2 hangovers in 1 weekend

This week has been lovely. As usual. The weather is still lovely and the birds are still singing.

I was in the office during the week doing PhD work. It’s always lovely to see everyone. And I also had another Turkish lesson. Slowly but surely I will get there!

A nice mid week treat came in the form of home made cookies and shisha. Donata has her own shisha set so we enjoyed an evening on the balcony smoking and drinking kwass. Kwass is a Lithuanian bread drink. It’s weirdly tasty! I love evenings like that, when it’s nice and warm and the sun sets really slowly. We had a lovely chat and just relaxed.

On Friday my friend Beth arrived. She wanted to come and visit Poznan again and have a mini adventure with me! We’ve been enjoying Poznan night life! On Friday and Saturday we went out in the old square. In the normal Amie style, I had lots of tequila and danced my sandals off! I also decided to try and speak as much Polish as I possibly could. Alcohol definitely makes me more confident in languages!

We leave Poznan tomorrow. It’s been so lovely seeing all of my people in this part of the world. But I can’t stay in one place for too long. Time to move again. Next stop is Naples!

Cześć Poznań

As usual I am on the move. Currently sat drinking my second coffee of the day in Poznan airport. Back to Manchester for a couple of days now!

I’ve had a lovely week. I’ve seen all my favourite people from my Poznan life. I saw my beautiful Polish Mum, Kasia. The amazing Czech family with their most gorgeous new addition, tiny Astrid. I saw my office friend Paweł, we mostly bickered. What a fab bunch of people I have!

I’m was staying with Donata this week. She’s was lovely enough to agree to take me in! It’s always a treat staying with her. She cooks up the best food, breakfasts are a special feast! I was welcomed with a white chocolate cake! What more could you ask for?! Last weekend we went on a chilly wander so I could go and spot some red squirrels! The cold air is so much nicer than back home, it’s dry and clear. Manchester is just so rainy!!!

The working week began and that consisted of lots of hours in the office spent listening to Boubou calls. I’m pretty fluent in Boubou now…. I had a couple of meetings about next steps and am feeling very positive!

On Thursday afternoon everyone in the behavioural ecology department met in the common room for beers and to look at videos and photos from past Cameroon trips. It was so nice to have everyone together! Nice bunch of people! I was slightly tipsy after one beer! I went back to Donata’s and we carried on with the drinking vibe and enjoyed a glass of very strong Lithuanian spirit. Dancing happened.

Last night we went for a drink and some shisha. I met some of her friends and enjoyed a chilled Poznan night.

It’s been a short but sweet trip. Loved seeing everyone. Now to get back home and pack for the next adventure.

Gdansk and a Shaman

This working week was the usual business. Wake up, run, shower, office time and then Polish lessons or see friends.

It was Corpus Christi on Thursday and so Poland being the highly religious country that it is, everything was shut and it gave us a lovely long weekend. My friend Simla and I decided to take advantage of this and headed to Gdansk for a quick holiday.

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Thursday morning we got to the main train station in Poznan, found our train and climbed aboard! Unfortunately we were unable to reserve seats because the train was so busy and so the 3 and a half hour journey was spent stood up, next to the toilet, in the aisle of the carriage. Nice. Time passed quickly though and it was really nice to look out of the window and see all the lovely wild flowers. There are poppies everywhere now, so beautiful against the pristine green fields and bright blue sky. If I’m not mistaken I think the poppy is the national flower of Poland. I can see why now!

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Anyway.. we eventually arrived in Gdansk and got some lunch at a lovely Mexican place near the Old Town. We then went and found our hostel, changed into our swimming costumes and headed off to find a beach! We hopped on a crowded tram and made our way to Stogi Plaza. Google told us this was the most popular beach near Gdansk. It was full of people enjoying the sunshine, but we were slightly concerned as there was absolutely no one swimming! We dumped our bags, stripped off and went for it! Into the Baltic sea! To our surprise it really wasn’t that cold and we enjoyed standing in the waves and feeling the sun on our cheeks. It’s not every day we get to swim in the sea so we made the most of it.

