Venezuela!

Venezuela's Flag

I ran across some cool information about the country Venezuela recently during some cultural exchange event, and I thought it would be great to share those info with you, although I have never been to it.

You can say Venezuela is a coffee corner;  it’s located in the north of South America, it’s a blessed earth for the sowing of the noble seed of coffee. In the plantations, big trees serve as homes to hundreds of migratory birds and provide the shade required for the bush of the coffee.

At one time, Venezuela ranked close to Colombia in coffee production, but as petroleum turned Venezuela into the richest country in South America, coffee was relegated to the economic back burner. Today it produces less than one percent of the world’s coffee, and most of it is drunk by the Venezuelans themselves. Now that petroleum has failed to bring lasting prosperity, the Venezuelans government is attempting to promote coffee growing and exporting again as a means of diversifying and stabilizing its economy.

Venezuela Map

Venezuela Map

The best Venezuelan coffee comes from the far western corner of the country, the part that borders Colombia. Coffees from this area are called Maracaibos, after the port through which they are shipped. Coffees from the coastal mountains farther east are generally marked Caracas, after the capital city, and are shipped through La Guaira, the port of Caracas.

The best-known Maracaibo coffees, in addition to Cucuta, are Merida, Trujillo and Tachira. Merida is the most distinctively Venezuelan and most likely to be found in specialty stores in the United States.

The most characteristic Venezuelan coffees, in surprising contrast to the neighbor coffees from Colombia , are strikingly low in acidity. At worst they are spiritless, at best sweet and delicate.The finest, such as the Meridas, have fair to good body and an unemphatic but pleasant flavor with hints of richness. Venezuelan, if you can find it, is a good coffee to balance sharply acid coffees in blends and a comfortable coffee drunk straight.

The combination of the grain harvested in the Andean mountains, the central valleys and the coasts of the Caribbean sea , are in a rich unique mixture in aroma, flavor and body characteristic of the best coffee.

The work of the coffee properties is carried out in an essentially handmade way, from the preparation of the land and sowing until the gathering of the grain. In the small parcels the manpower is mostly family and journeymen are only hired for the crop.

Coffee Harvest

Coffee Harvest

ManOf Venezuela:

Popular music in Venezuela emanated from a meeting of three cultures: the five-thousand-year-old musical traditions of the indigenous peoples became mixed with the Arab-Andalusian songs and dances of the Spanish conquerors and the complex sound patterns of the music of the African slaves forced to work along the Caribbean coast of Venezuela.

These manifold ethnic and multicultural melting-processes turned Venezuela into a country of Mestizos. The complex tones, the numerous rhythmic variations and the virtuosity it demands of the singers of its folk poetry, have made Venezuelan folk music one of Latin America’s most attractive.

Prominence is given here to the national instrument, the cuatro, a small, multi-stringed guitar that requires a high degree of musicality and dexterity. Other string instruments included on this recording are the guitar, the mandolin, the bandola, the Harp, plus drums and maracas.

Perhaps the most typical Venezuelan music is Joropo, a rural form which originated in the Llanos, or plains.

The word Joropo encompasses a tradition which includes village fiestas, poetry, singing, music and dance in a form of a popular expression which is constantly evolving. Improvised creativity flourish on existing structures and defined patterns of style.

Joropo music has become a genre for great solo virtuoso performances on the leading melodic instruments: harp or bandola, which is a four-string lute, while the accompaniment is with the cuatro, which is a Four-string strummed small guitar, and the maracas.

Singers improvise rhymed verses which refer to historical or daily events; the instrumentalists search for new percussive sounds and textures through constant variations, improvisation being at the heart of Joropo music.

Joropo Fiesta

Joropo Fiesta

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The Best Destination for a Crazy Vacation

Parapanting
Parapanting

“Hi Katia! I’m going to a remote island for work in October, and if you don’t join me, you’re going to miss it!”

That was my friend Alex’s text on Facebook. At that point of the year I was in a desperate need for a vacation, I was drained and worn out from work and life in my city. I immediately said I’m in before asking where she was going.

The big frame of my life is simple; work, training courses, and travelling for fun. The other things to me are considered small things I do on daily basis. Now that I’m hooked on travelling, I make sure to do it at least once a year, and I always hope for more.

La Réunion was the destination in October 2012!

For those of you who don’t know La Réunion, it is a French Island located in the Indian ocean, east of Madagascar, southwest of Mauritius.

I was taken over by excitement, because Alex’s suggestion meant that I would be on an island for the first time, that I would experience the longest flight in my own history and that I didn’t know exactly what was waiting for me there. Although Alex contacted me later telling me that she had bad news and worried that I might changed my mind, but as soon as I heard them the excitement was doubled! “This year Shark attacks are the worst the Island ever had, and some people died during summer vacation.” But I thought “why would a shark choose to attack me? I’m not a very lucky person, but not that unlucky!” I know, I know! This is the stupidest thing to say to yourself!

To get to La Réunion I had to fly to Paris first, which is not a long flight, it is around 4 hours, and I planned to have a 13 hours transit because I’ve never been there and I wanted to explore the major attractions of the city. To be honest I didn’t like Paris all that much, at the back of my head i favored St. Petersburg, Rome and London. I made sure to keep myself warm in Paris, but October wasn’t kind, it wasn’t extremely cold, but since I was in the streets all the time I felt the cold air creeping into my body. They say Paris is not France, and I can’t judge because other than Paris I haven’t visited yet. But here is the funny part, people working in train stations, bus station and in “Info” booths don’t speak English, and some of them were not willing to help as I wanted to secure my luggage somewhere and hang around freely, and others weren’t willing to help showing aggressive attitude!! That was super odd to me, if someone works in such a place its their job to help people, otherwise they should go home and cook some soup and enjoy a TV show. On the other hand those who helped me and I helped in return in all the cases were anyone but French! And since I have seen a few European cities this one didn’t capture my attention all that much, I was not astonished by anything I saw. I’m sorry Paris, you are not my type! But that was okay, and I was very happy to meet a very nice girl called Nora, an Algerian girl living in Paris, with whom I hope to meet again, we met at the bus station making our way to the airport, she was going to London and I was making my way to St. Denis/La Réunion!

Here are some pictures I took when I was in Paris.

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

Paris-France

UN Buddy Bear, Palestine, Slovenia, Russia, Germany

UN Buddy Bear, Palestine, Slovenia, Russia, Germany

I didn’t expect that the 10-11 hours flight to St. Denis would be easy on me, But it was very easy, since it was a night flight, it was easy to plan; watch a movie, have dinner and sleep! I woke up when the plane landed and because it was really warm!

What do you look for in a cool vacation? Beaches? Clear ocean water? Hiking? parties? beach parties? Live music? Nice people? New food? Outdoors running tracks by the ocean or sea side? Parapanting? Diving? Adventure? New culture? Amazing weather? Relaxation? Exploring? Whale watching? History? That is La Réunion; you easily have fun and make friends!

The pictures will tell you a lot than my words about my trip to La Réunion!

St. Denis

There is no way to Swim in this city, the ocean is there of course but there are no beaches in the capital city, and fun is not big there, I would say only during the weekend pubs and clubs which are not to be compared with the night life of other cities. St. Denis is the place where everyone comes to to work. But to walk around and explore the history of the place is a great thing to do, and the grand market there is beautiful, old fashion market, the atmosphere is lovely.

St. Denis

St. Denis, from left to right (Caius, Alex, Jérémy, Katia)

In St. Denis you can find Christian Churches, a Muslim Mosque, as well as  Hindu and Buddhist Temples.

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Denis

St. Leu

For me the whole fun and good memories and the bad ones were in St. Leu! I love this city, it’s almost always sunny there and the beach there is the best. Me and Alex met a girl called Lamia, a Moroccan/French girl, who was hitch hiking as we were going to another city one night and we gave her a ride, we got to know her during the ride. Lamia knows enough people in St. Leu and that was why we had a great time there. I made sure to go there often, meet the new friends, spend time on the beach till sunset, enjoy live music played in some beach bars, or go for a party. People in St. Leu are the most chilled people I have ever met in my life so far. If you have a problem everyone would say “Never mind, Life is short, problems will be solved, and live the moment”. Life on this Island is a little bit different than what I personally know, so what is mine is yours and what is yours is mine, especially in St. Leu. They learned to share everything together, you may wanna move there and have fun for a while or find a job, you just need to meet cool people like Lamia and her friends and you may end up having some furniture, electronics and things you may need to start a life. If you don’t have money for a day or two you are covered, BUT you gotta be nice enough to do favors for others when the time is right.

St. Leu

St. Leu

St. Leu

Lamia and her friends

St. Leu

St. Leu

St. Leu

St. Leu

St. Leu

St. Leu

In St. Leu you can visit the crocodiles park and the turtles reserve, here are some pictures. That was my first time to see actual crocodiles and I was not sure how to feel about seeing them.

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

Croc Park & Turtles Reserve

You can also try this!

They call it "Parapanting"

They call it “Parapanting”

Beaches

Let me show you around, this island has amazing places to play and tan

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Please note that not all the beaches are human-friendly, some people did actually get attacked by sharks, not in front of me, but I have seen a man without a leg and an arm, it was a new accident. People were prohibited to surf and probably still prohibited. Beaches without lagoons are the scariest, but I still did go there for the sake of the thrill and to enjoy the beauty of beaches open to the ocean. These beaches are usually aggressive, as the waves are powerful and can take you away even if you are a good swimmer. You might be just standing on the shore very close to the water and a big wave may surprise you with a shark inside it waiting for you to smile and say good bye lol! Is that possible? what a thrill!!!

St. Pierre

This city is the second biggest after St. Denis, has a massive port for the island. I have been there twice during my visit to La Réunion, the first time didn’t register in my head as I didn’t realize I was in a different city since we were just passing by, sorry I’m very disoriented and when I’m not the driver I don’t usually pay attention to things. And the second time I was in St. Pierre

was in order to meet a man with whom I had a car accident in St. Leu! As I was driving to find the turtles reserve I made the car accident and it was my fault. And funny enough the car I had was rented by Alex and I wasn’t listed as a second driver, we completely ignored the importance of doing that. And Alex trusted me enough to drive. On my way to the reserve I was by myself, and when the accident occurred I knew I was in a big trouble since I don’t speak french, and only a minority on the Island speak English. The accident wasn’t huge as no one got hurt, and the guy was completely angry, I have no idea how I managed to calm him down without knowing French. As we fill the accident papers I was trying to call Alex to inform her and wanted to ask her what was I supposed to do, but she didn’t answer me, she was busy at work. Later I talked to Alex and she was nervous, because as I wasn’t registered as a second driver it meant I was in trouble with the police there. Alex called this guy and he agreed to meet us to change the info in the accident papers, and use Alex’s name and details as if she was driving. We had to drive to St. Paul next day. It is a beautiful city, but we were not in the mood to enjoy anything, because we still had to go to the car rental office and report the accident and change the car, and there we were informed that we had to pay 600 Euros as a car insurance. That was not a happy day! But we did learn to laugh about it later. In the picture bellow the three of us after changing the papers.

St. Paul

St. Paul

One weekend day we decided to go for a long trip to discover the island. This Island has an active volcano “The Piton de la Fourniaise” ,on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 2,631 metres (8,632 ft) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. that erupted more than 100 since the 1600. I was really hoping day and night that it was going to erupt while I was there, because it would have been absolutely a new experience to me. There are three main calderas over there: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter. The island is full of greens, waterfalls, springs and mountains. Please enjoy the pictures.

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring, Lava volcanic rocks

Trip, Hiking, Exploring, Lava volcanic rocks

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Trip, Hiking, Exploring

Live Music

People of La Réunion are captivated by music, and they like to party, play live music and listen to it and enjoy it. The culture there is a mix of African and European, so they speak French and Creole mainly. The Africans from Madagascar, to me at least, are the natives of this place, since they have been brought long ago as slaves to the island. They do have the best music I’ve heard so far, it is all based on percussion instruments and interesting African dance. If you let this type of music sink into you while listening to it can take you away in a sortof a trip,  it did feel euphoric to me. I enjoyed their music besides their love for Jazz. People of La Réunion don’t need an occasion to party and dance, they are so chilled they party almost every day.

Live Music

Live Music

Whales Observation

We went for a boat trip to see whales, we were lucky enough to spot one. But we were also sad because that baby whale was lost from his tribe. It was also not easy to take a picture of that while jumping and showing off, but we did manage to ask someone to send us the pictures they have taken since we met a group of people with a professional camera. It was actually a very beautiful experience; we were not the only ones waiting for something to appear in the ocean, other boats were also sailing, and amazingly everyone was super quiet, but every time the whale showed itself to us “WOW, WOOHOO, OOOH, and AHHH” were heard.

The Blue Whales of La Réunion

The Blue Whales of La Réunion

Food

I’m not always big on food when I travel, usually I’m not keen on trying new foods, but I had some Creole food there once, it was mainly made of rice and beans, they use lots of curry and spices. On the Island you can find a variety of sea food. I’m not the right person to talk about food lol I’m happy with grilled chicken breasts. And we had enough grilled chicken made on the spot near some beaches for lunch.

We were day and night buying fresh pineapples, papayas, lychis, bananas and passion fruits, . I used to have Pineapples day and night as breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. I had Pineapples with everything, with cheese, with bread, with chocolate, with sushi. I did abuse it, but it helped me shed a few hundred grams off lol.

Funny Incidents

  • In the first couple of days of my vacation I burned my foot by stepping on charcoal.
  • I ran out of slippers, as I had 2 pairs, one slipper was lost I don’t know where so the other was useless, and once one slipper was torn apart during walking on rocks and so the other was useless.
  • During parapanting  my snot was running from the cold cold air up there! I remembered how to use my sleeve as a tissue.
  • I was made to swim in the mountain cold water, I thought it was not that cold, but staying in it as i was trying to reach the end of the lake that was created by a waterfall made me unable to breath, something weird happened to my lungs, there was a shocking feeling inside my chest that felt like my lungs suddenly shrank and i panicked, soon I calmed myself down to swim back to get some oxygen. Funny is that I thought I was gonna die away from home.
  • The damn car accident.
  • One evening Alex dropped me off in St. Leu to catch up with the friends there to party, and as she left I remembered that I left my wallet in the car! I was without a money for 24 hours. I felt like a hopeless child although the friends there made sure I don’t feel that way. They even gave me tickets for the next day bus.
  • I was bitten by a bed bug on my thigh, that was awfully itchy and looked scary, it looked like a mountain on my thigh, We ended up washing all our beds covers and sheets.
  • I slept a whole day without knowing although the church bells jingled loudly every hour and half an hour. And as I woke up I felt like shooting myself in the head for not doing anything cool! Alex and Adriana came home from work and I said i feel like chocolate, they said i shouldn’t go out then, it was dark, I didn’t listen and went out for a run, and that was a damn long run in the dark to find a Total gas station opened, I ended up buying all the chocolate, bread and eclairs they had.
  • One day we spent lots of time on the beach till sunset in St. Leu. Later Jérémy told me about some live music gig happening, He lost his slippers somewhere and couldn’t find them, He was the one and only barefoot dude walking around.
  • I used to go for a 5 km run in St. Denis in the morning after I dropped Alex and Adriana to work. I noticed many people go out running, since in St. Denis there is a very cool running track side by side with the ocean, random guys asked me for my no. although they didn’t speak English. I pretended each time not to understand, and they ended up giving me their numbers. I guess this is how they find girlfriends??!!

I think I gave you enough reasons to go check this place out by yourselves.

 I would like to thank the people who made my trip unforgettable: Alexandra, Caius, Adriana,  Jérémy and his friends, Lamia and her friends, Laurent, Emilie, Thierry, Zana, Alexandre and Nora.

Katia 🙂

Slovenia; Warm, Green and Smiling

Bohinj

If it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Slovenia!

Although Slovenia is a very beautiful country and has many things to offer tourists to see and do, it is not being a hot spot for international tourism yet!

I met a group of Slovenian people in Germany, while I was there in 2005 because back then I have received a scholarship to study German language during the summer language course at the University of Köln. We became very good friends and kept in touch for five years, then I decided to visit them in Slovenia.

My trip to Slovenia was one of the best things I have ever done to myself, I simply fell in love with that country. I’m not going to talk much about it, instead I will let the pictures talk themselves out.

I will start with my favorite parts of Slovenia, Bohinj and Bled; two small towns on the West-Northern part of the country. But here is a map for you to see where everything is:

Map of Slovenia

Map of Slovenia

The pictures have been taken by my camera, I didn’t Photoshop any of the pictures in order to deliver the images and views without any extra effects, but as i used “Photo Grid” the application, the resolution wasn’t as good as the original.

Bohinj the beautiful town

Bohinj the beautiful town

For many Europeans this looks like a very typical village, but for me it wasn’t. I have been to some provinces near the city of Moscow, in Russia, but things looked different, since the landscape near Moscow is flat. The small houses in Bohinj look like Lego toys as you drive your car and look at them from a distance, and because the mountains are huge everything looks tiny and feels tiny, even yourself.

Bohinj is not just a village, it’s a historical place, The monument is to the four men from  Bohinj, who climbed the highest mountain in Slovenia, mount Triglav (2864 m), for the first time in 1776

The monument of the four men

The monument of the four men

They are pointing in direction of the mount Triglav. The monument is placed where the Lake Bohinj can be seen, I enjoyed myself on that seat!

Lake Bohinj

Lake Bohinj

The lake is absolutely breath taking, the view is calm and tranquil, when I first saw the lake my eyes couldn’t believe it was real, it looked pretty much like a huge 3D painting, it’s tremendously perfect. I consider myself lucky to be there while it was sunny, because usually in September it rains.

1500 m above sea level

1500 m above sea level

You can take the Gondola to view the place from a good deal of height, 1500 m above sea level makes a difference to the eye. It’s cold up there, it’s better to wear a jacket. From this location you can see the lake, a great part of the town, the woods and of course mount Triglav.

Bohinj has more to offer; waterfalls and springs, the water was super cold but perfectly fine for drinking! It’s mountain water, what more do you want?!

Waterfall

Waterfall

The town Bled is very close to Bohinj and It also has a lack, Lake Bled, it’s smaller in size, and the area is well equipped for tourists with hotels and services.

Bled

Bled

Let’s move to the Capital city, Ljubljana. Honestly, I spent a few hours there, and If I didn’t have the pictures I wouldn’t have remembered much about it, not because there is nothing special about the city, there certainly is something, but because few hours weren’t enough to explore the place!

Ljubljana

Ljubljana

There is a medieval castle in Ljubljana, which has been turned into a restaurant, I loved the place, if you go upstairs you can see the city and especially the old part of it. You can see my friends Grega and Vesna here in the picture.

Ljubljana Castle

Ljubljana Castle

The view from the Castle is really interesting, despite the rain that didn’t stop the whole day.

The view from Ljubljana Castle

The view from Ljubljana Castle

Ljubljana

Ljubljana, me and Vesna

I used to stay with my friends in Maribor, the 2nd biggest city in Slovenia, and we had great times there. There is so much history in Maribor, the people are very nice and friendly, I loved Maribor! Here are some shots of the city,

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

Maribor is famous with wine making; the Old Vine House is a cultural activity that introduces visitors to the tradition of wine making in the region as well as the preservation of the storied Old Vine, it’s where the Maribor Old Vine thrives, and it’s a museum now, very interesting to visit and see.

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

The City of Maribor

I sadly don’t have pictures of Maribor at night, but night life there during the weekends is kinda funny, since everything seems deserted and dark, and there is no traffic in the streets, because the city doesn’t have many inhabitants in it, when entering a bar or a pub or a club suddenly the place is full of people and crowded.

The last place I have been to, of course we passed through some cities and small towns, is Ptuj. In Ptuj there is another castle, which is now also a museum, very rich of history, culture, musical instruments, paintings and antiques, the place itself is beautiful.

Ptuj Castle was built in the middle of the 12th century to protect Ptuj from the Hungarians. It is located on a hill alongside the river Drava overlooking the town, and it’s an outstanding historical landmark.

Ptuj Castle

Ptuj Castle

So let me tell you a funny thing about this dog in the painting, me and my friends were walking inside the castle, everything was quiet, since it’s a museum, everything is neat, clean and there weren’t many people visiting the place back then. We were looking everywhere, observing things and the place, studying the paintings on the walls when we suddenly saw this dog, and funny enough we all saw it at the same time, the three of us burst in loud laughter and tears ran on my cheeks, the woman who worked in that hall was strict and upset and asked us to be quiet. later we asked each other why we laughed, and everyone said the same thing: I thought at the beginning that the dog was a pig but when I saw the prince standing next to it, it didn’t make sense, then again it didn’t make sense because it didn’t look like a dog.

Ptuj Castle

Ptuj Castle

Ptuj Castle

Ptuj Castle

In Ptuj there is a festival called Fašenk Fest, it was originally a festival to start spring and push the winter away, farmers used to wear scary costumes and masks to scare the winter. I thought that part of the castle/museum was pretty cool.

Ptuj Castle

Ptuj Castle

I would like to visit Slovenia again some day, and roam around the countries around it. Although during that trip I visited three different countries; Germany, Italy and Slovenia, I spent the best time in Slovenia, and had so much fun.

I would like to thank my friends Grega, Marko, Maja and Vesna, and I recommend Slovenia to people who like to travel.