Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicago - underrated destination

Have a glance at Chicago's charm... CLICK HERE

In my humble opinion, Chicago is one of few quite underrated American destinations. Travelers go to New York, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles...the National parks...and very often miss the gem of the mid-west ... The Windy City.

I've been in love with Chicago ever since I first set foot there on 25th December 1999. Well, the story started much earlier, when I was 6 y.o. and my teacher was telling us about this amazing city far across the ocean, where the buildings are so tall that if you look up to the top, your hat will fall...

I take my hat off to you, Chicago!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My first trip to Japan (Part 2)

Day 1, 22 March 2001, The Departure

The night before my early morning flight, I didn't go to bed. It's my way of fighting jet-lag. A colleague took me to the Tucson airport before the first signs of dawn. To depart when everybody is still sleeping, and the Sun is still below the horizon, is a magical experience. I'm calm and I smile...the morning is full of hope! I feel like a tiger who lies low right before attacking the prey. I feel strong!
I'm changing flights in Los Angeles and Portland before I head to Nagoya. Portland makes me's been a year of daily encounters with palm trees and cacti, I am missing having normal trees around me. I'm missing the birches I planted with my Dad in front of our home in Bulgaria, the walnut threes on the street, the maples in the park... But I'm in good spirits! Flight was smooth and uneventful. What more can you ask for! Next to me was a 15-16 y.o. girl on her way to visit her sister in Osaka. That was the first flight abroad, ever, and she was obviously nervous...if not terrified. I tried to calm her a bit and felt good about myself. After a couple of trans-Atlantic flights under my belt, crossing the Pacific didn't seem to impress me.
At last, we are landing. I'm going through passport control in no time. The customs officer decides to inspect my rather large suitcase and finds the 'rain prayer stick' - a Native American souvenir. He was obviously not please to see it...after all, in Japan people use dehumidifiers, thus how is a 'rain prayer stick' a good thing...
In the last minute of packing, I threw my underwear on top of everything else in the suitcase, and that turned out to be a good thing (for me)...because out of embarrassment at the sight of my lace undies and bras, the officer didn't dig deep enough to find the tin with Bulgarian feta cheese - purchased in the US and brought as a 'special' gift to my friend who has not had any Bulgarian food in over two years.
At the end I am through and ... here is Diana, smiling in disbelieve that I'm in front of her, after 4 years of separation, a Bulgarian friend arriving from America. Nevertheless, she is holding a camera and ready to photo-document my first steps on Japanese land. Moving! She has also brought me a box of candies, a traditional Japanese 'Welcome!' present. The box is tiny, dark blue color, with two white and light blue roses on top. So pretty!
The unbelievable is now a fact - I am in Japan!!!
And then the action starts - is that the right bus to Okazaki? did we buy the right ticket from the vending machine? are we waiting at the right platform?...the Japanese writing is so...confusing!!! And there is barely any English signs at the bus station. Luckily, we made it ok to Okazaki, the small provincial town where Diana has lived in the last couple of years, and which I had heard so much about...and not much flattering things. From the main bus station we are taking a smaller bus to get to Diana's apartment. The bus is very narrow, but the streets seem even narrower - a bus and a car can not just pass each other like has to pull over! And then continue on. Despite the need of the described maneuver, each road has two lanes and they are well marked with blue reflectors on the road.
Finally we arrive at the small apartment where Diana's husband Rado, and Kliment - her son, are patiently waiting! Sigh!
First thing first, we all have green tea - full of antioxidants (trying to live forever? ha!).Then it's time to unpack the suitcase. An abundance of presents is putting smiles on everyone's face. Rado is overwhelmed to get the book on airplanes he so much wanted to have, but didn't dare buy because it was ridiculously overpriced in Japan. Kliment is happy with the toys and the candy! Diana doesn't even want to look at hers, I am her present for today, the others will be unwrapped tomorrow. OK, fine!
Before we know it, it's time to sleep.
So it is true - we all would be sleeping on the floor. We unfold and place the thin sleeping mats on top of the 'tatami' - traditional rice straw flooring providing some extra softness. At the morning the mats will be folded again and tucked in the closet...and so on every day! The legless chairs and 30cm tall table are moved into the corner to free some space for the mats. Everything is so an Asian Lego world...incredible! I start feeling like a giant!
We soon doze off...we need the rest...tomorrow is Kliment's Birthday and there is gonna be a party! My first party in Japan! be continued...

Monday, November 8, 2010

My first trip to Japan (Part 1)

A multitude of reasons sent me on my first trip to Japan. Many people and events intertwined making it impossible to pinpoint what actually started it all. Was it out of curiosity what I would see? Was I hoping to gain some wisdom along the way? Or was I just tired...and seeking an escape from reality? Regardless of the tipping story goes like that...

A few years earlier I became a Reiki practitioner - a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. Mikao Usui, a japanese buddhist started it, and I wanted to go to his land, to submerge in his culture, the culture of Asia - so much spoken of, yet, perceived differently by each of us.
Shiatsu is another Japanese alternative medicine approach I'm very fond of - one that treats the reasons for an illness, not the subsequences...How wise!
My love for nature and beauty lead me to Ikebana- the Japanese art of flower arrangements...
Further on, Origami - the Japanese art of paper folding, which is as much fun as creating beauty...

The people involved in this trip are a few...
Diana - best of friend without which my first months in Tucson, AZ would have been unbearable, but with some kindness and a few jokes, she made it all much easier.
Keita - my Japanese boyfriend at the time, who taught me to accept our cultural differences and to love him despite not always understanding him.
Saori - a quite Japanese girl, who was always willing to hear my problems, yet never shared hers. And I'm sure she had some too.

With an on-going divorce at the time too, I went to the beginning of the day, to the land of the Rising Sun, hoping I'll find what was missing... tiny pebbles to fill the mosaic of my days, in a more harmonious way, with more light and hope in the future... be continued...

Friday, November 5, 2010


It must be totally random who and how ends up reading my blogs... outside of my circle of friends, that is.
But it is always such a great feeling to find out that someone you don't know - next door or perhaps across thousands for miles, has read a story you wrote and enjoyed it! Because I like to share the good times...

In an attempt to reach more travel lovers and share amazing travel experiences ... I joined Twitter.
So now I'm not only a Globe-Trotter, but a Globe-Twitter too :)

Photo: Bataviawerf Twitter, 28 September 2010 (

ps. Roel, thanks for spotting the typo! :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Love Travel

There are many things that I find fun to do and intriguing to learn about.

However, the one thing that I have grand passion for is travel.

To me, travel could be as multifaceted and vibrant as you would want it to be.

I truly enjoy traveling in any of its many variations.

This blog is about sharing my passion...