Year in Review: Travel through the 2017

It’s still January and in my head this month is attached to the last year more than to the current. This allows me to write my resolutions and review the past year. In December I caught myself thinking that I did not travel as much as I wanted to, but when I started remembering the exact trips, the year as a whole looked quite good. Maybe it was just the really bad time in Autumn, which hit me hard and made the rest of the year grey-ish.

Looking back at the things we have done this year does make me grateful not only for the trips themselves, but also for the idea of writing this blog. Before the blog the things we saw used to sink down my memory like some ships, so after a couple of years you could only see the highest points of them sticking out. Now at least some of it stays… well, remembered is not a good word for it. I write, and then I re-read and go like: “Oh, did that really happen? And have we seen that?”. So yeah, if not remembered, then at least documented.

(cover photo by Ramunas Petkevicius)

How do I describe the travels?

In addition to quickly presenting each trip, I decided to add a couple of extras to each of them.

  1. Highlight of the trip: not necessarily the absolute best, but some good moment, which got stuck in my mind.
  2. Reality check: Here I was a bit hesitant about the wording. I like to present my life and travels in a positive light, but on the other hand I am very much against filtering out the bad moments. I didn’t want to call it the “downside”, because sometimes (like in our February trip to London) it is merely a funny and slightly annoying inconvenience. And sometimes, like in our October trip to Turkey it is a major tragedy and much more than a downside to that particular trip (if anything, I will remember that one as a “downside” of my life in general). So yeah, just that you know that travel is not all about fun and living the dream, but all the aspects of reality, including the unpleasant ones.
  3. And finally, because it is a travel blog, I include a Related posts section, where you can read some more of my stories about that particular trip.

Let’s have a look at our year 2017 month by month!

January: Not much

Birstonas Spa in January
Birstonas Spa in January

In January there was snow, sledge rides, walks, birthday parties and women’s rights demonstrations. Our only short trip that month was to a SPA in Birstonas – a little resort town in Lithuania with thermal water springs.

Highlight of the trip: There was a relaxation room, where you could have a tea after your massage. I went to spent there half an hour without my phone, anyone to talk to and not much to think about.  It was probably the half an hour with the least stimulation I had in a whole year. Maybe I should repeat this unique experience once again this January. Let’s make this a yearly tradition!

Reality check: Mark actually had a fever the first half of our stay, so me, Zsolt and my parents took turns to stay with him in the room. He did have fun though and really enjoyed the second half.

Related posts: Nothing. I did not even have a blog back then!

February: London

Marylebone High Street in London, February
Marylebone High Street in London, February

It was the first time I was travelling alone with Mark. We stayed in London for a couple of weeks, and finally in a long time I felt like I really had enough time there. When I think back, there were so many good things about that trip:

  • Meeting my little god daughter for the first time.
  • Spending several days with my childhood (well, and adulthood) friend. When your friends are far away, you so often spend the whole meeting telling each other about the important events, which happened since your last meeting. And then it is time to part again. This was not one of those times. Suddenly we had all the time to discuss important and non-important things, or just be quiet for a while. And this was worth gold.
  • Celebrating my cousin’s birthday together probably for the first time in our lives. With high tea, which I also had the first time in my life.
  • Meeting my friends, who I have not seen for ages. Drinking endless cups of tea with them, having cakes, roasts, crumbles. Visiting their homes and meeting them in my favourite places in London.
  • Showing Mark the places I like in London, although he will never remember any of them from this time. But it was important, as London still does feel like home.
  • Living the spring. The flowers bloomed, the sun shone. In Lithuania spring got delayed, so having it for the whole two weeks in February was like winning a lottery.

Highlight of the trip: Taking a walk around the Marylebone High Street together with Mark and Zsolt on one of those couple of days he stayed with us there. We stopped for a coffee and sat there in the sunshine.

Reality check: Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours due to the storm. The last of those hours we had to spend stuck in a little space between the gate and the exit. There were so many people, that I could not even sit down, and there was not much air to breath. I had Mark in a carrier and kept feeding him baby biscuits to keep him from crying. But on the plane he could sleep, and I watched his sleep like a tiger.

Related posts: Hold on. The blog is still in its conception phase.

March-April: Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem in April
Jerusalem in April

First of all, this trip did not last two months, but only five days. Remembering it though, I would probably call this one the trip of the year. We went to the wedding of our friends in Jerusalem. Jerusalem – a city we had so many misconceptions and prejudices about, and which turned out to be so different from what we have imagined. Ever since our return I am thinking of going back there for longer.

Highlight of the trip: Coming out from the airport. Remember, we left in the middle of snowy winter and came out into the warm sunshine and the smell of orange blossom. So, we just went to the nearest lawn and sat under the palm tree, and I was happy touching the grass and finally seeing my friends, whom I missed so much.

Reality check: We were not familiar with how short the Israeli wedding can actually be. It started around 8 pm and after just 4 hours of awesomeness, touching moments, abundant food and wild dancing it was suddenly finished. Eastern European as we are, we somehow expected it to last for days. If I was fully aware that it was so short, I think we would really try to spend all our time fully present and let Mark stay up for the whole duration, instead of spending some time outside with him to let him have a nap (unsuccessfully anyway).

Related posts: There is one about Jerusalem, one about the food market Mahane Yehuda and one (and the most fun) about the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

May: Malia, Crete

Malia Crete in May
Malia Crete in May

April passed, Easter passed, but the winter-ish weather stayed on. I had enough and booked a last minute cheap trip to Malia, Crete with Mark and my parents. Had I known more about Malia’s reputation for drug parties, I would not have looked into that direction. But I knew nothing, did not do a proper research and was rewarded for my ignorance. In the beginning of May Malia is empty of the party goers and the clubs are still closed. Instead you get one of the best sandy beaches in Crete and other Cretan awesomeness.

Highlight of the trip: Going for a run along the sea, then taking of my clothes and jumping into the waves. I remember in the beginning finding the sand and salt everywhere including my hair annoying, but by the end of the week it felt so natural and even pleasant.

Reality check: Both Mark and I got bitten by mosquitoes so badly that other parents took their kids away from us, thinking it was chickenpox. Oh well!

Related posts: I really enjoyed looking around in Malia, and here are some things I have seen. Also, I do recommend off-season Malia to all the non-party-goers. And here is some more information about the hotel we stayed in.

May: Esztergom, Budapest, Tapioszele, Tapioszenmarton (Hungary), Vienna (Austria), Szczyrk, Lomza (Poland)

Prater in Vienna, May
Prater in Vienna, May

The next day after returning from Malia, we went on our usual Eastern European roadtrip. Zsolt comes from Hungary, and we currently live in Lithuania, so once in a while we jump in the car and go to visit our Hungarian home. And of course stop and visit some small towns on our way, which we would not go to otherwise.

Highlight of the trip: Total relaxation in the thermal baths of Tapioszenmarton. It is a small village in Eastern Hungary, where I was probably the only foreigner. They have some of the best thermal pools and some of the best langos (greasy and awesome pancake-like snack). And those two go so well together.

Reality check: We were driving for some 30+ hours with a toddler in the car. The best times were when Mark was asleep.

Related posts: We stopped for a night in Lomza and in the morning went around to explore a bit. Lomza was full of love.

June: Pavilnys

Pavilnys in June
Pavilnys in June

Oh, June was the month of staying at home. We had friends and family coming from abroad to stay with us. This was a month when I was so happy to be home that the whole idea of Pavilnys series was born. Check it out, if you haven’t done so already!

July: Anyksciai Treetop Path “Laju Takas”

Kavarsko koldunai cafe in Anyksciai, July
Famous Kavarsko koldunai cafe in Anyksciai, July

We actually continued with staying at home in July as well, but there was a short trip with our friends from Finland to Anyksciai, a town in Central Lithuania. We visited the treetop path, admired the view of the rivers and forests, and then went to the corn labyrinth and spend a good part of the day getting seriously lost in it.

Highlight of the trip: Just before we went to the treetop path, we stopped to have a little picnic with hot dogs. Mark had his first one and loved it. And for me it was so much fun to see him have something for the first time, even if it is just a junk food.

Reality check: We were 4 adults and 2 toddlers, and at times we struggled to synchronise nap times, eating times and sightseeing times. But it was really a minor issue.

Related posts: Anyksciai post is still in my drafts, although the year is already over. Feel free to shame me in the comments.

August: Curonian Spit

Mark in Curonian Spit dunes in August
Mark in Curonian Spit dunes in August

We went to Nida by train to visit our friends and stayed a couple of days longer. Mark loved the train and was afraid of the sea. And Zsolt and I were once again (as each time there) taken by surprise, how beautiful a landscape can actually be. If you ask me to name just one place in the world, which I found the most beautiful, it would be the Curonian Spit.

Highlight of the trip: Cycling from Nida to Pervalka to visit our friend’s pop up pizzeria and then back, stopping to watch the sunset by the sea. Some 20 windy awesome kilometers and Mark’s first bike ride as a passenger.

Reality check: The weather at the seaside in Lithuania is a lottery – meaning you gamble a lot and win once in a blue moon. We did not win this one, as the good weather ended the day we arrived. It did not take away the beauty though. Also, I mixed up the dates and bought us wrong train tickets. So we ended up paying double and sitting next to the toilet for 3 hours. Oh yeah, this and many other things I don’t write about as a travel blogger…

Related posts: After our visit I was very inspired to share the Curonian spit with the rest of the world, so here you have a list of reasons to come here in summer. And also a little tip on where to stay while in Nida.

September: Brussels

Brussels in September
Brussels in September

This was my first work trip since I had Mark (so, in over 1.5 years). It felt heartbreaking to say goodbye and walk away in the airport, but as I continued walking another feeling added up. As if I was myself again, as if some part, which I had lost for a while was back. Will other parents understand me? And I did enjoy it. We had a half day off, and it was surprisingly a very sunny and warm half a day.

Highlight of the trip: During the conference I met a girl and we decided to walk around the city together. While we walked, she told me a story of her family, which I am not yet ready to share. But the story came so deep into my head that sooner or later I will have to write it down.

