Three most underrated cities in Europe

(The weather is becoming too hot to do anything that requires brain right now, so I decide to put aside my dissertation and write this instead.)

Paris. Rome. London. They are all in every Asian’s travelling wish list. And going to the most touristic cities means that you can’t even take a proper picture of that famous landmark because tourists are swarming over it with their pink jackets, selfie sticks, and ugly hats. Ugh.

Although visiting those cities is also a must, I found myself happiest when I’m in these three cities. So without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

1. Stockholm

I have to admit that I’m not being objective here – one of my two favourite children books writers is Astrid Lindgren, and she’s from Sweden. I grew up with kids from Bullerbyn, Madicken, Lisabet, Ronya, and Lotta. So the first thing I did when I arrived in Stockholm is visiting Junibacken, where her masterpieces are immortalised. I simply love that place.

Putting Junibacken aside – Stockholm is fantastic! It consists of little islands, connected by bridges as you can see in this map.

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(This is a screenshot of my own Google maps, with places I favourited.)

Each islands has its own places of interest. Go explore those tiny roads in the old town Gamla Stan, or cross further to Sofo to try the famous Meatball For The People (which in my opinion is overrated). Grab a kardamombulle in Urban Deli Nytorget (thank me later). Visit ABBA Museum but don’t bother to enter – just sit outside, enjoy the songs and free wifi. Try the princess cake (prinsesstårta) at Vete-Katten where you can also enjoy free coffee.

I went there in the summer and I spent hours just sitting in a dock, eating ice cream, looking at sea, ships and seagulls.

2. Liverpool

After visiting more than 10 cities/towns in England, I found that all of them look very similar: Old buildings, old church, big clock, Marks & Spencer, Boots, and The Body Shop. If you closed my eyes and teletransported me somehow to the middle of one of the cities, I wouldn’t be able to guess where I am.

But Liverpool is different. First, it has docks and sea, which brings a nice addition to the regular English cities. And it has The Beatles. I will repeat it again: it has The Beatles.

To be fair, I wasn’t a huge The Beatles fan. I only knew Hey Jude and Yesterday. But then I went to The Cavern and fell in love.

The Cavern is an underground pub that serves live music almost all day long (from 12 noon to 2 midnight). It is famous because The Beatles has performed there for more than 200 times. And because it is underground, you can go there in the afternoon and feel like it’s midnight already. The live music is awesome. Solo or band, young or old, they are all amazing. And yes, you will hear Hey Jude over and over again.


I never like clubs/pubs with loud, crappy music that you can’t hear yourself talking. But in The Cavern, you are not supposed to talk. Leave your seat, stand in front of the stage, and feel yourself being carried away by the music.

3. Budapest

I almost cancelled my trip to Budapest, because I was in Prague and there was nothing much. I thought Budapest would be similar, or even worse. I’m really, really glad I didn’t!

Budapest consists of two areas: Buda and Pest, and they are divided by Danube river. Buda is hilly and residential while Pest is flat and centre of government & commerce. It means that you have fantastic views from both sides: you can sit on the river bank in Pest and look at beautiful hill with old buildings in Buda. Or you can climb Buda and see Pest from the top.

Budapest history is also interesting. Being occupied by many empires give this city rich background and diverse architecture. You can see a pretty building from Hofburg era side by side with a dull one from communist time. And the thing I love the most is, there are hidden histories lie behind what look like ordinary statues! I strongly recommend you to join the free walking tour (especially the communism one) to discover the untold stories. (Confession: the tour was great and I didn’t have money to tip them properly – so I promised myself that I would promote them as my gratitude.)

IMG_20160707_165337.jpgBonus point from Budapest: they have the most amazing ice cream ever. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been obsessed to find best ice creams in Europe, and I think Levendula wins so far! Try their chocolate lavender and mint raspberry – heaven.


First of all: your impression of a city or a new place will much depend on your experience. If it rains a lot when you are there, or your wallet is stolen, of course it will ruin your mood. I might be just lucky that my experience in these three cities are perfect. It doesn’t mean yours will!

