Peaceful and efficient. This country may feel like it's lacking in historical/cultural venues/sites but it certainly is at the top when it comes to nature. Hiking is excellent here and the mountain tops are simply breathtaking. Air quality is best and I love it here. Been to all the major sites in Switzerland although that's quite a while back. Perhaps it's time to revisit! The Swiss Rail is best and it takes you to places like Jungfrau & Schilthorn. Must sees! Love the Interlaken lakes and small towns like Wengen & Gimmewald. Mannlichen is great for hiking & the journey to St. Moritz is simply heavenly. Switzerland is just the best!
I was totally impressed with Vienna on my first visit. It may be small but it was packed with what Switzerland lacked in history and culture, not to mention music! I'm a big fan of waltz and Johann Strauss, so imagine my delight when I got here! Every night there's a concert ongoing in the city; be it Strauss/ or Mozart's works. The Habsburg empire left a lot of treasures for the Austrians to marvel at. Museums are simply some of the best in the world & works of Arts are so many it took days to go through one or two museums! I constantly have to remember to close my mouth & that's not because I was eating all the time either ;-) Other than Vienna, Baden, Innsbruck & Salzburg are good for day trips as well. All in all, I enjoyed my time in Austria very much.
The image doesn't even begin to form until I toured the country. Let's face it: What do most of us in Asia know about this country? Good leather shoes? Definitely! Julio Iglesias? Mostly! Enrique Iglesias? Certainly! Placido Domingo? Presumably! Jose Carreras? Usually! Spain surprises me on a few front: 1) the country's natural landscape - so vast, so similar to those of Southwest USA, was a pleasant surprise! 2) its history & culture & the influence of Muslim on its architecture, hence, the famous Moorish architecture, was another eye-opener. 3) its artistic talents - namely the number of artists from this country: the very famous PICASSO, SALVADOR DALI & JOAN MIRO were a major discovery for me. Well, not that I don't know who these people are, who doesn't? But, that they were from Spain, was news to me! 4) Most importantly (in my opinion) is the great ANTONI GAUDI, the visionary architect & the leading exponent of Catalan Modernisme. Temple Expiatori de la SAGRADA FAMILIA is certainly an original & individualistic design amounting to those of a genius! Whether you like it or not is of no consequence; but to be able to produce an original, to me is blessed & to further follow through with one's belief into form when others around scorned at your effort is a miracle.
My friend Armando had passed away on June 2, 2006 due to a work accident. He was an online friend I got to know through VirtualTourist.com (VT) and until I met him in person when I visited Sintra, I didn't quite know what hospitality truely translated to. I had a great deal of friends whom I got to know online while writing travelogs on VT (I spent about 3 years full time on that site writing about my trips all over the world as well as traveling to some places I'd never thought of simply because I had gotten to know some people via the site. It had been great on VT for awhile.). Armando showed me many cities in Portugal and took me to places I'd otherwise have missed. It was a fun time and I hadn't thanked him enough. We were supposed to meet again in China but he was gone before being able to do so! Very regrettable! Must see places in Portugal are: Lisbon, Alcobaca, Belem, Fatima, Obidos, Sintra. Port & Ginja are two drinks you must try & Fado (see my review)... well, Fado makes me think of Armando mostly but it's a music that's like no other.
See the full review, "Saudade".
Nor way was a breath-taking, mind-blowing & soul-revealing experience! Awe-inspiring, heavenlike, godly & pure - paradise on earth! It was a trip worth dying for & felt like love-making at its essence (truly!) :-) Oh boy, seems like I've been away forever!!! It was Rolf Lovland who first "introduced" me to Norway through his New Age music compositions (The Secret Garden) via sounds (yes, one can project an image through music) but it was ultimately the land (or rather the fjords) that sealed the bond. Although I had only been here for a mere week, it was a life changing experience & one that I'll always remember fondly. My first classical opera; my first fjords; my first record of crossing 5 cities & 3 countries all in 24 hours! I've seen so much & I've felt so much that no words or pictures can do justice to this marvellous & remarkably beautiful country. Thank God for all HIS magnificence!
Belgium is compact and yet it has lots of stuff to see and visit in this small tiny country. I love the food here, it's one of the best! Brugge is a fairy tale city and both children & adults enjoy this city to a great deal. Ghent is nice too while in Brussels, think Godiva! :D Yum!
It was not the Guinness. It was not the architecture. It was not the landscape either. What was it about Ireland that I had such a marvelous time here? It was all of them & then some. It was the men! Oh, they are not particularly charming lot. Not like the Greek nor the Argentinians. But, they sure listen well. Very intently, understandingly & deeply. I like that about the men. They made me feel like I'm no stranger. They made me feel very human. It was very heart-warming to feel like you met your brothers. Brothers... in spirit. Exceptionally, remarkably close... rish are charming. I like the English accent here. It's the sweetest thing to my ears. So, there you have it ;-)
A land of beauty & magic. I came for Meteora & Santorini & I am happy (ecstatic in fact) to have visited them both. What can I say that others haven't been saying? Well, possibly, do NOT go on a tour. Meteora is a must. I love rocks more than I thought possible. It's strange, but it's true. Those natural formations are just a feast for the eyes; they relax my soul :-) Santorini is a place for lovers. Just magical... even if you go by yourself. It's a land of happy people & warm hospitality. Just talk to some of the people there, it's entertaining :-) I guess it opens a lot of doors when one travels on her own & people are curious by nature. So, conversation is easy. Some of the nicest people I've ever met in the world!
France is a land of chateaux and romance. Well, is it really? Or simply a country of many sad stories? I went to many of the chateaux in the Loire Valley, like Chombard, Chenonceau, Cheverny & Villandry. They are beautiful compounds but for some reason, felt isolated and cold. It's like what you heard about Neuschwanstein in the Bavaria. They are certainly not Cinderella castle! The same goes for Versailles. Still they are worth seeing and if you go there with someone you love, you might just create fairy tales of you own ;-)
Poland has a life force which no words I could use to describe. I felt alive when I was there. Hiking alone around Morskie Osko was a unique experience as with the visit to the Salt mine. I also love the Zakopane region. Krakow felt European and although getting around Poland is not easy due to the fact that I don't speak Polish, it is doable.
I love walking around Prague. Chesky Krumlov is also a nice little town in which i had a great time with my online friend Oliver from Vienna. Kutna Hora is something you've to experience yourself. Imagine a church made of human skeletons & bones! Now, that's something truly unique in the world!
My trip to TURKEY has to be one of the most unplanned trips in the recent years. Basically, nothing planned since I joined a tour at the very last minute. No hotel reservations, no map readings & no visa needed. Just some prior reading of the most amazing civilization (trust me, u need to read quite a bit to understand & enjoy the trip) & packing up my bags & off I went! Boy, it was an unexpected great adventure! Amazing, gorgeous & most intriguing country! TURKEY! Ahhhh, forget about the name "turkey"; it doesn't convey a sense of wonder which this country has a right to. I mean, come on, turkey? I went while the Americans were having their turkeys at home on Thanksgiving day!!! How great can that be, right? ;-) Think instead of ASIA MINOR or TURKIYE or the saying "brave as a Turk"! Now that's something to think about. Or if that's not dramatic enough, how about these. Do you know that Virgin Mary is buried here? Do you know that St. Paul & St. Nicholas were borned in this area? Well, may be you did, but I didn't & I was hopeless in history when I was in school ;-) I still am, lol.. For the latest finding, I was told Virgin Mary's tomb has been found somewhere near the House of Virgin Mary in Selcuk & the archaelogists are planning to excavate it! How's that for news??? If that's not enough for you, how about exotic spices, belle-dancing (oops, or is it belly-dancing?), Turkish baths & whirling dervishes? Or silk carpets, potteries & kilims? Are you enchanted yet?!
Germany to me is an acquired taste, just like Sashimi! My first visit to this country was in 1993 on a guided tour (you know, one of those 7 countries in 19 days type of tour! As enjoyable as the company was, met some interesting people, I don't highly recommend such tours to anyone who wants to enjoy a holiday... it's worst than working full time!). As usual, we visited touristy spots & regions like Rhineland (Bonn, Cologne...), Heidelberg, Black Forest, Lake Constance, etc... Well, I did enjoy some areas more than others which I will try to cover later in the page. However, I was more impressed with the German architecture & art than its history... all I knew was Hitler Nazism & World War II (through many Hollywood movies), Berlin Wall...Those are just not things I wished to be reminded of on a pleasant vacation! In this respect, 2 places stood out in my impression: Oberammergau & Munich. The Bavaria is a great region, love the many schloss! In 2006 summer (during the World Cup), I visited Berlin & Hamburg. Beautiful cities!
Exotic, different and incredibly religious & artistic. There's no city like Moscow or St. Petersburg. The country feels guarded and yet there's a refine nature to it. Some of its cathedrals are truly amazing and the palaces are truly nice.
See the full review, "The Biggest Country in the World".