Travel Journal Entry #6: Merci et Au Revoir, Paris

I will state it as it is my dear readers, Paris is kept in a high regard in Europe for a reason. Visit the city for at least three days and you will adjust to the rhythm it speaks out loud. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternite – these are the virtues the people of France hold dear.

The architecture everywhere in the city is stunning and the people living here complement the very ambiance of Paris. The way of life here is not the way of life we Finns tend to live in the north but there surely is a certain kind of charm to it. 

I am now obliged to tell you I’m writing this piece while holding a red wine bottle in my other hand and a belly full of croissants mixed with appetizer cold cuts. I call it the French Night Delight. So my current opinion on Paris might be biased at the moment.

Yesterday we woke up early to get breakfest and set afoot to see the Eiffel tower in all of its glory. It’s never a challenging task to find a suitable breakfast place in Paris as the streets are full of restaurants, créperies and coffee shops. However if you’re on a tight budget you’ll soon find out that the global fastfood restaurants here have the best value for money menus. You’ll be amazed what you can get with 5,00 EUR.

After finishing our breakfast we hopped on a bus near the Paris latin quarter and watched the street signs change for a good 15 minutes. Soon enough our eyes gazed on the majestic Eiffel tower from the ground up. To see the whole building as one we had to walk roughly 200 meters away from the monument. The lush park around Eiffel tower smelled wonderful and the amount of tourists wandering around the monument was not too bad considering the popularity of Eiffel tower.

Le Pointy Thing, Eiffel Tower.

The only thing that was a nuisance was the street merchants that were a bit of aggressive in selling Eiffel tower merchandise around the park. We soon found out that best way to avoid scammers, pickpockets and desperate merchants was to inform them we do not speak english.

After we had made our peace with the Eiffel tower we headed out to see the Arc De Triumph. Man the monument was larger in real life than I was expecting it to be. My biggest worry was the car traffic around it and the careless tourists that wandered fearlessly in it to get the perfect vacation picture. 

Joanne D’ Arc De Triumph. Oh, wait, no.

The monument is located on the Champs-Elysee road which is filled with restaurants, fashion shops and bars. We even found an event celebrating the transfer of famous football player Neymar Jr. to the team PSG. If I understood correctly the star player was giving out signed team shirts to fans. We settled for an icecream in nearby shop.

Football hype that I wish I’d understand.

Finishing the Paris experience with some slightly guessed statistics:

  • The amount of croissants eaten: 12
  • The amount of wine bottles enjoyed: 5
  • The amount of Bonjours: ~ 74
  • The amount of Merci’s: ~ 63
  • The amount of trying to act like you understood what the cashier told you: ~ infinite

Paris, you are alright. Next time I will come to visit you will be with the love of my life. Tomorrow we have to pack our bags and the planned destination will be Bern in Switzerland! Have a great night everybody! 

– George

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Travel Journal Entry #4: Brussel Sprouts

Yesterday the alarm clock woke us up early for a quick checkout from our hostel in Amsterdam. The morning did not turn so great as the clerk at the Amsterdam train station told that the express train to Bryssels had already been booked full. Lesson to be learned here, kids.

The plan was to take two trains instead of one fast one to reach Brussels Midi station. 1 hour 50 minute trip turned into three hour funride with one change of trains in a city called Breda.

As we pulled into the train departure terminal we received a notice that the express train to Bryssels was canceled. In the end we probably saved ten bucks by not getting seats for the express train. 

Ha haa, you can take a seat somewhere else because we were served some good old fashioned Schadenfreude right there.

Couple of hours of changing scenery to be seen and our train slowly but surely arrived to Bryssels. I do not know why but I had a bit of high architectural expectations for Brussels as it’s chosen to be the capital city of European Union.

Real art on top of modern vandalism.

Our initial experience of Brussels started with a line of army cars and reeking smell of piss. Perhaps we took a wrong turn already at the start but the architecture and the quality of buildings reminded me of Finlands local roughed up neighbourhood (edgy cement block-buildings with no real facade). A lot maintenance going on everywhere and oh god.. the smell of piss.

One thing you could not miss in the city were the armed forces, security personnel and police officers patrolling the city vigorously. Local law enforcement nor the army was not kidding around anymore after the Bryssel airport attacks.

I asked my friend Joonas “Oh Joonas, where have we travelled this time? Warzone?” And then we laughed and kept on going ahead safer than never before. 

Crowd gathering near the plaza

 

After walking couple of blocks closer to the centre of Brussels we found the main street which was pulsating with tourists and locals. Old buildings emerged from the grey facades and exposed the old architecture hiding in plain sight. Street band of three musicians played the latest dance hits with utmost expertise and it was plainly wonderful to listen while exploring the city. 

We ended the first day tour of the city to a busy street cafe that served belgian chocolate and various types of coffee. Iced lattés were served and we headed back to our hostel. The skies opened and sent some rain upon us for a farewell.

The next morning we decided to head north of Bryssels to check the Atom-monument and Mini-Europe tour next to it. We were there roughly 11 AM and the whole place felt like deserted. Eventually more crowd appeared and the ambience of a ghost town disappeared.

Atoms. Atoms, Atoms.

Mini Europe tour was a quirky one, ticket costing you 15,30 EUR (odd amount?) to see various monuments from EU-countries in 1:25 scale. Not sure if the price was justified but where else I can press a button and let Vesuvius mountain erupt smoke and vicious earthquakes on plastic toy citizens.
From Finland the tour included Olavinlinna (also known as Savonlinna) which is one of the many forts our nation built for defence against Russia. Luckily there was a button to spam the national anthem of Finland for other tourists. In Finland we would call this moment of joy “Suomi mainittu, torilla tavataan” (= Finland was mentioned globally, lets go get drunk at the market place).

Cute Russian girl doing recon on our fortress.

Tomorrow morning will be the last one in Bryssels as we pack our bags and relocate to the legendary love capital, Paris. Perhaps we better learn some french quickly? Qui? Now to get some well deserved rest! Have a great night!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #3: Amsterdamned For Life

To be perfectly honest with you readers out there, my first impression of the legendary city of Amsterdam was not the best possible. When you leave one country to enter another, you try to wipe your mind clean to experience everything without any judgement. 

The first few breaths after hopping off the train from Berlin revealed an old station that had cricked terminal floors. Crowded, muggy, unfamiliar. A lot of repairs and warning signs. Just walking outside from the building was a heaven in disguise.

Renovation of the Centraal-building.

The Amsterdam Centraal – station dates back to 1889 and nowadays it is under heavy renovation inside and out. To be completely honest it felt kind of run down at the moment. Hopefully the renovation project will bring out the good ol’ glory back.

The next negative experience was the public transportation ticket machines which had touchscreens that did not work properly. Several tourists stomped the machines in anger and the waiting lines got long. Luckily we found another one nearby that worked and got on the subway to our hostel.

The train from Berlin to Amsterdam took us almost 7 hours so we arrived late and hungry like hippos. Therefore we had to head back to the city centre for a replenishing meal after we had secured our lodgins.

Amsterdam by night.

Somehow the ambiance of the city felt first blatant and bit of unsettling. Cars, mopeds and bicycles were driving recklessly from both sides of the road but that did not stop people from walking through. There were no clear patterns and it felt confusing.

If you’re not already familiar with the smell of cannabis before entering Amsterdam, you will lose your virginity for it shortly. The coffee shops were scattered all around the market place and people were sitting outside enjoying their beverages and herbs.

Atmosphere tilted once again after a short walk forward when we were met with red lights and unseemingly attractive women in sexy underwear. The prostitutes were in open display like barbies in cardboard boxes. Ohh, hello Red Light District. Window shopping at its finest. 

How in the hell we end up in Red Light District in the first 10 minutes in Amsterdam? The only thing we could do after that experience was to laugh in amazement and keep on staring/walking.

The next day we went sightseeing and visited the Heineken Experience. The brewery Heineken sell tickets to guided tours through the original brewery building and at the end of the tour, you get to drink Heineken beer! Quite a deal, I say. Tickets for the Heineken Experience were 16,00 EUR/person.

Message from the Heineken director.

After spending two days in Amsterdam, I understood the city better and how the lifestyle is shaped by the people living in Amsterdam. Rivers, bicycles and relaxed people who drink their beer from 25cl glasses and smoke their herbs out in the open. Nothing here has shame weighing it down. Just jolly ol’ good time.

Windmill doing what it does best.

Just when you have started to appreciate the city of Amsterdam and what it has to offer, we must pack our bags and continue our journey. Next stop the capital city of Europe, Bryssels! See you there! 

– George

Vanity Card #54 – The Long Stretch

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Paul Coelho, the author of the novel The Alchemist, once wrote out to the world:

Life was always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act.

The summer breeze caught Finland by its balls in the start of June and nowadays we are experiencing a delightful twenty-something degrees of Celsius. It sure took long enough, as we experienced slight snow drizzles still in May.  I never quite understood how the weather shapes the people that live under it’s unjust ruling; until I started this year observing other worker ant’s like myself while commuting to work. From gray face to mild smile, The Finnish standard of expressing “I am enjoying the sunshine!”.

Summer has not been the only thing I have kept myself waiting for months now. I reckon’ it was last spring when I started to harbor feelings of exhaustion, being on the rocks and searching for a meaningful answer to the question “Why am I working so hard to cash in 37,5 hour weeks at the office if I don’t feel like this is the way my life should venture forth?”

Today marks the special date when I have set myself completely free for an extended period of time and I can only hope that the adventure that awaits will give me some answers that I desperately seek on this journey. This week I counted the remaining days at work with a shameless amusement and yesterday slow clapped myself out of commission. For all it’s worth, I have to give sincere thanks and gratitude for my employer for giving me another chance to continue my career in logistics.

Ever since I started studying 2009 at University of Applied Sciences to get my degree in business, I did not take any vacation as I was working the summer months to keep more than just an empty plate on my table. I was taught at a young age to always work harder than anybody else to stay ahead of the recession and I believe it took a major toll on me. To never relax under any circumstance.

I really need a break. No, I need an adventure.

A one of the parting gifts I received from my lovely colleagues at work was a compass. To guide me back home. I just hope I will find where that home is.

Two and a half month adventure through the Europe starts 1st of August, July will be mostly spent planning, exercising and buying all the necessary equipment to enjoy the train rides and keeping sure that I have a fresh pair of underwear when the shit hits the fan. Figuratively, of course. Well, you never know. I have a sensitive stomach. Did I gross you out?

Great, mission accomplished.

I sincerely promise that there will be a flow of new updates on this site as now the only currency I have plenty to spend is time. I have already bought myself a sweet Bluetooth keyboard and a quality tablet which I will be taking with me through Europe.

Perhaps I should do a test write on it? Oh yeeah can dooo!

– George

Vanity Card #53 – The Struggles and Payoffs

VanityCard53TheStrugglesAndPayOffs

Song to accompany the reading experience, performed by Welshly Arms:

 

The Nobel prize winner John Steinbeck wrote a quote about the journey of life that has stuck with me through all these years of soul-searching.

A journey is a person in itself; to two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

We humans have a heartfelt tendency to think ourselves as complex demigods, but we frequently tend to perceive others as something transparent.  I have always felt it very troublesome as I am always eager to connect with other people – to find a common ground among strangers. It would be a narrow-minded lie if I said that every single person I connected once upon time with is still in my life. We are on this rampart journey we can only try to plan and hope that most of our dreams materialize into being.

As we are along the subject of becoming something through the journey, all the hardships you have suffered to this breath have made you the person you are today. In classical Chinese philosophy the natural world is on bound together by Ying and Yang, two opposite forces that compliment each other. The duality that teaches that the whole is always greater than the assembled parts. In layman’s terms, what does not kill us makes us stronger.

No matter how good of a strategist you think yourself to be, there will always be a wild card or two among the tall grass. It might be the fact that every single day of our lives, we are being fed by millions and millions of stimulus so in contrast, we have developed a mindset filter to shift through the parts that feel like matter the most. But we are not perfect, the Latin saying errare humanum est stands the test of time. So in the long run, we miss a rough-rugged diamond every now and then.

Nevertheless, my mother didn’t raise no fool, life is a numbers game. Probabilities, chances, uncertainty are all over the board and all we can do is hope that everything will be alright at the finish line. Bargaining is callous part of the deal of owning a self-conscious mind. The only advice I can sell to others is to make sure that you take the ships wheel of life and steer where you want to visit. The only mistake you can make is not to raise the anchor and let the dices roll.

I have a feeling that this time the house does not always win.

IMG_20170405_202159_processed

– George

Vanity Card #52 – The How You Like Me Now

VanityCard52TheHowYouLikeMeNow

To set the right mood, press play.

The camera slides into focus with a wide lens capturing the whole office room. George sits at his work desk and drums the pen on the keyboard.  The song can be heard through the headphones and it visibly irritates the coworkers. Boss enters the room, assesses the situation and walks to remove the headphones. Dialog begins.

When was the last time you really felt freedom? Like you could do anyone and anything in the world? When was the last time you were thinking about your life and thought to yourself, man, I am winning this game so bad.

An hour later the man in question walks free from the conference room and the days of breathing damp office air are numbered. Tickets have been drafted, plans have been made. No more of this old mess.

I am getting ahead of myself here. There is still 60 days left. In conclusion, I have decided to follow my good friend’s wisdom of leaving everything behind for a while and search for experiences in the open wide world. Many would question my choices – our bloody generation was well tempered into a loop of eat, work and sleep repeat.

Tickets have already been purchased and now the ecstasy of planning enthralls the brain, going back and forth on all the possibilities and places to see. Truth is I have known already for a while my personal calling and during this year I am ready to go through all the hoops, hell and high water to achieve the goals set for 2017.

So all I can do tonight is to play this song over and over and over.

– George

See, I been a bad bad bad bad man.
And I’m in deep, yeah.
I found a brand new love for this man,
And can’t wait till you see.
I can’t wait.

So how you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How you like me now?
How You Like Me Now – Performed by The Heavy

Vanity Card #51 – The Countdown Sequence

VanityCard51CountdownSequence.jpg

….

… Please…

…Stand by….

The following takes place between January 25th  – March 22nd.

The first three months of 2017 were truly a chaotic hell ride through hoops and high water. At the end of February, the three amigos; me and my two childhood friends; disbanded our shared apartment and we moved to different area codes. It was a fun year and a half, in a one wicked way or another I am going to miss it.

If life ever was a game of monopoly, I am currently residing near the starting line. The retreat from our earlier apartment was a hasty decision indeed and we all did not have a bulletproof plan where to find lodging after February. So I decided to grab my belongings and stash them into a storage space and stay here, at least for a while with my family. Not the perfect escape route I admit, but it’s a rent fee solution, the pros dominate the cons.

When the year changed to four new digits I promised myself that I would cut loose all the strings that had no meaningful purpose in my life and start anew, building a future for myself that I can live with my heart out. The plan has been in the works and now we’re closing on an important milestone. Please applaud my trusty countdown calendar on site!

Oh, now you are struggling to find it.

This is your captain speaking, if you please turn your head up and little to the left you are able to see the engine number two on fire and the sweet countdown sequence calendar.

Cabin crew, please prepare for emergency landing!

So what does the countdown calendar actually mean? Well, I believe that is a mighty fine story for the next Vanity Card, which I will not promise will be shortly published. I am a grouchy slouch after all. All I can say, I am cutting loose!

Enjoy your tick-tock-countdown-calendar!

-George