Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zakopane

Not only is Zakopane a fun place to visit, but it is a really easy Polish word to pronounce. 
We have been having a heck of a time learning the correct way to say certain letters and just as it is starting to make sense in our brains it is almost time to say goodbye to Poland. We have had such an amazing experience here and Zakopane is the icing on the cake. It was just the rest we needed from the faster paced cities of Krakow and Wroclaw. 
Zakopane sits at the base of the Tetra Mountain range and is an outdoor person's dream. There are lots of places to hike and ski and bike, with all sorts of trails and places to explore. BUT...we are not what you might call "outdoorsy"and still we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and laid back lifestyle here in Zakopane.
Upon arrival, yesterday, we immediately noted the people wearing hiking boots, walking sandals and use of walking sticks. We brought none of these things and just meandered through the village. We found the best place for lunch. It was quite a trek from our hotel but so worth it and we also got a quick overview of the village.
This restaurant is like a hunter's lodge in the middle of the village.


We sat outside where it was warm and bright. The inside would be so cozy on a cold, wintry night.

It's hidden down a dirt path. 

It has really cool doors, and by now you know I like doors. 


Finally, authentic, delicious, Polish food.



The mushroom and noodle soup is probably the best I have ever tasted. Even better than mom's, mine or Babka's. 

The trout and mixed salad were all so fresh and tasty.

After our late lunch, we took advantage of the pool, jacuzzi and sauna at our hotel. The hotel is pretty empty as this is more of a winter getaway for the Polish people, so we had the place to ourselves. Just what we wanted, R*E*L*A*X*A*T*I*O*N.

Our second day was also quite leisurely. We rode the tram car to the highest point above Zakopane, called Gubalowska, and toured the area up high. 

Paul rode the tobaggon that is set up for the summer. He has always wanted to do that, so he finally got his wish.


It was unbelievably hot today. 88'F doesn't sound hot but add in the humidity and sweat was running down my back. I am not used to this humidity. But, from what I read it is super hot in the east part of the USA,too. We took a few breaks in the shade and admired the view.


The top of the mountain is filled with vendors selling lots of sheep skin clothing, leather and wool sweaters. I imagine it gets really cold up here in the winter with lots of snow.
We kept seeing these things called Borowka and could not figure out what they were. They are all sorts of shapes and sizes and sold everywhere. We finally asked at the hotel and they are the local sheep's milk cheese. Now I have to buy one. We thought it was some sort of bread!


We also enjoyed walking through the farmer's market and bought some peaches to have for a snack this afternoon. It is always fun to see the different varieties of fruits and vegetables in the various countries that we visit.


I bought a pair of Rieker shoes today. I almost bought the same shoes before we left for vacation but then got lazy and didn't do it. I am glad I waited because I saved about 40%.

Tomorrow, my cousin from Slovakia is coming to pick us up and take us back to his town for 2 days. This is going to be one of the highlights of our trip because I will see the village where my paternal grandmother was born and raised and meet cousins that I did not even know existed until a few months ago.


Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Krakow, Poland

We left Wroclaw and boarded the train for Krakow. Once again, train travel is so relaxing, although this was a super slow train and I think it probably took twice as long than it would have to drive.
But, I was able to write my blog and to continue with my Hexie hand work project.





From the first day when we decided to go to Krakow instead of Warsaw I have had to think twice before I say "Krakow". I still have Warsaw in my head. But I am so glad we deciced to go to Krakow. The square is one of the most beautiful squares we have ever seen in Europe.


a room with a view



The weather has been so strange. On with the jacket, off with the jacket, then back on with the jacket. Every five minutes it's something different. Rain was predicted for all day today, but it only rained during the night, last night.
Growing up eating Polish and Slovak foods, I am spoiled or totally in the dark as to what is good food. My mom, aunts, uncles and grandmothers were all very good cooks. But here in Poland, we have not been able to find a really good meal. Yes, we had great pierogies one day for lunch,
cherry and plum pierogies

potato/cheese and meat/mushroom pierogies

but we have had a heck of a time finding a good place for dinner. We don't see anyone eating dinner in any of the cafes or restaurants. It seems they all have ice cream and/or beer for dinner!

