Posted by inka on Feb 27, 2011 in italy
Murano, gondola and Cafe Florian
As planned I made my way on Saturday morning to the island of Murano to look at the world famous glass factories and to find objects of the deepest blue which is unique to the craft of glass making in Murano.
Vaprotetto no. 42 took me there in about 45 minutes departing from St Mark’s Square and affording a water bound sight seeing tour of the Biennale and the cemetery island along the way. It needs to be mentioned that nothing in Venice is cheap and that applies to boat fares too. Whether you only go for one stop or until the end of the line, a one way ticket costs EURO 6.50 and that’s why I explore as much as I can on foot. Which often means long detours through tiny alleys and campos, crossing countless of the 440 bridges connecting the 424 islands which make up the city of Venice.
Of course, it’s carnival and on arrival I noticed that Murano has its own brand. The central figure is this colorful ‘coq’ which carries a pink cat on its back and was about to be pulled up towards the top of a church tower. I asked but couldn’t find out what the significance of the animals is, but even so it was quite funny, particularly as craws sounded via loudspeakers from the church tower.
Murano's carnival mascotte dangling in the air
Giganitc glass sculpture in Murano blue
A transparent woman
Murano consists of seven islands, again connected by bridges and everything revolves around glass making. I visited a few shops, but the workshops were closed as it was a Saturday. I have seen glass blowers in action before, so this was not a disappointment. What I found though, was this huge sculpture made of the famous Murano blue and several other glass sculptures sitting in very nice tiny public parks.
Back in Venice I was debating with myself if I should do the touristy thing and go on a gondola ride. The very stiff price of between 80 and 100 EURO made me think twice, when fate intervened. I had met a nice English couple on the boat ride from the airport and just bumped into them. They were having the same thoughts about the gondola price, so we decided to share and it was worth every expensive minute to glide silently along the narrow canals and to listen to the stories about the palazzo along the way. The gondolier didn’t sing, he rather told us stories and that was much more appreciated.
You can only see this from a gondola
One of the over 400 bridges
In the evening we met up again because a concert was under way in St. Mark’s Square. The less said about it, the better, but what was lovely was to see Café Florian all illuminated and the many fantastically costumed people parading around and just having a good time It is after all Carnival in Venice.
Love that blase expression
Posted by inka on Feb 25, 2011 in italy
Carnival is officially starting tomorrow but everybody is getting into the spirit of things, including the glamour granny. I think that the combination of Venice’s background with the historical costumes and unbelievable masks make for a carnival like no other in the world.
What’s more..everybody is at least wearing some piece of costume or a mask and walking around as if they do this every day of their life. I needed to try on my gown and mask for the opening ball and held my breath hoping I would fit into it. Just let me reveal a little secret: it takes no less than two ‘dressers’ to get into the hoop (and close it) and then to pull the dress over everything which is underneath.
My gown and mask
The Rialto Bridge
Her skirt is twice the size of mine
When I went outside at the foot of the Rialto Bridge it caused quite a stir. Many tourists who happened past stopped and took pictures.
Night is falling and out comes the ‘walking around’ mask. More and more costumes appear in the streets, alleys and piazzas of Venice, transforming the entire city into a theater stage.
Doge Palace as evening is falling
My walking around mask
The campanile at night
See for yourselves and enjoy.
Posted by inka on Feb 25, 2011 in italy
Arriving at Venice’s Marco Polo airport certainly gets you into the spirit of things. Take the name alone: an airport named after one of the world’s most famous travelers and explorers can only incite you to go out and do the same.
Starting with getting into Venice proper. Never for a moment can you forget that you are entering a different world, a city floating on water where the only means of transport are your feet and boats. No bus, metro or taxi, vaporetto is the name of the game. It was already fun boarding the official Venice public transport which goes by the name ALILAGUNA. Ticket machines are located next to the baggage reclaim in the arrivals hall and then it’s a 5 minute walk to the landing stage where the vaporettos leave every hour.
My hotel, aptly named Serenissima, is conveniently located between the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square, so my ‘bus stop’ was Rialto. The route from the airport runs along the Grand Canal and the sight makes you think you have landed in the middle of a movie scene. Everything I had imagined hove slowly into view, romantic bridges, majestic palazzo a bit worse for weat, building reflected in the water.
Arriving in Rialto
Getting off the boat glamour granny got lucky, because, lo and behold, Venice has porters. For EUROs 10 this weathered guy who immediately pointed out that he was native Venetian, loaded my bag onto his chart and guided me through narrow and winding alleys to my hotel. Every so often he blew a whistle to get pedestrians out of the way.
My Venetian porter
Once checked in, I went on a first walk around to get my bearings. Of course ,it’s carnival and the reason why I came to Venice now in the first place. Masks upon masks, each and every one a work of art by itself are displayed everywhere and I’m hard pressed which one to buy for myself to wear to the ball and the other events I’m going to attend during the next five days.
People are running around wearing masks all day long, although not that many yet, but these guys in St. Mark’s Square were already having great fun, posing happily for and with tourists. The good news is, that although plenty of visitors are here, it’s not crowded and you can actually see all the dramatic landmarks of Venice and enjoy views across the water.
In the evening I went out to have my first meal in Italy and I found a nice little trattoria where I devoured a pizzas I hadn’t eaten anything all day long, followed by a home made tiramisu. Hmmmmm! Bon Girono Serenissima, I have arrived and already love you.
Can’t wait for tomorrow and further adventures in Venice.
Posted by inka on Feb 23, 2011 in Istanbul sights
Utter bliss. I am on the road again. My extended tour of several European countries has started in Istanbul and I’m going to write my diary here as I progress, although not every day because there is just so much to do and see.
I thrive on contrast. That’s why I made my way from Didim on the Aegean coast to Istanbul in my tried and trusted fashion of 12 hour overnight coach journey. Then…I arrived on foot, pulling my suitcase and touting my umbrella, as it is raining quite heavily, at the door of Istanbul’s most historical, emblematic and luxurious hotel: The Pera Palace of Orient Express fame. Any doorman of a 5 star hotel worth his salt wouldn’t lift an eyebrow and neither did this one. I have been lucky that the hotel has offered me a vastly reduced ‘press rate’ for my room, as otherwise my Eurotrip would have come to a screeching halt after a week or so.
But, I would have visited the Pera Palace anyway, I can’t get enough of the atmosphere and particularly the Orient Bar with its fabled glass dome where the likes of Agatha Christie, Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway and Jackie Kennedy among many others, used to sip their favorite drinks.
Glass dome of the Orient Bar
Another corner of the Orient Bar
Given the weather, I restricted my foray into the surrounding area, i.e. Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi, two of Istanbul’s most famous sights in the fashionable Beyoglu district. No hardship there as such wonderful views as the following are within a short walking distance from the hotel.
Historic streetcar running the length of Istiklal Caddesi to Taksim Square
Distinctive sweets in the Cafe Barcelona
Wrought iron gate Galatasaray Lisesi, a High School
Roman catholic church of Santa Maria & S. Antonio di Padova
Fishmarket opposite the Flower Passage
Exquisite handprinted silk scarves
Exhibition of Frida Kahlo paintings in the Pera Museum opposite the hotel
You really can’t ask for more variety.
This afternoon I will have a swim in the hotel’s pool bathed in mystical blue light, have a meal in the evening in the Agatha Christie restaurant with its open kitchen and, given that I didn’t sleep a wink last night, turn in early to be ready for my flight to Venice tomorrow morning. Not a bad start, rain not withstanding but fortunately it isn’t as cold as I had feared.
Posted by inka on Feb 22, 2011 in travel fashion
As I am about to embark on my first longer trip of the year, I am confronted with a new challenge. I will be touring Europe for at least 1 ½ months, moving around by coach, train and ferry (to the UK, as in a million years I won’t go on that scary Euro Tunnel train) and, of course, it’s still winter and pretty cold the further north I move.
I usually follow the sun and go where it is warm, because not only do I hate the cold, it also causes me physical pain because of some old injuries. But, BAYER gave us aspirin to ease the pain and the experience of a winter trip by far outweighs any discomfort. The challenge however is this: what to pack for cold and be chic and, how best to do it, given that most of the time I have to drag my luggage around by myself, shift it into trains and buses, maneuver stairs and bridges etc. The times of porters are long past and any knight in shining armor who might offer to give you a hand could very well run off with it before you can say ‘dog poo’. So, I better prepare to rely on my own strength and skills.
A glamour granny is not into backpacks. I have never owned one and never will, my luggage of choice is the suitcase on wheels which I can pull happily along. But, from time to time it needs to be lifted, so rule number 1 is this:
Don’t carry anything which you can’t lift at least waist high.
In summer this is no problem at all. Summer clothes weigh little and sandals next to nothing and anyway, I tend to buy what I need along the way, making use of local markets and leaving the surplus behind for the maids.
Winter is a very different proposition. Boots alone can be heavy and bulky, but they are a must. Sweaters, pants, even warmer underwear all add to the weight. After giving the matter some serious thoughts, I have come up with this, which, I hope, will not only serve glamour grannies but other female solo travelers who want to look chic without breaking down under an overload of luggage:
One sturdy pair of boots goes on my feet. A second, lighter pair which you need if the first get wet, goes in the bag together with one pair of heels.
The secret for clothing lies in color coordination. Winter skin isn’t as tanned as summer skin and you don’t want to look washed out. So, I opted for black and red. The combination serves you from morning to night and you can mix and match endlessly with only a few items which are
2 pairs of black pants
3 sweaters and T-shirts in black and black/red
Black and red looks always good. Even the bus driver thinks so!
1 red and black jacket for dressing up
The all purpose jacket in question
Silk scarves to give a touch of glam and color
Just one of many
For outer wear my trusted, dark brown and very ample sheep skin coat with the fur on the inside. The coat serves as a blanket too. I will never forget last year’s short trip to the east of Turkey in winter. I went by coach and was sitting next to a young girl. It was a very long journey and she loved the feel of the fur. When night came, she unceremoniously put her head in my lap, snuggled up in the fur and slept for hours like an angel. I hardly dared to move for fear of disturbing her until the next coffee and rest room break. It was very touching.
Coat, blanket, pillow, tent...you name it
I also have a thin transparent rain skin with a hood, which I can pull over everything should it be pouring down and which is much more convenient than an umbrella.
I promise, I will confess at the end of the trip if I got it all wrong. In the meantime, I would love for additional tried and trusted tips from you.