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Sunday, 31 January 2016

How Do You Feel About Artificial Intelligence?

My dearest friends, 

I was thinking lately about this topic more and more.... to be more precise, I am thinking about Artificial Intelligence quite intensively since the end of last autumn, when a dear friend from work told me about Jibo - the first homeworking robot, that "makes your life easier" by even thinking a step ahead of yourself and choosing  what you need (based on your favourite products). When I first saw it, the presentation video, I had goosebumps all over and I had 2 contradicting feelings at the same time. At first I was like "Wow! This is amazing! Technology helping human life. It even looks like Eve from Wall-E! This is the next step into having my very own R2-D2!" and then... I felt as though I would have deflated a baloon... "Great! Now they think one step ahead, minus the emotions, so does that mean... we'll expect a Terminator moment soon?" -  the thoughts are so mixed up between the Yay! and the Ney! that I am not sure to which group I should apply: pro-AI or against AI?
Just a couple or days ago  (not more than 3, I believe!) I was reading a BBC article about how "finally" a computer beat up the European Go Champion. We all know that beating up champions at chess happened a while back, but Go was standing it's ground - being harder to predict than chess. Well... almost a week ago I was reading that they are still trying to get the computer to win and now they done it. And it seems that the computer - artificial intelligence - managed to figure out patterns and win by continuous try & fail exercises. Of course that makes sense, considering that they have their "whole life" unlimited in front of them, just to focus on one game, until they master it! Master it and then remember the logic and apply it - save the knowledge and experience and pass it to the newer products. At this point they have "The Brain" and all they need is "The Body" - and for sure humanity will provide them that as well...
Take for example the great Facebook genius: Mark Zuckerberg. He loves setting himself New Year's Resolutions - which I personally began to disapprove of; have a Bucket List and cross items out, think big and long term! In 2010 he was boasting that he will learn Mandarin (which he did), 2011 he promised to eat meat that only himself hunt or catch (that was pretty cheeky!), 2015 was the year of 2 books per month (quite an avid reader!) and to top things up 2016 is the year where he wishes to program his very own Jarvis for home use (did he watch to much Iron Man? Or did he see Jibo and wanted to get ahead?). The plan is ambitious but totally doable when you look at today's technology. What frightens me the most is the possibilities that AI offers. I keep remembering the movie AI - Artificial Intelligence (Stanley Kubricks unfinished movie) and how Earth could possibly end up... Now don't get me wrong, even I am conflicted about the possibilities it offers... who would want an R2-D2?! But somehow it feel just terribly wrong...
What if we leave it all to the control of robots until we become couch potatoes and we can't even defend ourselves (see Wall-E)? What if they develop thinking outside of the box, outside of the codes that humans program, and turn against us (see Terminator)? Somehow having emotions is not yet possible... oh, wait! Is it?! Have a look at Jibo (and the "shame" emotion shown) and let's talk again! I can't yet say I am pro yet I cannot say 100% I am against... who knows what the future will bring us?! Do you think it will go all bad? I would love to hear your opinions/thoughts on this subject. Am I the only one asking herself these questions? Did you see these news as well?...

Yours truly, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug
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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Krakow - Magia Cafe - A Magical Place To Have A Break

Dearest sweethearts,

The weather outside is frightful - one day is nice and cozy ans you think that spring is around the corner - and the next is as if December would be here again... just waiting for the "Winter is coming!" memes to flood the social media + pictures of snow... the usual... it's hard even to get out of the bed, never mind getting out of the house! Winter in Poland is a time when you layer up until you are like an onion. Great time to have a date as well... rosy checks (and nose) at no cost at all!
But if you do manage to build up a momentum and get out of the house, make sure you have a plan in mind where you need to go and what you need to do. Keep out of the house to a minimum - especially due to the air condition in Kraków, during winter - and try to have some indoor breaks - maybe for a cup of tea, hot chocolate or a fine mulled wine. A dear Romanian expat friend of mine introduced me a year or two ago to this lovely magical place, located in the Old Town area - Main Market Square - right next to the St. Mary Church (or as Polish people call it Mariacki Kosciol). This magical place is located right below a part of the National Museum in Kraków (Muzeum Narodowe) - Hippolitow Museum - and it is called Magia Cafe
To get to the Magia Cafe you need to open up a huge wooden gate that would lead you to a hallway. Walk straight and you will see next to the stairs the main entrance. Magia Cafe is usually quite full, especially after 4-5 pm when students finish their courses and "grownups" get out from work. You have to check for a place or you can ask one of the ladies that serve if there is something free. In the summertime and when the weather is fine, they also have a couple of tables outdoors, in front of the wooden gate :) but now, on this weather, it would be madness! Magia Cafe has a room separated, as you enter the hallway, to your right - but it is better to let the waitress know you are there ;) the main Magia Cafe has a couple or rooms/nooks to choose from. There is the main long room, with different seating opportunities for couples or large groups; there is to the left, the uncovered garden, that is used even in wintertime (use your jacket and the blankets provided by the company); there is a cozy nook at the end of the main room, to the right, perfect for snuggling, and there is the cellar room downstairs (no signal for your phone there, though!).
We usually like to get here, during wintertime, mulled wine. Don't worry, it's not in the regular menu, but as soon as the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius they start preparing it ;) but last time we tried it we were disappointed. They may have changed the recipe or someone new was doing it... who knows... but it was just not the same anymore :( so instead, the next time, we tried the hot chocolate with raspberry jam. That is also not on the menu but it's a winter special and the price did not change since last year - 9 zloty. It comes in layers: the bottom layer is the raspberry jam (it tastes as if it were homemade by my Granny... fingerlicking great!), then you have the smooth hot chocolate (not the "soft like Nesquick" one, but the strong and flavoured one, as if you would melt an entire chocolate and pour it in the glass...) and on top the traditional whipped cream (that was not homemade but at the same time it did not have the "out of the tube" taste). We were very happy and content with our choice. It was indeed a caloric bomb and it was very sweet but it was perfect nonetheless. I did not feel the need to eat anything else after :) and that's always a good thing. 

How about you lovely people? Have you ever been in Kraków at Magia Cafe? Are you planning to visit Kraków soon? Make sure this place is on your list ;) for a short caloric bomb break. Where is your place to escape when "the weather outside is frightful"? Would love to hear it from you :)

** This post was made out of love for good food and great hot chocolate. 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
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Monday, 25 January 2016

Krakow - Sukiennice Kompania Kuflowa - take 2

My dearest sweethearts,

You have heard me mentioning this place countless times: Kompania Kuflowa - with it's two central locations in Kraków - one on the Main Market Square, on the side of Sukiennice, and the second one at the foot of the hill where Wawel Castle is located, in the Planty area. You know them as Pod Sukiennice or Pod Wawelem. These 2 lovely home - like restaurants specialise in traditional Polish homemade food, traditional Polish atmosphere (they always have a band playing) and traditional Polish beer tasting. Kompania Kuflowa is one of those magical places where beer is served even in 1 litre capacity tall glasses - where you can truly exercise your arm muscles through the continuous lifting of the beer ;)) but as it is traditionally Polish, be prepared for all meat products - not recommended for vegetarians!
The Kompania Kuflowa - Pod Sukienicce - is located on the side of the Main Market Square with the Ratusz Tower, and holds a half of the Sukiennice in that part of the square. In the spring, summertime and autumn (while the weather is lovely) there are tables also outside, on the square, and inside the columns of the Sukiennice. If the weather is bad, you can always go inside, where you can pick between ground floor - where you can watch the square and the passer-by's - or the cellar - where it gets very quiet but it is very close to the toilet facilities - or the upper area - that can get quite hot... but it's very cozy as well :) Kompania Kuflowa also takes reservations so if you are a frequent customer and you have a preference, you can always have your own table ;) The waiters are very nice and accommodating (especially if you speak Polish, and I always try my best!) and they usually greet you at the door and ask a table for how many you wish for. According to that and what they have empty, they will show you the options and you can choose ;)
Boiled Pork Knuckle
I really recommend you to trust the waiters at Kompania Kuflowa - Pod Sukiennice. When we went for my birthday and we had the "sword on fire" we were told that one would be enough for 2 people. We did not believe it and went for one each... big mistake! The portions in Kompania Kuflowa are always so big, that you can always mix and share with your partner! And in that case we were talking about 400 gr of meat per portion! Anyway, we really like Pod Sukiennice more as it is less crowded and more spacious - I can actually feel the air moving! In Pod Wawelem it always is extremely crowded and we almost never get a place there without reservation :( Pod Sukiennice is a life saviour when it comes to friends visiting and wanting to try typical Polish food - good price, big portions, nice space, good view of the Market Square ;) You can check online, as they always have one product per day that they love to advertise and sell at a lower price. My favourite is the Saturday one: roasted pork knuckle ;) I'm a meat fan, yes sir!
Fried meatball with mustard
The roasted pork knuckle is always served with traditionally baked potatoes with spices (deliciously yummy) and sauerkraut (marinated cabbage cooked with spices). You also get mustard and horseradish, to spice things up even a bit more. I have ate there pork knuckle numerous times and each time it was mouthwatering marvelous - very well done, warm and tender, it always melts in your mouth. For entre we usually have something to go with the beer, and that is the traditional meatball, sliced and with mustard on the side. It is served as a cold dish. Always in Kompania Kuflowa, if you order beer, you will get the extra bite for it - usually it is sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and a pickled cucumber per person. I always loved the picked cucumbers at Kompania Kuflowa :) they are always crunchy and not very soft. Just perfect!

The prices:
- Saturday's special: boiled pork knuckle with bavarian sauerkraut potatoes and horseradish = 29 zloty
- Goes well with beer: fried meatball with mustard = 7 zloty

Tips and tricks:
#1 If it is your bday that day and you have the ID with you, and you tell them that from the start, they will come sing happy birthday to you and bring you the complimentary piece of chocolate cake - free of charge! :) (last year I tasted it and it was delicious and very sweet!)
#2 Wait for them to bring the check. Don't go to the counter and pay - it is not customary and you will lose the sour cherry vodka shot. You get that one for free ;) just be patient!

My dearest hearts, have you ever tried one of Kompania Kuflowa 's locations? If so, I would love to hear your opinion on it. I never had a bad experience with the waiters or the food and unless you are a vegetarian, I suggest you try this place out :) it's  central location, wonderful view, good food and nice serving people really recommends itself!

** This post was made out of love for good food. 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 Kompania Kuflowa
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Friday, 22 January 2016

Movie Time: Midnight In Paris - Or How I Wish I Could Go Back In Time

Dear friends,

**WARNING!!! This post contains a review of Midnight in Paris. It may turn out to be an extensive post so please grab yourself a cup of tea and a warm blanket and Enjoy! Be careful and read not this post if you did not see the movie, it is a huge spoiler ;)**

I am sure that you heard about Woody Allen before and that you have watched at least one of his movies. He is very particular and his style is singular so you can't have missed it. One of the first movies I have watched on the big screen, when I moved to Kraków,  was Midnight in Paris - released in 2011, the year I moved here :) it was also very close to the trip I have been (with a dear friend) to Paris, so I remember even now how much I loved this movie. The opening of the movie is a series of "postcards" - short moving images - of Paris. We watch the most important and iconic destinations: Notre Dame de Paris, Tour Eiffel, Louvre, small streets with small coffee shops, people rushing in a delicate pace, Paris under rain... Paris in all its glory with a soundtrack fitting, great to get you in the mood to love Paris even more.
I was lucky to see Paris more than 6 years ago, without any Charlie Hebdo issues or terrorist attacks or problems on the streets due to the immigrants... I was lucky to see Paris quietly and even romantic, under rain... I have friends that told me they would not go again to Paris, that Paris is now dirty and they even saw rats. I have to admit when I was there we saw no such thing and that we had a good time. We even had an impromptu picnic under the Eiffel Tour - cheese, grapes and baguette included! But that was a while back... and I did hear (sadly) that Paris has changed. But you will see nothing of that in this movie. Midnight in Paris focuses on all the bright and beautiful things that made Paris popular, that made Paris "the city of lights". I have told you once, that this is one of the movies that inspired/inspires me to travel more and more.
Midnight in Paris is the story of an American writer Gil Pender  (played adorably by Owen Wilson) that hopes to write his very first novel. Until then - as his fiancee informs us - he was one of the best Holywood  (re)writers when it comes to the movie scripts. Everyone loves him! I think this is what attracts his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) to him - his fame! You can constantly hear her nagging about his book and about his style and she has no issue leaving him on the Paris streets at midnight while she goes back to the hotel for a spa treatment and a good sleep... their relationship is so superficial that I ask myslef how they even ended up engaged! Do they even have something remotely in common?! That's why when they split, at the end of the movie, I just feel relieved that they went their own separate ways... they say opposites attract but there was no chemistry there!
There us though chemistry between him and the record shop (memorabilia shop) lady ;) but I'll leave you to enjoy that on your own :) I love the idea that the Midnight in Paris comes with: we will never be content with the present, no matter from what tine we come from. As Gil wishes he would have lived in the 1920s in Paris and meet Hemingway, the Fitzgerald's,  Pablo Picasso and many more... so does Adriana (played beautifully by the talented Marion Cotillard) wish she would have lived in the Belle Epoque, with Toulouse Lautrec and Rodin by her side... That made me think that loving period movies and books, as I do, makes me feel their pain. We all wish we would have been a part of some other time frame, that we idealise... we are never content with what we have now. Somehow though, I think Inez never asked herself this question... I think she is happy with the "here and now" American way of living... is that very awful for me to say? (Sorry...)
The whole cast of Midnight in Paris is fabulous and well selected, plus the way they interact with eachother is just brilliant! When Gil meets Hemingway and he asks of his opinion for his book, Hemingway refuses point blank saying that he would hate it either way - if it is good because it was better than his work & if it is bad because he is merciless when it comes to reviews. Yet, he does say what he thinks to Gertrude Stein, and she tells Gil. All this being in touch with the great writers and thinkers of that age, changes the way Gil thinks and makes him act more strongly based upon his beliefs. It makes him take huge steps forward to writing the novel of his life. It also makes him understand that living in the past, being nostalgic, will also drag you down and get you lost and pining forever, if you do not take the reins and build up your life the way you wish it to be. I believe that gives him the strength to let go of his time - travels and meet the love of his life, starting a new journey to the future :)
The Fitzgerald's :)
Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's 41st film - he writes them, directs them and makes marvels out of each and every one of them. They are all like pearls on a string. The problem is that not everybody likes them (read: understands them). The ones who know nothing of the 1920s or the Belle Epoque will probably turn their noses... will not understand the humor or the situations that are so well played - eg. I have NEVER seen a more convincing Dali then Adrien Brody... take for example the scene below:
Man Ray: A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!
Luis Bunuel: I see a film!
Gil: I see insurmountable problem!
Salvador Dali: I see rhinoceros!
Even Carla Bruni is delightful in her short role as a tour guide. And Hemingway is a revelation:
Ernest Hemingway:  I believe that love that is true and real, creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And then the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino-hunters I know or Belmonte, who is truly brave... It is because they make love with sufficient passion, to push death out of their minds... until it returns, as it does, to all men... and then you must make really good love again.
How about you? Have you seen Midnight in Paris before, or any of Woody Allen's movies? How did you like it - what did you feel in regards to its subject? I would love to hear your opinions on this, and see if you feel as I do, for Paris :)

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves movies (especially on the big screen)
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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Cafe Szal - Frenzy of Exultations - take 2

My dearest sweethearts,

How are you handling the freezing cold outside? In December we did not have any snow and now... in January, it's as if Winter finally decided to come and stay for a while. Probably the weather will be very much like last year,  when we had snow for Easter... fun time making snow - Easter bunnies! It is as if the weather migrated... the season have switched between them. I can hardly recognize the winters of my childhood with the Winters now... but enough now about Winter and snow. Let us think of cozy and pleasant things...
I was having a look in our 2015 folder of pictures/memories and I realized that there were many things, many lovely places that we have been to, yet I did not manage to share with you. Need to sort up this mess a bit... We also revisited places we liked and we tried there new things - one of this places, that I will share with you today, is the lovely Cafe Szal on the 1st floor of the Sukienicce. You may have heard the story of the name of the place from me before - Cafe Szal gets its name after a painting located on the 2nd floor of the Sukienicce (the 19th century Polish Art Museum). 
 
The thing that always attracted me the most, to this particular cafe place, was the location (main market square) and the amazing view that it offers (unlike any other location in Kraków, it gets you the best view of half of the main square, comprising 3 of its most important landmarks: the St. Mary Church - Kosciol Mariacki, the Adam Mickiewicz statue and the oldest church in Kraków - St. Adalbert + view of the Florianska street and Grodzka, part of the Royal Road reaching toward the Wawel Castle). The thing that always turns Marek off, in regards to the coffee shop, is the fact that Cafe Szal is a non - smoking place. I belive that is a rule due to that fact that it is a historical building and the vicinity to the Museum of 19th century Polish Art (where precious paintings are stored). Nonetheless is you are a smoker, take a deep breath and handle the fact that you will have some non - smoking time. But fret not! The view is totally worth it!
Getting to the Cafe Szal is easy. Just make sure you reach Sukienicce on the side with St. Mary Church / Adam Mickiewicz statue and somewhere at the middle you will find the entrance to the National Museum - the Gallery of 19th century Polish Art. You will use the same entrance only instead of reaching for the 2nd floor for the museum, you will stop at the first floor. The entrance is enabled also for people with handicap. You can choose from using the stairs or the elevator. As soon as you will get to the 1st floor you will see that there is seating inside and outside, on the terrace. We always choose the terrace, especially if it's lovely weather outside. The view is priceless!

The pictures you see here are from the end of August 2015 but nothing has changed since then, I can quarantee ;) the place is as lovely as always, same view, same prices (even with the zloty dropping recently!) and same lovely atmosphere. We had lemon tart and apple pie - I was there with my dear sweet mum and we shared both as we both wanted a bit of each. Trust me, the portion is perfect for 2 to share. The lemon pie is the best one I have ate in Kraków - soft lemon cream, smooth and easy to take it; lower layer of raspberry jam and small crumbly bottom. Not to mention the merengue on top - heavenly taste! We both agreed that it was the best we had ;) ever! The apple pie was served with a soon of vanilla icecream (regular taste, nothing fancy) and whipped cream (not home made). The apple pie itself was not bad at all - it had quite a lot of cinnamon, just as I like it, and the upper and lower layer was crumbly in a nice, not raw and dry, way. The apple filling was nice but I would have liked a bit more apples in it :) I know, I am picky, but the best apple pie that I had was in Grycan - I will tell you soon about it ;)

Tips and tricks:
- you can pay both cash or by card but it is customary, if you liked the place and the service - not to mention food and drinks, to pay at least 10% tip from the amount on the bill (tips are never included in the bill)
- downstairs the ladies from the museum might ask where you are going and ask you to pay a fee for even getting to the 1st floor. If you go there just to take pictures pay the fee, if you go there - like we do - to have something sweet, drink something and enjoy the view, then tell then so. You should not pay it in that case ;) 

**I didn't receive anything for this review, just wanted to share the love! **

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Beautiful Views Provided By Coffee Shops
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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Open letter to Alan Rickman

My dearest Alan,

I know it may be a bit late, me writing to you, but I guess better late than never. Also, we do not know when paths may cross - I believe in afterlife and in God and Heaven, and somehow I feel that you believed in that too. Why do I think that, you might ask, and I will say that by the way that you lived you were an amazing kind and forgiving person. You were an altruist and you gave yourself 100% (time and attention) to the people you were with at a certain point in time. Some may argue that you must have had a evil/dark side as you chose so many negative characters to play... I say you always played them with a twist, you always managed to get us to like (or even love) them. You made them more human and attractive than anyone else could.
I remember watching you in Die Hard at first; watching you at the TV for Christmas... I believe that right now there is a tradition in many houses where there is no Christmas without the first part of the Die Hard installment and that is mainly because of you amazing acting skills - not to mention that deep voice that makes you stop and listen, whereever you are! Then I discovered you on the big screen, when I went to see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; that is when I started asking myself if it is truly ok to love a negative character that much (maybe even more than Robin Hood!). I tried to tell myself at first that all this is happening due to the fact that you were British, purely because of that... but as I got on with age and watching more and more of your movies I realised it was not just that...
The way you talk, slow and deep, demands to be listened. Somehow it is both soft and authoritative. When you would stop talking I would always want more, and wait for the next line your character would deliver. You would immerse yourself in that character and be 100%  until the shooting would be done (all the fellow actors say that you were dedicated to your work, and you can certainly see that in your movies). You were an old-class, old-school gentleman and they don't make people like you anymore... when God made you he poured a lot of talent and love and patience in you... not to mention brilliancy! Whom else except you would stuck in a note to the director, in one of the first major parts you played (Die Hard - Hans Gruber), to let them know that the villain should use a suit? And guess what? I don't believe we can imagine the soft dark villain Hans, with his amazing accent, wearing anything else than a suit! You somehow always knew what your characters needed... The same you went above and beyond in Harry Potter, when you got so in touch with Severus Snape's style that you asked for the costume you wore to be even more rigid/tight, buttoned up and extra buttons on the sleeves... Snape is the character that everybody loves to hate! :) yet the one character that made us cry out loud when he dies...
Probably the character that stays with me, since I was a wee lass, more than any other character that you have helped come alive, is the one of Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility. He was one of the loves of my childhood (as Snape was one of my adolescent one). I could not believe that Marianne would rather fall for Willoughby than for the dashing, silent and brooding Colonel Brandon. Alright, you were older and you did not talk much, but when you did... you stole the scene! What do I speak! You stole the scene even if you did not speak, even by your mere presence. Few can rock a period costume (especially a cravat!) like you did. It was as if you were born for any age, but especially the gentleman-like age, were men took care of their ladies and they would open up the door for them and take them for tea and a stroll in the park...
I always loved the way you were both on and offscreen. A big heart with a beautiful smile. A person who managed to get his life straight and not be influenced by Hollywood and the craziness of the world. You have met the love your life when you were 19 and she was 18. You stayed together, as a team, as a family, as one, until your very last breath - for over 50 years! You married Rima Horton and you were faithfull to her - just like a true gentleman. I imagine how lovely would be to wake up and have that instantly recognizable voice to tell you "Good morning!" or recite you poetry... You will be sorely missed - as actor, as director but beside everything... as an amazing human being!

