Antequera, (Spain)

“Roman Anticaria”, “Muslim Medina Antaquira”, “The Heart of Andalusia”

From the many times we’ve been coming to Southern Spain, there’s always a new city or place to visit, and this weekend was not going to be different. While our flight was to Malaga, a 3rd time so far in that city, the main aim this time was for reaching the nearby historic city of Antequera 50 kilometres north of Malaga, with its World Heritage Site listed “the Ancient Dolmens of Antequera” and the nearby Torcal Natural Reserve, home to one of the biggest and most important karst landscapes in Europe.

A day trip is well worth it and more than enough to enjoy every sight within the city, and nearby Torcal and the prehistoric Dolmens, hence do not think this is a tour that will take more than that, otherwise you face the fact of having too much time to spare when you overestimate. And considering Malaga as the perfect base it really takes a short time between one to another.

The city retains a massive cultural heritage and one can feel at the many little charming squares how the life would have been during the Muslim invasion days. The city, although inhabited during prehistoric times, was a medium size Roman post and grew considerably in size and important from the 8th century onwards. Its nickname, “the heart of Andalusia” comes due to its location at pretty much the “centre” of Andalusia having  Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Seville at easy reach on all directions. It was suggested in 1978 to be the possible headquarters of the Andalusian Government, but it went to Seville instead.

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Posted in 01. Europe, 10. November, 2017, Short Trips, Southern Europe, Spain | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ingolstadt, (Germany)

“The Illuminati City”, “The city of Audi”, “Setting of novel Frankenstein”

Easily coming from our base in Nuremberg some 100km to the south we reach the historic city of Ingolstadt on our second day in this weekend after having spent a great day at the UNESCO listed city of Regensburg the day before. Both cities were our reason for returning to this region since we’ve already enjoyed in the past Nuremberg and nearby Bamberg. Now bearing some small cities, we can definitely say we’ve been everywhere important worth not just one, but more trips, therefore if any future trip around here, the base will have to be more south, in Munich, which although we’ve been many years ago, it’s been as such, many years, not even in my blog (as of October 2017 anyway). It won’t be too long time waiting until we start planning some trips there.

This city is way smaller than Regensburg, hence why we kept it for the last day before returning to Nuremberg airport later in the evening for the departure back to London. That gave us plenty of time to enjoy every sight and do everything we wanted to do here, and still, having some spare time in Nuremberg for a nice dinner and relaxing time.

Ingolstadt, same as Regensburg, is located along the Danube river, and it does actually form part of Munich’s metropolitan area. Some further key facts? Yes, there are many actually, but let’s keep to the ones majority of people will know about even if they would have never associated to this city. In the 18th century the Bavarian secret society of the Illuminati was founded, a society which goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power. Then who have never heard of the novel by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein? It is here where scientist Victor Frankenstein creates his monster at the Old Anatomy Building of the university (well, we know its’s fictional but based in a real existing place). And of course, home to automobile manufacturer Audi. Continue reading

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Regensburg, (Germany)

“Celtic Radasbona”, “Roman Castra Regina”, “Free Imperial City”, “City by the Danube”

After precisely a year since the first and only time I’ve flown to Nuremberg, I managed to grab an even better deal this time to the same place, however this time with a different plan: reaching the UNESCO listed city of Regensburg on Saturday, and nearby Ingolstadt on Sunday. Nuremberg it is therefore and without hesitation, the perfect base to reach these cities and the many others nearby as we did the year before, with Bamberg the highlight of that trip. It’s the major airport and transport hub in the region, and it will not, possibly, be the last time I get here in order to continue enjoying the many other sights and idyllic villages nearby.

Regensburg was by far a long time in the wish list of places to go. In this occasion with a double good reason; basically enjoy the beautiful and historic old town, and getting onto another World Heritage Site listed place. Countless this year so far. To the people who know me, you know the deal, for these who recently follow me, I am a heavy collector of UNESCO sites, and at the same time my lifetime dream would be visiting every country in the world (properly visiting not just ticking “I’ve been there”), it is a lifetime dream to be in as many WHS as possible.

The city, although small, has a lot of sights and things to see and do. Miraculously it is one of the few cities in the country that survived almost untouched during the World War II, and as such, it’s one of the most complete, largest and best preserved medieval town in Germany and also one of the most visited attractions in the country. As the UNESCO refers to, it’s the largest medieval old town north of the Alps and so well preserved, dubbing it “Italy’s most northern city”.

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Avignon and Orange, (France)

“Greek Auenion “, “Roman Avennĭo”, “City of Popes”, “World’s largest Gothic building”

A very unexpected and not even planned return to the city of Nimes this year however with a different purpose: visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed city of Avignon, and same listed nearby smaller city of Orange with one of the best preserved Roman theatres anywhere across the former ancient empire. So yes, overall, this trip was booked less than 2 weeks before coming on what would have been a weekend without any trip. To anyone reading this article as a standalone without checking my travel pattern, then it will sound normal; to those who follow me then they know I cannot stay a weekend without traveling abroad unless there is absolutely no option.

Flying to Nimes during low season is great in both air fare costs and hotel stay. Gladly from London it is very easy to find great flight deals even though the times are not the most optimal for this route, giving us just little over 24 hours, basically the entire Saturday from the very early morning until the return flight Sunday by noon. Still having been to Nimes just 4 months ago, there was no other plan to visit anything else than nearby Avignon, my main aim for this quick trip which was for a while now behind my ear in the bucket list of desired places to travel to. With Orange, I am still unsure if I will be able to manage it in the same day. I leave it for now in here whether if I make it or if not, because it is something anyone can easily plan and visit in tandem. One to another is just 30 kilometres, and both cities are small enough to manage, bearing in mind Orange’s highlight is pretty much its ancient Roman theatre. If you come to see pictures from Orange later on below in the next sections then it’s good luck to myself! I managed it.

So let’s concentrate in Avignon. “The City of Popes”. Why is such a nickname you might ask? Well during the 14th century this was the only city in history where the Papacy was switched from Rome to Avignon, where 7 successive Popes resided with control until 1791, when at the turn of the French Revolution it become part of France. Nevertheless, its heritage can today be seen and admire immaculately preserved all over the city including its ramparts; one of the very few cities to retain these in France without turning them down at the expansion and modernisation in the successive centuries. But among the structures, one immediately comes as the highlight number one and major draw for tourist to this city: the Palace of the Popes, the largest Gothic building in the world, pretty much unaltered since its construction bearing its interiors and furniture lost through the centuries.

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Posted in 01. Europe, 09. October, 2017, France, Short Trips, Western Europe | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palma, (Spain)

“Talaiotic, Roman, Byzantine, Moor, Christian”, “Palma”, “Medina Mayurqa”

Over 7 years have passed for what was back then my first time in a Spanish island. I cannot believe so long it had to pass, with so many trips elsewhere however not considering Palma as an option for that many years. The main reason was anyway, not finding any good flight deal. Majorca has always been very trendy and one of the top tourist destinations among Europeans, especially the British, Germans, Italians and French; therefore we kept postponing it on behalf of many hundreds other cities and places elsewhere. The lapse in between for finally returning here falls into the same reason. Thankfully on this occasion was a bit different since we were not looking for some beach holiday nor even the good weather months, but instead happy to come during low season and enjoy some great time with my cousin and friends.

Once again, I take the chance to revamp this travel guide with the most up to date information and a better description and listing on the sights and places to visit. For now, some relevant notes from our past experience are that in June, the month we did travel there, you cannot expect the sea to be as warm as it gets by August but still is OK to enjoy the beach and specially if you go to any of the small calas as the water gets warmer since it’s not directly on open sea. The difference in temperature between Can Pastilla (Playa de Palma) and the beach in Soller was indeed making a big difference. You might wonder why I mention this here but hey! majority of tourist who come to Majorca are in search of sun and beach.

In the other hand, at just a week before the high season was due to start it meant for us to be almost on our own! And same again in our most recent visit right after the holiday season, in October. The beach for ourselves and quiet in the hotel, lower prices for everything and better quality overall; not to mention avoiding the hordes of young British and Germans coming mostly for drinking and partying. Now, getting back to the British and Germans, and of course Russians nowadays and other nationalities, you will be shocked to know that they stay only around “their areas”. They do not even mix together, as for example you find the British in Can Pastilla and the Germans in El Aernal. It was very off but happy to know that they don’t even bother to go downtown Palma for sightseeing, so the capital remains quite authentic and relaxed when compared with the coastal resorts. (I am talking only about the thousands of young people, not adults and the many families who nicely enjoy their holidays). Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 05. June, 09. October, 2010, 2017, Short Trips, Southern Europe, Spain | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Malbork, (Poland)

“Civitas Beatae Virginis”, “Royal Prussia”

An unexpected visit to what’s been for a while in the back of our ears: Malbork and its fascinating Teutonic castle. The reason is simple, since we’ve pretty much been to almost every possible important and historic city and place in Poland, there are still just a small bunch in our agenda, one of them was this, and with a double reason, the other being completing a visit to another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s not a secret how passionate we are about visiting as many WHS in the world as possible, so this is always fun and excitement for being to another one. That’s close to 100 alone this year so far!

Then, unplanned visit because when we booked the tickets to Gdansk to visit our friend there, same as for the last time, we though we will be there around and that’s all, however we are very pleased she did plan this trip for us. Being that near Gdansk it was a great decision, and now I can strongly recommend should you be staying in Gdansk, (and nearby Sopot and Gdynia), to include Malbork in your plans. However visiting all these places in just a weekend, even if they are small, it’s almost impossible. So like it was for us, returning to this region was the best bet, yet it won’t be the last, it is always great to have some nice time with our great friend here, even if we are not travelling for sightseeing.

Malbork is very small, and other than its huge castle, there is not much more there to see and do. Considering it was a member of the Hanseatic League, it was very elegant, with very imposing buildings however after the destruction of WWII, the city was not rebuilt and its brick ruins were used to rebuild the old areas of Gdansk and Warsaw instead. Still, there are some buildings such as the neo-Gothic railway station and around the area at both banks of the Nogat River, but a half day visit is all you need to fully explore. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 08. September, 2017, Eastern Europe, Poland, Short Trips | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia, (Poland)

“Neither rashly, nor timidly”, “The Tricity by the Baltic Sea”

A bit over 5 years have passed since our first and only time in this beautiful city by the Baltic Sea, now glad to return and enjoy the same or more than the first time. Not just the city but the great company of our Polish friend whom we came to visit once more time. What a better way to escape the horrible weather in London after all? Surprisingly, this was the end of September, however still a nicer weather over here bearing in mind it generally chills earlier than other places. A coincidental fact back in June 2012 it was the weekend of a Football Euro Cup semi-finals where Spain was playing against France. Definitely we are not football fans at all, but being Spanish and such a great ambiance with all the terraces showing the game at the time we were in Sopot, made it for a great dinner time entertainment.

I take the chance to revamp this guide and further expand it in line to what I am generally doing for the past 4 years or so. While there is still a large number of travel guides from the beginning of times in my blog quite outdated or even poor comparing to what I now do, it’s great to see the speed in recreating them as I keep returning to such cities and places. It’s becoming more and more difficult anyway to get for a weekend trip to destinations we’ve not been before. It might sound silly, but yes, we are running out of flying routes with any airline within Europe!

Gdansk is the largest of the three cities, capital of the region and principal seaport of Poland. And also, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, full of Medieval and Hanseatic buildings, remarkably well preserved even though many of these had to be painstakingly reconstructed after their destruction during WWII. All these facts, the history behind and the countless cultural places are one of the reasons for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

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Posted in 01. Europe, 04. June, 08. September, 2012, 2017, Eastern Europe, Poland, Short Trips | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiroshima and Itsukushima, (Japan)

“Broad Island”, “First city in history to be destroyed by an atomic bomb”

Coming to our last and farthest stop-over along this journey through Japan, we could not leave without visiting one of the most known places on earth, Hiroshima. Not because of a good cause though, but all the opposite, because of being the place of one of the world’s worst calamities humanity has ever committed: the atomic bomb that devastated the entire city and with it, the many thousands of innocent lives. This was the tip over point for the end of World War II. Such a fate was not alone, but similar happened in Nagasaki with the drop of a second atomic bomb. This later place farther southwest and in the island of Kumamoto was out of our plans and reach. Perhaps for another trip to Japan in the future, there are always so many reasons why to return, and among them, the many hundreds of islands and countless historical cities, villages and nature.

Coming from Kyoto, our previous main base is easy by bullet train, as I will further explain below under the transports section. This is starting to get so confusing that I am losing the sense of time and the days. It seems it was longer, however was just the previous day before coming to Hiroshima that we spent in Osaka, another of the main great cities and major gateway for reaching any place through Japan.

Do not expect a historic city with Hiroshima, as everyone knows, almost nothing was left standing after the atomic bomb, hence this is a completely new and modern city built from the ashes over the past 60 years, and to Japanese standards. This is, pretty much “ugly” blocks everywhere with dubious taste for architecture, however the neon lights and adverts all over the shopping and entertainment districts make its attraction. Of course over the past 10 years every new development have a better eye for taste in design so it is rapidly changing. However something really nice and for what every tourist come is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in the middle of the city (UNESCO listed), and the nearby and also UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Itsukusima Island, home to one of the most picturesque shrines of Japan. Continue reading

Posted in 02. Asia, 03. August, 04. September, 2017, Big Trips, Japan | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment