Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni has been travelling wıth us for about half a year now. We never said anything about him, because he is quite shy. So shy, we did not even know he was there. Or rather that it was him who was there. Don Giovanni is the secret behind the two holes in Dylan’s legs that appeared somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean in April, just before we reached the Azores. Here is his story:

Two stigmata-like wounds appeared on both of Dylan’s calfs. Thinking that his body can heal itself, the first thing we did was waiting. After they had reached the size of a euro coin, we started to treat them with tea tree oil. When my mum saw the holes, she sent us to the doctor straight away. What followed was a journey through the world of medicine, from the hardcore conventional end to the airy realms of alternative healing. It included:

Antibiotic lotion for the alleged hair root infection, Swedish herbs, Spitzwegerich, antibiotic pills, silver salt bandages, more antibiotic lotion and hydrogen peroxide for what was then thought to be a staphylokokkus infection, jogging, a week of fasting, wound spray, blood cleansing tea, acupuncture, kinesiological tape, 5 different sorts of chinese medicine, pee, reiki and all sorts of good thoughts.

Spring had turned to autumn and the holes stayed unchanged. Already in Vienna by then, we decided that half a year was far too long for not getting healthy. We went to the airport ambulance to see a tropical specialist. He sent us to another tropical specialist at the Neusiedler See, who sent us to another tropical specialist at the hospital in Vienna, because she suspected a leishmaniosis. After a blood and tissue check and some more waiting we finally received the diagnosis: It is a leishmaniosis donovani. Our Don Giovanni.

Don Giovanni is actually many Don Giovannis, because they are a bunch of parasites transmitted by mosquitos. It is a visceral stem, which is bad, because it means that they are able to do to Dylan’s organs what they have done to his legs. It is from the ‘new world’ though, which is good, because it may just stay restricted to the skin.

To keep a long story short, he needs treatment as soon as possible. As a therapy would involve staying at a hospital and getting some 10.000 euros worth of infusions, we need to be covered by insurance. As neither our travelling insurance nor our German insurance feels like paying anything, we have to go back to Australia as soon as possible.

No Iran and Dubai and India and Nepal and Indonesia, no hitching and boats and donkeys. Just a neat flight, airplane meals and stewardesses. We are looking forward to Australia though, it’s nice to see Dylan’s family and friends earlier than we thought. And maybe by the time we go back to Europe Pakistan is travellable and we can smoothly travel back over land. Without Don Giovanni.


Two weeks ago we hitched from Vienna into the autumn of Budapest, the other Habsburg capital. It took us three rides, our last driver being a cousin of the second who had been called in order to pick us up on the highway. He appeared at the petrol station like a djinn from a bottle and took us across the Danube into the center of the city, to Keleti station. With a friendly “Hello” the unknown friend disappeared to wherever he might have come from and left us exactly where we wanted to be, just a few minutes walk from Edina’s place. Edina had been nothing but a name until then, someone on the internet saying “arriving on the 1st is ok for me”. The abracadabra of Couchsurfing.

When we arrived in her cosy fifth floor flat we were greeted by bright colours, intricate rhythmic guitar, dancing melodic flute, violin song, Turkish percussion and a warm meal prepared with delicious Persian spices. We sat with Edina and a friend of hers as we ate, talking about the Near East and all colours of the Rainbow, and felt no need to think of ourselves as strangers to that place. The band kept rehearsing and when the music died, we were already soundly asleep in our new home for the days to come.

The days swept by like a good flying carpet, regularly interwoven by oriental foresights. Memories of a future we may or may not experience. Our friend Attila, not a Hun, connecting people in his illegal Teahouse. Edina, bellydancing through the room. Stories of the Turkish Empire dreaming of expansion. Negotiations with the consul of Pakistan about our visa. The big Jewish community of Budapest awaiting the security check in front of the synagogue. We floated through a city that has seen empires invade and fall.

We did not get the Pakistani visa we came for. First, the Consul said, because it is too dangerous to travel to Pakistan these days and second, because we are not Hungarians. Instead, we met incredibly interesting, inspiring and deep people. We spent a celestine day in the forests of Dobogókö. We ate truckloads of Govinda food. We discovered Asthanga Yoga as a new track to focus on and Sanskrit as a contemporary lingua franca in Hungarian Yoga lessons. We bumped into Jankó, a master of various eastern European flutes, and got inspired to include the Hungarian Kaval into the ever growing music shop we carry around. We decided to take a new route trying to bypass Pakistan by taking a boat from Iran to Dubai and from there to India… if our visa story with Iran works out.

The Apple of Fate

Eve came in the form of Vicky and Wolfi, our Austrian friends, who met us at the banks of the Salzach river in Germany. We had contemplated the meaning of this moment for quite some time – the crossing of the river, the step into Austria, the beginning of our journey to the other side of the world. Not that the journey hadn’t already begun about a year ago when we boarded the “Johann Smidt” in order to sail to Middle America and back; or when we said goodbye to our friends in Göttingen after our wedding celebration this summer; or when we shouldered our final luggage and said goodbye to my family on the 19th of August, exactly four years after Dylan had said goodbye to his family in Australia. Leaving German soil, however, seemed to seal our departure once and for all.

The deliciously red apples were looming on a tree at the river. Eve picked some for us and we bit and chewed and chatted and strolled and laughed and without really noticing, crossed the bridge to Austria. It seems that we sometimes don’t notice big things. Like when Dylan proposed to me without any of us noticing. Innocent as we had been though, our Fall from Paradise ended softly. We saw that we were still dressed, which was good. No snakes around either, not yet, instead we were welcomed by a hearth, beautiful Slovakian fujaras, inspiring family stories and a lot of human warmth in Sandra and David’s heavenly cottage near Oberndorf.

Austria then, we moved beyond intelligibility. “Silent Night” was composed in Oberndorf. What an omen.

The mountains in the distance are whispering of wooden house facades and Lederhosen, of Grazian off-scene culture and Viennese glamour, of Kernöl and Mozartkugeln… and of all the countries beyond.