We will love you. ALWAYS!

With lots of love,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that will miss seeing you and hearing your lovely deep voice :(
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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Zakopane - Bacowskie Jadlo - Homemade food

My dear travelers,

I have told you before about the beauties of Zakopane and what you can visit in this mountain based town, but today I will also tell you about one of the places we like to stop and eat. But until I get started with the delicious food, let me tell you a bit about Zakopane. The city is located between the famous (for the Polish) peak called Gubalowka and the high peaks of the Tatra mountain. Zakopane was not always a popular and posh place to be, it started being so more in the 19-20 century. Before it was the home of the mountain highlanders that produce the amazing traditional Polish (usually smoked) cheese called oscypek :) it still is, right now, but the place has become more and more overflooded by tourists - I recommend you to go off season ;) so you can really enjoy it!
Zakopane has it all. Most spectacular location with beautiful scenery, skiing for families on gentle and long cruising slopes and runs were experts can explore endless chutes, glades, gullies and remote bowls. When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, here you will find it for families and groups of varying abilities to ski together. There are beginner and intermediate runs on most slopes. Nosal and Kasprowy with more demanding runs are for the experts. You don't have to bring the equipment with you, there are many conveniently located rental facilities. For the beginners there are many instructors at each run and for those who wish to explore further the mountains Zakopane has the finest guides. With certified instructors, you will learn all about snow pack and avalanche awareness, and be able to enjoy the incredible beauty of the wilderness. The skiing season usually lasts here from December till the early May. Zakopane has hosted: FIS World Ski Championships, Winter Universiades, Biathlon World Championship, Ski Jump World Cups, and Nordic Combined, Nordic and Alpine European Cups (source).
Each time we get to Zakopane and we have to eat out we always choose the same place. The first time we went there was almost 4 years ago, with my best Polish friend - for her birthday. She is from Zakopane so we trusted her 100% - the place was amazing and all our group agreed: huge portions and great homemade food at reasonable prices. The place I speak of is called "Bacowskie Jadlo".  I remember the first time we went there we all had a soup and a second dish but none of us - not even the boys! - managed to eat everything from the places. The place is located somehow not city center; as you go towards the Gubalowka, at the end of the Krupowki street, you need to make a right and walk down the street a few meters (not much!). You will see a wooden-made house with the sign of "Bacowskie Jadlo - Kuchnia Domowa".
The prices:
- smoked bacon soup with ribs = 10 zloty
- Polish style schnitzel with potatoes and salad = 17 zloty
- pork leg with mustard and bread = 21 zloty
The total, per person, rises (with drinks - water/juice/tea) up to 25-30 zloty per person. Usually we pay cash but I believe there is an option to pay by card as well ;) but it's nice to have some change for the 10% tip (if you like the place).
Homemade ribs and bacon soup / Polish schnitzel with potatoes and 2 types of salad :)
Marek and I split the smoked bacon soup, which was smooth and delicious. I know the schnitzel was not as big as the one we usually have at Pod Wawelem / Pod Sukiennice, but Marek said the portion was decent - and to tell you the truth, I don't quite like potatoes but these ones looked really nice. My shock was great when I ordered for the pork leg with mustard... again I am much used to the way Pod Wawelem / Pod Sukiennice is serving, and I was expecting a piece of pork leg (small one) with mustard and maybe some french fries... I was overwhelmed by the portion! My plate (food) was the biggest... I really thought I would not make it or I would just get sick from eating only pork meat with mustard and bread. Well it looks I was wrong! It was one of the best post knuckles I have ate in Poland - tender, fresh and well done meat. I could not help myself, and even though Marek was making fun, I truly enjoyed it! And put in front of the picture, before ordering, I still think I would have done it! :) I am a meat fan, I will always admit to that - the greatest vegetable is pork! :) 

How about you? Are you a pork (meat in general) fan? If ever you will be in Poland and you will wish for a typical Polish dish, you may have troubles in finding something vegetarian... so break the rules from time to time and have a pork knuckle! First at Pod Wawelem / Pod Sukiennice and then have a small day-break in Zakopane and try this one at Bacowskie Jadlo. Let me know which one you liked best ;) or do you know maybe another place... Krakow or surrounding areas, that does a "mean" pork knuckle? Let me know, I would like to try ;)

* I was not repayed in any way for this post and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! *
 
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves cozy home-like places
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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Krakow - Cytat Cafe - You NEED Coffee!

My dear honey buns,

You know how one blindly just walks up and down the street, never bothering to check new things? I sometimes do that too... I am ashamed to admit I walk like a zombie as well from time to time. A friend of mine was telling me this Christmas that one day she saw me on the street, walking. She was on the other side of the road, so she started waving and shouting my name... and I kept walking forward, texting on my phone (most probably with my family, on Facebook)... I never knew that, I did not notice her waving and screaming my name... that is how concentrated I was! I sit and think that maybe I do that not only with people but with places as well, and that thought makes me sad...
I love finding new places in Kraków. There is that exhilaration kicking in, knowing you have discovered the next best place to take someone out ;)) My sister will visit in spring. I already have a couple of café's I'd like to take her to ;)) and Cytat Cafe is on the list! In the heart of the Jewish district, in Kazimierz, on ulica Miodowa 23 / ulica Estery, exactly on the corner, there is a perfect place to chill out and have some quality time. My sister loves coffee and the place smelled deliciously of coffee so I think it would be a good choice - as long as you manage to get a spot in! I was lucky last time, as I was one of their first customers of the day - early morning bird!
Even from the outside the place is very welcoming and you have a couple of blackboards with funny signs welcoming you to Cytat Cafe. The team is very Facebook friendly and they have even a hashtag quite frequently used: #cytatcafe - their response time online on comments, queries and ratings is impressive! On TripAdvisor they are rated as #514 of 1031 restaurants in Kraków & #562 of 1128 places to eat in Kraków - as of January 2016. With an average of 4 out of 5 starts and 22 reviews, I can see this place getting more and more popular ;) they also have their own Internet Page (in Polish) where you can check their menu and read their news. Quite nicely done, I must admit! With good quality pictures. Thumbs up!
The Cytat Cafe has reviews not only from locals but also from tourists, especially due to the fact that it is located on such a popular area and on such a populated street! Everyone passes by there! The place is not huge: main room with serving area + small tables with high stools + entrance to bathroom on the side & second room with 5 seating options (couples or group). There are books you can look at or lovely sayings on the wall that might get your minds wheels turning... they have menu both in Polish and English printed out, so make sure you get the right one from the counter, grab a seat, wait for the nice staff to come and... job done! :) Cytat Cafe accepts payment in cash but also by card (paypass included!). A huge plus for the Internet addicted: free WiFi, working quite well.  I would say the place is ideal for couples and also for close friends ;) 
The prices:
- espresso 6,5 zloty
- americano 7,9 - 9,9 zloty
- latte 9,9 - 11,9 zloty
- cappuccino 8,9 -10,9 zloty
- chai tea - 9,9 zloty
- multiple sortiments of yummy hot chocolate 14,9-16,9 zloty
- smoothies 13 zloty
- sandwiches / toasts 17 - 18 zloty
- breakfast plates are around 12-20 zloty and they are yummy as they can be :) the one you can see here below on the pictures is called "talerz sniadaniowy z jajecznica" (translated from Polish that means "Breakfast platter with scrambled eggs"). This version costs 14 zloty and has scrambled eggs (obviously!), 2 pieces of fresh and amazingly good toast, butter, tomatoes and cucumber slices, 2 slices of ham and 2 slices of golden cheese. The breakfast goes nicely with the amazing teas they sell ;) 
I went to Cytat Cafe at the very end of November and it was a very cold day. Early in the morning I had to take some blood tests and I thought I would pass out if I would not eat something after and drink something very hot to warm up my insides. The lad who was serving was very nice and he even recommended a tea for me. It was a seasonal one with citrus and cinnamon... heavenly!  I would definitely like to try out this place again! Maybe for some pancakes and smoothies ;) who's in!?

* I was not repayed in any way for this post and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! *

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves cozy café's
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Thursday, 7 January 2016

Thoughts About Blogging In 2015

My dearest hearts,

Have you already let go of the deadly and unreasonable yearly resolutions? I bet that the most frequent one is "getting fit" for that summer bathing suit. January is a month when typically all the gyms are full, overbooked, with people following their resolutions. By the end of February somewhere around 80% drop out their "frequent" routine to even once a week... yey to resolutions! :)) you know well what my option is on that... The only resolution I too this year is to take each day one at a time and love as much as I can the ones around me.  That includes you,  my dear lovely friends - my readers. This post is also a huge "THANK YOU" for being there with me this year! I managed this winter to reach over 200.000 views at the all time history and we celebrated - me and my awesome better half - this achievement :)
There is quite a lot of fun when you start having your own blog. At first there is that state of both fear - that you will run out of ideas and things to say - and excitement - when you already know what you will be doing for a week in advance. I have to admit that blogging brought a bit of balance in my life. I was not very happy to post all the pictures I did on Facebook and Facebook taking ownership over them. I read that the blogging system is better when it comes to the ownership of the material. I started this blog in the summer of 2013 with the specific ideas:
- keep in touch with my family and friends by creating short posts, with lot of pictures included = posts of the places I have been and things I have seen and done, without Facebook taking ownership, or me having to tell the same story to dozen of people over and over...
- having some kind of database of places (museums, restaurants, pubs) that my friends could visit when they would visit me and I would have to be at work (for example)
Now, when my friends come visit, it's so much easier to show them the places where they could stay, where they could eat or what they could visit/have fun in Kraków. All included with pictures and price tags ;) Having a blog, it's funny to think you are so public/open to the audience of the world... I Google my name now, I Google "twisted red ladybug" and there are pages and pages of what I wrote in this 2-3 years. When I changed the direction a bit, a year ago, making it more and more a blog about Krakow - discovering the foods of Kraków and Kraków surroundings - I realised more traffic was coming through. People wanted to know about Kraków. It's not a popular location for a city break, though lately the number of people visiting Malopolskie voivodship is getting bigger and bigger! The 2 most accessed pages on my menu are the Travels and Who is The LadyBug? - showing a thing I already knew, that travelling (as a subject) is hot! Who wouldn't love to travel the world?! 
My friends who come here, in this small corner of the Web that I share my thoughts, ideas & pictures, are not just Polish or Romanian as one would think. I am a Romanian expat living in Krakow, Poland, for more than 4 years, yet not only my local hometown friend read my rants and weird ideas. Funny enough, Romania did not even make the top 5 countries that brought me overall traffic, since I started the blog ;)) it actually got beaten by over 800 people by France! Top 5 being: Russia, USA, Poland, Germany and France. Somewhat unexpected but when I thought about it more, Russia being on the top is not that weird at all! At any time you will get out of the house, in any public places, you will hear Russian language being spoken around you. After living in Kraków for more than 4 years I must admit the top 3 visitors are: Polish, Russian and people from Great Britain (planes are very cheap and the booze is even cheaper). Great Britain is a constant crazy visitor as they even come in t-shirts and jeans in the middle of winter... nothing scares them away, not even the cold, even though I think that is more connected to the amount of beer that they drink ;))

Now... I have a curiosity... I was wondering - if you don't my me asking and you telling me - why you read me. And if you read me, how often do you do that? What makes you come back and what would you like to see more here? Help me be a better friend for you :) what would you like to know about Poland and Romania? Did you enjoy the "How to... in Poland" cycle of posts? :) thank you in advance for being there for me one more year, one more day :*

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves her friends
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Monday, 4 January 2016

Warsaw - Zloty Tarasy - A Sweet Recharge = Grycan

My dearest travellers,

Have you ever been to the busy-bee-like city of Warsaw - the capital of Poland? You may have passed through it or you may have had a connection to the International Airport Chopin, but if ever you have at least a day off, this city is worth your time for a short visit. If you are a museum and a history buff, you will surely enjoy it; if you are an addictive shopper, on the other hand, you will still be satisfied with the choices Warsaw offers.
We prefer to travel, from Krakow, to Warsaw by train. Before we used to take the Polski Bus, which was comfortable and cheap, had WIFI and also sockets to recharge your phone/pc; but now we care a lot about the time spent travelling. By bus, it would take around 5 hours; now the newest type of trains, connecting Krakow to the 3 cities by the see (Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot), takes you from Krakow to the Central Station Warsaw in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. And if you buy the tickets in time, you can get them as cheap as 49 zloty (per one person, one way) - prices in December 2015.
View from the Palace of Culture (on the top floors)
The lovely part is that the train stops at Warsawa Centralna (Warsaw Main Station), which is smack-city-center! and right next door you have the well known (by the locals): Zlote Tarasy. The Złote Tarasy (English: Golden Terraces) is a commercial, office, and entertainment complex in the center of Warsaw, Poland, located between Jana Pawła II and Emilii Plater streets. It opened on February 7, 2007.
Warsaw City Center & The Mermaid Symbol of the City
The architectural concept of Złote Tarasy was designed by The Jerde Partnership, for which the firm received the 2006 Architectural Review MIPIM Future Project Award in the Retail and Leisure category. The total area of the building amounts to 205,000 m². It includes 200 shops and restaurants (occupying 63,500 m²), a hotel, a multiplex cinema (8 screens, 2560 seats, opened on 31 August 2007) and an underground parking garage for 1,400 cars. A transparent roof covers its signature central indoor courtyard designed for concerts and similar events. The building cost $500 million. For me, the design always made me think of a tidal wave, a tsunami, rushing towards you... also it reminds me of the Dali paintings... but if you ever seen it, you know what I mean ;)
We went - my dear friend and I - right before Christmas, on the very 23rd of December 2015. My friend never saw Warsaw before so we made it a day-trip as a Christmas Present :) It was freezing cold and there were not many people around, as still it was a working day, so the city was quite deserted, except for the malls, where people where fighting over presents for family/friends. We enjoyed a nice short break ar the Grycan shop inside Zloty Tarasy (I believe it was the level the same with the street level... that would be -1). We needed something to refresh ourselves and give us a bit of energy kick. Of course something sweet was in order, but icecream would have been too much, especially that I was still sick and nose running...
The history of the Grycan brand goes way back, up to the prewar days! Here is what the Grycan site says:
In 1946, under the repatriation programme, the family moved to Wrocław. In this city, which was still recovering from the wartime destruction, Józef and Weronika Grycan, my parents, settled in an old town house on Grunwald Square. This is where our first ice cream parlour in postwar Poland was opened. Its marquis read: “Teddy Bear ice cream – Weronika Grycan”. I can still recall those ice creams flavours... cocoa, vanilla, coffee – and in the summer: wild strawberry, garden strawberry, and lemon. We also offered “Penguin ice cream”, probably the first ice cream sold on a stick in Poland. Every year, beginning in May Wrocław’s street, vendors would sell them either from push carts or special cases insulated with fine wood shavings. Wanting to uphold the family tradition, I started to learn the craft. I completed an apprenticeship at the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw, which was renowned for its confectionary workshop. That’s where I met my future wife, Elżbieta, the daughter of my master. Raised just as I was, in a confectioners’ family, she has been my companion for over 30 years now, supporting me in all my personal and professional undertakings. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that together we would build a widely known ice cream brand ”Zielona Budka”. That came true in 1980 when I took over an ice cream parlour in Warsaw on Puławska Street.
We had delicious fresh curled waffles (in Polish: rurki) with whipped cream (in Polish: bita smietana) & a power drink, a freshly squeeked juice. Ioana tried the "Relaxing Juice" with pineapple, peach, lemon and orange & I tried the "Extra Relaxing Juice" with kiwi, pineapple, pear and orange. All was freshly squeezed and delicious; after having it we got more energy to look about the place and buy some more things for friends and family :)

The prices:
- The freshly squeezed juices were: 200 ml = 5.9 zloty; 300 ml = 7.9 zloty; 400 ml = 9.9 zloty
- The waffles with whipped cream: 2.8 zloty per piece.
- The train from Krakow to Warsaw - from 49 zloty up :) (depends when you buy it!)
- The train from Warsaw to Krakow - same as above ;) 
- Time in Warsaw with a dear friend - priceless :)

* I was not repayed in any way for this post and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! *

P.S.S. All pictures were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera, a present from my awesome hubby :)  and they were taken on the 23rd of December - no modifications on light/size.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Enjoys Short Breaks In Warsaw With Dear Friends :)
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Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Resolutions - Are They Worth It?

My dearest friends,

My dear readers and my online family :) I really hope you had a wonderful Christmas next to the ones you love, care and cherish; I hope that the true gift of Christmas - love, family and togetherness - reached you;  I also hope that you had a magical New Year's Eve, most probably traditionally spent with friends dear to you. Probably at this hour you are sound asleep in your beds, having fairy dreams of the new year that just came... it was knocking fast at our door and now... here it is! 2016 is here - are you ready for it? :) I am not ready, to tell you the truth - I will change the prefix this year, I'll be 30... so I guess that I would have to officially behave like an adult... neah! Cross that out! I will always be 7 years old at heart :) 
***
As it is a New Year, everyone is in a hurry to create their very own brand new lists, brand new resolutions (which in 90% of the cases are very much the same as the year before - the generic: I will quit smoking as it is bad for me, I will not eat sweets (especially chocolate) and I will exercise daily, I will read more books to enrich my culture, (and my very own:) I will learn Polish language and I will be fluent in it...). I say, cross all that out! We, as people who cannot handle not having a plan, we construct continuously plans, we set standards and we feel bad if we don't reach them. We do another thing that drives me mad: we project our lists upon others - if I am a happy mother, if everyone my age has a baby, than truly it is a must that everyone should have one. If they don't, they screwed something up... 
Now let me tell you something: everyone of us, the people upon this world, are made alike by God, yet we are different (though the same...). I know that is a hard notion to handle, but as we are physically different, we also have different wants and needs. The way we think and the experiences we had along time, the genetic background and the way our brain works... makes us want different things. Of course, cutting all desire and dreams aside, everyone has the basic desires to live and be loved, to breed (have children), foster, grow old next to the ones you love & then die and be reunited with God. Now if you take my example, I was travelling since I was a wee lass in my mother's womb - we always laugh that that's why I live it so. For me, a point on the "New Year Resolutions" List would be: Travel More!
***
I wish everyone would put their lists aside and really think them through. What is truly important for you? And does it really matter to have a list? I think more important is have a plan. A list without a plan is nothing, also a plan is nothing without a "safety net" plan... there are so many things that could come between you and the plan, so that you constantly bedded to think out of the box! I didn't have a "New Year Resolutions" List last year... we preferred to go with the flow and we rather focused on a different list: "The Bucket List" - managing to cut out: tandem parachute jumping, zorbing, shooting with real guns (not quite lady like but I loved the thrill and I shot a Winchester and I liked it, yeah! Make that 12 rounds of Smith & Weston M&P 15-22 (rifle - my very favourite!), 7 times a Winchester Defender S×P ("shot gun" rifle) and 5 times a revolver Taurus. Now that's something I will remember my entire life!) and visiting a couple of new countries ( Switzerland - Zurich, Czech Republic - Prague, Belgium - Brussels) and a few new cities in Poland (Wroclaw, Nowy Sacz, Krynica, Bochnia). I think that was way better: having a long term plan vs. medium plan, focusing on one year. 
What I observed along time was the fact that people like to have "New Year Resolutions" List with material and earthly things that he'll only themselves. That is one very self centered list! Just think about it! You would like a better job/car, you would like to lose weight, you would like to quit smoking... you, you, YOU! It is true the fact that the only person you can change is only yourself and it is always good to try and chance and be the best version of yourself, but... how about thinking big for once? Thinking what you could do for others or what you can do with others - like myself, I always think of my better half and the things we could do together, growing together. How about going forward and thinking of your microcosmos - the people in your area that you could "touch" and help? When was the last time you cleaned your closet and sent the things you don't need to the Red Cross? When was the last time you gave a gift to someone put of the blue? (Christmas, Saint Nicholas and birthdays do not count!) When is the last time you smiled to someone on the street or gave someone your chair in the public transport? When was the last time you did a Random Act of Kindness?
***
Have a look at the year that passed and don't tell anyone, talk to yourself and settle down on the things that made you happy - the things that made you smile - and do more of that! Be good to the people around you and invest in the things that matter. The time flies by so fast, and you will never be able to turn it back, so make sure you do the right thing at the right time. Think of the Random Acts of Kindness that you can do. Make someone's day better. If you have no idea, just have a look at the movie "Pay it Forward" and maybe that will make you understand more how the world should truly work like. Start with small steps, baby steps, and try to do this once a month - once a week, until you will see that eventually will be doing this on a daily basis. Smile and the whole world will smile with you (eventually), so don't let anything get you down! :) 

P.S. Don't forget that today you can watch at 11 am - 12 (somewhere around this time...) the wonderfully magical New Year's Eve Concert, live from Vienna. Be prepared for music your ears and heart will thank you. Both Polish and Romanian national television has live transmission - ever since I was a wee lass I can remember watching that every year with my family. That was a tradition that will always be on my list ;) (if ever I would make one...)

P.S.S. And... one more thing: Live, Laugh, Love! But most or all, LOVE! Loving is the most important thing in this world. All things may pass, but Love will last forever! :) 

Yours truly, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug that has no "New Year Resolutions" List 
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