September 30, 2016

Freedom Bus Experience - From Krakow to Berlin

Somehow, someone told me that the bus trip was going to last 8 to 9 hours and not 5 as I initially thought out loud. Again the westerner.

At 8 a.m. we were in the bus station and half an hour later we were in the bus, Polski Bus. "It has Internet" assured me one of my colleagues.

It was not a rented bus especially for us, it was a proper bus we had to share with other people. At some point someone asked me (in a not so nice manner) to change seats. I refused and shared the seat with the London girl. "She was something that London girl!" Thinking of my Irish past, I would never had that much fun with a London girl, but I had. We talked and the time went by.
The trip was depressing. I hadn't even the joy of taking pictures. The Polish towns passed by, each with their own story, which I would never know. Katowice, Opole, and then I fell asleep. I couldn't be bothered to look for names and towns. I woke up and went for a water and chocolate.


We arrived in Berlin and I was exhausted. I don't even remember the trip from the bus stop to the hostel. "Thank god I had Internet and Instagram in Berlin!"

At the hostel we found out that we had to share a room with 6 other people so we had to form groups of 6. I was desperate so I've asked the nearest 6 people if they would like to share the room with me. They thankfully said yes. I went and put some made up names to a paper, I was handed out keys for the room and went to see it. Bunk beds again. The London gild would sleep on top of my bed.

I would share the room with two Polish guys, the Ukrainian girl, the British girl and a girl from Georgia. The last one refused to stay with us, because she didn't want to share a room with boys. We had a laugh about it and we waited to see who would take the sixth bed.


After a shower during which I managed to wet all my clothes because I didn't know how the shower worked, we went downstairs for dinner. It was over. They didn't wait for us. Thankfully the Brazilian girl who also studies at Luxembourg University managed to keep some sort of cold pasta for us. I was hungry, so we went to find something to eat.

I was in Berlin. "What a city!" Near our hostel was the Brandenburger Tor and next to it the Holocaust Memorial. They were amazing, but I was still hungry. Eventually we managed to find an indian restaurant which had chicken curry.

I don't know why all my roommates went with me on the food hunt, but they did and we had a great time. I don't know if we were that funny, but I remember I laugh a lot about nothing.


Eventually we got back to our bunk bed room, to find out that the sixth person came, pooped in our toilet, washed his underwear, hung it on someone else's bed and left. I didn't like that person, I wouldn't know why, just didn't. We somehow managed to laugh about it and went to bed.

It was an exhausting day!

September 28, 2016

Freedom Bus Experience - Krakow

I have to condense the experiences of around 5 days in just one post.


So after three hours spent next to a religious man who prayed the whole trip, I arrived in Krakow. I stepped down from the train and right into a shopping centre. Cool. I had no idea where I was supposed to go, the name of the hostel, the address, the name of the people I was supposed to meet. Nothing.

I managed to find an old email with a phone number and I called desperate. The voice on the other end had no clue either, which annoyed me a little, but I was tired, I just wanted a bed. Eventually I received instructions on a sms and I carried my suitcase around Krakow for half an hour.

I've passed the city centre in a hurry and exactly when I was about to go into a park I turned around and started taking pictures. "Damn the experience and everything, I might leave Krakow tomorrow so I have to enjoy it."
I arrived late at the hostel and I was pointed towards a room with bunk beds and the only free place was on top of someone else's. No way. I refused and took a bed in a room with a young couple. "If they behave, I'll behave" I thought and opened the room door. It was empty, but just minutes later the couple came into the room. They were Polish and they were also participating in the Freedom Bus Project.

We started talking and my first question was "Are you artists?". The answer satisfied me and I payed no attention to the details. They were sociologists, studying something within our group. "Let them study" at least they were two and had an idea about their role within the project. I had no clue who my other colleague from Luxembourg was, and I started to think that I was in a wrong place, in someone else's place. That troubled me, but there was nothing I could do, except enjoy Krakow and make my way back to Luxembourg once I would leave Poland.

The young woman was Ukrainian actually and she pointed that out immediately after we started introducing ourselves. They were not a couple ("Thank God!"), whey were just working together. She helped me get around the hostel, she showed me the fancy toilet and taught me the ways of using the communal showers. "First one has a hole in the door, I don't know what you could see, but I'm not using that one". I thanked her. I liked her and I've started to feel less out of place.

"I don't like people. I'm not into meeting new people and I have enough new friends." That was my thought during the introductory speeches that evening. "I have nothing in common with these people" "what am I doing here?". I barely composed myself to look like I was paying attention. I was horrified, actually.
We were handed sketch books to draw our experience. "I have no artistic talent, I don't know how to draw." The dinner made no sense and then I've heard the magic word: "beer". "I could handle beer. My husband drinks a lot of it and we live in Belgium."

We talked, we laughed, no one cared about my beer knowledge. It was fun. Great fun, considering my initial thoughts.

We arrived at the hostel at about 1 a.m. and in the lobby we met him. "Hi, my name is Ben, do you have an empty bed in your room?". I don't remember my answer, but we had an empty bed our room.

I took a shower and went to bed. At around 3, Ben came already into some sort of a pajamas. "Ben, where is your luggage?" I've asked and the other started laughing. "At least, I'm funny", I thought and fell asleep.


The next day, as instructed by me roommate, I went and bought a ticket to visit the Krakow Castle. I took the last visit of the day and went to the University. We had a lecture about the WWII and concentration camps. I've stayed for the beginning and then went to the castle.
It was ok for the amount of castles I've visited recently. I walked around the castle and found a guide, an English guide, who allowed me to join his group. I really liked his explanations and at the end I gave him my last 5 euro bill. He considered it to be too much and offered to take me out for beer. I refused (hopefully politely) and he walked me to the university. We chatted. I liked his knowledge about the city and the way he talked about it. "He will never leave it", I thought. "Lucky guy!"
My colleagues were having dinner when I arrived. Something nice which I gobbled fast to join the other activities. And the other activities were a visit to the Jewish area. I really liked it. Again I took hundreds of pictures until we ended up in some sort of a bar. An old house transformed into a bar. Interesting. I liked the light inside and took more pictures as I chatted with my colleagues. "Krakow is nice, I have to come back with my husband, he would love it".


The next day started with a lecture about Warsaw and Krakow's architecture and how it had changed after WWII. "I swear they are obsessed with WWII. That and the Pope." That being said I liked the lecture which was followed by a guided tour. I liked it and I would have liked it even more if I haden't done the other tour the day before. The guide was not willing or able to answer my questions.

At the castle, I went to the toilet and they left me there. Thankfully I met the other girl from Luxembourg University together with a girl from London. They were funny. They showed me the spitting fire dragon, and the river and somehow the tour with them was more pleasant then the guided tour. I remember visiting a lovely church and the main square and going back to the hostel and then back to the university.
After lunch, I went to visit the Ethnographic Museum of Krakow. I didn't know it existed, just one guy told me about it when I told my sad story about the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. I was pleased. I really liked it and made again hundreds of photos of the costumes until someone came and we started talking about traditional costumes from Poland and Romania. It was a lovely talk and I thanked for having this moments in my trip.

She pointed me to an album about folk habits from Poland which I immediately purchased, despite costing 10 euro. She was amassed and she must have though that I was the ignorant westerner who doesn't watch money. I'm not. It's just that in Luxembourg an crappy book is from 20 euro up and an album like the one I just purchased would cost around 50 euro, so 10 euro was actually a small amount of money. It was not the last time someone considered me the ignorant westerner in this trip.
After the museum I had some spare time before dinner so I went to the shopping mall to buy slippers, an essential thing to have when you share showers in hostels. I didn't know that. On the way I spotted some lovely scarves, traditional ones, 19 zloty, about 4-5 euro. On Etsy I would find them at 30 to 40. I bought 3. Again the seller had in her eyes the look at an ignorant westerner, but they were too nice to leave there.
I went to dinner and then the funny times in our trip started. Me and my roommates stayed in the hostel. My thought was to take a shower and enjoy my recently purchased folklore picture album. The plans changed when the London girl decided to give a haircut to my roommate. He accepted. I laughed so hard and we had so much fun. Then I presented my purchases to my new palls, the scarves. I inspired my roommate to draw me and laughed some more, despite the 8-9 hours long journey we had to take the next day.


As usual at about 3 a.m., Ben came into the room already in his pajamas.

September 26, 2016

Freedom Bus Experience - Warsaw

I said yes on impulse.

I was working at that time with a Polish girl in my office and after a few questions about Poland, I've decided to say yes to the Freedom Bus Experience. At that time all that mattered was that I was traveling to a new country (to me) for a few euros. I enrolled and forgot about it.

Few weeks later the first newsletter arrived. Something with visual diaries. I remember looking up on Google what is a visual diary and saying that I could do one if I had to.

Then one of my master colleagues, Polish girl, with a background in arts wanted to go, but there were no free places left. I offered to give her my place, but the organisers said that my place was there and I believed them. In my mind, I was still going to visit Poland and nothing else.

I bought all the tickets and checked in on the last minute, because it came after my holiday (one week after it) and I was still trying to figure out how to restart my life. Overall it was the worst planned trip in my life. I never went on the idea "I'll see when I'll get there", but that is exactly what I did in Poland.

Then the day came. I don't even remember how I got to the airport. My husband probably. No, the train. Oh the early train. 4 a.m. or something like that. That is why I must have shoved it on the back of my mind.

After six exhausting hours I was in Warsaw. I would stay in Novotel in the City Centre, just 300 metres from the Central Train Station. No point in taking a cab, I thought.

I almost fainted when I got to the hotel lobby, though. You see, 300 metres together with some underground tunnels with no elevator or escalators. It was a good thing though, because of the exhaustion I was not in a fighting mood and I just surrender in front of a big announcement that on that particular day there will be no hot water.
In front of me people were changing rooms and arguing with the concierge, so when I got there, I just said who am I, and that I have a reservation. He smiled and said that everything was payed for. Of course it was. At the end I managed to ask at what time did he expect the hot water to return. He answered:
"- Because you didn't argue with me, I gave you a room with hot water."

I was in heaven. A big, spacious room all to myself. I wondered when my roommate might show up, as we were supposed to take the same plane from Brussels, but I took a shower and fell asleep. I woke up minutes before the meeting with some of the organisers and participants. I was informed about the project and then we had dinner. I didn't like it, so I went to the city centre together with my colleagues. Of course I got lost and of course I ended up alone, on the streets of Warsaw looking for the old town.

I found it by myself, and I took hundreds of pictures and I went into all the little shops and eventually when the hunger came, I sat at a popular terrace and had a hamburger (chicken hamburger), looking at the crowds.

I managed to get safe to the hotel around midnight and fell asleep instantly. The next day I planned a visit to the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw and then the train trip to Krakow.

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September 24, 2016

Polonia - Warsaw

Although I was in Warsaw for only one day, it was the right amount of time to grasp it all. I arrived in Warsaw on my way to Krakow and to the freedom bus art summer school and it was a great thing that I did, because I could compare Warsaw with Krakow exactly as the organisers intended. My impression of Warsaw is that is very similar to other ex-communistic cities. That is not a bad thing. It has the part which is called "the old town" and then around it is the new town, with a mix of architectural styles, including the big communistic buildings and the new glass and steel sky scrapers. I have to say that I was more impressed by the old town, but that is life. For me it is amazing to see that all ex-communist countries have something in common and the resemblance with Romanian cities is evident in Warsaw.
Even the big building in the first picture is similar to The House of the Press in Bucharest, a place where I've worked. 
I'll let you enjoy my pictures and invite you to visit Warsaw!

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September 22, 2016

Latvia - Walk through Riga

I can't believe I haven't shown you my Riga. I think 2016 would be the year of travels. I've been in so many places and I am so grateful that I could afford to go and that I was healthy and I had all the conditions to go. It is an amazing year.
So in late May, beginning of June I visited Latvia and more specifically, I visited Riga. I was impressed by the architecture, by the kindness of people who (especially the young generation) speak English flawlessly, by the variety of food and by their crafts and traditions. I loved to walk through Riga and that is why I wanted to write this post on my blog.
If you have a chance to go there, don't miss it!

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September 20, 2016

Croatia - Let me show you my Dubrovnik

If you go to the Croatian seaside, you have to visit Dubrovnik. Not to stay in Dubrovnik, but just to visit it. And if you have a limited amount of time, as we did, I advise you to take the wall tour. It costs 120 kuna (approximately 15-20 euro), but it is worth every kuna :) Basically you walk on the walls of the town, around the town and in the process you see the whole town. As simple as that. You can walk at your own pace, you can take as many pictures as you want, dogs go for free and if you are a student you pay just 30 kuna. 
We took a big detour from our area to go to Dubrovnik and only because my husband watches the Game of thrones, but it was worth it even for me. I would have been very upset to miss Dubrovnik, because it is different from anything I've ever seen before. It is a combination of stone and green shutters, cobbled streets and the sea. What more could you ask for?

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September 17, 2016

Croatia - My lovely Postira

Postira is from another world. 
This is the best advice that anyone could give you, if you intent to visit the Croatian seaside: "go to the small villages or even better, go to the islands!"
Postira sits on the island of Brac, the biggest Croatian island, though Postira is not the biggest city on the island, it is the most beautiful. Of course it's just my opinion, after I visited all the other towns on the island. Bol is crowded with tourists, Supetar has the ferry so at least in the beach area there are a lot of people coming or going to and from the ferry, the others are too small and you lack the facilities, such as a supermarket or pharmacy. Postira is just the right size, just the right amount of tourists, you have all the possible facilities and the accommodations are at a fair price. We payed around 25 to 30 euro per night for an apartment, but we payed 6 euro more for our own terrace/balcony which I consider as a great investment. Our balcony was gorgeous!
There aren't many things to do in Postira, except the beachy ones, but you can relax, eat amazing food, enjoy their local events which take place almost every evening and take in the beauty of the landscape. I had a great time in Postira and  hope to go back again someday!

Me leaving Postira :(
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