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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.

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 thats 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 organizations 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 colors.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 boyfriends 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 to lose 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!

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.

Amsterdam from the rooftops.

There are a few places in Amsterdam with a great view of the city. One of them is the Volkshotel, which is a new and very hip hotel. It has a rooftop restaurant also some hot tubs on the roof and sometimes they organise interesting events, rooftop cinema nights for instance. I have been wanting to visit the place for a while. I went there with my friend recently to enjoy the food and see the view. The food was good, but nothing too special but I really liked the place itself. Besides the view, the hotel seemed really cool, had a young atmosphere and it has a good location to the city. Very artistic and creative place. I did not take any pictures of the hotel itself, but I will share some of the cloudy Amsterdam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rihanna ANTI world tour.

I have never been to a huge concert to see a big star performing before. This time, I had the chance to go see Rihanna ANTI world tour in Amsterdam. She was performing at the huge football stadium. I was so excited and did not know what to expect. I and my friend arrived a little later so we missed the Weekend’s performance. The Weekend and Big Sean were the warming up performers. After Big Sean, we were waiting for Rihanna. We kept looking at the stage and suddenly people started screaming. She arrived from a different entrance. She looked so tiny from where I was sitting. Her voice was beautiful and she put on a great show.
As I was hoping for, Rihanna also sang some of her older songs and not only from the new album. I loved the moment when it was getting darker and she asked everybody to turn on their flashlights and then the whole stadium lit up and looked like a sky full of shining stars. And then she started singing: “Shine bright like a diamond.”
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At some moment during the show, I felt so small. She is only a few years older than me and there I was listening to her among the mass while she was performing for the whole mass.

 

Thank you, Rihanna, for a great concert!