Your Very Next Step newsletter for February 2008

Your Very Next Step newsletter for February 2008

“Your Very Next Step” newsletter, published by Ned Lundquist, is a cooperative community, and everyone is invited, no…encouraged, no…urged to participate.

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“You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question.”

Albert Camus

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*** A merger agreement between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines could be announced within two weeks, and negotiations between Continental Airlines and United Airlines have become more serious, according to media reports. What will consolidation mean to us travelers?

“It's never crowded along the extra mile.”

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

*** Ned asks for your comments and feedback to share in this newsletter.

Topics for discussion in the next issue:

*** It looks like United and Continental will merge, and that Delta and Northwest will merge. What are your thoughts on this industry consolidation, and how will it affect all of us as travelers, and yourself in particular.

*** From Bugman, on airline mergers:

Irrespective of the reasons proffered, can it get any worse?

*** I have recently completed a survey of the 10,000 Job of the Week subscribers, with a ten percent response rate. The results are interesting.

*** Ned has some upcoming travel. He’s thinking about getting some sound-canceling headphones. What do you recommend?

And he’s looking for the best way to get to Dubai. Right now, Qatar Airlines looks like the best bet, non-stop from Dulles, and connecting at Qatar to Dubai. United also has a connection with Swiss in Zurich.

Ned will be in San Antonio this weekend, followed by Corpus Christi, Texas and then Tucson, before arriving in Chicago on the 27th for a presentation on the 28th.

In this issue:

*** Face-to-face with Elephant Seals

*** Keeping Clean

*** Belgrade in the Winter

*** Exclusive interview on Road Bowling

*** Travel and Adventure Job Opportunities

*** The path that leads off the beaten path:

Hi Ned –

I recently enjoyed an outing to Año Nuevo State Reserve in Pescadero,

(Northern) California. Año Nuevo SR, located on Highway 1 between

Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay (50 miles south of San Francisco), is

where the Northern Elephant Seals migrate to give birth and breed each

year. A docent led our group on a four mile walk, over sand and

sloping terrain, on a glorious winter day.

The sounds and sights of Año Nuevo SR included male elephant seals'

war calls that sound like beating drums; mom and baby elephant seals

calling out as this is how they recognize each other; crashing waves;

crying birds; the croaking of frogs and toads; and a coyote that

stopped in its tracks to size up our tour group.

I highly recommend this tour to your readers as it is educational,

affordable and a great stopping point along our beautiful coast road.

The cost is $5.00 per person and reservations are required. Please

visit for more information.

Thanks for the service that you provide

Rosemary Barnes

(Where do you meet up with the docent?)

Hi – at the Visitor Center where you pick-up the reserved tix. They

lead groups of 20 people.

*** Where credit is due:

Hi there,

My friend has a credit card she uses exclusively for online purchases so she isn't entering her “main” credit card number and security code everywhere, thus increasing her risk of it being captured and cloned. My husband minimizes risk by checking our statements online every day to see what's been posted. Me? I just have to deal with his occasional phone calls and emails at work: “HOW much did you spend on that leather journal?” And “Who is So-and-so and why is there a charge for $150?” A small price to pay for peace of mind!

Cindy Lieberman

*** My fiend and Navy colleague Don Gabrielson is awaiting the ice to open on Lake Michigan so he can take his transformational warship to sea (I use that term figuratively) for the first time. So he took some time away from preparing the ship and crew for delivery to take part in a 135 road race that starts in International falls, Minnesota.

This video will give you an idea of what Don accomplished, and where (no cell phone coverage), but maybe not why.

*** Winter Carnivals:

Quebec City (

Saint Paul (

Saranac Lake (

*** From Vera C. Panchak:

Hi, Ned:

As an unashamed Chicago booster and art lover, I highly recommend an

outdoor art exhibition on display through the end of February:

Museum of Modern Ice ( is a free large-scale

public art project made entirely of ice, located in downtown Chicago's

Millennium Park, February 1-29, 2008.

And, after the exhibit ends, the project will be allowed to melt, which

should create even more interesting images.



Vera C. Panchak

Communications & Editorial Consulting

*** From K. Utterback:


I leave for Africa Feb. 21 and am having a devil of a time packing! I will be doing a camping safari, a marathon in Moshi, and then climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Trying to stuff gear for all those activities into one bag is driving is driving me nuts. I am taking one large duffle with a smaller one that will be used separately for the safari and the climb. I've eliminated clothes down to just 2 pair of convertible pants, two convertible shirts, 2 t-shirts, and then all the bulky cold weather gear I will need for the 3 or 4 days at the top of the climb. Camera gear is another matter!! Especially since I have no way to charge the batteries and my camera uses it own special battery, not AAs.

When I travel I've always used my American Express but on my last trip, I found some merchants would only take Visa or Mastercard so now I'm revising my methods. My Visa/Mastercards are tied to airline rewards. My American Express has cash back rewards.

The one sad part of my upcoming trip is that I will miss your presentation on the accreditation survey to the IABC Chicago chapter on Feb. 28!

(That’s so sad. Can’t you postpone your trip?)

