30 April 2009

Battle of Storks


Battle of Storks
Originally uploaded by eva_p
For someone like me, having grown up in a part of the world where a lot of animals do not exist any more (or are getting very rare), this was a wonderful sight. A storks nest, and 2 storks quarreling inside, a third one watching (my theory is that it was 2 males fighting and a female watching....), from time to time flying away just to come back again and fight even harder.
During the same bike trip we saw many more storks nests, a rabbit in the forest, a deer running away... I'm happy to see that this still exists here.

Kayaking


Kayaking in Poland
Originally uploaded by eva_p
Today we went kayaking near Stary Folwark in Northeastern Poland. Not on the lake, which is open only from the 1st of May (coinciding with the national long holiday weekend) but on a river. Some 15 km paddling, sometimes zigzagging because of the stream, wind and our little knowledge of kayaking, but good fun.

28 April 2009

Grattements de l'oeil

L'oeil gratte. Beaucoup. Trop. Sera l'allergie au beau Printemps? Apres Olsztyn on est venu a Suwalki (avec le L avec un trait dessus, je l'appelle le L bresilien, car on le lit comme les bresilliens le lisent), precisement a Stary Folwark, recommande par Anna de Gdansk. Semble le paradis, surtout car le tour des jolis lacs ne sont pas pleins de moustiques, touristes et autres.

26 April 2009

Soviet movie

"Here in Olsztyn the Germans did not destroy the city. But after, the Soviets needed some burnt houses for their movie (propaganda, newspapers), so they put fire to half of it."
Our host, Arek, tells us the story of this town in the Masurian lakes region which we will start visiting tomorrow. Concern of the day: where we will stay the long weekend, thigs seem full.

24 April 2009

A bike ride to remember...


SSCN0008
Originally uploaded by eva_p
We stayed around 5 days in the region of Gdansk. One day we decided to take a bike ride on the Hel peninsula, which is a very narrow peninsula in northern Poland, about 35 km long, in the Baltic Sea. We went to rent bikes at the one and only place in the whole region, which happened to be close to the place we were staying (we were couchsurfing with Anna). We got some not too bad looking bikes from the guy, the brakes were fine and more than half the gears seemed to work, so we set off for our trip. We managed to get the 2 trains that took us to Hel, where we arrived around lunchtime in perfect sunshine. After a quick look at the easternmost tip (a beautiful beach) we went to look for a restaurant for lunch..... and then there was something wrong with my bike. Flat tire. Ok.... after lunch we pushed the bikes a bit and came to a shop where they sold bikes and had a good pump. Fortunately I had some patches to repair the air chamber, we found the hole (which was big), repaired it and finally set off on our bikes.
After about 20 minutes, again.... my tire was flat. By then we were on a (very nice) path in the middle of nowhere, which meant walking for about an hour pushing the bikes until we arrived to a gas station. We gesticulated to the owner that we needed air in the tire and hoped to find some tools to take the wheel off (to have a closer look at the hole) but he was just closing his gas station so he quickly filled the tire with air, listened to it, said it was "ok" and we understood that for him the problem was solved (mainly because he wanted to close his station on time...).
We went on some more, me trying to put most of my weight on the front wheel, which made the air go out more slowly. At the next village we asked for a bike store and found one with the help of some nice people in the street. When I asked for "reparatura rowerowa" the answer was "maybe tomorrow" (this is a phrase that you have to get used to in Poland...). I said "oh no, now!" and the guy agreed to let us use his pump. So we fixed the same hole again, hoping this time would be ok, while the guy phoned his brother who seemed to be a bike mechanic and who had at least a sense of business: he offered to fix the bike with a new air chamber for 30 Zloti. We declined (as it was just a rental bike and already cost 30 Zloti) and went on.
At least we were recompensated by a superb view of the sea (see the picture), with water birds taking off from the water and a beautiful late afternoon light.
We decided to forget about cycling for the rest of the day and took the train back. Good idea, because when we arrived in Gdansk the air was out of the tire again.....
The guy at the bike rental just looked at us with big eyes, "I don't understand!", and got less money for the bike than agreed.... (I didn't really leave him any choice...).

