Vişne Kiraz

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I have never been in a city which I could not follow my route on the map. After arriving to Monaco-Monte Carlo station via train from Nice, I dropped by tourist information inside the station. The lady there just gave me the map and recommended me to visit only Monaco – Old Town and the Casino area. I got the map and went out the station. I knew where I wanted to go but I could not find out which way to follow. I was on the bridge and was looking at the roads. One moment, I felt as if I had been in one of Escher‘s works called Relativity while I was going down and up by using public lifts and stairs.

Escher - RelativityView from Monte Carlo Train Station

Anyway… After I got lost for a while and met with people who got lost too (which is natural), I decided to follow the road that cars used. I arrived to the port where there were many expensive yachts. I decided to go to Old Town first. I shopped from the fruit market which was at the beginning of the road to the Old Town. I bought delicious cherries. Each cherries were bigger than the height of 1 euro.

Monaco-Ville (the Old Town) is located on the top of a hill. The Palais Princier, Saint Nicholas CathedralOceanographic Museum and old town are located here. There is a panoramic view of the port from the top. The view of the city is very strange, there are many many houses on the narrow and steep piedmont of Mont Agel. It looks like to Istanbul in this sense, there are a lot of ups and downs. The only and most important difference between these cities is the level of income for sure. While I was walking through the hills, I thought if a person can drive in Monaco, he/she can drive car any where in the world.

The city/country makes you feel that they loved Grace Kelly so much. In almost every corner, there are signs  which show the memory of Princess Kelly in that particular place. I like the Grace Kelly portrait at the port the most.

After the nice tour around the old city, I wanted to cool myself because of the noon time and very hot nice summer weather. I went down from the Old City to the port side. When I turned right (not to the port side), I saw diving platforms since there are not many shores formed along the coast in Monaco. I walked for a while I  found a nice small beach with very tiny stones. There were a couple and a family with a Golden Retriever dog. It was really a good timing for swimming. I put my things away and jumped into the cool sea. I guess it is one of the best seasides I have ever had a chance to swim (the other is Praia Preta – Black Beach in Ilha Grande/ Brazil). I could see many fish very close to coast during my swim with my goggles. The nice thing was that there is also a shower in this small cute beach.

It was very funny that I watched Madagascar characters were swimming in Monaco shores (since Monaco is their first place where they arrive in Europe in the animation) shortly after my vacation. There are very nice Monaco scenes from Casino to steep streets and hilly view behind the city in Madagascar 3. I did not know this before I watched it. This was a nice surprise for a Monaco and Madagascar lover!

Madagascar 3

The next step was to see the famous Casino and Cafe de Paris. I took the photos of a wedding again after Ljubljana on my way. I like the architecture of the Casino very much. Cafe de Paris is a great place with its menu and atmosphere. I guess you should drink something at least when you are in Monaco. I chilled out for a while in Cafe de Paris and took a bus to the station. I wanted to take photos of the Monaco – Monte Carlo station with its fascinating lighting. As always, I lay down on the ground to take the photo (number 5 in the photoset). Four old nice British guys wondered what I was trying to do. After they saw the results, they were amazed with the photo I had just taken. I joined them on the train to Nice. The train was very crowded on the way back. I thought we would have been packed in sardines but the journey was easy with chatting with old funny British guys. I mentioned about the quiz shows (Pointless and Eggheads) that I like to watch on BBC (because I did not get Turkish cables and I only have Dutch channels and BBC on my TV). They were also watching the Eggheads. We even talked about the contestants in the show.

With a great pleasure of my visit to Monaco, I turned back to the hotel and left it for a nice evening in Nice :)

Tips:

  • Duration: One day is enough for sightseeing and swimming in Monaco.
  • Transportation: I arrived to Monaco from Nice Train Station. It takes 15 minutes by train. The return ticket is around 12€. If you are based in Nice, it is very close and cheap to go to Monaco and Cannes from Nice. (The return plane ticket costed 100€ from Amsterdam to Nice. The airport bus is 5€ to Nice center. You can use that ticket for whole day transportation with buses and trams in Nice.)
  • Accommodation: I stayed at Ibis Hotel in Nice next to the station. The location is very convenient if you would like to visit places around Nice. This hotel is good for last minute bookings because it offers fixed prices. Moreover, if you book it for 3 nights, it gives you 30% discount which is very good. I shared the hotel with my friend and we stayed cheaper than staying in a hostel. Three nights’ fee from Friday to Monday was 100€ per person. Nice is very expensive in high season.
  • Eat & Drink: Just chill out in Old Town and Cafe de Paris.

(Visne Kiraz June 2012)

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After unusual cold weather during April in Amsterdam, I decided to go to somewhere warm at least. I always wanted to see Canary Islands. Its name was always interesting to me. Following choosing my destination, I found a good deal from Ryanair and arranged a very budget friendly apartment hotel. This time, I was a solo traveler as in most of my trips.

When I was a child, I thought the name of the island was derived from the bird ‘canary’. However, the name is derived from Latin name ‘Insula Canaria’ because there were many dogs in the islands according to one opinion.  The common point of the opinions is the name is somehow related to dog, not the canary bird. You can check more about the etymology on Wikipedia.

Coat of Canary Islands

The weather was around 30ºC during my stay. The best part is that the shades and inside of the buildings  were very cool. I had to use blankets while I was sleeping and I saw many people wearing thin jumpers during evening. I did not feel a sweltering weather.

There are many beaches on the islands. You can enjoy to explore each of them. I guess my favourites are Amadores which has a white-sand-beach and Maspalomas which has sandy dunes like deserts. Since the Canary Islands have volcanic origin, they are very rocky and have very steep cliffs. You may think that the bus will fly over the sea on the road in these steep cliffs. (I guess they ask bus driver candidates whether they can drive over the cliffs without flying  during their recruitment processes.) Therefore, it is not possible to have much sand on the beaches. As I heard from my friend, the sands were imported from Morocco. Whatever the origin of these dunes, they are very original and I enjoyed to take photographs on the dunes.

I spent one day in Las Palmas which is the capital of the islands and it was very important for colonizers in the history. I visited the Casa Colón Museum (free to visit) where Christopher Columbus stayed before discovering the America.

When I was in Las Palmas, I wanted to eat something very special. I opened my foursquare application from my iPhone. I was very close to Guirlache Heladeria Pasteleria at Triana 68. When I checked the tips left by foursquare users, the mostly checked tip was to eat La Tarta de Trufa. I just did what most of the people did and ordered this. It was very delicious. It must be eaten in 30 minutes, otherwise the cake goes off and becomes plain.

La Tarta de Trufa

Besides beaches, there are many alternatives to do in Canary Islands such as golf, paragliding, trekking, and day trips to other islands. When I booked my ticket, I wanted to take my glider with me but I did not find courage to do it alone. May be next time.

Tips:

  • Duration: I stayed 6 days. It depends on your plans. If you want to go to many different places in one week would be relaxing and enough. I guess the minimum duration of stay should be 4 days.
  • Transportation: I arrived to Gran Canaria Las Palmas airport via Ryanair. The public transportation is very well developed in Gran Canaria. You can travel within the islands with Global buses.
  • Accomodation: I stayed in Playa Del Sol. It was very central in Playa del Inglés. The bus stops are in front of the hotel and there are many supermarkets around it. You can also cook your own food since the hotel arranged kitchen equipment and they are cleaned by the staff almost everyday. The hotel has also swimming pool which you can enjoy.
  • Eat: Tapas, La Tarta de Trufa
  • Drink:  Sangria

(Visne Kiraz May 2012)

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What a nice name to be given to a city!

As one of the source says:

“The name probably derives from the Slavic word ‘ljubit’, which means ‘to love’ but, ‘ljubljana’ means The Beloved.”

After Zagreb, we took one and half hour car drive to arrive in Ljubljana. Ljubljana is a city from a fairy tale with its castle at the top, the houses and narrow streets from middle ages. It is very quiet and peaceful.  The castle is at the top of the island  which is  in the middle of Ljubljanica River. The bridges are the beautiful ornaments of the city. There are several bridges over Ljubljanica River. The most important ones are: Triple Bridge, Shoemaker’s/Cobbler’s Bridge and Dragon Bridge.

Ljubljana in the 18th century

The dragon has long been a symbol of Ljubljana. The origin of this city’s symbol can be traced to the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, who supposedly encountered the Ljubljana dragon on their way to the Adriatic Sea by way of the Danube and Ljubljanica Rivers. Ljubljana Dragon, who benevolently protects the city of Ljubljana and is pictured in the city’s coat of arms.

Coat of Arms - Ljubljana

Coat of Arms – Ljubljana

While I was waiting for my friends, I witnessed a wedding in front of the Town Hall. The guests were waiting for the bride and the groom. One of the guests gave me one palm of rice to throw over the couple to bless their marriage with happiness and richness in love, children, money etc.

wedding in front of the Town Hall

I met with my friends on the Triple Bridge. We climbed up to the castle together. It was an easy walk and you see the panoramic view of the city as you rise. The castle is open until 9 p.m. There are many restaurants inside the castle garden. We visited the clock tower and the church of the castle. We took the lift while leaving the castle.

You should chill out along Ljubljanica River and drink something before you leave the city. The next morning we were on the way back to home via Trieste.

Tips:

  • Duration: One day is enough for sightseeing in Ljubljana.
  • Transportation: I arrived to Ljubljana from Zagerb via rental car. It takes 1 and half hour by car. Do not forget to buy Vignette since you will use Slovenia’a highway.
  • Accomodation: I stayed in Vila Veselova. It is one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed, clean and cosy. It takes 5 mins to main square on foot. You can walk to everywhere in Ljubljana.
  • Eat: Walnut potica
  • Drink:  Laško
  • Watch: The panoramic view of Ljubljana from the castle

(Visne Kiraz April 2012)

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Before I went to Brazil, we had already bought plane tickets to Venice Treviso for visiting Zagreb and Ljubljana. It is 245 km from Treviso Airport to Ljubljana, and 140 km from Ljubljana to Zagreb. After we arrived to the airport via Transavia, we took a rental car and our road trip had started. My friend from Greece was in a project in Belgrade and he took a five-hour-bus journey to come to Zagreb and his trip started this way.

I always like Italy’s landscape. I remember it as soon as we landed on Treviso. While we were on the road to Zagreb, Slovenia’s landscape was amazing. Since we were coming from the west, the sunshine was on the small houses with a dark blue mountains and light green trees in the background.

Please do not forget to buy Vignette which is toll sticker for passing through highways in Slovenia.  If you do not buy it, you may have to pay 300€ for fine in random checks.

We arrived to Zagreb around 8 p.m. I stayed in Hobo Bear Hostel  which is very close to street Ilica. When you follow the Ilica Street you will arrive to main square of Zagreb called Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića. After I settled down in my room, I went out to eat some pizza. Italian food in Zagreb is very delicious. You can find many restaurants around the main square. The nights are very live In Zagreb. There are many people on the streets towards midnight. Croatians like going out at nights. The bars have seats in the streets. If the weather is good, you can chill out in also outside of the bar. I went to Alcatraz Cafe Bar  with my Turkish and Greek friends.  I liked the Croatian pop-rock music. The only thing that I did not enjoy was that smoking was allowed inside the closed places.

The new town of Zagreb was planned by a Croatian engineer Milan Lenuci in horseshoe shape in late 19th century. It is called Lenucijeva Potkova. Lunic Horseshoe If you follow the horseshoe shape route, you can discover new part of Zagreb very easily in 2 hours. However, you can stay longer if you want to enjoy parks, squares, and big avenues. When we were there, it was tulip time and we took many tulip photos. You should enter to Botanic Garden while travelling through the horse shoe. It has a lovely atmosphere.

Towards the noon, we met with our friend from Croatia. I informed him about our visit. Me, my Greek friend and he attended a training in Athens in fall 2009. This was a kind of reunion. We met with his fiancée too. They have a  wedding this August. I hope I have a chance to go and take their photos. They took us and told many things about Old Town (Upper town or Gornji Gradic) in Zagreb. We watched a soldier duty change ceremony. I felt like I was in old times. Two of the soldiers were riding horses. After praying in front of Holy Mother under Blood Bridge , they walked to the Parliament building and ceremony continued there. I saw the Museum of Broken Relationships  but I did not have a time to see it. It seemed very interesting. As my friend said there  are objects which  represent all the stages of a breakup. I hope I visit it one day. We drank something in upper town. The place reminded me Notting Hill in London. There were many colourful old houses and cafes in front of them.

When we were in Zagreb, there was a market in the main square where villagers bring their own products and sell them. I saw many Turkish words like borek, tepsi that they are sign of Ottoman effect. Moreover, Turkish soap operas very popular in Croatia as well as In Greece or Syria. My friend’s fiancé asked some Turkish traditions based on her impressions while watching them. When we talked about wedding, we realised how much customs look like each other. I grabbed a piece of borek with potatoes. Yorgo tried traditional soups and bought some goat cheese.

As soon as the rain clouds arrived to Zagreb from Ljubljana, we were leaving Zagreb for Ljubljana…

Tips:

  • Duration: One day is enough for sightseeing in Zagreb
  • Transportation: I arrived to Zagreb from Treviso Airport via rental car. It takes 4 hours by car. Do not forget to buy Vignette since you will use Slovenia’a highway.
  • Accomodation: I stayed in Hobo Bear Hostel which is very close to Ilca Street. It takes 5 mins to main square on foot. You can walk everywhere in Zagreb.
  • Eat: Pizza, borek
  • Drink: Karlovačko
  • Watch: Soldier change ceremony in front of the Parliament

(Visne Kiraz April 2012)

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After my trip to Köln, I took the train to Vallendar to meet with my friends in Schönstatt. When I got off the train in Vallendar, only two people got off the train. Vallendar is a small station, so I asked the guys if they had been going to Schönstatt for Easter. They were from Mexico and came to visit Schönstatt. We took the bus 7 together. It lasted just 3 minutes from Vallendar train station to Schönstatt.

Schönstatt is a small town where a Catholic Movement including Christian personality development, orientation after ideals, and community started in 1914. Then, it has spread all over the world. They told me that if I visited a city  where there are followers of Schönstatt Movement, I could see the exact same chapel where it had started. It was a good destination for me to watch an Easter Ceremony for the first time in my life.

We stayed in Pilgrims’ House which was simple and clean for a religious visit. When I was waiting for my friends, Sister Marguerite, who is from Puerto Rico and went to college in U.S., showed me the around and told me the story of the town. I really like to listen to different things, stories. I also asked her ”Do you also believe that Jesus will come to the world before the doomsday?”, “What are the eggs for?”, “If the Jesus died on that Friday, why do you call it ‘Good’ Friday?”. She was little bit worried about me, since I am Muslim and my friends had not yet arrived.

While I was waiting Georgios (my Greek friend) in my room, Sister Marguerite knocked my door. She introduced me Pia. Pia is a girl from Chile and met with Georgios in Thailand trip. She would be in Germany for one year volunteer program to take care of disabled people. She heard that Sister Marguerite concerns about a lonely Muslim girl who was waiting her friends in Schönstatt. Pia asked her if I had been waiting for a Greek friend. When she got the reply yes, she said she knew me. Actually, Georgios told Pia about me and we all were going to meet in this town. Pia accompanied me and we waited together with our friends.

Finally, Georgios and Giannis arrived to the place we stayed in the evening. After the dinner, we had to climb up to the church on the hill where the Easter Ceremony  would be held. It was around 2 km to walk. I attempted to hitch-hike to the top. It was obvious that we were going to the ceremony. Although Pia said here was Germany, nobody would stop,  the first car stopped and took us to her car. I said I had tried it in France, it also had worked there. Of course, I tried it again when we were going back to the place we stayed and it worked again :)

Egg hunt

When I was watching the ceremony, I realized that how much the basics looked like to each other with Islamic ceremonies. They both sing, say amen/amin, shake hands towards the end of the ceremony. There were many sisters from all around the world. I also watched the morning ceremony for children next morning. We participated in egg hunt.

In the afternoon, we left Schönstatt for Luxembourg…

Tips

  • Duration: One day is enough for joining the ceremonies at night and in the morning
  • Transportation: I arrived to Vallendar from Köln via train. It costs 17 euro. Then, take the bus 7 which is 1.65 euro .
  • Accommodation: I stayed in Pilgrims’ House. It was clean and simple for a short visit. The fare includes breakfast, lunch and the dinner. It costs 30 euro.
  • Watch: Easter Ceremony (both evening and morning ceremonies)

(Visne Kiraz April 2012)

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Journey from Köln to Schönstatt

Actually, Köln was not the place I wanted to go this Easter. Everything changed at last minute. My initial plan was to go to Vosges for paragliding. Me and my friends were going to camp and fly there. However, this trip was cancelled due to the bad weather conditions at last minute. At the same time, my friend from Greece invited me to his trip to Schönstatt to celebrate and watch Easter Ceremony. This was a good idea for a 4-day-holiday. I searched for train tickets and found reasonable one from Amsterdam to Köln via DB. Then, I planned to go to Köln first and then meet with my friends in Schönstatt.

Köln welcomes you with its tall church – Cologne Cathedral at the station. I attempted to climb its 509 steps. I cannot say that it was easy. Whenever I see an amazing architectural design from the past, I think how they built it at those days with limited technology. Nowadays, people try to build fast and simple buildings which are totally away from aesthetics.

You can see the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine River which is leading to Cologne Cathedral. The funny thing about this bridge is that the couples put locks which symbolizes their loves that will continue until that locks are opened. The creativity of locks make you laugh during your walk over the bridge. I saw one with Justin Bieber :)

I like the houses around Fischmarkt. Köln makes you feel you were in a doll-house with these houses and funny statutes around the city.

Tips:

  • Duration: One day is enough for sightseeing and museum visits
  • Transportation: I arrived to Köln from Amsterdam via Deutsche Bahn. It costed 60 euro. The city is suitable for walking and riding bikes.
  • Accomodation: I stayed in A&O Hostel which is around Neumarkt. It takes 10-15 mins to main station on foot. It costs around 20-25 euro. Bring your linens which is not included in room fare.
  • Eat: German wurst
  • Drink: German beer next to Rhine River

(Visne Kiraz April 2012)

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