Eastern Europe (10)

I can’t remember where I read about this little cafe in Prague, but it only took a few second, and I was determined that I *must* pay a visit. Choco Cafe, I doubt there’s any other names that can be more fitting. Located on a street called Liliova (which sounds pretty cute by the way), I arrived on a sunny Sunday morning after strolling around a market nearby. My hands were freezing and I couldn’t wait to get in and have a taste of their finest creation: Hot Chocolate. Once I walked in, I loved this place right away for…
Happy people don’t create anything. Strummer, J. Old John Mellor, (look it up) had a point, happy people don’t really create much. That is, they’re not quite as motivated, nor is it as easy for us to quite grasp the point of it. Look, I’ll give you a for instance: pain, addiction and mental illness gave us Crime and Punishment. Happiness and a contended life gets us The Adventures of Peter Rabbit. I think a man on a Big Wheel in Vienna once said something similar, and said it better. The point is that I’ve been late setting anything down…
Churches are not just places of spiritual contemplation, they reflect the architectural preferences of the times in which they were designed, built and often re-built. Sofia has a plethora of churches that range from the Roman times to the early twentieth century. I made what could be described as a valiant effort to see as many as possible in one day without boring my companions (or myself for that matter) or to the detriment of other Sofia sights. We managed by taking a route that led us from hotel to churches, a market and a lovely bar on a warm…
  Again, based on my experience visiting Krakow and its environs over nearly 20 years, here are my Top 5 Krakow-based exursions.  Some you'd expect, some surprises.  Am looking forward to 4. and 5. myself next week, if the weather holds... 1. Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish) - this has to come first, for obvious reasons.  It's impossible to describe it in a couple of sentences.  I devote a chapter to it and the so-called "Jewish Question" in my book.  Three tips: be in the mood to visit.  I'm one of those who thinks everyone should go there, but if you're…
'If there is a paradise on earth, it is here’. Some cities on our planet use this slogan to distinguish themselves from others. A rather arrogant and bombastic claim, in my opinion. And honestly speaking, in my experience it is always besides the truth. So far nobody came up with such a pretentious phrase for Moscow. As far as I can recall, Moscow does not have a slogan at all. Perhaps because nobody in Moscow dares to really start promoting the city? Or perhaps because nobody really seems to care about promotion? But why not? The image of overcrowded, big,…
Some people think death is the end. But it needn't be. As the good people at the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic have proven, it seems we can all still be of some use after we leave this earth... as ornate interior decorations. Forget the bone china vase, what about just plain old bone vase? In what can only be described as Changing Rooms / 60 Minute Makeover / Backyard Blitz gone mad, Sedlec Ossuary put all those pesky bones that were literally lying around their cemetery and basement into the shape of vases, coats of arms, chandeliers and…
  Here's the second of my three Krakow "Top 5s", which I prepared for fans visiting Euro 2012 Poland Ukraine, but which is just as pertinent now; indeed, I'm looking forward to patronising these eateries very soon myself, when I visit Krakow end August - a nice time of year, the "Polska Zlota Jesien" or "Polish Golden Autumn".  So, here are my top 5 characterful and affordable Krakow restaurants, based on 20 years visiting the city (and most of these have been there during all this time): 1. Hawelka - read more about this one in my book Polska Dotty.  On…
  Here are are my Krakow Top 5s, beginning with Attractions.  Look out for further Top 5s, including Restaurants, and Excursions - soon! 1. Rynek/Grodska Street/Sukiennice/Mariacki - I start with a bit of a cheat, covering 4 items in one, but that's because they're all in one spot.  They are the main market square (Rynek) and surrounds  - the very heart of Krakow.   Catch the Rynek as often as you can as events are always taking place there.  Stroll down Grodska street and check out the objets d'art.  Surprisingly tasteful trinkets are for sale inside the cloth hall (Sukiennice), but also…
I call this article "Krakow Contradictions", but actually most of what I have to say about our latest trip to Krakow, from which we have just returned, is positive - more positive than ever.  It seems most of the architecture in the city has been spruced up, maybe for the Euro football championship in June/July.  In the main square or "Rynek", the red stonework of Mariacki church and yellow stucco of Sukiennice cloth hall shine particularly brightly.  A new bar opened earlier this year on the roof of the Sukiennice from which you get a stunning view of Mariacki opposite. …
Currently Sochi is in the news for its upcoming role as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. In the winter of 2011, Sochi was a little more personal... Mostly because of its cheap flights to and from Moscow. Having a lot of free holiday time but not a lot of money, a friend and I decided that Sochi in the off-season was an excellent choice. In late December we flew into the local airport, Adler. The airport was small but modern – with an excellent WIFI connection (a pleasant surprise). As we stepped outside we immediately shed our jackets,…