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The Rainbow State

7 Nov

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After Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe traveling through Botswana was easy, Namibia even easier, but South Africa is a piece of cake. The border experience was again lovely. They were all proud and thankful we took the time and effort to visit their country. We entered South Africa through its northern border with Namibia after an amazing trip through Sossusvlei and its surroundings. I have rarely seen such dramatic scenery in my life. A couple of days in the Fish Canyon National Park in the lovely hot springs marked the beginning of our highly anticipated journey through South Africa.

Driving down the N7 through incredible mountains and passes we finally had our first sight of the Table Mountain. Its stunning plateau was visible, only just, covered in thick dark clouds. Getting closer we had glimpses of townships, neatly ordered small boxes and painted in different colours. The big port on our right hand sight was busy and indeed huge. Suddenly we were in the middle of a huge metropolitan. Have we finally arrived in one of the most dangerous cities in the world? A city where on average tens of people are murdered daily? Where armed robbery and carjacking is part of life? Where dozens of women are being sexualy molested on a daily basis?

After being warned by so many people and reading so many horrible stories, we were definitely tensed when driving through town and when stopping at trafficlights. We were pretty aware of our new dangerous surroundings and I was continiously looking for a suspicious looking person approaching our car when standing still.

Another red light. Hilje told me to check whether the doors are closed. I was not used to be this paranoia, but after so many stories, it was hard not to start to think; beter safe than sorry. Although I knew I didn’t have to check the doors, because of the automatic locks, I still had the urge to have a fast glance. A man approached our car, I tried to make eye contact with him to read his intentions. Under all circumstances I always try to be as personal as possible. Somehow, I tend to be confrontational, even if it would be a person with bad intensions. He looked away and started to poor water on the windscreen and took out a cloth to clean it. I made an automatic gesture to make him stop, but the windscreen was actually pretty dirty. So we let him, opened the window slighty and slid a two Rand coin in his hand. He smiled and said: “Thank you for your support, sir. You too madam and have a very nice day.” He walked off just in time to navigate through the excelerating cars.

Statistics don’t lie and bad things happen all the time and it could happen to you, but I did feel guilty and a little bit embarrased. I have been to many places in my life and have always trusted my instincts and common sense to be safe, but during the first couple of hours in South Africa it was the first time I was trying to seperate myself from the environment I was in. To create a gap between me and them. To have a safety buffer. To create a false sense of security. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel in control. I felt vulnerable because I was isolating myself from the real world around me. I was not part of it and therefore different. It did feel like I was disrespecting their welcome.

Is this attitude, the fear of the unknown and insecurity, part of the reason why segregation takes place in societies all over the world? Whether in form of class or even more dramatic as race and one’s skin colour. This human fear will guarantee that discrimination in whatever form will always exist, but being in South Africa you are just so aware it. For me however, the awareness is mostly influenced by the knowledge of the recent history of the horrofying Apartheid regime and not specifically by real life experiences in SA. As a visitor you can feel and see it but it is not extremely different than the experiences I had during the time I spent in the southern states of the USA or the shocking realisation that the fear of the unknown still has such a big impact on people in Europe and its political parties.

It was very interesting for us to follow some of the challenging political and economical issues SA is facing. In some cases even scary when you hear that for example many people started to criticize the appointment of a supreme judge, because he was not black enough. This kind of affirmative action exists everywhere, but the openess of the discussion is new to me.

During our trip we were lucky enough to meet a lot of local people who were extremely friendly and hospitable. They gave us a good insight of their country and the challenges they are facing. It is a complicated country and although people are definitely aware of the difficulties there is hope. There will be no quick fix and it will take generations to get rid of the fragmented past but as one of the local politician in Oudshoorn told us during a night with lots of beautiful local red wine: “You, and the world for that matter, are underestimating South Africa. You underestimate the people living here. There might be many different races, tribes and classes, but we have an extremely strong community life. You have been predicting a full blown civil war for years and it still hasn’t happened. I have been in involved in politics for 40 years and I can tell you, it will never happen. Not on a big scale.”

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. The variety of landscapes, the food, the wines, the people, the oceans, the flora and fauna, it is sometimes much more than what I can describe in words. The Cape is unique, the Wild Coast stunningly beautiful, the Karoo desert my dream rock garden, and the Drakensberg mountains just breathtaking. And we will need much more than five weeks to discover the rest of it. Watching the humpback whales in Fischoek and Hermanus and admiring the gorgeous Southern Right whales while eating a sandwich on the stunning white dunes of the De Hoop national reserve is maybe the most humbling experience of the trip, so I will definitely come back one day when I need to be in that state of mind again.

And did we feel safe? Yes! Are there places you cannot go? Yes! In the cities you have to use your common sense and be careful when needed, like any other big city in the world. The rest is fine. We even visited Soweto, the so called most dangerous township in SA where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived. Although clearly very poor with shocking unemployment rates you can feel it is alive. Like it has been in the past, it plays an important role in creating the South African urban identity and a clear breeding ground for artists, writers, musicians, fashionistas and athletes. Many white South Africans will never even visit that area. Talking about the unknown!

Coming back to some statistics. South Africa is the seventh most dangerous country in the world if you would go by the relative crime rate* which is based on data from police departments and insurance companies. It has six times less reported criminal incidents than the USA which is the leader of the list. The UK and Germany are the proud number two and three respectively with approximately three times more reported criminal incidents compared to South Africa. While I surely don’t want to downplay the level of violence in South Africa, it is good to have a complete view. And for my own experiences, the most unsafe moments for me were indeed in the USA.

*source: Maps of the World

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Malawian challenges

11 Sep

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“Please, do you want to listen to this?”, Francis took the earpieces out of his ears and handed it over to me. It was a discussion on a liberal independent radio station between the DJ and the press officer of Mr. Bingu Wa Mutharika, the current president of Malawi. The president just gave a speech a couple of days earlier regarding the protests which were violently hit down by his government. Nineteen people were left dead during the protest and we noticed the anger of everybody we met in Malawi. The discussion on the radio was specifically about the speech after the protests, in which the president tried to defend the actions. The discussion was in English, so while I was struggling to climb the steep path to the top I was happy to be kept busy by the interesting radio show.

We met Francis while we were climbing the Zomba plateau. We were using the so called Potato Path, which is still used by farmers to transport the veggies and fruits from the plateau to town. Zomba town, which was the Malawian capital during the British time, lies in the shadows of the plateau. On the slopes of the plateau there is still evidence of the British. Most of the houses and gardens are some what intact but clearly neglected. While enjoying some of the views, Francis added his concern about the fact that his countrymen are not taking care of the beautiful properties.

The climb to the top of the plateau took us more than two hours. It was steep, very steep. Even Francis, which turned out to be a part time tour guide and a curio shop owner, had to stop for a breather once or twice. He also pointed out some people illegally cutting down the beautiful pine trees. The plateau itself is officially a natural reserve, but due to the extreme poverty and negative economic outlook, people are desperate and will do everything to survive. We were amazed how some of the women and kids negotiated the small path while descending the mountain with pretty large logs on their heads. We are definitely degenerating.

After arriving on top of the beautiful plateau we decided to ask Francis to guide us for another walk on top of the plateau for three more hours. Although we could see a lot of bare land due to the illegal logging, some parts of the forrest were very dense and the rivers and falls stunningly breathtaking. The viewpoints were out of this world. We could visually follow the road we took from Liwonde National Park winding through the dry land. It felt very strange to be in such a cool environment at 1800 m after the dry and hot savanne at Liwonde Safari Camp. Just 24 hours ago we were still enjoying an exviting hot ride through the Liwonde National Park with Frederick (http://www.liwondesafaricamp.com/) and now we could feel the cold night coming. We stayed at an abandoned trout farm on top of the plateau. We asked one of the local boys to fetch us some cold beers and enjoyed the mist slowly descending on us. While cooking our makeshift dinner we were joined by two other overnight visitors at the farm. They turned out to be the Dutch couple we met on our Train ride from Dar es Salaam to Kasama. What a small world! We enjoyed a surprisingly nice dinner, made of our combined ingredients.

The next day we took another exciting minibus ride from Zomba to Blantyre. We met Margriet, a Dutch local who has lived in Malawi for more than 45 years, at her bookshop in the shopping mall. She is also the initiator of the orphanage, Chiuta Childrens Home, Leanne has been supporting for the last couple of years. Hilje had been looking forward to visit this orphanage and now we were very close in doing that.

Greatly stunned by the beautiful and divers settings of some of the places in Malawi but also saddened by the extreme poverty, fragile political situation and incredible HIV statistics we had planned to take the 12 hour busride from Blantyre to Harare.

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Zanzibar, Adios!

26 Aug

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While sitting in front of a safari tent in Liwonde National Park, Malawi, we are thinking back of the last couple of months traveling through East Africa. In the distance, at least for now, we can hear hippo’s growling and elephants sighing. The beatles are loud, the lone hyena makes it’s signature howling noise and we stare through the candle in front of the tent waiting for a big shadow to pass.

In a couple of days Bou and Net will leave Zanzibar for Spain and will start a new chapter in their life; retirement. During the month of July, after our trip through Ethiopia, we spent lots of quality time with them in Zanzibar. It was the first time in a couple of decades that we have spent so much time together. Mikala, Matt and Titia completed our group. We had wonderful mornings, lovely relaxing afternoons and great dinners. Zanzibar has so much to offer, that it is really easy to spend months on the island. Especially when you have a house like they have. A large, simple but airy house built on a cliff overlooking the ocean where fishermen passes by with their stylish dows and women collecting shells and clams on the beach during low tide. The little banda built on an overhanging cliff was the perfect spot to have our sunset drinks, while Safi, the dog, tirelessly showed his loyalty at our feet.

Mikala and Matt gave us a personal tour on the stunning Chumbe Island, where they had worked for a couple of years. Together with Bas, Suzette and James we tried to learn how to master the art of kitesurfing. Although we managed to at least stand on the board we realized that we still need to drink a lot of salt water before we can look like the real ones. Maybe we will get a chance to practice in some other places along the way.

The elephants are getting closer to the camp. In darkness it is really hard to guess the distance but after our experiences in South Luanga National Park, Zambia, we know they can get very close, much too close. The Liwonde Safari Camp is co-owned by Frederick, a Dutch friend of Hilje. The camp is just built outside the park, surrounded by huge Baobab trees and big other trees to provide ample shade. The petroleum candlelight in front of our tent produces nervous flames, which creates sudden shadows. Just enough to keep us alert.

Retirement. It must be a very weird feeling. We try to discuss the feelings Bou and Net must have. After working and living in third world countries for almost 40 years, I just cannot imagine how they will cope with no professional committment of any kind, no schedule, no usual third world inefficiencies, no report writing, no design drawing, no project management and an amazing amount of freedom. One definitely can see why the black hole syndrome exists, but I do believe it will be a theoretical issue for them. By spending so much time together you can finally discuss and touch the subjects you normally don’t have time for during the usual flash visits. One of the questions always on my mind is how third world aid, especially in subsaharan Africa, has affected the countries and it’s people. Obviously a very controversial issue and especially now during the economic crisis and the involvement of China and India it is even more current.

Talking to Bou and Net about this issue, they are pretty firm in their beliefs. There is the obvious frustration about corruption, lack of personal committment and responsibility and poor long term structural planning of both government and society as a whole. On the other side during their work some individual larger projects had been very successful and Bou is clearly very proud to have been part of those. But it is very clear that by far the most rewarding part of their work and life are the many local individuals they have met during their time in the various countries. On a much smaller scale, definitely compared to the projects of the large aid organizations they have worked on, but much more real and obvious is the extremely positive effect they have had on the lives of so many individuals and their direct and extended families. It is easy to get cynical about life, but it is great to see that there is a form of real satisfaction in their faces.

A very special farewell dinner at the residency of the Danish Ambassador in Dar es Salaam marked our last day in Tanzania and the first on our way to explore more of East and Southern Africa. The Tazara train would take us to a very special country, my place of birth.

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A long way, back to Perugia

23 Jun

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I cannot believe that the European tour is almost over. While sitting in the train from Perugia to Rome time seems to have gone fast, but on the other hand it is like we left Holland months ago.

It was only 17 days ago that I ordered a glass of Hungarian white wine called “Utazoborond Kiralyleanyca” in a lovely Art Deco style restaurant in Budapest. When I asked the waiter what the name of the wine meant and he answered: ‘The princess of the traveling suitcase’, I new Budapest and I were meant to be. And it did not dissapoint my expectations. Although different aspects of the city are comparable with various European cities, the city as a whole is unique. The sightseeing at night is almost as impressive as Paris. It is a cosmopolitain city but has the relaxed and organised vibe of Geneva, without being boring. Not boring at all actually, as the nightlife can be compared to Barcelona; a lot of terraces out on the streets and parties from monday till sunday till early morning. The upmarket neighbourhood is comparable to the renovated old city centre of Bucharest and the architecture of the city sometimes reminds you of London. As Easyjet offers you very cheap flights from Amsterdam to Budapest and a nice apartment right in the middle of the hotspots only costs you 30 euro a night, I strongly recommend you this lively city for a long weekend. Do not forget to have dinner and a glass of white wine at “Gerloczy Cafe & Restaurant”.

An exciting trainride of 37 hours transpassing Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgary (see previous stories) brought us to the coulorful world of Istanbul. When you meet this city and it’s civilians, you just cannot imagine that we used to make jokes of the Turks years ago. You almost feel ashamed suddenly noticing that the Turks seems to know how to live, how to do business, how to cook, how to drink, how to dress, how to take care of their families, how to build beautiful churches and mosques and what real freedom of religion and speech is. And they know it. Without being to arrogant, the civilians of Istanbul know that they are living in a city that was once the capital of the world and soon will be again. No need for them anymore to be part of the EU. They are ahead of us. We soon will be begging them.
If you want to be part of the world, want to eat the best foods, buy the most beautiful pumps or visit the best clubs overlooking the Bosporus, go here but do prepare well. Book ahead and find an affordable hotel around Taksimsquare. Visit the old town at the end of the day, when the queues are much less than in early morning. Study the public transport, as trafficjams are horrifying. Bring enough money, as the hotels and clubs are expensive and the shopping, bars and food affordable but irresistable….

As all trains from Turkey to Greece were cancelled (not surprising as talking about Greece in Turkey is like swearing and the other way around…) we decided to take the bus from Istanbul to Bodrum from where we could enter the Greek mainland by visiting the Greek Islands. Not bad…
We had a short “holiday” in Bodrum and took the ferry to Kos. Getting of the boat we thought we had taken the boat to Zandvoort aan Zee… And as we coud not find “Tijn Akersloot” hosting our friends, but only frikandellen, patatjes oorlog, “Het beste cafe van Kos jonguh!” and Greek people speaking fluently Dutch, we decided to get off asap! The next ferry leaving to a Greek Island was leaving within one and a half hour and the Island was called Patmos. So we had 90 minutes to find a bar with wifi connection, to book a hostel or appartment at Patmos and to buy tickets for the next ferry. And we did.

All I can say is: ‘Patmos, Patmos, Patmos!!!’ My new favorite word and my new favorite Island! It is a qute small Island with great, happy, generous warm hearted Greek people, many different lovely beaches to choose from, amazing views everywhere you look and enough ouzo and vino to get the whole of Greece drunk. During this time of the year it is not touristy and driving around on our motorcycle often gave us the feeling of having the Island just to ourselves. Even without being religous the ancient buildings on this Island make you believe there was some help from God or Zeus or maybe even of them both. The people who we met made this little ‘break’ one to never forget. Do include Patmos in your itinerary, while sailing the Greek Islands.

After some recharging on the beach we were ready for our next trip. We were only an 8 hour ferry ride away from breakfast at the Acropolis, a 4 hour busride to Patras, a 22 hour ferry to Ancona (Italy) and another 4 hour trainride away from bringing me back to the city where I “studied” 10 years ago…..

A Greek afternoon

18 Jun

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While the European Union is contemplating about whether to give Greece another multi-billion euro bailout, life on Patmos passes by without to many worries. The 3000+ inhabitants of this tiny island are preparing for the busiest period of the year. The tourists will flood the island with it’s breathtaking beaches and clear waters. The religious will be visiting the famous, still active, Monastery of Ioanni tou Theologou, which was built in 1088 a.d. and the ancient Grotto of the Apocalypse where ‘The Revelation’ was enscripted in 95 a.d. by St. John the Theologian.

“yamas,yamas!!”, another full glass of local wine was to be consumed. It was the third or maybe fourth glass already, in a mere twenty minutes but we were still trying to brave the amount of alcohol our extremely friendly hosts were offering us. The sun was loosing it’s strength, but it was still able to give some of the bronzed faces a very distinctive sub-tropical look. The joking continued, we did not really understand what was said, but sometimes humor surpasses the language barrier. “You should get on with it. You have been married for months!”, Christopolos said to the couple sitting opposite of him. The couple from Samos just got married and were visiting Prokopis who had the honor to marry them earlier this year. Spyros, clearly embarrased, looked at his wife and started to smile and ended up laughing loudly, when Prokopis started pointing and screaming at Christopolos: “She is pregnant, you Malaka*! Can’t you see?”. He was right about her physical appearance, but I did not know she was pregnant either until Stella, Prokopis’ wife told us when we arrived. The ass was impressive. I just could not resist to look at it when she started to wander off to the kitchen. Some sub-saharan African women should be jealous. She was not liking this part of the conversation but she just could not handle this much male power at the table. Her husband was still laughing and it was hard for us not to laugh with him. He had a very funny laugh, which sounded a bit like a diesel engine having trouble to start.

“Malakas, Malakas! Did they gave up their jobs to travel the world?”, Prokopis asked, his face clearly a bit puzzled. He could not believe it. Stavroz added: “But they can probably go back to their jobs when returning from their trip.” We said no. “That’s what Europeans do. They just do those things.”, Christopolos added. “Anyway, he is probably madly in love and doesn’t know what he is doing. So, let’s have another drink!”, Prokopis said, while raising the jug with the local wine again. The sympathetic grin returned to his face. Unfortunately our glasses were half empty at that moment and trust me, they did not see that as half full. So our glasses were full again. Stavros, a drinking buddy of his, clearly an alcoholic, was laughing and hoping he was getting his glass topped up as well. “No, you have to get some stones for the house before you get more drinks and cigarettes!”. “I would go, but it is almost three o’clock and they are closing at three. So, next time. Now, Give me a drink and some cigarettes!”. Prokopis gave him a big poke in his side and said: “Malaka! I knew it, you lazy Malaka. Here you go.”.

The cigarettes were lid. “You know, you shouldn’t smoke, Prokopis! Your heart will stop beating one of these days.”, Christopolos carefully suggested. “On second thought. Do smoke! So we have a new single female on the island!”. Everybody laughed. This time Prokopis was not amused but started to fill the half empty glasses anyway. His mood improved when Hilje started to give him some attention. She asked: “By the way, our ferry to Pireus is not leaving until Sunday, can we stay another night? For free?”. Talking about timing. I like her style.

The inevitable restructuring of the Greek debt, which defacto means bankruptcy, will not affect the island too much. They are very much self sufficient. Unfortunately, the Europeans will not be able to handle the physological pressure of a member going bankrupt so they will again kick the can down the road and approve the bailout during this weekend talks. But for the hussler, Prokopis and friends, life is good and will remain good. Especially when the plans for an airport will be finalised. Privately funded, ofcourse.

As for the rest of the Greeks, I would suggest to ask Zeus for a helping hand. He was said to be the one erecting Patmos from the seas, so averting a depression must be peanuts.

* Malaka = Wanker

Guilty by association

9 Jun

“No, I would not recommend any hotel in Belgrade!”, he said, while gesturing lively with his hands and weird mimics. He, a forty year old Serb, traveling with a much older Norwegian who was not talkative compared to his compagnion. A curious couple indeed, but a very helpful man. At least, he was trying to be. He continued: “Belgrade is terrible, the people are very hostile. They beat up random people, my ex boyfriend got robbed and badly wounded once and nobody helped him. Not even the police. Some French guys were killed a couple of years ago and I don’t even dare to answer my cell phone when I am walking on the streets, because they hate foreigners and especially people who are talking English. If you are from this area is ok, even a German passport is ok, but if you have a US, English or Dutch passport, you are basically fucked!” I was not taking him too seriously. It is not different than some places in western Europe, but I had rather had a slightly different conversation. I turned to Hilje and said: “I guess we are going to have a problem if we miss our connection in Belgrade. But we will see, maybe we will manage. By the way, you should not talk to him, he is not really optimistic about all of this.”

After this short conversation we were already urged to leave our comfortable private cabin to change trains due to a technical problem. We were standing on the rail tracks at 4 o’clock in the morning in the middle of nowhere with a couple dozen of other passengers not knowing what was going to happen. Surprisingly, not long after we have disembarked the train, the conducter walked by and whispers: “A different train will be pushed towards you, watch out”. We were not exactly sure what he meant by that but at least something was happening.

Before long we were sitting in a reasonable cabin with a couple of other travellers. Not our cosy and private cabin as before, but it could be worse. Hilje took my advice very seriously and made sure we were not sitting in the same cabin as the Serb. Dozing off and trying to get some sleep before hopefully arriving in Belgrade on time to catch the train to Istanbul, somebody knocked on the door. The Serb again, he said: “You might be lucky, this train will only stop once before arriving in Belgrade at five to seven”. We thanked him for the information and dozed off again. We were approaching Belgrade when there was some shouting a couple of cabins further back. Two Turks were just robbed. A bag with a laptop, passports, money, credit cards, ipod, basically everything important was taken. The Serb was shouting back at them: “You are so naive! How can you let that happen? You know it is a jungle out here. You should not leave stuff like that just on the floor!”.”Stupid” he mumbled at our direction.

Together with the friendly Serb, Hilje was going to jump out of the train and hurry to the international ticketing office to buy the train tickets to Istanbul. “A cabin for two”, I shouted at her while I was trying to get out of the train with all the bags. Not seeing any trains at the station we knew we were on time, so I was slowly walking towards the entrance of the train station to have a peek at the city. The drizzle did not help to improve my first impression of the city, but it was a sad sight. Suddenly somebody behind me said: “You see that third building, which is still in ruins, on the left? You guys bombed it in 1999! I don’t want to be sarcastic, but it is true”. I immediately recognized the Serb. I looked at him and smiled. I did not really understand why he used the word ‘sarcastic’, but I thought, maybe I should take him a little bit more seriously and take my baseball hat off and sit quietly somewhere before safely boarding the train to Turkey for the next 24 hours.

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Sleeping beauty

4 Jun

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It is hard to imagine that Warsaw was left to total ruins only a little bit more than half a century ago. Torn apart by many wars, the population has fluctuated immensely. Although you can still sense the extreme historical scars of the city, one can feel the excitement of the future. The older generation is trying to shrug off the sad past by forcing a smile now and then. The young generation however, like the young in many emerging markets, is fully embracing the american way of life, including the ambitious dreams.

Poland, geographically perfectly situated for strategic alliances and having one of the largest young population in Europe could be a potential economical and political powerhouse. A solid indicator of a growing middle class is usually the increasing consumption of wine and premium brands of alcoholic beverages. According to our host David, a Heineken executive, Poland is increasingly becoming a very important market for these multinationals.

Being in Warsaw it is obvious, the women are ready for the new era. The men are playing catch up. And that is not only due to their extremely poor dancing skills.

Unwinding in rising Warsaw

4 Jun

The journey has started… I am in love with my new grey and baby blue backpack, totally enjoyed the first 14 hour trainride, surprisingly enjoying the luxury of having only one pair of shoes to choose from every morning and starting to unwind a little already.

The trainride went fast, we did our last phonecalls, got surprised by my sweet aunt at the train station of Deventer where she handed over a bag with Prosecco and glasses with ice, worked a little on our travel schedule, a little nap and there was Warsaw….

The best way to get to know a new place, is spending it with a local. Lucky we were my friend David lives and works in Warsaw. David, thank you again for showing us around and letting us slowely adjust to our backpackers livestyle by letting us stay in your amazingly beautiful apartment!

While fully enjoying Warsaw I keep on thinking that it was only a year ago that I met Manengu and we jokingly said: “within two years we will be travelling the world and start up a business somewhere exotic…” and now a year later we are doing it already…………..

Did you know:

* That in June the weather is great in Warsaw, 30 degrees and a little wind to cool you off
* That Polish is an impossible language and that every word seems to end with ‘sky’
* That they serve a perfect cappucino in the whole of Warsaw
* That the women are pretty and the men awefully ugly
* That Warsaw has a very exciting and lively nightlife
* That Polish people always look grumpy but are actually often very friendly and helpful
* That the men in Poland love to dance
* That I love to see Polish men dance
* That Polish food is delicious, cucumber and beetroot soup for example
* That Warsaw has great shopping malls and I did not buy anything
* That although you would think the Polish should have learnt their lesson, they are very racist
* That you should see this trailer of the movie we saw in the Warsaw Uprising Museum
* That Warsaw has some beautiful parks
* That Warsaw is a very affordable city
* That Warsaw has restaurants where you are actually seated in the restaurant and discuss how you want your dish prepared with the chef himself

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