A blonde gypsy… wow, what a contrast between 2 words… the gypsies are known as being quite dark-haired and darker skin… The opposites attract, so I ended up reading her site and discovering a traveler who went as Star trek says “to boldly go where no one has gone before”… So, I could not miss to ask her a few questions.
Let’s start with the beginning… Who is Larissa Olenicoff?
It’s me, but let’s see…in the third person? I’d have to say Larissa Olenicoff is first and foremost a passionate explorer of the world. She lives and breathes travel; it’s what she does best. Also important to note is that she is a born and raised California girl, presently living in southern Sweden, *almost* a Master of European studies, avid iPhoneograper, music enthusiast, occasional DJ, party animal, lover of rosé wine, and oh yes, very blonde.
But who is the Blonde Gypsy ?
The Blonde Gypsy is Larissa Olenicoff but in the form of a slick looking travel blog. No alter-ego here, we are one in the same.
On your blog, I saw lots of travels to Eastern Europe… Why did you choose this area?
It’s kind of a mystery even to me why I have been so fervently drawn to this area, though I suppose it could have something to do with the fact that half of my roots are Eastern European. My grandfather was a descendent of the Zaporozhye Cossacks from what is now eastern Ukraine and my grandmother’s relatives linked to Russian royalty. Don’t quote me on that second part, that’s just what my dad likes to tell me when he thinks I am not acting like a lady.
Aside from family ties to the region, I just love how crazy and unpredictable it is. Eastern Europe is like the Wild West of the 21st Century – there is still so much to be discovered which makes it much more exciting as a traveler.
Wow… royalty, so, please, Your Highness, let’s go country by country… You’ve been to Romania and did not call me. Where have you been?
Yes, I went there last October for about 8 days. I was in Braşov, Bran, Rasnov, Sighişoara, Sinaia, Valeni and Bucharest. Where do you live? Had I received a formal invitation from you I probably would have gone there too.
I am from Bucharest… actually in October, I felt something in the air… probably, it was a kharma thing. Never mind, next time… So, except that you missed me which are the best and the worst experiences in Romania ?
I really liked staying in Braşov. I based myself there half the time and just thought it was such a cozy town and the perfect location to visit so many other places on the side. It was by no means Party Central, but then again I wasn’t in super party mood – I had a pretty ambitious sightseeing itinerary for Transylvania in case you didn’t notice…
I really can’t say that I had any bad experience while in Romania. Everything went pretty smooth, even the night I went out to the countryside to sleep with gypsies. I guess the worst thing was that I didn’t get to experience a good night out on the town in Bucharest. I was really curious to see what the nightlife was like but it was raining – a lot – and I wasn’t getting responses from the people I tried to contact through Couchsurfing. I guess I could have gone out alone or called you but I didn’t have your number. To be continued, Romania.
What about Ukraine ? With good and bad.
My best experience in Ukraine was when I lived in Odessa for almost 5 months last year. Every day was seriously like an adventure. I moved there in July – peak season for their infamous beach clubs. Needless to say I had a lot of fun and established a pretty solid network of friends.
That leads me to my worst experience with Ukraine – having to watch so many of my talented friends’ entrepreneurial aspirations fall to the wayside because of corruption.
That’s not fun to talk about though, so how about this: having to ride in crowded, sweaty marshrutkas and that one time I moved into an apartment infested with cockroaches.
How are the Ukrainian girls ? But boys ?
Ukrainian girls are some of the most beautiful and intelligent girls I have ever met. Also, they like to have a good time. Some of my best friends are now Ukrainian girls, so of course I hold a very high opinion of them.
Ukrainian boys are sweet and very gentlemanly. Never thought I’d be able to answer that one before I moved there, but I guess that says something in itself. Quite the opposite of what I’m dealing with over here in Sweden now…sorry, Swedish dudes.
You’ve been to Chernobyl ! Why did you go ? Isn’t dangerous ? Do you know glow in the dark, well fed with radioactivity ?
I have been to Chernobyl! Aside from Eastern Europe, I also have a strange fascination with Soviet history and I guess I just wanted to learn as much about the Chernobyl disaster as I could while I was in Ukraine. What better way to do that than go to the scene of the crime and hear stories from people who lived through it. I’m also adamant about trying to use whatever platform I have to remind people that the disaster is nowhere near over with thousands of children still suffering from birth defects that can only be attributed to the increased levels of radiation. I guess I thought I’d have more of a leg to stand on having been there myself.
As far as how dangerous it is, they say you get about as much exposure to radiation as you do on a trans-Atlantic flight, but honestly who really knows. I like living on the edge, what can I say? I most definitely do not glow in the dark now even though that would be a pretty awesome party trick to pull.
What about Transnistria ? How did you get there ? Why ? How does the place look like ?
Why not Transnistria? If you lived right next door to a breakaway territory, wouldn’t you want to visit it too? I lived 2 1/2 hours away by train in Odessa, Ukraine and I guess I was just curious. I kept hearing all kinds of things like it is the “last bastion of the Soviet Union” and super shady for Western foreigners to visit. Naturally I was dying to go.
Both things couldn’t have turned out to be further from the truth. Getting there from Odessa was easy and not shady at all; I just followed the instructions that had been passed on to me from the guy running the hostel I stayed at. Tiraspol didn’t remind me anymore of the Soviet Union than Chisinau in terms of appearance. Yes, there are a couple of pretty fierce statues of Lenin in the center, but he was a good-looking fellow – why not leave em’ up.
Summing up, which would be Blonde Gypsy’s top 5 Eastern Europe ? Could you tell me few things about your choices ?
This is a hard question, mainly because I don’t know what you or your readers consider to be “Eastern Europe”. In any case, here are my top choices east of Germany, Austria and Italy:
5) Moscow, Russia
Regardless of whether you or Russia consider it Eastern Europe, Moscow it is one of the most interesting cities I have visited and certainly one of the world’s greatest modern metropolis’. It’s one of those places you just have to see and feel for yourself – on par with Tokyo and New York City.
4) Warsaw, Poland
Poland is coming up, actually it has been up for a while now in a lot of ways. There are a lot of great cities there but I have to choose Warsaw over all the others because I prefer grittier and more dynamic over fairytale. It has a Berlin-ish vibe that I like but with less expats and hipsters.
3) Sarajevo, Bosnia – Herzegovina
Sarajevo is my favorite place in the Balkans. It is just special, I don’t know how else to describe it. The confluence of religion and culture there makes it really different than so many other places I have been to, it’s gorgeous and the people are incredibly friendly.
2) Kiev, Ukraine
For those who don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a visa to visit Moscow and want to spend less money, Kiev is a good place to go instead. I was really surprised by how beautiful it was – lots of impressive boulevards and golden domes everywhere.
1) Odessa, Ukraine
Odessa is my favorite city in Eastern Europe, no doubt about it. It isn’t as grand as Kiev, but I think that’s what makes it feel so much more inviting and charming. It’s the perfect mix of old Russian Empire and Soviet kitsch with a maritime theme running throughout. Great restaurants, great clubs, and most importantly, great people.
Tell me about your movies… how do you make them ? Which one is the best ? Writing or filming ? What do you enjoy the most ?
I make a majority of my travel videos on my iPhone. It was actually while I was traveling through Moldova and Romania that I started getting into iVideography. I can’t say which one is best, but my favorite is probably the first one I did called “Have you ever been to a Moldavian wedding?” I got a lot of really good video footage at this wedding I was invited to in Causeni, Moldova so I strung it all together. It’s kind of cheesy but it turned out to be a pretty comprehensive account of what really goes down at one of these soirées.
I was going to say that I enjoy filming more because I am lazy when it comes to writing, but actually putting videos together takes way more time. What I enjoy most is taking photos.
Imperator Travel (in English) it is at the very beginning… so, it requires some good feedback. How would you improve it ?
I might take that advertisement for Ukrainian and Swedish girls off your front page, but other than that I am beyond impressed. I love the layout and your writing is superb – way better than a lot of writers out there who have English as their mother tongue (for example, me). Really, keep up the great work is the only advice I have!
Thank you ! So, what’s next ? Where would you go next ?
I’m pretty grounded in Sweden and its surrounding area until I hand in my Master thesis at the end of the summer. Hoping to grow my site a bit more, get a fan page set up like a real blogger (I’m deathly afraid), and perhaps even attend one of the upcoming European blog conferences. If not the conferences, then at least the parties.
Then after that who knows, I’m not much of a planner. I can say high on my list of things to do is get over to Georgia, Armenia and the ‘Stans. India seems like it would be pretty wild as would doing a few weeks on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The sky’s the limit, but one thing is for sure –if I make it to Romania again, I will be calling you.
Thanks for the fun interview
Thank you, too. I might show up for one of the conferences, so I hope we will party together.
Late night bicycling in Berlin
Chillaxing riverside in Kiev
Making friends in Morocco
Farming in Uppsala, Sweden
Questioning the meaning of Titicaca on Taquile Island, Peru
Feeling James Bond-ish in the undergrounds of Istanbul
Feeling home – Red Square at night
Holiday in Tiraspol, Transnistria
The Blonde Gypsy (the avatar tatoo)
Hollywood meets Rasnov in Romania
Totally lost in Malta