Ohrid is such a surprise. I arrived there from Albania expecting a quiet historic town. That’s only the half of it. Ohrid is no doubt historic: it was here that the Cyrillic alphabet was developed and the wooden buildings of the old town are beautifully intact. However, what surprised me about Ohrid was the party atmosphere. During the summer, there is a mass exodus from Skopje to the countryside and it seems as if most people come here. The pubs and clubs are packed. The atmosphere is wonderful and very friendly. But this party atmosphere in no way detracts from Ohrid’s other virtues.
Another huge plus about Ohrid is the lake of the same name. This huge freshwater lake is in pristine condition due to the lack of industry on its shores. We saw water snakes right by the banks of the town, and beautiful old monasteries are dotted around its shores.
Ohrid: spend the night partying and the day taking a swim and exploring the beautiful old town.
Just across the border from Albania, Ohrid is easily accessible from Skopje with a frequent bus service, but transport is tricky from Albania. If there is a group travelling you can split the price of a minibus between you from Pogradec. This will take you to the border. From here there are usually taxis to take you to the town of Ohrid. This is okay in a group but can work out pricey if you’re on your own. Apart from that there’s always hitching. Get talking to someone at the border and you shouldn’t have too much trouble. The locals on both sides are always eager to help someone out.
The stuttgart television tower was the first tower of its kind in the world and has recently been completely refitted. It is the unofficial symbol of the city, as you can see it from almost anywhere. For details and a webcam see the website, which is in German and English. The view from the top is great.
Jahnstraße 120 (U-Bahn station: Waldau);
tel: 0711 23 2597
The first Nazi concentration camp built in 1933 mainly for 'political prisoners'. As those who have never experienced wars and only learnt History through textbooks, it was an eye opening and unforgettable experience to explore.
The site is an empty space in which the concentration camp existed and features the crematoria and entrance gate with the inscription 'Arbeit macht frei '.
It was snowy and cold when we went and it was as if time had stopped there. One must not forget what happened. We walked to the site from Dachau station (S2) on the way, which took about 25 minutes or so, but on the way back, I personally could not help getting back to the city centre quickly by bus, as seeing the site was quite a traumatic experience for me.
One would never imagine that Dachau concentration camp is one of the sites that exist within Maerchen-chic Munich. Certainly it makes such a huge difference to your impression of the city if you see this kind of dark historic site as well as pretty tourist attractions. I thought visiting the site even once was certainly worthwhile.
The combination of an eye-catching wine list, friendly service and great food makes this place your home away from home in Riga.
As you walk through the glass entrance that provides the only natural light to the restaurant, you enter a warm world of wood, stone and glass. The potential unfriendliness of bare brick and rough plastered walls is successfully offset by exposed wooden beams, ventilation running through polished wooden conduits, and locally hand crafted stained glass lampshades.
A carved wooden partition separates the smoking and non-smoking areas and provides some intimacy for those who end up with tables in the center of the restaurant. The overall effect is of a warm and comfortable environment.
10, Aldaru Street. The restaurant is located in the very heart of Vecriga (Old Riga) in the medieval warehouse building next to the only remaining bit of the city wall and one of the main tourist attractions - Swedish Gates.
This 12th century Citadel is constructed on an artificial hill very close to where Old and New Rhine meet in the middle of the oldest part of the city.
Having lived close to Leiden for many years, I never knew it was there until I found it one day. Since then, every time I visit Leiden, I go up to "de Burcht" to enjoy the views and the tranquility that surrounds it.
Going south on the Breestraat, go left after city-hall, cross the New Rhine and walk straight into the Burgsteeg, at the end of it go left and there it is.
Krakow is a city wrapped in legend, where time flows differently, and where every moment becomes a moment of history.
For centuries, Krakow was the capital of Poland, the seat of kings, drawing great scholars and artists from the whole world. It is their talents and imagination we must thank for the city's rich legacy of unique historical relics, which reflect the most important trends in European culture.
The renaissance Royal Castle at Wawel, the gothic St Mary's Basilica, the historical trade pavilions of the Cloth Hall, the former separate Jewish city of Kazimierz, and even the Nowa Huta district, absorbed by Krakow together with its socialist-realist, industrial architecture, are all places which make a visit to Krakow extremely worthwhile.
Although the city no longer plays such an important administrative role, for many people, thanks to its rich history, Krakow nevertheless represents a synthesis of all things Polish, connecting tradition with modernity.
In the special atmosphere of the beautiful and mysterious streets of the Old Town and Kazimierz you will find everything you need to allow you to escape from everyday life.
Galleries full of exhibitions, cafes, pubs and restaurants: all of this is an integral part of any visit to Krakow.
In a city which has mirrored the history of the 20th century very closely, the Reichstag is one of the most poignant symbols of the mix of politics, history and architecture in Berlin.
It was badly damaged in the war and the Berlin Wall ran along the back of it. The new cupola, designed by Norman Foster, offers fantastic views over the city, but get there early - there are always long queues.
Right in the centre, just north of the Brandenburg gate. Bus 100 (which is a good route for sightseeing) passes by it; the nearest S-bahn station is Unter den Linden
For many tourists, the way to see the West Bank temples and tombs appears to be the highly priced offerings from their tour company.
Typical costs are £39 per person for a visit to the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepshut's temple and the Valley of the Queens. Included in this price are the ticket prices (approximately £9.50 per person).
To hire an air-conditioned minibus and a guide, and to visit temples and tombs that you wish to see, will cost at most 200LE (£20) for up to six people (total price), so adding the cost of the tickets, the trip will probably cost an individual in this situation about £12.
The other plus of this is that you can actually spend as long as you wish at a site, and not have to rush back to take in the obligatory visit to an alabaster or papyrus shop, for which the tour leader on the coach can make up to 50% of your purchase price in commission.
The world's longest (and highest!) suspension bridge, over a river at the foot of Grouse mountain. Get the SeaBus from the Waterfront Station, and then a bus towards Grouse Mountain (a two zone ticket will cover the whole journey). There are great filmset-like views from the bridge itself, plus a network of platforms linking huge pine trees once you reach the other side. Keep your ticket for a discount on entry to Grouse Mountain. Get the SeaBus back to downtown Vancouver in the evening for fantastic views of the skyline as the sun sets.
The best place in North America to grab an all-over tan and partake in Amsterdam-style smoking.
Trail 6 from the University of British Columbia. Ask anybody how to get there. Locals, police, politicians, artists and visiting Americans all know how to get there.
In the heart of China Town there is an oasis. The Chinese gardens are the biggest replica outside of China (I think) and are beautifully kept.
In the summer you can see turtles floating in the ponds and the flowers are stunning.
The guided tours are free and really interesting.
Well worth popping into especially if you happen to be in China town.
578 Carrall Street;
tel: 604 662 3207;
If there's one attraction that is a must see in Taipei it's the National Palace Museum. It houses some of the most magnificent examples of Chinese paintings, jade, caligraphy, tapestry and books.
When Chiang Kai Shek's KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war he somehow managed to bring with him the most important items of art and culture. These were set up in the National Palace Museum in the Shi Lin district of Taipei, close to Chiang's old residence.
There simply isn't a better collection anywhere. While tours in English are a regular part of the day it's just as rewarding to take yourself off and get lost among the artifacts.
The National Palace Museum's existance probably rankles with mainland China more than the existance of Chen Shiu Bien. And rightly so.
221 Chih Shan Rd sec 2, Shi Lin, Taipei. Take a cab from the city centre or take the red line MRT to ShiLin then a bus East.
Main Street south of 49th avenue to about 55th is lined with shops selling wonderful Indian fabrics, foods and jewelery. Fabrics are beautiful, authentic and extremely reasonably priced, and the clothes are unique and beautiful.
Farther north on Main is also lovely, but quite different. Between about 33rd and 16th it has plenty of antique shops, second hand stores and cute little stores selling home furnishings and accessories (no chain stores). Between 16th and Seventh it's more eclectic, with some very good second-hand stores (the Salvation Army is on 12th just east of Main) and cafes. Urban Source, at 16th and Main, is a fantastic resource for craft supplies: they recycle industrial leftovers, and the results and the offerings are irresistable.
The strange triangle between Fraser, Main and Broadway is known as Dysfunction Junction, and hosts 2 outstanding second-hand bookstores, literary cafe Our Town, a pool hall, a neon art cafe, and several hole-in-the-wall galleries and restaurants. The Jem gallery is a particular gem; a recent exhibit featured the work of I.Braineater, an outstanding local artist.
Farther north again, Loomis arts and crafts superstore is an awesome place for paper junkies. Just to the west is the Seawall; you can go on the south side all the way to Kitsilano, or you can take the north side and go up to Yaletown, English Bay, and Stanley Park. If you know some tricks you can connect with Portside Road and skate all the way from Science World (near Loomis) to Stanley Park and back to the foot of Main street, a loop of about ten miles if you don't also skate around the park itself. And it's all on the Seawall, away from traffic, except for a mile along Portside Road.
North along Main is Chinatown, and then at the very foot of Main street is the Viaduct which will give you a fantastic view of the mountains, North Vancouver, and Downtown. It will also take you to Crab Park (closed after 10pm) which is the only beach on the Downtown Eastside, and features nesting eagles and hawks, seals in the water, and a marvelous break from city noise.
Nearby, on Alexander just west of Main is the Alibi Room, a very arty place with a very hot crowd, very good food, and very original (and tasty) cocktails. Open late, and for great Saturday brunch, but the DJ might be a bit loud if you're hungover. Not that I would know what that's like.
Mount Vesuvius is still one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and as such is constantly monitored with a seven day warning system. Assuming that no warning has been issued, it's well worth climbing to the top to peer into the ashen crater and view the Bay of Naples which looks all too vulnerable as it spreads out from the foot of the mountain. Coach trips will take you so far up the ascent, but the last 1000 feet must be done by foot, once you've paid your entry fee of course. Unless you're feeling charitable, it's best to ignore the little man handing out 'walking poles', as they're not of much use and he'll demand a few euros from you when you've come back down.
To get there, it's best to take an organised trip - you can drive there, but there are very limited parking facilities.
Unlike Pompeii, it's possible to look around the whole of the Herculaneum excavations in one visit. The small town was buried in lava and mud in the same AD79 eruption and rests below the ground level of modern day Ercolano. Highlights include a gymnasium, complete with athletes' swimming pool, bars which still have the recesses from which wine was served and some wonderful mosaics and sculptures.
Corso Resina 6, Ercolano;
tel: 081 739 0963;
To reach the ruins walk straight down the hill from the station for about five minutes, or if driving take the A3 from Naples then the turn-off for Ercolano.
The Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, dates back to the 13th century and is Cologne's best-known landmark. It's a fascinating historical building - about as Gothic as Gothic can be, and close examination of the intricate internal carvings reveals even the odd pagan symbol.
For those in good health, I recommend climbing the stairs of the spire. Sure, it's a particularly touristy thing to do, but climbing the spire is to Cologne as climbing the Arc de Triomphe is to Paris - it gives you a view of the city from a central vantage point, atop an amazing structure.
The castle dates back to the 13th century, but it includes impressive Renaissance additions which make it an imposing sight. It's also worth paying a few euros to have a look inside, where you'll find the Barons Hall, a chapel, a disconcertingly glass-floored room that you can walk on to view original foundations below, and an exhibition of art and artefacts. It also has excellent top-floor views over the bay.
tel: 081 795 2003
You can't beat Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) when it comes to looking for souvenirs from Krakow: Amber, silver jewellery, linen table cloths, stained glass, wooden chess sets and decorative glass are among the most popular buys.
On the first floor, there's a gallery of 19th century Polish Art, housing paintings by Jan Matejko, Henryk Siemiradzki, Józef Chełmoński, Julian Fałat, and the Kossak family.
After shopping and sightseening have a rest in the Noworolski cafe, a favourite of a certain Vladimir Lenin during his stay in Krakow.
In the middle of the Market Square (Rynek Glowny).
In 1079, King Bolesław the Bold accused the bishop of Kraków, Stanisław Szczepański of treason.
According to the legend, Szczepański was beheaded and then chopped into pieces. The Royal Family then became cursed. To appease the spirit of the bishop, the Pauline Church was built and the Royal Family made regular pilgrimages there to atone for the killing.
Szczepański was canonised in 1253. There are other famous Polish people buried in the church including painter Stanisław Wyspiański. The church has a lovely tranquil feel to it.
West end of ulica Skałeczna
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