Friday 28 November 2008

Chefchaouen - Look at the mountains (Day 4)

The beeping sound of my mobile's alarm woke us up at half past seven. It didn’t seem as early as it should. I guess we were still not completely adapted to Moroccan time (i.e. GMT-1), which in September is two hours ahead of Central European time we are used to in Slovenia (i.e. GMT+1). In Morocco they are on the same time all year around.

From the look through our hotel room window yesterday’s rain seemed just like a distant memory. Our plan was to catch a bus to the town of Chefchaouen. On the way to the CTM bus station we also stopped at the other bus station from where buses were leaving for Asilah. We made an inquiry just in case if the price and time of departure would be right for us. Since the time of departure was not planned for any time soon, we continued to the CTM station where we bought tickets for Chaouen (short for Chefchaouen).

During the bus trip we made a couple of short stops. In Morocco it is usual for the bus driver to pull over every two or three hours of the trip and announce a 20 minute break. Usually the stop is at some kind of a street restaurant and it was always quite obvious that the driver and the owner of the roadside-joint have some kind of agreement.

One such stop was also in Ouezzane – a small town at the southern part of Rif Mountains. The Rif region is known for the largest kif (that’s a local word for marijuana) production in Morocco. You can get the best idea about the extent of the green business in these parts if you count interactions with locals that end up with some kind of a smoking proposal. Well, you may have much less work counting conversations with no hash or kif reference.
In my case I had a firsthand experience with a hashish dealer the moment I stepped off the bus.

I went to buy a bunch of bananas from a fruit market stand at the Ouezzane bus station. There was a local guy standing next to the stand through the short bargaining process. When I was walking back towards the bus, he came after me and started a casual conversation. It didn’t take him more than a couple of sentences to get to the point.

He showed me a fist sized lump of hash and tried to persuade me into buying some. It was a classical “Special price, only for you my friend!” offer. To my surprise I didn’t have to try very hard to shake him off. A firm “Thanks, I don’t smoke.” was enough.

I didn’t know it yet by then, but this was just the first of many similar situations in this region. Fortunately none of them was unpleasant. It was much easier to make a dealer understand I didn’t want to smoke, then to persuade a carpet seller I really didn’t like nor need any carpets and that selling carpets later on Ebay also isn’t my idea of having fun.

After another couple of hours we finally made it to Chefchaouen. It is a relatively small city, surrounded by mountains. Although the bus station is quite far away from the town centre, we decided to walk the distance to the hotel of our choice. Unfortunately it was impossible to see from our LP map that there was quite a steep walk ahead of us. A quarter of an hour and a whole lot of huffing and puffing later, we found ourselves standing outside the medina wall. In the chaos of narrow medina streets we took a wrong turn and wandered away from the hotel we were looking for. Fortunately there were many alternatives everywhere around.

Hotel Ouarzazate was the nearest one. It is a relatively small family-run hotel with shared toilet and shower facilities. Since we were the only guests, that wasn’t a drawback. It looked like the hotel was just renovated and some of the rooms seemed really cute. On top of all those things it was also very cheap. 100 DH for a small (2x2 meters) double room per night - that's less then 10 EUR.

After settling in we went off to explore the town centre and to find some food. It didn’t take us long to realize that we like the atmosphere of this town. We decided over a pan of shrimps and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice that we would stick around for at least three days.


Friday 21 November 2008

Searching for a Dinosaur in Rabat (Day 3)

We woke up into a gloomy, rainy morning. The first one like that in Morocco.
We didn't know it yet, but it was also going to be our first pursuit of a nonexistent attraction from our trusty Lonely Planet Bible.

Originaly our plan was to catch the first bus north to the town of Asilah for a one day photo session. It is supposed to be a picturesque little town by the coast. We decided that we don't want to go there in rain and that this day was just perfect for a slow day.

Asilah is supposed to be a cute little beach town surrounded by some picture-postcard city walls. The weather was the number one reason why we chose to stay in Rabat for another day. Unfortunately this ment skipping Asilah altogether.
If we wanted to complete our trip around Morocco in three weeks, we didn't have much time to spare. One of the things M. and I agreed in the beginning of this trip was that we had no intention of running from one city to another. This time we decided to take it a bit slower instead.

We took our time getting up. By the time we agreed on our itinerary for the day, we were quite hungry. We already found a bakery with loads of delicious things to try ne the previous day but it unfortunately didn't open until midday. One of those Ramadan things, I guess.

After an hour of surfing and email writing later, we went back to the bakery and opted for different salty things. They put it all in a paper box. We decided to enjoy our brunch in the privacy of our hotel room. It seemed a right thing to do with everybody fasting around us.

In the afternoon we decided to visit one of the few museums in Rabat. We decided to check out the Science and nature museum. According to our Lonely Planet guide it was supposed to be tucked away in the Ministry of energy and mining building, somewhere in the administrative part of Ville Nouveau. We chose this particular museum because it houses a huge dinosaur skeleton.

Since we had lots of time to spare, we chose to walk to our destination. Unfortunately the museum itself wasn't marked on our LP map. The only thing marked on the map was a rough direction.
After a couple of hours walking and asking for directions we finally found someone who was kind enough to escort us to our nearby destination. After a 10 minute walk we got to our destination at last. That's what we thought anyway. When our unfortunate guide found out he lead us to a completely wrong destination, he was so embarrassed that he insisted on paying us a petit taxi. The taxi driver finally delivered us to the right destination.

By that time we were not even annoyed with the situation anymore. We were way beyond that phase.

After entering the Ministry of energy and mining building, everything looked more or less deserted. The people were on the Ramadan working hours of course (i.e. much shorter working day). After a couple of minutes we found someone who spoke at least some English, just to learn that we can't take a look at the museum. Not because it was closed but because it was there no more! It was relocated altogether with the giant dinosaur , not just to another nearby location, but to another city a few hundered kilometers away.

We really didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. After a short moment we chose the first option.

I guess a small group of employees that gathered around in the meantime seemed a bit concerned about our mental health, but we couldn't care less. We thanked them and left the building laughing.

Still laughing we found a taxi to our hotel. We really didn't feel like walking back.

This event didn't stop us from spending an interesting evening in the city Medina and relaxing over a pot of fresh mint tea afterwards. We got quite used to that part by now.


Tuesday 4 November 2008

Culture Shock in Morocco (Day 2)

The first night in Morocco went by without anything special. The only thing bugging me was a mosquito, desperately trying to whisper something in my ear.

When we got up, we packed our stuff and walked to the CTM bus station. There are many bus companies operating in Morocco. CTM or Compagnie de Transports au Maroc is one of the better ones. We weren't expecting it but their buses are quite new and well kept. We could easily compare them to European ones.

At the station we bought two tickets and after ten minutes we were already on our way to Rabat. No, that wasn't part of a plan, we were just lucky.

Today Rabat is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. It has been like that since 1912, when French invaders moved the capital from Fes to Rabat. In the new part of the city there are many administrative buildings and foreign embassies. It is quite well kept and like Casablanca relatively hassle free.

That is one of the main reasons why we chose to visit this city in the beginning of our trip. We hoped that this time we would make it without any substantial culture-shock. After all we have been to Egypt only a year ago. Well, nevertheless it hit us.

We were over it in a couple of days, but while in Casablanca and Rabat at some times we felt a bit disoriented and confused. Luckily we didn't have any shopping plans during that time. Generally it is a good idea to save your shopping for the last days in whatever country you are. If you do that you won't have all that stuff to carry around for the rest of the trip and you also have time to figure out what is a good price for that bag of spices/oriental rug/trashy teapot you need so desperately.

When we arrived in Rabat we first had to get to the city center. Five kilometers was a bit far for us so we decided to try local city buses. It turned out to be a very cheap, moderately uncomfortable, quite crowded and dirty option.

We spent the rest of the first day in Rabat wandering around the Medina and admiring Kasbah des Oudaias.

On our way to the Kasbah we were approached several times by locals offering help or priceless advice we didn't really need. We got rid of the vultures quite easily and found our destination without any problems.

Once we got there, we were approached with a local again. He told us that it was not appropriate to walk around the Kasbah during the time of Ramadan. We didn't know whether to believe him or not, but after a bit of hesitation decided to carry on with our wandering around despite his warning.

It turned out to be the right thing to do - there were lots of other people around and the locals didn't seem to bother at all. We couldn't figure out what was that man up to. This thing really got to M. and she was grumbling about it for the rest of the day.

Besides that event we found the Kasbah with it's surroundings very interesting and picturesque.


Tuesday 28 October 2008

Casablanca - City of Contrast (Day 1)

When we arrived to Casablanca we were met by a driver from our first hotel (Oued-Dahab Hotel). Because of the time of arrival we chose to book a room for our first night in advance, preferably with an airport-pickup option.

There are other options to get from Casablanca airport to the city (the most reliable is the train line), but during the night the only one is taking a Grand Taxi. That is just fine, but when you are fresh in an environment like Morocco it is highly unlikely that you would find a ride like that for a reasonable price. Compared to the train price (35 MAD per person), the pickup was rather expensive (250 MAD for both of us). I think Grand Taxi would not come much cheaper, if at all.

Oh, and one more thing. Because booking in advance via email, the hotel even gave us a "Lonely Planet customer" discount.

The hotel itself is centrally located, reasonably cheap, quite basically furnished but clean. For those of you out there who are not traveling on such a tight budget, the same family also runs a bit more expensive hotel in the neighborhood which is supposed to be extra nice for the price. Check out Hotel Guynemer.

When exploring the city of Casablanca it is hard not to notice the extreme contrast. Various parts of the city look completely different.
You can find expensive shops in the city center. Locals walking around are clearly influenced by European style and fashion and a working woman in an European-like business outfit is not an uncommon sight at all.

When we walked from the better kept city center to the Hassan II Mosque, we also passed by some very poor suburbs. Those parts really look like slums. It seems residents mostly have to worry about getting enough food on the table on the day to day basis. Unemployment seems to be a huge problem.

Surprisingly just next to all that poverty stands the famous mosque. Not many mosques around the world are opened to non Muslims. Hassan II Mosque is one of them.

It is a remarkable sight, mostly made of marble and similar expensive materials. The amount of details and sheer size of the structure (it is the third largest mosque in the world) is simply amazing. It is speculated that some $800 million were spent on the project. It is not hard to imagine, why not everyone is happy with that.

It took us quite some time to take a good look at the mosque and its surroundings.

Afterwards we went to the nearby beach, which was quite a disappointment. There were loads of garbage to walk and swim amongst, but locals gathering there didn't seem to mind. We didn't like it much.

Our exploration of Casablanca was influenced heavily by the fact that it was the time of Ramadan (the ninth month of Muslim calendar marked with fasting).

During that month a good Muslim should eat and drink only before sunrise and after sunset. During the daytime nothing should pass his lips. Besides food, that also includes water and cigarette smoke. Not everyone we saw obeyed that last smoky part.

Well, as I was saying this meant that we had to put more effort in finding food. As we found out working hours also change during this time. Most shops, restaurants and offices stayed closed during daytime.

Immediately after sunset everything became alive again. With every hour streets were getting more and more packed with people. Quite a change compared to daytime.

We weren't too impressed with Casablanca, so we decided to move on in the morning.


Tuesday 21 October 2008

Around Morocco in three weeks

It has been more then three weeks now since my last post. In the meantime I was traveling around Morocco with M.

All in all we had a really great time. Of course there were also some gloomy moments, but there was just so much more good stuff. When looking back I usually like to think of those not-so-nice moments as a good story-telling material. A nice sunset usually doesn't make a very interesting story.

As I already mentioned before we were flying to Morocco from Venice, Italy with an Italian low cost airline called My Air. We have never heard of them before, so we didn't really know what to expect. The flight was actually quite uncomfortable (seats in My Air airplanes are obviously so much cramped up together, that even with my 175 centimeters, I had to endure some substantial knee pain), but the tickets were so cheap that it was kind of worth it.

There was no food served during the flight but I don't consider that a drawback. I must be really weird because I don't like crappy plastic sandwiches all that much.

We landed in Casablanca on 27th of September and flew back to Venice on 18th of October 2008.

Anyway besides flying there and back, during last three weeks we were quite busy jumping from one bus to another. Actually we have tried Moroccan buses, trains, 'petit' and 'grand' taxis, but we used buses to get to most of the desired locations.

