Easily accessible by both bus services from Principe Pio (one hour) and train services from Chamartín (thirty minutes), Segovia is the ideal day trip from Madrid.
It's exemplar Roman aqueduct, cathedral, and medieval Alcazar provide more than enough for a day's entertainment. A visit can also be paid to the Versailles inspired Royal Palace of La Granja with its grandiose gardens and art gallery.
Alternatively visitors can stroll around the cobbled streets of the 'barrio medieval' (UNESCO World Heritage site) and indulge in the local delicacy of 'Cochinillo' (roast suckling pig) at the town's most prestigious restaurant José María which can be found just of the main town square.
Segovia's tranquility and beauty makes it the perfect escape from Madrid and an exposure to the true Spain that is being rapidly lost in the evermore European capital.
Google map: bit.ly/XMhZMe
Chinchon is a Spanish town and municipality 50km southeast of Madrid. Visit the Neolithic remains, Goya's brother's house,the medieval castle or the church of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion for an early work by Goya.Had enough of culture? visit for one of the many festivals and enjoy the locally distilled anisette and suckling pig. Or maybe catch a bullfight?
Demonstrating butter churning with an abundance of fresh, new, springtime cream, is a man in a tricorn hat. Nestled in the shambles at Bewdley Museum, lies 'The Copper Pot', a replica Georgian shop selling seasonal, historically-researched foods for people to buy. The smell of spices and chocolate gets into your nose as soon as you walk in. With tasters on offer, historic games to try and authentic decoration to feast your eyes on, time literally stops still in here.
Bewdley Shambles, Bewdley Museum, Load Street, Bewdley, DY12 2AE
Open April-Oct, Thursday-Sunday from 10am-4pm.
Kidderminster is the nearest train station, but the Severn Valley Railway stops in Bewdley.
Google map: bit.ly/16L7GGT
Low Sizergh Barn, three and half miles south of Kendal, is definitely not "just another" open farm.
In addition to being an exciting place for all ages with lots to see and do, it is a place where great importance is attached to good husbandry – using the 138 hectares (341 acres) of land to its greatest potential while at the same time protecting and nurturing it for the future. This is a place where past and present seem to seamlessly merge. "Sizergh" is an old Norse word meaning "summer pasture." The farm has been part of the Sizergh estate since 1239, providing milk and other produce for the occupants of the nearby castle.
Some of the older remaining farm buildings, including the Westmorland stone barn which now houses the farm shop, date from the seventeenth century. Also over 400 years old are some of the hedgerows and the ancient semi-natural woodland to be found here. The land is now owned by the National Trust and since 1980 the farm has been leased to the Park family, in whose caring hands it has now thrived and prospered across two generations.
A seven mile circuit with amazing views over the rolling hills of Le Marche out to the Adriatic, northwards to the Gran Sasso and also of the surrounding Sibillini Mountains.
Drive up the zigzag track up to the Refugio Sibilla and then it is a short walk up to access the fine ridge up to the summit.
The area is full of legends. The eponymous sibyl, or prophetess, reputedly lived in a cave near the summit with a group of beautiful enchantresses who could turn into snakes if the need arose and nearby the Lago di Pilato marks the spot that Pontius Pilate's body supposedly found its final resting place. We had the mountain to ourselves in April, when fresh snow added to the beauty.
The site of the main remand prison for people detained by the former East German Ministry of State Security (MfS), or 'Stasi', has been a Memorial since 1994.
Since the vast majority of the buildings, equipment and furniture and fittings have survived intact, the Memorial provides a very authentic picture of prison conditions in the GDR. The Memorial's location in Germany's capital city makes it the key site in Germany for victims of communist tyranny.
Very interesting site and great guided tour, also in English available.
Genslerstraße 66, 13055 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 986082 ext. 30
Google map: bit.ly/16T3KGU
Tram M5 from the S-Bahn (City Railway) stations at Alexanderplatz or Landsberger Allee to the Freienwalder Strasse stop. The Memorial is then about a 10 minute walk down Freienwalder Strasse.
Tram M6 from the Hackescher Markt S-Bahn (City Railway) station to the Genslerstrasse stop. Genslerstrasse begins at the back of the Allee Center. The Memorial is then about a ten-minute walk, past the Hotel Kolumbus on the left. The former restricted area stretched to the north of the footpath; the Memorial is at the end on the right.
Tram 16 from the Frankfurter Allee U-Bahn (tube) and S-Bahn (City Railway) station to Genslerstrasse. Genslerstrasse begins at the back of the Allee Center. The Memorial is then about a ten-minute walk, past the Hotel Kolumbus on the left. The former restricted area stretched to the north of the footpath; the Memorial is at the end on the right.
From Lichtenberg U-Bahn (tube) and S-Bahn (City Railway) station, take the 256 bus to Liebenwalder Strasse/Genslerstrasse. It's then about a five-minute walk down Genslerstrasse past the Hotel Columbus.
Or for the Dutch by bike.
The city of Nicopolis was built by Octavian (Emperor Augustus) to celebrate his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium which took place just off the coast.
Today the ruins are largely free of tourists and beautifully overgrown but curious visitors who follow the paths and agricultural roads around the sprawling archaeological site will discover the remains of a Roman odeion, a nymphaea, an amphitheatre, a stadium, the foundations of a villa, a necropolis, mosaics, and stretches of the original Roman walls.
On a nearby hillside the Monument of Augustus stood on the site of Octavian's war camp and originally showcased the spoils of battle including bronze rams cut from the bows of Antony and Cleopatra's ships.
The Archaeological Museum of Preveza tells the story of the ancient city and displays finds from the site. Visit first and you will have a better feel for the history. The admission ticket covers entry to the museum and the archaeological site.
Preveza in Epirus, North West Greece is within reach of Parga and Lefkada by car.
Buses from Preveza bus station to Ioannina (or other local services) pass the museum and the archaeological site. Getting back to Preveza is difficult as buses are irregular and it's a good 30 mins walk.
Details of opening times and admission free days: odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh3530.jsp?obj_id=2575
Google map: bit.ly/1624kkj
Xanthos is a world heritage site on Turkey’s Lycian coast, easily accessible by car from Kalkan or Petara. The site dates back to the 5th century BC, and what makes it so distinctive are the pillar tombs, some with marble reliefs; the most distinctive is the so-called “Harpy Tomb” depicting sirens carrying off the souls of the dead. Typically, though, you will need to go to the British Museum to see the original. Other than the extensive site and well preserved remains – including an impressive amphitheatre - Xanthos is also famous for the two occasions when the inhabitants committed mass suicide in the face of Persian and then Roman invaders, so the site has some moving stories to tell.
Olympos is an ancient city, settled in 2BC and abandoned in the 15th century. Situated on Turkey's south west coast you can gain access by walking along the beach from Cirali Town and up past a little river into the site. The beauty of Olympos is that you can get right up to the ruins and touch them, and when we visited in September there were very few tourists around. A good portion of the city is still standing and other buildings are being repaired, though it feels like you might have just stumbled upon the ruins yourself. And once you have finished your time at Olympos a beautiful beach, where turtles nest during summer, awaits you.
On the south coast of Turkey, 90 km southwest of Antalya city.
200km north of Istanbul lies the Gallipoli Peninsula. A breathtaking stretch of Turkish coast, steeped more in recent history than ancient history, with many interesting WWI sites to visit in a single area. I found the stories of comradeship between the NZ, Australia, British and Turkish soldiers extremely moving. You are able to visit the remaining trenches, untouched since the war (the original barbed wire remains) and see how unbelievably close the groups of soldiers were during most of the war. In the area there are monuments and cemeteries for each nation and beautiful, yet windy, beaches to visit. Imagine what life must have been like for them, fighting a war in such an idyllic location.
Google map: bit.ly/YqQoOu
Ancient pomegranate trees shade a rocky trail leading up to the Greek amphitheatre of Erythrae. Unlike the human maelstrom at sites like Ephesus, visitors here are few, even in summer. We felt free to test the acoustics. Nearby a sun-wizened old man was minding a hobbit-hole. In the dark interior, on a dusty floor, lay dusty fragments of mouldings and ceramics. Explaining (eventually) we were from England he smiled broadly then proudly spoke his two words of English: "Manchester United".
It's well worth stopping on the way there or back at one of the small roadside cafes on the coast road between Çeşme and Illdir. They have shaded terraces with spectacular views over the Aegean Sea and islands. Try an Akitma, thin Turkish crêpes, cooked to order and filled with Feta-type, crumbly fresh cheese. Wash it down with Ayran, a suprisingly delicious cold drink of yogurt mixed with water and salt.
Illdir, on the coast road about 1 hour north of Çeşme.
Tourist information office: Çeşme (fax 232-712 6653) - it's by the harbour at iskele Meydanı 6.
Google map: bit.ly/13aWLKm
Generally, crowds detract from an experience - more so in a beautiful, serene, spiritual place. In Istanbul the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) suffers due to it's popularity - especially with the cruise ship populations! To see/feel it as it should be seen/felt go in the evening - no crowds and a bonus of gorgeous lighting effects. Avoid prayer times by visiting www.namazvacti.com/Main.php?WSLanguage=EN
Mystra: ‘The Despotate of Mystra’ as it was known in the 14th Century. The most complete, dramatically sited and atmospheric Byzantine city in Greece. With magnificent views into the valley below it huddles against a steep cliff at the foot of the Taiyetos mountain range in the south eastern Peloponnese. Narrow streets and alleys give access to medieval semi-ruined houses, palaces and churches, some of the latter having brilliant ‘fresco’s. We felt we had entered the Byzantine world.
Whichever route you take to Mystra you will experience great scenery as well as having the opportunity to visit classical sites.
Google map: bit.ly/YVjTaD
After the visits to myriad marble columns, temple remnants, and paved roads, the Kouros of Naxos are a refreshing change. The three Kouros are prostrate statues still lying where they were being chiselled from the local marble. Dating from 6th or 7th Century BC, these male forms are believed to be either the God Dionysus, or perhaps local heroes, destined to grace temples. They lie in the open countryside where skilled hands worked on the marble slabs until fatal flaws were revealed or the stone fractured. The statues were then discarded, unfinished, and irretrievable. These are sites of heroic failure and are touching and impressive reminders of the minor craftsmen behind the great antiquities. The best Kouros are at Apollon (10.3m long) and near the central town of Melanes. All are accessible by foot.
Getting there: local buses from Naxos port to Melanes or to Apollon. Kouros of Flerio, Kouros of Potamia are near Melanes and the largest is near Apollon.
Google map: bit.ly/10gGC28
While we were staying at the Peloponnese sea town of Natplio we went to see the amphitheatre at Epidavros, extraordinarily preserved and set against a stunning backdrop. We saw a performance of the Greek tragedy, Medea by Euripides along with thousands of others. The acoustics and atmosphere were truly memorable.
The town is located in the North Eastern Peloponnese and the best way to get there is by car which is a three hour drive from Athens via Corinth. Designated buses also run from Natplio.
Google map: bit.ly/13aIqOh
If you’re a sun-seeker who’s taken advantage of the cheap FlyThomasCook flights to Antalya, it’s well worth taking a day trip to the ancient Pisidian ruined city of Termessos. Bewilderingly under-visited, possibly due to the steep climb required to reach the site (located 1000m above sea level), you often get the impression you have the place to yourself. The amphitheatre is particularly impressive with spectacular views across the rolling Tauros mountain range. Leave Ephesus to the masses and take in this piece of history on your own terms.
It's a 30km drive north-west of Antalya.
Google map: bit.ly/ZZsPe8
Kingfishers overtake the little boats that chug past the Sultaniye mud baths and round a final bend of the Dalyan River in Turkey to reveal the 2,500 year old limestone rock tombs carved by the Lycians high up on sheer sandstone cliff walls. Our guide explained this was so the souls of the ancient kings of nearby Caunus, who were laid to rest here, could be wafted away by winged sirens. There are restaurants opposite, good to enjoy at night while the striking and extremely photogenic site is floodlit.
My favourite archaeological destination in SW Turkey has always been Stratonikeia. Between Milas and Yatağan, equally accessible from Bodrum, Altinkum and Marmaris, the site is an archaeologist's dream as Greek, Roman and Ottoman remains tumble around the ruined houses of the Turkish Republic. Visit in spring and you'll be serenaded by frogs in the ancient theatre. Unlike Ephesus, you can wander at leisure through the bathhouse, gymnasium and bouleuterian unhindered by crowds, as coach tours are still a rarity. The villagers of Eskihisar were forced to leave their homes as an ever expanding coal mine encroached on their land. Abandoned villages always have a forsaken air and Eskihisar had the added menace of massive slag heaps looming over the ancient city walls. Only one old lady refused to leave and as the years went on she got progressively more dotty and would yell at us as we apologetically picked our way around the ruins. I returned to Stratonikeia this April for the first time in 10 years and found a happier atmosphere in the village. Two families have moved back and a team from Pamukkale University are busy excavating and restoring mosaics. The mosque has been repaired despite having no worshippers and the tea house is open. The towering slag heaps have been seeded and are turning into rolling green hills. Excavations are turning up exciting finds by the day. But the most thrilling development is an initiative between Muğla and Italian Education ministries to educate children using Statonikeia and Herclenium as examples, with a tag line of "Who doesn't know the past can't have a future, so teach through history."
Signposted just off the main road from Milas to Yatağan. Just before you hit the chimneys of the power station.
Google map: bit.ly/Z9HUYg
Anytime of the year is good to visit Sagalassos, a two hour drive north of Turkey’s Mediterranean tourist hotspot, Antalya, but my favourite time is winter when this ancient site set in the Taurus mountains is covered in a layer of crisp snow. First, take a climb up to the 9000 seat stone-built theatre in order to orientate yourself and savour the view over the remains of this remote but important Pisidian city, most of which dates back to the 1st and 2nd century AD. Then head down to the library, complete with a mosaic floor, the rock cut tombs, a good place to shelter from the wind and bask in the sun, the agora with the decorative fountain, the Antonine Nyphaeum now boasting reproduction statues, the reconstructed heroon and the remains of the ancient bathhouse. In early spring, despite the lingering snow, purple croci can be glimpsed among the rocks and noisy nuthatches dart between the boulders. The site has ongoing excavations every summer, but for the rest of the year, you are likely to have the entire site to yourself.
An ambling six km walk through the Sirikan Gorge, amid cooling chestnut groves, wild olives and plane trees, brings you to the ruined hilltop acropolis of Polyrinia, ‘rich in lambs’. A powerful city-state built by the Achaens, it dominated western Crete and later flourished under the Romans, who added a subterranean reservoir and aqueduct. It was re-colonized in Byzantine and Venetian times and there is much to see among its ruined fortifications, decorative arches, rock-cut tombs and later Church of the Holy Fathers. Rest in the shaded chapel courtyard and admire the jaw-dropping views of Kissamos Bay and the White Mountains before turning back for the sleepy village of Ano Paleokastra. Call in on Yiorgos’ workshop where he’ll ply you with olives and raki until you buy one of his beautiful olive wood boxes, or just pet his friendly dog, Lula.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com