Feeling the spring on Bornholm – Part 2

The place where the reality is more beautiful than imagination… We were in the car driving through a small forest road covered with a beautiful carpet of white and yellow anemone flowers, when I heard Hongyi very quietly, as if talking to herself, give voice to her inner thoughts. The reality is more beautiful than imagination! I heard the sentence come alive, I pondered it over in my mind and I asked her to repeat it again. I thought it was such a profound observation that it deserved to be articulated again.

Days later I remembered it again, and I asked Hongyi if I could quote it. It might as well become the new catch phrase for the island that knows how to enchant.


My favourite shot of the trip. I love the play of colours and nature.

We were on our way to Gudhjem, which translated means God’s home. It is not hard to imagine why when you enter Gudhjem. A charming city of red roofs, picturesque views, sol over Gudhjem smoked herring dish and the world’s biggest ice cream. What else could you ask for?


Sol over Gudhjem – the red city in all its glory

Reaching Gudhjem I took Hongyi to my favourite viewpoint, a small park behind the churchyard. It has become kind of a tradition to take people to that place. There is a wooden bench perched on the viewing hill, and I have grown so fond of sitting there and gazing out.

Recharging in Gudhjem with pretty views and savouring an obligatory soft ice, we continued our Tour-de-Bornholm to Sandvig, a town north of Gudhjem for a little hiking action.


Beautiful patterns in nature are all over Bornholm!


Hammershus, Northern Europe’s largest castle ruins.

There are many hiking trails criss-crossing the island. I love this one, Sandvig – Hammer Odde Fyr – Solomons Kapel – Sandvig, in particular. Water, rocks, blooming bushes and views to Hammershus castle ruins make for a very pleasant hike.


The rocks of Bornholm.

The hike goes by surprisingly quickly. One moment we are at Sandvig on the eastern coast of Bornholm, the other we find ourselves at the western shores having crossed the island horizontally. It must have been the sun and the postcard views turning us into little Asterix-es and giving us wings.

We reached the Hammerhavn late in the afternoon, just when the last of the captains was getting ready to head out to the sea on his small fishermen boat for a sail tour. We hopped on one with a very witty and sweet captain and cruised the waters of the Baltic Sea looking at the northernmost tip of Bornholm and Hammershus ruins from the sea. A beautiful perspective!


Hammershus standing tall and proud and pretty.

As we progressed through the day going from a city life to nature to sea, we left one final item on our agenda – the forests of Bornholm. We had a special quest – locate the bornholmer anemone, called blegblå anemone. And we did! Well largely thanks to Hanne’s sharp eye. Scouring the forest we found the cute tiny flowers that covered the entire patch of ground.


We found them! The blegblå anemone of Bornholm.


A carpet of flowers lies in front of us.


Where the road leads to…


Sunset walk by Gudhjem :)

Time flies when you are having fun. Having accomplished our last mission of the day we started slowly making our way back to Snogebæk. But it was too early to call it a day. The sun was just setting over Gudhjem. The beautiful, soft light was just irresistible. It resulted in a silent admiration of the nature and a fun little impromptu photoshoot.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Feeling the spring on Bornholm – Part 1

My admiration of the solskinsøen, aka Bornholm, is no secret. This small island in the midst of the Baltic Sea took my breath away from our very first encounter on the warm August day nearly 8 years ago as I descended from the ferry docked in Rønne, the capital. Since then Bornholm greeted me on many, many occasions, every time showing the prettiest of its smiles, beautiful as a shy princess, and fierce as a brave knight. There is something really special about this island that just goes to your heart right the moment you lay your eyes on it.

_MG_7981May was my first visit of the year to the island, and I didn’t go alone. Hongyi, my Chinese friend, accompanied me on the trip. May is the period when the rapeseed fields are painting the island yellow, when the trees are in full bloom, when the birds are singing, when the water is azure blue and when the sunsets are a work of art. I think you would say it is called spring. I would certainly agree and send you a smile. However I would also say that to truly experience the magic of spring, you should just once feel it on Bornholm. As it was Hongyi’s second time on the island, my sweet mother-in-law Hanne prepared a grand tour for her or as much as she could fit in the weekend that we were there. It started with getting a bird’s eye view of the island.


Standing atop a high platform, the island unveiled itself layer by layer from dense forests to fields covered with rapeseed blooms, to windmills and pretty little towns, ending with the blue of the sea.


One of my favourite roads on Bornholm. I love the curvy shape, I love how the road disappears into the forest, and I love how the view changes with the seasons.

On the way to Snogebæk we stopped at Lilleborg, ruins of an old fortress. Not much of it is left, yet I like going there for its picturesque view. Just standing there and taking in the warm sun, the perfect stillness of the water, the reflections of blooming trees, and the chirping of birds. Ahh I could just stand there for hours…


Everything on Bornholm is just made for a postcard.

Reaching home to Snogebæk we walked to the beach for some sunset walking. And what a sunset it was! Out of this world! Standing there on a rock by the beach, I felt like I was stepping into a painting, careful even to draw a breath so as not to disperse the magical sight.

Good night, Bornholm, you have been such a beauty today!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 12 – Across Romania in a day

Day 12: September 7, 2015
Time: 09:00
Location: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Destination: Mioveni, Romania

Waking up in Cluj-Napoca in the retirement home has not been a great experience. In line with the pension we stayed in Cebu, the Philippines, a few years back, however cleaner and less creepy. Poor Andreas struggled a bit to fit into the bed that was obviously a tad too small for his height. Well coming from the Viking lands is not always an advantage 😀


The bed is definitely not Viking-friendly :)

Rushing through the morning preparations, we found the breakfast ready in the assembly hall with yarn-bombed wooden pillars. From the first sight it looked rather OK, taking a closer look revealed some cold mash of supposedly potato and another bowl with strange looking eggplant. Needless to say we didn’t dare touch any of it, having just recovered from Michelin tummy adventures.


Our breakfast setting.

Leaving the retirement home, we spent much of the day getting across Romania. After yesterday’s adventures on the roads less travelled, we made a point of sticking to the big, shiny highways all the way, and by doing so ensuring a much smoother ride.


After yesterday’s non-existing roads, this shiny asphalt is such a welcome sight!

On the way to our destination of the day, Mioveni, Andreas’ eagle eyes spotted a UNESCO city, Sighisoara, and we stopped there for lunch.


On the cobblestoned streets of Sighisoara.


Hey there, Sighisoara :)

The small town had a potential for being a beautiful place, it was a very old German-built city, with pretty old houses, but it was left to decay and disorder. Very touristy, very expensive. Surprisingly the Chinese were not leading the touristic diversity poll, I do not think the word of this small town has reached to the vast lands of the Middle Kingdom just yet. The word did reach the Spanish Armada though. They were everywhere.


The old, the colourful, the falling apart.


Among the pretty houses we also found Dracula’s modest home, which is now of course a restaurant, and you could go check his room out. Not sure it was the real deal but we paid the entrance fee anyway to satisfy our curiosity. The doorman looked and acted like the Dracula himself, extremely impolite. As it should have been expected it was a very disappointing experience. Two rooms, one of them the fake Dracula lying in a coffin and casually chatting with tourists, in the other room his dining table. And that’s it.


After an hour of walking around and getting our ears used to the intense flow of Spanish, we left Sighisoara with mixed feelings. The beauty and the beast of travelling. Here is a gem of a town, that would have provided such a charming experience had it not been overcrowded by visitors, and overcommercialized to cater to the same visitors with Dracula memorabilia, tourist trap of restaurants and pushy local business owners.



Some more kilometers underway on the Romanian roads we reached another stop on our north-south axis. Brasov, a small cute town with surprisingly many clowns and balloons.


We have arrived in Brasov.


The city of clowns.

Brasov was pretty, with no trace of Spanish tourists and with a much more local feel to it. Some more kilometers underway and we arrived at Dracula’s castle in Bran to find it closed off and inaccessible even for pictures. The one below is the only glimpse we could get of it. Not a big deal. The hospitality of the security guard didn’t leave a very welcoming impression.


Beware! Bran, Dracula’s residence.

Leaving Bran, Dracula and the sour guard, we continued our trans-Romanian trip. In the approaching dusk we could still make out the beautiful scenery of Transylvania that we were leaving behind. Our last destination for the day was Mioveni. Here we were greeted by Luminita, the sweet mom of our friend Roxana, and her partner Marius. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, Luminita already set a table bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables. Marius got right on with showing us the good roads to drive on to reach Bucharest and the not to miss highlights. Their sweet hospitality reminded me of being back in my home, Armenia. Not too long now. We are coming, Armenia!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 11 – The Romanian tale of a disappearing road

Day 11: September 6, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Destination: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

We will miss your pretty face, Budapest!

The day has come to pack our bags, load the car, and take one last stroll in the beautiful streets of Budapest. The sun is shining brightly and the sky is the perfect shade of blue with patches of clouds dispersed all over the blue canvas. Just the day I love! Our first obligatory stop is the Parliament of course. I cannot tire from looking at this pretty view.

We reach the Parliament in the midst of a big commotion and a cheering crowd. With a bit of disappointment we quickly realise that the commotion has nothing to do with us approaching the scene, rather its sole cause is the changing of the guards! Ah what a shame… But hey why don’t we make use of the moment and join the bandwagon. By the time the guards in khaki uniforms follow their commander’s orders and do the well-rehearsed march, a huge crowd has gathered in the big square.


The guards are definitely enjoying the attention :)

Now normally, as witnessed in other countries, the guards do their march, swing their swords, click their heels, turn sharply around and go back to where they came from. And don’t even dare to talk to them. The sword can easily spring into action. Apparently not the Hungarian ones. To our awe the guards finish their march and line up for nothing less but a photoshoot! This is an unexpected turn of events. The crowd is going wild. Cameras are set to motion, poses are struck and words are exchanged with the guards. We also get our chance to take home a fun memory from the day :)


Our moment to shine!

We leave the guard meet and greet to try out another exciting adrenalin-packed adventure – ride on the cute little yellow trams of Budapest!


Reporting live from Budapest’s cute little yellow tram.

Needless to say, the speed of the tram wasn’t what made our ride exhilarating, rather it was the sight of Budapest’s postcard-perfect streets and the riviera coming into view one after the other.


Last glimpse of Danube.

We hop off the tram by the Chain Bridge. It is time to bid farewell to pretty Budapest and hit the road again.


Budapest, we will be back!

Our next destination will bring us to another country – the land of vampires, aka Romania. There are some 200 km of Hungarian countryside to cover before we reach our favourite activity of crossing borders. So off we go!

The long stretches of driving are necessary to get us to our end destination, however they tend to become quite boring after hours of sitting in the car and gazing out the window. This is strictly the passenger’s point of view, and I am quite a demanding and impatient passenger when it comes to long drives. Andreas, the driver, never complains. Just from time to time he needs a bit of muscle stretching. So for the purposes of taking a break (better read, to give some excitement to the demanding passenger), we take a small detour from the highway to continue our drive through the Hortobagy National Park.


The crown jewel of the national park is this old bridge dubbed Nine-Hole Bridge spanning across Hortobagy river.


Oh the passenger is now on full alert as we drive through beautiful, wide plains, passing by grazing animals and long, long stretches of open road. Stunning scenery!

IMG_8292Crossing a few more kilometers and waving good-bye to cute straw figures on our road, we finally reach the Romanian border!


Ciao Hungary! You have been a real treat. Hello Romania, country #5! Excited to explore what you have up your sleeve for us.

A mandatory picture snapped by the border control. Another flag, another combination of three stripes, another hour spent on the border, stamps leaving their ink traces in our passports, brief exchange of greetings with the guards, a receipt for the road tax, and we are finally ready to continue our trip driving on the same stretch of asphalt dividing the two EU member countries.

That little stretch of asphalt that seemed rather smooth and similar to the Hungarian standards very quickly proved to be a bitter deception. A few kms in on the Romanian roads the driving habits suddenly changed, turning into rules are there to be broken principle, the smooth asphalt got replaced by big holes eventually turning to dusty narrow roads, horse wagons became a common sight, and as if this wasn’t an experience enough, ladies of a certain, ancient profession, started lining up the roads! I certainly hope this last criteria was not why Google Maps suggested this route as a better option!

Not exactly what we had in mind when we drove away from lovely Budapest earlier in the day. Oh well! Adventure is what we are after, so Romania bring it on.


A beautiful welcome to Romania! Thank you.

As if to apologise for the offroad driving inconvenience, the nature sent us the most gorgeous sunset setting the sky on fire. Well done, apologies accepted.

So on we drive towards our home for the night – Cluj-Napoca, blindly following the Google Maps and its biased route suggestion, waving good-bye to the setting sun. We carry on through the dust, through the holes, on and on stopping occasionally to do a little impromptu photoshoot for our sweet Rover.


Doesn’t he look just stunning?

An hour more of driving… It’s pitch black, the dusty roads and occasional villages lining up the road have long disappeared, we are now driving through a forest in complete darkness, with no other living soul around us. Talk about the land of vampires. Rather spooky. Google Maps still insists that this is the best route and Cluj Napoca lies in the end of this dark hole. We proceed. Mostly because turning back at this point would be a rather daunting task.

Another 40-50 minutes pass watching the kms slowly tick in on the dashboard. There is silence in the car, as we sit in intense anticipation for what lies ahead. Another few kms and the map claims that Cluj-Napoca is so so close… Cannot wait! A few more meters and suddenly we come to an abrupt halt!


Our nightly adventures on the Romanian roads. A story to remember.

No way, no freaking way (pardon my French)!!!! The road… there is no road… it’s been washed away… collapsed into a gorge… there is one big hole… impossible to drive over even if you are James Bond. Oh no bloody way! The only reason why the car didn’t end up in the hole was because of its big, beautiful, magnificent lights. We have no choice but to turn back. Turn back into the darkness, so close yet so far away from Cluj-Napoca and attempt to reach it by driving the slightly “slower” route as claimed by glorious Google Maps.

We turn back. Sleeping by the side of the hole, in the middle of nowhere does not look too appealing. Another hour or so making our way through the darkness we reach one of the highways leading to Cluj. A deep breath of relief. The highway resembles a real highway. Smooth, beautiful, shining with signs and white lines. Oh thank goodness. We are back to civilisation. Reaching our destination becomes more and more realistic. It is way past midnight, we are way too exhausted, hungry and sleep deprived, but we are happy, ready to jump in joy, because we discovered the highway!

