Monday, 25 August 2014

Greetings from Zakopane!

I did promise more pics of Northumberland [and they are coming! but in the mean-time, I thought I would briefly update you on my time in Poland - I'm going to sum up each day in a small paragraph or less, no overtly detailed travelogues here!]

 I arrived very late on Sunday, got lost around the bus station, wandered around for a bit like a loon, until I gave in and got a taxi. Turns out my hostel was only about 10 mins walk away, but I never would have found it, given my lack of proper directions. The hostel was a bit strange - it didn't have any curtains, nor did it have locks on the shower. I kept expecting people to barge in and catching getting dressed or washing myself, but fortunately they didn't.

No curtains?

 On Monday, I just walked about, getting the lay of the land, and actually went to the cinema, and saw the film Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson [it was a bit of a ridiculous film if I'm honest, but nonetheless entertaining]. I like going to the cinema in foreign countries, I find it infinitely more enjoyable than going in the UK, as foreign cinemas tend to be a lot smaller and people tend to be better behaved in them. I spent the evening chatting to American and Canadian travellers in the hostel common room. The Canadian asserted that he wasn't 'travelling, he was living'; which was a statement I found both amusing and inspiring.

A small cinema full of well-behaved people.

On Tuesday, I did a free city walking tour around Krakow [always a great way to meet fellow travellers]. The tour was very interesting, consisting of lots of local knowledge and local legends about dragons/ people dying by arrows. I met a boy from The Netherlands, and an Australian guy and we grabbed Western food in a cafe clearly aimed at the likes of us. In the evening I met the boy from the Netherlands in A polish jazz bar [Polish jazz is very good, the language meshes well with the music] and then he introduced me to more people from the Netherlands, who partied very hard indeed!

I promise the walking tour was fun, I don't know why these people look bored...

On Wednesday I was slightly the worse for wear, but I was due in Zakopane [ a famous ski resort in the winter months] so I took a bus directly there from Krakow. I spent the afternoon recovering from the night before [oh dear!] by napping, and then I went for a walk that seemed to go on for hours and involved lots of scary dogs barking at me!

My Zakopane hostel - a good place to recover!

On Thursday, I headed up to a local campsite, which was about 5km from the town of Zakopane. I ended up getting drenched, walking in the rain the entire way. When I arrived, a very concerned looking owner of the campsite berated me for not having a coat, and she kindly leant me her umbella.
In the afternoon, I headed back into town, this time via a scary looking bus that seemed more like a mini-van. Once in town, I explored the town's markets and then took a funicular [love that word] up a mountain [sorry, not sure which mountain!] At the top of the mountain, there were more people hawking their wares, but the views were still lovely.

A beautiful view from the top of the mountain?

On Friday, I visited two museums [one about a dead poet I'd never heard of] and one about family life in the mountains before the communist period. During Friday afternoon I felt a bit lonely, as I hadn't really met any other travellers since Tuesday night, so I decided to go back to Krakow the next day [but I left my suitcase in Zakopane as I still needed somehwere to stay until Aug 27th].

Dead Poet's house...

On Saturday, I took the bus back to Krakow and was so pleased to be there again it almost felt like coming home!. I checked into another hostel [the first time I've ever stayed somewhere without booking in advance -I will definitely do that more in future!] The plan was to meet more travellers, and within five minutes of booking in, I met an Italian guy [I didn't meet any solo female travellers all week - where are you guys?!] and we went out for coffee, at a place I had discovered earlier in the week. The Italian guy and I did another free walking tour, which was similar to the other one, but showed me the more Bohemian areas of Krakow that I hadn't seen before.On the tour I met an Australian couple, who were very concerned for my welfare, but I told them not to worry, and set about doing a mini- pub crawl with the Italian guy in tow. 

The free walking tour taking a break at Krakow's 
beautiful University.

On Sunday morning, I got up having not slept all night [someone was snoring like a buffalo in my dorm] and met two British guys in the common room. Mission of meeting people accomplished, I headed back to Zakopane, and again spent the afternoon napping.

Another good place to nap...technically this place is at a campsite, I just opted for the indoor chalet option...

Today I went to a water park and swam around outside for a bit, and then I did a mini hiking trail in the local Tatra mountains and then I came here [to Zakopane's internet cafe] to fill you in a bit! Phew...even writing that all briefly was an undertaking!

A sign about bears, which I scarily saw on my hike today!

More Polish pics to come - at the end of the trip, I'm just going to do posts with hardly any writing and lots of pictures!

Monday, 18 August 2014

National Trust Working Holiday in Northumberland!

Hello, am currently in the beautiful city of Krakow, acting like it's 1999 and writing this from an Internet cafe. Last week I took part in a National Trust Working holiday, which took place at Cragside, in Northumberland. It was hard work, but good fun [albeit incredibly muddy fun] and I met some interesting people, including a man who had done over 100 working holidays, which just goes to show how addictive some people find them. The group's main task was to clear overgrown paths around a lake, which basically meant chopping down every Rhododendron in sight, and then burning the buggers. We also had to pull reeds out of a lake, because they were threatening to take over, and chop down the odd tree to let more light in [although I must confess I was too much of a wimp to actually fell a tree myself...but I did saw through the odd branch]. Evenings were spent walking round the property like we owned the place [since the visiting public had all gone home] and playing jenga and bop-it [which I was surprisingly good at!]. We even got a day off, where we acted like extreme American tourists by seeing one island [Holy Island] two castles [Lindisfarne and Bamburgh], one seaside resort [Seahouses] and one idyllic village [Craster] in a day. Click to find out more about working holidays!


       Bamburgh castle

Getting ready to go in the lake...with my leader looking on. I have never looked more like my father! I only shared this because I'm committed to honesty on this blog...but I don't think I ever felt less attractive...oh well, it was at least satisyfing clearing the lake!

Yes, Cragside had a Labyrinth, a real one in which two people got properly lost!

And the labyrinth had a wizard in it, which is always good!

It was a bit spooky at night though...

As a side note, you would not believe how much of a struggle it was for me to upload these pictures following Polish instructions...oh the perks of travel! More Cragside pics to come!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

I don't Enjoy Writing About Travel

My title for this blog post might be a little confusing, especially to anyone who knows me. I think most of my friends would assume that since I love reading about other people's adventures, and love travelling, therefore I would also enjoy writing about my own trips. In truth though, I find it incredibly tedious and difficult writing about my own escapades, and that's why I'll probably never be a travel writer. That's not to say that I don't jot down my thoughts when I'm on the road - I do, usually in a private notebook. However, the thoughts I tend to jot down on the road are scatty and unstructured and wouldn't be of much interest to anyone but me. Or they might be interesting to other people if something a bit saucy happened whilst I was travelling, in which case I wouldn't want to share the details anyway.

Another reason I don't like writing about my own travel experiences is because it's incredibly hard not gush if I really like a place, which makes for really boring reading. Conversely, if I don't like a place, it's even harder to be objective, and I don't want to offend people when I'm writing -  I never want it seem like I'm slagging off a country or a particular group of people, because that would not sit well with me. The final reason I don't enjoy travel writing on a personal level is because it calls for a high degree of accuracy - if you misspell a place name or give false information about a place, people tend to get really annoyed, and I'd rather not have to contend with that. I also feel that good travel writing requires a great deal of research, and to me doing research is the least enjoyable part of any kind of writing. which is why this blog consists mainly of opinion pieces like this one, or information about things that I already know something about. I do like learning about new things, and I have done research for articles on this blog, but if I'm honest, I always try to keep the level of research to a minimum, which is why I like novel and play writing best, as you can basically just make things up, and you simply can't do that with travel writing. The reason I'm telling you all this is to say that I won't be posting a proper travel diary on here whilst I'm away, as that simply doesn't sound like fun to me. I will however let you know briefly each week what I'm up to [just not in that much detail] and there will be pictures if any of you like armchair travelling, [though my Mum thinks other people's holiday pictures can be a bit dull] but I promise I will try to keep them interesting....

Au Revoir!