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After drying off and changing, we went back to Gdansk city centre and enjoyed a coffee on the Old Street. Then we wandered around and even decided to get on a big wheel to see the city from a birds eye view. Very touristy! We enjoyed looking at all the lovely buildings and watching the rowers practicing on the river. I have to write a few words on the Polish people and their obsession with ice cream. On the old street there are at least 15 ice cream shops and all of them have queues! Everyone you see is eating the stuff! I know ice cream is nice, but here it is like a drug. I’ve tried some in Poznan and I must admit, they make it well. My favourite so far is werthers original!

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Anyway, I digress..

Tea time came and we found a nice place to eat next to the river and I had some lovely halibut. Only seemed right to have some fish when at the sea side. A wander back to the hostel followed and the day ended with a read of my book and the sound of swifts outside.

Friday morning we headed for breakfast and went to a museum in the old town hall of Gdansk. It was mainly about the history of Gdansk in the 16th and 17th centuries. There was one room, the “red room”, which used to be the summer time meeting room. The ceiling was covered in amazing paintings. Even the doors were impressive, the wood carvings were so intricate.

After the museum we grabbed a quick lunch and went to get our train back to Poznan. The train was relatively empty compared to the outward journey. We found our carriage and got settled. There was a man in our carriage too, dressed in technicolour trousers and fashioning a large beaded necklace. We started talking and he told me that he moved to Ireland 15 years ago and was an accountant there, but a year ago he packed it in, went to Peru, drank the “medicine” and became a shaman. His guide in life is his necklace. He was so interesting to talk to. He asked me what I did, so I told him I was an ornithologist. He then produced a small plastic bag filled with feathers. He insisted I chose two to keep. They were from birds of the amazon. His name was Chris and for a good hour and a half we chatted about anything and everything. He was saying how nothing is a coincidence, everything happens for a reason. I love talking to fellow hippies!

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At Bygdoszcz, a city half way through the journey, an elderly Irish couple with their daughter joined our carriage. They were visiting Poland because Maive’s (the daughter) husband is currently living in Poznan, teaching at a flight school. They had a huge bag of strawberries with them and insisted we helped them eat them. They were delicious and a nice unexpected treat. We talked about all sorts and it was so lovely to hear all the anecdotal stories from the couple. The journey passed so quickly and we were back in Poznan before we knew it.

We said our farewells and me and Simla headed home. I felt so happy after that journey, it really lifted my spirits. I love meeting different people and hearing their stories. And now I have my feathers as a lovely reminder of my special train journey and the shaman.

x

A northern girl at the Opera

This week has gone quite quickly. Had lots of nice little things happen.

On Monday I had my Polish language exam. It seemed to go okay, although I thought of a couple of silly mistakes I had made. All that grammar is hard to remember! The first lovely thing in my week was enjoying a refreshing drink with my friend Simla after the exam. It was that time of day, just before dusk, when the air goes slightly humid and the light in the sky is a mix of pastel colours. I think that is my favourite time of day. It reminds me of playing outside with my sister when we were little, listening to blackbirds singing and catching fresh water shrimp from the stream. Anyway…

Tuesday is reserved for rock climbing. Me and Pavel set off and had good feelings about routes we would choose and exercises we could do. Half way there Pavel realised he had left his climbing kit at the office so we turned back. During the retrieval of his gear the tram 16 we need to take to get to the climbing centre had a problem and had stopped running… disaster. But oh no.. Pavel decided he would make up for this lost opportunity and hire us city bikes to ride back to the city centre. It was so much fun! I haven’t been on a bike in years and I had forgotten how great it is! We were riding for about 25 minutes and then enjoyed a scoop of ice cream afterwards. Maybe he should leave his rock climbing kit more often!

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Wednesday was exam results day. I got 58/60! So so happy. In English we don’t really use cases and conjugations and so I am so proud of this grade. Polish is a really hard language but everyday I am getting to understand a little bit more which is quite exciting. I need to keep practicing now!

Thursday’s lovely thing was seeing my colleague Michał at the coffee break at work. He has been really busy doing field work and even when he is not in the field he lives in Warsaw and so we don’t get to see him much. We were talking about the work he has been doing and about Cameroon. Sometimes the little things can make a lovely change.

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Friday was another office day and then I went to an amazing Mexican restaurant with Simla. It is on a tiny street off of Old Town and I genuinely forgot I was in Poznan for a while. It is like you are transported to Mexico. There was a lovely atmosphere and colour all over. I love finding these new little places. I must say, I haven’t had a bad meal since being in Poznan. The food is always top notch.

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Now for the day of the Opera…

People that know me will understand that I am not exactly the Opera going type… I don’t have high heels, I don’t have minimalist clothing. So I was slightly stuck with what to wear. So me being me, I put on my most colourful dress, matched with Birkenstocks and bangles and my favourite wicker handbag and off I went. Safe to say, I was under dressed. I met my friends Viola and Łucaś and we went to a great vegetarian restaurant called Słodka and Ostra in my district of Poznan. We had a taster of the different soups and then a great salad. It was brilliant. Then off we went to the theatre. It is so grand inside, a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Gosh I was out of my depth. But I sat in my seat and became mesmerised by the beautiful voices. We saw die zauberflote. Viola had informed me that the Queen of the Night character has one of the most difficult aria’s to perform in any opera. It was so impressive and beautiful. Her voice was incredible, I’m not sure how she got to such high notes. I wasn’t exactly sure on everything that was happening due to it being performed in German and translated in Polish, but it didn’t matter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A night to remember! Next time I will probably opt out of the sandals though…

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Sometimes it’s nice to pick little things that have been lovely in your day. You might think it was just any old day but there are always little things that can make you smile. I’m a big believer in silver linings.

Here is to more silver linings next week.

xx

 

Lithuania: From Capital to Coast, and back again.

Well what an adventure I have been on. There is so much to write about I don’t even know where to start.

First thing is first. Lithuania is amazing.

To get to this amazing country we got a train to Warsaw and then from there a 7 hour bus trip to Kaunus. The Neman river meanders through the city and nestled in a river bend, in the middle of a forest, is Donata’s family home. It’s like being in Hansel and Gretel, although luckily the gingerbread witch was missing! Auguste, Donata’s sister, had prepared some kluski for us for breakfast. These are my favourite Polish food, small dumplings that are just the cosiest things to have after a long trip. I also tried these cottage cheese bars covered in chocolate (varškės sūrelis) which were super tasty! By the end of the morning I had met all the family and tried out my first Lithuanian words, Laba Diena (Good day) and Ačiū (Thank you). Ačiū is easy to remember because it just sounds like a sneeze (A-choo). Donata’s grandma was particularly excited to meet me. Apparently she kept saying how cute I was and that she can’t believe I was doing a PhD because I’m so tiny. She sent us away with half a pineapple, some wine and dark chocolate. Yum!

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A walk in the forest was a nice wake up. Still hadn’t slept from the previous day so the fresh air did us good. From the forest we moved to Kaunus centre, via a retro style electric bus, and I was shown St. Michael the Archangel Church. It is a very grand and huge building. It looks a little worn but I think this adds to it’s character. First of many impressive building I got to see on this trip. We met Donata’s friend Sigita and then Auguste and we all got on a bus to Vilnius, the Capital. For the trip we bought these amazing sushi sandwiches. For anyone that likes sushi, I urge you to find these. Perfect travelling snack!

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We arrived in Vilnius after a couple of hours and had an explore of this beautiful city. We walked down the Old Town and came to a huge bell tower. For a few euros we got to go inside and so me and Donata climbed to the top for a birds-eye view of the city. It was beautiful. There are lots of churches dotted around, all very impressive. My favourite was the Church of St. Anne. It looked especially old and really gothic. From the top we had a great view of the Castle on the hill. A popular landmark of the Lithuanian Capital. Once down from the tower, we headed to the Cathedral. Wow! A lovely building. We went inside and had a look around. It was extremely beautiful. During all this travelling Donata found out she had passed her Masters degree so we went to her favourite bar for a celebratory Long Island ice tea! We also tried another Lithuanian dish of fried bread with cheese sauce (Duona su česnaku). This is probably the best food I tried the whole trip. It would be incredible after a hard night on the town. Move over cheesy chips, fried bread is where the action is! After the refuel we headed to the concert hall and saw Imany. She was absolutely fantastic. Such a talent. And yes, this was all without any sleep. After the concert Donata and I stayed at her friend, Agnė’s, house in the city. That night I slept like a log. Exhausted, but what a day!

