Turkish Delights including tips for travelling with elderly

28 10 2019

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “if the world was a country, Istanbul would be its capital”. The capital of Turkey, Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two continents. The ancient, culturally rich city has a rather unique “traditional eastern feel” coupled with a “modern western vibe”. It is hard to describe unless you experience it yourself.

Being a fan of Dan Brown’s novels, I was fascinated by Istanbul after watching the Inferno movie many years back but held back on the trip due to safety concerns after the Istanbul bombing. After so many years, I have finally mustered the courage to venture into this amazing country and I can say that I am blown away by the hospitality and friendliness of the Turkish. I have met wonderful locals including taxi drivers who despite language barriers, helped me navigate around the country and even gave me free rides when I am lost. So net, if you follow the typical “street smart rules” as you normally would in any country, you will quickly see that safety is a non-issue.

Unlike most of my travels, this trip has been more challenging as I was bring my elderly parents who may have some mobility challenges with me. Most on the information online on Turkey seems to cater to the younger (and physical active) travellers. As I can’t seem to find many information for travels with elderly who have mobility challenges, I will share some tips in this blog.

 

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Istanbul

The historic sites are all located in the Sultanahmet neighbourhood within easy walking distance (most sights can be reached within 5-10 minutes from each other). The Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful and historical monuments that catered to both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. To me, this place is a symbol of religious harmony, with both symbols of Christianity and Islam show on the wall due to its history as an Orthodox Cathedral which was later converted into a mosque.

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Opposite to the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque, one of the most photogenic building and an important site in the Muslim world. The mosque is lined with over 20,000 blue iznik ceramic tiles and thus its name.

The Istanbul Hippodrome with the famous Egyptian obelisk sits between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

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For fans of Inferno, you will remember the sunken palace of Basilica Cistern where the bomb was hidden. This is located 5 minutes away from the Hippodrome. Maybe because of the movie, I find the sunken palace quite interesting. Do look out for the Medusa face at the end of the palace, but be warn, you may be turned into stone if you looked into her eyes lol.

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Topkapi Palace where many Ottoman Sultans resided for over 400 years is also not far away and a must-see.

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The Egyptian Market and the Grand Bazaar are interesting markets to visit to buy some local food and souvenirs. Do note that the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays.

I will also strongly recommend taking the Bosphorus Ferry that sails along the Bosphorus which connects the Sea of Maramara to the Black Sea, separating Europe and Asia.

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Cappadocia

Many people will say that Cappadocia is on their bucket list and it is not hard to see why once I landed in Cappadocia. Though I have been to a modest number of countries with varying landscape and cultures, I have never seen a place with similar landscape like Cappadocia. Known for the whimsical fairy chimneys and peculiar rock formations, I feel as if I am on another planet.

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My hotel overlooks the Uchisar Castle which sits on the highest point in Cappadocia, offering great panoramic view.

Goreme is just around 10 minutes drive away from Uchisar. The Goreme Open Air Museum is a must see with churches carved into the caves.

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It is good to stop by the Love Valley, Pigeon Valley, Monks Valley for awesome views. If you love hiking, you can also go for a little hike in your of the valleys. The Imagination Valley (or Devrent Valley) is also quite interesting with rock formation taking the shapes of camels, lions, etc.

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I have read mixed reviews on underground cities, with many saying that there is nothing much to see in there. However, I really enjoyed my visit to Kaymakli underground city. I am always interested in history and love to see how people live in the challenging old times. So it is really fascinating to see people back in ancient times with no modern technology can build such an amazing underground city. As I roamed the underground city, crawling at various points through the tight tunnels and alleys, my imagination ran wild on how Christians in the early centuries were staying in such to hide from the Roman Empire and the Arabs. A word of caution though – this place is not for those who have mobility challenges as you may need to bend (and possibly crawl a little at some tight spots depending on how tall you are). There is also another popular underground city, Derinkuyu so you can pick either one.

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If you do get a chance to visit Cappadocia, I will strongly recommend taking the hot air balloon ride. The price is totally worth it and you will take with you an unforgettable experience. I am pretty lucky that I managed to ride on my first day in Cappadocia and got a really great hot air balloon pilot who managed to “chase the wind” and give us wonderful views of this amazing land with beautiful sunrise. Do note that you will need to climb into the basket of the hot air balloon which may be challenging for those who may have mobility challenges. If that’s the case, an alternative to hot air balloon is to view the balloons from the cave hotels in Uchisar or Groeme which also offer very nice views.

