Focusing on our forthcoming journey to Morocco

Djemaa el Fna

…Stepping foot on Marrakesh will be a first one for us, since it will mark our initial footsteps on the African continent. Celebrations of this fact will have to be put on hold though, as we’ll have to find a way to our hotel near Jemaa el Fnaa square. Bus 19 is the cheapest option at a cost of 30 MAD per person (here’s a helpful map of the route, that someone uploaded), while a petit taxi that would probably cost 70 MAD (+50%) is the convenient alternative. Since we are arriving rather late, we won’t have much time at our disposal and our tendency to explore will have to be confined within the limits of the central plaza. Furthermore, we are leaving for a short excursion outside Marrakesh early in the morning, therefore we should definitely get some rest (Since these excursions are following a rather strict schedule, there is nothing to plan, so we’ll omit the details regarding that part of the trip. We’ll gladly share our thoughts and experience once we return though).

800px-Souks_Marrakech_098.JPG

Once we are back to Marrakesh, we are having a full day in our hands, in order to do some exploration taking advantage of the fact that we are staying at such a central location. For this trip Morocco is Catherine’s eagerly anticipated destination (mine is Portugal if anyone cares) and we’ll try to make the best of it during the few days spent there. Our exploration of Marrakesh will be centered around Jemaa el Fna and the nearby souks, the city spot where everything takes place and we are bound to make a circular route centered on this plaza.
El Badi Palace from Wall 2011

Our first visit will be on the El Badi palace ruins, which will cost a mere 20MAD entrance fee and will offer us the chance to maybe spend a couple of hours admiring the ruins of this 16th century Saadian palace. It seems that the place may be a bit deserted, while some storks are taking advantage of it, nesting and that might provide us with some decent photos.

 Maroc Marrakech Saadiens Luc Viatour 2

Our next stop will be the nearby Saadian tombs (1 euro entrance fee) where we’ll try and enjoy a small visit (word has it that the place can get discouragingly crowdy), before carrying on our tour to Bab Agnaou, one of the nearly twenty gates to the city, which was built in the 12th century and getting a closer view at Koutoubia mosque (as close as non Muslims can approach that is).
Carpets in Marrakech

Later, we are moving north of Jemaa el fna, towards Bahia palace (1euro fee), where we’ll have a look at the complex of gardens, courtyards and houses that a 19th century Grand Vizier had built. The compound seems that will provide us with a taste of a blend between Moroccan and Islamic architecture and possibly with some unforgettable memories, yet not so great as the ones we are expecting from the next site we intend to visit, which is …
Majorelle Garden

…Majorelle garden, a villa and garden built by French painter Jacques Majorelle in the 20’s, who seems to have constructed quite a home for himself. He has produced such a great performance on this labor, that the predominant shade of cobalt blue that is dominant throughout the place is called after him. Anyways, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge bought the place in the 80’s and Saint-Laurent’s ashes were scattered in the garden (I guess we’ll have to take care of our looks, no one wants the ghost of a fashion designer haunting him or her), while there are plans to establish a museum dedicated to the designer’s life and work on this spot in September. So, we’ll have a walk around the place (map) and keep up with our visit in the city returning to the central square, eager to experience everything we can get our minds onto during our stay in the city, before eventually getting back to Spain for the last leg of our trip.

(It is evident that we do not own any of the photos on this post, they are all originating from wikipedia. We’ll post our own once we return from our trip)

Advertisements

Dealing with our brief passing through Madrid (How do you spend time on a buffer zone?)

madrid-attractions.jpg

The Spanish capital is bound to be nothing more than some sort of buffer zone during our trip, nevertheless, we’ll do our best to make the most out of our short stay there. As mentioned on our previous post, we are departing Lisbon on an overnight train, that arrives at Madrid in the morning, beginning our short exploration of the place, which must come to an end in the evening, as we’ll be boarding a flight to Morocco. That leaves us with a few hours (almost half a day to be exact) at our disposal, meaning that we have to be very picky regarding our whereabouts, while at the same time we must take into account the toll fatigue will demand after our overnight trip from Portugal and the tiredness that will add up, as we’ll be strolling through the Castillian streets, lingering on the city’s attractions.

