Monday 31 December 2012

What to see and do in Lisbon?

Being a capital of Portugal - once a world-class colonial superpower, says enough about this city on its own. Still today all over Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese) there are many reminders of this once glorious past. Wealth flowing in from many colonies and successful spice trade with far east resulted in many magnificent buildings for us to admire today.

Strangely, despite all of that and also being very affordable, it is not as popular as many other European capital cities - unduly so if you ask me.

There would be many more magnificent buildings but unfortunately the 1755 Lisbon earthquake destroyed 85% of city's structures. Even before that time the city had quite a "ground-shaking" history.

The city itself is very old - archeological finds suggest the area was populated even before first millennium BC. Phoenician influences date back to 1200 BC but it really started to prosper during the Roman times.

Today it is a city with a population of around 550.000 within its administrative limits and over 3 million in a wider metropolitan area.

Lisbon is also called The City of Seven Hills - like many other great cities, it is built on seven hills. Rome probably being the most famous of those, the list of cities built on seven hills stretches to 60.

There are many attractions scattered among those 7 hills. We tried to visit at least some of them in our 4 days there.

These things made it onto our list:

  • walks around various city districts (Alfama, Baixa, Bairro Alto, Belém, Chiado, Estrela),
  • Jerónimos Monastery,
  • Torre de Belém and the Discoveries Monument,
  • a panoramic ride on the Tram 28,
  • Castelo de Sao Jorge,
  • Oceanario de Lisboa,
  • Fado music experience,
  • Basilica da Estrela,
  • Elevador de Santa Justa,
  • a trip to Sintra,
  • a trip to Cabo da Roca.

There are also many great museums worth looking into (Gulbenkian Museum, National Tile Museum, National Coach Museum, etc.). In addition to those, there are also many great parks worth checking out (e.g. Parque das Nacoes) and many other interesting places. I will try to share some useful information about the most interesting attractions from the above list in the next few posts.


Friday 28 December 2012

Why visit Lisbon?

As I already mentioned a while ago I recently decided it was time to visit a nearby destination with at least a bit warmer climate (I announced the trip here). This was not a very challenging task, since we have recently had some periods of really low temperature in Slovenia - it dropped even below 20 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country during a couple of nights.

The destination of choice for this time was Lisbon - the capital of Portugal. We flew in from Venice.

Usually getting from any airport to a larger city center can be a bit of a challenge or at least prove to be quite an expensive thing to do. In Lisbon this is definitely not the case. Since the last stretch of subway (Metropolitano de Lisboa) was completed at the end of summer 2012 it is a really easy and cheap thing to do in Lisbon.

A one way metro ticket (to anywhere within the city) only costs €1,25 which is really affordable. The only thing you have to take care about are the metro working hours (every day from 06:30 till 01:00).
Our plane landed quite late in the evening, but we still had plenty of time to get to the hostel we were staying in.

There is one thing I should probably mention about hostels in Lisbon - there seem to be many of really good ones available at more then affordable prices. We started our search for a hostel with Hostelworld's 2012 Hoscar Awards.

As we learned there are surprisingly many Lisbon hostels on that world's top list in almost every category. We checked out feedback on a few of those and in the end chose the Lisbon Destination Hostel, which actually didn't make it to those top 10 lists. Affordable price, very positive overall feedback and top location were the things that had the most to do with our decision. In the end we were really happy with our choice - it provided everything we needed and more. I really recommend it!

Lisbon Destination Hostel is actually located inside Rossio train station. This might seem odd, but it is a magnificent old building in the very center of Lisbon. I was afraid there might be some noise and vibrations coming from trains, but we did not notice anything. A pleasant surprise really.

Apart from good accommodation we liked almost everything else about the city. It was quite affordable and there is a lot to see and do. Also food and wine was my kind of thing - I loved almost everything I tasted. The fact I love seafood definitely helped.
For more information about food and great Port wine I tasted for the first time, you will have to wait for one of my following posts.

Actually the only thing that did not meet my expectations was the weather. I was hoping for a dry holiday with as much sun as possible, but got mostly rain.
At least the last two days were pretty sunny. That allowed me to take at least a few nice photos.


Wednesday 26 December 2012

Which airline hobbits fly?

Obviously it is Air New Zealand! This video commercial is just one of many similar tries by New Zealand to attract more tourists with the help of popular Lord of the rings and Hobbit movies.

What’s the best way to get to Middle-earth? Fly, you fools, fly!

That is just one of cool quotes used in a video commercial for Air New Zealand. The video presents An Unexpected Safety Briefing in the most entertaining way.

Besides a good looking elf-eared attendant also many dwarves, orcs, hobbits, elves, wizards and Sauron himself can be seen on board a Boeing 777 on their way to Middle-earth. Tolkien's great-grandsons, Hobbit‘s Fili the Dwarf and even movie director Peter Jackson all appear in the commercial. Oh, and let us not forget the Gollum. Enjoy!

There is also a behind the scenes video available here.


Monday 24 December 2012

End of the World in Ljubljana

Ljubljana - the capital of Slovenia, has had similar Christmas lighting for a few years now. It represents planets, stars, constellations and other space objects. Besides the fact I find it really nice, some sections of it are also very appropriate for the announced end of the world.

If you have been hiding in a dark cave for the last few years, let me inform you that the end of the world was scheduled for 21st of December 2012. As you have probably noticed by now, the world is still here and internet is still up and running.

I will leave you with this photo of shooting stars in the skies over Ljubljana and an interesting quote on the end of the world topic by Richard Bach:

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.


Monday 17 December 2012

Soča river valley video presentation

Another video promoting (in my opinion) the most beautiful part of Slovenia has recently been released. It focuses on Soča river valley. The Emerald river really is something special and definitely deserves your attention.

Enjoy the video and feel free to ask any questions about the area that might pop up. I will gladly help you out with some local advice.

I have posted about different sports activities in these parts before - it is a perfect place for trying out various adrenaline packed activities. You can check out a post about kayaking and there is also another one about my ziplining adventure in the area.


Friday 14 December 2012

Dej še'n litro concert in Ljubljana

Those of you out there who are having second thoughts about visiting the capital of Slovenia during winter season do not have to worry - December is as good time as any to do it. The city streets might not be as vibrant at this time as during summer months but there are still many reasons that will definitely leave a happy smile on your face every day before turning in for the night.

Two days ago was no different as a brass band Dej še'n litro held a concert in the picturesque streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia. This was a perfect excuse to get together with a group of friends and have a good time. It was a traditional, free concert dedicated to band supporters, friends and random passers-by alike.

The band took care of everything - good mood, mulled wine, excellent music and there was even a little something for those with a sweet tooth. A perfect evening in my eyes!

Ljubljana city streets provided a perfect setting for the event with holiday season lighting already set up. The sound of brass music echoed the streets long into the cold night.

I can only imagine how much effort they had to put into this event. Even the cold (it was below minus 5 degrees Celsius!) could not stop them and the crowd from having a great time.

It has to be quite a challenge playing an instrument in those conditions. Gloves get in the way, bare fingers get stiffened by the cold and despite of all that, songs have to be played just as fast as any other time. No wonder alcoholic beverages were the preferred choice of the evening.

It seemed to me the crowd really appreciated the band's effort and cheered loud after every piece they played. I really hope the band was also happy with how the whole event turned out.
Hopefully it was not the last time they did something like this. If I get a chance to visit another performance of Dej še'n litro brass band, I will definitely try to attend. I can hardly wait!


Wednesday 12 December 2012

Nikon photo day

For the sixth time in a row Nikon Slovenia has organized an annual event for photography enthusiasts once again. Until recently Nikon was the only one of big photo names to do such a thing in a small country like Slovenia - just yesterday Canon did something similar (the event was titled You can party by Canon)! Unfortunately I could not attend - maybe next year.

Since a little bit of competition is almost always a good thing, I hope this will be one of many such events.

Nikon Day 2012 - Hot & Cool, as they named the event this year, took place 10 days ago on 30th of November in Ljubljana. Every photo lover could find something interesting there. This year's theme was cold white winter and everything that comes with it - from polar bears, to snow sports photography.

For me the definite highlights were great photo lectures by three great photographers: Florian Schulz, Marcel Lämmerhirt and Arne Hodalič (Google them - they have done lots of great work so far). Unfortunately I got to see just two of them.

Another service first 70 participants could take advantage of was Check&Clean. The team of professionals checked and cleaned one camera body and one lens per person. Such professional service was just what my equipment needed, so I embraced this opportunity with both hands. I must say they did a great job on my D7000 and my most used Nikkor lens!

There were also countless opportunities to test your own or new Nikon photo equipment on models in studio conditions. There was an interesting studio set with a group of models posing for many photographers lined up to take a shot or two.

Good work Nikon Slovenia! I am already looking forward to visiting the next year's event.


Wednesday 5 December 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Cabo da Roca Lighthouse

Greetings from Cabo da Roca, Portugal - the westernmost point of continental Europe!

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