Journeys With My Mother’s Ashes – Healing Grief through Travel

Hooray! It is done! The book is written and published.

It has been a long journey. Anyone who has read any of my travel blogs has quite a few clues as to how it went. For those who are new to my pages here is a quick overview:

In 2010 my dear mother passed away. Much angst and drama happened after that and I left the country to find a way of healing my body, mind and soul. It was quite a journey, 12 months tripping around the world first with my family then on my own. I returned 12 months later much better for my experience.

On my return I first published my poetry collection Laughter, Tears and Coffee through Balboa Press and this year I finally completed the memoir of my healing travel, ‘Journeys With My Mother’s Ashes- Healing Grief Through Travel’.

And here it is, available from Amazon, Barns and Noble and Booktopia


Laughter, Tears & Coffee – Hélène Jermolajew

A big thank you to Just So Stories and Sue Warren for reviewing my poetry collection Laughter, Tears and Coffee.

Just So Stories

Balboa Press

ISBN 9781504309363

RRP $14.99


Yes, you already know it if you have read this blog before. I am a self-confessed nerd and was as a child as well. I didn’t just love reading as in stories, I revelled in information books and I LOVED poetry. I still have two poetry books my Mum included in birthday presents; I usurped my older brother’s poetry text books the minute he was done with them. I’ve written it, I won a prize in high school for it and I love teaching it.

So when my friend Hélène recently published her book of poetry I was dead keen to read it. As luck would have it there was an afternoon this week when I was far from feeling 100%, it was rainy and I went to bed like a diva to recover and began to read. Is there anything quite as soothing…

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Keeping the travel theme of my poetry collection alive.


The vaporetto chugs across the lagoon
Belching diesel fumes as it passes bricole and statues,
Palazzos are left behind to the tourists
Who now, in the distance are swarming like ants before rain;

A launch speeds past, its young passengers smile and wave,
In its sparkling wake the vaporetto chugs on,
Towards distant islands
Of coloured glass and snowy lace.

The Gum and the Wattle

It’s that time of year again, the promise of Spring is in the air in Australia and as I drive around Canberra I see the wattle trees beginning to bloom, so here is another poem from my book, I hope you enjoy.

The Gum and the Wattle

The gum tree and the wattle,
Standing side by side
With fragrance and with colour,
They stand with Aussie pride,

The gum tree feeds koalas,
Is home for many birds,
It turns the mountains hazy blue
Makes shade for cattle herds;

The wattle flowers golden
In springtime’s early sun,
Brings joy with early messages
That winter’s almost done,

The gum tree and the wattle,
Standing side by side,
Both beautiful Australians
Filled with Aussie pride.


Life Through a Door of a Spanish Restaurant in Antigua Guatemala

Alameda de Santa Lucia

Procession of the Immaculate Conception

From Laughter, Tears and Coffee – Helene Jermolajew –
Travel Section

Black wood, yellow render,
One side slightly closed,
Opposite, a barred, Antiguan arched window;

Life passes along the cobblestones
Rattling and squeaking noisily,
People walk carefully,
Striped shirts,
Floral skirts,
Baskets on heads,
Dogs on leads,
Tuk Tuks belch smoke,
Scooters roar to announce their presence,
And an old man passes silently on a bicycle,
Framed life,
Through a door of a Spanish restaurant.

Typical doors and arches in ruins

Farewell Outback

From Laughter, Tears and Coffee – Helene Jermolajew –

Farewell to Outback’s open spaces
Of coolabah, mulga and broom,
Farewell to dusty red-earth traces,
My leaving came too soon.

They say there’s not a lot to see,
They say there’s nothing there,
I’ll now dispute when they say to me
‘You’ll get bored, the place is bare’,

For I’ve seen life at variance
To what you see in towns,
I’ll let you know the difference
Of places of renown,

I’ve seen opal mining,
Dugouts underground,
Had a go at an excavator
That didn’t make a sound,

I’ve been to Cameron Corner
Straddled three Aussie States,
Travelled roads that bumped and shook,
I’ve opened station gates,

Paddy melon bowling
On roadside, bulldust red,
Emus, ‘roos, goats and sheep
With rains were then well fed.

We caught a shingleback to feel
Its dinosaur-rough skin
And climbed the rocks at Tibooburra
To prove where I had been,

We drank and ate at every pub
That we found on our way,
We talked and laughed and swore a bit
With folks we met each day,

I cruised upon the Darling,
I crossed the great Paroo,
I walked upon the little bridge
Across the Warrego,

So out in Lawson country
I saw things as they are,
Remote and dry and hardened,
The land quite often bare,

So every city person
Who thinks they have it tough
Should go out to the Outback
To learn what’s really rough,

To see how men and women
Work with flood and drought,
Manoeuvre roads of dust and rock,
Yet still they have no doubt

That where they really love to be
Is Outback, on the land,
Where those who know this hardened life
Will lend a helping hand.

Hundreds of miles from anywhere

White Cliffs hotel

Dingo fence

Yep, that’s where we were

Straddling three states

We caught a shingle-back

Emus and their bouncy skirts

Paddymelon bowling

My poetry book has gone live!

Laughter, Tears and Coffee – an eclectic collection of my poetry covering half a lifetime of various experiences and touching moments. Births, deaths, travel, fun, celebrations, family. If it happens in life there is probably a poem about it here. Surprise, surprise the largest section is poetry inspired by some parts of my year of travelling. The print version is available from and look out for the e-book version which will soon hit the web. I have posted a couple of samples from the book in this blog previously, more to come. I hope you enjoy and relate to my experiences of life.

Antigua Guatemala

Another travel poem written while I was in Guatemala.


Antigua Guatemala

El Fuego
El Fuego

Where full moons shine on cobblestones
And sunshine bleaches Mayan bones
Volcanos stand so strong and tall
And often Fuego makes a call
With smoky signals from his crown,
Or, is that a Vulcan frown?
To let all those way down below
See his force and let them know
Just how temporary life can be
While he stands tall for all to see?
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAntigua, where bougainvillea flowers
And Jacarandas send purple showers
Where Mayans walk with grace and sway
Bearing baskets on heads all day,
Where churches fell so long ago
From Hades quakes so far below,
The ruins stand in memory
Reminders for all here to see
That any day or night or year
It could repeat and end right here,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Antigua could become Pompeii
With no-one left to clearly say
What really happened in this town
When lava flowed the whole way down,
But meanwhile, midst techtonic plates
People live, still tempting fate,
Mayans walk on cobblestones
And sunshine bleaches their old bones.

Helene Jermolajew 2014 ©

My Ithaca


Hi all, it’s been a while since I posted my last travel story, life got in the way a little. Today I decided I’ve missed my writing so much and it will be a little while yet before I can post the next story. So…….to fill in the gap I’m going to post some of my travel poems instead. I wrote this first one while in Antigua Guatemala. I read C P Cevafy’s Ithaca. That wonderful poem struck a chord in me and I simply had to write one of my own. I wrote a few poems during my travels, all of them will be in my soon to be published (I hope) poetry collection. I hope you enjoy this temporary change of style.



My Ithaca

(Inspired by the poem ‘Ithaca’ C P Cevafy)

My Ithaca, wherever she may be,
Distant or close
In time and space,
Beauteous or humble
With a shining face
She waits,
As I travel
From birth through death
And back to birth,
From place to place,
My Ithaca waits.


My Ithaca waits
As I conquer gods of fear
And devils of depths,
Learn from every step,
Wipe away tears wept,
She waits
As I heal
Through sadness and joy,
Through friendships
Old and new,
Through travels
To distant ports
And mountains,
Along smooth paths and cobblestones,
My Ithaca waits
At my journeys end,
Wherever she may be.

Helene Jermolajew
Monday 6 January 2014
La Antigua


Golden Oldie Hops Over to Istanbul – A Long Weekend is Not Enough

Day 1

The flight from Santorini to Athens is a short one, so it wasn’t long after I waved goodbye to that beautiful island that I was back on another Aegean airlines flight heading towards Istanbul. Aegean airlines was becoming a favourite and this time I was flying business class, believe it or not it was cheaper than economy the day I booked. So, there I was winging my way back over the sparkling blue Aegean Sea towards my new destination.

Now that is what I call an inflight lunch!
Now that is what I call an inflight lunch!

I had met Selin in the Hedonist Hostel in Belgrade (yes, that wonderful hostel where I made so many good friends), a delightful young lady from Istanbul who invited me to come over so she could show me around her city. Once I had made the decision to go to Santorini I thought that would be a good opportunity to accept Selin’s invitation to Istanbul while I was in the area, I’m so glad I did.

Following the flight path to Istanbul
Following the flight path to Istanbul

I arrived safe and sound in Istanbul airport, the queue for visa purchase and passport control alone took one and a half hours to get through, so after landing at 3.00pm I didn’t get to my room till 6pm! Luckily I had booked the airport transfer from the Orient Hostel, it cost 25 euros but it was worth it seeing as I had no idea where I was going and it was getting late.

Finally I met up with Selin and she took me on my night time orientation of Istanbul. By the time we’d finished dinner my sense of humour was returning properly- it had been a challenge hanging on to it through the airport procedures and the less than impressive hostel, but hang on I did, just by the skin of my teeth.

We had a traditional dish for dinner (I wish I could remember the name of it) and then started the night sightseeing at the port.

First Dinner in Istanbul was so delicious.
First Dinner in Istanbul was so delicious.

The port is full of restaurants cafes and bars, all lit up in neon which reflects beautifully in the water. Along the pier you can buy street food and tea, but we’d already eaten so I wasn’t tempted. From the port we went to Istiklal Avenue, the 1.4 kilometre pedestrian street. At the southern end is the world’s second oldest subway train and the oldest in Istanbul. It began service in 1875.

The colourful lights at the port
The colourful lights at the port

The train, known locally as The Tünel, meant that diplomats and businessmen could travel between their harbour side offices in Karaköy (Galata) on the Golden Horn and their hilltop residences in Beyoğlu in 11/2 minutes on steam-powered, gas-lit, cable-drawn cars. So of course it is a must to travel on, even if it is for only one station.

Selin at the subway train.
Selin at the subway train.

The number of years on the front of the subway train changes each year
The number of years on the front of the subway train changes each year

Out of the train we headed up Istiklal Avenue towards

Street musicians
Street musicians

past boutiques, bookstores, cafes, night clubs, street musicians and seafood sellers who would withdraw into the shadows if they saw police (apparently they are not supposed to sell fresh seafood there). The crowds were incredible, of course this was August and Istanbul is a popular city.

The street was sure crowded that night
The street was sure crowded that night

Interesting ceiling decoration
Interesting ceiling decoration

Oh! The Borek.
Oh! The Borek.

We finally reached Taksim Square and the Monument of the Republic commemorating the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The monument was created by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica. The people portrayed in the sculpture are the founders of the Turkish Republic.

It was difficult to believe that only 2 months earlier this area was the place of so much violence and protest. Reportedly it started with protests against the proposed urban development of Gezi Park and escalated into so much more. I am not going to go into any detail here, there is plenty of information online about this massive event in May/June 2013. A few weeks earlier during my stay in Berlin I had met a young backpacker who was working in a hostel at Taksim Square during the uprising, he said it was quite an experience.

Oh, and what day did I choose to arrive in Istanbul? Victory day! A national holiday hence the massive crowds at the airport and everywhere else!

The sculpture of the founders of the Turkish Republic in Taksim Square
The sculpture of the founders of the Turkish Republic in Taksim Square

We walked back along the Avenue, dropped into a club for a beer before parting ways for a good night’s sleep before another day of exploration.

Day 2 – Bathing and an island trip

The next day was a nicely paced quietish day. We started with Selin introducing me to a traditional Hammam (Turkish bath). It is an interesting process, sauna (which I shouldn’t really do as I get badly heat affected, so only did 5 mins), cold pool (hate cold water so avoided that), steam room (same problem as sauna so spent even less time in there), lots of washes of water where many other ladies were also pouring water on themselves while waiting for their turn to be scrubbed. The scrub is very thorough with a loofah while lying on a marble slab, and was followed by a massage and a soapy wash. I’m sure that scrub took off about 5 layers of skin! I was expecting to have lost my tan when I came out, but no, it was still there.  If you are planning on going to a Hammam make sure you do good research or go with a local as I did, I believe that not all baths are great and anyway it is such a different process that there is no way of guessing what the protocol is. Washed and scrubbed we were off for coffee and cake, a ferry to the large island, lots of walking, some Turkish ice cream and a very long ferry ride back.

There are islands to visit when you want to get away  from the city. The Prince Islands (Adalar) are a must. We only went to Buyukada (the big island ) which was just a delight. I love boat travel of any sort and being on a ferry on the Bosporus was by itself something to make me smile, but then adding the destination made it all the more special. I had no idea what to expect, this was all new and exciting. First thing to notice is that there is no motorised transport there, just bikes, horse drawn carriages and electric golf carts, what a delight. Closer to the port is where you find the majority of restaurants, shops, road side sellers and ice cream vendors, all as colourful and interesting as any good novel with a good plot would have you expect.
We set off on foot to explore a little of the island. I was struck by the architecture of the houses so reminiscent of a past age. The gardens full of colour, at that time mainly bougainvillea and the blessed quietness. Yes there are the sounds of peoples’ voices and the clip clop of horses hooves, but that’s it! No cars, no horns, no motorbikes! It was a delight and truly a must to visit as an escape from the noise of the city. The ice cream vendors are a delight in colourful costume. Turkish ice cream has mastic as an ingredient and so it is very stretchy. This means that the vendors can put on quite a show stretching and pulling the ice cream, almost a circus performance.

Beautiful flower lined streets on the Big Island
Beautiful flower lined streets on the Big Island

Loved the architecture on the Big Island
Loved the architecture on the Big Island

Little girl selling head bands and floral decorations
Little girl selling head bands and floral decorations

















The Bouganvillea was prolific
The Bouganvillea was prolific

We originally planned to see the Whirling Devishes but because the ferry trip was so long and Selin needed to go home it was too late, so we hoped that they would be doing their thing again the next night.

