December`s fairy tale. Christmas market in Wrocław

Mulled wine, food stands, a personal horseshoe made by a real blacksmith and gifts are only a few examples you can find at Christmas market in one of the Polish cities, Wrocław. December truly transform, though already magnificent, main square in a very mystical place with an extra hint of a magic, in a place not only kids would enjoy. There is no grumpy look at any face. People loves it, enjoy it, taking part in. Great for family, group of friends, tourists, seniors, everyone. There is a different treat for anyone and the same for us all…the magic Christmas spirit.

Food. Many stands offer an amazing and very tasty traditional Polish delicacies as  szaszlyk, (pork, beef or chicken knuckle), bigos (finely chopped meat of various kinds stewed with sauerkraut and shredded fresh cabbage), home made bread, Saint Martin’s croissants, szare kluchy (potato dumplings), potatoes with herring, pierogis (dumplings with all kind of fillings), gołąbki (cabbage rolls with rice and mince meat) and kwaśnica (sauerkraut soup from the highlands…not my fav;).

Apart from Polish food, you can enjoy Hungarian lángos with filling and cold meats: spicy smoked pepper sausages or traditional kolozsvári bacon. Lovely Spanish sweet option as churros. Balkans brought an amazing borek (pastry with different fillings, mmm I loved it when I was in Serbia).

Finishing at Alsatian pancakes known as flammkuchen and Turkish baklava.

For kids. Apart from many stands with all kind of sweets, youngsters can watch some animatronic characters behind glass convey fairy tale plays like The Little Red Riding Hood, The Brave Little Tailor, The Snow White or Pinocchio.

Children can also join one of the workshops to learn how to paint, and then practice it, their own baubles. This activity can be found next to the Christmas Windmill. On another corner, next to the Dwarf House, children can meet Santa at parking space of his sleigh with reindeer.

That one museum kids die to see. Hydropolis in Wrocław.

  Nooooo! That is the word expected to hear when teacher announces upcoming visit to the museum in a class. Not surprisingly, we all know how difficult is to get an attention of a young mind, the curious mind that needs an extra shot of imagination to hold too, to keep the focus. Proud to admit that my city, Wrocław, managed to achieve that. Hydropolis, in the simplest explanation the museum of water, attracts  thousands of visitors from every group of the age, especially youngsters. The light, interactive places and modern computer projections became as a top match in the way the knowledge about the purest, simplest and most important substance on the planet Earth, WATER, can be presented.

  Now a must see attraction while visiting Wrocław, in Poland, just can not be missed, especially by kids. Easy accessible as close to the city center (address: Na Grobli 19Wroclaw 50-421, Poland) with a very affordable ticket prices: 18 zł (5$) concessionary ticket, 27 zł (7.5$) regular ticket, 72 zł (20$) family ticket (2+2). Please don`t skip it! 

Back flash from Bucharest

  Waking up this morning got to remember that Friday, as is today, was a day when I landed in Bucharest, the place from where I start my backpacking trip trough the Balkans, along with my, still strong till today, love for feta cheese and spinach. Yes, this very own and very great Romanian capital got my traveling feelings on straight away. Also taking an opportunity here to point that it is a good city to start from this part of the Europe. Allowing myself only a three days, I can not admit that Bucharest has been fully discovered and experienced by me. Yet, touched, thought slightly, but satisfying, managing to ticked a great night out, good city seeing around the center, finishing at meeting local friends along with other travelers. Clearly, was a good start, promising a good  further travel. And indeed, that was the case. Though, sparing to write what to see, what I saw, what I liked and what not so, just sharing few photos from this Easter European city, from where my trip has begun.

https://annapowaska.com/2017/10/11/earthquake-in-nepal-2/

Earthquake in Nepal

25.04.2015

  It`s been already my fifth day in Kathmandu, so after seeing most of the things around, I wanted to spend this day practicing my street photography skills, as I always liked it most. I found a perfect narrow street in the Thamel area, I had visited few times in previous days, where I just loved the scenery of petite and long path of an old buildings, growing from the bricks below, with golden and silver pots, dishes and plates all around to purchase. I thought, with nice sunny weather, it will be a perfect day to capture a few good photos of a daily life in Nepal. Sun reflection on the golden vases looked picturesque with a background build of all dark, mystery and old houses around. As an early bird, leaving hotel shortly after breakfast, I was ready for my little wander around one of my all time favorite capitals. As of hot weather I packed just my wallet, water and camera in to my bag. It was around 27 degrees during the day time, so leaving hotel in just shirt and jeans was expected. However, I wasn’t even expecting that I am going to sleep next two nights outside on the ground with nothing.

11.50 am

 After wondering for few hours around delightful Thamel, I reached my destination of a tiny street, I mentioned earlier on, where I began taking photos. Five minutes before 12.00, I saw on the sky something I have never seen before. The whole upper atmosphere was covered with birds of all kinds, almost like a dark cloud, flying in to the one direction….all out of the sudden. It was one of the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. The whole sky was filled with them. Everyone suddenly stopped to look up at this rare happening. Shortly after, few elderly woman started to run around, shouting in Nepalese language sentences I could not understand. I was the only tourist there. I noticed sudden panic around, people trying to hide, shouting for kids around, grabbing their arms. Clearly, they all tried to hide quickly, closing shops, if that was a possible thing to do. It was just 10-20 seconds between noticing flying birds and what happened after, but I remember that loads of things went trough my mind. Basically, those running elderly ladies were pointing the sky, and I saw people running and trying to look for a shelter, so the only explanation, I’ve had created in my head, was that there are some air military force coming. But no, that was not the case.

 Seconds after, the earthquake began. The ground started to shake extremely violently. I could only hear the movement of the plates. Even thought buildings were collapsing around me, I could not sound a thing. I am not going to lie, I wasn’t that much scared, as I thought its normal in this part of the world, as of an earth layers that shaped the great Himalayas. I was even just standing, though, trying not to fall, thinking whether is safer to stay out or get in!

 I was one of the last people standing on that street, but then suddenly I felt a hand grabbing me and taking to stay in one of the entrances of the house. Maybe he saved me, as bricks were falling everywhere. The ground was shaking so destructively in vertical way, It was very difficult to stay up. I don’t know how long it took, but at this point, I realized its a disaster. As soon as earthquake finished, I knew I had to get out of this small-scaled street with old building around, as during the aftershock more could collapse, like the one I was in. Also, as soon as the ground stopped shaking, I noticed what is really happening around. Woman were crying, few people were injured, everyone was just in shock. However, there was a strong wave coming to strike again and then more after, so I knew I need to find a big enough square with a proper distance from surrounded buildings. I just managed to run around the corner to the temple area, I got to remember from previous days. The maze was small, around 20-30 square meters, but houses weren’t so close. Loads of people, finding it as a closest safest area, gathered there too for upcoming aftershock. I inspected the damage around and noticed that almost every building had cracks and looked like can not survive next shakes. At this point there was nowhere to go anyway. It was too dangerous to try to go trough streets to reach a bigger gardens to stay away from building at this time. I looked around trough the people faces. Shock, fear and sadness was mixed with helplessness and surprise. There was a mother standing next to me with her three young children. I looked at her and saw her tears coming like a river from her eyes, but she was trying to hide it well from her kids. She really was a breaking point at realization about the situation.

 After 30-40 minutes after the main earthquake, few birds, sitting around on roofs, flew suddenly away again in same direction as before. At this point, we all knew what is going to happened after 20 seconds. Few people were screaming, but, luckily, buildings around managed to stay as they were. After shakes stopped, I knew I have another half an hour or so before another one, to find a properly big space away from any kind of architecture. Luckily, knowing Kathmandu already, I run to the big open space close to the Durban Square. Not surprisingly, I saw a huge group of people, like myself, trying to get a safer shelter before upcoming aftershock. I’ve met two English guys. One of them was wounded. I asked what happened, and he explained to me that, with his friend, they were the last people to escape from one of the temples before it collapsed with, still, loads of people trapped in. I’ve had a sealed water, so I opened it, and we cleaned his wound. They wanted to go back to hotel, but I told them not to, and to come with me after the second quake, that was going to happened soon. I knew that we are close to the one, big enough, garden. They joined me, and I bet they were very glad they did so, as the area was safe enough. We all three stayed there until the third and fourth aftershock, but we all felt no real danger. The fourth wave was very mild, so after that (three hours after the first one) we finally heard sirens of ambulances and fire brigade trying to rich people in need. All signals and internet was disconnected, so I couldn’t contact anyone to say that I am ok. I actually wasn’t able to do so for the next 30 hours.

  The situation was stable enough to start to think what my next move is going to be. I definitely wasn’t going to hotel, as it was far, and way was trough a small streets. I memorized that I was close to the big stadium, so I made a quick decision of going there. I asked these two guys if they will come with me, they agreed. We arrived at our destination, and we noticed that most people from Kathmandu gather there to be in this safe place. I saw a hospital trolleys, with patients on, set on the grass already, but left on its own for hours. I guess stuff was trying to rich people buried under the rumbles. The situation was just drastic, dramatic and very bad. There were not enough people to help and thousands were in need of a first aid. There was nothing on the ground, just grass. I had just water with me and camera, and that was the time when I decided to actually go to my hotel to get some clothes, for cold coming night, and my passport. I said goodbye to my friends and was on the street again, witnessing a disaster, collapsed buildings, wounded people, completely destroyed roads. I was a bit scared going trough the streets towards my accommodation, but had no other option really. Thought, on my way, after another shake, I decided not to. Actually, I wasn’t even sure if my hotel still stands up.

  After changing my mind of getting stuff from hotel, I found on the way the garden, called Garden of Dreams, where I saw few people around. It was big enough, so I decided to enter. I’ve met there other travelers, and we stayed together as a team for the next 2 days. We decided to sleep there too, thought earthquakes were going on trough the whole night, the worst for me was cold, almost icy feels, I was getting the whole time. In only my thin shirt on in temperature of 5 degrees, I was laying in darkness on the grass unable to sleep. In the morning, I knew I have to check my accommodation and get my passport and something warm to wear for another sleep out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend another night in this temperature in just what I was wearing. My friends from the group said they will do the same, and that we will all meet here after, in 2-3 hours.

  I reached my hotel at 8.00 in the morning. Building was damaged, but was standing. All areas in were abandoned and completely empty, everyone were gone, and all rooms were open. Mine was closed, but had my key, so was able to get in to take my big back with half of the clothes, I`ve had with me in Nepal. I managed to, at least, wash my hands and face, but was still very hungry. I was wondering what happened with owner and all the guests…I could just hope they were all fine!!

  I picked all I needed and came back to the garden. I found my friends after, and they told me that not far is a noodle place open today, so we went there to get some food. Thought, queue was for an hour, we managed at least to have a hot meal. It was a warm day, so I was laying on the grass enjoying the sun after all that cold, I felt the whole night before. Around 18.00 my phone line was back on again, so it was finally the first time I could call relatives to say that I am fine.

The second night

  The second night was possibly the worst night I have ever experienced in my whole life. Having clothes this time on me, I was even able to make a pillow from my hoodie to lie my head on. Here, I want to add that no help was visible anywhere so far, no Red Cross, nothing! Dressed as an Eskimos, I was prepared to spend the next night on the grass. Extremely tired, being awake for 36 hours now, I thought I may get a little sleep. No, I could not be more wrong! This time was raining heavily all night! I was only able to hide all my electronics under my belly, and that is how I spent next 8 hours, all wet, cold and awake.

  In the morning I changed my shoes, and I put dry blouse. I told my friends that I can’t stay here longer, and I am off…somewhere. I took my backpack, and I left. At this point, I didn’t even know where I was going to go. All hotels were closed, and it wasn’t safe to stay indoor, as still was too dangerous as of damaged buildings. Luckily, I noticed few buses on the street across. I asked the driver where are they going, and found that one of them was heading to Pokhara, a city 8 hours ride away from Kathmandu. I had no better option than just to take that bus.

Most scary moment in that whole situation

 Driving trough Kathmandu, I was able to see the real scale of what happened in past two days! Third of the capital got destroyed. Roads were damaged too, but buses were running on them anyway. I was just happy to leave, to seek for a bed to lie down and just sleep. The road to Pokhara was trough Himalayas, a very tiny one with no rails on the edge. So on one side you had high mountains, and on another, steep rocky block high on 50 meter ended with wild river down below. I read that these roads are the most dangerous in the world, and, I guess, still present aftershocks contributed to higher the danger level too. However, I felt still good to be gone from Kathmandu.To be on the way, moving. Suddenly the bus stopped, and I saw a long line of cars in front of us. I got out of the bus, I could feel earthquake, but this time there was nowhere to hide. I got in to bus again, and I asked one of the Nepalese, sitting next to me, why are we stopping, as I could not understand the bus driver. He told me that we had to as because of the land slide that was happening not far from us. At this point I was really scared, being trapped in tiny Himalayan road. We continue to wait 2 h, and, luckily, the bus went off again.DSC_0839

Arriving to Pokhara

  I can’t even describe how relieved I was when I arrived to Pokhara, that got hardy damaged. I checked in to one of the hotels and, happy to have a bad, I slept for twelve hours! There was another mild earthquake at night, but I didn’t even left the bed this time! The next days shower felt like a rear pleasure and close by Italian restaurant like a heaven!

Return to Kathmandu

  I returned to Kathmandu after seven days. Situation was even worst. I have been told that the water is contaminated, as of bodies around. Buildings were still as I saw them leaving with bricks all around. I still wasn’t able to see much of international aid, I read about online in Pokhara. Luckily for me, few hotels were open, so I checked in to one. Actually, one of the best, as was reassured it’s a strong construction, and I am safe there. In the morning I was having a breakfast with French fire brigade, that came as an aid. They were eating for 3 hours..not even going to comment on that. I’ve heard also some Polish volunteers, that came to help, but I saw them just taking private photos of collapsed buildings. I did not see any international aid, only Nepalese working very hard, helping each others. I might be wrong, I am sorry, I know many people were in remote villages, helping. But having a breakfast for 3 hours wasn’t so cheering, and changed my view how people act in such a crisis, when it’s not really their backyard.

Shkoder, a perfect stop before traveling to Montenegro

 Visiting Shkoder, town in the northern part of Albania, definitely rewarded my time in Tirana, the capital that did not impressed me even a bit. Thought, I’ve met loads of great people there, I sampled a traditional and very tasty food, the architecture left a sour taste in my mouth. Luckily, delight was waiting for me in my next location, in a cute little city called Shkoder, the most historic town in Albania with the oldest wall of the castle that dates back to the 1st millennium bce.

 When it comes to the geological side of the area, we can find this beautiful place surrounded by North Albanian Alps. It is lying at the southeast end of Lake Skadar, at a point where the Buenë (Serbian and Croatian: Bojana) River, one of Albania’s two navigable streams, flows out of the lake toward the Adriatic Sea. This is definitely a must see place. The city gives you the opportunity to sample traditional food in one of many restaurants around, to visit mosques or to just have a great night out. On another hand, the outskirt and surrounded landscape creates a perfect bike trials you can enjoy alone, with friends or family. Here is my other blog about cycling paths there. So clearly this place offers a lot, and it just can’t be missed. It’s also a perfect stop once traveling between Albania and Montenegro.

Bus from Managua to Granada and Masaya Volcano

 Spending good few days in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, I just could not skip seeing places around. The landscape is way too beautiful to just stay in the city. Lakes, volcanoes and mountains create a very interesting environment that stun you straight away, especially when coming from tropical and green Costa Rica, like myself. I would definitely recommend to see two places that are close by: stunning Masaya Volcano, along with surrounded national park, and a cute little town called Granada. Second mentioned one is a very touristic place, so you can find there loads of restaurants, hostel and hotels to stay in. Please note that half of the day is more than enough to enjoy this town. The volcano, however, is definitely a must see attraction while in capital. It can become as an amazing one day trip, you will never forget. The bad news is that its not always open, especially when its too active, but once is available to public…no excuses for not seeing it! So how to get there?

Managua offers loads of tours to take you to both places, but why to pay more when catching a minibus could not be easier. The place to find them is same for both directions, so are the minivans. They do have a sing on the front saying Granada, where they terminate, and the volcano is on the way to mentioned town. Just please tell the driver to stop in front of the entrance to the park. For your way back from the Masaya, there is a bus stop on another side of the motorway where you can wait and wave when you will spot the bus. I am afraid they are usually full, so you may even wait for the third one that will let you in. Luckily, they run very often, every 15-30 mins. You can get a taxi too, if you prefer, for around 40$ one way (so not so cheap, but option as well).

