Friday, July 31, 2009

from Banja Luka to Sarajevo

We`re really lucky. And we`re in Sarajevo now:)
But first things first.
So, Banja Luka doesn`t offer many tourist attractions, but it`s a nice city anyway. It boasts the ruins of the castle (now there`s a restaurant and playground), huge market place, damaged mosque, colorful orthodox church and a dirty river. Oh, and some parks, many cafes ans other places where the time slows down. It was quite interesting to watch how people spend their free time, we met e.g. a group of drum players who went through the city, dancing and playing nice music and attracting a huge audience.
After 2 days we hitchhiked to Sarajevo, which wasn`t as easy as we thought it might be. We were waiting quite long for a car, because there was no proper place to stand on the road. Finally, we were lucky enough and a mercedes driver took as straight to Sarajevo. More than 200 km. He was really nice to us - talked about his family, his club in Banja Luka, villages that we went through, the nobel prize winner from Travnik and how complicated his country is. He had to take part in the war, now he believes that media show Serbs as bad people, although it is not truth. He called mosques the factories of pencils, invited us to a cup of coffe and gave us a very detailed map of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although his English wasn`t good at all, we understood each other quite well. Well, mainly because our languages are quite similar.

We found a very nice camping in Sarajevo, 10 minutes away from the centre, on a hill, where all the streets and houses look almost the same.
And I really fell in love with the old town of Sarajevo - with its narrow streets, stands with carpets, cooper tools, clothes, souvenirs, peacfeull cafes and restaurant, mosques and fountains with drinkable water. It`s a city of temples, of various religions, it differs much from Banja Luka, mainly because it`a a muslim part of the country. But outside the old town it`s not so charming anymore. Old buildings with signs of bullets from the war, few damaged cars, poor districts... But I like it anyway. And I will miss it.

Tomorrow we`re heading to Mostar and then to Montengero. I hope we won`t wait long for a car to take us...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


5 days, 35 cars, about 1500 km... Yeah!! I've hitchhiked to Bosnia!!! To Banja Luka.
And I must say I love hitchhiking:)Because of its ups and downs:) I've met many nice and helpful people, experienced many happy and difficult situations, never planned anything, everything was quite spontaneous and all in all it was just great!
I will describe all the details of our trip when I get back home, once I have enough time to do that, because there's so much to say:) Now I just wanna spread my joy and say that I've reached my destination:) Although it's not the end yet. Now it's time to visit Bosnia (Sarajevo, Mostar, some villages) and then I'm going to Montenegro. And I just want to say thank you!! To all the people who helped us on the way, who saved us in hopeless situations, who smiled to us, gave us hope, and talked about various things.

And one more thing. Once we've arrived to Bosnia, I feel I'm losing soemthing:) The way ist the aim, not the final destination. But soon we'll be on the way to Montenegro:)
Oh, and one more thing. Bosnia rules!!!We've never waited here for a car longer than 3 minutes:)
Ok, my time is up.
I'll describe more next time. Now I'm discovering Banja Luka, with its poor and splendorous sites, with friendly people and hot temperature.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Before the journey

And so it's happening! It's the first time when we (Michał and me) haven't changed our plan for the journey. The idea appeared in February, then it underwent further development and improvement, had its ups and downs but survived till holiday. It was only enriched in more countries. But to the point.
Michał's initial plan was: Montenegro!
I said: why not!
So we started to read about this beautiful country and prepared to the journey.
Then another idea appeared. We wanted to see Bosnia & Hercegovina, maybe also Croatia, Serbia and Albania. Finally our plan looks like that: we're setting off tonight. By train. To Michał's cottage house. We're going to relish the fresh fruit from the garden and relax before the intensive journey, surely full of surprises.
On Wednesday we're going - aha! I haven't mentioned the most important part, how we're getting there - so we're hitch-hiking in the direction of Bosnia & Hercegovina. (now a small remark: reactions to our hitch-hiking idea varied from: "cool! you must be brave" to: "no one's hitch-hiking nowadays anymore", "be careful”, "it must be dangerous" , "can't you go by train?”. We can. But everyone can go by train. Hitch-hiking is not for everyone. And we want to check how our far hitch-hiking journey will work out. Because till now I've only hitch-hiked over short distances. And yes, we'll be careful). And will see what happens. We'll see where we'll stop overnight (camping? private accommodation? in a wood?) we'll see where we get etc. In B&H we want to visit Mostar and some other cities and villages. Then we're going to Montenegro. And we plan to stay there quite a long time and visit many places. And after that we're going to Albania to see Shkoder. Maybe we'll manage to go to Tirana, as well, but I'm not sure if we have enough time for that. Because we're going to travel for about 5 weeks only.
And what's awaiting us? A 40-degree-heat, snow in the mountains, charming nooks and crannies of B&H, Albania and Montenegro that still haven't suffered from mass tourism, a lot of surprises and (I hope) nice meetings. And if we manage, we'll also go to Croatia and Serbia. Oh, and something more- we really want to experience the local colours of the countries, taste local specialities, spend a lot of time in cafe - or whatever they have there - and just relish the foreign culture.

Of course I'm going to keep my blog up to date and inform about our progress - if I find a net café. So it's time to get to work! It's time to do the worst part of each journey: packing...

And then - bye bye Poznań, bye bye Poland, welcome to the world of adventures!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Salzburg (22.11.08)

A cosy Mozart's town welcomed us with rain and said goodbye with snow.

We've just come back. Spent two days in Salzburg, but it was long enough to feel the unique atmosphere of the city...

First of all - Mozart. The city was totally full of him. And no wonder - the place attracts crowds of tourists mainly because of him. Walking down the main streets you can hear English very often, but many tourists from Asia come here as well. And Mozart... He was born here, lived here for a couple of years, played many concerts. You can visit his birthplace and a house where he lived. There's also Mozartplaz (Mozart square) with his statue, original Mozartkugel (Mozart balls – delicious sweets ) and the less original ones but most popular, omnipresent balls. Popular are also concerts of Mozart's music, played e.g. in the Hohensalzburg Castle and Residence.

The most sights are situated on the left bank of the Salzach river – the Old Town, City Hall, Cathedral, Mozart Square, Mozart's Birthplace, Franciscan Church, Monastery of St. Peter. Residence... Yes, we've been there. And not only there. Because the right bank of the river is also attractive: with Mirabell Castle surrounded by wonderful gardens, and with charming hills over the city. One of the hills is dominated by the Hohensalzburg Castle, the other - by the Capuchins Order and the next one is just a viewing terrace...

Salzburg was presenting its best parts very slowly. The narrow streets of the Old Town were dressed in yellow lights - stars and chains. A Christmas Market with a large Christmas Tree in the middle appeared near the Cathedral. There were also thousands of lights, stands with nice smelling punches, mulled wine, sausages, Christmas decorations, toys, clothes, pretzels...

Unfortunately, the first day was quite rainy, so the admiration of the city finished after few hours. We came back to our hostel (called Yoho) completely soaked. And talking about the hostel - it surprised us very positively. Although it was the cheapest one, it offered auch facilities as for example doors and locks locked wit a special card, tidy and attractive rooms, nice bathrooms (better as in our dormitory), bar, restaurant, Internet, TV-room, resting room... Most of the guests were from English speaking countries, having fun till the early morning hours and making a lot of noise...

By the time we got dry again, it was dark already. But the rain was over, so ... we went to Kapuzinerberg. It's a hill with the Capuchin Order. Probably it's totally crowded during a day, but the evening was the kingdom of calm and silent. And from the hill we saw a marvellous view on a illuminated city...

But the real charm of Salzburg appeared the day after. When the first snow fell! (Well, in fact that day almost the whole country experienced the first snowfall). The white fluff covered the hills and buildings, Christmas decoration gained on beauty and even the market looked much better. We visited the Hohensalzburg Castle and admired the view on the city from its top. Similar view presented the next hill – Monchsberg. We also popped into the Residence to see the magnificent rooms of Archbishops. We could also taste the local specialities - large pretzels and various punches. (My favourite taste is the baked apple with cream and cinnamon. The Vienna Market lacks it.)
Of course we visited also almost all the churches near the centre, because each is unique, historic, surprising...

In fact you could walk down the Salzburg streets without the end, especially in the nice Christmas & Winter atmosphere. Even Getreidegasse - extremely crowded street and full of shops - looked quite attractive. One day is definitely not enough, but in two days you're more than likely to delight the unique atmosphere of this popular city...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leopoldsberg and Klosterneuburg (16.11.08)

The autumn is almost over, so it’s high time to make use of the nice weather and stroll a little bit around Vienna.

That’s why we went today in direction of Kahlenberg. The view – much more foggy than last time. But it was not our final destination. From the hill we walked through Wiener Wald to another huge hill, called Leopoldsberg. It’s as much as 425 m high and a wonderful view on the city spreads from its top. There’s also a small church devoted to Saint Leopold. The name of the hill comes from its saint patron.

Then we continued our stroll through the wood and winery till we got to a town Klosterneuburg, about 13 km form Vienna. It boasts an Augustinian monastery, built in 12th century. Later it was rebuilt in a baroque style. The small hill possesses plenty buildings, including a church, chapel with the tomb of St. Leopold and a museum. The ceiling of the chapel is decorated with frescos presenting the miracles of St. Leopold, the church is richly decorated, also with gold, and we didn’t manage to visit the museum.

There were crowds of people today near the monastery, because the day of St. Leopold, patron of Vienna was celebrated. That’s why there was also many stands and a fun fair near the monastery.

A huge pilgrimage came to the church – altar boys and girls and other people. The long procession of boys and girls dressed in albs lasted many minutes. The wind was blowing the white dresses, yellow walls of monastery were proudly soaking the sun rays, sounds of bells were spreading through the whole region…

Our walk finished in a small inn. Everyone (4 people)grabbed huge pieces of meat and I could chose only one vegetarian dish… Well, better this than nothing. At least out tradition of Austrian lunch/dinner was sustained.

Still Jaipur (01.03.08)

Jantar Mantar. We’ve been looking for it for a couple of minutes. It shouldn’t be far away from Hawa Mahal, according to the map. We’re asking a guide of Canadian trip to show us the way. Ok. Everything is clear. Now we’re passing few vendors and reaching Tripolia Gate. In this part of city is much calmer as in the centre. Well, instead of Jantar Mantar we’ve reached first City Palace Complex. 100 rupees. We’re watching it only from the outside: yellow walls, mosaics, a small cannon next to the main door. A lot of white tourists. We’re resting in the shade, near the entrance and the guard is keeping an eye on us all the time.
Finally, Jantar Mantar. We’re on the way. The Indian Kingdom of astronomy. The biggest and the best preserved among the other 4 Jantars. Wow. Strange buildings, yellow, pink, brown. A lot of information boards. First, we’re going by some yellow round „buildings” – Ram Yantra, which is used to calculate the azimuth. Then we’re noticing zodiac signs in form of triangle constructions, a sundial, measuring the time exact to 2 seconds, complicated tools to calculate the time of solar eclipse and the movements of planets. Stone, marble, the play of colours, crowds of people.
We’re hiding from the sun in the shade, on the grass, near the sundial. Yeah, it is amazing. So it seems that Jaipur can show its nicer face…
I’m wondering if its true, I mean the thing with the sunset. The pink city looks then extremely attractive. Well, let’s check it! We’re going to the main gate of the old city, sitting on a wall near a building opposite of the gate and watching, and waiting. And nothing happens. The sun sets and the colours are still more less the same. Where are all these tones of pink praised in a guidebook?! Or maybe we’ve chosen the wrong place? And we were supposed to see elephants and monkeys… Well, I’ve seen some monkeys but not as much to agree that Jaipur is the city of monkeys. And I still haven’t seen any elephant here.
!!! And here it comes! The elephant! Treading proudly down the main street, carrying 2 Indians on its back. They’re happy that we’re taking photos of them.
Maybe we really haven’t reached the most attractive, over-monkeyed, and over-elephanted and over-pinked parts of the city. Maybe. But anyway we spared a lot of time to let the city show us its overrated image.
We have a train after 10 p.m.. Finally we’ll get some rest and sleep. But at night there’s a real snoring concert. Each of the surrounding Indians is snoring in a different way, making various sounds. A huge dirty sleeping room, rushing through sleepy Rajasthan.

Christmas trees (11.01.09)

The Austrians are getting rid of their Christmas trees. Very often you can see them carrying a green still not withered tree and leaving them in a refuse damp. And the trees have a special place here. They're sorted as the other types of rubbish. So, a tree doesn't go straight to a bin, but is left near to the colourful containers for glass, plastic etc. But I still don't know what happens with them later. Are they taken with a special car to some special place or they're just laying all together till someone take them as fuel, for example... No idea. Anyway - there's less and less Christmas trees in Austrian houses.

