wandering in Antwerp

in Antwerp train station

A long long time ago (read: the beginning of March) there was a trip to Antwerp. One of my sisters came for a visit in Brussels and on the weekend I took her for a day trip. Mairi and I were joined by Kristina (a lovely au pair with irresistible ginger curls) and about an hour later by Matthijs who came from Netherlands, so in Antwerp train station the group was together. Did I mention in my previous Antwerp-post that the train station there is absolutely gorgeous and crazy?

Antwerp train stationSo, that is the beautiful part. And the crazy? It’s multi-layered. There’s four floors where you can board trains. So when you look up, you see higher floors with trains… and it looks batshit crazy. But why should you have trains only underground or on ground level when you could go higher as well… So when you look at the next photo, know that all of those floors contain trains.

Antwerp train stationWe headed to the centre to take some photos and walk around. I annoyed everyone with talking about pies. Last time in Antwerp we had gone to a bakery with Matthijs and they had amazing tiny cherry pies. I had been dreaming of eating another one of those ever since. Of course I got disappointed when we reached the bakery – they had no crumble pies anymore. Lattice pies look nice, but there’s a distinct lack of crumbles. I like crumbles on my pies. Have I mentioned I love crumble pies? Anyway, after driving everyone insane, I didn’t even get to eat what I wanted. The lattice pies tasted nice as well, but they weren’t what I had been dreaming about.

Antwerp / AntwerpenWe had no certain plan, so we just wandered around, chatted and took photos. When Mairi wanted to take some money out, we discovered that the ATMs there hate Estonian bank cards. Or at least the one that Mairi had. Despite there being enough money, the annoying machine kept repeating there is no money on the account. In the end Matthijs came to rescue – there were no issues with Dutch cards.

Antwerpen

Antwerpen Antwerpen

Of course no trip is complete without spotting some strange graffiti. That day’s discovery? Pedobear twins. With bonus pink toilet paper.

pedobear twinsMairi was supposed to take some videos over the next week and she had brought something special for that: a lens from a copy machine. It gave a very cool effect when looking through and I was able to fit all three trip companions in one photo, standing right in front of them. Unfortunately the lens never made it to the videos. Mairi’s fingers slipped and the lens crashed to pieces on the ground. She was so sad about it, but we had no replacement to take from anywhere.

lens

Antwerpen

To get some lovely views over the town, we decided to visit MAS (Museum aan de Stroom). It’s a huge building with a glass spiral around it, so you can walk up the stairs and see beautiful panoramas. Entering the museum cost some money, but the spiral had free entrance. So we decided to do just that and walk up to the roof.

Antwerpen MASAs you might see from the photo, the glass was not quite ordinary. It was in waves all around the building, so inside the spiral you could walk into the wavy corners and feel almost like you’re in a separate room. Of course I took the chance to take some photos of Mairi and Kristina while they were occupying the corner.

in MASSome views from the roof:

from the roof of MAS  from the roof of MASfrom the roof of MASMatthijs had a wide angle lens with him and we wanted to take a funny looking close-up with the girls. Didn’t work out quite as how I had imagined, but here it is:

on the roof of MASThis has been a very photo-heavy post, because the trip itself was more than a month ago and I can’t remember everything anymore. But I hope the pictures speak for themselves. I’ll try not to leave a month-long gap between posts again.

Advertisements

the band, the crew and the hobbit

Antwerpen

Continuing with my very late blog posts in order to catch up with all the photos I wanted to share here. In December, I had a lovely day in Antwerp with Matthijs. We wanted to see Ewert and the Two Dragons in the evening and also check out the lovely Belgian city, so we went there in the morning to walk around and enjoy the sights. It was close to Christmas, so light time was limited. As we wanted to take photos, the first place we visited was Sint Annatunnel, a pedestrian tunnel to get to the other side of the river Schelde.

The escalators in Sint-AnnatunnelThe entrance to the tunnel was via old wooden escalators. They looked amazing and as I read now, they are from the 1930s. So much better than those chunks of metal everywhere else, these had the elegance of older eras. After taking the long escalator ride down, we had to walk more than half a kilometre under the river to get to the other side and ride similar old escalators back up to the daylight again.

Sint-Annatunnel

Sint-Annatunnel

The view from the other side was magnificent. Our timing was perfect as well, it was just before sundown and the colours on the river and the centre of Antwerpen were beautiful. We took photos of the town (and a few of each other – what else would two people with cameras do than torture each other with them?) and tried not to fall down from the high riverside structures we were climbing on. Considering that the temperatures were slightly below zero and everything was icy and slippery, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to slip and fall.

Matthijs in AntwerpenWhen the sun had begun to set, we walked back through the tunnel to explore the city centre a bit. That didn’t work out too well though, because it was already getting dark and we didn’t have time to see everything we wanted. So instead we only took a look at a few selected places and then headed for dinner. I wanted to meet up with my friend Karl who happens to be the tour manager of Ewert and the Two Dragons, but obviously he was a bit busy with the upcoming gig because of his work duties.

christmas market in Antwerpen

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to put some things away and check how to get to Trix, where the concert was held. Eventually we figured out what trams we had to take and where to walk, or at least we thought we did. When we stepped off the tram, we of course realised we have no idea what direction we should take. Thanks to some good guessing, we finally found our way in the dark and got to the venue. I have no photos from there, because I didn’t want to carry my camera around and left it in the hotel. Matthijs is focusing on gig photography anyway, so I left the concert cameraman duties to him.

Antwerpen and ScheldeThe gig was awesome. I managed to see Ewert and the Two Dragons four time that month, partly because I love the music and mostly because it was a good opportunity to see Karl, who is travelling around with the band and almost impossible to see in Estonia. Especially when living abroad, it’s very nice to meet up with your friends like that. The highlights of the concerts were not the relaxed atmosphere and awesome music, but the moments spent with Karl and his relative Siim (who was the merch guy for the European leg of the tour). I had missed my friends so much.

Antwerpen and ScheldeWe met up with them the next evening as well in Leuven. As usual, I have no photos of that because I’m too short anyway to see over the crowd, but Matthijs took some photos of the band during the concert and even some group photos for them after that. I managed to get my “fangirl picture” as well, after seeing them live for five times already. As Karl was already kneeling on the ground from previous group photos, I just claimed his leg as my seat for the photo. This caused some joking among the guys, with Matthijs saying he is allowing that and Karl winking and laughing that he should see the next pose then. Thanks to the guys goofing around, I have a laughing derpy-face on that photo. But I don’t care because I’m with my friends and my favourite Estonian band.

Ewert and the Two Dragons and crewSo there. The band, the crew and the hobbit, as promised in the title of this post. I’m out of photos to share for now, so next posts will appear when I’m finally not ill anymore (spent five days with a high fever and I’m slowly getting better now) and have had a chance to go out with my camera. I’m pretty sure there will be no posts this weekend, unless I decide to spend my train journey back from Nijmegen writing about long-distance relationships. Why? I’m going to Nijmegen to celebrate our second anniversary with Matthijs. Two years together and not once have we lived in the same country. Life is strange.

medieval Bruges / Brugge and chocolate insanity

I have found Belgian Tallinn! Or to be more precise, the Belgian version of Tallinn’s Old Town. The shape is more or less the same and probably even the size, but instead of being surrounded by ancient town walls, this one is surrounded by canals. I’m talking about Bruges (or Brugge in Flemish), a small town near the western coast of Belgium.

Since my previous Sunday was free, I found a travelmate and went on a day trip. Bianca is a total sweetheart, a Finnish Swede who is spending some time in Brussels as an au pair. We both loved the tiny medieval town to bits, despite the insane amount of tourists and some grumpy locals who hated tourists. Our “favourite” was a shopkeeper who stared at us for half a minute or a minute while we chatted and tried to decide what we should buy and then asked sharply whether we plan to buy anything or we just want to chat. She looked so pissed off! After that we of course didn’t want to buy anything from her, so we just left and stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. So rude! Sorry for interrupting your precious alone time while you’re at work…

We didn’t let that ruin our day, there were plenty of other chocolate stores around. In fact, we weren’t able to walk even for five minutes without seeing another shop crop up! Bruges is a total paradise for someone with a sweet tooth! We definitely do, so we kept on squealing and pointing at amazing things in stores and telling each other we should skip that one and not spend any more money. Well, that failed miserably. We didn’t buy any of the generic Sinterklaas / Christmas sweets, but we did get some pralinées and amazing dark chocolate and rock candy and… Soon we had big paper bags with sweet stuff.

(This photo of me staring at the sweets was taken by Bianca. Go and check out her blog! http://biancasoderlund.blogspot.be/ – it’s all in Swedish, but she does have some awesome photos that you can check out even if you can’t speak a word of Swedish.)

We got really lucky with the weather. It was pouring down in Brussels in the morning, but by the time we reached Bruges, the skies were almost clear and the sun was shining. Perfect weather for being a silly tourist and taking a ton of photos! Some shots even ended up looking so nice and warm that I could have sworn I was enjoying Estonian summer. The only distracting thing was my thick coat and a hat, but at least I didn’t need gloves! I can’t remember a November day in Estonia where I would have been able to leave the house without hiding my hands in warm gloves first.

In addition to buying some rather expensive chocolate, we also stepped into a nice café that had tons of delicious-looking cupcakes on display. We decided to be cheapskates though, so we only took one cupcake each and even refused any drinks. Why would we take a drink if it costs as much as an already overpriced cupcake? So we just sat in the cosy café and chatted over the cupcakes, the perfect break from walking around and ogling at every chocolate store on the way. Ignoring all the delicious stuff in stores and walking on was so much easier after getting something sweet in my stomach.

For some reason Bruges confused me a lot. I kept thinking that I was in a tiny town in England, some things reminded me of my trip to Cheddar. At the same time it could have been somewhere in The Netherlands as well, I was already accustomed to seeing canals in Dutch towns and I had only seen one measly example in Brussels during my two months in Belgium. But you should never tell a Belgian person that their hometown looks like something in The Netherlands. I’m pretty sure you’d get beaten up or at least subjected to a deathly glare.

After enjoying the chocolate stores and canal views for a while, we wanted to find the central square of the old town. We actually walked through it without realising it was actually the square we were looking for. I had been expecting something grand and beautiful. Instead we found a square where you could barely walk since the middle was built full of some roofed thing where people were selling their paintings and jewellery. It was so disappointing that I didn’t even bother taking a photo of that. We went and explored some more canals instead.

As it started getting darker, we tried to find a place to eat. We had almost decided on a nice-looking restaurant where you could get soup + lasagne + créme brûlée for 11.50€, but we got scared away for a creepy-looking man smiling and waving at us, trying to invite us in. We returned some time later, hoping he would have finished his food by then… only to find he was actually one of the waiters. The food there was amazing, but the waiters seemed a bit creepy, discussing us in Italian half the time and calling us pretty little ladies. I do like compliments, but those guys crossed the line a bit.

After eating, we wandered around for a bit more, but we had seen most things we wanted to and the sun was nearly gone, so we headed back to the train station to take our hour-long ride back to Brussels. The day was a total success – we saw a beautiful town, got some Christmas / Sinterklaas shopping done and found a lovely companion. I’m meeting up with Bianca again tomorrow to bake together and eat some dark bread. My parents sent me a package that (among other things) included some actual rye bread! I’ve been missing it so much. Since Bianca is also a fellow fan of mint (and especially mint chocolate), we’ll have dark bread and mint chocolate and cake tomorrow. Sounds like a wonderful morning to me!

After that morning food orgy, I have to start working again to do another 10-hour day. But that’s the last of the four very long workdays this week, Friday is free and then I’ll be on my way to Nijmegen to see Matthijs, play board games and go to gigs. Ewert and the Two Dragons is playing in The Netherlands this week and I’ll be there!

quadrilingual London

This blog post will continue the story of my London trip, but it will take a detour from my ordinary blogging in English. I’m taking part in European Multilingual Blogging Day, so the rest of my blog post will be mainly in Estonian, Dutch and French. If you need translations/explanations, drop a comment!

Et voici mon second article de blog sur mon voyage à Londres. Le deuxième jour, j’ai décidé de visiter quelques musées. Le “Science Museum” (Musée des sciences) n’était pas très amusant. Je l’avais aimé quatre ans auparavant, mais maintenant il y avait bien plus de parties payantes. D’habitude de nombreux grands musées sont gratuits à Londres, donc j’étais déçu. J’ai découvert ce jour que j’avais laissé la moitié de mon argent à Bruxelles, alors que je voulais payer le moins possible pendant ce voyage.

