Hi everyone. We’ve been in Banja Luka, Bosnia, now, for about two weeks. We were just getting settled in our new apartment, had joined a gym, and found our way around the city, when the holidays started, here in Bosnia. Since most of the businesses, here in Banja Luka, close in celebration of the Orthodox Easter, on Sunday, April 28th, and Monday, April 29th, and for their Labour holidays, on May 1st and 2nd, we haven’t had a chance to see many of the sites, with the exception of the downtown area and the fort. Since the weather is so beautiful here, with sunny skies, and temperatures in the low 70’s, we’re planning a day trip, for after the holidays, to the waterfalls.
More about that in my next post. First, let me tell you about the journey from Riga Latvia, to Banja Luka, Bosnia.
The first part of our journey began when we left Riga, Latvia, at 6:00 pm, on an Eco lines bus, bound for Warsaw, Poland. The pleasant, comfortable ride went very quickly since during that time we were able to read, watch movies, and doze off for a few hours. After we arrived in Warsaw, the next morning, and had breakfast, we had to figure out where to pick up our next bus to Krakow. We were told that the station where we needed to go could be reached by train. We were right at the train station, but since the information on the electronic board was in Polish, we couldn’t figure out what platform we needed to be on to get our train. Finally after riding up and down the escalator, a couple of times, with our huge suitcases, in search of our train, we decided to get a cab to the bus station. We boarded the Flix bus at 9:00 am, and arrived in Krakow about 3:00 pm, that afternoon.
Upon arriving in Krakow, we walked three blocks from the bus station to Parrot Apartments, where we were to begin our 4-day stay. the only downside to this lovely, centrally located apartment was that it was on the fifth floor in a building with no elevator. When we finally dragged our suitcases up the five flights of stairs, and let ourselves in the door, using the electronic key code, we were pleasantly surprised by the cheerful apartment, decorated in shades of green, that contained a kitchenette, a bathroom, a coach, a dining table, a washing machine, and the most comfortable bed that I’ve slept on in years. That night, we got some groceries, had dinner, and since we were so exhausted from the trip, we went to bed early.
The next day, as we walked towards the old town, we stopped for omelets at a quiet, out of the way, restaurant, called, Petite France. After breakfast, we headed to the main square to visit, Cloth Hall, or Sukiennice, in Polish. Cloth Hall, one of Krakow’s most recognizable landmarks, features the main market square down below, and on the upper floor it houses The Sukiennice Museum, which is where we spent an enjoyable afternoon, in the four grand halls, viewing the largest, permanent, exhibit, of 19th century, Polish, painting, and sculpture.
Galeria Krakowska is a very large mall in Krakow that is connected to both the railway and bus stations. It contains 250 stores, on 3 levels, and is considered the gateway to the city, since you can walk through the mall, and be right in the old town. Since it was cloudy and cold, on Friday, we decided to spend the day shopping there. The prices at the mall are very reasonable, and when we stopped at CCC shoe store, I was able to get a pair of Lasoki sneakers, and a pair of Lasoki, wedge-heel sandals, both for about 100.00 USD. I was also able to replenish some of my makeup, that day, at Sephora, one of my favorite cosmetic stores. There’s also a very large Carrefour grocery store, in the mall, and after our day of shopping, we stopped and picked up roasted chicken, and salad, to take back to our apartment for dinner.
On Saturday, we visited the State Rooms at Wawel Castle. The ground floor consisted of several rooms that had the original wooden ceilings from the Renaissance Era. The second floor contained the rooms where the royals once entertained, held court, conducted sessions of the Senate, and hosted guests. In addition to seeing magnificent oil paintings, and intricate Flemish tapestries, we were able to view Senator’s Hall, which is the largest room in the castle, and which hosted the first royal wedding, back in 1518. The most interesting part of our tour was a visit to the Envoy Room, which was complete with 30 wooden heads on the coffered ceiling, and an original majestic throne.
After a day visiting the State Rooms, at the Royal Castle, we decided to have dinner at a typical Polish restaurant, in the city center, called, Stodola. Upon entering, we took in the country-like atmosphere of the restaurant, that reminded me of a cabin with its beam ceiling and wooden benches. After we were seated and had ordered, it wasn’t long before we were served our appetizers, of sour rye soup, served in a bread bowl, and mixed salads, followed by our main course of Polish sausage and fried chips, accompanied by a bottle of Polish cider. Our meal was delicious, and I highly recommend this restaurant for some tasty Polish cuisine.
On Sunday, we wanted to try some more typical Polish cuisine, so we stopped at Krakowiacy Pierogarnia, for Brunch. I had dumplings with spinach, feta cheese, and rice, called, Lepiaki Na Slono, in Polish. Tim had the sour rye soup, again, and a piece of cheesecake for dessert. After our scrumptious meal, we decided to go to the botanical gardens, since the sun had finally come out, and it was a bit warmer.
The Botanical Garden of the Jagiellonian University, which is a ten-minute walk from the main market square, is Poland’s oldest botanical garden and has been accessible since 1783. The gardens feature flower beds with bright-colored blooms, a pond with ducks, paths that run among the trees and shrubs, and benches throughout, where you can rest and admire your tranquil surroundings. Also located on the grounds are two greenhouses, that are open to the public. Victoria, the first, and oldest, gets its name from the Victoria Amazonica water lilies, cultivated there. The second is the Jubilee Palm House, which is a complex of tropical greenhouses containing 50 species of palms, carnivorous plants, tropical cultivable plants, biblical plants, and Poland’s oldest collection of Sago palms. There is also a Botanical Museum which is divided into 3 sections- a botanical collection of 5000 specimens, a collection of educational materials, and a section with scientific manuscripts. When we visited the museum, that day, on our way out of the gardens, we were able to see a temporary art exhibition, featuring watercolor paintings of birds.
On Monday, April 15th, we checked out of our Airbnb apartment, at 11:00 am, and took our suitcases over to a storage facility, at the mall, where we would leave them until we boarded our train at 10:00 pm, that evening. It was another beautiful day which gave us our last opportunity to explore the old city of Krakow. We enjoyed sitting in some beautiful parks, as well as walking around Market Square, stopping to taste some Polish food from the different vendors. I tried some Polish cheese with cranberry, which I found particularly delicious. All too soon, the day was over, and we reluctantly made our way back to the mall, had dinner, then boarded the train to Vienna, our next destination.
Our train car was full and neither of us got much sleep. When we arrived in Vienna at 7:00 am, the next morning, we stored our luggage at the train station, then walked out of the station, in search of a place we could get coffee and breakfast. We had breakfast at McDonald’s, but afterward, we were too tired to do much more than walk around the shopping area, near the train station, while we waited for our next train to Zagreb, at 4:00, that afternoon. Though our train hadn’t come in near the center of Vienna, and we were pretty far from the sites, we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything, since we had visited the city several years ago, for three months. That summer, we had the opportunity to visit the beautiful rose gardens, see the Lipizzan Stallions perform, and take in a few museums.
Our train trip that afternoon, through the Alps, was much more pleasant, and much less crowded, than the train trip from Krakow to Vienna. When we arrived in Zagreb at about 11:00 pm, on April 16th, we walked from the train station to Lucky Place Apartments, which was about 8 blocks away. We had made reservations at this accommodation because it was close to not only the train station, where we came in, but also to the bus station, that we’d be leaving from, on April 18th.
Wednesday, April 17th, was our one day to spend in Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb. Zagreb is one of our favorite cities, and since we had been there a couple of times before, the last time in 2015, we decided to spend the day, mostly outdoors, enjoying the beautiful weather, instead of seeing sites we had already been to.
On April 18th, we left Zagreb, Croatia, on the bus, at 10:00 am and arrived in Banja Luka, Bosnia, at 2:30 pm, Where we’ll be for the next two months. Join me next time for more about our stay in Banja Luka, Bosnia.
Christina, Traveling Diva