Friday, June 22, 2012

These boots were made for walking! And so was Belgrade!

I know the title to this entry is pretty enigmatic and you probably have no idea what this story will be about: it's about Belgrade and how it's a great city for walking around in. Never would have guessed, right? 

Why the title, though? Because I love walking around new places. And here it's really hard because even though Belgrade is a great place for walk-exploration, my feet just aren't up for it right now. I finished my studies in the beginning of June, which marked the end of a half-year period of  j u s t  s i t t i n g. For realzies now, all I did was sit in the library or at home all day every day and study or write or read or any one of those other super smart things you do when you're a student trying to finish a thesis you want to hand in or facing a huge exam. The point is, I didn't walk during that time. Or, I mean, sure I did, but not much, you know? To get from A to B, but nothing more than that. And then the first thing I did right after finally getting out of my study chair after that final exam was go to Copenhagen and explore it on foot - walking 8-10 hours straight every single day. What was that? Yes, stupid! Because now I have blisters all over my feet and they just fricking hurt like hell and I am not even exaggerating. Moping, yes. Whining, yes. Exaggerating, no. 

But Belgrade being Belgrade (as in really cool) I ended up walking around it anyways, only 4-5 hours a day instead of 8-10. I actually managed to find the middle way between total relaxation and total sightseeing-frenzy: sleep until noon every day, meet up with CouchSurfers in the afternoon to hang out and go for walks around town and see stuff and do stuff, read and watch movies until 2-3am! 

Београд је дивно.
(Belgrade is wonderful.)

Here's why in words:

I had a lot of luck with my hostel, the Chillton 2. I booked a private room (Because I knew I'd want to sleep a lot and just bum around reading, so CS and a bed in a dorm were out of the question. A little luxury is OK from time to time, I think.) and instead of a small room with one bed inside I actually got a five-bed dorm all to myself. So I was all like, this bed is for my suitcase, this bed is for my handbag, this bed is for watching movies (and writing, I'm in the movie bed right now writing this), this bed is for sleeping and this bed is too far up, I'll ignore it. Awesome! 

The people, oh the people! Even though I didn't surf with anyone, I still wanted to meet as many CouchSurfers as possible, of course. So I posted in the CS group for Belgrade and asked if anyone wanted to hang out and since I arrived I haven't been bored a single minute. The first day, Dejan gave me a tour of the most important sights of the city. The second day, Vladimir met up with me and we did another tour and then met up with his friend Diane, who's from the US but lives here now and then all of us went to pick up her surfer Maxi, a German girl, from the train station. The third day, I got some more people together to meet up at The Horse (the statue of Prince Michael at Trg Republike; actually, go and search "the horse, belgrade, serbia" in GoogleMaps) and we all went and had coffee and then we went to sit in the sun/shade at the fortress that overlooks the rivers Danube and Sava and in the evening we went down to the river to hang out some more. Yesterday, on day number four, I met up with Nesha and Natalie, a Belgian girl, and we went to Ada Ciganlija to relax and swim - which was so wonderful, I hadn't even realized how much I'd missed swimming... And after that we watched Portugal vs. Czech Republic with Ivica and Lily, another US surfer who'd just moved to Belgrade. Today I have to leave, but it's not a bad thing because ... well, let's say I'm up to something. 

The weather was also incredible. Never under 30°C, not even at night I think. It's actually way too hot for me, but the heat here is not as humid as the heat in, say, Cartagena or Miami. for example. So it was a lot easier to bear and it was just wonderful to enjoy the sunshine and be able to spend all the time outside - knowing there was an A/C in my room waiting for me!

Here's why in photos: 

A granny reading a newspaper.

Of all the places I have seen thus far, Belgrade is the one with most bookstores and booksellers in the streets and in parks. You've got to love a place for that, books are awesome!

Never forget.

This church has been under construction for ages (really) and it's still not finished, but there's already worshipping going on inside, so when you enter you hear hymns being sung but you also hear drilling and hammering and, you know, your typical construction-site-soundtrack. It's pretty funny.

Bakeries!!! Pekara or пекара in Serbian, a bakery is the place to go when you're hungry, but not exactly hungry for a big sit-down meal. They have so much to choose from, huge assortments of sweet and savoury treats and snacks and there's sandwiches and cakes and pastries with custard or cheese or jam or ham or whatever you like. I love them, I wish I'd been hungrier in Belgrade!!

Place destroyed in the NATO bombings. They're not tearing it down or rebuilding it - same as it's twin across the street-, it serves as a place to remember, like so many others in the city.


Belgrade is colourful too, this is just one example of many very pretty grafittis I found while wandering the city. Unfortunately, with the laziness that's implied in the relax part of this trip comes a drastic decrease in picture-taking. I surprised myself at how few times I took the camera out of my bag on this trip, didn't know I had it in me, because usually I am every camera-shy person's nightmare. 

PS: Remember I said I was up to something. I hope you're really intrigued and curious now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Discipline... something I just don't have but very much need. 

For life in general, because I think it would make a lot of things easier. It's not that I'm lazy or sloppy or never meet deadlines or anything like that. I'm organized enough and I usually do the things I put on my (imaginary) to-do list. It's just that I get distracted very easily. Example: while writing this first paragraph I signed up for a membership in a blogger community, I chatted with a friend on Facebook and with my dad on Gmail. What I should have done was simply writing this. 

So, the lack of discipline isn't only a thing in my life in general, but it specifically affects what I'm trying to do here: telling random stories about stuff I do to nobody. 

My friend said to start a blog. So I started this blog. She didn't tell me to keep writing for it, or to make it interesting. So I guess I'm not, at least not really. Maybe I should ask her to come over and shout at me or something. But that shouldn't be necessary! 

The thing is, I really want to do this, I like the idea of it. Not blogging as in what professional bloggers do. If somebody who reads this gets useful tips out of it then great, but it's not vital for me that anyone uses this as a source of travel information. My idea was for this blog to basically substitute photo albums on Facebook. I want to put up my favourite pictures and tell my favourite stories to family and friends and friends-to-be. 

I've always travelled a lot and I want to keep doing it - no, I WILL keep doing it -, but I want to take people with me on my journey. Oh gods, this sounds soooo corny! I'm sorry... But anyways, even though I love travelling by myself (go alone and meet people there, that's how I usually do it) I want to share my experiences and tell my stories and show my photos... 

And this blog could also be some kind of memory book for myself. "Oh, look at this, this is from back when I went to the Bahamas for the first time. What a sunburn!" Or. "Remember that time the Bellavista flooded and we all made paper boats together?" Yes, I do talk to myself, don't act like you don't. Shut up! 

Now I wonder why it's so hard for me to just do what I just said I wanted to do. Maybe it's trying to meet expectations, maybe it's thinking too hard about what information is valuable enough to be shared (which shouldn't even be an issue). Whatever it is, I'm going to try to stop it and just go back to telling stories. This blog entry is my pledge to trying harder and turning this thing here into what I really want it to be: a storybook from my beloved land of ontheway...

Sorry, corny again. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

CPH by boat

I'm in Belgrade right now and I really want to tell you about this city, but I can't really talk about a new place until I've finished talking about the last one, can I? Whatever, I think I can't so here's more about Copenhagen. A friend of mine who did a semester abroad there told me to go on one of the Canal Tours, saying they were really cool and totally underrated. So I did and I must say it really was a very nice way of getting to know the city, or at least a part of it. 

I booked a tour with the official provider, that cost 70 DKK per adult person. Duration approx. 1 hour. 

Here's a few pictures I took from the boat, in order of appearence on the tour: 


New theatre by Ophelia Beach.

New opera house across the water from the city centre.

Royal yacht.

Sheetloads of people around the Little Mermaid. I was lucky, because when I went there were very few. 

The APM-Maersk headquarters, they're the world's largest container shipping company.

Amaliehaven and the Amalie Gardens, behind it Amalienborg Slotsplads with the Royal Palace and behind that the Marble Church (it has the 5th largest cupola in the world, the largest in Denmark and all of Scandinavia).

This is my favourite picture from Christianshavn: someone just on their houseboat, feet in black socks hanging over the railing like nothing matters in the world apart from feeling comfortable.

Some pretty bridge by some pretty palace.

Statue by famous sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen on top of a museum dedicated to his work. He used to work in Rome and also designed the only sculpture inside the St. Peter's Basilica that was made by a non-Italian artist. 

Narrowest house in Copenhagen, located in Nyhavn. People actually live in it.

When you want to see tons of places in Copenhagen and walking just doesn't do it for you, the Canal Tours are great. After the huge amounts of bycicles that crowd the city, all the water was the second thing that reminded me of Amsterdam. 


Vienna International Airport has a new terminal. 1 and 2 were always there (or at least for as long as I can remember flying) and now there's a number 3. Last Monday, going out to Copenhagen, I went through the new terminal for the first time and it sucked, it sucked real bad. Here's what I posted to Facebook before boarding my plane to Denmark: 

I'd gotten off the train the same way I always used to (as in step out and walk to the right) and had to find my way through remnants of construction sites and all new signage in the old terminals 1 and 2 before I finally found the right way to terminal 3. Then, once there, it all went so quickly - self check-in and handing off the bag and getting through security - that there was no way I could have gotten anything to eat outside the expensive gate-area. 

Today, a week later, I went through the new VIE terminal 3 again and this time I was prepared. Not prepared as in looking up where I was supposed to go and what the path should look like, but prepared as in I wasn't surprised by this terminal's existence. 

And, guess what, once you're not completely lost this terminal is pretty awesome! 

This is where I'd have blogged from if I hadn't gotten distracted and done other stuff instead: 

Yes! It's an individual seat with an individual table with two electrical outlets for charging your laptop or your phone or both so you can spend the time you have to wait at the gate doing something useful like watching cat videos on YouTube. Seriously, though. This is pretty cool. These units of four seats are all over the place, there's one to three of them at most gates and at the three I've been to so far (What, three gates for two flights? That's beause I can't count and waited at F26 for an hour last time only to find out I was supposed to be at F36. I did better today.) the reception is really good. Free WiFi at the airport and you can actually use it comfortably too! 

So about finding the way... I was all like "AAAAARGH VIE! Y U NO NICE TO ME?" last time and felt lost half the time and confused all the time, but today I found out the reason for that was simple: walking right instead of left. So, if you know beforehands what terminal you're supposed to go to, it's actually really easy. Today I took to the left after getting off the train and the escalator/stairs there take you right into the middle of the terminal. You'll first get to the arrivals area, but go left immediately and up the stairs and you'll be in the departures zone. Then it's easy-peasy through check-in and baggage drop-off and depending on how much time you have, you can go back downstairs and get food. 

This is where you go to the departures area right after coming out the train tunnel. 

Downstairs you have a big Spar supermarket, a McDonalds and McCafé, an Anker bakery and other cafés and little shops (last-minute souvenirs, for example) so there's a lot to chose from for you pre-flight breakfast/lunch/dinner/whatever and you don't have to get an expensive coffee at the gate. This might sound like silly information to some, but last week I had to get up really freaking early for my really freaking early flight so obviously I didn't have any breakfast and was also very tired and I could have killed for getting a a nice hot coffee and some small pastry before getting to my gate (seriously, I get really grumpy when I'm tired or hungry or - and that's worst - both at the same time). 

And then when you're through security (and passport control, if you're leaving the EU), you don't have to wait at your typical ugly gate with uncomfortable seats - you get the workstations from the picture at the beginning and even the regular waiting areas are really nice and comfy! 

You can actually lie down there! And the seats have NO ARMRESTS!!! No armrests at any seats in the whole terminal!! - Anyone who's ever had to spend a night in an airport knows why I'm so excited about this. 

Last week I had a really awesome time in Copenhagen even though it started pretty bad what with the new terminal and not knowing anything about it. This week the trip started pretty well what with the new terminal and knowing about it - so how great is my time in Belgrade going to be? Very, I hope. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Food-related places I like in Copenhagen

Just a little collection. 

Rayuela - bonner og boger på spansk

Fælledvej 5, Nørrebro, 2200 Copenhagen 
telephone: +45 3535 6674

Rayuela is a little Spanish book café in Nørrebro district, very close to Dronning Louises Bridge and Nørreport station and metro stop. It's a very charming little place where you can get coffee and tea (they have argentinian mate!) as well as breakfast, soup, snacks and small meals. Apart from that they also have a small selection of South American products to buy, most importantly alfajores. They also offer Spanish courses. 

Blågårds Plads 2, Nørrebro, 2200 Copenhagen 
telephone: +45 3537 2442 

This place is extremely cute, and when the music is on it turns from cute to awesome. It's an old pharmacy turned into a café/bar, with a stage space for live music at the end opposite the bar - for example jazz concerts every Monday. Drink-wise it specializes on beer, but there's also a wide selection of coffee and tea. It is the interior, though, that really sets the place apart from other cafés and bars in the area. The walls are covered in art, there are original apothecary cabinets all over the place that work as bars and the tables are anitque sewing tables. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from the place because I was already very tired when I got there (after almost 20hrs awake and about on my first day in CPH). 

Candy Megastore 

Neither a bar, nor a café. But a lot of fun if you like sweets! And there's two of them in Copenhagen. I don't think this needs a lot of explanation, it does need pictures though! 

Happy Juice 

This one's a mobile thing. I got my juice in Nyhavn, but I don't know if they're always there of if they change location from time to time. Either way, go find them and get a smoothie, a juice or a milkshake! It's rather cheap for Copenhagen standards and the quality is very high, as far as I can tell (I'm a juice-drinking expert, not a juice-examining expert). Also, they're pretty good to the environment too and not only their customers, using a completely natural and renewable resource based packaging called Greenware, that's made of plants and not of oil. And on top of that they even donate 1 DKK for every juice, smoothie or milkshake bought to a charity. So if you get a drink there it's not only very, very good for you - it's also good for others! 

Joe & the Juice 

This place is also great for juice and is a great alternative to Happy Juice when it's raining and you can't or don't want to have a juice outside. They have a wide variety of juices and coffee and you can also get pastries or sandwiches. There's stores all over Denmark - as well as the UK, Germany and there will soon be on in Oslo, Norway. I guess that proves that I'm right when I say it's a good place! 

What I, personally, like best about Joe & the Juice are the names of the juice varieties. Right before writing this bit here I had a "hell of a nerve": strawberry, elderflower and banana. Yum, that's all I can say to that. 

If you're on your way somewhere and don't want to stop for a long time to get food in a place or wait for a fresh smoothie, there's to-go places all over the city centre, like the following two, for example. They're basically made for people who are in a hurry, so they're perfect for little in-between snacks/energy boosts when there's not really time for a break. 

Kalles Kaffe To Go @ Nyhavn, where the tourboats leave

PancakeBike @ centre, there's a few of these - I recommend the nutalla+banana pancake!!

Nobody's going to go hungry, thirsty or craving candy in Copenhagen! 

Copenhagen Sand Festival

May 27th until August 5th, 2012 
Ofelia Beach, close by Nyhavn 
Daily 10am until 9pm 
Price for adults 50 DKK 

I had just arrived in Copenhagen in the morning and the weather forecast predicted rain for my whole time in the city, which sucked. Seeing that for some reason it didn't rain and the clouds sort of thinned out with the time passing, I decided to go straight to the Sand Festival in case rain had a look at it's agenda and remembered it was supposed to come to Copenhagen. 

Initially I was a bit taken aback by the admission fee of 50 DKK for adults(no student discount, very sorry), but I decided to go in anyways. I do not regret that! The sculptures are pretty from afar but impressive - and even prettier - from close up!! 

At the entrance in Ofelia Beach, next to the theatre and across the water from the new opera house. 

Map and a smartphone-info-thingey.

FAQs and info.

Here's a few pictures of details from the sculptures. I won't post pictures of entire sculptures as they don't do the originals justice, especially because of the bad light due to all the clouds. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

More high culture - at no price at all!!

So, I recently told you about how to enjoy an opera or a ballet for almost no money, now here comes something even more special - a little more tricky too, though. 

Every year, a concert takes place in Vienna, in the gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn - Schönbrunn Palace. (Yes, the one where Sisi used to live, that's the one, exactly. Enjoy, Sisi-freaks - I know you're out there!) Every June this concert is organized where the Vienna Philharmonics perform with an internationally renowned conductor. This only happens once a year, so you can imagine how many people there are - but if you time your trip right, you can make it and listen to wonderful live classical music in a beautiful setting! 

The first time I ever went Bobby McFerrin conducted the orchestra - OMG! I haven't been able to go in many years now, because of rain/exams/trips/... but this year I got to go again and it was incredible, even more so than last time. See, when I saw Bobby McFerrin for the first time I didn't know who he was - and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that. But I found out almost immediately after the concert who "that cool dude" on the stage was (because he really is a cool cat) and got all excited post-concert. This time it was more incredible, because I knew beforehand who the conductor was: 

Gustavo Dudamel!!! I'm not going to talk about who he is, you've got the link right here. Let me just tell you, I saw a poster advertising the concert when I was transferring from a metro line to another and not only did I stop dead in my tracks in the middle of a thick flow of people who were also trying to get to the next train, I almost cried out loud when I read his name. Imagine upsetting tons of people by making them bump into you and into each other and then confirming that you're a complete nutcase by going "Oooh ooohh wooow!" and then giggling like a 13-year-old. I'm so glad I managed to keep my voice down... 

See, the thing is I saw this documentary about music in Venezuela a few years ago which is where I first heard about Dudamel and was already pretty impressed by his work. Then I saw a few videos of him conducting different orchestras and, believe me, his energy is contageous even through a computer screen! Last year he gave a concert in Vienna and I really, really wanted to go but when I went to get my ticket it was sold out. I was depressed for a week. So, now we can all imagine how excited I was. 

So if you're a little bit of a nerd like I am, you'll enjoy these concerts as well. World-class musicians led by world-class conductors - every single year! 

At this event, called Sommernachtskonzert (summer night concert), they always perform music from operas, operettas or ballets. There's a different programme each year and they usually have like a basic idea that they build the concert around; this year the theme was "Dances and Waves". 

And all of this is set agains the backdrop of beautiful Schönbrunn palace at night. There's a VIP area where people with paid tickets can sit right in front of the stage. All around that, basically in the whole garden area and on the hill that goes up to the Gloriette, there's an open area where anyone can stand or sit and enjoy the music. There are big screens where you can see close-ups of the conductor and the musicians as well as the dancers (sometimes they bring in dancers from a ballet company for certain pieces). The concert is also televised, but being there is the real deal. 

If you come at least an hour before the concert, you'll be able to find a nice spot in an area close to the stage. If you come later you'll be further away or behind the stage, on the hill. But either way, you'll be able to hear well (better in front, of course). There's security personnel, people from the Red Cross in case somebody needs medical assistance, and there are public toilets all around the premises so you don't have to worry about spending more than just 2-3 hours there. Bring a picnic blanket and some friends and enjoy the afternoon/evening in the park while waiting for the concert to begin. In some areas, if there's not too many people, the security guys will allow you to stay on your blanket for the duration on the concert, so you can actually lie on a blanket sipping wine (or any other beverage, but you get what I mean) and having some food (all of that your own, you don't have to buy it there) listening to wonderful classical music. 

Just wanted to share that with you, because it's so special. This year's has already passed, but keep your eyes and ears open for the exact dates of the next concert in June 2013! 

Here's a few pictures. 

I also have this really low-quality and extremely shaky video of one of the pieces, I'll put that up here as soon as I've got it on YouTube! - Update: video is live now!