27-28 June: Amsterdam – Kayseri – Avanos

As if I haven’t traveled enough already this month… Greetings from Turkey! Last evening my father and I took the night flight from Amsterdam to Kayseri. The plane was fully packed with Turkish people aged from 0.5 till 100. We were the only two tall blonde ‘cheeseheads’ on the entire flight. Interestingly, one of the passengers caused some trouble. Just before lift-off, when one’s surely not supposed to walk around, he tried to enter the toilet several times already. Furthermore, he kept on annoying the stewardesses with his obsession about the oxygen masks. It seemed all a bit threatening, and unfortunately this behavior didn’t stop during the flight. At a certain point the captain of the plane demanded the man, over the radio, to stop it, or else we would land on any airport on the route to Turkey where the police would be waiting for him. Luckily it didn’t get that far. What I noticed during this particular flight is that Turkish people seem very occupied with moving things and themselves during the flight. I’m normally used to Baltic people and Scandinavians, who manage to sit still for two hours without any problems. When we landed we obtained a visa, a small paper with a colorful sticker. The visa office looked like being exactly the same as it could have looked like thirty years ago. Dull colors, antique prints, old fashioned telecommunication and a portrait of Atatürk centrally observing the Dutch passport owners being charged 25 euro’s per person. All names were carefully written down in a big book. Once through the passport control we had to wait for our suitcase, along with many mothers trying to keep their tired and annoyed children calm. Buying a bottle of water failed, as the only shop being open during midnight solely sold cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Two policemen kept all the people picking up their loved ones away from the arrival hall, which resulted in a seemingly honorary bow consisting of many small Turkish people who all stared at me with big eyes when making my first steps on Turkish soil. A memorable welcome! A crew member of Rainbow Balloons picked us up and in the middle of the night we drove through Kayseri towards Meskendir Valley. Incredible, how many mosques I saw. Remarkable also how bright green lights are used to highlight beautiful buildings during the night. The way of advertising reminded me a bit of Poland: colorful plaques praising goods through various fonts that had their popularity peak a decade ago. When being close to the final destination, the balloon heart of Turkey, we noticed that morning flight take-offs are scheduled a little earlier here. When it was still slightly dark, at 05.00 o’clock, the first balloons packed with fanatically waving sweet Japanese people found their way upwards. What a beautiful sight; the most magic rock formations and balloons appearing from every single valley. A fantastic way to start off this day, or to end it, as we didn’t manage to catch some sleep during the entire night. We were brought to our little attic apartment in Avanos, having two balconies with both a great view (from which we saw around 60 balloons this morning), a bathroom with soft pink elements attached with too less screws, a kitchen, two beds and an interestingly squared Styrofoam ceiling that most probably wouldn’t pass the esthetics-check at any local DIY company in the Netherlands. After a well deserved nap my father and I met some lovely people leading Rainbow Balloons. It was great to have a look at a Turkish balloon company once. It looked all so nicely organized. During the afternoon we hung around a bit with a Spanish pilot and a young Spanish couple. We walked through Göreme a bit, spotting many caves people used to live in, but which are now heavily affected by erosion. Some happy (possibly stray) dogs, looking nicely clean actually, accompanied us during a short walk. Because of the high temperature there was some thunder in the air, as well as some rain. But, that didn’t matter, because at a bar named Fat Boys we enjoyed a drink and a tasty portion of baklava. It must be hard for the guys working in the restaurants now, because apparently today was the first day of the Ramadan. They thus didn’t eat or drink during the day. We reside in a not so touristy neighborhood in Avanos, and when the loudspeakers just transmitted a prayer, I saw families all over town starting their well deserved huge meals. Yes, that’s another thing I noticed: the light. The light bulbs in Turkish living rooms shine out this very bright and rather uncozy light (even though the huge families having dinner together do look very cozy).  I observed that before with African people living in the Netherlands, but that is all not that interesting. Time to sleep. Arturo, the Spanish pilot, will pick us up tomorrow at 03.30!
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Goodbye Baltics…

They have made me to who I am now… Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Within five valuable years I expanded my world view, got used to different mentalities, survived heaps of snow with -30 degrees and discovered both the most beautiful as well as most dirty places I had ever seen. I found love, and I lost love. I learned to say no and to trust my intuition. I found out the characteristics of being Dutch through self spot and pride, realizing that origin can often be traced back within one’s reasoning. I felt lonely on the most crowded student parties, but yet so fulfilled and energized when strolling along the sea side, through centuries old Russian cemeteries and abandoned side streets, all alone. There’ll be things I’ll miss, like my friends, the warm Baltic evening light, all magic but non-touristy places and the surprisingly informal atmosphere within the universities and internship placements.  There are also things I’m not going to miss, like the Lithuanian style inner-curve-taking way of walking which I still don’t get, the often experienced ‘customer isn’t king’-behavior, and the smell of people drinking so much cheap beer and vodka that they simply sweat pure alcohol, and then always manage to stand too close when there’s no way out, brr. Five years at this beautiful corner of Europe made me more independent, more intelligent, more open, more creative and even less judgmental. Being comfortable with yourself and your achievements is one of the greatest satisfactions you can have as a young adult. Especially as a woman, it was a delight (through a.o. the topic of my Master thesis, having to do with sexual objectification) to properly and comfortably distance myself from the immense female self-body-monitoring that seemingly occupies the lives of the majority of women here. The insight in the mechanism provided self acceptance and satisfaction, leaving a lot of time left to notice other things in life, let it be a special bird or just the change of light. Yes, the Baltics made me realize there is much to enjoy in life. Because of my experiences here, I managed to put my teen-like shyness aside and to perceive the world with open arms, but yet, always strongly relying on all my senses. If I could do it over again, I’d walk the exact same path.

From teen to young adult in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I left my teen years behind somewhere in Russia, where I celebrated my 20th birthday in 2010.

It’s Master Bos now! Plus, pictures from Poland and Slovakia.

Hello world! Even though my travel blog suddenly stopped because of a lack of properly working internet, it doesn’t mean that I’ve not been active lately In fact, since this very afternoon I may call myself Master Bos! I received my Master degree in Journalism and Media Analysis from Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. The previous days I didn’t really realize yet that today would be the final stage of my educational career – although I of course keep on learning my life long. Guess I was still a bit with my head in the clouds, as I’ve just returned from a lovely week in Slovakia during which I joined a fantastic Latvian balloon team. We had so much fun and managed to make two breathtaking flights over colorful Kosice. Amazing actually, how ballooning unites in such a quick and enjoyable way. 
If you’re curious about the pictures I took in Slovakia, please feel free to have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10203382754225623.1073741846.1114675137&type=1&l=f107ec67a4
I also uploaded an album with more pictures about my solo travel through Southern Poland (I still cannot believe how incredibly awesome that was!), which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10203395061813305.1073741847.1114675137&type=1&l=ac037e0b56
Both links should also be accessible for people without having a Facebook account. But, there is more! I made a video report about the adventures of team Latvia in Slovakia as well: http://youtu.be/gBQZ7KZfhy8
Enjoy! I’ll take a well deserved rest after this day with mixed emotions. Sleep tight!

Master Bos!

Day 7: Slovakia!

So, let me tell you a little bit about yesterday. During the morning I strolled around Zakopane a bit, trying to see a few more of those typical wooden houses with detailed carvings. At 11 o’clock I had to check-out from the hostel, so fully packed I took a mini bus towards the Polish-Slovakian border, which consists of a sweet looking restaurant and some piece of pavement functioning as a parking lot for hikers and a bus stop. I was told there would be busses running every half an hour from there. Well, they surely have long 30 minutes here then, because in between my connection and the previous bus were around four hours. I had plenty of time to enjoy the border atmosphere, which actually didn’t feel too special, but the Tatra mountains were anyways beautiful to look at. I eventually managed to get to Poprad by bus. It was extremely hot and the dark thunderstormy sky made a nice contrast with the mountain tops covered in snow. I felt rather pale walking around there; I didn’t expect to see so many gypsies. This is not such a nice thing to say, and it’s not my intention to generalize or be mean, but by looking at the faces of some people, you could just clearly see that there had been some sexual activity going on between family members. Back to the easier side of this story… I took the train to Kosice; my final destination for the next couple of days. I was surprised to see that Slovakia has so many beautiful hills. What a nice country! Ingrid, the organizer of the balloon fiesta that will be held in Kosice these days, picked me up from the train station. Our timing was perfect, because as soon as we headed off to her house it started to storm very heavily. Wind, rain, hail, thunder, lightning… Ingrid lives just outside the city on a hill, from which you have a beautiful view. She lives there together with Arend Jan, a Dutch pilot. The situation during my arrival was a bit hectic. Everywhere in their house, for the first time this bad, water was leaking. One of the neighbors lost his chimney and yet another neighbor (a Slovak speaking Dutch) had one of his windows flying into a room. Luckily nobody got hurt. During the evening it calmed down, so together with Arend Jan, Ingrid and another Dutch ballooning couple we enjoyed a tasty barbecue meal. As soon as a bottle of strong spirit was opened, amazing ballooning stories were shared about Russia, Georgia, and other interesting countries. Yeah, it’s good to be here, in this beautiful, huge, wooden house on top of a mountain. And, the cherry on the cake: a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I love that dog!

Slovakia!

Day 6: Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw

What a fantastic day! I visited two lakes on the Polish border with Slovakia: Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw. I spent the entire day there, walking, sweating and enjoying. The way to Morskie Oko is paved very well, so it’s not much of a challenge. More exciting is the walk around this beautiful lake and the trip to Czarny Staw, located way higher. It wasn’t too busy, but also not too calm. Once again the Dutch idea of ‘cozy busy’ could be applied onto the overall atmosphere. I was surprised that I hardly saw and heard any foreigners. Bascially all people hiking around there were Poles. On the more quiet tracks they all greeted me; how friendly! I love this country! Ready for some pictures?

The water was so nicely clear. I drank at least a liter of it too, as it was so refreshing. Let’s see during my next toilet visit if that was clever or not 😉

Morskie Oko
Czarny Staw, with still some ice floating around in it
Ice, ice, baby!
 Part of the path surrounding Morskie Oko
I’m quite sad I have to leave this wonderful place soon. I’ll surely be back! Luckily there is a lot more fun waiting for me. There is some ballooning time scheduled for the upcoming days: whoohoo, I love my life!

Day 5: Krakow – Zakopane

Time to leave Krakow behind. It has been a delight! This morning I packed my suitcase and headed Southwards, to the cozy town Zakopane, located right next to the Tatra mountains. Even though I got a little car sick during the bus drive, I must say it was definitely worth it. The snowy mountain tops of the Tatra area looked magnificent within the bright sun light. The hostel here in Zakopane seems to be all fine. For the same price I was somehow immediately upgraded to a six-person room, even though I booked a bed in a 10-person room. The bathrooms are lovely. A bit more privacy than in the hostel in Krakow for sure! There were semi-transparent shower doors, and no distinction was made between a female and male shower. So, when brushing my teeth, seeing the reflection of the shower doors in the mirror, I saw more masculinity than I should have.

I actually expected Zakopane to be a sleepy little town, but wow, there is so much going on! In the Netherlands we often say ‘gezellig druk’, so, cozy busy. Well, that’s how I would describe the atmosphere here as well. Not too many people, not too less. When I dropped off my suitcase at the hostel I immediately started off hiking. I went to Gubalowka. A fast train smoothly slides up that mountain from time to time, but I decided rather to walk to the top. Sweaty weather! But, nicely sunny though. I applied my well needed factor 50+ sun screen several times today, but I still managed to get burnt a bit. The hike was relaxing, a little tough because of the warm weather, but overall very fulfilling. During the evening I strolled around the nice centre of Zakopane, filled with characteristic wooden houses. 50% of all the shops here are outdoor shops, so next time when I need a new pair of colorful hiking shoes I know where to go! Round little cheeses with patterns carved in them seem to be a speciality of this region. Every couple of meters some ladies are standing selling their wares, which because of the sun became shiny and sweaty. Hm.

A couple of years ago I went to Warsaw alone, and even though it was an interesting trip, I didn’t feel too comfortable there. That’s different during this little holiday though. With all the terribly bad stereotypes about dangerous Poland circulating in the Netherlands, I must say I feel very, very safe, both here in Zakopane as well as in Krakow. My respect for this country only rises. A long trip is planned for tomorrow, so I better charge my own batteries, and the one for my camera now!

Day 4: Krakow (including balloon talk!)

The last full day in Krakow. At least… for now. I’ll be back! Today I started off checking out the little market located next to the hostel I’m staying at. Lots of strawberries and old Polish people fanatically buying fresh ingredients for their next meal. Krakow’s old town is surrounded by a large piece of green; grass, trees, benches, birds… By taking the green route I eventually ended up in the Jewish part of town, namely Kazimierz. Apparently I was a little too early, as the restaurants were only just slowly starting to open up. There were however incredibly many young guys in golf carts around, hunting for groups of tourists wanting to join them on their sightseeing tours. The overall atmosphere in Kazimierz was alright, but I somehow expected it to be a little bit more arty and alternative. I guess this vibe would however be a bit more noticeable during a later stage of the day. The market located at a cozy square was worth visiting though. A lot of old stuff, but surely of true value for all sorts of collectors. I walked along the river Wisla, enjoying the sun warming my skin. I spent an hour in the park during lunch, just sitting there, observing all people passing by. A very small impression:

What I noted for the rest is that there are a lot of Swedish, English and Austrian tourists here in Krakow. And, a lot of locals have a kick scooter, young and old! Interesting was also to see that a lot of fathers are actively occupied with their children. Yeah, the overall atmosphere here is very pleasant.
This morning I found a nice message in my inbox from a balloon-minded local; if I’d be interested to meet today. Well, of course! A young blue-eyed Polish look-a-like of Tom Cruise during his Top Gun time named Marek, since recently balloon pilot, was waiting for me in old town. We took a little walk while enjoying some of the best ice cream in town, and afterwards we sat down on a cozy terrace with a good Polish beer. Ballooning unites! Apparently he had been in Chambley too during the previous fantastic edition, so we had many stories to share. Time for another beer, and some traditional Polish pirogi. What a delight to just sit there and talk. Before we knew, it was after 22.00 already. Guess it’s time to slowly start to pack my suitcase now, because tomorrow the second part of my trip will start. Somehow a pity, I really like this city!

The next picture of us will be in between the balloons in France next year 😉