Posted by inka on Dec 8, 2013 in Day trips
, Travel tips
, Turkey Travel
I used to love airports. I’m old enough to remember the days when you actually walked across the tarmac to the waiting plane, climbed the gangway, open door beckoning, smart flight attendants greeting you with a welcoming smile. Casting one glance back, then turning your nose into the wind, ready for a new adventure.
I still get a kick out of take off, but otherwise everything that comes before has become a nightmare. When setting off for the airport today, I feel as if I’m preparing for battle. What with the multiple security checks, harassed check in people, being told (not politely asked) what to do and what not to do..it’s no fun. Luckily, there are still a few airlines around, Turkish Airlines and Emirates among them, which treat passengers like cherished customers, but otherwise…
The worst are the so-called low cost airlines. The tickets aren’t that cheap to start with and then they proceed to get as much money out of you as they possibly can. You can’t print out your boarding pass before hand because you don’t have a printer? You pay. Your luggage is one ounce over the limit You pay. You want more leg room? You pay. You fancy a stale, lousy sandwich? You pay, at the price of gold! And on and on it goes. If you total it all up, you end up paying more than you would have for a regular ticket..without all the above rubbish.
But, I digress. Back to airport nostalgia like in the olden times at the private airport in Selcuk. Selcuk is a town close to the famous historical site of Ephesus, so everybody who visits will come through Selcuk. That the town does have an airport is not common knowledge, certainly not among tourists because you don’t land there unless a) you have a private plane or b) you are a dignitary or head of state come to visit Ephesus.
When driving towards Kusadasi or Selcuk itself, I have come past the airfield many times, seeing the gleaming small and not so small planes at a distance. I always wanted to visit, but didn’t know if a Jane Nobody like myself would be allowed even close. The only way to find out was to give it a try.
When my friends and I went to visit the Seven Sleepers (which is another story to be told later), the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk and, on our way back, turned into the road towards the airfield., we saw this fabulous old plane sit at the entrance and it certainly aroused our curiosity.
Mustafa, our driver, approached the gate and asked nicely and in Turkish, if we could visit. Lo and behold, the gate rose and we drove through. What excitement to see the planes parked around the perimeter up close, the tiny VIP hall with deep leather armchairs and a few people milling around.
But, would we be allowed to leave the car? Thanks to Mustafa, we were. A security guard turned up and was only too happy to accompany us and show us around. Like kids in a toy shop, we rushed from plane to plane, opened doors, glanced into cockpits and posed for each other like lunatics.
Our driver Mustafa
The airport has a pilot and parachuting school attached and several of the planes belong to the school. The guard proudly told us about the highlight of his professional life: looking after Bill Clinton when he came to visit Ephesus, flown into Selcuk airport.
A tea in the VIP lounge rounded out a trip down air travel memory lane. If you want to visit, you’ll just have to try and ask nicely. Unless you have business there, it seems to depend on the guard of the day, but it certainly helps if you have a Turkish speaker with you.
My soon to be new hometown, Torrevieja on Spain´s Costa Blanca not far from Alicante dresses itself in a particularly festive spirit from the beginning of December.
Tomorrow, St. Nicholas, is of course the first of a number of Christmas related holidays and to make sure everything is ready, a splendid Naivity is erecetd in the Plaza de la Constitucion opposite the church and flanked by the Town Hall.
I have no idea how many artists have been involved in creating the images of the biblical story, but the end result is a true masterpiece with incredible attention to detail , enjoyed by young and old.
Take a look at the images, taken early in the morning because later on the admiring crowds are so dense it´s impossible to get good shots.
Posted by inka on Dec 1, 2013 in Day trips
, guest posts
This is a guest post by my friend Betsy Ross, an aspiring and inspiring new travel writer.
Everybody knows that Amsterdam is the city of canals and cobble stone bridges but did you know that Utrecht is a possibly even nicer place to visit for a day or two. Utrecht is about 40 km south west of Amsterdam and a half hour ride by train. Like Amsterdam, Utrecht has plenty of cobble stone streets and canals. The medieval city centre is small and easily covered on foot. The Dutch, however, tend to go to town on their bikes. You see bicycles of all colours and shapes parked on the beautiful stone bridges or fixed to lamp posts.
The canals in Utrecht look similar to those in the Capital but there is an important difference. The old wharf cellars that in the old days housed businesses such as the mint, where the Dutch coins were minted, have now been transformed into cafés, pancake houses and other eateries. In summer the small outside terraces that border the canals are packed with tables, chairs and parasols. You can have a coffee, cake or a glass of wine and a bit to eat watching a variety of pleasure boats sailing by.
After a relaxed pit stop you can return to the cobble stone streets above to do more exploring or shopping.
Utrecht is known for its large variety of quirky shops. Whether you look for fashion, things for your home, food or books Utrecht has something to everyones taste. Incase the weather is not too nice there is a big indoor shopping centre, Hoog Catarijne, adjacent to the old city centre.
If you do not want to spend too much money or if you just like to browse, you can visit one of the many outdoor markets or stalls to buy fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables, clothing, material and of course some of the cheeses that the Netherlands are so famous for.
There are plenty of beautiful sights to visit in the centre of Utrecht. The City of Utrecht is around 2000 years old and definitely kept its medieval feel. The Romans build a fortress in 47AD to protect the northern border of their empire. The place where this fortress used to be is now the location of the Dom tower. The Dom tower which measures a mere 112.5 metre is hard to miss as it towers over the city and can be seen from miles when approaching the city. It once was part of a cathedral, which was never finished due to financial problems. In 1674 a tornado destroyed the nave of the cathedral and the tower was left on its own. If you wish you can climb the Dom tower but only as part of a guided tour, but it is not for the faint hearted. There is no lift.The highest few point is 925 meters. For security reasons you need to keep your bag in a locker but you are allowed to bring a camera. On a bright day you can see as far as Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
If climbing the tower is not to your liking you can vistit the nearby “schatkamer” (=treasury room) a visitor centre/ museum where you find a wealth of treasures and information about the history of Utrecht.
After you have found out all you want to know about the Dom tower and its history you can return to Dom square,a beautiful place in its own right, where you find more delightfull cafés or from where you can wonder through more cobble stoned alleys.
You might just want to wander around yourself or you might prefer to do some of the city walks that are available. You can also download the Utrecht City guide app on your iphone.
Utrecht by night
Being an University city you can find plenty of places serving nice food and wine and beer. A lot of the iconic buildings and bridges are beautifully lit on a night time, making a stroll through Utrecht by night a really good experience.
Utrecht has its own localy brewed beer “De Leckere”. Where to better drink it than in the “Ouddaen” on the “Oudengracht” in the centre of the city. Besides being a trendy grand café, Oudendaen has its own brewery and a la carte restaurant.
Photographs by and with permission of the Tourist Office of Utrecht
Posted by inka on Nov 24, 2013 in art
, Day trips
Properly named the Cathedral Church of St Mary, the building with its adjacent bell tower and Episcopal Palace next door is one of the most famous landmarks of the city of Murcia.
Head towards Murcia´s medieval Old Town, alight at Cardinal Belluga Square and throw your head back to take in the stunning façade.
Art lovers will be salivating or throw up their hands in despair, it depends on their sense of purity of style. Because, you see, the cathedral is an outstanding example of mixture of styles. This has of course to do with the history of the place.
Jaime I the conqueror saw fit to destroy the Grand Mosque which stood originally in the cathedral´s place. As opposed to Granada and Cordoba, where the original mosque is integrated in the church, not a trace of the Moorish past remains.
Instead, in 1385 the foundation were laid to the cathedral dedicated to the virgin Mary. It wasn´t until the middle of the 18th century until the building as we see it today was completed. This also means that the cathedral exhibits a great variety of styled.
Whilst the interior is Gothic, the façade is a rhapsody in Baroque exuberance. Angels, saints, flowers and ornaments wink at you from every angle.
You need to look even higher to take in the whole of the adjacent bell tower. Construction didn´t start until 1521 and the tower was completed in 1791. The tower resembles a giant wedding cake. Soaring up 90 meters, it is also the tallest campanile in Spain.
The bell tower
Divided into five stages of different widths, the campanile, like the cathedral is made up of different styles.
25 bells are hanging – and tolling – in the upper section and each bell has its own name.
At a right angle to the cathedral you find the Episcopal Palace. Rumor has it, that it was constructed to give the cardinal an unobstructed view of the recently finished cathedral when it was built in the mid 18th century. Some people can just indulge in their every whim!
However, it´s nice to visit the palace and the patio full of palm and orange trees, then to turn around and get another view of the cathedral.
Posted by inka on Nov 22, 2013 in food
, Travel tips
Generally speaking, I´m not a ´foodie ´because I´m always so concerned about my weight. Not so charitable souls call me obsessed and never fail to point out what I´m missing. But, between you and me, I can be tempted and I certainly was on my recent trip to Murcia.
Apart from being a delightful city with so much to see and do, it´s also a food lover´s heaven. One of the reasons is, that Murcia is surrounded by agriculture, vegetable fields, orchards and cattle farms. The locals certainly know how to make good use of mother nature´s bounty. On top of it, the dishes and specialties are healthy and not fattening – apart from the sweets that is – but from time to time one just has to indulge, especially when it is cold and a fierce wind is blowing as is the case right now on Spain´s Costa Blanca.
Murcia is also a university town which means plenty of restaurants, cafes and bar in a great variety of style and price range. Enough introduction, let´s jump in medias res.
Just opposite the cathedral my friend and I made our fist stop to have a coffee and we happened upon the Casa de la Abuela. Abuela is Spanish for ´grandmother´ and sure enough the speciality is home made bunuelos. They are a deep fried blob of dough, filled with custard and coated with a generous sprinkling of powder sugar. The secret is to make them come out very crisp and crunchy, otherwise they don´t taste of much.
The cafe in question
Doesn´t the abuela look great?
To our surprise we got two for free with our coffee and boy, they did not disappoint. The best I have ever tasted.
Wandering through the medieval streets of Murcia´s Old town we noticed not only a plethora of restaurants but also delicatessen with mouth watering displays.
I love fish and hardly could tear myself away from this shop, selling nothing but salmon and tuna fish in a great variety. What also caught my eye were olives stuffed with a lot of different things.
The fish shop and the smiling assistant
Next came shops full of hams and chorizo and then this bakery with cakes ans glazed fruit. The window display for nuts was like a picture (so, of course, I took one).
Cakes and caramelized fruit
Nicely displayed nuts
Other typical dishes of the region which we however did not sample are migas strips of beef or chicken cooked with onions and spinach, fat white beans with bacon and vegetables and rice with a variety of ingredients.
On my return journey I´ll make sure to have a hot meal too, followed by a few more bunuelos.