Na de teleurstelling in het Science Museum, ging ik naar een van mijn favorieten musea in Londen: het Victoria and Albert Museum. Dat museum was ook vernieuwd, maar deze wijzigingen waren goed. Een tijdelijke tentoonstelling vertoonde stukjes uit diverse theatervoorstellingen en concerten. Een van de stukken was een originele schets van de beroemde Phantom of the Opera kostuum.

Uuema disaini osakond oli eelmisel külastusel üks mu lemmikutest olnud. Leidsin ka seekord sealt mitmeid asju, mida tahaks isegi oma koju. Muude asjade seas jäi silma üks erkkollane tool, mida sai klapi sulgemisega muuta lapikuks munaks. Ei tea, kui mugav seal istuda oleks, aga vähemalt väljanägemine oli efektne. Lisaks jäi eredalt meelde arhitektuuriosakond, kus olid väljas paljud originaalmaketid erinevate suurte ehitiste jaoks. Gatwicki lennujaama makett oli ka seal olemas, päris kummaline oli sellele ülevalt alla vaadata.

Puisque le coucher de soleil était plutôt tôt (vers 17 heures) et que je voulais prendre des photos, je n’ai pas pu rester en ville longtemps cette journée. Je me suis promené dans le centre ville, visité Trafalgar Square, acheté quelques affiches de Londres dans une boutique touristique pour décorer ma chambre à Bruxelles et suis allé à la gare pour aller chez mon ami juste en dehors de Londres.

De derde dag ik liep rond in de stad en heb ik nog wat gewinkeld. Ik bracht de halve dag door in Soho, zat voor mijn lunch (warme pizza uit een Italiaanse winkel) op een bankje in Soho Square en later weg naar Oxford Street om daar enkele winkels te kijken. Het kerstinkopen was in volle gang en het aantal van de mensen op de straten en in de winkels was gek. Het is jammer dat ik niet een foto van de drukte heb.

Seekord õnnestus mul päikseloojanguks jõe äärde jõuda, nii et sain eksperimenteerida teravatipuliste siluettide ja värviliste pilvedega. Kahjuks polnud pilvi piisavalt, et tervet taevast värvilaikudega katta, nii et parlamendihoonete suunas olid näha vaid mõned triibud ja natuke roosakat taevast. Kuna väljas oli juba üsna külm, tahtsin sillal röstitud maapähkleid müüvalt mehelt topsi osta, kuid üks väike topsitäis maksis viie naela ringis, nii et jätsin selle vahele ja piirdusin pildistamisega.

Le quatrième jour était nuageux, mais comme il ne pleuvait pas, j’ai décidé de marcher un peu plus. J’étais en voyage à Londres pendant mes vacances et j’étais tout simplement heureuse. Quelques étrangers m’ont souri et je me sentais heureuse d’être jeune et libre d’aller n’importe où. Parfois, c’est tout ce qu’il faut pour être heureuse.

I returned to Trafalgar Square to take some daytime photos. The amount of people heading to / coming from the museum was insane. It had surprised me during the first days to see so many families around with kids, but I later found out that the kids had their autumn holidays. No wonder all museums were full! I was inspecting a sign when a young woman approached me to ask me to take a photo of her. Carrying a DSLR around = the amount of people asking you to take their photo increases by 200%. I guess they just assume they’ll get a good photo that way. She took one of me as well, so I got my touristy shot at Trafalgar Square. Also, I took a photo of the sign. Most people would just write “feeding the pigeons is forbidden” and the meaning would be clear. The British? No way, you have to add an explanation in a very British way. “They cause nuisance” indeed.

I will end this post with two bonus photos from my evening walk before I had to head to the night bus that took me back to Brussels. I might make a separate post about my terrible bus driver at some point. Who wouldn’t want bad jokes with a Borat-accent at 3am on a night bus when you’re desperately trying to sleep? Yeah, I loved it. Not.

