Summer Holidays 2019

I am sitting in my room, which is now slowly turning into a jungle with all the new plants I recently bought (let’s call it lockdown fever) and I am feeling extremely home sick. I am slowly losing hope that I will be able to see my family anytime soon and it makes me sad. I thought writing might help, but…I realised that the next trip which happened after I returned from Sri Lanka & Dubai was my trip home to Lithuania and then to Berlin to see my best friend Rasa. I was meant to see my family and Rasa a month ago too, but this didn’t happen due to Covid-19, so I was determined to skip writing about my last summer’s trip and just jump straight to my holiday in Greece. Then I thought that running away from my feelings would only make me feel worse, so here I am, looking at the photos and trying to write something that makes sense (at least to me).

It was my dad’s 60th birthday last July. I missed a lot of different birthdays, funerals, various other celebrations since I moved to Scotland, but there was no way I was missing my dad’s birthday this time. The time at home turned out to be the most relaxing and I loved every minute of it. The weather was beautiful, so I was swimming in the lake twice a day, eating all the berries I could find (there were loads!), foraging for mushrooms and spending time with family.

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I really hope I will get to go back this summer too. Even if I don’t do that much when I’m at home, it’s so good to relax a bit and to spend loads of time in nature.

My dad’s birthday is three days before mine and even if I don’t particularly like celebrating my birthdays, I love making those days a bit more special. Spending some time with my best Rasa in Berlin was one of the best ways to do it.

Rasa got me some cake for breakfast, then we went to get new piercings (I finally got my conch pierced) and we had a long wander in the botanic garden. Some good food, drinks and jazz afterwards with a slightly drunk walk home, what else do you need?

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Oh and I have a tradition to go to C/O Berlin every time I’m in the city. Their photography exhibitions always inspire me and encourage me to look at things from a new angle (at least for the next few days). Last July they had a fascinating exhibition related to food, here are some amazing works to finish this post.

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I’ll write something more exciting and happier next time 🙂

Kandy

I don’t know how, but I managed to book accommodation in Kandy almost four miles away from the town centre. It was probably one of the best mistakes I have ever made. The place had the best view and extremely peaceful surroundings, so I spent a lot of time in this beautiful balcony.

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Apart from lazying around in the balcony, we visited a tea factory and it was great to see the processes and the machines that the tea leaf has to go through to become tea as we know it. Doesn’t seem that I took many photos there, can only find one with me being excited about my tea and biscuits!

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We also stopped at a beautiful medicinal and herb garden (don’t ask me where it was). Anyway, it was a beautiful garden and the guy who gave us a tour kept us guessing what some of the things were. Can you guess what’s in the photo bellow?

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OK I will tell you. It’s black pepper!

And this is the obvious one – pineapple. I am still amused about how they grow 🙂

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I have also visited the botanical garden in Kandy, where my favourite were the giant fruit bats. The trees were almost black from the amount of bats hanging on the branches. Suddenly it seemed that something spooked them, so they all went flying around and it was an incredible thing to watch (they are huge!).

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I also visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, which was really nice and relaxed and had the lamp shades that looked like owls.

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And some really moody ducks… 🙂

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I thought Kandy was happy, colourful and a very chilled place before heading for some hill walking. But that’s for next time. Enjoy the wind in your hair in the meantime 🙂

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Curonian Spit in Lithuania

In June 2018 I went back to Lithuania for my brothers graduation and I spent a few days with my parents in one the most beautiful places – Curonian Spit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage, 98km long and shared between Lithuania (north) and Russia (south).

It’s a complete paradise that I recommend visiting to anyone going to Lithuania. You can get there by taking a very short ferry ride from Klaipėda. The area is famous for it’s original fishing villages like Nida or Juodkrantė, various folklore stories, giant sand dunes (tallest migrating dunes in Europe) and various other things you wouldn’t find anywhere else in Lithuania. I also loved beautiful and very colourful old houses, nice food and very relaxed atmosphere. Some of my favourite things were:

1. The Dead Dunes (also called the Grey Dunes)

These are the huge (up to 60m) tall dunes that moved so fast between the 17th and the 19th centuries that “swallowed” several villages along their way.

I really couldn’t believe it was in Lithuania, I felt like in a middle of the desert especially because it was really windy and I felt sand in my face.

It’s quite a popular spot and parking can be challenging, but be patient and you’ll be rewarded. There is also a small charge to enter the path leading to the dunes.

2. Parnidis Dune and the Sundial

Remember I first visited this place when I was a kid, it really left a huge impression on me. Beautiful panorama from up there and you can see the Russian border as well. Apparently it’s the only spot in Lithuania that has perfect conditions for a sundial.

We went up to the area to watch a sunset one evening which was one of the highlights of the trip. It’s easily done from Nida town and its a beautiful spot to sit down, enjoy a drink, company and the view.

3. The walk up to Dune of Vecekrugas

The tallest Dune in Curonian spit and just a really enjoyable walk with nice views.

4. Raganu Kalnas (The Hill of Witches)

I love the imagination of the artists who created all the sculptures. Go for a stroll and pick your favourite!

5. Bike rides

I didn’t cycle when I was there but saw loads of people doing it and it made me a bit jealous (I love cycling). There are loads of beautiful forrest paths all around Curonian Spit (most of them well connected) that are great for cycling and exploring the area. Some people said cycling around Curonian Spit was one the highlights of their trip.

6. Chilling on the beach

It felt really relaxed when I was there but I know some places can get crowded. The Baltic Sea can be a bit chilly, so don’t expect a Mediterranean holiday, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying yourself. Lithuania is pretty awesome in summer anyway.

Don’t forget to try delicious smoked fish and have a fab holiday!

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.

Railay, Tonsai and My Last Days in Thailand

Well this is going to be my last post about Thailand. I spent my last few days in Ao Nang area and it was a nice spot to finish my holiday. It also gave a beginning to a new hobby.

We wanted to go to Railay but picked Ao Nang just to keep the accommodation costs low, since we thought Railay was slightly too expensive. I wouldn’t call Ao Nang an extremely exciting place, you can watch some nice sunsets from the beach and it’s got a decent restaurant choice but otherwise it’s nothing too special.

Ahhh and we got to observe an insane intensity rain there…

Anyway, the town’s got a good boat service to Railay, although it might be a long walk on the wet sand from/to the boat if the tide is low.

When we finally got to Railay it felt like a wee paradise, even if it’s a popular and even slightly crowded place. First thing we did there, we went up to the view point, although it wasn’t so much of a viewpoint for me since I couldn’t trust an old ladder and didn’t really get up to the top (Craig was kind enough to share his photos).

We also tried sea kayaking, but my sea sickness quickly kicked in so I was desperate to get out of water.

We also booked a climbing session for the next day. I’d never climbed before, but was keen to try. Craig used to climb and was really keen to do it in one of the top climbing locations in the world.

The next day when the time was to tackle my first route ever, I was really freaking out. I’m scared of heights and that fear really kicked in. I was hanging on the wall almost in tears. I felt weak and stupid that I agreed to do that sort of thing. But those feelings also made me angry and the anger turned into determination. When I went back to Scotland I was soon doing a proper training course and climbing twice a week. It’s been almost two years now, I’m still scared of heights but the climbing and the fear of it remind me that I’m alive and give me a sense of achievement.

After the day of climbing we were exhausted and decided to rent a scooter and explore Krabi town. When we got there we realised there wasn’t much to see. We ended up cruising around and enjoying the karst hill scenery. Somehow we ended up in this national park (would love if anyone could tell me where I was) with a couple of waterfalls and a view point. The waterfalls were ok, but I was not ready to go up to the viewpoint. I was wearing a dress and a pair of flip flops that were barely holding together and would pop out from time to time (Craig was amused by every “blow out”) so I ended up hiking barefoot. It was a really steep way up, I was sweating loads and when we nearly got to the top we met this German guy who looked exhausted and almost unable to speak. He was just shaking his head and saying noooooo on his way down. Soon we found out that the viewpoint is just a wee gap between the trees and it was so hazy that you couldn’t see anything. What a waste of effort!

Wouldn’t recommend going there, but I don’t know how the place is called so I just trust you not to get there by mistake.

For our last night we decided to move to Tonsai. You can walk there from Railay through water and over the rocks, which is a bit tricky when carrying large backpacks. There is this big wall separating private land near the beach and the houses. It’s a very chilled environment and loads of rock climbers like to stay there. The accommodation was basic but chilled so I really enjoyed it. We had a very trippy evening, swimming and watching rock climbers and base jumpers that so unexpectedly showed up when we decided to stay a bit longer in the water. We went to sleep early just to wake up early the next morning.

On the way to the beach that morning I spotted some dusky leaf monkeys sitting on the trees. It was the first time I saw them live and they looked really cute, but not when one of them climbed down and started showing its teeth. I was scared and thought it would attack me so ran away quickly. Never trusting any monkeys again!

It was a shame the tide was low that morning so we couldn’t go for a swim no matter how far in we were going. Anyway, it was time to pack and go home, the awesome holiday was over…

Porto

I remember sitting in a metro heading from Porto Francisco Sá Carneir airport to the city centre, listening to a strange language and thinking of how this beautiful mix of sounds came together. Probably due to my lack of history knowledge, I didn’t expect Portuguese to sound anything like what I was hearing, but that was a great incentive to do more research about Portugal during my trip. It was only one of the surprises that the country kept throwing at me while I was there.

I got out of the metro on a Friday night, with streets full of people and restaurants still busy serving evening meals. I spotted this lonely dog in the car, staring at the beautiful pieces of meat hanging inside the restaurant and people enjoying each others company. When you are a dog, you don’t have a freedom of choice, you can’t get your wallet out and buy a piece of ham. Appreciate your freedom, humans!

The next day I opened the curtains of my hotel room and decided it was time to go out and enjoy life.

I also took a photo of the same window from outside just to remind myself there are always two sides of everything and you can never tell which one is more beautiful until you see them both.

Once I got outside, an engineer in me took some time to admire the city’s bridges. The most famous one is Dom Luís I bridge which crosses Rio Douro in order to take you to Vila Nova de Gaia with loads of beautiful port wine cellars.

Another amazing thing you can do in Porto is a tour of the arch of Arrábida Bridge, which is the only bridge arch you are allowed to climb legally in Europe. You will get a harness and a great guide if you google Porto Bridge Climb and book their tour. Recommended!

Right, if bridges are not your thing and you prefer looking at buildings, you will be spoilt for choice in Porto. I was slightly surprised that so many of the buildings were looking a bit forgotten and screaming for some renovation work, but one of the locals suggested I should have seen the place before ryanair started flying to Porto. I guess cheap flights to this beautiful place will hugely change the city’s face.

If you want to admire Portuguese azulejos (various ceramic tiles that turned city into a piece of artwork in my opinion), Porto is perfect for that. You can head to Sao Bento station that loads of tourists do or wonder around the city and wait to be surprised. You won’t be disappointed!

Another beautiful thing about Portugal is it’s amazing food and I won’t keep taking about it, but some of the seafood I tried was absolutely amazing. Also, I remember one night my friend was telling me about this amazing white wine sangria he tried in one of the restaurants and we absolutely had to have it. Being a bit tipsy, we showed up at the place not realising they were closing and asked for the best sangria in town. Even if they were closed, not only they made us the drink, but also gave it to us for free. Portuguese hospitality at its best.

What else can I say, Porto is an amazing place that didn’t yet feel ruined with tourists. It’s got plenty of character and will keep your senses exposed to plenty it’s got to offer.