Templo_de_Debod_in_Madrid.jpg

Our first view of Madrid will be Chamartin train station (Los domingos por la tarde,
caminando a Chamartín, las mocitas madrileñas, van alegres y risueñas porque hoy juega su Madrid, as the Madrid lyrics go) and we’ll use the metro (dark blue line) to get towards the direction of puerta del sur and get off  at Plaza d’ Espana (metro map). What lies near there are the ruins of Debod temple, an Egyptian temple that originally stood in Egypt, however the construction of the Aswan dam in the sixties, threatened the integrity of many archaeological treasures and the Spanish government offered great service to the Egyptians in helping rescuing the country’s legacy, so as a reward for their efforts the Spanish were given this temple, which was dismantled brick by brick and re-erected in the Spanish capital. We’ll make an attempt to visit, but it seems that the interior is off limits since the 27th of May, until further notice, while the whole place is shut on Mondays, so, if we visit, we’ll limit ourselves to outside views.

Royal.Palace.Madrid.original.1884.jpg

The next thing on our list is the Royal palace, where we’ll probably enjoy some tea with Queen Sophia, as the old gall is supposed to be of Greek origin (actually her family is Danish) and the old hag will definitely be very happy to see some folks from the old country (she should be though, as the Greek people were obliged to endow her with lots and lots of money in the 60’s, in order for her to marry the Spanish king Juan Carlos. We’ll probably avoid paying the 11 euro entry fee though, limiting our view of the 18th century building to outside views, before getting on with our stroll to the nearby Plaza Mayor, where we’ll spend some more time sightseeing until we move on to another famous Spanish plaza.

sol-madrid_xoptimizadax--620x349.jpg

Puerta del Sol seems to be more interesting than Plaza Mayor, as you can find more  intriguing buildings around the place, such as the tower clock, where Spanish tradition seems to call for eating 12 grapes, when the year changes and the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree. Since both places are sure to be rather crowded locations, I guess we’ll have more sights to feast upon, as people can turn a place to a delightful experience or its opposite.

Las_Meninas_01.jpg

Velázquez’s Las Meninas is one of the masterpieces on display at Prado source

Continuing our walk, we’ll encounter Prado museum, which is the place we’ll most likely visit while in Madrid, provided we can maintain some decent level of stamina and mental vigor. The 15 euro fee seems fair, as this building houses one of the most esteemed museums in the world and will enable us to admire works of El Greco, Goya, Velázquez. There’s also a chance for free admission at 18.00, but we can’t make it on time for our flight if we do that, let alone we’ll probably be in a bad shape after roaming the streets for so long and that will prevent us from enjoying the place properly.

Monumento_a_Alfonso_XII_de_España_en_los_Jardines_del_Retiro_-_04.jpg

Not far from Prado lies Buon retiro park, a massive park where we are surely visiting in order to relax and spend some time appreciating this serene place. Finally, we ‘ll make use of the metro to get to Barajas airport, to get there, we’ll take the Red line towards Las Rosas, in order to reach Principe da Vergara station on the purple line (9) towards Paco de Lucia and we get off at Colombia station passing through some more stops (Pinar del Rey, Mar de Cristal, Campo de las Naciones), before reaching T1 terminal and begin our flight to Marrakech.

 

Planning our second day in Portugal – Sintra and the Atlantic shore

In order to get to Sintra, we’ll depart from Rossio train station (we’ll get there using the metro from Cais do Sodre to Rossio or Restaudores) and while there, we are definetely taking advantage of the 434 tourist bus, which will enable us to take a route from the train station, to the National Palace and then up to Pena Palace, the Moors castle and back to the train station. However, we are mostly interested in the Pena palace and Quinta do regaleira, while Monserrate palace and Queluz seem great as well. Furthermore, as we would like to spend some time on the beach and maybe also visit Cabo da Roca, visiting all these sites is truthfully an impossible task to accomplish. Let alone the tickets paid would be an important blow on our budget, while I know for sure that we cannot keep our interest constantly elevated after continuously visiting one site after the other.

Portugal-Sintra-Quinta-da-Regaleira-Palácio-da-Regaleira-7040.jpg

So, we’ll opt for a qualitative approach instead of a quantitative one and that means we must make difficult choices. Pena palace and Quinta da Regaleira seem to be a must see and although we might regret it, we’ll probably draw the line there. Provided everything goes according to plan, we are getting up rather early and hopefully we’ll be done with our tour by noon. Then it’s bus 403 to Cabo da Roca, where we’ll probably spent an hour till the bus returns to take us all the way to Cascais. It seems that this bus runs every half an hour between 11.00 and 18.00 and its route starting from Sintra station, passes through six stops before reaching Azoia chafariz and Campo da Roca stops. After that, the bus continues its journey through Malveira da Sera station to Cascais (detailed schedule and route here). Once there, we may visit Boca do inferno and finally catch a bus back to Lisbon.

1200px-Cascais01.jpg

Or, we might as well skip Cabo da Roca, if we are too tired, and try to visit one of the beaches near the area. We’ve searched for a while and we have come to a small list to choose from and the way we see it, Rio Tejo divides the beaches near Lisbon to Southern and  Northern ones. Since we are visiting Sintra, the beaches up North seem to be the most convenient choice and that’s where we’ll enjoy the Portuguese sea and sun.
This photo of Praia da ursa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Ursa and Praia da Aroeira seem to be some good options near Cabo da Roca. However, although Praia da Ursa seems great, it takes some effort to get there (even if you take the left path, as everyone suggests). Aroeira beach seems to be a challenge to get to as well.

This photo of Adraga Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia da Adraga beach is another option further north, along with Praia das Maçãs – bus 441 gets you there from Sintra – which seems to be the most easily accessible of these beaches. My heart is set to Ursa though, but I can’t drag Catherine into this narrow, steep path.

praia-guincho

Our last choice between Sintra and Cascais is Guinco beach, situated 6km north of Cascais, but it seems it is mostly addressed to surfers and we’ll probably skip this one. Our other options North of Rio Tejo, include Tamariz beach in Estoril, São Pedro beach and Praia do Carcavelos. All of them are too close to Lisbon, so they will probably be very crowded, but they are the most convenient to get to.

tamariz-beach-01

Tamariz seems to be a lovely choice,  as it includes a medieval styled building, constructed in the 19th century and I think it’s where Catherine might enjoy the sea more, as the place is easily accessible and may have warmer waters than the sea north of Cascais. There seem to be lots of places to go and enjoy a snack or a drink as well, so our stay around the place can be a boring comfortable affair.

Carcavelos beach is a 20 minute train ride away from Lisbon and what applies to Tamariz, probably applies here as well. Many options for a snack or some coffee, lots of people (probably more than Tamariz) and some guaranteed quality time on the beach, under the bright sun (pretty much what we can do around home though). I am a bit concerned over the water quality, since this beach is so close to Lisbon, but we won’t let that worry us. Another option is plan B, which we won’t follow probably, since it involves hitting the praias south of Rio Tejo, but, since some research is done, I’ll post these options here:

Beach_Railway_Costa_da_Caparica_03.JPG

Costa da Caparica seems to be a nice option across Lisbon, as it is a more than 30 km long sandy beach, easily accessible by bus or a combination of ferry and bus, while one can make use of a small mini train to reach the more distant sections of this beach.

 
This photo of Borda D’Agua is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Praia Morena is one of these distant sections and i guess you can find a useful guide to the place here, while another interesting place could be Da Cabana do Pescador (the fisherman’s hut). The thing about a 30km beach is that we do have one just in our backyard, (well, not literally, but still, it’s only a ten minute drive there), so we would rather experience something entirely different.

MECO_(Sesimbra)_2.jpg

Praia do Meco is another beach, further south, near Sesimbra, 40 km away from Lisbon (some info can be found here), but the longer the distance, the least becomes the possibility we’ll visit places like this one or Praia do ouro.

N4.PRA1359D.jpg

Finally, Portinho da Arrabida seems to be the prettiest option south of Lisbon, at least according to our standards, but it seems as if it will be a real hassle to get to, since it seems that we’ll have to travel to Setubal first, before finding some means of transport there. I won’t even discuss the option of visiting Praia do Troia, besides, the last time Greeks visited Troia (Troy) things got out of hand and eventually both sides suffered greatly. We won’t go to Praia do Troia, but we’ll bear them a gift instead…

IMG_6828.JPG

Our back yard, guess in Portuguese it would be called Praia do nosso patio posterior

In conclusion, I kind of feel that we are obliged to come to terms with the fact that our time is limited, while our desire to visit many places knows no boundaries. That means that we must lessen our desires and it obviously feels like a bitter defeat since reason suggests that in order to enjoy a country, you must divide the precious time at your disposal wisely. We know for sure that our bodies will be grateful if we don’t push them too hard, yet, our minds might hold a grudge. No matter where we go in Portugal though, we cannot have any regrets, as we’ll enjoy a country that seems to be stunning and is the place I mostly long to discover during this trip (Catherine eagerly anticipates to view Morocco). Still, we will also be having another day to spend in Lisbon, before departing on a night train to Madrid and we’ll make use of that time in order to relax and visit any place we missed during the previous days of our stay.

 

 

Dealing with our forthcoming first taste of Lisbon

Belém_Tower,_Lisbon_(11977319704)

This post is mostly focused on an attempt to make up for being so idle as bloggers over the past month or so. It is some sort of note regarding our trip next month and a way to put the things we plan to do in some sort of order. We are both working long hours, but since I do all of the writing, I’ve been trying desperately and – obviously – with inadequate success, to find some precious time to keep you informed.This photo of Lisbon Oceanarium is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

Anyways, so far we have booked almost everything that was a necessity and our itinerary will start once we land on Lisbon. We do not own any of the pictures in this post, hopefully we’ll get plenty of our own pics, once we are back home, but for now these will have to suffice, don’t get me wrong, they are great, but I prefer the ones Catherine shoots. We’ll be arriving near midnight, so all we can do during our first day is get acquainted with the city’s metro and get all the way to Alameda station and then to Cais do Sodre, where we’ll catch a taxi to our hostel.

monasterio-jeronimos-lisboa.jpg

Image via lisboando.com

After a good (hopefully) night’s rest, we’ll hold onto our freshly started relations with the metro and begin our second day at the Lisbon Oceanarium (Cabo Ruivo or Oriente stations are pretty close) and probably have a closer look at Vasco da Gama bridge while there, before getting acquainted with the man himself, as we are going to pay a visit to Jeronimo’s monastery where he is buried along other prominent Portuguese people, like the poet Luís Vaz de Camões.

PT_AMLSB_LSB_1009631.jpg

While in the area, we are going to visit Padrão dos descobrimentos and the Belem tower, the place that signified the dawn for many of the voyages undertaken by brave sailors of older times and also the place where many would set down their eyes on their homeland for a last time. We may also visit the nearby modern art exhibition of Berardo museum, since these places are all conveniently located cose to each other. That would bring our first leg of our exploration of the city to a break, before venturing forth to the next part, probably after some more rest while we’ll wait for the sun to abate its aggression.

Convento_de_Lisboa_(Carmo).jpg

For our second part of our first attempts to get familiar with Lisbon, we may climb to Sao Jorge castle and visit the Cathedral and the ruins of the Convento da ordem do Carmo. This church is a remainder of the 1755 earthquake that destroyed the city and the spark that ignited the creation of some philosophical and literary works, among them Voltaire’s Candide and DeSade’s Justine, a mockery of Leibnitz’s view that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Next we will be visiting Bertrand, the oldest bookstore in Europe, where I intent to buy a couple of books in Portuguese (maybe Os Lusiadas or the anarchist banker or both, well… I certainly hope Catherine will be able to pull me out of my book infused state of trance once there). Afterwards, we’ll head to Sao Roque church and head to Miraduro Santa Catarina to enjoy the views of the city, before visiting a place to enjoy a beer or two.

ELEVADOR_DE_SANTA_JUSTA_III.jpg

We’ll also ride one of the elevadores, probably the one most convenient for our routes.  Elevador de Santa Justa seems to be the most prominent among them, connecting rua do ouro (gold street?) to largo do carmo (Carmelite square? Large Carmelite?) and would seemingly be a good choice to reach cafe A Brasileira, where we could enjoy some coffee in the company of Fernando Pessoa’s statue. On the other hand elevador da Bica runs between largo Calhariz and Convento de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, while Ascensor da Gloria, connectsR. São Pedro de Alcântara, near S.Roque church to Praça dos Restauradores.

1200px-Cafe_Brasileira_in_Lisbon.jpg

Some things worth seeing are probably the two large bridges connecting both shores of Rio Tejo and the Christ the King statue, as well as the Calluste Gulbenkian museum, but we’ll have to see if time and stamina will be on our side during this effort, since we’ll leave this places on our bucket-list for our last day in Lisbon, alongside any other places we fail to visit during day 2,  since we are planning to spend day 3 near Sintra…

Back to Warsaw – The final day of our Baltic trip

924.JPG

The ten hour bus night ride from Vilnius was a cozy ride, yet we arrived in Warsaw rather tired as we had been sleepless during most of the trip. Once in Warsaw, we grabbed an early cup of coffee and visited the bathroom at the bus station, where we discovered a conveniently located storage area to leave our baggage (heavy with souvenirs, as our hearts were loaded with experiences and images).

879

889

As our flight was scheduled to leave early in the evening, we decided to spent most of our time near the old town center, thus we took the familiar route to the castle. That enabled us to enjoy the place to ourselves as it was almost deserted that early in the morning and we managed to get some clear shots of the buildings that ornament the place. As the streets were empty, we even got a chance to notice some buildings that escaped our attention as the noisy crowd distracted us during our last visit.

895.JPG

This house played an important part during the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, at least that is what I could figure out with my limited knowledge of Polish

894

We also desired to have some breakfast, but it was too early and most shops were closed. I wanted to visit the nearby milk bar, but Catherine wanted to have a healthier option, so we opted to consent to both our wishes. Catherine, amazed as I pigged out, ordering a been soup, cutlet with mashed potatoes and nalesniki and became dissatisfied when the lady that worked at the milk bar, asked her to put off her cigarette, although we were sited alone, outside the place. Her disappointment quickly and reasonably turned to anger as she show the same lady smoking inside the kitchen.

908.JPG910.JPG

909.JPG
What!? It’s just a three course meal, at 9.00… Hasn’t anyone heard of the food pyramid?

Her frustration was appeased quickly though, as we rushed to the nearby To lubie cafe, where she finally had the chance to enjoy her tasty breakfast. It was probably a healthier and better choice than the one I made, but we were both satisfied with what we had tasted.

914.JPG

I admit it, that was a healthier choice

After we had both finished breakfast, we visited the castle, where an exhibition about the common struggle of Poles and Hungarians was held and we were extremely moved by the solidarity that was expressed between these nations. Leaving the castle, we walked the short route back to the main square, where we felt we were in need for some more coffee. We ordered our favorite coffee and we shared a laugh along with the waiter when we were served, as the coffee before us differed greatly from the one we had in mind.

930.JPG

We continued wandering around the old town, taking photos and visiting souvenir shops, until we decided to return to the main bus station and spend some time there before catching a mini bus to Modlin airport. We wandered around aimlessly for quite a while, sad that our trip was coming to an end and feeling very tired. Our boredom was broken by someone who claimed he was some sort of guru, that had traveled to India and that tried to sell me a book he wrote, as I was waiting for Catherine. It was fun at first, talking to the guy and claiming I had no need of his book, because I had already acquired inner peace and stuff, but the guy became a bit pushy, so, sadly, I had to get rid of him. After a while, we took our bus to the airport and spend some time there as well. We couldn’t really enjoy anything over the last hours as we knew we were leaving and that put off our travel mood. Yet, It was such a fun trip and we were already anxiously waiting for the next one.

 

882.JPG

Those two angels, just sitting, seemingly aimlessly as we did, appeared as if they came out of a scene from Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin

884.JPG

870.JPG

871.JPG

853.JPG

900.JPG

928.JPG

938.JPG

Regrettably, crappy customer support is spelled Ibis hotels…

namban.jpg

Well, that was a disappointment, but we will certainly not linger on this wasting more time. Long story short, we have taken care of our needs on accommodation regarding our trip in August, with one disappointing exception. While trying to book a room to our much esteemed Ibis hotels, we never got a confirmation and when we asked them for one, we were informed that they had taken care of our request for a cancellation! So far, they haven’t even replied to our e-mails, so we’ll cut our loses and book somewhere else. Needless to say, they will probably never see us again.

IMG_6806.JPG

So, the final form of our itinerary regarding our accommodation shapes as follows:

  • Days 1 to 3 We stay in Lisbon, for a total of 80 euro
  • Day 4, as told in a previous post, we catch a night train to Madrid
  • Day 5, We’ll be staying in Marrakesh, 15   cost
  • Days 6 and 7 we are taking a tour to the Atlas mountains and the desert, an excursion that will amount to 180
  • Days 8 and 9, we were going to stay at an Ibis, at a cost of 72 , but we’ll stay somewhere else for 30
  • Days 10 and 11, were also intended to be spent in an Ibis at Barcelona, instead, after their lousy customer service, we are staying in a hotel at the center for 110

Total cost of accommodation comes to 415 .

IMG_6807.JPG

Apart from that, our plants are happily growing strong and we’ve already tasted our first aubergines, peppers and tomatoes. I’m also making some progress in my Portuguese and I’m currently trying to translate extracts of Fernão Mendes Pinto‘s book Peregrinação. It intrigued me greatly that this man was a traveler at a time when voyages were not as easy as in our time. The stories he shared with his contemporaries seems that were too outrageous for them to believe and his was scorned by them as a fabulist (Liar, liar! Pantaloons on fire!). They even made a joke about his name. You see in Portuguese mentes stands for lie, so they would ask: “Fernão, mentes?” (Fernão, are you lying?) and consequently they would respond: “Minto!” (I am lying) instead of Pinto.

IMG_6809.JPG

Apart from that, Catherine is working all day, while I’m taking advantage of my limited free time to finally begin working on some pet projects. An hour ago, I started studying some ancient Greek texts in order to detect some info regarding ancient physics. There are some more things to be done, regarding our trip, but the hard part is over.

IMG_6810.JPG

IMG_6811.JPG

Trakai – The castle on the lake (followed by a visit to Uzupis republic

717.JPG

Would you believe that this tiny, picturesque town used to be the center of Lithuanian politics for a brief period in the 15th century? At first thought it doesn’t make any sense why the Medieval rulers of the country would spend most of their time in a small village instead of nearby Vilnius, but when you get off the local bus and step on this wondrous place, their motives begin to get visible. It takes a stroll from the bus station to the castle for the history and beauty of the place to unfold before your eyes.

776.JPG

The first thing to notice is the lake. It shapes the place and constitutes its nucleus. It gives the area a tone of relaxation, it actually shouts loudly that this is a place for recreation and that is actually emphasized on the town’s founding myth, according to which after a hunting excursion, Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania discovered a wonderful lake and decided to have a castle built on the spot. Since then, the area’s beauty attracted lots of people and Gediminas’ grandson spent a great amount of his time there, once he became the Grand Duke.

794.JPG

The next thing you notice, is the town’s multicultural identity. We spotted a small Russian church, which although didn’t look much on the outside, was brilliantly and colorfully decorated in its interior. We also spotted a wooden synagogue and a restaurant that was run by Karaites, that specialized in a fish dish, while we also heard that many Poles live in the area. We wanted to have a taste of the Karaite cuisine, but it was too early to have lunch and we approached the town’s main attraction.

691.JPG

The island castle of Trakai, connected to the mainland by a narrow wooden bridge, which was under renovation at the time. The pink-colored, stone structure bonds in harmony with the lake and seems as if something one would see in a dream. The interior doesn’t seem as impressive though, regrettably, it seemed to us as a sloppy tourist trap, since the courtyard was planted with replicas of medieval torture equipment. Still, that could not diminish our adoration of this place.

