Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brno - a perfect Central European city

I've been planning to visit Brno for such a long time! While most people go only to Prague (and fall in love with it which is totally understandable) I'm always up for discovering other places in Czech Republic. I can say I've seen a big part of my neighbour country yet Brno has never been on my way. Couple of times I've been this close to going there but there was always something interrupting my plans (floods, hurricanes, me being sick...). Finally this June I managed to visit Brno and I can be only angry at myself for waiting that long, this city is just amazing!


Brno



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

my favourite German cities to visit by train

German must be the best country to travel by train Journeys are fast and comfortable, routes are scenic and the train stations are usually located in the center of the cities, just few steps away from main sights. A while ago I discovered a huge part of Germany using only trains and up to now it's one of the countries I know the best and the one that always bring good memories. From all the cities I visited here are my favourite ones and those I'd love to return to!

Berlin Hauptbahnhof



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: Zizkov - the authentic Prague

Most people who visit Prague focus only on the picture-perfect Old Town, Mala Strana and Hradcany. And while those places are beautiful and make people fall in love with Czech capital there are also other neighbourhoods in the city that are the reason why Prague is among my favourite cities in the world, the one I often return to! One of these places is Zizkov - the alternative area of Prague, a former working-class district, the most authentic  neighbourhood of the Czech capital and the quintessence of its awesomeness

Located behind the main train station Zizkov until 1922 was a separated city. It was built in the way to squeeze as many people as possible in the very small space, hence the area is full of narrow, usually steep streets and high tenement houses. It has always been an alternative, edgy place and the residents - most of them were workers, wretches, drunks, madmen and artists - were very proud of the bad reputation Zizkov has. Up until now it is often called "Free Republic Zizkov". Sadly, as it often is in this kind of places, the neighbourhood is going through gentrification and is slowly changing towards more wealthy area. But so far it still has its authentic, unique vibe that so many people look for in Prague and a place where some cool street art can be found!

Zizkov makes a perfect getaway from crowds in the Old Town and a offers a great chance to see the real Prague. That's where the life goes by in its own pace, where the atmosphere is much more authentic and where you can meet local people in one of the pubs (Zizkov is number one district in Europe when it comes to the quantity of pubs, there're over 300 of them in such a small area!). Of course eating options are much better and more affordable here too! After stuffing yourself with delicious Czech food and even more awesome beer you can wander around some more. Be sure to check the former train track, now a walking, biking and roller skating path at the bottom of Vitkov hill - not only it's a pure pleasure to walk there but also you can take a look at the back of the tenement houses and have a small impression of the life in Zizkov!

Zizkov streets


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

10 epic moments of my trip to Middle East

It's been 8 months since my trip to Middle East yet I still can't get it out of my head! For the reason I cannot really explain I never really was much interested in going to Israel - I wanted to visit it but it wasn't on top of my list. However when I found really cheap tickets I couldn't resist. It turned out to be the smartest decision ever and this was the best trip so far in my long traveling career! There were so many unforgettable moments, some crazy adventures and, most of all, incredible people I met that I can now call my friends! Just thinking about it brings a big smile to my face. Here are some of the best moments from my two weeks in Israel and Jordan!

Kami in Hebron




Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: Gyumri 25 years after the tragic earthquake

Not many of you have probably heard about Gyumri, second biggest city in Armenia. I also didn't know much about it prior to my visits to this fascinating country. It's been an important center in Caucasus from 19th century when it was under the Russian rule. Gyumri was also known as the city of trades and arts and it was the culture hub of the area. That's where the first opera in Armenia was directed or where the first opera theatre in the country was built. Most of the buildings in the city have dark, almost black colour due to the stone that was used - it makes Gyumri's architecture unique and really beautiful.

On 7th December 1988 at 11:41am the history and life of the city was changed forever. That's when the tragic earthquake took place, taking life of around 50.000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Most of the buildings in the center of Gyumri were destroyed, including the beautiful Church of the Holy Saviour. 25 years after these tragic events the city is still under construction, trying to rebuild its greatness. 

When taking the train to Gyumri I could spot very well when I was about to reach the city. Suddenly outside of the window I could see a big number of ruined houses and abandoned buildings - a clear sign I entered the damaged region. That already put me in the allert of how Gyumri might look like and I had to prepare myself quickly for what I was about to see... Never before I've been in the place that was hit by the earthquake and I can say that it was the saddest, most depressing destination I've ever visited... 

I loved Gyumri from the very beginning. At first it doesn't look like a beautiful place but it really is, with the architecture and all the little details that make it so special! It kind of felt like the time has stopped there, maybe not in 1988 but shortly after. I wandered most of the streets in the center and for a big part of the time I felt like I'm in an abandoned, haunted place. The damages caused by the earthquake were still so huge and so widely seen. Not only the big beautiful church and the most famous landmark of Gyumri was under construction but also random houses all over the city still had wounds... Some buildings were cut in half and all these years after the earthquake I could see what kind of wallpaper was there in the rooms...

Visiting Gyumri was a heartbreaking experience and made me think a lot about the life and uncertainity of it. It's incredible that this big tragedy was caused not by the humans but the enormous, angry nature... At least local people were super cheerful and friendly, living their life normally despite all they had to go through! And some street art was located here and there to make the city looks nicer! Sadly I was in Gyumri only for a day but I felt it's the place I could spend more time in! Definitely recommended if you happen to be in Armenia!!

Gyumri

Thursday, August 28, 2014

impressions from Belarus

I didn't have much expectations before going to Belarus. Actually I had no expectations at all! Even if it's a neighbour country of Poland and it takes only few hours to get there we don't know all that much about it - all news that reach us are mostly on political level only. I didn't have any image of Belarus in my head, didn't read much before trip and, like it often is in such cases, the place just blown me away and this very trip turned out to be among my top 3!

Minsk



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest Post: Tbilisi Goes Artsy

You may have heard / read about Zof from The Picktures before - she is a good friend of mine who currently lives in Yerevan, Armenia where I visited her earlier this year. She also shares my passion for street art and I'm more than happy to show you her finds in one of my favourite cities  - Tbilisi!

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I love street art. I’m addicted to capturing it in all the new cities I happen to explore. My blog is full of posts portraying vibrant artsy side of different places: Prague, Riga, Bucharest, Paris, Berlin, Bratislava, you name it. All that said, I never posted anything on street art in Yerevan, the city I live in. While wandering the streets of downtown I miss graffiti, I miss the touch of anonymous artists that must be hiding somewhere around.

street art in Tbilisi


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Berlin 25 years later

When I wander around Berlin I always am in awe of how fast this capital changes, how alternative and hip it became, how it attracts people from all over the world. It's so hard to believe that only 25 years ago it was a divided city, home to two countries, two political and economical systems yet one nation. My recent trip to Berlin was all about the Wall and it was a very important lesson to understand this incredible city properly. Being born and raised still in the times of communism and being interested in the recent history of Europe I thought I knew a lot about Berlin Wall too but this few days proved me how wrong I was...

Berlin Wall



Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: touristy Athens, Greece

For some reason Athens, or Greece in general, have never attracted me. Unlike most of the people I didn't dream of visiting it. Ancient history and culture aren't my passion, I'm not a big fan of being lazy on the beach, I heard a lot of negativity about the capital (but of course I love Greek food!). But, like always, a really good deal on flights made me book a trip to Greece. And it turned out to be one of the biggest travelling surprises for me, I loved it big time!

I was in awe of amazing street art scene and so many great alternative spots of Athens. But typical touristy places didn't disappoint me either. Despite the super long history Athens wasn't as beautiful as Rome or Jerusalem but that's not what I was hoping for. Actually I had no expectations at all and I had let Athens surprise me. I really enjoyed wandering narrow backstreets of Plaka, the old historical neighbourhood located at the footsteps of Acropolis. Of course main touristy routes were crowded with people but parallel streets were blissfully empty and quiet, with occasionall cats warming up lazily in the sun. 

Stepping into Acropolis was like entering a different world - busy, hustled, overcrowded. I literally had to wait in the line to climb the steps onto the plateau that back in the Late Bronze Age was the fortified town of Athens. But despite that overwhelming number of people it was an incredible feeling to walk around the site that is so full of history and is a well known symbol of democracy, education and inspiration. The ancient remnants are scattered around the whole city and seeing each of them gives a great perspective of our civilisation. 

After spending 3 days in Athens I kept asking myself why I waited so long to go there. While I can understand people not being fully impressed with the city I found it a really great destination that I hope to revisit soon! Just take a look and judge yourself!

view of Athens

Friday, August 15, 2014

Exploring Armenia: southern part of the country

After two great tours north of Yerevan, to Aragatsotn and Lori Provinces of Armenia, I was really excited to see southern part of the country too. My last day trip involved long hours spent in the bus but it was totally worth it as I could see one of the highlights of Armenia - a spectacular Tatev Monastery, my favourite monastery in South Caucasus - Noravank, as well as Karahunj known as Armenian Stonehange. It was yet another excellent day spent exploring and discovering this fascintating country!

Tatev Monastery



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