Monday, April 16, 2018

With New Eyes

While some of my spring "weekend tripping" was of the impulse buy variety and I am beginning to think that I might be overcompensating for the absence of business travel in my life, ahem, just a tiny bit, the weekend in Vilnius was booked on Christmas Eve. I got my Mum (pictured above) a voucher for a weekend in any European city of her choice for Christmas and since she is as eager as I am when it comes to travelling, we went ahead and booked a few hours later. Like mother, like daughter., I suppose. She picked Vilnius as she had never been there and a friend, who stopped there en route to Finland last year told her she really loved it. Unlike Mum, I know the city (centre) quite well, having been there on quite a few business trips back in the days at the Firm. I always really liked Vilnius, the town, but job-wise, I much preferred to spend my time in Sofia and ultimately struck a deal with my manager asking if I could put the focus of my activities on Bulgaria, rather than the Baltics. Although, objectively, Vilnius is way more attractive than Sofia, I just felt more comfortable there as far as local colleagues and clients were concerned. The Baltic people I met seemed of the "glass half empty" variety whereas the Bulgarians definitely were team "glass half full" and everything seemed to be more fun and lighthearted there.
Vilnius, however, is not at fault there and so it was a rather novel experience for me, this time. I had booked the fanciest hotel in town and the weather Gods had mercy on us (probably having decided we had our fair share of winter and wet feet in Bukarest), and got to see the city through the eyes of a tourist. My mother really loved it, too, and we both agreed that the pace was decidedly slower and more laid-back than in Vienna. If we had been on a busy schedule, the not exactly speedy service in restaurants and the decidedly "Communist customer service attitude" in some shops might have bothered us, but as we weren't we just went with the flow and had a great time. We thoroughly enjoyed our 48 hours in town, strolling around at our own pace, ticking off the main sights and discovering some interesting details. I decided that next year, I'll treat Mum to a weekend in Tallinn, a city I know less well than Vilnius and am curious to revisit.

Monday, April 09, 2018

O Sola Mia [sic!]

This past weekend I was in Milan. All on my own. It was great. My friends know that I love travelling and so I kindly got a flight voucher for Austrian Airlines, our national carrier. Needless to say, it took me only 2 days until I had redeemed it for a return flight to Milan. I did not feel like waiting until I had found a date that would suit a potential travel companion so went ahead and booked flight and hotel for myself, with the option of having someone join me at a later stage, which I would not have minded. Just the same, I actually quite like visiting cities where I have already been before on my own. Even though my relationship status has been of the "it's complicated" and/or "it's just not happening" variety in the past decade, appreciating solo travel is something that I don't see as a sad byproduct of being single at all. I have lots of friends and a mother who all love to travel and consider me a pleasant travel companion, meaning I have "return customers". Despite that, I sometimes really like some me time and therefore not only don't mind solo travelling, but prefer it. There's a popular saying in Italian ("meglio sola che male accompagnata"), that really resonates with me. It says  that it is better to be alone than in bad company. Even if my choice of company would be far from "bad", I still sometimes politely decline and prefer my own company. While there is a handful of people who I consider my travel soulmates, more or less, travelling with others - as lovely as they might be out of a travelling-together-context - actually decreases my level of travel-gratification. I'd much rather pay more for a single room and in return not have to put up with somebody who needs more sleep, is indecisive in shops that don't interest me, hates spending money (we all know that money spent abroad is Monopoly money, right?), is way more interested in visiting all "it" restaurants than sights...the list goes on. What is your take on solo travel?

Monday, April 02, 2018

Don't Go There!

Decoration inspo from the Romanian Kitsch Museum ;-)
I guess ever since Eve was instructed NOT to eat that shiny apple in Paradise, there is something irresistible about things we are explicitly instructed or even just recomended NOT to do. Not quite as extreme, but I have frequently been told that I should not bother visiting Bucharest as it was "ugly, boring and depressing". Admittedly, I had let myself be influenced by that verdict of pretty much everyone who had ever been there among my friends (with the exception of one enthusiastic friend in whose heart Bucharest holds the same special place as Sofia does in mine) and would not have paid a hefty sum to go there. When the city popped up in Austrian Airlines’ recent offers for mileage rewards, however, I pitched the trip to my Mum and off we went. What we had not anticipated in this geographically more Southern place than Vienna was to find the city covered in a thick layer of snow at the end of March. You could argue that snow actually makes some ugliness prettier by metaphorically sugar coating it, but I am sure I would have like Bucharest even better without wet feet and the constant danger of a "rooftop avalanche" landing on our heads. We had read about the many beautiful parks, but not had the opportunity to enjoy them because of the weather. Even so, I can imagine how nice the Old Town must look in summer and how lively the city probably is in the warmer months. On the other hand, we might not have visited so many museums if the weather had been friendlier. And those museums really were worth a visit! In a nutshell: if you are interested in weekend breaks off the beaten track and want to put a pin on the map in the “Wild East”, I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting Bucharest.
Any other cities you think I should not bother visiting?
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