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Porto

Снимок экрана 2018-04-10 в 11.26.47Happy spring, everyone! It’s been long since the last time most of us enjoyed the proper sunshine. And quite long since I enjoyed ocean views. Usually I take some time in winter to decide where I want to spend upcoming spring break, but this time it came naturally to me. Despite my long-term practice of never going to the same place two times in a row, which I don’t follow only if we talk about Italy, I was sure I wanted to go to Portugal again. First visited for Easter last year – and I fell in love from the first sight! Few people told me that if I loved Lisbon THAT much, Porto should be my next destination. Booked!

We were not as lucky with the weather as last time, but it was quite expected after the coldest winter in many years in Europe, so we were ready for few times raining. Surprisingly, considering how much I despise bad weather and anything below 25 degrees, it didn’t ruin my impressions of the town at all. But Porto in general seemed more rainy, because Lisbon was showing better weather every day. It’s a proper on-the-oceanside place with what I call «surf weather» – I remember those short crazy intense showers when it’s sunny 30 seconds after in Hawaii very well!
Porto is gorgeous. It combines everything I loved so much about Portugal with more of a “still tourist virgin” attitude. I had a good talk about this wit Cantina32 staff – a place I will tell about in just a minute 😉 Gastronomy is always the most important for me, but I never start posts with it not to get too carried away.
Hills. those portuguese hills! Even more incline than in Lisbon. Beautiful and slippery after rains tiles, so take comfy shoes with you. The tiles are also a separate chapter for me. I fell for them already couple years ago in Morocco, but this became a lifelong feeling last year in Lisbon. Somehow those grandiose marble tiles I see around in everyday life simply don’t catch my eye as much as smaller square ones with various patterns so different, that I run out of imagination. Thanks to trips to Portugal, now I am sure I want to have some beautiful tile-work when I will be decorating my own house once. It just seems so important for any beautiful design now. But how beautiful are they on the streets, house facades and even in cathedrals! One thing is when a designer plans a pattern and you proudly integrate it into some plain wall or on your bathroom floor; completely another – when the whole city is a never ending pattern! I think tiles are my new obsession alongside with gastronomy and pandas now. I am so happy that Instagram’s «Saved» is private sometimes, I’d look like a total freak.
We had a week in Portugal, 2 days out of which were devoted to Lisbon since Liza had not seen it yet. Best idea ever, I discovered the city once again and will add some bullet points to my last year’s recommendations some time soon! In general, I think one week for Portugal is enough if you plan to visit 2-3 main cities (Braga is worth seeing, too, I heard) and catch some gorgeous views over the ocean from the cliffs. Last year we rented a car and drove through few oceanside villages and got to Cabo da Roca. This time we took a train between Porto and Lisbon, which is also a fast and cheap option. One-way was 19 euros for us (caught my last days of under 25 discount, hehe), very fair compared to DB or OeBB trains I am used to paying hundreds for! So, I find five days enough to explore Porto well. If you are going to surf or spend time on beaches, you need more. I personally enjoy such places during out of season times, when they are not overcrowded with tourists. And the ocean water, with exception of the Caribbean, of course, has always been too cold for me to swim, so I am aimed more for sightseeing and FOOD experiences.IMG_6452
What I’d recommend:
  • Ribeira district. At any time, even during rain, it’s charming. Little restaurants, but not too many, so that you can still enjoy views with no tables in some directions. Order some porto to warm up if it’s windy, but when the sun is shining one can get some tan on sun-beds there already at the beginning of April. We ended up going to Café do Cais 3 or 4 times. even though I usually look for new places, that one is simply the coziest there. But some restaurants up along the pavement share a wonderful view as well, if you are lucky to grab a table that faces the river. Regarding sightseeing, there are Porto Cathedral with Terreiro de Sé and Palácio da Bolsa in that area, but I honestly didn’t find them to be anything super special; there are prettier places with more TILES in Porto.
  • Once you are in that area, check out Prova: wine bar, great selection; Belos Aires – the best food I ever ate in Portugal! just try everything there, the starters blew my mind but then my ossobuco came and I died; Cantina 32 is i think the best looking cafe I have seen: smooth light, deep grey color, simple and very stylish design, nicest staff and flawless food, their banana cheesecake seems to be the most famous dessert in Porto based on my instagram research.

     

  • Eat francesinha. It is a typical traditional food of porto that is a sandwich with ham, crunchy sausage, steak or few other meat types inside, covered by melted cheese, often topped with an egg and baked with a very special beer and tomato sauce in which they throw extra french fries. It’s crazy how tasty this simple thing can get! They call it a hangover sandwich, and I really wouldn’t mind having one every tough morning of life. It’s served pretty much everywhere, my first I ate just in some street cafe next to Hard Rock Cafe, then at that place by the river. The most famous ones are served in Cafe Santiago, Cervejaria Brasão, Bufete Fase and Offline (another place for taking pics). But honestly they seemed to be delicious everywhere. IMG_6703
  • Go to Foz do Douro. Its a wealthy quiet neat district where the river flows into the ocean. One of the best ocean views you can get not having to leave the city. The famous lighthouse that is often on postcards from Porto is found there. I was sure that such a place will be full of tourists and have a crowded promenade with shops and cafes – not at all. We actually struggled with finding a place to eat there. It’s an untouched natural beach with an old castle and spectacular views on high waves breaking against rocks. If you want more civilization and a regular beach – go up to Matosinhos district. I randomly went there with a subway once not knowing how to get out of there. but the magical bus 200 that brings you literally anywhere you need to be in Porto from the very center to the furtherest ocean coast was found there, too.Transportation is in general very convenient and straightforward, and the people are extremely helpful.
  • Take a walk from Dom Luís I Bridge in the direction to the ocean during dusk. It’s very beautiful to look behind at the city hills as the lights start to go on. The walk also opens up daily routine of the inhabitants as you get away from the center: the houses are right in front of the sidewalk and are a bit lower so you can even look in the windows (sorry, people of Porto, I didn’t mean to be creepy!). I spotted a cool gin bar on the way, too – inside Gull restaurant.
  • Talking about that famous bridge, crossing it on the highest level is a must-do as well! If you are not scared of heights! Because that really IS high. The view is fantastic! Those who don’t feel comfortable walking higher than birds fly, you can also cross it on a lower level. The other bank is no less cool than Ribeira! There are a lot of restaurants, bars and pop-up terraces, we couldn’t chose where to sit, so inviting they all looked! On that side you can also find The Yeatman hotel which has a Michelin stars gourmet restaurant with a view-deck.
  • Livraria Lello – an old bookshop that will take you to Hogwarts library. Just check out the pics from there to understand why one must visit it! There is always a line to enter and a line to buy tickets, but don’t let this scare you away, they move very fast, altogether it took us no more than 10 minutes to get in. And it’s worth it! The cool thing is that a ticket is actually a voucher that you can use when purchasing a book, so you don’t really pay for the entrance, because you for sure will want to buy something inside! The selection of books in various languages (besides Portuguese, mostly English and Spanish) is very impressive, and the prices are more than decent. There are quite a lot of tourists inside, that can get annoying, so try to choose some less popular times to really enjoy it.
  • Bolhão market. People write a lot about it being a must-see, but honestly if you have ever been to any nice big market with fresh fruits and handmade crafts – it’s not gonna impress you much more. The food people were eating looked delicious, but besides that I am only mentioning it here because of the street next to it – Rua de Santa Catarina. There you find all the mass-market shopping as well as some local brands, and Portugal is very good for shopping! On top of great clothes brands presence, you can bring beautiful dishes and house design items, nice handmade jewelry, soaps and famous sardines from there. And of course pastel de nata! Last year we explored all pastel de natas one can possibly eat in Portugal, and I particularly like the one at Fábrica de Nata. You can find it on that street and bring few packs home. Some more unique shopping can be found at Bombarda commercial center and and places like workshop pop up. Just look inside the smallest stores!
  • Museums: I don’t attempt to visit all museums of the city when travel somewhere. I mean, Picasso in Barcelona and Van Gogh in Amsterdam are must-do’s, of course, but I am more of a walk-all-streets-possible kind of tourist. For whatever the reason, I had Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis pinned on my map, so we went there. The description of an interesting collection in a beautiful palace is ehmm.. quite overrated. It’s a very old-school soviet-like museum like those local lore ones where they force you to go in middle school. We were quite disappointed, only a beautiful garden inside made it a but more worthy.  Another day I needed to hide from rain and went inside Igreja da Misericórdia not having any idea what it is. Turned out to be very beautiful inside, with an informative collection on Porto’s history and development of medicine and human care services. Really enjoyed it! And the 2.50 euros entrance fee for students in any museum is very fair I think! Especially after Vienna, where you can easily pay 13 euros to see one small exhibition.

    To wrap it up, some more gastronomy advice is always good! A sandeira was a place with awesome huge and delicious sandwiches for 4 euros. Flor dos Congregados is a very cozy romantic place. DOP can be added to the list of fancy gourmet restaurants. Ostras&Coisas will make happy any seafood lover! Frankie serves the biggest and coolest hotdogs I’ve ever seen, and it’s also very cheap and cool there. Vício do Café serves delicious coffee and also cheaper snacks, but toasts I ate there were soooo full of cheese! We couldn’t visit all the places I marked because a lot were closed due to Easter holidays, the same story as last year. My list also included Pedro Lemos, Terraplana, Museu d’avo, Aduela and Touriga (last three a more of bars). The Royal Cocktail Club showed a different approach to cocktails: controversial but interesting; Era uma Vez em Paris is a 50s bar which is said to have cool music, but when we stopped by it was still empty; espresso martini was perfect, though!

    Porto definitely got its special place in my heart, so does whole Portugal already have. People there are very nice, everything functions, sorry, much better than in neighboring Spain and France, I am not even mentioning English proficiency. Those amazing views, tasty food, sunshine and TILES! Hope to be back soon!


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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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UPD: Life Ball & PIONEERS Festival

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Happy Summer, guys!

I am super excited for the upcoming season, despite currently struggling through finals and writing my thesis. It’s gonna be amazing, yes! As always, summers are always amazung, aren’t they?

I actually have been receiving a lot of positive surprises recently, and my life twisted around gradually 😉

But now – it’s just a short update to share that all is super cool, and I am just being too busy with uni stuff. Will soon write about our trip to Croatia; I got it as a present from my girls, it happened, and it was greater than great!

 

 

Another awesome event that recently took place and got us involved – Life Ball! Anyone who lives in Vienna knows its scale; it’s been getting more and more international attention, as well. More accurate info can be found on their web page, and I just want to share that it was absolutely great! It is so much more than just dressing up to go out and party all night long in one of the most beautiful sceneries ever. Spectacular way to raise aids awareness.

The coolest thing is not only the Ball itself, but the afterparty, which everyone in the city names the biggest party of the year. Yay!

 

And one more thing I wanna tell you about now – Pioneers Festival.

So, from the beginning, Pioneers is, as we were saying all the time, where tech startups meet investors. They do a lot of cool stuff in different cities, but as Vienna is trying to become a startup hub now, the huge event is held here annually. I feel honored that I got to work there, and my tasks were just a dream: I was part of backstage crew, helping out the main photographer and managing speakers before and after they go on stage to make sure that all media procedures are followed, and we get pictures and interviews with everyone we needed. One hell of stress it is, won’t deny! But the scale of the event was just breathtaking! And all of numerous afterparties that the organizers held were super cool, with a possibility to talk with the most creative and innovative people in a very chilled atmosphere. I even got to meet the president of Slovakia😱

Three days of excitement, responsibility pressure and fun fusion! Thank you, Pioneers, and I honestly hope to get a chance to join it again next year!

 


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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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ACUNS Annual Conference 2017

Implementing the 2030 Agenda

The 2017 ACUNS-UN Vienna Conference—hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)—is a major multi-stakeholder forum for Vienna-based organizations, civil society, the diplomatic community, and academics to discuss actions, potentials and challenges linked to the realization of the Agenda. The conference is an occasion to share best practices, explore potential future collaborations, and engage in inter-sectoral and inter-agency dialogues. (source: acuns.org/2017-vienna-un-conference/)

This main theme is sustainable human development. Participants learn about the contribution of UN-based organizations as well as about their future projects. Great ideas shared, outstanding people presenting.”No-one is left behind” was the motto of this annual meeting. 1

I was lucky to be a part of this major event being held at the United Nations Office in Vienna. Being a volunteer from ACUNS was a great experience which gave me not only the understanding of how such occasions are organized and the chance to listen to the greatest people from the UN-based organizations, but also realize myself as a part of hardworking team with its responsibilities, choices to be made rapidly and any stressful situation to be dealt with together.  0I was a member of ACUNS social media team doing mostly all the photography (the toughest part is not the technical one, actually, but knowing what and where to upload asap so that all the social media channels can operate their life broadcasting properly) but also helping out with posts whenever someone wasn’t there to do it right away – which is what matters the most for SMM.

I had “my” speakers as well which means that while running the social media channels each of us had to write transcripts of their presentations to later summarize it in one press release ACUNS coordinators will prepare. I consider myself lucky to have had one of the most interesting speakers: Ana Raffo-Caiado, director of technical cooperation department at IAEA and Alois Mhlanga, the UNIDO representative. Nuclear energy being one of the main cornerstones (and probably the most problematic and controversial one) of sustainable development is a very interesting topic to finally get deeper into. But I honestly found all five panels as well as scholar’s sessions (especially the one devoted to child marriage in Syria!) very informational and extremely exciting. Cuban representative in the UN, Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, was the most appealing speaker to me, who also managed to run his session at the conference perfectly well organized.

Very surprisingly to myself, I found the “Cleaner Industrial Production and Energy for Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth” panel the most exciting one. Not having been aware of the topics much, I was so caught by the discussion that at some point even realized I was forgetting to do my job. Well-done! Such a pleasure indeed.

And the main reason why I am writing about this event is, of course, to thank my team. I find it quite hard to work in trams in general. It’s usually associated with stress for me, and I’d rather do everything myself or have some separate tasks. But this time we all were one mechanism that had to function properly without any breaks. And I believe we managed that quite successfully despite any technical problem we faced. Thank you guys for this first working experience that has become such a positive one for me. Thank you for sharing all stress, time-pressure, gallons of coffee, GBs of information, jokes and after-party cakes. You are the best ❤

I am really looking forward to staying a part of such great team and participating in the future events held by ACUNS. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter 😉