So this was not one of the best days, although the region was a beauty. And the next day we were compensated with a really nice bike ride with Anna, on better (but not perfect) bikes.

23 April 2009

Sem ideas

Nao tenho ideias de que escrever.
Terceira noite em Gdansk. Depois de duas no hostel quisemos cortar no budget e procuramos couchsurf. Pela primeira vez na Polonia nao foi facil mas finalmente conseguimos. Hoje andamos de bicicleta ao longo da costa. Bicicletas do hostel, fraquissimas se juntarmos os passeios em mau estado. Nem sei como nao tivemos um furo.
Continuamos a sentir o problema da falta de 'servico': queriamos o horario de comboio e fomos ao guichet de informacao dos comboios onde nos enviaram a ja fechada informacao turistica. Tratando-se de um comboio que, entendemos por afiches estar com horario alterado, tentamos insistir sem sucesso. O guichet de informacao nao da informacao aos turistas. Nem em polaco que fosse.

22 April 2009

Gdansk

Gdansk e aquela cidade que sera bonita enquanto nao houver demasiados turistas. Tal como Varsovia tambem foi totalmente refeita nos anos 50. Aqui e a terra do Lech Walesa - o que trouxe a Polonia para fora do comunismo. Local do Solidarnosc, movimento que diria de esquerda embora na mesma ligado a igreja.

TESO - the expenses tracker

TESO was the name I gave to the expenses tracker on our trip. For sure all portuguese will laugh and that is the idea. Teso in portuguese means, among others, that you are without any money. But for us it means Travel, Eat, Sleep, Others. :-)

Our Teso budget is in average 60 euros/day (for both), but it changes a lot. There are days like last Monday where we used about 100 euros because of the Bodies exhibition in Warsaw, the train from Warsaw to Malbork, eating in a shopping centre and sleeping in a hostel. But there are days where we expend about 30euros only - couchsurfing, street eating, no travel and no museums help a lot.

I'm trying to keep a page with this Teso expenses list, but no time to update... on the internet. But for the moment I assure you that you can easily travel in Poland for less than 30eur/day/person.

Warszawa

We spent the weekend in Warszaw - here are a few impressions.
A bit city.... a lot of time spent travelling in buses and trams.
Walking around in the "old" town... nice but too many tourists.
There was an outdoor exhibition with aerial photos taken by the SS during their air raids over the city. Very impressive. You see a completely destroyed city from above. The most scary are the pictures of the Jewish Ghetto: Just a white patch. No walls, nothing.
We also had the chance to discover Praga, a district said to be "very dangerous" but nobody can tell us why exactly. To be honest, I felt safer than walking around in Paquis area in Geneva! And there are some of the few still pre-war houses, old and unrenovated, most marked by bomb shrapnel, in desperate need of renovation. A very special feeling. Thanks Monika for showing us around!
I guess we could have spent more time in this city. But we decided to leave the concrete and traffic behind and go north, to Gdansk. On the way, a one-night stop at Malbork to visit the castle.

20 April 2009

Monika Viktordottir

Ontem conhecemos Monika Viktordottir, outra CS, que fuma e que por atraso na sua resposta nao foi nossa host. Mas quando a encontramos o contacto fez-se. Pelo menos para mim. Talvez porque ela fala muito, talvez porque nao falamos de CS mas de Islandia. Bjork. Talvez porque ela ama onde vive e nos mostrou isso. Ela vive em Praga, bairro de ma reputacao em Varsovia. Ela e imagem da Varsovia alternativa que ainda nao existe.

19 April 2009

Warszawa Sunday


Warszaw on a sunny Sunday: people outside reading, talking, watching.

Couchsurfing

Ha dias em que me parece abusar do couchsurfing. Vezes em que a ligacao entre as pessoas nao se cria, em que o host esta num sitio e tu noutro. Como se estivessemos os dois a partilhar uma casa e ele nao fosse mais que outro host com quem nao falo.

Culture Palace in Warsaw


SSCN0045
Originally uploaded by eva_p
Inside the huge Soviet style Culture Palace in Warsaw.

17 April 2009

Travel rhythm, updating blog and our notebooks

It is not easy to decide the travel rhythm. Eva sometimes wants more calm while I'm always energetic and sometimes willing to be one day here, another day there, just like if we would not have all the time in the world. At the same time we need to find the moment for ourselves and that is not easy. That is the main reason for not updating the blog so often as you would like. When at peoples house, or in front of ONE computer, we just try to be practical: check emails, check couch surf profiles, write to people... Today we decided - internet cafe and two computers. Side by side we are blogging, talking to people, etc.

One other point is the difference between our notebooks and the blog. There are much more in the notebooks than in the blog and this because one is personal notes while the other is completely public. The way of writing is different, in the notebook I write in Portuguese, here in english; in the notebook I write things I want to remember in few years but not particulary interesting to the public.

Back to the travel rhythm I think we found a compromise of, besides when it will rain (maybe tomorrow, forecasts minimum zero degrees also!), staying doing nothing special concerning sightseeing about once a week. Just sleep late and then go around, find an internet cafe (not always easy), have a big coffee and write.
So do not desperate, we will try at least once a week to have something new here.

Couch Surfing around

For three times already we have been Couch Surfing during this trip. Was in Budapest, then in Zamosc and now in Lublin. Tomorrow we will go to Warsaw, again meeting someone new.

Couchsurf.com and hospitalityclub.org are two nice websites where people can share their couch for others to surf on. It makes the trip much cheaper (usually sleeping is about 50% of the budget) and at same time you meet someone local who can show you around or give you tips.

We were lucky already to meet Gary in Budapest who show us around and let us use the public transport without paying; Michal and his brother (plus the whole family including 3 other brothers, parents and girlfriend) in Zamosc, who made us feel in family again; Adam in Lublin, with his parents, who had everything prepared for our arrival, with maps and information about the city for us. Thanks to all!

For sure not always we will be using couchsurfing, as we also need sometime for us and also because it takes time to find a person. We like to read their profiles and have something (besides traveling) in common.

But yes, I recommend a lot to try it. Myself I received people (including over Xmas last year, Ray from Singapore) and was at peoples place in Europe, Asia and South America.

13 April 2009

Poland (first) impressions

- Very beautiful Krakow, even on Easter sunday at 7am with everything closed.
- Strange Mamas Doubles hostel in Krakaw, which runs in an apartment like any other, they give you the key in another branch (where are the dorms) and you have free internet, a kitchen where we can have the leftovers (even vodka) from previous hosts, laundry machine, etc and you are there, like in your own apartment.
- Bed sheets (we had this one already in Bulgaria) are exactly the same size as the matress. No going around, nothing. So in the morning, if you move around while sleeping (which I do), you end up sleeping in the mattress it self.
- No bathtub courtain. I wonder how poles (and Eastern people) shower themselves without puting water around. We try the maximum, put it is impossible.

An example of Eastern European Efficacy

At the entrance to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, there's several information counters (for groups, for individuals...). And there was a short introductory film about the camp. On a digital board it said the next session would be at 13:30 in Polish. So we went to ask a lady at one of the counters if there would be subtitles or translation. She asked another lady at another counter and then sent us to ask at the Information counter. Which we did. The guy didn't know. So we went back to another counter with another lady and asked again. I don't know if she knew the answer or not, but she told us to go and ask at the cashier's counter. Which we did. The lady there pointed to a small board which said that the English version was at 15:05.
It took us about 15 minutes but in the end we had the answer :-)

Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camp

...
(no words this time, you'll have to go there and see it yourself)

In Cracow. no time to update


Everything goes alright, we are now in Cracow after couple days in Budapest. We will update the blog as soon as the weather goes worst.

12 April 2009

Impressions from the Nighttrain Budapest/Krakow


1. The ticket inspector: He opens the door of the wagon when the time is right, shows us our compartment, keeps our tickets (which unsettled a few of our fellow backpacking passengers...) and takes care of his customers in his wagon.
2. The toilets: Old but clean, even with a toilet brush (so they stay clean).
3. Trees with white blossom growing along the train line. Beautiful in the dark.
4. Our towels drying on the luggage rack.
5. The polish railtracks that are in a terrible state.... we've been shaken all night, even feel a bit dizzy in the morning....
6. Dinner in a particular position.... see photo.

10 April 2009

Meeting Cesar

While in Budapest we had the chance to meet our friend Cesar, in town with his girlfriend for a holiday. We met them in a nice bar with our couchsurfing host Gary and a few of his friends and spent an evening drinking beer and shots and talking.
During a trip like this it's nice to meet a lot of new people and maybe make new friends, but it's even nicer to meet an old friend in a new place! No questions about what's your job, where are you from.... just relaxing talk.
So, maybe, who knows, we might cross some more old friends on our way east.... would be nice.

09 April 2009

Adventures of a bike ride to Bratislava

Supposely there are about 65km between Vienna and Bratislava. Our bums say it was much more. Also our clocks, after 5:30 hours riding a bike not ours through the side of the Danube. We crossed a (is)land where clothes are just accessories and then a small stretch where they forgot to make an higher bridge. Pictures are around and lucky you we did not manage to take one of a jogger in that island.

07 April 2009

Body Combat - stage I - Vienna

Today among other things I did a team-teach of Body Combat in a nice gym in Vienna (Beer's(!)) with Zuzana. We had great fun, even if unfortunately the class was not very full. I believe I was quite lucky to get accepted and I will retry to have more stages of Body Combat in other cities.

The after BodyCombat dinner (tradition in Geneva) was in a paquistanese restaurant of eat-as-you-want-pay-as-you-want (drinks excepted, but not expensive) together with Jan. Another very nice Viennese experience. Maybe Eva will write more about it.

Rest of the day activity was to re-see Hunderwasser haus, a photo museum (westlicht), coffee at muqua, lunch at nice inner garden and night drink at Flex. Once more things proposed by Spotted by Locals - this time with a link! :-)

Vienna Highlights

A few places we've been to in Vienna which I would like to share:

- Wiener Deewan: A different kind of restaurant. They serve pakistani food, you eat as much as you want and in the end pay what you want. You just pay the drinks (but you can also just drink tap water for nothing). The clients: students, families, pakistani groups... I don't know how they do it to keep homeless people out but it seems to work. Very nice place. Address: Liechtensteinstrasse 10.

- Westlicht: A photo gallery with changing exhibitions. We saw Conversation with the Mob by Megan Lewis, pictures of Australian Aborigines. Very interesting. Address: Westbahnstrasse 40.

- Haus Wittgenstein: A house built in the 1920's in the Bauhaus style. Bought by the Bulgarian State in the 70's and now houses a bulgarian culture institute. We visited the house, had to ring a bell at the entrance and pay 3 Euros, recieved a small guidebook and were free to wander around. No exhibition at the time but they were just preparing one in the basement. Address: Parkgasse 18.

Vienna strange inhabitants


Thee are few strange inhabitants in Vienna. We met this one near the stadium.

06 April 2009

How to get around Vienna for 1 Euro

Today we experienced the cheapest way to get around Vienna (without hurting feet): the Citybike. All you need is a credit card. You have to register and pay 1 euro once, then you can basically bike for free, provided you don't keep the same bike for more than one hour (the first hour being free). A lot of nice and secure bike paths, pretty well signposted, combined with a (free) bike map we picked up at a bicycle lobby event in town, was the perfect way to explore the city and at the same time enjoy the perfect spring weather we're having here.
Just perfect for us (who still think cars should not be necessary for anyone).

04 April 2009

What do you actually take with you?


I heard this question many times in the last few weeks. So, here you go, this is a picture of what I took with me (missing items: toiletry bag, trekking shoes, green pants, camera, small shoulder bag). All of it fitting in a 36 liter green backpack.

02 April 2009

Rhine waterfalls

Visited the Rhine waterfalls, the biggest in Europe. Sixty kilometers of bike made me happy again. I was missing sports.

01 April 2009

ça me fait bizarre...

ça me fait bizarre de ne pas me faire bizarre de ne plus avoir d'apartement ni emploi.

12:45 - départ de Genève. Next stop: Winterthur.

Departure

It was the IC train at 12:45 from Geneva. We were looking like this: