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Lignano

IMG_8533This is a very special post. It covers my first (and I am sure that more will follow) visit to a place that became special from the first days. Lignano is an Italian summer resort town on the Adriatic coast. I have been to this side couple times, but it couldn’t compare to Lignano! If I found myself there out of a sudden, I wouldn’t even guess that it’s Italy at all. No offense, Italy is the best country in the world for me, but Lignano is just very different from typical seaside resorts we are used to. Maybe I was so impressed because we went out of season, of course. Mid-September turned out to be just perfect. Yes, many restaurants and shops get closed for winter already; it rained few times, but it was a proper velvet season vacation.

Empty beaches with all facilities still available; no need to reserve a restaurant when the child is born to celebrate their 18th birthday there; empty sidewalks and bicycle ways (which we chose as main means of transportation even though we rented a car), pleasant deals in luxury hotels, etc. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

The town itself is very neat and unbelievably green. We lived in Sabbiadoro district which looks more touristy and loud at night. It is separated from Pineta full of private houses rather than hotels by a beautiful forest. There are all kinds of sports facilities hidden in the green area, as well as a huge tennis club, two multiple yacht piers with oysters growing right on concrete docks. It’s a heaven on Earth. That rare case, when there is something to do for the young, the retired and the big families, too. Lignano is a miracle.

I could praise the place and its smart administration for long, but I am just impatient to switch to my favorite topics of all times: gastronomy. Italy is for eaters. Let me share some personal experience of my Eataly:

  • La Botte: the name means “barrel”, and having visited the place, I understand why. This is how you are gonna be feeling at the end. I have never in my life (and I ate a lot!) seen such huge portions. When you order a small portion of ravioli, you expect 3-5 pieces. Scroll down to food pics and check our small portions out. We were aware that the portions are quite big, but underestimated the scale because of relatively low prices. I honestly didn’t expect a bucket of pasta, good pasta, for 10ish euros. The thing is, everything is so delicious that you can’t part with the dish and give it away, doesn’t matter if you can’t breathe anymore. If you want to have simple but real tasty Italian food and stay on budget – visit La Botte and share one bucket portion with three friends.
  • Bidin: an elegant evening restaurant. Typical good Italian style of serving and design, wide wine choice, extended waiting time which makes the experience indeed special, too. Don’t come too hungry before the opening as we did, because the staff and the chef ain’t gonna hurry. The owner/manager was very attentive, though, and offered us a seat and drinks before the restaurant even opened. The food – excellent! Cold raw meat/seafood starters of excellent quality, proper Italian pastas of classic styles as well as with fresh seasonal seafoods. Very nice, definitely worth the price range.
  • Brigantino: a kind of place that I usually call “that local one”. Behind this I mean that the locals go there. Indeed, even during siesta, some people always sit outside chatting and will all get up to open up doors for the visitors, even if they are not the management and just happen to sit there with their buddies. An Italian place with some Austrian influence, everyone is speaking both languages (well, everyone in the region does, but the chef of a “una vera osteria italiana” is not gonna address his clients in German; there it doesn’t matter. Very cosy atmosphere, more of a family place than a posh date choice. I highly recommend beef tartar! They prepare it freshly the way you want right at your table, and it’s incredible!!! Everything else is very tasty, too, but the tartar just got our hearts. The staff is super nice and flexible: when we suddenly decided we want extra spaghetti aglio e olio as a side dish to the steak, but the meat was already done, our awesome waiter literally rushed to the kitchen and made sure we get spaghetti within 5 mins. We came back for that tartar 3 times, but on the third try the restaurant was already closed, I guess due to the end of the season. So, I have a reason to come back asap!
  • Sabbiadoro: probably the most “chic” restaurant of the resort. Haute cuisine in the flesh. Small portions of the things that one eats not to eat but to feel. The game of the tastes of everything I tried was inexpressible (is the word even in use?) but at the same time it wasn’t too much, if you know what I mean referring to gourmet. There are some presentations that sometimes simply don’t look edible, the taste doesn’t even matter that much then, if your mouth doesn’t water once you see the dish. Sabbiadoro restaurant is on point there. Raw seafoods plate, foie gras, slightly cooked scallops and red-prawn risotto were just as you can expect them in a restaurant of such class. What I didn’t like was the atmosphere. Completely empty and way too quiet I’d say. But I guess it must be like that just during the low season. Most of our dinner we were the only visitors to the place which makes me feel uncomfortable. All other places were semi-filled, even though Bidin is also quite price and situated far from tourists areas. I really hope that this one is full, loud and smelly of excellent food during the season!
  • Agosti: you can find this one in the very heart of the pedestrian area of Lignano Sabbiadoro district, which is usually not a good sign. For the first week, we avoided checking it out simply because we don’t trust such locations and go for the places where you have to jump over volcano and swim waters full of piranhas in order to get there. The more hidden – the more “local” is usually a rule with few exceptions. We gave it a try on one of last evenings, so good was the smell when we passed by daily. It was full, we hardly got a table despite it being end of September, so I guess I should recommend to reserve. We expected some simple but good seafood. However, what arrived to the table was quite a masterpiece! I always say that sauces and oils make the food. It just has to be fresh and with proper spices – then it’s already good food. Exactly the case: very fresh (something didn’t arrive on that day and the waitress honestly told us that it was available only frozen and we should better take the other one) and combined with proper breads and oils, side-dishes and sauces. I don’t really have more words to describe the food, we ate too much there to go into detail, can just say that it was an enjoyable experience.
  • Rueda Gaucha: last but not least which is worth mentioning. It’s a different type of a place, more Austian. A meat restaurant with several pasta dishes. There are Austrian speck-style starters and sausages for those who get tired of pastas, if it’s even possible. We hit it for proper steaks, they were expensive but extraordinary. I mean, I live in Austria, Austria knows good meat, it’s very accessible and the quality   can’t be doubted. But this is more of a usual steak because of the way it’s prepared, I think. No pans and grills in the kitchen. They throw your meat on the iron lattice right in front of a huge chimney of the main restaurant room. You watch the meat becoming your dinner. Definitely not a vegan kind of place. I don’t know if it’s firewood instead of gas or the meat is just very good, but all three kinds of steaks that we took were VERY good.

