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First time in Ukraine

Снимок экрана 2019-05-22 в 19.32.20The biggest untouched spot in Europe has been scratched off my travels map, wohoo! It was not a usual vacation, though, but a business trip. Still one hell of a voyage in 5 days with my route: Kiev-Dnipro-Demurine-Dnipro-Volnohirsk-Zhovti Vody-Kiev-Ivano Frankivsk-Kalush-Kiev. I believe I have seen more of Ukraine that many of the Ukranians did themselves. It was a very diverse and intense experience, from modern and dynamic capital, across a Russian-speaking part, to the deepest quarries lost in the middle of nowhere, followed by visiting oil refineries and metalwire manufactures in the Western Ukraine, so different and mystical (mostly because I didn’t understand the language anymore and wasn’t even sure what I was eating most of the time).

This trip was very eventful, with one meeting followed by another, 300km in Duster followed by a train at 5 a.m., and most of my meals were dedicated to business. But I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t found 2 hours there – 1 hour there – late night dinner place there, to explore a bit on the go.

Once in Ukraine, the must-eats include: traditional borscht, dranyki, syrniki, vareniki (pierogi: there are dozens of fillings; I love classic potato ones, as well as with a modern twist, like truffles inside; can be sweet, too!), cow’s tongue, salo (fatback) and many more, depending on the region. I found food in the east to be completely different from the west. But everything in Ukraine is so satisfying! Always tastes like homemade from grandma’s kitchen, even in haute cuisine places. Even breakfasts in hotels are nothing we imagine here in Europe, where you barely see a buffet with 3 different soups, 5 hot meat dishes, all kind of potatoes, baked mushrooms, mayonnaise salads or shashlik at 8 a.m.

I have a list of Kiev and Dnipro recommendations from the locals, of course. I have tried out as many as I had the time for. However, I’d like to keep it, as well as expressing my emotions from traveling across Ukraine, for the next time, when I manage to visit more places myself and put together more impressions.

It’s amazing, how much of a life experience can a business trip be! Meeting local people from the tiniest villages and learning about their lifestyle was just as exciting as trying the most expensive truffle pierogi in the capital. See you soon, Ukraine!


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Obertauern

IMG_5826_Facetune_16-03-2019-13-44-36And another new snowboarding location follows!

Despite not having much time off this season to properly go to the Alps for the regular 2 weeks trip I have been doing couple times per season since 14 years (ahh, amazing school/uni years!), I have managed to see surprisingly a lot of new slopes this year!

This trip was an amazing combo of everything, because we first went to Slazburg to celebrate Ruby’s Birthday, which was followed by an amazing skiing and apres-skiing weekend in Obertauern.

For the dinner (which we had en blanc, since it was indeed an outstanding culinary experience), we were invited to Stratmann. It’s one of those places no tourist has never found, and it’s just incredible. It’s one of those cases when I don’t write “if you happen to pass by – definitely check it out”, but “you have to GO there!”.

 

About Obertauern itself I’ve heard a lot, but had never been before. It’s a place for young crowds who want to party, but the slopes are great, too! A wide range of easy routes marked blue (but we found some black adventures as well, so a rider of any level won’t be bored there), and the coolest thing – slopes interconnected in a way that enables a round-trip through the entire area, somewhat like Sella Ronda of Italy.

We were there more to party than to do sports, but I am very proud of us that we actually managed to start at 8 a.m. and were killing it on the slopes until the lifts were closed. Then the apres-ski comes, and it’s amazing there! I lived the place called Kingsalm the most. It’s so rare to hear good techno music on the slopes! Most of the huts play traditional Austrian/Slovenian (depends on the area) music that is made solely for apres-ski and isn’t always the deepest lyrics or the best taste melody, I admit. That place had a great dj every day and even live performers, so cool! The vibe itself is also incredible, already during daytime it turns into Ibiza of the mountains.

There are plenty of traditional huts, too, and they are open all night long, whereas most of the resorts die around dinner time. Here one can surely go crazy! Even fancy restaurants, eg. Peakini, turn into crazy party places that keep the neighbours up all night long. You go, Obertauern!

The season of this year is over and despite loving snowboarding with all my heart, I can’t wait for this spring to start!


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Viennese Balls 2019

Processed with VSCO with m3 presetOne of the most beautiful Viennese traditions: the famous balls. I admit that my absence in the past 2 months has been determined partially by getting ready for balls, then attending them, and then recovering from them. What a life!

This year I attended 3 balls and there is one more to go: the best night of the year, Life Ball. But it’s a completely different format of a ball, and this post is about the traditional ones that are held in Hofburg, the palace those born in the 1900s know from the cartoon “Princess Sissi”.

Viennese Balls are strict in dress code and traditions. Floor length dresses only for women and tuxedos for men. Traditional Austrian clothing, dirndl and trachten, are allowed on a certain occasion. To the ball held by the United Nations, one can be dressed in a national costume of another country, too. That was the one we kicked the ball season off with.

IAEA Staff Association Ball

this one was a lot of fun due to the number of acquaintances we met there. Crowd of young and ambitions people, interesting conversations while drinking wine in gallons, cool fun music and the best techno and disco dance floors out of all balls. Yes, you read it right! There are modern DJs at the balls, too, and after midnight the palace turns into a rave.

Ball der Wiener Wirtschaft

this one is much more traditional than IAEA ball. The crowd is significantly older, but nevertheless dances quadrille with even more enthusiasm than the young ones 😉 The classical part of the ball, from the opening ceremony with debutants to the orchestra and singers of the main ballroom, was of the best quality. Pure aesthetic enjoyment! Also, more seating areas than dance floors, if compared to how the other balls were organised. Suitable for those who are more into music and performance rather than crazy nights out.

Kaffeesiederball

This one is said to be the coolest in Vienna. We had a lot of fun because we gathered a large group of people. Even Polina flew on from London for the occasion. What can be more exciting than a bunch of friends dressed in amazing gowns pre-drinking all together in one of the most elegant bars of Vienna? We chose Park Hyatt Bank Brasserie&Bar for the occasion. Not something that happens every weekend, huh?

Apparently, the pregame was awesome, because we came to the ball itself very late. I would be regretting this a lot if it would be my first ball, but luckily I already saw the opening ceremony of another ball, so didn’t feel left out as we rolled into the palace just before midnight. Next year, however, I would give it a desperate try to show up a bit earlier. But the later you come – the longer you are likely to stay! We stayed until the very end at all balls, but after this one we even went to a club. Also one hell of an experience in a long light gown! But this is Vienna baby, so in fact half of the club was dressed like that, too. Ah, this time of the year! Elegance and never feeling overdressed. I wish I could just wear gowns all year long. Sometimes I do, though. But such occasions as balls really make one feel special.

Since I started talking about Viennese traditions and clothing, in between the balls we had a night of dressing up un traditional Austrian dirndls and going to a heuriger. Usually this is a kind of entertainment for summer, but our dear Olivia had her farewell leaving Vienna for New York, so we had a proper reason.

I am honestly quite excited to be in Vienna the upcoming summer (I always left before) and experience things like Kirtag and all the crazy wine festivals that I missed before.

For now we are saying goodbye to the Ball Season and are looking forward to wearing our gowns again next year, searching for more down to Earth entertainments meanwhile.

 


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Stuhleck & Nassfeld

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetThe mountains! I haven’t spent as much time as I usually do every winter in the Alps this year. The closing of the season is yet to come, though!

We opened the season at Stuhleck: slopes area in Semmering, ca. 1,5h away from Vienna. It is the closest to the capital skiing area which I never even knew existed. I expected 2,5 short slopes for beginners and old-school lifts which throw you down in precipice not slowing down at the stations. So I was quite surprised when discovered a decent slopes map, modern infrastructure and even the convenience of getting there: timetable of a bus that takes you directly to the funicular is adjusted to train arrival times. I liked it and I wish I had another free day to go, since it is a place for a one-day trip (I mean, there are some hotels around, but it’s not necessary to sleep over when Vienna is so close).

The only frustration was the lack of apres-ski – something essential for proper mountain lovers. We did find delicious sausages, Mohnknödel and even musicians singing awfully loud and playing an accordion there; but a classy hut where everyone dances on benches in their skiboots was missing a bit. We still managed to get so drunk that we missed the last skilift load and had to walk 4km through the forest though, so the experience was complete!

My next trip was longer and took me further: to Nassfeld. It is convenient for us to meet up there with my parents when they drive from Lignano. The town of Hermagor where we stayed is relatively small but there are no tourists, only Austrians and some Slovenians. They know how to party Alpine style, so apres-ski was on point since midday already. The slopes area itself is satisfying: suitable for all levels, with nice views over the peaks and a few restaurants to chose from.

But the size matters in this case and I admit that 5 days is max. lenght of stay in Nassfeld if you don’t want to be deadly bored. It is not a loud fun town with a lot going on and all places booked out every night like Sölden or Ischgl. Great for family vacations and for those who seek to have some quite time, but too still for those who can’t sit at home in the evening. So, I would recommend choosing a different location if you are a large group and wanna go for 2 weeks. But for a few days the place is perfect!

Try beef tartar at Bärenwirt and book a table for dinner at Mari e Monti, if you ever come to the place 😉

Meanwhile, I am very excited for the next weekend and our trip with friends to Obertauern! March is my favourite time to be in the mountains. Sunshine and sparkly snow, here we come!


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Paris, Je t’adore

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetParis. How much garlic smell, macarons crackle, demonstrations noise and lights of fancy shopfronts in this word.

Last time I went to Paris was more than two years ago, so we decided to give ourselves a long weekend of pleasure of eating snails and foie gras, shopping on sales and just getting away from dull Viennese winter.

We finally spent enough time on Montmartre for me to understand how much I love it there! Last time we took a short walk because there were too many tourists; during my first visit in Paris we only went to the Moulin Rouge. I must admit I liked the city during demonstrations everyone is so scared of. No tourists, and even the locals stay in. Easy to get a table in restaurants, to take pictures without crowds in the background, and just to enjoy Paris the way it would be if it wasn’t too popular. The weather in January is also surprisingly fine! We came during the worst day of that week’s forecast, and it was still much better than what winter looks like in Vienna.

Yellow vests and constant complaints about winter aside, the main topic for me never changes – THE FOOD. This time we were better prepared than I was last times, when my travel companions were just walking me to the fanciest restaurants of Paris, like Chez Julien, Chez André and Fouquet’s, which are without any doubts amazing, but trying something different was what I wanted out of this trip. So, here we go with what we managed to eat in 48 hours Paris:

  • Hardware Soiété: opened by Australians, there is another one in Melbourne. Literally the best brunch I’ve ever had! Lobster eggs Benedict blew my mind! The entire menu is very creative and goes far beyond avocado and poached eggs, but not too far, where you get a leaf on a burnt crumb for breakfast, the time when you are the hungriest. I’d love to try everything in the menu! The staff is super nice, I guess mostly Australians, so here you are not afraid of not being understood – a common fear in Paris. The drinks are also flawless, Anfisa had her best cold brew there. The area of Sacré-Cœur is also pleasant to start your day there. Definitely a brunch-must-visit! The place was full, we came with no reservation (early, before 10) and immediately got a nice table, but when we were done with the food there was already a decent queue outside.
  • For our next breakfast, we decided to have it traditional French way: get a croque monsieur sandwich, cheese omelette, baguette and croissants with coffee in a random Parisian bistro. We found one near the Opera house, but all the ones we checked around seemed to have a similar menu. And I must say, despite being extremely touristy, it was great! Paris is a place where you shouldn’t be scared of something aimed on tourists only, foodwise at least. There are more places we discovered and I marked for brunch for the next visit, so maybe someone will try them out before me: Peonies, Season, Marcelle, Dersou.
  • Breakfast follows with lunch/dinner must-eats. The famous truffle pasta at Pink Mamma! I have eaten tens of truffle pastas in life, but that one was definitely the best! This gourmet group is in general always a good choice. La Felicità is another cool location with great ambient that many Paris experts advised me already. And not just the food is delicious at their restaurants, also the buildings and the rooms themselves are a treasure. 100% instagrammable 😉
  • Finding an absolutely perfect place for dinner was a challenge for me. A lot of recognised restaurants don’t have websites, don’t reserve and just don’t want to communicate, don’t have menus in English. Google research and platforms like tripadvisor don’t help much there either, so I went through some blogs and came across Chez la Vieille. It’s a place you never enter seeing from the outside: tiny door, no light on the ground floor, no spectacular signboards. Even the name is written with chalk, no kidding. And this was exactly a place I was looking for. The best foie gras way of serving I’ve tried, fine wines, intimate atmosphere (for some maybe even too intimate, the tables are no more than 10cm away from each other). Was the finest kick-off into Parisian food experience!
  • Another hidden treasure you are not likely to come across, that was recommended to me is Le Mary Celeste. Compromise prices on something I consider haute cuisine. We tried their tartar and pulled duck on brioche, and I think my stomach cried from pleasure. The bar itself is charming, too, but downstairs is one of those hidden places that might become your favourite if you live in the neighbourhood.
  • When in France, my main desires are snails, foie gras, beef tartar and their sandwiches of any kind. It’s not easy to find a fancy place that has all of this on the menu, because usually fancy places have only 5-7 things on the menu in general. So sometimes a proper classy French bistro is the easiest choice, especially for a larger group of people. We had our finest snails and sandwiches at Cafe Charlot, but I remember having visited a lot of restaurants of this kind during my previous visits to Paris, and I was always satisfied. Depends on what one is searching for, but if you are fine with very crowded, loud, smelly with food places and don’t care how fancy the ambient is – you may have one of the best dining experiences at one of those, so I’d say: don’t just follow the planned route of gourmet trouvailles, be spontaneous and enter any bistro that has a table available! We enjoyed sitting outside enjoying some wine on Montorgueil street: a loud, popular among tourists and younger locals, crowded area with a lot of places to chose from. Here we slowly shift from dinner to bars.
  • Experimental Cocktail Club: around the corner from the above mentioned street. A fun bar, like one of those I go to in Vienna. Young charming barkeepers, delicious nicely garnished experimental cocktails, cute couples squeezed around large groups of party people. There you easily find some adventure!
  • Again hidden, in fact, completely hidden: Candelaria. You have to go through the fast-food place that sells tacos and margaritas and confidently push a tiny disguised white door where the kitchen is. And you find yourself in an amazing bar! I have been in a lot of hidden bars, the concept of exclusivity has become a big deal in the past years. But those places are usually posh, people visiting them want to feel way too exclusive and sometimes it gets ridiculous. It’s not about Candelaria. Here you just feel like you have come to a friend’s house party. If we didn’t have so little time in Paris and weren’t therefore on a bar tour, I’d easily spend all night in that cozy bar full of tacos and people who all seemed to know each other.
  • Clown bar is found right in the circus and has one of the coolest old-school designs.  The food looked delicious, but we were already waiting for our table at le Mary Celeste, so this one remains a goal for the next visit 😉
  • Street crepes. Call it cheesy (they ARE cheesy! and I don’t know what cheese they put inside, but I wanna drown on it), call it tourists attraction, but those things are damn good! A perfect ending for a night out.

Other than eating non-stop (even though I am not even sure if anything other than that is needed in Paris), January is a great time for shopping: sales but less tourists. I discovered the area around Rue Vieille du Temple this time. Haven’t been much around the 3rd district before because most of the time my routes were built around some tourist sights. This district is a very nice place for walking, shopping and chilling in some cafe with a terrace. Won’t even start with Parisian shopping, you probably know it all. If you don’t, you will.

Most of attractions like museums, cathedrals, palaces, castles, viewing points, gardens and whatever else there is in Paris I had already visited before, so we took it easy with the cultural side. We went to Musee de l’Orangerie though, and it is spectacular! We expected a small room with 2-3 Monet paintings, but there is an entire palace of Monet! I’ve seen so much that though nothing new can be there, and it was a new Monet level. Other paintings it contains are also Paris-museum-level valuable and a pleasure to the eye, so I highly recommend the museum. A free entrance everywhere in Paris for European students is also quite motivating, thank you, Paris!

Hoping to be back sooner than it took me since my last visit! Paris, je t’aime! 

 


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2019 go!

Happy New Year 2019!

This is not a post of resolutions, I stopped making those when was 15 because, sorry, it’s stupid. If you need change in life – you don’t necessarily wait for nasty weather of January to start making it happen. This is more of an appreciation post. Thanking 2018 for being over, too.

There were a lot of changes for me in 2018 (most happened in summer btw, so nice weather is indeed alright to make things different). I graduated, and Uni Wien is soaking less soul out of me now (MA program still does its best, though); started an awesome job, first time working full-time in life, which was not as much of a shocking change as I anticipated and was warned by everyone; I traveled: visited my beloved Italy 5 times and came back to my favorite place on Earth, Hong Kong, and the only thing I promise to do in 2019 is to write posts about it which I’ve been postponing since 2016, as well as explored new places like mind-blowing Korea, hidden castles of Germany, new places in awesome Portugal together with re-discovering the well-known ones; rode tens of km’s of new slopes combined with the old good resorts. I went to Russia few times, saw Sochi where I spent so much time as a child looking all brand new now; even visited Nizhnii Novgorod! Felt young and crazy again on Malta with the girls. Together with my parents, we found a new home-to-be. I am happy that before starting to work a lot, I devoted enough time to seeing my family, spent good deal of time with Dani’s family and managed to have more reunions with friends than usually and even to come to St P where a big part of my heart still is; I cried at the first wedding of a close friend, hugged my mom and dad on their Birthdays, was by Dani’s side during his glorious moments like creating the World’s biggest negroni and, in general, didn’t miss out on any fun.

Despite all that greatness, 2018 was one of the hardest years ever for me and for my close ones. So, happy it’s over and looking forward to a more easygoing 2019, please!

 

Happy New Year and may the Force be with y’all!