Yesterday, we went on the Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration camp tour. It was heartbreaking, eye opening and sad all at the same time, but we are glad to have gone. We had a very knowledgeable, English speaking guide which was very helpful. She seemed to have all the dates and facts in her head. 
We met a lovely couple on our tour, Carolyn and Rob, who just got engaged in St. Petersburg, Russia, where they met 6 years ago...so romantic. They are from San Francisco, so we had a lot to talk about. We love spending time with young couples just starting out. Before dinner we walked through some of the smaller streets outside of the market square and took some photos.



We read there are 142 churches in Krakow city limits and 32 in the old town, alone....I don't think we could see them all if we were here a month! I just love seeing all the priests and nuns walking around. We have seen ever color of habit and more styles of wimples than ever before.

I also added to my collection of photos of doors. I just love old doors and passages.

Today was our last full day in Krakow. We  walked to the castle and also the old Jewish Quarter and just sort of melted into the area, taking it slow and easy today. We also saw where Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II lived, when he was the Archbishop of Krakow from 1951-1967.

We have gotten lucky with our choices of hotels, making 3/3 good choices. Let's hope the next one will be just as comfortable.

Thanks for stopping by,


"di"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wroclaw, Poland...feels like home

The Train to Wroclaw
We left cold and cloudy Berlin and arrived in Wroclaw, Poland on a very warm, summer day. The train ride was really relaxed and enjoyable. We had our own compartment with lots of room. I was able to write my Berlin blog post and do some sewing on my EPP Hexie project. I even got in a nap. Mr. R had a nice nap, read and relaxed. I love traveling on the train. I wish we had more trains in the US.
We took lots of Instagram photos. I think this might be my favorite app. I love the photos it takes. Who needs a camera?

The First Day
My sister asked me if I felt any different being in Poland and I can honestly answer, yes. I like the smells, the language and the people. Like she said, “It’s in our DNA”. This makes me remember visits to my grandmother’s and my uncle’s homes in Pennsylvania when I was a child. Although I do not speak a word of Polish, I love hearing the people speak the language of my ancestors.
Our hotel was super nice. We booked this weekend to be our best hotel since we would be spending our anniversary in Wroclaw, and it did not disappoint. We walked around the square where the FanFest was set up for the Euro Soccer Championships. Wroclaw is a host city, but luckily, there were no rowdy fans. We toured a few churches and then ate dinner in the square.



The Second Day
The second day was pretty exciting. We walked over to the Cathedral Island, where there are several churches and a seminary. Our (Polish) priest from home had told us it would be a great place to visit and he was right. As we crossed the Tumski bridge we noticed all the locks with couple’s names on them. We found out this bridge is known as the “love bridge”, so we bought a lock and, in honor of our anniversary, we locked our love on the bridge with all the other couples.
As we crossed the bridge we could hear a mass being broadcast so we headed for the cathedral and arrived just as the 50th anniversary celebration mass for the Archbishop of Wroclaw, the Reverend Marian Golebiewski was ending. There were more priests, bishops and nuns than I had ever seen in my life. Even more than we saw when in the Vatican. We even got to meet the Archbishop and congratulate him.
We took the tram to the train station to buy our tickets to Krakow. While there, we had a scary incident; several gypsy women and children surrounded us. We know this a scam they use to pick pocket people so we pushed them away and noticed that the police in the station were also watching them, so we felt a little more secure.
The weather was once again perfect and all things are going well in Poland.



Day Three
Today was our 40th wedding anniversary. We slept in this morning and enjoyed the nice breakfast buffet in the hotel, and then we went to mass. We were hoping to be able to receive a blessing from the priest for our anniversary.  Success! The priest gave us a special anniversary blessing, after mass, and we even got an altar boy to take a photo. It was pretty emotional for both of us.


After church we headed over to tour the synagogue, but unfortunately there was a concert rehearsal and we were not allowed inside. So we ate lunch in the synagogue square and then had a relaxing walk back to the hotel. I still think our body clocks are confused because we get really sleepy every afternoon around three o’clock.
After a rest in the hotel, we walked along the river. This really is starting to feel like a relaxing vacation.
Dinner tonight was a splurge, but so worth it. Delicious food and a beautiful presentation all helped to make this one of our best anniversary celebrations, ever. We sat outside, where it stays light until 10 pm., on another gorgeous summer night.