Halloween in London

I have many homes. The first one is of course in Tallinn with my parents, my home for the first 22 years of my life. The second one is whereever Matthijs happens to be, usually in Nijmegen in The Netherlands. The third one is in Brussels with my host family. The fourth one that I had temporarily forgotten about is London. It doesn’t really matter where I’m staying while I’m there, London as a whole is my home. I have never lived in London, but every time I have a trip there, I feel that I have returned to my home, and later I’m homesick for London.

I went to my fourth home last week. The host family had a vacation week, so I decided to go to London for four days. The timing of the trip was lucky, since I was able to meet up with my friend from Israel who happened to be in London at the same time. I had been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see Sharon for years, so I was very happy to find that we can meet up on my first trip day. After meeting up at Leicester Square and getting matinee tickets for Wicked, we dropped off my suitcase and went to explore Notting Hill.

It was Wednesday morning, so Portobello street wasn’t really at the peak of its activities, but we did see some street stalls and just enjoyed the lovely view. I love the pastel-coloured houses that are stacked so nearly in rows, quite a change from Brussels where all buildings are in completely different styles (which I also love, but it was nice to see something different for a change). After walking around for a while, we stumbled upon The Hummingbird Bakery.

The prices were rather steep, but the cupcakes looked absolutely delicious and we wanted something sweet, so after some photo-snapping and squeeing we decided on what we wanted and left the store with cute little boxes for our cupcakes. Since our visit was during Halloween, I chose an appropriately themed cupcake with shockingly orange icing. It was very sweet and very nice.

Continuing our exploration trip in Notting Hill, we had some lunch in a random pub, forgot our cupcakes a few times when we had put the boxes down for a moment, enjoyed seeing the beautiful houses and chuckled at some Halloween decorations. My favourite was one house that was covered in fake cobwebs and tiny ghosts and had a row of pumpkins on its front stairs. Not sure how they got in and out of the door though, with all the cobwebs in the way.

After asking for some directions, we found the Notting Hill bookstore. You know, the one from the famous movie with Hugh Grant playing a shy slightly akwward British guy (like in all of his movies). Yes, we went in, and yes, we left with books. I managed to limit myself to one, whereas Sharon went a bit nuts and got a pile. We made the shopkeeper laugh a bit with faffing over books and trying to talk ourselves out of buying more of them. With our wallets slightly lighter and handbags heavier, we sat down on the bench in front of the store and enjoyed our cupcakes.

After searching for a bus and then waiting for ages, we finally managed to get back to the centre to grab a quick bite and then go to the theatre to see Wicked. I bought a small yoghurt with chunks of banana, but unfortunately the yoghurt was low fat and tasted like nothing. Why would you take fat out of the yoghurt? You’re removing the only thing that makes yoghurt tasty and creamy! Such a terrible idea. Give me fat or give me nothing. Anyway, after that disappointing snack stop we headed to the theatre, having no idea what the musical is about. The stage hinted that it was probably connected to The Wizard of Oz, but neither of us had read the book or seen the movie, so it didn’t help us much.

The musical turned out to be great. As I later found out thanks to Sharon, the actress playing Glinda had been Christine in The Phantom of the Opera last time when I went to see that. She had been absolutely brilliant as Christine and she was equally awesome as Glinda. She played such an annoying character that you couldn’t help but hate Glinda, but she did an amazing job. At the end of the show there was a shower of balloons from the ceiling and the cast wished us a happy halloween. Sharon and I caught a balloon each and left the theatre with big grins.

(Sharon on the left, me on on the right.)

We later gave the balloons to two random kids who hadn’t been able to catch one themselves. We already had our fun and got a photo with them and the kids definitely got more joy out of having those balloons than we would have. Also, it would have been really annoying to carry them on the metro. Have I mentioned how much I dislike the tube in London? It’s always overcrowded and with no air to breathe and it’s way too hot in there due to so many people being squished together. The only thing that would have made tube fun for me had been ruined – there were no “mind the gap!” announcements. It used to be so simple and effective, but now they have a long announcement that goes “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.” in some stations, which isn’t nearly as fun as the old version.

