Back to Italy for a month

After feeling uncomfortable with my choice of using an airplane to travel (very unethical), but very grateful i have the opportunity to do it anyways, I landed at Bologna airport and found my way to Enrico’s house.
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Enrico I had met on the bus after leaving the Guca festival in Serbia and making my way to Tessaloniki to meet Mario. We spent a crazy night together in Skopje, Macedonia. Bologna captured my interest through all the great stories people had told me about it and I was interested to see some of the projects Enrico was working on, concerning music and migrants. And wow, Bologna is one hell of a city! Without a doubt the most interesting Italian city I visited and the only one I would consider living in for a while. First of all, it is beautiful!

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The architecture is stunning, the colours – all orange and red – give the city a comforting warm vibe and with lots students, young people and migrants it is a beautiful colourfull mix of cultures, social projects, warmth, sharing, open-mindedness.

The streets are alive and packed with interesting street art.
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The city is full of free projects and events, based on sharing, caring and integrating.

Enrico lives with a Spanish violinist, a Palestinian musician and his shining sister Betta. One night we made a delicious palestinian meal, yummie!
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I had the pleasure to live with these beautiful people a couple of days and many things happened! Betta took me to make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless, dancing in the street 😉
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I enjoyed two nights of Arte Migrante, where a great group of migrants shared food and played music
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I just love this cultural diversity which gives life so much colour 😀 The atmosphere was beautiful, many people felt free and safe enough to share their music, theatre, poetry with the group.
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I was even convinced to sing a song on stage, damn, who could have expected I would ever do that?! They asked me because I had been singing in the house and in the streets all the time. Also, I had been playing Enrico’s guitar in the park,
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where I ran into this beautiful lady from Senegal, making these hair decorations, so I decided to get one in the colours of Bologna, a nice reminder of a beautiful inspiring city, which makes me realize the more what makes my heart beat: the beauty of people taking care of each other, especially through food and music.

I shared a lunch at the social centre
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and joined Betta to her African dance class.
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So much positive energy! A bunch of girls going crazy to the live beat produced by a couple of beautiful very talented men. It’s not so easy and therefore hilarious (the laughing at my own dancing didnt help), I sure need a couple more lessons, but I had a great time 😀

I attended a couple different yoga classes, trying out the different styles possible. One time I ended up in this fancy class with middle-aged women wearing lots of make-up and tight Nike-wear, paying this horrible yoga teacher for private lessons. Of course I am grateful they let me join (with very inappropriate clothing, I carry a very limited wardrobe haha) but decided this was not for me. Another lesson was full of elderly women spending almost all 1,5 hours on just breathing while sun solutations seemed to be too difficult for most. A third lesson was sivananda yoga, which made me very happy! This yoga includes a lot of balancing postures and headstands, which makes it a bit acrobatic. I loved it! My new favourite form of yoga. Together with acro yoga, which I first learned about in Bulgaria, practiced a little bit with Chris in Istanbul and am looking forward to pursue more. Lots of fun!

I also fell in love with Italian sunday lunches ❤ Apparently it’s a big deal and people take a lot of time to prepare and enjoy them together. I had the pleasure to move to the countryside and share the lunch with Enrico’s family: his parents, sister, aunt, two grandma’s, Paul (a fantastic friend of Betta I would meet a couple more times) and Travis.
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Enrico was travelling with Travis when I met him in Serbia and it was great to see him again. He was very excited to show me his garden, his homegrown kiwano
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and he sang us a song he had written. Also Betta played some music on her ukelele and we spent some time in the sun, playing around, doing some headstands and flips, massaging each other, taking a walk around the countryside and visiting the very traditional little town. Isn’t life beautiful 🙂 The food was amazing, of course I would say, we’re in Italy! Betta and her aunt and mother had spent the previous day preparing home made tortelinnis (so today i was not vegetarian) which was just the starter of a couple hours during fantastic lunch, followed by sweets and some small liqour. Everything was there. I never experienced these grandscale family gatherings and whenever I get invited to one I get very emotional. I realize all families have their problems, but I always find it so beautiful to see the members taking time to spend together in such beautiful ways. Great customs, don’t lose them! I have written it before but I realize more and more the importance of family and I feel so sorry I left them behind… I keep struggeling to find a balance between finding my own happiness and being with/spending precious time with/taking care of my family. How the hell do I combine these two? I spend a lot of time and tears contemplating about this question.. anyways, it’s an ongoing quest of finding balance in (one aspect of) life, which is not to to be resolved but to be questioned again and again..

The next weekend I left Bologna to reunite with Mario in Venice, maybe the most beautiful city humankind has ever built.
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I just love strawling around her streets, especially at night, so romantic &lt. It was strange to see Mario again after such a long time, and to find out my love for him had not changed one single bit. Some people just bring a huge smile to your face and warm vibrations through your body the moment you see them and even more the moment you get to hug them again! Oke, actually many people have this effect on me 😉 But some are special (‘special’ preferably pronounced in a retarded way :p) and really touch some deeper level inside of me.

After reuniting and getting used to each other again, making sure it was real and not just a dream, the next day I had the pleasure of making fun of a very embarrased Mario. I was invited to watch him play the lute, dressed as a monk at this medeival manifestation in the small town of Arcole.
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I thought it was a lot of fun but Mario was incredibly embarrased which made it ever more funny. I supported him by dressing up like a monk too, (unfortunately there were no beautiful damsel dresses anymore :/).
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There were a lot of young guys from the fencing school very enthousiastic about these kind of events, volunteering their free time to dress up and play. They thought me some basics about fencing, which was fun!
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The boss walked around like a boss, polishing his gun and shooting it in the air now and then. Every one of them was a real character, I enjoyed it a lot 😀 The only thing that really got me down was this horrible falconers who showed their birds by having them sit on pestals with chains around their paws preventing them to fly away, even though they kept trying.
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It was so sad to see, I felt ashamed of my name and considered using the swords to free them. It was disgusting to watch and even more disgusting to talk tothem and hear their stupid justifications for keeping the birds captured (‘we didnt take them from free life, they were born in captivity’; ‘everybody needs a job, this is ours’; ‘we fly them twice a week; one hour!’ etc.); made me angry and nausious. I was about to chop the heads of the visitors laughing at the birds trying to fly away, only to be pulled back by their chains. I never understood what is the pleasure of watching animals in captivity.

Back in Venice Mario was in class during the days and we spent lunches and evenings together. We discovered this fantastic Indian restaurant and a little place ran by migrants, resulting in beautiful dishes from around the world, delicious! We also spent some time cooking together, which for me is one of the most beautiful things you can share, especially when someone is as enthousiastic as Mario 😀
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I enjoy cooking so much, I more and more think it could be my livelihood.. Just not in these highclass restaurants anymore, but cooking to share, with or for locals, the poor, the homeless, migrants.. Providing them nutricious meals cooked with love and attention. I solely buy organic and do lots of research about nutrition and healthy and natural ways of living. Trying to ban chemicals from my live and going back to natural ways of living. It is beautiful, it gives me so much pleasure and Id love to share this knowledge and experiences! And Mario was a great partner in crime 😀
He teaches me many things to, like how to be a real person, how to follow your own heart, how not to spend your precious time and energy on things and people that bring you down. We are both on the other side of the scale and we respect and learn from each other and grow more and more close. Very inspiring and heart warming!

During my days i visited Burano island, where all the houses have different pastel colours making it the most beautiful and cheerful island to visit, especially out of tourist season and fantastic in the mist, wow.
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I visited this beautiful palace which housed an exhibition from artists from around the world.
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The palace was stunning by itself but one artist really captured my attention. Sebastiao Salgado travelled the world to photograph untouched nature (and some tribes) and collected the images in this incredible book called Genesis, I would highly recommend!
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I spent hours looking at the pictures of all the greatness our mother nature provides us, damn, she is one hell of a lady, you go girl!

While in Italy, I had the chance to meet up with more friends from Italy, it was incredible how the universe worked together to make it possible to see every one of them during these days. So I travelled to Forli! (I used Blablacar for the first time, great concept!)
I had the pleasure of spending the two weeks of permaculture design course in Bulgaria with Roberto and Valentina, who lightened up my days by lots of love, smiles, hugs, singing, guitar playing and helping me in the kitchen. They are the ones that had transported my bike to Istanbul and they inspired me with their projects like teaching beekeeping to refugees and permaculture to children. I helped them paint the walls of their new room in a beautiful house in the countryside, where they would live together with three other families, sharing the house and the garden, growing their own food, keeping bees,
and playing music. Sounds like heaven to me! A fantastic kakifruit tree was giving us great fruit 🙂
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And their honey was delicious!
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Even though being together like forever and married since a couple years they still prefer to live together with other people and share the beauties of life. Again, very inspiring. I guess I understand, I love sharing all the joys and privileges given to me, I love taking care of people, and enjoy having people around.

On top of that Roberto took me to a folkdancing class, joy!
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Apparently, folkdancing has become very popular under Italian youngsters. They guerilla dance the squares untill early in the mornings. I couldn’t imagine any of my friends from home wanting to join me and enjoyed the opportunity, the warmth and all the people very willing to learn me the steps, whispering ‘mazurka, mazurka’ in my ear as we went along. I wont be taking it up seriously, but enjoyed the experience a lot. Be careful when you try this at home, it might make you a bit rebelious!
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The next day Roberto and me drove up to a beautiful place with natural hot springs, after exploring some stunning villages in Toscany. I finally understand why the region is so popular! After dropping Valentina at her ayahuasca ceremony and sharing a delicious pizza at the famous square in Sienna we arrived late at night at the hot springs. We had to walk through a dark forest to arrive at the unbelievable warm natural water pools. With only a very small light we hang in the tree, we got into the water in the otherwise empty forest around us and enjoyed the surroundings till four in the morning, so relaxing 😀
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We spent another full day in the beautiful hot springs, where we met other visitors, Roberto played and we sang a lot and were invited to share a barbecue with two Albanian girls and their Italian husbands and kids. We couldn’t eat much though because we were going to have dinner at Roberto’s friend Valentina in Florence. The next day I had the pleasure to be part of another Italian sunday lunch which took hours again :).

This time almost all vegan and delicious and including capoeira singing and dancing, before we all headed to a beautiful little organic market in town.
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I was lucky to be invited to stay at Valentinas place and explore Florence for a bit. I spent two days walking, walking, walking and some more walking, exploring the city.
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Beautiful, yes, especially according to this beautiful couple
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but mostly to me another big city full of expensive brands and stores selling things we really dont need for way too much money, meanwhile trying lure in tourists. I ran into a poweryogaclass (which I wont do again). At night there are some nice neighbourhoods with live music in the cute cafes.
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The museums of Florence are fantastic and I’ll have to come back to see some more of them. At the time David was mourning the french attacks :/
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The botanical garden was unfortunately closed,
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but things like the hospital
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and the library
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were also a real treat to visit. At some corner I ran into a huge line of people waiting for a very small counter selling fresh focaccias,
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which turned out to offer me the best focaccia I ever tasted! So so tasty and delicious 🙂 I enjoyed it while listening to one of many street musicians. Also other artists flourished the streets 🙂
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There was only one street i avoided…
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I liked this street better 🙂 via del sole for sure!
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Florence has a high reputation, but I figured out I’m just not a citygirl anymore. I was very happy when my friend Fabio, who I had met in Sarajevo, suggested to go hiking the Via degli Dei (Walk of the Gods) from Florence to Bologna together.
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It’s a 2200 year old roman pathway through the hills and forest of Tuscany back into Emiglia-Romania.

We met at this nice little library cafe, where I was listening to a live Brazilian band and I couldn’t beleive my eyes to actually see him again! Such a beautiful person 😀
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we shared such a special time together in Sarajevo and that night we spent some time reliving our memories.

The next day it was time to start another adventure together! We started walking the otherwise empty path through very misty forests, which had layed us a beautiful red carpet of fall leaves, making us feel like real VIP’s!
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I was so happy to be back in nature again that I started singing ‘ I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak, but I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek’ and so we did, we danced cheek to cheek in this stunning surroundings, supported by this beautiful old couple we found enjoying the forest and each other as well. Not being distracted by all these impulses, lights and noises from the city we had very deep conversations where we listened to each other, not just hearing the words, where we saw each other, not just looking, where we felt each others emotions, thoughts and intentions. It was so real, so warm. We recited each other poems and shared the enthousiasm of the beauties of mother nature, feeling timeless and very connected to everything and everyone right there, right then.
We enjoyed the kakis we picked from a tree that had been saving them for us, thank you!
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We experienced that where you can walk through the big city all day alone, never having any contact, we made friends easily with the few people we stumbled across in the forests.

Allessandro was walking near this monastery
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when we met him and without any doubt took our offer to come walking with us the next day, isn’t that great!
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With darkness falling and us not bringing a tent or sleeping bags, Fabio and me had to find a place to spend the night. We started spreading the word that we were looking for a place, but did not get a spontaneous invitation. We were sent to the only hotel in town which asked 70 euros per person, no chance in hell! We tried some churches but the pastors were not around to decide on the issue. Then Fabio had the fantastic idea to walk into the Casa di Popolo (house of the people) where a lot of youngsters were hanging around. We spent some time in the bar, talking to the guys and pretty soon someone lend us his tent, we were offered to use the coushins from the couch to sleep on after closing time and another guy called his mum to bring us blankets.
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The owners of the bar were a young couple offering us drinks, dinner and midnight chili/garlic pasta (as tradition)!
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I played chess and we had such a nice night with these guys, very happy to be meeting them there in this very small village with nothing else going on there. Strangely enough most of the people we talked to on our way never heared of the Via delli Degli and we didn’t find any others to join our quest. We spread the word though, the word of this incredibly beautiful path which made us so so happy.
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We concluded how great a feeling it is to be no one in the middle of nowhere, which is actually the middle of everything. So much more rich than the nothingness of the busy cities. We enjoyed the power of mother nature which changed her moods several times a day. The path was guided by red and white marks, which were sometimes a bit unclear
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and had gotten us on a detour on the moon before. This time we weren’t sure where to go and while trying to figure this out from the field covered in mist appeared these hunters just emptying their guns while walking towards us, yayks, scary! In my mind I waved a white flag but the dogs were already with us.. It was like in a movie. Fabio, it was very nice knowing you.
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The hunters turned out to be very friendly and showed us the path.
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All day we hardly met anybody and these guys came out of the mist exactly when we needed them. How can I not beleive in the universe when these things happen to me so many times?! The more I let go, the more I see the signs of the universe taking care of me. Once I stop taking control of my life, I feel there is some other force doing just that, with suede gloves and warm intentions. Im learning to really see, my eyes and all my other senses are opening up and I feel the luckiest girl alive and cannot thank the world enough tob welcomed to it. My very rationalistic and sceptical mind has been forced to soften up and my whole being is softening up with it. My friends make fun of me for becoming a hippie and I laugh. I laugh, I laugh and laugh and smile to the world, for it is beautiful!

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The next day Allessandro ran us over the mountains,
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so we completed our track of that day by 1.30 already. We took our time, did some sightseeing around and started looking for a place to spend the night. First we considered an old abandoned van (like the magic bus!), then I found the keys of one of the chalets at a closed-down campsite, but Allessandro did not agree so we hitchhiked to a campsite that was open. The most adorable old woman showed us the dormitory with bunkbeds and smilingly served us a warm and romantic dinner near the fireplace (who knew dinner could be so romantic at a campsite?!).
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I told the guys it would be my first night in 9 months paying for sleeping (I forgot the one hostel with Anne in Split), but I didn’t care, as long as Allessandro was happy with the place, it was good. Somehow -the universe again-, we realized the next day on the road that the lady had forgotten to charge us for the sleeping and we had only paid for the food. Next time I meet her, I will pay double! When we woke up Allessandro had already left and Fabio and me were on our own again. The pace dropped down drastically, since we were to distracted with all the beauty around us all the time 🙂 That afternoon it was Ray Charles guiding us with singing lines like ‘even lazy jellyfish do it – let’s fall in love’ (Fabio’s favourite). After days in the mist, the sun suddenly came out, just when we passed the Via del Solle 😀 and just before finally meeting with our dear friend Venus, showing us her beautiful colours.
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She was covered with an orange and red carpet, and when we reached her the sun was setting and leaving an orange, bright pink gloom in the air, before the stars would come out to shine on us (Ella Fitzgerald: ‘stars shining bright above you – night breezes seem to whisper I love you – birds singing in the sicamore trees..’).

That night I arranged a couchsufring adress in the town of Sasso ‘Ugly’ Marconi, wow that town is horrible. We walked more than we expected and hitchhiked the last part to make it there exhausted and all. Our host was not supposed tob e back before 22.00 so we tried to find a nice place to have a little dinner. It didn’t exist. But the pizza was nice! 😀 We ran into a bar where there seemed to be the only party of the year and the people were very nice and inviting. Even the major was there offering us more pizza and welcoming us to his ugly town. After some nice chats we finally walked towards our hosts place, while playing the harmonica in the streets. On the way I realized I had made a mistake and asked this guy to host us the next week, oopsie! Again, I think the universe helped us out though, because we decided to take our chances and walk over to his place anyways, where a man opened the door and tol dus he never heared of our hosts name. It was a false adress! Telling him this on the couchsurfing chat he never responded to the fact that the adress was wrong but told us he would be home now and we were still welcome to come over, very very strange. I contacted Enrico in Bologna, who luckily had place for us to stay that night. We hitchhiked our way there and were very soon picked up by Boudistic Mario who had seen us on the road when driving home and had turned his cart o bring us in the opposite direction of where he was going.
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Everytime i am still flabbergasted (I love that word :p) about all the kindness people have in them! It turned out to be an extremely long day when well after midnight we made it to Enrico’s. 90 km walking in three days, we did it and it was great!

The next day we strolled around town and spent a considerable amount of time watching a guy on a plaza trimming down a christmas tree. He was doing this all day and the tree kept getting smaller and smaller. Regularly he would come down his ladder to smoke a cigarette, walk around the tree and decide it wasnt small enough yet. Passers-by stopped and looked at the man, leaving the plaza again with questionmarks still daggling above their heads. We looked at the man, at the passers-by and enjoyed the show, wondering whether it was real or part of some artistic idea. We finally left the square with questionmarks still above our head. So enjoyable 🙂

We ran into Paul, who I had met earlier at Enrico’s family sunday lunch. Paul is beautiful. Fabio is beautiful and togehter we experienced a beautiful day. Paul took us to the library where we snatched a table to have a small lunch, which resulted in a lot of rumour since the librarian didnt agree with us eating there, while the other people around didnt care and we tried to change the atmosphere by smiling and offering food, it was fun :). We transferred to a nice little vegan shop where we ended up reciting each other more poems from the heart, drawing and writing each others notebooks and ‘shaping the world the way we want it to be’ (quote Fabio, recited by Paul). I was happy to see Paul again and he was happy to see me, so he could give me a print of the pictures he took when we were at Enrico’s family. I was so touched! He’s a great photographer and inspiring soul. We met again that night after I said goodbye to Fabio, who had to follow his own path again. Enrico had invited us to a beautiful courtyard garden where the African community had cooked and offered their delicious food and drinks, before the African music and dancing started. I just love love love immigrants, for they bring so much richness to the world. Lets all spread and welcome each other!

Meanwhile I had contacted Nick, who I stayed with in Como many months before. We had such a great connection that we had kept in touch and Nick had told me so many times to go to Bologna. Now I was finally there (and he was right, I love this place!) and he managed to meet me there too!
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We spent another great night with him, his brother and some friends, happy we could make it work to meet up again. The next morning we shared a breakfast near the train station where I was picking up Mario. Wow, I ended up meeting all my five italian friends from all over the country in Bologna, my favourite city of Italy for its cultural and social richness. So nice!

I didnt feel like going back to touristic Venice and Mario wanted to get out of the city too so we spent the day hiking up to San Luca sanctuary high up the hill.
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All the way from the sanctuary down back to Bologna, 666 pink and orange arcades kept us dry from the now heavy rain. My knees were a bit swollen from all the tough hiking by now and the rain was getting worse, so we decided not to meet with Paul anymore but make our way back to Venice. I’m starting to feel at home there. Mario and I enjoyed cooking together and also discover some great places to go out, like a little refugee run diner which is now Mario’s favourite place in town 🙂

Even though I got sick (probably a combination of the extreme cold in his bedroom and the emotions of going home in a couple days), we spent lovely nights in town. We went to see a (horrible) show in the Fenice theathre, which is such an incredibly stunningly beautiful place to be, we felt very underdressed.
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We literally got in on a last-minute ticket (15:29 says the ticket) and were able to see a Mozart opera for only 10 euros. The opera was pretty bad (a woman playing the main characters male role, many tasteless modern scenes etc.) but the place was fantastic and we had a lot of fun together. Another night we went with his teacher and some students to one of the islands where a medieval concert was played, more beautiful than ever. Goosebumbs! On sunday we went to church where Mario sings Gregorian music during the service. They showed us the basements covered in pastel wall paintings, a great place to perform some ceremonies… We practiced a little acro yoga and juggling (not at the same time :p) and fantasized about his grandparents house in the mountains of Abruzzo, which we unfortuantely didnt get to visit this time. Well, something we can still do next time I find the wind blowing me back to Italy (I sure want to explore the south part of italy one day!).

And then the month had ended. Another four weeks of great adventures, many things happening, beautiful people and beautiful new experiences. A time to remember. Memories I will always carry in my heart. My sobby heart. Sobby from the thought of seeing my family and friends again the next day. After eight months on the road. I had very double feelings about this and wasn’t sure I could handle. Many tears had been shed the previous days. Confused. Total confusion. But hey, there we go! Breath in, breath out, I can do thissssssssssssss

 

 

 

 

 

 

&nbspp;

Awesome, I made it to Asia!! Incredible Istanbul :D

After Bulgaria I hitchhiked together with the permaculture teacher (Rakesh Rootsman Rack, yes he is a reggae DJ as well :p) to Istanbul to attend/support another introduction course on permaculture, (friends had brought my bike to Istanbul the week before).
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We didn’t take this taxi :p
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There I met up with Chris, another cyclists I was in contact with for months trying to meet somewhere on the road. It finally happened and wow did we match! We were immediately best friends and within an hour it felt like I had known him my whole life. We spent one very happy week together in Istanbul, playing around in the parks, practicing some handstands and slacklining, singing, biking through town, getting my nose pierced, meeting with my friends from the course, eating some of the most delicious foods, drinking salep and making plans for the future :).
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It was a strange, exciting and very satisfying feeling to cross the Bosporus into Asia with my bicycle! We made it, yooohoooooo!! A good place to end this first year (nine months) of my new life and a good place to start again from in 2016. WOW.

After a wonderful week we separated and I went to Italy to visit some friends before heading back home to spend some time with my beloved family and friends, who I miss so much. Daddy I’m coming home!!

Even though it is just for a short while. I am no way near ready to settle down. I am reevaluating my life and my previous choices. I’m starting over, from ground zero. I feel like a phoenix, rising from my own ashes. I may not go where i intended to go, but i have faith i will end up where i need to be.
This is how I enter the new year, what a beautiful start! This trip is the best decision I ever made, im happy, im in love. With life. Im gambolling through it 😀

Brilliant Bulgaria: WOOFF, permaculture and Vipassana

Bulgaria! I never expected to learn so much in this country. I never expected to stay over six weeks. I never expected it would change my view of life this much. I never expected it would bring me the light on my path. I never expected to fall in love so many times. But boy, i did. I’ll tell you what magic happened to me.

I entered the country from the Macedonian mountains and found myself in a lush green forestry area, again tears rolled down my cheeks.
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Mother nature is so incredibly beautiful, it hits me everytime. Every morning is a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and i may say innocence, with nature herself.

I feel more and more sad about the fumes of the boxes (people call them cars) passing by and the immense amount of trash I see on the sides of the roads. Getting closer to industrial areas and cities I feel my energy and good mood reclining and I feel more and more appowled by what I see humankind is doing to our dear beautiful mother nature. Where did we lose the realisation that we are part of the circle, of our duty to protect, regenerate and enrich this planet and every living creature upon it? Creating spirals of abundance in stead of destruction. I see the consumerism for things nobody needs, the advertisement for things very harmful to the world, I see people spending their precious time on things that make nobody happy and certainly dont make the world a better place. I see long faces, stressed body language, agitation, boredom, negativity and straightforward aggressiveness. I see a world constructed of hardcore competition, in stead of co-operation. A world of individualism, egocentrism, jealousy and envy. Wow, this sounds very pessimistic, doenst it? And that’s what you might see with your black glasses on, and I wear them now and then too. But I want a change; I call for a global changing of our dark coloured glasses for pink ones!!

 

Let’s look at this same world again and guess what you see! I see so many incredible wonders of mother nature and I see so many beautiful people doing fantastic things. Beauty is inside us, every one of us. The bodice of the modern societies might make it a bit hard to let this beauty thrive, but there are so many alternative ways. And more and more people seem to be realising this. For sure, my eyes are finally opening up to this. And I keep learning. And I keep falling in love.

On this trip I look for inspiration. And I found a lot of it in Bulgaria. I biked my way up to the first organic farm I would be volunteering on. The first time on my trip I would do some actual work and help people out who i believe are doing a good thing. When I came there, the owners turned out to be away though, and with only the guy’s father in law visiting me in the morning (not able to speak one word of english) I ended up spending a week of me-time on the farm. I worked for 1-2 hours a day when he was there and could show me what to do, while signaling me to relax and sit down all the time. I did what I could but to be honest enjoyed a lot to stay in one place for a couple of days and do the things I so far had not found the time for: watching documentaries, playing my harmonica, reading books. I picked my food directly off the land, delicious! The quiet hours with just me and the sound of the birds and the singing of the plants. I wonder what they talk about. It was heavenly 🙂 health and happiness were never meant to be complicated!

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Even though none of us will make it out this world alive, every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.

I read this book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (free to download as e-book or audiobook) which opened my half-shut eyes. In a very entertaining and socratic way it tells the story of the TAKERS (those who believe the world was made for man and we can take from it what we want, without obligation to take care of it) and the LEAVERS (those who only take what they need and leave the rest alone, understanding the world is in perfect balance and we are just one part of it). Our modern society is mostly made of TAKERS since we are consuming finite resources (mainly oil) at great speed without giving back to the earth, they way we live now is not sustainable, let alone enriching and will come to an end. There is much debate about what caused the climate change and when we will feel the biggest impact from it, which is –to me- quite irrelevant. The point is that it is happening, we are depleting the earth and we have to start looking at other ways to live. One source of very valuable information is to be found with the people that lived on this beautiful planet for millions of years before civilisation hit us 10.000 years ago. These people, for example indians and aboriginals, lived in a way they could have kept living in for millions more years. In harmony with mother nature, not fighting her. Much information on how they actually did it, is sadly lost though :/ And certainly not taught in schools, where history seems to have started with the coming of agriculture. Everything before that is labeled pre-history, isn’t that insane? Daniel Quinn calls it ‘the great forgetting’. I remember we spent a whole year of history lessons in high school on the cotton revolution of England, wow. Isn’t that boring and insignificant on the big scale of things? What about the basics? Our basic human needs? Basic questions..

I realize I never really learned where the most basic need in life – food – comes from. Even though I have been a cook for so long and very interested in food always, it was predominantly in preparation and nutrition and less in where it comes from, how it grows etc. I am very happy to spend time at the farm now and see what actually happens, what it takes to grow a tomato for example. I feel like it is a bare necessity I missed in my upbringing, just as many others growing up in cities. I knew nothing about how plants grow, how the environment influences it, what organisms live in the soil and what is needed to grow healthy nutrient-rich crops, I knew nothing about beneficial relationships between different plants and trees, fungi etc. I knew nothing about the crazy stupidity of the current way we are growing and distributing food and the incredible smart way the natural untouched forests function. But all of this is changing now. Many people have heared things about climate change, about peak oil, of Monsanto, and many of us have seen documentaries like ‘an inconvenient truth’ and ‘meat the truth’, but there is so much contradicting voices (even between so called experts and professors) and it is sometimes overwhelming and unclear what it all means and what we need to do now. So we carry on with our lives. The bad news gives us little direction and leaves many confused.

So what can we do? What should we do? For sure we don’t want to be the people generations later will look back at and say: ‘ you all knew but did nothing. Why?’. So let’s look at our options. Some like to be activists, kicking and screaming against SHELL and TOTAL, some retreat to live a quite and simple life in the woods, not being part of society, others try to adjust their lives little by little, by being conscious of their choices and maybe even trying to inspire others. Every step is a good step in my eyes. I am not to judge anybody, I am not an evangelist, I just hope I can inspire one or two people I meet to do the right thing. To love our planet like she loves you, to give as much as you take. This is just how I feel right now in this moment and I find that researching ways how to actively be part of a better future is very meaningful and a wonderful reason to get out of bed every morning. My life has gained a lot of content, it is less empty and insignificant. When I look at all the beautiful plants, listen to the songs of the birds, feel the love of the people I see reason to live, reason to stop my part of destruction and start regenerating. I want to live my life in a way that makes the earth a better, greener, livelier, healthier and happier place. And sustainability is just the first step. Someone explained to me that when you ask someone ‘ how is your marriage?’ and he would respond ‘sustainable’, it is a bit sad, it is like the marriage is just barely surviving, it is not good enough. We want more, we want enrichment! 😀

So, How to do it? Yeah, that’s a search for life probably. I don’t think there is an answer. I think every decision has to be balanced and outweighted. I don’t strive for perfection and I don’t want to be to fanatic, for sure not dictating others how to live their lives. I’m not saying we should go back to prehistoric ways of living, for example we have made it impossible to live like hunter/gatherers now with the immense expansion of living people, together with the immense destruction of wild nature. But we can learn from them and think about how we can apply this to the modern world. In my search for this I found some great documentaries like

-The Green Gold,

– A Farm for the future,

– What a way to go – life at the end of an empire and

– How Cuba survived peak oil.

And there are many more. Check out http://www.filmsforaction.org. They inspired me a lot on what is the right way to live our lives. I feel stupid about my previous selfish ways, spending all my money on a big house, a motorcycle, skydiving etc. I am disappointed I didn’t see the light earlier in my life and realize I could have spent my money on so much nobler things or saved it untill I knew what to spend it on, worthy of spending it on. Anyways, things are what they are and I am happy I find new direction in my life now. I am researching, learning with every step.

Another book that inspired me is Anastacia by Vladimir Megre. It gives dreams and joy, a positive outlook on how to move forward, where to go. What we have today is not romantic and certainly not utopian, the world is in very deep trouble and holds no promise of survival. The crises of the industrial society will become worse and end in disaster, until or unless we develop a new life-style, which is compatible with the real needs of human nature, with the health and help of living nature around us and with the resource endowment of the world. Everything bad that happens to man is brought on by man himself, whenever he disobeys the laws of spiritual being and breaks his connection with nature. And boy, did we break our connection with nature!

All technocratic inventions are but poor ripoffs of what nature has to offer. And it, togehter with money distracts us greatly from our true purpose and the true way to live, be happy and care for the earth and each other. Sins like pride, greed and jealousy keep us from our right path. We have to find the courage to dream and actually many already do. Some countries already provide more homegrown vegetables and fruits than the whole nation’s destroying commercial agriculture taken together. Collectively we understand and know already very well what is wrong with what were doing today and what we should do to change the world for the better, we just dont fully understand how it works. Wouldnt we all want to live in a world without monstrous industries destroying and polluting both nature and us? Who really wants to suffer in boring jobs merely to enrich faceless corporations? What about a society based on mutual help and co-operation, rather than competition, both between men and men but also between men and nature? So many of us are searching for meaningful answers to questions on the purpose of life, on men’s place in nature. The image of way of life founded on the ideals of love, beauty and non-violence, in harmony with mother nature resonates so strongly with our inner self because it gives us the realisable dream of living in a free society of kind and happy people, without wars, crime or oppression, without destroying the earth and with magical things come true. Lets dream about a desirable future and act accordingly to make it happen. It resonates so strongly in tune with peoples hearts that one cannot fail to inwardly recognise the truth eminating from it.

And since I shrank my possessions to almost nothing and am on this bicycle trip with almost no carbon footprint in the world, living from and with mother nature, spreading and receiving so much love, I am so much happier and healthier and feel I am going the right way. I found the light on my path.

And this path is now bringing me closer and closer to this crazy thing called permaculture, which is an elegant way of living sustainably in harmony with mother nature and each other. The three main pillars being: earth care, people care and fair share. And wow, it is so so beautiful! I heared about it before, since my mother is an active permaculturist, but because our previous bad and many years non-existent relationship I had no interest in exploring this further. Now I’m giving it another shot and realize this is going to be a very important part of my future plans in life. Was it hiding in my genes? I am revaluing my mothers upbringing and the crazy things I couldn’t appreciate as a child. Im starting to understand her decisions more and more and this path is physically bringing me further away from her, but mentally and emotionally we are getting closer. We even talk again and now have a passion to share, isn’t that beautiful! Together with all the beautiful people I have met and connected myself too in the past, now also my mother is travelling with me, shining light on my path. I would have never expected this.

This path I’m on brought me to a second farm in the south of Bulgaria where I would be a volunteer as well. The farmers told me I could only stay for two weeks because afterwards there would be a permaculture design course and they would not have time to host me then. The course was pretty expensive and I tried to arrange for some exchanges of work to get a discount on the price, but that did not work out. I accepted the fact that I would not be able to participate. My contact with the family was so warm and positive though that they tried their best to keep me on the farm and they came up with the idea of me helping in the kitchen during the course. At least I would be present and had the possibility to talk to the participants in that way. Little did they know about my experience and passion for cooking! So hell yeah, offer accepted, yihaaa!! The universe played another very nice trick on me, shuffeling the cards perfectly, feels like destiny 🙂

To shorter the story a bit, (I could write a book!), I ended up cooking for the 24 participants breakfast, lunch and dinner, almost all vegan, without electricity and a limited supply of water. What a challenge! Luckily the people appreciated me and my efforts and helped me out. Thanks to this, I –very unexpectedly- was able to attend most of the classes and even more unexpectedly received a ‘Permaculture Design Course’-certificate in the end! Two weeks of insanely hard work have never felt more satisfying. I learned so many fascinating new things and spent time with the most beautiful, warm, loving group of people. I never heared any complaint about the harsh conditions, I saw only smiles, there was a lot of singing and hugging in and outside the kitchen and everybody supported everybody, without leaving anybody behind. I cried. Everybody cried. The positive energy in this group was so strong.

And besides all the love and togetherness I found it so so special to be part of a group of people who think it is very normal to evaluate your life along the scale of ethics: am I doing the right thing, am I supporting nature, am I supporting myself and everybody else on this planet. Here it is even unethical to buy a banana, because it dragged all the way here from Ecuador, and let’s not even talk about chocolate! But in the same time nobody is an extremist or dictating what we should do. We are all experimenting. We all drive a car now and then or get on an airplane, we all indulge in south-american coffee and enjoy it. It is about awareness, consciousness, understanding how the world works, how mother nature works and what are the consequences of our decisions. And at the same time we learn another way of living. We can live our lives without destroying the world, even better, we can regenerate what we have broken. In this part of Bulgaria we see wide fields of agricultural land, which was once a beautiful lush green forest, now completely depleted of any live in it. Let’s turn this back into a thriving, living, buzzing, green area full of life, both people and animals.

Some of the beautiful things mother nature provided us with:
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At the course I learned about building with natural materials, about alternative money systems, about sociocracy, dragon dreaming, non-violent communication, about different kinds of soil and the organisms living in it, about how plants grow, about succession, about nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, phosphor, calcium), about renewable ways of energy from water, sun and wind, about beneficial relationships between all the elements in nature, about micro-organisms and microclimates, about natural beekeeping (happy bees!), about how to regenerate soil and nutrient depleted lands, about how to grow organic food and how to grow supporting communities. We practiced plant identification, we made a comfrey press, a solar still and a biochar burner; we talked about compost, greywater, swales and ditches, chicken tractors, green houses, natural air conditioning, the importance of diversity and resilience (in every aspect of life), about stacking functions, about spirals of destruction and spirals of abundance and we made designs for the farms in this ecovillage. And so many more things, it was very intense and very inspiring… I feel like we just touched the surface of all these fascinating subjects. I found my new university and it is called life! Never have I learned so much valuable information as I did in the past seven months on my bicycle and never did I feel so energized to dive in the subject. I cant believe how ignorant I was about so basic things in life and I am so happy I found my path now. It doesn’t fascinate me just rationally (like almost everything in life does, I could happily be a student for ever), but this time it touches me deep in my soul. I see a reason to live. And a reason to die. As part of this wonderful cycle, as part of nature. Not on the top but just one part of it.

I stayed another week to attend a two day complementary course on forest gardening.
We learned in a more detailed way how to mimic a young natural woodland, utilizing plants of direct and indirect benefit to people. Learning from observing nature around us (a true forest doesn’t need any intervention to thrive and produce!) how to carefully design a largely self-maintaining ecosystem of useful plants, whether edible, medicinal, beautiful, wildlife attracting, beneficial like nitrogen-fixing, or serving any other purpose. So far the smartest thing I have ever heared of, the most intelligent and productive way of growing food and at the same time so logical it should be common sense and it is hard to believe modern agriculture does the complete opposite thing (spending 10x energy for 1x energy production, obviously not sustainable, while killing the land…). I believe forest gardening and permaculture are the future and I want to dedicate my near future to learning more about this, to spreading my knowledge and volunteer with people who are trying to live by these standards and ethics, keep adjusting my views and spending my time and energy doing something very worthwhile.

Ah yeah, I almost forgot, between the two farms I also spend ten days on a Vipassana meditation course, very interesting, I say sarcastically hahaha. Wow I did not have a good experience there. Almost everyone I speak to about Vipassana tells me they had the most wonderful experiences, so don’t just go by my story to form an opinion. For me it was a very bad experience. I entered the centre as a free bird, the most free I have ever been and so so happy and positive and energetic. But from day 1 I felt like in prison, kindergarten prison. I handed in my newly bought guitar, my notebooks, telephone, computer, everything. We would be woken up at 4 am, meditate over 12 hours a day, inside, between four walls with 70 other women and 70 men (separated though) with hardly any explanations, no lessons (well, every night there was a 1 hour video played) and scary ritualistic chanting.
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I understood the goal was to feel pain (which you do sitting in one position, not allowed to move, for so long!) and learn not to respond to it. I got into trouble for going behind the boundaries to watch the sunrise, for smiling (I was told this is not a happy process!) and eventually at day 8 for talking to someone. The first days I was very upset and about to leave, I could write a book about everything I felt was wrong with this course, but I decided to let it go and not spend my energy on that. Maybe this is something I did learn at the course. Let go. I was very happy to find a friend aka partner in crime on the course (Katie) who thought the same way and to whom I could ventilate my frustrations. Thanks to her I managed to stay until the end.
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I know I will never do it again, this is not my kind of mediation. I won’t go into details, but if you want to hear more, you know where to find me!

Katie and me developed a beautiful friendship and she is one interesting soul! I She was like my good friend and big sister for a couple weeks, since she joined me on the next WOOFF-ing farm, stayed for the permaculture and forest gardening course and came to Istanbul. Both on our own paths, but strongly connected emotionally. Thank you Katie for being the rebel with me, for your love and friendship and for opening up my world; what a beautiful balance we have.

After the 10 day Vipassana meditation course I biked my way through the mountains southwards. It was a sunday and I had no food left, I was given some leftovers from the Vipassana and I didnt really worry about what to eat or where to sleep. By now I have learned that if I let every worry go, the Universe will take care of me. I lay in her arms like a little baby and feel cared for and carressed by her soft hands. I surrender to her warmth and it is beautiful. When i was getting a bit hungry there was a car on the side of the otherwise pretty empty road with a hand stretching from the back out to me. The hand was holding a pear and in english the hand asked whether I would like the pear. I stopped and the hand turned out to belong to a man from istanbul who was there with his family. They just returned from their farm in Bulgaria and showed me the trunk filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. 25 pictures later and bags filled with the most delicious food I was on my way again. I kept saying ‘no no its enough’ but they didnt agree. So so nice!! And i found a beautiful camping spot 🙂
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I came to the farm I would be WOOFF-ing and it was magical. We build a tipi, with a fireplace inside, held some nice fireceremony with clay on our faces and jambees, we danced the traditional paneurithmics, we spend a night in the woods in ancient stoneformations ‘dolmans’, meditated, did some yoga, took a bath in the saltlakes and took a mudbath before jumping in the sea full of jellyfish. The water was held on the beehives to be energized, we talked about past lifes and we made agreements with the insects not to sting us. We set our intention to things we wanted to happen. It was beautiful. We were part of the tribe
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And a good part of the tribe travelled to Istanbul, where we reunited..

 

 

beautiful poem :)

BEING HUMAN

I wonder if the sun debates dawn some mornings
not wanting to rise out of bed
from under the down-feather horizon

if the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood
swings of the weather

if clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer

I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble
letting go

if snow flakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one
trying to be one-of-a-kind

I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before the die
if they need to teach their young
how to shine

I wonder if shadows long
to just-for-once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from

I wonder if sunrise
and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met

if volcanoes get stressed
if storms have regrets
if compost believes in life
after death

I wonder if breath ever thinks of suicide
if the wind just wants to sit
still sometimes
and watch the world pass by

if smoke was born
knowing how to rise
if rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right

I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
if rivers ever stop
and think of turning back

if streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow
wants to be black

if the soil thinks she’s too dark
if butterflies want to cover up their marks
if rocks are self-conscious of their weight
if mountains are insecure of their strength

I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began

if land feels stepped upon
if sand feels insignificant
if trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand

if branches waver at the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
if the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows

I wonder
where the moon goes
when she is in hiding
I want to find her there

and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence

by Naima

http://m.climbingpoetree.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.climbingpoetree.com%2Fexperience%2Fread-poems%2Fbeing-human%2F&dm_redirected=true#2888

Let’s fall back in love with the earth, for sure i did :) <3

We and the Earth are one

The Earth is our mother, nourishing and protecting us in every moment–giving us air to breathe, fresh water to drink, food to eat and healing herbs to cure us when we are sick. Every breath we inhale contains our planet’s nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and trace elements. When we breathe with mindfulness, we can experience our interbeing with the Earth’s delicate atmosphere, with all the plants, and even with the sun, whose light makes possible the miracle of photosynthesis. With every breath we can experience communion. With every breath we can savor the wonders of life.

We need to change our way of thinking and seeing things. We need to realise that the Earth is not just our environment. The Earth is not something outside of us. Breathing with mindfulness and contemplating your body, you realise that you are the Earth. You realise that your consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth. Look around you–what you see is not your environment, it is you.

