A Travellerspoint blog

Northern Greece.

Trips to Greece when we worked in Turkey.

Beautiful Northern Greece.

This is a memories page about my first trips to northern Greece when I was working in Turkey. From 1988 to 1991 I lived and worked in Istanbul. At that time, Turkey, was very bureaucratic and sorting out paperwork such as residence permits and work permits seemed to take forever. That meant that I was there only on a tourist visa while my paperwork was being sorted out and I had to leave the country every three months to get a new entry stamp in my passport. The closest country to go to was Greece, so every three months we would take a train to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece. The train journey was long and slow. Relations at the border between the Greeks and Turks were not the friendliest. All this led to long delays at Pythion on the Greek side of the border between the two countries. Our worst ever experience there was when we arrived at Pythion in the middle of the night and the engine was removed from the train. At the same time the power was cut off and the train was left overnight in pitch blackness. It was packed way beyond capacity with Greeks, Turks and many, many tourists and the corridors were filled with people. We were lucky enough to have a seat in a carriage, but before I could sleep I had to use the toilet. This involved walking along a pitch black, people filled corridor trying not to stand on anyone and trying to find the toilet in total darkness. Praying that no-one else was in the toilet in the pitch black; hoping I was peeing in the right place and hoping I could find my way back to my seat. All night we could hear the yells of people being trodden on in the dark as other people tried to move around. Horrific!

Other similar experiences include being left at Pythion for hours in the middle of winter in the freezing cold. A German tourist sharing my compartment took pity on me on that occasion and gave me some of her clothes to wear overnight. Assuming we all survived Pythion, we would eventually get to Alexandroupolis. We loved Alexandropoulis for a number of reasons. One, it was a pretty place with a lighthouse and harbour. Two, the people there were very pleasant. As well as the locals, we once bumped into a group of British teachers who were working there and
helped show us around.Three, the food was great and, best of all, they sold pork which we could not get in Istanbul. Souvlaki: pork grilled on a skewer, was often our meal of choice. We would also frequently have moussaka, salads with feta cheese, spinach and feta pie and of course lots of retsina.

Pythion Village. - Greece

Pythion Village. - Greece

Pythion Station. - Greece

Pythion Station. - Greece

Alexandroupolis was also a place where we got in supplies such as bacon and huge tins of Nescafe which were much cheaper there than in Istanbul. On a few occasions we travelled by train all the way from Istanbul to Austria to work in the summer months. On these journeys we would stop for a day or two in Thessaloniki. On our first visit there we arrived quite late at night and though we were hungry, we did not eat anything, assuming in our ignorance that all the restaurants would already be shut. Later we learned that people tend to eat late in Greece and that when we had gone hungry to bed, the rest of the population would just have been starting to go out to dinner.

Beautiful Greek Church, Alexandroupolis. - Greece

Beautiful Greek Church, Alexandroupolis. - Greece

Alexandropolis

Alexandropolis

Thessaloniki is the largest city in Northern Greece. We got there by train, but probably the easiest way is by air. Macedonia airport is located 16 km outside the city. It is served by the 24hour bus line number 78 which terminates at Thessaloniki Main Railway Station. I think of Thessaloniki as one of the hottest places I have ever been as we were always there in mid summer. We would walk from cafe to cafe stopping at each one for a cooling drink. I especially remember the delicious iced coffees we used to get there. Once a waiter tripped and accidentally threw a glass of iced water down my back. He was so apologetic. I, on the other hand, was thinking I would have paid him to do it again to help me cool down. Once when we were buying supplies for our lunch by the waterfront we foolishly included a bar of chocolate. We walked from the shop to the waterfront in just a few minutes and when we opened the chocolate, it just ran off the paper. It had become liquid so quickly in the intense heat. I remember Thessaloniki's white tower and its many Greek churches many of which were being restored when we visited.

Me soaking up the sun, Thessaloniki. - Greece

Me soaking up the sun, Thessaloniki. - Greece

The White Tower, Thessaloniki. - Greece

The White Tower, Thessaloniki. - Greece

Our hotel balcony, Thessaloniki. - Greece

Our hotel balcony, Thessaloniki. - Greece

Samothrace.

Our overall favourite place ever visited in Greece was the Island of Samothrace. We went there purely for pleasure and absolutely loved it. We booked accommodation in the main port Kamariotissa. On one occasion we travelled by bus to the town of Samothrace or Chora. We were with an English friend, Michael, whom we had met on one of our train trips from Istanbul to Alexandroupolis and whom we are still friends with nowadays. After panicking constantly that we might miss the only bus back to the port, Michael calmly said: "We are early, let's get a coffee." "No time," we said but he insisted, and so it was that we sat merrily sipping our coffees and watching the only bus back to Kamariotissa pass us by while we drank. So we had to walk back and we did walk and enjoyed it, though every car that passed us stopped and very kindly offered us a lift. We only walked because we missed the bus, but actually it was a lovely walk. The local people were so kind we had to turn down offer after offer of a lift back to the port. Our hotel overlooked the waterfront so we could fall asleep to the sound of the sea. We also very much enjoyed the ancient remains of the old town of Samothrace - Palaiopoli where we were almost the only people exploring the ruins. Each night of our stay we ate in the same restaurant and Peter and I had great food. Michael our friend is vegetarian, but eats fish. On the first night he ordered fish and the restaurant owner reluctantly served it saying he was a bit worried about the freshness. Second night Peter and I had a lovely meal. Michael had fish. The restaurant owner was quite distressed by his order saying the fish really was not very fresh. Third night when Michael ordered fish, the restaurant owner almost had a fit. It was quite funny. I think Michael ended up with chips and a salad. While we were staying on Samothrace there was a huge storm and the day we were due to leave all the boats were cancelled and we could not get off the island. I remember wandering along the front watching the huge waves. As a place to get stuck it was excellent and we were almost disappointed when the boat service resumed the next day.

When we left Samothrace, Michael stayed behind for a few more days and hired a motorbike to get around. We loved Samothrace because the locals were very friendly and there was plenty to see. We visited out of season, so it was not crowded. I have no idea if it is busy in the summer. I suspect it is a Greek island that is rather overlooked by tourists for some reason.

The Island of Samothrace. - Greece

The Island of Samothrace. - Greece

Our Hotel Balcony, Samothrace. - Greece

Our Hotel Balcony, Samothrace. - Greece

The walk back from Chora, Samothrace. - Greece

The walk back from Chora, Samothrace. - Greece

Samothrace - Greece

Samothrace - Greece

The beach, Samothrace. - Greece

The beach, Samothrace. - Greece

Michael and his bike. - Greece

Michael and his bike. - Greece

Palaiopoli, Samothrace. - Greece

Palaiopoli, Samothrace. - Greece

Sunset over Samothrace. - Greece

Sunset over Samothrace. - Greece

Stormy Seas, Samothrace. - Greece

Stormy Seas, Samothrace. - Greece

Xanthi.

We also chose Greece for our honeymoon many months after our actual wedding. We went to the little town of Xanthi as we had passed through it on the train ride from Thessaloniki back to Istanbul and loved the beautiful whitewashed houses clinging to the hillside there. Actually these houses were the old part of the town and most of the people living there were, to our surprise, Turkish.

Komitini.

The only other place in Greece I have visited is Komitini. I had to go there to visit the Turkish consulate to get my work permit. I went by bus and arrived in Komitini in pitch darkness around 4am. Britain had just done something diplomatically which offended Turkish people and which caused the price of my work permit to go sky high. The Turkish official in the consulate took the whole thing out on me. He also issued me with the wrong work permit and it had to be cancelled. The whole trip was a disaster. This was my least enjoyable visit to Greece. Greece is definitely up there on our list of places we need to revisit and I would love very much to visit Athens and Crete, but having said that, I feel very privileged to have visited some of the less touristy parts of Greece. I think it gave us a different and more accurate view of the country than visiting a resort.

Posted by irenevt 19:16 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Sighișoara.

The Birthplace of Dracula.

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View towards Sighisoara Citadel - Sighisoara

View towards Sighisoara Citadel - Sighisoara

Sighisoara.

We decided to visit Sighisoara as a day trip from Brasov. It was quite a long trip for a day 3 hours to get there by accelerat style train and just over 2 hours back. We choose this style of train due to convenient departure times; leaving after 9am and returning after 7pm. We had ample time to see Sighisora and have a meal there, because the old citadel of Sighisoara is small and all the sights are close together. We did not realise that we would arrive in Sighisoara during its festival. Due to the festival we had to pay 10 Ron to enter the old part of the city, but when we got in, there was lots of festival related activity: people wandering around in medieval costumes, battles, music, food cooked in large cauldrons suspended over open fires etc. It was interesting but crowded. Sighiosara is a fortified Saxon town. Its old town is located on a hilltop and is still partially surrounded by towers, gates and walls. Its most famous building is its lovely old clock tower. Its claim to fame is that it was the birth place of Vlad Tepes; Vlad the Impaler on whom the Dracula legend is based.

Clock Tower.

The most famous building in Sighisoara is its beautiful old clock tower which dominates the town. You can climb up inside it for the view (though we did not do this). The tower itself dates from the 14th century; the clock was added in 1604. Figures emerge from the clock at midnight each night apparently.

Clock face - Sighisoara

Clock face - Sighisoara

Clock tower - Sighisoara

Clock tower - Sighisoara

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace -Casa Dracula.

In Romania Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler is a national hero who helped stem the invasion of the Turks as they expanded the Ottoman Empire. Bram Stoker is believed to have based his character Dracula on Vlad Tepes mixing vampire legend and Vlad Tepes reputation for brutality. Vlad's father was given the title Dracul meaning dragon or devil. Dracula means son of the dragon or devil. Vlad Tepes was born in Sighisoara around 1431. The building is now a restaurant.

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Vlad Tepes' Birthplace

Casa cu Cerb or house with a stag.

The house with the stag is on a corner overlooking Citadel Square. It dates from the sixteenth century and is now used as a pension and restaurant. The houses name comes from the picture of a stag on its corner.

The House with the Stag - Sighisoara

The House with the Stag - Sighisoara

Walls, gates and towers.

Sighisoara was originally a Saxon town known as Castrum Sex Fort Six. In the fourteenth century the town was controlled by craft guilds. Each guild was required to build a defensive tower for the town and help defend the town during war time. Remaining towers include: Shoemakers' Tower, Tailors' Tower, Furriers' Tower, Butchers' Tower (now home to the custodian of the Saxon cemetery) and Tinsmiths' Tower. It is quite pleasant to stroll from one tower to the next.

One of the old towers - Sighisoara

One of the old towers - Sighisoara

Festival Musicians - Sighisoara

Festival Musicians - Sighisoara

Butchers - Sighisoara

Butchers - Sighisoara

Typical Sighisoara street - Sighisoara

Typical Sighisoara street - Sighisoara

Flowers

Flowers

The Church on the Hill.

You can climb up to this church by roadway or by climbing the covered Scholars' Stairs a steep stairway of around 175 steps dating from 1642 and so called because it leads to the old Sighisoara school. The church on the hill is open daily from 10am to 5pm. It costs 2RON to go in. The church is a beautiful cool and peaceful place with patches of wall paintings and stairs leading down to a dingy crypt. It was built between 1345 and 1525. Opposite the church is the green and peaceful Saxon cemetery open daily from 9am to 4pm; free entry. The custodian of the cemetery lives in an odd little house located in the Butchers' Tower near the church.

The Church on the Hill - Sighisoara

The Church on the Hill - Sighisoara

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral.

When you walk from the railway station to the old town you will pass a beautiful orthodox church located on the river. The church dates from 1937. We did not go inside. It is quite impressive from the outside.

The Orthodox Cathedral

The Orthodox Cathedral

Posted by irenevt 23:47 Archived in Romania Comments (8)

The Land of Dracula.

Brasov, Bran and Rasov. 2011.

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Mediaeval goings on in the town square - Brasov

Mediaeval goings on in the town square - Brasov

Brasov.

We spent a very happy four days in Brasov. The train journey there from Bucharest was very scenic especially around the Sinaia area. The town of Brasov was known as Kronstadt to the medieval Saxons and Brasso to the Hungarians. It currently bills itself as probably the best city in the world who knows they may be right; it was certainly very beautiful.

History:

Brasov was an important and wealthy trading town in Saxon times. More recently in November 1987 and December 1989 it was the scene of violent riots sparked off by the economic collapse during these turbulent times. You can still see bullet holes in some of the beautiful old buildings on Strada Republicii. Nowadays Brasov is much more peaceful and a major Transylvanian tourist destination.

Sights:

Brasov has a lot of beautiful sights: its main town square, the beautiful black church, its colourful park, its citadel, its old city walls, towers and gates with their spectacular view points, its cable car, the Schei Valley with its beautiful fairytale church. It is also a wonderful base from which to visit Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress, Sinaia and the ski resort of Poiana Brasov.

Piata Sfatului or the Old Town Square.

There was always something going on in the old town square: be it armed guards in medieval costume escorting the trumpeters for their serenade from the old town hall tower at 6pm (no idea if this happens daily or not), concerts with bands and choirs (occurred from 7pm Saturday not sure if it is daily), the produce market - Saturdays, or just the general comings and goings of locals and tourists. There are many beautiful buildings on the square: the old town hall, the black church, the orthodox cathedral, as well as many hotels and restaurants. There was also a lovely fountain and some great views towards some of the city's towers.

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Piata Sfatului or the old town square

Behind the city walls.

Near the Schei gate on the right hand side as you face the Schei quarter there is a lovely walkway which passes some of Brasov's old towers, walls and gates. You can cross the stream and climb up to the Black Tower and White Tower for spectacular views over Brasov's old town and its huge black church. The views from here were one of the main highlights of Brasov for me.

Behind the city walls

Behind the city walls

Behind the city walls

Behind the city walls

Behind the city walls

Behind the city walls

Towers,gates and walls - Brasov

Towers,gates and walls - Brasov

The Schei Quarter.

During Saxon times the Romanian speaking population had to live outside Brasov's city walls in the Schei Quarter. They could only enter Brasov through the Schei Gate and had to pay a toll to do so. The Schei quarter has a beautiful church the Church of St Nicholas which reminded me of Sleeping Beauty's castle. There is a war memorial in the main square. The museum of the first Romanian school is here, too but we did not visit this.

The Schei Quarter

The Schei Quarter

The Schei Quarter

The Schei Quarter

Str. Sforii or Rope Street.

Str Sforii is the narrowest street in Brasov and in Romania. It is a short walk east of the main square just off Str. Porta Schei near the synagogue. It is just 1.3m wide. You can reach out and touch both of its walls at the same time.

Str. Sforii or Rope Street

Str. Sforii or Rope Street

Cable Car.

You can take a cable car up Mount Tampa for views over the whole of Brasov. The cable car runs from Tues to Fri 9am 5.30pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 6pm. You can go up and walk back down, apparently it takes around an hour to walk down and is rather slippy (we were told by some fellow tourists) though we were lazy and just paid 15RON to go and come back by cable car. There is a little cafe at the top of the cable car. When you reach the top you must walk off to the right for about 10 minutes to reach the viewing platform, located just behind the V of the Brasov sign. The view was scenic but the viewing platform was really small and got very crowded so we did not feel we could linger long.

Cable Car

Cable Car

Citadel.

It is worth doing the short climb up the zigzag path, near the orthodox church, on the far side of Central Park up to Brasov's citadel. The citadel is now a restaurant. We stopped for a drink here and the surroundings were calm and relaxing. There are good views from the citadel's viewpoints. You can just look at the views without having a drink or food if you prefer.

Citadel

Citadel

Citadel

Citadel

Central Park.

This park is a beautiful flower filled place. It is a great place to sit and relax, or watch the old men playing chess, or look at the lovely nearby orthodox church. It is really very peaceful and quiet here.

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Central Park

Brasov wedding procession - Brasov

Brasov wedding procession - Brasov

Strada Republicii.

This street has some lovely old buildings and is filled with restaurants, cafes and bars. Hard to believe it was once the scene of riots and fighting during the 1987 and 1989 economic collapse of Romania.

Strada Republicii

Strada Republicii

Bran.

Bran Castle - Bran

Bran Castle - Bran

Bran is a small town located 28KM southwest of Brasov. We went here on a day trip from Brasov. We got there by taking a bus from Brasov bus station number 2. The ticket cost 6RON. Buses leave at 9am, 10am, 11am; then at half hourly intervals finishing around 7 (I think). The front of the bus will say Bran, but its final destination is the little village of Moeciu. Our bus to Bran was horribly overcrowded but it was fine coming back. The bus also passes through Rasov with its lovely fortress on a hill.

Traditional Life

Traditional Life

Bran Castle.

Most people visit Bran to go to its famous castle which is sold as Dracula's castle, but this is probably not true. The castle has only slight links with Vlad Tepes, the person on whom the Dracula legend is based. It is billed as Dracula's castle to make money from tourism and because of its secret passages, windy staircases etc. The castle was built between 1377 and 1382 by the Saxons of Brasov to protect their trade route with Wallachia. The most famous occupant of the castle was Queen Marie of Romania. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married Prince Ferdinand of Romania in 1893. She was a much loved monarch. The castle is built around a central courtyard with a little wishing well. It is a beautiful building with furnished rooms, spiral stairs, secret passages and good views. The castle is open May to Oct: Mon noon 6pm,Tues to Sun 9am to 6pm; Nov to April: Tues to Sun 9am to 4pm. Entry is 10 Ron for adults.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

In Bran Castle - Bran

In Bran Castle - Bran

Bran Castle

Bran Castle

Bran Castle Grounds.

There is a pond and some old Romanian buildings in the grounds of Bran Castle. A tourist had actually dropped her bag in the pond and some locals helped her to fish it out. No easy task in that murky water. Still she was delighted. It probably had her passport and money inside.

Bran Castle Grounds

Bran Castle Grounds

Bran.

The town of Bran has a souvenir market and several restaurants and cafes. It is a good place to spend half a day. The souvenir market is just outside the entrance to Bran Castle. It is quite interesting to browse around in with its traditional and colourful souvenirs. We did not actually buy anything here. One of the joys of living in Hong Kong is that you really have no room for any form of souvenirs.

Masks at Bran Market - Bran

Masks at Bran Market - Bran

Bran Market

Bran Market

Bran Market

Bran Market

Photographing Bran Castle.

It is hard to get a good shot of the outside of Bran Castle from the grounds of the castle as it is mainly blocked by trees. We got some good shots by exiting the castle, passing the market, going left and left again past the bus stop down the hill past some restaurants, over a little bridge and into a field with an old tower. When you cross the field and look back, you have a good view of the castle.

Photographing Bran Castle

Photographing Bran Castle

Getting to Bran.

We got there by taking a bus from Brasov bus station number 2. The ticket cost 6RON. Buses leave at 9am, 10am, 11am then at half hourly intervals finishing around 7 (I think). The front of the bus will say Bran, but its final destination is the little village of Moeciu. Our bus to Bran was horribly overcrowded but it was fine coming back. The bus also passes through Rasov with its lovely fortress on a hill.

Rasnov.

Rasnov Fortress - Rasnov

Rasnov Fortress - Rasnov

If you travel by bus from Brasov to Bran Castle you will pass through the town of Rasnov. It has a beautiful ruined fortress perched on a hill top high above it. Bran and Rasnov can be visited on the same day. The fortress was built around 1225 by Teutonic knights. It is now partially ruined. The town of Rasnov also has a large church and some pleasant restaurants and cafes. There is a camp site there and caves nearby but we did not visit them.

The main reason to visit Rasnov is to go to the fortress. You get to Rasnov by taking a bus from Brasov bus station. You can get to the fortress by walking up the main road towards it from the bus stop, then passing through an archway with a little cafe inside. There are steep stairs going up the hillside near the cafe. These stairs disappear in part and on some patches you are walking on steep slippy rocks. I had slippery sandals on and was all over the place. If you don't fancy that route you can walk along the side of the main road. First go to the church turn right, then off to the left (there are a couple of sign posts). You will eventually reach a gasthaus near a camp site. From the far side of the camp site you can walk up to the fortress from near the camp site. Or you can pay to take a little train pulled by a tractor up if you are feeling tired or lazy. We came down by this road route as our way up was slippy. The fort has a museum inside which we did not visit. My guide book tells me it is open from 8am to 8pm and costs the equivalent of 1 Euro 50 to go in. We were happy just to enjoy the views and look at the fortress walls. The fortress was founded around 1225 by Teutonic knights.

My husband enjoying a beer in Rasnov - Rasnov

My husband enjoying a beer in Rasnov - Rasnov

The fortress high above the town - Rasnov

The fortress high above the town - Rasnov

Rasnov Fortress

Rasnov Fortress

Climbing the Fortress.

You'll be fine taking the roadway up on foot, but if you take the steep route through the archway, wear sensible non-slippy shoes. It is easy to turn your ankle on this route. We choose not to come back down this way as it was so slippy.

Bus To Rasnov.

The bus to Bran passes throught Rasnov first. We went by this bus. We got to Rasov and Bran by taking a bus from Brasov bus station number 2. The ticket cost 6RON. Buses leave a 9am, 10am, 11am then at half hourly intervals finishing around 7 (I think). The front of the bus will say Bran, but its final destination is the little village of Moeciu. There was the choice of several other buses from other places coming back from Rasov, just get on anything that says Brasov.

Posted by irenevt 23:13 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Bucharest, Romania.

2011.

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Hand painted eggs, Bucharest - Bucharest

Hand painted eggs, Bucharest - Bucharest

Bucharest.

Well we finally made it! I say we finally made it, because our trip to Bucharest was supposed to happen last year. What went wrong? Simple, I started reading about it. From what I read we were sure to be fined by ticket inspectors, have our passports stolen by false policemen, be robbed blind by gypsies, and all prior to being torn apart by marauding packs of wild dogs. Last year we made a sudden switch to Bulgaria (which has a similar bad press minus the dogs). The reality: we were occasionally asked for money by beggars who took no for an answer and did not pester us again, there were stray dogs, all of which totally ignored us, we encountered several ticket inspectors who just checked our tickets then went away, we did not encounter any gypsies or fake policemen. A genuine policeman helped us find our correct train in Brasov. Most of the people we encountered were friendly, pleasant and lovely. We had one or two minor negative moments but these can occur anywhere. Overall, I would give Romania a big thumbs up and would happily return.

Things to do:

We had limited time so could not possibly see everything. We lived in north Bucharest and spent our first evening looking at the Charles De Gaulle statue, the Arc de Triumph and Herastrau Park, next day we looked at University Place, Revolution Square, Part of the Calea Victoriei, Lipscani, Cismigiu Park and the Casa Poporului. Final day boat trip in Herastrau and the Village Museum. Many things left undone but that is what the future is for, isn't it?.

This visit:

This visit to Romania involved visiting Bucharest, Brasov, Bran Castle, Rasov Fortress and Sighisoara. For future visits I like the sound of Sinaia, Sibiu, Maramures and Constanta whether we ever get there or not remains to be seen.

Piata Revolutiei.

Revolution Square was quite fascinating to visit because it has experienced so much of recent history. It was from the former Communist Party Headquarters here in 1989 that Ceausescu made his famous speech that went out live on Romanian TV. During his speech he was booed and heckled by the busloads of miners he has bused in to support him. You can look at the balcony he made this speech from. On the opposite side of the square is the former royal palace ­ now the art museum. In the centre is a monument to those killed in the revolution - which is irreverently called the olive on the stick by locals. There is also the university library, the former securitate building which was rebuilt after the revolution with its original stone bottom and a modern glass top. In addition there is the beautiful Cretulescu Church.

Former Communist Party H.Q. with olive on stick - Bucharest

Former Communist Party H.Q. with olive on stick - Bucharest

Cretulescu Church - Bucharest

Cretulescu Church - Bucharest

Former Securitate Building - Bucharest

Former Securitate Building - Bucharest

Monument Revolution Square - Bucharest

Monument Revolution Square - Bucharest

Shower bus shelters.

Beat the summer heat by strolling through one of Bucharest's shower shelters. I think this is a great idea and am surprised I have never come across it before in other hot countries. We saw people roller blade through it as well as walk through it.

Shower bus shelters

Shower bus shelters

Charles de Gaulle Statue.

Have a look at the Charles de Gaulle statue on Charles de Gaulle Square outside Herastrau Park near Aviatorilor Metro Station. It is quite an interesting one and shows Romania's interest in all things French.

Charles de Gaulle Statue

Charles de Gaulle Statue

Calea Victoriei.

This road has many beautiful buildings and monuments. We only walked one stretch of it (from just above Revolution Square to the end of Lipscani) the rest will have to wait for future visits. Highlights for us were the Athenee Palace Hilton Hotel, the Atheneum, the buildings of Piata Revolutiei, Cercul Militar and the Odeon.

The Atheneum - Bucharest

The Atheneum - Bucharest

The Circul Militar - Bucharest

The Circul Militar - Bucharest

Old Town.

The old town area, otherwise known as Lipscani, is a total mess, yet fascinating. Many of the streets were ripped up years ago; then due to a dispute were left ripped up rather than repaved. Some are currently being repaired. There are wonderful buildings, beautifully restored, right next to derelict buildings, falling down where they stand. The whole area is covered in restaurants and bars and despite everything is a great place for a drink or a meal. Highlights include the Old Court (Curtea Veche) once the palace of Vlad Tepes aka Dracula, the Old Court Church, the Hanul Lui Manuc ­ a former inn. From the outside this looks derelict and a mess. From the inside it is a lovely posh restaurant/hotel. There are also several churches such as the Russian Church and Stavropoleos Church. There are many beautiful bank buildings. You will also find the famous Caru cu restaurant) here. Well worth a stroll, just watch out for the bulldozers! Address: Lipscani street and around.

Stavropoleos Church - Bucharest

Stavropoleos Church - Bucharest

Elegant eateries - Bucharest

Elegant eateries - Bucharest

Inside  Hanul Lui Manuc - Bucharest

Inside Hanul Lui Manuc - Bucharest

The old princely court of Vlad Tepes - Bucharest

The old princely court of Vlad Tepes - Bucharest

Cismigiu Gardens.

This is a pretty park in the centre of Bucharest. The park centres around a large lake. Even on the hottest day there are shady places to rest here. Watch the old boys playing chess or other board games; hire a boat and go for a row; have a drink or meal in one of the park's restaurants or cafes; enjoy the flowers; take a look at the park's many statues or just enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Bucharest has beautiful parks - Bucharest

Bucharest has beautiful parks - Bucharest

Pretty flowers and lakes - Bucharest

Pretty flowers and lakes - Bucharest

Fountains and boats. - Bucharest

Fountains and boats. - Bucharest

The Palace of Parliament.

This building is testimony to Ceausescu's madness. It is the second largest administrative building in the world and led to Ceausescu razing large parts of Bucharest to build it. It was still not finished at the time of his execution. We did not go inside as we did not want to pre-book and hang around waiting for an organized tour. One thing you can say is it is certainly big.

My husband outside the Palace of Parliament - Bucharest

My husband outside the Palace of Parliament - Bucharest

Street based on Champs Elysee leading P of P - Bucharest

Street based on Champs Elysee leading P of P - Bucharest

The Arc de Triumf.

Located on Soseaua Kiseleff. This is worth having a look at when you visit either Herestrau Park or the Village Museum. Quite impressive.

Triumph Arch - Bucharest

Triumph Arch - Bucharest

Herastrau Park.

Beautiful Park in northern Bucharest with lakes and flower gardens and statues and restaurants. Hire a rowing boat here or go on a circular cruise for 5 RON. The cruise gives you good views towards the Casa Presei Libere. Get here by taking the metro to Aviatorilor Station.

flower gardens - Bucharest

flower gardens - Bucharest

More flower filled gardens - Bucharest

More flower filled gardens - Bucharest

View towards Casa Presse Libere - Bucharest

View towards Casa Presse Libere - Bucharest

The Village Museum.

The Village Museum borders Herastrau Park, but its entrance is on Soseaua Kiseleff. You cannot enter it from the park. Entrance is 6Ron. It is open on Mon 9 to 5, Tues to Sun 9 to ­7. The museum contains buildings from all over Romania including different styles of houses, windmills, farms, water mills, fisheries, churches and even an old merry go round. You can buy craft items here. Children can try to make some of the craft items. There is a lot to see. We spent a happy 3 hours here. There is a gift shop and snack bar here, too.

Old wooden church at the Village Museum - Bucharest

Old wooden church at the Village Museum - Bucharest

Merry-go-round - Bucharest

Merry-go-round - Bucharest

Interesting old houses. - Bucharest

Interesting old houses. - Bucharest

View towards Village Museum - Bucharest

View towards Village Museum - Bucharest

Romanian clay figures. - Bucharest

Romanian clay figures. - Bucharest

Orthodox Church.

We discovered a beautiful church on Bdul Marasti near the Arc de Triomf. We think it is the Manistirea Casin. There was a rugby stadium nearby, too. We did not get a chance to look inside, just observed from outside.

University Square.

This area saw fierce fighting during the 1989 revolution. The graves of some of the revolutionaries are located on a traffic island next to the square. The square contains the university and a theatre currently undergoing renovation. It is a traffic clogged nightmare of a place but has a useful metro station. We saw this odd sculpture there. Not entirely sure what it is but it was quite intriguing.

Sculpture, University square - Bucharest

Sculpture, University square - Bucharest

Posted by irenevt 18:41 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Beautiful Bled.

Day Trip from Ljubljana.

all seasons in one day

Bled Castle looming over Lake Bled. - Bled

Bled Castle looming over Lake Bled. - Bled

Beautiful Bled.

We went to Bled for the day. We took a bus from the main bus station in Ljubljana. I think the ticket was 7 Euros 60 per person. The bus took just over an hour and was very crowded with lots of people standing. The older I get, the less I am liking crowded, touristy places, so I was feeling negative even on the bus journey and could not help comparing it with our bus journey to Kranj the day before when we had almost a whole bus to ourselves. On arrival my mood did not improve. I wanted to go swimming and to walk around the lake. When we reached the lake, we saw lots of no swimming signs and when we went to the official swimming area, we found it was quite expensive with additional costs for everything. Now that may have been fine if we had intended to swim and sunbathe for several hours but we wanted a quick swim and then to go walking. I know I am sounding moany and negative, but as we started walking around the lake, I could not help but be charmed by the magical scenery: medieval castle perched on the hill, clear blue lake waters, island in the distance with tall church spire.

The further away we got from the main town of Bled, the happier I became. We found people swimming for free in the lake, sometimes next to the no swimming signs and I could not resist joining them, though my more law abiding husband did not. We found a Mercator Supermarket and bought a picnic to eat by the lakeside. When we had walked right round to the island, we found another swimming area where you could swim for free or just pay for sun bed and sun umbrella hire. I liked the far side of the lake much more than the town end. We realized then that we were near the Bled Jezero Train Station and decided to take a train back from there rather than travel back on a crowded bus again. This station was only about 10 minutes walk away from the swimming area at the island end of the lake, but trains from here are not frequent, so you do have to know the times. Also the train will take you to Jessenice and you have to change there. The train journey was slower than the bus, but it was not crowded and the scenery on both journeys: bus and train was lovely. Bled Jezero to Ljubljana on the faster train costs 8 Euros 39 and on the slower one 6 Euros 59. We treated our day in Bled differently from the non­stop sightseeing of our other days, as we wanted a change. We did not go to the castle, or take a boat to the island. It was a walking and swimming and enjoying the scenery laid back restful sort of day. For my husband Bled was the highlight of our whole holiday. It was certainly beautiful.

Bled Castle.

This stunning castle stands perched on a rock towering over Lake Bled. The castle looks different from different angles as you walk around the lake and in different weather conditions. On our one day visit we had brilliant sunshine, rolling clouds, heavy rain and actually the changes these brought to all the scenery was worth experiencing in itself. We did not climb up to the castle, but apparently there are three different paths to Bled Castle. All of these are sign posted Grad which means castle. The first walk begins in the car park behind Bledec Hostel; the second is a very steep path beginning at the Castle Baths; and the third starts near the Church of St Martin. Bled Castle was originally built in the early eleventh century, though much of the current castle was built in the sixteenth century after the castle was damaged in an earthquake in 1511. For eight hundred years Bled Castle was the seat of the Bishops of Brixen.Nowadays Bled Castle is a museum with a beautiful chapel and stunning views over Bled Lake and island.

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle - Bled

Bled Castle with Pletnas. - Bled

Bled Castle with Pletnas. - Bled

The Church of St Martin.

In Bled town you can visit the Parish Church of St Martin, which was created by Friedrich von Schmidt in 1905. Von Schmidt also designed the town hall and the Votive Church in Vienna. We just looked at the church on our way past without going in as we had been doing day after day of non­stop sightseeing and wanted just to enjoy the natural scenery of Bled rather than the sights.

The Church of St Martin

The Church of St Martin

The Church of St Martin

The Church of St Martin

The Church of St Martin

The Church of St Martin

Lake Bled.

For us the main reason to go to Bled was to walk round the lake and go for a swim in it. It is a wonderful feeling to swim in clear blue waters and look up to see an ancient castle looming over you or a distant island with its tall church spire. It reminded me a little of swimming in the Alpsee with Neuschwanstein looming nearby. Bled Lake is 2km by 1.4km. It is a 6km walk to go right round with paths by the shore all the way. As you walk around, the castle and island look different from different angles. There are two officially designated swimming areas with other more expensive hotel owned ones. The swimming area in the main town near the castle is quite expensive but has facilities. At the swimming area near the island end you can swim free just paying for sun beds and umbrellas if you hire these. Swimming in clear blue waters next to a picturesque island with an ancient castle towering nearby. Just lovely! What an absolutely perfect way to spend a glorious sun­filled day. We later had a picnic by the lake, too. Directions: If you walk or drive around the lake, you will see where people swim.

A Pletna Heading for the Shore. - Bled

A Pletna Heading for the Shore. - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Pletna on Lake Bled - Bled

Pletna on Lake Bled - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Lake Bled - Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Swimming in Lake Bled

Bled Island.

You can hire a boat called a pletna to go out to Bled island. We did not; we just viewed it from the shore. Like the castle, the island looks very different when viewed from different sides. When you are right in front of it you can see the stairway leading up to the Church of the Assumption. The stairway dates from 1655.The lovely church dates from the seventeenth century. However there has been a church at this site since the ninth century. Inside the church there are fragments of frescoes and a wishing bell which you can ring to make your wish come true. While you are on the island, you can also visit the Chaplain's House and the Provost's House. The island was also a place of worship in ancient times when Ziva goddess of love and fertility was worshiped here.

Bled Island. - Bled

Bled Island. - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

The Island on the Lake. - Bled

The Island on the Lake. - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Bled Island - Bled

Cream Cakes.

Bled is famous for its mouth ­wateringly yummy cream cakes like this one. We did not actually try any but they certainly look good. I feel I was a very good girl for resisting the temptation to eat several of these.

Cream Cakes

Cream Cakes

Posted by irenevt 20:10 Archived in Slovenia Comments (2)

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