Tag Archives: trip to Europe

Interested in history – just visit the Rome

Sad to say but this was my last of ‘full sightseeing day’ in Rome. And last day of this short vacation trip as well.  Didnt feel like getting up early & staying in long lines for getting in  ‘must‘ visit… Therefore (please forgive me 🙂 ) instead of  visiting Vatican, I sleep in & spend few more hours near pool. I know – Vatican is one of the  ‘must’ for people visiting Rome & Italy but I leave it for some rainy day 🙂

Rome. Piazza NavonaAfter some ‘morning sun’ I’m ready for more sightseeing of Rome. Main check points for the day –  Piazza Novana, Coliseum and Castel Sant’Angelo in the evening. In between – a lot of walking in narrow streets of the central part of Rome. Of course a lot of picture-taking, some ice cream, ‘lunch’ in some park with shadow & nice views, a book/music store on the way.

Rome. Silvio Berlusconi mansionAnd yes, not far from Trevi Fountain I stumble upon mansion of Silvio Berlusconi – place hard to miss because a lot of people, some police, TV & news reporters on the street. Or maybe I just happen to be there during some meeting because many ‘important’ guests were arriving… But since I’m more found of Italian culture, history and architecture than politics, then I did keep going to explore other monuments, museums and places of tourist attractions in Rome 🙂

Coliseum - world famous attraction of Rome

Coliseum - world-famous attraction of Rome. If you take an audio guide, plan more than hour for this visit.

Activity for the evening – ‘Notti d’Estate a Castel Sant’Angelo’. Saw this place already some other night, because with all the illuminations it looks really great in the evening.Rome, Castel Sant Angelo at night

As special summer event this museum has weekly programme for visitors. Every night there is a different events going on from 8:30pm till 0:30am. With entrance fee of 9 euros, this evening visit to Castle Sant’Angelo was very impressive. Worth every cent! So those ones that are in Rome till September 4 – hurry up to spend a balmy summer evening in this wonderful place full of  art, history and culture!

Well, could I squeeze in some thing more for today? Maybe visit to Terme di Caracalla (they are not far from Coliseum) but since it was close to closing time, this stays for some other time…

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Day 3 – sightseeing of Rome

Love every day of my trip so far 🙂 . It is so nice to have a lazy mornings and simple enjoy the breakfast & relax an hour or more near the pool. I know I’m in Rome, & there are so many things to do & to see but these hours by the pool are nice as well. Chat with other people, read a travel guide about places to see and swim a bit in the pool. Well, to be honest I was in the pool more that outside. Because can tell you a secret – you get nicer tan while in the water & most important, skin doesn’t get sunburn so fast. Learned this during my swimmers carrier 🙂

Today is my ‘tourist attraction’ day. My picks for the day are cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano, Capitolini Musseum and Bocca Del Verita & Summer Night event along riverbanks of Tiber. Since I have Roma Pass that covers all transportation for 3 days and entrance to 2 museums of choice,  I need to take Metro to get to the Termini & bus to get to the San Giovanni. Here I‘d like to mention that till the end of 2011 there are some traffic limits set on Metro line A and not all stations are served.

Metro line A service suspention

So – San Giovanni in Lateranois the cathedral where the Pope officiates in his capacity as a bishop of Rome. Entrance is free & you even can get an audio guide for the visit; but if you want visit cloister (entrance at the end of left aisle), then there is 2.50euro for entrance.

San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

Large builging of S.Giovanni in Laterno you definetely see but is not so impressive from outside as inside.

There are many cathedrals and churches in Rome. And every one of them is like a piece of art & architecture.

Cathedral S. Giovanni in Laterano is very impressive from inside

Cathedral S. Giovanni in Laterano is very impressive from inside

But San Giovanni in Laterano is really ‘wow’. Besides, right next to it there is another unique place to visit – Scala Santa. If you go out of cathedrals, main entrance, turn to the left – across the street there is a 16th–century building. This church holds a staircase from Pilate’s Palace in Jerusalem. Tradition says that 28 steps of this middle staircase can be made on knees.

Santa Scala

My next destination is Capitolini Museum. Information states, that this is most ancient museum in the world. In two buildings of the museum there is a significant collection of mediaeval and modern works Palazzo Nouvo and Palazzo del Conservatori are linked with underground tunnel, which leads to ancient Tabularium with monumental arches overlooking Forum.

Forum - one of most famous tourist attraction in Rome

Forum - one of most famous tourist attraction in Rome.

Right next to the steps leading to the Musei Capitolini there are other ones left side that lead to the Vittoriano Complex and its panoramic terraces. Again, great view over the Rome and Piazza Venezia. Or maybe I have to say Capitolini is right behind Vittoriano? Because that white monument dominates the area of Piazza Venezia.

Vittoriano monument complex, Roma, Italy

My next destination was Bocca della Verita. Many people are wondering where to find it but it turns out easy access from Piazza Venezia – I would say that you can just walk down the street on left side from steps to Capitolini in direction to the river. Church itself is not far from Palatino bridge.

 Long day come to end and there was just one thing left – Lung il Tevere Roma (Along the Tiber). This is event, that already goes during the whole summer till the end of August in backsides of Tiber from Palatino bridge till the Sisto bridge. With 3 thematic areas – culture, reception, entertainment this is nice place where to take evening walks.

Summer Nights along the Tiber , Rome

Iceland volcano awake once more

This is happening again – some of Iceland’s volcano has awaken and stopping the air traffic in northern parts of Europe with huge ash clouds. Though this is happening second time and airlines already have some experience after last years ash eruption in Iceland, KLM, Easyjet, BA and Eastern Airways have canceled some flights today, May 23 and for tomorrow, May 24.

Mainly there will be disruptions of certain flights following a Civil Aviation Authority warning. To avoid effects of ash clouds there will be canceled flights between London and Scotland, Arctic Island, Greenland and Denmark. Of cource many travelers in Iceland, and UK are wondering how to get home or how this will effect some other travel arrangements, but generally people seem to be more calm.

The good thing is that people learn from their experience. After last years volcano eruption, when there was no air traffic in most of European countries for a week and many travelers were stuck in airports, this time authorities do not predict chaos as seen a year ago. Scientists say ash seems to be more heavy and fall back to earth but winds directions are more favourable…

A year ago many people learned about Iceland much more than in years before and even set a competitions how to pronounce a ‘Eyjatjallajokull‘ (that was a name of active volcano). This year a task with the name is kind of easy – ‘Grimsvotn‘…

Here are some interesting links to more information and images from Iceland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMStcqHfwQ4


Getting ready for long weekend getaway in Stockholm.

Spring is almost here & so is Easter. I’ll use this long weekend – 4 days are almost like a sort vacation 🙂 – for visiting a Stockholm, Sweden. Have been there long ago but then someone was showing the best visitor’s attractions to me. Now I’m looking forward doing sightseeing on my own and exploring one of the beautiful Scandinavian cities during the spring time.

 Swedish capital has great architecture and many points of interest to visit.  Stockholm is very nice for sightseeing because there is an easy access to many tourist attractions. Right now I don’t have a particular plan for my visit but I know that one of the first things I’ll do is visit Stockholm’s Tourist Center (right across the street from the Central Train Station) to get  some city maps & latest updates for events during the Easter. Then I’ll just walk around the central part of Stockholm to get an ideas what I’d like  & need to see. 

What comes to this trip is that this is the first time I’ll be using Ryanair – popular low-cost airline. This is kind of new experience for me. I have heard o lot of stories about traveling with Ryanair. Many of my friends & relatives are using this airline a lot. The good part is the cheap price for the tickets for traveling within European destinations but down side is the little service and location of airports served.

Ryanair uses Skavsta Airport for Stockholm destination  – around 100 km southwest from city therefore one of the issue is how to get to/from Airport to Stockholm. The  easiest & cheapest option is to use Flygbussarna direct buses. Return ticket for adult costs 238 SEK with online advance purchase. Tickets can be purchased at the Airport & on the bus as well. But important note, that from Jan 1, 2011 busses are cash free – which means payments are accepted just by credit cards (and no Maestro or Visa Electron).

One thing that I already learned is that you can register & get boarding pass for the flight 15 days in advance.  And many people are doing it as soon as online registration is open to get better seating. When I was checking in 4 (and 7) days in advance I got seating somewhere at the end of  the plane.  Good that you can register for both – inbound and outbound flights – in same time. But why do they need to have my ID for trip within the Europe? Havent seen that anywhere else.

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Sightseeing in Moscow. Day 2

Yesterday was very nice day from weather point of view. Therefore I could spend more time in the afternoon by walking around. Moscow as a city has a long & rich history, great culture and a lot of cultural entertainment. I preferred to take some Moscow sightseeing but some of my colleagues decided go to some theater performance. If you are interested in cultural side of traveling – check the wide offer of world famous performances, theaters, concerts, exhibitions in Moscow.

Moscow. Kremlin view from riverside

Moscow. Kremlin view from riverside

As I mentioned before on Thursdays many museums have longer working hours. I decided go to Tretyakov Gallery – largest collection of Russian Fine arts. This museum is located in Zamoskvorechie – across the Moscow river. On the map it looks like quite a distance for walking but practically it is pretty close to Kremlin area.

Moscow. The dathedral of the Christ the Saviuor

Moscow. The dathedral of the Christ the Saviuor

At first I went to the Cathedral Christ the Saviour (Metro station Kropotkinskaya ). I would say that this cathedral is one of the ‘must’ things to see. Building itself is nice & impressive. Hard to believe that in Soviet times there was a public swimming pool… That was the Soviet attitude to the church – at first to destroy or at least put something contradicting / ignoring religional values.

So my destinations were Cathedral of the Christ the Saviour – Tretyakov Gallery – beginning of Arbat Street. From walking point this distance took me around an hour (including picture taking on the way). Sightseeing on this route is very nice because you can see many attractions from the bridges on the way. With some map or guide book it is easy to find a way.

What comes today – nothing from sightseeing point of view. It is Friday today. I’m busy during the day but in the evening there will be a special party organized for the participants of the event I’m in Moscow. Event is big & therefore there will be a live concert of local artists. Not found of pop or techo music but why not to get to know Russian stars 🙂

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Tallinn, Estonia – budget friendly travel destination.

Every year popular travel magazines and portals are making different TOP lists. Recently I saw the list of Top Budget Travel Destinations made by Budget Travel. From European destinations Dublin (Ireland), Tallinn (Estonia) and Lisbon (Portugal) were mentioned. From my experience, I agree on first two but instead of Lisbon would put Berlin (Germany).

First of all, my understanding of term ‘budget friendly’ is slightly different from Budget Travel editor’s because I don’t think that  hotel room of $150 or more is budget friendly. Well, I’m not a person who is looking for hostel type accommodation either. If I think of ‘budget friendly’ destinations, I’m checking for hotels in price range  35 – 60 Euro ($50 – $85) for single room. That is the overage price you can find a hotel in central part (or close to it) of city. What comes to the European destinations, Booking.com is the best resource for the hotel search (same like for USA destinations I’d use Travelocity).

Old Town Roofs, Tallinn

Old town roofs. Tallinn is waking up

I’m glad that Tallinn has been listed us up-and-coming. I’ve been there several times and always like it. What comes to international travelers, Estonia is one of Baltic States near Baltic sea. With Helsinki (Finland), Riga (Latvia), St Petersburg (Russia) and Stockholm (Sweden) in easy reach, Tallinn is great destination for multi-city trips as well.

On Jan 1, Estonia is part of Euro zone. That makes all the travel more convenient to this country. To celebrate crown of  2011 European Capital of Culture, Tallinn is hosting many major international events. You can find the list of upcoming events at VisitEstonia.com.

Old Town, Tallinn

Streets of Old Town, Tallinn

As a capital, Tallinn is not a big city – just around 440 000 inhabitants. But is has many interesting things to see. Tallinn’s heart is Old Town – UNESCO protected medieval city center. Most of cobblestone streets and properties, important state and church buildings, citizens and merchant’s residences dating back 11th century, are preserved in their origin form.

Whether you have only few hours or few days to walk around, Tallinn’s Old Town is beautiful and enchanting during all seasons. With easy reach from Port, Bus and Train Station. Every time I visit Tallinn, I’d like to take a walk in narrow streets of Old Town. Old Town Square is hard to miss. If you have a time, check out lunch / dinner menu at Olde Hansa. This is something very special & nice. Stroll the streets of Old Town to find the way up to the Upper Town Toompea public viewing platforms for spectacular views over medieval rooftops.

New Tallinn at night

Modern side of central Tallinn

Tallinn is very dynamic city with capacity to grow. In last decade Tallinn has changed a lot. Now there are many new modern buildings in central part of city. Not everybody likes it but one way or other, Tallinn has an ability to blend medieval architecture with Scandinavian modernity. During tha last few years Tallinn has become modern, competitive and innovative capital, with unique Estonian identity.

P.S. Test your knowledge about Estonia & win a free trip to Tallinn from VisitEstonia.com

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Get ready for your vacation

I know it’s winter outside, but it’s right time to start planning for summer activities. If you’ve been wondering about discovering new destinations in your continent or even overseas then now its last time to start preparations. What is the best vacation destination that comes on your mind? What are the things you want to do during vacation – explore new destinations, learn foreign  language or improve your cooking skills?

In creating a dream vacation you can rely on Internet for sure – check on ‘hot’ or popular destinations, book hotels, arrange transportation, make a ticket reservation for some special event, ect. At first we choose destination – a city, a country or even the region. Then we need to decide how much time we’d like to spend there. And of course, important question is finances – how much money‘ we’ would like to spend.

Finding an activity that is perfect for your vacation is just the beginning of the fun. Then comes actual travel planning process – transportation, hotels, attractions to visit, places to see. If going overseas – booking airline tickets 5-6 months ahead is the one of the steps to find best prices for the trip. I know many people rely on ‘last minute’ deals as an opportunity to get good price, but it is not always so. Sometimes you might be lucky to find great ‘last minute’ deal, but often that price is very close to booking price, if made good time in advance. What comes to hotels, many hotels offer special discount for advance bookings.

Dont forget about visas and vaccinations.  Check the terms and regulation for each country you want to go. What comes to the European countries ( or Schengen Area) as long as you are staying less that 3 month in particular country – no special visa is required. In some countries you can buy visa right before entering in some, you need to get it in advance. If your choice is some exotic destination, there might be visa application process by mail.

And then there is one more thing I’d like to mention – a language.  In Europe almost every country has a local language. In big cities there are a lot of people who speak English. In smaller towns it is more difficult to find someone who speaks any foreign language. Some basic words and sentences  from phrase book will be very useful. Invest in good guide-book – besides maps, description of the destination and best attraction, they often have a chapter with essential phrases.

If you wish visiting foreign country for longer period of time some basic local language skills are essential. In this case now it’s right time to take some language course. Spanish, French or German are most popular foreign languages people learn. But if you are interested in visiting eastern Europe – knowledge of Russian language will be more useful. Have you heard about language travel? Think about doing two things at same time – learn foreign language and spend two weeks or even whole summer in destination of your dreams. This is one of the best ways to have quality vacation – learn something new & exploring destination a little bit like locals do.

As I said before – winter soon will be over. Take a moment to think about summer. What are the best things you wanna do during the vacation? Go ahead & see the options!