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

 

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My Erasmus experience – a year long trip!

Hello World,

a couple of years ago when I was still a student I was offered to participate in 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. 

The beginning

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.

What surprised me?

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

My Eurotrip experience.

Hello world,

in one of the previous posts I wrote about my trip to Bieszczady Mountains, which is a range of hills in Southern Poland. I loved the trip, because not only had I had a pleasure to try pure spirits, but also it was my first ever trip when I swam in a lake. Before I ventured to this amazing place I had a pleasure of experiencing one of the most amazing trips of my life: EUROTRIP.

The task was quite easy, I live in Europe, so my only concern was to get a car, pack and book some hotels on the way. I went with my boyfriend Floret, of course, and our companion: my fluffy grey cat from Nicci, which was quite useful when we slept in a tent under olive trees in Croatia.

We started our trip in Warsaw, where we live, and first travelled to a Hungarian city of Eger. On our way there we had to drive through Slovakia, where we were really conscious since it’s extremely easy to get a fine for everything, but even though – of course – we got a fine for speeding. On the border with Hungaria. Literally looking at the sign of the country. We had 45 km/h on a 40 km/h limit, but they still imposed a mandate on us of 200 Euros. I’m looking at you Slovakian Police, stop!

After Eger, where we also visited Miscolc Topolca, we went to the capital city Budapest, where we spent three days travelling back and forth throughout a beautiful, old streets, eating hummus and drinking wine on the bank of Danube river with some very nice, old German people. We ate delicious food and both Floret and I enjoyed it very much.

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Budapest is a city known for it’s architecture, especially the building of the parlament, which is quite astonishing.

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Here it is just on the other side of the river. The weather did not spoil us, but we still got a lot of time simply enjoying little streets and food.

Later on we went to Zagreb, a capital of Croatia, where we visited a ZOO and were sightseeing for two entire days. Since we are both engineers we visited Technical Museum of Zagreb, where we enrolled into classes about Tesla (the greatest) and his inventions. It was for kids, and in croatian, so we understood only what the lecturer showed us and with knwoledge from our physics background we were really excited to try some experiments.

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The city of Zagreb is very misterious and looks a little like Warsaw.

A little digression here: You know how when you go home you look through pictures to see how they turned out? Most of the pictures taken by Floret, were pictures of… You’d think me, maybe some nice sites… No. Of our car. He literally took ten pictures of our car in different places. Men are weird. 

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At least our car got to take a picture with panorama of Zagreb 😉

After Zagreb, we went to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, the oldest national park in Croatia and one of the places on the UNESCO World Heritage register. Before we embarked on a hiking trip there I had a little accident – I left my laptop in one of the restaurants on the way. Luckily they wrote me on Facebook later and gave it back – Croatians are really nice. Thanks, lovely waiter guy!

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The trip was quite interesting and it took multiple hours (I think we hiked for like 6?) but it was totally worth it, just look at that water… It’s magnificent. The color is a result of sedimentation and limestone on the bottom, creating a fairytale look, that honestly, in real life looks just like the pictures.

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What is interesting there is that you can pass a lot of waterfalls and rivers, which look astonishing and make you realize, how beautiful our world is.

20160528_105532.jpgIf you are wondering right now – yes, I did take all these pictures myself, no joke.

After hiking we drove straight to the campsite, where we found a little river (of the same color) and we enjoyed a calm, warm evening sipping wine from cups with smurfs printed on. It was my first night ever in a tent – I start to sound a little like I was brought up in a shed, but really, it was my first time ever. The tent was very tiny (I think 1+) and I had to sleep with my back against the side, with moisture all over me. Thanks to this trip we bought and new tent now and are prepared for camping like pros.

Because we didn’t plan our trip in a great detail and only booked some hotels along the way, we decided to be spontaneous and travel to Krk Island to get some relax on the beach. We wanted to visit Dubrovnic where The Game of Thrones is shot, but we decided it was too far away.

