It Began From Budapest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the end of May, I left for the second trip of this year, to interrail somewhere in Eastern Europe. This trip wasn’t as carefully planned as my SE Asia trip (and that wasn’t either so…) but I had bought an interrail ticket with 7 travel days within a month. So basically me with my boyfriend just looked at the cheapest flight from Stockholm, where we wanted to go first, and Budapest turned out to be the best option. And from there we just thought we’d play it by ear and so we did and it truly turned out to be an amazing and surprising little adventure, which I hope to tell about here within the next weeks. Eastern Europe is an annoyingly wide term, almost like Southeast Asia, and our trip only focused on Romania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with small stops in Serbia and Croatia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sun setting over the Danube

But Budapest first. As I explained, Budapest was chosen as a starting point mostly by financial and practical reasons because it got really good train connections everywhere. Also, the whole Eastern part of Europe was chosen largely because it’s so cheap and also a part of Europe neither of us had really seen before. I had also agreed to meet my very good friend Katherine, whom I last saw in Beijing two years ago. She was heading to France for the summer but being in the same continent for once we decided we have to make our paths cross. So a lot of the fun in Budapest was just catching up with her and spending some time together, after keeping up our long distance friendship for two years. This is also why I didn’t really take that many pictures as I only noticed afterwards, but I guess sometimes it’s good to just leave your camera for a while. I think most of my pictures are just taken from our evening walks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Joe and Katie exploring Fisherman’s Bastion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Arpad Toth Promenade on Buda side, a really nice palce to walk at night

Budapest for me was a very European city, a bit like Paris and Vienna but with a little bit more edge and ruggedness. It consists of two sides, Buda and Pest, Pest being the slightly more busy and touristy side. It has got a lot of good museums, like House Of Terror, which tells about the history of Hungary on the facist and communist era. We also visited Hospital in the Rock, an underground hospital that was in use under the siege during World War II. House Of Parliament is the city’s most known landmark and for a reason, it’s very very impressive especially at sunset when the shadows make it look more dramatic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe the favorite ”touristy” thing we did was going to a bath. Budapest is known for its thermal spas that were brought to the country in the Ottoman Era. There are loads of them scattered around the city, some more crowded than others. We heard of a night bath at Rudus Baths, and old 16th century bath house by the river. It’s usually for men only but they have night baths, from 10PM to early morning on certain days when everyone can go. I had been on a Turkish hamam before in Istanbul and it was architectually very similar but with the pools and saunas etc otherwise very different. My personal favorite was a little pool on the roof where you could see the river and city skyline going dark.

So if you want, there are a lot of activitites in Budapest, but since it was our first stop on the journey and a chance to see Katie, we also spent a lot of time just walking around the city. One night we walked to what became my favorite place in the city, Fisherman’s Bastion, that overlooks the whole city. It looks like it’s a castle from a princess tale with it’s towers and huge ”windows”. One other favorite thing in Budapest for me were the hills in the Buda side. It has a Liberty Statue on top of Gellert Hill, and the views at sunset from there are very beautiful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fisherman’s Bastion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After staying for a few nights in some hostels in the Pest side and saying goodbye to Katherine, we thought we’d try Buda side for the last two nights and found an amazingly nice airbnb from an old art deco villa, a little bit further from the centre. That neighbourhood was a lot different, with lots of little fruit shops and bakeries. Yes, the bakeries. There are a lot of them and everything in them is ridicilously cheap. Otherwise being a vegetarian in Budapest (and overall in Eastern Europe) is a challenge to say the least. But we managed a lot with some research and Happy Cow. Best finds in Budapest were this chain called Hummus Bar, which is exactly what is sounds like, lots of falafels, hummus and other good things. Kelet Cafe was a really cute cafe with really good food and vegetarian/vegan options and really cheap, as food generally was in Budapest.

IMG_5906 2
A very fancy staircase in the villa we stayed at
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Matthias Church

We kind of wanted to get out of the city and a good place for a daytrip is the little old town of Szendtendre, 40 minute tram ride away from Budapest. It reminded me a lot of my old home town Porvoo here in Finland, very quiet with small cobblestone streets and little shops. I really liked the atmosphere there and it’s very easy to get to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still one day before our departure from Budapest we weren’t quite sure (at all sure) where we would go next and spent hours looking at the Interrail map and researching. We knew we wanted to go to Romania, and the connections there were good (although this included a painfully long 13h train ride) so we decided to take a train to Brasov, Transylvania, which was about to be our starting point for a very eventful and adventure-filled week and a half in Romania.

IMG_5981 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Julia xxx

Twists, Turns And Paradises Found In Indonesia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many things went wrong on the last part of my trip, in Indonesia. Many things also went right and now when I think of Indonesia I see it as a very appropriate ending for my trip, and it somehow tied the journey together.

Continue reading

Unexpected Adventures In Malaysia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Malaysia was a funny thing. It was in my itinerary as just a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, between Thailand and Singapore but things happened. Around New Year’s, southern Thailand and its islands where I was supposed to go diving, was flooding. So it became clear pretty quickly that I couldn’t go there but since I already had a flight to Bangkok (I had had to book it before entering Vietnam in case they check my onward ticket for the visa, which they in none of the countries did btw) So I went there and booked a nice hotel for myself for two nights as a Christmas present, haha. But I somehow even on this point, don’t ask how,  had forgotten that I probably should have the onward ticket when entering Thailand as well. So I realised all this in Ho Chi Minh City’s airport and had to make a decision where to go next in like half an hour. Now it’s funny but I was kind of panicking then. Kuala Lumpur seemed like the cheapest option and was sort of on the way to Singapore so I booked it.

Continue reading

A Little Treasure Called Laos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Probably the most common question I got after my trip was ”well what was your favorite place?” And answering that is just as impossible as it sounds. Instead I replied that the place I would first go again to would be Laos. Because I felt I saw a tiny glimpse of something absolutely amazing and largely undiscovered by many.

Continue reading

I’m Going On An Adventure!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soo here we go. Ahh it’s been a long long time coming. Years in my dreams, months in the planning, weeks preparing and now one day away. As long as I can remember, I’ve had a thought that then when I’m done with school, I’ll just leave for a while, all by myself. Where? Asia. Two reasons, besides the fact I’ve always loved Asia: climate and cheapness. Okay, and food. Feels far too real to say it out loud but tomorrow I’m leaving to solotravel Southeast Asia for two months. *insert a nervous giggle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So what is my plan? Well, I have two way tickets to Bangkok since it’s the cheapest. I do have a some sort of itinerary that I’ll stick to if things don’t change which they will. But I’m very not sure yet where I’ll go. My first stop is Chiang Mai in northern Thailand but that’s all I know for sure. The thing is, I’m trying to do something very uncharacteristic for me this time: I’ve been trying not to plan too much. You know, just kind of go there and wing it, do how I feel. And trust me, the inner me hates this. For a control-freak person who plans absolutely everything from a busride inside Helsinki to a menu at every dinner party, finds out as much as possible in advance while conducting a thorough research on every place I’ll travel to, this has been extremely difficult. It has caused stress, nerve-wracking anxiety and sleepless (take this literally) nights. Why bother, you ask. Shouldn’t it be fun to go? Yes it is. I’m overly excited and I’ve been waiting for this for years but I take this also as an opportunity to try and get out of my comfort zone, where everything is carefully planned and controlled. It’s like challenging myself, as cliche as it sounds. And oh boy has it been uncomfortable. Also fun though, but mostly very…not me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
What to take and what to leave…

One thing that’s been funny to watch has been people’s reactions when they ask who I’m going with and I just say ”alone this time”. ”WHAT?” ”WHY?” ”You tiny girl?” ”Won’t you get lonely?” Probably yes and no. I hope to meet new people better this way when traveling alone but I also know I’ll be spending lots of time alone. It doesn’t feel like a bad thing though. It’s not supposed to be a ”Eat, Pray, Love / I will go and find myself” and all that type of trip I guess, or call it what you want to, but I do take it as a chance to spend some time with me and also, as I said, as a kind of growing experience. People grow in new environments out of their comfort zones and that’s where I’ll be pushing myself. Am I more nervous going alone? Yes of course. I’ve been terrified at times (including now) but I’ll deal with it. It will all be good eventually. And do try and tell this to my grandma who thinks I’ve lost it completely and who said she ”won’t be sleeping” while I’m gone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lilo is having none of this 😀 She senses somethings going on and is not enjoying it

Now I am writing this with my backpack all packed, just missing some final things. There is something very calming knowing that that’s your life for two months, in that 50 liter backpack. I’ve been from pure excitement to absolute panic and from ”I cannot do this I’ll cancel my flights” to ”I’ll be fine”. Now I’m there somewhere in between. Excited? Yes. Terrified? Yes. Panicking? Yes. But over all that I think eventually this will be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Fingers crossed,

Julia xxx

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P.S. I don’t yet know how much or if at all I’ll be updating my blog from the road. It depends on a) how good the wifi is and b) how much I have time. But you are more than welcome to join on my trip through instagram (@juliaelleonora) which I’ll probably be shamelessly spamming if the wifi only allows and at snapchat (juliaelleonora there as well)

Shots Of San Francisco

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are many ways to describe this amazing city but for me it was one long time dream come true. Ever since when I first saw pictures of the Golden Gate and shimmering sea yeeears and years ago I remember thinking that I just have to see that some day. And when lots of people when talking about California say they want to see LA and Hollywood and all that jazz, I was never truly interested. I somehow knew I’d like San Francisco, that it would be my kind of place. And it was.

Continue reading

Christmas Feels From Vienna

IMG_9289

So Vienna was beautiful, damn. I am suffering from a loss of Christmas vibes now here in Finland, no snow and so so grey and somehow the whole December has been far too busy for me to really let Christmas sink in. So that’s why I’m extremely glad I got to spend a few days in Vienna because was that place Christmassy! Yes. I was there only for four days so not long at all, definitely SO much left to see and do. Well it’s a good excuse to go back.

IMG_9163

The first thing you’ll notice are probably the buildings. They are so majestic and beautiful. It is extremely hard to find ugly houses. Everything is so decorated and pretty that it’s almost blinding. The whole city feels somehow very… European. In a high-class, historical way.

IMG_9166

IMG_9158

IMG_6907

IMG_9192

IMG_9199

IMG_9745

IMG_9733

IMG_9752

IMG_9471

And then the Christmas markets, one of the main reasons we went there. Some, like the one in front of the town hall seen below, are super crowded and that takes some of the glam away. But they are still pretty. And you can find so many smaller ones around the city. They sell basically quite the same things: gluhwein (like hot wine with christmas spices), waffles, chocolate things, lots of amazingly done ornaments, candles, just to name some.

IMG_9338

IMG_9328

IMG_9309

IMG_9305

IMG_9304
Ornaments made of wood

IMG_9326

IMG_9713

And there are christmas lights, EVERYWHERE! Funny that even when it’s dark, it doesn’t feel dark because of the hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of lights hanging above the streets. One downside, having been in this glittery christmas wonderland makes Helsinki feel a bit lame.

IMG_9389

IMG_9399

IMG_9533

IMG_9564

IMG_9550

IMG_9577

IMG_9395

IMG_9356

One night we visited an amusement park (that also had a christmas market) but we only went to this ferris wheel, one of the oldest ones in the world. It was built in 1897 and was the world’s tallest for most of the 20th century. I thought it was so cool but needless to say, if you’re afraid of heights like my mom, then it’s probably not for you, also knowing its age… 😉 But I loved it, the whole place really had that old time feeling and the aerial views were so cool.

IMG_9689

IMG_9589

IMG_9603

IMG_9604

IMG_9643
There was this weird fog all over, it created a very ghostly and supernatural feeling to the whole place.

IMG_9668

IMG_9691

IMG_9511
Being the history freak I am, I also wanted to go to this military museum (I know I’m such a geek) and it was so interesting! Could have spent the whole day there but there’s always a next time 🙂
IMG_9498
That too, was in a palace of course

Vienna is famous for its horse carriages that drive around the city. Being such a lover of animals, I of course had to go and greet and pet them when I saw them standing somewhere. They were so nice and calm and lovely and so soft!

IMG_9222

IMG_9419

IMG_9225
These were my favorites. I think the one on the left really liked me 🙂

IMG_9464

Vienna is also the city of cakes and cafes, the Sacher cake itself is from Vienna. You can find all sorts of cakes with very reasonable prices, I mean here in Finland you’d have to pay twice the price of a piece of cake than you do there. And they are big enough too! Too often in cafes the cakes are so small at least in Finland. As Justin Bieber would say, what do you mean? That small piece of cake doesn’t satisfy my needs. But in Vienna it does.

IMG_9477
Sacher cake on the left, my nougat one on the right

Original food culture in Austria is uhm, how should I say this, very meat-based  with its wieners and schnitzels and steaks. But luckily there are every possible ethnic food places you could imagine! For example, on Naschtmarkt, one market place, they have super duper good falafels and so many types of different hummus! It was heaven. And also all sorts of dried fruits and spices, really reminded me of Istanbul or Israel.

IMG_9531

IMG_9153

IMG_9152

IMG_9154

IMG_9451
Albertina Museum, maybe the most famous one in Vienna.

IMG_9438

IMG_9441
I have no idea what’s going on in this statue but I thought it was so hilarious I just had to share this.
IMG_9436
Taking a peek at a horse preparing for a show of the Spanish Riding School, Spansiche Hofreitschule, famous for its white Lipizzan horses.

As I said, there are lots of pretty buildings but there are also equally lots of palaces. Loads of them. So much that at some point, you don’t really know what palace you’re looking at, it’s “just another palace.”

IMG_9189
Part of the Hofburgs Imperial Palace complex
IMG_9181
And its pretty park
IMG_9167
Mariahilfer Strasse, the biggest shopping street.

IMG_9169

IMG_9145
They have these funny traffic lights all over the city. The feels though, when traffic lights have better love life than you…

IMG_9165

IMG_9141

Vienna felt very classy, very traditional, like a piece of history that really wants to cling onto its roots. But if I’ve discovered something while traveling, it’s that very few places are entirely what they first seem like. They can prove to be the opposite or something better or worse or something like you imagined but not in the way you imagined. Some of my friends ask after I’ve come back from somewhere, “what did you like about the place?” And so often I cannot give a proper answer. Like this time, is it because I love history? Or because I appreciate and admire old architecture? Or because I just happen to love beautiful things?

I don’t know. That’s why i feel like I need to dig a little deeper, and like so so often after a trip, get the feel that I need to go back.

IMG_9411

Love,

Julia xxx

 

100 Memories Of Capri

IMG_8897

You know what? Never ever has choosing pictures to a post been this hard and I always pick my pictures with care. When every shot you take seems like the most beautiful postcard it’s not just wonderful but also emotionally very tiring to go through the hundreds of pictures and then try to pick the best ones out of already most gorgeous pictures. My heart bled for every pretty picture that didn’t make it here but at least it gives me the permission to keep throwbacking this trip for ages in. Sorry not sorry 😉

It’s said that Capri is “the most beautiful island in the world” and I honestly cannot say it’s wrong. Even though I’m this young I’ve been lucky to have travelled to so many incredibly beautiful places but this was one that absolutely took my breath away. I would like to come up with some other adjective than beautiful but that’s just what describes Capri best. The amount of beauty is so overwhelming and gives you the wonderful feeling like you’re being embraced by all that loveliness and glamor. Everywhere you look you feel like giving a long sigh. I do not wonder for a second why so many Hollywood stars, artists or just ordinary people want to come here for a vacation, to get married, celebrate something or just to experience its famous beauty.

I should mention here something about Italy and me. I don’t know how it started but my family has always got this thing for Italy, it’s been sort of our number one vacation destination during my childhood and I’ve loved it since the first trip there. I counted that this is probably my seventh time there: I’ve been to the northern lakes like Garda many times and then in Tuscany and twice in Rome which not surprisingly is probably my favorite city in Europe. So if I started writing about Italy and why it’s so dear to me this post would be the length of a novel so I’ll make a whole other post about that sometime.

Since Capri for me was such a special and impressive place, this time I decided to make a bit different travel story. Some places are just too beautiful for words, so why then say so much? Although I have already written more than I intended… I have carefully chosen 100 pictures (a few from Sorrento and Pompeii so that title isn’t 100% accurate) that for me captured a tiny piece of Capri’s captivating charm. It’s like a photo diary and I try to keep the stories short in the captions. This time I do believe that pictures tell more than I ever could and I hope that these little pieces of sunshine, laughter, salty sea, joy and excitement make you feel a breeze of that Mediterranean wind, taste the rich, chocolatey taste of Italian gelato and take you on that crazy taxi drive on the serpentine roads up towards heaven.

IMG_7449

IMG_7452
There are two big villages, Capri and Anacapri and this is the view from Capri to Marina Grande, the big harbor, where we stayed.

IMG_7460

IMG_7465

IMG_7478

IMG_7523

IMG_7526

IMG_7551
In Capri they use a lot of pattern ceramic tiles to decor for example benches and stairs.
IMG_7555
This is from Giardini di Augusto which is an old gorgeous garden with stunning views.

IMG_7574

IMG_7578
The Gossip Club
IMG_7584
A sun dial which they used in the Roman time.

IMG_7604

IMG_7636
We walked a lot since one of the things we wanted to do was to hike, so these following are from a gorgeous route that went by the coast and is said to be one of the prettiest coastline routes in the world.

IMG_7638

IMG_7645

IMG_7659

IMG_7661

IMG_7673

IMG_7675

IMG_7680

IMG_7718

IMG_7735

IMG_7737

IMG_5929
Lunch with a view.

IMG_7754

IMG_7776

IMG_7787

IMG_7793

IMG_7802
Capri village
IMG_7808
Via Marina Grande, a zigzag road from the harbor up to Capri village.

IMG_7822

IMG_7825

IMG_7853

IMG_5947
The view from our hotel’s roof terrace where we had breakfast was so amazing.
IMG_7875
And in case you’re wondering, that mountain that you can see in some of the pictures, is Vesuvius and at its feet there’s Naples.

IMG_7888

IMG_8518
Marina Grande

IMG_7898

IMG_7902

IMG_7998

IMG_8054
We took a chair lift up to the highest point of Capri, Monte Solaro, and it was so much fun, except for my mom who’s afraid of heights and kept her eyes closed the entire time.

IMG_8037

IMG_5967
No one can argue with this view.

IMG_8104

IMG_8083

IMG_8105
Torta Caprese, a famous Caprese cake with chocolate and pieces of almonds. SO GOOD. And they even make ice cream that’s flavored like that and it’s even better.
IMG_8148
Then we decided to walk down. That was the day when my sisters pedemeter showed 14 km which wouldn’t be bad if half of it wouldn’t be stairs. At least 750 up…

IMG_8154

IMG_8191
… and 950 down. My walking the next day looked very interesting. My feet have never been that sore so it was the best and worst leg day ever.
IMG_8330
The route went just by the mountainside. Overall the height differences in Capri are unbelievable so there inevitably is lots of climbing and descending. Unless you use just these cute little mini buses which when passing each other go so close to each other that you can actually touch the other bus from the window. I tried.

IMG_8243

IMG_8253

IMG_8255

IMG_8301

IMG_8297

IMG_8334
One of the attractions there is Villa San Michele which was owned by Axel Munthe who was this Swedish doctor, writer and physician and lived in Capri for many years. The Villa and the garden are stunning and located really on the edge so the views, again, are gorgeous.

IMG_8357

IMG_8367

IMG_8382
It would be quite nice to have a terrace like this.

IMG_8444

IMG_8445
I walked past this square in Anacapri for probably five times and each time there was this same cat, almost in the same place.
IMG_8450
The view of Capri village and Vesuvius. It looks really like a postcard.
IMG_8448
Cats for sale.

IMG_8458

IMG_8470

IMG_8480

IMG_8502

IMG_8792
Then we took a ferry and made a day trip to the coast, Sorrento.
IMG_6117
… and took a local train to Pompeii, which is a place I’ve been dreaming of visiting since I first learned about it. And it really has got this extraordinary feeling in it. The ruins of the city are so well still visible that you can actually imagine the city and people walking on its streets.

IMG_8691

IMG_8692
These are of course the most impressive and famous part of Pompeii, the plaster casts made of the “holes” that people who were buried inside the lava made. It’s so moving and also terrifying to really see the last positions and expressions of the people who knew they would die now. There quite in the middle were even two kids, apparently with their mom. And behind them this person who appears to be sitting and praying.

IMG_8723

IMG_8746

IMG_8759
And I made a friend! There were these ruin dogs that are just running free in the ruins.
IMG_6184
Back in the beautiful Sorrento.
IMG_8795
There was this cat and her kitten who were just chilling on this sort of roof and they were there in the morning when we arrived and in the evening when we left they had moved like two meters. The ultimate cat life.

IMG_8800

IMG_8811
I could make a whole other post only about Italian ice cream since it might really be one of my favourite things on this planet. I don’t think it should be called ice cream because it’s not you know, hard, like our normal ice cream is. It’s like frozen mousse of some sort and if it says it’s strawberry flavor, it really tastes 100% strawberry and if it’s chocolate, then it’s like eating chocolate but in ice cream form. Oh I miss it already.

IMG_8820

IMG_8861

IMG_8512
Back in Capri for the last couple days.
IMG_8510
I though this idea of an outside gym was so fun.

IMG_8532

IMG_8533

IMG_8654
Then we, again, walked up to visit Villa Jovis, or the ruins of it, and along the way there were so many absolutely stunning gardens and houses and it was so nice and quiet.
IMG_8650
And a cute little family-run bar with the best orange juice.

IMG_8638

IMG_8612
So this is a place were the Roman empire was run for the couple first centuries AD. It’s so high that the wind was crazy and the views even better.

IMG_8611

IMG_8597
You could actually see were the rooms, chapels etc. had been and that was so cool.

IMG_8580

IMG_8569

IMG_8550
Rosemary, one of my favorite herbs.

IMG_8538

IMG_8537

IMG_8527

IMG_8663

IMG_8665

Love,

Julia xxx