How much can you really see in Iceland on a 48 hour layover when there’s only 4-5 hours of daylight every day?
How much can you really see in Iceland on a 48 hour layover when there’s only 4-5 hours of daylight every day?
How much can you really see in Iceland on a 48 hour layover when there’s only 4-5 hours of daylight every day?
Kyiv is also not the only safe place to visit in Ukraine. There are dozens of safe and exciting places to see. The only reason I spend most of my trips to Ukraine exclusively in Kyiv is because that’s where my parent’s live.
Although the media has a short attention span and has long forgotten about the ongoing war in Ukraine, tourists have not. Nor reporting on the situation has led to some people worrying even more than they would if they were up to date on the situation.
What is going on in Ukraine right now?
People are still dying as they fight for the country every day. Crimea is impossible run by Russians and two eastern territories are now “independent” and the Ukrainians there are struggling to regain the territory. Pro-Ukrianian locals are often persecuted and we hear crazy stories about teenagers getting killed by other teenagers for wearing a Ukrainian flag on their backpack.
These terrible stories are terrifying and I understand why they would deter tourist from traveling to Ukraine. However, there are perfectly safe areas that you can visit without having to worry. For example, Kyiv.
I’ve visited Kyiv, or as some spell it, Kiev, six times since Euromaidan in November 2014. Each time I stayed in Kiev, during the beginning I even went to the protests. All evidence of the barricades and destruction of the revolution are long gone – replaced with memorials for those who died, etc. It’s been completely safe to visit for years.
Kyiv is also not the only safe place to visit in Ukraine. There are dozens of safe and exciting places to see. The only reason I spend most of my trips to Ukraine exclusively in Kyiv is because that’s where my parent’s live. This past trip, my mom, my husband and I took a very exciting day trip to Chernobyl! Now that comes with a very different kind of safety questions.
But I’ll be writing about that next time!
4 hours of sunlight, below zero temperatures but very few tourists…
My first trip to Iceland was far from ideal. First, it was just a 52 hour layover and second, it was in December. Don’t get me wrong, there are many positives about visiting Iceland during this time including fewer tourists seeing the rolling hills and waterfalls frozen in a winter wonderland.
Unfortunately, December is also the month when Iceland is freezing and there is only 4-5 hours of sunlight a day! Luckily, the roads are well lit so you can safely drive in the dark even if it is snowing. But it does take some planning around to make your trip worthwhile.
First of all, you need to keep in mind that when the sun doesn’t rise until 11-12 am, neither do the locals. We landed at 8 am and tried to get something to eat and drink. We ended up in a grocery store because everything else was closed including bars and cafes.
It took a lot of driving around for us to find a hotel by the port where we could warm up (it was unpleasant to spend more than 10 minutes outside). Unfortunately the tiny coffees were overpriced much like everything in the touristy areas of Iceland, but at least we had a place to wait for the city to wake up.
For the two days that we were there, we had to schedule our sightseeing around the darkness. To visit to Golden Circle, we got up early to drive 3 hours from the city to arrive right when the sun started to rise. We had to rush a little but we had enough time to see all three sights – the two waterfalls and the geyser – with some time to spare for lunch before heading over to the Blue Lagoons.
Due to our lack of time, we had to visit the Blue Lagoons during the evening and made an appointment for two hours before closing. We were worried that this wouldn’t be enough time, but it was hard for us to stay there too long because you start feeling faint after just 20 minutes in the water. It would have been cool to see the place during daylight, but it was magical at night too.
The biggest perk of visiting in the winer was definitely the lack of tourists. There were handfuls here and there, but the parking lots that were normally overcrowded were empty and we got to enjoy the sights in peace. So I definitely recommend a short trip to Iceland in December, however, I’m dying to return when it’s warmer and sunnier for a completely different experience!
Consider layovers, free trips from the airport and booking long in advance, forget 6 weeks.
My most recent trip, the last of 2018 and the first of 2019, was an 18 day adventure to four amazing countries. It was a little hectic and we were exhausted afterwards, but it was surprisingly affordable!
Did you know that everyone sitting on the same plane with you paid a different price for their ticket? The world of traveling is full of injustice, I know. One of my skills that I am most proud of is finding great flight deals, and I love to share my tips!
The flights we took on this trip included: NYC to Reykjavik, Reykjavik to London, London to Kyiv, Kyiv to Prague and finally Prague to NYC via Frankfurt. The total cost for these 6 flights was just over $1,700 for two people! If you google flights from America to mainland Europe right now, the average cost will be around $1,000, so how did I manage to get such a great price for so many flights?
Before I book any flight, I always check where the layovers are. If many different airlines have layovers in the same city, I will create a new search and check for independent flight going though that city. When I did this for New York to London, I discovered that Iceland is a popular layover spot. When I searched for independent flights through Iceland, the price dropped by $100 per ticket.
When booking flights independently, please keep in mind that if there is a delay that makes you miss your flight, you will not be reimbursed. That’s what makes booking flights independently risky. But there are plenty of websites that will give you information on the statistics on how often similar flights are delayed and by how long. Of course it’s not 100% reliable, but it’s still a good indicator. I try to allow for at least 10+ hours between flights just in case!
Some countries also offer special layover trips/layover extensions for free. Seoul and Reykjavik for example offer free tours of the city during your layover. You can find out more online or by calling the airport.
Book well in advance:
There are plenty of great last minute deals out there, or so I have heard. Personally, I have never found one so I like to book up to a year in advance. There is supposedly a formula for the cheapest ticket and that’s too book 6 weeks in advance, but when it comes to trips during busy flight seasons and holidays, the sooner you book, the better!
Don’t overdo it:
I’m the queen of fitting lots of travel into a short period of time. However, I don’t remember the last time I returned from a trip relaxed. Before you book layover upon layover for your two week trip, consider the time you have and whether the quality will be compromised by the quantity of places you stop over in.
My trip was amazing and I wouldn’t have done things differently. But next time, I will definitely try to spend more time in one place even if it costs me a little more. I’m getting too old to sleep on airport floors while lugging heavy suitcases around the world!
With Thanksgiving and the arrival of the advent season, my social media pages are packed with posts about gratitude and getting ready for the holidays. Some posts ask practical, how-to-celebrate questions. Like the one I saw on Prague’s CrowdSauce group for expats. “Does anyone know if they sell oven cooking bags for turkeys here?” Or another, from a friend in the US, “Veg or no veg on Thanksgiving?” with the hashtag #everyonejustwantscarbs.
With Thanksgiving and the arrival of the advent season, my social media pages are packed with posts about gratitude and getting ready for the holidays.
Some posts ask practical, how-to-celebrate questions. Like the one I saw on Prague’s CrowdSauce group for expats. “Does anyone know if they sell oven cooking bags for turkeys here?” Or another, from a friend in the US, “Veg or no veg on Thanksgiving?” with the hashtag #everyonejustwantscarbs.
Friends post images of their children baking cookies, just-out-of-the-oven pumpkin pies, and invitations to Christmas home tours. I’ve read tips on keeping holiday festivities simple, how to shift the focus from gifts to quality family time, and why fighting during the holidays means you care.
In the spirit of showing gratitude for my adopted homeland, I’d like to share a few reasons I’m glad to call the Czech Republic home.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the dry, self-deprecating Czech humor. My Czech friends aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves, or to turn a criticism into a joke to deflate a tense situation. My neighbor recently damaged her car by hitting a low cement wall while pulling into her driveway, (a maneuver she does every day without incident).
Later, when we were confirming our Thanksgiving dinner menu, she texted, “If you can’t find a turkey for the Thanksgiving meal, don’t worry, I can find something to run over.” From talking with her, I knew she felt horrible about the incident. Instead of letting it get her down, she allowed herself (and her friends) to see the funny side.
Watching my Czech friends keep their sense of humor, even when life throws surprises, reminds me to do the same.
In 2005, Czechs were asked to vote for the greatest Czech of all time. Jara Cimrman, a fictitious character first introduced to the public in a satirical play in the late 1960s, won the most votes. (Unfortunately, he couldn’t receive the award because he didn’t exist). Check out Radio Prague’s full article on Cimrman to get a better picture of Czech humor.
Mushrooming, walking in the woods, snow-skiing (cross-country and downhill), iceskating, road biking, mountain biking, climbing, swimming in natural ponds and rivers, trekking, tent camping, caravan camping, sleeping “pod širákem” (under the stars), rafting, canoeing, kayaking … the list goes on, and I’d be hard-pressed to find an outdoor activity, that Czechs don’t do.
