Saturday, 28 June 2014


The castle in Krasiczyn dates back to the sixteenth century. It is surrounded by a large park.

The castle was built in the Renaissance style. You can notice it already when we approach the entrance.

As you probably know, the main difference between a castle and a palace is that even though both are a residence of royalties or nobility, the first one has not only residential functions but is also a defense line. You can still see the cannons next to the entrance.

The towers were also in the past useful defence tools. This one was called Noble Tower.

In the courtyard you can admire the large stairs made of marble.

One of the corners houses a chapel, located in the so-called Divine Tower.

I just love this architecture, let me show you this tower in more details.

The arcades run around the courtyard. It is of course possible to climb up to get a better perspective.

Not high enough? All right, let's clomb to the Clock Tower. I know, I know, it is not easy to walk on these steps. But remember my friends that they did not know how to build elevators in the sixteenth century.

The top of the Divine Tower is here to greet us.

And here comes the Papal Tower.

Here you can see the full heigth of the place. I know, it is still not possible to see the full courtyard. To do this, you need to check out this virtual tour.

The scene on top of the arcade is a sgraffito. You could say it is the great-great aunt of grafittis. It represents a hunting scene.

Time to show you a glimpse of the park as well. Let's pass the Royal Tower.

Now let's sneak through the moat.

A last look at the castle itself.

Which road will we chose? The winding one ...

... or the path between living columns?

You are right, let's try all! They will lead us to little lakes ...

... and to beautiful flowers.

These trees mark the history of a noble family. Each time a boy was borne they were planting an oak and for girls they planted limes. Seven in total.

Each tree is signed with a stone thatbears the first name and the date of birth. Very practical if you have a problem to rememebr about the birthdays of your close relatives.

Now a little something special. Just for you my friend. A tree that can make your wish come true. Just think about it really hard. And 10% for me of course.

The park is large but we never get really far from the castle. The towers are always here to watch and protect.

Krasiczyn is an amazing place. I really recommend that you come and see it with your own eyes.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Relaxing in Tonga

After the very exciting trip to the Vava'u island group in the Kingdom of Tonga, the time had finally come to relax. My first stop in Neifau, which is the main town of Vava'u, was the Dancing Rooster Marina Wine Bar. The place is run by a real Swiss chef. And by "chef" I mean someone who went to a culinary academy in Europe and has a diploma to prove it.

The Dancing Rooster is not only a restaurant, but also a supply depot for yachts mooring in the marina. And because many yachts choose to wait out the South Pacific cyclone season in Vava'u, the place can get quite busy. Especially on Sunday nights when it doubles as the town's only cinema.

After relaxing at the Dancing Rooster I went to visit some people in town. Vava'u is very popular with Australian retirees, who want to spend their golden years in a tropical paradise. The only problem is that after a few years in Tonga, they go native and adopt the Tongan ways. Which may also mean having a pet pig instead of a dog. And I don't mean a miniature pet pig, as sometimes happens in the west. I mean a full blown, pig sized hog.

After filling up my belly and petting friendly pet hogs came the time to visit the beach.

And because I felt particularly brave that day, I decided to try snorkeling. Not my favorite activity, I must admit.

Having been fascinated by the traditional Tongan "grass skirts" even back in Nuku'alofa, I was amazed to learn that every Tongan is a proud owner of his or her own traditional attire. And every Tongan wears it proudly when the occasion calls for it. And because the Sunday mass is definitely a good occasion, you will see the entire country decked out in their Sunday grass skirt best.

Have you ever seen the Tongan money? The currency is called Pa'anga and as in any self-respecting kingdom, the banknotes bear the image of the beloved royal. The Tongan people are very proud of their king - Tupou VI and the queen - Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho, who, incidentally, is Tupou's second cousin. Yeah, keeping the royal blood in the family is the way to do it.

Shopping for souvenirs proved quite difficult. What is Tonga famous for? Even the natives were hard pressed for answers. We finally settled on handicraft, and I spent the better part of the day looking for a suitable handicraft shop.

I didn't find anything in Vava'u, but back in Nuku'alofa, I stumbled upon a small traditional crafts studio. Run by women to empower women. I liked the idea, and to support the brave womenfolk of Tonga, I purchased two lovely dishes.

And no visit anywhere would be complete without sampling the local cusine. Unfortunately, the traditional Tongan dishes are not know for their subtlety and finesse. That was fine by me. I wanted to try something real. Something authentic. This turned out to be lu.

There are many different varieties of lu. If made with mutton (the version I ate) it's called lu sipi, if with pork - lu puaka, corned beef - lu pulu, or with fish - lu ika. And it's really simple to make, providing you can find taro leaves somewhere. But don't worry. No taro leaves, no problem, you can use spinach or cabbage instead. Do you want a recipe? Here you are!

Line a small baking dish (an ordinary pie pan works great!) with aluminum foil. Leave plenty of foil hanging over the edges. Line the foil with spinach leaves or cabbage. In the center of the dish place cubes of cooked meat (a great way to use up whatever leftovers you have sitting around in the fridge!) Add some chopped onions, or a tomato, if you like. Pour a can of coconut cream (if you can't get coconut cream where you live, you can mix some coconut milk with creme fraiche) over everything and wrap the foil around it. Stick it in the oven and bake at 175 degrees (Celsius) for about an hour, or a bit longer.

And voila! You have your very own Tongan lu. Serve with sweet potato wedges for extra authenticity. Enjoy!!!

* * *

That was my last day in Tonga. I did enjoy this warm place. But time to go home now. See you back in Poland next week.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Real Tonga

As in any island country, travel in Tonga is conducted either by boat or by plane. No other choices, unless you have your own personal teleportation machine. Travel by boat is pleasant and, if you don't suffer from sea sickness, can be a great adventure. Unfortunately, it has one major flaw - it's slow. So slow, that if your time in a beautiful island country is limited, wasting it on days spent on ferries makes no sense whatsoever. With that in mind, our choice of transport in Tonga was clear - by air.

The day after arriving in Nuku'alofa, we got up bright and early and our friendly driver brought us back to the airport. This time to the domestic terminal. If you can call it a "terminal", that is. A run down shack in the middle of nowhere. As I've been told, it used to be the old international terminal.

One look at the departure and arrival board and it was clear we were in a different world. Or a different universe altogether.

We were flying on Real Tonga, the umpteenth incarnation of the pseudo-national airline.

Its previous versions all went bankrupt and failed for one reason or another, and with its name changing so fast, it was really hard to keep up. The history of the airline did not inspire confidence. And neither did its fleet of aircraft.

However, on that day we were lucky. Our plane turned out not to be the infamous made in China MA-60. While MA-60s fly without any serious incidents (because small incidents are normal with such substandard aircraft) in many parts of the world (although not in the US and the EU - due to safety issues), the Tongan version was even more hardcore - stripped down of anything not absolutely essential to make the plane as cheap as possible.

But for that experience we had to wait until our return flight. To Vava'u, because that's where we were flying that day, we took off in a tiny Beech 65-B80 Queenair built in 1976. Yep, we flew in an almost 40 year old propeller airplane over the expanse of the South Pacific. Hardcore enough for you? 

We took off from Nuku'alofa in the rain (how's that for excitement, adventure and really wild things?) and landed in Ha'apai under the blistering Polynesian sun. Ha'apai was our stopover on the way to Vava'u. Unlike the domestic terminal in Nuku'alofa, the airport in Ha'apai looked new and clean.

Alas, not for long, a few days later Ha'apai was hit by a devastating typhoon. The island is still recovering from the massive damage. We, however, were extremely lucky and even though the initial impressions were not of the most positive kind, we got to Vava'u in one piece. Along with our checked-in luggage.

Speaking of checked-in luggage… While checking in, not only our bags were weighed by the airline staff, but also our humble persons as well. All passengers had to step on an industrial scale and announce their weight loud and clear to the check-in personnel. Based on that ,we were assigned our seats. I guess when you're flying in a sardine can fit with a propeller, passenger weight distribution is absolutely essential. 

Our flight was delayed and to kill time, I decided to make friends with my fellow passengers.

And when my new friends got tired and wanted to take a nap, I went out to watch the rain.

Yet all that waiting turned out to be totally worth it once we saw the view from above.

Island paradise, indeed.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Sunday in Nuku'alofa

My first day in Tonga was filled with excitement and adventures, of which the most important one was finding a post office.

Nuku’alofa is not a big city, and least its center is not big. Definitely not by Paris, or New York or Tokyo standards. By those standards, the capital city of the Kingdom of Tonga is nothing more than a sleepy backwaters village in a sleepy backwaters country.

On a Sunday afternoon, the entire city, or actually, the entire country, gives the impression of having barely survived a zombie apocalypse. The streets are devoid of people, stores shuttered. Wild pigs and feral dogs roam freely and other than that, and the ever-present flies, there are no signs of intelligent, or even of semi-intelligent, life.

So where does the intelligent life go on Sundays? To church of course!

Sundays are enshrined in the Tongan constitution as the day of rest. Work is prohibited and church attendance practically mandatory. There is no public transport, no domestic and international flights, nothing at all.

The Chinese-owned businesses hold the only exemption to this law, and some of them do operate on Sundays. These are mainly hotel restaurants catering to foreigners. After having lunch at such an establishment at the Emerald Hotel, I decided to put my hooves to the pavement (where such a luxury could be found) and do a bit of sightseeing.

The sounds of religious hymns brought me to church. Probably the grandest church in the whole city, this was the Centennial Church of the Free Church of Tonga in Nuku’alofa. This was Sunday, after all.

Although very impressive from the outside, the interior looked worn and not particularly well cared for.

As it was already after the Sunday service, I had the place almost to myself.

There, I quickly made a new friend. This young lady was in charge of tidying up after the Sunday services. Dressed in a traditional Tongan dress, she looked mighty fine and was eager to chat with a friendly horse.

She explained to me where the post office building was located, but warned me that mailing a postcard overseas could be an exercise in futility, even on a weekday.

Apparently, the post office had been shuttered some time ago, and a printing company – Tonga Print took over some of the basic postal functions.

While exploring the city, my hooves took me in the direction of the royal palace. Unfortunately, the royal residence is not open to visitors. Pity. I had to be satisfied with a view through the royal gate.

But since Tongans are a friendly bunch, I made another new friend. As he explained, the Sunday no-work laws do not apply to the royal guard.

These poor fellas work 24/7. He said that he actually preferred working on Sundays, because it was so peaceful and quiet. So what did he do to kill time? Played with his smartphone, of course! Hahaha! I’m pretty sure that a smartphone was not an approved electronic device while on active royal guard duty, but frankly, I can’t blame him. It WAS a lazy, quiet, peaceful afternoon. A wild hordes of the great unwashed storming the royal grounds? No chance. Not in Tonga.

On my way back to the guesthouse, I walked pasted the royal tombs.

Sadly, they were also off limits to visitors. This handsome building also baffled me. It looked important, yet I could not find out what it was. Only later did I find out this was the country’s prime minister’s office.

With the brief tour of Nuku’alofa concluded, I decided to save more in depth explorations for a weekday, when there would be more signs of life on the streets. I retired to the guesthouse and began my preparations for the next day’s journey. But I’ll tell you about it next time.