“I Feel Slovenia” – Long weekend in Ljubljana

That’s a slogan from Slovenia’s tourism industry. I think it’s a very cute play on words, since it is the only country in the world with the word “love” in their name. 🙂

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can you spot the sly cat 😉 ?

For my half term break (yes I love how teachers have so many breaks !! Especially European teachers 😉 ) I decided to pay a visit to the world famous Venice Carnival and as visit Slovenia only because it’s on the way to Venice. However, I quickly fell in love with this small relaxing country full of nature and friendly people.

One big advantage about Slovenia is how compact it is. You can do day trips easily around the country 🙂 however, travelling alone and not trusting my own driving skills, I booked a tour with Roundabout travels, which receives high reviews on Tripadvisor.

I’m sure many people are into skiing in Slovenia’s Julian alps, but I’m here to share with you some other things you can do in the winter as a long weekend getaway.

1. Wander the streets and canal of old town Ljubljana

Ljubljana is very compact and walkable. Its has the name little Prague due to its bridge and canals​:) On Sundays, however, all if not, most of the shops were closed, but not to worry! I walked along the water to find the Sunday antique market along the canal. It had some interesting/weird artifacts ! Everything from accordions to moose traps!

I also hiked up to the castle which luckily is open on Sundays. It is a modest castle, but from the top of the viewing tower, you can look down into old town Ljubljana.

Also, don’t miss the famous Ljubljana dragon! Legend says if a virgin crosses the brdige, it will wiggle it’s tail hehe. 😉

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A cute store not to miss in Ljubljana is call the Smile Store?? I visited the next day evening because it was closed on Sunday. But it has the cutest designer/handmade gifts.

2. Day trip to Lake Bled

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There are two ways to get to Lake Bled by public transport-bus or train. I took the bus which stop right by the lake, saving me a walk from the train station to the lake. Bus schedules can be found here —– Its a very easy trip and the buses even comes with wifi ! Along the way, I got to see countryside scenery on Slovenia. I tried my best to take some photos as we drove by. We passed by quaint looking medical towns that I shall come back to on my next trip 🙂

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Lake Bled is surrounded by resorts and cafes on one side and the further along the lake you walk, it gets more quiet. I decided to hike to the view point Osojinca . One that I had seen from Google and other trip reports. This is a trail near the campsite of the lake. However, because I went in early February, I saw absolutely no one on the trail.  I was feeling a bit unease, but I still hiked up to the first viewpoint. It is quite steep and at some parts, the trail is not super obvious. The view at the top, of course is worth the climb!

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3. Join a group tour

I had so many things I want to see but they are too hard to fit into one day without a car. My best option was to join a group tour. It was a very good deal with winter price rate! For around 55euros, I got a 12hour day tour of Skojan cave, Predjama castle, and Piran. I went with Roundabout travels which had high ratings on TripAdvisor.

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the famous Predjama castle in the rocks

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Slovenia has two main caves- Skojan and Postojna that are both very popular and if you google them, you will find many blogs comparing them. I did my homework, and had a hard time deciding which one to visit since I don’t have time for both. I finally decided on Skojan and I was not disappointed!

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the cave systems lies underneath these hills! this viewpoint is a mere 10min walk from the cave’s ticket booth

Photography is not allowed inside the caves of Skojan, but it was very magical to hear the roaring of the underground river and tumbling waterfall. This cave system features one of the largest caverns in the world. It is simply out of a Lord of the Rings movie.

Piran is a quaint seaside town by the —- sea. It was once part of the Venetian empire thus you can see resemblance of Venice bell towers in Piran. It was fun to walk and get lost in the tiny alleys. Piran is famous for their sea salt. There are spas and salt pools near Piran that you can go relax in 😀 I will be saving those for next time.

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Perfect for a solo trip, I sure have Slovenia high up on my list of travel destinations in Europe 🙂

 

PS. Last but not least, how could I have forgotten the wonderful cat cafe in Ljubljana! They have very special Devon Rex cats at this cafe. It was my first time patting one. Their fur is soooooo soft and they are quite cuddly :3 The cat cafe is located just below the Ljubljana castle! Perfect for a little afternoon tea !DSC_2837DSC_2852

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Wroclaw, a city full of colors and gnomes. 

A week after landing in Warsaw back in September, I was already eager to explore other Polish cities. Despite the numerous advice from colleagues, telling to visit Krakow, I decided I needed to first pay a visit to one of the most colorful cities in Poland. I was looking online at pictures of different Polish cities and this picture stuck out. I thought to myself could this be in Poland? This reminds me of perhaps somewhere in the Netherlands or Belgium. Vibrant colors definitely was not what I had in mind when I thought of Poland, with its conflicting past.

Image from google of Wroclaw

Back in September when the weather was still warm and sunny, I was happily admiring the vibrant colors and also people watching in the market square. I was also very keen on finding the photo spot from the Google image.

I went inside a vegetarian cafe,”Vega”, right by the old town hall, which by the way is delicious and a very affordable price. I  asked the waitress if she knew where the photo was taken. However she said she wasn’t sure. :/

After wondering around the old town, I think I found the spot where the photo was taken 😀 However, because it’s still warm outside, patios and visitors were covering some parts of the buildings, so I decided that I would return to Wroclaw when it’s chilly and sunny:) brrr!

 

And fast-forward to Feburary, I did return to Wroclaw, with a side trip to see the UNESCO wooden church in Swidnica, which I will write about in another post.

The weather was very sunny but also cold ! However there were way fewer people on the streets, and I had the colorful houses all the myself 🙂

Here is my attempt at recreating the Google image that I found.
And now, I will share my two cents on the things you shouldn’t miss when visiting Wroclaw!

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1. Climb climb climb ! Up the church towers!

For the best views of the views of the old town, climb the bell tower of St. Elizabeth. For a small fee (I forgot how much >∆<) and lots of hard work, you are rewarded with super awesome views of the cute buildings down below!

Fu view of old town wroclaw

Adorable!

Houses right out of a fairy tale

Another tower to climb is the tower of St. John the Baptist on Cathedral Island. This will/might give you a view of the sunset and the beautiful canal, which I hopd, but did not see :/ due to early closing times.

Awesome views from St John the Baptist

2. Look down, and spot little gnomes hiding in the city.

For some reason (perhaps I can Wikipedia) Wroclaw is sprinkled with little gnomes hiding in unexpected corners throughout the city. There are apps and maps that you can download or buy that gives you the exact location of each gnome. There’s a gnome riding a pigeon, eating pierogo and even one playing the slot machine 😀 I’m a big fan of gnomes because of one of my favorite childhood book —

See how many gnomes you can collect ! :3

3. Stroll around Cathedral Island and the romantic ‘most Tumski’ bridge full of love locks.

Don’t be like me and rush into buying a lock from the first lock vendor you see. The further along I walked, the cheaper the prices got !!

I was alone, but I think with your honey here, it’s going to be very romantic ❤

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our love lock hehe

4. Visit  cute independent stores.

I really like this bookstore hiding the alley behind the town hall. It has a hipster feeling to it and tastefully decorated and so serve as a cafe.  I bought a classic Polish children’s book on world maps. 🙂 I will need to learn more Polish to understand it, but the reason I bought the book was because it listed Taiwan as a country !! Woohoo ! Being a Taiwanese-Canadian, those are the small things I become to appreciate:D

Those are my thoughts on the beautiful city of Wroclaw. If you have another other suggestions please let me know !

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I’m hoping to visit Poznan next as I read that it’s also very beautiful ❤

 Santorini, the island of blue domes and cats 

Finally I made it to the half term break at school 🙂 yayyy  I had long ago been planning to travel to somewhere warm and sunny for this Oct/Nov break and I was debating between southern Spain and Greece.

I went with Greece because my parents, who were visiting me from Vancouver, really would like to see the famous blue dome churches of Santorini 🙂
Late October/ early November seemed like a perfect time to visit Greece. We had zero days of rain the whole week while we were in Greece. I know that we were just super lucky… But we also had umbrellas with us in case it rained. Compare to the summer heat and gigantic tour groups, a little gamble with the weather forecast was well worth it.


Our first stop was the famed blue dome churches of Santorini. I would highly recommend booking accommodation in the lovely Oia town. Not only do we get to see it early in the morning with no crowds, but we were also able to pop back to our Airbnb for a quick afternoon nap 🙂

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We did a day trip to Fira, the biggest town on Santorini. I would say the difference in scenery would be that in Fira, one would focus on the views of the Aegean Sea and it’s volcanic cliff walls; where as in Oia, one would focus more on its iconic white buildings with the sea as it’s background.

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I researched various blog posts about taking the classic postcard shot of looking down at the blue dome churches, and here’s my take on the tips:) —

1. This shot is taken from the steps to the right of the main church in Oia. As you walk down the little pathway away from the main road, you will see this classic view.


2. This shot is taken in between the town of Fira heading into the direction of Oia. It took us a long time to find this place and we ended up walking too far 😦 To avoid being like us, here are directions for you: Starting from the main bus station in Fira, walk upwards towards the big white church, then walk along the seawall in the direction of the cable cars. If you would like to ask for directions, as locals for the location of the restaurant “Mama Thira” or the hotel “Santorini Palace” The staff inside will show you the way. It is actually located in a very unimpressive parking lot/ yard looking thing. :0 Can’t believe so many photos are taken here.


The busiest time in Oia is in the late afternoon. This is when the sun shines onto the white alleys of the village and everything becomes a warm golden colour.

 

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sunset over the Aegean Sea

 

 

 

If you are lucky, you may have free feline models pose for you, along with the white washed walls of Santorini and the Aegean sea. 😉 The chill and lazy nature of cats really suits this place well ❤

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Chopin in the Park

Every summer from May to September, the Łazienki Park (pronounced something like ‘whyjenki’) offers free piano concerts by the Chopin statue. I was very lucky and caught the last concert of the season before Warsaw gets too cold to sit outside for an hour.

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Chopin statue

This is apparently the biggest Chopin statue until China decided to build another slightly taller Chopin in 2007. But of course, I think this one is the legit one 🙂 It was destroyed in WWII sadly, but the cast for the statue was kept in a warehouse and a reproduction was able to be made.

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Audience gathering

I was amazed at how quiet the audience was for the entire duration of the recital. Even the little ones sat quietly, enjoying the music (Or playing Pokemon Go..). Such good audience etiquette 🙂 Many couples and families brought lawn chairs and picnic. it reminds me of our summer “Symphony by the Lake” with the Vancouver symphony. The performer was a talented musician who was a close runner up to last year’s Chopin competition.

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Other than the Chopin statue, the park is also home to museums,  palaces, red squirrels, and peacocks  🙂

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I can’t wait till the leaves change colour in the park. I’ll pay another visit soon to photograph Warsaw’s autumn colours 🙂

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Online Yoga

One thing I’m starting to miss a lot (beside the boyfriend) is going to the yoga studio. In Vancouver, the yoga studio is literally 3 minutes from home and I had no excuse not to go! Yoga has been very special to me. I won’t say that it changed my life, but it did make me become connected with myself.

I first started yoga a year and a half ago hoping to distract myself from a sad break up. Instead of being distracted , I realized how strong I can be if I just put my mind to it. After a couple weeks of going two to three times a week, I can lift myself up a teeny tiny bit with just my arms 🙂 and my balancing poses became steadier.

I love how the yoga teachers would always connect the physical practice with the spiritual mind. This whole yoga-vegan-hipster Vancouver vibe is totally up my alley haha. 🙂

Here in Warsaw unfortunately, yoga is not a big scene like Vancouver. They have a couple (3 or 4) yoga studios scattered through out the city, but all a 40min  bus rides from me 😦

I tried looking online for videos and yoga teachers. Recently, I’ve start using this fitness and health site called “Grokker“. It had different series of yoga, fitness and cooking videos, all categorized by length and level. So far I have only done two videos from the site and I quite like the yoga teacher I was watching 🙂 her pace is not too fast and she leaves plenty of down time at the end.

I shall update later on how this site is working out for me 🙂

If you’re a yoga lover in Warsaw, please let me know where you do yoga ! Namaste 🙂 ❤

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Opening of the Travelling Cat’s Journal

It’s been exactly three weeks since I’ve landed in Warsaw. I have never stayed in the same European city for this long before. I was very excited when I received my first mail in the mailbox, and inside my very first Polish bank card! It’s all becoming real now!! I am officially not a tourist!

I am not very good at this whole blogging thing, so I am going to list down all the impressive things that I have accomplished in the short span of three weeks:)

 

  • caught a giant spider in the apartment and safely released it back to the wild
  • discovered where to buy tofu and seaweed!
  • shopped at the local bazaar ; communicated by pointing at the grocery adding smiling and nodding.
  • somehow started a fan club for Miss Yu which consists mostly of Chinese kids. 😉 oh what can I do, they love me!
  • Taught a  400 kids choir without losing my voice and patience !
  • Sat on the train for 8 hours for a “day trip” to a not so near-by town
  • Sang for 2 hours in a Polish choir, with Czech texts (but then decided it was too unbearable and then quit)
  • has decided to pick up the harp 🙂 lessons starts next week !
  • Went to a Warsaw social meetup event alone, and was (hopefully) not too awkward !
  • Has made music classes at the school slightly more fun than last year 🙂

 

Hello Warsaw, you’re not too bad at all 🙂

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