I must say that even though #italiansdoitbetter, there can always be disappointing dinner experiences everywhere, especially on popular resorts. Lignano was an exception: I didn’t have a single average meal in more than a week. This fact would already be enough for me to come back, but I fell in love with the town itself as well. Would be curious to see it during high season and then come back again when it gets empty.


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IST Layovers

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetIstanbul.

A town that hit me with so many emotions when I saw it for the first time. “Eastern charm with western mind”, “New Rome” and whatever else people call it, it deserves it all. One of the most unusual destinations, as I wrote in my early note. The city soul is so hard for me to understand, but the place itself is so easy to visit if you leave in Russia or in Europe that it is a shame not to do it. This summer I stopped there for a whole day twice. Long but comfortable daytime layovers must be a usual thing for the Ataturk Airport – a hub between Europe and Asia. I had one when I was flying from Tbilisi to Togliatti, and we also had time to go to the city with the parents when we were flying from Russia to Venice.

I don’t have many pictures to post, since I already have a complete gallery from my trip couple years ago. Neither do I have my usual food recommendations, since EVERYTHING there is worth a try. Must-eats for me are always iskender, original börek, rice pudding and künefe, but wherever I eat them, they are always a mouthorgasm. Therefore, this post is just a tribute to comfortable layovers, airports being close enough to city centers, cheap cabs of Istanbul and always-pretty city of cultural fusion.

First visit was hot and sunny. I walked so much and got so exhausted at some point, that I just fell asleep on the grass between the main mosques. I am not sure how acceptable that is, but there were other girls sitting there, so I didn’t hesitate a moment. I noticed, however, that every woman was wearing a long skirt. Not sure if it is my imagination after recent political changes and regime shifts in the country or locals’ appearance really had changed, but 2,5 years ago the crowd seemed to look a bit more “western” to me. Anyways, I always wear a long skirt when I know there is a chance I am gonna be sleeping on the ground between two main mosques, so I don’t have to feel uncomfortable.

I finally got up to the Galata tower. too! No queue at all, even though I was there during high season this time. Last time, we traveled in November, but the line was unbearable and we didn’t make it. Early morning is the answer, I arrived there 1 minute before the opening.

It was raining during my second day spent in Istanbul, but that visit was actually more unusual. Thanks to my dad, who persuaded us to take a ride to the center and walk under the rain. It was early in the morning, too, and we had extreme luck of being the only people inside the entire Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was a fairy-tale coming to life, when I pushed the doors to get to the inner yard always full of tourists groups…and it was empty. No lines to enter, no sounds, just us and one of the most impressive constructions of this world. I would highly recommend to chose bad weather and the least popular times to visit the sight. Taking parents to one of my favorite places with sweets, Hafiz Mustafa, to warm p a bit while having künefe with turkish coffee felt great, too! I love coming to the city which I already know well with someone new there and showing them around, makes me feel special and pay more attention to details, not to disappoint my guided group.

After having visited Istanbul in any kind of weather, I can tell that it is definitely a place to be during any season and with any company or even alone. A beautiful palace-like city with smells of sweets and coffee, people friendly in a typical Turkish hospitality way, but also very educated and up-to-date, which makes everyone a good conversation partner, it is a great destination choice.


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Georgia

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetThrowback to hot sunny Georgia!

We made a trip with my best friend in September, which was my heaven since I love the heat, but a hell for pale Polina. So, if you choose to go during the hot season, be ready for it to be very hot, at least in Tbilisi.

I will spread this post in three parts, starting with the capital.

1. Tbilisi Processed with VSCO with m3 presetWant to mention from the very beginning, it will be more about looking at the pics than about my poor narrative, since it’s been a while and I just have a mixture of very bright, tasty and windy memories on my mind.

The city is a large mirror of the places that were really nice during the Soviet Union times. It still looks very Soviet, with the way people are dressed, “plombir” ice cream cones, plastic tables outside, flea markets with very strange things. I can’t really call Tbilisi beautiful. It’s different, it has something hidden beyond all those huge concrete walls. But it’s still very dusty, and when the weather is windy those dust storms actually hurt the skin. White shoes which I of course had on are no option either. And just in general, there is that slight feeling of still being in the Soviet 80s everywhere. But everything is quite cheap, even compared to rubles, not even mentioning EUR/USD. The time we went to a super expensive restaurant on top of Biltmore Hotel and had a proper dinner with wine, it was a price of a regular simple meal I am used to – that was, of course, an awesome surprise. Especially considering how delicious the food is! I have been a big admirer of Georgian cuisine since years, but no fancy Georgian restaurant compares to grandma’s khinkali freshly made in the middle of Caucus mountains away from civilization.

Tbilisi opened up some awesome places for us, too. But I had to ask my Georgian friends for recommendations, there is not much you can find on the web. So, sharing the knowledge:

  • Biltmore Hotel rooftop restaurant: for the view. The food is typical European which you can eat anywhere, pasta is far not as good as the original. Some local meats were good, though, as well as the wine list. But the view!!! It’s very empty, I guess it’s just too expensive compared to everything else in the region. The first date there could be a bit awkward in that silence with irrationally high number of staff watching you. But the view!
  • Prospero’s Books: a very cute hidden garden in the city center. Not much of food choice and self service, but it’s very cozy and quiet.
  • Erekle II street in the Old town has a lot of cafes with local food as well as international, nice breakfast choices, cocktails, life music, wine tasting.
  • Linville, not far away from the pedestrian area mentioned above and also close to few cool boutiques with Georgian designer items, is also very hidden but offers super delicious food! The best khachapuri I had there! And you feel like you are sitting in your grandma’s living room, so authentic is the design.
  • Davit Aghmashenebeli street is very nice in the evening. Lights, music, dressed up people. It’s quite touristy and a bit overpriced, there were also tricky situations when we were told a restaurant doesn’t have a menu or that there are some homemade specialities offered tonight, but you can’t know all prices in advance. Nothing ever ended with a disaster and a check impossible to pay, but still be careful and don’t let charming hospitality of the Georgian people trick you, they are doing business, at the end of the day.
  • Funicular in the old town brings one to the top with a picturesque view, and a cafe there had awesome bakery! Try the donuts and black coffee 😉
  • Carpe diem and Lolita were also very nice cafes. We didn’t hit Moulin and Amodi, they were a bit tricky to find and we gave up, but I heard they are worth searching for! And we got more rooftops and hotel lounges recommendations: Radisson, Ghumeli inside Iota hotel, Rooms hotel, 142 steps cafe for another view. They love the views there! I have noticed that when the city is not necessarily beautiful, it always has a lot of rooftops accessible. Makes sense to me! Especially when it is surrounded by beautiful landscapes.

2. Fabrika Processed with VSCO with m3 presetThis place is so awesome, that it deserves its own chapter. When Polina told me that we are going to Tbilisi, my reaction immediately was that we MUST book our stay in Fabrika. I had heard about the place before from pretty much everyone who had been to Tbilisi. “Fabrika” stands for “factory” in Russian, because this is indeed an old factory that was rebuilt in hotel, creative area with shops, popups, cafes and bars. At night it turns into a party place which hosts many DJs and events like Boiler Room. Just everything about it is cool: expats and the coolest local people, the music, we were brought to an after party from there by some guys we started a conversation with when I was staring at their sandwich and they gave me a bite. And the sandwiches! Try the wine steak one! I can’t describe the atmosphere very well there since I am just bad at writing, bit it’s somewhat a mixture of meeting your friends at your secret place to sit on the corner couch and talk about things nobody besides you understands and coming to a fancy bar dressed up to take a whole bottle of wine there, for it to be followed by another bottle. The working spaces there seemed very cool, too. I wish we had something like that there, I’d host all ACUNS meetings, birthdays, first dates and drinking nights there!

In general, I liked the city; any city which has awesome food can’t be a disappointment to me. But I’d definitely advise to travel around the country and go to the mountains!

