Saturday, 31 May 2014

Travel to paradise

Today I am all excited - I am going to a place so remote and so exotic that I have never even dreamt of seeing it with my own eyes. I was originally planning to go there when I was in Japan at the beginning of the year but I had to delay this trip a bit. But now it is coming!

Yes, bags all packed and ready to go. But where was I going? Try to guess… The trip involved a trans-Pacific flight and a stopover in not one, but two cities in a certain gorgeous country where people speak a funky sort of English.

Any idea? No? Ok, here’s another hint. The country is also known as Middle Earth and even the flight was full of strange creatures.

Yes! New Zealand! But it was just the second stop of my trip, with Japan being the first. I flew there on a direct Air New Zealand flight.

It was a very full, but quiet flight. To be honest, I found it quite boring. Twelve hours of just eating, sleeping and watching movies. And then it was time to buckle up and prepare for landing.  We stopped in Christchurch first, where most of the passengers, mostly outdoorsy European hiker types, got off, and the rest of us then continued on to Auckland.

In Auckland I disembarked and prepared to spend the night. I didn’t explore the city, because I knew I would be stopping there again on my way back to Japan. The next morning, bright and early, I made my way to the Air New Zealand check-in counter at the International Airport in Auckland.

The line was long. Very long. Every passenger had extra luggage, bags and boxes of all shapes and sizes. Most of the passengers seemed to be families traveling back home for the holidays. And bringing back goods, lots of goods, that are hard to find in their home country. And there was I in the middle of it.

The lady sitting next to me on the plane asked if I was going to finish my in-flight meal, and when I said that no, I was full, she asked if she could have the rest of it. I felt bad so I shared my pack of granola bars with her. She seemed quite old and hungry. And the in-flight meal was a paid service.

Where was I going? Still no idea? Ok, another hint. The flight was relatively short – about 4 hours. Go ahead, grab that world map and draw a circle with Auckland at its center. I’ll wait.

Yes, all those tiny little specks in the ocean. The South Pacific Islands. One of them was my final destination. 

Nothing but ocean in all directions. Soon we were handed our immigration forms. The forms were full of warnings about bringing fruits, nuts and vegetables into the country. And dirty hiking boots. I quickly made sure that my hooves were clean.

Now you know! The Kingdom of Tonga!

Yes! That was my exotic destination and I was really looking forward to seeing and experiencing the country firsthand. Or, firsthoof.

Getting of the plane we were welcomed by hot, humid tropical air. The line to the immigration booths was the longest I’ve ever seen. And probably the slowest moving as well. One of the passengers, seeing my impatience (I was really eager to see the capital city of Nuku’alofa), said: relax, take it easy. You’re on island time now.

Two hours later I finally left the airport and was very happy to see that my hired driver was patient enough to wait for me that long. Island time, he said and smiled. Yes, indeed. I could get used to it, no problem!

The next report will be from Nuku’alofa! 

Saturday, 24 May 2014


As I have found out today Czersk is not even a town, just a village. But in the old days it used to be the capital of the Duchy of Masovia that was annexed by Poland in 1526. The most important remaining of these times is the medieval castle of the ducs. No surprisingly, it is located on a little hill.

Next to it, there is a little river. No, it is not Vistula, Vistula is far larger.

We enter by the impressive gate.

Inside you can see the courtyard. I can only imagine the amazing tournaments and parties that used to take place here.

It is possible to climb up the tower. So mind your step - they are really high!

Here you can see the round-shaped tower again but from the top of the parallel tower.

And here comes the river again.

The castle is surrounded by fields.

If you have difficulties to imagine the heigth of the tower just look down. But grab the barrier first!

Inside the castle there is a little exposition of medieval arms. This one was called a crossbow. It was necessary to use a windlass to put an arrow on it. Though in fact it was not an arrow (arrows are used with bows) but a bolt.

I loved the ceiling here.

In the courtyard you can see a battering ram. It was used to force the gates of castles.

It was really a nice trip. A bit saddening though. Another nice castle turned into ruins. Humans should pay a bit more attention to their stuff.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Tykocin is a small town in the East of Poland, founded in the fourteenth century. It is probably best known for two buildigs. The first of them is the Tykocin Castle, which first belonged to a noble family and then to Polish kings.

The castle was heavily damaged in the past, its recoonstruction has begun only ten years ago. But they are really doing a great job! To see it inside you can get a look at this nice panoramic view.

You can almost hear the ladies and the knights walking on this balcony.

The tower is a bit more scary though.

In the center of Tykocin you will find of course the market square.

The white building in the back is the baroque church of the Holy Trinity.

On the right you will see the bridge over the Narew river.

The square is surrounded by nice residential buildings.

And in the middle you will find the monument dedicated to the general Stefan Czarniecki, one of the most prominent military leaders on the seventeenth century. They say it is the second oldest non-sacral monument in Poland.

The second most famous building in Tykocin is the Great Synagogue.

It used to be one of the biggest and oldest synagogues in Poland. Unfortunately, the nazis have largely damaged it during World War II.

Today, it houses the Museum of Jewish Culture.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Botanical Garden in Powsin

A! Spring is in the air! There is no better place to feel and see it in its full splendour than a botanical garden. So today, I will take you to Powsin to a garden created by the Polish Academy of Science.

It was created in 1974 and includes 40 hectares of beauty. The main theme of the garden is the protection of biodiversity. Therefore the garden includes a couple of clearly distinct parts.

Next to the main entrance you will see an alpine garden (also called rock garden).

It mainly includes green plants but not only.

Then comes a little river (there are frogs inside!). You can even enjoy crossing it by jumping on the rocks, one  by one (or missing some if you prefer).

Be careful not to step on the ants! They are an important part of the ecosystem.

Then come the greenhouses that shelter more exotic plants.

You can see there lemons ...

... and oranges.

You can admire the coffe plants of coffea arabica ...

... and real Chinese tea.

Here comes an olive tree, typical for the Mediterranean region.

And there you can admire the Angel Trumpets (or more scientifically - Brugmansia (Datura) x candida "Grand Marnier") ...

 ... and the Brasilian beauty of Brunfelsia calicyna.

Obviously, greenhouses with exotic plants must also include cactuses (or cacti actually). There are small ones ...

... big ones ...

... and even some that bloom! I like best the Euphorbia milii

And finally, of course, a palm tree. 

And then we will quickly jump into the arboretum so the part devoted to trees. The arboretum in Powsin is famous mainly for its magnolia trees. And the reason why we went there today is that the magnolias are now in blossom. The smell is incredible! There are many varieties of magnolias there. The white Magnolia ×soulangeana "Alba Superba", with a touch of pink at the bottom.

The pink Magnolia ×soulangeana "Lennei".

The deep purple Magnolia liliiflora "Susan".

And the supreme white beauty of Magnolia "Elizabeth".

The last part of the garden is dedicated to plants that grow in Polish mountains. There are even small mountains built to make you feel a bit like in the Tatras.

This is the sign you will see on a real trail.

There are small mountain brooks embeded in the hill.

As well as the mountain pines (pinus mugo).

Some smaller plants are present as well. So my dear friends from all over the world - who will pronounce "różeniec górski"?

Allright, it is time to take some rest now. We can sit in this nice litlle Chinese arbor.

And to enjoy springtime even more let's taste this fantastic cotton floss ...