Day 4 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Kazan

It feels like the 11 hours and 10 minutes on the train passed by very quickly. There was not much landscape to see since it was an overnight train crossing through endless forests.

Train landscapes

Train landscapes

Suddenly the clock was 07:00, just an hour short of arriving in Kazan. Out come all the Armenian culinary delights for breakfast in bed experience.

Simple things often are the best. It is the case of our breakfast!

Simple things often are the best. It is the case of our breakfast! The hand cream is not part of cuisine, just happened to throw itself into the picture.

08:00 sharp and the train pulls into the Kazan train station. Thanks for the nice ride!

We and the happy train lady

We and the happy train lady (provodnitsa)

Kazan Railway Station

Kazan Railway Station

The first and only planned item on the list in Kazan is to check into this crazy space themed hostel that somebody, read not ME, insisted on booking. I have my reservations and concerns, but when planning the trip a few months ago, decided to concede and keep an open mind. Andreas is totally ecstatic about finally arriving into the space station. Not kidding – this must be one of the things he has been most looking forward to in the entire journey.

Well here we arrive and are left off by the cab in front of a very Soviet, very low and very unassuming looking structure in the middle of a parking lot. Hmmmm get me out of here please, 2 nights in this hole – no way. Someone else is already excitedly walking into the building. On we go. The kind receptionist lets us do an early check-in against an extra charge of course (500 rub). Good news at least, some hot shower wouldn’t hurt.

Crossing a common dining/gaming/working area we enter into the space station. And space station it is. I feel like I have stepped into a Star Wars set. You literally get a capsule to live in complete psychedelic light shows, doors opening as if you were on board one of the Imperial Star Destroyers (you gotta be a Star Wars fan to picture that).

Our space station ready for take off

Our space station ready for take off

Hmmm this could be fun I am thinking. On second thought hope it will not be noisy at night being the light sleeper that I am. Two nights in this space… Let’s see. Somebody else is already jumping up and down from joy and deep into taking pictures and shooting artistic films of the whole light-door-space station feel.

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After some freshening up in the capsule we head off to explore Kazan. Now that the sleep shelter is secured, comes the other physiological need on Maslow’s Hierarchy – getting some food into our quiet hungry tummies. The choice falls for a rather cool pub serving Texas style BBQ. Google food rating never disappoints no matter the country you are in.

The answer is horse meat! Tasted quite OK actually

The answer is horse meat! Tasted quite OK actually

Food check! Full and smiling. On the wall of the pub we find this quote by Hemingway that sends us off to the day with a bigger smile.

"I drink to make other people more interesting." E. Hemingway

“I drink to make other people more interesting.” E. Hemingway

Just around the corner is Bauman pedestrian street – where shops, restaurants, bars and cathedrals coexist in harmony.

This stunning cathedral is literally perched in between  more imposing neighbours.

This stunning cathedral is literally perched in between more imposing neighbours.

What should we do next? It is a take it easy kind of a day. I have read about a Soviet lifestyle museum. Now that could be a cool nostalgic thing to do. A little trip down the memory lane. We hit the streets of Kazan and step into the Soviet times.

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So many artefacts, many familiar, many not. Brings a smile thinking back on that era – growing up in late 1980’s I managed to get Soviet birth certificate and a tiny bit Soviet exposure.

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Spending an hour at the museum amongst Soviet memorabilia, we are ready to head out into the sun again and try out some of the local Tatar cuisine. Chak-chak is on the menu – dessert consisting of fried dough drenched in honey. That we try at the Chak-Chak museum – yep there is a museum for chak-chak.

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Take it easy day finishes at a riverside restaurant in the new part of the city with beautiful sunset and panoramic over the old city. But before that we are stopped by a beautiful rainbow stretching across Kaban Lakes.

internal.9584541858373491c8b778f28c595131.DO01033852Somehow we go really crazy on the menu and end up ordering so many dishes that they keep brining something new every 10 minutes. We make our way through the feast, as our neighbours at the table across do vodka shots. Everything tastes so delicious and is really nicely presented. First impression of this city is very pleasant.

Fried pilmeni (dumplings) and borodinsky bread

Fried khinkali (dumplings) and black bread crutons with garlic sour cream,

Time to call it a day and head back to our Millenium Falcon. Good night from Kazan, fingers crossed for quiet neighbours.

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Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 3 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow -> Kazan (11h 10min)

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

A quiet morning on Nikolskaya Street

Last day in Moscow started bright and early for some of us, aka Andreas. He tried to sneak out of the room at the crack of dawn to document the beauty of Moscow without its crowds.  Now in his mind the whole operation was done very discreetly, in reality I got wide awake in a state of sleepy surprise.

Zaryadye Park resembling New York's High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

Zaryadye Park resembling New York’s High Line offers a beautiful panoramic view over the city

IMG_9531It seems that during our three days in Moscow, the roads kept leading us to Red Square. It was also hard to avoid it living kind of right next to it. It is hard to resist its glorious sight.

Red Square in all its glory

Red Square in all its glory

The square was full of joyful people and amongst hundreds of them we found these Chinese couples who were pushing the photography limits to whole new levels. It was mostly the ladies in front of the lens with and without head scarves, standing and sitting, smiling and serious. The husbands were mostly staying humbly behind and diligently carrying out the supporting roles.

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

The Chinese couples in the middle of a serious photoshoot

From socialist side of Red Square you cross a few meters and voila you magically appear in the epitome of capitalistic world – GUM department store with all its shiny designer stores, glitz and glamour designed to make you spend your hard-earned €€€. We were there for one very special attraction.

The famous attraction of Gum is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The famous attraction of GUM is not all the fancy stores it is the yummy ice-cream!

The GUM ice-cream! Another childhood memory of Soviet and post-Soviet times. When asking Andreas to comment on his first Soviet ice-cream experience, his response was: “Det var surprisingly lækker.” (It was surprisingly yummy). I don’t know what else he expected.

Chocolate and cherry flavours

Chocolate and cherry flavours

From socialist-capitalist explorations, we moved out of the heart of Moscow and into Arbat, a central residential district, filled with hyggelig sidewalk winebars, coffee shops and restaurants.

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood - loving the shade of blue

Backyards of Arbat neighbourhood – loving this shade of blue

 

Patriashki prudi

Patriarshi Rubniki

The last stop of the day before bidding farewell to Moscow is a special corner of my homeland in the center of Moscow – the Armenia store. We needed to stock up on some lavash, panir (bread and cheese) and other goodies for our long train travels.

My favourite store in all of Moscow - little Armenian corner stocking up on the Armenian food essentials

My favourite store in all of Moscow – little Armenian corner. Essential for stocking up on the Armenian food.

It is about 19:00 and time to head off to Kazan train station for catching our first ever Trans-Siberian ride from Moscow to Kazan!

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Kazan Train Station in Moscow

Departure board - waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Departure board – waiting for Kazan train to orient itself on the board

Since it was the first train travel experience in Russia we decided to follow the official guidelines of arriving at least 45 minutes before departure time to be “ready for check-in”. Turned out that we were really in good time. The train was not there and the departure board did not get updated until about 30 minutes before departure and the doors of the train did not open until the clock hit 20:55.
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Our home for the next 11 hours - Moscow -> Kazan train, coupe 7

Our home for the next 11 hours – Moscow -> Kazan train, car 7

For the first leg of our journey we decided to go all in and splurge on a first class ticket. Very nice experience.

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us - Danish DSB could learn a bit

First class coupe Russia style with a fruit platter waiting for us – Danish DSB could learn a bit

It was a really cosy and comfortable experience. With very delicious 3 course meal served on board, Wi-Fi, TV, music, A/C, nice clean sheets and towels. Everything you may need. There is even an app where you can make in-train orders, follow the journey, read books and watch movies. Such a fun experience! This was also the shortest leg in our planned journey. Hope the next 3 rides will be just as fun. Time will show.

Borsch for dinner - yum!

Borsch for dinner – yum!

After some borsch, beef stroganoff and hearty Russian black tea, it is time to bid good night, hit the bed and close eyes to the rumble of train tracks.

Cpakoynoy nochi!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 2 on Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow

Dobroe utro from Moscow. It is another beautiful day in the Russian capital. Time to rise and shine. It sounds a bit like a newsperson on Good Morning (INSERT COUNTRY) show :) It is really a beautiful day, the sun is shining, you have all of Moscow spread in front of your eyes, and a delicious breakfast with all the Russian culinary delights is waiting for you.

This is what one calls breakfast with view

This is what one calls breakfast with a view

On today’s menu is semi Soviet, semi mingling with the locals walks. Nikolskaya, Vorobyovi Gori, Moscow State University, Gorki park, rose garden, selfie crazed people, rain showers, riverside promenade, and finally the culinary jewel of the day dinner in one of the world’s best restaurants.

Let’s start the day with Nikolskaya promenade. This street has become my favourite in Moscow. The atmosphere here is just so uplifting.

Nikolskaya Street is all about taking it easy and enjoying life

Nikolskaya Street is all about taking it easy and enjoying life

After a small promenade on Nikolskaya we take the metro to Vorobyovi Gori (Sparrow Hills) for a riverside promenade and panorama views over the city. Now metro in Moscow is a whole other level of aesthetic experience. It is not just a simple mode of transportation. There are several stations where you feel like you have stepped into a jaw-droppingly beautiful exhibition. I think that deserves a separate post on its own, so I will not dwell onto metro much here. If you are in Moscow and have a few hours to spare – do it!

Moscow River

Moscow River

The panorama platform on top of the Sparrow Hills is not just any platform with beautiful views over a city.

Sparrow Hills panorama platform

Sparrow Hills panorama platform

Here you meet casual passers-by, tourist groups, matroyshka (Russian traditional dolls) vendors, motorbike loving leathermen and even a cheerful and totally out of place and at the same time why not half-naked guy casually holding a WWII gun.

This guy! Question one - wonder if the gun is loaded??? Question two - why on earth would he be standing there?

This guy! Question 1 – wonder if the gun is loaded??? Question 2 – why on earth would he be standing there? Question 3 – will the rig on this motorcycle get you faster through Moscow in the rush hour? I sense some opportunities there.

Us trying to pose as the space around us gets smaller and smaller and the crowd bigger and bigger

Trying to pose as the space around us gets smaller and smaller and the crowd bigger and bigger

Turn your head 180 degrees and in front of you opens up the imposing building of the Moscow State University. You might have seen this iconic structure elsewhere in Moscow. Nope you are not having a déjà vu. There are seven of them spread around the city bearing the prominent name – Stalin’s Seven Sisters.

Moscow State University housed in one of Stalin's Seven Sisters

Moscow State University housed in one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters

I remember my very first time visiting Moscow back in 2004. This was one of the places where I was brought to by my kind hosts. Back then the structure felt so imposing and important and the student in me felt like it could be a cool place to study. 15 years later stepping onto this exact place felt a bit nostalgic.

Soviet bus

Soviet bus

Seeing this cute bus drive by across the street from the university didn’t help the nostalgic matters much. On the contrary it only accelerated the emotions and took me right back to my school years. Every morning come snow, rain or sun I would do the 30 minute commute on one of these buses void of any modern A/C amenities to my school in Armenia and back. Though sometimes in the summer months the heat levels would go excruciatingly high, there are mostly fond memories associated with it.

This little girl and her carefree ride into the tunnel of light captures the moment and the spirit so beautifully

This little girl and her carefree ride into the tunnel of light captures the moment and the spirit so beautifully

From the university we ended up in Gorki Park, place beaming with life and people enjoying life and taking it easy. The northern section of the park is home to many Soviet statue. That section we visited in the wintertime some months ago and the Soviet heritage in me was quite excited from the nostalgic feel of things. This time the focus was on the southern grounds.

Stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden in the middle of the park

Stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden in the middle of the park

The rose garden was an enchanting sight and apparently a magnet for selfie crazed and wanna-be models.

You can either opt for a professional setup or if you don't want to splurge of personal photo takers then...

You can either opt for a professional setup or if you don’t want to splurge on personal photo takers then…

... you can take the matters into your own hands

… you can quite literally take the matters into your own hands :D

The photoshoots came to an abrupt end as a sudden rain shower decided to befall upon the crowd. It was fun to see families and “models” alike running to seek cover under the tall trees. For families the priorities were ensuring the kids don’t get wet and saving the picnic food. For “models” and their personal photographers the demands were tougher as they had to rescue the hair, the dresses, and at the very last the photo equipment.

Rain showers in the summertime are quite magical

Rain showers in the summertime are quite magical

The heavy rain stopped as suddenly as it started and the sun came shining through the clouds. People appeared quickly out of their covers to continue their strolls, picnics, songs, chats, and dances…

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Impromptu dancing by the dancing fountains

Impromptu dancing by the dancing fountains

After hours of walking and some 20.000 steps, the last stop of the day was of culinary nature. An exciting dinner experience was waiting in one of the world’s best restaurants – Twins Garden. Each of the dishes was quite a special treat. My absolute favourite was the baby sturgeon. This is where I should quickly add – pause NOT. I literally squeaked in terror as the waiter put the dish in front of me with the sturgeon staring right into my face. The fish was quickly beheaded to ease my conscious.

Twins Garden

Twins Garden

Sunset

Magical sunset paired up well with the dining experience.

A few hours and several culinary delights later we ended up where we started the day – in our hood at Nikolskaya Street.

Isn't this just magical

What a magical sight!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Day 1 on Trans-Siberian Railway: CPH ->DME

There is something comforting about train travels. Soothing rumble of rails moving forward and forward, letting your gaze wonder out the window and onto the world slowly passing by, no rush, no worries. Just you and your day-dreams flying at the pace of the train…

Privet from mother Russia! We have just boarded the train headed from Moskva to Kazan. 800 kms away, 11 hours and 10 minutes after we will arrive in the Republic of Tatarstan. A few months ago the loosely-discussed-not-sealed-on-paper travel dream of Trans-Siberian railway adventure spontaneously became THE adventure of the year.

A few months in – the route was mapped on Google. It took a few attempts and adjustments trying to comprehend the vastness of Russia. The landmass comprising Russia is big, really big, the biggest. However it is only when you try to map out your journey from Point A, in our case, Moscow to Point B Kazan and Point C Ekaterinburg and Point D Irkutsk, the size of it really hits you leaving you in awe.

Buying the tickets is seamlessly easy these days. A quick Google search and you discover the very handy app of RZD, the Russian Railway service. Just a few clicks and a couple of tens of thousands RUB after, voila tickets are purchased. The only slight hiccup on the route is trying to cross the border from Russia to Mongolia. That stretch you apparently cannot buy online as a commoner. So we had to call in the help of a local travel agency to procure the last leg of our journey stretching from Irkutsk to Ulaanbataar.

Before hopping onto the train, Singapore Airlines comes into the picture transporting us from STO-DME. Now that experience deserve a small mention. It was my first time ever flying with this airlines and can I just say that for a brief moment there, I was close to swapping the Trans-Siberian tickets for a 10 hours of flight to Singapore.

Flying with Singapore Airlines is quite an experience

Flying with Singapore Airlines is quite an experience

A few hours later and a quick stopover in Stockholm we hit the tarmac in DME, Moscow. Despite its imposing Soviet appearance, the airport itself was quite efficient, just a short walk through the baggage claim to out into the wonderful afternoon heat of Moscow.

The rest of the day revolved around Red Square – Nikolskaya Street, Red Square, Armenian restaurant, back to Red Square in the sunset, Nikolskaya Street and back to our home in Moscow just off Nikolskaya.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square.

Nikolskaya Street puts a smile on your face every time you walk through. The entire street is decorated in shimmering butterflies leading you right to the heart of Red Square. There is so much life on that stretch perfect for people watching, some impromptu musical performances and just letting yourself immerse in the buzz of Moscow.

Kremlin area is adorned with beautiful carpets of flowers everywhere

Kremlin area is adorned with beautiful carpets of flowers everywhere

Moscow is so different in the summertime. The last few times I visited the city was in the bitter cold of December. The juxtaposition with summertime is so stark. The city comes so alive in the summer, women strolling gracefully in their best outfits and posing at every corner for their best Instagram looks and likes. It feels like the city is turned into the big open-air stage of Bolshoy Theatre, and everyone is dressed to impress on their way to the Swan Lake performance.

The colours of Kremlin

The colours of Kremlin

Parks and people everywhere

Parks and people everywhere

Stalingrad - the alley of hero cities during WWII

Stalingrad – the alley of hero cities during WWII

First important stop of the day - Armenian deliciousness for early dinner

First important stop of the day – Armenian deliciousness for early dinner

There was one fixed thing on the agenda of the day and that was to head off to one of the several Armenian restaurants in the city and indulge on the deliciousness of my home country. You should have seen the sparkle in my eyes from the sight of lavash (our traditional bread), panir (cheese) and mixed greens. The precious moment of making a brduch – lavash roll, the taste so simple yet so so delicious. The feeling of simple joy from conversing in my native language… Simple joys in life.

After a few hours of feeling like back in my homeland, the feet led us back to Red Square, glowing in the sunset, filled with faces from all corners of the world, strolling casually and documenting their walks with every step they take.

Making a wish before entering the Req Square

Making a wish before entering the Req Square

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Churches around Red Square are so impressive

Churches around Red Square are so impressive

The famous tower of Kremlin glowing in the sunset colours

The famous tower of Kremlin glowing in the sunset colours

St. Basil's Cathedral basking in the sunset glow

St. Basil’s Cathedral basking in the sunset glow

Another pretty cathedral

Another pretty cathedral

Gazing across Moscow River

Gazing across Moscow River

Relaxing in the evening breeze while listening to a beautiful street concert

Relaxing in the evening breeze while listening to a beautiful street concert

Good night Moscow! Sweet dreams

Good night Moscow! Sweet dreams

The train is continuing to roll slowly yet steadily across the vast Russian landscape. It is past midnight here, and I am ready to call it a day. Good night and sweet dreams!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Eating our way through Dubrovnik

Day 3 in Dubrovnik. After the adventures of the day before, this one pales in comparison.  A take it slow kind of day, which mostly revolves around Dubrovnik strolls, history lessons and food indulgences. First things first though – and that first thing is saying hello to this beauty that opens up before us on our pathway from the hotel to the old city. It seems like I will never tire of finding adjectives of to describe this dreamy, fairy-tale like city. No matter how much you gaze it, you cannot get tired of its out-of-this-world beauty. At least I cannot.

Morning view

So here is to another day in the fairy-tale. What’s on the agenda for the day? Food, food, food and once more food! Food in general is quite nice in Dubrovnik, fish is of course the crown jewel of the cuisine. What you need to get used to is the steep prices. This tiny jewel presents a rather tough competition even for Copenhagen and Zürich. Prepare to splurge a bit if you want to indulge on the many delicacies of Dubrovnik’s cuisine.

Onorfijeva fountain - the ultimate meeting spot for travellers and locals alike

Onorfijeva fountain – the ultimate meeting spot for travellers and locals alike

Our lazy day starts right at the foot of the famous Onorfijeva fountain – a beloved meeting spot. Our local guide and foodie Ana from Dubrovnik is waiting for us here to take us on a gastronomic tour in the city.

Strolling in Dubrovnik with our local guide Ana

Strolling in Dubrovnik with our local guide Ana

On the menu for the 3+ hour of food indulgence was a stroll in the city enriched with history lessons and culinary delights. Before reaching the culinary part though Ana told us about the 48 churches/religious sites (!) that are spread around Dubrovnik, the terra cotta roofs of the city, wells that once provided drinking water and now stay hidden under the cream coloured ground slabs, and the sad fate that befell the city back in 1991-1992 when the Serbian forces attacked the city, kept it under siege and destroyed much of it. Even though you don’t see traces of war in the city today, the wounds are still fresh in locals’ hearts…

Talking about the war time, brings an air of sadness on Ana as the memories from her childhood return to her. We stare at pictures of houses from 1992 totally destroyed, we hear stories of lives lost, of refugees being evacuated from the city, of hunger and struggle… why is there all this cruelty in the world?

As we get surrounded by a group of Spanish tourists, we leave the war memories behind for a little while, and Ana hurries us along to show us a special statue. As I look at the cream-coloured statue, my gaze falls to the middle section of it made of copper.

George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving in the middle of old town in Dubrovnik when creating Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving in the middle of old town in Dubrovnik when creating Game of Thrones

If you immediately thought of Game of Thrones, you are not alone. I think George R.R. Martin must have been heavily inspired by this statue carving, even though he claims he has never set foot in Dubrovnik. I mean look at this – the mother of dragons, a dragon at her feet, lion could be Lannister, the Iron Throne… And no, the statue was not just put up in 2011 when Game of Thrones aired, nor was Dubrovnik built in 2011 to play the set for Game of Thrones, despite of what some people visiting Dubrovnik believe. The city has been there for quite many centuries, and the statue maybe is not quite that old, but still old.

Our stroll and skipping lunch in anticipation and preparation of food indulgence experience has by now left us totally starving. Luckily food is the next item on the agenda. Ana prepared four stops for us on the menu.

We start easy with a Dalmatian tapas plate at Tavulin restaurant – Dalmatian prosciutto, selection of three cheeses from the island of Pag – young cow cheese, goat & cow cheese matured in olive husk, sheep cheese, black olive tapenade, chickpeas spread (hummus)+ Plavac mali wine (Miljas vineyard) from Pelješac peninsula.

The first stop of our food tour starts at Tavulin restaurant

The first stop of our food tour starts at Tavulin restaurant

The restaurant is just off the main square, it is a bit off the way from the main tourist highway so you need to know where you are going to find it. We absolutely loved our tapas plate and returned the day after for lunch to try more dishes from the menu. Really nice!

KopunStop #2 takes us to the famous stairs of shame – yep Game of Thrones again. On top of the stairs to the left you find Kopun restaurant. Kopun means rooster in Croatian. Here we are treated with a nice plate of kopun rooster paté, shrimp paté with black truffles, smoked deer ham from Slavonia region, kopun salad with bitter orange, tuna tartar with sesame seeds, fried and marinated paprika with carrot dip + red wine Merlot “Negromant”/white wine Malvasija “Tezoro” from Konavle region (Crvik vineyard).

By now I am already full, yet Ana has 2 more stops on the menu. Stop #3 takes us to Barba burger/seafood joint. It’s a hole in the wall kind of a place and really charming one. We are served with an octopus burger! Uhmm that was a first for us. Andreas totally ecstatic bites into his lovely black burger. Me – a bit less ecstatic, take a cautious bite. Tastes quite delicious actually. Burger approved, we move on to the last stop of the day.

Decomposed apfelstrudel

Decomposed apfelstrudel

It’s desert time at Lucin Kantun. I opted for the above deliciousness – a decomposed apfelstrudel. Quite a creative take on the traditional recipe. Tasted so good!
Dubrovačka rozata

Dubrovačka rozata

Andreas went with traditional dessert “Dubrovačka rozata” (créme caramel).

Needless to say, dinner was happily skipped after the delicious feast of tapas, burgers and desserts. Dubrovnik you pretty thing, even your cuisine is amazing. We tune out for the day, waiting in anticipation for day 4 that will take us on a full-day Game of Thrones immersion in King’s Landing. Cannot wait!!!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Medieval walls, terra cotta roofs, 350 height meters, buggy rides – that’s a day in Dubrovnik!

Dubrovnik in morning glow

Dubrovnik in morning glow – this view greets us every morning on our walk into the city.

Dobro jutro or in more plain tongue – good morning from dreamy Dubrovnik! And what a gorgeous morning it is. Birds are wide awake and chirping their love songs, the rising sun is kissing the red roofs of the city, the scent of mysterious white blooms are filling the air with love, and the turquoise waters of Adriatic are softly swaying in a dance of spring. It is hard not to get poetic in this city, when every step you take feels like walking in a fairy-tale.

In a sea of red roofs

In a sea of red roofs

Today’s mission is to get bird’s eye view over Dubrovnik. One of the best ways to do that is to climb the medieval city walls as early in the day as possible before the crowds start conquering them. Conquering Dubrovnik walls back in the medieval days was not really an option. Today times have changed and you can buy your way through for a small fortune. Setting you back with 200 kuna (HRK), will get you a single admission.

Dubrovnik panorama
One thing you will learn very quickly in Dubrovnik is that the prices for pretty much everything are insane. The price level seems to have a direct correlation with the prettiness of the city. And there was a time when I thought Swiss prices were a shock! Forget Switzerland, Dubrovnik is ready for you.

So onwards and upwards! No time for price shocks. The walls are not going to walk for you.

Fort Lovrijenac famously known as the site of King's Landing

Fort Lovrijenac to some known as King’s Landing

Oh this vista! As you make your ascend onto the narrow steps up the wall, the beautiness barometer hits off the charts. To your right is Fort Lovrijenac, today more commonly known to some as King’s Landing. To your left – a sea of red roofs and creamy houses. Can it get any prettier?

A postcard from Dubrovnik

A postcard from Dubrovnik

House dreams - wouldn't mind this beauty from a living room window

House dreams – wouldn’t mind this beauty from a living room window

Walls

A peek into the narrow alleys and courtyards of locals

A peek into the narrow alleys and courtyards of locals

Mediterranean vibes

Mediterranean vibes

The house in green looks like the ugly duckling in the sea of red roofs. It needed to make a statement obviously.

The house in green looks like the ugly duckling in the sea of red roofs. It needed to make a statement obviously.

If you let your eyes linger on the roofs for a few seconds, you can notice a difference in the shade of terra cotta on the roof tiles. As we learned from a local, back in the day there was a special tile making technique employed by no other than women of Dubrovnik. They were the tile masters of the city. The pale shade of terra cotta are the original tiles. The shade is natural belonging to the clay mixture from the grounds nearby. The shape of the tiles came from women making them on their thighs. Yep, you read it right.

After the war in 1990’s the city was greatly damaged and so was the roofs. During the reconstruction process, new tiles were added which were sourced from Toulouse, France. They couldn’t match the natural pale terra cotta shade 100%, so today the roofs stand as a beautiful mosaic of old and new.

Terra cotta tiles

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Here comes my mysterious white bloom scenting the air

The interplay of nature and architecture

The interplay of nature and architecture

One last look from atop the walls and off we descend only to climb again. No steep prices this time. We ‘decide’ to ditch the cable car in favour of getting some motion and climb a hill of 350 height meters up to the very top of the city. As if we didn’t just get enough from walking 2 hours on the walls. As you can hear the vote was not unanimous – far from it, and along the 1.5 hour of hiking you could hear feeble complaints being aired.

Hiking trails - up or down? Take your pick

Hiking trails – up or down? Take your pick

Andreas obviously enjoying the hike

Andreas obviously enjoying the hike

Andreas is obviously enjoying the hike. My sense of contempt settles in as soon as we reach enough height meters to get eyes on the target.

Fort Lovrijenac looks as majestic from above as from the ground

Fort Lovrijenac looks as majestic from above as from the ground

Dubrovnik and its surrounding islands

Dubrovnik and its surrounding islands

The target being this beauty! The right bank of Dubrovnik and its surrounding islands. All the way up to the top you are are rewarded with this views. Complaints are silenced by nature. My hiking pace on the other hand often halts to that of a turtle, with no offence intended whatsoever. Camera demands some action and often stops me for taking pictures. I have to obey its wishes.

Yellow flower we met also in Scotland

Yellow flower we also met in Scotland. Maybe not exactly the same, but it sure looks quite similar.

Mission accomplished. We have conquered the hill of 350 height meters and reached Fort Imperial! Just time enough for a quick bite before heading off to the next adventure of the day. A buggy ride in the wilderness. You can clearly sense who is in charge of planning the second part of the day. I am thrilled by the prospect of wearing this funny costume of pinkish red raincoat, blue hairnet under a grey helmet. That’s to protect you from the mud on the roads. Oh well… Off we go into the wild nature.

Our buggy ride

Our buggy ride

Despite initial fashion distaste towards the outfits we were ushered in, the ride was quite exhilarating. Mud was largely absent, yet adrenalin was there plenty of. So was beautiful views over Dubrovnik yet again.

Hike down was turned into a cable car ride down. But before that one last look at this dreamy view please!

This view againIt’s a wrap for a beautiful day 2 in Dubrovnik. The little gem of Adriatic holds so much more in store than meets the eye.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

The city of red roofs, white blooms and Game of Thrones

It was the lingering scent of ‘orange blossoms’ that brought me back…

The flower of Dubrovnik

The flower of Dubrovnik

Back to pretty Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic Sea. Three years ago was my first encounter with this beauty. It was a love at first sight. Ever since then the city of red roofs and orange blossoms has held a special place in my heart. And the scent of tiny white flowers blooming in April all around the city lingered in my memories.

The girl and the flowerIt is the month of April three years later and here I am back in Dubrovnik, where the red roofs are still glowing in the sun, medieval walls are as intact and the Adriatic as azure. And most importantly the sweet scent of white blooms is lingering all over the city. I am yet to find out the name of the bush. The fact that it is so terribly enchanting and beautiful in its modest appearance only gets enhanced by its anonymity. I will just call it orange blossoms until then. The name sounds so pretty and they grow right next to orange trees, so why not.

Oranges

Welcome to Dubrovnik! The city of red roofs, medieval walls, azure waters and in recent years home to King’s Landing of Game of Thrones.
Dubrovnik

The city is out of this world beautiful, really! It is one of a kind. To appreciate Dubrovnik in all its beauty you should take it in from a hill above the city or from the city walls. For now though we will stay grounded and walk the streets of Dubrovnik to take in the scent of white blooms and retrace the steps down the memory lane.

Pile Gate welcomes you to Dubrovnik

Pile Gate welcomes you to Dubrovnik

Before reaching the gate though, there is a need for a proper welcome to Dubrovnik.

