Tag Archives: Travel

I won’t take the high road, but I’ll take the low – and I’ll be in Zagreb on Wednesday

For me and my true love, shall one day meet again!
I am off to Zagreb, Croatia in a few days. Purpose of this adventure, again, is my Uni, who kindly asks me to write a Bachelor-Thesis. Me, for I really really want to learn Croatian and explore the country and culture to its fullest found a superb placement, called “Expat Adria”, for whom I will conduct a communication needs assessment. I shall be looking forward to it. And, of course, I am very much looking forward to exploring a culture that means the world to me. I have this decent camera of mine that takes pictures (you don’t say!) and thus I expect the most of you here again, for images and stories! Stay tuned!

zbogom! 🙂


many more roads to follow…

With having returned to my safe harbour of The Netherlands, the core purpose of this blog (reporting about my time in Estonia and Cameroon) now has become obsolete. I have travelled 6 countries, 3 time zones and 2 continents. I wore shorts at -28°C and long sleeves at +32°C, I ate amazingly fresh fruits and disgustingly old bread. I drank the nicest juices and liquors next to the grossest dairies and beers and I have met people from more than 40 countries and every single continent, with meaningful and authentic discussion to pure pisstakes over drinks at 5am. Now I am back in the Netherlands with a more down-to-earth approach to life, but I don’t consider this blog to be over, it much rather just began. See, now that I am more and more reaching for the end of my Bachelor studies I need to find out what it is that I want in and from life. Clearly it involves travelling above all! Therefore I will keep this blog running, one post at a time. And maybe, if I am in the mood, I might change the core idea behind this blog being a travelling diary and use it for different causes. So stay alert for updates and please please please continue being active on the SOCIALVIBE, as any cause presented is a cause worth spending some minutes on! It has been a pleasure to blog and I appreciate all the comments and feedback you guys have given me over the time.

Till soon I hope!


Anno 2011: Do’s and Don’ts in Cameroon

Much like its Estonian brethren back in 2010, I decided to provide you with some essential information about what and what not to do, eat, see in the rare case you ever make it to Cameroon, or more specifically to Buea and the South West region. Since I have only spent three weeks here, of course the facts mentioned will be rather superficial, but I am very unhappy to inform that due to severe health issues, I have decided to end my stay here immediately. I’d really love to stay, but with all the nightmares and panic attacks I have had during the past days and weeks, I cannot picture myself living here for another 4 months, so I will return to the Netherlands for now and will try to work out things to get a new placement as quickly as possible.

Anyways, as usual, don’t take my words below too serious and bear in mind that I tend to make false assumptions, unsophisticated conclusions and hasty decisions:

Do try the local cuisine. Especially Fufu and Eru are dishes you will never find in Europe. While I couldn’t find out the exact content of Eru, Fufu is made from Yams or Plantains, this banana alike vegetable.

Don’t ever again dare to try Fufu nor Eru! While it is really interesting to have one bite from each, that is as far as one should go with it. Even the locals don’t really eat Fufu or Eru. When it comes to using plantain, the much rather boil and fry it, to make local fries. Those are quite nice to be honest.

Do expect to taste the freshest and juiciest fruits in your entire life! Pineapples, Papaya, Coconuts have never tasted so good in my life and contribute a large part to my daily diet, also because you can purchase them at a really low prices, such as 45 cent for half a pineapple.

Don’t expect to find your “normal” food in any kind of store. In fact, “stores” might not even be applicable, rather they are “Provision stores”, where you can get the basics, such as bread, vegetables or beer. I haven’t had any cheese or milk here so far (as they are priced at a premium, since imported, level).

Do expect to spend a good amount of time leaning over the toilet, especially after having tried some homemade food. It tastes really nice for the most part, but the last few days I was troubled with stomach issues at a constant base.

Don’t underestimate the moderate weather climate. It may look like it’s gonna rain soon, but really it is burning your skin. I have used my sunlotion for most of the time, but those rare occasions where I didn’t I had some rough skin pieces the following day, not to mention the millions of bits I get every day, regardless of having used mosquito spray.

Do open your doors to all sorts of animals, such as snails, geckos, mice, cockroaches and spiders. Well, they find their way in anyways… 🙂

Don’t expect to be handled as a “normal” person here. After all, we are the “white people”, therefore we have money, lots of money to just give without asking. That is why I have been ripped off quite frequently by people in “shops”, bars or taxis. I try to take it as a rather normal experience, but you might wanna be cautious about how to position yourself.

Do get used to share a cab with 6 other people + the occasional driver. For the striking amount of 15-25 cent you get to be squeezed in your seat with no possibilities to buckle up or even hold on to something. You will experience detours all the time and the universal sign to get people’s attention as potential customers is the ever-lasting horn, which serves as pretty much any mean of communication on the street.

And now, since you probably only show interest in the pictures, here they are…

The best restaurant in town...

At a fancy hotel, nearby the Botanic Garden in Limbe - really beautiful, really expensive...

On the beach in Limbe, the Mt. Cameroon in its back...

Yet another stunning view at Mt. Cameroon, taken from my house's porch...

My favorite taxi slogan of all times...


7 days in Cameroon

It has been some days since my last post, I admit that. But the truth is, once you actually start living here in Cameroon, you tend to become really slow, primarily taking the actual walking/working. With my rather long legs I overtake everyone on the streets just to find myself completely exhausted at the bottom of the road. You don’t run here, as long as you are not working out. Walk slowly and eventually you will get to where you want to be. It is due to the extreme heat and high humidity that putting your body under extreme conditions seems rather useless. The blood remains warm no matter what, so walking slowly really helps!

Life here in Buea couldn’t possibly go any slower, or we’d start moving backwards. My working day (if that definition is really accurate) starts somewhat around 9ish and ends when…sort of when I feel like it has to end for me. We are 4 people sitting at a big table, all more or less desperate for the Internet to facilitate our work, but since we got a decent connection installed in our house last week, my normal working day became a 24/7 issue, with being online as much a possible (that is, if the frequent power cuts wouldn’t hamper the process). The power cuts occur around once a day, and normally wont last much longer than a few minutes. Last weekend, however, a heavy (heavy for me as a German) storm made its appearance right on top of our small house and caused a widely spread power cut for more than 10 hours, leaving us in the dark with no coffee…  🙂 On Friday evening I went out with Tom, Captain (the producer of the music Tom is using for the HIV/Aids project) and Abigail, one of the artists for the same project to see a concert up in Buea Town. The music was really nice and even though I mysteriously lost 30,000 franc (about 45€) while attending the concert, I will keep that night in good memory.

We spent my first Sunday in Cameroon visiting the market of Buea, buying amazingly fresh veggies and fruits (half a pineapple of about 30 euro cent!)  and witnessed the most disgusting sort of meat and met storage I ever came across.  Let us play a game: who can guess what part of the body do you see on the picture below?

At the local market - kinda wanna make u become a Veg straightaway, he!

The overall experience was breath-taking and I am sure we will make it a weekly tradition to go to the market, while the rest of the country is spending literally 8h in church! Going to the church will also be part of my agenda at some point, but for now I don’t see myself spending hours dancing and singing… The same night, we were having a nice barbecue outside with a self-made grill, using the nearby banana leafs to make the fire. We had grilled and roasted vegetables and potatoes and even though the others liked the meat, I am sure we’ll mostly have vegetarian food in the future, woohoo! I am having a day off today (and maybe also tomorrow, as it will be Woman’s Day which is being celebrated here to a much wider extent than in Germany).

One thing that is quite annoying is the way my mind is responding to the anti malaria pills I have to take once a week. I am having severe nightmares every other night, something I haven’t experienced yet. I will quit the writing for now but publish some images I managed to capture during the last few days.

This is the patch I have to slowly walk down and up every day to take a taxi to work

A tiny baby sleeping at a sun-covered stand at the market. An image I just HAD to take...