I have calculated that within Morocco we traveled the distance of approximately 2360 kilometers. The whole trip can be seen on the map above.

In the future posts I intend to post some photos and describe the highlights of our trip.

So hang on tight on a journey through this extremely diverse country of lively medinas, pushy carpet vendors, crazy drivers, cockroaches, crowded buses, sandy beaches, snow-caped mountains and hot desert dunes. Yes, all that and much, much more you can find in Morocco.


Friday 26 September 2008

I am leaving on a jet plane...

...and I know when I'll be back again.

That will be in three weeks time. Morocco here we come!
We are flying later today from Venice (Italy) to Casablanca (Morocco).

You can expect some news shortly after our return. In the meantime I hope you have great time. I know I will...


Wednesday 10 September 2008

Improvised UV photo filter

Has it ever happened to you that you needed a UV photo filter, but it was nowhere to be found? Have you ever thought of some kind of improvisation? Well, I have...

It wasn't like I really needed an UV filter. This idea came more out of boredom then anything else. Yes, some of us can get bored even during a perfect sunset by the sea. I should probably mention that the perfect setting for this little experiment of mine was found on the Croatian island of Lošinj.
I guess I don't need to point out that M. wasn't too excited about this experiment of mine. I am pretty sure most of you have already heard a variation of the "big boys and their expensive toys" monologue.

So what do you think of the first photo? It seems like I found that photo filter after all. And I did - it was sitting on my nose all the time. It is a special photo filter, usually called... sun glasses.

It took me a couple of tries but in the end I was quite pleased with the result.
Try it yourself sometime. I am sure you can come up with some interesting results.


Monday 1 September 2008

The sun and moon on Losinj

Sunset photos can be very romantic, but since we have all seen so many of them, they can easily fall into the boring department.

I hope this almost-sunset photo is not among the boring bunch. I was hoping a sail boat and a pine tree branch would take care of that, but I am not sure whether I succeeded.

If I am not sure about the first one, I definitely like the second photo. It was taken on a ferry trip from mainland to the island of Lošinj. The full moon is reflected on the sea surface. It looks like the photo has been corrected using Photoshop or some similar software but that is not the case. The photo is published just the way it was taken. I guess the strange reflection is a result of the moving ferry and slightly longer exposure.


Tuesday 26 August 2008

Veli Lošinj in sepia

One of the trips we went on, while on the the island of Lošinj, was to the town of Veli Lošinj. It is quite a picturesque little town that just calls for photos. Its center with a little marine is actually quite colorful, but that was not my focus this time.

There were some clouds gathering that afternoon and that's what made these photos interesting. I thought the best way to emphasize those clouds would be with the use of sepia technique. So I took the first photo in sepia.

The second one was taken in colour and converted to sepia afterwards on my computer. The difference between them is easy to spot. I like more the motive and composition of the second photo, but in my opinion the colours are far better on the second.
Maybe it is time to upgrade some of my old software...


Friday 22 August 2008

Camping on the island of Lošinj

One of the benefits of living in Slovenia is that one really has lots of beautiful destinations in the driving range of only a few hours. From Ljubljana you can reach Venice, Hungarian plains, a random Alpine valley or a nearby Adriatic island in under 3 hours. However that is something I hardly ever take advantage of.

This time it was different. We (that's M. and me) decided to visit the Croatian island of Lošinj. We did something similar in the last September so we knew what to expect. I mentioned that trip in this post.

Last week we decided to do a short four day trip. It was well worth the effort. We chose to camp in Camping Čikat, which is probably the most expensive camping on the island but in our opinion you definitely get what you pay for.
Since August is the busiest time of year, we were expecting to find some not so clean toilet and shower facilities. To our surprise almost around the clock there was somebody taking care of cleanliness and everything was as clean as it could be in the given conditions.

I really enjoyed snorkeling in crystal clear water full of fish and watching cormorants do their daily fishing. Apart from that, the island of Lošinj is also famous for its pleasant climate. The scents of pine trees and Adriatic sea are always present in the air. It's an aroma therapy hard to beat!

This time I am posting some photos that don't really capture what we were up to in these four days. I hope you like them anyway.


Tuesday 5 August 2008

Next destination - Morocco

It has finally been decided. The destination of our this year's main vacation will be Morocco. An interesting and incredibly diverse country in North-western Africa.
I reserved airplane tickets just a couple of days ago. M. and I are going there for three weeks this October. This time it is going to be just ourselves and our backpacks - a new experience for us in this part of the world.

I can hardly wait! M. on the other hand isn't completely sure whether to be excited or maybe a bit worried about our plans. The feedback we have been getting from various people who had been to Morocco recently, is not completely positive. She would be happier if we chose an option more similar to our Egyptian Adventure last year. Nevertheless I am still pretty sure we made the right decision to go there and just try to enjoy the diversity of Morocco by ourselves.

We visited the Land of Pharaohs with Oskar Travel Agency. They obviously liked what I posted about the trip, because they have a link to my blog on their main page (unfortunately, their web page is only available in Slovenian).

No matter how nice it was to travel with them, this time we have decided to try such a trip on our own. You can look forward to a bunch of beautiful photos once again.

Borrowed from
So far I have been mostly browsing through the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Forum.
If you know any other useful web sources that could help a backpacker going to Morocco, feel free to share them with me.


Wednesday 30 July 2008

Hiking in the Slovenian region of Primorska

A couple of weekends ago I accompanied M. on a hiking trip to Vremščica. It was a day trip with a choir she sings in. I occasionally tag along for company and not because of my (non existent) singing abilities. It has been a while since I went on such a trip with them. You can read about the last time before this, when I joined them on a trip to the land of Teran and pršut.

Hiking was not the main theme of this trip. Vremscica rises 1027 meters above sea level and is situated in the Slovenian region of Primorska. Even thou it is not very high, it offers a great view of the surrounding area all the way to the Adriatic sea. It is an easy hike to the top. For the lazy ones there is also a road leading almost to the top. One just has to walk the final 20 minutes to the top.

We made quite a few stops on our way to the top. It was because of those extra delicious strawberries growing by the path.

When we reached the top, a singing session followed. A group of random hikers was quite excited about it and rewarded our eager singers with a loud applause.

Before the descent, we also visited a church just under the top of Vremscica. It is still under construction. We were told that a local priest and stone mason (both in one person) has a great part in building the little church. I guess if you know all this, you can not be surprised when you see it is mostly put together from local stone. In fact I couldn't see any other material that would have been used so far.

It is gonna be a cute little church when it is finished.

After another round of singing it was time to descend to a farm run by the Veterinary Faculty. We ate something at a simple inn which was also a part of the farm. They offer only a few dishes (mostly traditional food), but everything was very tasty.

Before we went home we also took advantage of the offer of fresh cottage cheese and some other cheese products. It wasn't very cheap, but really fresh and very good. If I go by there again, I'll definitely stop by and buy a piece of cheese.


Monday 23 June 2008

Rain drops in the garden

You don't need to travel to a far away country to take photos like these. A stroll around your garden or a nearby park will do just fine.

You will have the best chance of taking nice photos if you catch the morning dew, before it vanishes back into the air. Usually also the light is just right at that time of day.

If you are not one of those early birds and have never seen the morning dew before, you might also wait for some rain.
That is just what I did. I waited inside until it stopped raining and then went photo-hunting in the garden. Sun came out from behind a cloud just at the right time.

If you live in a place where you could get really old waiting for rain, you can also use some water to create your own rain. All you have to do is sprinkle it on a leaf and create a perfect composition. I know some photographers do it with spiderwebs and get stunning results. I have to try that someday.

When you find a proper motive, you just need a photo camera with a macro mode (usually marked with a flower) and some patience. I believe anyone can do it.

For the best result I suggest that you take some extra photos. Usually it is hard to see if everything is the way you wanted from your camera display. I suggest you pick out the really sharp photos later on your computer.


Monday 16 June 2008

Cinque Terre trail times information

When planning a hiking trip it is crucial to know how long will it take to reach your destination. That is why hiking distances are usually measured in hours.

Last week I came across a table including most of the paths in the Cinque Terre National Park. Walking times are a big part of it.

Unfortunately this was a bit late for me, because I just got back from the area. Here it is anyway - only for you.

Cinque Terre Hiking Trails




Walking Time

The Cinque Terre Lower Trail from Monterosso to Riomaggiore
2 Monterosso Riomaggiore 5 hr
The Cinque Terre Lower Trail from Monterosso to Riomaggiore
2 Monterosso Vernazza 1 hr 45 min
2 Vernazza Corniglia 1 hr 45 min
2 Corniglia Riomaggiore 1 hr 30 min
The High Trail from Levanto to Portovenere
1 Levanto Portovenere 12 hr
The High Trail from Levanto to Portovenere (part by part)
1 Levanto Colla di Gritta 2 hr 30 min
1 Colla di Gritta Drignana 1 hr 30 min
1 Drignana Cigoletta 2 hr
1 Cigoletta La Croce 1 hr 45 min
1 La Croce Telegrafo 1 hr 15 min
1 Telegrafo Portovenere 3 hr
Trails Up from the Cinque Terre Towns
9 Monterosso Soviore 1 hr 30 min
17 Soviore P.So Bardelone 2 hr
7 Vernazza Ricco D. Golfo 3 hr 30 min
8 Vernazza Drignana 1 hr 30 min
Trails from Levanto
1 and 10 Levanto Monterosso 2 hr
14 Levanto Colla D. Bagari 1 hr 30 min
19 Levanto Foce di Lavaggio 2 hr
21 Levanto Foce di Montale 2 hr 15 min
18 Levanto P.So Bardelone 2 hr
12 Levanto Colla di Gritta 1 hr 15 min

You can find the original table on the Slow Travel web page.

We were sad to leave the place without trying out at least a couple more of the tempting paths. We had to head back home at least a few days too early. Maybe next time...

If you liked this post and are interested in more information on our trip, please click on this link or on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.


Monday 9 June 2008

What food to try when in Cinque Terre?

When in Italy you most definitely have to try the local cuisine as often as possible. I suggest you stay away from hamburgers and French fries while around. If you just can't get along without at least some kind of junk food, I'm pretty sure you can find some local supplement.

Pizza and various pasta dishes can be found all over Italy, but every region has also something special to offer. Liguria is no different (Cinque Terre National Park is situated in the Liguria region).

Best known dishes throughout the region of Liguria are pansoti, trofie, pesto, frisceu, focaccia with cheese and farinata.
Considering the region has lots of coast, sea-food is also very popular. One can find almost any kind of sea dish here: mussels, crab and lobster, tuna, anchovies and many other sorts of fish.
There is also a variety of wine produced there (mostly various dry whites).

M. and I both love Italian food, but this time we were not very successful in finding and tasting many of the dishes mentioned above. There are just so many things to do and always so little time. Budget can also be an important issue - good food is never cheap.

Despite all that, we did try some of the local specialties. One of those is (as I already mentioned in one of my earlier posts) freshly made pesto sauce.

Another simple dish also caught our attention. It was Focaccia con le olive - delicious salty bread with olives (you can see some leftovers on the first photo). We also stopped at a local enoteca for a couple glasses of local wine. It wasn't cheap, but we really enjoyed the wine and relaxed atmosphere. We sat there for quite a while and watched people walking by.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information on our trip, please click on this link or on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.


Monday 2 June 2008

A hike from Vernazza to Monterosso

Before we knew it, our last day reserved for hiking in the Cinque Terre National Park came along.

At the beginning of our trip we were a bit sceptical about the amount of time we had planned. I guess most tourists make a one day trip to the area. I have to say we weren't bored for a single moment during our four day stay and could easily spend another couple of days there.

The plan for this day was to visit the last two towns of Cinque Terre. We liked our experience the day before, so this time we had a similar plan - hiking up and down less crowded paths.

We started with a train to Vernazza where we concluded our last hike. First we visited a church in the center of the town and slowly headed uphill towards the sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio, following the path number 8. After 15 minutes or so we reached a place with a really fine view of Vernazza.

Also a strange "vehicle" caught my attention. It was some kind of a cart mounted to a single rail. The whole thing seemed more like a roller-coaster to me but had some kind of a transport trailer attached to it. The rail went around the corner of a really steep slope, so I guess riding it has to be quite an interesting experience.

After enjoying the view for a while, we went on our way. The path was relatively steep and M. was occasionally complaining (she likes hiking, but only until the path doesn't get too steep).

In an hour or so we reached the sanctuary, where we were able to freshen up by an old fountain. There were quite a few people around - it seemed that this place was quite a popular destination.

We didn't stick around for a long time. Soon we moved on towards our destination of the day. First we took a road uphill, but soon found a path which lead us to Santuario della Madonna di Soviore.

From there it was just a 45 minute descent to the town of Monterosso down the path number 9.

When we were nearing Monterosso it didn't seem very similar to the other four towns.
We headed straight to the sandy beach and into the sea. Only knee deep, but it was enough (Tyrrhenian Sea is still cold in the beginning of May). It was quite amusing to watch some trying-to-look-tough guys jumping in and then screaming and crying like babies. To me this seemed just so typical for a group of Italian guys.

When we got bored of sitting by the sea, we decided to look for the train station and check the timetable.
At first we couldn't find the station but signs eventually led us to a underground passageway leading to the other side of the hill. It was quite a surprise to find the other half of the city of Monterosso. And it was the nicer half. This inevitably postponed our departure.

In spite of that I still think Monterosso is the most commercial of the 5 towns. It is easily accessible with a vehicle and I would also say it has more hotels then the other four. Besides that it has a long stretch of sandy beach, which I guess is a people magnet by itself.

An hour and a half and an ice-cream later we finally caught a train to Levanto.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information about our trip, you are welcome to click on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.


Monday 26 May 2008

Corniglia - San Bernardino - Vernazza

Since we weren't too excited about the path we chose on the day before, M. and I were hoping for a bit less crowded hike from Corniglia to Vernazza.

Once again we started our day in Levanto, from where we took a train to Corniglia. This time it took us a bit longer then expected. The train was packed and there literally wasn't enough place to squeeze ourselves in. We weren't the only ones with such a problem and some of the people were getting really pissed. I felt sorry for the railroad workers, because most of the anger was directed their way.

After a while another train showed up and everything was well again. Although it was an InterCity train, we didn't have to pay for the ride (Cinque Terre Train Card normally doesn't cover first class trains and fast trains, but this was a special occasion). The train even made a few extra stops.

Once we got off the train at the Corniglia train station, we first had to make a climb to the town (it sits high on a hill above the station). Our Cinque Terre Train Card also included a mini bus ride from the station to Corniglia.
Despite that, we didn't feel like waiting for the bus. Fifteen minutes and some huffin' and puffin' later we arrived to the town just at the same time as the bus from the train station.

We checked out the town with its spectacular views and bought some goat cheese for the way.

After that we were on our way further uphill. With every step the view of Vernazza kept getting better and better.
Our aim for the day was getting to the town of Vernazza but first we decided to make a stop at the little village of San Bernardino. It is situated roughly half way between Corniglia and Vernazza, but a bit higher up on the top of one of the surrounding hills. We followed the paths 7/b and 7/d to S. Bernardino and number 7 from there to Vernazza.

We walked slowly and stopped quite often to take photos. Despite that it took us only 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach San Bernardino and 1 hour and a half to get from there to Vernazza.

We took time for a light meal when in S. Bernardino. Sitting on a bench next to the church and enjoying some prosciutto crudo with formaggio caprino (that's Italian for salted raw ham and goat cheese) we bought before. Delicious!

After finishing our meal, we made a stop at a cafe just around the corner. We ordered two glasses of local white wine and got some potato chips and olives with it. It all went together real well and was an excellent alternative to our missing dessert.

While sitting in front of the cafe, we noticed they also offer accommodation, but we didn't inquire about the price.

The following descent to Vernazza once again offered spectacular views calling for many photo stops.
When finally in Vernazza we thought of climbing the tower overlooking the town. We found out there is an entrance fee and decided to rather just cool off by the see and watch waves splashing on the rocks. After all it was hard to expect the tower view would top what we saw earlier.

A train ride back to Levanto and a 10 minute walk to Acqua Dolce camping was all it was left for us to do this day. We had more hiking planned for the next day, so it was soon time to call it a day and turn in for the night.

If you liked this post and are interested in more information on our trip, please click on this link or on the Cinque Terre label in the right frame.

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