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The Best of Krakow in 3 days: Maximized Easter Weekend Itinerary

8:59 PM
Easter weekend is a great time to visit Krakow. There are numerous events and celebrations, the weather is warming up, and an Easter market is happening on the largest market square in Europe. It is also a four-day weekend if you are living and working in most countries in the EU. The only downside is that there are disruptions in the opening hours of the sights in and around the city.

In this guide, we put together a plan on how to visit Krakow and experience the city without being bothered by the Easter weekend closures.

Walk in the neighborhoods filled with history, see beyond the casual walls of the ghetto, visit a notorious concentration camp, retrace the footsteps of Polish royalty, and revel in the shadow of the castle that has symbolized Poland since the beginning of its history. The best of Krakow offers visitors so much in such a short visit.

In three days, it is helpful to sight see layer by layer, from the historic core, to the outskirts, and further to nearby towns.

Here is an overview.
Good Friday – Jewish Quarter
Black Saturday – Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Trip
Easter Sunday – Wawel Hill and Historic Center

Okay, let's get down to the details.

Day 1 - Good Friday

Arrive in Krakow, Explore the Jewish Quarter

On Good Friday until right before sundown, the Jewish Quarter sights remain open. Start your visit on Ulica Szeroka where you can get an overview of the Jewish-themed sights, restaurants, and synagogues. On one corner, you can peek inside some restored store fronts to get a glimpse of everyday Kazimierz before the war.

Straight ahead, you can enter the 16th century Rem’uh Synagogue and Old Cemetery, which houses the remains of some of the most important Jewish intellectuals of that period, making them two of the most important Jewish sites in Europe.

Explore the back streets, taking in the murals at every corner. This street art reminds everyone of a culture that is rich and thriving. Soon you will arrive at plac Nowy market, a kosher and local market square. Take a break here with some zapiekanki – foot long baguettes with different toppings, lots of cheese, and tasty sauces.

After that energy boost, circle back to ulica Szeroka. You will pass by Isaac Synagogue, which sometimes holds klezmer music concerts. Back in the square, the Old Synagogue which houses a museum, is usually closed for Easter but is still worth viewing from outside. It is the oldest surviving Jewish building in Poland and its location eight steps down from street level speaks of Jewish ingenuity.

From here you can easily take a tram to Podgórze, then walk to Schindler’s Factory Museum. Last entry is 16:30 and closing time is 18:00.

Reservations are a must. This museum is one of the best museums about the Nazi occupation, so it is definitely worth entering even if you have not watched the Schindler’s List movie. The 12-meter stretch of the original ghetto wall on Lwowska street will not look so casual after a visit to this museum.

Walk back to Ghetto Heroes’ Square and Pharmacy Under the Eagle to continue the Ghetto Memory Trail. The building that houses the Podgórze Savings Bank, while beautiful on the outside, has a particularly gruesome history written on a plaque out in front.

The walk ends at the Podgórze Market Square where the main focal point is the whimsical St. Joseph’s Church. All the buildings surrounding the square have their own significance in this historic district.

Across the street is the Kładka Ojca Bernatka footbridge. This links the Kazimierz and Podgórze districts and is a visual architecture piece, complete with acrobatic statues and love locks on the railings.

A few blocks away is the food truck square called Skwer Judah. The dinner options here are endless and the atmosphere is relaxed but alive. Ending the night here after exploring the Jewish quarter, it is easy to understand the meaning behind the mural that the artist, Pil Peled, painted: a “representation of the Jews' vulnerability and struggle to survive and preserve their culture, as well as the strength to overcome their fears”.

Head to Tail: A Traditional Czech Zabijačka Experience

10:35 PM
“Why would you go to a pig slaughter event?” This question, along with an expression of shock, was the first response of some my friends when I told them that I was going to a „zabijačka“ on the weekend. Other friends, especially if they were Czech, would express that they have not been to one, but would love the opportunity to go.

So then, I asked myself the same questions? Why do people gather for this event and why was I interested in the first place?

I did not have an answer as we pulled up early in the morning to a driveway in Miroslav, a Moravian town in Znojmo, Czech Republic. I admit, it was not quite the location I imagined for a „zabijačka“. Somehow, I had this image in my head that these events were held in an unmarked farm in the middle of nowhere. I was pleasantly surprised that it was someone’s own backyard close to the center of the town.

Our friend Marcela, who graciously invited us, introduced us to Daniel, the host of the event and the head butcher. He then introduced us to Milan, the owner of the pig, and another Milan who was helping them. More and more people came throughout the day, taking up different tasks and helping with whatever needs to be done.

We arrived at the right time, as the more sensitive parts of the task were already done and the hard work has begun.

I understand that this might be a touchy subject for some, so feel free to -skip the next section- and read the rest of the story.

First, the skin of the pig was covered with lime, powdered rosin, and scalding water to help loosen the hair roots. Then, the bristles of the pig were scraped off using conical knives. I tried to help in the scraping, but even with the rosin and scalding water, it was still backbreaking work. Other hairs which were not removed were burnt off by torch.

The carcass was then hoisted onto a special crane. While giving pointers to Milan, Daniel carefully removed the head and sliced the body open to expose the internal organs. Each one, starting with the brain, was carefully removed and placed in separate bowls and buckets. The body was then cut in half, then further into smaller pieces. Soon the meat was laid out into pieces I can already recognize from commercial meat shops.

From head to tail, nothing was wasted.

The first feast started with pig brains cooked with eggs. It was a delicious protein packed meal to energize everyone for the laborious day ahead. The table was also filled with snacks, coffee, and tea from everyone who came to help.

As newcomers to this tradition, we were then tasked to do the dirtiest work there was – cleaning the intestines. Every bit of disgusting stuff had to be squeezed out over the compost pile. Then, we learned a special trick to turn them inside out to clean them more thoroughly. The next step should have been to scrape off the slimy part of the lining. However, the intestine itself was too thin and was tearing very easily. It was deemed unusable. The good thing was, Daniel was prepared with a set of intestine casings from a different pig. We were assured that our efforts were appreciated, even if the product of our work won’t be used further. I agreed that nothing was wasted here except maybe time.

Inside the work kitchen, things were in full swing. A huge pot with bones and soup vegetables were simmering. We had to slice and separate big fat pieces from the meaty ones to prepare them for cooking later on. Some of the meat were roasted in the oven with some vegetables and spices. My hands smelled like bacon and this made my stomach grumble.

The timing worked out well because Daniel’s wife, announced that lunch was ready. Everyone took turns at the table and we had quick and satisfying break. We had sausages, bread, and a big bowl of potato soup. Indeed, it was very filling.

We went back to the kitchen to work on the fat pieces that had to be made into sádlo (lard). The only pointer was that the fat pieces had to be swimming in their own oil. More pieces were added until what was left were crunchy bits of škvarky (crackling pork rinds). This took a long time but I did not mind at all. This meant I stayed where all the action was.

While we were stirring the fats over the stove, Daniel was leading the team as they cut up boiled pieces of the internal organs. We were offered to take a small piece of each of the different offal parts. Coming from the Philippines, this was not my first time tasting such menu. What I can say is that I have never tasted them this fresh before.

Then the team seasoned the meats, prepared the casings, made tlačenka (head cheese), jitrnice (liver sausages), and jelito (blood sausages). Everyone had a say in the flavor that goes into each one. All the unused offal was added into the huge pot of prdelačka (blood soup). Lastly, the paštika (pâté) was made, placed into jars, then arranged inside the electric canner. An hour wait was all that was left.

The hard work has ended. The day ended around a table, filled with food and drinks, happy noises of children playing, and good conversation. I understand only a little Czech but the hubbub was so lively it barely needed translation. After a while, the canning was finished and the children were starting to fall asleep. We said goodbyes and expressed our gratitude to Daniel, Milan, and their families for inviting us and allowing us to participate in their cultural tradition.

The answer to my earlier question hit me then. I was diving “head-to-tail” into the Czech culture.

The whole experience reminded me of the Filipino tradition called “bayanihan”. For a day, I was part of a community that came together, sacrificed time and resources, and labored for the sake of others and of the community itself. Suddenly, Czech Republic became closer to home. My focus that day was to immerse myself in the experience, to be present and involved in the process, and to enjoy the company of people who appreciate the value of hard work. And because I participated, the cultural barriers were lowered for me.

I realized that while this tradition started as an economic activity in preparation for winter, it transformed into something much more than that. Its real value was the sense of community it provided then, and still provides now.

Driving away on the night before Advent 2017 began, I felt thankful for the communities I belong to. I am thankful for friends who welcomed me to the Czech Republic and allowed me to be part of their community. I am thankful that I am part of a global community that celebrates Advent as a reminder of Jesus, someone who gave more than his whole head-to-toe self and became the perfect sacrifice for the sake of the whole world.

Headed back to Prague, I was filled with gratitude while my luggage was filled with tlačenka, jitrnice, jelito, paštika, and sádlo. What a privilege!

Expat Life: Enjoying the Colorful Flora of Brno

5:20 PM
This gallery showcases the colorful collection of Flora in Brno

Lessons learned in Italy

11:00 AM

God has been so generous and loving to me. He has given me a great opportunity to travel to Italy. And this experience is amazing.
Early this year, I found a desire to go to Italy and experience its sights and wonders. But not only that, I also want to search for answers on things that I am struggling with and I feel that Italy can show me the answers.

One of the things that I am studying right now is the Book of Acts. It is the book in the Bible that tells you the story of the Miracles of Jesus done through His disciples and one of these disciples is named Paul.

As Paul struggles from the persecution of the Jews, he went to Rome to appeal to Ceasar about his case. And from there, a lot of things happened. My goal is to read this story as I go on my day to day travel in Italy.

I am not going to tell you the story of Paul and I do prefer that you read it yourself. But as I went through these scriptures, I realized that the story delivered from this book is still relevant to what is happening to me today.

One of the struggles that I am feeling is that I am very passionate. I involve myself too much that I end up being hurt and angry. And honestly, I want to learn not to care. I want to learn how I can give at the right amount of care and then let go if I am giving too much. I want to learn just to chill out and just leave everything in the hands of God.

The Best of Rome in 72 hours: Maximized 3 Day Itinerary

9:58 AM
The eternal city. The capital of the world. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the things to see, eat, and do in Rome, Italy. We get it. While researching this trip, instead of narrowing down places we want to see, our list kept getting longer!

What if you had only 72 hours to spend in Rome? We put together in this guide what we believe is the best itinerary for visiting Rome in 3 days. Even with this limited time, you will be able to see the essential parts of the city.

Soak up the vibrant scene in the alleys and piazzas of the Historic Center. Marvel at ancient architectures. Ponder the gory and glory days of the past. Examine faith and ponder eternity. Indulge your taste buds with pizza, pasta, gelato, and more. The best of Rome offers something for everyone.

In three days, it is helpful to visualize Rome in three distinct areas. Focusing on one area per day will narrow your sightseeing and culinary choices.

Here is an overview.
Day 1 – Historic Center
Day 2 – Ancient Rome
Day 3 – Vatican City

Okay, let's get down to the details.

Day 1

Arrive in Rome, Walk around the Historic Center

Start with the Historic Center. You can do this walk right after you arrive, no matter the time. Rome is a living museum. Its beauty can be experienced just by walking around. Almost all the spots here are free and open all day.

In Campo de' Fiori, you can explore a market that is open in the mornings or you can find the bakeries where you can taste the best pizzas by the slice, anywhere. The restaurants here are not noteworthy but be sure to explore the side streets for some hidden gems.

Head northwest until you reach Piazza Navona. This square feels like Rome's living room. Even with the crowds, you can enjoy the atmosphere with live music, entertainers, and just the satisfied hums of locals and tourists alike.

From the center of this square, a short walk through an alley will lead you to the Pantheon. Don't worry if it is closed, you can admire the architecture from the outside and enjoy the scene around the corner. But if you have a chance, go inside (Hint: It's free!). The dome from below is impressive.  It could be crowded, but the real beauty of the place is above eye level anyway. Find Raphael's bust and tomb. You can pay respect to Queen Margherita (or just see her tomb), for whom the Margherita pizza was invented. 

A short walk in front of the Parliament building and though Galleria Alberto Sordi (Hint: They have air conditioning!) will lead you to the rushing waters of the Trevi Fountain. It will be crowded. The good thing is, the fountain itself stands tall and wide. If you want, you can skip the coin toss and simply view it from the street level. The fountain is lit up beautifully at night.

Head north from the right side of the fountain, cross the street, and continue walking north until you reach the Spanish Steps. This is a great place to sit back, relax your feet, and reflect on what you have just seen.

Have more time? Extend your walk to Piazza del Popolo and walk the entire length of Via del Corso to Piazza Venezia for some serious window shopping extravaganza.

Hiking through the forest

8:18 PM

One of the great blessings that I received from God this week is the opportunity to hike in the woods. 

If you are from the Philippines, just hearing the word "woods" will give you chills! 

Well, because it means that you are delivering yourself to death. Woods are scary there! You will be lost if you have no idea what you are doing.

But here in Czech Republic, it is different. There are no wild animals roaming around and, somehow, you will see people living in the woods. So you will still feel safe.

But anyways, this week was a great week for me. I had a regular 9-5 shift and the weather was so nice so I really took advantage of it. I walked from work to my home for around an hour. And what was great about it is that I saw 2 different paths.

Top 10 Things You Need To Do While Living in Brno

5:06 PM
Ever wondered what are the things that you can do while living in the beautiful city called Brno? Wonder no more!

Here are the top 10 things that you can do while living in Brno:

1. Relax in the lake

Summer is one of the best seasons here in the Czech Republic. Bees are busy buzzing and the hot sun is out, emphasizing the blue skies. So why not visit the lake for some great relaxation? You can go swimming, have some picnic with your friends, just be by yourself, sit in the grass, and enjoy people watching.

3. Have fun in Veveří Castle

The Veveří Castle is most enjoyable to visit when Greek Saturday is happening. Every year, Greek Saturday is held in the castle where Greek food and activities are readily available. You can enjoy the view, eat good food, and learn more about the Greek-Czech culture.

4. Be in awe with Ignis Brunensis

Ignis Brunensis is one of my most awaited events here in Brno. It is a competition of fireworks from exhibitors all over the world. This year, we watched the event while sitting on the lake. Just take note that there are paid areas where you can view the fireworks, but, just a few meters away, you can still enjoy them for free.

5. Enjoy the Museum Night

Between April to June, the Czech Republic hosts a two-part grand event: the Brno Museum Night (Brněnská Muzejní Noc) and the Night of the Churches (Noc Kostelů). Museum Night is the first part where museums open at a discounted rate and allow people to learn more about Czech culture and history. It includes the Ossuary, Mendel Museum, Moravian Museum and many more.

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