Winter at the Mediterranean Sea: an encouragement

This can be winter at the Mediterranean: Cappuccino at a lonely beach …

 

For many people a winter holiday at the Mediterranean Sea is not interesting at all. Either they want to go for winter sports on the more or less snow covered mountains, or directly further away in direction of Asia, Middle America or on the other side of the world, to travel after the summer.

On the other side there are many cheap offers, all-inclusive or just the flights and then you might to consider such a trip. But what do you have to expect and: is a winter trip to the Mediterranean worth it? Here I try to find an answer.

The good news are, that the weather is way warmer than in middle Europe. With a bit luck – sunshine and temperatures around 20 degree. During nights temperatures drop only in exceptional cases to the freezing point. Swimming is then only for the hard-boiled, but to spend the day outside, reading, going for walks or visiting attractions is perfect. Not to mention the incredible calm in comparison to other seasons.

… blooming meadows …

 

With a bit bad luck it can happen, that it rains cats and dogs for several days, maybe even with strong wind. As most of the houses are not built for cold and wet, this can get uncomfortable.

Regarding the weather everything is possible. From days of sunshine with temperatures above 20 degrees to several days of rain showers with strong wind.

The best thing about the mild winter is the blooming nature. The landscapes are green – full with flowers, a blaze of colours, the air is clearer and the clear views can be breathtaking. It is a perfect time to visit attractions, and to be on your own while visiting archaeological sites or other attractions. It is also good for hiking, although not in the mountains – as there will be snow in higher altitudes.

Tips

  • Head far enough in the south, as it might get too cold otherwise. As rule of thumb I would say not more to the north than Rome.
  • The coldest time is usually from mid-December to  end of January. This is also the time with the most rain. North Africa is especially good at this time.

… and a nice fire to warm up.

 

  • Don’t forget warm clothes, fleece, a good raincoat and sturdy shoes
  • Search for an accommodation with heatable rooms. This is going to be the air condition very often, but the main point is to get it a bit warmer.
  • Is there a nice common area in the accommodation, to sit, chat, read or drink a beer in the evening? This is especially nice around a homely open fire in the evenings.

Tu sum it up: For those who want mainly to spend their holiday (sun)bathing at the beach, warmer places would be the better choice. But for all the others it is worth considering.

 

 

Slow travel (2): How to – some ideas and tips

Street cafes – a really nice invention

 

To travel slow has many advantages, as described in this post. It is fun and more relaxing. Today I continue with advices and tips.

The good thing is: each activity can stand on its own. Even if we are – for what reason ever – on the rush, it is nice, to find in between at least small steps to take it slower. Just try it!

And: if you are not traveling at the moment, you can try one or the other thing at home. There is a lot to see around the corner.

 

Stay longer at one place

Stay a few days longer and try one of the tips below. Maybe you want to experience a second accommodation, enlarges the perspective.

 

Walk

Just start to walk, along the beach or explore the quarter around the hostel. There is always something to discover. I also like to walk in direction of an attraction – a broad look at the itinerary and then I am off.

 

Rent a bike

Especially in rural areas the ideal mean of transport to an easy going exploring, but with a higher radius than by foot.

 

Make a break – in hot countries especially over noon

Sit down for half an hour or so, and let the attractions impress you – and often you even find benches. Street cafes – my passion. Sitting and watching life going by. Or just taking some rest in the hotel room or on the balcony. We need time, also to “digest” all the things we have seen.

 

Strolling around markets – always an experience

 

Visit a market and cook something

Have a look at the local products, by some fresh vegetables and fruits and cook something. Of course this is not possible everywhere, but in many hostels, there are kitchens nowadays.

 

Search details

On the street, at the beach, in temples or in cafes. Let your eyes wander and look closer. This is not only an exercise in mindfulness, it also leads to new insights.

 

Make photos with intention

And this leads me to the next. When you make photos don’t just click quickly and then move away to the next sight. Search for and find new perspectives, lighting conditions and details (see above). The results are not only better photos, but also a new view on well attended and photographed attractions or on every day life.

