Monday, 29 October 2018

Lake Ochrid, Makedonia

To visit Lake Ochrid,

might turn out quite of an adventure, since this pearl in southern Balkan area is nearly impossible to reach by direct flights. At least not from Milan, where I live. 

Ochrid Lake is situated nearly 700 mt. above sea level in south western of Macedonia and 1/3 of the lake belongs to Albania. Ochrid has its own airport, but it looked not well used to me, as only few flights landed in our three days stay in the city. 

I took this trip with my usual company; the Serbian siblings. 
On our way back from lovely beaches in Greece, we headed out to Macedonia. 
The roads from Thessaloniki are fairly good up to Skopje; highway all along towards the capital of Macedonia, after witch there are two roads, both circling around the mountain area. 


photo by author


Once we arrived to Ochrid, round 5 pm, not only we were welcomed by a tropical temperature, but also with warm full summer season touristic atmosphere. It seemed to be quite awkward in the end of September as we heard later on. The weather had been unstable until the day before to our arrival. 

As I mentioned pearls, this area is well known for sweet water pearls, available in several stores in the city. I didn't buy any since I had run out of cash and unfortunately I couldn't withdraw from any of those several cash dispensers. But I certainly will do during my next visit, whenever that might be. Withdrawal using visa and master card works perfectly. My V-pay didn't. 


photo by author




For several tourist around the globe Macedonia is cheap. Just to give you an idea, a fairly rich lunch with some starters and fresh fish soup, beer and water cost €5,50 per person. To visit churches and other monuments, is required a fee that is proximately €1,40. Only wine bought in restaurant is pretty expensive, if anyone wishes to go for a good Macedonian wine. 


Santa Sophia's church; photo by author


Macedonia is known by exporting paprika. The main product made of paprika is Ajvar; so called Balkan Caviar. To make a jar of ajvar is necessary nearly 100 kg of paprika, a lots of hours of work and long cooking period. And of course, a good paprika. 
No. You can't make Ajvar from the paprika you find in your grocery store, unless it is long shaped and fat. 

As I like to travel in places where food is delicious, I have to admit that I had really good meals in Ochrid. Mostly trout from the lake, but also lamb and several vegetables, cheese and wine. One of the things serbs and Macedonians have in common, beside Ajvar is Burak. Burak is a pie with cheese or meat filling and mostly eaten for breakfast, since it could turn pretty heavy for a main meal. Burak can be made at home, if it is possible to find the right main ingredients, and by following tutorials from several websites. 

The colour of the lake is incredibly beautiful; turning from dark blue to emerald green. As in our boat trip to visit the Bay of Bones and the bay of St. Naum. The shore just after Ochrid is filled with several hotels and residences to fill-fill the needs of tourists. As the lake is clean and swimming is permitted, many of these hotels offer sun beds and a place near the beach. 
The Bay of Bones is the oldest village of the lake; the oldest lake in Europe, counts about one million years. This village was probably settled between 1200 and 700 bC and gives to the visitor an excellent idea of how people used to live in those days. All cottages with the lake view. 


Bay of Bones; photo by author


St. Naum used to be a Bulgarian writer and a monk who lived in 9th century, and the monastery was established by St Naum himself. He is also buried in the church. In 16 hundred the Greek school took it over. But this wasn't our main reason to visit St Naum. We headed there to visit the incredible swamp that forms just before the Lake Ochrid. The water temperature is 11°C and its vegetation creates an optical illusion; it looks like its deep only a meter, but its at least 3 meters deep. 
To visit the swamp is necessary to get in one of those rowing boats along the area, rowed by local personal  The tour takes proximately 30 minutes, offering amazing photo shoots and the sound of silence. 

In the third day of our stay, we payed a visit to the fortress that finds itself in the highest point of the hill; the view from there was just stunning. Walking down the hill, we visited the Roman amphitheatre, and three orthodox churches. 


full moon and Macedonian flag; photo by author


In the harbour area is to be seen the statue of St Clement, the father of Balkan cyrillic letters. What I didn't know is that the Balkan cyrillic letters are made to be pronounced as they are written. And has origin from Greek alphabet. This information made me interested to learn them. It could be easy to us finnish, since we also pronounce as we write. 

One of the things a tourist might not know and even think about is to use local beauty services, such as hairdresser or a beautician. I had my feet done and washed and dried my hair by a professional. 
The beauty salon took €15 for bringing my feet back to walking condition and the hairdresser cost me €5. Worth for helping local small businesses. 

