Vilnius

Vilnius_sml

This weekend I went to Vilnius with Xi. Coming out of the airport I saw lots of shacks and sheds and some very soviet-looking buildings. But that was just the bus ride that took us into town; the center of Vilnius is beautiful and wonderful and nothing like its surroundings. There's little squares and plazas everywhere, not to mention tons of churches. The river divides up the old town and the business district and the nearby hills form a great viewpoint and are easy to walk up to. All in all it gave me quite a Southern European vibe.

The remnants of Sovietness still remain in places. One example of such is the clothing. Lots of women seem to wear coats you only see in Soviet spy movies, and even the flight attendants at WizzAir (seriously? what a name...) were wearing the pink KGB coats. For that matter, despite the warm weather all the locals were walking around in heavy dark coats. It's hard to pinpoint a particular feeling to the local population. After all, we were only there for three days. During my brief stay there I'd say the children all seem very properly (religiously) dressed, as are the middle-aged and elderly people. But the middle generation in their 20s/30s all dress like a supercharged version of the classic British chav. One wonders about the future of Lithuania when confronted with such personalities.

It's not all bad though, and the chavvies are just the most noticeable of their generation. Vilnius was apparently the European capital of culture in 2009. It's an incredibly green city, with nature everywhere, and air that's very pleasant to breathe. Internet speeds are the highest in the world according to an unverified claim on wikipedia, but I'd believe it. There's free wifi almost everywhere and it is indeed really fast.

IMG_9620

In three days we ended up walking through every bit of the old town at least twice, and most of it we did 3-4 times. It's really not a very big city, and the old town is walkable from end to end in about 30 minutes (if even). There's plenty of people watching to do, and the main street has tons of things to see during the weekend. It's also relatively unspoilt by annoying Western chain stores.

IMG_9541PS

There's bicycles everywhere! There's dedicated cycling lanes all through the city but bikes of various types will zigzag around you in a nonthreatening fashion all the time. Most people seem to drive mountain bikes, which surely has something to do with the cobbly streets. I'd love to have a cycle around there if I had the chance. Maybe next time.

Vilnius. Nice place. Go visit.

 

Posted in Travel | Tagged

Sleeping with the pigeons

IMG_8108

 

A homeless man in Copenhagen decided to have a rest at an air vent to stay warm, right next to the pigeons. An ambulance arrived at the scene before us. Perhaps someone called them? Perhaps they just passed by? The ambulance crew handed the homeless man a blanket. They didn't take him with them, or to a homeless shelter. I don't know why. Many questions.

Posted in Travel | Tagged

New York

I spent a lot of my time staring at the heart of the city from the top of the Google building. The view is amazing there, and I enjoyed a few peaceful moments.

 

The true heart has to be Times Square. There's just so much going on there all the time. So many interesting things to see.

 

The New York skyline. I've heard people talk bad about the abundance of brick buildings in Manhattan. I thought it was quite a unique feature of the city, in a positive way. The brick buildings in New York seem sturdy and robust, whereas London's brick buildings seem horrible and old.

You'll note that I did not include a photo of the statue of liberty here. I did take some, but the statue is so far apart from the center of the city, and so far apart from people's daily lives, that I do not consider it to be part of the New York experience. If anything, it's just a stupid tourist trap. I found it very disappointing. The New York - well, Manhattan - that I experienced stretched from the financial district to central park. That, to me, is New York.

Posted in Photography , Travel | Tagged

Death by mountain

After today I am totally ready to admit that I may have had an idealized image of Japan. In my mind the adventure of climbing OoYama, the big mountain, was a moderately difficult hike with tons of beautiful sights along the way and never any bad weather. I guess I picked a bad time to revisit the mountain because today was just.. painful.

I woke up quite early and managed to get to the starting point of the hike well before 9AM, which is when the cable car service starts. Not to worry, since I had plenty of time I didn't mind hiking up all the way from the start. Or so I thought. Japan's summer weather here is around 30 degrees with crazy humidity levels. It seems my brain has conveniently forgotten that my natural state in this kind of weather is liquid. Sweat, sweat, sweat I did. I feared the climb because my physical condition had gotten a lot worse since I left Japan, but it was still quite doable. It seems I'm still in better shape than I was when I climbed the mountain for the first time when I couldn't even make it to the top.

Soon I reached the halfway point, and right after that it started to become cloudy. Visibility decreased and the hiking experience turned into something most similar to walking around in a damp bathroom after a shower. There were some interesting mosquitoes which, although I did not catch them doing it, bit off substantial portions of my skin and left large crusty areas of blood where they bit me. Since I was sweating so much the sunscreen just dripped down my face right after I put it on.

Despite all that I did surprisingly good time. I didn't hang around at the peak because it was too foggy and damp so this was probably the fastest run I've ever done on Ooyama. The walk down was speedy, but when I finally stood still to wait for the train I found that my leg muscles were twitching. Energy level: zero.

[jsgallery size="large"]

Somehow I quite like these painful moments. I think it has something to do with my memory, which is exceptionally poor. When I feel strong emotions or physical pain/exhaustion/whatever, I remember things more easily. Maybe that's why I tend to like the extreme moments; I simply can't remember the less extreme ones.

Posted in Japan , Travel

One hell of a ride

And it's not over yet! I arrived back in London on Monday after two weeks of New York, went in to work on Tuesday and am now on my way to Amsterdam, to fly to Japan tomorrow.

New York has been an amazing experience. It was my first time visiting and I was a bit overwhelmed at first. I noticed many similarities with other big cities such as London, but also striking differences. In particular, the way the people react and interact with you is way different than in London. Americans are much more open to striking up a conversation, for better (strange girl writing a book about obese zombies that steal your soul) and worse (random poor people trying to scam you into something).

If anything, New York is more 'big city'-like than London, which is amazing if you're visiting for a while because you'll get a chance to be a part of all the madness that goes on there. But I think that living there would end up very tiring indeed. Staying in New York helped me realize that I am perhaps more of a countryside person than I thought. It's something I want to pursue further in the near future.

But the best thing about New York was by and far the chance to meet my friends again. I hadn't seen most of them since I left Japan, and it was the best reunion ever.  I was truly amazed at how everyone progressed in life and how we still got along so well. I missed them, and I will miss them again. The AK people are all brilliant, every single one of them. I hope to see them again soon.

Unfortunately, a couple of days before returning to London, the disk in my laptop broke turning it into useless weight. I tried to fix it in NY but failed. Yesterday I had a chance to fix it at work and realized that I had messed things up quite badly. My laptop contained two hard disks, one SSD (the broken one) and an HDD encrypted with Truecrypt. I don't know exactly how it happened, but after installing Windows my encrypted HDD lacked all partitions and I could not access any of my data. I'd like to think that I'm not stupid enough to delete the partitions off of the wrong hard disk, so I suspect that the Windows installation thought the encrypted HDD was empty and overwrote the partition table, thereby deleting the information I needed to decrypt the volume. I will not forget to create a rescue disk from now on..

So I'm data-less! I have an almost entirely clean laptop. No movies, no music, no games. And no photos. It'll take me ages to download the backup from my other PC. And worst of all, I suspect that some of my most recent photos may have been lost. If this is true it will have been the first time I have suffered data loss in over a decade. I'm very sad about that.

Tonight I'm heading to Amsterdam, only to fly back to London the next morning to catch the British Airways flight to Japan. Even though the flight to Japan goes via London, it was cheaper to book it from Amsterdam than from London, even including the additional flight needed to get to Amsterdam. Airline companies are idiotic like that.

Soon I will be in the bus from Narita to Atsugi. And then I can finally relax.

Posted in Thoughts , Travel

New York at dusk

Posted in Photography , Travel | Tagged

Busy times

I've been going around New York with my friends this weekend. Visiting museums, trying out restaurants etc.

Will blog more tomorrow.

Posted in Travel | Tagged

Times Square

It's 7:30AM and I'm exhausted. Yesterday another friend arrived so we went out for drinks and visited Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza. It was about 1:30AM when I arrived back at my hotel, only to find my bed occupied by a French person, so I had to take the top bunk bed. The room got massively hot because the French guy turned off the airconditioning which he found too noisy. Then his phone rang several times during the night, waking me up. I will be very sleepy today.

Times Square is amazing. You can somehow feel the energy there. It also seems relatively safe. I guess I'm paying more attention to that since we got robbed in Lisbon. When there's tons of people around it seems safe, and there's hidden police as well. I looked around for suspicious people trying to pickpocket but did not find any.Even taking the subway home at 12:30AM felt fine and there were still lots of people about.

There's a lot of things to see in New York. I'm in no rush to make up my mind.

 

 

Posted in Travel | Tagged

At work

Posted in Travel | Tagged

All my bags are packed..

As I said in the last post, it's been an interesting couple of days. But let's look forward instead of backward. Tomorrow I"ll be in New York. Two weeks of relaxation and reminiscing with old friends. New York has never been a place I particularly wanted to see, but seeing how famous it is I knew I would eventually go there. Finally the moment has come.

And the circumstances in which I'm going couldn't be better. I've thrown away the parts of my life that I hated but I managed to keep the two things I need the most: my girlfriend and my job. Surprisingly (perhaps) they were both ok with my extended leave-taking, which means that for the first time since I uttered the phrase "I'll be living out of my suitcase" last year, I'll actually be living out of my suitcase. How great is that?

It's not a common lifestyle, living out of your suitcase. And I consider myself lucky to have found a company that lets me work from home, or even when travelling. It's the perfect solution for a little piece of unrest like me. My job lends itself well to working remotely so I'll be able to jump in if there's a crisis situation, or for other things.

There exists a paradox in my mind though that I have been unable to resolve to my full satisfaction. Behaviourally I am exhibiting signs of unrest, of anti-settling-down behaviour, yet I've made both private and professional commitments that require me to be responsible and reliable. The issue is not that this kind of behaviour cannot work, the issue is that it does. To me that seems contradictory. I can't quite explain it myself. If I am not exhibiting this behaviour I feel as if my life is passing me by, yet when I'm "on the road" as I will be from tomorrow, I cling to the stable elements that I can, in a certain fashion, take with me on my travels. Now that I actually have a girlfriend and a job to take with me, I am a very happy man. I seem to be both vagabonding and steady-lifing at the same time. Am I deluding myself? Or if I think about it more, will it seem less like a paradox?

Lots of questions. I'm sure the answers will come to me during my trip.

Adios!

 

Posted in Thoughts , Travel