The accidental discovery of Fürstenwalde

I like to plan in detail my trips, but when my homeworks are done and I saw everything from the list, I can’t wait to go on the unbeaten path and try something spontaneous. Full of energy and good ideas from my trip to Bad Saarow, I realized that I still have some time left to delay for a couple of hours my departure from Fürstenwalde to Berlin. As the trains go to the capital city each hour, I tried to be as fast as possible for exploring the this little place on Spree in only 3 hours. 


I did not need to get panicked that I will not be able to properly see Fürstenwalde, as a big map near the train station mentioned the main attractions and the streets directions. I took the way to Eisenbahnstrasse, a street bordered with a lot of more or less cheap shops. Using my camera as often as possible to catch the unexpected newly painted buildings with shy Jugendstil decorations, I arrived at the old Jewish cemetery. After being mesmerized by the strange architecture of the houses in Saarow, the bourgeoises houses brought me instantly back to reality.

Nowadays, the cemetery hosts only a dozen of graves and you can enter only with the key available at the City Museum, situated around 20 minutes away. The first Jewish grave was attested in 1746, but the cemetery as such functioned since 1829 till its destruction in the 1930s. It was reconstructed in 2001. The Jewish community – the Gemeinde – was officially recognized in 1886, years after the religious service took place in private residences. On the place of the former synagogue is nowadays only a memorial inscription installed in 1980s, the place being used by private residents. 


After an intensive tour of the city in less than 2 hours, I discovered a lot of pleasant corners. For instance, the cute Klawitter shop that has a lot of old objects and pictures from the old city, selling tea, wine and many handmade foods. The extensive shopping can be made at the Fürstengalerie, situated at the end of Eisenbahnstrasse. The city used to have an old brewing tradition. In the 18th century there were around 14 breweries, but none was left for the delights of the beer lovers of today. Before heading to the Spree promenade, I stopped by the Niederlangetor, the oldest construction in Fürstenwalde, built in the 14-15th century, used as a place for depositing good for sale in the Middle Ages. 

The promenade around Spree was quiet and except some children from Yuri Gagarin school learning to paddle, there was not too much action around. I enjoyed a quiet walk with the view of Spree in the front of me. A completely different Spree from the one I knew from Berlin, more self aware, wild, green and dominant. The river played an important role in the economic and political development of Fürstenwalde, as the main and most important trade connection with Berlin and further on, with Poland. 



Back in the city from the green oasis of Spree, I found myself in the middle of a huge square, dominated by the Kaiserhof Hotel, the most rated accommodation here. As I would discover later by reading another of the scrupulous historical notes in German, I was in Ottomar Geschke Square, bearing the name of a socialist politician born here with an important political career in the later DDR. The same square has a Liberation monument and another one in the memory of the Soviet soldiers. The square used to be an important meeting point for traders since the old Middle Ages.

As many other former communist cities, there are still streets names after Marx and Engels, and some communist looking blocks of houses were re-painted in gay colours, so everything seems to be fine with that part of recent history.  

I arrived at the train station a bit tired,  waiting for my connection to Berlin on a bench while reading some easy books brought from home. From the end of the 19th century, the trains took some of the responsibilities of Spree in terms of bringing Fürstenwalde close to the ‘big world’. The train station is operating since 1842, being considered one of the oldest in Germany. From 1911, it got connected to the relaxation paradise from Bad Saarow. Nowadays, it brings people close to Berlin, in less than 90 minutes. 

On the way back to Berlin I was thinking that maybe Fürstenwalde is not such a great tourist destination, but has a lot of historical secrets hidden around the corners of its white houses.

For more visual insights, have a look at my Pinterest board:


Welcoming the autumn in Bad Saarow

After several friends mentioned recently Bad Saarow as a leisure and spa destination easy to reach from Berlin, the curiosity drove me to buy another Brandenburg Ticket and check on my own the main attractions and landscape. As someone in love with nature and especially with the delicate time of the year between seasons, I was lucky enough to catch there the first moments of the autumn. How else can a travel writer spend a glorious Tuesday but walking slowly in the woods, thinking about new trips and writing inspiration? The trip from Berlin lasted around 90 minutes by train, with a short stop at Fürstenwalde/Spree, a little coquette locality I will spontaneously visit later in the day. The last part of the train ride went through forest and trees opening my appetite for more walking. After all, the beginning of autumn warns me that winter is getting closer and my choices of trips will be significantly limited because of the cold and snow. 


Trying to live the moment, shortly after arrival I decided that I rather prefer to discover the natural side of Saarow, instead of exploring the spa and other urban pleasures. For almost two hours, I followed the Schmelling Rundweg, having as only trustworthy companions the noisy woodpeckers and eventually a lost cat hiding in the middle of the fields. The urban life followed me though, as some of the streets continue further in the woods, where strange looking houses are left to rest under the trees. 



It was not in Wonderland, even though the quietness of the forest gave me enough strength to go back and forth from any rabbit hole. Before being told about the famous thermal salt water in Bad Saarow, I had heard about this place as the location of at least one work of architecture of the forgotten Jewish architect Harry Rosenthal. I was lucky enough to see more than one house projected by him, not all of them well maintained. Before the war, this locality used to be a place of summer vacation for many artists, bankers and intellectuals. Many of its Jewish residents were killed or left the country and their residences entered the patrimony of people, as the locality was included as part of the DDR. The state is not a good administrator, as the experienced demonstrated several times, and after being offered as cheap vacation residences for the children of the people, the beautiful houses without house master started to deteriorate and some are still affected by the historical and economical circumstances. Till the mid-1990s many houses and hotels were used intensively by the elites of the Soviet Army stationed in East Germany.



A walk on the streets of Bad Saarow is a pleasant lesson of history of architecture. The important buildings are outlined with small historical indications, in German, explaining a little bit about the architects and the story of the construction of such. At a Jugendstil decorated Moorbad, currently a center of cultural activities, with a big Red Star mosaique in the front of the entrance, I saw an exhibition about the history of the Bad and the personalities that lived or visited it. Among them: Ingeborg Meyer Rey, a famous children book illustrator during the DDR, the strange Catharine Kohlhoff, nicknamed the ‘witch’ for her alternative medicine practices, or the writers Barbara Honigmann and Hedda Zinner. 


Many tourists visiting Bad Saarow are more interested in the curative powers of the thermal waters. Bad Saarow therme are considered one of the most modern thermal saltwater spas in Europe, offering natural remedies for metabolic disorders or problems of the nervous or locomotory systems. The Therme are tempting for those interested to maintain their good health standards as well, especially due to the very low prices, hard to imagine in any other quality spa in the world: 15 -EUR for three hours. A little documentation tour of the restaurants revealed that gourmet eating is more than affordable too. For instance, with 100 -EUR a couple can spend a lovely guilt-free week-end. 

Golf, cycling, tennis, Segway trips and biking are complimentary possibilities to spend the time here, offered by the many hotels that are at high demand all round the year. During my time spent here, I saw permanently small or big groups of tourists all over the place. If interested to explore more, 2 hour ship trips around the Scharmützelsee are available regularly. 

When I arrived, the sky was cloudy, but the strong sun of the last days of August come back in force by the midday and offered me another occasion of a pleasant walk around the lake. After a very eventful good year and a lot of development plans in sight, this trip to Bad Saarow offered me the chance to clarify my mind and get the best possible planning for the next months. After such a beautiful start of the autumn, maybe I will learn how to integrate the winter into my life. 

For more insights about what you can see in Bad Saarow, check my Pinterest board:

Shopping in Bicester Village


Shopping does not mean always running from a shop to another to find the best price for the best fashion item, but it can also mean a very interesting sociological, economical and even geopolitical experience. At least, for those who have enough time and less money to spend observing people and trying to make approximate conclusions about where the world is going to. It is how I decided to spend a couple of hours in the outlet shopping paradise of Bicester Village. (Pronounced [ˈbɪstər] as I was corrected several time).

The first time when I’ve hear about the village was early this year, from a glossy leaflet I took at the ITB Berlin. Since then and after, I ignored the old history of the city and the cultural part of this locality situated close to Oxfordshire, and focused instead on the commercial mantra of the place. And I guarantee I was not the only one. Bicester is a destination officially promoted through special tickets available in train stations, that also cover the bus transportation from the train to the Information point. There the driving guests can get the full package of information about the Valet Parking services.

We arrived after a very exhausting trip of more than 5 hours, that took us from the green paradise of Wales, changing a couple of trains while carrying some big luggage. The bad news was that there are no lockers in Bicester, and the only one solution was to continue the journey from an outlet shop to the other while keeping the big suitcases with us. Honestly, this is not how I was expecting to enter the village, but I kept calm, because life, my life to be more specific, is always full of surprises.

The last time I’ve been in such a place was years ago, in New York and together with my best friend we had a great time together, bargaining for clothes and getting lost in the number of bags we purchased. Note to self, always take a good girl friend with you when you want to do shopping. Now, I was carrying a big luggage, was not necessarily in the mood for shopping – I still have clothes bought then at New York that I hardly wear more than once the year – but with a travel blog where to write about what I am doing and where I go.

The Village is open 7 days the week: from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and on Sundays from 10am to 7pm. We arrived there on a Thursday afternoon and the place looked moderately busy. Meaning, for instance, that the long lines in the front of big stores, such as Gucci, lasted 10-15 minutes, instead of maybe one hour during the busy days. Except the lack of lockers – seriously, who is arriving in such a place with big suitcases and without a car? – I did not find too many inconveniences: a lot of coffees and restaurants, the most smiling personnel I met in 3 years, banks and playgrounds, porcelain and jewellery shops.


Why people would prefer shopping from such a place instead of going to Harrods, for instance, from where you can walk a lot in the center of London showing openly to the world what a successful character you are? Because of the significant discounts that are applied to most of the products, some going up to 70%. For instance, buying a Furla quality bag for less than 100 € is a good investment of your hard earned money in a good image. Especially in cities like New York or London, where the local taxes are outrageous and instantly reflected in the price of the products, using such opportunities is a smart move.

You don’t need to worry that you should leave any expectations of entering such a place without 1,000 € in the wallet. A modest investment will be enough to make you happy. This is how moderate shopping can work. At least for us, poor Europeans coping with various shock waves of the economic crisis. On the other ends of the world, the things seem to go better, much better. Resting on a bench in a little square I took some mental notes of the new sources of global wealth. And, surprisingly it is not Russia, or the Middle East or not even Japan.


Two hours before the closing time, I was still looking around trying to figure out if I really need something fancy for my wardrobe. I checked the latest design shoes by Jimmy Choo, admired the latest collection of Diane von Fürstenberg and browsed the bags from Furla. But not the analytical skills are desirable for a successful shopping trip. I was missing the enthusiasm and exuberance of my friend. When she says ‘I love it!’, ‘Look how beautiful is this!’ or more ‘I can’t leave without this bag (even though I have another 3 looking the same way at home)’, I don’t care about tomorrow and buy. I should plan a thematic trip with her soon, in London or in Ingolstadt (near Munich) or even better, at Maasmechelen (near the Belgian city of fashion, Antwerp) the two of us, we can fully enjoy shopping.

For more pictures, check my Pinterest board:

Trying my new walking shoes from Clarks



My shoes are always made for walking, especially because walking is for the moment the only sport I practice constantly for years and most likely will continue to practice in the next years too. When I travel, I always wear skirts and I try to be modestly fashionable, but the choice of shoes that can be both practical and good looking is not an easy task.

Most part of the time, I have a very practical, brown looking pair of sport shoes that even though they do not look as the perfect accessory for a lady, never betrayed me and made me always feel like flying, regardless of how much hiking I added on my speed board.  For my England and Wales trip, I decided that I need some good looking outfits and thus left my ugly brown sport shoes at home. I was expecting some nice hills and hiking temptations, especially in Llandrindod Wells, but was not sure that I will have to follow the wild call for jumping around trees on unbeaten paths.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to be announced that a little bit of hiking is part of the daily schedule. Only one single problem was left: my delicate shoes were not ready for such a challenge. Without too many generous choices for shopping in Llandrindod, after a couple of searches – not too many – and 3 visits at the same shop in less than 2 hours, I decided to buy the black pair of Clarks shoes. The knowledgeable Brit heartily recommended it twice: ‘Clarks is always good quality’ and convinced also by a substantial sale that day, I bought them. Their prices are generally middle to high, but as usually, wearing branded products has an additional cost. 

First of all, they look much better than any pair of walking shoes I had in the last 3 years. They go quite well with my long skirts and can match all the possible colour combinations. The small backpack I usually carry with me when on the road has some shades of grey, they go very well together. At the first sight, the sole looks very sophisticated and it suits adequately long walks on roads with cobblestones and stones of different sizes. 

The leather is quite hard and at least for the first walks expect some resistance and some corns. Especially if you want to wear them with wool socks: if you bought exactly your number, you will have a lot of problems so better chose at least half and one number more. 

One week ago, I wandered in Bad Saarow for a couple of hours, including through some fields freshly wet by the morning rain. The unpleasant surprise was to discover that the water insinuated through the small holes from the upper front. I had to cope with the wet socks for another couple of hours, a situation that my previous ugly shoes protected me from. In other words, my Clarks are a good choice for the sunny and not-rainy long days, but when the weather forecast announces intensive rains, my old brown friends will go back on the road. It is always good to have two available pairs of walking shoes, especially if you are a travel addict.

Reading on the road: the book selection of the month

I had another busy month with a lot of travel, writing, but also interesting reading. Some of the books I selected for ths month can be good recommendations for travellers, writers or not.

As a faithful admirer of London, I was very happy to start reading Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London. The descriptions of the streets and boroughs are very accurate and the author has an extraordinary power to create ambiances and to build powerful scenes. My disengagement started when I got more into the story, with vampires, spirits and other otherwordly creatures. It is my second book with vampires – the first one was a pathetic romance of shopping vampires that I left after 10 pages – and I promise to do not repeat the experience. I’m simply not into such stories, what can I do? But the author is talented and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of London, in my opinion.

I continued with a very practical book: Escape Guide to the Ultimate Gap Year, by Amar Hussein. One may learn in detail the practicalities of such an important decision, the costs, how to build motivation, to plan and to pitch your career break to your current boss. As I am thinking to have my own RTW trip, I’d found a lot of valuable information about how to book the world ticket, what trips can be included and what are the best platforms to bargain tickets – such as Flight Fox. It is an easy and very useful read. 

I did not like Eat. Pray. Love not because of the writing – captivating from time to time – but because I’ve found the approach and the topic itself too soap opera-like and superficial for me. When I saw at my local library the continuation of the book – Committed – I was not sure that I would like to pick it from the shelf, but with some train trips in sight, I decided that I can give a try. Plus, I did not hear people talking about that book all over the web so maybe there it is something different. Do not expect an extraordinary piece of travel writing and the commercial framework was kept unfortunately. However, besides the good writing, the book has interesting anthropological and sociological observations about marriage and the author uses her human sensibility when approaching different cultures and civilizations encountered during her journeys. I will give it three stars, but I am very curious to read some more books and articles by Gilbert.

Diplomatic travels are a completely different categories of journeys, during which the world is discovered from the perspective of the power dynamics. I was curious to have a look into Kim Ghattas‘ account of her media journeys with the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. A curious inquiry about power and autonomy and the daily immersion into a fascinating world that it is much better to read about. 

My 5-star recommendation of the month is for Judith Fein, Life is a trip. Excellent and inspiring writing, interesting stories and angles. In her own words: ‘I have never really been interested in the mainstream. Actually, most people are fascinated by the mainstream, so the mainstream doesn’t need my interest. What makes my ticker beat faster is discovering voices, people, places, realities that are not generally known’. That is exactly I am looking for too, even though I am still far away from accomplishing.

During my lovely time spent in Wales and Britain, I enjoyed browsing the pages of the September edition of National Traveller. My attention was caught by interesting reports about: Ethiopia, that I hope to visit one day; Tasmania; the Scottish Highlands that maybe will be my next big UK destination and Sri Lanka. 

That’s all for now. Meanwhile, the list of recommendations for the next month is already in the making! Till then, happy reading!

PS. I am planning to add a monthly post about movies so stay tuned for more recommendations!

Sweet, sweet life of Llandrindod Wells

Many places are attractive for their extravaganza, spectacular history or impressive nature. You go there because everyone told you about or because the place is the star of the year travel magazines. Before going to Llandrindod Wells I did not have any idea what I can expect from that place and I gave up any expectations for an extraordinary Wales experience. This attitude helped me to get the best of my time there, enjoying every quarter of green grass I saw and the pleasure of sipping for hours the lovely smoothies from the Herb Garden Cafe. Nothing special happened during my stay, except the daily confrontation with some nasty but otherwise inoffensive bees that did not let us have the late breakfast outdoors. In such a quiet ambiance, I was able to discover a lot about the place, its people and its history.


One of the main reasons for choosing Llandrindod Wells over any other place in Wales was because of the quality of their waters. Dr. Diedrick Wessel Linden, a German that studied in London but without being a doctor in the real sense of the word, visited the place in the second half of the 18th century and wrote a book about the quality of the water. That discovery determined at a great extent the development of the city in the next centuries. The highest moment of glory of Llandrindod was from the beginning of the 20th century till the 1920s. Most of the architecture and buildings are from that time, following the classical Victorian style: red bricks meet some half-timbered variations and a lot of arts and crafts decorated balconies. There are no yards and you can directly enter the houses from the street, through a small green area with colourful flowers.

The search for the spa ended up very shortly though. First stop was at the Metropole Hotel, where we were showed a beautiful swimming pool and some nice cozy colourful corners for a tea thereafter. Not exactly the spa with a medical treatments we were looking for, but a very good choice for anyone looking for some luxury experience. Not me this time.


For a real medical spa experience, we were directed to Rock Park and Spa where a semantic clarification brought us back to earth: in traditional terms, spa refers to a treatment of drinking water high in minerals not to a glamorous massage and swimming experience. Do we want to try such an experience, why not try to drink some water from the river nearby? we were suggested, Interesting, we nodded and continued our slow walk in town thinking about maybe exploring some different wells in the neighbourhoods the next year.


If you look with the London eyes, it seems like time stopped years ago here, but people are still around, enjoying their quiet and non-complicated life here. As a tourist or traveller, what can you do if you plan to stay there a couple of days? My first choice was to book a hotel in the center of the town, but somehow, as we need to change the arrival dates, I decided to move outside, at a lovely bed and breakfast hosted in a former farm. And I still congratulate myself for that decision. When we wanted to go in town, we needed to walk for about 30 minutes. The afternoons were spent usually exploring the hills around, making short trips, or resting near the lake and spending quality time discussing about books.

The morning were usually spent in town, visiting the small vintage shops, same with very crazy names – Junk’n Disorderly is my favorite. There are some little eateries too, including a kebab fast-food. A local swimming pool can be visited for some immersion into the local pool, but the program should be checked in advance at the Information Center as it is regularly used by the school children.

For the art and culture lovers, there is a bicycle museum and another museum of art and some tours of the local architecture wisely explained through various information points throughout the city.


Unfortunately, during the winter, there is not too much to do, except horseback riding and some relaxing sleep and walks through the snow. The golden mine for directions and suggestions is the local information center, where an extremely nice volunteer lady gave me some information about what can be done on a normal summer day and the possibility to go skiing in the Elon Valley in the winter. Winters are harsh and may last around 4 full months.

Because the shopping opportunities are limited – there is a big TESCO and some clothes shops but nothing like a big shopping mall where to spend all your savings – don’t expect to spend too much money during the stay. Everything you may need for an easy life is there. For some sophisticated, one can go to Cardiff or Birmingham or back to London. But most probably, after a couple of days, one will get easily used with the local pace.


One of the most exciting events taking place in Llandrindod is the Victorian Festival, that ended one day before we arrived there. However, the genuine festival of natural beauty lasts more. With so much green and quietness around, no wonder that the people are so welcoming and talkative. As the place is so small that it is a high probability that you can meet a person twice a sunny day and after a third encounter he or she is already your acquaintance. You meet someone while walking the hills, you need to greet and answer the greetings. You are no more lost in the anonymity of big numbers of the big cities. You are singled out as not a local, but welcomed as a friend.


In a couple of hours you may be done with a complete sightseeing of Llandrindod, with the details of the history and architecture included. The most interesting buildings are those hosting banks or hotels – white stone and some delicate decorations – compared to the rest of the buildings preponderantly made of red bricks. For the sake of diversity, and keen to see almost every corner of Llandrindod, one day before leaving, we took a small walking trip to the lake and the golf place. We were too late for improving our golf skills, an entertainment offered to the locals since 1902. We enjoyed a round tour of the lake that has a spectacular metal construction in the middle called ‘fantastic animals’. Maybe the artists who made it wanted some artistic reply to Loch Ness, but we did not feel afraid. We shared some crumbs of bread with the gracious ducks and swans, had a sandwich on a bank – as the local coffee was closed after 6pm – and returned back to the hotel.

Fully relaxed and with a lot of energy, despite the intensive walking, I left Llandrindod with only one big regret: I did not hear a full conversation in Welsh and except some inscriptions I spotted in the train, I fail to learn any word in that language. I already have something on my to-do-list for my next trip to Wales.

For more pictures, check my Pinterest board dedicated to Llandrindod Wells:

Hotel review: Three Wells Hotel, Llandrindod Wells


Imagine that you are realizing suddenly that you are no more in a crazy busy world but in the middle of a oasis of quietness. You wake up with a beautiful view outside the window – and you are not in Switzerland – , after each meal you can walk around a pond without being bothered by cars and too many people, and when you want to do nothing, you go on a hill and do nothing. Maybe you can find a way to horseback ride for a while. This is the feeling I had during my entire stay at the Three Wells Hotel, my headquarters during the trip to Llandrindod Wells, in Wales.

It is an old farm redesigned, with old style lobby and stairs and with a welcoming personnel. It is relatively far away from the train station, but with a cab worth around 11£ you are there. If you want to walk in town and not keen to wait the bus that stops almost every 2 hours, in almost 30 minutes you are there. A beautiful walk on street with small houses with gardens and colourful flowers.

The double room, even it does not have a coherent decoration style and the pieces of furniture is rather mismatching, is welcoming, with good-mood wallpapers. The cleaning is made daily and the Internet in the room is free and fast.


It is provided with a bath tube and shower, with Scottish products offered from the house. Everything is clean and well kept. The bathroom is quite big, not the usual small boxes that one may find in an average London hotel.


The visitor is welcomed with a box full of Welsh products, salty and sweets and some local variants of coffee plus milk. You can prepare your coffee and your tea in the room. No fridge though, but in case you have brought some food for your alternative breakfast – otherwise the hotel also offers breakfast, included in the price of the room, with among others, delicious coffee and fruits, as well as natural juices and corn flakes – one can ask to use the hotel’s fridge. Most probably, the request will be accepted immediately.


The Welsh spring water is a complimentary gift from the part of the hotel. The reserves are daily refuelled. It has a fresh and healthy taste.


For the long evenings of the autumn and winter – the hotel has open the booking season for the winter holidays season, including the New Year’s Eve – the lobby offers a good refuge for social exchange. Board games are available, and the bar – as the reception – is open till 10pm. If you rather want to use your free time to learn something, you will find a couple of books in English on diverse topics, from romance to complicated tomes about the plants and birds in Wales.


For the summer time, eating outside and enjoying the gorgeous view, with the sound of birds and sheep in the background is the best recommendation. There may be some rebellious bees around during your meal time, but this happens especially in August/September, when the little insects realize desperately that the winter season is getting closer. After eating, a short walk around the pond or a little bit of reading on a bank near the lake is a good relaxation option.


After three full days spent here, I left the Three Wells Hotel with a shade of regret. The stay at this welcoming hotel had a 50% contribution to my promise to return soon to Llandrindod. The next time I will like to spend more time and get the full feeling of a relaxing holiday.

For more pictures from Llandrindod Wells, check my Pinterest board:

Birmingham, will be back soon!


Here I am, finally in Birmingham, after an exhausting tour-de-force that started early in the morning in Berlin, with a stop in Oxford when I fully enjoyed the pleasure of discovering a historical city of learning. Too tired to do anything else for the evening, I preferred to have a nice supper, explore the hotel and do a little bit of work. I needed more energy for a good start before going to Wales the next day. However, I wanted to be up as early as possible, to have a short breakfast and run to see more of the city. Everything went as planned and at 8.15 I was waiting for my bus.

The paradox of the public transportation in Birmingham is that despite a very social media oriented strategy – you can get updates of the public transportation network on Twitter, for instance – you can buy tickets only by introducing the requested amount of coins for the trip in a very odd looking machine. If you don’t have the perfect amount, you cannot buy your ticket. And, as usual, I did not have more than 3 £ of change on me. However, compared to some nervous experienced I had in London, the drivers were kind enough to let me go even I was a couple of pp. less the amount of the ticket or did not have any change at all. The local kindness continued, as I was helped to find the best buses combination on my way back: the bus driver called one of his colleagues for more information, and I was given a map to help me reach the stop easier. On the way back from Llandrindod, lost in between train stations and missing our train, we were again the subject of local generosity, being guided as children to the next available train by the same kind local people.

With such a good human impression, my few hours spent in the city got a special dimension. Why do we travel for, unless for discovering new worlds and diversifying our human experiences?


The next hours passed very fast, in the rhythm of my curiosity to see as much as possible. I started with the shopping area of the Bull Ring and the very spectacular Selfridges building attached, enjoyed the pleasure of finally wandering through a Chinatown in Europe, was disappointed that St. Martin’s market – a historical meeting points of traders since the 18th century – was closed that day, admired the spectacular new architecture, relatively well integrated into the old sumptuous buildings, such as the Town Hall looking as a very serious Greek temple. A foodie fair was opening in the main square, and enjoyed the mixed smell of the international cuisines. Maybe one day will be brave enough to prepare some Jack Daniels onions.

I continued the run with the cries of the seagulls in the background, on the streets getting more and more action from a quarter of an hour to another. More people on bikes than I saw in London, and a lot of colourful flowers on the streets. The Jewellery Quarter was unusually quiet though, so after a small tour I turned back in the shopping area returning to the hotel. Around 10.30, the city was completely returned to life and even the late sleepers were back in the busy world.


After checking out and enjoying a late breakfast outside, we decided to make another tour for a quiet walk of another hour. This time, I was quite proficient in getting the right directions and catching the buses we needed, and even got enough courage to go a bit far away to take some more pictures, especially of some interesting graffiti that I’ve seen before on my back back to the hotel. During this second trip, I realize how much I would like to return to see some museums, discover the art collection and eventually attend a show at the Hippodrome.

Birmingham, promise that it will be a next time!

For more pictures from Birmingham, check my Pinterest board:

My travels and 9/11

Less than one week after 9/11 I was in a plane heading to Skopje, Macedonia. I was participating to a media research trip covering OSCE efforts to mediate the inter-ethnic conflict in the area. It was an unusually quiet trip, without too much chatting or jokes, excepts a very inadequate remark of a member of the group wondering how you can hijack a plane with a plastic knife. No one paid him any second of attention and the silence continued till we arrived at Skopje. The tensions were boiling in the Balkans again and the international wisdom was requested to process fast and correctly a lot of unknown.

To be honest, I still cannot grasp what happened in that mid-September. I remember my reaction when I first saw at CNN – at the time I used to watch TV even when I was sleeping – the first plane breaking into the WTC. I’d called a local correspondent who was still sleeping and took my question as a bad joke. No, I was not the one making bad jokes, it was another one of those historical situations when something unusually bad puts the world into motion. When late in the day I saw the manifestations of happiness on some Middle Eastern streets I realized that in fact, the bad was in the air for a long time, maybe for decades if we remember the stories about hijacked planes in the 70s, but it took longer to realize the dangers. Once again, in the middle of our Western hi-tech civilization, some maniacs were decided to destroy everything with the raw force of the cavemen.

A couple of months and many other flights after the tragic September I was going to the States for a longer stay. More facts surfaced since then and at least a basic story about what happened was readable. It was and still is hard to understand ‘why’? Somehow, I promise myself to refuse thinking about the answer, but rather to think about how it could be possible to avoid such outbursts of hate.

I was very happy to be in the States and even t of some family and friends that I must be more careful than usual, I fully enjoy my time. After all, in another one of those wonderful surprises of my lifetime, I was exactly where I wanted to be and I was fully living my American dream. But I was constantly afraid: of the people flying in the same place with me; of some lenient security man who maybe did not check properly the person in the front of me; of the guy eating his hamburger in the corner – who knows what he is plotting while he is chewing his fast-food? I was so happy to find out that my plane from LA to NYC returned back after 5 minutes only because of a technical problem, and not because some suspect package was found out. I was grateful that it was an engineering problem and not another human stupidity. I did not care to walk the streets of Bronx on my own on a Sunday morning, with a map on my hand, or to spend time in the suburbs of New Orleans, but every time I was about to go in a plane, I scanned the people around as a scared animal.

I was very unhappy to realize that, at a certain extent, those maniacs succeeded to make us, and especially the brave me, fear. People like them living to hate and destroy everything beautiful for the sake of some divine justice they will rejoice in their afterlife. When one decides to kill people just for making their entrance in the hall of fame of history it is sick, very sick. Teaching your children do be proud of you and follow your example, is even sicker and one must be even more sick to find a good excuse for such a behaviour.

During my stay in the States, the fear was always in the back of my head. I did not know what and when to expect and every time I was boarding a plane – the easiest way to commute from a part to another of this huge country – I was anxious. That anxiety survived all my successful and intensive trips since then. I will always prefer to fly with a company with the highest security and safety credentials. I don’t mumble and protest against security checking because I know that I don’t have to worry afterwards. I don’t have nothing to hide and I want so much to travel safe and arrive alive! As simple as that! Very often I wonder why too many people are getting very angry against the increased surveillance and security screening but not against the perpetrators of terrorism and even support sometimes individuals with hate speech records. Perhaps they don’t know too much about their idols or assumed role models, this could be their only excuse.

However, nothing will stop my passion for travel, with or without my anxious outbursts. The more I travel the more I realize how important is to share the beauty of the world. This could be a cure for hate and narrow-mindedness. I wish that all those hate intoxicated people will give up their obsessions and will rather open a travel book and decide to understand the world.

Hotel Review: Ibis Hotel Bordesley Circus

When I first saw the offer of booking a double room at Ibis Hotel Bodesley Circus for the ridiculous sum of 30 £ the night, I gave up any expectations. I stayed at several Ibis hotels in Europe, especially in German, but never for such a low price and being familiar with what you can usually get for such a price in London, all I wished was to have a clean room and a place to sleep before heading as early as possible to the next and final destination of our England trip: Llandrindod Wells. The travel writer in me wanted to spend a little bit of time sightseeing, but I was ready for a bit of sacrifice. 


A completely different and much more pleasant reality was waiting for me. First, the hotel has a very good location: close to the international airport, but also with good connections to the center, with regular buses coming and going every 10 minutes. If you are in the mood for walking, it may take around 30-40 minutes to reach it from the coach station, but only if you don’t have big loads of luggage. Otherwise, the taxi is not very expensive, with around 10 £ from the coach station. The hotel has a parking place as well, plus some fast food options a couple of minutes away, in case you are not too pretentious in terms of food. 


At the reception there were always at least 2 persons available to help, including late in the evening. After checking out, you can store your luggage for less than 24 hours. Plus, we were also helped to freeze our ice from the cooler box during the night. As I would later discover, kindness seems to be one of the main character threats of the people in Birmingham.

The price of the room did not include the breakfast, that can be taken in the restaurant which serves various snacks and British pies. Coffee and drinks – beers and wines among others – are available in the lobby area till late in the evening. If you bring some food with you, you can set up your own breakfast or lunch on the wooden tables near the entrance, a good idea during the summer time – if you don’t mind the bees, apparently a problem in England this time of the year. 


Let’s talk about the room now! We headed to it on a bed of poppies. The double room is spacious, with enough space to store your luggage, plus a table for a little bit of work, and a TV. The Internet is free, but somehow, my computer refused to get connected and needed to use for a basic checking the option of 1 £ for 20 minutes offered by the computer in lobby. I felt that I am back in a different century, as almost half of the time and of the money were wasted for uploading the pages. There is no fridge in the room, but tea and coffee is offered for free. 

The hotel has the newest Ibis mattresses, with special smooth duvets and ample pillows that gave the best comfort and sweet dreams. Exactly what I needed so many hours of coach and airplane and a lot of rush. 

The bathroom is good looking, with a green and clean toiler, with a stylish wooden pavement. However, the shower was not crystal clean hence the 4 not-so-shining stars given to the bathroom facilities. The hotel residents can also use the hair dryer.


The overall experience of the couple of hours spent here was satisfactory. I was able to go quite fast in the center at least twice in the morning and see almost what I wanted to see in the city. I did enjoy the pleasure of eating out and had a quiet evening and night relaxing a lot before another exhausting hours of changing trains and coaches. The personnel was more than welcoming and I recommend it to anyone looking to enjoy Birmingham while having also some decent time indoors and without spending a big fortune. 

Fore more pictures from Birmingham, check the Pinterest board: