Portugal my love

IMG_7560Have to admit that Portugal was my proper solo travel after the big break from travel sickness where I didn’t want to see my backpack anywhere near. I have heard about Portugal from friends and travel sites, and was overwhelmed with the amount of information I got so I decided to do what you shouldn’t when people recommend you places – I’ve ignored it and went my own way. So without a plan as per usual, I have landed in Porto to visit a friend and spent some time there.

Few things Porto has to offer, considering its a touristic and business city:

  1. The amazing Livraria Lello, where you can get highly overpriced books and enjoy amazing architecture by F.X. Esteves. Truly worth waiting in the line to see the inside beauty of those wooden stairs and get collection books of Harry Potter.

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  1. Contemporary art museum Serralves. The museum itself did not surprise or interested me that much. Apart from a few great pieces by Amish Kapoor, I found it to be alright, but then I realised that the museum owns a private garden. And don’t be misled by the word garden because it’s one huge park with wonderful paths, rivers, horses and all you could dream of for a lovely afternoon walk in the sun.

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Besides those sights Porto is about its old town, getting lost between houses that have blue tiles all over it, eating Pastel de Nata’s and indulging in hipster/ fashion culture that Porto has to offer. It didn’t have much expectation for this trip but I knew that I want to see nature so a few days later I have moved towards the South.

This is Fellini he lives in Portugal and enjoys the sun.

Few train stops later I have arrived in Coimbra. The town where you can be proud to go to the university because it looks like a castle, and the town where people have strong legs since you have to walk steep hilly areas to get to uni. I have visited this ridiculously huge university which has a chapel that’s still in use and the jail which is not in use, but I’m pretty sure if you don’t turn up to lectures, tutors joke about putting you there.

After the short trip to Coimbra and stuffing couple ( or more) pastries, I have sat on another train down south to Caldas da Rainha, from where I have gone to see this tiny village Obidos, where houses painted in blue reminded me of Cheouen in Marocco. There seem to be no locals living there daily, since the streets are filled with tiny souvenir stores that try to sell all kinds of traditional stuff to the tourist. Besides the main street with touristic noises, it is a pretty nice place to escape the city and enjoy the rising sun and have a stroll around the old castle and panoramic view. You probably only need an hour to see it and appreciate it so its definitely worth a trip if you touring south’ish.

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In Obidos I have found a cosy book store where they sell second-hand books, and I got myself a copy of History of Portugal, which accompanied me through the rest of the trip, and was a good excuse to sit down and enjoy the weather and of course rest my dying leg muscles. My next stop is Sintra. And all I can tell you about Sintra is that no one talked about it as much as it deserves, and maybe it’s good because this place is as close to the paradise land as I have ever visited.

I think I found my passion to backpack and do random travels again when I came to Sintra. It makes me so happy to even remember it now after months have passed. Sintra is half an hour train ride from Lisoa and it is basically a big forests and gardens area with the old town and very fancy houses where Holywood stars and musicians go to hide when they get tired of paparazzi. In the summer its fool of tour buses that are too big for the streets and tourist running around with cameras like crazy trying to capture every leaf on the trees. But low-season time its the place to be. Ride a mountain bike to the park, read a book, enjoy the sun, and stuff yourself with amazing pastries. Is there anything more you need to feel happy? Well for me it was enough to walk in those streets of this tiny town with so much space to run and bike with no people around you. Therefore I decided to spend all the remaining time here and explore all my legs can handle. First things first – Regaleira! If you ever thought of magical gardens that Regaleira. A park/gardens especially built for gods and symbolism. It takes you to the well that you enter through the rock then you go down hundreds of stairs and you are under the ground in the caves, but then you go further and you realise that you are back above the ground.

 

It tricks your mind and doesn’t let you skip one thing. Fountains and statues, flowers and fish pools. Everything you could think of is there to play with your imagination and make you feel like you are walking inside your dream.

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Turns out that Regaleira is just one of the bunch such gardens in Sintra. Monserrate Palace is another wonderland place where you can get lost in ruins and waterfalls and then enjoy the beautiful royal palace as well.

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Besides these parks, Sintra is famous for its two castles ( which is a pity because they are less than half amazing than the gardens) but at least they drive all the tourist there so you can enjoy the gardens alone. Two palaces on the top of the hill Moorish and Pena Palace. While Pena palace is an odd coloured palace with posh kitchens and separate rooms for music, dance and reading, the Moorish castle is the opposite. Grey and dark castle were used for protection from enemies coming from both: sea and land, the castle was structured to not only see both sides of the country but also was built high enough too see other castles there royals lived through the wars.

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I have stayed in this amazing small hostel with its owner Antonio, who lives in Sintra all his life, and you can see in his eyes that he lives such a happy and full life, where he can enjoy and be quite in the nature and if he wants to go out he just rides to Lisbon in 20 min. This perfect life balance surrounded by beautiful houses, warm weather all year around made me feel like I might want to live there one day when I’m older and tired of office hours. The place is also located by the sea where Cabo da Roca is a viewpoint area on the cliffs which is the most western point of Europe. Locals and tourists go there to enjoy the sun setting into the horizon of the sea, and of course eat some roasted chestnuts from an old local guy, who sees that sun setting every single night.

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In this 6 day trip, I had some time to visit Lisbon, but I was enjoying the nature and calmness of Sintra so much that I couldn’t be bothered to explore busy and full of tourist Lisbon. So I walked the streets, got to see the vibe and main touristic areas but I left it for later and stayed in this happy state of mind for the rest of the trip. When they say travel sets you free, it ain’t a lie, you just have to find the right place to feel comfortable and free. Till the next time my lovely Portugal.

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October favourites

Since October passed away like a wind gust I have collected a few of my favourites from this month to share with you.

Clothing:

Since the weather is getting cold and ugly, I was scouting for a good winter coat. Canada Goose seemed unnecessary violent to animals, The North Face was a bit too much for a wallet, so I had to walk in and out of shops until I found Selected Femme! This is a company that I somehow never heard about before. They use recycled and organic fibres but still keep the stylish collection and acceptable pricing.

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The second favourite in clothing is a sock company that I found by a friends recommendation while I was looking for cycling socks. I cycled in them for a few weeks and then the genius idea hit me! Since these socks are made to sustain a lot of traction it is made in way better quality than casual socks. So for now on I only wear cycling socks on daily basis, since it doesn’t brake, sweat or does any other annoying sock stuff. Sorry Happy Socks, but Fingers Crossed is winning big time here.

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Music:

Not so many things happened in the music scene during October but there are few artists that caught my attention with good vibes and lyrics.

Firstly, Maggie Rogers is on my daily playlist, she is that girl that was discovered by accident by Pharell Williams and hit it off pretty fast. Despite great music videos, she keeps on releasing new beats and love stories that make your hips move a little.

Another hip mover this month is Parcels with their new album, very light summery beats, with happy lyrics. Loved the decision to make the last song of the album – a thank you note to everyone involved in the album because usually, nobody knows people who worked with the band and created it. It’s one of the greatest solutions so far to thank and also publicise the production gang.

Lastly, it always has to be a weirdo choice. I think we all have a few songs that nobody knows about but it keeps on playing on repeat. I have heard this soundtrack during a dance performance and once you hear it on max volume in a big stage it just gives you goosebumps. The track I’m talking about is Jose Larralde – Quimey Neuquen. It’s good and it’s weird and I looove it.

Movie:

While everybody is talking about The Star is Born, and since I haven’t seen it yet, my recommendation of the month is blackkklansman. An incredible story from Spike Lee. The movie is a true story about John David Washington who was the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.  The movie revolves around white supremacy and KKK movement followed by a shocking ending. It is funny, and it is painful and very highly rated online.

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Book:

I never used to read books, because I never managed to find time for it. But since now I am commuting 40min twice a day, I decided to put this time to use and pick a book to read and combine it with my slow reading skills. It turned out to be a great book by Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens. Probably most of you already know about it since it has been given the best reviews from Obama and other important people. The book is a brief overview of world evolution up to this time. It is a first of 3 books, and it is a relatively an easy read for such a load of information. It explains how we got to the world we are now.    It touches not only political and economic aspects of our history but also speaks about happiness and how we measure it in the 21st Century.

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Besides these founds, October went by so fast I didn’t have time to note down any other finds I stumbled upon this month. It was a crazy 30 days of moving and meeting new people, going to see exhibitions and performances. But I have bigger things planned for November so I keep you updated!

Thank you for reading those silly stories!

Saule

 

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs.

A month passed since I have arrived at Rotterdam as a participant at Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs program. And I would like to share my experience with you because I believe there is a bunch of my friends who want to open their own business but still not sure how, when and where.  Erasmus is here to help!

So while I was graduating from the University I was facing the same exact question that every single one of us faces – What will I do next? The answer for me was to hustle and open my own business one day. But saying that I want to open a business and actually doing it is two VERY different things. The fear of failing, not knowing where to start, not having enough money to invest and not having proper skills to do it, is a big scare when you put it all together. So I had to do something to overcome these fears and gain confidence in myself and my idea as well. So I started looking for opportunities to learn more about business and entrepreneurial skills, and I have stumbled upon this amazing program!Image result for erasmus for young entrepreneurs

Erasmus For Young Entrepreneurs is a program designed to encourage young entrepreneurs to learn new skills and gain experience from small business owners abroad. Since the program is financed by European Commision, everyone accepted to the program gets an opportunity to choose the country they want to go to for the program. There is a huge list of European Countries as well as few new participating countries such as USA , Singapore  and Israel  ! The program can last up to 6 months and you are provided with a financial support as well.

For me, this was a great opportunity because I already had a business plan that was lacking knowledge in certain areas, and this mentoring experience enables me to move forward with my business development way faster than I was expecting. I have chosen to go to the Netherlands since I am quite in love with this place, and I have found an amazing host organisation – Charlotte Wooning Jewellery Company. I have also chosen to do only 2 months of the program since I feel like it is the best time frame to learn about everything I want to know and gain some experience in the meantime. Since jewellery business usually doesn’t run big projects, I had to find my way around it and see what is the best way to learn and gain skills during these 2 months. The biggest benefit of the program for me is that my mentor – Charlotte, is open and able to answer all my questions and helps me to develop my business idea as well.

I feel truly lucky to be part of this program and after only one month of working here, I already gained the necessary knowledge and more importantly confidence to go forward with my own business. I feel way more mature and insightful after these crazy 30 days in Rotterdam, so I am dedicating November for hard prep and making contacts with retailers and suppliers, and putting all ideas that’s been sitting in my head, to the Word file!

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If you are interested in this opportunity as well you can get more information on it here, thank you for reading those Silly Stories!

#EIW2 #Erasmusforyoungentrepreneurs #EYEprogram

Saule.

 

 

 

 

Rotterdam so far.

Hey there, so few weeks passed since I moved my bags once again. I moved to the Netherlands for the second time, but this time is completely different from what I experienced while living in Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is full of tourists going all possible directions and absolute lifestyle madness, Rotterdam is filled with locals and you can feel Dutch culture way more here.

Let’s start with the city.

I could google all the stats for you, but I rather tell you what I make of it while living here so shortly. Firstly its a city of creative architecture. Probably all architecture students dream, each part of the town differs with eye-catching buildings as well as an interior design that you can see through big windows. Aside of architecture, Rotterdam has a lot of galleries and museums with first class art and exhibitions that is constantly changing, so you don’t feel like going to Tate modern and seeing same stuff for 5 years. I really appreciate the cultural vibe in this town. It seems like art is all around and it never leaves you bored while walking the streets.

Besides lively town vibes, it is the first time I can feel like a real outsider in this culture. It seems that everything I live by is done differently here. From tiny things to more psychological ones. Let’s start with tiny things. Dutch people keep their bread in the freezer at all times, and always eat sandwiches for lunch so they have to defrost it in the morning, so they are able to eat it at lunch. #careforbread

Secondly, Dutch people wash dishes in a sink full of water. And I really don’t understand how it works. You fill up sink with water and soap and then they wash dishes and put them to dry… but its soapy! So for past 2 weeks, I’ve been trying to hack the system of saving water but having not soapy dishes. #blondnologicsorry

Stupid things aside, the biggest difference in the culture so far is work ethics. All my work experiences in Lithuania, Iceland and England has been crazy working hours, a lot of work and feeling like you have so much work you will never finish it. Endless emails, phone call, working overtime, doing other peoples work, etc. In Lithuania especially we are raised to think that you have to do hard work to be great. And even praise someone who worked all day, multitasked and got super tired doing so.  Here, on the other hand, is another world. So the first week I came here, I was so lost in the office I didn’t know what to make of it. Everyone was doing their jobs, with no rush and sweat. Everything was quiet and calm. No flying papers, no running all over the place and most importantly no bragging how hard the work is. After first week feeling like an alien, I finally understood what’s going on! Companies are hiring enough people! So marketing doesn’t need to do press, and goldsmiths don’t need to answer phones. Everyone has their own tasks and they are not overflowing with other work because there is no people to do it. This is something new for me. Usually, business owners try to hire as little people so they save money and think that one person can do all of it alone. This was the case in all of my work experiences. Firstly, I didn’t know what to make out of it, since I love work, and multitasking 24/7, but more I am here, more I understand that this relaxed work environment gives you time to be more creative, and to talk to people about life, and make you happier than a pile of papers do. I’ll let you know how it goes but for now, I still can’t adjust to this ‘non-madness’.

After all, I am finally understanding what being an outsider means. I always felt in my place wherever I went, but now I am sitting at the lunch table with people speaking Dutch, and feeling invisible. I wake up early, go to work, go home, cycle, read a book, and try to make the best of this. And I am learning from this experiences more than I’ve ever done from the comfortable environment ones. Because it’s all not like I used to, but it gives me so much to think off.

I don’t know. It’s weird, but it’s happy.

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Thank you for reading THOSE SILLY STORIES.

 

HOW TO RENEW A THE BICYCLE IN 5 HARD STEPS

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I got my first road bike probably in 2010 it was purchased from the second-hand market in a decent condition. With few adjustments the bike was ready to hit the streets. It was with me in Lithuania and England up until 2018 riding almost every day for past 4 years. I really didn’t give it any love or maintained it in any way. With rusted chain and chainrings as well as most of the frame the bike decided to give its last power before it completely gave up. I decided to bring it back from the UK rather than trashing it and completely restore it. Since I have a new Specialized road bike I am not feeling comfortable to leave it locked in any place, so I decided to make this oldie my go-to bike that I am not afraid of leaving under one lock and not so heartbroken if it’s gone.

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So here it goes:

Step 1: Taking photos of all the pieces mounted on the bike and how it’s put together. I have made a bunch of those and sent it to myself on Facebook since I could add notes on each photo before sending it. I also took a short video in case I have missed a photo so I can clearly see how brakes and shifters are assembled.

 

 

Step 2: Taking the bike apart completely. I have removed the seat with the seat post first and then the wheels in order to be able to place the frame on the work table and take off the rest of it easier. The rest of the part came off pretty hard since the bike was out of lube and rusted in most of the places. Some took some beating and swearing to come off but eventually it all gave up and the frame was free!

 

 

Step 3: Cleaning the shit out of it.

After taking everything apart I have decided to clean everything, because I was not sure which part I will want to use again at the beginning of this project. I unscrewed all the bolts and put them into the de-rusting liquid together with all the parts that have been collecting the rust on them. While the rust was leaving those parts I started sanding and polishing the rest of the metal parts such as brakes, shifters, seat post etc. I have used electrical drill with the adjustable sanding attachments. It is way faster than sanding everything by hand as well as stronger so it was a big time saver for me. After sanding and polishing all the small parts I have also cleaned and polished the parts that were sitting in the de-rusting liquid.

Moving on: I have found the old can of paint remover that I have used to take the paint of from the front fork and the frame itself. It takes just a couple of minutes and the paint jumps right off, although the majority of the paint was easily peeled off, the rest of the paint that was harder to remove I sanded with the drill and finished off with white spirit.  For more tricky areas such as all the welding areas I have used old toothbrush and old dentist tools to reach and scratch the paint off.

 

 

 

Step 4: Degreaser / Primer / Paint / Varnish

As I mentioned I have used White Spirit to remove the paint easier, but it also makes the frame too greasy to paint on, I have picked up degreaser called Nefras from the local paint store to start prepping frame and fork for the painting. I have decided to paint fork and frame in white and since I had no idea what paint or primer should I get I went to some shitty paint store where they gave me Hammer 3 in 1 spray paint telling me that it already has primer and varnish in it so it will be easier to paint. No it wasn’t.

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I started testing the paint on the fork. And it looked crap. It was matte and had sand like texture which I hated. I decided to start over, so I cleaned the fork and here we go again.

I googled the car paint store where I could get any proper assistance and headed over there. I picked up car paint primer in grey colour because there was no other option, car varnish in the spray can and some Montana paint. The guy in the store told me that it’s better to choose darker colours because it has more pigment and will be easier to handle. So I picked this wonderful navy green Montana spray can and headed back to my garage.

It’s time for round 2! So here it goes, tape the parts that have to be covered hang the fork/frame of the secure thread (mine was electrical cord – very safe indeed) and degrease the hell out of it with Nefras (or any other stuff u found). I have used blue paper towels for degreasing, and it is also important not to touch the areas you cleaned with your hands to not put the oil from your skin back on the metal.

After it is all clean and shiny its time to prime. Since I don’t own the spray gun thingy and I am low budget, I got all the painting components in spray cans. I primed the frame 3 times with very thin coats to make sure it doesn’t leak or drip anywhere because by that time I was so tired of fixing stuff.

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Primed

After the primer is all dried up, I have sanded it slightly by hand with very soft sanding paper in order for the paint to stick better to the primer. I have painted 2 layers of paint paintantly waiting for each of it to completely dry.

 

 

I hanged those pretty things inside to dry overnight before I start spraying the varnish. While spraying paint there were some minor leaks of the paint which I also left to dry and then sanded with a tiny bit of sandpaper to even out. And since I have put a few layers of paint it was an easy fix. The varnish was the hardest part, or at least I found it to be, because it has to be perfect, if varnish leaks it’s very hard to fix and it makes you swear a lot, so it takes patience and most importantly not going over the same place twice. I decided to do 3 layers of varnish in thin layers and it turned out to be good.

After 24 h when varnish is all dry it was time to put this baby together.

Step 5: Finish line

By the time the paint dried out I have decided to make this bike as minimal as possible and get rid of the gears and brakes. I have decided to put in the coaster brakes and make it single speed for easy city cruising. For that, I took my bike to the repair store where an amazing bike wizard finished it all up with new wheel set that already had coastal brake in instead of trying to convert my old shitty wheels. Put a new chain on and I am ready to roll.

Costs: Since I live in the family of fixers and DIY makers, all the equipment was already in my garage including sanding discs and bits and bobs that I’ve used during the whole process. The primer/paint/varnish all together was €17 and the new wheelset plus new chain rings and the chain, and paying the bike wizard for help was around €50. So overall I have spent under €100 euros for this single speed pleasure.

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Thank you for reading Those Silly Stories.

SOMEWHERE ELSE

So it goes like that – I grew up in Lithuania while travelling here and there for a bit. Seeing all those places my geography teacher were talking about. It was always great, no accidents, no missed planes, only the dream to travel and see places.

At the same day I handed in my last exam paper in high-school I was sitting in the place to Iceland. I have found a job in one of the most amazing places on earth and I went. Young and hungry for adventure I started my first proper job in the Glacier Lagoon. Living in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers for 4 months. This one started the whole shabang that I’m about to explain.

 

So after shitty job in the most beutiful location in Iceland, I went on to study in Leicester. (Don’t ask me why there) The first year of studies went by and as I got myself feeling at home I started travelling, and used the opportunity to catch cheap flights from London. During 9 months I’ve visited a bunch of new countries and backpacked Marocco, Italy and France.

 

 

The time studying was so fast that I was soon to move back to Iceland. I spent another 4 months there working my ass off and earning money that I will be surviving on while studying. Moving back to Leicester was hard, since I have been living with storms and rain every day for the whole summer, going back to English weather was a good depression starter for sure. The second year at Uni was going great but then I decided to leave again. I packed my bag after the first semester and moved to Amsterdam for an Erasmus exchange. I have changed my home once again as well as the university. It was filled with people wanting to party and get to know each other and in the meantime I was trying to understand where is my home. I didn’t maned to do that, but I made a couple of good friends and lived in possibly the best city in the world. Oh I forgot to tell you that I fell in love as well! And then… i had to pack my bags an move again.

 

So broken heart and I’m of to Iceland again. This is my third ‘fake’ summer. I have managed to find a way better job in the East Fjords working in a proper kitchen with the most amazing group of people. Living these 4 months in the house that’s facing the sea. Walking in the empty beach and getting chased by angry birds. Experiencing real Icelanding slow life while still working 13-hour shifts. Somehow I made it alive and learned more than I was expecting. It’s 2018 September by now and I am used to my huge backpack and wrapping my broken luggage in plastic. I’m used to waking up way to early for the flights, and getting all soaked in sweat after dragging my stuff to the check-in desk. I’m used to giving my stuff away because they don’t fit in my bags. I’m moving back to England baby.

Last year in my BA started great, lots of cool tasks and assignments that started generating new business ideas for the future and really got me thinking what should I do next. Besides the crazy university schedule, I managed to get a job in one of the greatest kitchens in Leicester. I was studying in the morning and working in the evenings. Trying not to mind the grey weather and demotivating people around me that keep on bragging how busy they are. I have somehow pushed through 6 months of studying. And guess what? It was time to move again! haha if only I was kidding. So I packed up my bag and went to live in London for a month. Yap. It was in the middle of my grad year. So I completely ignored a month of uni and didn’t even start my dissertation, but I am unpacking in my new home in London. I have also got an internship in the Universal Music, Decca Records where I was working with the coolest musicians and professionals. So the month past pretty quick as London has a tendency to suck your time. Sleeping 4 hours each night for a month certainly didn’t do me much good, keeping in mind my empty pages of the dissertation that is due in a month.

 

I pack my bags and move back to Leicester to grab the uni by the balls. By some miracle I finish all the paperwork on time and I graduate with a First degree honours in Arts and Festival management or as named by me ‘BA in how the hell did I managed all of this’.

 

So since this chapter is over, and thinking about working 230 hours a month in cold ass Iceland gives me shivers, I decided to head back home and chill. So I pack my ‘home’ and leave. I am now living at my mom’s place in Lithuania with my stuff still in the boxes, because these past 3 months went so freaking fast with house maintenance, construction and part-time job that I decided to get because I obviously can’t just chill.

It’s now September and In a week I am leaving to Rotterdam with Erasmus Entrepreneurship program. I don’t know how to explain the feeling I have for moving again. When travellers say their home is where their heart is, I will never understand that. I think that travellers are over exaturating it because they have home where they go back every now ant then to repack their stuff, leave what they dont need for next 3 months and lay in their own bed. I think that moving home should not be compared with travelling, because I do not travel, I live just in more places than usual for 22 year old. I absolutely hate the feeling of not having proper home, and endless packing. I hate thinking if i can buy the shoes I really like because they might not fit in my bags, getting the parfume thats less than 100 ml otherwise it will be taken away from me at the airport. And most of all I hate it because it becomes almost imposible to be with someone and get into a serious relationship. Living this planned and at the same time sponatious life is not easy but its also what I somehow not able to avoid so far. When I find a cure for moving home ill let you know. But besides all the bad stuff, I love the opportunities I have to learn and experience everything I ever wanted to. I have been so lucky with all the work and travel opportunities that I hustled for years, and one day when it will stop im sure im gonna miss it all and leave once again.

But for now its just another packing in few weeks and another room to call it home.

Thank you for reading Those Silly Stories.

UP UNTIL NOW

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I START this because I have so many things I am learning and things I’ve already learned, so I would like to use this platform as a source for all these stories.

I am writing it to myself, so I can look back and remind myself of this beautiful life, but its also open to you. Although I’m a pretty bad writer, I will try to post when I am inspired by something as well as to tell stories about previous events that made me a person I am.

For the start I wanted to write about myself and explain how I got to this point in time.

I am now 22, originally from Lithuania. I have just graduated from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. Although its one of the shittiest places to live and study, I have managed to love my studies and learn about the culture and creative businesses. I used to volunteer and work in contemporary dance and music festivals before I started studying Arts and Festival Management, hence the degree choice. It slowly turned into a paradox since more I’ve studied it the less I became interested in it. I was inspired by 3D printing, people doing wood-work and architecture while I was writing 10 thousand word essays on why people pirate music. And I guess it sticked with me, all these creative people working around me, and being in such an open-minded culture allowed me to dream creatively of things I can do in the future. I left uni thinking about owning my own business inspired and empowered by strong women. So I rested during the summer, scratched few things off my bucket list, grew up a little more and in few weeks I am moving home once more. To the place I love dearly.

This is just to say hi, and next time I tell you more of those silly stories.

 

6 DAYS IN MAROCCO

 

While I was working in Iceland during the summer, I decided to treat myself with tickets to some country where the sun shines and everybody is happy. It happened that “Easy Jet” had tickets to Morocco on sale, and in 20 minutes I had them in my Email box.

A cheap tickets led me to my second country in Africa and also it is my 22 country visited so far. Beginning to plan a trip was a huge mess because 6 days is definitely too short to see all the diversity of Morocco. But I took my friend with me and we decided not to plan anything very precisely and just try to survive as we are.

We did a bit of the research on what this country is all about, and we found few friends with a very good advice on what we should see and how we should travel.  These advices and readings became a wonderful trip around the country where everything is so magical and different from anything I’ve seen before.

The trip started with one 10 kg backpack and night bus ride to London airport. It happened that my friend Karolis, who I was travelling with, bought a flight ticket to Rabat, and I landed into Marrakesh, so we needed to meet at some point to start our trip. So I tooke the train.

From the beginning we decided that we want to experience the real beauty of the country and local life, we agreed not to book any hostels and do Couchsurfing and meet some Moroccans to hear their stories and to experience daily life with them. And the decision was really good, because it turned out to be the best adventure of all with the amazing people we met on the way.

So here is a trip summary as it went:

1st day:

I took a 4-hour train ride from Marrakesh to Rabat and arrived in the amazing alley of lively people and kids running around. In Rabat I met my first host from Couchsurfing – Zico.

Zico was kind enough to take us home by his car and introduce us to his friends. We spent our first evening in his huge flat chatting with him and his friends about life and laughing lots. Tasting Lithuanian food and playing with his amazing dog Yorga made time even better.

The coziness of the evening continued next day when we all went to explore medina of Rabat, and had some tea in the amazing panorama terrace. Rabat is very nice city with a lot of life inside it. Medina is quite calm compared to other cities we visited, where nobody offers you to come inside if you don’t show interest and everyone is doing their own stuff.

 

The coast-line of Rabat while enjoying the tea.

In the midday we had to leave Rabat to get going to the small city called Chefchaouen. We said goodbye to our lovely host Zico and took a bus that drove us to the city that is famous for its blue colour everywhere. We have spent a night in the shed on the highest point in the city, and just in the morning we saw the whole city from the top of the mountain we climbed when we arrived.

After hiking down we went to explore the city and its beautiful small streets that seem not to have an ending. Going from one turn to another, everywhere we went we found more and more beauty. This is a few shots of our wonders:

 

After being surrounded with a blue half of the day we decided that is time to leave for more adventure and we took a day bus to Fez. As soon as we arrived in the city we felt like this is the city of life boiling everywhere. People are running around, cars avoiding everyone in the busy streets, and a lot of tourists trying to find their way in and out. As soon as we arrived the most friendly host came to pick us up and took us for a dinner and quick wonder in the medina, explaining what to see and how to explore it correctly.

Karolis, Me and our host Alaa.

 

After this warm welcome and dinner in a rooftop terrace we went to Alaa’s flat where I felt like home. Some Lithuanian snacks, watching videos about Moroccan culture and long night chats about our experiences and lots and lots of good time.

In the morning we took our time to rest a bit and then went to see the magnificent medina. We were told that to get lost in the streets of medina is a good thing, and it is very true, because it does not matter where we go everything is indulging and new. There is some streets where people make souvenirs and you can see how it is made from the begging, other streets are filled with food and Moroccan sweets. The interesting part of the medina is leather tannery where locals are making leather products and besides the smell the place is very nice to see.

Without leather there is also the oldest university and magnificent Medersa el- Attarine one of the places you can come to see amazing architecture and design and also experience calmness after the rush and sounds in the old town streets.

There is a lot to see in this city and it is not for one day of wondering, but we saw a lot. Experienced speedy life in the streets and people trying to guide you and sell you things. Smells and sounds, is in the spirit of the city, and any kind of calmness and nothingness is a strange thing in the city of constant moving.

After all day of wondering we sat down in a cosy ‘Cafe Clock’ restaurant to have some Moroccan Tagine and decide where are we heading next. Moroccan food and tea are one of the things that are necessary to try. Good quality meat and vegetables cooked with amazing spices and couscous is worth to try.

After that we felt happy and prepared to leave for another adventure, which happened to be trip to the desert and riding camels in the sand dunes. We left Fez in the evening and took night bus to Hassi Labied village near the main touristic village Merzouga. We decided not to go to the touristic city and rather spend some time with local Berbers and experience living in the village where the desert is a few steps away. We arrived at 5 o’clock in the morning and had a nice morning welcome by our host that we found on couchsurfing on a way to the desert. After having some sleep in his guest house we went to see the gardens and sand dunes. And since that was my first time in the desert it was very calm and magnificent experience. Just sitting on the dune watching to the horizon and enjoying the silence.

   After getting familiar with the place we ate Moroccan pizza made by the family who hosted us and then we went to take camels and get going deeper in the desert. We took 1-hour ride and reached our tents where we were staying for one night. We decided to rent a snowboard to go sand boarding after we arrive to our tents. Sand boarding was one of the things in my bucket list, and I can proudly say that I’ve done it. Diving into the dunes and getting sand everywhere and sliding with the board on untouched sand is definitely a nice experience.

After the sunset we went to have Tagine prepared by our host and listen to some traditional drum music and finally went to watch shooting starts in the wonderful sky full of stars.

Morning tea by locals and breakfast before we leave to our final destination – Marrakesh.

On the way to Marrakesh there is a nice scenery of landscapes and valleys of Atlas mountains. Driving through curved roads of Todra Gorge and with few stops to eat in at the road ‘restaurants’ we reached our final destination!

We decided to rest and book a cheap hostel for a few nights before I leave, and since our friends were already staying in one of the hostels we followed them and finally had time to catch up and share what we saw. In the night Marrakesh is a scary place, where everybody tries to sell you things and offers some kinds of riad or hostel to stay. Everyone you pass speaks to you and calls you a friends. The style of locals approaching as ‘my friend’ is a common thing here, and it was the most annoying city of all for me in a way of locals never leaving you and always calling you to come in and buy something.

Besides that in a daytime Marrakesh has to offer a lot of nice sight-seeing and beautiful nature. There are just a few things we went to see during the day. The must-see is central square “Jemma el Fna” filled with horses with carriages, live music, locals with snakes and small souvenir shops. More of the sight – “Koutoubia mosque”, “Medersa Ben Youssef”, “Manera Gardens” and “Dar si Said” (Museum with beautiful garden).

For the end of this summary I would like to say thank you to all of you who helped us travel without any worries and stress. This is the first trip where I did not have stress or bad situations. We started and ended up relaxed and much more inspired than we were before arrival.

The hosts that let us sleep in their place and where kind to us – we thank you and value your generosity a lot. Sharing and exchanging experiences made our time in this country amazing and we were so surprised that we managed everything we planned and much more after all.

Meeting new people and getting to know the country from the inside was the best decision.

This country is a must see, and experience the life of Moroccans and Berbers.With their culture and traditions. And all the colours of this place.

Special thank you to my travel partner Karolis – who survived with me all week, and agreed to travel with me first of all! I hope your adventure in Morocco without me will be as good as it was last week.

Shukran, this is an old Silly story from 2016 and bad English. pardon.

EXPLORING THE NORTH OF ICELAND

Hello, after long time of silence I decided to share a bit of my experience of traveling across Iceland during summer. I am currently spending 4 months of summer in Iceland, working and traveling across the country to explore the nature and its wonders. This is my view of the Northern part of the country that I explored during my 4 free days.

First to mention 4 days is not enough to explore all north has to offer, especially with hitchhiking and hiking for half a day, but it is truly enough to see highlights of Husavik, Myvatn and few more.

How the trip worked:

I left Jokulsarlon (the place I work at) in the evening and reached East fjords in a couple of hours. Where I stayed with my 2 lovely friends who joined me for a half of the trip. So trip started with a lot of driving and mountains followed by another mountains and lakes,rivers and springs.

First stop.

From the relaxed morning we decided to take the old road called Oxi or 939 which has brief canyons with various unexpected waterfalls on the way, as well as turquoise green rivers floating along the road. This road has advantage of saving a lot of time going directly to the closest city Egilsstadir (which was our stop for gas and food) as well as allows you to see a bit of the in-land of the countries interior. After doing some shopping in Egilssadir we continued our trip towards our first stop – Dettifoss.

                       

from fjords to Egilsstadir to Dettiffoss.

Deal with Dettiffoss is kind of tricky. Since you always drive on the main road in Dettiffoss area you have to choices: first turn to the right and you find yourself driving on the gravel/dirt road for quite a while while you reach East side of the waterfall. Second choice is keep on driving for next 5 km and then turn right and in a way shorter drive you reach opposite side of the waterfall. While both side are pretty spectacular, I would recommend to choose longer road and as a reward you get endless hike following the fall and also no security protecting you to go as far as you feel like.

Side one

 

Side two

 

 

If you choose to skip first turn and turn in the second turn you will also be able to go 700m hike and reach Selfoss waterfalls that follows up Dettifoss. That is also very pleasant and interestingly structured waterfalls.

After filling your eyes and soul with endlessly falling water and noise of the continues thunders there are two choices where to be heading next. Since most of the North Iceland highlight is in the circle you can go both ways. This time we chose to visit Asbyrgi canyon, where you can hike for 3 hours (both ways) and see the canyon from above or go inside the canyon itself and experience quite rare thing to Iceland – that is forest. Asbyrgi canyon is very nice place just to take a walk or camp, and enjoy small forest with blueberries and green ponds.

Inside the canyon

 

 

After visiting Asbyrgi we headed way up, to reach Husavik, where I planned to stay the night and say goodbye to my lovely friends since they were going back to work next morning. On the way to Husavik highway offers nice view of the coastline and some of the hidden cliffs that were a good find. Here is some of the photos from the view while driving towards Husavik.

Since Husavik has a port with fishermen all around we decided to go for a fancy dinner in the fish restaurant by the port, where we were welcomed with a warm atmosphere and delicious lobster rolls and skewers.

After filling up with delicious food I waved goodbye to my amazing friends that drove me all the way to Husavik and spent amazing time exploring with me, and with my backpack in my hands I began lonely North adventure.

First thing to do: Find camping

Second thing to do: Put up the tent

Third thing to do: GO WHALE WATCHING!

I accomplished all of 3 things and took a late night sailing boat to the deep water, to see some lovely giants jumping in and out the water around the boat.

Have to say that evening sails without rain is one of the best experiences you can get. Romantic sunsets in from of your eyes with huge whales swimming around you and calm sea reflecting the sun and clouds. An evening ended up with some warm tea in the camping and chatting with the travellers from all around the world. Husavik is full of tourists who come here mostly for the whales.

Next morning I decided to explore whales even more and took a speed boat to see them from the arms reach. If you only have one choice of the boat – speed boat is the one to go for. You see not only whales but also nesting puffins on the cliffs and fling all around small islands.

Puffins puffins everywhere

To finish up Husavik adventure I have to say that whales are pretty amazing creatures and it is worth to see live how they play in the deep waters and how sublime they move in there.

After amazing experience with whales I packed my things and headed down to the highway to start my hitchhiking, and not even second passed I was picked up by the lovely Icelandic man, with his big car heading exactly where I needed – Myvatn!

On the way we stopped in the Icelandic greenhouse where he goes every week to pick up fresh vegetables for his guest house in Myvatn. Despite the fact that he goes 100km for vegetable he also smokes fishes, that is why he was driving with 1000 kg of salt in his trunk. So the hitching turned out into pretty exciting experience hearing stories about Myvatn and my lovely driver’s life spent around the lake, fishing and growing sheep. After arriving to the Myvatn and saying goodbye to my driver I found another nice camping to drop my things and go see what Myvatn has to offer.

Myvatn is the village where you can find a few nice hikes and hot spring caves as well as the spectacular lake itself. After I made myself a hope in the camping and my tent was back in action, I decided to do a hike to the crater Hverfjall. It was not the easiest hike I have done, and not the shortest one for sure. But on the way to Hverfjall you also pass beautiful caves of Grjotagja.

On the way to Hverfjall with my travel friends.

Grjotagja caves from inside.

Grjotagja from up.

Reaching Hverfjall after 2 hours hike.

Crater from above before sun goes down.

Some of the interior of the myvatn surroundings.

Best reward you can get at the end of 5 hours hike! Thank you Myvatn.

Since evening hike to Hverfjall took the last energy drop from me and especially my feet, I treated myself with stone oven baked pizza in the middle of nowhere and some warm tea. Went to sleep already thinking about hot natural baths in the morning. Yes! that is also in Myvatn. So I packed my things and got a short ride from Icelander to the natural baths where I took my time and enjoyed hot waters for an hour or two. After being treated very well in Myvatn I needed to start heading back home. My hitchhiking experience could not get better because I got back home in one day, what is quite unusual for such a long distance back.

It took me 3 different cars, a lot of interesting conversations with drivers and amazing sunset ride through the fjords and mountains.  Going back through old road I mentioned before was hectic experience since the fog was so strong you cant see anything in front of you, but at the end of the road 100km from the home the sun was shining bright showing off mountain peaks to everyone!

Serpentine fog magic.

 

There comes the sun with rainbows and lovely clouds.

Camper hitchhiking perks!

And that’s how my trip ends, with a lot of new experiences, meeting people, whales and landscapes you can dream about. North is one of the nicest places here to experience and if the sun shines all the time, there is nothing you can wish for more!

Be happy, and keep on travelling,