Categoria: Travel

Thoughts and tales about travelling

Once upon a time in Blokhus

I woke up on a sunny morning of one of my free days with a nasty pain in my back and an annoying foot injury that I had gotten myself a couple of days before, but I had planned for a long time to dedicate that day to Blokhus, a small town on the west coast of Jutland and I didn’t want to give up the trip. It was also one of my unlucky days, one of those where I couldn’t find any kind soul that could give me a ride, so I took the bus. Not that it’s a problem, the connections up there are pretty good.

I literally dragged myself all day, with the frustration of being able to move at half the speed I usually move, which in any case is not that much, but in the end, as always, it was much better to go than to not go.

First things first, Blokhus has a fabulous beach, but unfortunately for a southern girl the Danish sea is too cold, so no bath for me and not even a bit of tan, mainly because the morning was cloudy, but also because I had three layers of clothes on me an the idea of being half naked in the wind didn’t seem very appealing. The city center is not that impressive, I have to say. Just bar, restaurants, tons of souvenir shops and If you know where to look a couple of very nice craft shops. The fun part is right out of the town, some 3 or 4 kilometers, I guess.

The small Museum for Papirkunst is indeed tiny but it’s one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been. It’s like entering into a fairytale, a world made by hand carved paper artwork and lights arranged so as to create wonderful plays of shadows. The atmosphere is that of a relaxing dream, a really nice place to simply be and to let your imagination fly. It’s funny that just a few minutes away you can enter a totally different world, the Skulpturparken, an oper-air museum all dedicated to sand, wood and concrete sculptures. It gives a bit of a beach party vibration despite not being on the beach. The difference is that you are surrounded by eccentric, original and fun sculptures instead of half drunken people dancing like mad. It feel like a fairytale too, but more metal so to speak. Maybe it’s also just a little bit kitch, but that’s definitely part of the fun. And if you stop to truly ponder on what you’re looking at, you’ll see that each sculpture requires a great amount of skills to be realized, so respect for the artists, really. If you happen to be a nerd like me you’ll also find plenty of references to books and movies. I’m still asking myself if that was made on purpose or if I was just seeing what I wanted to see.

Anyway the point is, if in Jutland, go to Blokhus!

Those signs of destiny written in neon letters

First thing first, as a blogger I am half a failure and that’s a glaring truth. How bold of me to think I would have been able to be constant in posting here! So yeah, after yet another long period of silence I’m back again. I was thinking if I should just start to simply write as I always did, but it feels wrong to just move on to what is happening now (not much to be honest), overlooking all that was my summer experience in Denmark. In fact that’s why I am here.
I spent a few weeks in a small community that despite being indeed small, opened a world to me. It was as if it unlocked a window on myself, making me remember things that I had set aside for a long time, buried under boredom and dissatisfaction. That’s why you should always travel, to get rid of layers and layers of negativity, even if all you can afford is a bed in a room shared with 11 strangers and snacks for dinner.

That wasn’t my case, btw. I had my own private room and even too much to eat. Yes, I gained weigh, no I don’t care. Food is an important part of a country’s culture. I am back on my healthy diet anyway, so no harm done. Either way, to me one of the most important part of this trip is the reason why I decided to go in the first place.

Last year these days I was at the height of depression for several reasons. I felt stuck, as in a prison made by situations I thought I couldn’t change. The things I used to love, working as a freelance, being single and free, leaving in Naples, didn’t give me joy anymore, they felt like some punishment for something I didn’t know I had done wrong. My crime? Maybe I dared to chase tiny dreams, too afraid to dream big, or maybe I let other people tell me what to do way too often. In the meantime I saw my life flowing away uselessly, as if I were wasting my time in this world. And in many ways it was exactly what I was doing. When I just couldn’t take any more of it I realized it was one of those moments when either you drink or you drown. So I drank. What was in my glass? A good dose of self confidence, for a starter, mixed with some awareness that no one would save me. I had to do it by myself and I found the idea exciting, which was weird considering the apathetic mental state I was in back then. I decided to start from scratch, for which is never too late, and I decided that I had to identify the main problems first. As it turned out, one of them was that my life and my city felt too small and constricting, so the new beginning had to start from another place. Away from home.


It’s not like I put my finger at random on the map, but well, I almost put my finger at random on the map! Of course I could not go away for more than a couple of weeks without a bit of money, so I thought to put the two things together and look for a small job abroad. I mainly tried with the hotels, but almost everyone wanted people with experience or who spoke three or four languages, so I expanded the searches, I discovered famous web portals of which I was apparently the only one not aware of and I wrote to a lot of people. From the small Amsterdam restaurant to the European Parliament. The first to answer me was a kind Danish gentleman who happen to own an art gallery. It was like a huge sign of destiny written in giant neon letters. I have always liked art, whether to do it or to see it, I studied art history at university and being able to work in a museum was a fabulous idea. Who was holding me back? Same old fears… and a couple of annoying people who wanted to hold me back. I’m glad to say this time they failed.
So I left, I lived a piece of a bigger dream and I came back with the moral imperative of keeping the spark burning. That’s exactly what I am doing now and I feel so much better than 12 months ago.

What I actually did in Denmark? Learnt a lot about how to manage a business, sculpted a huge ass sculpture, visited amazing places I didn’t even knew existed and made new friends. I will explain in more details in the next posts, now it’s time for my beauty sleep this side of the world.

Sorry!

I want to apologize! I had so many projects for the first summer of this blog, but then everything went south, technologically speaking and then boom, suddently it’s september yet again! Also I’ve been pretty busy with some artistic projects and 24 hours a day are never enough.

Anyway I have tons of pics, stories and experiences I want to share so I’ll be back very soon, I just need a bit of time to reorganize my thoughts and my daily routine because summer was as fun as it was hectic. I need an holiday!

Vacuum bags are a girl’s best friends

Now, this may not be glamorous or romantic but honestly, this was for me a little revolution. I love traveling light, I learned the hard way many many years ago in Greece, but this is a story for another time. Anyway, sometimes if you have to travel long, or move around a lot so that laundry isn’t an easy option, or you are somewhere where the climate isn’t stable, to pack just two t-shirts and one extra pair of shoes simply isn’t possible. This is when those plastic bags come in handy. You put your stuff inside (store it all wisely so you can open just one bag at time, this is extra useful if your ho(s)tel room is tiny), pump out the extra air, and that’s basically it. You have now saved a whole lot of space and your luggage will also weight less, which can be important if you travel by plane, but also if you have to carry it around for a while.

I’m not here to advertise any brand or product in particular, you can buy bags of any form and dimension, but since you need to carry the pump with yourself for when you have to pack on your way back, it’d be better to choose a small, light one. Also, the bags are not eternal, so in my humble opinion it’s not wise to buy extra-expensive ones. Not that they are very expensive to begin with.

Looking for a flaw? Here we go. Depending on how long the bags remain closed, your clothes can come out quite wrinkled. The first time I used this trick was when I went to Japan, but since it was winter and I mostly packed sweaters the problem was almost non existent. This summer I’ll bring light clothes, cotton shirts and a bit of pile, so we’ll see what happens.

Jutland, here I come

This is a time of change for me, both in a positive and in a negative sense. Mostly, fate decided for me so I, in turn, decided that if my life wasn’t going to be the same anymore anyway, I’d spice things up a little bit. Long story short, in July/August I’ll go work in Denmark and I couldn’t be more satisfied with myself for taking this decision. It’s just a few weeks, but I needed to leave home for a while and I needed it badly. Sometimes routine gets suffocating, so does family, as much as I love all the people in my life. Sometimes I need new things and new experiences, I hope this will give me fresh energies to face an autumn/winter that may be a little challenging.

By the way, I plan to fully document the expedition, I may even buy myself the infamous selfie stick!

The last time I went to Denmark I was in my early twenties and I only got to see Copenhagen and Helsingør. Now I’m super eager to see the coast, there are some wonderful beaches, and not only that. I think Copenhagen itself deserves one more visit, and so does Aarhus, albeit I mostly long for natural environments.

Rigth after I’ll also go to Germany to see a dear friend of mine in Berlin, then Muenchen and possibly Nuremberg too, if I still got the time. I’ll only travel by train so it’ll be an ecological trip, which only adds to the general excitement. I’ve got to be honest, though, I’m sort of claustrophobic and that’s what makes me avoid planes if possible, but now that Greta is on my side too, I won’t even have to deal with people looking skeptically at me.

Looks like it’ll be a very exciting summer, I can’t wait to leave!

If in Naples, run to MANN!

