Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Nürnberg sightseeing

Monday, August 31st, 2015

As written in my previous post, we had around 1.5 days to fill with things to do while in Nürnberg. You cannot really fill half a day with any major attraction, so we planned to fill only one.

The main attraction of the city, apart from the actual historic center, is Nürnberg Castle. Naturally, we planned the day around a visit of it. But, as it is with a good meal, you can make a lot of your main dish if the side dish is made well. So what was our side dish? As I mentioned above, there are lots of ingredients to choose from in the historic center of the city.

We started our small expedition with a stroll on the old streets of Nürnberg. Going from the hotel, in the south, we basically had to cross the entire historic center to get to the castle in the north. The main things to see, I think, are the very nice gothic style churches: St. Lorenz church, Frauenkirche and St. Sebald cathedral. The second in the list above is actually the main attraction of the market it stands on precisely at noon:

The main market square is also the place for another attraction: Schönenbrunnen, which was sadly under renovation while we were there, so there isn’t anything I can say about it…

So, on to the main attraction of the day, Nürnberg Castle. After a bit challenging march up to the ticket office, which is conveniently placed furthest away from the gate which opens from the city center, we got in line to buy the tickets to be able to visit the interior (by the way, the court and most of the castle premises is open to the public). The ticket per person costs 7€ with audioguide for an additional 2€. For this, one can visit the interior exhibitions, the Deep Well and the Sinwell Tower. The whole thing takes about 2 hours, part of the time is due to the waiting at the Deep Well, which opens only as a guided tour every half hour for 10-15 minutes. If you happen to be there right after one tour ends, you’re in for some waiting… plan your visit carefully if you want to avoid waiting 😉 . All in all it is a nice experience. Not too much, not too little: just the amount of history one can take for a day. It is amazing how this castle was entirely renovated after almost completely being destroyed during WW2.

Nürnberg has a charming old center. It sends off a great deal of “bavaria” through its architecture, through its food and through its small twists. I would recommend anyone at least one day in this very nice city.

Pictures of the experience here


Nürnberg, Germany

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

After a brief business trip in spring this year, I finally got the chance to actually see the city I stayed at for two days back then. This time our stay in Nürnberg took from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening. Why this specific interval? Well, unfortunately the direct flight from Cluj to Nürnberg is “too young” for now, so WizzAir is still ramping up the project I guess: they got to the huge number of two flights per week (I think it is quite easy to guess by now which days 😉 ).

So, there you have it: 3.5 days to be filled with things to do in Nürnberg. Well, actually 2.5: the main attraction of the trip was a wedding, so one day was taken for that of course. And, then, if you are in Bavaria there is another attraction in a nearby city, that for me was a must (but more about that in another post 😉 ). One can easily see by now, that “hour basket” shrunk quite a lot, so it was not that big a deal to fill it with activities 🙂 .

One thing ,that was constantly in Nürnberg, however, was our hotel, breakfast and dinner. So we had quite a lot of opportunity to check out this city from many angles. But first, let me start by pointing out a vital thing we needed to have, in order to get around easily (after all, it was me, my wife and my parents: moving around 4 people in the area had to be made easy somehow): the car. I decided to rent a car for this period, and the best price I could find was actually through I am not refraining to express my honest great opinion about this site: not only that they found a great deal which was cheaper than renting directly from the rental company, they offered me an even better deal and upgraded to a bigger car. Additionally, when I got off the plane and went to the desk, I got another offer: choose the basic Ford C-Max or get a 4×4. Naturally I chose the 4×4: a Nissan Qashqai. It was a very well equipped version with modern features like start/stop system and a sun-roof and… a surprisingly small trunk. This last thing just kept bugging me and even the very cool camera system, which helped park like in GTA 2, could not make me forgive this shortcoming. Additionally, on the Autobahn, sometimes I wished I was driving my 12yr old beemer instead…

The next great thing: the hotel. We chose Ibis (Hauptbahnhof) as the main base to start our daily expeditions from. It was a perfect location, great value for money (not counting the ridiculously high breakfast price) and they have the perfect underground garage. I already rated the hotel well on, but again: I would recommend it to anyone. They did one little strange thing, though: they blocked a random sum (well, for me it is random, because it is nowhere on the invoice) on my card on top of the room and parking price. They eventually charged the normal price, but after a week that strange sum is still blocked. I contacted the hotel via e-mail, but no response…

So, how to cope with the ridiculously high breakfast price (11€/person/day)? Just walk a few hundred meters every morning up on Koenigstrasse just in front of the hotel and it is easy to find the great solution. I will not place the name of the place, I am confident that people can identify it quickly ;)… The place offers a wide selection of delicious breakfast menus in the 3-4€ price range, so it is worth the short, refreshing walk every morning.

And for dinner? It is easy to find a wide range of local restaurants which serve local food. There is even a wide range of pizzerias, steakhouses offering all kinds of food for people who do not fancy the local food. The prices are varying, but it is easy to find dinner for around 20-25€ per person (including beer of course, after all, we were in Bavaria… 😉 ). Basically each evening we did a short walk in the historic center and chose a different restaurant for dinner… it was fun 🙂 .

There you have it: the basics were taken care of. What about sightseeing? I think I will need another post for that 😉


The Big Trip: Dubrovnik

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The sixth morning was a bit melancholic on our cruise. It was the beginning of the last full day on the ship. Nevertheless, it was a day with another great place that we were about to visit. The destination for this day was Dubrovnik, one of the nicest coastal cities of Croatia.
We did not book ahead to any trip in Dubrovnik, we figured, that if the ship is docked, we can explore the city on our own. Boy were we surprised, when we learned, that we are going to be just anchored next to Dubrovnik, using the ships life-boats as tender service to the shore. Luckily the tender service was free of charge, we just had to sign up for a ticket for one of the boats leaving at specific intervals from the ship to the old port of Dubrovnik. In order to get one of the tender-boats leaving at a reasonable time, we had to stand in a HUGE queue (apparently everyone thought it was a good idea not to book ahead in Dubrovnik) and sign up early to them (I was up at 6:30 to get in line before opening time and the queue was already huge). I was targeting the tender leaving at 9:00 but I was not really sure if I was able to catch a ticket to that, because I was quite at the end of the queue… To my surprise I did: apparently the tender-boats were large enough to accommodate a lot of people at once (120 to be more precise). So, I happily went back to our cabin with a big smile having a job well done (well, the queue actually got even bigger after I left, so my timing was not so bad after all), waving the tickets victoriously: we had time to have our breakfast in a reasonable time and get to the shore calmly 😉 .

Since day one I was curious about how the life-boats look like from the inside. I did not want to find out the hard way (that would have meant that ship has gone “titanic”), but still I wanted to find out. So, I was actually quite excited about the fact that we were about to use them. When we got in I found out, that it was much bigger than even the tender boat we used in Santorini (it’s maximum capacity was 150! people). The ride, which took us ashore was also quite fun: the boat was going with relatively high speed and when it hit the wave of one of the returning boats it went into some fun up&down shaking waking everyone up if they did not wake up, yet 😉 . The boat ride took a few minutes during which we passed some of the local boats as well as the life-boats of another cruise ship anchored quite dangerously close to the shore (yes, it was a Costa ship 😉 ). With tourists coming from two cruise-ships at the same time into the already quite crowded city, the outlook for the day was just great 😉 .

After getting ashore right next to the old city wall, we already faced a quite large crowd of tourists heading into the city. Well, we decided to follow the flow and try and not get lost 🙂 . The flow took us through the main street of Dubrovnik, right trough two churches, a few gift shops, until we arrived to one of the entry points to climb on top of the city walls. A lot of the photos of Dubrovnik were views from the top, so there had to be something special up there… We decided to pay the price of 100 Kunas (~€12.00) per person and climbed the stairs leading up to the top. Well, there were a bit fewer people on top than down on the streets, but then again, the path was also narrower. There was a lot more air, so that was definitely better, but the real wow effect was the actual view of the city and the sea from there. It was absolutely fantastic. I could not stop taking photos, and neither could others, making the flow of people on the walls quite slow, which in turn meant that it was going to take quite some time until we walked around the entire historic center following the walls. There are two points where we could have come off, but we decided to do the entire circle, spending about 2-3 hours on the top. This time was about enough of the city and we decided to head off, because there seemed to be quite a long queue at the tenders returning to the ship.

We basically followed the same route to get back to our tender after we got off the walls, so we quickly found the way back to the port, but there the queue got so long that we barely just got through the main gate and we already had to stand in line in one of the queues (yes, there were about three). Here every culture brought its best in showcasing their way of standing in line. I was especially proud to see the Italians just pushing their way all the way to the front, but hey, I lived enough among them not to expect any miracles here 😉 In any case, the tender service got everyone back to the ship in time and nobody was left ashore. We even could have a quite decent lunch without too much running around to find ourselves a place to sit down 🙂 .

And what about Dubrovnik? Well, it was a nice experience, I would probably visit again and stay 1-2 days, preferably when there are less tourist. I do not actually know when that time is, given the fact that there are about 4 million of them visiting each year…

I have uploaded a few photos here.


The Big Trip: Corfu

Monday, October 13th, 2014

It was our fifth morning of our cruise and the destination of the day was the last one in Greece. It was the island at the north-western corner of the country, holding a lot of heritage and beauty: the island of Corfu. Although we did not originally plan to take a pre-payed trip in Corfu, we changed our minds after some careful thinking 🙂 . We decided that if we are there, we really must visit a special palace which we have seen on pictures to be quite nice: Achilleion Palace.
Although the name of the trip held one destination, as we have already seen on other trips during the cruise, this did not mean that it was the only thing we could see. We also had the pleasure the see a lot of the island (granted, only from the bus) and to spend some time in the old town-center of Corfu, so the day was quite promising. We started of as usual: numbers on clothes, bus at the port, tour-guide on the bus. No changes there 😉 .

Being quite far away from the port, our itinerary had the Achilleion Palace as first point to visit, so we headed off to the higher points of the island, up to the famous palace built by the beloved empress of Austria:Sisi. The entry fee to the palace was, again, included in the tour price, so unfortunately I have no idea how much it was. For sure it is an acceptable price, because there were a lot of tourists visiting 😉 . We were walked by our guide through the main rooms on the ground floor, followed by a walk through the lovely gardens with a spectacular view of the island. The gardens are also home to the two famous statues giving the name to the castle: the beautiful statue of the dying Achiles and the huge statue of the victorious Achiles. There is a lot to learn about the history of the palace (if you have a guide) and a lot to see in this beautiful building, so I think it was a great decision to visit it.

Once we were on the bus, we started our descent on a somewhat different route than we followed to climb. The road was extremely narrow and frankly I have no idea how our bus driver managed to go through them. As the guide mentioned: “we just had to close our eyes and let things happen” 🙂 . After our eyes being closed a few times and a short stop at a terrace close to the airport, we quickly arrived to the city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In places like this, even McDonald’s has to follow the architecture and color scheme 😉 . Also, the main square in the town center is the largest square in entire Greece (I must admit, after seeing Athens’s “main square” I really understand why 😉 ).

The whole island gave an interesting impression of multiculturalism. According to our guide the people here even speak a very different dialect than in other parts of Greece, a dialect greatly influenced by the Venetian times. The palaces, the buildings all hold the marking of great European rulers without making it “too European”. It is a great mixture of elements making Corfu stand out from the rest of Greece. If we had to choose a place to return to for a couple of days, it would definitely be this island 😉 .

I have uploaded some picture here.


The Big Trip: Athens

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

The destination of day four of our trip did not hold too much excitement, when I just looked at the brochure. The port we were about to dock to was called: Piraeus. Little did we know at that point, that this city is actually the main port of Athens, the birthplace of modern republic. Here, we really had to book for a trip, because the actual city of Athens was at a 20-25 minute drive from the port of Piraeus, so if we wanted to see something, we had to go on a trip.
We arrived to this destination a bit early in the morning, so we had quite the warn-out faces as we were sitting in the theater, waiting for our number to get called. Again, we were following the usual process, of disembarking, walking to the bus having our number on it, where our tour-guide was waiting for us. We did not have any delays, so we could head off towards Athens promptly. My impression of the city was quite a surprise. It was absolutely not what I was expecting: it had a very modern look with a lot of new high-rises (without overdoing the height), an internal highway leading into the center of the city and lots of green areas bringing nature right into the city center. Compared to Rome, for instance, it did not give off the ancient feel that I was expecting from this city: it was a modern city, with only small patches of the remains of the ancient culture that once vibed here.

The road to Acropolis mountain was again, through the narrow streets of modern Athens and not much gave away of what was coming up until we were almost there. The main tourist attraction was working like a charm: the place was swarming with tourists and we really had to be careful not to fall on the slippery marble stairs that lead up to the temple-complex. Our tour guide was wise enough to make a short stop before entering the crowds and tell us all the details up front of what was coming up. We just had to walk up the stairs, take some quick shots and get into the complex. Once inside, the air got breathable again, as people spread out to admire the different temples.

I must admit, this part of Athens did not disappoint at all. The temples were indeed magnificent, the view of the entire city was breathtaking 😀 . I was maybe a bit disappointed because of all the scaffolds that were built up around the Parthenon ruining any decent picture I wanted to take of it. It turns out, those have been there since the seventies (talk about efficiency :p ) as part of an ample restoration project to refurbish a bit the temple. In any case, it later turned out, that the scaffolds did not exactly go all the way around, so there were some shots I could make without that ugly (but useful) “decoration”.

After visiting the main attraction of the city, we headed back to the bus to take a quick ride to the ancient stadium (here we had a short pit-stop to make a few pictures, but that did not impress me too much…), then onto the main street of important buildings, that I completely forgot about, just because we did not even stop there. Yes, they were nice as I remember, but I could not see anything. Big disappointment here 🙁 .

The final stop of this trip was Plaka, the old historic center of Athens. This was basically a set of narrow streets filled with gift-shops, bars and restaurants. Even the main square was completely invisible due to all the tables and umbrellas of restaurants. It did not even resemble a real main square: it was too small, too crowded and again, did not give off any vibe at all. It was great to relax a bit and have a drink, but apart from that, nothing… I think I will refer to this place as “the shopping alley” rather that the “city center” of Athens 😉 .

I think the trip to Athens, left a lot of mixed feelings inside me. On one hand there was the awesome Acropolis and on the other hand the city itself, which was not something special. But then again, if someone thinks “Athens”, the next word that comes into our minds is “Acropolis”… so that is where you will get the wow-effect and not in the rest of the city…

I have uploaded some pictures here.