ParadiseUK /ˈpær.ə.daɪs/US /ˈper.ə.daɪs/
a place or condition of great happiness where everything is exactly as you would like it to be.
Who knew that in Muş I would have the chance to come across such amazing hermanos?
Málaga came to be without much thinking. Onward flight booked and off I went to Andalucía!
Eesti, once again! More than two years had passed since I set foot in the land of the double-vowels-in-every-word. Unlike last time though, this trip meant business more than leisure. After all, the two-day stay in Tartu was planned around the organisation of a Youth Exchange (thanks Erasmus+!) due to happen in the later days of September.
The venue, known as AHHAA (read it like Eureka!) Science Centre, is the biggest place of its kind in the Baltic region. Being big can only mean so much, if that doesn’t equate having a good experience… At AHHAA one can easily spend a full day experimenting and learning from all kinds of sources, whether it is chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, environment, you name it! So in this case big definitely means awesome!
Buzzwords aside, you do end up learning through the joy of discovery and the hands-on approach that places like this one offer. In many cases, unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what people get from their school education.
So together with my fellow colleagues from Estonian, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary (and Brazil!), I got to immerse myself in the science centre as well as ironing out all the Youth Exchange details, like scheduling, activity leaders and other bureaucracies.
I was definitely impressed with the commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved! I’ll be damned if this doesn’t turn out to be a magnificent project!
Tartu, see you in September!
AHHAA Science Centre
Turkey! A huge country that spans across two continents, connecting the East and the West.
There are so many places to visit that a week or two weeks or a month wouldn’t suffice.
There is Istambul, Ankara (its capital!), Antalya, İzmir, Cappadocia… Turkey is packed with remarkable destinations. Yet my first incursion into Turkey bypassed all those places. Muş came to be. With roughly 80 thousand inhabitants, it is a place lost in the Kurish area of Turkey, 1500 km away from Istanbul.
Muş felt like it ran at two different speeds. On one hand it boasted modern buildings all around, the avenues were filled with shops
I will take all those faces I got to
When your soulmate abducts you from your daily life and takes you on a journey into the middle of the Atlantic. A birthday present hard to beat.
The Azorean archipelago might just be my favourite spot in Portugal. Nine islands of unparalleled beauty and where humans have found a way to be in a symbiotic relation with nature, without disrupting it.
We had a car and 4 days to make the best of our time in Terceira island. Nothing much had been planned ahead (it was a surprise getaway for me, after all…) so we decided things as we explored it.
- Algar do Carvão: right in the epicentre of the island we can find a 2000 year-old nature-made hole that you can explore up to 100 meteres deep; careful not to set an eruption!
- Miradouro da Serra do Cume: great for those inspirational Instagram photos.
- Serra de Santa Bárbara: you can’t get any higher in Terceira than this; make sure you bring a coat with you, it might surprise you on how windy it is.
- Piscinas Naturais de Biscoitos: if you fancy a swim without putting yourself at risk, this is a great place. Plus, the dark volcanic rocks give it a great atmosphere.
- Alto da Memória: the tropical garden that leads you to it is a great place to unwind; climb up to one of the best views of Angra.
- Monte Brasil: no, you haven’t reached South America just yet; right next to the city of Angra do Heroísmo you can find this green site: perfect for a hike or a picnic under the trees;
- Caneta: if you want to try some local delicacies, this is it; go for the Alcatra dos Açores (if you are a meat kind-of-person), the most local dish you can have on Terceira island.
- Pip’s: surprisingly, one of the best memories I will have of this stay in Terceira is having breakfast in our cute little cottage while sipping on some tasty apple juice from a local brand named Pip’s. It felt surprisingly refreshing, even for someone (me) who is not very keen on apple juice. Highly recommended!
Every day we were certain of two things: feasting our eyes on all the green and blue we could take in and resting our souls in a beautiful and secluded place called Pico da Vigia.
