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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!


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Winter is Coming from St. P.

Being unable to come up with any decent title for this post because I already used up all possible ones for my countless posts under the tag, let it be a reminder for me that this winter Vienna got the first snow exactly when I landed from Saint Petersburg. And then I was 4 hours late for work after the train stopped. Because Austria just can’t deal with 3 snowflakes. Indeed, why would a country with Alps know what snow is?

Yup, surprise! I suddenly booked the next ticket available for Saint Petersburg, where I didn’t go since the summer 2016. Why that? Oh, there are a few reasons which are quite personal and are not all mine. Let’s just say I urgently needed to see my friends. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetLast time we all caught up was at Dasha’s wedding, and back then I was wondering when we will have a chance to reunite all together. My guess was that it can only happen at the funeral of one of us, since there are no more weddings on the horizon. Well well, I was almost about to be right.

Anyways, its good to see my beloved city again, after 2,5 years. Honestly, I was waiting to go there together with Dani and open up this chapter of my life for him. But with our completely different working schedules and Russian visa application procedure, it is impossible to go for 2 days together. May all visa centrums of this world burn in hell. So, for now it was just me, hi.

It was more about being with friends rather than partying this time. Also, partying is not very easy if the wind is so cold that your stomach gets frozen. Nevertheless, few times we warmed it up with some strong shots at iconic bars of St P, one of a kind which don’t compare to anything in Moscow or even somewhere in Zagreb. Special thanks to Elisabeth for creating a program for us on such a short notice. She is the real soul of Saint Petersburg for me since the day I met her, on the first week of studies at SPBSU, when she was snoring during class where everyone was shivering in horror from the professor.

В Питере – пить!

I can hardly express how much I love Saint Petersburg. Its vibe is impossible to explain, you can only feel it. And I feel it in all my buddies who live there, in every building, weird hipster exhibition/bar/popup store. All the bars where I used to go closed down or completely changed (as it happens every time I come to the city), so I trusted bar soul Elisabeth, and the choice was awesome! Just one night out and so many emotions, songs and hugs! Угрюмочная was super cool, with verysad barkeepers coming up with a customized drink for you based on how sad you claim you are. So simple and nevertheless so cool as a concept! There is even a vest to cry into hanging on the wall.

Orthodox didn’t impress me that much. Had to wait 40 minutes for a gin tonic after I needed to explain to the bar chef how to make one. And gosh, what is this name? Bar 8, which didn’t even bother to get a website, thats how spb-classy it is, was the best! I never really partied in that part of the city in a conscious condition, so that was something completely new for me, and the spirit on Petrogradskaya side of the city indeed differs from the center I was used to. But the best part if shawarma at 2 a.m.! Ah, that Saint Petersburg shawarma! But I admit, this time it crossed all borders of shawarma amazingness I have ever reached before: I ate the BEST one in my entire life. No kidding! Will share this pearl with the world: Shawarma on Kronverkskiy prospect 45.

Apart from shawarma, which remains the best part of my nutrition during those 43 hours in Saint P, we were eating only Asian fusions. I really lack those in Europe! Russian market of Asian food is something incredible, even though in reality it’s not proper authentic Asian, but some crazy hipster ideas a-la grilled cheese maki on a foie gras paste. Made in China was the coziest place, the best for companies on a weekend evening, when you still wanna hear each other and are not ready to dive into darkness, yet. Subzero is maybe too minimalistic, bit the short menu was great. Tiger Lily is a cool concept of a hidden-not-hidden-but-still-hidden place; music was exactly a playlist of  the Viennese X club, the entire concept was something of a kind, too. New York inhabitants must get a lot of that, but for Russia it’s still relatively new and therefore cool. The food was delicious and the prices were surprisingly low for such a hype place. I’d recommend to go in the evening and feel their club atmosphere, somehow it seemed cooler than just during the cafe-hours.

Saint Petersburg. Who would think that I’d come so spontaneously just for 43 hours! Let’s see what the next time we see each other is gonna be…

 


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#Lignano

Снимок экрана 2018-11-13 в 22.14.26Italy! I get so many emotions when think about this country. I’ve been there definitely more than 50 times and it simply doesn’t stop being exciting. My favorite city in Italy where I lived the longest is Florence. I also have a hashtag for Milan, where I lived during my Bocconi program. Now I think it’s the time to create a new hashtag for the place that is becoming our usual summer destination, and will remain one for the years to come – Lignano.

I went to Lignano already 4 times this summer, whereas wrote only about the first trip. Catching up a bit, now after my last visit last week I can claim I love it during every season! May-June is already warm but the official season isn’t open until the end of June, so the town is waking up, beaches are being set up, restaurants wake up after winter break (which 99% of them have); there are almost no visitors yet, just some Austians who also want to get the first warm sunrays of the year.

The summer is quite crazy there. Crowds of people. parties every night and long queues to get into restaurants last until the end of September. On the last weekend of September restaurants close down and the town changes so much that it’s hard to recognize. Completely empty streets, one-two cars passing by during the day, yet everything neat and clean but quiet and empty – that’s quite an utopistic view. Some can feel a bit freaky walking the streets where you might not meet one person, but we loved it. The town is all yours! You can shamelessly look into the gardens. No idea how the municipality fights marauders because I didn’t see any police patrols, but it seemed very safe and we never heard of any incidents during winter time from the locals. The only problem can be finding a place to go to dinner, since there are just a few functioning. But we solved it by cooking ourselves: seafood is still the freshest! Out of the season it’s better to stay in Sabbiadoro though; Pineta is indeed abandoned. In November you can still sit outside and sip your Aperol watching the real locals walking the main pedestrian street – a luxury not to be found anywhere in Italy during summer!

I wrote a lot about food in Lignano and around; you can find some recommendations under the newly created hashtag. The most delicious place for me is still Sandrocchia; and Agosti has an awesome location and great seafood. Lobster pasta remains my dish-to-eat-as-many-times-as-possible-when-in-Lignano, and those two places make the best one!

Another awesome thing about Lignano is that you can travel to so many places from there, from Slovenia, Croatia and Austria 1 hour away by car, to traditional Italian jewels like Verona, Trieste and of course – Venice.

I never thought I would fall in love with Venice when visited it as a child and then came back few times as a tourist level “buy a carnival mask” with friends during our Italian holidays. We were always in such a rush because it takes quite long to reach San Marco from the train station or car parking lot. And I had a feeling showing people San Marco is an absolute must, so we never really had the time to explore Venice out of that Santa Lucia – San Marco route that is marked on the houses with arrows. Now Venice is a place where I drive from Lignano for lunch, where I walk slow, where I know how to take Vaporetto and how to use those confusing parking garages. I take a direction opposite from the marked route, find myself at amazing hidden inner yards with dead ends into water. And I simply love going there.

I really want to go to Burano island, but last week Venice was flooded and direct transportation line there was closed. A goal for the next visit – lunch on Burano!

Small towns of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Guilia are really undervalued. Cervignano and Pordenone taught us more about everyday life of Italians from non-touristic cities, and it’s so different from those in Rome or Milan! This is how long it takes to really know the country – years traveling between all kinds of daily routines.

I am glad this chapter of Italian days in my life has started. Lignano, see you soon!


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Terracina

Снимок экрана 2018-07-31 в 12.28.00Another chapter about Italy – the country I can talk about for days. My love for Italy is unconditional, so nothing can shake it foundation. But Terracina gave it a try!

I haven’t traveled much around the Italian South (which has nothing to do with the North). The southernmost I visited was Napoli. I had mixed feelings back then, but blamed it on the fact that we went in winter when a lot of places close for holidays, and services are in general different depending in a season in Italy. Some sightseeing, like the port and catacombs, however, were nice, so my overall impression was ok despite the smell, trash, no manners and culture whatsoever and shootings from windows.

I always imagined the south like something bright, loud, crazy, festive and pazzesco in a good sense. But Terracina honestly killed all that romantic vision for me. The touristic segment is a level of cheap Turkey, just not as cheap. The target audience of all restaurants and hotels are the Russians, so the personnel speaks Russian, the menus are translated – already a warning to be ready for the worst. But usually it’s scary simply because such adapted resorts attract the most unattractive tourist groups. This time that wasn’t exactly true and the visitors never bothered me, but the services did big deal. The 4-star hotel where we stayed demonstrated a 2-star level almost in everything, starting with very low quality products served for breakfast and at the bar, moving to a fee for clean towels. The cherry on a pie for me was that my personal belongings were taken by the cleaning personnel. Whatever, you can be unlucky with a hotel anywhere. But it’s like that everywhere in Terracina! I never even imagined that you can eat unsavory food in Italy. A parallel universe, if you ask me.

All restaurants do something wrong. ALL. Doesn’t matter if it’s a simple or a luxury one. I have never seen anything like this in Italy, it seemed like the town is cursed and no chefs are allowed to be born there. The most expensive were actually the worst: La Lanterna charges you crazy prices and all 7 dishes we ordered were inedible: tuna so overcooked that I wanted to cry seeing it; sour tomato pieces in a tartar (?!) most likely to make it look larger in volume… total disappointment; same goes for Borgo Pio that looked so attractive but turned out to be very average.

However, we managed to find few places that stand out in this gourmet horror! So, if you find yourself in Terracina, you might want to really be sure where you are going for dinner:

  • Il Caminetto: we tried it at the very beginning and came back a week later, having made sure there is nowhere else in town to eat good. Very fresh seafood, all cooked in an innovative and delicious way; one of the best linguine all’astrice (lobster pasta) I have ever tried; antipasto crudo (raw seafood) is a bit overrated and too small for its price, but still good quality; the service is a little annoying with 7 waiters constantly standing behind your back watching. The location in its own yard is also nice. Definitely a life-saver for dinner!
  • I Peccati di Giove: we went there for my mom’s Birthday and, as we realized later when the evenings could have been ruined by low food quality, it was a right choice. The place is pricy, but it’s fair for what they offer. Again, excellent raw seafood (which must be the case everywhere on the seashore, no?), good attentive service, possibilities of dish variations and special orders; good pasta all’astrice (it’s my benchmark with the number of those I have consumed) and romantic atmosphere. The only thing they missed was not having a spray agains mosquitos and having a lot of mosquitos which we all are allergic to, so we quickly had to run to the pharmacy and solve the problem ourselves. Such things should be thought of in good restaurants. But the evening was great!
  • La focaccia: it’s nothing special if you compare it to proper Italian trattorias. But for Terracina it’s ok, especially if you want simple cheap food fast. I’d recommend it for lunch. Pizzas were good; spaghetti alle vongole – too plain with the lack of garlic; but that might be a local cuisine speciality, since we never got enough garlic anywhere.
  • White Beach is a nice place for the beach line, where everything is usually low quality and overpriced. Go for red prawns tartar and frutti di mare fritti! And the fact that you can go there in a bathing suit is, of course, very comforting.

The town has an interesting phenomenon called cooperativa. There are few of those cooperatives of fishermen, where the freshest seafood is brought straight from fishing and cooked right there in large amounts. It looks like a canteen, there is self-service, trays and plastic plates. But it’s delicious! Cheaper than in restaurants, too, but due to a very various offer, you tend to take everything to try it out and paying the same. The atmosphere is far from a restaurant; it’s loud and smelly, I’d recommend to go early to avoid long lines. But even if you don’t feel like eating in such places every day, trying it once is a must simply out of cultural curiosity.

Whilst the touristic part of Terracina didn’t look very appealing to me, the old town is a treasure. Temples of the 1st-2nd century BC, the houses from thousand years old still standing inhabited and composing a unique picture of the city, impregnated with history,  foreign influences brought by Appian Way from other regions of Italy at the dawn of our era. Don’t be lazy, do an early morning hiking to Tempio di Giove – incredible view over the Lazio landscape!

I also found cafes of the old town more attractive than the modern ones by the seaside. In the past, people lived up the hill and never too close to the sea line, so some unique authentic places are still to be found:

  • Enoteca Saint Patrick has a wine cellar that is more than 400 years old. The owner proudly shows it to the visitors himself. And their choice of wines, together with a cheese platter, can replace any fancy dinner!
  • Made in Italy is located in a very authentic ancient yard, where you can examine the oldest walls made out of temple stones covered with frescoes (my dad is sure they were stolen from Pantheon back then to construct this town) while having decent pasta with seafood.
  • Green is only open in the evenings (like most of Italian restaurants that don’t open doors before 8 p.m.) and attracted me because of the outside seating area hidden below the tree crowns. Shade is a luxury in Terracina’s hot climate!

As you can see, I am very honest about my experiences in this blog. However, I try not to be overly negative even if something went wrong, because traveling is a blessing, and even mixed experiences are valuable. In case of unique in its craziness and lack of organization Italy, the good still always outweighs the bad for me. But I learnt that. I remember how outrageous it seemed to me that all train and taxi services went on a strike when I needed to get to Florence 4 years ago. I was SO mad. Now no trains ever came on time either, the transfer we ordered a night in advance also didn’t show up and didn’t pick up the phone. But having lived in Italy for quite some time, I am so ready for those events that they don’t freak me out anymore, I can laugh at that and join the locals who shrug shoulders when see a schedule board full of cancellato and go grab a coffee. Hardly could I ever imagined that Italians can serve bad food. Now I know it’s possible anywhere – which is also a traveler’s baggage of knowledge.

And Terracina has the best sea I’ve seen in Italy! 

The second part of my post will be devoted to Rome. It’s a must go when you are in Terracina. There is no train station, so you first have to get to Monte San Biagio, and from there you take a train to Termini.

I went to Rome for the first time with Liza 4 years ago. And we had such an intense program there that covered pretty much everything from the banal tourist routes in 3 days. So, since then I only look for something special in the city, and Rome has a lot! The first day of this trip I was in Rome alone waiting for my travel companions to arrive, so I devoted the time to explore the neighborhood of Monti. It’s a charming district close to the Coliseum, full of hipster bars, tiny designer shops, open terraces and vintage markets. When the sightseeing of Rome is done, it’s definitely worth visiting! The coolest vintage shop is said to be Pifebo; I also loved Kingsize. Here are some more. Mercato di Monti itself is open on the weekends and it’s probably the coolest flea market ever! That’s where I wish I traveled with a car! There are a lot of designer shops in the area, too. I fell in love with Lol Roma.

Check out Via dei Giubbonari and Via dei Coronati for more local shopping! There is a place Cantina e Cucina nearby, where you can stop at almost any time for proper Italian food. In Monti, I liked Urbana 47 and La bacca m’briaca, but there are a lot of cozy places, so explore! No matter how much I appreciate Italian traditions, it’s nice than in Rome one doesn’t have to stick to the usual weird opening hours in order to get good food.

In a few days, we came back to Rome together with travel gang. We devoted half of the day to Vaticano. I am not posting pics since I already created entire galleries for Rome and for Vatican years ago. But now I looked at everything from a completely different angle and was convinced that you don’t go to Vatican just once – this is a place to come back every 5-10 years as you mature. I’ll definitely be back to Rome and Vatican soon, since their potential to amaze is infinite.


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Lignano vol. II

And we are in Lignano again! A small charming town in Friuli-Venezia Giulia we fell in love with last year. This time I drove from Vienna, which took me only 6 hours together with a stop at Wörthersee. A very comfortable and fast way, I couldn’t be more satisfied! Processed with VSCO with c1 presetSeeing the town during high season was a new experience. Last September everything was quite empty already, a lot of restaurants closed down, the streets were quiet. This time we caught the official opening of the season, which is every year a huge deal, with concerts, loud parties outside until late and people constantly arriving. It was wonderful, how Lignano woke up and started shining! IMG_1686Now let’s get to my favorite topic which becomes even more intense when I reach Italy: food!

During our stay, there was an Easy Fish Festival: streetfood markets serving anything from fish croquettes and ceviches to oysters and raw tuna; wine tasting areas, masterclasses, and a great vibe on Sabbiadoro coastline. I love such events! Food there is usually better than in the finest acknowledged restaurants, and one can learn so much.

Last year I already wrote about our favorite restaurants in Lignano. Brigantino, to my greatest regret, closed down. But we found a new great location outside of town which has amazing seafood and delivers a proper Italian gourmet experience: al Fiume Stella is a beautiful hidden place with a great view, romantic area and the freshest raw prawns. Ask chef to prepare a plate of raw seafood for your company – and you will squeal from pleasure. We as well entrusted the choice of primi piatti to the chef, getting a red prawn risotto and a crab pasta – two of my favorite seafoods, how could they have known 😉

In the town itself, there is also a trouvaille that I loved from the first evening on – Sandrocchia restaurant. Take a tuna steak! A very generous portion. Good pizzas, amazing cheap wines and sparkling wines (order by decanters!). Definitely a must-try. Don’t be scared by the waiting line outside, it moves fast and is worth it!

We went for Bidin (fancy gourmet) and la Botte (hugest portions in the world) again and had the same pleasant experience as last year. La Botte would probably become my all-time favorite if I lived in Lignano: not expensive, fast, delicious; you can feed the entire family with one dish.

Coming with a car was great because we got to explore the are a little bit more. Last year we rented a car for couple days to go to Venice and to Croatia, but having it parked downstairs the entire trip gives this wonderful freedom of going to another small town for lunch. We went for Grado and Marano.

Grado is quite a big town, but surprisingly not very touristic and rather an authentic one. A lot of elder people drinking vine from 10 a.m. on, narrow streets which have never been renovated, excavations with real artifacts sticking out on the main square, a lot of bicycles, small dogs and bakery shops. This is a town you expect to see somewhere in the depths of Tuscany, but not on the seaside which is usually all about beaches. Quite a nice surprise! Will definitely come back for a lunch here.

Marano Lagunare, on the contrary, is tiny. Local navigation has a lot of berths there; fishermen are to be seen everywhere. We drove up to the wild beach which could be a great escape from crowded expensive ones of Lignano and Bibione. I am sure one can buy the freshest fish and amazing products directly from farmers there. And where else do you see 7-year olds playing football on the main square? L’Italia vera!

We are planning to be back to Lignano more times this summer. Can’t wait ti see how it looks like at the peak of the season, play more tennis in local club, eat tartars followed by oily pasta dishes, then grab that ridiculously huge ice cream where you can put as many extras in as you want; have digestives at the local bar where we already run into people we know. Lignano is our place!


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Lisbon upd

Снимок экрана 2018-05-10 в 11.13.10I mostly write new posts when en route. Under the motto «everything but work» that recently replaced «everything but studies, those curtains need to be washed asap» I am writing a quick update to my last year’s Lisbon overview after having visited it again during my trip to Portugal this spring break.

I fell in love from the first sight with Lisbon. My frequent readers remember cuntless tributes to bright tiles, pastel de nata and that awesome vibe of the city, when you turn around the most random corner late in the evening – and some people are for sure celebrating life there at another cosy wooden terrace eating the best octopus and drinking good wines cheering with strangers. When me and Liza planned our trip to Porto, it was a must-do for her to visit Lisbon, too. I joined with pleasure and here we are boarding that train that took us through the country just for 19 euros. We booked São Bento Hostel and it was another experience of a very cool stay in a hostel together with Fabrika in Tbilisi, Bar Hostel in Munich and Transit Loft in Berlin. Two tries in Amsterdam and Milan, however, were awful, so you never know. I am very respectful of those who run cheap but cool hostels with their heart and they feel like real home with flatmates who you know since ages and love. The rooftop with stunning view that Lisbon hostel had was the best way to start a day.

Same as last year, I think Lisbon needs no special roots, as walking around any neighbourhood I have been to was an interesting experience with beautiful views, cool shops and cafes, loads of tiles and friendly people. Literally in the middle of nowhere, few times we suddenly found coolest boutiques or most delicious dishes. Nevertheless, I would like suggest including those in your walk:

  • Rua dos Correeiros is one of the most touristy streets, but I really like it and all side-streets; a lot of cool places to be found in that area;
  • Inner yard of Baixa station: full of terraces, hidden from loud cars and crowds;
  • Find Muji store and go behind it – secret stairs for cool pictures. There is a hidden elevator right inside souvenir shop there that will take you up for free while tourists are waiting in lines to get tickets for a big metal one 😉
  • Another important staircase, Calçada do Duque, goes from Largo Trindade Coelho to Praça Dom Pedro IV – a little square with food tents, where musicians play and people dance. Having breakfast on one of those terraces placed right on the stairs is pleasant, and no matter what direction you take there –it brings you either to a nice view over downtown or back to busy shopping streets. I’d love to have an entire day to explore every garden and building along those stairs!
  • Rua da Vitória: go down the hill until the end of the street, there will be a small shopping center; -1 floor has a boutique with very beautiful unique jewelry;
  • I finally tried those famous sandwiches at a nova pombalina that was closed last year, and they really are awesome! Good fast delicious snack if you are on the way to Lisbon Cathedral;
  • Rua de São Paulo that leads to old district of São Bento where we stayed last year, is wort taking a walk to: starting on one of my favourite cafes concentration, Praça de São Paulo, it contains a number of small coffee places where you can observe local people’s routine.
  • Amoreiras shopping centre: for those who enjoy mass-market and famous brands shopping just as much as unique jewelry and fashion from small shops in the old town. 

Liza loved Lisbon just as much as I expected, so my goal was fulfilled. Even though I still had a long list of restaurants from last year, when we saw a place called “Dr. Wine”, there were no more hesitations about our dinner location choice. Beautiful interior and quite a unique mixture of prawns risotto with fried fish made me add this place to the top of my list. I hope to come back in the nearest future and continue exploring this magic city!


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UPD: 25

This is just a short tribute to my family and friends, who have been there for me since 25 years already. I am not making any resolutions as I turn one year older this time, because probably for the first time in life I can tell that I am exactly where I wanna be. I am surrounded by awesome people only. “Only” is an important remark here: my friends and family have always been there and been awesome, but I almost always had extra people around. Now I am quite sure that this is it: those are mine. I am very happy in my relationship and am only looking forward to have more of it! I finished university this year, which was not an easy cookie! Recently I started a job that is already very challenging – and that’s what I always needed! In order not to challenge my personal relations, something has to challenge me, and here it is! Really looking forward to learning there and am thankful for the opportunity.

Besides all of the above, I am just having fun in life! This is precious to say when you turn 25. Thanks to my parents for everything in life, and to my friends and Dani for making every day an unforgettable experience. And may our glasses never be empty!