Reality check: The hotel I stayed in was probably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in. There are many things wrong about it and it was a pleasure to leave it after two nights.

Related posts: If you are curious about which hotel to avoid in Brussels, this is the one. But let’s focus on the good things. Are you in Brussels for just a half a day? See everything and don’t forget to taste some chocolate.

September: Bialystok

Bialystok evening in September
Bialystok evening in September

If you say that you are going to Bialystok to Lithuanians, most people would assume you are going there shopping. True, some things are cheaper in Poland. So when we needed to get a tent, sleeping bags and some winter clothes for Mark, we decided to do our frugal trip to Bialystok. But pure shopping is boring, so we decided to combine it with some sightseeing and stayed there for the whole weekend. Which, as we found out once there, was not enough.

Highlight of the trip: Meeting the locals Pier and Monika for some stories, beer and lemonade.

Reality check: Ah, we were a little bit nervous. We forgot Mark’s passport at home, and although there is no border control, you can be stopped for a check. Luckily, it all ended well.

Related posts: Having visited some small Eastern European towns, I already knew that the most interesting things in them are normally hidden from plain sight. You need someone to open up the place for you. So I searched and Facebook-ed and finally found the locals, who told me about their Bialystok.

October: Belek, Turkey

Rixos Premium Belek Turkey, October
Rixos Premium Belek Turkey, October

This was a funny one. Last year (meaning 2016) in October my aunt called me and asked, whether we would like to join them in going to Turkey for an all inclusive holiday in a year’s time. All inclusive has not been our thing, but my aunt is definitely an expert in this field. So we decided to give it a go and booked the same package. We did enjoy having the family around and also the all inclusive part of it: going to the gym, art classes and of course having endless meals and drinks. During that trip we also followed our toddler’s sleeping schedule. This strategy made this the most relaxing trip we had in our lifetime.

Highlight of the trip: Sitting at the beach, watching the sea, feeling the sun on my skin. Because guess what? It is already snowing again in Lithuania! Feeling almost happy.

Reality check: Where do I begin? In the evening before our flight my doctor informed me that I was having a missed miscarriage. So together with most of the pregnancy symptoms I felt one of the biggest sorrows I ever felt in my life. In a way all that week was a roller coaster of feeling almost normal to wishing to wake up from this nightmare.

Related posts: Here is the one on miscarriage. And another on the hotel where we were staying.

And from here it gets a bit repetitive, but we just wanted to revisit the best ones from this year 😉 Joking.

November: London (again)

Hyde Park London in November
Hyde Park London in November

I was planning to stay in London for almost a month with Mark, to repeat the fun we had there in March. Unfortunately, the events turned very differently this time, and it got to be only a week instead.

Highlight of the trip: I was a proper blogger! I was invited to attend the World Travel Market and selected to participate in the speed networking for 100 influencers from all over the world. It was fantastic and rather overwhelming, and I hope to come back next year in a much better mood.

Reality check: Sadly, rather many. I was still having my missed miscarriage, waiting for the surgery. Mark got ill with the hand, foot and mouth desease, which we had apparently brought with us from Turkey. He managed to smitten my little god daughter right before her first birthday. Wizzair cancelled my flight, and I took it as a sign and booked an earlier flight home to finally end this sickness and misery time, have my surgery, heal Mark and get on with our lives.

Related posts: None!

December: Brussels (again)

Christmas at Grand Place, Brussels
Christmas at Grand Place, Brussels

Can you imagine me going to Brussels for fun for the second time during one season? No, me neither. So it was another work trip, and this time I was really looking forward to it. The only problem: it started to snow the night before and Brussels airport closed down. The conference I was flying to lost more than a half of its participants, but I finally made it there and enjoyed Christmas Brussels a lot.

Highlight of the trip: There were two! After work I went out to the Grand Place and saw Christmas Tree and the lights. There was a live orchestra playing Shostakovich – the same waltz my husband and I were dancing to at our wedding. The square was so beautiful! And the other one was a message from a friend from another country, who had a connecting flight in Brussels and could meet me for a morning coffee.

Reality check: Getting up at 3 am to get to the airport to fly to Riga, to then fly to Brussels to arrive straight to the conference after 5 hours of travel – that was not fun.

December: Eastern European Christmas Roadtrip (again)

Buda Castle in Budapest, December
Buda Castle in Budapest, December

Coming home for Christmas is double fun, when you have two homes (Lithuania and Hungary) and celebrate two Christmases (25th December and 7th January). So, this is what we did. We went to Zsolt’s town to celebrate with his relatives and stopped in Budapest for a couple of days. But in addition to that we also planned and stopped for sightseeing, coffees and meals in small towns on our way in Rzeszow, Kosice, Tapioszele, Budapest, Trencin and others.

Highlight of the trip: Kosice! I imagined it as a small sad town, full of Soviet blocks of flats and factories. It turned out the opposite – lively, beautiful and full of small details I liked. I am definitely coming back!

Reality check: Driving through the snow and ice is not easy. It took us almost 6 hours instead of planned 3 and all Zsolt’s concentration to make it to Bialystok. From there it was clear.

Related posts: Oh, come on, it is so recent. Still working on those.

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