Helsinki

Exactly a year ago I was wandering around Helsinki, thinking how amazing it was to finally visit Finland.

Spending Christmas at home usually means getting flights with a random stop over somewhere and this time, I could spend a day in Helsinki on my way back to Edinburgh.

I arrived quite late, so after I checked into my hostel, I went for a wander around some of the busier streets in Helsinki. The Christmas mood and the decorations were all around the city, so it felt quite magical.

The city’s streets were frozen, so it didn’t take long until I found myself lying on the pavement. I decided that a pub might be a safer option, so I went to one across the street from my accommodation. I was surprised how quickly the local guys came to chat with me and I had couple of good conversations about life with the randoms. Finnish people seem to know how to live – boats, friends, fishing and freedom were the things they said they valued and I then realised I missed my summers in Lithuania.

Next day was all about exploring the city. I headed towards the market I spotted last night (it was closed then) and checked what local specialities were sold there.

I also walked past the Allas Sea Pool and saw people swimming outside, which made me regret not having a swimsuit with me. Even though it was a minus temperature and everything was frozen, they seemed to be really enjoying themselves in the heated pool.

I had a long walk around some parts of the city taking care not to land on my bum again. It was not the easiest task!

Eventually, I went back to the market to get some food since I remembered seeing a van selling fish. I went for a selection of things and it was delicious.

My last stop was the new Central Library that was recommended to me by one of the guys I chatted to the previous night. I love architecture and this building was a treat to my eyes. A beautiful and modern public space that seemed to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Even though I really enjoyed my short visit, I’d love to see Helsinki in summer. It is a green city and I imagine on a long summer day it would be a very relaxed and enjoyable place to chill. I’ll definitely go back to Finland one day, I want to see more of the country and chat to more of the amazing locals.

Hamburg

In May 2018 I agreed to catch up with one of my best friends in Hamburg. Not sure if it was a joy of finally seeing her again, the weather, the city or the combination of them all, but I had an absolutely fantastic time there.

What really surprised me about Hamburg was that there was so much variety. Some extremely peaceful and lovely neighbourhoods, plenty of green spaces, amazing botanical garden, beautiful canals and the port, interesting red light district with loads of bars for everyone’s taste, second hand markets during the weekends, art and so on.

I’m just going to share a bunch a photos from my trip, but would recommend anyone to visit the city and experience it for themselves.

Batumi

Going to Batumi was like going back in time. I remember seeing some of my parents’ photos from years ago when they used to travel in the Soviet Union. Almost everything in Batumi felt like being transferred to the scenes of the old photos and the feeling was really rather strange. My parents agreed with me. Even though you could the place was changing and there were new buildings popping up all around the city, that didn’t change the post soviet feeling that was hanging in the air.

I have to say that the city is really popular with tourists and offers quite a variety of things to do. You can relax (sort of) on the beach, walk along the seaside promenade, explore the city from the ferris wheel or a cable car going up to the viewpoint in the hills or even visit a local zoo. Plenty of choice for food and even a few amazing cake shops which was important during the visit since it was my birthday. I got to celebrate it on the rooftop terrace, enjoying the night view of the city with good wine, variety of cakes and my parents’ company that rarely happens during my birthdays these days.

It really impressed me that the city was very cycle friendly. Probably more than pedestrian friendly since cycle paths were always available which sometimes wasn’t the case with the pavements. Obviously it didn’t matter most of the time.

One thing I really enjoyed in Batumi was flying with a paraplane. A short but really fun experience that gave me a different view of the city. Would recommend it to anyone.

Overall I liked Batumi, but don’t think I’ll be back to this city anytime soon. Having in mind all the development that is currently going on, I imagine next time I see Batumi it will have a very different vibe.

Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a hot mess. A beautiful chaotic place full of unexpected things. I loved it some days and other days I just wanted to be out of there. I spent quite a bit of time exploring the city while I was doing some volunteering in Kavresthali near Kathmandu. Everytime I would go back to Kavresthali I would feel like I came back to a wee paradise and I would always come back a little bit different.

I have never seen capitals like this before. It felt like it was a labyrinth, with loads going on around every corner. The streets were crowded and every time I had to go somewhere it felt like a mission. It was never easy to get from A to B, having constantly to watch out for scooters, people, cows and trying not to get lost. It was almost like a game and I would be extremely proud of myself if I managed to do something what would normally take 10min in 20min.

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The chaos scared me at first but with time I grew more and more confident and started exploring the city a wee bit more. One day I left Thamel (the main tourist area) and walked to Swayambhunath which is also called a monkey temple.

It’s one of my favourite places in Kathmandu, with a huge stupa at the top, loads of colours and amazing views of the city. I am not a big fan of monkeys and they do scare me a bit, but I kept away from them and survived.

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The other place I really enjoyed was the Pashupatinath Temple. It’s dedicated to Shiva and is one of the most sacred places in Nepal. If I was Nepali and I died, I would want my body to be burnt there.

I think I wrote about death in Nepali culture in one of my previous post, so I won’t say much about it here. I loved the atmosphere in Pashupatinath, it felt like it was a mix of traditions, respect, sadness and celebration of life and death. I got a guide there who told me even more about the traditions than I knew before and that also added to the whole experience.

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Traditions are everywhere in Nepal. I really liked being exposed to this rich culture just by wondering around the streets. Once, I ended up in Durbar Square with loads of beautiful (although very much affected by the earthquake) temples. I couldn’t believe, but there were so many interesting people around – Sadhus (the holy men), a lady who was painting her body green, loads of various people who came to pay their respect to the gods. I loved the colours, the smells, the atmosphere…

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I know I will be back to Nepal one day. I think I appreciate my trip now when I am writing about it even more than when I was there. Being back to a “normal” country has its advantages – no more chaos, no more constantly upset stomach, no monkeys, no more of getting lost or being annoyed at the traffic, the air and the streets are clean…but at the same time, I’m missing the colours, the element of never knowing of what to expect and oh well, I do actually miss getting lost 🙂

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