Thursday, December 31, 2009

my friends in Poznan

Almost all of my close friends who live in Poland are in Poznan. There lives Olenka, my best friend from high school, Agnieszka, my best friend from university and Ania, my best roommate ever :)

It was really great to see them all and find out that all of them are doing so extremely well both on personal and professional fronts. This trip made me realize how lucky I am to have so many wonderful female friends (not only in Poland, but in general). I have to admit that I am very proud of all my girlfriends. They are all strong, independent, successful and at the same time modest, kind and beautiful. Are all women like that or do I somehow only make friends with women like that?

Anyway, my stay in Poznan was so good, that it was actually bad. My mind started wondering why I am living abroad so far away from the people who are important to me, and if maybe I should come back to Poland. But at the same time I know that long term I would probably not be happy in Poland. At least not yet. Moving back for me would mean giving up on something that I am not willing to give up yet (I am not fully sure what that something really is, though).

Agnieszka and I in the pub PRL. We are celebrating Agnieszka's PhD defense!

The very happy family: Ania, Arianka and Molutek:

Beautiful Arianka:

Ania, Agnieszka and I:

ice carving competition in Poznan

My blog featured photos from Poznan many times already, so I am going to keep it short this time. Since four years Poznan hosts "International Ice Carving Festival" that takes place on Old Market Square. I did not make it for the carving itself this year, but I was there still in time to enjoy the sculptures. Some of them were pretty cool, I thought. You can admire them on the photos below:

And here is Poznan City Hall:

Other photos from Old Market Square:

Barcelona - last thoughts and photos

As I mentioned before, I could imagine myself living in Barcelona. There are several reasons for that. First, I really liked that in the evenings there were lots of people walking on the streets. Second, I absolutely love architectural style of Barcelona, especially its narrow streets and beautiful street lamps:

Beautiful street lamp and Gaudi's Casa Mila:

Also, I enjoyed a lot modernistic buildings present here and there in the city. Here you can see group of buildings called Illa de la Discordia:

Gaudi's Casa Batloo:

Palau de la Musica Catalana:

Miquel Blay's sculptural group (The Catalan song) on the corner of Palau de la Musica Catalana:

Of course, there were also many beautiful "classical" buildings as well, for example Santa Maria del Mar:

Placa del Rei:

Casa de la Ciutat with interesting visual effects:

Third reason why I like Barcelona is because it is friendly to cyclists and even it has its own bike-sharing program called "bicing":

Fourth reason for liking Barcelona is that it is located at the seaside and it has a reasonably nice beach. When I was there it was too cold to lie on a real beach, so we had to take advantage of this artificial one:

Being located at the seaside also means that there is a wonderful selection of fresh sea food. I am pretty sure that if I would live there, I would start eating fish again. Especially that being vegetarian is a bit challenging in Spain... Also, as I mentioned in one of the previous posts, there was great selection of other food as well, so cooking there would be lots of fun.

Fifth reason for liking Barcelona would be its reasonably moderate climate. I guess I managed to arrive there during the worst weather and it was still not that bad.

List of things that I did not like about Barcelona would be pretty short. The major issue would be that Barcelona is pretty expensive compared to the salaries that people earn. The minor one is that all people there look the same to me... so it would take me some time and effort to recognize my neighbors or co-workers ;)

bye bye 2009

As always, my plans for blogging were too ambitious. There is no way that I would manage to finish all the posts I wanted to during this trip. Not to mention that I was hoping to come up with the outline for a book too...

But I guess that's fine. It is better to live life than write about it. Also, I hope that the coming year will be less exciting (also travel-wise) and I will have more time then to document my travels from the past year.

With a lot of effort I chose 130 (out of more than 7'000) photos that represent the most important events/travels in my life that happened in 2009. You can find them here: link.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poland is beautiful

Before "real" blog posts describing my holidays in Poland show up here, you can check out the photos that I took during last few days:

Christmas Eve
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friends in Barcelona

Since always Barcelona was high on my list of places that I wanted to visit. I was considering stopping there for a few days every time I was coming back from Europe to the US, but for various reasons it never happened. So when I found out that Eric will be there for several weeks in November and December, I decided to slightly modify my plans and stop in Barcelona on the way to Poland. Also, two of my friends (one of which I miss tremendously) live in Barcelona and luckily they both were there when I was visiting.

Eric was a great guide and made sightseeing very easy. First time in my life, I did not even need to read a guidebook! As he had been staying in Barcelona for several weeks, he knew all the good spots there and had several interesting friends, to whom he kindly introduced me too. So, yes, the majority of time in Barcelona I spent eating and talking to people :) Much better than going to the museums ;)

My tour guide, Eric, and I. Notice that I am wearing a sleeveless top, whereas he has several layers of clothes and a cap!

Also thanks to Eric we went to several nice places for food, like for example this great Tapas place:

Unfortunately, I only found two Tapas that did not have fish or meat on them:

I was very impressed with Barcelona's fresh produce market. Selection of fruits and vegetables there was definitely comparable to the one in San Francisco, and its meat and sea food selection was even better than the on in SF!

One of the two "old" friends that I have in Barcelona is Kasia, my best friend from primary and secondary school. Until the age of 14 we were basically inseparable. Our ways parted when we went to universities in different cities and moved abroad afterward. We reconnected around year ago through (Polish equivalent of Kasia lived then in Buenos Aires and I was thinking about visiting her there. As you can see she always chooses interesting places to live ☺

Meeting Kasia in Barcelona was wonderful. I was very happy to see that she is as interesting, independent, charming, easy-going and cynically funny person as I remembered her to be. From the very first moment I felt very comfortable in her company and talking with her was as easy as if we had dropped the contact a day, not thirteen years, before.

Kasia and I:

Other friend that I reconnected with in Barcelona was Doris, with whom we were in the same PhD program in Dresden. It was very nice to see her and catch up on the news from the past three years.

Doris and I:

All in all, it was a very nice side trip for me before going to Poland. It was not as much filled with doing touristy stuff as with seeing friends, which made it special.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

One of few touristy things that I did in Barcelona was sightseeing
the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, which is a masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. It’s one of Barcelona's top tourist attractions even though it is not completed yet. Its construction has started in 1882 and it does not look like it will be finished any time soon.

As you can see from the photos posted below it is very unique in its design. Not sure if I would call it pretty or esthetically pleasing, though. But I do appreciate the fantasy and open-mindedness of its architect.

The main entrance to the temple:

Inside the church:

Views from the top:

Stairs leading down:

Beautiful decorations on the side of the temple:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Parc Guell

Even though the weather was not so great when I was visiting Barcelona, on one day I anyway decided to go to Parc Guell. It is yet another of Gaudi's creations and he even lived there with his family for a few years. I can imagine that on a sunny day the park is a great picnic or romantic getaway spot. However, on a gray day there is not much to do there.

The main entrance to the park:

Park's famous lizard:

Detail of the ceiling:

Gaudi's house:

The roadway viaduct:

Views from the park to the city: