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Top 5 things to do in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw may not be your typical ‘beautiful city’ as some other Central European capitals are famous for, but if you give it a chance and are prepared to explore its…

Warsaw may not be your typical ‘beautiful city’ as some other Central European capitals are famous for, but if you give it a chance and are prepared to explore its inner beauty, you will realise it’s a city full of energy. Ninety percent of the city was destroyed during WW2, and the Warsaw you will see today is still a result of the vast damage it suffered during the war, especially after the reconstruction and remodelling of its architecture. Even the famous ‘Old Town’ is actually fairly ‘new’ as it’s only about 40 years old, but due to its amazing reconstruction it has reserved a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Warsaw also provides a great twin centre holiday with Krakow, giving you the chance to really see the best of Poland.

Everybody asks me how many days are enough for Warsaw, and two are probably enough if you want to see the major attractions and places of importance in the city, but note that the longer you stay the more you will discover and fall in love with. No matter what, Warsaw today represents a vibrant and cultural city that definitely deserves a visit during your journey through Poland, because its finer features do eventually stand out.

So let’s start. Top 5 recommended things to do in Warsaw include;

DISCOVER THE OLD TOWN

This is the best place to begin your sightseeing in Warsaw, simply because this is the oldest historic district of the city and the location of Warsaw’s most important landmarks. At the entrance of the Old Town you will discover the Royal Castle, where I definitely recommend you a visit as you will learn a lot about the history of Warsaw’s Old Town. The palace used to be an official residence of Polish monarchs, which after WW2 was totally demolished, today stands as a red brick building serving as a museum after the reconstructed interiors were finished in 1984. I recommend you grab a ticket and have a wonder through its impressive interiors at one of Europe’s most important royal residences. (Regular ticket: 22PLN)

Right in front the Royal Castle you can find a 22 meter high column, which is known as the Sigismund III Vasa Column. The column was moved from the previous capital of Poland, Krakow, to today’s capital city Warsaw. During the Warsaw Rising the column was demolished by the Germans but was repaired and placed four meters away from the original place.

Walking further from the Castle Square you will move into the heart of the Old Town Square, which is filled with tourists enjoying the architecture, artists and numerous cafes and restaurants nearby. The Old Town Square is the most famous for the statue of Syrena (Mermaid), which is a symbol for Poland’s capital.

The Old Town is also home to one of Warsaw’s oldest churches, which is St. John’s Cathedral, famous for it’s neo-Gothic pieces of architecture. When heading north you will spot the Barbikan. The Barbikan represents the remaining relics of the historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw, and it is also the border between the Old and New Town.

What surprised me is that sometimes we simply do not pay attention to the details and are only attracted by big things, but if you look deeper, you will find many of Warsaw’s hidden sights in the Old Town and you may even spot some of the original bullet marks caused during WW2.

WARSAW RISING MUSEUM

Without a doubt, this is a MUST visit for anyone who is travelling through Warsaw! Dedicated to the Warsaw Rising of 1944, the museum officially opened its doors in 2004, and very quickly became one of the most popular museums in Poland. For an individual ticket of 14 PLN you can see the hundreds of exhibition items, photographs, films and other educational material. For 2 PLN, you can see a 3D movie titled “The city of ruins” which you should definitely do after visiting the whole museum grounds to have a better understanding of how Warsaw looked after WW2. As soon as you step in the museum the clock goes back to September 1st, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. As you explore the museum, you chronologically go through the stages of the war and see the affects it had on past and present Warsaw. One of my personal highlights was a scale model of the Warsaw sewers which were used for transportation and communication during the Warsaw Rising for the city’s citizens. If your interest is perked by history, I recommend before visiting Warsaw to watch the film titled “Kanal” by the Polish director Andrzej Wajda, as the movie documents the history behind Warsaw’s sewers during the Rising. After viewing the movie, personally my understanding and interest was enhanced whilst visiting the museum. Plan to spend about 3-4 quality hours here.