Another hour or so on the beautiful road and we pull up at our home for the night. A church turned into housing complex! A step in and we discover it is a housing complex for elderly! Entering our room you could almost suspect time travel was a true thing. Hmm interesting turn of events, definitely the day couldn’t get any more adventurous.

We are tired. It is way way past midnight, after ~12 hours on the road, more than 500 kms crossed even a mat on the floor would do the trick. Comprehending the full extent of our lodgings has to wait until tomorrow. Good night!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 10 – What happens when you eat a 12-course dinner…

Day 10: September 5, 2015
Time: 12:00
Location: Budapest, Hungary

So good morning! Budapest is still our home for another 24 hours. The 12-course Michelin dinner paired with 7 glasses of wine apparently took its toll on poor Andreas and his tummy. The incredible gourmet explosion was too much for the poor tummy to handle, so it seems that someone will have to spend the day in bed and with less sophisticated and a more down-to-earth diet, consisting of yoghurt and banana.

This new development means that I am left alone to walk the streets of Budapest while Andreas is taking his revitalising nap. The streets are like postcards, ready to take your breath away on every corner. After the morning rain, the city looks fresh and smiling.


The streets are like postcards in Budapest, ready to take your breath away on every corner.


I find cities that still run these charming old trams so adorable. Fortunately there are still many in Europe who have chosen to preserve this iconic mode of transportation.


The two eye-pleasers of Budapest greeting in passing.

… walking up and down the Danube promenade, starting of course with my favourite Parliament building…


The rain brought out such intensity in colours.

…continuing towards the Chain bridge and the sweeping views across the Buda side…


… and circling back to the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial for the Jews killed during WWII in Budapest.


Finishing my stroll I head back home to find Andreas just waking up from his sleep feeling more fresh and ready to savour some real food. After some heavy negotiations, we reach a compromise, so he gets a plain pizza, which is a rather humble dinner compared to yesterday’s gourmet feast.

Before the dinner party though we simply needed to experience a ride on the world’s second oldest electric underground line and mainland Europe’s oldest line – Budapest’s very own Metro Line 1! The metro line is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.


All the metro stations of Line 1 are designed in the same exact fashion, with these cute wooden guard houses and the green beams. A very historic experience indeed and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

That’s all folks! Tomorrow we will say good-bye to lovely Budapest and continue our journey eastward and southward. Bye until then :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 9 – Indulging in Budapest

Day 9: September 4, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Andreas is behind the camera today performing his usual magic!

Oh what a trip so far! It is day 9 and country number 4 that has opened its pretty doors to us. Good morning from Budapest, a city that is waiting to take our breath away.

Today is all about exploring and indulging in Budapest. The day will unfold in the streets of flat Pest housing buildings that with great effort still cling to the once grand and glorious intricacy of the Austro-Hungarian architecture standing side by side with structures barely holding, sad and dilapidated, yet with a certain charm that makes this city so irresistible. The action will then move to the hilly and picturesque Buda that like a shy beauty is waiting to make you fall in love with it. Finally the day will culminate in one of the most memorable gastronomic adventures.

Pest, Buda and gastronomy will have to wait though. The first mention of the day has to be shared between our charming courtyard and our capricious Rover.


Our secret retreat in Budapest – one doesn’t need much to transform a white canvas into a beautiful painting.

The courtyards in Budapest have quite the fame. They have to be experienced, as words cannot do them enough justice. It was a beautiful encounter as we opened our apartment door to find this fairy tale oasis.

Now it is high time for another car adventure. The next outburst of the capricious metal horse was a loud noise that was following us like an unbearable shadow all the way from Zlin to Budapest. Hopefully the Hungarian garages are more knowledgeable and less expensive than their Czech counterparts. Through our friends’ friends we have found a local garage.

Visiting the Hungarian car doctor. The initial inspection goes well despite our lack of Hungarian language skills. It doesn’t take them long to confirm the diagnosis.


Here is the culprit – the slightly worn wheel bearing!

Hands are shaken, papers are signed, keys are handed over. The car will be fixed within a few hours! A major point in the plus column for the Hungarian car people. We are free to enjoy the sun and the pleasant autumn warmth in the beautiful city.

IMG_8015Hősök tere or Heroes Square is where we head first. Located in the end of Andrássy út, the grand culmination of the Budapest’s answer to Champs-Élysées, we find a square that is grand and imposing.


Watching the groups of tourists make their way to the center for an obligatory selfie with the heroes feeds some emotion to the silent statues frozen in time. Speaking of tourists, Chinese rule all visitor stats. The grand city of Budapest, just like the other “must-sees” of Europe, has been discovered by the eager groups of the billion-plus nation of the Orient. I suppose this wide square won’t feel so wide within a few years…

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Behind the cold square in the middle of a beautiful park hides a rather hot spot – the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Crowded – yes! it is a beloved public bath after all. Affordable – you betcha, far from the heart-pounding prices of the West and Scandinavia in particular. Rejuvenating – so they say, we didn’t have time to personally test the healing powers of Budapest’s baths this time. On our short visit our taste buds took a glorious victory over our body relaxation in a fierce battle of indulgence in Budapest. But as the Terminator said so well before us – I’ll be back!

Making our way down Andrássy út, we greet the many faces of Budapest. Sometimes grandeur and imposing, sometimes dilapidated and falling apart, sometimes grand and sometimes shabby. This city has surprised and kept us in awe since the moment we pulled in.

IMG_8014IMG_8013 _MG_4729After a few hours spent on the flat lands of Pest, we head back to the car workshop to pick up our ride. As promised, the Rover is ready, shining in the sun and driving as smooth as a Bond car with no trace of the annoying noise of the past. The hills of Buda is a wonderful challenge for the car. As we cross the Chain Bridge connecting the two banks of Danube together we cannot stop feeling our newfound love for this city increasing with each hill we climb. Reaching atop the Gellert Hill we park and hurry past the crowds to the viewing platform. What awaits our gaze is simply breathtaking!


Budapest – it’s so hard to resist your charm!

It is hard to leave the mesmerising view behind and descend the picturesque hills of Buda. But the scheduled time for a culinary magic was approaching fast. Apart from all the grandness, Budapest is also home to a number of Michelin starred restaurants. Good food is one small vice of ours. So an evening of gourmet food is what we presented to ourselves. After some quick research, we stopped our choice on Restaurant Onyx! An unforgettable evening of a 4-hour, 12-course ritual that delighted us and left our taste buds exploding in sheer joy. This place is so worth its shining Michelin! Starting with a rolling tray of at least 20 different exotic bread choices served as if each piece of bread was a precious object, followed by 12 courses of dishes that were out of this world, and as if this was not magical enough, ending the 4-hour festivity with yet another rolling tray of chocolate delights… The experience was unforgettable.


Some of the beautiful creations of the Onyx master chefs.

We end the evening on a romantic note, strolling the banks of Danube. This walk was as romantic as it was essential. After our tummies filled with Michelin love we needed the physical exercises to keep us from exploding.


The elegant Chain Bridge linking this grand city together!



The Hungarian Parliament is mesmerising in day and night.


Good night for now. Tomorrow is our last day in pretty Budapest before the journey continues east towards country number 4 – Romania!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 8 – acting in a Czech soap opera and finally heading to Budapest

Day 8: September 3, 2015
Time: 08:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic
Destination: Budapest, Hungary

Today has got to be the day… The day that we get to continue doing what we set out to do in the first place. Drive! Experience the world lying beyond the small Czech town of Zlin.

Andreas has a plan. He has stayed up late into the night researching on possible failure causes for the car engine. Posts at Land Rover forums, e-mails shot left and right, Facebook messages, countless YouTube videos seem to have produced a result. A hope rather… After all the trouble of fixing the car we dare not harbour big dreams, but nurture a tiny hope that today will be the day. The fuel pump seems to be the cause of all the misery. When it gets dirty, the supply of fuel shuts off and the engine stops. Come to think of it… Apparently it is a common Land Rover issue, that the official Land Rover workshop has no idea about, but the brilliant car owners know all too well about.

We repeat the same ritual of yesterday: pack and say good-bye to the lovely Czech family who have stood by our side day in and out supporting us with their love and care. Alena, our Czech mother has even managed to exceed her breakfast wonders. Freshly baked pancakes are waiting for us on the table as we go down with our bags. What a wonderful surprise!

Saying good-bye is hard, but somehow the anticipation of today being the day of finally being able to continue our adventure makes the sadness a tiny bit less emotional. We leave our beautiful home perched atop the hills of Zlin behind and drive our usual route to the car workshop we so wish to leave behind.

We arrive at the workshop just as they open. I head straight to our oh-so-familiar sofa up the stairs and make a temporary camp thankful for the distraction provided by Boyhood, which hopefully should have enough runtime – 2 hours 46 minutes to be exact, to last for the whole car fixing performance. I also have a backup of Stumbling on Happiness, a great, great book in my bag, just in case my temporary camp has to transition itself into a more permanent abode. As you can see we came prepared for the fight. Both the movie and the book are highly recommended by the way and not just in the rare case you find yourself stranded in a car workshop in Zlin 😉

Andreas heads straight for the mechanic and takes him (read forces him) for a ride so the guy could see with his own eyes how the problem occurs and maybe get an epiphany. At least that’s the hope. Alas just when you want the stupid engine to stop running, it refuses. How convenient, little bastard, pardon my French. An hour passes. To me it feels like they have already reached either Slovakia or Prague depending on what direction they are headed, and have left me behind, stranded in my camp in the small town of Zlin.

I am engrossed in my movie, so the wait is made a little less unbearable. I am sitting quietly minding my own business when a monstrous, stupid wasp, decides to add insult to injury and plant a loving kiss on my shoulder! That is it. That is the absolute last drop I can take. Tears start flowing, I am ready to scream, when my knight on the white horse, aka Andreas, comes back from his drive and rushes to my rescue. In come first-aid measures and after much time spent calming me down that no, I don’t have bee allergies and I should not be ushered to the doctor, I am put to sleep. This whole commotion feels like straight out of a soap opera. I don’t know to cry or to laugh…

I am left to rest my wounded shoulder, which to put all doubt aside, is aching and itching like crazy and is swollen quite a bit. Andreas heads to the workshop to tell the mechanic to get his act together and clean the fuel pump. After some back and forth discussions, of course the mechanic still doesn’t harbour the slightest doubt that his ingenious fix was not a fix at all, they agree to clean the fuel pump.

The spotlight is back again onto the sofa. My movie is long finished, my shoulder feels numb, my tears have dried out and I just feel tired. Minutes slowly tick by, replaced by hours… Finally after 6 loooooong hours of being stuck in this workshop, we get the news that the pump is cleaned, are shown proof of how dirty it was, and are ushered out to greet our car. 1,2,3… here comes the Rover that gave us so much trouble. You cannot imagine our joy! It cannot be described either, it has to be felt.

We cross our fingers and set the course towards Budapest. Oh how long did we have to wait to utter these words… Budapest, Budapest, Buda and Pest… we are coming to you.


The last few kms of Czech roads before we cross the border into Slovakia.

Kms go by and the car is still driving like a champ. We cannot believe our eyes, and we are afraid to take a breath in relief. It can stop any second now. But no, more kms rush past and we are crossing the last stretch of the Czech road. Unbelievable! Our road trip is saved and we are really continuing our adventure.

Before we reach the Slovak border though, there are a couple of observations I need to put out there before the Czech road finishes. The first observation is that the Czech are truly kind and sweet people. We have received the nicest treatment, support and care from all the wonderful people that crossed our path. The second observation is that Czech women dress in lovely bright colours, even older ladies. And that is just a wonderful little showcase of joie de vivre!

A few more meters and here we are… Slovakia! Ahoj. Another border crossing, another blue sign with yellow stars welcomes us to its vast lands.


Ahoj Slovakia! That’s a sight we longed to see.

Alas our unscheduled pit stop in Zlin made us cut our planned 2-night stay in Slovakia to a mere 4-hour drive through the country. From the car window we saw some beautiful landscapes pass by. Road signs pointing to promises of amazing sights succeeded one another without being turned towards. Until next time Slovakia, for now you will stay as a beautiful transit country in our memories.

The Slovak roads gave way to Hungarian roads and finally in the dark of the evening we reached Budapest. The city we were already starting to doubt we would ever make it to. Totally unprepared for a stay in our new destination and totally in awe that we actually made it there, we try to arrange for accommodation on the go. After some futile search, Fortuna smiles to us and we find a hidden gem right in the centre on the beautiful Pest side of Budapest. Opening the door to a courtyard of an impressive old building we unlock the door to our home in Budapest…


We are home! An evening stroll around our hood quickly tells us that our home couldn’t have been located in any better spot. Budapest it is hard not to fall in love with you from the first sight.


An incredible sight – the Hungarian Parliament building is breathtaking day and night.

Good night dreamy city. Can’t wait to see your pretty face again tomorrow.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 7 – Yet another 24 hours in Zlin

Day 7: September 2, 2015
Time: 08:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic
Our Zlin home

Good morning Zlin!

The heavy clouds clad in a long veil of grey are hanging over Zlin. It is the same window overlooking the same hills that greeted us for the past 2 days in our Czech home. Yet these clouds make the view so different, so intense. I love such days. The smell of the air is so fresh filled with a threat of a downpour, the scenery opening up to the eye is so crisp, sharp and intense. It is amazing what a difference clouds make to the day. This is the beautiful morning that greeted us on the 7th day of our adventures.

Today we have an important appointment in our calendar – at 13:00 our Rover is going back to the workshop and coming out of there hopefully in tip top condition so we can continue our trip towards our next destination Slovakia!

Until then though there are still a few hours at our disposal, so after packing and saying goodbye to our Czech family, we head to our usual starting point in Zlin – Building No. 21 on tř. Tomáše Bati 21, 760 01 Zlín, aka Bata’s Skyscraper.


Andreas making it absolutely clear that we are standing by the entrance of Building 21 and leading the way into the skyscraper.

Some kind of government function is housed inside the famous building today. But back in its heyday it used to be the headquarters of Bata’s shoe empire. In the 1930s when the construction was completed the 21 was one of the first skyscrapers in Europe. The soul of Bata can still be felt in the long corridors, old elevators and countless of doors lining up all the 16 floors of the skyscraper. The interior was rather reminiscent of the Soviet taste in architecture. Inside we found Bata’s museum and a very interesting exhibition – an elevator that doubled as a personal office of no one else than Thomas Bata himself!


It was quite a sight. Nothing luxurious and imposing to convey Bata’s rank and status. Quite the opposite, the big room was rather modest in decorations. The only “luxury” he allowed himself was to build his office inside an actual elevator so he could move in between the floors, attend meetings, be on the shop floor and check up on his empire with ease. This is one inspiring and visionary CEO I would have loved to have met in person.

Bata's office

Office inside an elevator. What a brilliant idea is that and something that many CEOs could take inspiration from.

Apart from the office-in-elevator there are other interesting details about Bata and his legacy to be learnt in the museum. If you ever make it to Zlin, do stop by Building 21.

After walking through Bata’s history down in the museum, we took an old-fashioned open-door or rather no-door elevator up to the last floor to look at Zlin, the city, boldly dreamt and meticulously realized by Thomas Bata. Up on the top floor of the skyscraper there is a open terrace overlooking the city. There was also a café that looked rather empty and off service when we were there, but it could be open in the summer months.

Zlin from above

Rows and rows of mostly identical brick and glass structures. This is Zlin from above.

Rows and rows of mostly identical brick and glass structures. This is Zlin from above. A city inspired by Le Corbusier’s urban modernism, a city designed for function and daily life. Today, decades after their completion, the brick and glass structures still stand tall, however there is a certain air of sadness that has descended on them. Maybe it is the longing for the good old days, maybe it is a cry for maintenance… It is hard to say.

Letna district

View to the Letna district, where the lovely family hosting us was also living.

IMG_7920After getting our fix of bird’s eye view over the city, we descended back to the ground floor to find the restaurant we read about online. The restaurant turned out to be the canteen for the people working in Building 21 and we arrived right in time for the busy lunch hour.

Luckily we weren’t asked to produce employee IDs, nor asked to pay with a lunch card. After humble attempt at explaining that we would like some food we were shown to an empty table and brought what happened to be the day’s menu of complimentary soup and this delicious lentil and sausage dish.

Though delicious, the lunch was no gourmet 2-hour long affair, we had to be done very quickly and rush back to the car workshop. It is time!


Two happy travellers waiting on the oh-so-familiar sofa on the second floor of the oh-so-familiar Land Rover dealer shop.

Here we are waiting for hours while our car is in the workshop mostly sitting idle waiting for the mechanic to exchange the faulty part. In Zlin we did a lot of waiting but hopefully it will be over today and we can get on the road again.

Finally after around 4 hours of sitting on the oh-so-familiar sofa on the second floor of the oh-so-familiar Land Rover dealer shop and keeping our fingers crossed for the car, we get the news that the Rover is ready! Hurra…!!! After 3 days in Zlin, way behind our schedule we are longing to get on the road and reach Slovakia. After settling the rather fat invoice we, all in smiles of getting the car fixed head to the front where our green-coloured beauty is awaiting us.

Alas today wasn’t our day. After driving for about 10 km the car stops again showing the exact same problem of the engine simply dying. It is past 17:00, the dusk is approaching and there is still a few hours of drive to get us to Slovakia. I am on the verge of screaming, which I do getting on the phone with the workshop guy who was spellbound that after making us wait for days they did NOT fix the right problem and unfortunately cannot do anything anymore today as the workshop is about to close. Having no other choice we drive back to our wonderful Czech family to spend yet another, needless to say, not so carefree night in Zlin.

As Alena, our host was hurrying calming tea and her home-made honey to help us get through the stress of the day, Andreas took the matters in his own hands and spent a few long hours scouring the Internet on the potential causes of the car malfunction. It must have been our day after all, as his patient efforts paid off, and people, real Land Rover aficionados and experts, unlike the official branch we had the “pleasure” of dealing with, knew exactly what was the root cause of the car misbehaviour. And of course it was not the throttle body that the workshop diagnosed and made a hefty invoice for, it was nowhere even close to that. Something quite different and very easy and far cheaper to fix was to be blamed for. But the hour is way past midnight and we need to sleep.

Good night! Tomorrow is the day we will be on the road again…

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 6 – Exploring Zlin

Day 6: September 1, 2015
Time: 07:00
Location: Zlin, Czech Republic

Early bird catches the worm – aka this gorgeous sunrise…

Well, hello there pretty! What a gorgeous view to wake up to. It is a brand new, beautiful day to create some wonderful memories in Zlin, our temporary camp until the car is fixed.


It seems that Andreas made a new friend :)

Our sweet Airbnb host, Alena, has surprised us with a lovely breakfast and the company of her fashionista puppy, which seems to have taken a liking to Andreas. Today’s schedule stands completely free, so after a lazy morning spent savouring this delicious breakfast we are off to a quiet stroll in the city.

