The Rich-Mike Hitchhike Insight: Hitchhiking in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey & Greece

Azerbaijan is hard to judge because we didn’t really have to do anything because all our rides were arranged for us. This said, the mere fact that the staff in the service station in Baku went so far out of their way to help us, and then so did Charmin and Rafael, driving us all the way to the Georgian border, demonstrates the kind of altruism that facilitates hitchhiking.

Georgia was a touch more difficult, and there were times when we had to wait a long time to get anywhere. The myrid of roads exiting Tblisi made escape from the capital particularly difficult. The people that did pick us up though, despite appareances, were really helpful –especially Yurgen and Pesk who bartered the price of our hotel room down for us.

Turkey is right up there with the Orient. The people were friendly, accomodating and we were picked up many times –even when getting out of the huge capital city, usually the most arduous of tasks. The Koran states that good people should help wayfarers, and it’s a maxim that had been observed to a sometimes humbling degree throughout the Islamic countries we’d travelled through.

Despite being nextdoor to Turkey, Greece was impossible. We’d found what we deamed to be a great road, with all the traffic heading in our direction. The only people that helped us were foreign: a Russian, the BBC and an Albanian bus company. Someone told us that this aversion to hitchhikers is because they are associated with illegal immigrants trespassing the borders. The economic crisis in Greece has apparently ecacebated an already potent breed of xenopobia. The kebabs are fantastic though.

Azerbaijan Hitchhiking Rating:      af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15  (7/10)

Georgia Hitchhiking Rating:    af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15   (6/10)

Turkey Hitchhiking Rating:       af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 (8/10)

Greece Hitchhiking Rating: af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 (1/10)

Day 88: “Saved by David Suchet and the BBC…” – to Kavala, Greece

The next day we set off well before our usual time of 12pm. I think it was about 9am when a lorry pulled over that looked vaguely familiar. We hopped aboard to see Mamoot, a young lad that had been the fifth person to pick us up the day before. He had a curious habit of studying us from his position in the driver’s seat, as we were the strangest beings he’d ever encountered.

After about ten minutes of driving, we pulled over for a tea break. After a few pots, we heard some distinctly British accents behind us. If they ever make a Hollywood film version of Cluedo, which I can only assume they will, this bus would provide the perfect cast. Michael went over and introduced himself to the group of six.

“We’re a BBC film crew making a documentary about St Paul and the birth of Christendom. This is the actor David Suchet. He played a famous Belgian detective for 25 years”

The group looked at us with expectant faces. Michael and I scratched our heads.

“Tin Tin?”

“Oh no! How droll. Poirot of course!”

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It turned out that they were heading across the border to Kavala, in Greece. Martin, the director, offered us the opportunity to join them.

You just don’t say no to the BBC.

“Right-e-ho ladies and gentleman, before we set off we have an important matter to discuss,” said Paula, the producer, looking serious. “We need to determine whether to stop for another tea break or shall we just soldier on into Greece? All those in favour of stopping?”

Only Lawrence, the cameraman, with his endearing veneer of arrogance, put his hand up in favour of stopping again. He looked like an aristocrat nonchalantly bidding for a precious work of art

“Well, that settles it. Are you okay with that Lawrence?”

“Oh, I suppose I shall survive,” he grumbled, as put on his earphones and pressed play on his ipod.

Listening to the conversation in the bus felt like an audition for Mastermind; everyone seemed so erudite on every subject imaginable. The highlight for me was when the topic of St Paul’s Cathedral came up. Michael gave me what I thought was his “I’m going to ask BAFTA nominated actor David Suchet to pull my finger” look, but thankfully I was wrong.

“Designed by Christopher Wren, I believe?” is what he came out with.

“How’d you know that?” I whispered, giving him a covert low five.

“Common knowledge mate”

The BBC bus dropped us off in Kavala, Greece, and told us that if we were willing to wait a day or two they’d be able to drive us to Thessalonika, a city 150 km west. We thanked them for the offer but confidently assured them that we’d be well on our way by then. Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, had, after all, proved to be one of the most favourable countries to hitchhike in, right up there with Thailand and Malaysia: the cars were willing to stop, the people were generous, and not one person had tried to charge us.

Surely now, on home territory, in the EU, and in Greece, the first Christian nation on our journey, we’d have no problem.

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Day 82-83: – “Tb-pissy…” – Tbilisi, Georgia

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“What’s the local drink?” Michael asked at a bar.

“Chacha,” was the reply

Michael looking at me, scratching his head in confusion.

“Did I say something funny or is he being sarcastic?”

“No, I think it’s the name of the drink,” I said, “Two Chacha please bar-keep!”

The barman poured out clear, slightly viscous liquor into two glasses. It was a volume of liquid that you find out too late is too much to fit in your mouth in one gulp, especially when combined with a surge of salvia your body forces into your mouth to combat the taste.

After I felt the liquid burn slowly down my throat, I swear it bypassed my stomach and surged through my veins and into my brain, just like as if I’d been administered a general aesthetic.

Before we knew it, we were clapping along to a couple that had started dancing to the jazz band. They were awesome. At one point, the man broke away from the women and performed a high kick, with a straight leg, right up to his head.

Dancing is different in this part of the world. It’s not like in the west, where people generally dance around with their mates until they’re drunk enough to approach other people. Here, as was the case in Azerbaijan, people go up in couples and dance together. I looked Michael.

“Fancy a da-“

“No”

“Just a-”

“No”

“Plea-“

“No”

“But-”

“No”

We went to another bar and sat down. There was someone speaking English a few tables away from us.

“Sounds American” I said.

“He’s Irish!” said Michael.

I listened again. It was difficult to hear because the place was noisy but I was pretty sure.

“I bet you he’s American”

“What’s the bet?”

“If I win we do another shot of ChaCha”

“And if I win?”

“We do another shot of Chacha”

“You’re on”

This is the last thing either of us can remember. I woke up on the wooden floor, a metre or so from my bed, to the sound of Michael’s ominous confession:

“Mate, I’ve pissed somewhere in the room. It could have been on our bags, it could have been on you.”

I grumbled, unable to speak.

“It’s ok though, it’s only beer piss”, he added.

Phew, I thought. It’s only beer piss. 

By the time we’d regained our senses, we realised that not only had we lost another day on the schedule, due to the severity of our hangovers, but also, someone, possibly me or Michael, had hacked a crude looking mohawk into my head.

Nothing says “nutter” like a mohawk that looks like it’s been fashioned by Ed Scissorhands on the business end of ketamine binge.

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“What the hell happened last night?” asked Michael

“All I can remember is having a fight with this scruffy Irish tramp”, I replied, “He was trying to rob your coat! Ergh I can still smell his vile musk on me now”

“No, Rich, that was me. I went to put my coat on and you started fighting me”

“Oh right, yeah. Sorry about that mate”

The night duty receptionist knocked on the door and poked his head inside.

“Hello, good morning, you had quite a night, no?”

“Probably”

“One of you left this 100 Lari note ($60) on the table”

“Wow thank you so much! That’s very noble of you”

People are great.

Later on, still feeling Chacha’d, I turned to Michael,

“According to the schedule we were supposed to be in Greece, 3’000km away, by now”.

We hung our aching heads at the realisation that we were going to fail The Rich-Mike Hitchhike.

Day 79: “Rich Tea with Mama…” – Baku, Azerbaijan

We were greeted and led upstairs by one of those kind fat old lady types, affectionately known as “Mama” by staff and guests alike. She reminded Michael and I of the woman that owned Tom, the cat, from Tom and Jerry.

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In the morning Michael and I were dismayed to hear that the hot water wasn’t working. I was wandering around the room with my toothbrush hanging out of mouth and my towel draped around my waist, when Mama grabbed me by my arm and guided me to the outside kitchen.

We were on the second floor of a quadrangle which had multiple washing lines draped from opposing balconies. You could smell the artificial freshness of the detergent in the air.

Mama stood me in front of a small sink and pointed at the pan of water warming on the stove.

She then left me outside, so I took the pan from the stove, rested it in the small sink and I gave myself the most thorough wash I could under the circumstances, letting the residue water run off from me, back into the pan, as I leaned over it. Just as I’d put the pan, now half full of the water that had run off my body, back on the stove, Mama came back in with a wide smile and a couple of mugs.

“Oh no, no, no, Mama, I’ve just used this water for washing,” I said, realising that she’d boiled the water for tea and not for me to wash with.

“Niet! No wash,” she instructed, wagging a stern finger, “Chai”[tea]

“But Mama, you don’t understand. I thought you warmed the water so I could wash with it. The pan is half full of the filth that has run off my stinking body. I haven’t washed for a few days. Look, there’s even a few hair-”

“Niet! Chai”

“Is there anything I can say or do to stop you drinking this water?” I said placing my hand on the handle.

“Niet,” she replied, lightly rapping my hand away.

“Fair enough, Mama,” I sighed, with a shrug, “Have it your way”

Having won the argument, her kindly demeanour returned and she offered me a cup of tea.

“Chai?” she asked, pointed at a mug.

“Errrm… I’ll be ok thanks” I replied eying the film that had built up on the simmering water.
How vain would you have to be to drink your own filthy water? I thought to myself.

I turned to Mama, “On second thoughts, yes please, black, no sugar”.

“Hey Michael!” I called into the bedroom

“What?”

“Do you want a cup of tea?!”

“Yes please mate”

As Mama gently dipped the teabags into the water I allowed myself a small chuckle at the image of myself, doing something very similar a few minutes before. A slightly deranged smile stayed on my face as I sat there, supping my tea with Michael and the kindly old woman, picking the odd hair out of my mouth and laughing without a care in the world.

“Ha ha, you`ve got a milk moustache,” Michael said to me, pointed at my top lip.

“You have too mate, and so has Mama!”

“We`re like the three milk musketeers!”

We shared a nice morning chuckle.

I stopped laughing when I realised we were all drinking our tea black.

The Rich-Mike Hitchhike Insight: Hitchhiking in Kazakhstan

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Everyone hitchhikes in Kazakhstan.

As there are no taxis, every private vehicle can, in effect, pick up hitchhikers and charge them a fee.

Almost everyone we met in Kazakhstan had a finger in a business pie. It was impressive. Ainur, for example, who was about 25, had her own shop and rented her living room out to 6 students, whilst Ali, who was 27, had opened his own private school.

Impressive as the entrepreneurial spirit is, it made it difficult for us to hitchhike in Kazakhstan. Imagine what the people here, newly drunk on capitalism, thought when they saw us? A couple of “rich” Europeans (in spite of our clothes / odor).

We could almost see the dollar signs spinning in their eyes when they saw us. Our hosts were invariably disappointed when we refused to pay the astronomical prices they quoted us.

Although its easy to hitchhike in the cities, it’s difficult to find a fair price

Once out of Almaty, the roads seriously deteriorate and the traffic becomes very infrequent. The infrastructure, however, is changing, as the revenue from oil money starts to trickle into the State’s coffers.

Kazakhstan Hitchhiking Rating: af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15af2e834c1e23ab30f1d672579d61c25a_15 (4/10)

Day 77: “Dam you Kitler…” – Kazakhstan Immigration

“Do you understand this?!” barked the immigration official. A vein the size of a body builder’s bicep was bulging from his right temple.

Having already escaped the bribe demanding customs officer, who had informed us that without the police stamp it would be impossible to bypass immigration and exit Kazakhstan, we had been called into a cramped interrogation office.

I wiped the specks of his spit from my face and tried to read what he was pointing at but Michael was distracting me.

“He looks like an angry version of Mario, from the Mario brothers,” he whispered in my ear.

“Not now Michael, I’m trying to concentrate,” I hissed back.wario

The official was pointing at the back of our departure card which stated something along the lines of:

“All immigrants are required to register with the police within five days of entering Kazakhstan”

I tried to focus my mind and all of a sudden I had a flash of inspiration, a moment of clarity. I turned to Michael.

“One, you mean Wario, not Mario and, two, he looks more like an angry version of Barry Chuckle, from the Chuckle Brothers”

“Was Barry the fat one or the skin-”

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“Understand?!” the official barked again, irritated that we weren’t answering him. It was clear that he was trying to figure out what to make of us. One of his brushy eye-brows sloped over his eye in an expression of rage; the other sloped upwards, as if in confusion. Both eye-brows alternated between rage and confusion as if they were caterpillars doing the worm in a dance-off on his face.

I squinted at the words that Barry was pointing at and, as if in a Hollywood dream sequence, my surroundings started to shimmer and my memory was cast back into a previous time…

Bangkok, Thailand: I was sat with Michael reading something seemingly important…

“Hey Mike, it states here that when we enter Kazakhstan it is of vital importance that we regis-“

“OH MY GOD! LOOK AT THAT,” Michael shouted, snorting a bit of coffee out of nose. “Check it out: that cat looks like Hitler!” he said, pointing behind me.

“Bloody hell you’re right,” I replied, “the sneaky critter has tried to disguise himself with a centre-parting, but that’s him alright.  I’ll get the camera”

After we’d taken a few photographs of Kitler, who, I remember thinking at the time, seemed suspiciously amenable to having his photo taken, Michael turned to me and said, “Sorry to interrupt mate, what were you saying?”

I winced in concentration, but all I could think about was bloody Kitler, marching the goose step through the streets of Berlin, with an army of stern looking cats behind him doing the same.

“I’m sure it’ll come back to me if it’s important enough”

 “UNDERSTAND?!” Barry Chuckle barked again, bringing my consciousness into the present with a slam of his fist on the table.

“Dam you Kitler,” I thought to myself, shaking my head, “first you try to exterminate the Jews and now this. Is there no end to your evil deeds?”

Barry Chuckle studied my face as I searched for a way to explain to him, through actions not words, due to his lack of English, that Adolph Hitler, the infamous leader of the Nazi Party in World War Two, had for some reason deemed it necessary to return to the mortal world, in cat form, sporting a flash new centre-parting, with a dastardly mission to distract us from Kazakhstan immigration policy.

“Well eerrr, well, you see… there was this cat…” I started, but that’s how far I got before Chuckle stopped me in my tracks. Apparently my concentration face must have been mistaken for mental impairment because he decided to treat us with leniency (presumably on grounds of diminished responsibility).

He waved a letter, written in Kazak, or maybe Russian, that said something along the lines of:

‘you must pay $ x if you ever show your sorry faces in Kazakhstan again’.

“Understand?!” Barry Chuckle barked for the fifth time.

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Michael looked him straight in the eye said, “Look here Mario, Wario, Barry, Chuckle or whatever the hell your name is. I’ve just spent a week in a city that has about as much charm as a prison rape. If I ever feel the need to pay an extortionate amount of money to visit a freezing cold, featureless wasteland devoid of all signs of intelligent life or discernible civilization, I’ll give Richard Branson a call. UNDERSTAND?!”

He didn’t really say that. Instead, we both gave him a wide-eyed nod. I think Michael may have even thanked him. We took our letters and went on our way.

“So long Kaz-kack-stan!” sniggered Michael.

“Ha ha! Nice one Mike. That’ll show them”

“Cheers mate”

Day 72-76: “Death to Britain!” – Aktau, Kazakhstan

The next morning, our decision was made for us. We turned on BBC news to see video footage of Iranians burning the Union Jack. Apparently, the British Embassy had been attacked by protesters in response to sanctions.

“Death to Britain!” cried the protesters as they set alight to the embassy buildings.

“Georgia?” I asked Michael.

“Georgia”, he nodded.

By the time we’d read a Foreign Office report urging Britons in Iran to “stay indoors, keep a low profile and await further advice”, it was already a foregone conclusion to avoid the country.

The highlight of Aktau, for me at least, was when we stopped for a coffee in a cafeteria.

“Two coffees please,” Michael asked the waitress

“Kofe?”

“Yes, please. Two,” he said, with two fingers raised.

“Cappuccino?” asked the waitress, in a Russian accent.

“No. Two Americano please. A-mer-i-can-o. Two”

“Americanski?”

“Yes. Two Americanski,” he said, “with milk”

The looked confused.

“Cappuccino?” she asked again.

“No. Two A-mer-i-can-o with milk”

“Milk?”

“Yes, milk. You know: moooooooo,” he said, with his fingers on his head to indicate horns.

The waitress looked at him. She then grabbed a menu from another table, opened it, and said,

“Hamburger?”

“No! Niet hamburger,” he said, losing a degree of his usual calmness. “Two coffee: Americano… with… milk”

“Mike, let’s just get a couple of cappuccinos. They probably don’t have Americano’s here,” I said, conscious that our conversation was gathering an audience.

“No, I got this, hang on,” he replied, with a resolute look on his face.

He looked at the waitress, she returned his gaze.

“Okay,” he said, slowly, “Two Americanski”.

“Two Americanski,” she repeated, nodding.

“With milk,” he added.

“Milk?”

 “Yes. Milk. You know…Milk. Miiiilk,” he explained, as he got up and crouched on the floor of the café on all fours. When he started mooing, I rolled my eyes and got up as well. I then kneeled at his side and pretended to milk him –because otherwise the scene would have looked ridiculous.

The waitress blushed, suddenly aware of everyone in the café watching.

“Erm.. malakom?,” she asked, nervously.

“Yes! MILK!” shouted Michael, pointing both of his index fingers at her like a pair of guns.

He sat down again looking around the café, with a self-satisfied expression on his face, giving the other diners nods of acknowledgement as if he’d just been bestowed an academy award.

The waitress returned with our coffees.

“Two cappuccino!” she said, smiling triumphantly, as she placed the cups on the table.

Michael’s eye started twitching. He took a deep breath in and a long breath out. I passed him the vodka.

Day 69 – House arrest – “Shotgun Aslan”- Aqtobe, Kazakhstan

“What the hell is going on?” I said to Michael the tenth time.

“Not a clue”, replied Michael for the tenth time.

We had had no choice but to just sit back and passively accept whatever turn of events was to follow since we’d apparently been arrested as soon as we’d set foot in Aqtobe.

One of the police officers, Aslan, called me over and pointed to the figure I’d written on the piece of paper to indicate our hotel budget. I nodded, and I handed over the cash to the receptionist. I looked around the lobby. This hotel was clearly more expensive than either one of the previous two we’d been too. Had the police offers negotiated a cheaper room for us? We didn’t know. If they had done this, then why?

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The receptionist handed over a key to the other officer, a beefy looking brute named Bulad, and they ushered us to follow them upstairs. As we passed the second floor, Michael nudged me in the ribs and whispered, “Shotgun Aslan”

“What the hell do you mean ‘shotgun Aslan’?!” I hissed back.

“If things go down badly upstairs, you know, really badly, I shotgun Aslan”.

“Why?!”

“He looks like a more tender rapist”

“Bollocks,” I said, gauging the strength of Bulad’s powerful looking buttocks, as I followed him up the stairs.

It was a bizarre situation and neither of us knew what was going to happen. We stood outside of a room and shared a nervous glance with each other as Bulad fumbled with the key.

“Errr… Thanks?” I said to them, once in our room.

There was a few seconds of silence. I noticed Michael had started to scootch around to Aslan.

Bulad picked up a hotel pen and wrote ‘9:00’ on a piece of paper. He then pointed outside.

“Okay. Thanks?” I said again.

The two police officers left us in our room.

“What the hell just happened?!” Michael said, looking more bewildered than usual.

“Why the hell are they picking us up at 9am?!” I replied.

“I have no idea…”

Later on, the night of strangeness continued. We went down into the hotel lobby with the intention of going out to get some dinner. As we approached the door, however, the security guard stepped in front of us, blocking our way.

“Excuse me,” called the receptionist, in a Russian accent. “You’re not allowed to leave”

“What?!”

“We are under instructions from the police not to let you leave. Aqtobe is too dangerous for tourists at night”

“What?!” barked Michael.

“This is an outrage!” I fumed, feeling the natural British disinclination for arbitrarily restricted liberty. But then we looked outside at the -20 C temperature and, just like that, our indignation seemed to cool.

“Takeaway it is then?”

“Takeaway it is”

“If Aqtobe is too dangerous for tourists at night,” I said chewing my rancid, overly priced takeaway kebab, “then why do the police need to pick us up at 9am?”

Day 68: “Michael the Great Mouse Detective…” – to Aqtobe

Somewhere on the journey, I think it may have been in Kyzlylorda, or some other place that sounds as if someone’s dropped their scrabble tiles, we swapped vehicles and drivers.

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“Hello I’m Michael. What is your name,” said Michael, as slowly and clearly as he could. Dulad translated for us and the driver replied, “Micky” [probably something like ‘Mekai’, but to us sounded like Micky]

“Richard,” I said, pointing at myself.

Literally, nine seconds later, Michael nudged me and asked, “What was the driver’s name again?”

“Think of a famous cartoon mouse created by Walt Disney,” I replied, so the driver would remain unconscious of the fact he’d forgotten his name so soon.

Michael closed his eyes for a couple of seconds in deep concentration.

“Ermm… Basil?” he asked, squinting at me.

“Basil?! Who the hell is Basil?!”

“Basil the Great Mouse Detective”

“Basil the Great Mouse Detective’?! I say ‘think of a famous Walt Disney cartoon mouse’ and you say ‘Basil the Great bloody Mouse Detective’?!”

“Is the driver’s name Basil then?” he said, leaning forward about to address the driver as such.

“Nooo!” I replied, tugging him back by his shoulder, “I’ll give you another clue: the name begins with ‘M’”

Michael thought for a few seconds, looking out of the window, before turning back to me.
“Masil?”

My eye started twitching. I took a deep breath in, a long breath out and I poured myself a large glass of vodka.

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Day 65 – A night in the bowels of a brothel – Taraz

We walked past the mass of other hitchhikers in Korday, and headed up the road towards Taraz. We figured there was no point in trying to compete with the other hitchhikers, because whenever a car pulled over, it was like a scrum, and not speaking the language put us at a severe disadvantage.

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We walked through the wet snow and were picked up faster than expected, by the first Kazakhstani that hasn’t expected money in return. Saken, the driver, took us by surprise at first asking, “Specken ze Deutsch?”

Fortunately though, we dazzled our new host with the full extent of our German lexicon.
“Nein”

Having spent time in Europe, Saken understood the concept of hitchhiking. It was a boring drive, through the dark, listening to a cassette on repeat. This one song, a woody-wood pecker techno remix, was especially painful. I could handle the long daytime drives when I could engage my imagination with the novelty of my surroundings, but night time driving could get very tedious.

Saken dropped us off at what proved to be one of the strangest places either of us has ever stayed. The building, owned by Turkish people, looked like some kind of youth club. There was music pumping out of the main room and there must have been about 20 lorries parked up at the back.

A Turkish man came out to greet us and ushered us inside. The scene that greeted our eyes looked like something straight out of the film From Dusk till Dawn; just replace ravenous, flesh eating vampires with ravenous, flesh eating prostitutes and you get the idea. We’d been dropped off at a brothel.

The ladies of the night, smelling fresh blood, started dancing provocatively around us.

“Rich, I’m scared. What should we do?”

“No sudden movements and don’t make eye contact with anything.”

“I should shut my eyes?”

“No. Keep your eyes open. Just don’t look at anything”

“Right”

We edged our way, back-to-back, through the room, with eyes open, but trying not to look at anything and found a table. A burley woman brought over a couple of plates of borsch, a cabbage soup, with bread, and placed them in front of us. As we ate, we eyed our surroundings like a pair of anxious antelopes drinking at a watering hole.

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After we’d eaten we were led outside and into a small dark and dank boiler room. As the cast iron door slide open, with a deep creaking sound, two rats scampered outside.

We looked at each other.

“More room for us I suppose,” said Michael, as optimistic as ever, and we walked inside.

To the left of the room was a small four step set of wooden stairs into a kind of cubby hole. The cubby hole had a wooden floor with some sheets, a blanket and a pillow, all of which smelled like an old man’s cough. The walls were covered with cardboard and the ceiling had more spider webs than the roof of Little Miss Muffet’s curd and whey pantry.

“I swear those spiders are staring at us” mumbled Mike, out of the corner of his mouth.

“Yeah. And why are those two giggling?”

We could just tell by the mischievous looks in their little spider eyes that they were planning to wait until we fell asleep so they could dance the night away on our faces.

I lay down and considered my situation for a few minutes. To my left was the seedy music pumping out of a sordid brothel; at my feet was a squalid rat den; above me was spider city, where rehearsals for the great midnight dance-off on my face were well under way. And to my right, lay Michael.

Never in my whole life, I thought to myself, have I been so completely and utterly surrounded by such abject squalor and filth.

I shuddered as I contemplated which vulgarity I should try and edge away from.

My eye started twitching. I took a deep breath in, a long breath out and I poured myself a large glass of vodka.

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