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Lech am Arlberg

Снимок экрана 2018-01-24 в 21.26.37Season’18 has officially been opened!

Those who know me are aware that I am a passionate snowboarder. Paradoxically, that didn’t make me any more passionate about winter – I still extremely dislike the cold and I am a Grinch. But the Alps make me happy. Because it’s usually sunny here. It’s not exactly the low temperatures that annoy me but rather high humidity and lack of light in winter. The mountains are dry, clean and sunny – and even more amazing when you can observe them on a relatively high speed that the snowboard gives me. Under the hashtag #snowboarding there are some of my alpine stories, but the history of my relationship with mountains goes back 15 years.

This year we started out adventures at a new spot where had never been before – Lech. We know Austrian Alps the best I assume but there are always new slopes to check. I liked the snowboarding possibilities in Lech: there are relatively wrong connected routes to neighboring valleys, the lifts build up a comfy chain without many horizontal crossings. Apres-ski choice is just awesome! But there are not many young people since this resort is quite expensive. Be ready to pay starting with 35 Euros for a bottle of simple wine at a regular cafe (in comparison, at Bad Hofgastein you’d pay 14 for it). If you want to have more younger people and party around – chose St. Anton which is next to Lech. We went there couple times and enjoyed the food, shopping and the choice of entertainment. But the slopes must be more crowded there, whereas Lech was very easy-going with no queues even on the weekends of the high season. 

I can’t tell much about gastronomy of the town. We had dinners in our hotel and found out that was a better alternative after had tried few places in town. The two Italian restaurants (Olympia and Don Enzo) were ok, but they are still Austrian Italian restaurants, if you know what I mean. It’s not the dinner you would eat anywhere in Italy, honestly. The traditional Stube Handl Tyrol was nice – affordable real Austrian food, if you are a fan you gonna be satisfied. Still, nothing special in town. However, there are better restaurants in Oberlech! Hotel Sonnenburg has very delicious tartar, for example. 

Verdict: a good compromise between a fun town and good quality slopes, shift towards the slopes. Better for families and people with income above average than for the students. Was a very warm and cozy vacation for us because we stayed in a nice family hotel and went as an entire family ourselves.

…the season is to be continued in a few days! In the most unexpected from me place 😉


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Sitges

¡Hola Sitges!

A neat town in the Costa Dorada area. Loud, always in movement but extremely elegant. One of the most famous destinations in the world for gays which explains it being so shiny and absolutely cute.

I have been to Spain many times, mostly to Barcelona, but also stayed on the sea coast and Balearic Islands. La Pineda and Lloret de Mar were the towns on this coast where we were based. We also visited Cambrills, Tarragona, Port Aventura, Tossa del Mar and maybe couple more. But all those are something slightly different from Sitges. It’s hard to explain, you just feel it when compare long fabulous promenade of Sitges with narrow streets full of bars and music in the other typical Catalan towns. If you are 16-25 y.o. bunch of friends that are traveling looking for fun only – chose something like Lloret or even better Ibiza and Mallorca. But if you have already done all that and this time want to enjoy some rare wines, best quality sea food, live music and fancy restaurants – Sitges would suit you more.

Good beaches, much better than the ones you would find anywhere along that coast. We drove down to Girona, then stopped at Calella for a swim and took the way back alongside the beaches, so I know what I am talking about. You need to have a car to reach most of nice places for swimming in Spain, but Sitges is an exception; the beaches that the town offers are more than decent. You can choose between regular or nude ones.
There is a lot to do in town, it’s not just bars and night clubs as it can be in some small towns on the seaside that open up only for tourists partying but won’t offer a slice of pizza anywhere during siesta. Sitges has good shopping, music and culture events, restaurants all day long and different sport clubs. It’s popular for golf; we woke up early in the morning to go play tennis before it becomes too hot, and there were a lot of people already at 8 a.m.

Gastronomy is something absolutely special for me, so I will write a separate post about food in Catalunya.

Everyone is so relaxed and friendly on that resort! Anyone who throws you a tennis ball you accidentally smashed to their side will have a small talk with you, no matter if you share one language or not. A very positive vacation experience, 12 days there were just right for me to relax properly after hard semester in Vienna and a very intense program in Milano.
Sitges, gracias!


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hashtag home

 Being home is always good. Even though most of my acquaintances don’t live around anymore, it’s still very cool to come back for several days sometimes. Especially like it happened this time – when some of childhood friends happen to be there for the same period. And my sister came from Moscow for that weekend, too! Ksenia met me right when I arrived, Daria was there with her boyfriend Axel. Was big times of an experience for a Swedish guy to visit our hometown! We were the only people he could speak English with, so for sure us going out drew a lot of attention everywhere! Was fun, a lot of fun, and I love you, guys! And all that special weird Russian thing that we have inside us!
Parents’ house is of course the best place to be again. Any place where they are becomes worth rushing there, but their home is something absolutely amazing! Bright backyard, tasty dinners made together, endless rivers of wine and long intense talks. A lot of decisions taken, as always, when I go home. A lot of amazing emotions, laughs and love. Love love love!


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HK: The Big Buddha

IMG_1004Continuing to restore the memories from unforgettable Hong Kong.

The main thing that makes this place so special and unlike any other is this unique fusion of modern lifestyle and the traditional Chinese culture. The power of the last can be experienced the best in small southern villages as well as in the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island.

Tian Tan Buddha is one of the most popular things to see of Hong Kong, so we expected the place to be extremely touristic. Well, yes, more or less it is. But what surprised us is that it still is much more a real spiritual milestone than just a typical sightseeing booklet sight. Attracting pilgrims from all over the world, it remains a religious center and a place of sincere worship and and prayer. Excuse my probable incompetence in the world religions studies; whatever the Buddhist rites are, I am describing what I observed in my own words and feelings.

It is so inspiring to see how people come there to spend their time with what they believe in and they don’t care about tourists; if they want to kneel down in the middle of the crowd of people taking selfies – they do so with no hesitation. And, I mean, remember the pyramids in Cairo, for example. Or all those ancient temples. Used to be spiritual spots as well, didn’t they? But they barely are anything else than just tourists’ sights. No longer they attract anyone as something sacred. Either the religions are dead or the value of the place is lost. Instagram is the religion there now. But not here. Pilgrims mixed with random tourists and even cows make the way to the Big Buddha very exciting.

Po Lin Monastery is very interesting, too. Monks wander around gardens, traditional food is served to anyone, some spirit of appeasement fills one up while taking a walk among traditional Chinese style buildings.

The village nearby is much more touristic. Souvenir shops, American catering and small houses that look like if you were inside some Universal Studios set.

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Getting to the place is quite simple, as any question of transportation in Hong Kong. We took the subway to the Tung Chung station, then there is again a choice between a cable car and a bus. We went there on a public holiday which might be an extreme decision in such crowded city, but all went well and the line lasted just several minutes for us.

Lantau Island is very interesting itself. If you get more time to explore it, definitely visit some of the hidden bays, take a look at one of the longest bridges in the world, check out their huge port and !yay! go th the Disneyland!


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HK: Ocean Park

IMG_0863Hey baaaaabyyyy! Ah just look at him!

So, today’s topic is the Ocean Park of Hong Kong. An amusement park together with an unusual zoo area, oceanarium, aqua park and much more – what else to wish for?! I have been to several Disneylands (Hong Kong has one of them, too, by the way!) and I am a huge fan of Port Aventura. But Ocean Park is just something different. It’s not just some roller-coasters, fun characters and the best junk food you can eat. It indeed is a whole world.

You hardly see so many rare Asian animals even in the most famous zoos in the world, trust someone who lives in the city with Schönbrunn and had been to San Diego zoo. And they just take your heart there.

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I had never before seen red panda before, for example. And I was missing out!

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The park is decorated in the traditional Chinese style but with a good taste, not like typical Chinese restaurants! It’s very authentic and just cute.

IMG_0887IMG_0889IMG_0891IMG_0893Different parts of the park are connected with the funicular and the railway, we tried both when moving around. During the daytime go for the funicular, but if you need speed and don’t want to wait in a queue – the fast train is there for you, very convenient and thoughtful.

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The view from the funicular opens up Repulse Bay for us which I visited later and am gonna mention in my post about beaches.

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The hill on which Ocean Park is situated is so high that you see the other side as well: Aberdeen village, one of my destinations, too. The southern part of Hong Kong Island is very rich with places of interest, so don’t just stick to the center.

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There we watched the real Asian sunset. Yes, it is true, sun turns red there.

IMG_0955IMG_0963If the views from the park itself are so catchy, can you imagine how it feels to fly over those bays on high roller-coasters screaming like crazy? Oh, yes, baby! That was an experience!

The Park is very easy to reach: bus #629 goes from the Central station or from Admiralty bus terminal; you can buy tickets to the park there in advance and avoid the line at the entrance. At the end of the day they have an amazing show like the one Disneyland runs, but here it was more effects, fire and fireworks than telling a fairy tale. Quite impressive!


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Bad Hofgastein

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flashbacks to the beginning of February and an incredible season’15-16 follow

Good morning! It must be yet night or even previous day in your part of the world though. But I am writing from incredible Hong Kong.

So many impressions I have already received after first day here. Wanna share asap! But there are still three more notes missing from other trips. So it’s my luck that jet lag woke me up so early and I can try to catch up a little bit before going for my breakfast dim sums 😉

The valley of Gastein in Austrian Tyrol was the first place I visited in Austria. We loved it so much that came back again several years later; I switched from skis to snowboard that year. So I can thank Bad Hofgastein not only for introducing me to the Austrian culture but as well for supporting my beginnings in another winter sport that I mostly picked up from instructors there and still enjoy so much.

Who could have thought back then that I would be coming here again as a long-term inhabitant of Austria myself. It’s amazing how time flies and how unexpected our lives are. The owners of the hotel recognized me when we were checking-in and melted when found out I speak German now. We went to the same hotel as two times before, absolutely gorgeous Klammer’s Kärnten. Coming back as a grown-up to the place which I remember from 14 years old felt cool though.

This time I was without our huge squad of skiers that all hotels we have ever stayed at remember for another couple years. It was just me and Ksenia who finally got introduced to the alpine culture. Endless slopes, nets of funiculars, hot chocolate or Aperol Spritzer sitting in the chair catching some sun; people dancing in skiing boots, hot springs and marvelous views. I can imagine how impressed she was! Seeing this for the first time in life wouldn’t leave indifferent even someone who had traveled the world. And I was happy to be her guide.

Bad Hofgastein is one of small towns of the Gastein Valley. We find it the most attractive because of our favorite hotel, but the neighboring villages like Dorfgastein or Sportgastein (slopes only for professionals, be careful when booking!) are no less cozy. If you want more party – chose the town of Bad Gastein. As a beginner Ksenia was sent by skibus to the area of  Angertal, I caught up with her by having snowboarded through the mountain pass from Bad Hofgastein side of the mountain which I then repeated every morning – a decent exercise to start a day with! So she was successfully learning skiing while I was like crazy exploring whole Schlossalm area with no map and brain to later catch up with her in a mountain bar and share impressions. Mountain peaks with strong wind and no people, unexpected black slopes popping up on the way, fear and then pride for having accomplished the descent and grabbing a deserved drink at the bottom – how much I love all that, ahh! I found Angertal quite satisfactory for beginners in comparison with more complicated slopes of Courmayeur where we took my sister earlier this season. So, if you are yet a beginner, be very careful while choosing the area and pay attention to the heights: if it’s less than 1800m then you are risking to observe all the blue slopes at the bottom being covered with grass.

Another good thing about Gastein valley is it’s accessibility. Very few spots can be reached without having to pay 500euros for a taxi. Here you can get by train, from Vienna there is even a straight connection, takes about 4h. So whole trip for us was very easily organized and comfortable. We came back to Vienna with the best impressions, definitely willing to continue exploring the Alps together another season.


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WS14 – abgeschlossen!

1С завершением семестра и началом каникул меня и всех, у кого такое же расписание! Мы отстрелялись! dJSBKg6fbFI (1) Это был тяжкий семестр, много труда и мало времени на лень. Но теперь – вот оно! Хоть я и собираюсь учить язык вторую половину каникул, это для меня все равно, что отдых. Так что можно смело заявить, что после таких каникул к весне я буду свежее тюльпанов. Я сейчас сижу у выхода на посадку и жду объявление своего рейса VIE-LED. Не верится, что я не была в Петербурге почти 2 года и увижу его через пару часов. Сегодня просто идеальный день: почти нет похмелья, солнце светит уже по-весеннему, таможенники шутят со мной по поводу коробки с капкейками у меня в рюкзаке, и даже русские улыбаются в ответ. Надеюсь, полет будет таким же, всем хорошего дня!