Alas this day arrived! For months I have been planning, constantly researching, stocking for food, pills, clothes, electronics, went to all worse-case-almost-dead-scenarios-that-could-ever-happen and then all of the sudden I chilled and went by the thought “que sera, sera”.
A true traveller doesn’t have an exact plan and shouldn’t stress on where (s)he goes. Life is full of wonderful surprises and the only sane thing you can do is to embrace every moment of it.
Before going on the trip, I had a quick stop at a music festival for 3 days where my good old friend Andrei hosted me.
The festival was literally unexpectedly well-prepared with a well-known international artists in the line-up. Below you can see the list of the first SAGA edition.
Three nights in a row with only a few hours of sleep with another three nights prior to the festival at the same pace, I drove to Suceava for about 8 hours doped with 2 magic potions (Ca+Mg+D3+Vit C & Supradyn vitamins). I know I know…getting older…I remember when I used to be a coffee addict and was overdosing my body with it and on top of it adding some energy drinks and some other stuff, but that’s another story.
Five years later and now I am dragging myself with vitamins & minerals to fill my day-2-day hectic lifestyle. Not complaining – just concluding with my life changes for which I am grateful and proud of. 😇
Back to the journey, I initially started it from Constanta at exactly 26,000 kms and will see how many I will add when I get back to my hometown. I estimated to get home at about 38,000kms, but that’s only a bare estimation.
I shared my initial journey to Bucharest on BlaBlaCar app and got lucky to have such a cool company (Hazi and Oana) on my way to Suceava. I had to make some amends to drop Hazi in Bacau and Oana in Botosani, but it was a pleasure to have a 50min delay and listen to their funny stories. From each story I learn about new things which helps me see life differently.
Got to the hotel late in the evening, had a late night soup to fill my stomach and instantly dropped in bed after a well-deserved hot shower.
After a very long drive yesterday (about 8 hours), I managed to wake up at about 10am and get ready for Day 2 of my 99-day trip. Packed my bags, check-out from the hotel and went to see the local attraction – Castelul de Scaun al Moldovei.
Got a little souvenir from the local shop to keep a vivid memory of this wonderful place full of energy.
My stomach was giving me side kicks for not getting some food already, so I stopped at a nice restaurant where they looked to be specialized in egg-plates.
The food was just what I was looking for to eat. A light breakfast with poached eggs, spinach, plum tomatoes and spreadable cheese.
Noon already, happy stomach and I was ready to continue my journey to Lviv leaving behind Suceava – a superb city full of history, power and wonderful people.
When I got to the Ukrainian border, I was surprised to see no soul queuing up. Basically I was the only one passing which was a bit odd at first sight, but I was grateful for the moment and quickly crossed the border.
Bear in mind, if you’re coming in Ukraine, they ask at the border for medical insurance proof. You can sign up cheaply with SafetyWing – that’s what I use everywhere I go.
Also, good to know there’s no road tax to pay. The roads are quite alright, but there are some paths in some villages where there are pot holes, but that’s normal (at least for me).
There is something noble in the Ukrainian culture and passing over the houses, they have a tendency to look like mini-palaces with some Austrian air. I quite enjoyed the view, the quietness and was so happy to see all villages well maintained and tidy.
Two hours later and £5 credit is depleted. Waze was off re-routing, I was hungry as fuck and didn’t know the road by heart. What now? Had to pull over in a super nice village and looked for a restaurant to get some free WiFi.
I noticed everyone on the street having a warm look in their eyes which was very nice to see and feel, but it was a bit difficult to get some directions since no one spoke English (at least the ones that I tried to get in touch with).
Used my superpowers of smelling food from far away, and the aroma got me into a basement restaurant called Kozatatska.
It was funny to order food using sign language, but I like that we as human being can adapt easily in every situation. I managed to get an awesome Ukrainian borscht which is a local soup with red potatoes, celery, beetroots and grated carrot.
The flavour was insanely amazing. I was too hungry and forgot to take a photo of it. For the second dish, I really didn’t know what I ordered but I was surprised by the nice waiter with a traditional Ukrainian dish called vareniki -boiled dumplings filled with cheese with sour cream sauce.
