Getting to work with two amazing crew members. Working and playing with Maciej and Amanda every day was a privileged and a pleasure. They are always full of positive energy, enthusiasm and know how. I miss you both.
The passengers who shaped the trips. I had passengers ask me why I still took pictures at destinations I had been to many times. I told them that every trip is different because every group of passengers is different. I love it when you stick around for late night chats/ dance sessions in the cook tent. When you come to the front of the coach and delved into deep conversations that made 3 hours pass in no time. When we count shooting stars whilst floating in the sea or you help out to make the trip smoother or funner. And those of you who have been in contact since. Thank you. You are why I do the job.
Seeing dolphins whilst sailing around some Greek islands. Amanda, Maciej and I went crazy. Squealing and exclaiming like children. ‘I can hear them! I can hear them!’ there is something incredibly magical about a dolphin and I imagine it is much the same for other very smart animals like elephants or Orangutan. It felt very special to be so close, like it was acknowledging us, just checking out who was in its sea before heading off to make sure they were ok with the other boats who were in its waters.
A day out in Dubrovnik where, due to feeling a little ill, I had to be convinced to make the excursion. I’m glad I did because Maciej and I went over to the island of Lokrum, just a 20 minute boat ride from the old port of Dubrovnik. The day was a glorious one and the sea was a stunning Mediterranean blue. The island itself is a nature reserve but in past times was the site of a fortress and a monastery now the only functioning permanent structures are restaurants and cafes. We spent the day strolling the many paths that criss cross all over the island. We encountered so many different terrains and garden, a wedding, peacocks, beaches, ruins and beautiful views everywhere. It is a must visit if coming to this city!
A day in Plitvice lakes. A UNESCO national park in Croatia. Amanda and I thought we would do the 4-6 hour walk (one of the middling ones). We wondered how slow you would have to be walking to drag another 2 hours onto the walking time but as soon as we stepped on to the walking track we discovered how.
The track itself was a wooden board walk that would not have looked out of place on the branches of the faraway tree. It skimmed the surface of a lake, one of the hundreds that were the sort of blue you find only in Microsoft screen savers and Caribbean brochures. It was flecked by small Gray fish with tips of bright orange on their fins and tails and all around us were flying dragonflies as big as my palm that sparkled dark sapphire blue in the sun. Amanda and I took so many pictures in the first 50 meters this it occurred to us that this was how the walk doubled in time.
A day in Budapest. A place I hadn’t been to for a long time and boy did we have a full day planned. The house of terror was #1 on my list and for anyone heading over to that city – GO GO GO. It is so important – the story it tells but also the way it is told. This is one of the best presented museums I have been to. It presents the story of Hungary whilst it was under fascist and communist dictatorial regimes in the 20th century and the exhibition is interactive, thought provoking and visually stimulating. GO.
After such a heavy morning we went to the Gellert Baths for some relaxation and fun. Hungary has over a thousand thermal springs dotted around the country. And Hungary has the most medicinal baths of any country in Europe. As a result thermal baths are a very popular past time. Gellert baths are the oldest in Budapest and are a very grand structure situated on the edge of the river, we bought a day pass for the standard baths and hired a towel and joined the young and old in the tepid baths. For the most part we laughed our way through the afternoon. When the security told us to get out of the big pool if we wern’t wearing bathing caps, when we ran to what we though was a hot tub only to discover that it was a freezing cold plunge pool, when the ‘adventure pool’ we had followed signs to was…. exactly the same as all the other pools…. and especially when we were the only two young girls in a sauna of old, serious men. Then we struggled to keep our chuckles in.
And then to finish the day Amanda took me to my first ruin bar, with all the passengers as well, where we smoked shisha pipes, drunk cider and danced with soft toys inside the re-furbished ruins of an old building. One of the best nights of the trip!
Once we were back at the crew house after the trip, Maciej made good on a promise he had been making for 34 days. We made Pierogi. Pierogi is polish for Dumpling and we made every part of it from scratch. From the dough which Maciej rolled with a wine bottle to the filling that I had hoped I had bought the right ingredients for (my instructions had just been ‘white cheese’) and for the filling and rolling of these tiny little parcels we got the help of several more polish drivers. Carol and Piotr were both excited about the taste of home and were happy to help, even when it became apparent that some of them had never done it before. After boiling and with just a bit of fried onion on top they were an amazing meal. I can safely say, I love Pierogi!