In the years I’ve lived here I’ve learned (among other skills), when in doubt, pick only mushrooms with cylindrical tubes notslats – and always ask a local. Rafters and bikers greet each other by saying, “Ahoj!” Fruit hanging over fences and along country lanes is fair game for picking. Cross-country skiing is best learned when it’s not too icy, and a pub with warm drinks is nearby. Extra socks and spare underwear are essential for any kind of outdoor activity, especially when kids are involved. Czech humor is even more important than extra socks and spare underwear when learning how to cross-country ski.
For the past 13 years, whenever my children or I have been sick, injured or otherwise need the advice of an expert, we go to the doctor. Sometimes we make an appointment, other times (as in the case of sick visits to a primary care physician) we go and wait. Never have I had to worry whether insurance would cover the visit, or if I could afford to pay the doctor’s bill.
Health insurance is mandatory in the Czech Republic. The Czech state pays for children, students, and mothers on maternity leave. Working individuals make monthly health insurance contributions which are supplemented by their employers.
My family has been fortunate. We haven’t been sick much. Still, I’ve delivered two babies, had an emergency appendectomy while 34 weeks pregnant, undergone knee surgery, ridden in an ambulance with an injured infant, and mothered children with ear infections, tonsillitis, knocked out front teeth, stitches, and more.
My children have rarely received antibiotics (only for bacterial infections when needed), and I’ve been well-versed on the importance of home remedies when appropriate – honey and onions to loosen up coughs, homemade ginger tea, bed rest, and tvaroh (a fresh, curd cheese) wraps for mastitis.
Yes, there are linguistic and cultural differences. Western-style bedside manner can be hard-to-find. Sometimes, the wait is long, and the equipment is basic. Still, I’m grateful for each visit to the doctor’s (and those times when a home remedy makes a visit unnecessary).
From an early age, Czechs are taught to appreciate (and cultivate) a rich, creative life. From playing musical instruments and singing in choirs, to creating puppet and marionette shows and learning the art of oral recitation (as early as preschool), Czechs have a long-stranding tradition of valuing art’s contribution to society.
Even during the Communist period, Czech artists, such as film makers Karel Zeman and Jiri Trnka, presented imaginative, rule-breaking works to entertain, educate, and inspire their fellow citizens. Czechs like to go to the theater, attend classical music concerts, and watch fairy tales on television.
Many Czech cultural events (seasonal festivals, crafts markets, museum exhibitions) are offered free or at low cost. The country’s public transportation network (comprised of trams, buses, the metro, and trains) allows school groups to go on frequent field trips, families without cars to get nearly everywhere, and older children to gain a sense of independence as they explore Czech culture on their own.
My ten-year old son enjoyed his first Czech opera this fall, The Devil and Kate, performed at Prague’s National Theater. I was happy to accompany him, especially once I discovered (midway through Act I) the English captioning.
A creative life spills over into my family’s leisure time. In addition to going to the theater, my children often put on impromptu shows for us (as well as any visitors who happen to be present). We’ve had magic shows, dinosaur shows, zoo exhibitions, and guitar performances. They’ve narrated excerpts from Josef Capek’s classic, O pejskovi a kočičce (stories about a dog and a cat who keep house), and each December 5, they dress up as St. Nicholas, a devil, and an angel to celebrate Mikulas.
As a parent, I’m grateful to live in a country where planning our leisure time is not a question of what to do, but rather which option to choose.
As I scoured local stores this week looking for sweet potatoes (bataty in Czech), pumpkins, and fresh cranberries, I was struck by my options. Although the availability of specialty items has sky-rocketed in recent years (which makes holiday food preparation one step easier), the basic components of my family’s Thanksgiving meal haven’t changed.
For the past 12 years, my family has celebrated Thanksgiving in Prague with friends of Czech, American, Slovakian, French, and Polish descent. We serve turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, salads, pumpkin pies, and whatever else anyone brings to the table. We rotate houses and take turns preparing the turkey. By now, we know what to expect and how each dish should taste.
Our children put on shows, perform magic tricks, and exclaim over the different languages they hear. We are the closest thing most of us have to a family in Prague. After the years of joining together, for this one day (usually Saturday after the official Thursday holiday), we behave as family. There are arguments (who had the toy first), political discussions over wine, and maybe a tear or two.
With each passing year (and every new Thanksgiving celebration), the Czech Republic has become a place I’m increasingly grateful to call home. Not because it’s where I have my permanent residence, or because life has gotten easier for my family over the years. (Both of which are true).
Experiencing life through a Bohemian perspective has opened my eyes to a culture and a people that have taught me to laugh at myself (when I can), to get outside (as much as possible every day), to appreciate the privilege of going to the doctor (when necessary), to show my children theater and art (or let them perform it for me), and to value old friendships that feel like family.
Wishing you and your family a joyful holiday season!
(If you happen to be looking for oven roasting bags, try Makro or the DM drugstore.)
For more posts by Emily Prucha, visit her website: https://halfnhalf-life.com/
I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training…
Here we’ll go again, somehow a lot of things happened and then, not again. The same weekend where Miri and I were alone (Lukas, Birgit and Maria went to Reingers in Austria for a cart race), a previous volunteer arrived. She was the last time only two weeks with Lukas and wanted now to come to visit the dogs and Lukas for a few days. When Lukas, Birgit and Maria came back, they all were kind of relieved and happy to be back with all dogs and all in one piece. Obviously, there was some catastrophe going on in Reingers. Due to the weather circumstances, Lukas decided to not let the dogs run on all three days. It was too warm!
By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)
Please find the original post, including photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.com/2016/11/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm.htm
I would like to express here that the dog’s wellbeing is Lukas first concern and therefore he didn’t stress the dogs to run fast or on all three days like others did! Therefore, he knew there would be no chance to win that race and this race wasn’t important, it is more like a training. Usually, Birgit would have gone with four or five dogs and Lukas with eight. Due to the fact, they left out one day, they decided to run with the big team instead, so with all thirteen dogs. Usually, there are several dog handlers which are supporting the Musher holding the dogs and release them in time when the training or race starts. When they wanted to start running, one of the front dog handlers didn’t let go fast enough the leash and fell, so six dogs were running over him, and the seven behind stopped to not run over the guy and the mainline snapped through the force from both sides going in different directions. It snapped in the middle where Braxi was attached to; I am not sure if you know what that means.
The dogs have a neckline attached to their collar and one leash which is attached to the harness on their back; so when the main line snaps in the middle, the neckline is attached to the six dogs who were now running free and his backside to the leash which belongs to the dogs who stopped; they could have ripped him in two pieces, but lucky as Braxi is, his collar was not too tight on his neck, so he could get out of his collar and was standing still in shock! Two dog handlers jumped on their quad bikes and drove after the six dogs which were running their race without the cart and musher. They caught them fast, but that was a really BIG shock for all of them! Lukas directly bought new and stronger lines and a new nice collar for Braxi! That was somehow too much, three times in one week something snapped.
Being back, Maria had the next four days off and went to Vienna. Miri also left on the next day, so I was left with Silvia. She had no experience in doing the routines, so it was pretty much me doing the work … but Birgit and Lukas also helped 😉 I am very thankful for her pictures and videos, though. When we had training, she was filming and taking pictures. Interesting to see, because I never get the chance to take pictures during training (Lukas would most probably kill me if I would take pics instead of helping ;-)) I wanted to post the video, but somehow I had difficulties to upload it.
Before Maria came back, we had a spontaneous photo shoot for our race which we organize in December. I think, I already mentioned that we are organizing our own race here in our region. It will be on the weekend of the 10/11th December. We wanted to hang out some posters to make an advertisement and Lukas asked me if I could take the role as a runner, or so-called Canicross. There will be Sabrina, who is also one of the helpers who will be on the bike and Lukas on the cart. Tim (he is only 9 years old) is going to take the pictures. He is really good at it. Lukas told me, that we will start running up the hill in our yard to the open place and that I have to be really fast because I have to keep up the pace with a bike and a cart! I was doubting that I could keep up that pace, but I didn’t count on Braxi. He was dragging me up that hill so fast, that I even overtook the cart and the bike and was not able to slow down! I have to admit, a little bit painful because the belt is kind of dividing your ass, but that was actually really funny.
When Maria came back, I left on the next morning for my long weekend off. I also went to Vienna with my boyfriend. It was really lovely! We had a nice hotel, with some crazy architecture, went for some sightseeing, shopping and we even went for the opera “la Cenerentola” (Cinderella). I loved that weekend and I will miss him even more after it.
Being back, I was a bit down. I think I caught something, I felt not that strong. Birgit and Lukas wanted to go away for a few days and that morning we still had a training. I got to go with Lukas and finally had the chance to drive the cart and I discovered my hands are too small to hold the brake of that big cart :-/ typical! So mean L at least, I could drive a few times when we were going more uphill and I didn’t need to handle the brake =P
When we returned, I didn’t feel really good and lay down for the rest of the day. I got sick. With Birgit and Lukas being away, there was not much to do so I could rest. Miri and I found out that Maria (coming from New Zealand) never watched “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” we were shocked!!!! We started watching that week all Hobbit movies and kept on going on with the Lord of the Rings. Lukas and Birgit returned on the 11th of November. The next morning, we started with a training and Lukas suggested after the training, that Maria and I could take the car so we can go to Buschberg, he saw some pics that there was still a little bit snow laying and Maria is so eager to see snow. She didn’t really see much snow in her life. In addition, she didn’t get up there to see the nice view, so we went together. It was much fun, I also felt better again.
Sometimes when we got too much paper and carton leftover we do a big fire and burn everything. Maria is freaking scared of fire, so she ripped the carton and I did the fire. I am not afraid, but I have respect. We were making a decent fire, at one point, Lukas came and asked why we are not putting the whole carton at once into the fire. Well, he did, and the fire got so big. He was laughing about us and made (and is still doing) fun about us ripping paper into small pieces and says “I already start a fire, I will be done in two days” and then just cracks of laughter!
Later that day, we went to the chickens and I noticed that little brownie was not outside with the others. When I checked the shed, I directly noticed that something couldn’t be right. She wasn’t on her eggs but was laying in the corner, with her face down in the Stroh. I tried to get her up, but she seemed not able to get on her feet, so I put her in one of the incubators so that she didn’t fall on her face. We went back to the house and told Lukas. He noticed that she had diarrhea, he tried to make her drink water or eat something but couldn’t. Brigit’s father, Pauli, also checked on her but he said that she probably won’t make it. A few hours later she already was dead. I couldn’t believe it, the tamest and most productive chicken died. Still sad about that.
The next day, I didn’t feel good at all! That was the first time I stayed almost the whole day in bed, instead of helping. I couldn’t even help with the night training, Lukas and Maria went alone. I really fear that I will miss the European Championship. The next morning, I got up and helped with the training, but it did cost me so much energy that I was shaking for almost ten minutes… had to rest afterward a little bit. Lukas asked me if I think I will be fit for the Championship. He will need someone who is 100% fit. Birgit is this time not participating due to health issues so it will be just Lukas with eight dogs and one dog handler. I couldn’t tell him, I said, I will wait for the next day and when I don’t feel better I will stay.
This week started very with a training where I could be the co-driver for Lukas. This time, we took the smaller cart with eight dogs, because Birgit did also train and she took six dogs. It was very cold, no wind, perfect conditions. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that I could be the co-driver so I wasn’t very good prepared with my cameras…
It is kind of strange, in between I think there is somehow a routine in my day or there were lazy days with not much action, but then again, there is always something happening, so there is ALWAYS something to tell 😉
By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)
Please find the original blog post, and all the cute photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.co.at/2016/10/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm_31.html
This week started very with a training where I could be the co-driver for Lukas. This time, we took the smaller cart with eight dogs, because Birgit did also train and she took six dogs. It was very cold, no wind, perfect conditions. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that I could be the co-driver so I wasn’t prepared with my cameras. I just had my iPhone 6 with me and there is no rely on that smartphone as soon it is a bit colder. The battery just dies, I guess, it somehow must have been damaged when I was in Norway where it was -18°C. The training’s duration is much longer now, the dogs already run 11/12 km. I could see a big difference; the dogs are so much stronger than two weeks before. On our way we saw a few deer, rabbits and even a stag, very close by!!! And my iPhone was DEAD aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrggghhhh – I must complain to Apple =P
I told you already that Lukas is evil, didn’t I? He loves to tease us and prank us. We (Maria and I) went on the next morning for a walk with Aliy and Laska. On the way, it started to rain. Maria and I though, didn’t stop, we said we will go for a big walk, so that the girls are more chilled in the house. The rain just got stronger and stronger, nevertheless, we walked an hour and even had fun. We were playing music, danced and sang.
We were soaking wet! When we returned, we were standing in front of the entrance to dry up the dogs, when the door opened and a wide grinning Lukas was standing in the door with his laptop in his hand and played “Why does it always rain on me?” seriously? He waited at his window for our return so he could play us the song, and while we were undressing and drying the dogs, he gave us some more rain songs from his playlist…”It’s raining men” and “singing in the rain” 😀 he is crazy! 😉 the rest of the day, we pretty much spent lazy at home.
Therefore, the day after, we were really busy! Despite the training in the morning, we helped a little bit with building the new kennel (for the puppies), went on a hike and did some more work.
On that morning, Lukas said we shall let the puppies stay with Artac and Arthur, because Atreju is lately a little bit tense because of the puppies. I think, he doesn’t like to play the babysitter all day long =P so we let them in the kennel and they also seemed to get along. Then we did our lunch break. When we returned, we wanted to check on the puppies and noticed that somehow, only Star was left in the kennel. Hmmmm… but where was Nova? We know that she loves to crawl in every hole or corner which exist, but we couldn’t discover one. We almost wanted to look for her outside the kennel, when we noticed that between the wooden wall and the fence, there is a little bit space. There she was.
Obviously she crawled inside and couldn’t get outside anymore. I was trying very hard to get her through, but she was so scared, that she didn’t dare to come too close. We called Lukas and we were trying and thinking of a way. Then, I said the only way how we could get her out, would be, if someone would climb over the wall, grab her, lift her, someone else take her and climb back again. Well, the only person small enough for that was me – of course =P So I got my jacket and shoes off and climbed over and got her. She was sooooo relieved to be back outside 😀 of course, no one took pictures of my heroic action… well, I guess we all were concerned about Nova 😉
Stuck in between wall and fence, I had to jump on the dog house, and get over the wall to lift her up!
So much action on one day and I still had to drive to Prague. YES – I got four days off, to go and visit my boyfriend in Prague and see my friends. I went with the bus to Brno, where my boyfriend picked me up and we drove together to Prague. I won’t tell too much about Prague, I met a lot of friends, old colleagues, new acquaintances (my friend got her Baby :D), slept a lot, went partying, got new inspirations about my future plans and enjoyed just some alone time with my boyfriend. I must admit, at one point there were too many people and I sensed also a lot of negative energies (not towards me, in general) which kind of got me unbalanced, but in total it was really nice seeing all again.
Back in Gnadendorf, I was really happy to see the dogs again. You get attached to them (damn, what will I do when I leave for good?). The next morning, we should have had a training with the big cart. So we harnessed all dogs, started to set them up on the main line when suddenly they started to move – we all were puzzled, looked up and saw that the panic snap (additional break which is attached to a pole) just dissolved itself from the carabiner.
We got it somehow tight again and when all dogs were set up, I ran the hill up to open the gate, I was just about to touch the gate when I suddenly heard Lukas screaming my name. I turned around and just saw a mess! All dogs were standing completely mixed up and not in line, I ran down, holding the dogs and Lukas told us to unleash all dogs. So, we did, the loop of the mainline which is attached to the cart, ripped. Wtf…. Seriously, first the panic snap, then the main line – what was going on??? We were so in luck, that this happened within the yard and not outside on the track! How on earth could you get the dogs back then? Hardly possible. Training cancelled. What an excitement in the morning.
Rest of the day, was pretty lazy. We went for two hikes, but besides that nothing special happened on that day. Ah wait… there is something, Lukas does sing sometimes new versions of already existing songs. And he loves to put my name into that song. Well, first of all, he calls me SheiShei, then he started singing “Shei Shei Shei, Shei Shei Shei, shake your booty” from the song “Shake your booty”. His newest version is (a little bit early) “Sheida bell, Sheida bell, Sheida bell rock” from “Jingle bell rock” and then he is walking on the place and shakes his arms (I guess it shall be dancing :D) I need to film it, then you will see what I mean 😉
The next day, I drove with Lukas to Vienna, he had some business over there. It was a very rainy day, that means most of the time, lazy day for us 😉 The day after, we had to take preparations for the race which took part in Reingers from Friday to Sunday. We had to pack all kind of stuff, Lukas gave Miriam and me, two sport bags to clean which were lying in the shed. We carried it to the hose pipe to clean it. When I turned around the bag, I saw that there was a butterfly on the bag. It had its wings closed. It seemed as if there were stuck to each other. I didn’t know if it just hatched or it was getting ready for its winter sleep, no idea, but it had to fly away so that I could clean the bag. I didn’t dare to touch the wings; they are so sensitive. So, I touched its legs with my finger, and very slowly, it tried to open its wings and just watch what beauty I discovered:
The next day, we did a few preparations and around 11am we had to bring the dogs into the transporter in the boxes. OMG – why do I always imagine that something like that could happen quiet and easy? Such chaos and stress! It was almost impossible to get the dogs singled out of the kennels. There was always at least one dog, who escaped and you just saw us all the time running after dogs – Lukas thought that it was very amusing – of course! =P and of course I hurt myself! Two dogs pushed against their kennel door and it hit me on my knee – outch L after all dogs were placed, the cart was put inside, the caravan attached to the transporter, and Lukas, Maria and I started our way to Reingers.
It is just Maria who should come to the race, but because Birgit had to work that day and wanted to join Maria and Lukas in the evening, Lukas said, I should join them and help to set up everything over there. When Birgit arrives, I could take her car and drive home. Said, done. We drove there and it was interesting to see how many people and dogs were there.
I talked to an older couple, Bianca and Ernst, who were there with their Hounds, Alaskan Huskies and Siberian Huskies. They used to live 20 years in Düsseldorf, moved then to Austria and now they are just about to move to Sweden/Lapland. They bought a house with a big yard for them and their dogs. I was delighted to hear that, I told them that I always wanted to visit Lapland to see the Aurora Borealis and maybe I could visit them over there 😉 they took my word, and gave me their contacts so that when I am about to go Lapland I just shall give them a call J There you go, you’ll never know who you will meet! Loved that. It turned very late until I came back to Gnadendorf, but everything turned out quite well.
The day after, Miriam and I had a very relaxed day. We went for walks with the dogs which stayed here, cleaned a bit the house, cooked together, watched movies and we talked a lot. While telling her a bit about my past, I found out WHY I changed my plans concerning tourism. I was always wondering, why I went another path but tourism, because I remembered that I had that idea in the very beginning. I always said it was something like my parents told me to do something serious. In the end, it was partially true, but the real reason why I didn’t study Tourism was, that all study courses existing including Tourism are private! At least in Germany. You must pay a lot of money, which I didn’t had. I went to business fares to inform myself about my possibilities and was devastated to find out that there is no option for me L at least not without taking a big loan from a bank or to win lottery. At one point, I decided to go in direction economics and business, to have a certain basic knowledge and I would then adjust in the right direction. Obviously, I forgot on my way what my original plan was. Well, it took me a while but I found back somehow 😉
At the weekend, Miri and I were going on hikes, Miri wrote on her short stories, I wrote on my blog, watched movies, I tamed the brown chicken – oh yeah – I think I never mentioned that we have chickens, did I? Six chickens. They are really funny, I think they have no names (sad) but every time when I got on their place to collect some wood for fire, they follow me and come really close because they think I could have something to eat 😀 I noticed, that the brown one, let’s call her “Little brownie” is more tame than the others, so I tried to pet her and then to carry her, see yourself what was the result 😉
All in one, very easy going. I was laughing today because my idea of a relaxing time is to have JUST five dogs, but I think when you usually deal with 18 dogs that’s natural 🙂
How canceled flights, stolen deposits, and ankles sprained by angry volcanoes made our trip to Rome, Naples and Pompeii impossible to forget!
How canceled flights, stolen deposits, and ankles sprained by angry volcanoes made our trip to Rome, Naples and Pompeii impossible to forget!
“Ickily! Easyjet is offering flights to Rome for less than 2,000CZK!”
This was the excited exclamation several months ago from my girlfriend Olena, who is an expert when it comes to finding cheap deals on travel, food, going out and the like. At first I was naturally skeptical, “Yeah, of course, then there’s all the hidden fees, right?” Well, it turned out (as she loves to hear me say) that she was right. A few clicks of the mouse later we had two tickets to Rome Fiumicino airport in June. Aside from the cheap accommodation we booked through Airbnb, we had absolutely no itinerary planned and nothing booked, but that didn’t matter. I would reschedule some lessons and we would leave on a Thursday night and arrive on Monday evening, only missing a bit of work. Satisfied and filled with excitement for the coming journey, we shelved the rest of the planning til later, only occasionally bringing up the trip as the weeks went by.
Flew by would probably be a much better way to describe how the following weeks passed. One minute we were still freezing in Prague and the next we were lying on a beach under the Italian sun… But I’m getting ahead of myself. This all sounds very well and good, but our journey was not at all without its complications…
The Travel Gods first strike while I’m sitting in my last lesson of the day, three or four hours before our flight. My tablet is playing a listening text for my student whom I am preparing for the FCE exam. While the listening plays from my tablet, a message from EasyJet pops up. I’m not usually in the habit of checking my emails during lessons, but I cannot ignore the preview of the message: “We regret to inform you that…” My heart immediately starts racing, Attempting to hide my suspicion of an impending disaster, I open the email to find that our flight has been cancelled.
I continue the lesson with my student, but I can’t really focus. What are we going to do? Can we reschedule? Will there be another flight we can take? How much is this going to cost? Will we even be able to go on our trip? Over the past week we’ve spent a great deal of time planning this trip, and in my backpack are not only our flight tickets but several entrance tickets to the sites we are hoping to visit…
Finally the lesson ends and I have a few minutes to review the email in detail before catching my train back to Prague (I work in a small town south of Prague, about 40 minutes away by train). It turns out that it isn’t our flight there that has been cancelled, but the flight back. This comes as a relief, but only a small one. Many things still need to be worked out.
Jump ahead to my train ride home, where I am on the phone via Skype, talking into my headset to a Customer Service representative in India who claims to go by the authentically Indian name of “Tom.” Apparently, there is great news! We can simply leave on the same EasyJet flight the next day, arriving Tuesday night instead of Monday. An extra day in Italy, isn’t it great?
My impatience starts to escalate, “I’m sorry Tom, but unfortunately we have jobs and we can’t just call out of work as we please…”
“I understand your situation sir,” says ‘Tom,’ “but because I can offer you a flight within the next 24 hours, we are not obligated to pay for a ticket on another airline for Monday night. You can leave on the Tuesday night flight with no problem.”
Our conversation continues in circles like this for nearly half an hour and after various threats of bad feedback and of flooding social media with EasyJet horror stories, I’m finally able to convince a representative to let me find a flight from another carrier, for which they will ostensibly reimburse me. I call Olena, who is also on the way to the airport, and explain the situation. We decide to wait and figure it out after going through security at the airport. After all, we have several days to figure it out while in Italy.
Our arrival in Rome proves to be later than we expected because, of course, the flight is delayed for three hours. A very nice woman notices us talking and informs us of the delay, and we thank her for the information. Well, at least that gives us time to conduct research into possible flights…
…which yield very poor results. If we want to leave Rome on Monday night as planned, it would mean not arriving in Prague until Tuesday morning with an eight-hour layover in Paris. I’m not one who can sleep in airports, so that is not an attractive option before a seven-hours day of teaching.
Several Customer Service calls later (This time I speak to “Linda” and “Peter”) we decide we’ll just have to call our bosses, explain the situation, and come home Tuesday night. For me this means a loss of 1,500 crowns (about $60) and a few disappointed students, but for Olena it means over-using her holiday time and missing important face-time with Tomáš Baťa, the founder of the fashion company Baťa for which she is a new employee. She’s been looking forward to meeting this fashion guru for some time, so it comes as a real let-down. Now find ourselves reciting a mantra that will become familiar to us throughout the trip, “It could be worse. Let’s not let this ruin our trip.” After all, we had an extra day in Italy!
We then turn to the next problem at hand. We are going to be too late in Rome to get normal public transport to our accommodation, so we have to find another way. Our host informs us that a taxi would be over €60, and we prepare for the first of many extra expenses on the trip.
Fortune begins to shine a small ray of line upon us when we arrive in Rome at 2:00 AM Friday morning. As we wait for our luggage, we spot the same woman who told us about the delay. We ask her how she plans to get to the center, and she said by taxi. We agree to share the ride with her, cutting the cost in half for all of us.
Waiting for a taxi outside in the pleasantly warm Roman night, our new companion realizes that she has no cash and goes off to find an ATM. Olena and I are having a hard time locating the taxi, so I decide to run over to a bus that’s loading on passengers and ask where it’s going. The driver says they’re going to the city center, and the cost is €7. We’re now left with a moral dilemma: Let the bus go and wait for our new cohort, or take the bus and leave her in the dust. Well, we’re already feeling our wallets thinning, so we take the latter option.
“This is gonna follow us for the rest of the trip, you know.” Olena says as our bus pulls out. “Karma is gonna pay us back for this.”
“Don’t worry. She will understand… right? Besides, our karma can’t be that low. Let’s just call this strike one…”
A half-hour journey later brings us to the central train station, where we have to pay for a €20 taxi ride to our host’s apartment. The bill I plan to send EasyJet now stands at €34, and it will continue to rise.
Our host is understandably annoyed at our late arrival (nearly 4 AM) and leads us to our room. The accommodation is great, but she could have been a bit nicer. Oh well, we thought again. It could be worse. At least we finally have beds to sleep in… for about four hours. We are scheduled for entrance into the Vatican at 10:30 tomorrow, so our sleep after such a long day of travel ends up being less than satisfactory.
But we made it, we’re in Rome! Ahead of us we have a tour of the Vatican, the ancient Colosseum, the Roman Forums, sun-drenched beaches, and a trip to Pompeii to cap it off. We are not to be brought down!
Seemingly five minutes later, I awaken to the Chocobo theme from Final Fantasy VII that serves as my phone’s alarm clock. I’m not particularly exhausted; I seem to have slept fairly well in the last four hours. I turn over to make sure Olena is awake and get a groan in response, which in her language means only kisses will wake her up, and I am happy to oblige.
We shove some croissants down our throats and brew up some instant coffee and are out the door by 9:45. We finally figure out where to buy a ticket for the bus and are on a packed bus minutes later. We barely have room to move, and it must be over 30 degrees in the bus. Nevertheless, we’re excited for our trip to the Vatican, a country to which neither of us has been.
We head in the general direction of the Sistine Chapel with the help of Google Maps, but it turns out the whole city is surrounded by a ten meter-high wall with one entrance half a kilometer away. We have about five minutes to get there…
Having purchased tickets online, we pass the throngs of people waiting in line with well-deserved schadenfreude. They will be waiting the better part of an hour while we sail through the front entrance. The extra €4 we paid for advance tickets were well worth it. Things are looking up after all.
I may be an English teacher, but I am not nearly eloquent enough to describe the beauty of what we saw in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. I will let Olena’s skillful photographic eye guide you through our winding journey through halls of statues, tapestries, ancient maps, mosaics, and of course the Sistine Chapel itself. I encourage you to look at her Facebook page, where she will undoubtedly post pictures from our trip. I’ll put up a link at the end of this post. She got some great shots, and we even managed to sneak in some forbidden pictures in the – “Silencio! No photo, no video!” – sorry, that guy is really giving us a hard time. We would NEVER take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. No way, no how.
Our eyes still dazzled by the wonders of the Vatican, we head to a nearby cafe to meet up with Hana, an acquaintance of Olena. She works as a tour guide in the Vatican and is from Ostrava, in the Czech Republic. The information she gives us is incredibly helpful, and she even leads us around down a few streets to find some cheap pizza, our first of many pizza lunches. On the way, I pick up a sun hat for €5 which, knowing myself, I will undoubtedly lose in no time.
So. We’re still exhausted despite the overpriced yet delicious espresso but it’s only 3PM. We need to take advantage of our limited time in Rome. So what do we do? We take a metro as far as we can to the outskirts of Rome. A short walk from the metro station and we’re lying on the beach, relaxing. We still have another two days in Rome, so why try to force it on us while we’re so tired? Besides, the beach is nice, even though it’s a bit cloudy and windy. The water is nice too, and we enjoy a quick dip. We even buy one of those giant fabric tapestries that the meddlesome vendors are selling and sip cheap wine as we watch the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea. The stressful journey to get here seems distant, and we let the evening wind wash away our troubles of the previous day.
The chocobos wake us from deep sleep after a hot but restful night back in our little room. After some breakfast and coffee, we’re still not exactly sure what we’ll do today. After lots of Googling we decide to hit the Colosseum first. Most of the sites we want to see are in that area, so it’s a logical place to start.
We make a pit-stop at the central train station to pick up our Roma Pass which will not only give us free entrance without lines to the Colosseum and the Forums but will also give us unlimited access to Rome’s rather extensive public transport system. That done, we head to the Colosseum. Outside the entrance I pick up another €5 hat because, yes, I lost the first one. But don’t worry, I’ll lose this one too in a few days I’m sure.
We experience that familiar feeling of schadenfreude as we float by the lines of people waiting to buy tickets. We do a circuit of the ancient amphitheater and are amazed by the size and splendor of this structure which was built such a long time ago. The word “awesome” is one of the most overused words in the English language and thus has lost its true definition which perfectly describes the scene around us. This isn’t the first time this thought crosses my mind.
My camera is acting up, so I decide to stop using it for the rest of the trip and let Olena be the photographer. She not only has a much better camera but also a better eye for photography. I still snap the occasional selfie with my phone’s camera though. Again, check out her Facebook page for some pretty fantastic pictures.
Our next stop is the ruins surrounding the Forums, where we pass temples to various gods. Olena intones that the gods better appreciate how much money was spent on their worship given the multitudes of people who could have been fed with the same money. I agree, but hey. That’s ancient history. (bada-boom-TSH!)
It’s 33 degrees and we are starting to get really tired again, but we trudge on past more gorgeous ruins. We end up in Piazza Venezia and find ourselves jaded by the wondrous things we have seen. After all we’ve experienced, it’s getting more and more difficult to appreciate the smaller buildings. “Meh” we say, as we pass the Basilica di Santa Maria. “Psh” we mutter as we saunter by the Trajan Forum. “I think it’s time for a pizza break, huh?”
A short tram ride brings us to a small pizzeria where we enjoy some more cheap yet delicious pizza. We sit by the river and munch while discussing what to do with the rest of the day. We know we want to watch the sunset near the Castel Sant’Angelo, but it’s too early for that. We decide to go and relax in a park for a bit, while seeing the famous Spanish Steps on the way there.
Again, we seem to be a bit jaded by what we’ve already seen, so the Spanish Steps honestly just seem like a glorified flight of stairs. I’m sure it would be more impressive if we knew a bit more about them, but for now we just curse the heat as we trudge up the ancient staircase. A quick look at Google Maps shows us that the Hard Rock cafe isn’t far, so we head there. It’s kind of a tradition for Olena and me to get a drink at the Hard Rock in every foreign city we visit.
Well, we visit the Hard Rock, but we definitely don’t have a drink there. The smallest bottled beer would run us 6.75€ and a large draft beer would be more like 13€. Yeah, no thanks. But the place was pretty cool and the bathrooms had toilet seats. Seriously, you’d be surprised what a rarity that is. For some reason, most public toilets in Italy don’t have toilet seats. If you’re more learned than we are, please enlighten us as to why this is…
We head to the nearby Villa Borghese park to relax. We make a few organizational calls, arranging our trip to Pompeii and our last night in Rome. It’s here that the Travel Gods strike again.
Our plan has been to head to Pompeii via a ride share service, then head back Monday night to stay at a really nice hotel room in Rome that we’ve booked for an amazing 600CZK each ($25). Turns out that booking.com has deceived us and this is no hotel but some kind of vacation home that you’re supposed to rent for more than a month… The stay is €44 for one night, which is a great price, but we are informed that there will be a €50 cleaning charge plus a €7.5 “tourist tax” and a €20 fee for arriving late in the evening.
We decide to cancel this booking, but we still have to pay the €44 for the stay. EasyJet’s bill continues to rise…
Anyway, it works out okay because we decide to just stay an extra night at our hostel in Pompeii and go straight back to the airport from there on Tuesday. This will prove to be a good decision because we will need the extra time in Pompeii.
So, back at the park. We head towards what looks to be a small lake on Google Maps, and it turns out there are some rowboats you can rent for a 20-minute romantic voyage around a small yet beautiful stone temple to Asclepius, the god of medicine. Olena assumes the Cleopatra position as the front of the boat while I do the dirty work. It’s all very romantic, yadda-yadda-yadda =P
Now it’s time to watch the sunset so we take a bus close to the St. Angelo Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Rome. We buy a couple cheap bottles of wine (come on, give us a break, we’re in Italy) and sit by the river. We play music from our smartphones, reflect on the beautiful day, and clink our glasses (well, bottles) as the sun sets on a toast to another fantastic day.
It’s not even 7:00 when the chocobos rouse us from our rest, and we hastily get ready to leave Rome behind. In less than two hours we’re meeting up with our driver with whom we arranged a drive to Naples. If you’re ever in Italy, Blabla car is a great way to get around. 10€ each gets us to Naples in less than three hours. The driver and his girlfriend are really nice and they even take us exactly where we need to be in Naples. We pick up a Pompeii card, a similar pass to the Roma Pass, and schlepp our luggage through the narrow streets of Naples. Our walk takes us by some stunning views of the city. “So, when are we moving here?” Olena asks, not for the first time.
We were informed by our driver that we were not permitted to leave Naples without trying some of their famous pizza. Apparently the Margherita pizza was invented here in 1889. According to rumor, famous chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi created the pizza to resemble the colors of the Italian flag. He made the pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy while she was visiting Naples.
We find a reputable-looking place and decide to sit down because we have a bit of time to kill before catching our train to Pompeii. We order up two of the best pizzas we’ve ever had for only €6 each. I’m no George R.R. Martin, so I won’t go on for three paragraphs about these pizzas, but I easily could if I tried. We even manage to save a bit for later.
Our bellies content with these oily yet scrumptious delights, we descend into the metro into one of the coolest stations we’ve ever seen. It’s got an “under-the-sea” type theme, the tiles and paint making wave patterns on the ceiling. “I would totally be making fun of someone in my shoes in Prague” Olena remarks about her touristy camera-clicking, never missing a photo op.
From Napoli Centrale we hop on a commuter train with the catchy name of “Circumvesuviana” (can you guess where it takes us?) It being a nearly cloudless day, we are treated to fantastic views of the volcano as we roll by. It’s an active volcano, and we joke about it erupting with only half smiles and nervous giggles.
The train station in Pompeii is a circus of street vendors selling any kind of souvenir you can imagine. My second hat is already gone, left in our Blabla car driver’s Subaru, and I’m not going to buy another one. There’s a line, and I’ve crossed it.
After politely shaking our heads at the hordes of vendors in this carnival of consumerism, we hop on a bus, courtesy of our Pompeii Pass. It’s only a five minute ride to our hostel.
And what an awesome hostel it is! We are greeted by the friendliest couple we’ve met so far who welcome us with stereotypical Italian friendliness. We have found so far that Italians are quite friendly in general, and these two don’t disappoint. Every time we have a question they are happy to oblige. They lead us to our private room complete with a double bed and a private bathroom and best of all, air conditioning. These hot nights have been brutal, and the AC is a welcome addition. Best 600CZK ever spent. If you ever stay in Pompeii, look up Agora Hostel.
It’s already 4:00. Our plan was to go up Vesuvius tonight by bus, but our host suggests waiting until tomorrow because it’s getting late. Instead, he recommends something completely unexpected: a trip to the romantic little coastal town of Sorrento. We take his advice and hop on a 20-minute train ride.
The town is absolutely gorgeous. I’ll say it again: look at Olena’s photos to see what I mean. The view of the Bay of Naples is breathtaking. At the very least, look it up on Google Images.
We walk down a narrow path to the beach area maybe 30 meters below us and look for a place to swim. There are many paid beaches around, but it is Italian law that each town has to have at least one free beach. We find just the one, a very small and crowded patch of sand, but we don’t care, we just want to dive headfirst into that beautifully clear blue water. With the corner of our eye on our belongings, we make the blissful plunge.
We stay at this beach for several hours, until the sun touches the horizon and we start to get a bit cold. As it goes down, we reflect on the wonderful trip we’ve had so far. The Gods of Travel may have got the upper hand at the beginning, but we are making the best of it, and the best definitely is the best.
It was a blessing in disguise that we had to stay an extra day, because it would have been a shame to pack up and leave from here. We still had a lot to see. There was Vesuvius, and of course the ruins of the ancient city destroyed by its eruption.
After a delicious breakfast and some coffee, we hop on a bus that takes us up the mountain. We get some amazing views on the winding road and are almost to the top after only 45 minutes. We’re informed that it’s about a 20-minutes hike up to the crater at the summit. On our way up, the clouds start to move in and our view is completely obstructed. At first I think this is a real shame, but Olena reassures me, saying that it’s actually pretty cool how the clouds are moving. The frequency of her clicks from behind me confirm that she’s enjoying the sights, clouds or no clouds. I decide that she’s right. Why complain about the conditions we’re given? It’s a blessing just to be up here.
Olena has told me that she was not allowed to take any sand from Hawaii back to the USA because the gods punish anyone who does so. She almost took some sand home anyway but discarded it at the last second, apologizing to the gods. We haven’t been told such a thing about Vesuvius, so we select a particularly colorful handful of volcanic rock from the ground and tie it up in a baggie with plans to take it home. I’m starting to get a little bit nervous about the level of bad karma beginning to surround us. First there was the woman we left high and dry at the airport, now we’re stealing from Vesuvius… That’s two strikes, and perhaps there are more gods than just the Travel Gods…
Finally at the top, we make the circuit around the crater. It is a truly unbelievable sight. The crater is more than 250 meters deep and up to a kilometer across. The mountain used to be three times its current height of 1200 meters before its explosive eruption in 79 AD which destroyed the surrounding towns and killed 16,000 people. The molten rock shot 33 kilometers into the air at 1.5 million tons per second, the temperature of which was 1.5 million times the temperature of the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima. Those numbers might be unbelievable, but not as much so as the spectacle before us. It was truly amazing.
On our way back down the mountain we stop at a souvenir shop, where I haggle quite a bit with the vendor. Olena buys a really nice ring made of volcanic rock and I buy her a heart-shaped necklace of the same material. A bit more haggling gets me a hematite ring thrown on top, and the woman gives me a really dirty look and clearly doesn’t like me. “What if she cursed you?” Olena jokes. I laugh along with her, but the edge of my mouth shows a nervous tick. I can think only one thing: strike three.
As we walk down the mountain towards the buses, we realize we only have about ten minutes until the bus leaves. If we want to see the ruins of the city too, we have to hurry. We begin to jog down the hill, in the face of the looks of concern that we keep getting from the people who see us doing so. Oh well, I just don’t want to sit around in this heat for another hour while being badgered by street vendors. We’ve got ten minutes and maybe another 600 meters to go. Then we’ll be on our way. If we can just- CRACK!
My vision goes blank as a howl of pain escapes my throat. I’m vaguely aware of several people surrounding me to check what happened, because now I’ve fallen to the ground and am still involuntarily moaning in pain. As my thoughts clear I locate where the pain is coming from. It seems I that, while running, I caught my foot in an uneven patch of rock and landed directly on my left ankle, which is where the cracking sound came from. My first though is first and then the more immediate question of “How the hell will I get down from here?”
Okay, time to start thinking logically. I gauge the pain and realize it isn’t quite as bad as it was right after the fall. Maybe it’s just adrenaline, but I can use that. First I need to try to stand on it, because if I can’t it’s probably broken.
I am able to make some stumbling steps, and yes, I can stand on my left foot. Good sign, but it’s far too painful for me to walk all the way down to the buses. Plus, the bus comes in six minutes, and the next one isn’t for an hour. What can we do?
Olena flags someone down and tells them to call a car to take us down. We have seen one going up, so it’s definitely possible. Not long after, fortune shows a wan smile as a park ranger’s car comes from the top of the mountain. We flag it down frantically and it takes us to the buses.
I sit down at the small cafe near all the buses and can’t help sobbing in pain. I’m trying to stop, but it’s some of the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I’ve always been a bit reckless, but I’ve also been really lucky and have never had a very serious injury. I quickly pop three ibuprofen from my bag and eat a Mars bar to go down with it.
A very nice Italian man offers to call us an ambulance because the bus will take a long time, and won’t go straight to the hospital. My ankle could easily be broken so I definitely need to get it checked out. We agree, but my American brain can’t help but picture this bill for this. We’ve already paid much more than we’d expected on this trip. I don’t know how much I can afford. But there is no escaping the fact that this is the only way.
It’s almost an hour before the ambulance comes, but luckily by then the pain has subsided to a dull ache and I am no longer humiliating myself by sobbing. I could probably get into the ambulance myself, but they put me on a stretcher. I’ve never been in an ambulance before so I’m pretty scared. Especially because I am in a foreign country and have no idea what their policies are.
Right when I get into the ambulance the medic takes out a needle and a tourniquet. I start to panic, demanding to know what they are going to do to me. The medic doesn’t speak English very well, so he just keeps saying “Don’t worry, don’t worry.” I finally get him to confirm that they’re not giving me any drugs, and it’s just an outlet for quick access at the hospital if they need to use it. Standard procedure. But still, the panicked feeling is there.
Olena has climbed into the back of the ambulance with me and is holding my hand, God bless her. She won’t even sit in the back of cars because it makes her nauseous, so I am very grateful that she’s there. I know it isn’t easy, especially on the windy roads down Vesuvius. As the sirens blare and we speed on towards the hospital, I catch a glimpse of Vesuvius and think again: strike three. Touché, Mountain God.
At the hospital, they wheel me into a room where we wait for about ten minutes. Now my ankle doesn’t hurt so much and I’m worried that we’re just wasting time. I finally get an X-Ray and wait in suspense to finally be told that nothing is broken. It’s just a really bad bruise. I am told to take ibuprofen and no to walk on it for five to six days. I can’t help but think of the ruins we wanted to see today, and the Cat Empire concert I have coming up in two days. Still, I’m happy it isn’t broken, and I’m glad I got confirmation.
Now we’re left with the problem that we’re eight kilometers from town and have no way to get back. I have one of the guards call a taxi, and in thirty minutes, around 4:00, it arrives. The meter is already at €25 when he arrives because of the drive there, and a trip to the ruins costs me a solid €40. But amazingly, the ambulance ride and the X-Ray were free. I wasn’t even asked for an insurance card, only my passport. Point one for the Italian healthcare system.
I still haven’t given up on seeing the ruins, especially knowing how badly Olena wants to see them. For her Pompeii is a life dream and the main purpose of our trip. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna ruin that, so I stumble with her up to the entrance. It hurts a bit, and I really shouldn’t be walking on it, but I can get by.
I don’t see as much as Olena does because I’m mostly sitting while she walks around taking pictures, but it’s still really cool. It boggles my mind that this was once a bustling city whose life was cut short in an instant, not to be discovered for 1,700 years.
We walk through the main square, into private homes complete with baths and fireplaces, through public bath houses and temples to various gods. The temples are plentiful, but clearly the gods were not sated in the end. As we walk towards the exit (well, as Olena walks and I hobble) we pass by the amphitheater of Pompeii which is having a special exhibition of the bodies that were excavated from the ruins. Plaster casts were able to preserve several bodies in exactly the same position they were in when they died. One shows two people huddled together, many with their hands shielding their faces, and even one mother with a child on her lap. It’s horrifying yet fascinating at the same time. I can’t imagine what those last moments must have felt like, futilely trying to fend off the inevitable. The exhibition is called “Stolen from death” – a very fitting name.
Somehow I manage to stumble my way back to the hostel with Olena’s help and we enjoy a €5 carbonara dinner. I am utterly exhausted from the stress my body has sustained, so we call it a relatively early night, especially since we have to be up for a big day of travel the next day. We cap it off with the season finale of Game of Thrones and hit the hay.
We wake up around 8:30, and I examine my foot. It seems to be in just about the same condition it was in before: a dull ache and not too painful to walk on. I think I will make it home without damaging it more.
We have breakfast one last time at the hostel and begin our long journey home. It’s a pretty uneventful trip on several forms of transport: A bus to the center of Pompeii, the Circumvesuviana to Naples, a train to the Rome main station, a bus to the airport, a plane to Prague, and a bus a and tram home. I check on my foot when I get home, and it’s starting to get really purple in some places, but it still doesn’t hurt to walk and I know it’s not broken, so all I can do is wait and stay off it as much as I can.
The Travel Gods cost us quite a bit of money, the Mountain God messed up my foot, and we spent quite a bit more money than we’d meant to, but it was a fantastic trip. Olena and I have been to many places together but never have we had a trip as action-packed as this one.
I am happy that I don’t have to work until later tomorrow, because I have a lot of things to do. Maybe I’ll even sit down and write up a blog about our trip. For now, we drift off to sleep with dreams of ancient ruins, Italian beaches and romantic sunsets swirling through our minds.
Well, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Special thanks to Olena for being an awesome travel companion and for finding the tickets in the first place. Feel free to post any comments or questions, and be sure to check out this page because I’m sure there will be photos sometime in the next few days. Give it a “Like” while you’re at it: https://www.facebook.com/thetravelbugbite/
For those worried about me, don’t. This was all a true story, and it was quite bad when it happened, but I promise you I’m fine. I think my foot should heal in a week or two, and I’ll never run down an active volcano again 😉
The weekend, after the group left, we spent pretty chilled with a few hikes, watching movies, and playing board games. Maria and I, we figured out that we have the same kind of craziness! We both LOVE Walt Disney Cartoons, we use almost every sentence to start a new song, and our favorite activity is, miming the voices of dogs…
Today it is Lukas’ birthday 🙂 and he is having a cold 🙁 poor guy, although he was still fit enough to ask if his cake is ready 😉 but, as always, let me catch up the last events.
By Sheida Nasseri (Guest Blogger)
Please see the original blog post, and all the beautiful photos, here: http://butterflies-needtofly.blogspot.co.at/2016/10/volunteering-at-dogsled-farm.html
The weekend, after the group left, we spent pretty chilled with a few hikes, watching movies, and playing board games. Maria and I, we figured out that we have the same kind of craziness! We both LOVE Walt Disney Cartoons, we use almost every sentence to start a new song, and our favourite activity is, miming the voices of dogs and interpreting what they probably think or would say. We just went for a walk, when I was miming one of the dogs and I noticed that it is a good thing that she is as crazy as I am, otherwise every other person would just call the men with the white coats =P
The other day, Lukas and I went to pick up the transporter for the dogs. When we are going for a race, we would go with the transporter which includes self-made boxes for the dogs and the caravan attached to the transporter. The caravan, we already picked up before. Now it was time to tidy up the transporter. Even it doesn’t look like, there is really space for 16 dogs. Maria and I were supposed to clean the car. In the beginning, I was thinking that the boxes were pretty small and I couldn’t believe that there would be space for two dogs within one box. While cleaning it, I noticed that I fit easily with half of my body inside to reach all corners. Bigger than I thought. Doing so, I felt tempted to try out if I fit in … so I’d tried … and I did fit =)
Lukas was amazed and said that usually there are just three people going to the race. Now that he knows, I’ll fit, we could go with four….no way =P
I think I didn’t mention until now that at the moment we have Aliy and Laska in the house. Aliy is already in heat, and Laska is about to get in heat and they would drive the male dogs crazy staying in the kennels.
Just to give you the picture, we have nine full grown, not castrated male dogs =P Aliy is not allowed to get puppies yet, because Lukas has no breeding certification for her. She needs to be tested before. Laska is allowed, but Lukas wants her to breed with some Husky from Switzerland he has chosen. So we are just waiting for her to get in heat, then we would drive her all the way over to Switzerland.
A dog is getting about every six to eight months in heat. She is usually around four weeks in heat, but she is just able to breed as of the 11/12th day. She will be then, hopefully, pregnant for 58-68 days and then we will have puppies! I’m really looking forward to it. I want to be here, when it is happening! knowing myself, it will be probably difficult for me to go away… maybe, I will extend my stay a little bit 😉 We have a little bit troubles with Braxi, the yard dog. Braxi is absolutely in love with her (that’s the children version – psssst ;-)) Maria and I are calling it “Romeo & Juliette” Story. The forbidden love. He is waiting infront of the window or door and howling for her and she is sitting on the other side. Every time we get out of the door, he already awaits her and when we are coming back from a walk, he is waiting behind the gate. I have to make a video/pic of that! So cute, but unfortunately they are not allowed.
The rest of the week was actually pretty calm. There was just one senior group visiting for one hour, so Maria and I had a lot of free time. I used that for publishing my first post, practising to take pictures with my mirror reflex camera (I am trying to take pictures of stars, believe me, that’s not that easy) and drawing.
I found an Italian Tattoo Artist, Lucreziau, she is just amazing! I love her drawings, so I sat down and tried myself a few of her drawings, not that bad for the first attempt I guess 😉
Well, and then Lukas was the whole week reminding us that it is his Birthday WEEK 😉 and then he tricked me. He asked me if I could bake, I said yes. Then he asked, what kind of cake I can do and I answered him, I can do any cake by recipy – he wants a black forest gateau (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)! Well, I said I could do anything so now I had to prove that I could! I changed a little bit the design, but I think I didn’t do too bad! It tasted delicious though 😉
Okay, two different things which came to my mind on this special Sunday =)
I just saw this morning some advertisement in facebook about Walt Disney and then it just came up my mind. I would love to go to Walt Disneyland Paris!!! And the best company for such a trip is someone who is just as crazy about Walt Disney as I am – Maria!!! I went to Maria- ok no, I was jumping into her room with a huge grin in my face and told her my idea and her eyes started to sparkle!!! She would be in! So the only thing to find out, would be, to find the perfect timeframe, so that Lukas can bear both of us not to be around for three/four days! Do you know those days when good ideas just come to you very easy? That was obviously one of those days 😉 Lukas told us the day before that one of the last volunteers would come end of November to visit him for a week. So I thought, when we would go in that week and Miriam would be here too, then there should be almost no reason to say no, right? Before we even could ask Lukas, Maria and I were so excited about that idea 😀 when Lukas came down into the kitchen, we both ran to him and almost screamed at him and he said YES!!!! Woooooooohoooooo 😀 Both of us, started dancing – hahaha =) we sat down and started planning our trip. So right now, we booked, hotels, entrance tickets and plane tickets – 28th until 30th of October are set up! Still two months to wait … keep you updated, there will be most probably a separate post just about Walt Disneyland 😉
So let’s get started 😉
The second thing, Maria and I were thinking about starting some abs challenge! I upgraded the whole thing into a fitness challenge. I downloaded an app, called 30 days’ challenges. It is separated into two beginners, intermediate and advanced levels in all body sections – Ab, push up, squat, arms, butt, plank, thigh, and cardio! Maria and I decided we want to try us in three sections – ab, squat, and cardio. We will start as of tomorrow. There will be no uploaded information or pictures in between. I will definitely work on a video, so that improvements are visible – hopefully =P What I like about that app are the different levels you can exercise, that means, when your done with one level/challenge you can tackle the more advanced one. I should maybe mention, that I am usually approximately 51/52kg (I am 1.57m tall (small)). I put on weight in the last months and had my max. weight reached by beginning of September– 57kg!!!! I was shocked!!! Since I started here, I got down to 54.5kg. Just by moving more, but I am definitely eating too much chocolate =P If I start taking care of what I eat and add more exercise, I am sure I will get back to my usual weight and maybe even better? In addition, I started a bet with my boyfriend. Who ever is reaching his/her goal until Christmas get invited for a nice dinner and gets a small present OR is allowed to wish something. As the Fitness challenge Maria and I are doing, will take 30 days, I’ll upload most probably around the 6th of November one separate post about that challenge. So, let’s get started!!
