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Get There Guide: Traveling from Kraków, Poland to Spiš Castle (Slovakia)

December 18, 2015

Welcome to our second Get There Guide, a fun travel tool that details how to get from Point A to Point B of any given destination! We realize that most of you won’t necessarily find this post immediately applicable, but on the off-chance that there are two frantic Googlers out there searching for this exact route (not that we’ve been there personally or anything…), here’s a breakdown of how to get from Kraków, Poland to Spiš Castle (Spišský hrad) in Slovakia.

First things first: Spiš Castle is seemingly in the middle of nowhere in Slovakia. However, there are some small towns surrounding it. For the purposes of this guide, we recommend that you make the popular local vacation city of Poprad your base for a day trip to Spiš Castle. In our opinion, Poprad is the most convenient “home base” for those looking to travel exclusively via public transportation. And trust us…although Spiš a bit out of the way of pretty much everything, you definitely want to visit this castle. This ain’t no Medieval Times, y’all.

PS: If you are renting a car, you can go ahead and skip this guide. There is a small parking lot at the top of the hill which you can find here, but keep in mind that if you take this route, you’ll miss out on the adventure of climbing THIS! (Ahem…it’s steeper than it looks in pictures.)


the path to Spiš Castle, AKA the coolest medieval castle of all times

Spiš Castle is actually seated right above the small town of Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia which  is a complete ghost town in the off-season. There are actually a few of these small towns surrounding the castle (Levoca being the most notable) that contribute to the UNESCO designation of the area, but we still recommend staying the night in Poprad, where there’s good food and all kinds of public transit connections.


Our journey began with an Uber ride from our Kraków apartment to the train station, continued with a train ride to the Polish mountain town of Zakopane, and finished with a bus ride through the High Tatras mountain range into Poprad, Slovakia. By far, this route was the most difficult for us (re: Taylor) to figure out because there wasn’t any detailed information available in English online. You know those old Western movies where the cowboy rolls into town and there’s not a lick of anything but dust to greet him? That was us in Poprad (at least in the area near the train and bus stations). Granted, it was early September, but we had expected to see a little more bustle in the area, which is known as a Slovakian resort town.

Back to the story. We potentially passed two other humans after leaving the bus station, and one of them was not the person who owned our hotel/apartment, booked via Meaning there was no one at the reception desk when we arrived, so we had to place a quick international call to snag the pass code in order to let ourselves in.

outside our Poprad hotel, making the call…

Things started to pick up around dinner time thanks to a recommendation from the hotel owner who stopped by later in the evening. At Hodovna we enjoyed a meat tasting spread that possibly included balls of straight up fried fat (we’re not complaining), sausages, pork tenderloin, mustard, fresh bread, and pickled peppers and veggies, plus a plate of potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese and another dish consisting of sirloin on top of cakes made from meat and potatoes. And beer. Definitely outside the realm of our usual dinner orders, but just the right thing after all the walking we’d been doing!

the spread at Hodovna

the spread at Hodovna


Step One: Uber it to the train station in Kraków, Poland

Step Two: Take a train/bus to Zakopane, Poland (NOTE: We decided to go the train route. However, we have seen multiple recommendations to take a bus instead as the reliability of the train can be questionable. The bus trip is also an hour shorter. That being said, we had no problems with the train.)

Step Three: Purchase a bus ticket to Poprad at the bus station in Zakapane – it’s located right across the street from the train station. Although there is a Strama booth inside the station, you will have to pay the driver directly for your ticket. Cash only! (NOTE: Strama runs a direct route during the high season, but it’s not available during the winter. You can check the available dates here – use Google Translate to decipher the site. If there isn’t a direct line running, your travel day will be a bit more complicated. Click here for some great instructions and a more in depth look at travel between Poprad and Zakopane.)

Step Four: Arrive in Poprad! The main bus station is conveniently located next to the train station. There are plenty of hotels nearby within walking distance – we stayed at Penzion Fantazia. Not the most glamorous of locations (i.e. there was a billboard of two chihuahuas that was draped in Christmas lights right outside our window), but clean and convenient. Those things mean a lot when you’re traveling Europe on a budget, right? Right!

views from the path to Spiš

Now that you’ve arrived safe and sound in Poprad, be sure to check out our next Get There Guide – we’ll be detailing the semi-tricky route from Poprad to Spišské Podhradie (and the medieval castle ruins of your dreams). Stay tuned!

Europe Fashion Gear

What I’m Wearing While Backpacking Europe: Month Two

November 4, 2015

Karley here! As promised, I’m back with part two of the I’m-not-a-fashion-blogger-but-I’m-posting-travel-fashion-pics-on-our-blog series, otherwise known as What I’m Wearing While Backpacking Europe! (Whatever you want to call it, it’s a mouthful.)

Seriously though, I’ve had a lot of fun with this and I hope that y’all have, too! I also hope that three gold medals and some kind of official-looking document filled with words of praise and affirmation will be waiting on my desk when I return Stateside in a week (!!), because trading in my admittedly maximista closet for an ultra-minimalist travel wardrobe has been some kind of THANG. Then again, now that I’ve learned how to make it work, I can honestly say (without crossing my fingers behind my back) that I don’t think I’ll ever travel with full-sized luggage again. More on that crazy declaration later…for now, let’s get on with part two of this little series!

Okay, so I’ve already told you what’s inside my Osprey Farpoint 40. Since we’re talking about the “why” behind each item of clothing I selected in this post, I thought I’d show you exactly what my capsule wardrobe contains!

Ultra Light (and comfy + chic) Packing List: Europe 2


Not pictured: two pairs of tights (black and grey), four pairs of socks (all wool), three pairs of shoes (flats, ankle booties, and Nikes), a pair of Nike jogging pants (which I never actually jogged in but DID wear around our various hotels and apartments like sweatpants), and 10 pairs of underwear (highly recommend stocking up on your favorite style of these before your next trip, ladies!). That’s ALL. And as it turns out, it was more than enough!

and yes, you have permission to play the Usher song now

1. I could have done without the flats. I imagined myself dressing up for lots of chic dinners at European cafes lit by candlelight, but guess what? It turns out that A. we cooked a lot of “grocery store gourmet” meals in our apartment(s) B. my ankle booties looked just as chic when we did decide to dine out, and C. the flats feel approximately 1,000 times less comfortable on my feet than the other two aforementioned pairs of shoes I packed. So 99% of the time, they got passed over.

2. I should have taken fewer tops. I’m shocking myself by saying this, but it’s true. I wore my cobalt blue flowy top maybe three times on this trip, and that’s mostly because I felt guilty for not wearing it very much. As for the black flowy top with three-quarter length sleeves? Wore it once. Probably because I imagined pairing it with the flats that never hit the pavement.

3. I would have liked an extra pair of shorts. 
Blue jean shorts, to be exact. We were in sunny Croatia for an entire month, and while I love my Prana shorts, they got old after plus or minus 30 days of consecutive wear.


4. I would have traded a year’s worth of chocolate to have another scarf in rotation. 
That’s obviously a lie, but you get the point. I love my pink scarf, but I really, really, really started to miss the cute patterned guys decorating my closet at home. My plan was to buy a scarf or three on the road to function as combined souvenirs and wardrobe remixers, but literally until two days ago, when the most perfect Slovenian scarf wrapped itself around both my heart and my neck, I did not find a single scarf on our trip without a “made in China” label. Okay, that’s another lie. I found one on Hvar Island in Croatia…but it was over $100. So gorgeous, but so not in the budget.

5. I had to buy gloves on the road.
 Didn’t pack them initially, but that’s only because I honestly don’t think I have a single matching pair of gloves at home (and that’s because I’m from Texas and we’re currently living on an island in South Carolina). So I picked up a pair of black gloves with “texting” finger pads and cute black fur balls sewn to the front while we were in Romania. I think they were probably also made in China, but they make me feel like Audrey Hepburn when I wear them, so that’s okay.

pictured: my brand new Slovenian scarf + made in China, bought in Romania gloves! 


How did I go about selecting each item in my carefully-assembled capsule wardrobe? Well, that’s easy. I took all of the advice my adventure-loving, travel-savvy husband had to give, and Googled until I found the most fashionable version of each functional piece of clothing he recommended that I bring along. For example:

  • Patagonia long johns  (the fabric, color, and structure of the shirt lets it double as a regular long-sleeved top)

  • A convertible black dress from Nordstrom (it’s equally flattering as a strapless dress and a maxi skirt!)

as a dress in Croatia

as a skirt in Bosnia (worn with black long sleeved top + zip fleece)

  • Athleta pants from Gap (they’re convertible, but not dorky – okay, they’re a little dorky…but super comfy)

  • Patagonia zip fleece (it’s no leather jacket, and trust me, I feel pangs of jealousy every time a chic European woman passes me wearing one…with her patterned scarf…but it’s a great basic and an even better layering piece)
  • Patagonia rain coat (it has the always-in-style shape of a classic trench, and when combined with my zip fleece and nano-air jacket, it transforms into a winter coat!)

It’s also worth noting that I built my wardrobe around one unifying color palette. Every piece I packed was either black, grey, or jewel-toned, which made it extremely easy to mix-and-match and/or get dressed in the dark (4 a.m. wake-up calls for seven-hour train rides are no joke).

picture: Ljubljana + Bled, Slovenia

pictured: day trips in Croatia and Montenegro 

I’m planning on sharing more information about the three pairs of shoes I took to Europe + which beauty products made my must-have list in the future, but before that happens, Taylor will be filling you in on the what-and-why behind the functional gear we brought along for the trip. If you’re not usually into  gear talk, I promise you this post is going to be an exception. I can’t wait for y’all to hear about all the ways our DIY Duct-Tape roll has come in handy during our journey through Eastern Europe!

PS: If you have any questions about how to build a capsule wardrobe or would like more details about any of the pieces I selected, please ask away! I also highly recommend stopping by Travel Fashion Girl – tons of great wardrobe ideas, packing lists, gear reviews, and more. Happy traveling! 

AirBnB Check-ins Europe Places

Exploring Kraków

September 20, 2015

In leaving Warsaw for Kraków, we learned that train stations are great for stocking up on essential supplies – looking at you, cold meds, vitamin C tablets, and big-and-fancy European McDonald’s lattes. (Unapologetically waving our American flag here. Oversized Normal caffeinated beverages definitely count as essential objects if/when you’re growing weary of the mini espresso thing everybody’s rocking over the pond.)

When we arrived in Kraków, we were reminded of why AirBnB (<– psst: click if you’d like to claim a free $25 credit from us!) is such an amazing option for travelers (us) exploring cities they’ve never been to before (us again). The tram we needed to take to get to the city center was inexplicably cancelled, which would have been a much bigger issue had we not had the luxury of texting our host and asking for a back-up suggestion. Having a direct line of communication with a local is by far one of the biggest advantages of choosing an AirBnB location over a hotel! Plus, how nice are these digs?

more details about the listing here if you’re interested in booking a stay! 

After checking in and deciding that we loved our location, we went to a nearby market where we motioned at the meat counter until we somehow ended up with chicken. Since our check-in day just so happened to be Taylor’s birthday, we also picked out birthday beer and chocolate in addition to our more standard supplies: bread and cheese for sandwiches, cucumber and tomatoes to slice up for breakfast, apples, chips, and few other odds and ends. In grand total, we spent less than $11 and purchased enough food to last multiple days. Taylor claims THAT was the best birthday present of all time!

neighborhood views 

TAKEAWAY TIPS: Stretch your trip budget by choosing AirBnB listings with full kitchens or selecting a hotel with a mini fridge, then shop local markets for the supplies you need to make easy meals “at home.”

the coolest of murals at a bus stop in Kraków

On our second day in Kraków we took a day trip to the Wieliczka Kopalnia salt mine. The commute was lengthy, but the sight was so worth the extra bus stops! Construction of the mine began in the 13th century and took around 700 years complete. The structure is hundreds of meters deep and primarily built from pine wood, which would have made the tour down into the depths extremely scary except for the fact that, through the years, the wood has been petrified by salt and basically turned into stone. (Can you tell we were taking notes on our tour?)

It was difficult to believe that the walls, floors, bas relief sculptures, and even the chandeliers were all made from salt until Taylor took a lick of the wall and confirmed that the substance was indeed that which we sprinkle on our eggs in the mornings. As for the stunning figures in the chapel? They were sculpted by “amateur” artists throughout the 17th and 18th centuries as an act of after-work devotion to God!

After venturing outside the city limits of Kraków to see the salt mine, day three demanded a walking tour of nearby Old Town Kraków and Wawel Royal Castle. It was very cool to walk the medieval square (the oldest one in Europe!) in Old Town, and we truly enjoyed every aspect of our Wawel Castle experience as well.

medieval square + old town

image5 (3)

wawel royal castle views

Note to other travelers: Early arrival is recommended at Wawel as a limited number of tickets are made available for each exhibit. Since we got a late start, we missed out on seeing the Royal Apartments. However, we did catch the “Lost Wawel” (featuring artifacts such as medieval shoes and ornate stove tiles), the Treasury and Armory rooms (which included goblets made of conch shell with gold stems, Turkish riding adornments captured during battle, a coronation sword, and jeweled broaches), and the State Rooms (picture apartments and ballrooms covered in ornate leather wallpaper, writing desks crafted from ebony and tortoise shell, and enormous tapestries depicting Noah’s ark hanging in the same place they were 400 years ago).

Afterward, we ate at a Polish pierogi restaurant that we thought/hoped was semi-authentic until we bit into the center of a dumpling as cold as the freezer we can only assume it came from. That being said, the traditional sour soup with egg was delicious and earned back a few points on our Four Square review. Still, if we could do it over again, we probably would have just eaten at one of the wooden stalls in the Old Town square serving up fresh veggies, dumplings, and chicken roasting over an open flame.

TAKEAWAY TIPS: Research the sites you want to see in advance so that you’re aware of any special ticketing policies. Even though we were aware of Wawel’s ticket limitations, we assumed we’d be able to see whatever we wanted since we were traveling during shoulder season…a mistake on our part. Also, if a restaurant looks kinda kitschy, chances are that it’s, well, kinda kitschy. Pass on it and look for options slightly outside the city center to save dollars (and regrets).

That’s all for our time in Kraków!


Check-ins Europe Hotel Places

Just Checked-in: Warsaw, Poland

September 13, 2015

Fun fact: To date, Warsaw is the only city on our 2.5 month backpacking trip through Eastern Europe where we pre-booked our hotel more than two days in advance. (What can we say? We like to keep our itinerary flexible!) We selected the Ibis Hotel due to its affordable price and proximity to Warsaw’s Old Town. While it quickly became clear to us that Ibis is geared more toward those on business trips rather than backpackers (AKA we saw a lot of people in suits and/or on their phones and looking official in the lobby), the accommodation choice actually worked great for us since we take our business on the road with us!

Our first day in Warsaw began with breakfast at To Lubię café, which we stumbled upon thanks to a prominent chalkboard sign advertising our most needed commodity at that point: caffeine! One pot of lavender tea and two platters of warm bread, fresh veggies, meat, cheese, and a local spread of eggs and ham later, we left the café to explore Old Town.

The Royal Castle was amazing, and for whatever reason, admission was free on the day of our tour! While the rooms and regal trappings were impressive, we were most amazed by the fact that the entire castle was completely reconstructed in the 1970s and 1980s following its total destruction during World War II.

For dinner, we turned to Four Square and discovered Z Gara I Pieca, which was possibly the most uniquely-decorated restaurant of all time – it felt like eating inside a coloring book! After a long day of walking around the city, the whole meat-and-potatoes thing had a really nice ring to it. We ordered goulash and some sort of meat pies that were like a fancy Polish version of Hot Pockets (thought of you, Jim Gaffigan), then headed back to our hotel to put in a few hours of work. Day one, complete!

On our second day in Poland we took a morning bus ride to Wilanow Palace and returned to Warsaw to visit the POLIN museum of Jewish history in the afternoon. While both tours were fascinating, we definitely crammed too much into just one day. To fully absorb and appreciate the POLIN museum – which covers thousands of years of Jewish history and continues the narrative through the present day – would take a lifetime. Two hours hardly did it justice. Four would have been better. All day would have been best.

That’s all for our time in Warsaw!

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Travel and Trust: Lessons From Our First Backpacking Trip

September 13, 2015

Note: This blog post first appeared on Karley’s personal blog in October of 2014. Enjoy!

Before our first backpacking trip, this blog was nothing more than a back-burner dream. Taylor talked about the practical tips he’d like to share, and I imagined myself writing about how to find fabulous locations, book incredibly cheap-and-chic AirBnB stays, and discover hidden-gem restaurants and boutiques that only locals knew about (#deep). But when our trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria had finally come and gone, I found myself suddenly emptied of the desire to talk about Trip Advisor details and just talk about what had really mattered instead. Here’s what that meant:

I basically had no idea what was going on for the majority of our trip. I sketched a vague outline of a few things I’d like to see and do in each location, but beyond that, I was completely and entirely dependent on Taylor’s lead. After all, he has done substantial traveling on his own, isn’t afraid of public transportation, and is 100% more comfortable (and attractive) wearing a backpack than me. It just made sense to turn everything over into his hands. So I did.

Pike's Market

Taylor booked our airfare, our Amtrak seats, our ferry rides, and our clipper trip. Taylor bought our bus passes. He tracked each stop on Google Maps to make sure that we got off at the right location. He researched every city we visited and pre-planned day trips he knew I would enjoy.

As for me? I didn’t know which way we were going, what method of transportation we were taking, which bus stop to wait at, or what activity we’d be doing when we arrived. I didn’t book, check in, check out, route, map, or tip. I just went. I just woke up in the morning, got dressed, did a few hours of work, and walked out the door with full confidence that good things were ahead. I trusted Taylor because he’s done this before. I trusted him because he knows me—what I like and what I don’t. I trusted him because he has my best in mind, he wants to provide for me, and he always keeps me safe no matter where we go.

I was telling my mom all of these things after our trip when I saw Jesus. Not physically, but spiritually. Emotionally. With the eyes of my heart. It was so clear: If I can trust the details of so many unknowns to Taylor, how much more can I free-fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father? If I can hand over the reigns of trip planning to Taylor, how much more can I give over control of my life to my Savior? If I can follow Taylor no matter where he’s going, how much more can I walk in complete, blessed assurance no matter which direction my God and King is leading?

I struggle with trusting the Lord for no good reason at all. He has provided for me in every season. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He has grasped me by the hand, pulled me out of a pit of confusion and anxiety and depression when no one else could reach me. He has comforted me, called me His own, given me the good gifts of a family who raised me to know Truth and a husband who points me to Him. And yet I fear. I grasp at control as if the future is something I can predict, hold, and manipulate. I resist giving it all up, giving it all away, and simply resting at His feet, choosing instead to lock my spine and tighten my shoulders and brace myself for continued battle with a thousand “what-if” questions that have nothing at all to do with my reality.

But I want to grow. I want to abide in peace. I want so badly to walk barefoot with Jesus with my hair blowing in the wind. So every dollar we spent on our first backpacking trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria was worth it as this realization poured through me: I don’t have to know exactly where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, where to wait, or what to do. I don’t have to create an immovable five-year plan, make things happen on my own, set the pace, or plot my own course. I can just go. I can just be. I can just get up in the morning, get dressed, do a few hours of work, and walk out the door with full confidence that good things are ahead. I can trust my Father because He has seen all of this before. He has pre-determined every moment of my day. He knows me—what I need and what I don’t. He has my best in mind—my earthly sanctification and eternal salvation. He has provided for me, and will continue to do so no matter what unknowns are still to come on this journey. He always has and always will keep me safe, no matter where I go.

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him…It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” Psalm 18:30-33 (read the entire psalm here)

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children…” Psalm 103:13-17 (read the entire psalm here)

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity…’” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (read the entire passage here)

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28