3. KazbegiIMG_7099When deciding how to get to the mountains, we went old-school and booked a bus-trip. You can drive there, too, but to get to the last destinations there is a jeep needed anyways, a proper hardcore jeep and such driving skills that made me fasten my seatbelt, but when the driver said I didn’t need to, I explained that otherwise I am gonna fall out of the window. A bus trip from Tbilisi shall be something around 50-60 lari with jeeps included, be careful when booking. They stop at many beautiful destinations that a regular driver might not know and pass by, so it’s actually one of few times when I don’t mind taking a guided tour. But with headphones on, not to listen to the guide and to properly read it all up myself, of course. I was also a bit surprised by how bad people speak Russian there. After Azerbaijan I was sure more people would address me in Russian, but the young generation speaks English only, with very few exceptions.

The mountains are just gorgeous. I have been to the Alps so many times that it’s hard to impress me, but seeing such nature in summer is also very impressive. Especially the mountain rivers and lakes took my breath away.

As Polina said, our life is currently a “wine tasting with 10 years experience”. Georgia WAs definitely a perfect destination for us!


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Baku

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetI hate writing about summer travels. There is always just so sooo much I wanna share ad hoc, but since the next trip is always to come super shortly, I never manage to catch up. Ending up with a disaster of countless pictures and chaotic memories, I postpone again, usually finally trying to recover at least something already around Christmas holidays. So much gets lost and never shared that way 😦

Time to try my best. It’s easy to start with this post about Baku, because I spent only one day there. When I was planning my trip to Georgia, not even knowing where my starting point would be, but willing to visit Togliatti after, it was clear I’d have multiple connections throughout my route. Ahh I don’t even wanna recall how many troubles I as usual had with those, after one flight of my endless chain got cancelled. When I was checking for alternatives and saw a long layover in Baku, I didn’t hesitate a moment.
      As I was approaching the capital, I had a feeling that I had already been there, because I have so many acquaintances from Baku that all seem to love their city and often tell something about it. However, the desert around surprised me a bit; I didn’t realize how much south I already was.
     The airport is already gorgeous. I haven’t seen many of those «miracle rich oasis cities in the middle of a desert» in my life, so it was indeed wonderful. I was aware that taxi drivers are tricky and knew in advance the price to agree on. They started with 70 manat but I bargained down to 25, which was the absolute maximum, according to my local friends. On the way back from the city center I myself offered 15, which was obviously much more, than the driver parked in front of a luxury hotel expected. So, be creative. The ride itself was a lot of fun, too. If you are familiar with the culture and music a bit, you know what I mean. Driving across a desert suburb with extremely entertaining video clips and a fun driver was a good start to my cultural experience. The guy cared so much about me getting where I need to and being safe and finding my way around, that was adorable. I must be honest, being a blonde drags attention to you. But nothing extreme. Everyone is just interested, wants to be helpful and nice. I never felt uncomfortable, but you just have to understand local men’s way of approaching women and not get offended, but smile and accept compliments. I tried to dress appropriately, too, unlike the tame when I landed in Morocco alone in the middle of the might wearing shorts. I put on a long skirt and had a silk cloak, but tried to keep it pretty, since I knew the locals are always very nicely dressed when they leave houses. My expectations were correct, people were quite overdressed for a hot midday, but there were also women in more open clothes, so I’d say don’t freak out with your outfit, chill, but if you are a very European type and don’t wanna drag too much attention, avoid extreme minis.
     Drawing conclusions about the cultural side, I must not skip the main part of any culture for me – the food. Ah, that food! I knew very well that Azeri people have feasts 24/7 and looove food and large get-together dinners, I had also tried the original dolma and qutabs from my friend Jamila, so I was very excited to get a meal. Oh my god, even some flat breads they were baking on the street as a fast food smelled better than my whole luxury dinner in Moscow the night before! I didn’t have much time and wanted to see the city, so I didn’t devote time to going to a restaurant. Therefore, no special recommendations this time. But a 2-weeks gastro-trip to Baku and eating everything I can see at Jamila’s wedding are definitely on my bucket list! This was just the intro to Baku for me, so I stopped at a small cozy cafe in the old town area and ordered eggplants stuffed with cheese and chestnuts and some local but dry wine (it exists; for instance, in neighboring Georgia I was really missing dry wines). No doubt, Azerbaijan has the best eggplants in the world!
     My tour across the city was very rich in emotions, too. I loved the weather, it was very hot but windy. I can see it getting quite nasty in winter, though. But my day there was just perfect. I understand why the locals enjoy long walks along the promenade. It’s something I always miss in Russia – nobody really goes on a walk together. Everyone is always in a rush, running like dung-beetles, and well, it’s too dirty and dusty everywhere to enjoy walking. How a city in the middle of a desert is clean, but all Russian towns are covered in mud, is still a big question for me. Baku is really neat. Marble tiles, wrought iron gratings with roses, old light stone houses and hilly narrow streets building up a labyrinth of the old town are endless perfect settings for photo-shootings. The markets are interesting, too. It’s not just souvenirs or something like stone replicas of monuments like the ones they cell in Egypt or Mexico (well, everywhere), there is really cool beautiful stuff to be found there. I wish I could have brought a carpet or a lamp! People are very friendly and not really annoying, unlike all the markets I remember. But I must remind you, that I am a Russian-speaker, so are most of Azeris, in Baku at least. So I might have a totally different side of the story from tourists who don’t speak Russian. One man had a conversation with me in good English (probably the only one who couldn’t smell from 200m that a Russian is approaching), but I am not sure how well the rest of the population speaks English.
     Just about three hours of walking was quite enough for me to see everything I wanted. My route was quite random, but I knew that the Old City and the promenade are where I have to go. I started from the President Park with the view on skyscrapers, then entered the Old Town where I wandered for very long exploring every corner, then a beautiful walk along the promenade with astonishing sea views and just very nice atmosphere of by-passers holding hands and smiling at me brought me to Hilton Baku and the House of Government – two interesting pieces of architecture. I assume there is much more to see in the city, but I was very satisfied with what I managed to cover on such short time. The Old Town is tiny, about the size of the first district of Vienna, but it’s so beautiful that I could spend a week just there. Eating!
     Baku is definitely a must-see, so are their egg-plants a must-eat!


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Moscow

I found it a bit bizarre that I visit Moscow quite regularly, but there hasn’t been a single note named like this yet.

As always, I don’t find a way for my posts to follow my location changes. I just came back from my kinda hop-on hop-off trip around Caucasus and now am enjoying “babye leto” (Russian term for Indian summer) riding a bike and playing tennis in my hometown. But there is so much more to tell about!

A big must-eat-and-drink list from Barcelona will happen one day for sure (so will the ones from Hong Kong and Havana…)

After leaving Spain I had a spontaneous 10-days stop in Vienna. It wasn’t in my vacation schedule but turned out to be awesome with all the barbecues and family/friends get-togethers one following another. I liked being around Vienna (we were sometimes going to Klosterneuburg, called “close to Neuburg” by out Spanish friend) in August and will definitely plan to stay for some summer months next year.

Then, I left for my traditional annual trip to Moscow. I fly there every August and usually weather treats me with some tornados and flying cows passing by as soon as I land. But this year I have been so extremely lucky with the weather wherever I go that even in Moscow it was bit less freezing than I feared. Allowed to walk a lot, spend quality time with my sister and her fiancé, meet with my childhood friends and even catch up with the Viennese fellows who were also enjoying rare but pleasant warmth of the capital.

 

Here are some places I tried this time that are worth attention, in my opinion. I don’t go for the most luxury places which Moscow is famous for and which most of the foreigners visiting the city would prefer to try (totally understandable, Moscow knows luxury!). Those are more of what I see as better taste, something not very often observed in Russia. For the locals, they will probably be the most well-known and hyped spots which won’t interest them anymore either. But as a guest, I enjoyed stopping by:

  • Glenuill: a small place with tables placed extremely close to each other, quite intimate atmosphere in general and always smiling handsome waiters that treated us with a cake after our meal. I am not sure what made me like the place: that honey cake or crab pasta I had eaten before it. I am a big fan of crab meat but, unfortunately, it’s not served anywhere you go in the area where I live. Will be more commonly seen in menus in Russia. Anyways, I liked the little restaurant where I went straight from the airport. A nice place for dates. I had a date with my Jane there, and it was absolutely romantic!
  • Рыбы Нет (Ryby Net – “there is no fish”): a meat restaurant which I had already tried a year ago. It’s a typical trying-to-be-one-of-a-kind place of the big city centre, but I like it. Indeed good meat, and high patency ensures always fresh products. I ate a beef tartar there even though I usually don’t risk eating raw meat in those countries where I am not 100% sure about the quality standards. And the location is perfect for tourists, of course.
  • Итальянец (“the Italian”): an Italian restaurant, what a surprise! Famous for its Italian chef it has very well-organized menu and an option to vary any kind of pasta with any kind of sauce, etc. from the whole menu. On the side, there is another place from the same owner(s), a bit less posh but offering no less delicious range of Italian specialties. And you can chose from both menus in whatever the restaurant you picked a table!
  • Молоко (Moloko – “milk”): again, in the very center of the melting pot. But being on the street full of gastronomical wonders, it was the only one where nice staff found a table for us on a Friday evening with no reservation. Be ready that if you ask “Sorry, is there a free table” in Moscow, you may get an answer “How the hell do I know, go inside and have a look” from a waiter. It’s tough mother-Russia, baby! So, Moloko was the only one that agreed to have us, and tven though we were only drinking there, I could see that it’s a place that I call “good one”. The concept was for sure prepared by the professionals so was the cocktails menu. Very close to classic American bars’ standards but with some innovative approach. I ordered a rum-based cocktail with creamy caramel texture and lemongrass in it (since la Petite of Florence lemongrass in drinks is like crab meat in food for me) and was extremely satisfied. Watching the barkeepers was also a pleasure, and you know, I am a big fan of their craft!
  • Upside down cake is a place around the corner, where we tried to sit down for some sweets first. Their range of desserts seemed very attractive, and I had seen the place on Instagram a few times before. But they offer no alcohol at all. To me a cocktail is a perfect dessert, so I don’t really understand how one can position themselves as a desserts place not offering the main after-meal/instead of meal experience.
  • Americano: this is where desserts looked amazing! Can’t judge much as I was too full to eat there, but I loved their location and the atmosphere inside. Perfect for a quiet chat that shouldn’t be overheard or for loosing oneself to some reading or browsing.
  • I like W (W stands for Wine <3): if I had understood it correctly, it’s a chain for those who not only like wine but also like beer, etc. We like wine and food! And both were very good there! I ordered roastbeef salad, bruschettas and creamy sauce pasta with duck and was very satisfied. The place is a bit louder and might require a reservation on busy evenings, but it will be a cool location for a big company pregame or celebrating some event, too! The only thing that I didn’t like was that when we finished our meal and didn’t want more wine at that moment when we were just talking, the waiter kept coming up asking when we will order more drinks and ended up asking if he can bring us the bill when we repeated that we were good for the moment. But, again, that kicking out to seat new customers is common, so don’t get pissed at one particular place, but blame the service culture in general.

I must say I really enjoyed this time in Moscow. Maybe it’s the weather, as I am very climate-dependent. Maybe it’s the fact that all worked out so well with no plan and I got to see so many people. And I admit, I see the progress in the city, even in comparison with last year’s visit. You can pay with credit cards everywhere now; the city sites became brighter and cleaner. Let’s see what happens in the next years.


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Croatia

I got the coolest present ever from my girls – a trip to Croatia all together! It’s not even about traveling anywhere anytime being my biggest passion in life; it was also about all four of us doing something together again, which we so rarely get time for! Thank you ❤

We went at the end of May, and the weather was already simply perfect. Just to mention, I am a big fan of heat, and the hotter – the better for me. We got lucky, that weekend was very hot.

Driving down there was quite easy. No traffic on highways, and Slovenia and Croatia have roads of surprisingly good quality. We found them not very cheap, but, nevertheless, a comfortable journey is worth it, especially once we remembered horrors of Czech roads!

We couldn’t go on a single roadtrip with no adventures, though. I don’t know how many times we had already ran out of gas and made it to the tank station stopping right in front it. Well, this time our magic of having a car running with no gas faded. We stopped on a highway with an empty tank. Just stopped. Now I know exactly how it feels, when the engine not just sucks the last drops, but when there is nothing left, and the car slowly shuts itself down, dropping the speed gradually, to keep you safe. I wouldn’t wish to feel that again, though. Well, that was a moment when one hell of hysterics could have bursted out. Getting evacuated in Austria is very expensive, not to even mention how much it would cost if the car doesn’t start because of the air in the engine. As we found out later, our walk on the highway to the nearest gas station wasn’t legal either, not was leaving a car standing in the middle of the highway. God damn these regulations, what else we were supposed to do (tanking in advance is not an option)?! We are 4 girls, two out of which were already drunk on the back seat by that time, and we actually walked ourselves to get a can of gas, brought it back and managed to start a dead car. Problem solved, right? With no help from the outside, just by our cold thinking minds. I am really glad in such situations I get myself together and don’t freak out. So I was super pissed, when someone called ÖAMTC anonymously on us. Mind your own business, man! The service car arrived right at the moment when we started a car and removed it from the still position on the highway, so no fine could officially be put on us anymore. Got super lucky, again! Well, the fact that the car started saved the whole journey in general. Audis for life! Our adventures could already be the best marketing campaign of extreme situations.

Anyways, back to the trip! We arrived to Zagreb, checked in and went to the city center for late dinner and drinks. I had already been there before but remembered nothing, so we all relied on the knowledge of Isabella, who knew her way around quite well.

After having had several meals in Zagreb, I would suggest 3 places:

Boban – a Michelin guide restaurant, absolutely beautiful, especially its inner yard terrace that was just perfect temperature even on a super hot day. The food was outstanding, and the choice is very creative. Definitely worth a visit!

Agava – a cute place on the party street, perfect for a good filling snack in between drinks. The seafood was just incredible, and I tried from all plates, of course! Go for octopus, tuna steak salad, and get some garlic focaccia to it – you will

for sure order another portion 😉 We asked for some dry local wine everywhere, not being familiar with Croatian grapes. The selection was very satisfying, and the staff seemed professional, which is a good asset for places where people get seasonal jobs in catering very often.

Kava Tava – the fanciest breakfast ever! No kidding, and I have seen breakfasts! Very cheesy rich juicy sandwiches, good selection of breakfast sets, and their pancakes! Heaven! Super glad the girls found the place, please stop by at Zagreb just for a brunch there if you ever get a chance!

Next morning we had some good bakery (omg everything in Croatia is so delicious!), jumped on the car again and headed to the seaside. The driving was very smooth again, even through the mountains area. Amazing constructions of roads and spectacular views from every hairpin turn were indeed a pleasure. Kraljevica was our first stop. Me and Jamila rested there a bit and took some pics, our alcoholics from the back seat replenished the reserves in their blood vessels (this we never forget! unlike replenishing reserves of gas in the tank…), we had very chilled time in port there, and further crossed the bridge to go to the island where a place with a funny name Krk is. That is a small and absolutely adorable town with narrow streets, stone pavements, authentic shops and a lot of ice cream. Initially, our plan was to find the most famous restaurant there, but we ended up staying literally at the first place we saw when left the parking lot and walked down to the marina – and the seafood there was indescribable! I would just eat 24/ in Croatia!

After the day on the seaside, chilling in the sun and having food drinks and again loads of food in the evening, we spent the next day in Zagreb again. Just 3 days, but that felt like such a getaway! Thanks, Croatia! And to the girls, of course! Here started the real summer!

IMG_9995IMG_0021IMG_0032IMG_0036IMG_0060IMG_0132IMG_0142IMG_0190IMG_0236IMG_0252IMG_0267IMG_0285IMG_0293IMG_0301IMG_0333IMG_0346IMG_0365IMG_0370IMG_0386IMG_0402IMG_0416On our drive back, we stopped in Graz for dinner. Promenade – the place to visit there, definitely! It was Sunday, and they had a dancing club having the 40s party there. So cool! Would love to fins something like that in Vienna! I remember that Leopold in MQ was having similar events on Tuesdays, but now I don’t even know. If someone has an idea – let me know!


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Lisbon

1Hey folks!

My exams week is finally over and I can find some time in between love, food, running around for my new volunteering (info to be updated veeeery soon as it’s gonna be amazing) and attempts to write my thesis, or at least get properly started and write a bit about our last trip, to amazing Lisbon.

First of all, I was astonished by the city. Never even expected it to be so marvelous. Admit it, most of us have that stereotype in our heads that Portugal is a poor place with shabby facades and dusty streets with abandoned dogs on them. Hell, no! I mean, we have only seen the capital and the ocean coast a bit, so I might be totally wrong with my impression of the country being a very bright shiny friendly place. Yes, there might be animals on the streets and very old buildings in some parts, but it’s so charming! Those cracked tile-works got my heart immediately as we walked to our place the first night we arrived.

Now switching to some more concrete vital things, otherwise I will be sharing my impressions here for hours. We stayed at São Bento, to the west from Bairro Alto: it might not always be the location closest to all the main attractions, but it is for sure the prettiest district we have seen. All those facades you would see on the postcards of Lisbon will surround you wherever you turn. See my recent photopost to get a clue.

The must-see list in Lisboa was mostly restaurants and small shops for us, as for all the beautiful views aver the ocean we went on a roadtrip. For beautiful pics my advice would be just to walk around the city as much as you can, there will be a lot of random view decks on your way.

But I can tell you about a very cool place with outstanding view, cold cocktails and very good music! It is TOPO rooftop terrace on top of Martim Moniz mall. When I discovered it in the bowels of travel blogs, I was sure it would be some posh place, like any kind of rooftop in Vienna is, for instance. Don’t get confused, it;s absolutely not! The place is very chilled, the waiters are friendly and relaxed (aka serve yourself), anyone can come in and dance there and you don’t need to look fancy. Very good ambient, we went there during daytime and then came back at night – loved it!

Now coming to my favorite topic – tips about food. Portuguese cuisine is quite diverse and very appealing to me personally, because it is based on seafood and also offers a lot of sweets. The national one is pastel de nata – a must-try! You will see it everywhere, literally on every corner. The original recipe is said to be invented at the legendary bakery named Pasteis de Belem. It’s quite far away from the city center, so we went there on that day when we rented a car. But Lisbon seemed quite developed transportation-wise, so I’m sure it’s not a problem to get there. We honestly went for pastel de nata only and imagine our surprise when we saw a gorgeous monastery right next to the place – Jerónimos. Sitting on the loan in front of it’s tremendous walls enjoying a 6-pieces pack of pastel de nata was one of the most enjoyable moments of our trip.

But if you are short on time when visiting Lisbon and want to quickly grab a traditional desert anywhere – I would say all of those that we tasted there were very good! So, just go for it, wherever! I bought some packs home from Fabrica de Nata.

