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.

 

 

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

 

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.

 

Winter at the Lycian coast

Big ships and wild light games – winter at the sea

 

Kış geldi – the winter has come. You can hear it everywhere. The last rain was really strong – and then the temperatures dropped again a few degrees.

Now make even the hardest start to use the ovens in everywhere in the small shops there are eletric heaters although I doubt about their effectiveness. Rubber boots are now an important utensil – minor floodings everywhere.

Even the forest cottage where I established myself, was affected. Suddenly there was a small stream flowing through the house – the young Auf once because a small stream flowed through – the young cat had to examine this with great amazement

It is often cold and windy – and I do not want to go out as much. But then when the sun breaks through a is a bit incredible light and cloud games and the distant view is breathtaking. The sea is wild with high waves and suddenly in all the bays there are large ships, who “park” here  to hide from  wind and weather.

Working in the hotel (2) – Kolay Gelsin – working with joy

 

 

In the first part of this serie about my time in a small turkish hotel I described my personal highlights of this period. This article focus. Today it’s about the attitude that I have tried to incorporate into my daily work.

My dear colleague D. has told me about a Turkish proverb. Kolay Gelsin – literally translated as “May it come easily.” In everyday life, this would mean something like “Keep up the good Work”. However this saying encouraged me to let the work come easy. Besides enjoying working this means for me to get into a certain workflow, where one job goes smoothly and logically to the next.

And they were there, the many beautiful moments. Not only to the activities, which I had the opportunity to accompany, but also in the hotel at the front desk, when there was just a good mood. And even with not so great activities – such as creating the transfer or cleaning lists, I came quite often in a certain flow, because I also wanted that all the guests were picked up at the right time and their rooms were ready on time. The thought of the results can therefore also provide quite joyful moments.

The ability to find joy in your work – and here especially in the service sector, and even more in tourism, is – I believe – a “stone”, which kills severals birds at a time. At first it is just a better feeling which makes you secondly more credible towards guests. When I go to work and I really like to take care of my guests, the result will be even better. And thirdly, that makes the guests more satisfied and that’s the point in the end. The circle is then closed by the fact that satisfied customers give positive feedback, and not just the staff is happy, but also the management, because regular guests bring good money with little marketing effort.

Often I have succeeded well, and the feedback from guests and colleagues have confirmed me with that. Unfortunately, there was in the hotel apart from all the good mood – not just according to my perception – a culture of grumping and moaning, characterized by low appreciation and many conflicts. To shield this from the guests, can be quite exhausting, and was in the end the reason for me move on. (but more on that in a later article).

In any case it take with me the idea to focus more on these aspects of flow and joy.  And for me, this idea also connects to a statement from the Bhagavagita, which provides, in substance, that one should do the work, but not attach to its fruits. This could be interpreted in a way that the activity itself is the value, and should be done with appropriate devotion. But I will think about it in peace during the next stage of my journey – when I go to Spain where I want to go a little deeper in my studies.

In the next part of this series of articles I am goig to continue  with reflections on hotel and family. Soon.

Working in the hotel (1) – the highlights

Coastal walk – the first highlight- Sunrise on the Bay of Adrasan

So many years I worked around this huge theme tourism – in applied research, as a project manager for education, public relations and regional development projects around the topic of social and environmental friendl tourism, and finally as an event manager for a major European conference. In parallel, always traveling a lot, experiencing with the lenses of a tourism expert- always a professional look. And yet all these years – I have always seen hotels as a guest and  never from the inside, from the side of those working in a hotel. When I got the opportunity last spring, to work in a small hotel on the Lycian coast (Turkey) and to take part in the guest services, I could not help but accept.

Finally, I worked three months in the hotel and gained an incredible amount of experience. A small selection of which I will present in a small series of articles. And the beginning – what could be more appropriate – are my personal highlights.
So many nice guests

The very best in the work was the direct contact with guests, mostly pleasant and intelligent guests. Many more women than men who came with a common desire: Once just relax for a few days only. It was always a pleasure to see the guest releasing more and more  from day to day, as they discovered the yoga, the sea, the nature, but also te contact with fellow travelers as a source of relaxation and inspiration. Many wept at parting, and said they had never relaxed so quickly and so well.

küstenwanderung

Coastal walk – later just sit and watch

First steps in burn-out prevention

I also had the opportunity make my the first steps in the field of burn-out prevention. Once a week there was a short introduction and later sometimes a mini-workshop, when there was more interest. The feedback was really positive and I was very encouraged to continue working in this direction. At the same time I also see the difficulty to deal with such a heavy topic during holidays. Many guests contacted me almost apologetically, pointing out that they actually desperately need input in this area, but could not motivate themselves to join, as they just wanted to relax in this short week and not to deal with problems. Of course I fully understood that.

P1000616 (Large)

Look – at the sea and more…

Once a week – coastal walk (including sunrise)

And then I could even do a weekly excursion – and that was a special joy. A morning walk, first to see the sunrise on the beach and then along the coast to the point where you see a small lighthouse and a lot of sea. Over time, I’ve adapted it and made it into a photo walk. With inputs how to arrange pictures and  peppered with thoughts about photography. The glowing eyes of the participants after these walks along a really beautiful coastline will stay with me for a longer time.

Yes – I had some really good experiences. But working in the hotel also helped me to gain some new insights – but more on that next time

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