Krakow Unmasked!

Krakow Unmasked!

I really enjoyed my birthday trip in Vienna in 2019. So being able to travel to celebrate my birthday this year was amazing. Krakow is a very pretty city with lots of good places to eat. Spring also came to Krakow so the city is even more beautiful. We arrived wearing masks as Finnair was still requiring masks on the flight. Then we were very surprised when we realised that no one uses mask in Krakow anymore. It really felt strange yet liberating after 2 years of constantly wearing a mask. And no more social distancing whatsoever!

We stayed in the old Town. From our hotel, it was easy to explore the city by foot. We were able to visit many places of interest just on the first day, like the Wawel Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Basilica, The Cloth Hall, Rynek Główny, Krakow Barbican, Plenty, St. Florian’s Gate, Floriańska, Smok Wawelski and the Town Hall Tower.

On the second day we walked a bit further and happened in Cmentarz Żydowski on the way to the old Jewish quarter. Nature overtook this cemetery while the birds were singing sweetly.

Heading back, we found by chance the oldest cafe and restaurant of Krakow. Jama Michalika was established in 1895. The atmosphere of this cafe is quite hard to explain. I didn’t feel that I had gone back in time when I obviously did! 127 years and still going…

For the third day, we drove the bus for some 40 minutes ride to Wieliczka Salt Mine which was excavated in the 13th century. We went down to 64 metre level by a wooden staircase and explored a 3 kilometre mine including an underground lake of 135 metres deep and a chapel made entirely of salt.

Then the last day in Krakow was all about arts. We visited three museums and was able to see the most valuable painting in Poland – Leonardo da Vinci Lady with an Ermine. We also enjoyed a traditional Polish meal of Barszcz Zurek and Pierogi and bought 50 pieces of handmade chocolates for 15,65 EUR. Krakow is not as expensive as Helsinki for sure!

Our flight back from Krakow was delayed by more than an hour. But we had the privilege to witness the beautiful sunset throughout the flight. We were probably the last ones to wear a mask on a flight. As of 23rd of April, Finnair doesn’t require to wear a mask anymore.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Greece finally happened!

Greece finally happened!

After deciding to not go ahead with booking our trip to Shanghai in March 2020, we thought we will go to Santorini instead. Anyway, COVID is far away in Asia! But as you know how the story went, Europe was on a lockdown too… What I love about this story was how we got refunded for our flight tickets but especially how our hotels in Athens and Santorini kept our reservations although the bookings were clearly non-refundable. So after 2 years, Greece finally happened and it felt like a miracle!

When Greece dropped the requirement to have a COVID test on arrival, flights were selling out fast. It was a miracle that we still were able to purchase our tickets, although, that was a bit stressful. And a few days before arriving to Santorini, our hotel informed me that they are not yet ready for the season and will let us stay at another hotel. But surprise surpise! We were totally upgraded to a villa with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms and even a sauna. And for a week, I had a private pool at the highest point in Caldera with the amazing volcanic views. The pool was heated at 30C so it was perfect!

Santorini is indeed beautiful and the weather was lovely. We enjoyed walking, exploring and eating lots of seafood, grilled fish and baklavas.

We also rented a car and drove across Santorini – from the windy Akrotili, to the peaceful beach of Kamari, driving up the steep and narrow road to Ancient Thira all the way to Oía to admire the beautiful sunset.

A Catamaran day cruise in the Aegean Sea is something not to be missed in Santorini. It was fun to look at the Caldera cliffs and the volcanic islands and of course to wait for the most amazing sunset.

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Next stop: Athens

Walking on ice – it’s this time of the year

Walking on ice – it’s this time of the year

Walking on ice. Walking on the frozen sea. It’s the time of the year to do it!

It was a very special feeling because I know that in other seasons, this place is the sea that I know. It’s water and there is no way I can walk on water. But not this time. This time I can walk on water. But just the hard kind of water! And the sun was setting too… 🙂

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Snow ducks, anyone?

Snow ducks, anyone?

I thought the Spring is just around the corner. But over the last few weeks, heavy snow has adorned Helsinki. Yes, it’s so beautiful!

Interestingly, I won a prize from Daebak Company (5% off on code ELAINE5). And the prize includes a snow toy. It was a duck snow toy which I first saw online a year ago when a K-Pop artist posted it online. It then became big in Korea. I always wanted it so it was such a lovely surprise to find it in the prize box.

And so here I am. If you find a full adult in downtown Helsinki making snow ducks, it is probably me! 🙂

All photos by https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Today in Helsinki

Today in Helsinki

Today’s 6.18 km walk in the neighbourhood after the snow storm yesterday. The month has gone so fast and soon it’s February. I hope everyone had a good start of the year!

Last week, Finland entered its third pandemic year. Are we nearing the end? Will it be an endemic soon?

All photos by https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

So Beautiful Switzerland

So Beautiful Switzerland

We had a short holiday with a short time to plan. But what a joy to spend that short moment in Switzerland. Switzerland is so beautiful. I highly recommend it. For this blog post, I will let the photos talk!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

A day in Tallinn

A day in Tallinn

With travels slowly easing, especially to those who are fully vaccinated, we also took a chance to spend a Saturday in Tallinn. I’ve been to Tallinn many times before. However, this time we took a large cruise ship from Helsinki to Tallinn and it was a very nice experience.

There is a list of must-do when spending a day in Tallinn. One of them is having coffee and cake at Maiasmokk Kohvik in the old town. Established in 1864, it’s the oldest cafe in Tallinn. It serves good coffee and delicious cakes. Dining out is another thing and this time we tried a fusion style Asian restaurant. We have passed by this restaurant before but I’ve always been suspicious of anything fusion. However, the food was actually tasty and was not much a fusion at all! We had Yakitori Chicken skewers, Tom Kha Gai, Roti Canai (a bit too oily), Yellow Curry with duck and Korean Bulgogi beef. So it was a bit of everywhere in Asia kind of food experience. They were true to their taste. I highly recommend this place called Tai Boh.

There is much to explore in the old town where one can spend 5 hours quite easily. It’s a pretty town and a nice area for walking. So wearing good walking shoes is a must! The day ended with a record breaking 32,737 steps which is 20.97 kms walk and an amazing sunset on the way home. Tired but happy!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Paris got it right!

Paris got it right!

After 11 attempts in 11 different countries, they got my name right in Paris! I was surprised and happy at the same time. 🙂

I took back the summer

I took back the summer

The song, We lost the summer by TXT, was kind of my theme song last year. It was one of my most listened song during the pandemic and I hope it will not remain this way. However, today, I felt like the summer is nearly over. The wind is blowing cool air and the nights have been chilly. Tomorrow, I’ll return by my desk and start thinking what is next for me. A lot of reflections need to be done there…

But to end this summer of 2021, I booked a trip to Paris. I thought Paris will be a bit empty, but no, there were a lot of people. Although, there were obviously fewer foreign tourists and the need for a COVID pass (EU COVID certificate for me) to enter museums and other tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Cœur Basilica made queues disappear. But the time spend just walking, sat at a cafe and having a perfect meal was just so worth it.

In any case, the saying that Paris is always a good idea didn’t fail me. It was a good idea to spend a short trip in Paris and to cheer Hooray to the end of the summer that I took back!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen @ https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com

Budapest and the gradual return to a semblance of normality…

Budapest and the gradual return to a semblance of normality…

Did the world become a friendlier place or is Budapest always been like this?

After a year and 7 months, we were able to travel outside of Finland again. Europe has reopened especially to those who are fully vaccinated. Hungary has also claimed to have reached herd immunity or at least, a large portion of its population has already been vaccinated. It’s very rare to see people wearing masks and there are no social distancing whatsoever. Restrictions have been lifted and it seems like the old times. However, there are obviously less tourists which is nice in many ways. There are no crowds, no tour groups and all that.

I was really loving the architecture in Budapest. I can imagine how glorious this city was in its former days. I can’t stop admiring all the fine details placed into building this city. But what fascinated me even more was how friendly and helpful people were. It was so amazing! This friendly atmosphere was something that I didn’t expect. Is Budapest always been like this or did the world become a friendlier place?

When we booked our hotel room, we chose the cheaper option. But, we were upgraded to the best room of the hotel which has two double rooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a rooftop which faces the Hungarian Opera. It was such a treat! And one of the must places to visit in Buda is the Fisherman’s Bastion. Such a breathtaking view!

I also recommend climbing the Citadella for its amazing view of the city after sunset and when the city lights are on!

All photos by Ari Vitikainen at https://www.arivitikainenphotography.com. All rights reserved.