Pärnu – A Cozy Town in Southwestern Estonia

Pärnu… well-known as the summer capital of Estonia. Who knows. Still no spring and I am wondering if Estonians are just skipping it and starting with the summer directly.

Today was very sunny when I woke up and it made me really happy, because, come on.. It is April already and spring should be knocking on our doors, right? But yes. It was just sunny and still cold and a bit windy outside. This didn’t stop me to go out and take a walk though.

I like walking near the beach since there is a nice walking path. It is so peaceful. You only hear the wind playing with the trees around and some birds singing their spring songs recently, while leaving their winter shelters.

As I leave my house the path takes me to a stunning architectural temple arising from the beach. That’s the famous HEDON Hotel & Spa. A historical building hiding modern spa inside. In fact, Pärnu has many SPAs and hotels. I assume they are full with tourists during summertime.

Once walking by, you can hear the beautiful music coming from the bronze statue of Raimond Valgre, sitting in the park with his accordion. Being one of the most famous composers in Estonia, you must stop for a minute near this statue and enjoy. It fits perfectly in the surroundings, where you can appreciate the fresh air and beautiful pine trees.

HEDON Hotel & Spa with pine trees around and a bit of snow

In the heart of the city is located the Pärnu bus station. At the junction of Ringi and Malmö streets and visiting the most popular points of the city from here is easy on foot, especially if the weather is good.

I adore getting lost around the streets of Pärnu and enjoying the view of the wooden houses and their calming colors. In the early evenings you can feel the soothe vibe coming out behind the curtains of the old windows. The light of the vibrant candles gives a comfortable feeling which makes you want to get inside and be amused by the atmosphere. Walking by the houses, you  can throw a glance at the interior and see ladies reading their favorite books accompanied with a glass of wine or hot tea, elder man rushing to finish the daily newspaper or kids caressing their pets and playing around.

Pärnu is a calm city which somehow makes me falling in love with. Although I miss crowds sometimes,  I really like the tranquility it brings.

People here are a bit cold though and their face expression seems so serious and angry. When you get to know them better, they are fine, well, normal human beings I guess! I met one of my neighbors and she tried to speak a bit in Russian with me and it was really nice. But, for example, some days ago I saw another of my neighbors. She gave me a look saying ”What are you staring at?” and I was all confused and didn’t know if to greet her or not, but I did what they do – I didn’t care. So yes, I guess here, I am going to learn how to acquire a ”don’t give a damn” attitude. Yeah, Estonians are not very emotional and seems like smiling is not their favorite activity and hugging either. This makes my stay here a bit like… ”blaaah”, but all in all I am happy to be part of something new and different.

 

 

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Somewhere in Estonia

My first time in Estonia. I was just sitting on the plane and kind of lost I was listening to the pilot’s voice with a strong desire to understand something. I could understand only him saying ”Tere Hommikust” which somehow made me feel proud of myself for remembering at least one thing from everything that I tried to learn in the past week before moving here.

It was very crowded at the airport, well as usual, but here the security guards did not welcome me with a nice and pleasant look. It was more like I killed someone. Is it so weird for a Macedonian to go to Estonia or is it just their normal everyday face expression? Please, someone, enlighten me.

It creeps me out to talk to people or when I am meeting someone new, should I just go with handshaking or? Everyone goes like ”Tere”(Hello) with a deadly serious face and I am like ”So, am I not welcomed here?” Ah, they are really cold just like the weather here. Anyways, since I am an Eastern girl with a warm heart(let’s say), I have to give them another chance to impress me, so let us explore a little bit deeper…

Life in Estonia

I can’t really say much about life here yet, but my first impressions… hm, quite mixed. I am staying in a small city called Pärnu. During the day it is possible to see some people around, but in the evening it is very quiet and peaceful. You can only hear the trees dancing while the wind is playing their favorite winter songs, small houses with cozy and not so harsh lights, cute candles and flowers on the inside of the houses’ windows. For me, this city still has Christmas vibes.

I really wonder if they have summers here. I was told the temperatures are not going higher than 25°, and to be honest, that sounds really great to me. Pärnu has the sea and a nice walking area and nature around, which already makes me fall in love with it.

The Youth Center

So yes, I moved here for youth mobility and the youth center where I am going is placed in Sauga. Sauga is a smaller city(or let’s say town) than Pärnu and is situated right next to it. Actually, only a sign separates them.

