Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Balkans...

Working under the big boss..., originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is midweek already and past that in work terms, as I take the train back from the office to Amsterdam. It is stinking hot and it is not even the end of May, seems like June has arrived early with its wet winds and humid weather, only the winds are not so wet and the soil at the allotment gets ever harder. Our biggest hope for today was that there would be a big thunderstorm but now we have to hope that the BBC are right in their forecast of heavy rain for tomorrow. I just need the soil to become a little bit manageable so we can get all the beds prepared for the seeds which need to be planted before long.

On Monday, after a smallish amount of rain I managed to sow some beans, radishes and spinach, along with Wallfowers, Sweet Williams, Strawflowers and Goldflowers, to add a bit of colour to the late summer garden. And on Sunday, I planted out maize.

It is a few days since the wonderful Eurovision Song Contest and I managed to congratulate my Norwegian colleague on the excellent performance of their representative. There has been a massive amount of discussion underneath one of my photos on flickr, mostly from myself regarding the Eurovision, some of which I might copy here, (or maybe not….). Anyway, it turned out that nine of my ten favourite songs on the night ended up in the final top 10. ( A bit like the Grand National where we had three of the first four home). I included Albania in mine, when it was Armenia which made it to the top ten, helped largely by an active Armenian diaspora in France and Holland in particular, making sure that Armenia gets more votes than Turkey… the wars of the Ottoman Empire being fought on the stage of Eurovision. I liked the song, just thought the (pretty) lady just shouted her words instead of singing.

So, just like last year when I was so happy that Serbia won the Contest, I find myself completely at odds with all the moaning minnies on the BBC messageboard who want the UK to pull out because of unfair voting. Although I have my doubts a bit this year – I do think that so much of the friendly voting cancels itself out and that the best or most popular songs end up at or near the top. Admittedly a few countries with a wide diaspora such as Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Greece and others, to varying extent will always do better than otherwise, it is a fact that each of the last seven winning countries have been first-time winners and that no one country is dominating – yet… Maybe it will be Armenia’s ‘turn’ next because of all the ‘favoured’ countries this is the one without a winner so far…

Mainly on the basis of it being Russia’s turn to win and also because the song and performance were both very good, I decided to have a saver bet on Russia this year and so came out break even. I would have piled onto Russia had it not been for the doubts sown in my mind by the internet forum participants who kept going on about how bad Russia was, the song, the singer and the performance…. They had it in for him. However, when I saw the performance for myself last Tuesday I thought they were wrong and so put my money on… not much but enough….

So, inspired by Eurovision, we are thinking of taking a Balkan holiday this summer. Not the beaches and crowds of Croatia but the hills and valleys and orthodox churches and mosques of Kosova, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, this is the plan. I found a cheapish flight with the Albanian low-cost carrier Belle Air, which can fly us from Luik in northern Belgium to Pristina in Kosova for less than € 300 return in mid-July and we can stay for two or two-and-a-half weeks,. And whilst there we can travel around by bus, like we do in Turkey. Should be interesting, just hopefully a bit cooler than two summers ago…


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