In the last 7 days, I’ve travelled through 9 countries and for someone who’s interested and curious about the world, this week has inspired me. After a long coach journey, it’s easy to wrap up in a cocoon and rest. But with a simple ‘YOLO’ attitude, I pick up my camera and go to explore and find something new. Working as a tour guide doesn’t mean you’re on holiday, even if photos may seem that way. Day to day life consists of managing expectations, dealing with complaints or queries and ensuring everyone is happy. It’s important to find moments to yourself, re-energise and find the things in life you’re grateful for. My therapy is to scratch beneath the surface of a city, discover the quirky parts and connect the DNA to create a great trip – for me and others.
After a short stay in Austria, finally I could dive into a delicious plate of boiled polish dumplings. It’s been months since a cabbage and mushroom pierogi touched these lips. When visiting Krakow, traditionally I’d go to ‘U Babci Maliny’ to kerb my craving, which is quintessentially grandma’s home with its vintage décor and family photos filling the walls. This time, in true nomad spirit, I wanted to try out a new place. I stumbled across ‘Pierogarnia Krakowiacy’ and had a quick Google to check the reviews and found it was a trusting chain. Both of these are a great and affordable choice for sweet or savoury dumplings.
The next morning we head to Slovakia through the mountainous regions of Southern Poland, where evidence of the old fashioned ‘Goral’ culture is still evident. The Goral are indigenous people who previously survived on sheep grazing. Because of their isolated location, the Goral population were able to maintain their unique traditions. Today they’re famous for elaborately decorated woollen clothing, distinctive dialect and energetic folk celebrations.
The island of freedom has a brilliant ring to it, doesn’t it? I was the incredibly lucky (and jammy) guide who landed their days off in Budapest during the cultural music festival, Sziget. The Sziget Festival is held every August in Budapest and is one of the largest music and cultural festivals in Europe. It’s held for a whole week on its very own island, over 1000 performances are held within the large festival grounds. I spent 2 full days of dancing, eating and covered in glitter! My three top tips for festival goers:
- At a festival, anything goes! Nobody judges a large wig or a face full of glitter. Let go of any inhibitions and take your wardrobe to the max! The wilder the better, its a catwalk out there!
- Pack some wet wipes and misting spray. Your favourite artist will also have 100,000 fans heading to the stage, which means sweaty business. Keep yourself refreshed.
- Turn off the flash on your camera, as it most likely won’t make the footage any better and will drain your phone battery. You’ve got to keep those valuable bars for sharing content.
Besides the festival I also spent time re-visiting my favourite part of Budapest, the Jewish Quarter. There’s one street in particular, Kazinczy u, that’s the best road for a hungry stomach. It’s full with a range of different restaurants, as well as quirky pop up venues such as food markets. I’d recommend going in the evening to enjoy the ruin bars, which are bars built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores and warehouses. My personal favourite is Zsimpla, the mecca of all ruin bars.
Hopping across a tight border crossing, we make it into Croatia, zoom past the capital city and land in Split for the night. After splurging far too much money at Sziget, an inexpensive dinner was on the cards – a difficult task for such a touristic city. Here’s my top tips for spending a pleasant evening in Split, without spending:
- Split has an array of restaurants, but you won’t miss the ‘hole in the wall’ pizzerias and cafes. Grab a slice of pizza from 2 euro.
- Take your food to the old city palace walls and sit on the steps by Saint Domnius Bell Tower. Most evenings they have a singer/musician upon the steps for everyone to enjoy.
- After singing ‘Wonderwall’ with every other tourist, treat yourself to one of the best gelatos in town at Luka Ice Cream & Cake. 1 scoop of rosemary or lavender ice cream will set you back 3 euro.
A tour guide sure knows how to budget! It’s a tough balance to juggle having a good time travelling whilst saving cash. But you can’t go wrong with a 5 euro night, with free entertainment and excellent views!
Ohhhh that’s amore! I returned back to the land of saucy bolognaise and serious carb overload. In the spirit of keeping positive, I turn a long journey from Venice to Madrid into an opportunity to discover how good the pasta is in Bologna. Bologna is known as “la grassa”, the fat one, due to its culinary traditions: Bolognese sauce, tagliatelle, tortellini, lasagna and mortadella. I had high expectations of the ‘fat one’, and was I disappointed? Hell no! With just 2 hours to investigate, I did my research and here are the two places I suggest not to miss and why:
- Osteria dell’Orsa – I was happily surprised not only by their delicious pasta, but also due to their restaurant being plastic free. Plus all their dishes are fresh, homemade and eco-friendly. It’s relatively affordable and you can try the infamous bolognaise. This dish causes confusion amongst tourists, as its served differently to what you may be use to. In Bologna, its thickly cut tagliatelle (always fresh) in a ragu (lasagne like sauce), with minced beef meat.
- Caffe Terzi – No ordinary coffee is served here, as the menu lists page after page of the beans you can try with an exotic twist. I enjoyed the espresso with dark chocolate and a sprinkle of cinnamon. A great coffee with a kick!
A lot crammed into one week. I’ve been satisfied with dumplings, revived my gypsy soul by dancing for two days at an incredible festival, and added a few notches to the belt in Italy! Next week I’ll be flying back to Spain and continuing my journey back up to Amsterdam.