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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Get Out of Prague:Seven Great Places to Experience the Czech Republic

Dearest sweethearts,

Today I have the great pleasure of brining you a guest post from lovely sunkissed Cynthia, an American blogger - expat like myself - living in Czech Republic - very close to Poland, as you can see I like to single out and follow people who have similar stories like myself :) I know you will surely enjoy her writing if you like what I have presented you until now about Poland. More or less she does the same for the Czech Republic and her blog posts only make me wish I had more time and money to go and follow her footsteps. Both her and her significant other half live in české budějovice since January 2013! I truly believe and repeat this all the time: Home is where your heart is, and if your heart is in a million places that means that Home is actually the whole wide world!
Ahoj, Ladybug readers! I'm Cynthia, an American living in the Czech Republic, blogging over at Adventurings about life abroad and travel here in Central Europe. Today, Anda's asked me to come tell you about the wonders about the little country west of Poland that I currently call home. Perhaps you've heard of or even already visited Prague as it's now the fifth most visited European city, but what about the rest of the country?

As I don't live in Prague, but rather the south­west region of the country (called South Bohemia), I spend a lot of time traveling outside of Prague trying to see as many of the most interesting and beautiful spots in the country as I can, especially since I never know how long I'll be living here. Gotta make the most of it!

So before or after your visit to Prague, here are some delightful destinations in the country that are sure to give you more of a taste of what the Czech Republic has to offer as well as earn you some Czech street­-cred.
Český Krumlov
A beautiful, little medieval town about three hours south of Prague (not far from the border of Austria) situated on an "s" bend of the Vltava river, Krumlov is absolutely worth a visit if you're looking for the most picturesque of small­town Czech Republic. The country­side around is absolutely stunning with its rolling green hills, castles, farmlands, and wild flowers. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, for sure! Český Krumlov may be heavily visited as it is well on the tourist track (and for good reason!), but after those day­trippers have gone away, you can enjoy the certain peace and solitude of this beautiful place! I recommend a horseback ride, a segway tour, or even a visit to the world­famous revolving theater if you can manage. (more ideas here)
Karlovy Vary
If the Czech Republic had a "hollywood", Karlovy Vary in the north­western region would be it! As I'm there every summer, I often forget I'm in the Czech Republic and want to start looking for a beach! Beautiful architecture, lush forests and landscapes, but mixed with a bit of glamour and palm trees, it is also renowned for its many spas and mineral water, which you can sample at many of the public water spouts.
Český ráj (Czech Paradise) 
The “Czech Paradise” national park or Český ráj is only about an hour and a half from Prague and boasts interesting natural rock formations and enchanting castles and castle ruins. this is a perfect "get away from it all" sort of spot where you can go on long hikes or simply just relax in the beautiful natural settings that North Bohemia affords. The towns of Turnov and Malá Skála (or nearby environs) make a good base to see the area, which is well connected by public transport. See what I got up to...
Kutná Hora
If you're visiting Prague but don't have much time to see another part of the country, the beautiful town of Kutná Hora (about an hour east by train) is for you! The town itself is nice enough to visit, but you won't want to miss the famous Sedlec Ossuary (better known as the “Bone Church”, shown in the photo) in nearby Sedlec, which has an interior made entirely of human bones, built after the plague when there was no place to bury them in the cemeteries! The Sv. Barbora cathedral in Kutná Hora town has one of the most stunning exteriors of almost any cathedral I've ever visited, and certainly looks like it belongs near Hogwarts. (Notre Dame, look out!)
Třeboň
This town is pure South Bohemia – like Český Krumlov without the tourists – and gives you not only a great taste of the typical South Bohemia farming village life but boats a charming city center and is known as the fishing capital of the country! The biggest ponds, built hundreds of years ago for fish harvest, are located here, which means that Třeboň is truly the best place to try South Bohemian cuisine (fresh “sweet­water” pond fish), especially the carp if you want to impress a local. Before lunch, you can have a long walk or bike ride around the lovely Svět pond.
South Moravian Wine Country photo source
This region, the warmest and sunniest in the country near the border of eastern Austria, is well-known for its abundance of wineries, vineyards, and cellars – a wine­lover's dream! I have to admit it is the only place on the list I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting, but it is a well­known destination for Czechs to get away from it all and enjoy the simple pleasures of life (ie, wine & cycling). The land is great for bike trips as it's flat and there are many paths. In the autumn is the most popular time, with many wine festivals in September and October to visit.
Šumava National Park
The most famous forest in the country is Šumava, in the south­western corner right up against Austria and shared with Germany (who call it the Bayerisher Wald). It's the perfect place to plan a big hiking trip thanks to the deep, primeval forests (some of the oldest and largest in Europe!), mysterious dark glacial lakes, historical architecture (like this chapel at Stožec) and proximity to the Lipno Lake­Resevoir, beloved for beach holidays and water sports. There are even single­usecamp spots along the trails so you can camp as you go.

I hope one of these trip possibilities has sparked your interest! Stop by Adventurings for more and to keep up with my life abroad and travels. Čau!

I realy hope that you will drop by Cynthia's blog at least as often as I do. I really like how she writes and the pictures she takes. Somehow sometimes I wish I could join her in her adventures as it seems a lot of fun! If you are on Instagram make sure you follow her there as well, as she surely paints a colorful and fun life to see :) makes one smile wide - so smile wide with us! :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that follows Cynthia in her travels :)
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Thursday, 21 July 2016

30 Typical Things To Do In Krakow

Dearest hearts,

Today I have a treat for you :) Challenged by an article I read from Alicja at Vagary Wanderlust Journey I figured out I should do a similar list like hers. A list in which I can present you "30 Typical Things To Do In Krakow" - 30 things that a local would do, 30 things that I do quite frequently... 30 things that you should try at least once ;) so here it goes:
1. Listen to the Hejnal - the guy playing the trumpet each hour, at the top of the St. Mary Church (Kosciol Mariacki). You can also wave to it, for good luck, but that's more of a tourist thing ;)

2. Get inside the St. Mary Church at listen to one catholic church ceremony. It's lovely to hear even if you won't understand a thing. You can also check out the painted stars on the ceiling, resembling the sky - that was painted by Jan Matejko (great Polish painter).

3. Have a seat in the Main Market Square are don't feed the pidgeons! That's only what tourists do. Locals hate them, so it's about time you learn the truth: they are flying rats delivering disease.
Cafe Szal view
4. Get to the first floor of Sukiennice for a short coffee break with a view for sore eyes. Cafe Szal does an awesome szarlotka (that's Polish for apple pie). Downside for smokers: no smoking on the terrace.

5. Get a Sunday afternoon lunch at the Pod Wawelem or Pod Sukiennice. This place is packed with locals on weekends, especially on Sundays when the specialty of the house is rosol (that's Polish for chicken broth - chicken soup).

6. Attempt to get a weekend breakfast at Charlotte on Plac Szcepanski. That's the hippest and the most trendy place to have breakfast on a weekend morning but also... the place does not take reservations... so you will end up waiting in a queue for a slight possibility to have some amazing homemade goodies. Worth the wait though ;)

7. Listen to the Gaudeamus Igitur and typical Polish song played by the clock inside the Collegium Maius courtyard. It plays at 11, 13, 15 o'clock each day. Not many know about it ;) it ain't like the Prague astronomy clock but still...
The Hot Choco from Nowa Prowincja
8. Enjoy the best hot chocolate in town - complete with the whipped cream option and sour cherry alcohol inside - at Nowa Prowincja. They also have decent hummus ;) and the place has an awesome vibe about it.

9. Retake the old Royal Route that the old princes, Kings and Queens used to take: from the Barbakan to the Florianska gate, forward to the Florianska street to the St. Mary Church, turning right on Grodzka and further on to one of the kind Wawel Castle. You can also take one of the horse & carriages from the Main Market Square ;) but that may cost you a bit.

10. Have a sweets break at Pijalnia Czekolady Wedel for something good. You can get it to go or you can serve it in the spot at Main Market Square or Galeria Krakowska. Polish chocolate for any sweet tooth ;)
Babcia Malina
11. Pierogi break - head towards one of the 2 Babcia Malina locations: either the one on Slawkowska or the one in front of the Juliusz Slowacki Theater. I recommend highly the ones with meat, fried ;)

12. Enjoy the singular architecture of the St. Peter and Paul's Church (Sw. Piotr I Pawla) on Grodzka. It's the only baroque church in Kraków and the front always reminds me of the Vatican. Let me know if you feel the same ;)

13. Enjoy a cafe americano or a lemonade while looking at the crowd and possibly at a wedding coming out of the St. Peter and Paul's, standing at the terrace of the Bona Kawa I Ksiaszka. It's a fine little bookshop with a unique cafe. Good WiFi signal as well.

14. Go visit the tombs of the "kings of old" - Wawel Cathedral tombs hold the Kings and Queens of Poland. Don't forget to bring some flowers ;)

15. Check out the biggest bell in Kraków and probably all Poland: Sigismund Bell.  It is said that if young maidens touch it, they will be lucky and find their other half very soon and get married ;) it takes 4 grown man to start moving it!
16. Enjoy the inner garden and courtyard of the Wawel Castle. When flowers are in bloom and the magnolia blossoms there is no place like it! Make sure to see it during April time as well ;)

17. Go feel the chakra inside the Wawel Castle corner or the courtyard. It is said that it is one of the 7 chakra points in the world that give that much energy. I mean... if you believe in stuff like that...

18. See "The Lady With The Ermine", Leonardo da Vinci's second most well known pairing after "Mona Lisa". Trust me, it's gonna be a better experience than the overcrowded Louvre. I personally think "The Lady With The Ermine" is much prettier ;) The painting is at the Wawel Castle for the time being.
The mummies at Czartoryski Museum
19. Visit the mummies (including one of a cat!) and read parts of The Book of Dead at the Czartoryski Museum. It's totally worth if you are into antiques.

20. Have a tour with the Kraków Water Tram - available only during the summer months though ;) but totally worth the ride. You can also take it to get to the Tyniec monastery ;)

21. Visit the Kładka Ojca Bernatka, the singular "pedestrian bridge" in Kraków, also known as the Love Locks Bridge :) it's worth a romantic walk especially during nighttime when it lights up - colorful!

22. Drop by and pay your respects at the Plac Bohaterow Ghetta (The Square of The Heroes of the Ghetto). Did you know that each chair there signifies 1000 people who were killed in Auschwitz & Plaszow? Pay your respects and don't sit on them!

23. Check out the amazing pieces of StreetArt in Kraków - most if them in the Old Town, Kazimierz and Podgorze. For sure you won't be able to pass by the floating pink pig on the Wisla river ;)

24. Make sure that during the weekend, in the evening,  you eat a sausage from the magical "communist blue van". They are yummy and a great treat when you're hangover. Location: Kazimierz old market.

25. Eat the zapiekanka in Plac Nowy - there is nothing like it! Dozen upon dozen of toppings and flavours for you to choose. The best one on town! Make sure you put it on the list!
26. Drop by Pub Stajnia to check out one of the locations that Schindlers List was shot. It's a must while visiting the Kazimierz region for the movie buffs.

27. Enjoy a summer sunset on one of Kraków's man made mounds. My favorite ones are Kopiec Krakus and Kopiec Kosciuszko. They are totally different but perfect places to have a picnic, a day out and relax.

28. Enjoy a walk on the Blonia,  the largest strip on land where locals love to have their regular running spree. There might be fairs in the summertime running there, so you might bump into a treat :) The place is best known for great Masses celebrated by the Pope John Paul II in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1997 and 2002. The Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated the Mass there during his journey to Poland in May 2006. The Catholic Church will host several events including mass at Błonia Park during the 2016 World Youth Day in July.
AntyCafe ready for Halloween
29. Try one of the local beers from one of the local breweries. We recommend CK Browar or getting to AntyCafe on Slawkowska and having some specialty beer. The ones with honey or plums are yummy!

30. Enjoy one of the smaller movie theaters and forget those Multiplex, Multikino, Cinema City huge spaces. Go local and enjoy a more intimate space, smaller and different from the rest you can choose from: Kino Ars, Kino Pod Baranami, Kino Agrafka, Kino Kijow... They show European selection of movies as well ;) in Kino Pod Baranami I was even able to see Romanian movies with Polish subs!

The list can surely go on, but try these for the beginning and let me know how they suited you. Let me know what you liked best and what you did not manage to do. I would love to hear your stories connected the the items on the list. Sharing is caring! #twistedredladybugrecommends you to have fun!

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves Kraków
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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How To Survive World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

Dearest Krakow expats and friends,

Let's face the facts, we are almost there: World Youth Days 2016 will be upon us soon! The questions is... how will we survive it? Beside the heat wave knocking us out this year, we will have a million or so more sould coming in for a week in Krakow and the nearby surroundings. I was mentioning this last year in October but now we are in the "home run". World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland July 25 – 31, 2016. But that's not all, the pilgrims from all around the world will come one week before and will be hosted in different cities in Poland. They will stay the week before in singing and prayer, to get ready for the WYD 2016 week. Pope Francis will be coming for only 3 days but those 3 days the city of Krakow will be invaded and nothing regular will be able to be done... so everyone living in Krakow, be it regular Polish person or expat, is well aware that the particular week in July when WYD 2016 happens will be a nightmare for locals. For a couple of months now I have told my friends and family that this week that starts and the next one after are completely off limits for reaching Krakow and speaking to myself. For a couple of months now I have also been warning people reading the blog and people who are part of the expat and travel communities to reconsider their holidays so they would not reach Krakow when "all hell breaks loose" (so sorry for the expression but if ever you were at a pilgrimage you will understand!). It will be hard to stay in Krakow and try to do something regular/normal at that time... So here I am, sharing some thoughts and ideas on the subject ;)
How to survive World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow:
1) Shopping - be it for groceries and stuff that you need at home on a daily basis or cravings that you might have... plan this well! Some shops and shopping centers plan to close out the gates during the week or have a shorter schedule. Also think about all the extra people coming and doing groceries as well... I do believe the safest and wisest thing would be to stock up a week or so before, with the goods you really need and you know you will use during that week. If you have a big fridge stock up on veggies, fruits, cheese and ham, maybe some eggs. Add to that some water (and or beer) as it's hot season... and the things you can't live without - like toilet paper, tampons and tissues. Better to be safe than sorry! ;)
2) Work time - even from the beginning of the year the corporations have been working towards settling somehow the logistical aspect during the WYD 2016. There are always people who come to the locations like Kraków Business Park or Buma or Quattro from one side of Kraków to another or even from Wieliczka and Katowice... that's a whole lot of way to go for work and during WYD it's gonna be a nightmare, so companies / corporations are more permissive during that week when it comes to having ones holiday ;) and if that a not possible they are even more permissive when it comes to the Work From Home options or even working remotely from a different location - for example teams in Capgemini are relocated temporarily to Katowice while WYD lasts. But it's better, if possible, to take the whole week off and go somewhere else, as far away as you can from Krakow: it will get crowded and all you will be able to do is stay indoors... and not get pissed :/
3) Using ones car to travel inside the city - don't even attempt it! Some areas and roads will be completely closed for the procession and others will be flooded by mindless people who will try to use the roads only to block them and kill any means of transport. The city has been split in areas and according to the area only certain people with special IDs will be able to have access. If you need to reach the hospitals that are in the blocked area you would have needed to apply for a permit that would allow you to get temporary entrance to that region... but just drop the car, that week you might get quicker on foot anywhere.
Advertisment on the WYD in Krakow in a bus stop
4) Public transport - now don't get me wrong... I love Poland's and Kraków's public transport and railway system and I use it everyday! But it will be hell during the WYD - some lines will be closed and others will have a smaller number of trams and some... will be just used by the Pope and pilgrims. I won't be using public transport that week, unless I will be forced to do so. I can imagine how packed the trams and buses will get and how they will resemble a pack of sardines in oil... the human oil of summertime... mmm... better not!
5) Banks - be careful and make sure you have some money out, just in case. The banks (most of them if not all) announced that they will have during the WYD week a very short schedule: Monday and Tuesday short program and the rest of the week they will close their gates. Online banking will probably be still available but if you need to deposit some money make sure you do so in advance and not wait until that week. I guess in the city center the exchange offices (Polish language: Kantor) will still function so if one needs to change some currency they would have where.
6) Going out - I would suggest limiting that to a minimum and if possible staying inside the house, as it may be safer with all the people coming from a over the world. Everything is booked and every place will be overcrowded. I know how Kraków looks like in July - August when most of the tourists come... now I multiply that at least by a dozen times and I already start having a headache and think how one would be able to breathe with all those people around. I am a people person and I love people but everyone has its limits and I know for sure that a large audience gathering into one place (whatever the reason) is a thing one is normal to fear. I would rather stay at home and breathe easy than have people bumping me around - especially in the condition I am in now!
7) Pilgrims are people too! Let's face it, if you will get outside you will eventually bump into the pilgrims and you should not take up your frustration on them. Don't blame them, help them! Put yourself in their shoes: they came from miles and miles away, from across the sea / ocean even, spent a lot of money and time to get to Kraków and see the Pope. Most of them won't be able to see him even on the special screens! Be kind to them and think of what they have to endure, being far away from home, in a foreign country who's language they cannot understand... they may be sweaty and tired and enthusiastic at the same time. Help them out if they ask for any guidance! If you would be in their shoes you would like some help!

