Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The path of the Pilgrims - The wandering writer


Here I am again, in the last week an extremely slow and intermittent internet connection has troubled me. The hotel where I was lodged, promised: FREE WI-FI not specifying that the reason why it was free, was that it wasnt really working.
Besides that, now I can somehow manage to tell you something about a fascinating place in the middle of nature, with great culinary experiences and historical places. I do believe that since I have mentioned problems with the internet connection you might think about places far from western civilization.
Sorry to disappoint, I was this time in Italy, and particularly in the hometown of Saint Francesco; Assisi. For once, my adventures brought me to one of the most touristic and perhaps even usual places, nothing to do with conflict areas, gorillas, savannah and so on. Just a hell of no internet connection, which can be quite frustrating.
This small town is located in the heart of Umbria, central Italy, very close to the mount Subasio at 424m above the sea level.
Assisi had very old origins and was founded officially in the 89 B.C., but pre-Etruscan population built there a city already since 1000 B.C.
Its history has been very complex, and I am not going to tell it as a whole here, as I will be mostly describing the beauties of the place, told through my writings and the pictures I have been taking.

Assisi was strategically built on the hill to be better defended, and the ancient ramparts are still there remembering the need for defense. This is no more needed but gives to the town the advantage of great sceneries.
Some thoughts about ramparts; although every animal in the wild look after any sort of mean to defend itself from the attacks of other predators, humans have to defend themselves from other humans, which are not going to kill for food (we dont do cannibalism, generally) but for greed. Every single human since the prehistory had an extreme thirst for power fueled by paranoia jealousy and greed.
We do not cooperate together, every group needs to destroy whoever has something better or different.
Philosophical discussions aside, the location, the history, the culinary culture, and nature, makes of Assisi a must visit for everyone.
For those who need to keep their body in shape (or they want to find back the lost one), the town offers plenty of trekking activity, all free of charge. Just walk from the train station to the top of Assisi, and in about one hour, you have walked five km on a decent uphill. Strolling around you will walk through a series of up and downhill which will create a perfect cardio exercise, as you window-shop. Of course, you can get a more demanding terrain by taking a tour on the Mount Subasio, where you will have the chances to experience the most outstanding sceneries.
As you do your cardio, dont forget to look around, as you might miss the romantic attractions, which is the town itself.




A true shame is that I could not take any picture of the inside the church, the Basilica of S. Francesco, so that I cannot show you here any of them. However, the internet is full of pictures of the marvelous paintings that decorate the church. 
As your day gets over, and your legs start to feel like wet spaghetti, you are surely looking for a nice restaurant where to enjoy a perfect meal Umbrian style. In this case, try to get one of those who offers a terrace on the valley, and as you sip a great wine and taste the awesome food, you will experience the stunning view of the sunsets, on the valley.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A new adventure, end of the year in Djibouti - with the wandering writer -

