Image Map

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Travel Tuesday: Why Visit Poland in Winter

My dearest sweethearts,

The time of good cheer is coming slowly but surely. You know me, if it were up to my heart I would have Christmas all year round. Christmas nowdays is a bundle of contrasts: consumerism by buying loads of presents, even things that people don't necessarily need but they so want them...; then there is love and the joy of gift giving; then there is the solemnity of going to church, having the family Christmas dinner... I enjoy Christmas because it celebrates the birth of our Lord and because it's one of those warm moments when all the family comes together. I have fond memories about wintertime and I love snow falling, snowman building and sleigh rides down the hill. I love winter traditions and Christmas Markets, I love it when somehow time stands still during holidays... I love Poland as it's culture and traditions and background is very much similar to my own homeland. Now I know countries in Europe are quite similar to one another, connected by common history, but they also have something of their own. You might ask yourself... Why Visit Poland in Winter? Well there are several answers to that question, but I will give you 7 of my own reasons:
View from the top of Gubalowka, Zakopane
1. Zakopane - the go-to Winter getaway - let's face it, Zakopane is the most well known winter - mountain location that foreign people know about. It's pretty well advertised throughout Poland and everyone coming here can't miss it. The downside to that is that it became rather a touristy location, always crowded, even during off season. The view on top of Gubalowka is amazing! And you can reach it fast via the funicular or you can choose to be brave and just hike it. On top you can enjoy the view and have a break and eat some local dishes or just grab a bite of "oscypek" with "zurawina" (traditional smoked highlander cheese that usually is paired out with cranberry sauce).
English breakfast at Niebieski Migdaly, Krakow
2. Budget friendly - considering other options like going to the Alps or just grabbing some Swiss cheese fondue... well... Poland is cheap! You can have a beer for about 1-2 euros at any pub and have a regular meal for about 5 euros. Not to mention the vast options raging from local food / beer to different takes on international cuisine. There are multiple choices for the museum and/or history enthusiasts and there is always a free open day per week (usually Sunday is the one, for example for the Krakow National Museum branches). For the outdoor enthusiasts there is plenty to discover as well and there are bikes you can rent for a very low price.
Auschwitz, Poland - Nazi created death camps on Polish land
3. Out of the ordinary location - I know saying that you are spending your winter vacation in Poland doesn't sound as fancy as saying you have spent it in the Alps... but you can boast of being into historical places that are off the beaten track ;) and if you choose not to go to Zakopane, but other city in the mountains, less touristy, you might actually feel the real life and the wilderness and the uniqueness of these places. You will be able to boast out for crossing one more country from the #bucketlist of the whole world ;) on another side, you can also think of one of a kind places in the world, maybe at a UNESCO world heritage site list and pick places like Wieliczka Salt Mine or Auschwitz and Birkenau, near Krakow.
Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland - November 2017
4. Christmas Markets - they usually open up in Poland during the last week of November, they last up to 26th of December - get smaller until New Year Event - and then continue (they are extended) up to the first week of January. They are a constant that everyone waits for, while November kicks in... It's that sudden slide from drinking pumpkin spiced latte to having mulled wine (or mulled beer!). There is plenty to feast your eyes on: from traditional Amber from the Baltic Sea to handmade jewelry or handmade Christmas decorations, from the yummy oscypek (highlander cheese, made in the Zakopane region) to kielbasa (sausage) to krowki (caramel sweets)... Christmas Markets have plenty to offer for people of all ages and tastes, not to mention the photo opportunities!
Mariacki Church inside, Krakow, Poland 
5. Christmas traditions - Polish people are very much in touch with tradition and with their faith. The biggest events of the year are connected to their beliefs: Christmas (birth of Christ) and Easter (the death and resurrection of Christ). It is a must to go to church, whole family, and pray. The Christmas Eve feast must start when the first star appears on the sky, or if you see no stars - when it gets dark. The meal is comprised of 12 dishes (one for each of the 12 apostles). There is no meat for you meat lovers... There is only fish accepted as a dish. At the beginning of the meal they say prayers and there is always a passage from the Bible being read. At the end of the meal people stay and discuss, they open up and sing carols.
Wooden nativity scenes - for sale at the Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland
6. Szopki contest in Krakow - one of the Polish traditions for Christmas is to have a nativity scene right out next to your Christmas tree, in remembrance of Christ that was born. Now the nativity scenes are names "szopki" and they are portable cribs or manger scenes. Everyone has them and displays them for Christmas! Now Krakow took the Szopki one step forward and they even have a contest for the prettiest one - it has to be handmade entirely! It's a tradition dating from the 19th Century and it's still running strong, gathering people from around Poland to come and see it. The Szopki contest is being held in the first week of December and the jury announces the prize at the Adam Mickiewicz statue in Krakow's Main Market Square. What comes as odd/unusual is the fact that for the Szopki in this contest the backdrop created is usually one of the cities landmarks - for example the St. Mary Church (kosciol Mariacki).
Zakopane, Poland
7. Ski jumping events - if there is one thing for sure about Polish people and sports, is the fact that they are very much in love with winter sports - to be more specific: ski jumping! And they are quite good at that! For example Zakopane has one of the biggest slopes: Wielka Krokiew (The Great Krokiew) - 1378 meters long. It was opened in 1925 and it is a regular venue in the FIS Ski jumping World Cup. The capacity of the ski jumping stadium is 40.000 seats. You should give it a go ;) 

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Poland
Read more ...

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Krakow's Christmas Market - Main Square - Is Open!

Dearest sweethearts,

I don't know your own traditions - sometimes they may be related to your country, region, faith but it could be also connected to your family and way of thinking and living - but I know for sure that each year, after I celebrate my birthday (26th of October), I already hear Christmas songs playing... of course firstly just slow tuned inside by brain, my head, then I start humming it, then I start singing parts when I get into the mood - the cheerful jolly one! I love it when others "go bonkers" with me and join in! Some people find it unacceptable to sing Christmas songs in October, November or even early December... hogwash! Christmas should be all year round, not just a single day! One of the things that I love about winter and Christmas is the numerous occasions when I just get out and bump into a Christmas Market. I love Christmas Markets in Poland: they open up always in the last week of November! When you see the stalls being erected slowly you know Christmas is surely down the corner ;) and as surely as the sun rises daily so have the Christmas Markets throughout Poland opened up this week - be it Thursday or Friday. 
The Krakow Christmas Markets are numerous and each district has one, but the most well known one and the one that attracts the most crowds and photographers is the Krakow Main Market Square Christmas Market. As you can tell by its name, it is located on the Rynek (PL: Main Market Square) and it has plenty of space for both food, sweets and traditional handmade items stalls. The Rynek is the biggest main square in Europe and it really does give one many treats for the eye: starting with St. Mary's Church (Kosciol Mariacki), St. Adalberts Church (oldest one in Krakow, built on former pagan ground), Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall), the Tower with the Clock, Adam Mickiewicz statue and the place where the oldest bookstore in Europe stands! Every person that visits Krakow inevitably founds it's way to the Rynek, so having the biggest Christmas Market in Krakow at that location was the perfect decision money wise. 
The Christmas Market in Krakow Main Market Square opened up on the 24th of November, just the other day, and it will probably stay open until the 26th of December but then be prolonged until the first days of January 2018 but probably with a bit less stands/stalls.  They will need some space and time to get ready for the New Year events. That is the occasion in which part of the market usually migrates to the Small Market Square right behind Mariacki Church. The Christmas Market offers everything ranging from food stalls with hot food made there (sausages, kielbasa, pierogi, bread with smalec, oscypek), to stalls with homemade items, to stalls filled with Amber from the Baltic Sea, Bohemian glass, Boleslawiec pottery, furs, Christmas decorations (including some giant baubles for tall and busty trees)... you name it, they probably have it! On the side of Sukiennice there is always a large scene made for the folk tradiional carolers, also there are representations of traditional dances and other performances. We must not forget the Szopki (Polish Nativity Scenes)! Polish people take them very seriously and there is even a contest of whom makes the best One, the prettiest One, the most elaborate! It's at the beginning of December so you can join in as well! :) The stalks of the Christmas Market are usually open between 10 am and 10 pm. Don't miss them out!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow's Christmas Markets 
Read more ...

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Famous Polish People: Pilsudski Jozef

Dearest hearts,

#DidYouKnow that on 22nd of November 1918, Pilsudski officially received the title of provisional chief of state - Naczelnik Panstwa. His main concern was the creation of a Polish army to help safeguard Polish independence. 
Pilsudski funeral in 1935, Krakow, Poland
In case you have no clue who is this amazing human being that is being worshiped by the Polish people, I thought I might pinpoint some interesting facts about Jozef Pilsudski. Here they are:
1. Pilsudski was the very first chief of state (between 1918 and 1922) of the newly independent Poland established in November 1918.
2. Jozef Pilsudski could fluently speak Polish, Russian, French and German.
3. He would never fall asleep unless he had a loaded gun tight next to him.
4. Pilsudski liked to walk a lot but he preferred doing that alone. He liked to make sure nobody was about himself while he had his daily walks. Maybe he needed some free time with himself and the nature, a moment when he could fully disconnect. He loved walking in the Lazienki park.
5. He didn't care much for worldly possessions and he donated most of his wealth to charity. One could say nowdays that he had a minimalistic way of living.
6. Pilsudski would love working during night time. It was very quiet and maybe, like in his daily walks, he needed some time on his own. But he would also work with his wife then, and she would do a transcript of his ideas.
7. He was also very uncomfortable with parties and balls and he would much rather prefer a moment of solitude - for example when he would play solitaire by himself.
8. Pilsudski didn't enjoy coffee, just like myself :) and he always preferred strong tea. He also didn't drink alcohol, except on his name day - when he would celebrate very loudly.
9. In 1936, after his death, his heart was layed to rest into his mother's grave in Rossa, Vilno and his body can be found in the crypt beneath the Wawel Cathedral - under the Tower of the Silver Bells. Cause of death - cancer.
10. 60 years after Pilsudski's death and following the fall of communistic rule in Poland, the Sejm issued a statement on May 12th, 1995: "Jozef Pilsudski will remain in our nations memory, the founder of its dependence, and the victorious leader who fended off a foreign assault that threatened the whole of Europe and its civilisation. Jozef Pilsudski served his country well and has entered our history forever".

