After my first African adventure ended early this year, I have been spending a lot of time getting to know Europe. My second European trip took me to Krakow, Poland where I had an amazing time. First of all I visited the beautiful city with my mother on a strictly no boys allowed holiday, as we left behind our men we were able to soak up the polish treasure that is Krakow.
This is the first city I have been to where I didn’t see a shred of rubbish on the pavements, it seemed almost clinically clean at first, however it is warm and welcoming. With a smile at every corner, people invite you into their premises for traditional food without bombarding you with information. All drivers stop to let you cross, and even the trams stop! The buildings are colourful and bright welcoming facades urge you to enter their doors and discover more.
There is so much that can be said of this beautiful city and so much we will explore together. Its location and history are complicated and devastatingly sad, but in no person do you see a hint of anger. Most of our tour guides spoke of the history with, yes, a hint of sadness but there is no bitterness and no thirst for revenge or a desire to right their wrongs. It is taken as a recent and awful history that needs to be remembered and respected so as to not be repeated. This beautiful population takes it as an unfortunate past but don’t look at anyone with any malice. Stunning and inspiring, they have really changed my perspective and I respected the polish before, but now, after visiting places like Schindler’s factory and Auschwitz, they hold a special place in my heart where they have tugged its strings and filled me with humility and a great appreciation for life.
Krakow, my new love, before we break down my trip into segments and places, I have to devout some time into simply admiring your beauty and how much you moved me. More so than Berlin, Krakow sang to me a song of sorrow and regret, but also of survival and peace. I cannot tell you guys how much I hope you take some time to visit this diamond city, and discover its treasures and secrets. One of my top contenders and current favourites, it will take a really special city to knock the admiration I hold towards Krakow.
So before we get into the trip here are some photos to wet your palate, the posts on Krakow start now!
I lived in London for 3 years and spent a lot of time wandering around trying to discover every corner of a city that spreads so widely and has such an eclectic society it seems like an entire world of its own. It is a lot bigger than it seems, and so much smaller at the same time. The things that intimidate new comers most about London, become the best aspects, the things that make one huge city feel small and homely.
In my last days as a London resident it lost much of its allure for me, in that it was somewhere that I knew so well and recognised so easily that like a work commuter, I began walking it idly not paying attention to the wonderful things it offers. It felt sometimes as if the icing in the cake had melted, the cherry on top had been devoured by grey concrete buildings, a working mind that does not stop to look and everyone’s rush and hurry to get from one place to the next in a never stopping city that refuses to shut its eyes and sit still and tranquil for a day. London had simply become my tarmac playground in which I was bored of playing in. So I moved on. With a heavy heart and sight accustomed to the darkness of London I left.
Leaving London was in many ways a blessing and a curse. The land of opportunity was now not as accessible for me which created a lot of difficulties to involve myself in things that I love like arts and culture, live music, theatre. I was unable to constantly wear my spectator shoes and witness worldwide spectacles take place at my doorstep. Leaving London made me, only for a while but long enough to sadden me, dull, still and quiet. I do not thrive in quiet surroundings, I find them uninspiring and disconnected from influences that can only strengthen your art. However, not all is negative.
I had lost a lot of perspective in London, a city that revolves and evolves entirely around its own axis and takes with it everything and everyone inside, it is very easy to live for yourself and only for your egocentric needs and desires in a city as such. Where things move so fast and everything blends in, we all thrive to make sure we move just as fast but without getting lost or forgotten in the crowds. We all want to be so different that we end up looking exactly the same. This sad reality of a city in which all dreams and aspirations all seem limitless was making me feel like I was limited. I feel leaving London came at the right time for me, as now surrounded by completely different things, my creative sphere has expanded and I have engulfed so many new things. I was in a very confusing place, where London wasn’t where I wanted to be but going home was not appealing to me either. Now I am grateful for both and for the proximity I have to the fast moving capital and the quiet, growing county of Hertfordshire, and even more extremely so the completely stagnant Suffolk, where my thoughts are able to gather and slowly unscramble themselves as the stillness soothes my mind.
Now, as someone who is constantly moving from one busy setting to a calmer one in a 20 minute train journey, I feel that I have been re-born creatively. I feel that although I wanted to leave I quickly missed it because I was not sure how an unmoving town would inspire me, but in so many ways this has been the biggest influence. Knowing and living in the stark difference between three areas constantly, I now visit London with eyes of a knowing tourist. A seasoned Londoner discovering things and opening my eyes to movement that I would shy away from because I was stuck in a cycle of commute, forgetting to observe the small snippets of colour that the grey city has to offer. I travel from silence to movement to a buzz of life with such desire to take it all in. I adapt myself to each of these settings, and I feel that now I own London more than I did when I was living there. The beauty of having experienced living in the capital, is that now, now that I am not always there, I truly delve fully into the days that I have there, getting myself lost to find something new. Visiting London knowing that I will never get truly lost but always find a bit of myself is the most inspiring thing of all.
I leave you now with some photos over the years of my time as a humble resident of the capital.
The great wonderful and expanding community of world travellers, globe trotters and wanderlusters has the same dream… to travel with everything they need, in a light manner, which will allow them to then return with souvenirs. Or rather, to have one of those AWESOME bags Hermoine Granger has in films 7 and 8 – the Deathly Hallows – in which you can even carry a car and it is actually a purse. RESULT!
I love having something to remember my travels by aside from photos and memories. Tokens, almost, of the time I had abroad that remind me of some experience or story of that specific location. More so than that, as a very giving person, I love treating my loved ones to small things from these locations, to show them that I carried them with me everywhere. This could not be true-er as this amount of souvenirs adds up and soon I will have actually carried them with me… EVERYWHERE.
This is a true dilemma!
I have now gotten into the habit of collecting wall art, be it paintings, wall hangings, masks etc, things that go on walls make me very happy because they keep my very few surfaces clear and make my room feel less cold – completely psychological but it works. This can sometimes pose a huge problem in terms of transportation because no one wants ruin an oil painting in a suitcase of unfolded dirty clothes, half empty toiletries and electronics. However, the smaller pieces I have purchased have been very easy to pack and take home. It is a balance, and I think Paris shall be my last enormous painting as I had real trouble with that one.
My mother, for example, loves her fridge magnets! The fridge is replete of magnets from all over the globe which are small reminders of places where we have been. However, for her that is not enough. Let me explain, the fridge magnet is obligatory, a tradition almost, we always get one and if myself or my siblings visit somewhere, we need to bring one back for her. Still, my mother thirsts for a bit more. Handicrafts, traditional hand made artisan and typical/traditional ornaments of all shapes and sizes. We went to Turkey in 2014 and my mother returned with a chandelier! A beautiful chandelier, but she purchased an extra suit case to transport this sodding chandelier. We went to Cebu in the Philippines this year, and all I got were some masks for James which were very small, probably the length from the wrist to the tip of your fingers – female average adult hands – and made of thin wood. That was my added weight to my luggage which was fairly empty. My mother made me carry home – this is no joke at all! – a stone candelabra, which was not big in size but heavy, a bowl made of wood with a tripod leg thing and a wall hanging marracas style thing. It looks like a tribal necklace to me but I am not sure. She then had in her suitcase from Macau, where we had done a stop, 5 jewellery boxes! Which are not small, to distribute to her friends and other bits and bobs from home. A serial souvenir shopper.
Some of my favourite souvenirs are really simple things like photos that I have taken, ticket stubs of things, wristbands, that sort of thing that I collate into my memory book/journal. My journals contain tickets to everything I have seen live, concerts, theatre, festivals etc, as well as plane tickets, ticket stubs for places abroad, photos and some writing. These are actually instrumental for me, because I can see how I have developed as a tourist/traveler, grown as a person, see my handwriting developing, how one trip is so different from the other and how my choice of where I visit changes all the time. I can also revisit in a few pages the places I loved the most.
I have friends that collect shot glasses from abroad, key rings, football club scarves, pens, t-shirts… all people have something different, and I have yet to meet someone who goes abroad and does not bring with them any memories, even if it is just a tube/metro ticket stub. One of my favourite bloggers, who I would like to introduce you all to, is the Author, Owner and Creator of GotThePostCard.com who has gone around the world, and continues to do so, bringing back post cards from every where! Even towns within her own country, she collects them all. With the great motto ‘been there, seen that, got the post card’ she has created one of the best blogs to read based on the simplest souvenir! I love it! It costs next to know money and it can be kept in so many ways. I wonder if she displays them on her wall in some kind of collage, or if she has a scrapbook in which she keeps them all. Such a great and inspiring idea, there are so many ways to keep memories and I love that this one has inspired a whole travel blog/website.
I love collecting eclectic things and having my house decorated with things from all over the world makes me extremely happy. I think it is great to be surrounded by inspiring objects that mark some big changes. I believe that all travel opportunities or cultural experiences can enrich your life and impact the way you see things.
What’s your choice souvenir? Are you a believer in light packing to purchase items? Or buying what you want and working it out later? Let me know!