Trieste, Italy

Ugly or beautiful?

Some say it’s ugly, and some say it’s beautiful. I guess that the first group is referring to the surroundings, especially to the part that you see from the road when driving from Slovenia to Trieste. You see factories, lots of old blocks of flats and Cattinara, a hospital that looks creepy for some reason. The second group is probably thinking of the centre. They’re referring to the elegant buildings, the huge main square, the castle, the Riviera.

In my opinion, almost every town or city can be both: ugly and beautiful. The centre of Ljubljana is beautiful, but as soon as you move away from it, you encounter either grey socialist blocks or weird modern buildings. My hometown, Koper, lies next to a shopping centre area which is anything but pretty. I could tell you a similar story about Valencia and London, but you get the point. I bet you could tell me a similar example, wherever in the world you come from.

Città di Trieste
View from Castello di San Giusto

A little bit about Trieste

Trieste is the capital of the autonomous region Friuli Venezia Giulia, and it has about 200,000 residents. It’s a city and a seaport in northeastern Italy, lying between the Adriatic  Sea and Slovenia. Trieste is located at a crossroads of Slavic, Germanic and Latin cultures by which it has been influenced throughout history. It belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy for centuries and was its fourth largest city. At the end of the 19th century, it became an essential hub for music and literature. It was also an important spot in the struggle between the Eastern and Western blocs after World War II. Interestingly, the original pre-Roman name of the city was Tergeste, -terg meaning “market”. In Yugoslavian times, people from Slovenia used to go to Italy to buy goods like coffee and jeans which they couldn’t buy in Yugoslavia. People from my region (the Slovenian coast) would also often go to Trieste for work (some still do).  

Enough data. This post is about the cool (and beautiful) things you can visit and see in Trieste! I love to go there because it takes only about twenty minutes or so by car, but it still feels like a trip to a “proper city” (Koper is very small). Especially now, when I’m not travelling much, I love doing that. So, let’s get into some of my favourite spots.

Citta di Trieste
View from Castello di San Giusto

Piazza Unità d’Italia (Unity of Italy Square)

Piazza Unità (formerly Piazza Grande) is the main square of Trieste and also the biggest square lying next to the sea in Europe, as well as the sixth largest square in Italy. The fact that it lies right next to the sea makes it seem even bigger. It was built during the period when Trieste was the main seaport in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. This is why it’s full of big municipal buildings and other beautiful palaces. Piazza Unità is sometimes used as a concert venue. I attended a Green Day concert in 2013, while Iron Maiden played there three years later. Even Putin paid it a visit the same year as Green Day, so you know it must really be something. 

Piazza Unità d'Italia (in December 2018)
Piazza Unità d’Italia (in December 2018)

The seafront promenade in Trieste

I think there aren’t many things better in life than taking a walk by the sea when the sun is setting. When you’re strolling along Trieste’s seafront promenade, with palaces and Piazza Unità on one side and the sea on the other side, you get some pretty amazing views. The promenade is also where various festivals and events usually take place. I feel like I run into food stalls or something going on every other time I’m in town.

Church of Sant'Antonio Taumaturgo.
I can’t find any pics of the promenade, so here’s the Church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo.

Molo Audace (Audace Pier)

Molo Audace (formerly Molo San Carlo) is right in front of the main square; it’s a 200 metres long walkway/pier, named after a ship from World War II. Boats used to dock at the pier all the time, and it was important for passengers as well as for merchants. Today, boats dock here only very occasionally. The only exception is the Barcolana, a traditional sailing regatta that takes place in the Golf of Trieste every October. People often chill here and observe the sunset.

Molo Audace
Molo Audace

Canal Grande di Trieste

The Grand Canal of Trieste used to be an area of salt marshes. Later it became one of Trieste’s commercial hub. Its banks are still lined with squares, churches and cafes, among them the historic Stella Polare café. The canal is home to various boats. There also used to be three bridges that would swing open for boats (only the Red Bridge – Ponte Rosso remains), while the Short Bridge (Ponte Curto) is a recent addition. When it comes to churches, there’s the Serbian Orthodox Church of San Spiridone with inscriptions in Old Church Slavonic and the Church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo which was inspired by Roman monuments. When walking around Canal Grande you might also run into James Joyce – well, his statue. It was made at the centenary of his visit to Trieste.  

Canal Grande di Trieste
Canal Grande di Trieste

Castello di San Giusto

San Giusto Castle stands on a hill overlooking the city; they share the name. San Giusto hill is where the first fortified settlement was built, even before the Roman Tergeste. The fortress itself was built in the 15th century when Trieste was under Austria (to which they surrendered in the 14th century because of constant Venetian reprisals). The bastions were added later, throughout the centuries.

The castle offers stunning views of the city, and the Captain’s House is home to a collection of medieval weapons. There are also other small museums/things to see: you should enter the castle, walk around the wall so you can see the view and then enter every very door around the square that you possibly can to see what’s in there. Of course, you can do it the other way around. The castle costs 2 euros to enter if you’re under 26, and 4 if you’re over 26. As always, the best thing for me are the views of the city and the sea!

Castello di San Giusto, Trieste
Castello di San Giusto

Museo d’antichità J. J. Winckelmann

J.J. Winckelmann antiquity museum is a museum of history and art, located right next to the castle. It’s free to enter, and it’s one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. I’m not really a museum person, but this one isn’t a typical one. It’s not very big, it’s collections are very diverse and it has a lapidary garden full of art. The nature around the artefacts in the garden is sort of wild, which makes it all the more fun to walk and climb around.

Trieste’s geographical position and trade relations enabled it to build a rich collection of artefacts from ancient lands. In the museum, there’s everything from prehistoric objects from the Karst area to a vast Roman collection and stuff from the Hellenistic period. What really stands out is the Egyptian collection; it’s stunning. I was quite shocked when I walked into a small room and saw a mummy. I haven’t seen one since my trip to Egypt in 2010, and I sure as hell didn’t expect to find one on some hill in Trieste. 

Museo d'antichità J. J. Winckelmann
At the entrance to Museo d’antichità J. J. Winckelmann

Castello di Miramare

Miramare Castle is not in the centre, it’s a 5-10 minute drive out of the city, depending on how close you park. The best place to park is next to the road and pretty far from the castle because that way it’s free, plus and you can enjoy the walk to the castle next to the sea. I haven’t entered the castle since I was a child, so I honestly don’t remember how it is inside. I think there are a lot of red carpets and fancy stuff, but what matters (at least to me) is the outside. The building itself is beautiful, the views are even more amazing, and the forest right next to it is perfect for another walk and some more discovering. It’s full of tropical species of trees and plants. The castle was built in the 19th century for the Emperor Maximilian I. It truly looks like a princess castle with magical views of the sea (even if the guy wasn’t a princess).

Castello di Miramare, Trieste
Castello di Miramare

Some final thoughts on Trieste

A tip for all the vegans out there: I personally don’t know of any strictly vegan restaurants in Trieste. However, many offer vegetarian and vegan options. My best advice is to go to a pizzeria and order a vegetarian pizza without cheese or perhaps a marinara which is originally cheese-free. This was you’ll get both: authentic Italian cuisine and yummy vegan food!

I’m sure I’ve left many things out, but these are the places that I love the most about Trieste. Just writing this makes me want to visit it again, even if I was there not even two weeks ago. I’ll wait for summer, perhaps, if it decides to come this year.

University: Slovenia vs. England

I’m actually talking about Ljubljana vs. London or the Faculty of Arts vs. Middlesex University, or to be even more accurate, about Russian and English languages (with a focus on translating) vs. an Erasmus exchange. I’m currently in the midst of writing my thesis which is exactly why I’m writing this post. It’s a beautiful way of avoiding what I should really be doing. I also haven’t written one in ages because I didn’t have time (I prioritised other things, in other words). Most of all, I think it’s an interesting topic.