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Polish History and Amazing Stories
Read more ...

Sunday, 19 November 2017

We All Have Our Demons

Dearest hearts all over the world,

This letter, this post, goes to everyone out there. We are human beings, we have feelings, we have a head and a heart that are constantly having fights over whom rules. We are built with an internal struggle, a struggle sometimes raging like a lion but sometimes calm as the sea (before the storm). I believe that everyone has their own demons, their own problems, their own baggage that they drag along with them, throughout their life. People sometimes handle those issue on their own, sometimes friends help them, other times the psychologists and sometimes... more often then one cares to admit, sometimes some people handle it through ultimate drastic measures: taking their life. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs that should NEVER be forced upon others. Belief, Faith, is something that you carry inside of you each and every moment of every day. It guides you and created a set of rules by which you guide upon. Faith creates a pillar of strength in your life, something upon which you can lean when the winds of life blow hard. Most religions are the same in one way or another. Most religions believe in one God, one Deity, that "rules them all", that has the right over all things and beings. For example, I like to call myself a free thinker/believer: I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost/Spirit. I believe that our sins are washed away by the hand of God, throughout the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I believe I am saved because I believe in Him.
I was born in a Christian orthodox family, going to church for confession, quite often, especially during the big celebrations - Easter, Christmas. On the second year of University both me and my mum baptised to the Evanghelical faith - it just felt weird to have a priest being the middle man between myself and God. My husband, my better half, was supposed to be a Catholic priest. He comes from a family that truly believes and goes to church every weekend. I have friends that are convinced atheists, I have friends who have aligned themselves to joga and Buddhism. I try to keep and open mind and remind myself daily that the life choices we make are out own. We cannot change anyone except our self and we cannot make choices for anyone except our self. Being a mother is a huge responsibility - the way you for your child, the teachings that you give, are vital for it's development. Did you know that latest studies show that what parents show that they do in their day to day life, up to the moment when the child reaches the age of 3 years, will be essentially what the child will be doing when they will grow up. If you are a mother like myself, focused also on studies and what scientists have researched, you also know about the post partum depression. Once you deliver the baby, you will somehow feel that something is missing. Also adjusting to yourself as mother and adjusting to your bundle of joy might be experienced differently by many people. I have met mothers whom one would not have thought fitting for the task, yet when the baby comes it all comes naturally. I have met mothers who waited for their babies for a long while, wanted them ever since they could remember, yet when they are faced with their progeny they back down - they have no clue what to do, they can't feel the bond. I've also read the story of a mother who had 2 children and then there was an "accident" and child number 3 came! And she could not love him, even after several years... Everyone has their own demons!
There are moments in life when we catch our self thinking bad things about others, judging, gossiping. I do believe that talking and even thinking bad of others brings bad blood and dark energies, negative energy towards the one who thinks evil. I also believe in the wheel of life, one day we may be up there, but there are "down" moments that bring us back and ground us to earth. I believe that if we do good things, good deeds, besides the fact that we will feel better, the Universe will conspire and good things will (eventually) come our way - be it in this world or the other! I believe that when we do "bad blood", when we gossip, that's counted as a sin; but I somehow that's not a big enough sin to get us sent to Hell. On the other hand, I believe the greatest sin, the sin from which you cannot repent, is the act of suicide. The ultimate act of sin is taking away ones own life. Some may find it as a rather courageous, brave act. Nothing can be further away from the truth. Suicide means running away from responsibiliy, it means giving up on yourself and the ones who care about you; in a way it is rather a selfish act of letting things go, so that others can handle the rest, the bits and pieces of your leftover life. I believe that each person has dark moments in their life - what matters and what shows a character of a human being is how one passes through these dark stages. As human beings we are created with great potential for both Good and Bad - rather like the philosophy of Yin and Yang, the 2 sides cohabit. It's up to us to make sure that on a daily basis we make the correct decision: to fight our demons and go towards the light!
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Believes That People Can Redeem Themselves 
Read more ...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Krakow Food Trucks: Twoj Zdrowy Sloj

Dearest hearts,

I don't know about you but more and more about how I can lower down my consumerism and maybe adopt the minimalistic way of life. We don't actually need a closet filled with clothes, we don't need piles of gadgets, we need not things to make us happy - people and experiences make us happy. We don't need more playing bags for shopping, for groceries, when there is the cotton bag option - simple, with taste, organic, strong and able to be used again and again. I, for one, carry one all the time with me, in case I need to shop - and if I do get any plastic bags I recycle and reuse them. I think the next step, after cleaning out your closet and donating for the ones who truly are in need, after switching to reusable items during your shopping spree, naturally it should come the replacing of the plastic containers that fill your life. I believe that the same idea had the family that  opened the "Twoj Zdrowy Sloj" foodtruck option. It is a family business, that started out with one food truck just a couple of months ago. But they have big plans! By next summer they wish to purchase another truck, so they could be at 2 places at once, serving more customers in need for healthy food. The truth is that their idea is very well timed and welcomed inside KBP - Krakow Business Park.  If you work there you know that the options of buying a fresh fruit or a healthy snack are... slim, next to nothing! Of course there come daily fast food trucks and there are 4 canteen like restaurants in the area - Cent, Dollar, BlackBerry and Krakowskie Przedmiejsce - but there is mainly fat food, yummy but not fitting when you want healthy snacks. 
"Twoj Zdrowy Sloj" comes and gives a helping hand to all the corporate boys and girls who miss eating healthy. They are one of a kind, owning a mustard yellow truck, with wooden board menu's and side table. It's a yellow-black chessboard pattern with phantom jars design. They had the brilliant idea to create "Twoj Zdrowy Sloj", that's Polish for: Your Healthy Jar. Bring food in mason jars that you can recycle and reuse. Eliminate waste! And guess what?! The soup I took around 11 am was still hot at 1 pm, no reheating needed! The mason jar is thick enough to keep the heat in. Also, besides the major jar recipients idea, there is the option of having wooden spoon/fork instead of the plastic one. You can reuse it and recycle it as well. I also like the fact that most ingredients for their products are bought locally and that they have seasonal products. For example, Autumn time is mushroom and pumpkin season, so the pumpkin-orange-ginger soup with pumpkin seeds is a must! Tried it, spicy - though it does not hit you how spicy it is from the first spoon... It's definitely for people who love spicy soups and for the ones that really want to know their sinuses work fine - if you know what I mean ;) The "Twoj Zdrowy Sloj" team also specialises in vegan icecreams  made out of locally produced fruits - but that's part of the summer menu.
The "Twoj Zdrowy Sloj" has a different menu each time, maybe just the sweets stay the same... But the soup is usually a fresh vegetable soup with seasons specialty. Then you can have salad in a jar - now that's a new concept for me... especially when you are told that all you need to do is shake it and proceed with enjoying it ;)) now I would never have imagined I would shake a salad! There is always some kind of breakfast option of kefir/yogurt with cereals and fruits, but also there are the sweets. Normally I wouldn't go for the sweets but the sweets are the ones that attracted me to "Twoj Zdrowy Sloj" from the first place. One day a collegue came in with "cheesecake in a jar" - I found the whole idea of #foodinajar very appealing but still... a bit odd... how and why would you squeeze a cheesecake in a jar?! Bottom line... They call it "serniczek" (cheesecake) but it's rather a very soft and yummy chocolate mousse with a layer of smooth white fluffy sweetness and a odd yet delicious topping of salty caramel peanuts and pieces of cocoa and dried fruits on top - it's great! And I'm gonna buy it next Tuesday as well! - Tuesday's you can find them in KBP between 11 am and 3 pm. They also do a mean banana bread muffin, that they actually bake inside the jar ;) so keep that in mind!
The prices - winter 2017 promotions:
- 2 big jars = usually 12+12 = 20 zloty
- 1 big + 1 small jar = 12+9 = 18 zloty
- 2 small jars = 9+9 = 16 zloty 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow Food Trucks 
Read more ...

