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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Bochnia - The Lesser Known Polish Salt Mine

My dearest friends,

Did you know that Bochnia is one of the oldest cities of Lesser Poland (Malopolska). The first known source mentioning the city is a letter of 1198, where in Aymar the Monk, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, confirmed a donation by local magnate Mikora Gryfit to the monastery of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechów (source).
The discovery of a major occurrence of rock salt at the site of the present mine in 1248 led to the granting of city privileges (Magdeburg rights) on 27 February 1253 by Bolesław V the Chaste. In the original founding document, German name of the town (Salzberg) is mentioned as well, since many residents of Bochnia were German-speaking settlers from Lower Silesia (source).
Due to its salt mine and favourable location, Bochnia, which belonged to Kraków Voivodeship, was one of main cities of Lesser Poland. In the 14th century, during the reign of King Kazimierz Wielki, a town hall was built, a defensive wall with four gates, a hospital and shelter for miners, and construction of St. Nicolas Basilica began (source).
In appreciation of Kazimierz Wielki’s influence on the development of Bochnia, his monument was erected on town’s market square in the late 19th century. In the 15th century, a school was opened, and in 1623, Bernardine Abbey was founded in Bochnia. At that time, many pilgrims from Lesser Poland and Silesia visited the town, to see a miraculous painting of St. Mary, kept at a local Dominican church (source).
The Bochnia Salt Mine (Polish: kopalnia soli w Bochni) is one of the oldest salt mines in the world and the oldest one in Poland and Europe. The mine was established between the 12th and 13th centuries after salt was discovered in Bochnia. The mines measure 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) in length and 468 metres (1,535 feet) in depth at 16 different levels. Deserted chambers, shafts and passages form a so-called underground town, which is now open to sightseers. The largest of the preserved chambers has been converted into a sanatorium (source).
The traditions of salt mining in the Bochnia area may be traced back 3,500 years B.C. The origins of the Bochnia mine as a mining plant reach back to the year 1248. The salt mine is the largest treasure of Bochnia lands thanks to its salt deposits which gave rise to one of the most significant economic centres of the medieval Malopolska region. Today the Bochnia Salt Mine is one of largest tourist centres of the region. Guests who arrive to the mine can travel along the Tourist Route leading from the August Level IV to the Sienkiewicz Level VI (source).
The route includes additional attractions such as a multimedia exposition especially appreciated by children. The mine can be visited on foot and part of the route may be explored in an underground train as well as sliding 120 meters down a chute connecting two levels of the mine. Many tourists consider sailing underground in a boat as quite an extraordinary experience (source).
Kaplica św. Kingi - Kopalnia Soli Bochnia
Kaplica św. Kingi - Kopalnia Soli Bochnia - details
The biggest and best preserved among all chapels in the salt mine is St. Kinga’s chapel. It was raised in 1747 under the name of St. Guardian Angels New Chapel. In 1782 the name was changed into Blessed Kinga chapel. The main elements of the chancel are: St. Kinga altar, St. Barbara altar, a pulpit carved in salt and salt sculptures of St. Kinga, St. John Nepomucen, St. Wojciech and St. Thomas from Akwin. Every year on Christmas Eve and on the Patron’s Day (St. Kinga’s) there are High Masses conducted in the chapel.
The Ważyn Chamber is considered the heart of the mine. It is one of the biggest conserved chambers in the Bochnia mine, placed on Sienkiewicz level. Its length reaches 280m. It is situated in the middle salt deposits creating effective patterns, the so called Bochnia stripes. It was exploited with breaks from 1697 to 1950s. Recently the chamber has undergone conversion to fit recreational and sanatorium purposes.
It is great to visit in a weekend, with friends :) That is how I did it! Bochnia is a lot less crowded then Wieliczka and in some parts it is way more fun and interactive. It has several multimedia spots but I believe the highlight of the trips, for everyone, will be the train ride down the shaft + the boat ride on the salted inner lake (those 2 are a must!). It may be a bit hard at the beginning and ending of the trip, going down & up with the elevator, where 8-9 people will be crammed up like sardines... but you can always close your eyes and try to focus on the fact that you will eventually get out ;)) You may feel slight pressure in your ears, but fear not, that happens due to the sudden drops that you will experience - it's just like plane take-off and landing, so be not scared!
The first thing you will do, once you are out of the elevator, will be to board the train. Usually there must be at least 2 guides with you - we had a very nice couple! - one in front and one in the back. What I really liked is the fact that you could constantly see, at every stop, how they would count everyone, just to make sure nobody gets lost. You will have to wear something warm & good walking  running gear, as the salt mine is bigger than Wieliczka, and your tour guide will make you walk fast as hell! And I am not kidding + the tour lasts 3 hours and a half, so by the end you will be glad you will be able to sit down and rest ;) The tour takes you through the history of the mine, the kings that helped the Bochnia city, the dangers inside the salt mines, how the mining has developed since the very first time the started... and it will end up with an awesome trip on the salted lake :) and that you really should NOT miss! You will have to wear a helmet, go inside a long boat and try to keep your balance while the 2 people rowing will move the boat... be careful not to drop anything! ;) You will also have a 20 min break and you will be able to eat something there - I recommend the french fries and the burger (you will NOT have the time to order the pizza if you are taking the guided tour!). 
And if you must know, here are the prices - Mid-August 2015:
- trip Krakow - Bochnia + Bochnia - Krakow by bus (taken somewhere next to the Galeria Krakowska, in the back) costs around 15-20 zloty both ways. You can check one of the buses schedule here
- the entrance ticket (with the train and boat ride included) costs around 57 zloty (45 zloty the regular entrance fee + 12 zloty for the ferry crosssing) or 82 zloty (for the english guided tour the regular ticket is 70 zloty). For the latest price list for the entrance fee, check the online page.
Bringing you to a total of maximum 102 zloty - around 23-25 euros :)