But first a proper welcome :)

Sipping wine in the afternoon sun with a gorgeous view of the medieval city in the horizon

It feels just as enchanting to be walking in the latte coloured streets of Dubrovnik, taking in the sweet scent of white blooms and pretty scenes. First day was all about walking from one end of the city to the other, soaking in the Adriatic sun and indulging on some delicious seafood. The city is quite tiny in terms of physical meter sense but quite long in terms of its beauty. So that small late afternoonish stroll form one gate to another was a pretty sweet welcome to the gem of Croatia. Stay tuned for more adventures from the city of Game of Thrones!

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Rocky shores of Adriatic

Rocky shores of Adriatic

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What a magical welcome!

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Hibernating before the summer season kicks off

Sunset view

Dubrovnik harbour looking all dreamy in the sunset sky <3

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Seeking refuge in what makes me happy

September has not been an easy month – emotionally draining actually. I am not a diary person, never been and now is not the time either to pour my heart out. It would be nice to just escape it all… emotions, people, work, problems… I do believe in the magic of Christmas though, and Christmas is right around the corner. Maybe Santa with the help of red-nosed reindeers will spread some snow powder, stop the time from making crazy turns and make things happy again.

Until then I will hang on to that magic thought and seek refuge in one thing that never fails to put a smile on my face – strolling around with a camera in my hand and taking pictures of the beautiful that surrounds us in the place we call home yet goes so easily unnoticed as we rush through life.

Strolling around, taking pictures and listening to heart-warming melodies is exactly what I did in the weekend – walking around my neighbourhood in pretty København and trying to capture little bit of its beauty…

This shy beauty reminded me so much of autumn itself - a canvas painted with subtle burst of colours

This shy beauty reminded me so much of autumn itself – a canvas painted with subtle burst of colours

On a stroll in my hood - the iconic facades of Vesterbro

On a stroll in my hood – the iconic facades of Vesterbro

A new addition to Vesterbro - Axel Towers. Has some pretty cool angles.

A new addition to Vesterbro – Axel Towers. Has some pretty cool angles.

One of my favourite sights in the city - Københavns Rådhus from a new angle now that the green wall of the metro construction finally came down...

One of my favourite sights in the city – Københavns Rådhus from a new angle now that the green wall of the metro construction finally came down…

Colourful facades to bring some joy to the dark and gloomy sky

Colourful facades to bring some joy to the dark and gloomy sky

These two lovely ladies sitting comfortably on a rickshaw ala Denmark probably had quite a fun ride

These two lovely ladies sitting comfortably on a rickshaw ala Denmark probably had quite a fun ride

Dramatic sky hangs over Christiansborg - Danish Parliament

Dramatic sky hangs over Christiansborg – Danish Parliament

The bell tower of Rådhus - City Hall of København

The bell tower of Rådhus – City Hall of København

Lurblæserne - lur blowers announcing the start of autumn

Lurblæserne – lur blowers announcing the start of autumn

A postcard from København <3

A postcard from København <3

Photos © Ani Movsisyan

Getting my writing muse back

It has been a while… quite a while since I took to the typewriter to share stories from my travels around the world… 2 years to be exact. Not that there was any lack of exciting stories that could fill a whole book. Quite the opposite, the globetrotter that I am, I took every opportunity to escape into new and familiar lands… It’s just when life gets really busy at times, you forget to prioritise things that once made you very happy. It so happened that as I started a new job my workaholic self quite adamantly took control and dominated over my writing self.

IMG_1167Here I am 2 years later, trying to break that spell and find my writing muse again. Never too late, right? It all started by gentle nudges I kept getting over time by a couple of very special persons that made me reconsider that maybe it was time to restart my blog. Well cheers to that! If you, aka the special persons, are reading this, know that I am truly grateful :)

As I look back on thousands of travel pictures and the map of places I have traversed in the past 2 years, they bring back many happy smiles and beautiful memories. However memories also have this funny quality to them, they are like floating clouds, gently fading away through time and depriving you of the small nuances that come across your path when travelling.

Instead of dwelling on the past and regretting not transferring travel memoirs to ink just in time, I will instead focus on the present and the future. And the present currently is very much focused on oh so bella Italia!

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Stay tuned for stories from the eternal city of Roma that just celebrated its 2771st anniversary.

Photos © Ani Movsisyan