I'll be in the Serengeti being chased by lions/elephants then. I get back March 11. I know your presentation will be spectacular

*** Bill Ainsworth puts his advice in plastic bags:

Observe Rope Yarn Sunday in Europe

In the Navy, Rope Yarn Sunday is one day of the week at sea when sailors take care of their laundry, get haircuts, run personal errands or catch up on sleep. The term originated when sailors would use individual strands of fiber (or yarn) from ropes to mend their clothes and hammocks. Because it was an afternoon off, sailors referred to it as a “Sunday” although it’s always observed on Wednesday. (No, it doesn’t make sense, but a lot of things in the Navy don’t make sense.)

When traveling in Europe, it’s good to schedule an afternoon at least once a week for this activity, assuming that you pack enough clothes to last a week.

Hotel laundry services are terribly expensive, especially for dry cleaning. And, the turnaround time can be a couple of days. Washing clothes in a hotel bathroom is no fun and the results are often unsatisfactory. (In Japan, Hong Kong and other Asia-Pacific cities, hotel laundry service is same-day and affordable.)

But, if you can spare a few hours, there’s usually a Laundromat nearby (or worth the fare if you have to take a taxi). This is especially important if you buy clothes while traveling – you always need to wash new garments before you wear them. So, figure on taking about two hours to wash, dry and fold. True, it’s not romantic, but it is time and cost effective. And if you want to iron something, hotels provide irons and ironing boards at no charge.

Typically, I pack socks and underwear in small Ziploc bags, to keep these items dry and clean. Larger bags are handy for shirts and trousers. Save the bags and use them to repack clean clothes. This may seem like a lot of unnecessary effort, but it will pay off the first time something leaks inside your luggage or if a backpack or cloth bag is left in the rain or splashed by a wave. It’s happened enough times to make me a believer.

As for what to wear, try to be inconspicuous and respectful of your surroundings. Don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt to Notre Dame in Paris, or Bermuda shorts to Harry’s American Bar in Venice. Wash and wear is always best, unless you need a suit or formal wear for a meeting or special event. Always take an extra pair of walking shoes, also packed in a zip bag. Wet shoes can ruin an otherwise perfect day, anywhere in the world

*** Travel clothing:

Hi Ed:

I believe in taking a minimalist approach to dressing while I'm traveling.

I usually tote reversible jersey pants, CoolMax washable tops, and

reversible jackets for extra wardrobe mileage.

Since I've built my wardrobe around neutral tones like black, taupe, and

white, it's easy to mix and match individual pieces.

To minimize clutter, I pack travel-sized cosmetics and grooming items in

plastic bags.

Traveling is stressful enough–paring down my wardrobe allows me to relax

and enjoy the trip without having to worry about keeping track of ten pieces of luggage.


*** Lori Ozzello packs practically:

Ned —

When packing to travel, I follow a simple rule handed down to me by a veteran globetrotter: Take only what you can carry at a dead run for 100 yards.

(My best friend's mom, Bernice, aka Oma, had stumbled onto riots in foreign cities more than once after she became a grandmother. Twice she and Opa were tear gassed.)

I taught Oma's rule to my daughters, now 18 and 21, when they were small. That's also when they had to start carrying their own luggage. They're now excellent packers and travelers.


*** Clean living:

The minimalist approach works, but you don’t have to smell bad. Take a small bottle of CampSuds, and quick-drying clothing, whether you are traveling or camping. As for business travel, I always mix and match and use the hotel laundry.


Dina Horwedel, Director of Public Education

American Indian College Fund

*** The Dirty Truth, and the real dirty truth, and more on the issue of credit cards:

Hi, Ned —

Here's the dirty truth: For my first-ever trip to Europe, I bought some dry-wicking underwear and t-shirts for my family. offers some nice ones by Terramar that are comfortable and reasonably priced. I found dry-wicking socks on Ebay. They are easily washed in the hotel sink & they dry overnight. For the t-shirts, it helps to roll them up in a hotel towel, stomp the water out of them, and then hang them up to dry. The real dirty truth: I also packed some nearly worn-out lingerie that now dot the landfills in London, Paris and Rome.

For extra-neat packing, I swear by Eagle Creek's packing cubes and folders. They keep everything nice and neat, and I seem to get more in a suitcase if everything is folded properly. For city hopping, I think it's best to pack 2-3 pairs of microfiber pants in black and khaki. They travel well, take up less space than other fabrics, look neat, and match just about any top you have with you. My guys like the dry-wicking shirts that you can buy at Travelsmith, Royal Robbins, or similar places. I must admit that I brought along more tops than I really needed. The guys had no problem wearing the same shirt for several days, but two days is my limit for tops. For shoes, I'm partial to Ecco shoes. I bought their Fresh tie shoes for my European vacation, but if I had it to do over again, I'd bring the slip-ons. That would have made going through airport screening a little easier. I also found that a good pair of walking sandals (think Teva's leather ones) are nice to have in the hotter climates. I have small feet, and it was no easy feat finding size 35 sandals on the road. I think I got the only pair they had in Rome.

Re: credit cards, like you, I have the NFCU card and a USAA card. I carried one, and my husband carried the other. That way, if one of us had a card stolen, we had a backup card.

I hope this helps!

I haven't worked since I retired from the Air Force five years ago, but I keep getting your newsletter. For now, I'm enjoying my volunteer work. But, who knows? One of these days I may decide to re-enter the job market. In the meantime, I enjoy your JOTW newsletter, and I'm sure I'll come to rely on your new travel one. Thank you for all that you do!

Linda Leong

(I'll bet you could have sold your nearly worn out dainties on eBay, which would have paid for the socks.)

