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Favorite Summer Tradition

…for me is, of course, annual trips to Italy! This post is a throwback to the Italian trip of the summer 2017. Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetBack in the days I would spend whole summers mostly in Italy, only leaving for 2-4 weeks for somewhere else. The main reason, other than unconditional love for Italy, would be to practice the language. But now I speak decent Italian and from last summer on have been trying to broaden horizons and travel outside my favorite country more, as well as start learning some other language. Spanish was chosen to be the next one, as you remember from my 2016 summer trip to Cuba and Mexico.

Nevertheless, a trip to Italy is a must-do for me every summer as well as every winter, as Italy is not only the best way to spend hot days for me, but the most desired snowboarding destination, too. What a country!

My summer vacation this year started exactly like the one last year, by the way: we made a road-trip to Milan and then hit couple more places, including a lake. Trip with the girls last year was awesome, so why not do it again, we thought? We were different team this time, but it was just as great! I am so happy I bring all my friends to Milan and to my most beloved city of Italy – Florence. Last year I went there with my Australian friend, but this time we managed to include Florence in the road trip plan right away.

Four days in my favorite country to begin with – what can be a better kick off for the summer?! It’s gonna be a great one, I know! This time I don’t want to heap this post up with must-eat’s, as everything is a must-eat for me in Italy. So, let’s skip my usual approach to travel notes which always includes tips for restaurants, bars and view decks, and I will just leave couple pics here to remember how great this trip was. There is no need to prove that everything is worth tasting and seeing there 😉

Last year’s memories of the times when I studied at Bocconi together with breakfasts at my beloved eat me & go; nights at Aperol terrace dancing like crazy above Duomo Square and parking for free as if we were always locals there

Next stop – my one and only Florence. The voice announcing trains on the station still gives me shivers of the memories from those times when I used to come to that station anxious and happy; narrow streets every single one of which I still remember as if I had spent my childhood there; favorite bar La Petite where it all started 3 years ago; leather market and the “don’t let him take you to the big shop, it’s a forbidden experience!” from Sex&The City; risotto ai porcini and the view on Duomo cupola in the sun dawn.

I was the happiest there, in Florence. I am happy now, too. Just differently happy. More mature or more cynically happy, which is by no chance a measure of less happiness; just the difference. The time when I was happy in Florence was most likely the last one, when I was happy as a child. Now I am actually happy for the first time since then, since that other “happy”. Now it’s a grown-up happy. The concentration of the word happy in this paragraph must exceed the use of this term in my whole blog.

Away from redundant revelations: our final stop on the way back to Austria was at Garda lake. Last year we went to Como, and our horrifying experience with running out of gas on a mountain road was the most stressful memory until we ran out of gas on a highway on the way to Croatia recently :-/ Life doesn’t teach us much, I know! But the lake was nevertheless so beautiful that this time we decided we absolutely need views like that again. We chose Garda because had only been there in spring time before. It is absolutely amazing in summer, too! 

I claimed I wouldn’t give any advice now, but just one, please: go somewhere around Salò when visiting Garda: no tourists, perfectly quiet and beautiful. Felt like the air itself has its sound there. Loved it!

This year I was driving back with the gang, too. Last time I stayed in Milan due to the start of my studies there, and this year I was initially planning to stay in Italy until my flight to Spain. But at the very last moment things twisted around and I went back with the girls which was a good decision: the views on the drive back are breathtaking!

After our nice Italian days I came back to Vienna, which I never do in summer. I guess I am starting to feel completely at home there, if I actually want to be there even during my time off. Spending 5 additional days with my boyfriend before leaving for longer holidays felt very good. Now I am already away again, for this summer I moved to Barcelona. But about that – later 😉

Have great summer holidays, everyone!

Beso


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Mexico

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetHaving known in advance that i would be spending quite long time in Cuba, I thought why not fly somewhere else around for a weekend? First I wanted to go to Colombia, but the flights were only to Bogota and my Colombian friends told me it’s not fun at all by itself, but I wouldn’t have enough time to get to the icean coast. And, well, honestly, once you have Cuban beaches around – you don’t really crave for more. So, I gave it another thought and booked a flight to Cancun, Mexico.

After my third week in Havana I got to the familiar José Martí airport expecting hell on customs again. Well, it wasn’t worse than any control in Russia. Next I was surprised by how comfortable the low-coaster flight around Latin America is! In Europe low-coasters mean the shittiest ever possibility to travel, sometimes I’d honestly chose a donkey. But my cheap flight Havana – Cancun was so nice! Very comfortable seats and alcohol offered! Bravo, Interjet!

Entering Mexico is one hell of a challenge, too. I needed a visa that I had to order in advance. I was so happy I had done all the bookings before arriving to Cuba. Those going there, keep in mind that it’s impossible to purchase any tickets and book any hotels from Cuba, only with tourist agencies (a friend of mine who I met in Havana wanted to join and tried to book something) that have very limited and very expensive range of routes available.

Apart from the visa thing, they give you two papers as you arrive. Both are only in Spanish. Ok, I know enough basics to fill in the migration card. But the customs one was really tricky for me as there are things like «how many dead animals samples and guns are you carrying across the boarder» in Spanish. Leaving the aircraft and getting inside the airport was tricky, too, as the doors were simply locked and we were all standing there until some smart guy just pressed the emergency door and we all calmly walked away as the sirens were going off. Lovely! Welcome to Mexico!

After having passed passport control being asked tons of questions (who the f*ck would want to escape to your country that you are that strict at the boarder?!) the next thing I noticed was how kind and helpful the taxi drivers were. Even after I had already told them I don’t need one (love saving two bucks), they still helped me to find a bus, and when I realized there was no money exchange outside the airport, they kindly walked me back in through the back door using their passes. Awww! After a bit pushy and sometimes annoying cuban guys I didn’t expect somebody to be so nice to me.
Another advice for those who want to save 2$ – there IS a bus to the Cancun center! Nobody knows how to find it and would tell you it doesn’t exist – it DOES. Fight the system, climb the fence as you go right leaving the terminal – it IS somewhere there! I promise! The company is called ADO and there would be a small window in front of the bus stop where you can purchase a ticket. They are extremely cheap and the buses are comfortable and fast. Taxi would cost approx. 250 pesos which is cheap, too.
The way itself was very emotional for me. We were passing by some stadiums which looked exactly like the one my American high school had. I got so sentimental! It was the first time in South America for me since I left the US after high school. I knew Mexico must look something like the US suburbs, but never expected it would give me so many feelings. I miss the US school times. Miss out stadium where I was throwing shit at P.E. teacher because didn’t want to run; miss playing in a tennis tram, leaving classes to go to the tournament with the mates; singing and eating donuts on the way back from another match we had won. Being in that kind of high school made me feel like being a part of something great, being in a team which always had my back. I am very happy for the Mexican kids because they seemed to have the same as I was observing them on that stadium.
Anyways, back from the nostalgic vibes. It took me about half an hour to get to the city. Then I struggled for 2 more hours to find my hotel, watch out with addresses in Cancun. Finally, some american guy came up to me and spent half an hour of his evening to search with me. How lovely is that! The people in Mexico are really nice from what I have seen.
The receptionist spoke no English; I guess even the visiting Americans speak Spanish here. Luckily, after 3 weeks in Cuba, mine was just enough to manage checking in and asking simple stuff.
I went for a walk down to the ocean. As I was staying in the center, not on the beach, everything looked quite industrial. But the streets are still very bright and colorful; there is music playing from every other door; people are dressed up enjoying summer night heat. It was quite crowded outside, and even when I walk away somewhere in the middle of nowhere to see the lighthouse, I didn’t feel unsafe. I guess the tourist zones of Mexico are perfectly fine with that. img_8148
My next pleasant discovery was a shop at the gas station. Seriously. I was thirsty as the heat was tremendous so I stopped to buy some water. And omg! There were yogurts there! Cheese!!! American chocolates! Beer! I swear, I started crying as I was holding some sweets, pack of cheese and wine at the cashier. It excited me so much that I decided my night was already complete, went back to the hotel, observed a horrible car crash on the way, turned on the TV – and OMG! There were Avengers! That was really a moment of appreciating the American culture. I felt so complete just watching TV, eating my chocolates and falling asleep with no lizards in bed. Cuban experience really teaches to appreciate simple things in life so much more. We must be thankful to live in the first world. img_8152
Good morning! It’s 5.15 a.m. and I am already on track! I was so excited to see as much as possible during my short stay in Mexico that the sleep wasn’t in my schedule.
I walked out of the hotel as it was still dark and started walking to the giant chain hotels area being sure that this is where the best view must be. I even managed to understand how the public transportation system can help me in getting there. Taxis are extremely cheap in Mexico, but sitting next to the locals on their way to start a working day is just very interesting for me. They didn’t have unhappy faces on the way to work at 6 a.m. which surprised me a lot. But as the bus made a turn – I realized why. With THAT view I would wake up before sunrise every day.

I got off near Playa Tortugas and took couple hours to walk along beaches in both directions. That was incredibly beautiful. The sunrise, bright purple sky reflected in warm water, white sand and the first surfers already on the horizon. Dreamlife.

I got back to the hotel right on time for breakfast. They made me take off my shoes as I was entering the restaurant zone and sprayed me with mosquito repellent. The food was good (and very diverse after Cuban rice and platanos), too.
The sun was up, temperature was rising – the time for me to board an air-conditioned bus on my way to Chichen-Itza! One can get there from the ADO bus terminal (intersection of Tulum and Uxmal). Take the 1st class – almost same price, but takes much less time.
On the way to Chichen-Itza I was not smart enough to just make it so I got off at the wrong station and this is how I visited Valladolid – a small village in the middle of Yucatan. A very bright and positive place. The locals were just selling fruits and dreamcatchers literally everywhere. Even though there were no tourists and I was the only blond non-Spanish speaking person, no one stared or pointed at me. So I guess they are either very polite or they still manage to see a lot of foreigners around. I walked around for couple hours to find out how I can now get to the pyramids, take pictures and grab some local food. Everyone I ran across seemed to enjoy posing for me shooting.
I finally made it! The archeological site of Chichen-Itza!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
There wasn’t a long queue to get in; i’d recommend arriving there either very early in the morning or couple hours before closing. I’d say 1,5hrs is enough to see the whole territory. But save some time for lunch and souvenirs there, too! I never buy souvenirs since trip to Cairo in 2005 I think. But there I couldn’t resist. They really ARE beautiful. From stone plates and skulls with maya or inca ornaments to handmade silver and gold jewelry unlike any you can see in stores. Bargain! It works very well there. For me it was even more exciting as the first Spanish speaking experience outside classroom. I spent quite a lot of time looking at all the stuff, and there is a lot, and eventually got a very good deal on a scull, plate with maya calendar for my parents and a silver ring. Another thing that surprised me that the sellers were not annoying at all unlike any souvenir market you can imagine. They are very friendly, even gave me some presents, but they don’t yell at you or try to persuade you to buy something from them. So, you can smile at them not being afraid to spend too much time in front of one tent.
Back to the maya ruins. The place is very relaxing and surprisingly quiet. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so the nature around is indeed beautiful. There are tourists, yes, but the territory is so huge that you don’t even hear any voices. I enjoyed just sitting on the grass there and watching the main pyramid for some time. Until I realized I was sitting on an ant hill. Try walking deeper in the forest behind the ruins of columns, too. It’s an incredible feeling of uniting with the nature that had stayed untouched for thousands of years, only the Mayas managed to get there. I actually have no idea how they walked through the jungles there. They don’t seem to be passable at all. I had noticed from the plane already that there are just few roads across Yucatan. But from the bus it became even more clear that forests around are simply impossible to even walk through. Scary stuff for somebody like me who had barely seen jungle only on the way to volcanos in Hawaii.

Even though getting to Chichen-Itza takes some time and effort, I still highly recommend saving a day for that once you are in Yucatan. It’s worth it! Absolutely astonishing place. And you get to see some real Mexico around, too, unlike bays where only tourists stay. I remember that I called the Chichen-Itza site a very kind place when was still under impression.

Back to Cancun. I was so satisfied with my long productive day once I got back that wanted to just relax, have good dinner and walk around a bit more. So, the last night and the day after I spent just trying different tacos, walking around the town and going down to beaches. Playa del Carmen is an amazing place. It’s a bit further away but definitely worth going. The main hotels have beautiful terraces and rooftop bars, simply explore! If you want to get away from the hotels area and try the downtown – I liked a lot the area around Avenue Yaxchilán. Nice restaurants and bars, cool music from every door, life performances and people dancing. I even ran into a huge bikers’ party there, that was very impressive as well! My US experience memories striking again. img_8150
A weekend in Mexico was very informative and on the other hand relaxing after all the Cuban energy and bustle. Definitely a place to come back to!

But even after such nice and civilized time I was very excited to go back to Cuba, that much it got my heart. More stories from there are coming.


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Motherland Trip

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photo by Jane

Hey hey hey! I am typing this post about Russia on the very last moment, already flying from Moscow to Paris. Then I will most likely have no internet for about a month. Even if I find it on the bottom of the ocean (I can, you know me), I hardly doubt it will be fast enough to upload new posts. So the blog is probably going to be resting until the end of September. Anyways, we’ll see. I will try to post as soon as possible 😉

Now a short review of my trip around Russia. Flying from Barcelona to Samara takes much longer now as we couldn’t fly over Ukraine. But I still like all those routes when I recognize the familiar cities. Hello, Cannes!

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My first stop was parents’ place where I reunited with my best friends Polina, Daria and Ksenia. It is VERY rare that all four of us find ourselves in the same city at the same time. I can’t even remember such occasion since high school years. Usually we catch up in groups of at most three of us in different places: pretty much anywhere, from Ibiza or Barcelona to Italy; from Togliatti to Saint Petersburg; from Vienna to the mountain valleys. I can’t even describe how much I value all those meetings. 

Parents’ place, family dinners that turn into night swimming with floating wine glasses all around the pool; car racing around hometown and endless stupid but hilarious jokes that only we understand. Yes, please!

Even cooler is our tradition to travel to Saint Petersburg all together after having met in hometown. It has been happening this way for couple years already and I absolutely love switching the city but staying with the same drinking buddies. Another cool news is that Ksenia is moving to Saint Petersburg now! So, even more reasons to come back! Like if I needed reasons. 

So, Saint P was the next stop. 3l8iu_2rqloMy favorite city in Russia, forever. No other place like that in the whole enormous country, I bet. For those who don’t follow me for that long – I used to live there. Having moved to Vienna 4 years ago, I already lost the connection I used to have with the city. All the feelings seem to be very far away and rarely strike me with some weird deja vus; most of the places I used to call mine aren’t there anymore. But what I find fascinating – the people still are. I have some kind of strong friendship with all my friends who live in Saint P. And I am always very happy to see all of you, guys, no matter where life brings us, we seem to always stay on the same vibe.

Last time in Saint Petersburg I wrote about the new places that caught my attention. This time we explored some locations as well, I can recall Bekitzer, Rubinshtein cafe, Buddy, Mickey and Monkeys and Zoom. All were decent, especially for the current situation with embargo in Russia. But honestly, nothing amazed me that much. It’s good to see that the city isn’t dying like many Russian cities now, but nothing that much exciting has popped up in my opinion. I am really looking forward to the next visit because the New Holland, place that I used to love when being a resident, is opening up very soon! Unfortunately I won’t see it, but at least there is something to come back for other than my amazing dudes there.

Weird weather changes, strange but friendly people on the streets like Dumskaya; shiny beautiful houses which look like small palaces; making it to the other side before the bridges go up… This is all so Saint P. And we love it! This time even our parents joined us there later, so the trip was absolute fun.hka_pelg0

My last destination was Moscow.e-d_jnz0fpo I am not a fan, the city is very hard for me to understand and deal with. But it has become much more comfortable to come there since my sis had moved to the capital. Now it’s always a pleasure to text her that I am gonna stay over and be sure that I will have the warmest host ever. 

Her fiancè picked me up from Sapsan, took my suitcase that looks and weights like a small coffin during this 3-months trip and drove me to the very center where I met with another very important person – my classmate Ira. So many people have moved to Moscow, that’s unbelievable! I am just very grateful to stay close with my elementary school buddies and always feel like we never parted when we sit next to each other sharing stories and laughing like crazy. 

I also met Rustam – FLEX crew power forever! And the rest of the weekend was devoted to family fun with my sis aka eat and drink at as many places as possible. I like this shifting around the places from one cocktail to another kind of leisure! She showed me around a lot; I liked TimeOutBar the best.
Well, Moscow is definitely gorgeous. No crisis there at all. All rich and shiny; fresh flowers literally covering it all. Fabulous, of course. I have a lot of different thoughts about the Moscow phenomena though. But it doesn’t matter here, as a tourist you simply enjoy all the beauty and fairy tales around you!

