Reflections

Among good many other things I learned about Norway one of the biggest truths is this: Norway needs no editing, filters, or photoshop. Norway is just awfully picturesque. Most of the time I felt like I’m in a fairy tale. These reflections on mirror-like lakes were one of the greatest fascinations of mine when I was hiking around South Norway.

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Horizons

Over the horizon lies my motivation.
To the sun I made a vow.
I see myself in a star constellation.
Far away, settled down, but not now.
The road is my new friend,
I see it’s long, wide and curled.
And this road will never end.
It probably goes around the world.

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Doors of Barcelona

“There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley

Open or closed, there is always a mystery about doors.

Jim Morrison adjusted this quote a little bit and had left out the “of perception” so it is just “doors”. It’s this simplicity represented in it that fascinates me about doors. They are simply a boundary between what we can see and what is hidden. There is something sacred in them. They welcome yet forbid. They pose questions. They protect the intimacy of a household. They hide secrets. They bear thousands of stories.

All of the following doors and gates I captured in Barcelona. You can check my first collection of doors HERE.

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Entrance to the cathedral in the Gothic Quarter.

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One of the private doors in Casa Batlló. To my big surprise, some of the flats are actually in private ownership.

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One of the front doors of Sagrada Família. The facade is covered in leaves to represent the tree of life.

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The back gate of Sagrada Família.

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Barcelona: day 3 in pictures

What this Barcelona trip taught us is this: if you are visiting city that was worthy of its own separate guidebook meaning it is not described in a travel guide about the country it lies in only on just like two or three pages, a long weekend is never going to be enough. This is a pearl of wisdom I must remember for the future reference.

On the third day we went to see Park Güell – well known even to those who have never been to Barcelona. I don’t think there is a single person older 12 years of age who never saw the iconic panoramic picture of the city taken from the park with the two even more iconic buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí in the front. When it comes to this, we were not very lucky – one of them – the one on the right – was under construction, which to a great extent ruined an incredible number of pictures and mood of several keen photographers that day. The park itself is a very nice place so we took a long lovely walk around. You can feel Gaudí everywhere inside – the patterns and colours are amazing. The long curvy ergonomic stone bench is really impressive – it is decorated with shards of various different pots, plates, porcelain dishes and whatnot, that Gaudí collected and then used. Some parts of the park, especially the monumental zone and the houses, are just too crowded to bear. The people wanting to take a picture with everything slowly started to get on my nerves: especially when I tried to take a photo of the lizard statue and almost couldn’t get one proper pic because of all the people wanting to have a selfie right next to it. Wow, I thought: this must definitely be the most photographed reptile on Earth!

Leaving park Güell might leave in you a strong dislike of mankind, especially after visiting the main sights, which was later even strengthened thanks to two guys who tried to rob us in the bus. Well, more of this bitterly funny tale later.

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One of the most famous reptiles in the world.

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City panorama. Trying to avoid the next house covered in scaffolding.

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My collages from Park Güell. These are the patterns of the ceramic pieces on Gaudí’s famous bench.

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They say La Rambla is the place where most of the pickpockets and muggers are all ready and waiting for their prey. Well, as for us, we (almost) were the victims of crime way before we even got there. Being already set on alert mode, we arrived at this huge famous boulevard a bit suspicious and skeptical. But I couldn’t wait to see this street, the one every city guide is talking about how impressive it is. My impression of it was that unless you plan to shop souvenirs or have a bite I don’t see many reasons why go there. If anything, it will only deepen your aversion to crowds (if you happen to have such aversion) and, like us on account of this little incident with pickpockets, you won’t find La Rambla neither appealing, nor safe. But I must say the doors and balconies of the houses around are truly beautiful! And I also think it must have a different atmosphere in the summer, the February weather made it look a bit gloomy and uninteresting. That is why I didn’t even take many shots there – only of doors and balconies already mentioned.

After La Rambla we went to see the marina and the sea front. That was way way nicer 🙂

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Classic Katka on the Shore shot: birds. I simply have a thing for birds I suppose. Wherever I go I take pictures of them.

