Syracuse – Italy

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Birthplace of Archimedes

Visiting the east coast of Sicily could not be completed without a trip to Syracuse, one of the most historic places on the island. The most important ancient city of Magna Graecia rivalling no other than Athens, and described by Cicero as the most beautiful of them all. And although there’s no much left from its glorious past likewise other places such as Agrigento with the impressive valley of the Temples, there’s a large archaeological site northwest from the old town Ortygia Island. As for the quality of the remains, it will be totally down to you should you wish to enter the archaeological park. I would only recommend it if you have enough time in your stay as otherwise the city itself is definitely much more worth it. For amphitheatres, temples, buildings and monuments you have better preserved elsewhere in Sicily. Nevertheless, there are several unique sites such as the tomb of one of the most celebrated mathematician and natural philosopher from antiquity, Archimedes.

We came to Syracuse from Catania, our base city for these three days trip to the east coast of Sicily. It’s merely 45 minutes to the south either by railway, bus or car. Smaller than Catania, it is perfect to spend the day without any rush, without the need to start the day too early nor finishing too late; still, with that many places and smaller villages nearby so truly worth sightseeing, it can be challenging to properly plan the most optimal route unless of course, coming for longer holidays. In the other hand, what relates to walking through every corner of the historic city and various farther sights, a day is good enough considering the short distances needing to be walked.

Through its rich history, you can admire sights from all eras since its foundation back in 734 BC by Greeks settlers from Corinth, its Classical and Hellenistic periods, Roman, Byzantine, Norman, Medieval, Baroque and modern days. No wonder the UNESCO has listed the entire city and its Necropolis of Pantalica a World Heritage Site. Pretty much the same legacy as anywhere else in Sicily yet in a smaller scale. Syracuse is the 4th largest city on the island behind Palermo, Catania and Messina. (more…)

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Read more about the article Istanbul – Turkey
Istanbul - Galata and the Golden Horn

Istanbul – Turkey

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The City on Seven Hills

Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in the world since antiquity to current date, is always a treat to come and repeat. That’s the third time in my case, and will certainly be more to come. It is way too big, the largest city in Europe, and fascinating everywhere offering the visitor a great and vast amount of sights, monuments, museums and historical places. Once named Byzantium, the capital city of the great Byzantine Empire founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC; then Constantinople after the Roman emperor Constantine the Great made it his imperial capital in 330 AD, it continued capital during the even greater Ottoman Empire. Buildings from every era are still standing in great fusion with the modern and elegant architecture, where broad avenues where laid out on top of the ancient city, Roman basilicas turned into churches, then into mosques; impressive royal residences and palaces built.

The Romans made of Constantinople the second capital of the empire only after Rome, and transformed it into one of the most beautiful and luxurious city the world has ever seen in antiquity. Embellished with monuments created in situ and others taken here from all over the empire, notably the Obelisk of Thutmose III from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor or the Serpent Column from Delphi in Greece to be placed in the great hippodrome, thankfully there still today. Other one of such stunning monuments created were the bronze horses decorating the main entrance of the hippodrome, thereafter taken by the Venetians to Venice and ever since located at Saint Mark’s Basilica; of the Column of Constantine still in its original site at the former Imperial Forum.

With many civilizations and different empires eager to take the strategic city, there’s been rise and fall periods, sieges, war, destruction and reconstruction. Too many layers of history below current ground level where every hole you dig and the history comes back to live. Noteworthy the Basilica Cistern. A spectacular water cistern described as the “sunken palace” located few meters away from the Blue Mosque itself, however, not the only cistern in Istanbul. Plenty more, however not all opened to the public.

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Read more about the article Kiev – Ukraine
Kiev - Ukraine

Kiev – Ukraine

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The City of Golden Domes

Finally the time came for this so awaited and expected trip to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Although not the first time in an ex-Soviet country, this is by far, one of the most important and largest of the ones I’ve been such as the neighbour Belarus, or the Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Certainly it was a show-off of power during that days together with Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Minsk. A very big city sightseeing-wise speaking, since it is almost everywhere where you will find beautiful and historical buildings, churches, monasteries and palaces.

Something you must clear from your mind is any idea you might have of the city and Ukraine as general of being any dangerous. Of course it is not, minding the “obvious”, which is knowing where you are at all times and you don’t go to any areas where a tourist should not be on first place. People is pretty nice and kind across all levels and everywhere but unfortunately finding anyone speaking English was a challenge; signs worked well on this trip.

With so much to see and do, 3 days in the city is the minimum you should consider, although it will be still short. We had 3 full days and this was not enough. Fortunately, the plan and route I created for each day, so fully loaded, was good to see the most important places and areas. It is therefore that the guide of sights below will be a long and in detail one. (more…)

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Read more about the article Hamburg – Germany
Hamburg - Germany

Hamburg – Germany

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Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

Again the finally well deserved time to come back to a city I have never returned since the first and only time 9 years ago, Hamburg. Why this long is easy to explain, basically being concentrated in visiting hundreds other cities across dozens of countries across the globe. In a lapse of 9 years I can easily count 90 countries and over 400 cities and places, most of which available here in my travel blog for anyone to enjoy a proper guide. No need to mention this is a great excuse for remaking this entire guide adding lots more to what was there already and bringing it a most up to day bump.

How a city can change in that many years is fascinating to be honest. Back then I remember a lot of cranes and construction going on. The second largest city in Germany was transforming and evolving itself, gentrification at its best and incredible projects coming out from the countless derelict areas around the former docks and factories. Restoring its heritage buildings while designing a proper 21st century city. Today, most of it is done, and new projects being drawn ever since. What has been a very industrial city, suffering from destruction during the WWII raids, the 1962 North Sea flooding, and then from the closure of dozens of factories, re-emerged  wealthier each time as a key tourist destination in Germany focusing in business, finance, media, research, education, science, arts and of course what it does best, a major shipping logistic and infrastructure.

Hamburg, together with its neighbouring trade alliance city of Lübeck merely 65 kilometres to the east marked at the brink of year 1241 the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities; Lübeck itself becoming the capital of such vast network that extended all over the Baltic and benefiting Hamburg ever since in the riches and wealth from the trade.


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Read more about the article Warsaw – Poland
Warsaw - Poland

Warsaw – Poland

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The city that has risen from the ashes

Time for an entire remake of this travel guide for what it really deserves a city such a Warsaw, one of the most historical and beautiful not just in Poland, but in Europe itself. Yet considering how nice is always return here, this is merely my 3rd time, and very long time ago since the previous trips back in 2012 and 2004. I must say I’ve been quite busy trying to discover as many new cities as possible hence why I kept postponing a return to Warsaw, and plenty other great cities elsewhere in many other countries; however now that I am done with the 51 countries that form Europe as continent I’m glad for taking some further quality time returning. Not the last time either that’s for sure.

Now something I can say from comparing these 3 spacious in time visits is the enormous and sometimes radical change the city has experienced. An amazing gentrification and restoration with fine attention to detail in all that related the UNESCO listed Old Town area, and the incredible and fast growing shiny business district with plenty of ongoing projects to come adding to an already imposing skyline, mostly designed by world renown architects.

I recall being one of the few tourists wandering the city back in 2004, and now struggling to find local people that many years later among the hordes of tourists. Let’s not forget Poland is, over all, a very desirable tourist destination with lots to offer, and so much it has given the world in culture, the arts, astronomy, physics, science, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, biology, music, telecommunications… name any field no matter which, and there is certainly an inventor, a pioneer or a genius excelling at any of these. Are any of this familiar just as some examples?: Maksymilian Faktorowicz (founder of the Max Factor cosmetics company), Józef Hofmann (a pianist who invented paper clips), Ignacy Łukasiewicz (designed and built the world’s first oil refinery and oil well), the Warner Brothers (yeah the biggest media corporation and film studio), Frédéric Chopin (the composer), Nicolaus Copernicus (mathematician and astronomer), Marie Curie. Or stunning cities such as Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Torun, Poznan, Wroclaw.


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Read more about the article Ironbridge – United Kingdom
Ironbridge - United Kingdom

Ironbridge – United Kingdom

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First bridge in the world made of cast iron

For a long time now I was keen to come and visit this place. Ironbridge, double famous for being the area commonly referred as “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”, since it was at the nearby village of Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby developed the technique of smelting iron with coke resulting in an infinite cheaper production of iron. Thereafter with cheaper iron came railways, factories, infrastructures and unstoppable construction. And secondly, the construction of the first ever cast iron bridge in the world opened in 1782; quite an achievement back in the days, yet gifting the world with a new method of cheap construction of bridges and structures.

This trip happened all in a perfect bank holiday weekend. A long due return to Liverpool and Chester the previous days, while as for the return towards London taking the road into the County of Shropshire, passing through beautiful scenery and villages before reaching Coalbrookdale and the Ironbridge Gorge, all of which listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

While there is not that much over here to keep you busy for a day, nor half a day, it is true that should you be wishing to enter the plenty of museums in the area and considering their opening hours, then you should consider and plan this ahead. Our main aim was to visit the Abraham Darby’s blast furnace and surrounding buildings, and of course, the slender and elegant Iron Bridge. Giving us enough time to walk around the nature and side by side of the canal, and a copious lunch at one of the many beautiful pubs available along the main street in Ironbridge parallel to the River Severn.


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Read more about the article Chester – United Kingdom
Chester - United Kingdom

Chester – United Kingdom

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The Black and White City

Continuing our trip during this bank holiday long weekend, we move south from Liverpool to Chester, the “black and white city”. One of the most beautiful and unique in the country, and so one of the most perfectly complete from the Victorian era when majority of its buildings date from among some medieval structures and the best preserved walls in the country; first built by the Romans, extended and strengthened thereafter to how we see these today.

Although not much remain from the Roman era bearing what was the largest amphitheatre in Britannia, partly uncovered, and other smaller structures in the walls and gardens around it, columns and some statues; what really makes this city special is the large amount of Tudor revival architecture literally covering the entire city centre core. The characteristics of such style are self-described in one of the city’s nickname, “black and white”. Combining black timber frames and bricks and walls in white. Built during the Victorian era, it is without doubt the largest and finest collection of such houses within a same place.

Another peculiar fact you might realise are the “Rows”, these are covered walkways on the first floor of the buildings where access to shops are. Above these, the residential homes itself, and below the walkway accessed via steps from the street level, more shops. It is a direct legacy from the medieval times put back in practice during the 19th century revival period. (more…)

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Read more about the article Liverpool – United Kingdom
Liverpool - United Kingdom

Liverpool – United Kingdom

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City of World’s Firsts

For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for the beautiful and vibrant Liverpool, but it was also many years since the last time I was there, long before I even started to create my travel blog hence I knew I had to return one day to get and compile the most up to date information and news, and experience it all once more to finally be able to share with you all what I consider as one of the most fascinating and impressive cities in the United Kingdom. A city that has given the entire world not just its name as such, but an entire institution of what its name means in the world of industry, transport, finances, arts, crafts and yes; music. The Merseybeat era (also known as Beat music or British Beat, with The Beatles the most prestigious band ever in history at the time.

A city not of Roman origin, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. Ever since, the rapid transformation and consciousness in the incredible heritage, rich history from every building’s walls and its magnificent harbour and old docks transformed a decaying and quite dilapidated city into a modern thriving 21st century destination. Project after project, the change became unstoppable and continues to be so, to the point in which the prestigious listing of being an UNESCO World Heritage Site is nowadays in danger to retain. See it for good or for the bad, the organization claims that the continuous rise of taller and taller towers, striking museums and a blend with such post-modern style next to the most celebrated architectural classical icons is distorting the integrity and identity.

Many sites and entire areas in the city are UNESCO designated, notably what refers to its most direct past with the sea as a mercantile city. These are the magnificent Albert Dock and the Pier Head among others. Liverpool was once thriving in trade and transatlantic passengers; and there is another part of the city’s history, home to the Cunard Line and White Star Line, with some of the world’s most famous ocean liners registered in its port such as the Titanic, Olympic or Queen Mary. (more…)

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