Our first stop of the day starts with paying homage to Thomas Bata of Bata Shoes, the mastermind behind Zlin’s modern-day development and its architectural look.


Czech Republic’s answer to Danish ECCO. in Zlin Bata Shoes is more than a shoe store, the company’s legacy is deep engraved in the city.

Zlin lacks the grandeur of Prague, where regardless of which direction you turn your head, a mesmerising vista is right there to make your mind’s Polaroid go wild with processing it to postcards of memories. It is just a small town deep in the countryside, where sophistication has been replaced by functionalism, and the tourist crowds of Prague with the kindest Czech people.

Zlin apartments

After some obligatory shopping time checking out the local stores we found this inviting patch of green for an impromptu sun-soaking and feet-stretching time.


AA in Zlin

Slowly soaking in the day we set course to the hills of Zlin into a deep, deep forest to hunt some game for our dinner. After what seemed like eternity of hiking up the hills, but in reality must have been only 30 min or so, we reached our hunting ground.


Our hunting ground for the evening – Black Bear restaurant


Mhh what a delicious 3-course meal that was! The picture above is just one of the highlights that was wildly delicious. Black Bear has been worth all the effort of getting there.


Le Corbusier’s legacy in Zlin. More insider scoop on this functionalist architecture and a look at the city from above is coming up in our next post.

At the last rays of the sun we left the bear’s home, rolled down the same hills and descended onto the city’s heart for an evening stroll back home. Good night for now and fingers crossed that our car will be fixed tomorrow, so we can continue our trip.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 5 – Arriving in Zlin, the home of Bata Shoes

Day 5: August 31, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Olomouc, Czech Republic
Destination: Zlin, Czech Republic

We are on the road again. To a destination capriciously thrown at us and pencilled in on the map by our strong-willed ride – the Rover. The ride needs an urgent pit stop, and of course it gets what it needs. By the end of this trip we (read Andreas) will have become experts on common Freelander issues and most importantly, official and unofficial dealers in Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey that can service your car. So if ever needed, don’t be a stranger, drop us a line, the chances are that we know the right people :)

Workshop 1 – with the help of our lovely Airbnb hosts, we get hold of a workshop that might be able to fix the car problem. Driving 15 km north of Olomouc, we arrive at a big industrial yard, that also happens to have a car repair station. First try brings us no closer to a solution. The guy, unable to even find the computer plug on the car to run a diagnostic test, shakes his head and sends us off to an official Land Rover dealer in Zlin.

Zlin oh Zlin… A small city that we never heard of before, never planned to stop at, but one that we would end up spending the longest time in, not voluntarily… A city that would introduce us to the sweetest Czech family, bring tears of frustration to us, leave me bee-stung and on the verge of calling the whole trip off… The 3 days we spent in Zlin were full of drama that could provide for a rather amusing content for a soap opera now that I look back and down the memory lane.


Zlin has a very distinct functionalist architecture built by the shoe magnate, Thomas Bata, and inspired by Le Corbusier

But I am running ahead of things. First getting to Zlin. The trip was quite an adventure. The first 20 km went fine, then the car decided to be capricious again. It began shutting off every 10 minutes and in the end we could just drive 2 km before it had to be restarted. Very annoying and tiny bit dangerous to stop for 30 seconds in the middle of Czech roads. Though as we would learn later on the trip – if not Germany, then this country was the best place for the problem to appear. Czech drivers can still be considered civilised.

Workshop 2 – After fighting a couple of hours with the car, we finally arrive at the official dealer / repair shop, hoping that they can easily find the faulty part and provide quick help. We must have been dreaming. Apparently being an official dealer is no guarantee for expertise. We would end up coming to this place 5 times in 3 days and spend a combined 10 hours waiting for magic to happen. But let’s focus on the first visit here. The car is taken to the workshop, the hood is popped open and the diagnostic machine is hooked up.


According to the machine, the throttle body is the guilty part. So we place an order for a new body trusting that a dealer only carrying Land Rover brand knows what they are doing. The order is placed, now we just have to wait for the part to arrive, which will take 2 days. Not a major issue, as long as we get this car fixed, we are still in good time to stick to our original plan going forward. Little did we know…


Hopefully changing this little baby will get us back on the road. A new throttle body is on its way.

Content with the outcome of the day we drive to our home in Zlin – an Airbnb room in a house in the hills of the city, hosted by wonderful Alena and her son Zdena. Meeting this sweet family was one of the best experiences of our trip. For us travelling is just as much about discovering new places, as it is meeting people from cultures different from ours that leaves us with wonderful memories. Alena and Zdena did just that, and we couldn’t have been more grateful to our car for taking us to Zlin.

Now it is time to say good night, we are tired after a long day on the road and have this beautiful view of the city to fall asleep to. Tomorrow new adventures await us in Zlin.


Good night from Zlin and sweet dreams :)

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan