Monday, March 13, 2017

Show: Derren Brown Underground @ Charing Cross Theatre


NO SPOILERS

As part of his preparation for a US run of a show called "Secrets", Derren is testing the material under a series of "Underground" shows beneath Charing Cross station. It's a much smaller venue than normal and the show isn't being as loudly advertised as normal; I found out about it on his twitter. It's like a mega-mix of some of his previous shows reworked into a great 2-hour show that'll do well I reckon. Based on the reactions of the audience tonight it doesn't need much improving, I just wish I could see how an American audience would respond to it haha!

This show runs for another couple of weeks and some tickets are released at 1730 for walk ins. A nice tout beating idea.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sightseeing: Pristina

My second day trip had me heading north from Macedonia into Kosovo and it's capital Pristina.

It was another early start with the first bus leaving at 0530. This was another small bus. The station was noticeably busier today with the next bus along full of a rather rowdy group. For a moment I thought I may be stuck with them, but it didn't work out that way.


The drive was similar to that with Ohrid with lots of hilly scenery. Obviously on this route I had a border crossing to deal with but that went fine. The driver passes around clipboard onto which you enter your name and passport number. He then collects your passports and goes off and does what he needs to whilst the bus is checked. For the whole time you remain on the bus.

The drive to Kosovo is around 2 hours from Skopje so quicker than the Ohrid. This did of course mean I'd made it to Pristina well before 9am and on leaving the bus station, in the west of the city it was noticeably cold. Wrap up warm people. 


A short walk through a housing estate and I made my way onto the main west/east road in the city and a short walk along that I came across a statue of Bill Clinton, which was a little bit surreal. I think the country were thankful for his help during the troubles and immortalised him in this manner. 

The main road is also named after him.

This church is named after Mother Theresa. I guess they took a liking to her here too.


This looks like the evil guy from Half Life 2.



This was the main attraction I could find for the city when researching it. This insanely looking building was designed by Andrija Mutnakovic and is the city library. Perhaps not a surprise there was a lot of hate for the design when first announced but I have to admit, I think it looks incredible.

Next door is the Christ the Saviour cathedral. It looks pretty old but was built in the mid-90s.

It was a nice surprise to also spot a mural from The London Police, which was done as part of a street art festival that took place in '09. It was in incredible condition despite it's age.


This was the longest running solo play in broadway so a little bit odd to see it here.

Another mural, this one looking more corporate.

The sketchiest of all car parks. 

Walking east from the library I explored the city park which is located halfway up a hill. It looks like someone was a little unhappy with whoever happened to be on the left.


Some shots from the park which was freezing and there was a small flurry of snow at this point.


The plan was to continue north-east to another park but someway along the route I took a wrong return and found myself heading east up to the top of the hill. I don't mind getting lost as long as I know how to get on track and despite having no connection but with a pre-loaded google map on the phone I was quickly able to get my bearings and was soon back on the right track.


I soon found myself at the top of Taukbashce, the park I trying to get to albeit I wanted to get to the bottom of it. The accidental hill climb did offer me some nice views of the city. I didn't realise at the time that the photos were being taken from a desecrated Jewish graveyard. It really wasn't apparent when I was there.


So, prepare for hills people!

At the foot of the hill is Magic Park, a small luna park and home to a rollercoaster; the only one in the country and so I thought I'd pay it a visit if only to say I'd ridden all the known rollercoasters in the country.

Another bone find. I've no idea what this animal is.



As I got closer to the park it was apparent it was no longer there. The coaster was still standing but it was the only thing doing that. The rest had been stripped and I don't know if it was the time of year or if the park has actually gone.


I made a quick departure from the park area when a minibus with smashed windows and two flat tyres pulled up and a father and son started ferreting through bins looking for things to take. I'm sure the attraction of a tourist taking photos would have been more of a revenue stream, so I split.

Supposedly another tourist attraction this clock tower was built around the time of the Ottoman Empire. 

This is the Sultan Mosque

Around the city I saw a number of these small posters stuck to trees and lamp posts. I think they're making announcements of people who have died :(

Bird nests visible to all.

This is the Kosovan Museum. There was a sign outside saying the building was now under the ownership of state. It wasn't open but I think that was just due to the time of day. I was getting around the city much quicker than I had anticipated.

A lot of the restaurants had their grills built outside of the building via these little extensions. I think that's to save on the cost of extractors.

The city stadium in the west of the city.

There's a bear sanctuary outside of the city. I was considering going to it but chose not to in the end.


This building looks incredible. I thought it was an old train station but is actually a sports and training centre. There's a small number of schools and a shopping arcade within the complex too.

Brutal vents.

I couldn't find much on Afrim Abazi other that he's revered as some sort of martyr for the Albanian community of the country.

A clearly photoshopped James Corden. How horrible for the Kosovans that they have to be subjected to this fool.

I passed this photo board and double-took the use of Rita Ora's photos. It turns out that Rita is Kosovan; I'd always assumed that she was British. She was born in Pristina but fled to the UK during the troubles. Her real name is actually Rita Sahatciu, which translates as Rita Timekeeper. For her pop star name they went with Ora which means "hour" and a link to her original name.


This is a nice sculpture resembling those pin sculptures machines you had as a kid and you would make 3D copies of your hands.

I wonder if they sell pizza by the slice (a weak MMA pun that not everyone will get)

Back on the Clinton Broadway and my kind of fast food joint.

This made me chuckle.

Very random graffiti written in English which makes it even weirder. Unlike Macedonia, Kosovo uses roman written language rather than the Cyrillic of other countries around here.

A nice mural.

This is the estate you have to cut through to get to the bus station. It's perfectly fine!

The bus station.

To kill some time I grabbed a burger from the bus station restaurant. It was huge and not bad at all.

The drive back to Skopje was fine. More lovely scenery and with a fuller bus on the way back the checkpoint took longer to get through. To make up time our driver started to speed a little bit and was pulled over by the Macedonian police as we entered Skopje. He was noticeably miffed as he got back into the bus.

I'm happy I can say I've been to Pristina. I'm the only person I know that has. It's not a tourist city at all; I couldn't even find a fridge magnet as a souvenir. The library is incredible but the city needs more to attract tourists. I realise tourism is a chicken-and-egg. If there's nothing to see tourists won't come but tourists won't come if there's no reason to visit. So making that initial investment is a gamble. Skopje has gone overboard with the mock-renaissance buildings and statues. I'm not sure what Kosovo can do to get people to visit; the Clinton statue isn't it. On the plus side because there's no tourism there's also no crime aimed at it and with the exception of the bin trawling couple in the bad van I felt fine walking around the city.