Friday, September 28, 2018

A kebab in Turkey - The wandering Writer is on the road again

As I am writing now, I am not even sure whether my internet connection will not be interrupted as I am back on the road.
For some people traveling means having nice hotels with swimming pools and a driver at your service, but this is not my case, or perhaps it is the case after a long journey of extremely basic lifestyle.
This is also because my wanderings bring me to places where western comforts are not included in the deal.
For the next few weeks, I will tell you about a journey that is bringing me from Helsinki to Vietnam and Laos, via Turkey.
I found out that a long layover between connection flights can be a blessing rather than a curse because it gives me the chance to visit another country for free. Like many other people in the world, I do not need a visa to stay in Turkey, and this means that having a 10 hours layover in Istanbul, allows me to reach the city from the airport, see the main attractions, wander around the streets, have a chat with the locals and have the best kebab ever.
If this is not the best deal ever, I don't know what it would be!
Now, let's go back to Istanbul, and for that, we need a short historical introduction about the city and the culture. Istanbul is the cultural and geographical connection between Europe and Asia as it straddles the Bosphorus strait, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
Founded under the name of Byzantium around 660 BCE, the city grew in size and influence, becoming one of the most important cities in history. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 CE, it served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine, the Latin, and the Ottoman empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 CE and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Now with this interesting history, you can imagine it as a hub of different cultures melted together to form something extraordinary.
Our airplane reached Istanbul airport at 16:40 and thanks to the connection between the airport and the city. We entered the city center at dawn, this means a lot of night pictures and exploring the Turkish nightlife.
This time we were also lucky to have in our pictures a happy event like a wedding just in front of the blue mosque.
Something particular about this mosque is that it has six minarets, and that makes it unique. I might have told it already, but I really think that the Islamic architecture is one of the richest and beautiful.
On the other side of the blue mosque, there is the Hagia Sophia.
This is a former Greek Orthodox Cathedral, a Christian cathedral and later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum.
It was considered a marvel of engineering at its times because of the large dome that distinguished it from the other cathedrals.
The city at night, is presumably more interesting than by day, as the streets are lightened up by thousands of lights and colors of the various markets.
We couldn't reach the Grand Bazaar (we will on our way back), but we found more interesting what we saw on the other streets, where the markets showed the characteristic face of Istanbul.
 What I truly fell in love with, were the lamps sold on the street markets. We didn't purchase any, but we are going to in the final leg of our trip when we will have the last layover in Istanbul.
There are many things indeed that can grab the attention and be a threat to your finances, and the turkish house decor is one of those.

One positive thing about having connecting flights with a long layover is that they are generally cheaper than those who have a shorter one. This doesn't mean only saving money on the trip, but also if you do not require a visa for the layover country, you have the unique chance to visit another place practically for free.
Note to self (and also to you), next holiday check out for this possibility.
Next stop Saigon...
See you there next week. In the meanwhile have a great weekend!!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

From east to west but still something stunning: Courmayeur, Italy

Last week we were in Trento, where I could eat the best strudel in the world. Now if we continue our journey and we take the A22 highway that reaches the Po valley (you don't want to get tangled with little curvy roads through the Alps), and continues through Milan (you can even take the chance and have a break there the trip takes about four hours!).
Then continue to the A5 highway in the direction of "Monte Bianco" you drive through a numberless amount of cute towns, made of those lovely wooden huts that make you in the mood of jodeling even you don't even know what it is.
Besides these, you will cross valleys with dramatic peaks at the side (watch the road, though!) that will give you a foretaste of what is waiting for you at the end of this endless driving.
Then after an endless drive through tunnels that will bring you to the heart of the mountains, you will finally reach the little town of Courmayeur, a small place of only about 3000 inhabitants in the region of Valle d'Aosta.
That little oasis of peace, so different from Trento and other bustling cities is the ultimate resort for winter sports lovers, those who appreciate the quiet and want to enjoy the natural beauties far from the hassle of the city.
And indeed if we talk about history, there is not a particular happening or a monument that can bring you to the ancient times. Nevertheless, you do not need always to get tangled in historical or cultural happenings to enjoy a particular place. Especially when we talk about natural beauties.
But let's have a look around.
Likewise, for the little town, you have driven through that feeling of jodeling will remain with you, and perhaps you will also start to search for it if you haven't ever heard about it.
As I always say when suggesting an itinerary on the mountains, "always search for a vantage point."
This has nothing to do with basic survival skills, but rather with the chance to see things from the eyes of the birds, those fortunate creatures who can enjoy a better panorama than we could ever guess.
However, in the mountains, this is something that is entirely at the reach of those who do not have wings at their advantage, as climbing a higher peak can bring you to the point of seeing the world from another perspective.
This is the place where I'd love to stay the most, a place filled with silence, contemplating the beauties of nature and being as far as possible from the problems of the everyday life. Far from traffic, noise, pollution.
A place where to listen to the voice of my soul, too many time muffled by the outside noises the modern life is offering.
With this, I will have to leave you and give appointment to the next time.
Now, concerning the next time, I am not sure because between Friday and Saturday next week I will be traveling to Vietnam. I might be able to either post something concise, giving you the appointment to the following week with a fast preview of the trip, or I will just skip the post. I will try my best.
In the meanwhile have a lovely weekend!!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Trento, and the Italian eastern Alps

So leaving the valleys and the mild hills of Tuscany, driving to north-east for at least 380 km, passing through Firenze, Bologna, and Verona, you will start noticing something interesting.
The landscape.
From the mild reliefs of the Apennines, from the broad valleys of the rivers through the plains, you will find driving through roads that turn after turn climb mountains and drive through tunnels excavated through those massive giants.
The trip takes a bit more than three hours and will bring you between the Dolomites and the Central-Oriental Alps.
There in the valley lies Trento, a beautiful city that will for sure inspire you with its history, breathtaking sceneries and food experiences.
Talking about food, in this case, there are strong Germanic influences, and this is due to their geographical position and cultural heritage. Nevertheless, it is something to fall in love with, and don't you worry about getting a couple of kilos more; you will need all the energies to go and treck on the mountains paths.
But let's start with a tour of the city. So, after you have settled, had a shower, drank a good coffee and had a slice of strudel (in no places in the world I have tasted strudel so tasty like those I had in Trento).
So at this point, you are ready to explore the city, just let your feet drive you wherever they lead, the whole city is very cozy. So for the first day forget the tourist map and get acquainted with the city and the everyday life.
You will find yourself anyway in front of something that deserves your attention.
like the many churches and the lovely architecture.
Something that surely will attract your attention is the castle of Buonconsiglio. I tried to find some interesting legends, but unfortunately, besides the recording of people who heard strange noises inside the castle, there wasn't anything more, not even a small legend to entertain you.
Nevertheless, the castle is a must visit.

It was erected from the Castelvecchio fortified building of the 13th century. It was the seat of the Bishop of Trento for most of its history until the Austrian military took over the city and used the castle as a military base and jail and then decayed.
It was returned to Italy only in 1920 together with the whole city, and it was restored, and it is a National Museum.
Did I mention at the beginning of the sceneries? Right, after the visit to the museums, cathedrals, and castle, head for the mountains and spend the rest of your holiday admiring the beauty of those majestic reliefs. And as you reach the area of Bindesi, you will have the chance to see Trento from a great vantage point, and the view is spectacular.
Believe me, you will find this and much more of those great sceneries.
Have a lovely weekend, see you next week!!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Have you ever wondered about the Pisa Tower?

So after the excitement of being the finalist for the Authors Academy Awards, and after having received the Honorable Mention Award at the Readers' Favorite, I come back to talk to you about a story of a strange tower, The tower of Pisa.
Now Pisa is a city located in Tuscany, and although most of the people recall it for the famous leaning tower, it has a long history as one of the notorious four maritime republics and the importance of Pisa, played an essential role in the fight against the expansion of the Saracen empire.
The origin of the name "Pisa" is still a mystery, but already during the Roman Empire, it was a significant center due to the strategic position by the sea.
It was one of the most florid city for the commercial exchange but when the numerically superior fleet was defeated by the Genoese one. This defeat ended the maritime power of Pisa and the town never fully recovered.
To the eye of the beholder, Pisa is an amazingly beautiful city to be discovered with calm together with the monuments, little streets, architecture and (of course food).
 I suggest all the traveler leave the leaning tower as the last attraction and indulge as first in the observation of the hidden part of the city as well as on the main streets where to get a glimpse of the real Pisa, and not of the touristic part of it. I believe that most of the cities in the world have been spoiled by the massive tourism. Not by the tourists themselves, but by the huge chance every merchant wants to get from their wallets. Being a wandering person myself, I try to reach those places where I can be in touch with the real identity of the country I am visiting, avoiding the tourist hassle.
Then, once you have visited the city in its complexity, you are ready for the main attraction, the diva of the city, 'The Leaning Tower'.
Of course in the beginning this was never supposed to lean on one side, it was planned to be a regular tower perfectly perpendicular to the ground, but something went wrong already after the construction.
Controversial is also the name of the architect who planned the tower (I guess he didn't want to get famous for that at those times LOL). The construction of the tower occurred n three stages and lasted for 199 years. However, already after the completion of the second floor, as I mentioned above, the tower started to sink. The works stopped to find a solution to that problem, which it seemed was found after a century (in 1272) trying to compensate the tilt that already occurred, building the walls of different height (that's why it is a bit curved in shape).
And this is the final result:
For having structural problems since the beginning, we can say that it was anyway a success as it is still there after over 700 years.
Indeed there had been reinforcements, and also there was who proposed to straighten it up, but personally, I prefer to see it leaning, just like peeking from the walls of the Cathedral, like a naughty kid playing hide-and-seek.
That's all for today's issue, I hope you enjoyed this other tour and hope you will continue to follow me in my wanderings, considerations and much more.
Have a great weekend!!

The long road of writing a book.

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