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The island is absolutely beautiful. You can get there only through a bridge (for which you have to pay – that’s kind of weird). There are several towns here, where you can visit very old little church built of stone, very nice restaurants and a city of Punat, where we chose to stay. We slept under olive trees, in a tent, just next to our car on a campsite. There was a storm there that almost made me pee my pants, I swear, being in a tent during a thunderstorm is not funny, so we arranged bottles of wine and played cards for almost a whole night.

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Days are very lazy there in Punat. Beaches are great, although full of stones and we had to travel through the whole island to find one where there was sand. On the way there we also found a cevapi stand where we ate almost everyday – ayvar, the condiment made of paprika, is so amazingly tasty there… I have to buy some more!

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Since we didn’t want to only lay on the beach and burn our asses we took several trips through surrounding hills and found these guys. Actually, the picture was taken just because we were interested in how the foundations of the high voltage tower were made, but I centered a picture to be more interesting to you guys 🙂 The little island you see there is one where you can swim in a boat to and spend some romantic time on a picnic – you should try it!

It came a time where, with a broken heart, we had to leave for another place – Slovenia. I actually wanted to stay longer in Croatia, but we booked a rafting trip and had to meet our appointment.

Slovenia is…

I have no words, if you think Plitvice Lakes were amazing… Slovenia is just like… I don’t know, if you drank an elixir of happiness you’d end up there, for sure.

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This was our view from the hotel room. The host greeted us with wine and chips and all day long I could look at this mountain (Triglav) like on the painting of the greatest painters. Since we booked a rafting trip – which I was very scared of bearing in mind I just learned how to swim – we went there right away. I was unsure and freaking out, but it was one of the best experiences I ever lived through. We couldn’t film or take pictures there without GoPro, so I’m going to show you a video from YouTube. That was so much fun!

The water was ice-cold and during rafting our instructor chose to stop and let us jump from a huge stone in the river with such a strong current I was fighting with myself for 10 straight minutes if I should jump or not. I stood there, on this rock and wanted to jump, but my body didn’t want to move! Seriously, it was such an incredible experience, to fight my own fear. Finally, I jumped. But I was shaking from excitement!

Later we decided to try another typically Slovenian thing… we drove our car onto the train and we travelled by train in it!

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Very weird, especially in the tunnels, but  fun experience nevertheless. I shot a great video with my phone on that trip and I sent it to my mother. I hope one day I will be brave enough to show my face on this blog and share it with you guys.

We also visited a city of Bled with a gigantic castle way above a beautiful, also very blue, lake.

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This looks like I took a picture of a mirror, or I rendered it badly in Photoshop, but  trust me, it really does look just like that! The city is worldwide famous for its cake, which – of course – I had to try. Yummy!

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After eating all that sugar we had to find a way to burn it and since there is no good visit to the mountains (here Triglavski National Park) without a good old hike, we had some.

20160607_102514.jpgSlovenia is really an amazing place. All the people I met there (where we lived in Kranska Gora or where we went) were extremely nice. The owner of the house we stayed in (called Smucka – check it out on booking.com) let us use his grill, his own bikes (really nice ones – and advised us to bike to Italy. Doesn’t it sound weird? Like I could literally take a bike and go to Italy… in like two hours. Oh, Europe, you’re great!) and even washed our clothes! We promised to come back and for it we received a nice, handmade candle holder, which stands on my living room shelf till this day!

20160607_115944.jpgUnfortunately, we had to leave Slovenia and head back home, but not until we visited Vienna and a great aquapark next to it. I wanted to see Vienna because I’m very much interested in european royal families and their palaces – both Austria and Poland have some in common, including several kings. We’ve seen both Schonbrunn and Hofberg.

20160609_111330.jpgGerdens in Schonbrunn.

20160608_143003.jpgHofburg Palace, which is quite interestingly just in the middle of the city. Also, I learned a lot about empress Sisi, who is one of the most fascinating royals I’ve ever heard of (not to mention beautiful). Check her out in the website of Sisi Museum in Schonbrunn.

What should any of you do before leaving Vienna? Eat Saher Chocolate Cake, Schnitzel and of course visit the famous Wiener Prater which is an amusement park first opened in 1766!

