“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

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 ❤

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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. 😥 

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

Warsaw post war


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. 

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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 🙂 

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 Berlin 

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 🙂 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! ❤

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 🙂 Selfie time!

 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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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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