To organise a group visit to Ochrid, please do not hesitate to ask info@kairos-travel.eu




Friday, 5 October 2018

Milan in one day? No way

Take time to visit Milan

Far too often I keep on reading comments about people visiting Milan, and not getting the kick they have expected. And then figure out they spent one day and with no guide.
That would be like reading a tourist guide about Milan in just one day. Reading. Not visiting.


photo by Carmen Terrazzino,  duomoventiquattro


Milan is not like Florence, or Rome. Nor it is like Venice. Milan is spread out. One part is seen in the area of Duomo Square and some in the area of the Sforzesco Castle. Then there is the ancient Roman area, mainly churches of paleochristian period. Not to forget the Brera disctrict and the Academy of Art. A bit further a new area called Porta Nuova. Again a bit further away, the Isola. In the other side Navigli, Porta Romana and so on.


photo by Repubblica.it


If you plan to visit Milan and you have just one day, You will see about 10% of what the city actually has to offer. No wonder you go home exhausted by walking 10 km and not been able to see the same monuments as in Rome, Venice or in Florence. It would be like comparing Jerusalem to New York.
Have you ever walked Manhattan back and forth in just one day? 


TripAdvisor 


Milan is mainly a financial city, with ancient roman history unfortunately destroyed by several inquisitions. And not only. Milanese people liked to build new, instead of preserving old buildings. That at least until the end of 19th century. Some of those old monuments are still to be seen; thanks to Luca Beltrami, who believed in preserving. 


photo from italia official website


Milan used to be an important centre during the paleochristian period, that's why Milan still have serveral ancient churhes.
As I am atheist and I don't really care about churches as religious locations, I still thing they are the best buildings to preserve art and architecture. Luckily, most inquisitors were intimitated to destroy churches. Not Maria Teresa from Austria thought. To build a new theather, she had no second thoughts to demolish the church that stood in the way of her plans.


photo il Post


Milanese people love aperitifs. Ever since the 80's, Milan speard out locals that offered so called happy hour with some wine/cocktails and little snacks to accompaign. Nowadays you might even get a total meal with a cost of just one drink. 


Photo by Luxgallery.it

I once read an autobiography of a Milanese artist. Actually he is from Sicily, but moved to Milan to complish his studies and stayed as an artist. With little or no money, he succeeded to survive visiting all the different openings of galleries, museums or other occations and thus feed himself. 
The quantity of art galleries also might turn out as a problem, in witch a local professional could be pretty useful.

photo by turismo.it


Milanese people are also pretty money tight. Not like Ligurian ones. It is quite common that Milanese people do not look rich although they might have Ferrari in their Garage. Quite the opposite is to be found in south of Italy, where even the poorest family save a lifetime, to give the most fabulous wedding to their children. Not to mention that golden rings and chains belong to everyone. That is not in Milan, where even the latest family member of a marchese would wear wooden bijouterie in a formal occation. 

But how would anyone come to know all these things if they stand in a corner of Duomo reading that tourist guide, instead taking a local host, or a professional guide. 
It is a great investment of tourist's money. 

To visit well Milan, contact me as I can be your local host

Kairos Travel is specialised to assist larger groups (min 20 persons) of tourist to enjoy Milan and smaller business groups who wish to visit Milan Rho and fair of Milan Centre, offering  transport, concert and restaurant reservations among hotel accommodation.  Bookings throughout info@kairos-travel.eu

Monday, 9 April 2018

No sunbathing?

I'm one of those ...


who was educated that sunbathing is healthy and necessary to get over the cold Finnish winter with as little flu as possible. Our sea has little if at all iodine and visiting mediterranean sea for two weeks seem to provide necessary amount of iodine to establish our respiratory defences.

pexels.com


But laying in the beach isn't obligatory. Jus being in the beach, perhaps walking early in the morning and in the sunset is more than necessary.
Most European have this idea that where ever there is a sea and a beach, sunbathing is a must. While I have noticed that most overseas travellers avoid beaches and sun.

At my visit to Austria three years ago, I learned that although they have sun, sea and pretty nice climate, they do not go to the beach at all. My cousin explained that her parents never were keen to go to the beach, as if they were afraid of it, and she grew up with the idea that laying in the sun and swimming ain't just how she could spend her days. While I thought: what a waist it is, to live so close to such a beautiful beach and never go there.

Bondi Beach Sydney by australia.com

And that is the difference. You have it there, everyday and it won't disappear. The sun shines nearly 300 days in a year and if you miss those 299 days, there still be that one day. Besides all those stories about sharks in Australian beaches are not completely true. Sometimes there are sharks, but more often there are stingrays and jellyfish. 
What actually happens in Australia, is that in most part of the country water is far too cold to have a swim. Unless in the northern part of the country.
In my visit to Bali, nearly 25 years ago, it was us Europeans to lay on the beach while Australians and Asian population visited the island. 
(Well... So did we, but with less intensity.)
Also at the Caribbean, we europeans lay on the beach while others dive, snorkel, play golf or do several other activities. 
Countries such as Southern Europe, Dubai, Morocco or Tunis, Turkey and The Caribbean live with tourism. We do nothing but lay on the beach, eat and drink. This kind of tourism ends up consuming a lot of food and drinks not produced locally and leave huge amount of rubbish to take care of the locals. Small islands in the mediterranean sea get tons and tons of food and other items from the mainland. 

cbsnews.com

How many of us would satisfy to live as locals?
The idea of visiting an idyllic island with it's origins has disappeared. The souvenir items are mainly produced in China. And international supermarkets over rule in case I get homesick in 10 days and need the coffee I'm used to drink. Like I couldn't live without my regular diet for 10 days.
When I book a trip, one of the first thing I do, is to check out what kind of culinary culture the country has and prepare myself psychologically. It is easier to face heavy Balkan or Arabian food if I know what I'm going to experiment.
And what ever diet I might follow, I can assure I find those products every where. Like in Iran, where consuming sheep meat is normal. There is always rice and local vegetables if I'm on vegan mood. And for vegetarians there is good news: Eggs are eaten in every country.

norecipes.com



Of course the taste is different. But who prohibits me to print one of these receipts from the web and try how does it taste. And only then book my trip. In this way I truly can eat in every country of this planed. 

rezeptwelt.de


If I am travelling, there is no such thing as; The sun is too hot, sea water too salty, they don't cook meatballs with smashed potatoes, I can't have salty breakfast, coffee isn't like at home, there is no pork meat, or; there is only pork meat. Or it was mostly rainy, while the weather forecast promised a lots of sun.
What ever uncomfortable weather circumstances I find myself, there is always my hotel room and a book to read. 
Except in rare cases; but we won't talk about them right now, won't we. 

Where ever I am planning to go, I just enjoy my vacation; complains have this magical way to fade away once I allow myself to get used to the new circumstances. 

Book your organised tour for groups with: info@kairos-travel.eu 
And leave all the planning to the travel experts, so that your vacation is enjoyable. 


Monday, 8 January 2018

Lets talk about food, baby


Food.... Food... and Food

I love food. Mostly I like salty food and vegetables. 
So today we talk about eating healthy and lose some weight.

Until I was 10 years old, I liked salami, yoghurt and beetroots the most. I could eat them for breakfast, lunch and for diner. But my mum got this fabulous idea to cut our the meat and add some veggies. Not that I liked it a lot, but with some tasty salad dressing it went down. Those dressings, I learned later on although I still like them, are unfortunately filled with salt, sugar and fat. 

At my high school period I worked as a kitchen help at the local Greek restaurant and learned how to make some delicious Greek dishes, such as moussaka, tzaziki and stifado. But my favourite was the Greek salad. 
And with my latest visit to Santorini, I enjoyed fully of it. 

But today, January the 8th I decided that at least 3 days in a week I apply the vegan food diet and in two days of those only fruits and veggies. 
I think that the best time to apply such diet are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  
In these days, I use Tuesday and Thursday for fruit and veggies only. 

Here are some hints also for you. 

This week my plan is:
As my fruit veggie day breakfast I decide to have a smoothie made by fruit and vegetables only. Such as Mean Green Smoothie, made of water, frozen berries, banana, kale and dates. The receipt is easily to find under the name of the smoothie. 
For a snack, at least two in one day, any kind of fruit will do. 
For lunch I make this salad: cucumber, tomato, paprika, onion, green apple and pickled cucumbers. As much as I feel to eat. The dressing is made by gluten free soy sauce/tamari and if I feel like I add some chopped cilantro. 
For a diner I plan to make this veggie soup with home made vegetable stock, made of:  
1 large onion chopped
2 large carrots chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
8 gloves of garlic peeled and smashed
8 spring parsley 
I use only the stock to make veggie soup and I eat the vegetables aside. 
This is just for one soup but if I double the ingredients (perhaps not the garlic) I have broth for twice. Once I have this stock I can add any vegetable I want, such as broccoli and cauliflower or pumpkin and zucchini. No potato, rice or pasta, because it wouldn't be a veggie fruit day anymore. 
Before going to bed, if I'm hungry, I eat one or two bananas. 

In the veggie day, at Wednesday, I have whole grain bread for the breakfast with home made vegan mayo with silken tofu to lower the calorie intake by fat and sliced tomato on the top. I like to add to my mayo some garlic, lemon juice and tomato pasta so that it is tastier. 
Some fruit for snacks during the day and for lunch I have this great salad I can do at home the day before and take it to the office: 
Any kind of small grain, such as whole grain couscous or millet will do. I add some kidney peas, chopped onions, cucumber, tomato, paprika, avocado and I add this dressing: lime and cilantro. 
For my vegan day diner I have this macaroni stew made of whole grain macaroni, cauliflower b├ęchamel (check out the receipt at the web, that suits you the best) and kidney beans out of a can, leaked and rinsed. 
I cook the macaroni, and mix it with kidney beans. Then I taste them with spices I like the most. I add onion, garlic, paprika, chili, pepper and salt. I pour the b├ęchamel on the top of it and bake it with 180°C about 30 minutes. 
If I'm hungry after diner, I eat an apple. 
The other fruit veggie day for lunch I have planned to have steamed cauliflower with some sunflower oil and lemon juice, with a salad as a side dish, using the dressing made of soy sauce and lime. 
For the diner I bake sliced aubergine, zucchini, tomato, pumpkin, onion and garlic in tomato sauce in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  I use origano in this specific dish to give more flavour. 
It's a similar to the french dish called ratatouille
One thing I must remind me over and over again: drink more water. 

For the other four days in a week, I'm free to eat what ever I want, but if I want to lose any weight I try to keep it on vegan. Those two vegetable fruit days in a week might make me lose 1 kilo in each week. It would be a real pitty to spoil the results, by eating potato chips, sushi or hamburger the other days. 
One of the thing that I don't like in many vegan receipts is the quantity of different kind of ingredients, because I am too lazy to count teaspoons and grams of each specific ingredient. My motto is: no more than 10 ingredients and if possible only five to each meal. I truly believe that my stomach and intestine works better, the less it has to digest. This might work differently to you. 

It is really easy to eat vegan. Even for the laziest ones like me. I can cook some whole grain pasta and make a tomato sauce and then add any veggie I just have in my fridge that day. 
But sometimes I want to try new receipts and surprise myself. 
My kids eat meat and there is no way to brainwash them to eat healthier, so I am forced to cook different dishes to them. And that annoys me a lot. I wish they'd eat healthier at this age, since it makes a difference. First, my skin appears still like any one at younger age. Yes, I have wrinkles and some grey hair, but my skin is still as soft as it used to be. This must be throughout the hydration veggies and fruit gives. 


Since I don't get any sponsorsships out of the websites, I don't feel like publicising any of those that have excellent and easy receipts but if you feel like following this diet until you are ready to try the swimsuit, write me in private and I do what I can to help you. 
I downloaded some pictures from the web, so that you may see how simple some of those veggie dishes can be. 


 oven baked sweet potatoes By inhabitat






Vegetable pasta soup by Greatist






Rice and beans by Restaurant Business Magazine


I am not a nutritionist, or a doctor. Just a simple tourist guide with a great love for food in different cultures. 
Feel also free to read my other posts about food and travelling. And if you are not up to try this 3 day in a week vegan diet, use the ideas for side dishes. 


Any time travelling around; group bookings for hotels and locals services throughout 
info@kairos-travel.eu







Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Visit Busto Arsizio

This time I want to talk about a town I feel emotionally close to: Busto Arsizio 


Busto Arsizio is a medieval origin town near the airport of Malpensa and just about 35 km from Milan. It is easily to reach by train such as local transport or Malpensa Express from several train stations from Milan and other surrounding cities. 
As the period of plague made several victims, Busto Arsizio was nearly totally burned and very little of this medieval period was left over. 
Busto means breast and Arsizio means burned. 

The old church of San Michele is still as a testimony from the ancient city: The bell tower was built in the 11th century. 
It is the habit of Lombardians to destroy everything old and not functioning and build something new. So you may see barely nothing at all even from the period of renaissance. 
During the French occupation Busto Arsizio and surrounding areas added several words from french language to their dialect. Just to mention one; they don't call lira as the old monetary unit but frank, as the old french monetary unit, although they are talking about the Italian lira. Also the dialect of this city has probably gaelic or German/Austrian back ground: using dots on the top of some vocals is really common. 





Busto Arsizio was until the 80's an important town for manufacturing and assembling of bedlinen and table clothes.
Some people in this city have become incredible wealthy by textile production and it is not unusual to see cars like Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini or Porsche in the street picture.  
Most of these items were in earlier period also coloured in this town, but the environmental regulations forbid using chemical colouring so that most of those factories were closed and workmanshift moved to third world countries, such as China, India and Pakistan, just to name few. 
You may want to visit the local museum of textile, stone drop from the down town surrounded by a beautiful park. 


Arriving to Busto Arsizio, independent of the train station you may arrive, there are plenty of signs to invite you to take a walking tour to admire these Liberty stylsihed Villa's. As I walk a lot, I can't but admire all those beautiful buildings still visible in the city. 
I took this tour together with my friend Anne who visited me from the Netherlands on purpose to anticipate what you may see while visiting Busto Arsizio. 



After leaving either Busto Arsizio Central train station or the North Train Station, the itinerary leads you for a 5 km walk lasting nearly 3 hours if you like to shoot photos as I do. This tour will surprise you with the quantity of true pearls of architecture.  
And while walking around, there is plenty to pit stop for an ice cream, lunch or a coffee, aperitif and diner. As I am often here, I have gotten the priviledge to try many of those, and suggest you to do so. Busto Arsizio offers only one "local food" restaurant and it is truly interesting place to visit. Besides of the local food also the menu is written in bilingual; in Italian and in local dialect

Although Italy helps hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the mediterranean sea, Busto Arsizio still has very little of them: This city has a strong culture of right wing political party. You might have heard of Lega Lombarda, and Umberto Bossi during the period of Silvio Berlusconi. Umberto Bossi comes from a town near by and Busto Arsizio has probably the largest amount of Lega Lombardia supporters in this area. Lega Lombarda or Lega Nord has a political view that do not allow "wild immigration" and it is difficult to get a working permit, or house to rent at Busto Arsizio. In the 60's even those from Sicily were seen as immigrants and not wanted. You may find several southern men outside of local bars as it belongs to their culture to get out of the house, while wife cleans or cooks supper.  



When I first visited Busto Arsizio, I thought about this city as a dormitory for the people who work in Milan or at the Malpensa Airport due to the leak of restaurants, parks for children to play or open air sport fields. Only few restaurants and mainly pizzerias. Today the Chinese population has made their way with "all-you-can-eat" sushi restaurants, next to Moroccan shwarma sandwiches. But also Italians have decided to invest in this small 100.000 inhabitants town. More and more medium price restaurants such as Piadeneria; a typical Emiglia Romanian flat bread, or Italian style gourmet hamburger restaurants have opened their doors. There is nowadays plenty to choose from.




Ever since the period of the economical regression of 2008, Busto Arsizio saw many of the shops closing and no new entry was willing to get in. Nowadays new shops have opened their doors and many people from near by towns, such as Olgiate Olona, Castellanza and Gallarate find their way for shopping at Busto Arsizio. It is enjoyable to walk in the city, have an ice cream and sit down for an aperitif with a good company. 
It might be surpricing to find out several small breweries in this area. And due to it, new beer houses have found their way in this city. If you love beer, you may want to try some of the local ones. 
This area of Lombardia has very little of wine production; some of it in the hills of Varese, just recently restarted, and merely from the hills of Pavia, in the border of Emiglia Romagna and in the Garda Lake due to it's mite temperature. 




Busto Arsizio appears to be a safe city to live in, although there is always some trouble with minor criminality. Merely people are left in peace and only time to time some fighting takes place out of pubs and bars where alcohol is served. Italians are not heavy drinkers as we Scandinavians are, and they are not used to get really drunk. So when they do, they get totally out of control. Usually this happens among young people. And these fights are about a girl, who gave a look to another boy. 
Shakespeare had it right about the Italian temperament. 

If you decide to stay at Busto Arsizio, what is exactly that you may visit while staying here? Besides this town, nearby cities offer plenty to visit:
A day trip to Milan and Lake Maggiore, or Varese  and Saronno are interesting towns to visit, and just about 10-30 minutes by train. Also Novara forms an interesting town to visit due to it's history from the medieval and renessaince period and easy to reach by local train. As Lake como might seem far away, I assure that with local pubblic transport it is possible to visit it within one day. 
In case you hire a car, near Gallarate at Arsago Seprio are still ancient roman cavings and one of the best restaurants in the area, not to mention Olgiate Olona's 1 star Michelin restaurant. 
For kids during the summer time, Busto Arsizio offers out door swimming pools, recreation areas and play grounds in the public parks. Unfortunately dogs are still left a side, with one only separate dog park far from city centre. But dogs are treated pretty well: nearly every bar and restaurant allow dogs, and some shops too. 





In March Busto Arsizio holds a film festival called BAFF, with some interesting guest;  mainly famous Italian actors. 
Busto Arsizio is also well know by it's fencing club, and it's swimming pool. Each year both clubs hold international tournaments.  Also the local volleyball team plays in group A as the Italian female volleyball league. 
One of the most famous Italian violinist, Uto Ughi, is from Busto Arsizio and "a local guy" Gianluca Genoni, born in Galliate Novara, has won several competitions of diving without a mask, last one in 2012 down to 160 meters. 
The local football team Pro Patria is not equally good,as the sports teams mentioned above, but they have many local supporters.  




In the summer time Busto Arsizio among neighbouring towns offer night shopping. From Wednesday until Friday different cities keep their shops open until 11 pm with street music or fashion shows. 
Also many festivals take places in the summer season and Sagra's; local churches that organise happenings with food court, play ground, orchestra's and games. 




Now there is no reason why not visit or stay at Busto Arsizio. It is a valid option to some hotels in Milan far from Down Town. 
Group reservations throughout www.kairos-travel.eu / info@kairos-travel.eu

Photos from the Liberty walking tour. Please ask permission to copy and and paste elsewhere

Feel free to add a comment about Busto Arsizio


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Santorini Greece 2017

I live in the most beautiful country in the world: In Italy
But Greece comes as a fairly good number two.
Greek people are gentile and honest as far as it comes to normal local inhabitants.

view at Santorini


In my past I have visited the island of Skiathos, Skopelos, Crete and in mainland Athens and Thessaloniki.
This summer I chose to visit Santorini.
My travel buddies are the same as in South Africa and I was pleased to get the invitation to join them.
I booked for 14 days, but my opinion is that 10 days would do perfectly well; the three first days are necessary to figure out where I am and what to do. The other 7 days to discover the island.
We stayed in Kamari, that is close to the airport. This town is excellent for night life and an easy access to many places visitable by car. 
The airport  of Santorini is small and it is request at least 2 hours travelling with a luggage.

One of the many churches

I had just a trolley and it was more than enough. All I needed was swimming suit, something to wear for the diner and few pair of shoes among washing and make up stuff. Shampoo and other items not suitable to trolley are to find at the many local mini markets.

Our choice to book a hotel or rent a house turned out to a lovely hotel, just 10 minutes from the beach by foot, 5 minutes by car and only 10 minutes by car from the Airport.  Most of the cases we used the car to visit places and other beaches.

the sun and the sea


As Santorini is a volcanic island, beaches are covered by black sand. At Kamari the beach is rocky and special shoes helps to get to swim easier. While in the southern part the beach is finer black sand and access to the sea is easy by bare feet.

Georgios Beach


My advice is to take snorkelling mask from home or buy one in loco; I bought one for €15.
Most beach beds are free of charge if using the beach restaurant services. But in high season (July and August) the price might be €10 for each umbrella and two sun beds.
Best restaurants are out of town, such as Cretan Restaurant near the city of Pyrgos, or a local Taverna just out of the city of Mesaria. 
But I can't complain eating out in towns as Fira, Kamari and Oia.

Me at Fira


Besides visiting beaches and towns, what else you may do at Santorini?
Enjoy the Greek life with it's food, music and the romantic sunset best seen from Oia, or in one of the catamaran trips organised from several companies.
Most of these companies do pick up service from hotel.
I noticed that car is useful in this island. But the local bus services are equally good and with fare prices. 


We europeans like sun bathing; at least I do. Every day we headed to our favourite beach at the southern part of the Island and enjoyed the luxurious service our waiter Georgios offered.  But most of the overseas travellers seemed to stay away from beaches as a waist of time and money for the value of their trip.
In that case 5 days would do perfectly to visit Santorini. the island itself is pretty small and in just one day one cultural site and a local village is visited. 

View over the bay from the lighthouse


During the high touristic season several cultural events take place at Santorini and many villages offer local party offering food and beverage, either free of charge or with small fee. We visited the Kamari festival and got soup, bread and wine for free. Plus a local band playing typical Greek music. 

Our free meal


Due to the climate and volcanic soil, besides grapes, pomegranate, spiny figs, figs, tomatoes and white eggplant, in the island barely no other fruits and vegetables grows. And due to the dry summer there is very little water in the island. Most of the food is coming from the mainland.

Zatziki


To use the toilet, the toilet paper is not allowed to flush, but set in the waist bin.
This rule is the same in Caribbean Islands. It might feel a bit strange in the beginning, but now I'm so used to it that I feel awkward to throw the toilet paper in the closed.

The best period to visit Santorini is April, May, June, September and October. The most busy months are July and August, when Europeans have their school vacations.
A special precaution is to be taken in the streets that are narrow, stairs often steep. To get an ambulance in Fira or in Oia could take some time, and as we saw someone got hurt, the medical appliances aren't the easiest to carry up or down. 

Oia


Although Greek may seem to drive like crazy, I never noticed anything out of order. But streets are not in their best shape and after a glass or two too many, driving might turn out dangerous.

As I mentioned earlier, the island itself is pretty small, there is plenty to see, and each person need to plan their itinerary as they wish.
I was in need of relax and good food; we enjoyed the sun, the sea, and plenty of food in many of those Tavernas Santorini can offer.

My lunch



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View from Phyrgos

Sunset seen from Fira 

The symbol of Venice Republic

Sunset seen from Oia; Photo of Natasa Popovic

Sunset drink at Fira

My Greek friend

Olives 

Akra Skaros

Typical view at Santorini


Friday, 3 November 2017

Garda lake, Italy

Sirmione and Lake Garda area

When I was younger I thought that living near the sea side would fill fill all my needs; sea, sun and fun.
But growing up, and growing out of disco's, night life and busy streets, I start to value the cozy atmosphere of the lake side.
Garda Lake has always been one of my favourites, and if I would be able to buy a house in a lake side in the northern Italy, I don't think I'd hesitate too long to think of Sirmione.
The location for this city is just perfect.
From Verona airport it takes only 30 to 45 minutes by car to reach anywhere at Sirmione. Same time to Verona and Brescia down town. It takes two hours by car to drive to Milan, to Bologna and to Venice.
And if I like to visit mountains within 1,5 hours I am at Trento.
Sirmione has a mite climate; wine, lemon and olive grows there.
As it is in the south of the lake, the summertime last a bit longer than in the northern part, at Riva del Garda.
I once flew over Sirmione by helicopter and I couldn't believe my eyes as the lake shore has similar colours as the mediterranean sea; turquoise and blue.

The view from our hotel


I visited Sirmione and Garda Lake on June 2017 with two of my old colleagues from The Netherlands. One is my best friend from Serbia, my travel buddy as I would like to call him and the other one a Finnish lady I used to work in one of those diamond "factories" in Amsterdam nearly 25 years ago.

First of all we had an excellent hotel, between Sirmione old town and Colombare, that is the district just before the old town. From our hotel we got a lake view to both sides of the lake. Hotel itself was clean and cozy. Although it was fully booked we never had the feeling that it was noisy or uncomfortable.  It had all the services one would need in a week; swimming pool, private lake side beach, free use of bicycles, umbrellas, canoe, water bikes, beach beds and private parking.
It was easy to leave my car at the parking lot and take bikes to go out for diner.

The day of the arrival we enjoyed the lakeside and the swimming pool.
In the evening we headed to old town for diner.
The next day we had planned a trip to Verona. As we had a plan to enjoy our diner in a fancy restaurant and we wanted to go dressed up, we left later on in the afternoon. Verona down town is not really huge, so walking in the main streets takes only few hours. We visited the famous balcony of Juliet from the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, the riverside and Arena of Verona from ancient Roman empire period.
To eat well at Verona I suggest to go a bit further from the main squares and main streets. But I do totally understand if you feel like sitting in the Arena Square and have the view if you don't mind of the quality of the food. We enjoyed our diner in a small street just behind the Arona Square that offered mainly local farmer products.

At Verona


As one of the most famous and expensive wines in Italy grows in the hills of Valpolicella just north west from Verona, I suggest you to taste it here, in this region. And if your wallet allows, by some of it as a souvenir or to offer to friends when they join you to see your holiday photos.

the river Adige


The day three we wanted to visit first the local market at the area of Lugana in Sirmione and then head to have some lunch at the town near by; Peschiera del Garda. I kind of have feeling with this small town and wanted to show it to my friends. There is a fortress to visit to those that are interested in history and many lovely restaurants next to the canals. We even saw a guy giving gondola tours, just like in Venice.
Peschiera has several amusement parks, such as Gardaland, sea world and many more and offers cheap accommodation with their many campings. And these campings are really good; with swimming pools and supermarkets. I have my favourite hotel near downtown, but unfortunately it is so favourite that I hardly never manage to book a room.
After a lovely lunch we got back in our hotel and enjoyed the sun and the sunset, before heading for a diner to the Old Town of Sirmione.
At this period even thought it was the weekend of public holiday, we had no problems of getting seated in a restaurant.

sunset seen from our hotel beach




At the day four we wanted to visit Salo, that is in the Lombardic side of the lake. Driving there wasn't a good idea; it took nearly two hours to get there. There is ferry service from Sirmione faster than a car. This small town is totally hidden in the bay. Salo is historically important town in northern Italy: During the Mussolini's fascism period Salo became an independent republic.

Salo

15 years ago Salo got hit by an earthquake that is not common in this part of Italy. Not much harm, and no human lives were lost. But I remember it. I woke up in the middle of the night when my bed was shaking; 35 km north of Milan, nearly 200 km away from Salo.
On our way back, after a lovely lunch we stopped in one of those local wineries to fill our "cantina".
In the evening we had diner in a restaurant specialised of food from Puglia, a southern region of Italy. It was the night when Juventus played against Real Madrid and unfortunately lost.
If you think Italians are hooligans and fanatic about soccer, you might be right with the second option. Even thought people who aren't supporters of Juventus, wanted to see this match of such importance. We got lucky by being seated in the restaurant with no advance reservation.

roman ruins

On day 5 we just enjoyed the relaxed morning in the beach and each one of us did what they wanted. My female collegeau headed to visit Sirmione in the morning, while me and my Serbian friend did the same tour in the afternoon. Our hotel offers a really a good breakfast until 10 am and we were not hungry. Besides it was far too warm to eat anything, except ice cream. Italy is famous for it's ice cream; nearly every ice cream bar has it's own laboratory producing their own ice cream. And the variety of different taste is huge.
After a main portion of ice cream that has same amount of calories as a plate of pasta, we visited the old Roman palace at Sirmione.
And because we liked the restaurant of the day before, we had our diner there.





On day 6 we decided to go and visit Venice. On our way we took a drive along the river side of Padova that still has several beautiful old palaces from the period of renaissance.
Once at Venice, we left our car near the railway station and decided to walk instead of taking water bus. This walk needs good shoes and excellent legs and love for walking. We walked nearly 15 km in just 6 hours.
Venice is famous of it´s canals and bridges and it is not possible to drive a car, bike or anything like Harley Davidson out there. My suggestion is to visit Venice once, like we did, just for a day, to get the picture and then come back for 5 days at least to visit museums and art galleries. Unless you are in one of those "once in the life time tour": Take time to visit Venice properly. 


Every second year Venice holds Biennale, an art exhibition that last 6 months. And every year Venice holds a film festival. Famous actors such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt are regular guests at the film festival.
It would be interesting to visit Venice during the carnival period; all dressed up with their typical masks.
Talking about the masks; if you are up to a local hand made mask, a real artisan art work, be ready to pay over €150 each. You may also find cheap "made in china" imitations in every souvenir shop.
Near the Rialto bridge a new luxury shopping centre has risen; one of our ex colleagues work there and we payed a visit to her. This shopping centre is located in an old mansion with a court yard nowadays covered. I found it really interesting that they have left it as much original as possible.
To eat in Venice might turn out frustrating and not necessary as delicate as many tourist might think.
Most restaurants have turned out as "tourist traps" offering low quality, high price and bad service. The main rule is again to avoid main squares and streets; nearly impossible.
Visit to the San Marco Square is always so emotional; How in heavens name such a city have survived so long and with all the difficulties in the past history?

San Marco Square

Once we drove my Serbian friend to the Venice airport from where he headed to an other location, me and my female colleague drove back to hotel. On our way back we had pizza in the area of Lugana, in Sirmione, and went bed early after such an interesting day.

As the day 7 was a rainy day, and it wasn't a good idea to visit cities near by for touristic reason, we visited Desenzano, just 8 km from Sirmione, because it's extended market. When women are travelling be prepared to spend at least one day for shopping only. And this market really offers everything.
With some money I could have bought anything from shoes to household items.
In the afternoon we kept on hoping sunshine and sat under the umbrellas in the beach, but it was only the day after that the sun showed up while we needed to leave back home to Milan. But as women are travelling, we stopped by in an Outlet Village near Lake Iseo. And since we were so close to that lake we had lunch and aperitif there before getting back home for diner.

Aperol Spritz vs Campari Spritz


I wouldn't mind having a small flat at Sirmione. It truly offers just about everything; busy weekends if I'm looking for it and relaxed weekdays. Even in the high touristic season. The temperature is so mite that it is easy to enjoy dining out from late March until early November.
Several shore areas are also dog friendly.
And due to it's bicycle paths, I think I'd just love it out there. 

If you are planning a vacation at Sirmione, feel free to contact me, 
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