Sunday, 12 May 2013

Impressed by Central-European architecture

Born in Hungary I have always had the chance to visit amazing architectural places as my home country is surrounded by incredible locations. I spent my twenties seeing the picturesque streets of historical Prague, the astonishing sights in the spa city of Karlovy Vary, the magical alleys in Bratislava and the monumental buildings in Budapest lined up on the banks of the  River Danube. They all have a story to tell to the descendants, the younger generations which search their origins through the rugged pages of history. These places not only give you unforgettable visual experiences but also demonstrate the stormy and peaceful years of local nations reminding us to take our actions seriously. Many of the buildings situated in these towns had to be restored in the last decades to preserve their unique features of architecture from previous centuries.
Impressed by the above places I had always wanted to visit the royal capital of Vienna. Going to other European destinations I always had the opportunity to travel through it but looking at crowded stations never gave me the right impression on a city like this. So when me and my fiancé were spending our vacation in the scenic Hungarian border town of Sopron we decided to take a one-day trip to nearby Austria and discover the famous capital of the quondam Astro-Hungarian Empire.
It took less than one and a half hour to get from the peaceful town of Sopron to Wien Meidling, the busiest station of Vienna which connects underground and train lines with different parts of the area.  After finally getting the right information on where and how to head off to we went outside the station to have a look at the rush-hour capital.
We were intrigued by the ethnical and cultural colourfulness of the place: you can see busy Austrian or Korean students rushing with their laptops to college as well as Turkish mothers buying refreshments and freshly baked rolls to their kids.  The one-time sumptuous and exclusive centre of the Habsburg Royal Family has changed dramatically in the last decades: with the constantly rising number of immigrants it has become very diversed culturally which spectacularly affected the supply in shops or stores as well.
As we were walking on Eichenstrasse to get a view of modern Vienna we were intrigued by the amazing network of trams and buses. The city certainly had a pulsating and vibrant athmosphere: tumultuous roads packed with cars and trucks,  crowded streets filled with an intensive air, cosy restaurants and bars offering  a huge selection of meals and drinks from all over the world. This cultural shock couldn’t have been more complex as we entered Vienna’s most commercial side, Mariahilferstrasse. Not only we enjoyed the breathtaking architecture from last centuries but we were amazed by the massive amount of shops, stores and markets selling all sorts of products from leather sofas to posh watches. It definitely gave a feeling of the local trading fizzle.
But don’t get deceived by the world-famous brands and expensive hotels. The capital has other wonderful surprises to please you without the pressure of spending money. As we kept on walking we finally got to probably the most important sight of the city: Schönnbrunn Palace, the place possessed by the Habsburgs, once one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The World Cultural Heritage Baroque buildings surrounded by stunning parks were visibly amusing the many tourists including us. It was late afternoon when we decided to enjoy the early signs of spring, sitting and drinking coffee in the elegant coffee bar built in one of the side wings of the royal residence before we set off to go back to Sopron. It was surely the moment when I realised the importance of being at a place which once had been the centre of political frays and decisions that changed the destiny of nations.
A bit confused, I tried to distinguish between blood-washed historical events and the glorious days of highly descended reigners and by the end of the day the conclusion was ready: no matter how stormy it had been in the past, Vienna would always stay one of the most impressive capitals cities of the world. A real queen.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Our Italian journey to heaven

I have always been fond of Italy in almost all aspects that a visitor can be. I love the architecture, music, festivals, food and language of this country not to mention the breathtaking views of towns and the countryside. So when we had to decide with my partner about our holiday destination last year, my first option was exclusively Italy. Our plans were to put things in our hands without involving an agent so that we could travel whereve we intended to.  We had spent three months on the internet browsing accomodation and transport options before the journey. It wasn’t the easiest to find the most suitable and affordable offers on hotels in our chosen places but we finally got there and next, we had to think about the means of transport we should use. My Italian friend, Laura was willing to send us some ideas and it seemed the best way was to travel by train throughout the country. We put down all the possible information we found on websites, bought a couple of travel guides and Italian phrase books, got the addresses of all the people we knew from the country, and set off…
According to our plans we were to travel by coach from Budapest, Hungary on the last Sunday of August, 2012 (after a week-long visit to my family) and arrive in Venice the next morning. We wouldn’t claim that the 10-hour long journey on the bus was the most pleasant experience but the stunning view of the sunrise in Venice compensated for all the fuss of travelling. After reaching trainstation Santa Lucia by walking from the outer coach station we were really pleased to have some freshly baked rolls and hot Caffè e latte. It was really fascinating to watch all the people rushing to their destinations gesturing wildy and speaking loudly: the real Italian way of communication.
After purchasing our regionale tickets to the mytical town of Assisi we prepared ourselves for the more than 5-hour long journey. It was our choice so we couldn’t blame anyone for being exhausted and hot but at least we got something much more instead: friendly chats with nice Italians and amazing and very close views of the hills and valleys of Umbria. It was late afternoon by the time we got to our hotel in the centre of Assisi but instead of being annoyed we felt like we had arrived in a sacred place.
The town is located on a spur of Monte Subasio overlooking the valleys of the rivers of Topino and Chiascio. The six days spent in Assisi were not only part of an amazing holiday but also a wonderful spiritual and cultural experience.  It is hard to believe that one would not be touched by the picturesque architecture and the uplifting athmosphere of the place. We were put up in a town centre hotel room with a view right to  Piazza Santa Chiara which is not only a perfect place to relax and enjoy the amazing sight to the valleys but it is also where the famous Basilica of Santa Chiara is located. We visited as many sights as possible during our visit including the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi (a World Heritage Site) and the Cathedral of San Rufino.
Assisi provides many kinds of experiences: while wandering the narrow streets surrounded by medieval walls through the town you can spot tiny grocery and gift shops, confectionaries and restaurants. It is certainly a gastronomical adventure to discover the wonderful flavours of the local cuisine with its fresh and mediterranean taste.
Although it was extremely hot and we were often exhausted from walking upwards, Assisi will always remain as one of the most remarkable memories of ours. The friendly and nice environment of the place gave us an unforgettable holiday experience and we would not hesitate to go back there again.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Walks, great walks

Maybe it's time to forget that it's still winter, maybe it's time to get out and enjoy the fresh air, maybe it's time to explore the wonders of nature again. But the weather in Britain can be tricky sometimes and it might suggest the opposite of what it is supposed to be like at this time of the year. So, should we be careful about putting on our walking boots and start strolling in the hills in February? Is it just for those bold who dare to take part in fighting with the elements of  the unpredictable forces?
Well, probably there is no right answer to these. As the climate changes on the entire planet faster it is getting really hard even with the best equipment to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow in the environment around us.
Adaptation, surviving, endurance? Today's generations might have to learn about these expressions because of the constant existence of comfort that rule their lives. 

We must go out. We must explore the outside world whatever it takes. No matter if you just take your dog for a walk, read your favourite book on your kindle in the park, discover the renewal of nature by taking photographs, invite your children outside to play ball games, no matter if you don't travel hundreds of miles away only to the local villages, the thing that matters is that you actually get out there and take part of it.

Nature. It does count.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The other side of snow

It is very inconvenient indeed. It makes our lives hard and us frustrated. We give a big sigh every single time it appears and pray to get out of it as soon as possible. Yes, you've got it right: it is the big, white monster, in other terms the snow.
So why is it so tough to live with it? Because it damages cars, causes accidents and makes trains late? Because it covers streets and roads making them slippery and impossible to walk on? Because it can block entire villages from the outer world?
Snow can be dangerous. It is dangerous. It has power on us and it does generate troubles.
Yet, hard as it is, we still have to accept its existence and try to deal with it. 
What's more it might even be possible to like it, to be fond of it, to enjoy it! 

Snow does have its miracle, beauty and purpose. Snow can be nice and fun. Not only it may make your children finally go outside and play in the garden, but it can also give us remarkable memories of breathtaking winter sights. If you live in the UK and have the chance to visit the Lake District in the coldest season of the year you will be delighted to go on long walks in the mountains. Zooming at the peaks  of mountains like Helvellyn or Blencathra with your digital camera will make you feel as if you were the closest to heaven. The view will be amazing and the experience will stay with you forever.

So try to discover the other side of snow: it's not as bad as it seems.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The miracles of fresh water lakes

Many of us like to to travel to the sea when it comes to holidays which has its own magic and appeal. Laying on the soft, warm sand, drinking chilled cocktails or juices and feeling the waves wash over your feet can be an outstandingly pleasurable experience. Running into the blue sea and having the salty taste of water in your mouth during swimming give you an adventurous sensation.

However, if you have the chance to explore another type of  water pleasure, try not to miss it in any way. The Earth has plenty of natural fresh water lakes, with spectacular surroundings and amazing journeys of exploration. All of these lakes have their enchanting setting no matter if the location is in Africa or Northern Europe. 
Many times visiting these breathtaking beauties of nature can only be part of our memories by taking photos of them or recording the most impressive moments whilst walking around these areas. It can be satisfying for everyone who mainly want to discover the areas around the water but definitely not for those who would like to swim or sail on them.
For those who live in the UK wishing to unwind and spend the vacation at a gorgeous site, the wonderful lakes of Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Hungary can be affordable places to travel to. You can not only do amazing walking tours around the lakes but spend some time swimming or doing water sports whilst you are there.