Category Archives: Travel

The entrance halls of Tbilisi

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Whenever I was in Tbilisi before, I had an urge to push doors open. «There must be magic to discover behind its enchanting doors », my inner nudge was saying. And so it is. .

The magic of stained glass by Italian masters, on doors crafted by Georgian carpenters, framed by unique patterns of metal shaped in laces by Armenian blacksmiths, leading to halls adorned by Renaissance or Moorish style paintings on walls and ceilings … all this beauty as a celebration of our diversity giving birth to something amazing.

There are so many wonderful buildings in Sololaki through which German, Italian, Georgian, Armenian and Russian architects expressed their love for the beauty of this city.

The magic of Kalantarov’s house: in the heart of Sololaki

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One of the local legends say that the house was built by the oil magnate Kalantarov as a pledge of love to an Opera signer, who agreed to nothing more than a dwelling as splendid as the Opera House in Tbilisi. The young architect Sargsyan seemed to like all things Moorish in architecture and design. The love birds soon moved in and lived there happily until 1921. It then became home to many families placed here by virtue of soviet expropriation. It was slowly losing its magic, until it was refurbished by the Academy of Arts in 2014.

When we got in, Alla Borisovna – one of the house residents – was standing in the inner hall and was immediately attracted by the art book my guide was holding. From a page to another we got into stories around the house, its inhabitants’ habits and the love she and my guide – Elene – shared about Tbilisi’s architecture and the men and women who left us so many architectural jewels to admire today.

Queens and balconies

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Once upon a time here lived queen Darejan, a mother of 23 girls and boys. Her king built a palace for her on the incline to Sachino. She was also a builder and she furthered it to its glory of the XVIII century.

She fought for whom she loved. She lived the best she could in those troublesome times, and saw her end on Earth in exile on foreign cold land.

Today we can take the same walking paths she took thanks to the reconstruction funded by tax payers of Georgia. And we can admire the city from the beautiful blue framed balcony, perhaps from the exact same spot the queen used to.

“Wow, no thank you.” by Samatha Irby

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Upfront disclaimer: the book is not for puritans. You have to have a certain level of tolerance for f* and b* words, as well as of naked truth about body fluids.

By far, Samantha Irby is the epitome of self-irony, sarcasm and humanity combined. She describes her book “Meaty” as « a gross book about a dumb slut”. How many of us have the guts to be that open?

Some essays will make you laugh loudly, some are a honest truth about the life of a black gay in the States, sitting on the luggage of a disturbed childhood. Samantha’s writing style reflects all that and more. Her stories are not about her past only. I see them as manifestos of future aspirations. There is more than meets the eye, they say, and that’s what I saw in “Wow, no thank you.”

Teleworking week 4: view from home – online safety

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The above is a humorous perspective. Yet, joke aside, we massively moved on-line, we must surf it ever more cautiously. Europol and law enforcement agencies warn us of cybersecurity threats and ill-intended minds.

Ever more, children’s exposure is to be watch with constant care for their well-being. Take a cybersecurity basic course and be equipped. Check permissions on your PC. Close the camera with a sticker. Talk gently to kids about it.

Thank you, Pristina

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I am often asked about the country I am back from. As the saying goes, I do not judge a country by the airport, hotel and the meeting rooms. This is oftentimes my regular itinerary. Goodbye, perception of excitement surrounding people who go on missions!

When, in my last trip to Pristina, which was also a first for me, the usual question “How do you like it here?” popped-up, I realised that I sense a country by two things: people and bread.

I do get to interact with quite a number of fellow humans, including the border policeman/woman, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, bartenders and waiters, as well as the projects’ teams and partners I meet. And this is how I get to know something about the country. Walls and roofs, roads and pavements are dissipated in my memory by the human interaction.

Back to my last trip.

I thank Pristina for the blue eyed bartender who made my espresso exactly as I like it and served it with a mood boosting “Enjoy!”. I thank Pristina for the hotel receptionist who fixed my naughty room door with a magic touch. I am grateful to all project partners for their enormous dedication and contagious enthusiasm for what they do. I am deeply respectful for how far they came from their initial point and in such a short period of time (by history’s measure). There is also so much more they aspire to do. This is what I told to the curious border guard with a warm smile, when he asked me “Do you think we will be alright?” “I trust you will!” He happily stamped my passport and waved goodbuy with “Please come again!”

In addition to human interaction, I internalize bread in every new place I get to walk on. The daily bread. The flavour and texture of bread just out of the oven. The bread that knows the hands, which worked its dough. The bread which knew fire and was not consumed by it. The bread that welcomes guests and feeds the family, regardless of the language it speaks and the religion it practices.

Traditional flat bread, as served at Pishat restaurant in Pristina, November 2019.

Thank you Chisinau

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Thank you Chisinau

for my dearest people who make me feel at home, regardless of the time which passed since our last encounter. You know who you are.

for my first eight-pairs-of-hands-baking experience with orphan girls in the care of Diaconia and a chance to share with them a baking atmosphere I had with my grandmother.

for my daughter’s enthusiasm and support: “Mom, you were such a pro, juggling the parallel teams at baking!”.

for Diaconia’s wonderful team of people whose dedication I admire from the bottom of my heart. Check them out at http://www.diaconia.md.

for allowing young musicians to express themselves under the street lights in Stefan cel Mare park:

for the betterment if your zoo. We can be critical of many things we saw there, yet we choose to appreciate how much it evolved since its establishment 40 years ago

for my school, which celebrated 50 year recently. It was a moment of joy to retrace my steps to and from the school, with my daughter this time around.

for a great number of professionals I met and who do the best they can and aspire to do better, regardless of the circumstances. You know who you are.

and, last but not least, for your splendid autumn colours which stand to remind us of the unique beauty of nature this time of the year.

Thank you Brussels

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I was on a 4 hour train ride.

– How are you, Madam? It’s ok, not too long?, asked the conductor, as we approached our destination.

– Thank you, it is just right. And how are you? You are the one working all these hours. I am only giving a massage to the seat 🙂

– Oh, thank you very much for asking, a big smile lighting up his face. I adore it. It’s the best job in the world! When all goes well.

– I wish you that it continues to stay well, in all its ways.

– Thank you very much, Madam. A pleasure to see you again on our trains.

A one minute dialogue with a thousand riches in it. People find meaning in serving others. People are opening up when asked with autheticity how was their day/duty trip/behind-the-cashier day. A grateful customer can give meaning to someone’s work. Be kind.

Coffee mug courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott – my kind of coffee fortune telling.

Merci Monaco

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for such a wonderful immersion into Dali’s artistic journey at Grimaldi Forum

for the wonders of jewelry making by Chaumet

for the new turtles nursery for Samy and Avril at the Oceanographic Museum, which we always enjoy visiting

for our first visit to the zoo, which only got 3/10 from my kid, who knows everything about how enclosures should look like and she is serious about it. Some enclosures are beautiful nonetheless. The zoo is home to 250 animals and all of them were donated, which makes it unique

for the return of the unhindered view on the Casino in all its green splendor

for the best tarte au chocolat at Costa. The lady there also vows to the excellency of chocolate éclaire. Something to try next time 🙂

for an excuisite chocolate ice cream by Marcolini, enjoyed in a true schoolgirl spirit on the stairs of the Opera. It brought back a dear childhood rebelion memory: to eat ice cream in the middle of winter and on the stairs of the bus station

for the discovery of Gaia, an ode to Greek cuisine in the heart of Monaco. I loved the food’s magic power to take you to the Hellen land and then bring you back to Cote d’Azur. We enjoyed the watermelon and feta salad, the cheese pie with truffles and the fish in salt crust. Wine lovers will find there a fine selection of Greek and French wines (to the extent I can judge). Service is personalised and well syncronised on a very busy night

for an amazing view from Le Meridien, which was very generous with us and exceeded our expectations

for the mind-blowing taste of Munegu – a cake born from a blend of panettone and fougasse – from Mada One by Marcel Ravin, to share and enjoy with the loved ones upon return