Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tbilisi churches, Georgia

Georgian caapital enchanted me with its old churches. There's much more of them in comparison to capital of neighbouring Armenia, they are also very old, but much better maintained. Having panoramic view of the city it's very easy to find their high rooftops.
Visiting few famous places is sufficient for average traveller - there is nothing more to impress you in other places. Still it is worth to take path less travelled and visit one or two churches - they are full of life even midday.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day of the Dead, Mexico

People in Mexico believe that death is a transition from one life to another and communication exists between the living and the dead. Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a mournful commemoration but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes a lively, friendly expression.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autoworld, Burssels, Belgium

Autoworld is a great place to visit in Brussels. Probably it is one of the biggest and the most impressive collections of oldtimers (ca. 1000 vehicles, if I'm not mistaken). The oldest vegicle is dated 1886 and visitor path is designed in chronological way.
Strangly the place is relatively empty, with few tourists and hotheads visiting it. It's a pity, because it is a great museum on tourist map of Brussels and very conveniently located.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

astronomical clock, Prague, Czech Republic

The Prague Orloj is a medival astronomical clock. It is located in the Old Town and is a popular tourist attraction. One can be 100% confident that will find it - just follow people to the most crowded area of the square.
Prague recently became very popular tourist destination and is overcrowded for my taste. It is impossible to walk in the center (especially in the Old Town area and on Carl's Bridge) without being jostled by other people. It's lovely, but visiting it is much more fun in low season.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

booking gorilla tracking, Rwanda

Gorilla tracking is a thing to do in Rwanda.
Very rare mountain gorillas live in area, that is split between Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. Luckily, most of gorillas groups are currently on teritory of Rwanda. Still, there are only 7 groups of them and 8 people per day per group are allowed to visit. This makes permit booking (500 USD per person!) quite challenging.
If you plan visiting Rwanda, don't forget to book at least 3 months in advance. Otherwise you will end up like me, mailing desperately all tour agencies in Kigali, to arrange for me a permit just 3 weeks before the trip.
May thanks to owner of WildlifeTours Rwanda, who made it possible! :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

fancy procedure for leaving Armenia

There is unusual system of fingerprint scanning upon check-in at Yerevan airport. I can imagine, that intention was to fasten and simplify boarding control process while increasing security, but results are disputable… System is frequently out of order, which means that ground staff is checking tickets, passports and scans fingerprints (painfully pushing passengers’ fingers on the reader) - as a result boarding takes over 30 minutes and engages 6 or more people.
Just compare it with Munich airport, where most of passengers go through self-check gate with electronic tickets and one person of ground staff is dealing with others. And boarding takes a couple of minutes…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

classic Petra photo, Jordan

Everone visiting Petra just MUST TAKE this photo - famous Treasury as seen from Siq.
So did I...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

National Museum, London, UK

The most surprising thing about National Museum was number of pupils visiting the place. They have been playing and learning at the same time.
Quite different from what you can see in Polish museums - everyone is expected to be quiet and walk around the place. Cannot imagine schoolchildern sitting on the floor and drawing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ostia Antica, Italy

Coming to Italy I was expecting to see many Roman ruins and I was very disappointed. Forum Romamum was not impressive.
Luckily I visited Ostia Antica - large area, where riuns of first Roman colony were discovered.

Still, if you wish to see impressive Romain ruins, much better places are in Middle East. :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

extending Armenian visa

My e-visa to Armenia had one obvious disadvantage - 21 days validity. My schedule changed and I had to extend it in immigration department. I was lucky to enjoy assistance of local colleague, otherwise I wouldn’t succeed in extending it for several reasons.
First, immigration department has no customer center, which means walking around the office and looking for appropriate room. Of course all information boards are in Armenian. Second, procedure is unclear (even for many department employees), so we visited several rooms asking for guidance. Third, application form is available in English and Armenian, but has to be filled out in Armenian. And now it’s time for a small quiz: what is the percentage of foreigners extending their visas and writing Armenian? Could it be more than 5%? I don’t think so...
Some time ago department had to understand that service designed for foreigners is obviously out of foreigners’ reach, so they appointed English-speaking clerk to support applicants. Of course not free of charge.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pirámide del Sol, Teotihuacán, Mexico

I climbed up to the top of piramide, enjoyed the view and realized, that I'm crazy afraid of walking down. There were no proper trails and stairs are very steep.
Thanks God for a kind Mexican, who volunteered to hold my hand on the way down. :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Japanese challenge, Japan

Simple things can be surprisingly complicated. AC remote controller with manual kept me busy for quite a while.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

luggage ownership proof

Luggage ownership check is a surprising procedure for many foreigners. Passengers need to show luggage sticker - otherwise airport security will not let them exit the airport. I noticed it is a common practice in former Russian federation countries. But is probability of luggage theft really higher than everywhere in the world? I don’t think so…

Monday, August 23, 2010

entering Armenia

I came to Armenia with my online e-visa, not really believing that it will be accepted at passport control desk. I paid for it extra 10USD and duration was only 21 days (instead of regular 120 for visa issued at consulate or at the airport).
There were tens of people in front of passport control. It looked like 2-3 planes arriving at the same time early in the morning (it was around 4:30, I guess). Lane bands were almost useless - people were crowding, squeezing, trying to sneak below bands, just to be first. Foreigners could be easily recognized in the crowd - a bit shocked and surprised every time someone appeared out of nowhere just in front of them in the queue, behaving like being there from the very beginning. One Armenian protested when another Armenian tried to sneak through and after short and emotional exchange of opinions they started to poke each other.
I finally reached passport control and officer started carefully examine my visa and passport. It took longer than in case of other passengers, so I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. But finally he stamped my passport, entered all data into computer and wrote on the piece of paper in front of him: “Poland - 1”. (local statistics seems to be still paper-based :) ). I officially entered Armenia.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

planning your safari in Kenya

Kenya has many National Parks, that are worth visiting while having safari. Very popular routes are taking tourists to parks on the South. Mombasa and Nairobi are considered starting or ending points.
I took it as well and from my experience I strongly recommend starting the trip im Mombasa and visiting Natipnal Parks going West: Tsavo, Amboseli, Nakuru, and finally Masai Mara and Nairobi. Why this way? The truth is that Masai Mara is the most spectacular place. If you start with it, most probably you will be bored or disappointed with all others.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Via Francigena

Via Francigena is one of Europe's longest pilgrimage routes. It's 1610 km long, starting in England and ending in Rome.
Few people are aware, that you can take this route as pilgrimage or just trekking. Thanks to EU funds the route was upgraded and equipped with information boards and marks. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

inside Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Atomium is a huge construction built for EXPO held in Brussels. Nowdays it is interesting spot on a city map. Most of it is accessible for visitors. You will find inside elevator, escalators and stairs. Taking escalators can be compared to entering deepest metro stations in Moscow. Not recommended for people suffering from claustrofobia! :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

safety instructions for safari, Kenya

While entering Tsavo National Park, safety instructions are communicated in a very straightforwad manner. Major rule is: stay in the car. And sometimes it is also better to close windows and roof, as angry animals could try to get some food (meaning you) from the can (meaning car)...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stained-glass windows in castle hill cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

I must admit that first time in my life I saw such a spectacular effect of stained-glass windows. All columns in cathedrals were covered with colorful lights. Dark and serious interior got completly new look and spirit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Budapest by night, Hungary

I arrived to Budapest late in the evening, and already on the way to my hotel I felt in love with it. This city is exceptionally beautiful by night. And for sure is aware of its charm. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding your way in Seoul, South Korea

I suppose, that reaching some places in Seoul without GPS is almost impossible.
First, I realized that all maps in subway ignore completely world directions - matching them with guidebook maps is quite a challenge. And source of serious confusion.
Second, some streets seem not to have names. But they are there. :)
Third, buildings are numbered according to building permit approvals, which means the younger the building, the higher the number. This also means that you will see building 21 close to 150, which doesn’t make sense to most of foreigners. And creates even more confusion.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mount Nebo, Jordan

Mount Nebo was the first and the last place I visited during my long stay in Jordan.
There is something magic there - maybe a view, maybe silence and a wind, maybe mystic atmosphere...?
It's one of places, that I would like to visit once again in my life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Desert safari, Dubai, UAE

Desert safari is a "must-do" when you visit Dubai. Crazy rollercoster drive, great dunes views and relaxing evening with food and music. Plus sleeping on a desert, if you have time.
But I recommend going for a safari with reputable company. It is common to see stupid drivers, who got stuck in sand.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cascade in Yerevan, Armenia

Cascade is a huge monument on the hill in Yerevan. Construction started in 70s and never ended. Few years ago they decided to extend it, but progress seem to rather slow (you can see cranes at the picture). Museum on top of Cascade is expected to open in 2010. But nobody knows how financial crisis will influence the schedule.
Initial purpose of the place was a monument. A big one... Very soviet-style way of expressing greatness of the nation - spent a lot of money for covering the hill with concrete.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kung-fu show in Red Theatre in Beijing, China

"The Legend of Kung Fu" is one of the most popular productions of Red Theatre. It has been recognized the best martial arts dance production in China in 2005. After 4 years performance is still attractive for tourists and local people - hall is almost full every day.

I've been surprised to see during the performance not only martial art and a bit of acrobatics, but also nice choreography (including excellent ballet scene), good scenography, lights and music. Shortly speaking - well done theatre production.
Second surprise was related to age of actors/ performers. There is a group of very young boys showing incredible flexibility, energy, and balance, and excellent kung-fu skills. I suppose they started training at the age of 5 or less. There is even special training center - Beijing Shaolin Martial Arts School - that is focused on this kind of education. Students and graduates of this school participated in Beijing Olympics 2008 opening ceremony.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hi-tech everywhere, South Korea & Japan

Things are sophisticsed in Korea. Even toilet is as intelligent as your smartphone. :)
Similar things in Japan!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hospitality in South Korea

Koreans are surprisingly friendly and helpful while meeting foreigners. People were asking me where I’m going, advising on the best station to get out of the subway and even asking other passengers to look after me as there were getting off before. Surprisingly, most of them couldn’t speak any English, but still were eager to help.
After getting out from subway with a map in my hand, I met even more people willing to direct me to my hotel without being asked. Most of directions was in Korean or completely wrong, so it took me almost one hour to find the place. Thanks everyone for organizing for me a “lovely” walk carrying my luggage. ;)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Seoul subway trap, South Korea

Coming to South Korea I arrived at Incheon international airport and decided to take airport express to Gimpio and than change to subway. Funny part started while I wanted to change. There was no ticket desk, just ticket machines, and I discovered in my wallet only high denomination banknotes. Coins were not enough to buy one. I couldn’t return, as going through gate also required valid ticket. So I found myself trapped. :)
I discovered, that Koreans don’t speak as much English as I expected, so explaining someone to break 5k won was a kind of challenge. Finally one nice guy, not speaking English at all, bought a ticket for me and helped me to settle in train.