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Sunday, 25 June 2017

6 Years In Poland, As An Expat

Dearest hearts,

Sometimes, in life, you don't always get what you want but rather what you need. I'm sure that's God's way of working his mysterious ways, getting all worked up for nothing but rewarding us to our hearts content. I wasn't one of those girls who wanted to go out, see the world; I've always loved my family and family for me was always number 1. It's true, I've always loved to travel and see new places, meet new people and get into all sorts of new situations / experiences. Something new was always exciting, good, even if it scared me. I've always thought that the best way to destroy your fears was by facing them. There was no need to beat behind the Bush, if I knew something was wrong I would say it, if I had a question I would ask it, if I would disagree on an idea I would prove my point as best as I could. It's important to stay strong by your opinions and faith. We should not be like the willow in the wind. Experiencing life abroad, being all by yourself, maintaining your own budget and taking care of the house/apartment by yourself, it's a challenge! A challenge that will make you trust yourself more and develop skills you never thought you had. There might be moments when you would have to survive only on soup or pasta with tomatoes... but you'll make it through! And what's more important: you will learn!
No-one wants to be an expat due to the amazing conditions one has home, in their homeland. Everyone has a choice that they made, everyone faced a decision bringing them on the path of being an expat - some did it to get a better job, others to see the world and experience new cultures, some did it because they got better played or because they have better benefits, others (like myself) did it just for the opportunity that arose at a certain point in their life, some (like my Ukrainean friends) did this because of the economical/political situation in their country... Everyone has a reason, but I think the common denominator of what everyone truly misses, when they become an expat, is the FAMILY. You might jump in and say you can move your family with you, you can start a new family in the country you made yourself stable... that's true, but you can never move your entire family, your whole roots, your family tree with you - can you?! I'm lucky I have found my better half here, in Krakow; we have a family together an a little Ladybug Baby Girl that we love dearly. I'm more than happy that this year my mum and granny came to Poland, to stay and help with the wee one. I feel as if truly I am Home. But I have to thank God for that - many expats throughout the world have to manage it all by themselves.
6 years ago to this day, I had moved to Krakow. I was both excited and thrilled. Now, in retrospect, I see that I was not scared even a bit... it was all a big adventure! I never once thought about all the consequences and I think, weirdly enough, that's what got me through it a in such a positive attitude. I am grateful I had already great, warm and caring friends here - the first month I was actually hosted my my awesome Team Leader, Magda. I was "ciocia" (Polish version for Auntie) for her 2 bundles of joy (Now she has 3!). I would wake up in the morning, with her little boy standing over my bed, watching me sleep, telling me I look like a princess (I used to let down my hair while I was asleep, to let it dry after washing it). What wake up is sweeter than that?! Being payed compliments early in the morning, by a little boy (kids never lie! They tell the truth, the world, as they see it!), that truly brightens up your day. How can one not be upbeat and positive?! We would have long talks into the night, with loads of gossips and laughs - listening to Polish language back then was a terrific experience and it sounded to me so much like J.K.Rowling's developed parseltongue... it was like snake language with all those consonants... and groups like sz or cz or rz... it looked like a language without vowels!
Then I started to listen more and more... I would of course speak only English and do shopping in big shops and supermarkets - avoiding the social contact with people who spoke Polish 24/7. In time, by listening, I started to understand the sounds and how certain letters would sound as well. I started to figure out where a sentence started and where it finished. The next step was understanding words. Then remembering certain words and asking their meaning to my friends. Then I would, if people talked slowly and not in dialect, to understand the meaning of a phrase. That made me thrilled! To know I accomplished that on my own, without having any language course whatsoever and without watching TV; just by listening to people talk. Active listening! It worked for me ;) I remember a  dear friend coming to Krakow, 2 years and a bit after I settled in... and he was very surprised I could already understand most things, without having a tutor. 6 years in, I'm not afraid anymore to talk Polish even though I know I'm screwing grammar really bad - there are so many exceptions to the rules! I understand almost 90% if people don't speak very fast and they don't start using archaisms... I'm good with doing any kind of shopping, ordering in the restaurant, watching kids movies :p and giving birth in a public hospital while speaking with the doctor, nurses and midwives.
If there is something  that Poland, that Krakow, that life as an expat / being an expat taught me this past 6 years... Well... there is a list, but I'll just choose 10 things that might make you consider trying it out:
  1. You become independent & you trust yourself more and more - no more mummy and daddy helping out, your wings can spread out and even if you fall (and you will!) You will be the one picking yourself up, and that makes you stronger!
  2. You learn that you can handle a household by yourself - you might have some problem the first month(s) but in time you'll get a hang of it. You'll understand why paying bills is so important and...
  3. You'll learn the true value of money - you might have lived with mum and dad before, so no costs for the housing not the food (most probably). Once you move out on your own, you'll figure put what it takes to live/survive through the month. You'll learn that you don't actually need 12 pairs of trousers or that new bag you saw in the shop (you already have 10!)... You'll realise how much you get payed, how much you need for housing, food and for entertainment. You'll figure out your salary needs deriving from that as well. 
  4. You're going to find balance - you're going to figure out eventually that you need to split your day in 3 big chunks of 8 hours: one for work, one for rest (not necessarily sleep) and one for play. You're going to find balance in your working day - you will juggle a bit at the beginning but you'll find your way through ;) have faith! 
  5. You will make new friends and a couple of lasting friendships, you might also get your heart broken (maybe even by expats like yourself) but you'll live ;) You are in a country that does not speak your language, might have different customs and you will start your life from scratch, having to learn all the rules and laws of the country. Hang on, it gets better and easier in time! Mingle with your workmates, get a hobby/craft and talk to the locals! It helps!
  6. You will travel, discover new places and you might even fall in love and feel at home in a certain city you pass through. You might even want to relocate there - if you work in a corporation you might find it even easier to do a change like that, if they have multiple locations. I fell in love with Krakow, got proposed the job and said Yes! in a heartbeat. 
  7. You will learn a new language - it's not a must, as many countries speak English and of you work in a corporate environment you use English language in official communications. But... in Poland it's quite a positive thing if you try to learn the language. In smaller cities and even in big cities, not in the city centre, people might have issues understanding you. Of course polish people are warm and sign language never fails, but... they love it when you make an effort and you try and speak Polish. You get extra points for that ;)
  8. You will learn that you can do things you never thought you could do: you will push your limits! You can do whatever you set your mind to, whatever you can believe and visualise you can do. You are strong and capable and you can be thrown in any situation: you will prevail! 
  9. You will learn to discriminate less. In the end, it one God made us and we are all brothers and sisters on this world. You will learn to care and keep and open mind. You will find surprising how warm and gentle and caring people can be. You will learn that home is where your heart is, and if your heart left a piece along the world than you will love everyone. 
    Limanowa, Poland
  10. You learn that you are not defined by things but by experiences and you will learn not to get attached to physical things. You will not be able to take many physical things with you anywhere (including the grave!), but you will always carry with you the experiences, the memories and the feelings you have. Invest in that! Invest in things that last!
Happy anniversary / celebration to all those expats throughout the world, who celebrate victoriously each year! You are brave, you are bold, you are strong enough to face any challenge life throws at you!

P.S. You might wanna read the post I did when I celebrated my 2nd year in Krakow, Poland. 

Yours always sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Poland
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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Being An Expat Mum In Poland

Dearly beloved,

I don't get to share often tales of motherhood, but when I do my readers say that I do it from my heart and that I should do it more often. Living in a foreign country can provide many situations that are both fun and frustrating. Being An Expat Mum means that you don't always have the kind of support you would wish for. It means that part of your family might be miles away, and if you would have an urgent need for help you might not get a cover up. It also means you more likely will need a niania (nanny) and that you will spend most of your time with the small one - meaning you might have close to no free time for yourself. I know many stories of "broken" mum's due to the "workload". Don't get me wrong, everyone loves their children to the moon and back, but motherhood might not be fitting for everyone. Motherhood often means you have to leave you will, take leave of your sense and follow blindly on what your little bundle of joy needs (not wants! They will always want the moon in the sky... and... well... you can't deliver that, can't you?!).
Pregnant with the small one, at the Wawel Castle - Krakow
Being an expat mum brings you, from day one, in certain situations that you never thought you would be in. It's way easier if you speak the language of the country you are in, or at least understand the basics. Thank God, I live in a big city, in a university city, where people even though they say that they don't understand English they actually do and you can get to work around that somehow - including sign language... Thank God, the corporation I work for has private medical insurance/coverage for me - and doctors there speak English pretty good now (as opposed to almost 6 years ago when I first used the private care). But if you go to a regular Krakow hospital (or even a smaller city hospital) you might not be as lucky and they might not be able to understand you. Usually the private clinics (like Medicover, Enel Med or Lux Med) have doctors and nurses that speak English, so if you have that you are covered. If not... you might need to take a friend / your polish husband to help... and that might be awkward.
My big & little bundle of Joy - picture by Bellove
It's a regular thing, once you got pregnant, to schedule monthly meetings with your gynecologist, for check up purposes. You will also be doing monthly blood and urine tests and occasional USG tests. You will have to do once a glucose test - that was very yucky and unpleasant as I hate sweets... But who knows, you might enjoy it! In the last month you will probably need to do weekly checkups and a new test will be introduced in the system: checking your baby heart. This is one of the most unpleasant tests, in my humble opinion, as you have to lay still for approximately 45 minutes (Don't move!). You will probably feel like a terrorist... as you will have your belly strapped and you will have to hold a "trigger" that you will have to push each time you feel the baby moving/kicking. When you are pregnant in the last trimester, laying still on one side for 45 minutes can be quite a challenge!
Once you are in the third trimester you should be ready for the small one to pop out any minute. You should know your approximate due date according to the calculations and the USG checkups, but be advised the baby can come before or after that date (plus/minus 2 weeks!). If you are pass the +2 weeks mark and you were scheduled to have a natural birth, your doctor will change that and you will have to have a c-section. Delivering past the time would be harmful for both you and the baby, even if he is small. The doctors in Poland, in Krakow - the ones I have seen, are extremely focused on the physical well being of both the mother and the child. They will tell you what is the best decision to take, and I love that in Poland (as a difference from Romania) they are way more keen into helping women go fully natural in the children birth. It's been proved that the recovery both for the baby and the mom is much faster and easier. Plus, when you give birth naturally, you get to hold your baby as soon as it's out! And even though this was awkward for me... some mums might want to try cutting their own umbilical cord or use a mirror in order to see the baby coming out. That's not my cup of tea, but the option is available for the brave mums that wanna see the small one coming out.
In Poland there is a very smart thing that mums going full natural might want to have a look at. Poland has a set of papers called "Birth plan" - here you have a set of questions connected to giving birth, procedures, medication and after birth treatment. It's filled and signed by the patient and should be given to the nurse/doctor when reaching the hospital. Of course you should choose in advance the hospital you wish to give birth to. Of course you can choose the closest one but it might not be fitting for what you wish. For example we have a nice hospital just one tram stop away. I could have even walked there! But we choose a hospital that specialises in giving birth naturally, without any medicinal aid; a hospital where nurses/midwives know what they are doing. That was in the other part of the city... But depending on the stage of birth, the contractions you have, it's doable ;) Nurses and doctors must follow the north plan you give them until the moment when you agree on taking drugs that would help you - at that moment the papers = 0. Stay strong, you can make it! But listen to the doctor as well. They will explain you and ask for your consent when they are really needed. Don't be afraid to ask questions! Don't be shy! 
Daily walks in nature 馃悶馃尲馃尡
Being an expat mother in Poland makes me feel much safer than if I would be a mother in my homeland, in Romania. I know many friends that had to wait in lines to the doctor, farmacy/drug store, supermarket... here in Poland it's common sense to let pregnant women to a seat it front. People here take care and understand the needs of a mother/mother to be. I could say they are more emphatic and they care more about time and how they spend it. Being in time at the doctor is always the case in Poland. In Romania, in Iasi, in the private care department even - each time I went to the pediatric check - we would have to wait at least 15-20 min and one time the max was over an hour. The only ones that really tried and managed to be on time most of the time... was Medicover! People in Poland don't barge into your life and touch your baby without asking for permission - I don't know... maybe the Romanian people love to do that because of the Latin blood flowing in our veins... but either way... even though I sometimes miss grately some parts of my motherland, I am extremely happy we (us and the little Ladybug Baby Girl) are safe and sound in Poland. With all this craziness going on in the world, I feel safe here. I feel my child is safe, and that's all that matters! 

Yours very very very sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Her Little Ladybug Baby Girl 
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Monday, 19 June 2017

Rzeszow: Niebieskie Migdaly

Dearest sweethearts,

Rzeszow has been always a welcoming city for almost 700 years (roughly!). It's oldest written records go back to the year of 1354, when the medieval city Resovia was granted civic rights. It's a very nice place for a day trip from Krakow, loads of places to visit (including a castle nearby) and homely hangout places with chilling atmosphere (where you can hang out the whole day). We went to Rzeszow for a wedding but we could not skip a short trip to the centre, a few min walk from the train station. On their main road called ul. Maja (the street is called May, as the month!) there is a cute little place called Niebieskie Migdaly - and we went there with some dear friends. They were just redoing the pavement of the street (I believe it's a closed one, for pedestrians, by the looks of it - like Florianska in Krakow). 
Apparently there are 3 Niebieskie Migdaly places in Rzeszow, inside the main square / old town, all within maximum 5 min of each other. The smallest one is an icecream stand and the biggest one is this particular one on Maja. It kind of got me thinking of the Niebieskie Migdaly in Krakow, one of my favourite places in the Old Town. I thought it was maybe a franchise but the social media on both sides don't match and I could not reach them, until the time of the article, to get a statement on that. But as the social media, the interior and the menu does not match the Krakow one, although the spirit of the place seems to be the same.
Niebieskie Migdaly means, in Polish language, Blue Almonds. The name is from the plural saying in Polish language "Do you think about Blue Almonds?" - which sounds funny when you translate it word by word... but it me and that you are a dreamer... Niebieskie Migdaly in Rzeszow is a nice place to chill out with friends and according to the TripAdvisor reviews it's a place frequented and liked also by foreigners, having a 4+ (out of 5 stars) rating. People seem to be happy here with the food and drinks but rather disappointed with the serving - and I can wholeheartedly agree with that. The waiting time is just... too much! (For the drinks, sweets, Bill...).
I found it rather odd, if not unpleasant (as I love hydrating before and during eating) that the lady brought me first my creme brulee and only around 15-20 min later the mint lemonade I had ordered. I understand that the creme brulee was already made and was waiting nicely in the cold-window but still... Anyway... The lemonade was refreshing and very good, the creme brulee was decent and Marek's icecream looked heavenly and he was very satisfied. Another minus may be that it's quite a big place, several sitting opportunities, yet there is only one toilet per each (women/men). It looks very nice inside and there is plenty of space, but queues tend to form...
* Creme brulee - 11 zloty
* Lemonade - lemoniada mietowo-cytrynowa - with mint and lemon - 9 zloty
* Waffles - between 6 and 11 zloty, depending on the ingredients
* Pancakes - between 10 and 15 zloty, depending on the ingredients 

Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Travelling & Discovering New Places
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Friday, 16 June 2017

Ksiazkoteka - A Bookstore For The Children In You

Dearest sweethearts,
Dearest mothers living in Krakow (or around this magical city),

I don't know about You, but I always thought that books are a key to a magical world. They allow you to learn about The Universe, discover hidden meanings, unlock secret treasures of knowledge... they help you drift away into magical places where you can be whomever you wish to be! No matter where or whom you are, once you connect to a book, once you get lost in it... you are in a fantasy land! And your book is your companion and your friend. When you are at school/Uni you might think that maybe some books are your enemy... don't think of it that way, rather see books as a challenge. If you don't have challenges then there is no way your intellect can grow! Books develop imagination, just as much as TV/Internet grounds it. If I can choose between a good book and browsing mindlessly online, I will always choose the book. Books are like friends that never grow old. They can be your companion when you are sad, happy, even when you are bored... but books are usually a habit that needs to be cultivated. A habit that usually takes both time and money. It's true, now days you have the ebook readers that allow you to store thousand of books on one small, thin and light portable device. It's true ebooks can be cheap... but if you are an old soul, Old fashioned as I am... well then, you'll find it hard to adjust and you will want the paperback version. I love the feeling when I hold a fresh book "right from the oven" of the press. I always loved opening them, feeling the pages and smelling the paper and the ink mixed together. It is one of the sweetest perfumes I know. A perfume that my heart loves. 
Both my mother and my amazing Granny instilled upon me a love for books, a love for reading. We had ever since I could remember, a large library on the hallway, and I would spend there most of my free time. There were books for younger and older, with colourful pictures or black and white or none... books I could not understand and had grand words in them, but also books I could read and understand. My Granny was a teacher and reading for us came at a very early age. I am proud to say that we are following the same route with the Little Ladybug Baby Girl. I was reading to her while she was in the belly and now we are reading together books - some of them listed for 18 months+ (and she is barely 10 months). It is true that the sooner you expose children to knowledge, the better. Their wonderful growing brains are like sponges, taking all the data. We currently speak to her in 3 languages: Romanian, Polish and English; so finding good books can be quite a challenge! 
By pure providence / sheer luck (I say someone up there loves us!) - you name it! - I bumped one day into a bookstore I never knew existed. The "Ksiazkoteka" is located on Dolnych Mlynow 3; in the Old Town, a few steps away from Teatr Bagatela. As the Little Ladybug Baby Girl is my first child I never was quite interested in the options for children, especially when it comes to book places - but now I am! I must raise a Reader! "Ksiazkoteka" (according to their FB profile) opened its doors on September 1st of 2014. It is a place for both children and grown ups with a child heart still beating inside them. It's mainly directed towards small children, up to 11 years of age. It's also very friendly towards other age groups, and it's a place where parents and caretakers of wee ones (teachers or guardians and such...) can get more info on developing the Little ones - development, education, nutrition, having a healthy lifestyle. When I was talking to the nice lady in the shop, as I was wondering if I could find any books on/about Ladybugs, I found out that the books in the shop are actually just one exemplar of each. This totally makes sense due to the limited amount of space "Ksiazkoteka" has - walls are filled with wooden shelves and empty wall spaces are adorned with maps and large tables with diverse items for children's development. In the middle of the room there is a table with books for toddlers and in one of the corners there us a small reading nook - very cute, comfy and cosy.
As I've said before, the bookstore is intended primarily for children - books for toddlers, preschoolers and proposals for primary school as well. "Ksiazkoteka" aims to help parents find interesting, captivating books, with rich content. There is a wide selection of books (one of each but I understand that you can also order them out!) and a carefully selected group of educational aids and toys - mostly for ecology enthusiasts (materials used is mainly wood, cotton... biodegradable stuff!) but also items created by local native producers. 

Opening hours: Week days between 9 am and 6 pm, Wednesday's from 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday's from 10 am to 3 pm. You can so contact them via their Internet Page ;)
What did I buy? Well... I bumped into "Ksiazkoteka" when I was wrapping up the Dzien Dobry TVN interview. I got in and saw this cute hidden gem of a bookstore and I just knew I had to buy something here and advertise the place. I wanted something for the Little Ladybug Baby Girl, something with Ladybugs if possible ;) The nice bookstore - hidden gem - showed me two books. They were both translations of the original books, translations in Polish - I mainly bought her books in English and Romanian so I'm stocking up on Polish now! I choose "Kto zjadl biedronke?" by Hector Dexet - cost 34,90 zloty (you can pay both card and cash). The translation would be "Who ate the Ladybug?" but fear not! SPOILER ALERT! The Ladybug flies away to safety ;) Its a very adorable book that helps one learn the animals, the colours and what they eat. It's easy to turn the pages as it's carton done and my wee one adores it! It's a hidden gem of a book that I found in a hidden gem of a bookstore, in magical Krakow. 馃悶

Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Reading
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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Travel Tuesday: Traveling Cheap in Poland

Dearest sweethearts,
Dear travellers,

What better way is there to enrich ourselves than by travelling, rather then piling up money in a bank account or piling goods. In the end, what you remain, when someone strips you naked, is your conscience and your memories. I have always loved Poland for that - it has so many amazing, hidden gems. Travelling here is way cheaper than going to Dubai, Paris or Zurich... but everyone has a wide variety from which they can pick and choose.  If you love the seaside you can try the "Tricity" (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot), if you're into castles as palaces there are several hundreds of them (including the biggest medieval castle in Europe: Malbork), if you love history - especially second world war then the list is loooooong (start with Krakow and Warsaw)... everyone can find something they will like or even love in Poland!
When people start booking their holidays they usually plan where they go, what is the budget and how they can have a good time - mostly for a decent amount of money. Europe is worldwide known to provide quality and cheap holiday locations. Maybe Poland is not that popular but I have seen a steady growing trend. Word of mouth is one way the information circulates and that's how more and more people choose Poland. The fact that Pope Francis was in Krakow last year, and the World Youth Day was celebrated in 2016 in Krakow was also a huge boost ;)
Poland has accessed in the last year's quite a few European funds and managed to work on the infrastructure really well! It is not an immense country, like Mother Russia, but it's still big enough... to be fair, it used to be bigger until other nations decided to take pieces of it... but! If you are planning on a low budget trip and you have transport in mind, I really suggest taking a bus or a train. When it comes to buses I had only positive experiences with PolskiBus - it takes you l over Poland at an extremely low price, especially if you book in time. There is also free internet and you have charger sockets next to each seat. When it comes to trains I recommend them even higher then buses! I'm not a car/ bus person if there are many curves along the road, so I rather prefer the train. Let's take for example the train from Warsaw to Krakow - takes you around 2 hours and a half and if you book it a month or more in advance you get high discounts. Of course... if you don't want to spend a lot of time on the road, you also have the option of flying: instead of a Warsaw - Gdansk train (around 5 hours) you could always take a flight (45 minutes by LOT Polish Airlines - book it a couple of months in advance and it could be 10 euros!). Also, when it comes to public transport, inside the cities, I always choose that rather then taxis. The timetables are reliable and tickets are cheap and you can buy them at the automat. In Krakow, a regular 20 min ticket costs 2.8 zloty (a little more than half a euro!).
English breakfast @ Niebieskie Migdaly, Krakow
Pancakes @ MoJa Cafe, Krakow
When it comes to Food & Housing / Accomodation there is again a wide variety of options from where one can choose from. Food - depending on how picky you are or if the accommodation provided has a kitchen/refrigerator or if you have a breakfast option, you could choose from:
1) picking your own veggies, fruits, dairies, cold cuts at the local market or one of the supermarket chains spread throughout Poland (Carrefour, Auchan, Kaufland, Lidl, Biedronka, Lewiathan, Zabka) and preparing your own meals. This is the cheapest option and you get to pick and choose exactly what you want, when you want it. You can go to the market in the morning and use even sign language if you don't speak polish. People are friendly and open and usually the prices are placed on the products. It's going to be fresh, organic and tasty!
English breakfast @ MilkBar Tomasza 
2) going to the "Milk Bar" / "Mleczarnia" - actually this should be a must, when travelling to Poland! It's a reminder of the communistic times when all men and women were equal and entitled to a hot meal. They are called "bar mleczny" but don't worry, they don't sell only dairies ;) these places are "push the tray" kind of places, self service but with usually very friendly staff. Make sure you don't miss them out - they are in each city, town and they provide locals (usually students) with hot meals, cooked in large pots, giving them kinda an army look, taste and feel. You'll see traditional food here, nothing a gourmet would probably fancy, but be brave! Try the zurek or the rosol (chicken soup) and the traditional pierogi. If ever in Krakow, I highly recommend MilkBar Tomasza on Tomasza street, Old Town.
Accomodation related, in each city in Poland you'll be able to find an AirBNB deal that would match your pocket. That's if... you don't mind selecting any of the hostels available - there are also plenty, with rooms ranging from 2 to 10 people in a room. Depends on so how adventurous you feel sleeping with other strangers in the same room...
Sightseeing is something we always strive for when we go on holidays, so this part is always important. Keeping a balance between what we want to see - what we can see - the time one has is crucial. That brings us again to transportation, to public transport. I, for one, rather love walking and learning a place by wondering through it on foot. Cities in Poland are big enough to be conquered by foot, bit depending where you found the accommodation you might need some kind of transportation to the main attractions. You should choose the bus and tram options - the fast tram lines almost work like metro lines!
Also, if you are a bike person, you might find interesting the fact that you can rent a bike by hour, day and not necessarily bring it back to the spot you took it from + the first 20 min you usually get for free! Take for example Wavelo bike options in Krakow - throughout the city ( not only the touristic route!) there are stacks of bikes placed there for people to use. All you need if to register, hop on, bike away and when you are done take it to the nearest Wavelo rack, hop off and log out ;) Easy! When it comes to "What to see" / "What to do" it depends on what kind of person you are. If you are a museum lover, each national museum has a day in which the entrance is free (for example in Krakow that day is Sunday). If you love churches they are free of charge and they usually (in the weekend) host classical concerts - ticket price is usually 50-60 zloty (around 12-13 euro per person). There are many things, like beautiful architecture, lovely parks and amazing monuments that are free of charge and you can just walk by them. Also there are numerous festivals (especially during summer), activities and shows in the open air. If you are a fan of classical music, make sure to note down in your #bucketlist to go to one of Warsaw's open air Chopin concerts. They are held each summer since 1959, next to the Chopin Statue in the Lazienki Park. There are 2 classical recitals of Chopin's music - 12 noon and 4 P.M. each Sunday from May to September.
If you have any questions about travelling to and though Poland, don't hesitate to contact me and ask away! Especially if it is Warsaw or Krakow related - I've been there countless times and I live in Krakow for more than 6 years now! Also... have you ever been to Poland? How do you compare it to any other country you've been to, or your home country? I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Do you feel, like myself, that Poland is a cheap country to move around and visit, if you plan ahead and take the time to set up a route?

P.S. In case you will go by train, this might come in handy - Discounts on trains:
Not everybody is aware that in Poland you may be eligible for one of the so-called statutory reliefs when using trains or municipal transportation.
Eligible group; scope of relief; required document(s) confirming eligibility:
- Children under the age of 4; 100%; document confirming child's age
- Guardian of a person incapable of self-existence/ Guide of a blind person; 95%; official document stating disability/incapability of self-existence
- Persons incapable of self-existence, excluding blind people; 49% on local "stop-trains", 37% on all other trains; official document stating incapability of self-existence
- Persons who are blind, but they are not found to be incapable of self-existence; 37% on all trains; official document
- Persons who are blind and are incapable of self-existence; 93% on local "stop-trains", 51% on all other trains;
- Children above the age of 4 until reaching pre-school age; 37%; document stating child's age
- Children/youth who are enrolled as pupils at a school (primary, junior high, senior high), until the age of 24; official school-issued pupil card and identity card/passport confirming child's age, if not stated on the pupil's card/school ID card
(Technically, the regulation states that this applies only to Polish citizens. This is obviously against the EU laws and I've heard that foreigners used this relief without a problem. To be sure, ask the cashier when buying your ticket)
- University-level students until the age of 26; 51%; ISIC student card and identity car/passport (if ISIC doesn't state the name of your uni, you'll also need a student card issued by your uni)
Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves To Travel
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Saturday, 10 June 2017

I'm A Wonder Women, Let Me Go Get My Rope!

Dearest hearts,

The world could be such a wonderful place if only people would have love in their hearts.

HUGE SPOILER ALERT for "Wonder Woman" 2017 with the gorgeous Gal Gadot as the lead!!!
I don't get over excited about movies, unless they are Star Wars Universe or Marvel related. I like some of the DC Universe but some heroes I find rather odd and unconvincing. When I was a wee lass I remember looking up to Princess Leia as a feminine model of how to be a kick arse lady. Later on a bit, I bumped into the Wonder Woman series. I remember thinking how wonderful if would be to save the world and be so strong and powerful and good looking at the same time - a goddess in its own rights. I didn't make a difference between Marvel and DC back then, but as time flew by some heroes became more prominent than others. Of course for me Superman will always be Christopher Reeve and Batman will always be Christian Bale, as The Joker would always be Heath Ledger. Some actors are just made for certain parts / roles. I never believed I would live the time when I would see Wonder Woman of Black Widow having their own movie on the big screen - one item from the #bucketlist is now checked as Gal Gadot has her first all hers "Wonder Woman" movie! And I swear she was made for this part! She fits the role like a glove! I'm more than thrilled they chose to cast a non-american as the leading lady. Gal was Miss Israel and she was a Bond girl, played in Fast and Furious, but was thinking of retiring due to "no luck" on hitting a good part on the big screen. She almost didn't try out for WW and when she did she had no clue for what the audition was. It was all hush hush. But trust me... Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman at heart!
I have to say Wonder Woman felt like an empowering cinematic story that all women should watch. I have never felt so uplifted after going out from a movie. I have heard many people say that it is one of the best DCEU movies since Batman: The Dark Knight - I have to wholeheartedly agree with that! It is so beautifully made that it kicks any Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Suicide Squad... you name it!... arse. But let's start from the very beginning... the movies first half hour explores the childhood of Diana, Princess of Themyscira. Themyscira is the island created by Zeus so that the Amazons would live on it. Amazons, in case you skipped your Greek History lessons, are the tribe of women warriors. Here though the history gets a twist... according to Greek legend the amazons were the daughters of Area (God of War) and Harmonia. Amazons are a tribe brutal and aggressive and their only concern was War. Well... Wonder Woman amazons are the creation of Zeus to help and guide the humanity out of the war but into loves path. Of course when you see them you can't imagine them knowing anything else except war and fighting and extending ones boundaries so you could be stronger... just look at the training sessions, how the fight, how they ride... It's magnificent! 
When you check closely IMDB and you pay attention to the end credits you will have an amazing fact connected to the Amazon scenes. When I first watched the faces of the tough ladies of Themyscira, I was wonderfully surprised to see a vibrant environment, ladies of all shapes, sizes and pigment. There are 17 named amazons in the end credits + 15 more ladies from the island, listed as guards, warriors or people living in the city of Amazons.  11 of the 17 have their age listed; average age is over 41 years old, oldest Amazon is 57 and youngest is 26! 7 Amazons are played by women older than 40 - Connie Nielsen (playing Hippolyta, Diana's mother) and Robin Wright Penn (Antiope, Hippolyta's sister) are both 51 years old! More than half of the Amazons are ladies of colour. These fine ladies are stuntswomen, personal trainers and even boxers! This is the most realistic movie I have seen up to date. In a world where beauty and grace and sex-appeal is thought to reside only with white Women, 90-60-90 shapes and a age somewhere in between 18-23 max... Wonder Women is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes! 
I extremely liked small Diana being all tough as a cookie, strongwilled enough to sneak out during the night in order to train with her aunt. I love the perfect match of the 2 powerful sisters: Hippolyta all wisdom, grace, motherhood and eternal love VS. Antiope all power, ration, strong will and fearless. You can see Hippolyta was the mother figure and Antiope the "Dad" Diana always looked up to. This goes to show that small ones will always find in their life a strong leading model, and that model doesn't necessarily need to be a me one. Hippolyta is a single mother - even though Zeus is the father - and she is very protective. She wishes to keep Diana under a crystal ball, for fear of her learning the truth about herself and her destiny. But aren't all mothers like that? She feels so human and frail... Antiope is the strong metal hand covered with silk gloves. She is the one that trains Diana "5 times harder" until she gets her own arse kicked by the Princess. Diana gets faced with her mission soon after defeating Antiope. She spots a plane crashing into the ocean, dives quickly in and rescues... a man! Meet Steve Trevor, a British spy - coming from the First World War - that was gathering intelligence from the Germans.
FFW Sad moments when Themyscira is attacked by the Germans, Amazons win but Antiope dies (obviously no matter how bad arse you are, bullets can't be dodged). The fighting scenes on the beach and Antiope yelling "Shield!!!" reminded me of Lagertha and the Shieldmaidens in Vikings. FFW Steve is taken prisoner but he reveals his mission and the fact that he must go back with the Intel he has gathered as he must help stop The War! Of course queue Diana (chest swelling) giving glorious speeches to her mother, telling her that it's the Amazons duty to help lead the world into peace and killing Ares (the God of War, who has returned). Of course, Hippolyta as a mother declines to let her go help Steve, so Diana sneaks into the night... steals the Lasso of Truth and the sword named Killer of Gods, gets a badass armour, gets her robe and drags Steve to the harbour. Diana is a girl with strong will, faith and courage. She believes in the right thing to do and acts accordingly even when others tell her different. She follows her heart! And that's why I love Wonder Woman - she is true to herself and her beliefs. 
FFW Diana and Steve reach London - and what a sorry old place it seems in comparison to the island where Diana spend all her life! All shades of grey and dark and gloomy and noisy. Steve's relationship with Diana, bringing her into this new world and guiding her is truly touching and sweet and funny at the same time. I particularly loved the scene where they were trying to find something fitting for Diana to wear out, as she was wearing only the amazon armour and that was not quite... appropriate for the 1900s. Hell... there were no women votes back then yet... all that women were supposed to do were cooking, cleaning and making babies. Loved the Secretary = Slave pun ;))) FFW to No Man's Land scene, where we get to see Wonder Woman for the first time in her full armour, striding away to save the day - you have to wait a bit for that, as it comes after 75 minutes of movie time, but it's well worth the wait! The action sequence, stating with Steve Trevor telling her that no man can cross that field made me think of The Lord of The Rings. No Man could kill the Nazgul and the Dead Which King. Indeed, No Man could, but a woman would! Women are much stronger than men would have us think we are. The key is believing in yourself and having courage, having heart! 
Diana, Wonder Woman, stops bullets with her bare hands. She is strong and fast and powerful and she counts on herself to get through her troubles. She doesn't need to be rescued - she rescues others! No Mans Land is a huge teary eyes moment - it was so for me and for the others in the cinema. BONUS POINTS on the reversal of roles in the movie. Chris Pine was made for the role of Steve Trevor. He managed to act knightly towards Diana, respect her and understand that She is more powerful / strong / fast and yet act caringly and protective in her presence. He understand that Diana takes the lead and he must follow when it comes to the battle scenes. Just so as she took his lead when coming to London and blending in so he could find Ares. The No Mans Land scene where they dump having a sniper vs. being a shield raiser for Diana, so she could jump over a church - destroy the tower - eliminate the threat... priceless!!! 
FFW You kinda see that Steve Trevor going rogue will be the end of it... But if you're not much into comic books you won't know all the twists and turns. The villain of the movie according to Diana is Ares, the God of War. The villain according to Steve is... humanity. He believes that there is no God creating this War of Wars, but rather the humans are so foul in themselves that they have both good and bad in them, but the negative side prevails. So... when Wonder Woman kills the German general, whom she assumes is Ares, she thinks that all will stop. She thinks that once Ares is dead, war and fighting and suffering will no longer exist. Well... bummer... as she gets the "wrong Ares". The 3rd act of the movie, albeit being CGI heavy, it's a piece of art to behold. It shows Wonder Woman as The Goddess she is and reveals a fact that all small children who know their Ancient Greek mythology should know: only a God can kill another God - ergo, Wonder Woman is a Goddess, the sword is not the Gods Killer, she is! "I'll save today. You'll save the world" - must be one of the saddest lines in the movie. Of course, either way the relationship between Steve and Diana was doomed from the start. She, as goddess, is immortal and he is human. This could have not worked out... hence having a heroes death was the way to discharge Steve. He was brave and like Diana he stood up for what he believed was right. Our of love for her, he sacrifices himself, while saving London from the horrible chemical attack planned by the Germans. As he saved the day, Diana battles Ares in order to save the World from the God of War.  Obviously Our Wonder Woman wins. Love prevails. 

"It's about what you believe.
And I believe in LOVE.
Only love will truly save the world." WW

P.S. I have first watched Wonder Woman - The 2017 movie - on the weekend it was released. It was a pleasure seeing it 3D on the big screen and I highly recommend it! It's an empowering movie that make a you think and feel as if you could overcome anything and everything. If you truly believe in yourself and you have courage to follow your heart, if you fight for the ones you love, you are a Wonder Woman yourself! Now... each time I hear the Wonder Woman theme... I feel the need to go grab my robe and punch through the wall of sheer stupidity that some display. You are strong, You are smart, you are beautiful, you are perfect just the way that you are. But most of all, all you lost women out there, don't forget that YOU ARE LOVED! And that you have enough Love in your hearts to conquer it all! Just believe! Thank you Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot and P. Jenkins for reminding us that! 馃挆馃悶 I'm a Wonder Woman, let me go get my Rope!

Yours very much sincerely, 
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Wonder Woman and Loves the World
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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Krakow Events In June

Dearest sweethearts,

If you've never been to Krakow, now it's a good time to think about it. I know it's not a typical location for a summer vacation, but if you love the hustle of events and festivals and being online 24/7, then you should visit Krakow during the month of June! June is always a record breaking month for Krakow when it comes to special events and festivals, this year expect nothing less ;) As usual, in the beginning of June (the very first weekend) there is the Grand Dragon Parade - a row of handmade dragons, by kindergardens, schools and other associations paraded through the Old Town. It's a sight that children (and not only!) love. I think it brings the children out of all of us to see a huge dragon floating above your head... sometimes they are so intricately made that they even breathe out real fire! But why a dragon, you might ask! If you have never been to Krakow then you might not know that the Dragon is one of the cities symbols and that there is a legend connected to that. Besides the Dragon Parade, a bit later on in June, also during the weekend, there will be the Parade of Dachshunds. This is a funny parade to watch, as Dachshund owners dress them up - they compete for the title of King and Queen of Dachshunds! So prepare yourself to see tiny little sausage friends dressed up in fancy wardrobes - take a camera with you to make sure you catch them all.
June is a very important month for Krakow due to the June Holiday of the City of Krakow. The beginning of June is the official birthday of the Royal city and you can't get bored during this time! There are up to 2 whole weeks filled with concerts, picnics, plays and ballet performances, along with medieval celebrations that keep you on your toes! Take for example the first day of summer - that has always been celebrated as the famous "Wianki" (Flower Crowns). The Wianki main events usually take place at the Czerwienski Boulevard - near the Wawel Castle, by the Vistula River. This is a pagan tradition that sustains unmarried women must wear are the on their heads on that specific night.
After dusk, the ladies should take their crowns off and let them float away on the river - in this case, in Krakow, on the Vistula River. There is usually great concerts throughout the city and a great fireworks display at the foot of the Wawel Castle Hill. Of course there will also be fairs in the Main Market Square, the small square behind Mariacki (St. Mary's Church) and along the foot of the Wawel Hill. You will be able to watch reenactments of old traditions. The people of Krakow, as Poles in general, are very attached to their customs. #didyouknow that its oldest Archmen Fraternity (Bractwo Kurkowe) started in 1257 and it's still running strong? They select their own king each year in a festivity held in the Main Market Square.
For all you foodies out there, put this month to your calendar as in the Wolnica Square, in Kazimierz, around the middle of the month, there is a Bread Festival! It lasts for 2 days and you can taste some seriously yummy bread from different kind of seeds - all natural and not genetically modified ;) Try the polish specialty of bread with lard (smalec) and have a shot of vodka to top it up!
Also this year, between June 16th and 30th of 2017, there will be UEFA European U-21 Championship. The Cracovia Stadium has the honour to host the semi-finals and the big final as well! Obviously the city will get crowded and people all over the world will come to see the match... As usual the streets will be flooded with people, but if you love crowded places, things happening everywhere all the time, joyful people smiling at every corner, decent weather with sunshine but cold summer winds, if you want fun time and concerts and ladies with flower in their hair, bringing a flower power vibe... well... Krakow is the place for you this June and every other June of any other year! If you plan to come, please feel free to ask away any questions you might have - I'll be glad to help you get to know Krakow more ;)

Yours very much sincerly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow
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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Things I Am Thankful For - May 2017

Dearest sweethearts,

If you've been reading my blog this year you must have noticed the challenge I have proposed for this year. It's hard sometimes to see the bright side of life. Even when looking at a glass of water we tend to see the empty half, nor the part filled with water. In fact, all that is relatively as the glass is never empty - the other half is filled with air! So what I proposed was that at the beginning of each month we should think of the things we are thankful for.  It might be hard at first but you'll get better as time passes. Train yourself to see the beauty in the little things in life. Start with 5 things/Moments and work up from there ;) Here's my take until now for the month of January, FebruaryMarch and April. For May am thankful for many things, but here are 5 picks:
1. Started working as an Editor for Hello.Poland (Facebook: @polandhello - Instagram: @hello.poland) - this is yet another project started having expats from Poland in mind. It has started slow, with just a handful of international bloggers, mostly living in Poland, writing about life in this lovely country. Now we are almost 20 of us! And the numbers of followers and people who like our page is constantly growing. I'm happy to help people newly arrived in Krakow, in Poland, with tips and tricks. There is much more info now online, on the social media, then there way 6 years ago when I settled down in Krakow. Glad I get to be part of the help, part of the solution.
2. Twisted Red Ladybug is becoming more and more famous... that's right! After being in an article in the regional newspaper, Dziennik Polski, I was invited to do a similar piece about being an expat blogger in Krakow, but this time at the national TV for the programme Dzien Dobry TVN 馃悶 Proud to get the recognition, along with a lovely Indian lady who blogs about Krakow as well ;) Just so you know, I've also invited her to join Hello.Poland and she accepted, so you can find both of us there! Do come and join us, we write/post daily images/news/ideas about Poland in English language, so that everyone understands what's cooking ;)
3. Maria & Lukasz - wedding time - I can honestly say, hand to my heart, that it was one of the loveliest weddings I have ever been to! Of course, there might have been some factors that make me subjective... like: 1) I got to see my dear friends from work - that I have not seen for more than 10 months! Since I went into maternity leave most of them switched the company, so seeing the whole team at once... it didn't feel like work, it felt like family! 2) The wedding was done in a remote location that I've never been to! It is filled with history (the villa we've been staying in) and it's 200 meters away from a castle! (Lanckorona is the name). I loved the fact that we were in the middle of a forest and all you could see around were trees. 3) The festivity - civil ceremony - was done outside, open air! It's my first time witnessing that! 4) The bride, my lovely Maria, looked like a fairy - elf, with her blonde hair down in curls & white long lace dress... she was a star! 5) Speaking of stars, I can't remember the last time I have seen so many! I kept going outside just to catch a glimpse of them, in the dark of the night. Maria, Lukasz, once again, it was our pleasure!
4. The Little Ladybug Baby Girl turned 9 months old! I cannot believe how time flies... how fast she grows, how many things she can do now, or how sneaky she gets. She's going to be a tough cookie, smart and stubborn. She loves to know everything and she pays extra attention to every change. We're both so very proud of her, and she's the apple of our eye. I'm so happy that God blessed us with her, with her being born now - when we are 4 generations: her, myself, my mum and my awesome granny 馃挆馃悶 God bless us, everyone! I'm happy we are all together and that The Little Ladybug Baby Girl can know them, up close and personal.
5. The sun - summer coming - I  thankful, God, for the sunny days that are here. I am thankful for the parks and alleys filled with fresh green grass and lovely colourful flowers. I am thankful for the warm rays of sun and the fact that I don't have to wear layers anymore. I am thankful I can keep windows open all the time now, getting the air to circulate. I am thankful for the long walks in 4 generations - the small, the big Ladybug, mother of the Ladybug and Granny. I am thankful for all the time God gives us with them!

Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Wants To Be Thankful For All The Lovely Things Life Brings Us
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Friday, 2 June 2017

Famous Polish People: Pope John Paul 2nd

Dearest sweethearts,
Dearest history buffs,

Did you know that today, the 2nd of June, in the year 1979, John Paul II became the very first pope to visit a Communist country? Of course that country was in fact his homeland, Poland, and it's well known to all expats that even though you live outside your birthland, you will still yearn for it - no matter what! Another side is coming back, for holidays, to be with family and friends... you realise more and more that somehow you no longer fit in, yet... Polish people are quite different. They have a quality about them, a resistance to change that interferes with the homeland. They love their country deeply and steadfast, with all their heart. I do not think I have ever met a polish guy that did not truly love his homeland. It's as if instead of blood, patriotism and the love for their history flows within them. I realise that it's hard to stay away from the ones you love and I understand how hard it is to be away. It must have been extra tough on him seeing his home under so much pressure and terror, coming away from the hands of Germans only to be taken by Russians. Now John Paul 2nd fought during the Second World War and he saw the destruction brought upon Poland. He also got to see Poland starting to raise, like a Phoenix, from the ashes. 
Coming from a Communist country myself, I understand a bit of the background Poland has; after all, we were under the same block... so The Pope wanting to come and visit Poland was not only a thing of the heart, a return home, but also a way of defying communist. Maybe this is also one of the reasons The Pope is THE One for the Polish Catholic citizens, maybe that's also why they still worship him and each house has at least one of his portraits or a book about him. But, without any further ado, I wanted to share with you today some interesting facts about The Pope:
1. The Communists wanted him to become an archbishop of Krakow - now think of that... and think that he was one of the key figures that helped topple up the communism. 
2. He was never afraid of physical labour and exercise - he skied until  he was 73! And if you ever think the chores you are doing are aweful/disgusting, think of a young Karol Wojtyla who came back to the seminary after World War 2 was done, found the place a ruin, and started (with friends) cleaning the place up.
3. He loved pushing his boundaries - did you know that he travelled 775.000 miles during his lifetime?! He travelled all over the World, went to countless missions and helped spread the love and the Word of God. 
4. He had a gift of caring for others, maybe more so than for himself - did you know that from the royalties of one of his books he built churches in Yugoslavia after their conflict? He also would rather wear his clothes until they would wear off, and give away the new clothes he received for others in need?
5. He was dearly loved by the people - during his trip back to Poland, this very day, in 1979, Pope John Paul 2nd celebrated Pentecost Mass to a crowd of 300.000 people. At a certain point it was recorded that the wild applause did not stop for 14 minutes straight!
6. He was the first Pope who ever set foot in a mosque - it showed understanding of other people's culture and religion. If a person, The Pope, was willing to open up so much to the World, why can't we take this as an example of love? 
7. He broke the records, more than once... He was the only human recorded that has brought so many people together in one gathering. During the World Youth Day in 1995, in Philippines, an estimate of 5 million people flocked to hear/see the Holy Mass he did there.
8. He was the first non-italian Pope since the 16th century, and the very first Polish Pope ;)
9. And in case you didn't know... his parents are buried in Rakowicki Cemetery - Krakow. Also, John Paul 2nd's parents actually got married in the very same church I got married! That's right ;) and you can visit the lovely church: St. Peter and Paul (Sw. Piotr I Pawel) on Grodzka street, in Krakow. I always thought this church had a Vatican vibe about it...
10... Why would you need another fact/story/reason to admire this man and agree with me that he was, indeed, a #famouspolish person? You better ask Uncle Google for more data, or come to Krakow and enjoy the sights, walk on the paths he has walked. I can even tell you the church he served in, or the stone quarry in which he was forced to do physical labour... just come and #discovercracow 馃挆馃悶

Yours very much sincerely,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves History
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