Flavours of Croatia – Zadar

Summer has ended rather abruptly this year in Europe. I have nearly forgotten that it ends at all, with golden autumn and amazing weather up until the second week of October. With holiday time passing I have realized I have not been blogging for a while and, let me tell you, there were more than 13 reasons why.

As I have mentioned in several of my previous posts (for example here), I have been incredibly fortunate to be offered free accommodation for a two-week trip to South Dalmatia, Croatia. And boy, that was an adventure! Upon my return I have already started planning next summer holidays, and as it is a rather daunting task, I wondered what could help me plan. I went through all the main points of planning a trip and realized that where you want to go sets a goal to work towards. And I couldn’t decide. I researched many travel blogs and looked for tips on which of all the amazing places to visit first and I got stuck. What broke the impasse? A book by John Grisham – no joke – about a football player moving to Parma (Italy). Why it wowed me so much? It showed a side of Italy I have never seen before, thriving, rich in flavour and full of lovely people, but from an entirely subjective point of view. Therefore, after spending two weeks in Dalmatia I decided to share with you my view on this region of Croatia, and maybe convince you it’s really an amazing place to visit.

After this rather long prefix, let’s just jump right into what I have learned about Southern Dalmatia.

ZADAR, the city that stole Hitchcock’s heart

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Zadar is the oldest still inhabited city in Croatia. With amazing Romanesque architecture and original Roman forum it reminded me of Rome, rather than a small town on the coast of Adriatic Sea. Both Floret and I loved every single corner of the city, but what really took my breath away was the sunset on the promenade – once described by Alfred Hitchcock himself as “the most beautiful sunset in the world”. I couldn’t agree more with Mr Hitchcock as I sat down with hundreds of people looking at the sun slowly hiding behind the horizon.

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Relaxing to the sound of waves playing calmly on the Sea Organs built into the promenade we waited for the night to set in and uncover the amazing solar-powered public dance floor – a “Monument to the Sun” created by Nikola Basic. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like this before in my life and I truly believe that Zadar’s Sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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If you are not the greatest fan of crowds you should definitely pick Southern Dalmatia out of all the other cities in Croatia. We have spent several days with born-and-raised Croatians and they all said the same exect thing to us: “never visit Dubrovnik in the summer” and “Zadar is so much better in summer than all the other cities, as it is not that filled with tourists”. Also, what they didn’t say, but I definitely noticed, was the price difference.

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Promenade, Sea Organs and the sun-powered dance floor are not the only great things to visit in Zadar. We have roamed the city quite thoroughly and seen various interesting sites, tried the amazing food and delicious beverages – including Gresavina – famous white wine from the region. Pro tip I have heard from an amazing artist who also provided us with loads of wine – don’t ever buy Croatian wine that’s more expensive than 30 kunas (5 euro) per 1 liter. I have obeyed by this rule vigorously and have to say, Gresavina (especially served with cooled sparkling water Jamnica) is delicious!

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City of Zadar represents a rather interesting mixture of old and new architecture. Blending effortlessly ultra contemporary installations, such as Sea Organs and the Monument to the Sun, with Roman-era fragments and Romanesque churches results from serious bombing in World War II, which forced officials to fill holes in old architecture with modern touches. Every step you take brings you closer to city’s historical heritage, just like visiting a very old, Romanesque bell tower, which interior seems taken straight from Indiana Jones movies. Neighbouring an original Roman forum it’s an amazing place to see the clash of era’s.

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Getting to know the city is very easy with many informational boards hanging around every corner. I was very pleased to see many signs translated into various languages, sometimes even including my own – Polish. It’s always a nice feeling to see signs of your own country wherever you go.

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What I also loved about Zadar? Its nightlife. Floret and I stationed ten kilometers from the city, so we never truly had a chance to experience the nightlife in its entirety, but we had a taste, while enjoying Gresavina and Aperol Spritz on the promenade. I loved spending time among Croatians (in Dubrovnik meeting Croatians in summer is nearly impossible), simply chilling and enjoying the weather, just like I would where I live. I felt more like part of the community, not a stranger, as I usually do while observing others.

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In terms of food, visiting any Konoba (traditional restaurant) with Pleskavica, Cevapcici and various sea food is a pleasure. With amazing interiors, delicious dishes and cold sparkling water, it is a lovely place to relax and regain energy for even longer sightseeing under the merciless Croatian sun. I loved devouring pizza (very common in Croatia, I don’t think I have ever seen so many pizzerias in one city!), looking at the ships passing us by, observing the regular life of people living in the Old Town.

With three airports nearby (Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar), various accommodation opportunities and great transport (both bus, train and ships), it’s one of the most convenient, beautiful and interesting destinations to visit in Europe. So, if you’re looking for a place to visit next year – make sure to take Zadar, the city of the most beautiful sunset in the world, into account.

Have any of you ever visited Zadar? Did you enjoy it as much as Floret and I did? Let me know in the comments!

Dorota

How to plan your holiday trip?

For a couple of days now I have been planning my holidays and while writing down the packing list I realized, that being so busy with travelling to my grandma’s house, being a perfect “housewife” and preserving pickles and zucchini I got from my aunt’s garden, I didn’t have any time to write a new blog post. Feeling a little bit guilty (as you do when you totally ignore something) I decided to finally get to work and prepare a post.

It would’ve been great if I had an idea what to write about, though. I don’t know if other bloggers feel the same way, but sometimes I can write an entire 10 page essay on the most mundane topic and other times I am just blocked, even if I had a great idea. But then, right in that moment, while writing the word “charger”, I got enlightened – I’m sure by now you now where this is going – so yes, another “how to” blog post, but hey! It’s an up to date topic for all of us happy campers!

1. Make a list of things to pack.

I know you might think everybody knows that already, but frankly speaking I met various people who don’t plan what to take for a trip at all. To be frank, I once went canoeing with some of my friends and one of them totally forgot to take a swimming suit and water shoes. I was surprised and asked how that happened, and she simply said she packed as she normally does, not for this particular trip. Since then, after a very lengthy trip to a shopping mall to purchase the swimming suit, she is that much wiser.

Make sure you prepare the list at least a week in advance. That way, for the days leading to the departure date you will have a chance to round out your list if you recall any item necessary. Also, it will allow you to purchase things you don’t have yet – in my case, I wrote sandals, hat, shorts and water shoes, since mine from last year weren’t too good and they let little stones get into the shoe and annoy the living hell out of me.

Bonus tip: make sure to pack all of the medicine you will need (especially prescription pills).

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2. Buy ticket in advance.

And I do mean all of the tickets. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts about saving money  I am not very keen on spending cash right now, as I’ve been trying to save up some. I have already booked my plan tickets and if I knew earlier when am I going to go for holidays I’d book them even several months ago. I also will now book train tickets, bus tickets and make all the other reservations which will allow me to save some and use special offers.

For these holidays I am going to stay in my boyfriend’s friend’s house and therefore I don’t have to book any accommodation, but if you don’t have that luxury I advise you to use booking.com to book in advance and use their discounts. Also, make sure you look for the best offer possible – many of the reservations can be cancelled and exchanged if you find a better last-minute offer. I’ve never done it as I feel people prepare their rooms for you and cancelling last minute is quite mean, but you can still do it and save some.

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3. Buy the currency in advance.

Generally speaking the smaller city you exchange money in – the better. Also, you can book currency in an online exchange office and make sure the difference in rate doesn’t eat a big portion of your money. What is crucial is to never exchange on an airport, near borders or in shopping malls.

This year I’m going to visit Croatia and the currency there is kuna, which is roughly 0,14 Euro. Knowing the rate I can evaluate how much money I need to exchange before leaving. I make sure to have some back-up cash just in case I exceed the limit I imposed on myself and I advise you to do the same. You can never know what happens and it’s always better to be prepared and not stress-out.

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4. Prepare for the trip itself.

Being fashionable is hard, but being fancy on a 6 hours flight is close to impossible. The rule to always dress the part in any situation is valid here as well. In case of flying for holidays, you definitely should wear comfortable, easy to remove shoes (at security check and aboard), have some sweater to put on (it can get a little chilly), and wear jeans which are not too tight (which will not cramp you).