I’ve been thinking about studying abroad in my last years of high school but I was too young. Living in a foreign country seemed like a scary thing at the time. I also thought about it when I was in my first year of master’s (which I spent on exchange in London). I could just leave my course and enter an English university, I thought to myself. What attracted me was that a master’s degree generally only takes a year in London. I’d also be able to stay and I wouldn’t have to be in Ljubljana. In the end, I decided not to go for it because of the disgusting tuition fee and the fact that I was already in the midst of my master’s. I also knew that my Erasmus mates wouldn’t be there anymore and it was hard to picture London without them. Well, enough about that: here are the differences between how universities work in England and in Slovenia.

Ljubljana Castle, Kongresni Square
Ljubljana

Tuition fee

Studying at university is free in Slovenia as long as you’re a full-time student. You do need to have a certain mark and number of points to enter most programmes, though. If you’re studying part-time, so with fewer contact hours and mostly in the afternoons or at weekends, you do have to pay. But it’s nothing compared to what you’ll pay in England. Tuition fees there are around ten thousand pounds, depending on the university and the programme. A lot of people must get loans to be able to study in England, whether they are English or not. Studying part-time in Slovenia will typically only cost you a couple of thousands of euros.

Contact hours

In England, there are significantly fewer contact hours than in Slovenia. You either hate it or love it but I guess most students at least like it; I certainly did. At my university in Ljubljana, I had to spend around 25 hours per week at uni, while in England it was typically around ten. Students are supposed to do a lot of reading, writing and independent work at home, but in my case, it wasn’t really more than I had to do in Slovenia; in addition to all the contact hours that I had.

Exams

During the exam periods in Slovenia, I was typically a mess: I had a severe lack of sleep, was very stressed and basically didn’t have a life. I usually had around fifteen exams per academic year, sometimes several per week. The exam period in London was a vacation compared to that, in the sense that I didn’t have any actual exams. Not that they don’t exist, they do, I just happened to choose modules that didn’t have any (as I was on Erasmus and could choose). But in general, there are fewer exams and more essays that then count as your course work; they are what gets you the mark and lets you pass the module. Another difference is that in Slovenia you can take an exam several times. Some people will take it for the first time without studying, “just to see what it looks like”. This doesn’t happen in England.

London from Primrose Hill
London

The number of modules/subjects

In Slovenia, I always had lots of subjects. That’s also because I was/am doing a double major: English and Russian. At Middlesex University, most people had five modules that went on for two semesters. This meant less homework, fewer exams and fewer contact hours, of course. It was more relaxed and easier to focus on the subjects that I had. At my own uni, it was often hard to concentrate on something, even if I liked it, as I had ten other things that needed my immediate attention.

Building/campus

In Ljubljana, there is no campus. The University of Ljubljana composes of many faculties that are scattered all over the city. Middlesex University has a campus and all its faculties are there, which is common in England. The Middlesex campus is pretty cool: there’s a huge library, several cafes and (mainly fast food) restaurants, a gym, etc. The best thing is that the buildings are surrounded by trees and grass, so you basically have a park where you can sit and read or hang out while waiting for your next class.

Extra stuff that the university offers

Middlesex University offers its students certain things that clearly tell you that they have paid ten thousand quid for studying there. Among those are free printing, several computers that students can use for free in the library, a library that’s open 24/7, information/help points, a general higher degree of organisation, not to mention various events such as a welcome fete for new students, a tour of London, regular student parties, etc.

Lecturer-student relationship

I don’t know whether that’s connected to the money or to the English culture, but the relationship between students and lecturers is somehow less formal and more friendly. Students call the lecturer by his/her first name and not “professor” as we do in Slovenia. The lecturers in England make sure everyone comes to the office hours to get their course work checked and hand it in on time. They also make sure there is at least some debate during almost every lecture; in Slovenia, it’s not unusual if the lecturer’s the only person speaking throughout the lecture. Students aren’t that keen on taking part in a conversation or ask a lot of questions.

Ljubljana vs. London

This is just a personal preference but London is a thousand times more interesting to me. I love it and I dislike Ljubljana, what’s new. It is, however, disgustingly expensive, and while Ljubljana is by no means cheap when it comes to accommodation (except for student halls – these are very cheap), it’s a lot cheaper than London. It’s also smaller which makes it comfortable to move around by bike, and public transport isn’t that expensive. London is a crazy international city with lots of traffic, lots of people, but also lots of events, parks and diversity. My inner Harry Potter-loving child was having the time of her life when I moved there for ten months. And so was my twenty-something-year-old-self.

Girl in front of Middlesex University
Middlesex University (funnily enough, I have no pictures of my uni – it’s not particularly beautiful – might take one like this when I graduate, haha).

How long does it take

In England, at least from what I’ve seen, most people finish bachelor’s in three years, master’s in one. In Slovenia, it’s supposed to take five years in total, but in reality, it mostly takes longer. Most people take an extra year or at least six months to write the bachelor’s thesis and then again to write the master’s thesis. Failing a year is also pretty common. Consequently, most people need around six to seven years to finish their studies. In England, this is not the case, I’d say. Also, we start university when we are nineteen in Slovenia, while in England most people will be a year younger.

Do I regret studying at my university?

In short: no. I liked studying English because I love it while studying Russian opened a whole new world to me. Besides, it’s sort of cool to be able to read and speak a language that’s almost exotic to most people. I do love writing, though, and a major in journalism or creative writing (which doesn’t exist in Slovenia) would have given me opportunities to do it a lot more often. I can still write, though, can’t I? Studying English and Russian made me more enthusiastic about languages in general. I started liking and then consequently improving my Italian, as well as learning Spanish. Studying languages has broadened my horizons, and I’m hoping that it will open interesting doors for me. Another plus of studying in my own country was the amount of money that I saved and how close I was to my family and friends.

If I hadn’t chosen my uni, finished bachelor’s and then applied for a master’s and an exchange in London at the same time, I would have never experienced the Erasmus year that I’ve experienced. The London period was one of the best periods of my life. During that exchange, I met some pretty incredible people that I’m still very close to. It’s where and how I met my boyfriend, and at this point, I can’t imagine a world without him in it. This is what I think of every time I doubt my university-related choices. It helps, it truly does.

Fallas

As a foreigner, I still find the enthusiasm that the Valencian people have for noise and fire sort of hard to understand. I can’t deny that the festival made a big impression on me, though: I experienced it last year, and this year I decided to go again. The truth is thatI could have gone to Valencia at any other time, but I chose Fallas. I mean, it’s basically a continuous street party! Let me tell you a little bit about it and about why it’s so extraordinary.

Fallas 2019, Valencia
A falla (2019)

Why, when and where?

Fallas (Falles in Valencian) is a traditional celebration in the Valencian Community that happens every year between the 15th and the 19th of March. The majority of the events take place in Valencia, while other towns and villages also hold similar celebrations, but on a smaller scale. The purpose of Fallas is supposed to be to commemorate Saint Joseph, even though their actual historical beginning didn’t have anything to do with religion. It started to develop in the Middle Ages when artisans burned broken artefacts and pieces of wood to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Fallas 2019, Valencia
Also from 2019, I think I liked this one the most 🙂

What actually happens during Fallas?

A quarter of the city’s population is supposedly actively involved in Fallas. Each neighbourhood in Valencia has a Casal faller, an organised group of people who meet throughout the year, plan and produce a falla. A falla is a construction made of paper and wax, a beautiful statue, a work of art…that they happily burn on the 19th. Artists make it, and it usually represents a satirical theme that’s previously agreed on. Each neighbourhood has a big and a small falla (falla infantil) that doesn’t represent any satirical themes. The fallas are completed on the 15th and can be observed for four more days before they’re burned.

The important elements of Fallas

Falleros and falleras

You can see people dressed in traditional clothing parading through the streets or hanging out at their Casal faller all the time. The dresses, especially for females, are beautiful and very expensive from what I’ve heard. The women wear their hair in a special way, and they always have perfect makeup. They look like they’ve spent days getting ready (they probably have).

The parties

All the Casal fallers have their own parties (mostly in tents), while there are some bigger open-air stages in the centre. People usually go there after the fireworks and stay until four when it all closes (pretty early for Spanish standards). The music is a mix of reggaeton and Spanish pop and rock, but you can hear electronic music as well. The crowds are absolutely huge.

The stalls

The most important are the ones that sell churros,
buñuelos and porras, traditional fried pastries that people usually dip in hot chocolate. You can also buy everything from sunflower seeds (pipas), of course, to various alcoholic drinks, jewellery, souvenirs and so on.

The fireworks

There are fireworks every night between the 15th and the 18th. They somehow get bigger, longer and more spectacular every night. The last one is on the 18th for La Nit del Foc (‘the night of fire’ in Valencian), is the best one. There are small fireworks next to every falla on the 19th too, not to mention the private fireworks that people set off pretty much everywhere. People of all ages also throw firecrackers constantly, and some literally make you deaf for a little while.

El Castillo, Fallas
I know this picture is what it is, but it’s also the reality: there’s a lot of smoke once the thing has been going on for 10 minutes or so.

The Mascleta

That’s fireworks too; it’s just that it takes place in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento during the day, at two in the afternoon. Why, you might ask yourself. Because they love noise here. Mascleta is basically a firecracker and fireworks display. It’s very loud and there’s a lot of smoke, People are casually drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds while the world seems to be ending right next to them.

The Desperta

If I had to choose the part of Fallas that makes the least sense, I’d have a hard time deciding between the Mascleta and the Desperta. The people of Valencia (as well as us, visitors) spend the majority of the day and night walking around, partying and in many cases drinking. Why would you want to wake us up at 8 in the morning? And why would anyone want to be the person doing it? The Desperta consists of brass bands marching down the streets, playing loud music. Falleros follow them, throwing large firecrackers. I could hear them through my earplugs.

The Crema

The Crema is the climax of the whole Fallas. It’s the last day to admire the fallas before they burn them (but you might be too tired and hungover at this point, I know I was). At ten in the evening, they burn the small fallas. Then people gather around their preferred big falla to watch the main bonfire which takes place at midnight. Some of the fallas are between buildings which need to be protected. It’s a crazy thing to watch: first there are fireworks and meanwhile or right after the falla itself is lit. It burns quickly and the firemen control the fire by dousing the surrounding houses (and the falla itself) with their hoses. It’s hot, pieces of fallas are flying around, and people usually move away to protect themselves.

La Crema, Fallas
And this one is absolute shite but that was my view. Please note how close the houses are!

Final thoughts on Fallas

The locals, at least from what I’ve seen, see Fallas as a time to relax (as they don’t have to go to school/uni/work most of the days). They hang out, party, see the fireworks, throw firecrackers. Most of all, they seem completely unfazed by the seemingly endless noise, smoke and fire. The only thing that really bothers them is the crowd.

I felt in actual danger at times, or at least like I was gonna go deaf. Naturally, the annoying vegan that I am, I was also thinking of the state in which the animals must be. If it bothers me, someone who understands what’s happening, how must they feel, considering the fact that they don’t?

Otherwise, I enjoyed every minute. As tired as I was after all the walking, partying and the lack of sleep, it was amazing. The fallas were huge and extraordinary, the falleras beautiful, the fireworks entertaining. The best part was spending time with people I haven’t seen in months in a city as cool as Valencia. Fallas just made it better.

3 Days in Torino

Mini trips are great: they’re an escape from everyday life but at the same time they don’t take that much time or money. You don’t have to leave your routine for a long time, but when you return, you’re somehow refreshed and happier. This blog post is a little recap of a trip to Torino my friend and I took last winter. We visited another friend who was doing an Erasmus exchange in Torino, or Turin in English.

Parco del Valentino
Parco del Valentino

It’s pretty easy to do mini trips if you live where we live: on the coast of Slovenia. We’re basically trapped between Italy and Croatia which makes crossing the border something very quick and simple. We took a train from Trieste, the first proper city you encounter after crossing the border. We had a direct Freccia Rossa to Torino; each paid about a hundred euros for the return ticket. It would’ve been cheaper had we bought the tickets sooner. I’ve travelled around Italy quite a lot (not as much as I could have and intend to), but I’ve never been that far to the West. I was pretty excited, wondering what this city, with something less than nine hundred thousand residents and surrounded by mountains, had to offer.

Day 1

My mum took us to the train station in Trieste, where we took the train, obviously. It was supposed to take five hours but it had some delay, which is not out of the ordinary with Trenitalia. We got to my friend’s flat at about 12. It was located in a neighbourhood as dodgy as mine in London (do they do that to all Erasmus students?). We spent the rest of the day walking around, and we managed to see quite a bit of the centre.

Mole Antonelliana
Mole Antonelliana

We wandered around Via Roma, stopped in Piazza San Carlo and looked at Caval ‘d Brons. Then we visited Piazza Castello, where the Palazzo Reale, so royal palace, is located. We took a look at the most famous building in Torino as well: the Mole Antonelliana. It’s the National Musem of Cinema and supposedly also the tallest museum in the world. We had coffee in a bar, the name of which I don’t remember, but I was positively surprised because literally every bar I went to had plant-based milk.

Day 2

We spent the second day walking by the river Po and through a park called Parco del Valentino, right next to the river. The views were spectacular because it was very sunny, and we saw different kinds of birds, as well as squirrels. Then we entered the Borgo Medievale, an open-air museum which looks like a medieval castle. It was built in 1884 for an exhibition, which slightly spoild the whole medieval vibe, but it was the higlight of the day nonetheless. It was completely free to enter and we even visited a shop where they still make swords. They were incredibly kind, showed us the workshop and explained how everything works. There are lots of shops inside the castle, selling different ornaments and jewellery. More importantly, they offer lots of things that have something to do with either Harry Potter, LOTR or GOT.

Borgo Medievale
Borgo Medievale

We had lunch in the centre, in a somewhat pricey vegan restaurant called Coox. The food was really good but the portions were quite small; probably because we all ordered starters as we were too broke for anything else. So, we naturally looked for dessert, and I ended up regretting not having it in Coox. They had amazing looking vegan chocolate cheesecake there, while after an hour of search around the centre I ended up having vegan ice cream, despite the cold.

In the evening, my friend’s Indian roommates made us a traditional Indian dish called Aloo Paratha. It was basically fried flatbread that they stuffed with mashed potatoes and spices. Poeple traditionally eat it with butter and yogurt. It’s really really strong and greasy, especially because I didn’t have it with yogurt, but it was interesting and it was also just good to feel a bit of the exchange life again. It’s always about trying different things and learning stuff about other cultures; that’s literally the best part of it.

Day 3

On the third day, we only had time until 6, which is when our train was leaving. One of my friends met up with some relatives of hers who live in Torino, while my other friend and I climbed a hill called Superga. It took a bit more than an hour, and the path wasn’t particularly nice because you are basically walking on the road (almost no cars, though). The bus drivers stopped by, and asked whether we’d like a ride. We refused and walked till the top, the sporty people that we are. There’s an enormous beautiful church up there, the Basilica di Superga. It was foggy as hell, though, so I’ll definitely redo this hike if I ever happen to wander back to Torino.

Basilica di Superga
Basilica di Superga

Final thoughts

All in all, I liked Torino. It’s a beautiful city, magically surrounded by mountains, and the architecture is amazing. I must admit, though, that it didn’t hit me in the way Rome, Verona or Florence did. I think it’s just because it’s so far up in the north, and the aspect of the city is somehow different to what I’m used to in Italy. It’s also colder and often has foggy days. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think it’s worth visiting. I would probably just have to spend some more time there as this always changes my perspective.

Writing this piece about Torino made me daydream of other mini trips I could take. There are so many places in Italy, Croatia and Austria that I haven’t been to yet. Also, my friends keep going on exchange, and I really wish I could visit them all! I just don’t have enough time and money, unfortunately. I do have a trip to Valencia planned in March, but to be honest, Valencia doesn’t even feel like abroad anymore at this point.

Long Distance Relationships

My experience, thoughts and advice

I remember googling »long distance relationship« when I first got into it. We all search for answers on the internet in this century, so I’m writing this hoping someone might benefit from it. It feels weird to write about it because it’s not some city about which I can make a list of pros and cons, neither can I tell you how much maple syrup to add to make it sweet. It’s something very personal, and yet it’s something that I feel like sharing. So, with the boyfriend’s permission, here’s my honest experience in a long distance relationship.

Parque del Retiro, Madrid.

How did we meet

There’s a big chance that you already know that because you’re my friend or you’ve read my previous posts here and on Instagram. In case you’re not and you didn’t, I’ll very happily tell this story again, as it’s my favourite. We met on our Erasmus exchange in London, in a shitty neighbourhood called Cricklewood, in dodgy old student halls. At the beginning, we were just friends as we both belonged to a group of exchange and international students from all over the place. We got along, but nothing much more than that. I thought he was cute, but at that time everyone was flirting with everyone, and we both had other interests, let’s say. Until something clicked, as it always does, and we became something more than just friends.

The group of exchange and international students from all over the place (well, a part of it).

How did we agree on staying together

We only defined ourselves as together days after we had left London. In London we behaved like a couple, but we never said we were one. That goodbye was the hardest in my whole life. What scared me the most was that I didn’t know what we would be when we’d see each other again. We agreed on me visiting him in the end of summer, and him visiting me in the end of October, but it wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t understand whether that meant that we’d be with other people or not, whether we’d keep in touch, whether he’d forget about me in a couple of months. Luckily, we both wanted the same thing. It only took some texting to confirm that we were together and trying this whole long distance thing.

The reactions

The reactions, at least on my side, were pretty bad, to be honest. I could count the friends and family that were optimistic about us on the fingers of one hand, and I don’t know if I’d get to five. Some were somewhat optimistic, but in the sense that it was a good experience and »worth trying«. What they really meant was that it was a nice temporary thing, and I’d get over it eventually because it was impossible and wouldn’t last. My mum was sceptical, my close friends were sceptical, not to mention my grandmother, of course. I wasn’t, though, at least not much. And here we are a year and a half later.

How do we do it?

Well, we spend a lot of money on plane tickets, a lot of time texting and many hours talking via Skype. We try to visit each other at least every month and a half to two months. The longest time we spent without seeing each other was three months (right after London), and the shortest was about 3 weeks. To be honest, time passes quickly, especially if you’re busy. And you get used to it.

I think communication is key: we’re in touch through WhatsApp throughout the day, and we skype about two times per week. We don’t do many phone calls, but I guess that’s because we belong to the generation that stopped using phones for that. We tell each other about what we’re doing, about the problems we have and the good things that happen to us. I guess we do what normal couples do, just that most of the time we can’t tell it in person.

Why is it somewhat easier for us

I’m not saying it couldn’t be easier; he could’ve been from Venice or something, and then we’d see each other every couple of weeks. Valencia is further away; it’s too far to travel to by car, train or bus. And yet, it’s not that far. The flight only takes two hours, and I don’t live too far from Trieste’s airport, neither does he from the one in Valencia. The tickets aren’t that expensive if you buy them in advance, and you aren’t picky about dates. Sometimes Ryanair cancels a flight and you can stay longer, haha. Plus, we’re in the same time zone which makes things a lot easier as well.

Would I recommend it?

When we had just got together, I talked about it with a guy who used to be in a long distance relationship (at the time he was still in the relationship, it just wasn’t long distance anymore). He said that he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. That you’re simply not there when something’s wrong. I have to agree with that. No hug for you when you need it. He also told me that I should be prepared to move, and I can’t say this isn’t true either. It’s in the back (and often in the front) of my mind every minute of every day.

I would only recommend getting into a long distance relationship if you really love the other person. If you’re in love with them, you think they’re the one for you, you think it’ll never be as good with anyone else. I felt all that, and that’s why it made sense for me. But I knew the guy, we lived in the same flat for nine months. I doubt that you can feel that for someone you’ve known for three days, but who am I to be the judge of that. Not living ten time zones apart also increases your chances and makes it more worth trying in my opinion.

My advice

If you feel all the right feelings (and the other person does as well, that’s obviously crucial), and you get into a long distance relationship … You need to trust them. You need to believe that they’ll wait for you, and you can’t panic every time they go to a party. Trust is fundamental in every relationship, but it’s absolutely necessary in a long distance one.

The second important thing is to plan ahead and make sure you’ll have enough time and money to visit your boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s fair that you visit each other more or less equally, even though that’s not always possible. That’s okay too, you just both need to agree on it.

The third key point is, as already mentioned, communication. You won’t see each other after work/uni or in the evening, so you’ve got to text, call, skype, ask and answer. You need to plan cool things, like watching a film together while skyping, send songs to each other, record audio messages and write nice texts.

In front of a garage, apparently, Valencia.

Final thoughts

I’m usually pretty down after we’ve spent time together, and then one of us must go back home. It’s not that difficult to adjust later, but the actual goodbye is dreadful. That said, I’m absolutely thrilled when I’m about to visit him or he’s about to visit me, so that makes up for it.

The thing is that a long distance relationship is not only a romantic story of lovely messages, getting to know another culture (at least in my case) and seeing new places. It is all that, but it’s also a lot of waiting and missing, some severe phone addiction, lots of staring at each other through a screen, many hours at airports and a lot of tears. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret anything about my relationship, and I’d do it all over again any time. But it’s not because of the long distance relationship itself. It’s because of the guy with whom I’m in it.

In somewhat kind circumstances (as in not living on different sides of the planet) long distance relationships are possible. And they can be pretty damn great. If they don’t work, they probably don’t because the people who are in them aren’t fit to be together, not because of the distance itself. The distance is manageable, and it’s temporary. Getting yourselves to the same location, you leaving your home and family or he/she leaving theirs, is a whole different story, worth another blog post. I’m into travel and living abroad, and I’d obviously like to eventually live in the same place as my boyfriend, but the future and leaving home scares me shitless. I suppose that’s normal, and I still have time to deal with it. We’ll deal with it together. 😊

Sunshine Blogger Award 2018 Nomination

I’m happy to say (well, write) that my blog, Nikecream, has been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award 2018, a blogger-to-blogger award searching for inspiring blogs. This is a great opportunity to discover interesting blogs and new content. In order to accept the nomination I have a few tasks to complete, so let’s get into it!

Sunshine Blogger Award 2018

The tasks

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog

Faraway Horizons

I was nominated by the lovely Andrea who runs the blog called Faraway Horizons. She’s from Ohio, and she inspires people to travel and go on adventures with her own amazing stories. She accompanies her posts with beautiful pictures.

My Answers to Faraway Horizons’ questions

If the police caught you doing something that landed you in jail, what would you have been doing?

Saving animals from a slaughterhouse, probably.

If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to the child version of yourself?

Calm down. You can’t influence what happens to the people around you, it’s not in your power.

You’re travelling to a remote area (without phone or internet) of your choosing. What is the first thing you plan on bringing (living or inanimate)?

Is my boyfriend a legit answer?

Beach or mountains? Explain.

Beach. I grew up by the sea, and I’ll never like a mountain more than a beach.

What is one inspirational song that everyone should have on their playlist?

The Show Must Go On by Queen.

What is your favourite lucky number? Why?

3. Because it’s my mum’s favourite, because I was born in 1993, and because I live on the 3. floor.

What profession did you dream of doing as a child?

I wanted to be a singer, then an actress, then a writer. I still want to be a writer.

Are you doing what you had dreamed of doing? If not, why not?

Yes and no. I’m still finishing uni, so I’m technically not working yet. I’m translating occasionally, and that’s also something I had wanted to do. And I’m writing this blog, as well as working on my first book, so you could say I’m a writer too, an amateur one. I wouldn’t call any of this a dream come true, though. Not yet.

What’s your philosophy towards life/living?

You never have it as bad as you think you do. You have people and things someone out there can only dream of. Suck it up, open your eyes to things in your life that are beautiful, and enjoy them to the fullest. Life’s too short not to.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who had started a blog, but is now thinking of giving up on it?

If you think it’s not for you, then by all means give up, and start doing something you enjoy more. If you just feel like you don’t have time, try to make time for it at least every couple of weeks. In the end, it’s a matter of priorities. If you’re lacking inspiration, get out there and do something. Then write about it.

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon at home. What are you doing?

Ideally, I’m making a vegan dessert and writing a blog post, then reading a good book or watching something with my mum.  Or skyping with the boyfriend. It’s more likely that I’m either studying or working, though. Sad times.

Questions for my Sunshine Blogger Award nominees to answer

  1. What do you love about writing?
  2. Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts?
  3. If the world ended tomorrow, what would be the last meal you’d have?
  4. What’s the next place you plan on visiting?
  5. What was the best destination you’ve been to so far and why?
  6. If you had to spend a week without internet, which three books would you read?
  7. Summer or winter? Explain.
  8. What do you love about your country (and which one is it)?
  9. What do you dislike about it?
  10. Would you ever move to another country?
  11. What was the last thing you cooked?

My nominees for the Sunshine Blogger Award 2018

Wild Peonie

A blog about healthy cooking and travelling, run by a lovely Slovenian girl who’s in love with adventures and has un undeniable sweet tooth. Accompanied by exciting videos from her travels and pictures of her recipes. The blog is in Slovenian and in English.

Pretty Sweet

A Slovenian baker who’s regularly posting recipes of all the possible desserts. Some of them are quite exotic, and she adds beautiful pictures to all of them. The blog is in Slovenian and in English.

Nurielle Ari

An artist, an aspiring chef and a wanderer who’s sharing tips on vegan nutrition and fitness. All from her camper. Her posts are available in English and in Spanish.

Wherever Vegan

A blog about veganism and travel! The owner, Cameron Ralg, offers tips on how to travel as a vegan.

Literally Everywhere

A blog run by Yasmin, a full-time traveller, blogger and minimalist. She offers travel recommendations and gorgeous photography.

The Tangerine Blog

Priya is sharing her love for travel, fashion and vegan food. She also posts yummy vegan recipes!

The Blog of Bildo

Billi is writing about everyday life on her blog. About family, relationships, stories and thoughts. The best thing about her blog is that it’s honest and hilarious.

Nat’s Vegan Fitness

A blog run by Natalie, a vegan foodie who posts simple recipes for delicious vegan treats. She’s also very active on Instagram!

Vegan Han

Hannah’s blog about vegan food, restaurants and running. She also has an Instagram account where she posts daily vegan food inspiration.

Rebeka Asceric

Rebeka runs a blog about makeup and travel. She posts makeup tutorials, product reviews and useful travel tips! Her blog is in English and in Slovenian.

Anna Winstone

Anna writes about vegan food, health, and she posts some cool vegan recipes. She also has an Instagram account where she shares pictures of her food.

 

Final thoughts

The Sunshine Blogger Award 2018 is an amazing way for bloggers to connect, for people to discover new blogs, and for amazing content to be shared. I really enjoyed writing this post and checking my nominees’ blogs, whether it was for the first or the fifteenth time. I realise that almost all my nominees write either about travel, veganism or both. What can I say, you like what you like. Thank you for reading! I hope it was as interesting for you as it was for me.

Mad Cool, Madrid’s Most Famous Music Festival

In July this year I went to Mad Cool, a huge music festival that takes place in Madrid every summer. It was my first proper music festival; I’ve been to one before in Slovenia, but it was rather small. In this post I focus on Mad Cool 2018 itself, as well as music festivals in general. Even though I have only been to two, I believe they generally have the basic features in common. My question is: are they worth the money? In the end I’ll also briefly describe some cool spots I managed to visit in Madrid!

Mad Cool Space 2018

Common characteristics

What you can probably expect from any music festival is for it to last for a couple of days up to a week. Normally several bands perform every day, some of them at the same time as there are several stages. Festivals also tend to be very crowded, at least this one was. The price will generally be higher than what a ticket for an ordinary concert normally costs, which is completely understandable. It also depends on the country and city where it takes place, and, of course, on who’s playing. Some festivals offer camping as well; Mad Cool didn’t.

Fab colours

Mad Cool itself

Okay, so let’s talk money first: Mad Cool costs something between one and two hundred euros, depending on when you buy the tickets; I paid about 160 if I remember correctly. We bought them when Mad Cool had already announced lots of major bands, and that normally plays a big role in the price. The event took place in Valdebebas, which is to the northeast of the city centre. It was all covered in fake grass and could hold up to 80,000 people. There were 7 different stages and numerous bars and food stalls. The event even hosted a couple of fashion shows and offered shops, a Ferris wheel, the GOT throne on which you could take pics, and various other activities that kept you entertained in case you showed up too early.

Recommendations

Something to bear in mind: if you only have the tickets and you haven’t been sent the bracelet, make sure to get to Mad Cool Space early the first day. The first bands start playing at 6; the concerts usually end at around 4.30 in the morning, so it’s quite intense. I’d recommend taking it easy during the day (which we didn’t do, and we felt the consequences). The security won’t allow you to bring liquid or food inside, and if you have an empty plastic bottle, they will take the cap. There were water fountains inside, but only in one place, and you can imagine how long it took to get there.

Day 1

Day 1 (I apologise for the poor quality of this one and the following two pics).

As you can see, the line-up was crazy. I didn’t even know a third of all the bands and I was still able to see more than four that I loved every night! It started great: with Fleet Foxes, followed by Tame Impala and then by Kasabian. I probably enjoyed Tame Impala the most, as I know them better than the other two. And then there was Pearl Jam who had a longer concert than all the others, and it was scheduled quite late as well. They were great, but I remember how tired I was after a day of sightseeing at 35 degrees Celsius. It was also a nightmare to get back to the hostel that night. We didn’t know the tube was working, so we looked for buses and it took about three years until we finally got to sleep.

Day 2

Day 2

At the Drive-In were the first band we saw the second day, and I didn’t know them well before; a friend recommended them. They were great, though! Then we listened to Snow Patrol for a while, even though I only knew two songs. Jack White was incredible, especially when he was playing old White Stripes songs. That day was also the first time I saw the Arctic Monkeys, and I wish I had been more rested for that. It was great anyway, as were Franz Ferdinand after that. I must admit, though, that I was sitting on the floor falling asleep, as hard as I wished I had the energy to dance to Do You Want to. Pathetic, I know.

Day 3

Day 3

To my disappointment, Rufus T. Firefly played at the same time as the Queens of the Stone Age. I’ve seen Queens before, but I love them, plus I was there with a guy who’s seen Rufus T. Firefly and is a huge fan of Queens, so missing any part of their concert wasn’t an option. The place was too huge and crowded to see both; we’d just lose time walking around and would miss half of both concerts. So, Queens it was, with classic Homme trying to convince people to take over the VIP place. They were fab as usual and got us in the right mood for Depeche Mode and then for Nine Inch Nails. After that we were completely dead, but we waited for JET anyway, just to hear Are You Gonna Be My Girl.

The good stuff

I was able to hear bands I dreamt of hearing for ages, the atmosphere was great, and Madrid was a lovely city to sightsee in between the gigs. The line-up for Mad Cool was honestly the best one I’ve ever seen (when talking about modern festivals,  obviously, not Woodstock, Live Aid etc.). It was one of the best “holidays” I’ve ever had, and whenever I think of it, I smile. It was just the combination of travelling after an exam period, of seeing all these incredible bands, of spending time with the boyfriend after more than a month of staring at him through a screen. I also had a lovely time wandering around Madrid with a friend who was there doing her Erasmus practice at the time.

The bad stuff

The sightseeing did take its toll. We felt exhausted because of all the walking in the heat, followed by hours of standing and dancing. My back always started aching after a few hours into the concerts, and I know I would have probably enjoyed the bands even more had I slept properly and walked less during the day. But these things were my own fault.

The prices, though, were shamelessly high. The food was quite expensive (even though I must admit the vegan options didn’t look too bad). I didn’t buy anything as we smuggled some biscuits from Lidl inside. The most ridiculously expensive thing were naturally the drinks. The beer and the tinto de verano (which is basically just red wine and soda) came in huge plastic glasses which had the line-up printed on them. It looks cool and I still have one, but the drink wasn’t worth 9 euros anyway.

9 euros

Was it worth it?

For me: absolutely. BUT – the line-up played a huge role in that, even though I think I’d enjoy the same line-up just as much if it were somewhere in Croatia or in Poland, at a festival that would be a lot less fancy and for half the price. The thing about this festival that I didn’t expect was how, well, posh it was. The fashion shows, the expensive drinks, the fake grass … I didn’t hate it or anything,  it was cool in a way, and most of the visitors were like any people you’d see at any festival (that wouldn’t be strictly punk or metal). The British girls with glitter on their faces were the only exception; they fitted in perfectly.

What about Madrid?

I visited Madrid twice, but I still don’t feel like I can write a proper blog post about it. The first time was when I was in high school and I don’t remember much, and this time there just wasn’t enough time. I’ll just list some interesting stuff that we’ve seen.

Circulo de Bellas Artes (rooftop)

Museo del Prado

Free to enter if you’re under 25. My boyfriend’s into art and he loved it. I felt okay in there for an hour, and then I wanted to leave; I’m not a museum person, though, so that doesn’t say much.

Círculo de Bellas Artes (rooftop)

Absolutely amazing views of Madrid and a fancy rooftop bar. They also hold exhibitions in the building.

Parque del Buen Retiro

A huge beautiful park with a big lake where you can rent boats. It reminded me of London, just that it was sunny and hot.

Templo de Debod

An ancient Egyptian temple that looks totally random in such a typically European city. It’s beautiful, though, and I remember it the most from the first time I visited Madrid.

Lavapiés

A barrio (neighbourhood) with many international residents and therefore interesting shops and restaurants; there are many Indian ones.

Malasaña

Another cool barrio with lots of shops and rock bars.

sightseeing during Mad Cool: Parque del Buen Retiro
Parque del Buen Retiro

That’s all we’ve managed to see in the four days we spent there, when we weren’t at the festival. As for (vegan) food, I’d recommend Ecocentro: they have a shop and a restaurant. Part of the restaurant is a buffet with cheap tasty vegetarian and vegan food.

sightseeing during Mad Cool festival: Circulo de Bellas Artes (rooftop)
Circulo de Bellas Artes (rooftop)

My recommendations

If you only like a band or two that’s playing at a festival, I think you’d enjoy them more if you just waited for them to go on tour. They usually play a bit longer if its their own concert, and you’re usually less tired and more concentrated because you only came to see them. If you like many or just want to experience a music festival, then absolutely go for it. I think it’s also great if the festival’s in a cool place that you can see during the day. It did make me tired, but more importantly it made me happy. I’d totally go again: to Madrid as well as to Mad Cool.

Thanks so much for reading! In case you’re interested in other Spain-related stuff, or better said cities, I have a post on Valencia, as well as one on Barcelona.

Home?

The places that influenced me the most: Koper, Ljubljana, London, Valencia

I’ve been thinking about this scary thing called future quite a lot lately. I know why that is. It’s because I’m finally finishing my studies. This is my last year as I’ve got four subjects and the thesis left. Once that’ll be done, I’ll have to put my life together, as they say. The location is just one of the things that come with adulting, but it’s the one I want to focus on today. So, here are some thoughts about the four cities/towns that influenced me the most.

Koper, my home

Before I went on exchange, home was a simple and clear notion for me. It was the small coastal town I was born in, Koper. It lies on the coast of Slovenia, near the border with Italy, as well as the one with Croatia. I spent the first nineteen years of my life living here. It’s where I went to primary school, to high school, where I made friends, where I had my first kiss and my first party. I’ve always loved it: the weather that is better than anywhere else in the country, the proximity of the sea, its smallness and simplicity. Most of all, I probably loved the fact that basically anyone I had ever cared for lived here.

Koper is very small and there isn’t much going on, especially during the winter. A consequence of its size is also the amount and diversity of options when it comes to studies and work. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I stayed here to study, without trying to live on my own and without experiencing a city with an actual student life. Would I have been bored? Probably.

A typical evening in Koper.

Ljubljana, my second home

When I had to go to university, there wasn’t much choice in my small town. So, I went to the capital, like almost everyone did. I have friends who come from the same town as me, and who grew to love Ljubljana, who will probably move there permanently at some point. Personally, I never liked it there. I think the old centre is very pretty, and it’s a fact that there’s much more going on in the capital than in Koper. But that’s just not enough for me. I hate the weather, which is colder and rainier than in my hometown, even though they are only 100 kilometres apart. Waking up to the fog isn’t out of the ordinary either. You often don’t know what the weather’s really like until midday.

I could go on with listing the things that made me a Ljubljana-hater: the accent of its residents, how everyone’s rushing all the time, the public transport that never works like it should, the traffic jams. But I also have to acknowledge the fact that I’m stressed whenever I’m there, as it’s always all about uni and uni-related work. It’s not like I’m suffering, though. I’m not. I have many friends there, and especially during bachelor’s we used to go out often. The various events made my student years interesting, which they probably wouldn’t have been had I stayed in Koper. They just weren’t enough to make me want to live there.

Ljubljana’s Congress Square and castle.

London, my Erasmus home

Perhaps I’ll sound like a paradox now. I, on the contrary, absolutely loved living in a city that is also famous for rushing, traffic jams, rain, cold and fog. But it’s London; its level of coolness makes up for all of that, including the fact that it’s not a coastal city. London’s night life, the number of concerts, festivals, various other events, restaurants, bars and shops can’t compete with anything you can get in Slovenia. We’re just too small. I love its internationality, its architecture, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps, the New York of Europe. I’ll stop here because I’ve expressed my love for this city enough in the previous posts.

The coolness of London also has its negatives sides, though. Its size makes it hard to meet anyone. As good as the transport system is, going somewhere can take ages. Then there are the crazy prices of accommodation, transport and everything in general, and the lack of any real nature. Luckily, London’s parks are amazing, and they make for a great escape. They’re huge, and you can really pretend that you’re not in a city anymore. When I lived there, I felt great whenever we took a trip, though. When we went to Dover, and I saw the sea after months, I felt relief, somehow.

The walk from Camden to Regent’s Park.

Valencia

Just when I was enjoying my life in London to the point of becoming confused about where I’d like to live, the only thing that could have made me more of a mess happened: I fell in love with a Spanish guy. And that’s how Valencia came into my life. I’ve travelled there many times and spent last summer working and living there. Valencia has its disadvantages, of course. It’s too hot in the summer months, huge cockroaches taking walks on its streets (or in your kitchen) is a regular thing, and life’s a bit slower than in most of Europe, probably. The jobs situation isn’t ideal either.

Otherwise, Valencia is pretty much perfect. It’s next to the sea, but it’s a proper city with many interesting things going on. It’s still small enough to be manageable, and you don’t have to waste your life in a metro or in a bus. The weather’s perfect if you can handle the heath in the summer and the absence of snow in the winter. Spanish people are lovely: open, friendly, direct and funny.

Playa de la Malvarrosa, my happy place.

And now what?

I’ve always been into travelling, but London was the first city that made me think that I’d perhaps like to live somewhere else than in my hometown. That it’s possible to have different homes in one life. Valencia did just the same.

I guess the normal thing for a person like me, who’s from a coastal town and dislikes the capital, would be to try to find work in the hometown first. And if that didn’t work, to suck it up, move to the capital and find work there. To continue the student life and come home every weekend. Or perhaps drive there and back every day and be tired all the time. It would make sense because it would allow me to spend more time with my family and friends.

But as much as I love them, I wouldn’t stay, at least not right now. Koper’s too small, I’ve explained Ljubljana, and I’d never consider living anywhere else in Slovenia. Of course, a big reason is the boyfriend abroad, and the fact that long distance relationships aren’t meant to be long distance forever. But it’s also the fact that there’s too much left to see and experience out there, and not just by travelling. I want to spend a couple of months living in Italy, some time in Russia, and a part of me wants to return to London, or at least to somewhere in England. And then there’s Valencia where I definitely want to return.

Worries

If living abroad has taught me anything, it taught me that it’s possible to find home somewhere else. That I enjoy it, that it’s possible to make friends anywhere, as it is to survive without being physically close to my loved ones. As long as there’s Wi-Fi at least. The very real possibility of moving away makes me feel guilty and worried whenever I think about it. How do I leave everything behind, even when I know I want to go? I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t go that far, that Europe is small, that nowadays it’s easy to stay in touch and to visit. That they’ll survive without me being there all the time and I’ll survive without them. That I’ll do my best to come back often and that Koper will always be my home.

Writing this didn’t make me figure out where I want to spend my life, or what the “right” decision would be. I still don’t know which city I’ll call home in the future. It did help me understand that it doesn’t matter, though, that I don’t need to have that figured out just yet. As for you, if you actually managed to get through this post which probably turned into a rather confused diary entry at some point, I hope it was somehow useful to you. 😊

My Vegan Story

I’ve wanted to write a post called “My Vegan Story” for quite some time now. I’ve been putting it off because it’s not that easy to write. There’s too much to say for one post, plus I know lots of people hate the topic. Please, don’t understand this as me telling you to go vegan because I’m not (despite of the picture). I’m just trying to be informative here, hoping that stories like this could be an interesting read, and could open your eyes to things you’ve never thought of before.

Somewhere in Valencia, September 2018

My reasons

There are more reasons for me going vegan, but the first and the most powerful one was my love for animals – all animals. I’ve seen videos of the conditions in factory farms years ago, but I refused to think about it, despite of how much they got to me. I’ve always had reasons not to go vegan: it’s not healthy, vegans are annoying, Greek yogurt is life. The truth is that a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how much of what you put in your body. Vegans can, of course, be annoying, especially if they try to force their beliefs on people in a violent way. And Greek yogurt … is probably still delicious. But I don’t miss it anymore, and I’m sure there’s a vegan alternative somewhere out there.

The second reason is the environment. If you haven’t heard, eating less meat benefits the environment. By not consuming animal products, you cut your greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and preserve species and their habitats. I’m not going to link studies here because I intend to do another post with actual data, but feel free to google it – there’s a lot of info out there.

The third reason is health. I’m obviously not a nutritionist, but I know I feel better eating plant-based. I feel lighter after meals and good in general.  I’ve always liked fruit and vegetables, but going vegan made me start consuming even more of them, discover new pulses and grains, and learn how to cook diverse and simple meals.

Before

I’ve never been a meat person; I’ve always been known as the one who complicates when it comes to food (I still have the reputation). But I ate meat, or at least fish, most of my life. There were periods when I ate more of it, and periods when I ate less. At times I liked certain types of meat and at times I didn’t. I even had a »pescatarian« period at some point. I developed a taste for eggs in the year before turning vegan (I was living in London and my flatmates ate a lot of eggs, so I followed suit). I’ve always liked dairy too; I wasn’t as crazy about cheese as some people are (hi), but I loved Greek yogurt and all kinds of sweet treats that contained milk.

I had been thinking about veganism on and off for years, but I always dismissed the thought because of the reasons I mentioned above. Then I tried it once in London for about three days, but I felt hungry constantly, and was craving tuna, cheese and Greek yogurt, so I gave in. Little did I know that I simply wasn’t eating enough.

The transition

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but last year in the first week of October, just when uni started, I decided to give it a go again. I said: one week. And this time it was successful: I didn’t feel hungry and I didn’t miss non-vegan food because I read a lot about veganism before, during and after that week. I knew that I had to eat more because plant-based food is generally lower in calories, and I had the necessary motivation because I read about all the benefits.

The week passed, and I kept going, but it wasn’t perfect, and I have no intention of lying about that. I can proudly say that I haven’t eaten fish or meat in more than a year, but I can’t say the same for eggs and dairy. There were occasions when I had something vegetarian in the following months. The reasons were different: not wanting to complicate in a restaurant, eating at my boyfriend’s parents’ house and wanting to be polite, travelling and not finding anything suitable or wanting to try local food, or just giving in to something my mum bought or made, or to something someone else was having.

I feel like I’ve thoroughly made the transition only a couple of months ago, even though I’ve been eating almost completely plant-based for the past year. Not long ago I decided that it was easier for me to stand behind this way of life if I’m 100% in it.

The reactions

They were different and everything from typical, surprisingly nice and very stupid. Some people feel somewhat offended when someone’s vegan, as if it were criticism pointed directly at them. I’ve never told anyone to go vegan, and I have no intention to.

I’ve had all the possible reactions from my friends, family and complete strangers. People asked me where would all the cows go and where would we plant all the salad if the world went vegan. Some were worried about my protein intake, some wondered whether I could eat beans. But then some also cooked a completely vegan dinner just because of me, or baked something vegan because I was coming. And then I also heard (and am still hearing) all the possible jokes, which isn’t that bad. I like to laugh, even if it’s about me.

Living among non-vegans

I, sadly, don’t have any vegan friends, and have met few vegan people in my life. Everyone I love, care for and spend time with is omnivore, and that doesn’t make me love them any less. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like it if they ate less animal products. Of course I would. But I’m not forcing them; I just explain things when they ask me, I cook and bring vegan food, and I post things. I’m sharing my belief and my interests, as other people share their own.

I think it’s important to understand that eating fewer animal products DOES have an impact. A positive one: on animals’ lives, the environment and quite possibly also on your health. It’s crucial to realize that every individual has an impact every day, with every little thing we choose to eat, and consequently buy. All of this is sending a message to the market.

So…

I’ll stop now because this is beginning to sound like vegan propaganda, and I promised not to do that. Let me just say this one last thing: vegans (or at least vegans with a mentality similar to mine) aren’t trying to make anyone go vegan because they think they are superior as people and everyone should be like them. All we have in mind is that more people eating less meat equals less animals suffering and less harm to the environment. Our goal is to stop pain and death, and we know we can’t do it alone. Consequently, some plant-based people might get aggressive, mean or plain rude. I hope I’m never like that, my goal certainly isn’t to be. I don’t think it brings any good to anyone.

It’s important that people realise we’re not criticising them – how could we? Most of us used to think and act just like you, at least I know I did. All that mattered was the taste, the price and the convenience. I ate animal products, I thought vegans were rude hippies, and I laughed at jokes about them. I still do, to be fair. Overcoming that and understanding that I, as an individual, influence the way things are, taught me to look at food differently. I’d never go back; going vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In case you’re interested in vegan recipes, I have some here.

25 Things I Learned in 25 Years

So, 25 things I learned in 25 years. It’s my birthday, and as I’ve now completed a quarter of a century, I’m closer to thirty than to twenty and I’m halfway to fifty, I thought it would be appropriate to write something about it. The points listed below are things I’m aware of, but I’m not, you know, practicing what I’m preaching all the time and in all aspects of life yet. So, I’m telling this to myself as much as I’m telling it to you, hoping some of these 25 things might inspire you.

25-year-old girl
My cake, myself and my doggo.

1. Spend time with your family

I often feel like I’m too busy to visit my grandma, take a walk with my mum or do some other family-related activity. The thing is, though, that when I do it, I never regret it. They appreciate it, I enjoy it, and in the end it’s one of the most important and valuable things in life. For my mum and me it’s quite easy as we like similar music and we’re both into travelling, so concerts and trips are something we can do together.

2. Meet friends regularly

What social media did to us, or at least to me, is the fake illusion that we see people and know what’s going on in their lives, when in reality we only know what they choose to show. We’re all busy, of course, but it’s important to find time for the people we really care about and actually meet them in person from time to time.

3. Accept that some friendships end

As we grow up, we lose contact with some people. Busy schedules might have a lot to do with it, but often it’s simply about having different interests. Sometimes we must accept that certain friendships worked perfectly when we were kids or teenagers but ceased to exist in our twenties.

4. There’s no perfect relationship or friendship

Whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship, there will always be times when one will annoy the other, or there will be brief periods of bad mood. As long as they are brief, the two people are capable of sorting it out with respect and humour, there’s nothing abnormal or wrong with that; we’re all human and nobody can be perfect all the time.

5. When he/she’s the right one, you’ll know

I don’t believe that there’s only one soulmate out there for each person. I think it’s all a result of a lot of coincidence and being in the right place at the right time. But when it clicks, you know it. You can understand that with this person you get along as you never got along with anyone before. And you understand why it has never worked with anyone before.

6. Long distance relationships are possible

I always thought they were some phenomenon from Hollywood films that would never work in real life. How can you be with someone you never see? Well, you can’t; you got to see each other. You have to be prepared to spend time skyping and visiting each other, and money on plane tickets. It works as long as both want it badly enough to work for it.

7. Long distance friendships work too

During my exchange in London I didn’t only meet my boyfriend; I also met some of my best friends. Of course, it’s easier to be friends with someone who lives close to you, but it’s by no mean impossible to keep in touch with someone who’s far, at least not in this century. I still talk to my ex flatmates regularly via WhatsApp and Facebook, we skype occasionally, and we meet when time and money allow us. It’s not perfect, but it works.

8. Buying lots of things won’t make you happy

Going to shopping centres and shopping streets, and buying things I mostly didn’t need was something I used to enjoy. I bought many items of clothing that I then gave away without wearing them once. In time, I simply stopped doing that; I now buy clothes when I really need them, or really like them, and even then I try not to buy from big chain stores, but from local boutiques or second-hand shops instead.

9. Less is more when it comes to makeup

In high school I wouldn’t leave the house without eye liner. Man, are those days gone. It’s not that I don’t wear makeup now, I do. There’s just a lot less of it, it’s a lot simpler and from ethical brands. Plus, there are many days when I simply don’t wear it at all because I just can’t be bothered to put it on.

10. Money spent on travel is never wasted

I’ve never regretted a trip; even when I disliked the accommodation, the exact location or an organized trip, I still didn’t regret spending money on visiting the actual place. Travelling creates some of the best memories and opens your eyes to things you could never learn just from books, the TV or the internet.

11. Living abroad is the shit

Living abroad is completely different from travelling, and you never get to know a place that well if you simply spend a week there as a tourist. Getting to know what it feels like to use the public transport daily, to buy food in local shops weekly, and to hang out with the locals, gives you a unique experience that a short time visit never could.

12. Learning languages is one of the best things you can do

I study languages, so of course I’m going to say that, but I really think it’s enjoyable in general. Being able to understand and speak a foreign language can give you an understanding of a culture you couldn’t have otherwise, not to mention how useful it is when you travel, or how cool it is to talk to locals in their mother tongue.

13. Going to concerts is always worth it

I love music even if I don’t play any instruments anymore; I used to play the flute when I was a child but I gradually lost interest. Live music, especially if there’s a band I know and like performing, makes me feel all the feelings. I’ve spent quite a lot of money on concerts tickets and have been to quite a few countries just to see a band, but I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing.

14. Reading books is one of the best past time activities

Books allow you to live another life, to learn languages and vocabulary, to engage your mind in the most enjoyable way, to boost your imagination. I’m determined to work hard on giving myself more time for reading books; the pile next to my bed is getting too big.

 15. Use an agenda

Planning, writing things down in my agenda and sticking to it makes a big difference, even if I don’t manage to do everything I had planned for the day. I’m lost, and I forget things if I don’t write them down, plus this sort of gives me motivation, not to mention the satisfaction when I cross things out once they’re done. I usually spend a couple of minutes checking what I have to do every morning, and I also plan the week every Sunday evening.

16. Limit the amount of time for every activity

I try to make myself stop doing a particular thing even if it’s not finished: this gives me the opportunity to do other things, and to do more of different things daily. I’m bad at this, though; I often find it hard to stop myself from doing something that’s unfinished.

17. Have a sleeping routine

If I’m completely honest, I still have a lot to learn in this department, but I noticed that when I do manage to go to bed and drag myself out of it at approximately the same time for a few days in a row, I’m more productive. For me it would be ideal to go to bed at 10, read until 11, and then sleep until 7.

18. Limit phone use

Checking Instagram or Facebook before bed is the worst idea, at least in my case; it makes me not even touch the book that’s lying next to me, and it makes me stay up too late. I try to check emails and read some news in the morning before I start working and browse The Gram after lunch. I’m sort of out of the habit of checking Facebook daily, anyway. I think that’s now my mother’s and her generation’s thing.

19. Watching lots of TV series is a waste of time

And the same goes for shitty films. I used to do both on an almost daily basis a couple of years ago. Now I barely watch anything; I mostly only do if there’s someone else with me. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching good films or TV series. On the contrary; I think it’s beneficial as it can teach you a great deal of language and culture. It’s just that it’s often hard to find enough time for it. When I do watch something, I try to make sure it’s beneficial for me in some way (languages), or it’s something I really want to see.

20. Quality over quantity when it comes to going out

I used to party and drink much more than I do now, and I think I sort of got it out of my system. I still enjoy going out and having a few drinks occasionally, and especially when I’m abroad and with I haven’t seen in a long time or with new people (maybe these are just excuses for my partying in Spain this summer). But generally, when I’m home, I prefer to just hang out without drinking, and I do less of that than I used to. I drink for special occasions like my birthday, New Year’s Eve or some other party that feels special to me. A good night’s sleep and no hangover are much more important than they’re used to be (getting old, I guess).

21. Doing sport daily is beneficial

But if, and only if, I don’t feel too tired; there are days like this too, and when they come, I rest. Most of the time, though, moving my body from 40 minutes up to an hour, or sometimes an hour and a half, makes my day so much better, whether I go for a run, for a bike ride, for a long walk or even if I just exercise in my room with the help of YouTube.

22. Healthy in general with occasional treats when it comes to food

My friends say I’m a food wanker, but I do like my occasional chocolate. Otherwise, they’re right; eating whole foods, mostly lots of veggies and fruit, makes me feel good. I also find it easier not to have junk food at home; if it’s not there, I won’t eat it.

23. The taste isn’t worth the harm animal products cause

Oh, come on, I mentioned 22 things before getting to veganism. Once I got over the fact that most of the people in my life don’t understand my way of eating or agree with it, and once I stopped missing certain foods I loved before going vegan, this lifestyle became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It makes me feel good in relation to so many things: animal welfare, the environment, my own body. If you’re interested in why I’m vegan, you can read about it here.

24. Accept yourself as you are

I used to hate certain things about my body and my personality that I’m slowly learning to accept. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, it’s just about not feeling less worthy because you don’t look like or behave like someone else. Loving yourself and your life and wanting to be exactly who you are is one of the most valuable things you can learn to do.

25. Dream big but be practical

I’m sort of doing that, and I’d like to think it’s a good plan. I want to publish a book one day, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed inside my room focusing on that only. I’m working on my writing, but I’m also studying languages because I know I have to keep my options open, and a translation-related job might come before a writing-related one or anything even remotely close to a best-seller.

The end

And I thought I was going to have trouble coming up with 25 things I learned in 25 years. I could come up with another 25. Anyway, congrats if you got this far, I know it’s a lengthy post. Thanks for reading and I hope some of the points were useful to you in some way. 🙂