PALACE OF CULTURE AND SCIENCE

The Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw

The tallest building in Poland, the Palace of Culture and Science, is usually visible from most parts of the city. The palace itself represents a ‘gift from the Soviet people’ and it was commissioned by Stalin himself. The building wasn’t initially accepted by the Polish people, and even today many Poles hate it as they consider it to be a symbol of Soviet domination and refer to it as a “Russian Wedding Cake”. Today it serves as an exhibition centre and office complex, and also offers cinemas, theaters, museums, bookshops, conference halls and more. So you are probably wondering, why should I go there? Well, for the price of 20 PLN and after a lift ride with a lift attendent, you can admire Warsaw’s panoramic view from the viewing platforms situated on 30th floor of the building. If you are interested in learning more about the Palace of Culture and Science, there are numerous travel agencies who give a whole tour of the place.

THE FRYDERYK CHOPIN MUSEUM

The Fryderyk Chopin Museum

Wherever you are in Poland, you won’t escape the name of one of the most famous Poles; Fryderyk Chopin. I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this museum, because to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of classical music. However, my impressions of the museum were really good in the end and here’s why. This is one of the most interactive museums I have ever visited, and as you move through the museum, the technology and features of the museum sparks your interest more and more, which is obviously a positive thing for those who are not much in touch with classical music. You can see many of the autographs, notes, works of art and personal items of Chopin in the museum. From the moment you enter the museum you will learn about the begin’s of Chopin’s life, see where he travelled during his life, and you will finish the route by visiting the big black box which represents his death. And that moment when you sit and listen to his works, accompanied by animated video, and feel like you are in a fairytle, you know this museum is a success. No matter how old you are or what your tastes are, there is something for everyone in the museum! The museum is also very family friendly and it even has a kids play area.

EATING AND SHOPPING

Polish pierogi

As the capital, Warsaw offers a vast variety of not only traditional restaurants but also international cuisine. A must in Poland is to try one of their most famous dishes; Pierogi. These dumplings are prepared in many ways and filled either with meat, cheese, spinach or various other fillings. Before your main meal, try the Polish barszcz which is a vegetable soup, although there are many variants of recipes on offer. If you are not really keen on the most popular Polish drink, vodka, maybe you’ll enjoy having a Tyskie beer to accompany your meal. Try the Zapiecek restaurant for pierogi.

Before you leave Warsaw, a little shopping is in order for some local souvenirs and some traditional Polish arts and crafts. Check the Cepelia store and Desa store, as they offer the biggest collection of traditional souvenirs in the capital, and even amber which Poland is famous for worldwide. When looking for amber, check out some of the designer shops located in the Old Town as they usually have bigger stock on offer and are specialized in selling just amber itself and not souvenirs. And don’t forget to check out this guide to Krakow too!

Have you been to Warsaw? What are your personal favourites? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂



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A guide to Timisoara, Romania

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or…

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or Belgrade (click to read “Belgrade to Timisoara by train“). The name of the city comes from the river Timis that flows to the south of the city and this is the main center of the historical Banat region. It’s a small city and one day is more than enough for exploring it.

SIGHTSEEING

The best way to start sightseeing is by grabbing a map of the tourist attractions at some of the tourist information centers in the city.

Timisoara tourist map

As you can see the map suggests some routes that you can opt for. I suggest you opt for route 3 simply because you will see more attractions. Timisoara is known as the “City of parks” in Romania, so it has a special park route as well. You will most probably start your sightseeing from the Victory Square. From here you can easily visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral which is one of the symbol buildings of the city. It’s also one of the biggest churches in Romania.

the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Interior of the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Victory Square has many buildings in the “1900s style” with great architectural elegance. One of the most notable buildings in the square is the Culture palace which houses the Romanian Opera House. It was devastated by two fires and rebuilt again. The auditorium has 600 seats. Timisoara is actually the only European city that has state theatre in three languages as it also hosts the German State Theatre and the Hungarian State Theatre “Csiky Gergely”.

Culture palace Timisoara

Culture palace

By exploring the city you will notice that street art is an important part of a city’s culture. Timisoara also hosts annual “Graffiti and Street Art International Festival” in September with the aim to represent street art works on great and visible sufraces. For more photos click here.

