First impressions of Baia Mare, Romania

One day I decided to pack everything I have, leave Netherlands forever (?) and move into a small city in Romania, Baia Mare. I was excited and scared both, reliving my emotions when I came to Amsterdam for the first time without knowing much about the country or knowing any people there. This time, I did know at least two people, so in a way, it was easier. On the other hand, the future is more unsure than before, because moving to Amsterdam assured me a secure life at least for four years till I finish University.

Baia Mare

My trip to Baia Mare was exhausting and took more than fourteen hours in total due to all the stopovers. I arrived early in the morning and my boyfriend’s mom was welcoming me. We ate a snack and went straight to bed. My boyfriend was arriving a few days later.

The first day the weather made me already very happy, as it was 30 degrees outside and sun shining brightly. I have been here for almost a week and have an impression of the city.

Local people

When I arrived, apparently it was a celebration for Saint Mary  and everybody were at the church and outside celebrating. My boyfriend’s mom took me to a market and then we were invited to eat together with their neighbours at a countryside. The people are very sweet and welcoming. You can feel that you have moved closer to the equator when people warmly welcome strangers in their home, offer them food and drinks generously. Also, people are more warm with each other compared to the people closer to the north pole.

Palincă – to burn your insides.

People offered me palincă right away and let me smell it. Palincă is a strong  liqueur, which no matter how hard I tried, I was not able to pour down my throat. It burns and has a pretty awful taste. Has a killer smell too. Nevertheless, please do try it when you visit Romania. I am not a fan of strong liquor anyway, so you might handle it. The locals don’t make a different face after taking a shot of it, while I already shrivel from the smell of it.

Language

People tend to speak with me in Romanian, even if i don’t know the language. Luckily, I do understand a little due to my background of knowing molto poco Italian. Romanian also falls under the latin languages and knowing anything from Italian, French or Spanish makes it easier to understand. Nevertheless, most of the time I am lost and just going along without being able to join the conversation. I already accepted this before coming here, because this is what happens when you are the odd one out and being rather shy. On the plus side, who knows maybe I will leave having learned a new language. And it’s been only a week. Maybe after a couple of palincăs, the language won’t be a problem.

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Food

When in Amsterdam I did not get enough meat, here meat is all I see. The variety of meat is humongous.  I would consider the food to be a bit on the heavy side, but there are a lot of tasty things. I feel like it would be tough to be a vegetarian here.

So far I have not had any surprises with food, especially because I have already tasted some of it beforehand thanks to my boyfriend. One thing I do not really like is eating pure fat. I remember my grandfather used to eat also pieces of fried fat when I was little and already then I did not like it. My taste buds still say it is not fine.

Because it is in Europe, the milk, dairy products and chocolate are still the same unlike my experience with dairy products in Bali. Only the tap water tastes different. It is not actually advised to drink it , but i have my super bobble bottle with me with a filter inside. On the streets, you can also find drinking water points.

Scenery

Baia Mare is surrounded by mountains. It is really beautiful when you look around you. The only thing is that it is missing is the sea. In that case, it would score 10 out of 10. The mountains, though, are not very populated and people live under on a flatter ground. Thus driving here is not so crazy either, like in Greece for example. The mountains are mostly to decorate the city.

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Channel for national music

I have not noticed this in other countries before, but here in Romania, they have one channel just for national music. A local told me that it is music for drinking and having fun without any politics. All day long you see music videos of Romanians in national clothes singing. Once in a while, they stop the music and one person is sitting behind a desk answering calls from people. I find it a little funny.

 

So far I have enjoyed my time here being properly spoiled. I am allowed to eat and drink as much as I want and have been enjoying time by the pool like on a decent vacation. Let’s see what more Romania has in store…

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Estonian bog hike

Seems like every summer one some attraction becomes very popular in Estonia and every single person has to go there. Last summer Rummu, the Soviet time prison turned into a beach, was the must see place. Because I am rarely home, I feel like I should follow the trends. What else have I going on at home anyway?

This summer my Facebook feed was full of pictures of bog hikes. I and my mom were planning to go to a spa, so I cleverly added a nearby bog into our route. We went to Meenikunno bog.

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From the looks of it, it does not appear very interesting. Some flat land with a path in the middle. Actually, the whole landscape is very mushy and you cannot walk on most spots because you will sink in deep and it is hard to get out. And no one knows where the bottom in all that flora and water is. Due to that, you need either a guide or somebody strong to pull you out, if you would like to jump into that mess.

 

Later on, the trail in the bog ended and another one started in the forest. We decided to continue, even though it will be a very long walk. The walk in the forest was much fun because the trail was rather challenging. There were spots under water or very muddy and it was difficult to cross them.  Some rocks or thin, about to break, logs were only helping you. There was quite a lot of climbing to do and the land was not very solid and reliable either. Often I stepped on a spot, sunk in  and felt the water flowing into my sneakers. As a result, my legs got very tired and wet, but we had a lot of fun. After all that, the spa was the best idea.

 

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Traditionally we went slightly off the trail and added some extra kilometres to our hike. Thanks to our smartphones we found a way back to our car.

I recently watched an Estonian comedy about going mushroom picking. The main characters got lost in the forest. It was funny in the movie, but in real life, it can be scary as hell. The forests in my country are very thick, unlike the Dutch call three trees together a forest.  The trees are long and don’t let much sun in and you can easily lose a sense of direction. Everywhere you look the sight is the same. Trees, trees and trees. Maybe the road was that way?

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Now I’m all caught up with Estonian life and I am probably ready to go discover Romania. Probably because it will poke my comfort zone going to an unknown country again. The weather forecast made me already happy announcing that the whole week will be sunny with thirty degrees outside. Finally summer !

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Tallinn

And once again I arrived home.

 

Before starting my adventurous life I definitely wanted to go home first to see my friends and family. This time, I had to pack everything with me since I was permanently moving out of Amsterdam. Ooh, how I hate moving. You will find out how many useless things you have collected over the years. I donated and sold a bunch of things before moving out and still I had too many things.

 

When I went to Schiphol airport to catch my flight to Estonia, I looked ridiculous. First let me mention that against the odds on that day in both cities, in Amsterdam and Tallinn, the weather decided to be fabulously hot with 30 degrees outside. Seeing that I had too many things that did not fit into my luggage I was forced to wear my spring/autumn jacket, my summer jacket, my favourite super warm sweater and my floppy hat.

Like this, I was walking around with my check in luggage, my hundred kilos weighing backpack and my purse. I looked so stupid that at the security gate for the first time I had to unpack literally everything from my bags. They checked even inside my wallet, my medicine bag and other smaller places. The security guy asked me to take out my camera. Then I announced that I have even two of them he labelled me as the rich bitch. I doubt that rich people travel looking, such hobos like I did.

 

Before going back to my city I had some time to stroll around in the capital. I managed to look like a complete idiot tourist in my own home country. The pilot told us on the aeroplane that it is 16 degrees in Tallinn, thus I left only one of my jackets at the airport lockers and kept all the rest with me. Later I discovered that it is nearly 30 degrees.

Walking around with a big camera and a backpack some Estonians approached me in English. That moment I realised that I look like a complete tourist. One famous Estonian singer even came to me to let me know that my jacket was falling off… in English. I guess I have been away for a very long time!

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On full tourist mode, I also took some pictures of the city. I noticed that it has become much popular internationally than it used to be. Most of the time I was walking around in the old town. I like how medieval it looks. The city organises some matching performance for tourists as well. One completely covered guy with a whip was managing another boy who was dragging a carriage where a “slave girl” was tied to. It was funny and strange combined and to see all the looks on the tourists face when they saw such a random thing.

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After getting a proper dosage of medievalness, I finally met up with my mother. We were both starving so we run to a restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous dinner. Then the two-hour-long ride to my hometown could begin…

Overdose of windmills- Zaanse Schans

Before leaving the Netherlands, there was another must see attraction I needed to check off my list. That was the cute little windmill village Zaanse Schans.

If the weather would have been beautiful on the day we went there, we would have seen views like this :

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Unfortunately, on the day we made the trip it was pouring rain non-stop. I just wanted to show off some of my new photoshop skills and pretend it was sunny. I’m still going to be honest with you and keep the rest of the photos cloudy as it was. You can’t control the weather when you travel and you should not let the weather control your trip either. Sometimes cloudy and rainy pictures can turn out even nice and add a little mysterious tone on them. And you still leave with a new experience.

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Despite the weather, there were very many people at the site. The restaurant had a half an hour waiting list and when taking pictures, constantly people accidentally photobombed them.

The village was so cute! I cannot understand how some people live there surrounded by windmills and loads of tourists passing by every day.  I would be very annoyed actually. It is very beautiful but full of tourists passing by your house and taking pictures of it. If you want to go for a walk or for a run it is never peaceful.

All the windmills have a different labour purpose.  The whole area smelled like chocolate due to the chocolate factory and museum there. The village had tiny shops to sell cheese, chocolate or souvenirs and as a must, you can get your fresh share of waffles.

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There is no entrance fee to go and walk around, but to visit the museums and the windmills you need to pay a small price. You can enter all the windmills and in some you can visit the top too, on others, you can visit its museum inside and learn about its purpose and history and how it was made.

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I would have definitely loved it more when it would have been sunny. It would have been nice to sit on the grass and have a little picnic. It was still worth a visit and I would definitely recommend it when you visit Amsterdam. You can take a bus there from central station, which takes you there only in twenty minutes and was slightly cheaper than other options.

That was my last attraction in the Netherlands. Who knows when or if I will ever go back ?

Let the new adventures begin!

Utrecht

Utrecht

I have visited Utrecht before, but never as a traveller only for business or school. I have seen the city only briefly, but never discovered it. My friends came to visit me in Amsterdam and this was a perfect chance to take a  one day trip to Utrecht.

To get out of Utrecht central station is a challenge. You walk thousands of kilometres before you find your way out to the centre. After you pass through the train and tram platforms the rows of shops start and never end. I guess that’s why people suggest doing some shopping in Utrecht because you have never-ending choices of shops before you even get to the city. Then there are a lot more shops in the city centre.

When you finally get out of the station, the city does remind you a lot of Amsterdam, but slightly smaller and slightly less crowded. You have a very similar view on the canals and houses, but it looks tidier.

Dom Tower

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The first thing we did was visiting the Dom Tower. This is the highest church tower in the whole country, with the height of 112,5 meters. You have to climb 465 steps to reach the top. I don’t know how the tour guides manage to make excursions there every day. It is not possible to go wander in the tower by oneself, by the way. You need to purchase a guided tour.

Climbing the stairs was fine at first, because we made many stops during our way to see the towers bells, listen them and also hear about the history of the tower.

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Almost at the top of the tower, climbing turned into a nightmare. I have a certain level of fear of heights. When there is nothing protecting me or nothing to hold on to I get scared. I was fine flying high up behind a boat in Thailand because I was attached to the boat with all the straps and I had a life vest. I could also be thousands of meters above the ground on a viewing platform if i can hold on to something, there are safety rails and other protective thingies. But when I was climbing the slippery, narrow stairs that never seemed to end with nothing to hold on, my feet instantly started shaking and I was not sure if I will faint, puke or just cry. So with people, who have similar fears, I would not recommend to going the highest floor. The view on the floor below was already beautiful enough and actually the top floor was covered with a net (as seen on the third picture) so you could not really enjoy the view.

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Canal tour

We also went on a canal cruise in Utrecht. I would say Amsterdam offers better cruises. There is more to see and well, our guide was awfully boring. The lady showered us with facts of how many bridges we already passed, what each building was and when it was built and used a very monotonic tone. No stories, not really interactive nor enthusiastic. It is good if you are really tired and could use a little nap.

The city

The rest of the pictures are of the city itself. It’s much cuter and cleaner than Amsterdam for sure, but I would say it is less lively. There is more to do in Amsterdam.

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We came across mysterious steam coming out from the street. I never really found out what is it for or what does it mean.

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There is a little tunnel that presents a play of colorful lights. When you walk around in Utrecht, I am pretty sure you will stumble on it. The tunnel takes you to an on the canal cafe. We thought we take a quick coffee there before our canal tour, but they never served us. So we just took advantage of their bathroom and went off to our canal tour.

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Utrecht is a nice place to visit when you want to get a little break from Amsterdam. It is especially nice when you like shopping and museums, there is plenty of that. Altough we went to eat at all you can eat sushi place, it is nice to eat at one of the restaurants that lies exactly on the canals. In Amsterdam you don’t have that option.