Secondly: I didn’t expect anything when I came to these cities. I didn’t read much about them, I didn’t have places to visit listed. I found most of the places I mentioned above by accident – and that way, I got delightful surprises when they were that good. I’m not sure you will have the same wonderful experiences if you already have certain sets of expectation on them.



Three things I learn from solo travelling

I started solo travelling when I broke up with my boyfriend, back in 2013. Around the same time, I decided to quit my job at the ‘Most Admirable Company in Indonesia’ – and I bought a one-way ticket to Bali. Since then, I solo travel almost all the time. And I learn…

1. How to take care of myself

Sometimes I get sick while travelling. I can’t even get up to buy medicines or food. But I have no options than lie in bed in fetal position until I get a bit better… then I crawl to grab myself some food or medicine.

Things happen and you can’t depend on anyone else.

2. That I make friends – and I lose them

Staying in hostels enable you to make friends quite easily. You chat in common areas such as living or dining room, and if you find many things in common, you can travel with him/her the next day(s). You talk whole day with them – sometimes you even share things you never tell anyone.

But then they leave. Or you leave first. You exchange contacts, but it’s least likely that you will keep in touch. After the first text (“Hey, I arrived in London already. Enjoy the rest of your trip!”), you just stop being in touch. Life simply gets in the way.

3. How liberating it is to be yourself

The sense of anonymity is liberating. You can wear anything you like without being self-conscious. You can stroll aimlessly, take unexpected turns, explore that tiny road, eat when you feel like it, go inside those cute shops, lie down on the grass watching squirrel and pigeons, buy that third cone of ice cream… The list is endless, when you stop trying to please other people.

Wait, am I writing about solo travelling or about… living your life?


Tentang Kelanjutan Meter/Second

Kamu tahu, tokoh-tokoh dalam novel fiksi sebenarnya punya kemauan sendiri. Kamu pikir penulislah yang menggerakkan pena dan mengetikkan rangkaian kalimat yang menentukan tindakan si tokoh. Padahal tidak. Si tokoh pun punya keinginan sendiri, ia yang mendadak bertingkah laku di luar dugaan dan sang penulis harus pasrah dipimpin oleh tokoh tersebut.

Aku dan Kent menulis kisah Agus dan Filia di novel Meter/Second. Novel yang sejak awal kurencanakan menjadi novel bersambung. Akhir novel Meter/Second adalah pertemuan Agus dan Filia di bandara. Novel lanjutannya seharusnya mengisahkan perjalanan mereka di sana. Filia akan pacaran dengan Timothee, sahabat Agus. Barulah Agus merasa kehilangan dan sedikit cemburu. Blablabla, hingga mereka berdua pergi ke summer class di Italia dan setelah sebulan keliling Eropa bersama, mereka baru mengakui perasaan masing-masing.


Plot sudah dibuat, bahkan setengah novel sekuel Meter/Second sudah rampung ditulis. Tapi lalu tokoh-tokoh ini memberontak. Filia punya jalan lain yang ingin ia tempuh. Ia memang putus dengan Timothee, tapi bukan berarti ia ingin bersama Agus. Filia mulai bekerja part time dan bertemu teman-teman lain yang lebih dewasa dan menarik baginya. Bukan berarti Agus tak cukup baik untuk Filia. Mereka hanya… tumbuh ke arah yang berbeda.

Kamu mungkin pernah juga mengalaminya. Persahabatan semasa SMP yang mulai renggang saat masuk SMA. Kamu tadinya bisa ngobrol berjam-jam di telepon dengan teman baikmu, tapi sekarang terasa garing dan tak senyambung dulu.

It happens. Sometimes when people grow, they grow apart. And sometimes it’s better to quit while you are ahead, while you still have lovely memories to preserve.

Jadi tolong maafkan Filia dan Agus yang tak bisa melanjutkan kisah mereka. Mungkin suatu hari nanti, akan ada kisah tentang Filia seorang. Akan ada kisah tentang Agus seorang. Bahkan bisa jadi, di tahun-tahun mendatang, jalan mereka kembali bersilang. Tapi untuk saat ini… Biarlah mereka melepaskan gandengan tangan, meniti jalan sendiri menuju masa depan yang penuh tanya.

Passionate in Writing | #TanyaPenulis dengan Debbie Widjaja

Patah hati yang tidak menghasilkan royalti itu pamali! Baca lengkapnya di interview oleh @nulisbuku dengan @debbiewidjaja.

@nulisbuku: Nah sekarang saatnya sesi #tanyapenulis dengan @debbiewidjaja. Yuk, kita kenalan dulu dengan Debbie. @debbiewidjaja adalah penulis dari novel Honey Money, Not Just a Fairy Tale, Follow @merryriana dan Meter/Second. Hallo Debbie, apa kabar? Apa kesibukan kamu sekarang nih? @debbiewidjaja

@debbiewidjaja: Halooo tweeps. Kabarku baik dongg, lebih amazing daripada Spiderman! (motivator mode: ON). Aku sekarang lagi sibuk nulis novel ke-5 & ke-6 sekaligus, ganti-ganti sesuai mood. Plus jadi kuli di startup @fokado dan @giftcardid.

@nulisbuku: Bisa diberitahukan ke teman-teman nulisbuku, novel apa saja yang sudah kamu tulis? Tadi sudah sempat disebutkan sih, biar jelasnya kita tanya langsung sama penulisnya ya. Hihi 🙂

@debbiewidjaja: Novelku ada 4: Not Just A Fairy Tale (2005), Honey Money (2010), Follow @merryriana (2013), dan yang terakhir Meter/Second (2013), duet bareng @nyankent. Semuanya diterbitkan oleh @gramedia 🙂

@nulisbuku: Wah keren. Lalu sejak kapan kamu mulai menulis?

@debbiewidjaja: Aku udah bercita2 jadi penulis sejak umur 6 tahun. Dulu pengen banget mamerin buku terbitan sendiri ke guru SD kelas 1, hihi. Dengan pedenya aku datang ke mamaku, bawa tulisan satu paragraf, dan minta dia kirimin ke penerbit. Hahaha… Baru mulai nulis cerpen waktu kelas 6 SD, pas pertama kali naksir2an dan… patah hati. Dari cerpen-cerpen, belakangan baru jd novel utuh waktu kelas 1 SMA. Sejak itu, dengan bangga menyandang gelar ‘penulis’

@nulisbuku: Apa sih yang membuat Debbie tertarik untuk menjadi penulis?

@debbiewidjaja: Aku kan alumni psikologi yah *ehem*, nah di psikologi ada istilah ‘katarsis’, artinya menuangkan emosi terpendam. Ada orang yg katarsisnya dengan main musik, ada yang menari, ada yang melukis, ada yang masak. Nah, bagiku itu menulis. Kalo aku ga bisa nulis, rasanya kayak ga bisa pup. Jadi ngebusuk di dalem, ga sehat :p plus, dengan menjadi penulis, aku bisa mengatur sendiri alur cerita sesuai keinginan. Playing god gitu deh.

@nulisbuku: Terus biasanya darimana inspirasi untuk tulisan- tulisan Debbie berasal?

@debbiewidjaja: Inspirasiku mostly dari… haduh malu nih. Dari kisah patah hatiku :)) seperti yg tadi aku blg, menulis itu katarsis. Ketika aku happy, aku bisa cerita ke semua orang… Tapi ketika aku sedih, aku hanya bisa cerita ke beberapa teman terdekat. Dan setelah setahun ga move on jg, mereka mulai bosen dgr curhatanku. Jadi ya satu-satunya pelampiasan adalah menulis. Ketika aku menulis, rasanya lukaku seperti kena air garam. Nyesss, lalu sembuh. Jadi, patah hati yang tidak menghasilkan royalti itu pamali :p

@nulisbuku: Sejak kapan kamu menyadari bahwa menulis adalah passionnya Debbie?

@debbiewidjaja: Pertanyaannya susaahh. Ga tau deh, jatuh cinta begitu saja. Somehow you just know. I guess, kamu bisa punya banyak passion. Aku juga suka main musik, makan, shopping, dll. Tapi yg langka adalah when you’re passionate at something you’re good at, and people love your creation as well (it means you can make money). Aku sangat beruntung karena udah menemukan irisan di tengah semua itu.

