Friday, October 31, 2014

Where I stayed - Hostel Chili, Foz do Iguacu

My travel style has changed over the years. Before I used to always go for the cheapest option, no matter how far away from the important landmarks it was. Now, however, the location is a very important factor to me and I don't mind paying a little bit more just to be in a more central place. Fortunately there's accommodation like Hostel Chili in Foz do Iguacu where both price and the location are excellent and the place itself is great.

Hostel Chili, Foz do Iguacu

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Zagreb - the hidden gem of Europe

I hate the term "hidden gem". It's often overrated and overused. However there are some places that fully deserve this name and I personally think Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is one of them. The country is famous for its breathtaking coast line with charming towns like Dubrovnik and crystal clear water. Each year thousands of people heading to the Adriatic Sea bypass the biggest town in the country. Big mistake! Zagreb is a vibrant city with spectacular architecture and rich culture, the place it's easy to fall in love with and enjoy every bit of it!

Zagreb Upper Town

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: rainy Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

For everyone visiting Buenos Aires a ferry trip across Rio de la Plata is a must. One hour on the boat and you can find yourself in a totally different world, much calmer one. Colonia del Sacramento, a small Uruguayan town, is a perfect getaway to escape the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires and stock yourself with a hard currency to make your visit in Argentina more affordable. But besides visiting the nearest ATM it's worth to spend at least few hours wandering the charming old town, the only place in Uruguay that made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

I've heard and read so many awesome things about Colonia that I was really excited to visit it! I even thought of it as a highlight of my trip to South America, a place similar to Paraty that I would fall in love with right away. And it all could have happened if not a terrible storm that interrupted my stay there. I had 5 or so hours to spend in Colonia but eventually had to limit myself to one hour... Too bad as what I've managed to see looked really pretty!

There were not too many people when I walked around Old Town (of course, everyone smart has already hidden somewhere as the sky was getting darker and darker with each minute). Many of the beautiful houses were empty and crumbling - together with the weather it gave kind of a spooky atmosphere. Cobbled streets were full of old cars that fit there perfectly. Exotic plants grow on the walls of the houses and gates. This place really was incredibly pretty and with big pleasure I could wonderfully get lost there, if only the circumstances were different...

As soon as I figured out how terrible my situation was (oh, did I mention I had no umbrella or waterproof jacket with me?) I almost ran around, challenging the weather and trying to see as much as possible in a very short time I had. The unavoidable happened when I was in probably the prettiest street of the Old Town, next to the lighthouse, the most famous landmark of Colonia. The thunders were heard for few minutes but suddenly it was like someone has opened the tap and the wall of water comming from the sky appeared. Together with very few people left I run to find some shelter. Eventually I hid next to the entrance to some small clinic and was stuck there for over half an hour until the rain calmed down a little bit. I run to the bus station to get my backpack and change my wet clothes and well, that was the end of my sightseeing in Colonia. The rain continued for few more hours but when my boat was ready to depart to Buenos Aires I could witness a really beautiful sunset over Rio de la Plata, of course...

I still think Colonia is one of the prettiest small towns in this part of the world. Just take a look and judge yourself!

Colonia del Sacramento

Friday, October 24, 2014

Buenos Aires street art tour

I think by now you're very well aware that I'm a big fan of street art and I'm trying to find it everywhere, even in a very remote places. But, to be honest, I've never known very much about it. I either liked the mural/graffiti/tag/whatever or not but I had no idea about ways to create these or other technical things. I also never went for the street art tour, always tried to discover the local scene on my own. But as it turned out I missed out a lot! When I visited the capital of Argentina I went for the Buenos Aires street art tour and it turned out to be such a great desicion! I loved the city anyway but the tour turned out to be the highlight of my stay there!

Buenos Aires street art tour

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where I stayed: Vibe Hostel, Paraty

I think I'm getting old as more and more often I opt for the single room in the (cheap) hotel or hostel. But I still enjoy staying in hostel dorms from time to time as that's the best way to meet fellow travellers and chat about the place you all are visiting. On my second night in Brazil, when I visited beautiful Paraty, I spent the night in Vibe Hostel and even if I was still slightly jetlaged I had a great time!

entrance to Vibe Hostel

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: monasteries in Meteora

Even if I've never been really interested in visiting Greece there were couple of places that I really wanted to see in this Mediterranean country. One of them was Meteora, a complex of six monasteries located in the breathtaking scenery. The name of the place, Meteora, literally means "suspended in the air" and this term couldn't be any more accurate. The monasteries - the oldest one dating back to 15th century - are built on high rock pillars that make the whole place look kind of abstract and surreal. Not to mention incredible beautiful!

It was late afternoon when I arrived to Meteora and from the moment I steped out of the train the scenery amazed me. Sleepy town was in shadow of breathtaking rocks that dominated the landscape. Fortunately my accomodation was not in the town of Kalabaka but in the village even closer to the monasteries. It was perfectly calm and quiet, the sun was shining, it was the beginning of spring time and I couldn't have asked for a better place to relax after the hustle and bustle of Athens. I walked around a little bit, not meeting many people on my way and falling for the place more and more.

The next morning I set off to see the monasteries. I heard many terrible stories about the twisting road leading to them but the hike up there was pretty fine, much easier than I expected. After each turn the scenery was getting better and better and I almost felt like pinching myself, it was hard to believe this place is real. When I saw the first monastery, of St. Nicholas Anapausas, I was standing in awe with my mouth open - it was a truly breathtaking sight and the building was literally suspended in the air. But the best was still to come - each monastery I've seen was better than the previous one and looking at the left me speachless!

Unfortunately I didn't visit any of them. I know, it's a big mistake and I didn't have a full Meteora experience. But the monasteries were either closed for the day / for renovations or full of school groups running around and screaming. I didn't want the kids to ruin my perception of the place as I found it really spiritual, with an elevated vibe. Instead I spent quite much time just siting at the nearby rocks and staring at the incredible landscape and beautiful monasteries. It was just the beginning of spring, the day was warm and sunny and together with the scenery the day couldn't be any more perfect...

Meteora view

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Favelas in Rio - an inseparable part of the city's scenery

When I planned my trip to Rio de Janeiro I knew that, besides famous beaches or Santa Teresa, there's one more place I have to see - favelas. I was very well aware that this might be not the easiest spot to visit but the curiosity and the will to learn more about this such an important part of life in Rio de Janeiro was just stronger. Since I heard and read so much about safety in Brazil and especially how dangerous favelas are I opted for an organized tour - the one that is run by Marcelo Armstrong and has been operating for over 20 years - and I couldn't have chosen better! Favelas in Rio are a fascinating place, an universe of its own, and only this way I could have learnt a lot about them!

favelas in Rio

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: picturesque Paraty, Brazil

Jet lag is an evil thing. But sometimes waking up really can result in a big affection towards a visited place . That was the story with me and Paraty. This small coastal town in Brazil was the first place I properly stayed in during my recent trip to South America (I don't count Sao Paulo as I was there only for a night and did a very quick walk around) and I just couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the region! As soon as my bus reached the Atlantic Ocean coast I was more and more falling in love with what I've seen! Perfect white sandy beaches hidden in the shadow of palm trees, turquoise waters of the ocean, lush forests... On top of that was Paraty - probably the most picturesque town of South America!

Paraty has a long and rich history of Portuguese colonialism and Brazilian imperialism and used to be an important center of gold mines. That left a huge impact in the town's architecture that still can be admired in the historical old town - some buildings are as old as 250 years (which is a lot in this side of the world!). Even if this part of the town isn't very big it is sated with places that can take a breath away - churches, fancy houses or cobbled lanes. And all of these are painted in mix of white and vibrant colors! 

I went for a quick walk around in the late afternoon on my first day and already loved the old town from the very first sight. Even if it was slightly busy with tourists wandering around and heading to the numerous restaurants for dinner, one of the most beautiful sunsets ever gave the place a magical feel. But it was even better on the next morning! I set off to explore the old quarter after 6am when the town was slowly waking up, ready to welcome a new, beautiful day. I slowly wandered every single street, falling for Paraty more and more with each step. The historic old town is closed to vehicles so for most of the time I had place only to myself, there where even no local people hurrying to work. I could see everything the way I wanted, at my own pace and that could have been the reason why I loved the place so very much!

Paraty turned out to be the most beautiful town I've seen in South America (and is definitely in the top 5 of all my travels!) and was a perfect place to relax after the long journey and before the craziness of Rio de Janeiro. I just wish I could have stayed longer as there's so much to do in the area, not just wandering the historical old town. There's the forest to hike to, islands to take the boat to or just beautiful sandy beaches to relax at. Well, if I ever return to Brazil I'll make sure to spend more time in Paraty and fully enjoy the place!

Let me take you for the walk through the historical old town of Paraty. Isn't it just the prettiest?

Paraty Old Town

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Road trip through Czech-Polish border

This whole story actually starts at the beginning of the year in Israel when I met Martina and Ondra, two amazing Czechs who instantly become my great friends and ever since then they play an important part in my life. Less than 3 months later I ended up spending a weekend in the Czech Republic where we took one of the most amazing road trips of my life, through the border areas of our countries. It was cold and raining (at some point even snowing), the weather perfect just to stay at home and coil with a book and a cup of tea. Yet we had a wonderful time exploring abandoned churches, visiting old German cemeteries and hiking the forests - places that I had no idea they even existed!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bohemian Rio de Janeiro - Santa Teresa

It's not a big surprise I like bohemian neighborhoods, a lot. If you've been following my travels for a while you've seen me exploring such areas in almost every city I visit - Montreal, Vilnius or Cape Town to name a few. So it was pretty obvious to me that the very first place I should discover in Rio de Janeiro was Santa Teresa - part of the city known for its cobbled streets, art-deco houses, funky street art scene, cozy cafes and artistic feel. And it was perfect! While most of the people visiting Rio focus mainly on its famous beaches, Santa Teresa is a perfect alternative and shows another, much calmer side of the city.

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