Must see before leaving the Netherlands : Utrecht ✓

 

Thoughts on Amsterdam after 5 years.

Five years have passed by in Amsterdam and it is time to seek for another adventure. I have checked off graduating University on my life list, learned some languages, met so many interesting people and discovered myself. I cannot be more happy about my decision to study in Amsterdam. I feel like I have grown so much wiser, gained so much experience in all sorts of areas and am so much more open than i used to be. Even though I am happy i have lived here, I do think the city is not for me to settle down.

I decided to write some thoughts on Amsterdam, some prettier and some not so pretty, before leaving.

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The good stuff. 

It’s one hell of a culture pot.

This is probably the one thing I like the most about Amsterdam. There are so many different people living here and I think it is wonderful. It really opens your mind to see how other people think and see the world. One thing is that there are so many nationalities, but also so many colourful people with crazy life stories or lifestyles that I could not even imagine before. Amsterdam is kind of freeing and letting you be who you are.

The streets are a free flea market

The Dutch generously give away their used things that are in perfect condition. In little less developed countries, people would never be so generous and would just sell their old stuff. Here a perfect cupboard, super comfy couch or a beautiful dining table is no biggie to just give away. They just put it on the street and anybody can take it. According to my friend somebody has also left a MacBook, jeans with 100 euros and a kilo of marijuana. Not sure if that is kindness or just certain level of highness.

Need a job?

I can say it is not so difficult to find a job in Amsterdam if you don’t speak the local language unless you have really high standards. There are also many organisations helping people with finding a job. Statistics say that the Netherlands unemployment rate has decreased to 6% this year. And if nothing works out for you, you can always be a freelance bike stealer, drug dealer or just turn to the red lights.

Let’s go for a walk!

Walking around in Amsterdam is always interesting. Even if you lived here for a long time you still discover things that you have not seen before. I just recently discovered that there is an entire shop just selling rubber ducks and another one selling “The Pussy Pendant’s”, necklaces that look like women’s private parts. I haven’t seen anyone wear the last one, though.

Plus the city is just beautiful. You never get tired of the canals and the houses on them.

 

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The not so good stuff but possibly can laugh about later? 

Bikes come, bikes go.

I think I have bought around 6 bikes during my stay here. I might be even one of the lucky ones. Some people buy multiple bikes in a month. The first bike I bought was via a market website but the rest of them I bought through a bike junky. Since they are getting stolen so often it’s not worth to invest a lot of money on it. Often the bike locks cost more than the bike itself, trying to avoid getting your rusty piece of metal stolen.

My friend managed to keep the same bike for five years, though. It’s coloured bright red and just recently I thought that what a dumbass I have been that I have not painted my bike into some crazy colours because junkies don’t usually steal bikes that you can already notice from hundred meters. It’s much harder to sell them too. If you buy a stolen bike that’s painted neon green with some purple dots on it, for instance, the owner will right away notice it if you happen to run into him or her. Or you have to buy a paint and start repainting with takes more effort than just getting one with dull colours. So here’s a life lesson for living in Amsterdam. Make your bike look super sassy.

Biking in Amsterdam is a headache for the locals. Being pretty much a local person (could already get a citizenship), I have almost killed a dozen of tourists on my way or ringed my bell till my finger falls off. If you are a tourist and you come to Amsterdam you do need to look all the time where are the bike lanes. And also look both sides before crossing the road. And look once more just in case. And if you see a bike is coming exactly towards you and the biker is stressfully ringing the bell, please step aside you are clearly strolling on the bike bath.

Customer service to the max

When it comes to customer service in Amsterdam, it definitely needs improvement. A lot of tourists have been happy for their services and have told me that everybody in Amsterdam is so friendly. That’s actually true if you are a tourist and only encounter the people in the restaurants, hotels, small shops and so on. Many workers are not even Dutch but coming from much warmer countries and will naturally greet you with their warm smiles.

If you live here and don’t speak fluent Dutch you can expect a certain level of racism. In that case, the Dutch are pretty lazy to serve you. I had a kidney infection, it hurt like hell and the fever did not want to go down. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend’s kickass medicine cabinet and he’s care I would be doomed. I went to the hospital for help and the doctor claimed that I probably have a kidney infection. We already established that earlier thanks to google and some acquaintances. In order to make sure of my illness and find out which medication do I need specifically, I needed to take a urine sample, but the doctor could not find a cup. Not a single cup in the whole hospital???? Yeah, sure…

My friend went to the doctor and then the doctor started to google in front of him the possible diagnostics. Also whatever you have, just keep taking paracetamol, no worries.