So, that was it for now with Russia. Earlier today I got on the connecting flight to Paris where I am expecting a huge plane that’s gonna take me to an amazing adventure around Cuba and Mexico. 

Thanks again to every single friend and relative of mine for making trips home so joyful. See you soon!


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Barcelona

1Barcelona! My favorite city in Europe together with Florence, both are in my heart forever, since I first visited them.

I try to fly to Barcelona at least once a year, it’s always the best decision whenever you have some days off – no need to even think of other destination. That is a very unusual feeling for me as usually I am that kind of traveler who wants to see as much as possible choosing a completely new place for every trip. But that just doesn’t work with Barcelona, I always want to come back. And all the people I know there/from there are just so amazing! Another thing that brings me back is partying with them, of course! Barcelona is great for parties.

I already wrote somewhere under the hashtag where I had found best parties. This time the locals also took me to Poble Español when Len Faki was in town. Omg, that was something so amazing! You don’t write about nights like that. You just remember them for yourself together with your friends, collect them and feel that you are alive, if you know what I mean.

Staying at me parents’ in Sitges, I’d easily go to Barcelona within half an hour anytime, so pretty much every other evening if not more I was spending there. Luck was on my side again, so not only the local guys took me around but I also got to catch up with my Austrian friends who love Barcelona, too. Well, everyone loves Barcelona!

In addition to my favorite places and things to do I had already mentioned during my previous trip to Spain, I’d name Ocaña at Plaça Reial with very interesting cocktails and simply amazing interior and spirit; Surf House near Barceloneta where you can add vodka/gin to homemade pink lemonade and have as much cheese as you want on your nachos; Pulitzer Hotel well hidden rooftop terrace, EL Maresme area, Born district with cool places like Crepes al Born and several more around. Just make sure you walk as deep as possible in the labyrinth of narrow paths in Gothic Quarter and Born.

 

It is always so sad to leave Barcelona, even if you spend there the entire week! I started thinking recently that I know so many people who had a «to live in Barcelona for couple years in life is a must-do» period. And they all seem so happy with their experience there. If I ever get the chance to move there for some time – I will definitely go for it! And I wish everyone else the same as this place is a happy one 🙂


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Sitges

¡Hola Sitges!

A neat town in the Costa Dorada area. Loud, always in movement but extremely elegant. One of the most famous destinations in the world for gays which explains it being so shiny and absolutely cute.

I have been to Spain many times, mostly to Barcelona, but also stayed on the sea coast and Balearic Islands. La Pineda and Lloret de Mar were the towns on this coast where we were based. We also visited Cambrills, Tarragona, Port Aventura, Tossa del Mar and maybe couple more. But all those are something slightly different from Sitges. It’s hard to explain, you just feel it when compare long fabulous promenade of Sitges with narrow streets full of bars and music in the other typical Catalan towns. If you are 16-25 y.o. bunch of friends that are traveling looking for fun only – chose something like Lloret or even better Ibiza and Mallorca. But if you have already done all that and this time want to enjoy some rare wines, best quality sea food, live music and fancy restaurants – Sitges would suit you more.

Good beaches, much better than the ones you would find anywhere along that coast. We drove down to Girona, then stopped at Calella for a swim and took the way back alongside the beaches, so I know what I am talking about. You need to have a car to reach most of nice places for swimming in Spain, but Sitges is an exception; the beaches that the town offers are more than decent. You can choose between regular or nude ones.
There is a lot to do in town, it’s not just bars and night clubs as it can be in some small towns on the seaside that open up only for tourists partying but won’t offer a slice of pizza anywhere during siesta. Sitges has good shopping, music and culture events, restaurants all day long and different sport clubs. It’s popular for golf; we woke up early in the morning to go play tennis before it becomes too hot, and there were a lot of people already at 8 a.m.

Gastronomy is something absolutely special for me, so I will write a separate post about food in Catalunya.

Everyone is so relaxed and friendly on that resort! Anyone who throws you a tennis ball you accidentally smashed to their side will have a small talk with you, no matter if you share one language or not. A very positive vacation experience, 12 days there were just right for me to relax properly after hard semester in Vienna and a very intense program in Milano.
Sitges, gracias!