In 2017 I went to ten different countries, and was rarely in one place for longer than a week between January and September, which is both exciting and unsettling. Here’s where I went and what I did, using my Instagram photos (because I don’t have camera photos of everything, and even when I do, I haven’t edited all of them). Obviously loads and loads of images under the cut. If you’re wondering how I went to so many countries, I work for an agency that sends me to teach school workshops abroad, my mum lives in France, and I won the plane tickets to Japan.
January- Czech Republic & Austria
I turned 32 on my birthday.
Didn’t do anything dramatic- went for some drinks with hometown friends. Here’s Tukru.
A couple of days later, I flew to the Czech Republic. Here I am walking on a frozen river in Brno.
I worked in Austria over January and February. This cool house is in Horn, a small town close to the Czech/Austrian border.
Donuts are called Krapfen in Austria. Yeah.
Hearty Austrian soup.
And Eiernockerl- gnocchi type noodles with a creamy sauce, and scrambled egg and caramelised onions. It doesn’t always come with the sauce. It’s incredibly heavy either way.
I’m a big fan of this Austrian vegan chain Veggiezz. Especially their seitan steaks with sweet potato fries. At the moment they’re only based in Vienna and Graz.
In small towns though you often have to resort to this meal. By the end of five weeks I was incredibly sick of the different variations of Spar fake ham.
A glum photo in a terrible hotel in Vienna. I had to pass through Vienna overnight, and the place my work normally uses was full, and I booked a place that seemed ok, but the room was horrible with a lumpy bed and smelly plumbing.
February- from one end of Austria to the other
I crossed the Semmering Pass by train to get to Graz. It’s a really spectacular train journey, beaten only by the Salzburg to Zürich one. The train actually goes over the mountain. They’re currently also building a tunnel to make things faster however.
I was actually working in a small town on the Slovenian border named Deutschlandsberg. This was the walk to school every day.
Austria has dramatically improved in the last couple of years in terms of catering to vegans and vegetarians. It’s frustrating though in a way to see such a good selection in supermarkets, because I’m usually staying in a hotel or b&b with no cooking facilities.
Brezelkönig. King of train station snacks in southern Austria.
I went back to Vienna for a week, and saw some art and had a lovely catch up with Delal, who had been in Brazil the last time I was in town. It was lovely to see her again, even if she isn’t pictured. This is the Hundertwasser Museum instead. More artists should design their own museum.
The corridors of the Museum Quarter always have these little installations going on.
I always get some goodies from one of these vending machines too. This time I got a packet of postcards.
The school I was working at was near these imposing WWII fortifications. Nowadays they’re used for storing art for the museums.
I went out west and stopped over in Innsbruck both there and back. Innsbruck is probably my favourite place in Austria. As beautiful as Salzburg, but way less stuffy. Lots of things to do, and I like their funny local accent. (Please take note, Graz)
You can see the Nordkette range almost anywhere in the city.
I was working over in Vorarlberg, on the Swiss border. This is the famous floating opera house in Bregenz. They were constructing this set for Carmen for the summer.
I got really ill at this point, going from one end of Austria to the other and being around new kids every week. As Vorarlberg is essentially Switzerland, this horrible cough syrup and a packet of crappy tasting lemsip cost like €15. I got this squirrel for €1 in a charity shop however.
Here’s some giant mutant chickens from Vorarlberg. The mountain air makes them strong.
My final destination was Vöcklabruck, near Salzburg. It was party central, as you can see.
Every school seemed to be doing Krabatt with the 12-13 year olds that year. It’s a very cool German children’s book about the lure of evil, with these great illustrations.
So just before Christmas 2016 I won some plane tickets and five nights in a post hotel in Japan. I flew back from Austria, had two days turnaround, and then flew to Japan with my friend Vicky (whose 30th birthday it was while we were there). I was incredibly broke (having spent most of my money on a Japanese rail pass) and never did quite shake that cold, but still, Japan.
The flight was quite gruelling, but we flew over Lake Baikal in Siberia at sunrise. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to see, and I spontaneously woke up just before we reached there. It was really special, and I was one of the few people awake on the plane to see it.
First meal in Japan. Airport kitsune soba and inari zushi.
Typical shopping arcade in Japan. Way less gleaming and skyscrapery than you expected?
These popped peanut things with caramel coating are delicious. Pocari Sweat is a refreshing lemon drink.
The river in Tokyo. The guesthouse was right along it.
Taito temple in the area we were staying.
Personified kitchen sponges for around £1.50
Typical Japanese backstreet in a nice suburb of Tokyo. Lots of small low-rise blocks of flats and houses.
The Ghibli Museum. No photos allowed inside, but well worth a visit.
The red light district in Tokyo. Would madam or sir care to pay a pretty young man to flatter them?
Sake offerings at the Meiji Shrine
Green tea treats.
Central Tokyo at night.
Great branding, Japanese photobooth company. (Also we used it, and couldn’t figure out how to turn off the “flattering” effect, and the results were bizarre)
The river in Kyoto.
The hotel in Kyoto. It was part of the holiday prize, and is the poshest place I have ever stayed (we still had to share a room).
Shinto tradition- Jizo, who looks after travellers.
Ema plaques from Shinto shrines. Buy one for a few pounds from the shrine, write a good luck message or a wish and hang it up (or take it home like I did).
UNESCO world heritage park in Kyoto filled with shrines, temples and palaces.
If there is space, they will stick a drinks machine in there in Japan. Land is valuable in Japan, buildings are not. They might fall over in an earthquake or tsunami anyway.
Did you want any Gudetama stuff?
You can pretty much get anywhere in Kyoto walking along the river banks
It was slightly too early for cherry blossom, but we did see some.
Miniature moss garden in a shrine.
Snacks. I ate a lot of koala biscuits.
Typical Japanese train station.
Getting the ferry to Okunoshima, Rabbit Island
Vicky feeding a tame feral rabbit on the island. I was interviewed for some tv show.
Paper crane chains on a shrine.
Ferry port on Naoshima- art island
Honmura fishing village on Naoshima
Torii on the beach on Naoshima
Yayoi Kusama statue on the beach. We went in the Benesse Art Museum too, but they don’t allow photos.
Handicrafts for sale in Onomichi
Peace Dome in Hiroshima. The only old building left standing in the city centre after the atomic bomb.
Tram in Hiroshima
Creepy mascot in Nara. The big thing there is the forest temple with tame deer. We fed loads of deer, but my photo battery died. I took some camera photos.
April- return to the UK
I tried to move to Margate in April, but then got offered a load of summer teaching work, so it was easier to leave my stuff in storage and move in the autumn instead.
A suspiciously tame wild mouse, revived with a dish of water. It liked being stroked. Weird.
I went to the Sweeps Festival in my home town. Pagan May Day stuff.
Kent is pretty weird when it comes down to it, isn’t it?
June- Croatia, Slovenia & Austria again
I managed to squeeze in a week in Croatia where I wasn’t working- where I met Californian brother-sister duo Connor and Niamh.
This is a burek. If you eat dairy, you should really try one. The filling is feta cheese.
Huge cruise ship docked in Zadar. I’m not sure why these photos are so faded. I got a new phone in July, as the old one died, and I think it backed up the wrong version of the photo (I usually delete the unedited version).
Epic statue in Split.
Bye Dalmatia. (Same day as the election- I had to vote straight back from the airport)
A week later I was in Ljubljana, this time en-route for work just across the border in Austria.
Ljubljana is very underrated.
Street art in the Metelkova Autonomous District
I was actually working in Klagenfurt, just across in Austria. It’s very much like a cross between Italy and Austria there. They also have a sad history of voting in far-right politicians.
The Worthersee nearby is really beautiful.
Sunny Carinthia was right. It was 40c most of the time I was there, with an epic thunderstorm on the last day.
I got these green sunglasses from a vending machine in the street for €3. I didn’t actually need them, the novelty just appealed.
My friend Tukru collects terrible fridge magnets, and I always oblige on my trips. I think the cuckoo clock thermometer is a particular master-stroke.
In July I taught a course in Cambridge. I got more than I bargained for, as they had seriously understaffed the place amongst other serious issues, and I ended up working five weeks worth of hours in four weeks, but getting paid the same. However, Maria, Declan and Aurelia, the other teachers, were great people.
Not pictured- the usual hordes of tourists.
As a pleb, I’m not allowed to walk on that lawn. This is the closest I got.
In the college gardens.
A day trip to Southend.
Cambridge Botanical Gardens
Getting the students to do a geodesic dome challenge.
Results were mixed.
On the last day. We all survived! I don’t know what is up with my hair there. I cut all of it off in May because it was pissing me off, and it grew into this weird bowl thing for a while.
August- France and Germany
I visited my mum in France via train, and went to Germany for three weeks for work.
This is her street in a small town in Northern France
Where this total primadonna also lives.
Lassay-les-Chateaux is a very pretty town where almost nothing happens.
Here’s one of the castles from the town name.
The local shop had these weird home-made English/French/Irish reading books about a snail called Shello. Apparently some local woman wrote it.
As usual I ate a few gallettes de sarrasin. Buckwheat pancake with cheese, sour cream and mushrooms. (The cheese is inside). I don’t eat much dairy at home, a lot of my meals are vegan, but yeah, France…
Mayenne is the nearest big town, with this impressive statue of Joan of Arc on the local cathedral.
And lots of old houses like this.
I got this great second hand book of French inventions.
I also liked this plant-based street art in my mum’s village.
We also went to a place called St-Cenéri nearby.
Which has this great creepy forest shrine place.
I also managed to catch the Moomin exhibition before going to Germany. Some of my friends had been earlier in the year when I was in Austria, and had loved it. You go on a guided tour of different rooms based on scenes from the book.
Must be Grubbs. Free access to laundry facilities becomes amazing when you’re travelling all the time.
Germanwings/Eurowings are always late, but at least they give you some nice sandwiches (never mind the hoof-based sweets).
Flying to Cologne
But actually staying in Düsseldorf
I’m really keen on the new coffee cola Fritz are doing. Also, everything is way cheaper in Germany than it is in Austria.
Kraftwerk’s famous studio.
Train deco in Düsseldorf.
There are a surprising number of Japanese restaurants in Düsseldorf.
I like the grass and chessboard tram stops.
View from the top of the Rheinturm.
Me holding on for dear life. I love panoramic views, but am also terrified of heights.
Social history book I got in the Walther König sale (German art book shop chain)
Are you travelling on a budget as a vegetarian in Germany or Austria if you don’t eat at Vapiano at some point?
Nice try Düsseldorf, but you’re not fooling anyone.
My first teaching assignment was in the idyllic Büren in the Sauerland. Declan who I worked with in Cambridge was working there too.
Picnic spot in the castle ruins in the village.
Impressive slug in the castle.
What is this abomination Dr Oetker?
My classroom came ready-decorated with drawings of Gregor Samsa
My next stop was in Hamburg, on the way to an assignment in rural Schleswig-Holstein. See, I can smile in photos, even if the results are not so great.
I went on the museum ship in the harbour.
And met the captain and got to have a go at Morse code.
Excellent vegan pizza too- thanks for the recc Adam
The Reeperbahn is seedy as hell. Sternschanze just to the north is a great neighbourhood though.
Enjoy your dad jokes Hamburg
Photos of me from a machine in the street
Why were Duck Tales comics somehow never a thing in the UK? I used to read them all the time in France when I was a kid, and it’s not like the tv show wasn’t popular.
The next week was grim. I was stuck in a village with poor transport, over an hour from Hamburg. I was teaching 10 year olds cooking, and basically had to do it mostly in German because they didn’t speak English. My employer really does not like you to speak German in the classroom. One of the teachers had to go home because of a family emergency, so we were really understaffed. There was nowhere to eat in the village except an expensive restaurant, no cooking facilities, and I swear my hotel room had fleas. I ate loads of these and things from the supermarket bakery, and I never want to see one of these pot noodles again.
These however, are a bright spot in Northern Germany. Lübecker Mandehörnchen. Delicious marzipan almond goodness available from any supermarket.
Spezi is a great drink- it’s basically orange cola (and way nicer than its rival Mezzo Mix). There’s also a load of Nordic treats in SH.
The ten year olds did a great job with the domes. Way better in fact than the sixth formers the previous month.
My next assignment was in Baden, and I went to Documenta Art Fair in Kassel in between. This Greek Temple is made up of banned books.
The organisation of the festival was actually kind of crappy- there were big queues everywhere, it rained heavily, and they didn’t do things like do timed slots. So I never actually got to go inside this main building.
I got to meet an axolotl though.
And got this great book from the festival shop.
Next stop was Bruchsal, a small town near Heidelberg in SW Germany. I stayed with a very strange French piano teacher who only spoke to me in French, so my brain was a giant mangle of languages all week.
This is the nicest vegan paté I’ve ever had. There was also a great aubergine variation.
Also drank a lot of this delicious caffeine nectar.
Is it even a party if you don’t get a box of disgusting Klopfer shots for €3.29? “Germany’s loudest party drink” as they remind you. It’s probably best not to make any promises about the taste in their advertising. (I actually brought a box of Feigling home)
Heidelberg is very beautiful.
Here’s the Gormenghast-like Heidelberg Castle
I also got this book in Heidelberg, about a Van Gogh like artist who chops off his own hand. Good work with the title German translator- the original was something bland. The German title is “That God-Damn Hand”
And back to England
I came back! Permanently. Wow, that is weird. Gotta start living now.
So I moved to Margate, which was a good decision. This is the spot where TS Eliot wrote the Wasteland.
Nothing as bracing as the smell of rotting seaweed.
This is pretty much the only new item of clothing I bought all year. From a charity shop in Rochester.
Margate is coming up in the world.
So I found an unfurnished flat very easily, and moved in at the end of September/beginning of October and got my stuff out of storage.
I didn’t have a sofa or a bed initially, so had to resort to sitting on my office chair
I soon moved the mattress when I realised there was both a mouse and 8am techno problem with the party wall.
I soon got a sofa from a charity shop.
These were the first albums I listened to in the new house. Always an important decision.
I also got this huge print of Paris from a local junk shop (I had the other pictures already). Wow it was dirty.
I live round the corner from this.
Make hay while the sun still shines in Broadstairs
The nice thing about Morelli’s is that it never ever changes.
This is my neighbour’s giant wuss of a cat.
Workspace (currently not quite so nice and tidy)
I started doing a zine club
This book was total shite.
I like my street.
Rebecca can’t beat me at Othello, but at least we have sampled all the cake at Cliff’s
The Shell Grotto is one of my all-time favourite places.
All year I had missed out on pretty much every gig and tour I had wanted to go to, because I was never in the right country or the right city at the right time. I finally managed to catch the Cap’n Jazz reunion at Moth Club, and it probably made up for missing all the others. Sunn O))) play all the time, Cap’n Jazz do not.
Staying in London and doing some modest meeting up with, eating and drinking with friends totally bankrupted me. How did I ever afford it?
I also get sunsets like this in Margate.
The previous picture is the sunset reflecting off the swimming pool on the beach.
I went to see the John Davies sculpture exhibition with Rebecca, (and also worked at the opening). I love creepy binbag man.
I built a huge book-case, because I currently have way too many books, but am also in kind of a reading slump?
It was my turn at record club, so I introduced some people to Spiderland. Your first Slint is an important time in your life.
I did some dreary office work to make ends meet.
Also at Cliffs- acoustic gig with local acts Harry Hayes. I have also been to several other local gigs lately, but didn’t take phone photos- either camera ones or none.
And Eric Tormey.
I got back into doing printmaking, but realised how much I missed having access to a press. Hand rolling is not going to cut it for me.
I finally got a bed after sleeping on the floor for two months. It turns out to be a crap bed.
Caitlin moved down from London about a month after me. I don’t think she regrets it either. Here we are at a meeting of Dungaree Club.
I didn’t enjoy this job or its animal cruelty decor.
I did a Hundertwasser-based arts workshop. I don’t have any phone photos, but here’s my baking disaster when I dropped my freshly-baked cake for the event. (Yes, I had a good cry. It was also 11pm)
I did a whole load of market stalls of zines, prints etc. I ended up somehow churning out 13 zines this year. Total hack.
With new local friend Sammy, I ran a printmaking workshop for wrapping paper, and my old housemate Mel came down from London.
I made some non-specific festive cards.
I found a home for my risograph machine, so hopefully Print Club starts in the New Year
I was bored and ill over Christmas. Home trepanning did absolutely nothing for it. I still have a pathetic cough.