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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reasons to visit and fall in love with Cieszyn

Have you ever heard of Cieszyn? (except if you've been around for a while and remember my last year's post about this place + if you follow me on Facebook and see how often I mention it). This small town divided by Polish-Czech border is my latest discovery, a place I keep returning to, the one that does mircales to my creativity and where I feel extremely good in. Cieszyn is also a perfect stop in your travels between Prague and Kraków or Vienna and Warsaw. You can relax after dealing with crowds in one of these popular destinations and regain energy before heading to another one. This is just one of the many reasons why you should include Cieszyn in your next trip! So what are the others?

Cieszyn from above
Poland and Czech Republic divided by Olza river

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday with Pictures - Night at the Wadi Rum desert

I've never been really interested in visiting deserts. Sand is not my thing, it's way too annoying and gets literally everywhere - it just drives me crazy. But when I visited Morocco at the beginning of 2013 I still went to Sahara (I figured it's famous for a reason) and, quite surprisingly, it blown me away! I was literally speachless when I saw the vast dunes and so much sand it blocked view of anything else. And the night sky at the desert? I haven't seen a more beautiful one in my life!

And so when I planned my Middle East journey at the beginning of the year I knew Wadi Rum has to be on my itinerary. Not only I wanted to see the desert that is considered as the most spectacular one in the world but also I needed to catch up on the ultimate desert experience - spending a night in the tent in the middle of nowhere.

I arrived to Wadi Rum before noon. It was already too late to join any of the tours of the area but that was ok as for some reason I wanted to experience the desert on my own. The owner of my camp, a lovely Beduin guy called Zedane, drew for me a map on the ground and pointed the direction in which I should walk to - it was 13kms to the camp - more or less 3 hours - all the way through the desert. I kept walking in moon-alike landscape that was so breathtaking I was constantly in awe. To add up to the overall experience freely walking camels passed me by few times! My walk took much longer than I expected only because I was stopping every minute or two to take a picture of the amazing scenery. Eventually (over 3 hours later) Zedane pulled over next to me and we drove last 2 kilometers to the camp. He brought some snack and drinks for me, showed me around the area and pointed to his secret spots where he hides Polish vodka he got from his guests.

I spent my time in the camp wandering around even more and pinching myself I'm in such an amazing place, so stunning it felt unreal. All I could see was orange sand or orange rocks, and not a single person around. It was one of the moments I felt truly happy and content with my life. The camp was almost empty too, the first day like this after New Year's Eve period when over 100 people stayed there every night. Besides me there were 6 other traveller, a nice international bunch I spent some time talking to over dinner. I met two of them, an Italian-American couple, few days later in Jerusalem.

The night arrived and yet again I could witness the most beautiful sky ever. It was cloudless and the number of stars up there was uncountable. I wish I was better at astronomy since I could recognize only few most known constellation. I sat at the rock and just stared at the sky, it was so amazing! The place was also perfectly quiet, not a single sound was heard and at times I felt uncomfortable when the silence was trembling in my ears.

The thing with the desert is that it gets crazy cold at night. It was beginning of January so from 20 or so degrees in the daytime it suddenly went down to 2 degrees (at least it was above 0...). When the time to go to sleep came I put most of my clothes on - 4 pairs of socks, pijama + trousers + jeans, 2 short sleeves top + hoodie + fleece sweatshirt and covered myself with 3 really warm blanket. I hardly could move around but I slept like a baby!

I woke up at 6am to witness the sunrise - I heard it's an unforgettable one and well, it wasn't far from the truth. The moment when the first ray of sunshine peeked from behind the rocks, giving the place even more intense orange colour, was a truly magical one. Yet again I just stared speeachless at the world in front of my eyes, being amazed by the pure beauty of it! Like most people I spent only less than 24 hours in Wadi Rum but I know it's the place that deserves much more time, even if to relax, recharge and reflect on the world around us.

I was asked few times if I was scared when traveling solo to the desert. No, I wasn't. I didn't experience a single moment when I felt uncomfortable or in danger. Some local Beduins started conversation with me but they were all really nice and didn't even try to talk me into staying in their camp / ride a camel / go for a tour (unlike in Morocco). Maybe walking on my own wasn't the smartest idea to some but I found it totally ok - it was an open space so I couldn't really get lost plus Zedane knew I'm there, walking to his camp so he could have looked for me in case I got lost. And by the way, he was totally great! I don't know if that was the fact I was travelling on my own or something else but he was really taking care of me, showing me some great spots around, giving snacks and drinks and at the end charging me less than my reservation said. So if you plan a stay in Wadi Rum - Zedane's Meditation Camp is the place to stay in!

And now just take a look at these amazing pictures! Isn't this place spectacular?

view from the camp

Thursday, July 17, 2014

6 European islands I'd love to visit

For some reason summertime this year made me dream of spending some time in an island. And then I've realized that even if I've been basically everywhere all over Europe I haven't visited all that many islands. OK, so I was only in Cyprus but I enjoyed it a lot but that's about it. There're so many islands that I would love to discover and I truly hope I will have a chance to visit one or two in the nearest future. Some of them are your typical tourist destinations, other may feel a little bit off the beaten path - here are my 6 choices for European islands holidays!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

alternative Athens

Athens happened to be the most surprising destination I visited this year (so far).  I was expecting a tatty, dirty capital, slightly dangerous and torn by the recent crisis, with few ancient remnants here and there. Well, Athens was nothing like that! It turned out the city was very lively, with an explicit alternative vibe and many cool spots to choose from. And the ruins from thousands years ago weren't that bad either. For years I wasn't interested in visiting Athens - when I finally went there I fell in love with the Greek capital and didn't really want to leave.

street life in Athens

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: art in Yerevan

One of the reasons why I liked Yerevan so much and the thing that at first surprised me a lot there was an overwhelming number of art around the city. The center of Armenian capital is full of beautiful murals and quirky sculptures. But the most important place is the famous Cascade that is home of Cafesijan Museum of Art. It was opened less than 5 years ago and holds a collection of contemporary art that came from the collection of the founder Gerard L. Cafesjian - Armenian-American philanthropist. Most of the exhibitions are located inside of the Cascade complex (only few parts of the museum require an admission fee) - you need to take the entrance on the left side. The escalator will take you all the way to the top, while riding it you can admire beautiful or just weird art pieces and once you are on the floors you can take a closer look on stuff big flower or silver painted car. This must be the best escalator journey in the world!

A lot of exhibits from Cafesjian's collection are also located outside, on the steps of Cascade. The best thing is to take the escalator all the way up, take a look at the breathtaking view of Yerevan and (if you're lucky) Mount Ararat, and then walk all the way down admiring great art pieces. You can find work of some of the world known artists there, including the famous LOVE sculpture (Yerevan is one of 38 cities that have this work by Robert Indiana). What's more the small park in front of the Cascade is also full of contemporary statues and sculptures and the number of these is growing fast (during my second visit to Yerevan I could see few new pieces).

While Cascade and Cafesjian Museum of Art dominate the art scene of Yerevan there's much more art spots worth checking. When walking around the city you will see almost every single gate painted in a really lovely way. Apparently it was made by students of Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts as a project to brighten up the city (it succeeded big time!). Every painting is different, every show a different scene yet each of them is beautiful. It was so much fun wandering around Yerevan and curiously looking inside each gate to see what's there! I feel this painted gates are a really big part of the city and I can't imagine the capital of Armenia without these!

Armenians seem to commemorate their most memorable citizens too (and the country is known for giving birth to a lot of wise people). On every step you will stumble across yet another monument of someone famous - a writer, an architect or a chess player. Most of these sculptures are funky and quirky, definitely not a boring monuments that people quickly forget about.

And the best way to end an artsy day in Yerevan? Head to the Republic Square in the evening to watch the cheesy sound and lights show that includes a fountain, colorful lights and hits from 90s or older. No matter how terrible it sounds it really is a lot of fun and every day this 2 hours show attracts big crowds of all ages! I enjoyed it a lot too!

Love sculpture in Yerevan

Thursday, July 10, 2014

alternative Berlin

During each of my visits in Berlin I'm amazed by how fast the city changes, how unique it becomes and how it is now an alternative capital of Europe (I even dare to say of the world). Since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago it had to define itself again as a new, reunited capital and I personally am very glad that it went to this very direction. When lately I was exploring not the touristy parts of Berlin I had moments when I couldn't really believe that all I'm seeing is actually real. It was just too hip, too cool, too much of the dream coming true. And even if these places were full of tourists they still managed to remain real and are spots where young Berliners live, work, party and chill out.

flea market in Mauerpark

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Exploring Armenia: Aragatsotn region

As it was already said I loved my time in Yerevan and didn't really want to leave this amazing city. But one of the reasons that makes the Armenian capital so special is the fact that it can be a perfect base to explore this wonderful country, full of incredible old monasteries and breathtaking landscape.  I used it to the fullest. I managed to see the basics (which is Lake Sevan, Geghard, Garni, Khor Virap and Echmiadzin) during my first visit to Armenia and this time I saw some less popular yet still incredible places. The first trip I took was to a place close to Yerevan, the region of Aragatsotn, with beautiful monasteries, ruins of medieval fortress and quirky monument of  Armenian alphabet.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday with Pictures: Kaszuby, Poland

As much as I like exploring new, far away places I'm a huge fan of discovering my own country too. Poland is so big and so diverse that even if I've been travelling around since I was a small kid there're still so many places I'd love to visit and it will probably take me years to see them all. One of such places that has been on my mind for a long time is Kaszuby. This area, located in north part of the country, not far from Gdańsk is known for beautiful untouched landscape, lakes and forest and its own language (the only official language in Poland besides Polish).

I had a chance to spend few days in Kaszuby earlier this year and it was as pretty as I imagined. I stayed in the heart of the region, in a small village Wdzydze Kiszewskie. It was mid May so there weren't all that many people around, only some school groups. Sadly, even if there're less than 200 inhabitants in the village, Wdzydze looked like a summer nightmare place that I wouldn't like to visit in the peak season. But May seems like a perfect time to be there. It was quite and peaceful, singing birds woke me up early in the morning, lakes were empty - everything a person needs to relax in a beautiful landscape.

Wdzydze is also known for the oldest open-air museum in Poland, showing the old architecture typical for Kaszuby region. While I preferred the museum in Sierpc I enjoyed this one as well. I always like wandering this kind of museums and imagining how the life used to look like all these years ago. This one had a really nice location, in the forest at the shore of the lake and at some points I really felt like I moved back in time!

Another attraction of Wdzydze that I really enjoyed was a watch tower. A pretty high one - 36 meters -  and located next to the point where four lakes meet, offers a breathtaking view of the area. I went there twice and it still wasn't enough for me, I could spend hours just staring at this perfect view. But as well I could spend hours just sitting in the pier, with my feet in the lake, reading a book or staring at the endless surface of the water in front of me...

lakes in Wdzydze

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