Liebster Award – Elna travels

Now that I’ve finished my challenge of blogging my whole #Elnaineurope trip, it’s the perfect time to accept my Liebster Award. This fun pass-it-on thing is a great way to give smaller blogs like mine some loving.
Lovely blogger lady Nadia Moore, who nominated me all the way from Korea, explains more about it, but basically you answer your nominator’s questions and make some up for your nominees. Thanks Nadia-friend!

Here we go.

#1 Why did you decide to use blogging as a way of capturing your adventures? Why not Facebook, Twitter etc?
I love Twitter and getting my info quick and fuss-less as much as any journalist with a smartphone glued to their hand, don’t get me wrong. But, I’m old-school with content that’s important to me and believe it should have all the space and depth it needs, regardless of how impatient (or non-existent?) my readers may be.

Then there’s the purely legal aspect of wanting to avoid Facebook and Twitter’s dodgy right to using your photography. Not cool.


#2 What was the scariest thing about leaving your country?

When I moved to Germany in 2009 it was mostly with adventurous excitement. While I loved it incredibly, it was hard to deal with it far away from my family when those really tough times came knocking. Still, those things made me grow up fast and I’m thankful for that.

On a lighter note, there’s the confusion that comes from not knowing the conventions of a country. This is made even more awkward when you speak the language fluently but act like an idiot. Asking a cashier for the receipt but accidentally using the slang for panties comes to mind. Eek.


#3 I am a student leaving University. Tell me why I should travel?

I am not usually for one-size-fits-all answers, but have you ever met anyone who went traveling and came back unchanged, uninspired and underwhelmed? Have you? No. Because traveling is awesome.

Seriously though, if at all appealing and possible to you, I would highly suggest it for almost anybody. Whatever amount of fear and doubt you may feel about it now, I promise you that once you get going, that will be overshadowed by adventure and joy and wonder very soon. You see, when you travel you’re not just exploring new parts of the world, but of yourself. In every beautiful place, amazing person and courageous experience, you will discover an aspect of yourself that you’ll never know is there if you stay in your hometown doing hometown things.


#4 Describe a food (make my mouth water!) you have had on your travels that    made your eyes water from happiness (or possibly too much spice!)?
Italy is a food group.

I’ve reminisced about this extensively in my Italy posts, but pretty much anything I ate I loved. As for eyes watering, that’s got to be the black squid spaghetti from Venice. Honestly, that is the most squishy and fishy thing to ever be found outside of the water. It was delicious with all its black ink goodness, but also thoroughly strange. Fantastic experience, but I can still remember that smell it was so strong.


#5   Describe the moment when you knew you had made the right choice to travel?
 When I left my parents and walked through airport security I got the most alive, excited feeling. There I was, 18 and alone, and instead of scaring me, it made me an explosive kind of happy, like anything could happen. Of course every traveler has those horrible ‘it’s all falling apart’ days, but most of the time I’ve been driven by a version of my special airport feeling.

#6 Solo travel or group travel? Why?

There are plenty of reasons for group travel, the main one being that you already have someone in mind that you think you’ll have a ball with (without wanting to leave them and their grumpiness by the side of the road).  Certain places or occasions would have been much emptier alone, like my pilgrimage through Israel, or this roadtrip with my bestie.

Regardless, I wouldn’t want to trade a second of my solo travels. They’ve shown me that independence and adventure are really important to me, not as an act of rebellion, but out of freedom and being true to myself. You learn to be courageous, but also to be truly present, because there’s no one to distract or influence you. Besides, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make friends!
The only big negative is trying to find cheap single rooms. Oh, and having to take selfies, which I’m not very good at.


#7 How have you dealt with challenging cultural differences?

In the case of forward Italian men, I ran. (Just kidding, sort of…)

Since my faith is a big factor for me, I usually can find a group of at least somewhat like-minded people that make me feel at home and can help if need arises. There’s a pastor just outside Geneva that once pushed and jump-started the car of a stranger (me) mere minutes before his sermon, wearing his Sunday best. There’s a good reason why us Christians keep using words like ‘family’ and I’ve experienced it globally.

That was off the point, but I love that story.

Now to the next order of business. I’ve chosen some great lady bloggers, most of whom blog about (or using) beautiful things.
And the nominees aaaare…

*Dale – The TrinketSpotter
*Amy – Art Aims
*Michelle – AsOfYetUntitled
*Hannah – Pink Chucks to Prom
*Bettina – This Is Alboniko

#1 If I’m new to your blog, what’s the one post that I should read, that you’re most proud of?
#2 Which blogger or artist has influenced or inspired your work?
#3 Do you have a specific place or ritual that gets your creative juices flowing?
#4 Is there a creative project or blog post you’re dying to do?
#5  Share something beautiful from your life with us. Please?


Elna in Europe – Firenze

copyright Elna SchutzMy third stop in Italy was going to be beautiful Lake Como, I admit in part because it’s been the filming location for several beautiful scenes, including the wedding in Star Wars Episode II.
That bucket list wish will have to wait for next time (sigh, I hope). I’d loved the buzz of Venice and Rome so much that I changed my plans last minute and got on a train to Florence instead.

copyright Elna SchutzThe Tuscan home of food, architecture and art rings true to its reputation with countless rustic restaurants, amazing galleries and the famous cathedral’s red Duomo. Combining the first and the last, I took to sitting in front of the unusual pink, white and green church at night, munching on a Sicilian cannoli (my number one recommended Italian dessert. I’m serious, go find one!)

copyright Elna Schutz

For my fill of Florentine art, it had to be David. We’ve all seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece a dozen times, and there are several replicas around the city, so you may be surprised how much the original manages to enthral. You walk up to the confident, strong warrior the postcards always show, but circle around to face him and David’s expression is one of worry and fear much more fitting for a young man facing a giant. Beautiful.

Never content with the tourist offering, I trekked across the city for lunch at a local marketplace. What a find, with its shouting locals offering truffles and cow’s heads, just the way you’d expect from Tuscany. At the little restaurant inside you sit down beside whoever else is wolfing down some of today’s dishes, as the usual big jug of wine gets passed around. How the owners always know how many glasses to charge you, I have no idea.

copyright Elna Schutz

copyright Elna Schutzcopyright Elna Schutz

I sit with a British couple that has long since taken the plunge and bought a house here. They try to decide which gelato place to recommend and argue in that typical Italian way – expressive but never really angry. I have no problem seeing how one could want to start a life here.

copyright Elna Schutz

I leave Italy with a bucket load of photos and even more memories of places and moments I shared with no one but loved even more for it perhaps. My head is heavy with the thought that the specific magic of a trip can never quite be expressed and I’m alright with that.

*copyright Elna Schütz 2014*

Elna in Europe – Roma

copyright Elna SchutzOh man, Rome. How do you even.

I have to confess, dear blog reader, that I wasn’t impressed in the beginning. My first 24 hours in the iconic capital were, in internet speak, completely meh. I walked for ages through an ugly industrial area in the rain and wind, before getting introduced to the Roman bus system – possibly the most confusing piece of trickery I have yet to see. That’s when I decided to rebel and walk… in the wrong direction, as it turned out almost an hour later. *universal facepalm*

Was my honeymoon with Italy really already over?

copyright Elna Schutz
That evening I gave Rome a second chance by buying one of those tiny bottle of wine by Trevi Fountain and exploring the historic centre. Since my only travel companion was my trusty old Nikon, I took my time with some long exposure night photography (which you might remember I enjoy far too much) and portraits of people on the Spanish Steps.

Now this is what I love about traveling solo. You take a couple shots of strangers and before you know it, you’ve made a new friend and are ditching the overpriced tourist spots for a hidden local pizza place and stuffing your face, traditional Naples style.

copyright Elna Schutz My time in Italy was filled with the feeling, that around every corner, something unexpected might be waiting that you will definitely like (and probably be able to eat). Rome, despite my strange start, was the epitome of this. You could get dizzy from a head filled with beautiful things.

copyright Elna Schutz

What makes it even more fascinating is that this city truly is an amazing crossroads between old and new. Brand new stilettos clatter over cobbled streets as cars speed by ruins of an ancient time of Roman splendour. Layers upon layers of history, with modernity running right through it.

copyright Elna Schutz

Enough rambling, Elna. People should just go to Rome already.

For another of my adventures in the Italian capital, jump to this entry on World Nomads.

copyright Elna Schutz

*copyright to Elna Schutz 2014*

Elna in Europe – Venezia

Elna Schutz venice boatEditing my photographs from Venice stunned me a little.
Sometimes something is so beautiful that you can’t really take the credit for taking a nice pic, you’re just incredibly glad that you managed to catch it. Like when you photograph somebody you love in the way that they really look to you.

Elna Schutz venice sunsetVenice at sunset is like that. It’s a pretty city during the day of course, with the canals and building and what not, but start dimming the lights and oh honey, this is Venice as you imagined it. Everything becomes a little quiet like in an art gallery and the constant tourist throng turns into a few meandering couples.

san stefano

I did my fair share of meandering, to the point that I woke up with sore feet, but nothing could’ve kept me from carrying on walking. I’d take the vaporetto up the Grand Canal and snake my way along the shore as the scene turns from blue to pink to purple as if it were trying on outfits.

Don’t get put off Venice by rumours of stinking canals (false) and perpetually getting lost (true, but in a good way).  This is a beautiful, romantic place with a hundred little corners and surprises to make your trip feel special and unique.

Elna Schutz venice canal

This was my first taste of Italy and since I was travelling without a significant other, I fell in love with the food. It didn’t disappoint.
My first pizza was from a tiny shop that I’d probably never find again, but sells slices bigger than my face (my face!). I quickly learned that a kind or maternal looking face behind the gelato counter directly relates to the giantness of your scoop. Black squid spaghetti is possibly the most fishy tasting thing I have ever had and wonderfully squishy.
Needless to say, my newly attained Italian vocabulary consisted mostly of ‘house wine’, ‘can I please have…’ and ‘this is delicious.’

san marco square

When it comes to my Italy trip, I have no problem with giving a positive, gushy review. The only real negative I could think of is that I wish this country were an undiscovered, tiny travel destination no one had ever heard of. I did a lot of trying to imagine away the tourists that are EVERYWHERE.

More shamelessly gushy Italian reporting soon.

*Photos etc copyrighted to Elna M Schütz. Don’t steal my stuff. It’s mean.*

Hotel La Serra – a childhood dream

I’m not in the habit of blogging other people’s photography, but this is somewhat special.

This is the La Serra  complex, an architectural remnant from the 1970’s, complete with a cinema, hotel and large hall. It stands in the little Italian town of Ivrea, the home of Camillo Olivetti and his once-bustling computer company. It was built to serve as a social and cultural meeting place and urban upgrade for the quaint town.

copyright Margarita Vazquez PonteThe complex soon earned the nickname ‘typewriter’ thanks to it’s design mimicking one of Olivetti’s main products.  Inside however, the 55 mini-apartments of the hotel are inspired by naval interior design to make them more compact: fold-away furniture, tiered rooms and hidden compartments.

My father’s business trips as an Olivetti employee were often followed with a retelling of what funny new corner was discovered, or how he couldn’t find the well-concealed en suite bathroom.

As a kid I dreamed about this hotel built like a ship.

While planning my upcoming travels to Europe and first Italy visit, the memory of the magical ship-hotel resurfaced and I went on an internet hunt to find it. Unfortunately various dead-looking ends were unanimous in saying that hotel La Serra was closed about 12 years ago and the complex is used only partly if at all.

This is generally sad and fascinating( as most abandoned, once thriving places are). More personally it made me realise that old flickers of hope are the most resilient. In reality it was only a small hotel that wanted to save on space and be original – but the kind of wonder and imagination we had as children about the unknown seems hard to fire up the older you get. Losing the possibility of fulfilling one of those dreams feels unfair, if only to the idea of yourself as an enchanted child.

copyright Filippo Poli

Hey, maybe I’ll go to Ivrea anyway, in honour of child-like wonder, or perhaps one day find a ‘ship hotel’ elsewhere.
It’s never too late, or so they say.


Photographs and info with thanks (and copyright) to Filippo Poli, Margarita Vazquez Ponte, and this facebook page.