Great Mother Earth

Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that the Earth is not inert matter. She is a great being, who has herself given birth to many other great beings–including buddhas and bodhisattvas, prophets and saints, sons and daughters of God and humankind. The Earth is a loving mother, nurturing and protecting all peoples and all species without discriminationWhen you realize the Earth is so much more than simply your environment, you’ll be moved to protect her in the same way as you would yourself. This is the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need, and the future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not. The Earth and all species on Earth are in real danger. Yet if we can develop a deep relationship with the Earth, we’ll have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change our way of life.

Falling in love

We can all experience a feeling of deep admiration and love when we see the great harmony, elegance and beauty of the Earth. A simple branch of cherry blossom, the shell of a snail or the wing of a bat – all bear witness to the Earth’s masterful creativity. Every advance in our scientific understanding deepens our admiration and love for this wondrous planet. When we can truly see and understand the Earth, love is born in our hearts. We feel connected. That is the meaning of love: to be at one.

Only when we’ve truly fallen back in love with the Earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness. Yet many of us have become alienated from the Earth. We are lost, isolated and lonely. We work too hard, our lives are too busy, and we are restless and distracted, losing ourselves in consumption. But the Earth is always there for us, offering us everything we need for our nourishment and healing: the miraculous grain of corn, the refreshing stream, the fragrant forest, the majestic snow-capped mountain peak, and the joyful birdsong at dawn.

True Happiness is made of love

Many of us think we need more money, more power or more status before we can be happy. We’re so busy spending our lives chasing after money, power and status that we ignore all the conditions for happiness already available. At the same time, we lose ourselves in buying and consuming things we don’t need, putting a heavy strain on both our bodies and the planet. Yet much of what we drink, eat, watch, read or listen to, is toxic, polluting our bodies and minds with violence, anger, fear and despair.

As well as the carbon dioxide pollution of our physical environment, we can speak of the spiritual pollution of our human environment: the toxic and destructive atmosphere we’re creating with our way of consuming. We need to consume in such a way that truly sustains our peace and happiness. Only when we’re sustainable as humans will our civilization become sustainable. It is possible to be happy in the here and the now.

We don’t need to consume a lot to be happy; in fact we can live very simply. With mindfulness, any moment can become a happy moment. Savoring one simple breath, taking a moment to stop and contemplate the bright blue sky, or to fully enjoy the presence of a loved one, can be more than enough to make us happy. Each one of us needs to come back to reconnect with ourselves, with our loved ones and with the Earth. It’s not money, power or consuming that can make us happy, but having love and understanding in our heart.

The bread in your hand is the body of the cosmos

We need to consume in such a way that keeps our compassion alive. And yet many of us consume in a way that is very violent. Forests are cut down to raise cattle for beef, or to grow grain for liquor, while millions in the world are dying of starvation. Reducing the amount of meat we eat and alcohol we consume by 50% is a true act of love for ourselves, for the Earth and for one another. Eating with compassion can already help transform the situation our planet is facing, and restore balance to ourselves and the Earth.

Nothing is more important than brotherhood and sisterhood

There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with Earth. We’ve been homo sapiens for a long time. Now it’s time to become homoconscius. Our love and admiration for the Earth has the power to unite us and remove all boundaries, separation and discrimination. Centuries of individualism and competition have brought about tremendous destruction and alienation. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another as children of the same mother. We need more than new technology to protect the planet. We need real community and co-operation.

All civilisations are impermanent and must come to an end one day. But if we continue on our current course, there’s no doubt that our civilisation will be destroyed sooner than we think. The Earth may need millions of years to heal, to retrieve her balance and restore her beauty. She will be able to recover, but we humans and many other species will disappear, until the Earth can generate conditions to bring us forth again in new forms. Once we can accept the impermanence of our civilization with peace, we will be liberated from our fear. Only then will we have the strength, awakening and love we need to bring us together. Cherishing our precious Earth–falling in love with the Earth–is not an obligation. It is a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.

(source: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/falling-in-love-with-the-earth/)

Mountainess Macedonia

Leaving Thessaloniki. Mario left by train and I started biking up north. Once I left the way too busy city of Thessaloniki, me and Duke Ellington found ourselves in stunning sceneries, endless views of almost empty country.
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Exactly what I needed! Just a few villages, just enough to replenish my watersupplies. Some (off)roads on the map ceased to exist at some point, making me push the bike through fields and two small rivers.
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I stumbled upon magnificent wild fig trees, grape branches and peach trees though, me happy J ‘Fruit, fruit, fruit is allllllllll I need’ 😀
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Somehow I was very strong this day and with my bags filled with fruit, I made it well into Macedonia.
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At and around the border i noticed nothing of the immigrant problems I’ve been hearing about lately. The people seem scared though, scared of what’s to come with all these invaders. But great projects are started too to help the newcomers.

I decided to find camp at this beautiful lake Dojran, which was unfortunately a bit touristy.
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I was looking for a nice view over the lake and I entered someones garden to ask. Mother and son were a bit reluctant at first and asked me for my passport, because of possible problems with the police concerning the immigrants. Soon they loosened up though and I had a beautiful camping spot under the walnut tree (I never tried them fresh before!).
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They refused my offer to share some fruits and brought me juice and fig jelly.
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Later we shared dinner together and the son, Viktorio – a convinced Christian through heart and mind(!), spend all night explaining why Christianity is the only true religion. It was very interesting, he refuted all my critical questions with relative ease and he gave me some book suggestions for further reading and discussion. I am by nature very critical and have many questions and doubts about religion, trying to understand more about all religions, so I am very curious 🙂 If anybody is interested, he suggested me this book with a nice catchy title:

I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist – Norman Geisler

The next morning I had a huge climb ahead of me. I chose to ride through east Macedonia into Bulgaria to avoid the heavy traffic roads and bike through the mountains, where I feel so at home 🙂 But the climbing was very hard in heat well above 30 degrees, no shade, and hardly enough places to fill my waterbottles. I stopped at a small little house (the only one in the surroundings) to ask for some water. They offered me coffee, which i happilly accepted. It turned out to be a forestry police station. More men showed up and talking tot hem they convinced me the road ahead was very very tough (>10% climbing) and they insisted to give me a ride in their jeep for ten kilometers up the hill. They even gave me a big bag of grapes for the road! It was a lot of fun watching six men arguing how to put my bike in their jeep. I was not allowed to intervene, so I just stood there and enjoyed the show J It was fun. Thanks a lot, guys!
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I started biking along and this road was just too beautiful to be true! Beautiful mountains, great views, it’s hard to describe.
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Very peaceful, just a car now and then and very very small villages, with surprisingly well maintained houses and gardens full of flowers. Later I understood the nice houses were mostly owned by people who work elsewhere in Europe, because the average income in Macedonia is just around 300 euros a month.. Even though it is equally poor like Montenegro, it seemed a lot more civilized, a lot! The towns i passed were not at all focused on tourism, just on industry, no reason to stop at any of them.

On one of the mountain roads there was fresh water coming from the mountains, soooooo tasty!
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An other passenger tried to talk to me with hand and feet and came bringing me bag of ten figs, six peaches and some grapes. I tried to tell him that was too kind and too much but he insisted I’d take it. WOW. Can you imagine? It seems so normal to do these kinds of things in the Balkans, I sure want the west to learn from this. I try to share all my food with the people I meet on the way already, whenever I meet someone I offer them, and I will continue this. Both receiving and giving feels so good, let’s all try to do it more!

I pitched my tent in an open field behind some blackberry bushes and enjoyed my ‘me-time’ :). I heared the shepherds and their herds passing on the other side of the bushes all evening and morning. The next day I stopped for some water at a house where the owner again offered me coffee and climbing up the hill some farmers offered me a ride.
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It’s just amazing how I hardly ever ask for anything, but people have their eyes wide open, aware of what’s going on besides them and offer their help to strangers. At the border the police took me out of line and made me skip ahead of everyone.
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So I reached the farm (238 km, lots of climbing) within 2,5 days, much faster than expected. I was happy to be on the bike again and meet all these wonderfull people. I could hardly speak to them, didn’t ask for anything but water, and experienced all these great adventures again.. Unbeleivable. The experience of a lifetime.

Up next: my farming adventures in Bulgary!

The Gods of Greece

It was an exciting morning. Reunited after our first meeting in Venice last may, we were about to start our first travelling experience together. Mario had insisted on joining me on a bicycle, although it would be his first time. We were about to go south from Tessaloniki to meet with the Gods up on Mount Olympus. Mario had wanted to meet Zeus ever since he was a little boy and I would be looking for my dear friend and muse in life Aphrodite <3. Oh how pretty she is..
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Our incredible host and new father Georgios helped us on our way
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and joined us for one last drink at the beach (gotta try Mythos beer once you’re down here!). The night before Mario had arrived and we all spent a nice dinner together, before walking around the city by night, having some drinks at this fancy outside bar and falling asleep (Mario) and enjoying the view (me and Georgios) at the seaside. We felt like a family and were sad to part, but at the same time happy to start our new adventure! Ok, the first day was a little bit too adventurous, when we refused the busy touristic roads, chose the nice quiet onces and ended up pushing the bikes through fields (with thorns), resulting in a flat tire on Mario’s bike. We decided to pitch camp right there and then and figure out the route in the morning, manana manana. Dont worry be happy! The extra tire we brought didnt fit and my attempts to patch the tire failed. Nonetheless we had a perfectly quiet camping spot in the fields and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

The next morning we walked to the nearest town (6 km through extreme heat :p), fixed everything at the bike shop and we were on our way again! On our way to Panteleimonas, where a warmshower host I had contacted before –Stelios- was camping and playing music (basking) all summer and invited us to come up there. It is a small pitoresque village up on the mountain, which we reached after a nice swim in the sea and one more night of wildcamping (this time under a tree with fantastic ripe figs!) and next to a house, from which the owner came bringing us tomatoes from his own garden, tasty! The road up to the village was so steep it was impossible to bike and we pushed the bikes together through the simmering heat before finally reaching the top. But it was worth it 😀

We spent some time on lunch at this nice quiet taverna where we felt completely at ease and enjoyed the great view;
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we took a nap on their grass. Walking up in the town we were surprised by the many tourists, we didnt see at all at the south part of the village. Somehow I recognized Stelios between all these people and he showed us his camping spot: not too far out of the village there was this field with beautiful ancient chestnut trees and a magnificent view over the mountains on the one side and the sea on the other.
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The combination with the lights of the villages on the coast and the lights from the stars above us was mesmorizing, like the flames of a campfire or the water from a mountain stream. The perfect environment to slow down for a day or two. So we did. We did some morning yoga, played some music and enjoyed the surroudings and each others company. Except for more and more tourists coming, life was relaxed and peaceful around the village. Stelios spent all his summer camping here and making money by basking in the streets.
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It sounded very ideal to me and I imagined myself being good enough at playing the harmonica, singing, guitar to make my money on the way by playing in the streets. Seeing him sitting there with al the tourists passing by I changed my mind though.. it looked so sad. Nobody is really paying attention to his music, sometimes they even throw money when he is just tuning his instrument. Almost nobody stops to really listen and enjoy his music. He was treated more like a beggar than like a musician. So no, this is not my goal..

After enjoying two peacefull days in and around this small village, Zeus and Aphrodite still didn’t show up, so we got back on our horses! First we galloped down the hill, passing our castle,
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(see the horse and the castle?),
riding along the sea before climbing back up to Litochoro, from where the hiking trails on the magnificent mountains start. It was already 6pm when we entered town and we were on a mission: we needed a place to leave the bicycles and luggage while we would climb the mountain! I stopped at the first information centre (yes, there are more, and they all give crappy information; somehow it is very hard to find a good map and solid information on what it’s like to climb to the top and what kind of preparation you might need, so if you feel like starting a business in tourism, there is a demand and many opportunities here!). We were very lucky that this information office was run by Mister Paris. He had seen us biking up to Litochoro and was very interested in my story. He offered to leave the luggage at the office and stall the bicycles at his hotel. Perfect! Now a place to sleep. Stelios had told us about his former campingspot and the cafe where they could show us the way. We found it, pitched the tent and went for a drink at this beautifully located cafe along the river and in the woods, great atmosphere. There was live music and also Mario joined the stage for a short performance on his lute.
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The next morning we went back to Mister Paris’ hotel, he had invited us to join the breakfast there, and wow, it was good! Fresh fruits, dried fruits, greek salad, pastries, fresh bread, eggs, yoghurt, milk, juice, coffee, everything you might wish for! And very welcoming personnel, so kind and with big smiles.

It was the perfect start to a fantastic climbing day. First we hitchhiked to the St Dyonisus monastery (beautiful!)
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and then to Gortsia from where we hiked all the way up to 2600 meter. The route was stunning, the views breathtaking and the paths very quiet; we felt almost alone in this beautiful environment.
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The scenery kept changing with every step, the clouds were passing fast and the mountain felt very alive. We started to feel smaller and smaller and submissive to the greater powers of the mountain. Zeus is definitely not to be joked with.

We spent the first night in a small refuge which could host up to 22 people in the attic filled with bunk beds. The refuge was situated well above the tree line on a flat area of grass, grazed by mountain goats, called ‘the plateau des muses’, how marvelous :D.
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So, we celebrated our arrival, got drunk with wine and tsipouri, and played the guitar and harmonica. The music continued in the attic with an elaborate snorring orchestra all night :/ Well, it got me to go outside at 4.30 am and wow, the stars… no words.. my vocabulary lacks to describe the feeling of awe i still get everytime i look up to the sky at night. Especially on remote places like this. The stars, the planets, the milkyway, time is nonexistent and so closely connected to the shimmering lights above me at the same time. The sky produces various sensations in different people: some are not interested at all, some feel scared, unsafe, lonely, but not me; i feel good, so good.. i feel tiny and insignificant (in a good way!) and overwhelmed with love and peace. I feel solitude, not loneliness. I feel not strong, not weak, but at ease and all my worries dissipated. I wish to be dissolved and become part of this, to shine my light. Next, i realize I am part of this! Beautiful, magical, Aphrodite :).

Happy to be in such a magical place, we rose early when the sun was still hiding behind one of the mountain tops, ‘where the morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. Olympus is but the outside of the earth everywhere.’

Talking to the other people in the chalet – who were all very prepared with professional mountaineering outfits and equipment (we were not)- we wondered why nobody had the desire to climb to the top, Mytikas. Since we climbed to 2600 meter the previous day and had only 300 more to go, we felt confident and ready to kick Zeus’ ass, so we strated walking in a firm pass towards the start of the climb up.
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Oopsie, it turned out not be that easy! The climb was pretty tough, you needed both hands and feet and we wouldnt be the first to die on this mountain, so the plaquettes indicated :/.
Look at this crazy way to get up 😀
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Rocks were slipping and you had to be very carefull where to place your feet and pray no rocks from the top would fall on your head. Unprepared as we were, we didnt carry any helmets. I expected there to be many people around, but there was almost no-one. We realized that if we would both fall, actually noone would know.. wow. I wrote down Mario’s mothers telephone numbre and he wrote down my father’s. Like mountain cats *mieuw* we started our ascent, paw by paw. Mario fell behind and seeing the terror in his eyes we finally decided he would go back down and I would continue alone. My smile grew bigger and bigger and I was almost running up this stairway to heaven, eager to make it to the top! I would have loved to share this experience with Mario, but climbing up there solo gave the magic an extra dimension. I reached the next supermario level! (ironically, withouth Mario though :p). There was no endboss to conquer at the top though, the mountain welcomed me with open arms. Fresh wind blowing, distant horizons calling me, oh i wish i was an eagle, able to spread my wings and jump off!!! (or that I brought a parachute..) “Tamar on the top and Mario on the mountain, thank you mother nature”, I wrote in the book..
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I joined a group to go back down, seemed to be the smart thing to do, but the group was very slow and I kept worrying about the slipping feet of the others that I decided to leave them and continue alone, much better for my nerves and enjoyment 🙂 We took a different route back down, actually there was no route but hey, adventure!
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The descent was even more difficult and demanding, with rocks slipping away all the time and like an upside down inside out mountain cat (get the picture?), I used both hands, feet and also my bumb to slide down back to Mario. He was happy he didnt climb up and i was happy he insisted i would continue alone. We took a little break to digest what just happened.. wow. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to the mountain.

The next two days we descented back under the tree line, where we could hear the birds singing again (I missed them, the most beautiful sound mother nature ever produced..), back down to these beautiful waterfalls with freezing mountainwater (it was very refreshing to jump in!)
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and to another monastery where we collapsed.
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We had wrung out the last bits of energy from our bodies and our legs were hurting tremendously with every step. My legs are very strong from all the biking, but hiking is a different exercise and especially the descent was very demanding on them. But we did it! And there is something about giving all you have, that is very satisfying 🙂

It took us two days to get back to normal and able to bike again. These two days we spent…. *Tumtumtumtum*.. at Mister Paris’ hotel! No way! Up on the mountain he sent me an SMS, inviting us to stay in the hotel when we come back from the tiring mountain, we couldnt believe it! What did we do to deserve this?!

It was a fancy hotel with a nice pool outside, a fantastic breakfast (we already knew) and the best beds i slept on in a loooooooong time! Apparently, mister Paris had read my blog and was so inspired he told us for him it was a small gesture and he understood for us it would mean the world. Oh and it did, how we enjoyed 😀 Talking to him we tried to figure out his reasons and we found out mister Paris is so incredibly busy doing business, taking phonecalls, sending e-mails that he didn’t even gave his six-month-old baby a name yet.. That’s so sad.. I’m glad we lit a candle for him up in the monastery.

But yes, this hotel, wow! On previous travels, i would never stay in the hotel all day, but now i did. For the first time in months i had a place for my own, to relax, to recover, no need to go anywhere, talk to anyone or do anything. We played some music, I skyped with my dad, wrote my blog, we swam in the pool, practiced yoga, wing therapy (shoulder massage), took afternoon naps, only to go out for a drink at night or do some grocery shopping. My short time walking the streets i was suddenly distracted from my daydream when i heared ‘hey Tamar!’. It was Johann, the birdloving, cycling frenchman i met on top of Mount Dormitur, can you believe it?!

Life these days was perfect 🙂 I realized i needed this. Although I like the bike trip very much, Im starting to feel like slowing down even more for now. Id like to stay in one place for a prolonged time, to let everything sink in, to straighten my thoughts and shut up my mind, and also so I get to do all these things i dont have time to do when im always on the move: read books, play music, learn spanish, learn about the stars, about nature: growing, eating, cooking, etc. etc. I started planning the next half year, yes the word ‘planning’ returned to my vocabulary :p, and found some farms in Bulgaria (through WOOFF) where i could volunteer and learn about permaculture and i would take that time to focus on my music: reading about theory and history, practicing my harmonica, buying a guitar..! The first months I enjoyed letting everything go and not having a goal at all, now my heart feels very satisfied with this new goal, Im looking forward to it!

Another thing I realized. In Srebrenica, on the mountain, talking to people, i have been realizing more and more how important family is and Im starting to miss mine more and more. I guess I took them too much for granted. From the moment I left my dad was the biggest bumb on the road I had to get over to leave (many tears I shed thinking of him) and I wondered many times whether it would be better to come home and just be with him instead of leaving him behind; he means so much to me. Looking for smiles, his warms me up the most and his is the most important to me. So, I decided Im going to try to go back home for december (my borthers birthday, my birthday, christmas, new years..) to tighten the bonds again (also with my friends, will be great) before i continue my travels in january (im not staying!!). By then it will be too cold to cycle through Turkey, so im thinking of spending winter in the south of Spain, what better place to learn/practice Spanish and learn/practice guitar! Sounds perfect to me 🙂 One project I’ll be working on is this: I’d like to study the rythm of the flapping of the wings of various bird species and compose music and write lyrics around this theme. Maybe a bar too high for now, but some nice goal to think about for the future.

Anyways, back to reality. Our legs recovered and we found our way back to Thessaloniki, where we would return the bike to Georgios and Mario and I would split up, both following our own paths again. Very different paths. Literally: Mario going south an me going north, and figuratively: Mario has a main and solo focus on finishing conservatory, which will hold him for the next years, and me, im searching, i let go of everything that was sure, to explore the world, people and all these different interests i have, not sure yet where i want to go or end up. Mario sure helped me to shine some light on my path though and our different personalities inspired me to reconsider mine. As you have read before many times, I like to see people smile! And I try to make that happen with (almost) everyone i meet. It means, though, that I give a lot of myself. Many times, I am not me, I dont show the real me, I am just there to listen to the other, ask questions and make him/her feel better. I am usually the one who makes the first move for contact, with a big smile, making people feel noticed and appreciated. It’s what we all want, no? And in the words of mister Paris: just a small effort for me. We discussed whether this is a mask. And I would say it is not. Ok, maybe a little. I am on open book and whoever is interested may know everything about me. Take this blog for example! All my thoughts and emotions online. But yes, i dont feel the need to open up to people, unless they ask me. And many people dont. Also back home, I spent much time with people I had an unequal relationship with: the relationship just cost me energy instead of reviving me. And Im sure there are people doing the same thing for me. There is only a very small numbre of people who know who I really am. Well maybe, that numbre is growing now 😉

This is how I go about: I see good in almost everyone and everyone has something I like. And there is this strange thing about me, that i think people i really dont like, maybe need it even more to feel loved and appreciated and i try to give this to them. I dont feel the need to show people I dont like them or disagree with their thoughts or acts, unless they specifically ask for my opinion. I might try to challenge their thinking a little and do it with a smile, not to insult them. And in many situations i actually succeeded to turn angry, stressed or bored people into smiling people. Isnt that part of making the world a better place? Shouldnt we all be a little bit nicer to others, even if we feel like they dont deserve it? Just to get this chain reaction in motion: smiling people are more relaxed, more healthy, more patient and forgiving, and smiles are contatious! Mario watched me communicate to all these different people and he told me I hold the key to the world by acting like this. But I’m not so sure.

One disadvantage is that it drifts me away from me -even though it’s part of me- it takes a lot of time and energy I could put in other things. Things for me. I dont know what is better.. or where the balance is. Leaving to go on this trip was a good way to cut off everything. I stay in touch with the closest people and some people I know will be my friend how ever long I dont speak to them; contact is not always needed to carry people in your heart. This trip helps me realize who and what is really important and why. And its just the brutal truth that some people I dont miss at all and im sure vice versa, life goes on. I wish the best for everyone, I do, I wish for everyone to find their happiness and follow their dreams.

I had this conversation with my dad too, who is infected with the ‘Jesus-syndrome’, we joke. Always ready to help everybody out, but giving too much of himself and suffering from it. After visiting me in Croatia he felt inspired to change his life a little bit, cutting of things and people he really doesnt like and spend more time on things for him: walking, swimming, reading books, focussing on good food etc. Good for you, daddy! Ill try to do the same J

One thing I like about Mario is that he doesnt feel the need to approach the world and people like I do. He can, i saw, he is very good with people. But a lot of the time he prefers to be alone and focus on his own goals. He prefers to stay away from people he doesnt like, and does not spend energy on them. To me, it feels much more real. There is no mask, no game. He is not trying to follow any stream, nor trying to swim against the stream, to be different; he knows how to listen to his heart (possibly doesnt know any other way). With this he is well ahead of me. I have always been very rational and trying to understand the world and others (I am a psychologist for profession and by heart), but I lost track of my own heartbeat, I have been off beat. Mario is directed by his heart, by his emotions though, and just by looking at me he unintendently opened up my heart and shook loose so many emotions, sometimes overwhelming me. He is the first person on my trip that could do that to me, on such a level. Many people inspired me and I met some really beautiful people, but this was different. I still dont really understand how he does it, and he probably doesnt know himself, but I am very grateful for this. Talking to him helped me order my own thoughts a lot, giving me a big push forward. First like a tornado shaking me all directions, slowing down to a strong wind blowing under my wings.

His focus inspired me, because I truly understand this feeling where I long for some ‘me-time’ and I’m lacking it right now. I need to balance this out. I feel very lucky to meet a real person like Mario, who happens to be beautiful both from the outside and the inside. He is very clear about what he wants, where he is going, who he wants to be and how he wants to live his life. I am happily surprised by the mature thinking he already developed at a young age, he understands the world and himself pretty good in my opinion. He knows in a heartbeat whether he likes someone or some place and is never afraid to have and show his own opinion. But not in an arrogant or offensive way at all, he is just who he is and chooses how to spend his time wisely. And besides his clear direction, he enjoys life and enjoys getting off track once in a while as well, he too enjoys a rock n roll lifestyle now and then :p He cries and laughs, his range of emotions is wide and more pronounced than many others. Happy, but not stupid. Emotional, and clever. Decided, but not strict. Careless, but not ignorant. Very attractive and inspiring. I am glad we spent these 12 days together, where life was easy and beautiful! Realizing beauty should be my main focus in life.. beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful thoughts and acts, beautiful music. I will ask Aphrodite to lead me on my way.

The last days we walked around town, had lunch at our favourite bakery on the market (spinach triangles!), visited some musicshops to look at guitars and at night we celebrated by having this fantastic dinner at a beautiful local restaurant in the middle of the market halls, with great Greek (sea)food!
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It was heaven 🙂 We walked the city by night, singing horrible Hank Williams III songs :p and collapsed on the bed of the cheapest hotel we could find, where we watched the movie Big Fish (beautiful!).

The next morning we said goodbye, but this time I was not sad. I was happy for the time we spent and the light he shined on me, i feel a little bit enlightend and ready to conquer the world again and search for my own path. We are both birds who are not be caged and the time was ripe to fly out again. We flew together for some time and the time had come to fly our own directions again. We’ll just have to see when our wings will be flapping in each others direction again. No hope, no expectations, just freedom and happiness.