At the local market with the spectacular view at Mt. Cameroon in the far distance

Someone seems to be working on a career after politics..


New Destination, new haircut, new layout…

After my time in Tartu, Estonia is finally over and my internship is about to begin, I decided to change the layout of this blog. All old entries will remain, just the appearance will alter. In addition to that, I have changed my own appearance: “All gone”! My hair disgusted me in the end and taking into consideration the extreme heat I will have to face once in Cameroon, it has been a reasonable decision. But my hair will grow back and eventually I shall look the same…

Currently, I am busy with collecting everything I want to take along on the trip. Since I have booked 46kg of luggage for both flights (Hamburg-Paris-Douala and return) I can take plenty of stuff. However, with an average degree of 35°C each day, my wardrobe won’t be too heavy. That is why I will bring a bunch of books to read, as well as my Russian papers to continue learning that wonderful language. Since I will be living somewhat close to the only English-taught university of Cameroon, hopefully I could explore their library as well.

In addition to clothing, books and the obvious laptop, a lot of money has to be invested in having all sorts of medical precautions, such as sunlotion (level 50!!), spray against mosquito bits or disposable gloves, not to mention the 150,00€ to be spent on malaria pills. Furthermore, I am doing my own fundraising right now, trying to get friends from my local community to collect some minor gifts, such as writing paper, pencils or toys for kids. Hopefully, I will receive plenty! Also, I have changed the SOCIALVIBE activity on this blog. Now you and me are supporting CAMFED, an agency that is aiming at empowering girls and women in rural areas in Africa to overcome poverty. So in a way, this is what I will be doing soon! Please take some minutes to help me raise a few bucks!

This will be my last post on European soil. Next time you’ll read something about my being, it shall come from the brand new location of Buea in…wait for it…Cameroon!!! 🙂


Termination of ERASMUS: The Payback…

Now, as I pack my stuff in my dorm in Tartu, aiming to spend some days in Lithuania before finally going back home, I promised myself to have 1 final post about my time in Estonia. However, this time, I won’t be talking about the snow, the trips or the various drinks you should try while being here. No, this time, I’ll pay back! I will mention most if not all of the things I witnessed here during the last 5 months that i consider worth mentioning and will share them with you. If I am offending someone who reads this: It was not my intention 🙂 Let the show begin…

Spanish people: Absolutely fantastic people. As individuals. In a group, a bunch of impervious folks with no intention to harmonize with anyone else but Portuguese. I tried at several occasions to enter the group, but, with 9 out of 10 conversations in Spanish, sort of impossible for me. Knowing about Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions I should not be surprised, but I haven’t seen that intense behaviour in action so far.

Russian people: I have written so much about them during my time here that I cannot really add anything new. They are still the most unpleasant people I have met during ERASMUS and I have not yet seen any solution for this. It is not just me who is saying that. They were actually the reason we had the door locked at almost all times. I do not want to sound disrespectful to Russians in general and those I know better are perfectly nice people, but I hope I’ll never meet any of them again…

My mates from the apartment: No, nothing negative to mention about them, leaving aside several late night Skype calls in the kitchen or early Sunday morning uses of the mixer that woke me up. But they were among the best people I have met in my life and I am really glad we lived together. I am not speaking for my liver, which honestly is happy that ERASMUS is over, but I had a fantastic time with you guys! You are all aces in my book and I am looking forward to meeting you again, eventually in 2016 here in Tartu for a great revival 😀 Over the last months, we have collected money from plastic bottles. Now, at the end I am very glad to mention that we managed to gather 27,80€ in total!! This money will shortly be donated to good causes in Nepal and Bangladesh. I am happy that we accomplished that, thanks again guys 🙂

The University: Beautiful from the inside, catastrophic from the inside. Weak organization, teacher without much knowledge in teaching, unequal treatment of students. I am glad to have studied at a Research University for once, but I thought it would be set up much more Ivy league-alike.

Sharing a 16m2 bedroom with another guy: Very interesting for a couple of weeks, very exhausting for 5 months. Although he is a really great guy, I am so looking forward to having my own room again with a little more privacy.

Estonia: Great country to live in…for a few months. Not a place I could spend the rest of my life. Many aspects of the daily life are tempting for a longer stay, such as the Wi/Fi everywhere, the strong infrastructure and of course (for one that comes from a rich country) the very moderate prices for pretty much everything. But still, it was only a step on my path to yet again somewhere else…

Tartu: If I was to life in Estonia, Tartu would be the only choice. It is the best town in the country, with the best varieties to have a decent life. Nonetheless, the city is marked as my ERASMUS-place so living here will never be the same again.

The Germans: We are everywhere! Everywhere! You cannot stop us. We take your city on a horseback and stick in big, German-speaking groups. And we love potatoes, litres of beer and watching football. In a way, we are like the Spanish. But we speak English much better… 🙂

What I learned: Talking in terms of studying, I have learned various things, which may or may not help me for my future professional life. I am sure that knowing about Lithuania in the 15th century and the Sumerian cosmogony will barely benefit me in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector, but I am nonetheless glad I got the opportunity to get familiar with it. Having learned Russian and having gotten an insight into Public sector marketing, however, are really beneficial for me! Speaking life, I have learned a lot more. Living with strangers, adapting to different habits, different styles of speaking English, learning. I have met people here that really helped me gaining new insights into the world (mostly while having a beer somewhere) and I have seen things and places I probably would never have seen in my life if it wasn’t for people and situations here!! I am so glad I decided to have come here…

What I will miss: Living in a dorm (even though right now I am happy it’s over), the city and its amazing bars, pubs, shops, streetlights, pretty much everything. The guys from the apartment (a lot!) and the very international atmosphere ERASMUS was providing us with throughout the entire 5 months. In addition, I will also miss the monthly rent, which in total (more than 5 months) added up to a little over 520€!!

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Thank your for following my blog! I hope, you had a good time reading my stories from Estonia, Sweden and Russia. I hope y’all will stay tuned and check out this blog again, because soon my stories will cover my life in Buea, Cameroon! Thank you!! 🙂


SeaBattle: a boat full of Spanish people, a stomach full of acid liquid

Three days ago, I packed my suitcase, I packed my flatmate, I packed a bottle of pepper vodka and off I went to Tallinn. Why? Because we went to do SeaBattle! SeaBattle is an organized 3-day trip from ESN groups all across the Baltic Sea Region (thus Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Denmark). Only students studying in these countries were granted permission to participate and among those few tickets which were issued (only 50 for Tartu students, 90€ each) at the beginning of September, I can call myself lucky to have gotten a one. Leaving for Tallinn on Monday noon, it did not take long till we had finished our first pint of beer in the bus. Yet I was very tired from lack of sleep in the previous nights, so I decided to take it easy for the moment. It proofed to be a wise decision on my side. Once in Tallinn, we had about 1 hour to spare before being allowed to enter the boat – named Queen Baltic. We used that time to buy cheap smokes and drinks in nearby shops – again a very wise decision, taking into consideration that we were about to ship for one of the most expensive countries in Europe – we were heading for Stockholm, Sweden! 17 hours of pure fun, drinks and waves lied in front of us, just waiting to be used.

Well, technically that could have been true. However, after 3 hours of sleep in the previous night, 5 cans of beer, about 3 sips from my pepper vodka, disgusting food (included in the price) and a really rough sea caused my stomach to scream for salvation, a favour I happily granted it by lying down most of the time. So I went to bed at midnight and would eventually get up at 2am to walk around and explore the events of SeaBattle. Honestly, I was barely interested in that, since I realized that most people on the boat were either drunk, on the best way to get drunk or already too drunk from the reasons which caused my stomach to rebel as mentioned above…

The next morning, unlike most (and especially my boat roommate) I was completely sober, had a shower and ambitions to take the bus trip we have paid for the evening before. But hold on… There were no busses. The guided bus trip, as we believed would follow was more a guided walking trip in a feelingly cold Stockholm by some Swedish students, who managed to read out loud from Wikipedia-articles without knowing any real inside into the city, expect for naming the place where “Lady Gaga played last month…”. 🙂 That is what I call money spent wisely… Stockholm is a great city, but spending 6 hours in the shivering cold with prices for coffee around 3,50€, it sorts of loses its magic.