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Up the next day and ready for more adventure. Me, Donata and Agnė went for breakfast and then me and Donata headed to Trakai, the castle island. The weather was miserable but it did not dampen our spirits! Oh no! En route to the castle, a fellow tourist joined us. A woman from Turkey who was on a fleeting visit. All three of us wandered around the castle and tried to take in all the information. It was a really interesting place and once the Capital of Lithuania. The castle is situated on an Island in the middle of a huge lake. It’s really medieval and different to anything I have seen before. I got to send some post cards home with the official castle stamp! After the castle we headed back to the bus stop and managed to grab some traditional kibinai for the journey. Kibinai are a sort of pasty, but probably half the size of the British cornish pasty. They are a lot lighter too. We had one filled with chicken and another with spinach and cheese. Both were delicious. Lithuanian food is good!!! Bus back to Vilnius and then a double decker train back to Kaunus! I was so excited, I’ve always wanted to travel on a double decker train.

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We got back home and had a wash and change before our next journey. Me, Donata, Auguste and Justas, Donata’s brother, all piled in the car and made our way to the coast. This was about 2 hours in the car. This was really nice because I got the chance to see the beautiful Lithuanian countryside. I saw lots of white storks and a fair few cranes too. We arrived at the city of Klaipeda in the evening and stayed with Donata’s grandparents. Her grandmother had made a feast for us, including lots of amazing sweet treats. My favourite was the honey cake. It was like a dream. I noticed that the Lithuanian recipes often use sour cream, for both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s really tasty and gives a different flavour than recipes I am used to. I only use sour cream for a mexican fajita! There was lots of chat that evening, mostly in Lithuanian, but it was nice. The Lithuanian language sounds really bubbly and fluid. A bit like a lullaby. Full of amazing food and adventure, we all went to sleep ready for the next day.

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Waking up to the smell of pancakes was just divine. Fresh pancakes, omelette, coffee and more honey cake greeted us in the living room. We feasted until we were full and then wandered to Klaipeda Old Town for a quick sight seeing tour. It was lovely. At around 11 Donata, Auguste and I jumped in the car and got to the ferry to cross the Curonian spit. This is a huge lagoon formed between the mainland and a small strip of land cutting off the Baltic Sea. It’s beautiful. A 10 minute ferry and we were across, and we had entered paradise. First stop was a Dolphin and Sea Lion show. From here we drove across the sliver of land to Juodkrantė, a town in the middle of the Curonian spit. Lithuania’s largest cormorant and heron colony is situated here. It was amazing to see. The sounds from the nesting birds were brilliant and the smell was powerful too… Unfortunately the cormorant droppings are really acidic and so their presence is actually having quite a negative effect on the forest. One of those complicated conservation stories. We walked to the town passing fishing nets that had been hung out to dry. Lunch was in a tiny house with a few tables. The menu was great though and the food, surprise surprise, was delicious. My favourite part of my Lithuania trip was in this lovely town in the form of the hill of witches. This is a short walk where you can find lots of wooden sculptures of witches, devils and folklore characters. They were so impressive and it was just so interesting. Donata and Auguste were telling me all the old folk tales. One involves a women turning her children into trees because her snake husband was killed. The usual stuff…

Next we headed to the end of the Lithuanian part of the Curonian spit to a town called Nida. We were informed of a free concert in the town so decided to go. We stayed for a few songs, the musicians were amazing. By this point Sigita had joined us again and all 4 of us decided to go for a walk along the lagoon edge. There were two swans who started a courtship dance which was amazing to see. I’ve never witnessed it before, they were very elegant. That evening was spent splaying board games, drinking wine, dancing and laughing.

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The sun beaming through the curtains woke me up. Yes, the sun was finally here. We all got ready and headed to the town for breakfast. I got to try traditional potato pancakes. They were delicious. The Lithuanians certainly know how to spruce up a potato. I also tried Kvaas, a bread based drink. It is very similar to beer but it is non alcoholic. Really tasty. We made our way to the sand dunes after breakfast. This was the most beautiful part of my Lithuanian trip. They are magnificent. We climbed to the top of the dunes and found the sun clock, and it actually worked! I’m not sure when this was built but it is a huge stone structure sat right on top of the largest dune. From this place you can see the Lithuania- Russia border. Luckily it’s not that easy to get to it so there is no risk of stumbling across.

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From the dunes we then went to the seaside. The beaches have bright white sand, like a paradise island. We all walked for a while in silence, the sound of the waves and the smell of the sea was hypnotising and we all fell into a trance for a while. Bloody lovely! A quick lunch break in town allowed me to try yet another traditional dish of cold beetroot soup. This was so refreshing, probably my second favourite meal after the fried bread! We wandered around the town again for a while and managed to find some traditional smoked fish to try later in the day. We all bundled into the car, got the ferry, and went back to Donata’s grandparents. The smoked fish was amazing. Donata’s grandma had once again cooked up a storm and she had also bought a Šakotis cake. Šakotis is a spike cake that is made by pouring batter over a cylinder placed over a fire. This means the batter drips and bakes at the same time making it look like a spikey tree. Really tasty. That evening us four girls and Justas went into Klaipeda city for a drink. Another amazing day.

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Another day and more seaside adventures. We said our goodbyes to the grandparents and then us 4 girls headed to the Dutch hat. This is a lovely beach further along the coast. Again, we became hypnotised and just wandered along in thought. So peaceful. After the Dutch hat was Palenga. This is a seaside resort town filled with alsorts of attractions. We ate these amazing waffles on sticks. I got mine covered with coconut. Yum! We went to the sea and walked out onto a bridge that extends quite far away from the shore. It was loaded with fisherman that day, all waiting patiently for the perfect catch. When we reached the end of the bridge we all through a cent out to sea. This is a tradition done by many people here, wishing them a healthy year so they can return to Palenga once again.  We walked through a lovely park and then all piled into the car again. For lunch we went to a strange little resort in the middle of nowhere. It was a few buildings of touristy things and then a huge restaurant in the middle. With a huge queue. We eventually got a table and ordered a selection of traditional dishes. Including cepelinai (meat filled potato dumplings), potato pie, chicken shashlik and more fried bread and kvaas. All so tasty. I’m starting to think I must be slightly eastern european in origin. I love the food too much. After lunch we made the 2 hour drive back down to Kaunus. What a lovely weekend. That evening we just relaxed and chatted.

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Last full day in Lithuania. I got to try Lithuanian white cheese with honey for breakfast. A prefect combination and something I need to try again. A wander into the forest followed. We found an ornithological site near a reservoir and managed to see lots of common merganser which was nice. Being in nature is always lovely, especially when you’re in enchanting forests surrounded by the chorus of what seems like a thousand birds. Donata’s mum had prepared some amazing turkey for lunch so we had this with a salad. No potato in sight, for a change. In the afternoon Donata, Auguste, Justas and I drove into Kaunus so I could see the Old Town. It is a beautiful city, and seems to contain restaurants with cuisine from all around the globe. We walked to a point where the two largest rivers in Lithuania meet. That was really beautiful. Apparently from above you can see how the rivers have different colours. We also managed to get to a view point to look across the city from above. A perfect evening stroll. We got back to the house and had a small celebration for an early Lithuania Mothers Day. We had cake and I got to try Lithuanian beer. The rest of the evening was spent watching a film and relaxing.

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Wednesday, and back to Poznan. We set off mid morning and after 7 hours on a bus, a 3 hour wait in Warsaw and then a 3 hour train journey, we were back.

Wow!

I just want to say a massive thank you to all of Donata’s family for hosting me and making me feel so welcome. Auguste was the best driver and a brilliant tour guide! And thanks so much to the wonderful Donata for all her planning and inviting me in the first place!!

Lithuania was just beautiful. What an adventure. I climbed dunes, ate amazing food, laughed, danced, saw witches, smelt the sea, explored castles and wandered through forests.

I’ll be back again Lithuania.

I did throw my penny off the bridge after all…