Thursday, March 12, 2009


(image from

While you were busy reading my silly adventures, I was busy finally doing something I had been planning for a long time.

Ladies and gents, check out my online shop. Tell everyone, spread the word, make me rich! :D

You can look waay down on the bottom of this page for a permanent link to the shop. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fourth stop: Dortmund

You know how it feels when you've had way too much chocolate, etc etc ...? Forget it; there's no chocolate in this story. Or any kind of food, for that matter. Or toilets.

It started on a beautiful spring morning. It was 5am. The respectable citizens of Maastricht were still sleeping, safe in their picture-perfect houses, while I and the 15kgs on my back (now enriched by items as diverse as books, marinated fish or wooden clogs) were walking cheerfully towards the train station. A succession of 4 trains was meant to take me to Dortmund, where I would catch my flight home. I had planned it so that I would have some sightseeing time before catching the 12:45 flight.

The time for getting off one train and finding your way to the next was no longer than 4 minutes at any given station. All went well for the first two changes, and I defied nature by breaking the speed record of any Transilvanian who ever had to find his/her way in a train station. Third time unlucky, though. Despite the help of a gentleman who almost missed his own train in order to show me around (random act of kindness no. 2), it took me perhaps 4 minutes and 3 seconds to get to the right platform; just enough to see the doors close and the train leave right under my nose. Bugger! I was stranded in the beautiful town of Viersen, located precisely in the middle of nowhere.

After a long row of multilingual curses directed at Germanic precision, I decided to proceed in an orderly fashion and take it one need at a time. The first and most pressing need was that of finding a toilet, closely followed by the need to find a tourist information desk where I could find out what to do next. Surprise! the train station was composed of nothing but a (very expensive!) bakery and a newspaper shop. No info, no ticket desk, no toilet! Projecting the image of a nice toilet as a future reward at the next stop, I proceeded to struggle with the ticket machine, and obtained a new ticket on the next train to Dortmund. By now I was already an hour behind schedule.

I still had one more change, and I managed that admirably, though without the time to use a toilet. It was now getting quite late, definitely no time left for sightseeing, it would have to be straight to the airport. But phew, I was finally on the last train, I would be in Dortmund soon, everything was going to be fine now... Or not. 16 km before reaching Dortmund, the train breaks down! 40 minutes delay! Not good at all. I got lucky again, when an old lady who spoke English offered to take me to another train that was going to Dortmund (random act of kindness no.3). There we were, old lady running through the station, looking over her shoulder from time to time to check if the young fraulein with the big backpack was following. Up stairs we go, and down some stairs, and through underground passages we go, until she puts me onto the correct train in the nick of time. I give thanks to all the big-nippled Jesuses out there, as my only concern now (apart from trying not to wet my pants) was making it to the airport in time.

Finally, Dortmund! No pilgrim was ever happier to see Mecca than I to have finally seen myself off the last train. In the excitement of the moment, I forget to go toilet and go straight towards the airport shuttle. Shock and horror! I was 10 minutes late and the next one was leaving in an hour and a half's time! Sure as pee was pee, I was going to miss my flight! But I must have had a little lucky sprite or two left on my shoulder, as the nice girl at the tourist info desk tells me I might just make it if I take this subway followed by this bus to the airport. I rush to buy the tickets (lots of hand gesturing, giggles, and misunderstood words) with, of course, only a few minutes left to get to the subway. Get onto the subway, get off the subway, run to the bus, get off the wrong bus, cross the road, get onto the right bus... phew, almost there! The need to pee returns stronger than ever. My dad rings. I assure him I'm fine, just peachy, never been better.

Finally-finally, the airport! The check-in being still open, I get rid of my backpack and rush to the toilets. But why would they make it easy! There's a door for men and a door for disabled, no ladies'! I decide that my current circumstances excuse my being rude, and I go into the disabled, but it was dark. Groping around on the wall for a light switch, I press something. The light doesn't come on, but instead a voice talks to me in German. I choose to ignore it, but it insists. In the meantime I manage to turn the light on and realise I had actually pressed the alarm button. Omg, they were sending an intervention team, an ambulance, who knows what, my way, to find that the only thing disabling me is a full bladder! I apologise nicely to the speaker in the wall, he excuses me, and I finally get to enjoy the happiest 3 minutes of my entire trip.

After which I board the plane, fall asleep instantly and wake up above Timisoara. Ahh, dust, rudeness and colourful gypsies... home at last! I hadn't eaten in 25 hours, and after completing that task most successfully (3 servings of pasta, thanks Mørti!) I was able to see the comical side of the day of March 3, when a silly Transilvanian girl crossed 3 countries without peeing.

And thus ended the adventures of said silly Transilvanian girl. Thanks for joining me, I hope you enjoyed them too. I might put more pretty pics in future posts, if I decide you haven't seen enough.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Third stop: Maastricht

You know how it feels when you've had way too much chocolate, and you're a bit queasy etc etc ...? Yeah... too much Jesus this time. Take the maximum number of cathedrals you can possibly imagine in a city of 60,000 inhabitants (and I mean cathedrals, not little neighbourhood churches), add another 10 or so for good measure, multiply that by 5 and you've got Maastricht. They're all so beautiful! However, this overabundance of cathedrals means they have to be repurposed in various ways in order to prevent their falling into ruin. Thus was created one of the coolest things I've ever seen so far:
A dominican church built in 1290 and recently converted into a book store, the largest I've ever been into.
It also houses a cafe, where customers eat at a (how fitting!) cross-shaped table:
Another cathedral had this sign on it. Maybe it's a church during the day and a dance club at night... "exercise your demons with DJ Moses!"
If Gothenburg is the big cake (round and fluffy... with almond icing...) that leaves you full, happy and exhaustingly delighted, Maastricht is the bag of lollies you eat on the couch on a lazy Sunday: a city that even in early spring has the appearance of a resort: colourful crowds, souvenir shops, packed outdoor cafes and lots of noise. Not homely, but fun for a holiday.
It's also the most bike-friendly city I've ever been into: properly marked lanes (that do not end suddenly, like in NZ), separate traffic lights, and drivers that are very protective of bikers. My biggest question remains... how on earth do you find your own bike at the end of the day?!
Being Holland, yes, some streets smell of marijuana. The specialised shops are called "grow shops" and they sell anything from plants to smoking accessories to themed souvenirs.
And just for fun, a collage of various representations of Jesus. My favourite remains the one with the very well defined nipples, hihi.
Stay tuned for fourth and last stop: Dortmund. You'll want popcorn for that one!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Second stop: Bruxelles

You know how it feels when you've had way too much chocolate, and you're a bit queasy but still rather pleased with yourself, as it tasted really good? That's exactly how I felt by the end of the day I am about to tell you of.

I left Gothenburg early in the morning. Spring had decided to come exactly that day, so I left behind a wide expanse of sunny forests. For one of the ugliest cities ever. But I didn't know that yet.

I got to Brussels airport and proceeded to patiently wait for my friend, who was supposed to pick me up. And I wait. And I wait. And I finally get a phone call: "erm, what airport are you at?". Just great! He was waiting for me at the wrong bloody airport. And he had also chosen the one that was furthest away from the city (about 60km). So I find a bus to take me to the city, and kindly ask the driver in my very broken French (tiny little shards of French, actually), to let me know when a certain square came up, as that's where I was supposed to be heading. Of course he doesn't tell me and I end up travelling to the end of the line.

Oh well. What can a triwi do when stranded in a strange city? Sightseeing, of course. Except it was raining, I had only slept 2 hours the previous night, I was starving and I had 15kg on my back. Not to mention I walked several streets and squares and nothing interesting revealed itself. Only dirt, crowds, chaotic traffic, scaffolding, an unsightly hodge-podge of new and old, (both poorly maintained), and the huge sterile-looking buildings where our Europe's fate gets decided. So I took refuge in a warm Irish pub, where I was refreshed by a huge egg sandwich and the cheerful company of a young man with a tie in my favourite shade of red (random act of kindness no. 1 - thanks, Jonathan!). He reinforced my first impression of the city by candidly telling me there was nothing to see there.

I finally managed to meet my friend, who had returned from his wrong journey into the Belgian countryside, had another sightseeing attempt which miserably failed into ugliness, paid a compulsory visit to a Belgian chocolate shop, and took the train to Maastricht. Upon arrival, half a kg of chocolate was consumed, a hot shower was had, and life seemed a bit better.

So if you want pictures of Brussels, go google them. I blow my nose in its general direction.

Stay tuned for next stop: Maastricht. Lots more fun!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

First stop: Göteborg

Gothenburg was for a while in a close competition with Wellington for the title of most beautiful city I've ever seen. They both have that unique quality of soothing the lonely, of making one feel at home and quite welcome. But being that Gothenburg has the added bonus of a solid history behind it, I'd say it will be the winner.

It's hard to describe all the feelings the city gave me, but if I had to put it in one word, it would be "home". If I somehow had the opportunity to live there, I would start packing tomorrow. Looking at the pictures now, I realise they barely capture the idea I'm trying to put across here. The light was rather dull most of the time; serves me right for travelling to Scandinavia in winter! And I also failed to take pictures of the things I loved most: the cute narrow streets of Haga and their overwhelmingly tempting shops, the ginger cat begging for cuddles from each passerby, the almost mystical white lights in all the windows, all the stuff I've eaten, the timid stripy light over a certain wine-red couch, so many original paintings that I couldn't believe I was actually seeing for real... But how about I stop babbling and show you some pics?
First thing I visited: the Maritime Museum. Nice view of the harbour. The statue is the sailors' tower, with a generic and solemn looking woman at the top, waiting for her husband/brother/son to return from the sea. Her fixed stare and the dress billowing in the wind do give you quite a feeling of gloom and longing, especially against those gray skies. The seagull didn't seem to be so impressed though:
This is what I called "the happy church". I don't remember its name, but I was in awe at the mental complexity of whatever architect designed it. Would have looked awesome with a shiny copper roof, but such a thing is impossible there, hence green roofs and green statues are for me a trademark of the city. Not to mention it made this cathedral look... well, happy! :>
The cathedral in the Haga disctrict I mentioned above:
One of the highlights of my trip - the fish church! Apart from looking pretty, it's filled with yummy fish dishes, as well as not so friendly looking whole fishes, staring up at you from their beds of ice. I bought fish prepared in several different ways, which got eaten way before I thought of pulling my camera out.
Behind the fish market... just a normal block of flats. On a cliff. In the centre. Don't you just love this city?
The city hall building and the flag of the city. And a beautiful sunny day, which made me feel like saying "in your face!" to all the people who had warned me about the nasty Scandinavian weather this time of the year.
Founder of the city, with the city hall in the background.
A very pretty street along one of the canals, on the same sunny day.
Can you tell the sun has an instant positive effect on my mood?
Poor sick bird on the side of the road. I felt like a big meanie. Why? Well, how would u like it if one day you couldn't fly and someone took pictures of you instead of calling an ambulance? Nice view of the frozen canal and some more architecture in the background.
At the city museum. Viking treasures galore.

There were some nature walks too (cold memories of snowy paths, wet feet and grumbling, followed by a compensating hot bath).Turns out I did take a pic of at least one thing I've eaten - the semlor. I wasn't impressed with the taste, but they are common fare in cafes, and this tree is quite pretty.
Doesn't this look a bit Transilvanian? The mist, the tower, the naked branches... boo!
I just liked the colours in this one.
The only half-decent pic I have of lamps in the windows. It's taken from a moving tram, so excuse the quality. I loved the look, though, so homely.
The old city gate (obviously) at night.
I know, this last one has nothing to do with history, or architecture, or anythig of the sort, but it is one of my strongest memories. Ladies and gents, meet Billy-Bob. He has a very intelligent expression, doesn't he? He lives at the Natural History Museum and whoever stuffed him was demented. I spent about 10 mins in front of his display case, laughing. One could say this stuffed animal is totally stuffed!
And this was my week spent in the city of the Goths. I have way more memories than photos, but I hope you have seen at least a part of what made this city so cool for me :)

My trip started going downhill from here. Stay tuned for next stop: Brussels!

Friday, March 6, 2009

There and back again. The story of a wandering Transylvanian

... Missed me? I'm back home now. I'm clean, I'm rested. I'm drinking coffee out of my own cup and typing on my own keyboard.

You know how it feels when you've had way too much chocolate, and you're a bit queasy but still rather pleased with yourself, as it tasted really good? Well, I've had too much history and architecture. I couldn't stand seeing another cathedral or museum or historic building, but I enjoyed every second exploring the ones I've already seen. Once I have organised my pictures, I will tell you about every segment of my journey. Until then, you can get some statistics of my Eurotrip.
- I reached my destinations using 4 planes, 7 trains, countless buses and quite a few kilometres' worth of walking.
- I stopped over in 5 cities, only 2 of which I explored thoroughly, seeing 5 museums, at least 10 cathedrals and in excess of 100 Jesus faces.
- I tried 11 new foods, one of which was disgusting, 2 neutral and the rest yummy.
- I spent 17 days grinning ear to ear as each day brought something new to see, learn or enjoy.
- I received 3 random acts of kindness from total strangers.
- I spent at least 3 days being 16 years old.
- I saw the sunrise for the first (and second!) time in my life.

It was a real thrill, I'm so happy I've done it. Stay tuned for stories and photos. And if I don't make you fall hopelessly in love with Europe, then I have failed my task ;)