After Vienna we headed back home with a plan for another EUROTRIP. To be honest we think of doing two: one for western Europe (I want to shop Portugal to Floret since I lived there for a year) and one for the North (Scandinavia).

Since this trip produced so many amazing pictures I decided to start a special chronicle of my trips with Floret. I will share some pieces with you in some of the next posts.

Wish me lack and tell me something about your trips in the comments!

Dorota

 

A trip to Bieszczady Mountains – for the spirits!

Hello world!

Let me take you along on my last year’s trip to Bieszczady Mountains in Poland, just to show off some of the most amazing places in my country and maybe convince you to visit.

It started off with my best friend M. calling me to ask if I want to tag along with her boyfirend, two other friends and her on a trip for a long weekend. It was in August and my boyfriend Floret and I didn’t have any plans except playing PlayStation all day long (ah, the almighty Uncharted 4).

I immediately agreed and after consulting Floret we packed our stuff and I think the same day (or was it the next day after work, can’t remeber…) we went on a trip. The region of Bieszczady is 7 hours away from where I live in Warsaw, and when we got there it was already around 2 am!

The first thing we did was setting up our tents. At the time it was pitch black and we didn’t see any view nor the surrounding and when we woke up we saw how perfectly we chose a place to stay.

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The tent we chose for this trip, or maybe Floret did, was great. It didn’t let through any moisture, it was rather big for two people, and most importantly easy to assemble. We bought it especially for camping trips since a year earlier we had doubtful pleasure of staying in a tent that was so tiny I had to sleep with my back against the “side”, with moisture all over me. Not to mention we slept in it in the middle of a storm, under olive trees on some Godforsaken Island in Croatia – but that might be a topic for another story.

During the first day we took some time to enjoy Solina Lake.

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It was the first time I ever swam in a like. I know… sounds pathetic, I am 27 years old and I ever swam in a like once almost a year ago. Unfortunately, before… I simply couldn’t swim. Floret tought me how two years ago and it was my first chance to ever try in non-pool conditions.

Later on we went for a campsite, which was one of the most amazing places I’ve seen so far. Full of people, young, very laidback – kind of like a comune.

That day Floret and I decided to skip hiking trip (I didn’t have appropriate shoes so we went to a nearby town Sanok to get some). Fortunately for me, Sanok is a city in which my absolute favourite painter was born – Zdzisław Beksiński – and where his museum is located. After his death – which I might describe along with his work in one of the next posts – he gave all of his paintings to the city and the museum. There I had a pleasure to see my absolute favourite painting of his:

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Which ironically makes me realize I can’t take pictures straight!

When we got back to our camping site we arranged a little celebration. It was the first time I ever was in Bieszczady mountains and Floret (who originally comes from a city nearby) ordered us drinks that nearly killed me. It honestly burnt my throat!

It’s called Bieszczadki Pies (Bieszczady’s dog). It is very similar to a drink called “Mad dog shot” which consists solely of vodka, concentrated raspbetty syrup and tabasco sauce drops. Except in this particular case there is no vodka – because that’s barbarric. There is pure 95% alcohol spirits.

Of course the guys (Floret and Ms boyfriend) did not warn us. Vodka looks exactly the same as spirits so I went for it normally, like a good Polish girl should, and… I lost my breath. I caughted, cried, drank a whole bottle of coke and still had a taste in my mouth. And boy how drunk I got! After one shot I already felt tipsy.

The next day, after my “initiation to Bieszczady Mountains” we went for a 26 km, 9 hour long trip around the Mountains. We chose a trail to Bukowe Berdo and as you can see on pictures below, it was stunning!

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At the end of a trip we reached a road where we waited for a bus that took us back to our camping site. We travelled for many hours and were exhausted. When we reach our tents we took a shower and went for dinner. Let me tell you, everything hurt me. And then, by miracle, I ordered hot wine and the pain just immediately disappeared 🙂 Magic 😉

Sidenote: the main photo of this blog is from there as well:

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Thank you for sharing this trip with me. I hope you feel at least a little bit inspired to visit Bieszczady Mountains and Poland.

Have a great Tuesday!

Dorota