A Soggy Afternoon in Krakow’s Market Square

A Soggy Afternoon in Krakow’s Market Square

Normally I prefer the side streets of a city. Narrow alleyways, small parks, and quite, less frequented streets are usually my favorite, but in Krakow I couldn’t help but like the Main Market Square. We walked through it multiple times a day and there was always something new to see.

It’s the center of life in Krakow, a place for people watching and pierogi eating. The energy is real and it’s always full of constant activity, even in the rain. Actually, after traveling for weeks in the sweltering heat, we welcomed the rain and cool air.

Here are some observations I made while walking through Krakow’s Market Square:


Neutral colours are beautiful. Krakow isn’t full of impressive architecture or must-see sights, but one of the things I loved most about the city was its simplicity. Sometimes less is more.


The Polish language can sound very harsh, especially when shouted. I witnessed several protests in Market Square and would have been way more intrigued about it had I known what they were saying.


Polish food is delicious, especially pierogies. I ate them every single day I was in Krakow. I blame it on the weather and the fact that pierogies are the ultimate comfort food.


Krakow is family friendly and there are children (chasing pigeons) everywhere.


Shopping in Krakow is cheap and many of the souvenirs are handmade and of good quality. I bought a hand-painted wooden egg (pysanky) and it’s one of my favorite souvenirs.


Flower bouquets are sold everywhere and they really brighten up the square (and dreary weather). I wanted Luke to buy one for me but he refused and said I was being impractical.


There are a lot of street musicians in Krakow. Some are quite talented, others not so much.


There is much more to Krakow than Market Square, but if you’re looking for activity and want to see some of the prettiest buildings in the city it’s the place to go.

I enjoyed Krakow, but I didn’t fall in love with it. I found it interesting but there was nothing about it that pulled me in. Would I visit again? Definitely, but when I return to Poland I think I’ll visit Warsaw first.

What do you think? Have you ever visited Krakow’s Market Square? Which part of a city is your favorite?

Photo Essay: Margaret Island, Bizarre and Beautiful

Photo Essay: Margaret Island, Bizarre and Beautiful

Margaret Island, also known as pearl on the Danube is a green oasis that splits the Danube halfway between Pest and Buda. It’s an unusual place with a unique history and is full of musical fountains, medieval ruins, an art nouveau water tower, a water park, and even a strange petting zoo.

The island was first inhabited in the 12th century as a religious settlement and was filled with convents and churches. It was named after Princess Margaret, daughter of the Hungarian King (Béla IV of Hungary) who ruled during the mid 1200s.

During the Ottoman invasion of Budapest in the 16th century, the religious buildings were nearly all destroyed and left in ruins.


At the beginning of the 1800s, the island became a summer residence for Hungarian royalty and a landscaping project transformed the space into a park with gardens, trees, and walkways.


In 1908 Margaret Island was declared a public park and open to the general public. A musical well, a water tower, and a fountain in which the water intensity is determined by the music playing were built soon after.


Eastern-Europe2012-2531Today the island is a recreational getaway from the busy city streets and is full of locals (especially families) enjoying the scenery, reading a book, relaxing or even exercising.


There is something here for everyone, and even after spending a full day I didn’t see it all. The amount of green space in Budapest is one of the many reasons I would love to call this magical city home but Margaret Island is something else entirely. It isn’t just a park, it feels like a different world.


What do you think? Does Margaret Island sound like an interesting place to visit?

Photo Of The Week: Romanian Sunflowers

Photo Of The Week: Romanian Sunflowers

On the train from Brasov, Romania to Budapest we passed hundreds of sunflower fields. I always knew that fields like this existed, especially in the plains region of Hungary, but this was my first time actually seeing them.

Travel Thoughts On Patience and Impulsiveness

Travel Thoughts On Patience and Impulsiveness

After spending six weeks backpacking around Eastern Europe this summer, I returned to North Carolina content, and my wanderlust satisfied. Sure, I felt a bit of post-trip depression, but nothing terrible and I fell back into the reality of my job, my cat, and my life pretty easily.

Well, three months in and the feeling has returned. The urge to travel is back and I am desperately craving the excitement that goes along with experiencing the unknown.

Please tell me I’m not the only one obsessed with the travel section in bookstores

How does it feel?

I want to move, I want to stare at things in awe, I want to complain about living out a smelly backpack for months on end. I want to feel the wind in my hair as I ride my bike around a small coastal town in Croatia….

I want to say to myself, “what do I want to do today?” rather than “what do I have to do today?”

It seems like the Balkans are calling to my heart everyday. I feel like it is where I was meant to be and when I think about it,  I suddenly sit up taller, my eyes light up and that nervous-excited feeling radiates from my head to my toes.

But instead I’m here, in comfortable and dull Concord, North Carolina waiting patiently, working a steady job and saving, and waiting, and saving some more.

Well, all of this waiting and saving is starting to take its toll, and rather than patient I’ve started to become impulsive.

Very Impulsive.

Like the time I saw roundtrip plane tickets to Dublin for under $600 and then booked it the next day. Yes, I am going to Ireland in April! Why? Well, because I want to.

And then there was the time I found a hotel deal: $100 a night for a fancy hotel in Key West that normally goes for $300. My impulsiveness took over again and now I am going to Key West in December! It’s only a 15 hour drive from Charlotte and I’m almost positive I can talk my boyfriend into making the drive with me, right?


I know that these short-term trips will satisfy my wanderlust for the moment, but it has also become clear to me that maybe my spring break and summer vacation time isn’t enough.

For example, I could spend my entire summer traveling in the Balkans (with a stop in Budapest too of course), but I don’t want to. It’s too hot and expensive and I want to go in the spring or fall. But, as we all know, for a teacher that is impossible.

There is so much I want to do and experience and trying to squeeze all of my travel goals in between June and August every year might not be the best way.

I’m not quite sure what my future has in store, but I’m trying to remain patient. My impulsive and upcoming travel plans are providing me some solace and at the very least, something exciting to look forward to.

For now, I think it’s enough.

What do you think? Are you an impulsive traveler, or are you patient? Or both?

Shoes on the Danube Promenade, Budapest

Shoes on the Danube Promenade, Budapest

On the Pest side of the Danube, 60 pairs of iron shoes sit like miniature statues, representing the Jews who were murdered on the banks of the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen (Hungarian Nazis) in WW2.

The victims were ordered to remove their shoes before they were shot, as shoes were a highly valued possessions during this time.  As their bodies washed away into the river, the shoes were all that remained.

Today the 60 pairs of cast iron shoes created by Hungarian artist Gyula Pauer serve as a memorial and reminder of the past.


I really connected with this memorial in a personal way. My great-uncle was shot and his body dumped into the Tisza River when the Nazis took control of Zenta (the town in Serbia where my family is from). He was not the only one who refused to cooperate and my grandmother told me the river was red for days…

We should never forget the past, no matter how awful it may be. It is the past that has made the present what it is.


What do you think? Have you ever visited a memorial that personally touched you?

Photo Essay: A Bazaar Life

Photo Essay: A Bazaar Life

Despite not being much of a shopper, I fell hard for Istanbul and its colourful bazaars. The handmade textiles especially. The whole experience felt more personal than our  shopping malls here in the States, and haggling is so much more fun than standing in line at a checkout. The people working fascinated me too. They ranged in age and character, from overly enthusiastic to falling asleep bored.

Here are some of my favorite photos from four different Istanbul bazaars.

The Arasta Bazaar

A small, outdoor bazaar in Sultanahmet, close to the Blue Mosque. It’s quiet, the salesmen aren’t pushy, and is full of beautiful textiles and pottery.

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The “Agriculture” Bazaar

I don’t actually know the proper name of this one. I stumbled upon it while searching for the spice bazaar and initially thought it was the spice bazaar, mistaking flower seeds for sea salt! Dog food, bird seed, herbs, flowers, and even fuzzy ducklings can be found here.

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The Spice Bazaar

My favorite, especially for the dried fruit and incredible tea selection. Even the Turkish Delight was better than I imagined. I normally hate the stuff but happened to find some I loved (it was full of pistachios). The next time I visit Istanbul I am staying in an apartment just so I can cook and go grocery shopping here.




The Grand Bazaar

The biggest, most famous bazaar in all of Turkey and the ultimate shopping experience. While there are many beautiful and unique things here, there is plenty of junk as well, so patience and a good eye are essential. Haggle with a smile and give yourself plenty of time.







Due to limited backpack space, my only purchases were a silk scarf, a small kilim and a bag full of apple tea. Next time however, I am going to buy a real rug even if I have to ship it home!

