Image Map

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

Good morning everyone!

This Tuesday, while I was sipping on my grean tea at work and checking out my emails, I heard a buzz from my phone - I could figure out it was most probably an update announcement on Facebook or Instagram so I just let it be. When I checked a few moments later, it was actually a Twitter notification: Irene from Away from Tenerife had nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award. To tell you the truth, until this week I have never heard about this blogging award before, so I was "forced" into google-ing it :) The definition of the award states that the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award recognizes the unique voices of women bloggers around the world.”
There are a couple of things one should or should not do, but hey! Rules are meant to be bent and broken :) So I will share with you only a few ideas of how the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award works:
1) You should give thanks to the blogger that nominated you - My dear Irene from Away from Tenerife, thank you so much for the shout-out and the opportunity to join the Sisterhood. If I could, I would like to meet each and everyone of the ones nominated. The fact that you saw in my blog a unique voice encourages me. My readers are my friends & my friends are my readers :) 
2) Give answer to the questions provided by the nominator - will do so below, faithfully and from my heart. 
3) Nominate fellow bloggers that you believe fit for the Sisterhood and ask them to reply to the questions - this is a tough one, as we should (theoretically) nominate only travel bloggers. I refuse to close the circle so I nominate these 5 fine ladies, that I love to read (and sometimes even re-read):
  • Tania from Rowdy Fairy - I just love this lady, and it's a pleasure checking out her blog. She has very nice travel posts and her blog is very much down-to-earth. 
  • Bonnie Rose from A Compass Rose - a fellow expat bloger and third culture kid. I love her photographs and I just wish one day I would travel as much as she did... Bonnie, come to Poland, come to Krakow! I would be a perfect tour guide ;
  • Kasia from .coeurs de foxes - I just love this little lady! She is the single Polish blogger that I follow with great enthusiasm! I love her style, I love her pictures and I wish that one day I will meet her in person. She even has a book published! (unfortunately it is in Polish :( so I cannot read it). For me, she resembles a fairy :) Her blog is bilingual - Polish/English and I recommend it with all my heart!
  • Gentri Lee - as she auto-recommends herself in her adorable blog, she is "the shortest fashion blogger you will ever know" :)  she is adorable, dresses up lovely, has a fun way of writing her ideas and adds up nicely done photos. She is also a make-up artist and she manages to look flawless in every close-up. 
  • Jana from jana mARTish - Jana lives in Slovakia and does analog photography. She blogs about the beauty of life, and even if I do not understand what she writes I follow her for the pictures she takes. She creates lovely compositions and she is one of the few bloggers I am actually subscribed via email. I always await for her snippets of life :)
Here are the answers to Irene from Away from Tenerife's questions:
The Polish Pieniny
1. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging first for myself, to tell you the truth... For 2 reasons: first, I was upset on Facebook taking the rights over the pictures I was posting and second, was the same questions from different people that I used to get. More than 4 years ago, I left my homeland Romania - and my beloved city, Iasi - to come to this magical place in Poland, called Krakow. I wanted to keep in touch with friends but they all asked the same questions, so in time I got tired of saying the same stories - I opened a blog where everyone could read when they wanted to, and see what new things I have done and what I am up to. The questions still come, but now they are different as everyone wants to know different details :)
St. Peter and Paul Church - Krakow
2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
That is a tough thing to say, but I always felt at home and at peace in Greece. I love their food, their history, and I always felt welcomed there. I also loved Philly... I loved the old feeling about it, the red brick buildings, the museums that were beggining to be visited and discovered inch by inch... I also enjoyed Barcelona, but it is so noisy that I think living there would have been a pain, especially with all the tourists poking about the place :) For sure it would be interesting living in Zurich, in Switzerland, as teh economy is very good, the cities are clean... Actually Zurich reminded me of several cities I visited so it felt also very much like home. It's hard to pick, from so many options!
Wawel Castle - Inner Court - Krakow
3. What is the best piece of travel advice you have ever received?
Not to forget where HOME is :) But that is a tough one for expats. I always say that HOME is where your heart is, and if your heart is in a million places than your HOME is actually the World :)
 ***
4. Where did you have your best meal ever?
I think that I can whole-heartedly say that every meal I have ate in Greece was amazing. I was eating daily things like greek salad, mousaka, tzatziki and loads of dishes with fresh sea food. I love sea food and if it would be possible I would eat it daily! So Greece was the place for me, when it comes to the best meal ever ;)
 ***
5. What is your most memorable holiday or trip?
I would say that my most memorable holiday/trip would be the USA road-trip I had in 2007. My favourite city was Philly and I loved every minute of that trip. We were 4 young and wild children (3 girls and a boy), on our first Work&Travel job in the USA and we wanted to visit everything if possible... We even ended up on the Canadian border, at Niagra Falls, without noticing it ;))) It was the trip that most probably gave me The Flight Travel Bug.
Paralia Katerini - Greece
6. What is the one thing you cannot live without when travelling?
Oh, without a doubt, that would be my camera. I am addicted to it! Photography, for me, is like a drug. I remember being a wee lass, even before school, and packing up things for the travels with the family. My first camera was a Konica Minolta. I was in charge of buying batteries, film... and taking pictures... I just wish I would know how to make pretty pictures, like the other bloggers... but I never have the proper time to learn :(
My very favourite picture taken from the Vatican :)

7. Is there a souvenir you always take home from your travels?
YES! :) We always buy 2 magnets + 2 postcards - one for us, for our collection, and one for my Mum & Granny - I always send them postcards from where I am going, ever since I can remember.
If ever in Italy, make sure you get to Rome ;)
8. Who is your go-to travel buddy?
My awesome Polish husband :) Even if he hates travelling, he travelled more than any person I know. I am jealous but what can I do?! We always have some travelling plan, and when we finish a trip we already have another one in mind.
 ***
9. Are you a spontaneous traveller or do you prefer to plan everything in advance?
I would love to be more of a spontaneous travel, but I love to plan and have everything in order, so... not really :) I would love to be able to just jump in a train and let it lead me into the unknown, into brand new adventures, but that is not quite my thing. We do have a degree of spontaneity in the cities we travel, especially when my awesome husband misreads the map and I get to redo the route :)
 ***
10. Where are you traveling next?
I would not quite consider it "traveling" but I will go, for almost 2 weeks in September, to Romania.  I will go to my hometown, for a dear friends wedding. I was actually their matchmaker, so it is a must! I can hardly wait to see my family and friends & I really hope for nice weather :)

Have a lovely Saturday, dear hearts! Enjoy the last weekend of August 2015 and get prepared... Winter is Coming! :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Her Fellow Bloggers :)
Read more ...

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Home-like Apartments in Kraków - Zamkowa 15

My dearest readers,

Krakow is the perfect place to have a weekend day-trip but for sure you will either extend your trip or wish to come again, as soon as you possibly can ;) That's how this city is... it grows on you! Bit by bit until you absolutely fall in love with it. But to know the city more, you need to be as close as you can to the spirit of the city. For that the best option would be to rent an apartment, if possible in the old town or the district called Kazimierz.
Now fortunately for you I shall be telling you about one of these options today: Zamkowa 15 - that would totally match you needs ;)
Zamkowa 15 is located just across the Vistula river from the Wawel Castle, and a mere 20 minutes walk to the Main Market Square. Located on the bank of the lonest river in Poland - Vistula river -  it is also very close to the historical Jewish district Kazimierz; just 10 minutes walk. The building has been newly renovated in 2013, and you can see the pictures below as how it used to look like. The renovation work is wonderful on the building and from the moment you get to your apartment it truly feels like home!
The renovation started in 2013
The building in August 2015 - fresh as a daisy :)
We were hosted in one of the double room apartment - apartment 4, to be precise, on the first floor. The check-in begins at 2 pm and the checkout ends at 11 am. Downstairs, at ground floor, the reception is open between 8:30 am and 12:30 afternoon. But don't worry if you can't make it ;) you can discuss it through with the lady who will help you in the booking or contact them via their Facebook Page and see if you can setup an hour when they would wait for you at Zamkowa 15, to handover the key.
Cozy chairs in the corridor area - each had a different color and shape
The entrance area
If you are new in Poland - in Kraków - you may wish to save this address in the memory of your smartphone: www.krakow.jakdojade.pl - fear not, it is bilingual: Polish - English and allows you to find tram and bus timetables. It also has an online app that you can download. It will come in handy ;) I use it almost on a daily basis! The closest bus stop - just 2 min walk from the apartment - is "Konopnickiej". If you need tickets you can buy them from the tram/bus as there are automates - make sure you have coins for that ;)
The ALL WHITE Bathroom - Towels included
The apartments here in Zamkowa 15 have their own bathroom and kitchen attached. If you wish to cook for the whole stay, you will have everything you need - pots and pans, cutlery, dishes, glasses ( including ones for wine )  and appliances like microwave, boiling water kettle, espresso machine. For the bathroom you even have a hairdryer inside the closet; in the room, you can find an iron and a table for ironing. It's perfect! No need to stress about packing all that out. All you need to pack is just clothes.
You can cook your own food and buy things from the local market or the Jubilat store, just across the bridge. If you cooking skills are like mine,  you can choose from the high number of restaurants in the area: for breakfast and lunch you could try Zupitto - very close by, across M. Konopnickiej street, on Magdalinskiego street; open from Monday to Saturday. Zamkowa 15 also recommends the Pizza Garden pizzeria - on Konopnickiej - and Restore - 4 Konfederacka street. If you like Zupitto, Zamkowa 15 also offers breakfast delivered to your room, from the restaurant, for 20 PLN ( Monday to Saturday). Aaaaaand... if you are too lazy to do room cleaning, you can order that for 30 PLN ;)
What you need to know and remember is that you must keep silence in the building between 10 pm and 7 am, so no parties allowed! Also smoking inside is strictly forbidden. The fee is 150 PLN for each time you will be caught. If you come with your laptops / palmtops / smartphones worry not! There are plenty of chargers in the room and there is free Internet, password protected. Each room has a small booklet with rules and instructions and you can find the name and password for the Internet listed there.
Details about each apartment can be found on their  Internet Page - with details of the price
When it comes to the web presence on social media, I must admit Zamkowa 15 also got that covered. I have found them through their Facebook Page and they post quite often there pictures of the place and things you can do in Krakow - for example in August you can see Tour de Pologne, each year ;) You can also get to them through the Internet Page - or through other booking platforms. If you prefer writing them an email, you can drop them a line at biuro@zamkowa15.com ;) If there is one thing I would trully recommend is having an Instagram page where they could share details of the place & maybe having a physical guest book at the entrance :)
TripAdvisor ratings on Zamkowa 15 - August 2015
To draw up a line, in order to show you how the customers feel about the place, I can tell you that on their Facebook Page rating they have 5 out of 5 stars from their reviewers - 25 people marked it with 5 starts and one with 4 stars. On TripAdvisor, my old friend, the company looks as good as ever: again 5 stars out of 5, with 38 reviews and listed as #14 out of 249 Hotels in Krakow ;) If you are looking for a perfect couple place to rest your head while visiting lovely magical Krakow, if you want it to be across the Vistula river, just a mere 15 min walk from the castle, if you wish to have your own fully equiped kitchen... Zamkowa 15 is the one for you ;) 
The location of the Zamkowa 15
We recommend it with all our heart. People are nice and helpful, the free WIFI is fast and works well, the beds are comfortable and the only 2 minuses I could see are: the lack of air conditioning (but they do have very good ventilators that make up for it) and the lack of parking spaces (now you have to make do with the public ones, but they DO have in plan building an underground parking lot ;) so I like how they think ahead!). If you get to Zamkowa 15 let us know what you think :) or if you have any other questions please let me know and I will be glad to help you.

TO BE NOTED: The Apartments on Zamkowa 15 are pet friendly and family friendly. They also allow dogs - big dogs too - and have baby cots that you could rent ;) 

PRICES: For our apartment - Room 4 - between April and October you can pay 220 zloty if you come alone or 260 if 2 persons checkin (this is a double room) & between November and March you can pay 170 zloty per one person - 200 zloty per 2 persons. We recommend booking the rooms through Booking.Com ;) 

** Sponsored post but written from the heart, without any external influences**

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - whom will always test places out before recommending them to her reader friends :) The LadyBug approves of Zamkowa 15 :)
Read more ...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How To... Get To Poland - Transit

My dear travellers,

Once you choose the perfect time / season to visit Poland, one must figure out the means of transport. Now it depends where you are located, but there are a couple of options - generally the most comfortable and the fastest way to get here is by plane.
***
The ticket prices vary a lot depending on the starting point, the route, the season and the day of the week - but that is not new if you have traveled before ;) As I was saying before, the high season for Poland is summer - between  June and August - and during December - around Christmas. The rest of the year you might find the tickets a bit cheaper ;) so I eagerly encourage you to come in spring or autumn time - the weather is much nicer and calmer, no storms or heat waves, no huge number of tourists.
Source
PLANE / FLIGHTS:
If you are thinking of a transatlantic and long haul flight, I really suggest going through a European hub, maybe London or Munich? And have maybe  day or two there as well ;) the tickets get cheaper this way and you get to have a nice break between flights. For Europe flights there are a bunch load of choices - especially if you wish to travel low cost! Especially if you come from London - check out easyJet and Ryanair - as there are many Polish people living there ;) Just search in time and make sure you get the best deal - booking in advance helps!

For example, if you travel from my home town in Romania, from Iasi, it is quite hard to get a good connection. The best option there is at this moment, is the flight from Iasi to Vienna to Krakow - and that is expensive as hell, going with Austrian Airlines. The cheaper option would be going from Iasi to Bucharest by the bus that takes you directly to the airport. From there you would have a flight to Warsaw and from there on to Krakow - Polish LOT Airlines, way cheaper ;)

Keep in mind that most of the international flights arrive to the Warsaw - Frédéric Chopin Airport. Other airports that may be used are: Kraków - Balice, Katowice (especially if there is fog on the Krakow airport area), Gdanska - Lech Walesa, Lodz, Rzeszow and Wroclaw. The national carrier of Poland is Polish LOT Airlines - one of the world's oldest national carriers. To be noted that in case you wish a direct flight, LOT has regular connection with Chicago (the 2nd biggest Polish city), New York, Tel Aviv, Toronto and other destinations.

Once you are at the airport in Poland, your final destination, you will have surely multiple options to get to the main square and your hotel - city bus, taxi airport bus and train. Of course the most convenient way is by taxi, but is also the most expensive. The cheapest one is by city bus but, for example, in Kraków it may take you up to 1 hour to get to your destination vs by train 18 min and by taxi 20 min. Your call - your money - your budget ;) but if you go by bus,  make sure you have some change to buy tickets at the automatic dispenser ;)
***
TRAIN:
There are amazing connections with the Czech Republic - daily express trains from Prague to Warsaw via Katowice, and to Krakow - they may take longer but they are an awesome option for the ones that hate travelling by plane ;) also from the UK you can get a London - Warsaw via the Channel Tunnel - one change of train at Brussels. Warsaw has direct trains to Kyiv in Ukraine, if you fancy a wild ride... they bypass Belarus but you don't need the visa for that. There is also a regular train to Minsk but those are night trains and you will automatically get a sleeping place when buying the ticket. Also due to the German occupation during Second World War, there are very good connections with a number of German cities. Direct connections to Warsaw: Berlin, Cologne (Koln), Dresden and Leipzig. There is also a train between Berlin and Kraków, via Wroclaw.
Source
BUS:
Eurolines is one of the main and best ways to go, as it operates an extensive network of buses. Standards are quite ok and there is always a toilet inside the big buses - in the middle, next to the stairs.  The buses have air conditioning and sometimes if the journey is long they play movies on the inside screens. There are regular buses to all European countries but there are strong connections with Germany and Czech Republic - Eurolines CZ runs buses from Prague to Warsaw via Wroclaw.

PolskiBus has amazing sales and boasts on over 14 million passages carried (as of July 2015). The connections can take you from Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Berlin, Vilnius to anywhere inside Poland. There are multiple options and multiple connections and they are cheap and always on time. We used to go with them to Warsaw quite frequently and it was comfortable. An extra plus is the WiFi and the charger located at each seat ;) you can enjoy watching a movie or playing a game while travelling. 

Leo Express is quite new to the market but if you come from Prague to Krakow, this may be a nice option as well ;) the departures are very frequent and I have not heard any bad reviews about them. They focus on clients from Czech Republic and Slovakia. On longer hauls they usually have 3 classes you can pick: economy, business and premium. Their fleet consists of both trains and buses so I think it is worth a shot ;)

Orange Ways is known as the "cheap bus from and to Budapest". That is very much true but each time I travelled with them something happened... either they were too late or the bus broke and so on... I think they should renew their fleet! The site is easy to use and it has an English version, the prices are very good but the service is awful :/ Also the prices will ALWAYS be given in Hungarian currency so you must do the exchange, and there is always an extra fee (even if it is small) for the luggages.
***
SEA TRANSIT:
Not much to say here... Poland does have opening at the sea but there is not much going on. There are regular car - ferry services on the routes from Denmark and Sweden to Gdansk. I am afraid you may need to Google more on that topic, if you wish to choose this way, but I strongly suggest the plane ride if you come from Denmark and Sweden as the prices are cheap and there are frequent flights.
***
CAR / MOTORCYCLE / BIKE:
That's the way we roll, most of the time, when going home to Romania. It is true it takes a while but it is worth the view. We have a dear friend with whom we travel and he takes us home safe :) Rules are basically the same in all Europe: have a first - aid kit and a nationality sticker on the back of the car. In Poland you must ALWAYS wear a seat belt,  even the passenger's on the back seat! Exception: pregnant women. Drinking and then driving is prohibited and the legal blood alcohol level is 0.02%. If you pass 50 km/hour your driving licence will be taken away from you! The headlines are a MUST as well - no matter how fair the weather is! Another MUST is having insurance - fines for being caught without it are constantly increasing!

Be careful how you drive, especially during night in small villages, as there are still horse drawn carriages on the roads + cycling is very popular in Poland and there are special tracks, but in some places there are none so you may bump into them...

If you come by motorcycle you will have fun for sure and you will not get stuck in any traffic and that is a big plus! Be careful though when on the highway.

If you come with the bike you will love the fact that the big cities are trying their best to accommodate the usage of the 2 wheels means of transport.  Don't worry if you love bikes but you did not come with your own - there are multiple places throughout the big cities, like Kraków, where you can borrow a bike for the day. There are also multiple cycling paths that can take you outside town even, to the castles.
***
Either way you choose to come to Poland - make sure you visit Kraków! - you will have all means of transport, of getting here safe, covered. It all depends from where you come, when you come and how long you plan to stay. If you need any help in figuring things out, drop me a line - contact me - and I shall do my best to help you discover this lively and lovely land :)

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals - scheduled 01/09/2015
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow - scheduled 08/09/2015
If you feel you would like me to treat a specific subject, please feel free to Contact Me :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - here to help the travellers of the world ;)
Read more ...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bucket List: Parachute Jumping

Dearest friends,

The wish of being able to fly was always in the heart of humans, even from the early times. Researchers say that the most dreamt about things are flying or falling - somehow I see the two connected: you cannot fall being seated down, you have to be up there somewhere. I was always fascinated about flying and I told you that I have a travel bug that allows me to enjoy flights immensely, even when  there are turbulences. Of course, for me the best seats are the ones next to the wing, window seat - I can get to see the world from up there are reflect how truly small we really are. 
 ***
My first flight was also the longest one I ever made - it was a direct flight from Bucharest to JFK New York, summer of 2007... 8 years later I am in love with travels and even the thought of being a stewardess crossed my mind a while back. I also understand people who are stressed about flying, I can understand that it is hard to relax when you know you are up there in the clouds, but it is statistically proved that the planes are actually the best methods of travel - they have the lowest rate of accidents. Plus for the low adrenaline fans there is nothing like a good take off or landing ;) that feeling when you are airborn (the plane is completely off the ground) is priceless! But add to the whole plane trip some parachute jumping and make sure you mark that on your Bucket List ;)
 
