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.

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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?

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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.

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Beautiful patterns in nature are all over Bornholm!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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We found them! The blegblå anemone of Bornholm.

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A carpet of flowers lies in front of us.

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Where the road leads to…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.
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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 😀

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On the cobblestoned streets of Sighisoara.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Reflections…

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.

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We have arrived in Brasov.

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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.

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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 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.

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

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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.

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The two eye-pleasers of Budapest greeting in passing.

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

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The rain brought out such intensity in colours.

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

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

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The elegant Chain Bridge linking this grand city together!

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The Hungarian Parliament is mesmerising in day and night.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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 4 – Exploring Moravia

Day 4: August 30, 2015
Time: 10:00
Location: Skutec, Czech Republic
Destination: Olomouc, Czech Republic

Little past midnight we arrived in Skutec. Our original plan was to spend the night in beautiful town of Kutna Hora. Somehow with our short booking window and the late hour of looking for accommodation on Airbnb, we ended up grossly underestimating the distance between the two towns by a small 70 km. On the interesting side, nothing could beat our home for the night in Skutec.

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A picture says 1000 words. I hope this picture we took of our home in the morning sun is able to convey a little bit of that experience. A mixture of a clay hut and a nomad Mongolian tent, hand-made by our kind host Jan and his friends. Inside there was a mismatch of all kinds of furniture and hammocks occupying all nooks and crannies of the hut. The toilet was a dry closet, a polite way of saying hole in the ground. Quite an experience!

As it was a weekend, the local car workshop was closed in Skutec, so Kutna Hora, with its Bohemian charm stayed as an unexplored point on our paper map. Driving backwards with a car, whose behaviour couldn’t be quite predicted judging by its capricious actions of the day before was not an enticing option. Hence, forward lay the road. In the August heat across the Czech countryside to Olomouc in Moravia.

There is something very charming about Czech architecture. The cities feel like they are taken straight out of medieval fairy tales, the cobblestoned narrow streets, the colourful, beautiful buildings that are adorned with details ready to mesmerise you. Prague, the Czech crown jewel is of course hard to beat. But don’t underestimate the beauty that awaits you in the rest of the country. Beauty that is no less charming and comes with no tourist crowds.

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Olomouc is one of these small gems. We arrived in the city boiling in the heat to find charming streets, void of people, who probably had taken refugee in their homes to escape the summer heat.

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The multi-coloured facades of Olomouc

Our first mission was to locate food! On the way from Skutec the car kept us hostage, and we were afraid to do any extracurricular stops as long as the Rover baby kept on driving. So we arrived in Olomouc starving. With Andreas’ excellent food-spotting skills we found a charming café with a French name, tucked away in a quiet backyard, with plenty of cuteness and trees to shade from the sun. IMG_7729

Moving down the list of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we put a tick on the hunger box, and turned our attention to the next basic need – shelter. A quick Airbnb search brought us to a lovely apartment right in the center of the city overlooking the charming roofs of old buildings and with a prime view to the city hall tower. Our host was the sweetest Czech family, a young couple with two most adorable kids.

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Armed with local tips from our hosts, we set off to discover the city. First off, Olomouc is really small, you can walk across the city in practically 30 min. Nonetheless, the amount of cuteness we discovered was far enough to keep our travellers’ eyes occupied for a couple of hours.

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Cuteness overload. The cobblestoned streets and old buildings are a sweet sight for our eyes.

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Look at this mosaic! It is incredible. From this grandiose entrance you would expect to find at a very least a palace. Hold your breath. It is a restaurant! Supposedly gourmet and all, we didn’t try it but it had a sophisticated menu and matching prices to go with the luxurious entrance.

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Olomouc has surprisingly many churches for a city of its size. The imposing Saint Wenceslas cathedral is set on a hill and is a nice stroll to make from the old city center.

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Locals hanging out in a community garden.

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An abandoned venue turned into a “secret” cinema.

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During service times, bikes get a VIP parking inside the church.

When we travel, there is always one must-do item on our itinerary, and that is to get a bird’s eye view over the place. In European capitals, there is always a good chance to find a church, a hill or on few occasions a high-rise that has a commanding view of the surroundings. In Olomouc, this old charming city, the church of St. Michael had the honour to watch over the city. As we ascended its spiral staircase the sun was about to set, spreading a magical glow all over.

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The view from St. Michael’s church.

The main attraction of Olomouc is the city hall square with its Holy Trinity Column that is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is also the place where we kept returning to after criss-crossing the small streets. A pretty impressive sight.

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Besides the impressive column, the square has another highlight – an astronomical clock. Of course, Prague has its world-famous clock, so it would have been strange not to find one in Olomouc too. Don’t hurry to pass on judgement. It is not about copying all that Prague does. The one in Olomouc is not only astronomical, it is also very very Soviet. Yep! A remnant of the good old socialist times. As the cuckoo announces the strokes of an hour, slim figures of hard-working men and women pop out displaying the full glory and various trades of the Soviet era.

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The astronomical clock of Olomouc is quite a show.

After walking around for a couple of hours we ended the day’s adventures at a popular local brewery. The Czech food, at least this dinner plate we were served in Olomouc reminded quite a lot of Bavarian food. Simple delights, no effort spent on gourmet twists.

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Our dinner plate for two with the complementary Pilsner of course. Na zdravi!

On our way back home we passed by the impressive square again. The bustling liveliness of the afternoon had worn off and the beautiful silence was only broken by the steps of occasional passers-by. A beautiful day spent in a beautiful city. Tomorrow new roads await us.

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Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

AA on the road: Day 1 – Buying the car in Berlin

Day 1: August 27, 2015
Time: 04:30
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Destination: Berlin, Germany

The dawn is about to break. Despite catching just 4 hours of sleep we wake up fresh as morning dew hyped from joy and the anticipation of the wide road that lay in front of us. After months of dreaming, worrying, planning, drawing, reading, searching, and dreaming again our big adventure is about to start.

Rewinding a few hours into the evening before, Andreas, the packing-master did an impeccable job of cramming our month’s of travel essentials into two medium-sized The North Face duffle bags. As he pulled the zipper shut on the bags in the late hours of the night, I had two thoughts:

1. Andreas is the Yoda master of packing! Seriously. Every inch of what to me seemed a rather small bag, was masterfully utilised. Every nook and cranny was neatly packed. Every single item we wanted to bring found a home. If there was ever a championship for packing, he would with no doubt win the title. You will discover more excellent proof of this later on as he artfully packed all the goodies of Armenia from lavash, peach, grapes to jams and wine into a 20 kg suitcase.

2. How on earth did I go from doing a weekend travel with a fully packed North Face bag to the same fully packed North Face bag rationed for one month of travel! Insane. I must say at that moment I secretly felt rather proud of myself for developing traits that helped me to exercise self-discipline on my urge of packing ah these 3 cannot travel without dresses, and oh that absolutely essential t-shirt collection, and 3 pairs of shoes… Don’t be fooled, it was a darn hard struggle, firmly led by the packing master, Andreas. After a month on the road though as I was unpacking the bag I found that there were even clothes I simply didn’t manage to wear throughout the trip. Ah girls…

Back to the morning after. We have a flight to catch. We are going home. To Berlin. Our home for a year and a city that has become the site of our annual pilgrimage since then. Quite symbolically Berlin is what we chose as the start of our road trip.

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This oh-so-familiar corridor at Tegel airport in Berlin. Magical city, here we come!

One hour on an AirBerlin plane, and we are taxiing to the gate of TXL. This airport is not one of the world’s most glamorous, but oh it is so efficient. 5 minutes in and out the door and you are on your way to a TXL airport bus taking you into the city that has so much to offer, to amaze and to make you fall in love with.

Our mission for the day is to locate and secure our ride. A rather important mission, given a car is an absolutely essential attribute of accomplishing a road trip. After many hours of online search Andreas had already shortlisted three potential candidates for us to check out. We naively thought that it would not be such a hard task buying a used car, after all it is civilised, law-abiding Germany we are talking about. But oh no… Berlin car dealers. Many pages could be dedicated to this particular segment of the city’s population. We will suffice with only a brief summary of probably the most intense day of our trip.

Around 11:00 we arrive at the first address, a huge impound, somewhere in Neukölln to check out the first candidate, an old Mitsubishi. After just a few seconds on the site we already felt like we were in Turkey. After some Turkish/Arabic exchange of screams among the various dealers, we are finally shown the right car dealer who possessed the Mitsubishi from the online ad. But the first attempt is almost never a success. Voila the car miraculously broke down yesterday and of course the dealer did not even bother to remove it from the online system or even try to fix it. Disappointed we leave the impound, off to the second location.

This one is half-way across Berlin somewhere in Südkreuz. This time the impound, or rather the car yard, was a much smaller site, with only a few exhibits. The dealer – another Turkish member of the Berlin car mafia, constantly on the phone and constantly screaming. In between those calls he showed us the car – a scratched, beaten up, plastic parts broken off Land Rover. Test drive did not make it better. After futile attempts to try to say thank you and good-bye to the dealer, who did not even bother to interrupt his 20 min and counting conversation, we left the premises to find the third car place.

Seems like we arrive at the hornet’s nest run by a Lebanese familia. Ali was the man who was juggling around a couple of bosses. He had many cars for sale, and among them with a dead battery parked behind a couple other cars, stood our beauty, an old, very old Land Rover Freelander. For Andreas it was love at first sight. His eyes were set on it and only on it.

After 3 hours spent walking around in the impound, being called kollega left and right, witnessing many phone calls, negotiations, Polish buyers, money flying around, and observing firsthand a closely tied network of dealer-car workshop-paper fixer, we were finally taken to a werkstatt where cars were piling on each other. So Andreas’ dream car was deemed unfit to pass the TÜV test, the German car test that is needed for obtaining a car registration. We drive back to the impound, and after some more hours and many more phone calls and a brief meeting with the Big Boss himself we negotiate a price and a plan to make the car ready for us by Saturday, the day we would like to start our drive towards Czech Republic.

After a total of 5 hours on the impound, feeling exhausted, hungry and dusty we were released to enjoy the evening in Berlin.

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Exhausted. 5 hours with Gebrauchtwagen händler in Neukölln finally paid off. Maybe? Awaiting TÜV test and Ausfuhrkennzeichen.

Every time we visit Berlin, there is one special place that we always return to: Sony Center & Potsdamer Platz. If you have been to Berlin, you will probably say just about now, but that is so touristy, why, oh why? Well, yes it is. Potsdamer Platz is quite popular amongst the crowds of people visiting Berlin. The Berlin Wall once ran here. We love it for two reasons: #1 it houses the Sony Center, a beautiful piece of architectural mind. We have our beloved spot, lying on the metal benches under the center’s colourful roof, surrounded by all the life passing by, and gazing dreamily at this sky… And that is exactly what we did to release the long day’s exhaustion.

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There is no place like this – Sony Center

#2 is the sight of the three skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz. Somehow standing there on that busy sidewalk, at the crossroads of Berlin’s turbulent history, looking up at these three buildings, you think back on the past and look forward to the future.

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Potsdamer Platz in evening light.

So here we where, in the midst of enjoying pizza at our usual pizza joint on Potsdzmer Platz, when Ali the car dealer, tracks us down to sign some papers for the car registration and receive cash, of course more than initially agreed for the broker’s service, another guy in the familia, to handle the registration for us with a small price bump along the way. After a really long day, we say good night to Berlin, hoping that the morning after will come with good news…and hopefully no more last-minute pricing surprises.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

The magic trinity – summer, sun, Snogebæk

A postcard from beautiful fishing village Snogebæk

A postcard from beautiful fishing village Snogebæk

As the weekend comes to an end, I just wanted to share all the summer love and beauty it contained. We are on Bornholm again, back to enjoy some hygge time with our thesis writing. The postcard-perfect nature provides the best setting for focusing your mind, letting your thoughts flow onto your fingertips. In between the long hours of typing away, we also managed to steal a few moments away from the computer screen and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Kornblomst, the cornflower, is my favourite beauty of the island.

Kornblomst, the cornflower, is my favourite beauty of the island. So simple and graceful…

On the south-eastern coast of Bornholm, there is one very special place – the village of Snogebæk. This tiny pearl is a true paradise, but you shouldn’t take my word for it, as I might be a little biased, given it is my husband, Andreas’ homeplace. Rather, you should come and experience its mesmerizing beauty yourself. And trust me you will yearn to come back after that one single visit.

Snogebæk has beaches so white and pristine I feel like I am walking in a Robinson Crusoe dream every single time my feet touch the soft sand. If you think this is a picture from Maldives, think again!

This white sand beach of Snogebæk catches my breath every single time.

This white sand beach of Snogebæk catches my breath every single time.

On our previous visit to Bornholm in May, the island was all about an ocean of yellow flowers. A month later all the yellow prettiness disappeared as if Hermione was on the island waving her magic wand and casting some beautiful spells. Instead Bornholm was covered in the sea of white and pink flowers that were in perfect harmony with the rocky beaches.

The colours of Snogebæk in June

The colours of Snogebæk in June

Love the sight of these beauties!

Love the sight of these beauties!

The weekend was also about eating delicious smoked fish. And that is something Snogebæk knows how to smoke properly.

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Bøjsens is

Who can say no to a scoop of this deliciousness? Not us…

That was one beautiful weekend, that passed flew away way too quickly. Hope the sun was shining out there for you as well :)

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Greetings from Snogebæk. This place is just wonderful!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan