30 August 2013
Today we're off to the Isle of Skye. We're staying in a small wooden cabin in the south of the island and are hoping to unplug from the world and just stare at the horizon. J has prepared a road trip playlist and we have a good supply of burgers and cider.
Have you been to Skye before? Any last minute recommendations?
Picture by super talented Emmanuel Coupe
In the beginning of August we went on a week long holiday to Italy. Even though our plans for the summer were very different, after discovering that Jakub's passport expires in July, we had to drop the idea of a big trip to SE Asia I already started planning (but I'm hoping we will get to do perhaps next year).
After looking at different options of what we could afford on our budget, we decided that Italy was going to be our destination. The choice wasn't obvious, as August is the highest season and Europe is far more expensive than Asia but we were determined to make it work. The fact that I was listening to "Under the Tuscan Sun" audio book on my daily commute to medical school was also a contributing factor.
There are so many things I love about Italy that I could list, but on this trip I realized that what really appeals to me is Italian charm and hospitality. In Polish I would say that to me Italy is swojska, which means homely. We are also big coffee enthusiasts so we were hoping for a relaxing 7 days, featuring great coffee, food wine and gelatos plus some amazing sights. I started my search for accommodation with looking at Tuscan farms and reading about Chanti region. I pictured sitting on a terrace overlooking hills with vineyards, sipping white wine and stargazing.
But then we put the sea as a must-to-see-and-do list and eventually we decided on going to Capri. Again, not an obvious choice for a budget holiday but after extensive search it turned out to work out perfectly for us and that it was everything we could have hoped for. While it would be very easy to go for a luxurious holidays to Capri (funds permitting), my favourite memories of this holiday are those that we could not have paid for: eating home-made pasta and listening to Italian jazz with our hosts Umberto and Ciro, watching the most amazing sunset over Ischia or being taught how to pronounce pistacchio by a random gentleman in Rome.
I'll start off by describing the practicalities of our trip and in a couple posts I'll share more.
FlightsEdinburgh - Roma Ciampino (no-frills airline)
Roma Ciampino -Edinburgh
ItineraryDay 1: in Rome
Day 2: Rome-Napoli (train)
Afternoon in Napoli
Ferry to Capri
Day 2- Day 6 in Capri (4 nights in total)
Day 6: Ferry to Salerno
Day 7: Morning in Salerno
Train to Rome
Afternoon and evening in Rome
Day 8: Flight to Edinburgh
What I lovedWe decided to fly to Rome as it was cheaper than a flight to Naples and we knew we'd need to visit Naples anyway on our way to Capri. We've been to Rome before but never had enough time to explore the city the way we like to do it. We didn't want to see any "big sights" and monuments. We just wanted to feel the city and walk until our legs hurt. I loved the fact that we started and finished our trip in Rome. We stayed in different places and thanks to that we could explore two neighbourhoods.
I loved that we chose Capri as our base by the sea - I've been to on holidays by the Mediterranean sea before, but Capri was just different than anywhere else I've stayed before. I think our experience of Capri was not the usual luxurious one, as we stayed in a tiny pensione in an area of summer houses perched on a cliff near Anacapri. We could still go to Capri in the evening and watch the glamorous crowd, but it was nice to take a wobbly old bus up the windy roads at night, admire the view from the cliffs and then walk down a narrow path to our quiet part of the island.
I loved that Umberto kept calling me bella and when we were leaving our room he would call ciao ragazzi!
I loved stargazing at night and a clear view of Ischia from the terrace where Ciro served us croissants and strong coffee for breakfast.
What I would change
On the 5th day on Capri we took a ferry to Salerno. I'm not sure if it was the city itself or the fact that we loved Capri so much, but Salerno left us with a feeling of a slight disappointment. We had a view of a cargo port from our window, got a little lost on our way to dinner and all the cafeterias we wanted to visit were closed for the summer holidays. It was a convenient transit route back to Rome, but next time I would choose to spend the night in one of the small towns on the Amalfi coast.
The ferry trip to Salerno was a absolutely beautiful though, we went to Positano, then Amalfi and left Capri and the sun behind us with three silhouettes of Faraglioni on the horizon.
21 August 2013
After 5 days of relaxing on a small isand it was time for an adventure. Before 6 AM we were on our way up north to Odda to start our hike to Trolltunga. We had about 350km to drive so we were hoping to arrive there at lunchtime.
First we stopped at a petrol station for a quick breakfast (of waffles with Brunost - Norwegian carmelised brown cheese, very sweet and delicious). We drove through small roads around dark blue lakes, countless tunnels and valleys with beautiful post-glacial landforms. Before going to Norway I read an article in Lonely Planet Traveller, which begain with a statement that "Norway didn't do nature on a small scale". It's certainly true, the scenery was just breath-taking and the landscapes spectacular which made for an interesting drive, even if a bit long.
We stopped for lunch at a small tourist cafe right next to a massive waterfall.
I'm not sure if I mentioned this before but my Mum is a geographer. When we were little we would go to the Polish mountains at least twice a year for hiking holidays and to ski. My Mum would always tell us about the different rock types and explained how glaciers shaped the landscapes. I've never seen a more spectacular post-glacial landscape that on our way to Trolltunga - it's absolutely beautiful. First you climb up a rather steep (and muddy) hill in the forest, and then then path takes you to a large U-shaped valley full of erratics and smallsummer houses. Then the walk is up and down hills, around a couple of small lakes and along a big ribbon lake Ringedalsvatnet.
We walked for what seemed like hours and hours and at around 7PM we decided to pitch our tent and have dinner. At that point I was very tired and cold. I didn't think to take a woolen jumper with me and I was freezing in my GAP hoodie. Then it started to rain. Luckily my friends and my husband took control of the situation, pitched the tent and started cooking dinner. Kathrine's dad has kindly given us instant stew packets (which Kathrine said consisted of reindeer meat mainly), which were delicious. The world started looking a bit friendlier after our stomachs were full but we decided to have an early night before the second part of the hike.
We slept like logs and woke up to a cloudless sunny day. After a quick breakfast of hot dogs and spreads on crispbread we hiked for only another 15 minutes or so and we reached the Trolltunga.
It was a spectacular view but also looked very scary. People took turns at having their picture taken on the tip of the Tongue but I couldn't do it. I couldn't even look when my friends went to have their picture taken, my heart stopped a little when they did.
Our hike back was rather uneventful. We admired the views and got a little sunburnt. We made it to the car at around 5.30PM and then drove back to Oslo with a couple of stops for ice creams and hot dogs.
Was it worth it? I think so. Did I think I wasn't going to make it? Yes.Would I do it again? Maybe...with better clothes and without a drive before and straight after the hike. It was a very memorable experience and yes, I would recommend it. The views are simply spectacular and there are few better picture taking opportunities in this world.
Our trip to Norway this year:
20 August 2013
I love going on holidays to Norway. It's difficult to describe but I feel like we Poles have something in common with Norwegians - not only the Baltic sea but also some mentality. Values and love for our respective countries, families and nature (not forgetting fish and pickles). Or perhaps I'm just biased because my best friend is Norwegian and I share a lot with her therefore I generalise that Poland and Norway have a lot of similarities. Either way it felt good to visit Norway again.
This was our last stop on a crazy journey through London, Stokholm and Tallinn, where we attended our friends' wedding in the end of June. We usually fly to Oslo Torp (a small airport that is really 200km from Oslo, but luckily for us it's closer to our destination in the Southern coast of Norway.), but this time we flew to the main Oslo Gardermoen airport. We had time for a quick (but delicious) dinner with my friend's family and we were off on our way to Oslo Torp to pick up the rest of our party.
We arrived in Lillesand (in the Sørlander region, about 295km south of Oslo) at about 2AM. It wasn't completely dark and it would never be until the end of August, as we found out later. K took us on a boat to her summerhouse and we couldn't wait to go to bed and get some rest (we spent the previous night dancing away at our other friends' wedding in Estonia).
Åkerøya is a small island in one of many archipelagos on the southern Norwegian coast. There is a group of summer houses scattered around a bay and on small islands which can be accessed either by sea or from a small private harbour. It's a small community where people have had summer houses for a long long time but K says that everyone respects their privacy and social gatherings between holiday makers are rather uncommon.
On the first day we slept in and took a boat to the car to drive to Lillesand to go grocery shopping and have ice cream. Lillesand is an 19th century town with a charming harbour and beautiful traditional houses. There's not much sights to see there but the atmosphere is very pleasant. We stocked up on some local produce (shrimps!), Jarlsberg of course, and lots of spreads in tubes (Norwegians love their crisp bread spreads in tubes, you can get pretty much everything as a spread in a tube, even bacon).
The following days would flow slowly: we would have breakfast, then go for a walk around the island, cook dinner, read books, have some wine or gin and tonics and talk until late at night. The water was pretty cold (about 12 C) but we had wetsuits and a couple of times we went snorkelling (navigating between jellyfish) and boys went on a kayaking trip around the island. On rainy days we made waffles and baked some crisp bread using K mum's recipe - it was surprisingly easy and they lasted us until the end of our trip.
Once we went fishing. I have to be honest it wasn't my favourite activity. We took a small motor boat, some shrimp heads and drove a couple of kilometres from the shore. I'm not used to being at sea so I panicked a little bit and frankly I couldn't wait to set foot on solid ground. Everyone assured me it was perfectly safe and I focused on watching the horizon. We didn't have much luck initially but then we suddenly caught 4 cods within about 10 mins. K brought one of her beautiful cooking books just dedicated to seafood and we chose to make fish cakes and fish soup (both rather delicious, although I would probably have chosen to just bake the fish on some sea salt).
After our dinners sea gulls had a feast of fish heads and shrimp shells.
On our last night we had a bonfire with roasted marshmallows and an early night as the next day we were off to the North to hike the Trolltunga. But more about it later. It was a very relaxing 5 days spent in a very good company in a beautiful location. I can definitely say that Åkerøya is one of my favourite places on Earth. I count myself very lucky to be able to go back there ever so often.