Between two listicles in The Guardian recommending Ohrid in North Macedonia as a top holiday destination (2016 and 2017), the price of the newspaper’s recommended hotel seems to have doubled. This tiny detail reveals that the country is basking in attention, and having it on one’s list of places visited is no longer a badge of off-the-beaten-track travel. Thanks to direct flights, many people visited the country and continue singing praises to this day. And why wouldn’t they, given that N. Macedonia has mountains, greenery, water and city life to enjoy?
Click on the images to enlarge them
The sea is pretty much the only kind of wildlife Malta can offer, so spending time in and near the sea is very important for making the most of living on this island. Thanks to my friend M. I had an opportunity to try out sea kayaking, which is one of the most exciting ways to explore the islands from unusual angles.
A recent article in the New York Times attempted to calculate individual contributions to climate change derived from driving, flying and other activities. The criticism is very valid, but once again it is focused on individual responsibility and individual behavioural changes, which make life less enjoyable for those already ‘converted’ to environmentalism. It is true that we vote for the world we want with our money, but I would suggest first and foremost focusing on businesses that encourage this wasteful behaviour:
A NYT article about libraries and civil society was one of the warmest and most hopeful texts from the other side of the Atlantic in the recent years. It made several key points: libraries are open, inclusive and fun spaces to interact – or to be by oneself. The growing emphasis on libraries can hopefully replace the recent obsession with cafes in many discussion circles.
On my three most recent visits to Vilnius, I couldn’t help but admire how cool the national library has become. People go there to record their podcasts, schedule meetings, work on their stuff, concentrate on reading or talking, or attend events. The building is bright and inviting. I could only dream of this when I made a few attempts to get work done at the national library in Valletta. The gloomy building was cold and dark, and although I enjoyed the selection of newspapers to read and the set-up, it was clearly built for reading something from the library’s archives. To continue discussions on public space, ignited by last year’s Capital of Culture events, Valletta should revitalise its libraries rather than move community events and discussions to cafes. Libraries should be our focus as we, as communities and democracies, seek to create the ultimate anti-Facebook.
Last Sunday was the day of 40 birds in Lithuania, which means, according to traditional wisdom, that 40 species return from the South by that day. Some say that due to climate change the list of species changes, but their number remains roughly the same. I trust one of my favourite Lithuanian photographers, Marius Čepulis, for the species count. Meanwhile, I am trying to keep track of bird presence in Malta.
Birds in Malta do not get all the protection they deserve, bird-watching in spring is exciting in Malta, as various species pass by on the way to continental Europe, and, thanks to dedicated volunteers who monitor protected birds against hunting offenses, many survive the journey.
Robin is a common and brave bird. Click on the images to enlarge them
My Facebook feed is full of posts denouncing the suggestion made by decluttering guru Marie Kondo to keep no more than 30 books (example). How dare she, they write, attack the most noble of middle class obsessions – book hoarding? In the age of bite-sized online news, screaming headlines and kids who never let go of their tablets, aren’t books the last refuge? As an avid reader, I beg to differ. Continue reading
Adapted from the questionnaire used here.
Anti-consumerist travel achievement: fully ditching make-up. This happened way before 2018, but I never blogged about it much. I had never used much of that stuff, but every little item means more space in the luggage and more toxic chemicals down the drain. Using nail polish requires a nail polish remover. Using mascara calls for special fluid suitable for the eye area. Everything is packed in unrecyclable single-use plastics. It’s so much easier without any of these things! When I was younger, I allowed myself to get convinced that especially formal occasions demand following social conventions. I understand that many women also use make-up as a form of creative expression, and that these things help people, especially with less standard looks, feel more confident. Going around without make-up and not using facial cosmetics means exposing one’s skin to a world that is often cruel and merciless for women. Just think of the language in advertising: ‘impurities’, ‘imperfections’… Let’s cut this crap – we don’t owe the world perfection. Leave the cyborg looks to those people who are paid to look like this.
Bucket-list destination visited: Austrian Alps, Sahara Desert.
Cuisine, discovered this year: Ghanaian (in Hamrun, Malta). Emmanuel is not the most organised restaurant, but it’s genuine and low-key. Fried plantain with beans is excellent. Continue reading
Real estate mogul Frank Salt, whose family-owned business is one of the largest in this sector in Malta, is known for writing somewhat puzzling columns for the Times of Malta, the country’s largest, conservative-leaning newspaper. I won’t help the editors, who eagerly publish all this, in their clickbaiting efforts, but you can find out about Salt’s interpretation of things by searching for his name plus ‘Times of Malta’.
In one of his columns in December this year, he said of British colonialism: “It was a match made in heaven.” Later in the column he wrote that it paid off to be friendly and not to mistreat people from other countries. Perhaps he was correcting the damage of his previous column, which I wanted to discuss here not because of its any meaningful contribution to public debates, but because of a very interesting warp in Salt’s reasoning, where he starts off by stereotyping and blaming people from other countries and ends up admitting that many of the problems boil down to bad infrastructure. Continue reading
Food is increasingly glorified – as a travel, community, bonding and self-development experience. Many people of my generation and social class spend a huge portion of their monthly budgets on eating out rather than saving for purchases. Unsurprisingly, catering is a robust business even in countries that are still grappling with the impact of the economic crisis. Restaurants compete for this ever-growing market – if not locals, then at least tourists will consume whatever is on offer. Yet I keep seeing habits that are counter-intuitive and don’t seem to make business sense.
As we completed half of our studies, my best friend at the time and I set off to opposite ends of the European continent for our much-awaited exchange semester. We had both been informed that our dormitory rooms will only have the most basic furniture, and we chose very different ways to deal with it. My friend at the time decided to travel with a huge suitcase complete with pans and cutlery. I went with clothes for all seasons and products that I was told were expensive in the destination. This was before Facebook, meaning, before exchange, second-hand and upcycling groups.
Fortunately for me, I found that the dormitory kitchen, shared with seven other rooms, was fully equipped. I also found that the previous inhabitant left a pillow and a blanket, so I didn’t need to look for those. People who stayed in the more expensive dormitories, either because they applied too late or because they preferred not to share anything, had their own kitchenette – and had to procure utensils themselves. Ever since that time I’ve been contemplating this issue – kitchenware is bulky, heavy and, although not extremely expensive, adds to the ballooning initial costs when moving to a new country. How to go about it in an affordable and sustainable way?