Amsterdam from Water Level

Amsterdam, As Seen from Water Level

Ah, the joy and serenity of cruising along Amsterdam’s canals on an early Sunday morning! This is definitely an experience that gives a whole new meaning to life in Amsterdam.

Although this is not my first boat ride in the city, it is the one that finally made me understand why Amsterdammers would pay lots of money to live on a houseboat. It might not be the most spacious or comfortable living option, but it surely has a unique feeling to it.

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Amsterdam CENTRUM:2016 JUL Amsterdam Water Level-42
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Amsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water LevelAmsterdam, As Seen from Water Level

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Amsterdam, As Seen from Water Level

Amsterdam from Water Level

Black Sea Revelations

Vama Veche, Romania

This is something I wrote while still in Bucharest, a few days ago.

It’s a hot summer evening in Bucharest. The light of the day is gone, but the night hasn’t fallen over the city just yet.

Exhausted by the heat, I am lying in my bed, typing at my sister’s laptop. I decided to travel without my own on this occasion, dreaming of spending time in distant places, disconnected from the virtual world.

Through the open window, the familiar sound of the traffic along the Unirii Boulevard is reaching my ears. For good old times sake, I even smoked a cigarette on the balcony earlier, staring at a panorama just as familiar. It doesn’t really take much effort to pretend this is still the view from my window, and this is still my room.

I am back to Bucharest after a week spent in Vama Veche, the duane village at the border with Bulgaria, turned into a low-key destination at the Black Sea. Just as the Danube Delta, Vama is one of those places most linked to my Romanian nostalgia, and it’s hard for me to imagine a summer when I’m not there.

Back in the days, when I was not even born yet, Vama used to be a bohemian paradise, where peace, freedom and love reigned. Although the magic is long gone, with hotels and bars popping up where there was once only sand, some things, however, have stayed the same: you can still spend the night on the beach, with a beer in hand, watching the waves breaking against the shore, and staring at the sky full of stars. Remembering past romances that Vama has witnessed is not mandatory, but try to resist it if you can.

Hard for me to understand how someone could dislike Vama so much to leave it the next day. Even more so, when this person was a friend of mine, and we had planned this holiday together since two years ago.

But there is always something, a mysterious energy that, in the end, manages to put things into order, perhaps the way they’re meant to be. It’s as if looking through a kaleidoscope: a new, surprising image is generated each time.

My friend returned to Bucharest and so I cancelled the trip to the Danube Delta – our next destination after Vama – but the days that followed were more than I could have wished for. They were marked by some very interesting revelations that I’m going to tell you about next. For this, I can only thank to my Romanian friends – and to their friends, too – who happened to be in Vama Veche and around at the same time I was there. In their good, reassuring company, I spent my days at the seaside – extended from only two to five full days – enjoying not only Vama, but also Limanu and the Bulgarian coast, where we drove when the heat of the day was just too strong to sunbathe.

The absolute highlight of this holiday was the night walk in Mangalia, the quaint beach town in Romania, where Andrei and Andreea insisted we went one day after dinner. We were five people walking its streets that night, following random alleys, staring at old and new hotels, eventually ending up on the beach. Reflected by the dark waters of the sea, the lights of various resorts spread along the Black Sea coast – places where we used to spend summer holidays during school years – brought up some precious teenage memories. Five people, one nostalgia. In spite of growing up in different parts of the country and, in some cases, without knowing each other very well, we shared this strong feeling. And right there, on the beach in Mangalia that night, I felt the absolute joy of belonging and was grateful for being able to appreciate such moments. This was one of the revelations. When we raised our heads, surrendered to this beautiful feeling, we gazed at all the stars and constellations punctuating the clear summer sky.

Another revelation came in the shape of a human, a friend of my friends, a guy I was meeting for the first time. He came to Vama Veche soon after my friend left, and just a few days after he had suffered a big loss. Vama was just as new to him as it was for my friend, and he soon realized he was not a big fan of the place either. But our company and the good times we had – be it on the beach, driving in Bulgaria, queuing for pancakes, or lifting lanterns on the night sky – were enough reasons for him to stay until the end. To be able to appreciate life and friendship, and to remain open to new experiences even at times of grief, that is definitely something to admire and learn from.

