My First

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Freedom in Sri Lanka!

My travel itch is about to get scratched! But for now, I am satisfied with beautiful travel reminiscences so here is to my very first solo trip back in 2011. Destination: Sri Lanka. Cities: Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa, Sigiriya and other little towns with complicated names I cannot recall. Researched then booked my flight and hotels, found a kind-looking driver / tour guide and took off to the land of Green.

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The Buddhist Monk who blessed me!

From Buddhism and one monk’s blessing (he is the gowned man standing next to me who apparently saw ‘goodness’ in my eyes); to climbing Sigiriya with a 70 year old local man – thin and slouching, yet more resilient than most men (see that mountainous rock behind me – that’s the first rock I ever conquered); to my cockroach and lizard phobia – found under my bed in an eco-lodge where anything moving or remotely breathing cannot be killed (phobia had to be managed); to crocodile river-safari and scores of curious crocodiles surrounding my little boat; to elephant safari and riding; to fun elephant-bathing and an orphanage visit; to horse-riding (with fear) in some jungle in Candy accompanied by two local men and an energetic and dancing horse; to checking out coral reeves in Galle but hardly seeing anything beneath the murky water (due to the aftermath of the tragic 2004 Tsunami); to Sri Lankan traditional music and happy dancing; to my interaction with cheeky and daring monkeys; to jungle trekking with one local guide who (after I summoned up the courage to ask about snakes while trekking) told me in broken and heavily accented English “Snakes? Oh yes…there are many many MANY snakes! There are hundreds of venomous snakes but don’t worry, they usually come out at night”. What animals come out during the day I asked? Bores he said. And what if they attack us I asked? He said: “We run”!  I will never forget him – that funny-looking enthusiastic little man with crooked teeth and a heavy accent. Nor will I ever forget this sensational trip that introduced me to the wondrous gifts of solo traveling!

My Life is Real

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A Taste of Gaucho Culture, Estancia Los Patos, Argentina

My life is real.
Its essence I feel
I travel a great deal.

I seek and heal
Experience and reveal
All that is surreal
I have nothing to conceal
Not my curiosity
Nor my zeal
No apology
For my independence
For my candidness
Only to God, I kneel.

In every foreign place
I find novelty and grace
In every little street
Despite my tired feet
I walk and greet
Locals I meet.

During such encounters
And racing hours
I receive
An introduction
To tradition
I merge with culture
Demand disclosure
And embrace exposure.

In far away lands
Under moonlit skies
Despite my sleepy eyes
I see shimmering stars
Written memoirs
Of beautiful spirits.

When mornings come
And birds hum
I walk in nature
No longer a stranger
Acre after acre
Of exquisiteness
I thank my Creator
I bow to my Maker
For this magnificence.

My life is real
Its essence I feel
I travel a great deal.

What vileness he thinks
And ill she speaks
Of my travels and bills
Of my passions and thrills
Brush the top of these hideous hills
In whose valleys everyone sleeps
Where no one wills
And stillness kills.

I’m onto something
In my wandering and writing
Despite the foulness
That sometimes reeks
And the belittling
That oftentimes squeaks
Envy that peaks
And judgment that leaks
Your vulgar style
So bile and juvenile.

I’m onto something
Despite lonely elves
Stuck at the bottom of wells
Living in hell
Hiding it well
And foolish freaks
With spiteful tongues
And ugly beaks.

Despite this ordeal
I reiterate
My life is real.

By Razan Abdul Majeed

On Loving

 

Icelandic Love
I captured this beautiful image of two gentle Icelandic horses at a horse field / stable in Iceland, 2017

There is nothing in the world that I want

but you and your love,

all other things seem small in comparison.

 

I want to keep your heart my own,

so much that I would rather love you first

and live incidentally.

 

My happiness is now in your hands,

because loving you means you can carry me.

 

Wherever and whenever you please,

in whatever shape or form you choose.

 

I have never felt my mind breathe with undistracted enjoyment,

as it does when I am with you.

 

You occupy all my senses.

 

What if you love me less one day?

It is done now and I have to admit this dependence,

I admit it willingly, wholeheartedly,

since I love you so much.

 

Since there’s no other way.

 

By Razan Abdul Majeed

My Summer in Scandinavia: Must-See’s and Must-Do’s

Me (left) trail-riding on an Icelandic Horse, Golden Circle, June 2017

 I am not a tour agent so I won’t even attempt to be one. But what I would like to do is give you some very USEFUL TIPS on WHAT TO SEE and WHAT TO DO when you’re IN SCANDINAVIA. The info is based on what I saw and did, and most importantly on what I enjoyed seeing and doing while there. I obviously won’t be able to cover every single detail of my trip but what I will do is share things that really stood out for me and things that we all simply must-see and must-do as curious individuals and learning tourists!

Countries Visited: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland

Cities: Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Flåm (village), Bergen, Reykjavík, Gríndavik (blue lagoon), Golden Circle (southern iceland)

Uspenski Cathedra, Helsinki, June 2017

FINLAND, Helsinki

You can spend your time exploring this mysterious city by foot and enjoying its grand boulevards and colourful Russian-influenced architecture. Go see the Senate Square, where its surroundings make up the oldest part of Helsinki. Closeby you’ll find Helsinki Cathedral, the National Library, the Palace of the Council of State, and the University of Helsinki. Near there you will stumble upon Esplanadi Park and the Market Square. Don’t miss the impressive Temppeliaukio Church which is now used for musical events, and the Upenski Cathedral (see above photo) which is considered to be the largest Orthodox Church in Scandinavia. It reminded me of Saint Basil’s Cathedral at the Red Square in Moscow. I later found out that the Uspenski Cathedral is considered to be the symbol of the Russian influence on Finnish culture during the Russian occupation of Finland until 1919.

SWEDEN, Stockholm

Stockholm’s beauty is simply surreal. Maybe too surreal but surreal nonetheless. It is home to the World’s longest art exhibit: the 110km of subway tunnels under Stockholm. Make sure to check some of them out. Stockholm is considered to be the ‘sophisticated’ city of Scandinavia and you’ll understand why simply by walking around and taking in its sleek designs, classic architecture, and royal heritage. While there do check out Gamla Stan which is the Old Town, The Royal Palace, the City Hall (go in, take the guided tour and learn about the man behind the building, the iconic ballroom that hosts the Nobel Banquet, and about Alfred Nobel). I also took a boat that sailed around the Royal National City Park of Djurgården (gorgeous) and the closest inner archipelago islands which Sweden is famous for. A must-do!

DENMARK, Copenhagen

You all know Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’ or even ‘Frozen’, right? Well, Denmark is home to the beloved Danish author who wrote these fairy tales: Hans Christian Anderson. So when you’re in Copenhagen next, make sure you go on a boat ride and see the Little Mermaid Statue which depicts the title character of his fairly tale. You’ll also pass through beautiful canals and super low bridges!

Copenhagen’s famed Little Mermaid, June 2017

I loved the city’s vibe so walking or even cycling (big bicycle culture) is the best way to explore this quaint and colour city: The Paris of the North as it is often referred to. Be sure not to miss my favourite spot which is Nyhavn, referred to as the street of the World’s Longest Bar. The cafes there overlook a beautiful and long canal and the buildings are cheerful, colourful and pretty cool! Don’t miss the Amalienborg Palace, Strøget (its largest shopping area and among the world’s longest pedestrian streets. True – I thought it would never end!), Tivoli Gardens, and the National Museum if you’re a lover of archeological artifacts. I personally didn’t go inside the museum but I was told it’s worth it! If you follow Royalty news and love palaces, go to the square where the Royal Palace is and where the National guards do the noon switch – quite interesting to watch. Also, do ask a Dane about Queen Margrethe II of Denmark! She’s an interesting character and everyone’s love.

Behind me is the ‘World’s Longest Bar’, Nyhaven, June 2017

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