One Weekend in Wroclaw

To be honest, Wroclaw was never on top of my travel bucket list, but a close friend of mine decided to go there studying. So me and a friend decided to drive up to Wroclaw over the long weekend at the beginning of November. After our short trip, I truly recomment visiting this charming town.

Wroclaw city center main squareThe city isn’t that big and you can reach most of the main sights by foot. The area around the main square and town hall is just lovely. I really like those old or in this case old looking houses. It’s simply prettier than modern architecture, if you ask me.

town hall wroclawAround the town hall, you’ll find a lot of nice restaurants and cafés. Also the flower market is right around the corner. It is open twenty-four hours to give especially men a chance to buy an excuse gift after a long night out.

On our first day we mainly explored the city and ended up visiting the Pan Tadeusz Museum. The museum is near the town hall and tells the story of the popular polish writer Adam Mickiewicz and his main work, the poem Pan Tadeusz.

Pan Tadeusz Museum Pan Tadeusz MuseumThe exhibition was very interactive, presenting the information in various different ways. It was great fun exploring the history of the polish poem and its significance for the polish culture.

Strolling through the city, you can spot little dwarfs at corners or in the middle of squares or streets.

dwarfs wroclawThe dwarfs are spread out over the old town and are a symbol for the political protest during the 80s. At that time a group called “Orange Alternative” staged passive protest using gnomes as a sign against the communist establishment.

me and a dwarf– This fellow was big enough to shake hands in front of the theater 🙂 –

But not only a great number of gnomes is waiting to be discovered, Wroclaw also offers some beautiful street art.

street art wroclawMake sure to walk around a lot and you will see some great art, I promise.

One of the must visits is the “Cathedral Island” with the great cathedral. You can even climb up one of the towers to get a better view of the city. Unfortunately we were to early and could only visit the cathedral itself. However, the archtitecture and decoration is of course worth the visit even without enjoying the view from above.

The museum within the historic university building is another great place to go. The university is one of the oldest in Poland. Make sure to visit the cathedral and the baroque hall “Aula Leopoldina” as well as the exhibition of the university’s early days. Today there are over 40,000 students studying at the university what gives Wroclaw a very international and young atmosphere.

oratorium marianum– I loved the paintings in the Oratorium Marianum at the university –

Another place to go is the Jewish cementary. I know, some of you might find it creepy to go to a cementary for sightseeing, but it truly is a historic place. It is meant to be the only place in Wroclaw, where the German history is still visible. In other parts of the town all reminders of German culture were destroyed after the war.

The cementary also is a place of great calmness and some beautiful art. In my opinion, cementaries always tell their own important story of cultures or cities.

jewish cementary WroclawNear the cementary is the Sky Tower, the highest building in Wroclaw. If you are more lucky than we were the elevator to the top floor works and you can have a great view of the town.

If you do go to Wroclaw, plan more than just a day. The city offers a lot which we didn’t achieve to visit. For a short overview here are some further tips for a great weekend in Wroclaw:

What else to see?
  • Hydropolis – an interactive museum about water a bit out of the center
  • National Museum – unfortunately this is closed on Mondays but is meant to be very good
  • Jewish quarter – you can visit the synagogue or have some great food in the cafés and restaurants around
  • water fountains – near the cenntential hall, there is a water fountain which is illuminated by night and from may to october there are hourly shows with music acompanying the water and light effects
Where to stay?

We stayed at The Green Hostel, a small hostel near the center. It was very clean and cheap.

If you do go, let me know what you visited and how you liked the city 😉

Travelling Peru – Grande Finale at Machu Picchu

Towards the end of our trip, I didn’t know what else could impress my me more than all the great stuff, we had already seen. Well, it turned out that Machu Picchu truly deserves to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

We started early in the morning in Urubamba and took the train to Aguas Calientes. Our guide waited for us and we lined up for the bus up to the site. If you are staying in Aguas Calientes try to get as early as possible up to Machu Picchu. The sunrise is meant to be breathtaking.

Machu PicchuMachu PicchuArriving at Machu Picchu was indescribable. I needed some time to process, where I was standing. There are of course a lot of tourists but the site is huge, so it doesn’t get too crowded.

Make sure you walk around a lot and maybe get a guide. I mean, there are several different interpretations what this city was used for, but still with a guide you make sure to see every important part of the ruin.

Our guide took us for example to the Incan bridge near the site which I recommend doing as well. After a short walk of 20 minutes through the jungel, we arrived at an old bridge the Incas had built into the stone.

incan bridge Machu PicchuIncan bridgeI am not sure if I ever would walk over such a bridge. It again just showed the incredible building talent of the Inca. Today the bridge is closed for visitors. But you get close enough to get an idea of how scary it must have been walking accross it.

Afterwards we returned to the main sight and kept exploring.

Machu PicchuMachu PicchuMake sure you plan enough time for exploring. The good thing is, that you can leave and enter the sight three times a day. So you can get out for lunch and head in back again.

After lunch we decided to follow the advice of our guide and walked up to the gate of the sun. It’s roughly a one and a half hours walk. On the way up, do look back and enjoy the views of the ruins.

sun gate at machu picchuPeople hiking the Inca trail arrive at the sun gate, Machu Picchu lying in front of them like this. After visiting the sight like a “normal” tourist, I am definitely planning on hiking the Inca trail as well someday. I just couldn’t and still can’t get enough of those pictures ;).

We stayed in Agua Calientes for one more night and did a lovely hike the next morning. Following the railway, we walked one and a half hours to see a lovely garden with a waterfall.

railwaydschungelThe countryside was so different from the rough atmosphere in the Andes. All the shades of green and tropical plants were nearly too much for our eyes to take all in.

water fallFinally, we arrived at the water fall and enjoyed the view for a while before heading back to Aguas Calientes. On the way, we spotted a humming bird :), one of my favourite birds.

humming birdWe took the train back to the Sacred Valley and back to Cusco. There, we stayed for one more night until we had to fly back to good old Germany.

I really hope you liked my report of our trip to Peru. I am definitely planning on going sometime again because I just haven’t seen all I wanted to. The country is just so amazing and I recommend everyone to give it a try and invest in some great experiences.

Do let me know if you go 😉 and share your experiences.

Travelling Peru – Urubamba and the Sacred Valley

After we spent three nights in Cusco, we started our tour through the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was a nice but very touristic lama and alpaca farm. We fed the animals and watched local women colour the wool and the weave it to truly wonderful patterns. The farm helps local women to preserve their weaving tradition and gives them the opportunity to sell their products to the tourists.

Our next stop then was the Inca ruin Pisaq.

Pisaq - Sacred ValleypisaqThe terraces were breathtaking. I like the idea that the Inca not only had those terraces for crops and stability of their cities but also as a sort of decoration. If you look at this mountain I can see what they liked about it.

On our drive further into the Sacred Valley, we stopped for the special peruvian dish – guinea pig. I know, a lot of especially European people would never dare to eat what is for us a pet. But to be honest I always try to experience the culture of a country also through its food and the guinea pig is such a dish in Peru. So if you are not too light hearted or didn’t have a guinea pig as a pet you should give it at least a try.

As we arrived in our hotel for the next two nights in Urubamba, we still had some time to explore the city. Urubamba itself isn’t that much different from other Peruvian cities. It mainly exists for tourists who head out for the Inca trail and Machu Picchu. However, despite its touristy atmosphere we found two very lovely spots hidden in between.

cafe cielito Linda UrubambaThe Café Cielito Lindo is worth every visit. The girly decoration and perfect cakes combined with great coffee makes this café one of my culinaric highlights of our trip.

The other highlight was a small restaurant called Paca Paca which you have to check out if you are in the area. The restaurant offers a range of delicious dishes from peruvian to european. You can simply have pizza from the stone oven or indulge in a light and modern variation of peruvian food like I did ;).

Paca Paca - UrubambaOn our second day in the Valley, we headed off to the mountains. Our drive dropped us at a small village from where we walked down to the salt mines of maras.

walkIt was a bit rainy and the clouds just looked amazing between the mountains of the Andes. After a short walk of around 30 minutes we arrived at the salt mines of Maras. Local farmers cultivate, harvest and sell the salt to the government and in little amounts to the tourists.

salt mines marassalt mines of marasIt was incrdible to watch people working there. It must be hard to balance 30 to 50 kilo of salt on your back walking on those very small bars between the fields.

From the mines we walked down to Urubamba and enjoyed our free afternoon with some cake and coffee. The next day we visited another breathtaking Inca site – Ollantaytambo.

OllantaytamboOllantaytamboOllantaytamboIn Ollantaytambo you can feel that this site was once a big fortress. It just looks and feels massive. The rocks transported there were the biggest I saw on the whole trip.

On the way back to Urubamba our guide took us to a local bar. We tried corn bear which tasted quite sour. I preferred the local special with strawberry to the normal one. It was much sweeter :). More fun than drinking was playing the typical game of those bars. You get a specific amount of coins which you have to threw into the holes of a table with a frog in the middle.

peruvian bar gameI really sucked but it was soooo much fun to play :). Try to get to a local bar and throw some coins.

Travelling Peru – what to see and do in Cusco

During our trip we stayed most of our time in Cusco and the nearby Sacred Valley. Of all the cities we went to during our tour, I liked Cusco the most. Maybe, one reason for this was that we had more time to explore the town by ourselves. However, with its rich history and great atmosphere, I think I also would have loved it after just having stayed for one day.

We had some tours organised by our travel agency in advance. In the afternoon, we had time off though and enjoyed exploring the area by ourselves. Here are my recommendations for you if you are planning to visit that beautiful town:

1. The artists’ quarter San Blas

My absolute favourite place in Cusco was the San Blas quarter. Walking up from the central square this area felt very modern and young. There are a lot of small shops with handcrafts and local designs as well as some cute cafés and hostels. I just loved walking around the narrow streets peering into the shops we passed.

San Blas QuarterSAn Blas Quarter in CuscoMake sure you walk as high as you can, because the views over the town get better and better.

Cusco
2. The local Market

Unfortunately, I have no picture from the local market. I guess I was so concentrated on taking in all the fruits, fish, meat and other products on offer that I completely forgot to take pictures. If you have the chance, do go to one of the big markets in Cusco and just walk around and enjoy the exotic feel of it.

3. The Temple of the Sun – Coricancha

This mixture of a colonial church with the remainings of the old Incan temple is definitely worth a visit. It is intriguing how perfectly the Incas placed there stones to beautiful buildings which were much more stable than the later colonial ones. Because during an earthquake in the 17th century most of the colonial church was destroyed while the Incan walls remained.

Coricancha - Temple of the Sun in CuscoCoricancha - Temple of the Sun

4. Eating in a local Picanteria

Our tour also included a meal at a local picanteria. Those restaurants serve all the local specials like fried pork or even guinea pig. If you can, go with a local and make sure you order the local anise liquor for your digestion. Trust me it helps!

5. Plaza de Armas – Main Square

Just sitting at the steps in front of the main cathedral on the Plaza de Armas watching people – this was one of our favourite occupation during our stay. It is fun watching the locals and tourists mix on that main square. If you have time also visit the main cathedral which is a great exampl of the mixture of Incan and Catholic religion.

Main Square in CuscoCathedral

6. Saqsaywaman

Another very impressing Incan site is Saqsaywaman at the edge of the city. You can either take a driver there or walk up the hill to the ruins. Saqsaywaman is a huge Incan ruin located in a beautiful park. On weekends the locals come here to picknick and to play with their children.

Saqsawamanstone slide - SaqsawamanMake sure you follow the example of the local children and try the natural rock slides in the park – so much fun :).

Make sure you plan two to three days for Cusco. I asure you, you won’t regret it. Do tell me if you go or already have been there and share your experience in the comments.