The first thing I did when I arrived in Kiev was get lost in a relatively small market about 3 minutes after getting off the train. Once I finally made it to my hostel, the next thing I did was go in search of a deep fried hotdog. That’s right. I’d read about these hotdogs, I was very excited, and I had an even more excited friend at home who is a deep fried hotdog enthusiast (shout out to Cam!) who couldn’t wait to hear about it. Continue reading
I arrived in Lviv around midday after hardly any sleep on my delayed overnight bus. It was very windy as I walked to my hostel but I was enjoying the atmosphere of the city. It felt like a city that was yet to reach its glory days, stuck in the 80s. At the same time, however, it also felt like it had once been wonderful and grand, but those days were long gone and all but forgotten.
After checking into my hostel and having a little lie down I went out to explore. I walked through the old town, through the main square, and up to Castle Hill, where there was once a castle but not anymore. The lack of castle aside, the top view point of Castle Hill offers 360 degree views of Lviv and the surrounding country side, a nice way to introduce yourself to the city but on this day I was afraid the wind was going to blow me back down the hill.
I fought my way back to the old town and found my way into Puzata Huta, just down the road from my hostel and a restaurant I’d read about online. It’s a bit like an old school canteen, you select what you want from each station and you pile it on a tray and then you pay. The food is delicious, super cheap, and all traditional Ukrainian food. There were soups and salads and meat and vegetables and my favourite eastern drink kompot (basically boiled berries). I sat and ate and used the free wifi and then went off to bed to enjoy an early night.
The next morning I woke to the sound of rain, and lots of it. Eventually I decided I needed to go out and see some things even though it was raining, I didn’t want the weather to make me waste my only time in Lviv. So I put on my waterproof jacket and off I went.
My first stop was the café around the corner, which made me really thankful that I’d learnt to read the Cyrillic alphabet before coming to Ukraine because all the words on the menu were the normal English names for different coffees, just written in Cyrillic. I ordered a latte, and received something that tasted good but was no where near hot enough. This turned out to be a ongoing trend everywhere in Ukraine and eventually I gave up on buying coffee and instead started making my own instant coffee. Much better.
I walked around the corner to the palace, which is now used as an art gallery, but the whimsical point of interest is around the back: a garden of miniature castles.
Out the front was an ironic art display of umbrellas hanging across the street. So many people, mostly locals actually, were stopping to take selfies with their own umbrellas.
Next door to the palace I discovered a little market. Whatever it was I wanted to have a look because it was undercover. It turned out to be an Indian market, with dresses, jewellery and scarves and even little Buddha figures, singing bowls and incense.
The rain was coming down even harder now so I figured it was time to seek shelter with some wifi. Unfortunately the wifi at the hostel was broken, so I ended up in Puzata Huta again. It turned out that the wifi there was also not working but I was able to pick up wifi from the juice bar next door. After a while a boy came over to me, about 12 years old, and he started asking me something in Ukrainian. I couldn’t understand but he was holding out a phone with the wifi options open. So I told him in English that the one he was trying to use wasn’t working and he said something else and I told him which one I was using and after it connected he said “thanks” and went back to his family. It was an enjoyable, multilingual conversation.
After about four hours of constantly checking out the window to see if it was still raining I was suddenly shocked to see that it had stopped!! I packed up my things and went to explore a bit more. I saw statues and churches and old soviet buses. Right across the road from where I saw the buses, however, was a bicycle ride share point, again giving that feeling of being stuck somewhere between the old and the new.
I somehow ended up back in Puzata Huta one more time for dinner before heading back to the hostel for more wonderful sleep until my alarm went off at 5am so I could get to the train station for my 6am train to Kiev.
The overnight bus from Gdansk was less than ideal in terms of comfort for sleep, but it was both transport and accommodation for the price of one. I arrived in Wrocław (pronounced vrotswav, believe it or not) at 8am and headed straight to my hostel. I couldn’t check in until 2pm so I left to meet another walking tour at 10am. Continue reading
The main reason I wanted to go to Gdansk was to dip my feet in the Baltic Sea. Originally I’d wanted to go swimming but the weather was bad (cold and raining) and the water was freezing so I settled for just getting my feet wet. Continue reading
Barcelona is a place I’ve been several times but I also feel like I’ve never really seen much of it. When I’ve been in the past it was usually to visit family friends, not so much to go sight seeing. This time my trip to Barcelona was very different in several ways. Instead of staying with the friends I normally do, I was simply staying at their flat alone because they were out of town. This doesn’t mean I was devoid of friends, however, because I met up with my old partner in crime Ramya, over a year since we last saw each other, and her friend Amanda. They’d planned an itinerary for their few days in Barcelona, so suddenly I had one too! Continue reading
From Granada I took the bus to Madrid. This was pretty much a whole day affair, and once I arrived I took the metro out to my campsite. That’s right. I camped in Madrid. I had been unsuccessful in finding a Couchsurfing host for Madrid (you win some, you lose some), and the cheapest hostel I could find was €24. Then I found a campsite, Camping Osuna, that would charge me half the price of the hostel, was close to a metro station affording easy access to the city centre, and had good clean bathrooms and free wifi. The three nights that I spent there in my tent saved me enough money compared to staying in a hostel that the tent has already paid for itself now. Continue reading
In Granada I was staying with another Couchsurfing host. This time it was an English couple who were living in a very nice and very old flat in the Jewish Quarter while teaching English for a year. They told me some good places nearby for free tapas – most places in Granada still honour the old tradition of “buy a beer, get free tapas”, and the beer (or soft drink) should cost you no more than €2. My main reason for coming to Granada, and in fact my main reason for coming to Andalusia as well, was to visit the Alhambra. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised quite how far in advance you need to book the tickets in summer so my hosts told me what I needed to do in order to get a ticket on the day. Continue reading