The Food
Polish food is delicious if you know how to order it. Growing up, eating pierogi, golabki, kapusta, I knew what to order. Our son had been to Poland and said we would love the pierogi, but we only had them in the square and they were not as good as I can make at home. The finer dining of rabbit, fish and pork dishes were all excellent, not to mention the beer, too!
We tried a new after dinner drink of sweet vodka. It is aged 10 years with herbs and is really good and is supposed to be good for digestion, not to mention it also helps you sleep.

So Wroclaw gets a big YES from us. We had a wonderful time here.






Thanks for stopping by,


"di"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

40 years Ago

Forty years ago I married the love of my life.

He's still the love of my life.

The Tumski Bridge, also known as the love bridge, where we locked our love to the bridge. There are 1000's of locks on it.

We are getting ready to go to mass in Wroclaw, Poland, hoping we can get a priest to give us an anniversary blessing.


Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Berlin

Beginning a long awaited vacation in a big city can sometimes be a mistake.  Although we enjoyed our 4 days in Berlin, we have decided it would have been better to start in the opposite direction of our intended itinerary and visited our friends in the outskirts of Vienna first, where we know we will relax and just enjoy their company. This time change thing makes traveling difficult.
Here, in a nutshell, are the pros and cons of our time in Berlin…






Pros:
  1. Our hotel, Hotel Art Nouveau, was in a nice area, very close to some posh shops and restaurants. Too bad I am not a big shopper. The entire top named designers had shops in this area. Notice that beautiful bag in the mosaic #1, it was carved out of wood for an art display.
  2. The hotel room was large and clean, quiet and really perfect. We actually were upgraded to a suite.
  3. The first full day in Berlin was warm, sunny and enjoyable. We went on a boat tour on the river Spree to see all the sights and it was the best thing to do on our first day. We got a good idea of the set up of the city
  4. The beer in Berlin was great.
  5. The food in Berlin was great.
  6. Mr. Romance really enjoyed seeing all the fancy cars, Bentley, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Audi…many different models than we don’t see in the US.
  7. Nice, clean and comfortable taxis and trains.
  8. Most people were nice and spoke English, willingly.
  9. We got to meet friends of our son and spend a really enjoyable evening with them and their two beautiful children
  10. I got to meet Tacha, the lovely and famous member of Fat Quarterly.She generously gifted me with her newest book, Hexa A Go-Go
  11. On our last night we went to an Italian restaurant and I was able to speak Italian and order in Italian. I was quite impressed that remembered the right words and did not mix it up with my spotty Spanish.
  12. We received a lovely surprise of candy sent to our room from Brigitte, whom I had done some quilt Market sewing.
  13. The first time I was able to check the Internet I found out I was a finalist in two categories in Ellison Lane’s Summer Sewing Contest. You still have time to vote. I am #2 in the quilt category and #3 in the Home Dec category!




Cons:
  1. The Internet in the hotel was spotty and did not work in our room. We had to go to the common area to use it.
  2. We took the Big Bus Tour and it was so boring. The bus gets stuck in traffic and it makes for a very long tour.
  3. The city is really big and the things we wanted to see were far apart, so we were unable to see all.
  4. The breakfast in the hotel was boring. The exact same thing every day.
  5. Our luggage was lost in Paris and we did not receive it until the second day in Berlin. Luckily we always plan for this and had a change of underwear packed and necessary toiletries with us.
  6. The meanest clerk was in the coffee department in KaDeWe department store. We were on the food level oohing and ahhing over the displays taking photos, when I snapped a photo in the coffee department. She came up to me clapping her hands and yelling at me that no photos were allowed and there were signs everywhere saying so. I told her that no one else had said a word and that if I had noticed a sign I surely would not have broken a rule. Argh…couldn’t she just have said, “Sorry, no photos please”? I nicknamed her Brunhilda!
  7. It was a lot colder and rained two of our full 3 days. That made it hard to go sightseeing, but we did the best we could.

 Next stop, Poland...


Thanks for stopping by,

"di"