13 November 2015

A charming Seville tradition

I must look suspicious as I walk around, glancing intently at doors, looking at signs I can't read, stopping to look at my phone, circling again. It's hard to know if I should knock, press the buzzer, if the door is open and I should just let myself in or if it was open, the door would be open. I check my watch again, it's definitely the right time. I give up and head to the next one. I try 4 different locations that day and have success only at one.

There, thankfully, the door is wide open and there is a clear sign above it not requiring any of my non-existent Spanish skills to translate. But that’s all the help I get. I enter a very unassuming courtyard and have no idea where to go next.

Terrified of wandering where I shouldn’t be, I slowly look around looking for clues. At the back of this courtyard is a dark alcove which, eliminating all other options, I slowly walk towards, eventually spying a dumb waiter. I exhale, happy to finally be in the right spot.

Again, thoughtfully, I have been provided with English notices. I scroll through the options, check the Spanish equivalent, make up my mind and ring the buzzer. A voice floats to me from beyond the wall, saying something in Spanish that I can't understand. But I don’t need to really. With my awful Spanish pronunciation, I ask for what I've come for and wait. There is a rustling from the other side and slowly the dumb waiter turns to reveal the packages. I place the payment in the dumb waiter and it turns again.

A huge smile plays on my lips. Success! For some reason I feel exhilarated.

To be honest, I've never felt like that buying cinnamon and chocolate shortbread biscuits before. But these biscuits are hand-made by the convents cloistered nuns. Between that and the whole honest and simple transaction, it makes them that little bit more special. It's such a charming tradition in Seville, that, if you know where to look and are there are the right time, you might be lucky enough to experience it for yourself. But I can help you there.

The best way to find the Real Monasterio De Santa Ines on Google is to locate Calle Doña María Coronel, 16, 41003 Sevilla, Spain, the entrance will be directly across the road.

Apparently there are other are convents where the nuns sell cakes, pastries biscuits etc, to support their living, but this convent was the only one I had any luck with. The opening hours of the Convent De Santa Ines are 9am-1pm and 4pm-6.30pm except Sundays and public holidays. Do stop by if you are ever in Seville.

What charming traditions have you come across?

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29 October 2015

Wroclaw by Dwarf

Editor note: Madness has ensued at Globetrotter Postcards, the dwarves of Wroclaw are staging a takeover, guest posting and showcasing their favourite parts of their city.

Before I let them loose however, lets just get one thing sorted so you don't cause any offence to these Wroclaw residents...just how exactly do you pronounce Wroclaw? Honeslty, it was one of the most difficult things I had to wrap my head around while I was in Wroclaw! Seriously. Up until I went I'd been saying 'rock-law'. Erm. Turns out it's pronounced v-rots-wav. How on earth was I supposed to guess that? The W is a V, C is a TS and the L is a W - so nice and simple ;) Now we've gotten that out of the way, on to the dwarf guides!

Wroclovek, please, keep these guys in line won't you?

Wroclovek Dwarf

Greetings! You, with the abnormally bulbous nose, come closer, you will not want to miss this once in a life time opportunity to be guided around our fair city of Wroclaw by its mischief making inhabitants. First up is our flower-snorting, head-in-the-clouds, Friendly dwarf.

Friendly Dwarf

Wroclaw with the sun out makes everything shiny and pretty and sparkly and wonderful! There is nothing I love more than sitting in square chatting with everyone and admiring the pastel colours of the buildings. But for a really pretty view, on a clear day I'll magic myself up to the top of St Elizabeth's Tower. Everyone else has to take the 300 steps to the top...hahaha...its good to be a dwarf. But like it said, its so pretty, and you get a nice view of all of Wroclaw. Anyway, stop by when you're here, I just might give you a flower to sniff too.

St Elizabeth's Tower

View of the main square fro St Elizabeth's tower

View from St Elizabeth's Tower over the Odra towards Ostrow Tumski

Wroclaw Old Town Hall in the Rynek (square)

The Rynek (main square)

Looking for flowers? The smaller Plaza Solny next to the Rynek has loads. Sniffing is free. But all flowers need good homes.

Arcik the Traveller Dwarf

Arcik the Traveller dwarf here, I've been to my share of places. Travelled the world, been high and low eaten more weird things than I'd care to admit and let me tell you, despite what the other dwarfs say, I'm not a jaded traveller. Sometimes I just like to go places where I can relax, and I don't have to run around seeing things. There's nothing wrong with that is there? Mmm...yum, those Pierogi have my name on them...Speaking of which, Gourmet dwarf...get over here.

Gourmet Dwarf

*buuuurp* 'scuse me! The food here is oh so rich. But oh so yummy. It might not be your thing, not many salads here but your find the pillowy deliciousness of pierogis that Traveller Dwarf was talking about. They come in all sorts of fillings, mushrooms, cheese, beef and peppers, even sweet fillings too, you can have them steamed baked or pan fried, you can have a mix, order 3, 5 or 9! And oh, there is perfectly cooked duck, delicious lamb cutlets in a bean sauce that is both barbecue-y and tangy and rich and potato dumplings and smoked goats cheese and fat juicy steaks...you like food don't you? Who doesn't really. They'd be mad, MAD! Those taste-bud teasing, tantalising, tempting morsels of food...*drool* 'scuse me! *giggle* There are a number of places to eat here, the best I've had is at Piwnica Świdnicka - its actually really interesting on the inside, different sections with different themes. Quite the place to have a delicious meal.

One of the sections of the Piwnica Świdnicka restaurant

Piwnica Świdnicka

Pod Fredra restaurant

Pod Fredra restaurant decor

It's a fascinating book, really. You should read it sometime, its called the "Merits of floppy hats in Education". But I suppose you're not here about my book. You want to know about Wroclaw. Well, when I don't have my nose stuck in a book, I like to go for a walk along the Odra river. I start from the northern side of most Pokuju (Pokuju bridge) and walk through Ostrow Tumski (the old town), sometimes stopping at the Garden Cafe overlooking a lovely...garden, or spotting a lamplighter, before continuing my walk across the bridges and islands back to the university. I don't quite tire of seeing the view of the college lit up at night and reflected in the water.

Wyspa Piasek

Tumski bridge

But sometimes I wont go that far and stop by the market (Hala Targowa) to pick up some fruit or something sweet. Occasionally I might have a cheeky drink or filled potato at the Targowa Craft Beer bar next door.

Fruit and Veg stall at the Hala Targowa (market)
Inside the Hala Targowa

I haven't done it yet, but I bet that in the summer it'd be nice to take a cruise along the river too. In the meantime, I settle for walking the city at night. It really is quite charming when aglow with amber light.

St. Mary Magdalene Church
St Elizabeth's Tower at night
Wroclaw Rynek (main square) at night

Tourist Dwarf

Hello there! I'm Tourist Dwarf, by name and nature. Gosh I love meeting new people! How are you? Are you a tourist too? What have you seen so far? Are you interested in Wroclaw? Of course you are! So let me tell you a secret. The real attraction of Wroclaw is us Dwarves. There are around 300 of us! You can spot us dotted all over the city going about our business. But we're always happy to stop for a photo, we are not camera shy at all. Finding us is a fun for the kids and the whole family. Here are a few more of us...

Well that about wraps it up for now, I hope you enjoyed us guiding you around our city, and you haven't minded us taking over Sam's blog this week. If you have any questions about Wroclaw just ask us in the comments below, in the meantime, I hope to see you in Wroclaw soon!! Do widzenia!

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22 October 2015

Dusk in Wroclaw's old town

The lamps outside the cathedral are lit. I look around the cobblestone streets in the oldest part of Wroclaw hoping to catch a glimpse. Behind me, the lamps remain dark. Where could he be? I assume it's a 'he' but it might be a 'she' too. Regardless, I'll know I've found him/her by the cape and torch.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Should I try one of the unlit side streets and see if I can catch him coming my way? Or maybe the lit ones, and try to catch up? I take an unlit one not knowing where it goes, just hoping it will allow me to cross paths with the lamplighter.

Tumski bridge and the Church of Our Lady on the Sand

The streets are quiet, only a few people are about as the dusk settles on the town. Maybe they are on their way home, or heading for a bit of peace and introspection at the local church service or, maybe, like me, they are hoping to catch a glimpse of a time gone by and spot the lamplighter too.

Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St Bartholomew with the Monument of St. John of Nepomuk

My sneakered feet are silent on the cobblestones as I turn a corner and catch sight of him. He has just lit another lamp and, in a brisk pace, heads off to light the next. I walk/run to get closer so I don't have to use the zoom on my camera. Its just us on the street and for a moment, just a fleeting moment, I feel as though I've slipped through time. Then I notice he is on his mobile and the illusion is shattered.

Oh the irony. As a friend of mine said though, it just goes to show the contrasts between the world as we live in today and how things used to be. But I'll add to that and say that there is no reason we cant have the beauty of a timeless tradition like lamp-lighting and the modern world.

I'm sure Wroclaw could convert all the gas lamps so they will turn on automatically at dusk and off at dawn if they wanted to. But they CHOSE to keep the tradition in the old town, billowing black cape and all. Maybe its a tourist stunt. But i cant find it mentioned on the Wroclaw tourism website. And even if it is, I don't care, why not have a lamplighter? I wish they existed in London (I know about the British Gas ones but that's not quite the same thing).

The next day at dusk I found my feet had taken me back to the same streets, and I come across another lamplighter while wandering, this one sans modern contraption. It was perfect.

What do you think of keeping the lamp-lighting tradition? Do you know of any other places that do it?

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08 October 2015

Wroclaw so far...

Wroclaw is one chilled city. Maybe its just the time of year or maybe its just because its mid-week but the vibe is relaxed. People are friendly, the food is good and its cheap (especially with the exchange rate). So far I've been enjoying my first ever work trip.

Wroclaw Town Hall

Generally I have been pretty busy with work. But I've had the chance to see the city during the day while en route to lunch. In the evenings, I've been sampling the local restaurants, all in the name of blog research of course ;) My first stop was to one that specialises in Perogies - I have to go back - so much yumminess in little dough parcels surely deserves a revisit?

And last night I went to one in the 'basement' of the the Town Hall which claims to be the oldest restaurant in Europe. Every. single. dish. was delicious and tantalising, the flavours causing my taste buds to do a happy dance.

Of course I also found out about Wroclaws smaller residents that can be found all over the city. The Dwarfs. Not little people. Dwarfs. This one was particularly welcoming.

I cant wait to explore this city a bit more over the weekend. Maybe do a but more dwarf spotting (never thought I'd say that!). And of course share it all with you :)

If you have any tips about what to see/do/eat in Wroclaw, let me know!

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05 October 2015

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway: A natural wonder of the world created by volcanoes? Or built by giants?

Built by giants.


My visit

A month ago I found myself with my friend E in Dublin, exploring the city, the Irish country and even popping back in to the UK's Northern Ireland to see the Giant's Causeway.

Walking on the hexagonal basalt columns was like walking on a brutalist loving giant bee's honeycomb. Weird. Surreal. Awesome. The photos dont do the place justice nor does it really show the differing levels of the columns. But it is incredible. All I could do was stare and try to imagine how the heck this happened. Like I said, must have been giants ;)

The Legend

Located on the northern tip of Northern Ireland, the Giant's Causeway gets its name from an old legend. The story goes that there used to be a giant called Finn MacCool that lived on the Irish coast with his giantess wife, Oonagh. He was the biggest and strongest in all the land. But one day he heard that, actually, there was a Scottish giant called Benandonner across the sea who was bigger and stronger.

Boys being boys, one thing led to another and they challenged each other to a fight. However, there was the slight problem of crossing the sea between them, so Finn built a causeway to get to the other side. When he got closer to Scotland he saw that, yeah, Benadonner was bigger...and in a panic he ran home to his wife...but not before Benandonner had spotted him in the distance...

Back at home, Finns clever giantess wife dressed her husband in baby clothing, put him in a cradle and waited. When Benandonner arrived looking for Finn, the giantess welcomed him into their house  to wait for Finn who was off on a small errand and would be back soon. Taking a seat Benandonner noticed the 'baby' and thought…if that’s the size of the baby then Finn must be huge.

Making some feeble excuse he ran back across the causeway home, but not before he destroying a good part of it so the other giant could not follow.

And thats how we ended up with the causeway as we see it today. Its quite a trip from Dublin so if you do find yourself interested in seeing the Giants Causeway yourself, be prepared for a long day, or, you can always visit from Belfast.

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