LOL. But you are probably right! 🙂

*** Susan Burnell tells Ned it’s okay to wear his skirt more than once:

From Susan, who has been known to get an “overweight” tag slapped on her

suitcase at check-in: Skirts, slacks and jeans can be worn a couple of

times, but I like clean shirts & blouses. I like to pack a few lightweight

blouses that can be hand washed and air dried. I'd rather not have to do a

lot of laundry on the road but will use hotel laundry service or dry

cleaners when necessary. And since I hate to iron, I pack a small can of

“Wrinkle Free” spray, which works pretty well. (The Container Store sells

it.) A mini lint roller comes in handy too.

Uh, camping? Y'all are on your own out there.

Cheers from sunny Texas,

Susan H. Burnell, APR

Imagination Ink – Business Writing & Public Relations

*** It all goes in one bag:

One piece of luggage for an entire week!

Everything that I pack can be rolled up–it's all wrinkle-free and washable.


(Are you one of those people who tries to jam their put a giant steamer trunk into the overhead compartment?)

No– it's a medium sized leather duffle bag!


*** Skivvies don’t weigh that much:


I do a lot of hiking with the Appalachian Mountain Club up in the mountains of New Hampshire. As part of the informational material (fondly called the “Poop Sheet”) that the hike leaders send to participants prior to the hike, they almost always include a recommended gear and clothing list. I find it interesting that even for extended multi-day hikes, the clothing list might indicate, “change of underwear.” While I have no problems wearing the same synthetic hiking pants, shorts, and jerseys for several strenuous (and yes, even sweaty) days in a row while traipsing through the mountains from AMC hut to hut, I prefer to pack a clean pair of underwear, T shirt, and sock liners for each and every day that we'll be on the trail. Hey – they don't weigh all that much!

But maybe that's just me…

Best regards,

Paul Miller

North Attleboro, MA

(Which huts have you been to? What are your favorite trails up in the White Mountains?

I'm particularly fond of the Pemi.)

I've overnighted at Madison, Lakes of the Clouds (Crowds), Mizpah, and Carter Notch Huts several times and have also visited the Greenleaf and Lonesome Lake huts in the Franconia Notch area.

I'll be hiking or snowshoeing back into Carter again next month with a group from my AMC Southeast Mass. Chapter (for which I volunteer as the Communications Chair). Looking forward to it! Just did the Welch-Dickey loop up in the Waterville Valley area with the chapter earlier in the month. Very, very interesting and pretty hike. I also did Mt. Pierce with the club in January. It was a beautiful day with great views up the Crawford Path to Mts. Eisenhower, Monroe, and Washington.

I've been meaning to get into the Pemi but have not yet had the opportunity. Perhaps this summer…

My favorite White Mountain paths to date are the Crawford Path, Franconia Ridge Trail, and anything that starts in Pinkham Notch (my idea of heaven on earth). I'm also partial to the Pumpelly Trail up at Monadnock. I can't recall being on a trail any where in NH that I didn't get excited about.

Thanks and best regards,


(I love the Franconia Ridge Trail. My above-the-timberline knife-edge hiking

than anywhere else I know of for the altitude.

I like the Wilderness Trail and the Franconia Brook Trail that heads up

towards Lafayette and Garfield. I also like the Nancy Pond area, where Mike

Maloney and I rescued a couple of newlyweds and the dachshunds.

One of the most challenging day hikes is Moosilauke. My wife is 5'-1″.

That trail is “cut” for people with very long legs. If you look at the topo map, you’ll se the approaches are very steep.


The Gulfside Trail which follows the spine of the northern Presidentials from Madison Hut to the summit of Mt. Washington is very, very dramatic (assuming that you're not socked inside the clouds, a not infrequent occurrence), but it's kind of hard on my 57- year-old ankles and knees, since you're hiking on jagged rocks the whole time. The Crawford Path which goes over the Southern Presidentials is much kinder and the views are almost as good.

Thanks for the tips on the Pemi trails, perhaps I'll make it there this summer…

Best regards,


*** Ned interviews O’David O’Powell about Irish Road Bowling:

David: Ned, I’m delighted to see your interest in Irish Road Bowling.

Ned: Wait, I’m doing this interview. I go first. That’s the way it works. Now, where were we? Oh, yes. What is Irish road bowling?

David: It is an ancient sport that has a long history in rural Ireland going back at least 325 years. It is a popular sport of the Irish soldier, played all over the world wherever they have served. An 28-ounce iron and steel “bowl” (not ball), about the size of a tennis ball, is hurled down a one to two mile road, the team or individual with the fewest shots from start to finish wins. There are no pins or targets except the optimal path down the road. The “pitch and camber” of the road is read carefully before each shot, much like reading a green before a putt. A really good shot can go over 200 yards, which seems unbelievable when witnessed by a newcomer. One slightly downhill shot in West Virginia carried 422 yards.

Ned: How did you find out about it?

David: I saw it for only a minute or two on ESPN or another cable network back in 1993. It struck me instantly, what a perfect sport for the scenic and winding country roads of West Virginia. A year later on a holiday in Ireland, I purchased the first bowls, not in a sporting goods store but in Murphy's Hardware, Main Street, Cork City, County Cork, Ireland. The strongholds of Irish road bowling in Ireland are west County Cork, and south County Armagh, where two separate, distinctive throwing styles have evolved. In 1995, some friends and I began the sport as a new event in a St. Patrick's Day/ Irish Spring Festival in Ireland, West Virginia. In 2008, we host 16 tournaments from March to November in West Virginia fairs, festivals and state parks. Everyone plays, entry is free.

