Zakynthos, (Greece)

“The flower of the Levant”, “Italian Zante”, “Son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos”

Time to get to another Greek island, and this time to one of the most famous and celebrated. Finding such flights are not an easy task, and generally mean either horrible and odd flight times, or a very reduced overall stay. In our case this time, is the second, merely 24 hours in the island since there were no other flights at other times or dates that could work for us, unless taking “precious” days off work as holidays, but as anyone knows by now, that is the very last option. Such days are for the longer holidays hence not really keen to use them for short destinations.

Anyway, a day was good enough to have a glimpse of the island, enjoy a fabulous hot and sunny day, and the incredible Greek food as usual. That’s the second time in Greece this year, being only 6 weeks since we’ve been to Kavala. From now on it will be highly impossible to find any other deal anywhere in Greece since the beginning of the season is around the corner, so I would say it’s time to check what’s available from October 2018 through March 2019. Sounds crazy I know to plan that in advance, but hey! that’s how we manage to keep travelling almost every weekend of the year, and discover so many places in so many countries and all for a really great budget.

Zakynthos is nowadays one of the most popular islands in Greece for tourist, notably in search of great beaches and the weather of course, but the island is more than just a sea resort: nature in this case, and scenery. But for sure what you cannot expect or be looking for is sightseeing cities and villages. It is very unfortunate that the many earthquakes, notably the 1953, have flattened almost everything where only 3 structures were left standing at the capital city. Rebuilding everything had to be fast and did not care much in the aesthetics hence the lack of real sights worth visiting. Continue reading

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Trieste, (Italy)

“Pre-Roman Tergeste”, “Roman Tergestum”, “Former Austro-Hungarian Empire city”

Once again it’s Italy! Yet never ever tired for coming to this fascinating country. It must be together with my mother land Spain, the most visited for sure. And even so that I’ve been to so many cities, from large to medium and small villages, there are still plenty more to enjoy and keep returning. I don’t mind even for repeating at some coming the case, there are always many corners not seen, Rome, Milan and Naples being the most renown cases. In this case, Trieste although not a new place, I can strongly feel and say as if it would be the first time.

It was back in March 2010 when after not having a positive experience in neighboring Slovenia, we decided to come to Trieste for dinner from Ljubljana. As you can imagine it was night hence not much we could do other than, you guessed it, having one of the most delicious pizza we did ever have back then, and a proper ice-cream. The mere fact of crossing the border from the rather boring and almost no life outside of Ljubljana to thriving Italy even at its tiny villages near Trieste, was already enough to enjoy the trip.

So finally here I am writing a guide for this beautiful city after the very well deserved visit. Very often bypassed by tourists who head towards the larger cities of Milan and Venice, or nearby neighboring Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia; it is in the other hand an incredibly beautiful city with impressive architecture. It is one of the rare examples with plenty of Autrian Empire architecture, hence its elegance and resemble to the avenues you see in in Vienna or Budapest, coupled with a priceless addition, the Mediterranean Sea at the backdrop. Continue reading

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Yerevan and sites of Armenia, (Armenia)

“The Pink City”, “Ararat Mountain, the resting place of Noah’s Ark”

Reaching the next destination in this trip, entering country number 90! Armenia. Not a long journey from Tbilisi to Yerevan, the capital where we would make the next and last base in order to visit not only the capital, but the plenty of sites and sights, many of which UNESCO World Heritage listed in the nearby in a radius of 40 kilometres from the city centre. For now, another of the great capitals of the former Soviet Union (talking about recent times), full of history through the millennia and impressive architecture every corner.

Considering this is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities with foundation roots back to the 8th century BC (although evidence in the southern districts date to 3200 BC), and then the seat of one of the oldest dioceses in the world, the Araratian Pontifical Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, then one can only imagine all the chapters of history that has passed through it. But before I continue, let’s name “an event” of world-wide importance: the national symbol of Armenia are the sacred mountain of Ararat. Visible from most parts of the city, these are in fact 2 extant volcanoes however for Christianity, this is the resting place of Noah’s Ark. Well whether you believe in that or not, religion aside, it is an incredible beautiful national park all around it, and by all means one of the highest peaks in the whole of Europe, acting as a natural border with Turkey.

The city survived many times destruction, reconstruction and rise with every ruling power at the time: The ancient kingdom of Urartu; Iranian Median, Achaemenid Empire, Ancient Kingdom of Armenia, Sasanian, Persian Empire, Bagratid, Byzantine, Seljuk, Mongol, Aq Qoyunlu and Kara Koyunlu tribes, Iranian rule, Russian Empire, Soviet Union and finally the independent Republic of Armenia we know today. Of course, no one expects you to know all about such empires, tribes and ruling powers, nor I will go in detail explaining about, for that we have the internet and Wikipedia excelling on it. But a quick resume on the direct impact of this past, is the heritage you are about to experience and see, with constructions of every era and a great selection of museums displaying countless artifacts. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 02. March, 03. April, 2018, Armenia, Big Trips, Caucasus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tbilisi, (Georgia)

“Old Georgian T’bilisi, meaning warm location”, “Grand City of the Silk Road”

Coming to our last destination in Georgia before leaving for Armenia having been to Batumi and Kutaisi the days before, we arrive to its fascinating capital city for a bit longer this time; almost 3 days in Tbilisi. It worked just about right in counting 2 entire days for visiting the countless sights and 3 nights, time enough for also enjoying so much great food like nowhere else, and seeing some nightlife with local beers and drinks in incredible truly Georgia style restaurants and bars. We would have been pleased with an extra day, however that was impossible due to the tight schedule.

The countless historic houses perched from the hill overlooking the Kura (Mtkvari) River bend, the views from the bridges, and the unparalleled views from the cable car itself will be your postcard perfect memory from Tbilisi. Still, there are plenty of restoration projects going on, and many more to come, the city has simply kicked-off greatly opening more and more to the thriving tourism industry which will soon come in the masses. The potential at any place in the Caucasus is been always there, only dormant until recently. Take your chance to visit Georgia before the big tourism boom; thereafter its uniqueness might be compromised on behalf of a heavily tourist-orientated mentality.

Back on a bit of history, would you ever imagine that since its foundation in the 5th century AD it has been destroyed and rebuilt at least 29 times? Incredible fact and dramatic number. But the location says it all. Next to the once thriving and lucrative Silk Road, right in between Europe and Asia, no wonder every power through the centuries wanted to take over it. The many different empires left their legacy, notably visible today in the vast architectural collection. This is the real deal, no hesitation. In this city you will get to see plenty of the impressive Ottoman architecture the city is so proud from, among other styles such as medieval, neo-classical Beaux Arts, art-nouveau, art-deco, modernist and Stalinist. Continue reading

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Batumi, (Georgia)

“Ancient Greek Bathus”, “The Caucasus Las Vegas”

Our second destination in Georgia, the major resort in the country along the Black Sea, and largest port in the country: Batumi. It is also considered the “second” city in the country, although in truth that title is for Kutaisi. Batumi is the second most populous that’s for sure, and one of the most visited by either Georgians and foreigners in search of sandy beaches, good climate and a quite fashionable and developed city without making a big damage to the pockets. Still with every year passing, it is turning more and more expensive and attracting a more wealthy tourist. Be no surprise to find plenty of Turkish holidaying here, but not for the beach resort. After all, Turkey has endless kilometres of great coast!, but because of the gambling. It is forbidden in Turkey, but casinos in Georgia are legal, with Batumi leading the league.

Considering the history of the country, from ancient times through the different civilizations and kingdoms, this is not a city where to admire remains from the past nor the fascinating architecture in the churches and cathedral. It is nevertheless unique in the country for being the only city where a growing number of skyscrapers are arising, some of which in a very futuristic style, completed with post-modern, post-neoclassical and others that are making it a very trendy spot for local and foreign investors. A city looking towards a very bright future ahead.

It was great to come here, see all this and wondering yourself how only in the matter of just around 10 years this is a completely different city. From a rather poor past, with crumbling buildings, grey and that very communist style, to an spectacular waterfront and a meticulous care for the architecture and urbanism, all so clean and well cared it feels at some points like an amusement park. Continue reading

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Kutaisi, (Georgia)

“Ancient Kingdom of Colchis capital”, “Middle Ages Kingdom of Georgia capital”

As Easter holidays come, that generally means another great occasion for a longer trip, farther where possible and using the chance for visiting some new destinations not ever been before. Gladly I can say this time it was not an exception, and while not really heading into a different continent than the one we are living in, we traveled to the very far eastern edges, to the Caucasus: the meeting point between Europe and Asia. Starting at Kutaisi in Georgia, where this new flight route from London would take us and setting foot at what became country 89 in the list, then continuing through the country across other cities and places and onto Armenia, visiting most of its unmissable spots, country number 90. Will I ever manage to reach the count of 100 countries by the age of 35? even if this is just a day before turning 36? Time will tell.

For now, I’m simply overwhelmed and excited for being here and living this moment. One of the countries I’ve dreamed for so long now and becoming so thriving in the tourism industry, together with its neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan. We were possible at the edge, enjoying every place we visited with relatively not too many tourists and as such, the real life of the people, unspoiled. However it does all point that year 2018 is the breaking point in which the Caucasus will become the next hot pot destination worldwide.

Kutaisi is the second largest city in the country, and if being honest with you, there is really not much there to see or do, nor to really feel that you are in Georgia. This was in the other hand, our arriving point, and a great place to make the first base in order to reach other cities and sites nearby. It worked too good to be true. Arriving in Tbilisi instead was not even possible on a direct flight, and was thrice the cost than to Kutaisi. Simple maths here, especially if you plan a trip similar to ours including visiting other countries where you can easily arrange for an open-jaw flight style, saving you not only time (in not needing to return to your arrival point), but a lot of money, believe me in this. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 02. March, 03. April, 2018, Big Trips, Georgia, Select by Continent | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Gimignano, (Italy)

“The Town of Fine Towers”, “Medieval Skyscraper City”

Finally the city I wanted to reach 2 years ago but could not fir running out of time visiting Cinque Terre for the first time and repeating Siena where I did not return since 2001. In this occasion, the trip was planned having as main consideration San Gimignano, and of course taking the chance for revisiting Florence, the third time in that city, however, never enough. Flying to Pisa and making the base over there was all pointing to be the perfect decision, and not only because of flying there is a fraction of the cost than getting into Florence, but also saving half the cost in a hotel there, and as last, the commuting from Pisa is easier, better and faster than if coming to San Gimignano from Florence instead.

As you’ve might have read at the heading of this guide, one of the nicknames is the “Medieval Skyscraper City”, or the “Medieval New York City”. Once you are there it is easy to know why, the many tall stone and brick towers spread across, yet believe it or not, once upon a time there were 72! Now it’s a very reduced number to “just” 14, although it is still the only city in the world with such a large collection. But why building such towers? It was all about a display of family wealthiness. The larger and higher, the wealthier the family was, like a competition. Nevertheless the past, it is today a fascinating and unique sight to see, hence its protection in being listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city is way more that its towers. A wide playground for the arts and culture with impressive buildings, palaces and churches complete with beautifully preserved paintings dating as old as the 13th century. Small town that’s for sure, easy and straightforward to visit where a half day is well enough. Careful in not overestimating your time as there is no need for that, and if you are a first timer in Pisa, let me tell tell you it is then possible to enjoy both cities without rush in one same day.

Continue reading

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Florence, (Italy)

“Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance”, “Athens of the Middle Ages”, “Roman Fluentia”

Returning for a 3rd time in my life to one of the most wonderful cities in the world: Florence. It was year 2001 with my school for a cultural trip through Italy where we would spend 3 days in Florence, then in 2009 as a quick day trip from London where I would return to both Pisa and Florence, and back at night to London; and now, a well deserved return with some more time to revisit this beautiful city. Flying to Pisa does always work well, and this occasion was no exception. It is the perfect base to visit numerous other cities and places around as are Cinque Terre, Siena, San Gimignano, and of course, Florence, barely an hour away by train. For sure it won’t be the last in any case, but for now, it will be good enough for creating a well deserve guide for it.

After Rome, this is the next most visited city in Italy and by far, one of the most emblematic, acclaimed and visited cities in the world; while once upon a time, the most important city in Europe for the course of over 250 years. It Ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s inscribed as you could imagine, in the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its artistic, architectural and cultural heritage.

Florence is the birthplace of Opera, the Renaissance and neoclassical architecture. The cathedral’s Brunelleschi’s dome is the largest built in brick and mortar in the world, and third largest Christian church in the world. With so much rich history and the hundreds of sights it is guaranteed you will have a great time in the city. Plan at least two full days to enjoy the most, never a day trip unless you’ve already been here before. It is the fact that even a 2 full days will still be too short time if you consider on visiting the many museums and galleries, which some of them you cannot simply give a miss to be honest. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 01. October, 03. March, 2009, 2018, Italy, Short Trips, Southern Europe | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment