The magic of Alhambra in 25 images

It has inspired novels and poems; it featured in movies, shows and even video games. Its fortress-like exterior elevated above Granada, with the backdrop of Sierra Nevada’s snowy hilltops, its rich decorations, splendid rooms and inner patios – these are all truly iconic images. Alhambra is a palace woven in myth, history, supreme artistic value and wealth, telling a story of another time and life. Continue reading “The magic of Alhambra in 25 images”

A day in charming Córdoba

Córdoba was the first town we visited during our trip to Andalucia, but for some reason, it ended up being one of the last ones I’m writing about. I don’t know why: it’s definitely not because the town disappointed us or because of its lack of beauty, for it just might be the loveliest of all Andalucian towns we got the chance to visit during our journey. Córdoba is extremely photogenic, unobtrusive and just plain lovely, a town where beautiful scenes and photo opportunities lie in every single corner. It is more peaceful and introverted than its famous Andalucian neighbors such as Sevilla or Granada, but well worth visiting for its fascinating history and some of the most important and spectacular monuments in the country. Continue reading “A day in charming Córdoba”

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. 3: „Catedral del Toreo“

Bullfighting is one of Sevilla’s (and Spain’s in general) oldest and most important traditions. Although I consider this „sport“ completely unacceptable and cruel, we were in the heart of the Spanish bullfighting tradition so we could not miss the chance to visit the  Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, the oldest and one of the finest rings in Spain and the world. Proof enough of its significance is the grand name that it goes by, „Catedral del Toreo“. Continue reading “Splendid Sevilla, pt. 3: „Catedral del Toreo“”

Splendid Sevilla, pt. 2: A Palace of Sun and Lace

After leaving the monumental Catedral de Sevilla, we continued our tour of the city with a visit to another magnificent complex – Real Alcázar de Sevilla, a stunning palace that will stay in my memory as the most beautiful place I have visited during our trip to Andalucia.

Continue reading “Splendid Sevilla, pt. 2: A Palace of Sun and Lace”

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”

Malta’s Gems

There are many wonderful towns in Malta with specific atmospheres, styles and stories. However, if you are dependent on public transport as a means of traveling around the island, as we were, and don’t really have too many days to spare for random explorations, chances are that you will have to make a selection of towns that you want to visit and simply hope that you made the right choice. This being our first trip to Malta, we decided to focus on the better known towns of the island, trying to experience diversity in terms of urbanism, atmosphere and location, knowing that we can’t visit them all. Continue reading “Malta’s Gems”

Megalithic Temples of Malta

„The Megalithic Temples of Malta (Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Skorba, Ta’ Ħaġrat and Tarxien) are prehistoric monumental buildings constructed during the 4th millennium BC and the 3rd millennium BC. They rank amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world and are remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration. Each complex is a unique architectural masterpiece and a witness to an exceptional prehistoric culture renowned for its remarkable architectural, artistic and technological achievements.“ (UNESCO) Continue reading “Megalithic Temples of Malta”