Blurp – Almost empty backpack

Not much was left of my two backpacks utterly filled up with socks, underwear and scarfs after I finally managed to deliver the stuff for the refugees to the right people, and where it was indeed needed.

Again, right across the street from my hostel there’s an improvised refugee camp. And no, again, I don’t take pictures. a. I don’t think that’s “worthy”, b. again, just like in Budapest, pictures simply are not a good representation of the situation. And you don’t want to know how it looked after the really heavy cloudburst this evening. The volunteers here are desperately looking for laundry machines to use so they can clean the clothing again.

But also again. The people I meet are so amazing, though the situation here (and what I heard, indeed in Subotica) is really bad, in a different way from Budapest, and for all, contrary to Budapest and Berlin, there’s lack of so many things here.. For example children’s (boy’s) clothing and shoes.

Again and again, the support and the solidarity of the local people & the people from different countries volunteering, and the work and the heart they put into it… it’s frikkin awesome. You people are the best 🙂

Impression – Stations of Hope and Despair

Budapest Keleti. Even if you have seen the pictures and the video’s made here, nothing can prepare you for when you get out of the train. When you are confronted with the pretty bad situation of the refugees here, the police line blocking the entrance to the station. Some VIP being filmed in front of the station just left, lots of press around. Turns out a pro-refugee demonstration, and against the mostly bad, but always random, way the refugees are treated here, just took place.

50 m from my hostel the “transit zone” starts. This means lots and lots and lots of people, families, an old lady in a wheelchair, young people, old people, sleeping in the underground “walkways” towards the station. And this tunnel system is huge. And still too small…. (on a good, personal, side note, the hostel is great, and there’s free coffee all the time!, and the people here are very much aware of the hopelessness of the refugees sleeping right up the front door….) Note: since the fence went up on the border between Hungary and Serbia last monday, the situation at the station became even worse.

I think the images of those refugees that still made it to a train and were violently separated from “european” travelers are known by now. Again, even when you mentally prepare yourself, nothing can truly prepare you if you’re in the middle of it.

When I left the next day, all train traffic to Austria and Germany was stopped. Outside the station the volunteers were busy again. I saw some small children playing with pink balloons (they organize children’s games too). While grown ups hold up signs such as “we are under siege”… What I watched here, the scale of the situation is so.. HUGE you have either the choice to sit down and cry your heart out, harden your heart and close your eyes, or well…. do some really small things for a few people.

The station looks completely different for an “european tourist” traveling in the other direction. A station woman pulled me to the front of the ticket line for my ticket to Belgrade (otherwise I would have missed the train), and because I couldn’t find the platform, another guy actually helped me cross the railway tracks and brought me inside the train..I’m very thankful for their help… but…. Ok, the woman said my smile helped too… but I guess a refugee can smile all he wants…

On the way to Novi Sad –  Subotica. Not only is the border control on both sides pretty hectic (and all the time, I can’t help but notice how their attitude changes when they see my passport….) But they actually check under the trains going to Hungary for “stowaways”. The bus station at Subotica looked a bit too full imho too.

All the time I’m torn between staying and helping out, and doing the usual tourist things. But I do enjoy meeting great people all the time, such as two weirdo guys on the train. Us misbehaving resulted in non-functioning outside doors of that train, and a painful head because the doors in the end DID close on the back of my head after we somehow found out we could open them while the train was riding….

Novi Sad. Where I said goodbye to a wonderful young family. I arrived as a guest, and left as a friend. When I came back from hiking to the fortress and along the river, my host didn’t have good news for me about the situation in Budapest. The only solution left for the refugees there is to frikkin WALK to Austria 🙁

When the train to Belgrade came into the station, I first only saw it as a “graffiti artist’s wet dream”. the whole train was spray-painted. Until I realized it was the train from Belgrade to Subotica, the last Serbian station near the now closed border to Hungary. And the train was more than full.

Trains of hope… or hopelessness.

Impression – Traveling against the stream

Slowly but steadily it’s beginning to feel less surreal. Though I’m actually wondering WTF am I doing (again).

Tomorrow I will be traveling by train to Budapest, Novi Sad (on the serbian side of the border to Hungary, where they just erected the fence) and Belgrade.

Yes, in the opposite direction of all the people looking for safety. I planned my trip weeks ago.. before everything happened. So now, instead of looking forward to hiking in primeval forests and up & down rugged mountains, I wonder if I can face that much human suffering.

My backpack is full of clean & new underwear & socks and sleeping gear for the refugees at the station in Budapest, in camps near the border, and in the parks in Belgrade… (good thing this stuff just was donated to the free shop), but it will still be a very small drop in the ocean. I do wonder if I can manage to close my eyes and travel on to my planned destination and not stay in Budapest or Serbia to help out… And since a lot of people already have expressed their worry because I’m traveling that way (and on my own of course), I will report here regularly if I have an internet connection available.

After Serbia, I plan to travel on to Montenegro and Bosnia, and back over Croatia, doing as many forests, mountains & waterfalls as possible in 3 weeks time :).

I packed my bag. Since I usually travel light, only 1/3 of my backpack is filled with my own stuff. The rest is socks, scarfs, underwear, blankets, (children’s) drinking containers and today, two good self-inflatable camping mattresses arrived in the giveaway shop, so taking those too. Still, I seriously wonder wtf I’m doing, Are they really waiting over there for some (relatively) rich tourist who dumps some random stuff from a giveaway shop in their lap? On the other hand, 30 pair of clean socks… for people traveling for weeks, if not months without a change of clothing.. I think I would be happy with clean socks or underwear…

Rant – Brave New World

Weird. Reading the news about the neonazi riots against refugees in a small village in Germany, watching the despair of the refugees trying to cross the border between Greece & Macedonia, the hopeless situation of the refugees in Calais, I should have taken my usual deep dive into anger & weltschmerz.

