2017 – What to remember

Ocean, Terceira, Walking

Once again, a year has passed and it is semi-mandatory to look back into what on earth happened in the last 365 days. How odd we people are.

So, as I don’t want to rebel and do this in April, here we are. The moments to remember from the year 2017 in the lives of Veera and Waffle:

1.

We started the year off by visiting Cyprus in the midwinter. We often like to break the winter with a little bit of summer. Cyprus was a destination from which neither of us really expected much, but it turned out to be a fairly positive surprise! We indulged on the rugged coastal line and tried to find some turtles.

Lesson learned; travel with an open mind, where ever the ticket in your hand is taking you!

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2.

It was pretty quickly after Cyprus that we headed for Terceira island in the Azores. It had been my dream to visit these islands, and since Waffle is very keen on spoiling me (my inner strong and independent woman screams at him for this), he bought us tickets to go there for my birthday!

Oh my. I was gobsmacked! From the very beginning the island sprouting from the volcanic core of the earth was taking my breath away. From the starlit skies, to raging ocean to the green jungles I felt like I was in a paradise! The air is so fresh you taste it in the cheese they produce!

So far I think it is the most rewarding travel experience we have had. So far so, that we are traveling to the islands again, very soon!

Lesson learned; Fish of the day on an island in the middle of the storming Atlantic is not going to happen…

Terceira, Azores, Coast
I could have woken up to this every morning for the rest of my life.

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Terceira, Poolsof Biscoitos
Pools of Biscoitos.

3.

One of the best moments in the spring time was having my dear dear friend over from Finland! I wiped off the dust of my girlier side and we took a train to Paris. Spend there a day running around the city like mad men, enjoying the slowly awakening spring. Waffle came to rescue in the evening and took us to the seaside, to  jump on the rocky shore of Ambleteuse.

How grateful I am for having such a friend, whose eyes see your soul and with whom you can connect with no matter the time or space in between!

Lesson learned; A freshly made chocolate fondant in France is a perfectly justified breakfast!

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4.

Easter and Normandy. We can’t seem to get rid of that duo. Normandy was probably the first landscape I really fell in love with in France, I am always eager to return there. This Easter too, it was as pretty and serene as always. We brought friends along, hiked the coast and the meadows, enjoyed the tender spring sunshine and aired out our brains!

Lesson learned; Sea is well able to eat away the white cliffs, so be careful when camping on top of one. Also, if you are looking to surf, go further. 

 

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Normady, Hiking, Coast

5.

The half marathon project. The venture where Waffle soared and I tumbled down with my knee problems. Not much of a happy experience, giving up never really is. But I was happy to start trying, in any case, and I still am running, at least to get in better shape, maybe eventually aiming for some speeds at 10 km. Maybe.

Lesson learned; Patience. Patience in letting your body get a hang of jogging. I am not 20 anymore. Sadly. 

Jogger, Runner, Mist

6.

Oh, the biggest accident we have yet had in our lovely little relationship. Buying a cottage in Finland. I say accident, because that’s was it really was. We rolled the thought of it on the table for 3 days before sending our final offer and receiving the keys.

Such excitement I have not felt too many times in my life. I actually had acquired a piece of my childhood and one of the prettiest landscapes in Finland! I could return to my family more often now. My my, so very happy about this!

Oh, and the sauna in that cottage – marvelous!

Lesson learned; 4 trips to Ikea in a week is definitely enough!

Log cabin
The main hut.
Family!
Family!

Finland, lake, Autumn

7.

For a while now, we have been inspired to travel to the Eastern Europe. For 2017 the destination was Bulgaria and the Pirin mountains. It was not a disappointment. The country is pretty and the mountains with all the lakes scattered around make it a unique surrounding for hiking.

Spending the night high up there under the stars, in freezing cold at the lakeside was a memorable experience. A night slept outdoors is never quite like the other.

Lesson learned; Taking a smelly cheese up to a mountain with bear population, might make you nervous… 

Pirin, Mountains, Bulgaria
Ice crusted tent anyone?

8.

The home extension project is finally hovering above the finish line! What a thrilling feeling to see the work of your own actually get realized and exceed your hopes! Every little bit is there, just some moderation, improvements and finishing touches need to happen, as we gain experience in using this little house!

A more detailed post will follow, once I have time to put my thoughts into words and online.

Lesson learned; With a project like this, it is a winning lottery ticket to have an actual carpenter in the family. 

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9.

Israel. Double feelings. It was a pain in the back side to get this holiday starting. First to make our way out of the airport, then get a car, and lastly get going through the desert. But once the starting hiccups were over the country treated us with beauty and bizarre flotation experiences.

The part where we left the country was even bigger pain in the derriere, making us thinking whether we will ever be back. What would bring us back, is the magnificent camping facilities Israel has to offer, plus we would still like to see the northern Israel.

Lesson learned; Salt from the dead sea tastes bad. Also, try not to piss off an Israeli customer servant. 

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10.

The year ended for us with another Christmas road trip. Once more, we headed south, to the space between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in France. And then we camped. Our small home proved to be just what we needed; a shelter from wind and rain and a functional living room, kitchen and bedroom combo.

We had gathered a bunch of special people around us and the atmosphere was, if not Christmassy, at least warm and welcoming around the slightly too big campfire. The weather was not on our side when it came to hiking the mountains, so beach life was what needed to entertain us.

Lesson learned; Putting a bunch a relatively crazy people around a campfire with little social supervision can result in inappropriate songs. 

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That was 2017. 2018 is here with us and it is looking promising. The travel year starts with Azores, we have a bit of Finland in the planning too (Waffle’s parents first visit!), and who knows which other places Waffle comes up with.  Hope you’ll hang along too!

Oh! aand the pictures, once again, here: Flickr!

 

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Bulgaria- Hiking in the Pirin

The familiar, sad sound of a half way destroyed rental car clutch was accompanying our journey as yet another weekend holiday was upon us. We bounced down the roads taking us out of Sofia towards the town of Bansko. We were heading deep into Bulgaria.

Ryanair had offered some cheap flights to this East European country and Waffle had of course gone for them. Now we had the opportunity to see their famed mountains!

We had landed fairly late and it was pitch black all the way down. The interesting driving style of the locals and the weak engine of our iron steed offered us some heart palpitations too. We reached Bansko with no injury to us nor anybody else. A new piece of information was acquired immediately when we drove into the city. Bansko is the European town of sport for the year 2017!

Our hotel was small, calm and cosy. Nothing special but quite enough for us and most importantly cheap as day old porridge. On top of it all, the reception was friendly and the host really seemed to care about our comfort.

In the morning, after a hefty breakfast we left the friendly and warm people of the hotel and turned the car towards the mountains. We drove through the outskirts of the town, queued after a sheep herd for a moment, passed bear-proved beehives and finally reached the ski-lifts, which would take us up to the starting point of our hike; at lake Bezbog.

The weather was perfect as we swinged by the treetops in the rickety lift. It felt like cheating. Never before had we gone up a mountain in a bloody lift! It was kind of nice though. We skipped the whole boring part of hiking 500 meters up inside the forest. Now we arrived nicely, without sweating a bit, on top of the treeline, ready to guess which of the peaks we would be aiming for.

The hike started along a highway of a trail. It did not look like the wilderness experience I was expecting to receive. Waffle was his optimistic self, and kept telling me, that we would loose most of the people once we crossed the first saddle. He was right of course and I could finally relax and breathe.

And appreciate the surrounding nature.

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My my, that was pretty. The sun was shining bright making, the green of the pines burst aflame. The grass fields were golden brown and small brushes had already been kissed by the approaching autumn and turned red. Magnificent peaks of the mountains surrounded it all, under the sky in the shade of blue you only get to see once you climb over a certain altitude.

We hiked onward between the low, bushy pines eager to see what was hidden behind the next saddle. The thing that makes these mountains different to others we have been to, is definitely the amount of lakes. After each saddle crossing we saw yet more lakes. All in a little bit different shade of blue or green, all cold as ice. One even had a beach!

We decided to cut the first day’s hike short, since we found a very pretty lake at a foot of a high peak. There were old fire pits around and flat enough ground to pitch our tent. So why not have a calm evening and just enjoy the mountains around us.

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So there we were, sitting in the stillness, which you only find in the mountains, looking the moving sun changing the sight to a new every minute. As the sun was getting lower the air was getting chillier. We started to gather some twigs to feed our wood gas stove and pitching the tent. We even dared to dip some toes into the very very chilled lake.

In the tent there was a small new detail waiting for us. Earlier we had purchased new sleeping bags. Good ones this time! They are semi-pro alpine bags, meaning, expensive, light, small packing and filled with high quality down.

Mine is The North Face Superlight 15 and I am very happy with it. the bag it goes into is delightfully small, but it reveals this cloud like fluffy bag, which hugs you softly. WE had ice crusting on our tent at 10 pm. Inside the tent only my nose was an icicle, and I am usually a very cold sleeper. Waffle has a bag from Marmot, the Helium. It is a bit warmer than mine, packs a bit larger and is equally comfy.

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It was not the nicest of feelings to leave the warm and soft cocoon in the morning. But out we crawled. The shadow of the neighboring peak was lingering over our camp and the lake, and the frost was still there as we started hiking onward to the starting climb of the day.

We passed by the two peaks and continued walking at the side of a steep valley. The slopes met in the middle with a charming stream. Not long after we saw yet another lake with a hikers hut at its shore. Seriously, there was no end to these lakes in the Pirin park. Bonkers!

We had a short lunch break there, looking over the lake and the peaks. This trail was not gonna take us up on any of them, small disappointment there, but maybe it was a positive thing, since this was our first hike with backpacks for a while.

 

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From the hut the return journey started. Crossing the next saddle revealed a while different kind of landscape. The trail was descending through boulders and rocks, finally the kind of mountain trail that forces you to focus on where your feet are landing. We counted ourselves lucky for it was not wet!

The rocky slopes hid some more lakes and streams between the boulders. The descent was surprisingly slow with all the rocks to tackle, but finally we made it to the big lake which was close to our starting point. I don’t know how it is possible but it was full of small fish. A lake above 2000 meters of altitude. Nice company for a picnic anyways.An hour more of hiking and we reached the ski-lift again, said our good-byes to the mountain and disappeared into the forest.

The next night the cold mountain air was just a distant memory; we were sleeping in a hotel again. The following day was our last one, containing some road tripping to the next mountain range, Rila. We found the oldest monastery of Bulgaria there, which is worth a visit, you can walk into their massive oven for example.

No more hiking happened on that trip, a bit of a picnic and then off to the plane. We most probably are returning though, since there are still some mountains left to explore. Next time I think we need to take a longer loop trail!