Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Travel tip: Mauritius

Everyone who follows me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram will have realised already that I spent my summer vacation not in Europe this year, but instead traveled to Mauritius. A 12-hour flight separates me currently from this tropical paradise where I celebrated my birthday with my parents and one of my best friends. Mauritius combined everything I wanted. Warm weather, sandy beaches with palm trees, crystal clear water, snorkelling opportunities but also interesting places to visit on the actual island - something I was missing when I looked into the Maldives.

Want a drink?

What I did not expect was the endless friendliness of the people living and working there. Especially after this trip, I feel like most European cities or vacation hotspots are so fed up with tourists, that you will always have at least one unpleasant encounter during a 2-week stay. Here, this was absolutely not the case. From hotel staff, taxi drivers to locals. Never were we talked to or treated in a rude manner. Everyone was so welcoming and in a good mood. Even the man working on a construction site who noticed that my friend and I were walking around looking for a geocache, stopped his work to show us where to go and chat with us. In Europe, we certainly would have been chased away. The extraordinary part here was that this friendliness never felt fake, as you can usually tell when people are paid for being nice to you. Here, it truly felt like it came from the heart and that's what makes me want to go back more than the climate, landscape and wildlife - although those are definitely a plus.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo has been sitting on my to-read list since I read the very hyped "Six of Crows" novel last year without knowing that there was an entire trilogy set in this world already. While some people claim that you can read "Six of Crows" without reading the other books first, I somewhat disagree. Sure, you can follow the basic story, but you're lacking background information about the way the society works in the so-called Grishaverse. There are several clues to the first trilogy in "Six of Crows", so if you're just considering giving these novels a try, start with "Shadow and Bone".

The Grishaverse is split into 5 countries, Novyi-Zem, Kerch, Fjerda, Ravka and Shu Han. Each country seems to have a different attitude towards Grisha, people with magical powers. The Grisha themselves are separated into three orders: Corporalki (healing but also altering or damaging a body), Etheralki (power of fire, water or wind) and Materialki (power to create items from solid materials or to create poisons or blasting powders). While young children are screened for such powers systematically in Ravka and then brought to a sort of boarding school called "The little palace" to train, Grisha are persecuted by witch hunters in Fjerda. Novyi-Zem and the Kerch are separated from the other three countries by an ocean, but the remaining three countries face the threat of an area named "The Unsea" or "The fold". Especially Ravka has problems keeping up trade as this dangerous area separates the country in half. The Unsea is an area without light, filled with aggressive creatures called "Volcra", which will attack and kill every person who tries to cross the Fold. The only thing that scares them off is light.

So you can imagine how enthusiastic people are about traveling through there. Mal and Alina are part of the same expedition, trying to pass through. They know each other since they were little children and grew up together in an orphanage after their parents passed. Although they both tested negative in the screening for Grisha powers, Mal became a very talented tracker and works for the military, whereas Alina has become a mapmaker. When they convoy is attacked by Volcra, Alina passes out, but miraculously survives. Without being properly explained to what has happened, the leader of the Grisha, the Darkling, orders her transportation to the Little Palace. The urgency of the situation must have triggered something in Alina, making her the most promising Grisha of all - a light summoner.
The only trouble is, she cannot summon light at her own will.  Her arrival at the Little Palace, where children much younger than her were educated for years, comes with a lot of frustration, a harsh adaption phase to a completely different society and scheming by power-hungry people. The isolation from Mal, who also survived the attack, and the Darkling's obvious interest in her doesn't help. Alina is still struggling to find out where her place in this world is when she is already caught up in political schemes, which might lead to a new war in Ravka...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Travel Tips: London

This post is as a collection of tips and tricks based on my experience after three trips to London with the first being in 2014 and the last just a few weeks ago. That being said, the following information is no replacement for a good guidebook, like the one by Lonely Planet. As this is most likely the longest post I've ever written, feel free to use the links below to jump to the section you're interested in.

General information (Tube, food, London Card,...)
Musicals & Theatre
Viewing platforms
Sights associated with the British Royals
Westminster area

All publicly shared pictures from my London trips can be found here and here.

General information

Underground station at Picadilly Circus