About Sasha H
Lives in Healey, United Kingdom
Since Jan 2015
I’ve swum with wild dolphins in the Maldives, fed baby kangaroos in Australia, spent hours in the shopping malls of Dubai and crash-landed a hot-air balloon in Poland – having spent the last decade travelling and freelancing, I am a joyful, nosy traveller, always meeting new experiences head on. I enjoy digging into the culture, listening to what’s happening around me and taking thousands of photos on the way. Thanks to two decades of travelling extensively through Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Caribbean, I know the cities and countries I write about inside out. And even though I live in the Yorkshire Dales – surely the most beautiful place on earth – I never lose my enthusiasm for skiing in Zermatt, visiting my favourite cities in Italy and Poland or discovering new places to shop in Dubai.
Castles, Historic Sites
Sacred & Religious Sites
Monuments & Statues, Points of Interest & Landmarks
, Bodies of Water
National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas
The vast baroque palace at Nieborów was designed by Dutch architect Tylman van Gameren, and completed in 1696 for Roman Catholic Cardinal Michal Radziejowski. It passed through several owners and endured several face-lifts, before landing in the hands of the aristocratic Radziwiłł family, who owned the palace between 1771 and 1945. Today the museum comprises luscious apartments decked out in marble and mahogany, and is packed with tasteful collections of priceless furniture, statuary, family portraits, and porcelain.
Up until the mid-18th century, Praga sat on the right bank of the River Vistula as an independent town, Today it is one of Warsaw’s edgiest districts, a graffiti-strewn collection of cool bars, on-trend art galleries, subversive cinemas, underground theater, and a late, late nightlife. A new cultural heartbeat can be heard in the city, emanating from former Soviet factories such as Fabryka Trzciny and Koneser, which are now thriving arts centers.
Located on the outskirts of Lublin, southeast of Warsaw, Majdanek concentration camp saw around 80,000 Ukrainian, Russian, Czech, and Polish Jews - as well as Soviet prisoners of war and gypsies - murdered during WWII. Originally designated as a ‘work camp’ by Himmler, it was soon efficiently dispatching its prisoners to the gas chambers and burning their remains on great pyres. Today Majdanek serves as a bleak reminder of Nazi inhumanity.
Although not off the beaten track for Poland’s 34.5 million Catholics, Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa is often overlooked by overseas visitors. The sprawling monastery has its origins in 1382, and today comprises a fabulously Baroque basilica, treasury, imposing bell tower, and library. By far the most important religious relic in Eastern Europe, the gleaming Black Madonna icon is displayed in the monastery basilica, encrusted in gold and precious jewels and visited by five million pilgrims annually. Depicting the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms, the icon is credited with several miracles, and has become a symbol of Polish unity.
The birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin, Poland’s best-loved composer, is the rural, whitewashed manor house and park of Żelazowa Wola. Żelazowa Wola itself has had mixed fortunes over the years, changing hands frequently and largely forgotten until the 1920s, when work began to turn the house into a fitting memorial to Chopin. Today it is a museum dedicated both to Chopin's early life, complete with pianos, family portraits and family furniture, as well as the house’s turbulent history.
Białowieża National Park contains one of Europe’s last great expanses of primeval forest, butting up against the border with little Belarus. An area of maples, elms, spruces and birch trees, its environment is now so carefully protected that it can only be visited by guided pony-and-trap tour. Elsewhere in the park, shaggy European bison range freely, the successful results of decades of careful conservation; there is also a breeding center for rare Konik ponies and zubrons – a cross between domestic cows and bison.
Treblinka I was ostensibly a labor camp, yet more than 7,000 prisoners died in appalling conditions of starvation and disease here. Treblinka II was designed as a death camp, complete with gas chambers and crematoriums; here, some 800,000 Jews, Poles and gypsies were exterminated in the early 1940s. Both camps were destroyed immediately after the war, and now the Museum of Struggle and Martydom stands on the same ground, set up in commemoration of the Nazi atrocities.
Standing on the River Narew, Zegrzynski Reservoir is a Warsaw hotspot for fishing, sailing, wind surfing, water skiing, and sunbathing - formed when the river was dammed in 1963. Connected to the city by the Kanał Żerański (Żerański Canal), Zegrzynski has several sandy beaches: the biggest is Wieliszew; the coolest is Nieporęt, which has a boardwalk and buzzing nightlife; and the most secluded is Serock, on the north side of the lake, with its floating bridge to jump and dive off.
Poland’s largest national park sits along the River Biebrza, a patchwork of marshy flatlands, agricultural fields and pine forests carefully protected for its increasing numbers of elk (moose) as well as the 200 different species of wading birds that congregate here in their hundreds of thousands when migrating in spring. It’s also the place to spot red deer, hare, wild boar, badgers and beavers in the remote wetland landscape, while rumor has it that wolves and even a couple of solitary lynx have made a return to the park.