Tag Archives: discover

How a couple of Athenians became like family in only five days

IMG_0821
Credits : Toon Voets

I’m almost in Athens, Greece. Golden fields disappear from my view. They are replaced by concrete. In the Macedonian capital Skopje, I used CouchSurfing for the first time. Athens will be my second CouchSurfing experience. It is always exciting to get to know it would go on. When I arrive at the station of Athens, my hosts Alexandros and Ilias are already waiting for me. Phew, they have not forgotten me.

The table in the apartment of Alexandros’ family is ready. Greek delicacies are ready to be eaten. But first they have a surprise for me: a little road trip to Cape Sounion. “It is worth the 40 minute ride.” And they were right.

A five days stay in Athens must be enough to visit everything. Through the day I would have to amuse myself without company, but in the evening Alexandros and Ilias had time for me. Or that was how I thought it would go. But in the end I was only alone in Athens for one day and I even witnessed local Greek elections. And we saw a lot more than just Athens.

The big road trip

“I just called Alexandros. Maybe, if you want, we can visit some other sites in Greece together?” – Ilias

Whaaat? That’s something you don’t have to ask me twice. So we jump in the old jeep of Ilias’ dad. First stop: the Corinth Canal. Next on the menu: Mycenae with the famous Lion Gate and the old Greek capital Nafplion. In Nafplion I meet the climbing legs of the Greek. A staircase with thousand steps was no problem for them. And for me… Yeah.

#Historynerd

I am a #historynerd, so it is a hashtag I like to use. And by coincidence Alexandros and Ilias are history students. Perfect match. They know a lot about the richly filled Greek history. Calling them a walking encyclopedia would be disrespectful, but how much they can learn me about their country is really amazing.

But there was one thing they did not know. Behold, the fun fact that became the fun fact of the trip: King Leopold I, the first king of the Belgians, once had the chance to take the Greek throne. But today, Greece is no longer a Monarchy.

Also in Athens Alexandros and Ilias show me around. Interesting museums, but also shisha bars and the best places to eat “souvlaki”. Even the classmates of my hosts join us. Fancy names like Theodoris and Konstantinos become part of the fellowship.

Beer with a view

“All my friends love that place! You have to see it!” – Ilias

It is the last day in Athens. It is the forth day Ilias is talking about his rooftop terrace. Alexandros confirms: “Maybe it is the most beautiful spot of Athens.

So on my last evening it is finally time to visit that spot. With a bag full of Belgian beers we get in the elevator and press button number six. The view indeed is marvelous. There is no better way to end a week with your “adopted family”.

By Toon Voets, from Belgium
http://gaateensvoets.com/
https://www.instagram.com/gaateensvoets/

Advertisements

Poland, city trip to Warsaw and Poznan

Par Mélissa Vande Walle, de Belgique

Kathmandu, where the most smiling people live…

zxcewI am planning to tell you a really short story about one of my lifetime experiences.

Nepal…what a magical country! Its people, nature, atmosphere, spirit and thousands things that I can not count one by one…

In 2014, in the end of summer I mean, in the end of harvest, I flew to Kathmandu from Delhi thourh Diwali. It did not last more than an hour and half. When I arrived to airport it was pretty easy to get the visa at the airport. The airport wasn’t the similar to what we used to see. Compared to a capital city, the airport was pretty small but at the same time it was giving me an idea about the place where I was going to be.EMİNE ÜLKÜ ŞİMŞEK

After spending approx. 30 min to get the visa, I was ready to see the amazing temples, beautiful nature, gorgeous mountains, colorful streets and warm people.

As I was thinking, the capital, Kathmandu was a really modest place and it was pretty active.

Before I arrived to Kathmandu I was searching some information about accommodation but I realized that the best option to get to know people and culture was staying with locals. So did I.EMİNE ÜLKÜ ŞİMŞEK

I found a Tibetan girl who was living in Kathmandu to host me for a while. As I said before Kathmandu was a magical place where you can make new friends easily even while you are staying in a local’s house. When I reached the house I have met really nice people. There was another person from Taiwan staying in that house.

We talked a bit about our adventures then suddenly decided to have a walk together. One of the most joyful moments of my life has started.

We just got out of the house, as two foreigners, to each other, by our languages. We went to “Pashupatinath Temple” where the Buddhists burn the dead buddies. You must pay a little amount of money to enter. That temple was a bit scary at the beginning because we both keep our distances to that kind of ceremonies.EMİNE ÜLKÜ ŞİMŞEK

While you can watch the burning ceremony and smelling human meat next to Bagmati River, you can climb the stairs to see the panorama of the temple and river. As I heard the temple was one of the most important Buddhist temple.

This is quite a rule in Nepal, you can talk to anyone, and it doesn’t matter if you know each other or not. You can just start talking or asking something then in 2 min. you might be even having lunch or milk tea with that person.

After watching the burning ceremonies, the dead people’s faces and hearing laments of the relatives of the dead people, we decided to have lunch and go to “Thamel”, a touristic center of Kathmandu. Thamel is quite crowded and a chaotic place where you can find whatever you need or you might need: souvenirs, climbing stuffs, restaurants, cafes and so on.fg

However do not expect an amazingly rich place, even Kathmandu is a capital, still the poorness is showing itself in every corner. The streets are mostly not covered with asphalt. You might see street foods and cook chiefs, souvenir sellers in almost every streets. Because of air pollution, people are generally using masks to save themselves.

Also, the traffic is kinda chaotic as rikshas (type of bikes to carry people) and motorbikes are everywhere. Number of the vehicles in traffic is pretty high. You might see little children while motorcycling as a normal activity. Of course the noise of horns and the motors of vehicles can make you feel a bit shock if you are not used to the noisiness.çö

Even in that case of poorness and chaos, you can notice that people are not complaining, fighting or exaggerating their conditions. These were the first things I realized before the crowd and the noise. There are plenty of temples in the center and sometimes you might see really small temples in a corner or in trunk.

Also, once you are in Thamel, it is not difficult to find a place to have lunch or to take a rest in that tiring air and crowd.

We walked on the streets all day long and talked with the sellers, met people, got surprised about architecture of temples and palaces and thinking about friendly and cheerful people. While I was bargaining to buy something, a guy heard that I wanted to keep something from his country he just gave me a wristband as a memory. How thoughtful!cfnb

Still in Thamel, the other thing you would notice might be the Chinese people’s percentage. I guess 90% of the tourists were Chinese. Therefore, some people (let’s be honest: mostly people) were greeting me with “nihao” which means “hello” in Chinese. I wanted people to know my country where I came from to visit their so I was repeating: “I am from Turkey” every 5 min. It worked after a day; they remembered where I was coming from.

The other thing you must know about Nepal is the bargain. Nepal is seriously a cheap country. 1€ was almost 100 Nepalese rupii and with that money you can have breakfast. You can buy a t- shirt for 300 rupiis, a keyring for 50 rupiis or a flag for free if you are good at bargaining and leave a nice impression. When you hear the price you will definitely think about your currency and you will decide how cheap it is but you have to know that the first price always can get down. Do not think about your currency!

On the evening, if you like to eat Chinese, Tibetan, Nepalese or Indian, you will not have any problems. There are thousands of restaurants.bv

A day after we went to “Boudhnath Temple” that is in Unesco World Heritage List and also it has the biggest Buddha dome. İt is a colorful and spiritual place to see Buddhists worshipping and to watch the colorful flags. İt is also kinda a square where you can have tea, lunch or dinner but you must pay to enter, around 250 rupiis.

In that square there is a temple where you can go in and see the monks, their worships, also the people who are praying and lighting candles. On the square it’s normal to hear songs singing by random people to save some money and to have fun.

I retain that those restaurants have a good view as Buddha’s eyes but also they are pretty expensive compared to other restaurants in Thamel. You can reach that town from the temple with public bus that costs only 5 rupiis. When you calculate, it looks cheaper to have food in Thamel.ww_1

After visiting that place we went to Thamel again to have some food. When we arrive there, we noticed that the people who we talked a day before still remember us. When they saw us walking on the street, they invited to have milk tea and to chat together. This can make you feel a bit weird but it is just their nature. Nepalese people are quite hospitable and friendly to invite the people even they know since a day.

After eating curry and some chapaties we decided to go to “Basantapur Durbar Square” where is full of temples and palaces with red decorated stuff. That square is in Unesco World Cultural Heritage list. You need to pay again, around 700 rupiis, to visit that square. In that place, the king was gathering the public and making festivals, as I heard. Therefore, it is still crowded and full of people (also pigeons). You can visit several temples and palaces in that square; have some friends only by sitting in a crowded place.vbnm_1

Again I am telling and I will always keep telling you that Nepal is a magical place to visit, for the people, the places, for its culture and for learning how to be friendly and how to give without expectation of getting back something else.

Apart from the places where I visited in Kathmandu, I gained a Taiwanese friend who I travelled for 5 days and even hitchhiked to go out of Kathmandu and had really memorable moments, a British friend who I drank “Israeli coffee” with and Israeli boy on a roof of a hostel in middle of Thamel while watching a rainbow and city view. Who can deny that Kathmandu is a place where you never become or stay alone? If you want to travel somewhere alone or with somebody, Nepal is the best option to start. Once you are there then all people who live in over there have potential to become your friend.

– EMİNE ÜLKÜ ŞİMŞEK, Turkey