On a minivan from Maasai Mara, I thought my pockets were already stuffed with beadwork and souvenirs, so there was no way I would acquire more. When a trader lifted his arms, with bracelets and necklaces hanging from them, towards my window as we briefly stopped by an ATM somewhere close to Narok, I told him I was not interested and continued writing my diary. “Do you have a spare pen?” he asked. Indeed, I did. “Are you interested in trading it for something?” I asked to confirm, and thus started one of my favorite adventures in Kenya.
I 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.
Having worked with Asian Studies over the past couple of years, I heard the argument that, when faced with a vast choice of European locations to visit, East Asian tourists take into account the UNESCO list of world heritage. So I was not surprised at all when I saw that many of our fellow passengers on the bus between Segovia′s distant train station and old town held guidebooks in Asian languages. The small town graces UNESCO world heritage list since 1985 because of its prominent Roman aqueduct and other remains of various eras.
Segovia is cute, and its winding streets easily absorb crowds of tourists so that walking there would not feel artificial and de-localized. The aqueduct, over 800 meters long and built, apparently, around 50 BC, is the most obvious tourist spot, where people make selfies, wait for buses or catch taxis to take them back to the train station. The station is notoriously far, buses run quite seldom and are poorly aligned with train schedules – this is probably an incentive to use taxis. Yet with more than two people on board, a taxi pays off. Solo travelers returning to their train could easily find company for taxi sharing by the aqueduct, since most people hanging out around the aqueduct will probably be tourists.
Nearly everyone I met in Spain praised the beauty of Cartagena. They said it was one of the most beautiful Spanish towns, with ancient history and freshness of a sea breeze. As I was planning my vacations in Murcia region, many travel websites directed me there. So Cartagena was certainly on my map. Perhaps only because of these high expectations it was the greatest disappointment in Spain so far.
The strongest impression that stayed with me has to do with lots of closed doors.
Ironically, as I found this perfect image to summarize the vibe there, it also captured a hint that something extraordinary and colorful will happen. Indeed, the trip started getting better and better from then on.
Religious places around the world tend to be more demanding towards women, but travelers of both genders often struggle to pack appropriately, especially when traveling with cheap airlines. Last month I took the challenge of traveling with Wizzair small cabin bag only, although I knew that I’d be visiting many religious places.
What have you heard of Lübeck? I remember it featured in a computer game I used to love, where the task was to build successful Hansa cities and trade among them. Of course, having moved to Hamburg, I included Lübeck in my short-term bucket list.
The city is less than two hours away from Hamburg, and a daily pass, which covers all regional trains in the Schleswig-Holstein area, costs 28 Eur. Great for a day trip. So let′s start! Continue reading
I attended a debate in Marijampolė, the seventh-largest town in Lithuania, which was an occasion to visit this town for the first time. As a regional center of Lithuania’s historically most affluent region, Suvalkija, it continuously appeared in school textbooks. Many prominent writers and Lithuanian independence activists were from this region and had studied in Marijampolė. Still, I couldn′t have named any major landmark. It was not a part of the itinerary of high school trips either. Still, the town has a very interesting history and is worth exploring. Continue reading
I love birds – as a child, I used to spend hours and hours studying bird encyclopedias and trying to recognize them as I see them. Birds used to be my favorite subjects for drawing, especially orioles, nightingales and pigeons. So a two-day stay in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, made me really regret I did not have a proper camera to take photos of all the interesting birds there. There is a huge park right in the center of the city, and birds there seem to really feel free to go about their business regardless of tourists. For identifying the species, I used Peter Ericsson′s very informative database of birds in Thailand.
Let′s start with water birds, of whom little egret is probably the most gracious. Continue reading
Why am I writing about my old trip (2011) to Egypt? I explain here.
[Diary] “This used to be a marvelous city,” everyone tells me, and it seems that locals here are more adequate to their environment, more natural. Signboards still remember what it used to be like, some streets have their names still written in French, and the place sort of reminds me of Istanbul. Unpretentious Roman ruins have been rebuilt. People come to the library to use computers. The library staff keep thinking how to showcase its riches better. Movies about Egypt receive disproportionate attention. There is a smell of fish lingering by the shore.
[Reconstructed from memory] Alexandria was my friend′s favorite city, and he seemed to take delight in showing it to me. There were lots of ′colonial′ details around there, with the French street names and all. I saw lots of graffiti and remembered reading that some of the main clashes of the revolution happened precisely there. Alexandria felt youthful and cosmopolitan. Its amazing library is a museum and a working hub in the same space. As a visitor, I took time to look at its historical artifacts, but it was just as interesting to observe how locals used the library.
As I took note in my diary, Alexandria reminded me of Istanbul, but the port also looked like Akko, Porto or other Mediterranean cities I have visited. Indeed, going between Alexandria and Cairo one can notice how a Mediterranean feel slowly morphs into a Middle-Eastern one.
Before returning to Cairo, we sat for coffee at a Brazilian-themed cafe.
I went to Egypt in April 2011, but I was so busy that I hardly wrote anything about it. One exception is this article for Cafe Babel. I spent hours showing photos and telling stories to family and friends, but all of them were still waiting to be ′immortalized′ in the blog. I found an old notebook that I used in Egypt, so I guess it′s time to translate and digitize these notes.
Why am I writing about this now? Several reasons. I keep following news from Egypt, and it seems it will never be the same as I saw it. With each day it moves away from what I saw three months after the revolution. Also, my friend whom I was visiting has already returned to Lithuania. Moreover, I recently visited Thailand and, although most people asked me if I had been to Asia before as if other Asian countries made a sort of transition to what I was experiencing there, Thailand felt more similar to Egypt than to other Asian countries. The political system of these countries is built around tensions between populists, weaker middle-class-based opposition, and the military. Both of these countries depend on tourism for their income. So traveling in Thailand made me reflect on my memories from Egypt.