Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reality check

And, just like that, things end as abruptly as they begin.
I remember meeting my Mexican amiga in my first week in Tuebingen, when, after completing the first Math prep class, we felt compelled to relieve our academic inadequacies as well as get to know each other better over  a few drinks on my balcony. Few drinks turned into a few bottles and, before I knew it, we were telling   each other everything. That night I’d learnt about Ana’s hopeful romantic assuredness in her long-distance relationship with a boyfriend in Paris (which fell apart quicker than I had time to learn all the names of my classmates); about Cristina’s ongoing relationship with a guy in the States, who, throughout all their time together, seemed to spend more time apart than physically in the same place on the map-but who was I to judge, it seemed to be working for them. Over time, I had gotten to understand that there are certain “tricks” one develops in order to convince themselves they are happy in a long distance relationship. Sometimes, even so happy that they forget what it is like to have that person near and no longer feel the desire to align their direction  in life with that of their partner. 
Since then, our girl group drifted apart, as people arranged themselves into couple conglomerates-something I had never felt a part of, for one reason or another. My friendship with Christina, however unsteady, remained as something that was even more important than I realized at the time. Often enough, in the times of loneliness and depression, I’d felt as if she was the only person I could turn to, even if that involved more of just sitting around her dim, cold communal kitchen and commiserating about how much this program turned out to be a mis-advertisement, rather than addressing the real issue of our unhappiness. She often surprised and inspired me in her logical, practical and easy-going approach to life. And now, she will be leaving Tuebingen, Germany, me and this crazy Masters school behind, as she opens the door to her new chapter in her life. It makes me think than sooner, rather than later, this chapter will be closed for me as well. Surely, this seems like an impossible gap of time away from now, during which many things may happen that will change my view on the world and change my priorities. Undoubtedly, I cannot even fathom what I will deem worthy of doing upon (ever) finishing this degree. Only time can tell...

Monday, November 7, 2011

On making decisions

This is something I wrote back in July, while contemplating almost a year of living abroad:

What have I learnt out of my experience of coming to Germany?
I've learned that when it comes to making big decisions, don’t get sucked into  something just because it sounds exciting, or you don’t have any other options, or “someone” thinks it s a good idea…
really take it to heart, sit with it, see how it feels. You can even go as far as imagining yourself there, what would it be like, what are the potential struggles? Go online and find communities involved in this area/topic-talk to the people, see what they say, try to stay objective.

1.        Every decision has to come from a calm, peaceful place, in order for it to be the right one. As you are making a decision, ask the universe to give you three clear signs that it is right/not right for you  at this time.

2.      After  having made the decision, ask God for all protection and easing the transition into the new state of being/moving/new chapter of your life, removing the obstacles and surrounding you with the right people.

3.       Trust in the process and know there are no mistakes. If it doesn’t feel right, you are always free to leave and start something new in your life. Always. 

The return of the prodigal blogger

Seasons change, months go by...and somehow, I've managed to miss blogging about it for months now. Many exciting and new things transpired, most of which i had either managed to scribble down on pieces of paper that happened to be nearby, or store in my "internal blogging device". Needless to say, I feel a strong urge to catch up on my writing.
Well, for starters, I am much less depressed these days than I used to be. The idea of living in Europe is agreeing with me more and more and after having made some effort into making my life more comfortable and bearable, I now have quite a positive outlook on the remainder of my time here.
I have not yet set any big goals for myself for the next year, what matters to me now is whether I had managed to live my day as happy as I can, while staying true to myself- and that is what I call a successful day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Call of the wild

Whenever I wake up much earlier then I'd like,  tiredly dragging myself, half-awake and still sleepy-eyed to whatever it is I have to do that day: a class, or, worse yet, a "job" that doesnt pay me any money, that I find extremely boring and a total waste of time. I hate doing something for the sole reason of getting a small piece of a puzzle for someone else: imagine learning new software, spending days entering data, figuring out how it works, just so that in the end, you can get a number for someone to put into yet another software to "improve" their model. It all seems pretty unreal and, well, useless. 
So i'm asking myself in the mornings: is this really what my life had come to? Is this "growing up"? If so, I don't really want it -no, thanks! I truly miss the days of waking up on the edge of civilized settlements and hearing a helicopter starting up, getting ready for a new and exciting day of adventures. Every morning is fresh, as you head out from your tent to the breakfast one, there is a sense of newness and anticipation.

I have just finished reading some great, lengthy e-mails of a friend of mine doing geology work in Cambodia. And it made me remember the beauty and romanticism of being a geologist in the first place, the reason why so many before us got into geology: the sense of discovery, adventure and pioneering spirit. 
Unfortunately it has now mostly been replaced by big money, solid job and a steady supply of cash that lets you afford everything an avergage person can dream of: a big house, new car, 1-2 vacations to Mexico a year.
However, it takes more than the average person to throw themselves into the wild, the unknown, with a leap of faith and see what comes up for them. It often includes struggles with the seasons, nature, loneliness, tiredness, frustrations...all to be reimbursed by amazing life experience, growth and knowing one's self.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm only happy when it rains

What could be more serene and peaceful than watching the downpour from the warmth and comfort of your home, sipping hot cocoa and indulging in a book you've been putting off? These are my favourite kinds of days. That's not to say that I don't love the hot, sunny, "let's go to the beach" kinds of days either, but this is something different, where I feel no guilt in spending all day meditating, staying at home by myself. There is nothing more soothing than a sound of rain (in the absence of the ocean waves, of course). These are the pensive, creative kinds of days, that allow you to tap into your inner being, to slow down and just be here...

View from my window

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Europe excitement

Realizing how close I am to Italy, being in South Germany, is rather an exciting thought. I remember my giddy excitement as a little kid when my dad brought me Swiss chocolates after visiting Zurich and some of Italy and ever since then my interest towards Italian culture and the desire to visit it someday had been growing. And here I am now! It's rather funny how despite being in Germany, I am much more interested in seeing the neighboring countries instead. It's not that I don't find Germany interesting, in fact, I love the vast wheat fields, little farming towns, rolling green hills and even some of the larger cities. It's just that given the choice, I'd rather be by the seaside instead, and a warm one, preferably. Thus, the Mediterranean coast is my best (and closest) option. There is really nothing like waking up by the sea and taking a stroll in the warm morning sunlight, perhaps stopping by the bakery, full of people enjoying their morning coffee and a newspaper, to get your fresh bread and then heading home to have a sumptuous, leisurely breakfast on your balcony overlooking the promenade. -That's me reminiscing of our times spent in La Pineda. And it's view like these that make me want to come back for more (taken during my first trip to the Mediterranean coast in October):

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

I woke up today only by convincing myself that I can as long as I actually show up for my "scientific practice" at the Water Research Centre, I can successfully do nothing. Check emails, sit on facebook,-whatever it takes to make the 3 hours go by faster and less painfully. Yes, I know that I am supposed to be happy about doing something real, learning new skills and somehow "moving towards" eventually writing my thesis, but when I am giving up my only free morning when I could've been sleeping in, it's awful, it's terrible, and I am never in the  mood to work or "impress anyone". Better yet, I've made next to zero progress in the last 3 weeks, as I am still working on the same set of well data. Good thing they're not paying me, ha!

By the time lunch rolled around, I've noticed the grumpiness lifting bit by bit. And when I finally came home after another 3-hour lecture, one of my best friends from Russia was online and was willing to talk to me, endlessly. So here's what I've been meaning to say for a while:

I am so, so grateful for the wondeful friends in my life who make every day things fun. What started out as the kind of day that your cannot wait to finish, turned into a happy, content, loving one! And it doesn't matter whether we meet on the computer in some cyber space or in real life.  What matters is the amount of love, compassion and understanding pouring out of their hearts. I am one lucky girl to have these friends! Thank you :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Why couldn't life just be as simple as: put on a new outfit, buy a new pretty dress and feel happy? Or why can't it just be all about pleasure and vanity? Get up, make your hair pretty, your face glowing, eyes sparkling, go out for yummy cake and lay down with your loved one, cuddling and watching a movie in the evening...why does it have to be deeper than that? why do we have to think about careers and what to do with our lives and how to make money and what we need to do on a daily basis in order to not fall behind, not to sit still and "fall out of the boat of life"? Or do we at all? Is that what people mean by "stepping out of the rat race" and enjoying every small moment instead? I mean, where is the difference between vanity/shallowness and honest contentment?
 Or does it go back to the same "the things that make you happy define your level of awareness" type of thing?
I wish life was really just as simple as buying a new shirt sometimes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Resistance is futile

Resisting is the theme of the day, it seems.
I find that I must give up my childish, innocent views of the world for something more mature and grown up: accept that not everyone will always care about you and appreciate your company, accept that most people care about very little other than themselves.

So i ask myself: at which point is it worth it to give up, to change the dream from the one you'd thought you wanted to the next one? at which point do you say: enough, I've changed and I no longer benefit from this experience?
The one good quality of unhappiness is that it motivates us to change, to morprh, to strive for that which is not where you are now, to move towards the opposite, the happiness...
I get that noone can make your life happen FOR you, that I cannot just sit and idly watch as the things I want start to appear in my life. Although, wouldn't that be nice?  

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lake Constance

I've been meaning to go to a lake of some sort, ever since the weather got nice and sunny here. Not that it's hot enough for swimming yet-of course not, but I do find it much more enjoyable to suntan and read a book in a vicinity of a clear, non-man made water body. Thus, my options in Tuebingen are limited to a stretch of an island green space in the middle of the town, full of tourists and youngsters. So I thought back to last October, when, on the way to Switzerland, we found the cutest little campsite, proudly boasting it's “eco-ness”. While I am not exactly sure what's so “eco” about it (surely, not the prices!), I did very much enjoy their wonderful, uniquely built wooden huts.

Thus, having finally decided to do it, on my own, I'd left Tuebingen with a backpack on my shoulders, which had become a rather pleasant, adventurous sensation...After quite uneventful, although comfortable 3 hrs and 3 changeovers, I had arrived in a tiny town of Allensbach, known only for its fantastic location right on the lake. (well, the thinner arm of the lake, as it;s quite huge!). I had no certain plan,  or a map, even, of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I just knew I wanted to “be there”. Having dismounted the train, an instant smile spread across my face: I made the right choice by coming here! It took only a short, 15-min walk to the campsite, most of it along the lake shore, watching the cyclists, kids playing with the inflatable boats, adults enjoying the afternoon drink in the sun of their balconies, walking along the cutest houses and gardens I have seen yet!

Upon arrival, I was quite happy (and surprised) to find out that a wooden hut rental is almost the price of a tent with 2 adults! (29 vs 20 euros). I much  prefer not having to carry any of my own equipment for such a small price difference, having electricity, staying front row to the lake and enjoying a warm, comfy sleep in one of these cute German creations. I still cannot get used to how they calculate campsite prices here (that goes for France and Spain as well)-there is never a set price, but rather a collection of a lot of partial fees. For example, the size of the tent matters then each person has a surcharge, then the car spot if you need one,-so while it can look cheap on the website, by the time they add it all up, you're looking at 17-25 euros a night. Not bad for renting out a piece of grass, huh?

Of course, as soon as I was ready to don on my bathing suit and get some well-deserved sun, the sky grew ominous gray , followed by a few consecutive thunder claps. One word of advice: when travelling to small towns like this one, always carry cash with you. The campsite doesn't even accept debit or credit cards, so, braving the elements, I went in search of a bank machine in town. Luckily, the town itself is so small, it took me only 20 minutes to find out that my bank did not grace them with its presence and I had to just suck it up and pay the fee to draw from the ATM (which is quite steep, by the way- 4 euros!-could've had lunch for that price!). Well, I,m sure I will be better prepared next time. On the way back to the campsite, I was amazed at all the cute cafes and restaurants situated right on the lake, with the prettiest views. I mean, this town is just all about relaxing: the shore walking path goes on for miles and miles, if walking if what you need. There are many beaches and green parks on the way also, with few boat rental locations, quite reasonably priced. I figured I;d let the weather decide what it wants to do and wait until the morning for the boat, as I'm in no  rush to jump back on the train early in the morning. And for now-it's coffee, cake and water fowl watching time!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

...aaand, I'm back!

Back to the land where beer is same price as the water used to produce it. Why drink water then? :)
I think Germany is trying very hard to greet me with extra charm this time, as to make up for my first impression upon initial arrival: upon landing in Memmingen, I paid for the bus shuttle to the nearest train station, seeing how I was the only one heading in that direction, they gave me a taxi instead, straight to train station doors, no walking required! Trying to find the nearest beverage station, a group of giggling girls approached me, asking if I need a ticket (they have these non-person unique province tickets). Here I'm thinking to myself: “aha, I know this trick. So how much are they gonna ask for it?” while I am trying to calculate in my tired, dehydrated head how much I am willing to dish out for a second hand ticket, She says: “here, take it, owe got a group one, I don't need it anymore!”
Oh, heavens! What joy in these simple, unexpected encounters. SO not only did I save 20 euros, but also I am smiling and happy, despite my journey home taking over 6 hrs. Why not, when you receive pleasant surprises on the way?
And once again, I have to say that I am a huge RyanAir fan. Not only was this flight on time, it was half hour early ( not that I needed it), the baggage came out before I even got a chance to go to the bathroom, and it was 67 euros from Spain to Germany! What's not to like? They are awesome (well, besides being kind of like a flying “TV infomercial channel” non-stop. But that's how they make their extra money that we save on flying costs, so I am quite, quite ok with it!

And here I am now, in the country where the language makes no sense to me. My brain is still attempting to speak Spanish to everyone I see, I'm guessing it will take a few days to recover, just how I couldn't stop saying “danke, danke” in Italy. I'm just about 48 hrs behind on the language transitions, I guess :)

And so, with the last toe dip in the Mediterranean sea and few grains of sand still clinging to my skin, I am off to the great mighty Deutschland. I am trying my best to only live it one day at a time, really I am, but I am scared about what will come once this vacation is over and reality sets in. Which is inevitable now. 3 weeks have gone much too fast again, leaving me with endless memories and pictures and stories that will be remembered and told over and over again. Mom is the best traveling companion in the world and I feel so so blessed to have been able to experience all these countries and cultures, their history and traditions. I feel that we succeeded in merging with every culture to our fullest extent by walking the streets, participating in the markets, talking to the locals in whatever language was possible at the time...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

History time!

Overall a very fulfilling, history-rich day. We visited three different places today, two of which are UNESCO's world heritage sites! It's quite amazing to immerse yourself in history and different cultures just by driving 45 min from one place to another. From a 12th century Cisterian monastery, with original Order of the Temple marks all over the church walls, to a 2nd century Roman amphitheater, surprisingly well preserved considering its close proximity to the sea. I guess the Romans really knew what they were doing?
I love driving on the small, countryside roads, watching the rolling hills, scenery and the occasional church poking out from another small town as we drive by. The gentle sun, the warm air, the smells....Spain is so beautiful, so relaxing, so unpretentiously awesome. I am blessed to be here with my favourite person of all time!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Because it's...still my Birthday!

Still pretending as if it's my birthday-why not? One day is simply not enough. 
This morning I woke up in Valencia and here I am now, in a small suburbs of Tarragona, in a beautiful resort, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. After much driving, walking and becoming familiar with surroundings, finally I had a chance to just sit by the sea, listening to its roar, walking on the wet sand, looking at the lights of the water glistening in front of me. Spain is very sunny and getting warmer by the day.

Today went much more smoothly, to say the least: all you have to do is wake up, pack your things into the car that is already there and drive, on sunny, countryside Spanish roads... and here I am now, in the little suburb of an industrial port town of Tarragona, which is known for its rich Roman history of settlements and archeologic remains. I am quite excited to visit those tomorrow, as well as hopefully find one of the outdoor markets I have been longing for (as if Jemma al Fina in Marrakech wasn't enough, but they are always so different everywhere, you just have to experience them all!) Plus I only packed 2 pairs of shoes, hoping to buy wonderful new Spanish made leather somethings, and here I am.... still, almost shoe-less (in female terms!). So tomorrow, high hopes for sunny day, markets and lots of history and beautiful sites.
As far as today went, we drove into our magnificent resort (once again, I feel grateful for being a timeshare owner!), worthy of being compared to a 5 star Mexican one. We checked ourselves into this spacious 1 bedroom apartment, overlooking the sea, complete with a brand new kitchen, the kind I will never have in my apartment in Germany. The only downside? This town is swarmed with Russians! I mean, every third person is Russian. Not only is it a bit annoying, but also it makes this place lose some of its authenticity. I am still trying to understand why on Earth they chose this city as their “mecca”, but one thing for sure-wherever Russians are, they drive the prices of everything up!

That is why even to go out for dinner, we drove to the nearest town on Selou, only 10 min away, which had much nicer restaurants and more reasonable prices. We ended up deciding on this little Italian place which had, honestly, the best salad I had ever tasted in my life. I savoured my food while pouring away the strong half litre Sangria (a must with every mealin Spain), watching the pizza cook tossing the dough and working this huge oven. The night culminated with an evening walk at the sea shore and much giggling, to our neighbors' frustration! Ahh, life is good. Too bad one day here is gone already. I don't even want to think what I will do when this is over. But for now, life is blissful, careless and sweet.  

Well, I am off to bed in my new home for the next 7 days. And what a nice home it is! I love being a vacation owner :) Also, am getting quite efficient at this unpacking and packing procedure.

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's my Birthday!

What a difference a year makes! Last year I was in familiar territory, surrounded by friends, overjoyed by the many wonderful, lavish gifts that had been bestowed on me.
And this year? No parties, no birthday cards, no boxes to open (well, I had been given my presents earlier, before we left for this trip!) and yet, I am in a place I love the most with my best friend in the world-mom. And I couldn't be happier, despite the little "bumps" on the road.

Ever since having booked the suspiciously cheap car online, I had been wary of the day we'd have to go and pick it up... And, having landed in Valencia past midnight last night, we had to reschedule the pick up for this morning, which meant early wake up and no shower, make up, or breakfast time. Of course, things didn't go all too smoothly with either picking up a rental car at the airport, or me trying to save money on taxis and taking the subway, which ended up costing at least half the fare. So, after a near mental breakdown as I was being convinced that Spain simply does not have automatic transmission cars, a miracle happened! Turns out my beloved agency SIXT recently opened a new outlet near, but not inside the airport terminal, thus not many people even heard of it. And what do you know, they had the best little automatic Hyundai I10 for us, for a very decent price. With that , following the well-known "to the beach!" motto, we drove straight on until the sea was within reach. At this point I was emotionally exhausted,  unshowered and hungry. It only took a short stroll by the beachside restaurants for us to, unanimously, pick the best one, with the whole 3-course meal and wine! There, I had finally begun relaxing and believing that indeed, this is my birthday and I am in the best place in the world for that. Later, we managed to effortlessly navigate ourselves to the little wonder I'd been dreaming about seeing: "the City of Arts and Sciences"- I mean, could it be any more perfect for me, considering my interests? Rhetorical question.

I cannot express the stunning beauty of the park's architecture and just how thoughtful every detail is. The pictures don't even do it justice. Unfortunately, we came too late to see anything inside, but I was quite content just to walk around and  take all of that in. Here's a glimpse of it:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sahara the beautiful

Sahara, the magical. This was truly an experince of a lifetime, as I am not sure whether and when I would return to the African continent. We had booked an overnight tour to the entrance into the Sahara desert. Even tnhough it was just the beginning of the desert trail, it still took over 8 hours of driving on mountain roads to get there. And believe me, it was well worth it. At first I was disappointed about arriving so late that we didnt get to watch the sunset in the desert camp, as we were on the camels, walking away from it, into the dark. Only then did I realize that its even more magical: absolute silence of the desert, monotone rocking of the camel and the dark blue sky above, shining with big, bright stars...

And now, having been to the desert, having bartered like “true berber women” at the Jemma Al Fina central marketplace in Marrakech, it is time to depart into a much more civilized and easy going Espana (I am talking aboiut the dress code, of course). I have had enough markets, enough busy, loud, honking streets, guys whistling and yelling everywhere you go and corners, smelling of urine. Its been nice, but 6 days is clearly enough for an introductions into Morroccan culture, considering we spent 3 of those in the mountains and desert.
High Atlas Mountains in the background

view of the camp in the morning
view on the drive into the desert

Friday, March 18, 2011


And so we are onto last day in Florence, having gotten so used to being next corner to the San Lorenzo market, 5 minute walking distance from the Duomo and all the main attraction sites, we were on our way to spend a day in Pisa before heading off to the magical, mysterious land of Morocco.
To be honest, there is so much going on every day, from visiting museums, to walking by the river at the timeless Pointe Vecchio, towards Michelangelo Piazza, then dinner with the Florentine steak (first time I had decent meat since Germany! ) and grilled vegetables...and before you know, you hit the bed, as your feet are killing you from the cobble streets, and you're off to the dream realm as the nighttime Italian street sounds are serenading you to sleep.
But there are a few things I have to mention:

1) It's really worth it to stay right downtown, the closer to the train station, the better. I lucked out and, after reading all the affordable hotel reviews, we booked this great one, called "Hotel Globus"- it was beyond the best! Like I mentioned, it took us less than 10 minutes to walk there from the train, so considering the cobble street damage to your suitcase wheels, I'd say every minute counts. Not only was it close and affordable, although the rooms were on the small side, (but we never came home before bed time anyways, why stay inside when you're in Florence?) but they also took our bags up the stairs for us and had one of the best free  breakfasts I ever had, where, when you ask for coffee, you don't get a cup of "drippy", you get a fresh-brewed half litre pot to yourself! with warm milk! They even printed our itineraries for us. I mean, beat that!

2) I was quite worried about the not getting into the museums without a reservation, but it turned out much easier than I'd thought and read online prior to. Most of the museums let us in right on the spot and the Ufizzi Gallery has a separate window for buying the reserved tickets for a specific time. We showed up around 11 and the next available tickets were at 1, so we had a few hours to walk by the river and see the smaller museum nearby. So unless you really know your schedule by the hour, I wouldn't bother buying tickets online prior to your trip.

3) Train transportation is the cheapest and easiest way to get from one tourist site to another, but don't bother with the rail passes, they usually don't pay off, unless you are travelling very long distances. I booked my tickets a few months in advance and there were a few discount offers going on at the time, so it's worth checking them out or even signing up for newsletters to track the ticket sales.

And, with that, here are some pictures:
Pointe Vecchio

A courtyard next to the San Lorenzo church

View from Piazza Michelangelo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Florence, Day 2

You know you're in Italy when the bakery windows look like this...
...And people dress like this!
Laying in my bed, listening to the sounds of the street: merchants packing for the night and heading home, excited tourists sharing their stories of the day, crazy, loud, beautful Italians, whose language still sounds like a song to me. Every time I think that I will be leaving this wonderful place in 2 days, it makes me very sad that I will no longer hear the language of these happy, passionate people. I love it here.
in front of the Duomo

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bologna: Romeo and Juliet

Ever since stepping foot in this city, I promised to absolutely write about my experience here.
My guidebook mentioned Bologna as a "city with medieval charm and a gastronomical capital of Italy", but did not seem too keen on spending more than a day here. So, we'd booked a one night here, as it's on the way between Milan and Florence anyways. And what a plesant surprise it was! Bologna is truly a hidden gem. From the moment we checked into our historic hotel (Il Guercino, which I highly recommend), I felt like we traveled back a few hundred years to the times when Shakespeare was writing his great works. We found cute courtyards, amazing little stores and pleasant personal encounters;  you feel welcome and relaxed everywhere you go. I regretted spending 2 nights in Milan prior to that and not taking the train to Bologna that same night. What a difference a smaller city makes!

As soon as we stepped into the "inner city", armed with delicious fried sweet pastries drenched in honey, I literally felt the history in everything: buildings, walls, churches, main piazza. Despite being there for less than a day, we managed to walk most of the old town part of the city, climb the observatory tower (3 euros only, don't pass it up!), but... we did not find a suitable restaurant! Despite being labelled a gastronomical capital, an inviting, cozy restaurant with a good menu is difficult to find. I usually try to avoid obviously "tourist traps" and between that and endless pizzerias, there was really nothing else. It's a good thing we experimented and went into a deli, picked out some cheese (mostly talking in hand gestures) and porchetta (this roasted pork thing with herbs-it's to die for!). So, at the end of the night, as we finally found our way back to the hotel, picking up a few pastries, fresh bread and this delicious sparkling red wine (which I haven't been able to find since!) on the way, we've decided to settle for a dinner in the room quite, which mind you, turned out to be quite an array of delicacies!

Everything about Bologna impressed me: the old way of life, the attention to detail, evident in most things, the Italian authenticity...I highly recommend it a stop over with many things for any tourist to explore, whether you're staying for a day or getting lost in the culture for a few...

A random colorful street
The Royal Feast!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Milan, day 1

Let me start off with this: I am in my hotel room, with a balcony overlooking the secondary streets if Milan and straight into the windows if the unsuspecting residents across from me :)
I got here after 4 hrs of sleep, a short flight and many, many hours of sightseeing.

Impressions from today? Huge city, confusing bus/tram system, the only understandable way is to travel by the metro. Unfortunately, I had not checked how close our hotel is to a metro station and it turned out that... yes, there are none nearby! So the only way to get to the area, despite being just outside the inner city ring, it by taking  a wooden tram that looks like it had not had any renovations since 1920's.

Honestly, we went to Milan why most tourists go to Milan: to see the Duomo and the Galleria. And you know what, the Duomo exceeded my expectations by a 1000 and it is truly something that you just have to see in person. The extent of it, as you enter inside, will blow you away. Endless stained glass windows, sculptures and amazing marble columns everywhere, not to mention thew fact that it is a functioning church, so when we were there, I got to witness the people lining up to the confessions booth, some as young g as 20, which I've only ever seen in the movies before, like the Boondock saints!

Also, it turns out we got here just in time: Italy is celebrating its 150's birthday and we got to witness a very dysfunctional parade, as well as many fun costumes and hats, and people all in good spirits all around... One little downer? Eating out can get expensive and you really don't know how much everything costs exactly until they tell you and it often it feels like they just make the price in their heads!

And then... I had a chocolateria "incident", but I'll tell you about it later :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Epic Europe trip!

The idea of an extensive trip through Europe didn't come all at once. Truthfully, I don't even remember how it happened anymore. All I know is, it somehow all fell into place, perfectly: my mom and I and at least 3 new countries! It started out with us booking the resort in Spain for a week since we own timeshares around the world. We knew that Italy had to be included, and seeing at least most of the northern-central part was a must. From there on, suddenly it was a choice between Egypt and South Africa, and I said: "If we're going to Africa, we're going to Morocco!". I had been fascinated with Arabic culture, from costumes, to traditions, to music, for a very long time now and the opportunity to experience it personally would just be over the top amazing! And, many weekends spent on trip planning and research later, which successfully kept the stress of homework and exam preparation away, here we were: embarking on our 3-week, 3-country majestic trip, knowing that only the best lies ahead.

Here's the itinerary:

Stuttgart-Milan (2 days) flight-->Bologna (train) 1 day--->Florence 3 days (train)-->Pisa 1day (train)--->

Marrakech, 6 days--->Valencia (2 nights)--->Tarragona (7 days)-->home (but I'm not thinking about that part yet!)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


What is home and where is it?

I asked a friend and she said, simply, without a hesitation: "home is where my cat is!" To most people, home is where their family is, sometimes it may include few generations under one roof...

 Well, here I am. No cat, no family, just a few friends who barely even know who I really am.
And yet, for the first time, I feel at home. I have realized that the longing I have been feeling for some time is not just the longing to be with my close friends and loved ones, but it is also my heart longing to be at peace with myself. No longer needing to run, to distract myself with a myriad of things, people, new experiences. But simply be, taking it one day at a time and practicing being as present and joyful as I can. Because at the end of the day, when your heart is not at peace with yourself, no matter where you go, nothing will amuse you, nothing will amaze you, nothing will bring you happiness-not when there is none inside.

So today is really about how I am going to live day by day, noticing the miracles (so-called "synchronicities"), being the centered, calm "me", who does not feel the need to rush anywhere or distract myself with the outside world.

When my heart is content, I am at home, I am at peace.

Wishing you a all wonderful evening, may the stars show you the way :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Decisions, decisions.

Making decisions for happiness, based on happiness.
I don't know about you, but my whole life the only area I really struggled in was the making decisions department. I usually felt too overwhelmed with the variety of options, or otherwise limited and trapped by having too few. In either case, I would usually procrastinate and wait until "the choice makes itself", either by missing all the other opportunities or by forfeiting my right to participate. I've often felt as if someone was always watching a waiting for me to make the wrong move, so they can judge in their self-righteousness. And so I have always been envious of the "make a choice and never look back" mentality. It always sounded too good to be true. "So you mean any choice I make is a good one as long as I learn from it?"- I would often ask, in complete disbelief. I guess somewhere deep inside there has always been an installed belief in pure "right" and "wrong", which now, I am beginning to admit, does not exist. 
Often we find ourselves to be a different person that the one who made a decision that led you to where you are now. So we evaluate and change the course. It is only natural to change direction as your inner self morphs into something new. Often we try to put ourselves in  a "box of definitions": I am this and not that... and we think this is the way it has to stay. And it doesn't.
As we morph and grow into the people we envision or cannot even imagine yet, everything changes. Sometimes it's ok to do a 90-degree turn and sometimes it is ok to do a 180. As long as you are making that decision from a place of peace and happiness in your heart. 
Granted, it would be nice to see "what's around the corner". It would be nice to have a glimpse of the consequences of your decisions before you make it. But more often that not, we already know what that decision is. Life points it out to you if you are open and ready to listen. In many subtle ways: through song lyrics, people we meet, things we read,-we are guided, constantly. And as long as the idea of what we "must be" does not stand in our way, I believe in our capacity to make the right decisions for ourselves and for the whole...based on happiness.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Exam time

Second exam of this week-done!
Well, this was one of the fastest exams I had ever written. The 2 hours went by in a blink of an eye and upon exiting, a funny feeling settled in: one of lightness and clarity. It is as if I has purged all of the information from my brain and onto the paper. and now i am light and free! with only 1 exam left to go, I feel like this weight is lifting off my shoulders. After the exam, I noticed the air was pleasantly warm outside, although the day is once again overcast. So I got off the bus a few stops early and took a walk through a little green patch to get to my home. It was quite a lovely leisurely walk. As I stood there, looking at all the hills and cute little homes down in the valley, i thought to myself "What am I missing here? Skyscrapers? Chinook mall? More concrete? More traffic? More construction?" And I realized that these 2 years abroad are going to go by very very fast and before I know it, I will be back in Canada, reminiscing about these beautiful green hills and cute homes and total lack of vertical architecture. So I better enjoy this, while it is here, in all its simple, unpretentious beauty. Yes, Europe is not the place I see myself "settling in", but I do want to see as much of it as I can, while I can and marvel at its history and beauty, at its own pace of life.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A feel-good pill?

So this is what we've become: a  feel-good society, where we no longer can express something non-positive, no longer is it acceptable to just vent and hope for compassion and understanding-no. Everyone has to look for the deeper meaning, spiritual-ize everything. when I am simply lonely and homesick, so why cant anyone else simply acknowledge that? I don't need a lecture on what to do and how to feel, I already know that. I don't need any justifications for my existence. I just want simple, human compassion. 
But no, we are not allowed to express compassion anymore towards somebody who's wallowing. No time for that! Just get up and move on. No time to acknowledge any feelings that are not positive or constructive. 

What happened to standing still? Feeling the emotions through and through, releasing them one by one without looking for shortcuts or glaze-overs. What happened to simply honoring how you feel: good or bad, without distinction?

Yes, i am happy for those people who can use pain and life experiences as some inspirational stuff to write about., share with people, motivate others... Me? I just want to wallow.  For a day or two... who cares. I don't want to spiritualize it, write about it in some ambiguous terms, pretending to understand the intricate workings of the universe and my place in it... I just want to say: i feel bad today. not good. I don't feel happy right here and right now. For many reasons. Some simple and some complex.

Sure, you can have all the tools in the world to solve a problem. But simply
 knowing what to do doesn't magically lift you out of how you feel. You still need to deal with and acknowledge your feelings, no matter what they may be. But first, the desire to change, the motivation has to arise. And I think sometimes that motivation can only come once you've had enough. Once you've had enough of feeling bad, low, depressed. But you cannot simply jump over that stage to the "feeling good again" part. 
Sure, our society will try to avoid pain at any costs: anti-depressants, sleeping pills, energy pills,- just go, go, go,-don't stop to think about it. Worse yet, feel it. "Life is a comedy for those who think and a drama for those who feel"-said a poster in my Junior High counsellor's office. Well, I disagree. Feeling are our natural barometer. They are the first ones to tell us when something isn't right, something is "off", before we even know what that may be. To rationalize your feelings is to lose touch with your inner self: when if you don't dig too deep, everything is fine and life is going according to plan. Just don't dig too far, we don't want that. Noone cares as long as all is fine on the surface. So we keep going.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

on love and fear

In order to get some of my sanity back after a hard exam this morning, I've decided to watch "Eat, Pray and Love" again. Admittedly, the book is much better than the movie, with much better insights and less emphasis on the happy ending. However, for the lack of better options, today was a movie-watching kind of day.
 So I wanted to write out some of my favourite quotes and my own thoughts on such.

"You disappear into the person you love: if I love you, you can have it all-my time, my money, my energy, my dreams ...I will give you all that and project on you all kinds of qualities you've never even had! I will give you all this and more, until i am so exhausted and depleted " (that i simply need to leave, end it, etc...)

Sounds familiar? Most of us have been there. We think when we are truly in love, there is no longer a need for boundaries and that's not right. Yes, loving means sharing, but not giving away! Boundaries are healthy and it's important to keep them there from day 1. The way you were regarding things which are important to you before you met the person, the same way you should regard them after. Losing yourselves in each other is only blissful in the first few weeks-months. Sooner or later you wake up to reality and you no longer recognize the person you've become and you start blaming your partner for "stealing you time" and now you want it back you want your life back, but to the partner it looks like a betrayal. Yes, some people really want nothing else than to lose themselves in someone, some relationship... indefinitely. They gladly sacrifice their careers, talents, ambitions, just for the sake of knowing that this person next to them will love them for it in return. After all, they gave all this up for you-now you owe them! And you will never be able to pay back THAT loan.

When things happen too fast, when someone just throws all their love and affection in you, you take it all in, and as soon as it is withheld, you start craving it, demanding it, turning resentful at the other .

"the object of your adoration is now repulsed by you.They start demanding their space as if you're some stranger, invading their territory. This kind of infatuation ends the same way-with complete devaluation of self, where you'll do anything to get that "hit" one more time."

Some people agree to be "miserable but happy not to be apart" - and they accept the dysfunctional relationship. And they settle for living in misery because they are afraid without each other it would be even worse, without each other their world would not exist, it would crumble to ruins...-but we all have the resources, the power, the strength to rebuild ourselves. 
"Ruined is a gift. ruined is a road to transformation. We must always be prepared for endless waves of transformation."

So here is the choice: do you base the decisions on fear or love?
Staying together out of fear of being alone, out of fear you won't make it, out of fear of change, of not being able to adapt, out of fear of making the wrong decision and perpetual regret. 
Out of fear of not finding a better mate, succumbed to living the rest of our lives alone. 
All of us have had these fears at least once in our lives. Looking back, we can tell the person we've become by the choices we've made: were they based on fear or love? truth or made-believe? When we make choices from a place of strength and leap into the unknown, supported by nothing but pure faith, that is when we open ourselves to the universe to bestow its blessings. You always have the choice of staying in a stagnant pool, where the water is warm and murky, but at least everything is familiar. and noone will judge you but yourself. Some people have lived many a happy life like that. But consider this: what does that life teach you in the end? Does it show you the potential you carry inside yourself, does it reveal the many gifts stored for you, waiting to be opened?
 ... the gifts that are waiting for you somewhere else, where you have to take the leap of faith to get to-the other road.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Power of now

Well, this is a lonely time around here. I am not a kind of person who lets go easily. I am a dweller. To let go, to separate, to leave the past in the past is not easy for me. It has never been. Yes, I have read all about the wonders of "dropping the weight of the past" and soaring into the bright new future. However, I am not one of those people who draws a line in the sand between past and present, makes a firm decision and then never crosses the line again.
 But I am slowly learning how to do that. 

In order to regain your lifeforce energy and make full use if it, you need to be fully present now. For your life to work, to get all the things you desire for yourself, your energy needs to be here and now. 
Sometime we do just need to let go. Too often we choose to play some roles in our lives that do not represent who we really are. Too often we think we need another to "fix us", to add some excitement to our lives... we feel lacking, feel that as long there is someone to patch the little holes in our emotional bodies, it might be ok, it might just work. But it is time to wake up and  realize our wholeness. To realize that you already are that which you are trying to become: all mighty, all powerful, reflection of the Universe,-a pure miracle. 

It is time for us to step into that power, own it, feel it, use it how we were meant to use it. Stop pretending that we are mere victims of life when we are not. 
We are perfect, whole and complete. 
Let it be!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What a neat date!

1.11.2011. I just had to write something!
Well, today was a hard lesson in the planning department. When you need a prescription in Germany, you must think and act accordingly at least 2 months prior to. What could have been an easy prescription refill back home now turns into a huge escapade. Last time I went to sign up with a doctor, he gave me this lovely calendar with all his holidays on it. As I turn up at his office today, turns out he's decided to extend it by another week. Totally lost, I ask the pharmacist where I can get a prescription refill, as she motions over to the next building, saying there is an office there, and it should be no problem. As I am climbing up a staircase in a small apartment building, there is a note on the door saying something "today only...prescriptions..3rd floor" (was I ever glad I had my German dictionary with me, thanks to my German class later on). Upon arriving at the third floor, another note greets me, with more unfamiliar German words. 15 minutes and many confusing word meanings later, I figured out the note said how they are only open from 2 til 4 today. Man, these Germans really need to check their work ethic. I mean, really, it's been 10 days into the New Year, people, enough celebrating!

Feeling a huge need for  improvement in my German, I was happy to get back into my twice a week language class routine. Only when I could not even say the first sentence fully in German did I realize how rusty I've become. It's funny how you can live in a country, yet completely get away without speaking the language. Ah, one day, German, I will conquer you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back at school!

First day of school back was horribly dreaded for a few days prior to, but turned out to be quite great! Of course, waking up before sunrise seemed like a horrible punishment for all those late holiday wake ups... but it was great to see familiar faces on the bus again, after two weeks off. Everyone was sharing stories about their travels and holidays breaks. Some went to visit friends in Dresden, Heidelberg, Berlin...others went all over Europe or back to their home countries. One thing was in common: all were complaining about the trains being cancelled, delayed or simply stuck in the snow. What should have been a 2-hour trip took at least twice that. Once again, I was quite happy with my decision to not leave the small and safe surroundings of Tuebingen. 
Later on, after surviving the glorious four hours of lectures, an impromptu trip to Metzingen was in order! How else do you celebrate the beginning of the last month of the winter semester? Thinking of all the exams and projects ahead, much cheering up was needed. So the four of us jumped on the first train heading to the shopping mecca of south Germany, giving the whole end of the season sale one more chance! That's one decision you can never go wrong with-shopping. Once again, I hit up my favourites: puma, triumph and lindt outlet (something for every part of the body). Of course, Lindt wins by a long shot in the instant gratification category. You should see all the flavours they've never even heard of in North America... it's a chocolate lover's heaven...I am reaching for one right now!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Some music for my gentle ears

I've finally decided to give classical music concerts a try. Not the free, amateur church kind either, but the real, big concert hall and full orchestra kind of concert. Am I ever glad I did.
Ok, so I can't say exactly whose pieces were played, as there were quite a few of them and I have decided to forgo the program (hey, they charge extra for it!). All i know is the selection was fantastic, the Prague Symphonic orchestra brilliant and the overall experience delightful. 
It is interesting that almost all the seats were sold out and all age categories were present.Watching some people in the audience, it was clear that this is not some social function for many, but a night to appreciate the genius of many great composers of the past. I will definitely be making these concerts a part of my cultural life here in Germany, especially with the 50% student discount on tickets!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

where is the snow?

It's been abnormally warm and spring-like in Tuebingen. Went for a nice walk by the Neckar river and the air smelled so fresh, so full of hope and the things to come! Everyone was out: older men with their dogs greeting each other on the streets, families taking pictures, moms pushing the kids in toy cars in front of them... Tuebingen is full of life on a Saturday!
Photo from last week, when I thought there was still a chance to go skiing this weekend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the travel bug

Some days all that gets me out of bed in the morning is dreaming of the travels to come, researching and planning the sights to see, things to take and to buy at local markets.
 A certain sense of excitement and adventures to be had renews my zest for life. 
When small town winter hibernation seems too much, I remind myself that I am in Europe and there are a million of places to go and see and now everything is that much closer.

 Today, out of curiosity, I “googled “ the best places to live in the world. Not surprising, Canada and new Zealand were second after Europe. Reading one of the websites full of reasons “why move to Calgary” did not inspire me whatsoever. What once seemed like valid, good points now are just weak justifications for settling for something else when my heart desires more. Maybe Calgary is a good place to settle for families with children, but from a single person's point of view, I would rather experience all the other places the world has to offer. 
Ones next to the ocean, preferably.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Once again, I come to the conclusion that happiness is a choice. You have to actively choose it and the actions that support it. This means not wallowing, not dwelling, especially in self-pity, or imagining the worst outcomes in the future, or even taking your thoughts seriously.
 By choosing happiness you are taking on a responsibility to dispel any negativity, to always choose love over fear,  to not associate yourself and your identity with the drama and past hurts and pains made up by your mind and perpetuated by your thoughts.

"You are unique, and you have to accept you as you are, instead of trying to repeat other people’s destinies or patterns. Insanity is to behave like someone that you are not.
Normality is the capacity to express your feelings. From the moment that you don’t fear to share your heart, you are a free person."
 Paolo Coelho,
 (I highly recommend to check out his amazing, inspiring blog)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Stand Forth

Quietly contemplating life today... I want to share this with you, written by a very inspiring yoga teacher at the Bodhi Tree Studio, Jon:

"Stand forth. Find your natural state of being full, of being whole, of letting your inner light shine.

Find that internal confidence that is like a quiet inner light, smooth and steady, and allow it to shine. 
Let it shine for no other reason than that it is there and it is beautiful. 

Your inner light has grace and beauty that can be seen even when you are by yourself. 

Be proud, with a quiet humble pride that remains the same when you are talking and when you are silent, that is unwavering whether you are the center of attention or find yourself alone.

 This is your newly familiar feeling of empowerment, settled into your everyday way of being. 

So with faith and courage, stand forth."