A simple, yet incredibly thoughtful house on the foothills of Serra de Santa Bárbara, overlooking the Atlantic, was our home. The green door led to an oasis of tranquillity, where you could find both modern and antique furtinute that gave the space a unique atmosphere. No detail was left undone.
In the morning the ritual included opening the window shutters to take inside the house all the green and blue it could. And then picking up a small woonden basket with fresh bread to prepare our breakfast…
2 // 9
peacefully nested in between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, in the Caucasus region. An intersection between the east and the west, a blend of the new and the old. An amalgam of different cultures and people.
When the chance to visit Armenia arose, I immediately remembered Tatevik.
Tatevik was the artsy Armenian girl who chose Lithuania as her EVS destination, just like me. Two years had already passed by since we parted ways, but upon seeing her an acute feeling of nostalgia overflowed me. We got the evenings to hangout over a couple of beers, as we put ourselves up-to-date on our lives, shared impressions on how much we have changed (or not…). It felt like we reconnected right where we had left it, as if the hiatus was merely a negligible detail.
Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, became my home for a week as I took part in a Youth Exchange supported by Erasmus+. People were met, stories were told, games played, clips recorded, movies edited, food tasted, drinks were drunk.
There was time for some sightseeing too! The monasteries scattered a bit all around the country and the endless mountains and hills were the sights we chose to visit on our free day. Yerevan is also packed with some worth venues, with the Cascade being my personal favourite.
At last but not least, a small note on this post’s title.
According to the fourth verse of the eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis (Genesis 8:4), following a flood, Noah’s Ark landed on the “mountains of Ararat”. Historians and Bible scholars have come to an agreement that “Ararat” is the Hebrew name of Urartu, the geographic predecessor of Armenia and referred to the wider region at the time, and not the mountain today known as Ararat. Indeed, the phrase is translated as “mountains of Armenia” (montes Armeniae) in the IV century Latin translation of the Bible. It all boils down to the fact that Mount Ararat is considered the traditional site of the resting place of Noah’s Ark.
Before taking off, here is the end result of the project:
People ask me why I come back to Lithuania…
It is quite easy to answer such question, as everything can be summed up in one word: people. Cliché… but clichés exist because they can be true.
After losing the bus that would take me from Rīga to Biržai, my backup plan was hopping in a mini-bus that left me on the outskirts of the Latvian capital and then sticking my thumb up, hoping that someone would be kind enough to give me a lift. Sooner than I expected, I got a ride from a Lithuanian guy that left me close to my destination. My confidence was quite high and in no time another car stopped and Biržai soon became a reality, one hour ahead of the bus I was supposed to take.
Rita was waiting for me outside
her palace the museum where she is working as an EVS volunteer. I had never been in Biržai before, so Rita managed to be my local guide until the freezing cold weather forced us to find warmth in the apartment she shares with other savanoris. Tasty, intercultural food and drinks kept us chatting until I couldn’t keep my eyelids open. I got some sleep and early in the morning a bus awaited me. And this time I couldn’t afford to miss it.
As I was crossing the flatlands of Lithuania, I was getting more and more anxious. Plungė was soon becoming a reality. The town that I had made my home for 10 months was receiving me for a few days once again.
Kristina was the key to make it all happen. She did everything in her power to make me feel part of her family. She was waiting for me at the bus station. An emotional moment soon unravelled.
I small meeting was held at her home. Familiar faces that I had kept in my mind since the day I left. Familiar faces led to familiar moments. I felt incredibly welcomed.
However familiar, things had changed a bit as well: the children’s library no longer felt like the neglected son; cool new venues where to go for a meal or grab a cup of coffee had opened downtown; many buildings had received a fresh coat of paint; Kristina was now working at the children’s library; a new EVS volunteer, Ekaterina from Russia was now taking the place that Anastasia and I had left in September 2016.
I was happy. Those few days spent there were over in a blink of an eye.