Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nienke's 2014 divided into 10 countries

With the end of the year being in sight, I thought back of all the wonderful travels I made the last few months.

The year started off in Sweden. After visiting my friend Melissa in Växjö for Christmas and New Year I headed to Stockholm alone for some sightseeing. I remember well that the whole city was packed with Russian tourists. The temperature was relatively high for the time of the year. I should definitely come back here.


After my little winter holiday I went back to Estonia, where I just successfully fulfilled an exchange program at the University of Tallinn. Estonia is a beautiful little country in which I feel nicely at home. Somehow I manage to blend in a bit there, being a bit more difficult in my beloved Latvia.

 Snow in Rakvere

The last semester of my master degree in Journalism and Media Analysis existed out of writing my master thesis, which I did in Lithuania. I thus basically spent half of 2014 in this country. Even though the thesis writing wasn't always easy, I managed to create a comfortable balance between leisure time (lots of walking, discovering, enjoying) and researching and writing. I'm glad I defended my thesis successfully. Hindsight I miss my own little world I created within the Baltic countries a lot more than initially expected. The memories last and new adventures will come.

 Master Bos

In order to reward myself for all the hard work I put into my master thesis I went on an absolutely awesome solo trip to Poland. I visited Krakow, Auschwitz and Zakopane. It was such a delight to hike around Morskie Oko, located in the beautiful Tatra Mountains. I beat many of the in the Netherlands existing stereotypes about Poland and its inhabitants and I'm pleased I gave myself the opportunity to love this big, diverse country.

 Pure peace and satisfaction in Poland

After an active, yet, relaxed week in Poland I continued my way to Slovakia, where I attended a cozy balloon event in Kosice together with a fun balloon team from Latvia. Funny, how different life on the other side of the mountains looked like. The traces of communism could well be seen from above.

 Flying over Kosice with the girls

A plane filled with Turks and two tall, blonde Dutchmen departed from Amsterdam to Kayseri. Time to visit balloon heaven Cappadocia in Turkey. 100 balloons, every morning. Every day started with a beautiful flight and photo sessions with hundreds of giggly Asians, followed by a nap, some ayran, lentil soup, tea and baklava and many long, hot walks through the most breathtaking volcanic landscape I'd ever seen. I loved it, but noted that English is hardly spoken by anyone and that the role of women in daily life differs from what I'm used to.

An after-ballooning hike in 'Love Valley'

With Germany only being a couple of kilometers away from my parents' place, I decided to make a little bike trip to our big neighbor. Nice, how the border can be peacefully crossed without any checks at all.

It's fun to live in Europe

Even though I managed to visit quite some countries during 2014, I also didn't miss out on my own little nation, the Netherlands. I for example had a closer look at modern Rotterdam and combined a city stroll with an exposition about Finnish design brand Marimekko. Besides that I made my 100th balloon flight in Joure, the Northern part of the Netherlands. 

Finnish happiness in Rotterdam

One of the long desired destinations I finally managed to reach this year was Albuquerque, New Mexico, America. I attended the biggest balloon event in the world as one of the official photographers. What an experience! An extended report can be found within the January/February edition of Ballooning, the journal of the Balloon federation of America. I'll provide a link soon, so stay tuned.

Basket dipping in a stream of chocolate, flying over the Rio Grande

The second half of 2014 was marked by my residence in Denmark. I took part in a volunteering program dealing with challenged youngsters. I learnt how to handle a variety of people and how to let things go. I discovered that my world is bigger than than little place out there, and that I missed out on opportunities to write and discover like I did back in the Baltics. It was a valuable time with some fruitful friendships after all.

Learning Danish in nature's classroom

2014 was fantastic and so nicely diverse! Let's see where 2015 will take me :-). Wishing you all a year filled with laughter!

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