Ned: How many road bowlers are there in the USA?

David: There are three organized clubs, in Irish communities in south Boston, the Bronx/Riverside in New York City, and our club in West Virginia. Additionally we have sent “Starter Packs” to many new groups all over the USA who are experimenting, learning and getting organized to set up regular schedules, I would estimate perhaps 400 – 500 bowlers in USA now.

Ned: Is this just an excuse to get together and party, or is it a serious sport?

David: For most people it is just a “roll and stroll” with a lot of laughs and a leisurely walk down a beautiful country road. For that smaller 20% it is a fierce competition, where every shot is very important. A good bowler can make nearly every shot an accurate and long roll, and high level matches are decided by the slightest mistake by evenly matched players, each one throwing long shot after long shot. It is exciting to watch. There is a North American Region Championship each year, the winners advancing to the hallowed All Ireland Championships in Ireland under the auspices of Bol~Chumann na hEireann, the international governing organization. In 2007, a Boston bowler, Brendan Fleming, brought back an All Ireland Championship to North America. Big matches in Ireland can draw 20,000 spectators in the road.

Ned: Can anyone play?

David: It has plenty of excitement with very long shots for younger players, but it is especially suited to middle-aged and older folks who appreciate the walk and scenery of the road. Becoming absorbed in the techniques of the game itself, it is easy to walk a mile or two without even thinking about it. In our tournaments in West Virginia we have players as young as 5 to as old as 85 years old. Women are often better at first because men tend to try to overpower their throws.

Ned: What does a serious road bowler wear to an event?

David: Old comfortable shoes. And a West Virginia Irish Road Bowling T-Shirt. That's all you need.

Ned: Who is the best road bowler in America?

David: Probably Adrian Lappin of the New York Club. He is the current Junior C champion, the highest grade in North America. Also, Con O' Callaghan, Roger O' Riordan, Mike Fleming and Brendan Fleming of Boston, Fergal Carr and Mossy Dore of New York. In West Virginia Travis Craig of Ireland, WV has dominated, # 1 bowler and state champion for six of the last seven years. Also Jerod Putnam, state champion in 2006, and Mark Whitt. Shannon Gear of West Virginia is probably the best woman Irish Road Bowler in North America.

Ned: Do you test for steroids?

David: This sport has been called bocce on steroids, and you have to be long and strong to get a 250 yard shot, but we drink Guinness for our strength. (Afterward in the pub – never in the road).

To learn more about Irish Road Bowling, see

Thanks Ned! O David O' Powell

*** From our European Correspondent:

YVNS Contributor Mike Klein shares a two part story of his encounter with the Serb capital of Belgrade from his romp through the Balkans last December. Now based in Delft in the Netherlands, Mike is a veteran European traveler whose personal blog ( covers travel, sports, personal development and Europe’s finest brews.

Belgrade Part One: This is not America

Belgrade lived up to its lawless reputation with my arrival in town. After being greeted cheerfully by the driver, a man with extensive stubble who claimed to be the former coach of the Egyptian National Karate Team and a former Yugoslav Olympian, I was then given a rather lengthy ride through the city–one at odds with my hotel's protestations of proximity to the center.

That I was being screwed by Belgrade Taxi Driver 2697 was not surprising. The magnitude of the screwing was to be believed, however: 4400 Dinars, or about 80 USD for a trip that should have been a mere 800 metres. If the replacement cost of the contents of my luggage would have been less, I'd have made a run for it. Alas, one not-so-small contribution to this burg's reputation for criminality. I gave serious thought to heading out the following night if a sleeper berth for Vienna was available.

The visit to the train station was no happier. No sleeper car berths either for tomorrow or Saturday. After a bit of stunned silence and a trip to the station timetable, the option of a Saturday night spent on a carpeted plank seemed slightly more palatable than a day train leaving at 6:45 AM. So, I commit myself to two days and nights in Beograd. But some signs of improvement beckon. The couchette is 2500 Dinars cheaper, mitigating more than half the damage inflicted by the cabbie.

Dinner at the Hotel Beograd is proving an intriguing form of time travel-indicative of this city being one that retains a socialist mindset in the face of a Western world that thinks little of its national identity or ambitions. Hospitality here is old-school socialist, from the front desk clerk at the Hotel Rex whose only recommendation was…the grim looking restaurant at the Hotel Rex, to the crew at the more salubrious-looking restaurant of the Hotel Beograd, clad in traditional suits and aprons, and giving me a thick menu consisting largely of dishes that were unavailable. When I told the waiter of my unwillingness to feast on my little pink piggy friends, he replied “we can put some chicken on the grill.”.

Beer, as usual, accelerated Belgrade's redemption process. Bg, short for Beograd, the local brew, was balanced and tasty, a bit of extra maltiness for flavor…

Breakfast at the Hotel Rex was an exercise in contradictions. The buffet was strange at best, a few puff pastries and baguette-like rolls combined with some unrecognisable dishes (couldn't tell whether one dish was of egg or pancake origin) and wieners that looked like they'd lost a fight with a microwave. Also, unlabelled cans I was able to distinguish as sardines only when reading the tiny electronically printed “Maroc” for Morocco next to their sell by date.

