Paris – for better and for worse

The City of Light, Paris, is not always easy to handle. You may fall in love with it in an instant but it takes you a good while to learn loving it. It is like any relationship, after the ecstatic first weeks comes the everyday life and its cons.

City of Light ParisThe first seven days in Paris are a feast for all senses: baguettes, garçons, boulevards, Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel, Palais Royal, croissants, cinéma, hôtels particuliers, crêpes, Camembert, jardins, Renoir, bateaux-mouches, Edith Piaf. And all this crusted with the posh French nasal sounds which makes you think you are in heaven.

After the honeymoon

It is like a fairytale till the moment you start to live here. Then you have to get serious, to settle down as they say. You start getting attached: you open a bank account, you get all those cards for metro, libraries and museums, you find your favourite supermarket and the staff start to recognise you. Now you discover all those small things that drive you crazy: The thing is, in Paris you don’t just go and buy a monthly metro ticket or open a bank account. You honestly need at least half a dozen of certificates about your identity, logging, student status etc. Then you fill out a form and post it to some excluded office with a zip code you cannot locate in the outskirts of Ile de France. Then you wait for a month because nothing is as long and wearing as French bureaucracy, well, except for the Italian.

French bureaucracy

On the second stage you realise your habits are not at all like those of your newly-wedded metropolis. It does not understand the sanctity of rye bread and keeps providing you with baguettes naively believing that there is nothing better. It provides you with baguettes not only for breakfast but also for lunch and for dinner which makes you seriously doubt the supposed variety of French cuisine. Continue reading “Paris – for better and for worse”

Cracking Krakow

Mysterious corridors, delicious cheese cake in Kazimierz and green bike routes. Having visited all the must sees in Krakow, it’s time to taste this very European city from within.

We can get all necessary information about Krakow’s traditional top places to see from the information points. Here you have some tips for visiting interesting places in that southern Polish city that are rarely mentioned in guides. “Incredible in Krakow are some paths in the centre of the city overgrown with grass. Lots of people, even those living in Krakow, have no bloody idea about them. There is one, totally overgrown and green. It’s got a green bump made of stones in the middle.” says Piotr Lewicki, architect.

First of all: Kazimierz

kazimierz krakow
No matter if you are either Erasmus student in Krakow or three-day visitor, Kazimierz – the old Jewish district – is a must see. Beginning the day with perfect latte and delicious cheesecake at Alchemia, would be a good start to the scratched and gloomy, but extremely fashionable, artistic and vibrant district. It is here where Krakow’s bohemia meets. Nearby Alchemia you’ll find an incredible café called Les Coloures, wallpapered with posters from French movies and musicals. But the best time to go to Nowy Square is on Saturday morning. You will be amused by a market smelling of fresh fruits, vegetables and old books. From there it’s not far to the picturesque Podgórze, another interesting district, with an architectonic ally intriguing church and a mysterious mound. It’s here to say that in Kraków there are four peculiar hills, mainly prehistoric and artificially made, some of them even by the Celts. If you want to have a perfect overview of Krakow – those are the best places.

Sacrum meets profanum

krakow
Kraków is a typical medieval city, with streets situated perpendicularly and parallel to the biggest and most beautiful market square in Europe. As a city left untouched during World War II, Kraków is now full of monuments. Thus the city is a great monument of European culture. Not only the medieval history is evident: in Nowa Huta, a district built in socrealistic style you can have a back-to-communism trip, visiting places, clubs and even the typical flats of those times. The really interesting fact is that in Krakow sacrum meets profanum in a very special way. There are about 120 churches with great history and about 500 clubs and pubs in the neighbourhood. It is lively and crowded with thousands of students. As we are in the old centre, it’s worth dropping in to Café Camelot for excellent cherry liquor and to go and see fabulous Camelot Cabaret on St. Thomas’ Street afterwards. If you are lucky enough you may also be allowed to see Krakow from the St.Mary’s Church tower. Going around the market square, you should go for another liquor in Bunkier Sztuki. But there is one place that shouldn’t be missed in any case: Massolit Books, a marvellous library-café, where you can sink into reading books all day long. Bored with English-language books? Then just go around the corner and find PUNKT. You will love those old cinema chairs you can buy there! Continue reading “Cracking Krakow”

Discover Seville through tapas

It was time to move. I mean, everything was fine with my university, with Padua, with Italy, with my friends. But sometimes you feel that something is missing.

I missed Europe. Of course there was news about the European Union on TV and politicians gave big speeches on European citizenship, editorials on the role of the EU in Italy’s economy. We knew that Brussels offered us economical agreements, but aside from that, what does the average Italian student know about Europe? Europe is missing in their fixed paths: doing exams, getting a bachelor and then looking for a job (preferably nearby home). This was not enough for me. I had to take my chance.

seville

I landed in Seville, southern Spain, full of expectations. One has to have big expectations when he is 23 years old, no? And I was going to have the best trip of my life, a trip with the Erasmus space shuttle.

A shuttle that offers you the possibility to get lost. Getting lost geographically and getting lost mentally. To rethink the goals you have set for your life, what you think is important, to open your mind. Briefly: the best way to grow up.

The first words I learned in Andalusia were corridor, apartment, rent, classroom and of course beer. Beer is the bond between students all over the world, it makes you feel at ease and friendly with mates. And beer was cheap in Spain, so we did a lot of bonding.

I walked a lot the first days through lovely Seville. The weather is great and the city centre is not too big to walk through. But still big enough to allow you some ‘breaks’ to devour a tapa (A tapa is a tiny dish, a little snack), a beer and send a text message to your jealous friends at home. Especially those who live in the northern part of Europe: “Hey, it’s October and I’m still wearing a T-shirt!”

Seville Cathedral

Walking through Seville there are some ‘must-have-seen’ locations: the cathedral, built on a mosque (peculiar architectural mix!) and La Giralda, the tower, originally a minaret. Then visit the Alcazar (the old Moorish palace) and its wonderful gardens. Have a walk along the river Guadalquivir and stop by La Torre del Oro, built by the Almohad dynasty as watchtower. Have a relaxing terrace at Plaza de España.

The best parts of being an Erasmus student are not those things a local tourist office can inform you about. I mean, I loved, for example, the sun. It was like being closer to the sun in Seville than in northern Italy. The light is brighter, and this lives up your whole day, even when you are walking in a hurry to the bus stop. That is probably the reason why a lot of people stay outside, por la calle (by the street), walking from bar to bar, having tapas. They even have a word for it! Tapear, which means hanging out and getting tapas in different bars. I just loved this way of life. Being Italian, it’s in my genes to have special attention to food. And we know food is not only nutritional, it also nourishes your soul. Continue reading “Discover Seville through tapas”

Stroll in ‘Da Vinci Code’ scenery in Lincoln

Unknown Lincoln has much to offer: the Cathedral of the Da Vinci Code movie, a copy of the Magna Carta, a first class journalism university and it has been voted one of the cheapest cities to live in England. Pack your bags!

lincoln-england

Traditionally Lincoln is seen as a historical city, quiet but full of the quaint English charms tourists seem to love. We have a magnificent Cathedral, one that has been used in many films – including the Da Vinci Code. Lincoln Castle, although now much of a ruin has another talking point, it houses one of the rare copies of the Magna Carta.

With a City as old as Lincoln (you can find it in the Doomsday book) there’s bound to be talks of ghosts and ghouls, indeed, we have three ghosts walking every week around the historical quarter.

To bring the City up to date we have some fabulous shops and restaurants amongst all the gorgeous architecture. My place of study also makes use of the older buildings, the University of Lincoln has won design awards for its use of restoring and modernising dated pieces.

University of Lincoln

The University itself is very young, it was built in 1996 after locals decided to raise some of the sponsorship. They felt that their city was lacking something. In fact, when the famous Oxford University was conceived, the monks couldn’t decide where to put their new place of study – Lincoln or Oxford? Of course it was Oxford that was chosen but you could say that Lincoln had been without a University for thousands of years.

The population of Lincolnshire is considered quite diverse. Since the EU paved the way thousands of Polish, Lithuanians and Romanians have flocked to the region because of its high agriculture. For some it was difficult to integrate but over the last three years societies and clubs have been set up to make the process of moving in to Lincoln as smooth as possible. At my radio station we have been working with the Polish for over a year and they now have their own monthly show. Broadcasting in English and Polish it reaches far into the community and is considered a success.

But what of the nightlife I hear you ask? Well Lincoln is populated with many bars, it would take you a good weekend to get round them all, and we have the Engine Shed when we want a club night out. The venue is also famous for the bands it brings to the City, in the last year we have had The Zutons, Babyshambles, Dirty Pretty Things, Stereophonics, Ian Brown and the Deftones to name a few.

But don’t worry if your pockets feel a little light, Lincoln was voted the second cheapest city to live in England. So if you ever find yourself in the East Midlands, make sure you give Lincoln a visit.

From “city near the factory” to “the city of one thousand taverns”

For more than twenty years, the destiny of Călăraşi has inevitably been connected to the Siderurgical enterprises, its evolution was entirely connected to the evolution of the factory. But then disaster struck Călăraşi: the factory went bankrupt.

At the end of the ’70s, Ceauşescu wanted to build a big factory near Bucharest. His idea was to bring iron ore down the Danube (because this was the cheapest method) and produce steel. The real construction began in 1978 and eight years later the first section (the coke and chemical one) was ready for production. A few years later other sections were ready too: the electric steel factory, the rolling mill for medium profiles, the deposit for raw material and the section for enriching the iron ore. Many specialists from the most important factories (from Reşiţa, Galaţi and Hunedoara) and diligent workers from Moldavo came to visit Călăraşi, in those days. All of them got a house in the most prosperous neighbourhood in town, which was named (as if there was no alternative) “2 Moldavians”. The older teachers remember that students from the Industrial School who worked at the Siderurgical Enterprises had higher salaries than the teaching staff and that “nobody would breathe a word in front of them”.

Călăraşi

In the ’80s, the city was living its glory days. It also won a prize as “the cleanest city in the Socialist Republic of Romania”. Moreover, the Zoo from Călăraşi was the largest in the country and was an important animal provider for the other zoos in the country. But out of the blue the revolution came along. As the factory was not entirely finished, the change was not a good one for the people from Călăraşi and in 1998, the Siderurgical Enterprises closed down. In 2001 it went bankrupt and in 2005 it was cut into pieces and sold as scrap iron. Continue reading “From “city near the factory” to “the city of one thousand taverns””

Córdoba – The route of the orange blossom

“Romans and moors, quiet Córdoba”, wrote the poet Manuel Machado to describe the city where I was born. Walking along the streets and alleys is encountering history. Cordoba was built by Romans, Arabs, the Jewish and Christians, so it is a real mixture of cultures. People as Séneca, Averroes or Luis de Góngora were born here.

Córdoba is situated in the center of Andalucía in the south of Spain. The city has an excellent geographic location and is easy to reach from Sevilla, Málaga or Madrid thanks to the AVE (Spanish high speed train).

Córdoba

Córdoba is a monumental city and is considered a World Heritage place. Let´s go to the river Guadalquivir to start our discovery of this charming town. The most important monument of Cordoba is the Mosque Cathedral, which is considered the most important Islamic monument in Western Europe. Today it is a Christian temple. Get lost in the labyrinth of archs and columns and smell the orange blossom in the Patio.

Near the Mosque you can find the Christian Kings Fortress, a big palace which was built on the remains of an old Muslim castle. You will discover large mosaics and the royal baths. The most interesting aspect of the Alcázar are the wonderful gardens, made up of extensive cisterns where, during spring, you can see the beautiful water lily.

calle-de-las-flores

One of my favourite places is La Calleja de las Flores (The Flowers Alley), a hidden place which is just oozing charm. A narrow passageway with arches and stones ends in a square with geraniums and carnations. It´s a great place to visit with your boy- or girlfriend, as it offers one of the most romantic views of the Mosque.

If you want to have a break there is nothing better than drinking something on Corredera Square. There are numerous terraces where you can enjoy the sun, in the antique shops you might find a nice gift for someone at home. Continuing our tour we walk towards Capuchinos Square. To reach it we have to cross the town hall where we can see the remains of a Roman temple. In the middle of Capuchinos Square we find El Cristo de los Faroles. This monument is worshipped by the cordobeses The name comes from the peculiar lamps around the cross. More than monuments…

Besides its monuments, Córdoba has plenty of other gems on offer. What do you think of the narrows streets of the Judería? Watch flamenco, try some of the local wines or enjoy the nightlife! The best period to visit Córdoba is May. In May the weather is wonderful and the city celebrates a lot of traditional festivals such as Las Cruces (The Crosses) and the competitions of Patios (full of flowers). If you’re here during the last week of May, you’ll have the chance to experience La Feria de Nuestra Señora de la Salud (The Fair), which is the best festival of them all! Continue reading “Córdoba – The route of the orange blossom”