In fact, why not rent a bike and take a day trip by bike to Potsdam. There are plenty of parks and lakes to criss-cross. Plus everybody cycles in good weather. However, you don't have to cycle all the way. Take the bike on the S7 Train, change at Wannsee and get the S1 to Potsdam (just cross, it's on the same platform).
Potsdam is a World Heritage site with beautifully restored period architecture. It lies just 15km (10 miles) south-west of Berlin, but it is almost like travelling to another Eastern Europe city altogether, on par with Prague or Budapest, just a tad smaller (this is no exaggeration). Potsdam has a picturesque old town with many (outdoor) cafés, and even has its own Brandenburg Gate.
It is also home of the Royal Gardens, and the popular Sans Souci Palace. There is proof of Russian culture to be found in Potsdam's "Alexandrowka" which has replicas of Russian village houses and a pretty Orthodox Church on the Hill, and Dutch period buildings fill the Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel). The historic sections of the city provide the flair of a city steeped in European tradition.
Bike rental information: www.berlinfo.com/Traveltime/WithinBerlin/by_bike/bike_rental/index.htm
I recently spent a week working in Stuttgart, and although I enjoyed the city, I was much more impressed with a neighbouring town called Esslingen, about 20 minutes away. A medieval jewel which used to be the regional capitol long before Stuttgart’s growth, Esslingen has a cosy, small town feel, with plenty to offer.
Relatively untouched from WW2, the first thing that strikes the visitor after anodyne Stuttgart is the magnificent architecture: Fantastic lanes and courtyards which take you back 500 years, all beautifully maintained. I found Stuttgart relatively quiet at night, but Esslingen has plenty of restaurants, bistros and bars - in a compact area - where even if you don't know any German, the locals will certainly make you feel welcome. It is very safe at night. The local red wines are not to everyone’s taste, but the regional sparkling whites - Sekt - are alone worth the detour.
It's no shoppers’ paradise, but has enough interesting little stores and cafés to make an afternoon worthwhile. There's beautiful countryside a stone’s throw from the town and the hillside woodland provides welcome relief in unspoilt nature.
The centrepiece is the church of St Dionysus, which provides postcard-perfect photo ops and has remarkable stained glass - see it in the morning for the best effect - and the restored altar. Roman and pre-Roman ruins are on display around the church. The tourist information office opposite can provide all you need. Ask about open-air concerts, usually free, which often take place in the surrounding areas. Certainly a worthwhile day trip.
Howth is 25 minutes on the DART from the City. It is a working fishing harbour, and on the (wet) Sunday we visited, had a farmers' market, as well as two fishmongers and an awful lot of boats. Of the pubs, I'd recommend the Bloody Stream for its fantastic local seafood - try the chowder - and a great pint. Despite the good food, it isn't expensive or pretentious. Just good beer, and good food in nice surroundings. Best of all, it is underneath the DART station, so you can keep checking when the next one's due. We prolonged our stay by about 2 hours this way, in twenty minute intervals. Howth is a good option for a Sunday afternoon, if you want a break from the City. (Try The Abbot as well)
14 West Pier (just below the DART station), Howth;
tel: 01 839 5076;
The Salt mine has been visited by many high standing people, including Prince Edward, and is an awesome sight. The tour takes you on a trip down the mine in stages and explains about the workings and the medicinal properties the climate has. However, what is truly spectacular are the many salt carvings and the magnificent commissioned church at the bottom. From the altar, which features a picture of the last supper, right down to the tiles on the floor, everything is carved from salt. This place is truly a wonder of the modern world.
There are trips from the Old Square - Stare Miastro, and a train leaves regularly from Krakow Glowny Railway Station;
These 900 year-old mines must be one of the least known wonders of the world. Thirty minutes drive outside Krakow at Wieliczka, they comprise 300km of tunnels on nine levels. Three kilometres are open to the public. There are underground lakes, numerous chapels, a ballroom and, most breathtaking of all, a church 70m high with exquisite Bible story carvings on the wall. All of it was created by the miners who worked here. Eight hundred stairs take you down into the mine - but there is a lift to take you up. Contrary to popular belief, criminals and political prisoners were never sent down the salt mines. It was too prestigious a job when salt was (almost literally) worth its weight in gold.
ul. Zamkowa 8, 32-020 Wieliczka;
tel: 12 278 32 66, 12 422 19 47;
A two-hour trip outside of Barcelona to the small town of Figueres on the regional train was a pure delight. You can walk from the train station to the museum and the works of Dali opened up a whole new world in art for me.
The thing to miss in Barcelona is paying to go into the Sagrada Familia. It is an architectural wonder to behold but we felt the 20 euros spent to go in and up was a total waste of time and money. It is a construction site inside and totally disappointing.
Temple of Poseidon, just outside Athens. The journey there is along the coast, which is great. Sounio has breathtaking views and a nice cultural trip also. I never miss a drive there when I visit Athens.
Take a KTEL (coach) from Syntagma which will take you straight there.
Standing in the village whose name it takes, this Muslim khan’s palace is one of the highlights of the Crimea. It was built in the 16th-century and became home to a succession of Tatar Khans. A complex of buildings sits in a walled enclosure including a mosque, a harem and the living quarters. Pleasant gardens surround the buildings and today it seems an incredibly tranquil place – as long as you visit outside of peak tourist times. T
he interiors of the living quarters are beautiful and one fountain in a small courtyard hides a sad story which so moved the Russian writer Pushkin when he visited here that he wrote a whole poem to it – The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.
This was my first encounter with an Islamic domain and I have to say that I found it a very beguiling one.
The village is on the Sevastopol – Simferopol road, equidistant between the two. Guided trips are fine, but beware the tourist hordes;
Although there is easily enough in Istanbul to occupy the visitor for several weeks you may wish to take a trip to one of the nearby attractions for a day or two.
With this in mind the city of Bursa makes for an interesting stopover. The city is beautifully located against a mountainous backdrop and offers skiing during winter months. There is a thriving bazaar and several lovely examples of Ottoman-built mosques such as Yesil Cami.
To reach Bursa take the regular catamaran from Yenikapi to Yalova (badly hit by the 1999 earthquake) on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara, then catch a bus from outside the ferry terminal for the hour-long drive to Bursa’s otogar.
A feasible daytrip from Istanbul is to the historic town of Edirne about 3 hours north-west of Istanbul close to the borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Catch one of the frequent bus services from Esenler. Arriving in Edirne may feel as though you’ve returned to Europe but there are some interesting Ottoman monuments to be seen here including the beautiful Selimiye Camii mosque.
Take the Bosphorus Steamer's ticket to see breathtaking views of the Bosphorous, where two continents cross. You’ll also see wooden houses on the waterfront, historic palaces and two fortresses. The passenger boats looks like Italian vaporettas. Ferry ticket are five euro for a return, and the ferry leaves at 10 in the morning from Sirkeci. Trips take around two hours.
Sirkeci Vapur Iskelesi across Yeni Cami
If you have more than a few days, I recommend taking the ferry to one or more of the Princes' Islands.
There are no cars, hardly any other city life noises and the air is definitely cleaner. They are my favourite spot for peace and quiet especially in winter, early spring and autumn as there is hardly anyone visiting and the beautiful wood-clad houses from late 19th century are empty and serene in all their glory.
You can walk around or take a tour in a horse drawn open (covered in winter) carriage and have a glass of tea by the port.
There are regular ferry services to the islands from Eminonu on the Golden Horn and Bostanci on the Anatolian side
Not too far from Prague - a bus ride away - and home to some absolutely beautiful spas. Try and go in the winter for a wonderful contrast between the snow and the hot springs. Restaurants and bars are also cheap.
However, anyone travelling with children - be prepared for nudity - many spa-goers strip off completely.
Szentendre is an idyllic small town situated on the Danube River about 19km away from the main city. In Szentendre, you can escape the chaos of the city and experience a timeless, laid-back old town that has hardly been affected by the modernity of Budapest.
It takes around 45 minutes to get there on the the suburban train (HÉV) from I. Batthyány tér to Szentendre
Not too far out of Melbourne, take a bus north, or hire a car, and go to the Riverina area on the border of Victoria and NSW, you won't be disappointed. Not that far from Melbourne, beautiful bushland, little bush towns, and the Edward and Murray Rivers are fantastic to swim and fish in. The Riverina is the real Australia and anybody in that neck of the woods should really check it out.
During weekends in the summer it's possible to take a helicopter tour above St Petersburg. The cost is around $30 and the helicopters take off and land on the lawn beyond the northern wall of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Just follow the deafening noise…
A gentle bike ride around Amsterdam that takes you all around the city and then down the Amstel into the countryside (where you can add a windmill and cheese farm/clog factory to your sightseeing list).
Our guide, the irrepressible and engaging Egg, was incredibly learned on the city's history and liberal sex and drugs laws. All of which he assured us he'd researched in depth purely for our benefit. An excellent introduction to the city that makes you understand what Amsterdam is all about. Oh, and there's a free beer token in it too ... what more could you possibly want?
Take a stroll (or guided tour) through shady, historic Mount Hope cemetery. Afterwards wax philosophical ("Sic transit...") at the Distillery across Mt Hope Avenue from the cemetery entrance.
Or if you're not in the mood to walk, drive out to the village of Pittsford and take the Sam Patch Tour Boat on the Erie Canal. Daily cruises, lunch and dinner. Nearby are boutiques, cafes, and ice cream parlours.
If you don't take the tour, you can always walk the canal. A place for contemplation.
12 Shoen Place, Pittsford; tel: 585 262 5661; www.sampatch.org
OK, so it's nearer Wakefield than Leeds, but it’s still only an hour away from the city, so it’s great for a day trip. Some of the most fantastic British sculpture that you will see, set in beautiful parklands - a top day out.
This beautiful conservation park is only an hour-and-a-half’s drive south of Adelaide. There’s great camping facilities and lovely walks down to impressive beaches (no surf though). The best bits are the kangaroos resting under the trees on a sunny day, and the views of Kangaroo Island. Lovely - well worth a visit.
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