All posts by Jolanta

Thanks to a stranger… Stories of Strangers’ Kindness around the World

As our family gets ready for the annual holiday of Thanksgiving, probably the most important holiday in the U.S. because it’s celebrated by people of all faiths, I think back to a November more than twenty years ago, when my husband and I, married just three months prior, got stuck on I-89 in Vermont when our car broke down.

We had just visited my husbands’ parents in Vermont, and with a huge turkey they gave us slowly thawing in the trunk of our old station wagon, we were heading back to our apartment in Boston, to celebrate our first Thanksgiving together.

Our car broke down about half an hour after we got on the highway.

And it was raining.

That was before everyone had cell phones, and in those days if you broke down along a stretch of a highway far from the nearest emergency call box in cold November rain … Well… it wasn’t fun.

Continue reading Thanks to a stranger… Stories of Strangers’ Kindness around the World

Collegium Maius: Museum of Jagiellonian University in Krakow

May 12, 1364 – Polish King Kazimierz III (Casimir) the Great issues a royal charter establishing a university in Kraków, the capital of Poland at that time.

While there are already some thirty universities in operation in Europe, this is the first university in Poland, and the second oldest in Central Europe. Charles University in Prague was founded some twenty years earlier, in 1348.

The university has no buildings, the lectures are held in various buildings around the city. After Kazimierz’s death in 1370, his successor Louis I of Hungary has no interest supporting the Polish university, so the few professors and students move to Prague or other universities. The kings change, however, and in 1390s, the new king and queen – Władysław II Jagiełło and Jadwiga of Anjou – decide to revive the university and succeed. Jadwiga even bequeaths part of her private wealth and estate to the university.

The following year, 1400 King Jagiełło donates to the university a house he bought near the edge of the city, and inaugurates reopening of the university on July 26, 1400, with 206 students enrolled.

Continue reading Collegium Maius: Museum of Jagiellonian University in Krakow

Visiting Chichen Itza: An overview and tips for visiting

After a few minutes in the full sun you can almost feel your skin sizzle, and your hair nearly burns your fingers as you run your hand through it. The area is vast, but the tourists surrounding the guide crowd under the sparse trees, seeking shade from the oppressive heat.

This is what visiting Chichén Itzá feels like in April. In short: it’s ungodly hot.

We saw Chichén Itzá in 2013, when we vacationed in Cancun on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. That over was two years ago, but I don’t suppose the area has changed much since then, though some of the excavation work has probably moved forward.

A Bit of History (as always)

“Chi” means “mouth” and “chen” means “well” in Mayan, thus Chichén Itzá means “at the mouth of the well of the Itzá tribe.”

I’m afraid I found conflicting information as to who the Itza were and when they arrived in the region, so I’m not going to say anything about that.

The well mentioned in the name is the nearby cenote, a naturally formed round, deep depression in the ground filled with water, and pretty steep walls. This particular cenote wasn’t actually used for fresh water, however, but rather ceremonial purposes. When the cenote was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century, the archeologists found not only hundreds of objects at the bottom, but also human remains that showed signs of human sacrifice.

Chichén Itzá was a large city, which archaeologists think started gaining importance between 700 to 1,000 A.D.

At the beginning of the 10th century the region saw the arrival of outsiders from the Central Valley, the Toltecs (or people influenced by the Toltecs according to Encyclopaedia Britannica), who made the locals accept their own gods. The main Toltec god was the Feathered Serpent called Quetzalcoatl in Aztec, which was translated to Kukulkan in Mayan.

The most spectacular structures in Chichén Itzá were built during that period – 11th to the 13th century, but the whole area of Chichén Itzá includes both Toltec and earlier, Mayan structures.

panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan
panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan

Continue reading Visiting Chichen Itza: An overview and tips for visiting

Quebec City’s Le 760 Honore Mercier Apartment 604: A Review

Hotels or vacation rentals, that is the question, isn’t it? Especially if you travel with a family, and not just by yourself.

We usually opt for vacation rentals – whole houses in rural areas, or apartments in the cities. Sometimes they are fantastic, sometimes not so much. Here’s our review of Le 760 Honoré-Mercier Apartments in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, where we stayed for four nights last May (2015).

Le 760 Honoré Mercier

The vacation rentals at Le 760 Honoré Mercier are located in a brand new building just a short walk to Old Quebec area, and a block away from Rue Saint-Jean with grocery stores, restaurants, and plenty other stores.

outside Le 760 Honoré Mercier
outside Le 760 Honoré Mercier

You can rent those straight from their website, but we found booking.com offered a better price.

Le 760 Honoré Mercier offers a variety of 1-, 2- and 3-room apartments, and they’re all complete apartments, with a full kitchen, bedroom, and dining- and living-room areas.

There is also a garage underneath the building, and when you check in, in addition to a card key to your apartment, you also get a key to enter the building. Only guests of the building can open the front door, even though there is a registration desk and concierge right at the front entrance.

When we visited Quebec City last May, we booked Le 760 Honoré-Mercier Avenue 604, which is advertised as a two-bedroom apartment for maximum 6 people.

Two bedrooms it does have, but I’m not sure how six people could sleep there comfortably, since the apartment only has two beds, and the sofa in the living room is not a sofa bed.

Luckily, our daughter was just small enough to fit on the sofa bed, but a larger child or a grown up definitely would not like it.

Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect: Continue reading Quebec City’s Le 760 Honore Mercier Apartment 604: A Review

In the Footsteps of Royalty: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Right past the wide open massive iron gates, the vast courtyard is full of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of imperial splendors of the past.

In the times of Emperor Franz Joseph, who reigned from 1848 till 1916, on Mondays and Thursdays any subject of his empire could supposedly ask for an audience with the monarch in his opulent Walnut Room.

What did it feel like, I wonder, to approach the Schönbrunn Palace, crunching gravel underfoot and petition in hand?

Schönbrunn’s size must have must have impressed even the wealthiest of the emperor’s subjects, not to mention the simple city dwellers, if they were in fact ever allowed to see the Emperor.

The grand entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace up close
The grand entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace up close

Continue reading In the Footsteps of Royalty: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Recognizing Fellow Travel Bloggers – Liebster and the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Awards

If you’ve been part of the travel blogging scene for a while you have undoubtedly seen several mentions of the “Liebster Award” and the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers” award. Heck, you might have already been nominated for either or both awards yourself.

For those who haven’t heard of the Liebster and the Sisterhood yet – it’s basically a way to recognize your fellow travel bloggers, and get to know them a bit better by asking them questions that they are expected to answer as they, in turn, write a post about the award.

Technically the Liebster award is supposed to be given to new blogs, with very small following, and I have first received the Liebster nomination from BEATRAVELING way back in October 2014, when I was just a new kid on the block. (You can read about that in “Liebster Awards, or as I’ve been calling it #blogspotlight.“)

liebster award
Liebster award button

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers on another hand is supposed to showcase female bloggers, because, as Kate of Adventurous Kate pointed out during her keynote at WITS15 (Women in Travel Summit held in 2015), female bloggers deserve more attention than they are given by the media.

(I don’t think there’s a video recording of that speech but you can at least look at the slides of Kate’s presentation “Gender Inequality in the Travel Blogging Industry.”)

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers button

Continue reading Recognizing Fellow Travel Bloggers – Liebster and the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Awards