Having said goodbye to Sharon who had to leave the next day, I went to an old classmate’s place. He lives one train stop outside London and I hadn’t seen him in ages, so last week I stayed with him and his lovely girlfriend. There’s still three days left of my trip to post about, but this post is already a bit too long and I’ll save the rest of the photos for the next one. Farewell and see you again soon!

friendly Ghent with a touch of medieval times

Last weekend I hopped on a train to visit Ghent, a town that is supposedly 35 min away by train. Liars. It was definitely more than 35 minutes, the train was ridiculously slow and I couldn’t help but miss the awesome train service in The Netherlands. I did like that I was able to buy the weekend return ticket on the train though. That was a relief, since the queues for buying a ticket in the station were insane and I figured I might as well pay a bit more if I need to get it on the train. Nope, the cost was the same! One bonus point for Belgium.

I was greeted by Dore in the train station and she took me to her place on her bike. It was a bit terrifying to sit on the back of her bike at first, but she is Dutch and has perfect control of bikes, so I calmed down after a while. (Didn’t stop me from making scared girly squeaks every time we hit one of the many holes in the roads.) Willemijn informed us later that riding on the back of someone’s bike is forbidden in Belgium. Oops. We didn’t get fined though, so all was good.

The architecture in Ghent was impressive, just as I expected from a Flemish town. When buying things, I experimented with my slightly broken Dutch. Only had to revert to English a few times. I blame the Flemish, obviously they can’t understand my Dutch from Netherlands. Or if I’m absolutely honest, I would probably have to blame my bad pronunciation, but it’s more fun to blame it on the Flemish. Anyway, despite my faulty Dutch, I managed to buy a nice waffle. Since it was Dag van de Klant (Clients’ Day), both Dore and I got a free goodie bag with our waffles.

We got a small iced bun, a mini-croissant and tiny chocolate pastry. They were all delicious and solved the problem of food for a while. With our stomachs full and moods good, we continued our walk through the centre of Ghent. Occasionally it looks like a medieval theme park with entire streets full of nicely preserved old buildings. I had a mission to take as many photos of nice views as possible and Dore had a mission to jump in front of as many photos as possible. I mastered the skill of sneaky shooting though, so I managed to get my photos without a certain blonde friend in every shot.

One of the main tourist attractions in Ghent is Gravensteen or the Counts’ Castle. It was built in the 12th century and has served as a castle, court, prison, cotton factory and now as a castle museum. We didn’t go in there this time, so my next Ghent visit will definitely have to include a trip to Gravensteen. There is also a torture museum in there, it should be creepy and informative.

Some of my favourite views of Ghent were with De Leie, the river running through the city. One of my best photos over the river is with a Dutch flag. Can’t help it, there weren’t any Belgian ones in sight. By the way, implying that the Flemish (people from the Dutch part of Belgium) are basically Dutch, is very much frowned upon and could probably ruin a potential friendship between you and a Flemish person. They are very different, or at least so they say. I don’t have enough evidence yet (haven’t even spent a month in Belgium yet), so I’ll just smile and nod and agree.

If you are in Ghent and need a nice place for breakfast/lunch, I strongly recommend Simon Says! All the waiters look like they belong in an indie band, the food and drinks are delicious and the service is very friendly and cheerful. We even got blankets to wrap ourselves in when it got a bit too windy outside. (And on a random note: the tap in the bathroom was shaped like an animal head. Moose, if I remember correctly.) The house is worth a look as well, it has delightful colours. See for yourself:

We got lucky with the weather – while I was out with Dore, we didn’t even get any rain. When we arrived at Willemijn’s place later for a board game night, the weather wasn’t as kind anymore. The dramatic clouds I’ve learned to love in Brussels had already made a return and for the next day we got mostly heavy rain. But at least the sunset looked nice.

The board game night was awesome. Willemijn and Alje made lemon sponge pudding and a really delicious cherry tomato pasta, I made mint and lemon muffins (they looked delightfully greenish), Alje made us a strange shot/cocktail named The Octopus’ Garden and we played about 7 different board and card games. Dore left for the night, but she rejoined us next morning for more gaming. I’d say it was a weekend well spent. This weekend I’ll be hosting Dore in Brussels, so we’ll have more exploring together and board games as well.

In other news, I now have two Estonian friends in Brussels and I had a lovely day out with them yesterday. No photos of that, I left my camera home. I’m glad I did, the camera is a bit heavy and we did a lot of walking. The only thing I wanted to do once I got back home was to drink a lot of water and put my feet up. Slept like a log after that.

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.