With the fall of Afghanistan, I am reflecting my travel experience there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “hippie trail” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and today, it is a poor yet powerful land that foreign powers misunderstand and insist on devaluing.

In this 1978 journal entry, Mashhad took a bus with me from Iran, Herat, the main city in western Afghanistan.

Saturday, July 29, 1978: Mashhad to Herat

My Spanish friend woke me up at 5:45. I think if he hadn’t come I would have slept all morning. We got off at the station and took a ride and weakly I searched for breakfast. Half a liter of milk and a small cake did quite nicely and we were on our way.

Here was the beginning of a new world. Compared to Iranians and Afghans, Afghans look Asian and Mongolian and their twine-wrapped luggage is full at the bus station. Our bus left at 7:20 and was quite full of western travelers – the most we have seen since the Istanbul-Tehran bus.

Jean and I were calm and weak. I sat there, the hot air blowing in my face with the whip around my hair, hoping the kilometers would last and I knew I was sinking further away from Europe.

At 10:30 we arrived at the deserted Iran-Afghanistan border. What a place! Stuck somewhere in the middle. We left our passports and went to the building. An interesting museum with a message greeted us. In a few glass cases there were stories and hideouts of many unfortunate drug smugglers. It was made for interesting reading – who smuggled what and where and was sent to prison. I have this terrible fear that someone will plant some dope in my Rocksack and I will be leaked. That wouldn’t be any fun.

We got through Iranian customs quite easily and then we crossed a windy desert to an abandoned, isolated VW van and small orange bus full of locals bordering the area. We just stood around. The wind and heat were intense. The barren plain stretched around and I said to Jin, “Then this is Afghanistan.” We found shade in one of the wrecked VW vans and peeled a small apple. Then a bus came and we got in. Quickly stopped to check the passport, I couldn’t believe it was so easy. It wasn’t.

A few minutes later our bus pulled up to the search yard and we started to sit and wait for the bank and doctor’s office to open.

And here I sit. Time is good for doing nothing but catching up in the journal, which I did in the end, and thinking. When I brush ants bigger than me and protect my eyes from sand and blown things, I think about the fun things I can do. I think of friends returning home, of my parents in their leisure time on their yacht in cool, green, fresh British Columbia., And the fun I could have in Europe. I’m glad I’m finally doing it but I’m really looking forward to it. I hope for health, no problem, and a good flight back to Europe.

The funny little bank opened and to change my 100 franc note I had to sign three, write the serial number of the bill and ask a few times for the correct change. I brought 775 Afghans.

The next few hours tried my patience as we bounced back and forth from a dusty office to take care of everything so we could enter Afghanistan. The luggage “search” was a little more than a glance, our shot certificates were checked, the police and customs officers checked us out, we had fanta and finally everyone got back on the orange bus and we were on our way – or so we thought.

About 100 yards later there was a police check and most of the Polish passengers on the bus jumped on it and had to go through more red tape. Then we went to the dusty vastness of the desert in Afghanistan.

The countryside was arid and barren, supported by dark brown hills and eroded by mud huts, some old ruins or flocks of goats or sheep. It always feels good to enter a new country. So far this summer I have only discovered two new ones. But everything that lies ahead is as new.

Just when it seemed like we were getting up somewhere, a fight started in front of the bus. Afghans have decided to double the price of the ride from 50 to 100 afghanis. Our tourists were stubborn and we refused. The driver turned around and pulled out a rough-looking Afghan knife as he approached the Iranian border. You could tell they were on top of a barrel of ours.

There was a commotion, And everyone was trying to solve the problem. A soft-spoken but commanding Pakistani asked us to pay but we all believed that if we paid then there was nothing to stop them from using the same tactics again. We have compromised – we will give them 60 afghanis now and the rest will go to Herat. We were all on edge after that episode and I think if they had tried to get more money, they would have had a lot of trouble with the burden of their terrific passengers on the earthly bus.

We stopped at a secluded tea shop where a well and a group of locals were picking up a warm goat skin. The word “hotel” was a sign and I was expecting the worst. Many people are notorious for “highly recommending” certain hotels. Although it was an innocent tea stop, and it gave Jean and me the first good look in Afghanistan. The leaking well provided cold, dirty water to everyone. I cooled down really nicely, wallowed it. We shared a 25-cent watermelon and my weak, hungry body chewed it. I thought I had really abused myself by not eating much. For two days I skipped any real food and just drank pop and sucked watermelon. I have decided from now on that I will eat well and stay in good hotels for both my mental and physical health and to keep my spirits high.

The tea house for a tea house in Afghanistan was exactly the image I had. Men dressed in old traditional clothes, who look like they have worked hard but they sit around lazily, sitting on the floor drinking tea and eating hashish. The room was filled with smoke and their black glass eyes caught. We were joined by a few tourists and I was just standing on top of my watermelon peel and looking out the window as if I was watching a documentary on TV. Word spread — we had more drivers and the crew would be quieter. What a strange society. I guess when you’re so far behind physically you just give up – sit in the shade and eat melons, drink tea., And smoking hash.

Back on the hot bus we set off for Herat and dawn fell on us, “You know, this place is beautiful to look at.” We were definitely in a new and different culture and both Jin and I were delighted. I punched him on the shoulder, “Okay, let’s start our trip now!”

Herat was, like the information in our minimum guidebook, “hard to choose.” Very green, As far as cities go in this part of the world, And with lots of parks, I loved Herat right now. Cheap, sick of Scoozy Hole, I’ve lobbied for a first class hotel. We found a dilly.

Hotel Mowafaq, a fancy hotel in downtown Herat, was all we needed. Located in the center, shower, swimming pool, clean restaurant, And free from all the men who are tormented by cheap hotels, it will make us feel human again. I feel a little softer, but I prefer a place where I can leave my belongings without worrying and walk around barefoot and find easy peace when needed. Our double cost was only 200 afghanis ($ 5) and we were willing to spend more.

We had a sprite and we stopped at a small clothing store in this central area of ​​Herat where Jean and I could get some local clothes so we could go “native” for the rest of the trip. Local baggy clothes make a lot more sense, And they will also be fun souvenirs. Jean bought a piece of hashish from the man for about 1. We’ll wait and see what we do with it.

Now we were clean and ready for a feast. A nice cool shower and an enjoyable and highly successful activity in a real sit down toilet (you don’t appreciate the little things in life like sitting on the toilet unless you have them). Coming out of the bathroom I thought, “Well, there was a quick punishment for bragging about the diarrhea I had yesterday, how I traveled with hard stools for two months, and now I’m a new person.”

Below we ordered two local specialties served on Saturday and we noticed that there was a small note on each page in the menu. Since the People’s Revolution, all prices have been reduced by 10 afghanis. It costs just 50 afghanis ($ 1.25) for each meal of soup, bread, rice, meat and cold water. We were both thirsty and cold water attacked our self-discipline like forbidden fruit. We surrendered to it and it was good. I couldn’t help but feel “iffi” about it when I drank suspicious water as I always do but it didn’t diminish its initial goodness. The black and green tea finished the meal nicely in a well-sized container and I can’t believe how everything turned out so wonderfully.

The people here are nice, with soldiers and police on the streets in the wake of the recent revolution. Flower-decorated taxis like horse-drawn chariots come down the road. We stood on the windy porch under the stars thinking that this place is no different than the constellations.

My hair is fluffy, the hall has air conditioning and we have a bug screen in the open window. There is a fixture of light, my teeth are clean, my stomach is full, I feel healthy (and hopefully will be tomorrow) and I think I will go to bed early tonight. It is very important to live well and enjoy yourself and, without going through periods of sadness and discomfort, you will never know you can really enjoy it.

With the fall of Afghanistan, I am reflecting my travel experience there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “hippie trail” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and today, it is a poor yet powerful land that foreign powers misunderstand and insist on devaluing.

Stay away from me while exploring Herat, a leading city in western Afghanistan, in this 1978 journal entry.

Sunday, July 30, 1978: Herat

A dream woke me up at 7:30 and by 8:15 I gave up trying to fall asleep. At the restaurant I ate two fried eggs, yogurt and a pot of black tea. After cleaning my camera lens, Jin and I set off to see Herat.

First, we had two businesses – exchange money and get a bus ticket The bank was really something. It took me about an hour to change the $ 100, but it was interesting to sit back and watch the Afghan banking process. I saw the suitcases of scattered Afghans, the tribesmen bringing five or six dollar 100 bills (I’m afraid to imagine where they got them), a uniformed guard with enough bayonets for five or six bank robbers and a rag-tag building and atmosphere. I have received 3,758 Afghans. At first the man gave me 3,000. I said “more” and he gave me 800. “More” and I got 50 more afghani, and then I wanted and got the last 8 afghani.

Afterwards, Jin and I rode a bus to the highly recommended Qaderi bus company for Kabul. The 800-kilometer journey costs only $ 5 or 200 afghanis. Hopefully, we will get our seats and there will be no fuss.

We were free to roam. I had a fanta, put on a zoom lens, and went into action on the colorful flower horse-drawn taxi, the busy craftsman, the fruit stand, and the dusty dream side street. Everyone who came out of the travel poster seemed straightforward. Strong strong eyes on the back of the skin weather-beaten face. Beards flying in poetic air, long and wavy, and snake-like turbans securely wrapped around their heads. The older women carried the babies completely covered in bag-like attire and surprisingly called for a photo. I shot almost the whole roll and luckily I should have had some great shots.

We moved away from the main center and chatted about the activities in the dusty residential area. People are very proud and no one deserves to be photographed. Everyone was gesturing to come to us, except those who were too proud to acknowledge us. I didn’t really know how people would accept us as weird, short-skinned, pale-skinned, weak-bellied, Phoenician people who would gossip in their world, take pictures and buy trash and bring it home and tell everyone how cheap it was. . I couldn’t help but feel that our curious tourists have grown old to these tough, proud people who work so hard and live so simply.

There were countless moments and scenes that flashed through my mind forever, a picture of Afghanistan. We worked to quench an average thirst and shared a watermelon in the shade before we moved on.

Exhausted, we returned to our beautiful hotel, ate a plate of potatoes, a bowl of soup and some tea, got up for a shower and a short snooze. We’re living really well for a change now. I made that $ 100 cash and it feels great to just spend the money when you want and don’t worry.

Now we are back in the sun. The afternoon temperature was still cooking and every once in a while we would keep our heads wet under a faucet. After mailing our postcards, we checked out the rows of cloth weavers. Hardworking men worked tirelessly on these primitive looms. The witness is quite interesting. Then, forming a wide circle, we came to the big mosque, checked it out, and found ourselves in the vicinity of very hard-selling shops.

A pseudo-friend took me by the hand and led me to his shop, and before I knew it, I was wearing the locals’ great white baggy pants and shirt and turban, and bargaining like crazy. I am determined to make him work from 500 to my maximum of 152 afghani. I almost made it, but I was surprised when he let me go empty handed, a little sorry too. I want those cool, baggy, low-profile clothes and maybe, if I can swallow my pride, I’ll be back tomorrow and take them.

Like running a Gauntlet, we made our way back to our hotel to enter the store and make our way out. I tried and failed to get a beautiful mink skin cheaply. I offered 200 afghanis for an exciting Afghan Fox hat and finished buying it and I proudly reduced a man from 400 afghanis to 40 afghanis for three small beautiful embroidered pouches. I didn’t buy any souvenirs to talk about on the two-month trip – now I’m afraid I’ve opened the floodgate.

Back at the hotel, Jean pulled out the hashish she had bought and I decided that this would be the time and place where I would lose my “marijuana virginity”. I’ve never smoked a cigarette and smoking has always stopped me, so to speak, because it’s always a matter of social pressure and I never feel comfortable doing it because everyone at a party was doing it and I was the only one. The “square” is one. This kind of pressure and the normal view around pot smoking strengthened my resolve to stay away from evil weeds. But this was different.

In Afghanistan, hashish is an integral part of culture. It is as innocent as wine with dinner in America. If I ever had this high experience, it wouldn’t be in a dark dorm room in UW with a bunch of people I don’t respect. I can’t feel good about it.

Jean and I talked about marijuana and hash on the bus for about three hours after leaving Istanbul. I decided that if I felt better about the whole situation, I would like to smoke some hash in Afghanistan. Okay, I’m here in Herat, I love it, and I love this city. We’ve got authentic hashish worth about half the price of 40 afghanis ($ 1). It was so smooth that it had to be cut with a knife.

Up in the room, Jean mixes it with some tobacco and piles the product into a fun old straight wooden pipe that we picked up. He pulled one – immediately commented, “Good thing”. I don’t know what to expect and sucking in the hope of not getting a mouth full of ashes. I don’t like smoke, but other than that, there was nothing disgusting about it. It didn’t even smell like marijuana. The only problem is nothing happened. I’ve smoked enough, but Virgin Run is generally unproductive. Anyway, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first.

We went out for a walk. Going from store to store is very natural. Mixing with people, sniffing at shops, and just poking. This space is small, but it doesn’t really matter because no road is ever the same if you go through it a second or third time.

We sat outside our restaurant for dinner since tonight was a special wedding in the big room. We had a plate of lots of different vegetables, each with lots of meat washed by tea for $ 1.50.

Upstairs we smoked a little more and took a cold bath. This time I felt a little change. Some colors and objects were more tangy. There was a lively edge to things that I didn’t realize was an option. I was very relaxed and the light fixture on our roof looked like a big candle breathing in and out. But I still wasn’t really high.

The big wedding started downstairs, and the bride’s father proudly shook my hand and greeted Jin and me, and we sat next to a small Afghan band, listening to exciting music and watching the women dance. Everyone was quite formal, men in one room, women in another, and the decorated car was waiting outside.

Now we walk at night. Chariots burning torches through the darkness, people carrying lanterns, shopkeepers and work boys sitting around soup and bread, many Afghans were tall or rising there, it was cold and, as always, the wind was weeping. The night was a great experience and we wandered around.

After a small watermelon, one more time to check out the wedding, making a cold shower and a nice wet bed with our sheets, we commented on what a good day was today and went to bed waiting for tomorrow and wrapped in wet sheets. .

(This is the journal entry # 2 of a five-volume series. Stay tuned for another episode tomorrow, as I’m 23 years old entering deeper into Herat.)

With the fall of Afghanistan, I am reflecting my travel experience there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “hippie trail” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and today, it is a poor yet powerful land that foreign powers misunderstand and insist on devaluing.

Stay away from me for another dreamy day in Herat, Afghanistan, in this 1978 journal entry.

Monday, July 31, 1978: Herat

I did not move for nine hours. After breakfast we started a little adventure with our rental bikes. Nice to get the wheel. We could stop whenever we wanted and, if the people were too intense, we could have a clean escape. The wind has cooled us and things have happened much faster than we have to travel on foot.

We hurried through the part of the city we already knew to the old ruined minarets that we had seen two days earlier when we came to Herat. Examining this historic site, an old man at 10 Afghans lets us enter the mosque and we see the tomb of an old Afghan king.

Now we saw the big historical place and we stopped visiting with some kind of study in the shade. We had a nice chat and learned something about culture and language. We learned from our friend that we are spending too much money on almost everything.

Happy shore down the road, I took a string of gorgeous photos. This is the moment of the photographer that I have been waiting for so long. I’ve got boys throwing watermelons, colorful girls sitting on the shore, lazy teenagers leaning on warm wagons, and lots of little news of Afghan life. People are truly friendly and proud, shaking my hand firmly and equally. I threw a small fruit at me but, all in all, it was one of the most friendly countries in my experience. Any woman who has taken to the streets and who has reached puberty is completely covered by a small gridwork of cloth covering their face.

We are determined to paddle to one side until we reach the edge of town. After soaking our flutes with Sprite, we descended the busy, dusty streets until the town had turned into a mud village as I had seen in Egypt and Morocco. Along the sidewalk, we found ourselves locked into a new and different world. The calm brown dirt road has become high walls, long and narrow. The walls are occasionally broken into small shops and rustic wooden doors. Young and old sat as if they were waiting for a stranger on a bike. I’m sure we had a very rare view for them. I wonder if they enjoyed our presence or if we were violating their peace.

I’ve experimented with a variety of greetings, starting with a baby wave greeting, the serious “kiss the hand and keep it in the heart” style that offers us a religious look. That one gets great results. I had a pocket full of candy for the gift and I felt better giving it than giving money.

You know, in this happy society everyone seems to be satisfied and I have never seen a hungry and very hard beggar. They have decent demand for low productivity and things seem to be working out and everyone has enough tea, hashish and watermelon.

We peeked around until we were full and realized it was hot and hard work. Then, on the way back, we stopped at a haystack, where a wooden hay chewing machine pulled a few bulls romantically. What a dreamy tourist and photographic opportunity! I got the chance to run the kart and there was an unforgettable explosion. I sit on the chewers, running the oxen around and around and I think the farmers kicked as big as I could and I pulled them out and out of their hay. That adaptation.

We got our bikes back two hours later and paid everyone one. We picked up a watermelon and headed back to our hotel. Feeling hot but happy, we stopped by the pool, took off our underwear and plunged into the cold. Instant refreshments! That’s great! What a wonderful day we are having! We walked around, took a few dives and took some good pictures and I thought, “My goodness – this is going to be a holiday.” In the drop up room, we packed up for a while and went downstairs for lunch. Good sleep, good food, and my vitamin pills were my formula for enjoying and succeeding the rest of this trip. I don’t think I could go wrong with that recipe, but we have to wait and see, right?

After a short rest and a few cold showers, the sun was a little lower in the sky and we came back. While I was in love, Martin got off the Istanbul-Tehran bus while bargaining with a nice guy for that mink, and we chatted, and he recommended endless markets. We said we were going there.

I turned on my zoom lens and I got a thrill to zoom in on these beautiful people. I can’t wait to see my picture. We have soaked all the images in the market and transformed or melted from scene to scene. What a sensual experience. We would go to the water pipe making sock or the surrounding area to the tin pounder, weaver, bead maker, bead stringer, billow working man, Ricky foot sharpening knife, chain pounder and nail bender. Everything was done by hand. Old and young worked hard all day for the same little thing – all their lives. I will never complain about the long days of my work – teaching piano lessons.

Each shop was about five yards across and every five yards was a new scene – a new glimpse of Afghan life. Some things we didn’t even understand. At one point, the little ones would not give up asking for “bakshish” (gifts of money) and we had to enter a huge mosque where a policeman chased them and we had to take off our shoes and give him something to check. Out of this place. It was impressive.

Now we were tired. Back at the hotel we went for a swim and a strange dog snatched my glasses from my bag and the lens fell off. I was worried but it came back – apparently as good as new. I dreaded the thought of breaking my glasses and wearing my high school hornroom which I brought for extra.

Up in the room we tried to hash out a little more and went to mix. Michelle was a bit intense. Small things like a man of tomato weight made me particularly tickled and I was more receptive to insects and ready to move around a bit more freely. I didn’t know if it was because of hashish or if I was in a good mood.

We boarded a fun little three-wheeled taxi that looked like a soup-up ice cream truck for a ride to another part of town and I got into some really exciting photography. The subject of the existing light and the light of the lantern. I have been able to pose men properly that I like them. I would even push their chin a little higher or bring the lantern closer. They may be exceptional, or they may not be, but my subject and I both had a memorable time to try.

We turned around a bit more and then got into a fancy two wheeled horse drawn bogie taxi. Across the city like a chariot, we have our drivers singing really entertaining, or at least fun songs. We surprised him with a confident 10 afghani and we didn’t have time to grab his hand as we ran. These tourists were never taken for a ride without a horse. I decided that if you try to agree on a price before boarding, they know you are new to the game and they will tear you down. If you just say “Home James” and pay them what you think is reasonable, you will be fined.

On the way home, I bought a nice little five afghani (1 cent) goodie. Then we stopped to check on my friend with Mink. I knew I would be able to bargain with anger again and that is what happened. This was my third time at his store and I knew if I went home without that mink, I would kick myself. I like it just as much as I used to like the old “ringworm” (a cat I befriended and came back home in 2nd grade – which gave me the ringworm). I finally went for 460 afghani (12) and came up with a great skin.

Now we were hungry and our hotel was waiting. We are living very nicely. Sitting where the waiters knew us, we ordered a hearty meaty meal with tea and a watermelon. We were drinking water and my stool was hard, so we had more. I’m feeling very good. I am in control and I can get what I want. That’s great.

Up in the room, I took a long bath, cleaned my pack, enjoyed my little souvenir, and hit the sack. I lay there without thinking about how cockroaches got their name. (Probably I’m high, above all.)

People all over the world enjoy the same thing. The old cleaner ignored my request for more toilet paper and said dreamily, “Look, isn’t that beautiful?” We both stood motionless on the roof of the hotel, watching the sun set behind a distant hill where the torch of the chariot flew.

We were sitting in a park talking to some studying Afghans when someone asked, “Aren’t you traveling with your women?” I said my girlfriend was at home and she replied, “Oh, it’s too hard – I never did that.” I feel like I’ve been on the “street” for a long time.

(This is a five-part series journal entry # 3. Stay tuned for another episode tomorrow, as the 23-year-old has ridden 500 miles across Afghanistan and is touring the capital city of Kabul.)

With the fall of Afghanistan, I am reflecting my travel experience there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “hippie trail” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and today, it is a poor yet powerful land that foreign powers misunderstand and insist on devaluing.

In this 1978 journal entry, stay away from me when I travel 500 miles across Afghanistan and tour the capital city Kabul.

Tuesday, August 1, 1978: From Herat to Kabul

At 4:00, we woke up and it was dead night. At that time no one was awake but I sat on the edge of the bed. We ate a watermelon and caught the Qaderi bus in Kabul.

The bus was organized, punctual, and we were moving. People sleeping on the sidewalk were breaking the dawn as soon as it started to shake. Our overbearing bus honked loudly as if it was preparing itself for the 800-kilometer journey that was ahead. The road was good and we maintained a good speed, stopping all morning for just a quick coke. The countryside was desolate, hot, and unpredictable. A herd of camels, a stray nomadic or quiet bunch of tents, the ruins of mud bricks melting like sand castles in a wave, and the secluded power line with narrow, but wide, US and USSR-built roads. Across the deserts of Afghanistan. It wasn’t really a natural ride, but at the end of the 14-hour ride I gained an appreciation for the vastness of this country of 10 million people.

We had a short lunch stop where gin and I had a fanta and some peanuts and I used some from my zoom lens and then we ran. This was the biggest ride. Our driver actually wanted to keep a good tempo. The countryside has not changed all day. The cities of the same lazy, stupid camels and sleeping gray-brown earthen forts are lined with dirty mounds in the background. In the afternoon we had three stops to pray in Makkah and as darkness fell we entered Kabul. Jean was not feeling well so we took a cab to the tourist “Chicken Street” and found the most beautiful hotel available to us – not very nice, but okay, Sina Hotel.

Jean went straight to sleep while I had a bad dinner with a friendly student from Philadelphia who came here to study the language. I’m ruined after our great Herat Hotel.

Oh, I’m in Kabul. Imagine – very close to my dream – Khyber Pass and India. I believe I’m from Seattle more than half the world. I need to check a globe. I hope Jean is well – and I’m still well – in the morning.

Wednesday, August 2, 1978: Kabul

It is wrong to go to bed without a watch. I went to bed but got up very early. Jean was in a very miserable condition so he lay down on the bed. For breakfast I ate a watermelon, a large carrot and two boiled eggs and tea in the courtyard of the Sina Hotel. I was behind from the beginning today because I knew we had two days in Kabul and there was nothing to be excited about. I spoke to a German girl who was recovering from an eight-day battle with “Tehran Pete” and who wanted to go home. Home is a very nice thought when you are traveling to India. It’s more heavenly when you’re sick.

Going down to business, I went to a bus company in Pakistan and took a ticket to Pakistan through Khyber Pass on Friday morning. Then, with some incredibly incredibly persistent shoe-shin boys tailing me, I entered the Pakistani embassy and was glad to know that Americans do not need a visa to travel through Pakistan. We were set. Wow – Khyber Pass, Pakistan, then India!

Back at the hotel, I checked the gin. She was still feeling very rough. I brought her special magic tea and two boiled eggs and hung her for a while. His tendency was to fast and sleep.

It was so hot when I set out to cover Kabul, what an irresistible job. I had no maps or information. I really couldn’t turn to this blobby, hodgepodge capital. The city is like a giant village spread over several valleys that come together. It seems to love its sadly dried up river, which has very little water with a wide and rocky bed. It was hot and dusty, the shadows were sparse, and I felt very clear being alone and wearing my shorts. Still, I covered a good portion of Kabul on foot.

I walked through some very seedbeds, searched in vain for tourist information, and caught a taxi to the Kabul Museum. It was a long journey and he vehemently resisted the 40 afghani I gave him. He wanted 60. I thought 40 was too fair and finally, to lose him, I paid 50 bucks. Then I found out that the museum I had visited was closed. I was a little disappointed and for the people gathered around me, I got on a crowded bus and got to the end of it where I wanted to stay. It was a busy place. The only original city in Afghanistan and it had several large buildings and fancy establishments. But tribal chaos is everywhere. In the vicinity of a modern department store, old men donkeys with tomatoes, little girls selling little lime, piles of honeydew watermelons, a man sitting on top, sleeping and smoking.

I checked out a fancy hotel and sat in the cool bar sipping a coke and eating a pretty girl’s bread and then I climbed to the top of the “Afghan Store” which is the closest thing to a western department store and found a beautiful restaurant with a beautiful view of ugly Kabul .

An old man sat me down next to him and said, “I am Professor So-and-so. What’s your name and reputation? “He was excited about eating with an American but I’m afraid I wasn’t really in the right mood and I wasn’t talking much. He told me that he was” Mr. Rick “. I taught him the do-ri-me scale and what a radish. That was the only thing on my plate that stopped him. He left and I finished my meal with the silent gaze of the other diners and then I headed home.

Evidence of the recent revolution is everywhere. Upon entering Kabul our bus was checked (I guess for guns), copies of the headlines were seen posted on the day of the change, there is an 11:00 curfew and soldiers are armed with bayonets everywhere. On the street I saw what was left of a tank key, blown up in bits and left as a reminder that the old government was dead.

Later we entered our cozy little Cena Hotel courtyard for a light dinner. I worked on a honeydew watermelon, we both ate boiled eggs and tea. Jin had tea with some of Sina’s special sick people. The rest of the evening was lazy and dull. I wasn’t looking forward to another day in Kabul but there was no bus before and it would be good for Jean.

Thursday, August 3, 1978: Kabul

Today was Malaria Pill Day and our third weekend on the road. We were on the doorstep of India, most of our work was behind, and most of our adventures were ahead. Our health was at its worst but we were both determined that nothing could stop us now. I swallowed my super vitamins with zinc pills with black tea and ate toast and eggs before going out for a walk. I had no big plans for today – just to spend time and enjoy myself.

I walked down Afghanistan’s tourist high-pressure point “Chicken Street”, countless “Come to my store Mister, just look” and realized that out of all the rubbish everyone wants to see, I’m actually nothing. Wanted

I went down to the American Center to read a little and escape the midday sun and then I joined Jean with me. This is the first time in almost two days that he has left the hotel. We just read the loose and old news. The latest Time magazine was censored by the new government here. They censor any issues with USSR related articles. It leaves old news for us to read. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s better than nothing. Reading an American magazine on the street is like going to an American movie on the street – it takes you home as long as you’re immersed in it.

After lying around the hotel for a while, I grabbed Jean’s bag, white Afghan pants, grabbed my camera, and grabbed a bus on the outskirts of town. It is better not to know where you are going or not to care. I got on any old bus, paid an afghani, and drove as long as I wanted – which was the end of the line. The bus driver invited me for tea, which I accepted, and the party gathered to look around. Boy, can I really be a friend to these people who look really weird – they can look endless. Last night I wrote a poem called “Afghan Eyes” about a little girl who stared at me for five hours on our bus ride from Herat.

I put on my zoom lens and walked around in a tent where an entire community lived. It’s really sad that they were camera-shy. I was able to find a lot of Afghans, however, who were dying to take pictures of them and I tried my best to keep them. By bus I soon returned to the tourist world of “Chicken Street”.

Jean was tired of being knocked up and finally had an appetite. I myself was suffering from a little loose bowel problem and, after taking several alternate turns to the toilet, we slowly walked down the street looking for dinner.

The “steak house” caught my eye when we first arrived in Kabul, and now we’ll try it. I wasn’t counting on anything great – just hoping. In fact, I got a very good steak and vegetable dinner for less than a dollar, complete with soup and a pot of tea. That stains both of us wonderfully. After the meal, we exchanged a little money – our release from Iranian and Turkish rupees and 50 Pakistani rupees.

After that good meal we felt good and went back home. I spent the evening in the yard catching this journal, repairing a strap on my pack, and enjoying tea and a Fleetwood Mac tape. It would be great if we could move again tomorrow.

Being so rich (even as a humble backpacker) and being so white in this poor and struggling corner of our world puts me in a strange quandary as a traveler if I can change that. It’s kind of sad, but I realized today that I want to build a wall between me and any potential friends in the world. In Europe I love talking to people and making friends. This is one of the main reasons for me to travel there, but there are some obstacles. I think a lot of it is doubt, lack of understanding and fatigue. Also, most of the people I meet around here speak English, seemingly speaking it to make money from tourists. I want to speak the local language, but I don’t.

(This is a five-part series journal entry # 4. Stay tuned for another episode tomorrow, as I am 23 years old and traveling from Kabul to Pakistan via the Khyber Pass.)

With the fall of Afghanistan, I am reflecting my travel experience there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “hippie trail” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and today, it is a poor yet powerful land that foreign powers misunderstand and insist on devaluing.

In this final journal entry of 1978, stay away from me as I travel from Kabul along the fictional Khyber Pass in Pakistan.

Friday, August 4, 1978: From Kabul to Rawalpindi, Pakistan

I was mentally for this morning. I don’t think I could have woken up feeling bad and I didn’t. Jean and I both felt good. We had breakfast at the last big Sina hotel and caught our small 8:30 bus to Pakistan.

On this bus I wanted to pass Khyber. I dreamed of crossing this romantic wild and historically dangerous pass year after year and it was too much on my to-do list – definitely in the top five. Now I was sitting next to this kinky old bright, but poorly painted, wonderful open window that leaned out half of my body if I wanted to. Our seats were big and high but crowded and the bus was full of Pakistani and “Road to India” passengers.

I was glad to get out of Kabul and almost immediately we were on a beautiful mountain pass. From here to the border, although nothing was up to the Pacific Northwest standard, it was the closest thing we saw in Afghanistan. We even crossed a lake, but I didn’t see any boats. I wondered how many, or how few, Afghans were ever on the boat.

Hastily stopping at Jalalabad for lunch break, we got back on the road in 20 minutes. We were close to the border and the fears kept growing. We hoped it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle but so far nothing has surprised us.

Afghanistan border station, time consuming, was easy. We just sat down to eat a watermelon and asked for money from us for a coke. In fact, we neatly planned to save our cash and leave without any Afghans. We waited our turn to search, filled out the form, stamped our passports – the normal process, and reloaded to stop after 100 yards for our acquaintance with Pakistan.

This place was pretty random. We entered a room and were called to our desk one by one. The customs officer “hunts and picks” our important statistics in his register and stamps our passports.

Passports in hand, we knew we were halfway through the process, but we weren’t sure where to go next. We walked around and entered a building, and in a dark room, two men jumped out of two beds and welcomed us to bed. No thanks! We get out of there and get crushed by dope dealers and black market money chargers. Everything was so open and clear that it seemed almost legal. We bought 10 10 or Pakistani Rupees and then tried to search our bags to finish our work. Disappointed by the chaos, we got on the bus and avoided the luggage check. At our window we were entertained by lots of hash sellers and especially with a steady guy with a small bottle of cocaine – 4 grams for $ 30. I took a picture of him and told him to get lost.

We were finally loaded and ready to do it – to cross the Khyber Pass. I was thrilled. Physically, it was like any other rocky mountain pass, but when you think, dream and think about something for many years, it becomes special. I got on the bus. Hanging out the window, I tried to take everything – every wild bend in the road, every castle-crowned hill, every stray goat, every colorful truck that passed us, and every mud hut. I looked at the rude people living near this treacherous pass and wondered who they were, how they lived, what story they could tell. In the dry, rocky graveyard, flags fluttered in the wind, hovering over the hillside. The cloud threatened. We were heading out of the arid Arab side of South Asia to the wet Indian subcontinent. From now on we will feel mild – but enjoy the green countryside.

We crossed the Khyber Pass and passed through a tribal village to pay the toll for convenience. I could see the bus with rifles around, ignoring the bus, and gathered in a circle doing business with both the product and the story.

Within minutes we were in Peshawar and saw that the direct train to Lahore was leaving within an hour. We didn’t see anything to hold us in Peshawar and India’s magnetism was getting stronger and stronger as we got closer. We’ve had trouble trying to decide how, what, and where to buy our tickets. It was a new experience – learning how to operate the Pakistani train system. A little upset and not sure what our best move was, we bought a 50 3.50 ticket (first class) for a 12-hour ride, quickly got off at 60 cents dinner, and found a place in a non-standard first-class car.

The difference between the first and second class was the padded seats and 1.50. We thought for 12 hours it would be nice to have pads. Our car was very crowded. I was happy to be by a window that was blowing in the warm, gentle breeze. We got out at about 5:50 just in time, and I tasted the wind.

The countryside was flat, gorgeous and attractive. After a while, I started reading Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was good and the time passed nicely. Then it got dark, and the bugs came. The lights work just like my old bikes – the faster you go, the brighter they become. It was not a very bright train. The bugs went so far as to talk to me and I made a bloody proclamation “From now on any bugs will come upon me and die by ruthless squash”. I decided that what I really needed to do was learn how to do it right, with my thumb or forefinger, and rub it on my arm and toe until they disappeared – either rubbing or rubbing.

The ride continues to pull. We decided to stop the trip to Lahore in Rawalpindi, a half way place, catch a train in the morning to finish the trip.

It was almost midnight when we set foot on the waterlogged road in Rawalpindi. The morning train to Lahore was at 5:15 so we could catch a hotel and get four hours of good sleep. It seemed so bad – everyone was full and everyone else looking for a place was disappointed. Luckily, I found a guy with an open door and a shower in the side door (Jean didn’t tell me about the lizard later). Otherwise, the 10 rupees ($ 1) we paid was just a hole. But it has served its purpose. I took a cool shower and found a comfortable place between the bumps and curves of my bed and soon I got to work sleeping. Today was a good day – covered many miles, a new country and I crossed the Khyber Pass.

(This is a five-part series journal entry # 5. If you miss anything along the way, go back to my Facebook page on Tuesday, August 17th.)

As recent events in Afghanistan unfolded in the headlines, I wondered how important it was to humanize distant tragedies – and the unique ability of artists to do so.

Picasso’s commemorative painting “Guernica” – more than 25 feet wide – is a powerful example of this. It is not only a part of art but also a part of history, capturing the horrors of modern warfare in a modern style.

The painting (which has been recreated, in this photograph, on a wall in the Basque market town of Guernica) depicts a specific event. On April 26, 1937, Guernica was the target of the world’s first saturated air-bomb attack on civilians. Spain was in the midst of the bitter Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which pitted its democratically elected government against the fascist General Francisco Franco. In order to suppress the hostile Basques, Franco allowed his fascist Confederate Adolf Hitler to use the city as a guinea pig to test Germany’s new air force. The expedition flattened the city, causing destruction that was unheard of at the time (although by 1944, it would be commonplace).

News of the bombing reached Pablo Picasso, a Spaniard living in Paris. Terrified by what was happening in his own country, Picasso immediately began sketching a scene of destruction as he imagined …

Bombs are falling, lonely villages are being destroyed. A woman screams in the sky, a horse screams, and a man falls to the ground and dies. A bull – the symbol of Spain – thinks it all, keeps an eye on a mother and her dead baby … a modern “pieta.”

Picasso’s abstract, Cubist style reinforces the message. It looks like he picked up the bombs and pasted them on a canvas. The black-and-white tones are as disgusting as the newspaper pictures that reported the bombing, creating a depressing, unhealthy mood.

Picasso chose universal symbols, making the work an all-war commentary. The horse with the spear on its back is a symbol of suicidal humanity to the brutal forces. The fallen rider’s arm is severed and his sword is broken, further symbolizing defeat. The bull, usually a proud symbol of strength, is masculine and fearless. The dove, afraid of peace, can do nothing but cry. The whole scene is illuminated from above in the intense light of an empty bulb. Picasso’s paintings shed light on the brutality of Hitler and Franco. And, suddenly, the whole world was watching.

The painting debuted at the 1937 Paris Exhibition and created an instant sensation. For the first time, the world sees the destructive power of a growing fascist movement – a role in World War II.

Eventually, Franco won the Spanish Civil War and ruled the country with an iron fist for the next 36 years. Picasso vowed that Franco would never return to Spain. So “Guernica” appeared in New York until Franco’s death (1975), when it ended his decades of exile. Picasso’s masterpieces now stand in Madrid as Spain’s national art.

With each passing year, the canvas seems more predictable – honoring not only the thousands who died in Guernica, but also the 500,000 victims of Spain’s bitter civil war, 55 million in World War II, and countless others in the recent war. Picasso has a human face that we now call “collateral damage.”

I’m booking a four night stay Westin Memphis Biel Street Time to join TravelCon 2022, which was taking place in the city that weekend.

Josh, a member of the Prince of Travel team, will join me for this stay. In fact, my own stay was only three nights, when Josh would spend an extra night at the hotel to see some of the sights of Memphis before returning.

Westin Memphis Bill Street – Booking

We booked our stay using the cheapest available cash rate, which was at the time US $ 197 per night.

Despite the decent height and size of Memphis, the city’s hotels were relatively busy this weekend with Travelcon, a music festival, and NBA playoffs.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Exotic

For this reason, hotel rates on mid-range properties were relatively good across the city, and we felt comfortable arranging our four-night stay in a North American city for a very reasonable cash rate.

As Marriott Forest Fear property, redemption points between 30,000-40,000 Forest Fear points per night on this property. 0.9 cents / point (CAD) According to our point valuation, paying cash was a slightly better deal.

Since I’m already on the verge of retaining the Marriott Bonavoy Titanium Elite status on 75 qualifying nights this year, I’m glad I let Josh win a total of eight qualifying nights from his account thanks to Double Elite. Night promotion that was going on then.

Book the Marriott Hotel with the Prince of Travel

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Location

Westin Memphis is located in the heart of downtown Memphis, with the front entrance to George W. Lee Ave, on the corner of George W. Lee Ave and Bibi King Street.

FedExForum right next to the hotel. Many events are hosted here, so it can be quite busy in this area, especially when playing basketball. The road is often closed at this time, making it difficult for cars to enter the hotel.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Exotic

In addition to this slight inconvenience, Westin Memphis has a major location, as it is just one block away from Bill Street, one of the main attractions of Memphis. With the city’s best bars, blues music and BBQ food trucks centered on this main drag, you’ll reach the famous street in just a few minutes.

Other popular stops within walking distance include the Memphis Rock n ‘Soul Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum, both within a 15-minute walk.

If you’re exploring further, Memphis Zoo and Graceland – home of Elvis Presley – are both within a 15-minute drive.

You can also navigate the city via local transport. The 2nd bus station is just a two-minute walk from the Westin, and the Downtown Memphis Trolley is easily accessible. Bird scooters offer one more fun and convenient, if relatively expensive, means hiking.

Finally, the 18-minute drive from the Memphis International Airport Hotel. Uber and Lyft work in the city, although there are not many vehicles, so you may have to wait a while for your ride and you may be prepared to face higher prices than you are accustomed to elsewhere.

Overall, Westin’s central location is one of its main features, making it one of the best places to stay in town for all the exploration and experience Memphis has to offer.

Westin Memphis Bill Street – Check-in

After renovations in 2021, the hotel lobby has got a fresh look with a simple but elegant design. As you enter, there are three check-in desks at the back, while on the left is a waiting area with long plush couches and armchairs.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Lobby

Upon our arrival we were greeted by a friendly colleague who embodied the Tennessee warmth, helping us with a smooth and quick check-in process.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to “suite-talk” no suite upgrade was imminent, as the hotel was really full with all the events that took place in town that weekend.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Lobby Lounge

Our breakfast vouchers were offered as part of the welcome facility: four separate vouchers for four mornings at the hotel’s Blue Restaurant, each priced at US $ 30.

With that, we grabbed our key and went to our room on the eighth floor.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Lift

Westin Memphis Biel Street – a traditional guest room with two queen beds

We booked a traditional guest room with two queen beds for this stay, and the room certainly lived up to its “traditional” moniker in terms of overall design identity.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Traditional room with two queen beds

There were metallic accents, patterned floors and a handful of wooden furniture with warm tones with blue touches, creating a business-like and functional look.

In the middle of the two queen-sized beds was a single night table with two lamps. Each side of the night table was equipped with a USB charging port.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Queen Bed

There was a flat-screen TV on the wall opposite the bed and a storage console at the bottom. On the right was a chair with an ergonomic work desk and a large gold feature mirror.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – desk and television

There was a reading chair, desk and lamp in the corner of the room by the window.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – reading chair

The bathroom was fairly spacious compared to the rest of the room, with a single vanity and mirror, a bathtub and shower, with good water pressure.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Bathroom
Westin Memphis Biel Street – Bathtub
Westin Memphis Biel Street – Fountain

Our views from the room overlook outside FedExForum, so we’ve seen a flurry of out-of-the-box basketball fans after at least one play-off game this weekend.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – View of the FedEx Forum

On the other side of the building in Westin are rooms overlooking the Mississippi River, and if you’re here I would suggest trying to secure one of those rooms with a better view.

This traditional guest room with two queen beds was good enough for Josh and I to share the room, especially for a weekend conference where we wouldn’t spend much time in the room.

Most importantly for our stay, things like desks, chairs and charging ports were reliable and worked well for both of our productivity needs.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Breakfast

Each breakfast is entitled to a US $ 30 daily allowance with voucher tax and tip. Once they have been factored in, a main and side allowance from the A-la Carte menu with coffee and juice is good.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Breakfast Voucher
Westin Memphis Biel Street – Blue Restaurant

During our four nights we helped ourselves to several breakfast items. Some of the breakfast items were great, others were a bit lazy.

Chicken and waffles, a southerner, were certainly a highlight – although it was fairly heavy except for all the gas fried chicken in our Memphis.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Chicken and Waffles

Crescent sandwiches and omelettes were also quite tasty. However, some items like avocado toast fell flat and looked as if the avocado had been squeezed out of a tube.

Overall, the breakfast offer was still quite generous, especially for a chain hotel in North America where you often do not know what kind of breakfast you will get.

Many hotels have reduced their breakfast offers, but in this case, the Westin Memphis Marriott Forest has continued to provide a solid morning meal for the elite.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Other amenities

The hotel bar and lounge are located in the lobby, and there must have been buzzing at night as we walked through, sometimes with live music performances.

Westin Memphis Bill Street – Lobby Bar
Westin Memphis Bill Street – Lobby Bar

The gym facility with cardio equipment facing the large window is open 24 hours. Free weights and power tools available.

Westin Memphis Biel Street – Fitness Center
Westin Memphis Biel Street – Fitness Center

Finally, the hotel also offers an exciting guitar check-out program in keeping with Memphis’ strong musical tradition. Guests can borrow a guitar from the hotel’s display case and return it at the end of their stay.

Although we haven’t used it to sing with ourselves, it looks like it will create a fun way that would otherwise be a fairly cookie-cutter hotel experience.


While in Memphis, it is difficult to make a mistake in choosing Westin for your stay, especially because of its convenient location on Bill Street. Although the rooms are not overly luxurious, they will probably be enough for your needs, whether you are in town for pleasure or business.

Seeing what I needed to see during the Memphis trip, I don’t see myself in a hurry to come back. However, if I stayed in Memphis again and wanted to be closer to Bill Street, Westin would continue to be my favorite hotel.

I believe a regular dose of travel dreaming can be good for the soul. Move away with me to Siena, Italy in this excerpt from my book For the love of EuropeA collection of 100 stories of my favorite places, people, and European travel life.

Spread across a Tuscan hill, Siena offers perhaps the best medieval experience in Italy. The courtyards are flower-decorated wells, the churches humbly share their art, and the alleys turn into red-tiled roof panoramas. It is a city made for walking. Its rocky skylines and rustic brick alleys roll by any means, the city is a time of architecture, where pedestrians rule and the present feels like the past.

Today, the self-confident Sienis proudly recalls their century-old achievements. In the 1300s, Siena was one of the largest cities in Europe and a major military power in a class including Florence, Venice and Genoa. But weakened by a catastrophic plague and conquered by her Florentine rivals, Siena became a backwater – and it has been ever since. Siena’s loss becomes a gain for travelers because its political and economic irrelevance preserves its Gothic identity.

This is most notable in Il Campo, where I started my walk. In the city center, this great shell-shaped piazza, featuring a sloping red-brick floor from the City Hall tower, is designed for people, providing the perfect invitation for the lottery. El Campo plunges you into a world where troubadors stroke the guitar, lovers stroke each other’s hair, and belly pillows. It got my vote for the best pizza in all of Europe.

Most Italian cities have a church on their main square, but El Campo gathers the citizens of Siena around City Hall, including its skyscraper municipal tower. Holding my breath as I climbed to the top of the 100-yard-long bell tower, I surveyed the scene and thought about the statement that Campanile had made. In Siena, the king and the popes took a back seat to the people, as it was all about secular government, civil society and humanism.

The public is welcomed inside the City Hall where, for seven centuries, educational frescoes have reminded us of all the effects of good and bad government. A fresco shows a utopian republic, happily in peace; Another fresco depicts a city in ruins, engulfed in greed and oppression.

But the church still has its place. If El Campo is the heart of Sienna, then Duomo is his soul – and my next destination. Sitting a few blocks from the main square, above the highest point of Siena, and visible for miles around, this white- and dark-green-striped cathedral is as ornate as Gothic. Inside and outside, it is filled with statues and mosaics. The stone heads of nearly 2,000-year-old popes – more than 170 so far – ring inside, peeking from top to bottom as they enter.

Great art, including carvings by Michelangelo and Bernini, complements the interior of the church. Nicola Pisano carved the magnificent marble pulpit in 1268. It is crammed with subtle Gothic storytelling. I get closer to studying the scenes of the life and final judgment of Christ.

Trying to escape the crowds at the cathedral and main courtyard, I walked away from the city center. I get purposefully lost in the curious back street of Siena, wrapped in iron rings to tether the horse and lined up with colorful flags. Those flags represent the city Districts (Neighborhood), whose fervent loyalty is demonstrated twice a summer during Palio, a wild bareback horse race that turns Il Campo into an exciting and crowded racetrack.

While wandering around the city, I was fascinated by the street shops featuring cyanide specialties: gourmet pasta, vintage chianti, Boer prosciutto and city favorite food: Panforte.

Sienna demands for calorie fame in Panfort. This rich, chewy mix of nuts, honey and candied fruit fascinates even fruitcake haters. Local bakeries claim that their recipe dates back to the 13th century. Some even force employees to sign an undisclosed contract so that they do not reveal the special spice blend that tastes like their version of this favorite – and very dense – cake.

One of the keys to enjoying Siena is to imagine it in the good old days of the 14th century while taking advantage of today’s modern scene. After chewing on some of that panfort, I decided to stay here until the evening when the tour groups left the city on their buses. I duck in a bar for Hungry (Happy Hour), which includes a free buffet and now I’m primed and ready to join Walking – An evening walk. When I return to El Campo to enjoy that beautiful twilight moment when the sky is brighter than a rich blue dome, the proud Siena Tower that seems to hold it high.

From Kells Book

For me, one of the great joys of traveling is meeting the great art personally – which I have collected in a book. Top 100 Masterpieces in Europe. Here’s my favorite one:

Jesus Christ sits on a throne and rocks something very important – a book, the holy word of God. She has curly flaxen hair and a lush head with a thoughtful expression. Sitting under an arch, he is surrounded by a maze of colorful, intricately woven designs.

This old biblical parable tells the story of Jesus. This particular drawing came at the very moment in the story (Matthew 1:18) where this heavenly Jesus is about to be born on earth as a humble mortal.

This is just a page of the 1,200-year-old gospel known as the Book of Kells. Perhaps the best work of art in the so-called Dark Ages, this book is a rare work of art from those turbulent times.

This is 800 years. The Roman Empire collapsed, leaving Europe in disarray. The Vikings were raping and looting. The Christian faith – which was officially embraced in the last years of the empire – is now weakened as Europe returns to its pagan and illiterate path. In the midst of the turmoil, on the outskirts of Europe, lived a group of scholarly Irish monks dedicated to indulging in the embers of civilization.

These monks worked hard to preserve God’s Word in the book of Kells. They slaughtered 185 calves and dried the skin to make 680 cream-colored leaves called Velam. Then the Tonsard monks picked up their swan-quill pens and went to work. They carefully wrote the words in Latin, embellished the letters with elaborate caricatures, and interspersed the text with full-page illustrations – creating this “enlightened” manuscript. The project was thwarted in 806 when the Vikings brutally looted the monastery and killed 68 monks. But the survivors fled to Abbey (near Dublin) in Kells and finished their precious Bible.

Christ Anthrone is just one page – 1/680M – This wonderful book. On closer inspection, the incredible detail-work of the page comes alive. On either side of Christ are two mysterious male costumes, and two strange-looking angels, with their wings folded in front of them. The head of Christ is the peacock (symbol of Christ’s resurrection), their feet are stuck in the vine (symbol of his Israeli roots). Of course, Christ is not terribly realistic: he poses as a Byzantine icon with brown eyes, strange ears, and ET fingers.

Real beauty lies in intricate designs. It’s a jungle of spiral, rolling and bound snakes – yes, they are snakes, their little heads rising here and there. The monks mixed Christian symbols (cross, peacock, shrub) with the pagan Celtic motifs of the world around them (circles, spirals and interwoven patterns). It is all done in bright colors – blue, purple, red, green, yellow and black – carefully carved with a quill pen. Of the 680 pages of the book, only two have no illustrations.

As Christianity regained its footprint in Europe, monasteries everywhere began to produce the same monastic-script – albeit rarely like the Book of Kells. In 1455, Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press, books were mass-produced … and thousands of monks were freed from being the authors of civilization.

In a recent lever at New York Liberty International Airport in New York, I spent some time. United Club Lounge I used the space for light lunches and some work.

There aren’t many lounge options in Newark – the Priority Pass app shows La Guardia as the nearest lounge! I would appreciate a commuter, unless the pedestrian is released from a miserable Terminal A concourse.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Access

Newark has three United Club Lounge. I went to the lounge at Terminal A, from where the Air Canada flight departed. The lounge is open daily from 5:00 to 9:15.

The lounge is located right in the middle of the three circular concourse of Terminal A. Entrance has been blocked along a narrow corridor running alongside security checkpoints.

If you continue beyond that, you will reach the lower number of gates, which are currently under construction. There, you’ll see the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, which is currently closed during construction.

The lounge is framed by automatic sliding glass doors, United’s signature blue tones.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Entrance

In the foyer, there is a small seating table under a picture of a United aircraft from many decades ago. The space has cream, tan and light gray tones, a palette you will notice throughout the bright lounge.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Foyer

As soon as you enter you will check in at the desk to your right.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Front Desk

Accidentally booking a lever through a terminal with a few lounges, I was pleasantly surprised that I deserved complimentary access. I was able to enter the lounge because I had an International Departing Boarding Pass in the business class cabin of the partner Star Alliance Airlines.

I was flying an airplane award ticket in latitude fare class, successfully upgraded to business class. Arriving on a United-operated route from Memphis, my next segment was Air Canada from New York to Toronto – in fact business class cabins, despite being technically an economy rental, thus giving me access to the lounge.

You can also get entry to United Club with Star Alliance Gold status, which will have your Airplane 50K members or above. Alternatively, if you have purchased an Air Canada Maple Leaf Club membership, you can enter the United Club Lounge, although I do not believe that this is equivalent to the benefits you would get with a premium airplane credit card.

If you do not have access to the complimentary lounge, you can pay US $ 59 plus tax – a reasonable use of any funds you have at United Travelbank if not used for your paid airfare.

In addition, you can head to Terminal C, one of United’s main hubs, where you’ll find two United Club Lounge. Terminal C offers a United Polaris Lounge with more limited access.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Seats

The lounge is arranged in a rectangular layout, with three separate rooms. There is a tarmac view of A gate from each seating area.

As you enter, there is a full lounge seating area to your left. Most seats have separate armchairs, end table lamps and multiple power outlets in between.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Lounge seating
United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Lounge seating

Set to add some seating by the window, the two lounge chairs across a small coffee table face each other, but without any power outlet.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – window seat

With a few large tables, chairs and a banquet on the back wall. (In the absence of a sleeping room inside the lounge, I did not take any pictures out of respect for the people who used benches for sleeping.)

To your right, there are two phone booths with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, where you can call with some acoustic privacy. Each room has an empty desk and a swivel chair.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Phone Booth

Upon entering the lounge you will head to the main dining and bar area. The bar is lined with some high-top stools and dining chairs are arranged around a medium-sized table for a group of three.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Dining Room

Finally, in the third room, there is more seating in the lounge than in the first room. There are two high-top tables with large power banks for groups of eight, so you can eat or work as a group.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Extra lounge seating
United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Group seating

In the back corner, there is a small table surrounded by the same executive-style conference chairs in the foyer. This would be a really comfortable conversation place, as the table is too small and away from the chair to eat or work comfortably.

I split my time into a standard lounge chair with a dining room table, a phone booth and a private power outlet. I found them all to be reasonably comfortable for their intended purpose.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Dining

Featuring a self-service buffet in the main dining room across from United Club Bar. The food is protected by a sneeze guard.

I went to the lounge from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., as lunch was being served.

All options were served cold except for a lemon chicken arjo soup.

I tried soup, a honey turkey wrapper, a grilled pesto panini, a vegan couscous salad and a chocolate chip brownie. Everybody was perfect for a varied light lunch and none was different in any way, Panini was my favorite.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Lunch sandwiches, salads and snacks
United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Lunch dessert

Other options available include oats, a green salad and a snack box with cheese, grapes and pretzels.

I’m not sure if this is a COVID-19 service reduction, but the food presentation didn’t impress. Paper plates and bowls are provided. Plastic cutlery is wrapped separately. Some foods are packaged in plastic containers. Spices are available in single serving.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Cutlery and spices

The selection seemed a bit thin and unimaginable, although I wonder if this impression is further enhanced by the presentation. The buffet had some empty space with an induction cooktop, which I guess was used for hot meals as part of a more elaborate dinner service.

All foods display a prominent allergy / food alert, which I thought was a significant touch.

In the third room, there is a snack bar behind the main buffet, with fresh fruit, chips and eli coffee.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Bar

Bar service was also limited during my visit.

Most notably, the bar had a very small selection of complementary drinks. You can order a peroni, a Sam Adams, or a Brooklyn lager, a house red or white wine, or good spirits.

United Club Newark (Terminal A) – Bar & Dining Area

All other drinks had a significant upcharge, which in my view was a huge loss for the price of airport lounge access. Most importantly, the bartender does not seem to be incredibly enthusiastic about serving guests. Charging those who expected free drinks is definitely a bit awkward and frustrating, which I feel has affected the quality of service.

The selection was not very extensive, either. I didn’t look at a cocktail menu, but I didn’t realize they featured any signature recipes. A handful of premium spirits like Gray Goose Vodka, Tankere Jean, Jakapa Ram and Jim Beam Bourbon are available. There is also a selection of red and white wines.

They weren’t brewing beer for some reason, which dropped a good portion of the beer list that appealed to me. I settled for a bottle of Brooklyn lager with my lunch.


For a place that charges a hefty entry fee for non-members, I hope United Club will offer a little more. I guess most of the lounges are returning to full service level with the expiration of the COVID-19 policy, but perhaps the time of day I visited enhanced the limited experience.

Overall, however, I found the food to be more of a favorite than the one I visited at Maple Leaf Lounge (albeit to a lesser extent, a lesser one). For me, it surpassed the trivial bar service offered during my visit.

It looks like United has broadened its offerings between Club Lounge and Polaris Lounge, just as Air Canada does with the Maple Leaf Lounge and Signature Suites in Toronto and Vancouver. I would like to go to a Polaris lounge soon for comparison.

Although I would never again go out of my way to the United Club at Newark’s Terminal A, I was glad to find a peaceful place to relax and do some work. It was a long lever saving grace during which the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge was closed, which will reopen shortly after construction is completed.

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