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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exploring Berlin on bike

I have a confession to make. I'm not a great biker. It's not because I'm out of shape or something, I'm simply afraid of cars and therefore I don't feel very confident when I'm riding a bike around. Even if this year from March on I've been using city bikes to get to/from work, it was Berlin that restored my faith in my skills. During my two recent visits there I went for bike tours around the city and I had such a great time! I can say it now with full certainty that Berlin is the perfect city to ride a bike!

bikes in Berlin

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!


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

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