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As I only had a week in Turkey, I only managed to visit Istanbul and Cappadocia. There are many other nice places in Turkey such as Ephesus with its well-preserved ancient Greek city and Pamukkale’s Cotton Castle which you can consider visiting if you have enough time.

 

Tips:

  1. For international arrival/flight: The immigration at Istanbul Airport typically has a long queue (line) and takes around an hour or more to clear. If you are travelling on business class or have star alliance gold status, you can take the “fast track” to avoid the long queue. Your airlines will typically give you a fast track pass or it will be printed on your boarding pass.
  2. For domestic flight out from Istanbul Airport: Check-in for business class and star alliance gold is in the domestic VIP lounge and not at the counter. From the lounge, there will be special bus to take you to the boarding gate. However, do note that star alliance gold member can only bring one guest and the other guests will need to pay. So if you are travelling in a group and do not want me to pay for that lounge access for the “extra guest”, you may want to consider whether to just check-in at the economy counter. I am not sure if this would change with the new airport (I only flew out on an international flight from the new airport).
  3. Dress code: Even though the majority of Turkish are muslims, there is no need to wear a hijab or cover up except when you visit the mosque. However, for ladies particularly solo female travellers, it best to dress more conservatively to avoid unwanted attention. If you find the local men overly too friendly, just ignore them and they will soon leave you alone.
  4. Travelling around Istanbul: If you stay in the old town area, all the sights are within walking distance. If you are lazy to walk, taxis are readily available and are not expensive. Alternatively, you can take the metro and buses. Despite all the online comments on the safety of the taxis, I would say that I had very good experience with all the taxis that I took and it is safe. Make sure that they start the meter (you will be able to see the meter in the rear mirror) and you will be fine. Language may be an issue so what I did is to show the driver the name and address of the destination that you want to go. Price wise, taxi is not expensive in Istanbul so if you have 2 or more people, it may be more comfortable and efficient to just take a cab. Also, if you are travelling with the elderly, I will suggest taking a taxi to Hagia Sophia (which is on slightly higher grounds) and then walking from there to the other sites (either flat or downslope).
  5. Getting to Cappadocia: The most efficient way is to fly. It is a short flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia versus a 10 hours bus ride. Most flights go to Kayseri airport which is an hour plus from Cappadocia. Nevsehir airport is slightly nearer (around 40 minutes). I will recommend that you book the hotel transfer as it can be challenging to get a taxi.
  6. Getting around Cappadocia: I will recommend booking a car with driver who can then drive you to all the places that you will like to visit and you can customise your itinerary and the time that you will like to spend at each site. If you have 3 or more people, the cost is about the same as joining the group day tour. If you are travelling with elderly, this is also the best way to move around Cappadocia as the tours have fixed itineraries, some of which require trekking/hiking which may not be suitable for elder folks.

 

Place to stay:

  1. Istanbul: I have broken up my stay in 2 parts – one in the old town Sultanahmet (Double Tree) and the other in the new town near to Taksim Square (Grand Hyatt). This gives me easy access to sights around the region.
  2. Cappadocia: I will recommend a stay in the cave hotel or the fairy chimney. Most visitors choose to stay in Goreme given that it has almost everything. However, if you prefer a place that is a little quieter, I will recommend Uchisar which offers great view given that it is on top of the hill. I stayed at Hermes Cave Hotel that overlooks the Uchisar Castle and I must say that though the room is simple (but comfortable), the view is amazing!

 

Food:

There are a lot of online blogs and also on trip advisor on the recommended restaurants so I will not share the details here. I will just like to highlight some of the interesting food that you should try (and watch-out).

a) In Istanbul, you need to try the fish sandwich (Balik Ekmek) on the fish boat. There are 3 fish boats parked side by side bordering Golden Horn and Bosphorous (along the water front near to the Egyptian Market). The 3 boats served the same type of sandwich. I tried the first boat (picture below) though I see more people at the middle boat. The taste is good. One watch-out though is that the fish has lots of bones so be careful when you eat it (it can get a little messy).

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b) In Cappadocia, you need to try the pottery kebab. Though you can find this in other parts of Turkey, the best is made in Cappadocia. Restaurants that serve authentic pottery kebabs require at least 4 hours notice before you arrive so it’s best to call in advance to make your reservation. My cave hotel recommended Dibek which is a restaurant in a cave in Goreme city center. Apparently, the cave building is 475 year old and you seat on the floor (Turkish style) to dine. Lovely experience and the food is yummy!

 

c) Throughout Turkey, do try the kebab (mainly either chicken or beef). They are cheap and good.

 





Porto – The land of Port wine

7 01 2018

I love port wine. So since I was already in Lisbon, it will be a shame if I don’t pay a visit to the home of port wine, Porto. Well known for its wine, beautiful Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and yummy seafood, the second largest city in Portugal is well underrated and overshadowed by Lisbon. Given that there is much less tourists here versus Lisbon, Porto emits a more laid-back feel. The colourful city is split by river Douro (translated as the “river of gold”) with many nice bridges spanning across the river, the most picturesque being Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge (or in short Ponte bridge).

The city’s old town lies in the Ribeira district which is a world heritage site. The narrow winding cobblestone streets and churches somehow creates an old-world feel to this city.

The city’s Sé cathedral with its 12th century Gothic rose windows is a must-see. A visit to the famous book shop Livraria Lello Porto which is one of the world’s most beautiful bookstore will not disappoint. For Harry Potter’s fan, this bookstore used to play host to JK Rowling who once taught English in Porto. The São Francisco Church is also another impressive church to visit. Though the exterior may not look astonishing, the lavish design inside this Baroque and Gothic-style church where almost every inch is covered in gold will make you go wow!

For shoppers, Santa Caterina will be your heaven. Just make sure you spare some time for sightseeing and also head to the nearby cafes for the yummy Pastéis de Nata (custard tart) for your in-between shopping breaks 🙂

Tips:

1) For wine lovers, cross Ponte bridge to get to the south bank to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia to visit the famous port cellars.

2) Some spectacular views of the city can be seen from the Ponte bridge and also from the top of the hill (behind the cathedral) where you can catch a nice shot of the river, south bank and the Ponte bridge.

3) Porto can be reached by air and also via a fast train from Lisbon. You can refer to my Lisbon blog here for details.





Lisbon the city of hills

6 01 2018

I love cakes and pastries and one of my favourite is the Portuguese egg tarts. I always wonder if the Portuguese egg tarts that we have in Asia are indeed those that one will find in Portugal. Coupled with my love for port wine and the desire to see the iconic yellow trams, I decided to pay a visit to this western most country on continental Europe. Well, a “simple reason” to make a trip to the capital of Portugal lol.

It is hard not to fall in love with this hilly city. Yellow trams snaking up steep streets, black and white cobblestones, beautiful monuments, and of course the wonderful custard cakes Pastel de nata and many more, you will surely find something that you like in this city.

The first thing I did was to rush down to Torre de Belem (Tower of Belem), one of Lisbon’s iconic sight. This UNESCO World Heritage site was built in early 1500s and was once a fortification to guard Lisbon and the mouth of River Tagus. Looking at this beautiful tower, I can imagine how the Portuguese sailors felt back in the 16th century when they saw this tower, their first sight when they sailed home.

From the Belem Tower, you can see a bridge looking similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge spanning across River Tejo. This is Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge which commemorates the revolution of Portugal from the Salazar regime on 24 April 1974.

Across the river stands the statute of Christ Cristo Rei with his arms raised similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio Brazil. This is another Lisbon’s most iconic monuments and was built in reverence for Portugal avoiding the horrors of WW2.

Walking around the city central, you will not miss Arco da Rua Augusta, a beautiful arch at the open square of Praça do Comércio. A short walk away from the arch is the square of Rossio, paved beautifully with black and white cobblestones and has a column with a statue of Dom Pedro IV, the first emperor of Brazil. Walk further and you will reach Praça dos Restauradores and the obelisk, a monument to commemorate Portugal’s liberation from Spain. Here, you can get a good view of how Castelo se São Jorge and see how hilly Lisbon really is. For the singles looking for a partner, the statue of Saint Anthony in front of the Igreja Santo Antonio May well be of help to you. Apparently, if you can throw and land a coin on the book of Saint Anthony, your wish will come true. Let me know if this works for you!

I love the old Alfama district with its labyrinth of narrow streets that climb the hill from the Tejo estuary up to the castle, many nice cafes, boutique shops and small bars.

For me, the best way to wrap up the trip apart from sightseeing is shopping! Well most girls like shopping isn’t it? 🙂 Avenida da Liberdade, the Champs Elysee of Lisbon, is the place to go where you can literally shop till you drop (or broke lol). The closest metro station is Avenida which is 5 to 10 minutes away.

Other nice sites to visit are the Jeronimos monastery, the majestic Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of Saint George) which was the ancient seat of power for over 400 years, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the Sé de Lisboa Cathedral and many more.

One last thing, I did my countdown and welcome a new year in this city with lovely fireworks!

Side trips from Lisbon

(1) Sintra:

Sintra, which used to be a summer retreat for the Portuguese nobility, is now the most popular day trip from Lisbon. Extravagant palaces, grand residences, lush forests set amidst the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra makes this town super charming. Sintra is connected to Lisbon by an inexpensive train service that departs from Rossio train station in central Baixa. The journey takes around 45 minutes. Thereafter, you can take Sintra 434 tourist bus from the train station to the town centre, Pena Palace and Moors Castle.

The historic center of Sintra with its cobbled streets and traditionally painted buildings and the Gothic-Renaissance styled Palacio Nacional de Sintra are must-see if you visit Sintra. Of course, don’t miss out the ruins of the Moors Castle constricted in the 9th Century by the Moors to protect the fertile lands of Sintra (though it was unable to defend against the Christian crusades) and the nearby Pena Palace designed by King Fernando II. You can also hike up to the Cruz Alta (530m), the highest point in the Serra de Sintra and will get to see wonderful views over the Pena Palace.

(2) Cabo da Roca

We all like to visit the “far-most point” and the westernmost point of continental Europe is one of the breathtaking site to visit. The high steep cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean with strong winds and crashing waves will let you see (and feel) the dramatic forces of nature. Cabo da Roca can be reached by bus number 403 from Sintra and takes around 40 minutes though the timing is not regular so you will need to check the timetable. A better alternative (though more expensive) is to either drive or take a taxi.

(3) Devil’s Mouth and nearby Cascais

The Devil’s Mouth (Boca do Inferno) near Cascais provides an unobtrusive point along the coast. The nearby charming town of Cascais,a fisherman town, is also worth a stop. Cascais is easily accessible by train from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre train station and the journey takes around 40 minutes. From there, you can take the taxi to Devil’s Mouth or rent a bicycle and cycle there.

(5) Porto: Fancy some port wine? The city of Porto is just a train ride away. Check out my blog on Porto here!

Tips:

1) Getting to/from airport: The more cost efficient way is to take the aerobus. There’s also metro available though the aerobus is more hassle-free. Again if you have 4 people, you may want to take the taxi which is around 15 euros.

2) Given that this is a hilly city, it also provides many nice viewpoints for you to snap wonderful photos. Some nice viewpoints include the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Miradouro de Santa Catarina, the roof tops of the Alfama district.

3) If you can not navigate around the hilly city, there are trishaws which can take you around.

Food:

1) Do try out the Portuguese egg tarts. They are delicious. Almost every shop I tried are pretty good.

2) I love the Portuguese seafood rice. Around Alfama area has some nice family run cafes. I went to the first one (can’t remember the name though) and the food is good!

3) If you ever go to Sintra, there are many nice residents in this charming town. If you like a traditional Portuguese restaurant, do head to Restaurant Curral dos Caprinos which is one of the locals favourite. This is 10 minutes away from the town center but well worth the effort to visit.





Seville – Lonely Planet’s #1 city to visit next year

22 12 2017

I have heard so much about Seville and how beautiful this city is. I am blessed with wonderful weather during my stay in this awesome city that makes me LOVE this place even more.

The streets were lined with orange trees or more accurately during my visit, the oranges fell onto the roads creating yet another beautiful sight. The old town is lovely with the plazas full of horse-drawn carriages, transporting one (including me) back in time to fairy tale land.

I was quite surprised when I was told that Seville (or Sevilla as called by the Spanish) is the fourth largest city in Spain. The sights are all closely gathered in the old city which misled one to think that Seville is a small little town.

The most famous landmark in the city is Real Alcázar which was the palace to a couple of Spanish monarchs in the past. The Alcázar used to be a fort for the governors of Seville in the eighth century but was subsequently converted to a palace by the subsequent rulers which resulted in a beautiful mix of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. If you are a Game of Thrones fan or have watched Lawrence of Arabia, you will find this place familiar as it was used to shoot some parts of the shows. Apparently, the royal family still use the upper floors when they are in Seville so keep a look out for them if you do visit.

Near the Real Alcázar is the Cathedral which you surely won’t miss with its impressive architecture. The Cathedral was built in the 15th century and is the third largest church in the world. I love to read stories about Christopher Columbus and thus was thrilled to know that Christopher Columbus remains rest in the Cathedral.

Take time to wander through the cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz quarter and along the band of the lovely river. Other nice sites to visit are the lovely gardens in Casa Pilatos.

I especially love Plaza De Espana with the beautiful buildings and tiles. Visit there during the late afternoon as the afternoon sun shining on the plaza gives it a nice colour.

Tips:

– Seville is the home of the flamenco shows so don’t miss it.

– I enjoyed the bull ring tour at Plaza de Toros which is extremely interesting and informative. The tour is free from 3pm onwards but you need to arrive early to queue for the free ticket which they only start to give out at 3pm.

– See my blog on Madrid and Barcelona for add-on to your Seville trip.

Food:

1) Carrillada de Cerdo: This is one of the most traditional pork cheek stew. One word – delicioso!

2) Serranito de Lomo: This is THE sandwich that you need to have in Seville. The seared pork loin (there’s a chicken version now) is topped with Serano ham and grilled green pepper is the signature sandwich of the city.

3) Cola de Toro: Well we heard from the bullring tour that when the bull is killed, its meat is then sold to restaurants to turn them into delicacies, one such is Cola de Toru (bull tail). I am not so sure if there are so many bull meat though and this may well be oxtail. But regardless this tapas is lovely. Sorry bull.

4) Torrijas: This bread dipped in eggs, deep fried to goodness and covered with sugar syrup, sweetened milk or honey is a must have desert. Ask if they can serve this with some ice cream which makes this already tasty desert even more heavenly.





Madrid in a day

21 12 2017

I must say my initial plan to stop by Madrid was not so much because I want to see the city but because Spain is the cheapest place to catch a flight to Morocco. I have been to Spain previously though it is limited to Barcelona and its surroundings. I mean when one thinks of Spain, the most popular city that pops up is Barcelona isn’t it? Ok this blog isn’t about Barcelona so if you are interested, you can read more in my separate blog https://thecarefreetraveller.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/barcelona/

Now talking about Madrid, the first thing that came to my mind is its football (soccer) team and of course many of my Spanish friends are from this city. I have not really researched on this city before I came as it was more of a “stopover” destination. Well I am pleasantly surprised that this city has so much more to offer than what the ignorant me has thought. Below is what I managed to cover in one full day and I surely need to go back again!

The Parque del Retiro is Madrid’s main park with the famous Crystal Palace (completely made out of glass) is a beautiful place to stroll around.

From there, you can walk to Calle de Alcalá and the Alcalá Gate, the stunning Plaza de Cibeles and Puerta del Sol, the city’s best-known square.

Plaza Mayor is another famous site. This plaza once used to have bullfights, tournaments, markets and even (scary) executions!

Another must see is the Royal palace. Though it’s the official residence of the royal family, they don’t live here and it is only used for state functions. Across from the palace is Madrid Cathedral where official state ceremonies are held. Though this may not be the nicest cathedral in terms of look, it is one of the nicest place to view Madrid’s skyline.

For those bullfighting lovers, make sure you visit the Plaza de Toros which is the home of bullfighting in Spain and arguably the world. The building is beautiful so even if you can’t get tickets to the show, it is worth a visit to see the building.

If you have the time, Casa del Campo park which has an amusement park and zoo and the Parque del Oeste where an Egyptian temple (the Temple of Debod) can be found are interesting places to visit. Too bad time does not permit me to visit these places. Next time!

Tips:

⁃ Travelling to/from the airport: There are four modes of transport – Metro, train, bus or taxi – each takes around 30–40 minutes with taxi being the fastest (and most expensive). You can ask the information counter at the airport on which mode of transport is most convenient for you to reach your hotel. If you have 4 people, the taxi may add up to a very reasonable cost for each and save you the hassle.

⁃ Central Madrid is very walkable but please wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking a lot. If you find it too tiring or is travelling a little further, the metro is a cheap, convenient and fast way to navigate around the city. They sell single tickets, a set of 10 tickets (which is cheaper) and tourist pass. Map out your route to determine how many times you are going to take the metro and you can do your sums on what works best.

⁃ If you are in Madrid on a Sunday, head to the El Rastro flea market along the streets between Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Toledo.

Barcelona and Seville are good extensions to your Madrid trip which I have separately blog.

Food:

– Do try the local speciality of Chocolate Con Churros. This is essentially long churros served with a big cup of melted chocolate which spells YUMMY!

– I am a paella and Sangria fan so Spain is a food heaven to me. The second photo is taken from the restaurant opposite the Central train station (just beside McDonalds) but I can’t remember which restaurant I had fo the first photo. Anyway I must say most of the restaurants that I stepped into are pretty good. Well it is Spain after all!





St Peterburg: Chasing my USSR dreams

29 01 2017

Though not a fan of cruises for fear of getting seasick, I mustered my courage to go on an overnight cruise from Helsinki to St Petersburg when I found out that this is the only way to travel to Russia without a Visa. As a kid, I used to stare for a long while at the Soviet Union covering a large part on the world map. Stories of Stalin, the Cold War and the KGB always never fail to fascinate me. Hollywood added my curiousity of USSR (and submarines) with movies like The Hunt for the Red October and Crimson Tide. So no words can describe my excitement when I boarded Viking Cruise to sail across the Baltic Sea to St Petersburg. 

The cruise was a little choppy but manageable. Thankfully I was not seasick. But I did get a scare of my life late at night when I was woken up by loud crashing sound as if the ship hit some hard objects. When I drew open the curtains and saw that the sea was frozen and sea ice was floating all around, the first silly thought that came to my mind was Titanic lol. I almost freaked out and thought that the ship was going down. Then I recalled that this ship has ice breaking ability and managed to composed myself to remain calm. Hilarious haha 🙂

The last leg of the journey as the ship cruise into St Petersburg was nothing short of spectacular as the ship broke its way through the wholly frozen sea to the port with snow falling. Of all the cities that I visited, I would say that St Petersburg is one of my favourite. I love the Hermitage Palace and its collections, the colourful churches including the famous Cathedral of the Holy Saviour on blood, Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Issac’s Cathedral and many more. Even the metro stations with elaborated decorations which double up as bomb shelters during wartime are landmarks themselves. 

Given that the Visa free entry is only valid for 72 hours, it is a pity that I can’t spend more time in Hermitage Palace as well as visit Moscow. For my next trip, I will get the visa and spend a good amount of time there.

Tips:

– Cruise from Helsinki or Estonia to St Petersburg will get you to Russia Visa free for 72 hours.  See my blog on Finland and Estonia.

– Do try the local Russian pancake. There is a local fast food chain Teremok which serves cheap and yummy Russian pancakes. 


– Take a ride on the metro. Each stations are decorated differently and to me they are an open art museum.


– Walk around the city. You will be amazed that even non-touristy sites have also interesting architecture.


– Don’t shun away from Russian winter. There are not many places in the world where you can see frozen sea and rivers. 





I finally made it to Stockholm!

27 12 2016


Whenever I met up with a friend, she will keep rattling about how beautiful Stockholm is. Well not just her, many travellers to this city have all crowned this city as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. So when I visited Norway, I intended to make a side trip from Oslo to Stockholm but regretfully, I didn’t manage to find time from my tight itinerary. So a year later when I was planning a Nordic trip, I deliberately put Stockholm as one of my must see destination.

I was glad I did. The city is indeed beautiful, set on hundreds of islands in a lagoon. In the old town, one can find beautiful architecture with yellow buildings and cobblestones streets. Want to understand more on the Swedish history and culture? There are plentiful museums such as Vasa museum and Skansen. I particularly love the Skansen (Open Air Museum) which showcase various Swedish buildings across different periods and is a good place to understand Swedish culture and of course take nice photos. Or why not just take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront and the Old Town (Gamla Stan) where sights such as The Royal Palace,The Parliament House, Gustaf Adolf’s square, King’s Garfen, etc?



Food wise, Sweden is not all about Swedish meatballs. In fact, the locals laughed that Swedish meatball is the invention of a furniture shop (aka IKEA) and not their national cuisine. So what is Sweden national cuisine? Nothing specific but the country does have plentiful seafood so seafood stew and mussels are my top favourite.



Tips:

– Take flybus to Central station which is a lot cheaper than the express train. Savings in terms of time via express train is around 25 minutes but price is almost double.

– There is a changing of guards at the Royal Palace daily at around 12pm. You can check with the hotel concierge for the exact timing as the timing differs depending on the season.

– Sweden uses Swedish Kroner. However, you do not need to change to any local currency as credit card can be accepted almost everywhere even if you are making a small purchase. For public transport (eg bus and tram), just buy the tickets from the ticket machine which accepts credit card.

– For hotel, I was staying at Radisson Blu near the bus/train station. A very decent hotel in a good and continent location.