The most powerful of the revelations, however, came as I had a taste of my own– bitter– medicine. My friend’s discontent attitude towards Vama Veche put me at the same table with a previous version of myself, when I was also hurting people by acting in a similar way. I had to lose considerably – lovers, friends – to understand that was not the way I wanted to live my life.

So, yes, it’s been one interesting week at the seaside, and I’m quite happy with the way things have worked out in the end. “You had three revelations in Vama Veche?” one of my friends asked visibly surprised, stressing on the word “three”. He, too, was there with us. He continued: “I just know I played football on the beach and had plenty of beers. That’s my revelation!” We laughed.

The traffic on the boulevard has finally come to a stand. That’s good, as I’ll sleep with the windows wide open tonight. How else to accommodate the heat of Bucharest summer nights?

VAMA VECHE:
Vama Veche, RomaniaVama Veche, Romania
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Vama Veche, Romania2016 JUL Black Sea Romania rsz-33Vama Veche, RomaniaVama Veche, Romania
Vama Veche, Romania
Vama Veche, Romania
Vama Veche, Romania Vama Veche, Romania

2 MAI:
2 Mai, Romania
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2 Mai, Romania
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2 Mai, Romania

LIMANU:
Limanu, Romania

TYULENOVO:
Tyulenovo, Bulgaria
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Tyulenovo, BulgariaTyulenovo, BulgariaTyulenovo, Bulgaria

MANGALIA: Mangalia, RomaniaMangalia, Romania

Black Sea Revelations

My (Imaginary?) Life in Bucharest

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There is this slow, almost sensual rhythm of life in Bucharest. I open my eyes in the morning and smile. For days in a row, the sun is shining at the window. No clouds in sight, just fluffy green trees on the ground, among blocks of flats and along car lanes. I walk to the kitchen barefoot, and make myself a Turkish style coffee.“What would you like to eat?” my mother asks. Feeding me is her number one priority. “I’ll just have coffee,” I say, taking the cup to the living room, and closing the door behind me. I turn on the stereo, but it shows no signs of life. It’s the cable again. For reasons unknown, my sister unplugs it in the evening. I plug it in, and the stereo comes back to life. My British boyfriend is amused by the kind of music they play on Romanian radio stations. “Too cheesy,” he says. But since when are Romanians ashamed to show their emotional side anyways? There is even a saying that “Romanians are born poets.” And, because my boyfriend is in Amsterdam, I feel less guilty of listening to cheesy music this morning. I also feel like smoking, so I light a cigarette. I rarely smoke in Amsterdam, yet the first thing I did when arriving in Bucharest was to buy a pack of cigarettes from the convenience store downstairs. I guess I already knew I would give in to the Southern European lifestyle. Sun is still up on the sky, I have no plans, I have the time, so there is absolutely no reason to rush. And I love not having to rush. But the city is calling me. This is, after all, my last day in Bucharest for the year. I will go for a walk no matter how high the temperatures. And so, comfortable and carefree, in my parents’ living room, with coffee, cigarettes, cheesy music on the radio, and the view of Bucharest at my window, I feel as if I have never lived anywhere else but here. And I could maybe persist in this illusion if it weren’t for the feeling I get – a mixture of loneliness and nostalgia – whenever I think of the people I know in Bucharest. There are, in fact, quite a few people I’d like to meet and talk to, but there is something preventing me from contacting them. I realise that my contribution to their lives is minimal, so why bother? The fact that I sometimes feel lonely in Bucharest makes me realise that I do have a life back in Amsterdam. So today I will go for a walk by myself, which is not exactly bad considering it’s the first time I have some time only for myself in the last ten days or so, since I arrived. And I don’t care about coffee hotspots and trendy lunch places. They mean nothing to me. What I am interested in each time I visit is a street, a block of flats, a theatre building, a bus stop, a fountain. It might sound strange, but these city elements have shaped my life, so my yearly pilgrimage to them is the least I can do. After all, this is my Bucharest, and it will continue to be so, year after year, even when all coffee hotspots and trendy lunch places would have long closed their doors.

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My (Imaginary?) Life in Bucharest

Food & Coffee on the Kerkstraat

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Lavina Good Food is one of those hidden gems in Amsterdam, where the food is so delicious (and healthy) that it’s almost impossible to find a free table at their cosy location on Kerkstraat.

Lately though, maybe because people are already off for holidays, we could actually find a free table on two different occasions: a couple of weeks ago, when we met Bianca and Dani, and today, when we simply were too lazy to cook lunch, yet we wanted to eat something not only tasty, but healthy as well.

And for that, Lavinia is always a good idea:
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And, because an energising lunch asks for a nice cup of coffee, we went to have one at Bocca, just a few blocks away:
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Kerkstraat has this quaint, village-like feel, so walking along it makes me stop many times to take photos:2016 JUL Amsterdam Kerkstraat +++-8Amsterdam, KerkstraatAmsterdam, KerkstraatAmsterdam, Kerkstraat

This is how we ended up at Stach, the heathy snack shop, where we stopped for one of their delicious dates and coconut cakes. We enjoyed them on a bench outside, to benefit of sunshine and some people watching at the same time:Amsterdam, StachAmsterdam, KerkstraatAmsterdam, Stach

Our Saturday afternoon walk ended up on the Vijzelgracht, with some grocery shopping and then catching the tram back home:2016 JUL Amsterdam Kerkstraat +++-9Amsterdam, Weteringschans

I wish you all a nice, peaceful weekend!

Food & Coffee on the Kerkstraat

At Home

2016 JUNE Amsterdam HOME collage-1

Now I am lying in bed reading, or editing photos on my laptop, then, before you know it, I am reaching out to my camera and start taking photos around the house.

Not sure what exactly triggers this kind of behaviour, but, trust me, it happens quite often. :) I can’t complain though. This is how I see the progress we’ve been making with the apartment since we moved in, one year ago.

So many things to do still, yet it surely feels good to be home!

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Amsterdam, Interior

At Home

A Flowery Saturday in Amsterdam East

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Little did we know, when we woke up on Saturday morning, that we would spend our day searching for flowers, and then practising our first session ever of home gardening:
Amsterdam, Interior

We were not aware of that also when we went out for brunch in the neighbourhood, at Eastside. We were visiting for the first time, and were happy to be sitting outside, enjoying not only the dishes, but also the beautiful surroundings at the crossing between Balistraat and Sumatrastraat, in Amsterdam Oost:Amsterdam, Brunch at EastsideAmsterdam, Brunch at EastsideAmsterdam, Brunch at Eastside
Amsterdam, Brunch at Eastside

We continued with a walk along the quaint and cosy Balistraat, where I was staring at people’s balconies, taking photos of the flowers and beautiful home entrances.
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Amsterdam, Balistraat

As usual, at around 1PM, it was about time for our second coffee cup. We headed out to nearby Javaplein, where we enjoyed an espresso and a cortado (my current favourite) at Coffee Company.
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I bought fresh flowers from Bloemen op Locatie, next door from Coffee Company Javaplein:
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We dropped the flowers at home, then continued our ramblings in the East:Amsterdam, Summer in OostAmsterdam, Summer in Oost

The idea of getting some flowers for our own balcony brought us to Intratuin, the location in Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer, a real flower heaven. Here, we met some friends who, just like us, were looking for the perfect plants and pots for their home:
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Amsterdam, Intratuin Watergraafsmeer
Amsterdam, Intratuin WatergraafsmeerAmsterdam, Intratuin Watergraafsmeer

Finally back home, with our garden flowers of choice and a bag of soil, we started the replanting and repotting operations, which lasted long after sunset:
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This morning, while enjoying breakfast on the balcony, we thought we did a pretty good job. :)
2016 JUNE Amsterdam Balcony Breakfast-1

A Flowery Saturday in Amsterdam East

Romanian Blouse Celebration in Amsterdam

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June 24th is the international day of ia, the traditional Romanian blouse. Just as on previous years, Romanians living in Amsterdam gathered to celebrate it.

Here are some photos taken on Friday evening at Dam square and Museumplein!

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Amsterdam - Celebrating the day of IA, the Romanian blouse
Amsterdam - Celebrating the day of IA, the Romanian blouse

And, since Amsterdamian was present as well, I now also have some photos of myself, trying the water in front of the Rijksmuseum. :)2016 JUNE Amsterdam IA Day rsz ++-2
2016 JUNE Amsterdam IA Day rsz ++-1

Romanian Blouse Celebration in Amsterdam