Endlich wieder unterwegs!

Angekommen in Lettland. Lettland hat einen besonderen Status für mich auf dieser Reise. Es ist das einzige Land, dessen Sprache ich beherrsche, oder beherrschte, und wo ich schon einmal lebte. 2009/2010, also mit 16 Jahren, habe ich in einem Vorort von Riga für ein Jahr bei einer Gastfamilie gelebt und bin hier zur Schule gegangen (Nachlesen kann man das auf meinem Austauschjahrblog http://liljainlettland.twoday.net/ – Großes solltet ihr allerdings nicht erwarten, behaltet im Hinterkopf das ich 16 Jahre alt war und für Familie und Freunde schrieb.) Es war kein einfaches Jahr für mich und mein Verhältnis zu Lettland ist etwas gespalten. Einerseits liebe ich die Sprache und die Natur sehr, andererseits fiel es mir sehr, sehr schwer in Lettland Freunde zu finden und mich einzuleben. Nach Lettland zurück wollte ich vor allem um das Land noch einmal anders kennenzulernen und um den Vorteil, die Landessprache zu sprechen, für mein Projekt zu nutzen.

Viesgimene2009Mit 16 Jahren im Kreise meiner lettischen Gastfamilie.

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Little House On The Prairie

As the ferry docked at the port of Piraeus, I awoke from a short night of sleep on the carpeted floor of the ferry and looked around; the days had merged. Had it been dark between departure and arrival at all? I shouldered my backpack, rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to get my bearings. Two phone numbers and “Korinthos”, the name of a railway station, were written on the little piece of paper that I held in my hand. After almost eight month of traveling, I’m an expert in asking for directions and finding trains. Even through the blistering midday heat, I succeeded in transferring to another train in an abandoned station. I arrived in Korinthos a little early and I found myself alone on the platform. A man appeared and asked me if I needed help. I declined and tried to explain him that I would be picked up immediately. He didn’t leave my side until I told him that it was my boyfriend who was on his way to pick me up. He disappeared from my view and I thought to myself that if he was still in the station, he must have been terribly confused when my ride became visible moments later. The man who emerged from a battered blue compact car and greeted me was about fifty years old. The hand he extended out to me as a welcome was cracked and dusty and he was wearing a baggy shirt with some holes in it and his pants were caked with earth. The man smiled warmly and introduced himself as Konstantin.

SAM_0402The Korinthos canal, just a few minutes driving by bike from the farm

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Another Story from Crisan

Something you wouldn’t noticed while just strolling through Crisan is the kindergarten. The small white house looks just like the other small white houses around. And even if you’d identify it as a kindergarten it would not surprise you to see a swing and a slide in it’s backyard. Well, for the people in Crisan a slide and swing isn’t something they take as given.

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Europe is my girlfriend, Tunisia is my mother.

den deutschen (gleichen) Post findet ihr weiter unten! German post is one below

Ahmed walks fast, sometimes I can not follow quick enough and then it takes a while until he notices and stops. We walk through the Calanques. This is a protected area a few miles outside of Marseille. In the summer it will be very crowded here, today no one is here. Typically for Marseille the wind blows hard. It messes with the bushes and sometimes it pushes me so hard in the back that I feel like I don’t have to walk anymore.

There is a lot of silence between Ahmed and me. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with it and desperately try to find something to talk about. I’m the guest, I have to be entertaining.
The Calanques are huge rocks, a bit like I imagine the Rocky Mountains. At the foot of the cliffs is a bay with flat stones where the whole of Marseille gets sunburned in the Summer. The descent is steep and sometimes I slip on loose rocks. Once or twice I fall down, every time Ahmed turns around and asks if everything is ok. I’m glad he never tries to take my hand to help me.
At the bottom, the wind whips us against the swirling water. Vast swaths of small droplets drive up the mountains. We meet a couple from South Africa. Somehow we get talking and I tell them that I know Ahmed and Marseille only since a few days. The woman is surprised. “You seem like old friends,” she says. From this moment on, I can enjoy the scenery in silence. For old friends you don’t have to put on a show.

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The story of a successful failure

The moment I told people that I want to visit Marseille everybody tried to convince me to not go. According to most people in Brussels, Paris and Mulhouse, Marseille is the worst city in Europe. Believing them, you can’t cross a zebra without getting raped there. Some of you maybe read my “Nimm dich in Acht Mädchen” Post. It’s about an awkward encounter in Paris. As a woman traveling alone I learned to be careful. Luckily I had very few dangerous situations. Though I can’t stand men whistling, trying to touch me or talk to me on the streets anymore.

I though Marseille has to be like running the gauntlet all the time. Because of all the stories I was scared as hell when I arrived. Usually I get lost in every new city. I just walk to get to know my surrounding and mostly I find my way back after a while. In Marseille I spend my first week walking exactly planned routes and having no eyes for what happens around me. I felt lost and unsure.
Maybe it would have helped to stay at a locals home and have somebody who shows me the city from another angle. But for the first time in my life Couchsurfing completely failed. Two hosts canceled on me in the very last second, so I had no chance but staying in a Hostel. The “Hello Marseille” Hostel is great and I enjoyed my stay their at the fullest.
But still, How should I ever meet people if I just hide in a Hostel?

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the beautiful city with the bad reputation

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You know, I really don’t like Front National but…

 

they want to protect us. Nobody else does so.

I heard these words so often. No couchsurfer, local or traveler I met would ever vote for Front National, that’s what they say first. And than they say: But at least they want to protect us. You know, no one else cares about the Frensh people and our economy. Nobody helps if all the industrie goes to China and when you can’t buy anything else but Chinese products because French products are too expensive. Continue reading

All alone or all together?

Tatjana Ždanokas office is the office of an old lady. She needs more than five tries until she finally manages to pick up her smart-phone. Her assistant is ill today, she seems to be helpless without her. Every time I visit the Parliament to interview MEPs, their assistants come down to the lobby, sign me in and guide me through the security check. Today, Mrs. Ždanoka comes down to the lobby herself and somehow she seems to be lost between all the young assistants, moving faster than her and knowing better what to do.

Her office is located at the very end of a corridor. Posters of Scotland and Catalonia decorate the walls. Mrs. Ždanoka is a member of the “European Free Alliance Group” which stands for the self-determination of the regions in Europe. But what Mrs. Ždanokas really cares about are the stateless Russian speaking people in Latvia. In our talk later she will always come back to them, no matter the topic. The whole corridor and her office are really quiet. Since her office is located at the building’s corner I would have loved to check the view but all windows are closed with white curtains. Just artificial light illuminates the room.

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There is nearly none square centimeter of plain white wall in her office. All is covered with pictures of Russian orthodox saints. The handout “Introduction to the European Free Alliance Group” tells me that one of Mrs. Ždanoka’s hobbies is knitting, so I guess that the colorful, a little kitschy, embroidered landscapes in-between are self made. She wears a colorful, fuzzy cardigan. She is over sixty years, so far the oldest MEP I interviewed. Her Russian accent reminds me of an old lady I baked cookies with in a kitchen with streamed windows in Latvia.

But even though Mrs. Ždanoka might look like a grandmother baking cookies for her grandchildren she isn’t harmless. Her opinion isn’t quite usual here in Brussels and during the long talk she gives me exactly what I’m searching for: Her vision for Europe. Continue reading