Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Journey back

It just so happened that Fes turned out to be my last stop in Morocco. Actually Fes turned out to be my last stop on this trip altogether because i had to return to Estonia quite unexpectedly. But -- it was fun while it lasted and i'm very happy i decided to embark on that trip to begin with.

So, on my last days in Fes i took it very slow. I walked around the city, strolled along the market streets, bought some spices and sweets and so on. After spending so much time in Marrakech, one starts to realize what a peaceful and tranquil place Fes really is. And -- coincidentally not really a best place to buy souvenirs from. No, don't get me wrong, Fes has some nice authentic things to offer, like the famous blue patterned ceramics etc, but for more typical Moroccan souvenirs like babouches (slippers) Marrakech has just bigger choice and is more open to .. let's say flexible bargaining.

 Fes is known for it's superb blue ceramics

 A very typical way to serve tea

A cook in a street restaurant

A lamp shop

Taylor shop

Medina. Walls of the houses are supported to prevent collapsing. 
A pretty surreal place to walk

At the market

Note the writing on the girl's pants :) 
If mom and dad would know what it meant, 
d'think they would still be so open minded?

But, after i was all stocked up and organized, it was time pack my bags and head out. The Fes-Saïss Airport is about 15 km outside the city and you are most welcome to walk there / take a bus OR you can take a taxi and pay supernatural price for a rather short ride. The taxi drivers in Fes know exactly how to keep a monopoly running and charging 120DH for one way is a strict code they all abide by. No exceptions. But i'd heard that there was also supposed to be a local bus to the airport (bus no. 16) that stops at the train station and costs only few dirhams. So i got myself to the train station, found a bus stop, snickered disdainfully at the taxi drivers offering their services and generally felt pretty good about myself. Never again will i pay that over-inflated sum just to drive 15 km, hah! Now this is what separates a tourist from a traveler - sense of adventure and independence! So i waited. And waited. And waited some more. And that went on for over an hour until i couldn't wait any longer. Mysteriously, every person i tried to ask from about the bus didn't speak not even a word of English, so in the end i didn't even know if i was indeed waiting in the right bus stop or if the elusive bus no.16 existed at all :). Damn that bus! i thought while eyeballing my watch to see if i'm late yet. Finally i gave in, counted my remaining money and went to look for a taxi.

The first taxi driver told me the fare is 150 DH without blinking an eye. Moroccan taxi drivers have mean poker faces. Watching me pass him by to get to the next guy he quickly changed his price to the usual 120 DH. I felt annoyed. Like supremely annoyed. Not only had i just gotten bitch-slapped by my own arrogance, but now this guy was trying to skim the little pride i had left. So i made a sad face and told him that i only have 90 DH left. I took the money out of my pocket and showed him as if to prove it beyond any doubt. Of course i had somewhere in my backpack more, but i didn't want to give him any more money than i necessarily had to. He looked at the money, probably sized me up for a second or two, then laughed and said the fare is 120 DH. I figured i have about 5 more minutes before i really had to start going to the airport, so i decided to try my little pathetic cheating game on the next taxi driver. But you know, there are few things in this world that you can always count on - the grass will grow upwards, your mother is always older than you, silver foil isn't edible and that the taxi drivers are greedy. So of course he accepted my 90 DH price and i got to the airport quite in time in the end.

You got to be careful with locals in the airport. There's almost no such thing as "waiting in line" behind the check-in counter. Tourists usually try to keep an order of some sort, but Moroccans themselves - they are just all over the place. They will step over your bags and push you aside if you don't hold your ground. But they will do it very slowly, about 5 cm at the time, so you just feel like you're imagining it and don't want to cause trouble for nothing. And when you do say something, they will look at you with an obvious surprised look in those beautiful brown eyes of theirs and once again, you will feel like a mean old tourist with no kindness to others :). I always think of them as good people, just .. impatient.

Now, a handy tip for all those (single) ladies out there who are flying out of Morocco and fear that their baggage might be over the allowed weight limit. Always pick a check-in counter with a man sitting behind it. They are ALWAYS too busy to flirt with you to keep an eye on the weight of your bags. It saved me this time as well. RyanAir has this greedy little policy that a checked bag can only weight up to 15 kg, for every gram extra you will have to pay. And i mean every gram. Just next to me was a couple with about a kilo over the allowed limit and the check-in lady made them go and pay for it.

My journey back to Estonia was loooong. Since i had to get back quite abruptly, i didn't have much of a choice in terms of reasonably priced convenient flights. I ended up having 2 different flights and a long bus-ride to get back home. I spent a night in Frankfurt Hahn airport (Hertz Car Hire has pretty decent leather armchairs for sleeping) and then a whole day in Riga, the capital of Latvia. On the best of days i find Riga to be very boring city, but if you've been in transit for more than 24 hours, you really don't want to be stuck in some overpriced pretentious little province. I walked around for a whole day until it was time to catch my bus to Estonia. I had bought a ticket online already earlier and i was quite glad for it because i got the last seat in the bus, no. 43. But when i got to the bus, it turned out there only were 42 seats and they had sold me a seat that didn't exist! At first the bus was rather empty, so i could sit anywhere, but as it passed through cities towards Estonia, it got pretty full and i kept being bounced around from one place to another every time a new person got on the bus and claimed my seat. I was quite dreading that last stop on the way, because the bus would get full and i would have to spend the rest of the trip sitting on the floor somewhere. I guess the big guy up there was just having a bit of  fun on my expense and hadn't forgotten me completely, because when we got to the last stop, turned out that one person had missed the bus and i got to sit like a normal person for the rest of the trip after all.

Coming back home is always more trouble than going away. The bags are heavier, the flights seem longer and more boring, lingering in the airport and waiting for connecting flights is more torturous than usually etc. Needless to say i couldn't wait to get home already. I was feeling restless and incredibly anxious, but also very glad. Only Jevgeni knew i was coming home, we didn't tell anyone else. I figured, i might as well get some fun out of it. It was completely satisfying to surprise my family and friends by just showing up, well worth the effort of coming back under the cloak of darkness. In many ways it felt that i've been away for so long and at the same time just for a little while.

Well, that concludes my stories about Mexico, Cuba and Morocco. But since i've been blogging here retroactively and i've traveled since then quite a bit, i hope you will stay tuned for new stories & photos of new places.

Hope to return to Morocco one day soon, 

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