“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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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can you spot the sly cat ๐Ÿ˜‰ ?

For my half term break (yes I love how teachers have so many breaks !! Especially European teachers ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 canalsโ€‹:) 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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

Link

Winter weather in Warsaw is not very outdoor friendly, unless you’re prepared to wrap yourself up like a snowman before venturing outside. I decided that this gloomy winter weekend is a good time for musuems.

I didn’t have much expectation for the POLIN, Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, as my interests are mostly in the fine arts and not history. However, the winner of ” European Museum of te year  2016″ did not disappoint! 

A mondern and minimalist design building

Ticketing and entrance

I was very impressed by the numerous interactive displays in museum, clearly captioned in both Polish and English. I quite enjoyed the display that lets you create your own Jewish coins with your name spelled out in Hebrew. I wish I can somehow take one home ! 

My name coin

It also had stamping stations for you to take home prints taken from  traditional Jewish designs. 

Printing station in POLIN

The museum follows the timeline of Jewish history in Poland since the first arrival in 10th Century, up to the dark times of Holohaust. I found it extremely heavy and sad to walk through the WWII section of the museum. I think the museum did a very good job of bringing visitors back in time to the 1940s through many personal quotes as well as old photos. 

I did not know that Poland had the highest number by far of Holocaust victims. I also learned that thousands were killed in the gas chambers while being told that they were given a chance to shower. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ 

The museum had on snippets of personal stories which really makes me able to connect and trying to picture myself in their shoes. 

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In addition to the Holocaust section, the museum also features a replica of a sysnongue alter which is beautiful decorated, as well as a replica of a typical Jewish street and village scene. 

Street scene

Wooden synagogues of Poland


The gift shop also carries a nice selection of books and artsy souvenirs which I didn’t see in the old town. I bought a famous children’s book written by a Polish Jewish writer which I will be reading soon ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Adorable childrens books in the gift shop


I highly recommend the POLIN musuem as it gave me a more in-depth look at my new city that I’m temporally calling home. 

Exploring Berlinย 

Since all my school christmas concerts are done, I thought I could do a overnight trip pre-Christmas weekend. Yes it was tiring, flying early Saturday morning, and coming back Sunday evening, but I did get a good deal of sightseeing done !

Berlin might not be the most beautiful city in Germany, but it is packed of history. I tried to imagine how it would be, only a couple decades back, being separated from my loved ones by a stupid wall. Nowadays, the ‘East Side Gallery’ part of the wall serve as a creative outlet for artists and this is also the location of the famous “Kiss” between Soviet Union and Germany.  It was packed with loads of tourist and tour busses. But I did manage to take a photo ๐Ÿ™‚ 20161217_102148_batch

I also managed to visit two Christmas markets. Definitely more colorful than the Polish ones. Well, I might be biased because I have a thing for Nutcrackers and little handpainted houses, and Germany is known for that :). German’s Christmas are also complete with merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheel. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the number of booths selling trinkets and souvenirs. They seemed quite tacky and touristy.

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The famous Christmas shop at Alexanderplatz market

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I rode on later on in Rome, and I was far from merry after the ride. I got very nauseated. >~<

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In the German Christmas markets, you can leave a deposit for a Christmas market mug. If you decide to keep the cup, then you don’t get your 2euro deposit back. Each market has their own designs every year! How cute and environmental friendly! โค

My christmas market doodles


The most famous Christmas in Berlin is called Gendarmenmarkt. It’s very famous because of it’s location amidst all the important buildings. However, I did not enjoy it as much as the market at Alexanderplatz. It was EXTREMELY crowded to the point that I can not walk and was stuck in a giant people blob:( and I am a tiny little person.. definitely not fun. However, it is still a nice market in a beautiful setting.

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I had  made a reservation to visit the Parliament buildings and their glass dome, Bundestag, a few days before arrival in Berlin. It was very impressive how the modern-designed dome merged flawlessly with the 19th century parliament building.

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The dome uses solar panels and mirrors to power the building. Directly beneath the dome lies the blues seats of where meetings would take place. The see-through glass of the dome represents how the government should work in Germany- transparent and open.

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In addition to the big glass windows at the Bundestag, I also liked the design of the Berlin train station. It was warmly decorated with Christmas lights, which is interesting to see alongside it’s modern architectural designs.

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Other things that are fun to do in Berlin include the Naturkundemuseum, or Natural History museum, home to the world’s largest assembled T-rex bones!! It also features a creepy/cool room with thousands of jars of creatures.

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And lastly, the funny looking Berlin bears that are around the city ๐Ÿ™‚ Selfie time!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ย bus rides from me ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re a yoga lover in Warsaw, please let me know where you do yoga ! Namaste ๐Ÿ™‚ โค

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A taste of Warsaw’s Old Town

Last Saturday, I decided it’s high time I be a real tourist and get to know Warsaw better! It’s pretty awesome that the city offers free walking tours! Apparently, this company has been around for ten years now, and surviving solely on donations and tips they received at the end of the tour.

Here’s their website

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The tour started at the famous King Sigismund’s column, which as our tour guide said, was one of the worst kings in the history of Poland! He apparently started the conflicts between Russia and Poland, was very ill-tempered and a dedicated Catholic who ย worshiped the Bishop and brought on corruption. How very strange to have a giant column of a bad king hmmm.. Our guide said the only good thing this king did was moving the capital from Krakow to Warsaw haha..

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We walked to the main square and also the palace which was just close by. Everything in Old Town is all very close to each other. In fact, you can walkย all around Old Town inย 30min. I was kind of disappointed that most of the stores are and not cute little hipster stores.

In the main square, was the mermaid statue , the guardian of Warsaw. There’s a story having to do with how it came to be. But because I am so short and our tour group was so large, I was all the way at the back and could not hear a thing… >__< ย  I think the story goes something like this: a brave guy saved the mermaid who has a pretty singing voice, and now she’s the protector of Warsaw. Also, the guy’s name was “War” and the mermaid’s name was “Saw” and their names became “Warsaw” :p

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Warsaw Mermaid

During the tour I decide to not be shy and I started a conversation with this other Asian guy walking beside me. Turns out he’s from Malaysia and I happily told him that one of my very good friends is from Malay ๐Ÿ™‚ we chatted for the rest of the tour. Yea, I guess with the right company, it’s more fun to sight see with a buddy.
He doesn’t like to take photos every 3 seconds, unlike me. This reminds me of my guy back home hehe ๐Ÿ™‚ โค He only takes photos of me, his cat and mango smoothies. :p Makes me miss him.

We walked by Madam Currie’s house. She’s the only person in the world record that received two Nobel prizes and first woman to get a drivings license ๐Ÿ™‚ way cool ! I really enjoyed the story of her told by our guide.

We also walked by the remaining wall of the Jewish ghetto and the atmosphere got more solemn as she described the conditions they lived in and how they were shipped to the killing gas chambers 100km from Warsaw. I can still remember clearly in my mind, my Grade 10 social studies class on World War II and Hitler. Our teacher warned us that the video he’s showing us is quite graphic. I can never forgot the scene of how the German soldiers threw thousands of dead bodies into a big hole. The bodies were all extremely skinny and all naked. This is such a heavy part of human history. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I’m also very impressed at the resiliency of the Polish people. Their Old Town Warsaw was destroyed 95percent, and yet the buildings were rebuilt from ground up and looks very authentic. It is now part of the UNESCO heritage site because of their great architectural skills !

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When you visit, be sure to climb up the hundred something stairs up the viewing terrace by St. Anne’s at sunset ๐Ÿ™‚ The best view over Warsaw’s magical old town.

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Warsaw Mermaid

Perfect light from the viewing terrace

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, soย I am going to list down all the impressive things that I have accomplishedย 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ oh what can I do, they love me!
  • Taught a ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ lessons starts next week !
  • Went to a Warsaw social meetup event alone, and was (hopefully) not tooย awkward !
  • Has made music classes at the school slightly more fun than last year ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Hello Warsaw, you’re not too bad at all ๐Ÿ™‚

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