and youthful break dancers. Downtown is packed, but busking is only okay.

Tuesday June 25th

Montpellier x2. Work, work, work, and then give ourselves  a break by counsurfing in the evening. It’s the first time we’ve ‘surfed since Bordeaux, and basically we’re doing it ’cause we need a shower, but we really plan to busk more! As always, couchsurfing has it’s own agenda and we end up spending the night with Ys and her college friends as they party late into the night. One thing of note: French people make awesome pasta.

dogs bath in the fountain in Montpellier

Montpellier

Wednesday June 26th

Montpellier x3. Nah, we’re kinda tired of this town. Again, 12-15€ per hour is acceptable, but only okay. The deal is sealed when we are 1) bribed to leave our favorite spot by an ice-cream vendor and, 2) mistaken for homeless beggars outside of the Carrefour. So we walk out of Montpellier and get an instant hitchhike ride to Avignon. Booyah!

Thursday June 27th

avignon by the river oh yeah

Avignon

Avignon. HOLY STREET PERFORMER, I’ve never seen so many buskers in one town in my life! Apparently there’s a theater festival approaching and everyone’s come for the party. We have Leon, the German-born, Flamenco-fusion guitar player. Then there’s Tony, the escaped-from-a-commune English punk rocker, Cesar, the tri-lingual Argentinian caricature maker, the gold statue woman, the gold statue man, the balloon blower, the gypsy accordionist, the 3-piece gypsy band, Polish Zorro (who has anger management issues), the Spanish flamenco-duo, random street kid with a didgeridoo… What to do? Play-play-play for our desperate 30€ in four hours. The only thing left to do is get drunk with the Polish immigrants at the end of the night.

Friday June 28th

Avignon x2. Holy street performers who are not doing so well! Leon with the professional set-up and the escape van has been cleaning up, but everyone else is complaining. So much so, that we actually convince English Tony to leave town with us. Well, we can bus out of town together, but hitchhiking will be difficult with three. We let Tony stage himself before the pèage, and we slip behind the toll booth. It’s good to be cute Americans: we get a quick ride to Orange and wave goodbye to Tony.

fuck you orange France

fuck you orange

Saturday June 29th

Orange. We busk our hearts out for this sleepy town and then…boom! get shut down. The police suggest we go to Avignon, “there’s a place for people like you to make your music.” Hahahaha. We have a different plan, and head for the North. After 3 hours in the sun, we finally get a ride from a Quebeçois woman, Josee, who takes us all the way to Lyon. Yay! Conversation is limited because she doesn’t speak much English, and our French – well, you know. But Josee still stops with us in Vienne to check out the cathedrals and drink a beer. Plus Bon Jovi sing-alongs in the car. Awesome!

Sunday June 30th

Lyon. We’ve found the cheapest food in France : dollar hamburgs right near the Hotel de Ville. Fueled by the chili-mayo sauce, we play a fabulous Sunday morning set and make 70 whole Euros! Oh, the relief at being back in business! Lyon is beautiful as well, an “old-town” pedestrian street of cobblestones with those quaint and expensive French cafes that make culture happen. We will say one thing, this town hammers home our new Europe rule – don’t play longer than 45 minutes in one spot because someone will complain. That’s okay, we don’t care, because at least people are enjoying our music here! Horay for the Lion!

Lesson of the Week – Nice to have busker camaraderie, but when the streets are infested with musicians, get out!

Week 9 in Review ::: Tough Hustle in the Spanish Desert

pamplona at night from the tower

at night from the gates of Pamplona

Monday June 10th

Pamplona. It’s break day! Sanity calls, and the three R’s, rest, rehearsal and red wine call. Plus we find a cool park to sleep in.

Tuesday June 11th

camping in pamplona's park spain

not the only camper in Pamplona’s park

Pamplona. We meet another renegade camper for the first time! Lucas, a young Polish kid, has been traveling and busking for three years and was bold enough to set up his tent in this public park. We are all new to Pamplona, and head to check out the downtown plaza. There we meet Cornelius, another busker traveling the Camino de Santiago. The three of us team up for breakfast and scaring the locals, then disperse to try our luck busking. Cornelius makes 7€ and happily buys wine and coffee. Lucas makes 15€ and goes searching for weed. The Cack makes 19€ and breathes a little easy. We try again at night with the same results. Well, alright.

Wednesday June 12th

Pamplona x2. We busk the morning with about the same amount of success, 15€. Not great, not terrible, but kind of lacking and the cafe’s are co-opted by an old gypsy who falls asleep in the sun playing his music. When the heat of siesta arrives we opt to escape by busing it to Tudelo, a Lucas recommended spot. Why not? Artichoke fields, desert roads, towns so deserted they don’t even exist and finally hot, hot, HOT Tudelo! We try, we really do, we busk the cafes, but this town is too small and TOO HOT. Ouisseaux vant!

Thursday June 13th

the tram & the spires of zaragoza

zaragoza

Zaragoza. Beautiful town, but one in bureaucracy lock-down. The cops quickly inform us we need “permiso” to busk. We go searching for permiso, only to find that she’s left the building for the weekend. Some help you are, permiso! On to Lleida.