 

Attend courses, activities

I am a fan of cooking and yoga classes, but everything is possible of course. Cinema, theater, language classes or street parties – a look at local newspaper opens up a whole new spectrum of possibilities – and enables new experiences not listed in your guidebook – not to mention the nice people you are going to meet.

 

Go to the “fringes” of a destination

Especially in India I found this interesting. At beach villages or in smaller tourist spots there might be a whole new world opening up.

 

Travel by bus and train – also during the day

It is quite popular to travel with night-bus or -train to the next destination. Of course the advantages are not to dispute (saving one hotel night and arrival in the morning, when there are enough free beds available), I still prefer to travel during the day. Zooming through the landscape, the bustling activity  during the stopovers are always part of my travel highlights. Especially good for trips up to six hours.

And what are your tips?

 

 

 

Slow Travel (1): Five reasons for decelerated trips

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place (Rumi)

 

It was in Hampi (India) the place I learnt to love so much, when I sat down in one of the many restaurants to drink a chai in order to escape the midday heat. There I met a young man who traveled the “whole” Indian subcontinent in six weeks. Well I suppose it was less the whole subcontinent than a travelling through the Lonely Planet highlights.

We started to chat and we told each other about our travels. He was surprised to hear about my slow way of traveling. I could really watch him realising, what he was missing alone in Hampi, because he was there only for three days, hurrying through the temples and of course by renting a rickshaw alone every day.

But what are the advantages of traveling slow and how can you do that? Here the attempt of an answer.

 

1. Experience destinations in a different way

When you stay longer at places or attractions, you can experience them in a complete different way. No ticking off of temples, museums or townscapes but instead diving in, feeling with all senses, making breaks and just resting at good places – all this enables deeper and awe-inspiring experiences. And you don’t have to ask yourself which persons you met at which places, or which attractions have been where.

 

Make a break (Pai, Thailand)

 

Many of us want to see as many different things as possible within a short time-frame, under the motto “Who knows, if I ever come back”. But this does not work, as there are always more places, you want to see – no matter how much in a hurry you are traveling, and how much attractions you see on one day. If you see it like this, traveling on your own initiative is always a decision against something, and it might be wise to experience the places you decide for with all senses. The good news: There is always something to see, as you want to see more, the more you are traveling. And on the spot you often find more options for sightseeing and activities, which are not mentioned in your guidebook.

I met on my travels many people who were sad, because they had not enough time for the single places and all – no matter how speedy they were traveling – had activities or places on their list, which they couldn’t do. It is as always: the decision for something is also the decision against something else.

 

2. Meeting people

The small shop at the corner, the “favourite” pub, or the guest house owner. If you stay longer than two, three days on a place you meet more people. Of course travelers but also locals – insights in every day life and nice chats are way more easier.

 

3. To be left alone

In countries where it is usual to be chatted up is part of the daily routine, it can be a relief to stay longer at a place. The main actors (taxi and rickshaw resp. tuk-tuk drivers, street vendors and other “friends”) remember faces and persons quickly according to my experience and leave you alone on the third day at the latest.

 

4. Traveling cheaper

This might be an important one. To stay at less places for a longer time reduces of course the transport costs. Same is true for walking or renting a bycicle instead taking a driver for one day. Sometimes it is also possible to negotiate the price of your guesthouse, when you intend to stay longer.

And if you take a bit of time for some research on the spot you might find the really good and/or cheap offers. Those are not always the most obvious.

Additionally it is also less likely that you are ripped off. I think mainly because at the latest after two days you  not only know the pricing structures but also the local tricks.

 

5. And last but not least. because our world is fast enough anyway.

Really. There is no reason to be as busy as at home on travels. It does good to do nothing sometimes, and this works nowhere better, than when you are on the road. Travelling as intentional contrast programme to the often hectic every day life enables not only different experiences and deeper insights but also a more relaxed view at our environment – also after returning home.

 

*****

Which reasons for slow travels do you have? I’m looking forward to your comment.

And next here practical tips how to travel slow…

 

 

 

 

Travelling in India as women alone – including some tips

In India there are mostly more men than women on the streets (Jaipur)

 

I took so many good advices with me to India – about right behaviour, being chatted up and the status of women. All this might help to alleviate the culture shock, but it does not prevent it. And although you can for example read everywhere, that wearing Indian clothes is the better choice, I was still astonished which difference it made – in the perception of my counterpart namely.

And of course it is then difficult to retrace, that a free belly under the loose sari goes absolutely without saying, while the free shoulders or a wider decollete often trigger more than lecherous eyes. Many female tourists don’t realise that, others adapt and some enjoy that also.

Especially at the beach this is striking. Wherever a foreign women wears swimming clothes outside from the main tourist ghettos, it will attract a bigger or smaller group of men (well at least two in any case). These guys are looking, passing by and holding each others hands or shoot photos without any embarrassment.

 

Tip 1 – Wear appropriate clothes (really) – and use a scarf

It sounds so simple and old fashioned, but it is true. You are simply perceived in another way and you meet people on “eye level”.  I felt even better, when I bought my first Indian blouse (kurta) and combined this with soft trousers. In these clothes I always felt well and “dressed”. A light scarf is a good friend for all kind of situations – protects against the sun, looks and sometimes from air condition – I always had one in my day pack.

It is not foreseen to be alone

There is something additional for women traveling alone. I’ve often been asked, during my bus and train rides, where my companion is. Many Indian men ( and I suppose women too, but they usually do not start a chat) cannot imagine a woman traveling alone – without male protection. This can sometimes evoke a very helpful protective instinct.

 

Tip 2 – Ask for help actively

I often asked for the right bus or the right address, which had as consequence that the addressed person took me under his wings until I sat in the right bus or until I was on the right place. With time you get a feeling to ask the right persons, speaking a bit English and willing to help without hidden agenda.

Completely different gender relations

Women in India have a complete different status than in western countries. The female image is traditional and the genders are separated in a stricter way. To get to know each other better, or to touch each other before the marriage, is not foreseen, while at the same time the gender gap is increasing. That means because of targeted abortion and negligence, there are less women. This hinders the battle against children marriage (which is still widespread in the economic weaker North). And in many states there are almost no women on the street. Detailed information about the situation of women in India is available on Wikipedia.

All this can explain, why women travelling alone are often looked at, as if they came from another planet Additionally family has in India a much higher significance and importance than in European countries. Nobody is left alone – there is always someone from the family present, for most people the only available safety net.  To leave someone alone, is not foreseen. I met for example in the train a young man, whose parents moved to his city after he managed to find a job far away from home in the south.

 

Tip 3: Sometimes it is helpful to have a story ready.

Because of all this reasons it can be helpful to have a “story” ready. I told for example, that I am a widow. This had a huge impact on my conversational partners, and I was left in peace then in a different way and with respect.

Many tell about husbands or parents, which stood in the hotel just on that day. The clou is for sure to relate to an Indian husband, whereupon I would suggest to know a bit the country, its people and to speak one language, if you do that – it could be embarrassing otherwise. But I did not always talk about myself being a widow. This has to be appraised from case to case, because for many people the western lifestyle is not a closed book. Sticking to the truth can be the start of interesting conversations.

 

Differences in cities and tourist regions

In big cities you find a different picture. Here I met many young women, well educated and fluent in English, with western clothes, who even might drink a beer in the evening. These women transport a picture of a changing country, and I am very grateful for these contacts and experiences.

It makes also a difference how far the travelled regions are in their touristic development. The more touristic a region is, the more the relation between solo traveling women and male residents is changing. The interaction is more open and informal. Nobody is going to be surprised that this leads to one or the other affair – but this is another story.

 

Tip 4: Search the women

At a cooking class in a private household next to Hampi

 

In some states like in Kerala it is easy. Here the women are more self-confident, can be seen more often on the streets and many of them speak English. This makes an exchange quite accessible (Have a look at my article about Kerala). I made also good experiences with cooking classes. They enable fascinating and authentic insights in female living environments and a special intimacy arises via the common work and eating. I also had a unique encounter in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), where I met an inspiring women. She byes the crafts from the surrounding villages and sells them in her small shop in a narrow street. The chat I had in this shop, sitting on a beautiful carpet, has reconciled me in a way, as I started to get really angry about the obvious discrimination of women in Rajasthan.

Conclusion

I met in India way more women traveling alone than in South-East- Asia. The question why this is so, is interesting, but would go beyond the scope here. It is remarkable that many travelers are in some search of themselves, of their path of life and understand their trip as spiritual search. And in comparison to South East Asia India is a more direct and intuitive experience. Here people stare at you and often you will be in the middle of attention – so you may experience yourself in a different way. The right blend between open acceptance of interesting opportunities and due caution is in my opinion one of the biggest and most interesting challenges, India can give you.

 

Further reading:

My top tips for women traveling to India: A good and extensive article, full with tips from one of the leading travel blogger about India.

Happy, safe solo traveling – India by yourself: Detailed and full with information, not only for women – worth reading!

Five reasons why travelling in India is not so scary: A  beautiful article – I especially like the focus on how amiable and helpful many Indians are.

The women traveling solo question: An excellent article, showing that staying at home is way more dangerous, as most of the violence against women take place in their direct social environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

House sitting in Spain … and good bye Vienna

 

Well, I finally arrived in Spain – as my body is here since over ten days the rest has been following now. In a beautiful old house, surrounded by a mediteranean garden with seaview – there is even a pool although the water has not seen more than my toes.

It is a nice and big house and I leave it only rarely at the moment – for groceries and to have a closer look at the sea – but mainly I am here, enjoying to have so much time to spend in the fresh air and in the sun, while finding a good rythm between gardening and house work, taking care of the cat, reading, Yoga, computer, watching films and good food.

In the following two months I want to build up my repertoire around the topics Yoga and burn-out prevention – in this lovely mediteranean winter and upcoming spring. I practice and read a lot, develop sequences and much more.

This is good for me, as I was very busy in the last weeks in Austria. To move all my stuff from Salzburg to Vienna in a knee-jerk action (two days packing, one day moving, two days storing all the stuff) has not left me without traces. And then I was suddenly not so sure, if it was the right decision to leave my nice place in Salzburg. This might connect with the fact that Vienna is not really a good place to be in January. Too grey, too dark – a time where single sun rays are the source of jubilant messages. Some say that it is not by accident, that the psychotherapy was invented in Vienna. But I deviate from the subject.

However – the apartment in Vienna is almost ready, nicely furnished and I can now dedicate my time unhurriedly to my new environment and new projects. Watch out!

Working in the hotel (4) … and why I finally left

In previous parts of this article series I wrote about the highlights of my work, had some thoughts about the joy of working and published an article about the connection between the work in a hotel and the Turkish family. To finish it (at least for the moment), I want to explain why I left this job earlier than foreseen. 

 

The happiness and satisfaction of guests is for me the main criteria during such kind of work. And even if it is turbulent behind the scenes or there are conflicts, it is necessary not to show to the guests anything about that. This is normal and I know it from my years of work in conference management. The more there are conflicts and difficulties behind the scenes, the more energy it costs you to insulate this from the guest, and – which is even more important – at a certain point the behaviour towards the guests is not authentic anymore. The famous smile,  which is not real. People notice this.

Somewhere along the way I realised, that I can transport this attitude less and less credibly towards guests, as I was too much bonded with this “background noise” – while – in the frame of burn-out prevention – I encouraged  to find a satisfying and honest approach to work.

 

And so I decided by mid September, with a heavy heart, to stop the work. For sure it was helpful that I could stay at the house of a dear working colleague and friend, so that I didn’t have to leave the country which I started to love despite all its contradictions.

Altogether I made an experience I would not want to miss. I had a great time with wonderful guests and colleagues at one of the most beautiful places of the world. I’ve learned and seen so much, like I didn’t for a long time. At the same time I am happy, that I left in time to have a positive general impression.

 

 

Vienna – colourful walk around the Danube Canal

Colourful graffitis around the Danube Canal in Vienna

 

 

I am in Vienna at the moment and I could tell a lot about this city, as I have lived here most time of my life. On the other side I tried again and again in previous years to escape  sometimes for a shorter and sometimes for a longer time. I also think there is a love-hate relation between me and Vienna- and the degree of affection is related with seasonal changes. And now I am doing something I don’t like at all -  a few weeks in winter in town. A time, where I just don’t like the city.

Maybe because there is a really high probality of a grey veil lying over the city. Far and wide no sun, and no sky – everything just grey. To contrast this with some colour is really pleasant -  for example with a walk along the Danube Canal.

Around the Schottenring (underground station) there is a lot to see. Big, colourful graffitis some legal, some illegal give the city a colourful look. And next to it, in direction of Urania the “cultural mile” Agora – a unique art project taking place every summer since 25 years. But also in winter there is a lot to see. Have a look

 

Yin Yang Yoga Teacher Training (January 2011)

In January 2011 I had the opportunity to participate at a Yin Yang Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand. At that time I published a few articles about the training on the Blog of the Yogaplace Salzburg (where I gained later my first teaching experiences). As a start for forthcoming articles about yoga, find here my report from that time, brought to light again.

14.1.2011 – Live from the Yoga Teacher Training

Since almost a week I am now in Koh Samui Thailand at a Yoga Teacher Training from Simon Low. More precisely a Yin & Yang Training. This is a training which incorporates dynamic and flowing movements (Vinyasa or Yang) on one side and a more silent practice with long held asanas (Yin) on the other side. You can find more information about the training here.

The first five days are over and I feel physically and mentally wonderful kneaded – which does not prevent me from taking a massage on my day off – but I wander from the subject.

We have five intensive course days at a time and then a day off, which enables to finish a training of 200h in a bit more than three weeks. It is a complete immersion in yoga: every day in the morning over two hours of practice, with loads of references towards teaching. This is followed by three sessions of two hours each around the topics yoga philosophy, teaching practice and anatomy. The evening is filled with reading, repetitions and lots of discussions.

Philosophical discussions about secular spirituality alternate with detailed explanations about the motion range of the spine or the question how to teach downward facing dog exactly – just to name an example.

Soon more to come. Watch out!

 

16.01.2011 – Dragon Dance and more!

Yang yoga is the dynamic active practice, where muscular strength plays an important role. Beautiful flows are part of the game here. For Simon Low, our teacher, yoga is not about mastering even more sophisticated asanas or to bretzel yourself perfectly. Rather he thinks, that the constant refinement of asanas (yoga postures) and the adding of new aspects represents an advanced practice. Also in India there are famous  teachers, who told their students, they would not need more than 40 asanas.

For me – a very interesting approach and I really learn a lot about the single asanas – sometimes overwhelmingly.

But back to Yang Yoga.  To acquire a taste of it -here  the dragon dance, beautiful….

 

22.1 – Half time

How time flies, I just started and now it’s already half time in the teacher training. The good is that the fog starts to lift. It is really like this: when you spend at the beginning enough time for the basics, everything falls into place nicely later.

In the last week I not only learned how to draw little yoga matchstick men (well, I still have to practice this), – in yogaphilosophy , next to the Yogasutras we were introduced to the the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

We collected first impressions from the subtle but strong impact of Yin Yoga. We heard a lot about fascia in this context – which are all somehow interconnected and change all the time and reflect therefore our living conditions. Yin Yoga is less about the muscles and more about the connective tissues – addressed via asanas, which are longer held. Find more about this in a small video – in case you search for more arguments to bring yoga closer to your surroundings.

 

 

Beside that I am looking forward to new flows, I will bring back and a quite interesting shoulder sequence. We discussed lots of asanas in detail and “deconstructed” them, while thinking in the same time about the sequencing of a yoga lessen. The home work for this week was a lesson “yoga for skiers” – unbelievable, when you think, that the training takes place in Thailand and the course is lead  by a British. Anyway this is an interesting one and at least for the forthcoming winter, we can offer something in this direction.

To finish for today a reference to the toilet asana. No this is not a specific asana, but the one where you always want to go to the toilet. You know that one?

6.2. – the end is the beginning

And then it was suddenly over. The second half time of the training passed at least in double speed, compared to the first.

On one side the topics were even more multifaceted – although the yoga philosophy was only in the first half part of the training. Most of my 28 co-trainees were not sad about that. But I found it really nice to be confronted each morning after the asanas with two hours of philosophy and lots of Sanskrit terms. During the written assessment I will summarize the Bhagavad Gita in a fit of chutzpah with ” A man or women has to do, what a man or a women has to do” – but I wander from the subject again.

Instead of philosophy during the second part of the training we had the opportunity to deal with concrete questions of lesson planning and with the detailed analysis of single asanas. For known asanas this went quite well but with the (for me) new yin asanas (who need an impressive amount of props like cushions, blankets, towels, blocks etc. etc.) it was really a challenge -especially as I had one of the most elaborate yin asanas as part of the assessment. ..

Next to the planning of a concrete lesson we also had to find our personal definition of yoga, and therefore think about our personal approach to yoga and to discuss the attributes of good and not so good yoga lessons and teachers.

On my day off I leave the resort and the yogabubble and take a long walk at the beach. Just shortly I realise there is a world outside the yogabubble, but a few hours later I am going to a cafe to review my anatomy and to rethink the process of the last weeks.

And in the last week the place is rocking. We teach ourselves – 29 trainees teach 29 asanas, recapitulate the lessons and then there is a written and a teaching assessment.

And then it’s all over. The goodbye ritual moves lots of us to tears, and we go away as group with the desire to stay in touch and to support each other in teaching, while the four principles of spirituality, which Simon read to us in the last round, resonate within in us…..

 

Bye Bye Getreidegasse (Salzburg) – Room with a view

After six months I am again for a few days in Salzburg – the city where I lived for the past five years, when I was not (like almost the whole last year) somewhere else travelling around. Now I say goodbye. In three weeks I will empty the appartment and I am here now with a mix of melancholy and relief.

I really loved to live here, but on the other side the habituality paralyses me. I look around in the apartment or I go out for a walk and I know everything. Also the view from my window, in my flat in the middle of the old town. There was also die idea to span a clothes line – right over the street – so that everybody can see, that there are still a few people living here. Well this can be done by my successor in the apartment.

In the meantime you can have a look at a few pictures I made directly from my window over the last years.
 

Getreidegasse

Straßenmusik

 

Straßenaktion

Schottisch

Marionettenverkäuferin

Working in the hotel (3) – the hotel and the Turkish family – a small tourism sociology side note

 

In the first part of this series of articles I wrote about the highlights of my work, in the second part about the joy of working. Today I continue with some thoughts about the Turkish family and its relevance in hotel business.

The hotel -as temporary home – is a professional led household, where all the guest wishes are fulfilled as soon as possible. In this one week of holiday, you don’t want to take care of anything – no housework. And in a house with mostly women travelling alone this is even more true.

Accordingly it is no coincidence, that hotels are often run as family businesses and many small houses live from the familiar atmosphere. I often heard from guests, that they feel safe like in a family, and the considerable amount of returning guests can be related to that. Also  the management played with  the image of the family business.

Most hotel and restaurant owners, as well as their families and employees (although the boundary is blurred) spend at least six often seven days per week in their business. This does not mean, that there is always something to do. But the presence is important – a kind of stand-by service – because whenever there is something, you have to jump. And in that way working time and leisure time are interleaved. This is very practical for the guests. Not only that there is always someone here, there is also no need to handle to many different faces, with clear persons to speak with and the feeling to be more involved in the family.

It was never easy  for me to spend leisure time in the hotel or during excursions with guests. The “guest radar” is always on – a kind of constant screening, if someone needs help. Neither holiday nor work  – in any case attention. Even when my radar was off, I was still contact person for the guest, and I did’nt like it so much to tell them I am not in charge – because I did not want anyone to wait or to search for the right person.

This experience of the “family” as business model, was despite its shady sides  enriching and valuable. Why I still left earlier than foreseen, is part of the next and last article of this series.

 

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