Gorgeous Persia – Yazd

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna  

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Gorgeous Persia – Tehran

I usually do not believe what media say about Iran, but this time it could not be that far from the truth.

It is a safe country, I did not feel threatened at all at any time. Persian people (do not call them Arabs, they are not Arabs) are very hospitable and friendly, but of course you always have to be alerted, like in any other country.

First of all make sure that you sort out your visa in advance and bring €50 just in case if you have to pay for it. Otherwise you will spend a 2.5 hours waiting in the airport just like us.

Bear in mind traffic in Tehran is ridiculous. There are no rules. It is a huge and busy city. Pollution is quite high, most of the time you cannot see the surrounding mountains.

Iran is undeniably not a poor country. People are wealthy and I did not get a chance to see any poor people, like I did for example in  the USA, funny enough.

We were lucky to have such an amazing hosts like my friend and her mum. They took such a good care of us and the mum cooks the most delicious Persian dishes. I have tried to cook some over the weekend, it was not that bad for the first time. Here is the recipe.

  •  Make sure that you visit one of the restaurants at the base of mountain Darband – it is full of cheap and expensive restaurant, stalls, young people hanging around etc.
  • Markets are always a good idea – try fresh pistachios (heaven), pomegranate, buy some spices, especially saffron, it is an expensive spice and Iran has one of the best.
  • Milad Tower is quite exciting thing to do. You are able to see how enormously large Tehran is.
  • Āsh soup – thick, winter soup. It contains different types of beans, herbs, meat and etc. And, trust me, you want to try it. I forgot the name of the place but I ate it at the oldest restaurant that serves Āsh soup.
  • Valiasr Street – is the longest street in the Middle East, almost 18km long. Good for shopping, and to buy some nuts to take home with you.
  • Make sure that you stuff your face with Iranian bread. It is amazing, especially for breakfast. Add some salty cheese or chocolate spread. I managed to eat 8 of them one morning.
  • Check out the Tehran Times blog, it is a good source for some local art, fashion and etc.

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna  

Helsinki – white nights, Moomin, no cellulite and seagulls all over my food

  • Fafa’s – one of the best french fries I’ve ever eaten.
  • Greenbike –  even though they never have bikes for a rent, they will magically get some if you really need it and trust me you need a bike in Helsinki. It is a must to cycle outside the city as well as around it.
  • Cafe Regatta – bottomless coffee (that I don’t drink anyway), blueberry pies and plus you can buy sausage and roast it yourself over the fire.
  • White nights – if you happen to be in Helsinki in the summer you will experience a 2-3h night.
  • Moomin – this cartoon rocked when I was a kid. I always thought the characters are on crack all the time.
  • Beautiful people, both women and men, plus it is really weird but no one has cellulite. Cellulite free zone?
  • Metal music almost everywhere!

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna  

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Istanbul – on the border of Europe & Asia

Places to see and stuff to do in Istanbul:

  • Hagia Sophia – former Greek Orthodox basilica, then imperial mosque and now museum. Worth queuing up to see. Bear in mind there are some works going on right now inside and outside.
  • Basilica Cistern – one of the largest ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city.
  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque – also knowns as Blue Mosque. It is very impressive from outside. I haven’t been inside since it’s only that much of the building I enjoy seeing a day.
  • Bosphorus tour – take the longer one that takes you to the Black Sea. The last stop is filled with nice restaurant, lots of tourists. You can also hike up to the hill and see an amazing view of the sea.
  • Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar – filled with everything. Expensive and fake stuff. Spices and turkish delights you can actually buy somewhere else cheaper. It is still worth seeing.
  • Setustu Tea Garden – has the best panoramic view and it is located in the far end of Gulhane Park. Order a tea served in traditional way in samovar.
  • Sit on the rocks – by the Kennedy Road opposite Gulhane Park and watch how the group of kids are jumping into the water and being taken by the strong current.
  • Turkish kebab – in bread and with fries inside. Delicious.
  • Take a walk in the evening on Istiklal road – take a picture of the vintage tram and enjoy the busy crowd and hundreds of shops and restaurants open until late.
  • Turkish ice creams –  one of my favourite thing in the world. The ice cream are like cheese, really chewy but they are absolutely delicious.
  • Turkish delights – look like crap but taste amazing.
  • Simit – the Turkish pretzel, sold almost next to every Turkish attraction.
  • Taksim Square – a place to hang around during the evening with all the hippy people and creepy guys looking for girls to chat with and use one of their cheesy pick up lines.

The best Instagram account for pictures of Istanbul – Sefayamak.

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna

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Viva l’Italia – Milano

Milan has a good location as a city; close to the Como Lake, Swiss border, to the sea, to the Alpes. It might not be the most beautiful Italian city but it has its charm.

I won’t be writing too much, but I would like to mention a couple of places to eat and buy some good stuff.

Places to eat:

  • Panarello – for the best cannoncini.
  • Gelateria Solferino – for the best ice creams in town. Make sure to try Fior di Latte flavour
  • Fatto-Bene – delicious burgers made from local products. I am not a big fan of red meat but this one was mouth-watering.

Places to shop:

  • Bivio – vintage store with designer brands.
  • Roberta Borse – for affordable real-leather handbags and wallets, made in italy :).

Enjoy the pictures.

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna

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Viva l’Italia – Como Lake

I could live and die in Como Lake. Absolutely gorgeous.

Green, lake, mountains, close to Swiss border, nice cafes, friendly local people – hmm I think I am in.

I recommend hiking to Volta Lighthouse and after that hiking down to the lake. I guarantee you won’t be able to walk afterwards because of the pain in your calves.

Anyway pictures will speak for themselves.

 

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna

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I ♥ Polska – Zakopane

That will probably be the last post about Poland for a little bit.

A year ago I’ve decided to be a pain in the ass for my dad and join him in the car journey from England to Poland. 982 miles and 19 hours later and I was able to admire beautiful Polish landscape next to the highway… Not as if it was any different from English, Dutch or German landscape… basically looked the same… but it was Poland!!!

Finally: gherkin soup, Krupnik – the most disgusting vodka in the world, friends, familiar toilet seats, my crazy cousins, my never-stop talking grandma, lake in the middle of the town, empty street and soulless bars – yes ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about my hometown – Mogilno.

The very next day, probably still on a alcohol (all those Malibu and milk cocktails mniam mniam), after eating 2 portions of huge schnitzels, potatoes and other Polish delicatessens, I headed off with my partner in crime, Maciek to Zakopane… without a map or satellite navigation.

Zakopane welcomed us with the shit loads of rain. But it didn’t stop us from conquering Gubalowka – the easiest mountain to climb on Earth. Since we didn’t want to pay 18 zloty (around £4) for cable car to the top of the mountain, we have decided to climb it. Unfortunately for us we only had trainers so we had to go back to the flat to get out climbing shoes. We walked 4km and we were already dead. We had to get a bus back and we managed to get to the top. Maciek was out of breath couple of times and I thought that I will have to use my knowledge of first aid. At the top we looked at each other and decided to go back with the cable car and pay 12 zloty. What an idiots we are!!! Anyway, at least we did some “serious” climbing.

Koscielsika Valley was our destination the next day. We have decided to visit Mrozna Cave as well. After 20 minutes climbing up the rocks we finally reached the entrance, where we were greeted by two lovely National Park workers. The route through the cave is 510 metres long. It took us around 30-40 minutes to walk to another end. It’s quite a pleasant walk but I suffer a little bit from claustrophobia and some parts I actually had to crawl. Of course I had to bang my head on the rock, I lost my balance, my head was spinning but hey, fun times…

We were also advised to see the Krakow Ravine, also called Dragon’s Den. The path was extremely rocky but the view was worth the pain in our feet. The 5.5km walk took us to the gorgeus Ornak youth hostel. We topped up our energy level with some soda drinks and chocolate biscuits and head back to the parking, that took us around 50 minutes.

Waking up at 5am is no fun for anyone. Well not if you are about to go and see the most beautiful and magical place in Poland – Morskie Oko. The walk itself is around 2.5h long. Again we have done it in 1.5h. It’s really enjoyable – fresh air, mountain views, forests, rivers, school trips ;). We were really lucky with the weather as well. By the way if you skateboard, I would recommend to sneak the board in and just skateboard the whole way. I was speechless when we finally arrived at Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea). I couldn’t take my eyes of it.

We climbed up to Czarny Staw (Black Lake below Mount Rysy). We didn’t expect the snow to still be there, especially when we were wearing trainers. I ended up having half of my leg inside the snow, but it was all fun. I couldn’t resist and I had to drink the water from the lake. Purity ahhaha!

To summarise:

  • If you ever going to visit Zakopane, which is by the way the most beautiful spot in Poland, you should definitely visit “Czarny Staw” restaurant on Krupowki street. They have the best potato cakes I’ve ever eaten. Served with sour cream and sugar it’s just a heaven for a mouth.
  • Zakopane is a lovely little town surrounded by the Tatra mountains. It has lots of traditional wooden houses, food and of course the dialect adds to the magic of this place.
  • The town is the winter capitol of Poland and we had to see The Great Krokiew, a ski jumping venue… It’s worth seeing it, if it’s not for the sport, then it has to be for the view.
  • Koscieliska Valley is a must see place near Zakopane. Its gorgeous views are filled with breathtaking mountains, forests, rivers etc. Simply just nature and fresh air.
  • Morskie Oko is located close to the border with Slovakia.

Onward and upward,

Tsaritsa Katarzyna

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