90% chance to be homeless.

Finding a place to live is the most difficult thing in Amsterdam. Finding a place you actually like to live in is almost impossible. I have already written about this before that the demand is so much higher than the offer and unless you are a millionaire you have a huge disadvantage with finding a place. If you need a place start looking many many many many months in advance and watch out for scammers.

Obvious scammer alert: I am sorry, my dog died and so I am not in the country, but the apartment is very good so you can send me the money and I send you the keys.  Not so obvious scam, but a true story: You visit the apartment a couple of times. You decide you like it. You sign a contract, receive the keys and finally turns out the keys only opens the front door of the building but not the door for the apartment. And like magic the owner has disappeared. And since you don’t speak fluent Dutch the police is a little “busy” tonight.

Processed food.

In my opinion, the food is pretty bad here. All processed and nothing tastes fresh. This is probably why I started losing hair like a cancer patient and developed anaemia and most likely am missing five more very important ingredients from my body.  The chicken tastes like it had diabetes, the cow smoked too much and the little piggy went to the wrong market. Finding good meat was the most challenging for me.

BUT!  There are cheese and stroopwafels. Yummy, yummy in my tummy.

I will miss the city for sure, not every aspect of it, but it was still a nice experience. I’m glad I met Amsterdam!

Thoughts On Amsterdam

An Estonian Wedding. #reenajaahto2016

Here we go, the pictures of the first wedding I have ever been to. I did not really know what to expect not only because I have never been to one, but also each wedding is different.
The wedding started off with a ceremony in the church and continued with the celebrations that were held in Taagepera castle. The whole wedding was very active, full of fun games and entertainment, so even my non-Estonian speaking boyfriend could enjoy. Some games were only for the couple, for instance sending off the wife’s maiden name and games to see how well they know and agree with each other , other games included only the guests.
Many guests received tasks to do throughout the wedding. I was the “dance kitty” and my responsibility was that people would be dancing the whole night. Others were responsible that people will drink enough during the wedding, there was a thief to steal other people’s belongings, there were the replacement wedding couple in case the newlyweds need a rest and much more. Lastly, multiple famous Estonian artists came to perform. The next day I could feel it in my body that we had a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

 Many happy years and lots of luck to the newlyweds!

Visit Estonia

“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.”
As I promised I will tell you about my little trip to Estonia. After being together for more than four years, it was about time for my boyfriend to see where I am from. I don’t know how come this did not happen earlier. Better late than never, right?
I was very nervous for some reason. I believe I was a lot more nervous than he was meeting my family and friends. I was also scared for the language barrier but he told me that all he needs is the sauna and to play with my dog. That put a little pressure off my shoulders that if that’s all he gets he will be happy. Of course, I offered more.

I came some days earlier than he to do my usual errands like the dentist, banking and other stuff. He arrived just in time for my uncle’s birthday party. Luckily that day the weather was wonderful! My uncle lives a little outside the city and has a large land where he has a humble house, with a spot for a new sauna, a place for growing vegetables and you can go fishing down by the river. I got less and less anxious when I saw that my family was making great effort to speak English and my boyfriend was enjoying too. We ate good food, wild boar meat and smoked fish,  and played many games and drank.

 

The second day was the day we got very unlucky with the weather and met the massive storm. In general, when you visit Estonia you can never rely on the weather hundred percent. It can be especially hard for people who plan a summer wedding outdoors. So you need to have a backup plan with indoor activities. On that day we visited the science centre AHHAA. They offer a fun way to learn about science through games and interesting discoveries. I guess it is always more fun for kids,  but adults can enjoy a lot too.

 

 

Obviously, I made a tour around my hometown to show him the main sights. It really is a small country and a small city. You know it is a small nation when you walk around the city and recognise an old classmate from a billboard, see an old schoolmate from a TV advertisement or your friend sees a familiar face on a newspaper that you are just about to use for grilling.
The Toome Hill. 

University. 

 

The main square. 

The kissing students fountain.

The A. Le Coq beer factory.

We also visited the Estonian Aviation museum. Usually, they offer different attractions like simulators of American mountains or parachuting, but they got damaged by the storm before so we did not get the chance to try them out. The museum showed many aircraft’s and helicopters dating back to the nineteen fifties and you could go inside to some of them too.

 

 

 

 

Some other days when the weather was great again so we went to the beach and met up with my friends for drinks. Funny fact that my boyfriend noticed when we went out to eat pizza was the strange variety of them. The Italians usually offer the traditional pizzas, but in Estonia, we have created a lot of new types. Some with reindeer meat, with wild mushrooms, pumpkin puree or other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many evenings we also went to the sauna. As our tradition, we beat ourselves and each other with birch branches in the heat. This is very good for the health but sounds sadistic to a foreigner. Despite how crazy it sounds my foreigner quite enjoyed the birch beating in the end.
The main reason why I visited Estonia, this time, was my friend’s wedding. It was the first wedding I have ever been. She held it in Taagepera castle. The spot was beautiful and the wedding was awesome too. Throughout the wedding, there were many activities, fun games and some famous Estonian performers attended too. I don’t have all the pictures of the wedding or the movie yet, but some pictures of us and a video of a famous crazy Estonian drummer, who performed there too.

 

Even though the Estonian landscape is very flat and rather boring and Estonians need a couple of drinks before they open up, my boyfriend had a lot of fun nonetheless. And we have good meat in a large variety. I’m sorry Dutchies, but I developed anaemia here by losing appetite for the meat. And last but not least, nothing can beat a good Estonian sauna!

Photos of Estonia

I’ll share some photos of my visit to Estonia at times when it wasn’t raining. In the beginning of my trip the weather was beautiful, but shortly turned into a massive storm and it rained heavily. Me and my boyfriend, who visited Estonia for the first time, were visiting the Toome hill when suddenly heavy storm broke down. We were trying to hide under a tree and then made a run to a nearby hotel to get some cover. Flood was everywhere and we were completely wet. It was crazy: many cars lost their licence plates while driving through the flood, a tennis court that was located down a hill got damaged by the dirt pouring down on it, two boats on a lake needed rescue and one of the boats completely drowned after the people got out, even the shopping malls had many problems like water all over the floors and one parking lot was closed down due to excessive water. I haven’t witnessed any storm like this before.
 Luckily, there were also some beautiful moments and some sun too. I’ll add some pictures first and then I will tell you all about my trip later on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback travels.

I’m back in Estonia! It’s so good to be home, especially when it is much warmer here than in Amsterdam. I stumbled upon my family’s old photo albums and found some funny travel pictures.  I started travelling already at a young age and fell in love with it. I decided I will share a few of those old photos to show where I have been as a kiddo, way before I could blog about it.
The Chinese Wall. I climbed it when I was twelve years old. We went there in March 2005, and I bet there were a lot fewer people then. I have seen the photos taken now and it looks chaotic. Mass tourism really ruins places. I don’t know why I look so serious in the photo. Must have been a looooong walk.
Of course, I bought some fake brand sneakers in Beijing. They were too cheap and there were too many choices. It was a must.
The next picture is taken in Morocco that I visited in 2006. I went to Agadir and Marrakech. When I went there with school last year, I visited some same spots again. Morocco was one of my favourite holiday spots at that age. The beach was wonderful with amazing waves, the people were friendly and the food was great. Even though I was young, Moroccan men paid a lot of attention to me. One man walked five times past the restaurant we were eating at. Another man offered 200 camels to my parents so I could stay in Morocco with him. Back then the attention did not bother me so much as now when I have grown a lot.

 

In Marrakech. I would not make the same picture again as the one below. Now I am more aware of how animals are badly used for tourist products and I do not want to support this. I found something very funny in this photo, though. I was already wearing a marijuana necklace. Amsterdam must have been my destiny.

 

The last one was made in Gran Canaria on a banana farm. I was sick on the arrival to Gran Canaria, but as soon as I saw the sea the fever dropped immediately and I went swimming in the sea. This picture is taken in 2003 when I was ten years old. This was my first exotic trip, before that I had been to Latvia and Finland and other nearby countries that are less exotic to an Estonian.
What memories! Soon I’ll let you know what I’m up to in Estonia.

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