Tag Archives: wanderlust

Estonia’s Summer Gem: Pärnu

Pärnu is a lovely little town on the coast of Estonia. We visited Pärnu with a group of friends this summer because one of our friends threw a birthday party there. Though we had never been there before, as soon as we saw the town we fell in love with the quaint houses, lush parks, and the gorgeous beach.

1 rummu estonia pärnu

We took a boat from Helsinki to Tallinn and drove from there to Pärnu. Though the drive is only a few hours, we decided to make a little detour to Rummu Quarry, which is an old Soviet prison. Now tourists go there to swim and dive. And can you blame them? Look at the amazing turquoise water in these photo!

2 rummu estonia pärnu

There are curious sand formations surrounding the prison, and the water glistens all around. It was a little tricky finding a spot where you could enter the area but a GPS is you friend in this case. Also, we ran into so many others along the way that if you can’t figure out where to go, someone else will. The area is nowadays slightly off-limits because there is a guard but you can swing by and go take a quick look at the place at least. I wouldn’t recommend a longer outing though. Before the area was privatized it was used quite freely for beach outings and swimming.

3 pärnu estonia

Pärnu is filled with huge parks, especially near the Old Town. There are also beautiful churches (that might wake you up on a Sunday morning). We even found some street art reminiscent of Berlin! The city is best explored on foot, I think, because it’s filled with gorgeous old, wooden houses and some interesting new architecture.

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It’s easy to find good food in Pärnu. And it’s usually quite affordable! Steffani pizza place is a must try – we were recommended the place by several people before our visit. There’s one in Old Town (apparently it is slightly better) but also one right by the beach if you fancy a lunch between swimming. If pizza isn’t your thing, then the roads that lead from the Old Town to the beach are lined with restaurants that you can choose from. My personal favorite was Villa Wesset, a hotel restaurant that had THE BEST FOOD AND DRINKS (I recommend the Asian style beef soup and the creamy chicken pasta).

5 pärnu estonia

We found a nice Irish bar called Sweet Rosie with cheap, strong mojitos (winning combo!), when we were looking for a place to have a drink after a late dinner in the center of Old Town. There was a karaoke place, too, so if that’s your jam then head to Hommiku street (where we actually had a room at the Hommiku hostel). There are also lots of small beach bars, where you can get cheap ciders and beer to quench your thirst during the long hours of sunbathing. And for the night time, the Sunset Club by the beach is an easy option.

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After a wonderfully hot and sunny weekend at Pärnu, we headed back to Tallinn and the boat to Helsinki. We took Viking FSTR cruise both ways and used our own cars for the ride between Tallinn and Pärnu.

7 tallinn estonia pärnu

Have you been to Pärnu (or Estonia in general)?

London: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I will try to keep this spoiler free for those who haven’t read/seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet.

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As I said in my previous post, I went to see Harry Potter and Cursed Child in London with a longtime friend of mine who is also a huge Potterhead. I had read the play as soon as it came out so I knew the plot while my friend didn’t. I was really curious to see how the technical stuff would work on stage – I didn’t wanna see any fake-looking magic! – but I was equally curious to find out whether I would care for the characters the same way as in the original books.

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SURPRISE – the magic was incredible! We were both left wondering how on earth they managed to perform some of the tricks. Nothing looked out of place or lame, everything was expertly choreographed and made to look as real as possible. There were even two impressive dance scenes that looked fantabulous from the balcony!

The characters were often funny – surprisingly it was Draco who had me giggling more than once. Ron was perhaps the most similar to his predecessor from the new cast. I kept comparing the “new” Hermione, Ron, and Harry to the originals and wondering if the older characters were enough like their younger selves and, while all did a good job of it, Ron was most like himself.

The plot holes and problems one might have with the script itself are far easier to ignore when watching the story unravel on stage. The focus is on the characters, the movement, the visuals…and some of the awkward lines end up feeling less so.

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After the play ended, we quickly ran to the other side of the theater to wait for the actors to pour out and got our programs signed by most of them. In the pictures above you can see Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius), who both were fabulous. Everyone was really lovely considering they had just finished a really long day!

All in all, I’d definitely recommend the play to any hardcore Harry Potter fan (as long as you’re not too nitpicky about time travel plot lines). However, if you’re not a massive fan, the length of the play can make it quite an intense experience. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the performance though and think that, as long as you recognize that this is separate entity from the original series, you can get a lot of kicks out of it!

Have you seen/read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think?

Jetting Off to London to Start the Year

This post (and a few drafts that I have waiting) has been a long time coming and I blame my very persistent flu. However, I couldn’t NOT show you guys how amazing the short trip to London I did in the beginning of the year was!

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This trip had been planned by me and a childhood friend of mine for a long long LONG time. Almost two years. And the reason was: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! While we got tickets to see the Cursed Child play, the date was a long way away. But at least that meant we had something to look forward to. It’s been the longest time I’ve waited for something but it was completely worth it.

I’ve been to London many times (as has my friend), so we agreed on not even trying to do all the tourist attractions. Instead, we focused on eating good food, enjoying the winter-y atmosphere, and walking about town without a care. It was perfection! These were my last days before my new job (yes, I will blog about that at some point!!) started so I made the most of my freedom.

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Covent Garden (pictured above) was still covered in Christmas lights and even boasted a huge Christmas tree. The area is very picturesque but Christmas decorations just enhance that feeling. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Covent Garden around Christmas time! Also, be sure to check out the adorable Moomin shop there!

Our hostel YHA St. Pancras (student budget travel so no hotel) was right next to King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, which was perfect for several reasons: very easy access to the underground and, thus, to basically every other area in town; almost in the center of London; food places and cafes nearby; AND the Harry Potter store at Platform 9 3/4.

During the trip we also checked out the House of Minalima, which will be its own post soon. And the play will naturally get its own magnificent post as well<3 Have you been to London? Or seen the Harry Potter play? If you have I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

Visiting the Bone Church of Kutna Hora

Have you ever seen a chapel that’s filled with human bones? Everything is bone: the chandelier, the candle holders, everything… Well, that’s the Kutna Hora bone church for you! The little medieval town of Kutna Hora is located a short drive away from Prague. We did a lovely day trip there on our vacation in Prague, just before Christmas.

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The town is really nice and atmospheric. We managed to see the sunset there since the sun sets so early during the winter. There are some cute restaurants, though not many, around town. The main attractions are the bone chapel (offically called Sedlec Ossuary), St. Barbara’s Church, and the Italian court, which was a palace modeled after Italian architecture.

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The day trip was a great break from walking around in the same area of Prague and it allowed us to see some of the countryside as well. It was fairly cheap and we even got a discount by attending a free walking tour hosted by the same company the day before. You can also get a student discount from a lot of the tours, which is something to keep in mind!

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I only wish we would’ve had a bit more time there because we had to rush to eat quickly before heading back to Prague.

Have you been to an ossuary before? (I hadn’t but it was definitely interesting learning about its history!) Would you be creeped out? :P

Traveling to Prague during Christmas Season

Who doesn’t want to travel somewhere nice and warm during the winter? Wait…what did you say? Prague isn’t warm? Oh well, it didn’t bother us one bit. I went to Prague with the boyfriend just before Christmas for some well-deserved R&R and loved every minute of it. The Christmas markets, frosty air, and smell of crepes and mulled wine in the air. It was a perfect city vacation. Winter in Europe tends to mean dark dark dark all day long but it didn’t matter since there were brightly lit Christmas trees and decorations everywhere.

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Our hotel was about half an hour walking distance from the center of the Old Town in Prague 1 (Prague is divided into districts with numbers…how very Hunger Games!) and we walked every day to that part of the town along the river Vltava. I don’t think I’ve ever walked that much – in fact, we didn’t take the public transport anywhere and even the taxi only to the airport. We did use a bus service once but it was included into a day trip out of town so it doesn’t count…

Prague is so handy for seeing all the major sights by walking, especially because many of the sights are statues, bridges, and buildings that you can see by merely standing outside. Also, the architecture in general was absolutely amazing: pastel buildings and ornamental designs.

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We saw all the classic sights, such as the Charles Bridge, Powder tower, Prague castle, the Lennon Wall, the astronomical clock, and Dancing House. The Charles Bridge is one of the most known sights and it’s lined with magnificent statues. The bridge goes across the river, the Old Town being on the other side and Prague castle and the Lesser Town (one of the oldest districts in Prague) on the other. The Lesser Town also boasts the colorful Lennon Wall (pictured below), near the bridge entrance.

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Many of Prague’s sights are in or around the Old Town Square, including the astronomical clock and the Powder tower (used to store gun powder back in the olden days). During Christmas time the square is taken over by a massive, festive Christmas market where you can eat all day from different booths and save a ton of money. Or that’s what we did at least. The food was incredibly cheap (in general, Prague is cheap) and it was great getting to taste different local treats at the market while browsing for souvenirs. I also heartily recommend the Kafka bookshop for literature lovers (situated on one side of the square)!

It was incredible just getting out of town and on holiday, but Prague was definitely worth the praise we’d heard from a lot of our friends. It’s very affordable, gorgeous, and people are really friendly. What’s not to like?

We did one trip out of Prague during our stay: we visited a little medieval town called Kutna Horá, which boasts one of the most famous bone chapels in the world as well as a lovely cathedral. You can check it out in my next post!

