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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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UPD: summer rocket launch

Summer! How many good emotions are in that word! Especially for people like me who fiercely hate the cold and are strongly affected by dull days. MondseeMy summer has been going well, can’t believe the first month is already over! Even though the holidays started earlier this year for me since I passed my last exam at the beginning on may. Yes! Shit got real!!! I graduated and am now a Bachelor of Sciences in International Business Administration with my alma mater at the University of Vienna. Moreover, I have already been accepted to Masters which I hope to be able to combine with work, but let’s see where life will turn next! Anyways, it’s over! I drove to Vienna from Lignano together with my parents to make it official together with one more thing – introducing Daniel to my family. What a day.

The period of uncertainty I am having now is quite confusing, but at least I am happy I had taken the decision to stay in Vienna for few more years and don’t have to bother with moving to another city/country, which I had done 4 times in my life already, and which was always one hell of a fuss. Some of my classmates graduated together with me and some are leaving Vienna forever, so June has been a bittersweet month of partying at last, helping around with packing 5 years of life in 2 suitcases… and goodbyes. I think I learnt to say goodbye. There have been a lot of very painful ones for me. But thanks to them, I am capable of appreciating everyone my life introduced me to and letting it go on. A new chapter is about to begin for many of us, isn’t that wonderful and exciting?

Alongside with personal reasons to be emotional now, Vienna always gives out a lot of emotions to its inhabitants and guests in June – namely Life Ball and Pioneers festival. Together with all the terrace openings and streets becoming crazily busy and festive, those 2 events won’t let one be bored in this heat! I again worked with the Pioneers crew this year as a part of social media team, doing backstage support and assisting photographers and interviewers, and it was awesome! Always happy to see familiar faces among festival volunteers, too! So many this year! So if you can make it to Vienna in June and become a volunteer (you don’t have to be from Vienna, we will host you for the time of the festival!) – come join next year and have a blast! Very thankful for Pioneers for making this all happen!

Life Ball is another event that attracts people from all over the globe. The entire city waits for it every year losing breath. The most spectacular event in Austria and one of the brightest nights in the world! This year I was a cinderella who had not got a Life Ball ticket because was awaiting friends to come that day and thought I couldn’t go. But 2 hours before the Ball started, as I was sitting at Dani’s terrace, out of a sudden he says I should run to the Ball and he got me a VIP ticket! What a fairy! So you see, the impossible things become possible sometimes 😉

Yup, Dani has a terrace now! A super cozy beautiful summer oasis in the heart of Vienna, check it out at Graben 26!

Besides balls and festivals and summer starting, June is completely full of Birthdays. Also, before going to Lignano I had Ksusha over in Vienna, so another reason to celebrate!

I love this month, you can tell! We made another roadtrip and took the girls to Hallstatt. I have been there in winter and now finally visited it in summer. It’s breathtaking! The only downside is a lot of tourists, so if you go there for a view, I’d recommend to also drive to other lakes around it. We loved Traunsee: crystal clear water and no tourists at all! Last week we also made another roadtrip and went for a picnic to Mondsee. I never realized lakes can be so awesome! I swim either in seas or in pools because I can’t take cold water, so even oceans are not really my thing if it’s not the Carribean (even though I once went swimming in Portugal in April). But Mondsee was so warm! We drove up to a random Badeplatz («beach»), unwrapped our cheeses, hams and baguettes there, popped tiny retro bottles of Aperol and enjoyed ourselves so much! If you are in Austria and have no time to drive to the sea – Mondsee (and I suppose other lakes in the area) can really make your day! 2.5 hr drive from Vienna and it doesn’t compare to any crowded public swimming place.

This week Vienna is hosting another amazing event – a Liquid Market, which is gonna be grandiose this year with a bar-scene superstar aka my boyfriend making a big surprise, so make sure to follow your favorite Viennese bars 😉 Specifically for that event, I am staying in Vienna until the end of this week, to again take off to my beloved Italy right after.

Stay tanned and tuned!


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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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NN-Msk

Hello from Russia!IMG_9845.jpgI think this year I already traveled to my motherland more times than during previous 5 years after I moved abroad. I am currently working for a Russian company which means frequent trips to local branches. My second business trip now included Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod.

I never travelled much around Russia which is a shame. As a kid, I was spending many months in Sochi where my grandparents live; made a school trip to Volgograd once and sometimes visited Samara. I lived in Saint Petersburg during my first university years… and that’s it! So, business trips may be my great opportunity to fill in this gap.

All those who are inspired by traveling tend to go as far as possible. We get a feeling that the longer the flight is – the more different and unusual will be the place, culture, cuisine, people. I agree, it’s somehow true. But I know so many travelers who have been everywhere in the world but are totally missing knowledge and traveling experience in their own lands. I am one of them. The great thing about this trip for me was going to a far-away village for a weekend. I admit, never have I seen the “real” Russia: tiny villages, some still with no electricity (no kidding), with their own customs and sometimes even sharing their own language. This introductory trip was not that wild, it was around beautiful and completely civilized places. But the nature is anyway very different from what one sees around Moscow.

I don’t have much pictures because we were moving around on a all-terrain quadrocycle: it was mostly off-road extreme where you hold on anything you can grab as tight as possible trying not to fall off. Not an easy task to take pics on the way! But if you follow me on Instagram, you must have seen my stories of driving in the wild forest, harvesting endless silky fields and scaring all chickens on village roads. Eating smoked fish from local river and wild boar at a hunter’s house was a unique experience. One day I will travel more of Russia. Probably sooner than I think, with my business trips.

I had few days at our Moscow office, too. I am not an admirer of the capital, but spending several days there to catch up with so many friends that live there is never bad. On average, at least once a year I stop in Moscow for 2-3-day layover during my trips, to talk, walk and eat. And catch up with my favorite people there!

The food situation in Russia is not that vivid after the well-known sanctions, but Moscow has it all! I already have my places where I always go whenever in the city, like Italianets (“Итальянец”) to enjoy Salvatore’s original fusions as well as classical Italian recipes. This time we also tried “dessert from the chef”, which he prepares himself life right at your table – and it is absolute love between a human and a dish! Another place which I like, especially when the terrace is open, is Rybi net (“Рыбы нет”) – one of those rare occasions when you can eat good quality meat in Russia. We always go there exclusively for tartar but, unfortunately, this time they ean out of it (?!) and the waiter didn’t know that when takin our order, so we already got the drinks and had to finish them super quickly and waste money for no joy and walk away disappointed. But like that we tried a new place for me – Wine&Crab. We were unlucky there as well when they forgot our order and would admit that only 25 minutes later. The apology, however, looked like unlimited refill of prosecco, so even I didn’t throw much shit at the fan. I was so overwhelmed and relieved and already a bit tipsy because right then found out that – DRUMROLL – I graduated from the University of Vienna! All my credits got approved and my diploma is ready for a pickup. So, Crab&Wine had me on a lucky hour. Concerning food, I must say everything with crab is awesome! I love crab meat, but you don’t get it much in Vienna, so it’s a must-eat for me every time in Russia. We took pasta and dumplings from the crab menu and were very happy. But meat dish and dessert were nothing special at all, I would recommend sticking to crab things only.

On my way back through Moscow I managed to catch up with my favorite couple, Jane and Rustam, for which I had to leave the house at 6 a.m., and I would only do that for them. They took me to another place new for me – Dr. Живаго, and it’s really worth visiting. To begin with, the view on the Red Square and Russian Museum are indeed spectacular. I had no idea there is a café right across the street from the very heart of Russia with such view. We went at breakfast time (apparently, if I left at 6) and the menu is larger than most of classical breakfast-sets-and-some-egg-dishes menus. The authentic pure Soviet interior and atmosphere are also quite inspiring. And it’s open 24/7! Properly Russian!

Due to my extremely tight schedule, I didn’t have the chance to catch up with anyone else but my sister with her husband and my two closest friends in Moscow. But I have a feeling I will be coming much more often now, so next time, my dears!

P.S.: I also happened to be in the capital for the 9th of May – a major holiday in Russia, the end of WWII. One hell of a spectacular show! March, military planes, fireworks covering entire skies – wow! This is one of those worth seeing, but only once in a lifetime things. 

And now… welcome to Nizhny Novgorod. I am not even sure how to spell it, I’d write Nizhniy but they seem to do it differently. A city that I didn’t even know where to look for in a map, just like most of Russian cities. It’s very old and there are plenty of 18th century houses integrated in modern buildings – something different for me, because I grew up in a very new town, just few decades old. But besides the views, Nizhny is quite similar to Togliatti because of almost the same size and also being an industrial hub. People seemed a bit more old-fashioned to me, though. Maybe Togliatti just has more young population, not sure.

What can I say? Cities in Russia are very different from Moscow. The capital could be another country on a different continent. Just 3,5h in train – but you are in a completely different world where everyone thinks, behaves and lives differently. I noticed major differences even better during my work there, watching managers from Moscow and staff from Nizhny cooperate and confront. In Austria, you see the difference between Vienna and smaller towns, too, of course! But in Russia it seems to be not just different in lifestyles, but people from completely different time and space. Now I would be even more different to travel to the far east of Russia.

I didn’t have much time to walk around the city or go out there since I was working A LOT. But the Kremlin and main pedestrian street, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, are must-sees. There are a lot of cafes and fancy-ish bars. I had a breakfast at Coffee Cake: quite delicious, the combos that everyone loves to have for breakfast are interesting, but they could be bigger and even more expensive would be fine. I wasn’t full enough with one combo, but maybe it’s me not ever being full enough. A place next to it, Mishka, is a small pastry shop with extremely attractive desserts, is definitely worth forgetting about your diet for once. BerЁzka Bar at the end of the same street looks as a place to be for the locals. I had a burger there because the menu is a bit of a weird mix of everything and I couldn’t pick anything: all products seemed fresh, but something was wrong, I didn’t really like the way it was prepared. And last but not least, Mitrich steakhouse, is most likely the best restaurant of the city. I had a chance to go there few times because it’s in the same building where my company’s office is. Russian-style luxurious, indeed delicious food, but the service is way too obtrusive, if you ask my opinion. It is obviously aimed on satisfying business people who are the main audience, so the staff is doing a great job! It’s just that I am a fan of more chilled atmosphere. But I was happy to learn that there is good food outside Moscow.

In general, this trip was just as interesting as it was exhausting. Back to Vienna now, getting some sleep and preparing for Pioneers Festival this week and new trips to come soon!


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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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Bayern

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetRoadtrip is always a good idea! I love it so much when me and Jamila jump in the car, get 100500 sandwiches and the biggest jar of hummus for the way (we should better think of getting the biggest canister of diesel, considering our experience of walking on a highway to the gas station), turn the music up and wooohooo!

We have been both super busy recently with work, studies. celebrating my birthday and making it through spring break without failing everything in life, so I was double excited that we managed to spare couple days and go somewhere. And this time we had an extra reason, even though there is no reason needed for a roadtrip – Spirko was in Switzerland, so we decided to use our chance and meet up in the middle. We hesitated between Innsbruck and Munich, but since neither of the girls had been to the beer capital before, we decided to hit Bavaria up!

The drive there was super easy and fun, we are still hoping Germany had no vignettes and speed limits on highways. In less than 5 hours we made it to Munich. The spring in Europe is extremely hot, so it was a total pleasure to drink cold beers in the sun. As those who have been there know, historical center is tiny and 2 hour walk is more than enough to see all the main things. It’s just as cute as it has always been! I visited Munich few times with my family and then came to Octoberfest, but I must admit I love it without crowds of wasted singing tourists even more. What always surprises me is the shopping opportunities scale. Why the tiny Munich has it all, and huge Vienna hasn’t even heard of &other stories, Topshop, Abercrombie&Fitch or even Sephora?! I remember I even took a train to Munich to buy my first iPhone! So, if you like to shop – you will be surprised there!

We stayed at Bar Hostel and it was awesome: cheap, in the very city center close to a huge parking lot; large light clean rooms – and a 24/7 bar! There are a lot of cute cafes in that area, too. We had a random breakfast at Kochspielhaus and enjoyed it. I’d buy bakery there every day, if it was in my neighborhood!

Don’t have much must-do advice to give, besides the obvious one when in the city – Hofbräuhaus München. I am usually not a fan of touristy places, but this one is a proper one to experience real Bavarian spirit, Octoberfest culture, original German beer and sausages. And two worlds of my friends finally overlapped!

The next day we had a plan to see more of the real Bavaria while driving to Neuschwanstein castle. A famous prototype of Sleeping Beauty’s castle is a real Disney fairy-tale. It’s stunning! So is the way to it, which we had no idea about. One has to drive quite a while (about 2 hours, depends on which direction you are coming from) after exiting highway, and the route goes through tiny villages that look like Milka chocolates commercials. Extra green grass, extra pretty cows and extra traditional Bavarian sites.

The castle itself is seen from far away. It’s quite easy to get there with a car, and it seemed to be accessible with public transportation, too. Buses even go up the hill to its walls, but we decided to take a picturesque walk. Different routes go through the magical forest, but the coolest view is found from Marienbrücke! We had to find this out ourselves after checking few decks out, no idea why nobody mentions it, but I hope my hint will be useful for someone! We went inside, too. You can’t take pictures, but the tour is worth it! Very beautiful interiors, much more modern and unique than we expected. Do you know, that Newschwanstein was the first castle with central heating and sewerage system?

And then of course the time of breathtaking pics came!

My next trip in 2 days will be via airplane, so awesome playlist will unfortunately be rocking only in my headphones, but I am still excited, as I always am for any travels 😉


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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!