Wednesday 27 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Caterpillar close-up


Monday 25 October 2010

Souvenirs from Sardinia

Frankly I don't care much about typical souvenirs. I think of them as dust collectors, because that is more or less all they are good for.

That is why I usually don't bring anything from my trips. However even with that kind of an attitude I sometimes find useful items that just have to come home with me.
Actually there are quite a few useful things I could recommend from Sardinia.

If you have a wall to hang wooden masks on, there are some interesting examples available from Sardinia. If you look around, you can get good prices for handmade goods of good quality.

If you like coral jewelry, Sardinia is a place where you can get a good selection of quality items for reasonable prices. From the places we visited on Sardinia, Alghero seemed the best for buying such items. One can choose from numerous shops in narrow streets of this medieval city. Some of them offer really interesting pieces of coral craft work, necklaces and earrings being the most popular of many.

The choice of various food products worth considering is really great. One can choose from a variety of pasta products, cheeses, wines and many more. I recommend looking for local wineries where you can try various sorts of wine. Also ask for Moscato - a strong liqueur-like dessert wine. They classify it as vino liquoroso.
The best place to buy local cheese is where they produce it. Look for sings advertising formaggi sardi or formaggi vendita when you drive on one of many inland winding road. Among various kinds I liked pecorino (sheep cheese) and caprino (goat cheese) best.
I should probably point out it can be a bit of a challenge to transport cheese in summer months since it should be stored at around 10 degrees Celsius.
As an alternative there are also many tasty dried meats you can choose from (Salsiccia is just one of them). Visit one of many agriturismi (tourist farms) to try and buy the real stuff.

An ideal item for transportation is Sardinian flat-bread. There are many varieties of it - Panne Guttiau and Pane Carasau being just two of them.

Apart from all these things you have to pay for, there are also some souvenirs, you can get for free. For instance, with a dash of inventiveness you can turn a bowl of beach sand in an interesting living room decoration. On Sardinia you can find stones and sand of virtually any colour.
Also there are almond trees growing practically everywhere. If you happen to be on Sardinia in September you can easily stop by the road and pick some almonds - considering it isn't from someone's garden of course. Almonds can be ideal for a quick snack or for taking them home. In this way even your friends back home can get a taste of Sardinia.


Wednesday 20 October 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset over Torre del Porticciolo


Monday 18 October 2010

Best camping sites of Sardinia

I have been camping for quite some time now (only around Europe so far). If I would have to name countries where I have had my best and the worst camping experience so far, I would have to say "Italy". Twice.

Luckily the best one happened this year on Sardinia. Twice.

A few years ago we were camping on Corsica (the French island just next to Sardinia) and we liked the experience. Prices were very affordable, camping sites well maintained with clean facilities.
On the other hand our experience from a trip to the southern Italy was not so great. When we took all this in account we just didn't know what to expect on Sardinia...

I guess first I should list the things that are important to us and those that could not matter less, when searching for a place to pitch our tent.

Important stuff:

  • shower and toilet facilities (cleanliness),

  • shady camping grounds,

  • possibility to park our car close to the tent,

  • proximity of a beach,

  • price,

  • hot water (preferably without additional payment).

Things we don't care about:
  • lousy musicians playing on the restaurant terrace every evening,

  • fancy pools,

  • overrated and overpriced restaurants,

  • guided exercise three times a day,

  • tennis club membership,

  • etc.

First few camping sites we checked on the north-eastern coast of the island were not all that special, pretty expensive and (despite it was almost September) they were still overrun with a throng of Italian tourists. I guess you could say we were not impressed.

I am not going to write about every camping ground we visited this time, but let me just say that many stars next to the name and also the price do not tell much. At least to us. We took a look around every time before we agreed to stay.

When we decided to stay in Arbatax for a couple of days and followed road signs to the nearest campeggio we were up for a surprise.
We found Camping Telis (Garmin GPS coordinates: 39° 55.483'N, 009° 42.413'E) which was by far the best one we saw until that moment. Oh, and did I mention - it was also the cheapest to that point of the trip (this was due to a switch of rates from Middle season to Low season, but was a nice surprise nonetheless).
I guess the facilities must have been renovated just recently and everything was really clean. In addition to all this, there was also hot water flowing out of every pipe and we were allowed to park our car just next to our tent.
Exactly what we wanted. This really could not get any better.

Well, actually it could. After another camp switch or two we decided to check out what I guess is the most advertised campeggio on Sardinia. Road signs advertising it can be seen all over the island.
It is called Camping Village Baia Blu La Tortuga and it is located near the town of Vignola Mare (Garmin GPS coordinates: 41° 07.469'N, 009° 04.058'E).
This is a much larger site compared to Telis, but for us it was at least as good. For a similar price we got all the things as in the other one described, plus free electricity. Really neat.

I guess there might be also some other camping sites on Sardinia like the two described above but we haven't seen them. Not on Sardinia, nor anywhere else we have been so far. Has someone had a similar experience while on Sardinia? Any recommendations maybe?


Monday 11 October 2010

Top 5 things to see and do on Sardinia

During our three-week drive around the island of Sardinia we saw so many beautiful sights and did so many wonderful things, that it is quite a challenge to single out just five of them. Anyway, here is the list:

5. Charming towns and cities
There are countless charming little towns in Sardinia worth visiting. Some of them are full of museums and tourist attractions, some host interesting music and folk festivals, others are just picture-postcard beautiful.
We liked many of them, but Alghero (you can find the best selection of coral jewellery in narrow city streets enclosed within its imposing city walls), Bosa (heavily influenced by the Spanish, today a colourful ancient city, overlooked by an imposing castle) and Cagliari (busy and always alive like every capital city) were the ones we liked best.

4. Local food and wine
Everywhere in Italy food and wine is a special treat not to be missed. Sardinia is no different. There are many local pasta dishes (e.g. ravioli-like culingiones), meats (e.g. salsiccia - local pork sausage), excellent cheeses (e.g. pecorino - sheep cheese and caprino - goat cheese), various kinds of flat bread (Pane Guttiau and Pane Carasau), fresh seafood of all kinds, local wines like Cannonau and Vermentino, delicious ice cream (almost everywhere we went it was very good, but at Gelateria Peter Pan on Piazza Vitorio Emanuelle in Nuoro it was the best) and even Ichnusa - the local brand of beer (which, compared to everything above, is really not all that special).

3. Neptune's Grotto
The mythological cave dwelling of the sea God Neptune (Grotta di Nettuno) is an impressive cave full of stalactites and stalagmites partly filled with sea water. It is accessible only by boat (excursions run from nearby towns) or by 654-step Escala del cabirol (Goat's steps) from a car park at the top of the cliff.
This can be an expensive thing (especially if one chooses to get there by boat). We took the steps and did not regret it - we enjoyed spectacular views and spent "just" the 12 Euros per person at the entrance. An excellent guided tour (in flawless English) added greatly to the experience and we are happy to recommend it.

2. Nuraghi
The nuraghe is an example of ancient megalithic architecture. Most of the stony structures were built during the Bronze Age (that is more then 3.500 years ago!) and they still stand tall and proud. Some of them are as high as 20 meters. Today nuraghe is the symbol of Sardinia and a visitor can hardly avoid visiting at least one of the 8.000 still standing today.
We visited Nuraghe Losa and were moved by the size of the structure. It really makes you wonder how they moved all those stones into place back then - some of them must weigh several tons.

1. Beautiful beaches
If you like picture postcard beaches, Sardinia is definitely a place to visit. There are literally countless beaches of all kinds around the edges of the island. Most of them are sandy, but also weirdos like us who don't like all that fine sand getting everywhere, have plenty of choice.
Some of the more memorable ones we have visited are: the Is Aruttas beach with its special sand (it is even forbidden to take it away), the picture-postcard beach of La Pelosa with its white sand and turquoise waters (but way too crowded for our taste) and the rocky peninsula of Capo Testa with its surreal stone formations.

I guess some of you might disagree with my Top 5 list, but this is just my opinion based on things we managed to see and do in those way too short three weeks of our trip.
I also plan to write about some other places we visited and things we did in the next few posts. If they didn't make it to this list, it doesn't mean you won't like them. Especially if you are putting together an itinerary for your adventure in Sardinia, I suggest you also check out my other posts under the tag "Sardinia".


Monday 13 September 2010

Time for a roadtrip again!

I intended to post this a few weeks ago, but somehow managed not to do it. Well... here it is with a tiny little bit of delay.

Our jobs, limited yearly leave, lack of financial resources and other types of restraints are successfully keeping us from travelling as much as we would like to. At least that is true for those who had been bitten by the travel bug and I certainly fall into that category. Those of you following my blog have already noticed a lack of travel related posts lately.
Fortunately after a long wait, the time for my main yearly vacation has arrived. At the moment preparations are in full swing. The destination has been decided, some reservations made, ferry tickets purchased, car serviced and health insurance arranged. Only my bags are still waiting for someone to pack them.

There are at least three destinations M and I had hard time choosing from: Portugal, Greece and Sardinia. The idea was to drive there and do some camping in almost three full weeks.

After careful consideration, Portugal seemed a bit far away. It would take us quite a few days to get there and also petrol isn't all that cheap these days. We decided it will just have to be stuck on our waiting list for a few more years.

Greece on the other hand seemed a better option but since they recently had some problems (for instance a shortage of petrol due to some strikes) we weren't sure if it was such a good idea to go there this year. After we gave it some thought we figured that if it was there for a few thousand years, Greece probably isn't going anywhere for another couple of years.

Our last but definitely not the least attractive option was Sardinia. Since we have been to most of other islands around Italy it was an obvious choice - in the past years we have already visited Sicily, Elba, Malta and Corsica. However different they might be, we liked them all. In addition to that Sardinia is also the closest destination of the three on our short-list.

I'll try to publish some useful information for those of you intending to do a similar trip and of course spice it all up with some beautiful photos. I hope you are looking forward to this at least a bit... I know I am!


Tuesday 13 July 2010

Football and Web Traffic go together well

As I predicted in my previous post the last football match Slovenia played in South Africa had a similar effect on web traffic as the previous two. Almost every web page and blog publishing Slovenia related content experienced a substantial increase of traffic in recent days.

On the graph screenshot from Google Trends you can see three peaks representing number of Google searches people did last month.
The first peak is on the day of the match between Slovenia and Algeria, the second Slovenia vs. USA and the third Slovenia vs. England.

Unfortunately Slovenian national team didn't make it to the next round and this meant the end of increased web exposure for Slovenia. I am pretty sure the upcoming 2010 FIBA Basketball World Championship in Turkey will hardly have a similar effect.

A couple of days ago the World Cup came to an end and it is a vuvuzela free time again. Congratulations Spain!


Wednesday 23 June 2010

The influence of Soccer WC 2010 on Slovenia

If a relatively young country has an ambition of becoming a popular tourist destination, it usually has to work hard to achieve such a goal. It is important to try to promote the country through as many different channels as possible.

Slovenia definitely falls into that category (Slovenia has been an independent country since its separation from Yugoslavia in 1991). Slovenian Tourist Board is trying hard to raise the level of worldwide awareness but that is not enough.
In my opinion, sports can also help at least a little bit. In some cases much more then just a little bit.
Recent qualification of Slovenian national soccer team for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa is an excellent example of just that. Many people started wondering where this soccer team, competing with English and US teams is coming from. Slovenia? Where the heck is Slovenia?
You might think I am exaggerating. How can a couple of soccer matches be compared to years of work of a bunch of politicians, diplomats and tourist promoters?

Well it actually can be... and I've got proof of that. It is called Google trends.

For those of you who haven't heard of this before, "with Google Trends you can compare the world’s interest in your favourite topics", as Google puts it. In other words, with this tool you can compare what people were searching for through Google.
For instance if you enter "where is slovenia, slovenia map" you get the below graph.

You can notice a strange change of pattern at the far right-hand side of the graph. If you take a closer look at that period of time - for instance the last month of data, you can see something similar to the screen-shot bellow.

I guess some of you already know where this is heading... Those two peaks in the graph mean that on the 13th and 18th of June 2010 there were an unusually high number of people entering those two queries into Google search engine.
If you take a look at the last screenshot you can see the final hint. It says: "Slovenia, US draw 2-2". In this case I have added "slovenia" to previous two search strings and got an even more explicit result.

Yes, it was football (or soccer as Americans tend to call it). Slovenia was playing with Algeria on 13th of June and USA on 18th of June. Interesting isn't it?

Let me end this with a prediction. Since today (23th of June) the Slovenian national team is playing with the English, I expect a similar rise to be seen on the graph. I don't dare to even speculate what would happen if we make it to the Round of 16 or even to the Quarter-finals. Let us just wait and see.



Friday 23 April 2010

African thunderstorm in Slovenia

As you might have already guessed, not much has been going on lately. At least concerning me and my travels.
The only fun thing I did lately was a rock concert I attended last weekend. Kind of sad isn't it?

Quite a few people I know are planning some kind of travel adventures. As it seems, Africa seems to be the destination of choice at this moment. I would also be happy to do it but there are just so many things waiting for my attention... unfortunately some of them are already seriously behind schedule. I guess this means travel will just have to wait for some time. At least those more distant destinations.

Next week I am hoping to be free from work for a few days. I just might seize the opportunity and at least go for a one- or two-day trip. Somewhere nearby probably. Let us just wait and see.

In Slovenia the weather in April is usually changing all the time. It can go from warm sunshine to heavy rain and back for ten times in a single day. As a consequence it is quite hard to plan any weather dependent activities even a couple of days in advance.

All these things - music, Africa and thunderstorms remind me of a song I just can't get tired of listening to. That is why I decided to post this video for a change.
The song is titled Africa and is performed by Perpetuum Jazzile, a jazz choir from Slovenia. They are really, really good.
Two separate Youtube videos of their performance of "Africa" had more than 9.2 million views combined since first publishing in May 2009. Since there are only 2 million Slovenians, I suppose some other folks must have liked it too.

Those of you who haven't seen this thing yet... well, I suggest you pump up the volume, lean back for a few minutes and just enjoy the performance.


Monday 22 March 2010

Winter just won't go away

This year winter obviously decided to hang around for a bit longer. Well at least here in Slovenia.
Most of the hills are still covered in deep snow. Fortunately for the last week or so the weather has been reasonably warm at lower altitudes.

Two weeks ago or so we had the first sunny and quite warm day. Unfortunately that didn't last long. After that day cold northern winds started to blow and for the next week it was really cold and windy around here. In some places wind speed was even over 200 kilometers per hour (that is over 125 mph)! All sorts of things were flying around and many roads were occasionally closed due to overturned trucks. Here you can see how a fellow Slovenian blogger documented the situation.

I hope now we are done with that and spring is finally coming. I have spotted some snowdrops in front of the house trying to break free from the snow. I am sure this is a good sign.

It seems now we are looking at some warmer days at last. However if you are planning a trip to Slovenia and want to see some snow, it is still the right time to do it.
If you prefer a bit warmer weather, you might want to wait a while longer. I suppose in a month most of the snow will be gone even in higher areas. However, high in the Alps it is quite common for the snow to last until the beginning of summer.


Wednesday 17 March 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Buried under the snow


Wednesday 10 March 2010

Cross-country skiing center Vojsko

Cross-country skiing is gaining popularity again in Slovenia. It was already quite popular over a decade ago, but then lost many supporters due to a rise of alpine skiing. In my opinion it happened because of better and better equipped ski slopes. Modern and fast ski-lifts were being installed on almost every ski slope.
Besides all that, Slovenian professional skiers are some of the most popular public figures in the country. They have been continuously achieving good results in the World Cup series for many decades.

Nowadays both sports are very popular again. Cross-country skiing is gaining supporters by the day.
Excellent results of Tina Maze (Slovenian alpine skier) and Petra Majdič (Slovenian cross-country skier) have a great deal to do with that. They were both also among this year's Vancouver Olympic medal winners.
Petra was also awarded the Terry Fox foundation award for incredible courage and determination after breaking several ribs and puncturing her lungs and still finishing third.

All that made us think and after a couple of years long break, M. and I finally decided to go cross-country skiing again. We are both beginners in this sport. Three years ago we attended a beginner level training and have not been practicing very often since then.

That is a pity, because there is an excellent cross-country skiing facility nearby. It is called Cross-country skiing center Vojsko.
I have to say I like this sport - it is really cheap. Once you get your hands on some equipment you can do it literary for free. The equipment itself is also relatively cheap.

Besides the financial side, getting in touch with nature is not to be ignored as well. It is also not very time consuming - I can feel every muscle of my body (usually on the next day I tend to find even a few new ones I didn't know I had) after an hour of exercise and if I may add... I think I am not in such a bad shape at all.
We chose a really beautiful day for doing this. It was sunny and quite warm.

As we had expected, after 8 kilometers we were pretty exhausted. We saw a few people on the track but mostly there was just nature and the two of us.

I stopped from time to time to take a photo or two. It was just the right day for a photo session but this time it was only on the second place. A good quality exercise came first this time.

In the end I found time for both and we were pleased with the results. We were both glad we finally did it. We really got to enjoy a great Saturday morning!


Wednesday 3 March 2010

Wordless Wednesday: I say Jump!


Monday 1 March 2010

Local Ski-jumping Event

Many people travel to Slovenia to witness the annual ski flying event which this year will take place form 18th to 21st of March in Planica.
Ski jumping is a relatively popular sport in Slovenia. I guess that is due to the world famous Planica K-185, where a first ever jump over 200 meters was made in 1994. The current world record stands at 239 meters (that's 784 feet!).

That is by far the largest ski jumping facility in Slovenia, but there are also many smaller ones. Recently a group of local enthusiasts in a village nearby where I live, decided to build their own ski jump. They went for a smaller one (K-30), but it came out quite impressive nonetheless.

As I learned there is quite regularly an amateur ski jumping contest held on various locations around Slovenia -  simmilar to this one in Pancala near Idrijske Krnice. Contestants usually don't use ski-jumping gear. They mostly do it with ski-boots and old skis originally meant for alpine skiing.

I am quite good at alpine skiing but still I am not sure if I would find enough courage to participate in such an event. Well, never say never...

This time I attended just as a spectator but it was still fun to watch what can be done in a relatively short period of time. As far as I know it was all done with voluntary work local enthusiasts were willing to put into this project. I think something like that can hardly be found anywhere these days.
The event was definitely a success. Quite a crowd of spectators came to see what was going on. The participants were young and old. I even captured one of the local jumpers in a video - you can check it out here.

Even an official mascot was there to entertain the crowd. He was equiped with some really old wooden skis and even attempted a couple of jumps. He had skis attached to his shoes with simple leather straps.
As he said dogs also developed a strange attraction to his skis. He suspected his home made ski wax had something to do with it. As people did in the old times he also used some genuine, home made lard. It looked like the old recipe still works.


Wednesday 24 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Chapel cowered in snow


Monday 22 February 2010

From Marmolada to La Villa and back

On one of the seven days in Dolomiti when weather forecast looked the most promising, we decided to do a skiing tour from Marmolada to La Villa and back.

Such a trip takes a whole day and we would be most unfortunate to get stuck in the wrong valley, away from our car, when all the ski lifts stop operating. No such thing happened and we had a really nice trip full of spectacular vistas. Sunny weather also helped us to enjoy the day even more.

We started in Malga Ciapela where we took a cableway to the top of Marmolada. It is also known as The Queen of the Dolomites. With 3.342 meters it is the highest mountain in the Dolomites. Just the cableway ride itself is a breathtaking experience but when you get to the top it seems like someone has put all of the surrounding mountains on a tray before you. That view really is stunning!

From there we went over hills through Arabba to La Villa and back via Corvara and again Arabba to Malga Ciapela.
When we got to La Villa we just had to try the Gran Risa slope where one of the Giant slalom World cup races are held every year. I must say it is quite steep and very long.

When we returned back to our starting point there was just enough time to take another ride with the cableway to the top of Marmolada. This time we skied all of the 12 kilometers down in one piece. My thighs were really pleased when we reached the end of the last slope.
I must say it was quite a ride!


Wednesday 17 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: A pine branch in winter


Monday 15 February 2010

Made it back from the Dolomites

We went skiing to Civetta again. I guess it is becoming sort of a tradition, since we have been there for the sixth winter in a row.

We just never seem to get tired of going there. The vistas of the Italian Dolomites are simply stunning.

Apart from lots of skiing, eating and drinking, nothing special happened there. Well on another thought - it would really be a shock if we would not have done all of those things.

When I packed my bags I used this check list I prepared some time ago. It is still quite handy.

For the last couple of years I have been posting a summary of my skiing report from the official Dolomiti Superski web page at the end of each year's trip. Unfortunately this year it is unavailable due to some issues regarding disclosure of personal information. They are supposedly getting some 40 complaints over email every day but it does not really seem to help all that much.
This is a classical example of a bad outcome when some people are too concerned about personal data. On the other hand we are monitored by I don't know how many surveillance cameras every day and tracking our mobile phones is also not too hard to imagine. Well, sadly that is supposed to be OK I guess...

If I had to guess I would say we made at least as many kilometers on skis as the last year. If you are curious how my last year's skiing summary looks like, you can check it out on this link.


Wednesday 10 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Italian Dolomites


Monday 8 February 2010

When to visit Venice?

I have decided not to visit Venice this year. At least not in this time of year when everything there goes crazy with the annual Carnival (Italians call it Carnevale di Venezia).

The best time to visit Venice depends on the purpose of visit. If you want to see the Venice Carnival with all the famous Venetian costumes, you obviously have to plan your visit when the event takes place. It starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.
That means in 2010 it takes place between February 6th and February 16th. If you decide to go these days, you have to be prepared to face hordes of other tourists from all over the world. Walking the streets of Venice during this period of time is limited to being carried along by a river of people. Obviously seeing most of the popular attractions during this time is literary impossible.
Also taking good photos is quite a challenge with all those crowds around.

If you choose some other time of year (for instance October or November), you will probably be able to avoid the large scale tourist pollution and have an opportunity to wander the narrow streets and enjoy the (at times smelly) canals almost by yourself. Actually you will never be all alone in Venice, but it can be quite nice even with some tourists around.
The drawback is that except inside many shops you won't be able to see any traditional Venetian costumes.

However there is a short period when you can taste a little bit of both. Just before the official Carneval starts, you can avoid the large crowds and also see some early costumes parading the streets. I am pretty sure they will be more than happy to pose for your camera. I would say the best time to do it is about two weeks before the official beginning.

That is roughly the period we chose last year. I shot loads of really nice photos and also had a great time. I strongly recommend it.
You can check out my photo results and read more about the trip by clicking on the Venice link under Labels somewhere in the right frame of this blog.
On the same link you will also find info on how the famous Venetian masks are made, how much such a day trip actually costed me, where to buy or rent a genuine Venetian costume and much, much more.

Also don't hesitate to ask any question on this topic. I'll be more then happy to help you out.


Wednesday 3 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Security in Macedonia


Tuesday 2 February 2010

Skopje - A Divided City

There is one city that Skopje reminded me of. When I visited Casablanca (a city in Morocco) I had a similar feeling, but the line between two sides of the city was not so obvious there (you can read more about the "Moroccan city of contrast" in this post).
In Skopje the river Vardar acts as a barrier between the two worlds. However this barrier can easily be breached using the Old stone bridge, linking the two sides for centuries.

On the right side of the Vardar river is the new town. The main city square looks quite new and could be easily placed in some other modern European city. The nearby streets lined with cafes and most of the famous trademarks are sold in many of the very European looking shops. Unfortunately, judging by the average monthly income which is somewhere around 400 Euros, not many locals can afford to go shopping there. Not only the looks but also the prices in these stores are also very European.

On the left side of the river stands the old - Albanian part of the city, overlooked by an old fortress (it is supposedly being rebuilt for quite some time now). If you get lost in the grey streets, you will find the old bazaar easily. With tons of junk sold there, it definitely has a special kind of charm. If the right side looks European, the left side of the river definitely looks at least a bit Asian.
Rumor has it that the police don't patrol the Albanian side of the river. I didn't feel unsafe for a moment, but then again I did not try to wander these streets by night.

My intention is definitely not to make people turn away from exploring "the darker" side of the city.
On the contrary... If you get a chance to visit the city of Skopje, I strongly suggest you take a trip to the other side of the bridge and also get a glimpse of the old charm.

Apart from all that, there are also other things enforcing this feeling of contrast. For instance new and shiny buildings stand right next to collapsing old grey houses.
Even those new buildings usually only look nice and shiny from a safe distance. If you take a closer look you can usually find quality materials put together in a hurry and without much thought. This was also the case with our rented apartment. It had two nice bathrooms with a leaking bathtub/shower in each.

The building our apartment was in had a fancy video intercom at the front entrance and the front door could be opened via a numerical pad. In theory that is...
In reality none of those things actually worked and when the door bell rang, one of us had to walk five stories down to open the front door manually.

Another instance of diversity are definitely cars. One can see a great variety of those in Skopje. They range from the latest models of BMW and Mercedes-Benz to old Zastava Yugos and even ancient 750s.

The list just goes on and on...


Wednesday 13 January 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Kale Fortress in Skopje


Monday 11 January 2010

High heel obsession

One of the things I was surprised to see in Skopje (the capital of the Republic of Macedonia) was an obsession with high heels. Almost every woman was wearing them. I have a strong feeling that those few maladjusted ladies without high heels must have been tourists.

There is even a metal statue set up in the city centre representing the beauty of local women. At least I saw it like that. If someone has a better explanation, please do let me know.

Despite the time of year (middle of winter) and quite low temperatures the majority of women were also wearing very short skirts or at least some kind of tights and had obviously spent quite some time in front of a mirror.

The male part of our expedition didn't mind the situation. Even our female companions were impressed by what they saw. In fact M. was so thrilled with the whole thing that just had to buy a pair of fancy high heel shoes herself.
I must say I didn't have anything against it. It was not a very cheap thing but definitely a good choice anyway.


Thursday 7 January 2010

Macedonia trip impressions

I have returned from Skopje (the capital of the Republic of Macedonia) a couple of days ago. It was quite a short trip and I must say I was a bit exhausted when it was over.

We went there as a group of 10 friends to celebrate NY 2010. We planned to enjoy what Skopje has to offer and now I can say we definitely succeeded in doing that.
If I had to describe our trip in three words I would do it like this:

Train - Food - Skopsko

Let me explain those three words...

Train is there because we had a really loooong train journey from Ljubljana via Belgrade to Skopje - it took us more then 20 hours (including an one hour stop in Belgrade) to get to Skopje and even more for the trip back. On the way there we couldn't get a reservation, but were lucky to get free seats anyway. On our way back we would probably have to stand the whole way from Belgrade to Ljubljana (almost 11 hours) if we didn't have reservations. Luckily we did.
Even with reserved seats it was not a very pleasant experience. I recommend you take a plane if you can afford it. Let me just say that trains we used have definitely seen better days.

Food is a real highlight of Macedonia. It is quite cheap to eat out and if you know where to go, it is also very delicious. The main ingredient of almost all of our meals was meat. I couldn't single out one particular favourite dish - everything we tried ranged from very good to excellent. Among other things I tried Grilled vešalica, Šapska pleskavica, Grilled ram-steak.
If you are lucky enough to go there during the summer months, fresh vegetables and fruits are also definitely worth mentioning.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention great desserts we were all excited about. One instance of that would definitely be Tufakija.

And the last one... Skopsko is a quite drinkable and also very cheap local beer brand. For a large lager we were charged between one and two Euro - depending on the location. A bargain if you ask me.

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