A Travellerspoint blog

Wroclaw

sunny 35 °C
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Wroclaw (pronounced wrootz-slav) was a really pleasant suprise. we hadn't planned to stop in Wroclaw initally...instead we were thinking about heading straight from Warsaw to Prague. but we got talking to this guy from Montreal in the hostel in Vilnuis and he said Wroclaw was well worth a look. and seeing as how it is geographically almost excactly en route from Warsaw to Prague, we figured why not?

the train from warsaw to wroclaw was absolute hell. it was dirty, packed and hot...really really hot. of course there was no A/C on this cheap local train we had choosen. luckily, there was a smokin hot polish girl sitting next to us who we talked to most of the ride...it was the only thing that kept me from jumping out the window.

when we got to wroclaw we where met at the train station by our CS host Olek, a 20-something web developer who lives and works in Wroclaw. Olek was a really nice guy. and he and his roommates (richard, mat and ann), who we would subsequently meet, showed us a great time in Wroclaw.

the first night we went out for dinner at the "egyptian" restuarant--completely decked out with pyramids, etc. funnily enought there was no egyptian food on the menu. there was however american, chinese, french, polish, italian and greek. in the end we ordered this huge polish platter that came with sausages, perogies, cabbage, dumplish and pork. it was acutally really good...and very cheap. plus we watched it down with some crisp polish pilsner.

after dinner we met up with a friend of olek's would took us on a night walking tour of the city. wroclaw has an amazing old town and a particularly nice (and huge!!) town square.it was great to walk around at night and see all the buildings lit up. old towns have a sort of mystic, fairtale beauty at night.

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wroclaw town square at night

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ariel view of wroclaw town square

after the tour we went to this traditional polish beer garden in the town square for some micro-brewed beer.

DAY 2: stewart and i wandered around all day exploring various parts of old town. it was uncomfortably hot. that night we went to a swimming pool/water park with olek to cool down and get refreshed. after the swim we went out for greek food and some beers. one the way back to Olek's place we stopped and grabbed some "bison grass vodka". it is a special type of vodka, made not from potatoes, but from bison grass which only grows in one specific park in poland...without a doubt the best vodka i had ever had. we mixed it with apple juice (apparently common in poland) and it was delicious! i took a few shots and even semi-enjoyed them. (the vodka was even warm). i mean it still burnt a bit, but the taste was actually good.

Day 3: Stewart and I slept in and then spent the better part of the afternoon try to figure out the cheapest way to get to prague. That evening after Olek and his roommates (richard, mat and ann) came back from work we packed up the coal bbq and headed down the river. we drank beer and vodka and grilled up some polish sausages! they were delicious! rich also marinated some pork neck (dont know the english name of the cut) and we grilled that up too. wow! plus mat sat dutifully on the ground all night carefully tending to the grill. it was really awesome...the kind of special experience you would NEVER get at a hostel.

Posted by Nicholas J 11:03 Archived in Poland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Warsawa

sunny 25 °C
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we arrived in Warsaw exhausted after a 11 hour train/bus ride from Vilnuis. we were met at the train station by our CS hosts Pawel (Paul) and Cait (a really nice, young Polish couple who lived just outside of downtown). As we scarfed down kebab, Pawel drove us all to a park somewhere in the city centre, where we watched Pulp Fiction al fresco. It was in English thankfully. But this was no problem for Paul and Cait, who both spoke really good english---in fact Paul had spent several months in the US.

the next day Paul and Cait went to work and we headed downtown to do some sightseeing. i think this is a good point to mention that Warsaw is nothing like you would expect...a fact that struck both stewart and I immeadiately when we stepped foot out of the train station the night before. the first thing one sees it modern sky scrapers (at least they scrape the european sky...they would probably look small in Vancouver) made of tinted glass and steel. i dont know what i was expecting...i suppose just drab communist concrete structures glalore. the boulevards are wide...the city actually reminded me a lot of Boston, strangely enough.

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warsaw skyline

anyway, the first stop on our sightseeing was the Warsaw Rising Musuem. it was incredible.

defintitely one of the best historical museums i have ever been to.

acutally it was probably THE best. i had never even heard of the warsaw rising before. For those who like me, had never heard of it, it was a desperate insurgency against the Nazis that commenced on August 1, 1944. It was made in a vain attempt by Polish nationalist to establish soveriegnty of their own country before the Soviets arrived. The first 3 days of the insurgency were a amazing success and the Polish civilan army took like 80 percent of Warsaw. Unfortunately then the Nazis decided to fight back feriously. In fact, the Nazis decided to make an an example of Warsaw as a warning to other European cities. In one particular neighbourhood the Nazis murdered 40,000 civilians in one day. The eventuall result was the descruction of 95% of Warsaw.

