The streets are lined with spreads of unwanted goods, vendors selling kebobs and pot dessert items, and jobless gypsies pitching games of luck for a buck. The techno soundtrack never fades too much as random DJs are dispersed every couple of blocks. Smells of cigarettes yet to be smoked.
King's Day Festivities he streets are lined with
Around each corner, a message left by the transitory reigning authority and the subsequent vigor and life contra.
History of Budapest
A dystopian illusion: drying rugs lying on wooden beams listlessly catching wisps of the bay's wind. Traces of human life, dark hollow windows match the hollowed eyes of the city.
The sky: lilac, a rosemary scent from the passing fields. Rows of lush olive trees, a donkey grazing on overgrown shrubs in a peach orchard.
Miranda do Duro History
An underlying melancholy, hint of paranoia. Birds move methodically taking their positions. Air uplifting the waters weight beneath the minimal white light.
St. Petersburg Statue Guide
Sun setting beneath the ocean's soft cape at midnight to the echoing sounds of heavy metal racketeering.
History of Bergen
An oversize fur cube glides atop a crowd of yamakas and shrunken black hats. Heels on cobblestone, flags whipping the dusty air as it encloses bright ribbons of color.
Safed, Israel History
The many hats of Judiasm
I was surprisingly pleased to be physically capable of supporting my fifty pound backpack after only four hours of sleep. From my couchsurfer's residence in west Bergen, I bused over Michael Krohn's Gate to Central Station and attempted to sleep on the train to Myrdal. Drifted in and out of pseudo-rest for an hour then proceeded to eat oatmeal cookies (for the sugar) and drink all café (for the caffeine) in possession in less than one minute. To my utter disappointment, it didn’t aid the utter physical and mental exhaustion one bit. I then came to the conclusion that this much anticipated journey would end in a disastrous fury. However, I was surprisingly pleased that my body decided to perform otherwise.
The Flambana train ride was absolutely splendid and included the following:
1. Numerous waterfalls, including one with a staged dancing nymph on a hilltop (or, rather, two alternating to create a disappearing affect- thanks to the subliminal mystical enthusiasm of the country).
2. Oh-ing and ah-ing Asian tourists, including one skinny twerp from Thailand repetitively doing spirit fingers at every stop.
3. 180* turn.
Upon arriving in Flam, its obvious that the inhabitants' income is comprised by the train ride as well as the town acting as a base for transport to the surrounding fjords. The brochures, variety of postcards, and tourism center and visitor support system is utterly immaculate. Once one sets eyes on the glistening fjord, you feel that you must be on it. However, a special certification is required to kayak and the fjord day trips must coincide with the limited arrival and departure train times. After deciding that bike rental was the best (and only) option, I rented a bike for 50 NOK from Rahl (as in Dahl), also another hungover being, and took to the streets.
I passed house after house with perfectly painted sides set on sidestreet all with views of rushing water in between the steepest mountains I’ve ever come across. Sheep grazed and their bells rand as they frolicked from salt-cube to salt-cube. I got happily sidetracked down dead-end roads which led to distant names or bridges to hiking trails (Apparently the waters gets its color because it is void of life).
After leaving a mom & daughters knit shop, I passed kindergarten-aged children all sporting neon-construction worker type vests walking down the road. The conversation went something like this:
Imagine a teacher mediating the conversation and a child echoing:
Marcus: What’s your name?
Me: Elyse, what is yours?
Marcus stares with bewilderment, eats flower.
Biked towards fjord park until the path ended, sat on a rock and watched the waterfall in the distance drop endlessly. Hesitantly, I returned bike and boarded the train to begin journey back to Oslo. As we approached Myrdal it began to snow.
If you go, don't miss:
Unable to find the name but the knit shop is near the Flam Kirk (Church)
Bike riding, kayaking, hiking, boating on the fjord
NOTE: This was before the horrible invasion and destruction of Crimea.
After an 16 hour train ride in second class from Kiev to Simferopol, and a bus transfer from Simferopol, we finally arrived exhausted, hungry, and dirty as hell in Sudak. Through eye-contact alone, we agree on a taxi and manage to hire the only skinny taxi driver in Ukraine. Not a minute after we had agreed on the fare and set off, did he swoop around the corner and picked up his Mother-in-law to hitch a ride.
The gangly fellow turned out to be a madman behind the wheel. One of his first travesties was almost an old man canning across the intersection. Built on hilly terrain, the streets of Sudak claw their way out of the sea into a maze- thus a traffic jam on the main thoroughfare results in a pertinacious stalemate. Or so we thought. The cabbie proceeded to reverse at 15mph (and gradually increasing speed) up a one way street as if escaping a lava pit. Miraculously, we arrived at the gates of our guesthouse, backwards, Locked gates and a malfunctioning buzzer appeared to be trivial to our proactive Formula One taxi driver. Unsolicited, he scaled the walls and yelled "WOMAN, COME!". Next thing we knew, a short Ukrainian woman was prying open the gates to an sylvan two-story guesthome shaded by cherry trees.
If you go:
Beach & Fresh Market
(Market near the Intersection of Ushakova & Mors'ka St.)
Walk down the road towards the fortress until you almost reach the end of the boardwalk. Along the right, a fresh market sells fruits, cheeses, and vegetables. Take your haul down to the furthest point of the cove to sit on the water's edge and watch Ukrainian women repetitively pose for their boyfriend's camera. After a toe-dip in the cold sea, take the dirt, Mountain Goat-like trail up to the Sudak Fortress (FYI: littered with an impressive amount of glass).
Explore the fortresses' views and various ramparts freely and gaze into the Black Sea's splendor. Tie a piece of fabric on the makeshift statue at the top for good luck. Don't slip down the anthill, the paths are not controlled. Spot the beach cove to the right of the fortress and plan your desultory route to it through side streets.
Isolated Beach Cove
(Near the end of Prymors'ka St.)
Once you emerge from the seemingly private garden path and you'll come to a rocky cove with a restaurant and plenty of chairs to lie on. The water is warmer and the place is rather pleasant (besides the horrible, blasting music which is the norm). I recommend drinking over eating, unless shrimp crumbles mixed with eggs, mayonnaise and tomato sounds appealing.
Transport: Novyi Svit Winery is three miles away, seemingly in walking distance. However, the route is along a winding mountain road. Luckily we took a cab . Even more luckily, we happen to pass a man running after pick-pocket who robbed him as he was walking along the very way.
The winery doesn't sell cold cuvee, you much purchase it around the corner at the store. Drink your cold Ukrainian cuvee on the beach and watch the boats. And, apparently, the jellyfish don't sting.
If you go:
Train + Bus (Don't even try the Black Sea Ferry, it is impossible).
Aivazovs'koho St, 17, Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine, 98000
+380 50 055 6564
Square. Harsh. Bleak. Dark. A quickness hoarding resent. Passing facade after facade, lifeless windows. Dilapidation of all we pass. The water even moves forcefully, violently against the boats, against itself. Each wave thrashing without repetition or order. The sky barring down upon the city and its inhabitants. We started the morning rushing past the memorials of a tragic past. Some meant to celebrate victory but instead serve to remind of the trials and tribulations and tiers of oppression. Lenin stands stalwart but windswept in front of Communism’s oath to work, labor. Guns held in the air of those Defenders of Leningrad greet those traveling from the hills into the city on Moskovsky Prospekt. Most statues’ body posture sculpted to impart strength and the supremacy over the common man who he concurrently is and isn’t a representation of. Over the hills and into Catherine’s Palace, we’re greeted by a second-rate Russian rendition of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The whole Palace was bombed in the War so it has been completely restored- however, poorly. Groups of look-alike tourists shuffle through with their pantyhose covering their feet to ‘protect’ the floor. It’s a madhouse. Our guide Dyolva tries to give us the history of every object, room, and related relic (it would not be the end of this information overload. However, it is quite impressive the amount of historical knowledge that every Russian civilian possesses in a memorized account.)
// In St. Petersburg you must experience with a discerning eye. On the way to Peter & Paul Fortress, we pass a monastery with grand spires and colorful domes- one blue with white stars. Incongruously, in the front along the street is a row of canons. We pass a Byzantine Synagogue (restored), a KGB building with perfectly square concrete windows for a whole city block, buildings of pale yellows and greens- their paint chipping onto the street torn by the wind and rain, bars named for their depravity (‘Sorry Mama’), horrid clothing shops, shadows stooped in windows just behind the drafty curtains. What we pass speaks more about the city than what we are supposed to encounter on our trip as tourists. A man walking out of an undisclosed building carrying one pair of women’s stilettos (one red, one black). Seemingly suicidal pigeons standing on edge. A Mondrian mural hidden on a side street.
// After much deliberation, we decide to go have lunch downstairs of the Elisseeff Emporium trading house. Founded by St. Petersburg’s first spice merchants, the atmosphere is truly grand. The walls are beautiful windows of ornate glasswork, framing rows of counters displaying tea biscuits, cheeses, meat, and other delicacies. We move downstairs, almost haphazardly, to find a dimly lighted restaurant boasting maritime specialties. The lighting hid its true opulence until we settled. We sat in front of the kitchen at a mosaic table, the top adorned with profiles of local fish, near cabinets of wine. We melted into the seats like royalty- plush sofas with wooden armrests. Starved (it was nearly 4pm), we dined on Carpaccio, fresh poppy seed bread, and massive black olives, calzones, salmon, pizza, creamy mussels, and wild mushroom soup. // To finish the grand tour, we popped into the student artist co-op and Smolny Cathedral. Still raining, we ran back into the boat from a quick stop before our after hours date with the Hermitage. [Sidenote: Our driver Nikkoli was quick to note that he was born in Leningrad, not St. Peterburg.]
// The walls of the Hermitage are noticeably cracked; falling in but the guide continues to brag about its flawlessness. No one seems to notice, even after she reports of the chandelier crashing onto the ground- through the floor- several years prior. We walk in to the Italian Master’s gallery and through Rembrandt’s gallery totally undisturbed, with time to process the brillance of the art. Our guide continues to lead us through the galleries with her left eye half-open into a wing where the St. Petersburg Orchestra has set up to play. Everyone takes their seats (20 per.) and I catch the first smile I’ve received from a Russian thus far. The clarinet player continues to cheerily play the whole duration and look at me after each song in an approving glance. The six scores are performed passionately with utmost precision. The conductor knows each note with all of his being, he performs and gestures as if to impart each note’s essence. // Afterwards, as we walk along the canal, the dark city is finally illuminated. The street lamps light the waterway and sparkling spire gleams in the distance. Finally I understand the splendor of the city and with a Russian-like subdued sign of cheer, I am able to retire peacefully.
The world anthem for indie soulful wanderlusters is the same in every country – a combination of folksy rock whose singer bellows with a heart heavy of disdain and longing. However, in Iceland, the music is overlaid with an eerie psychedelic haze that seems to synchronize with the climate and landscape.
The nation is one whole amusement park. Around every bend there are dutiful signs indicating a place of interest. A seal colony, glacial lagoon, lava field, geothermal lake, countless fjords, magnificent towering waterfalls, a rift between tectonic plates, black volcanic beaches…. After three nocturnal days in Reykjavik, I embarked on a clockwise journey around the island encompassing the Snaefellness Peninsula and the absolutely, terrifyingly desolated roads around the West fjords. The geothermal influence got particularly interesting as I approached the northwest corner.
Turning the bend towards Krafla (a still ragingly active volcano), I tried not to be distracted into driving my Yaris off the road when I saw dozens of steaming chutes jutting out of the landscape. Due to the high volcanic activity further South and speculation of potential eruption, this was especially fascinating. Like awakening from hibernation, the Earth seemed to be rousing from its slumber. Numerable mudpots and live steam vents were backed by Krafla’s muted-red slope and which gave way to barren lavafields.
Two hours later, I found myself huffing volcanic debris as I puffed up the Hverfell crater. The ash from each step formed clouds of charred life in the air, and in my lungs. At the top of the semi-cone, the views from the rim of the crater exposed various stories of creation and destruction. To the west, Lake Myvatn shimmered with verdant coasts, and to the east, the total annihilation and scared earth from the various volcanoes laid out for miles.
About 45 km away, as if mimicking the same contrasting tone, the lavafields opened up to reveal a canyon containing Europe’s largest waterfall, Dentifoss- a 45m, gargantuan waterfall pouring between two sheer basalt cliffs. I stood there laughing at its ridiculousness, unable to comprehend how it was completely hidden, unexposed nearly 500 ft away.
Although it was mid-day, it seemed as though it was dawn. All of the air was heavy and tasted like the earth. Water was stirring everywhere. Further up the path was another massive waterfall- Selfoss, whose five giant 30 ft drops bellowed. Its splendor only mildly toppled.
If you go:
Rent a car online prior and pick up wine from a Vinbudin before you get into town.
Remember that you can only buy gas and alcohol within certain hours.
Save your receipts for a tax-refund.
Late August is a great time to go- you can catch glimpses of the Northern lights, Reykjavik culture night, and the best firework show on the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.
Eat & Drink
Pick up food from the market before 10pm & grill at your mainstay
Dimmuborgir Guesthouse - spectacular cabins, breakfast with house smoked trout and hotspring bread, & ownership
Catch the sunset on the lake.
Jarbodin - bring a towel, water, & a book to take advantage of the sun and patio