Yearly Archives: 2014


A bit of Old City, Tzfat 1

I love my little forays up the beautiful white Israeli stone steps to Rehove Jerusalem, the main street — to the fruit store where large avocados and prisimans are 30¢ each, and of course there is great falafel. So tonight I am sharing photos of my short walk home. It begins in light alley. Rehove Jerusalem, the Main Street, is at right at my back. Then I walk down two sets of white stone stairs. And down another short flight of steps that lay before me in this last photo. The lit patio at the end is Ascent of Tzfat. As you can see Ascent is in the Old City. Just at the edge. It is so beautiful.


In search of a Chanukah Latka — in Israel

December 22, 2014 (posted on facebook) Tonight is the 7th night of Chanukah and I have yet to even see a latke. :( Who’d have thought that in Israel, the land of olive oil, there’d be a dearth of luscious lip-licking latkas? In Poland I could buy them cold in the supermarket or even freshly cooked  hot on the street (at least in Zacaopne). But in Jerusalem on the first two days of Chanukah I couldn’t find them on the street, in the markets, or in the most famous shuk. (Donuts, the other traditional fried food of this fiesta, were all over the place, but for me, latkas are the only satisfying option.) Returning to Tzfat I didn’t see a latka for sale anywhere either. So I decided to think of it this way… I travel to learn the world’s traditions, so I’m going with the flow and living on memories of latkas in Tarnow and Zacaopne […]


Save water-damaged electronics as you travel

As the near-frozen rain comes down in the strong stormy, blowing air here in Tzfat, Israel, I am reminded to share an important tip about keeping your electronics dry.

I never told you about a moisture episode I had back in Croatia. It rained the day I arrived in Croatia and parts of many days to follow.

As we enjoyed the drive to Plitvice National Park, my travel companion was not enjoying trying to navigate. His Android tablet was acting oddly. As my go-to dry-out solution, my Bheestie (bee stee) Bag, is just iPhone-sized, I created the next best solution for him.


Slovenia into Croatia by train

I am writing this as I sit, alone, in a six-person compartment on the 3:10 train from the Ljubljana (Slovenia) railway station to the Rijeka (Croatia) train station. As I entered the first available train car, the back-most car, I was at first taken aback and disappointed by the car full of 6-seat compartments. The separate compartments can be nice, but I was disappointed because I’d hoped to meet people on the train. I’d met my Ljubljana friends on a train.

I don’t want to be leaving. Slovenia is a beautiful area, I enjoy Ljubljana, and more importantly, I love my friends. However, I must leave. Today is my 89th day in the Schengen Area and 90 days is the limit.

As I stepped off the train there was one other woman with me, I asked about a hostel and she told me there was one just down the road five minutes, but that was all I had from her. I will never know if I found that hostel.

Traveling from Ljubljana into Croatia

Šiauliai Lithuania to Riga Latvia by mini-bus

As I headed to Lithuania, world-traveling friend Esther Snippe “Facebooked me” telling me that if I was going to be in Lithuania, I had to go to Riga (the capital of Latvia). Due to the Schengen Agreement, my time in Europe was limited to three months. In all of my years (3 + 1½) of traveling, I had never entered a country and only gone to one town. That just isn’t in line with how I travel.

But Riga and its many fine Art Nouveau buildings beaconed and the Schengen limitations make me crazy — so I made an exception and went to Riga.

Want to join me on my 2½-hour bus ride from Šiauliai (show-leh) Lithuania to Riga Latvia?


Hill of the Crosses, Lithuania

The story of the Hill of the Crosses in Šiauliai is a testament to humanity as well as of faith. As I am not Christian, a cross doesn’t have the same feeling that it does to Christians. However, this is a show of people who, through the generations, fought Czarist Russia and then Soviet Russia for their freedoms.


The cellular package I bought in Lithuania.

Cell phone & data SIM card in Lithuania

I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania on a Thursday afternoon at 3pm. I’d needed to text my friend Pedro on Friday afternoon but was able to use the roaming feature on my Polish SIM card. (I’m pretty sure that data would have expired by the time I got back to Poland anyway.) When Pedro came with me to get a SIM the next afternoon, the nearest shop was closed. So I didn’t get a SIM unil my 3rd day in Vilnius.

However, it never occurred to me that a bus or train station was actually THE place to buy a SIM card and I had not learned that at this point in my travels. (It turns out that was the case, at least in the major cities, through the entire area.) Having known, I might have purchased my SIM and plan at the Vilnius Coach Station, which is right across from the train station.

For $1.35 I got:
150 phone minutes
1,000 text messages
100mb data


Castle ruins of Vilnius Lithuania

My second day in Vilnius, after visiting the Lithuanian Archives in search of my family history, I again met Pedro in the afternoon and he showed me around. We walked to the Gediminas Tower, or specifically, Gediminas Tower. It is the last standing part of the Upper Castle, which is what remains of Vilnius castle complex, hoping to get there while it was still open.

For speed, we opted to walk around to the front, the river side, and took the funicular, then walked down.

These are some of my photos of the castle remnants.


Vilnius bus and train stations

Are you wondering arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania and getting to a great hostel or hotel for your stay there? You’re in luck because both the bus station and train station — right across from each other — are easily walkable to the beautiful old city of Vilnius, where there are several options for accommodations.


Traditional Lithuania food in Vilnius

For my first meal in Vilnius, Lithuania, I wanted something traditional. My Portuguese friend Pedro, having met me at the bus, was with me for the afternoon and evening. After we’d checked me into a great hostel, we kept an eye out for a good, but affordable place to eat.

The main street through the old city is really nice, but, as you’d expect, the restaurants are touristy and costly. I felt we did fairly well finding Forto Dvaras.


Hostelgate reception

Great hostel in Vilnius Lithuania

Hostelgate Backpackers is an ideally located hostel right on what I think is the main street of the old city. Not far down this street is the Astoria Hotel and other top hotels are right there, too.

Clean, convenient, friendly. Various sized dorm rooms. Good kitchen. Comfy places to hang out. Supermarket right down the road too.


Warsaw to Vilnius on SimpleBus

8:15am
I am comfortably seated on SimpleBus, as our driver makes his way over a mostly (so far) 2-lane road through green countryside. At one point we were surrounded by trees and I imagined how Jews hid out there once. Now, as we near Lomza we are going through open farm fields sometimes separated by Clusters of trees sometimes there is a row or two of tall trees separating the farm and home from the road. I think I see corn growing.

2:31
I replied to Pedro and he texted:
“Ok ok…I am on my way to the station…see you there at the entrance.”
He asked if I found a CouchSurfing host. I hadn’t had any luck and asked if he knew hostels. He said there are at least four and he would help. It is so amazing to land somewhere and not go it alone. (First Michal in Warsaw, then Dorota in Krakow, and now Pedro in Vilnius. This was a very different trip for me!)

3:00
IWhen the bus pulled into the Vilnius Coach Station, Pedro was waiting for me. It was fabulous to be met by a friend. (Technically an acquaintance, but in travels like this, I consider such a nice guy a friend.)

I was in Vilnius, Lithuania — a place I’d never thought I’d get to in my life. What would I find here, in the city (or area) of my family’s past generations?


Subway™ — even in Zakopane, a resort town

I noticed the American chain, Subway™, in a lot of places. But it really took me by surprise when I saw it in Zakopane! I wasn’t surprised to see it elsewhere in Poland — but to see an American chain in a classic old-style resort town… well, I never expected to see anything American there! And I don’t recall seeing anything else American. I’m not sure there were even any other chains there, American, Polish, or other. Of course, whenever I did see it, I tried to go in and take photos of the menus in each country. (In Panama I ate at Subway once. I didn’t try it in Poland.) Inside, they all looked pretty much the same as in the USA.   In Europe where they use the metric system, the sandwhiches were 15cm and 30cm, which works out to slightly smaller sandwhiches. 5.9″ and 11.81 actually. At this […]


