Sunday, July 27, 2008
I took the pleasure of taking the train up to Monterosso and started my 10km hike to the southern town of Riomaggiore. My total journey hike with stops between the towns of Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola was 6 hours. (The stops at Monterosso and Riomaggiore are not included in the total journey) Each town has its own characteristic and are very different from each other. Monterosso seems to be the largest town (probably because of the sandy beach) and Corniglia is probably the smallest (also possibly because the beach is difficult to reach as you have to hike down). However, my favorite town between the five is probably Corniglia. It may not have the best looking architecture, but it is charming in its own little way. It is also the only town that sits on top of a hill rather than perching on a cliff like the other towns. The path from Vernazza - Corniglia path is also one of the most scenic, but it is also one of the hardest trail to tackle as the path are rocky and dangerous during wet weather.
Interestingly enough, I was lucky to experience some Mediterranean rain shower while walking along the path from Vernazza to Corniglia. The Vernazza - Corniglia path is also the longest followed by the Monterosso - Vernazza route (only about a few kilometers shorter but it takes the longest because of its high altitude hike). The shortest path is between the town of Manarola and Riomaggiore, better known as the Via dell' Amore (path of love).
The five towns are not difficult to reach (about an hour train ride from Pisa Centrale) and I highly recommend a visit as well as taking a hike between the five towns. It is also advisable to bring comfortable shoes and be cautious when hiking as some path are really narrow. It has been quite a rewarding day being able to enjoy and experience a natural and man-made wonder.
(Picture above is the town of Manarola)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Looking into the eyes of David inside the Accademia does not even compare to the replica in the Palazzo Vecchio. Though the statue was originally made to admired in an exterior setting (like the replica made standing outside the city hall), in the Accademia, you're looking at the statue through the eyes of Michelangelo. Or maybe it was just the lighting or the interior setting that makes David unresistable to the eyes of the public
The Uffizi has a really good collection of arts but of course everyone visits it for Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' and the 'Primavera'. Both are equally beautiful paintings but I wish they didn't have the glass panel covering the paintings. Its was too difficult and distracting to really admire and study the painting as it was intended.
Florence is a small city. The scale of the city actually reminds me of Boston as it is very walkable and most major sights are within a 15 minutes walk. Coming from Rome to Florence, I think of Rome as New York City and Florence as Boston.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
There are just too much to see in Rome. I think I've only covered 20% of the churches dedicated to Santa Maria. But as it has been said before, "a lifetime in Rome is not enough". I'm on my way to Firenze (Florence) for a week in the Tuscany region. More Santa Maria to cover and hopefully will be able to see David.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
"Everyday lost tourists keep asking me the same questions, here are the answers ...
1. Piazza di Spagna: 2 minute walk down Via Condotti.
2. Piazza di Popolo: At the end of Via del Corso.
3. Trevi Fountain: Walk 500 meters up Via del Corso and on your right you will find Piazza Colonna. Turn left off Via del Corso after you pass the column in the center of the piazza.
4. Pantheon + Piazza Navona: Same as Trevi directions but turn right off Via del Corso after you pass Piazza Colonna.
5. Colosseum: It's too difficult to explain, so go to the Pantheon instead.
6. St. Peters + Vatican: Walk down this street in front of you until you reach the river and follow it to your left, cross the bridge with the statues on it then simply follow the trail of African guys selling fake Prada handbags.
7. Nearest McDonalds: So........you travel to a new country to experience a different culture famous all over the world for its food and wine and you want to eat at McDonalds.
8. Hard Rock Cafe: It's somewhere near Piazza Barberini
9. Nearest ATM: There is one behind Fendi. "
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
My next task is getting to Italy from Greece. There's no way any of the ferry from Santorini could connect with the ferry to Italy (the port is 4 hours away from Athens), so I'll be staying in Athens for another night when I get back. There also seems to be limited availability on that ferry (which is surprising-are there really that many people travelling to Italy? It is a huge ferry!) From the advice of the travel agent I talked too, I might have to go straight to the port and get a deck seat. So another long journey ahead.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Berlin is constantly changing, with new buildings coming up every so often. The city skyline is crowded with cranes at work. But speaking of new buildings, much of the old classical building can be quite deceiving as they were built in early 20th century. Basically, they were built to look old. A good example right now is the construction of the Old Royal Palace. The royal palace was originally demolished during the communist period and was replaced by a social building. This communist social building is now being demolished (picture above) and a replica of the Old Royal Palace will be build on its old site. All the details, building plans and statues were dug up from the archives and will be rebuild to look like the original.
Its an interesting city no doubt, with a rich and brutal history. But Berlin is a city that looks at the present and towards the future without destroying its past.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
To say which Scandinavian country is best to visit is difficult as all of them have its own unique quality but I can say that Stockholm was my favorite city, followed by Bergen and Copenhagen. All three cities have one thing in common which I find comfortable and it is the scale of the city in relationship to the people and its daily activities.
Helsinki was okay but it might have helped change my mind if the weather was better, however it is an interesting city in comparison to its Scandinavian neighbors. The city doesn't have the many tall conical shape church towers like Stockholm or Copenhagen, nor does it have the Scandinavian / Viking architectural influence and motifs just because it was not part of the Viking culture. In fact, Finnish itself is a completely different language from Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. From Helsinki, I took a side trip to Talinn, the capital of Estonia and one of the Baltic states. It was only a 2 hour ferry ride between the two cities. The old medieval city of Talinn is charming and is listed under the UNESCO heritage list. It is a city for those who like to go back in time and experience an old medieval town and enjoy the history and culture.
Oslo was my least favorite city not because it has the least to offer but my accommodation and safety within the city limits gave it the lowest point.
My highlight of this trip was taking a side trip off my planned route to a small fishing village in the Lofoten Island. Stamsund is still a busy fishing community and like all the rest of the Lofoten, winter is the prime fishing season and that's when the whole island comes alive. However it is not to say that summer is dead and boring, the tourist help keeps the island alive. But Lofoten is best when it is quiet and uncrowded as it helps one enjoy the magnificent landscape it has to offer. Like a step back into the mystical and fantasy period of the writings by Tolkien, Reine was my favorite part of the island and the most picturesque.
The other "high-light" was of course taking the long hike up the high mountains to watch the midnight sun. It wasn't a bright and sunny day but it gave a spectacular light show that night or should I say day, as night doesn't really exist above the Arctic Circle line during the summer season.
It has been a great journey so far but there have been some downside to it as well, mainly frustration, poor or careless planning and other unexpected situation that was out of my control. If it wasn't so expensive, I would recommend going to Norway, but a visit to Sweden and Denmark will provide you a true Scandinavian experience. However, don't forget about Iceland. It is also part of Scandinavia and my visit there in 2005 was an amazing weekend. I think the currency exchange rate has probably lowered the amount of tourist going there, but if the opportunity arise, Iceland is a must to finish or start your adventure in Scandinavia.