Timisoara street art

Besides Victory square another important square is Unirii. You can see the Holy Trinity Monument here, in baroque style. The three sides show bas-relief with scenes from the plague epidemics which occurred from 1738-1739.

Unirii square Timisoara

Unirii square

One of the most beautiful buildings is the Baroque palace which dates back to the 18th century. Franz Liszt held a concert in the baroque room of the palace in 1846. The building had various names and functions: it used to be the President’s Palace (18th century), headquarters of the Timis Banat and Serbian Vojvodina Governor and since 1984 it has hosted the Art museum.

Serbian Orthodox Vicarage and Serbian Orthodox Church are another important landmarks of the city. The building of the Serbian Vicarage is under the administration of the Serbian community since 1865 and it hosts an old religious art collection.

Serbian church Timisoara

Interior of a Serbian church

Theresia Bastion which used to be a fortress during the 18th-19th centuries is another interesting landmark.

Theresia Bastion Timisoara

Theresia Bastion

Eat/Drink

The local cuisine is influenced by Hungarian, Serbian, German and Arabic specialties.

There is a great Lebanese restaurant in the Victory square called “Beirut”. Shawarma here is really tasty and cheap! You can spot Hungarian kürtőskalács everywhere and Serbian pljeskavica is also quite popular.

Also, you will find many street stalls selling sandwiches, kebab, french fries etc. with great prices.

I recommend a visit to Bierhaus to enjoy a nice beer. There are more than 50 types of beer available here, so you won’t have a problem picking the right one. If you want to try Romanian beer choose Silva or Timișoreana.

Accommodation

There are not many hostels in Timisoara. I’ve stayed in Downtown Hostel which is located in the Victory Square. The hostel is small but cozy as it has three dorms: one of eight beds with shared bathroom, one double-bed room with private bathroom and one twin room with shared bathroom.

It also has a social room and a chill out balcony. But the best part of this hostel are the staff. Great place to enjoy your stay and I absolutely recommend it.

downtown hostel timisoara

Downtown hostel

Downtown Hostel in Timisoara

The walls of the balcony

If you have visited Timisoara, feel free to leave your suggestions below.

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Timisoara Street Art In Photos

Timisoara street art- Timişoara is the third most populous city in Romania, located in Banat in the western part of the country. The city has many attributes and is known as…

Timisoara street art- Timişoara is the third most populous city in Romania, located in Banat in the western part of the country. The city has many attributes and is known as the “City of lights” and the “City of flowers and parks” which is totally justified.

But Timişoara also hosts annual “Graffiti and Street Art International Festival” in September with the aim to represent street art works on great and visible surfaces.

It’s a nice idea to refresh the urban landscape, even more considering that this is a small city. Take a look at some of the works;

Timisoara street art
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara graffiti
Timisoara street art
Timisoara street art
Timisoara graffiti

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Belgrade to Timisoara by train with “Banat Special”

So you want to go from Belgrade to Timisoara or the opposite direction and are thinking of the best way to do it. At the moment there are no direct…

So you want to go from Belgrade to Timisoara or the opposite direction and are thinking of the best way to do it. At the moment there are no direct lines between two cities, which means that you will have to make a stop in a small town called Vršac.

The best way to do it is by train, which leaves two times a day from Belgrade and from Timisoara. The distance between two cities is about 160 km and the journey will last four hours.

Serbian Railways has a special offer called “Banat Special”, with round trip tickets costing 14 euros. This is great, considering that a round trip ticket by bus between Belgrade and Vršac costs 1365 RSD (11 euros).

*UPDATE* The international train line between Vršac to Timisoara and vice versa, is suspended from August 1st, 2017. 

 If you are going from Belgrade to Timisoara…

Trains to Vršac depart from BEOGRAD DUNAV station (Belgrade Danube station), NOT from the Central Railway station. As already mentioned, there are two daily departures so you have two options; 1) To catch the morning train which leaves at 07:19 and arrives to Vršac at 09:10. Then from Vršac you can catch a train to Timisoara which leaves at 10:18.

2) Or to catch the afternoon one which leaves at 16:20 and arrives to Vršac at 18:09. From 18:40 you can catch a train to Timisoara.

Belgrade Vrsac train

Serbian train operating between Belgrade and Vršac

Belgrade Vrsac train

Interior of a Serbian train

This is a modern train, the only downside is that it stops in almost every village, which makes the journey slower.

 When you arrive to Vršac, the train for Timisoara will be waiting for the passengers. This is a very small train stop and it’s not possible to buy any food or drinks at the station, although there is a kiosk right in front of the main entrance to the station.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Train to Timişoara

This train has less stops so it travels faster through Romanian teritory and its final stop is Timisoara NORD train station.

 If you are going from Timisoara to Belgrade;

You also have two options; 1) Catch the morning train which leaves Timisoara at 06:50 and arrives to Vršac at 08:52. Then catch the train for Belgrade which leaves Vršac at 09:44. 2) And afternoon option: Leaves Timisoara at 15:38 – arrives to Vršac at 17:45. Leaves Vršac at 18:45 – arrives to Belgrade at 20:37.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Romanian train to Timişoara

Romanian train is also quite modern and travels faster as there are no frequent stops, although the heating system didn’t work.

Vrsac Timisoara train

Interior of a Romanian train

Things to remember about Timisoara NORD station:

1) Toilets are locked (at least they were in early morning). Hopefully situation is different during the day.

2)  Don’t buy food at train station. It’s of bad quality and questionable health. So definitely grab something in the city before you arrive to the station.

And of course, always check the actual timetable and ask if there are any works on the railway. However, when buying a ticket you’ll surely be informed about that. You can check the timetable here. Just type (Beograd Dunav – Vršac; Vršac – Timisoara NORD).

 Safe travels!

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#bunk – A chic place to stay in Istanbul

Since the levels and qualities of services can wildly fluctuate in Istanbul, it might be more difficult than usual to find a decent place to stay, being affordable at the…

Since the levels and qualities of services can wildly fluctuate in Istanbul, it might be more difficult than usual to find a decent place to stay, being affordable at the same time. As this was my second stay in Istanbul, I know how truly hard it is to find not only a high quality hostel, but one that is safe and is situated in a good location in the epicenter of the city.

During my search for that ever elusive hostel, #bunk caught my attention primarily because of its beautiful design and chic spirit. I already liked the place before I have even arrived, and actually fell in love with its charm as soon as I stepped through the door. I received such a warm welcome from its friendly staff and immediately was drawn into the hostels cozy atmosphere.

Short Introduction to #bunk

#bunk is owned by an international team of four coming from England, Germany and Turkey. The brand was formed in 2011 and currently consists of two hostels: one in Beyoğlu and the other set to open next month in Taksim.

The owners are openly enthusiastic about their jobs, which can be seen from the fact that they highly value their guests’ feedback and you will probably be asked to fill in a survey during your stay.

Hostel Areas

I have stayed in the superior 4 bed mixed dorm, but the hostel also has standard twin private, deluxe double bed private and superior 4 bed female dorms.

#bunk hostel 4 bed room

4 bed room

The beds are really cozy and comfortable, and the rooms are designed in white minimalist style with the oriental motifs on the ceiling, which were inspired by mosques. The only drawback is that there is not enough space to spread out your luggage, especially if the room is full.

#bunk hostel marble bathroom

Marble bathroom

#bunk has marble bathrooms that look really luxurious for a hostel, a rooftop terrace and a cozy lounge area where you can chat with other guests or enjoy a cup of coffee with a magazine or newspaper.

#bunk free use of desktop computers

At #bunk you get free use of desktop computers

Free breakfast includes cereal, bread, tomatoes, olives, freshly boiled eggs, cheese with of course butter, spreads, coffee and tea.

#bunk free breakfast

Kitchen area

Location

The location is just perfect! Situated in Sahne sokak, just two minutes from the Istiklal street (Istiklal Caddesi) and few steps from the Nevizade street makes #bunk a great base for exploring the city. Taksim square is within 1km from the hostel.

#bunk location

Staff

My favourite thing about this place are actually people working there who are always smiley, friendly and ready to help. Thank you Pauline, Dunya and Muhammet for your kindness!

So again what you get?

   
24h reception/security key card room access
free secure luggage storage marble bathrooms
free wireless internet bunk beds
free use of desktop computers chill out lounge
free breakfast roof terrace
free fluffy towels cafe
hairdryers/straighteners no curfew
air-conditioning in every room etc.

How to Get There

#bunk is located 25km from the Ataturk airport, and 50km from the Sabiha Gökçen airport. The best way to reach Taksim square from both airports is to use HAVATAS coaches that operate regularly.

For more info and schedules you can check their official website or their Booking profile.

If you are looking for a high quality accommodation with moderate price I suggest you check out #bunk. You will spend your time in a trendy and clean environment, surrounded with friendly people!

Disclaimer

I’ve stayed as a guest of #bunk.

© All photos belong to #bunk brand.

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23 Essential Do’s in Istanbul

“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with the same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is…

“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with the same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.” – Edmondo De Amicis

Here’s the pick of 23 essential do’s in Istanbul;

1. Befriend Turkish people and see for yourself why they are famous for their hospitality

Turkish people

Photo: quinn.anya on Flickr under CC

 2. Cross the Bosphorus Bridge

Bosphorus Bridge

Photo: http://www.bariskaradeniz.com/ on Flickr under CC

3. Try Turkish specialties

Iskender kebab

İskender kebab

4. And beer

Turkish beer Efes

Photo: erenemre on Flickr under CC

5. Don’t miss the Asian side, especially the Bağdat Avenue

Bagdat avenue Istanbul

Bağdat Avenue

6. Attend a sport match of one of “The Big Three” teams

Galatasary basketball team

The Big Three teams are Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. And all are based in Istanbul.

7. Ride in dolmuş!

Dolmus Istanbul

Because doing it local style is the way to go!

8. Hang out at Taksim square – the heart of modern Istanbul

Taksim square Istanbul

Taksim means ‘division’ and originally it was the point where the main water lines from the Belgrade Forest were collected and laid to this point. Nowadays, Taksim is a favorite meeting point for locals and a location for organizing public events and social gatherings.

9. Combine Simit and Ayran

simit and ayran

Simit is a popular street food, sold everywhere by street vendors.

 10. Stroll along İstiklal Avenue

Istiklal avenue

Beautiful. Vibrant. Cosmopolitan. Sleepless. Visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day.

11. Get on top of Galata tower for spectacular views

view from Galata tower, istanbul

A place to see all Istanbul.

12. Climb the Kamondo stairs

Kamondo stairs

Photo: ahunziker on Flickr under CC

13. Feed the cats. They rule the city.

Istanbul is a city of cats.

14. Feel the history in Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia interior

Istanbul’s most famous monument.
Oh, and if you want to be cured from all your ailments, don’t forget to stick your finger in a hole of the weeping column.

15. Visit the stunning Blue Mosque and listen to the call to prayer in the cortyard

Blue Mosque

Remove your shoes, put on a headscarf and enjoy the beauty around you.

16. Take a ferry trip to the Asian side.

ferry trip to the asian side

Enjoy the great view!

17. Search for the Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern Istanbul

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love”

18. Try your art of bargaining at the Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Explore, drink lots of tea but don’t get carried away. Note that the Grand Bazaar is a typical tourist trap and everything is overpriced here.

19. Have a cup of Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee) or çay (tea)

Türk kahvesi - Turkish coffee

Check out the tea gardens (çay bahçesis) or coffee houses (kahvehanes).

20. Explore Üsküdar – One of the city’s more conservative suburbs

Uskudar, Istanbul

One of the streets

21. Istanbul is huge, so don’t forget to have a rest

Uskudar. Istanbul

🙂

22. Try tulumba

turkish tulumba

Besides Turkey, this is a popular dessert throughout the Balkans.

23. And if you have some spare time, escape to the Princes’ Islands

Büyükada

Beautiful white homes of Büyükada

All photos are © Eurotribe except where noted. All rights reserved.

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