One of my pics (see below) got an honorable mention at a photo contest organised by Direct Alpine. All winning pictures were presented to the public at the Kraków Mountain Festival. Cool!
Over two years in the corn and potato fields of Wielkopolska. Anybody would have had enough, we certainly did. We are moving to Lower Silesia, to the city of Jelenia Góra (Deer Mountain - no, it's not in Idaho). Finally, some hills outside the window!
Graz is admittedly not Vienna or Salzburg, but worth a stop while in Austria. Nice, neat and vibrant city. Classic European architecture with strong modern accents. A walk through the old town (with stops in numerous, cool cafes) a must.
Continuing along the Adriatic coast we made a stop in Slovenia. After a few days in the deserted coastal town of Izola
(end of season) we went to Ljubljana. Ljubliana impresses
as usual. Falling leaves and beautiful architecture. Quiet, calm, lazy
big city, with a nice small-town feel.
In pursuit of summer weather we went as far south as the Split area, in Croatia. After a couple of weeks in Trogir we started to move slowly north-west along the Adriatic coast. There was a bit of sight-seeing but mostly total laziness with a can of "Ożujskie" beer (me) or a glass of local red wine (Shona) in hand. Teetotaler Felix (black sheep in the family!) had to be satisfied with local dog treats.
After a short visit to Luxembourg, we went to Belgium. Bruges, Gent, Brussels - all beautiful cities with spectacular architecture, delicious chocolate and great beer.
Life is good!
Last year one of the local newspapers published a short interview with me, about my solo ascent of Mont Blanc, as well as some of my writings about my travels. Apparently I have become a local expert on this topic :) So I was invited for another interview, this time longer, with the editor. The piece was published in the latest issue of the magazine Życie Pleszewa.
Sorry the text is in Polish only :)
Luxembourg is not all boring banks and suits (but yes, there are a shitload of banks in the city), but also a spectacular location and the interesting architecture of the capital city. Picturesque hills, meadows, forests, villages and the occasional impressive castles. However, the biggest hit of this country is ... cheap gasoline. Half of Belgium, France and Germany come here to buy it. I recommend a visit. The country is rather small, so a few days is enough.
On the 21th and 22th of August I completed the second half of the "Crown of the Sudetes".
There were no major incidents, though some trails are marked incredibly poorly.
Two long and intense days, 11 summits to hike. The last one, Ślęża, I reached after dark and had a chance to admire a beautiful nighttime panorama of Wrocław.
I made a short trip to the Tatras, for a meeting of the FEMH Club (Former Employees of Murowaniec Hut). The weather was not very cooperative so beer drinking was the most popular activity. In a desparate attempt not to waste the whole trip on beer, we (Przem, George, Rysiu and I) managed to climb the right ridge of Skrajny Granat.
The Sudetes mountain range is divided into 22 sub-ranges, in Poland, Germany and Czech Republic. The highest mountains make a list called the "Crown of the Sudetes".
I split the list in half and,
on the 11th and 12th of July, hiked the first 11 summits. Despite
a few small glitches (road detours, getting lost in the thick forests of Skalnik, getting stuck behind
a group of nuns and "special needs "children in the narrow cracks of Szczeliniec Wielki)
:-) it took me day and a half to finish the task.
Not too bad for an old guy! :)
June was spent at home, in Calgary. A lot of important things to do after being absent for two years (hard to believe it's been two years in Europe, already!). Despite the lack of time and (as happens in the Rockies every June) miserable weather, I managed to go for a short hike to the Yam and did some biking around Banff. In the meantime I also got married. :-)
Returning to the north we made a short stop in the city of Timisoara, in the eastern part of Romania. One of the major industrial centers of the country, the city surprises visitors with an interesting and partially restored old town. Personally, I found Timisoara much nicer than Bucarest.
Regardless of the season Bulgaria's Rila Mountains are a popular tourist destination. In the winter skiing is not too bad, and in the summer there is a lot of hiking and biking trails, and many cultural sites. During a brief visit to the area we visited the famous Rila Monastery, and I, using a short weather window, reached the summit (in deep snow) of Musala (2925 m), the highest mountain in Bulgaria.
Europe's youngest state - Kosovo. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, make a visit. Be warned though, that if you're driving you need to shell out 30 euros for car insurance. Pristina is not very appealing, a huge construction site, seemingly without a plan or supervision. The rest of the country ... well, there are a few things to see. Two or three days is more than enough.
Green hills and vineyards, forests and lakes, and above all, very good local wines - Macedonia. Skopje is not a very attractive city so stick to the countryside, especially the lake district in the south-west corner of the country. The gem is the town of Ohrid on the lake of the same name. Spectacular location and architecture. The only drawback is the fact that during holidays and weekends the whole of Macedonia is there.
Albania, the last, according to German travel guidebooks, "third-world" part of Europe. Well ...it's certainly a place full of contrasts; carts pulled by donkeys, and the latest "Made in Germany" luxury vehicles on the roads. The tourist infrastructure is almost non-existant, but the dollar (euro rather) has a value like nowhere else in the Balkans. People are curious about the world and friendly. So what else do you need?
Landlocked Serbia is not the hottest vacation destination these days. A pity, because it's an interesting ountry, colorful and full of history and it's worth spending at least a few days on the way to the "tropics".
Note: I was convinced that Polish drivers are the worst in the world ... until the visit to Serbia :-)
Passing (once again) through Hungary, we visited the XIII century (rebuilt many times) Hollókő village, which is the only village on the UNECSO World Heritage List. We also stopped at the city of Kecskemet, famous for its beautifully preserved and impressive architecture.
Our last year's trip to the Balkan Penisula had been cut short for various reasons. So naturally we decided to go back. The trip started in Slovakia where we visited the lovely, interesting, world-class architectural gems in the Spis region.
2012 travel season has started! Yeah!
Excited by the improved times of my half-marathon races, I decided to raise the bar.
As an initiation to the world of marathons I chose the XI Cracovia Maraton, on the 22nd of April.
Holy... 42 kilometers 197 meters around the streets of Kraków. Well... I finished it!!! But I have to admit that the race was a big reality check for me.
Result: 4 hours 54 minutes 26 seconds :-(
Oh well... at least I managed to get another thing on my "to do before death" list checked off :-)
Yeah! I managed to shave off another couple of minutes, this time during the 5-th Half-marathon in Poznan. Result: 1 hour 54 minutes 27 seconds. It was
a very cold and windy day.
I took part in the 7th annual Spring Half-marathon in Ostrów Wielkopolski. Despite very strong winds I managed finally to crack 2 hours.
Result: 1 hour 57 minutes 46 seconds :)
All the best in 2012!!!