Friday, September 10, 2010

Den Hague and Rotterdam

or about the end of my journey...

That's where I spent my last two days in Holland. In den Hague just few hours, in Rotterdam 1,5 days. And I still don't know which place I like more. Both are quite non-touristic – I mean, there are some tourists, of course, but just a few and walking down the streets in this time of year, you usually notice locals. Both cities are different than Amsterdam – less crazy bikers, less coffee shops, less crowds. Both have Chinese districts and I met a lot of Muslims in the centre. Den Hague seems to be cosier as it's smaller and doesn't overwhelm with its huge modern buildings as Rotterdam does. But what I like in Rotterdam is the Old Harbour with nice cafés and colourful boats, vivid flea market and strange sculptures placed everywhere around the centre. Busy commercial streets and glass skyscrapers destroy a bit the calm atmosphere of the city, but I enjoyed exploring it anyway.

I was also quite surprised with the hostel (Mafkees) where I stayed. It's different than others, with large rooms equipped with plenty of double beds, friendly staff, and quite a big common room. Many guests who stayed there where students looking for a flat in Rotterdam and I didn't really meet there many nice people, as I usually do in a hostel. But I think I liked it.

The country outside Amsterdam attracted me as much as its capital. Time was passing by quite quickly and soon I had to leave Rotterdam to catch my plane from Eindhoven. But the magic of Holland – its special places and special people - has put me under a spell and I'm coming back there next week...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


or about the world outside A'dam...

As said before, outside Amsterdam the world gets back to normal again. Well, not really, because I still felt like under some magic spell while discovering all the small towns and walking along cute houses with original gardens. When I left the capital I was travelling alone again and could explore more, get to know more people and shot some nice scenes. Again a well-balanced proportion between travelling alone and travelling with a company.
Marken, which is an island, boasts a colourful harbour and an array of original nicely decorated houses. I could walk there the whole day long and wouldn't be fed up at all. But as it was rainy almost all the day I quickly changed my mind and after few hours headed for the next towns. I enjoyed though the peaceful atmosphere of the town, the view of wide empty fields or calm animals grazing near the harbour.

Edam and Volendam were much more crowded although still far less chaotic than Amsterdam. The main attraction in Volendam is the harbour again but I preferred to stroll along its narrow streets, far away from crowds of tourists. I met an Australian couple on the way – a marriage in their middle-age travelling around Europe for 6 weeks, heading for Italy after visiting the Netherlands. We talked for a short time and then our ways parted again.
Both towns were full of souvenirs as well and in the ecenter of Edam there was a huge loud and kitschy fun-fair. But once you got through it, you could discover the real, quite calm image of the town, well-known for its cheese.


or about a journey different than others...

I don't know what it is, but IT makes the city very attractive. In a way magic. And you just have to get back there. I spent there nearly one week two weeks ago and... I'm coming back next week. But these are two different stories. First things first!

Before visiting Amsterdam I did want to explore the city as well as possible. Go to all the famous places, walk along narrow streets in the old town, spend some time in the parks and just feel how the city breathes. But you never know what happens once you get to the place. I met some Austrian friends in the city, then it turned out we have no accommodation and the women at those place we were supposed to stay suggested we should stay on a camping. Nice. But no once was prepared for that. I had at least a sleeping bag, but the guys (3 of them, from Austria) had later no choice but to buy some. The camping shop was well-equipped so we shared the price of 2 tents and all in all we spent less money than in a hostel. And when the days got rainy we were lucky again. We could finally move to the old ladies' flat and stay under the roof.
Although it was quite difficult to push yourself and do something else than just visiting coffee shops and enjoying the smoky-crazy-blurred atmosphere of the city, I was really eager to see something more than just the shops:) After few days I had my favourite places – like the flea market Waterlooplein or the Jordan district. And all of us had the same favourite coffe shop – Homegrown Fantasy, which we used to visit nearly every day.
And what surprises me the most are the crazy bikers and the bike decorations, nice 'flats' on the water, creative street artists, exited tourists who enter a coffee shop and behave like kids who have just discovered a sweets paradise. But my paradise is for sure on the Waterlooplein where I got a bit scent of India again – with all its colourful and original clothes, useless antiques and funny souvenirs.
The city somehow embraces you, catches your attention and makes your head spinning around. With all the colours & scents, bikes & bridges, eager tourists & drug fans. But it's enough to go beyond the city boarder to find yourself back to normal again. There's a different world out there, less smoky, less colourful, more down-to-earth. But equally fascianting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mulţumesc Romania!

or my general impressions from the best journey ever.

Every year I say the same: 'it was the best holidays ever!'. And so it is this time. One month in Romania was definitely full of new experiences, surprises and adventures. Travelling alone for such a long time made me open to new people, more self-confident and self-reliant. I'm very grateful to all the Romanians I met on my way, who were very friendly and helpful. Meeting local people is the best part of every journey and never before have I met so many of them as now in Romania. Most of them were friends of my friend, Alex, or friends of her friends or friends of friends of her friends... Most of the young people I met were actually from Brasov. But wherever I went I was really surprised at how friendly and open people were to me. Thank you! Mulţumesc!

Now I feel I need to invite all the helpful Romanian to Poland or to Vienna to be for them such a good host as they were to me... So, feel free to come:)

During the month I managed to learn a bit of Romanian, which doesn't seem to be a complicated language. I think I will add it up to my 'must learn languages' list:) If I could spend few weeks more in Romania, still among people who even if know English don't use it so much, I think I would definitely improve my Romanian at least to an intermediate level;):)

Travelling is more about meeting local people, not only discovering local attractions. That's why Brasov will always be a special place for me, even though the city itself is maybe not the one I liked the most. The most wonderful places I visited in Romania are without any doubts the Danube Delta and Pietra Craialui mountains. Sighisoara and Sibiu belong to my favourites as well. Now my plan is to get back to Romania and visit the northern part of the country and then go to Moldavia. And then visit Brasov once more and maybe some other places in the Danube Delta. I hope to get there in April or May next year, as soon as I graduate from my studies.

Oh, and one more thing. My journey back from Romania, which was a bit exhausting: first 5 hours on a boat (I didn't have to pay for the ticket!!!), then 5 hours by car, then 14 hours by train, which arrived to late and I missed my train from Budapest to Katowice. I tried to get to Vienna and from there to Katowice but it turned out I won't catch the train that arrives the same day in the evening. So I tried to cancel my ticket from Budapest to Vienna, but it turned out it's impossible (?!?). So now I'm in Vienna again, and in 3 hours I'll be heading for Poland. A short break on the way to the family town is not such a bad idea after all. At least I can leave here part of my luggage and go further with a lighter rucksack. Packing and unpacking again... An inseparable part of my life:)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Romanian style

or what I've noticed while travelling around Romania:

If the majority is from Romania, loud music is often an inseparable part of a camping. They go to nature, to see a lake, mountains, river but take a half of their home with them. Large gas bottles, loudspeakers or even small TVs are quite common. The most surprising for me was a scene just after climbing down from Pietra Craialui. There were some tents near a peaceful brook and cars playing loud music that successfully drowned out the voice of the nature.

