Τρίτη, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Bucharest, Romania - The Podstel Experience

There comes a time when you meet your tribe.
The travellers.
People who are not scared to step out of their comfort zone.
People who go to places where others say it's dangerous, creepy, unfriendly, stereotyped...

The Podstel experience was a tribe gathering. A man and his peers who dared to travel around the world and then invited all the people he met where he was at a time: Bucharest, Romania.

I'll start by telling you my story involving these guys.
When I was living in Greece, I used Couchsurfing to meet travellers. I offered them a bed, a shower and a day trip to the hot srings of Thermopylae. They offered me their amazing stories, they made me dream and they cooked for me.
Dan, Sam Angela and another guy, stayed with me for a couple of nights. They were a bit too many for my tiny appartment but we made it.

Dan had a vision. He wanted to create Podstel. I sensed he was not exactly sure what Podstel would look like. Would it be a Hostel? Would it be a website? What would be it's form? Would it really exist? Would it make sense?

My newly made crazy British friends left. They continued their journey on foot, hitchhiking or cycling through Europe. To find the perfect spot to create Podstel.
One year ago they landed in Bucharest Romania.
A wonderful 1910's building, with an Austrian chandelier in the entrance and a big garden.
A hostel.
To make an idea work you have to start somewhere. This is the start. Grounding a bigger idea.
They touched it up, painted walls, got through the Balkan bureaucracy and created a cosy space for travellers.
Facebook works miracles (when it does not eat you up)
Daniel invited us - people he met on the way - in Bucharest Romania for the 1st Podstel Annual Gathering.

Exhited me, looked for tickets - found tickets - booked tickets - talked to friends about it - got a French friend on board - and counted the days to leave for this scary and heavily stereotyped city called Bucharest.

To get there, we had directions so perfect that could make any travel guide blush. Going through the city on a bus to get from the airport to Podstel gave us the first smells and images of the city. A typical Balkan city which was rich and then became poor, with warm people ready to help you if you need something.

When we arrived, we entered the gadren and there it was. Podstel. Greeted by Jason - the polyglot, multitalented young man. He gave us a warm welcome hug and and asked me an unexpected question:
"Give me the title of your favorite song"
Laughing inside as well as outside I said:
""Respect" by Aretha Franklin"
He put the song on while we gave him our papers and we were officially ready to meet our tribe.
The Travelling Tribe.

We spent three days walking around, eating what the locals ate, visiting churches and sites and choosing our gifts for back home. Bucharest became familiar. Wonderful buildings abandoned and falling apart, waiting for progress to transform them into shiny malls. Electric cables everywhere. Chaotic driving. Endless orthodox churches full of locals. No gypsies, no beggars (well just a few of them), no packs of stray dogs. All of our stereotypes crashed and fell into oblivion.

A loud, colourful city market, a huge Solomonian spa on the other side of the city, the old town with the tourist restaurants and kitch souvenir shops, the enormous megalomaniac Ceaousescu parliament building... It reminded me of Athens and its chaos. A typical Balkan city with many many contrasts.

Last but not least was the Podstel experience. 60 people from 20 countries. All smiling, all ready to speak and to listen, to share their experience of meeting Dan, Sam and Jason somewhere in the world. Such warm hearts, so much love, so many hugs and trusting gestures... Eating together, drinking together, dancing, singing, enjoying the moments.

Podstel is evolving. It is not just a hostel. In Dan's words it is a learning and sharing experience for locals and for travellers. It is a platform of ideas where everyone is welcome and accepted. It was so beautiful to see a boy become a girl the next day. It was so wonderful to see young people speak two, three, four different languages. So much talent and so much love...

Thank you guys for sharing your vision.
See you next year somewhere in the world.
In this big small world we all share.

info: Podstel, Bucharest Romania

Τετάρτη, 13 Μαΐου 2015


photo by H.M. Free Mouse
May in France is full of holidays.

I was invited to a bicycle day in the mountains of the Trieve... It was a rainy day but we were prepared.

Smiles everywhere. Wheelchairs and feet. Abled and disabled.

It was a beautiful day on the moutain where I made even more friends.

It is such an honour to be able to cycle side by side with the people who have lost but are not lost.

Δευτέρα, 11 Μαΐου 2015

the return

There is a certain strength in this line of mountains called the Alps.

Life has led me here. In the South East of France.

I found love here. Love and understanding. By a man and by a number of friends who smile and talk and have warm hearts. Is it the mountains? Is it the clean air? Is it the fact you are higher and talking to whatever God lies up there?

I have already talked about The Trieve. When I first came here, I was thinking "God, I would love to come back here!" What I did not know was that I would come again and again through the seasons, see snow, fog, rain, sun... I live so close to these mountains. I return to the smiles, these wonderful people.

More coming soon.

Σάββατο, 14 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

What is the craziest thing you've done? Not an easy answer...

I had 4 couchsurfers last week in my house for a couple of days. God knows how we managed to fit in my tiny apartment... I do love to meet new people especially if they have the capacity to bond instantly, like we did with these guys....
So one of them wanted to interview me. Being the ego freak that I am, I said yes!!
He asked me a lot of questions and I was cool and the conversation flowed easily. Until he asked one question.

What is the CRAZIEST thing you've done?

I blocked completely. Sat in silence for a few moments and tried to think. But I had no answer.

The interview came to an end, the company moved on their journey and I was stuck with this question.

What is the CRAZIEST thing you've done?

Why could I not give an answer? What was bothering me? Days passed and this was still in my mind. I finally managed to give some answers.

First, I was bothered by the word "crazy". We tend to name our greatest fantasies, dreams and achievements as crazy. Crazy is negative, degrading. Crazy is a label I find bad. People tell me I'm crazy and I call myself crazy, but it hurts deep inside. To be crazy is to be abnormal, to not fit, to not go by the rules.

Second, once you do something, it's not "crazy" anymore. Things look crazy and difficult before you go out there and try them. Once you've done them they give way to a new "crazy" idea, the next big adventure.

Third, we tend to think as "crazy" our big adventures, our positive outcomes. Yes, I was in Italy picking up olives. Yes, I hitchhiked in Lesbos with my dog. Yes, I went to Cairo all alone for three days.

What about the everyday craziness? What about the adventure of seeing someone through illness and accompanying him to his death? Wasn't that a big adventure? What about the four year psychotherapy circle which helped me see inside myself? Wasn't that crazy? Am I not proud of these too? Of course I am!

Yes, I have done some crazy, memorable, wonderful things in my lifetime.... But next time, Daniel, don't ask about "crazy" ask about our biggest adventures.

Oh, and thanks for the inspiration, this is my first 2015 post.

PS. Team Podstel is a group of 5 boys and girls - and growing - who are promoting the creativity of travellers. Here is their FB page Good luck guys!

Κυριακή, 26 Οκτωβρίου 2014

About my fellow traveller

I've been writing for four years. 

Today I'm especially proud. 

Today I found out I was an inspiration to one of my readers. She is somewhere in Italy and she said I have kept her flame burning. I have never seen her. But she is also a blogger. And she has been there for me with her comments for the past 3 years. Through my light and through my darkness she was always there. A person in the blogosphere. A supporting energy. An angel. She never judged me. She was just there. Now it's her time to open her wings and fly. I feel so grateful she is my friend. 

Emotional, Inspired, Proud, Greateful, Smiling... I do feel like crying with joy. 

This is what the human reace is supposed to be. We are supposed to keep each other burning, We are supposed to remind people who they are. Not with words. With actions. 

Today is a special day. Be well my friend. Follow your passion!

Πέμπτη, 9 Οκτωβρίου 2014

Guest Post.... By my best friend Evi.....

I hadn’t seen her for a whole month. The longest since the day we met.  Oh yeah…I missed her, I admit it. Her thought was often on my mind. Over our last drink before her departure I was worried about her. She was full of anxiety and anticipation for the great adventure she was about to experience. A new country to discover, new people to acquaint herself  with, more miles on her meter.. I kept asking her about trains, and timetables, and back up plans in a case of emergency… typical me... but she was already in “Elina’s zone”, optimistic, stress free, with her angels on her side.

Soon after her arrival in France, I followed her trail on the Internet. Her posts were short but full of sounds, French cuisine, wine, laughter and  a new day every day.  She couldn’t always “touch base”, but when she did, she sounded so happy and full of energy. One day camping on the Alps the next dancing on a square in Lyon. She could speak French and she was over the moon about that. I learnt the term “couch surfing”, heard  a dozen new names coming out of her mouth and felt sure that she was having her time of her life, even when she was exhausted during grape picking.

And the days went by. The day of our own departure had finally arrived and 5 close friends landed in the eternal city... Rome... Standing on an endless queue waiting for luggage in Fuimicino  airport a familiar sound made my head turn! “Re malakes…here you are!!” Like an elf she came out of nowhere and filled the air with her distinct voice! We were all in Rome and it felt like Christmas... and our birthday!!
Tiber river
We were welcomed by heavy rain and the smell of autumn, but nothing could stop us. The need to make each minute count and hunger led us to Campo dei Fiori where we tasted for the first time a real carbonara!! Then piazza Farnese, a stroll along the Tiber river, and the sight of the illuminated Saint Peter while devouring an Italian gelato, was all we needed to sleep tight and wait for the next morning to come...
piazza Farnese
Saint Peter

When you return from a trip, you tend to forget all the things you've done while being there. You forget the names of the streets, the churches, the museums, the exhibits.. Not in Rome. In Rome each step is a destination and each destination is a piece of history and art. There is no possible way to see everything unless you walk, and in the 4 days we spent there, walking was all we did. From the medieval streets of Trastevere to the most famous piazza in Italy, piazza Navona, and from the Gianicolo hills to the Spanish steps and Fontana di Trevi (which unfortunately was closed due to maintenance). Their churces are museums, with every corner embroidered with statues and mosaics, paintings and sarcophagus We saw people crying for Pope John Paul II and stood with respect in front of their symbols of faith. 
 We were filled with awe. The day we spent at the Vatican will be the day to remember forever. This enormous landmark, made us realise how small and humble we are. The treasure behind its doors made up for the endless queue outside and the ascent to the 137 metres  high Cupola was an experience that filled us with pride...and terror!!
The 137 metres high Cupola
High...high...very high!
Saint Peter
Inside Saint Peter

One can say so many things about the sights of Rome. Photos don't do justice. Nothing can captivate the sound of their language accompanied by expressive gestures. No photo can entail the feeling when you stand in a church built in 300 B.C. No words can describe the sense you get when you find your self among treasures in Capella Sistina or when you first lay eyes on the Colosseum. 

And then there is food....a whole chapter in our hearts!!! I knew that when you are a tourist everything tastes better but in Rome...they are better!! Not untill you taste a cup of cappucino and eat a whole pizza by yourself can you say that you have tasted Italian cuisine. I have nothing else to say....my kilos prove my words! 

Back to her...After that trip, I am a little less worried about her. Because I know now that her true calling in this life is to be herself. And she is a Travellerlina. No matter what language you speak, no matter how old you are and from which country you come from...she will find a way to communicate with you and make you smile..! It may take a little too long to "get her back" whenever she returns...but oh well...that's life! 

Evi S.

Τετάρτη, 8 Οκτωβρίου 2014

I Love You: three scary little words

When did we start fearing these three words?

I Love You.

Does "I love you" mean that you will not work anymore for the relationship? Any kind of relationship.

We are afraid to say it. 
We are afraid to hear it.  

I don't know why, these days this issue has come up in conversations. Boys and girls who will get terrified when they hear these three little words.

What does " love you" mean after all? We must search inside.

Does it mean I possess you? 
Does it mean I have the ability to hurt you?
Does it mean I am weak?
Does it mean it will last forever?
Does it mean you are in some kind of emotional prison?

Are these our subconscious thoughts behind the fear?

Is it impossible to love instantly someone and to tell them so? Is it a lie? Or is it just an emotion that overflows and has to be expressed with words? 

I love you means I expand with you.
I love you means I understand.
I love you means I am there for you, I think of you, I want to spend my moments with you.
I love you means I love me too.

We want to hear it so badly and when we do we withdraw. And it's sad. 

How many days, months, years must pass before you dare say it? Before you dare hear it? How many frozen moments? How many lost minutes in time and space?

Please say "I Love You". Say it now. Say it if you feel it. 

Please hear it when you listen to it and don't run away.

Miracles are just moments away....

Τρίτη, 7 Οκτωβρίου 2014

Some [more] notes on France

After one month living like a gypsy, sleeping on couches, beds, mattresses, washing in different showers, wearing the same clothes over and over again.... Here I am in the confort of my own home. Freeda is peacefully sleeping in her bed. My couch is comfy. My laptop in my lap. Hot tea in my cup.

The last time I was here it was August.... it's so nice I got out of my comfort zone for a while... It made me feel alive, it brought me to paths full of light. it showed me different ways of living. It gave me smiles and hugs and tears. Yes I cried on the plane to Italy. I cried because I left back a lot of love. I left back the smells and the taste and the beauty. Each face had softness and beauty. Each heart touched my soul. The Scots who call me Mc Donald. The French who love Greece, make amazing cheese and wine and know how to appreciate them. The Italians who talk like they sing.

No I did not have a single bad experience. I was going with the flow. Whenever I got stressed - about people, timetables, transportation - I would take a deep breath and assurred myself I would be fine. I was always fine, secure, taken care of. I got really tired during the wine picking, but it lasted for 8 days. It also paid for 2 more weeks of travelling. So no complains.

A few notes on France through my eyes.
The french mostly drive french cars. Renault, Peugeot, Citroen.... They are everywhere!
French toilets in houses are in a separate room. The bathroom is another room. This does not apply to every house, but most of the houses.
In a meal, cheese comes AFTER the main meal. You are full, so you only eat a little bit. If it's a creamy cheese you spread it on bread.
The french are the best breadmakers! You never get bored of bread because they have a wide variety of baquettes and loafs.
The people in the South are warmer than in the North. This does not come from personal experience, but rather from what I have been told. The truth is that same energy attracts same energy.

Παρασκευή, 3 Οκτωβρίου 2014

eat pray love. elina's version, mostly eat.

France was full of love, exhitement, beauty and light.

To top it all with a touch of romanticism and even more beauty, I came to Rome for 4 days.

It is one of the rare occasions that I do not travel alone. With me are my 5 best friends from home. It is different travelling with other people. You share more, you laugh more and you have to be more patient.

Another important aspect of the trip. I am very emotional and feel like crying all the time. I have been here before, remember?

Things where really different back then. I was going home after two months of olive picking. I was... Sad. Confused. Came back to a difficult situation. I lived a year of uncertainty and that year finished with a death.

This is behind me. I have travelled a lot since then. Here I am, wandering aimlessly on the streets of Rome again. With the love of my friends surrounding me.

I especially felt like crying when I saw piazza Navona. My favourite... This city is a museum. This city is a work of art. This city has endless, eternal beauty.

You walk for hours on end, you sit down for cappuccino and pizza and pasta...

When it's raining, you seek refuge in a church. You sit down and look up. Barok is singing above you. Putti - the little statuettes of love - are looking down on you. Angels are looking down on you.

It stops raining and you walk again. It starts. Your next refuge is Pantheon. You feel blessed. You will see water coming into the church.

Bernini and Michelangelo are hiding behind corners. All your senses are alert. You don't want to miss them. Did you know that Raphael is buried in the Pantheon? Did you know that Nature feared him?

This is it. I am having a great time. To sum it all up, I leave you with the following image.....

To be continued...

Τρίτη, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

la Trieve a wonderful place in the mountains

There is one part of the trip I have not talked about yet. And this is La Trieve. It's a place south of Grenoble where there are mountains and glaciers.

It's a place of unbelievable beauty, where every corner is a surprise. You can hike or you can drive and you see alpine lakes and rivers, mountains and more mountain tops!

But it's not just the place... It's the people too...

First time I went there with Clio the weekend before the grape picking. Second time was last weekend.

First time we met Helene and her beautiful family. They live in a wooden house in the Alps. Two wonderful children and her husband. Smiles and hugs and love.

And then there is Marine. We stayed at her little lovely house and her two cats! Her family lives near by, her mom and dad. Marine was at Clio's birthday. Big bright green eyes full of warmth. She did not speak English but somehow we managed to communicate.

That weekend, Clio and Marine went horse riding and I went hiking. Me, myself and nature. Trees, birds, wild vegetation... The track was really well signed and easy to walk. In the winter it snows up there but this time of the year, it's warm and green.

The second time we had another Marine with us. Four girls and a dog. This past Sunday was so full I'll try to remember it all hour by hour because it is really worth it....

We woke up early and went to help Marine's father with his eggs. We saw the whole process and it was great fun! And then it was time for a ride on the tractor! Clio rode and I went on a ride. Unbelievable speed - 2 km per hour - he he...

Off to an open market for food and then a lovely picnic besides an alpine lake.

Lak (lake in french) du Sautet is the name. A lake's energy is different than that of a river. There is not the sound of running water and the waves are small and quick if I must describe them. It was nice and sunny so we spent some hours next to it.

I kept seeing faces on the rocks and in the trees. A midget, a strange creature made out of rock, a face in the tree... Clio said I see god everywhere. But it's not god. Its the creatures that lie beyond. Its the spirits of rocks and trees. It's the spirits of the mountain. It's the faces that people use to make fairytales. They have done for centuries.

It was time to go, my camera had run out of battery. All my senses had to be alert for the next place. The fountain of Les Guillardes. A mysterious place on the mountain where water comes out of the rocks. I took my shoes off and climbed on the rocks barefoot. Put my feet in the crystal water. Freezing cold just for a few seconds... Instant cleansing for the feet, the soul, the heart....

No wonder the people here have big smiles and big eyes... The mountain's energy is so strong... Off to Helene's place again... She is so warm, her sence hospitality is incredible... Her husband Jose has a big smile and he is paragliding every weekend with his warm friend Keke... Jose is on a wheelchair but that does not stop him from enjoying his life and his family. I am so proud and honoured to have met those people who will stay in my heart always... Both Marine and Helene are beautiful souls and I owe them the best times I had in France...

I do hope they both come to Greece so I can offer them back their love and hospitality...