Here is the final part of my poetic trilogy based on the prolific travel blogs posted by Mark and Kirsty on their Kathmandu & Beyond website. You’ll find Part 1 here and Part 2 here. In Part 3, we finally come to the spomenik saga but first, food and drink around the world.
Food and Drink
In Part 2, there was mention of the wonderful street and restaurant food in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Here are some further limericks inspired by Mark and Kirsty’s write-ups of food and drink experiences in Cuba, Japan, Albania, China, Mongolia and, yet again, Thailand.
For ice cream and pizza and beer,
Cuba’s the place, so we hear.
From a hole in the wall
Or a man with a stall
You’ll fatten up quickly, oh dear.
In Japan we drank sake; Albania, raki
In China we had noodles with snake.
But if I’m honest with you
When wanting a chew,
I’d rather have wine and a steak.
We’ve drunk airag in Mongolia
It’s made from the milk of the mare.
Guaranteed to cause melancholia
Sadness, gloom and despair.
A Postage Stamp of Kazakhstan showing the origin of airag, also called kumis
By Post of Kazakhstan – http://www.kazpost.kz/?page=phil/stamps05, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5294143
Oh, by the by, we like Chiang Mai
It’s full of temples and bars.
During the day,
We go out and pray
But at night we drink under the stars.
Chicken Bus in Central America
We’ve travelled on the chicken bus
We picked one up in Hon-dur-as,
When we first heard the cluck
We said, ‘What the ****!’
The lady in front said, ‘Don’t cuss!’
Central American countries, such as Honduras, buy up old American and Canadian yellow school buses and use them for local transport. Highly decorated, the buses are used not only to transport people but also livestock including poultry. For this reason, they are known as chicken buses. Mark and Kirsty have an amusing post about these chicken buses.
Kalashnikov AK-47 in Pakistan
Come to Darra, bring a barrow
We’ve guns galore for you
Show your macho, bring your aggro
Way back in 1992 just after he started wearing long trousers, Mark visited the Pakistani border town of Darra Adam Khel. Situated in the north-west of Pakistan close to Afghanistan, the town is notorious for its illegal weapon manufacture, anything from antique muskets to high-end modern weapons. Mark went there for just one reason – to fire an automatic assault weapon. Having turned down an anti-aircraft gun and a World War 2 Bren gun, he settled for a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. He paid $5 for a cartridge full of bullets, was told to point the gun towards the adjacent trees and let it rip. Such was the surge of excitement he felt, he coughed up a second $5 and then called it a day. As far as I’m aware, Mark has never since fired another gun.
If possible, and with a stretch, to the tune of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, The Animals.
♫ There is a fort in Matsumoto
In the land of the Rising Sun.
Better than a chateau,
We took a lovely photo
And sent it to the old Sho-gun. ♫
Old castles and forts always attract a photographer’s lens and Kathmandu & Beyond has many such images, including this one of Matsumoto Castle, also known as Crow Castle, in central Japan. The regional military dictators of Japan known as shoguns died out in the 19th century although you may still hear the title term applied in a colloquial sense.
Spomeniking in Serbia
Before I get to the series of four limericks below, let me introduce you to the world of spomeniks. What’s a spomenik, you ask? Here’s a short extract from Mark and Kirsty’s backgrounder on the Balkan Wars that answers the question, starting from 1945 when Marshall Tito created a single country called Yugoslavia.
Unlike Stalin, Tito was not interested in developing a personality cult but he was a keen supporter of engendering patriotic feelings towards Yugoslavia, that is, building a Yugoslavian identity rather than aligning identity with an earlier national region such as Serbia or Bosnia. To that end, Tito fostered artistic freedom in literature, art, film and music. He also supported the Soviet Modernism architectural style and the creation of many statues, monuments and memorials depicting those awarded the Order of the People’s Hero of Yugoslavia, the sites of WW2 battles and other places of heroic action, and places of destruction such as the Nazi concentration camps on Yugoslav soil. Many of the monuments, known as spomeniks, the Serb-Croatian/Slovenian word for monument, are large abstract creations meant to symbolise Yugoslavia’s resistance to the German occupation during WW2 but some say they embody more than that – a national spirit, a symbol of hope for the future, a testament of triumph.
Back to the road trip. It took place over nine days in April 2017 in a rented brand-new Vauxhall Corsa; Mark driving, Kirsty navigating. It started off badly. First, Mark entered a two-lane highway heading north when he wanted to go south and had to make an illegal U-turn. Then, at the first photo-stop, he fell into a ditch and broke the lens filter on the camera. Then the state of the side road they were on deteriorated rapidly into deep potholes, crevasses and overgrown hedgerows that scratched the brand-new car. And finally, Mark stepped into something unmentionable deposited by a big Serbian dog. And that was just Day 1!
Well, it did improve. Their plan was to travel on a 1,650 km clockwise circular route from Nis in the south back to Nis passing through Zlatibor on Day 3 and Kragujevac on Day 6, plus many other places but I mention these two because their names appear in two of the limericks. The weather was mostly dull, often wet, and one day, they drove into a snow storm for which they were ill equipped clothes-wise.
Day 1. Start in Nis
There’s not much that rhymes with Spomenik:
Try Ron ‘n Nick or John ‘n Vic
But be a good scout,
Go seek them out,
And change your names to Tom ‘n Dick!
Day 4. Rest Day in Zlatibor after the snow storm the day before
A-spomeniking no more,
Holed up in Zlatibor.
Too cold to travel,
Need to unravel,
Tomorrow we’ll explore.
Day 6. Visit to Sumarice Memorial Park, Kragujevac, which contains ten spomeniks.
So many spomeniks; so little time.
Here in the park they’re ten to the dime.
But my problem is when you get back
How will you say Kragujevac?
End of the road trip, back in Nis
So now it’s time to return the car;
Sit down, relax, find a bar.
Say goodbye to spomeniks.
Let’s both go to Dominic’s.
Well, that’s it for now. There are many more adventures on Mark and Kirsty’s website that, I’m sure, would inspire me to write more ditties, poems and limericks but, for now, I’m poemed out. But, feel free to submit your own creations with a link to the post that inspired you. Use the Leave A Comment facility at the top of the page.
Thanks to Mark and Kirsty for commenting and correcting earlier drafts of the three posts, and to my sister, Maureen, for polishing the scanning, grammatical and rhyming aspects of many of my poetic creations. Anything that still jars is called poetic licence!