They don't like being photographed. If they notice you taking a picture of them, they start to shout or try to snatch your camera. So it's better not to photograph them at all or do it from the distance.

Are everywhere. Especially in Bucharest, where stray dogs belong to the city landscape. One tried to bite me, which was not a nice experience at all.

People dressed in original colourful clothes are not very common. And if they happen to walk down a street, almost everyone else is staring at them. But almost all my new friends from Romania where like me. Bit colourful and spontaneous so we suited each other well. A visit to a small town or country was like a journey to another world. That's at least how the local people stared at us – as if we were something exotic.

Transilvania is their favourite destination, many of them come to the mountains as well. The sea is also popular. What surprised me was that there were not so many tourists in Bucharest. The city may not be attractive, but still – it's the capital and many start their journey throughout Romania in Bucharest. In hostels you can meet foreigners only, the locals usually stay in campings.

Many poor kids are begging for money. But we preferred to give food to them. Usually they're not very pushy and quite friendly.

Parks and cafes
Are usually full of Romanians, spending there their free time. Older people are sitting on the benches in parks, younger ones are sipping their drinks or coffees in cafe gardens. Many people put a chair or bench outside their house and spend their evening there. Time goes by slowly.

I just love the way Romanians are speaking English with their accent. The intonation usually goes up, conversations are full of emotions, the language becomes more melodic. They speak English almost the same way the Spanish do – with temperament.

I was surprised to see how popular the brand Fornetti is. It's a frenchise with pastry, which was also popular in Poland but about 10 years ago. Fornetti stands are almost everywhere and have always many costumers. Pretzels are very common as well. You can get them in every bakery, in various forms and tastes. And the next surprising thing is that many people on trains or in railway station eat a lot of snacks, crisps or sweets.

Conservation works
Are also everywhere. But the most 'works in progress city' was Bucharest, I think. I got the feeling that the whole city is under construction or renovation. Dug out streets are in every district and rails are being renovated, too. That's why the trains are late so often.

Or – the endless expression of surprise when I'm saying that I'm travelling alone. I met quite many lonely travellers from round the world. As I already mentioned, it has many pros and cons but the best way is a mixed style. So a bit alone, bit with someone. Explroing a place alone and then waiting to meet someone you know, or meeting new people and then joining them even for a short time. There's always someone to wait for, there's always time for independence and loneliness.
Danube Delta
or how I finally find what I've been looking for

I've come to Romania to experience the beauty of its unique nature and explore small towns and villages. Well, the latter was not really successful but I'm really happy that I had a chance to climb the mountains and then to arrive here. To the Danube Delta. It's a unique area with breathtaking nature, very different to other parts of Romania, and totally different form the other seaside areas in the country.
To my surprise Sfantu Gheorghe, a village in the Delta, was not as peaceful as I expected it to be. It turned out that there's a festival of international independent films, so many people came to the village. The camping was full of tents, one next to another, there were large queues to toilets, bathrooms, a bar or shop. Every evening there was a concert outside and few films were presented. At first I didn't like it at all but then I discovered that it's only the camping that makes me want to leave. The village is very quite, with its green, calm riverside, cows and horses breeding along the path to the beach, where commercialism has not arrived yet (so no music, no bars, no other attractions). And when the festival has finished many people left the village and I started to enjoy living on the camping.
I met here some friends that I met in Brasov before and it turned out there's some kind of Brasovian invasion. Many young people came here from Brasov and there are not many foreigners. We spent one night on the beach, lighting a fire, looking at the amazing sky full of stars. We planned to stay until the sunrise, but most of us didn't manage to wake up and see the morning show. I woke up just in time to see the sun climbing up the sky.
Along the village paths you can see nice coloruful hauses, some of them very old, some with small columns. There's an outside bar and few shops in the centre and a stand with watermelons. But the most attractive is the nature of course. To explore it more, we went on a boat trip today in the morning to see pelicans and other species. We had a chance to eat white fruit of a flower growing on the nearby lake. Unfortunately, I didn't understand much from what the boat owner was talking to us and not everything was translated to me. But it doesn't really matter.
The village by the Delta has much to offer if you're looking for a unique, peaceful place, where time slows down. That's why I changed my plans again. I was suppose to leave today but I'm leaving tomorrow. This time for sure. And this time I'll be heading for Poland.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

3 days in Constanta

or how I change my plans again...

I arrived to Constanta two days ago and wanted to stay here for one day only. But I didn't leave yesterday, neither today. I will yesterday. And it's all because of nice people I met in the hostel. There are some Poles, Czechs, Germans, a guy from the Netherlands, some Romanian and Spania. The owner of the hostel is very friendly and every night we gather together by the tables in the yard and have a lot of fun...

I still don't know why I was called a gipsy from Constanta in Brasov as I still can't find any similarities between me and the gipsies from here:) And I also don't know why so many people discouraged me from coming here. It's not so bad. The local beach is very dirty, looks like rubbish bin or a neglected garden (we found small tomatoes there!), the city centre is not very attractive but somehow I like this city. Maybe because of the people I met here.

I'll try to go to the famous Mamaia today – the type of place I really dislike. Full of tourists and commercialism. But I need to see it to have the right to criticise it:) And yesterday I tried to get to Istria with its Romanian ruins and to Corbu with its hippie beaches. But the day was totally unsuccessful. Marybe I'm just too tired or the heat is killing me. I got to late to the bus station, then the bus was late, then in Corbu it turned out that I need another 10 km to get to the beach. And the bus back to Constanta was leaving in 2 hours. Walking to the beach was not a good idea as I almost fainted because of the extreme heat. So I just got back to where I came from. And discovered the city centre, with its mosques, orthodox churches, huge harbour.

And later in the hostel we had a funny international evening again. It will be sad to leave from here but it's time to move on... To Danube Delta finally! Where I will probably meet my friends from Brasov.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bye bye Bucharest

or how I finally stick to my plans...

Bucharest didn't convince me to change my travelling plans so I'm leaving tomorrow. Finally. One day is definitely enough. I can't stand it all any longer – heat, overwhelming greyness, stray dogs, staring people, noise and chaos on the streets. Of course there are some nice places like the Atheneum, few orthodox churches, museums or the original building of the Parliament. But it's still not enough to make the city impress me. I hope it's the last place in Romania that makes me want to leave as soon as possible.

Oh, and I forgot to mention about my visit to Sinaia. I went there on my way to Bucharest, spent there 3 hours, visited the famous monastery and palace. Both buildings were really impressive but the invasion of tourists, noisy cars and huge buses were really annoying. Actually it was the first place in Romania where I got lost. Well, I had no map but walking around the city is quite easy. Nevertheless my way back to the station somehow got more complicated as I expected. Anyway, I enjoyed my short stay in Sinaia much more than I'm enjoying Bucharest now. Somehow I really don't feel save using wireless Internet in a park, near the railway station where I am right now. So I'll finish now, go back to the calm hostel and prepare to the next journey. Tomorrow morning I'm leaving to Constanta...

Almost like in India

or about the first day in Bucharest...

It's hot. Full of contrasts. It's dirty. Full of neglected houses. Stray dogs are walking down the streets (when tried to bite me), poor people begging or sleeping outside, cars driving like crazy, ignoring the red light. And I don't really feel safe walking alone when it's dark. Almost like in India. 'Almost' because I still haven't found anything that would impress me as much as India did. Maybe I just need to explore the city more to appreciate its overwhelming contrasts and find something that would overweight its all bad sides. Or maybe these are not the bad sides at all, just an inseparable part of Bucharest that somehow builds up its charm. I'll find it out soon.

I didn't want to come here as many people said that Bucharest is boring and very tiring. And then I heard I should come there for at least one day, because it is a special city, although a bit dirty, neglected and full of contrasts. So I left friendly Brasov, awaiting new adventures. The train was few hours late, which didn't really surprise me. I didn't book any hostel, as I thought that maybe I would be lucky again and the place I found on the Internet will still have some spare beds. But I was wrong. The Funky Chicken Hostel, which is in a walking distance from the main railway station, was already full. Well, not a problem – I thought. And went back in the extreme heat to the place I came from. The railway station. Near the station there is one more cheap place to stay overnight. And this time I was lucky. A lady from America who owns the hostel welcomed me really friendly and invited to her modest place. It's small but I like it. Although there's no Internet like in other hostels. And the biggest problem is – I couldn't find any internet cafes in the vicinity. I know it's not the most important thing while travelling, but if you try to combine working with travelling you have really no choice but to be online from time to time. And in my case 'from time to time' means almost every day or every few days but for few hours. Anyway, no more complaining:) I'm alone in this huge, hot, confusing city and it's time to let it impress me!:)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Time to move on

or how come I spent so much time in one place...

I planned to stay in Brasov only 2 days and then move to Danube Delta or Bucharest. But I realized it doesn't make any sense to plan anything for more than 1 day ahead. The week I spent in Brasov (yes! The whole week! Never happened before:) was full of spontaneous visits, trips, events, adventures. I visited nearby places (Rasnov, Harman, Campulung) together with Alex and her friends, met a lot of local young people, many young tourists from around the world and had an opportunity to go for 2 days to the mountains (Piatra Craiului) with Alex' friend and his friend. They both covered this route several times so I didn't have to worry about the way up or down or the place to stay overnight, which was a unique experience for me:) Sometimes it's good to forget about your leadership spirit and let the others lead you the way they want to. But only sometimes;)

The way up the hills wasn't always easy and on the way back I fell down several times, which also has never happened before:) Beautiful nature, wonderful views, demanding climbing and good company made me realize that summer holidays without few days in mountains are not real holidays:) It was high time for me to move away from the cities and touristic places, to go somewhere in a countryside or experience the unique Romanian nature. And the opportunity to do it showed up just on time, as well. It seems that spontaneous decisions rule over a precise schedule, even if it is my own schedule:)

Tomorrow I'm finally going to Bucharest. Not because I don't like Brasnov but I just feel I can't stay so long in one place. All the people I met here and everything I experienced here creates a very friendly image of Brasnov. After a week it's definitely a place to come back, not only a tourist attraction, the next 'must-see' as all the guidebook say.

And Bucharest... Well, I heard it's full of contrasts and not worth staying there for more than 2 days. I'll check it out soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The way through mountains and marriage proposal

or how I became a gipsy from Constanta...

Hey! How old are you? Do you want to get married? Or buy my skirt??

That's what I heard when my Romanian friends took me to a gipsy market in Brasov. Before we got there, I was told that the place would surely be stinky, chaotic and loud. And so it was. But I liked it anyway. Gipsies in their typical clothes (men with cowboy-like huts and women with colourful long dresses and scarves on their heads) were selling second hand clothes and shoes, shouting loud the prices of their products and staring and the potential customers. I tried to take some pictures of this unusual place but a gipsy man started to shout at me and forbade me to use my camera.
By the other stand some women were offering me their long colourful skirts and said I must be a gipsy from Constanta. I guess it was because of my long colourful skirt... And then a gipsy man asked if I want to get married. Well, I had to say 'no' to everything I was offered and soon left this distant and magic world.

Afterwards we visited Harman, a village with fortified church. It was peaceful and empty, with almost no tourist, which is of course a big advantage. And we visited also an old neglected school that is about 100 years now and completely deserted. Only local kids spend their time there, play, listen to music and use the old building as a kind of hideout.
We were also invited to an ethnographic museum with a great variety of local traditional clothes, furniture and Eastern eggs. I was really surprise to find out that Polish and Romanian folklore is quite similar, especially when it comes to the Eastern eggs.

At the end of the day, which was really full of new experiences, I went with Alex and her family to Campulung, a small town in the other county. It's not an attractive place but the way there is very fascinating. High mountains, empty villages, streets leading through fields with sheep, horses, cows walking down a street, wooden churches, old original houses... After two hours we reached boring Campulung and when we where walking down the street (Alex and me) we felt as if we were really exotic. Everyone was staring at us (maybe because of the different, colourful image), which wasn't pleasant at all. And when suddenly a man fell down on a street and needed an immediate health care many people gathered around him, just to stare and feel the touch of sensation. Someone took a photo to a local newspaper, someone called an ambulance, someone was happy to be accidentally captured on the photo and was looking forward to seeing himself in the newspaper the day after...
And what's quite strange is that almost all the kids we met were overweighted.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Coffee future-telling and local attractions

or how the locals see the city...

I thought I was going to travel alone again when something unexpected happened. My Romanian friend invited me to her place but I already paid for the hostel so I'll stay with her from tomorrow. She invited me to lunch, as well (delicious mamaliga and beans), then offered some ice tea with honey and coffee. Actually, we drunk the coffee to see our future, because Alex' grandmother is a master at coffee future-telling. So I went for it!

And here's what I found out:
The grandma said she had never seen such good dregs before! Saying this she meant that I'm extremely strong, independent and proud (whatever that may mean...). Then she said I'd been climbing up the mountains with a rucksack, I was tired and sad but only for a short time (true!). I should be careful with my luggage because someone may want to steal it and I would be happy with my further journey. And the she said – attention please! - I would be married soon (!!!) and two guys would propose to me at the same time or I would be married twice (???). And there's a sad guy somewhere far away thinking about me a lot (!?!). And there's a lion (maybe a zodiac sign or just a strong person) who's looking after me. And that I would be happy, successful and rich. Well, I wish that at least some of these things were true. I mean, I don't care about the marriage and stuff like that but the successful life would be something nice:)

Together wit Alex we came up with a lot of ideas for the next days. Were could we go or what could we visit. We didn't plan anything for sure but I know we'll see interesting places and experience a lot.
Then we were walking up a citadel hill, then along the narrow streets and we visited a communist-like confectionery, where everything was like in the past: the same selling ladies, same cakes, same decoration. We had an ice cream called 'casate'. Delicious! From 'the past', as well. And then we walked up the hill again to meet Alex' friends. Because that's the place where young people spend their free time when they don't want or can't go to a pub;) We ate sunflower seeds, pretzels and had some other attractions. And then the girls (Alex and her friend only, because the boys disappeared suddenly) took me to an old cemetery with Russian and German graves and then showed me another cemetery with a grave of Romanian poet who wrote the national anthem.

Well, it seems you need to know the locals to see the real life of the city and to get from it as much as possible.
And tomorrow more attractions...

The lake, flood and Polish scouts

or small disappointment and big luck...

Maybe St. Anna Lake is unique but definitely not the one of the most beautiful places in Europe. Sometimes you shouldn't believe everything you're told, even if it's the locals who claim that a place is a must-see. A Romanian guy that we met by the lake was wandering why we came from such a distant country to see THAT place. Well, maybe THAT place isn't that unattractive but there are definitely much more nicer places in Romania.

But before we got disappointed we had to cover a tiresome way up the hill. After 2 hours we saw a rather strange view. Mountains, green hills and... the kingdom of commerce. There was a camping on the hill near the lake, few shops and fast food stands. And again – almost everyone was from Romania. A lot of cars, colourful tents and loud music took away the charm of the place.

After a while we finally saw the famous lake. I didn't even know how to photograph it. Its unusuality and unattractivity was so demanding that I just gave up. Many sunbathing people, swimming people, grilling people. Oh, it would have been so much better without them...

On a train back to Brasov we had some problems. There was a flood and the train got stucked in the first station. We stayed there for 2 hours and didn't know what happens next. In the last minute we changed the trains and got on to the intercity train because it was supposed to leave earlier. And it did.

In Brasov we were lucky again. We met Polish scouts who helped us find the way to the centre. And they were talking a lot about their crazy journeys. Once a year they organize a scout journey, this year to the Forgas Mountains in Romania. They just came here, found a free accommodation in a church (they always make they trips as cheap as possible), sent there they 8 colleagues and now wanted to buy some food for everyone. Both of them are travelling a lot, one was for example hitch-hiking to Ukraine from Poland, the other one got to Morocco with his friends and then hitch-hiked around the country! My soul-mates! I hope I'll meet them again some day...

We found an accommodation in a one star hotel – three of us staying in a double room for a very low price. We walked a bit in the centre, then woke up early to make a short tour around the centre again because Zofia and Andreas were leaving at 8.30 to Budapest. I saw them off to the station and then moved out to a hostel. And when I thought it was time to be alone again something unexpected happened... But more about it in the next post.

From Sighisoara to Baile Tusnad

or the next magical place and a strange camping...

From now on I'm travelling alone again. And I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I'm happy to be by myself again, on the other – I'll miss travelling with Zofia, our photo sessions, our conversations, all the crazy and spontaneous things we did...

But before she left we managed to visit few interesting places. As I already said, Sighisoara is as magical as Sibiu. With all the narrow colourful streets and legendary traces of Dracula, with its small houses and photogenic attractions.
Oh, and what's equally important – we found a very cosy and cheap hostel! Actually, the hostel found us. We wanted to go to a camping, near the city centre, but a man on the station approached us and offered a very cheap accommodation. We just couldn't say 'no'. The hostel has a good location and the rooms are just perfect. Modest but very original. The one we stayed in was decorated with puppets, there were paintings with notes on the wall and a guitar cover with a large notes sewed on it. And the beds had silver coverings. A small luxury after or before a night in the tent:)

To get to the St. Anna Lake we had to change a train in Brasov and then go to Baile Tusnad. When we arrived, we were lucky again. I knew there's a camping, but had no idea were could it be. A women we met on the railway station showed us the direction and after 10 minutes we were already there. On a camping with Romanian tourist only, with large tents covered with foil (because of the rain), with many cars playing loud music and grill places. We must have been very unique there with our small tents, small cooking set and no car,
The centre of the town resembles many Polish health-resorts , maybe this one is more old fashioned. We asked how to get on food to the Lake and decided to cover the 6-kilometre tour the day after.
And then langos!! With cheese and then another one with jam! The best langos I've ever had! Even better than the ones I had in Hungary:)

More about the Lake and other attractions in the next post...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Village, festival and new plans

or how we discover more and want to discover even more...

I need to say I'm enjoying travelling with a company. The journey can be more attractive and funnier once you find people who think in a similar way, want the same you want and have a similar attitude to travelling. And they bring new ideas, as well.

Yesterday we got to Biernat, a medieval village. We were travelling on a mini bus, with some funny drunken Romanians and a nice girl, who helped us to find a camping place when we got to Biernat. Well, it turned out there's a festival in the village presenting local cuisine and culture. That's why a lot of people came there and many campings were already busy. We had a luck to meet a German women who invited us to her garden in the next village, Richis. She and her husband drove us to their home and were very hospitable. We got a delicious honey, tee, coffee, home-made alcohol. They told us a bit about their life and attitude to the Romanians (the man is German, as well, although born in Romania) and in the evening we all discussed various topics, sitting outside and enjoying the peaceful village life. Oh, there were 4 German girls, as well. They've been travelling for about a week now, heading for Istanbul on a small bus. All of them very nice and original. It turned out that Zofia met one of them few days ago in Budapest. Well, the world is small.

The night in the tents was cold but it was a new experience to be woken up by a crowing cock. And a fresh aroma of coffee. Oh, I wish we could stay there longer, in the middle of nowhere, where life seems to be simpler, nicer, calmer, more attractive...

We had to hurry up to catch a bus to Biernat, 6 kilometres from the peaceful village. The place was still bit asleep when we got there, but it was getting louder and more crowded. The festival was supposed to begin at 12 a.m. Some were already preparing their stalls with honey, cheese, bread or traditional clothes, some were still building up a stage for the outside concerts. We met 2 German guys who worked as volunteers, taking care of Romanian kids from poor families. They were with them on a camping for 10 days. And filled up our bottles with fresh drinking water:)

The bus to Medias was suppose to leave at 1 p.m. So we spent a lot of time in the village, trying various kinds of cheese, honey (with cinnamon!), visiting the famous church from the medieval times and just watching the preparations to the first festival in this place.

Now we're in Sighisoara. A must-see!! As nice as Sibiu, attractive and breathtaking. I'll write more about it later. Now – we have new plans again. We're heading for St. Anna Lake – one of the most beautiful places in Europe, as the guidebook says. Well, we'll see if it deserves this description.

Colourful streets and local quisine

or about our visit to Sibiu and Medias...

It's finally sunny! We stayed one day in Sibiu, which is so far the most beautiful place I've visited in Romania. The old town, full of colourful narrow streets, wide squares, old buildings with wooden shutters and the ubiquitous German language. It used to be an Austrian city, now still a lot of Germans or Austrians live there and even more come to stay here just for few days or hours. Exploring the magic of the old town, we found also old donjons. In one of them there's also a gallery presenting the life of German craftsmen who stay in Sibiu.

Of course we had to capture the unique atmosphere and took many photos. We were lucky to see a large group of young Romanian soldiers taking an oath on the main square in the old town. What surprised me, was the fact that there were a lot of women among them.

Sibiu makes you want to stay there longer, walk more and more, discover more and more attractive streets, watch the local people with more attention and just enjoy your time. With no pressure, no duties, no worries.

