2018: A Year of Almost Adventures (Part 2)

In case you’re still in the mood for reflecting on 2018 (as I will probably be till June), then you might want to get a short break from your to-do-listing, goal-setting and new dieting in order to enjoy my briefed 2018 adventures around the world. Even though I always want to travel and explore more, as I look back I realise that I did, in fact, visit more cities in that year than I have in any other year of my life… So, I’ll share with you the ones I was too busy/lazy to write about at the time being – enjoy. 

Check out Nancy’s part one of the 2018 recap here

St. Petersburg, Russia

Our first stop finds itself in mother Russia. It might sound familiar as at the time I managed to put my stay in Moscow into written form, but St. Petersburg is another story. ‘Piter’, as many young people are used to calling it, was absolutely beautiful, deserving of all of the hipster praise, noticeably more European-like than Moscow and surprisingly English-speaking. Visiting the Peterhof Palace, I got to indulge in my Romanovs obsession that I’ve been suppressing since early childhood. But by drinking coffee on rooftops and overeating at a Georgian restaurant called Kazan Mangal, I believe I truly vibed with the city despite not being stylish enough to meet its standards. Thank you, next.

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yes, I do resemble Russian royalty, thanks for noticing 

Athens, Greece

The summer of 2018 started with a short trip to Athens, which was meant to mark my 18th birthday. My friends and I decided to celebrate that, but also the end of the school year by doing something refreshing and as traveling with friends is always a good idea, we chose the cheapest and nearest destination available, #squadgoals. Being one of these rare Bulgarians that do not vacation on the Greek seaside, I actually surprised everybody by stating that it was my first visit in Greece ever. However, I found Athens to be exactly what I needed – pretty, ancient and hot. What I’ll remember most is probably how I hiked to the Acropolis on platforms and the magnificent view from there – truly one of a kind. Long story short, my friends and I, we wandered around the ancient town then went to a shisha bar and ate gyros. Would repeat. 

Perpignan, France

After my trip to Athens, I worked all summer in order to complete my #DiscoverEU journey  in September with a high school friend – Alex. For those of you who don’t know that’s a EU-funded initiative that gives many 18 years olds a free Interrail Pass, allowing them to travel for free by European trains. That said, we started from Paris and then traveled to a small French city near the Spanish border named Perpignan. Although it was, in my view, more Spanish than French and definitely the most random of all our destinations, it turned out to be super colourful and with an undeniable southern charm. Plus, despite being dirty af, the city was generally picturesque and the locals were welcoming, especially the two Bulgarian gypsies that gave us directions! So, if you’re passing by Perpignan I definitely recommend going there, but like, not for more than a day – it has a limited sightseeing potential. 

Barcelona, Spain 

Speaking of sightseeing potential, the one in our next stop – Barcelona was unbounded. Alex and I spend there about 4 days and as effective as we tried to be, one can never get enough. The first day was rainy, so I learned Barcelona’s charm does not hide only in the sunny weather. On the second day, we rented bikes and, as basic as we were, listened to Ed Sheeran’s Barcelona while exploring the city. After that, I lost the chronology, but we went to a chill local beach outside the capital of Catalonia, drank lots of sangria, met another Bulgarian gypsy and I personally became Gaudi’s biggest fan. Before we know it, we found ourselves on the next train station heading to Valencia. 

Valencia

Valencia quickly became my favourite. Our Airbnb was amazing and as central as it gets. The city itself was the perfect combination of typical seaside town and stunning architecture. Ah, the palms and the Gothic buildings… but mainly the palms. I am an exotic persona now, just so you know. Moreover, if I’m not getting it wrong, we drank a thing called horchata, which was a Valencian healthy non-alcoholic drink that you must try if you visit the city. Overall, it was the most vacation-like destination that was perfect both for the ‘I worked all summer, I deserve this” mentality and for providing me with strength and a positive attitude to face the new school year (my last one).

Madrid, Spain

Last but not least, we finished off by spending a day and a half in Madrid. Obviously, it was not nearly enough to explore it to its fullest potential, but still, I was charmed. For the Bulgarians reading this, I can put it that way: if Barcelona was the Spanish Varna, Valencia – Sozopol, then Madrid was Sofia. It was objectively a cool and fun place to be especially thanks to its big city vibe. Alex and I spent the last night of our Spanish crusade by going to… a 50’s-themed American diner, showcasing globalisation at its finest. Don’t judge us, we ate enough paellas and drank enough sangrias to feel authentic. 

 

I hope you’re as happy with your traveling experiences from 2018 as I am with mine! If not, hey, heads up, you’ve got 2019 ahead.