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Our favourite beer.

Let me sum up this trip with some stats: Number of photos taken: 511, out of which 27 were photobombed by a random person. Number of photos I photobombed: 342 (my sheer estimation). Selfie sticks counted: 16. Selfies counted: beyond my abilities. Annoying kissing couples: 1473. Number of prevented robberies: 1. Plus two uneasy stomachs after the turbulent flight home and two happy Katkas equals a very good and unforgettable trip. Regardless of my grumbling and sarcastic remarks Barcelona was great 🙂

Barcelona day 2

For someone who is single there’s nothing like being in a romantic city on Valentines day. Okay, I suppose Venice, Paris or Rome could be much worse, but even Barcelona was packed with cute couples, decorated shop windows with hearts, cupids, roses and everything and special Valentines offers in bars and restaurants.

Despite me not having many reasons to be fond of this little feast of love I too found something very much appealing in it: the smell of fresh flowers was everywhere, bakeries and patisseries strived to bring their shop displays to perfection and show off by baking the most amazing cakes, cupcakes, macaroons or any other pastries you could imagine. If one could get fat just by looking at them you could roll me like a ball now.

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As for the city, streets and little shops, I’ve run out of superlatives by midday and just stuck with “beautiful”. We did some sightseeing that day and saw two very famous sights Casa Batlló and Sagrada Família.

Casa Batlló is one of the two most famous “casas” in Barcelona (the other one is Casa Milá) and both are on the same street – Passeig de Grácia. Antoni Gaudí must have been on drugs while designing this house, but at least the builders clearly weren’t for despite the house’s uneven shapes and Gaudí’s evident aversion to straight lines the house still stands and endures millions of tourists every year. The visit was definitely worth it – the interior was beautiful – but you have to be a patient personality with the ability to put up with loads of people to truly enjoy it. Sometimes even, you might get the feeling like there’s some kind of a photo contest going on there. And yes, you’ll see many, many selfie sticks. Audio guide with the description of each room is included in the price of the ticket so it’s even funnier how people walk around with what looks like an old mobile phone, trying to listen carefully to what the woman in the speaker says while trying to look around and take pictures at the same time, struggling to get the best shots of the place with as little of them photobombed as possible.

The art nouveau of Gaudí is characteristic for the whole Barcelona and you can either love it or hate it. This casa is a good example of how even the most mundane and everyday things can play with your senses. I was especially blown away by the myriad of patterns and colours that literally jumped from behind each corner at you.

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Sagrada Família a.k.a. I too want to have a picture with a crane. Yes, those cranes are obviously never leaving. Couple of years back I told myself I will go to Barcelona once Sagrada Família is completed and there will be no cranes overshadowing its greatness. Turns out I would have to wait until I’m 37 so I decided to just put up with it. Gaudí was a proper genius and when he started to plan a project, he planned it big. He knew he would never see his masterpiece done, nor his children, nor grandchildren most likely (if he had any, I don’t know).

In a nutshell, Sagrada Família is a crowded construction site. You might find it harsh – but it is what it is. The inside of the cathedral is magnificent though: the ceiling, the columns, the stained glass windows. Even from outside it impresses you with its detailed ornamentations covering the whole surface – so typical for Gaudí. But looking up from the ground you see only cranes and looking down from one of the towers (I went to the Passion Tower) you see only scaffolding. And people. Queuing or taking pictures 🙂

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I always try to see beauty in everything and everywhere and there is a great massive load of beauty in Barcelona. Patterns everywhere. Colours everywhere. Lively atmosphere. Laid back locals. Good food…

If you are not overfond of crowds you most likely won’t find Barcelona appealing unless you picture it without them (or at least minus half of them). If you can do it, then it becomes enchanting and inspirational and you might eventually fall in love.

Much needed getaway: Barcelona day 1

It’s been almost two months since I packed my suitcase (okay 3 suitcases and 4 cardboard boxes) and headed for home. After 15 months of being a traveller – in a constant cycle of packing and unpacking – I so to speak settled down. But…I kinda got used to this lifestyle and I must say that shortly after my homecoming I started to miss it!

My wanderlust was satisfied last week on Friday the thirteenth: on my favourite day I set out for Barcelona. 

Unlike the usual stereotype about Friday the 13th, I can easily call this day a day of good luck. I can’t even remember if I ever had a journey this smooth and organised. Everything had gone without a single hitch – like clockwork – though there were so many things that might have gone wrong.

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Once in a lifetime I got a seat by the window ! (It rarely happens). On our way to Barcelona we flew over the Alps and the views were just amazing. Btw, all this time I was wondering whether we are not flying too low – I felt like I could nearly touch the snowy peaks.

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We were on an incredibly tight schedule having to make it to a concert in central Barcelona starting just over an hour after our expected arrival. We were only hoping for no delays, which certainly wouldn’t be the best kickoff to the long weekend. Thankfully, the Irish airlines together with Barcelona public transport service proved reliable and gave us a warm welcome to this great city.

We stayed at a small and cozy B&B called “Forget me not” with a really great central location, clean and lovely rooms and a very friendly staff. We were literally just round the corner from the famous Casa Batlló. I highly recommend this place and will definitely not forget it.

The highlight of the first evening definitely was George Ezra. You don’t know him? Okay – it’s the guy that sings Budapest. BUT, apart from Budapest and many other songs he has, one of his ballads is called Barcelona. So it really was nice to listen to it whilst in this city (which at the time felt surreal given we just arrived and haven’t seen much of it, or nothing, yet). Our luck continued on the gig – despite the long queues at the front gate we were lucky enough to catch a good spot in the venue – I wasn’t even hoping for such a good place to stand. I was so close I could even see the scar on his forehead and even had a few eye contacts with him. Well… I might have just made that up 🙂

Here are the only two pictures from the concert I took. They are a terrible quality – I didn’t have my camera with me (obviously) and I haven’t updated my phone for couple of years now so with that poor old fellow one couldn’t take much of a pro stuff 🙂

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Excited from George’s too short performance (we could have spent hours listening to him and yes, watching him) we walked around the city for a while before jumping straight to bed. It had been a lovely first day.

More photos from Barcelona coming soon – as soon as I go through about 500 pics and sort them 🙂

A little poem for tonight

The Search 

A boy or a girl in the name of Tracy
Chasing a storm, dark and hazy.
A girl or a boy must be a fighter,
To find the one willing to shelter a tiger.

Dire and endless such is this storm.
Time always drags just before dawn.
Awaiting a car that greets a hitch-hiker,
Who begets next morning to look brighter.

Someone who shows life could not better.
The one who composes a song from a letter.
One who brings water when the thirst is great.
Who blurs the line between real and faith.

When all the words betray their meanings,
One will revive from the ashes of Phoenix.
A pair of headlights emerge from the mist,
Beseeching two animals to coexist.

I wish in this voyage you were the driver,
Who in the end saves me and my tiger.

This poem is inspired by one of my favourite books ever – Tracy’s Tiger by William Saroyan. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend, although it is not your typical novel (with an elaborate story, that is). It is a short little book and it’s utterly charming. It makes you think. It is that kind of book you start reading and you are like: what the hell am I reading? (So weird!) But you can’t help it and you have to turn the pages quicker and quicker until you come to an end and you are like What the hell have I just read? (So genius!).

This perhaps is a little spoiler – so you don’t have to proceed reading if you don’t want to – but the TIGER in this story is a metaphor to our deepest desires, to our dreams, and most importantly to LOVE. The way the book is written (and, its length as well) makes you read it again and once you read it the second time knowing and focusing on this metaphor – it becomes all the more beautiful.

I wrote this poem thinking about one particular person, but it’s also about love in general. About how hard it is to find someone who would shelter you from a dark and hazy storm, dry you up, bring you to sleep and would show you the next morning that the sun has come up again and shines brighter than ever.