Have you been to Prague?

Tour of Scotland pt 4: Glencoe & Edinburgh

Unfortunately this is the last part of my Scotland tour series – but before we embark on other adventures, I still have loads to tell you about our last days on the road.

We didn’t need to drive far to reach our first destination: St. Conan’s Kirk is a gorgeous church a short drive away from Oban and it has the most beautiful view of a loch. You can even see the Kilchurn Castle, which was our second stop of the day.

glencoe

Doune Castle was a lovely treat on our last stretch before Edinburgh: the castle has served as a filming location for Monty Python’s Holy Grail as well as Outlander (Doune Castle is Castle Leoch). It even appeared in Game of Thrones as Winterfell! There was an audio guide which had fun tidbits both about the history of the castle as well as the movies that were filmed there. The entrance fee was 6 pounds, which was not too bad either. From Doune Castle we made our way toward the famous Glencoe.

Glencoe was the last location we visited before getting back to Edinburgh. I can’t even stress enough how beautiful the mountains were around us and the amount of green was just staggering.

Once we got back to Edinburgh, we still had one and a half days left to explore the city. Our pre-planned stops included The Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling sat writing Harry Potter), Tom Riddle’s grave (okay, Thomas Riddell’s…but that was in any case the inspiration for Voldemort’s real name), Arthur’s Seat and Greyfriar’s Kirk.

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Arthur’s Seat took the longest amount of time considering the climb you have to do just to get up on the hill. But the scenery overlooking Edinburgh is amazing. Especially on a warm and sunny day, you can see really far and get wonderful snapshots as memories.

All in all, our tour of Scotland was amazing (we used the company MacBackpackers) and we met wonderful people and saw more than we could’ve hoped for. I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Have you been to Scotland?

Tour of Scotland pt 3: Skye, Oban & Kilmartin

Time for another part of my Scotland tour: from Lewis, we made our way to the Isle of Skye, a famously breathtaking island that is filled with faeries. The first stop on the island was the famed Faerie Glen, where you can climb onto a faerie “castle” and see the entrance to a cave that leads into the faerie realm. You must be careful not to take even a twig as a souvenir though, because otherwise the fae will make sure you’ll have bad luck until the item is returned!

We also saw the famous Kilt Rock and it’s waterfall and later spent the night at Kyleakin where I did an evening walk to the Castle Moil, which was stunning in the evening light.

oban 1 skye

From Skye, we crossed on a ferry back to the mainland and to Oban – but not before visiting Fort William and the Steall waterfall in Glen Nevis. As a massive Harry Potter fan, I was really excited when we stopped at the Glenfinnan viaduct on our way to Fort William. Glenfinnan viaduct featured in Chamber of Secrets in the scene where Harry and Ron try to find the Hogwarts Express while flying in the Ford Anglia. And speaking of the Hogwarts Express, you can see the actual train either puffing over the viaduct or on your stop at Fort William. You can even ride the train! How cool is that?

After a lunch in the picturesque Fort William, we hiked up the mountain sides to the second largest waterfall, Steall, in Glen Nevis. The scenery was unbelievable – jumping over little streams and climbing on rocks until you saw the massive waterfall completely made my day!

oban 2 kilmartin

Oban was our end destination and we stayed there for two nights. The small waterfront town has delicious seafood and lots of cruises going to the nearby islands, such as Mull and Iona. I spent my free day in Oban by doing a half day trip to Kilmartin Glen, an area that has a massive concentration of Neolitchic and Bronze Age remains and a museum that tells you all about them. The best part is that after the museum tour you can actually go and see all the places that are talked about. Imagine climbing into two ancient cairns (tombs) and walking across a field with fluffy sheep before resting your eyes on ritual places, such as the Templewood stone circles. It felt like being sucked into a historical novel.

Places to Visit from Oban

  • Iona (“the cradle of Scottish Christianity”, graveyard, Iona Abbey, beaches)
  • Mull (beaches, wildlife, brochs, castles)
  • Staffa (PUFFINS)
  • Kilmartin Glen (ancient cairns, standing stones, castles)
  • Oban’s own McCaig’s Tower & the local distillery

Tour of Scotland pt 2: Inverness to Lewis

From Inverness, our tour of Scotland had us heading to the Isle of Lewis: an island with wondrous scenery in addition to peace and quiet. Lewis is the largest island of the Western Isles (or Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. Because our 10-day tour was literally called the “Best in the West”, it is clear why Lewis was on our itinerary.

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Our stay on Lewis was for two days and we spent the nights in a lovely hostel in the Gearrannan Blackhouse village, which is a group of old crofting buildings that radiate a certain old-world charm and history. The village is situated near the Callanish Standing Stones, which are even older than Stonehenge, and the Carloway Broch, an ancient castle-like construction from the time before castles.

The Carloway Broch is incredibly impressive and you can even climb a little ways inside the stone structure. However, while the broch was majestic, my absolute favorite from the whole island were the Callanish Standing Stones. It’s hard to comprehend how old the stones truly are – I felt like I had stepped into Outlander and was about to be whisked away into the olden days with bagpipes sounding in the wind. Okay, in reality, I was around a bunch of tourists and posing for my very 21st century selfies but that didn’t diminish the magic one bit.

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The various white, sandy beaches were another incredible sight for sore eyes: the turquoise waters and the long stretches of bright sand looked like they could’ve belonged to some exotic, warm country rather than the cold, windy Scotland. We visited on the Isle of Great Bernera that hosts the Bostadh Beach and an Iron Age mill. It was the perfect spot for a lunch break as we noticed.

In addition to Bostadh, another wonderful beach-y spot we explored was the Uig beach, which is actually one of the biggest beach areas on the island. It was huge – let me tell ya! It took forever just to walk from the parking lot to the waterline…like, if you were to go swimming (not that you would unless you were impervious to the cold) it would be a workout in itself just to get to the water. But there was a wonderful set of hills around it where we hiked on little twisty trails to see the beach from higher ground. It was gorgeous!

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Must see things on Lewis:

Sights that I saw and loved:

  • Callanish standing stones (though there are numerous standing stones around the island, these are arguably the most famous!)
  • Carloway Broch
  • Any of the gorgeous white beaches
  • Isle of Great Bernera
  • Uig Chessmen

Sights I wish I’d seen:

  • Lews Castle
  • Crannogs
  • St. Columba’s Church Ui

Finally, check out the first part of my Scotland tour: Edinburgh and Inverness!

Tour of Scotland pt 1: Edinburgh to Inverness

When this school year started in September, I promised myself a reward for finishing my Master’s Thesis in the form of a trip to Scotland. I coaxed my friend to join me and after I returned my thesis in April, we packed our bags and embarked on our tour of Scottish moors in mid-May.

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We started out in Edinburgh where we had a lovely sunny evening walking around the main street and around the Edinburgh Castle. The next morning we boarded a minibus with eight other backpackers and headed out to the wilderness. Well, to Inverness, actually. Our first proper stop, after briefly getting out to snap pictures of the Forth Bridge, was the Highland Museum where some scenes from Outlander were shot. The 1700s village was quaint though the inside of the buildings was gloomy without any light source.

From the Highland Museum, we made our way further up north to the famous Loch Ness, which was magical. The lake was gorgeous and serene and somehow the entire scenery seemed imbued with the bluest of blue. Though we did not spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster hunter (now there’s a profession I’d like to try) who has made his home on the shore of Loch Ness did sell little figurines to make up for it.

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From Loch Ness we rode on to Inverness where we arrived around 6 p.m. after traveling for nine hours. After such a long day we first wanted to shower and go have a bite to eat. Afterwards we would’ve wanted to go sit somewhere where we could hear music, but apparently it’s hard to find a place with live music AND free seats on a Monday night in Inverness. However, we decided to take a stroll by the river to the Ness Islands that were decorated with adorable fairy lights. It ended up being a lovely alternative to sitting in a pub.

It would have been nice to have more time in Inverness as we only got to spend one evening there (after everything had already closed) but hopefully I get to visit again another time. From Inverness our trip continued across the country to the West coast and to Ullapool, which I will tell more about in the second part of my travel diary.

Have you been to Scotland? How did you like the country?

Winter Visit to Tallinn + New Year’s OOTD

Hasn’t it been a lovely Christmas and New Year?

I tried to take a small break from everything but now I’m back to studying for my psychology exams and writing my thesis. However, this post will be a little reminder of the fun vacation times :) So, after the holidays with the family, we went to Tallinn (once again) for a short winter visit. The sales had started so it was the perfect time to shop! We also just walked about because it was my boyfriend’s brother’s first visit there! The old town was especially lovely this time of year. Even the Christmas market was still up :) We ended up eating a lot of great food and just enjoying the scenery. I recommend a winter (or a summer) visit to Tallinn for everyone!

tallinn estonia

For New Year’s we went to a house party at my uni friend’s house. She has a place that overlooks the city so you could see all the fireworks! I tried to dress up comfy and warm because we finally got the winter weather (lately it’s been about -20 C here). My new dress from sales at H&M was the perfect choice!

new years ootd

I personally don’t make resolutions for New Year’s because I break them right away. But I did promise myself to try to have a great year before I graduate with my MA and have to start looking for a permanent job and figuring out my life.

What resolutions did you make?