What do you think? Have you ever visited a Turkish bazaar? Which one is your favorite?

High On Untersberg, Austria

High On Untersberg, Austria

I love feeling like a bird.

Looking down at the earth and seeing it presented in intricate patterns of geometric and organic shapes is bliss. A true sense of the word “big picture”. During these moments, life suddenly becomes clear and simple. My mind becomes quiet and I exist completely in the present moment.

Untersberg is all of that and more.

After riding the cable car up almost 4200 ft, we hiked from one peak to another, using a series of wobbly wooden steps and steep gravel pathways. It was cold and the wind was fierce but once you begin hiking, your focus becomes about the beauty surrounding you, not bodily discomfort.

A mountain, a series of mountains. The Alps!




Being on top of a mountain is all about observation. Clouds can roll in at any moment, the change in air pressure affects our breathing and each breathe feels deliberate. It’s a true sense of awe.

As I look back and continue to blog about my summer in Europe, more and more things become clear to me. This wasn’t just a fun summer trip or an extended vacation. It was during these short 6 weeks that at the insignificant age of 24, I discovered who I want to be.

In a couple of days I will be moving out of my parents home and into an apartment the size of my current bedroom. I am ecstatic about downsizing and the process of getting rid of so much “stuff” has been easier than expected. I feel like my head is finally clear, just as it was on Unterberg, and I know the direction I want to head in more than ever.




Salzburg is a beautiful place, Vienna too, but I think the real magic of Austria is in its mountains. Untersberg is a short bus ride from the city center and if you have more time than I did, consider hiking from the bottom, rather than taking the cable car.

Either way, Untersberg will be unforgettable.



What do you think? Does Untersberg sound like an interesting experience? Do you find nature spiritual too?

Photo of the Week: Snowy Serbia

In 2009 I got my first taste of Eastern Europe. Together my mom and I traveled to Vienna, Prague, Budapest and the tiny town in Serbia where she grew up. It was here, sitting in the warm train from Budapest to Subotica, watching the white and frozen countryside pass by, that my true obsession with travel began. Every Saturday I share a new and random photo from my travels. Share if you enjoy!


Lessons Learned in 2012

Lessons Learned in 2012

More than any other year of my life, 2012 has been a year of change, self discovery and extreme highs and lows. At 24, I traveled independently for the first time, finally opened my heart to the man I love, and realized that happiness comes from within, not from the amount of stuff you own.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned this year:

I can travel.

That probably sounds odd coming from someone writing a travel blog but a few years ago, flying to another continent on my own for longer than two weeks seemed unfathomable. I feel the complete opposite now. I feel like I could set sail on a boat to anywhere and still be able to find my way. I love myself the most when I’m traveling and I am determined to make it an essential part of my life.



I can find beauty anywhere.

This year I stopped wishing I was somewhere else and decided to live in the present moment and start noticing the beauty around me. I discovered that I was surrounded by old farmhouses, cotton fields, sparkling lakes, and even friendly cows. Sure it’s nothing exotic, but it’s still worthy of my attention.

 I can be happy with less.

A long time ago, I used to think that the more stuff I had, the happier I would be. I loved to shop and before I knew it I had a closet overflowing with clothes and shoes that I never wore. I took me years to figure out that I didn’t own my stuff, my stuffed owned me. After donating or selling most of it, I’ve learned that living with less makes me a lot happier and has given me a new sense of freedom.

I can live on my own.

A month ago, I finally moved out of my parents’ toxic home and into my own apartment. I cried the first night but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I’ve turned my tiny 500 sq foot apartment into a cozy home filled with plants and artwork and I feel stronger than ever.


 I can overcome grief and sadness.

In September, I had to put my 14 year old cat George to sleep. For more than half of my life, George was my constant companion. He slept on my bed every night and I loved him like a best friend. Losing him broke my heart but getting over it taught me that I have the strength to overcome anything.

I can choose to be happy.

More than anything, I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. I can choose to ignore the criticism from others and do what I what I love, regardless if I go against the “status quo”. Just because the people around me are miserable and stressed out all the time doesn’t mean I have to be too. I can choose to be happy, rather than let others decide it for me.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store. I can only hope that it’s a year filled with travel, new experiences, new friends, and more self-discovery.

What do you think? What is the biggest lesson you learned in 2012?