Sunday, August 31, 2014

poland highlights - part five

On our last full day in Krakow, while Ebert was at his conference, I decided to see the city on a bike. I booked a 4-hour bike tour with the Cool Tour Company. A bike tour is a great way to see the sights of a city and learn some of its history. Ebert and I went on a bike tour in Munich and now that I've done it twice in different cities I think it's an absolute must when traveling. Not only do you get to see more sights than just walking around, but you're also getting some exercise which means you can indulge in more of the local food and drink without feeling guilty. I don't know about you but when I'm on vacation the last thing I want to think about is how many calories I'm eating.

And when we stopped for a snack, halfway through the bike tour, I was not thinking about calories at all. The local fare we sampled was Zapiekanki, which is traditional Polish street food that is half a baguette oven-baked with a variety of different toppings. I got my zapiekanka with mushrooms and spinach topped with a sour cream type sauce. It was so delicious and after all that biking I had no problem eating the whole thing.

There was a wonderful outdoor market at the square in Kazimierz where they were selling the zapiekanki.

The fruits and vegetables were so colorful. I wanted to sample everything.

Then the tour guide showed us this little alley where the stairwell scene from Schindler's List was filmed.

We rode over to the Krakow Ghetto to see the Ghetto Heroes Square Memorial.

It's a moving memorial that consists of 70 empty bronze chairs representing the thousands of Jews who lost their lives during the Nazi occupation of Krakow.

Then we rode to Schindler's Factory. We didn't go inside, we only saw the outside of the factory. The Ghetto is located in a part of the city that is not easy to get to on foot so I'm really glad I was able to see this section of the city on the bike tour.

On the way back we saw more street art. There are so many other amazing things I saw on the tour but riding a bike and taking pictures don't go well together. That's probably the only downside of a bike tour.

And then we stopped for more history about something but I don't remember what because I was too busy taking a picture of that white building off in the distance. What's so interesting about that building you ask? Well…that's where Ebert's conference was located. We rode by that building twice on the bike tour and each time we did there were people outside on the patio. It turns out that Ebert was on a break at the exact same time that we were riding by…both times. Ebert took a picture within minutes from when I took this picture. How crazy is that? We're too far away to spot each other but we just can't believe that happened.

After the bike tour I met Ebert at his conference and saw this amazing view of Wawel Castle.

But the best part of that last day was having Matt and Natalia come into the city to have dinner with us. We met them at that main market square, then walked to the Old Jewish district and had one last fabulous evening together. It was so great spending time with them again. Also, I loved showing Mike the city. He got a quick tour of everything I had already seen like St. Mary's Basicila during the day…

And St. Mary's Basicila at night.

We put off saying goodbye to these dear friends as long as possible and decided to walk them to the train station. As we chatted and walked through the park we came across a band playing swing music and people dancing under the gazebo. Matt took Natalia in his arms and it was a lovely moment to see these two smiling and dancing.

Then we said goodbye to our friends, not knowing when we'll see them next. It was such a bittersweet ending to a fabulous trip. Ebert and I took our time walking back, we wanted to take in all the beauty and wonder of Krakow at night.

Friends…if you ever have the chance to visit Krakow then you must go. It's such a friendly, affordable, and beautiful city with some much history and amazing sites to see. And lets not forget about the great food and drink. I cannot wait to go back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

i love lucy!

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

In honor of the comedic genius, Lucille Ball, watch some of her funniest moments here. Although my favorite Lucy moment is pictured above. Do you know which episode it's from?

poland highlights - part four

As I already mentioned in part three of my Poland highlights post, I spent my first full day in Krakow just walking around. So this a disclaimer that you are about to see a lot of street photos from that day. But I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.

A view of the gothic Wawel Castle.

Wawel up close.

Krakow's Main Market Square. I should have just stood in the middle and taken a picture of every view of the square, but I didn't. The only side you won't see is the one with the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant. It just doesn't really fit in with this otherwise picturesque view.

St. Mary's Basicila in the square. Those clouds were ominous and were looming overhead all day. I'm really surprised I did not get rained on.

A view of Grodza Street and some of the buildings you'll see along the way to the Main Market Square.

Kolonko No. 6 was a restaurant I had read about in the guidebook. It gets great reviews and is in the Kazimierz neighborhood so I knew I wanted to eat here. And it did not disappoint.

I had a yummy green salad with grilled polenta and paired with a Dry Apple Cider. Ebert and I came here for breakfast on our last morning in Krakow. We sat in the garden patio listening to music from this musician and it was just perfect.

I like this photo because it shows how they still put up posters with glue. These types of advertisements are all over the city.

A cobblestone street.

A street that will take you to the Old Jewish District. Actually the cobblestone street in the picture above will also take you to the Old Jewish District. I discovered that these streets run into each while I was just walking around. Look at the reddish brick building in both pictures to see what I'm talking about. That's the magic of just wondering that I love.

The Old Jewish District of Kazimierz.

The Old Synagogue.

A restaurant in the Old Jewish District with a really cool bike parked outside.

The light at this restaurant.

Another street in Kazimierz.

Street art.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

summer strolls

image via create.your.happy

A few weeks ago I went on a walk with Amy KR and a group of lovely people who had gathered together for one of her summer strolls. As with all things Amy KR does, it was absolutely lovely. It was a perfect summer evening for strolling through the neighborhoods of Chicago. And as we strolled we chatted, stopping along the way as Amy pointed things out to us and then we finished the walk where we began. Afterwards Amy treated those of us who could stay to some ice cream at Jeni's. It was nice getting to meet new people who all come together just to experience something lovely.

But what I realized after this summer stroll is that I need to go strolling more often. So that's what I've been doing. Whenever my mind is stuck I find the best way to unstick it is by getting my body moving. Sometimes grand ideas will emerge during these walks, other times the quiet and peacefulness is all I need. Of course, it's easy to go on these strolls during summer when the weather is gorgeous. I only hope that I'm able to find the motivation to stroll outside when winter comes.

If you're in Chicago this Friday, August 8 at 8:08pm then come join us at The Bean in Millennium Park for the last summer stroll. It'll be a lovely night for some Beckoning of Lovely- it's sure to be magical!

Monday, August 4, 2014

poland highlights - part three

The last part of our trip to Poland was spent in Krakow. It's a beautiful and vibrant city that feels like it's on the verge of a modern, cultural boom. It still has that old European city charm but it's a lot more progressive than I expected. I highly recommend visiting Krakow.

We took a bus from Chrzanow to Krakow arriving at the main train station late in the afternoon, much later then we planned due to some rain and traffic. The bus terminal is located behind the main train station which is attached to a gigantic shopping mall and is very confusing to navigate through for the first time. We had a heck of a time just getting out of the train station. To catch a taxi you have to go to the top level of the mall's parking garage. Weird, right? But since it was raining there was a line of people waiting and, of course, no taxis. So we decided to take a streetcar but we didn't know where to go to catch one. We walked around the mall with our guidebook but still had no idea where to go. We even went back to the train station to ask for directions at an information desk and still couldn't figure out where to go. It turns out that you have to walk all the way through the mall to get outside and then go under a pedestrian bridge to the streetcars. When we finally figured this out we still had no idea where to buy our tickets or how to get on the streetcars. They run in the middle of the road so you have to walk through a lane of traffic to get on. We decided not to risk this, which turned out to be a good thing because we realized later that had we taken the streetcar we would have taken one that was headed in the opposite direction of where we were staying.

When we finally jumped into a taxi we were over an hour late meeting the Airbnb hosts we were renting an apartment from. Ebert and I feel pretty confident about taking public transportation, living in Chicago we take public transit often, but in Krakow we definitely felt like stupid tourists. Typically we would not stress about any of this, we usually like the adventure of getting lost and turned around in a new city, but since we were keeping people waiting for us it made the experience less than enjoyable. Luckily they weren't too annoyed with our tardiness and recommended a great restaurant nearby.

The apartment was located right along the Wisla River in the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz. The neighborhood is becoming a trendy and hip part of Krakow with lots of great restaurants and bars. Our hosts told us to go to the Barka, an old Dutch cargo boat that is now a restaurant. Several other boats turned restaurants line the banks of the Wisla. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy so we couldn't dine on the deck.

After dinner we walked across the bridge and discovered that it was a lovers bridge.

Lovers will lock a lock to the bridge, then throw the key into the river forever locking their love together. It was quite romantic stumbling across this bridge at night with my own love. There was even a bride and groom taking pictures. I knew about this famous lovers bridge but had no idea there are hundreds of them worldwide. Here's an interesting article about how some Parisians feel about these love locks.

The next day while Ebert was at his conference I wondered the city streets- I had no plans this first day I just wanted to see what there was to discover.

I did quite a bit of walking this day and what I came to realize is that Krakow is a very easy city to navigate, once you get out of the train station that is. I would walk down one street and see something off in the distance so then I'd walk down another street and before I realized it I was back where I started. Once I figured out the lay of the city it was so fun and easy to get around.