All Posts By

Hela

Tulips of many colors
Netherlands

Keukenhof – a Tulip Dream

I had a dream. A dream of spring. A dream of tulip fields in bloom below trees green with newleaves. A dream of a flower haven where you can walk on paths in the midst of beauty which takesyour breath away. A dream of waking spring in the midst of explosion of colour. A dream of myself, alone with magnificent nature. I wanted to visit Keukenhof. And now we are here. In a massive carpark where buses spit out crowds of visitors. An endless queuestretches to the gates and behind them there is some awful circus music being played. It’s socrowded that you cannot move. Is this what I dreamed about? We quickly slip inside because we cleverly bought tickets in advance on the internet. Due to thecrowds I feel slightly dazed. This is not my spring dream! This is overcrowded chaos! I feel cheated. Keukenhof. The biggest spring garden in the whole of Europe. In the 15th century there used to bethe kitchen garden of the Teylingen Castle. The foundation of the park was laid down in 1857 bygarden architects Jan David Zocher and his son Luis Paul Zocher, when they designed the currentEnglish style garden. The current Keukenhof […]

Continue Reading

Netherlands

A Doll’s House and Hordes of Black-Eyed Rabbits

Amsterdam, five am, just before daybreak. I have no idea what made me run out here after waking up suddenly. I am standing outside with stockinged feet, listening to the bird song. The whole quarter is still asleep, and the air smells of adventure. We are staying in a doll’s house. It is pieced together from modules that look like several transport containers stuck together. There is a small garden with a wildly blossoming magnolia. In the draw of my bedside table, I was welcomed by a real Amsterdam joint, a little something from the landlords? ‘Our quarter’ seems to be inhabited mainly by Indians. On our walk, we found that nearly every garden has a statue of Buddha. In a local supermarket full of Indian specialties, we bought some flat cakes stuffed with cheese. I don’t know what they are called, but they were truly delicious. The doll’s house is a small hotel. It has three rooms. We rented two of them – one for Ben and me and one for his mum. Have I mentioned yet that we went to the Netherlands with Ben’s mum? It was by a complete coincidence. I desperately wanted to see Keukenhof in […]

Continue Reading

a paper boat next to a big ship in the sunset
Thoughts

You Kill Your Dreams When They Come True

I was standing in the middle of Champs Elysées, thinking, “What am I doing here?” It was a tropical day and the crowds of passer-byes were becoming oppressive. I was thirsty. My chronic pain flared up. And, the worst of it all: I was discovering that Paris was a city, not a dream. There were buildings, and shops, and people, and a road full of car traffic, just like everywhere else… even if at the end of the road stood the Arc de Triomphe. I somehow never imagined cars on Champs Elysées. When I was dreaming of Paris, I never imagined any of this. I had a hazy image in my mind — an impression of the Eiffel Tower, majestic in the springtime; of charming little cafés lining the streets, of flowers and sweet croissants and breathtaking views… of something profoundly enchanted and romantic. More a feeling than a place. Something fleeting. Something beautiful. Somehow, I never imagined it being a real place, something from the ordinary life and not from a fairy tale. And yet, it was. Real, solid, filled with people and noise, and sometimes rubbish and smell, like any other city under the sun. In your dreams, […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Saying Goodbye to Tenerife

The end of our stay was suddenly here… But I wouldn’t be me if I did not find a way to make it more exciting. It is enough to, while paying for a taxi, drop your purse with your ID card. With the resignation of an experienced trouble magnet, I concluded that the best solution would be to go with Ben to have a glass of sangria and return home the next day on my passport which I had luckily left in our accommodation. Maybe I got caught in the local culture “Relax, no problem”. And then all what was left was to enjoy the beautiful sunny day, go for the last time to the coastal restaurant, bathe in the lagoons, enjoy the sunset on a beach, which Agatha Christie used to visit … pack and get up at three o’clock in the morning to catch a flight back. Brr! Though the sunrise above the sea at the last look from the plane window before it lift off was gorgeous…

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Sledding under the Palm Trees

In a small coastal town Icod de los Vinos there supposedly grows the eldest tree on the island, Dracaena draco known as Drago Millenario. According to a legend it is thousand years old, in reality probably ‘only’ about six hundred. In the evening when we were returning from our trip to Anaga, Ben took a wrong turn on one of the local roundabouts, and instead of to Puerto, we were suddenly heading to Icod. I joked that I would like to visit Icod and I was surprised when Ben forthwith took me up on it. It was great – there was some festival on and we saw something which stunned us – children sledding on wooden planks down the road. In subtropics! One of the sharply sloping streets was closed for traffic, children at the top waxed their plank and rode down to a pile of tires. The adults cheered and occasionally also rode. I really wanted to have a plank so I could try it. They did not allow us into the park with the famous Draceana as it was already ten minutes to closing time but the gentleman in the ticket office advised us that we could see […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Anaga: Here Take a Deep Breath

The mountain range of Anaga, which is a thousand meters above sea level is a completely different world to the coastline of Tenerife – damp, cold, foggy, lush woodland, and has many spectacular views. Also many serpentines on which you can avoid a car in the opposite direction only at passing spaces. It is both beautiful and stomach-churning. Anaga is lined with miradores – places you can stop and feast your eyes on views of the landscape. At the first one, we couldn’t resist and stopped, although it was starting to rain. Despite the rain, a small, merry group collected there and we were surrounded by cheerful Spanish from all sides. In a van changed into a food stand you can buy all sorts of delicacies. We also couldn’t resist them 🙂 Our journey lead to Cruz del Carmen where several marked trails start. You can find also a mirador, a large but overflowing carpark (we luckily just managed to fit in), a supposedly good but also overflowing restaurant (we didn’t manage to get in) and a stand with refreshments and souvenirs. The stand apart from the usual tourist selection also offered some unusual merchandise: raincoats, anoraks and waterproof trousers… […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

The Most Beautiful House in Orotava

After we instead of visiting water mills accidentally viewed quaint houses in the top part of Orotava, we then headed to another interesting place: Casa de los Balcones. It is a beautiful old house from the 17th century in the colonial style with a picturesque patio, where you can sit on a bench surrounded by greenery, look into palm tree tops, listen to the gurgling of the fountain and relax. I was only sorry for the birds in cages, who accompanied the sound of falling water with their warbling. All over the patio there are placed curiosities with relation to the history of the Canary Islands – from examples of lace products through richly decorated national costumes of single islands to historical apparatus like a wine press or an old distilling device. The last was used in the house to gain drinkable water. If you can speak English or Spanish, you can rent audio guides at the ticket office with a short explanation of each of the curiosities. For one euro you can also buy a photography permit, which I made thorough use of. Entry to the patio itself is free. The most interesting part of the house was the […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Water Mills in Orotava

“Water mills? I want to see them!” enthused Ben over the Tenerife guide. Demonstration of how local water mills – molinos de agua – work, sounded very tempting. For years they had been making flour, called Gofio, from roasted cereals. Historically one of the Canary Islands fundamental foods, which is still used to prepare all sorts of stuff – from soups through porridges to desserts. If we wanted to see the water mills in action we would have to hurry, because the opening time should have finished soon. And so we got on our way – more like sprinted out – on our first trip to the valley of Orotava, a little town about half an hour drive from Puerto de la Cruz. The first problem we encountered was that the mills we were looking for were not actually in the valley. We parked in the middle of the town and headed up, up and further up, until, out of breath, we reached nearly the top of the hill from which there was a view of the Orotava houses spreading all the way to the sea. While the view was very nice there was no trace of any water mills […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Experiment of the Spanish King – The Botanical Garden in Puerto

One of the things that caught my attention in Puerto was the local botanical garden. It is the oldest tourist attraction there. It was founded in 1788 by Spanish King Charles III as an ambitious attempt to acclimatize tropical plants from all over the world to the local climate and then repeat the same process again in Madrid. The first step of the plan was successful, the second wasn’t. So there is in Tenerife a garden full of various beautiful and bizarre plants. The park is dominated by a giant rubber tree with loads of air roots and intertwined stems. It is as big as several trees beside each other, a very imposing view. (When Ben saw it he said that we were definitely not getting a rubber tree at home because he was worried that it would strangle him while he was asleep.) While walking the paths surrounded by lush greenery I felt like I was in a jungle. Where ever I looked there was something to see – one plant more peculiar than another. Cinnamons, fig-trees, pipers, coffee plants, araucarias… And what about this egg-shaped fruit? I see, breadfruit! And many other curious trees and bushes, I had […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Water Garden and searching for Black Swans

In Puerto de la Cruz there are many places to explore. The place that impressed me the most I ran into by complete chance. On that day I had gone to visit the Taoro Park but, as it usually happens, I was tempted by a pleasant-looking path lined with flowering bushes. And so I decided to find out where it would lead me… When I got to the end, I felt as if I had found myself in a world of elves and fairies. On the green lawn among palm trees, flowering bushes, and fruit trees with a fantastic view of the sea there were scattered chairs and tables. The place was deserted, only at one table there was a man quietly reading and a black swan strolled around the pond. I picked a scenic place near the water and sat down as well. After a little bit, the man got up, approached me without hurry and asked me what I would like. From that, I understood I was not in somebody’s garden but in a café. I ordered tea. A bit later an elderly British couple arrived. They sat at one of the tables and ordered a cake. The […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

Tenerife Moments

During the winter in Europe, the Canary Islands are more like late spring than the tropics – in December the temperature was around 23°, half of the time sunny. The wind gets crazy sometimes – when we arrived I thought the surrounding palm trees were preparing for lift-off, they waved in the wind so much. The air there has a strange, sweet-salty flower-sea scent. I haven’t experienced anything like that anywhere else. Tenerife is a volcanic island and so it is, although small, very mountainous. According to the altitude and position in relation to the mountains, you can within short interval enter various microworlds with completely different weather and plants. The north coast is quite green because the mountains in the center catch rain clouds. The south used to be a desert, warmer and sunnier. Gradually with the arrival of tourism, the south has been covered with seaside resorts which, thanks to the planting of new trees and plants, has changed the climate of the island so much that the difference between the north and the south is not as big any more. We stayed in the north at Puerto de la Cruz because when I had seen Tenerife pictures […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

How (not) to rent a car in Tenerife

We got off the plane at Tenerife – South Airport shortly before midnight. In front of us was a long bus journey to Puerto de la Cruz on the other side of the island. A bus had just left and the next one wasn’t due for another hour. When planning the trip, we had thought of renting a car but found out that when one of us didn’t drive and the other had a driving license only for three months, it was not possible. I became reconciled to depending on buses. Ben had not. As I began nodding off in the middle of our luggage he disappeared and then reappeared triumphantly waving car keys above his head. It appears he had simply walked up to the nearest car rental desk, presented his driving license and ID card, and waited to see what would happen. What happened was that the Spanish official was not able – or could not be bothered to decipher Czech documents. So Ben, after narrowly preventing the man at the desk putting the name of Ben’s place of birth down as his surname on the form, scooped up the car keys along with instruction telling him to […]

Continue Reading

Tenerife

How (not) to catch a plane to Tenerife

Have we been sitting here too long? I wondered as I sat with a pile of luggage in Berlin airport. The departure gate still showed no signs of activity, nearly twenty minutes after it should have closed. It hadn’t even opened yet… There was no announcement of a delay either… Wait a minute, something must be wrong. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Sometime earlier I had gone looking for the toilets and about halfway there Ben had gesticulated to me to have a look if the number of our gate was up yet. I had glanced quickly at the departure board but was more concerned with other pressing matters. “Nine!” I shouted back and set off to follow the call of nature. I didn’t think about it any further. But now, after sitting for three-quarters of an hour in front of Gate 9, I suddenly got a petrifying thought: “Ben … Are we waiting at the correct gate?” Ben turned mildly green and sprinted off to check the departure board. Immediately he was back, grabbed a rucksack, and only said: “Let’s run!” And so we ran. Across the whole length of the extensive Schönefeld airport to gate 63, all the […]

Continue Reading