Friday June 14th

Lleida. Kind of a dull town. But we’re back in that broke desperate state so we work, work, work all day! The morning brings a lot of old Spanish folk’s sympathy and 14€. The evening brings 4€, and pre-teen boys asking for blow jobs at ‘whatever price you want’ (rough translation of Spanish here). Touched, but comfortable saying no, the Cack falls calls it a night.

Saturday June 15th

buskers permit permisso in Zaragoza Spain petition

the impossible permiso

Woken up at 3 am by sprinklers, we are soaked and cranky when we arrive at the train station to leave for Tarragona. But when we arrive in Tarragona, the Mediterranean beaches are looking great! We busk the market for 12€, then the backstreets for 10€ and finally move onto the cafes. For cafe 1 & 2 we put on a performance extraordinaire! People clap, dance, take pictures, we even get a tip from the maitre d’. Cafe number three is  a bomb, though. The owner bribes us with 10€ to  “no molestan” his customers. And now we are 40€ richer.

Sunday June 16th 

Tarragona. We think Tarragona’s good, but not great, but we convince ourselves to stick it out to store up some money for future travel. The old town streets are good, but only pull in 30€ for the whole day. An internet *sigh* and a stretch of the legs, at least it’s a living wage. With some cash in our pockets, we head out to sleep on the Mediterranean beach.

camping on the mediterranean beach outside of tarragona

Mediterranean beach camp

Lesson of the week: Café’s are good. Central Spain is not.

east cackalacky on the beach

We’re Still Alive!

The planned tour through Southern Europe:

Our actual route through Southern Europe:

We have to admit, it’s been a rough two weeks. From constant police shut-downs in the Mediterranean, to competing with too many buskers in Montpellier and Avignon…We’ve traveled through way more cities than intended. But three positives: the hitchhiking has gotten easier, it hasn’t been raining, and we now have a smart phone!

But because of the hardship, we’ve decided to skip Italy for now. If Spain was any indication of how tough a broke country is to busk, then Italy just isn’t going to improve our morale right now. We’d like to be able to keep this journey up so now we need to chase the money. It’s disappointing, but hey, if things go well in Switzerland and Germany (and all indications point to YES THEY WILL), then we’ll take a journey to Northern Italy in the future when we’re balling and just don’t know what to do with our cash.

Our planned route for the next week? Lausanne, Switzerland then Berne and Basel. And Southern Germany by next week.

Bring on the Frankfurts and Hamburgers!

dover has drug problem uk
Crapbot in Glasgow weird street musicians Scotland box head

Woah! Is That The Three-Week Mark Up Ahead?

I guess we’ve been doing this ‘busk the world’ thing for almost three weeks now!

Time to get nostalgic about everything that happened in the past few weeks. And congratulate ourselves. Here we go –

readinghike

The Cack After Hiking Through Reading, England

Week One-In-Review

Day 1 (April 15th)

The Beast finds a new home in Patchogue, NY. Bye-bye buddy. At JFK, we receive a lecture about one-way tickets, but are allowed through the gate anyway.

Berlin Bear in RejkyavikDay 2 (April 16th)

Iceland: Tom sleeps. Sharmini gets 30 minutes of Rejkyavik. London by 10 pm. Our first doner kebab.

Day 3 (April 17th)

Don the new personas: sherpa tourists. Backpacks on, we march through London. Our second doner kebab. Unimpressed by much but the double decker busses. Our third doner kebab. At nightfall, we’re in Uxbridge camping out.

Day 4 (April 18th)

Meat pies in the morning. We mean to hitchhike. But where the hell do they keep onramps around here? A walk from Uxbridge to Slough, then a ride from Slough to Maidenhead, then another walk from Maidenhead to the motorway and finally we reach a slip road to hitchhike. Our first ride runs a brewery. He drops us off in commuter Reading. Did I mention that England is fucking cold?

Day 5 (April 19th)

It’s music time! Acquire a 3/4 sized nylon string guitar. Hey – it’s only £25! More buying fun – giving our time to Charity shops, Guitar takes us for a walk to the motorway. Another hitchhiking ride. Success! All the way to Bristol. We are comforted by the sound of police cars & fire alarms. An American lullaby in England. That plus discovering English Starbucks has cheap brewed coffee and free wifi- life can only get better!

Broadmead in Bristol Shopping CenterDay 6 (April 20th)

Stripped-down busking. T on guitar and S on hardware saw and vocals. The Dutch saw makes nice squeaky sounds. We get to feel devious by playing in front of the atm £22. The junkies hate us. Our nth doner. Sleep under Clifton tower. Try not to be scared by seagulls that sound like drunk assholes.

Day 7 (April 21st)

More busking. This time we try Broadmead, the shopping mall. About the same slow £10/hour middle-American-like rate. Oh well. At least this busking thing is working! Our first cider: meet a scouser and (mumble unintelligent drunk name) who offer us 7.5% cider & vodka in exchange for “something John Lennon”. Scouser falls asleep on the steps curled up like a baby.

Week One Conclusions

British food sucks. Busking in England is meh – but maybe we just need Crudbot. Doner is great – don’t care what the English say. England is like America but they have funny words for streets and highways and trunks and almost everything else. All music originated in England, don’t try to pretend otherwise.

MAP IT!

 

drinking hard cider in bristol buskers