Here I am back, after some technical problems I get back to tell you another adventure. This time, we left the Afar desert to reach Djibouti. Once again, we knew we could fly comfortably, but in this way, we would have missed the landscapes, the villages, and the contact with the locals. Therefore, we booked a place on the local bus that from Addis Abeba would have driven us to Djibouti.
The bus was small indeed, something that you would expect to run within a city, rather than within two countries but it was in good shape and our luggage seemed to be very well fastened on its top.
Here we started our Journey again, and as we left the city, we were driving along dirt roads in the African wilderness. Effortlessly, we drove through the border and our journey in the new country started.
The beauty of travelling with the locals is that you find yourself a lot of people curious to understand from where we come from. The first to socialise were the children, of course, and within giggles and shy smiles, we got a few friends soon.
You do not need to speak the same language to have friends, and that is what I love the most in Africa, people are ready to communicate even with gestures.
Some of them could speak some words in English, but since Djibouti is a former French colony, they could better speak French.
I must admit, I speak a little of French, but this is not allowing me to have a fluent talk with someone; let's say that I can ask for easy information.
As we reached the first village, it was evident, that a white face doesn't fall through the cracks, and kids were the most curious of all. They quitted their games, and looked at us, happily greeting and smiling. It might make you a bit uncomfortable to be looked at as if you were alien, but from my point of view, it made everything funnier. I guess that more than being surprised to see a white face around, those kids were surprised to see a couple of white faces travelling with the locals as if they were one of them.
Finally, after a long journey, we finally reached the bus station, where we were asked to pay the ride.
Now, this is something you have to keep in mind when travelling through Africa; they are smarter than you, and we were scammed to pay the bus trip at the beginning by someone who wasn't even closely related to the driver.
In this case, just pay and admit that someone was smart enough to rob your money in a very elegant way.
We paid the bus driver and headed for our hotel, which was not far from the bus station.
Now you imagine the scene, a beautiful hotel, a couple of "Desperados" coming in, dirty of sand, with impossibly messed hair (it took me a lot to bring them to their usual comb), tired and robbed.
We reached the check-in desk, and a lovely looking girl smiles at us:
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, we have a reservation for seven nights," my husband replied, handing her our passports.
"Of course," she smiles. "Did you have a pleasant flight?"
I looked at my husband, and a giggle comes instinctively out of my mouth.
I turned my gaze to her, "do you mean to say that we could comfortably fly from Addis Abeba? We took the bus!" I replied a bit sarcastically.
Apparently, she lacked any sense of humour and gave us back our passports unflinchingly.
We just spent the last four days travelling by road, with temperatures way above the ones I could ever be able to stand, sleeping and having showers wherever and whenever it was possible. You cannot imagine the relief of having a hotel room with shower, toilet and a comfortable bed.
Those are the times where I realise how lucky I am, and for this reason I keep travelling in a very basic way, just to remind myself that whatever I have in my everyday life, is not something granted to everyone, and basically as it came, it might disappear one day.
I do not mean to prepare myself for a major economical collapse or apocalypse, but it is good to be reminded of what we have and what we might lose.
After a long shower and a cold beer, we went out for a walk, and already from the architecture, one could have guessed the strong French colonial influence. Not only on the language but on the lifestyle, the buildings and culture. Let's say that Djibouti, like all the former colonies, are a sort of melting pot of different culture. A sort of meeting point where people, religions, cultures and habits fuse together.
 

 As usual, returning home and leave Africa, was not easy as another piece of our hearts remained there, waiting for the next adventure.





Saturday, December 17, 2016

NOTICE UPDATE!!

Finally I could solve the problem with the email subscription!!
I do not know who was previously subscribed; however, if any of you is wondering why in this world should subscribe, I can give you a couple of good reasons.'
The first is that you won't get spammed with commercials or any other non-related topic. I keep my blog strictly for my stories.
The second, you will get any update comfortably on your email.
If there is any special offer, event, new release, you will be the first to know about it.

This doesn't mean that any of you have necessarily to subscribe, you will be the most welcome here in m blog regardless whether subscribed, or not. Each of you, who read my blog are the most welcome!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

I have noticed some major problem with feedburner, the google service which is providing the email subscription to my blog. It might be that all the people who have subscribed by email, will be let down by that service. At the moment I am trying to find a way to optimise the process, I apologise for the inconvenience.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

THE MAN WHO FLEW AWAY

A SHORT STORY - BY P. J. MANN

Once upon a time, there was a man; he was a very tiny one.
He had tiny feet, tiny legs, tiny hands, and tiny head. Indeed, he was small; he was so small that sometimes he was sure nobody could see him.
However, he had two big things: his heart and his imagination.
He could spend hours looking at the sky, dreaming of an imaginary world where other people could see him, and care about each other.
He had so many feelings and so much love to give, but there was nobody who was interested in that.
Maybe it is because I am so small that nobody can even see me, he thought, sighing.
He also tried to attract the attention of the people, by talking to them, but he was living in a big city, and his tiny voice was difficult to hear through the noise of the traffic, music and other people's talking.

Many times, he felt sad and lonely; other times, looking at the sky, he felt reassured that nothing was lost.
He loved looking at birds and dreamed of being like them. In the sky, there were big birds and small birds, but regardless their size, it seemed to him as none of them was ignored.
Looking at people and comparing them to birds, he could see how people were busy in their tight daily routine. They didnt have time to do anything else, they couldn't enjoy themselves or care about other people around them.

It was a warm summer day, and he just got out of his tiny office. He felt tired from the long day he had at work, and without even thinking about it, he started to walk wherever his feet had brought him.
He had no idea how much he walked, but as he looked around, he realised he was in the woods. He wondered how did he reach that place, and where he was, hoping not to be lost.
He looked behind, and could not recognise the path from where he came from. Nevertheless, he didnt feel lost at all. Instead, it was as he found himself.

He felt finally at home and walked towards a field he could spot through the bushes. In the middle of the field, there was an old oak.
He smiled and walked towards it, admiring the majestic crown gently whispering with the breeze. He had never seen a tree that big, and despite his small size, he didnt feel uncomfortable in its presence.
He remained for a while to look at the sky through the leaves and listened to its voice, so gentle and soothing. He closed his eyes and suddenly it was like he could hear someone calling him. He opened his eyes, surprised to hear his name being called, but there was nobody around; he shook his head, I must have imagined it, he thought.

The voice continued to call him until he realised that it was the wind, which was whispering his name. Filled with excitement, he climbed the tree and sat on one of his branches, listening to the wind singing a lullaby just for him.
For the first time in his life, he didn't feel alone anymore; finally, someone could see him and talked to him.
-So, I am not invisible!- He thought surprised.
He rested his back and his head against the trunk of the old oak, and he could swear he could feel it breathe. He could feel the life flowing through it, and time by time, he was sure he could hear his heart.
Never, like at that moment, he felt so completely happy and at home. He looked at the sky and saw the birds he always admired; they were so close now. It was like he could fly with them.
Their chant sounded like an invitation, a call to go with them. How can I reach you? he asked.
It was then when he realised that all he needed to do, was joining them. Therefore, he spread his wings, jumped and flew away with them.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

To the root of humankind - Ethiopia - with the Wandering Writer!


What I am going to tell this time is another amazing, extravagant adventure of the wandering writer, which is me. At my side, my unreplaceable companion of adventure: my husband.
This time was the time of Ethiopia, where humankind originated from a furry monkey to the one we are now.
We had a good deal, and we were going to fly from Helsinki to Frankfurt and from there straight to Addis Abeba. I was thrilled and couldn't see the time to visit the natural environment and, of course, the rock-hewed churches of Lalibela.
If it is true that you can see how things will end by the way they begin, I should have to be worried. Not for the safety reason, as that was not an issue; Ethiopia is a touristic country and is living in a peaceful way. Nevertheless, everything can happen during a trip, and as we were hanging around in the Frankfurt airport, we didn't notice the change in the terminal, so, surprise of the surprises, we missed the plane.
luckily the air company let us leave with the next flight scheduled for the next day; the only thing that buggered me was to inform the staff of the hotel in Addis Abeba and the travel agent of our delay and that we had to find a hotel in the nearby where to spend the night.
From that point on, I hoped that everything could go finally smoothly, and indeed without any further problem we reached the airport of Addis Abeba, and from there, we easily reached the hotel.
It was already evening, and we were quite tired, but we needed to meet out travel agent, who would have helped us to see the most using a small budget. We were not concerned about the accommodations, as we could adapt to many situations, as we did in the past.
After dinner, a tiny young man arrived introducing himself as our guide; Million. I have to say that sometimes the name is given for a reason and never like in the case of Million, it was right on the money, so to say.
There were too many things we wanted to see and, unfortunately too tight budget to fit everything in it; nevertheless, Million was able to create an alternative plan to see as much as possible, and we were set to leave Addis Abeba in a couple of days with a local flight.
We were set to leave and once again excited to be at the gate to reach Lalibela. However, we were also quite tired as the previous night we couldn't sleep properly.
"We will sleep on the plane," I said to my husband, knowing that to reach our destination it would take at least one hour and a half.
The plane left, and almost immediately we both fell asleep.
We slept so deep that we were awakened by the touch of the wheel on the ramp.
As soon as we exited the plane we realised something strange; you know that deja-vu feeling that this is not the first time you come in this airport.
"Wow, this looks exactly like Addis Abeba," he noticed.
"Indeed, maybe tin this country they thought of making all the national airport in the same way; you'll never know."
All the other passenger went to another gate, and we found strange that everybody had a connection flight via Lalibela.
The weird feeling that something is not right started to grow, and the more we walked, the more we felt uncomfortable, even because we could not find the baggage claim exit.
It was like in a weird dream, where nothing is following any logic, and none of us had the courage to say a word.
"Is it possible that we are back to Addis Abeba?" I asked.
"I don't think so," he replied, looking around with a lost expression "I don't even dare to ask anyone. They evidently believe that we are crazy."
Then suddenly, I saw the name of the airport: "Addis Abeba."
"Is this some kind of joke? Have we returned to the starting point?" I wondered.
In the end, I grabbed all my courage and asked information at the desk at the same gate where all the other passengers were gathered.
Well, what do you know? We slept so deeply that we didn't hear the captain saying that because some problem to the engines we were going back to Addis Abeba, waiting for another plane.
Just insane!!
Finally, we reached Lalibela, our hotel and Million.
Another thing we learned quite fast was that in Ethiopia the time as counted in a different way then respect the rest of the world. Practically, they count only 12 hours from the dawn to dusk and other 12 from dusk to dawn. For this reason, when we asked at what time were we supposed to meet the day after and he replied at 03:00 in the morning, we remained for a moment silent.
"Are you kidding me?" My husband dared to ask
"Oh," he said smacking lightly the palm of his hand against his forehead, "that is Ethiopia time, it will be 9:00 EAT."
He explained us briefly how did time count worked in Ethiopia, but we agreed that from that moment on we would have used the EAT, just to be sure that we would have all understood what we were talking about.
The following day we went to visit the famous rock-hewed churches and... Oh... Marvel!!!


Thinking that this churches had been hewed entirely on the bedrock was amazing e and still does, and even more considering the lack of tools we would have used nowadays to complete such a project.

However, when just I thought it was an incredibly ambitious project to dig a church underground on the bedrock, I had to reconsider the term ambitious and incredible for what I was going to see inside the church:
 
 
Vaults, columns, walls entirely decorated with the finest motifs all sculpted on the rock and painted with beautiful colors. The feelings, I could never describe; it was like being brought back to the past, I could almost hear the many voices of the people who worked in the realization of such a wonder, I could feel the lives spent on that project.
The legend tells that angels and men built the churches, as men were working on it by day and angels continued by night, and that in this way they could be finished in the matter of 24 years. Of course, archaeologists (and also common sense, if you ask me) consider it impossible.
However, whether they were built in 24 years or 100 years, they remain a real wonder, and a must see once in a lifetime.
The day after we left heading to the national part towards the Danakil depression in the Afar region. Our aim was to reach the spectacular hot springs, or the volcano Erta Ale, nevertheless, the guide said that perhaps we could not see everything, but he would have done everything to give us a great experience.
Ethiopia, besides having a very peculiar political history, as also a peculiar geological history and makes its natural environment one of a kind in the entire world.


And finally the first taste of the big depression:
 
The rest of the trip was continuous descending under the sea level until we reached the incredible elevation of -114m. I had my altimeter with me, and it was funny to see it going down that way. Of course, with that also the temperature increased. We reached the first stop, and the driver suggested us not to go any further as the tires of the car might not have been able to stand the heat. The heat was indeed scorching, but you never know how it is until you do not have a look at the thermometer, and when I did, I was quite shocked to realise that it was over 50C.
Now, to make you understand what 50C may feel like, consider to drink 2l of water and have it evaporated from your body in the matter of one hour. My finger started soon to get swollen, and we searched immediately shelter in a local "restaurant."
But where were we? We were not in a resort; we were in a small village where people who extract salt from the lake lived and worked. The place was full of shacks where the families of the workers lived, and we were wondering where we would have been lodged; you know that was not the place for any hotel.
In fact, we didn't have any hotel, but a camping place... in the middle of the Afar Desert...
Our rooms with view :-)
 
The showers and restrooms...
 
and the salt mine.
 
The only luck was that we had water with us and the "restaurant" was not lacking water. The night our beds were taken out from the shacks, and we were going to sleep under the stars. Let me tell you one thing. You have no idea about the many stars you would be able to see if we wouldn't have all this light pollution overwhelming the beauty of a night sky.
I could see the milky way as I've never seen it before, and it was amazing. That was not a five-star accommodation; it was a thousand-star accommodation, and I will never forget such a perfect time as falling asleep in the middle of the Afar desert, with a light breeze soothing me, and the best view of the world.

It's birthday week

It has been three years since the day when, for the first time in my life, I have pressed the ' publish' button on what it was ba...