Sunday, October 21, 2012

I remember the time

I remember waking up and having nowhere to go except buy breakfast. Breakfast in our headquarters usually consisted of fresh Schrippen or maybe delicious toasts with some vegetarian spread and a slice of cucumber on top or possibly a leaf of salad. That's just for starters, of course. A peanut butter toast would follow, as well as a generous cup of fresh-brewed espresso.

None of that would be complete without a timely morning digest of the things that happened online and in the world in the last 8+ hours or so. An array of travel blogs and tweets, who went where and did what, a few news articles and columns to keep in touch with reality, maybe the latest episode of one of my shows for dessert.

Depending on the weather and further plans (or lack of those), I would slowly finish my Internet roamings and nice Berliner-ish breakfast and take up to an hour to get ready to go out. Take a shower, brush my teeth (always with the water turned off), dry my hair and put on some color-matching ensemble on.

Once outside, one could only dream of a wider choice of where to direct one's feet. Maybachufer with its goods market and a flock of artists and performers? Treptower Park and its tender atmosphere of no-stress? Wiener Strasse and my favorite Vietnamese diner? Or maybe a bike ride to Halensee and its FKK beach? You name it, it's all there.

Ah, life is good in Berlin.

Especially the morning and the evenings. The mornings for their breakfasts and brunches (am I food-dependant, or what?) and evenings for their companies: for old friends and new acquiantances. For beer at places like Silver Future or some other neighborhood bar. Ah, life is good in Berlin.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Amazon sale

My two travel guides are up on Amazon for sale. :) July 12-13 they are given away for free though.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

CS Sehnsucht


Just wanted to look up a number from an old cell phone and whoa, started reading text messages from over a year ago. So many memories.

Rinse, my favorite Stockholm CS host (produced in the Netherlands) and the quickest and fastest connection I've made with literally anyone. Oh, the fun that was had. Oh, the conversations that we shared. Those Nutella sandwiches...

Meeting Agata and having our weeks and fun of hanging out, going for walks, to parties, taking pictures, Berlinale, brunches and other variations of good time. Sojamilchkaffee. :) Kasza gryczana. :)

Christine, a fan of Russian language and literature who quit her job at Mercedes to study again and to spend a year in Irkutsk.

Ping Pong Battle in the snow with Yolanda. Vokue and Kollektivabendbrot with Mandy.

Rockstar CS host from Porto Renate!

Bernardo... So much in this word. :) Schwuz, Facebook, hang outs, meeting his mother... :) A great friend. I harbor hope to be best man at his wedding with Rainer.

CS host Emmannuel from Paris who gave me the keys to his apartment and left after talking to me for only 30 minutes. He later left me a fantastic reference where he said I left his apartment times cleaner than he left it to me - now some with some friends I go by "the girl who washes dishes after herself."

His friend Rafael who showed me around Paris and had a very thick French accent. An artist who lives 1 block away from Arc de Triomphe (in a "maid's room Parisienne") and survives on coffee and cigarettes. Charming.


The gang in Istanbul and Laurence. Lu. :)

And of course Helene. Our conversations and hanging out in Istanbul and then in Berlin and hopefully somewhere else in the future. Best bicycle rider and someone I always have something to talk about with.

Man, so many people, so many stories. The unwavering smile on my face right now.

Does it sound like I need to take off and hit CS again?

More navel-gazing

Moscow in January. Istanbul in January. Rome and Athens in March. Istanbul in March. Sochi in May. All my trips this year so far. Hopefully Berlin in June, unless Pegasus refuses to fly into one of the two currently functioning airports.

Taking into account all events of the present year, I have to look back onto our New Year's Eve and where I was as the clock struck midnight, in a crowd of people most of whom were drunk and pushy, 200 meters off the Red Square. It was a dangerous location to find ourselves at the time, we can smile about it today, but 5 months ago it seemed like we wouldn't emerge as alive as we entered the crowd. 

Anyhow. The year's been turmulous. At times terrific, at times not at all. Funny how who you travel with and how things between the two of you are directly impacts your impression of the destination. The same way I seem to be done with Prague, at least for the foreseeable future, the same way I am done with Athens. I suppose it is a beautiful city (a cross between Rome and Istanbul, no less), but I wouldn't want to re-visit any time soon. Istanbul, on the other hand, seems to always be worth a visit. Rome wasn't bad either, first time I was there the food wasn't memorable, but this time it struck a chord with me.

I'm really curious about Berlin now. Will it forever be the place I like to return to or just a temporary "favorite place on Earth"? With its tree-lined Puschkinallee, hip and cozy cafes, punks, liberal atmosphere, brunches, lakes, bike lanes, expats, locals, U and S Bahn, Treptower Park, Rixdorf, nightlife, galleries, collective dinners... Well, it is the home of my soul for now and so be it. Will embrace this for now and enjoy the moment.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


It's an odd feeling. Odd, when unintentionally you say something unpleasant/wrong and then you fully accept that you are wrong, without denying anything, because yes, indeed you slipped and although your words were meant  to convey something else (also not extremely polite), you ended up expressing yourself in a bad way and  not all relaying what you thought you were relaying. Your words were stupid and bound to be misconstrued.

You fully admit you are wrong. And that you didn't think before speaking. No excuses, instead you say you are sorry. One time. Two times. Three times. And furthermore, you really mean it. From the inside. Sorry isn't a word you simply spit into thin air.

Your apology is not accepted. You revisit the story several hours later. You are truly and irreversibly sorry - you made someone else look bad, so admitting you were wrong and apologizing is the only way.

But again it's not enough. Somehow saying and feeling sorry isn't ever enough. When the other party does something of similar nature, just a few words and a smile from them is enough for you to melt. But no, when you're in the wrong, you are somehow expected to really sort of beg for forgiveness and spurt your soul out, then it's deemed a passable apology.

Just feels odd. When someone pushes you so hard to feel even more sorry than you already do, it just leaves a weird aftertaste. Like you just can't be you, you always have to prove something, to justify yourself, to feel guilty, to be deemed worthy. Odd.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Буду краток

I know someone and also someone else, these two people don't trust anyone.

I also know there are several people on the face of this planet who I can trust unconditionally. I will fully stand behind them should they need me and I know for a fact they will support me, no questions asked. This doesn't come from a blind lack of judgement, but from years of friendships. Maybe I'm just so lucky - lucky, lucky, lucky.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Airports that suck

Rome Fiumicino

1. Not enough direction signs.
2. Long queues at the passport control. Somehow they are moving relatively fast, but on a Saturday there are only three people working in passport control booths and each one constantly has a queue of at least one hundred people. It took us 40 minutes to go through security (which, by European standards, is too long).
3. After these 40+ minutes since arrival, our baggage still wasn’t there. This reminded me of another Italian airport, Milan Malpensa.
4. Overall, the airport is humungous and seems to be poorly designed – too much unnecessary walking required.

Athens International

1. Now, this is an airport that seems fantastic upon arrival. Relatively new (or recently refurbished, for the 2004 Olympics), it is clean and bright. But once you arrive for departure you realize it’s not that amazing.
2. It’s quite confusing – there is a distinct lack of direction signs inside and I am not one to be lost in airports often.
3. Unfriendly service from more than one or two airport employees. Plus unclear directions from the customs and tax refund employee.

But at the same time, there is one great thing about this airport as well. It is the hub of Aegean Airlines which just might be my new favorite airline of all:
1. Fast and efficient employees, friendly as well.
2. Great food, especially for a flight that didn’t last longer than 50-60 minutes. I was a bit skeptic when I requested vegetarian and diabetic meals for us during the booking process and yet the request was met. Above everything else, the food actually tasted great (I don’t like in-flight food normally and sometimes skip meals). Alcohol was also available.
3. Apart from that, take off and landing were superb. I know this is very circumstantial and situational, but nevertheless both were a nice bonus.

All in all, I was very happy with Aegean.

Airports worth mentioning (and they do NOT suck) are the two airports of Istanbul:  Atatürk and Sabiha Gökhen. I’m more fond of the latter for I have used it much more frequently compared to my one time in Atatürk. Sabiha is a spacious and yet compact facility where you both don’t suffocate and yet you don’t have to walk for miles before getting somewhere.  Always a non-stressful experience.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instantes (Instants)

Instantes by Jorge Luis Borges is relevant as ever. Have to always keep in mind we just get to have one shot at things.

If I were able to live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect,
I would relax more.
I would be more foolish than I've been,
In fact, I would take few things seriously.
I would be less hygienic.
I would run more risks,
take more vacations,
contemplate more sunsets,
climb more mountains,
swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where I've never been,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.

I was one of those people that lived sensibly
and prolifically each minute of his life...
Of course, I had moments of happiness...
If I could go back
I would try to have only good moments.

Because, if you didn't know, of that is life made -
only of moments...

Don't lose the now!
I was one of those that never went anywhere
without a thermometer,
a hot-water bottle,
an umbrella,
and a parachute...

If I could live again,
I would travel lighter.
If I could live again,
I would begin to walk barefoot from the beginning of spring,
and I would continue barefoot until autumn ends.
I would take more cart rides,
contemplate more dawns,
and play with more children...
If I had another life ahead of me.

But, already you see,
I am 85,
and I know that I am dying...

Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Modern Art in Moscow

Another day in Moscow, another set of museums and galleries. For it's too cold to hang out outside for too long a time...

This one is my favorite. Something about Russian people being supressed and Europe letting go.

A graveyard for Barbie dolls.

A set of sexy bras.

Go vegan/vegetarian!

A lovely Museum of Photography (that sadly happens to be a flame for hipster wannabe moths), a few nice exhibitions there, e.g. first years of photography by Stanley Kubrick.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moscow vs Berlin?.. Nah

Well, this past day reminded me why I so prefer to hit the road by myself. When I'm by myself, I'm the one who fully, completely and irreversibly sets the tone for me: I walk as fast or as slow as I damn well please, I eat when I want to eat, spend or not spend as much money as I wish and in general, I have utmost control over the situation. But when someone else is around (especially someone who is so different from me), I have to adjust my likes and wishes with them. Of course we still end up doing what I want to do and going where I want to go (since my friend is lazy enough to even come up with a route or a plan :), but not after some slow walking, coffee drinking, getting cold, complaining, etc.

This is not to say I don't enjoy having my good friend around, it's just I'd do more stuff if I was by myself. 

Anyway. Nevertheless the day wasn't bad. We went to a couple of galleries of the local MOMA and most of the stuff they had was quite fascinating. Particularly the Beyond the Oil Route photo exhibition and the accompanying 17-minute docu. 

Moscow has surprisingly boring streets and pathways. I thought maybe I was wrong before, but now we both see it. Mostly Soviet-type buildings with narrow pavements, some expensive restaurants and yeah, nothing more to report. Oh, right, also it's a city of Subways. Subway and (questionable?) theaters are everywhere here. 

Obviously this city does not even deserve to be compared to Berlin, but I'm even surprised by the fact that Moscow doesn't give off a specific feeling or a vibe. I mean, ok, the subway is monumental and depressing, but that's underground, I don't feel anything from what's upstairs, so to speak. I could literally come up with a hundred epithets for Berlin (have to smile when I think of that place), but Moscow leaves me completely cold, in more than one sense.

I'm curious about modern art produced here, so I'll be checking out some more venues to see what kind of stuff Russian artists come up with these days. My friend would prefer something less contemporary, but since she can't be bothered to go anywhere by herself... modern art it is. :-)

The very distinct, fascinating and overwhelming vibe of Berlin:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Moscow 2012

Writing this at the start of my third day in Moscow, a city that never really spoke volumes to my heart or brain, but spending 10 days at home with family would be worse, so... Moscow it is.

My friend and I arrived pretty late on December 31, after she forgot her cell phone in the taxi, after the one-hour flight delay, after the airport express dragged on forever, after the hotel check-in lasted over half an hour.. But after leaving home at 1pm, around 9pm we were finally in the hotel.

After having a glass of champagne (or maybe it was two), we reckoned entering the year 2012 could be fun if we did it on the Red Square, at the heart of the Empire of Evil, so to speak. It ended up being one of my worst ideas, because we were cut off from entering the square as were hundreds of other people, people who may have had more glasses of something to drink and didn't understand the Red Square couldn't be stretched to fit all of us in, so they started to push through the barrier and... well, we just about shat our pants and frankly, I'm not even sure how that mess didn't lead to many people getting hurt. I don't fear for my life very often, but those 15 minutes until we were able to escape from that hell were pretty intense...

But... One more lesson learned and no more crowded celebrations for me. :)

On our second day we went through most of the major attractions that leave me pretty cold on a regular day. We also saw quite a decent film, Perfect Sense. It sort of fit well with our current state of mind and it was definitely time well spent. I like the choices that Ewan McGregor has been making: as I go back to Krasnodar, I plan to rewatch Beginners with my new film watching buddies, I first saw it in Berlin with a friend from Istanbul and we both found it to be a great production.

Today the tentative plan is to visit a couple of museums that happen to be free during the holidays.. Unless there are long queues of people everywhere of course, then we might settle for chilling in some bar or maybe finding another solid film to watch. Also on the agenda: a new falafel place and lots of walking.

P.S. Obviously Moscow has the worst subway system I've ever been to. I have yet to see access for handicapped people anywhere, plus it's just so soulless, slow and somehow even demotivating that maybe I will seize to be surprised by local traffic on a regular working day. Who would want to show up for work depressed and demotivated like that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 was a good year

I recently started a new job in Krasnodar and it’s taking most of my time (as well as some other exciting events), so I did not really have time to ponder upon 2011, but a few days ago I did have a few minutes to myself and well, I realized something. 2011 was pretty much tremendous for me. I don’t like labeling something as “best”, but still I will say it was a fantastic year.

I traveled around so much. I lived twice in Berlin, three months each time. I lived in Istanbul for 2 months. I visited or re-visited (in chronological order)  Milan, Cologne, Munich, Karlsruhe, Stockholm, Oslo, Paris, Barcelona, Porto, Izmir, Cesme, Selcuk, Ephesus, Turin, Nice, now I am writing this from Moscow where I arrived on the last day of the year… Throughout my trips, I met several people that I can call friends now. I learned new things about lifestyles in different places of the world. I became a vegetarian and generally more conscious of the world around me and how what I do affects others. 2011 was eye-opening in my ways. I am incredibly glad I took this year off a “real job” and devoted it greatly to myself. I can’t say I really changed or forgot my old ways of doing things, but I did expand my horizons and became more accepting of many things than I’d ever been. To be frank, I am sort of proud of myself when it comes to this. But all of this is thanks to the people I’ve met and the multicultural and liberal city that specifically Berlin is.

And now, after all these travels, after all these experiences and things that happened and things that I saw, I am surprised to state I am definitely not unhappy to be back in Krasnodar. Things took an unexpected turn here of all places and well, at the moment I am happy to report that life is good. I feel good. About myself, about many things. I will travel less, but I will still find time to do so and well, one of the things that I finally learned is that life is what you make of it and how you look at it. I do like to entertain myself with the thought that I have grown and become more mature at handling some things. I still have a short temper, but sometimes, on occasion, I am able to sit back and just enjoy the ride. It’s a great pleasure to stop oneself from overthinking and overanalyzing things, I more or less live in the moment and enjoy and take things as they come. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.

I do believe it’s rather trite to say that one is unbelievably happy, but I do feel content and good at the moment. I’m a little bit afraid to jinx it, it’s almost too good to be true… but yeah, it’s a nice situation to be in.

2012 has great potential to be fantastic, too.

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