Nevertheless, we decided to continue our journey and set off to Medias. This time we got on a train without a ticket, as we reached the station too late. And then the ticket inspector demanded from us only 10 leis, instead of 19 pro person. Gave us no tickets and put the money to his pocket...

Medias is deffinietely not a 'must see'. But a 'why not see'. It's a small town with a colourful old houses and small square. We spent a lot of time looking for a supermarket to buy something to eat for the following day. Finally, we got to Billa and we found also a very cheap bar next to eat with fresh Romanian food. And I tried mamaliga for the first time. Delicious!

Our next destination was Biernat. Still on the same time. More about it in the next post...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


or how wie visit caves in Turda and walk around Cluj again...

The only problem with travelling is that you have no control and no influence on what's happening far away from you, back home. This time my strength and independence were crashed a bit because of a few unpredicted events. For a short time I really felt I should/need/want to get back, my energy disappeared, my optimistic atitutude vanished, as well. But after a while I regained what I lost. There's no point to give up, to resign from fulfilling your dreams because of a temporary crisis. My independence and strength were rebuilt and I could move on. Hope that this time stronger than before.

But before that happened I met my friends finally. Visiting Cluj with them was a slightly different experience. We climbed a hill with a citadel, were we found many trees with fresh plumps. It as rainy all the time, but we enjoyed our free lunch anyway. And my friends agreed with me - there's really not much to see in Cluj, few hours are enough to see the city.

So today in the morning, before we left to Sibiu, we went to a nearby salt mine in Turda. There's a park down there, with a football pitch, mini golf, boats, bowling and many other attractions. I must say I didn't want to go there but I really liked it after all. Soemthing new. Quite spontanous but fun. And finally in a rather rural area.

Now we're leaving to Sibiu, this time we'll stay in a hostel, as well, because the camping is quite far away and we don't have much time.

Now I'm really happy I'm not alone anymore. I wouldn't have regained my motivation and strength to continue my journey so quickly if I had spent those without my friends. So here's the next advantage of travelling with a company - they make you keep going, whatever happens...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cluj Napoca

or it's time to change some things...

I'm already fed up with cities, I really want to go to a countryside. But I'm in Cluj Napoca now, waiting for my friends. Zosia's friend (don't know him yet) is coming today, Zosia is coming tomorrow in the morning. Then few more cities in Transilvania and then finally countryside! Can't wait to go there.

Waiting for the guys to join me, I've already explored the city. Well, it's not amazing. Many churches of various religions, crowded streets, more tourists, life going on faster then in the Timisoara or Oradea. Classical music was played from the loudspeakers on the square, where the Orthodox Cathedral and the Theater is. And the fountain show accompanied the music show. You could hear all the most popular musical compositions – the one of Mozart or Beethoven. I stayed quite a lot of time on the bench near the fountain, listening to the music and then reading a book. The walk around the city didn't take much time and I'll have to do it again tomorrow. Oh, well – I want to do it again, to visit the city with my friends this time.

And it's the first and probably the last time when we're staying in a hostel. It is quite nice, with a kitchen, so we can cook, with a small breakfast and many young English tourists. But still – I prefer campings, especially in the summer.

Tomorrow – the boring Cluj Napoca sequel. Or maybe it won't be boring to explore the city again, because this time I won't be alone. And it's high time to do a short break from travelling alone.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rain, sunflowers and my infallible intuition

or: how I get to Oradea...

I wrote that I was happy that it wasn't rainy or windy or stormy and… suddenly the weather changed. The evening in Timisoara was quite cold and rainy, windy, stormy. But my tent survived! Which means I'm not so bad in pitching a tent:) Actually, nothing really happened to me or the tent, it just got wet and there was no time to let it dry in the morning. Never mind.

When I got to the station I was quite surprised that I don't have to wait 3 hours for the train to Oradea. There was a train in less than hour but I didn't know that as the online schedule didn't inform me about it. I knew how to ask for the ticket in Romanian, but then I didn't understand the numerals (the hour, price). Of course, I know how to pronounce the basic numbers, but the lady was speaking quite quickly and I didn't get anything. So she had to write it all down, as she didn't know English or any other language, which didn't surprise me at all. I think I need to improve my Romanian:) Or better – just start to learn it more efficiently:)

The train to Oradea passed through many small towns and villages, through fields with corn, cereal and sunflowers. Sunflowers! A crazy amount of sunflowers! (Btw- my favourite flowers:) I read somewhere that sunflowers are quite popular among Romanian and especially in rural areas they tend to eat a lot of sunflower seeds. So far I've noticed only one lady eating the seeds – in a small shop on a train station in Timisoara.

After 3 hours I arrived to Oradea. This time I just had to walk about 20 minutes to get to a school that functions as a hostel in summer. Of course, I didn't book anything or didn't e-mail them to make sure the information written in the guide book is still up to date. And it wasn't. I talked to a man I met in the school (again – Romanian only) and he said there's no chance to stay there overnight. It seems the school was being renovated. Whatever. I just kept on walking. I knew there was one more school but it wasn't on the map. So I asked a girl on the street if she knows anything. Well, she just knew I had to cross the bridge and probably go to the right. Fine for me. I walked down an empty street, looking for anyone who could give me some more information. But here was no one. I just followed my intuition and... suddenly I noticed the school. It was exactly on the street I'd been walking down for the last 5 minutes. Good luck and divine providence were with me.

It seems the place is not popular among tourists. The man at the reception was thinking and talking a lot with another man before he told me about the price (10e) and gave me the key. Well, I don't care. I got what I wanted (I dare say: “as always” :)

About the city itself: I must say I'm bit disappointed. Yes, it's nice, yes, it's quite calm and yes, there are many interesting places. But most of them quite neglected – old palaces that need to be renovated, a damaged synagogue, old tenement houses. There are of course many renovated and colourful buildings and fairy-tail-like palaces but somehow they didn't catch my attention. The main square was quite empty (because of the rain), the cafe gardens were waiting for new guests and tourists that disappeared suddenly. The city seemed to be frozen or rather washed away by the rain. I realized, you don't need more than 3 hours to see everything that is worth seeing here. If I had known that it I wouldn't have stayed overnight here, but it was too late. Anyway – where would I go? I was suppose to go to Cluj Napoca on Monday evening to meet Zofia the next day early in the morning. And there was no point to spend more time in Cluj than 2 days an not enough time to visit other places, bit far away from Oradea. So after all, I was quite happy to stay overnight in Oradea. At least I had my own bed. What a luxury:)

Saturday, July 24, 2010


or all the good sides of travelling alone...

I was quite surprised yesterday when I got off the train. It was 9 pm and still bright:) I found the trolley bus quickly but there was no schedule. So I found some Romanian who could speak English, but they knew only which direction is the centre. Ok for me. It's where my camping is, as well. I got on the bus, without the ticket, as all the kiosks where closed already. There was no information on the bus neither. Only a plan of the lines, but without the stop I needed. Well, nice. I asked two girls if they knew anything about the camping or where the bus stop is. First, they where shocked that someone was speaking English with them, then they finally realized they know where the stop is. Ok. I'm safe.
Well, no really. Didn't really know where to go to find the camping. So I went straight on, looking for the right street. After few minutes I got there.

Now the shock because of the prices (yes, it is only 10 leis, but there's 20 leis for a day for a tourist tax. Madness!!!), then the annoying mosquitoes, then pitching a tent (it was first time when I've done it without any help! Maybe it's not perfect, but it is! I hope it won't be rainy or stormy or windy – then my tent may fly away:), then a shower, shower, nice shower with hot water and a small frog, I don't need anything else! Time to get some sleep. It was a long day.

In my dreams I saw my tent flying away because of the strong wind, I saw it soaked up because of the rain, I saw strange Czech (???) neighbours from another tent who tried to do some harm to my tent (!!!) and many other crazy things... But I slept well.
And here's a good side of travelling alone – I have so much space in my tent, just for me! I can be messy, put my things everywhere and no one cares. There are of course more advantages of travelling alone – e.g. I decide! No need to compromise, no need to ask, encourage, argue... I rule! Of course, I'm happy to meet my friend from Poland soon, and I'm happy to meet my Romanian friend, too. All has good and bad sides. Well, there's one thing I don't like about travelling alone – no one can take a good photo of me:) And I would like to talk to someone from time to time, share my experiences and adventures. Maybe that's why I'm writing so much:)

Oh, I was supposed to write about Timisoara. Yes. It's quite nice. I'm sitting in a centre now, using free Internet. It's Piata Victorei. There's a theater, Orthodox church (peaceful inside, many are praying, many just visiting), too many pigeons, a clown selling balloons, people enjoying their free time on the benches, in the cafe gardens, by the fountains. The time goes by slowly. Few steps further there's a next square, Piata Libreti. It's not so colourful any more and there are more local people than tourist (they invaded the city afternoon, and I've been here since the morning). The next square, Piata Unirii, boasts an array of colourful walls of old buildings. There's a Cathedral, opposite you can find a healthy mineral spring with many people filling up their bottles. There are shops with ice creams, cafes, many banks. And it's hot. Too hot for me to explore the city. That's why I spent the hottest hour in the shade, writing my blog:)

I found a market with fresh fruit (bought some), fond a bakery with fresh bread (bought some) and realized that the life in the city remains me of Banja Luka, a city in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Yes, I like it. And yes, it doesn't make much sense to spend here more than 2 days. So I'm leaving tomorrow.

I didn't expect that many people would speak English or German here. I can't say I can speak Romanian, I can't even say I'm trying to learn it, but I know the basic phrases and so the communication on the street or in a shop is quite successful.

Now it's time to explore more. The hottest hours are gone. So I can move on now.

They say no, i say yes

or how I get to where I want to get...

I'm in Romania! The next dream comes true. But before I got here...

In Budapest I was told there were no more tickets for a train to Timisoara. Hot do you mean no tickets? Everything booked? I don't believe it! (Pity that the man couldn't speak English very well...). So I bought a ticket to Lokoshaza, the last station in Hungary on the way to Romania.

And I got there with an earlier train, thinking what should I do next, if it comes out there are really no tickets to Timisoara. Go to Bukarest? Arad? Wait and get the train on the next day? Get on the train without a ticket and buy it there?

After 3 hours I got out in a small, peaceful station in Lokoshaza. It was extremely hot on the train, the opened window didn't help much. I asked a women in the cash desk about the train. She didn't speak any language I know, I can't speak any language she knows. But I managed to get all the information. And I got the ticket to Timisoara! She didn't even check if there are still free places or not, just took a pen, a piece of paper, filled it in and gave it to me.
After few minutes I was lucky again. There was no information on the station about the approaching trains. I had to watch carefully the passing trains and then ask several times if it's the one to Timisoara. Again – I can't speak Hungarian, they couldn't speak English or German or any language I know, but it was not a problem!
I was on the train. And it was empty!!! Where, oh where are all these booked seats? Where is the full train the man from the cash desk in Budapest was talking about? Where?
Sometimes it's good no to believe everything you're told.

After a while I got to Romania. According to my plan. And here more adventures happened...

(One more thing - all the posts from Romania will be without pictures. I had to take as little with me as possible, so I left all the cables and a card reader at home. Photos will be uploaded later. More less in the middle of August:)

Thursday, July 22, 2010


or some kind of introduction.

It's high time to begin the next journey! The idea came more less a year ago and in February I decided I just have to go to Romania this summer. And I didn't care if I go there alone or not, I just have to be there:)
So the time has come. And I'm going alone. I don't mind, though with a partner I would hitch-hike there rather than go by train. But well, it's not so bad after all.
I'm leaving from Vienna to Budapest. Then the next train will take me to Timisoara. And I'm planing to buy tickets in each country on the train, so to make the journey bit cheaper:)
After few days Zofia and her friend will visit me in Transilvania and after a week, when they're gone, I'm visiting my Romanian friend. And then the next part of the journey begins. This time towards the Danube Delta, passing through many interesting places. And then – probably alone again – I hope to get to Marumaresh or Bukovina.
It's a bit pity that I have only 4 weeks for my journey. To get everywhere I want to, I would need at least 6 weeks. Well, I'll leave a piece of Romania and Moldavia for the next time. And hope it will come soon...
But for now – farewell Vienna, welcome new adventures!

Monday, July 19, 2010


or about the local tradition and wild nature...

There was a weekend in May when our crazy trio, Zofia, Magda and me, reunited. And when the next journey took place. This time our plans were changing quickly and intensively. First, we wanted to go to the mountains. But the plan failed because there are no trains on weekends to the town we wanted to get to. Then we thought about going to the Lower Austria or to Graz and the nearby caves or to a lake. All in all, we headed to Neusiedler am See and then by bus to a town called Apetlon. We went on foot to the nearby Landscape Park with a lot of small lakes and wild birds. On the way, we had a chance to see a local wedding with a kind of procession, leaded by the married couple. Their guest were walking behind them and at the end few guys kept on throwing firecrackers on the street, which was actually quite dangerous. Some firecrackers almost hit a car or a passing cyclist, and us, of course. That wasn't nice at all.
When we came back to the bus stop, everyone was still celebrating the wedding. This time in a restaurant. There was also a band playing in front of the building, making a kind of show for all the dwellers of the town. And everyone got a plastic cup with young wine mixed with soda water. Two bit drunk men were serving us the drink all the time, but one shot was definitely enough for us. It wasn't really tasty, but the tradition says that you shouldn't say no when joyful people share their happiness with another guest or random passers-by.

But before that happened, we experienced really unforgettable moments by the lake, on a meadow, where in fact, we weren't allowed to be. After a photo session, picnic and another photo session a park guard approached us, saying it's forbidden to be here. Quite disappointed, we started to pack our things, feeling a pressure from the guard who kept on saying we should hurry up. He drove away when we were on a legal path again and promised we wouldn't do that again. But we did. Because I lost my glasses on the meadow. Well, not the first and not the last time... Unfortunately, we didn't find it, so we just went back to the town and took a bus to Neusiedler am See. After some time we went back to the train station and our next adventure was over...


or a joyful photo session, calm streets and surprising contrast...

Finally, the ever lasting rain was over. And finally we had a chance to leave Vienna. Actually - to leave Austria. After one hour on the train we reached Sopron. I heard that many Austrians come here to visit a dentist or a beauty parlour or just to make some shopping. Because it's cheaper here. Although bit more expensive than in some other Hungarian towns.


I wasn't surprised when I saw German billboards or German advertisements for dentist cabinets or when a lady in a small shop with kitschy clothes spoke German with us. Actually, I expected to see here more tourists or more Austrian shopoholics. Fortunately, it turned out that the town is really calm.

The Sun was shining all the time, the local people were walking slowly through the town, sitting on a bench or in a café gardens. A small group of German and Romanian tourists was visiting the centre and we were trying to discover and enjoy the real atmosphere of Sopron. What we found was actually quite amazing and inspiring, as well. Neglected walls of old buildings, interesting graffiti, renewed colourful tenement houses, courtyards with old, original doors, reliefs hidden in the walls, elephants on the walls and dug out streets. We also met some wedding guests on their way to a church, dressed in a really strange way. Looking at them, I felt as if we had gone back in time about 20 years. Not surprisingly, our cameras were on all the time, capturing the architectonic contrasts, local people, street art and everything that enchanted us in this inconspicuous Hungarian town...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Market Harborough, Desborough & Rothwell

or about a short journey to the past and the next nice meeting...

I couldn't leave England without visiting my good friends who live in Desborough near Market Harborough. I went took a train form Nottingham to Market and then Monika picked me up from the station and took to her and Michał's house. Actually, last time I saw them 2 years ago, right after they moved to the new house. Now a lot has changed. It was much more colourful and that's because of their little son, born last year in December. I had an opportunity to find out more about how young English mothers spend their time with kids. There are, for example, many various meetings for mothers and their children where you can learn how to communicate with your kid in sign language. Or the next interesting thing, not really popular in Poland - you can borrow books for kids from a local library. And these are not old copies with popular stories but quite new books with hard binding and colourful pictures. Of course, this was not the only thing we were talking about:) After delicious lunch we went by car to a park in Rothwell. Unfortunately, this time it was rainy and cold. But the landscape around was really nice - yellow rape fields with a green stripe above and greyish clouded sky... And groups of cows and sheep, gathered on a pasture. A calm, peaceful area. We walked a bit through the park but my time was over soon, so we went to Market to catch the train.

Driving through the town made me think about the time I spent there about 6 years ago. I stayed in the town 1 month and tried to find a job, but all in all I had just great holidays. The town hasn't changed much - some new shops and restaurants were opened and the rest remained untouched by the time.
Back in Nottingham I met Ivania again and after a short walk in the centre we were quite fed up with rain and cold, so we just got back home. And there the culinary journey continued - we had a home made pizza, salad made of carrots and beetroot, peanut butter with celery, and mango lassi.
Unfortunately, my journey through the tastes of the world finished the very next day. In the same way... Again the same distance, stopovers in the same places and the same means of communication. The whole day on the way and long waiting time between next connections...

Picnic in Nottingham

... or about nice weather and barbecue.

It seems that English people love barbecue. So no wonder that instant barbecue set is so popular there. We also joined to the BBQ fans and organised a picnic in one of the parks in Nottingham. The weather was finally really nice, I'd even say it was quite hot:) Everyone (three of us + Ivania's family and friend) brought some food and we had a real feast. There was a vegetarian barbecue, as well, and we had also many other delicious products.

More and more people were coming to the park to enjoy the nice weather, mainly family with kids or rebellious teenagers. The time spent with Ivania's family passed really quickly and when it started to rain we moved to the apartment of Ivania's mother. And we had to eat again...

This time Fabio (from Brasil) prepared tasty cheese bread - a meal from his country. After spending some time playing various games wit 12-year-old Jessica and 13-year-old Nuno, we decided to get back home. And there a small karaoke party started. Actually, it was really small, as it was only Ivania and me...:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bakewell and Derby

... or about travelling by bus and good food.

My friend who lives in Nottingham suggested we should go to Bakewell and on the way back to Derby, as well. So, three of us - Ivania, her boyfriend and me - spent about 2,5 hours on a bus and finally reached the town. The weather wasn't fine at all, which doesn't really surprise me in England anymore.
Bakewell is famous for its local tasty pastries and tarts that can be found in every bakery in the town. Of course, we bought the famous tart and then a carrot cake, as well (I've never eaten it before:). Both were delicious and I'm still not sure which one tastes better.

The town seems to be quite calm, although we met some tourists in the centre. There's an old church built by Normans, surrounded by crooked tombstones. It's quite nice inside and when we arrived there, the wedding ceremony had just finished. Quite a strange time of the day, though (Friday, about 3 p.m.). There are also many narrow streets near the church with colourful little houses. And the river. With swans and ducks and an old bridge made of stone. We made a short photo session by the river side, and then also with colourful huts that we found in one of the shops.
Our visit to Bakewell finished in a pub, quite empty at this time of day, but that was not a problem at all.
After a while we headed for Derby. This time the bus was awfully slow and the driver lost his way once somewhere in the narrow uphill streets. Finally, we reached the city and it started to rain. So, our first stop was in a Chinese bar with quite good food. Then we made a short walk to the centre with a waterfall-like fountain and cathedral. I totally forgot it was Friday night, but the weird dressed party-goers reminded me about it immediately. ('Weird' means according to the style: 'well, I don't need a mirror, I don't care if I'm warm or not' :). And soon we were on our way back to Nottingham...

Nottingham and much more..

... or about visiting my friends in UK.

It really happens rarely that I can use so many languages (5) in such a short journey (5 days). And it also happens rarely that I cover such a small distance (1500 km) in such a long time (10 hours).

Here's the story:

First, journey by train from Vienna to Bratislava, then by bus from the station to the airport, then flight to London Luton and, finally, bus to Nottingham. Plus waiting for the connections... It all took even a bit more than 10 hours, I'm afraid. In every country I used the local language, which seems quite logical:) But I had an opportunity to speak a bit Spanish with my Portuguese friend, as well and then Polish with my Polish friends.
But first things first.
Well, actually I should start with Nottingham but I'm not going to describe the city once more, as I did it after my first visit 2 years ago. Anyway, I didn't have much time and opportunity to visit the city now, because my friends and spending time with them was more important. We visited few other places, though. What keeps on surprising me, is the huge number of Poles in UK and the ubiquity of Polish food in various shops. Oh, and one more thing: pedestrians tend to ignore the red light and somehow I can't understand the strange dressing habits of teenagers and party-goers. They're dressed as if it was at least 30 degrees, when in fact it's bit above 10. Brrr.... I met a lot of party freaks wearing shorts, sleeveless tops, mini skirts and it seems they don't find it necessary to take a jacket or anything more than summer clothes. Whether it's rainy or windy, freezing or not - party-goers are always on a beach.
What also strikes me, is the omnipresence of emo style followers. And they tend to exaggerate to another extreme - even when it's above 20 degrees they are dressed as if it was 10. But well, styles and tastes are not good topics to discuss, so I will just pass it over...
And now a short story about my visit to other English cities... In the following posts, of course:)

Monday, April 5, 2010


... or about an old castle and frozen lake.

Trakai is famous for its castle from the 14th century, situated near the picturesque lake. We went there from Vilnius by train, covering the distance of 30 km quite slowly. After getting off in the Old Trakai station, we kept on walking by the lakeside, and what I saw around was quite unique. Old boats, sunken boats, frozen boats, colourful and wooden boats, abandoned buildings, children walking on the ice and, finally, the solid walls of the castle. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to visit the castle inside, because we were asked to leave after 6pm, so after about 1,5 hour... However, we managed to see quite many exhibitions - the one with old coins, information about Lithuanian history and politics, the Polish-Lithuanian Union, the Crimean Karaites, and Tataras...

We didn't manage to climb the highest tower, but we really enjoyed the interactive exhibits, e.g. treasure hunt. Actually, we were almost alone there. It seems that this time of year doesn't attract many tourists, although we met a group of Poles who asked to open the gates of the castle, because they had covered 2 500 km to get there...

Our Lithuanian friends told us that summer is the best time to visit Trakai, because you can swim in the lake, rent a boat, restaurants and bars are quite full. Now everything has come to a standstill, frozen, sunk in the cold lake surface, just like the boats on the lakeside... But I prefer it that way.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

3 days in Vilnius

... or about Lithuanian hospitality, travel innovations and colourful places.

It's been ages since I last travelled like that. By car, I mean. And with a group of friends. There are of course pros and cons of this kind of travel, but I feel that I prefer travelling in my own old way. Which means: alone or with a very few friends, and definitely not by car. Of course, it was quite amusing when we were all together, but somehow I didn't have time for lonely photographic walks in the city.
But to the point. We (this time we=2 girls, 3 boys, all from Poland) were exploring the city together with our Lithuanian friends. Well, in fact these were Bartek's friends, but soon we made a Polish-Lithuanian Union, as well:) And so, one of the Lithuanian guys let us stay in his student flat and also invited us to a pub for his birthday party, the other Lithuanian welcomed us with hot lunch (unfortunately with meat), was our guide and told us a lot about Vilnius and the country. He said that many Lithuanians go to Augustów (Polish city, near the boarder) for shopping, and that there are a lot of Poles and Russian living in the capital. Our friends prepared for us also a delicious Lithuanian cold soup. Just perfect! Even better than the one we had in a restaurant the day before.

We had also an opportunity to watch how the Lithuanians enjoy they free time in pubs. Well, it's not the way we do it. It seems they weren't so eager to dance, they preferred to sit and talk and drink and just listen to the music. On the dance floor you could see just a few of them, and many were already after couple of drinks.

As for the city - it's full of contrasts. Nicely renovated monuments, clean houses, colourful façades disappear after few steps and give their way to clumsy buildings, walls with graffiti and grey streets. A kind of mishmash. Peaceful and cosy centre and then (e.g in Užupis): alternative, neglected, greyish areas... But it's charming, as well. Old walls covered with graffiti are very photogenic, indeed, and wandering across the changeable landscape is quite impressive.

Vilnius is also a city of churches. Here and there you can see a Catholic or Orthodox church. There's also a synagogue. Unfortunately, we couldn't visit it, because it was already closed. Near the synagogue there's also a huge Easter Egg on a column, but I really couldn't find out why it stands there.

We've also visited the most popular monuments, e.g. the Gate of Dawn, Castle and the Rasos Cemetery, but the most attractive for me were the tiny narrow streets, full of colours. And the square near the Cathedral, which is the main meeting point in the city. It's a place, where skaters and roller-skaters practice various tricks and where young people spend their free time. Some of them also choose the Barbican for their meeting point and transform it in a kind of night local;) Actually, it's a place with a nice view of the city, worth visiting not only by night.
The University is among my favourites, as well. I need to mention it, as I feel it's full of surprises, e.g. you can find there an old room covered with mysterious frescos or a colourful old church, where we met some students working on their drawings.

Vilnius is not a big metropolis and I even didn't get the impression that I'm in a capital city. It's more like a nice, cosy town It occurred funny to me that about 1/6 of Lithuanian population lives here and time passes here quite slowly and peacefully. There are no trams, no metro, no big crowds, no impression of living in a hurry. And the people here are really friendly and hospitable. I will surely get back to Lithuania and Vilnius, as I feel I haven't explored this region well enough.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

14-16.08.09 Time to get back

....or how we changed our plans again and decided to head for Poland...

The least attractive part of travelling is that you have to get back sooner or later. Too bad. I would really love to keep on hitchhiking till the end of August or September, but there were few things that are calling me to Poland (or from Poland, or to get back to Poland, anyway - something was caaaaaaling!) And MIchał insisted on coming back.

We planned to leave from Zabljak by bus and then keep on hitchhiking to Vysehrad Unfortunately, it turned out that there were no more tickets for the bus at 11am, although the bus wasn't full at all. Well, I didn't really regret it and was happy we would hitchhike now. But then it started to rain and no one wanted to drop us, although we kept on changing our standing points and they weren't bad at all. After few hours we decided to get back to the bus station and took the 2 pm bus. With a heavy heart, we had to resign from visiting Vysehrad... After 1,5 hour there was a first break in the journey and no one told us that we have to change the bus now. Other passangers knew it, but we and a group of Polish students - not. Luckily, I noticed that our luggage was being carried to another bus, so I knew what's going on.

Then we arrived to Uzice and spent there 4 hours. It was quite dark already and we decided not to explore the city so much. What was the most attractive there, was the river going through the city centre. In the distance you could see old skyscrapers, poorely lit. But we spent most of our time on the train station. Michał came up with the idea that it's better not stay overnight in the city, but just get on a night train and go through Serbia for a really small amount of money. The train was late, of course, and there was no information about the delay and we landed up in a compartment with 4 other hitchhikers. A Serbian couple and a Lithuanian girl with Czech guy also decided to go buy train instead of hitchhike in the rain. The Serbs were going back home to Novy Sad, the other couple was heading for the mountains. And we were all coming back from Montenegro.

Finally, we arrived to Subotica, early in the morning, and from now on we planned to hitchhike Unfortunately, we couldn't find any signs with direction to other cities, we asked several people about the the way, but finally we landed up on the wrong road.. Actually, we covered a distance of few kilometers and we still hoped that there would be a sign soon with a name of a Hungarian city. But nothing like that happened. None of the cars wanted to give us a lift and then it turned out that it was a wrong direction. So we got back to the station... And to my dissapointed, we covered the whole way back by trains... All in all, there were 10 of them. And we were lucky enough that we didn't have to wait for the next connection, although we did not know about the next train. Just a lucky freestyle:) We also spent 1 night sleeping in a tent near Hungarian-Slovak boarder, in a town called Szob. Then we hitchhiked to Sturovo and when the next car stopped for us, we were dropped only to the train station. The dirver didn't like the idea of us hitchhiking, so he just stopped by the station and told us to go by train. We were too tired to get back on the road, so we just got in the train to Bratislava, then the next one to Zilina, then Bielsko Biala, Katowice, Poznań.... It was actually quite a quick journey and not so interesting as hitchhiking. Anyway. New adventures will surely come soon:)