Monday, 13 November 2017

Bucket List: Andrea Bocelli in Krakow

Dearest hearts,

I don't know about you but I have my very own #bucketlist and each time I manage to cross an item out, I get a sense of elation and accomplishment and pure joy. A #bucketlist is not an easy thing to do. It may be that some items you might never manage to cross out, it may happen that you will modify it in time, cross things out and add new ones... but bottom line is that the #bucketlist is your very own set of wishes that your heart desires to fulfil by the time your time runs out of this world. I have quite a few items on my list not yet done, but recently I've managed to cross out quite a few - having a baby by the time I turn 30, listening to Sting live and now... hearing the wonderfully talented Andrea Bocelli with my own ears. Andrea Bocelli's first concert in Poland was in Lodz, in 1999. Weirdly enough the next concert came only after 10 years, in 2009 - Warsaw. Since then he has been in Poland a couple of times but now, as part of my birthday present, I got tickets as a present from my adorable better half. For me and my mum and granny - it was a ladies night out kind of thing :) and I have enjoyed it immensely!
Andrea Bocelli in Krakow, Tauron Arena - 11.11.2017
There is so much that can be said about Andrea Bocelli. His solo career spans over 20 years! His songs are loved by many generations - all 3 of us: myself and mum and granny love him! Andrea Bocelli won numerous awards worldwide - Golden Globe for best song, World Music Awards for best classical musician of the world (4 times!), World Music Awards for bestselling Italian artist (3 times). He has sold over 80 millon albums and has million online fans on Facebook, following his every artistic move. Andrea's voice resonates and heals, he is a powerful image that states that one can conquer their fears and flaws and amaze the world. Losing eyesight is not the end of the world, you just have to believe and you will make it through. Andrea's talent has wonderfully been summed up by Celine Dion, who said that if God sang, he would sound like Andrea Bocelli. I have to agree, there is one thing listening to the CDs, vinil disc, live recordings or the regular studio ones, nothing beats a live session with the master himself!
The crowd inside Tauron Arena in Krakow, eagerly awaiting for Andrea Bocelli to come - 11.11.2017
On the 11th of November, on the Polish celebration day of Independence, starting at 7:20 pm at Tauron Arena, I had the pleasure of hearing Andrea Bocelli live - along with my Mum and Granny. I was pleasantly surprised by the early start - as a difference from the Sting Concert in September. The ticket said that the start is at 7 pm and I believe that they would have started at 7, have not the queues been to big (of people yet having to enter). I believe people expected, like myself, that if the ticket said 7 pm it would start around 8 pm. That's also probably why people were still coming in until about 8 pm. Their loss! The concert started at 7:20 pm and lasted until 9:20 pm - one 15-20 min break for the recalibration of the sound system. The first 20-30 min of the concert were a totally different quality from the premium one that the rest of the concert had! The orchestra and choir were Polish, additional special guests were also added (cold guitar group and ballet dancers) to the magic of the night. Andrea Bocelli though did not come alone. He came with the pop artist Ilaria Della Bidia - a Tuscan lady that since 2011 has been a guest during Andrea's concerts. Joining them was a lovely dark haired soprano, who's name I can shamefully admit I can not recall - she had a wonderful voice that blended well with Andrea's. Together, the whole team, presented songs from the album "Cinema" - a lovely reminded of those old time soundtracks that you can't help falling in love with.
It may come as an odd thing to go to a concert and see the artist have his eyes shut for the entire duration, yet Andrea can't see. He had problems with his eyesight since he was small and a bit during a football match rendered his eyesight completely down to zero. I cannot imagine how it would be one day to know the colours, see the sunset and then the next day everything to be turned to darkness - for the rest of your life. How it is to have one of your senses killed and then to rely on others; how ones voice can maybe "make up" for the great loss. It's true that once you lose something you gain another - some call it karma, some gift from God. Andrea Bocelli's voice is indeed one of a kind and it reaches slowly, but surely, into your soul. You won't realise it until you'll feel streams of tears running down your face, unable to stop them - that's what happened to the crowds inside the Tauron Arena in Krakow on 11.11.2017 - a night to be remembered.
Andrea sang 2 songs and then took a one song break, preserving his voice. He sang with his eyes closed, serious, sometimes smiling at certain pieces that he sang. I was able to hold in quite well and be all smiles until he started playing "Maria" - the song about the most beautiful girl in the world, "West Side Story". The orchestra was fantastic, the play of white lights on the crowd was like a spotlight for old cinema stars yet somehow soothing, the black-white video was perfectly old-school motioned and I could not help starting to tear up... slowly, peacefully, staring in awe at the beauty that a single human being can create through words and song. I think that many eyes were not left dry and Andrea must have felt That, the incredible moment that the crowd comes as one with the one who performs. We could all see him whiping away his tears, like the rest of us. It's incredible how a mass of thousands can come as one through a song.
The second song that got me crying again was "Canto Della Terra" - sang along with the wonderfully talented soprano.  The imagery put together by Andrea's team, throughout the concert, was fabulous and always right on point with every song that he performed. There were scenery pieces, places from Paris to New York to Rome to the desert in Sahara; there were pieces from Frederico Fellini's masterpieces - like the shot from "La Dolce Vita", the iconic scene at the Trevi fountain in Rome. Everything was very well timed and rehearsed to give maximum emotion to the audience. There was of course an encore (a double one, to be precise) and an amazing final row of applause for the human being transcended from Heaven: Andrea Bocelli. He performed "Time to say goodbye" and it was if the world was the night sky, filled with stars sparkling through the darkness. The soprano with whom Andrea was singing pulled him aside during a pause in the song and told him something, after which he smiled wide and his face radiated of pure joy. I like to think that she told him what he could not see, that the crowds inside the Tauron Arena, by a simple act of lighting their phones, were providing beacons of light into the night - reproducing the night sky - paying homage to his wonderful skill. I like to think that he felt how he had touched everyone of our hearts and from the darkness that we had within he shed some light into our dark skies.

EDIT 13.11.2017 - 3 PM - The wonderful soprano was Maria Aleida.
Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Classical Music
Read more ...

Friday, 10 November 2017

Coming Back To Work After Maternity Leave - Poland

Dearest sweethearts,

There comes a time in our life when we want more from our self and from life. Our wants and needs can take various forms, from travelling around the world to settling down and having children - or maybe both... well, life is never as easy and plain as one would think. One of my #bucketlist wishes was to get married and have a child by the time I was 30 years old. Of course if you ask me I am not one day more than 18 ;) but I managed to cross out that item from the list last year, when on the 20th of August I gave birth to our sweet Ladybug Baby Girl. Nobody can prepare you for that and as much as you would read motherhood books, attend classes for pregnant women and ask friends and family that already have little ones, you will never know the full truth. I believe nobody would tell you it for fear of discouraging you to have your go at procreating and hoping to make world a better place. Some say that it' harder with your first but it will get better with the next one(s). Well I can't tell if that's wrong or right but I can tell you a first baby is a challenge for everyone. It means readjustment, letting some of things go, compromising and figuring out how to live in 3. Don't get me wrong, it' totally worth it!
I'm here today to tell you how coming back to work again from maternity leaves looks like in Poland. If you are an expat, like myself, not with Polish citizenship but married to a Polish person and expecting a baby... well you are in the right place. As I was saying, I gave birth to my daughter on the 20th of August, last year. Here, in Poland, as regular worker paying NFZ via the corporation you work under, you are entitled to maternity leave. The maximum leave that you can take, as a fresh mother, is one year - the law was modified just last year, raising it from 6 month to 12. As a side note, in Romania, the maximum a mother can have as maternity leave is 2 years! (Which sounds more reasonable, to be honest!). The mother can choose to come back to work again after 6 month and the state will give her extra money (a certain amount) for hiring a nanny (Polish: Niania) or taking the child to day care (Polish: Zlobek). Also, this time of one year can be split between parents - maternal leave 6 months + paternal leave 6 months, for example.
About a month before coming back to work you will be contacted by the HR team responsible for cases after maternity leave.  It's good to stay positive and proactive and contact yourself the TL to make sure your job is stable and that everything is ok, you can also always call HR to find out deadlines of the "coming back" process. You will have to go to the private care clinic that your company has you listed under - they will send you to your home address the paper that you need to take with you. Once you have the paper you need to call in and make a special appointment for "medicina pracy" (work medical checkup). For example, I am under Medicover care and I had to do this via the hotline - the online system does not have this option listed out. It is a regular eye and body check up. At the end you get a paper acnowledging that you can work again. You need to send that back to HR as soon as possible, scanned and in physical form.
Now you might like to consider that you might have the days off from the previous year that need to be taken as fast as lightning, as your HR and TL may tell you. Most corporations don't agree with days off being passed on from one year to another, hence you will be off longer than one year - maybe a year and two month, maybe more... maybe less... depending on your wish and negotiation skills ;) Once back to work, to the corpo-life, as we call it, you'll have to readjust to the working hours. A full time job in Poland is 8,5 hours long - 8 hours of work and half an hour of break time for lunch. As a mother, if you are breastfeeding, you are also entitled by the Polish Labour Law for an additional 2*30 min break during these 8 hours. These breaks can be combined and can be taken as a full hour break at the beginning or end of shift - but this must be agreed upon with your Line Manager. You might have to also write an official statement for that and raise an HR ticket ;) so double check on your intranet page. Also, from corpo to corpo, there are different additional benefits for the fresh mothers: ranging from additional medical benefits for the child, SMYK gift cards (SMYK is a Polish shop for babies and kids), general insurance policies for the little one but also to additional time off (a limited amount of time, of course). The TL is there to guide you and so is HR, don't feel ashamed to ask away any questions. It is your right! Never forget what a brave human being you are - you just gave birth to another life!

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Her Baby Girl 
Read more ...

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Travel Tuesday: What to do in Krakow in November

Dearest sweethearts,

We are just one month away from all the Christmas celebrations and activities but Krakow's Christmas Markets open soon. It's going to be PERFECT if you are not the type of shopper who does it all (the shopping, the preparing) the day before Christmas. Let's face it, all hell breaks loose in the Christmas Eve. All stores are overrun... It's as if everyone just missed all the markets, fairs, shops for over a month and realised that ... hey! Santa ain't real! (SPOILER ALERT!) I should buy some gifts fast! I don't know about you but I believe that November is the perfect month to start scouting for the perfect gift at a perfect price - if you do things in time you will get a really nice present. Just think about it! Things will be on stock, you will have plenty of time to relax. Well... before I start ranting further on about Christmas, let me point out that November in Krakow doesn't get boring. November in Krakow allows one to do or go to one (or more!) of the following events:
1) All Saints Day & All Souls Day - 1st and 2nd of November. If you missed that this year then you've gotta put this on your list. Go to any Polish cemetery on those days, towards sundown, and witness the beautiful Polish tradition  to come with the entire family, to the family graves, in order to pay their respects. The cemeteries are filled with lights and flowers and a general warm feeling... goosebumps guaranteed!
2) 11th of November - POLISH Independence Day - on this date Poland celebrates a crucial event in it's history: when the Second Polish Republic was restored in 1918. It's not actually the exact date, but it does mark the end of Poland being divided into the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Empire while under the rule of the Russian Empire. Going to the Wawel Cathedral is a must. The procession from Wawel will take to Plac Jan Matejko, where flower wreaths will be deposited to the grave of the Unknown Soldier.
P.S. On the 11th of November you can also attend the Andrea Bocelli concert at Tauron Arena - 7 PM. 
3) 29th of November - Andrzejki - St. Andrew's day - that's the night were ladies try to find more of their future husband... It's a pagan tradition, with a lot of games and superstitions connected to it. 
4) The Market Square Christmas Fair - starts on the 25th of November and lasts until the first week of January - it is definitely one of the must do / must visit if ever in the area. Handmade, homemade products for sale. You can find anything from traditional Amber jewelry from the Baltic Sea to the traditional highlander cheese that we all love (oscypek). 
5) Harlem Gospel Choir sings Adele - 23 November - Venue: Filharmonia Krakow - for blues, soul and jazz fans... but I would say not only :)
6) Etiuda & Anima International Film Festival - 21st to 26th of November - Poland's oldest film festival. The first edition was in 1994. It features short movies - 30 min or shorter - made by professionals from all over the world but also by students.

Yours truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow 
Read more ...

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Krakow: Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady

Dearest sweethearts,

"All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt" said Charles Schulz. Justus von Liebig used to say that "chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power... it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits." They were right. They were all right, including Forest Bump, saying that "life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get!" Wise man connecting their thoughts to this lovely thing called chocolate. Now don't get me wrong, I like chocolate but I'm not that crazy about sweets in general. I know there are moments in which a piece of chocolate can go a long way and keep you alive and kicking. A piece of dark chocolate, for example, taken before heavy exercise at the gym, can prevent you from feeling any muscle aches. Also dark chocolate is very good for your heart. Chocolate can be a remedy, something good for you, if you take small dosages. Now... I know some people who eat a whole chocolate at a sitting - I'm not like that and I woulnt even attempt it! I would be sick after one row! But occasionally... one can indulge!

The best time for hot chocolate is when the weather outside gets upset and turns rainy, windy and foggy. The perfect thing to warm and cheer you up can be a cup of hot cocoa or hot chocolate. I prefer to real and unwind with some hot tea, but when I go out I sometimes experiment. Now I've never been to Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady but I've always heard mixed up opinions about it, so when a friend proposed to go out in the Old Town for something warm, this name popped out. Reading the reviewed you will see that the pluses all come from the good hot chocolate, the chocolate cubes they make, the ornaments in many shapes and sizes, the smell of melted chocolate and the great location - just at the end of Florianska Street, on the corner with Mariacki (St. Mary's Church). All minuses come from the waiting time to get your menu, to get your order, to get your food/drinks, to get your receipt and pay. Well I can truly say "been there, done that!" And I totally agree with all the above! The serving is horrible, but that's not the fault of the waitresses! There were 3 fine young ladies, moving as fast as they could, taking orders from both upstairs and downstairs. The location was filled to the brim and they also have the take-out options, which gets them even more crowded.
It is true, the lady that served us made some mistakes, forgot part of the order, mixed another part (I wanted waffles with whipped cream it but I ended up with hot choco ones, so I just asked her to add the whipped cream on top). The payment downstairs can't be done via card, you need to get upstairs and stay in line to pay... which was not really nice. The place has a nice athmosphere and vibe, all tables and chairs are wooden and there are handmade tops on the table. It's not noisy and the waffles were good, warm and soft. I can't complain about the product itself. The serving of the product is the issue and I think that could be due to the understanding and/or not having good enough training. I felt as if they needed at least 2 more people to run the place. It's a shame, especially as it is a central location and the chocolate items are really good! 

I would like to go there again and try more of their products. I wanted some mulled wine but unfortunately they did not have that at the time being. Also the chocolate cakes that they have looked delicious. In case you are looking for a top for your wedding cake they have bride & groom pairs out of white and dark chocolate for sale  ;) 
The prices:
- hot cocoa - 6 zloty
- hot chocolate - 12-13 zloty, depending on the type of flavour. It comes in small cups of 200 grams and it's quite sweet and strong, pure melted chocolate
- Pancakes - with cheese or with chocolate - 10 zloty
- waffles - 9,5-10,5 depending on the topping that you will have and if you also want some fruits added. Try the hot chocolate & whipped cream one!
- tea (there is a large assortment but mainly of black teas, a few green ones) - 9,5-10 zloty

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves xxx
Read more ...

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Things I Am Thankful For - October 2017

Dearest sweethearts,

If you've been reading my blog this year you must have noticed the challenge I have proposed for this year. It's hard sometimes to see the bright side of life. Even when looking at a glass of water we tend to see the empty half, nor the part filled with water. In fact, all that is relatively as the glass is never empty - the other half is filled with air! So what I proposed was that at the beginning of each month we should think of the things we are thankful for.  It might be hard at first but you'll get better as time passes. Train yourself to see the beauty in the little things in life. Start with 5 things/Moments and work up from there ;) Here's my take until now for the month of January, FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust and September. For October, I am thankful for many things, but here are 5 picks:
1) Hearing Sting live! It was both a pleasure and a privilege to watch him and hear him play live all the songs of my childhood. It wasn't the typical concert of fans and groupies with a low age... it was the first time I experienced, by myself, a concert for the grown-ups. The medium age was above 40+ for sure, yet the atmosphere and the beautiful positive vibes I could not find anywhere else. People came with the music in their soul, everyone knew the lyrics by heart and everyone knew the songs from the first movement of the chord. It was the familiar tunes of our childhood-teenage years that brought everyone together. The crowd melted as one. Sting was absolutely magical and there was a second, emotional, encore that was given to the audience. You could see the degree in which the people held Sting in high esteem. In front of the stage there were no seating options and people came and stood still, on their feet, waiting for Sting, for almost 3 hours until he came on stage. Everyone wanted to be closer. And he was a sight to behold! One of the best (early) birthday gifts that I've got! Thank you kotek once again :*
2) Growing older - I know that's an odd thing to be thankful for, but I am! I am thankful God granted me another year next to the ones I love, I am thankful for being home this year and being able to watch my daughter grow, I am thankful that I have my family near me to celebrate. After a certain moment you won't want big parties or dancing late at night or shopping sprees, you'll just want to spend more time with the ones you love. I'm thankful for them and for the years in my life.
Krakow Business Park does have some lovely trees :)
3) Going back to work again - taking 1 year of maternity leave totally disconnects you from everything work related. The scary part is you won't feel when time flies and you'll have to get back to work again. The problem is that your brain has already a different mindset. The things you have learned - #motherhood related - took over the other things you knew - work related. First day at work might be a challenge, but you'll live through it. Going back to work again shows you that time spend with family is very important. It also shows you that it's very important to actually do something you really love - after all, you spend there 1/3 of your day!
4) October itself, the month of colours and smells - I love Octobers not only due to my bday but also due to the fact that I believe it's the most magical month in the year. Maybe December comes close, but still... October welcomes us with warm(ish) weather that makes you layer up not not too much so nobody can figure out anything else except your eyes underneath the heavy scarf... October welcomes us with fresh foliage changing from green to yellow to mustard to brown and with the tint of red, the tint of blood.  October is all about layers and layers of leaves that crush underneath your feet and smell of burn yet they tickle your nose. October is all about grapes and nuts and beautiful flowers that look like snowballs. October is warm walks and hot chocolate or the ever posh pumpkin latte. October means to be loved and sunkissed by the last warm rays of sun.
5) My beautiful Ladybug Baby Girl - she makes me smile each time I see her. The way she develops from day to day is amazing. Just a while ago she was crawling and now she's confidently making her first steps alone. She's always running towards us, laughing or having a big smile upon her face. She loves books immensely and especially the ones with sounds - music makes her hum and move her head and hands to the rhythm. Who knows... Maybe she will pursue that when she will be a bit older. For now I watch her stepping intensively on each leaf that she finds... and consider it's Autumn! I love her smiling and being happy from little things, she is our bundle of joy and we will be forever thankful to God that he blessed us with her.  

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Wants To Be Thankful For All The Lovely Things Life Brings Us
Read more ...