Christmas trees (11.01.09)

The Austrians are getting rid of their Christmas trees. Very often you can see them carrying a green still not withered tree and leaving them in a refuse damp. And the trees have a special place here. They're sorted as the other types of rubbish. So, a tree doesn't go straight to a bin, but is left near to the colourful containers for glass, plastic etc. But I still don't know what happens with them later. Are they taken with a special car to some special place or they're just laying all together till someone take them as fuel, for example... No idea. Anyway - there's less and less Christmas trees in Austrian houses.

Museum of Art History (11.01.09)

We visited the other large museum today, the twin of Museum of Natural History. It's almost identical to its twin. The only difference is that it boasts another exhibits and another decoration.
And so again we spent inside about 3 hours, because it was impossible to stay there longer Although it would be useful to spare much more time on careful examination of each exhibit. Because there's a lot to examine. First, the rooms with mummies, statues, sarcophagus - Egypt in a nutshell. Then sculptures from ancient Greece and Roma. (Well, after visiting three different museums with exhibits from Egypt - in London, Berlin and Vienna - I feel that you can visit Egypt without leaving Europe I wonder if that what the founders of museums wanted to achieve or it's all because there's so many precious things in Egypt and they get rid of them so easily and sell to excited collectors...)

The ancient time is over on the ground floor and then on the next floor, the world of paintings begin. From the ancient times to 18th century. There's so many rooms that you just can't see the end of this huge labyrinth. But somehow I've managed to get through the meanders of art and viewed each painting. The most works were the ones of Rubens and Brueghel. Actually, there are most popular Brueghel's paintings, such as: "Tower of Babel", „Children's games”, „The hunters in the snow”, and many many others. I even met two painters that were copying the works of the master. They were standing with their easels in front of the works and painting... just like that. . And many people gathered around to watch them, comment, take a photo...
The last floor is a home of various coins, ranging from ancient times to 21st century The largest coin was devoted to Queen Elisabeth and was made of pure gold, worth about 1 million Euro. As long as I remember - there are only 4 such coins in the world.
And now few words about the decoration...Wow!

More? No problem: in each room there was a different ceiling with floral motives, sometiomes amazing sculptures were looking from behind a corner... And the main hall is just a master piece. Anyway, it's similar to the one in the Museum of Natural History - round ceiling, richly decorated steps, above - a painting, then richly decorated balconies, full of them various sculptures, marble, gold... Or something else that shines so nicely. Well, there's no point to talk about it, you just have to see it. At least on the photographs:)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Museum of Natural History (10.01.09)

It’s situated opposite the Museum of Art History. Both buildings were grounded in the Habsburg’s days, of course and both of them look amazing. You just don’t know what to admire – the abundance of exhibits or the splandourously decorated rooms.
We were visiting Naturhistorisches Museum (the original name) for about 3 hours, but it still wasn’t enough because the museum counts 39 large rooms, full of showcases. It’s just impossible to stay there longer, so not all the tiny stones, plants and animals were given the same amount of time. There are also rooms of minerals, meteorites, reconstruction of famous caves, prehistoric art, fossils, micro world under the microscopes, stuffed animals (which made me shiver) e.g. birds, fish, dinosaurs’ skeletons, tomb of prehistoric people… It’s about 20 million items…

But even without them the building is extremely attractive – the main hall boasts a huge painting on the ceiling, another paintings are on the walls, there’s also a lot of sculptures of famous people (e.g. Newton, Humboldt). The rooms are also magnificent – with abundance of sculptures, paintings, various decorations.
The most interesting seemed to me the model of earth seen from a satellite. It was revolving around presenting various views – the globe by night, in the day time, with ozone layer, snow cover, sea currents. Another fascinating item was a ‘time machine’ – with a turn of a wheel you could see the shape of the continents in the past and in the future. Oh, and the underwater rooms were quite attractive, as well. I also spent a lot of time in a room with microscopes, watching various tiny creatures, but don’t ask me about their names – neither German nor Latin captions were helpful here.

The museum possesses a separate room devoted to Venus of prehistoric people. There was e.g. Venus from Willendorf, which is already 25 000 years old and the reconstructions of excavations of various Venuses, presenting e.g. a position in which they were found.