Holiday Magic at Trsat Castle

Like every year, Christmas has arrived to my beloved Rijeka. Unlike every year, however, one of Rijeka’s main touristic sights, the Trsat Castle, this year got a new sparkly holiday makeover and brought even more holiday cheer to people of Rijeka and their visitors. Yesterday I got the chance to visit the Trsat castle in the evening and was completely stunned by how fairy-tale like it looks! Continue reading “Holiday Magic at Trsat Castle”

Fun in the sun

With Portugal having a pretty long coastline (1,794 km), we couldn’t miss spending one day of our trip driving to the coast, seeing the ocean and having some fun in the sun. Continue reading “Fun in the sun”

Nine things I loved about you, Portugal

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Some four years ago, during a youth exchange that took place in my home town, I met Joana, a girl from Porto. In the evenings, when all activities were done and participants of the exchange relaxed and mingled on the terrace of the hostel they were staying in, Joana and I talked about our homes. She talked about Porto and Portugal, while I talked about Rijeka and Croatia. She talked with much love and appreciation, without sugarcoating, about things that defined Portugal – about the then-actual economic crisis and many problems the young people were facing, about the saudade, the language, the Douro, the specific atmosphere and “feel” of her home town Porto and the way of life of the Portuguese people. And as she was leaving for home, we made a deal that, now that she has seen my home, I would have to visit hers, one day.

This year, this deal was finally realized, as Portugal became the destination of our annual family trip. Unfortunatally, I didn’t get the chance to meet with Joana (I was with my family and on a tight schedule, she was working and quite busy), but I thought of her quite often as I was visiting places and experiencing things I remembered her talking about. It turned out that she prepared me well for Portugal – the things I imagined all those years ago as I was listening to her stories were pretty similar to the things I saw and experienced “in situ”, during our ten-day trip through northern and central parts of the country. And although her stories were colored with her love of her home, they were not really exaggerated, and the Portugal we visited was as beautiful and dreamy and real, all at the same time, as she had presented it.

During our ten days in Portugal, we only scraped the surface of the complex and rich county and got a tiny peek into the life of a place, but even that was enough to see, hear, taste and experience many things to love.

I loved the relaxed, simple life of the country, not polluted by mass tourism. After visiting so many European countries that live from tourism and completely subjugate themselves to the requirements of the visitors, this felt like a wonderful refreshment and a reminder that there still are authentic countries that are so much more than just touristic destinations.

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I loved the people – simple, honest, modest people, going around their daily activities, minding their own business, living a simple life of work and play in the shadow of their great, at times tragic, history and rich heritage.

I loved the coast – the never-ending white, sandy beaches of the western Portuguese coast and the mighty Atlantic… The feeling I had at Cabo da Roca of being at the edge of the world.

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I loved Pasteis de Nata, the sweet pastry that became an essential part of our Portuguese every day, small, incredibly tasty and very fulfilling.

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I loved vinho verde, young wine from the northern parts of Portugal, clear, of beautiful color, with a touch of fizz, tasty, fragrant and mild.

I loved the Douro, the quiet meandering river responsible for so much of what makes Portugal special.

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I loved Porto, a gritty, untidy, punk city that knows what it is, loves it and savors its quirkiness.

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I loved Lisabon, the capital whose twisty narrow streets and hilly atmospheric neighborhoods trick you into believing that this is a small, crowded town, and not a wondrous, monumental capital.

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I loved the weather, and the constant breeze smelling of salt and sea, never allowing you to forget that Portugal is the country by the sea, of the sea.

The list could go on, with all the things springing into my head now as images through a filter with washed-out, overexposed hues. Quite a remarkable country, warm and beautiful both inside and out. A wonderful place full of wonderful people. Joana, you were right! 🙂

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Splendid Sevilla, pt. 4: Tobacco and History, Immortalized

Sevilla is full of grand buildings and public spaces, as can be expected from a royal city of such great history and heritage. On our last day in the city, we got the chance to see some of them: Continue reading “Splendid Sevilla, pt. 4: Tobacco and History, Immortalized”

Splendid Sevilla, pt. 1: A Warm Welcome and a Town-Within-a-Town

I expected so much from Sevilla – it is one of those towns whose name alone is so laden with expectations and images inspired by literature, music and art that you actually think you know what the city will look, feel, smell and sound like. Finally arriving to the city after years of creating your own ideas about it and realizing – yes, we really are in passionate, romantic Sevilla, the very heart of Andalucia – was immensely exciting. Continue reading “Splendid Sevilla, pt. 1: A Warm Welcome and a Town-Within-a-Town”

Christmas Wonderland in Austria

Finally, one of my greatest wishes came true! After years and years of being the craziest and most enthusiastic Christmas-obsessed individual around, terrorizing everyone with holiday preparations and festive spirit long before they were due, my family finally granted me the wish and organized a weekend trip to Vienna and Graz, to visit some of their Christmas markets that rank among the most famous ones in Europe. I was really excited about “Christmas coming early this year” in a literal sense, and  the experience really did not disappoint me one bit – for two lovely days, in two beautiful Austrian cities, I have lived Christmas with all my senses.  Continue reading “Christmas Wonderland in Austria”

J’aime flâner sur les grands boulevards

Parisian boulevards are the epitome of the rich and exclusive French lifestyle and walking down them allows you to experience yet another face of the complex city: one of wealth, luxury and good life. Wide streets milling with people, both elegant Parisian locals going around their usual daily business and fascinated tourists walking around and standing in awe in front of world famous Parisian cultural centers and department stores. Continue reading “J’aime flâner sur les grands boulevards”

Fête Nationale in Paris

We planned our trip to France so that we can be in Paris during the most important French national holiday. La Fête Nationale, Bastille Day, or Le quatorze juillet, is celebrated on the 14th of July and commemorates storming of the Bastille (the key event at the beginning of the French Revolution) that took place on 14th July 1789. On 14th July 1790, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France and today’s Bastille Day is the continuation of that celebration. Continue reading “Fête Nationale in Paris”