Or three reasons why now it’s a really good moment to go and see the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

  • Antonio Canova. Enjoy Naples, the crowd, the food, the sun (despite this cold, cold spring), but don’t miss the chance to also enjoy the purity of the forms of classical sculpture, reinterpreted by one of the greatest artists ever. Canova’s skills earned him the nickname of new Phidias and you’ll soon understand why. The grace of the bodies, the incredible mastery of drapery that reminds the foam of the waves, hard marble that turns into soft curves, everything is simply magic in this exhibition. It made me all emotional, so open your heart and let youself be enchanted by beauty. It’s definitely one of those feel-good experiences that can change your whole perception of a city. It stays in Naples until 30 June 2019.
  • The archeological section. This is a permanent (outstanding) exhibition in Naples and basically what makes MANN one of the most important archeological musums of the world. Now, despite a few sections being closed for a few days due to some restorations, since many Canova’s sculptures are there, you can enjoy the paralles between classical art and noclassicism. It’s truly interesting and actually accessible to all. Meaning there are a lot of things you can notice, learn and understand without needing a classical education.
  • Hugo Pratt. Naples has always been a city of sailors and travelers, so it is definitely appropriate that it hosts a beautiful exhibition dedicated to the sailor and pirate Corto Maltese, the most famous character created by the world-famous comic artist Hugo Pratt. Corto tells the history of the first years of the twentieth century with irony and humanity, siding invariably with the weakest people while still being friends with some hardened criminals. Not your typical hero, but that’s what makes him even more charming. The exhibition, Corto Maltese – An extraordinary journey, will present a huge thematic itinerary, with 100 pieces including original panels, sketches, photos and more. Until 9 September 2019.

Horses, pink water and ornitology for dummies

Today I really feel like talking about France and why you shouldn’t miss Camargue, the region between Arles and the Mediterranean sea. It may not be a mainstream destination as far as France is concerned, but it still is very popular among the locals, so if you choose to go during the summer keep in mind that some places can be very crowded.

Anyway, do you need five reasons to go?

1- Horses. Indeed. Sometimes advertising posters don’t lie. You can really drive along a paved road and see wonderful, white horses in the fields left and right. Just remember, don’t stare at the horses while driving! You’ll have plenty of chances to interact with them in one of the many riding schools all around the region.

2- Aigues Mortes. The dead waters. I know how this sounds, it’s after all a swamp right west of the National Park of Camargue, but believe me, it’s a truly amazing place! The city is small and pretty, but the real point is the salt pans that are just a few kilometers away. You will find expanses of sparkling white salt, high dunes that look like snowy hills and that dazzle the view in the sunlight. All around there are large pools of pink water due to a particular seaweed. The salt pans can be visited aboard a small train with a guide or you can choose to explore the area by car. In order to do this, anyway, you need to be well informed because in some periods of the year there are people at work and some places are forbidden to tourists. Try the official site.

3- Birds. You don’t really need to be an ornithology fanatic to enjoy the local fauna. There are some large protected areas in the region, where numerous bird species live free and in peace. I was able to visit only one, La Palissade, a wonderful park where you can observe storks, herons, swans, flamingos and many other species that I can’t even name. Don’t worry though, the park is provided with different informative material so even the less experienced can enjoy the visit. There are two routes, a short one of a couple of hours and a long one of almost five. The trekking is easy, on a very well marked path, but the summer sun is very hot and the only bar is at the beginning, so don’t do like me and bring plenty of water! Oh, keep in mind there are also many nutrias, they mind their own business but I must admit I’m not extremely fond of them.

4- Sea. Forget the Côte d’Azur… well no, don’t. Just know that the beaches you’ll find here really have nothing to envy of their much more famous “sisters”. Personally, I do not prefer luxury tourist destinations, so I found myself more at ease on these wild beaches, where you will rarely find big resorts or other forms of entertainment, apart from simple bars or small restaurants. Here too the sand is soft and white, anyway, and the sea is as blue as the sky. Again, unfortunately, the road can get crowded. The local people seem to love those beaches too so try to avoid the small towns like Saintes Maries, albeit they’re very pretty, and drive directly to the more isolated beaches.

5- Van Gogh. Right north of the National Park there is Arles, one of the few places in Europe that get the honor to be considered the city of Van Gogh. The most important thing to know is that the house where the artist lived is immediately outside the walls, not inside, and nowadays it is a bit disappointing. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find, but that building squeezed between two others, which looks like a trivial little concrete house, made me a little sad. However the city is very pretty and lively and in the center you can see the bar that inspired “Cafè de Nuite“, together with other places that are along a pedestrian path, called of course the Van Gogh Path.

Is traveling to Russia dangerous?

Hint: NO

I’m writing this because not so many days ago a friend of mine asked more or less this same question. And I won’t lie, I asked myself this too when I was planning my first trip to Moscow/S.Petersburg. Back then I knew almost nothing about Russia, apart from the things you can usually read in history books and that they have some amazing novelists. Anyway, what I found on the internet wasn’t always encouraging, especially if you are a woman. Most people were just as enthusiastic as I felt, but every now and then I came across people who suggested to only go with tour operators so that they’d take you to the main attractions and pick you up soon after (boooring!), even in the main cities. They also said to not wander the streets after the sunset (!), to not look at the policemen too much (!!) and stuff like that.

Now, since I’ve always been in love with Russian culture of course I decided to go and ignore all the scaremongering. Plus I’m from a city that sadly has a quite high crime rate so it’s not like I’m a naive woman who can’t tell a bad neighborhood apart from a good one and I’ve been to almost every big town of Europe so I know how it works.

Granted, the very first thing that happened right after getting on the train from S.Piet’s airport to the town’s center was that my friend got robbed! Anyway, at home I was robbed ten meters from my own house, I’ve witnessed bag-snatches in Lisbon, Paris (twice), Madrid. Bad things happen all over the world and big towns are almost never entirely safe.

Apart from that single episode on the metro my (our) perception of danger has been basically non-existent. Moscow and St. Petersburg are two incredibly beautiful cities, full of history and life and also quite tiring because of the long distances, so make sure you have very comfortable shoes. It is enough to use common sense and the normal precautions that would be used in any other huge city. I mean, I wouldn’t go and stare at policemen anywhere. Even traveling on the night train that connects the two cities, in second class, was fun and safe and as comfortable as it can be. Actually, the beds are even a little wider than those I found on other trains in the rest of Europe.


When I left Moscow it was dawn, the sky was pink and the city lights were still on. I swallowed my tears because I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of the taxi driver, but I miss Russia so much, and I’m planning to come back soon, probably for a trip a little more focused on natural landscapes.

Is solo traveling the recipe for happiness?

The last time I was in Milan, a few days ago, I went with some friends. A small group of four people that I feel great with. We are soulmates, or something like that, literally on the same wavelength. We had fun, we laughed, we basically lived in symbiosis for four days. It was great and I wondered more than once how fun it would be to go somewhere together, for a longer period. Then I realized that with three of those people I have already traveled on several occasions and it has not always been easy. Indeed, sometimes it was really difficult and this is one of the reasons why in this phase of my life I tend to want to travel alone. Except when I do it I really feel guilty toward others, the friends I left home. Maybe they wanted to come too? Maybe they’d have enjoyed this place or that even more than me? Also I feel like I am missing something, or rather someone, with whom to share my emotions, or simply a table in a restaurant. What I really wonder now is if I am in a transition phase, one in which my tolerance for people, even those I love dearly, is getting lower for some reasons. Or if we all simply changed a little bit so that we are not 100% compatible anymore. Or, again, if it is really so difficult to find good traveling companions but somehow I never noticed before.

A few months ago I also tried to make a little trip with complete strangers and it was tragicomic. I have to admit I have good memories of that trip, especially since in the end the tragic parts were tragic to the point of being funny. After all life should always be lived with a smile, right? Anyway, as silly as it may seem, I’m almost scared to leave town with someone else, but loneliness is not an option that makes me perfectly happy either.

If and when I find a way to solve this dilemma I’ll share my wisdom, that’s a promise!

I miss you, Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo

Sometimes I feel randomly nostalgic and today it just happens to be one of those days. Maybe because I recently met some of my old and best travel buddies, who I miss all the time since we are scattered all over Italy, or because it’s been a while since my first time in Japan. Or simply because I enjoyed Tokyo so much a bit of nostalgia was to be expected anyway.
I can’t honestly say that Tokyo was a place where I was extremely happy. There have been other travels, before, where I felt more at peace with myself. Anyway I loved that town, I still do, it made me feel small but at the same time protected. And I never felt lost. Now I long for the huge neon signs, for the crowded metro, for a language I can’t understand but I love the sound of.
Maybe because it’s a city with two souls, as cliché as this may be, an old one and a modern one, both wings and roots, just like me. I’m convinced there are places we share a connection with, every single one of us has a few even if sometimes we don’t notice it.
Tokyo may be just one of those places for me.