Read more about the article Agrigento – Italy
Agrigento - Italy

Agrigento – Italy

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Ancient Akragas. The Valley of the Temples

Approaching the end of the year, however not the end of the trips for this year yet. Still some more to come even though it’s just days before the Christmas time, and exciting for another great trip to come over New Year’s Eve and the first two weeks of January escaping the freezing and ugly weather in Europe for some beached in the Caribbean and an amazing cultural heritage everywhere in Cuba! For now, this is way another incredible trip whatsoever. No need to travel very far to reach some of the most unique and incredible places on earth from one of the once most fascinating and developed ancient civilization, the Greek. Agrigento was back then, Akragas; one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia. Sicily is Italy, that’s for sure, however over the past millennia this has not been the case and before the Romans, the Greek were here, among other past civilizations.

Reaching this place becomes a rush of excitement since it’s one of this key destinations for any ancient civilization lover. It is, and it will be, as when I finally get to reach Persepolis or the Machu Picchu, or when I walked past the siq into the “Treasury” building in Petra. Here you will find some of the most elaborate, large and best preserved Greek temples from this civilization, comparable to these of another former Magna Graecia jewels, Paestum (southern Italy).

A magnificent city founded around 580 BC, it developed prosperously being one of the richest and most important cities of the Greek Colony, once of the oldest democracies in the world until the Carthaginians in 406 BC overthrew it to never recover. Thereafter disputed between the Carthaginians and the Romans during both Punic Wars, it fully became part of Rome in 210 BC who renamed it Agrigentum. Both Greek and Latin were the official languages for many centuries afterwards until the fall of Rome changing hands to the Vandalic and Ostrogothic kingdoms before the Byzantine Empire. Lastly the Normans during the entire medieval period until the unification of Italy in 1860 leaded by Giuseppe Garibaldi. (more…)

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Read more about the article Trapani – Italy
Trapani - Italy

Trapani – Italy

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Ancient Greek Drepanon

Once again returning to Palermo in Sicily however with a different objective. A year ago this was for properly visiting this incredible city; yet in this occasion the main points were reaching Trapani right after arriving into Palermo’s airport, and the following day for one of the most spectacular cities from the ancient Greek civilization, Agrigento with its Valley of the Temples. All in all, another busy weekend ahead, but no matter how tired I get this all is well worth it and will keep doing it on and on for as long as I can. Also, returning to Palermo will be a reality for sure, with so much more to see west of the island and in the city itself, it’s the perfect gateway.

Often bypassed by tourists, the city has a lot to see and do. Much more that I did originally think and expected. And when saying this, I am also including the nearby mountain top village of Erice which is linked to Trapani by cable car and you can consider another district of the city, and if time permitting, it’s way worth it visit the ancient Greek city of Segesta with its marvellous Doric temple so incredibly well preserved. It’s matter of minutes by train or bus from downtown Trapani, hence as if it would be another city’s district.

The historic city centre in the other hand, is small and easy to navigate, that’s the good news hence why this is a perfect day trip from larger Palermo at the northeast, or Agrigento at the south of the island where tourists prefer to make their main base; myself among them of course by staying in Palermo. (more…)

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Read more about the article Athens – Greece
Athens - Greece

Athens – Greece

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The birthplace of democracy

Another trip to Greece, just after 2 weeks that we’ve been to Thessaloniki. On this occasion, returning to Athens, city we’ve already been once precisely 4 years ago and on the very same dates! That’s a coincidence indeed. Back then we were 4 friends, this time again, another 4 different friends, but with the same intention, visiting the city all over again as if for the first time, as honestly is was great back then to have in the front of you the remains of capital of the once ancient civilization, birthplace of the democracy.

My impressions of the city have not changed in those four years, nor the city has changed to improve this over the time. This is translated in a rather ugly city everywhere around the proper sights. Of course exceptions apply, as are the ancient remains, some nice squares and streets in the old town and parks, but other than that, there is nothing else in between, only white and tasteless buildings, copy and paste everything looks the same everywhere. At least in the case of Athens it all looks in better shape that the otherwise depressing Thessaloniki.

Amazing to see is that a country where recession is so deep, at first look appears to affect no one, but instead, you will be asked to pay “exorbitant” prices for a coffee, like 4 Euros!. Let’s say it this way, the more expensive the place is, the more people coming there specially among the young. Their mentality is simple. Sitting at an expensive place trying to show off, so other people can see and think they can afford it. Well, I always hated such nonsense mentality and does not matter if I can afford a “show off ” place, I prefer to enjoy at more down to earth cafes and restaurants which you can find through the city and specially around Monasteriaki Square.


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Read more about the article Palermo – Italy
Palermo - Italy

Palermo – Italy

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Greek Panormos

Finally making a first contact with the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, and Palermo itself, its capital city. A long time desired destination where unfortunately it is rare to find good flight deals at more or less decent flying times. We knew this trip was going to be quite a busy non-stop from one place to another, but definitely well worth it. Furthermore, the more we could visit the better in order to leave plenty of time to reach some of the many other cities and sights in the island for the next trips to Sicily, such as Agrigento, Trapani, Catania, Syracuse, Cefalu, Messina, Taormina. There’s a lot in the island, good enough for 2 weeks travelling and visiting non stop.

With so many sights and that much history everywhere on every corner, it is physically, and literately speaking, impossible to see everything not in just a day, but even a complete weekend will still be too short. You should calculate at least 3 days if you want to fully explore it. Just to give you an idea on how much heritage Palermo houses, many buildings have been listed UNESCO World Heritage sites as part of the “Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalu and Monreale”. This means Italy has the largest number of listings compared to any other country in the world, with the region of Sicily itself topping with the most number of sites.

The Arab-Norman style is something unique in the world and only to be found in Palermo and its nearby metropolitan area cities. This style was born right after the Normans conquered Sicily from the Arabs, destroying the majority of palaces and mosques of the once considered jewel not only in the Mediterranean but Europe itself; and in replacement emerged the new style combining arabesque decorations, Romanesque architecture and Byzantine mosaics, becoming once again a beautiful jewel city proud of its history. (more…)

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Read more about the article Thessaloniki – Greece
Thessaloniki - Greece

Thessaloniki – Greece

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Thessalonike, half sister of Alexander the Great

Another weekend, and another city not been before. What else can I ask. This travelling bug is now reaching unthinkable levels to the case that since November last year, I’ve spent only one weekend in London without going anywhere, and the next time that will happen might be just the second weekend in April, unless I end up finding another good destination to go. Otherwise it seems it will be June for my next weekend without travelling. 7 months non stop yet I want much more!

Greece, I must admit is one of the greatest “unknown” in my travel bag. With so many hundreds of places to go, and so many beautiful islands, I’ve only been really few places to be honest, comparing to how many more I wish to go. But flying to Greece does not come cheap as other destinations. Well, it can certainly be cheap, but not when looking for precise days such as flying out there on a Friday evening or Saturday morning, returning on Sunday in order to avoid having to book holidays from work.

Thessaloniki is the second largest city in the country after Athens, but through history, it has been capital of many civilizations and empires, to the point of being a city larger in population than London by the 14th century when it was part of the Byzantine Empire. To give you an idea and brief knowledge, since its foundation in 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon who named it in honor of his wife, Princess Thessalonike, half-sister of Alexander the Great; it has changed hands from Kingdom of Macedon to Rome, Byzantine Empire, Crusader Kingdom of Thessalonica, Despotate of Epirus (known as Empire of Thessalonica), Second Bulgarian Empire, Nicaeam Empire, Republic of Venice and for almost 500 years under Ottoman rule until 1913 with the annexation to Greece. (more…)

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Read more about the article Pergamon – Turkey
Pergamon - Turkey

Pergamon – Turkey

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One of the greatest cities of Antiquity

Yet again the turn for another of the great ancient cities in the world. Pergamon. Of Greek origin, then Roman as it’s the case for this entire region of Turkey, was of great strategical, knowledge and arts importance. With the steepest theater from the ancient times and once home to the 2nd largest library from the ancient world just after Alexandria, it flourished even further after the Pergamese people discovered a new way of creating paper-like since the administration of papyrus was cut off from Egypt. They named this newly created product pergamenum after the name of the city. This event was a complete success across the entire Roman empire as it meant breaking the dependency from Egypt’s papyrus.

But visiting this place did not come as a simple task on our agenda. Squeezing the time to probably a new limit that we have not done before, while changing upside down the original plans for this entire long weekend trip; we managed to get some room to visit this great ancient city. At only 100 kilometers to the north from Izmir, it was in our heads the days before flying to Turkey yet we preferred to stop thinking and letting it go with the flow. Still… the rush for doing everything possible to get to this place was too high to miss.

As commented on the previous travel guides for Izmir (Smyrna) and Ephesus, Pergamon is also one of the Seven Churches of Asia, known also as the Seven Churches of Revelation or the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation, it is where Jesus Christ from the Greek island of Patmos instructs his servant Jon of Patmost saying: “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”


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Read more about the article Ephesus -Turkey
Ephesus - Turkey

Ephesus -Turkey

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Best preserved library from the ancient world

Finally achieving one of my lifetime travel dreams; reaching the ancient city of Ephesus. Yet the truth is that I have way too many further travel wishes in the agenda, of course. Coming here was, after all, the main purpose of this entire trip, involving having to fly to Istanbul with an overnight stay at a hotel there, continuing the following morning with a flight to Izmir, and if following the original plan, today we would have been only visiting Izmir while the next day Ephesus. But since our dramatic change of plans on the go, this was brought forward to the very same day after a quick visit of Izmir. And the reason for such change? Well, quite a temptation being that near to Pergamon and not going! Check Pergamon travel guide for more information.

The city traces its roots to the 10th century BC, occupying the place of the former capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa, Apasa, that extended along the western areas of Anatolia. It became one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during Greek times, becoming a great power when the Romans took control over it after 129 BC.

Once home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis, one can imagine how important and powerful the city might have been. Second in population and importance only after Rome, with glorious buildings and large public bath houses, something the Romans mastered at; coupled with one of the most advanced aqueduct system of the ancient world. (more…)

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Read more about the article Izmir – Turkey
Izmir - Turkey

Izmir – Turkey

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Ancient Smyrna

With what is called in the UK the Spring Bank Holiday of May, what was best than using this chance for a long weekend trip abroad in Izmir without the need to take any extra holiday at work from the yearly allowance, which is already getting to an end almost entirely used spread across the whole of the year. It is quite incredible having to reach the point where I can only rely in the few weekends left this year where I have no trips booked yet to go anywhere abroad! This is the narrow barrier I am between being a “full time employee and part time traveller”, although my friends and colleagues at work prefer to joke in saying it’s the opposite way around, “full time traveller, part time job”.

This trip was anyway, planned a while ago in November last year, and the fact that the main flights were a return with BA to Istanbul was on purpose especially bearing in mind these were in Business Class. So what made the difference for us to get those flights and not any cheaper option?. Easy answer in this case: retaining the Silver membership status (Zephyr) with the One World Alliance. And the trick is this: there are still 3 destinations having sort of a loophole in the amount of tier points and air miles you would collect, being Helsinki, Athens and Istanbul. So a flight to Istanbul in Business Class will give you the same miles and tier points as if it would be a long haul flight, this is, double.

Since we’ve already been to Istanbul before, then we though this could be a great occasion to get to Izmir with the main idea of reaching the ancient city of Ephesus, and Pergamon too as our original plans changed and we managed to squeeze it in too. The good side of it, the internal flight between Istanbul and Izmir with Pegasus Airlines was really cheap, balancing the total cost for all flights after all. And with so many frequencies between both cities and many competitors, flying is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reach Izmir, unless you are in an overland tour or other cities nearby while in Turkey. (more…)

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