Mount Entoto raises 3,200 m above sea level and offers spectacular views of Addis Ababa. On the way up, one can see elderly women and donkeys transporting dry wood from the forest down to the city, an image that probably hasn’t changed in centuries.
The mountain is where you can visit the palace of emperor Menelik II (the monarch who led his country to a renowned victory over an invading Italian army), a small museum and a few churches. The palace itself comes as a bit of a shock – it is in fact a modest white-washed hut, a far cry from what one would imagine as imperial lodgings.
It is Valentine’s Day 2016, 10 am. We are standing in the street of London’s Soho, waiting in the cold. All around us thousands of people are pointing their cameras at something about to emerge from around the corner.
First we hear it: drums, singing and some other unidentified instruments. And then we see it an open mouth of a giant golden and red dragon coming our way, carried on the shoulders of several people. All of a sudden everyone lining up on the pavement along the road pours to the street to take a closer look and snap a photo, ignoring the pleas of helpless security guards.
January is not over yet, so I can still say Happy New Year!
This month marks the first anniversary of my travel blog. I may not have millions of readers, but writing brings me joy and over the past months I’ve received lots of positive feedback from friends and strangers. Looking back at the past year, I can tell with confidence it has been a rich and fulfilling one. I have travelled to 15* countries, which has resulted in 29 blog posts. Below is a brief overview of the highlights of 2015.
Mumbai (until 1995: Bombay), capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. 18.4 million inhabitants (or well over 20 million if you count the wider metropolitan area). Soon the population of Mumbai will surpass that of the whole continent of Australia. Each day there are 700,000 cars that clog up the roads, breathing out fumes – air pollution in the city is now three times the allowed limit. Additionally, 7.5 million passengers attempt to board the insanely overcrowded commuter trains day in, day out. The city brings in more than 30% of the nation’s tax income. Rents in trendy Malabar Hill are well above those of Manhattan. Yet one in six Mumbaikars lives in a slum. Mumbai defies logic, it is beyond comprehension.
New Zealand. We had already planned a trip to that mythical (at least for us) land twice before, but postponed it because of friends’ weddings in South Africa and India respectively. But 2015 was to be THE year. And then life happened again, or more precisely, two lines on a pregnancy test happened. Not knowing how things would pan out, we decided to postpone NZ once again to a not so foreseeable future and look for a closer ‘baby moon’ location before our new arrival.
I have no idea what other people do when they have a day to spare in a new city, but I visit street markets. Nothing better captures the energy of a city and its inhabitants. Nothing offers a better opportunity to people watch, examine exotic products, and inhale unknown smells. In particular if the market is in Africa.
It was all going well until I discovered that Entebbe airport offered fast, free wifi. Having checked my emails and scanned Facebook, I casually googled ‘Ethiopian visa on arrival’. The top of the embassy page was familiar enough – I had checked back home that for 50 USD (presently sitting in my wallet – such foresight!) I could obtain a tourist visa on arrival. Technically, I wasn’t travelling as a tourist, but who was going to check… But then I scrolled down the page and my heart skipped a beat: it said there in black on white that you had to present two passport photos with your application! I frantically searched through my wallet but neither my railcard nor my gym membership card had photos that would be remotely suitable, having been either trimmed and stamped over. Continue reading →