But don't worry, if you wish to be part of the madness and try to see the Pope live, you can check here the latest schedule of Pope Francis. Try not to get into too crowded places (if you can!) and drink more than 2 litres of liquids (water if possible, not beer!) each day. If you are still sure you wanna do this, and I have yet not changed your mind, I wish you the best of luck and I really wish you would write back to me and tell me how your experience at the WYD 2016 went. I will surely listen with an open heart and I wish you all the best! :)

Yours sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that will stay indoor all WYD 2016 week!
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Saturday, 16 July 2016

London - 5 Things To Do According To A Local

Dearest sweethearts,

Today it gives me great pleasure to let Lana take over the blog. So without any further ado, I will let her tell you the top 5 things to do in London, according to a local like herself :) 
Meet Lana :)
I am sure by now you all know that London is one of the greatest cities to visit. There is lots of things to see and do, many of which you already heard of. For example, there is Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Tower of London, Sherlock Holmes Museum, London Eye, and the list goes on and on. Every guidebook will feature these top attractions but that’s not what this post is about. Today, I will share few suggestions from a Londoner’s point of view and things you may not have thought of. So, let’s start!

Markets: with so many high street shops and major brand stores all over the city, markets are a great and alternative way to see and experience London. I would recommend my top 4 markets. If you fancy trying different home-made dishes and buying fresh produce straight from the vendors, I would recommend Borough Market. It’s full of hassle and bustle with busy food stalls, mini shops and crowds of shopping Londoners and tourists. Also, this is where chefs from top London’s restaurants buy their produce so don’t be surprised if you bump into a cooking demonstration being filmed.
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I would also recommend visiting colourful Portobello Road market. Set in the heart of Notting Hill, it is full of most amazing antiques shops, furniture and accessories shops, fruit and veg stalls, as well as contemporary wear and vintage boutiques. It can get busy during the weekend (Saturday is the main day) so prepare for a slow leisurely stroll while buying some cool knick-knacks!
Another Londoners’ favourite is Columbia Road Flower market which during the weekends turns into an exotic garden with the most amazing and beautiful flowers from around the world.
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Cinematic London: if you love movies like me, you would have probably noticed that many of them have been shot in London. If you are a movies fan, you can check out filming locations in central London so you can boast to your friends later on. For example, remember Notting Hill with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant? Well, if you go to Portobello Road market mentioned above, you can swing by neighbouring 13-15 Blenheim Crescent to see the Travel Bookshop that Grant’s character William Thacker owned. Or who could forget Bridget JonesDiary? Did you know her flat was located above the Globe pub which is a real establishment in the Borough Market? Some of the scenes from the 2004 Harry Potter were also filmed around market. My personal favourite, 30 St Mary Axe building (also know as The Gherkin) served as a setting for quite few movies: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, A Good Year, Basic Instinct 2, and Match Point. For action movie fans, I would recommend heading to Vauxhall to get a glimpse of the MI6 which has been one of the main movie scenes in Skyfall and Specter. The whole city is a backdrop to the famous movies, just look them up ahead of your visit.
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British afternoon tea: ok, if you want to experience British culture at its finest, you go have go for afternoon tea. You probably already know that tea is a big part of British culture and should not be treated lightly! Nowdays many London’s restaurants host afternoon tea, a old tradition of the high society to host tea in the afternoon served with small sandwiches, scones and cakes. Prices vary according to various budgets: from £20 to £70. My personal favourite place is Fortnum & Mason, a luxurious department store dating to 1707, which carries its own selection of fine teas, coffees and various sweets. Upstairs, they have an elegant and tranquil Diamond Jubilee tea salon, where you can enjoy afternoon tea while listening to piano played. Menu includes some of the finest teas and unlimited yummy finger size sandwiches and exquisite scones and cakes. Prices are a bit high (£44-48) but it’s one of a kind experience and is totally worth it.
Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason
View from the top - Shard: if you are interested in seeing London from bird eye’s view, I would recommend visiting Shard. I wrote about it more in detail on my blog, but here are several reasons why it’s better than London Eye. One, there are no long queues waiting for admission thanks to its great pre-booking system (advance tickets cost £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children), it’s all quick and well designed. Two, unlike London Eye, Shard provides better 360-degree views of the whole London from its 72th floor. What’s really cool is that there are audio-guides that provide the historical information on each of the top attractions and digital telescopes to zoom on any point of the interest. To feel extra special, you can also buy a glass of champagne while "sky boutique" offers a number of Shard-related souvenirs and mementos. If you get hungry, there are also superb fine dining restaurants, such as Aqua Shard, Oblix and Lang, located on different floors of this amazing piece of architecture.
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Shoreditch, a flavour of British hipster culture: so this one is a bit of a topic of many a Londoners’ joke but here is why you should visit the Shoreditch area. Here you will see eclectic blend of local hipsters some of whom look like trendy nerds with beards, plaid shirts, beenies and thick glasses, while others, tattooed and in skinny jeans, motorcycle jackets and high-heel boots, look like wannabe rock stars. They usually cycle on fixed-gear bicycles, shop at funky designer shops and buy anything artisan. In terms of venues, you will find a great mix of cool burger joints and organic cafes, bars that serve crafts beers and cocktails in jars, small galleries catering to eclectic tastes and one-of-a-kind designer shops. The whole area is very culturally diverse and colourful thanks to graffiti everywhere, funky venue designs and local inhabitants themselves. So just hop on the underground to Old Street or Liverpool Street stations and immerse yourself in an urban cultural phenomenon, where everyone is on the quest to be different, yet ends up looking the same! 
About me
I am Lana aka the The Stylish Voyager. I am a fashionista, voyager, geek, wife, foodie, PhD graduate, cat lover, and part-time wonder woman, and I document my discoveries on The Stylish Voyager as I explore the world each day. For more about me and my adventures please visit my blog: www.thestylishvoyager.com.

Yours sincerly,

The Twisted Red LadyBug That Reads The Stylish Voyager :)
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Thursday, 14 July 2016

5 Things No Mum Should Hear While Pregnant

Dearest sweethearts,

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the pregnancy and motherhood related issues. How does becoming/being a mother change one person? How do you switch your mindset from being 1+1=2 to 1+1=3... How does one handle the pressure from the crowd, how do people react and how does that change your sanity of mind? Well... it's sad to say that more and more of what people think comes crashing on other people's lives. We depend and listen so much to what other people say that we forget to look inside ourselves and see our true path in life. I was thinking of the things that I have heard recently as a mum to be, things that no mum should hear. 
Photo by Bellove Moments
Here are 5 things no mum should hear while they are pregnant:
1. "So cute! Can I touch your belly?! (Immediately putting her/his hands on your belly) - No! Just... NO! It's a part of the growing mum's body that gets very sensitive now! Be it family or friends one should ask before and wait to be given an answer if they can or cannot touch. I know people expect to touch it and feel the baby move, but guess what?! You don't feel the movements all the time! And even if it moves and the  you put the hand on the belly, the baby will stop as it does not know you and it does not recognise your voice. All you will touch is a belly that does not move. Wriggling the tummy won't help either, tryst me! Listen to the mum and just let the tummy be! Don't touch it!!!
2. "Oh my God! You've grown so big!" ("Are you maybe having twins?!") - I was lucky enough not to hear this awful phrase but I know many mummy's who did and who got depressed. There will be some people telling you that you are not big enough and that you are not showing at all (like I did not show until the 5th month or so) and some will just be mean and pick at you and point fingers at your growing belly. Don't listen to any of them! Each mum and baby's body is different and grows and shows in a different way. There is no pattern except the fact that most probably the last 2 months you will be putting on most of the weight in no time. Be prepared for that ;) and if you are a friend or family of the mum to be stop pointing it out! Just stop!
3. "Enjoy time off while it lasts! When the baby comes you'll have no life of your own! No more going out or travelling" - oh... these people know nothing! I have seen couples travelling with kids and growing them up in a safe environment where they teach responsibility to the child from a very small age. Let's not forget that being part of a multilingual family brings benefits for the kids in term of language skills: or child will know Polish, English and Romanian ;) so they will be a better travel partner than any grown up! It's true that with kids you need to be more careful where you go and what you do but you can't cuddle and cradle a kid until they are 18/21 :/ that's just wrong! I have seen parents with kids to concerts and gigs and parties, seen them taking vacations abroad... it takes a but more practice and preparation but it's totally doable! So stop that old time black and white thinking where you need to keep the baby indoor and away from all temptation :/
4. "You NEED to have a c-section/natural birth. It's the best way to have the baby, trust me, I've been there and done that!" - Oh, yes! The all knowing friendly mum's that think they know them all and think they have everything figured out and that they know best for you and your baby and your family. Just don't listen to them, I repeat: each pregnancy and each woman and each baby is different! What may be good for one at not be good for the other. The best way for both mum and baby is the natural birth but if that is not possible due to how the baby is positioned or the size of the baby or other problems that mum or baby may have... the c-section is the way to go! Don't get stubborn on one way to deliver. Be flexible and listen to the doctor and not your friends and family. The doctor and midwife has the experience (years and years!) that you need. A friend who have birth to 4 kiddy know a bit more but still does not qualify one to be the one who makes the decision. You and the doctor need to figure out what is best! Screw the others option: it's not their pregnancy nor their baby nor their body!
5. "HORROR STORIES" about women who were pregnant - keep them to yourself! Don't frighten the mum to be! She has already a thousand things on her head, her whole world is changing, scaring her won't help! Stories of failed pregnancies or what one should or should not eat, books that you've read or stories that you've heard about natural pregnancies going bad or c-section going wrong... don't tell her that! There is no added value in that and stressing her out only harms her and the baby. If you can't think of a nice story to tell, well then... SHUT UP! She needs a positive and safe and happy environment! If you can't provide that, go away with all that negative energy!

I think you may or may not agree with me. You may even have your own list of things one lady should not hear while the baby is growing inside her womb. A lady should be protected and cherished at this time - you have no idea what she is going through and even if you "been there, done that" then I need to tell you, again and again, that each person is unique. Each person handles pregnancy on its own way. Each person needs to have their own quality time and relaxation. A time off from all the nonsense that (random) people throw at you. And I surely hope every lady has that!

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves her small LadyBug Baby
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Monday, 11 July 2016

Krakow - Magia Cafe - The Sandwiches

Dearest hearts,

This isn't the first time (and probably not the last) I am writing about this magical hidden gem of Krakow: Magia Cafe. This lovely spot is located a stone throw away from the Main Market Square, on the side of the St. Mary Church (Kosciol Mariacki). To get inside one must pass the old, wooden great gate and get into the hallway shared with a homemade goodies (toys and clothes and knick knacks) store, the Hippolitow Museum (part of the National Museum of Kraków). The Magia Cafe has a room, as you enter the hallway, to your right side - holding one large table that could hold up to even 8 persons + 2 smaller 4 person tables - and the main entrance is right at your front,  as you take the small flight of 3-4 stairs. Sometimes it even has seating options outside, in the street, on the side of the church (depending on the weather).
The biggest downside to Magia Cafe is the fact that the cafe does not hold its own private bathroom. The bathroom you need to use is on the main hallway and has only one toilet space/seat, used by both women and man, so things may get a bit awkward... The second biggest downside to Magia Cafe is the lack of network coverage (aka your cell phone will not work) in the downstairs, cellar area of the establishment. But on the other hand Magia Cafe has quite a lot of positive points that make you come back again and again and again. It's a place I have been visiting for 5 years now and it's on top of the places I enjoy to revisit. The menu is well built and never changes: A4 page both sides - and it comes in English and Polish language as well. There is always good / decent music at a level that one could hear it's partner, there are multiple seating options and even intimate spaces for 2. The food is decent and the hot drinks (mulled wine and hot chocolate) are delicious. Nice place to hang out with friends ;) in a relaxing environment.
The prices:
- the mint lemonade = 6 zloty per tall glass
- the sandwiches with salami and traditional mountain cheese (named oscypek) = 9 zloty
- veggie tart = 10,5 zloty
Tips and tricks: During wintertime and the cold months I really recommend you the hot chocolate with raspberry sauce - it's yummy and filling, well done and creamy. You can also give the mulled wine a go ;) During summertime I recommend you some lemonade (decent and refreshing) or a smoothie (the one with banana and Nutella is quite a hit!). You can pay both by cash and credit and if you like it, and wish to visit it during weekends, you may need to make a reservation - it gets crowded with locals (students usually...). I also recommend this place as a snack place, a place to grab a bite to quench your tummy's needs. I was pleasantly surprised this time by the sandwiches option. I never tried it before and I was not sure what to expect but for 9 zloty I got my tummy full with a good portion of 4 triangles of toasted bread with salami and traditional mountain cheese (oscypek) + the fresh salad on the side. The sauce did not look like my type, so I ditched it ;) 
The salami sandwiches with Polish traditional cheese
How about you lovely people? Have you ever been in Kraków at Magia Cafe? Are you planning to visit Kraków soon? Make sure this place is on your list ;) for a short caloric bomb break or just for a quick snack - here are my other 2 short posts about it: about the onion soup and the mulled wine & the one about the amazing hot chocolate with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. Would love to hear it from you :)

** This post was made out of love for good food and great places to hang out with friends. I was not repayed in any way and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! **

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that enjoys the Magia Cafe
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Friday, 8 July 2016

Interview: A Couple That Lives Their Dream

Dearest hearts,

I just love the blogging world! I am fascinated to find how some people manage to find their dreams, work towards achieving them and actually live in their dreams for as long as they choose to. You may remember me ranting about 10 tips on finding your dreams, but what I want to show you today is the fact that chasing your dream will lead you into living it! I found Karolina and Patryk on the blogosphere a year or so ago and since then I follow them avidly - they always go somewhere new and see new places from their very own Bucket List. They own a clear, clean and easy to read blog: Karolina and Patryk - and they proudly title themselves "Online entrepreneurs, digital nomads and happy people :)" and I truly believe they are! They aspire to live the dream and wish to tell others as well about how they do it, in order for the world to join them in their movement. They had one dream: travelling! And guess what?! They have been doing that since 2013 - 3 years and running! I was glad to have them drop by my blog and share a bit of their knowledge and adventurous spirit. They are both from Poland - "made in Poland" - and have a very healthy attitude about life. Hear them out and don't forget to check their blog and their Facebook page ;)
1) Where you are from and why have you started travelling?
We are both native Poles. We've been born and raised in different towns in Poland. We met 5 years ago in Krakow and decided to travel the world together! For the first two years these were only small travels. In 2014 we became full-time travellers.

2) What countries have you been to?
Should we mention them all? OK, so: United Kingdom, Italy, Vatican city, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Ukraine, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Dominican Republic, USA, Canada, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates and China.

3) What countries are next on your list?
Today (23rd of June 2016) we are coming back from our 6-months trip to South East Asia. We will spend a month in Poland and then we are going to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

4) What do you think are the top 5 things you should pack with you to any travel?
Money, documents, laptop, camera, mobile phone and tripod. We can't imagine traveling with our these things!
5) What are the top 5 things you have learned from travelling?
First of all- people are the same all over the world. We all love, laugh and worry. Secondly- it's OK to ask for the help when you need it. Thirdly- when you travel, you should always assume that something may go wrong and you may be late. Fourthly- it's good to keep money in different places, in something you will get robed or lose your credit card. Last but not least- life is short, so nobody should wait to make his dream come true! We have talked with so many people on the road, who said that they want a life like us but they are too busy to start. They were wrong. If you don't act now, it may be too late for this in the future.

6) Do you plan on stopping or slowing things in order to settle down somewhere?
Definitely not. At least not now! Maybe after we will visit every country in the world, we will think about settling down. But now, it's too early for that.

7) Where would you like to settle down, what country?
If we REALLY had to make this choice, we would pick some country in Asia. Thailand or Singapore maybe?
8) What do you think Poland has to offer for travellers, different than any other country?
Poland has a lot to offer! We really think it's one of the best countries in Europe and we are sorry that it is so underrated. Poland has beautiful and unspoilt nature, amazing architecture, delicious food, friendly people and low prices. What more can you expect from the perfect tourist destination? ;)

9) What are the top 5 cities to visit in Poland?
Krakow and Gdansk are our favourites. We also like Torun, Wroclaw and Zakopane.

10) What are the top 5 places to visit in Krakow?
Wawel castle, Kazimierz, Rynek, Ogrod Doswiadczen and The Ballon at Vistula river.

11) What do you like about Krakow and what do you dislike?
We have been living in Krakow for 2 years. Traffic jam and polluted air are something we hated. The thing we love about Krakow is the amazing atmosphere of this city. It is so vibrant and charming! We keep coming back there at least 3 times a year.

If you wish to read more about amazing Karolina and Patryk's travels make sure you check their blog and their Facebook page ;) They are totally worth your time, and who knows?! they may inspire you to let things go and enter the adventure of your lifetime. Everything is possible if your work towards your dream and you don't let it go! Let your heart lead the way and... good luck! :)

Yours sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that follows/reads Karolina and Patryk :)
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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Travel Tuesday: 5 Great One Day Trips From Kraków

Dearest travellers,

Krakow, nicely located in the Malopolskie voivodship, has plenty of places inside and around the city that can be explored alone or with friends. Trips inside the city are very popular and Krakow is one of the most visited cities in Poland, yet not many know that only a stone throw away from the city you can have one - day trips that can totally blow your mind, recharge your batteries and make you thirst for more. The one - day trips are for every taste so even if you are a lover of history or art or nature or wildlife you will find something that suits your needs. I always recommend my friends to come at least for a week and prepare for at least 2 or 3 days of outside the city trips. The public transport here is great and the railway system is getting better and better so it would be a shame not to explore more. So without any further ado, let me tel you about 5 great one - day trips that you can take from Krakow:
1. Auschwitz I and II - Auschwitz and Birkenau - usually I recommend this trip to be done by Discover Cracow as they are one of the best tour guides I have seen in Krakow. None of my friends ever said a bad word about the team and they were always extremely impressed. The trip to Auschwitz is usually done in the early morning and you are taken to Auschwitz I by bus. It is recommended that you should take only a very small carry on purse - backpacks are not allowed and you will be forced to leave it in the bus. The visiting of Auschwitz I takes about an hour and a half as you get to visit the old red brick buildings where the prisoners of war were held, the infirmary was located and also the death wall. You will get to see items that belonged to the poor souls that never got to leave this place and you will also see the only crematorium still standing - they did not get to blow this one up before the Red Army came.
After that you will have a short 15 min break, you will huddle up to the bus and it will shortly bring you to Auschwitz II - Birkenau. Probably, as I had, the shock of the magnitude of the action will hit you then. Seeing the open field as far as the eye can see, filled with wooden barracks, is a sight you will surely not forget. At the end of the train tracks, at the beginning of the forest, you will see the remains of the bigger crematorium chambers - which they managed to take down before the Red Army came.
I would say this is a half day trip but the experience leaves you so drained and questioning that I believe the rest of the day can be taken off just to have a light walk inside the town. If you choose to get there by yourself I recommend taking the daily trains to Birkenau, that run from the Main Station (Dworzec Glowny). When you get there though, I really recommend you to have a local guide to tell you the stories. It is way worth your time and money ;) 
2. Wieliczka Salt Mine - part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, part or the UNESCO Patrimonium, it is one or the most known touristic attractions, besides Auschwitz/Birkenau. You can reach it by taking the train from Dworzec Glowny Krakow train station, the bus 304 from the side of the Galeria Krakowska, the private buses that go there almost every 30 min or so, or by getting a recommended tour guide like the Discover Cracow team. 
It all depends on the time and budget that you have. It's quite a nice day - trip and it will surely relax you and fill your lungs with fresh salty air - perfect for people with lung conditions or asthma. It's a lovely place to behold and my favorite is the chapel all made out of salt and the inner lake. Now, to tell you the truth, if you are claustrophobic I don't quite recommend you the trip as you will be inside for a couple of hours, with no way out. Also when you will come back to the surface you will take a very small elevator in which you usually get packed like sardines... but it's worth it ;))
Also I would not recommend it to people who have joints issues as at the beginning there are over 300 stairs that you need to go down, in a spiral - even for a regular person it gets dizzy and your knees start to hurt... but I think there might be an elevator option for the disabled people. If you wish to explore an older, but not as well known, salt mine I really recommend you also a trip to Bochnia. Bochnia Salt Mines is even more adventure filled place as you can ride a fast train in the mine and also navigate on an inner salt lake - I have really enjoyed that and recommend it ;) plus you may like it more as it's not so crowded and popular as Wieliczka. You can get there by bus and by train and it's quite cheap! 
3. The Eagle Nest Trail - Szlak Orlich Gniazd - is one hell of a ride and might take you more than a one - day trip to enjoy it, but you don't have to visit it all... The Eagle Nest Trail is a trail of 25 medieval castles reaching from Czestochowa to Krakow. It is considered to be one of the best tourist trails in Poland, marked as number 1 on the official list of the most popular trails in the country. 
As I said,  it has 25 castles and watchtowers and it is 163 kilometres long! Of course most of the sites can be reached by bus but not all of them so I recommend a guided tour like the one from Discover Cracow or teaming up and renting a car.
One of my favourite castles in the trail is Ogrodzieniec and it is quite close to Katowice. In the summertime they have medieval fairs and reenactment fights so it is well worth ones time. You can climb the walls, visit the torture chamber museum and enjoy the view from the top. It's a great castle that is half in ruins but it's one of the best ones in the trail.
4. Pszczyna - The Jewel of Princess Daisy - is a small town in the Silesian region that should get more notice than it does now! It boasts of a Palace that is also know as "The Polish Versailles", a bison reservation, lovely parks and gardens and a small Wooden House reserve where time seems to have stand still. If you wanna learn more about this magnificent place, take a look on the top 3 things you should visit there.
View from the top of the Gubalowka Mountain :)
5. Zakopane = ZakoLove - a very crowded but lovely place in the mountains, not very far away from Krakow. If ever you are in Poland, in Krakow, it is definetely worth a day or two ;) 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 ;) Read here what are my top 3 things to do in Zakopane ;)

How about you? Have you done a day trip from Krakow? What were your favourite locations? What are the 5 GREAT one-day trips that you would recommend? I would love to hear what you think of these places, if you ever visited them, or if they are on your Bucket List :)

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to travel
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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Hard Parts About Being An Expat

Dearest hearts,

Being an expat is not always rainbows and butterflies, sunshine and unicorns. Sometimes it's really tough and sometimes it's feels like a breeze but somehow deep inside you know that there are feelings stirring... of course there are wonderful parts like learning more about the culture you are part of right now, travelling to cities you can barely spell out their names (like Pszczyna) or that you can spell out but when you do people start laughing as it does not resemble the way the locals spell it (take for example Lodz) but to these ups there are always downs - that how life goes ;) you can't have one without the other.  So here are some hard parts of being an expat, from the Twisted Red LadyBug 's own experience - you might find your own expat thoughts on this list as well: 
1. Loneliness - this feeling will hit you eventually like a hammer and there is no telling when it will happen. You might be in the new country for 1 minute or 1 year and it can hit you then... but it won't shy away from you, it will hit you with all its might. It will be the moment when you feel that even though you are surrounded by friends and collegues in your now place, you still wish you could go home to your family and friends there. It will get better, it won't pass away and you may get depressive... try to surround yourself with people who love you and do things you love doing in order to take your mind off things, unless you can grab your bag and have a short trip home.
2. Communication - you will probably be split in 2 between hating the phone vs. calling the family all the time. I know people who Skype with their families home daily, even if they have nothing to say, they just say hi and see them - that is important for them. I fall on the other side, seeing ans thinking about them makes me more and more homesick and sad. Makes me angry I can't have them here, so I prefer to have a Facebook group with the ones I love, to keep them updated. I let them know what is new and what are the latest news yet I don't call daily. Phone calls make me sad and frustrated and give me huge headaches... for some they are a happy moment, for me they are the opposite. Social media helps me on this case and even my granny has a Facebook page ;) yep, she's that cool!
3. Language - no one tells you, but if you don't have people around to speak daily to, you may forget your own mother language... practice makes perfect so if you speak in English all the time you will eventually think and dream and do everything in English and put your homeland language on second place. You will have problems finding sometimes words when you speak to your family. I even switch when I talk to my sister and we mostly speak in English... it's gonna happen, so don't stress! Also, you will have to eventually learn the language of the country you are in. And it can be easy if you go from a Latin country to a Latin country or from a country with Slavic language to another, but if you make the shift from Slavic to Latin or Latin to Slavic... you're in for some "fun time". The first fee months I thought they were speaking parseltongue ans I could not figure out where a sentence starts and where it stops... Eventually after 5 years I can speak it maybe on a B1 level... and I can understand most of it, if they don't start with regional words...
4. Outsider - let's face it, as much as you will try you will never be 100% part of the homeland that you are in now. You will feel at home, you will make friends, you will marry that hot Polish guy who acts like a gentleman and makes you very happy, you will change your job to something that fits you very well, you will learn the language and even attempt to speak it (even though you will do horrible grammatical errors that you will probably be aware of!) but at the same time you will have that feeling that you are not there 100%. That somehow some part of you does not fit in properly - maybe it's a thought, an idea, a vision, a story that people turn their eyes at even though you know that in your birth land they would smile or laugh... you will be there but not quite, stuck in the middle. The sad part is that when you would come back home, to visit, you will no longer fit there 100% as well. It's a paradox, one that every expat must live with: feeling at home in your homeland and adoptive homeland yet not being there fully. 
5. Rules and regulations - don't expect your homeland to be the same as your adoptive home. Don't start with this premise or you're gonna get hurt, most likely. Make sure you check everything you must do, once you enter the adoptive homeland. From registering yourself to getting a social security number / PESEL and or a NIP number, doing your taxes on a yearly basis, paying all the other taxes and VAT and making sure you are a clear and legal citizen in the country you are staying. That means also getting a visa if needed and not being on the black market of work. Also being part of a corporation and having private care also falls under here. Make sure you have everything up to order as you never know when some small paper will be needed! That also goes for not wondering inside the city without a ticket or a public transport card - the fines are huge and you will get caught and it won't matter that you are a foreigner! The public transport in Poland is amazing so I support them! I have a public transport monthly card that allowes me to take trams and buses unlimited :) 
There is much more to being said about being an expat, but I would love to hear your thoughts / feelings / opinions on this. Do you agree with my 5 points on what is hard to be an expat? Have you had the same experiences as I did? How did you pass through them? Sharing is caring ;) so let's help eachother! :)

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug - the Romanian expat living in Krakow, Poland, for more than 5 years now!
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