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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday with Pictures: colourful Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg

Only 25 years ago these neighbourhoods were located in two different countries, seperated by the Wall. Now they're the center of the famous Berlin alternative lifestyle, being a creative heart of the city and the world's largest open-air gallery. Crazy clubs, flea markets and farmer markets, alternative culture centers, small restaurants and cosy cafes as well as the overwhelming number of street art - you can find all of that in Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Not long ago the majority of inhabitants were poor students and workers, these days these two areas are among Berlin's most hip places!

Besides being a place to hang out Kreuzberg is also known for its big number of immigrants that in a way make the area so diverse. In some places, especially at the Maybachufer Turkish Market, you don't feel like in Berlin anymore. From early morning till late night hours Kreuzberg is always full of life and bustles with everything that is alternative! On the other hand Friedrichshain is a young and dynamic place yet much calmer than its former West neighbour. Both areas came from the working class tradition but now serve as the trendiest places to live, work and just be in Berlin.

Wandering around streets of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain was one of the highlights of my recent trip to Berlin. I just loved looking at the street life, so full of diversity typical for these neighbourhoods. I spent a big part of my Berlin time watching the world go by from the local cafe, browsing through all kind of crap on Sunday flea markets, visiting quirky little boutiques and just enjoying being there. Apparently these areas, and especially Friedrichshain, are really good to live in and I really can see why as I could see myself living there too!

street life Friedrichshain

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quirky Prague: art by David Cerny

One of the reasons why Czech Republic is one of my favourite countries is the overwhelming number of quirkiness. The best example of it is David Cerny's artwork that can be found in many locations in Prague. He is one of the best contemporary Czech artists, constantly pushing boundaries and creating pieces that in many countries (including Poland) would be just too provocative and sometimes even offending. Cerny is a national master of scandal and controversy yet the local authorities rewarded him with a studio in the center of Prague so he could create even more.

David Cerny babies

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life in kibbutz

As soon as I found out that Jisr az Zarqa borders with kibbutz Maagan Michael I wanted to visit the place and see how the perfect life really looks like. I’ve read so much about the idealistic vision of Israeli pioneers and the collective reality of these settlements that it all just seemed too good to be true. As it turned out Neta’s friends live there and we were welcome to visit them so I could ask all the questions about the life in kibbutz. And I had a lot of them!

Maagan Michael

Friday, August 1, 2014

where to look for street art in Prague

On the first sight the Czech capital is all about beautiful old houses, red rooftops and hundred of spires but once you dig in deeper the city has so much more to offer! When it comes to street art Prague might be not as amazing as other European capitals (I'm looking at you, Berlin and Athens) but it certainly has some pretty good pieces around. The problem is - you just need to know where to look for them. Before my last trip to Prague I spent pretty much time online looking for street art spots, it wasn't easy but eventually I came up with a list of places I have to visit! And as a result, here's my small guide to Prague's street art!

street art in Prague

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Minsk - a perfect Soviet city

For the reason I can't explain lately I've been fascinated with Soviet architecture, massive concrete structures being a tribute to working class and showing the real power of the authority. Some might find the majestic buildings slightly overwhelming, but for me they are beautiful. And so I knew I will like Minsk when I visit it eventually. The trip to Belarus has been on my mind for months (I almost went there this winter) so when it was announced you can travel visa free for the Hockey Championships I couldn't miss a chance like that!

Independence Avenue

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: Colours of Ostrava

I like music festivals (or any kind of festival for that matter). For past few years I've been trying to attend few each year, but usually they were just in Poland. After hearing amazing things about Colours of Ostrava, the biggest international music festival in Czech Republic, I've decided to give it a try. And it was a perfect decision as the event turned out to be amazing! I can easily say it was the best festival I've ever been to!

This year marked 13th edition of Colours of Ostrava and apparently it's getting better and better each year! 11 different stages offered amazing concerts, workshops, theatre plays and any other form of art activity. There wasn't just one kind of the music played but a big variety so everyone could find something for themselves, from hard rock to jazz to melancholic songs. The artists weren't only a local bunch but came from all over the world, including some big names like Robert Plant, MGMT or the National. But the concerts I enjoyed the most were Angelique Kidjo, an amazing singer from Benin, and Bijou Terrier, a hardcore Slovak band. 

But music wasn't the most important thing for me at Colours of Ostrava. The fact why this festival stole my heart was a great atmosphere and an amazing location! The industrail sites really work well for such events and Dolni Oblast Vitkovice, a former iron and steel mill, was just incredible! The other advantage of the location was that all the stages were fairly close to each other yet the concerts didn't interrupt each other. Walking around all the amazing industrial remnants was an excellent experience, the one I will not forget for a long time! 

I was so impressed with the laid back, chillout atmosphere at the site. It was crazy hot on that weekend and so it really felt like it's summer holiday, everyone was so relaxed, enjoying the good music with friends. Unlike on the Polish festivals there was an excellent choice of drinks and food, including many delicious vegetarian options! There was even a map telling where you can get each kind of beer (dark, pilsner, wheat...)! What's even better the prices were really affordable, no one took an advantage of the big event and didn't charge three times more than usual! 

I'm sure next year I will try to go to Colours of Ostrava as well as it's just the perfect summer festival to attend! Not too hip or too much of a showcase but just a great place to spend time with friends, listen to amazing music and enjoy some art. The best thing you can imagine for summer time! Here're some pictures to show you why it is so special and unbeatable!

Colours of Ostrava

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Exploring Armenia: Lori Province

After the excellent tour to Aragatsotn region I was excited to discover more sights of Armenia. My second choice for a daytrip was Lori region, located up north close to the border with Georgia. It took a while to get there from Yerevan, around 3 hours to Alaverdi, but it was well worth the time as the place was just stunning! The landscape changed big time on the way, from the vast Ararat plains to Aragats foothills to finally lush forests and hills of northern Armenia. It was a perfect overview of how much this country has to offer only in terms of nature!

Armenian landscape

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