665.JPG

699.JPG

Charmed of this wonderful corner of the country, we left Trakai to return to Vilnius and spent the rest of the day there until our nightly bus ride to Warsaw. We had already seen most of the places on our list over the past day, so this exploration was going to be a rather casual approach to this city. That laid-back approach started with a rather large pizza accompanied by a bottle of beer. We had visited this great place last evening and it so happened that we got hungry the minute we got past outside its door.

755.JPG

Great choice once more and as we felt regenerated with that tasty break, we advanced for a walk to Bernadinai garden, which seemed pleasantly crowded at the time – we even spotted several people canoeing in the adjacent river. The trees provided a cool shadow from the – incredibly burning considering how north we were – sun rays and we even spotted a mini free library, a box where you could freely take a book and leave one for someone else to enjoy.

778.JPG

Having rested on the park, we advanced once more into my favorite St Anne’s church, but this time we didn’t pay a visit to the site, we decided to have a coffee at a Café situated by the river next to the orthodox cathedral, at the edge of the Republic of Uzupis. The Café was situated on a great spot, as it allowed access to the river, where a swing was set, hanging from a small bridge over the river. It was a huge attraction with girls walking into the shallow water eager to swing and have a cheerful shot taken while sat on it. It made us feel buoyant ourselves. We enjoyed some laughs as the waiter – quite joyful herself happily – tried to serve us our coffee as per our instructions.

784.JPG

I have to say, sometimes I think that we may appear weirdly eccentric to waiters who take our order on these demands of ours to prepare a coffee as per our instructions. It originally began as a need to enjoy this coffee after spending many days without its taste, but it has now become a favorite oddity, as we anxiously await for the way it will be presented to us, or the taste. This time they got close as we were offered espresso, ice cubes and warm milk. Had they shaken cold milk with ice cubes, everything would be great, but we never complain. Besides, we got to have a view at the Uzupis mermaid.

797.JPG

The Uzupis republic is a self-proclaimed republic within Vilnius. This small but lovely neighborhood is the artistic heart of the city and currently celebrates its 20 years of independence.  The neighborhood has its own constitution, which was sooooo awesome! I mean come on! Article 13 proclaims that a cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need! If you think about including cats in a constitution you must be a genius! The constitution is attached on a wall in various languages for everyone to read and although downtown Vilnius is great and laid back, this side of the river is an even more easy going place.

801.JPG

We even spotted a small bookstore, where I bought an English book about Lithuanian pottery and a cute cat sleeping in a box of books outside the store. We walked around the neighborhood for a while and as we were about to leave, we stumbled upon an open kitchen, which featured tastes from all over the world, but sadly, we were too full of pizza to even have a bite. That cheered us even more, before returning back to the old town, where we made a brief stop to rest on the park by the cathedral.

840.JPG

As we began to slowly drag our steps towards the bus station, we also came across a place where Adam Mickiewicz resided for a while, but as our appetite returned, we sat on a place we had spotted during the previous day’s walk and ordered some pancakes. Once more, food in Vilnius proved to be simply great and even though pancakes seem more of a breakfast thing rather than a dinner choice, it was just what we needed at the time. Eventually, we returned to our hostel, where we had left our luggage for the day – we can’t thank the people there enough for that service and reached the bus station.

809.JPG

791.JPG

While on the premises, we chatted with a Lithuanian guy, who described the effects of the introduction of euro in the country’s economy. It was exactly like listening to a Greek describing what happened at the currency’s first steps when introduced. “Bread used to cost 2 (?) litas/ 100 drachmas and then it went to 1 euro (thrice up the price)”. Don’t get me wrong, I am strongly pro euro, but these small things contributed up to a point to the bad economy. While boarding the bus, we had some laughs as the driver faced our old-fashioned Greek I.D. cards with a justified puzzled look (It actually took Catherine a few minutes to board the bus, as our documents are an oddity). Once aboard, we made ourselves comfortable for the overnight trip back to Warsaw, watching movies, sleeping and having coffee. After all it was a ten hour ride…

733.JPG

656.JPG

671.JPG

677.JPG

686.JPG

689.JPG

716.JPG