Tag Archive | Europe

First taste of Poland: Wroclaw

A handful of the 300 hundred (ish) dwarves around the city

I wasn’t sure what to expect in my first town in Poland. We took the bus from Berlin and arrived by evening (5hr bus ride). You know when you’ve seen so many images of a place you know what is awaiting. This was not like that. First off, the name of the city is not pronounced at all like it’s written (vrots-wahf). Second of all, how are the universities in Europe so ornate and beautiful!?

Beautiful market square

We just stayed in walking distance to the Market Square and the main train station and it was easy to keep walking around. We couldn’t wait to sample the local cuisine and eagerly tried the delicious polish donut- pączki, zurek soup served in a big bread roll, stuffed cabbage and more pierogis during our few days in Wrocław. It was soon decided that we love polish cuisine and couldn’t wait to continue our travels to the other Polish towns on our itinerary.

The market square rivals some of the best that I have seen. Architecturally pleasing and vibrant colours. It was here that we discovered our first pierogi’s and spiced winter tea.
We also went to visit the the oldest part of the town- Ostrów Tumski- which is a short walk from the Market Square and via an island.

View from the Mathematical Tower at Wrocław University
University of Wrocław doors

With a ticket, you are able to visit parts of the university such as the Mathematical Tower and Aula Leopoldinum which is a baroque hall. And of course, admire their doors! We did a free old town walking tour and a WWII walking tour during our time in Wrocław which was great to get to see the main sites accompanied with explanations.

We also spent part of an afternoon at the Muzeum Pana Tadeusza which is located in the Market Square. It is a great museum on the Pan Tadeusza Poem written by Adam Mickiewicz, which is one of the key literary cultural masterpieces in Poland. There is also part of the museum which focuses on the key events around WWII and post-war period.

Stare Jatki- previously a meat market

If you have time, you might want to bookmark this map to find all the gnomes around the city. They are everywhere! These are not a gardener’s tongue in cheek but a tribute to an underground movement ‘Orange Alternative’ that use to protest (by painting gnomes) in response to the country’s communist rule.

Wrocław town hall

It’s not on the usual list of towns to visit in Poland (such as Krakow or Warsaw) but it’s such a quaint town (or at least the central part anyway) filled with so much charm.

Have you been to Wroclaw and what did you think?

Pros and Cons of Blablacar

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I found out about Blablacar through locals that I had met in Europe. This service is alittle like Airbnb- essentially, drivers list their trip on blablacar and you can pay for a seat and be a passenger. The website has a review process where you can rate the driver and their driving skills and they can also rate passengers. Once you’ve locked in a trip, you pay (with card) and then get a code to give your driver after your journey. All of this is done via the site but the only thing you do need to sort out with the driver is a meeting place.

Pros

  • It is cheap! I found that the trips were about half the price (if not more) than a bus or train tickets. If you’re regularly moving around a country, these travel costs can add up quickly and also leave little room to be flexible if train costs increase closer to travel dates. I thought that blablacar helped to cut travel costs during my holiday.
  • You get to meet locals. I love meeting new people on trips and what better place than being in the same car with each other. We have chatted about life in our respective countries, our dreams and life in general. One of my drivers is actually in Australia at the moment and hopefully we will get to catch up!
  • You can see part of the country. What better way to see the views than the front passenger seat of a car! I found that my drivers would point out different things along the way and we also got to talk about road tolls!
  • You can pick who you want to take the trip with. This is dependent on what towns you’re travelling between as some towns tend to have alot of trips happening and some with not so much. If you have choice, you can pick which age group/gender you want to travel with which I think is a good thing.

Cons

  • Language barrier. On one of my trips, there was a huge language barrier (I can’t speak spanish) and the driver couldn’t speak english. BUT WE MANAGED. It can be awkward if there is a language barrier but it’s generally ok.
  • Meeting place. Once a driver agrees to take you, you both have to settle on a meeting place. Usually, the driver has the final say and it can be hard to try and find a place you can easily get to with your luggage without having transport costs blow out. I had very good luck and found someone where I could walk to most of the places but you might not always have this luxury.

Fairytale town: Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

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Is Cesky Krumlov worth visiting? I would say the answer is yes.

Cesky Krumlov is in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic and is around a 2.5hr bus ride from Prague. Alot of people do this as a day trip but I’m here to tell you no! Stay at least one night. It’s a VERY touristic town and I get the feeling that the town thrives off that. It’s simply an Old Town but it will charm your socks off. It’s a very pretty town that will make almost every picture you take instagramable.

I arrived in Cesky Krumlov by local bus from Ceske Budejovice and was so anxious about not knowing where to get off! I made it, 40 mins later with the ride only costing about $2-3 aud. I stayed just outside the main town area but CK is small so you can easily walk everywhere. The town is a scene from a fairytale surrounded by rolling green hills. I did a free walking tour ( free Wiseman’s walking tour ) later that afternoon. The free tour is a great introduction to the town’s layout and also the town’s history. I think it was the best place for town information and also showed us all the sights and perfect town viewing locations. Some of the buildings date back to the 18th century and are still standing today. How did they even built the castle so high?! Of course, you need to hear about the walking ghosts and all the cursing that went around back then. The main attraction in town is the Castle which will give you a sweeping views of the town.

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The Vltava river snacks through CK and it is no surprise that there are a number of rafting companies. The place I was staying at recommended Malecek which I think also had some of the better prices around. You can choose which route you want to take that have an approximate duration time. I had wanted to do the 3-4 hour route but as it was mid afternoon already, the 1-2 hour route was the one to pick instead. The river isn’t deep so if you manage to not make a weir in the upright position, it’ll be ok. You need a minimum of 2 people for a raft which is recommended over a canoe for those of us who are novices as it’s more stable. The only capsizes I saw were from canoes. It was so tranquil on the water gliding past forest. The ‘stops’ are well marked so you can just pull over on the bank At the end point of the 1-2hr route, there was even a bar so we treated ourselved to some local beer afterwards. The rafting company brings you back into town from the stopping points.
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I know there are many options to day do trips from Prague but CK is a great option to just revel in and enjoy the scenery. During the day, it is filled with tourists and tour groups so it’s nice to wonder early morning or evening for some more peace.

How did you like the town? Is there anything else that you would recommend doing?

-S.

Live from Prague

Hello guys,

I am currently writing this in Prague, not that I have actually seen much outside the area I’m staying at yet. I landed mid-morning after the mammoth 21 hour plane trip (3 flights in total) and have since spent my afternoon in bed feeling sick. Yes, I have thrown up. Yes, I’m currently drinking some peppermint tea and yes, I am about to eat some blueberries.

This trip has been kept under wraps for a while. I initially booked this trip about 3 months ago and it has been crazy until now. Oh yeah, did I mention anywhere on my blog that I’ve submitted my PhD thesis? This is the post PhD party and a 2.5 month one at that. Minus the getting sick bit. It is safe to say that this trip is the first in years where I don’t have much to really think about and can try and relax. Does anyone even know how to relax anymore?

I’m not sure how often I will be posting but probably not every day as I’m also keeping a personal diary (old school handwritten).

Leaving you here with the mystery as I need to be un-jetlagged, quicken the drying process of the currently flooded bathroom floor after my shower and I also need to make up for the 3 hours sleep I got over the past 2 days of flying!

Keep living guys,

S.