Read Part 1 here

Contemporary Art and Late-Night Kebabs: A Solo Trip to Rainy Holland

First of all, this is a throwback. I went to visit a friend of mine – Dany, who is a first year student in the University College of Utrecht, during my February vacation. Not only did I get to see a close friend and do some catching up, but also got the chance to explore Utrecht – a small, but charming and lively Dutch town, as well as Amsterdam – the dream of both tourists and hipsters. So, here’s how my “almost adventure” went.

An almost poetic start

Upon my arrival at Utrecht, I felt like I was sort of pathetic, but in a cute way. I was slightly unprepared for the weather in the Netherlands – with my uncovered ankles, thin summer coat and lack of umbrella, I had to carry my miniature luggage (to be expected from the low-cost flight) and my dictionary-huge book that didn’t fit anywhere, all through the rain. What the hell was I thinking?! Oh wait, I know – in Bulgarian it would be “от студ умри, гъзар бъди”, which roughly translates to “freeze to death, but always be stylish”, and I find this beautiful. I was already being showered in Dutch culture – quite literally. Thank God, there is always a Starbucks to save you in such situations… Here I was, just a lone basic bitch drinking an over-priced cappuccino. Wouldn’t Carrie Bradshaw call that poetic?

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Partying alone. Who said it wasn’t cool?

The day of my arrival happened to be a Thursday, which was lucky for me, because like I was told then, “Thursday is the new Friday”, and y’all know what that means. Of course, there was a huge party on campus and notwithstanding my brief encounter with Dany’s awesome roommates (a special shout out), I didn’t know anyone else. Even my host didn’t quite count, as he was busy taking a shift at the campus bar and thus getting blackout drunk to the point of unavailability for the whole night. That got me wandering around all night between the most random people and by random, I mean that at some point they weren’t even in Dany’s social circle – they were just there.

Here’s to the friends life forces you to have! P.S. Another shout out to this guy who at some point was my new BFF and at another forgot who I was…

A weekend in Amsterdam

On the next day, taking advantage of my friend’s guilt for leaving me with complete strangers and without a key to his room the first night, I forced him to take me to Amsterdam. Poor boy, right? Anyhow, in the Dutch capital I also got to see Deni – one of my sister’s best friends, and Nia – Dany’s friend, who accepted the role of my personal tour guide and the closest to an Amsterdam Mom that one could get. In other words, two of the coolest locals you could meet.

First, we started by just walking around aimlessly in Amsterdam without the realistic idea of visiting any museums whatsoever, which was awesome and yet somehow against my nature as a true tourist. What I came to realize, though, was that the city itself is so enchanting and fascinating to observe, that it could just as well have been an art exhibit by itself. As I have lived all my life in Sofia – a city which architecture mingles the Vienna Secession and the Communist-era as sources of “inspiration”- it is always outlandish to explore places where all of the buildings are actually… in harmony? Complementing each other? But seriously, even if I hadn’t been from Sofia, I believe that objectively there is something special and nonetheless peaceful about buildings that are inextricably linked, united in terms of style (or at least in terms of the vibes they give) and yet all of them having so much spellbinding details of their own.

We started the night in a bar called Waterkant and ended like only true slavs know how…in a kebab shop. While drinking beers in the hip-looking club and dancing to some commercial music mixed with reggaeton, surrounded by funky young people, I remember thinking “Okay. That’s what I came here for”, and while eating the kebab later – “Oh, no. This is what I came here for”.

Stedelijk is my new bae

Stedelijk Museum

If I have to be honest, probably the most memorable of all the activities in Amsterdam and in Utrecht was my visit to the Stedelijk, where Nia took me on the next day. In case you don’t know, it is a contemporary art museum and hands down, the coolest place I’ve ever been to. Honestly, before I got in, I thought “oh well, most of the artefacts would probably be objectively ugly, but with a deep hidden meaning that I wouldn’t be able to grasp”, and although this was perhaps true for some of the pieces (the part where I don’t get the actual connotation), for the vast majority it wasn’t the case at all. The paintings, photographs and all other forms of art which I encountered were like nothing I had ever seen before and despite my original bias, I found them wonderful. Another thing I liked was that the idea behind them was roughly explained in a few paragraphs, so my primary fear of “not getting it” turned out to be unjustified.

To sum up, during my stay in Utrecht I got to experience the Dutch culture at its finest – a.k.a. I rode a bike and didn’t know how to stop and it rained a lot. Amsterdam, on the other hand, made me admire Holland in every way possible. It was there I realized that I actually do like contemporary art (and it’s not just something a 5-year-old could do) and that I could never get enough of just walking around, staring at the buildings and the canals. Neither would I get tired of being a tourist and absorbing the eclectic culture through the Dutch capital’s countless museums. And the best part? Since I am under 18, I could enter everywhere for free! This, kids, is the moral of the story: if you don’t want to pay 17 euros for a museum ticket, you’ve got to travel to the Netherlands while you’re young!

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Shoutout to our good friend Deni Yoncheva for the amazing photos! Follow her on Instagram at @deniyoncheva