Cool city, live jazz, crowded cafes and meeting with old friends I haven't seen for ages - a long weekend in Krakow. As usual, the city impressed us with its atmosphere and vitality.



A few random shots from places we stumbled upon by accident, exploring the area around "our" town, Pleszew in Poland. Looks like the local art scene is thriving, hahaha.



My second half-marathon. This time in Kościan, a city south of Poznań, Poland . Beautiful fall weather, the route flat and dry, yeah! I improved my time by 2.5 minutes, but still I was not able to go below 2 hours. Result: 2 hours 54 seconds.



Driving further north we ended up in Hungary, where we visited one of the oldest towns in the country and its former capital (from the 10th until the mid-13th century), Esztergom. The city is beautifully located on the right bank of the river Danube, which forms part of the border with Slovakia. Its cathedral, Esztergom Basilica, is the largest church in Hungary.

In Slovakia we stumbled upon (by pure accident) one of the most visited (lol) tourist attractions in the country - Bojnice Castle. It is a very impressive Romanesque castle with some original Gothic and Renaissance elements, built in the 12th century.



Montenegro. Little known, inconspicuous, but a very attractive country. The sea, beaches, lakes, interesting architecture, monasteries, mountains, all at a fairly reasonable price and in a small area. Tourism infrastructure (in comparison with Croatia or Slovenia) leaves much to be desired and the beaches could be a little bit cleaner but, as I mentioned, the prices are lower and there are far fewer tourists. I recommend a visit before this changes!



From Bosnia it's only a short drive to the "Pearl of the Balkans" - Dubrovnik - and the surrounding area in Croatia. Wonderful weather (36 degrees C!), almost empty campgrounds, and a mellow atmosphere "forced" us to spend a few days in absolute relaxation. After quite a busy summer, it was a well-deserved rest. Of course we did go to see Dubrovnik and, with such a spectacular location and interesting architecture, the city fully deserves its reputation of beauty and splendour.



Due to Shona's visa problems, and Polish immigration officials who are trying very hard to  make our lives miserable, the second part of our "Europe 2011" tour was significantly reduced. But, our goal was the Balkans and, via the Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia, we made it to Bosnia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with a very complicated and seemingly illogical setup. It consists of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and Brcko Canton (personally I didn’t have a clue such a thing exists). The chances of survival seem small but for now it's better than neighbours slaying neighbours. Despite the devastation of war, which can be seen at every turn, the country rises to its feet. Sarajevo is once again an exciting and energetic city, where people are able to live together regardless of nationality, race or religion. "Never again!" one would say, but given the history of mankind, we have a frighteningly short memory.



Poznań is the capital city of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) region. The city is an important cultural and business centre, and one of Poland's most populous regions with many regional customs such as Saint John's Fair (Jarmark Świętojański), traditional Saint Martin's croissants and a local dialect. Among its most important heritage sites are the Renaissance Old Town, Town Hall and Gothic Cathedral (from Wiki).



Most of July I spent in Kyrgyzstan. Not the best holiday destination, unless you're looking for big mountains. The mountains are huge and there are a lot of them. I wanted to improve my altitude record, so I took part in an expedition to Lenin Peak - 7134 meters, in the Pamir range. The mountain is massive and a lot of things are happening on it, not always good ones. It was a very intense three weeks. Avalanches were hurting people, one guy died from altitude sickness, another was found dead on the way to the summit. And me? Well... I lost 6 kilograms (that's good), but health problems in camp III - at 6200 meters, on the summit of Peak Razdielnaja (man, it's a windy place!), prevented me from reaching the summit.

At least I got some more experience, saw some exotic shit, and had a chance to meet great people. So, the trip in general was a success ...but .... Maybe next time?

More pictures from Lenin Peak.



Driving back to Poland we stopped in some famous and touristy places in Germany, mostly in Bavaria. The highlight of the German leg of our trip was definitely Carlos Santana's concert in Leipzig. Man... that guy can still handle a guitar, lol.



Making our way back towards Poland, after Andrzej's epic summit of Mt. Blanc, we stopped in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Sadly, the weather was mostly atrocious so we didn't stay long. We had one evening in Interlaken where it was nice to walk around, but we had picked a crazy time to be there. It was the Swiss Yodel Festival, apparently held every 3 years. Impossible to find a camping spot, we had to take a double room with shared bathroom, for the insane price of 90 Swiss Francs! But it was funny to see Japanese people dressed up in traditional Swiss garb, and trying to yodel. Getting out of Interlaken was another driving nightmare, thanks to construction and a huge funeral procession. Somehow we ended up driving on the runway of their little airport, don't ask me how, but we did eventually make it out. And Zurich and Liechtenstein were no better, sadly. Felix wouldn't even get out of the car in Liechtenstein, but we managed to see a bit, it seemed like a beautiful place.

The highlight of our stay in the area was a visit to Grindelwald, where we had sun for a few hours and were able to see the Eiger. Shame about the weather but I'm sure we'll be back to this area at some point.



After a nice break at the beach we went back north to the famous Chamonix. The town location is just breathtaking, the spectacular and dramatic Alps at your fingertips. After a few conditioning hikes, despite the unstable weather, I managed to climb the summit of Mont Blanc (4810 m). Too bad pictures from the summit are nothing special due to poor visibility.

More pictures from Mont Blanc.



On our way from Nice to Chamonix, we stopped in Monaco for a quick visit. Out of pure coincidence we arrived the day after the famous Monaco Grand Prix, so we got to drive the roads of the race with all the stands still set up, fun! It's a very pretty sovereign state with fabulous views of the Mediterranean Sea from the grounds of the Prince's Palace. And Felix enjoyed the walk around the palace garden, so much so, he left a substantial gift for the Prince.



Before making our way to Chamonix, and the mountains again, we decided to stop in Nice for a few days. Nice is a beautiful city, kind of shabby chic with loads of colour and character. But driving there, yikes, what a disaster! After 2 hours of navigating traffic and road construction, I had to get out and find our hotel on foot, and then figure out a way for Andrzej to get there in the car. A true test of our relationship, that's for sure, lol. Once settled in, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets and soaking in the ambiance of the city. We always try to visit an art museum when we're in a big city, and Nice was no exception. The Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MAMAC) was fantastic, and we were even able to take Felix through the outdoor gallery. I hope we get a chance to visit Nice again, one day, but ...you know, so many places, so little money. Lol.



Northern Italy, especially the Dolomites welcomed us, just like Tauern, with rainy and unpredictable weather. We managed to do a couple of unimportant trails but there was no chance for anything exciting, like the summit of Marmolada, for example.

Luckily, Italy is engaging in general so we had a good time anyway, and a few days at the sea improved our moods and suntans.



From Czech Republic we went to Austria, where after a few relaxing days in picturesque Salzburg, we went to the mountains. Unfortunately, it seems like the beginning of the hiking season this year was marked by crappy weather. The Hohe Tauern mountains were still full of snow, rain and cold. After visiting a few potentially interesting hiking spots, we gave up and started driving south in search of the sun and some dry hiking trails.



The first part of our big road trip, "Europe 2011", began in the Czech Republic. This time we stayed away from the overestimated and crowded Prague, and visited a couple of little gems, like the towns of Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov. Especially the last one, it's not only full of history with beautifully restored architecture, but the location is absolutely spectacular.



In preparation for the summer season, I needed to warm up my old bones, so I decided to take part, for the first time in my life, in an organized race. I decided on the 4th-annual Ślężański Half-marathon in Sobótka. Shit. The trail (21 tough kilometers around Mount Ślęża) has a 200-meter elevation difference, so the uphill parts were brutal. To top that, the temperature maxed out at a measly + 4 degrees and the occasional rain turned to snow. I finished the damn thing even though my time of 2 hours and 3 minutes (and a few seconds) was rather poor.

I took the honourable (lol) 894th place out of nearly 1,400 participants. Yeah! One has to start somewhere.



We spent New Year's Eve and celebrated Shona’s birthday in Bratislava. There was sparkling wine, fireworks, lots of people screaming and dancing. All that on the banks of the Danube River (not sure who named it blue, but I think it's kind of polluted). Bratislava is not as grand and picturesque as Prague but it's also not as overwhelming and crowded as the Czech capital. It's less expensive and you still get some smiles in restaurants. One really can feel relaxed here and welcomed, and beer is as good as everywhere else in this part of Europe.