Tag Archives: nature

Drawing on mini canvas

I bought a few mini canvases from Nanu Nana on my last trip to Germany. I love using them outdoors in Malta.

In San Anton gardens

Near Hagar Qim temples

Comino: when beauty and comfort go separate ways (but only 15 min apart)

Between the main inhabited islands of the Maltese archipelago lies a not-at-all hidden gem, the island of Comino. It has only three permanent residents and serves as a bird sanctuary. It is also known as a habitat for various reptiles. As such, it is not overdeveloped like the island of Malta, and tenting, heavily restricted on Malta, is popular here. Despite these advantages, it′s not the land that attracts hordes of tourists to the island. Like a cumin seed from which its name is said to be derived, it adds delightful flavor to the archipelago experience.

Tourists looking at the rocks through their smartphone screens

I finally went there after visiting Malta on vacation and having moved to live here this year. I was told that May is the best time to go, and it′s best to skip the high season, but I missed that chance this year. I can see why people were giving me this piece of advice. The Blue Lagoon, the most famous place on Comino, with sea so magically blue that it could serve as an endless artistic inspiration, was littered with noisy party boats, pedestrian paths full of vendors selling stuff, so and reminded me of Sharm el-Sheikh a bit. Continue reading

Hiking in Wied Babu and a new mission

I was among, apparently, around 170 people who signed up for a free tour by Nature Trust Malta to explore Babu valley (Wied Babu). When people sign up to an event on Facebook, one must divide the number by three and extract a square root to know the realistic number of attendees, but hiking tours in Malta are different. When people click they will attend, they actually show up and bring their friends. This is the scale of the ‘invasion’ in Wied Babu.

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Trying out the treetop walkway before fall colors it

Half a year ago Anykščiai treetop walkway was one of the five finalists for the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Enterprises – a reward for innovative tourism projects. When it was opened in August last year, people were crowding to enter it, and even the president of the country took selfies on it. Continue reading

Lake Vištytis: natural wonders and border tourism

Vištyčio ežerasI discovered Vištytis in March while carrying out a project on borders. Everything was covered with snow and the little houses on the campsite by the lake seemed lonely and as though they were spending winter in hibernation. But I was interested in everything: the mysterious landscape, conversations with locals who speak both neighbour countries’ languages, and the legends about the devil that carried the stone – we had to study this in primary school. I thought that not only the beauty of the surroundings and its special location on the border, but also the charming coat of arms with a unicorn would be useful for Vištytis’ tourism marketing (more on heraldry here – a cartoon style coat of arms from 1757-1792). Therefore, when the weather got warmer, I invited my friend, a keen traveller, to explore this beautiful site in more depth.

Vištytis is a special place, because the state and administrative dependency have changed since the times of Teutonic Order and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but the status of the borderland has remained the same.

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Following the Beaten Path: Part 5 – Yodfat instead of Masada

My friend, Israeli writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami set off to see what it is like to re-examine his country′s main tourist attractions with a critical native eye (all posts here), and I decided to virtually follow his path.  In my blog posts I share my memories on what it was like visiting those places as an expat in Israel. This is how Yuval describes his idea, and here I describe mine (which is also Part 1 of my journey – the Western Wall). I have followed Yuval to the Baha′i Gardens (Yuval′s post and mine) and Nazareth (Yuval′s and mine), and the Sea of Galilee (Yuval′s and mine. Although his journeys have a different sequence, a recent reading made me return to his text about Masada, but this time it wasn′t easy to follow him.

Several people sang praises to the sunrise view of the fortress of Masada and told me it was a must. When I complained that I found it difficult to reach, people said there were buses or that I should look for company on Couchsurfing. In May 2010 it looked like I found company, but in the end the trip was cancelled. I visited Israel two more times and never reached Masada. Oh well. After all, I have seen a desert sunrise on Mount Sinai in Egypt, at Beerot campsite, and in Sde Boker. Yuval suggested that in parallel to his post on opera in Masada I write about hitchhiking in the Negev or something of that sort. I was hesitant. But today another Israeli writer gave me a new idea. I had never given the story of Masada much thought, so I almost skipped what Yuval wrote about Josephus Flavius and the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which, the story goes, ended in a mass suicide. Ellis Shuman, who I exchanged Twitter follows with recently, elaborated on the story and decided to post his old article on Twitter the other day, so I noticed and read it. Yuval writes:

Masada is about imagining. Don’t limit yourselves to one version of the tale or notions of scale and proportion, time and space that are not your own. Make your own Masada. Herod saw a dramatic geological formation and turned it into a palace, the rebels saw a palace and turned it into a fortress. Later came monks who saw a ruined fortress and turned it into a monastery. Finally, Israelis came and turned it into a symbol: a tourist attraction, an excavation site, a McDonald’s, an opera venue.

Ellis Shuman writes:

Josephus modeled much of the Masada legend on his own personal adventures. The story of the mass suicide, of rebels fighting against the Roman Empire and preferring death to enslavement, all were experienced by Josephus at the siege of Yodfat in the Galilee.

I must admit I have read very little about Masada and never been there, but hey, I′ve been to Yodfat! Continue reading

Following the Beaten Path: Part 4 – disappointment at the Galilee

My friend, Israeli writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami set off to see what it is like to re-examine his country′s main tourist attractions with a critical native eye (all posts here), and I decided to virtually follow his path.  In my blog posts I share my memories on what it was like visiting those places as an expat in Israel. This is how Yuval describes his idea, and here I describe mine (which is also Part 1 of my journey – the Western Wall). I have followed Yuval to the Baha′i Gardens (Yuval′s post and mine) and Nazareth (Yuval′s and mine). From there, Yuval moves on to Kinnereth, or the Sea of Galilee, so let′s follow him. Continue reading

Tallinn: like at home, but better

Estonia is often presented as Lithuania’s archetypical competitor, and, judging from many media reports, it seems that the main goal for Lithuania is to be ahead of Estonia one day. Personally, I grew up with my dad’s stories from Tallinn, after he did an internship there in the 1970s, about how Estonia was more western in many ways. Access to Finnish radio was important in forming this impression. Also, Estonia was the second foreign country I ever visited – at the time there were still passport controls at the border, but Finnish tourists were already flocking there to drink. I remember Scandinavian-style dormitories in Tartu, the casual style of Estonians even in rather formal events, and their straightforward talk, in sharp contrast to mainstream Lithuanian habits. I visited Estonia again in 2007 and 2009, and each trip was full of surprises. In 2007, my friend and I discovered a shop offering very interesting, even provocative, jewellery designs. In 2009 I tasted hot chocolate with sea salt, and a cocktail consisting of a shot of vodka, lots of lemon, brown sugar and hot water. This year I was curious to see what surprises this trip will bring.

Ready – aim – shoot!

Abandoned concert hall

Abandoned concert hall [click on the images to enlarge them]

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