Yesterday, it started to rain. It turned much colder and the earth got soft. Lukas told us, that now the dogs need to be taken out as often as possible. So we went in the morning with Aliy and Laska (they are still in the house, so they need some exercise), then we took Braxi and the puppies and in the afternoon we went with Atreju, Simba and Lilly. Atreju and Simba were pulling us like crazy, they have so much energy! Unbelievable!
Talking about Aliy, she can be really an ass! Sorry, but as much as I love her, she is really sassy! When she is pissed about something, for example, that Laska can go for a training, but she doesn’t, she is peeing in the house … out of protest! She did it already three times! And she is soooo jealous of Laska. She doesn’t like it, when you pay attention to Laska, she wants all the attention just for herself =P When you start petting her, she sits down right infront of you and enjoys it so much. But don’t you dare to stop, if you dare, she either comes one step closer looking at you with her dog eyes.
YES – training! My first time as a co-driver!!! I recorded some of it, but I need obviously still some practice because not everything turned out as well as I wished for. Still I got some beautiful pics and videos.
We went this time longer than usual. Before, Lukas went for approx. 10-15minutes, but today we went for 20-25 minutes. You could see that the dogs were exhausted and even they have to get used to the training again. There was a whole lazy summer and a few kilos too much on a few dogs 😉 But even I had my training, I had to jump off in between to untangle the dogs or even run the hill up, when it was too steep. Good workout =P
Braxi is getting more and more annoying with Aliy, I think now the dangerous days started, when Aliy would be ready to be humped. I really had a fight with Braxi, holding him back so that Maria could pass by with the Aliy and Laska. I don’t know if that was the reason, for what happened later but when I wanted to get out of the house, I noticed that my boots were gone. Maria’s boots were lying a little bit further away but still in front of the house, but mine were gone! I suspected Braxi, and when I got my sport shoes on and went to look where he could possibly have put them, it happened. Braxi tried to hump on me! I can tell you, when such a big dog, is holding you with both front legs, that’s painful and you need a lot of strength to get rid of him! I couldn’t move! As soon as I did one step further, he tried humping me again! I started to get really angry! I couldn’t get rid of him! Then I heard Lukas yelling, he tried to call him off but he failed because he cracked … of laughter!!!! Now I really got upset! I got rid of Braxi, he still was following me wherever I went, but at least I was able to keep him in a certain distance from me. I don’t know what got into him, but he is just doing it with me! He leaves Maria and Angelika alone. At least later during the day, I got him to relax a little bit more or let’s say, I could see early enough when he is about to hump on me, so that I did correct him. Men – seriously!
Next day, there should have been also a training, so we got up early and started feeding the dogs. Maria noticed directly that something is wrong with Duke. He obviously vomited his dinner and was lying motionless in the corner and wasn’t even interested in food. Everybody who knows Duke, know exactly that something cannot be right, if Duke is not interested in food. He loves food! He seemed to be really weak. After everyone was fed, Maria and I started putting the harnesses on the dogs and asked Angelika if she could go down and tell Lukas about Dukes’ state. She came back and said, that someone will come up to check on him. When Lukas came, he directly called the vet. He carried Duke to the car, and he and Birgit drove away. Training cancelled. We took off the harnesses and sat in the kitchen waiting for them to come back. We all felt very restless. They came back, and the whole atmosphere was kind of tense. They carried Duke upstairs and told us, that the vet didn’t know what it was. After an hour, Lukas and Birgit went for another vet because Duke had a break-down and they were really afraid of losing him! Situation wasn’t easy at all. I kind of felt not good on that day either. I got stomach issues – maybe sympathy sickness? No idea. The whole day we were not in such a good mood because we were worried. Though on the next morning, Duke felt much better. What a relief! Check that video, just adorable 🙂
We had a training and afterwards Lukas and I went with Duke for the doctor to see the blood results. The doctor was relieved to see Duke so much better. Obviously, he had stomach problems before and she is suspecting some infection in the liver, cause the numbers were a bit high. She gave him an infusion and some tablets for Vitamin B and liver antibiotics. Additionally, on that day, my boyfriend arrived! I was so excited to see him again 🙂 we stayed in a pension in Stronsdorf. He arrived late in the evening and we directly went there. The pension is located up a hill, with no other houses around you very quiet and nice. We had a wonderful chilled evening with some wine and talked a lot.
Next morning, we had Breakfast around nine (so strange to sleep longer than 6/7 am) talked with the owners, played a little bit with their labrador Maya (super cute) and drove then to the snowdragons. We went to the yard, and Max got to know all dogs and believe it or not, since Max came to visit the dogs.
Afterwards, Miriam, Angelika, Max and I went on a hike with the puppies, Laska and Aliy. It was for once not raining and we enjoyed our hike a lot. It was a nice feeling, to have your loved one with you, sharing the experiences you do 🙂 later, Max and I went to a restaurant Gasthaus Herbst it didn’t look that fancy to be honest, but the food, OMG awesome!!! Really nice! Lukas told us afterwards, that they obviously have some Star cook working there. With full stomachs, we returned to the pension and just chilled in the afternoon, watching TV, napping and talking. In the evening, we went to Lukas and Birgit and we all went to an event, called Night of Celtic fire at a museum in Asparn. It was really nice, very cold though. Max and I would have loved to see the houses and environment during daylight. We spent another nice evening together, before Max left on the next morning.
Sunday afternoon, we had a kids birthday taking place. Ten kids, in an age of 7-9 years old. It was very exhausting, as always when kids come to visit 😉
The next days we had trainings and a lot of hikes. We have to get prepared. The first race we are taking part, will be in the last week of October. On wednesday, I had to prepare a scavenger hunt for a children group – 55 kids!!!! On Thursday, at 8am there would come 55 kids in an age of 10/11 years old. Lukas, said he needs someone grumpy for the hike =P no, of course he was kidding, he needed someone who can control a bunch of kids and two dogs. We were going to divide the kids in five groups and we would have five stations so that each group is always busy.
I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but I got an UP bracelet which is counting my steps. My personal goal are 11,000 steps per day, well on that very special day, I did 24,000 steps!!!! Actually, it isn’t any problem to reach the 11,000 steps anymore, I am at least on two hikes every day! But on that day, I really was exhausted! We all were, at 11pm it was total silence in the house and no lights burning.
In between I am always considering and reflecting my whole situation. Even, when I am in between really tired and my whole body is aching, I am really happy. I have a loving boyfriend, I have wonderful people around me, such sweet dogs who give so much love and I have no pressure that I need to do anything. Of course, I am already checking what could be my next step, but if I don’t find the right job as a next step, I just would do another volunteer job. I have to admit, I was even thinking to do another study course, but these are just thoughts. I will let you know for sure, when I decide 🙂
Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and happens to be the 8th most populated city in Europe. Like many formerly communist countries, Ukraine has undergone extreme economic and social changes. Today, Kiev is a bustling cosmopolitan city combining historic architecture, modern cafes and a vibrant nightlife. In other words, it’s the perfect tourist destination!
The following city guide can give you the perfect itinerary for 48 hours in Kiev, Ukraine, one of Europe’s prime travel destinations – okay, I might be biased, but go along with me on this one…
Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and happens to be the 8th most populated city in Europe. Although Kiev is the better-known spelling of Ukraine’s capital city – patriotic locals prefer “Kyiv” because it reflects the Ukrainian pronunciation. It is also important to know that the countries name is just “Ukraine”. Before it gained sovereignty in 1991 it was called “the Ukraine” as a territory within the USSR.
Like many formerly communist countries, Ukraine has undergone extreme economic and social changes. Today, Kiev is a bustling cosmopolitan city combining historic architecture, modern cafes and a vibrant nightlife. In other words, it’s the perfect tourist destination!
Of course, it can be hard to get an authentic feel of a place in just a day or two. But if you take advantage of the extensive public transportation system you can cover a lot of ground in just 48 hours. Just don’t attempt to visit all the cool museums or you’ll never leave!
Read the full itinerary at http://letsgowonder.com/48-hours-kiev-ukraine-gowonder-city-guide/
That includes detailed info about: