Nijmegen from above

By now I have unpacked everything in Brussels and at least one corner of my attic room looks like home with all my dresses and skirts hanging there. The room still needs improving, some essential pieces of furniture are missing – but this will be fixed soon, there’s a visit to Ikea scheduled for Saturday. More about Brussels a bit later, because I first want to post some photos from the last Nijmegen days.

Since my first trip to Nijmegen I have wanted visit the tower of St. Stevenskerk, but it’s not open too often and there has always been something else to do when it finally was open to visitors. This trip was different. On Monday morning, Matthijs persuaded me to leave the bed (nooooo, nice and warm bed and pillows!), we grabbed our cameras and off we went.

Some rather tiring stair-climbing later we arrived at the topmost point where visitors were allowed to go. No, we didn’t see an awesome panorama of Nijmegen from there. We saw something that’s perhaps even more awesome: the bell-player! (If there’s a special name for that occupation in English, do enlighten me. It’s late and I’m tired and bell-player is the best I can come up with.) We sat there for a few songs, watching him in action, and later had a small chat as well.

It was quite interesting to watch him play rather difficult songs on a set of bells. The biggest ones were played with feet and others with hands. I kind of felt like I would want to try that one day, but my utter lack of coordination would not go well with that – just look at the amount of pedals! Even beginner rhythms on drums are a huge challenge for me and the number of pedals is a lot lower there.

After seeing the bell-master at work, we descended one flight of stairs to get to the viewing platform. The guard there provided tourists with loads of information about the surrounding areas. He spoke mostly in Dutch, so what I did not understand on my own, Matthijs translated for me later. One of the first things I saw was the Grote Markt, busy with cafe terraces and the Monday Market. (There’s two weekly markets in that area, one on Saturdays and one on Mondays.)

The next photo has one of the two bridges in the centre of Nijmegen. Google Maps tells me it’s called Snelbinder. De Waal (the river) will have some of its water redirected soon through a new channel, because the sharp bend in the city centre is not very safe and it’s essentially a bottleneck, creating rather widespread floods. This link has a nice explanation and if you click on the pdf-file there, you can see the changes on small maps, showing how the extra space for water is created.

You may have noticed something strange in the background. If not, you’ll see it better on the next photo. It’s a bridge on dry land with no roads underneath. Why? Because they are building an extra bridge over De Waal and they are first putting it together on land.

The traffic on the river seemed to be rather light at that time, but I did notice something I have never seen in Estonia: garbage transport on the river with an open ship. Probably nothing too exciting for most people, but I still wanted to take a photo of it.

And now it’s time for a random photo of the rooftops of Nijmegen:

This is what the platform around the tower looked like:

On our way down I took a photo of some of the biggest bells in the tower. It was really dark in there, but the photo still turned out rather decent. I really love my camera. (Canon 600D, if anyone is interested. Highly recommended, it’s brilliant!)

The last day in Nijmegen also included a trip to the market (fresh fruits!), some cooking, another board game evening and of course some new muffins. This time they were with chocolate and coffee and I had a lot of fun decorating them.

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Ouwehands Dierenpark

This year I have been to two zoos. This is a lot more zoo visits than I have had in the previous five years or so and I have Matthijs to “blame” for that. Earlier this year we went to Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem and this week we visited another Dutch one: Ouwehands Dierenpark Rhenen. I was secretly rather glad that there weren’t too many birds around in this one: it meant that I didn’t have to walk back and forth in boredom and remind Matthijs every now and then that there are other animals in the zoo as well and there is no need to photograph every tiny movement an owl makes. I blame my parents for infecting everyone with the photography disease, Matthijs is a changed man since he met them.

This fella was one of my favourite models. Plus it was a much nicer experience than taking photos at the previous zoo and then later realising I had been photographing a monkey eating its own poop. Bon appetit!

Classic monkey business, cleaning each other and getting a snack out of it as well. They were fun to watch, that area was always full of movement – quite the opposite of what the tigers and lions were doing. Cats will remain cats, no matter what size they are. Just lie in the sun and don’t move, that’s the best course of action. Cute to watch, but gets boring rather fast.

Some bears followed the cat path of just being there and doing nothing, but we did see some bear action as well. First they just went for a swim and then it turned into what you can see on the photo. It lasted for quite a while, resulting in a quarter of my camera’s memory card being filled with photo evidence of a bear fight. There were supposed to be some wolves in that mini-forest as well, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. I wasn’t too surprised though – with the amount of screeching kids in the forest I wouldn’t come out either, I’d find the furthest cave and hide there.

It was very lively at the polar bear cage as well. Unfortunately the thick glass didn’t allow for good photos, but I had to snap one of this playful cub. It was very intrigued by a massive white dog who didn’t look too different from the cub. Whereever the dog went, the cub followed on the other side of the glass.

Obligatory bird shot. Plus I really like the colours.

And of course it wouldn’t be a proper zoo visit without penguins. Everybody loves penguins. In this zoo it was actually possible to go in the middle of the penguin area. Sadly there was a thick glass bubble surrounding you, so you could just pop up in the bubble area and look around, but even without the possibility to pet a penguin it was awesome to see them that close. Petting a penguin is definitely on my bucket list, next to hugging a koala.

I’m a bit sad this photo isn’t sharper, but it’s the best shot I got from the sea lion show. The sea lions were absolutely awesome and they seemed to have a lot of fun with showing off their skills. Plus they got rewarded with fish for everything they did, so they were quite eager to splash around and twirl and do everything the trainers told them to do.

The first few rows got rather wet during this part – the trainers told the sea lions to splash, so they did and drenched everyone around them in the process. The kids in the first rows were screeching with delight.

One of my favourite parts in Ouwehands zoo. The aquarium areas weren’t as impressive as the ones in Arnhem, but there was still plenty to see. I spent ages in front of this particular aquarium, photographing the beautiful floaters from every angle.

This and the previous photo can also been seen in the header area every now and then. Every photo I have used as banners here has been taken by me. I just uploaded a bunch and now they take turns in being the header. At first all photos were from Tallinn, but now I have gathered enough foreign pics to slowly replace them. After all, this blog is supposed to be about my adventures abroad.

The hobbit is off (it’s market day in Nijmegen and I need to get some fruit), the next post will probably be from Brussels. Only three days to go until moving there!

Tambourine Lady and plastic carrots – we meet again, Nijmegen!

A week ago, I had to say goodbye to Estonia for a while. Since then, I have been enjoying the Dutch summer with occasional “saunas” (read: sitting in Matthijs’ sunheated room and boiling inside). The few first days were spent in the outskirts of Nijmegen at Matthijs’ parents’ place, which was especially nice as you can have lunch in their garden, enjoying the sun and watching how their cat attempts to hunt for birds. (There is actually a lot more room in the garden than it may seem from this photo. I just wanted to show how lush the plants are.)

While Matthijs was busy with other things, I explored Nijmegen on my own, buying necessary things for moving to Brussels and seeing the Tambourine Lady everywhere. Tambourine Lady is legendary in Nijmegen. She stands on random streetcorners, just playing her tambourine and looking around a bit absentmindedly. As much as I have been told about her, she doesn’t do it for money, she just likes playing the tambourine. In addition to being an unofficial mascot for the town, she also annoys the hell out of a lot of locals on whose streets she happens to play, so if you would understand enough Dutch, you could probably hear randomers complaining to their friends that Tambourine Lady set up camp right under their window last morning.

I don’t have a photo of Tambourine Lady, but I do have this photo of a two-level shopping street in Nijmegen. Not the most typical photo you can get from that town, but it is something unique – feel free to prove me wrong though and point out other towns with a street like that, I personally haven’t encountered this anywhere else though.

In addition to gathering necessary things like towels and medication (which is a lot cheaper in Netherlands than Belgium), there has of course been some grocery shopping and cooking. This brings me to something baffling: separately packed carrots. They were huge, so that can perhaps be a small excuse for that ridiculousness, but it’s still weird. Why would you need to have your carrots separately packed in plastic? Also, I got a chuckle from the fact that a carrot is not only called wortel in Dutch as I had previously assumed, but it can also be called peen. So we made our dinner with the help of winterpeen:

Last night I had a board game night. I had been organising things like that about once a month in Estonia, because it was a good excuse to gather my friends in the same place. Also, have I mentioned how much I love board games? No? Anyway, I put three game boxes in my moving suitcase, even though I could have taken some extra shoes for example. I’m glad I took them with me: yesterday Matthijs invited a friend over here and we had a lovely evening with Settlers of Catan and Dominion, accompanied by beer and chocolate muffins.

So, if there is anyone near Nijmegen or Brussels who would want to have a board game evening or cake evening, do let me know. I would be happy to arrange a meet-up, bake something delicious and set up the games.

summer vacation in Tuscany

This blog has been quiet for nearly a month because I was busy being abroad on my summer vacation. Started out in sunny Nijmegen in The Netherlands:

They still had flags hanging everywhere from the Four Days Marches that had finished two days before my arrival:

After a few days in Nijmegen with Matthijs, we grabbed our suitcases and met up with a group of others to fly to Italy, where we stayed in San Gimignano for two weeks. Of course the trip happened to be scheduled on the two hottest weeks Italy has seen in a very long time, so even locals had trouble with adapting to the extreme temperatures we had. Being a pale office worker from Estonia who had barely seen any sun this summer, it only took me a few days to get a lovely sun allergy that covered my entire body in red and very itchy spots. Nevertheless, San Gimignano looked lovely:

We gathered on that square nearly every evening to buy gelato from a lovely tiny shop and sit on the stairs around the well, chatting and enjoying the atmosphere. I took a few walks alone to see the town a bit more and admire the medieval buildings and sloped streets.

Of course there were a lot of hills and mountains all around, since we were in Tuscany. Sunsets were beautiful and rather colourful. Surprisingly early for me as well, since I’m used to the light nights of northern countries. Seeing the sun go down at around 8pm was very strange for me and it was even stranger to walk around in complete darkness a few hours later. It never gets that dark during summertime in Estonia, unless you’re in the middle of a very thick forest. Obviously I do not have a photo of how dark it was, so have a sunset instead:

We also had two short daytrips to Siena and Florence. Both trips were too short to see many things, so we just walked around with Matthijs, choosing beautiful churches and viewpoints over shopping. Siena seemed a bit surreal to me, especially one view over the town:

For some reason I could not believe I was entirely awake, because this view reminded me too much of several computer games I had played years before. It made me feel like any moment some guy would appear on the rooftops, jumping from one to another and gathering items that he would stuff in his magical backpack that can fit anything from an apple to a massive battle axe or perhaps a chair.

The trip to Florence was a tiny bit longer than the one to Siena, but it was still not enough to see even half the things we had planned. This was partly due to the insanely hot and damp weather (I guess it was around 38 degrees… in shade) and the fact that I had to lurk from one shadow to another like a vampire to prevent my sun allergy from taking a very sharp turn to the worse. Plus we also ended up on a wrong hill when trying to find a viewpoint, so we climbed two hills instead of one. I felt rather dead when we finally reached our destination, but I still managed to capture the nice view we had from there:

I will definitely have to return to Tuscany some other time to see it properly. Perhaps during springtime when heat levels are not that insane and it is possible to walk around without feeling like you are getting roasted. Didn’t see enough of that beautiful area in two weeks.

After relaxing in Nijmegen for some days after Italy, I’m back in Estonia and preparing for the move. I have already applied for a new ID-card and passport and started sorting things I want to take with me or leave behind or throw away, but there is still a lot to do. Also, there are a lot of friends I still want to see before flying away for that long. I just have to hope they will find time in their busy schedules. Modern life is difficult sometimes, nobody has time for anything.

flight planned and bought

I bought my flight ticket! Not straight to Brussels though – I’m going to Nijmegen on August 31st so I could spend a week in the hometown of my Dutchie Matthijs. (The photo is from my first trip to Nijmegen in June 2011.) After pretending that I’m finally living with him for a little bit, I’ll grab my suitcase(s) and take a train to Brussels where my small apartment should already be waiting for me.

Since one of my fears (that has not been added to the hopes&fears list yet) is that I’ll be lonely in Brussels, I’ll have to do my best to find friends there. Otherwise my life would mainly consist of taking care of kids, skyping with my family and visiting Matthijs on weekends. I made an account on couchsurfing.org where it’s possible to find accommodation on someone’s couch, offer yours to a fellow traveller or just meet up with people in your town or somewhere on travels. I’ll try to find friends through that and of course find the local Estonian community as well – there’s a lot of Estonians living in Brussels.