26 places that changed my life – part 2

If you missed the first 13, go check them out first at https://theworldthroughmyopiceyes.com/2020/03/16/26-places-that-changed-my-life-part-1/

14. Amazon Rainforest, South America

I remember this guy on the TV show “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, when asked what he was going to do with the money if he won the final prize, promptly replying “I would run in the Amazon Rainforest fully naked!”. Well, let me tell you something, this could only have been said by someone who has NEVER been there.

This extraordinary and massive forest, has not only an enormous diversity of plants (that somehow engulf you), but also all sorts of animals waiting to sting, bite and causing a rash on your millionaire naked body. What I remember the most about my time there is to be fully clothed, with long sleeves and long pants, and still feeling quite unprotected against the giant ants that furiously chased me after I accidentally destroyed their nest.

15. Paro, Bhutan

Bhutan is a magic kingdom well hidden in the Himalayas, where peace and kindness rule. The only thing stressful about it is all the red tape to get there.

Blending in with the mountain vignette, Bhutanese people have a unique traditional dress code (“Gho” for men and “Kera” for women): a robe-like cloth which is wrapped around their bodies and nicely secured with a belt. Fun fact: this outfit forms a pouch-like area in the upper part, where they store all sorts of personal objects, such as keys, mobile phones, wallets… and for this reason I will forever remember them as the Doraemons of the mountains.

16. Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

I could easily spend the rest of my life by the waters of Lake Atitlán. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, I know I would never get tired of the window view.

In this setting, I once went birdwatching early in the morning (an activity I quite enjoy, even though I terribly fail at it every time… I am nearsighted with a short attention span, so give me a break!), I swam in crystal blue waters, I watched the sun rising and setting, and from the balcony of my room I was the spectator of spectacular volcano eruptions with burning red lava illuminating the dark sky from the gases preceding it.

I can’t think of much more one needs to be happy.

17. Lapland, Finland

The first time I ever saw snowflakes falling from the sky was in Finland. And how beautiful it was! A white blanket covering roads, sidewalks and tree tops. I remember crazy snowmobile rides, delicious hot chocolate cups and reindeer sleighs. Everything was magical.

Visiting Santa’s hometown is a memory any kid would cherish for their entire life. And so did I. When I was there, I wrote the longest and most honest letter to Santa Claus I had ever written, and I felt privileged that that same letter would definitely be read that year. Because I wasn’t sending it to Lapland, I was there! And I had the opportunity to stuff it directly into Santa’s busy mailbox, with my bare hands! How exciting!

18. Špindlerův Mlýn, Krkonoše, Czech Republic

Krkonoše is the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. And it is also the hosting place of my weekend mountain retreats. This is the best spot to enjoy a good book in the jacuzzi with a terrific view to the outside mountain peaks covered in snow; to go skiing in Winter and hiking in Summer.

After many perfect weekend getaways by myself, I must say I terribly regret the day I decided to open my secret haven to someone else, as it resulted in a troubled romantic weekend. Better being alone than being part of an unstable couple!

19. Porto, Portugal

Apart from the well-known competition that exists between the two major portuguese cities, Lisbon and Porto, I have to admit that Porto is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in my country (let’s say… second to Lisbon!).

Full of wonderful churches, historical monuments and restaurants serving warm smiles and delicious food, Porto easily made its way to my heart. Both riverbanks are breathtaking and crossing D. Luís Bridge is an experience on its own, as its unique architecture will leave you speechless.

20. Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne brought countless new perspectives to my eyes, new tastes to my mouth, new knowledge to my mind and new extraordinary people to my life. All this in one cosmopolitan melting pot. I learned, I laughed, I had deep emotional talks over a nice cocktail and a bowl of steaming Chinese dumplings.

Due to its richness and intensity it is really hard for me to put into words my time there.

21. Trieste, Italy

One of the nicest incidental findings in my road trips was this Italian port tucked inside the Slovenian border. The Triestini embrace life with a passion that is both palpable and contagious (it gives you the impression that they have somehow discovered the secret to live a happy life).

I will forever remember the grand neoclassical buildings, boulevards and piazzas that show the glorious mix of architectural influences Trieste inherited from its multiple occupiers (the Romans, Habsburgs, Mussolini’s regime, Germans and Allied Forces) before it finally returned to Italy in 1954.

Fun fact: full of Viennese-style cafes, Trieste has probably the finest coffee in Italy! Yummy!

22. Fez, Morocco

Rabbit tagine, fresh orange juice and the strong smell of the famous tanneries are only some examples of the explosive sensory journey you experience in Fez.

The spice and perfume market will please your nose, the beauty of the Royal Palace will enchant your eyes, the traditional food and pastry will make you drool, the call to prayer every morning will echo in your ears long after you have left, and the argan oil sold in every corner will make your skin soft to the touch.

23. Habarana, Sri Lanka

My time in Sri Lanka was unique. Sri Lankans are deep, interesting people with strong beliefs and an innate truthfulness in their actions. Their sweetness can only be compared to jaggery (the traditional non-centrifugal cane sugar from kithul trees’ syrup extract).

Thanks to both the peaceful people and the mesmerising nature of this island floating on the Indian Ocean, I learned about the place and myself during my stay.

24. Chiang Rai, Thailand

I feel honoured that I had the opportunity to meet the “longneck” women of the Karen tribe. The village is genuine and the Karen people truly welcoming. And kids…were simply the cutest!

It was also really exciting to be at the famous Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, and where opium used to value the same as gold (hence the name!).

25. Plitvice National Park, Croatia

I have been to Croatia a few times already, and I can assure you that, for such a small country, it has more natural wonders than the eye can see. Giant waterfalls and endless lakes, abundant green vegetation everywhere and wild beaches and secret spots to enjoy a perfect sunset in peace.

I will never get tired of this small country and all I can say is hvala, hvala, hvala!

26. Tbilisi, Georgia

Not everyone will understand my love for this city. Tbilisi is full of contrasts, with both unpaved roads and old buildings with wooden balconies falling apart together with modern tall buildings with electronic billboards on their facades. You can go from a post-earthquake or post-war scenario into the shiny, glassy, megalomanous architecture of the future in just a few minutes walking.

Hidden here and there, cozy cafes provide a pause in time, a break from life, inviting you to disconnect from the outside world and grab a good book and a cup of coffee.

In a place where food is delicious (the best I have tried in all my trips around the world), cozy cafes are abundant and there are free books everywhere, I can’t avoid the feeling of belonging from invading my heart.

Wishing everyone a safe quarantine,

Cae

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