A town square in Zakopane Poland

Scenes of a day in Zakopane Poland

Dorota and I spent our days in Zakopane simply walking around and enjoying the sites, sounds, and foods — despite the rain. (Remember you can click an image to enlarge it.)   One of the things you can’t miss is the local cheese. It’s sold in each of the main areas of Zakopane and comes in many sizes, shapes, and nuances. Notice it’s not refrigerated? It’s all quite salty and doesn’t need refrigeration. At least not until cut info or for some time. I brought some back to Warsaw as a gift to my host and hostess there. The Square Food stalls surrounded a local square (well circle). The potato pancake stand was irresistible as our lunch. They serve these hot crisp beauties covered in cream.   I got to people-watch as we joined others sitting on a low stone curb to enjoy our casual snack or meal. The entertainment included this […]


Zakopane dinner of Spinach Pierogi

Here’s the place that attracted our attention for a good sit-down meal for a late lunch or early dinner. The Pierogi caught my attention. I ordered the Spinach Pierogi for 12zl. When the waitress brought it, swimming in butter, I had one bite and was in heaven. I know I took photos of it, but don’t know what happened to those photos. So I can only share a photo of the restaurant and show you its menus. Arranging the night’s accommodations as we ate Dorota needed to get back to work so our mini holiday was ending soon. We were taking a bus back to Krakow by dark. Dorota was worried about me having a place to stay. I wasn’t. I had called Joanna, a woman with whom I’d stayed the first time I came through Krakow because she’d told me to call when I returned. Besides, I can always walk […]

The menus

Zakopane Poland summer holiday

I arrived in Zakopane, a popular mountain resort in Poland. My Polish friend was on the way by bus. I walked around, found a place for a sit-down lunch, then I listened to room-hawkers who approached me as I awaited my friend’s bus. It was a change for me to stay in a chalet rather that a hostel.


Kraków to Tarnow to seeking my roots

I started this day in Krakow, left my backpack behind and headed to Tarnow for a night.

Tarnow is not a tourist town. Finding a place to stay was part of my entire day’s adventure as I saw much of the city with my daypack and side bag on me. This post follows that very long day.

Map of Tarnow

Cell phone SIM for travel in Poland

I got a Polish SIM card for my iPhone today. I went with Play at the recommendation of a Polish friend. The Starter Kit was 19 zl ($6.50).

The man at the Play store popped it in for me and it worked. It simply worked. Phone, data, done. Not like the configuration needed in Central America.

But is that a result of the Polish system or being on iOS7 instead of iOS6 or having an iPhone 4s instead of 3gs? I guess I have to return to Central America to find out.


Krakow town square & area

My Krakow friend Dorota had a work appointment the afternoon I arrived, so we walked together to the entrance to a park near the main square — a medieval square — and arranged to meet at the same spot later. This gave me the opportunity to wander by myself and get a feel for the area. As this was my first walk in Krakow, every storefront, ever vehicle, every sign, was new to me.

I’ve got some photos of this medieval square for you.


Bus from Warsaw to Krakow

I awoke at 6am to the sound of Joanna cooking. I was in for another truly home cooked meal. Today was the day for me to move on to my second place in Poland. I was Krakow-bound and a friend was meeting me on the other end of the ride. I sat in a red high back seat on the upper level of my first Polish bus, PolskiBus. It was a very clean, new-seeming, beautiful double-decker. For approximately 5 hours I watched the scenery and did some writing. No friendly conversations with locals on this bus ride.


Warsaw day 3 – Driving & the Uprising Museum

On this rainy Sunday, Michal and Joanna took me to the Warsaw Uprising Museum in the part of Warsaw called Wola. We drove as it was our only stop — and because it was raining, of course.

If you’re curious about some of the roads in Warsaw, here’s a slideshow of photos from our drive from his suburb to the museum. Then I’ve got a slideshow of some of the museum, of course. I can show you the photos, but can’t even begin to tell you about its impact.