@nulisbuku: Apakah kamu tertarik untuk menjadi penulis full time? Kenapa?

@debbiewidjaja: Ugh. Enggak. Pernah sih ditawarin jadi penulis full time, tapi aku nolak. Soalnya aku bakal kehabisan ide & inspirasi kalau spanjang hari nulis terus. Aku lebih suka jalanin kerjaan biasa, ketemu banyak org, ketemu konflik di kantor, dll. Baru di malam harinya, aku menulis 🙂

@nulisbuku: Tantangan selama menjadi penulis yg pernah kamu alami apa aja nih?

@debbiewidjaja: Yang utama sih mengalahkan kemalasan diri sendiri. Soalnya nulis kan self management, jadi ga ada yg marahin. Selain soal kedisiplinan, skrg aku lg menchallenge diri utk nulis di luar genre romantic comedy yg biasa. Nah, itu tantangannya buerat bgt. Mesti rajin research dengan interview & browsing. But it’s really FUN!

@nulisbuku: Ada ga sih penulis yang menjadi role model kamu dalam menulis?

@debbiewidjaja Buanyakk. Penulis itu mutlak harus cinta membaca. Penulis favoritku dari dulu: J.K. Rowling & Sophie Kinsella. Sekarang aku lagi suka banget sama John Green, Dan Brown, dan Paulo Coelho

@nulisbuku: Apa pesan Debbie untuk teman-teman yg masih ragu menjalankan passion menulisnya?

@debbiewidjaja: Tolong dicamkan yah teman2 kalimat sederhana ini: a writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write. Banyak yg pengen jadi penulis tapi ragu, minder, takut, malu, dll. Banyakan kuatirnya, ga ada langkahnya!

@nulisbuku: Nah, sekarang saatnya @debbiewidjaja menjawab beberapa pertanyaan kalian tweeps. Simak terus 🙂

Q1) @wandawardiya | Mbak @debbiewidjaja Kiat2 apa yg digunakan utk menambah kosakata kita?

(A1) @debbiewidjaja: Banyak baca buku2 lain, plus sering2 buka kamus. Follow @fiksimini deh. Suka ada ilmu kosa kata baru di situ. Bukan sponsor loh hehehe

(Q2) @ifahlind | @debbiewidjaja suka dapet mood sama ide yang kece2 pas suasana kayak gimana sih? 😀

(A2) @debbiewidjaja: Campur aduk. Bisa lagi ngumpul dengan teman, bisa lagi nunggu bus, bisa lagi ngeliatin gebetan. Itu yang bikin novelnya kaya.

(Q3) @ranooot | Ka @debbiewidjaja kira-kira kriteria tulisan yg seperti apa yg membuat penerbit tertarik? #tanyapenulis

(A3) @debbiewidjaja: I guess sama seperti apa yang bikin kamu suka baca suatu buku. Buku yang bisa bikin kamu hanyut dalam ceritanya, yang bisa bikin kamu tertawa dan menangis sekaligus. Yang alurnya ga klise. Yang gaya nulisnya ‘khas’ dan punya suara sendiri.

Terima kasih Debbie atas sharingnya. Semoga sukses selalu. Ditunggu novel ke-5 dan ke-6 nya ya. 🙂 Sekian #tanyapenulis malam ini. Semoga bermanfaat ya tweeps! Tunggu #tanyapenulis Bulan Juni ya 🙂

@choirniesa: Makasih kak @debbiewidjaja dan @nulisbuku. Udah adain sharing bgini. Makin pengen berkarya terus 🙂#tanyapenulis

@haznamelia: Terima kasih @nulisbuku & kak @debbiewidjaja udah bagi ilmu buat calon2 penulis sukses!:D

@dika_ngenin: @nulisbuku @debbiewidjaja terimakasih mbak ilmu ku nambah malam ini tentang nulis sebuah cerita, thanks a lot and always success 🙂

@ranooot: Trimakasih Ka @debbiewidjaja dan @nulisbuku atas ilmu & Sharingnya. Membantu sekali . Suksess slalu 🙂 #tanyapenulis