But this time, I didn’t. And why not? Because…

  • a famous german actor not only gets really pissed at some politician who thinks refugees are only here for the 300 euros of “pocket money”, but starts a private initiative with a rapper to house refugees, and donates 100.000s of euros for it
  • a christian democratic politician (I never expected coming it from that corner) not only publicly says building a wall around Europe is not a solution, but he himself takes two refugees in his own home
  • a local initiative to support the refugees waiting with 100s to get registered publishes a list what they would need, and from that list it becomes clear, the city people have donated everything that could possibly be needed, from food, clothing to toys and diapers. The help from the city people comes in such amounts, it’s actually almost impossible to manage
  • even non-leftish papers publish lists and statistics to counter all those underbelly feelings of “worried citizens”
  • all the initiatives I see popping up in my newsfeed to support the refugees at Calais
  • and how many times by now have I seen the “cookie analogy” popping up in my newsfeed (“there’s 20 cookies. The banker takes 19. There’s one cookie left. The banker tells the worker “watch it, the immigrant will take your cookie”)? Or all the other stuff my fb-friends post from which one thing becomes really clear.

Empathy and solidarity are still going strong.

Yes. The world is burning. And going to hell in a hand basket.

But. Thank goodness it seems not just the weirdo alternative leftish people refuse to “think” with their underbelly, but the mainstream tends to do the same. And it’s not just words. Or signing another petition. It’s frikkin ACTIONs. They might be drops in the ocean, but dang. It’s a lot of them…

(now the frikkin european politicians should finally GET it: a. if you export weapons, you can take up refugees b. the xenophobes might shout (and act…) loud, in this case, the oso quiet voice of the majority tells a different story: refugees ARE welcome)…

Rant – Scary World – the Aftermath of a Successful Action

I guess it’s says a lot both about Germany and the opinion of the “general public”, if, when 6,000 people peacefully ignore “stay off the grass” and “no trespassing” signs, this gets more attention and people wondering about the costs of repairing the lawn, then the costs of human lives of Fortress Europe.
“Menschen sterben und ihr schweigt. Der Rasen ist kaputt und ihr schreit.”

(warning… long read ahead… just have to get this off my chest.. and yah, I’m secretly a hippie or an emo or something)

In one week, the lawn in front of Kanzleramt and Reichstag will look like nothing ever happened & there will be happy grilling with the family. The uproar will be forgotten. At the most, there will be some radical artists still congratulating each other in a back-office.

And people will still die trying to get to safety. And those who make it, will still be treated like criminals, be subject to racist attacks or be declared “illegal” and left to charity. And the EU will still be more concerned with how to make it as impossible as possible for people to reach Europe (or at least make sure they die outside of our sight), than with rescue or doing something against the reasons why people flee their homes.
Weapons will still be exported. Our consumer “needs” will still ruin the environment “over there”. Dictatorships and “regional conflicts” will still be condoned or even supported if this will benefit profit, create a false sense of security, or opposing the violation of human rights just might insult an “ally”.
And that’s just the “humanity” factor. Completing the picture with what happens to all the other species on this planet doesn’t make it any better.

It all feels so cynical. So futile. “Stop this world, I wanna get off”.. Close my eyes, & bury myself under the blankets / find distraction in music, parties & gigs… Just “blame the system” and live your own small life. Where there’s enough to cope with anyway, the day-to-day small-scale problems, from dealing with workstress or health problems to life-shattering events such as losing someone dear or something important. When being concerned about the large-scale issues seems like a luxury problem.

Everything you can do, from protesting, supporting those refugees that made it with food or clothing, or trying to live a lifestyle which does not burden the environment that badly, it all seems futile in the light of frikkin 50 million refugees worldwide, abandoning their homes, their lives, because they fear for their lives and those of their children or because their environment simply has become unlivable.
The pics of the refugees on the border between Turkey & Syria… or of the bodies of those who didn’t make it stashed in garbage bags in southern europe…

No, the “masses” won’t “rise”. The “99%” will at the most push another online petition or Like button. I’m no different. There won’t be a revolution, and as history taught us, if, most of those revolutions resulted in just another reinstating of the status quo. There only will be individuals banging their head frustrated against a wall, and be called “do-gooder” or “Mr Know-it-all” or “you think you’re so much better huh?”.

It’s so easy to see what’s wrong. And what is so hard to change.
Repeating myself, again, I guess.

  • Look at the amount of food which is thrown away, and of which “foodsavers” collect so little. It could feed so many.
  • Look at all the empty office buildings in this city.. which are not allowed to be squatted (anymore). It could house so many.
  • Look at the fact that in the giveaway shop, we often have to turn people down bringing stuff, since we simply don’t have the space. And the stuff that ends up at the giveaway shop is such a small part of what ends up as waste… Where one of my biggest confrontations was, walking towards the shop to do my shift, a few people walked past with huge Primark bags, the result of just one shopping spree, an amount we would have trouble finding room for. It could clothe so many.
  • Look at how “marginal” alternative house and other projects in fact are, though in this city relatively prominent. And how much effort it takes just to keep them going, fighting against burocrazy and “investors” & often losing… if we aren’t mostly busy fighting amongst each other. It could provide working & studying space for so many.
  • Look at how much media attention the hate & fear preachers of the ‘gida got, and how little people managed to keep the counterprotests going (I admit, after two months of freezing my ass off every monday, I got tired of it too..).

Still, “plus one” for today’s civil obedience. The fence falling because so many pushed. People bringing toy bulldozers and/or digging the graves with anything available, and if nothing, their hands. The human chain protecting the symbolic graveyard against the cops.

All you can do is live up to your conscience I guess…
(and I really should stop reading the comment section of online newspapers… )