Tabibito Dec 2006 in Ashiya

This website was once part of the large Tabibito.de project - a site containing more then 3,000 pages about destinations in Eastern Europe and East Asia. Tabibito (旅人・たびびと) is Japanese and means "Traveller". And so Tabibito became my handle name on the internet. Of German nationality, Tabibito first wrote his website in German and later translated it into Japanese and English - at least large parts of it.

For simple SEO reasons, I decided in 2007 that it's about time to split the website and create a new site with a new domain. And that's how Europe-East.com was born. This is an entirely private, independent project or better say hobby. Let me explain why this became a hobby of mine.

I was born in Eastern Germany (aka German Democratic Republic) in the 70ies in a small town very close to Berlin. Eastern Germany - that was the "red" part of Germany trying to imitate Communism while standing aside "the big brother" in the East - the Soviet Union. This meant I was brought up with a lot of propaganda and many restrictions. Free travel was mission impossible. Saying out loud what you think was dangerous. We hadn't had 20 types of toilet paper in the shelves but only one. But there was far-reaching social welfare, no unemployment, free education, a free medical system etc.

Since travelling abroad was limited to a handful of countries east of Germany, we used that freedom as much as possible. Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland - those were the main resorts. All of a sudden, everything turned upside down in 1989 when the wall came down. Suddenly there was free travel. Suddenly, everyone told me that East Germany was bad. Very bad. And the West was good. Very good. Now we had 20 types of toilet paper in the shelves. And I started travelling as much as I could. To West Berlin the day after the wall came down. To Western Germany frequently after that. To France and Belgium the next year. To the UK another year later. Scandinavia, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands etc. followed soon.

In many of those countries, everything seemed to be available. There was competition, there where billboards everywhere. You could buy whatever you want. Going back to some places in Eastern Europe, things looked different: Essential items were missing, so people improvised. They helped each other because that was their only way to bridge the gaps. They found fascinating solutions for problems people in the West aren't even aware of since you can buy everything. The art of improvisation, the solidarity, sometimes the simplicity - and the dynamic of all Eastern European states after 1990 made me come back again and again. If someone would ask me to choose between 7 days in luxury hotels in France or 7 days in some farmer's cottages in the rural backwaters of Romania - I'd take the bite and go to Transylvania again.

During the 90ies and later I traveled a lot around Europe and Asia. Those travels took me further and further - first to Hungary and Slovenia, then Bosnia, Croatia, followed by Romania, even Georgia, Armenia etc. Besides, I started traveling East Asia as well and spent a good deal of time in Japan and the area around Japan. In 2005, I married my Japanese wife, who joined me on many trips through Eastern Europe before - if she can take traveling with me to less frequented, not always visitor friendly places such as the Belarus or Transdniestr, then she can as well marry me - that's what I thought when I asked her to marry me in a cozy restaurant somewhere in Lithuania.

And so we had to choose between Germany and Japan as our place to live - since I speak Japanese (well, my wife also speaks some German) we opted for Japan. Probably not forever, but I guess for a longer period of time. As the only drawback, this means that I'm far away from my family and my friends - and Eastern Europe. Tours to Eastern Europe even moved further away when our daughter was born on New Year's Day in 2007, but that's nothing to regret.

And so I'm working in Tokyo as a webmaster and spend the rest of my time with my family. Future destinations will be different from now on - places in Japan, occasionally Germany, maybe China and Korea or Vietnam again. I would still like to share my experiences in Eastern Europe, since it is a very rewarding destination - especially the rural areas.

I know that the following phrase is over-used, but I'd still like to mention it here and ask anyone who's going for a trip abroad: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Don't be arrogant towards the people you're going to meet and towards fellow travelers. Remember that you're the intruder in the first line - and an embassador of your country at the same time. If you do something bad, remember that it's the next traveler who will be punished for that (this by the way includes paying bribes: If you pay it, the next traveler will have more difficulties in avoiding it - I know that this is easier said then done, but most bribes can be avoided). These were my two yen (or Rubles or Lei).

 

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