Day 3 – Spices and Church

Horses and bikes, delightful.
Horses and bikes, delightful.

The ice cream sellers are so entertaining and colourful.
The ice cream sellers are so entertaining and colourful.



Returning from te Big Island
Returning from the Big Island

Yet another massive day! First off a walk through the spice bazaar, I thought I’d gone to heaven – the beautiful aroma of coffee followed by, and mingling with, every spice you could possibly think of!

Inside the Bazaar
Inside the Bazaar

Spices, spices and more spices
Spices, spices and more spices

Then I even went to

Still more spices
Still more spices

church – well I went into a church and stayed there for quite some time but not for a normal Sunday service! There is a Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul that has the reputation for granting wishes.

On the first day of each month, Hundreds of people  from all faiths flock to the Ayın Biri Church where they buy tiny silver keys to represent their deepest wishes and then attempt to unlock various icons in the two levels of the church. Meanwhile the priest is holding a service. Then the priest goes down stairs and sprays holy water on everyone and all that is followed by lining up again to get a personal blessing. It was quite an event, the best thing is that it’s all faiths all in together doing the same thing, I loved it! Yes, of course I got my personal blessing.

Inside the wish granting church
Inside the wish granting church

After the church service and blessings we had morning tea at the Dolmabahce Palace and then a tour through the palace. They even took us through the Harem area. The grand ceremonial hall is indescribably intricate and gorgeous I can recommend going on the tour.

Dolmahce Palace was first lived in in 1856 and was home to six Sultans until 1924 when the caliphate was abolished. The founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk used the palace as a Summer residence and spent the last days of his life there in 1938. Now it is managed by the Directorate of National Palaces and the only way to see it is with a guided tour.

The stunning Dolmahce Palace
The stunning Dolmahce Palace


By the water at Dolmahce Palace
By the water at Dolmahce Palace

Then more walking, more eating, a beer and then it was a farewell ferry ride, hugs goodbye and I went back to my hostel crossing the water alone. We didn’t make it to the Dervishes that night either. I am so grateful to Selin for entertaining me and showing me Istanbul in a way that most tourists don’t get to see. It helps to know a local.

Day 4 – Going solo in Istanbul
My last day in Istanbul was spent on my own, attempting to do the ‘touristy’ things. The day ended up quite differently to what I expected. I woke up rather late so had breakfast/lunch at the Dervish café on my way to the attractions. I found lamb chops!! cutlets really, but real grilled lamb! Yay! And coffee of course. I discovered that Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) is closed on Mondays so I missed out on that, the crowds at Topkapi palace were beyond my capabilities of handling so I thought I’d try to conquer the Turkish postal system and send some stuff home – FAIL!

near Topkapi
near Topkapi

Not to worry, I headed off to Sirkeci railway station instead to check on a sign I had noticed about a Whirling Dervish show. While doing that I discovered the original Orient Express restaurant. Now that was fun! When I first noticed the restaurant there was a gentleman sitting there just like one of Agatha Christie’s characters in white suit and hat. I went back, closer to show time, to have afternoon tea and take photos. At another table there were 3 lovely English ladies who were even more excited than I about finding the place and a gentleman from Sydney who’s wife had to go home to work after being at a wedding in Cyprus, he continued on to Turkey before heading home. They came over to say hello and ended up joining me. It seriously felt like an unfolding Agatha plot and I fully expected Poirot to appear at any moment. Do I sound a little excited about that discovery? You bet I am.

At the Orient Express station
At the Orient Express station

Orient Express Restaurant
Orient Express Restaurant

Afternoon tea at the Orient Express Restaurant
Afternoon tea at the Orient Express Restaurant

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie


The band accompanying the Whirling Dervishes
The band accompanying the Whirling Dervishes


Whirling Dervishes are truly amazing. The band played for half an hour first, then accompanied the whirling which was very meditational. It is impossible to convey the process and the feelings evoked, you just have to be there. I discovered that Alex (the Aussie I met at the restaurant) was staying in a hotel not far from me so we both had someone to talk to on the way back. And so my whirlwind visit to Istanbul drew to a close, what a weekend that was! I will have to return and spend longer, three days was only an entrée.

Loved the music stores we came across
Loved the music stores we came across


The Galata Tower built in 1348
The Galata Tower built in 1348

My last night in Istanbul
My last night in Istanbul










3 Sept 2013

Groundhog Day! it’s 1:15pm and here I was at Athens airport again! Only difference is that this time I am waiting for my flight to Kalamata, bring it on – olives, yeah!

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