If you are interested to read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Uprising

After the musuem we stopped for lunch at this restuarant right in the old town square. blatant tourist trap. We ordered lunch which cost like 60 zlotti for 2. we had some beers --- like 30 zlotti for 2. when the bill came we saw that they had slapped on a 40 zlotti charge (like $12 Canadian) for a bottle of water we ordered. convientently, the price was nowhere on the menu. a pretty animated argument ensued between myself and the waiter, during which he admitted that he had purposefully screwed us because we where tourists. I told him we werent going to pay water...so he said he was going to call the cops. i called his bluff and told to him to "call the F*#@ing cops because your trying to rob ME". eventually we just walked out, although he tried to block our path.

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warsaw old town square

that night we went out and partied with Paul and Cait. we went to this really cool Spanish cocktail bar, where we took requiste shots of Polish vodka. then we headed to this really cool underground club.

the next day we were all really hung over so just chilled at home and watched Paul's collection of Beverley Hills Cop. What a classic series.

that night Paul took us to this really cool Polish restaurant. we had delicous perogies and saugages and this incredible homemade juice.

the next morning we got up and had a nice home-cooked Polish breakfast prepared for us by Paul and Cait. Then Paul graciously agreed to drive us to the train station, where we jumped on a train to Wroclaw

Posted by Nicholas J 10:13 Archived in Poland Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Lithuania -- Vilnuis and Trakai

Some funny pun interchanging "baroque" with "broke"...i couldn't think of anything...

sunny 25 °C
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Vilnuis

we rolled into Vilnuis mid-afternoon after a 4 hour bus ride from Riga (which felt much longer because I was extremely hungover). the first day we didn't do much just headed to the hostel and slept/relaxed, chilled out, cooked some perogies and chatted with some lithuanian girls who were working at the hostel.

the next day we wandered around Vilnuis on a kind of self guided city tour. If Baroque architechture is your thing, than Vilnuis is heaven on earth. Seriously. The Old Town is huge and packed to the brim with opulent baroque churches and buildings from the 18th century it was very beautiful...but it was admittidly sensory overload. After an hour of walking around Old Town it was like: "oh...another ridiculous baroque church". It reminded me of going on Safari...after one day your like: "oh...its just another Zebra".

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Baroque Church in Vilnuis
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Vilnuis Old Town

around 3 we stopped for lunch at this traditional Lithuanian restaurant. we had these dumplings stuff with mince-meat and covered in this sour cream-bacon-green onion sauce. it was damn good. I think we had some pork too...but i forget.

Trakai

our 2nd day we decided that we had had our fill of baroque architecture, so we took a 30 minute bus ride to this nearby town called Trakai, which one of the Lithuanian girls from the hostel had recommended to us. The town itself is located on kind of island/peninsula on a lake. in the lake there is this island (now connected by bridge) with a huge 15 century gothic castle on it.

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it was built in the days when Lithuania and Poland had a large empire going. it was a pretty beautiful castle, although it was truly not original...it had been destroyed and rebuilt in the 1700s.

after we checked out the castle, we rented this 25-foot sailboat and cruised around the lake for an hour or so...that was really sweet. the owner of the boat came with us, but he let us sail it the whole time. the wind on the lake was shifty but pretty strong and we got a good heel going. it was especially cool to get a 360 view of the castle from the water.

later we had lunch at this special restuarant that served only Trakai local cuisine. Apparently the king and queen in the 16th century had shipped in people from Turkey to cook, work and make crafts for them. Thus there has evolved a special turkish/lithuanian dish that is unique to Trakai alone...to be honest its not that orginial or mind-blowing though...its just like a jamaican patty you buy at the dep...or a calzone with only meat inside. still pretty good when you cover it in garlic sauce and wash it down with beer.

Posted by Nicholas J 10:10 Archived in Lithuania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Disclaimer about photos

none of the photos in the blog thus far are my own--kinda sad i know. its because I forgot my camera cable in Canada...so I have no way of transferring my photos to a computer. that is, until i meet someone with a new enough computer to have an SD port. then I will be able to upload my own photos....until then i'll have to make do with google images to spice up the blog

nj

Posted by Nicholas J 00:51 Comments (0)

Tallinn, Tartu and Riga


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i realise that this is supposed to be a travel blog....and so far there haven't really been any travelling tales...just some shameless bragging about landing a sweet job.

so I suppose this is the ACTUAL BEGINNING of the eastern europe trip...I will try to keep my blog entries from here on concise...i know this is the age of twitter...not to mention it can be hard to find the time to blog.

Tallinn

I missed my intended flight to tallinn from riga and ending up arriving an hour late with no bags....luckly my brother was smart enough to get on the flight we were supposed to be on together without me, so he was already waiting at the airport. (for those who dont know my younger brother stewart is travelling with me until Aug 29th. he made a last minute decision--literally the day before his flight back to canada from denmark--to join me for a few weeks of backpacking before heading back to school)
we were met at the airport by our couch surfing host Hedi, an Estonia woman who lives in the countryside about 30 mins from Tallinn. Hedi is definitely one the most welcoming and energetic people i have ever met. she is like a 3 year old kid who has been eating chocolate covered espresso beans all day.

we spent our 3 days in tallinn bascially just wandering the old town which is very beautiful. we took a walking tour and headed so some musuems as well. on of the best things we did was climb the spire of this old church...it was like 600 steps or something, but the view from the top was absolutely incredible

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after citing we met hedi at here office and drove back to the country. we had 2 really nice meals (we didnt eat the first night b/c we were so tired). the 1st night we had a whole salmon (we cut it ourselves) which we cooked over a wood fire bbq. hedi made a great Estonian salad to accompany the fish. the next night we had sandwiches on Estonia black bread with traditional meats and cheeses.

Tartu

as Hedi drove us to the bus station, where we would catch our bus to Tartu, she began talking about couchsurfing (her favorite topic) and mentioned that she knew a girl in Tartu who was on couchsurfing...before we knew it Hedi was on the phone with her asking if she would be able to have us stay that night....amazingly the answer was YES! what a world!

when we arrived in Tartu our new CS host Krisitine (former girlfriend of one of hedi's sons) met us at the bus station.

the first day we just wandered around tartu--which was pretty dead as it was a university city, but there is no school now because of the summer--and went to bed early, still exhuasted from travelling--and me still exhausted from london.

the second day we explored a bit more and went for lunch with Krisitine at this really funky/bohemian bar. then we ran (literally) to the bus station for our bus to Riga.

Riga

Riga was crazy! there is no other way to put it. we where there four days and it was absolutely great. Riga was definitley my favorite place on the trip so far...except maybe Amsterdam...or Copenhagen.

Riga is more gritty than Tallinn, but also more vibrant and alive. the old town is still quite beautful though. and riga has some really nice inner city parks. one in particular was hosting a folk dance festival....there were dancers cald in tradtional Lativan dress, dancing to wierd umpapa-ish music. it felt very finnish...but obviously it was totally Lativan...i guess i just had a better preconception of finnish folk culture.

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i met some wild Aussie guys at the hostel and we partied all four nights i was there. really funny guys. in four nights we checked out some really cool bars and clubs. our hostel itself was total mayhem...definitely a haven for partiers .in four days there i saw a british guy get so drunk he shit himself....actually, one of the aussie guys get so drunk he started pouring shaving cream into his mouth, and guys drinking non-stop from 1130-0730....all pretty shocking stuff

highlights of Riga:

- exploring old town--especially climbing up the church tower for a skyline view
- eating traditional Latvian food at LIDO restaurant (like 5 times)
- shooting an AK-47, piston and pump action shot gun (which was great, but also kind of scary: to go to a gun range and see that gun obsessed sub culture....having never acutally held or shot a gun, doing so was scary in the raw, life-ending power one possessed, but also in simplicty of it all...all you need to do was pull a trigger...nor practise or expertise was neccesary)
- I met this incredibly nice girl from Riga named Anda, who was working as a translator. Getting to know her a bit and learning about Latvia was super interesting...because i wasnt couch surfing, she was the only true local I met while in Riga.
- going to the nearby beach town in Jurmala (i have never seen that many hot girls in one place in my life!!! no joke! the first 5 minutes at the beach I had already seen like 10 of the hottest girls I have ever seen in my life)
- hanging out and partying with the three Aussie guys we met at the hostel
- going for dinner and beers with the hostel owner, Frank, who offered me a job in Riga!!!!! seriously. we got along so well that he said he wants me to work for him. SO i might be back to Riga before I know it...or more realistically spend next summer there.

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Posted by Nicholas J 22:54 Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

I GOT A JOB IN THE ALPS

probably the best job ever

Following my interviews in London I have received a job offer, which I will definitely accept.

The job is to work as a ´resort representative´ for a company who will remain anonymous on this blog. The job is in Selva val Gardena which is part of Dolomiti Superski, which is the largest ski area in the WORLD. How big is that?

Well...imagine Whisler/Blackcomb...both mountains....can you picture it? Its 12x the size of that!

What? Seriously! This took me like 10 minutes to comprehend. Whislter/Blackcomb has 38 lifts combined. Dolomiti has 405...totally mindblowing.

Here are some pics:

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this is a map of the valley that Selva is in....it looks like a pretty big area right?

well below you can see the entire dolomiti superski area...if you look at the legend you can find Selva.

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As i said I will be working as a Resort rep...a rep works 6 days a week...AND THERE IS A MINIMUM OF 3 DAYS SKI HOSTING PER WEEK! which means i will be skiing with guests as my job...the ski hosting means you take a group of guests who have similar abilities on a guided tour of the ski area, because the ski area is so massive many guest want to be guided. You can take them from town to town or ski the famous ridge route around Gardena (marked in red on map). Most importantly you arrange a nice restaurant and take everyone out to lunch on the mountain...apparently the lunch is a big part of the experience in the Alps, especially in Italy.

I won't make very much money like 100 pounds a week...but I get accommodation, 3 meals a day, season pass (for total area), all my equipment, insurance and potential to make bonuses...

Posted by Nicholas J 03:25 Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

London (my 1st blog entry ever!!)

job interviews, curry and couchsurfing


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i have never blogged before...so i dont know how good this entry will be...

I flew to London from Copenhagen on July 28. I arrived with surprisingly few problems--considering I was travelling with a discount airline. anyway, my flight landed on time (around 1pm) and i immeadiately rushed to my appointment at the UK job office somewhere in south london. In the end I had to take a cab which was really shitty cause it cost like 20 pounds, but i suppose i can be thankful i made the appointment at all, cause if i hadnt my plan to work in the alps would have been ruined. the purpose of the appointment was to obtain a national insurance number (like a canadian SIN) number and something that all the british tour companys require to employ you. they interviewed me and they said i should expect my NIN in the mail (to my aunt and uncles in scotland) in about 2-5 weeks....so far so good.

that night i went back to my hostel in south kensington and settled in a bit. i went to marks and spencers for some groceries for dinner (which cost an arm and a leg). i also spent like 2 hours running around kensington trying to find a dry cleaners to clean and press my one and only dress shirt in time for my interview the next day...this took about 2 hours. kensington was a really nice nieghbourhood...very posh and british but with lots of shops and pubs and restos.London11.jpg

over the next 3 days i had one interview each day, so my time was pretty much dominated prepping for and travelling to the interviews. the first day i had an interview with Ski Espirit, the second day with Powder Bryne and the final day with Ski Equity. the interviews all went really well, although the PB interview was quite tough...they guy was really peppering me with tough questions: 'you are leading a ski group of 10 guests. there are very confident and outgoing guests and very shy guests. how do you balance the group dynamic, especially over lunch?'

i won't bore you with details of the interviews...but the final interview was down in brighton which was really cool. i was only in brighton for a few hours, but i enjoyed it. the first think that struck me about brighton is that it is incredibly gay...it has more flags than small town usa, and they're not red, white and blue. it is like the san fransico of the uk. it does add flavour though i suppose, and whether it was because of the gay population or not, the cafe/bar/restuarant per capita ratio was very high. i guess they also get a lot of tourists who have no where better in the uk to go for the beach...kind of sad...oh by the way, the downtown is even very hilly like san fran and you catch random glimpses of the sea down the end of southern roads...the sea itself it bright tourquise...the colour you expect to see in mexico, which definitely suprised me.

after i finished my brighton interview (on friday) i headed back to london on the communter train. (but not before a pint of warm british ale to celebrate 4 very hecitc but ultimately successful days.) when i got back to london i went back to the hostel to pick up my stuff and then i headed to East London where i spent 2 nights couch surfing with a Nigerian guy (well he has lived in london most of his life actually) named Ade. the 2 nights i spent with Ade were very fun. the first night

we went out for indian curry on brick lane--a street completely packed with indian restuarants...im talking like 20 in 2 blocks

. there were guys standing out side each one, each saleman promising a better and cheaper meal than the last. in the end we had a 3 course meal (acutally 2 course, because they count rice as a course) and a pint for 7 pounds each...which was pretty much the only time i recieved a fair price in london. (the tube is 4 fucking pounds for a single ride). brick-lane-london.jpg

later that night we met up with another friend of Ade's from Austria went out and did some partying on brick lane, which ade described as londons williamsburg...a hip and trendy alternative area with lots of hipsters. we had a good night at this really wierd club...we also went to this really funky bar.

the next day Ade and woke up around 11...i was pretty hung over from the night before...we headed to tesco for some breakfast fixings and some anti acid. after breakfast we lazed around his place for a few hours. that afternoon we went to a nigerian restaurant across the street for lunch. we had nigerian pepper soup, jerk chicken, curry goat and jallof rice.

nigerian pepper soup is without a doubt the spiciest thing i have ever tasted in my life!!!

later that night we went out to a comedy show in the west end...it was pretty fun, but nothing compared to the live comedy i have seen in new york...the brits are funny, but no one does stand up like the americans.

the next morning i woke up early and headed back to gatwick to catch my flight to Tallinn...where my backpack adventure would start.

Posted by Nicholas J 12:53 Archived in England Tagged business_travel Comments (1)

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