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Art and Salt in Casa Alegre/Torrevieja

Posted by inka on Apr 23, 2014 in art, museums, Spain, Travel tips

Casa Alegre is an art exhibition center in Torrevieja my new home town. It´s small and the exhibitions aren´t earth shattering either, but it´s a nice effort to bring culture and history to the place. Of yourse, as I have told you in previous posts, everything in the area around nearby Alicante, including Torrevieja and Santa Pola revolves about the most important and traditional industry: harvesting of salt .

Two big lagunas which are also nature parks and wildlife paradises lie on the opposite side of the Mediterranean coast.

The current exhibition in Casa Alegre, called Salt and the Sea documents the history of salt harvesting  and has some very pretty objects connected to salt, i.e. salt cellars from the region and other countries and salt sculptures. Take a look.

salzfass

salzfrau

safrau

salzkirche

salzberge

salzengel

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Getting (nearly) blown off Oman´s highest mountain

Posted by inka on Apr 20, 2014 in Day trips, oman, Private trips, Travel tips

What I had in mind when setting off for a five day trip to Oman last year , was a vacation of nothing more than relax, rest and luxury. I planned on lounging on this fabulous, secluded, private beach of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Muscat, swimming in the crystalline waters of the Golf of Oman, enjoying the sights and sounds of Ramadan in a deeply religious Muslim country  and living the Arabian dream. Since about a year I am suffering from an underactive thyroid and since my doctor has not yet found the right dosage of medication to fire the thing up again, I am often very tired and exhausted from doing nothing. Worse, for me, is that I put on weight without eating and that I am always very cold. When everybody else is dripping with sweat, I just about consider changing from a long-sleeved T-shirt to a short-sleeved one.

Sultan´s palace in Muscat

Sultan´s palace in Muscat

August in Oman with temperatures in the 100s, surrounded by my beloved Middle eastern culture seemed  just the thing to get back on my feet. Mind you, I did all the above, but, you know how it is. If the prospect of adventure comes calling, all ‘good’ intentions of doing nothing fly out the window. A true traveler suddenly feels no pain anymore, he/she just can’t resist  the temptation. Idly leafing through the brochures at reception, I came upon this trip and I quote: “..proceed to Wadi Gul (village of abandoned houses) and other remains. Al Hamara- an old oasis then proceed off road to Jabel Shams (mountain of the sun), the tallest peak in Oman, towering  to 3009m with spectacular scenery as you climb through winding mountain roads”.

Abandoned houses, off road travel, mountain peaks and spectacular views???? YESSSS! Who needs a beach if they can see that?.  This time I was traveling not on my own but with a friend who has the same interests and curiosity as I have and who can’t resist an enticing trip either. As it was Ramadan, there were very few guests in the hotel or visitors in general which meant that we had the brand new 4X4 and charming driver all to ourselves.

Our trip took us first to the formidable castle of Nizwa which was Oman’s first capital and then onwards and upwards into the mountains, all in all about 200km southwest of Muscat in the country proper.

Majestic Nizwa

Majestic Nizwa

Wadi Gul

Wadi Gul

 

Oman’s mountains are something to behold, steep, surprisingly green, cut through with wadis, sprinkled with oasis where the famous date palms grow and multi colored stone. Marble in sheer white and pink alternate with black granite.  As we climbed, we reached the abandoned houses of Wadi Gul, glued to the mountain side, some still inhabited, but the majority turned into a ghost town.

The higher we climbed, the more the temperature dropped and when we came to the turn off towards Jabel Shams, some seriously dark clouds were gathering overhead. Rain, in Oman? Certainly not?  Certainly yes!! Whilst we were still looking down into the dry wadis, the heavens started to open and a downpour a dramatic proportions filled them with water within minutes. We were glad to be in a 4X4, because suddenly the track was flooded, water splashed as high as the roof of the car and when we reached th summit, we could ahrly open the door because the wind was so strong and the rain was lashing our clothes. Within seconds we were soaked through, but it didn’t matter at all, because what awaited was a the view down a canyon and gorge which left our head spinning.

Clinging with one hand to a rickety steel rope which was the only protection from a fall  of about a 1000m and certain death, we laughed from the sheer exhilaration and the thrill of danger, taking pictures with the other hand.

Hanging on for dear life!

Hanging on for dear life!

One of the tents of Living Adventure

One of the tents of Living Adventure

 

There is a resort around Jabel Shams where you can live in an Arab tent or rent a room and indulge in all sort of mountains sports. It’s called Living Adventure and if you are the hiking and climbing type it’s certainly an experience worth considering. Not to my interest though, I was quite happy to teeter on the edge as it was and then climb back into our car and return to the wonders of Muscat and the comforts of the Crowne Plaza.

 

 

 

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Having fun with Turkish old age penisoners

Posted by inka on Apr 18, 2014 in Day trips, Private trips, Travel tips, Turkey, Turkey Travel

Last year, I went on a two day coach trip to Cappadocia which was organised by an old age pensioer association in Didim where I lived at the time.

I didn´t know this as it was advertised in the window of my ususl travel agency, but it turned out that anybody who was preared to pay could go.

I was the only foreigner among them and they all were so friendly and protective to the `alemani`as they called me because they couldn´t remember my name.

And boy, did these people know how to enjoy themselves. The coach wasn´t even out of Didim when the food baskets and the tapes came out and they started dancing.

 

Enjoy the video.

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Where to go for your honeymoon?

Posted by inka on Apr 16, 2014 in Carribean Cruise, cruises, Florida trips, Jordan, miami, Middle East, Travel tips

The honeymoon trip is probably the most important vacation of your life. Wedding stress over, it`s a time to send your marriage off to a good start, to be remembered and cherished over the years, often to be repeated either to renew the vows or to rekindle romance when the marriage has hit the rocks. Get your decision of where to go wrong and it can have dire consequences not like any other trip where reality did not meet your expectations.

The choice of your destination depends (apart from the budget) entirely on the taste of the newly weds and their ability to agree. I have divided my suggestions in three ´themes´so to speak, Luxury and Glamour, Adventure and Romance. And I have added a forth, which, although often a favorite, can, in my very personal opinion lead to an early divorce.

Luxury and glamour

My favorite for that category is Miami in Florida. You can´t beat the glitz and glamour of South Beach, the plethora of clubs for entertainment at night and the fabulous shopping in Lincoln´s Road by day.

There is no shortage of 5 star hotels for the vacation of a lifetime in South Beach either, although my favorite remains the time honored Delano. There are less expensive hotels too , all along Ocean Drive with the added advantage that some of them are located in the famed art deco buildings.

When you have enough of lounging on the beach or dancing the night away, you may want to head for Downtown Miami, polish up on history at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, visit the Bayside Market of the Mary Brickell Village and have the best  (biggest and cheapest) steak in Miami´s oldest pub: Tobacco Road near the Miami River.

tob-300x224

Talking about that, many visitors to Miami do not realize that there actually is  a river, a big and busy one at that. You can take a boat trip along the river and learn more about Miami history along the way.

Another trip not to be missed is  a ride on an airboat in the Everglades. And if you want to venture further afield, drive across the bridges with stunning views all the way to watch the sunset in Key West.

Adventure

The choice for adventure trips is huge, you could actually honeymoon all year long to catch them all. Few will have this luxury, so my suggestion is Jordan.

Not to be missed is a visit to Petra, the rose colored ancient city discovered by chance. Arrive early in the morning before the tourist buses descend, make your way on foot or horseback along the narrow gouge and alight with an ‘ohhh’ of admiration on your lips when you catch the first glimpse of the stunning treasury.

Petra

Petra

But there is more to Jordan than Petra. Rent a car and venture out on the highway leading through the desert, but watch out for wild camels which cross the road at their leisure. Visit the best Roman ancient site  and temples outside Italy in Jerrash and the castle of Ayun.

Temple in Jerrash

Temple in Jerrash

Dip your toes and cover yourself in healing mud at Amman Beach, a Dead Sea resort, or relive the stories of the bible by a trip to Mount Nabo where Moses first caught sight of the Holy Land.

Amman beach resort

Amman beach resort

If you want truly adventure, book a trip to Wadi Rum. This is something you cannot do on your own as guides and 4x4s are required to reach the wild, wild destination where you will camp and sleep under the stars. As you can see, a touch of romance is added to the adventure.

Romance

Why not head for Europe if you chosen honeymoon  theme is romance? In particular to Salzburg in Austria, city of Mozart and Sachertorte. Maybe my association with romance and Salzburg results from the fact that on my fist visit I happened upon a lavish wedding in one of the many parks, complete with sunshine and horse drawn carriage.

Wedding in Salzburg

Wedding in Salzburg

Salzburg invites to leisurely strolls through the old part of town rather than physical exhaustion unless  you decide to make your way to the impressive Festung Salzburg on foot. You can easily take the cable car and enjoy the view from the top.

And then of course, there is the world famous Café Sacher and the chocolate cake called Sachertorte. Sit  and look at the wall of fame and the river Salzach which flows at your feet.

Cafe Sacher

Cafe Sacher

Visit Mozart´s birth house and the museum and if you don´t happen to be there at the time of the Festspiele you can still listen to concerts  year around.

If you feel like an excursion, you might take the train to Munich or the Chiemsee to look at King Ludwig´s last (and unfinished) castle Herrenchiemsee.

The people of Salzburg have a soft spot for honeymooners. Just mention the fact and you´ll find that you´ll  get even better treatment  including a few extras than you would get anyway.

 The danger choice: cruises

I know that what I have to say about cruises will probably invite controversy. However, I am only expressing my personal experience and what I thought of this choice as a honeymoon destination at the time.

It sounds fabulous, gliding across the sea on a swimming palace, never to have to deal with luggage, food no end and at any time of day or night and your every whim catered for by countless  stewards and maids.

This is of course all true, but…..after two days I started to feel claustrophobic. By then you have explored every nook and cranny of the boat and there is nowhere else to go. Your ability to live together as a married couple is tested to the limit. The same applies to your co-passengers. It´s always the same people you happen upon, whether you like them or not. You share the same table  unless you opt to eat a la carte or use the self service facilities , gym space and deck space is also limited.

Sure, there are land excursions  but unless you decide to go off on your own, as I did, it´s guided tours and, again, the same people all the time.

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

Cruise ship in St. Thomas

From start to finish you are tagged and processed, there is little room for individual freedom and all of this may put a strain on a brand new marriage and, in the worst of cases, lead to an early divorce!

I´ll be interested to hear your opinion if and how I am wrong.

 

 

 

 

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Exquisite works of art made from Meerschaum

Posted by inka on Apr 15, 2014 in art, Turkey, Turkey Travel

Over the past couple of days I asked several of my friends if they knew what ‘Meerschaum’ is. Four out of five didn’t have a clue, but when I showed them pictures of my latest find and explained what it is used for and what it looks like, they went: Ahhh, of course! We have seen that. So that’s what it is called.

Let’s lift  the mystery. ‘Meerschaum’ is a German word which translated into ‘foam of the sea or foam of the ocean’. The name alone inspires the imagination. Also known as sepiolite, Meerschaum is a soft, white mineral, sometimes found floating on the Black Sea. The majority however is found in nodular masses in alluvial deposits on the plain of Eskisehir, a city half way between Istanbul and Ankara in Anatolia.

It’s mined there and worked into pipes and cigarette holders. The soft material hardens when exposed to sunlight and warmth and the white or grayish color changes to shades of yellow, orange or amber with use. What makes these pipes, which, at first glance can be mistaken for ivory, such amazing pieces or art is the elaborate carving. Modern pipes are a bit simpler, but, what I discovered in the Meerschaum Museum in Eskisehir, took my breath away.

The pipes on display are antiques and some of the pipes are so big, I suppose they were smoked resting on the floor or a table because you couldn’t possibly hold them up, leave alone between your teeth. The tradition of Meerschaum pipes dates back to the late 1700s and Meerschaum pipes are coveted and very valuable collectors’ items, whether you smoke or not. To give you an idea about the value: the pieces exhibited in the museum are of course not for sale, but the artists will be happy to make you a replica to order: at $5000 a piece!!! Luckily, small and modern pipes are a lot more affordable (and much less elaborate) and a small amount of jewelry and  boxes would make a very pretty gift or souvenir.

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It wasn´t easy to angle the camera around the show cases but I hope you get an idea.

 

 

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