It has been only a week here and I am still exploring it and getting to know the children, but I am really shocked that Estonian children actually speak the English language very well. Some of them are shy to do it, although they can understand everything.

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They have many hobby classes here, such as dancing, cooking, ceramics, photography and many more. So far I took part in the cooking class where they showed me how to make a potato salad that they usually eat during birthday parties. Well, we have something similar which we also prepare for birthdays and especially for name days and it always goes accompanied by kifli.

The teacher and the kids also showed me how to make another food, actually, it is more like a drink made of kefir and… something called kama(it has wheat, rye, barley). It is a classic Estonian breakfast which is made really fast, so it is perfect for people who like being late for work or so. This one I can say is of Estonian origins, but only until Fins and Russians come and say ”no, we invented this!”

I also went to see their ceramics class and I managed to make a nice(or no) cup.

Children here insist on playing Twister all the time so I had no choice, but I learnt some Estonian words. The list is short and goes like this: punane(red), sinine(blue), roheline(green), parem(right) and vasak(left). Eh, not bad, right? Okay, I can also say Tere(Hello)and few other greetings.

Maybe the list will grow soon. Who knows. I will inform you about it in my next post.

See you!

 

Six feet under my life as an au pair

After a long bus ride I arrived in the city in the early morning around 6am. I like mornings, especially the peaceful ones when everyone is sleeping or you can just see few people rushing for work and waiting in a line to take their coffee. I was so tired but a long way to my host family´s home was waiting for me. I went to the busy metro and somehow I managed to find a free seat. I didn’t miss my station but when I went out I totally got lost and I couldn’t find the stop for the minibuses. I was going from place to place asking people(not that they understood me but still) and finally, as every happy end, a man helped me and showed me where to wait. It was fast here. I got on the minibus and it drove me to my desired place.

I found my host family’s house easily and I went to the security and told them the number of the flat. They called and the mother said that they are expecting me.. which was not true, because they were expecting me the day after. Funny. We had a misunderstanding about my arrival date, but even if I arrived a day earlier, they had no other option, but to welcome me haha! The mother and one of the daughters opened the door with a confused face but they were still smiling, so I didn’t feel bad.

My first days were a bit confusing while I was learning everything in the house, about their rules, daily life and the area around. Anyways, day by day, I got used to be around this lovely family with three very well-behaved daughters. The biggest one is a very smart and motivated girl. She is a hard-working student and really good at drawing. She showed me her drawings and I was very impressed. She likes to eat healthy things even if she doesn’t like the taste of them haha! Then there is the middle one, a 10-year-old kind-hearted girl. She likes playing volleyball and she really enjoys dealing with her little sister who has 3,5 years old, though if you see her and stay with her for a while you will think she is 5. She will give everything for chocolate and also she is a big fan of eating pear and just eating in general. Eating fish is not her strongest side, but she will tell that it is healthy and it is important to consume it. Going to school is something that makes her happy as well as jumping on you.

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My daily life here was not bad, I cannot complain. I had time to walk everyday, since I love doing it, to study and do my own stuff or just meet with friends… although I didn’t have many friends here, since they lived far and my young neighbors were hiding, I guess.. Anyways, I learned so many things while living with this family and I believe that by the time they also learned from me and improved their English speaking skills.

Living with a host family was definitely hard for me, since I am used to live alone and to have more freedom, but at the same time it was good, because I got to experience their daily life, try different foods, see different culture and way of life.

The not so great part is that I had to adapt on someone’s daily routines and make some changes in my daily plans, but still it was not something that couldn’t be managed. The most important thing is your privacy and independence not to be taken, so if you are planning to become an au pair in future – talk every detail with your host family.  Of course it is not for you if you don’t enjoy being around children, because the main and actually the only work of the au pair is to take care of children and help them improve their speaking skills in the language they are learning, which most of the times is English.

I have heard many great as well as many bad au pair experiences but I guess mine was among the first ones. I was lucky to meet a great family who welcomed me in their home with kindness.

The colors of Istanbul

Saturday. Got up so early and excited for the new day. That day I decided to explore more of this beautiful city Istanbul. I sat on the bus and waited impatiently to arrive at the planned place. The bus ride took so long.. During the ride, I was thinking about the day and my expectations. Is that place going to be nice? am I going to like it?

