Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 - plans vs. reality

Year 2015 was full of exciting adventures. It was also a year when we changed our travel plans more than we usually do. We visited new countries, new places, learnt a lot and had a lot of fun doing what we did.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about our travel plans for 2015. How did we do with it? Which of the places did we actually manage to visit? Here's a quick summary:

1. Spain. We wanted to spend a week in Fuerteventura. We were almost packed ok, just kidding, but we already had a detailed plan of what, when and in which order we wanted to see there, when we found out that our flight back got cancelled. So, sadly, we said bye bye to Fuerteventura and decided to go to... Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. We no longer had any sightseeing in mind, though we still managed to see bits and pieces of the town itself.

2. Germany. We wanted to spend a long weekend in our neghbouring country. First, a night or two in the Tropical Islands and then a few more days in Berlin itself. Yes, we managed to do that. One night in Tropical Islands and two more nights in Berlin meant a lot of fun and a lot of sightseeing. And, on the way back home, we managed to see the Crooked Trees Forest as well!

3. Poland. Our main summer holidays. A hundred per cent successful. We did more than we wanted to do. We visited every single place we planned to visit: Czestochowa, Ojcowski National Park, Terma Bialka, Sokolica, the Three Crowns, Czorsztyn, the castles in Niedzica and Czorsztyn, Homole Gorge, rafting down Dunajec River, and also, on top of that, we managed to see the turn of Bialka (and get in its freakishly cold waters), climb to the top of Wdzar and get back down through the rock gorge, and hop over the border to see Slovakian Red Monastery. On the way back home we discovered the new land of Solilandia, hidden deep below the earth level, in the magnificent Wieliczka Salt Mine. I hope I haven't forgotten about anything.

4. Egypt. We wanted to cruise down the Nile River, see Cairo and spend two-three days at the coast. No, we didn't do that. We got informed a month before our trip that there's no chance for the cruise. That was our second attempt to cruise the Nile. We rebooked our flights and ended up exploring wonderful Thailand. Which was truly amazing. Despite the occassional rain. And despite the smog shadowing the beautiful sun (due to the controlled forest fires in Indonesia! I can't believe people do that :/).

So, all in all, two out of four turned out the way we planned them. The other two were more spontaneous. And it absolutely doesn't mean they were worse! Both Fuerteventura and cruise on the Nile are not cancelled, though. They are postponed.

On top of that, we managed to visit a few more local places, as well. Traditionally, we went to Bliziny to get lost in a corn maze. 

And we finally managed to go to a Railway Museum in Koscierzyna, which we've been meaning to visit for over three years now.

These are some of our adventures of 2015. And how was your 2015?

May 2016 be full of many more travels and adventures. 
Have an amazing year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Christmas celebrations in Poland start tomorrow afternoon/evening. That's when we meet with our families and eat a festive dinner. I wrote a bit more about that last year. And I will probably post a bit more in a few days.

But I'll be staying off the Internet for the next few days, devoting the precious moments to the loved ones. To our families. To just being together and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. 

For now, I would like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas. Spent with the ones you love, so that nobody feels lonely in this family time.

Merry Christmas!

Photo credit: Marta Obiegla

Monday, 21 December 2015

A quest for a Christmas tree

Last Saturday, we brought home a Christmas tree. Ok, not home, cause it's still outside. In our garden. Waiting for the moment to come. For the moment when we take her in. Cause my Christmas tree is always a "she". Not an "it".

This year, instead of buying a Christmas tree in one of many tree stands that open up right before Christmas, we decided to go to the forest and cut the tree for ourselves. Yes, it is illegal. Yes, you can get a fine for doing it. But! Yes, there is a but. Of course ;)

Every year, forestry of Gdańsk chooses different parts of forests where one can go and cut down a Christmas tree. Then you have to pay for it. Prices are lower than in all those stands. And he fun of cutting down your own tree is huge :) It was the first time we've tried it, though I've been meaning to do it for the past three or four years. I finally succeeded.

And now our tree is waiting. Waiting for December 24th. When she will enter our home. Get all dressed up. And celebrate Christmas with us.

How are your Christmas preparations? (Just in case, we cut down two trees altogether. One for us and one for my parents. Arturek waas helping my dad, while Paulinka couldn't decided whether she wanted or not to help her dad ;)).

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Discovering the new land - Solilandia

It's almost Christmas. We're probably all getting busy with Christmas preparations. It's the same with us.

It's warm and cloudy outside. Too warm for December. Over 10 Celsius degrees. Feels more like an early spring than winter ;) We don't expect snow in the near future, either. Which is a shame, cause who doesn't dream "of a white Christmas".

But there's nothing we can do about that. Sadly.

Today, we're not going to be concerned about the weather conditions outside. We will not care if it's raining, snowing or unbearably hot (which it actually was). We're going to direct our steps "a few" metres below the ground level. We're going to visit a salt mine.

Ever since we visited the salt mine in Berchtesgaden in 2012, which we were disappointed with, I've been meaning to visit our Polish salt mine. I heard a lot of good stories about it, a lot of praises, so I wanted to check it out for myself. Since we live at the seaside, meaning the north of the country, and all the important mines are in the south, that meant a huge trip for us. Not a one-day getaway.

But since we were already in the south visiting Pieniny mountains, we could also visit the famous Wieliczka Salt Mine. Right? Right!

I browsed the mine's webpage to look for different options of sightseeing. I wanted the tour to be short enough not to get the kids too bored, but long enough to show us as much of the mine's beauty as possible. And then I came across a perfect tour for us. A special tour for families - Discovering Solilandia. I chose the date and the preferred time and bought the tickets online. It turned out to be a great choice when we saw the long queues. But, as far as I remember, there was no other option for this particular tour anyway.

We took long trousers and some long sleeves, just in case. Everywhere I checked I could ready that it's around 12-13 degrees down there. However, since it was so hot outside, it was around 18-19 degrees in the mine when we visited.

Finally, our guide came to us and immediately started talking with the kids. He took them all to the front and we started going down the stairs. Right until we reached... well, maybe not rock bottom, but it was hundreds of steps to go ;)

In order to enter the mysterious land of Solilandia (Land of salt - to translate the name into English and take off a bit of magic ;)), everyone had to place their hand on a handprint in the wall. And ever since then, the adventure began.

The kids had to look for clues, maps, various objects. Once they found a list of all things they have to find or do (it was the first thing to find), the guide got them acknowledged to all the creatures living in Solilandia. Which was quite a few. We couldn't remember it all. Apart from telling the kids all about Solilandia, the guide was also telling them the story of how the mine was created (Saint Kinga yet again!), what they could see in various parts of the mine, how the miners used to work, what are mine dogs and when the horses stopped being used for mine works. It was all interesting also for adults.

We saw dragons, dragon eggs, we could try some works that the miners were doing, we saw some salt dwarfs (these were not regular dwarfs, but the citizens of Solilandia). Finally, we got to the most famous chapel. I've seen many pictures of it, but I could not imagine it was that huge! You can get married there, if you're looking for a unique place to do that. And, yes, there's also a restaurant close-by (in the mine, next to the chapel) where you can have your wedding reception. Plus, you can spend the night there as well. All in one place :) Anyway, I couldn't believe my eyes. And it was all so beautiful! And made of salt. After all, we're in a salt mine.

Finally, on our way, we saw an old guy in strange robes. Someone in between Gandalf and Dumbledore. That was the ruler of Solilandia. He asked the kids if they found all the things they were supposed to find. Then he read them a passage from a book titled: From a diary of a Wieliczka dwarf. Finally, it was time to get back to the legend about the creation of this particular mine. Do you know it? Do you want to find out? Here it is (after Wikipedia):

There is a legend about Princess Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka mine. The Hungarian noblewoman was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków. As part of her dowry, she asked her father for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros. She threw her engagement ring from Bolesław in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess's ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.

So from all the girls, the old guy chose one and dressed her as Kinga. Then he asked for two strong volunteers. Artur was chosen one of them. They had to dig in a pit to find... something. Artur was the one to find it. It was Kinga's ring (of course) So he had to go on one knee and put the ring on Kinga's finger (as if my little boy was proposing!).

The whole adventure was a lot of fun. Artur got so interested in the mine, that once we got back home, we bought all the books about Solipeople, dwarfs of Wieliczka salt mine. We have already read them all twice (there are three big ones and one small one (short one, though big in size) for smaller kids. About one of the dragons).

We got back to our hotel. Slowly. Without any rush. We knew it was our last day of the trip. Early, very early next morning we got into our car and drove back home. Our home. Which we also love a lot :)

The handprint on the wall

All the various creatures living in Solilandia
Saint Kinga receiving her ring

The famous chapel

Arturek with our dwarf ;)

The old guy ;)

First list of world heritage (two places from Poland here!)

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A perfect way to say goodbye

Last afternoon in Czorsztyn. We accomplished all our goals and even more. We did everything we planned to do in the area and even managed to add a few more. But it was time to say goodbye.

We packed all we already could pack and still have a few hours to spare before the end of the day. We went to get some delicious ice cream. And then, just like when we first visited Czorsztyn, we went to Majerz. To see the shepherd's hut and buy oscypek to take home with us, to run around freely, to see the wonderful sunset over the lake. Just to see, to be, to feel, to enjoy. The place and, most importantly, ourselves.

A perfect way to say goodbye.

The most delicious oscypki in the area can be bought in this shepherd's hut (bacówka) in Czorsztyn!
 The only sheep we saw in Pieniny were these ones. Saying hello to us every morning and goodnight every evening.