Another cool thing that I spotted whilst in Ukraine was that people actually thank & salute you when they cross the street (which is a nice thing to see). The gas is super cheap compared to the majority countries in Europe. At this time of writing, the gas is about 28-30UAH which is about €1 per litre. So far, I haven’t seen any big supermarkets which makes me a bit nostalgic.
I remember going with my sister 20 years ago getting some sweats at the corner shop, because there weren’t any big supermarkets back then as they are now flooding all cities in Romania.
But there are lots of coffee shops. Literally every corner you go, there is a coffee shop and a gas station. People here usually shop from either gas stations or small shops opened nearby.
I found the hotel to stay in Lviv and walked to get a late night meal before getting back to bed. The only opened restaurant in the area was an Italian one from where I had some super nice carbonara which filled me nicely. You can see the smile on my face when I got back home 🙂
Had a good night sleep in the hotel room – ine that I craved for and didn’t get for a week. I woke up in a super chill mode craving for more sleep time, but it was too sunny outside to waste this day in bed. So I got up for a continental breakfast at the hotel and continued to write on my blog. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect (since it was a standard one) and only paid 100UAH (about €3) for this, which is not bad at all.
Full of energy, I got the day started with the free tour I booked on here. Once I got to the meeting point in Ryonok Square I met Helen, out tour guide carrying a yellow umbrella who introduced me to the group.
The tour lasted for about 2.5 hours and it was interesting to hear about the history of the city which has been habited by the Poles, Jews, Germans, Greeks, Tatars, Turks, Persians, Arabs and even Armenians.
Some important historical periods:
- In the 19th century, Lviv became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire only to return to Poland for 20 years between WWI and WWII.
- In 1939, it was annexed by the Soviets, then conquered by the Germans to finally fall back into the Soviet hands for almost 50 years as part of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic.
- In 1991, it became one of the most important cities in independent Ukraine.
During the tour it was nice to hear some important stories on how the coffee managed to get an international thing and it actually started from Lviv.
Apparently there was a soldier who came to Vienna to trade after years on the battlefield and in captivity in Turkey, where he discovered the coffee house experience he would bring to Europe and improve upon.
When the Ottoman troops laid siege on Vienna, he volunteered to sneak through the enemy camp and persuade the Polish army to rescue the imperial city.
Dressed as an Ottoman merchant and able to speak fluent Turkish, he accomplished the mission and saved the city during the 1683 Battle for Vienna.
As the spoils were divided, he apparently wanted just the sacks with green beans as his reward and started his coffee business.
There were some other funny stories, but the one with the coffee beans I remembered it completely.
Last night I had a really good sleep and was again ready to show the world the energy and positivity that has been invested in me. Forgot to book for another day to the hotel as I initially booked for 2 nights instead of 3, and had to check-out and find another hotel because it was too expensive to continue there. And I am on a budget. So I found a really good bargain apartament for just 540UAH (~17 euros), located in the city centre. Lucky me 😛
Had to pay for the parking though, in the city centre (15UAH/h) and booked for 26 hours just to be sure in case the next day I am waking up a bit late. It was a bargain anyway, not to lose so much time in traffic.
Note: The people in Lviv seem to be very relaxed to me. So that makes the traffic really insane sometimes. Just makes sure you relax as well to blend in with the locals 🙂
Since I have visited everything that was important to visit yesterday, today I just wanted to chill like a local, stroll around the city and take pictures. It was my last day in Lviv and rushing it wasn’t exactly the plan.
The first cool stuff I tried was the coffee at the Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture. If you are a coffee enthusiast, you must try out the coffee here! Located centrally right on Ryonok Square, they have a vast range of roasted coffee beans that you can take home.
I personally got 100g of sour coffee beans and I really look forward to try it when I get back. There is an English menu with descriptions of each bean and the staff speaks English fluently.
Strolling around the city centre, I found out some underground catacombs at St. Peter and Paul church. You can see models of the cities development from 3 different time periods and find out more about one of the most scary ghost stories of the city.
Later in the evening, I meet 2 really cool guys, Ignatio, an entrepreneur from Uruguay and Joan, a software developer from Colombia from NomadList community and it was super fun hanging out with them in the city. I felt proud to be their “tour guide” for them even though I have only been there for 2 days and they have been for nearly 2 weeks (thanks again Helen for all the info & tips 😉 ).
For my last morning in Lviv I went to get another relaxing coffee with cinnamon from the Mining Factory and have a one last glance over Ryonok Square.
After checking out from the apartment, I set Waze to Warsaw and mentally prepared for another 6 hours of drivinh. I love driving, so not complaining at all. When I usually drive for long periods, I am going back in time slowly, reflect about different situations and It really helps me decide on some matters which usually take me a lot to decide.
Had to queue up a bit at the border (not entirely sure why), but I was getting frustrated seeing the police there doing nothing but staring at us and smoking. So I took the liberty to skip the red-light and the border-control officer got mad. Oh well, I think I became a suspect somehow even though I was being polite the whole time. 😅
They looked for every pocket in every bag/piece of clothes I had and continuously asking if I carried any alcohol and cigarettes which I continuously respectfully replied no. They eventually let me pass the border, but I promised myself not to do this kind of stupid act again. It would have been better just to continue writing on the blog instead.
Driving in Poland was easy. The roads were much better, the highways limit is 140kmh (which is pretty cool), the gas price is about 5.6 -5.8 zl (~€1.2) which was expected. Wasn’t so lucky as I was in Lviv to get a cool weather though. It was cloudy and rainy all day until I got to Warsaw and then it remained cloudy and a bit colder during the evening.
I was a little bit excited that I finally got to the hotel and rushed for a quick shower, so I can stroll in the Old Town for the rest of the night. In fact, I have been strolling for quite some time in that evening (about 17kms).
The Old Town looked very much like Vienna and initially it was unusually empty for a Friday evening but in just about an hour it got busier and busier.
Last night I have only slept a few hours and was awake from 4am. 😵💫 I tried to get some more sleep but ended up printing the walls with my thoughts and craving for food.
So very early in the morning I went queueing up for a nice breakfast and found a really nice place just minutes walk from the hotel.
Partly stuffed, partly sleepy went to check out the panoramic view of the city from Palace of Culture and Science. You really can’t miss the building if you ever come to Warsaw, since it’s the biggest one in the city.
The weather became colder in just a few hours and the jacket I had wasn’t keeping me warm anymore, and had to get back to the car to unpack my winter clothes that I prepared for Norway. Two days ago there were 20 degrees in Lviv and it dropped to 9 degrees during the day.
For the first day in Warsaw, I booked another Free Tour of the Old Town using the same website that I used in Lviv.
I really love taking those tours and hearing out the funny stories behind the history of the city.
During the tour, I have learnt that Chopin and Marie Curie are actually Poles and that both went to Austria/France and changed their names into french versions. For a second I thought how funny would my name sound in french – Costín du Botée 😏
Another cool stuff that I remember is that Chopin’s heart is still preserved in alcohol in the Holy Church.
When Chopin died in France at the early age of thirty-nine his famous deathbed wish was that his heart should be cut out from his body and sent to Poland.
He died of tuberculosis and his sister brought his heart in a jar full of whiskey and it still holds for 170 years. Creepy, right?
Below you can see the bravest people that remained during the windy and rainy weather till the end (like the Poles in the back fighting for liberating Warsaw in WWII)
We got to know each other better during lunch where we had some mouthwatering traditional Polish food in the Old Town.
The soup was just what we were looking for with this rainy weather. So far, beetroot soup is my all-time favourite soup (record previously held by the Turkish Lentil soup).
If you ever come to Poland to visit any city, you should also try pierogi. Those delicious filled dumplings are undoubtedly the most-popular dish and you can find it pretty much everywhere.
You can also mix them with spinach, potatoes, cheese, mushrooms and meat, serve them friend or oiled or serve them as desert.
We all shared some interesting funny travel stories and I learnt about the legend of the fox and the Northern Lights whilst we enjoyed our kompot (a sweet fruity beverage served hot).
The Finnish word for the Northern Lights translates to “fox fires”. The firefox is a mythical and elusive creature of the North coveted by hunters. Legend has it that a person who catches the firefox would be rich and famous beyond belief.
As it runs along the fells, the fox’s flaming tail whips crystals of snow into the sky and the fur scratches the trees, setting the skies on fire.
Later in the night, got some strolling at the Palace of Culture and went to see the city sight from top again during night time.
My last day in Warsaw and how else would I started it if not with a fabulous breakfast at Bułkę przez Bibułkę and I must say, it was as good as it looks in the picture.
Had to get back to the hotel to jump on a call with a potential client (even tough it’s Sunday) but it was totally worth it. Aparently I got a new contract with Cisco and will have to change my itinerary a bit when I get to Norway so I can work & travel at the same time. Yey! Or ney!
I was in a way expecting to work whilst away and I am grateful to be able to get the project by all means, but I still will have to review the initial track so I can stay longer periods in one place rather than switching every 2-3 days from a place to another.
To celebrate this, I got to visit a new neighborhood in Warsaw called Praga. What makes it different is that this neighborhood wasn’t bombed during WWII as the other ones were. If you plan on visit Praga, you will easily see the differences between the brick layers from the construction foundation to the top comparing it to the Old Town buildings.
A little bit of history, during WWII, 85% of Warsaw was bombed & destroyed and all the buildings, palaces, monuments were reconstructed using old paintings which were kept by Poles heroes who risked their lives keeping them so they can use to restore the city.
So when the Soviets came, they captured an almost destroyed city and rebuilt it. Most of the imperial buildings were built using people donations & their sweat at that time. If you think about it, they are all basically about 70 years old.
Below you can see a photo of how the Soviets got the city bombed by the Nazies and on the right how it looks now.
When I got to Praga, I was amazed to see how all the parks are so well maintained & clean and unexpectadly, in the middle of it, there was where the biggest Zoo in Poland was located. Got a ticket and spent the entire afternoon cheering up seeing so so many beautiful animals – from ants, birds to polar bears, crocodiles, monkeys and even kangaroos.
Filled with so many wonderful images in my head I got hungry and quickly searched for a restaurant nearby and got to Gosciniec.
They serve amazing traditional food and I couldn’t help myself but try again the red borscht cooked on beetroot and apples with hand-made ravioli, cabbage and mushrooms. For the second dish, I had such an amazing experience a day ago with the pierogi, that I had to try them again in a mix. So I ordered 9 different types (meat, cabbage & forest mushrooms, potato & white cheese, spinach, mushrooms, bacon & potatoes, porn & read beans and lastly meat with spicy paprika).
Had to take a note of all flavors otherwise I couldn’t remember them all.
Common phrases in Polish
|Hello/Good day (formal)||Dzień dobry||(Jen doh-bri)|
|Good evening (formal)||Dobry wieczór||(Doh-bri vyeh-choor)|
|Good-bye||Do widzenia||(Doh veet-zen-ya)|
Common phrases in Ukrainian
|I don’t understand||Я не розумію||(Ja ne rozumiju)|
|I don’t know||Я не знаю||(Ja ne znaju)|
|Good morning||доброго ранку||(Dobroho rankur)|
|Good afternoon||добрий день||(Dobryy denʹ)|
|Good evening||Добрий вечір||(Dobryj vetchіrs)|
With all things considered, I had initially set a budget of €100 per day (which should includes accommodation, gas, food, any taxies, any road tax/parkings).
With this in mind I should have had €700 to spend, but I actually got to spend €520 in total which is insanely great.
For the record, I didn’t skip any meals or tried not to do anything that I didn’t want to do, but so far, Ukraine was very cheap and same as Poland.
Whatever was left, I will save for Norway, because from all the countries in my list, that is the most expensive one and also that is the one that I am spending the most time in (exactly 40 days).
- Get a medical insurance (they ask for it in Ukraine) and you never know when you need it.
- Join an international community of travelers and make new friends
- Try local food from local areas (you might get cheaper this way)
- Pay by card wherever you can. If you need cash, try to avoid Euronet ATMs as much as possible.
- Look out for Free Tours in the capital that you plan to visit
- Use AirBnBs first. Then Booking.com if no other options. Is cheaper this way.
- If you go by car, make sure if you have to pay for the parking. You don’t wanna get up with a penalty fee to pay.
- Plan ahead your entire trip & go with the flow if smth unexpected happens. And enjoy it.
- Walk more and explore the capitals by foot. Is good for your body and your wallet. It was funny when I looked over the stats, the average walk for this week was about 11 kms per day, which is not bad at all.
Thanks for reading thus far, stay tunned and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for daily updates!