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Italy September 2012 Part I

In September 2012 I went for a trip to Sicily and Southern Italy with friends. On the way there I had also a chance to visit Milano. I already posted some of these impressions on this blog but thought it would be nice to cramp them all into one entry. Also as I mentioned there are some new pictures as well 🙂

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Sunset over Vulcano

A view over the Bay of Naples.

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The world famous cathedral of Milano. A beautiful piece of Gothic architecture in black and white.

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Catania is an amazing city. Build on the foot of a massive volcano (Etna) it was destroyed and rebuild a couple of times. A fitting alternative name for the city would be Phoenix, as it has risen from the ashes like the legendary bird. In Catania the streets and many buildings are made out of lavastone (basalt) and it may happen very well, that you end in the cellar of a bar in which there are still traces of old lava flows under your table (Agora Hostel Bar). If you are on the main square (Piazza del Duomo) be sure to visit the Cathedral and enjoy this magnificent view from the rooftop.

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Actually this shot is not from 2012. But it fit’s quite well so here it be 🙂 Personally I adore Vespas. And a beautiful turquoise Vespa in Rome must be a win, no?

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The train station was build by the Fascists under Mussolini. It is colossal in size and displays various sceneries of Italian life and culture. Today large commercial ads dominate. It is still a fascinating piece of 20th century architecture and a prominent showcase for totalitarian gigantism.

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It was the beginning of a warm day in late summer, sailing on board of a ferry into the natural Bay of Naples. As we came on deck we had the privilege to witness this beautiful sunrise over the Vesuvio volcano. The view was stunning and we watched with a humbled AAW. Although we didn’t sleep much on the ferry this night and we had a long program ahead of us in Naples, this sunrise was enough to carry us through the day.

Istanbul April 2013

Less then a week ago I returned from a short trip to the magnificent Istanbul. It was the first time I visited an Islamic country and the first time I experienced a megalopolis with staggering 16 million people! So it was a very insightful and interesting trip. We enjoyed the beginning of spring in the Gardens of the Saray, drunk tea served in the traditional way above the city skyline and paved our way through the busy streets of the Old Bazar. We saw the last station of the Orient Express (sadly not existing anymore), found a feline friend on the Prince Islands (should be rather called cat islands) and explored the nightlife of Galata. In short the city on the Bospurus was beautiful and amazing!

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View of the Bospurus from the Galata TowerPrince IslandsBetween the MosquesHagia SophiaCat in Mosque

Bohemia in March

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It already should have been spring but it was a freezing cold winter weekend. Some impressions of the southern bohemian cities of Czeske Budejovice (Budweis) and Czesky Krumlov (Krumlau) in those days.

Main Square of Czeske Budejovice (Böhmisch Budweis)

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Bookstore “Shakespeare And Sons” in Czesky Krumlov (Krumlau)

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Krumlov as seen from the Schwarzenberg castle

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Winter in spring

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Cesky Pernik in Krumlov

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Colors of Budejovice

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Budweis Brewery in Budejovice (must visit!)

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Portugal V (last part)

Some weeks went by since I visited Portugal in mid of February and started to share my impressions with you in a series of posts. This one will be the last one for now. But I will be back in April with new pictures of a new city (hopefully :))! Enjoy.

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What is truly great about Lisboa and Porto and what I didn’t mention before is the great choice of hostels here. Portuguese hostels win competitions on hostelworld and hostelbookers almost every year and they definitely deserve the prices! A lisboan hostel I can recommend from own experience is the Good Morning Hostel on the Praca dos Restauradores in the city centre. The people there were lovely and very helpful. We cooked together and had a great time. If you go to Lisboa check it out

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Honestly I can’t remember the name of the church, but it was most certainly in Porto. The city has many magnificent churches, some of them made of pure gold. They are remains of a colonial era in which Porto became on of the richest cities on the Iberian peninsula thanks to trade and the importance of the local harbor. + I miss the blue sky terribly.

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Number 28 again as seen on a rainy day in Alfama. My favorite part of the old town. Especially the surroundings of the Castello are beautiful and very charming. A nice part of the town for a walk, but you shouldn’t mind steep hights 😉 In case there is always a tram to bring you up & back.

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A panorama picture of Porto. One day was definitively not enough for Porto. Although there are not many traditional “tourist sights” here the city doesn’t need them at all. It is the maritime flair, the port wine and last but not least the architecture and the small streets which are selling Porto and making it so attractive (especially for Britons we were told because there is a cheap connection from London introduced recently).

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There had to be a cat picture at some point 😉 I get her anger, probably wouldn’t enjoy it either if someone would point a camera on me 10 cm in front of my face. So I was a bit of a cat paparazzi here. Guilty as charged. Still cute 🙂

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The end of the world. Almost. The end of the European continent at Capo da Roca 3000 km from home. An amazing, almost spiritual place. But unfortunately we had bad luck with the weather, the wind was awful and cold as ice so we had to return rather quickly. Our hope to see the sunset stayed unfulfilled either. It was beautiful nontheless.

Portugal Part IV

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Hey! I hope you all have a great week so far! Actually I wanted to bring the Portugal series to a worthy end with this post but as there are some good shots left there will be one more 🙂 As always hope you enjoy!

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Lisboa, Alfama. We didn’t try neither Sangria nor Caipirinha. Wine is quite cheap even ordered in a restaurant (but not as cheap as in Sicily). I like Sangria though, guess I have to visit Portugal again to try the Portuguese one

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Another shot of the great Mosteiro do JĂ©ronimos in BĂ©lem. The entry was a couple of Euros and it was very much worth it. It was great. Our (first) hostel was around the corner practically. The tramway line leads straight into the city centre, our daily commuter. Not always as modern as this one sometimes cranky and out of wood, but even more charming!

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A busy street in Lisboa. As I wrote in previous posts Lisboa is interesting because it is very much European in every sense of the word but also kind of out of time and laid down. A bit like a living anachronism. You don’t have a McDonalds and H&M on every corner (I didn’t say there are none of them ;)). There are many small shop and handcraft, even shoe cleaners. At the same time it is not stressful at all like Italy (♄) or other southern countries sometimes tend to be.

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Self examining seagulls. You are pretty – don’t worry

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One of many traditional wine distilleries in Porto. Well, that is not entirely correct. Actually the distilleries are on the other side of the river in Gaia. On paper it is an independent city but most consider it part of Porto anyway (and the wine is called portwine in the end isn’t it?).

So what is actually the story behind portwine? It is stronger and sweeter to be more durable during long ship journey’s. One day an englishman came to Porto, liked the local wine and took a bottle as souvenir to England. It turned out to be a hit and englishmen – being englishmen – did start to settle down in Porto and make businesses out the production and shipping of the wine. Now this small local tradition became truly global. By the way you can visit these distilleries – like the above Sandeman – and taste all the wines! The 10 years old Sandeman was my personal favorite

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Let’s stay with food 🙂 Usually I don’t like food pictures – we see enough of them in advertisement and they make hungry – but unfortunately I guess I have to make you hungry right now. Because I feel like a Portugal recapture could not be complete without a picture of a gorgeous gargantuan amazing good deadly Francesinha.

So what is it? It is a toast with different kind of meat in a cheese crust dunked into tomato / wine sauce (with about 2331859 calories). I’ve never heard of it before and the story behind of it is kind of great: In the fabulous 1920s there was once a man from Portugal traveling to Paris liking all the beautiful girls there (get it). That was a contrast for him as he only knew the not so outgoing (very catholic country) and very thin Portuguese girls. So he invented the Francesinha – small French – to make the Portuguese girls gain some weight and make them all hot 🙂 I guess it worked out quite well.

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In the background you see the bridge of the 25 of April in Lisboa. It is a magnificent bridge and I talked already about it in a previous post. I guess the view speaks for itself.

Portugal Part III

So if you did like the last two and didn’t get bored I’d like to invite you for a further recapture of Portugal in February 2013.

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In the foreground you see a seller of chestnuts. The nuts are very good and you should definitely try them. Besides of that the sellers add charme to Lisboa. So it is nice to support them either way 🙂 What they are standing on is worth mentioning too. It is a specific Portuguese form of a cobbled pavement called Calçada Portuguesa. An art which the country is known for and which can be seen (and walked on) throughout the city. The patterns are often beautiful and you only have to look down to enjoy them – but don’t run into a tree, please.

In the background you see the Elevador de Santa Justa or also called Elevador do Carmo. It connects the Baixa (downtown) with a higher part of the city (Chiado) and was build by an associate of Gustave Eiffel, the Paris tower guy. It has a steam punk vibe to it, being definitely a genius piece of 19th century engineering. The elevator combines “modern” steel as building material and traditional ornaments as decorative art. But what I personally liked most was the connecting bridge at the top. It lead through a rooftop and – more amazingly – through the remainings of an old church which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755.

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I imagine how the driver saw this house and then a free parking spot and thought MATCH! Or maybe he is the house owner too and fond of the color yellow 🙂

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Another architectural piece of an associate of Eiffel – the Dom Luise bridge in Porto. This one was build by ThĂ©ophile Seyrig. There is a similar bridge further away from the city centre also build by the same architect before. But Eiffel didn’t give any credit to Seyrig so he decided to compete against his former teacher in the contest for the bridge. After Seyrig won Eiffel was supposedly so angry about it that he decided to build the Eiffel Tower. Or so.

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As Lisboa Porto has many viewing points (miradouros) and even more seagulls 😉 They told us they are can be quite aggressive and annoying. But as a mainlander I enjoyed them very much and I prefer them definitely to pigeons – or the rats of the skies – as I joke sometimes. They are gorgeous.

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The monument for the Portuguese seafarer. It reaches out in to the see and into the unknown with the seamen (and priests 😉 ) longing for a new world. The details are just beautiful and I can very recommend a visit in BelĂ©m, an interesting and worth visiting part of Lisbon crowned by this monument. You can also visit the top of it and get a great view on the Tejo.

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A view of Lisboa from the Castelo de SĂŁo Jorge. You see the main square and a part of the city not laying directly to the water. Being in the old town you don’t immediately realize how big Lisboa actually is. But being up here you are definitely reminded that you are in a European metropole indeed.