But ALL of that was compensated for by the coffee. The cup of black, crude-oil thick Serbian Coffee (Turkish-style, but produced in bulk) may well be the best cup of coffee I've ever had. And coming off the best night of sleep I've had for the duration of the trip, I was set to experience Beograd on friendlier terms.

But first, more coffee at the unassuming but well-decorated Mani Prag cafe near the Hotel Prag. I am coming to think Belgrade has more than a few things to teach Seattle. Serb coffee has Turkish flavor and quality but is served in American quantities. And, looking at the grounds at the bottom of the cup, I asked them the question : “Do you make the best coffee in the world?” In unison, they replied: “Our sediments exactly.” The proprietor, not speaking Engelska, was bemused when I pronounced his black brew tops on the planet. But I think he appreciated the sediment.

At long last, the dreariness of the outskirts of the commercial center give way to a vibrance, cold notwithstanding, reminiscent of the pedestrian districts of Buenos Aires or Barcelona. Only here there is the added dimension of the residual battle between West and East literally being waged on a door to door basis.

I still haven't learned the protocol for when one uses Cyrillic or “Latinica”, though as Serbian is largely identical to Bosnian or Croatian (which use Latinica exclusively), import and competitive local businesses opt for Latinica, and it seems to be the choice for those embracing modernity. Cyrillic, in turn, is used for those embracing tradition and the eastern identity into which many have sought solace in the face of wrenching change. Unfortunately, it is used for all street signs, which, while I know enough Cyrillic from the otherwise failed efforts of childhood caretaker Loren Shlaes' efforts to teach me Russian, required me to constantly check my map to make sure I was headed in the right direction. (It was also used for most political posters from the then-in-progress election campaign between Democratic President Boris Tadic and Tomislav “The Undertaker” Nikolic of the aptly named and pro-Russian Serb Radical Party.)

The direction in which I was headed was the Boar's Breath, the city's lone Scottish Pub. I have come to appreciate British/Irish-theme pubs in foreign towns not as oases from the local culture, but as places where the local and English-language cultures connect.

In Nashville, it is common to see fried pickles. But until Belgrade, I'd never seen fried olives. The common principle is largely the same-a thin breading encasing something brined and vegetal. Can't say the frying adds much, but I can claim to have tried them.

The Boar's Breath has relatively competent service and attractive decor. It looks like I'll return after dinner. Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that this part of town, though looking nearly as weathered as the area near the Rex, is a posh end of town. Serb Coffee gives way to anemic servings of espresso at venues with other themes from Western Yurp, most bizarrely a Caffe Pastis (sic), a French-themed wine bar with Turkish Efes beer on draft.

As the 4pm nightfall beckoned, the quest for Serb Coffee resumed, landing me after about a km at the cavernous Park cafe-restaurant, another relic. Again, I was greeted by suited waiters, one of whom served me a cup of the black gold immediately after I asked after its availability. This evening, I will refrain from the heavy nightlife and indeed from Balkan cuisine. Instead, a Korean dinner and a return to the Boar's breath beckon.

Belgrade Part Two: This is not Seoul. Nor is it New Jersey

The Dju Dju will be the second Korean restaurant I've eaten at in Eastern Yurp, the first being the Seoul in Budapest in 1992. As a Jew, I've always considered oriental food a Gift of the Creator, to be sampled in all climes and locales. Additionally, it offers two additional benefits-a well-earned pause from schnitzels, cutlets, and heavy breads, and also a pricetag which while high compared to local favorites, is generally fair compared to comparable venues in western towns.

Tonight will be an attempt to encounter expats and English-speaking locals, people who have largely eluded me this trip. (alas, they remained elusive-mk)

A number of years ago, I participated in a personal development program called the Landmark Forum. The course was a three day session, held in a large conference room with two hundred participants. The course, to put it simply, was about getting the participants to use value-neutral language as a filter through which to understand their own past experiences and the comments of others. But one additional concept from the “LF” rings particularly true: “time is non linear”.

This trip has been a testament to the nonlinearity of time. I've been travelling on my Interrail pass for less than a week. But in that week, I've slept in three hostelries and a train. I've eaten in more than a dozen restaurants, and tasted (and photographed) at least as many kinds of beer (Croatia's Tomislav the best so far). Part of this is a testament to travelling alone. When it's cold and there's no one to talk to, filling the time simply isn't a function of cramming in more sights. It's just too cold to stay out more than an hour or so at a time, and museums (other than Sarajevo's Jewish Museum) either held little interest or were open inconveniently. So I spent lots of time in restaurants, bars and cafes, watching and listening to the people around me. Thoughts of my real life intrude, including those of a certain someone…

But otherwise, ‘home’ in the Netherlands is a planet away from here, its cleanliness, affluence and order a memory distant in space and very seemingly in time. A key to this feeling of nonlinearity is the nature of travel. I've had two substantial overland daytime journeys, the surreal rail trip from Zagreb to Sarajevo, and the bus trip from Serb Sarajevo to Belgrade. It was possible for me on neither journey to check out and sleep but for a few moments..

If I had done these legs by air (a feasible if pricier option), the trip would likely have felt faster, but seeing the red cinderblock homes, steeples, minarets and the dueling latin and Cyrillic advertising signs of Republika Srpska in particular gave me a lot more context for this part of the Balkans.But tonight, I've come to a bit of a Balkenende, a cheap take on the surname of Holland's dull-as-dishwater Harry Potter-looking prime minister. With three full days yet to go (Belgrade day two, and possibly one each in Vienna and Budapest) plus a potentially backbreaking night on a couchette beckoning, I'm opting for first-world comforts instead of second-world excess tonight.

Which brings us back to Dju Dju, a place billed as Japanese-Korean, but far more Japanese in refinement, presentation and flavors. Under normal circumstances I prefer the more in-your-face Korean BBQ to the flat-grilled chicken and beef I had here, but the subtlety has been a real plus. Add similarly mild kimchee (the usually fiery Korean take on sauerkraut) an unusual if substantial seaweed salad, and, best of all, a melodic, jazzy Japanese pop track, and you can forget you are in a city that was once a leading recipient of NATO military hardware. Which is the idea.

Back to the Boars Breath Scottish Pub, which is now packed to the extent that I am unable to discern between conversations in Serbian and English. The women are well coiffed and stylish, the men look as if they'd look comfortable on the set of the Sopranos. Actually, if they were on the set, the Sopranos might look less comfortable.

Again, prices are high by local standards (which keeps the true riff raff out) while reasonable by Western standards, thus ensuring a seemingly peaceable crowd. A duo playing American-style Bluegrassy and Jazzy and Elvis tunes holds court in a venue that wouldn’t be too kitschy by Edinburgh standards, forgiving the kilted waiters.

I opt for a mug of LAV beer, a nice, malty number brewed by Carlsberg here, one with more personality than Carlsberg Croatia's PAN. Excepting Tuborg. I can proudly say I've avoided import/licensed beer the entire trip. To be sure, the majors are gobbling up these local breweries so it's tough to truly buy local, but I think the likes of LAV, PAN and Inbev Croatia’s Ojujsko will be around for as long as locals are willing to pay extra for local versions of Stella, Heineken and Tuborg.

Meanwhile, the local version of Careless Whisper and Smooth Operator emanate from the front of the pub, the duet having added a singer wearing a green sweater with a sequined neck. On later examination, the singer is an utter dead ringer for Meadow Soprano. In general, the women here look as feminine as the men look tough. I would guess Mockba probably has a similar dynamic. But listening to sweet-voiced pop music with an endless supply of hearty local beer is hardly the worst way to spend an evening in a highly foreign city.

Watching the crowd here I put two and two together. How does one stay slim on a diet of fried pork and Johnny Walker? Smoke like flipping chimneys!!! A non-smoking venue is as rare as a pork-free menu. Interestingly, cigarette advertising is common, and the lurid half-pack health warnings of the EU give way to tiny admonitions in Cyrillic on packs. In Bosnia, local “grits” were a dollar a pack, and western brands less than two. Here, they are probably cheaper. Hint to Balkan Governments: Raise your cigarette taxes now. The breakthrough in productivity your nicotine-addled masses would have to generate to avoid withdrawal should be enough to get you into the EU in less than a generation.

What is amazing about the capitals of Former Yugoslavia is the extent to which they parallel other cities elsewhere. Ljubljana, capital of an increasingly affluent mini-state, is evocative of Luxembourg. Zagreb, Catholic, Slavic and rustic, speaks to Prague, albeit the Prague of the late 1990s. Sarajevo: a snowbound Istanbul with Austro-Hungarian and socialist touches. And Belgrade? Clearly Moscow on the Danube!

The duet turned trio now plays “without love, where will you be now”. But given my choice of beers, the question, “without LAV, where would you be now?” becomes more pointed. LAV is proving an excellent “session” beer-something to lubricate an evening unsullied by conversation. The band switches to local faves as midnight beckons. A shapely Serbess starts boogieing (?) in a tight paisley dress, only to be drawn in by her fearsome beau. One thing better in Belgrade than in Sarajevo-the slivovitz. I indulged in a shot as I prepared to head for the Hotel Rex. Kept cold at the Boar's Breath, it still had a plummy taste.

Belgade Part 3: This Time With Guidebook

As I'll be leaving by train tonight, the noon hour leaves me with a renewed sense of purpose. For, not having benefit of a hotel, I need to keep myself entertained for nine-plus hours before rolling into Austria-Hungary on a carpeted plank.

While yesterday I was content to drift through this cacophonic city with little more than a map and restaurant guide, today I'll be more of a disciplined tourist. This city has three can't miss sights, all of which I missed yesterday: the Kalmegdan fortress where the Sava meets the Danube, the St Sava Orthodox Cathedral, and the infamous Marakana, home stadium of the Red Star Belgrade soccer club. Of course, they are on opposite ends of the centre of town.

The Serb Coffee arrives with fizzy water on the side at an old-school cafe called Mali Stadion. One key to happy travelling is to NEVER drink tap water in a new country. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Fizzy is better as the fizz is added insurance. Bottled water is cheap in most places, and you have one fewer vehicle for getting sick. Even if the guidebook writers say it's ok in one country, drinking local tap water is a bad habit as it becomes easy to make mistakes about its permissibility in one location or another.

Of course, most of the people around me are forgetting the water and having a noontime Slivovitz. I'll pass this time. Perhaps a Unicum in Budapest, in homage to a book I read a few years ago about expat life in the Magyar capital. Fittingly, the book was called “Prague”.

And speaking of Prague, I was soon beckoned by the sight of Mani Prag, home of quite possibly the best coffee on the planet. My return was greeted by a smile and a handshake. The coffee didn't disappoint. No sugar required.

Following the recommendations of the guidebook, I headed for Skadarska street, a street filled with clearly upscale traditional Serbian restaurants. I settled on Ema Dana for lunch, and once again, I succumbed to menu delights that were unavailable. A desire to have a virtuous turkey steak gave way to a wiener schnitzel after the waiter's vouching for it's non-porkness.

First glass of wine of the trip yields unexpected delight. A small bottle of Crnogorski Vranac from Montenegro. A red with some balance, fruitiness and flavor akin to a good California Zinfandel, a grape rumored to have Adriatic roots. I'd bring a bottle back but I'm laden down already. I overpacked weightwise–indeed, I barely touched the components of my backpack. But the contents of my big shoulder bag were well used, and high hotel laundry costs left me to do some sink washing.

As it happened, my sightseeing today was uneventful, with the unshovelled steps defying me to enter the Kalmegdan fortress, and the unfinishedness of St. Sava's Cathedral rendering it an impressive but shortlived detour as night descended. The Marakana after dark seemed too big a risk for limited payoff (what's the point of visiting a dark stadium?), and by the time I finished posting my previous updates at an internet cafe in the crumbling Tito-era Slavija Hotel, I was exhausted. I'd had my fill of cyrillic and cold, and even risked hailing a cab to a more tourist friendly final meal in this burg. McDonalds tempted me. But then I saw the Hotel Moscow (or as it's spelled on the building, Xotel Mockba). I thought, what better place to close this visit than in a place named for Mockba.

The place did not disappoint. A four star hotel, the Mockba was clearly a cut above the Rex or the Beograd. When I ordered an all-smoked supper of smoked beef “prsut” and smoked trout with honey-mustard sauce and peanuts, the tuxedoed waiter said “absolutely”, instead of “how about some chicken on the grill.”. And the beer, the legendary Niksicko Pivo from Montenegro, is considered by many experts the region's best lager. I still preferred LAV, for one doesn't forsake one's true LAV, but the Niksicko was robust and hoppier than the others I've tried here.

The beef was good, but the trout was absolutely divine. The smoked trout filets were delicately sauteed and served with chopped peanuts, which upon examination are no more silly to serve on trout than sliced almonds. Absolutely fabulous, easily the best sit-down meal I've had in the Balkans. And Nikola is certainly the most professional waiter I’ve seen in the region.

Still, listening to the old silly American song “These are the days, my friend..the nights will never end” in an opulent, marble-floored dining room is surreal beyond belief.

In two hours, I will pull out of Belgrade. Tomorrow, I will be back in “civilisation”, or at least the EU's more sanitised version. Belgrade is the least photogenic European city I've seen, the least polished, and certainly the least affluent. But it's a young, edgy place, and there's a resilience, pride and independence rarely seen elsewhere on this continent.

Oh, they still drive Yugos here. Tons of them. While my efforts to find limo-length stretch Yugos carrying Serbian politicos fell vainly, I discovered a number of four and five door versions as well as the legendary boxy three door. The Yugo is a great metaphor for Belgrade. It's a combination of socialist style, socialist infrastructure, and the sheer human perseverance required to own and drive one. But they speak to higher aspirations. The Yugo models sold here are called the Koral and the Florida. As the ice on the sidewalks firms up, such aspirations are only natural.

(Mike Klein is JOTW research guru and a communications consultant based in Delft in the Netherlands. When not communicating or guruing, Mike tends to be either traveling or tasting various beers in the Benelux region.)

(Why not send Ned your travel experiences? Send them to

*** Travel news:

United To Charge Domestic Passengers For Additional Bags

United Airlines this week said it would charge customers $25 to check a second bag if they are flying on a nonrefundable domestic ticket and do not have Mileage Plus or Star Alliance status. The new policy impacts bookings for travel beginning May 5. (From Business Travel News)

I am told American is matching this practice.

*** USAirways will no longer award a minimum of 500 miles for a flight.,0,3842413.story

*** A merger agreement between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines could be announced within two weeks, and negotiations between Continental Airlines and United Airlines have become more serious, according to media reports.

*** Germany's nude airline takes off

*** Northwest Airlines plans to phase out its fleet of DC-9s and is meeting with aircraft manufacturers to consider options for replacing the planes. The airline said it will reduce the number of DC-9s in its fleet to 68 from 103 by the end of 2008.

*** Virginia Conservation Police Notebook:

The “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of the variety of activities encountered by our officers, previously called game wardens, who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. The Notebook entries are listed by Region..

*** Travel, Outdoor and Adventure Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities:

Quetzaltrekker Guides, Casa Argentina, Guatemala

Volunteer English Teachers, Nepal Himalaya, International Mountain Explorers Connection, Kathmandu and Phaplu, Nepal

Trip Leader, Camp Assistant, and Camp Chef, Backroads, Berkeley, CA

29 years ago, I was inspired to start Backroads by the belief that traveling actively, under one's own power, was the most rewarding way to experience the world. Researching and leading those first trips was an education and a challenge. But most of all, it was fun. And it's still fun. After more than a quarter century of being intimately involved in the growth of Backroads into the world's #1 active travel company, I'm more excited than ever about where we're headed. In 2008, we're adding our new Insider Trips which feature a special emphasis on the unique cultural and regional connections. Our quest is an escalating level of excellence, based on a passion for creating an extraordinary guest experience.

Backroads exists to treat our guests to a style of travel that is unparalleled in the travel industry. The foundation of our extraordinary guest experience is legendary service – and we go so far as to guarantee the quality of our trips. This is where you come in. Fulfilling this commitment is not an easy job, and it's not for everyone. It may be for you, however, if you can share our passion for this unique mode of travel and the quality of experience for each Backroads guest. Both the challenges, and the rewards, are abundant.

Do you have “the right stuff” to be a Backroads leader? Although leaders enrich each trip with unique personality, they all bring certain critical qualities along as well. A love for the beauty of the natural and cultural world. The joy of interacting actively with the outdoors – biking, walking, kayaking, rafting. Appreciating the elegance of dining in a 16th-century chateau as well as sleeping beneath the stars. Possessing a zest for life and a desire to share it with others. Connecting with each and every guest, and appreciating them for who they are. Showing compassion, patience and an unwavering sense of humor. Thinking on your feet and communicating with your head. Sustaining energy and motivation through long days and myriad tasks. Taking the initiative to discover the best an area has to offer. Sharing your knowledge intelligently and generously. Always searching for smarter ways to get the job done. Helping to create an even better work environment. Never losing sight of the big picture while focusing on the details. Being forever flexible. Delivering the highest level of service. Loving what you do.

Our goal is to accommodate guests’ individual needs and desires for their vacations in a personal and flexible manner. Every employee at Backroads, myself included, works toward this goal. As the company grows, we're looking for more natural leaders who can do a world-class job with style and professionalism. Please study the information packet. If you feel that you're a match for the challenges and opportunities of being a Backroads Trip Leader, please follow the instructions on our website to apply.

We are currently hiring for the 2008 season. Please read the information below and the information packet on the sidebar that applies to your work eligibility prior to applying. We look forward to receiving your application!


We can only accept applications from candidates that are eligible to legally work in the United States, Canada and the following European countries (European candidates must have an EU or Swiss passport and citizenship): Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Skills and Schedules

The trip-leading schedules available in 2008 will primarily be in North America and Europe during the spring, summer and fall. Winter schedules may be available in the U.S. and Latin America. We are especially interested in hiring applicants who have foreign language skills, experience working with families, and rich backgrounds in cultural and/or natural history. We encourage those of you with these talents in particular to highlight them on your application.

New leaders’ schedules will be assigned after you have completed the training process. Schedules will begin, in most cases, within 5-30 days after finishing training. Trip leading schedules will vary and may include camping, casual and premiere trips, as well as Insider, biking, walking, or multisport trips, for groups of families, solos, or couples.


The following list of qualifications serves as our guide as we search for exceptional Trip Leader candidates. You’ll see that we have very high expectations of our leaders – so do our guests! Being a world-class Trip Leader requires a rare combination of talents. Do your skills, experiences, and aptitudes enable you to answer “yes” to most of the questions below?

Are you committed to delivering the highest level of quality and service to our guests?

Do you possess superb people skills? Do you have a dynamic personality? Are you a sophisticated conversationalist? Are you confident, caring, warm, and friendly? Do you have a zest for life?

Are you good at anticipating, troubleshooting, and solving challenging problems?

Do you have in-depth knowledge of any of our regional destinations and/or cultural activities—art, natural and cultural history, food and wine, etc.?

Do you speak other languages fluently? (Italian, French, Spanish, and German are extremely desirable, but language skills for any of our destinations are helpful.)

Are you comfortable working long hours? Are you physically fit and capable of lifting bikes and luggage?

Are you passionate about—and experienced in—active traveling and the outdoors? Do you enjoy camping, hiking, and cycling?

Do you have a valid driver’s license and an excellent driving record? Are you mechanically inclined? (All applicants must have significant driving experience; Canadian applicants must also have the ability to obtain a Class 4 Commercial Drivers License).

Are you over 21 years of age? (If not, please see our Camp Assistant position or Camp Chef position for more information.)

We are currently hiring for the 2008 season. Please read the information below and the information packet on the sidebar that applies to your work eligibility prior to applying. We look forward to receiving your application!


We can only accept applications from candidates that are eligible to legally work in the United States, Canada and the following European countries (European candidates must have an EU or Swiss passport and citizenship): Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Skills and Schedules

The trip-leading schedules available in 2008 will primarily be in North America and Europe during the spring, summer and fall. Winter schedules may be available in the U.S. and Latin America. We are especially interested in hiring applicants who have foreign language skills, experience working with families, and rich backgrounds in cultural and/or natural history. We encourage those of you with these talents in particular to highlight them on your application.

New leaders’ schedules will be assigned after you have completed the training process. Schedules will begin, in most cases, within 5-30 days after finishing training. Trip leading schedules will vary and may include camping, casual and premiere trips, as well as Insider, biking, walking, or multisport trips, for groups of families, solos, or couples.


The following list of qualifications serves as our guide as we search for exceptional Trip Leader candidates. You’ll see that we have very high expectations of our leaders – so do our guests! Being a world-class Trip Leader requires a rare combination of talents. Do your skills, experiences, and aptitudes enable you to answer “yes” to most of the questions below?

“Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.”

Friedrich von Schiller

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“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.”

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