What  better way to celebrate the 1st year Church ceremony anniversary of our wedding, then by crossing an item from both our Bucket List: Parachute Jumping!!! Now I must underline that my awesome other half did this once before, but by himself - with the static line.  We both love adrenaline but I have to "blame it" on myself... I came this time with the wild idea of jumping. I have settled down that I will never do bungee jumping as it can damage your spinal cord or cause you pains and I already have that from time to time so no need for more! But the idea of parachute jumping was always on my mind. 
***
I always wondered what the feeling was up there in the clouds... are you closer to God there and you may get a glimpse of it? ;))) Smiles aside, but when Marek showed our nieces his video of the jump, the small ones asked him if he saw God, as at the beginning you could not see a thing - we were above the clouds... I always wondered if I would be able to jump or if I would be too petrified... would I scream or cry or panic or just have no reaction whatsoever... I always believes that people, in time - at different ages, need to test themselves and see what they can handle, what can they withstand! It is beneficial for your development to know your limits and see how you can grow. Fight your fears and embrace what you can be capable of achieving! :)
What is the point of having a fancy - yet regular and old-fashioned - dinner out in town to celebrate yourself, when you can cross an item of your Bucket List, next to the one you love?! If you are searching for a wild way to celebrate life, I recommend you to do parachute jumping. If you have never done this before, the best way to start is by doing "tandem jumpjng" ;) Nothing can go wrong! (Except the parachute not opening up, but that is a very very small chance!) You will have someone taking care of everything for you - the instructor to which you are tied knows what to do and there is no need for stress ;) he will even correct your posture as you jump and won't let you fall like a rock ;) 
***
The instructors have thousands of jumps behind them, so the jump is like a ritual that they could perform with closed eyes! I found the team with whom we jumped - KrakSky based in Kraków - through the Internet and Marek did all the setup with the reservation and getting us to the place - Marek's younger brother took us there ans held our hand ;))) after seeing us before and after the jump he said he would like to do it as well, so you can see how much we loved it :)
We jumped on a Saturday early morning - my flight was the second one that took off that very day & Marek's was the 3rd one. We jumped in pairs, from a small airplane - they split couples into girls and boys and I jumped with a lady and Marek jumped with her other half. There is not much you need to worry about: just contact KrakSky in time - I believe Marek booked the time almost a month before, and he made sure we would be one of the first to jump. The money you need to pay before you jump - also then you will fill out the form in which you agree that you are aware of the risks and you give the person that they should contact in case something goes haywire... which does not happen, don't worry ;) 
***
Before the jump you have a short 10 min training,  you dress up in the jump suit, and get ready to board the small plane. You never know how time passes... while we were climbing up with the plane I did not realise how long we flew. Only when I came down and took off the gear Marek's brother informed me that we were flying for at least 30 min before we jumped - I was surprised :) From the KrakSky field, as you go up, you can see the city and Wieliczka - salt mine - so keep your eyes open and enjoy the view. We jumped from 6000 meters and we had a free fall for over 200 km/hour... the experience is breathtaking and the moment the parachute opens... you finally get to breathe easy and enjoy the view. My first thought when the chute opened and my first words when I touched the ground was: I wanna do it again! :) and Marek feels the same... so who knows what's next! 
***
We recommend  it from our heart and we must admit KrakSky is a kick arse fun team to be with. They did not speak in English but I did understand them and all went well - the are professionals and have thousands of jumps behind them. The tandem jump costs 690 zloty at this moment and if you wish to have the camera on the instructors hand (the one you jump with) it will cost 800 zloty. If you wanna record every moment and every muscle, you can get the foto + video from instructor for 880 zloty or you can go overboard and have also the extra camera guy shooting you,  jumping right before you, for 1000 zloty. The full option with foto and video from both = 1100 zloty and that was the exact one we picked ;))) the picture and video will be sent to you zipped, via link, to your email - max one week after the jump - and your pics will probably appreciate on their Facebook page even quicker ;) we recommend them and we recommend trying parachute jumping at least once in your life, especially of you are an adrenaline freak ;)))

Have you ever did parachute jumping? What were your thought and feelings? Did you also panic a bit when the plane door opened? Did you feel relieved when the parachute opened? Did you wanna do it again when you touched down? I did :)

Yours truly,
The LadyBug That Loves To Face Her Fears :)
Read more ...

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Book Depository OR The love-hate Relationship

My dearest friends,

If you are, like me, huge fans of books and reading is most definitely your favorite past time, than you may have heard about The Book Depository before. In case you haven't, you need not fear! I am here to enlighten you and give you the possibility of growing a love-hate relationship with this book seller. The Book Depository is a really cheap, but unfortunately very slow... way to fill up your bookshelves with the latest novels and at the same time with unique pieces that you don't usually find on an online shop. It's snail like movement and the uncertainty of the true moment when you will get your hands on your precious book, provide the "hate" part of the relationship. The numbers of items in the bookstore and their availability and the low prices, not to mention the best or all - the FREE TRANSPORT in selected countries, makes up for the "love" part of the relationship I have with Book Depository
My Instagram Picture From The Day I Received My First Order
I first heard about it about 1-2 years back, when I won a package of books from a fellow blogger. They were sent through The Book Depository and all came in perfect shape. I do not remember the timing, though, to be honest... I had quite a few books to keep me occupied! The first order I made thought The Book Depository was at the very beginning of the year, when I bought myself a book about the fascinating series on Mr. Selfridge. It was the first order and the first thorn in the side. In the order I placed was this item + another book that I really wanted to read, the Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind The Theory of Everything told by his amazing first wife, Jane Hawking - that's right, that would be the book the movie The Theory of Everything was based on ;) 
It is clearly stipulated, when you will make the order, that the books may come at different times, in different packages, due to the fact that the books are always send by different book providers - The Book Depository is a intermediar. It is also noted down that the order may take a while to reach you - between  2 and 10 working days! For me, it never found its way though to me in less than 10 days but I have read about cases in which they did make it in 2! But to their defence, the 2 days was always reached in UK, where the main centre is located. Alas I do not live in London, to be closer... My first order was completely messed up... I waited the 10 working days and then contacted them via email saying the books were not here. 
 ***
They checked and saw the packages arrived safely to Poland but they could not give me a tracking number. I checked with the Postal Office in Kraków and nothing had came in my name.  Contacted Book Depository again and they redone the order and send another set again. In the meanwhile... the Mr. Selfridge book appeared! So I told them they should cancel one book from the second order, as it came in... they replied there were no more The Theory of Everything books so they would refund me the money. The money came back in a jiffy and I thought that all was settled out, though I was sad about the loss of time and they book that did not come... 
***
Fast forward a couple of weeks - PPOOOF!  Miraculously the Post office brings us a pack from The Book Depository. I open it and... the 2nd, identical, exemplary of the Mr. Selfridge book ;))) skipping my amazement I get in contact, via online chat, to tell them my story and ask how to give it back... surprise! The support offers me the 2nd exemplar as a gift and promises to send me, no costs attached, a copy of The Theory of Everything, due to all the problem caused... now how do you respond to that?!! YES, PLEASE :)
***
In the meanwhile I did another order on two J. K. Rowling books, as addition to my Harry Potter related bookshelf - if anyone asks, I am doing this in order to create, in advance, a library for the kids :)  The order came in 10 days and books were fine. That gave me the courage to place even the 3rd order, on 3 Jane Austen related comic books... let's see how that goes, right? With the Book Depository I always feel like I am somehow gambling... or I may say that the Book Depository is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you'll get! :) 

P.S. I must admit to two more things:

1) I just love their site options: you can create an account and create your own wishlists, as many as you wish, and then share it with other people. If any of the books in the wishlist ever have a price-drop, you will be contacted via email and then you can just click on the link given in the email and shop-shop-shop until you drop :) Also, you can watch live what other people, around the world, are shopping for in the site, and maybe get ideas on the next book you will buy... Not to mention that on quite an often base, they have sell-outs and the prices can drop up to 50% - MADNESS!!!

2) I absolutely adore the bookmarks that are sent, once in a while, with the orders! They are free and designed by users of The Book Depository. Once I even got one designed by a lady in Romania :) Here are the winners of the Book Depository Bookmarks Contest 2014.

Have you ever ordered though the Book Depository? How was your experience? Will you share it with us? I would love to see if you have a love-haterelationship as well ;)) is it so addictive to you that you also come back, just to check the offers ans mark items on your wishlist?

Yours truly, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug that holds love-hate relationship with the Book Depository 
Read more ...

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

How To... Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland

My dear friends,

Poland is such a wonderful and magical place that each season has its wonders. Each month there is some festival or market fair or conference that would be worth to see. Poland lies in a moderate zone with mixed continental and oceanic climate influences. The warmest areas of the country are the Silesian Lowland and Sandomierska Upland, while the “coldest pole” of Poland is the town of Suwalki on the north-eastern edge of the country. The average annually temperature is about 6-8 degrees Celsius while the rainfall is estimated at 700 mm (source). It is useful to know that the weather in Poland is highly unpredictable and varied - I ALWAYS carry a small fold-on umbrella with me, no matter the season! though sometimes the winds are so strong that it is better suited to just take cover and don't go outside unless you are absolutely forced to do so!
***
The summertime can be really hot, though usually temperatures are around 20-25 °C and the best time to take a holiday here is August, which is generally sunny and very warm with some hot days. Now I have never been to the Polish seaside and each time I asked people about it they told me that no matter when you will go, the water will always be chilly. If you are lucky enough you may catch some sunny days and have the normal "hot" weather for the beach. If not, it will be grey and windy... but on the bright side it will still be good for your health due to the high concentrate of iodine ;) All this basically means it is not like our Romanian Black Sea, where people start bathing since the 1st of April...
The climate here in Poland is a bit different from Romania, for example - the winters are colder, with bone chilling winds and the summers are less hot than one would expect, and sometimes altogether quite rainy... very close to the English weather, especially in May - June. The temperatures in the summer months can get up to 30 - something so it can get hot (heat waves), and there are places where one can cool down even in the city - Kraków has a small man - made beach next to Wawel Castle or you can try the outskirts and have fun at the lakes (there is some sand there as well...). We were lucky enough this year to have a fair June and July with weather constantly over 28 and no rain (count off the lat week of July though, as it was cloudy and there were huge storms - one lady was killed in her car when the tree came down upon it).
 ***
I personally like the autumn's in Poland as there are so many trees and shrubs... so many forests everywhere... that it is indeed a pleasure to see the leaves changing.  It is neither too hot not to cold, you don't have to layer up like an onion, the days are still long and the air smells of crumbled leaves, pumpkin and apple pies (the Polish name for the apple pie is szarlotka ;) remember it and use it with care as it is a delicious treat!)... the market fairs are open in the main city centre of the big cities and you can spend your time basking in the last rays of sun... bliss! The only minus of autumn is the huge amounts of students coming back to their studies. If you plan on visiting one of the bigger cities in Poland, that is also a University center, make sure you take that into account. Things will get crowded!  If you travel to Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan, Warsaw around September - October take into account that you will be packed in the public transport and train tickets should be bought in advance ;)
Krakow Weather Info - source
Actually many people consider the spring and autumn to be the most beautiful seasons to visit Poland. During the autumn and spring the weather is often changeable – you are likely to enjoy moderately warm temperatures from April to June and from September to October, but it is also possible to see snow in April or people wearing short-sleeves in October. Minus the heat or the cold waves but having nice temperature and less rain... those are the seasons I would pick ;) Also, you could pick Krakow & Warsaw, let's say, for the spring and then have the summer vacation in Greece maybe? Or even in Barcelona... and then come again in autumn in Poland, maybe for a bit or Wroclaw and Poznan. How does that sound?! :)
 ***
Winters can be really cold, with the chance of snow from November till March. From year to year you never know when the snow will fall and how long it will lie, except in the mountains where it usually covers the slopes all winter, so skiing conditions are generally good, especially December to February. The best place to visit during Polish winter are the cities that are in the mountain region. Take for example Zakopane - no matter the weather the place just has a magic of its own. To be fair though, it looks the prettiest during wintertime. Of course you cannot drop a pin as there are so many people, but it is quite nice to get there and enjoy the view while eating the traditional smoked cheese. 

My Preference:  Visit Poland during autumn (or spring) for the best weather, but don't forget to buy an umbrella (you may need it!). If you are a fan of winter sports and you love the mountains, I recommend wintertime but make sure you are well prepared / dressed as things can get quite chilly here ;) Try to avoid summer unless you want to get really hot and really wet - all in the course of the very same day. Poland also has seasons of floods, so it is better to check that in advance, especially if you travel by car. Plane would be the best transit & the international trains that work really well ;) Have a safe trip everyone - I am here in case you have any questions ;)

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit - scheduled 25/08/2015
  4. Eat Like The Locals - scheduled 01/09/2015
Yours truly, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug - here to help the travellers of the world ;)
Read more ...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Outdoor Tour of Wawel Castle and Gardens

Good day everyone :)

In case you have not noticed the wonderful weather we had lately, even for Poland!, then I have no idea where you have been the last 2 months... maybe locked inside reading some over - captivating book or maybe beating your own record at some computer game... Then I have to tell you, my friend, you are missing out on the summer and what it has to offer! 
***
It is true, sometimes it is rather a horrid thought to go out where there are over 35 degrees Celsius, especially if inside you have air conditioning and fresh lemonade or water from the fridge... but you can't have them both! And as you know summer is the most used time of the year to have your block leave from work and enjoy some time off. Or if you are not that fond of block leaves, you can always have a city - break in the weekend ;) and Kraków is the place to be! Actually Kraków is the place to be on all seasons, but I may be biased as I live here for 4 years now ;))) 
Kraków is the perfect place for a city - break!  No matter how picky you are, you  will find at least one thing you will like here, I guarantee! The city is a must for people who love history, especially the Second World War part; it is a magical place for those in love with architecture and a perfect location to find hidden secrets and stories. Did I mention the city is very children friendly? :) or that you have many bike tracks inside and outside Kraków? But the must see on everyone's list will probably be the Wawel Castle! 
***
Now you may remember me telling you about the Wawel Castle before, so I will not bother you with specifics today (check the links for more info: The Most Important Residence of Polish Knights; The State Rooms & The Lost Wawel; Crown Treasury & Armoury & Leonardo daVinci's Lady With the Ermine). Today I will present you an option available for Wawel Castle visitors ONLY in the summertime: Wawel Architecture and Gardens Tour - delivered in Polish or in English. The tour is closed from 1st October to 30th of April! So make note of this and come for it during the summer. It is available between 16th June and 30th September, this year, from Monday to Sunday (each day) from 11 am to 3 pm - the tours are scheduled depending the weather so if it rains, don't bother to come...
Source
The size of the group is listed to be maximum 30 people and the tour begins at the Lost Wawel exhibition. The last stop is the Sandomierska Tower, which is the highest tower of the castle, right next to one of the entrance gates. The tickets are 18/10 PLN (around 4 euro - children under 7 years if age are admitted free - first price is the normal one and the second is with discount). To be noted there are no free admission days - Wawel Castle has free admission day though, if you wish to visit it free of charge ;) The tickets must be bought in the administration building - Castle Ticket Office or by reservation (email: bot@wawel.org.pl).
***
This tour is not recommend though to people with locomotor disabilities, as the terrace and the gardens have steps and there is no way to use the wheelchair. Also if you wish to climb the Sandomierska Tower, you will do that without the guide and you will have to climb 137 steps (the total for both inside and outside stairs). What I must admit is that the view is totally worth it! It was one of the first places I have managed to visit inside the Castle and the view over the Vistula river is lovely. Let me know if you book it and go to the tour - I would love to know your opinions on it. My favourite part is the Tower ;) too bad there was no ghost... 

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to climb Towers for a better view :)
Read more ...

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Does Religion Go Bad?

Dearest hearts,

Did you know that on this very day, in 1831, Nat Turner saw a solar eclipse, which he believed it was a sign from God. Eight days later he and 70 other slaves kill approximately 60 whites (in 2 days!) in Southampton county, Virginia. The even sadder part was that an estimated 200 blacks were killed by white militia and mobs, often after having been beaten - just for the simple fact that they were slaves and had a different skin color, they were immediately "attached" to the group of rebels.
Turner had religious convictions and he often had spiritual revelations. He often conducted Baptist services and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves. He was even dubbed "The Prophet"! In 1828 he even confessed to his slave friends that "he was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty". On February 11, 1831 an annular solar eclipse was seen in Virginia and Tuner saw it as the vision of a black man's hand reaching over the sun... on August 13th there was another solar eclipse  ans Turner saw it as the final sign for the startup of the rebellion.
***
Now there is no rocket science the fact that you don't have to look further then your mobile phone / laptop / TV and/or radio to find that Religion convictions are everywhere around us and that sometimes (I am forcing myself not to say "most of the times") things can get horribly wrong. When things go bad the first thing that appears, and usually a lot of it, is PAIN. People are not robots and they will get stuck in the middle of the conflict and get hurt - be it physically or emotional. That is the worst thing it can happen, as it has deep effects on the ones that are hurt. The pain goes down to the core and is a constant reminder of the experience. This way, some people develop resistance to Faith and in time they even shut the whole notion out of their system.
***
The Truth somehow - in all religions - gets tainted by people who should not be there, who should not lead. Jeremiah 5:30-31 says "a horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophet prophecy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way"... I always thought leading should always be done by example. I always thought that the one thing that we should take from the Bible was the fact that "God is Love". Yet people persevere in following idols that do not have love and do not lead by example, but create themselves example that people eventually take as normality.
***
There was no "golden age" in the whole history of Christian community when everything worked "just right". There would always be glitches in the system, people who would stray and take other people with them, along the way... it's depressing and discouraging to see that and there is no easy way out of it, then by LOVE. Are we not taught and told that Love can change anything? Faith can move mountains but Love is stronger than faith, so can you imagine what TRUE LOVE can do? Can you imagine that kind of power and force?
***
What do you think? Did Nat Turner have Love? No, I am not speaking of the love one has for mankind, for his family and his friends, the love one has for his life... I am talking about THE LOVE. That Love that makes us all equals, that brings us all together and binds us. The Love that has strength. With it, I believe truly that Religion cannot go bad... without it, we will have more massacres on our hands than we could imagine... Was it not all started out of hate - hate for ones better position in society, for more money, more privilege,  more friends, more beauty... and all the things that fade away... what Hate do YOU have, my friend, that keeps you awake at night?

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that believes that God is Love
Read more ...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How To... Do Shopping In Poland - Currency

Good morning everyone!

According to the Government Statistics in Poland (stat.gov.pl - it also has an English report) , from 2014, it looks like foreign tourists arrivals have increased - to 5.5 milion, compared to 5.2 milion in 2013. The room occupancy in hotels, motels, boarding houses and other hotel establishments in 2014 amounted to 42.7%. In 2014 the largest number of tourists was recorded in Mazowieckie (3.9 milion) and Malopolskie (3.7 milion) voivodships. In case you did not know, my beloved city Kraków is in Malopolskie voivodship ;)
Currently there is no data available for 2015, even it is mid-year, but the assumption that goes around is that this year there will be more tourists even than in 2014. And rightly so, as Poland is such a lovely place! If you figured out that Poland is the next place on your list and you wish to visit it, you need to make sure you have everything covered. That means including what currency Poland is using ;) and nope... Poland does NOT use Euro! ( unlike what a cashier from Swiss may have thought...)
***
The Polish official currency is the Polish Zloty ( zloty = golden - in Polish language). The zloty is divided in 100 groszy = 1 Polish Zloty. The standard abreviation that you will find both in regular and electronic shops is PLN or zl. I recommend having at least some Polish Zloty with you, when you get to Poland. Most places are equipped with card readers and some even accept American Express, but just to be on the safe side, make sure you have some with you - MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted.
In case you need to exchange money you will need to search for an exchange shop. They are called "Kantor" here in Poland and you find then in the malls and the most frequented streets. But don't stress! You will be able to make it with the card, especially if you are in a big city like Kraków ;) also, in the bigger shops (especially inside the malls), you will have the option of paying in euro. You will usually be asked in which currency you wish to pay. Poland belongs to the European Union but not in euro zone - so no euro... Check the parity with your currency and just use the card as often as you can ;) and have loads of fun!

FAIR WARNING: Shops in Poland are closed on major national holidays, namely New Year, January 6th, Easter, May 1st, May 3rd, Whit Sunday, Corpus Christi, August 15th, November 1st, November 11th, and Christmas (December 25th and December 26th). Pharmacies and gas stations stay open on those days.

P.S. If you have any questions in regards to currency and shopping options in Poland, do ask them away below in the comments area and I will be glad to help you ;)

P.S.S. This may be the start of a HOW TO... series about travelling inside Poland - would that be interesting for you?

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - here to help the travellers of the world :)
Read more ...