And finally the time for the last bus stop came. I arrived in Aksaray and from there I started walking.. and I walked, I walked… up  to the hill, through the neighborhood of Fatih and after an hour  I arrived to the coziest and most colorful part of Istanbul.

There were so many tiny streets and I was wondering which way to take. Somewhere in the distance I saw some colorful buildings shining bright as if they were touched by the sun. I went that way and heard some voices of women fighting and a policeman standing there. I didn’t understand the situation, I just walked by and freaked out, because I didn’t have my documents with me… and going out without documents in a foreign country as a non-European can be a problem. Then I realized that I am in Turkey and problem yok!(no problem).

Balat, Istanbul

I took some pictures of course and continued my way. I was expecting so many tourists, but it was empty. I could just only hear the voices of the angry women and some children  yelling  anne, anne!(mom, mom).

After those buildings I got into one very empty street with no people living in the houses around. They were too old obviously. I was walking around for some minutes, trying to find more things and I finally arrived in front of one house for children which I believe was something like a small theater. It was really nice decorated, with drawings as clowns and dolls in different colors. Inside, it was very small, of course, made for children to fit in and it was full of toys. Around there were children jumping while getting excited about the next game they were going to play and there were even some of them selling books to the people passing by.

Turkish tea

The other streets were filled with more of those cute houses which had many vintage shops and cafes above them. I got the desire to have a turkish tea in front one of them and to enjoy the relaxed and silent Saturday morning in this amazing area. I ordered my tea to the readhead waitress and I started reading my book. I could also feel the smell of peacefulness, hot turkish coffee and fresh simit in the air. From time to time I could also hear the laughing of the people sitting at the next cafe which was not destroying the atmosphere at all… instead, it was fitting perfectly.

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After I drank my tea I walked a bit down the same street and I saw some tourists, so I decided to follow them. After many hours in this neighborhood, I heard some loud voices and I saw the crowd. There was a cafe full of people taking pictures on the stairs colored in different ways. To be honest, this impressed me a lot because it was made really good and the vibes were even better. There were not many empty tables, I just walked in to see and even though we are in early autumn already, in that moment I could feel the waves of the oceans and the summer breeze which mace me feel fine.

Next to it there was a street covered with red umbrellas and here is where I finished my wandering and ended up as in a maze since I couldn’t find the way which I came from. I took another one which was loooonger and tired me so much, but I won’t complain, because it was really good and worth spending one Saturday there. Balat is really warm, special and different.

In the land of Don Quixote

A gentle rain welcomed me when I arrived in Toledo. Sure, it was great to escape the crazy sun in the South of Spain. I went out of the bus station with my umbrella and heavy backpack and kept walking straight up the stairs, then down the street… The whole city is like that. Not for people who get tired easily(like me). This was the modern part of the city though. Nothing like the pictures I have seen on the internet, because no one posts the not so cute ones, right? I mean who is going to post a picture of the bus station in Toledo? No human being does it.

To get to the old and historical part you can walk and take the normal stairs or use the escalator which is what I did. It is nice they don’t want to have tired tourists.  The old part of Toledo is what we all see on the pictures around the internet, but of course, it is different when you get there and experience it. All around there are cute shops with souvenirs inspired by Don Quixote. It was like walking around and getting lost in the pages of Miguel de Cervantes’ book. For a moment I felt like Don Quixote. It is just that my Sancho Panza was not there, but I had my Sancho friends who were more than enough! Eating tapas in Toledo was also nice. Actually, if you order a beer you get a free tapa too. That sounds amazing, right? Famous to try there is marzipan. I did not try it because I am not a fan, but if you are wondering what to take home, different than magnets and postcards, then some sugary marzipan in a weird form, could be a good idea.

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Except for the shops full of souvenirs, you will see swords everywhere. Did you know that the swords, daggers, and knives wielded by heroes and baddies in productions like Lord of the Rings, Conan, and Xena Warrior Princess were made in Toledo? Well, that is true. That is why you will find many shops with stuff related to Lord of the Rings and similar productions.

Beside being famous for sword making, Toledo used to be home of three religions and culture of Christians, Jewish and Arabs. So, now as a visitor, you get the chance to enjoy the complete journey through the history of Spain. Also if you are fond of the nice views you should try to go and see the city from above. The view is really fantastic! Sitting on a big rock, feeling the wind and looking out over the city of three cultures was definitely one of the highlights of my trip there.

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Mamma Mia! Italians everywhere!

Murcia is a city famous for its amazing student life and it brings together many international exchange students every year. You can get close to every culture and traditions with no need to travel to that country and especially, you will find so many Italians on your way. Every time I meet someone.. where are they from? Italy. Seems like in few years Spain will be conquered by them!

Coming to Spain was about experiencing the Spanish culture and way of life and it is not that I did not, but parallelly with that I also learned lots of things about Italy. That is why I am dedicating this post to Italy!

There are so many things about Italians that I find very funny, but so unique and original at the same time. And here I am sharing  some of my favorite ones!

The Italian language

When Italians have a normal talk, it sounds like one of those playlist you can find on youtube under the name ”songs for relaxation” and actually in the backgrounds there are always some annoying birds, but you keep listening to it because you like it. It is the same with the Italian language, it might sound annoying, but still it is kind of lovely… right? And that’s when they have a normal talk, but when they argue.. hm, I guess it’s the same, but maybe just in a faster motion!!

Anyways, it is an amazing language(personally, I like it so much) and it always sounds nice, even if they are swearing(and Italians swear way too much)! It is also considered as one of the easiest languages to learn and maybe that is why Italians find it difficult to speak another language. I’m joking. You are good at Spanish, at least =P

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Speaking English with an Italian accent

This is my favorite one! Italians do not pronounce the letter ”h”, so if they say ”I’m hungry” it sounds exactly the same as ”I’m angry” and then you wonder what is this person trying to say and you do not know what to do – to give them food or run before being punched! Also imagine an Italian saying ”my hair is so long”. What? Your air is long?

And, of course, not every Italian speaks like that…. only 95% =D

check this video > Italian in Malta

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Pizza and pasta

They love pizza and pasta, everyone knows that. Pizza without pineapple, pasta with tuna, with pesto, tomato sauce.. but when you are out of tomato sauce, do not put ketchup on your pasta! Just do not do it! It is a sin! Okey, if you want to make them angry(and I mean angry, not hungry =D) then go for it, but that is unacceptable for them! I still do not understand why. For me pasta and ketchup fit perfectly together! FOREVER!

 

Italian gestures

Does Italian sign language exist? Because if not, there is no need for it. They have enough gestures to help you communicate around. Even if you are just lazy and you do not want to speak, you can easily move your hand and tell someone to get out!

 

Grazie a tutti!

The one when ”los murcianicos” get crazy

Bando de la huerta, bando de la huerta, bando de la huerta… everyone gets so excited about this day here! It is a spring party when people have fun in honour of Murcia’s fertile region and its agricultural traditions. They make huge parades which last so long(hats off to the people who walk on the parades. I would probably give up) and it is really beautiful actually. They are wearing traditional clothes which are very colorful. The traditional clothes of the men are easier to wear and most of the women prefer that. The clothes of the women are big dresses with many accessories on them, but for this hot weather they are not the most favorite thing someone wants to wear on.

In he background during the parade, there are traditional songs… or sometimes not. I do not know how traditional ”Will you still love me tomorrow?” is, but I must admit that I liked that part! And what is crazier is that they are throwing food to the people who are watching it! Ah, Murcia.

I liked it and I had the chance to not move from my home and watch it from my balcony, but to be honest I would never go outside and stand there for 3-4, though for ”los murcianicos”(i mean murcian people) this is something like a must, because they even pay for the chairs to sit there and watch! Macedonian people would never do that, that’s why I am shocked! We don’t want to give money for things like that or maybe it is because we don’t have them, HAHA! And then they say ”Oh, Spain is in a big financial crisis”. Oh, really? Where?

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Now this was like description of the first, let me call it face of the celebration, but there is another one too!

”We start to drink at 9 am on this day” – said my spanish friend. Every celebration here leads to partying, but this day was like TOO MUCH! It is beautiful when people are wearing those nice clothes and everything is so bright, all the parks full of people having fun, bars open with nice music and honestly, I had so much fun. But then you see the city full of trash and you hear the ambulance sirens going wee woo, wee woo around.. That’s not so nice.

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                     What’s next? Burning a fish. This is Murcia and it is crazy!