Have you ever visited a salt mine? Where did you go and what is its name? Did you also feel your lungs refreshed by the visit? If I could, I would love to live in a salt mine for a week - no breathing issues, no fog, no smog... just clean and fresh air :)

P.S. I would love to do this again one day. Who would like to join me? :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Salt Mines :)
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Friday, 2 October 2015

Romania - Iasi: Moo Gelato, The Best Icecream In Town

My dearest readers,

What is the one product everyone buys during summertime? As the saying goes... I scream, you scream, we all scream for icecream ;) and if ever you are in Iasi, Romania, my Moldavian hometown, you must try the best icecream in town - as it's brand promo also states - Moo Gelato. I had told you about Moo Cafe before - located in Palas Mall area. I bumped into this brand around 3 years ago when I first came to its lovely cozy place. The Moo Cafe has the best spinach tart I ever ate and the fresh mint lemonade is the best on a summer afternoon! But wait until you try the icecream - which is based, it seems, on an Italian  receipe...
When I first came to Iasi, Moo was just coming into the market and had just one location. Now it has several small stands, I believe 2 also within the Palas Mall, plus a few stands in Copou - in the most frequented locations/parks. In those wooden stands they sell yummy, creamy and delicious icecream. I believe they open up in spring and close in autumn. The weather back home allows them to be practically open almost all year round.
There are a few reasons why I really like the Moo Gelato icecream. The first reason is the unique taste that makes me feel that this icecream might be the real deal. It tastes very natural and apparently they say it had milk of 3.5% fat! The texture is creamy and fine, well whipped, and melts slowly - heavenly taste! Your taste buds will love it! Plus the colors of the flavours are quite pale and natural. They don't look synthetical as if someone dropped colorant on them ;)
I assume they always produce fresh batches as each time I was passing a selling spot they would have someone deliver a new batch. Or I was just lucky and caught them at the right moment all the time ;))) I read also about them that they have few conservants so they are producing it in small quantities. And when you look at the final product, that is just picture perfect and needs no filter!, your lip begins to quiver and you will feel an urge to scream for some sugar :) Icecream!!!
To be noted that the Moo Gelato icecream would not be complete without a topping, and as it is - per receipe - an Italian product, what topping would be better than some Nutella chocolate? :) I was simply melted when I tasted it for the first time - I tried the combination of maracuja, red watermelon and yellow melon with the topping... I almost went back to ask for another portion of topping! It went amazing with the fruity flavours! Later on I tried the Nutella, the lemon, the green apple, the chocolate one... but I must say my fav will stay the lemon and the melon ones ;) but you need to try them all until you figure out your love ;)

Prices: 3,5 RON per cup + 1 RON for the chocolate Nutella topping (trust me, you want it!). So for a portion of 3 cups + topping = 11,5 RON = almost 3 euros ;) You should have cash with you, if possible, but they also serve cards - though no American Express.

P.S. The locals love it and so will you. And guess what? Moo loves you too! ;)))

Yours most sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

How To... Maintain Work-Life Balance in Poland

My dearest travel friends and expats,

If you are settled or willing to be settled sometime soon in Poland, and you wonder how your work-life balance will be like, I can tell you how I see things through 4 years living and working in Poland. The economic situation is much more stable and constantly growing than in Romania, and Poland welcomed me with open arms through the team I worked with in Capgemini - French started corporation on IT, consultancy and outsourcing.
There is a lot of competition in the market and there is a boom - as far as I can see, in the last 2-3 years - of international companies and corporations that move their offices to Poland.  Of course the market is cheaper but also the people here are highly trained and competitive. People are usually employed first on a temporary basis - the standard is 3 months - and then if all goes well the undetermined contract kicks in and you work there until you wish to quit or you come into your retirement.
The market moves so fast that people my age - until the age of 30 - usually already shifted a company of two. In my case I have worked with Capgemini Romania, transferred to Capgemini Poland and after 2 years and a bit in Poland I have moved to UBS POLSKA. Also it is quite frequent to see people moving around in the companies they work with until they find the perfect and fitting position for themselves.
The average working hours are from 8 am to 4 pm during weekdays and 8 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. Sundays usually everything is closed. But if you work in a corporation it a depends on the project you work for. At the beginning, I'm Capgemini Polska I had a 24/7 shift inside the help desk I was working.  I qas extremely happy when I changed the project and went back to regular daytime. I felt like a zombie! Those shifts were good for young people who studied but after a while you just want a normal life. Now I can come to work between 7 and 9 am and the world surely seems brighter :)
Most Polish people care about the working time hours and the breaks they have. Most of the people I know, working in corporations, also smoke... so they have from time to time during the day, extra minutes to "feed their cancer". It is also common to have the lunch break in front of the PC or just have a sandwich on the go... they like to wait to get home for dinner with family.
Family is extremely important in Poland! Poland also has the lowest rate of divorce in Europe. Also due to the fact that it is quite banned by the Catholic Church... religious beliefs are also very important and going Saturdays and Sundays to church is a must! Especially if you live in a small town where everyone knows everyone!
The National Holidays are free by law, and if they fall on a Saturday you can take a day off for it ;) Here are the national days, up to this moment:

DateWeekdayHoliday nameHoliday type
Jan 1ThursdayNew Year's DayNational holiday
Jan 6TuesdayEpiphanyNational holiday
Feb 14SaturdayValentine's DayObservance
Mar 20FridayMarch equinoxSeason
Apr 3FridayGood FridayObservance
Apr 4SaturdayHoly SaturdayObservance
Apr 5SundayEaster DayNational holiday
Apr 6MondayEaster MondayNational holiday
May 1FridayLabor Day / May DayNational holiday
May 3SundayConstitution DayNational holiday
May 24SundayWhit SundayNational holiday
May 26TuesdayMother's DayObservance
Jun 4ThursdayCorpus ChristiNational holiday
Jun 21SundayJune SolsticeSeason
Jun 23TuesdayFather's DayObservance
Aug 15SaturdayAssumption of MaryNational holiday
Sep 23WednesdaySeptember equinoxSeason
Nov 1SundayAll Saints' DayNational holiday
Nov 11WednesdayIndependence DayNational holiday
Dec 22TuesdayDecember SolsticeSeason
Dec 24ThursdayChristmas EveObservance
Dec 25FridayChristmas DayNational holiday
Dec 26SaturdaySecond Day of ChristmasNational holiday
Dec 31ThursdayNew Year's EveObservance

Are you a fresh expat working in Poland? How do you feel it differently than your homeland? Are there huge differences? Do you miss any work law from your homeland? I would love to hear your thoughts on this :)

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To... In Poland
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland
  8. Maintain Work-Life Balance In Poland - today's letter to you :)
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there & expats finding their way to the proud Polish land
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Sunday, 27 September 2015

American Bands With Polish Roots

My dearest friends,

Polish people have been responsible for a lot of brilliant things, throughout history. Of course you have heard, probably in high - school,  about Marie Curie and Nicolas Copernicus. Polish people are a smart and proud nation that love their motherland, but also there are a lot of expats/immigrants, especially in the USA. To be mentioned that the USA holds the second biggest Polish city, after Warsaw - that city is Chicago, where entire neighbourhoods are filled with Polish people that do not speak English language. They never renounced their mother tongue, even if the ocean tear them apart from their homeland.
Today I wish to share with you some Polish - American bands. You surely heard about them and listened to their songs, but I am very sure that you did not know that they have some Polish roots. So, join me in welcoming the very talented Polish people:
1. The Doors - of course I do not speak about the famous Jim Morrison. I speak of the keyboard player and Co - founder of the band: Ray Manzarek. Born in Chicago in 1939, he met Morrison while studying at UCLA. They met by chance in Venice and Co - formed the band. It was also Manzarek who recruited the other 2 members of the band.
2. The Smashing Pumpkins - as you may know,  they played alternative rick and they were also from... that's right! Chicago! The original basist of the band was D'Arcy Wretzk - Polish - American born in Michigan (he moved to Chicago after). Their first gig was in a Polish bar in Chicago called Chicago 21, in 1988.
3. The Goo Goo Dolls - the lead vocalist and primary song writer + front man of the band = John Rzeznik. All grandparents were Polish and he grew up in Buffalo, New York, as a pure catholic boy. Recipient of the award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he is the one who played beautifully one of the most hating songs I have ever loved. I trust everyone knows "Iris" *muffled sobs*
4. Van Halen - the basist, Michael Anthony (Sobolewski) joined the band in 1974 after meeting Van Halen at the Pasadena City College. After joining in the band, the group changed the name from Mammoth to Van Halen.
5. Last but not least... The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Hillel Slovak was the founding guitarist of the band. Unfortunately he died due to an overdose... Kiedis and Flea were able to pick up the pieces and continue with the band, saying that hopefully they will managed to go on with what Slovak "helped build".
Do you know of any other bands with Polish roots? I bet there are more out there, considering the spread of Polish people in the world. Although I have not yet met a Polish person extremely talented when it comes to singing, I must admit that I have met a lot of talented musical instruments players! Also as you can see above - bass, guitar - they do have very good musical ear & they are very good with the instruments ;) should I again mention here Chopin (I know I am overly fond and proud if him...). What do you think?

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves music
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Friday, 25 September 2015

TriBeCa Coffee - #492 of 970 Restaurants in Krakow

Dearest friends,

Guess what I was reading recently... It seems that "Coffee contains lots of antioxidants (it's the biggest source of antioxidants in an average Western diet!) that help the body fight chemicals called “free radicals.” As a result, coffee drinkers are at a lower risk of diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Type II Diabetes, and Heart Disease. Here’s the thing, though: coffee drinkers are also more likely to have unhealthy habits such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol heavily, and eating red meat, so the study shown above has been adjusted to show what could happen if these other factors weren’t in effect."
My awesome Husband, along with my amazing Mum & Granny simply love coffee. They cannot make do without it. The first thing they do, when they get up early in the morning, is put the kettle on and reach for the coffee. My lovely ladies combine it usually with chocolate but Marek prefers it simple, with the morning smoke. I guess that is their guilty pleasure :) But when you look at the statistics and see that actually coffee is good for you, but in reasonable amounts and not the 3-in-1 version, I start to think maybe I should try it as well?...
Several studies have shown that coffee drinkers are up to 65% less likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a leading cause of dementia (source)
We love finding new places to hang out and drink our cofee - Marek / tea - me :) One day, as we were wondering about the Galeria Krakowska, looking at one of the exhibitions it seasonally hosts, Marek offered to get some coffee. We usually go to Coffee Heaven as they have delicious combinations even I try, even if they are coffee related. This time we too a shot at the TriBeCa Coffee on the ground floor - right in front of the Empik Store, on the side with the children stores. I had some lovely tea with sernik (Polish cheesecake) & Marek has his regular dark coffee with a sweet called Dekadencja ;))) lovely name, is it not?!
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” ― Dave Barry
The cheesecake was yummy and it had fruit pieces within and a thing layer of wild fruit liquid on the lower side. Add some chocolate layer on the top as well and you got yourself a caloric bomb ;))) Dekadencja, according to my awesome other half, raised to its dedicated name. It was made out of vanilla + chocolate and mint + chocolate + advocat liqueur (typical Polish) + whipped cream + salty caramel... now try and stop yourself from drooling ;))) 

Sernik = cheesecake = 9 zloty
Dekadencja = Marek's ice-cream delight = 14 zloty
Tea can be between 7 and 10 zloty, according to the type - green / black / red - and flavors

What I truly loved: The ambiance, the music... the lovely tea cups and the smell of the tea raising up in the air. 
What could have been better: Loved the taste of the cheesecake but I found it a bit too dry for my taste.
Where can you find the TriBeCa Coffee?

1) Address: Pavia 5 (Galeria Krakowska) levels 0, 31-154 KrakowOpening hours: Mon - Sat 9:00 - 22:00 Sun 10:00 - 21:00Contact: (+48) 12 429 22 222)Address: Palace under the Rams (Pałac pod Baranami), Main Market 27Opening hours: Mon - Thu 8:00 - 22:00 Fri 8:00 - 23:00 Sat 9:00 - 23:00 Sun 9:00 - 21:00Contact: (+48) 12 429 22 223)Address: Plac Szczepanski 9, KrakowOpening hours: Tues - Sat 10:00 - 20:00 Sun 10:00 - 16:00

Have you seen the TriBeCa Coffee anywhere else? Have you visited any of the above listed places? I would love to hear your opinion as well :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How To... Recognise Tourists In Poland

My dearest travel fans,

Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going - Paul Theroux

Are you settled down yet with the idea of coming to Poland, or are you frightened of the land of kielbasa (sausage) and vodka? You should not be frightened! You should be thrilled to be able to come to such a warm hearted and welcoming place. The number of travelers going to and through Poland increases each year, and the amount of money spent by the government on improving the cities also is raising.
I believe the only thing that you may have to worry about will be the amount of tourists.  But from what I could see and what others have also told me, it is not yet crowded. Even Prague has a more tourist like feeling that  Kraków. You can still see the majority of the population on the street being locals. And trust me, you will figure out who is and who isn't local ;) I am here to help you!
The View From The Czestochowa Tower - Poland
So here is what you should look out for:
1. The language - trust me, it's hard to miss! The locals will always speak their mother tongue and you will hear the difference miles away (that does not mean they are loud. Unless they are drunk!). Polish language may seem to you, at the beginning, as parseltongue (if you don't know what that is, pick up a Harry Potter book and start reading!). Get familiar with the sounds and you will know when you have a local around you. All the rest are either expats (like myself) or tourists.
2. People walking in groups, most of the times being very noisy - you can hear distinctive English / Spanish / German language... Even the main tour companies offer trips in these 3 languages and most probably you bumped into a field trip. Carefully avoid them as they can be extremely noisy and you will want to discover magical Krakow peacefully!
3. Large group of people with/without beards and side hair, dressed usually in white and black clothing. Boys wear kipa (kippah - dome or covering). You are most likely to bump into them when in Kraków or going to Auschwitz. The Jewish community always has groups of people coming from around the world in pilgrimage.
The Palace of Culture - Iasi - Romania
4. Photography over-use = People that use flash everywhere and make pictures of everything... yup, those are tourists alright! I still wonder if they manage to feel and live anything during their trips. I also wonder what they do after with so many pictures... do they print them? At least some? Or do they make a folder and leave it there... indefinitely!
5. Unconventional Public Transport - carriages pulled by horses and electric small cars for city tours - yes, they are all a tourist thing ;) I have not seen any locals doing that until now. Exception: sometimes the carriage and horse may be rent for weddings - looks good on the camera, but for sure you will see that on the way to the church ;)
6. Weird and colorful layering or clothing... yes! Like onions! They are not used to the weather in Poland - turning from windy and rainy to sunny in a few minutes.  They need to be able for everything so be sure they will have a bag/backpack with a raincoat or umbrella inside + the jacket + clothing + scarf (s) - all of different colors and patterns.
Arcade du Cinquantenaire - Brussels - Belgium
7. Boys in shorts in the middle of winter. That's right! I wonder how their body parts don't freeze ans drop... I think the vodka helps here though... Poland is one of the cheapest places one could party and it's just a stone throw away from the United Kingdom. Loads of tourists from there come to Krakow for the weekend, to have fun. And it's easy to tell them apart by the accent and the way they dress.
8. Regular public transport = people running after trams/buses and looking for even half an hour to figure out when the next bus comes (it may have slipped them in the meanwhile, several times!) + continuously consulting THE Map! This makes me laugh now but I used to be one of them until I discovered this lovely app for Poland, for the main cities, called - you put where you are and where you want to go and it gives you the best options ;) you also can find it as a mobile app and if you have the GPS on it will auto find where you are and you need only input where you wish to go. It's magical! So if you are on a bus stop and people check their phones instead of the notices in the hus stop, it's because of that ;) or they know the schedule by heart and they know that buses here are ALWAYS on time.
9. People taking ages to pay something with local currency. That's a no brainer! That is why I really should think everyone should use their credit cards instead. Saves time and energy... plus I have seen people after a few days in Poland with pockets filled with coins, barely able to move properly. There are multiple coins: 5 zloty, 2 zloty, 1 zloty, 50 grosz, 20 grosz, 10 grosz and my personal buggers - the 5 and 1 grosz coins - that drive me nuts... But each coin actually is quite a sum in itself. With 5.60 zloty you can buy 2 tickets for 20 minutes - that is a trip (both ways) from city center to the Jewish quarter. Check your pockets and use those coins! Bad side: it will take forever for you to figure the coins out and there will be huge lines forming behind you...
#nofilter Picture taken with a Nokia E51 in Paris, in front of the Louvre Museum - France
10. The enthusiasm!!! It's sometimes overwhelming... They get overexcited from even small little things, like a piece of the Old City wall, an artist on the street, the flocks of pigeons (by the way, mostly tourists are feeding them, even though there are more and more posters stating clearly "DO NOT Feed The Pigeons!")... Everything is new and interesting. Everything is worth to be explored & at the same time dozen of pictures must be taken from all angles. That is nice, seeing so many people interested but this interest fades when they see the next best thing :/ You will see/hear them miles away!

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To...
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland - today's post :)
If you feel you would like me to treat a specific subject, please feel free to Contact Me :) But also be not afraid to share your experience with us. Sharing is caring and knowledge is wisdom!

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there
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Sunday, 20 September 2015

FREE walking TOUR - Foods of Krakow

Dear hearts,

If there is one thing that I have to admit, in regards to Polish people & their traditional food, than that would be the fact that it is quite hard to remain vegetarian with all the yummy meat dishes. Polish people love to eat and their cuisine is delicious and resembles very much to the food in the neighbouring countries... actually even with Romanian food, where the main vegetable is the pork ;) If you would like to feel like a Polish expert when it comes to food in Krakow, than you must take this guided tour by the wonderfully talented and friendly team from "FREE walking TOUR Krakow". The guided tour for Foods of Krakow runs Monday / Wednesday / Friday at 2 PM and Saturday morning at 10:30 am. As usual, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" starts from the front of the St. Mary Church, in the Main Market Square (Mariacki Kosciol).
The whole tour you will walk from the Old Town - Main Market Square - to the Kazimierz - Jewish District. You do not need to take any tram tickets with you - everything is within walking distance ;) All you need to do is prepare around 15 zloty worth of coins (around 4 Euro), as you will have to pay for each sample and it is better to have the exact change. Also, the "FREE walking TOUR Krakow" runs on sponsorships so even if it is FREE of charge, it is a custom to leave the guide a tip at the end - as much as you think the ride was worth it. I always leave a tip as the team is amazing and hey! even TripAdvisor lists them as the #1 team in Krakow ;) and for good reason!
Stop 1 - The Obwarzanek - every culinary road in Krakow starts with it! It is a must and you can find the stands selling it throughout the city, almost at every corner. It is one of Krakow's unofficial symbols of the city. It resembles a pretzel / bagel but the difference is that it is first boiled in sweet water, before being baked. First written mention of the obwarzanek dates back to 1394, meaning that it’s been a daily sight on Kraków’s market square for over 600 years.You can also spot the carts selling it from far away, as they are usually colored blue - Krakow's color :)
Stop 2 - Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - Once you will join a Polish party you will have to follow the rules. You cannot just start drinking like a fool, you need to be able to level up and maintain decency. The way to do it is by creating layers. The first layer, before going to a party, must be some kind of heavy food that would protect your stomach and help you keep the drink, without knocking yourself out from the first shot. You usually can have a soup called zurek or you can have lard. What is lard... lard is pig fat and here in Poland you can cook it with bacon, onion and spices, spread it on bread and eat it right before having your shots. The second layer, that's simple! The shot of vodka! - girls may like it here flavoured but the best is the clear vodka ;)  (the one you will try on this tour). The 3rd layer = The Afterbite = usually pickled cucumber or herring. That's for cutting the taste of vodka ;) In Krakow there is one great place for all 3 layers = Ambasada Sledzia.
Stop 3 - Pierogi (dumplings) - are one of Polish dishes that can be named a wonder. Even thought may look like a hard dish to do, don't be fooled! Dorota, our lovely tour guide, recalled a story from when she did her first pierogi and she could not believe that only from flour and boiled water you could create such tasty things. The secret, I believe, is in the way the filling is done. The most common types of pierogi are the pierogi ruskie (translated: Russian Pierogi, but I was told Russian people do not have this dish so do not be fooled by its name!). Pierogi ruskie have potatoe & cheese (combined) filling. At the tour we tasted both the ruskie but also a version with season fruits - blueberries.
Stop 4 - Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - The next stop took us to the farmers market in Kazimierz, where we tasted 2 typical types of Polish cheese from Krakow region. You may have heard me mention oscypek before (as it is my husbands favourite) - this is smoked sheep milk cheese from the Highland area (Zakopane). It is made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. Also from the same region came the "Polish mozarella" = bundz ;) - also made from sheep milk, but softer.
Stop 5/6 - Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka -While at the farmers market in Kazimierz, we also had a stop to taste the pickled cucumbers & pickled cabbage - that would have went lovely also for stop 2, along with the clear - crystal - water-like vodka. The 3rd stop on our way through the local market was at the meat stand, where we tried 2 types of local meat products. The sausages, in Poland, are usually called kielbasa. We tried kielbasa Krakowska & kielbasa Lisiecka - both produced in the Malopolska region. It also seems, the guide told us, that the late Pope John Paul 2nd was a fan of the Lisiecka ;)
Stop 7 - Zurek - the White Barszcz Zurek (Sour Bread Soup) or simply called Zurek, is perfect instead or lard (see stop 2) when you are on your way to a party. It is a creamy soup made of soured rye flour and meat (usually boiled pork sausage or pieces of smoked sausage, bacon or ham + the additional boiled egg + boiled potatoe on the side ;) That's how you want it!). Passing through to the next stop you will be able to see the Plac Nowy. Pin the place down and come by on an empty stomach. This place has THE BEST ZAPIEKANKA in town! :)
Stop 8 - Bigos - The Hunters Stew, or the Bigos, is a traditional meat and cabbage stew. It is indeed a Polish national dish, and you can see it served in all the traditional Polish eating places. Here we ate it in a place extremely close to Plac Nowy - called Wrega - and I would really like to come back and try some more as it is the best one I have ate until now (except the ones home-made). Typical ingredients include white cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. In very rare cases bigos can be made without meat or cabbage, but the presence of sauerkraut is absolutely essential.
Stop 9 - The Sweets: Racuchy - And here comes the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top: RACUCHY! Racuchy or racuszki is a traditional Polish dish from the same family of foods as the crêpe and similar to American pancakes. Racuchy is made from some flour, milk, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt. Racuchy are made with yeast or, in other versions, baking powder or baking soda is used. Rauchy are pan fried in oil. In Poland, racuchy are usually eaten as dinner, snack or supper. Racuchy can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar, or topped with powdered sugar. In alternative versions some cream or sour cream can be used. The most popular version of racuchy is stuffed with slices of apple and served with sugar and that is exactly what we had - I actually had one and a half ;))) They were so finger-licking good! And we ate them at Marchewka z Groszkiem, so I know now where to go ;))

The cost of the FREE walking TOUR - Foods of Krakow:
  1. The Obwarzanek - free, on the house :)
  2. Lard, Vodka and The Afterbite: Herring - Ambasada Sledzia - 4 zloty for the vodka shot + 1 zloty for the afterbite of herring = 5 zloty
  3. Pierogi (dumplings) - 1 zloty each - if you tried the Russian one + the blueberry = 2 zloty
  4. Traditional cheese: oscypek & "Polish mozarella" - 0.5 zloty to taste both of them
  5.  Pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut & kielbasa Krakowska and Lisiecka - 1 zloty for each pickled veggie = 2 zloty if you tastes both + another 2 zloty for the 2 types of meat = 4 zloty
  6.  Zurek - free, on the house :)
  7.  Bigos - 1.5 zloty per the try-out (slice of bread included)
  8.  The Sweets: Racuchy - 2 zloty per wonderful yummy sweet :)
The total amount =  exactly 15 zloty :) 
The time needed = around 2.5 hours (I was Saturday from 10:30 to 1 PM)

I recommend this tour with all my heart, of you wish to know more about the typical dishes of Krakow. I have been living in Krakow for more than 4 years now, and I was trying to get to this tour for a while but during the week I cannot manage & during weekend we are always away... Even if I knew most of the food and I had already tasted it, it was still a pleasure to find new good places to eat out. Some I knew and some I didn't but this was indeed fun :) Please do try it out as well and let me know how much you liked it. 

#FreeWalkingTourKrakow offers the best walking tours in town, so check out their offer:
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - StreetArt - FreeWalkingTourKrakow provides city tours in Polish, English & Spanish. You can find them on Facebook or on their website or you can just call them at +48 513 875 814. I joined them in a StreetArt Tour and it was amazing!
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Macabre Krakow - stories about ghost and real vampires... methods of torture, bodies under the Main Market Square with their hands and legs tied, stories of impailing living people... dark and twisted and perfect for a rainy Saturday evening :)
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Her Story - there is a saying that if the men is considered to be the head of the family, than the heart belongs to the woman.
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Pagan Krakow - do you wish to know about the old beliefs of Polish people but also about interesting facts like: "Did you know that General Hans Frank along with other members of the Nazi party celebrated the Yule holiday when they were living inside the Wawel Castle?" - join this tour once you see it up and running ;) (Beginning of March)

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Friday, 18 September 2015

How You Should Visit / Travel - Tips & tricks

My dear friends that love to travel,

Isn't it wonderful how now days the world has no borders? You can get from one continent to another within hours and the plane tickets get cheaper and cheaper. The European Union opened up the borders between the European countries so being a person living in a country in Europe actually means that Europe is your homeland - not the city or country that you were born into, but the whole European land. The English language is also so widely spread, hence things get easier for people who like to travel. Even so, there are still things one should consider when visiting another country - when travelling - especially of you do it over seas.
Warsaw Mural - Poland
1. Be mindful of the local manners! Learn the common curtsy of the land you visit. Did you know, for example, that in Poland they always kiss 3 times on the cheek? Left - Right - Left. Did you know that in Japan you should wear white - instead of the typical black - when going to a funeral? Be nice towards the people and their culture and don't step on their toes. You will learn more about them and they will be glad you took the time to research.
2. Embrace travel like it would be your friend, and enjoy the small things. Often we like to do tours or get inside museums and before we know it the time passes us by. I have realised that the beat travels I had were the ones where there would be a balance between tours & museums vs. Taking tine to know the place at your own pace. Enjoy the experiences that are free and within hand reach: read a book in a local park or just watch people passing by and think of their life and struggles; walk the streets of the city, without the map, and get lost & find yourself back again; climb the highest point of the city and take in the view (this is my personal favourite!)... enjoy just being there...
3. Leave your worries behind. When you travel don't think about work and the day to day job. Disconnect yourself from all this and focus on recharging your batteries. That is why you are having the time off at the first place! Think not of the electricity, gas, phone, Internet bill... think not of the crazy neighbours... think not of the piles of emails that will appear, you will handle that when you come back. Why would you worry now?!
Auschwitz Memorial - Poland
4. Cut back on the things that harm you: coffee, smokes and beer. In exchange you will have extra cash for the travels.  Plus you body will feel way better. Who knows, maybe you will even drop the nasty habits ;) in some places the smokes are so bloody expensive that you will think twice at least before you buy them. If you really must have them, try buying them in your country, if cheaper, and take some more with you.
5. Wake up as early as you possibly can, considering it is vacation time... Let's face it, that early in the morning no criminals are lurking in the shadows.  The only people outside will be locals, opening their shops. It is wonderful to see the cities bright and early, without the huge tourist crowds. Plus you have a head start and you will probably be the first in the museum, without having issues with taking a good photo. Plus the early morning is that time of day when all pictures just look magical, due to the soft light.
6. Scarfs and shawls may be your best friend. I am not a huge fan of them, except autumn and winter, but I know people who cannot get out of the house without it! The best is to make sure the scarf is 100% cotton, if possible! It will protect you from sun,  you can create a bag out of it and carry things, it can be used as a dust mask or eye protection... you name it! I always forget about it and figure it out when I am in the plane and my neck gets frosted by the AC! :/
A mural in my hometown, Iasi - Romania
7. Earplugs may save your life. Well... Almost! Think of an overcrowded plane with children. Once one will start crying the next will jump in as well... do you want to make sure you will be able to rest? Get some earplugs or good headsets and listen to some calming music... be zen!
8. Slow down and don't believe you can travel the world in a week! Your brain will not stand the information and your body will probably shut down. You cannot try to cram 7 countries in 7 days and expect to say that you really know what they were about. You are NOT at a marathon!  Spend more time in one place and really learn to know it's wonders.
9. Pack less stuff than you first planned! You do not need 4 dresses, 3 pants, 2 skirts, 4 blouses and 5 tshirt for 3 days :/ and you don't need all that makeup that takes more than half of the luggage space! If you doubt about packing an item of clothing than just don't pack it. Focus instead on items unlikely to find where you are going - for example, toilet paper and tampons in India.
Mural from Czestochowa - Poland
10. Take care of your body! You will take it with you back home so make sure it comes in a perfect state. Drink fluids regulary, wear sunscreen, sleep 8 hours a day if possible and maintain a positive attitude towards life. Make sure you eat regular healthy meals. Your body does not run on Snickers and Pepsi / Cola + Redbull!
What are your tips and tricks for traveling? How do you stay in touch with the local life of the country you visit? Do you mingle with the crowd of tourists or do you like to speak to the locals? :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there.
Take me in your backpack! :)
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