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 "town" impressed me with it's atmosphere
and vitality.

Below is the second part of a series of photos showing Wielkopolska, "The Potato Land", our adopted (at least temporarily) homeland. This time, a few shots from Poznań, Jarocin, Dobrzyca and Gołuchów. The long and colorful Fall made for excellent neighborhood tours and walks in the beautiful and very well-maintained parks. Our favorite - the castle park in Gołuchów.

My second half-marathon. This time at the end of the season, in Kościan. 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 :(

On the way back north we spent several days in Hungary. Already knowing Budapest quite well, this time we decided to see the Hungarian countryside. Because the weather
was still nice, we also stopped at the famous Lake Balaton. It was very quiet and relaxing.
Well, the end of summer, unfortunately. :(

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 splendor.

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 tour "Europe 2011" was significantly reduced. Our goal was the Balkans. 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 did not have a clue such a thing exists). The chances of survival seem small but for now it's better than neighbors slaying neighbors. 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 :(

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 Pamir. 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 an 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 ...still. Maybe next time? :)
A few pics below, but there will be a bigger picture gallery. I promise :)

Driving back to Poland we stopped in some famous and touristy places in Germany, mostly in Bavaria. Below are few "postcard" shots from some of them. 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:)

After a nice break at the beach we went back north to 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 :(

While in southern France we stopped in Nice for a few days. A very old, beautiful seaport city full of history and modern art. A mixture of cultures, religions and races. A visit to
the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is a must, otherwise just lose yourself in
the narrow streets of the old town, full of unique shops and restaurants.

Northern Italy, especially Dolomites welcomed us, just like Tauern with rainy and unpredictable weather. We managed to do a couple of unimportant trails but there was not even a change for something 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, looks like the beginning of the hiking season this year was marked by crappy weather. 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 dry hiking trails.

The first part of our big trip "Europe 2011" began in the Czech Republic. This time we stayed away from overestimated and crowded Praque 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 and beautifully restored architecture, but the location is spectacular.

In the Spring process of warming up my old bones 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 solid 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 was turning 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 honorable -:) 894th place out of nearly 1,400 people starting. Yeah! One has to start somewhere.

We spent new year's eve 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 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.

All the best in 2011!!!