After having spent the ridiculous amount of 9,80€ for a small Falafel and a black coffee, we headed back to the boat. A small nap in the bed later (2 hours) I was ready to rock the boat. By that time, all the students from Sweden and Norway have entered as well and got prepared for a night of pure insanity. A much more relaxing sea helped a lot to enjoy the evening, but still I was not fully satisfied with the decision of actually having participated in the entire trip. I mean, electronic music, simple-minded security forces and clearly overcharged beer are not what I call a great evening out. Yet I enjoyed it very much to be on the open water, having one or two good conversations with people and the experience of getting sea-sick 🙂

Before I finish this post, one remark about the Spanish: They are everywhere. They come to get to know more Spanish people. They stand in circles of approximately 50 people and scream “España España” for hours and hours, causing my weak stomach to further deteriorate… Surely wonderful people when individual or in small groups, but in large groups really obnoxious to get along with…

In conclusion: It maybe was not the best idea to purchase a ticket for the trip, but in the end I am glad to have done this, so I know what not to do in future times 🙂


Tartu for 2 days: An alternative tourguide

Here is what you should do, when all over sudden you discover 2 free days in your schedule and you happen to be somewhat close: Visit Tartu! Plenty of books describe plenty of things to do, see, buy, eat… But only a truely young student who is doing his ERASMUS in that city can tell you the truth! So listen and listen carefully…

Dependent on your budget, get a fancy hotel or a less fancy hostel. Hotel Dorpat is highly recommended, with a breath-taking breakfast, decent rooms and with an amazing view at the river. In case of less money, get yourself a hostel room at Raatuse 22, this happens to be the place I currently stay (yes, we have a hostel in the dorm! We also have a sports bar and a driving school…).

Well, fresh up a little, we are going for a walk! We shall start at the Raekoja plats (town hall square), where all the nice little cafés are located. Passing it on the right side, we stand at the beginning of the Toome Hill. Have a walk! Especially in early autumn, when the leaves keep falling and the sun shines its last hours of the year, then having a long walk through the hill of Tartu might even be inspiring. Various monuments, some cafés and of course the Tartu cathedral welcome you!

After you finished your highly exhausting walk (about 1 hour) step down and find your way trough the Ülikooli street towards the Ülikool Tartu (the university – for reasons beyond my understanding situated in the “university street 🙂 ) Have a look inside! You may find yourself buying a ticket for a classical concert in the main hall or, due to lack of alternatives, just walk around. The building looks very impressive from the outside but the inside can easily be covered in 12 minutes. Step out again! Turn right! Head for café Werner – without any doubts the best in town, in Estonia, probably even in the entire Baltic Sea Region! Sit down, order a coffee (or 2, or 3) and try every sort of cake they offer – every singe one! It is worth it. The restaurant upstairs is less favourable. To have a decent dinner, either go to Pierre or Volga. Fair prices for good food in a warm atmospheres. Not recommended for Vegetarians (nothing in Tartu is much recommended for my people! The national/regional cuisine is really dependent on meat and fish), but a wide range of traditional Estonian/Georgian/Russian food is available. You will need it for the night. The nights are what makes Tartu the most interesting town in the entire country! Start your night with a decent housebeer at Püssirohukelder, preferable on a Monday, because then you might see crazy Estonians doing Estonian karaoke versions of popular songs. The housebeer costs 28eek per litre (that equals 1,80€ for a litre!). Don’t stay too long…

Next, hit the Illegard. Three beer = 80eek. Great deal. A much better deal is the five hotshots = 100eek. A hotshot is a drink consisting of espresso, Galliano and cream. Drink 1 (maximum 2!), leave the premise. It is time for Genialistide Klubi. Now it has an entrance fee of 5oeek, but when you make it at the right night, you won’t regret it. It welcomes the most interesting bands that come to town, have decent reggae parties and even a smoking room (a smoking room!). Hold your position for about 2 hours, than make your way to Zavood – the holy Zavood! End the night in Zavood, that is the only place to do so. Drink a “Funny Suicide”, have a plastic beer outside the ally and meet (weird) locals. Actually all those who got me “inspired” about my “Talking Politics” post some weeks ago I have met in Zavood. Leave when it starts raining (and believe me, it will start raining). Grab a bite to eat on the way home. Take-aways offer the cheapest alternatives at night, such as wraps, burger or onion rings. Sleep well – but not too long! See, if you sleep to long in Tartu, especially during the long, cold winter (September – June) you are running risk of missing the daylight for quite some time. After yet another breakfast, take on your good shoes, we are going for a walk. Destination: Supilinn. Within meters away from both Zavood and Genialistide Klubi you find the poorest area in the city but also the most interesting one. Old wooden houses from the 19th century present themselves in only a few streets which are named after vegetables, indicating that Supilinn used to be a place for “ordinary people”. Afterwards, have a coffee/tea in the Ülikooli Kohvik situated next to the main university building. Of course you can also return to Werner and try yet another mouth-watering cake 😀   The art museum (Tartu Kunstimuuseum) at Raekoja plats 18 offers a compact overview about current and recent Estonian painters and costs only 35eek entrance.  For the evening, I suggest eating out at either Pierre, Volga or Café Noir, all within minutes away from the theatre. The theatre? Yes, the theatre! The Vanemuine theatre at Vanemuise 6 hosts latest adaptations of plays to more than moderate prices. After the play, conclude the night with a walk along the river Emajõgi and finally fall asleep in whatever place you have booked in.

If you would come right now, the following images might be waiting for you…


Exploring Russia: Псков и Москва

Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to participate in a 4-day trip tp Russia, including 2 nights in the country’s sparkling capital MOSCOW! Of course, the preparations have started weeks ago, since I had to make prepayment and leave my passport in the hands of the local travel agency.

On early Friday morning, a group of around 25 people gathered in front of the dormitory at Raatuse, waiting for the bus to arrive. Among those I  could count more than 10 Germans 🙂 The bus would arrive with the woman from the agency who was going to guide us during the trip and take care of all (language-related) problems and obstacles. It turned out to be more than necessary…                                                                                                        After about 3 hours of driving, we arrived at the Estonian-Russian border. It took a good 2 hours to first exit Estonia, drive through a 2oom “no-mans-land” and finally to enter Russia, including several check ups on the passport, the pictures and, in my case only, a good look into my luggage. Once done, I witnessed the first heavy snow of this season.After we have successfully entered Russia, we stopped to pick up a tiny old woman, who turned out to be our tour guide for Pskov (NB: Tartu’s partnercity). We drove to this old (over 1,100 years) city and spend a couple of hours visiting the local Kremlin. It was rather interesting, yet the omnipresence of the snow and cold was a drawback to this excursion.

“You are not allowed to take pictures of the nuns and the monkeys!”

After  about 2 hours in the very extreme cold of Pskov, we drove to a small café where we had the opportunity to get some lunch. Next to that place we found a small supermarket and bought the groceries for what we believed should be a quite relaxing trip in the night train towards Moscow. I was mistaken… 😛 The bottle of really cheap vodka (100 ruble, around 2,30€) I took was to get us in a dizzy sleeping mood so we could have gotten up in with explordinary ambitions in the morning, ready to experience Moscow. However, what stood between this idea was the comfort of the train + 150 russian soldiers, who just finished their military service as paratroops and were looking forward to finally going home to their families, girlfriends, wives and kids (the soldiers’ ages: 20-25). At first, I was afraid my “non-russian-looks” could be the cause for an unpleasant night with 150 bold headed drunken ones staring at me. But then I opened my bottle of vodka, saluted to the next guy I could see and drank – the ice was broken! Following this was 4 hours of drinking, learning Russian (us), learning English (them) and experiencing a typical russian-style rooster fight, when the train militia tried to prevent the soldiers from excessive drinking. At 11pm, we were told to go to “bed” and sleep. Surprisingly (or maybe not, taking into consideration the gallons of booze those people drank) everyone obeyed. Everyone? No! 1 brave tall and very drunken German from Rostock decided to fight for resistance against this, what he called “Stalinist” idea of suppressing authorities. He was chased up and down the train for about 1 hour before being convinced by both our guide and the militia that sleeping would be a much better solution than spending the upcoming 15 days in a prison in Moscow – he was a very smart kid then 🙂

Saturday morning, 6.30am. Moscow. Cold. Windy. But still: Moscow! We took a bus to the hotel but unfortunately it was still pitch black outside, so I cannot much recall the first impression of this city. The hotel was…all right. The rooms were fine (I even got a single room, not the worst idea after having travelled in the same shoes for almost 24 hours!), and the view from the 16th floor could not have been better (I have never seen so many blocks of houses in my life – and I have been to Berlin Marzahn) but it was the breakfast that made me realise I finally came to the capital of the former Soviet Union: Noodles with cheese for me (with 1 sausage for those who eat roadkill), 1 yoghurt, 1 teabag, a little bit of hot water. Taking a second teabag equalled the amount of 15 days of prison as I am convinced…

Having eaten, having freshened up a little, were ready to hop on a bus and get our first guided bus trip around the city – big fail! 5 minutes after I was seated comfortably, I fell asleep. I was woken around 40 minutes later for a stop at something which I cannot recall. It has not even been the first stop we have made. The first one was something called “Kreml”, but that did not seem to be too interesting, so I haven’t missed a thing. Now since I do not remember what it was that we visited, I will just post the picture and whoever guesses correctly will help me a lot. Next to the unknown spot, we drove by the Moscow State University, the Olympic Stadium from 1980 and finally stopped at some tourist spot for taking photos, given the explicit order not to buy anything from the sellers, something we almost obeyed.

We also saw the ski-jump tower which has never been used, as it could not have been guaranteed that the athletes could land within the designated area. After that part, we went to the city to get some “typical russian food” which in my case was potatoes with salad, a vegetable soup and some ice cream for dessert. Afterwards, we were given 3 hours of spare time in the All-Russian Exhibition Center. Once a sparkling area for demonstrating the economic and agricultural success of the Russian republics it is now a rather sad place for buying old garbage, spending money on touristic products and saluting to the Lenin-statue every now and then. 3 hours was way to much, except the pavilion of Armenia, which hosts a fiddle, half the size of a match. And, of course, the amazing 5D cinema. For 500 ruble I was given a 3D-glass, was seated in a movable chair with wind blowing around my face and drove through outer space, the midwest and many rollercoasters. Big fun! The 90 minutes it took me afterwards to convince my stomach to remain on the inside were less fun, still it was worth the money 🙂

Later, we drove with the monorail (!) to a shopping mall, ate some overpriced (but nonetheless extraordinarily cheap) food, did the groceries in the supermarket and took the metro back to the hotel. After this really long travel and this long day with a lot of walking, I fell asleep at around 10pm.

Waking up in Moscow! After a morning shower and another Russian-breakfast-experience, we again took the metro, but this time to outer town. Kolomenskoye was the destination, which used to be a residential place for tsars of the Russian Empire. The museum was quite interesting, as many information were given about the time this place was of major importance to the empire. The areal has many beautiful-looking churches, the main one being the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, which seemed to have hosted a baby convention on that particular day… After yet another typical Russian lunch, salad, soup, deep-fried califlower (for all vegetarians!), we drove back to the city centre, buying tickets for the Moscow Circus! Before we entered the circus, we had yet another 3 hour trip to the Tretyakov Gallery which can be considered as the best art museum for Russian fine art in the world. As I prefer walking around a museum without getting explanations about 250 different paintings, I started comparing the tour guides from different countries. Obviously our Russian one was unwiling to make our trip anything but static, but the Germans were way more enthusiastic (did you hear that, Germany!!!). And to a much wider extent the Dutch guide was sort of reanacting certain historical scenes captured in paintings – fantastic! I also developed some talent in alternative interpretations of art… 😀

Finally, it became evening. Finally, we could go the circus! The famous Moscow Circus! It was worth every ruble (I have waited all my life to actually say this sentence with justifications!). Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures with flash and those I did without are sort of useless, but I’ll let you decide. I have taken videos though with promising footage. Everything one could expect was shown during the show. However, a great amount of time was dedicated to humiliating animals in the arena, namely horses, dogs, lions and even car-driving bears. In general, the show was sparkling and I am very glad to have gotten the opportunity to see it 🙂

After the show, we driving around the city at night, but the concentration among all of us was rather low, so I am sorry to not be able to provide you with any stories and/or pictures. Once back at the hotel, we hoped to get to the supermarket in time for a bottle of vodka, but it seems that strong booze can only be bought before 10am, which meant we came in a quarter of an hour late. Well, a couple of beers and some snacks would also do it, so we stayed in with a bunch of people in someone’s hotel room for some time, then went to bed.

Monday morning. I showered, I ate (no comment on the what I ate), I packed my suitcase. Then we left to enter the Kreml, this time from the inside! To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from that since I ever really paid attention to the pictures on the news, but I was only partially impressed. I mean, the areal itself looks just stunning, with plenty of huge buildings used for a lot of very important political reasons, but nonetheless I had always pictured it differently. We entered nearby the famous Spasskaya Tower and quickly made our way across the roads towards the “Tsar Canon”. We ended up in the “Cathedrale of the Assumption” where we again compared tourist guides, again with the same result 🙂

And then it was time…

Time for the Red Square! Within walking distance from the Kreml, we reached it. Words cannot really describe the moment I have seen it for the first time. The place actually is not very much bigger than the Vismarket in Groningen nor the Pferdemarkt in Oldenburg, but with its surrounding buildings and its two main ones on both ends it feels just stunning to be standing there, on a square which has witnessed tremendous amounts of history! I could have spent hours on the bricks, just walking and looking around, taking picture after picture, entering the State Historical Museum or the St.Basil’s Cathedral, but unfortunately time was limited. We still had to visit the newly (1995) built Cathedrale of Christ the Saviour. Also a very beautiful building, but again we were rushed through by the guide, who would in turn for the usual “5 minutes for pictures” grand us 90 minutes of excessive shopping in the main tourism street of Moscow where thousands of people trying to sell crap to us. Surely an interesting way of setting priorities…

The rest of the story is not worth spending too much time on. We took the same night train back to Pskov (this time without any soldiers!), arrived at 8am, had breakfast, did some groceries (well, mainly vodka) and then went on the border. This time the border control only took around 45 minutes so that by 1pm, we were back home in good old Tartu! It was a fun trip but way to short to experience a city with nearly as many inhabitants as the Netherlands. For a first visit it was very good, but I know that coming back next time, I will get a tailor-made plan of what to see and what to do.

Спасибо и До свидания!


Day trip to the South of Estonia

Last Friday, after days and weeks of doing nothing but occasionally studying but frequently drinking, I decided to participate in a bus trip to the more interesting aspects of the south of Estonia. The trip was offered by some geology faculty classes and was free of charge. So I met up with some people from ERASMUS at the early hour of 8am down in the lobby and we took off.

The first stop was at Taevaskoja (Heaven’s Chamber), where we walked in the woods and took many pictures of the 400-million-year old sandstone cliffs down in the valley of the Ahja river. Below are some of the better shots I have made:

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