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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How To Survive A Trip To Poland

Dearest traveller out there,

If you plan on coming to Poland, no matter the city you choose to visit, it is good to do a background check to make sure you know everything that there is to know about the country and the cities that you will visit. That's how a conscious traveller would do things... and then there are the adventurers and the head string people that believe that facing a challenge is more fun when you are not prepared. You pick your poison ;) I am only here to help in case you sober up from the huge amounts of vodka/beer that you will have, and you will wish to learn some more about how you can get to the end of the trip in one piece ;) it's not rocket science but this article may help you understand a bit more these lovely and warm people you will meet in Poland.
1. Once you touchdown the blessed ground of Poland make sure you know how to get to your hotel/hostel/motel/accommodation. The best way to get to the city center is usually by train - it is the fastest and cheapest option available. There have been a lot of investments in the last years to the railway and the public transport so it would be sad if you wouldn't use it. For example, the train that connects Kraków Balice Airport to the Main Station (right next to the mall: Galeria Krakowska and 5 min walk from the main square) costs around 8 zloty and takes you to the destination in 18 minutes (faster than if you would go by bus or car!). I highly not recommend using taxi's as you are a foreigner and you do nit speak the language. You could alternatively try to get there by Uber cars - it's gaining more and more popularity in Poland recently.
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2. Make sure you have some kind of accomodation... it's better to have it booked in time than start searching for it once you are here. It's true, there are numerous hotels/motels to choose from but you may end up here in the "hot" season and everything would be booked. For sure if you wish to come to Krakow this July it is already impossible.... in the last week of July we have the "World Youth Days" and the Pope will be staying in Kraków. We are expecting over 2 million tourists and since the beginning of the year people have already booked everything that was available... don't come to Krakow July 2016! It's going to be madness!!! Even the locals are planning to have holidays during that time, to get out of the city! Here you can find some accomodation spots in Krakow that I recommend ;)
3. Expect the unexpected when it comes to food ;) "Waiter, there's an egg in my soup!!!" -  that would be the traditional zurek (white rye) soup that comes with a boiled egg, potatoes, white sausage (called kielbasa) and sometimes mushrooms. Don't be afraid and embrace the unknown - you may even find out that you love some of these dishes. You may even find yourself liking them so much that you will try to do them at home as well ;) and if you live in Scotland or UK you may even manage that, as there are Polish shops with traditional Polish products there. And if you are lucky enough to live nearby Chicago in the USA, well you are in for a treat! Chicago is considered the 2nd biggest Polish city, right after Warsaw! It has entire neighbourhoods of Polish streets where people don't speak English but Polish. They have Polish shops and Polish restaurants so... make sure you drop by! ;) 
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4. There will be drinking! - and most of the times quite a lot of it! As it's regular to greet guests with hot tea and/or vodka. Beer is popular here but mainly when the weather is fine; there are also lovely traditional polish local breweries that you should try out! And the beer comes in different flavours - like honey, plums, raspberry... or you can add some juice to it and drink it through a straw. Also, in Poland, was the only place I saw one could have not only mulled wine but also mulled beer! It's quite unexpected and worth to try at least once. But vodka is the main alcohol drank in Poland - be it flavoured (for the ladies) or regular. Usually for a wedding you count around 1 litre of vodka per each guest. And trust me, they really know how to drink and hardly ever get wasted. An addition to the party will always be some pickled cucumbers or some herring - as a help for keeping everything in ;) 
Cafe Szal Menu
5. Polish language - you might wanna try to learn some basics or have some kind of conversational guide with you... Polish language is one of the top 3 hardest languages in the world! + the grammar is full of exceptions to the rules... if you know a bit of Russian/Czech/Slowakian/Ukrainian you may understand some words and it may be easier a bit for you. Polish language is a slavic language so if you are more into Latin languages... you're pretty much in for a bumpy ride! The younger Polish people do speak English even though they are shy admitting it, but if they see you trying to speak the language they may be more willing to assist you. Make sure you have a GPS on you so you don't get lost :p
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6. There will always be a touristic center in the area, an information point, where someone will be able to guide you - just make sure you reach it by 5 pm, after that time every such place is closed. But even if the info point is closed, worry not - especially if you are in a bigger city. You can always find someone willing to help you, even if they will not speak perfect English or English at all... have patience and you will get to the point you are looking for. Try to have a physical copy of a map of the city with you, it will be easier to explain where you wish to get and people can show you where you are. Also spread around the city you can usually find big poster maps with the "You are here" red point - they can be your life saviour ;)
7. Make sure you pack up the correct type of clothing/shoes necessary for your trip to Poland! This is one of the first things I tell my friends that come and visit us... and it's quite hard to understand, especially if you come from a warmer (let's say Mediterranean like) country.  Take for example even my home country: Romania. In the beginning of March I could see my friends changing their profile pictures, saying that spring is coming, and newly bought and currently in use dresses... while in Poland I was feeling still cozy with our spring, due to the fact that I had my winter jacket on + mittens + boots. Let's put it like this: I took off my winter jacket and send it to the cleaners only at the very end of April. I am currently sporting out the autumn jacket... and sometimes if there is truly a day with good sun, I manage to go in a tshirt and light jacket... so make sure you come prepared for the temperature in Poland and not the one in Spain or Italy ;) make sure you also pack an umbrella as it may come in handy, especially if you come during the rainy season. I would say July and August are the sunniest months... but then again don't come in July this year (2016)... due to the "World Youth Days", Krakow will be a mess! Also make sure you wear very comfortable shoes, if possible no high heels. Poland boasts of its old architecture and history and that also means cities built with pathways in cobblestone. Be safe and blister free with some balerins or some good tennis shoes.
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8. Make sure to mingle with the crowd and sometimes get off the typical beaten tourist track. Let's face it, tourist in the city you live can be much of a bother; especially if they take pictures 99% of their time, talk and laugh loud and make jokes on the country they visit, if they are disrespectful and especially if they try to cut queues/lines in a shop/restaurant/other public places... We are all human being with the same amount of rights and benefits. No country should be viewed as "better" than another. Not to mention that once you are in a country you should try to understand it's culture and history and try to blend in without offending others. That's why when you go to Greece, to the Meteora's, you must put a skirt over your pants and not have cleavage - respect others and do what you wish others would do for you. This goes without saying to any country you visit! Now Polish people are a proud nation; if you cut a Polish person it will bleed history and patriotism, so making fun of their homeland is a no-no!!! Try to understand them more by going off the beaten track, the tourists way of seeing cities, and take some time maybe following the footsteps of a local. Take the map with you and get lost in the smaller streets, put the camera away and relax and take your time to enjoy the true vibes a Polish city can give. Have a look of there is a traditional holiday or manifestation happening and join in! Go to a "Milk Bar" (Bar Mleczny) and push the tray among other Polish locals - you will eat traditional food at a low price, probably listen to some local radio station and see Polish people "in their natural environment" :p kidding aside, a "Milk Bar" should be a must! But come with ready cash, as there might not be an ATM.
9. If you are more darker skinned you may sometimes feel that you are being looked upon harshly but you should not be afraid as long as you respect the local rules: women should be treated with respect! You may have read/heard that Poland is against receiving refugees but it's as simple as this: Poland has received refugees that simply tool everything they were given (money, car,  other goods) and went away to Germany to get even more benefits. I will try not to bring a point about the fact that a refugee is actually a refugee only in the first country that they enter, once they flee from their homeland; coming to Poland would make most immigrants not refugee ;) Taken that aside, I believe that every man/woman that is capable of working should do so in order to make a living. Now why should refugees be given for an unlimited amount of time the money if they can after a while earn it? And last, but not least, nobody takes under consideration the cultural differences between countries where the men is the most important vs. countries that underline the equality needs. I have seen and heard no problems with darker skinned people in Poland until Polish people were provoked in one way or another.  Usually it happens when women are not treated with the respect that they deserve, and Polish men feel the need to defend them (be they Polish women or foreign!).
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10. Pickpocketers and thiefery - when I read blogs and articles about Poland I can see a huge step forward in time. The pieces that I read of a couple years back talk about pickpocketers and casual petty thiefery acts on goods that are placed "out there" for a good pickup. Nowdays is less and less of that and I am really proud of how Poland is developing out to be a safer place for tourists. I am a Romanian expat living in Krakow, Poland, for over 5 years now! I can honestly say my Polish is not that bright but I am giving it more and more of my best and I started this year to speak it more and more than the ocasional line or two at the restaurant. With all this, me being a foreigner, going to both public and private places, I must admit I was never pickpocketed/robbed and no malicious actions have been taken towards me. I have never heard a bad word being addressed to me - except the old ladies that always want my place in the public transport... just give it to them! They can be mean! Be respectful, hold to the lines, see what others around you are doing and take them as example. That's how you'll do just fine ;) be mindful of the things you own and just don't go for a picnic in the park and leave all you goods at display: that is a certain invitation for others to admire your goods and maybe even crave for them... put your thinking caps on! ;)

I think these rules/guidelines can fit for any country that you will visit. Poland should not scare or stress you; a lot of people that visited and lived in it as expats can honestly admit that they felt like home and it is a safe country to be in. Poland is economically stable and in the last 5 years I have seen it grow immensely in terms of railway and public transport system, there are more and more job openings in corporations and lately there is a positive wave of encouraging the local producers into selling their stock (no matter what they are producing). Poland is a lovely country to visit,  with much to offer in terms of history, architecture and also sightseeing opportunities. You just need to keep your mind open and behave in a proper manner, gentleman and ladylike ;) and maybe learn a bit from your trip to Poland.

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there :) 
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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Krakow - Pub Stajnia - Where Schindlers List Was Filmed

Dearest hearts,

One of the most well known and critically acclaimed movies of all time, especially on the topic of the Second World War and the Jewish extermination initiated by the Nazi party, is Schindlers List. All shot in black and white - in order to make the impact on the public more powerful - except 3 colorful symbols throughout the movie, it was shot in Kraków, Poland. The ghetto no longer is available to be seen nowdays, only some parts or the wall are preserved, so some scenes had to be filmed in different locations throughout the Jewish district: Kazimierz.
The most well known/popular location is the Pub Stajnia near Plac Nowy. This location is a "Must see" and is a part of the "Jewish district tour" that many companies offer. Again, I recommend you the Free Walking Tour Krakow team as they always behave the most reasonable and human - being like towards its customers and the people around them! As I said, the tour guides that will present you Kazimierz and Podgorze will eventually bring you to Pub Stajnia and show you the outside walls of the garden covered with pictures from diverse movies shot there, including Schindlers List ;)
If you are a fan of the movie (like I am) and you know the scenes, you will have no issue in recognising the stairway under which the lady hid from the Nazis and "local Jewish police" alike, when they were "cleaning out the ghetto". It is a good place to remember that here the movie was shot, but the place was not actually part of the ghetto itself. The ghetto had quite a different location, in the Podgorze region of the city. Instead you can enjoy the story and the place where the movie was shot. Maybe even have a small break for lunch :)
The Pub Stajnia has quite a central location in the Kazimierz region of Kraków.  It's a popular place if you like to dance tango/salsa/bachata as they organise dancing nights ;) Pub Stajnia is also a lovely place to meet up over some lemonade/beer - we met our dearest Mateusz W. there to talk about the wedding picture setup. I must admit I never tried the food there until this beginning of May and I was quite pleased about the taste of it ;) and so were my friends whom I took along with me in a tour of Kazimierz :) 
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The big downside for me of Pub Stajnia are the following:
1) waiting time to get the food and even the drinks - usually I am ok with waiting 10 min for the drink and max 15 for food, especially if I am hungry, but this time it took forever to serve! We even had to pickup the menu ourselves. It is true we were the last table, it was a full day, but still... :/
2) the payment options - as far as I know Pub Stajnia only accepts cash payment, which is a total bummer if you ask me :( especially for the tourists that may not be prepared to pay for the meal in hard gold. It would be nice if they would introduce at least some Visa/Mastercard option. It is true that you can probably find an ATM nearby but still... the customer should be king!
3) the toilet/bathroom - I will always have something against restaurants that have only one cabin for each sex. Pub Stajnia has one small cabin for the gentleman and one for the ladies so there is always an inevitable queue forming outside, on the corridor... not nice at all, so make sure you don't go there at the last moment :p
The fingerlicking grilled pork :)
Pub Stajnia manages to pull out over 140 reviews on TripAdvisor and catch #350 out of 1043 restaurants in Kraków with an average of 3,5 stars out of 5. You can see mixed opinions (like mine) there as well, as it's a lovely place to hang out in the garden, yet it does have quite a few hard minuses... Even when you check their Facebook page you see the opinions being split and the total of stars here is 4,3 out of 5. Nonetheless if you are in the area and you wish to relax a bit under the trees, it is worth your time. Pub Stajnia is open Monday to Thursday between 11 am and 1 am, Friday and Saturday between 11 am and 3 am and Sundays between 11 am and midnight ;) Kazimierz district usually runs on a longer schedule ;))) so you can have more drinking/having fun time after a long week at work.
The Yummy Duck
When we went last time for lunch at Pub Stajnia we had karkowka with potatoes and salad & roasted duck with Silesian type dumplings and salad. I must admit that the presentation style of the duck was more appealing than my karkowka (pork meat, well seasoned, done on the grill) but I would have never chosen that as I am not a fan of the Silesian dumplings. But my friend really enjoyed the duck and the salad - it was her first time trying duck and she said she really liked the taste and it's tenderness. Like me she did not particularly like the Silesian dumplings... for us they seem a bit too gummy... it feels as if you need to chew on them forever... My karkowka was very well done and the combination with the traditional baked potatoes was marvelous. The sauce over the karkowka was fingerlicking good, so I ate absolutely everything! :) well done, though I somehow with the karkowka portion would be a bit bigger. We combined the food with some beer or lemonade - I enjoy the lemonade there as they are served in tall glasses and they come in lovely flavours like lavender. One portion of lemonade is enough for the meal, usually in some parts I ask for another one or I simply ask (if they have in the menu) the 1 litre version. At least that way I know I'm happy :) but here there is no need.

The prices:
- Hot tea = 10 zloty
- Espresso = 5 zloty
- Cafe latte = 8 zloty
- Ice coffee = 10 zloty
- Iced coffee with icecream = 15 zloty
- Cocktails - from 12 to 21 zloty
- Non-alcoholic drinks = around 10 zloty each
- Soups = around 10 zloty each type (be it zurek or gulasz)
- Pasta options from 24 to 28 zloty
- Salad options up to 20 zloty
- Barbeque ribs with white salad and fries = 28 zloty
- Pierogi options for 15 zloty
- Zeberka and duck options were around 28-30 zloty ;) 

As a verdict for Pub Stajnia I must say that is a must see place, especially if you are a movie buff and you like Schindlers List. It's also a lovely place in the summertime to get some shade, but make sure you don't sit at the last table, as it may take you a while to get served + diverse touring agencies/companies will come and show the pictures next to your table. We had a kind enough waitress that suggested we would move to a table that just cleared up, more inside the garden, so we would escape the crowd... trust me! It is a crowd!!! Especially during summertime and if the weather is fine! I suggest you to have some fine lavender lemonade or some beer and if you are hungry and you can wait for a while... well you can give it a go ;) I usually recommend people to eat either in the Old Town or Podgorze as Kazimierz is quite a crowded and... touristic spot! But it's your choice ;) enjoy!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that likes Kazimierz but thinks it too crowded
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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What I Loved About Captain America: Civil War

Dearest Marvel/Avenger fans,

**WARNING!!! This post contains opinions on the latest Captain America movie - Civil War. It will be an extensive post and it will have loads of pictures and text so please grab yourself a cup of tea and a warm blanket and Enjoy!** 
I know I should not be afraid to say anything about the Captain America: Civil War by now, as it was in the cinemas for quite a while now (the premiere for Poland was on the 6th of May). I got a chance to see it the first time on the 9th of May, on a lovely sunny Sunday, at the Cinema City in Galeria Kazimierz. We did not choose the 3D option - sometimes those give me a headache... - but we took the 2D regular instead. If you know your Marvel heroes and you know the comics there is not much that would WOW you, yet I really liked this movie: well done, nicely paced, more fighting scenes (between the heroes that now split sides) and pretty well written lines. But without any further ado, let me tell you what I loved about Captain America: Civil War.
1. Even if Hulk and Thor are not present, the other Avengers + friends more than make up for it. When I come to think of it, I more like Loki than Thor and I don't consider The God of Thunder as intriguing... probably due to loads of muscles vs. Loki's awesome brain :) when in comes to Hulk, I would really love to know where he is... and I would also love to see more of him and Natasha in the movies. I have a feeling that they would be good for eachother!
2. The relationship between Scarlet Witch (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (played by my beloved, underrated actor, Paul Bettany) gets from the comic book to the movie screen. I like the chemistry between them and I love how they care about eachother. Considering that Wanda lost her brother, her homeland and she's being grounded to the Avengers compound due to her amazing powers as a mutant, I must admit it is nice seeing her find a friend (and more) in Vision. He is equally challenged and still has problems understanding the world, but you can see both try to figure out their issues and trying to face who they are and the powers they have - eg. The talk they have about Visions power stone vs. Wanda's super power.
3. Natasha's double sided nature: not being able to be 100% against Captain America or Iron Man, believing they are both right in their own way. I love her for being a bad ass without any special powers and standing up for what she believes it is right. In all her actions you can see how she plays so no one would get hurt. It's touching and cute (in the airport scene) when she fights Hawkeye and she asks if they are still friends :) as the 2 amazing people that they are, no special forces or mutations, what both are able to do is magnificent! I am so happy Natasha will finally have her own Marvel heroes movie. Now I am just waiting for Hawkeye to get one as well :)
4. The very likeable new Peter Parker (Spider... boy!). I enjoyed seeing a younger version of Spiderman (including Marisa Tomei as the very young aunt) but it felt somehow weird and pushed the fact that Iron Man would call on a kid's help to get #teamcap back on track. I know Spiderman comes with really good superpowers that can come in handy in a fight, but why bother at this precise moment to go and pick up the kid only to force introduce him into the action/plot and get us more aquianted with him. It somehow felt for a while less of a Captain America movie and more of an Avengers one... that being taken aside, I loved this version of Spider boy :) He was fun and quirky and had a visible crush on the Avengers :) his action scenes are pleasant and fun to watch, bringing a fresh comic vibe.
5. The Ant-Man joining #teamcap - I really wish for more Ant-Man movies + I wanna see more of Wasp ;) so this small cameo of Ant-Man helping the Avengers on Captain America side was fun!!! As #teamironman has Spidey, #teamcap had to have a "special weapon" as well, and that was Paul Rudd's Ant-Man that had a crush on Captain America ;))) I loved seeing him in the action scenes when he teams up with Hawkeye (sitting on one of his arrows) and manages to enter Iron Man's suit and mess it up ;)) I loved seeing him go "Hulk mode" and enlarging himself and kicking some super - hero arse! ;)) until Vision  passes through him and Spidey pulls an old Star Wars reference (which I totally and geeky loved!!!)
6. The action scene in the airport hangar - is the one nerds/geeks will love to hate and hate to love. It's brilliantly done and only thinking of the amount of exercise both the actors/stuntman + the people filming had to go through... only that would deserve a full round of eternal applause! Not to mention seeing your favourite Marvel heroes fighting between themselves and seeing how awesome some of their powers truly are... breathless! Amazing action from Scarlet Witch, that with a bit of training, I believe could kick everyone else's arse ;) she made me think of Jean Grey's Phoenix... I surely would not wish Wanda to go rogue ;)
7. Peggy's funeral - it was to be expected but also to be expected is the fact that every fan will get teary eyed at this point. Let's face it: Peggy Carter is one hell of a character! Well written and exceptionally played by Hayley Atwell, Peggy is one of my favourite female characters in the Marvel universe. And she manages to grow on you like no other will! In a time when only men were considered able to face the task of protecting the country and other people, Peggy shows that what she can do can change the world and how other think about women. She is the Black Widow before her time ;) with no other special powers than her true wit, charm, amazing personality and tom-boy fighting skills... she saved the day numerous times! Sadly enough (even though she was one of the first that believed in Steve Rogers - pre Captain America serum) they never stood a chance to be together.  I love though their screentime friendship together :)
8. The Romanian language displayed in the movie :) that's right! I heard my very own home language and while at the Cinema I could not help smiling and pointing this out to my husband, patiently sitting next to me ;)) the scene where Bucky goes out to buy some plums in some Bucharest market is a killer! At first I was extremely impressed by the comand of Romanian language of the guy playing Bucky + others. Then, later on, at home, I Googled it and guess what?! Sebastian Stan (the actor playing the Winter Soldier) is actually Romanian! :o shame on me but I did not know that! Born and raised in Romania until he was 8, he still has perfect command of the language! :)
9. The Captain America vs. Iron Man vs. Winter Soldier scene - it's the roughest scene in the movie and it's a tearjerker as you wish somehow all of them would win. It's heartbreaking to see two friends fighting and seeing Tony against Steve is quite a knockout :( I won't tell you more, but the fast pacing and rhythm of the scene, plus the soundtrack and the background of their relationship in the comic books/movies makes you wanna scream... and let's face it: Captain could have killed him!
10. The dark side of the heroes is brought to life by one man, of no particular set of skills or superpowers, but that had patience and motivation. I liked the actor Daniel Bruhl (playing here Zemo) ever since the amazing portrayal he did in the movie "Good bye Lenin!". That is also one of my favourite movies done in the latest century. A must see! But think about it now... what a man that has nothing, lost everything, is capable of doing. The Force that drives every human being into taking actions is something I wonder about almost on a daily basis. What pushes us toward? What makes us tick? What turns us from facing the light into turning to darkness and seeing that people that help actually do harm as well... I liked the idea that the Avengers (with their super powers) could be turned in their way by one human being.

I think that overall it was more of an Avengers movie than a Captain America one. It did not shed much light into Bucky's or Steve's past... rather more on Stark's family! But it was nonetheless really nice to see it on the big screen. It is the kind of movie that you should watch at the Cinema. Not necessary on a 3D option but on the big screen nonetheless.  Looking forward to the next Marvel movie ;) Doctor Strange is coming this fall and the next X-Men is this month, so get your money ready!

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves movies 
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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Krakow - Lipowa 6F/ Krako Slow Wines

Dearest hearts,

Have you heard of the Krako Slow Wines shop in Krakow? You should! Let me tell you about it! The idea of Krakó Slow Wines was established in the minds of two people: Janusz Jarosz and Paul Wozniak. Janusz is a collector, connoisseur and restaurateur fascinated by the culture and philosophy of the culinary tradition of multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian. Paul, after several years of wine trade, founded his own company, dealing mainly with wines from Georgia and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It's not irregular that both teamed up to open a new winebar and shop here in Krakow. The location might not be very popular as it is far away from the Old Town but not from the touristic tracks - it is located right next to Schindlers Factory.
Opening hours:
Monday: 10:00 - 21:00
Tuesday to Saturday.: 10:00 - 22:00
Sunday: 10:00 - 21:00



Contact details:
Telephone number: 669 225 222
E-mail:
wino@krakoslowwines.pl
Internet Page:
www.krakoslowwines.pl
Lipowa 6F/ Krako Slow Wines offers only natural wines - usually the type that you cannot find in the regular shops and super/hyper-markets. The list of products now boasts of about 50 wines from diverse regions - Romania and Moldavia included as well, and you don't see that everyday! The athmosphere is relaxed and inviting and there are multiple seating options: outside on the terrace (if one wishes to smoke), inside on high or low chairs and the above option, with a very summer-like seaside feeling about it :)
The menu can be found both in Polish and English and the waiters are very nice and willing to help. Make a note that Lipowa 6F/ Krako Slow Wines is a self-service place so you need to get your arse to the bar - check the menu - make a decision - order the food/wine/coffee/tea & pay for it. I usually like to sit at the bar area as I know it will get me a faster rate of service and in case I need something more I can be very comfortable and just wave to the waiter :) but I never had any issue with the serving here. The guys are always one step ahead of what's needed. For example, one time I went with my friend and I was holding a white rose. I was just taking off my coat, not even looking at the menu, when the waiter came with a vase for the flower with fresh water and placed it in. Instant recognition for a job well done! That is how you get customers! The above and beyond attitude ;)
Even if it is listed just as a wine shop and bar Lipowa 6F/ Krako Slow Winesis much more than that! Here you can find a lot of events going on - dancing/music nights, book presentations, mini concerts and special events like the Romanian meetings (awesome for the International communities, a great way to gather around a good wine glass and talk about life as an expat ;) Kudos to the idea!). Also there is a small (yet quite well organised) menu option, in case you get hungry and you wish to pair up the wine with something else. I recommend the traditional bigos (cabbage with meat) served hot with bread + szarlotka (apple pie with crumbs - be careful! It's really hot!!!). There is also the Georgian type pierogi that I really like - with VERY WELL SPICED meat ;) Usually the regular portion is of 5 big pierogi - but it is more than enough to make your tummy happy!
If you are not a wine person or if you are the one driving, or you simply cannot get any wine... due to diverse reasons... I really recommend you the teas here. They make a perfect cup of tea ;) they have only natural blends from Harney & Sons and my favourite is the Oolong Pomgrenate - perfectly flavoured and bursting with fruit. Always served with a heart shaped cookie ;))) It is perfect to have, no matter the weather: wintertime - to warm up your insides; summertime - to coll you off from the heat outside. 
The prices:
- espresso = 7 zloty
- latte/cappuccino = 9 zloty
- hot chocolate = 10 zloty
- mulled wine = 11 zloty
- Bigos = 12 zloty
- Baklava = 12 zloty
- "Deser Krako'" = the perfect apple pie dessert = 12 zloty
- The Georgian type pierogi (portion of 5) = 20 zloty
If you are an Internet/social media addict and you need your dose, Lipowa 6F/ Krako Slow Wines has free WiFi that you can use ;)  It is quite stable inside but on the terrace... not really ;)  Anyway, once you get there I believe you will be more interested to check out the lovely interior, the menu of different wines that you may not know and try out the very hot apple pie that has a perfect blend of cinnamon :) and once you are done... let me know what you think of this place, a bit off the regular/beaten track. Before or after going to Schindlers Factory it is definitely worth your while ;)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to discover new places :)
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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Blame Someone Else Day

Dearest honey buns,

Did you know that on the first Friday 13th of the year (and tomorrow's Friday 13th is actually the first and last Friday 13th of this year ;) just so you know...) there is a celebration of "Blame Someone Else Day"? Imagine that tomorrow you can blame all your worries and troubles on anyone else. Think well upon whom you wish to place the blame. You can do it only once a year!... oh, wait, but don't we actually do this on a daily basis in our life? Don't we usually like to shift the blame so we are never on the "dark side", in trouble? I think we have become very good at this; so good that we do not even agree/accept/admit that we do this on a daily basis. We started to lie to ourselves and the people around us. It is never our fault... the fault is always out there but never with or within us. 
There isn't a certain point in time when "Blame Someone Else Day" started to take place but the blame sometimes falls on Anne Moeller of Clio, Michigan for creating this day. On the very first Friday 13th in 1982, Anne's alarm clock did not go off and she overslept; being late for all the appointments in that particular day. According to the legend she spent all day shifting the blame from herself to others - kind girl this Anne ;) right?! What would you have done in her stead? Would you have shifted the blame or tell the truth - be sincere! But why do we blame others? Why is it easier for us to shift the blame and point the finger at others?
1. People are mean. We tend to shift the blame to people that we visualise as being "bad" in one way or another. This badness comes from the way we see people and the way we reflect our philosophy of life (values and all) upon the person we project it to. But think about it when you do that as none is without blame and the visions of life almost never match between 2 persons. Are you without any blame? Are you without any fault? Are you without any sin? Are you sure you can cast that stone you are holding in your hand? ;) 
2. People lose control and get scared. That's when they usually panic and start shifting the blame on the first person they see or the first person that comes to their mind. You know you saw this often... losing control is scary and especially frightening to the people that feel the need to control everything in their life. It's like doing a parachute jump... you are up there, in the air, free falling with several hundred kilometres per hour and you know the only thing that will save you is your parachute. And you pray all goes well... but you never know... it's the feeling that you no longer have control, that life slips away and in that moment adrenaline kicks in - some like it and some don't.  They find it frightening to let yourself go like that, without having any strings attached... that's when blame comes in... you blame things on the instructor, the friends who came with you, the weather - anything! Except yourself for accepting to do it - it was your choice ;) you could have said no!
3. People learn about blame - sometimes at a very early age, sadly mostly from their parents. Shifting blame is something I see in most families, no matter the country! And it's a sad sight to behold... instead of teaching children about the truth and how life works, teaching them to be responsible grown-ups/adults I see more and more cases of blame being placed on grandparents, aunts, uncles, relatives, friends and sadly upon teachers. I remember the reverence and the high status teachers had when I was small. I remember how children would always look up to them and they would always have the right answer and right thing to say... Now, it feels as if parents and children alike place the blame of the failures of the small ones only on the teacher and school and way of life... how do you want your child to be happy and grow and develop if you don't speak to them at home and you consider it as normal if you leave them in front of the pc/tablet/TV for the whole day, while "you do your thing"?! 
4. People have issues accepting life/facts/actions. They have problems accepting things and letting some stuff go, not clinging to the same issue all over again. We love to come back to some fact that occurred a long time ago and put it back to the spotlight when time suits us... when we wish to blame someone. We do not accept the reality that exists and we develop our own alternative. We hold on tight to it until that lie (the false reality) becomes the truth. It is sad and some people do that on a daily basis and they forget the real truth. It may be ugly, it may be not according to the worlds standards, but I truly believe one should keep a firm grip on the real facts of ones life. There is no way to move on unless one accepts whom one is and its background.
5. People forget that by pointing a finger to someone it already incriminates your own person: there is only one (maybe 2) fingers pointing toward the person you point the finger to, but the rest of the fingers (the rest of the hand) will always point to you! There is always a way to retrace a lie and uncover the truth and the truth, somehow, always has a way to make it to the surface. Blaming someone for your own actions never works out in the end. It is better to be true to yourself and your conscience and tell the truth, no matter the costs! I always feel better when telling the truth, even when the truth hurts. You may lose people by telling the truth, that can also happen, but you need not worry; on the long run you will know that you did things the right way.

Be strong and don't be afraid to set an example: tell the truth and dont shift the blame! Have courage and take responsibility! Tomorrow s "Blame Someone Else Day" but let's change that together: let it be the first day you tell the truth from the second you wake up to the moment when you go to sleep! Let's do that and see where the day takes us. Let me know how your #tellthetruthday went :) Sharing is caring so I will await for your stories ;)

Yours sincerly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Prefers To Tell The Truth
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Monday, 9 May 2016

Krakow - Coffee Eleven - The Sweets

Dearest hearts,

I ask you: is there anything more soothing and that would make you feel more at home, than a piece of hot home-made pie? For me the equivalent of the smell of freshly baked (well done!) pie equals home, equals comfort, equals my tummy being very well pleased. Perhaps that is why, in each restaurant and coffee shop that I go to, I always check out their cheesecakes and apple pies - and if the menu of sweets is extensive I also check the creme brulee ;) for the love of good old Amelie Poulain. I always am lucky, in Poland, to find delicious and fulfilling pieces of gastronomic art, when I ask for cheesecake and apple pie. Why?! Well it's simple... these 2 sweets are typical Polish sweets that people prepare in their own homes. 
 ***
The cheesecake is called sernik and it always has loads and loads of cheese and a very thin layer upon which the cheese sits. Usually it does not have an upper crust and I consider that perfect! :) the more cheese, the merrier I am! The apple pie is called szarlotka and it depends how it is done from region to region but it always has a consistent apple filling - Poland is quite an apple producer ;) The apple pie can have breadcrumbs as a crust or it can have an upper layer... either way, most of the times is served hot - from the oven - with icecream. I know... that is somehow typical American as well! Let's not get into who was first, Polish people are stubborn ;)
You may remember me telling you, a while back, about a lovely place with a 15th century cellar, called Coffee Eleven. Last time I was telling you about the yummy muffins and the coffee/tea to go. Today I wish to tell you more about the seating options and the delicious other sweets - the typical Polish sernik and szarlotka. Coffee Eleven opened its doors on the 25th of October 2014 (one day before my birthday so that should bring them good luck by association :p) and it seems to grow better and better in terms of menu options and how it presents itself to the market. Located on Grodzka 11, on the path of the Royal Route that goes to the Wawel Castle, it will for sure never be free of customers. I love that it gives one the option "to go" VS. the indoor sitting option in the 15th century cellar - it is true the athmosphere is what one may call dark but it is very comfortable! Coffee Eleven is open Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm and Friday to Sunday from 9 am to 10 pm. I really suggest this place for small snacks and sweets and revitalising yourself with some freshly ground coffee. I know they have a breakfast option but I have not yet tried it... will let you know when I shall ;) The coffee and tea is one of the kind and not the regular things you find on the market.

The prices:
- lemonade - 10 zloty
- smoothies - up to 15 zloty
- aperol spritz - 18 zloty
- mojito - 18 zloty
- americano coffee - 8 zloty
- irish coffee - 15 zloty
- frappe - 11 zloty
- hot tea (variety of mixes and not the usual satches) - 6 zloty
- home-made cheesecake served with whipped cream and fruits = traditional Polish "sernik" - 13 zloty
- home-made apple pie served with vanilla icecream, whipped cream and fruits = traditional Polish "szarlotka" - 13 zloty
The szarlotka (apple pie) at Coffee Eleven is amazing when combined with a smoothie (I really like the strawberry and mint one!) - something warm with something cold to drink. The apple pie is well spiced with cinnamon (my favourite flavour!) and it does not have a tough crust or lower layer; everything blends in perfectly with the vanilla icecream. Added to that, there is always plenty of whipped cream and some random fruits - this time I had blueberries and apples. The apple filling was smooth and I really enjoyed it - one of the best apple pies I ate in Krakow ;) The sernik (cheesecake) is served with whipped cream and fruits as well. It is one of a kind and filling by itself - no upper crust, just the fullness/richness of the velvety cheesy ingredients. Both are a wise choice if you wish to have a "something sweet" treat. We went to the 15th century cellar and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the day, while sipping on our smoothie/aperol/cappuccino. The music is nice and not loud enough so you would shout at eachother. The chairs and the other seating options are comfortable so you should really give it a go! Let me know what you think, once you got a chance to visit Coffee Eleven ;)

** This post was made out of love for sweets that really taste good. 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 Loves Cheesecake
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Friday, 6 May 2016

Krakow - Cafe Botanica

Dearest hearts,

One of the first coffee shops opened on Bracka street in Kraków, one of the main streets heading out from the Main Market Square, was the coffee shop - small restaurant - that I will tell you more about today: Cafe Botanica.  It was established in 1997, provides 90 seats, including charming Orangerie. It's a very popular place amongst students and locals, plus it offers multiple opportunities when it comes to the seating options and the menus items. Again, extremely popular here are the toasts and the sandwiches (in Polish language: kanapka) that can be served either cold or warmed up - I recommend the one with chicken/turkey and cranberry sauce ;) but today I will tell you a bit more about the breakfast option.
The view from outside, on the street, and the lovely sweets display from inside
As usual, the breakfast options are served only until 12 so if you are a late riser, a non-morning-person, make sure you check out the Mo-Ja Cafe instead ;) but if you make it by 12 in the mid-day you SHOULD try the breakfast options of Cafe Botanica. They are all great and filling ;) your tummy will be happy! The menu I always took in Polish but I can bet they have an English option as well. The waitresses are extremely nice and have a good command of Polish language to serve those in need - the location of the Cafe Botanica is to blame :p being so dead-center in the Krakow's Main Square. The inside is fantastic, an oasis of green - both real plants, man-made ones made out of different metals and the ones painted upon the walls make a very appealing combination. Each time I have been there, everything that I tried was top notch: from the smoothies and the shakes to the warm sandwiches, to... my personal favourite... the breakfast options for each taste :) If you are in just for a French style breakfast (a croissant and a coffee or a latte) they have that! If you are hungry as a wolf, they have The Breakfast of Champions that will make you smile again ;)
Botanical Breakfast - the scrambled eggs are with bacon and tomatoes
Sniadanie Mistrzow = The Breakfast of Champions (in Polish)
Cafe Botanica holds on TripAdvisor 4 out of the 5 stars possible, with approximately 111 reviews. Marked as #147 out of 1029 restaurants in Krakow. When it comes to the value it brings to its customers, Cafe Botanica scores as high as 4,5 points out of 5 available. Open daily Monday to Thursday between 8:30 am and 11:00 pm, Friday and Saturday between 8:30 am and 12:00 am &Sunday between 9:00 am and 11:00 pm. 
Outside views and the yummy sweets :)
The lovely and quiet inner garden, covered against the outside elements ;)
The prices:
- Sniadanie Mistrzow - The Breakfast of Champions - includes a cup of orange juice + coffee or tea, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and bacon, bread - butter - jam and 2 slices of yellow cheese - 25 zloty
- English Breakfast - 23 zloty
- Italian Breakfast - 25 zloty
- Botanical Omlet - perfectly made scrambled eggs, in the form of a pancake + 2 buns + 2 President butter portions + strawberry jam + coffee or tea - 23 zloty

- Scrambled eggs - 21 zloty
- Breakfast bufet - 25 zloty
- Croissant with cappuccino or latte - 12 zloty
- Salmon tart = 11 zloty per piece
- Vegetarian tart = 11 zloty per piece
- Carrot cake = 8 zloty per piece
- Creme brulee with raspberry = 12 zloty
- Tiramisu = 9,5 zloty
- Red Velvet cake = 9,5 zloty (It always looks amazing!)
Price references are taken in March-April 2016! The prices may slightly change but it always was very affordable to spend time here and the prices on the menu do not change that often ;) 
 Even if you are not a breakfast fan, for sure you should try out this lovely place. Cafe Botanica has indoor seating and if the weather is nice there are small - 2 person tables - outside as well, so you can bask in the sun. For those addicted to social media and that cannot let their Facebook / Instagram / Twitter go, they need not worry as there is stable and strong WiFi signal inside ;) just search for the Cafe Botanica open network. Have you ever tried out this lovely place in Krakow? Are you a regular there ;) let me know of your experience and your feedback - I am all ears!

Yours sincerly,
The LadyBug That Loves To Try Out New Breakfast Places :) 
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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

5 Free Things To Do In Krakow

Dearest hearts,

Krakow is a city filled with beauty and wonder at each step. Each building and each wall has a story to tell, if only you have the time and the patience to hear it. Considering the fact that the city was not destroyed - as Warsaw was completely wiped out - during the Second World War, you can be sure that you will find true and authentic pieces of history as you walk it's cobblestoned paths. Also due to that there are many places that one could discover, free of charge. Today I will share with you 5 things you can do for free in Kraków :)
1. Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego w Krakowie - the Julius Slowacki Theater in Kraków - is a sight you will surely not fail to see. Located in the Old Town at the Planty area (green  garden surrounding the city) it's on the path of tourists and locals alike. You won't pass it without singling it out and having a look at its beauty. The theater was raised in 1893 and was modeled after the best European Baroque theaters - such as the Paris Garnier Opera. It was also named in 1909 after the Polish poet Juliusz Slowacki.
2. Collegium Maius of the Jagiellonian University - one of the oldest locations of the Jagiellonian University, it is very popular due to its position (dead center in the old town, just a few steps away from the Main Market Square) and also the fact that it holds the opening and closing ceremonies of the University year. Right now you can visit the inside as well, as a branch of the National Museum of Kraków is inside it's walls.  It's a point that appears often on the Free Walking Tours that come on a daily basis there - especially the one about the Old Town. I recommend  you to see it ans be there 5 minutes before 11/13 or 15 o'clock to catch the clock of the inner garden sing Gaudeamus Igitur and a piece of traditional polish music while the figurines rotate from one door to the other: kings, Queens and bishops of Kraków carved in stone. It's not as fascinating as the Prague astronomy clock or as well known but you should give it a go ;) 
3. Sukiennice - also know as the Cloth Hall, is located in the "point 0"/dead center of the Old Town, splitting the Main Market Square (the biggest square in Europe!) in 2 equal parts. It survived since the Renaissance period and it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Besides the Wawel Castle and the St. Mary Church (Kosciol Mariacki) it is the most known landmark of the city and it is the most visited place by tourists and locals alike. The inner ground floor hosts (like it did since the 15th century) local artists displaying their handmade products - be it jewelery made out of amber, wooden toys,  leather goods or crystal objects. The 1st floor holds an adorable cafe: Cafe Szal - that has a veey good lemon tart and decent smoothies ;) but no smoking allowed. The 2nd floor holds the Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art Museum - part of the National Museum of Kraków - and that's free of charge on Sundays ;) 
4. Planty - the green area around the Old Town - has its benefits and should be a touristic attraction on its own, especially when the trees and flowers are in bloom. There are several magnolias of different colors and statues that can be admired. One of my favourite sculptures is the one dedicated to the Polish artist Chopin. It's best to be seen in summertime when it transforms into a fountain and you can guess it's true meaning: a piano :) It is one of Kraków's larger parks and only by going by its path you can see some of Kraków's most famous places: the Barbakan, the city's defence walls, Florianska gate, the Wawel Castle... and not to mention you will be passing quite a few nice places where you could have breakfast/lunch or just a coffee - like the Bunkier Sztuki Cafe ;)
5. The Wawel Castle - following the Planty area there is no way you will miss this beauty ;) and as a tourist and local I must tell you that nobody comes to Kraków without going to this place at least once ;) located on one of the higher banks of the Vistula river, it hols both the Cathedral where all the kings of the old were buried + the magnificent courtyard of the Wawel Castle. I really recommend visiting it any time of the year but my personal favourite times are either when the magnolias are in bloom (around March-April) or in the summertime when you can catch the medieval celebrations and the Opera of Kraków doing open air shows in the inner courtyard - lovely acoustic and setting for a Carmina Burana, for example ;) If there is one thing I really encourage you to visit, payed visit - that is, in the inner castle, is the "Lady with an Ermine" painting by Leonardo da Vinci. It is bigger and to my impression more beautiful and intimate than the "Mona Lisa" ;) let me know what you think after you have a look as well!

Of course there are many more other free places to visit in Kraków and almost all museum have a free visit day (and it usually gets crowded!) but if you liked the list let me know and I can tell you some more of my favourite free places to visit (and re-visit) in Kraków ;) also if you do nit agree with the list, please shout out :) I would love to hear your opinion!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves Kraków
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Saturday, 30 April 2016

1st of May - Labour Day!

Dearest working class heroes,

A very well known celebration, especially for the communist countries, is remembered tomorrow: 1st of May - the International Workers Day or Labour Day. International Workers' Day is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists and occurs every year on May Day, 1 May, an ancient European spring holiday. The date was chosen for International Workers' Day by the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. This day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. (source)
Typical 1st May poster - Romania

Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some of those countries is it celebrated specifically as "Labour Day" or "International Workers' Day". Some countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September. In Poland, since the fall of communism, 1 May is officially celebrated as May Day, but is commonly called Labour Day. In Romania, 1 May, known as the International Labour Day (Ziua internațională a muncii), the International Workers' Day (Ziua internațională a oamenilor muncii), or simply 1/First of May (1/Întâi Mai), is an official public holiday. 
Typical 1st May poster - Poland
During the communist regime, like in all former Eastern Bloc countries, the day was marked by large state-organised parades in most towns and cities, to which many workers were de facto required to participate. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, 1 May continues to be an official public holiday, but without any state organised events or parades. Most people celebrate together with friends and family, organising picnics and barbecues. It is also the first day of the year when people, especially those from the southeastern part of the country including the capital Bucharest, go to spend the day in one of the Romanian Black Sea resorts.
Typical 1st May march - Romania - you can see many photos of N. Ceausescu
In Romania, Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in 1890, and during the communist times this celebration was marked - as in other communist countries - by manifestations and marches glorifying the Communist Party and the benefits that communism brings to the people. After the revolution in December 1989, for several years, the 1st of May was no longer celebrated by propagandist manifestation, but rather by social and cultural events in the open air. In the communist times it was a mandatory social gathering, very well rehearsed, with thousands and thousands of people singing patriotic songs and carrying huge pancards with logos and wishes and of course our brave leaders face. Nowdays everyone spits on those ideas and on those memories and youngsters and older people alike see 1st of May as time off from the busy life/job they have. You will see people flocking away from the cities, gathering for a barbecue and (for the lucky ones?) heading toward the Black Sea resorts. TIPS & TRICKS: If you are in Romania now, make sure you eat the traditional mititei (minced meat, well spiced and done on the grill - to be eaten with mustard)!
Typical 1st May poster - Poland
For the Polish people, the 1st of May is just the beginning of a series of national event - try not to get them confused, as I will explain them backwards ;) May 3rd is the Constitution Day - the very first European constitution and the 2nd one worldwide! 3rd of July is also a religious feast. This day is called the Day of St. Mary a Queen of Poland. This feast was established by a pope on a request of Polish bishops after regaining the freedom by Poland at the end of World War I. The religious holiday of the 3rd of June is a consequence of the political anniversary of the Constitution. 2nd of May is the Poland's Flag Day - The Flag Day was established by a decree on February 20, 2004 when the change in Polish coat of arm, shade of colors of the flags and Polish anthem were introduced. This day is also called a day of White Eagle. Polish Eagle constitutes a Polish coat or arm. The May 1st was established as the communistic Labor Day holiday (International Workers' Day). And there you have it! 3 days in a row, of celebration for the Polish people! 

How about you? Do you come from a country that celebrates Labour Day / International Workers Day? What are the differences that you could see develop in time? I would love to hear from you - tell me your story! :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug Working Woman
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