The bus stop for the mini vans towards Granada, in Managua, is located at UCA terminal (University of Central America on Pista de la Resistencia street), and the ticket cost around  24-44 NIO (1$). Another bus stop can be found at Mercado Huembes, but its a bit further south from the city center (please see the attached map). It will take about 1 hour to rich Granada and around 40 minutes to rich Masaya. UCA terminal is a bit chaotic, but just look for the minibus with Granada sign on it. Vans run from 05:00 till 22:00.

I did walk to UCA terminal from city center, was safe for me, but police stopped me twice to ask why do I walk alone, and that I should take a taxi there. You can catch a bus there from the city center too. Once there, vans run very often and depart once almost full. You pay in the bus, usually on the way towards your destination. Ticket cost around 1$ one way, so its extremely cheap. In Granada bus stops right in the city center, the return one departs from different stop, see map attached below. There is no timetable again, as it leaves very often (every 15-30 mins) once van is full. img_4799

One more thing to add at the end. If you have just one spare day please do pick volcano over Granada! 

Bosnia, Herzegovina and something else

 Fact that I visited nine countries during my backpacking trip trough stunning Balkans definitely do allow me to make up my mine on the most magnificent one, I was fortunate to discover. Though, clearly when it comes to judgments like that, we are all aware about strong subjective side of it. Going even further, I wanted to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina for a very long time, especially because I wrote one chapter in my master thesis about the war there. Starting my journey just from knowledge of the spilled blood and history, though still young and fresh, I went trough creation of an image in my head from all kind of sources as documentaries, photos, information, to finally finish seeing, visiting, discovering, meeting people and just simply feel this country myself. I knew before planning my trip that it is going to be my favorite country in Europe. And yet again(!), I wasn’t mistaken. Same like with Bolivia and Nepal…I just felt the chemistry before even visiting. Perhaps difficult to explain, or probably my senses are already directed towards one side and my mind sabotaging my opinion, since I am making one in advance. More or less, here we are in Bosnia and Herzegovina…..the most amazing, at least for me, country in Europe with warm people, absolutely stunning and unique rivers, diverse architecture, rich culture and beautiful mountain range all around. Spearing to write more and just adding my recommendation to visiting this absolutely unique European country, I just want to share some photos I took.

Getting to Kościeliska Valle in Tatra Mountains by public bus from Zakopane with timetable

  Kościeliska Valle is one of the most beautiful valleys in Poland. Located around Tatra Mountains on a Polish side of the range creates an absolutely amazing and breath-taking trial. It is one of the most popular family walk while visiting close by Zakopane, as the whole path up to Ornak Hall (Hala Ornak-Schronisko) is flat and easy done even by a small children. Walk from the entrance right up to hall, even with breaks, wont take longer than 2 hours one way. There are also 4 caves on the way to add, but you have to allow extra time for it, as some of them are located 1h of walk away from the main road of the valley, some just 25 mins. This place is definitely a must see and can be extended to a proper hike trial, if you will carry on after Ornak Hall. More or less, even that the entrance to the park is located 20 mins ride from the center of Zakopane, you do not need to take a taxi. Bus is the best and cheapest option. Some can also get to Kiry, for Kasprowy Wierch cable card, with one of the numerous mini buses operating in the area or a public PKS bus. The ticket cost just 3zl (less than 1$) each way, and is paid to the bus driver only by cash. There are two main bus stops in Zakopane. One is at the main Bus Station and the other one at the beginning of Krupowki Street, main street in Zakopane. Both places got a signs pointing the bus stop, in polish called Dolina Kościeliska or Kościelisko. Please see the map attached for bus stop near Krupowki street.


Zakopane – Kościeliska Valle

And here is a timetable, but please be at the stop 10-15 mins before, as the bus is always early and never waits!! Welcome to Poland 🙂IMG_4534

  • Bus line 110 (Zakopane – Dolina Chocholowska) stops at the bus stop marked on the map on the right, at the beginning of Krupowki street at: 7.08 (this service runs only between 01.07-30.09); 7.21 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10); 8.36; 8;53 (this service runs only between 01.07-30.09); 10.03; 11.21; 13.24; 15.09; 16.29 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10); 17.42 (this service runs only between 25.04-31.10). Just ask anyone in the bus where to get of for Koscieliska Valley (most tourists will get off there probably anyway).
  • Bus 70 Zakopane – Kościelisko (Koscieliska Valley). This bus-stop is by the FIS Bar, see map on the right, or from bus stop nr 2 at Aleje 3-ego Maja. This timetable is from center, so from FIS Bar please be 15 mins earlier.
    8:00k, 9:10, 10:08, 12:31, 13:42, 14:58, 16:00, 18:05, 19:10, 20:15, 21:15, 22:15b
  • Bus 72 Zakopane (Aleje 3-ego Maja bus stop nr 02) – Dolina Kościeliskiej (Koscieliska Valley):
    7:30k, 8:49, 9:55, 10:59, 12:15, 14:00, 15:06, 16:09, 17:09

legend:

b – only in summer and winter season
k – Monday till Friday only
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Bus “JJAS”near Zakopane main bus station, departing from Bar FIS (see map on IMG_4748the right) towards Dolina Kościeliska (Koscieliska Valley): 6.50, 7.50, 9.00, 10.25, 12.20, 13.20, 14.30, 15.30, 16.25, 17.35, 18.15, 19.20, 20.15
  • Bus “BolBus”near Zakopane main bus station, departing from Bar FIS (see map on the right) via Dolina Kościeliska (Koscieliska Valley) towards Dolina Chochołowska (Chocholowska Valley): 8.15L, 8.50A, 9.15L, 9.50A, 10.15L, 10.40A, 11.05L, 11.30A, 13.00L, 14.00A, 14.30L, 15.00A, 15.30L, 15.55, 16.30L, 16.50A, 17.30L, 18.30L, 19.30L 

legend:
A – Except Sunday, 1 and 2 day of Easter and Christmas 01.11 and 15.06
L- Do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas, 01.11, and New Year and 15.06


Kościeliska Valle-Zakopane

Return bus stop from Kościeliska Valley offers loads of options towards Zakopane, almost every 15-20 minutes in high season time. Just please don’t be later than 18.00 – 19.00 to be sure to catch one. Thought, they run till 21.00, I suggest to take earlier one anyway. Here, I will just write few examples. They all stop in few places in Zakopane (near main street Krupowki, finishing usually near main bus station). The bus stop is located just outside of the entrance to the park (to the left, when leaving the valley)

  • Bus 105 towards Zakopane: 8.40; 9.02; 9.41; 10.27; 11.25; 11.38; 12.32; 13.02; 13.37; 14.15; 14.38; 15.30; 15.52; 16.47; 17.25; 18.02; 18.28 (this last service runs only between 1.07-30.09)
  • Bus 70 Lider Bus towards Zakopane (Kościelisko – Zakopane)
    7:27k, 8:20, 9:32,11:57, 13:00, 14:00, 15:25, 18:25, 19:28, 20:45, 21:35b

legend:
k – Monday till Friday only 
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Bus 72 towards Kuźnice trough Zakopane (Dol. Kościeliska – Zakopane – Kuźnice)
    6:50k, 8:00, 9:20, 10:22, 11:30, 13:20, 14:25 15:30, 16:28

legend:
k – Monday till Friday only 
BUS do not run on 1 and 2 day of Easter, Christmas  01.11 and 15.06

  • Another bus line towards Zakopane that runs from Mon till Fr: 6.20, 7.30, 8.30, 9.35, 11.30, 14.30, 15.30, 16.35, 18.30. Sat-Sun: 6.20, 8.30, 11.30, 14.30, 16.35, 18.30
  • Another bus line towards Zakopane main bus station (Zakopane PKP) that runs from Mon till Fr: 6.02, 6.37, 7.02, 7.32, 8.22, 9.12, 9.52, 11.07, 12.32, 13.02, 14.02, 14.52, 16.02, 16.52, 17.22, 18.12, 19.42, 20.42, 21.52. Sat-Sun: 6.37, 7.02, 8.42, 9.52, 11.07, 13.02, 14.52, 16.02, 16.52, 18.02, 18.52, 19.42, 21.52.