As you read this, itís Canada Day. With the fourth being Sunday, itís a long weekend across North America. For some reason, I have to work Friday. Itís okay, though, because Iím done work on Tuesday. Call it Freedom 29. No, I didnít win the lotto, but I am fulfilling a dream. Iíve quit my job, left my apartment and Iím going on the road for a while. Right now I see it being five or six months, ending up in Vancouver for the holidays and after that I really donít know.
In a nutshell, the trip started as Bamberg to Bangkok. Finances were tighter than expected and I scaled the trip back, rearranged some things, so now Iím starting in Poland instead. Still going to Bangkok, but I amended the China portion of the tour to what ultimately I hope will not only be more budget friendly but more interesting as well (in other words, no Beijing, no Shanghai, but more Yunnan and Sichuan).
Over the next 5-6 months, what youíll read here is more or less the beer portion of the trip. Iíll have other things to say, too, but mostly Iíll tell you about the beers I meet along the way. I start with the famous dunkel at Spiż, in Wrocław, and all the pilsners and Baltic porters I can find. I will trek to Krakow and Zakopane, hopefully squeezing a trip to the Tatran Brewery in Poprad, Slovakia into my itinerary (I love their Pilsner).
From there itís up to Lithuania to beer hunt with omhper. Lithuania has the richest beer tradition of the Baltic lands, and weíll be investigating the farmhouse breweries of the Birżai region. From there I have a quick stop in Riga, Latvia before heading to the Ratebeer European Summer Gathering in Stockholm.
After that ludicrous display of drunken revelry, it will be off to Finland, where more revelry is scheduled as I do my best not to lege the Finland team Ė or at least tbone_, Jukkabro and jutuahol. Iíll also be staying on Diplomatís farm, enjoying various sahtis, vintage Trappists and lambics and perhaps a little lapin Š la Kriek de Ranke.
From there, Iím headed for Russia, with special focus on Moscowís many brewpubs and the hop fields of Chuvashia. From there, beer takes a back seat to the sights, tastes and smells of Central Asia, China and Southeast Asia. Believe it or not the latter is expected to easily eclipse the former two on account of Bangkokís brewpubs, Thailandís Belgian beer bars and Angkor Extra Stout. It all comes to a close on a deserted beach on the far southern end of Ko Samet.
In preparation for this trip, Iíve spent a lot of time researching not only places to stay and transportation connections, but also beer places. Iíve uncovered a brewpub in Wuhan, China, for example, as well as one in Samara, Russia. Itís still a little bleak in the middle, and Iíll probably go about two months with a decent beer. But the way I see it, Iíll have so much material from Europe that there will be a long backlog of articles. So the Oakes Weekly will continue unabated even when Iím in places with no good beer and no Internet.
For more real-time travel updates, I have started a page at <a hrefhttp://www.virtualtourist.com>VirtualTourist.com. Search under user name RB_Oakes. I will be keeping a journal of my trip there, as well as adding updates on various cities that I visit. I wonít add updates from well-covered cities like Krakow, Stockholm or Moscow, but I will be covering some of the lesser-known places. I expect to be a little more up-to-date with this than with the OW, which will be backlogged due to the beer preoccupation.
For practical purposes, Iím still editor of Ratebeer, though Iíve delegated some of my day-to-day work. I will still be able to answer questions, especially when Iím in Europe. When Iím rafting down the Mekong, maybe it would be best to try someone else! Definitely if it is an urgent matter, talk to BŁck Dich.
So even if I donít always sound excited about things (so Iím told), I am very excited about this. Iíve never done a trip of this size before, or anything close to it. Iíve never been to Asia, either. So this is going to be one amazing experience. And with the Oakes Weekly and the Virtual Tourist log, youíll be able to follow along.