Kraków & Auschwitz

After our week in Spain, I still had the whole weekend off so Joan and I were thinking about going out of town. My friend, Jannah, was on her way to Kraków at the time to spend a few nights so we thought, why not go there? I really like Poland and we’ve been to a few major cities like Poznan, Wroclaw, and of course, Warsaw, so we were due to go to Kraków anyway. Also, we had been meaning to go to Auschwitz for quite a while but this never materialised until now.

Believe me when I say I absolutely loved the city of Kraków. It’s probably even my favourite among the polish cities we’d been to so far. But for whatever reason, I forgot to take photos of the place… But it’s definitely worth visiting! The city has been through a lot, historically, but there’s something about the place that just gives you hope and can make you believe that you can rise again. While you’re there, have dinner at one of the restaurants in the old town, walk around the Jewish quarter (you’ll also find great places there to dine at too), and visit the museum in Oskar Schindler’s Factory.

I did take a few photos when we were at the concentration camps in Auschwitz, though. They are about an hour outside of Kraków so we took a day tour. Entrance was free of charge but you may have to wait for a time slot if you hadn’t booked a ticket online.

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It was eerie to walk around the place that was the venue for such horror. Every now and again we’d found some people stopping to silently pray, some even getting emotional.

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España Verde – Santander & Basque Country

This year’s trip to Spain brought us to the green northern coast. Santander, in the beautiful region of Cantabria was our starting point, then making our way to the east, exploring the Spanish part of Basque Country.

Santander

A quiet little city on the Atlantic coast, home to some beautiful beaches and charming little plazas. We arrived rather late due to some delays and only had one night to stay. We used the time walking around town and going to the beach. It was a Sunday so it was pretty quiet and the shops were closed but we found the local people spending their free time by the beach. The weather wasn’t exactly suitable for swimming except for a few very brave ones, but it was nonetheless a good day to be there.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before we got to see more because we had quite a drive ahead of us going to our campsite (which is close to San Sebastián) and a tent to assemble and we did not want to get there so late.

Campsite

We booked our plot at the lovely Camping Itxaspe site. The staff was very helpful and we got everything we needed. From there, we had a great view of the ocean and nature – everything was so green! It was so satisfying to be able to breathe such fresh air and I think it’s something I will pursue in the coming years – traveling to places with the purest of air to breathe! It was still a bit cold in the region since summer hasn’t really kicked in yet and it was probably even too early for some to come over with their tents (all the others came with their caravans) but we came prepared and though the nights were a bit cold, it was still possible to get some good night’s sleep.

The campsite is in a Geopark area and very close to some Flysch cliffs and the beach.

Vitoria-Gasteiz

European Green Capital back in 2012, and rightfully so because it’s clearly their favourite colour (and also mine). The air was just as fresh in this city as that on the countryside and I am still amazed by how this is even possible and wonder why not all cities do the same.

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Bosque Pintado de Oma

After our visit to Vitoria-Gasteiz, we still had some time (and energy) for a 6km trek through the painted forest of Oma. This was a recommendation by a classmate from my Spanish class and it did not disappoint. It was quite a walk going up and down hills but it was all worth it once the worst was over an we finally came to the climax which was the painted forest itself. It looked so trippy and it was so strange to find such art in the middle of the woods.

Donostia-San Sebastián

I heard from people about how gorgeous this city is – and it’s absolutely true! Though we had the worst weather conditions here during our whole visit to the Basque Country, it still did not stop us from exploring a little bit. We did have heavy rain, though, that just did not seem to want to stop and, when it did, it was extremely windy. We dared to go to the beach, which was right in the city, during this time but it was really uncomfortable walking around when you feel like you will be blown away at anytime.

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But the overall experience in this city was great because we had dinner reservations at one of the cider houses outside of town but close by. We went to Alorrenea Cider House and drank a good amount of this local specialty which we poured ourselves, straight from the barrel. People who know me know that I am a huge fan of apple cider and I try all the ciders that the world has to offer, so this really has been a unique experience. Alongside we had a four-course meal including a steak fresh off the grill. The whole experience only costs 31,-€ each, and I say only because they really served a lot of food and an unlimited amount of cider. Though we did have a car, we made sure to come by taxi and the personnel at the restaurant were also so kind to call a taxi to take us back to the city (only 15 minutes away) because if you do everything right in this house, then there’s no way you should drive after drinking.

We left San Sebastián with a broken heart the next morning and would have loved to stay but we wanted to find out if our tent was still standing after that storm. Though the campsite is close to the city, we were happy to find our little home still intact. Apparently, the place was not affected by the storm at all.

Gaztelugatxe

I guess this was the place we were excited about the most. It’s famous for being a filming venue for Game of Thrones where, with the help of some editing, the home of Khaleesi stood, best known as Dragonstone. The castle shown in the HBO series did not really exist but the infamous steps going up the “castle” were very much real and so was the huge rock resting on the Atlantic – waves crashing and all. This, again, was quite the trek, even more difficult than the one at the painted forest of Oma (due to construction works we had to take a longer, more challenging route), but people did not seem to care. And, mind you, a LOT of tourists come by to see this.

Bilbao

Our last stop was the largest city in Basque Country – Bilbao. Also famous for its pintxos, we knew we had to find the best place if we were to break our diet anyway. In this region, there was not much of a choice for low-carb alternatives because the cuisine itself meant small-portions-of-food-on-top-of-a-small-piece-of-bread. We found Café Iruña and it did not disappoint, but you have to experience it for yourself to know what I mean. We went to the Guggenheim Museum, which in itself was already a masterpiece of architecture.

We also only had one night to stay here before we left Spain altogether. This, I can say, was really too short of a holiday because the whole region is just so beautiful and we would really love to come back for all the places we’ve missed and maybe even see some places again. The green part of Spain is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I’m just in love with it. ❤

Having too much of Venice

It was my wife’s birthday last weekend and we had another last-minute change of plans. We were supposed to stay in Germany and go on a road trip but decided against it when we realised that the country was about to reach the peak of winter. Going on a road trip while it’s cold and slippery just didn’t seem appealing, not to mention, safe. Joan had always wanted to go to Venice but somehow the idea never materialised because, well, other trips and places got in the way. But, hey, we finally made it!

So let me just get this out of the way: Venice is stunning. Gorgeous. A masterpiece, really. But please forgive me if I don’t seem too excited about it as I go on on this entry. The trip just got frustrating at some point, somehow, and the weather is to blame for most of it. You won’t believe how much I miss the sun and not having to wrap myself up in layers and layers of clothing!

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Gloomy Grand Canal

 

Venice is famous for its canals and bridges. It’s made up of islands and, instead of by car, you get around by boat – or you walk. We have been warned about 430+ bridges of this city and we were worried about rolling our luggage around and having to carry them when crossing the bridges so we looked for a better alternative:

So this is a backpack that measures like the maximum size allowed on most European airlines for cabin bags and it opens up just like your favourite hard shell carry-on luggage! Minus the wheels and the handle, it is much lighter so it allows you to pack a little more and it’s perfect for walking around. It can take up 44 Litres which was just right for six days worth of thick winter clothing. Buy yours here.

Where to stay in Venice

Finding budget-friendly accommodation in this city is challenging especially if you choose to stay on the main island. For the first three nights we stayed in a litte boutique hotel in Murano. It’s a short boat ride away from the city centre and it has its own charm. It’s awfully quiet especially at night so it might not be the best option if you prefer a place that is more alive. During the day, you may want to visit one of the many glass factories.

For the remaining two nights, we moved to a different hotel right before our 72h public transportation ticket expired. Since we were staying in the city, we did not need to ride the boats anymore to get around. There is a clear difference between staying in the city and staying on another island. For one, you pay more for one night and get less (smaller room, no window, no breakfast). But on the bright side, you’re closer to all of this:

Burano

Burano is another island right off a postcard. Its colourful houses by the canals are attracting tourists, and for good reason. The sun came out when we went there and the light hit the brightly coloured houses beautifully.

More on Venice

It was rainy when we arrived and the first couple of days had been really windy. It was hard to endure walking around in -12°C temperature and it got frustrating. Other than just walking around and sight-seeing (or visiting some museums, galleries), there is not much else to do. I must admit, six days is a really long time to be staying in this city. Maybe a whole weekend would have been enough to keep the excitement going. It can also burn a huge hole in your pocket because eating out is just so expensive. But I’m glad to be finally home after consuming an uncomfortable amount of carbs and I’m sure I won’t be touching any pizza or pasta again for the next couple of weeks!

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Venice Faves