There is even such cool thing as a cocktail with the taste of pastel de nata 🙂 Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI tried it at Dom Afonso o Gordo – a restaurant in a very vivacious neighborhood near the main Cathedral – another place to visit. From there take a bicitaxi to wherever you wanna go – it starts from 15 euros, but your trip will include several circles around the district and quite an interesting excursion. Our driver was super nice, charged us nothing extra for driving further than his route would normally be, and he told us really cool things about the history, stopped at the Roman Empire ruins so that we could have a sneak peek. I usually don’t go for such typical for tourists leisure, but it was so much fun! Watch out though – the town is very hilly, sometimes roads feel like real roller-coasters, so it’s easier than it seems to simply fall out of bicitaxi 😀

Away from sightseeing, back to food: the best seafood, according to bloggers, is at the restaurant called SeaMe. I tried to reserve a table there almost a week in advance and it was fully booked. Maybe too popular. I still managed to try their food though! Scroll down to find out where 😉

Not having got a booking at SeaMe, we went to another place that everyone was crazy about – Eatfish. Amazing! All just the way I love it: stone tables, no tablecloth, dimmed lights, pretty bar setting. And extremely fresh seafood! But not only the fish quality wins there, also all of the sauces in each dish were so perfectly correlating to the base taste, it was a pure enjoyment! A fun barkeeper who would satisfy any wish we possibly had made our evening as well. The place is a bit overpriced for Lisbon, but it’s absolutely worth it!

Right next to Eatfish there is another spot that I would recommend visiting – and that would be Mez Cais, a small cafe with tacos and different tapas. Aaaaand right next to that one there is Taberna Tosca, where I ate one of the most interesting dishes ever – prawns pancakes. That area around Praça de São Paulo is also full of little boutiques and galleries, where you can find a lot of handmade jewelry, interior design and fashion. I am pretty sure there are another nice cafes there, and that bar in front of Eatfish looked like a lot of fun at night, too.

A district where we lived, away from the loudest streets, was full of very appealing places as well. I didn’t write down all of the names, unfortunately, but for breakfast everyone highly recommends Heim Cafe, that was just round the corner from us. Round another corner there was that place we accidentally found on our first night and fell in love with – Petiscaria Ideal. It is very loud, cozy, with long shared tables and very delicious plates to share. Right away gives the feeling of a truly traditional for Lisbon meal. The wines were very good, too! And don’t hesitate to ask a waiter for some local ones, I wasn’t unsatisfied a single time. Watch out during public holidays, though – a lot of places I wanted to try were closed due to Easter.

We wanted to get even further away from tourists’ popular places and try eating somewhere where only locals go. For that I would recommend Marisqueira Uma and O arco. It is amazing how they are just 20m away from that weird street where there are a lot of restaurants with menus in 20 languages containing pictures of the dishes. And you know this hateful thing, when some guy is standing outside attempting to drag you in there? Please, never get involved in that kind of eating experience! Just turn round the smallest darkest corner – and you will find that small street with the best food in your life.

One of the most famous Portuguese national dishes is Cataplana. It is basically anything cooked in a big metal bowl – the way I understand it. Most of variations are seafood-based, with rice or thin noodles. At O arco we took one octopus and prawns cataplana for the two of us. Guys, there was a WHOLE octopus in there! I am a very good eater, I can take a lot, like a 50cm pizza for just myself is no challenge for me. That was like the second time in my life I couldn’t breathe from how full I was. And I couldn’t stop neither could my friend – that’s how delicious it is! Incredible, you would get maybe 10% of that amount of seafood in one dish in a typical fish restaurant, and do I even need to say that the whole cataplana was cheaper than one tentacle of an octopus usually is?

Last but definitely not least in my food-story will be probably the only place where everyone MUST go no matter what you like to eat: Time Out Market. It is a shared between many rivals pavilion, like one of those you would expect to be at when visiting some food festival. The difference is – the festival is always here. The most well-known restaurants and food (alongside with souvenirs and flowers) shops of Lisbon are represented here in a form of small tent-like cooking spaces. You order whatever you like from as many places as you can manage to try, sit at one of long shared tables, not forgetting to grab a glass of wine or a cocktail from the bar in the middle, – and simply enjoy it rolling your eyes up.

That is where I managed to try SeaMe food – the best crab meat, I admit! But it is really hard to chose what to go for if you can’t eat until you explode (like we can), as all of the places look extremely attractive. If I lived in Lisbon – I would not ever have traditional weekly brunch with friends anywhere else. Check out for the opening hours before checking it out – they are quite short, unfortunately.

There is more and more I could find out to share with you, but I am so sure I will be back to Portugal soon, that I want to leave something for the next times – hopefully I will have multiple visits to this magic country in my life!

I can conclude with a big thank-you to the locals, I think. Not only are they maintaining some real magical spirit in the air of their beloved country, but also they are simply very nice people. Very good English as well! Everyone would greet us, talk so friendly to us; a lady in the shop gave us advice about boys; the guy at the car rental dropped down the deposit to just couple hundreds for us; our elderly neighbor always smoking on the balcony facing ours is just the sweetest thing on earth; every team member of any place we visited was very helpful. It seems like people are just happy there. And they want to make every visitor happy.

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