Sunday, 14 May 2017

Now for something completely different ( La Medina de Tunis)

Time to walk down the hill to the Metro' station  Since the vendors are already out but the tourists are still missing this early, the invitations to visit various stores are focused on me.

Yes, this place sells birdcages, LOL

Roof of the Metro station
Now here is the weirdest thing:  The Metro has 1st and 2nd class compartments.  But after 1 stop I get a seat in 2nd class and that's good enough for a 20 minute ride.

The Metro travels from Carthage along that LOONG dam bisecting Lake Tunis and ends right at the gates of Tunis proper.  Again I notice to my dismay that I feel just a teeny tiny bit of fearful trepidation starting the 1 km walk to my hotel.
The tower looks solid, but it's just an outside shell of perforated sheet metal.

Now that's a sign one doesn't see very often:

The building on the right in the next block must be some government building, because there are plenty of armed soldiers surrounding it.
The Tunis Symphony

There are fire trucks parked where my hotel is supposed to be

I'm in my second room in the Royal Victoria  The second one had a standing-room-only balcony but I noticed that the room right next to me had a table and two chairs.  They switched me without any problems ;-)
The standard room at the Royal Victoria. NOT really my kind of thing.

Fire trucks seen from the balcony.  Hoses? There really was a fire !

The Medina is waaay scarier than the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  I take two turns and I'm LOST.  And I would have stayed lost if I didn't have my phone GPS with me.  That's enough for now; MUST get back to the relative safety of the hotel. LOL. I feel like the first time I visited Hong Kong !
I follow my hotel receptionist's directions to the Magasin General across the street to buy some WINE.  Of course the derelict supermarket doesn't sell any. 
 I should be careful calling it derelict. There is something strange going on.  The selection of groceries on sale here is appalling.  But later I will see a cheese store on the street with a product range that could rival that of a store in Paris.  And I notice that here in the Magasin General most customers buy their food with food stamps.  Am I in the Army & Navy of food stores?  

Be that as it may: on my search for the alolol I find other things. The escalators stopped working some time ago, so now customers use them as stairs. Upstairs I buy 2 pairs of boxer shorts for a total of about 7 bucks.  One died already on the trip, and they other one MIGHT be waiting for me in my dirty laundry bag in Germany, or not.  So I needed new undies anyway.  But I wanted WINE !

Talking about wine: I don't know whether the contraption below allows a woman to blow up her bra to make her breasts look bigger OR to drink wine from a bra reservoir.  If it's the latter:  I WANT ONE !


A shelf-rearranger in the supermarket told me that booze is to be had if I turned right outside the store.  I do, but as I later realize I run right past it.  These places where you buy booze don't look like liquor stores. I almost circle the block and ask a local man.   He points down the street but suggests with his hands and demeanor that I watch my wallet.  Strange !    I walk towards the indicated location and someone is running from someone else in a car.  The running man RUNS ME OVER !  

Instantly I think "well-known pick-pocket routine", keep my hands in my pocket and stumble and fall into a metal draw gate that is closing a shop along the street.   My muscle ache, which has been slowly getting better explodes with shooting pains in TWO spots.   WTF?  
Adventure I wanted and adventure I got ;-)  

I don't think it was an attempt to lift my wallet so I continue limping towards the indicated spot.  THERE it is. It's even MORE down and out than the one in El Kram.  No smiles here just a few North-Africans who seem to NEED their beer.  The sales clerk is visible this time, but that's not really a good thing because the looks that he gives his customers are UNBELIEVABLE.   
Allah forgive me for serving the scum of the earth ! his eyes and facial expression plainly say.    

He doesn't give me quite the same loathing look. 
Probably because I'm an infidel and I simply don't know any better, LOL.  No white wine, no Rose wine, so I leave QUICKLY with a bottle of Red for 10 Dinar, feeling like an infidel no doubt should feel.  It takes quite some strength of character or a desperate need to STAY a drinker in these parts !


There are people shouting LOUDLY outside my hotel window.  Do I distinguish the word Allah? NO, It's NOT a MUEZZIN.  TOO MUCH ANGER in the VOICES ! I actually dare to look outside and it's a young very bearded guy in all black clothes walking around the fountain with his hands in the air shouting stuff.  EVERYONE else is just staring at him.  Am I WAY over-cautious by backing into my room thinking that my solid stone balcony will protect me from bomb splinters?   Yes, OF COURSE I'm over-reacting, but as a foreigner I have no idea what's goes as normal in these parts and what is even strange for around here.

When this CHICKEN dares to look into the square again (didn't take me THAT long), I see that it is a theatre performance thingy. 

Lots of women wailing and men falling over in a dying-like manner.  A political statement?  Battle of the sexes?  Since I have NO IDEA what it is that they're shouting, I can't really tell.

But what I do notice is that  the Tunisian Police Van that was parked under the Medina gate when I arrived earlier and was missing during the performance is back in its old spot after the end of their performance.  See no evil, hear no evil, don't have to arrest no evil?

As the evening draws nearer, for a moment I think that I might actually witness the AMAZING (click HERE for video) murmuration of starlings, but despite some fluttering in the formation, I have to content with the fact that this ain't it.

As daylight wains, the formerly bustling square in front of my hotel becomes deserted.  They even turned the fountain off !


Not too bad.
When I pull aside the heavy curtains to have my first cigarette on the balcony I am surprised how light-drenched the square in front of my balcony already is.
Only 1.5 hours until the free breakfast ;-)
It's Mother's Day today. I'll try calling again but I doubt that my mother will answer the phone.
Looking at liquid level of the bottle of wine on my desk I feel low-level dread.   I should have bought TWO yesterday.  I'm NOT looking forward to returning to that place, LOL.
Morning sky over Tunis
Breakfast. Olives, uncured Feta, tomatoes, yogurt, flat bread, orange juice squeezed in front of my eyes.  Mon Dieux, life can be good, LOL

I'm writing a long e-mail to Zulema, and as is often the case, describing my mood and the options for the day actually leads to a decision of what to do WHILE I'm writing the e-mail.
An eye-opening decision
While I'm here in Tunisia, I might as well take the 2 hour train to Sousse today. NO, it's NOT the tourist town and site of the 2015 terror attack that left 38 beach sun tanners dead that lures me, it's the actual train journey.  I would get to see rural Tunisia, even if only for a train window.   
Let's head to the train station to buy a ticket for later.  I have a feeling that I've never had in Cambodia or Vietnam.  Lots young and middle-aged guys are just 'loitering' in the squares and streets.  I'm sure it's just watching too much North-American Trump Television that causes me to be uneasy though.  I am SURROUNDED by MUSLIMS, LOL.
An older woman with a head scarf and one of those long body clothes stops me and in French says "Je voudrais voila voila Un Dinar pour voila voila" while sticking her hand out of her garment.    She gets her Dinar because of the smile that accompanied her speech. 
More loitering youth and taxi drivers in front of the Main Train Station. I line up at a ticket window that could have been in Vietnam if not for the Arabic writing. The 1st class return ticket costs me CAD$ 10.

Since the Marche Central is right en route to the train station, I decide to step inside for a quick whiff and look.!
The fruit section (below) is much easier on the nose than the fish section ;-)

Note the sand-bagged defensive position centre bottom 

2 hours until check-out time, which perfectly coincides with the time that I should start limping to the train station.  As soon as I thought during my last walk there that all the pain in my leg was gone, did I feel a stabbing in my calf muscle that left me cursing.  The joys of old age, LOL.
Yes, that's my balcony on the left edge of the building on the right
I decide to subject myself to mistreatment at the voice of the booze-distributor again.  I'm travelling to Sousse today and there might not be one of these or if there is one, they might mistreat their customers even more.  White wine is in stock today. Even several kinds, as the question Que vin? Deux Dinars?  suggests.  I decide to stick with the usual price and pay 10 Dinards, to hopefully ensure I'll survive consumption of the stuff.   

Time to check-out and walk to the train station.

Famous last words: 
I'm going on a two+ hour train journey through Tunisia?  
Am I utterly bonkers? 
Haven't I have had enough adventures here already ?!?

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