If you’re going by car, pack water, snacks and make sure your luggage fits in the trunk. There is nothing worse than travelling like a crazy gipsy family on crack.

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5. Buy travel guides.

As I mentioned here having a travel guide is vital to sightseeing the site to the full extent. Make sure you buy guides that are worth the price – read opinions first and purchase the one with the highest note. Also, make sure to buy guides detailing the specific site you’re visiting – for example: not Portugal, but rather Lisbon or Algarve.

I am a very detailed traveller – I like to know all the pieces of information about things I’m going to see. For example, if you’re looking at a very old, beautiful church in Budapest only if you’re going to read a part of its history and get to know its name you’re gonna know and remember what it is, otherwise it will be just another church.

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6. Look for things to sightsee beforehand

Making a plan (not very detailed) of what you’re going to do during your holidays is vital. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, for me it is crucial to incorporate all types of leisure activities in your trip, so that you don’t end up simply laying flat on the beach baking your butt. It is vital to remember to plan some sport, some relax and some entertainment time in equal parts. That way you will not get tired of any of them and will be well-rested when you come back.

Right now I am browsing through various blogs to find things to do/see in the part of Croatia I’m travelling to. So if you, by any change, know beautiful places to see in Croatia near a city of Zadar, please let me know in the comments.

7. Return a day earlier

Even God rested for one day – at least that’s what the Bible says. Holidays and all the travelling can be tiresome, so make sure to return a day before and have an additional day for simply relaxing at home and sorting all the things out before returning to work.

 

And how about you? Do you have any tips for planning holidays?

Dorota

Yet another trip to the mountains

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably already know that I had visited Bieszczady mountains last week. For those, who still didn’t click that follow button – yes, I took a week off from the “big city” and travelled all the way to Bieszczady mountains AGAIN. It took me around 5 hours to drive there and I have truly and passionately enjoyed every single moment there.

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Bieszczady is a mountain range running from Poland through Ukraine and Slovakia and is a part of Outer Eastern Carpathians. I have many times heard of beauties of that particular place, but up until last year I never had a chance to visit. I have described my last trip in details here.

An area of no light pollution

From what I’ve learned only Bieszczady Mountains out of all the mountain ranges in Poland maintain the original darkness of night, all the other areas are light polluted to varying degrees. This is probably one of very few places in which you can experience true darkness of the night. The night sky is absolutely stunning, I can’t even begin to describe how many stars can be seen there. Unfortunately, I don’t own any camera that could catch that picture and give it justice.

Winnie-the-Pooh house shelter

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Winnie-the-Pooh house is a shelter located on the top of the mountain in Bieszczady. It is the highest located shelter in this mountain range. The place has no electricity, nor running water and only sells tea (also with a little bit of additives like… cherry vodka) and other assortment for tired hikers.  You can also sleep there, for a symbolic price, if you ventured too late into the mountains and want to have some rest there.

I was quite interested about the history of this place. I have learned that it was build just after the war to check the borders. Later on, when the borders shifted a little bit, it was given to the Polish Tourist Association which runs it until now.

The road leading to the Pooh-house leads through the Carpathian mountain pasture of Wetlina, which is quite an easy route really. When we ventured there we’ve seen such little kids on the way, we were pretty ashamed we got so flustered after each peak.

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A great place to practice hiking

I am not used to hiking. For my entire life I lived in the place that was flat as a bottom of my shoe. The first time I tried hiking I didn’t really like it that much – I was sweating, tired and simply hated looking so terrible. After some time though, I got used to it and now, except that I whine all the time anyway, I really like it. Especially the feeling of accomplishment when I reach a great, great place and can finally rest.

Bieszczady mountains can be demanding. Can take a lot out of you and leave you exhausted. But each time you finish a hike you already want to go back. The mountains have undeniable charm that draws people back. I met a nice man while climbing to the Winnie-the-Pooh house, who told me he visits Bieszczady for the fifth time and already plans to come back for more.

Although getting tired is not so difficult here, you can also find various routes which are not as demanding. That way, the range is perfect both for experienced, and inexperienced hikers.

A great hotel base

Bieszczady was quite a popular touristic spot in the 90s and now it goes back to its full glory. Both Floret and I enjoyed nearly every single one of the accommodation spots we stayed in. Many of these places offered a lot more than we expected and we loved the owners, who were extremely nice.

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We ate dinner with such a view in one of the places and I totally loved it. The owner was so sweet she even drove us to the mechanic who worked on our car. Oh yeah, my car broke – again. Fortunately, they fixed it in time and we could continue our journey.

We also got friendly with other owners who even treated us with some delicious fruit infusion, let us play with their cute cat and adorable dog and made us a bonfire. I really loved staying there and if you get a chance you should definitely go and stay in the village of Precisne. It is a little remote from the more popular places, but I really enjoyed staying there.

How did we spend our time?

When we booked our holidays we were expecting some beautiful weather and great hiking conditions. It was a little rainy, and the sky was usually cloudy, but we didn’t let it destroy our holidays. Actually, we loved it even more.

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For a couple of days we were simply hiking and making a BBQ in the evening (we walked through more than 65 km) and we needed some rest, hence we decided to spend one full day on the beach at the Solina Lake, relax and try some kayaking. We also checked several other places, such as Arłamów SPA Center. We loved every single second of this trip and we can’t wait to go for another one already.

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Let me know what do you think of this place? Where did you go for a holidays?

Dorota

 

EUROTRIP – how to plan your trip in 5 easy steps.

As I wrote here my boyfriend Floret and I went for EUROTRIP two years ago and we LOVED IT. This was by far the best trip in my entire life, and even though I have two more eurotrips planned, I can’t imagine any of them top this experience. If you want to know details about my trip you have to check my previous post linked above, but the excerpt is that we travelled by car from Poland to Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. I wrote that we have two more Eurotrips left planned, well actually to be planned, that is: Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden) and “wild, wild west” (Italy, France, Portugal and Spain).

Because this year we were offered to visit our friend’s house in southern Croatia to see Dubrovnik as well as Montenegro (hence not spend a single dime on accommodation), we decided to go there instead and postpone our Eurotrips for next year. That left me with quite significant time to plan our trip ahead and not end up being “spontaneous” (here the synonym of unprepared). I mention the impulsiveness of our first Eurotrip because it got us in trouble several times – hence I decided to plan everything in a little bit more detail. During my planning procedure I realised I have some experience which might be useful to all of you, sweet people, who might want to plan their own trips! Hence, I decided to share my 5 great tips for planning the Eurotrip!

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Amazing Plitvice lake we’ve seen during our first Eurotrip experience in Croatia.

1. Start by preparing overall plan

We decided to go for the Scandinavian trip first – let the working title for this expedition be; Vikingtrip. We started with the overall plan in our heads after a little bit of brainstorming – I wanted to see Copenhagen and the Oresund bridge to Sweden, Floret wanted to see Bergen and the fjords. Taking a quick look at the map we realised that our trip should look something like that:

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Our trip consists of: Warsaw, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Malmo, Gothenburg, Oslo, Bergen, Oslo again, Karlstad, Stockhold and Gdańk.

The trip “ends” in Stockholm only because we decided to take a ferry to a beautiful Polish city of Gdańsk through the Baltic Sea. Now when our outline is ready we can see how long will it take to drive our little camper. We know from experience (we are together for almost 3 years and drove hundreds of kilometers) that it is optimal to drive around 500 km every 2-3 days. That way we won’t be too exhausted from driving, we will have time to see places we visit in detail and we will be able to relax.

Bearing that in mind we can move further and plan stops in between cities, which are too far away. That way I put a stop between Oslo and Stockholm in Karlstad – a city we were not really interested in, but decided it’s optimal to take a break in. I evaluate that the time needed to see all these places is around 3-4 weeks. Now when our trip is planned we can get into much more detail and check-out interesting activities and things to see.

2. Allow flexibility – don’t book all the hotels

Obviously in case of the Vikingtrip we are going to go in a camper, so arranging accommodation is going to be limited to us simply finding a campsite to stop. If you don’t have such an opportunity, I advise you not to book hotels for each night. What I realised during my first Eurotrip is that we liked some places way more than others. At some point on Krk island in Croatia we got a little bored of tanning on the beach and decided to drive to Slovenia earlier – which turned out to be a great decision – Slovenia is definitely my favourite destination out of all the trip.

Allow yourself a little bit of carpe diem moment. Be spontaneous and don’t worry – it’s not like finding a hotel is very difficult – you wouldn’t believe how many people book rooms and never show up!

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Floret on his way to see a mountain shelter in Slovenia.

3. Plan activities, relax and sightseeing in equal intervals

I used the word “interval” and got reminded of all the terrible moments I had in my High Level Math class in high school – I nearly got a panic attack, I swear. I am a firm believer in balance in the universe. I think that equilibrium between sightseeing, relax and activities should be achieved at all times, so that we don’t go crazy during a trip that is longer than a weekend.

At the end of my first Eurotrip we went to Vienna, Austria and were sightseeing the city and all the museum until I just gave up and had to simply… have fun! Floret saved me by taking me to Vienna Prater (an amusement park), where after trying one ride, tired I fell asleep on the grass in the park nearby. I realised then, that a great trip is packed with everything, not just sightseeing!

Usually Floret is the one who organizes sport during out trips; he took us for biking and kayaking in Slovenia, all the water parks on our way, as well as rafting. I am usually responsible for finding great places to see and visit; like museums, interesting places, reading the guide and analyzing where to go. I am also responsible for food and restaurants, while Floret looks for beaches and relaxation. I think we are quite compatible!

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Me kayaking on a lake Bled in Slovenia.

4. Always get a detailed guidebook

I know people who don’t believe in guidebooks and hate reading them. They prefer to simply go and see whatever they want. I am not one of them, and let me, sweet readers, explain why. When on my last Eurotrip I bought or borrowed guidebooks for all the cities and for most of them I read all the information. I simply stopped at a church, for example, and read all the trivia to Floret. At the end of the trip in Vienna I was a little lazy and didn’t bother to read at all, and… can’t remember half of what I’ve seen. I browsed through pictures to choose some for this page and it turned out I don’t even remember seeing these places. At all. I’ve never had amnesia before, so I think I’m right believing that it’s all because of not reading the guide – after all, I remember all the other ones!

Moreover, when you already have a guide you can prepare a more detailed plan of what to see in each place – you simply pick most interesting things and arrange to visit.

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Menu in one of Viennese restaurants – on the table an amazing guide I was too lazy to read.

5. Plan your finances and book hotels in advance

Since I ran out of points to close up in 5, I had to join two very important points. I know you might think I’m contradicting myself, above I wrote: “don’t book hotels for each night” and in here I tell you to book hotels. What I mean, is that I believe we have to arrange accommodation for most of the nights way in advance to get better deals. 

In terms of money… Money is such a sensitive topic nowadays. I know Instagram makes us believe all the people in the world are loaded and we are the only ones who don’t have golden Lamborghini, but the reality is I know very few people who can wipe with cash. When going for such a long, quite expensive trip, you have to assess how much cash you need and be prepared to use your credit card. We spent around 3500 Euro on our trip and it was a lot of money – we didn’t limit ourselves with anything really, which we should have, and we tried everything, so be prepared for that kind of money. We had to use our credit cards several times and weren’t really expecting it!

Right now, in case of Vikingtrip I know it will cost way more than what we spent before – Scandinavian countries are extremely expensive – hence the camper idea to not pay for hotels. You now know why I constantly preach about things being expensive and saving money, I just need it to travel.

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A dark sky above Krk, Croatia.

I hope with this post I was able to help you. If you have any questions please hit that contact button and let’s share! Follow me on Instagram and get fresh pictures from my adventures!

Dorota

 

Long weekend at a seaside – Baltic Sea trip – day 2

Hello world, it’s Dorota again!

Like I mentioned in the first part of my long weekend’s coverage here my trip was so eventful I simply couldn’t limit myself to writing a single post, hence I split the story into two separate chapters. Day 2 at the Baltic Sea was not nearly as fruitful as the first one, but my boyfriend Floret and I visited some great places which are definitely worth mentioning.

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After the bonfire the previous night, and following the green sightseeing route, we were exhausted. Frankly speaking most of my holidays are quite tiring. I don’t think I ever spent any holiday during which I simply tanned on a beach and relaxed. This time though I decided not to join my friends on a red route (23 kilometers through the beach) and instead to spent some leisure time simply visiting the city of Łeba.

We ate breakfast in the same exact place as the day before, packed our stuff and registered out of the camping site. We couldn’t stay for another night (even if it was from Friday to Saturday) because our best friends were getting married at 2 PM the next day, and I still didn’t have a dress.

The city of Łeba is not a very big one. Population is quite small, almost reaching 4000 inhabitants, but during the season in summer it is one of the most crowded places I’ve ever seen. It is located next to a beautiful lake Łebsko, which we had an opportunity to see the day before on our way to see moving dunes and a Baltic Sea.

Since, as I mentioned, the city is mostly focused on tourists it is swamped with shops, restaurants and stands selling various types of magnets and souvenirs. As you might now (if you read any of my previous posts) I called magnets from all the places I’ve been to, so we got some. I’m not a fan of coffee. I very rarely drink it, and even if I do it tastes nothing like coffee, more like milk of slight coffee flavour. We found a really cute coffee place in the middle of the city center, but since the season hasn’t started yet and we got diddly squat. We found another place, but it was definitely not that magical anymore.

Our walk through Łeba drifted from bookstores to shops. We stuck to the main road and it took us straight to the beach. I used to make fun of people using all these colorful screens to separate from others, but since this trip I know what they really want to isolate from is the wind. Even with such a beautiful weather it was still extremely windy!

Sun was very strong that day but I still felt chilly and instead of lying on the beach tanning for the upcoming wedding we decided to travel home with several stops on the way. Our first one was, and always will be if I’m around, Warmia Park. This is a water park with slides, pools and outdoor jacuzzi in the middle of the woods. It is a great place to relax and have loads of fun on slides. The facility is located in Pluski, at the lake of the same name, just in the middle of our road home.

As you can see, the weather started shifting slowly. We spent an hour in the park (just to cool down and relax in the water) and starving we decided to have lunch consisting of leftovers from our camping trip. We drove to the lake and ate all we had with great taste (even if we ate canned food which was not ideally healthy).

After lunch we took off to Warsaw. We were very happy to sleep in our beds again and not feel all the pinecones stabbing us in the back. The next day we woke up early. You remember how I said I didn’t have a dress for a wedding yet? My boyfriend Floret was making fun of me for the entire weekend that I knew six months I will be attending a wedding and didn’t prepare. You want to guess who couldn’t find his pants for the suit and had to buy a new one? You guessed right! That’s karma in the purest form.

Luckily we managed to buy both and had a lot of fun during the entire long weekend!

And how did you spend the weekend? You prefer do travel or rest at home? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in daily pictures, please check out my instagram!

Dorota

A trip to Slawinski National Park day 1

One of my friends texted me recently if I want to join her boyfriend and her on a trip to Slawinski National Park in Poland. Just by pure coincidence it’s the exact same friend who invited me to tag along for a trip to Bieszczady which I described here. I didn’t hesitate even for a second and immediately agreed.

The first thing I did was making sure I packed everything I could possibly need. I used my sports bag for clothes and cosmetics (I never really got mature enough to buy a suitcase) and the rest of things was packed like I robbed a store and just threw it inside a car.

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My trip started at around 3 pm. I met my boyfriend Floret on a Wilson Square in Warsaw. Our car broke down recently and we don’t have air-conditioning, so in this temperature it was going to be a long ride. The place we were trying to reach is around 5-6 hours from Warsaw and believe it or not we travelled for almost 7!

As you can imagine we got to the city of Łeba at around 9 PM and after some short shopping we were all set. It got dark and all the living bugs around tried to eat us alive, but we managed to set our camp, eat dinner in a tent (like I said here saving money is a priority for me recently) and relax. Floret went to the shop to get some anti-bug spray so I was a big girl and I assembled the entire tent by myself. Here is the result:

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As you can see I chose a secluded spot far away from all other campers. It was very quiet and all of our neighbours were really nice. The showers were very clean so I can highly recommend this camping – if you are by any chance interested its site is right here.

Afterwards, since our camp was just 200 meters away from the beach we headed there to check how it looks like. Most of the beaches in Poland are sandy so it was a soft relief to our feet to take a short walk with a great view. Unfortunately, it was a little windy, so soon we headed back. We went to sleep at around midnight and I have to say that sleeping to the sound of waves hitting the beach is amazingly soothing.

The camping doesn’t arrange breakfasts but they did give us directions to a nearby restaurant, where for a price of coffee in Warsaw, we ate delicious food with a great view.

After breakfast we decided to take a walk and finally visit the park. We packed towels, flip-flops, water and SPF-50 cream and headed towards the park.

Slowinski National Park is a part of Natura 2000 programme which is a network of nature protection areas in European Union – that means that it cannot be in any way altered nor anything can be built on these areas without special permissions. We had a variety of choices in terms of touristic routes, but we picked a green one (of middle-length) and after around 40 minutes we encountered a Museum of Missile Launcher. It was built in 1940 as an experimental German polygon for testing missiles and explosives during Second World War. Germans destroyed almost the entire facility while retreating, but all that got saved can be seen there, including glass walls (of 5 cm thickness) and other missiles.

Floret really enjoyed the place, especially that the Museum also provided quite a lot of information about a certain scientist whose work was a great contribution to Polish military (especially missiles during the 60s) Mr. Jacek Walczewski who also happened to graduate from Floret’s University in Cracow.

Later on we ventured further to the moving dunes. We encountered many interesting boards with information concerning nature, birds and snakes which live in the park. We also learned how Baltic sea was formed and how it used to be a lake. What is I think the most interesting information is that the salinity of the sea is of 0.5% to 0.8% which makes it a freshwater really. Apparently drinking it for survival reasons would hydrate the body and not dehydrate it as is the case with ocean water. So if you are lost on a deserted island somewhere on a Baltic Sea don’t hesitate to take a sip 😉

The route in the woods ended abruptly and we finally saw the moving dunes, which turned out to be absolutely stunning!

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The contrast between bright blue sky and whitish sand was truly captivating.

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The rope limits the route so it was nice to take pictures of dunes without any sign of human existence.

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Hypnotizing, isn’t it?

The dunes are, according to the Park’s website:

a real sandy desert which lies on a narrow spit between the Baltic Sea and Lebsko Lake. Wind causes the dunes to move and rise to several dozens of meters. The downside is that they cover with sand coastal forests, marshes, and even inhabited areas. The greatest changes in the landscape occurs in autumn and in spring, during storms on the Baltic Sea. The dunes and quicksands in its precincts from the most beautiful desert landscape, unique in Europe, often dubbed the Polish Sahara. The moving of dunes happens because of the lack of vegetation, which normally limits the influence of winds.

After we marvelled at how amazingly beautiful the dunes are we had to head back through around 3 kilometres of a beach with very loose sand and I don’t get why but I got blisters on my toes. Anyone care to explain? After the trip we went for lunch and finally met my friends (who were running very late, because one of them got sick the other night) and we could finally eat. I was so hungry I didn’t even bother taking a picture to show you guys, but what I can say is that my fish was very tasty. After lunch, we went shopping for food and we bought all the things we needed for making a bonfire. I wanted to make one (ah the smell!) for a long time now, especially that Floret is very much in love with grilling and he suffers each minute of us living in the big city where we can only use electronic grill.

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When we were packing for a trip it was so hot that Floret didn’t even think to take something to protect against blasts of cold wind. It got quite cold in the evening and he had to rescue himself with a work-jacket that we get to work on a construction site. He looked like a security guy, but hey, at least he was warm!

The bonfire was a great success and we had a lot of fun. Many people from the camp joined us and it was a nice time for all of us.

Since the trip was full of events I decided to split this post into two, so stay tuned!

Check o

Dorota

 

My Erasmus experience – a year long trip!

Hello World,

a couple of years ago when I was still a student I was offered to go for an Erasmus Programme (a European Union Students Exchange Programme). Since it was not very popular at my Faculty, I could choose every single country and city I could think of. My University works with best Schools in Europe, and I was very close to picking Delft in the Netherlands, but because I am undoubtedly stupid I decided to pick a little town in the middle of nowhere in Portugal.

I can imagine your thoughts now: she went to beautiful Portugal to lay on the beach all day long and eat all this amazing food. Well yes. If only the city I lived in had any comfortable connection with any respectable beach and if only the Erasmus Committee did bother to read my application data.

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Wonderful beach in Nazare where I spent most of my weekends.

If you don’t have any experience with Erasmus I can tell you that before you are qualified to go you have to fill in numerous questionnaires and mark boxes for truly everything. Do you want to study in English? Yes √ Do you want to get your student’s buddy? Yes √ Do you need help in arranging accommodation? Yes √ Want to guess? Exactly – they didn’t help me in any of these.

Even though my school usually started at 7 pm and finished at 11:30 pm – yes, I wrote it correctly, PM! – even though I had to study Electrical Engineering in Portuguese, which I didn’t know at that time, even if there were no radiators in my apartment and I was freezing to death in winter, it was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

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Drying fish on a beach in Nazare. 

Let me start from the beginning. I went to Leiria in September 2014. I didn’t know absolutely anyone else on Erasmus there, I didn’t know the city and couldn’t speak Portuguese. At first I felt depressed really. The weather was amazing but I didn’t have any friends to have fun with, the University did not give me my student’s buddy so I had no one to talk to really, up until… I decided to put myself there and literally searched for other people, both online and in real life. Whenever I heard English I was immediately joining conversations – of strangers, yes – and socializing with them. Suddenly I met so many people I had friends everywhere – some of these friendships survived until now, some didn’t – and I was living the life I always wanted – sightseeing, studying and partying.

Since all students on Erasmus get paid scholarships I was thrilled to try the Portuguese cuisine. I met many Portuguese people who told me very interesting stories and facts about their country. I tried their beer, their seafood, I attended concerts, even football games. What surprised me? How open people are. How easy it is to communicate even if you don’t know a single word of their language and they don’t speak English. How common it is to drink and drive there (terrifying really!) and how you can a perfectly cooled beer even in the smallest village.

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Amazing berbigao in Nazare. Best. Food. Ever.

I also learned a lot, not only about Engineering and Portuguese language, but also about myself and how I perceived the world.

I met people from literally every country in the European Union, we mixed our cultures frequently. Many times I organized dinners for over 30 people! I learned the importance of eating with your family, – Portuguese people always eat in such big groups! I was surprised at first how easy it was for them to invite me to dinner. Like I was a member of their family really and my strict, northern upbringing was truly shocked. – of rest during long work days – only place in the entire world where restaurants are closed from 12:00 till 3:00 pm so that the stuff can rest – and how to live peacefully and in acceptance of people, that are simply different from me.

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The beautiful Porto.

I also helped many of my friends and family visit Portugal as well. My mom, my siblings and best friend all visited me and we had a blast.

What is my advice? I think the most important thing, if you consider going for an Erasmus Programme, is that you should never close yourself for new friendships just because you go with someone you already know. I witnessed many people staying in these rather closed groups of friends and never really experiencing their adventure fully. I met people who have never even tried amazing Portuguese dishes because they were constantly claiming food is expensive. I met people who claimed that going out is for stupid people. If you want to go for an Erasmus don’t be any of these people. Stay open and curious.

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Stunning monastery in Batalha.

In order to prepare better for such experience I think it’s most suitable to plan ahead. Erasmus Community organizes many trips and activities which might be great to attend, but sometimes you just need a schedule to not miss out on anything. Of course if you would like to go to Portugal I can gladly help you with that – maybe in a little hectic way, but hey! No judging! – So e-mail me if you want some info.

What’s the most important thing to remember? I think: improvise and be spontaneous. I was very reserved at first and then, after couple of months I was greeting strangers with a kiss on the cheek, I was hitchhiking frequently including driving in a truck transporting onion, and did many more crazy things!

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I spent an entire year in Portugal, visiting many cities like Porto, Lisbon, Guimaraes, Obidos, Peniche and many others. I loved it so much, that even this year I am planning to go back with my boyfriend Floret, to check out the southern part of the country – Algarve. I didn’t have a chance to visit when I lived there, but right now it’s the spot I am hoping to see this August.

And did you go for an exchange programme? Let me know in the comments!

Dorota