Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Friday, 27 September 2013

Climbing Košutnikov turn

Mountaineering has been a popular outdoor activity for centuries in this part of the world. Being partly an Alpine country, Slovenia also has many mountaineering enthusiasts.
Even though I do not see myself as one of those, I do climb a mountain every now and then.


I have already posted a report about climbing Montaž (Jôf di Montasio) a few posts ago. All those ibexes and marmots living there make it a great destination. Check out my post about it and visit it yourself if you ever get a chance.



This time we went to the Slovenian-Austrian border to climb Košutnikov turn (Koschutnikturm). It is a 2133 metres high peak in the central Karavanke mountain range. It is a popular mountaineering destination both from Slovenian and Austrian side. Due to a nice ferrata we chose to climb it from Austria.


We started our ascend from Koshutahaus mountain hut (Koča pod Košuto) and continued along the well marked path (ÖTK Steig Neu) towards the mountain. After a while trees and bushes were replaced with a large scree slope. The interesting part began from there on.



That is where the via ferrata starts. It is a very steep section which continues for a long while. Iron rungs are added in some places in addition to steel cables. We followed the ferrata by a suspended bridge, which we crossed only to get a few photos.



Even with many photo stops, we made it to the top a bit earlier than those red signposts suggested we would.


Once we made it to the top, there were Alpine choughs already waiting for us. From the top there is an interesting view of green slopes on the Slovenian side of the mountain in contrast to a much steeper, rocky approach from the Austrian side.



I can definitely recommend this climb but please keep in mind a helmet and a harness are a must. Since the side of the mountain is practically vertical in some sections, you should probably approach the mountain from Slovenia if you have some fear of heights (no need for all that equipment there).


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Suspended bridge at Košutnikov turn


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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Meet the Ventura

If you are searching for cruise holidays, you have probably come across P&O Cruises more than once. And there is good reason too. With one of the cruise industry's largest fleets, P&O travels far and wide and even undertakes such specialist cruise holidays as round-the-world itineraries, so you can be sure of a pretty special cruise holiday experience.



Let's take a closer look at one of P&O's largest signature ships - the Ventura.


One of the finest ships in the fleet, the Ventura serves up a sizzling experience with stacks of different amenities. Traditionally, cruising was never much of a family holiday. But today, ships like the Ventura have turned that notion on its head. Featuring various child-friendly facilities like play areas, kids' clubs, discos, a Rock School and even circus skills lessons, the little ones will have just as much fun as the adults onboard the Ventura.


For the grown-ups, the fun never stops. From theatre productions and cabaret acts to comedy clubs and dancing shows, not to mention cinema screenings and live music, there is always something to see and do. You will also find a whole suite of different bars and lounges, such as the Metropolis Bar with its stunning panoramic ocean views, offering a laid-back environment that is the perfect place for a relaxing sundowner before dinner.



On the subject of dinner, this is an experience in itself. The Ventura currently has eleven different restaurants, serving up delicious cuisine ranging from Marco Pierre White's restaurant and laid-back food courts, to restaurants serving Asian or Italian cuisine, there is something to tempt every palate.


Discover the world with the Ventura and you will be well on your way to experiencing the holiday of a lifetime...


Find out more about P&O Ventura through Cruise Thomas Cook. Search across all itineraries, discover what it is like onboard and book your choice of itinerary and cabin on-line through one of the UK's favourite travel agents.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Welcoming committee at the top of Montaž





For more information about climbing Jôf di Montasio/Montaž and some more gorgeous photos, you can check out my previous post.


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Alpine ibexes of Jôf di Montasio

This time of year is great for hiking and mountain climbing here in the Alps. It takes quite some time for the snow to melt on higher peaks, which makes late summer days perfect for mountaineering. In this period sun is not so strong any more and weather is usually quite predictable.



Unfortunately in the past years I have been neglecting this very popular outdoor activity, but lately I have made it to the top of some quite impressive mountains in and near Slovenia. This time we hopped just across the border into Italy...



The first mountaineering challenge after a long while was Jôf di Montasio (Špik nad Policami or Montaž in Slovene), just across the Italian border. With 2,752 metres (9,029 ft) it is the second highest peak of the Julian Alps, surpassed only by Mount Triglav (the highest Slovenian mountain).
This is a guarantee for a nice view at the top. Although on the day of our visit visibility was not perfect, we were not complaining.



The definite highlight of this climb were numerous Alpine ibexes (Capra ibex) we saw on the way. They seemed quite used to mountaineers and let us get as close as a few metres. Females seemed to be the most curious.



If those ibexes alone are not a good enough reason for a visit, there are also other treats waiting for an unsuspecting visitor. Pastures below the mountain are full of Alpine Marmots (Marmota marmota). They were still asleep during our climb, but greeted us with loud whistles on the way down. Unfortunately they are quite a bit shyer compared to those ibexes.
In fact there are so many holes dug by these cute creatures all over the place that a careful step is highly recommended.



Near the starting point of the hike (Pecol) there is also a cottage where one can refresh after returning from the top. Amongst other things they offer a wast selection of dairy products. Most of the cheeses sold in the shop are made right there, but they also offer a variety of products from other nearby producers. Go check it out - they will be happy to give you a taste before you buy anything.



Despite everything I mentioned above, climbing Montaž is not for everyone. There is an impressive via ferrata waiting in the steep side of the mountain, the highlight of which is a 60 metres high Pipan's ladder. If you do not deal with heights all that well, this might not be a perfect choice for you.


Although I did not feel a need for using a harness it can come in handy - some of the sections are quite drafty. However, due to falling rocks, use of a helmet is a must. The rocks are very friable and since the side of the mountain is practically vertical in some sections, it is very easy to send an unintentional surprise towards the bottom. Even if there are no climbers above you, there are many ibexes that can also send an avalanche of rocks your way.



From a parking lot to the top there is about 3 hours of a relatively slow climb. The first half of it is a hike up to the base of the mountain side (a section of pastures is followed by a large scree). The second half is climbing the via ferrata section and then a short walk across the ridge to the metal cross set on the top of Jôf di Montasio.


If you enjoyed the photo material in this post, you should probably also check out another photos-only post from the top of Montaž.


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ever considered adoption?

You might be wondering what this is all about. Do adoptions have something to do with travel? Actually in this case there is a link between the two...


During my last trip to the Croatian island of Lošinj (also successfully marketed as The island of dolphins), a sign promoting adoptions caught my attention. As some of you might have already guessed by now, it was not about regular child adoptions - it was about a dolphin adoptions.


As I found out after a short investigation, on Lošinj you can actually do just that - adopt a real dolphin!



After days of swimming and relaxing on the beaches with M., on one of the mornings we decided to visit the town of Veli Lošinj for a change. Among other things, The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation definitely deserves a visit. It is located in the very centre of the town and was our main target of the day.


The place definitely has a strong environmental feel to it. It mainly focuses on local marine life and its preservation. Visitors can interact with many exhibitions, which makes it also perfect for children.


Since it is located on the island of dolphins, the marine centre obviously has a large section dedicated to sea mammals.


If you are planning a visit to the island I strongly recommend you stop at this place. If you do not have a trip for Croatia scheduled for the near future, you can visit their website instead and maybe sometime in the future end up spending your summer as a volunteer with them.


All information regarding dolphin adoption can be found on this direct link.

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Friday, 9 August 2013

Portrait of a lace maker

Mercury and lace. For centuries those were the main two income sources for the ordinary man (and woman) living in a Slovenian town of Idrija. While men were mining mercury, women spent their days making lace. During the last few decades both of those roles have been slowly replaced by alternatives provided by industry and hobbies of modern times.


With constant growth in tourism sector, Idrija has been trying to take advantage of a rich technical heritage, centuries of Mercury mining have left behind. Delicious local food specialities (žlikrofi) and delicate lace products are just some of all the other things this charming little Slovenian town has to offer to a visitor.


In an effort to help Idrija lace reach the publicity it deserves, I recently took part in a photographic workshop titled "Portrait of a lace maker". These are just some of the results I got from a rainy morning photo-session.








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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Architectural details of Ljubljana



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Friday, 2 August 2013

Open kitchen in Ljubljana

If you are a regular visitor of this blog, you have probably read a thing or two about Slovenia before.
If you are still not sure why you should check it out in person, here are the top 10 reasons for visiting Slovenia. As I have mentioned many times before, Slovenia is all about diversity - there is just so much of everything packed in this little gem of a country.


Food is no exception. Being tucked among countries with pretty distinct cuisines, Slovenia draws a little bit from each one of them. Throughout history the country has been influenced by Italy, Austria, Hungary and nearby Balkan countries. This is still quite obvious when looking at many dishes popular today.



All those influences do not mean there is nothing originally Slovenian in Slovenian cuisine. On the contrary, there are quite a few dishes with a unique local signature. In fact thirteen unique Slovenian foods and food products are even protected at the European level.


For locals and tourists alike there is a great chance to taste this uniqueness once a week in Ljubljana. There is an open food market set up every Friday from 8.00 in the morning till 19.00 in the evening in the very centre of Ljubljana (Pogačarjev trg). The food market is called Odprta kuhna literary meaning Open kitchen.
The plan is to keep the market running from May till October every year.



A while ago I decided to try out how the market looks and tastes like from the first-person perspective. I went there with a group of friends and I must say we all loved it!


When we visited the market there were some of the best restaurant representatives from many parts of the country. Local dishes as well as some fine international cuisine examples were on offer. As I learned, vendors change quite a lot and even those coming for a few times in a row try to present a different signature dish each time.



There were some delicious dishes I had an opportunity to taste for the first time. If you are wondering which one was my favourite, let me tell you it was a close call. I guess the fresh, lightly smoked sea bass fillet prepared at the Gostilna Krištof stall was my favourite amongst all.



The interesting part of this dish was its preparation. Sea bass fillet was first smoked with beech smoke using a specially designed smoking device. Then it was thinly sliced, placed on a vine leaf and seasoned with pepper, ginger and olive oil. I guess we could call it a sashimi with a Mediterranean-Slovenian twist.



Their restaurant is located in Kranj and if you are looking for a taste of Slovenian fusion cuisine with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients, they are definitely worth a closer look. They might not be cheap, but offer a great food experience with an extensive selection of wines.



Some stalls dedicated their attention to drinks only. There was not a large array of wines, beers and cocktails to choose from, but almost everything on offer was really good.
I tried an interesting variation of Mojito cocktail with White Plum Rakia instead of White rum.


To spice things up a little, there was a group of belly dancers. They put on quite a show!



We succeeded in visiting the majority of stalls and tasted as many dishes our bellies could possibly hold. We all agreed we need to do it again as soon as possible. Maybe we do it even today.


If you happen to be near Ljubljana on a Friday, you should definitely plan a visit to this food market. It is an ideal opportunity for finding your new favourite Slovenian restaurant.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Ostia Antica - the harbour city of ancient Rome

If during a visit to Rome you wish to escape the city bustle for a day, a magnificently preserved old city awaits not far away. It is located just next to the today's seaside destination town of Ostia. It is located 30 kilometres south-west from Rome.



It is interesting that a port town is not located by the sea. Ostia once definitely was a seaport, but due to silting and a changed course of the river Tiber it now lies 3 kilometres away from the sea.


Ostia got its name from its position at the mouth (ostium) of the river Tiber. This was perfect for various trading activities but not so much from the defensive point of view.



The city was founded in 7th century BC but the oldest preserved buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC. The downfall of once thriving harbour city started with recurring pirate sackings. After a naval battle between Christian and Saracens in 9th century AD the remaining inhabitants finally had enough of it and moved to a nearby city of Gregoriopolis.



The place is massive - it stretches for well over a kilometre in length! One should definitely keep that in mind while setting the viewing pace. It took us a whole afternoon to more-or-less walk through it. Whenever we ventured into one of many side streets there was an interesting surprise waiting for us just around the corner.


Among the highlights of this site are many ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics - all of them nicely preserved. The sheer size of the place was a definite highlight for me. Apart from that the state of buildings and mosaics is truly amazing.



Apart from beautiful mosaics there are also many buildings one should definitely not miss. These are my personal favourites in no particular order:

  • The Amphitheatre of Ostia Antica definitely deserves your attention. It is a perfect spot for a midday snack (on a cloudy day).
  • Just next to the theatre there is also an ancient market full of beautiful mosaics with representations of various vendors through their goods and trades.
  • I loved perfectly preserved public latrines, organized for collective use as a series of marble seats that also served as an important social moment apart from their obvious use. They were connected to a practical sewage system, spread all over the city.
  • Multiple public baths with beautiful mosaics and remains of ingenious central heating systems are something not to be missed.
  • I also really liked a nicely preserved bar on Via Casa di Diana (yes, there are streets in Ostia Antica). The inn called the Insula of the Thermopolium gives you a perfect idea of such a place back in those days. Shelves for food and drinks for sale can still be seen. It is not all that much different from modern bars.


How to get there? You can easily reach Ostia Antica from Rome by train. Take the city Metro (Line B) to the Piramide station. When you get to the station use the stairs/escalators at the north end of the tracks. Once you reach the top, head left until you reach a different set of tracks of the ROMA-LIDO (beach) train. Your metro pass can be used on this train and it will take you directly to the Ostia Antica station. The trains leave about every 15 minutes during peak season. You can buy your return ticket either at the beginning of your trip or use a ticket machine on Ostia train station before your trip back.


Really cheap and easy! Well worth the effort - especially since you can combine a visit to Ostia Antica with some beach time on the nearby Ostia Lido.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Roman stone ornaments





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Monday, 22 July 2013

Top coffee places in Rome

If after a meal at one of the places I suggested in my recent post about where to eat on a budget in Rome you feel like you need a cup of strong coffee, you should keep reading.



Neither M. nor I are true coffee lovers. That does not mean we can not appreciate a good cup of coffee and every time we visit Italy, we treat ourselves with a cup or two. Rome was no different.
We have had a couple of not-so-great coffee experiences during our trip, but mostly it was great stuff and not at all expensive. That is if you take it as locals usually do - at the bar.



Among the places we have been to, these two impressed us the most:

  • Antico Caffè Greco on Via Condotti 86 (just a stone-throw from Spanish steps) is a centuries old classy institution. They serve (in my humble opinion) the best coffee in Rome. You can get an excellent espresso for 0,80 Euro - if you drink it at the bar. On the other hand, if you choose to order a cappuccino at one of those classy looking tables you can however expect to pay 8 Euro. You will be served by a classy waiter in white gloves but nevertheless the price seems a bit high by my standards.
  • Tazza d'Oro on Via degli Orfani 84 is also a famous coffee place located near another popular sight - the Pantheon. They serve many varieties of coffee which they roast and mix themselves. It is a perfect place not only for drinking a cup of coffee, but also for buying a pack of it for your coffee-drinking friends back home. The best thing is you can try it out before you buy it. An excellent value for the money.



Regardless if you are or are not a coffee person I strongly recommend you to stop for a cup at both places mentioned above. After all you will probably find yourself near the Spanish steps as well as the Pantheon at some points of your stay in the Eternal city.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Best desserts Rome has to offer

It may be impossible to pick just one out of a number places in Rome claiming to offer the best ice-cream, chocolate cake, tiramisu and tartufo. If ice-cream is your thing you should probably check out which are the best ice-cream places in Rome in our opinion. Italians really do know a thing or two about the art of making good ice-cream.



This may come as a surprise to some of you, but apart from ice-cream there are also some other, at least just as delicious desserts to be found in Rome. Among the things we got to taste there are at least two places that stand out:

  • Pompi on Via Albalonga 7 is where you want to be when you feel the need for a dessert. Here you can get (supposedly) the best tiramisu in Rome for 3,50 Euro - if you take it with you. You can obviously expect to pay more if you choose to eat it sitting down. They serve generous portions of tiramisu deliciousness in various flavours. In addition to Tiramisu classico al caffé you should also try the Tiramisu al pistacchio variety.
  • Tre Scalini on Piazza Navona 28 is a somewhat pricey restaurant with an impressive confectionery section. That is where they make their famous Tartufo. It will cost cost you a hefty 5 Euro and you can double that if you order it sitting down. No point in doing that since you can enjoy a great atmosphere anywhere on Piazza Navona, just a few steps away. Despite the price it is worth a try.



Either of those things might not seem all that cheep for a dessert but you should keep in mind both come in pretty large portions that might easily satisfy two persons each.


You are very welcome to share your own experience of sweet Rome in the comments section.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Rome with a Tilt-shift twist





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